“Ordinary Joe” Makes the Alternate History Genre Personal

Stories which depict a so-called “alternate history” are a standard subgenre of science fiction. They explore the idea of “what if history unfolded differently?” For example, Stephen King‘s 11.22.63 is a time travel story where a man tries to prevent the Kennedy assassination. “The Man in the High Castle” explores a world in which Nazi Germany prevailed in World War II. The Apple TV+ series “For All Mankind” explores an alternate history in which Russia landed on the moon before the US. These works all explore the alternate history scenario on a grand scale. But the new NBC drama series “Ordinary Joe” takes a more personal approach asking the question what if our main character made different choices and his life turned out quite differently.

The story revolves around the life of Joe Kimbreau played by James Wolk most recently seen in the HBO series “Watchmen“. It opens with his college graduation in which he is given three choices on how to pursue the rest of his life. The first option: accept an invitation from Jenny Banks who he describes as his best friend. She wants him to come spend a weekend at the beach. Option two: Pursue a relationship with a girl he meets at the graduation ceremony named Amy Kindelán. Option three: Spend time with his family especially his uncle who wants to persuade him to become a police officer like the uncle and Joe’s father before him.

The story then skips ahead 10 years and we get to see what would happen to his life had he chosen each of those three options. His life with Jenny leads to a marriage that is not working well. He has chosen a career as an ER nurse. Together they have a son who is in a wheelchair from a type of muscular dystrophy. I don’t believe they specify exactly what variety the child has but one of the creators of the show has a son with Spinal Muscular Atrophy – the same neuromuscular disease I have. The actor portraying the boy John Gluck has Collagen VI Muscular Dystrophy in real life.

In the version of his life with Amy, he pursues his passion for music and becomes a successful rockstar.

In the third option, he becomes a police officer just like his uncle and his father before him.

Our viewpoint jumps back and forth among these three alternate versions of his life sometimes depicted in a three-way split screen. This is not a show that you can casually have on in the background while doing something else. It forces you to pay attention so that you know which timeline we are currently depicting.

The same events are depicted in each of the three timelines. For example, while Joe is playing a concert at an outdoor venue, a hailstorm arrives. That same hailstorm falls on a political rally in which a gunman tries to kill the candidate. Joe as a police officer shoots the suspect before the candidate can be harmed. Then we jumped to Joe the ER nurse as the injured candidate is brought in by ambulance. He was wounded because police officer Joe didn’t exist in that timeline.

Later in the first episode, Joe attends a college reunion in which he further can explore questions about what his life might have been like had he made different choices. I won’t give away some of the plot twists but the scenes at the reunion reveal some surprises about the consequences of each of his choices.

In all three versions of his life, there are ups and downs. None of the three scenarios leave him completely happy yet in none of them can you say that his life is a disaster. Still, he’s constantly wondering what might have been had he taken a different road.

Some critics are saying that the show is designed to be the next “This Is Us“. Although the drama is heavy at times, I don’t think you will be grabbing for your handkerchief quite as often if at all as you might do in a typical “This Is Us” episode. On the other hand, the storytelling, acting, and ability to help you deeply sympathize with the characters is clearly up to “TIU” standards.

Overall I really like this twist on the classic “What if…” scenario. We have seen single episodes of other TV series such as Grey’s Anatomy in which we explore what might have happened to our favorite characters under different circumstances. It remains to be seen how well the writers can pull off this scenario on a week-to-week basis. Will the viewers care enough to expend the effort to follow the events of the three parallel stories. That will depend a lot on the director and editor to exploit the gimmick without making it overly complex. Viewers seem to have no difficulty following the time jumps forwards and backwards in “This Is Us.” Other gimmick TV shows such as “How to Get Away With Murder” which would jump back and forth in a single timeline left me not caring about “what really happened” by the end of the season. I don’t think this gimmick will suffer such a fate but we will have to see.

I’m especially anxious to see how the story of the disabled son will involve. YouTuber Shane Burcaw who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy like me is serving as a disability consultant for the series so it shows that they are doing their best to keep that portion of the show authentic. For more on this aspect of the show, check out this link to an interview with the creators of the series.

The show airs Monday nights with episodes available the next day on demand or streaming on Peacock. I’m giving it my rating of a strong “I’m watching” and suggest you check it out.

This Isn’t Exactly Asimov’s Foundation but That’s Okay.

Before we can discuss Apple TV+’s new sci-fi series “Foundation” we have to look at the origin of the story.

When famous science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov was just 21 years old he was on his way to meet with John W. Campbell the famous editor of Astounding Magazine. Although he had been writing professionally for three years and had sold five stories to Campbell, he was a relative unknown. That fifth story “Nightfall” would really make his mark in the sci-fi world but it had not yet been published. The meeting was supposed to be a story pitch man Asimov had no idea what to pitch. Using free association, he opened the book to an image of a soldier. That made him think of military empires, the Roman Empire, a Galactic Empire! He had his idea. He had just read Edward Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” and decided he would retell the story in an outer space setting. The result was a series of eight stories that appeared between May 1942 and January 1950 in Astounding. Then in 1951 he added a new introductory story and the entire set was published as three books known as the “Foundation Trilogy”. The series was awarded a Hugo award in 1966 as “Best All Time Series” – a special one-time award that many expected would go to the “Lord of the Rings”.

In 1981 Asimov was persuaded by his publisher to write a sequel fourth book “Foundation’s Edge” published in 1982 followed by another sequel in 1986 and then two prequels in 1988 and 1993 bringing the collection to a total of seven books. These prequels and sequels also tied in the Foundation series to other series of books including the Robot series and the Empire series.

In 1981 when Asimov prepared to write the first sequel, it had been 40 years since he had begun the series and so he went back to reread his original trilogy. Here is what he wrote about the experience…

I read it with mounting uneasiness. I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did. All three volumes, all the nearly quarter of a million words, consisted of thoughts and of conversations. No action. No physical suspense.

What was all the fuss about, then? Why did everyone want more of that stuff? – To be sure, I couldn’t help but notice that I was turning the pages eagerly, and that I was upset when I finished the book, and that I wanted more, but I was the author, for goodness’ sake. You couldn’t go by me.

I read the original trilogy sometime in the early 1970s and although I enjoyed it, I have to agree with Asimov’s assessment. Not a lot goes on. It’s a lot of people sitting around talking about the politics of the fall of the Empire.

Asimov goes on to explain

I was on the edge of deciding it was all a terrible mistake and of insisting on giving back the money, when (quite by accident, I swear) I came across some sentences by science-fiction writer and critic, James Gunn, who, in connection with the Foundation series, said, “Action and romance have little to do with the success of the Trilogy – virtually all the action takes place offstage, and the romance is almost invisible – but the stories provide a detective-story fascination with the permutations and reversals of ideas.”

Oh, well, if what was needed were “permutations and reversals of ideas,” then that I could supply.

I was unaware until recently that there were any sequels or prequels. In preparation for watching the new TV series on Apple TV+ I decided to reread the original trilogy and discovered the four additional novels. I had heard rumors that the TV series might dip into some of the material of the prequels so I ended up reading all seven books back to back.

I have to say that I enjoyed the prequels and sequels much more than the original material but of course Asimov had matured by 40+ years and the new stories did contain some action and excitement other than simply the “permutations of ideas”.

As always, if you want more information about the topics in this blog such as details of the Foundation series you can click on any of the links in this document which will take you to IMDb and Wikipedia articles on the topics.

I’ve always thought that the title “Foundation” was an unintentional perfect title because many of the themes and tropes introduced in the series have become the foundation for many sci-fi stories and epics in the years since then. Many have said that Frank Herbert’s classic series “Dune”, a film version of which will be out in October, was his response to Foundation. And Asimov has acknowledged that much of Star Wars has been ripped off from his stories that he doesn’t care because he acknowledges that he simply ripped off Gibbon’s Fall of the Roman Empire. Star Wars hyperspace drives, the mind probe, and a Galactic Empire with a capital planet that consists of a city covering the entire planet (Coruscant in Star Wars, Trantor in Foundation) and other ripoffs will jump right out at fans of both works.

In anticipation of the new series, I went to IMDb and looked at the cast list. The first thing I noticed was that several characters had switched from male to female. One could hardly expect to find strong female characters in positions of importance from a sci-fi story written by a 21-year-old grad student in 1941. So the swap of genders seemed like a good choice. But the thing that disturbed me most was that I saw characters in the cast list that did not exist in the original source material. That made me worried that they were going to stray far afield from the original material. “Foundation” had had previous false starts of adaptation to film or TV. Some said that it was “unfilmable” and I worried that they would make significant changes to make it filmable. Check out this interesting article written before the release of this series about the history of attempting to adapt Asimov’s work to film or TV. Various scenes from the trailers also indicated there was much more action in the story than was in the original books. I had a bad feeling about the whole thing.

