Other Things I’ve Written Lately

opus161aHere are some recent pieces I’ve written elsewhere:

  • A story for the Washington Post on the pioneering light artist Thomas Wilfred at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
  • A piece for Smithsonian Magazine.com on a new exhibit about the New York years of Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo.
  • A review of a bold play on Nina Simone at Arena Stage for Broadway World.
  • An advance story on Yep Rock’s 20th anniversary celebration for Vinyl District.
  • A report on a new exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery about the American Worker, “The Sweat of their Face.”
  • A review of a play about the U.S.S. St.Louis and the boatload of Jewish refugees escaping Germany who were refused entry to the U.S.
  • An interview with Beatles son and soundtrack composer Dhani Harrison.
  • A Q&A with Nick Hayward of Haircut 100 for Songfacts:
  • A story about a couple of African figures reunited after 100 years in a new exhibit at the National Museum of African Art.
  • A preview of a new track by Kate Tucker for Vinyl District.
  • A report on an innovative theatrical night about aspects of the digital age.
  • A look at the refurbished Freer / Sackler Gallery in Washington.
  • A review of a new play by the comedy troupe Second City that’s a little more serious.
  • And these rock reviews, which have also been seen on this blog, but not with these pictures: Pere Ubu and Johnny Dowd,  Dhani Harrison, Lucinda Williams and Yep R0c 20.


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Thursday TV: Original Charlie Brown Tree

charlie-brown-christmasThe first, and best, Peanuts special is back for its first holiday run at the end of November: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (ABC, 8 p.m.). It’s paired with a theme park celebration “The Wonderful World of Disney: Magic Holiday Celebration” (ABC, 9 p.m.) with Julianne Hough and Nick Lachey hosting and performances from Jason Derulo, Lea Michele, Clara, Darius Rucker, Fifth Harmony, Fitz and the Tantrums and Hanson.

Anthony Atamanuik doesn’t just fight the supposed War on Christmas, his bewigged character  declares in his hour-long comedy special “I Came Up with Christmas: A President Show Christmas” (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.).

Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas join in the first season finale of “The Chris Gethard Show” (truTV, 11 p.m.), the live and raucous comedy show.

DeLeon Sheffield, the wife of baseball’s Gary Sheffield, sells high ticket homes in Florida on the new series “Sheffield Real Estate” (FYI, 10 p.m.).

Tim and Heather go out for their anniversary on “Life in Pieces” (CBS, 9:30 p.m.).

Here’s another true crime story that gets told again and again, sometimes in the same season, this one by one of the two in prison: “The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All” (A&E, 10 p.m.).

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‘Mrs. Maisel’ Begins Marvelously

101216MMM_0213.ARWThe pilot episode for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon, streaming) is so fresh and entertaining, I almost started tearing up my (premature, yet due tomorrow) Year End Top 10 list.

It stars Rachel Brosnahan, who was such a standout in “House of Cards,” now doing something completely different – a wisecracking, well-appointed Upper West Side housewife, helping her husband’s hopeless dream to become a standup comic.

His first mistake: He lifts most of his routine from Bob Newhart. His second mistake: He leaves his wife by the end of the episode. This inspires the wife, Midge, to get drunk, get on stage and say what she feels — which turns out to both be the funniest thing anybody had ever heard in nightclub and the first thing to get her arrested. Bonus: She gets the attention of Lenny Bruce, who is pretty much doing the same thing.

This is all wonderful material for Amy Sherman-Palladino who animated “Gilmore Girls” and then “Bunheads” with her nonstop dialogue. With Amazon money, she gets to remake 1950s New York so lovingly, “Mad Men” production designers would drool. The costumes and decor are to die for. And it’s a splendid cast surrounding Brosnahan, including the terrific Alex Borstein, who should have gotten an Emmy for “Getting On,” Tony Shalhoub, who did get Emmys for “Monk.” And Luke Kirby does a low-key and convincing version of Bruce.

The pilot episode, dangled out as far as last March on Amazon, was one of its most positively received ever. And there’s no reason it shouldn’t have been. You should watch it.

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Also Wednesday: Awkward Tree Lighting

nbc_xmax_tree2011-bigScratch one “Today” show host from the ill-timed annual “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” (NBC, 8 p.m.). Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker will still be there to assist in lighting the tree in the 85th annual ceremony. But Matt Lauer, fired just this morning, may just be lit in effigy.

