Category Archives: Television


(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/15; via Pam Green.)

Georgia Engel, whose distinctive voice and pinpoint comic timing made her a memorable part of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” on which she played Georgette Franklin, girlfriend and eventually wife of the buffoonish TV newsman Ted Baxter, died on Friday in Princeton, N.J. She was 70.

John Quilty, her friend and executor, said the cause was undetermined because Ms. Engel, who was a Christian Scientist, did not consult doctors.

Ms. Engel was twice nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on “Mary Tyler Moore,” which she joined in 1972, during the show’s third season.

“It was only going to be one episode,” she told The Toronto Star in 2007, “and I was just supposed to have a few lines in a party scene, but they kept giving me more and more to do.”


She had a high-pitched, innocent voice that, as one writer put it, “sounds like an angel has just sniffed some helium,” and she used it expertly to contrast with the blustery Baxter (played by Ted Knight) and the usually levelheaded Mary Richards, Ms. Moore’s character.

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FILE PHOTO: A combination photo showing the 2017 Kennedy Center Honorees: Actress, dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade (L to R), singer-songwriter and actress Gloria Estefan, hip-hop artist LL COOL J, television writer and producer Norman Lear and musician and record producer Lionel Richie. REUTERS/Staff/File Photos

(Ruhl’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/25; via Pam Green.)

On Tuesday night CBS will air the Kennedy Center Honors, and President Trump will not be on the screen, because he declined to attend the eventwhen it was held on Dec. 3 in Washington. What does it mean that Mr. Trump didn’t have the nerve, for a single night, to be in a room with artists who have criticized him?

The president’s team claimed that he did not attend so that the artists could celebrate in peace rather than having a political distraction. But the president votes, as we all do, with his feet.

Though the arts have never been neutral politically, the honoring of artists is a bipartisan ritual. The Kennedy Center was a place where the left and the right could agree that the arts occupy a central place in our culture, worthy of our attention and respect. Artists chosen for the Kennedy Center awards generally have fans on the left and the right and everywhere in between. The checkbooks of art patrons are not marked with their party affiliations.

I came of age in the culture wars of the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan planned to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, and, instead, ended up whittling down its budget by a small percentage. Still, in 1984, before putting medals on Arthur Miller and Lena Horne among other luminaries, he reflected on the way Americans had developed “a culture that was as fertile as this new land” and had continued to innovate in arts and entertainment.

“And today our nation has crowned her greatness with grace, and we gather this evening to honor five artists who have helped her to do so,” he said.

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(Ryan’s article appeared in Variety, 4/7; via Pam Green.)

TV viewers and moviegoers don’t see character introductions in scripts, but they’re enormously important. These short descriptions — usually just a line or two of text — provide a template for an actor attempting to create a portrait of a vibrant, unique, multidimensional human being.

This story first appeared in the April 05, 2016 issue of Variety. Subscribe today.See more.

Well, that’s the theory, anyway. Perusing scripts in his job as a film producer, Ross Putnam often found something else — especially when it came to female characters.

The descriptions contained little other than words like “leggy,” “erotic” and “alluring.” And, of course, there’s the ubiquitous “beautiful.”

Frustrated by the inherent sexism he found, Putnam created the Twitter feed @FemScriptIntros to share those character introductions with a wider audience. Spend some time reading his feed, and it’s hard not to wonder why actresses don’t quit the business en masse.



He dashes around the lush green Cornish countryside. The audi­ence cannot  get enough of watching him. His smoldering good looks have created a sensation on the internet – he has his own Facebook page and his own articles in the press. Who is this magnificent one? They call him Seamus. He is the 14 year old Irish draft horse gelding star who plays the unnamed main horse of the hero, Ross Poldark, played by Irish actor Aidan Turner, in the BBC/PBS hit TV series, Poldark. The BBC first aired a Poldark TV series in 1975, with Robin Ellis as Ross Poldark. Mr. Ellis now plays Reverend Halse in the 2015 series. Both TV series’ are based on the widely read Poldark novels set in 18th century Cornwall, written by Winston Graham. The first one was published in 1945, but the written works did not achieve their greater popularity until the TV series based on them appeared in 1975.

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(c) 2015 by Patricia N. Saffran.  All rights reserved.

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(Saffran’s article appeared in Horse Directory Magazine, 5/3.)

It is night (or close to it), or is there a storm, in the first scene of the made for television adaption of the novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. The horses are clomping along. Fortunately, the cameramen did not run into them, but then again, horses have night vision — it is part of what protects them from predators in the wild, so they know to avoid the cameramen. This is a candle/fireplace lit production, which explains why we see the profile of a distinguished black Spanish movie horse (from The Devil’s Horsemen, Wychwood Stud, Buckinghamshire, UK, Gerard Naprous, Horse master) but we cannot see much else.

