At-home music — casual Billie, zesty Dua

TV’s music-from-home spurt has finished its pop-music phase. Country is next.
Elton John hosted Sunday’s concert on Fox; James Corden did Monday’s on CBS. Both had plenty of pop stars giving at-home performances. In fact, both had Billie Eilish (shown here in a previous photo).
Now country takes over, on CBS. It will be Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood at 9 p.m. Wednesday, then much of Nashville from 8-10 p.m. Sunday.
Corden tried brief interviews Monday, with so-so success. We did learn that Eilish has been binging Fleabag (wise choice) and Chrissy Teigen has been making yummy food to eat with her husband John Legend. The stationary camera, alas, only gave us Teigen from the neck down. Read more…

Best-bets for April 2: Broken people bring laughs

1) “Broke” debut, 9:30 p.m., CBS. Even before the economic slowdown, TV planned shows about penniless relatives moving in. In NBC’s “Indebted,” it’s the parents; here, it’s an older sister and her husband. Oddly, both shows air at the same time. “Indebted” is loud and lame, but a sampling indicates “Broke” (shown here) could be quite good. Pauley Perrette (“NCIS”) plays a single mom and bar-owner whose sister (Natasha Leggero) arrives with her husband (Jaime Camil of “Jane the Virgin”) and his manservant. Read more…

Home-music specials: a strong start

The first crack at doing a music-from-home TV special was mostly terrific.
Sure, there were flaws. Every variety special – well, every one except “Color Me Barbra” and “Liza With a Z” – has had some.
But mostly, Fox’s “iHeart Living Room Concert For America” on Sunday proved that sheer talent can thrive, even under stark conditions. That’s good news, because there are three similar specials this week (10 p.m. Monday, 9 p.m. Wednesday, 8-10 p.m. Sunday) on CBS.
The “iHeart” show was stuffed with gifted singers, including Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Tim McGraw and Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes  (they’re shown here in the crowded old days). Remarkably, however, the greatest moment came from a singing doctor. Read more…

Best-bets for April 1: Masked stars, mask-less superstar

1) “The Masked Singer” (shown here), 8-10 p.m., Fox. The semi-finals begin and things get serious. The early rounds dumped a skateboarder (Tony Hawk), a rapper (Lil Wayne), two TV hosts (Tom Bergeron, Drew Carey) and an almost-vice president (Sarah Palin). They also dumped two semi-singers (JoJo Siwa and Bella Thorne) and, oddly, music greats Dionne Warwick and Chaka Khan. That leaves the top nine, some quite talented, dressed as a kangaroo, banana, rhino and such. Read more…

Film has Cuba’s against-the-odds medical success

At 63, George Keays seemed to have an enviable life – good health, great setting, solid finances.
He had retired as a telecom executive and returned to his previous field of real estate. He lived in Boulder, Colo., a place that emphasizes outdoor living.
“I was a healthy person” who never smoked, he told the Television Critics Association in January. “I have run a marathon. I have always been exercising regularly, eating right.”
Then doctors said he had stage-4 lung cancer, with little time left. “They were ‘six to nine months.’”
That was four years ago. Now Keays is featured in “Cuba’s Cancer Hope” (shown here) a “Nova” documentary (9 p.m. Wednesday, April 1, on PBS) that includes some American doctors who were startled by the island’s medical progress Read more…

At-home concert trend grows; Garth Brooks jumps in

Television has suddenly re-discovered music, in the midst of the coronavirus shutdown.
Music-from-home specials span two networks (CBS and Fox) and two genres (country and pop). In an eight-day stretch, they total four specials, five hours and an abundance of stars.
The latest addition will have Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood (shown here in a previous concert) on Wednesday (April 1). CBS announced that today (Sunday, March 29) … while Fox was announcing last minute additions for its special tonight. Read more…

Best-bets for March 31: kingdom falls, empire teeters

1) “Miracle Workers: Dark Ages” finale, 10:30 p.m., TBS, rerunning at 11:30. As an enemy army approaches the village, King Cragnoor the Heartless springs into action: He loads up his gold and flees. His son, Prince Chauncely the Pretty Cool (Daniel Radcliffe, shown here), has a different approach. He wants to rescue the villagers in general and the woman he loves in particular. It’s a tough task, so this will take a clever scheme. The result is very funny … and a reminder that these weren’t the good old days. Read more…

Best-bets for March 30: It’s a satellite serenade

1) “Homefest,” 10 p.m., CBS. Here’s an agreeable mini-trend – stars performing from their homes. Fox had a special Sunday; CBS wil have another (with country stars) this Sunday. First, it’s James Corden (shown here in his usual setting) from his garage, with performances from Korea (BTS), Italy (Andrea Bocelli), London (Dua Lipa, who was going to be on the “Saturday Night Live” that was postponed) and Los Angeles (Billie Eilish, who was also in Fox’s special) and John Legend. Read more…

Film takes a fierce view of China’s one-child past

This isn’t what a filmmaker expects her mother to say at a premiere.
Nanfu Wang was presenting “One Child Nation,” which would go on to big things. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and debuts Monday (March 30) on PBS.
The film takes a fierce look at the policy that dominated China for 36 years, using everything from propoganda (shown here) to punishment, limiting families to one (and in some cases two) children. It offered horror stories of forced sterilizations and abortions, of children abandoned or sold.
American audiences tend to be horrified. And the reaction of Wang’s mother, who was a Chinese villager during the that era? “At the premiere Q&A, somebody asked her what she thought about it,” Wang said. “And she said, ‘Well, I think the film is great …. But I still believe the one-child policy was necessary.’ And that was surprising to me and surprising to everyone.” Read more…

Best-bets for March 29: Music from Garth, Elton, Zoey

1) “Gershwin Prize: Garth Brooks,” 9-11 p.m., PBS. The music greats, from Paul McCartney to Stevie Wonder, have won the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Now Brooks(shown here) is the 11th winner, the second country person (after Willie Nelson) and the youngest. At 58, he’s sold 148 million albums in the U.S., trailing only the Beatles. He performs here; so does his wife Trisha Yearwood, plus Keith Urban, Chris Stapleton, Ricky Skaggs, Keb’ Mo, Lee Brice and the Howard University Chorus; Jay Leno hosts. Read more…