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TV/Critic's Notes (Cable)
The other British empire: ‘Masterpiece’ turns 50
By Matthew Gilbert, USA Today - Jan. 8, 2021

When most nighttime TV dramas turn 50, they usually — oh wait, what’s that? Only one has survived for that long, week in and week out, there for literate American audiences regardless of the trends of the moment, one foot in global history and literature and the other in the much-badgered medium of television, featuring enough waist-strangling corsets to put Weight Watchers out of business?

Yes, only one. PBS’s “Masterpiece” will be 50 years old Sunday, and that’s a most excellent thing. It’s quietly in league with the other influential institutions of the medium — “60 Minutes” (53 years), “Monday Night Football” (50), “Saturday Night Live” (46) — as the first of its kind, a pioneer of sorts, and an endurance runner. Downplay the popularity of period costume dramas, which “Masterpiece” ushered into the American programming mix, at your own peril. It’s hard to imagine “Bridgerton,” or “The Crown,” two current period hits on Netflix, without “Masterpiece” as a precedent, just as it’s hard to name many news magazines that weren’t somehow shaped by “60 Minutes.”

On Jan. 10, 1971, the anthology series premiered with “The First Churchills,” a 12-episode drama about Winston Churchill’s 17th-century ancestors. The show had been devised and produced by WGBH, the Boston PBS channel, after the 1967 BBC adaptation of John Galsworthy’s “Forsyte Saga” novels had met with unexpected success when the series aired on public television in the States in 1970. The goal going forward: to regularly curate and import good British series, many of them starring some of the best up-and-coming British actors — in recent years, for example, Damian Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Carey Mulligan, Tom Hardy, and Keira Knightley — as well as the stalwarts. The show was dubbed “Masterpiece Theatre,” the British spelling of “theater” a critical flourish symbolizing the show’s roots; it was rebranded down to simply “Masterpiece” in 2008 when the British became implicit.

Curating and importing — they’re now de rigueur on TV. Even before the pandemic left TV outlets desperately seeking already-made product from other countries, streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix had been feverishly bringing British and foreign-language series to America in the manner of “Masterpiece.” They’ve found particular success with the kinds of British mysteries, including “Broadchurch,” “The Fall,” and “Happy Valley,” that have been airing for decades on “Mystery!,” PBS’s 1980 “Masterpiece” spinoff (which was folded into “Masterpiece” in 2008). Certainly “Masterpiece” has focused on the less terminally gruesome shows of the genre, with the likes of Agatha Christie’s “Poirot” and “Miss Marple,” but some of its mystery imports, notably Helen Mirren’s “Prime Suspect” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Wallander,” have been sufficiently grim.

It’s strange to think of “Masterpiece” as cutting edge, isn’t it? The show’s reputation is as a definitively old-school TV establishment, the one at the opposite end of the spectrum from “pop culture,” the rare series that anti-television types are willing to admit to watching. It’s seen as bait for Anglophiles. Phrases such as “the ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ set” are often used as shorthand for older, stodgier TV viewers, the ones who aren’t of great value to advertisers, even if they’re willing to donate to PBS. The show has been on the receiving end of countless parodies over the years, from “Sesame Street” (see: “Monsterpiece Theatre”) to “Saturday Night Live” and “In Living Color.” Parodies of “Downton Abbey” — the “Sesame Street” one is called “Upside Downton Abbey” — practically form a genre of their own.

And yet, “Downton Abbey.” The Julian Fellowes series, which premiered here in 2011, became the highest-rated “Masterpiece,” and the most-nominated non-US series in Emmy history. It was a significant sensation in the 2010s, as it drew in younger viewers than the usual “Masterpiece” audience, and it finished up the decade with a movie extension that was a box office hit. If “Masterpiece” had seemed to some like an antique, the “Downton” phenomenon quickly shut them down. The same can be said for Cumberbatch’s hugely popular “Sherlock” series that premiered in 2010.

Naturally, massive hits don’t come the way of “Masterpiece” often, but they do arrive; in between, there are shows — both adaptations and, like “Downton,” originals — that range from masterful (“Bleak House”) and transporting (“Victoria”) to riveting (the recent “Elizabeth Is Missing” starring Glenda Jackson) and sunnily escapist (“The Durrells in Corfu” and the new “All Creatures Great and Small” premiering Sunday). Like most anthology series, the “Masterpiece” output is uneven. For every unexpected treat (“Any Human Heart” in 2011), there is, say, an unnecessary remake of a Jane Austen or Charles Dickens novel or a thriller such as “Flesh and Blood,” which ended on a cliffhanger with no sign of a second season in sight. Still, the overall average is good enough to keep me watching and hoping.

It has to be hard for the “Masterpiece” team, now that their competition includes many more, and far wealthier, TV outlets than I can name here. The PBS show made period imports viable, and it provided entree into TV for those perhaps more wedded to reading, long before scripted TV became the more challenging and intellectually sound place we know now. But it must fight behemoths such as Netflix and Amazon, these days, to acquire the best. Fellowes’s follow-ups to “Downton,” for example, have not ended up on “Masterpiece.” “Belgravia” is on Epix, “The English Game” is on Netflix, “Doctor Thorne” is on Amazon, and the forthcoming “Gilded Age” will be on HBO. Series that seem as though they absolutely belong on “Masterpiece” — I’m thinking of “War & Peace” in 2016, which was on A&E, Lifetime, and History, or “Parade’s End” of 2013 and “Gentleman Jack” of 2019, both of which were on HBO.

Alas, the shoulders of giants do sometimes get trampled upon.

Source: The other British empire: ‘Masterpiece’ turns 50 - The Boston Globe
 

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Obituary
Steve Carver, Director of 'Lone Wolf McQuade' and 'Big Bad Mama,' Dies at 75
By Mike Barnes, The Hollywood Reporter - Jan. 9, 2021

Steve Carver, a director of action films whose portfolio included An Eye for an Eye and Lone Wolf McQuade, both starring Chuck Norris, and Big Bad Mama, starring Angie Dickinson, has died. He was 75.

Carver died Friday of a heart attack in Los Angeles, writer-producer Rob Word told The Hollywood Reporter.

Carver's first feature was Pam Grier's The Arena (1974), a gladiator movie set in ancient Rome that marked his initial collaboration with producer Roger Corman, and he also guided Ben Gazzara in Capone (1975), Warren Oates and Ken Norton in Drum (1976) and Lee Majors in Steel (1979).

Carver's first love was photography, and a 2019 book he and C. Courtney Joyner co-authored, Western Portraits: The Unsung Heroes and Villains of the Silver Screen, featured beautiful shots of Robert Forster, Karl Malden, L.Q. Jones, Richard Roundtree, David Carradine, Bo Hopkins, Clu Gulager, Jan-Michael Vincent and many others.

Born in Brooklyn on April 5, 1945, Carver attended the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan, the University of Buffalo and Cornell University before earning his master's from Washington University in St. Louis.

An exhibition of his photographs led him to work as a freelancer for such publications as Architectural Digest and National Geographic and as a staffer for United Press International.

Carver came to Los Angeles in 1970 to study filmmaking at the American Film Institute, where he directed and produced a 27-minute version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. He then had an apprenticeship with the DGA.

Carver also collaborated with Corman on Big Bad Mama (1974) and Capone and with composer Ennio Morricone on The Arena and Lone Wolf McQuade (1983). He visited with Word to chat about the making of McQuade and his career in 2018.

His résumé also included Fast Charlie … the Moonbeam Rider (1979), starring Carradine and Brenda Vaccaro, and Bulletproof (1987), starring Gary Busey.

In 1995, Carver opened The Darkroom, a photographic lab in Venice where he developed archival techniques to preserve historic images for private collectors and museums and taught traditional printing techniques.

Survivors include a son.

Source: Steve Carver, Director of 'Lone Wolf McQuade' and 'Big Bad Mama,' Dies at 75 | Hollywood Reporter
 

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TV Notes (Streaming)
Marvel’s Latest Frontier? In ‘WandaVision,’ It’s the Suburbs
Marvel’s first series for Disney+ is part drama, part homage to vintage sitcoms, following the misfit heroes played by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany to some weird places.
By Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times - Jan. 8, 2021
Thanks to pandemic-related schedule changes, “WandaVision,“ with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, will be the first Marvel series to come out on Disney+.

Thanks to pandemic-related schedule changes, “WandaVision,“ with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, will be the first Marvel series to come out on Disney+.

In the time they have spent playing Marvel heroes together, Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany have gotten extremely comfortable with each other. Not even a little misdirected mucus during the making of their new Disney+ series, “WandaVision” — an incident they affectionately describe as “Snotgate” — flustered them for long.