Performers, meant to take your mind off of all of that, are to include Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Nettles, Leslie Odom Jr., Pentatonix, The Tenors and Seal.

Bruno Mars, who received six Grammy nominations Tuesday including album of the year, record of the year and song of the year, gets a chance to make his case in a one hour network special “Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo” (CBS, 10 p.m.).

“The Vikings” (History, 9 p.m.) returns for its fifth season with a two hour premiere, with Ivar the Boneless taking power after murdering his brother Sigurd. Katheryn Winnick stars in the special “The Saga of Lagertha” (History, 8 p.m.) preceding it.

It would seem we know the story pretty well by now but here is yet another telling of the Laci Peterson disappearance with “Scott Peterson: An American Murder Mystery” (Investigation Discovery, 9 p.m.).

The underrated Hugh Laurie series “Chance” (Hulu, streaming) ends its second season.

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Tuesday TV: ‘Drunk History Christmas’

DrunkChristmasHere’s one holiday special I can get behind: the “Drunk History Christmas Special” (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.) in which Rich Fulcher drinks and tells the tale of how Christmas trees got into the White House during the administration of Teddy Roosevelt, played here by Ken Marino.

Rob Corddry, Colin Hanks and Phil Hendrike also show up in the special, and Fulcher tries to sing Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” with host Derek Waters. (The new season of “Drunk History” starts Jan. 23).

The current atmosphere in which years of assaults are coming to light and powerful men are falling, you might think it’s not the right time for “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion” (CBS, 10 p.m.). But here it is, the most sexist annual network show: parades of bras on women who act like they’re enlightened for being so exploited. This time it happens in Shanghai.

The big superhero crossover episodes end with “The Flash” (The CW, 8 p.m.) and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” (The CW, 9 p.m.).

A second season starts for Hamilton Morris’s show about arcane psychedelics, “Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia” (Viceland, 10 p.m.), with an examination of toad licking.

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Monday TV: November Christmas Specials

Reba-CMA-Country-Christmas-2017Reba McEntire hosts the “CMA Country Christmas” (ABC, 9 p.m.) from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville with holiday songs from Luke Bryan, Kelsea Ballerini, 3B30, Dan + Shay, Brett Eldridge, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Dustin Lynch, CeCe Winans, Trisha Yearwood and Chris Young.

More music comes from the a cappella group that has made a career out of holiday music. “A Very Pentatonix Christmas” (NBC, 10 p.m.) also stars Jennifer Hudson, jay Leno and Darci Lynne Farmer (who won “America’s Got Talent” in case you forgot).

After seven years, “Fashion Police” (E!, 9 p.m.) calls it quits with a special farewell episode. Melissa Rivers, Giuliana Rancic, Brad Goreski, NeNe Leakes and Margaret Cho gather to review some old clips.

MTV hopes to have “Jersey Shore” lightning strike again with its new “Floribama Shore” (MTV, 10 p.m.) in which dim kids from the South drink, hook up and squabble. Sounds like an even worse Situation.

Another franchise show sticks with the original cast on “Teem Mom OG” (MTV, 9 p.m.), starting its seventh season.

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Sunday TV: Soul Train Awards, Springsteen

soul-train-awards-2017-show-4kqq-1080x675Erykah Badu hosts the “Soul Train Awards” (BET, VH1, 8 p.m.) Jessi J, Toni Braxton, Tank, Tamar Braxton, 112, Kirk Franklin, Luke James, Keyshia Cole, SWV, Le’Andria Johnson, Ro James, Daniel Caesar, Major, Demetria McKinney, DVSN, Method Man, U-God.

He’s telling his story for top dollar on Broadway, but he’s also reminiscing in a TV documentary about his long career in “Bruce Springsteen: In His Own Words” (BBC America, 10 p.m.).

Larry is blackmailed by an employee on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO, 10 p.m.) — the only new programming on the channel tonight.

Trump wasn’t particularly qualified to run the “Miss Universe Pageant” (Fox, 7 p.m.) either.

On the made-for-TV “Switched for Christmas” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.) identical twin sisters switch places for the holidays. It stars the veritable Queen of Hallmark, Candace Cameron Bure in both roles and introduces her daughter Natasha Bure. Her co-stars include Mark Deklin, Eion Bailey and Happy the Dog. It may be the most Hallmark movie of the season.

