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Last month the various broadcast networks introduced their new prime time shows to advertisers and the media at events that are called “upfronts” in the trade. Here is a look at what CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and the CW have in store for us this fall.
CBS remains the most watched television network in the world and therefore has fewer slots for new programs. Its chief executive officer, Leslie Moonves, is hoping that new shows slated for this September will do better than the quickly cancelled “Made In Jersey” and “Partners” did last fall.
Robin Williams is returning to television after a very successful film career as an advertising executive in the “The Crazy Ones.” Anna Faris, a sexy comedy actress whose film career never caught fire, makes her first attempt at a TV series as a single mother who is also a recovering alcoholic in “Mom.”
Will Arnett is a very funny guy who is respected by his comedy peers but for some reason he has never found a television show that has struck a chord with the masses. The legendary “Arrested Development,” which has been revived on Netflix, is his biggest claim to fame. CBS is hoping that Arnett’s bad luck with the Nielsen ratings will change with “The Millers” in which he replays a recently divorced man.
CBS is banking on a tense drama, “Hostages,” starring Dylan McDermott and Toni Collette. The trailer is designed to make you bite your nails but “Hostages” would seem to be better off as a mini-series than as a weekly one.
The decline of “American Idol” was a key reason for Fox garnering less than stellar ratings last season. Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly can’t count on his network’s old standby to save the day any longer and is investing in a number of new shows.
Seth MacFarlane is responsible for a number of Fox’s successful animated shows over the years including “Family Guy,” and he is trying his hand at his first live action comedy with a project called “Dads” that stars Seth Green, Peter Riegert and Martin Mull. From the laugh-free segment that I saw it seems as if Fox picked up the series as a favor to MacFarlane.
Two other comedies, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” starring former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Andy Samberg, and “Enlisted,” an army comedy in the Stripes mold, don’t look like winners either.
On a more upbeat note for Fox, “Rake” starring Greg Kinnear as a reprobate lawyer, and “Sleepy Hollow,” which transports some of the characters of the Washington Irving classic novel to the 21st century, appear promising.
Things have gotten so bad for the Peacock Network that it lagged behind Univision in terms of eyeballs during the February ratings sweeps. It is no wonder that NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt received tepid applause when he was introduced at the NBC Upfront held at Radio City Music Hall.
Greenblatt was able to coax Michael J. Fox to return to his network in an eponymous show in which he stars a WNBC anchorman who has Parkinson’s Disease, something that Fox has valiantly battled in real life. The five-minute preview was warmly received as was the snippet of “The Blacklist,” starring James Spader in what appears to be a knock-off of Silence of the Lambs A reboot of “Ironside” with Blair Underwood taking over the role made famous by Raymond Burr also created buzz.
On the other hand, how can NBC greenlight “Welcome to the Family,” a comedy about teen pregnancy with ugly ethnic stereotypes to boot?
The Alphabet Network, to use Variety Magazine lingo, is in the same ratings-challenged boat as NBC. ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee is throwing a lot of things at the wall in the hopes that something will stick. The best of the lot seem to be “The Goldbergs,” an ‘80s version of “The Wonder Years”; “Super Fun Night,” starring Australian comedy actress Rebel Wilson; and an action series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
For a network few have watched since “Gossip Girl” departed, the CW is sticking with most of its programs that have been ignored over the years such as “America’s Next Top Model” and “Nikita.” One new offering will be “Reign,” a drama about a young Mary Queen of Scots.
Renee Fleming—Vienna: Window to Modernity
Watching Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington is safer than covering combat, but the new HBO documentary by author, journalist and filmmaker Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm) is not danger-free. It contains images of maimed bodies that may haunt you on a dark night.
But it also reminds you why you must miss the empathic British war photographer/filmmaker terribly. On April 20, 2011, scant weeks after his and Junger’s chronicle of American soldiers in Afghanistan, Restrepo, was nominated for an Oscar, tall, lanky Hetherington was felled by mortar during the siege of Misrata, Libya. He was 40 years old.
Which Way highlights his award-winning ten-year career in such hotspots as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Afghanistan. None of this objective journalism stuff for Hetherington. He jumped right into the soup, asked personal questions, took stances and didn't hesitate to protect lives. Stills, footage and commentary give a glimpse into the singular choices he made both behind and beyond his lens. The film’s title comments on Hetherington’s artistic compass no less than on his war zone reporting.
At a preview screening presented by HBO and the Foreign Press Association, Junger reflected on his film and much-lamented friend. Hetherington plainly excelled at his craft, but it's just as clear that, given the choice between getting the shot or engaging humanity, he’d have happily walked away empty-handed, recalled Junger.
“The point wasn’t the photography; the point was what he was doing with this other human being, and as a result, he got great photos.” The medium wasn’t the message for Hetherington. “He used video; he used audio, exhibits in studios; I think he would’ve used crayons if he could’ve gotten away with it to tell stories,” Junger mused.
FilmFestivalTraveler.com chimed in with a few questions.
Q: Your film has a lot of close-ups. How did Tim’s aesthetic and principle of human engagement influence your filmmaking and your aesthetic choices?
SJ: One thing I noticed with Tim in (Afganistan’s) Korangal Valley: we were each shooting video (for Restrepo) and had very different styles. You could always tell his footage because it very often starts in very close up; he grabs the focus and then he pulls out. What he was doing was sort of utilitarian, but it’s really quite lovely stylistically. It really gave me a taste for that. I hadn’t noticed (my close-ups in Which Way), but maybe unconsciously…
Q: How did you match music and image, and how did you avoid being maudlin?
SJ: You need a light touch. You don’t want to force people to have emotions because you’re covering them with music. You have to let people come to the music. I wanted something that was somber but not dispirited. Tim was a very joyful person. I wanted a few slightly Middle Eastern themes in there. Also there are moments where it’s more sounds than music. I wanted not quite sound design, not quite a thumping heartbeat, but something more atmospheric than a score.
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