His dad made him a star (sort of) and he's making some TV thrills


Any time Mario Van Peebles makes a film -- or talks about anything -- it's interesting. Now, just in time for the Halloween season, his "Superstition" series debuts Friday (Oct. 20); here;s the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Somewhere alongside
the scares and thrills in Mario Van Peebles' new show, there's an old
tale:

A kid grows up in
the family business, then goes away. When he returns, his dad is
hesitant.

That's the story in
“Superstition” ... and in other movies and TV shows ... and in
Van Peebles' real life.

“If you grow up on
a family farm, you learn a little bit about feeding the chickens,”
he said. And “when you grow up with Melvin Van Peebles, ...you
learn as a kid” to make movies.

So he's given
“Superstition” the look of a big-deal horror film. It focuses on
Calvin, who grew up in a funeral home – with his dad (Mario Van
Peebles) and mom often fighting demons. The young man left to join
the Army; when he returns, his dad hesitates.

Yes, Van Peebles has
been there. His dad specialized in do-it-yourself filmmaking; Mario
took an opposite route – Columbia University, an economics degree,
two years in New York City government. That's when he decoded he
wanted to be in movies, after all.

“My dad sort of
said, 'OK, so we're going to make you a star.' .... He drew a little
star on a piece of paper and he handed it to me.

“Then he said,
'Here's my free advice: Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell
and advertise.'”

Van Peebles, 60, has
apparently done that. After leading-man roles (including the “Sonny
Spoon” series), he's done it all, like his dad. He's the
“Superstition” producer, director, co-writer and co-star, with
his daughter Morgana co-starring as Garvey.

And yes, he
advertises vigorously. Talking with reporters, he quoted from the
masters – Rudyard Kipling, Martin Luther King and Melvin Van
Peebles ... a guy who knows how to make someone a star.

-- “Superstition,”
10 p.m. Fridays, Syfy

-- Opener, Oct. 20,
reruns at midnight, then at 11 p.m. Oct. 26 and 6 a.m. Oct. 27

TV by the numbers: Still a man's world


The previous blog takes a Weinstein-era look at the male-female imbalance in the TV world. Alongside that, however, here are a few numbers, viewing which genres -- and which networks -- show the most and the least balance.

By Mike Hughes

Television is still
a man's world – as you might have suspected.

But the extent
depends on what network – or what genre – you're watching.

To test this, we
took the 64 primetime, scripted shows on the big-four networks. Then
we listed them according to whether the lead character is male or
female.

Yes, that can be
subjective. And yes, a few shows -- “This is Us,” “Modern
Family,” etc. -- defy category. Any two people might disagree on a
few of these; still, general trends are clear:

-- Overall: There
are 41 shows with a male lead, 16 female, seven mixed.

-- By network: Two
networks are balanced: NBC has 4 male, 5 female, 3 mixed; ABC has 8
male, 7 female, 2 mixed. The others aren't close: CBS has 18 male, 2
female, 1 mixed; Fox has 11-2-1.

-- By genre: The
crime (and firefighter) shows are 13 male and 4 female; you can also
add two military shows (both male) and some fantasy (five male, two
mixed). Once you've eliminated those, the dramas are balanced – 4
male, 5 female, 1 mixed. The comedies are not – 17 male, 7 female,
4 mixed.

-- And reality:
Things get worse if you add reality hosts; all five are male.

-- The outsider: If
you add the fifth commercial network, things are better. CW has 5
male (1 drama, 4 fantasy) and 5 female (1 drama, 1 fantasy, 1
military and two Friday shows in their own worlds).

-- And yes, things
are slightly more even now than they used to be. We checked one past
year, 2006. There were fewer overall shows then (fewer half-hour
shows, more hour ones and more reality), but the result was even more
imbalanced than now – 39 male, 9 female, 6 mixed.

 

 

TV gropes for equality (sometimes) in a Weinstein world


The Harvey Weinstein scandal has been a fierce jolt. A guy who makes great movies -- many of my favorites, in fact -- faces allegations of decades of sexual harassment. I can't tell you about that, but I can broaden the subject a little, and look at equality in the TV world. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

As the nasty details
of the Harvey Weinstein story sink in, it's time to ponder the TV
landscape.

