Social-distance drama? It’s flawed, but fascinating

Any experiment – Wright Brothers’ flight, man on the moon, mixing chocolate with marshmallow – will have its problems.
Let’s think of the upcoming “All Rise” episode (son here) — 9 p.m. Monday, May 4, on CBS — that way. It’s flawed, but fascinating.
As COVID-19 struck, productions shut down and actors were sent home. Then came the idea of concocting an episode that could be done from their homes … representing the characters’ homes. Read more…

Bush profile: A cheerleader turns presidential

For four noisy – and kind of cheerful – decades, there was nothing presidential about George W. Bush.
Often, “he would be drinking, carousing and having fun,” Charlie Younger, a boyhood friend, says in s new PBS documentary.
He made friends easily, but stumbled at work and at life. One night, he got a driving-under-the-influence ticket; another, he crashed his car into garbage cans and challenged his father to a fight.
But then came the flip side. That’s what makes the film – “American Experience: George W. Bush,” 9-11 p.m. Monday and Tuesday (May 4-5) – so interesting. Read more…

“Dads”: Fresh twist in busy life

We expect Michael O’Neill to be in support and in command.
In recurring roles, he’s been the Secret Service chief in “West Wing,” a sergeant major in “The Unit,” a counter-terrorism official in “24,” senators in “Rectify” and “Jack Ryan.”
“I’ve played a lot of … authority figures,” O’Neill said. “That’s the mustache, by the way. They think because I have a mustache, I have authority.”
But now “Council of Dads” gives him fresh turf. His character is a key part of the story … and is a guy whose life used to be out of control. Read more…

“Dreadful” has it all — from Nazis to demons

The new “Penny Dreadful” season sprawls across huge emotional turf.
It ranges from scheming Nazis to a sweet-spirited evangelist. It has crooked politicians, troubled cops (shown here with Daniel Zovatto and Nathan Lane), displaced families and a deadly Latina demon.
Yes, a demon. “As a Mexican, I have lots of stories in my family about supernatural things … We have a lot of stories and we love these stories,” Adriana Barraza said. Read more…

Music-from-home trend takes big jumps

TV’s music-from-home experiment is taking some big jumps: A virtual “American Idol” (see separate commentary here) began Sunday (April 26);  a virtual “Voice” begins May 4.
That continues a trend that has included six primetime specials with music from home. Most recent was a Disney singalong and then a global marathon, with six hours streaming and then two more simulcast on three networks.
Some moments — including Jennifer Lopez doing “People” (shown here) — have been wonderful; some have been modest. To her credit, Billie Eilish has done three of these; in each, alas, she was barely audible. Read more…

It’s farewell (again) to a pioneering comedy

“Will & Grace” – once a pioneering gem – is saying goodbye … again.
Its first series-finale was in 2006. People cheered and wept; Debra Messing took home a souvenir – the office door that had the name of her character, Grace Adler. (NBC later billed her for $220, she has said; she didn’t pay it.)
For the next decade, the actors were busy elsewhere. Messing and Eric McCormack each starred in a couple series, Sean Hayes became a producer (“Hollywood Game Night,” “History of Comedy,” more), Megan Mullally saw her husband, Nick Offerman, go from obscurity to fame.
Then they returned for three more years. The show has gone for so long that we might forget how revolutionary it was. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, put it in perspective: Read more…

Earth Day: A TV overview

(Okay, I’ll admit that Earth Day has now passed, but I’ll keep this story on top for a tad longer. Many of the shows mentioned are availa ble now on Disney+ and its National Geographic hub; also, ABC will be running the “Born Wild” special at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 25. It has some charming moments, especially with the caregiver who temporarily gets to take home a koala cub.)
Last month, Jane Goodall – who will be the star of TV’s Earth Day shows Wednesday (April 22) – received some jolting news: She would be relaxing at home for a while.
“At first, I was frustrated and angry,” she recalled in a videoconference Sunday.
Read more…

It’s (sort of) an Earth Day Film Festival

Let’s think of it as an Earth Day Film Festival.
On Wednesday, our TV’s will be filled with documentaries – some charming (like “Monkey Kingdom,” shown here) and some angry, – about the planet. That’s for the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970.
Here’s a round-up (including mini-reviews) of key documentaries on Wednesday Read more…

Here’s the Earth Day TV schedule

The 50th anniversary of Earth Day may be a more solitary, indoor affair this year.
If so, TV will try to fill the void with lots of Earthly films. They range from gorgeous Disney films (shown here) to urgent Earth-in-crisis films. Highlights include: Read more…