It occurred when their characters — a woman enhanced with psychic powers named Wanda Maximoff (Olsen) and a synthetic android called Vision (Bettany) — shared a kiss in especially cold weather. And some disagreements remain about the specifics of how it transpired.

“Paul was not in a good mood for me to make a joke about his snot,” Olsen said in a video interview with Bettany last month. “It was my first time ever seeing him get truly defensive about anything.”

Here, Bettany leaned into his camera and replied, sotto voce: “It was her snot. Anyway.”

They agreed that their differences were quickly settled, and now they can laugh about it. “It was over as quickly as it happened,” Bettany said.

Such are the perils of playing a troubled woman and a sophisticated robot who have fallen in love with each other — characters who first met in the 2015 Marvel blockbuster “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” returned for several sequels and now get the chance to carry their own television series when “WandaVision” makes its debut on Jan. 15.

Like its main characters, “WandaVision” is, well, weird. It’s not strictly an action-packed spectacle in the manner of hit movies like “Avengers: Endgame” — it’s a hybrid of drama and comedy that pays faithful homage to vintage sitcoms like “The Dick Van **** Show,” “Bewitched” and “Family Ties.”

Now, through circumstances beyond anyone’s control, “WandaVision” has to carry even more weight. When the pandemic prompted Marvel to reshuffle its release calendar, “WandaVision” became the studio’s first attempt to bring the superhero soap opera of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to an original Disney+ series, in hopes that it will do for its comic-book characters what “The Mandalorian” has done for “Star Wars,” another Disney-owned fantasy franchise.

These are unexpectedly high stakes but, like the love-struck misfits they play, the stars of “WandaVision” see them as reasons to be more understanding of each other, snot and all.

As Olsen explained: “It’s daunting to take these movie-theater characters and put them on a small screen. There’s a lot of firsts that are a little scary as an actor.”

Bettany agreed. “We need to feel safe with each other,” he added, “to do the thing we’re doing.”

Both actors entered the Marvel family in unusual ways. Bettany, a star of films like “A Beautiful Mind” and “Margin Call,” was cast in the first M.C.U. movie, “Iron Man,” to play the voice of Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence system, J.A.R.V.I.S.

“I would turn up for one day’s work and solve everyone’s problems,” Bettany said. “I could go, ‘The bad guys are coming, sir!’ And then they would give me a bag of money, and I would go home. It was lovely.”

Bettany was upgraded to an onscreen role for “Age of Ultron,” which also introduced Olsen (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”) as Wanda. At that time, Olsen said: “I was getting typecast as emotionally struggling young women in small genre films. They were like, let’s put her in a bigger genre film and make her the mentally unhealthy struggling hero.”

Though the spotlight shone brighter on co-stars like Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., Bettany and Olsen bonded over the strangeness of their enterprise, like a behind-the-scenes debate they observed over whether Vision should have android genitalia. (Mercifully, the answer was no.)

As they went onto films like “Captain America: Civil War,” they found that they shared an appreciation for diligence and preparedness, even on a hectic Marvel set.

At one point on that film, Olsen said, “I asked Paul if he wanted to run lines with me for the next week. And he had his lines memorized for next week. I was like, this is going to be a great working relationship.”

But Vision was seemingly killed in “Avengers: Infinity War,” and the following year, “Endgame” concluded the narrative arcs of major heroes like Iron Man and Captain America.

Marvel was exploring story lines for its next wave of movies when Disney introduced its Disney+ streaming service, with the expectation that Marvel would also provide original content for it.

Kevin Feige, the Marvel Studios president, said that a Disney+ series offered the opportunity to flesh out the relationship between Wanda and Vision that had been only hinted at in the movies.

“The entirety of the love story between Wanda and Vision was basically one shot in ‘Age of Ultron’ where he swoops in to rescue her, they make eye contact and fly away,” Feige said. “Then a bit more in ‘Civil War,’ a bit more in ‘Infinity War,’ but it all goes bad very quickly in that movie.”

In several decades of comics, Vision and Wanda shared a romance that was much more intricate: They dated, married, had two sons, broke up and reconciled. (Also — and here is where it gets messy — Wanda discovered that her sons were actually the missing pieces of a demonic villain, who reabsorbed them; then she lost and regained the memory of her vanished children; and then she vengefully unleashed her powers to rewrite reality itself.)

With “WandaVision,” Feige said that he had wanted to honor the complexity of the title characters and Wanda’s reality-warping abilities but also to leaven the story with tributes to sitcom history.

“I feel like I’ve justified all the time I spent playing with action figures in my backyard,” he said. “All the time I spent watching Nick at Nite and old TV shows, I haven’t justified yet. This show is helping me do that.”

The series finds Wanda and Vision — now somehow alive — residing in suburban bliss, not entirely sure of why they are cycling through various eras of television history and encountering veteran Marvel performers like Kat Dennings (as her “Thor” character, Darcy Lewis) and Randall Park (reprising his “Ant-Man and the Wasp” role of Jimmy Woo) as well as new additions to the roster, like Teyonah Parris (as Monica Rambeau) and Kathryn Hahn (playing a perplexingly nosy neighbor named Agnes).

As with many of the Marvel movies, there is also a central mystery running through “WandaVision,” asking viewers to ponder the ever-changing reality that envelops its romantic leads.

Jac Schaeffer, the head writer of the series, said that the show’s comic exterior was intended to lure its audience into its further layers of intrigue.

“You enter a sitcom episode with the understanding it’s going to make you feel good and it’s all going to be OK at the end,” said Schaeffer, who also worked on “Captain Marvel” and “Black Widow.”

What “WandaVision” adds to this formula, she said, is an element of “creepiness — the idea of shattering that safety in a calculated way.”

Matt Shakman, who directed all nine episodes of “WandaVision,” said that the series ultimately tells a story of “grief and trauma and how we hold onto our hope.”

“Wanda is probably the person who has suffered the most of anyone in the M.C.U.,” he added. “And so the show is always grounded in that. Even though what you see are faithfully recreated television shows, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.”

Shakman has previously directed shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Succession” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and was himself a former child actor on TV sitcoms like “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Just the Ten of Us.” Directing “WandaVision,” he said, was “a gloriously schizophrenic job” that some days required orchestrating action sequences on green-screen sets, and some days involved shooting on the same sitcom stages where he once worked.

For these TV tribute sequences, Shakman and his team worked carefully to reproduce the wardrobe and production design of shows like “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Partridge Family,” using vintage lighting and camera lenses and filming in front of live studio audiences.

Although the “WandaVision” actors were given two weeks of sitcom boot camp before filming started, they did not require much training to get into the spirit of things.

Olsen is, of course, the younger sister of the former “Full House” stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen; she appeared in some of their later projects and grew up a fan of shows like “Laverne & Shirley” and movies like “A Very Brady Sequel.”

Bettany said that classic American shows were a regular part of his TV diet when he was growing up in England. He speculated that some of the religious exploration his family undertook in his childhood may have happened “because my mom was watching ‘Little House on the Prairie’ — we were in for a penny, in for a pound.”

Had events unfolded according to Marvel’s earlier plans, the debut of “WandaVision” would have followed the theatrical releases of movies like “Black Widow,” “Eternals” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” as well as the premiere of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” an action-oriented Disney+ series in a more familiar, “Avengers”-like mode.

The pandemic required Marvel to reorganize this rollout, but Feige said that the studio’s carefully planned master narrative, stretched across its films and TV shows, had not been significantly affected.

“If the run we had in 2018 and 2019 had gotten disrupted this way, in the buildup to ‘Endgame,’ it would have been a bigger headache,” he said. “With these projects, it worked well,” he went on, adding that the debut dates for the TV shows were shifted only “by a matter of weeks.”

The creation of “WandaVision” was also affected by the pandemic; its actors left an environment where they could freely mingle with co-workers and returned to one, several months later, where “you finish your scene and you get whisked away into these hermetically sealed bubbles,” Bettany said.

“I had a hard time with that,” Olsen said, her voice hardening in exaggerated anger. “I was like: ‘But I’m talking to the crew! This is for moral support!’”

In that sense, the actors said, perhaps it was fitting that “WandaVision” should reach audiences at this moment, when both its narrative message and its making-of process reflect a human desire to keep going, no matter how unrecognizable the world becomes.

“We’re all experiencing this extreme version of life right now,” Olsen said. But for a time, while she and her colleagues finished their work on the series, “We created this microcosm of humanity where we could communicate and problem-solve together,” she added. “There was something great about getting to come to work and experience that.”

What Marvel has done consistently, for its characters, its cast members and its audience, is “create a home for people who wouldn’t necessarily find each other,” Bettany said.

