Monday, December 28, 2009

Television's Top Ten Moments In 2009

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Little Women's Woman

Mary McNamara reviews The American Masters PBS presentation of the woman who was the J.K. Rowling of her time, in the Los Angeles Times:

"For those who know Louisa May Alcott only as the author of some of the most enduring classics of children's literature, "Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind 'Little Women' " will be a revelation. For those already familiar with Alcott's Transcendentalist-boho childhood, her sensational tales of love and horror under the pen name A.M. Barnard and her refusal to diminish her personal and economic freedom by marrying, the dramatically reenacted documentary gives life and texture to a woman of extraordinary talent and determination who became as great a celebrity in her day as J.K. Rowling is in ours."

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The Reality Television Decade

So what does a decade of reality TV tell us about television programming and more importantly, ourselves? Mary McNamara from the La Times has an essay in the "Decades" section of the Los Angeles Times. After a decade of the "real":

"No wonder so many young people turn to the magic of " Harry Potter" or the dark longing of the "Twilight" series, in which lovers are still allowed to brood in silence and the heroes are the ones not interested in survival but transcendence. Though there may be reassurance and entertainment in semi-scripted reality shows, there is no mystery, no poetry. If we would sing of ourselves, let us sing. Not indulge in temper tantrums for a camera crew or offer smug justifications to Larry King."

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Stars Read Documents Of The People's History On The History Channel Sunday

The People's History Of The United States by Howard Zinn has long been the preferred alt history book of our time. The dramatic readings by major stars which will run on History Channel on Sunday is reviewed by Mary McNamara of The Los Angeles Times.
Democracy is not a political theory, it's a political activity.

"That is the leitmotif of “The People Speak,” a series of dramatic readings from inspiring historical documents that airs on the History Channel on Sunday night. Based on Howard Zinn's revisionist "A People's History of the United States," "The People Speak" employs the talents of Hollywood heavy hitters, including Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Marisa Tomei, Don Cheadle, Josh Brolin, Sandra Oh, Viggo Mortensen, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, and provides a striking, exhilarating and at times horrifying reminder of not just our indomitable ability to change but also this country's collective history of oppression"

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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Jackson 4

The A&E premiere of the reality series The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty on Sunday reviewed by Mary McNamara in The Los Angeles Times.

"Certainly, the first two episodes, which air Sunday night, follow a familiar format, in which we meet the principals -- Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and Tito -- and their big houses and fancy cars, and we watch as they eat in various locales. The brothers quickly assume their roles: Marlon is the funny one; Tito, the peacemaker; Jackie, the father figure; Jermaine, who left the group when the group left Motown, the troublemaker.

"The Jacksons" does have the benefit of bygone celebrity, which the producers milk with many old photos and clips, and an actual narrative: The brothers are coming together not only for this reality show, but also to produce an album that will, they hope, rekindle the Jackson sound.

If Michael were still alive, the show would no doubt be fueled with the tantalizing possibility of an appearance by him, which, of course, would have never happened. But he died shortly after filming began, and "The Jacksons" became something else entirely: another grim example of the siren call of reality television."

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Blind Sided By A Movie About Football

Mary McNamara pens a Critic's Notebook in the Los Angeles Times about how the Sandra Bullock Blind Side brought back the greatness and heartbreak of growing up a Baltimore Colts fan. But can one really say, "Go Ravens!"

When I went to see "The Blind Side," I didn't expect it to heal the horseshoe-shaped scar I had almost forgotten. I went because I love Sandra Bullock; I had no idea Michael Oher, the subject of the film, played for Baltimore. I don't follow football anymore. I have not seen an entire professional football game in 25 years. See, I was born in Baltimore. Which meant that I was instantly, unequivocally and possibly legally born a Colts fan.

When I was growing up, there was no escaping the Baltimore Colts. My parents were not particularly sporty, but that didn't matter. For as long as I can remember and longer, when the Colts were playing, the game was on. Wherever you were, even if you had homework, even if it was dinner time, even it if was a dinner
party, even if it was a wake."

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Monday, December 7, 2009

"Men Of A Certain Age" Certainly Worth Watching

Men Of A Certain Age may avoid all the pitfalls of this kind of drama by terrfic acting and writing. What a concept. Mary McNamara reviews in The Los Angeles Times.

"See, that's what happens when you watch too much television. You get cynical. Because "Men of a Certain Age" is none of those things; it is instead a miraculously good show about a stage of life that is too often either ignored or overplayed. Addressing middle age with humor and insight, Romano and co-creator Mike Royce refuse to be coy, juvenile, sentimental or self-satisfied, which makes their show as revolutionary for our time as "thirtysomething" was 20 years ago. (Its director, Scott Winant, is a veteran of that series.)"
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Shatner's Raw Nerve: Talk Show Of Inner Space

Can Captain Kirk and Denny Crane also run a talk show? Mary McNamara reviews Shatner's Nerve in the Los Angeles Times.

From the Rush Limbaugh interview (which looks like a must see) Mary McNamara points out what is great and what is no-so-great in the Shatner interview style:

"Shatner pinpoints the issue of healthcare as an area in which government regulation and intervention might actually be beneficial. Scoffing, Limbaugh asked how decent healthcare differed from a house on the beach -- some people have bungalows, some people have mansions. Healthcare, he said, does not have moral ascendancy over real estate.

It was a terrific moment that begged for a follow-up but, strangely, Shatner backed off. Somehow, the subject moved on to other less controversial topics: Limbaugh's brush with deafness and his drug abuse, all of which the radio host handled with characteristic aplomb, not to mention an utter lack of irony as he described the many expensive procedures that aided in his recovery from both. I kept waiting for Shatner to ask if Limbaugh's insurance had covered rehab, but he didn't."

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reports Of The Death Of Television Drama Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

"There they sit with "The Jay Leno Show," TV's equivalent of that famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline, having called time of death on scripted drama and indeed traditional network television while all around them great new shows are popping up like the plague victim in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." "I'm not dead," says ABC with its new comedy lineup; "I'm getting better," says CBS with "The Good Wife”and "NCIS: Los Angeles.” "I think I'll go for a walk," adds Fox with the runaway buzz generator "Glee.”
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Oscar Season Now In Trade Paperback $14.00

The classic mystery novel and today’s paparazzi coincide in this engaging, insider’s look at Hollywood in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards.

She is one of the very few reporters allowed to witness pre-telecast rehearsals and for years has covered Oscar night from the celebrity side of the red carpet and backstage during the show.

A recent recipient of an L.A. Press Club and American Association of Features Editors Awards for her industry coverage, she has interviewed innumerable stars and directors, and used her experience to craft this deliciously entertaining whodunit.

Wide audience: This novel will fascinate the many readers captivated by Hollywood and the celebrity lifestyle, while also appealing to mystery devotees and fans of smart, entertaining women’s fiction. It’s equal parts Jackie Collins, Michael Tolkin, and Sue Grafton.