Memorial Day eve concert: The statistics become real, human stories

Each year, PBS' "National Memorial Day Concert" -- on the eve of Memorial Day, actually -- offers a rich blend of music and tributes. It can have a strong impact on some viewers ... and on some participants. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Many of us get the
general idea of Memorial Day, without the real impact.

In New Jersey, Mary
McCormack saw the parades and heard her dad's memories of being a
teenaged Marine. In Virginia, Charles Esten helped at the massive
Arlington cemetery.

Still, McCormack
said, she didn't get the depth until speaking last year at PBS'
annual concert on Memorial Day eve. “It was life-changing for me.”

On Sunday, she'll
have her second time at the concert; Esten will have his first.

He'll sing to the
masses. As a star of TV's “Nashville,” he's faced a speedway
crowd of 130,000; Sunday's crowd may double that. “When you get
that many, it's hard to tell the difference,” he said.

Esten is part of a
music line-up that includes Leona Lewis, three Broadway stars –
Cynthia Erivo, Alfie Boe and Megan Hilty – and the National
Symphony. Producers told him to sing “Some Gave All,” by Billy
Ray Cyrus. “If they had asked me to choose, I couldn't have done
better,” he said.

And McCormack will
read a tribute ... which is what affected her so deeply last year.

“Every now and
then, we get statistics” of casualties, she said. “But that
doesn't make it real to us. Then we hear about one person. We see
baby pictures and high school graduation pictures.”

Last year, she
introduced Jacke Walton, who was 6 when her dad said: “I'll be
back. Be a good girl.'”

In 1971, SSgt Lewis
Walton and six others had a reconnaissance mission near Laos. They
weren't heard from again; his body was identified 45 years later.

At last year's
concert, McCormack told about his daughter, a comforting force for
others whose family members died in war. This year, she'll tell of
Leigh Ann Hester. “She's pretty incredible.”

In 2005, Sgt
Hester's Humvee was ambushed in Iraq. Firing a rifle and throwing
grenades, she led an attack into enemy fire; she became the first
woman since World War II to win a Silver Star in combat.

Such stories neatly
fit this year – the 150th Memorial Day, the 70th
anniversary of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act ... and the
year after Hollywood scandals put a fresh emphasis on women's rights.
“I have three daughters and I want to make sure” they're in a
fair world, McCormack said.

The idea of strong
women has often filled her own life. In make-believe, she's been a
tough federal marshal (“In Plain Sight”) and the deputy national
security chief (“West Wing”). In real life, she may be the only
Hollywood star whose sister is a Supreme Court justice.

Their mom (a
therapist) and dad (who had a car dealership and an ice cream parlor)
nudged them toward community and charity work. “My sister was
always very conscious of social justice,” she said. “She had a
file cabinet in her room when she was 13, with files for 'arms race,'
'hunger' and so on.”

Bridget McCormack,
now 51, would become a law professor who started the Michigan
Innocence Clinic and, in 2013, was elected to the Michigan Supreme
Court. Her sister, 49, admires that from afar. “We have different
skills sets,” Mary McCormack said.

At 12, she starred
(playing a boy) in “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” There was more
theater, both as a performer and a fan. “We lived close to
Broadway, so we'd go to shows.”

It was a busy,
Irish-Catholic family ... but not as busy as the one she'll have in a
series (“The Kids Are Alright”) that will air after “Rosanne”
this fall. In real life, McCormack was one of three kids. On the ABC
show, she and Michael Cutlitz have eight boys.

Esten, 52, will have
his TV return sooner. “Nashville” returns June 7, for its final
eight episodes.

“Nashville” the
show is ending, but Nashville the city is where he'll still live with
his wife and three kids. “Within a week of moving here, we knew all
our neighbors. There's a real culture of kindness.”

It's a bit like the
culture that prevails during the Memorial Day eve concert.

-- “National
Memorial Day Concert, 8 p.m. Sunday (actually, Memorial Day eve),
PBS; most stations will rerun it at 9:30.

-- Joe Mantegna and
Gary Sinise return as hosts; this time, Sinise also performs with his
Lt. Dan Band.

-- More music: Leona
Lewis, Charles Esten (“Nashville”), the National Symphony,
choruses and Broadway's Megan Hilty (“Wicked”), Cynthia Erivo
(“Color Purple”), Alfie Boe (“Les Miserables”).

-- Speakers include
Mary McCormack, Allison Janney, John Corbett, Brian Tee, Graham
Greene and Colin Powell.


CW's new line-up -- now six nights to watch (or ignore)

This wraps up the five broadcast networks setting their fall line-ups. If you scroll down, you'll find the stories I sent to papers about CBS, ABC and a combined look at Fox and NBC. Here's the CW:

By Mike Hughes

Sure, it sometimes
seems like no one is watching the CW Network.

This fall, however,
they'll have more nights to not watch it. The new line-up, starting
in October, will have six nights instead of five.

The addition is
Sunday, when TV viewership tends to be high, but there's little for
fantasy fans and young females. CW will move its top-rated show,
“Supergirl,” there and follow it with a remake of “Charmed,”
the light series about young witches.