Here was a movie
mogul, accused of constantly trying to cajole actresses and
assistants into sex. His company fired him; the movie academy
expelled him.

That's an extreme,
but it begs questions of whether TV is fair. “The whole industry
has been (skewed) toward white heterosexual males,” Jon Landgraf,
head of the FX networks, said last year.

Landgraf is one of
those and admitted “a failure of leadership on my part as well as
(the TV) industry.”

At the time, he was
discussing a Variety trade-paper report: White males make up between
31 and 35 per cent of the U.S., Landgraf said, but a much bigger part
of the TV directors pool. They ranged from 67 percent for ABC shows
to 88 percent for FX. “I was dismayed.”

He promptly did
something about it. Currently, he said, 48 percent of FX directors
are white men.

Others, however,
have been slower to fix apparent inequities. For instance:

-- Gillian Anderson
said her show (“The X-Files”) has an all-male writing staff ...
and has had only two female directors in 207 episodes. Dana Walden,
co-head of Fox, said producer Chris Carter is now changing that. “I
don't want to make any excuses for anyone,” she said, but a show
with “a very deep and specific mythology” tends to rely on its
old hands ... presumably from the male-dominated years.

-- We categorized
primetime, scripted shows on the big-four networks. Out of 64, 41
have a male as the top character, only 16 have a female. The other seven (“This is Us,” etc.) are thoroughly mixed.

-- CBS takes that to
an extreme -- 18 shows with male leads, two with female leads and one
mixed. This is the second straight fall that it didn't add a new
female-topped shows. Also, critics pointed out this summer, the
casting department was all-white.

The network's excuse
is its stability. “We have a lot of long-running shows,” said
Thom Sherman, a CBS programmer. Kelly Kahl, the CBS programming
chief, said the casting people “have been together a long time.”
He points to increased diversity among writers, supporting actors and
reality-show contestants. “So we are making progress.”

But what about
instant progress? That's what Ryan Murphy – who makes many of FX's
top shows -- did. Now, he said, 60 per cent of his directors are
female; six percent are white male heterosexuals.

That's been
important to Murphy, Landgraf said. “He had grown up in the Midwest
as a gay man (and) always had people who were perceived as outsiders
... in his shows.”

Murphy offers a
reminder that Hollywood is no longer the sole province of
heterosexual males.

Nina Tassler was
programming chief of CBS for a decade. When she left, the job went to
Glenn Geller, who quickly identified himself as “a gay guy from
Indiana.” Robert Greenblatt, the NBC chief for the past seven
years, promptly reminded reporters that “I still come from Illinois
and I'm still gay.”

Geller resigned this
year, while recovering from a heart attack, but the TV world is
clearly more than a land of executives chasing actresses.

As recently as 2010,
ABC's programming chief resigned amid reports of a sexual-harassment
probe. Now the programming chief is Channing Dungey, the first black
female to head a major network.

Elsewhere, other
women are in charge. Courtney Monroe has transformed the National
Geographic Channel and leads its global operation ... Bonnie Hammer
runs the sprawling cable empire of NBC Universal ... Paula Kerger has
been the PBS president for 11 years. But the hurdles are still
imposing.

“The women and the
minorities have to shout louder and fight harder than many of our
white male colleagues,” Alexis Martin Woodall said. “Trust me ...
being 5-foot-3 and a woman, the hustle is real.”

Still, Murphy has
promoted her quickly; she's been executive producer of “Feud,”
“American Horror Story” and the O.J. Simpson miniseries. She sees
his efforts as proof that TV can have equality. “Network and studio
heads and male producers can no longer bury their heads in the sand.”

Well, they probably
can ... but in a Weinstein-fueled time, people might notice.

