Seriously? Postponed again?


When and if you ever get to see "Why They Hate Us," I think you'll consider it a solid, thoughtful report on a tough subject, The problem is getting to see it: Somehow, CNN has managed to postpone it for the second time. Here's the brief I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

CNN has postponed
its “Why They Hate Us” documentary ... again.

Fareed Zakaria's
film – an elaborate look at U.S.-Muslim relations – was
originally scheduled for April 11, then was bumped by political
coverage. It was re-scheduled for today (April 25).

At 3 p.m. ET today –
when the network's Web site was still listing the special -- a CNN
spokesperson said it had been bumped again. There was no word on why
it was postponed or when it might air.

 

Prince memories continue


TV has done a strong job of presenting memories of Prince in the days after his death. Particularly impressive was what "Saturday Night Live" did: In an empty theater, Jimmy Fallon -- a guy who loves music and musicians -- talked passionately about Prince as he introduced tapes of his "SNL" performances.

More things are being added. At 9:30 p.m. Tuesday (April 26), Fox will rerun the "New Girl" episode that had Jess and Cece invited to a Prince party. And today (Monday) and Tuesday, documentaries are on cable's AXS. They're mentioned in the final paragraph of this story (which is otherwise outdated) that I sent to papers:

 

By Mike Hughes

Memories of Prince
will continue to fill cable-TV this weekend.

After his death (at
57) Thursday, MTV switched its logo to purple and focused on his
videos and the “Purple Rain” movie. News channels had clips and
interviews.

Now that continues.
Here are examples from three channels:

-- VH1 will take
over the airings of “Purple Rain,” the 1984 movie that's also on
Amazon Video. The film won an Academy Award and a Grammy (both of
them for its overall score) and was nominated for a Golden Globe for
the song “Why Doves Cry.” That will be at noon and 10:30 p.m.
today (Friday, April 22), 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 9
p.m. Sunday.

-- At 8 p.m.
Saturday, the Oprah Winfrey Network will rerun an “Oprah Winfrey
Show” interview. In 1996, Winfrey visited Prince's Paisley Park
studio in Minneapolis.

-- AXS reruns a
“Rock Legends” hour on Prince and has the TV debut of a
documentary, “Slave Trade: How Prince Re-made the Music Business.”
Those will be back-to-back at 1 and 2 p.m. ET Saturday and at 8 and 9
p.m. ET Tuesday. On Monday, “Legends” will be at 7 p.m. and
“Slave Trade” at 11.

 

"Hear My Song" won't be heard (or seen)


When I saw an advance screener of "Hear My Song" last week, I had mixed feelings. The music was magnificent; so was the direction by Francois Girard. The story, however, was often preposterous.

Still, I couldn't have guessed what would happen next: CBS and "Hallmark Hall of Fame" pulled the film, replacing it with reruns. I could grumble about the poor job they did of getting this information to reporters and viewers. More interesting, however, are the reasons behind the move. Here's the story I sent to papers Monday morning:

By Mike Hughes

Two dependable
forces, CBS and “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” left TV viewers
perplexed Saturday.

That was when the
movie “Hear My Song” was replaced by reruns. The reason involved
accusations of sex-abuse at the American Boychoir School, decades
ago.

None of that was
covered in the film, a fictional tale of a hard-scrabble kid who was
transformed by music. “Song” was directed by Francois Girard –
an art-film favorite since the 1993 “Thirty Two Short Films About
Glenn Gould” -- and co-starred Oscar-winners Dustin Hoffman and
Kathy Bates.

But it revived anger
from people who had seen officials try to duck responsibility for the
abuse. The school settled some cases (one for $850,000), filed for
Chapter 11 protection and moved twice.

Created in 1937 in
Columbus, Ohio, the school (Grades 4-8) had thrived near Princeton.
Its choirs sang for several presidents and Pope Paul VI and backed
Beyonce at the Academy Awards.

In 2002, however,
the New York Times wrote: “A dozen alumni from the 1960's to the
1980's described a pattern of sex abuse ... by two longtime
choirmasters and nine other staff members.”

The choirmaster
resigned and the school tried to have the blame confined to its
employees or to the boys, for not reporting it. Eventually, it sold
its campus and moved twice, now to Hopewell, N.J.

All of this is
unfamiliar turf for “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” which tends to be
benign.

It began in 1951 by
commissioning the now-classic mini-opera “Amahl and the Night
Visitors” (which, ironically, starred an American Boychoir
student). Then came Shakespearean plays and a switch to original
movies. Hallmark has said the 1986 “The Promise” is “the
most-honored dramatic special in television history,” with Emmys
and Golden Globes, plus a Peapody, a Humanitas and a Christopher.

