Super Sunday: Ready for football (and a whole lotta other stuff)


As Super Bowl Sunday nears, its size can be overwhelming. A reasonable (well, semi-reasonable) human being could spend 14 hours on the game and all its previews and post-views. This story is part of a three-piece package I'm sending to papers. This one has the basic lay-out of the day; the blog above it takes a historical look. Still coming is a casual fan's view of the game itself:

By Mike Hughes

No one said Super
Bowl Sunday would be easy.

This is a
seven-hour, 35 minute marathon ... before the kick-off. If you catch
the commercials – some paying as much as $5 million for 30 seconds
– there's little time for family, friends or bathroom breaks.

Here's a guide to
CBS' day, with all times ET:

PHASE ONE: The
pre-pre-game shows

-- 11 a.m.: “Before
They Were Pros.” NFL Films follows some of the current and past
stars, as they visit their home towns and high schools.

-- Noon: “Road to
the Super Bowl.” This is NFL Films' visceral portrait of the
season. It has original orchestral music ... plus the un-musical
touch of almost 100 players wired for sound.

-- 1 p.m.: “Phil
Simms All-Iron Team.” The former Super Bowl MVP talks with
sportscaster Dick Enberg, 81, and with people who symbolized eras –
Vikings coach Bud Grant and players Mike Singletary (Bears), Deion
Sanders (Cowboys and Falcons), Drew Bledsoe (Patriots) and more.

PHASE TWO: The
pre-game show

“If anything can
be 'a fast-paced four hours,' I think this will be,” said Sean
McManus, president of CBS Sports. He'll try to pepper the marathon
(2-6 p.m.) with short bits.

McManus talks about
musical mini-breaks and San Francisco vignettes. There will be brief
memories from Joe Namath, Russell Wilson, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith
and Simms, plus mini-portraits of Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, John
Madden, Reggie White, Doug Williams and more.

And there will be
plenty of time to talk football; James Brown, who anchors, says his
commentators range from Tony Gonzalez – who was in 14 Pro Bowls –
to Bart Scott, who was in one. An undrafted free-agent, Scott had 11
pro seasons and is “very brash, very candid,” Brown said.

And there will be
longer features; they include:

-- The usual
interview-with-the-president ... but this time done live. The idea,
Gayle King said, is to “share what it's like at the Barack and
Michelle Obama household on a big game day.” It's a key change,
said producer Chris Licht. “To the best of my knowledge, (the Super
Bowl interview) has never been done with the First Couple. And I know
Mrs. Obama generally does not do live interviews.”

-- A piece on the
six living men who have done TV play-by-play for Super Bowls. They
range from Jack Whitaker, 91, who did the first game, to Jim Nantz,
who's about to do his fourth. Others are Al Michaels, Joe Buck, Greg
Gumbel and Enberg. “It's really a great piece,” McManus said.

-- Interviews with
the duelling quarterbacks, the Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning and the
Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton, plus Panther coach Ron Rivera. Also,
Gonzalez talks with fwo former Cowboys – linebacker DeMarcus Ware
and defensive coordinatore Wade Phillips – now with the Broncos.
And Simms talks with John Elway, whom he beat 39-20 in the 1987 Super
Bowl; Elway went on to win two Super Bowls ... then, as general
manager, revived the Broncos by luring Manning.

-- Features on Pete
Rozelle (the first NFL commissioner), Joe Montana's “world's
longest touchdown pass” and Zaevion Dobson, a teen football star
who was killed as he shielded three girls from gunfire.

-- And abstract
pieces. One is a Super Bowl essay; another rewrites history, turning
the Buffalo Bills into Super Bowl winners.

PHASE THREE: The
game (eventually)

At 6 p.m., Nantz and
Simms take over. There's music and more, with kick-off expected at
6:35.

