Stories

Cartoon stars: Social distance and/or close-up fun

Many people are still figuring out this notion of social-distance entertainment.
Then there’s Billy West. As a voice actor (including “Futurama,” show here), he’s worked both ways – alone or, preferably, with a crowd.
“It’s always better to have an ensemble,” West said. “There’s an energy that gets generated through all the people. It’s in the air.”
He was talking by phone … which is what he’s been doing lately. A voice actor can work without leaving home. “The equipment is so terrific now,” he said. “They’re doing television shows off Zoom.” Read more…

“Quiz” captures a TV obsession

Back in 1998, all of England seemed obsessed with “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”
Old people watched it; they always seem to like quiz shows. But so, surprisingly, did others.
“I was 18 years when it launched,” writer James Graham, whose delightful “Quiz”(shown here) starts Sunday on AMC, told the Television Critics Association in January.
He first saw it on a Saturday, he said. “I was a hugely geeky child. I should have been out with my friends, but I was at home with my grandparents watching.” Read more…

From Bugs and Elmo to Tony Soprano, new streamer goes max

So here people are, emerging from two months of socially responsible tele-viewing.
They’ve spent the pandemic with Netflix or Disney+, with Apple or Acorn or Amazon or whatever. Now they’re ready to do something else, maybe mow the lawn or play with a child or …
Or not. A new streaming service, HBO Max, debuts Wednesday (May 27) at $15 a month. With everyone from Bugs Bunny (shown here) to Tony Soprano, it’s capable of gobbling up many more months of quarantine time. Read more…

Film finds global sweep of anti-semitism

Standing face-to-face with a racist, Andrew Goldberg found something surprising: He sort of liked him.
“He’s a very likable guy,” Goldberg said. “We had an interesting friendship.”
Goldberg interviewed Russ Walker(shown here) for “Viral: Anti-Semitism in Four Mutations,” the compelling documentary that airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday (May 26) on PBS. Walker proudly displayed a sign reading “What’s wrong with being a racist?” The flip side added: “God is a racist.”
Plenty of people saw the sign, knew Walker’s views … and voted for him anway, when he ran for the North Carolina House in 2018. “He was a 75-year-old guy with no staff,” Goldberg said, but he got 37 percent of the votes, running as a Republican in a strongly Democratic district. Read more…

TV fills Memorial Day weekend void

For the third time, TV has fresh responsibility in a stay-near-home world.
First it was Easter without churches …. then Earth Day without being out in nature … and now Memorial Day without some of the usual parades and public events.
So TV has alternatives. It has a major concert (8 and 9:30 p.m. Sunday on PBS, see separate story) … a new mini-series (“Grant,” 9 p.m. Monday on History) … documentaries … and, of course, lots of movies, including three airings of the Spielberg/Hanks classic “Saving Private Ryan” (shown here). Read more…

Memorial concert scrambles in the year of COVID

As the virus shut down large chunks of life, Michael Colbert was sure of two things.
Yes, there would still be Memorial Day, even without some of the parades and picnics and such.
And the night before that, there would be the annual “National Memorial Day Concert” (shown here from a previous year); that’s at 8 and 9:30 p.m. May 24 on most PBS stations. “We need to have our rituals,” Colbert said. Read more…

CW’s plan: Wait until January

The CW network has a fresh plan for stocking a fall schedule in the age of COVID:
It will simply wait. It will have a patchwork of acquired shows this fall and hold back the main ones – “Flash” and “Batwoman” (shown here) and “Riverdale” and such – until January. Read more…

TV’s fall line-ups? It’s “involuntary stability”

TV networks have reached a fresh phase. We’ll call it “involuntary stability.”
Gone (for now) are the quick cancellations. Viewers may like this phase; networks try to seem happy.
When CBS announced that it has renewed 23 shows, Kelly Kahl, its entertainment president, said the network is in an “incredibly stable position.”
Then Fox was the first network to set its fall schedule (including Kim Catrall’s “Filthy Rich,” shown here). Charlie Collier, its entertainment CEO, talked of “relative stability”; Marianne Gambelli, its advertising president, praised “consistency” and “stability.” Read more…

It’s a scandalous tale of Di and lies, Elvis and Trump

When Elvis Presley died in 1977, the differences in news coverage were cavernous.
ABC and NBC led their newscasts with the story and had latenight specials. CBS started with a long Panama Canal piece, then did just 70 seconds on Presley. “Our job is not to respond to public taste,” Richard Salant, its news chief, told reporters.
And the National Enquirer? By the time those newscasts started, “there were six Enquirer reporters in the air for Memphis with $50,000 in cash,” said Mark Landsman, director of “Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer,” the fascinating documentary that debuts Sunday (May 17) on CNN. Read more…