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Rich and the movies: 'Non-Stop'

By Ohio.com Published: February 28, 2014

This week Beacon Journal pop culture writer Rich Heldenfels checks out Non-Stop, the latest action movie from Liam Neeson.

 

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Mixed notes

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 27, 2014

I have been busy with a few other things of late, so posts have been less frequent than I hoped. You may have seen my interviews with "Nebraska's" June Squibb or with "About a Boy's" David Walton, I also have a Ray Wise interview in the can, and it is now online. And today's mailbag is here.

Jim Lange, best known for hosting "The Dating Game," has died. One obit is here.

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RIP, Harold Ramis

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 24, 2014

Nutty ideas for our time: "Heroes" coming back

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 24, 2014

FYI, y'all, I was sick Friday and much of Saturday, which may explain some of the oldish news you are seeing here today. But it's still info of note, including NBC's plan to bring back a series that started well and then was almost unwatchable in its second season. Sure, bad things can happen to good series -- "Friday Night Lights" stumbled in its second season before recovering, "Joan of Arcadia" had a bad second season and never had the chance to recover in the third. But "Heroes," which ran three seasons, went so far in the dumper, it gave me no reason to return.

Anyway, as a friend of mine liked to say, your mileage may differ. And NBC apparently thinks there are enough "Heroes" holdovers to try it again. The offficial word:\

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"DWTS" sets date for new cast announcement; Erin Andrews replacing Robo-Brooke, new bandleader

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 24, 2014

The official word: This season’s exciting new cast of “Dancing with the Stars” will be revealed live, TUESDAY, MARCH 4 exclusively on “Good Morning America” (7:00-9:00 a.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. The competition begins with an all new cast of celebrities who will brave the dance floor for the very first time. Each week these celebrities will leave their comfort zones and endure hours of grueling rehearsals to master technical choreography and entertaining performances. In the end, only one star will rise above the rest to be crowned champion and win the coveted mirror-ball trophy.

Erin Andrews joins “Dancing with the Stars” as host alongside Emmy-Award Winner® Tom Bergeron for its 18th season premiering MONDAY, MARCH 17 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET). No stranger to the ballroom, Andrews competed on the 10th season of “Dancing with the Stars” making it all the way to the finals.

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Cinematheque sets showings of three Rossellini/Bergman films

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 20, 2014

The official word: Three celebrated postwar Italian film classics directed by Roberto Rossellini and starring Ingrid Bergman will show between March 1 and 16 at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, 11141 East Boulevard in University Circle. The films—STROMBOLI (1949), EUROPA ’51 (1952), and VOYAGE TO ITALY (1954)—are widely regarded as masterpieces of spiritual cinema, and are generally seen as a trilogy (sometimes called the “Voyage Trilogy”) or trinity. All three will be shown in new digital restorations.

 

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"Orange is the New Black" coming to DVD, Blu-ray

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 20, 2014

The official word: Golden Globe® nominee Taylor Schilling stars in acclaimed original comedy, Orange Is The New Black - Season One, available on Blu-ray Disc (plus Digital HD UltraViolet), and DVD (plus Digital UltraViolet) May 13 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The series will also be available on Digital HD one week early on May 6. To discuss editorial opportunities beyond product reviews, please contact Sean Marier at Sean_Marier@bhimpact.com

Every sentence has a story in the smash hit series Orange Is The New Black - Season One arriving on Blu-ray Disc (plus Digital HD UltraViolet), and DVD (plus Digital UltraViolet) May 13 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The series will be available on Digital HD one week prior on May 6.  Hailed by critics as "magnificent and thoroughly engrossing" (Washington Post), the hugely popular dark comedy from "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan broke viewing records for its premiere season. Starring Taylor Schilling (Argo, Stay) in a Golden Globe nominated performance, Orange Is The New Black also won "TV Program Of The Year" from the American Film Institute (AFI).