Now that I’ve seen the first two episodes which premiered September 24 on Apple TV+ I found that indeed they have made significant changes to the story but it is mostly thing is that they have added. And those additions, at least so far, are very positive changes.

The main story of both the book and TV series is about mathematician Hari Seldon who has invented a branch of psychology and mathematics called psychohistory. The core idea is that although you cannot predict individual behavior if you have a large group of people (such as the quintillions of people scattered across 25 million worlds of the Galactic Empire) you can accurately predict the future. Seldon’s equations show that the Empire will fall within 500 years. Nothing can be done to save it. That will lead to 30,000 years of Galactic war, barbarism, and chaos. However, that can be mitigated by the establishment of a Foundation. It will be a repository of human knowledge and experience that will survive the fall and rebuild a second Empire in a mere 1,000 years rather than 30,000.

The opening episode of the series follows quite closely the short story that Asimov added to his original eight when the stories were collected into book form. We follow mathematician Gaal Dornick who is arriving at the Galactic capital planet Trantor to work with Seldon. This is one of the characters that the TV series switches to female. They also expand the back story of Gaal and her homeworld Synnax. It is a world where religion rules and science and mathematics are forbidden. Although still a believer at heart, she has been forced to renounce her faith in pursuit of mathematics. She has won a contest to solve a complex mathematical problem and earned her a job with Seldon. This back story is fascinating and is absent from the original books.

I mentioned that the cast list including characters that are not in the books. The main characters added are a trio of people who serve as the Galactic Emperor. Although the Emperor plays a big part in other parts of the Foundation Series, he is absent in the original short story that is depicted in the first episode. The trio consists of a young boy about eight years old, a grown man brilliantly portrayed by Lee Pace, and an old man portrayed by Terrence Mann. They are known as Brother Dawn, Brother Day, and Brother Dusk. They are clones of a previous Emperor Cleon I and this continuous line of clones have ruled as Emperor for 400 years. We get to see the younger version being trained in the ways of politics, the political savvy of Brother Day as he deals with political unrest of the Outer Worlds, and the wise counsel of the elder Dusk who is struggling with his own mortality.

The performances of Pace and Mann are so seamless that at one point I thought perhaps the elder was also portrayed by Pace in makeup until I checked the cast list. The insights into the political atmosphere of the time and the way that the trio of Emperors deal with it adds greatly to the original story.

From interviews with Pace I get the idea that these characters will continue years into the future with Pace playing the role of different clones of the same line as they rotate through the line of succession. One interesting twist, Day asks Seldon is there anything we can do to slow down the fall of the Empire? Seldon says “Yes, stop making clones of yourself.” The idea is that they had the same leadership more or less for 400 years and they need fresh ideas at the top. Something they won’t get as long as they keep reincarnating themselves. I thought that was a clever concept not in the original work because the clone leadership did not exist in the original stories. It showed me that the writers can innovate around Asimov’s core concepts quite well.

We were also introduced to Demerzel, a character from the prequels who carries a secret that I felt was revealed too soon in the TV series. This is another character that has been changed to female and of the three main characters who have had a gender swap I tend to disagree with this choice although I suppose in the end it doesn’t matter. It’s just that this character plays a larger role in Asimov’s Future History timeline and that character has always been male. She serves as an advisor to the Emperors and mother figure to the young boy clone .

We should also briefly discussed the world-building that they’ve done in the series. The sets and costumes are detailed and lavish. This is going to be on par with what we anticipate from the upcoming film of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” which will be in theaters in October. It’s trying to be an outer space version of “Game of Thrones” (without the nudity) and so far it seems to be succeeding.

Depictions of key elements of Asimov’s stories fully met my expectations such as the holographic projector known as the Prime Radiant which contains Seldon’s equations and the Imperial Library which so closely matched my mental image I wonder if perhaps I had seen a glimpse of it in the trailer before rereading the books.

I believe that the changes made for the TV series have added to and not significantly detracted from Asimov’s original story. The changes are not just to add action and stunning visuals (although they do that phenomenally well) they so further add to the political intrigue which is the core of Asimov’s work.

There are some spoilers below. So for now I have to say I am much more optimistic about the series than I was from the trailers and other early release material. The show has great potential.

It is only available on Apple TV+ and new episodes of the 10 episode first season will appear each Friday.

I’m rating it “I Really like It” and highly recommend it.

***Minor spoilers ***

As previously mentioned, there isn’t any action or adventure in the original trilogy although the prequels and sequels make up for that. So the writers of the TV series need something visually spectacular for the medium of television and they deliver a very memorable spectacle. There is a space elevator on the capital planet of Trantor. You park your spaceship in orbit and ride an elevator all the way to the surface. There is a terrorist attack that destroys the space elevator. The elevator shaft which is hundreds of miles long comes crashing down onto the planet wrapping itself most of the way around the surface killing 100 million people. It is an amazing bit of special effects with very memorable visuals. A retaliatory attack on the homeworlds of the suspected terrorists is much less memorable or innovative.

At the end of the original short story and the end of the first TV episode, we find Seldon and his followers exiled to a distant planet Terminus to establish the Encyclopedia Galactica Foundation which will preserve human knowledge and experience through the upcoming fall of the Empire. The Emperor exiles them to get them out of the way and doesn’t want to destroy them thus creating a martyr and implying that perhaps Seldon was right and the Empire is falling. This exile was part of Seldon’s plan all along.

The book jumps 50 years to a new story set on Terminus but the TV series 2nd episode begins to cover the four-year journey to the planet Terminus. Something that is not covered in the books. In fact, this is one place where the sci-fi technology breaks down from “reality”. Terminus is 50,000 light-years from the capital Trantor but they have been forbidden from using “jump drive” technology to get there. How you travel 50,000 light-years in just four years without some sort of FTL Drive is a bit of plot-driven technology that sadly is not explained.

It does give us an opportunity to develop a romantic story between Gaal and Seldon’s right-hand man Raych Foss. It also gives us interesting insights into Seldon’s relationship with his followers.

I won’t spoil any more of the story beyond that but it does take some interesting turns and we will have to wait and see where we go from here.

Entertainment news: July through mid-August

It’s been a month and a half since I did and entertainment blog. Lots to report on. Most notably I actually got out to a theater to see Marvel’s “Black Window” in IMAX. As the IMAX screen lit up in the six channel Dolby Atmos surroundsound kicked in I turned to my friend and said “My God I missed this!” The film did not disappoint. It starts with the rather poignant and tragic childhood of Natasha Romanoff whose parents were Russian spies embedded in the US. When their cover was blown they had to flee. Natalia and her sister were turned into assassins and a cruel method that involved mind control. Later in the movie she and her sister reunite with her father and mother and the dinner table conversations were absolutely hilarious among this dysfunctional and alienated family. Lots of other inside jokes are scattered throughout the story and as you might expect there is plenty of superhero action and state-of-the-art special-effects. Overall a great film to return to the theater after 18 months away.

Marvel hasn’t been idle during that time of course. We wrapped up “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” which was excellent as well as “Loki” which is going to be instrumental in setting up the next series of MCU films. Both series streaming on Disney+ and are highly recommended.

DC’s “Suicide Squad” is available in theaters and sadly not doing very well in the box office. I will be catching it on HBO Max later this week and will have comments in my next installment.

Pandemic News

  • Drew Barrymore’s daytime talk show will return for season 2 with fully vaccinated live audience.

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

  • Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker and showrunner Chris Chibnall will be leaving Michelle they will be around for season 13 this fall and 3 feature-length specials in 2022.
  • TNT announced “Snowpiercer” has been renewed for season 4 after just wrapping production on season 3. We are well pleased.
  • Netflix has canceled the Jamie Foxx sitcom “Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!”. I guess he got his wish.
  • Mark Harmon will only appear in a limited number of episodes of NCIS for season 19.
  • Wanda Sykes will join “The Good Fight” in a recurring role in season 5.
  • Showtime has renewed “couples therapy That includes for season 3.
  • AMC has ordered an eight episodes series based on Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire”.
  • NBC has canceled “Good Girls” after 4 seasons. And it will not be moving to Netflix.
  • Apple TV+ announced their adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” will premier September 24.
  • Amazon announced there will be a second season of “Good Omens”. The original series pretty much covered the entire story from the original novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pritchett so this will have to explore new territory with the characters. The first season was absolutely various and I highly recommend it.
  • Dougray Scott will not be returning for season 3 of Batwoman as Jacob Kane.
  • Harry Connick, Jr. will play Daddy Warbucks in the upcoming NBC musical “Annie Live!”
  • HBO has canceled “Lovecraft Country” after just 1 season
  • Sports broadcasting legend Marv Albert has retired after 55 years.
  • Netflix has canceled “Cursed” about the legendary Lady of the Lake after just one season. The first season was okay but it took way too many remedies with the Arthurian legend.
  • Showtime announced the return of “Dexter” will be November 9.
  • PBS animated series “Arthur” is ending after 25 seasons.
  • Showtime has announced “The Chi” has been renewed for season 5.
  • Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie, and Ryan Seacrest will all return for American Idol season 5.
  • Apple TV+ has canceled “Little Voice” after 1 season.
  • South Park has been renewed for 4 more seasons at Comedy Central additionally 14 movies have been ordered at Paramount+. The series will extend through 2027 and is worth a reported $900 million.
  • Disney+ has renewed animated series “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” for season 2.
  • Amazon has canceled “Panic” after 1 season.
  • Catherine Zeta Jones will play Morticia Addams in upcoming Netflix series “Wednesday”to be produced by Tim Burton.

