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Back in the late ‘80s, when the Bangles had hit after hit, Susanna Hoffs was one of MTV’s poster girls: although all four members shared singing duties —Hoffs, sisters Vicki and Debi Peterson and Michael Steele—Hoffs’ sultry looks turned her into their defacto lead singer, especially on videos like “Manic Monday,” “Walk Like an Egyptian” (despite three lead singers), “In Your Room” and “Eternal Flame.”
The fall has always meant the beginning of a new school year and the time when the broadcast networks introduce their new slate of shows, unlike their cable brethren who roll out new programs throughout the year, including the once verboten summer. Here is a look at what is in store for us. Sadly those one-time network staples, game shows and variety programs, continue to be missing.
NBC In the 1950s a chimpanzee named J. Fred Muggs helped make the Today Show the morning broadcast icon that it still is today. The Peacock Network, which has been languishing in the ratings for years, is hoping that a capuchin monkey named Crystal can do the same thing for its primetime lineup this fall, as she, along with comedian Justin Kirk, will star in Animal Practice, a show set in New York about an unorthodox veterinarian. Also co-starring is the wife of Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher, Joanna Garcia.
Matthew Perry, who was one of the stars of NBC’s all-time biggest hits, Friends, returns as a snarky radio sports talk show host in Go On. The good news is that the role is tailor-made for Perry. The bad news is that it looks identical to his last effort, Mr. Sunshine, which bombed on ABC.
It is not officially a television season unless there is a new JJ Abrams-produced series, and this year’s entry from him is Revolution, a post-apocalyptic drama about survivors in the alte 21st century coping in a world without electricity. NBC execs are praying that fans of his old series, Lost, will quickly become hooked on this show.
NBC has had some success (measured by their low expectations) with Parenthood, so it’s new sitcom about a trio of young fathers who are friends, Guys With Kids, starring Anthony Anderson. Yes, any resemblance to the popular ‘80s Three Men And A Baby film series, is quite deliberate.
If any of these new shows fail to click, NBC is promising or threatening (depending on your viewpoint) to add, Next Caller, starring the once-hot comedian Dane Cook as a radio shock jock who is forced to take on a new female co-host by station executives. The clip shown at NBC’s Upfront presentation last May did not look very enticing.
CBS The Tiffany Network absorbs digs from comics and rival network executives because even though it has long been the ratings champion, its audience skews older than its competitors. CBS is so strong that even the shows that it has canceled, CSI Miami (which starred Forest Hills’ own David Caruso), and a police procedural that took place in Queens, Unforgettable, would have been considered smash hits on other networks. Unforgettable was a Top 20 show and CBS programmers are promising to bring it back next summer as a way of luring back viewers from cable.
Coming up from “The Eye” (to use Variety Magazine lingo) will be a buddy comedy, Partners, concerning two childhood best friends, one gay and the other straight. (David Krumholz, who grew up in Forest Hills, is one of the stars), and yet another spin on Sherlock Holmes, Elementary, which co-stars Jackson Heights denizen Lucy Liu as a female Dr. Watson. It’s hard to get excited for a new Friday night entry, Made In Jersey, about an earthy new associate (newcomer Janet Montgomery) at a stuffy white-shoe law that sounds like a TV version of the 1988 Melanie Griffith film, Working Girl.
FOXHouse may be history but The Simpsons and American Idol remain solid programming tent poles for FOX. Last year they scored big with Zooey Deschanel’s The New Girl and this fall they are trying to repeat that comedic success with Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project.
Kevin Bacon will make his TV debut this coming January as a detective trying to track down an escaped serial killer who he arrested years ago in The Following, while this fall Jordana Spiro stars as a surgeon whose family is indebted to organized crime in the Sopranos-inspired The Mob Doctor.
In what seems like an annual tradition with American Idol, there will a change in the judges’ chairs this spring as Mariah Carey takes Jennifer Lopez’s seat in an even exchange of divas. Steven Tyler announced that he will be leaving as well. Preceding Idol this fall however will be the second season of Simon Cowell’s X Factor which did not deliver the ratings numbers that the acerbic former AI personality promised.
Two singers who have had more than their share of personal problems, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, will be judges this season. This could be a train wreck in the making for FOX.
While NBC’s woes have long garnered notoriety, ABC has also fallen on hard times. Desperate Housewives just ended its run while Grey’s Anatomy is getting very long in the tooth. Shows such as Castle, Happy Endings, and Don’t Trust The B– In Apartment 23 have generated some buzz but ho-hum ratings at best.
The "Alphabet Network" (to cite Variety again) will be banking heavily on a new drama about a tony apartment building with a fancy address whose tenants are from another planet unbeknownst to the outside world. 666 Park Avenue sounds like bizarre joke about one-percenters.
ABC is offering two series with country music themes. Nashville, starring Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton, is a drama about a backbiting musical family in the vein of Dallas (which been revived to success this summer on cable TNT) but with the gold albums taking the place of oil. Real life country music star Reba McEntire stars as a destitute Nashville entertainer who relocates her family to LA’s most famous beachfront community in the hopes of a new start in Malibu Country.