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Point well made, Mr. Hall

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 19, 2014

Sam Champion's Weather Channel show coming in March

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 19, 2014

The former "Good Morning America" weatherman has jumped to the Weather Channel,  partly owned by NBCUniversal, where he will host a show that will run opposite "GMA" in much of the country. But, as someone who wanted the Weather Channel for, you know, weather -- and who drifted away because of "Wake Up With Al" and other programs -- I don't see this as enticing me back.

The official word: The Weather Channel, the world's leading weather authority, is set to premiere its new flagship live morning show “AMHQ with Sam Champion” on Monday, March 17. The series will air weekdays from 7:00-10:00 a.m. ET. The Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning weather anchor, who also serves as managing editor, will anchor the three-hour weekday show alongside a team of co-hosts that includes meteorologists Maria LaRosa and Mike Bettes live from The Weather Channel headquarters in Atlanta. Champion, who spent a combined 25 years at ABC’s flagship O&O WABC-TV and “Good Morning America,” will serve as a trusted source viewers can depend on to forecast the day ahead.

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"Desolation of Smaug" DVD/Blu-ray plans

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 19, 2014

The official word: Adventures abound as Bilbo, Gandalf and the Company of Dwarves continue their Quest through Middle-earth in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), arriving onto Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD on April 8 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, is directed by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, who also produces together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh.  “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was the number one 2013 home entertainment title across physical and digital accounts in the U.S. ...

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” will be available on Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack for $105.43, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack for $44.95, Blu-ray Combo Pack for $35.99 and 2-disc DVD Special Edition for $28.98.  The Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack includes two Gates of Erebor replica bookends from the Noble Collection and features the theatrical version of the film in 3D hi-definition, hi-definition and standard definition; only 25,000 will be available in the U.S. The Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack features the theatrical version of the film in 3D hi-definition, hi-definition and standard definition; the Blu-ray Combo Pack features the theatrical version of the film in hi-definition on Blu-ray; and the DVD features the theatrical version in standard definition.  All versions include a digital version of the movie on Digital HD with UltraViolet.* Fans can also own “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” in Digital HD on April 8 via purchase from digital retailers. ...

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Elton John's Vegas show to be presented in movie theaters

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 19, 2014

A list of participating area theaters is at the end. The official word: On Tuesday, March 18 and Wednesday, March 26 at 7:00 p.m. local time, Fathom Events, CinemaLive and Rocket Music Entertainment Group will take U.S. moviegoers on a Las Vegas VIP experience for a hit-filled cinema event, “Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano."

 Recorded at the iconic Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the legendary Sir Elton John performs his entire, critically-acclaimed concert, including a playlist of his greatest hits including “Rocket Man,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “I’m Still Standing,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Your Song.” Fans will also be treated to an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and ranks at No. 91 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

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"Warehouse 13": Getting ready for the end

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 18, 2014

Mixed notes

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 18, 2014

How's your day? Mine started before dawn with the snow blower. Every time it seems that we are easing out of winter, we get smacked again. Such fun.

In today's Beacon Journal and on Ohio.com, is my piece about "Questioning Darwin," a documentary that is airing on HBO. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are Akron people interviewed in it; I was able to talk to a local pastor who is in the program, as well as with its director.

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Cleveland film festival sets opening-night movie

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 17, 2014

The official word: The 38th Cleveland International Film Festival, presented by Dollar Bank, is proud to announce that its Opening Night film on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 will be NOT ANOTHER HAPPY ENDING. 

 

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"Questioning Darwin" includes Akron-area questioners (updated)

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 14, 2014

There are stories that come slowly, and one of them is about "Questioning Darwin," a documentary currently airing on HBO. Upcoming telecasts include 11 a.m. Sunday on HBO East (and 2 p.m. on HBO West), with still more in the following days.

The documentary about Charles Darwin, how he came to his ideas on evolution, and people who disagree with those ideas draws on people, including academics and clergy, to look at the issues.  Those who favor  the Biblical account of creation over Darwin's include staff members from Hudson-based at Christ Community Chapel.