Miscellaneous News

  • A change in the rules for Emmy awards around and actor or actress the option to be recognized as “Performer” rather than “Actor” or “Actress”.
  • Harrison Ford has injured his shoulder rehearsing a fight scene for “Indiana Jones 5”. Production has been rescheduled to shoot around him until he recovers.
  • Bob Odenkirk collapsed on the set of his show “Better Call Saul” in what was later reported as a mild heart attack.
  • America’s Got Talent contestant Jane Marczewski who competed under the name “Nightbirde” has dropped out of the competition to focus on her ongoing fight with cancer. A struggle she talked about during her original singing audition.
  • Comedian Kathy Griffin is out of the hospital after surgery for lung cancer.
  • Actress Christina Applegate has announced she is been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

In Memoriam

  • Richard Donner director of Superman, Lethal Weapon, and The Goonies. Age 91
  • Classic standup comic Jackie Mason age 93
  • Joanne Linville who played a Romulan commander in a early episode of Star Trek. Age 93
  • Ron Popeil TV pitch man who starting countless infomercials. Age 86.
  • Ray MacDonnell soap opera star from “All My Children”. Age 93
  • Stuart Damon who played Alan Quarterman on “General Hospital” age 84
  • John Lawton former vocalist for Uriah Heep. Age 74.
  • Robert Downey Sr. filmmaker and father of Robert Downey Jr. age 85
  • Paul Orndorrff a.k.a. “Mr. Wonderful” WWF star from the 80s. Age 71.
  • Charles Robinson who played Mac on sitcom “Night Court”. Age 75.
  • Rick Aiello son of Danny Aiello who appeared in “Do the Right Thing” age 65
  • Dusty Hill bass player for ZZ Top age 72.
  • Markie Post actress known for “Night Court”and “Fall Guy” age 70. Cancer.
  • Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas cofounder of “Kool & The Gang” age 70
  • Trevor Moore comedian and cofounder of sketch comedy group “The Whitest Kids U Know“ age 41.
  • Rob Ringwald jazz musician and father of Molly Ringwald age 80

Links of Interest

Entertainment News: Cancer Culture Commentary, Cancellations and Renewals, and more

Couple of quick comments about what I’ve been watching… Season 4 of Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale” just wrapped up with a shocking final episode. The season was a little bit uneven but overall a great watch. Also just started watching Marvel’s new series Loki which seems to be pretty good. And if you have access to Paramount+ we want to recommend sci-fi action-adventure movie “Infinite” starring Mark Wahlberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Lots of great car chases, gun battles, fight sequences, and a sci-fi plot that isn’t too difficult to follow.

Today’s opening comments are about the ridiculous level to which our cancel culture has taken over. We can applaud such issues as the publishers of Dr. Seuss books removing some of his lesser-known titles from publication because his depiction of Asian characters in a particular stereotypical way as well as depicting African characters as near monkeys is an now that I’ve election will close was that okay okay is okay appropriate move. But these issues are being taken to ridiculous extremes. For example there are protests that at a Disneyland attraction Prince charming is kissing an unconscious Snow White without her permission. What do they expect him to do? Let her lay there in a coma just because she can’t say “Yes please… Save my life?” Give me a break. One friend of mine pointed out she wanted to kiss the guy way earlier in the story.

We also have the case of 16-year-old American Idol contestant Caleb Kennedy who dropped out of the show when he was among the top 5 finalists. A video clip surfaced showing him and his friends goofing around when they were 13. One of his friends, not him, had on a hood as he was imitating characters from the slasher film “The Strangers: Prey at Night”. Because the hood resembled a KKK hood, controversy arose claiming that he was condoning racism. In the first place it was not a KKK hood. Furthermore do you really believe that even if a 13-year-old was hanging out with his buddies and they did something racist that he was going to have the presence of mind to condemn them on video lest his future music career be ruined by associating with such people. While there doesn’t seem to be any indication that he was forced to quit, the fact that he and/or his advisors felt it was his best interest (or the best interest of ABC and the producers of American Idol) is just totally insane.

We also have the story of actor John Barrowman who plays iconic character Capt. Jack Harkness on the TV series Doctor Who and Torchwood. Allegations have arisen of sexual misconduct which have included things such as exposing himself on set. Like his character, Barrowman is a flamboyant character and his fans probably are not shocked that he would behave in such a manner no matter how inappropriate it was. The problem is it appears the allegations are from years ago. Producers warned him about the behavior and claim that it did not recur. While we aren’t defending his actions, he has continued to work in film and television for some time since these events occurred. But now he has been edited out of the new theme park experience called “Time Fracture” and an upcoming audio play from “Big Finish” has canceled an upcoming Doctor Who series featuring him and David Tennant. He didn’t sexually assault anyone. He didn’t use a position of authority to extort sexual favors out of his underlings. He behaved like an immature kid even though he is an adult. Should we destroy his entire career for such behavior?

Just before I was ready to post this blog comes the story of Ellie Kemper known for roles and “The Office” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. She has been branded “KKK Princess” for appearing in a Missouri debutante ball when she was 19. She was dubbed “a racist beauty queen” by Internet trolls. She has apologized for her involvement with an organization that had “an unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past.” She also added “I was not aware of the history at the time, but ignorance is no excuse.” I would agree that ignorance is no excuse for the ignorant people were condemning her for participating in what seemed like an innocent event that for many people in many cultures in America as a rite of passage. We would guess that 90% of the people participating in such events had no idea the racist roots. Yet another case of a person being condemned for something they instantly did as a young person in a time and place that was not as allegedly “woke” as we are today.

And one more item… Just to prove you can never win the game in this current atmosphere. Lin Manuel Miranda is being criticized for his new movie “In the Heights” because dark skin Afro-Latinos only appear as background dancers and not in major roles. This man has done more for Hispanic and Puerto Rican culture in America than anyone in history and even his efforts don’t satisfy the critics. And if that wasn’t enough Rita Marino defended Miranda and then was criticized for being insensitive towards black Latinos and had to apologize. Will this ever end?

I’m finding I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance.

Pandemic News

  • A recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” was canceled because the comedian has tested positive for Covid. He is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic.
  • On June 15, live audiences returned to Stephen Colbert. Jimmy Kimmel hopes to have a right guardians by next month. Jimmy Fallon has had live audiences for several weeks now. No word on when Seth Meyers will follow.

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

There are lots of renewals and cancellations in the news this time. If you don’t see your show listed, check out these links from TVLine.

  • Broadcast Renewal Scorecard
  • Cable Renewal Scorecard
  • Streaming Renewal Scorecard
  • NBC has announced its next live musical will be “Annie Live!”
  • ABC has canceled “Call Your Mother” after one season. I follow this stuff closely and I never heard of it.
  • NBC has renewed “Law & Order: Organized Crime” for season 2.
  • NBC has announced there will be America’s Got Talent: Extreme spinoffs show that will feature nothing but daredevil acts. Simon Cowell will be one of the judges.
  • ABC has renewed a number of series “Home Economics”, “The Goldbergs”, “The Rookie”, “A Million Little Things”, and “The Conners”. Meanwhile they have canceled 5 series: Katie Sagal’s new series “Rebel”, “mixed-ish”, “For Life”, “American Housewife”, and “Call Your Mother”. ABC has also announced it has renewed “black-ish” for its 8th and final season.
  • NBC announced it will no longer be in the market for a new talk show for its 1:30 AM timeslot after ending “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” after two seasons. There has been a talkshow in that slot since 1988.
  • CBS announced that if “SEAL Team” and “Clarice” get renewed they will be moved to Paramount+ exclusively. Update: “Clarice” may be canceled after all as negotiations with Paramount and MGM a broken down.
  • Sports broadcaster Marv Albert will retire after the NBA playoffs. He is 80 years old and has been broadcasting for 60 years.
  • CBS has canceled “The Unicorn”, and “All Rise” after 2 seasons each. They have also renewed “B Positive” and “United States of Al” for a second season each. “Evil” will move to Paramount+.
  • NBC has renewed “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” for another five years.
  • Fox has renewed 911 and spinoff series 911 Lone Star for new seasons as well as “The Resident” and “The Masked Singer”
  • HBO Max is revising “Project Greenlight” which gives aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters the opportunity to produce a low-budget feature and it documents the process. This time it will be under the mentorship of Issa Rae.
  • Emily Wickersham were not return to NCIS in her role as Agent Bishop next season.
  • NBC stations announced that “The Kelly Clarkson Show” will take over this timeslot from Ellen DeGeneres in 2022.
  • NBC has canceled sci-fi series “Debris” after 1 season
  • Apple TV + has renewed “The Mosquito Coast” for season 2.
  • Showtime has renewed “City on a Hill” for season 3.
  • Netflix superhero series “Jupiter’s Legacy” will not return for season 2 which is very disappointing because it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger however Netflix has already ordered a spinoff series set in the same universe .
  • Milo Ventimiglia will have a recurring role in season 4 of “The Marvelous Mrs.Marisel”
  • Antonia Thomas a.k.a. Dr. Claire Browne is leaving “The Good Doctor”
  • Netflix fantasy series “Shadow and Bone” has been renewed for season 2.
  • Peacock has ordered a TV series “Ted” based on the Seth McFarlane movie of the same name.
  • Apple TV+ has renewed post-apocalyptic series “See” starring Jason Momoa for season 3 and announced season 2 will premier August 27.
  • Peacock has renewed “Girls5eve” musical comedy series for season 2.
  • NBC has canceled “Manifest” after 3 seasons. Producers are looking for a new home for the series.
  • Fox has canceled Dennis Leary sitcom “The Moodys” after two seasons