That's part of a
sci-fi surge. The line-up (which was announced Thursday morning) has
“Legends of Tomorrow” and “Arrow” on Mondays, “The Flash”
and “Black Lightning” on Tuesdays and “Supernatural” on
Thursdays, leading into the new “Legacies”; that's an “Originals”
spin-off, with Klaus' daughter Hope and Alaric's twins, Lizzie and
Josie, at a School for the Young and Gifted.

There will be more
at mid-season, with the return of “iZombie” and the reworking of
the “Roswell” series, now called “Roswell, New Mexico.”

But yes, CW does do
some non-fantasy. Its “Riverdale” will lead into the new “All
American,” based on the true story of a black football star from a
tough neighborhood, recruited to play in Beverly Hills. It has its
two most-praised shows – the final season of “Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend” and the mid-season return of “Jane the Virgin”
-- plus its not-praised “Dynasty” remake.

“Life Sentence”
and “The Originals” aren't listed, but “The 100” will be
added at mid-season. So will the new “In The Dark,” about a
young, blind woman who stumbles (literally) onto a murder mystery.

The CW has survived
despite low ratings, because its fantasy shows are popular in
new-media formats and in other countries. The fall line-up is:

-- Sundays:
“Supergirl,” 8 p.m.; “Charmed,” 9.

-- Mondays: “Legends
of Tomrrow,” 8; “Arrow,” 9.

-- Tuesdays: “The
Flash,” 8; “Black Lightning,” 9.

-- Wednesdays:
“Riverdale,” 8; “All American,” 9.

-- Thursdays:
“Supernatural,” 8; “Legacies,” 9.

-- Fridays:
“Dynasty,” 8; “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 9.


New (sorta) CBS has "Magnum" and "Murphy"

Now the big-four have set their fall line-ups. This morning (Wednesday), CBS announced its schedule; here's the story I sent to papers.If you scroll down, you'll find the previous one on ABC and a combined one on Fox an d NBC.


By Mike Hughes

The new CBS this
fall will look a lot like the older ones.

Two of the network's
past hits -- “Magnum P.I.” and “Murphy Brown” -- will be on
the fall line-up. They join a line-up that already has three revivals
(“Hawaii Five-0,” “MacGyver” and “S.W.A.T.”) plus four
spin-offs (“Young Sheldon” and the “NCIS” shows).

Still, the network
is occasionally taking drastic steps, in an approach that programming
director Kelly Kahl calls “change when we need it.”

Mostly, that's on
Mondays, once a CBS stronghold and now in shatters. “Third place is
unacceptable” for a night, Kahl insisted.

So “Scorpion” is
gone, along with most of the night's comedies -- “Kevin Can Wait,”
“Superior Donuts,” “Living Biblically,” “9JKL” and “Me,
Myself and I.” Only “Man With a Plan” survives, and not until

Instead, CBS will
take the drastic step of starting a night with two new comedies:

-- “The
Neighborhood,” Kahl said, has “an extremely friendly white family
from the Midwest that moves into a historically black neighborhood”;
Cedric the Entertainer stars.

-- “Happy
Together” is based on the real-life time when pop star Harry Styles
moved in with the family of Ben Winston, who produces James Corden's
shows. Damon Wayans Jr. and Amber Stevens West play the sorta-normal
couple, disrupted by newcomer Felix Mallard. Winston and Styles are

That will be
followed by the new “Magnum” at 9 p.m. and the transplanted
“Bull” at 10.

Some of the revivals
– CBS' “Murphy Brown,” ABC's “Roseanne” and NBC's “Will &
Grace” -- are using the original casts, but “Magnum” is a
reboot. Jay Hernandez is the new Magnum and Higgins is now a woman
(Perdita Weeks) with martial-arts skills.

There are two other
changes that network programmer Thom Sherman jokingly said his staff
“worked long and hard” to decide: Magnum no longer has a mustache
and the title no longer has a comma.

Other line-up
changes are mild:

-- The “Bull”
spot on Tuesdays goes to “FBI,” which is from Dick Wolf, producer
on NBC's Chicago and “Law & Order” shows. This one is set in
the FBI's New York office; Kahl says it has “hyper-real intensity”
and is a breakout role for Missy Peragrym and Zieiko Zaki.

-- “God Friended
Me” steps in at 8 p.m. Sundays. Sherman calls it “a funny, warm,
feel-good show” in which an atheist with a podcast (Brandon Michael
Hall) suddenly has God as a Facebook friend.

The current show in
that slot, “Instinct,” now waits for mid-season, alongside “Man
With a Plan,” “Life in Pieces,” “The Amazing Race,” two new
dramas and a new comedy.

That comedy (“Fam”)
co-stars Odessa Adlon. She and her sister Gideon are emerging as
actresses ... at the same time that fictional versions of themselves
are on their mother's cable series, “Better Things.”

The CBS fall

-- Mondays: “The
Neighborhood,” 8 p.m.; “Happy Together,” 8:30; “Magnum P.I.,”
9; “Bull,” 10.
-- Tuesdays: “NCIS,” 8; “FBI,” 9;
“NCIS: New Orleans,” 10.