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CBS sets "Unforgettable" return, "Bad Teacher" premiere

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 14, 2014

The official word: CBS has given mid-season premiere dates to the new comedy BAD TEACHER and returning drama UNFORGETTABLE.

Additionally, Thursday night comedies THE CRAZY ONES and TWO AND A HALF MEN will switch time periods, beginning Feb. 27.

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New "Cosmos" to air on billions and billions of channels

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 14, 2014

Well, a lot anyway. The official word:

Fox Networks Group (FNG) announced today that COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY will debut simultaneously across multiple U.S. Fox networks, including Fox Broadcasting Company (FOX), National Geographic Channel, FX, FXX, FXM, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo and FOX Life on Sunday, March 9 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT). This first multi-network launch event for Fox Networks Group, along with the series debut on Fox International Channels and National Geographic Channels International, will make COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY available on 220 channels in 181 countries, with an overall footprint of more than half a billion homes.

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RIP, Ralph Waite

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 13, 2014

CW renews five series for next season, including "Arrow," "Reign," "Supernatural"

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 13, 2014

The official word, complete with ratings minutiae (some of which is relatively minute):

The CW Network has ordered early pickups for the 2014-15 season for its hit series ARROW, REIGN, THE ORIGINALS, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and SUPERNATURAL,which will be returning for itstenth season next fall.  The series pickups were announced today by Mark Pedowitz, President, The CW.

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"Drop Dead Diva's" final season begins in March

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 13, 2014

The official word: All will finally be revealed in the final season of Lifetime’s critically-acclaimed hit series Drop Dead Diva(#DropDeadDiva), premiering Sunday, March 23, at 9pm ET/PT with a special two-hour premiere.  Starring Brooke Elliott and Emmy Award nominee Margaret Cho, Drop Dead Diva follows the story of shallow model Deb who suddenly dies in an accident only to find her soul resurfacing in the body of a brilliant, plus-sized attorney, Jane.  Colin Egglesfield (The Client List), Virginia Williams (How I Met Your Mother) and Corbin Bleu (High School Musical) guest star in the season opener, while Grammy winner Rick Springfield will make an appearance and perform later this season, along with Jay DeMarcus from Rascal Flatts.  Golden Globe and Emmy winner S. Epatha Merkerson also reprises her role as Judge Hiller, while Emmy nominee John Ratzenberger returns as Kim’s father, Larry Kaswell.

 

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Comcast/Time Warner: the boilerplate

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 13, 2014

Lots of questions about the merger of the two cable giants, and it may be some time before we get answers. Here's the announcement of the merger:

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) today announced that their Boards of Directors have approved a definitive agreement for Time Warner Cable to merge with Comcast. The agreement is a friendly, stock-for-stock transaction in which Comcast will acquire 100 percent of Time Warner Cable’s 284.9 million shares outstanding for shares of CMCSA amounting to approximately $45.2 billion in equity value. Each Time Warner Cable share will be exchanged for 2.875 shares of CMCSA, equal to Time Warner Cable shareholders owning approximately 23 percent of Comcast’s common stock, with a value to Time Warner Cable shareholders of approximately $158.82 per share based on the last closing price of Comcast shares. The transaction will generate approximately $1.5 billion in operating efficiencies and will be accretive to Comcast’s free cash flow per share while preserving balance sheet strength. The merger will also be tax free to Time Warner Cable shareholders.

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RIP, Sid Caesar

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 12, 2014

Here's an appreciation of Sid, and a memory of seeing him, which I wrote for tomorrow's print editions:

In 2001, a 78-year-old Sid Caesar walked onto the stage in a Pasadena, Calif., hotel to accept an award from the Television Critics Association for his career achievements,

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Latest "Gotham" casting

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 12, 2014

The planned Fox series, which explores life in a pre-Batman Gotham City through the eyes of a young Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie, "Southland," "The OC") has added Donal Logue. Here's the official word, with casting catch-up:

Donal Logue (Sons of Anarchy, Vikings, Copper) has been cast as Detective Harvey Bullock in FOX and Warner Bros. Television’s one-hour drama project GOTHAM, which has a series commitment at the network.