Politics and Showbiz

Miscellaneous News

  • CW network is expanding its primetime programming lineup to be a full 7 days per week this is the first time in its 27 year history going back to its roots UPN network and WB network.
  • Actor Billy Porter from “Pose” really are that he has been HIV-positive for 14 years.
  • The 2022 Oscars have been to raise a month and will air in March. Streaming movies which was scheduled for theatrical release will still be eligible as they were last year.
  • The USFL will attempt to come back in 2022 with Fox Sports.
  • When Marvel’s “Black Widow” comes to IMAX theater July 9 it will have 22 minutes of expanded IMAX coverage. They didn’t really say if it was shot with IMAX cameras or not but it will fill the IMAX screen.
  • Stephen Colbert had the highest-rated late-night talkshow in 2020-21 for the fifth season in a row.

In Memoriam

  • Gavin MacLeod star of “The Love Boat” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” age 90.
  • Charles Grodin actor of “Midnight Run” and “The Heartbreak Kid” age 86.
  • Lawyer F. Lee Bailey who served only O.J. Simpson defense team and other high-profile cases. Age 87.
  • Clarence Williamson III who played “Linc” on “The Mod Squad” Age 81
  • Ned Beatty, character actor who appeared in “Network” and “Deliverance” age 83
  • Actor comedian Paul Mooney who appeared in “Chapelle’s Show” age 97
  • Samuel E. Wright actor who voiced Sebastian in “The Little Mermaid” age 74
  • BJ Thomas singer-songwriter of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” age 78
  • Frank Bonner who played Herb on “WKRP in Cincinnati” age 97
  • Buddy Van Horn director of “Any Which Way You Can” and stunt double for many Clint Eastwood movies. Age 92
  • Arlene Golonka, best known for her portrayal of waitress Millie on the classic CBS sitcom The Andy Griffith Show and its spin-off Mayberry R.F.D., Age 85
  • Robert Hogan character actor from “The Wire”, “Peyton Place”, and “Law & Order” age 87
  • John Paragon who played The Genie on Pee-wee’s Playhouse age 66

Links of Interest

Entertainment News through May 12, 2021

Not much new to report from my TV and movie viewing experiences. We wrapped up “For All Mankind” the alternate history sci-fi series on Apple TV+ speculating that the space race would have continued for years when the Soviet Union beat America to the moon. The second season was every bit as good as the first with a very dramatic and somewhat tragic climax.

Marvel’s “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was good but not spectacular. At six episodes it was just about right.

Hulu’s hit drama “The Handmaid’s Tale” has returned for season 4 and the critics are not impressed. I suppose I partially agree that the story is dragging a little bit. Still it’s one of the best dramas on television.

American Idol has been great this year. Anyone of the top 5 has a decent shot at winning. And even the top 10 has been extraordinary.

Pandemic News

  • “Top Gun: Maverick” opening has been moved from July 2 two November 19. “Mission Impossible 7” which was scheduled for that November date has now been moved to May 27, 2022.
  • “The Phantom of the Opera” is the first announced Broadway reopening. Now scheduled for October 22nd. Shortly afterwards a number of other productions announced their return to Broadway for September or October.

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

  • Ellen DeGeneres Show will end after 19 seasons. It will continue to the current 2021-2022 season.
  • NBC announced it will not air the 2022 Golden Globes. Backlash against the HFPA over lack of diversity. Tom Cruise recently returned his three Golden Globe Awards in protest.
  • NBC hit drama “This Is Us” will end with upcoming season 6 as long proposed by showrunner Dan Fogelman.
  • John de Lancie will return as “Q” in the upcoming second season of “Star Trek: Picard”.
  • The animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks has already been renewed for season 3 even though season 2 has not yet been released.
  • After a long hiatus we reintroduce the “Chris Young’s Sure of the Coming Apocalypse Award”. There will be a new animated movie based on “Peeps” marshmallow candy.
  • Wayne Brady will be joining the cast of “The Good Fight” for season 5.
  • ABC game show “Don’t” has been canceled after one season. Write your own joke 🙂 There are too many.
  • CBS says that “MacGyver” will end with the current season 5.
  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge has been cast opposite Harrison Ford in the upcoming Indiana Jones 5 film. John Williams will score.
  • Tatiana Maslany is not returning as Sister Alice in season 2 of “Perry Mason”. We are very disappointed.
  • Netflix has renewed “Bridgerton” for seasons 3 and 4 even before 2 has been released.
  • CBS reality competition show “Tough As Nails” has been renewed for 2 more seasons.
  • Martial arts drama “Warrior” has been renewed for season 3 but will move from Cinemax to HBO Max after Cinemax announced it will no longer do original series.
  • CBS has renewed Blue Bloods, SWAT, Magnum PI, Bull, NCIS , and NCIS LA. Also new series NCIS Hawaii has been greenlit
  • Dominic Purcell says he’s leaving CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow” after season 6.
  • Hilary Duff will star in “How I Met Your Father” a spinoff of “How I Met Your Mother” to appear on Hulu.
  • NBC has renewed “Young Rock” and “Kenan” each for a second season.
  • CW has renewed “Kung Fu” and “Star Girl” for season 2 and 3 respectively.
  • Although not finalized, “Pennyworth” is possibly moving from Epix to HBO Max. The first two seasons appeared on Epix and it may move for the third. It’s the story of young Alfred Pennyworth who would later go on to become Bruce Wayne’s Butler.
  • ABC has renewed “The Good Doctor” for season 5.
  • FX has renewed “Mayans MC” for season 4.
  • ABC has renewed “Big Sky” for season 2.
  • Netflix has canceled the Sherlock Holmes related series “The Irregulars”
  • CW has renewed “The Flash” for season 8 but it will be without Carlos Valdes who plays Cisco Ramon and Tom Cavanaugh who has played various versions of Harrison Wells and Eobard Thawne. Both of which are original cast members.
  • Lilly Singh late-night show on NBC will end with season 2.
  • Grey’s Anatomy has been renewed for season 18. Jesse Williams a.k.a. Dr. Avery is leaving Grey’s Anatomy after 12 seasons.
  • Fox has renewed Mayim Bialik sitcom “Call Me Kat” for season 2. It is tied as the number one new comedy with NBC’s “Young Rock”. As much as I like the star, it was one episode and done for me. Despite its success next season it will have a new showrunner.
  • Fox has canceled “Prodigal Son” and we are very disappointed.
  • Daytime soap “Days of Our Lives” has been renewed for seasons 57 and 58.

Miscellaneous News

  • The French Open tennis tournament has been delayed one week in hopes that things will open up more and they can get more fans. It will now run from May 30 minus June 13 with qualifying the week before.
  • HBO Max has announced a new ad supported subscription will only be $10 per month.

In Memoriam

  • Bobby Unser three time Indy 500 Champion. Age 87
  • Rapper DMX a.k.a Earl Simmons. Age 50 heart attack
  • Norman Lloyd actor who appeared in “St. Elsewhere” age 106.
  • Anne Beatts writer for SNL and creator of the sitcom “Square Pegs” . Age 74
  • James Hampton writer, director and character on 60 sitcom “F Troop”. Age 84
  • Joseph Siravo character actor who played Tony Soprano’s father. Age 64 cancer.
  • Felix Silla who was under all of that hair as “Cousin Itt” on TVs “The Adams Family”. Age 84 cancer.
  • Michael Collins astronaut on Apollo 11 who remained in orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin landed. Not really an entertainer but a noteworthy death so we decided to honor him here. Age 90
  • Charles Beeson TV director on “The Mentalist” and Supernatural” no age listed but he looked to be late 50s? Heart attack
  • Olympia Dukakis who won a supporting actress Oscar for “Moonstruck”. Age 89
  • Billy Hayes who portrayed Witchiepoo in the early 70s Saturday morning show “HR Pufnstuf”, age 96.
  • Televangelist Rev. Ernest Angley . Age 99
  • Lloyd Price rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame inductee who sang “Lawdy Miss Clawdy age 88
  • Tawny Kithaen, music video and reality TV star. Age 59
  • Graeme Ferguson Canadian filmmaker who cofounded IMAX. Age 91

Links of Interest

Entertainment News: catching up on news for most of February and March

It’s been since early February that I did an entertainment blog. So some of the news herein may not be so newsworthy after all but there are lots of renewals, cancellations, and sadly obituaries that might be of interest.

