This is TV’s version of “pay it forward.”
A few producer-directors passed their skills along, nurturing young actors who wanted to direct.
We’re reminded of that again with the excellent “Red Line” finale (shown here, with Emayatzy Corinealdi, Aliyah Royale and Noah Wyle), from 8-10 p.m. Sunday (May 19) on CBS. But first, prime examples are:
— The late Garry Marshall, once TV’s comedy king. Many of his actors became directors; two – Ron Howards and Penny Marshall (Garry’s sister) – became greats.
— Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, the “Thirtysomething” producers. Four of the show’s six stars – Ken Olin, Tim Busfield, Penny Marshall and Peter Horton – became some of TV’s top directors.
— Ryan Murphy, whose shows have ranged from “Glee” to the current “9-1-1” and “Fosse/Verdon.” His “Half Foundation” — aimed at having women direct at least half his episodes – has had a quick impact that could be huge long-range.
— And the late Bruce Paltrow, who brings us back to “Red Line.”
Paltrow (yes, Gwyneth’s dad) arrived at a time when most directors (including him) were white.
The list of his actors who became terrific directors includes Eric Laneuville and Denzel Washingon from “St. Elsewhere: and three of the guys who played young basketball players in “White Shadow” — Thomas Carter, Kevin Hooks and Tim Van Patten.
Of those five, all except Van Patten are black; all are deeply talented. Laneuville won an Emmy for directing an “I’ll Fly Away” episode; Hooks won one for producing “The Color of Friendship,” which he also directed. Van Patten has two (for directing “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Pacific”), plus tons of “Sopranos” nominations. Carter has three – two for “Equal Justice” (which he also produced) and one for the Don King TV movie.
These are gifted directors, transforming television. And we see that with “Red Line,” a complex tale of race, politics and more in Chicago.
I’ve grumbled about some of the plot contrivances, but never about the brilliant look and feel. Hooks directed the second of eight episodes. And for Sunday’s two-hour finale, he directed (and produced) the first episode and Carter did the final one.
By then, all contrivances are forgiven. This is great television … something Bruce Paltrow began paying forward 40 years ago.