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Missing the Honey Badger?

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 12, 2014

PBS's "Nature" series has a new HB special airing on Feb. 19 (consult local listings). And it is promising that Randall, the guy who did the voiceover for the viral "Honey Badger Don't Care" video in 2011, will be posting a new video on his website in connection with the show.

 

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"Army Wives" farewell retrospective coming in March

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 12, 2014

The official word: After seven tours of duty, Lifetime celebrates the legacy of its longest-running series with the two-hour special, Army Wives: A Final Salute, premiering Sunday, March 16, at 9pm ET/PT.  The retrospective provides a look back at the program with members of the cast and production team as they come together for a final heartfelt goodbye to Army Wives.

 

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Complete "Wonder Years" coming to DVD -- at last

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 12, 2014

Local TV changes coming

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 11, 2014

Two major figures in local broadcasting announced plans to move on Tuesday,
Longtime local TV anchor and personality Robin Swoboda said she will leave WKYC (Channel 3) when her contract is done at the end of February. And Bill Applegate, general manager of WOIO (Channel 19) and WUAB (Channel 43), has told staff he will retire in April.

In a Facebook post Swoboda said, “My last day at Channel 3 will be 2/28. It is my choice so it’s all good. Now I can go to high school football games, happy hours and Bible studies — not necessarily in that order.”

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"Catching Fire" DVD/Blu-ray plans

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 11, 2014

Hugh Jackman returns as Tonys host

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 11, 2014

Video: Remembering Shirley Temple

By Ohio.com Published: February 11, 2014

Beacon Journal pop culture writer Rich Heldenfels reflects on the life and career of iconic child star Shirley Temple.

 

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"The Great Divorce" stage tour coming to Cleveland

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 11, 2014

The play is based on the book of the same name by C.S. Lewis, which I read several times when younger, and which has a strong following among the admirers of Lewis's Christian-themed writings. The official word:

Max McLean, Artistic Director of Fellowship for the Performing Arts, announces that C.S. Lewis’ THE GREAT DIVORCE will be presented at the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square, 1511 Euclid Ave. in Cleveland, on Friday, March 14 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, March 15 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.  This journey to Heaven and Hell is a provocative exploration of human nature, featuring vivid characters drawn with Lewis’ trademark wit. 

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Songwriters Hall of Fame names new inductees

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 11, 2014

RIP, Shirley Temple Black

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 11, 2014

The actress, who rose to fame as a child star and found a second career in diplomacy, has died. She was 85. The Washington Post obituary is here. New York Times is here. Los Angeles Times is here.

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Ken Burns launches an app

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 10, 2014

The app, by the way, is free. Some content is free. Complete content will cost you $9.99. Here's the official word:

The Ken Burns App, launched for iPad on February 10, 2014, sets the stage for an innovative look at more than two centuries of American history from a curated look at selected excerpts from the entire library of Ken Burns and Florentine Films programs seen on PBS stations nationwide.  The app can be found in the Apple app store at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ken-burns/id723854283?mt=8

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FX sets breaks for "Archer," "Chozen," "Justifed" against the Winter Olympics

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 10, 2014

The official word: FX Networks’ original series Archer and Chozen will be on hiatus for two weeks, beginning February 10, due to the Winter Olympic Games.

Archer will return with the new episode “Archer Vice: Southbound and Down” airing Monday, February 24 at 10:00 PM ET/PT only on FX.

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Weekend notebook

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 8, 2014

Some recent items you may find of interest ....

For Sunday's Beacon Journal, I talked about the Beatles' debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show," which was 50 years ago. I saw the show -- I was 12 -- but the piece is more than a reminscence.

