Tag Archives: PBS

Winter TV Landscape Full This Month

Coming on the heels of the end of season two of Showtime’s Homeland, I’m relieved and excited that there’s so much great television commencing this month. It is a new year and winter after all, a time for hibernation and of course television watching, not that I need any other motivation than my own viewing pleasure. Still, the new and returning shows are as welcome as a rich cup of hot chocolate.

After watching episodes of season two of Downton Abbey, I’m more than ready for the beginning of seven weeks of new episodes as season three kicks off this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. on PBS. There’s so many story lines to explore and there’s also the addition of Shirley MacLaine to the amazing cast of characters…a shout out to Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith.

Already enjoyed a new episode of Parenthood on New Year’s Day and ABC’s Nashville returns with new episodes on Wednesday. ABC re-aired the pilot of the show last night and CMT hosts a marathon of the drama on Sunday, January 6 at 2 p.m. ET/PT. My sense is that the show’s ratings have gone down since the pilot and I have lost a bit of my initial passion for the show but I’m going to hang in there because I love the city of Nashville and for the music and for the amazing performances of the two leads — Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere.

One of the promising new pilots, Deception, finally makes NBC’s airwaves on  Monday  and the highly anticipated drama The Following comes to Fox on January 21. Showtime’s Californication is back on January 13.

On the Case with Paula Zahn already began its new season on Discovery ID and True Crime with Aphrodite Jones begins on Monday at 10:00 p.m. The fourth season of Justified begins on FX on Tuesday, January 8. Timothy Olyphant, what more do I need to say? Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). I totally missed season three so would prefer to catch up before I tune in to the new season, which will feature Patton Oswalt and Ron Eldard.

What more could you want?

 

 

 

 

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Wallender is back on MASTERPIECE

Sir Kenneth Branagh is back as Inspector Kurt Wallender in three new episodes for PBS’ MASTERPIECE Mystery series, beginning this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET. 

A fan of the book source material by Henning Mankell, I love the darker tones of the Swedish detective solving cases in often bleak and barren landscapes. And there’s no scrimping on dysfunction in his personal life or his flaws. I was also a huge fan of AMC’s first season of The Killing, based on the Danish series called Forbrydelsen (The Crime) created by Soren Sveistrup. Produced by Vena Sud, the American version was set in raining and gloomy Seattle and featured a troubled female detective (Mireille Enos) who actually appeared sans makeup in a drab parka and jeans. Although AMC cancelled the show after its second season, Fox Television Studios is in talks with other networks, possibly DirectTV to bring it back.

The first episode of Wallender III finds him in a solid relationship with Vanya (Saskia Reeves, Luther) and  working on two new murder cases. Other cases find him in situations where he has to confront his past and his often struggling relationship with his daughter. He is no confident sleuth with all the answers but muddles along yet usually solves the case through hard work, the process of elimination and a keen intellect.

As someone who welcomes the Scandanavian explosion in crime fiction, I can’t wait!!!

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HBO’s Cinema Verite — A Powerful Retelling of the First Reality Show

HBO has been a home for some of the most daring and provocative original movies and miniseries for decades and their annual sweep of the Emmy Awards is proof enough of their supremacy in this category.  Add Cinema Verite, which premieres on Saturday, April 23, to the list.

While the movie is a retelling of the making of An American Family, a 10 part series about the Loud family of Santa Barbara that aired on PBS in the early 70’s, it’s much more than simply a docudrama in the hands of the husband and wife team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor) who direct from a script by David Seltzer (The Omen) franchise). Instead it’s a cautionary tale in some ways of the darker side of “reality” television that changed the television landscape forever. 

Cinema Verite stars Diane Lane and Tim Robbins as Pat and Bill Loud, the couple who seem to have it all, a home in sunny California, a swimming pool and five children.  But that’s definitely not the case and once James Gandolfini, as the producer Craig Gilbert, convinces them to allow cameras into their daily life they become anything but the typical America family. Instead they reveal the darker side of marriage and family life and in their eldest son, Lance, one of the first openly gay males ever to be featured on television. This may not seem that scandalous today but back then the television version was sugar-coated in shows like Leave it to BeaverBrady Bunch and The Partridge Family and  Louds were vilified by the press and the public who were shocked by their behavior, especially Pat asking Bill for a divorce in one episode.

What makes Cinema Verite so compelling is the filmmakers use of clips of the Louds from the documentary as bookends to some of the scenes that are recreated by the cast. Since many viewers under 50 have not seen American Family  this technique adds weight as we realize early on that the Louds are real…that even though we are watching essentially a film about the making of another film…and what we see really happened.

 While Gilbert (Gandolfini) has been viewed as manipulating Pat (Lane) to allow Susan and Alan Raymond (Patrick Fugit and Shanna Collins) to film these very private scenes, Springer Berman and Pulcini, as documentary filmmakers themselves, could grasp this twist on reality.

“We could relate to Craig and understood his perspective as we’ve been in similar positions. You’re always trying to walk a line between best representing your subjects as well as best serving the movie,  ” said Pulcini. “We could also relate to the Raymonds who were a young couple, idealistic and thrilled to be working on this project.”

To this day The Raymonds and Gilbert do not speak and have major differences of what really happened while filming An American Family.  

