National Geographic Channel

"Explorer" is back and warlords are a target

There really was a time when basic-cable was kind of empty. It had reruns and wrestling and music videos, but few original shows that amounted to much. "Explorer" entered that turf in 1985, becoming one of the best of a small field; now it returns as a monthly series. It's opener (Sunday, Aug. 30) is dark and grim, but also admirably ambitious. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Maybe we should all be sleeping

First, a few personal confessions: 1) I used to average five hours of sleep on weeknights, thinking this was a good thing; 2) I was once awakened by my air bag, after striking six cars; we were all very lucky this happened at a slow speed, while they were at a stoplight; 3) Ever since, for 13 years, I've used a sleep-apnea machine nightly.

A chatty soul savors life alone in the North

As winter nears, we might start to feel sorry for ourselves ... unless we've met Sue Aikens, who spends each winter alone, in weather that sometimes hits 50-below. And yes, she does it on purpose. She's one of the intriguing "Life Below Zero" people; here's the story I sent to papers:


At last: In depth coverage of shoelaces

Let me digress for a moment: For Jewel, there were some culture shocks when she went from being a hard-working Alaskan to being an art-school student. In one class project, she found that she was the only person who knew how to shovel.

Fortunately, such knowledge gaps will now by filled by cable TV. On July 21, we'll learn how to dig a hole and how to flip a coin. Before that, on July 14, we'll learn how to make ice cubes and tie our shoes. That's in a quirky show called "Going Deep"; here's the story I sent to papers:

While skiiers and skaters chase gold, these guys chase tuna

We really have to admire the gumption of any channel that would launch a season of its best show head-on against the Olympics. Last Sunday, AMC did that with "Walking Dead"; this Sunday, National Geographic's "Wicked Tuna" collides with the Olympics and the NBA and all those zombies. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Speech-skipping? Try some cabin guys

Here's one of two stories I sent to papers about alternatives to Tuesday's "State of the Union" speech. The other, on a "The Haves and Have Nots" actress, is in the blog above this one:


Kennedy coverage: TV at its best

A half-century ago, television seized our attention with its coverage of the John Kennedy assassination. As the Nov. 22 anniversary nears, its has a huge quantity -- and, often, impressive quality -- of specials. Here's the round-up I sent to papers:


The '80s -- from malaise to giddiness

This is a busy time for cable networks. Coming first are a reality show tonight (Thurday, April 11) on USA and the epic series "Da Vinci's Demons" on Friday. (See previous blogs.)

Then comes the Sunday rush -- season-openers for "The Borgias" and "Nurse Jackie" on Showime and "Veep" on HBO. And alongside them, National Geographic starts a surprisingly good three-night documentary series, "The '80s." Here's the story I sent to papers:


Killing Lincoln and becoming Booth: Jesse Johnson's time is here

Consumed by politics and rage, a young actor cut his hot career short ... and prolonged the darkest era in American history. That story is skillfully told in "Killing Lincoln," a cable movie Sunday, adapted from Bill O'Reilly's book. It stars Jesse Johnson, who has key things in common with the man he plays, John Wilkes Booth. Here's the story I sent to papers:



Genius? Far from the Ivy League, you'll find it in redneck country

True genius, you know, doesn't alway have an Ivy League inflection, an Oxford attitude, a prep-school pedigree. You'll also find it among some beer-drinking self-described rednecks in Huntsville, Ala. Here's a story I sent to papers:



It looks like fun, when the guys in
“Rocket City Rednecks” play their weekend games.