Stories

She’s a downsized spark for TV comedy

Douglas Adams, the late “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” author, had a vertical theory of humor:
All truly funny people, he said, were 6-foot-5-inches tall.
That might have seemed true in his native England. But now, in the U.S., it’s off by a foot-and-a-half.
Meet Quinta Brunson (shown here, foreground) , who is about to rescue us from a slow year for network-TV comedy. She’s the producer, star and sole creator of “Abbott Elementary,” which has an advance showing at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday (Dec. 7) on ABC, then gets a regular spot next month. She’s listed at 5-foot, but some of that is wishful thinking. Read more…

White Christmases finally find diversity

This is the season of sameness, which is fine … sometimes.
We like having the same Christmas cartoons and songs and such. But too often, Christmas movies have seemed to have the same plots and the same Caucasian actors.
Now, belatedly, that’s changing. Corbin Bleu points to “A Christmas Dance Reunion” (8-10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, on Lifetime), shown here, as an example.
This is a romance, he said, that “has nothing to do with the fact that we’re Black …. I wish I was able to see a lot more of that onscreen, when I was a kid and watching all these holiday movies.” Read more…

“College girls'” obsession: comedy and/or sex

Many of us, perhaps, grew up imagining lives as rock stars, astronauts or sports heroes.
Not Mindy Kaling. She recalls a “single-minded desire to become a comedy writer. I’ve had that urge since I was 16.”
That explains a central character in “The Sex Lives of College Girls” (shown here) the new HBO Max series. Bela (Amrit Kaur), the daughter of Indian immigrants, has just arrived at an Ivy-League-type college, obsessed with getting on the campus humor magazine. Read more…

Smokey’s undaunted? Well, not always

We might guess that Smokey Robinson is undaunted by life.
He’s been a singer, songwriter, producer and company vice-president. He helped build Motown Records, in the recording studio and beyond. He even made the drive (with Berry Gordy) between Detroit and Owosso, to get the label’s first records – getting stuck in the snow twice.
So is there anything that overwhelms him? “I’ve tried to learn to play the guitar about three or four times,” said Robinson (shown here), 81. “I cannot do it.”
This confession came in a video press conference about a TV movie. “Miracle in Motor City” – 8 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 28), Lifetime – has a mom (Tia Mowry) trying to land Robinson for a Christmas church concert in Detroit — leading to another confession: “Church used to terrify me,” Robinson said. Read more…

Anthrax story: a real-life thriller with a quirky twist

Twenty years ago, Americans – already stunned by the 9/11 attacks – had a new crisis.
Lethal doses of anthrax were being mailed. Five people died, 11 were seriously ill; and then it stopped.
What didn’t stop was the FBI investigation. Seven years later, after some missteps, it pointed to a suspect. Now that’s being retold in “The Hot Zone: Anthrax” (shown here), from 9-11 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday (Nov. 28-30) on National Geographic. Read more…

They fought for the U.S. … which then wanted to deport them

John Valadez had become an expert on subjects of bias, law and Mexican-Americans.
Still, this was new to him: Two brothers (shown here), both U.S. war veterans, said they were fighting deportation.
“I wasn’t sure whether or not to believe him,” Valadez recalled. “It seemed really weird.”
But it turned out to be true. The result – almost a decade later – is “American Exile,” at 10 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 16), on PBS. Read more…

From “Jaws” and “Star Wars” to classical, he’s the master

John Williams has been writing music for 80 years now, so this must be easy for him.
Or not. “There’s rarely a moment (when) I have said, ‘Eureka, this is exactly right,’” he said.
Consider the five “Close Encounters” notes, which seemed just right for communicating with aliens: “I wrote about 300 examples,” Williams (shown here) told the Television Critics Association.
His Zoom call was to promote a big-deal classical-music event: At 9 p.m. Friday (Nov. 12), PBS’ has Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Boston Symphony with, as “Great Performances” producer David Horn put it, “the debut of a violin concerto by legendary composer John Williams.” Read more…

“Lost Symbol” unlocks ancient secrets

Robert Langdon could be the patron saint of anyone who’s ever tackled a crossword, a sudoku or just a bewildering set of Ikea instructions.
He’s a puzzle-solver, one who ponders ancient riddles. He’s fictional, residing in Dan Brown novels … in three Tom Hanks movies … and in “The Lost Symbol” (shown here), a prequel series that shows how this began. Viewers can catch it:
– At the start. The first episode reruns at 10 p.m. Monday (Nov. 8) on NBC.
– At the end of the first season. The ninth and final episode streams Thursday on Peacock. Read more…

Sunshine slaying? Not in this “Dexter” mini-series

Dexter Morgan has never been your standard serial killer. For one thing, he tries to only kill bad people; he considers himself a hero … albeit a pained one.
For another, he’s been doing that in the blue-sky beauty of Miami. All of that changes, however, with “Dexter: New Blood,” the 10 week mini-series that debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 7) on Showtime.
The new setting (Shelburne Falls, Mass., posing as upstate New York) is “undeniably beautiful,” said producer Clyde Phillips. It also has lots of trees and space … the standard serial-killer turf. Read more…

New “Trek” brings old fans … and the others

A quarter-century ago Kate Mulgrew strode into TV history, shielded by semi-ignorance.
Yes, she knew that her character, Kathryn Janeway, would be the first female “Star Trek” captain. There was a fuss about that; the producers even lured Sally Ride (the first woman in space) to the premiere.
But what she didn’t know about was “Star Trek” itself. “I didn’t watch it …. My introduction was when I walked onto that bridge at about 7 o’clock in the morning.”
Hey, a lot of people don’t know “Trek” – including the young actors who star with Mulgrew in “Star Trek: Prodigy” (shown here), the computer-animated series that debuts Thursday (Oct. 28) on Paramount+. The actors had a virtual press conference with the Television Critics Association. Read more…