As usual, coverage
includes some new techno-tricks. McManus talks about an overhead view
with “a 360-degree look at the field, where you can rotate the view
(and) animate it.” More grounded is a plan which, he said,
“involves eight custom-made pylons with 16 different cameras with
audio ... for an unbelievable ground-level view.”

And at halftime,
Coldplay performs. The group is expected to be joined by Beyonce –
who linked with it for “Hymn for the Weekend” -- plus the Los
Angles Youth Orchestra and possibly more.

PHASE FOUR:
Post-game

First are the usual
interviews, complete with trophy presentation. Then – CBS
optimistically says 10 p.m., but it could be 10:30 or so -- come the
post-game specials:

-- Stephen Colbert,
live from New York. He'll have former “Saturday Night Live” stars
Tina Fey and Will Ferrell, plus Margot Robie, the Key & Peele
comedy duo and Donald Trump's non-favorite news anchor, Meghyn Kelly.

-- James Corden,
after local newscasts. He won't be live, but will have a Super Bowl
theme, parodying classic commercials and holding a tailgate part
outside the Los Angeles theater. Guests will be Zac Efron, Anna
Kendrick and Adam DeVine, plus a “Carpool Karaoke” segment with
Elton John.

 

Eve Plumb's nostalgia journey -- "Grease," Jan Brady and a reality check


OK, I officially have high hopes for "Grease: Live," at 7 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 31) on Fox. My previous blog focused on Carly Rae Jepson, who plays Frenchy; now let's go a generation earlier and meet Eve Plumb, who has ranged from "Brady Bunch" to playing the "Grease" auto-shop teacher. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

As “Grease”
returns to our TV sets, it brings warm bursts of nostalgia.

It reminds us of the
1978 movie, the 1972 Broadway hit, the 1959 early-rock era it
depicts. It has supporting roles for Didi Conn (who did the original
movie) and Eve Plumb, a “Brady Bunch” kid.

Ah yes, those
pleasant decades. “We think of that time as so innocent,” Plumb
said. “It wasn't. You remember a thing called the Vietnam War?”

That was going on
throughout the “Brady Bunch” run (1969-74). And back in '59, the
“Grease” era? Civil-rights rage was building and the Cold War and
nuclear fears were high.

Still, the screen
memories that linger were from two Ron Howard roles -- “American
Graffiti” was set in 1962, “Happy Days” in the mid-'50s. “We
think of it as this great time,” said Plumb, 57.

And for many people
it was, including her. She grew up in California sunshine, with a dad
who was a record executive, working with the Monkees and Jefferson
Airplane and such.

“A childen's agent
moved next door to us when I was 6 years old,” she said. “I just
got a lot of work.”

By 8, she was doing
commercials and then small TV roles. At 11, she was rejected for
“Brady Bunch” at first, she said; then producers began matching
hair color – dark for the guys, blonde for the girls. Plumb became
Jan, the middle Brady girl who once groaned “Marcia Marcia Marcia”
when her big sister got all the attention.

Afterward, she had a
strong start. “Eve had scored a couple of good breaks (in TV's)
'Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway' and 'Little Women,'” Barry
Williams wrote in “Growing Up Brady” (Harper, 1992). He and
Maureen McCormick got some work, he wrote, but the others mostly
dropped out. “Casting directors refused to see any of us as
anything but Bradys.”

Plumb skipped the
“Brady Bunch Hour” variety show (“wisely,” Williams wrote),
but did the other reunions. Now she lives in New York with Ken Pace
(a technology guty) who's her husband of 20 years. She's a painter
and has been fairly busy doing theater, TV and movies. “I keep
playing it one day at a time. ('Grease') was just another audition.”

It turned out to be
a promising one, landing the role of the auto-shop teacher (played by
Alice Ghostley in the film). Plumb, a theater buff, was suddenly
working with Thomas Kail, fresh from raves for “Hamilton” on
Broadway. “He's a wonderful director, very supportive and concise,”
she said.