 

TV gropes for equality (sometimes) in a Weinstein world


The Harvey Weinstein scandal has been a fierce jolt. A guy who makes great movies -- many of my favorites, in fact -- faces allegations of decades of sexual harassment. I can't tell you about that, but I can broaden the subject a little, and look at equality in the TV world. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

As the nasty details
of the Harvey Weinstein story sink in, it's time to ponder the TV
landscape.

Here was a movie
mogul, accused of constantly trying to cajole actresses and
assistants into sex. His company fired him; the movie academy
expelled him.

That's an extreme,
but it begs questions of whether TV is fair. “The whole industry
has been (skewed) toward white heterosexual males,” Jon Landgraf,
head of the FX networks, said last year.

Landgraf is one of
those and admitted “a failure of leadership on my part as well as
(the TV) industry.”

At the time, he was
discussing a Variety trade-paper report: White males make up between
31 and 35 per cent of the U.S., Landgraf said, but a much bigger part
of the TV directors pool. They ranged from 67 percent for ABC shows
to 88 percent for FX. “I was dismayed.”

He promptly did
something about it. Currently, he said, 48 percent of FX directors
are white men.

Others, however,
have been slower to fix apparent inequities. For instance:

-- Gillian Anderson
said her show (“The X-Files”) has an all-male writing staff ...
and has had only two female directors in 207 episodes. Dana Walden,
co-head of Fox, said producer Chris Carter is now changing that. “I
don't want to make any excuses for anyone,” she said, but a show
with “a very deep and specific mythology” tends to rely on its
old hands ... presumably from the male-dominated years.

-- We categorized
primetime, scripted shows on the big-four networks. Out of 65, 41
have a male as the top character, only 16 have a female. The other
eight (“This is Us,” etc.) are thoroughly mixed.

-- CBS takes that to
an extreme -- 18 shows with male leads, two with female leads and one
mixed. This is the second straight fall that it didn't add a new
female-topped shows. Also, critics pointed out this summer, the
casting department was all-white.

The network's excuse
is its stability. “We have a lot of long-running shows,” said
Thom Sherman, a CBS programmer. Kelly Kahl, the CBS programming
chief, said the casting people “have been together a long time.”
He points to increased diversity among writers, supporting actors and
reality-show contestants. “So we are making progress.”

But what about
instant progress? That's what Ryan Murphy – who makes many of FX's
top shows -- did. Now, he said, 60 per cent of his directors are
female; six percent are white male heterosexuals.

That's been
important to Murphy, Landgraf said. “He had grown up in the Midwest
as a gay man (and) always had people who were perceived as outsiders
... in his shows.”

Murphy offers a
reminder that Hollywood is no longer the sole province of
heterosexual males.

Nina Tassler was
programming chief of CBS for a decade. When she left, the job went to
Glenn Geller, who quickly identified himself as “a gay guy from
Indiana.” Robert Greenblatt, the NBC chief for the past seven
years, promptly reminded reporters that “I still come from Illinois
and I'm still gay.”

Geller resigned this
year, while recovering from a heart attack, but the TV world is
clearly more than a land of executives chasing actresses.

As recently as 2010,
ABC's programming chief resigned amid reports of a sexual-harassment
probe. Now the programming chief is Channing Dungey, the first black
female to head a major network.

Elsewhere, other
women are in charge. Courtney Monroe has transformed the National
Geographic Channel and leads its global operation ... Bonnie Hammer
runs the sprawling cable empire of NBC Universal ... Paula Kerger has
been the PBS president for 11 years. But the hurdles are still
imposing.

“The women and the
minorities have to shout louder and fight harder than many of our
white male colleagues,” Alexis Martin Woodall said. “Trust me ...
being 5-foot-3 and a woman, the hustle is real.”

Still, Murphy has
promoted her quickly; she's been executive producer of “Feud,”
“American Horror Story” and the O.J. Simpson miniseries. She sees
his efforts as proof that TV can have equality. “Network and studio
heads and male producers can no longer bury their heads in the sand.”

Well, they probably
can ... but in a Weinstein-fueled time, people might notice.

 

Garlin's world stays busy: The Cubs are back


Sometime after 1 a.m., life brightened for Chicago Cub fans: The  baseball gods has intervened -- via a wild pitch, a hit batter, catcher's interference, a pick-off and more; the Cubs remain in the World Series chase.

