Here's a show (and a teen star) for the Halloween season

Sometimes, the universe works things out conveniently. Danielle Rose Russell was born on Halloween ... savors the holiday and all things creepy ... and now stars in "Legacies," which arrives six days before Halloween, full of creepy types. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

To most of us,
Halloween offers a brief diversion – a once-a-year encounter with
bad costumes and good candy.

For Danielle Rose
Russell, it's much more. In various forms, it's an obsession, a
career and a birthday.

This Halloween, on
her 19th birthday, she plans to trick-or-treat, as usual.
It will be “the last Halloween when you can do that without having
to be in a mask,” TV producer Julie Plec told her.

That's because
“Legacies” could quickly make her famous. The show debuts Oct.
25, with Russell starring as the world's only witch/werewolf/vampire
tribred; it's the ideal role for someone obsessed with the holiday
that's on her birthday.

“My family and my
mom and I geek out over Halloween,” Russell said. “Every year, we
start decorating in September. We love it; I still go

And she's savored
all the eerie things connected to the holiday.

“I've always been
so entranced with the supernatural,” she said. “It's a world that
I actually fell in love with (via) 'The Vampire Diaries' when I was
like 13 or 14 .... I was like, 'One day I want to be a part of a
supernatural show like that' .... I've always wanted to be a vampire
in a show.”

Now she is one (plus
a witch and a werewolf) ... inside the universe of Plec's three

“Vampire Diaries”
began in 2009, showing mortal teens and immortal vampires in Mystic
Falls, Va. It added a New Orleans spin-off, “The Originals,” in

Both are gone now –
the “Originals” finale was last season, with “Diaries” ending
a year earlier – but the story goes on. In its final season,
“Originals” set up “Legacies” -- with Russell and other

“You have this
whole new cast of characters and all these young kids and it's super
fresh and super angsty and super new-millennial-wave,” Matt Davis

He plays Alaric
Saltzman, who's been through a lot. At various times in “Diaries,”
he was a history teacher, vampire, a vampire-hunter and ... well,
dead. None of those things are permanent in this universe, so he was
resurrected as a mortal.

As “Vampire
Diaries” was ending, Plec said, he “decided to start a boarding
school for his young twin daughters, who were born from a very dark
and psychopathic-laden witch coven.”

That was the last we
heard of him for a few years ... until “Originals” began wrapping
up. Then we learned that Hope – the daughter of Niklaus (who was
“the nastiest, oldest and fiercest vampire in the world,” Plec
says) and Hayley – was tucked away in Alaric's school.

For Davis, what
started as a four-episode role on “Vampire Diaries” has become
eternal. It “has just blossomed into this 10-year journey that I
would have never, never imagined,” he said.

Viewers won't need
to memorize the details, Plec promised. They'll merely need to “have
a love for teen soap and/or creatures of the night.”

On the one hand,
Russell said, Hope has the same problems as other teens. She's a
“kind of a messy and emotional and, you know, bad-decision-making

On the other, she
has those monsters. “In our second episode, we have a very exciting
new creature.”

That episode falls
on Nov. 1, which is variously known as All Saints' Day, All Hallows'
Day or the middle of the three-day Day of the Dead ... and is the day
after Danielle Russell's maybe-final chance to trick-or-treat while
only semi-famous.

“Legacies,” 9
p.m. Thursdays, CW, beginning Oct. 25

This "rookie" knows about re-invention ... and about sore knees

"The Rookie" arrives Tuesday (Oct. 16), with much to recommend it. The best new show of the broadcast-networks' season, it has action, drama, humor and Nathan Fillion. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

There are roles that
require an actor to stretch far beyond his own reality. Carroll
O'Conner had to be a bigot, Sally Field to be giddy, Warren Beatty to
be impotent.

Then there's Nathan
Fillion's duty in “The Rookie,” the new ABC show about a
middle-aged Los Angeles Police Department rookie. He must seem like
he gets winded when running.

“That is not far
away from my truth,” he said.

One scene in the
pilot had him trying to outrun a suspect and to climb a fence,
neither with any success. Fillion, 47, recalls needing “six pounds
of Epsom salt, (with) bruises up and down my thighs.

“I'm at the point
in my life where if I can have a stunt guy run down the street for
me, these knees will appreciate it .... Kneeling is a stunt for me.”

That fits the show.
Alexi Hawley says this began with a call from a producer who “had
the life rights to a guy who (became) the oldest rookie in the LAPD
and was I interested in putting together that show?”

Definitely. With the
current overflow of TV shows, he saw “how hard it is to find a
fresh way in, especially to a cop show.” Here was a fresh approach;
besides, Hawley is fond of:

-- Shows that can
drop humor into a drama. “Castle” -- which he used to write and
produce -- was like that; so is the “Fargo” series, from his twin
brother Noah Hawley.