For more than two
months, people have rehearsed for one big night. She was surrounded
by a cheery group of young people -- Julianne Hough, Vaessa Hudgens,
Aaron Tveit, Keke Palmer, Carly Rae Jepsen and more – most of them
born two or three decades after the “innocence” of 1959 America.

-- “Grease: Live”

-- 7-10 p.m. Sunday,
Fox; live on the East Coast, live-on-tape on the West

 

"Grease" adds some quirky-Frenchy fun with Carly Rae


In front of us was a stage full of pretty people -- the stars of Fox's upcoming (Jan. 31) "Grease: Live." Still, I kept being drawn to Carly Rae Jepsen. Short and slight and cute and almost giggly, she seemed like the 1950s dream of a girl-next-door girlfriend. In short, she's perfect to play Frenchy in "Grease." I talked to her after the session and sent this story to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Carly Rae Jepsen
recalls a long-ago chat that helped propel her career.

She was 8 or so, on
a car ride. “We were listening to Bob Dylan and I asked my mother
what it would take for me to become famous as a singer,” she
recalled. “And she told me, 'Just have a weird voice.'

“I remember taking
that to heart and not trying to sound like anybody other than how I
(am).”

It's not your usual
rock-star, pop-star sound, but it's served her well. In 2011, her
“Call Me Maybe” was the top-selling song worldwide.

And it's not your
usual rock-star persona. Jepsen, 30, is short (5-foot-2) and slight,
with a gentle manner, just this side of giggly. That makes her
perfect to play Frenchy – the overwhelmed beauty-school drop-out --
in Fox's live “Grease” musical.

Back in her
high-school production, Jepsen starred as the sorta-perfect Sandy. “I
could not walk in heels the way” Julianne Hough, the current Sandy,
does.

She was growing up
in a folky family in Mission, amid the mountainside, Canadian beauty
of British Columbia. “It was very much a musical home We would get
costumes and put on our shows.”

In high school she
did “Grease” and “Annie” and “The Wiz”; along the way,
she said, she felt encouraged. “My parents would always make me
believe the world was my oyster.”

It almost wasn't.
She needed part time jobs – barista and bartender and such – to
get through performing-arts school in Victoria. She finished third on
“Canadian Idol” and had to release her first album independently.
Then “Call Me Maybe” made her famous.

Now she's surrounced
by others who grew up in musical worlds.

“I feel like
'Grease' has just always been a part of my life,” Vanessa Hudgens
said. She plays Rizzo now and started this TV-musical surge a decade
ago with “High School Musical.”

Hough – who stars
in this one alongside Aaron Tveit – remembers doing the show in her
basement when she wasa 5. “I was Sandy and then, during the dance
scene, I turned into Cha Cha, and then I went back to Sandy.”

Kether Donohue, who
plays Jan, was Frenchy in an 8th-grade production. Now
it's Jepsen's turn to be Frenchy, which means she:

-- Has the only new
song. “I was really surprised when they said, 'We're writing a song
for Frenchy.'”

-- Is crooned to
reassuringly by Boyz II Men. “They made the song their own,” said
producer Marc Platt, but “it's still 'Beauty School Dropout' ....
It's been really, really fun.”

-- And shows off her
hairdo misadventures. Frenchy “gets to rock many a 'do,” Jepson
said, “from red to pink to yellow and beyond ....She is just not so
skilled in beauty school She tries and tries again.”

So did Jepsen, back
when she didn't sound or look like a pop star. Then she became one.

-- “Grease: Live”

-- 7-10 p.m. Sunday,
Fox; live in Eastern time zones, tape-delayed in the West

-- Directed by
Thomas Kail (“Hamilton”) onstage and on several Warner Brothers
spots; then the characters converge for the final, carnival scenes

 

The nanny's back, but the stiff upper lip is gone


One of the good things about TV is that there are places for just about everything. There are plenty of channels for zombies and vampires and political candidates; there are also a few feel-good places. One of those is UP, which is starting a variation on the old "Supernanny" idea. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

When the
“Supernanny” show hit two continents, it was wrapped in familiar
images.

