No more limits: She became a wartime hero

PASADENA, Cal. – Growing up in Syria, Amani Ballour(shown here) knew a world of rules and limits.
“There are too many differences between boys and girls …. I couldn’t play with boys. I couldn’t climb the tree, I couldn’t ride the bike,” she recalled. “This (was) prevented for girls in my community.”
There were professions open to her – but, again, with limits. A woman could “be a doctor, but a doctor for children or for women in your clinic, but not a manager.”
Then war changed everything. As the Oscar-nominated “The Cave” shows, Dr. Ballour administered an underground hospital in the bomb-battered city of Ghouta, near Damascus. Read more…

Super-sized vets savor mini-sized town

PASADENA, Cal. – This was an ideal match, vertically and vocationally
.“As soon as I saw Erin, I said, ‘That’s who I’m going to marry,’” Ben Schroeder said.
So, of course, he did. Two weeks later, they were engaged … six months later, they were married … and a couple decades after that, they have their own reality show. Read more…

A small show, a tiny network … and big success

PASADENA, Cal. – For Dan Levy, it was a big (and uncharacteristic) step: He asked his dad for help.
The result is “Schitt’s Creek” (shown here), which has just started its final season, amid praise and nominations.And yes, his dad was surprised.
“He never came to me for anything,” Eugene Levy told the Television Critics Association. “I would say, ‘Do you need me to help you read lines?’ ‘No, no, I’ve got it.’” Read more…

It’s a miracle: Dark Ages are funny

PASADENA, Cal. – So you go to the Ivy League, where your parents spend approximately a zillion dollars.
Then … well, you write comedy. Will you ever use that education?
Sort of. Just ask Simon Rich, whose “Miracle Workers: Dark Ages” (shown here, with Daniel Radcliffe) is a new cable comedy.
“I did study Medieval history at Harvard,” he said. “And I live in fear that (my professors are) going to somehow get access to a television and watch this.” Read more…

Laurie’s out in space and back in comedy

PASADENA, Cal. – Hugh Laurie is back to the world he once mastered – comedy that’s dark and droll and odd and … well, very British. Also, very funny.
“That’s where my heart will always be,” Laurie said.
He’s been other things lately – from a crabby doctor to a nasty arms dealer – but comedy was first. Now “Avenue 5” – an HBO show from the “Veep” creator – returns him there. “It brought back for me … the thrill, but also the fear of trying to do something funny,” Laurie said. Read more…

LA cops get a two-headed makeover

PASADENA, Cal. – Television seems determined to give Los Angeles law enforcement a makeover.
Two series – both scheduled for Thursdays, a month apart – put offbeat people in charge.
First was Fox’s “Deputy,” which arrived at 9 p.m. on Jan. 2. Stephen Dorff is Bill Hollister, a cowboy type, suddenly named Los Angeles County Sheriff.
Next is CBS’ “Tommy” (10 p.m. Feb. 6). Edie Falco (shown here) is Abigail Thomas, the city’s new police chief.
Read more…

“This Is Us” is back and “sideways”

PASADENA, Cal. – “This Is Us” is finally back from its long holiday nap.
And it expects to start out by jolting viewers … again. “This is about to kind of go a little sideways,” Sterling K. Brown(shown here)  told the Television Critics Association this weekend
The show returns at 9 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 14) on NBC, with what producer Dan Fogelman calls “a really special episode directed by … Yasu Tanida, who’s been our (cinematographer) for the entire run of the series. He’s a talented and beautiful guy.”
This follows a two-month break, following a Nov. 19 episode that gave viewers plenty to worry about. Read more…

FX prepares its big Hulu push

PASADENA, Cal. – John Landgraf will quickly admit there are too many TV shows.
As head of the FX cable networks, he has his staff count them. “There were 532 scripted (series and mini-series) last year,” he told the Television Critics Association. “That’s a 7 percent gain vs. 2018. And given that the streaming wars are now at hand, we expect (it) will increase.”
So what FX is doing now is … well, adding several new shows and a new streaming service.
Or, actually, a new hub on an existing streamer. “FX on Hulu” debuts March 2; it will soon have two mini-series (“Mrs. America,” shown here, and “Devs”) that are only on Hulu, plus shows on both FX and Hulu. Read more…

“Jeopardy” giants: smart and silly

PASADENA, Cal. – These are the “Jeopardy” giants, the guys bringing new life to an old game.
They are the three all-time top winners, locked in a primetime competition, plus host Alex Trebek. They bring smarts, strategy … and silliness. “I love silliness,” Trebek insists.
Brad Rutter (shown at right) – battling Ken Jennings (center) and James Holzhauer (left) in the ABC tournament – recalls the time he and two other contestants whimsically decided to stand behind the podium without their pants.
“We all had a good laugh,” Rutter said. “And then (announcer) Johnny Gilbert said, ‘And now the host of “Jeopardy,” Alex Trebek.’ And Alex came out with no pants on.” Read more…

ABC turns “Thirtysomething” again

(This is an expanded version of a story I posted earlier today)
PASADENA, Cal. – “Thirtysomething” is heading back to ABC, at the age of … well, thirtysomething.
The show started 32 years ago and ended four years later, with a pile of awards and a niche in society. It was “so embedded in popular culture that its title was entered into the dictionary,” said Karey Burke, who is president of ABC Entertainment.
So now she may be bringing it back. The deal finances a pilot film and setting up a writers’ room for a possible Read more…