“Gilbert set out to make a film with artistic merit, a window into a real American family but he definitely may have influenced Pat to do things she might not have on her own,” said Springer Berman. “Pat and Craig had a complicated relationship. She went to Standford and he to Harvard and he provided intellectual  stimulation while she’s a housewife raising five children and trapped at home a lot with a philandering husband.”

Whatever your personal opinion about the making of American Family, don’t miss Cinema Verite and the chance to see, for better or worse, how reality television came to be and the incredible power of the camera.

While the Loud family didn’t participate in the making of the HBO film, Pat and Bill did reunite as a couple after their son, Lance, died.

“In a way the documentary ripped the Loud family apart but in the end they all came back together,” said Springer Berman.

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JEFF BRIDGES IS MUCH MORE THAN JUST A DUDE — watch American Masters profile on PBS

Sure Jeff Bridges will always be known for his role in The Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski but a quick look at his work in True Grit now on screens across the country is a testament both to his talent and his longevity.  Finally at 60 he won a much deserved Oscar for his role in last year’s Crazy Heart and during a panel over the weekend promoting his American Masters profile at TCA he came across as a down-to-earth guy who loves his “sweetheart” (wife  Susan Geston)  and playing guitar in his band and acting.

Unlike children of other film dynasties, Bridges admits his career began through nepotism, when he and his older brother, Beau, were featured in Sea Hunt along with their very famous father, Lloyd. His parents encouraged him to go into show business and he did and the rest is history, right? His first major movie role was in The Last Picture Show, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor when he was only in his early 20’s. I lusted after him in Against All Odds…and was enthralled and disgusted by him in The Jagged Edge, opposite Glen Close. He was hailed by critics for his work in Fearless, but during the American Masters session he spoke of his role in a film I saw recently on cable called The Amateurs about a group of men in a small town who set out to film a porno movie. I personally loved him in The Contenders, starring Joan Allen.

So unassuming and thoughtful during the panel, I can only imagine how good his profile will be on American Masters. I’ll be watching and so should you.

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Nashville on My Mind

The ripples of a trip somewhere new can extend many months and even years from the actual visit to a new city or destination. Sometimes it’s meeting new people and othertimes it’s a connection to another event and that’s exactly what happened when I went to Nashville earlier this year.  I had been to Nashville as a child with my parents and we saw Tammy Wynette and George Jones perform at the Grand Ole Opry, so it was an amazing experience to return as an adult who so appreciated how country music was such a big part of her life with her family.

One of my favorite events we did during my trip in April was a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which included seeing Family Traditions: The Hank Williams Legacy, a special exhibit that examined the personal lives and professional lives and musical contributions of Hank Williams and Hank Williams, Jr. 

At a luncheon following a tour of the Museum, I met a fellow graduate from the University of Missouri School of Journalism who works there and we talked and have continued to email. She also invited me to the amazing guitar pull event at Club Nokia a few weeks ago on September 23, a fundraiser called All for the Hall Los Angeles to benefit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Lionel Richie and Taylor Swift. It was such an incredible night seeing those musicians picking and singing new songs and old…and Taylor Swift impressed me much more than what I had seen at some of her appearances at the big awards show. She shared how she wrote some of her hit songs, and it’s truly  rare for someone as young as she is to be able to describe the state-of-mind of being 15, or liking a guy her parent’s don’t and writing hit songs about the experience. In her acoustic versions of her latest single Mine and her big hit Love Story she showed why she’s such a star and Kristofferson and Richie watched clearly enjoying this young songwriter who is so articulate in her songs. Swift also shared a new song she wrote about her mother and it was heartfelt and brought a few tears…as it’s clear that she understands how fast time goes and how growing up never really changes the pull or impact of a mother’s love.

Being a fan of Kris Kristofferson, meeting him was a pleasure but to hear him sing his classic songs like “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and Me and “Bobby McGee. At first I wasn’t sure how Lionel Richie would fit in but he was the only artist on the piano and he sang some of his hits, “Three Times a Lady,” “Hello,” and “Stuck on You” and it ended up being a wonderful addition to the group. My mother is a huge fan of Emmylou Harris and I enjoyed her contributions, too, and I spoke to her friend, Mary Kay, who was in the audience and she said that she was already in production on the next season of Big Love . Gill was a great “host” and sang a song he wrote for his wife, singer/songwriter Amy Grant.

While in Nashville, I also attended the 41st Annual Nashville Film Festival, where I saw the premiere of Nowhere Boy, a film about Lennon’s pre-Beatle days in Liverpool, directed by Sam Taylor and starring Aaron Johnson. Given all of the activities surrounding Lennon’s 70th birthday this coming Saturday, there will be a Los Angeles premiere of the film. I liked it but others who saw it with me that night thought the actor, who was phenomenally charismatic, was too old to play the part. But it was an insightful look into the artist and in a bookend, Lennon’s life in New York will be featured in a two-hour documentary airing on PBS’ American Masters series on November 22, and the Grammy Museum will host an advance screening on Monday. We saw a peek of it at the TCA press tour in July/August featuring his wife, Yoko Ono. Here’s a link about that appearance written by my friend and fellow writer Amy Dawes.

 I can’t wait to return to Nashville and right now the special exhibit at the Country Museum is Tammy Wynette: First Lady of Country Music. As I grew up listening to my mother sing songs by Wynette, it would be a wonderful opportunity to return to see the exhibit with my mother.

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