Coming to the rescue
in a British-style taxi was Jo Frost, a dour-looking nanny in a stern
suit. This was “more of a caricature – you know – the suit, the
quaint British taxi,” Frost said.

It worked well;
modern people really wanted Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee at their
doorsteps. But it only reflected part of her work, she said; her new
show -- “Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour” -- does the rest.

“We never saw the
times when I'm outside with the kids, just having fun,” Frost said.
“People who know me say I'm always having a good laugh.”

Now the new show
offers visual hints of that. The suits are gone; Frost is sometimes
shown wearing bright blue or red. The taxi is gone; she crosses the
U.S. in a blue bus, making a splash in each town.

When Frost did other
shows, “neighbors would show up at the door, seeking some quick
advice,” said Amy Winter, general manager of the UP cable channel.
So now “each episode will feature a community day, where families
from each town are able to come and ask Jo any range of questions.”

UP? Formerly the
Gospel Music Channel, it's finding its niche, Winter said. “At a
time when other networks are walking away from family entertainment,
we are doubling down.”

Alongside lots of
reruns -- “7th Heaven,” “Touched By an Angel,”
“Gilmore Girls,” “Moesha,” even “Supernanny” -- the
channel has movies, some of them original. (Next is “Love Comes to
Valentine” on, appropriately, Feb. 14.) It's tried one new drama
series (“Ties That Bind”) and occasional reality shows. Now two
of them -- “Bringing Up Bates” and “Nanny on Tour” -- are
paired on Thursdays.

The “Nanny”
opener (Jan. 28) has some rough moments, especially when a South
Carolina 2-year-old decides to fill his entire restaurant visit with
screeching. Better times are ahead; just ask one of the kids Frost
visited. “It was very fun .... Well, some parts were like fun,”
Kaitlyn Sauers said.

Her parents, both
cops, have limited time to be with Kaitlyn and her brother. “Every
day is hard,” said her mom, Irene. “At the end of the day, you
just feel completely beat up and walking uphill all day.” So she
sent an E-mail to Frost. “The very next day, I got a call back.”

For Frost, 45, this
work has filled her adult years. Some Americans might think of being
a nanny as a giddy way to see the world; that's not how it's seen in
her native England, she said. “The business of professional
child-care is very well-regarded.”

She started in 1990
and soon was lucky. For five years, she worked for the family of John
Lloyd, a producer whose TV shows -- “Spitting Image,”
“Blackadder,” “Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” -- helped
define British wit. “He is a very kind, good man ... and a loving
husband.”

Other experiences –
good ones, mostly – followed. In 2004, she was chosen for
“Supernanny.”

It was a clever
concept, Frost said, soon copied in other fields. “There was 'save
my restaurant' or 'save my hair salon' or whatever.”

The show moved to
the U.S., but Frost dropped out in 2011. She's tried other shows --
“Extreme Parental Guidance” and “Family Matters” in England,
“Family S.O.S.” on cable's TLC – but now comes “Nanny on
Tour.” Her company runs the show and she can base it out of
Southern California, where she lives with fiance, who is a locations
coordinator.

From there, she can
cruise the country in her nannymobile, sort of being herself. “I
can wear colorful tops (without) the stiff-upper-lip image.”

Unless, of course,
kids act up. Then the no-nonsense nanny is back.

-- “Jo Frost:
Nanny on Tour”

-- 8 p.m. Thursdays,
UP; repeating at 10; debuts Jan. 28

 

Outside the grid, there's violence, warmth and ATV-riding bandits


There are many reasons why I'm not planning to join an off-the-grid commiunity, somewhere in the wilderness. One involves my desire for a steady form of food and drink; the other involves an unwillingness to miss "Big Bang Theory.":

Still, there's great potential there for dramas. "Outsiders" -- which debuts Tuesday (Jan. 26) on WGN and reruns nightly -- offers a rich tale of an outside culture. Here's the story I sent to papers:

 

By Mike Hughes

In a high-tech
world, people might ponder the notion of hitting disconnect.