-- Fillion, who
showed in “Castle” that he can handle comedy and/or drama. “It's
really hard to make people laugh,” Fillion said. “I think it's
easier to let people laugh at you.”

Hawley envisioned
the central character as 45, but his pilot script had one person
deride the “40-year-old rookie.” Either way, the first hour
allows Fillion to be a hero, a lover and a comic foil.

This also represents
a modern trend. “It used to be that you would get a career and
stick in it no matter what,” Hawley said. “And then maybe you'd
get to your 40s and have a midlife crisis.”

When called a
“midlife crisis,” it's considered a bad thing; when called
“reinvention,” it's an admirable approach to modern life. And
actors are all about reinvention.

The son of two
English teachers, Fillion grew up in Alberta. That's where he went to
college ... and it's where a Richard Chamberlain TV movie was filmed:
“'Ordeal in the Arctic' came to my home town,” he said. “I died
in a plane crash at the North Pole. It was tragic.”

The next year, he
moved to New York for a steady role on the “One Life to Live”
soap opera. He became the fourth actor (and the first adult) to play
Joey Buchanan, the son of the show's protagonists.

Soon, Joey had a
secret affair with his mother's nemesis ... who (while undergoing an
alternate personality) held him hostage in a secret room under his
mom's mansion.

Soaps are like that
sometimes; they're also good training, Fillion said. “You make a
44-minute program every day .... By the end of it, you are ready to
attack anything.”

He stayed almost
four years, got a Daytime Emmy nomination (in the “younger actor”
category), landed some guest roles, moved west ... and sputtered. “I
couldn't get a job .... It was like a year.”

The drought ended
with “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.” (He was none of those,
but was the boyfriend of the “girl” in the title.) That propelled
a TV career that has included “Firefly” and beyond.

Many of the key
stops have been on ABC, from the first ones (“Ordeal” and the
soap) to “Two Guys,” a “Desperate Housewives” season, “Castle,” several "Modern Family" episodes and now the new series.

“I have been
working for ABC since Jan. 28 of 1994,” Fillion said. There have
been plenty of pauses, but he's become a network veteran ... the sort
who wheezes when he chases a suspect.

-- “The Rookie,”
10 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC, starting Oct. 16

America's favorite novel? Here are the leaders

By Mike Hughes

As voting nears its
final days for “The Great American Read,” one thing is clear: It
helps if a book has a double appeal, to kids and grown-ups.

PBS' “Read”
asked people to choose from a list of 100 favorite novels. A week
before the voting deadline (Oct. 18 at 11:59 p.m. PT), it released a
list of the 10 leaders, in no particular order.

Half of them fit
that youth-or-grownups description. There's “Charlotte's Web,”
“Little Women,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the “Harry
Potter” and “Chronicles of Narnia” series.

Another one – the
“Lord of the Rings” series – could also fit. That leaves four
books with mainly adult appeal ... all with romance as key parts:
“Gone With the Wind,” “Jane Eyre,” “Pride and Prejudice”
and the “Outlander” series.

That top-10 was
compiled from 3.8 million votes, but the count continues, with voting

The “Read”
series has been running at 8 p.m. Tuesdays on PBS. The Oct. 16
episode will look at books that visit other worlds; the Oct. 23 one
will reveal the winner. If you scroll down a ways, you'll find three stories I did last month, when the series was starting.

Surprise: Teeny-tiny CW network grows (a little)

The good news is that the CW network -- always an interesting one -- is adding a night; that starts Sunday, Oct. 14. And the better news is that it's doing it with some good shows, "Supergirl" and the new "Charmed." Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

The CW has always
been a mini-network, a speck alongside the Disney/Netflix/NBC giants.

It went from two
networks (WB and UPN) to one (CW), from six nights to five. It seemed
settled on 10 hours a week, with micro-ratings.

Now comes the
change: The network is adding a sixth night, with two of its best
shows (“Supergirl” and “Charmed”) on Sundays. It has at least
five more scripted series in reserve, making reruns rare, even in the

“It's what we
wanted to do,” said Mark Pedowitz, the programming chief. “We
want to stay in scripted as much as we can, throughout the year.”

His network tends to
be awash in superpowers and the supernatural. One old show (starting
its 14th season) is literally called “Supernatural”; a
new one (debuting Oct. 25) has a teen who's the world's only
witch/werewolf/vampire tri-bred.

Its fans tend to be
young, female and tech-savvy, providing less emphasis on same-day
ratings. “We view the world from a linear, streaming point of
view,” Pedowitz said.

There's delayed
viewing ... and subsequent Netflix runs ... and sales to other
countries, where fantasy does well. Those Sunday shows are prime

“Supergirl” fits
the modern emphasis on strong women; so do the three “Charmed”
characters – bi-racial half-sisters who learn they're witches.
“They're in a university town ... that is really a cultural melting
pot of different ideas, different beliefs,” said producer Jennie
Snyder Urman.