In the particular case of “WandaVision,” he added, “It’s about a group of people finding each other — people who are really getting their freak on — in a situation where it’s all right to be really different.”

Source: Marvel’s Latest Frontier? In ‘WandaVision,’ It’s the Suburbs - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
 

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TV/Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Jan. 10, 2021

NFL PLAYOFFS: WILD CARD WILD WEEKEND
Various Networks, 1:00 p.m. ET
Yesterday, one of the three wild card playoff games was a nail-biter to the end: the Indianapolis Colts-Buffalo Bills game, which the Bills emerged victoriously 27-24 after a long series of challenges and twists and turns. Today, once again, three games are played in a rare post-season tripleheader – but today, you may have to go farther afield to find the right field, or, at least, the right network. The day’s opening game at 1 p.m. ET, for example, between the 11-5 Baltimore Ravens and 11-5 Tennessee Titans, isn’t televised by one of the broadcast networks. Instead, you can watch it on ESPN, ESPN+, and, for some corporate synergy reason that escapes me, Freeform. At 4:30 p.m. ET, the game pitting the 12-4 New Orleans Saints against the 8-8 Chicago Bears is available on CBS – but, in another bit of sister-network sharing, also is available on Nickelodeon. The final game, though, is in a standard and familiar place and time: the contest between the 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 11-5 Cleveland Browns will be the prime time showcase game on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, which last season was the No. 1 series on all of television.


60 MINUTES
CBS, 7:00 p.m. ET
On Wednesday, Nancy Pelosi was one of the politicians targeted, and ushered to safety, when a mob egged on by President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol. Four days later, she’s a featured interview on 60 Minutes, discussing the deadly assault, and what she thinks should happen next to the still-current occupant of the White House, with Lesley Stahl. When Stahl last interviewed Trump for 60 Minutes, he abruptly and prematurely ended the interview and walked out. Pelosi, presumably, will stay seated longer than he. Just as she will politically.

THE CIRCUS: INSIDE THE CRAZIEST POLITICAL SHOW ON EARTH
Showtime, 8:00 p.m. ET

Tonight’s new episode is an expanded one-hour special, providing a behind-the-scenes and on-the-scene look at this week’s astounding political events in and around Washington, D.C. – the Georgia runoff election, the shift of power in the Senate, the storming of the Capitol by a destructive and deadly mob sent there at the urging of Donald Trump, and the subsequent calls for another Impeachment, or the invocation of the 25th Amendment, by Democrats and even some Republicans. The subtitle for The Circus this season is Inside the Craziest Political Show on Earth – but this week, the term “Craziest” doesn’t seem to apply. "Scariest," maybe…


AMERICAN GODS
Starz!, 8:00 p.m. ET
SEASON PREMIERE:
Each season of this adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel has had a different showrunner – and, basically, a different approach in tone. Season 3 begins tonight, and it, too, has different people in charge, led by new showrunner Charles H. Eglee. If that name’s not familiar, he has a long, impressive resume, starting as a writer on St. Elsewhere and Moonlighting, a long stint working with Steven Bochco on such shows as L.A. Law, NYPD Blue and Murder One, and subsequent turns on The Shield, Dexter and The Walking Dead. Oh, and the director for tonight’s Season 3 opener is another person that comes to American Gods with a peerless pedigree: Jon Amiel, who 35 years ago directed TV’s greatest dramatic masterpiece, The Singing Detective. Still returning to American Gods, from the show’s original cast, are Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon, Emily Browning as Moon’s raised-from-the-dead wife, and, most crucially, Ian McShane as the manipulative god Mr. Wednesday.

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL
PBS, 9:00 p.m. ET
SERIES PREMIERE:
James Herriot’s beloved books about the people and pets he met as a veterinarian in Yorkshire in the 1930s were adapted into a very successful miniseries once before, starring Christopher Timothy as Herriot, and co-starring Robert Hardy and Peter Davison. But that was back in 1978, several TV lifetimes ago (shortly after I started as a TV critic – that long ago). Here comes a new version, which already has been renewed for a second season, and which stars newcomer Nicholas Ralph as Herriott, and co-stars Samuel West – with a supporting role (her last) from Diana Rigg, as Mrs. Pumphrey, owner of a pampered Pekinese. Check local listings.

TIGER
HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET
DOCUMENTARY PREMIERE: Part 1 of 2.
Scheduled to premiere last year but postponed, here comes another sports documentary, like ESPN’s The Last Dance about the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, that shows up during the pandemic to remind us of the times when sports were played as thousands of fans gathered, closely huddled, to watch and cheer. This is a biography of Tiger Woods, so expect some stunning highs – and, away from the links, some noteworthy and unavoidable lows.

SHAMELESS
Showtime, 9:00 p.m. ET

After a pair of very entertaining supporting-cast highlights packages, Shameless is back to business as usual. And tonight’s business is all about the feud that erupts after the Milkovichs move in next door – threatening the Gallagher family’s role as the standout scourge of the neighborhood.

YOUR HONOR
Showtime, 10:00 p.m. ET

This series was intense from the very start, but now it’s getting insane. Last week, New Orleans judge Michael Desiato, played by Bryan Cranston, was being blackmailed by someone who claimed to have proof that the judge’s son was the true culprit in the fatal hit-and-run of the teen son of Jimmy Baxter, a powerful New Orleans mob boss. And as the judge was dealing with that, the mobster in question (played. By Michael Stuhlbarg, pictured) made the link between his son’s fatality and the judge’s after-the-fact complicity. And did I mention that the mobster’s daughter has met and befriended the judge’s teen son, without knowing that the young man had accidentally hit and killed her brother? The plot thickens…and thickens…


Source: TV Show Reviews, Recommendations... TV Worth Watching!

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TV Review (Cable)
The Life and Troubled Times of 'Tiger' Woods
By David Hinckley, TVWorthWatching.com's 'All Along the Watchtower' - Jan. 10, 2021

We love an unexpected success story, we're riveted by a downfall-of-the-mighty story, and there's nothing as heartwarming as a good resurrection tale.

Tiger, a two-part HBO documentary on Tiger Woods that starts Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, offers all three.

It doesn't settle the question of whether Tiger Woods is the best golfer ever. It places him on the top level, lets a few experts weigh in, and then leaves it up to the fans and viewers, which is fair.

The documentary itself, whose second part will air a week from Sunday in the same timeslot, spends more time hunting for Woods the person. The findings here are mixed, somewhat less impressive than his skills with a golf club.

The film starts with the declaration from Earl Woods, Tiger's late father, that his son will "transcend the game . . . and make the world a better place."

That's a fair amount to put on someone's shoulders, even someone with a gift, and Tiger strongly suggests that Earl's obsessive drive and expectations planted the seeds both for his son's rise and his son's fall.

Earl pushed Tiger into golf from the time he could walk, a scenario that has produced champions and tragedies inside and outside the sports world. Teenage tennis players and Michael Jackson come to mind, as does Todd Marinovich, whose father engineered him to become a pro football quarterback and left his life in tatters.

If Earl pushed, Tiger did not resist because he rapidly began living up to those expectations and accruing the rewards. He studied the game, he worked at the game, and he became the best player in the world. Not by a little. By a lot. He dominated golf and forced other golfers to make quantum leaps if they were to have any hope of challenging him.

This came at a price. When Tiger had his first serious girlfriend, Earl and his mother hammered him into dropping her because a relationship might take his eye off the prize.

That girlfriend, Dana Parr, is among the interviewees here. She has the breakup letter he sent her. It's calculating and cold.

Some of Woods's friends suggest here that Tiger never had a normal childhood or teenhood, like other child prodigies. He never went through the normal drills, never made the normal mistakes. So after his father died, leaving him untethered, he started doing adolescent things like playing around with many women. Trouble is, he was already married to one.

Tiger's extramarital love life was tabloid gold for months, shattering both his marriage and his previous reputation as one of the good guys in sports, an elite athlete who went home at night to his wife and kids.

The first of those women to have surfaced, Rachel Uchitel, says here that Woods didn't take part in traditional one-night stands with these women. He talked about deep affection and getting close, which had the unfortunate effect of making each think she was "the one."

These personal dramas also affected his golf game, just as Earl feared. Before the revelations, Tiger seemed on an unstoppable path toward the record he most cherished: winning more major tournaments than anyone before him. Jack Nicklaus had won 18. Tiger was up to 14, with years ahead of him.

The love life scandal took him out of the picture for a while, with a trip to rehab. Around the same time, a few physical problems began to surface, the most serious of which ultimately affected his back.

He turned to prescription drugs and was eventually arrested in Florida for trying to drive after taking five of them.

Combined with a back so badly hurt that he needed help getting out of bed, this pretty much completed Woods's fall.

