Amid the tears, humor keeps emerging

As “A Million Little Things” starts its final season (shown here), most of the little things have slid aside.
The show has become a tangle of big things – divorce and despair, romance and recovery, cancer and paralysis and dementia and more.
And in the midst of that, it has kept its humor. This series, said creator DJ Nash, is “telling the audience that we are going to cry, but we’re goint to laugh even more.”
Both parts, tears and laughter, start with Gary, played by James Roday Rodriguez. Last season ended with news that his cancer is back; the new one starts with him recording messages to his unborn child.
It’s a tricky time to also go to for laughs, but that fits the actor. Read more…

Sorry, Fido: These wild dogs have many more skills

Sure, Fido and friends can savor their comfy lives.
They fetch balls, wiggle tales and are rewarded handsomely.
But compared to their untamed brethren (shown here), those are minor accomplishments. That becomes clear in “Dogs ion the Wild,” a three-part “Nature” series that starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 8) on PBS.
“They’re incredibly intelligent,” producer Jo Shinner told the Television Critics Association. “They’re incredibly resilient, adaptable. They’re on all continents throughout the world, except for Antarctica. They manage to sustain in ridiculous conditions.”
Her series looks at all 37 canine species, finding adaptations to those conditions. Read more…

“Not Dead”: a lively view of an obituary writer

As “Not Dead Yet” debuts on ABC, we’re reminded of a key literary fact:
Few art forms can match the combination –facts and flair, done on a deadline – of an obituary.
“This tight little coil of biography, with its literary flourishes, reminds us of a poem,” obit-writer Marilyn Johnson wrote in “The Dead Beat” (HarperCollins, 2006). “Certainly, it contains the most creative writing in journalism.”
And now – after piles of shows about cops and cowboys and such – there’s one about an obit writer. “Not Dead Yet” (shown here) debuts at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 8) on ABC, then settles into the 9:30 slot. Read more…

“Ark” tries the youthful lure of space tales

Over the past four decades, Dean Devlin has seen large chunks of show business.
He was an unnoticed TV actor, guesting briefly on “Fame and “Happy Days” and such. He was a movie writer-producer, scoring big with “Independence Day” and “Stargate.” He drew criticism from others (and himself) for special-effects epics … then redeemed himself with “Leverage.”
Still, he said, some emotions persist. He’s felt that on “The Ark” (shown here), which debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 1), on Syfy: “Walk on the set, you’re suddenly 12 years old again. It’s like, ‘I’m on a spaceship!’” Read more…

Documentaries near their Hollywood moment

As the Academy Awards near, the nominees have a descending order of fame.
At the top this year are the stars – actors (Cate Blanchett, Angela Bassett, Judd Hirsch, etc.), a director (Steven Spielberg) and some songwriters (Lady Gaga, Rihanna). And near the bottom, every year?
“You are the lowest on the totem pole as a short-doc filmmaker,” Cynthia Wade said
That’s the short-documentary category. She won it in 2008 (for the 39-minute “Freeheld)” and had her moment on global TV, being handed an Oscar by Tom Hanks; she was nominated again in 2013.
This year, hers was one of four National Geographic Channel films that made the short list of consideration for the two documentary categories. It wasn’t nominated, but another Nat Geo one, Sara Dosa’s “Fire of Love” (shown here) was nominated as best feature-length doc. Read more…

Dark-and-creepy tale gets a fresh twist

If you’re building a dark and creepy tale, you really need a creepy, dark building.
The British prefer mansions, manor houses and castles; Americans prefer apartment houses that cater to the rich and fretful.
“There’s just something really sort of compelling about the idea of an apartment building,” said Emily Fox, showrunner of “The Watchful Eye,’ which debuts at 9 and 10 p.m. Monday (Jan. 30) on Freeform. “And the fact that it does contain so many stories and that all these people are so close … It’s our version of a castle.”
This could be “Only Murders in the Building” without the laughs, but Fox points to other inspirations – the apartment building in “Rosemary’s Baby” or the mansion in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca.” And then there’s what makes “Watchful Eye” stand apart: Unlike “a classic, Hitchcockian thriller, there is a very empowered female at the center,” Mariel Molino (shown here) said. Read more…

A grown-up genre: Hip hop turns 50

At first, hip hop was considered a passing fancy.
It was free and fun and outdoors. It was what New York needed in the 1070s.
And then it became much more, “Hip hop is entering its so-called 50th-year anniversary … Its history and story is very deep,” said Chuck D (shown here), the Public Enemy rapper.
He linked with PBS and the BBC to produce “Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World.” It debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 31) on PBS, skips a week because of the State of the Union speech, then has one hour on Feb. 14 and two on Feb. 21. Read more…

She gives us a fresh take on “lone wolf” saga

As “Poker Face” unfolds, we meet a familiar character – rootless, homeless, on the move.
“Life as a lone wolf has always been tricky,” said Natasha Lyonne (shown here), who stars as Charlie in the show (debuting Thursday, Jan. 26, on Peacock) from “Knives Out” creator Rian Johnson
That’s been true in her own life. Lyonne has described being on her own since she was 16, with a rich assortment of ups (“Russian Doll,” “Orange is the New Black”) and downs.
And it’s true on TV. Viewers savor shows – “The Fugitive,” “Then Came Bronson,” “Run For Your Life,” “Have Gun, Will Travel” – that keep lone figures on the move. Read more…

It’s handy to have a superstar neighbor

Being nice to your neighbors is always important, we’re told.
But it’s especially important if your neighbor is Hollywood’s all-time box-office champion. That sort of explains why Harrison Ford has a supporting role (ahown here)n in “Shrinking,” the witty new Apple TV+ show.
“Harrison’s my neighbor and so I knew him a little bit …. He’s a good dude,” Bill Lawrence told the Television Critics Association, sounding fairly casual about living near Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Read more…

An old/new idea: a TV anthology

In the olden days, primetime TV wasn’t into binges or serials or tangled story lines.
Often, it had anthology series. Some had hosts – Ronald Reagan, Rod Sterling, Loretta Young, Alfred Hitchcock, Old Ranger – and some didn’t; most had stories that were quick and self-contained.
Now comes a nod to the past. “Accused” (shown here) debuts after football Sunday on Fox, then settles into its spot at 9 p.m. Tuesdays. Each hour offers a separate courtroom trial, with ample flashbacks.
“An anthology, to me, is the perfect antidote to … ‘bingeing,’” producer Howard Gordon said. Read more…