There have been
three and four films a year, usually pointed to a greeting-card time;
“Hear My Song” -- three weeks before Mother's Day – stood out
for “Hall of Fame” as:

-- A return to a
broadcast network, after some years of being confined to the Hallmark
Channel.

-- A film not
produced by Hallmark. Originally called “Boychoir,” it had a
brief movie run in 2014; Hallmark bought it and dubbed it “Hear My
Song,” which is also the title of a 1991 film.

Then the backlash
began. Although the school in the film is fictional, it was patterned
after American Boychoir School; some of Boychoir's students are in
the cast and its choir provides the soundtrack. “Song” was shown
at the school, to launch a fundraising campaign.

Last week – too
late for TV magazines and many daily papers – the film was pulled.
“Hallmark was recently made aware of serious allegations of
misconduct made many years ago at a school similar to the one
depicted in the movie,” an announcement said. “After careful
consideration, it was decided that the movie will not air on CBS,
Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.”

The school responded
with its own press release: “Our students and their designated
faculty and staff are being unjustly punished for events that
happened long ago and do not reflect our school today. Our boys ...
are justifiably proud of their work on this movie and our community
shares that pride.”

 

Hurd's harrowing world -- zombies after us, aliens amonst us

Keywords

At one end of her career, Gale Anne Hurd was making now-classic movies, led by "Terminator" and "Aliens." At the other, she's fuelling cable with "Walking Dead" and now "Hunters," which debuts on Monday, April 11, and reruns daily. She's a sci-fi master ... erasing all those early doubts. Here's the story I sent to papers:

(Very interesting TV
story on Gale Anne Hurd and her new “Hunters” series. The show
debuts tonight, but reruns every day this week, with new episodes on
Mondays; story works any time, print or Web.)

By Mike Hughes

For decades, Gale
Anne Hurd has filled our screens and minds with everything form
aliens to zombies.

“She's a legend in
the business,” said Julian McMahon, a villain in her new “Hunters”
series.

That status didn't
come easily. When did Hurd first realize she had made it in
science-fiction?

“I think it was
when I did the production deal with Fox,” she said. That was the
studio, she said, where executives had once asked: “How can a
little girl like you do a big movie like this?”

Those doubts came
three decades ago, when sci-fi seemed like a male toyland. Now Hurd
has mastered it with “Terminator,” “Aliens,” “Tremors,”
“Alien Nation” and more.“She is someone who is responsible for
my favorite films of all time,” Natalie Chaidez said.

Chaidez (the “Twelve
Monkeys” producer) had been contacted by Hurd to adapt “Alien
Hunter,” a Whitley Strieber novel in which the aliens hide inside
human forms.

“It's a conspiracy
that's just around the corner,” Chaidez said. “It's a conspiracy
that touches you physically, and I think that's something that's very
much in our culture right now.”

Sci-fi is good at
that, Hurd said. “It examines an issue that is very prevalent, but
does it through aliens.”

Perplexed by this is
Flynn, an FBI agent who is moved to the Exo Terrorism Unit after his
wife is kidnapped. Until then, he didn't know there was an ETU ... or
that there were all-powerful aliens; he also didn't know that his ETU
colleague Regan is actually an alien, working to stop her fellow
aliens.

Regan doesn't fit
into either side, something actress Britne Oldford understands. “It's
about being different,” she said. “As a mixed woman in the
entertainment business,” she knows the feeling.

Being mixed-race was
just part of it when Oldford was growing up. “I was definitely a
big, old nerd,” she said. “I'm kind of an outsider and I observe
people.”

She grew up in
Toronto, studied dance and theater, then had regular roles in four
cable series – comedy (“Skins”), drama (“The Divide”) and
scares (“American Horror Story” and “Ravenswood”).

And if you still
haven't heard of her, that's OK. Hurd cast “Walking Dead” without
familiar stars and saw it zoom to the top of the ratings; she's
pretty much done “Hunters” the same way.

“We like to cast
on the basis of auditions,” she said. “A lot of name people don't
like to audition.”

So she chose Nathan
Phillips as Flynn and Oldford as Regan. “She's very tall and
elegant,” Hurd said. Also, “her dance background helps a lot”
with a character who has cheetah-like quickness.

The exception to the
no-name trend is McMahon, already a star from the “Charmed” and
“Nip/Tuck” series. “It's amazing, his commitment and
dedication” to the fierce role, Hurd said.

Chaidez points to
the wild changes in McMahon's hair (“the subject of great
controversy during the shoot”) and to his nearly nude scene. “When
he took off his shirt, the cast swooned.”

For Phillips and
McMahon, this is a return to their homeland. Both grew up in
Australia – where McMahon's father William was prime minister in
1971-2; both have lived in the U.S. for years.

And for Hurd? “It's
a lot of frequent-flyer miles,” she said.