“There's a freedom
to not having to be attached to your phone,” said actress Christina
Jackson. “(There's) a desire to be able to get away from
technology, even if it's only for a weekend.”

OK, but how about
for a lifetime? That's in “Outsiders”; it debuts Tuesday on WGN
America, whose president (Matt Cherniss) calls it “visceral” and
“wildly original.” Surprisingly, he's telling the truth.

In Appalachia, a
company wants a mountain vacated, so it can blast for coal. The
complication is that an extended family has been there almost
forever.

“The Farrells are
holding onto land ... for over 200 years,” said Peter Mattei, the
show's creator. Now “they just want to live the way that they live
and (they'll) fight the power in order to do that.”

The way they live
isn't what viewers are accustomed to. “We can't be loud, we can't
be raucous,” said writer-producer Peter Tolan. “We're used to
following the laws.”

The Farrells aren't.
In one early scene, they drive their all-terrain vehicles through a
big-box store, grabbing and smashing, while the clerk (Jackson)
stares in awe.

That may remind you
of “Sons of Anarchy.” Indeed, Ryan Hurst (who played Opie in that
one) is Lil Foster here; he helped design tattoos in both shows. “I'm
a tattoo fantatic,” he said. “If I'm not an actor, I'd be covered
in them from head to toe. I go to tattoo conventions, just to see
great artists.”

But there are other
things to compare “Outsiders” to. Mattei talks about everything
from the Ben-Ishmael Tribe (in 19th-century Indianapolis)
to the movie “My Side of the Mountain.” Tolan discusses the gulf
separating “the haves and the have-nots.” And we start to think
of Prince Charles, when we hear David Morse discuss his character,
Big Foster.

“He's a guy who
was never allowed to be fully himself,” Morse said. “He's just
been rotting, basically, for a long time ... until he gets to be in
power, which has been kept from him by his mother.”

Prince Charles has
never, to our knowledge, attempted regicide .... but many previous
royals have. Big Foster takes his place (albeit fictional) in that
human timeline.

“Outsiders”
involves several people you don't expect to see in a fierce tale. For
instance:

-- Paul Giamatti
usually lands cranial roles, from “John Adams” to “Billions”;
his company produces this. “I don't get to play badass guys (on)
ATV's ... but I do like watching that kind of thing,” he said.

-- Morse is a deep
and quiet guy who was first known for his long-suffering “St.
Elsewhere” character. Now he's the one inflicting pain.

-- Tolan is a gifted
comedy writer who co-wrote “Analyze This,” created “The Jim
Gaffigan Show” and co-created “Rescue Me,” with Denis Leary. “I
wrote a lot of drama on 'Rescue Me.'” he said.

That's true, but
he's also a thoroughly funny guy. Now “Outsiders” has him
shifting tone. “It's a very subtle kind of humor,” he granted.

It has deep layers
of tragedy, including a deputy sheriff who fights loneliness and
despair. “You don't often see a guy who's an oxy (oxycontin)
addict” as a cetnral character, Tolan said. But this guy has every
reason to be depressed. “He's horribly fearful of these people.”

In this troubled
world, small batches of humor emerge, Tolan said. “I've been
telling Peter (Mattei): 'You need to tell me if it's too light.'”

He hasn't heard that
so far. “Outsiders” is at its best when avoiding limits.

-- “Outsiders,”
9 p.m. Tuesdays, WGN America.

-- Opener debuts
commercial-free on Jan. 26; reruns that night at 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and
midnight.

-- Also, opener
reruns at 11 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 27), 10 p.m. Thursday, 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 10 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1