CW The lone CW show which draws viewers, Gossip Girl, concludes this fall. Last year’s much hyped Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle, Ringer, flopped so badly that it got canceled. This is a rare occurrence for the CW considering programs that no one watches as Nikita, 90210" and America’s Next Top Model are all coming back.
CW president Mark Pedowitz is putting most of his chips on a Sex And The City prequel called The Carrie Diaries that stars Anna Sophia Robb (who played Bethany Hamilton who lost her right arm to a shark while tackling the waves in the 2011 film, Soul Surfer) stars as the younger version of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw character.
The CW may finally be getting away from its image as a destination for 12 year-old girls as it will have a DC Comics action show, Arrow on its fall schedule. Meryl Streep’s daughter, Mamie Gummer, is the title character of Emily Owens, MD a drama about a young doctor who discovers that being a resident in a snooty hospital is similar to the social pecking order in her high school.
The CW Network is a joint venture between CBS and Time Warner. Rumors are flying that the two entertainment behemoths may agree to pull the plug on the CW unless there is a dramatic upturn in the Nielsens.
Daytime While primetime shows get the glitz, daytime programming has long been the most profitable part of the networks’ schedules. Talk shows have replaced most soap operas and game shows at ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. Survivor host Jeff Probst will be trying his hand at being a talk show host while two veterans at the genre, Steve Harvey and Ricki Lake, will be hoping to duplicate past success with new syndicated offerings.
The most notable talk show newcomer will be former Today co-host and CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, who is hoping to have better luck than her predecessor Jane Pauley had with this format. ABC canceled the long-running All My Children to clear real estate for Katie.
Late Night Jay Leno, David Letterman, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon won’t be facing new competition this year but Arsenio Hall is planning a syndicated comeback show next September. NBC’s Saturday Night Live begins its 38th season but it will do so without stalwart cast members Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg who are devoting their time to making films.
With fall in the works and the cultural frenzy that comes with it, fans of classic Italian cinema will want to mark their calendars for October 23, 7:30 pm. That’s when the vintage Avon Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut is set to screen The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.
Jointly presented with JCC Greenwich and the Italian Cultural Insititute of New York, this Critic's Choice showing is a rare opportunity to catch legendary director Vittorio De Sica (The Bicycle Thief) at the top of his game. Finzi-Continis won the 1971 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
You'll bask in the lush setting, the ripe score, the dreamy ambiance. But you won't want to get too comfortable. The fate awaiting our beautiful and privileged protagonists is no less than an expulsion from Eden.
Inspired by a real family, the Finzi-Continis are Jewish owners of a gracious manor house cloistered from the outside by high walls, luxuriant grounds and the tranquility of a gentler era. There's even a 500-year-old tree that the Borgias may have planted. The adult children, elegant Micòl (Dominique Sanda) and Alberto (Helmut Berger), entertain their friends with endless rounds of tennis and picnics, as befits their carefree aristocratic life in Ferrara, Italy.
Yet it’s 1938 and the close of an epoch stretching back to the Middle Ages that has granted the local Jewish community a modicum of communal protections. Leave it to the less affluent and cushioned co-religionists to detect the writing on the wall as, one by one, social prerogatives become increasingly off-limits.
One such middle-class landsman is Giorgio (Lino Capolicchio), who is mortified by Mussolini’s edicts. A friend of the family, he has loved Micòl since their youth, and imagines that she reciprocates his affections. Micòl, however, is busy carrying on with Giorgio’s Gentile friend Bruno Malnate (Fabio Testi), a manly jock who’s soon to enter the armed forces.
Recent racial purity decrees forbid Jews from doing just that -- serving in the military -- as well as from marrying non-Jews, attending public schools, being listed in the phone directory and engaging Aryan servants. These restrictions seem to occur beyond the pale of the Finzi-Continis. As Giorgio's father notes, “They are different. They don't even seem to be Jewish." Yet no amount of wealth, standing, credentials or obliviousness could shield the victims of Fascism from its intensifying thrust.
A surprising footnote here is that anti-Semitism was not part of the Italian Fascist platform during Mussolini’s first 15 or so years in power. According to Giorgio Bassani -- author of the 1962 autobiographical novel on which the film is based -- most of the Ferrarese Jewish community held party membership until Nazi ideology invaded Italy.
Bassani, who also collaborated on the film's screenplay, helped De Sica imagine the looming sense of loss that the community struggled with in the years leading up to and during the war. In 1943, after northern Italy was occupied by Nazi forces, Ferrara’s small Jewish community was sent to the concentration camps; only one of its 183 deportees came home.
De Sica looks back and forward on history, showing the specter of tragedy through the characters' unfolding awareness. Painting with symbols, he equates the safe, idyllic gardens of the Finzi-Contini palazzo with the past. Similarly, Giorgio represents an innocent childhood bond for Micòl, allowing her to tolerate him as a platonic relationship. Yet to regard him as a romantic partner would mean swapping yesterday for tomorrow, an altogether too frightening notion in her vulnerable state of denial.
Following the October screening, Columbia University professor Alexander Stille will shed light on these and other key issues explored in this film of unusual power and merit.
For tickets and information, contact jccgreenwich.org or (203) 552-1818.
Avon Theatre272 Bedford StreetStamford, CT 06901 avontheatre.org
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