Month: January 2023

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…

Good news: quietly clever “Bob” has been renewed

One of TV’s best shows has just been renewed for next season.
And no, it’s not one that grabs awards or lands on 10-best lists. It’s “Bob (Hearts) Abishola,” the quiet gem that airs at 8:30 p.m. Mondays on CBS.
The network had already renewed its other comedies, two good ones (“Young Sheldon” and “Ghosts”) and “The Neighborhood.” Now it adds “Bob,” a quiet success. In its fourth season, it’s been averaging six million viewers, sometimes sliping into the top 10. Read more…

Best-bets for Jan. 27: skaters, rappers and movies

1) Figure skating, 8-10 p.m., NBC. As always, the female skaters (shown here) dominate TV’s attention. They had their short programs Thursday on the USA Network and now move to NBC for the finals. Meanwhile, the men have their short programs from 5-7 p.m. today on USA, with the finals from 3-6 p.m. Sunday on NBC. Other finals are Saturday — free dance, 2-4:30 p.m., NBC; pairs, 8-10 p.m., USA. Read more…

A grown-up genre: Hip hop turns 50

At first, hip hop was considered a passing fancy.
It was free and fun and outdoors. It was what New York needed in the 1070s.
And then it became much more, “Hip hop is entering its so-called 50th-year anniversary … Its history and story is very deep,” said Chuck D (shown here), the Public Enemy rapper.
He linked with PBS and the BBC to produce “Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World.” It debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 31) on PBS, skips a week because of the State of the Union speech, then has one hour on Feb. 14 and two on Feb. 21. Read more…