As golf fans know, however, that didn't turn out to be his 18th hole.

He found back rehab that worked, kicked the opioids, and seemed to stay out of trouble while working his way back into his old golf form.

In 2019 he won the Masters, one of the major tournaments. He's still three behind Nicklaus, and he's not the unstoppable force he was a few years ago. But he's a force nonetheless, and his resurrection was as improbable as his fall.

This gives directors Matthew Heineman and Matthew Hamachek a full circle making Tiger feel almost like a scripted story.

Still, it feels like it's missing a few pieces.

It spends relatively little time on race when we're talking about a sport where Tiger won tournaments at clubs that wouldn't admit black members.

It also doesn't really address the impact of Woods and his success on society, that larger picture Earl Woods was talking about. Did Tiger, through his breathtaking and undeniable skill, erase color from the equation, or was he almost a separate figure, a bright shining anomaly?

Tiger does suggest that for much of his career, Woods was a man apart, quick with a smile and words of gratitude, but uncomfortable with celebrity and reluctant to join a fraternity of colleagues that his mother and father had always told him he had to hammer into the ground.

Heineman and Hamachek suggest that since his comeback, he has struck a balance. While he's no less fierce on the golf course, he seems to enjoy himself a little more. He's less of an island.

Woods may not wind up on the god-like peak his father envisioned, partly because his father assumed that great athletic skill rendered other, more mundane life skills irrelevant.

One of the lessons of Tiger is that they aren't.

On the other hand, his flaws don't negate those athletic skills. He is and will remain one of the best ever to play the game.

The most recent news footage of Tiger Woods, shot after this documentary had wrapped, shows him joyfully playing in a father-son tournament with his own pre-teenager.

You hope he's mentioning that sometimes it takes more than a sand wedge to get out of life's traps.

Source: The Life and Troubled Times of 'Tiger' Woods (tvworthwatching.com)
 

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TV/Critic's Notes (Broadcast)
The Reality and Humor of 'All Creatures Great and Small'
By Mike Hughes, TVWorthWatching.com's 'Open Mike' - Jan. 10, 2021

For a decade, TV viewers knew what to expect from PBS.

A lush Masterpiece series would settle into Sundays each January and beyond. There were six seasons of Downton Abbey, three of Victoria, one of Sanditon.

And now? All Creatures Great and Small (9 p.m. ET, starting Jan. 10, check local listings) has much in common with Downton, including the same director. But it has a crucial difference. "We have made a lot of excellent British television stories about people who are rich," Samuel West, who co-stars as Dr. Siegfried Farnon, told the Television Critics Association (TCA) in July. This show, by comparison, "is ground-level stuff."

That's way on the ground – lying in the straw to give a rectal exam to a fallen cow. (Don't worry; prosthetics were used.) It's messy work, crucial to the working family.

"One farmer (might) have one cow," said producer Colin Callender. "If that cow gets ill and dies, it would cause untold financial trouble."

That urgency has propelled All Creatures for a half-century of books, a movie, a 90-episode TV series (1978 – 1990), and now a reboot with an eight-week opening season.

On the one hand, this is, like Downton, a light story about eccentric souls. "I had forgotten, until I reread the books, (that) there's enormous humor in the books," Callender said.

On the other, there are stories of life-and-death importance to working people and their animals.

This was a world familiar to Dr. James Alfred Wight, who was known as "Alf," but used the name James Herriot as an author and his character's name.

After growing up in Scotland, he graduated from veterinary school in 1939 and soon began working for Dr. Donald Sinclair in the Yorkshire Dales region of England. He would continue working in the Dales until retiring (and turning the practice over to his son) in 1989. The first of his novels arrived in 1970.

Memories of the real people he fictionalized still ripple through the area. For the reboot, the consulting veterinarian is Dr. Andy Barrett, who had worked for Dr. Sinclair.

That's important to West, whose Siegfried character is a fictional version of Sinclair: "I (asked Barrett), 'Was he eccentric?' And he said, 'No, he was mad.'"

This series centers on Siegfried's home and office. There, he has his brother Tristan, a vet student, and his housekeeper, Mrs. Hall – a role that has been expanded for the series.

"The heart of this piece is about the community in the Dales and all the people living in it," said Anna Madeley, who plays Mrs. Hall. "And she's at the soul of the community."

Into this world comes an outsider, fresh from vet school. Nicholas Ralph, who plays Heriot, knows the feeling; this is his first TV or film work. "I still have moments where I pinch myself," he said.

He needed guidance on some key issues, said co-star Callum Woodhouse. "I think the best advice I gave" was not to eat breakfast before work: On the set, the food is free.

Woodhouse had been in that situation himself: Fresh from school, he was cast as Leslie in The Durrells of Corfu, another light-hearted Masterpiece with a gorgeous setting.

"Yorkshire rains a little bit more than Corfu, but . . . the landscape just looks absolutely stunning," Woodhouse said. "I just lucked out with my locations."

Ralph is sort of used to the countryside. His boyhood home in Scottish Highlands, he said, backed up to a farm. There, a friendly farmer would sometimes lift kids atop a cow named Friendly.

But his lone childhood pet was a guinea pig named Nip. Now he must seem like an expert on all creatures, great and small.

Source: The Reality and Humor of 'All Creatures Great and Small' (tvworthwatching.com)
 

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Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Jan. 10, 2021

NFL PLAYOFFS: WILD CARD WILD WEEKEND
The day’s opening game at 1 p.m. ET, for example, between the 11-5 Baltimore Ravens and 11-5 Tennessee Titans, isn’t televised by one of the broadcast networks.
I know ABC isnt what it once was but to not call it a broadcast net....wow. :eek:
 

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It's on ABC everywhere. David didn't get the memo.
 
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TV Sports/Health Notes (Basketball)
NBA coronavirus updates: Boston Celtics-Miami Heat game postponed due to COVID-19 issues
By USA Today's Staff - Jan. 10, 2021

Sunday's NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat has been postponed, the league announced a little more than two hours before the scheduled 7 p.m. ET tipoff.

The league said the postponement was due to ongoing COVID-19 contact tracing with the Heat, which prevented the team from having the league-required eight available players.

The Celtics would also have been without nine players for the game, seven of them out due to the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the team announced earlier. They are: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Javonte Green, Semi Ojeleye, Tristan Thompson, Grant Williams and Robert Williams.

Romeo Langford is recovering from right wrist surgery and Kemba Walker is out with a left knee injury, according to the team. That left the Celtics with eight players available.

The NBA did not reveal a makeup date for the game.

The Athletic reported on Saturday that Tatum was expected to quarantine for 10 to 14 days.

Dallas Mavericks close facility, two players test positive
The Dallas Mavericks are the latest NBA team to experience COVID-19 issues, according to multiple reports.

Two players have tested positive, and there are four players in the COVID-19 protocols — Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Richardson — the Dallas Morning News reported, though it is not clear who among the four tested positive.

All four players are quarantining, Kleber entering self-isolation Sunday and the other three remaining in Denver, where the Mavericks played the Nuggets three nights ago; Dallas defeated the Orlando Magic 112-98 on Saturday.

Kleber played against the Magic and is one of the players who has tested positive, according to ESPN.

The team's facility has been closed and contact tracing is underway, per the reports. Dallas is scheduled to host the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday.

Source: Celtics-Heat game postponed due to COVID-19 protocols (usatoday.com)
 

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Obituary
John Reilly, General Hospital and Passions Vet, Dead at 86
By Matt Webb Mitovich, TVLine.com - Jan. 10, 2021

Veteran actor John Reilly, whose daytime-TV credits alone included General Hospital, Passions and Sunset Beach, died on Saturday evening, TVLine has learned. He was 86.

One of Reilly’s daughters, actress and TikTok personality Caitlin Reilly, shared the news via Instagram saying, “John Henry Matthew Reilly AKA Jack. The brightest light in the world has gone out.” A cause of death has not yet been shared.

“Imagine the best person in the world. Now imagine that person being your dad,” Caitlin wrote. “I’m so grateful he was mine. I’m so grateful I got to love him. I’m so grateful I made it in time to hold him and say goodbye. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do, but I know he’ll be with me. I love you forever Daddy.”

The Chicago-born actor’s early career began with arcs on As the World Turns (as Dr. Dan Stewart), How the West Was Won, Quincy M.E. and Dallas (as Roy Ralston).

In February 1984, he made his GH debut as Sean Donely, Robert Scorpio’s former WSB (World Security Bureau) boss, who proved to be a bit of a foil during Frisco and Felicia’s Aztec Treasure hunt (watch his debut below). Following a redemption arc, superspy Sean was romantically paired with actress Tiffany Hill (played by Sharon Wyatt).