Meanwhile before we get onto our usual bulleted lists of news items, we want to take a minute to talk specifically about a couple of shows and films that we’ve seen over the past couple months.

CBS has a new procedural drama titled “Clarice” following the exploits of FBI rookie agent profiler Clarice Starling made famous by Jodie Foster in “Silence of the Lambs”. This series starts about a year after the events of the film. The title role is played by Rebecca Breeds who is unfamiliar to me. I’ve only seen 2 episodes and while it’s not as creepy as “Silence of the Lambs” nor the TV series “Hannibal” is still worth checking out.

In a previous installment of this blog we introduced “WandaVision” after seeing just three episodes. We’ve seen all nine now and it is definitely worth checking out and a must see for fans of the MCU. Similarly we have seen 2 episodes of “Falcon and The Winter Soldier” from the MCU on Disney+ and is well worth your time as well.

Finally we have to talk about the infamous Zach Snyder director’s cut of “Justice League”. A bit of background slider was the original director of the 2017 film but had to drop out of the project after the tragic death of his daughter. Joss Whedon took over the film doing many re-shoots which reportedly lightened up the rather dark tone of the film. When fans learned that there was another incomplete version that was closer to Snyder’s original vision there was a campaign to get it released. Warner Bros. coughed up $70 million to not only complete the special effects of the Snyder cut but to shoot an additional epilogue bringing back Ben Affleck has Batman and even adding Jared Leto as The Joker.

In preparation for watching this epic four hour version I went back and re-watched the theatrical release the day before and then watched the new version. Overall the new extended version is clearly a better film. The original seemed to drag a little bit and I felt every one of the 120 minutes. In contrast the four hour version seemed to fly by. We get extended origin story of the character Cyborg. Additional seems fleshing out the character of Barry Allen as The Flash and some major plot changes along the way.

Unfortunately some of the humor from the theatrical release is obviously lost. There was no way that Snyder was going to include anything that Whedon had added. I could easily envision another cut of the film that included the best of both. Not only was the humor missing there were also some scenes regarding Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and her tendency to hide from public view and rarely coming out to do her superhero thing as publicly as someone as famous as Superman or Batman. I thought the exploration of her being kind of a hermit and her possible leadership role in the Justice League was an interesting subplot that was left out of the new version.

One particularly strange feature is that the new version is presented in a 4:3 narrow aspect ratio instead of a tradition HD 16:9 or wider theatrical format. The disclaimer at the beginning says that it preserves Snyder’s original vision but I can’t imagine his vision was 4:3 . My guess is that the smaller format somehow saved special-effects budgets. I would’ve rather they cropped the 4:3 to a 16:9 and kept the parts that were already done in 16:9 in that format.

The new epilogue is in the form of a dream of the future that Batman has based on information received from The Flash about what the future would hold. This is undoubtedly a set up for Snyder’s intended sequel. However everything we are hearing from the studio is that that sequel will not be forthcoming. Perhaps we will see glimpses of that future of the DCU in the upcoming Flash film. But I would really like to see Snyder’s sequel Justice League. Perhaps fan pressure will get it made in the same way that this extended director’s cut was made.

If you’ve got the time I recommend watching both versions back to back like I did. And if you’re not such a fanatic go ahead and check out before our version. It really is worth seeing. It’s a shame it’s only available on HBO Max and not the big screen.

Now on to our regularly scheduled news blog.

Pandemic News

  • CBS’s Survivor has returned to Fiji to begin production on season 41 after a year delay for the pandemic.
  • American Idol will have a live studio audience. It is the first major network show to return to full in person audiences. Last year’s audience-less final episodes I thought were a disaster.
  • Oscar will create multiple European hubs where nominees can accept their awards remotely and avoid traveling to the US.

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

  • The first spinoff of “Game of Thrones” to be titled “House of the Dragon” will begin filming sometime this month (April)
  • CBS has renewed “Young Sheldon” for 3 more seasons through 2023-2024. At this rate they will have to rename the show 🙂
  • As expected the NFL is reducing its preseason from 4 games to 3 games and expanding the regular-season to 17 games. The Super Bowl will be February 13, 2020 at LA’s SoFi Stadium.
  • Production has wrapped on the sixth and final season of “Lucifer”. The last half of season 5 will premiere in May on Netflix.
  • Starz has renewed Outlander for season 7 and we are well pleased.
  • Pedro Pascal a.k.a. The Mandalorian has been cast in the upcoming movie “The Last of Us” based on the videogame for HBO. Also cast Bella Remy Ramsey who played Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones.
  • NBC has announced that the upcoming eighth season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine will be its last.
  • Paramount has acquired the rights to produce a new film based on the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “The King & I”. One of my favorites.
  • CBS is considering producing NCIS: Hawaii. Meanwhile NCIS New Orleans will end with season 7.
  • CBS has renewed “The Neighborhood” and “Bob Hearts Abishola “ for additional season.
  • CBS has announced this will be the final season of sitcom “Mom”.
  • Kelsey Grammar will be returning to his role as Fraser in an upcoming Paramount+ series reboot.
  • Showtime has announced “Ray Donovan” will return with the feature-length film.
  • CBS will produce a new streaming version of “60 Minutes” for Paramount+
  • Amy Schumer will produce a series of special episodes of “Inside Amy Schumer” for Paramount+
  • Criminal Minds will return to Paramount+ and will track one case over an entire.
  • The reboot of “The Twilight Zone” produced by Jordan Peele will not return for season 3 on Paramount+
  • Hulu has announced “The Handmaid’s Tale” season 4 will premier April 28.
  • AMC announced “Better Call Saul” will be delayed until early 2022.
  • Seth Meyers has renewed his contract with NBC through 2025
  • CW has announced “Superman & Lois” has been renewed for season 2
  • The Simpsons have been renewed for seasons 33 and 34 which will surpass 750 episodes extending its record as the longest-running scripted television series in history. NBC’s “Meet the Press” is the longest-running show ever.
  • Maria Bello is leaving NCIS
  • Mandy Patinkin is joining “The Good Fight” season five on Paramount+
  • CBS has renewed “The Equalizer” starring Queen Latifah for season 2.
  • ESPN/ABC has signed a seven year contract to carry NHL games 1000 which will be streamed.
  • Kenneth Branagh will direct an upcoming biopic about the Bee Gees.
  • Production on the latest reboot of “The Batman” has completed. The film originally supposed to star Ben Affleck was recast with Robert Pattison. Is currently scheduled for release early March 2022.
  • NBC will not be renewing Jennifer Lopez’s “World of Dance” for another season.
  • AMC announced that “Killing Eve” will end with season 4 scheduled for 2022. However they are looking at a possible spinoff series.
  • Drew Barrymore’s syndicated daytime talk show has been renewed for season 2.
  • Syfy has renewed “Resident Alien” for season 2.
  • Christopher Nolan’s time twisting film “Tenet” is coming to HBO Max on May 1.
  • NBC has renewed the enclosed “Mr. Mayor” for season 2.
  • Amazon prime video has struck a deal to carry 21 New York Yankees home games.
  • CBS has renewed “FBI” & “FBI: Most Wanted” and ordered a spinoff series “FBI: International” which makes no sense to me. How can FBI be international? I guess we have to watch to find out.
  • Sharon Osborne is exiting “The Talk” after the show went on hiatus amid controversy over her defense of British commentator Piers Morgan who criticized Megan Markel for accusing the royal family of racism. She was accused of other racist comments off air.
  • Starz announced there will be no season 4 of “American Gods” however there may be an additional TV movie or event series.
  • Arianna Grande will be replacing Nick Jonas in the season 21 of “The Voice”
  • ABC has announced “Dancing With The Stars” has been renewed for season 30 with the same cast of Tara Banks as host and the usual judges with Derek Hough substituting for Len Goodman.
  • Fox has announced animated series “Bless Harts” will end with season 2.
  • Disney+ has canceled “The Right Stuff” after just one season. I only got around to watching a couple of episodes and wasn’t impressed but people I know online said it was terrible. It is being shopped to other networks and streaming services.
  • The final season of “The Walking Dead” will premier August 22 on AMC.
  • Politics and Showbiz

    • Gina Carano has been fired by Disney from future episodes of “The Mandalorian” and other planned spinoff Star Wars series because of controversial and allegedly racist social media post. She compared the current political climate to that of Nazi Germany which pardon me but doesn’t sound that far off.
    • Fox News host Geraldo Rivera is considering a run for the Senate
    • Matthew McConaughey is considering running for Texas governor.
    • MLB has moved this year’s All-Star game out of Atlanta in protest of George’s new restrictive voting law.

