By MARK MAYNARD
The news came out this week that a new television series from AMC network named “Ashland” was in the works and the likely replacement for the popular “Mad Men.”
“Ashland” really is for our Ashland, which happens to be the hometown of creator Allison Anders. She was born here in 1954 although didn’t stay long before moving to Los Angeles with her mother following some troubling times.
So does having an AMC network series named for our town do anything for our branding?
Sure it does.
“Justified,” the popular FX show about the U.S. Marshal service and its fight against the drug demons, has brought some attention to both Harlan and Lexington.
“Justified,” of course, is in today’s timeframe while “Ashland” will be set in the 1940s and 1950s. The advances on the series say it is set during the time of the Red Scare when Hollywood scriptwriters and directors were often banned because of perceived communistic ties. Hundreds of writers, directors and actors were boycotted by studios and blacklisted from working in the United States entertainment industry. That probe happened in 1947.
The story goes that a woman brings her banned screenwriter husband and three children with her to Kentucky after he has been blacklisted in Hollywood. What better place than Ashland, a small Kentucky mining town, to hide the family’s secret?
Did I say small Kentucky mining town?
OK, so Hollywood doesn’t get everything right. In “Justified,” they also travel from Harlan to Lexington like it’s the next city over, so don’t get too worked up about Ashland being a mining town.
Unfortunately, like “Justified,” it’s not likely that “Ashland” will be filmed on location. They haven’t said yet, but it seems highly unlikely to me.
But what if they did? Do we have much from the 1940s and 1950s that is the same today as it was then? Do we have any of those landmark sites that says Ashland in 1940 and today?
The Paramount marquee, Henry Clay Hotel (which houses apartments today) and Central Park (although it has changed a lot) are about all I can think of although there’s probably more.
They could come downtown on a First Friday to get the feel of downtown Ashland in the 1940s. We had angled parking and plenty of activity. They could probably even find a few vintage cars from that era at our First Friday drive-ins while the talented singing duo of Danny Craig and Angy Hall could work up some tunes from that era for them. I’m sure Jeff Carter could play some Big Band numbers, too.
We have actors and directors to offer, if they’re interested. Ohio Southern University has produced some great directors like Isaac Stambaugh, Andrew Heaberlin, Brad Bear and the retired but never-really-retired and creative David Carter. As for actors and actresses, just go to one of those Paramount Player productions like “Wizard of Oz” and prepare to be amazed at the talent we have around here.
For that matter, the newspaper’s own Ken Hart, who has chosen to wear a hat with a press pass in the brim like they did in movies from the 1940s and ‘50s, would be glad to play a cameo role as a reporter (no extra cost for wardrobe). Rick Roberts, an aspiring actor from Paintsville already with some good credits, would be another fantastic choice.
And, lest we forget, our own Ashley Judd only recently purchased her father’s old house in Our Town — and we thought it was for political reasons. Boy, you sure fooled us there, Ash.
Ashley Judd starring in Ashland seems logical to me. I’m sure she could play the wife with no problem. If AMC hasn’t already asked, here’s a tip for them: Ashley already owns a house here and went to high school here. Talk about typecasting!
Seriously, she’s probably not interested, but when the AMC series begins to air, it’s going to be fun watching no matter who is starring. You can count me in as a regular viewer.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.