Critics, bloggers and advertisers have been fully immersed for more than two months in the dozens of new series set to debut this fall on the broadcast networks -- not to mention the many new series on broadcast and basic cable last month that made July feel like the new September, as far as original programming is concerned. Has there ever been a busier summer for those of us who work in and around the business of television? It has been all-consuming and, if I’m being honest, somewhat overwhelming and underwhelming.
Happily, something jumped out at me this week that felt very much like a respite from the very serious business of television programming and scheduling -- or perhaps a palate cleanser, depending on one’s point of view. It’s a video recently posted on Funny or Die titled “Mary Poppins Quits” starring Kristen Bell, who seems to have one of the most diversified careers of any actress at the moment, having recently appeared in the Kickstarter-funded movie adaptation of her cult TV series “Veronica Mars,” on the CMT Awards as solo host and now in the funniest little video of the summer season.
In the video Bell, as Poppins, decides she’s really and truly quitting her job as a nanny once and for all because she simply cannot continue to work for minimum wage -- a desultory $7.25 an hour. (Although it is never clearly stated, it appears that the video, like the movie, takes place in London, so the message may be a bit askew, but that doesn’t detract one whit from the entertainment value of the video, or its message.)
The children are naturally quite upset by Mary’s startling news. When Mary tells them that she is only paid the federal minimum wage they cry, “But you have magical powers!”
“You’d think that would entitle me to more than $7.25 an hour!” Mary politely replies.
“In every job that must be done, You must be paid in more than fun,” Bell sings to the opening notes of the tune of “A Spoonful of Sugar.”
She continues: “Just a three-dollar increase, Can make a living wage, Can make a living wage, Can make a living wage. Just a three-dollar increase, Can make a living wage, I don’t get these birds for free.” (In the movie Mary is constantly surrounded by happy chirping animated birds. The video replaces them with a stuffed bird held aloft on a string that has been evicted from its nest by its greedy landlord.)
Moments later the animated penguins from the movie (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) make an appearance. But they aren’t as happy as they were when first seen in 1964.
Mary sings (again to the music from “A Spoonful of Sugar”): “A penguin hopping off to work, Is feeling like a stupid jerk, He can’t even buy some fish to feed his kids. He takes a second job at night, The penguin parents start to fight, They’re broke! They smoke! Their college fund’s a joke!”
Still carrying the same tune, she focuses her anger on the CEOs of American corporations who are currently crushing the life out of anyone not fortunate enough to be at the top of the economic ladder: “The CEOs in fancy suits, Each giving their own trumpet toots, Forget how hard it is to work a shift. They don’t like to break a sweat, They prefer to just collect, They take! A lot! It’s really got to stop!”
There’s much more to the video, including a memorable ending that features the word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in a way never before heard during the now fifty years that it has been part of the language. It sums up perfectly the way many people feel that the federal government is handling this and so many other pressing issues of the day.
Fully immersing herself (if only for a couple minutes) in the role with which Julie Andrews will forever be identified, Bell in this video surprisingly reveals a lovely singing voice that had me wondering why she hasn’t done more with it. Yes, I know she was the voice of Princess Anna in “Frozen,” and that she’s starring in a three-night only production of “Hair” this weekend at the Hollywood Bowl. Apparently she did much musical theater before “Veronica Mars.” Her performance here makes clear that she ought to dive back in, if only for a while. It also has me thinking that in December 2015 NBC ought to consider a live telecast of “Mary Poppins” with Bell in the title role.