Month: January 2023

“Ark” tries the youthful lure of space tales

Over the past four decades, Dean Devlin has seen large chunks of show business.
He was an unnoticed TV actor, guesting briefly on “Fame and “Happy Days” and such. He was a movie writer-producer, scoring big with “Independence Day” and “Stargate.” He drew criticism from others (and himself) for special-effects epics … then redeemed himself with “Leverage.”
Still, he said, some emotions persist. He’s felt that on “The Ark” (shown here), which debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 1), on Syfy: “Walk on the set, you’re suddenly 12 years old again. It’s like, ‘I’m on a spaceship!’” Read more…

Best-bets for Feb. 1: schooltime music and comedy

1) “Schoolhouse Rock! 50th Anniversary Singalong,” 8 p.m., ABC. It’s the fifth round of “Singalong,” which became a pandemic hit. This time, clever songs about grammar, government, math and more are sung by stars. Derek Hough does “Figure 8”; his sister Julianne does “Interplanet Janet.” Others include Black-Eyed Peas, Ne-Yo, Muppets (shown here), Broadway stars and even Shaquille O’Neal, backed by the Boys and Girls Club for “Conjunction Junction.” Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 31: Hip hop soars; dramas stumble

1) “Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World” opener, 9-10 p.m., PBS. On Aug. 11, 1973, a Jamaican-born teen, dubbed DJ Kool Herc (shown here, later), used turntables and mega-speakers to make his sister’s party festive; hip hop was born. It would be six more years before rap records took off; by then, other hip hop facets – break-dancing, graffiti and DJ’s — had soared. This opener of a four-part film follows the early years of a genre that’s now in its 50th year. Read more…

Documentaries near their Hollywood moment

As the Academy Awards near, the nominees have a descending order of fame.
At the top this year are the stars – actors (Cate Blanchett, Angela Bassett, Judd Hirsch, etc.), a director (Steven Spielberg) and some songwriters (Lady Gaga, Rihanna). And near the bottom, every year?
“You are the lowest on the totem pole as a short-doc filmmaker,” Cynthia Wade said
That’s the short-documentary category. She won it in 2008 (for the 39-minute “Freeheld)” and had her moment on global TV, being handed an Oscar by Tom Hanks; she was nominated again in 2013.
This year, hers was one of four National Geographic Channel films that made the short list of consideration for the two documentary categories. It wasn’t nominated, but another Nat Geo one, Sara Dosa’s “Fire of Love” (shown here) was nominated as best feature-length doc. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 30: watching, leaping and beyond

1) “The Watchful Eye” debut, 9 and 10 p.m., Freeform. A young nanny (shown here) starts work, surrounded by secrets, suspicions and despair. She was hired by a guy whose wealthy wife killed herself; the wife’s mother and sister view him warily. But this is a story in which no one can be trusted – including the nanny and her boyfriend. Acted with subtle skill, it adds hints of the supernatural; consider it a gothic flip on “Only Murders in the Building.” Read more…

Dark-and-creepy tale gets a fresh twist

If you’re building a dark and creepy tale, you really need a creepy, dark building.
The British prefer mansions, manor houses and castles; Americans prefer apartment houses that cater to the rich and fretful.
“There’s just something really sort of compelling about the idea of an apartment building,” said Emily Fox, showrunner of “The Watchful Eye,’ which debuts at 9 and 10 p.m. Monday (Jan. 30) on Freeform. “And the fact that it does contain so many stories and that all these people are so close … It’s our version of a castle.”
This could be “Only Murders in the Building” without the laughs, but Fox points to other inspirations – the apartment building in “Rosemary’s Baby” or the mansion in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca.” And then there’s what makes “Watchful Eye” stand apart: Unlike “a classic, Hitchcockian thriller, there is a very empowered female at the center,” Mariel Molino (shown here) said. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 29: football, firefighters, figure-skaters

1) Football. So far, the pro play-offs have been short of surprises. Now the two conference leaders – each with a 15-3 record – host championship games, with the winners going to the Super Bowl two weeks later. At 3 p.m. ET on Fox, the Philadelphia Eagles host the San Francisco 49ers (15-4); at 6:30 on CBS, the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals (shown here, 14-4).
Read more…

Week’s top-10 for Jan. 30: Grammys, hip hop and a sci-fi surge

1) Grammy awards, 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) today, CBS, repeating at 8:30. Skillfully produced by Ben Winston (who also does the Tonys and James Corden’s show), the Grammys survived the pandemic. Now Trevor Noah hosts for the third straight year. Beyonce leads with nine nominations … tying her with her husband Jay-Z, as all-time leaders with 88 apiece. Performers include Mary J. Blige (shown here), Bad Bunny, Luke Combs, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Brandi Carlile and more. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 28: Fun on (or near) ice

1) “Planet Earth: Frozen Planet II” (shown here), 8 p.m., BBC America. A third of our planet remains mostly frozen, David Attenborough tells us here. Parts of the Arctic are fierce – 200-mile-an-hour winds whipping temperatures of 94-below-zero Fahrenheit. But moving south a tad, there’s spectacular footage of frozen forests, cascading waterfalls, wolves and bison colliding. This is great filmmaking, in a day filled with reruns of other BBC nature gems, Read more…

It’s a life of TV fame and (sometimes) soup-can meals

(This is mainly for people in the Lansing, Mich., area, but should be of interest to others, especially “Shameless” fans. Jim Hoffmaster, who did 69 episodes of that show, is the subject of a fascinating documentary. It’s returning to Lansing for a week at the Studio C theater, beginning at 6:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27. With that in mind, I’m repeating this story, from a few months ago.)
Here are some moments in the life of a successful TV actor. Jim Hoffmaster (shown here) was:
— Visiting his alma mater, Durand (Mich.) High School, when a young woman rushed in, grinning. She was meeting the guy who plays Kermit on “Shameless” – “my favorite character on my favorite show.”
— At a street fair in Lansing,, doing one of his silly dances; the crowd cheered. “That’s as close as I’ve ever been to being mobbed,” he said later, by phone.
— And back home in Los Angeles, in a crowded studio apartment. No, he doesn’t have elegant dinner parties there. In fact, he never has guests … and he sometimes eats soup straight from the can. Read more…