Miley Takes Over VMAs; Puppies Too

MILEYWEB-articleLargeJust two years after he tweaked her little behind into her own moment at the event, Miley Cyrus is back at the MTV Video Music Awards (MTV, 9 p.m.), invited to host and be as rebellious as she wants in doing so.

She’ll have a lot of competition with people who want to create their own VMA moment; chief among them, Nicki Minaj, who publicly complained that she didn’t get nominated for video of the year for her “Anaconda,” and was rewarded with the opening performing slot — something that often proves more valuable than a moon man statue.

Also performing at tonight’s event? Justin Bieber, Pharrell Williams, Demi Lovato, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, The Weeknd, Tori Kelly, A$AP Rocky and Twenty One Pilots.

Kanye West will receive some weird video vanguard award, but Taylor Swift will premiere her new video, “Wildest Dreams.”

Britney Spears, Ice Cube and Kylie Jenner are among the presenters.

Nick Jonas and Walk the Moon will perform at the VMA Pre-Show (MTV, 8 p.m.) hosted by Kelly Osbourne, Sway, Sway’s hat and the crew from “Girl Code.” Plus, according to a press release, “red carpet puppies will be sporting some of the most iconic looks from past VMA attendees.” So there’s that.



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Also on Sunday: Tracking the Poachers

TuskAfter covering the alarming disappearance of elephants in Africa for years, journalist Bryan Christy takes matters in his own hands on the cable return of “Explorer” (National Geographic, 8 p.m.). He fashions one tusk with a GPS hidden inside and tracks where traffickers take it. His dangerous inquiry leads to some sobering facts: They’re likely helping fund the murderous reign of Joseph Kony in Central Africa.

One of the year’s great dramatic series has been squeezed into the last three Sundays in August. So tonight’s typically two hour, two episode ”Show Me a Hero” (HBO, 8 p.m.) serves as finale for the finely made saga of citing affordable housing units in super-bigoted Yonkers in the 1980s. In it, Oscar Isaac’s flesh and bone former mayor decides to throw his hat into the ring again.

“Falling Skies” (TNT, 10 p.m.) comes to an end after five seasons tonight with a series finale that promises the ultimate battle between Noah Wylen and his Earth forces against those strange skittering alien forces.

Brooke Nevin stars as a single mother who becomes alarmed when her daughter is kidnapped by human traffickers on a new made-for-TV movie, “Stolen from the Suburbs” (Lifetime, 9 p.m.).

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Saturday TV: Shifting Katrina’s Blame

city-hurricane-615The 10-year anniversary of the nation’s most destructive storm reaches its peak this weekend. The major report tonight is “Inside Hurricane Katrina” (National Geographic Channel, 8 p.m.), a kind of old fashioned report with urgent music and timestamps, which seems to go out of its way to exonerate George W. Bush and especially the hapless FEMA director Michael Brown, who sits down so he can specifically blame others, from the New Orleans people who wouldn’t evacuate to the assimilation of his agency into Homeland Security.

Again, the main cause of the flooding — faulty levees — gets secondary notice, but the story balances out eventually. And there are some sobering reminders, such as how state and federal officials couldn’t agree on whose troops to send in, so didn’t send any.

Pay a sad farewell to “Hannibal” (NBC, 10 p.m.), the ambitious and a tad horrifying series that comes the closest to its “The Silence of the Lambs” origins tonight in a series finale episode titled “The Wrath of the Lamb.”

It’s not shark week or anything, but maybe it is shark Saturday with a “Mythbusters” (Discovery, 9 p.m.) that checks into the “Jaws” finale, surrounded by “Ninja Sharks: Sharkopedia Edition” (Discovery, 8 p.m.) and “Shark Alley: Legend of Dynamite” (Discovery, 10 p.m.)

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Playlist 8-28-15

RadioCPRAnother odd radio show — why did I think things that didn’t work last week would work this week? It did not.

So in the middle of a sampling of what I happened to have on the laptop was the entirety of “Highway 61 Revisited,” which was released half a century ago this week. And it was remarkable how vital it sounded, and how many of its lines memorable.

There was a bit more of Iris DeMent’s new album, and a practical lesson why a newly released alternate take of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” was inferior to the finished product.

Here’s what I played on the radio tonight.

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Friday TV: Medellin at Last

Vinnie Chase flopped with his portrayal of Pablo Escobar in a fake film called “Medellin” on “Entourage,” and there have been a number of other films about the Columbian drug lord and some being made including two different ones in the making one with Javier Bardem, the other with Tom Cruise. But they’ll all have to beat “Narcos” (Netflix, streaming), the new series from Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha that traces the beginnings of the empire from small scale Latin American smuggling to full scale global cartel.