“He was a big brother to me. The kindest man you ever could find,” feellow GH vet Finola Hughes, who plays Anna and Alex Devane, told TVLine. “I cannot express how sorry I am to hear of his passing.”

Hughes later shared more on Instagram:
Darling John Reilly. One of the first days I walked on the GH set this tall, handsome man in a leather jacket sauntered towards me. In his deep, all American growl he welcomed me to the show and told me he would be there for me should I ever need anything. Boy was he true to his word. A consummate professional, I would run lines with him each day we worked (we worked a ton). His dressing room was two doors from mine. Many the day I would lounge on the floor in the hallway (don’t ask me why) and we would break down scenes. The three of us (Tristan [Rogers], John & me) would tear things apart until we were happy with the result and then go on set and perform. At the end of each scene John would do one of two things. He would either bellow his contagious laugh or he would get a quizzical expression on his face and ask ‘Was that it? Did we get it?’ Brilliantly intuitive, yet he was always concerned with the outcome. John’s sensitivity and kindness was most apparent with his family and friends. His love of his wife Liz and their gorgeous daughters was legion. I am so happy I got to experience and see that love firsthand. One of a kind. Fellow Irishman, Godspeed. Love you #JohnReilly rip
Following Reilly’s 11-year GH run, he voiced Hawkeye/Clint Barton on the animated Iron Man series, played Kelly Taylor’s pop on Beverly Hills, 90210, and then had multi-year runs on both Sunset Beach (as Del Douglas) and Passions (replacing the late David Bailey as Alistair Crane).

Reilly’s acting credits also include the short-lived spinoff General Hospital: Night Shift (where he reprised the role of Sean) and the web soap The Bay. And yes, he is the reason Talladega Nights‘ John C. Reilly uses a middle initial professionally.

Reilly is survived by his wife Liz and a total of three daughters.

Source: John Reilly of ‘General Hospital’ Dead at 84 – Passions, Sunset Beach | TVLine
 

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TV/Critic's Notes (Broadcast)
‘Sex and the City’ to Return as New HBO Max Limited Series
By Jeremy Fuster, TheWrap.com - Jan. 10, 2021

“Sex and the City” is back, as star Sarah Jessica Parker announced that the Emmy-winning HBO series will be returning as a limited series on HBO Max.

The new chapter of the hit series is titled “And Just Like That…” and will star Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis. Kim Cattrall, who played Samantha Jones in the original series, is not returning. Creator Michael Patrick King is set to executive produce.

Over the course of six seasons from 1998-2004, “Sex and the City” won seven Emmys and eight Golden Globes and is credited alongside shows like “The Sopranos” for turning HBO into a household name during the Golden Age of Television. The series also led to a pair of films in 2008 and 2010 continuing the adventures of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda that combined to gross $709 million at the global box office. A short-lived CW prequel series, “The Carrie Diaries,” also aired on The CW in 2013.

The “Sex and the City” revival is part of an effort by Warner Bros. and HBO to ramp up interest in HBO Max in 2021, taking a path similar to Disney+ by exploring ways to bring back past hits. Along with revivals of shows like “Gossip Girl” and “True Blood,” HBO Max will also offer all of Warner Bros.’ 2021 films — including “Dune” and “The Matrix 4” at the same time they are released in theaters at no extra charge. While HBO Max has not reported specific viewership numbers for “Wonder Woman 1984,” the first film released under this day-and-date model, the streamer did report that usage of the streaming service when the film was released on Christmas Day was triple that of any previous Friday since the streaming service launched this past summer.

Source: ‘Sex and the City’ to Return as New HBO Max Limited Series (thewrap.com)
 

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TV/Critic's Notes
Hollywood Flashback: 'Wheel of Fortune' Took Its First Spin 46 Years Ago
By Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter - Jan. 9, 2021
WHEEL OF FORTUNE - Co-host Susan Stafford, Host Chuck Woolery, 1975.

'Wheel of Fortune' co-host Susan Stafford and Host Chuck Woolery. Photo courtesy Everett Collection

It's most associated with Pat Sajak and Vanna White, but Wheel of Fortune — which debuted Jan. 6, 1975, on NBC and premieres its primetime spinoff, Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, on ABC on Jan. 7— was first hosted by Chuck Woolery. Woolery, then 33, was trying to make it in Nashville as a singer.

After performing on The Merv Griffin Show, Griffin "took me to his office and said, 'We got this show that we're doing called Shopper's Bazaar,' " recalls Woolery. That pilot incorporated Hangman-style puzzles and a roulette wheel but was "horrible," says Woolery, 79. After NBC passed, Griffin retooled it as Wheel of Fortune and got a green light. "Before you knew it, we were number one in the ratings," says Woolery.

Woolery declined Griffin's renewal offer and demanded a raise to $500,000 a year — what Peter Marshall was making on Hollywood Squares. NBC agreed to pay it, but Griffin threatened to take the show to CBS if it did. So in 1981, Griffin replaced Woolery with Sajak, who'd been a weatherman in Nashville and Los Angeles. "Merv was so upset with me, they started taping over all the old Wheel of Fortune [masters]," says Woolery.

At first, Sajak was paid $65,000 a year and White got $200 a show. "Then Merv sold everything he owned to Coca-Cola," says Woolery, who regrets not having signed his contract renewal. "They bumped them all up to multimillion-dollar contracts."

Source: Hollywood Flashback: 'Wheel of Fortune' Took Its First Spin 46 Years Ago | Hollywood Reporter
 

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Obituary
'Brilliant and talented man': 'Bob's Burgers' animator Dave Creek dies after skydiving accident
By Rasha Ali, USA Today - Jan. 9, 2021

Dave Creek, the lead character designer on Fox's "Bob's Burgers," died Thursday following a skydiving accident, according to a statement from Fox Entertainment and Bento Entertainment. He was 42.

"We are heartbroken at the tragic passing of Dave Creek, an extraordinary artist who had been with Bob’s Burgers from day one,” in the statement provided by Alexandra Gillespie and shared to the official "Bob's Burgers" Twitter account. "He was not just an incredible talent but a beautiful person as well, and our hearts go out to his family, friends, and all his colleagues at the show who loved him and are grieving today."

Creek's credits on the series date back to its first episode on Jan. 9, 2011 titled "Human Flesh" up until Season 9's "Better Off Sled," according to IMDb. He's also worked on "Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown," "Central Park" and "Brickleberry."

Creek's colleagues took to Twitter to pay their respects to their friend.

Simon Chong, a director on "Bob's Burgers" lauded Creek as a "brilliant and talented man."

"Today we tragically lost our Lead Character designer and friend, Dave Creek. A wonderfully brilliant and talented man who I can guarantee designed your favourite character on Bob’s at some point. I’ll miss you, buddy," Chong wrote.

Wendy Molyneux, a writer on the animated series, wrote: "If you love Bob’s Burgers, you loved Dave Creek. He was an adventurous funny outgoing amazing artist and one of the most incredible, interesting people I ever met. I often thought that Dave really knew how to live, and I wish he got to live some more. Rest In Peace, buddy."

Lizzie Molyneux, also a writer on the series, wrote: "The world lost an amazing talent and wonderful human being this week. Dave Creek was truly one of the best."

The news comes as the animated series celebrates its 10 year anniversary.

Creek is survived by his parents Melanie Creek Sardo, David Creek and stepmother Lorraine Creek as well as his siblings, Robert Creek, Stephanie Creek and Aleasha Ramsay.

Source: 'Bob's Burgers' designer Dave Creek dead after skydiving accident (usatoday.com)
 

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Technology/Business Notes
DraftKings announces it will now allow betting on drone races in some states
By Kim Lyons, TheVerge.com - Jan. 9, 2021

Sports betting company DraftKings and the Drone Racing League (DRL) will now allow betting on drone races in some states, the two companies announced. DRL, which CNBC describes as a first-person view racing league, allows pilots to compete for prizes by flying their drones through courses.

Residents of Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, and West Virginia will be able to bet on the races via their phones, and regulatory approval is pending for betting on drone races in other states, the companies said. The terms of the deal and the amounts of the prize money weren’t disclosed, but drone racers in a 2017 tournament competed for $100,000.

“The sky is now the limit for DRL fans to get skin in the game, and we’re thrilled to partner with DraftKings to transform our high-speed race competition into the ultimate sport to bet on,” DRL President Rachel Jacobson said in a statement. According to CNBC, drones used in the events are built by DRL, and each one is worth about $2,000. The league has deals for media rights to the races with NBC Sports and Sky Sports, and a streaming arrangement with Twitter to host its preflight shows.

DraftKings first introduced DRL drone races last year as a kind of test run, and says response was better than expected. According to Forbes, the first free-to-play pool in November drew more than 150,000 entrants. DRL was established in 2015.

