News and Quick Comments

“Downton” movie heads to TV — twice

PBS has some good news for fans of dramas that are large, lush and (of course) British.
The movie version of “Downton Abbey” (shown here) will air twice – on Christmas Day and on Jan. 2. It will be alongside two other favorites (“Call the Midwife” and “All Creatures Great and Small”) and something new – David Tennant in an eight-part mini-series, “Around the World in 80 Days.” Read more…

Christmas TV: Here’s the mega-list

If TV people have their way, we’ll spend the next month staring at Christmas shows.
We’ll start this Thanksgiving Day with the Macy’s parade (shown here in a previous year), continue through Christmas Day with the Disney parade, then watch a few reruns. We’ll be happy, apparently.
Last year, TV slowed down slightly, to allow COVID caution. This year, it’s moving faster than ever. This mega-list starts on Thanksgiving morning and is packed. Read more…

Summer heat brings cool Christmases?

It seems so easy, making all these Christmas movies.
They almost have the same cheery backdrops, the same perky heroine. She’s often expected to return to her home town and/or to squabble with a handsome guy who turns out to be OK after all.
Still, these aren’t that easy to make … starting with the weather. “You always do a Christmas movie in July,” John Schneider said. “As you always do a beach movie in November or December.”
His movie – “Reba McEntire’s Christmas in Tune” (8 p.m. Friday on Lifetime), shown here – has more music than most, along with some of the brightest colors this side of animation. It was also a rare case of a holiday film shot in the South. Read more…

Mid-season: more laughs, more female crooks

For five TV networks – the big, broadcast ones – fix-it time is near.
That’s the mid-season, when new shows are tried, old ones return and schedules are adjusted.
Returning will be a couple of much-honored shows (“Black-ish,” shown here, and “This Is Us”), a revival of an old show (“Law & Order”) and others. For the new shows, three focus on female criminals. Read more…

Mid-season changes: Here’s the line-up

After a long holiday break, the TV networks will have a flurry of changes in January.
Familiar shows – led by “This Is Us” (shown here) and “Black-ish” will finally start their seasons. New ones – including, alas, lots of reality shows – will get try-outs.
I’ll soon have a story (top of the page, left) outline this by genre. But for now, here’s a handy night-by-night list. It includes only shows that are new … or starting their seasons … or switching nights … or returning after a long break. Read more…

Stockwell’s child-star years get TCM focus

To many TV viewers, Dean Stockwell was the actor who filled catchy supporting roles in “Quantum Leap” and beyond.
But Stockwell was also a child star. On Nov. 22, a Turner Classic Movies marathon will have seven films he made before he was a teen-ager, including “Kim” (show here with Errol Flynn) and “The Secret Garden”; most of them were dead-serious, many had crying scenes.
Stockwell died Sunday (Nov. 7) at 85, six years after he had a stroke and retired from acting. By then, people knew him as a supporting actor on “Quantum Leap” (getting four Emmy nominations), “JAG” and “Battlestar Galactica.” Read more…

Magic’s life will become a streaming series

Magic Johnson’s life is now being turned into a four-part documentary series for Apple TV+.
The announcement was made Thursday, three days before the anniversary of a key day: On Nov. 7, 1991, Johnson (shown here) announced that he had tested positive for HIV.
That was at a time when AIDS was considered a death sentence. Johnson, now 62, threw himself into the newest medical protocols and has thrived for 30 years. Read more…

It’s a Golden Month for real-life mini-series

TV has had its Golden Ages and Clunker Ages and everything in between.
But let’s tighten the focus: Right now – November, 2021 – is the Golden Age of mini-series based on important news events. That encompasses:
– “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on FX, concluding Nov. 9; and
– “Dopesick” (shown here with Rosario awson), streaming Wednesdays on Hulu, concluding Nov. 17. Read more…

TV Halloween: the final, funny/messy stretch

It’s time for one final round-up of Halloween TV.
That starts and ends with “The Simpsons” and its off-brilliant, sometimes-just-messy “Treehouse of Horror” episodes (shown here). A dozen of them rerun Wednesday … then 30 of them air, in order, on Sunday.
There’s much more. We’ll briefly mention the scary stuff at the end (and repeat my “Chucky” story), but first let’s round up the fun stuff, Oct. 27-31: Read more…