Q • We enjoyed “Madam Secretary.” Why did it end? It was a very unique series finale with former cast members featured.
A • Ratings for the political drama had been declining, as TVLine noted, and renewal had been chancy for several years. (And before you bring it up, I talked about the whole football-delaying-telecasts business in a previous column.) A top CBS executive said “Madam Secretary” received the order for this 10-episode final season to tie up its storyline. “We liked to be able to do this, to send the show off with a great deal of respect and celebration.” Of course, the adventures of President Elizabeth McCord did not end with the series; in the finale, she had set out to help pass an Equal Rights Amendment.
Q • I am a pianist who plays the song “Send in the Clowns” from the movie “A Little Night Music.” I have never seen the movie and have searched for it, to no avail, on Amazon Prime and Netflix. I check TCM schedules but have not seen it. I also checked TCM’s website, and, for about $50, I can purchase it. Being an old movie, and one I have not seen, I am hesitant to purchase something I may not like. What do you suggest?
A • I would start by saying you can find a cheaper DVD, but you should still stay away from the film, an adaptation of the stage production with book by Hugh Wheeler and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and suggested by Ingmar Bergman’s film “Smiles of a Summer Night.” Sondheim, also famous for “West Side Story,” “Gypsy,” “Sweeney Todd” and other productions, has said that of the screen adaptations of his work, “Night Music” was “the least successful in every way. … The movie was a sad and listless affair, and a waste of everyone’s time.” (You can find more of Sondheim’s thoughts in “Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics 1954-1981,” the first of two wonderful volumes of Sondheim’s work and accompanying comments.) You would be better off keeping an eye out for a staging of the musical. There’s also a “Live From Lincoln Center” production from 1990 that’s on YouTube.
Q • I am a fan of the old “M.A.S.H.” series. One actor keeps showing up in various roles. He is never credited. Sometimes he is the general’s driver, sometimes just a face in the crowd. He has a mustache, always wears glasses, and almost always is a sergeant. I would like to have a name so I could find out about other projects in his career.
A • With help from the Monster M.A.S.H. Wiki site (and your confirmation), the actor you asked about is named Dennis Troy. He played supporting roles in about two dozen episodes of the series.
Q • While watching reruns of “Barnaby Jones” I have seen Buddy Ebsen spryly chasing offenders more than once. How old was he during the series, and was he known for keeping in good shape?
A • Dapper, amiable Buddy Ebsen was an adept dancer and actor known not only for “Barnaby Jones” but for movies such as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Captain January,” as well as TV shows “The Beverly Hillbillies” (as Jed Clampett) and the original Disney “Davy Crockett” (he played Fess Parker’s sidekick). Born in 1908, he starred in “Barnaby Jones” from 1973 to 1980. He was also in another detective series, “Matt Houston,” in its last season, 1984-85. I met him briefly in 1984 as he was promoting “Houston,” and he could still show off some slick steps. Ebsen died in 2003 at age 95.