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March Sadness

In Roundups on March 25, 2011 at 6:00 am

CNN’s Anderson Cooper, seen last Saturday in Sendai. (Photo by David Hogsholt/Getty Images, via The New York Times)

Here’s what caught my eye this week:

CNN: We’re Number 2! As usual, when big stories break, CNN zooms past MSNBC in the cable news race. I’m torn: As much as I want CNN to keep climbing and knock longtime champ Fox News off its perch, I’m ready for a break from the disasters, meltdowns and “limited military actions.”

Glenn Beck, leaving Fox? He may move his show online, where viewers would have to pay to see it, the New York Times reports. This is one outlandish Beck-inspired theory that I hope is true.

Chris Brown on Good Morning America. Enough already with abusive men on the morning shows.

Julian Fellowes comes stateside. The Downton Abbey scribe will pen an ABC miniseries about the Titanic. Might Lord Grantham’s doomed cousin be a character?

Ed Harris to play John McCain in HBO’s Game Change. Well, OK. That will work, too.

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Abbey Fabulous!

In Tidbits on March 23, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Lady Grantham (Kim Cattrall) and the Countess (Jennifer Saunders) in “Uptown Downstairs Abbey.” (Photo by BBC, courtesy The Daily Telegraph)

If you’re suffering from Downton Abbey separation anxiety – and who isn’t these days? – then hopefully this will tide you over until the addictive Edwardian era soap opera returns to PBS next year.

Uptown Downstairs Abbey, a biting two-part spoof that the BBC broadcast last week as part of Britain’s annual Comic Relief charity drive, is now on YouTube.

The 15-minute production features a cast of British comedy superstars, including Absolutely Fabulous’s Jennifer Saunders as the Countess, Dame Maggie Smith’s Downton Abbey role, and Joanna Lumley as the housekeeper, originally played by Phyllis Logan.

The show-stealer is Kim Cattrall, whose impersonation of Elizabeth McGovern, a.k.a. Lady Grantham, is flawless.

The Brits loved the spoof: The Daily Telegraph newspaper ranked Uptown Downstairs Abbey second on its list of this year’s 10 funniest Comic Relief moments. Read the rest of this entry »

Moving Pictures: Print Still Outshining Video in Japan

In Roundups on March 18, 2011 at 6:00 am

On March 14, a mother tried to talk to her daughter, who was isolated after leaving the vicinity of Fukushima’s nuclear plants. (Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Reuters)

Here’s what caught my eye this week:

Japan. Sorry to be a broken record, but the television news coverage of this disaster remains surprisingly – and frustratingly – lacking. I’ve seen no video that illustrates the horror as well as photographs like the one above.

Representative Anthony Weiner. The New York Democrat mocked the House Republicans’ efforts to defund NPR with a brilliant floor speech. Weiner’s college roommate would be proud.

Kurt and Blaine. Surprise! They finally kissed. Some are surprised Fox didn’t hype it beforehand to goose the ratings; I prefer to think we’ve reached a point where same-sex PDAs in prime time are no longer a big deal.

Sue Sylvester. Speaking of Glee: Was anyone else disturbed when the show’s villainess responded to her club’s loss at regionals by slugging the mistress of ceremonies? Read the rest of this entry »

Rich Man, Poor Man: Sinners Reconciled

In Flashbacks on March 15, 2011 at 7:30 am

Jordache brothers Tom (Nick Nolte) and Rudy (Peter Strauss) reconciled in the final episode of “Rich Man, Poor Man.” (Screen cap)

On March 15, 1976, ABC’s Rich Man, Poor Man concluded its nine-week run with the death of ne’er-do-well boxer Tom Jordache, the role that made Nick Nolte a star.

The 12-hour Rich Man, Poor Man miniseries, based on Irwin Shaw’s 1970 best-selling novel, spanned three decades in the divergent lives of troubled Tom and his ambitious brother Rudy (Peter Strauss), who becomes a United States senator.

In the finale, with happiness finally in Tom’s grasp, he is brutally stabbed by a pair of thugs.

Before dying, Tom has a moving deathbed reconciliation with Rudy – a scene that ranked 87th on TV Guide’s 1996 list of television’s most memorable moments.

Nolte and Strauss were each nominated for Emmys; they lost to Hal Holbrook (Sandburg’s Lincoln). Read the rest of this entry »

There But for the Grace of God Go We

In Roundups on March 13, 2011 at 9:30 am

In Japan, a survivor weeps as he looks at a shelter’s board showing names of other survivors. (Photo by Lee Jae-won/Reuters, courtesy MSNBC.com)

Here’s what caught my eye this last week:

Disaster in Japan. TV news is too preoccupied with wide-angle shots of the devastation; only print photographers are recording the human tragedy.

The House hearings on Muslim extremism. Does the gentleman from New York wish to yield back his sense of decency?

HBO is making Game Change, a movie about the 2008 presidential campaign. If Battlestar Galactica’s Michael Hogan isn’t cast as John McCain, he should fire his agent.

Julianne Moore to play Sarah Palin in Game Change. Interesting casting: an actress with enormous range playing a woman with no depth.

Katie Couric, talk show host? Rumor has it she may abdicate her CBS Evening News anchor throne to host an Oprah-style daytime show. Goodbye and good luck.

