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ICYMI: The "Good Wife" finale announcement

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 8, 2016


The promo above aired during the Super Bowl and certainly had me going, "Wait! What?" But this is no joke. BTW, the network says there are nine episodes left, which indicates there will be some reruns or pre-emptions before the finale on May 8. But here's the complete official word:

CBS today (Sunday) announced the series finale of THE GOOD WIFE in dramatic fashion with a special promotional spot broadcast during Super Bowl 50 touting the show’s final nine episodes. The series finale of broadcast television’s most acclaimed drama will air Sunday, May 8 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT).

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Some Super Bowl commercial favorites

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 8, 2016

Can't decide which I liked better, the aside about the "biggest caucus" or the weed-friendly "America has seen the light ... and there's a bud in front of it."I wish there was a version of this for cable allowing Mirren to call drunk drivers "assholes," although she leaves no doubt that's what she means. One of my friends thinks the ad is a mixed message, condemning drunk driving while having Mirren hoist one at the end. But hey, she probably has a limo. Some other enjoyable bits.

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Happy knighthood, Sir Van Morrison

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 5, 2016

Yes, the prolific singer, songwriter and blues interpreter has gotten the right to be called "Sir Van." In his honor, a few faves from the repertoire, starting with one my boys used to call "Tea in China" when they were young and I sang this as a lullaby.

And there's this one for my bride:

 Van with the Chieftains for this melancholy beauty.

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Two clips: a weird interview and why it matters

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 4, 2016

You may already have seen former WOIO reporter Chris Van Vliet's encounter with Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann. If not, here it is:

This might strike you as either playful or irritating, or simply the latest demonstration of Van Vliet's looks as a component of his fame. (During his Cleveland tenure, he was getting national notice via the likes of Cosmopolitan's "bachelor of the year" competition.) The exchange has sure been getting watched and talked about for several days now. But the clip also raises the issues of gender politics, which more than one commentator has mentioned,. and of interview control, especially when it comes to short sessions on promotional trips for TV. Check out the Girls On Film discussion, then look at the clip again in that context.

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"Cop Rock" coming to DVD

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 4, 2016


"Cop Rock" was not the first show to demonstrate that Steven Bochco was mortal. The man then known for the widely praised (and still great) "Hill Street Blues" had stumbled in 1983 with "Bay City Blues," a very short-lived drama about life on a minor-league baseball team. But, with the success of "Hill Street" and "L.A. Law" (which began in 1986), he was a major player in TV, the kind that ABC wanted in its tent. That led to an exclusive deal with the network in 1987, one in which it was clear that Bochco could present just about anything he wanted and the network would say, "OK."

It did so for the John Ritter dramedy "Hooperman" beginning in 1987 and another dramedy, "Doogie Howser, MD," in 1989 -- and then this, hubris of an unforgettable sort. Very much in keeping with the blending of music and grit that Dennis Potter had been writing overseas (particularly the TV versions of "Pennies From Heaven" and "The Singing Detective"), "Cop Rock" wanted to turn police-show TV tropes on their ear. (See the clip above for an example.) But doing so is tougher than it looks; compare the Bob Hoskins "Pennies" to the big-screen Steve Martin version, for example. And where Potter used old recordings in his work, Bochco sought original songs. The result was, and is, a jaw-dropping mess. It lasted just a few months. Bochco would have other successes. But not with this.

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Man, I hate this guy

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 4, 2016

My ranking of the Oscar best-actor nominees

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 4, 2016

Notes first: All five nominees gave perfectly acceptable performances, which is not exactly a ringing Oscar endorsement. But I can't say I was dazzled by any of this work.

I rank Leonardo DiCaprio first in part because, yes, he's due, and that matters more in a year where you can't point to someone else and say firmly, "But look at that guy!" Also, he's damn good in the movie even when you get past the crawling and whimpering and the bear scene and the raw-fish-biting. He more than meets the challenge of being revenge-obsessive without losing a sense of vulnerability.

As for Eddie Redmayne, he was better in "The Theory of Everything" (where he won) and I have some larger issues with "The Danish Girl" regarding how it views gender (as well as how it modifies the real story on which it is based). There's too much of the stunt in his performance, where his Hawking felt real.

Bryan Cranston makes a compelling Dalton Trumbo but part of me thinks he is still riding a critical-acclaim wave for his brilliant work in "Breaking Bad" (not to mention, for those who were paying attention, all that he did on "Malcolm in the MIddle"); "BB" was one of those shows that even movies-are-better-than-TV snobs had to admit they admire. And there is that moment in "Trumbo" where he sees his name onscreen for the first time since the blacklist began that's, well, pretty terrific.

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My ranking of the best-picture Oscar nominees

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 2, 2016

This is a strange year in that I admired to varying degrees all the nominees. That's not to say I thought they were all best-picture worthy. "Brooklyn" is nice enough, even with some questionable narrative choices in the second half, but I preferred "The End of the Tour." If I do a list of movies you might love that Oscar didn't, "Tour" is on it. 

But, because I liked these movies, ranking them was not too easy, both at the top and the bottom of the list. I topped with "Room" because it affected me the most deeply in an emotional way, regardless of the Akron connection. But I would not object to either "Spotlight" (which topped "The Big Short" because of my journalism ties) or "The Big Short" winning best picture. Anyway, here's the list:

1. "Room"

2. "Spotlight"

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A conversation that could have happened last night ...

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 2, 2016

"Mr. Trump, you have lost the Iowa caucus."

"Oh, I don't think so."

"No, sir, the votes are in and you finiished second to Cruz."

"No, you're wrong. I don't lose."

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O.J. and me

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 2, 2016

You may have seen my review of the new OJ Simpson drama, which begins tonight on FX. (If not, you can link to it here.) But that barely begins to explain how OJ infiltrated our lives, including mine. When I look back over the years, OJ keeps cropping up.

I first saw him in the flesh in the ’70s while taking part in an arts festival in upstate New York. They put us participants up at a nearby college which also happened to be the Buffalo Bills training camp. Walking across campus one day, I saw OJ in the company of a couple of women. I was a fan but did not approach; his expression was distinctly unwelcoming.

It was a more affable OJ I would see later, as a TV critic, when he was working for ABC on Monday Night Football. In fact, he even seemed something of a victim at one press conference, shortly after Howard Cosell had released his book I Never Played The Game. The book was a bridge-burner for Cosell, belittling ABC and his former MNF colleagues, including Simpson. OJ tried to be pleasant about it – Frank Gifford I remember as more clearly angry – but you could not help but think he had been hurt.

Then there was 1994.

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