    Miscellaneous News

    • Estimates are that CBS set a record $545 million in advertising revenues for this past years Super Bowl even though it was the lowest rated Super Bowl since 2007
    • When Avengers: Endgame was released it surpassed James Cameron’s Avatar as the highest grossing worldwide box office in history. However recently Avatar was rereleased to the big screen in China and now Avatar has reclaimed the title at $2.18 billion.
    • “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” has broken the Guinness World Record for longest title for a film nominated for an Oscar. At 110 characters the film – usually shortend to “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” – was nominated for two Oscars, Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay). The previous record holder for longest title for a film nominated for an Oscar was in 1965 film “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes” with 85 characters. It was also nominated for screenplay but did not win.

    In Memoriam

    • Beverly Cleary acclaimed children’s author who created Ramona and Henry Huggins. Age 104
    • Controversial conservative talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh. Age 70
    • Larry McMurtry novelist who wrote “Lonesome Dove” and won and Oscar as screenwriter for “Brokeback Mountain”. Age 84. One of my dad’s favorite authors he read the book “Lonesome Dove” at least twice and watched all of the miniseries at least three times may be more.
    • Roger Mudd network news correspondent who worked for CBS, NBC, and PBS. Age 93 kidney failure.
    • G Gordon Liddy Watergate fellow who went on to a show business career. Age 90
    • Legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea . Age 79
    • James E. Gunn renowned science-fiction author and editor. Age 97.
    • Lynn Stalmaster the first casting director ever to receive Academy award. Age 93
    • Lou Ottens Engineer for Phillips Electronics who invented the audio cassette tape. Age 94. No truth to the rumor he was lowered into the ground by sticking a couple of pencils in the holes of the mechanism and twisting them.
    • Larry Flynt publisher of Hustler magazine and winner of landmark First Amendment case in the Supreme Court. Age 87
    • Ronald Pickup British character actor who appeared in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and more than 150 film and TV credits. Age 80.
    • Irv Cross NFL player who became furnished black network sports anchor. Age 81
    • Joan Weldon actress who was terrorized by giant ants in sci-fi classic “Them!”. Age 90
    • Tony Hendra British comedian who is known for playing the stage manager in “This Is Spinal Tap” and miscalculating the size of Stonehenge. Age 79.
    • Cliff Simmons actor who played Ba’al on Stargate SG-1. Age 58 kite boarding accident
    • “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler famous middleweight boxer who empyrean action movies. Age 66
    • Yaphet Kotto actor who appeared in “Live and Let Die” as the first plaque long villain and in the original “Alien” movie. Age 81
    • George Segal Oscar-nominated actor who recently appeared in sitcom “The Goldbergs” age 87
    • Jessica Walter award-winning actress will appear in “Play Misty for Me” as well as TV shows such as “Arrested Development” and also known as the voice of Malory Archer in the animated FXX series “Archer”. Died in her sleep at home in New York. Age 80. Voice recording of season 12 of Archer had completed so she will appear one more time.
    • Don Farmer one of the original anchors of CNN and former ABC News correspondent. Age 82
    • Gloria Henry who played TV mom Allison Mitchell on Dennis the Menace. Age 98.

    Links of Interest

    Entertainment News: Golden Globe commentary and more

    For the past couple of years I’ve been asking the question “Is Broadcast TV Dead?” in a series of blog posts. The reason I ask that question is because broadcast TV is not getting hardly any awards nomination. Sadly the trend is continuing with this year’s announced nominations for the 78th Golden Globe Awards. You can see the complete list of nominations for both film and television at the Wikipedia article here.


    I just want to focus now on the TV nominations. NBC had just one nomination with Jane Levy as Best Actress in a Television Series Musical or Comedy. It was the only broadcast nomination. Basic cable didn’t do much better. PopTV earned five nomination for one show Schitt’s Creek which unfortunately this was their last season. It’s like nobody discovered the series until it was too late. BBC America at a single nomination for Jodie Comer in “Killing Eve”. AMC got one nomination for Bob Odenkrik in “Better Call Saul”. FX on a nomination for Cate Blanchett in the miniseries “Mrs. America”. All the other nomination were split between pay cable and paid streaming services.

    So sadly the trend continues. If you want to see award-winning television, it’s going to cost you a premium.

    By the way Jane Fonda will receive the Cecil B DeMille Award and Norman Lear will receive the Carol Burnett Award at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony.

    Now on with our regular entertainment news categories.

    Pandemic News

    • British network ITV has postponed (canceled) this year season of “Britain’s Got Talent” and the show will presumably return in 2022 once the pandemic is under control. If I was a network executive I would cancel America’s Got Talent, American Idol, Worlds of Dance, Dancing with Stars in any other such reality competition series until after the pandemic. AGT and Idol last year I thought were disasters. Dancing With The Stars wasn’t too bad but still list family members in the audience and it took something away from the show.
    • A wide variety of film and TV productions in Great Britain including “Fantastic Beasts 3” have been shut down because of the British pandemic shutdown.
    • Niecy Nash will serve as temporary guest host for “The Masked Singer” because Nick Cannon has Covid 19
    • Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic has been pushed back to 2022
    • > NBC announced the new season of “New Amsterdam” will premier March 2.

    Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

    • “Tehran” spy drama has been renewed for season 2 by Apple TV+
    • NBC has renewed “The Blacklist” for season 9.
    • NBC’s new sci-fi series “Debris” about debris from an alien spacecraft falling to earth will premier March 1 at 10 PM.
    • The much anticipated Zack Snyder directors cut of “Justice League” will premier on HBO Max March 18
    • Upcoming guest hosts of Jeopardy will be Anderson Cooper, Savannah Guthrie, and Dr. Oz
    • Blue Sky Studios the CG animation company responsible for the “Ice Age” franchise “The Peanuts Movie” and other animated films is being closed down in April by its new owner Disney. It was acquired through the merger with Fox.
    • Netflix has renewed “On My Block for 1/4 final season.
    • A movie version of Broadway hit “Dear Evan Hansen” is scheduled to be in theaters September 24.
    • Ryan Seacrest announced he will no longer post “E!’s Live from the Red Carpet” after 14 years.
    • The Rogers and Hammerstein musical “Cinderella” with Brandy and Whitney Houston will be coming to Disney+ February 12. I kind of like the original version with Leslie Ann Warren from back in 1960s.

    Politics and Showbiz

    • Fox News has canceled Lou Dobbs’ nightly business show. Dobbs is one of several people named in a defamation lawsuit by voting machine companies after he and other Fox personnel questioned their accuracy.

    Miscellaneous News

    • WGN America cable channel is being rebranded “NewsNation” and will shift to five hours of nightly news programming as part of its restructuring after Nexstar acquired Tribune Media. They hope to compete as a prime time news alternative to CNN, Fox, and MSNBC.
    • A bankruptcy judge has approved liquidation Weinstein Company liquidation after its value with its founder Harvey Weinstein faced multiple sexual assault charges and a 23 year sentence for rape and assault.
    • The Television Academy’s decision to merge late-night talk shows and sketch comedy shows interest single category is drawing file from NBC, ABC, CBS, Comedy Central, HBO and Showtime. They have petitioned the Academy to reverse the decision announced in December.
    • Netflix announced that “Bridgerton” which has already been renewed for season 2 has set a record as the biggest series ever on Netflix with 82 million viewers who watched some if not all of the series.
    • “Fear The Walking Dead” will return with new episodes April 11
    • Tony Bennett and his family have revealed he has been battling Alzheimer’s.
    • Rockstar Marilyn Manson has been dropped from “American Gods” and “Creepshow” following allegations of abuse by actress Evan Rachel Wood.
    • “Mayans MC” season 3 will return to FX March 16.
    • Chiwetel Ejiofor will play the alien in “The Man Who Fell to Earth” coming to Paramount+ streaming. David Bowie played the role in the original version.
    • “Wynonna Earp” will end it’s run on Syfy at the end of season 4.
    • CW has given a straight series order for a reboot of the sci-fi series “The 4400”. The original ran in 2004 on USA Network.
    • NBC has announced “Superstore” series finale will be

    In Memoriam

    • Cloris Leachman who on an Oscar and 8 Emmy awards. Age 94.
    • Cecily Tyson Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated actress and social justice crusader. Age 96
    • Hal Holbrook Tony award winner and five-time Emmy-winner. Age 95.
    • Christopher Plummer legendary Oscar, Emmy, and Tony award winner. Age 91
    • Mary Wilson Motown legend and cofounder of “The Supremes” age 76
    • Gregory Sierra known for roles in “Sanford and Son” and “Barney Miller”. Age 83 cancer
    • Bruce Kirby character actor who appeared in “Colombo” and “LA Law” age 95.
    • Maria Harmon 1940s Western movie actress and mother of rockstar Cherie Currie . Age 97.
    • Mitchell Krauss CBS News correspondent who was wounded during the 1981 assassination of Egyptian Pres. Sadat. Age 90.
    • Hilton Valentine guitarist school 60s pop group “The Animals” who played memorable guitar riff in “House of the Rising Sun” age 77
    • Alan Burns TV producer cocreator “The Munsters” and “Mary Tyler Moore Show”, age 85.
    • Dustin Diamond Star of 90s high school comedy “Saved by the Bell” age 44 cancer
    • Jim Weatherly songwriter of “Midnight Gender Georgia” and other 70s hits. Age 77
    • Haya Harareet Israeli actress starred in and 1959’s “Ben Hur”. Age 89.
    • Mike Henry football player turned actor who appeared in “Smokey and the Bandit” age 84.
    • Former heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks Jr. once defeated Mohammed Ali. Age 67. Cancer.