Rob Lowe is staying in Pawnee. The actor isn’t leaving Parks and Recreation to replace you-know-who on Two and a Half Men. Whew!

TV News, Ready and Willing to Enable Charlie Sheen

In Roundups on March 4, 2011 at 6:00 am

On the February 28 edition of “NBC Nightly News,” Brian Williams unapologetically introduced an excerpt of “Today’s” interview with Charlie Sheen. (Screen cap)

Here’s what caught my eye this week:

Charlie Sheen. Slow-motion train wrecks may be good television, but they’re lousy journalism. Shame on ABC, NBC, CNN and every other news organization that gave the troubled actor a platform this week. I suspect they will come to regret it.

Gingrich and Santorum. Fox News Channel suspended the pol-turned-pundits while they contemplate presidential bids. Quick, someone start a rumor that Megyn Kelly is tossing her stilettos into the ring, too!

Thurgood. HBO is showing its adaptation of Laurence Fishburne’s well-reviewed one-man stage show. If there’s any justice in television, PBS will broadcast this production so everyone can see it.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark cast members perform on Letterman. Now how about a little Broadway in prime time? Read the rest of this entry »

Masterpiece’s Any Human Heart: Logan’s Run Ends

In Recaps on March 1, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Elderly Logan Mountstuart (Jim Broadbent) wrote in his journal in “Any Human Heart.” (Screen cap)

TV Columnist offers its final recap of Any Human Heart, PBS’s latest Masterpiece miniseries, using the journal entries of hero Logan Mountstuart.

As the third and final episode began Sunday night, Leo’s funeral reunited Logan (Matthew Macfadyen) and ex-wife Lottie (Emerald Fennell), who blamed him for their son’s death.

Flash forward to 1970s London, where an older Logan (Jim Broadbent) resumed his journal after another lengthy break:

Does it matter that I haven’t written in this journal for years? No. If you keep writing, the gaps are unimportant. However, I have to record that I am astonished at how easy it is to become poor. Suddenly you wake up one day and realize you have very little money. My New York wealth and affluence are a distant memory now and yet, there is something strangely liberating about being free from money. When you’re looking up from the bottom of the heap, the world is a much less complicated place. Read the rest of this entry »

Blue Bloods: In All Things Obduration

In Recaps on February 27, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) in “Age of Innocence,” Friday night’s “Blue Bloods” episode. (Screen cap)

The humanization of Frank Reagan continued on Friday night’s episode of Blue Bloods, as the CBS drama offered a few small-but-important reminders that Tom Selleck’s character isn’t always so damn perfect.

Since Blue Bloods debuted in September, one of my gripes with the show has been its tendency to elevate Frank, the New York City police commissioner, to superhuman status.

Frank rarely loses his temper, he seems to have the right words for every occasion and like all good New Yorkers, he always remembers the neediest – whether it’s helping to exonerate his office cleaning lady’s wrongly arrested son or reading ancient Arabian poetry at the bedside of an ailing Pakistani American cop.

But in Age of Innocence, Friday night’s Blue Bloods installment, Frank actually treated someone not-so-nicely!

Twice! Read the rest of this entry »

Oscar Night’s Starring Lineup

In Roundups on February 25, 2011 at 6:00 am

James Franco and Anne Hathaway will host the Oscars on February 27. (Photo by Bob D’Amico/ABC)

Here’s what caught my eye this week:

Franco and Hathaway do the Academy Awards. I have high hopes for these two, the first Oscar hosting combo comprised of one man and one woman since 1957, when Jerry Lewis and Celeste Holm presided over the ceremony. And in case you’re wondering, my best pic picks: Black Swan (should win) and The King’s Speech (will win).

Joe and Mika do Law & Order: SVU. Here’s a case for Stabler and Benson: Who’s slowly killing NBC News’s credibility by continually allowing its journalists to moonlight on the network’s entertainment shows?

Rumsfeld does The Daily Show. Oddly, regrettably anticlimactic.

Kim Cattrall on Any Human Heart. A nice reminder that the veteran actress – yeah, I said it – is more than just a Sex pot.

Blaine clears up all the confusion over his sexuality. Whew! Thank goodness Glee limited his questioning to a single episode.

M*A*S*H: Wartime Blues, in Black and White

In Flashbacks on February 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

Hawkeye (Alan Alda) discusses war in the “M*A*S*H” episode “The Interview” (Screen cap)

On February 24, 1976, CBS aired The Interview, the M*A*S*H episode that is presented as a black-and-white 1950s documentary about life in the 4077th.

During the show, Clete Roberts, a real-life Korean War correspondent, interviewed the M*A*S*H actors, who improvised their answers while staying in character.

The Interview, like all classics, is resonant.

When buffoonish Frank Burns (Larry Linville) declares, “Korea will become a shining policy of benign military intervention,” you hear the echo of Dick Cheney’s prediction that Iraqis would greet the United States as liberators.

Although The Interview won no awards, it’s remembered fondly; TV Guide ranked it 80th on its 1997 list of television’s greatest episodes.

The Interview also served as a precursor to Modern Family and other contemporary shows that employ the mockumentary format each week.

See for yourself: The Interview is included in the M*A*S*H Season 4 and M*A*S*H: Martinis and Medicine DVD collections.