The first races, part of the 2020 DRL Allianz World Championship Season, are slated for Saturday at 4:30PM ET on NBC, Twitter, and Facebook. DRL and DraftKings will host pre-flight shows ahead of the live events to give fans details on how to participate.

Source: DraftKings announces it will now allow betting on drone races in some states - The Verge
 

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TV/Awards Notes (Broadcast)
Critics Choice Super Awards Full Winners List: ‘Palm Springs’, ‘Soul’, ‘The Boys’ Among Top Honorees
By Dino-Ray Ramos, Deadline.com - Jan. 10, 2021

The Critics Choice Association (CCA) is set to host its inaugural Critics Choice Super Awards on Sunday night on The CW. Like many televised awards ceremonies in the past 10 months, the Critics Choice Super Awards follows Covid-19 safety protocols with writer-director Kevin Smith and actress Dani Fernandez as hosts. The full show will be available to stream for free on The CW App and cwtv.com on Monday.

The Super Awards honor the most popular, fan-obsessed genres across both television and movies, including Superhero/Comic Book, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Horror, Action and Animation. Topping the list of winners this year in the film categories are Palm Springs and Soul with three wins each while Amazon’s The Boys led series wins with four trophies. Overall, Netflix won the most awards, adding five Super Awards to its mantle thanks to Da 5 Bloods, The Old Guard and BoJack Horseman.

Hulu and NEON’s Palm Springs Palm Springs was recognized for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie while Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti scored acting accolades. Disney’s Soul earned Best Animated Movie, as well as Best Voice Actor in an Animated Movie for Jamie Foxx and Best Voice Actress in an Animated Movie for Tina Fey.

The diabolical The Boys cleaned up on the series side and won Best Superhero Series. Aya Cash won Best Actress in a Superhero Series while Antony Starr nabbed Best Actor in a Superhero Series and Best Villain in a Series. He was the only actor to take home multiple awards.

The Legacy Award was given to the Star Trek franchise. Star Trek icon Patrick Stewart and Star Trek: Discovery star Sonequa Martin-Green accepted the special honor, which came as the franchise celebrates its 55th anniversary.

The Critics Choice Super Awards show was produced by Bob Bain Productions. The CCA is represented by Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig.

Read the full list of winners below.

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Betty Gilpin – The Hunt (Universal)

BEST ANIMATED MOVIE
Soul (Disney+)

BEST VOICE ACTOR IN AN ANIMATED MOVIE
Jamie Foxx – Soul (Disney+)

BEST VOICE ACTRESS IN AN ANIMATED MOVIE
Tina Fey – Soul (Disney+)

BEST SUPERHERO MOVIE
The Old Guard (Netflix)

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPERHERO MOVIE
Ewan McGregor – Birds of Prey (Warner Bros.)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPERHERO MOVIE
Margot Robbie – Birds of Prey (Warner Bros.)

BEST HORROR MOVIE
The Invisible Man (Universal)

BEST ACTOR IN A HORROR MOVIE
Vince Vaughn – Freaky (Universal)

BEST ACTRESS IN A HORROR MOVIE
Elisabeth Moss – The Invisible Man (Universal)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY MOVIE
Palm Springs (Hulu and NEON)

BEST ACTOR IN A SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY MOVIE
Andy Samberg – Palm Springs (Hulu and NEON)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY MOVIE
Cristin Milioti – Palm Springs (Hulu and NEON)

BEST VILLAIN IN A MOVIE
Jim Carrey – Sonic The Hedgehog (Paramount)

BEST ACTION SERIES
Vikings (History)

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION SERIES
Daveed Diggs – Snowpiercer (TNT)

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION SERIES
Angela Bassett – 9-1-1 (Fox)

BEST ANIMATED SERIES
BoJack Horseman (Netflix)

BEST VOICE ACTOR IN AN ANIMATED SERIES
Will Arnett – BoJack Horseman (Netflix)

BEST VOICE ACTRESS IN AN ANIMATED SERIES
Kaley Cuoco – Harley Quinn (HBO Max)

BEST SUPERHERO SERIES
The Boys (Amazon)

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPERHERO SERIES
Antony Starr – The Boys (Amazon)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPERHERO SERIES
Aya Cash – The Boys (Amazon)

BEST HORROR SERIES
Lovecraft Country (HBO)

BEST ACTOR IN A HORROR SERIES
Jensen Ackles – Supernatural (The CW)

BEST ACTRESS IN A HORROR SERIES
Jurnee Smollett – Lovecraft Country (HBO)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY SERIES
The Mandalorian (Disney+)

BEST ACTOR IN A SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY SERIES
Patrick Stewart – Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY SERIES
Natasia Demetriou – What We Do in the Shadows (FX)

BEST VILLAIN IN A SERIES
Antony Starr – The Boys (Amazon)


Source: Critics Choice Super Awards – Full Winners List – Deadline
 

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TV/Critic's Notes (Streaming)
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 failed its characters and plots
By Samantha Nelson, Polygon.com - Jan. 8, 2021

[Ed. note: This piece contains some spoilers for seasons 2 and 3 of Star Trek: Discovery.]

Season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery sends the crew of the eponymous science vessel far into the future, setting the series free from the franchise’s established canon. It was a bold move for showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise, letting them explore issues like resource scarcity — previously anathema to Trek’s largely utopian principles — and show a version of the United Federation of Planets in even greater decline than it is in Star Trek: Picard.

As the episodes aired in a world that felt absolutely unmoored due to the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread social and political unrest, Discovery had the potential to live up to Star Trek’s classic mission of providing perspective and commentary on the biggest issues of the day. Yet for every topic the writers tried to tackle, the conclusion was muddled or perfunctory rather than actually insightful. The main arcs were also rushed, since two of the season’s 13 episodes were entirely devoted to setting up a spinoff. The result was an extremely weak season that didn’t deliver satisfying arcs for most of the show’s characters. The writers introduced complex plots, then wrapped them up with feel-good simplicity. Here’s what season 3 of Discovery tried to explore, and how it failed.

RESOURCE SCARCITY
Season 3’s primary conflict is the Burn, a mysterious event that affected dilithium — the element responsible for faster-than-light travel and much of Trek’s other wondrous technology — and left the quadrant diminished and fragmented. Dilithium was in short supply in the period immediately before and especially after The Burn, leaving the Federation and various other factions only able to apply force based on their dwindling reserves.

Star Trek has always existed in a post-scarcity future, so this twist enabled a huge rethinking of how various species and planets would evolve and change to deal with the challenge. The fact that the Federation was so hard hit provided a particularly grim metaphor for the current decline of the United States as a world power. The near-future realism of The Expanse has made it a far better venue for stories about humanity’s endless struggle over resources, and the people who are inevitably exploited and neglected as a result, but there was certainly potential in approaching the topic from a Star Trek lens.

One plot provided a critique of colonialism, with the Emerald Chain mercantile syndicate providing a powerful argument in favor of the Prime Directive — Starfleet’s ban on significantly interfering with alien civilizations. The Emerald Chain shows up to offer wondrous solutions to problems like environmental crises, which are contingent on their ability to exploit the resources of the planets they help.

The idea shows Star Trek fans how lucky Earth was to make contact with the kindly Vulcans before encountering other alien species, and it fits in well with the questions raised in 2020 about the degree to which Earth could actually unify if alien life arrived here. But while season 2 of The Mandalorian provides a powerful analysis of the way major powers trample over indigenous peoples, Star Trek: Discovery’s writers resolved their exploration of the topic with a solution that has all the nuance of a Captain Planet episode with some empaths using their connection to nature to solve the problem the Emerald Chain was ostensibly helping them with.

Discovery appearing in the future shakes up future politics, with the ship and its spore-drive engineer Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) becoming the ultimate commodity by providing a non-dilithium-based method for faster-than-light travel. The show is at its best when the crew provides a light in a dark world, such as when protagonist and occasional first officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) inspires a man who’s maintaining a vigil for remnants of Starfleet despite never officially being inducted as a member. But its utopianism reaches ludicrous levels through Admiral Charles Vance (Oded Fehr of The Mummy and Resident Evil: Extinction), whose ignorance of realpolitik in demanding a ludicrous number of concessions from a powerful potential ally — including that she stand trial for war crimes — makes it baffling he’s achieved such a high rank. His intransigence pays off anyway, in ways that feel like entirely unearned plot fiat.