    Links of Interest

    Entertainment News: Queen’s Gambit, WandaVision, In & Of Itself, and more

    Before we get onto our usual entertainment news here are a couple of mini reviews.

    First of all the new Myaima Biaslik sitcom “Call Me Kat” didn’t get any better in subsequent episodes so you can cross that one off your list. The new Ted Danson sitcom “Mr. Mayor” has nothing going for it either. We will rate it “Skip It”.

    This past week I binged the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit”, the fictional account of a young chess prodigy growing up in the 60s. It’s been a big hit miniseries that many people have binged during the pandemic. I can tell you that it is everything good that you may have already heard about it. One of the best acted, written, directed miniseries I’ve seen in a long time. Don’t be turned off by the chess theme. You don’t really need to know anything about the game to appreciate the story of this orphan who struggles with her genius, fears of mental illness like her mother’s, drug and alcohol addiction, and a passion to be the best in a male dominated world. The show actually brought me to tears at one point which is pretty hard to do these days. I tend to be somewhat cynical about drama. One of the amazing things I liked about it is that there is not a lot of explanation of what is going on during the chess matches. You just figure it out by looking at the actors faces. If you’ve not seen it yet, it is HIGHLY recommended.

    The other recommendation this week is a documentary/filmed stage performance called “In & Of Itself”. Storyteller and conceptual magician Derek DelGaudio performed this show for over 500 performances off-Broadway in New York. It’s sort of a one man show reflection on the nature of self and identity mixed with some amazing sleight-of-hand magic tricks. I’ve heard great things about the show when it played live and was happy to see they finally put it on film. Directed by Frank Oz this film combines footage from several performances. In one sequence he picks a volunteer from the audience to read a sort of love letter written to a father, mother, son, daughter, or friend by some stranger and asked them to read it silently as if it were written to them. Watching the emotions play across their face and seeing many of them moved to tears is a very powerful experience. Because they intercut several performances of the show we get to see their reaction of more than one person to this experience. This is a deeply personal and moving reflection by the performer about his own life growing up with a lesbian mother and his own struggles with understanding himself apart from others expectations of who he is. I have to say that hearing of the rave reviews of the live performance I was a tiny bit disappointed but I can imagine how seeing this live in a small theater with perhaps 100 or so other people would be a much more intimate experience than watching at home on Hulu. It remains however a thought-provoking and worthwhile experience that I suggest you check out.

    We’ve also seen the first three episodes of the new Disney+ Marvel series “WandaVision”. The Marvel superheroes Wanda and Vision are living as a married couple in some sort of alternate reality that Wanda has created for them. She is the living embodiment of the “reality stone” in the MCU and can remake reality around herself in any way she wants. Each episode is modeled after classic TV sitcoms from different eras. The first episode draws heavily on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “I Love Lucy”. Episode 2 resembles “Bewitched”. These first two shot in black-and-white and the first episode was actually shot before a live studio audience. Episode three as hints of “The Brady Bunch” and “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and is in color. It’s keeping diehard Marvel fans looking for clues as to what’s really going on. Probably not a show for everyone except diehard Marvel fans unless you want to relive the bygone era of classic sitcoms.

    Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

    • A third “Deadpool” movie is coming and it will be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will guest star as a temporary host of Jeopardy. Other upcoming homes include Katie Couric, Bill Whitaker, and Mayim Bialik
    • Stephen Weber will have a new recurring role on Chicago:Med
    • HBO comedy series “Insecure” will end after its upcoming fifth season.
    • TNT have renewed “Animal Kingdom” for a sixth final season.
    • All five seasons of the original “The Muppet Show” will still be available on Disney+
    • The reboot of “Saved by the Bell” has been renewed for season 2 on Peacock
    • Tyler Perry’s series “Sistas” had been renewed for season 3 at BET
    • Warner Bros. is producing a Willy Wonka prequel film slated for 2023 release.
    • “Snowpiercer” has been renewed for season 3 at TNT before season 2 has premiered.
    • Netflix has announced that “Bridgerton” has been renewed for season 2 and will be based on Book 2 of the series. My roommate Barbara just finished binging season 1 and gives it high marks.
    • AMC announced “Eli Roth’s History of Horror” has been renewed for season 3
    • Tom Brokaw is retiring from NBC news after 55 years with the network.
    • Food Network has pulled all content for season 20 of “Worst Cooks in America” after the arrest of season 20 winner for the murder of their adopted three-year-old daughter. I guess they really were the worst in America.

    Politics and Showbiz

    • SAG-AFTRA the union for movie and television workers is meeting in special session to consider revoking Donald Trump’s membership.

    Miscellaneous News

    • CBS All Access will change its name to Paramount+ on March 4
    • Among this year’s Kennedy Center Honorees are Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Allen
    • Netflix now reveals they have over 200 million global subscribers.
    • NBCSN sports network will close by the end of the year with live sports being moved to either USA Network or Peacock both owned by NBC/Universal.

    In Memoriam

    • Legendary interviewer Larry King. Age 87.
    • Hank Aaron baseball legend who broke Babe Ruth homerun record age 86
    • Mira Furlan who played Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the sci-fi drama “Babylon 5” and also appeared in “Lost”. Age 65. No cause of death was given but she was known to be in failing health for some time.
    • Phil Spector famous music producer who was convicted of murder. Age 81. Covid.
    • Angie Jakusz a popular contestant on “Survivor: Palau” age 40 of cancer.
    • Pilar Schneider mother of comedian Rob Schneider who appeared in several of his films. Age 91.
    • Siegfried Fishbacher of the famous team Siegfried & Roy. Age 81
    • Joanne Rogers wife of Fred Rogers. Age 92
    • David Richardson writer producer for “The Simpsons”, “Two and a Half Men” and other shows. Age 65. Heart failure
    • Richard Lindheim co-creator of the 80s series “The Equalizer” and Executive Producer of the upcoming reboot. Age 81
    • Remy Julienne famous stunt coordinator and expert stunt driver for James Bond and other films. Age 90. Covid.
    • Gregory Sierra character actor who appeared in “Sanford and Son” and “Barney Miller”. Age 83.
    • Walter Bernstein a blacklisted writer who was banished from Hollywood in the 1950s but returned to write such films as “Fail Safe” and “The Front”. Age 101
    • Perry Botkin Jr. Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning composer known for the theme from “The Young and the Restless” a.k.a. “Nadia’s Theme” age 87

    Links of Interest

    Imagine the Hallelujah I Would Shout If People Understood “Hallelujah” and “Imagine”

    Last night the nation witnessed a moving ceremony hosted by President-elect Biden and VP-elect Harris at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the over 400,000 people who have lost their lives to the pandemic. This is my entertainment blog so I will refrain from making political commentary about that event. But I want to talk about the choice of music.

    We were treated to a very moving rendition of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah”. And as moving and has touching as the performance was, like most performances of that song it was completely inappropriate for the occasion.

    Did you ever really listen to any of the words of the song other than the refrain “hallelujah”? It is not a hymn for a solemn occasion. It’s a song about a bad romantic breakup and a romantic rival. Listen to the damn words! What is God’s name does that have to do with honoring people who died in a pandemic or any of the other solemn occasions in which we’ve heard this song performed?

    Can you imagine what Mr. Cohen might feel to have written such a beautiful song with a specific message in mind and then to hear that song performed by people who are clueless as to the meaning of the words he wrote.

    By the way the version sung last night came from the Jeff Buckley version of the lyrics which is different from the original Leonard Cohen recording. I’ve heard the Cohen wrote as many as 80 versus but only recorded four of them. In live performances he used various versions of the lyrics.

    While we’re on the topic of misuse of solemn songs let’s talk about John Lennon’s “Imagine”. While its message of peace, love, and understanding is indeed appropriate for many solemn occasions and has been appropriately used by performers during times of national tragedy such as 9/11, it surprises me the extent to which that song is used in a religious context and in a patriotic context.

