Stories

It’s an anthem of life for Memorial Day star

The song “American Anthem” ripples through decades of Denyce Graves’ memories.
She met it 23 years ago, when her friend, composer Gene Scheer, sent it by cassette. Her reaction, she recalls, was instant: “It’s beautiful …. It’s a reflective piece that makes you think about your life.”
So she sang it often – from the a Hillary Clinton event to George W. Bush’s second inauguration. (“I’m a bi-partisan, equal-opportunity singer.”) After the latter, Sen. Joe Biden “came up to me and said, ‘What was that song!?’” Sixteen years later, he would quote it in in own inaugural speech.
Now comes another lofty occasion. From a rooftop overlooking the Capitol, Graves (shown here) sings “American Anthem” for the “National Memorial Day Concert,” at 8 p.m. May 30 on PBS, rerunning at 9:30. Read more…

CW, Freeform set scripted summer shows

The CW network is expanding its lone (almost) mission to have new, scripted shows this summer.
The latest step is to add a third season of “The Outpost” (shown here), a modestly budgeted fantasy adventure. That will arrive July 15; also, two Canadian dramas will adjust their debuts slightly: “Burden of Truth” starts its fourth and final season July 30, “Coroner” starts its third on Aug.19.
That’s part of a scripted summer that makes CW unusual in the broadcast (non-cable) world.
Cable networks will have summer scripted shows, as usual. Freeform, for instance, has just announced the starting dates for “Motherland: Fort Salem” (June 22), “Grown-ish” (July 8) and the second half of the “Good Trouble” season (July 14). Its “The Bold Type” will also have a brief, final season, from May 26 to June 30. Read more…

A splendid comedy says farewell

One of the best TV comedies is saying farewell on Thursday (May 13).
But don’t expect a big send-off in the “MASH”/”Seinfeld”/”Big Bang” mode. “Mom” (shown here, 9 p.m., CBS) has spent its eight seasons in a middle ground – usually funny, sometimes poignant, rarely honored.
Its honors have been strictly for Allison Janney, the show’s amazing star – five Emmy nominations and two wins. (There have also been four nominations for editing and one for cinematography.) Read more…

“Sanditon” returns to life … again

“Sanditon” (shown here) will rise from the dead … again.
It’s a tale that vanished with Jane Austen’s death in 1817. It returned – more than two centuries later – with a lush PBS mini-series … then was abruptly canceled after its first season. Now, more than a year later, comes the surprising news that second and third seasons will eventually be produced. Read more…

A layman as “SNL” host? Occasionally

When “Saturday Night Live” announced its final hosts of the season, it included one surprise.
Two of them – Keegan-Michael Key on May 15, Anya Taylor-Joy on May 22 – fit the usual mold. He’s an actor/comedian; she’s an actress.
But first, on May 8 (with Miley Cyrus as music guest) is Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX fame. And that breaks a long trend of using only singers, actors or comedians.
The last layman (as we’ll call him) hosting was football’s J.J. Watt; that was 15 months ago. Before that, the last ones were basketball’s Charles Barkley in 2018 … and, alas, Donald Trump in 2015. Read more…

Festival stuffs our TV’s with classic films

For movie buffs – deprived of the cinema experience for a year – there’s a tad of good news:
Now we can all catch the Classic Film Festival. It will start with the 1961 “West Side Story” (shown here) at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) Thursday and will sprawl across four days (May 6-9), two networks (Turner Classic Movies and HBO Max) and 95 years.
For a decade, the festival was just for people who could get to Los Angeles. In classic theaters, it showed great movies, interviewing some of the stars and filmmakers. Then came the COVID impact: Read more…

Fey slides to the streaming side with musical fun

New people keep jumping to the streaming side of television … including some who were doing just fine without it.
Now “Girls5Eva” (shown here) arrives Thursday (May 6)  on Peacock, mixing brash comedy and bubbly songs. It’s produced by Tina Fey, whose previous shows have prospered on NBC, in movie theaters, even on Broadway.
Why switch to a streaming network? Some people do that so they can use adult material, but this show is “really pretty clean and watchable,” Fey said.
Better reasons? Streamers offer more flexibility in the length of episodes – “which, with music, is a huge help,” said Robert Carlock, Fey’s producing partner – and in the number of them. “You can make a boutique amount of episodes,” Fey said. Read more…

Amy Tan finds joy amid deep despair

Amy Tan was 15 when her world disintegrated.
“My brother was dying and then my father was dying,” she told the Television Critics Association . “My mother became a little unbalanced … . She and I had many arguments.”
In a six-month stretch, she lost two people to brain cancer; she was soon whisked from California to Switzerland by her mother, who had known previous depths of despair.
Tan, 69, has told versions of these stories often – in “The Joy Luck Club,” which became a best-seller when she was 36 (shown here) in other novels and in non-fiction. Now they’re in an intriguing PBS documemtary Monday (May 3). But alongside all the agony, there’s also a surprising layer of fun. Read more…

Re-living a past nightmare, Porter finds hope

Surveying a life in shambles, the “Pose” protagonist sums it up:
“The world is cold and cruel and full of disease,” Pray Tell says.
That seems like a line about today, but “Pose” – starting its final season at 10 p.m. Sunday (May 2) on FX – is set in 1994, when the gay community was shredded by AIDS and police crackdowns. For Billy Porter (shown here in an earlier and cheerier season), who stars as Pray, the eras merge. “I think the parallels are quite profound,” he said.
Porter, now 51, reached Broadway just as the crisis was soaring. He was a “Five Guys Named Moe” understudy in 1992, then was Teen Angel in the “Grease” revival in ‘94 – a peak year for AIDS deaths. Read more…

“Mosquito Coast” spans Theroux generations

You kind of expect Justin Theroux to be well-read.
His mom is a novelist. His dad is merely a lawyer, but four paternal uncles have written novels.
And his link to “The Mosquito Coast” – by Paul Theroux, one of those uncles – is especially strong. “I have a long history with the novel,” he told the Television Critics Association.
He was 10 when it was published, 15 when it became a movie, with Harrison Ford and River Phoenix. And now, at 50, he stars in a seven-hour mini-series (shown here) that starts Friday (April 30) on Apple TV+ Read more…