A big HeldenFiles column today, with a few words about Carrie Coon, Tracy Letts, "Downton Abbey," Vivian Goodman, Jacob Rummell, Daniel Seavey and other stuff.
Speaking once again of "Downton," it's not the universally known and acclaimed thing you may think. I had an email today from a reader asking where he could find "Downtown Abbey."
The new Indiana law, which regardless of what its supporters say is clearly designed to allow anti-gay discrimiation, prompted a wonderful series of tweets from Audra McDonald, which you can read here.
Considering what is happening in Indiana and elsewhere, I may have to get a business card that has my name, address, employer, political affiliation, sexual orientation, religious denomination, most recent candidates voted for, stances on abortion and same-sex marriage, and so on -- to present to a business before I ask for service or make a purchase. Just so we're clear. Wouldn't want to waste time if I interfere with their "religious freedom."To read more or comment...
The "Breaking Bad"/"Better Call Saul" mastermind is apparently a fan of the retro channel, which is over-the-air locally on 19.2 and on Time Warner channel 987, suggested a night of favorites. The announcement:
MeTV, Memorable Entertainment Television, America’s #1 All Classic TV Network, brings the star power of New Hollywood to viewers across the country with the ‘Vince Gilligan’s Island of MeTV’ special event this April. Vince Gilligan is the visionary creator of the contemporary hit series Breaking Bad and co-creator of the new series Better Call Saul on AMC.
Vince is one of pop culture’s most talented and influential voices and his shows have set the benchmark for exceptional TV with iconic characters. It’s a perfect fit that this prominent and popular storyteller would be a fan of the classic television series and memorable characters showcased everyday on MeTV.To read more or comment...
Thank you, satellite radio.
Saturday I spent 8 1/2 hours on the road, driving to see my mother in Virginia, and on Tuesday I drove back. I could have flown, but for trips I can drive in a day, the car has long been preferable. I have grown very weary of sardine-can airplane seating, long waits in airports, ridiculous baggage-check charges and the uncertainty of schedules and making connecting flights.
But, since I was driving solo, I need something to keep me alert besides heavy doses of caffeiine. Music does not do it; too easy for the mind to wander. I have used audio books occasionally, but that yields the opposite problem to music: if I get too focused on the book, I lose concentration on driving. (As it is, I tend to turn off any audio when I get to a mildly complicated route maneuver.)
The solution has become talk and particularly SiriusXM talk, because the choices are abundant and less prone to signal breakup.To read more or comment...
Fox has announced a six-part "event series" return of "The X-Files," with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson returning, and you may be happier about this news than I am. I found "X-Files" increasingly irritating as it went along, especially when its long run mandated changes in what truth was out there -- revealing new conspiracies within conspiracies when the old ones had run out of narrative steam. Below, I have posted the Fox announcement of the new series and, after it, the column I wrote when the original TV series was ending.
The announcement, which was made Tuesday:
Thirteen years after the original series run, FOX has ordered the next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES, a thrilling, six-episode event series which will be helmed by creator/executive producer Chris Carter with stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson re-inhabiting their roles as iconic FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. This marks the momentous return of the Emmy- and Golden Globe Award-winning pop culture phenomenon, which remains one of the longest-running sci-fi series in network television history.
The announcement was made today by Dana Walden and Gary Newman, Chairmen and CEOs of Fox Television Group and Chris Carter, creator and executive producer of THE X-FILES. Production on THE X-FILES event series is set to begin in summer 2015. Further details remain under wraps and will be announced at a later date.To read more or comment...
You read the tweets about my Cleveland International Film Festival adventure. Now here's a more detailed account.
Also, you may have seen my stories about the films "Traficant" and "Finding the Gold Within." If you see them, let me know what you think, either in the comments here, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter (@rheldenfelsabj) or Facebook (Rich Heldenfels, Pop Culture Guy).
To read more or comment...
Beacon Journal pop culture writer Rich Heldenfels' schedule is full of movies on Thursday (six to be exact) at the Cleveland International Film Festival. Can he make it through six? Will he scream for eyedrops? Overdose on subtitles?
Be sure to follow him on Twitter @RHeldenfelsABJ for live tweets from the event.
To read more or comment...
The official word: FOX has renewed mystery-adventure series SLEEPY HOLLOW for a third season, it was announced today by David Madden, President, Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company. Television producer Clifton Campbell has signed on as executive producer and showrunner.
“SLEEPY HOLLOW is truly inventive television. The talented producers – led by Alex, Bob, Len and Heather – along with the brilliant cast, anchored by Nicole and Tom, have created a fantastic world that brings ‘history’ to life with compelling and vibrant storytelling,” said Madden. “I had the pleasure of working with Clifton on both ‘The Glades’ and ‘White Collar.’ He is an excellent producer, and we can’t wait to see what this team has in store for Season Three.”
