News and Quick Comments

9/11 films bring fresh waves of emotion

Looking back 20 years, to the waves of Sept. 11 tragedy, Joseph Pfeifer tries to focus on the positive.
This was a day (shown here) when his fellow firefighters did what they always do, he said. They rushed in, found people, saved lives. They did “ordinary things – but at an extraordinary time in history.”
Pfeifer, 65, retired three years ago as assistant chief of the New York City Fire Department. Now he appears often in “9/11: One Day in America,” which arrives Aug. 29-31 on the National Geographic Channel, ami a surge of 20th-anniversary documentaries.
“The moment the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center, my life changed forever,” Pfeifer told the Television Critics Association. Read more…

Surprise: Some networks have more shows than ever

Yes, supply-chain issues keep confounding businesses.
But some TV networks now have more new shows than ever. A prime example is Showtime, with one-fourth more new hours this year than it had pre-pandemic.
“That was part of the intent to grow,” Jana Winograde said. Viewers will see that quickly when:
– “Billions” (shown here) returns Sunday, Sept. 5, to start the final five episodes of its fifth season. It will then “make up for lost time by premiering Season Six in January,” Gary Levine said. He and Winograde, co-presidents of programming, had a virtual press conference with the Television Critics Association. Read more…

Surge of New York specials starts with mega-concert

Television’s surge of New York-themed specials will get an early start.
CNN has just added a live, New York City concert, with Bruce Springsteen, Jennifer Hudson, Carlos Santana, Paul Simon and many more. It will focus on the city’s comeback from the pandemic and will honor front-liners.
That will be 5 p.m. ET Saturday (Aug. 21), one day before HBO launches Spike Lee’s documentary (8 p.m. Sunday) about New York in the 20 years since the World Trade Center was attacked. Many other New York-temed specials will be closer to Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the attack. Read more…

PBS this fall: Serious subjects abound

Peeking ahead to PBS’ fall schedule, one thing is clear:
These people are serious. Other networks may have become a bit lighter and brighter and simpler, but you won’t find that here.
In a three-day stretch of virtual press sessions, PBS took the Television Critics Association through imposing subjects, from Muhammad Ali (shown here) to the aftershocks of Sept. 11.
Yes, the network can sometimes be fun – especially on Sundays, when it has dramas and (on Aug. 29) a concert version of “Wicked.” But often, it will be serious, including: Read more…

PBS dramas: “Grantchester” soon, “Sanditon” later

For fans of the lush “Sanditon” series (shown hee), PBS has semi-encouaging news:
It will be back … well, sometime. And probably in 2022.
“They are just about three weeks into filming now,” Susanne Simpson, the “Masterpiece” producer, told the Television Critics Association. “But you will see ‘Sanditon’ next year.”
Based on a novel that Jane Austen had barely started, the show created a seaside world filled with schemes, ambition and romance. It drew mildly favorable reviews from critics and strongly favorable comments from viewers … but the British company that created it decided against a second season. Read more…

Want true-crime? Hulu has it straight or funny

As the true-crime trend surges, Hulu will approach it from all sides.
One documentary will be a straight-forward crime tale. Another will view the long-range impact of such stories. And a fictional tale (“Only Murders in the Building”) will turn the trend into comedy.
That last one is from Steve Martin, who says he’s a true-crime fan. “Steve’s a deep well (of knowledge) when it comes to podcasts,” producer Dan Fogelman told the Television Critics Association.
Martin hatched the idea of three crime-buffs obsessed with a possible murder in their apartment building. He stars with Selena Gomez (shown here) and Martin Short, in a 10-part comedy-drama that starts Aug. 31. “This is one of the most unusual things that I’ve done,” he said, “because it actually has a plot.” Read more…

From amusement ride to movie screen? It works (sometimes)

Long ago, Disney announced it would make movie versions of its theme-park attractions.
The world promptly and properly groaned. We envisioned spinning teacups becoming flying saucers … the Carousel of Progress whirling in reverse … an insurrection inside the Hall of Presidents … or the Tiki Room crew enmeshed in some sort of gruesome “The Birds” sequel.
We thought this would be terrible … and often were right. But good things can happen to bad ideas; “The Jungle Cruise” – which has just opened in theaters and as pay-extra on Disney+ – is quite fun.
Yes, it’s sometime s excessive, sometimes overwrought; what isn’t nowadays? But it’s often salvaged by its solid cast – led by Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt (shown here with Jack Whitehall) – and a fairly clever script. Read more…

Yes, stupid fun is going prime time

After more than four decades, “Stupid Pet Tricks” (shown here) is finally ready for prime time.
The TBS cable channel is turning it into a 10-episode series. Sarah Silverman will host, David Letterman’s company will be a co-owner and Merrill Markoe will be a consulting producer.
Markoe created the notion in 1980, when she was head writer of Letterman’s morning show. That show died quickly, but Letterman moved to latenight in 1982 and stayed there for 33 years, always with “Stupid Pet Tricks” as an audience favorite. Read more…

Bugs and LeBron? 10 plus 10 equals 2 or 3

By the end of the “Space Jam” sequel, most of the Warner Brothers empire has been pushed into duty.
Yes, Bugs Bunny and his Looney Tunes friends (shown here) are the stars, but you’ll also glimpse Yogi Bear and his Hanna-Barbera pals. There are brief glimpses of Wonder Woman and Superman and King Kong, of classics both old (“Casablanca”) and new (“Game of Thrones”).
All of this reminds us that sometimes more is less, that sometimes 10 plus 10 plus 10 equals 2 or 3.
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” – now on HBO Max and in theaters – does have its moments. I laughed out loud at one bit, a reference to Michael Jordan, who starred in the original, 1996 “Space Jam.” But then it pours on more moments … and more … and more. Read more…

“Pixels” is back … and a tad dead

“Dead Pixels” (shown here) is back and … well, a bit deader than before.
This was one of the shows we welcomed last summer: In the depth of the pandemic, the CW was reaching out; it was brightening the season with imported fun.
Now the mini-network is repeating that approach: New, scripted shows are scarce in the summer, so it has a bunch of them, especially ones from other English-speaking countries. They’re from: Read more…