For that matter,
there are different beliefs among the show's writers, said producer
Jessica O'Toole. “We meditate at the beginning of the day.”

The writing staff
even includes a Latino witch, she said. “He and his friends ...
would meet once a week and do spells and put energy out there toward
goals.” It's a CW kind of thing.

CW in brief

-- New night,
Sundays: On Oct. 14, “Supergirl” has its season-opener at 8 p.m.,
“Charmed” debuts at 9.

-- Also new: “All
American,” 9 p.m. Wednesdays; “Legacies,” will be 9 p.m.
Thursdays, starting Oct. 25. The former isn't supernatural; it's the
culture-clash tale of a teen football star moving from a tough
neighborhood to Beverly Hills. The latter is very supernatural,
centering on a witch/werewolf/vampire.

-- Still coming:
“Arrow” opens its season at 8 p.m. Monday (Oct. 15); “Legends
of Tomorrow” starts a week later, a 9 p.m. Oct. 22.

-- The other shows:
“The Flash” and “Black Lightning” on Tuesdays; “Riverdale”
at 8 p.m. Wednesdays; “Supernatural” at 8 p.m. Thursdays;
“Dynasty” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” on Fridays.

-- In reserve:
Three returning shows -- “Jane the Virgin,” “iZombie” and
“The 100” -- plus two new ones, “In the Dark” and a “Roswell”
reboot. Other shows are in the works, including “Batwoman,” and
CW tends to add lower-cost summer shows.

-- Tough times: On
“Arrow,” Oliver Queen is currently in prison for his vigilante
deeds as The Green Arrow ... On “Riverdale,” Archie Andrews is in
juvenile detention for a murder he didn't commit ... On “Black
Lightning,” our hero is sought by police. It's tough to be a good
guy on the CW.

An epic show-business world was (really) based in Baraboo

For the next couple days (Oct. 8-9), PBS has a terrific "American Experience" film about the circus. If you scroll down one, you'll find the story I sent to papers. But now please oblige me for a brief Wisconsin detour. I'm from Wisconsin -- yes, I've had cheese on my head and Alan "The Horse" Ameche in my heart; I've also played the tuba -- and I enjoyed seeing how guys from there ended up dominating the circus. they still dominate memories, thanks to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo. Here's the story I sent to a Wisconsin paper.

By Mike Hughes

As the 20th
century began, this was clear: The circus would be dominated by
Wisconsin people – again.

In the first half of
its “Circus” documentary, PBS focuses heavily on the center of
all Big Top/big deal commotion, P.T. Barnum.

But Barnum died in
1891 and his business partner, James Bailey, struggled. As the film
begins its second half (8-10 p.m. CT Tuesday), he's taking the Barnum
& Bailey circus on a risky European tour.

Other risks were
ahead, as the show kept bloating. After Bailey's death (in 1906, at
58), the circus would be sold to five Baraboo brothers for $510,000;
the two shows finally merged in 1917.

The Ringling Bros.
and Barnum & Bailey Circus would last for another century, before
closing last year. Its impact lingers at the Circus World Museum in

Wisconsin's circus impact goes back much further. In 1847, a touring
circus chose Delavan as its winter headquarters; eventually, a
reported 28 circuses stayed there ... including one owned by W.C.
Coup. In 1871, he linked with Barnum (who was already 60) to create
Barnum's first circus. By the end of the century, the PBS fays says,
there were about 100 American circuses; soon, the Ringlings would
have the biggest.

These were
small-town guys who ran a family-friendly show, the film says, but
they were also willing to tak chances ... sometimes too willing: In
1929, the Ringlings borrowed $1.7 million to buy five Indiana
circuses; five weeks later, the stock market crashed.

That slowed their
business – just as World War I and the flu epidemic had done. In
1936, John Ringling – the last of the five founding brothers –
died at 70.

His nephew, John
Ringling North, took over in 1938 and continued to try bold srokes.
He even had a ballet – composed by Igor Stravinsky, choreographed
by George Balanchine – for elephants in tutus.

But there were more
tragedies, including a 1942 circus-tent fire that killed 158 people
and seriously injured almost 500 more. And there was increased
competition from TV and movies.

In 1956, in
Pittsburgh, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus had its
last touring tent show. That's when the PBS film stops, calling it
the end of an era.

Still ... a new era
would do fine for a while. Sticking to arenas, the Ringling show
would continue for six more decades. On May 21, 2017, it had its
final performance. Still, it would linger in memories, in history and
in Baraboo.

-- “American
Experience: The Circus,” 9-11 p.m. Monday and Tuesday (Oct. 8-9),

-- Circus World
Museum, in Baraboo, Wis. This year, its exhibits – including spectacular
wagons – are open through Oct. 31 (except for Oct. 13-14). They'll
re-open March 19; from May 17 to Sept. 1, there will be daily circus
perormances. See