To read more or comment...
I have done enough interviews over the years to have had some weird moments, during and after. There was, for instance, the young actor who explained he did not know much about guns -- only to die later in an on-set accident while fooling around with a blank gun. And lately, as we talk about "The Jinx" and Robert Durst, I've been thinking back to when I interviewed Susan Berman.
Durst was arrested over the weekend for Berman's murder in 2000, It also appears that, in the finale of "The Jinx," that he confessed to that and two other killings.. And my footnote to all this is that I interviewed Berman in 1996, when she was promoting a TV show about Las Vegas. I remember her as being intense, chatty and basically likable. And here's the story that resulted from our chat:
Las Vegas is a place of legendary excess, of gamblers and gangsters, Frank and Sammy, of neon castles rising from the emptiness of a desertlike Oz -- and an occasional mushroom cloud appearing nearby.
But as vivid as the Vegas of the imagination can seem, it is also an everyday city where children go to school, people hold down regular jobs and the economy rises and falls.
You see both Las Vegases in a two-part, four-hour documentary premiering at 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday on A&E. Las Vegas takes the city from its pioneer beginnings to the giant entertainment complexes of today.
It interviews entertainers such as Rose Marie, best known for The Dick Van Dyke Show but also a Vegas performer in the '40s; comedians Alan King and Shecky Greene; hotel and casino mogul Steve Wynn; the mayor of Las Vegas; the governor of Nevada; historians; wheeler dealers and a Copa girl.
Through their eyes we get not only the neon lights and the gangland legends, but discussions of racism, organized crime, and the art of living in a dream world.
Susan Berman, a co-producer and co-writer of Las Vegas and author of the companion book, Lady Las Vegas, saw the many aspects of the city up close. Her father, Davie Berman, was a gambler, mobster and partner with Ben "Bugsy" Siegel in the legendary Flamingo Hotel. Davie Berman remained a partner in the Frontier and in other casinos before his death in 1957 and Susan, now 51, lived in Las Vegas as a child.
And what a place for a childhood. In a recent telephone interview, Berman recalled a childhood where Elvis Presley once sang Happy Birthday to her and "Liberace always sang to me." She sometimes did her homework surrounded by money in a casino counting room, and played cards with her father's bodyguards.
At the same time, she went to a school with "black kids, Indian kids, Mormon kids" and her parents told her not to exploit her status as Davie Berman's daughter. Davie would refer to the bodyguards simply as "my best friends." Susan did not realize whom her father worked for until years later, when she read some mob stories in a book.
She's ambivalent about Las Vegas but she understands what drew her father and his partners there -- legal gambling. Anywhere else in the U.S., guys who ran gambling were criminals. In Las Vegas, they were ordinary businessmen.
Although Berman returned to Las Vegas infrequently in her later years, after producer Jim Milio approached her about working on Las Vegas, Berman found that her father's name still opened doors. Some remained shut -- entrepreneur Kirk Kerkorian declined to be interviewed -- and some only opened part way.
Phyllis McGuire, known first as part of the singing McGuire Sisters and later as the paramour of mobster Sam Giancana, was interviewed but would not talk about Giancana. (McGuire did take time to complain about Sugartime, a recent HBO drama about the McGuire-Giancana relationship, Berman said.)
Bob Stupak, a Vegas businessman also interviewed in Las Vegas, is McGuire's current companion. Though Stupak is a millionaire many times over, and McGuire a famous name, Berman recalled Stupak nervously saying during their interview, "Don't tell Phyllis I'm smoking."
Strip away the flash, and even in Las Vegas people have ordinary worries. No wonder, then, that Berman has a low opinion of most dramas about the city, which she sums up as "some old story about dead gangsters."
She liked the '80s series Crime Story, which portrayed different elements of Las Vegas in the '60s, and Desert Bloom, about a working-class family there in the '50s. But she was bored by the movie version of Nicholas Pileggi's book Casino.
Indeed, Berman's feelings about her hometown resemble those many people assign to theirs -- some sentiment, a little sadness, a dash of anger, and plenty of defensiveness about outside criticism. Berman talks about a citywide sense of "Las Vegas against the world," much the way, say, Clevelanders feel embattled.
Talking to TV executives about a movie on mob life in Las Vegas, Berman said, she found they wanted gangster legends and Ann-Margret.
Ann-Margret co-starred in the Elvis Presley classic Viva Las Vegas (and yes, the title song finds its way into the documentary), but apparently some executives also associate her famous fall off a stage platform with Vegas.
"She fell," Berman says icily, "in Tahoe."