The party is en route to Cardinal Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor, played by the charm­ing Jonathan Pryce, to ask for his resignation. Once inside, the emis­saries are rebuked indirectly by Thomas Cromwell, portrayed by the  phenomenal, enigmatic Mark Rylance, who whispers advice in the cunning Wolsey’s ear. A great team. Then there are many changes of scenes — mostly all indoors without transition scenes of horses and riders going to the locations. After his wife and daughters die, Thomas visits his cranky, previously sadistic father (Thomas had to run away from home at an early age to escape his father or possibly from a stint in jail.) In this scene, Thomas’s father is still a work­ing blacksmith. Thomas walks to where his father is shoeing.

Where is Thomas’s horse in this scene? Young Thomas grew up around horses. It would have been more lively if Thomas rode into the stable yard, then his father would have asked him about what was probably an expensive horse, now that Thomas has moved up in the world — a way to counteract his father and a lost opportunity to reveal status in a class preoccupied society. While abroad, Cromwell fought for the French army in Italy in 1503, and then he was employed by Italians, who taught him about finance. Thomas also sold donkeys while in Italy.

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(Stacey Wilson Hunt’s and  Lacey Rose’s article first appeared in the May 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine; via the Drudge Report.)

Six hit show creators, from 'House of Cards' to 'Good Wife,' gather for a heated, candid talk that reveals the state of opinion on Hollywood's touchiest subjects.

Just because the television business has made notable inroads in the realm of diversity this year doesn't mean the subject is any more comfortable to discuss. So when Lee Daniels, co-creator of Fox's Empire, recently questioned a table full of drama writer-producers about the racial makeup of their writers rooms, the group grew tense. But doing so ultimately led to an important discussion about the industry's shortcomings — as well as the challenges of collaboration, their frustration with critics and the day that Beau Willimon, showrunner of Netflix's House of Cards, danced shirtless on set with Russian punk-rock group Pussy Riot. Daniels, 55, and Willimon, 37, were joined April 28 in Hollywood for a frank conversation about the pressures and rewards of running TV's hottest dramas by Damon Lindelof, 42 (HBO's The Leftovers), Alex Gansa, 54 (Showtime's Homeland), Michelle King, 53 (CBS' The Good Wife), and Sarah Treem, 34 (Showtime's The Affair).



(Nancy Tartaglione’s article appeared on Deadline Hollywood, 3/19/15; via Pam Green.)

On the Ealing Studios lot, which once played host to Alec Guinness and the Ealing Comedies — and is now the residence of Downton AbbeyAnthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen have been shooting BBC/Starz’s upcoming The Dresser. This is the adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s classic play that’s produced by Colin Callender’s Playground Entertainment. It’s the first time in many years that a play has been adapted in such a way for television. And it joins the two veteran stars together for the first time. It will air on BBC Two this year and on Starz in 2016.

Callender tells me it is likely the first project of a six-part series of single dramas that Playground is developing for television that he will produce with Sonia Friedman. I was on The Dresser set last week, speaking with the principals on such diverse topics as Hopkins’ distaste for theater acting thanks to “tyrannical directors” and McKellen’s belief that some television is currently “in the doldrums.”



(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/19; via Pam Green.)

August Wilson died almost 10 years now, but that doesn’t stop him from giving a mini-master class Friday on — appropriately — PBS’s latest episode of “American Masters.” In archival footage, we hear him describe his writing process.

“Generally,” he says, “I start with a line of dialogue, and often I don’t know who’s talking or why they’re talking. And then I will give the character a name, and by probing him and questioning him, I begin to find out things I need to know about the character, and out of that will emerge a story.”

What makes this a particularly satisfying “American Masters,” especially for theater lovers, is its generous helping of clips of well-regarded actors like Phylicia Rashad and Roscoe Orman performing excerpts from Wilson’s plays. Having heard his description of how his characters start out, we now get to see their fully formed selves.


(Stevens’s article appeared in the Daily Mail, 1/21; via Patricia N. Saffran.)

There’s something oddly familiar about Shakespearean heavyweight Mark Rylance, as Thomas Cromwell, the central figure in BBC2’s Wolf Hall.

His insolence, the edge of sarcasm as he addresses ‘my lord’ or ‘my lady’, and, above all, the hint of a nasal whine in his London vowels… this blacksmith’s son resembled Blackadder’s devious servant Baldrick. But of course Cromwell’s plans are far more cunning.

The dash of humour is what makes Hilary Mantel’s two Booker-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, set in the maelstrom of Tudor politics, so entertaining.


(Gaby Wood’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 1/11.)

If we believe the stories Hollywood tells us, then any death involving a girl and a gun might be regarded as suspicious.

But that wasn’t the conclusion drawn by the two police officers who arrived at 1579 Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, in the early hours of June 16 1959.

Officers Johnson and Korby found a few drunken houseguests and a body on a bed, shot through the head by a bullet that had left a hole in the ceiling and its casing beneath the victim’s back. The Luger lay between his feet, which were still on the floor, as if he’d been sitting on the edge of the bed before falling back. He was naked, a burly six foot two, and his blood was spreading out on the sheets beneath him like a billowing red cape. 

It didn’t take the officers long to discover that the deceased was George Reeves, the 45-year-old actor who had become famous for playing the only bulletproof character on television: Superman.