Stories

It’s a golden Schmiga-Lasso time

Television has already had a Golden Age of Drama – twice; and a Golden Age of Comedy – twice. And now? Maybe we’ll call this the Golden Week of Apple TV+.
That streaming service – often outspent and outshouted by Netflix and Disney and more – has two simultaneous successes. On Friday (July 23):
– “Ted Lasso” starts its second season, awash in nominations. It leads the Emmys with 20, including best comedy; it leads the Television Critics Association with five, including program of the year.
– “Schmigadoon” starts its second week. A giddy swirl of music, dance and comedy, it manages to celebrate musical-theater traditions at the same time that it mocks them. Read more…

Rock photographers capture a quaking world

There was a time, in the 1960s, when it seemed like everyone wanted to run away and be a rock star.
This was, of course, poor thinking. Some of them should have run away and been rock photographers.
That job had it all, people say in a fascinating new series. Ir was “musical ecstasy” … it was “an hour and a half of sweaty madness” … it stirred “the adrenaline – there’s nothing like it.”
It was a fine job. “I was incredibly lucky,” Gered Mankowitz said via a Zoom interview from England.
He produced “Icon: Music Through the Lens,” the six-week series that starts at 9 p.m. Friday (July 16) on PBS. He’s also a participant, recalling shooting Jimi Hendrix (shown here) and touring with the Rolling Stones. Read more…

“Schmigadoon” brings quirky musical joy

In the year that Broadway sleeps, musicals keep bubbling up inside our TV sets.
There’s been “The Prom” and “Jim Jam” and “In the Heights” and more. And now comes the biggest project yet – also the goofiest and most fun.
“Schmigadoon” (shown here) arrives Friday (July 16) on Apple TV+. “It is a love letter to the Golden Age of musicals,” Cinco Paul, who created it with Ken Daurio, told the Television Critics Association.
In many loving families, of course, people make fun of each other. So “Schmigadoon” is ready to mock all the old musical traditions … then break into another big-deal song and dance. Read more…

Mega-Magnolia emerges from amiable Texans

It’s an imposing task, one that might suggest Oprah, God or Disney: Create an entire network, built around one force.
That’s what the Magnolia Network is trying. On July 15, it becomes a streaming network inside Discovery+, fashioned around the design and renovation sensibilities of Chip and Joanna Gaines; a half-year later, it will also be cable channel, replacing DIY.
Such mega-projects have been tried before – the Oprah Winfrey Network, the Disney Channel, the Christian Broadcast Network – but they demand a lot. “It feels like an unquenchable amount of content, that you have to provide that machine,” Chip told the Television Critics Association. Read more…

A poet’s life was enriched by crime

Most poet laureates manage to elude pop-culture fame.
Sure, we’ve heard of a few of them – in England, William Wordsworth and Alfred, Lord Tennyson; in the U.S. some Roberts (Frost, Lowell, Penn Warren). But ask a friend to recite a poem by Colley Cibber or Allen Tate or Randall Jarell.
Still, the late Cecil Day-Lewis (England’s laureate, 1968-72) made two notable contributions: 1) His son, Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis; and 2) “The Beast Must Die,” a novel that has become an Argentine movie, a French movie and now a British mini-series, starring Cush Jumbo and Billy Howle (shown here), that debuts at 10 p.m. Monday (July 12) on AMC. Read more…

“Paranormal” has tiny budget, big laughs

Being a TV star in New Zealand isn’t your full, Hollywood experience.
For one thing, Jemaine Clement can tell you, budgets are slim. His “What We Do in the Shadows” is made with American money. “Wellington Paranormal” (shown here) – belatedly reaching the U.S. on July 11 – was originally just for New Zealand and is “probably between one-fifth and one-tenth of the budget.”
So the actors might keep their day jobs. For the first three seasons, Karen O’Leary was a TV star AND kindergarten teacher. “The kids don’t care at all,” she said. “And that’s the good thing about children.”
There’s one other key difference: New Zealand shows – or, at least, “Wellington Paranormal” – might be funnier than American ones. Read more…

The sharks are back — big, scary and maybe magnificent

Sharks are ready to consume our TV sets … again.
The 33rd Shark Week will be July 11-18 on Discovery and Discovery+. Spanning that and beyond is the eighth SharkFest, July 5-31 on National Geographic, Aug. 2-13 on Nat Geo Wild, and on Disney+.
Along the way, we’ll hear ominous things. A shark, one victim says, is “a submarine with teeth.” And it’s a big, fast one at that. “The first great white shark I saw was like a freight train,” said Valerie Taylor (shown here in the 1970s), who has spent generations surrounded by sharks.
But we’ll also hear actor Chris Hemsworth praise “the serene beauty of this magnificent creature.” Read more…

Summer movies: silly, sunny, sometimes splendid

For filmmakers, summer has always been a favorite time.
It has the right backdrops – sun and surf and such; it also has people in shorts and swimwear.
But there’s more to it than that. It’s the time when characters “get out of their comfort zone,” said John Malahy, author of the new “Summer Movies.”
His book outlines 30 films, from the serious to the silly, from the highly regarded “Jaws” to … well, “Beach Blanket Bingo” (shown here). Some trends arise. Read more…

“Kevin”: A TV tradition is toppled

For decades of television, we’ve grown used to this husband-and-wife combination:
He’s obese and oafish; she’s sleek and smart and sometimes silent. We’ve seen them in shows that are great (“The Honeymooners”) and adequate (“King of Queens”) and awful (many).
Now a cable show (shown here with Annie Murphy) debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday (June 20) on AMC, disrupting that. “We are asking you to reconsider a woman who you grew up thinking that you knew,” said series creator Valerie Armstrong. “You thought she was happy.”
Is she really? We can tell by the title: “Kevin Can (bleep) Himself.” Read more…

Getting “Physical” in the ’80s got complicated

For Rose Byrne, this has been a bumpy ride through feminist history.
She was Gloria Steinem, glowing with 1970s confidence. Now (shown here) she’s the fictional Sheila Rubin, temporarily staggered by ‘80s self-doubt.
First was the “Mrs. America” mini-series, with Byrne drawing praise (and award nominations) as Steinem. Now Apple TV+ has “Physical,” with three episodes Friday and the other seven weekly.
“In a funny way, ‘Physical’ felt like such a great companion piece,” Byrne said. Her character “definitely has come up through the ‘60s and ‘70s, so she’s sort of a child of that movement.” Read more…