But it has strong kitsch competition when Melissa Joan Hart stars in  “A Very Merry Toy Store” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.) a small family-run toy store goes up against a big box store just before Christmas. Also in the cast: Mario Lopez, Beth Broderick, Brian Denny, Billy Gardell and Mario Cantone.

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Saturday TV: Opie’s Fab Four on PBS

The-Beatles-Eight-Days-a-Week-The-Touring-YearsA holiday weekend is the perfect time for the broadcast premiere of Ron Howard’s lively “The Beatles: Eight Day a Week — The Touring Years” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings), which considers the band’s power as a live group, and how quitting touring helped inspire new studio creativity. Plus there’s a lot of great songs along the way.

Previously on Hulu, it has surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr talk about playing live, and quotes are dug up from George Harrison and John Lennon. And the sound for the music has been greatly enhanced. Hope they don’t interrupt to troll for station donations.

It’s paired with a documentary about one of their most celebrated albums, which marked its 50th anniversary this year, “Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution” (PBS< 10:30 p.m., check local listings).

Alabama isn’t just a place for divisive politics; it’s primarily a place of football and its biggest annual event is the game between the two biggest college teams in the state. The annual Iron Bowl pits Alabama vs. Auburn (CBS, 3:30 p.m.) with the winner becoming the SEC West champion.

Prime time college football on network TV tonight has Notre Dame at Stanford (ABC, 8 p.m.) and Washington State at Washington (Fox, 8 p.m.) (and there are a lot more games listed below).

Hallmark’s “The Christmas Train” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.) has bigger star power than usual, with Dermot Mulroney, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Danny Glover and Joan Cusak. In it, a journalist travels cross country by train to get home by Christmas. And there may be romance involved.

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Friday TV: Trolling the Christmas Specials

dreamworks-sets-a-trolls-animated-specialThe Christmas special floodgates open, with the one new one “Dreamworks Trolls Holiday” (NBC, 8:30 p.m.), based not on internet scoundrels but on the candy-colored dolls and movie.

Along with it comes a lot of oldies: “Frosty the Snowman” (CBS, 8 p.m.) and “Frosty Returns” (CBS, 8:30 p.m.), “Santa Claus in Comin’ to Town” (ABC, 8 p.m.) and the 1966 “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (NBC, 8 p.m.).

Even public television is in on the act with the Broadway revival of Irving Berlin’s “Holiday Inn” on “Great Performances” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings). It’s the one that introduced “White Christmas.”

There may be some good stories that have come out of 59 years of Grammy performances, but here’s a two hour special that promises “Grammys Greatest Stories: A 60th Anniversary Special” (CBS, 9 p.m.).

The second shoe drops in the two part “iHeartRadio Music Festival” (The CW, 8 p.m.) from Las Vegas with performances from Lorde, Miley Cyrus, DJ Khaled, Big Sean among others.

On the made-for-TV “Finding Santa” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.) the search for a new Kris Kringle may or may not involve romance.

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Thursday TV: ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ Series

She'sGottaHaveItSpike Lee updates his signature 1986 directoral debut “She’s Gotta Have It” (Netflix, streaming) for the modern day, with DeWanda Wise playing the the new Nola Darling, whose bold sexual proclivities may not seem so unusual as they may have more than 30 years ago.

Among the actors portraying the suitors are Lyric Bent, Cleo Anthony and Anthony Ramos (of “Hamilton”), who takes up the role Lee once kept for himself — the bike messenger Mars Blackmon. And of course Brooklyn itself has changed, which doesn’t go unnoted. The entire 10-episode season is available today. Why start on Thanksgiving? Well, there was that holiday scene in the original movie.

Martin Sheen takes part in a new adaptation of the L.M. Montgomery children’s classic. “Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings) in which miss Anne turns 13. It precedes a replay of the 2015 original with the same actress at 9:30 p.m.

Also new is another Christmas romance with a quaint setting “The Mistletoe Inn” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.), Alicia Witt plays a romance novelist in a Vermont writing retreat.

The 91st Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (NBC, 9 a.m.) will introduce a throwback balloon – Harold the baseball player, a black and white figure from the 40s. But mostly they’ll be tie-ins to toys and movies. New ones include Olaf from “Frozen,” The Grinch and Jett from “Super Wings.” Performers include Gwen Stefani, Wyclef Jean, 98 Degrees, Sara Evans, Andra Day with Common, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots and Smokey Robinson.

From a vantage point further uptown “Thanksgiving Day Parade” (CBS, 9 a.m.) won’t have the Broadway performances.

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