Now they head to Los Angeles, home of one of their noisiest fans --  Jeff Garlin, co-star of both "The Goldbergs" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Hee's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Right now, Jeff
Garlin's life seems to be overflowing.

One of his shows
(“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) is finally back ... Another (“The
Goldbergs”) turns 100 and is everywhere ... And the Chicago Cubs
are back in the World Series chase.

And no, that's not
necessarily the order of importance.

Proof of that is in
the studio, where Garlin portrays the patriarch, Murray Goldberg.
Hanging from the rafters is a giant “W” flag, signifying a Cubs
win. “Last year, he was wearing it like a cape,” said Sam Lerner,
who plays Geoff, a friend of the Goldberg kids.

The flag remains
off-camera, an anomaly for “Goldbergs,” which is set in 1980s
Pennsylvania.

Artifacts of the
decade are all over the set, even in details the cameras won't see.
There are the games (Knight Rider, Fireball Island, GoBots, Hungry
Hungry Hippos) ... the records (Monkees, George Michael) ... and the
movies (“Stand By Me,” “Dark Crystal,” an “ET” lunch
box).

The video games –
Atari, Asteroids, etc. -- seem primitive now, but Sean Giambrone, who
plays Adam, is cheery. “I've become pretty well-versed” in the
era, he said. “I could have had a good time then.”

Another artifact is
the elaborate hairdo that Wendi McLendon-Covey wears as Beverly
Goldberg, Murray's wife. “The women worked so hard at looking
put-together,” she said.

This is part of
Beverly's assertive approach to life, McLendon-Covey said. “She
puts her armor on and she's ready for the world.”

Murray doesn't have
armor ... and sometimes doesn't have pants. He prefers not to be put
together.

This is a decade
Garlin recalls fondly. “I graduated high school in 1980,” he
said. “I started doing (stand-up) comedy in '82. I lost my
virginity in '82.”

He grew up in the
Chicago area, but moved to Florida in 6th grade, after his
father sold his plumbing-supply business. After briefly trying
Broward Community College and the University of Miami, he returned to
Chicago, which had what he wanted – comedy clubs, Second City and
the Cubs.

For the Cubs, those
1980s started horribly (64 wins, 98 losses) and ended splendidly
(93-69). In between were seven other losing seasons and one winning
one. The Cubs did win the division title twice (1984 and '89), but
then lost in the play-offs. The World Series was out of the question.

So last season
became big for Garlin. He flew to Chicago for the three World Series
games at Wrigley Field and saw the Cubs fall behind, three games to
one, in a best-of-seven series. “I asked (manager) John Madden ...
and he said, 'We got it.'”

They did – the
first Cubs World Series in 108 years -- and Garlin returned to work
with his “W” cape. Now comes the new overload:

-- “Curb Your
Enthusiasm” on HBO for the first time in six-plus years. “I knew
it would be back,” he said. He co-stars and is one of the show's
producers.

-- “The Goldbergs”
with its 100th ABC episode on Oct. 25. Reruns are on cable
(Pop and Nickelodeon) and this fall began airing on individual
stations.

-- And the Cubs.
They won the division title, barely survived the first play-off round
and are in the second, with the winner going to the World Series.
This round has Chicago and Los Angeles; Garlin has homes in both
cities ... but we can guess which team he'll root for.

-- “The
Goldbergs,” 8 p.m. Wednesdays, ABC, with the 100th
episode on Oct. 25. Reruns are on Pop (8-11 p.m. Tuesdays, 8:30-11
p.m. Wednesdays), Nickelodeon (1-2 a.m. daily) and individual
stations.

-- “Curb Your
Enthusiasm,” 10 p.m. Sundays, HBO, rerunning often on HBO and HBO2.

-- Cubs-Dodgers
series on TBS, starts Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 14-15) in Los
Angeles; continues Tuesday, Wednesday and (if needed) Thursday in
Chicago; then (if needed) Oct. 21-22 in Los Angeles.