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Goodbye, "X Factor"

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 7, 2014

Fox is saying that Simon Cowell's involvement with the U.K. version of the program and his other projects, which of course is not to be believed. The show never met the bold promises Cowell made before it aired; the search for a perfect combo of judges was unsuccessful; the contestants were often blah, the presentation ludicrous and -- most important of all -- the ratings just weren't good. But here's the official word:

The award-winning international phenomenon THE X FACTOR has concluded its domestic run after three seasons, it was announced today by Syco, FremantleMedia North America and Fox Broadcasting Company (FOX).

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For your video amusement

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 7, 2014

Malcolm X Abram and I talk about various controversies and boost Coca-Cola and Cheerios.

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Rich and the movies: 'The Monuments Men'

By Ohio.com Published: February 7, 2014

This week, Beacon Journal pop culture writer Rich Heldenfels takes a look at The Monuments Men. It's a movie he wanted to like, but has mixed feelings about it.

 

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Goodbye, Jay -- See you on the road

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 7, 2014

Last night brought Jay Leno's most recent farewell from "The Tonight Show" and, it would seem, his last one. He may come back as a guest -- Jimmy Fallon certainly left the door open for that -- but Jay's 20-plus-year run as host is over. Even if Fallon tanks miserably in the ratings, can you see NBC admitting yet again that it erred in removing Leno -- or would Leno even want to be NBC's default position again? I don't think he is done with TV, but for a while you may be more likely to find him on the standup trail he has walked for so long.

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Will "Big Bang Theory" be delayed next fall?

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 5, 2014

As you may have heard, CBS has made a deal for a package of Thursday-night football telecasts beginning this fall. (I have posted the full announcement below.) But the immediate question for some TV fans was: What will happen to CBS"s Thursday shows, and especially the big hit "The Big Bang Theory"?

Obviously, CBS could move its best shows to other nights, and figure the audience would follow. But another possibility is that, because the football package is only for the early part of the season, the network will simply delay Thursday shows' launch until November.

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Ohio State museum gets "Dick Tracy" collection

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 5, 2014

The official word: The family of the late Dick Tracy cartoonist Chester Gould has donated a substantial collection of originalDick Tracy comic strips and related materials to The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (BICLM). Gould wrote and drew Dick Tracy, one of the most popular and successful newspaper comic strips of all time, from 1931 until his retirement in 1977.

Chester Gould’s daughter, Jean Gould O’Connell, along with her son Tracy O’Connell and daughter Sue Sanders, made the decision to gift the Chester Gould Collection to Ohio State. The collection consists of more than 850 original Dick Tracy comic strips along with 64 original Sunday strips. Highlights include the original art for the first 30 days of the strip and Gould’s drawing board on which Dick Tracy was created, written and drawn for 46 years.

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"Psych" ends -- permanently -- in March

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 5, 2014

The current, eighth season is the last. The official word:

USA announced today that its original scripted comedy series PSYCH will end its successful run after eight seasons on Wednesday, March 26 at 9/8c.  It will be followed at 10/9c by the “PSYCH After Show,” a one-hour live show featuring a Q&A with the entire cast and show creator, Steve Franks.  The moderated discussion will take place in front of a studio audience in Los Angeles.

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"Little Couple" returns in March

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 5, 2014

The official word: TLC’s The Little Couple returns for an important and emotional season, airing on Tuesday, March 4th at 10/9c. After more than a year of dedicated planning and anxious waiting, the one-hour premiere follows the couple as they leave for India to pick up their newly adopted daughter, Zoey. With their three-year old son, Will, in tow, the family has no idea that they’ll face their biggest challenge in the midst of their happiest moment. The trip takes an unexpected turn when Jen falls ill and returns to Texas, leaving Bill in a foreign country with two young children in order to complete the adoption.

Upon Jen’s return from India, she is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and immediately begins to battle the disease. The new episodes capture the heartwarming and heartbreaking moments as the growing family copes with Jen’s news. Despite her condition, life at home with two toddlers doesn’t slow down.  While Jen undergoes weekly chemotherapy treatments, Bill steps up his role as “Mr. Mom,” and both work to strengthen their bond with Zoey.

