News and Quick Comments

“Chaperone” brings a tad of “Downton” prestige

“The Chaperone” reaches PBS Sunday, delivering a tad of “Downton Abbey” prestige. It arrives much later than expected.
Back in 2013, plans were announced for the movie. Based on a novel, it would have a script by “Downton” creator Julian Fellowes; Elizabeth McGovern (Cora in “Downton”) would star, with her husband Simon Curtis (“Cranford”) directing.
And then – like so many indie projects – it lingered. Read more…

Ludwin: the “kind” guy who saved “Seinfeld”

As “Weekend Update” ended on “Saturday Night Live,” this memorial photo of Rick Ludwin was shown.
That must have confused viewers. Who, exactly, was Rick Ludwin? And why didn’t he look like the sort of people – musicians and actors and such – that “SNL” usually memorializes?
Ludwin was an NBC executive for 32 years, including key decades as head of latenight and variety shows. He left in 2012, after a falling-out with Jay Leno, and died of organ failure on Nov. 10 at 71.
He was the one permanent force at a network that kept changing. He was, after all, the guy who had saved “Seinfeld.” Read more…

“Preppy Murder”: An unfair world in 1986 … and now

The “Preppy Murder” documentary tells us a lot about life in the 1980’s … and maybe about life now.
That starts with the fact that the case drew such fevered attention. “Before O.J. Simpson, this was the trial of the century,” tabloid reporter Steve Dunleavy says in “The Preppy Murder: Death in Central Park,” a compelling, three-night cable documentary that starts Wednesday (Nov. 13).
And that was partly for the same reason the Simpson case drew such attention: The victim was young, female and attractive; the suspect (shown here) looked more like a hero than a villain.
“If something happened in Central Park to a white person, you paid attention,” said Magee Hickey, who covered the 1986 case for a New York TV station. Read more…

“King and I”: a stern, serious musical for all eras

Right now, PBS is helpfully reminding us of a key fact: Musicals can be very different. Very.
Last Friday (Nov. 1), the network had the relentlessly shallow “42nd Street.” It had sharp songs, zesty dancers … and a plot so thin that some (but not all) actors gave campy performances.
And this Friday (9 p.m. Nov. 8)? “The King and I” (shown here) is pretty much the opposite. It has some flaws, but dead-serious intentions.
Both are part of TV’s current musicals surge, outlined in stories at the left. Now for a few “King” comments: Read more…

Back to brevity with the clever “Back to Life”

Living in the land of bulk, American TV series want to go mega. Seven seasons, at 22 episodes a year, will do fine.
But British TV comes in all sizes. The latest example is “Back to Life,” the splendid little Showtime series. It debuts at 10 and 10:30 p.m. Nov. 10 (five weeks later than originally scheduled) and its first season has only six half-hour episodes
.That’s three hours total. The whole series is an hour shorter than “Cleopatra,” even 39 minutes shorter than “Heaven’s Gate.” In that time, we get drama, comedy and a big finish. Read more…

Fox maps its post-football life

For the Fox network, this is a tricky question:
What happens when the sports surge ends? What will it be like without the OK ratings from the World Series and the huge numbers from Thursday-night and Sunday-afternoon football?
Now there are answers, adding one old show (Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing,” shown here) and several new ones, In particular, Fox will use football as a launching pad; for instance: Read more…