Mike Hughes

Best-bets for Sept. 19: Emmy awards … and Emmy-worthy “Ali”

1) “Muhammad Ali” opener, 8 p.m., PBS, rerunning at 10:15; continues through Wednesday. Ken Burns again tackles a larger-than-life figure, rippling with contrasts. Ali was a sweet-spirited kid who grew up in a devout Baptist home. Dyslexic, he stumbled in school, but compensated by being the class clown. He started boxing at 12; then, in his teen years, his 6-foot-3 frame began to fill out. He became a great athlete and a force of global impact (shown here), ideal for Burns’ flawless touch. Read more…

Ali: sweet and brutal, vilified and beloved

Ken Burns keeps immersing himself in large lives, filled with contrasts.
There was Thomas Jefferson, the champion of freedom, who owned slaves. And Ernest Hemingway, the macho man with a fragile ego. And now Muhammad Ali is profiled in a four-night film, Sunday through Wednesday (Sept. 19-22) on PBS.
With the hyper speed of his boxing and his tongue, Ali could be brutal. At other times?
“He was so sweet and cuddly,” Rasheda Ali, one of his nine children, told the Television Critics Association. “Daddy was very affectionate. I think all of us are now, because of him.” Read more…

Best-bets for Sept. 18: a night of key reruns

1) “S.W.A,T.” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” 8 and 9 p.m., CBS. When the season starts Monday, reruns will mostly disappear from the broadcast networks. Here’s one last shot for some key ones: In the “S.W.A.T.” season-finale, a police station is bombed and there’s a showdown with a domestic-terrorist group. Then the series finale of “NCIS: New Orleans” includes the wedding day (shown here) of Pride and Rita (Scott Bakula and Chelsea Field, married in real life), complicated by worries about his son. Read more…

Top-10 for season’s first week: a double-Lachey time

1) “NCIS: Hawaii” debut, 10 p.m. today, CBS. Yes, the TV world has too many spin-offs and reboots. This one, however, gets it right. It starts with great Hawaiian backdrops and a likable star, Vanessa Lachey (shown here), as the bureau chief. Then it surrounds her with strong support; Alex Tarrant, a New Zealand actor with Maori roots, is especially good as the team’s only native Hawaiian. The stories are also solid; that starts with a mysterious plane crash that leads to confrontations with dangerous outsiders. Read more…

TCA awards get Smart and lasso Ted

Jean Smart’s career has reached a multi-universe: She’s being honored for her past AND her present.
Smart has won the Television Critics Association’s annual Career Achievement award. At the same time, she’s won the Individual Achievement in Comedy award, for her work in “Hacks” (shown here). The awards, announced at 2 p.m. ET today, were led by “Ted Lasso” for program of the year. 
This is the 37th year for the awards and the second straight in which the ceremony was canceled because of COVID concerns. However, Smart could still have her public moment: At the Emmy awards (8-11 p.m. Sunday, CBS), she’s nominated for lead actress in a comedy (“Hacks”) and supporting actress in a movie or mini-series (“Mare of Easttown”). Read more…

Best-bets for Sept. 17: “Red Shoes” in ballet and in drama

1) “Great Performances: The Red Shoes,” 9 p.m., PBS. Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of artistic obsession keeps getting award-winning adaptations. A 1948 movie won two Oscars and the 2020 stage production (shown here) of theBritish ballet won two Olivier awards. Set in old Hollywood (and using movie music by Bernard Herrmann), it has gorgeous visuals and choreography. But to follow the plot, you have to listen to all the spoilers the narrator offers before the story begins. Read more…

Here’s a look at the new — well, new-ish — TV season

Summer is sagging, the pandemic is persisting and we need a fresh diversion.
We need the new TV season – new shows, new …. Well, maybe we can settle for “new-ish.”
The season officially starts Monday (Sept. 20), when all of the reruns and most of the summer reality shows vanish. But with some splendid exceptions — including “Ghosts,” shown here — this won’t seem terribly new. Read more…

New broadcast-network shows: Here’s a round-up

It’s a small, sturdy crop – this year’s group of new shows on the broadcast networks.
There are only 11 scripted ones at the start of the season, about half the usual total. Many are spin-offs or reboots; most have sent only a rough pilot film, not ready for review. Still, a few shows already stand out. We’ll list them first, then the rest; afterward, there’s a list of broadcast’s new, non-fiction shows; each list is chronological:
The best
– “The Big Leap,” 9 p.m., Mondays, Fox (starting Sept. 20). The fictional notion makes little sense: A national dance show focuses only on contestants from Detroit … concluding with “Swan Lake.” (A reality show, setting up a ballet?!?) Once you get past that, you’ll find deep characters. Scott Foley (shown here) plays the cynical producer; Teri Polo plays someone in mid-life crisis. Other roles go to relative newcomers (led by Simone Recasner as a young single mom); you’ll quickly root for them. Read more…

Cable and streamers pack the fall season

While the broadcast networks sputter, their competitors get more ambitious.
Cable channels and streamers keep pouring out new series (often with short seasons) and mini-series. A few are fairly light, but several are compelling, led by “Dopesick” (shown here with Michael Keaton as an honest but overwhelmed country doctor) viewing a drug company’s rush to create the opiod epidemic.
It’s a deluge of new choices, so we’ll try to keep this basic: This is a chronological list of shows for which we’ve seen at least one episode: Read more…

Best-bets for Sept. 16: “Nine-Nine” ends; streamers begin

1) “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” finale, 8-9 p.m., NBC. “Nine-Nine” (shown here in a previous episode) started hot in 2014 – Golden Globes for best comedy and comedy actor (Andy Samberg), Television Critics Association nominations for best comedy and new show. Then things got bumpy: Fox cancelled the show after five seasons; NBC aired two more full seasons and this 10-episode summer one. After tonight, NBC heads into a fall line-up that will mostly be laugh-free in prime time. Read more…