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Paramount Plus: “Star Trek” to “SpongeBob” and beyond

As the streaming services harvest their latest Golden Globe awards, a newcomer arrives.
On Thursday (March 4), Paramount Plus debuts. It will immediately offer a new “SpongeBob” movie (shown here) and series, with plans to revive everything from “Frasier” to ”Beavis ad Butt-Head.”
And it leaves a key question: Do we really need another streaming service?
No, actually, but don’t worry. This is simply a bigger, bolder version of one of the first streamers. Read more…

ABC adds a fresh burst of soul

“Soul of a Nation” arrives Tuesday on ABC, eluding all the usual categories.
It’s “a journey through Black storytelling,” Marie Nelson, creator of the six-week series, told the Television Critics Association.
It’s also “sort of a news variety show,” said producer Robe Imbriano. It can have Common (shown herein a previous performance) one moment and a look at Black reparations the next. Read more…

CW sets two new shows, three season-openers

With its “fall season” finally in place (five months late), the CW is set for mid-season and beyond.
The mini-network has set dates for two new shows – a “Kung Fu” reboot (shown here via promotional art) and “The Republic of Sarah.” It also set the season-openers for “Dynasty,” “In the Dark” and “Legends of Tomorrow.” Read more…

CNN plans new line-up for April

CNN has finally set the details of its new daytime line-up.
That begins in April, with more Jake Tapper (shown here), less Wolf Blitzer and no Brooke Baldwin, plus a later Alyson Camerota and an earlier Brianna Keller. There will also a weekday hour for Ana Cabrera, key weekend slots for Jim Acosta and more. Read more…

At last: Hallmark Channel discovers diversity

The Hallmark Channel people say their shows are a lot better now … without quite acknowledging that they were a lot worse before.
The new-look Hallmark has more diversity, Wonya Lucas, CEO of the channel and its spin-off networks, told the Television Critics Association. It reflects “the complexity of what it means to love and be a family in a more authentic, varied and inclusive way.”
That includes racial and LGBT issues. “What I’m really excited about is our first gay lead,” said Michelle Vicary, the channel’s executive vice-president of programming.
She was talking about “Mix Up in the Mediterranean” (9 p.m. Saturday, rerunning at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20-21), with Jeremy Jordan, a Broadway star and a “Smash” and “Supergirl” co-star. “He plays twins …. One is gay, one is straight and, through a comedy of errors, they have to switch places.” Read more…

“Voice of Freedom” launches big PBS week

The world seemed to agree that Marian Anderson (shown here) was a great singer.
Audiences cheered; critics raved. Conductor Arturo Toscanani said this was a voice “one is privileged to hear only once in 100 years.”
What people didn’t agree on, in a segregated time, was where she could perform. That’s at the core of “American Experience: Voice of Freedom” (9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15), a documentary that launches an exceptionally strong week on PBS.
It’s followed on Tuesday and Wednesday by Henry Louis Gates’ resounding “The Black Church: This Is My Story, This Is My Song.” The week ends Sunday with an emotional, Christmastime season-finale of “All Creatures Great and Small.” Read more…

Lincoln: saved by a non-evil stepmother

We’ve heard plenty about evil stepmothers, so let’s hear the flip side – the good stepmother who helped shape the man who preserved the Union.
That’s one of the stories in “Lincoln: Divided We Stand,” which is part of an excellent documentary duo Sundays on CNN, starting Feb. 14: “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” is 9 p.m. and midnightET, offering a warm survey of food and people; the Lincoln story is at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET.
Abe Lincoln (shown here) had a hard-scrabble childhood in Kentucky and then Indiana, hitting bottom when he was 9. His mother died and his father decided he couldn’t raise the kids alone. Leaving Abe and his sister in their cold cabin, he rode back to Kentucky and asked a family friend to marry him.
Sarah Bush Johnson – whose husband, a jailer, had died – said yes. She arrived with three children, some cookware … and a collection of books, which Lincoln promptly gravitated to. Read more…

Tough talent comes in mixed sizes

“Tough as Nails” is back, giving us toughness in all sizes.
For the supersize, there’s Scott Henry, 40, a lineman. “He’s this big, lovable teddy bear,” Phil Keoghan, the show’s host and co-creator, told the Television Critics Association. “But he’s also 6-foot-7 and he’s a very powerful guy.”
And for the mini-size, there’s Celi Garcia (shown here, foreground), 31, a traveling nurse. “I’m 5-2,” she said, “and we had some really big guys on our show. And a lot of strong women.”
That’s sort of what Keoghan had in mind when he created the show, which is back (8 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS) for its second season. It has people compete in blue-collar tasks. Read more…

Pandemic sent PBS in fresh directions

For PBS, the pandemic created a global dilemma.
This is a network that sprawls across continents and genres. COVID has had endless effects, from delayed dramas to masked puppeteers, solo concerts by Renee Fleming (shown here) and others, and an “Antiques Roadshow” without the roadshow.
Still, PBS has an ambitious schedule, partly because documentaries have been less affected. Coming up are two masterful ones – Henry Louis Gates’ “The Black Church” (Feb. 16-17) and Ken Burns’ “Hemingway” (April 5-7), plus some ongoing series.
“I think the most important series that we have on our air is ‘Frontline,’” Paula Kerger, the network president, told the Television Critics Association. “When you look at what’s happening to investigative journalism in this country, ‘Frontline’ (10 p.m. Tuesdays) is one of the last standing.” Read more…

Zucker soared with CNN … after crashing with NBC

Jeff Zucker is following a plan embraced by politicians and poker players: Quit while you’re ahead.
Zucker announced Thursday that this will be his final year as president of CNN. Earlier, he soared as producer of “Today” … crashed as president of NBC … then bounced back. CNN has had strong ratings, forceful reporting … and lots of weekend programming — including two on Sunday (Feb. 14): “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” (shown here) and “Lincoln: Divided We Stand.”
Both extremes – the CNN highs, the NBC lows –revolved around Donald Trump. Many things do. Read more…