Lear’s great life had Bunker-ish roots

Hovering over Norman Lear’s life was one indomitable force.
That was his father. “I loved him, but I didn’t always like him,” Lear (shown here), who died Tuesday at 101, once told reporters.
Hyman “Herman” Lear “was going to make and have a million dollars in 10 days to two weeks, all his life,” Lear told the Television Critics Association in 2016. “And, of course, he didn’t come close.”
And then his son surpassed any such dreams. He became “a television hero,” said Michael Kanto, said in 2016, the year he produced an “American Masters” profile of Lear that many PBS stations will rerun at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8. Lear’swho produced a PBS profile of Lear that year. Lear’s success could be measured in: Read more…

Too much Christmas? Not by these standards

Sure, we might wonder if TV overdoes the holidays.
Two channels had new Christmas movies in October. Others jumped in as soon as the Thanksgiving Day parade ended. A week later, another proclaimed the “25 days of Christmas.”
But in some parts of the world, that would be restraint. In the Philippines, Lea Salonga said in a virtual press conference, “the Christmas season actually starts in September.”
Now she stars in “Christmas With the Tabernacle Choir,” at 8 p.m. Dec. 12 on PBS and at 8 p.m. ET Dec. 17 on BYU-TV. “I told my brother about it,” she said, “and he was like, ‘Oh my, that’s huge!’” Read more…

“Napoleon” and others hit likability limits

For American audiences, there’s one clear deal-breaker.
We’ll accept antiheroes. We’ll let them rob banks, sell drugs, run gangs, spout biases, cheat on spouses. BUT they must be likable.
That comes to mind now, while pondering two current movies – “Napoleon” (shown here) and “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Here are epics, now in theaters (where they belong) before reaching Apple TV+. Each is by a master filmmaker, Ridley Scott and Martin Scorsese; each is oddly hard to like.
It also pops up while watching the original, British version of “Ghosts,” at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Thursdays on CBS. This is just like the American adaptation … except the characters are much less likable. That factor has been crucial, especially on TV: Read more…

“Prince of Egypt” musical: songs from the summit

Maybe this is where all songs should be created – atop Mount Sinai, viewing miles of expanse and centuries of human history.
That’s where “When You Believe” began. It would become a global hit (having Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey helped); so would the movie it was written for, “The Prince of Egypt.”
Now, 25 years later, the story and songs are back in a new form: “The Prince of Egypt: The Musical”(shown here) was filmed live in London; it’s available Dec. 5, via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
This was “written a long time ago, from a story thousands of years ago,” songwriter Stephen Schwartz said. It’s also disturbingly current – clashes in the Holy Land, pitting neighbors against each other. Read more…

Here’s the TV Christmas mega-list

For 57 years, people have been singing the Broadway song, “We Need a Little Christmas.”
Now it seems especially true. TV networks and viewers need A LOT of Christmas.
Scrambling to fill voids created by strikes, networks have strained their supply of reruns, reality shows, game shows and other nonsense. They need a break – and a six-week Christmas cruise. Here’s a mega-list, by category and date, of what’s coming. Read more…

When does your show return? Here’s the list

Now that the big-four networks have set their post-strike schedules, viewers can ask the key question: “Hey, when does my show return?”
Maybe you only care about “La Brea” (we won’t judge) or “Celebrity Name That Tune” (well, maybe we’ll judge a little). You can find them in this alphabetical list, which includes shows that are new (including “Elsbeth,” shown here) or returning from last season or simply back from a mid-season break.
Not included here are shows that never left (“60 Minutes,” for instance) or still haven’t been scheduled. Everything is subject to change, via network whim. This follows the usual rules for alphabetizing – ignore any “The”; numbers are presented as if they were spelled out. Here we go: Read more…

For NBC and Fox, the season starts (partly) in January

The long-delayed TV season will begin right after the holidays.
Or, at least, parts of it will. For some parts, viewers must wait until March.
This week, NBC and Fox set plans that are relatively speedy. Both will have several non-reruns arriving in early and mid-January, getting a one-month jump on CBS and ABC; NBC will even have two advance episodes — “Night Court” (shown here) and Jon Cryer’s new “Extended Family” — on Dec. 23. Read more…

This “Fargo” role feels like home

Jumping into the compelling “Fargo” characters, actors have tried different methods.
Some have tried speech coaches or studied tapes; David Rysdahl (shown here) had a quicker method.
“I called up my dad and listened to him,” he said. “I ended up calling my aunts and uncles, too.”
The result works wonderfully. In the newest “Fargo” mini-series – debuting at 10 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 21) on FX – he’s Wayne Lyon, sweet-spirited and optimistic and not sure why people near his wife keep being killed or maimed. Read more…

She’s led a revolution in women’s sports

Billie Jean King (shown here) announced her intentions, 70-plus years ago.
At 7, she says, she told her mother she was going to do something great. At 10, she “told my mom, ‘Mommy, I want to be the No. 1tennis player in the world.” At 12, she “promised myself that I would fight for equality the rest of my life.”
And then, remarkably, she did all of that.
Some of the result is clear in PBS’ “Groundbreakers,” from 8-10 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 21), the eve of her 80th birthday. The documentary partly looks at King’s story – “I’ve had an amazing life, because of being in sports,” she said in a virtual press conference – and mostly looks at changes in life. Read more…

Double Dianas and more — a huge streaming week

The streaming universe seems to keep topping itself.
We’ll look around and decide this is the biggest week ever … and then a bigger one arrives. Now this current one, in mid-November, feels like the biggest yet.
It peaks Thursday (Nov. 16), with the start of the final season of Netflix’s “The Crown,” one of the shows that propelled the streaming surge. That’s preceded by a couple of compelling shows — the start of “A Murder at the Top of the World,” Tuesday on Hulu, and the continuing “Buccaneers,” Wednesday on Apple. Then there’s a Friday flurry, ranging from a civil rights hero to assorted types of silliness.
The week even includes double Dianas: Emma Corrin, who received an Emmy nomination in the fourth “Crown” season, gives a richly layered performance (show here) in Hulu’s “A Murder”; Elizabeth Debicki, who has an Emmy nomination for the fifth season, is back for the sixth. Here’s a round-up: Read more…