COPING WITH TRAUMA AND THE BURDENS OF LEADERSHIP
At the end of season 2, Discovery’s crew heroically agree to travel into the distant future in a desperate bid to save all life in the galaxy, and the early part of season 3 sees them struggling to come to terms with the consequences. Kelpian crew member Saru (Doug Jones of The Shape of Water and Hellboy) finally finds the courage to embrace his role as captain, but he also ends up in the uniquely difficult position of having to getting a crew of perpetual overachievers to acknowledge they’ve been pushed to the breaking point.

This plotline left plenty of room for commentary on mental-health issues in high-stress jobs, coupled with some ripe personal plots about adjusting to change. 2020 was certainly a year that could use more thought and stories around those ideas. But these were largely oversimplified, mishandled, or used for awkward comedy. Lieutenant Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) has been at the helm since Discovery’s first episode, but has received pretty much no character development, so the arc exploring her instability following the jump to the future could have remedied that oversight. Instead, it’s considered resolved as soon as she’s willing to ask for help.

Saru should also have had time to shine in the captain’s chair. Instead, he’s left making meta jokes about what catchphrase he should use when giving an order. When Michael is stripped of her role as first officer due to insubordination, he promotes ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) into her position, in a decision that clearly had more to do with the writers not knowing what to do with Tilly than any in-world logic. Michael may be the only character whose arc has a satisfying conclusion this season, but it again comes at Saru’s expense. It seems like Jones has been written off the show as of the end of this season, which is probably for the best, because the actor deserves better.

GENDER IDENTITY
Paramount grabbed a lot of attention in 2020 with the announcement that season 3 of Discovery would feature the series’ first major trans and non-binary characters, Gray (Ian Alexander) and Adira (Blu del Barrio). Their introduction should have been a powerful embrace of representation in a once-trailblazing franchise that was lagging behind the progress made by other major shows. But the idea fell apart because the writers couldn’t decide what approach to take to the characters.

The ideal way to introduce them might have been to not even comment on their genders. That did happen with Gray, who is just presented as Adira’s boyfriend. But rather than clearly stating their pronouns upon arrival on Discovery, Adira is called by female pronouns throughout most of the season before raising the issue with Stamets. He’s apparently the first person Adira has told about their gender identity, aside from Gray, which makes their identity seem like an inherently shameful secret.

If they weren’t serving the same role of portraying a more inclusive world as the original Star Trek’s multiracial cast did, Gray and Adira could have been used as metaphors for discovering and embracing gender identity. That seemed to be the direction the writers were going in early, with the implantation of Gray’s Trill symbiote feeling like a stand-in for gender confirmation surgery. After the procedure, Gray assures Adira, “I’m still me. I’m just more me.” And Adira changing pronouns could have been part of them coming to terms with the way being a Trill host changes their perceptions about themselves. Given that the character is only 16, that plot could easily be a stand-in for the way some teenagers struggle to come to grips with their gender.

But the biggest problem is that both characters are just used as accessories for the relationship between Stamets and his boyfriend, ship physician Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), which hit a rough patch after Hugh returned from the dead in season 2. The writers sought to rectify these issues with the classic romance cliché of having the two effectively have a kid in the form of Adira, though neither really asked Adira to consent to the role. A plot reveal in the finale surrounding Gray does hint at a more meaningful arc for the characters to come. But this season, they were just another example of the writers setting bold goals and underdelivering.

CBS All Access has already renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a fourth and fifth season, which will be shot back-to-back. Showrunner Michelle Paradise says Discovery’s crew will stay in the 32nd century, and that season 4 will have the same focus as season 3 on “trying to make sure our characters can grow, exploring new relationships, exploring how people can change, finding new layers for each of our characters.” But the writers need to grow and change too. It isn’t enough to have great ideas, or a willingness to engage with difficult subjects. The show needs to be better at engaging with those ideas and the show’s larger themes if it’s going to do right by the characters, the franchise, and the fans.

Source: Star Trek: Discovery’s season 3 finale failed its characters and plots - Polygon
 

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Obituary
Patricia Loud, First Reality TV Mom From An American Family, Dead at 94

By Nick Caruso, TVLine.com - Jan. 10, 2021

Patricia Loud, best known as the matriarch from the PBS docuseries An American Family, died Sunday. She was 94. The news was confirmed by her family on their shared Facebook page.

“With inconsolable sorrow, we are sad to share the news with friends and family that on Sunday, January 10 at 1:55pm PT, Pat Loud passed away peacefully in her sleep of natural causes,” the Loud family wrote. “She was snuggled up safe in her comfy home, attended by loving children Michele, Delilah, Kevin and Grant.”

Loud starred in the 1973 television documentary created by Craig Gilbert that aired from January to March of that year. An American Family is viewed by some as the first American reality TV series. The show followed Loud, her husband, Bill, and their five children throughout their daily lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., documenting the separation and eventual divorce of Loud and her husband, as well as the coming out of their late son, Lance.

During her time on the series, Loud made guest appearances on The Dick Cavett Show and The Mike Douglas Show, after the series had taken off and found its audience.

“Pat Loud was a fierce, inflexible, forthright matriarch and loyal champion of outsiders and iconoclasts,” the Loud family continued in their Facebook post. “Her door was never locked and there was always room at her table. Never one for regrets or reflection, she moved forward in life with enthusiasm and courage.”

Loud is survived by her four children.

Source: Patricia Loud Dies: Mom From ‘An American Family’ Dead at 94 | TVLine
 

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TV Review (Streaming)
In Pretend It’s a City, Martin Scorsese Shares the Pleasure of Fran Lebowitz’s Company
By Judy Berman, TIME.com - Jan. 8, 2021

In an interview that circulated widely last January, the public saw a novel side of Martin Scorsese. Asked whether he’d seen the comic-book blockbuster Joker, Scorsese explained to the New York Times that watching a few clips had told him everything he needed to know about the film. “I get it,” he said. “It’s fine.” He sounded like neither the directorial eminence revered for his chronicles of gangsters, rockers and New York after dark, nor like good ol’ Marty, universally beloved champion of film preservation and benefactor to auteurs the world over. He wasn’t even, exactly, the guy who, months earlier, had remarked that Marvel movies resembled theme parks more than cinema, then explained himself at length when a boring controversy ensued. The Scorsese who dispatched Joker with five monosyllabic words wasn’t just a defender of filmmaking as art—he was a wit, a provocateur, a man of taste who was done apologizing for it.

I like to imagine that the quote, which still makes me laugh a year later, reflects the influence of Fran Lebowitz. Clearly, she occupies plenty of space in Scorsese’s brain. The 70-year-old humorist, commentator, chronically blocked writer, sometime actor and Manhattan fixture—a master of the short sentence as well as the offhand dismissal—was the subject of his HBO documentary Public Speaking, from 2010. And on Friday, Jan. 8, the longtime friends will return to the screen with a deeply pleasurable seven-episode Netflix docuseries called Pretend It’s a City.

If you know anything about Lebowitz, and you should, it has probably already struck you that streaming television is a bizarre place to find her. For the past half-century, beginning with a column in Andy Warhol’s Interview and the publication of two classic humor anthologies, Metropolitan Life in 1978 and Social Studies in 1981, she has made a career out of the pithy articulation of unusual, generally negative opinions—including a notorious antipathy for technology. Lebowitz owns neither a computer nor a mobile phone. This isn’t just a quirk of advancing age. As she recounts to Scorsese in the series, she never even bought a typewriter, because who wanted to spend time learning to type? (Another of her favorite topics, and one she often cites by way of explaining why she now works as a speaker rather than a writer, is her unrepentant laziness.)

If Pretend It’s a City has a thesis, it is that Lebowitz’s perhaps-masochistic devotion to observing what she calls her “fellow man” gives her a rare perspective on society—and particularly on the metropolis that has, over the years, been the most consistent object of her tough love. The title refers to her frustration with people so absorbed in their devices that they bump into you on the street. “Pretend it’s a city—where there are other people,” she pleads. But this is hardly a high-concept show. Scorsese seems solely interested in putting a worthy frame around the living, breathing, eloquently complaining work of art that is Fran Lebowitz in conversation.

Although the full series runs slightly shorter than the director’s Netflix gangster requiem The Irishman, the episodic format serves a purpose beyond luring in viewers who might balk at a 209-minute movie but would happily binge through seven half-hours of TV. Each organized around a loose cluster of themes—money and its New York handmaiden real estate, Lebowitz’s love of smoking and hatred of wellness culture—the episodes resemble chapters of her books. In artfully constructed montages, the subject holds court in chats with Scorsese as well as on talk shows and at speaking engagements from the ’70s through the present. She moves through cleverly chosen locations in the pre-pandemic city, struggling to deactivate the video screen in a cab, wandering around the Queens Museum’s scale model of the five boroughs like a flâneur Godzilla. We watch her entertain interlocutors from Alec Baldwin to Spike Lee (who gamely challenges her insistence that sports are for children) to her late friend Toni Morrison.