NarcosThe key to the success is both the series format that allows the story to spread out, the writing of Padilha who displays how Escobar’s blend of charm and menace led him to be so powerful in his country, the remarkably controlled performance of Brazilian actor Wagner Moura in the lead role, and the laconic narration providing the point of view of the saga — a DEA agent (Boyd Holbrook) who sees his work in Miami go from chasing pot-selling hippies to gun-toting Colombians.

The best of “Narcos” brings to mind the complex storylines and turf wars from “Breaking Bad,” delivered in a way that makes the recent history even more compelling. And because all of its episodes drop at once, it can be addictive as the drug they’re packaging.

On “Great Performances” (PBS, 9 p.m.) Zubin Mehta conducts the Vienna Philharmonic at Austria’s Schonbrunn Palace Gardens.

A third season finale comes with a big mission on “Defiance” (Syfy, 8 p.m.). A two part episode also closes the season on “Dark Matter” (Syfy, 9 p.m.).

Rick Santorum, Wendy Davis, Robert Costa, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Michael Weiss are guests on “Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO, 10 p.m.).

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Thursday TV: Guy with the Woolley Beard

Monty_Wooley_1949Monty Woolley, the hifalutin actor who was pals with Cole Porter back in Yale, was best known for his role in “The Man Who Came to Dinner” (TCM, 11:45 p.m.) — on Broadway and then on film.

A star at 50, Woolley had such dramatic facial hair that he left his beard print in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Largely forgotten today, he’s featured all day on Turner Classic Movies with “Live, Love and Learn” (6 a.m.), “Everybody Sing” (7:30 a.m.), “Thee Comrades” (9:15 a.m.), “Lord Jeff” (11 a.m.), “Young Dr. Kildare” (12:30 p.m.), “Dancing Co-Ed” (2 p.m.), “Night and Day” (3:30 p.m.), “Kismet” (6 p.m.), “Holy Matrimony” (8 p.m.), “Molly and Me” (9:45 p.m.), “The Bishop’s Wife” (1:45 a.m.) and “The Girl of the Golden West” (3:45 a.m.).

The episode that was going to skewer “Vice” was going to be the one on  “Documentary Now!” (IFC, 10 p.m.) tonight, but at the last minute they changed it to one where they parody the 1922 “Nanook of the North.” John Slattery guest stars as the director of “Kunuk the Hunter” and Bill Hader is hidden under a lot of prosthetic makeup as the narrator.  I’m wondering if they pulled the “Vice” spoof because of its violence — its hipster reporters go to dangerous places and are killed. It comes after “Mr. Robot” bumped its season finale for a week last night, following the live  shooting of TV reporters in Roanoke.

Steve and Johnny Mac are up for eviction on “Big Brother” (CBS, 9 p.m.) and the members of jury compete to see which one will get to go back into the house.

Three competing electric companies in the Arctic are followed in the latest Alaskan-based reality show, “Power & Ice” (History, 10 p.m.).

Public television weighs in with its own New Orleans coverage, on the actual anniversary of the hurricane, “Katrina: Ten Years After” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings)

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Theatre Review: It’s a #DeathParty

BonesD.C.’s ambitious Women’s Voices Theater Festival this fall involves more than 50 regional theaters premiering what’s billed as the largest number of original works by female writers in history. It has begun, humbly, in the modest Callan Theatre at Catholic University, where patrons have to led through a couple of doors and up some stairs to their seats.

The two one-act premieres are from the Longacre Lea company and both employ, in one way or another, a hospital set. And because both “How We Died of Disease-Related Illness” by Miranda Rose Hall and “Bones in Whispers” by Kathleen Akerley result in some dead bodies lying around (spoiler alert), they are presented under the uncheery Twitter-ready hashtag #DeathParty.

What’s glimpsed through the paired full-length plays at the dawn of the festival is the variety of approaches and tone that can result – as well as the evaporation of mere gender identification. Akerley’s “Bones in Whispers” is good theater from whatever source. With a solid, serious cast and an effective use of flashlights in the dark, it evokes the mystery and dystopian drama with the best promises of “Lost,” while achieving what that much loved TV series did not, a cognizant, thoughtful conclusion.

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Wednesday TV: Caution About ‘Carmichael’

carmichaelAt first, the new sitcom “The Carmichael Show” (NBC, 9 and 9:30 p.m.) seems appealing — with laconic comedian Jerrod Carmichael at the center of the show and a cast that includes David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine as his Bunker-like parents. The first episode is standard issue, about Carmichael and his girlfriend (Amber Stevens West) wondering whether to tell the parents about their living together.