She prefers to be on
the set, which isn't easy with four series -- “Evil Dead,” its
prequel, “Hunters” and the upcoming “Falling Waters” -- being
filmed this year. Then again,she's seen tougher situations.

Hurd had grown up in
Palm Springs prosperity, daughter of an investor. She didn't learn
about Stanford's film program until her junior year, but took some of
the classses while getting a degree in economics and communication.
A former faculty member asked her to work for Roger Corman's
low-budget film studio. “I thought I would be a secretary or an
administrative assistant.”

Soon, she was also
the marketing director and a production manager and more –
sometimes working 20-hour days, she said, for $180 a week. Corman
“believed in equal opportunity,” she said, with bright women and
men getting big responsibility and little money.

One of those was
James Cameron. Their relationship may have crept into his scripts for
“Titanic” (rich woman, penniless guy) and “The Abyss” (couple
working toghether after their marriage crumbles).

She became a
co-writer on his “Terminator” script, a producer on his “Aliens”
and, soon, a producer on her own, now filling our heads with zombies,
aliens and humans in crisis.

-- “Hunters,” 10
p.m. Mondays, Syfy, rerunning at 1 a.m.

-- The opener (10:06
p.m. April 11, rerunning at 1:13 a.m.), airs often. That includes 11
p.m. on Wednesday and Friday (April 13 and 15) and 11:30 p.m. Sunday
(April 17). Also, 6 a.m. Thursday and Monday (April 14 and 18), 8
a.m. Saturday (April 16).

 

The new idols channel the old sound of Motown


By Mike Hughes

For two young
singers – the final finalists from “American Idol” -- an old
record label looms large.

That's Motown. Now
that “Idol” has finished its 15th and last season:

-- La'Porsha Renae,
22, the runner-up, has signed with Motown. “In my household, if you
made it on that label, it was golden,” she said.

-- Trent Harmon, 25,
the winner, plans to take a “blue-eyed soul” sound to Nashville.
It's a sound he heard a lot as a kid. “My grandmother would play
the Temptations and Michael Jackson.”

The soul sound –
from Jackson to Smokey Robinson and Little Anthony – often had
soaring high notes. “I just realized I could do that in my
middle-to-late college years,” Harmon said. “I think I always
heard that sound in my head, but I didn't know I could do it.”

Then he did it A
LOT. In the key “Idol” moments, he grabbed the audience with
falsettos.

For each of the
show's final three, this is still a time to de-pressurize. “I can't
feel my limbs,” joked Dalton Rapattoni, 20, who finished third.

Added Harmon: “I've
got sleep scheduled for next Friday at 2.”

First, there's the
notion of deciding where to live:

-- Rapattoni plans
to record an independent album in Austin, Texas, but figures he'll
always be based at his home-town near Dallas. “I get stressed out
anywere else.”

-- Harmon will
record in Nashville, but figures he might continue shuffling between
Mississippi (where he grew up, working on his family's ranch and
restaurant) and Arkansas (where he went to college).

-- Renae, however,
says she plans “to relocate very, very soon.” Nothing personal
against Mississippi, she said, but “I just want to start over with
me and my daughter.”

She grew up there,
she said, and obsessed on “Idol” from that first season, when she
was 8.”I thought, 'Yes, this is something I could do.” She
auditioned at 16, with semi-success: “I got a standing ovation from
the stadium, (but) the producers said no. They said I was young and
could come back.”

Back then, she
grants, “I didn't have a lot to sing about.” Now she's has a lot
– a failed marriage, a 1-year-old daughter, time in a homeless
shelter. She plans to bring all of that to her Motown sound.

Rapattoni also had
an earlier crack at fame. He auditioned successfully for IM5, a
Disney boy-band from “Idol” creator Simon Fuller, but was the
first to leave the group; two others have followed.

Then his dad bought
him a plane ticket to the “Idol” auditions. “I don't think I
would have made it on 'Idol' if it weren't for what I learned on
MI5,” he said.

The “Idol”
judges were lukewarm on his voice, but loved his choices ... until
they said he did a song in the wrong key. Actually, he said, he'd
planned to switch that. “It was my bad. I forgot to tell the band.”

Harmon also had one
brush with earlier fame, trying out for “The Voice.” No one took
him.

Then it was on to
“Idol,” where he says people thought: “He talks so country, but
he sings (soul).”

He does, indeed,
talk country. His conversaion is full of “ma'm” and “Mr.” and
a laidback approach. His tastes range from Twitty to Elvis, he said;
country “can be whatever you want it to be.”

The best part, he
insisted, was just being in the “Idol” finale. As they waited for
the announcement, he said, he whispered to Renae: “I don't know
which name gets called, but we just won a car.”