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RIP, Del Donahoo

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 5, 2014

Sad to report that Del Donahoo, one of the great gentlemen in local television, has passed away. I talked with Del from time to time over the years. And even when the talk was about an unpleasant topic like the end of the "Today in Cleveland" show that he hosted, Del himself was unfailingly pleasant. He was also admired by the late Fran Murphey, who would cross paths with the newsman as the two traveled the region in search of stories.

Services will be 1 p.m. Saturday in Bay Presbyterian Church, Bay Village. Calling hours are Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m,

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"12 Years a Slave" DVD/Blu-ray plans

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 5, 2014

It arrives on hard disc just after the Oscars, but will be available digitally before then. The official word:

Bring home the 2014 Golden Globes winner 12 YEARS A SLAVE on Digital HD™ February 18 and Blu-ray™ and DVD March 4. Director Steve McQueen’s cinematic masterpiece has been hailed by critics as “a game-changing movie event,"(Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) receiving top honors from critics, outstanding reactions from audiences and a coveted “A” CinemaScore.

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"Llewyn Davis" DVD/Blu-ray plans

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 5, 2014

In additiion to the film, there's a separate release of a concert showing music from the film. You can read my review of the original movie here. The official word on the home-viewing release: Written and directed by Joel & Ethan Coen, and produced by
Scott Rudin, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS debuts March 11 on Blu-ray™*, DVD and Digital from  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

 INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS follows a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.  Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles—some of them of his own making.  Living at the mercy of both friends and strangers, Llewyn’s misadventures take him from the baskethouses of Greenwich Village to an empty Chicago club—on an odyssey to audition for a music mogul—and back again. 

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Ain't that America?

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 3, 2014

One of the more illuminating, and ludicrous, discussions to come out of Sunday's Super Bowl was the online debate about the Coca-Cola commercial above. A celebration of our nation's diversity, including through parts of "America the Beautiful" sung in different languages, was instead treated as an insult by people who believe that the song should only be in English. See one of the many reports about the issue here.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman, RIP

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 2, 2014

I began noticing Philip Seymour Hoffman in movies in the mid '90s. There was a showy part in "Nobody's Fool" with Paul Newman and a small but scary role in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Hard Eight." The latter, with Hoffman as a gambler who in ways great and small projected cynicism and menace, was especially memorable -- although I had not yet consistently put a name with a face.

That would come slowly, as Hoffman had this way of erasing what you knew of him from other roles and making you start from scratch as an audience; so it was that in "Boogie Nights," another collaboration with Anderson (much as he would work again with Newman), Hoffman was an entirely different soul, sad and lost and desperate -- some notes that he would hit again with Anderson in "Magnolia," by which time his name was fixed -- and I would nod happily to see him in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (where his aggressive, grim insights and arrogance made him a perfect foil to Matt Damon's deliberately bland Ripley) and "State and Main," or to watch him inhabit Lester Bangs in "Almost Famous." So much of that movie's basic, sunny optimism ran against the real Bangs's belief -- and the idea that you cannot be friends with people you cover should be engraved on every journalist's diploma -- but Hoffman made you believe there was value in Bang's system even if Cameron Crowe did not accept it.

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Weekend notebook

By Rich Heldenfels Published: February 1, 2014

I have had a Saturday shift that included going to a local science fair for a story in Sunday's Beacon Journal and marveling at what young people about. Not only what they know. (One student patiently explained to me the science behind her project, and I still didn't understand, although Ithink I did follow the logic in "Effects of temperature on diffusion through one-time-use water bottle plastic"). Also impressive is what they thought to study, including the effect of chewing gum on test scores (apparently the gum helps), whether hard or soft water generates the most lather for cleaning, music temp and task performance, and the behavioral science of makeup. It was at once cool and smart.

Links to recent things I have written, none of them scientific, include:

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