But in building what they call a “topical comedy series,” by the second episode they’re making yucks over police killings of unarmed African-Americans. There’s protests, jokes about the Civil Rights era, and a bit about the sister-in-law being a looter. Too soon? Probably so. The important thing in addressing contemporary issues is tone, and this doesn’t quite have it yet. Though if it were funnier that might all have been forgiven.

A long-running small-town Easter pageant in Oklahoma is threatened when its Jesus retires. The replacement is a little overweight and turns out to be a Buddhist in an amusing documentary “Jesus Town, USA” (Showtime, 7:30 pm.) that only seems like a Christopher Guest fake.

A finale is set for one of the summer’s unqualified hits, “Mr. Robot” (USA, 10 p.m.). The accompanying “Suits” (USA, 9 p.m.) also closes its fifth season.

For the new season of “Wheeler Dealers” (Velocity, 9 p.m.) car buffs Mike Brewer and Edd China move their shop from London to Los Angeles and scour the states for cars they can fix up. First off, they find a Pontiac GTO in Chicago.

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The Man Who Would Be Superman

dusk-dawn-cotronaD.J. Cotrona returns with his cast tonight for the second season of “From Dusk to Dawn: The Series” (El Rey, 9 p.m.), Robert Rodriguez’ remake of his own 1996 cult classic for his own network.

And as well as he’s doing playing Seth Gecko, the role originally played by George Clooney in the movie, Cotrona could have as easily been known these days as the latest big screen Superman in a much-anticipated “Justice League” film a few years back, being made by the Australian director George Miller and the “Lord of the Rings” design and effects crew.

And though some footage was shot, costumes were designed and set were made, it all went by the wayside due to writers’ strike and tax incentive issues.

“It was a start stop issue for a couple of years but ultimately it went away,” Cotrona told me. But, he adds, it may have been destined to happen that way.

“I think George was meant to make ‘Mad Max’ — that’s the movie he was meant to make and he’d been trying to get it off the ground for 15 years,” he says of this summer’s action hit. “So I’m happy he got to take that to the finish line.”

After all, not all projects get there.

“It’s not easy to get a movie made,” Cotrona says, “and even when you do, to get it received well. So any project you get to the finish line is a win. That’s pretty much how it goes. You just kind of count your blessings, and each opportunity you’re afforded, you just do the best job you can with it and just move on to the next.”

For now, he’s happy collecting bumps and bruises in the wild vampire Western that is “From Dusk to Dawn” with a cast that includes Zane Holtz, Eiza Gonzalez (in the Salma Hayek role) and Wilmer Valderrama.

They like to mix it up since Rodriguez insists on “practical effects” — action that isn’t done with green screen or other computer effects but up close and with the actors as much as possible.

“Old school,” Cotrona says.

The rest of a story I did on Cotrona appears here.


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Also on Tuesday: Cops in the 1960s on TNT

PublicMHope the producers of the new “Public Morals” (TNT, 10 p.m.) got to the “Mad Men” auction for 1960s duds for their similarly period era series. Except that the crooked cops in the Hell’s Kitchen vice squad of this new police series are not quit as fashionable. Ed Burns brings an Irish realism to the show he produce, writes and directs, in the manner he once did on his films “The Brothers McMullen” or “She’s the One.” Michael Rapport is his sidekick, rocking the porkpie hat. It may be another procedural about a serial killer, but it looks to have style and a setting that may be of interest, if only because we’re still pining for Don Draper and his crew. Elizabeth Masucci also stars.

“Monica the Medium” (ABC Family, 8 p.m.) is a new unscripted show that follows a junior at Penn State who talks to dead people and tries to date live ones.

Zach and Tori’s wedding warrants a two hour special on “Little People Big World” (TLC, 8 p.m.). It’s followed by a season premiere for “Our Little Family” (TLC, 10 p.m.), which involves a boat ride. The kids are pretty cute.

The new “Punk’d” (BET, 10:30 p.m.) pranks Miguel and ASAP Rocky.

Another overdone celebration is chronicled on “My Fab 40th” (Bravo, 10 p.m.), this one involving former sorority sisters. Why do I feel there will be shrieking involved?

There’s no live preseason football tonight, but there is “Hard Knocks: Training Camp” (HBO, 10 p.m.), which is still narrated by the guy who plays “Ray Donovan” (Showtime, 9 p.m.).

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