    Did you not listen to those lyrics said “Imagine there’s no heaven”, “Imagine there’s no countries… Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too”, “Imagine no possessions.”

    Is that patriotic? Is that a religious hymn? Is that appropriate in a capitalist economy?

    Don’t get me wrong it’s a beautiful song. The message of peace, love, understanding, brotherhood of man… All very laudable goals. But on the other hand you could argue its communist, anti-capitalism, anti-consumerism, anti-religion. And people sing it like it’s a hymn.

    Being wary of copyright infringement I will not reproduce the entire lyrics of the song is here but here is a link to another site that has the complete lyrics of these songs.

    Read them. Words matter. Pay attention to them and use them appropriately.


    Long-overdue Entertainment News

    With the holidays and other busy things going on in my life this entertainment news blog is coming a couple of weeks late. I was trying to get one out every week.

    I miss IMAX!

    I’ve managed to watch at home 2 big blockbuster movies that should’ve been seen not only on the big screen but on the biggest screen IMAX. I’m talking about “Wonder Woman 1984” and Christopher Nolan’s time twisting action flick “Tenet”. Watching them at home on a 50 inch TV with the surround sound cranked up was nice but nothing like actually going to IMAX and being immersed in these fantastic worlds.

    Regarding WW1984, it was everything you would hope for from the franchise. Costar Kristin Wiig in some ways steals the show by re-creating one of her Saturday Night Live character’s timid personality. Then doing an admirable job of transforming into a villain and action star even though we have to presume most of the action sequences were either stunned doubles and or CGI. Pedro Pascal as the other main villain wasn’t quite as creepy as he could have been but he was far, far away from his more famous character the Mandalorian.

    Tenet had such a confusing and twisted plot in which characters and plot lines move simultaneously forwards and backwards in time that most of the time I was just along for the ride and didn’t really follow what was going on. I consider myself reasonably adept at following complicated plots but this one really stumped me at times. I think by the end I figured most of it out. There’s an article at the bottom linked that attempts to give you a spoiler filled step-by-step explanation of the story. I’m not sure it helps. Despite this, it was still a very fun ride. The special effects and action sequences were stunning and I did actually follow some of the plot which was quite interesting. I might have to buy the Blu-ray just to watch the behind-the-scenes “making of” features. I heard they shut down a highway in Estonia where some of the film shot for three weeks in order to film the huge chase scene. It set box office records in Estonia so apparently they like it. Approach with caution.

    I can also report that the new sitcom “Call Me Kat” starring Mayim Bialik is quite disappointing. She plays a single 39-year-old woman who decides to use the money her parents had been saving for her wedding to open a cat-themed café. The opening episode starts with her doing a spit take and then addressing the audience. She pauses to address the reviewers in the middle of the scene all throughout the show. It’s annoying and only mildly humorous. I might give it a second look just because I like but I don’t have high hopes that it’s going to get any better. Now onto our regular news categories.

    Pandemic News

    • More than 30 TV shows are extending their holiday hiatus because of Covid shutdowns
    • S.W.A.T. star Shemar Moore has revealed he is positive with Covid. Says he will be okay.
    • Kaitlyn Bristowe recent “Dancing With The Stars” winner as Covid.
    • TV Dr. Drew Pinsky after downplaying coronavirus now has code 19.
    • James Corden and Jimmy Kimmel a both returning to remote broadcasting for their shows because Los Angeles County has such a big Covid surge.
    • The Grammy Awards in LA have been postponed from January 31 tentatively to March 14 which happens to be the same day as the SAG-AFTRA awards and they aren’t too happy about it. Tony nominated “Mean Girls” will not be returning to Broadway whenever it reopens.

    Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

    • Hulu has canceled Marvel series “Helstrom” after one season.
    • Fox has ordered a reboot of “Fantasy Island” for the summer of 2021.
    • “Servant” has been renewed for season 3 by Apple TV+
    • The plan reboot of “Lizzie McGuire” plan for Disney+ has been canceled.
    • HBO Max has renewed “Flight Attendant” for season 2.
    • Netflix has renewed “Locke & Key” for season 3.
    • Jim Carrey has announced he will not continue to play Joe Biden on SNL. Cast member Alex Moffet has taken over the role.
    • Disney+ has confirmed a Boba Fett spinoff series from “The Mandalorian” scheduled for December 2021
    • CBS’ new sitcom “B Positive” has been picked up for a full season order of 18 episodes.
    • HBO and BBC have renewed “His Dark Materials” for 1/3 file season.
    • Warner Bros. and HBO Max have already approved plans for a third Wonder Woman movie.
    • Candace Bergen will make a guest starring appearance on “The Conners”.
    • Actor comedian John Bishop will join the cast of “Doctor Who” in season 13. BBC will neither confirm nor deny rumors that the current Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker is leaving the show at the end of the season.
    • The revival of “Dexter” has cast Clancy Brown as the new villain. Should be great.
    • HBO Max reviving “Sex and the City” according to Sarah Jessica Parker. Cast will reunite without Kim Cattrall.

    Politics and Showbiz

    • Several media companies and others are suspending all political contributions to lawmakers objected to certification of the election. Some are just suspending all political contributions entirely.
    • Richard and Mayuni Heene that claimed in 2009 that their six-year-old son was trapped in a mylar balloon floating across the Colorado landscape, has been pardoned by the Colorado Gov.

    Miscellaneous News

    • HBO Max is now going to be available on Roku .
    • Eddie izzard standup comedian who has long been known as a cross-dresser is now using she/her pronouns to describe herself.
    • Roku has brought the program library failed streaming service Quibi including never released shows. Shows will stream for free.
    • Hulu is cutting the price for US college students to $2/month.

    In Memoriam

    • See the link below for TV Line’s list of TV stars we lost in 2020
    • John le Carré author of “Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy” and other famous Cold War spy stories. Age 89.
    • Ann Reinking Broadway star of Chicago, Annie, and All That Jazz age 71.
    • Jeremy Bullock actor who played Boba Fett in original Star Wars trilogy. Age 75.
    • Doug Crane animator for Terrytoons, Hanna-Barbera, and MTV. Age 85
    • Roger Berlind 25 time Tony winning Broadway producer of “Amadeus”, “Book of Mormon” and others age 90.
    • Lin Qi chairman and CEO of Chinese game developer Yoozoo and executive producer of the upcoming Netflix adaptation of Chinese sci-fi saga “The Three Body Problem” has died at age 39 after allegedly being poisoned by a colleague.
    • Bluegrass musician Tony Rice age 69
    • Phil Neikro Hall of Fame baseball player. Age 81.
    • Tuck Tucker animator for “SpongeBob Square pants. Age 59
    • Nick McGlashan Fishman who appeared on “Deadliest Catch” 33. No cause released.
    • Legendary French fashion designer Pierre Cardin . Age 98.
    • William Link TV writer producer and cocreator of “Colombo” and “Murder She Wrote”. Age 87.
    • Joe Clark high school principal who inspired “Lean on Me” age 82.
    • Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. Age 82.
    • Alto Reed saxophone player for Bob Seeger’s Silver Bullet Band. Age 72.
    • Paul Heller from producer known for “My Left Foot” and other films. Age 93.
    • Phyllis McGuire lead singer of pop music trio The McGuire Sisters. Age 89
    • MF Doom influential rap star died in October age 49 it was just recently revealed.
    • Mike Fenton casting director on hundreds of famous movies including “ET”, “Godfather: Part 2” and countless others. Founding member of Casting Society of America. Age 85.
    • Paul Westphal basketball Hall of Famer. Age 70.
    • Gerry Marsden lead singer of Gery and the Pacemakers a British rock band from the 60s. Age 78
    • Kerry Vincent judge on the Food Network Challenge. Age 75.
    • Tonya Roberts Bond Girl and “That 70s Show” actress age 65. There were conflicting reports first she was dead. Then she wasn’t. Now she is dead real.
    • British actress Barbara Shelley will. Many horror films and “Doctor Who” age 88.
    • Marion Ramsey actors who appeared in “Police Academy” films and appeared on Broadway. Age 73.
    • Neil Sheehan Pulitzer Prize winner New York Times journalist who obtained the Pentagon Papers. Age 84
    • Dave Creek character designer for animated series “Bob’s Burgers” has died after a skydiving accident. Age 42
    • Country singer songwriter Ed Bruce who also appeared as an actor in James Garner’s “Bret Maverick”. He cowrote “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys” age 81
    • Michael Apted award-winning British filmmaker who directed “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and other major films. Age 79
    • Antonio Sabato,Sr. father of jr and actor who appeared in “Grand Prix” and “Escape from the Bronx” age 77 complications of Covid.
    • Veteran soap opera actor John Riley appeared in General Hospital and other soap operas. Age 86
    • Patricia Loud matriarch of the “Loud Family” a famous PBS documentary that was the precursor to just about every reality show around today. Age 94.

    Links of Interest