Month: August 2020

Sci-fi surge propels streamers and HBO

For fantasy fans, this is a time of plenty.
Most movie theaters may be closed, but our TV sets and computers have big stories, big ideas and, especially, big budgets.
Misha Green, a showrunner, can attest to that. Her previous series, for basic-cable, was about the Underground Railroad; her current one – “Lovecraft Country” (shown here), starting 9 p.m. Aug. 16 on HBO – also has racial themes, but puts them alongside big-deal monster stories.
The budget difference, she told the Television Critics Association, is huge. “One episode of this show is maybe five of ‘Underground.’”
From “Umbrella Academy” to “Utopia,” the TCA this week saw lots of big-budget science-fiction, Could this be a golden age for fantasy and sci-fi on TV and streaming? “I would say that’s absolutely true,” said Aaron Guzikowski, whose “Raised By Wolves” arrives next month on HBO Max. Read more…

Week’s top-10 for Aug. 10: Sci-fi soars; documentaries fume

1) “Agents of SHIELD” series finale, 9 and 10 p.m. Wednesday, ABC. An ambitious show ends in the relative obscurity of summer. “SHIELD” began with 22-episode seasons on the main schedule; it ends with a pair of 13-episode summers. Still, it all adds up – seven seasons, 136 episodes, a story leaping across planets and time. Last week ended with double evil – Sybil in the computer system, Malik in space, guiding laser shots toward the SHIELD bases. NowDaisy (Chloe Bennett, shown here) and friends have two TV hours to save the world. Read more…

Best-bets for Aug. 9: leaping sharks, nasty people

1) Shark overlap, cable. This is the day “Sharkfest” slides from the National Geographic Channel to Nat Geo Wild, where it will linger for two more weeks. But it’s also when Discovery starts “Shark Week” – an idea it created 32 years ago. At 8 p.m., Discovery returns to the site off the high-leaping “Air Jaws” (shown here). At 9, it claims to have an underwater confrontation between sharks and Mike Tyson. And at 10, it’s in New Zealand, where giant great whites, some 20 feet long, thrive. Read more…

Best-bets for Aug. 8: double Clint, double Freddie

1) “American Sniper” (2014) or “Richard Jewell” (2019), 8 p.m., Syfy or HBO. After spending decades in fiction, Clint Eastwood has directed five straight films based on true stories. That started with the terrific “Sniper,” which drew six Oscar nominations, included best actor (Bradley Cooper, shown here) and best picture. It made $547 million worldwide – which put it more than $500 million ahead of “Jewell,” the story of the security guard who found bombs near the 1996 Olympics. Read more…

100th anniversary of women’s vote? It’s semi-overlooked

As other issues seize our attention, TV may be ignoring one key date: Aug. 26 marks the 100th anniversary of women’s vote in federal elections.
Well, semi-ignoring, anyway. CW has announced a special for that night, “Women in Film Presents: Make It Work!” It will include generations of Hollywood women, from Jane Fonda (shown here), 83, to Beanie Feldstein, 27.
And PBS has already had a string of shows, now available online. Details include: Read more…

Best-bets for Aug. 7: Broadway star soars; rock star starts

1) “Great Performances: In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams.” 9 p.m., PBS. This is feel-good TV – a show that feels especially good when we know what’s happened in the 11 years since it first aired. We see Lin-Manuel Miranda (shown here, left, in his later “Hamilton” triumph), then 28, ready to open “In the Heights” on Broadway. He’d been writing it since his sophomore year in college, where he met Thomas Kail, now directing it. We meet the gifted cast, see its Tony triumph … and know these people will soar again, with “Hamilton.” Read more…

Nat Geo pushes ahead during pandemic

Storm-chasing, it seems, just isn’t fair. The storm never obeys borders; the chasers have to.
For “Category 6” – a new show filming storms for the National Geographic Channel – that problem comes with the pursuit of Tropical Storm Isiasis (shown here). The show is following it up the Atlantic coastline, producer Lisa Bloch told the Television Critics Association. But “come New Jersey, the storm (will) have to go on without us.”
Blame COVID for that: New Jersey says all people must quarantine 14 days before entering the state. The storm is free to zoom ahead, unpursued.
Such complications abound these day. As the TCA’s virtual sessions with cable networks began Monday, the emphasis was on getting by. “We’ve gone from 4-to-8 person crews to one,” Bloch said. Read more…

Best-bets for Aug. 6: Fun with “Mom” and “Cake”

2) “Mom,” 9:01 and 9:30 p.m., CBS. After starting with two terrific characters, this show kept adding great ones in support. Both of these reruns focus on Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) and Jill (Jaime Pressly). In the first, Marjorie tries to reconnect with the son she lost touch with in her drunken years; in the second, she prepares for her first date since her husband’s death. Also, in the first one, Tammy sees a different side of Jill while working for her; in the second, Bonnie confesses to a long-ago theft Read more…

Two mysteries: This time, CW’s the winner

Two mystery shows are arriving now, just when we really need some fresh, scripted shows.
One, “Endeavour” (shown here) is in PBS’ prestigious “Masterpiece” series, with rich craftsmanship and subtly nuanced performances. The other, “Coroner,” is on much-less-prestigious CW.
And the surprise? This time, the CW show is much better. Read more…

A de Havilland marathon captures decades of classics

For any Hollywood star, this may be a record: After making her most famous film, Olivia de Havilland lived another 81 years.
She was 23 when she co-starred in “Gone With the Wind” (1939) as sweet-spirited Melanie (shown here), getting an Academy Award nomination; she was 104 when she died July 26.
This month, highlights of her career will rerun on Turner Class Movies. It will be a 24-hour package, starting at 6 a.m. Aug. 23, but for many people it will be something to record and catch later. Read more…