Yes, she’s still sorta spunky, sorta Punky

Most child actors nudge cautiously into interviews.
Handlers lurk nearby. Producers and co-stars show up to do most of the talking.
None of that was needed when “Punky Brewster” began in 1985. Soleil Moon Frye, 8, strode in alone; she soon was talking to reporters about everything from horror movies to footware.
Her show lated four years and Frye then faded from attention; most young actors do. But now a new “Punky Brewster” series (shown here) arrives Thursday (Feb. 25) on the Peacock streaming service, with Frye still in the title role, now as a mom. “Punky is such a part of me,” she told the Television Critics Association. “I don’t know where I end and she begins.” Read more…

It’s a culture shock for Lois Lane … and for the actors

Superman, of course, has a big city to protect.
Metropolis needs him; sometimes, the whole world does. The Daily Planet may need Clark Kent, too.
But Clark is still a Kansas kid; now the new “Superman & Lois” series (shown here) nudges him back home to Smallville. The show debuts at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 23) on CW, reruns at 9 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 27) on TNT, then settles into a CW spot at 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
“We talked a lot about shows like ‘Everwood’ and ‘Friday Night Lights’ and (a small-town) family drama that had Superman in it,” writer-producer Todd Helbing told the Television Critics Association. Read more…

In the pandemic, makers, fixers and gamers thrive

Amid the economic gloom of the pandemic, there are still some fields doing better than ever.
They range from gamers to fix-it folks to streaming services. That’s been clear during the Television Critics Association’s winter sessions – which are conducted via Zoom, another growth area.
One show locked into the trend is Tim Allen’s “Assembly Required (shown here), at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on the History Channel, starting Feb. 23). “A pandemic, forcing us to be in our homes, … gives people the free time,” said April Wilkerson, the show’s do-it-yourself expert. People are “putting it into using their hands.”
Some boom areas include: Read more…

Solid, stoic Murdoch discovers slapstick

There are many words we’d associate with the lead character (shown here) in “Murdoch Mysteries.”
They include “steady,” “sturdy,” “solid,” “stoic” and such. They do NOT include “slapstick.”
But here is the season-opener, at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT) Saturday (Feb. 20) on Ovation, directed by the show’s star, Yannick Bisson. It has versions of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Stan Laurel, plus a big sight gag, complete with a collapsing building. Read more…

As stardom loomed, he stocked groceries

When the COVID shutdown began, it was important to be nice to grocery-store workers.
They were essential, after all. And one of them was waiting patiently to be a movie star … or, at least, to play one on TV.
That’s Bradley Constant (shown here), one of three people playing early versions of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on “Young Rock,” at 8 p.m. Tuesdays (starting Feb. 16) on NBC. Landing the role was a big break … followed by a long COVID delay.
His reaction? “I went back to working at the grocery store,” he said. Read more…

Rocky road led to Rock stardom

Being Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson should be easy, it seems.
He’s bigger, stronger and (we’re told) better-looking than other people. He’s open and amiable. Also, his movies have made more than $12 billion.
But getting there was complicated. When “Young Rock” debuts (8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, on NBC), it will bounce between three phases, catching small slices of a large life.
“I lived in 13 different states by the time I was 13 years old,” Johnson (shown here) told the Television Critcs Association. “I also lived in New Zealand.” Read more…

“Black Church” ripples with history, humanity

For centuries, the Black church has towered over American life.
“The church was the epicenter,” Stacey Holman, producer-director of a vibrant PBS documentary, told the Television Critics Associaition. It was “where we could gather freely, we could commune freely.”
It’s been a place of music and message, said gospel great Yolanda Adams. “Jesus was always about uplifting the people who were downtrodden.”\
And it’s been a place of permanence, said Henry Louis Gates (shown here), the show’s writer and host. “The Black church is the oldest, the most continuous and most important institution” in African-American history. So he’s fashioned “The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song,” from 9-11 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 16-17). Read more…

“Clarice”: a CBS show with a movie soul

Watching the new “Clarice” series, you might think you accidentally switched channels.
Is this really a CBS show? Don’t worry; its producers were wondering the same thing.
“We had originally envisioned this as a streaming show,” Alex Kurtzman told the Television Critics Association. “And CBS said, really unequivocally, ‘Please put it on our network and we will let you make whatever show you want.’”
That opens the door for a lot. “Clarice” (10 p.m. Thursdays, starting Feb. 11) is a sequel to the “Silence of the Lambs” movie, following a young FBI agent (shown here) a year after she caught a serial killer. Read more…

This park has lots of nature, few people

If your goal is to be outdoors and away from people, then Big Bend National Park (shown here) is your spot.
It has a lot of outdoors – almost 800,000 acres, in the bend of the Rio Grande River, in Texas. And it has few people. “It is one of the least-visited national parks in the U.S.,” said Skip Hobbie, who filmed a gorgeous hour for “Nature,” at 8 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 10) on PBS.
That’s relative, of course. Overall visitation (400,000 a year) is topped ten-fold by Yellowstone and Yosemite – and 30-fold by the Grand Smokey Mountains National Park. But some get fewer people – 26,000 at Isle Royale in Michigan, 10,000 at Gate of the Arctic in Alaska Read more…