Resplendent in her trademark suit jackets, jeans and cowboy boots, black hair parted down the middle like her spiritual forebear Oscar Wilde, she holds forth, magnificently, on writing: “Most people who love to write are terrible writers.” On queer liberation: “Nothing is better for a city than a dense population of angry homosexuals.” On nine-figure art auctions: “We live in a world where they applaud the price, not the Picasso.” On people longing to see their own experiences represented in books (one of her great loves, along with sleep, parties and cigarettes): “A book isn’t supposed to be a mirror—it’s supposed to be a door.” On guilty pleasures: “I have no guilty pleasures, because pleasure never makes me feel guilty.”

While many of her idiosyncratic opinions are sublime, a handful of them have aged quite poorly. (She may be a queer woman, but neither feminism nor the gay liberation movement escaped her derision.) The thing is, Lebowitz’s appeal lies in the way she expresses those ideas. And in that respect, as wonderful as her essays remain, she may be an even better speaker than writer. Firm as she may be in her opinions, as a conversationalist she’s sly, self-deprecating, good-natured, with impeccable comic timing. An anecdote about a “foul odor” on the subway—not exactly a novel subject for a New Yorker—had me in hysterics. Lebowitz comes across as a genuine original, not a calculated contrarian like Christopher Hitchens or Bill Maher (whose show she sometimes visits). Asked, by an audience member at a speaking engagement, if she feels suffocated by a climate of political correctness, she shrugs: “I’m breathing fine.” And she says that she likes talking to children because “they are not yet filled with clichés,” which makes sense because, in seven decades of life, she’s retained her intellectual sovereignty as well. She doesn’t shy away from sincerity, either; her thoughts on Motown, the pop music of her youth, verge on rhapsodic.

No one enjoys Lebowitz’s company more than Scorsese, which is presumably why he has done us the kindness of using his medium to share it. In their onstage Q&As, she reduces him to fits of giggles. But the longest and richest segments place the viewer across the table from the director, inside the kind of low-lit watering hole millions of New Yorkers miss terribly these days. Instead of sharing her spotlight, in these scenes Scorsese often places the camera just over his shoulder, so that we can imagine the experience of an evening out with Lebowitz. We should all be so lucky as to find someone who looks at us the way Marty looks at Fran.

Source: Pretend It's a City Review: Scorsese on Lebowitz, Take 2 | Time
 

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TV Notes
On The Air

MONDAY JAN. 11, 2021 Network Primetime/Late Night Options
(All shows are in HD unless noted; start times are ET. Network late night shows are preceded by late local news)
From Zap2it.com's TV Grid

ABC:
8PM - The Bachelorette (120 min.)
10PM - The Hustler
* * * *
11:35PM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Milo Ventimiglia; TV host Ken Jennings; Queen Naija performs)
12:37AM - Nightline

CBS:
8PM - The Neighborhood
(R)
8:30PM - Bob Hearts Abishola (R)
9PM - All Rise (R)
10PM - Bull (R)
* * *
11:35PM - The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Comic Chris Rock; Joss Stone performs)
12:37AM - The Late Late Show With James Corden (Rob Lowe; Zoe Wees performs)

NBC:
8PM - Ellen's Game of Games
9PM - The Wall

10PM - Weakest Link
* * * *
11:34PM - The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Rashida Jones; comic Bill Burr; Old Dominion performs)
12:37AM - Late Night With Seth Meyers (John Goodman; authors Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar; Future Islands performs)
1:38AM - A Little Late With Lilly Singh (Season Premiere: Rapper Saweetie)

FOX
8PM - 9-1-1
(R)
9PM - 9-1-1 Lone Star (R)

THE CW:
8PM - All American Stories
9PM - Penn & Teller: Fool Us
(R)

PBS
8PM - Antiques Roadshow: Vintage Baltimore 2021 Hour 1
9PM - American Experience: The Codebreaker (Season Premiere)
10PM - Independent Lens: A Day in the Life of America (90 min.)

UNIVISION:
8PM - Vencer El Amor
9PM - Imperio de Mentiras
10PM - Dulce Ambición

TELEMUNDO:
7PM - El Domo del Dinero (120 min.)
9PM - Todo Por Mi Hija
10PM - Falsa Identidad

CBSSN:
7PM - College Basketball: Loyola-Chicago at Drake (LIVE)
9PM - College Basketball: Boise State at Wyoming (LIVE)
* * * *
11PM - Poker Night in America (Back-to-back episodes, 60 min.)


DISCOVERY:
8PM - Street Outlaws (Season Premiere, 121 min.)
* * * *
11:01PM - Street Outlaws: Fasters in America - To the Finish Line (59 min.)

ESPN:
8PM - CFP National Championship: Ohio State at Alabama (LIVE)*
*
(simulcast on ESPN2, ESPN News and ESPN U with unique features/narrations)

HGTV:

8PM - 100 Day Dream House
9PM - Ty Breaker (Series Premiere)

9PM - Celebrity IOU

ID:
8PM - 48 Hours on ID
9PM - Atlanta Justice

10PM - Murder in the Chat Room (60 min.)

SCIENCE:
8PM - Mysteries of the Abandoned: Secret Ruins of the Forgotten (3 hrs.)

TLC:

9PM - Dr. Pimple Popper
10:01PM - 1,000-Lb. Sisters
* * * *
11:01PM - Unpolished (59 min.)

USA:
8PM - WWE Monday Night RAW (3 hrs., LIVE)
* * * *
11PM - Straight Up Steve Austin (Season Premiere, 31 min.)

VH1:
8PM - Love & Hip Hop - Secrets Unlocked: Day Ones (60 min.)

BRAVO:
9PM - Below Deck (75 min.)
10:15PM - Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen (Guests TBA, 30 min.)


HBO:
9PM - 30 Coins: Ep. 3 (70 min.)

HISTORY:
9PM - Pawn Stars (63 min.)

COMEDY CENTRAL:
11PM - The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (46 min.)

E!:
11PM - Nightly Pop (30 min.)

MTV:
11PM - Ridiculousness: Chanel and Sterling CCLVI (30 min.)


TBS:

11PM - Conan (Heather Graham) (R)

Source: https://tvlistings.zap2it.com/?aid=gapzap
 

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Technology Notes (4K UltraHD)
LG imagines a bed with a hidden see-thru OLED TV set
By Nick Statt, TheVerge.com - Jan. 10, 2021



LG Display is continuing its trend of reimagining the future of screens at CES 2021 with a new transparent TV. The panel is a 55-inch OLED, but its transparent design lets you see through it even when it’s turned on and displaying an image.

The screen achieves 40 percent transparency, LG Display says, which is an improvement over past transparent LCDs the company claims achieved only 10 percent transparency.

LG imagines the screen sitting at the foot of a bed, where it can rise up partially or in full to show information or videos while retaining a view of the other side of the screen. The panel as it’s designed now has built-in speakers, though it’s unclear precisely what audio features they will support. In an email the company said that its “Sound Solution technology” is “embedded in the frame.”

LG says the transparent OLED set can also be moved around the home if you’d like to position it somewhere else (if it were something you could actually buy, which you cannot right now).

The company sees this as both a smart home device and one that could one day be used in public settings, like in restaurants and on public transportation.

“Transparent OLED is a technology that maximizes the advantages of OLED and can be used in various places in our daily lives, from stores, shopping malls, and architectural interiors to autonomous vehicles, subway trains, and aircraft,” Jong-sun Park, LG Display’s senior vice president and head of commercial business, said in a statement. “It will grow into a next-generation display that can change the existing display paradigm.”

This isn’t the first transparent display to make a debut at CES; we’ve seen Samsung’s transparent OLED screens before, and Panasonic showed off a prototype transparent display back in 2016 (though it was only HD). And it’s not even LG’s first transparent OLED — the company announced last month it’s started developing see-through OLED sliding doors for office buildings and commercial spaces. LG also created a 77-inch curved transparent OLED back in 2017 that it imagined could be used for signage or advertising.

But this is LG Display’s first screen of this type it’s made strictly as a TV that would actually go in someone’s home, and not just something you’d see in a futuristic shopping center or some other commercial venue.

This is just one of many in a long line of LG Display experimental prototypes, some of which do indeed become real products you can buy. The company has made waves at past CES showcases with various iterations of its rollable OLED technology, while a commercial version of the TV using the tech finally went on sale in South Korea in October of last year for an eye-popping $87,000.

Unfortunately, there’s no indication right now that LG’s new transparent OLED TV will become a real product at some point in the future or how much it might cost if it does.

Source: LG imagines a bed with a hidden see-thru OLED TV set - The Verge
 
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