News and Quick Comments

When does Christmas start? Maybe on Oct. 21

Let’s quit worrying about when the TV season will really begin.
Instead, we’ll jump to a bigger question: When does Christmas begin?
Now we have an answer: It starts Oct. 21, when the Great American Family channel has the first of its new Christmas movies. It has 20 of them, including one (shown here) with Candace Cameron Bure and Gabriel Hogan.
Yes, October –the month before the month before Christmas. It’s 10 days before Halloween and 33 days before Thanksgiving; it’s 65 days before Christmas Day, giving us time for last-minute shopping. Read more…

“Theater Camp”: indie filmmaking at its best

I’ve never been to theater camp and never really done theater.
(That’s assuming you don’t count two nights in a small-town Wisconsin high school. You shouldn’t.)
Still, I love “Theater Camp” (shown here), the movie that just reached Hulu. It reminds us just how good an independent film can be.
Indie movies are often made with a shortage of money and an excess of wit and skill. They’re where Greta Gerwig started (with “Lady Bird” and such) before “Little Women” and “Barbie”; where Jennifer Lawrence showed her talent (with the wonderful “Winter’s Bone”) before becoming a superstar; where Wes Anderson remains, through “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Asteroid City” and more. Read more…

Now THAT was quite a football road trip

Life can seem tough for college football players these days. They’re playing almost every Saturday, sometimes after long plane rides.
But now imagine the guys at the University of the South, better known as Sewanee. (Shown here is a painting of the backfield.) Their story is told in “Unrivaled: Sewanee 1899” on PBS World (7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16) and then on
In 1899, the team’s manager, a student, booked a game with Texas. Still, that wouldn’t make enough money to pay for the 1,000-mile train ride from the Cumberland Plateau, near Nashville, to Austin.
His solution? On the way back, they would play four more games against top schools. That’s five games in six days, plus 2,500 miles on the train.Sewanee won each game, with a combined score of 91-0. The full season was 12-0, with a combined 322-10. In 2010, the College Football Hall of Fame voted it the best team ever. Read more…

ABC fills schedule gaps; “Dancing” to Tuesdays

ABC has finally filled some of the holes in its fall schedule – while leaving one open.
It announced today (Sept. 13) that:
— The return of “Dancing With the Stars” (shown here in a previous season) will be on Tuesdays. The season starts Sept. 26, with athletes, reality-show stars (including Charity Lawson from “The Bachelorette”) and teen-age “Doctor Strange” co-star Xochitl Gomez.
— That leaves Mondays open, allowing ABC to sometimes share “Monday Night Football” with ESPN. It plans to do that at least five more times. Read more…

Love guns? Hate guns? Worlds meet

A strange thing happens sometimes on PBS.
People from opposite worlds meet. They talk; often, they even like each other.
At least, that’s how it turns out in “America Outdoors With Baratunde Thurston,” at 8 p.m. Wednesdays. The Sept. 13 hour links:
— Kayle Browning (shown here), 31, a silver-medal Olympic sharp-shooter who grew up in small-town Arkansas. “My experience with firearms has only ever been positive,” she said, especially “the community that comes along with it, the career you can have with it.”
— Thurston, 46, who grew up in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s, hating guns. “It was a war zone …. My father was essentially a casualty of that war. (He was) shot and killed.” Read more…

Season preview: streamers create a have/have-not world

As the Hollywood strikes continue, TV viewers are split into haves and have-nots.
Many will feel the impact this fall. They’ll wonder how many reality shows the human soul can absorb.
For others, it will be milder. Loaded with streaming networks, they’ll keep finding new shows.
It can’t last, of course. Even the streamers – which work far in advance – will sputter if the writers’ and actors’ strikes continue. But for now, life seems semi-normal.
One vivid example is Wednesday, Sept. 13. That’s when Apple TV+ launches the third season of “The Morning Show,” rippling with sharp dialog and vivid characters played Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon (shown here) and Jon Hamm. Read more…

Season preview: relentless reality

(This has been updated.)
Ready or not, TV viewers are entering an autumn of relentless reality.
In past seasons, the big broadcast networks tossed in occasional reality shows. They were big ones – “The Voice,” “The Bachelor,” “Survivor” – adding variety to a sea of dramas and comedies.
But this season, amid the writers’ and actors’ strikes, it’s almost non-stop reality,
CBS is launching three new games (including “Buddy Games,” shown here) and giving two classics (“Survivor” and “The Amazing Race”) an extra half-hour apiece …. Fox will be non-stop reality, from Mondays through Thursdays .… ABC has retrieved “Dancing With the Stars” from Disney+ and will even have generations of romance – an hour of a 71-year-old “Golden Bachelor,” followed by two hours of frisky folks in bikinis and such. Read more…

“Emily” offers warmth and humor, amid a deep funk

An excellent movie arrives Friday (Sept. 8) on cable. The less you know about it in advance, the better.
I’ll tell you a few generalities for now, then have a spoiler alert before going any further:
“Guiding Emily” (shown here) is 9 p.m. Friday on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, rerunning at 7 p.m. Sunday. It has an Emmy-worthy performance by Sarah Drew (who played April for nine years on “Grey’s Anatomy”) and solid work from the others.
It also has things you don’t expect in a serious story – subtlety, vibrant visuals and a dab of humor.
OK, that’s all I can say without spoilers. Go ahead and watch it or read on: Read more…

Here’s a party that even outsiders will enjoy

OK, I might not be the target audience for “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah.”
The movie (shown here) – which debuted today (Aug. 25) on Netflix – is about Jewish girls turning 13. I miss that by one gender, one Testament and two generations.
But I found it to be an enjoyable journey to a different world and to some too-common human frailties. Also, it has a bright look and a relentless barrage of pop music.
This is a family-friendly film and a family project. Adam Sandler produced it and plays the dad. His daughter Sunny (second from left) stars as Stacy and her older sister Sadie plays, logically, her older sister. Adam’s wife Jackie is confined to playing Stacy’s friend’s mom; instead, Adam’s wife is played by Idina Menzel. Read more…