-- Wednesdays:
“Survivor,” 8; “SEAL Team,” 9; “Criminal Minds,” 10.

-- Thursdays: “The
Big Bang Theory,” 8; “Young Sheldon,” 8:30; “Mom,” 9;
“Murphy Brown,” 9:30; “S.W.A.T.,” 10.

-- Fridays:
“MacGyver,” 8; “Hawaii Five-0,” 9; “Blue Bloods,” 10.

-- Saturday: Reruns
, 8 and 9; “48 hours,” 10.

-- Sunday: “60
Minutes,” 7; “God Friended Me,” 8; “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9;
“Madam Secretary,” 10.

ABC this fall: Fun, families but (for now) no fantasy

This is the big week, when networks announce their fall schedules. If you scroll down, you'll find a combined look at Fox and NBC. Here's the ABC story I sent to papers; CBS is next.

By Mike Hughes

The changing world
of ABC may have lots of laughs, plenty of non-fiction shows ... and a
sudden fantasy void.

Gone are “Once
Upon a Time,” “Inhumans” and “The Crossing.” Another
fantasy show, “Agents of SHIELD,” won't be back until the summer
of 2019.

The one-year
experiment with fantasy Fridays has ended. Instead, “Fresh Off the
Boat” and “Speechless” will move to that night. “We did
really well with comedies there for many years,” said Channing
Dungey, ABC's programming chief.

That ended last
year, with the cancellation of Tim Allen's “Last Man Standing.”
Now “Standing” will have the same slot (8 p.m. Fridays) on a
different network (Fox), colliding with the ABC transplants.

The move lets ABC
have more comedies (10) and gives strong spots to its two new ones.
One will follow “Roseanne,” a surprise ratings powerhouse in its
return; the other follows “Modern Family.”

After that first
Friday hour, however, the weekend will go to non-fiction – the
“Child Support” game show and “20/20” on Fridays, football on
Saturdays and a makeshift Sunday line-up (during pro-football season)
with a kids' version of “Dancing With the Stars” and an Alec
Baldwin talk show.

Details of the
Baldwin show are still in transition. Dungey said practice versions
have been done with and without a studio audience; first episodes
will be taped in June, she said, including one going through the life
and career of Robert De Niro.

And dramas?
“Designated Survivor” is gone -- “creatively, we had a lot of
churn” with several show-runners, Dungey said – as are “Quantico”
and others. Superproducer Shonda Rhimes is taking all her new shows
to Netflix, but ABC is clinging to the ones it still has. Thursdays
will be all-Shonda -- “Grey's Anatomy,” “Station 19,” “How
To Get Away With Murder” -- with the fourth Rhimes show, “For the
People,” taking over when “Murder” rests.

One drama, “A
Million Little Things,” may have the feeling of ABC's
“thirtysomething” or “Brothers & Sisters,” Dungey said.
And the other could end the network's 10 p.m. Tuesday troubles.

Dungey has said the
network erred by canceling a series that had stand-alone crime
stories (Dana Delany's “Body of Proof”) and replacing it with
five years of failed shows with serialized stories. Now the spot has
Nathan Fillion, 47, as a guy making a mid-life change and becoming a
Los Angeles cop, alongside people half his age. “The stories will
be self-contained and close-ended,” she said.

The fall line-up:

-- Mondays: “Dancing
With the Stars,” 8 p.m., “The Good Doctor,” 10.

-- Tuesdays:
Roseanne, 8; “The Kids Are Alright,” 8:30; “Black-ish,” 9;
“Splitting Up Together,” 9:30; “The Rookie,” 10.

-- Wednesdays: “The
Goldbergs,” 8 p.m.; “American Housewife,” 8:30; “Modern
Family,” 9; “Single Parents,” 9:30; “A Million Little
Things,” 10.

--Thursdays: “Grey's
Anatomy,” 8; “Station 19,” 9; “How to Get Away With Murder,”

-- Fridays: “Fresh
Off the Boat,” 8; Speechless,” 8:30; “Child Support,” 9;
“20/20,” 10.

-- Saturdays:
College football.

-- Sundays:
“America's Funniest Home Videos,” 7 p.m.; “Dancing With the
Stars: Juniors,” 8; “Shark Tank,” 9; “The Alec Baldwin Show,”


Yes, Steve Harvey really is everywhere, all the time

Somehow, the concept of "overexposure" doesn't affect Steve Harvey. No matter how often we see him, we're still happy when he pops up on anothr show. Currently, that's "Showtime at the Apollo" in prime time, others in the daytime. Here's the story I sent to papers:


By Mike Hughes

Running a few
minutes late, Steve Harvey offered an apology and an understatement.

“I've got a bunch
of jobs,” he said. “They overlap sometimes.”

You think? At 61,
Harvey makes Ryan Seacrest look like a slacker. He has:

-- Five primetime
shows at various times of the year. The current one is Fox's
“Showtime at the Apollo,” at 9 p.m. Thursdays, Others –
especially strong in the summer – include “Celebrity Family
Feud,” “Funderdome” and “Little Big Shots,” plus its
spin-off, “Forever Young.”

-- Three daily shows
year-round -- “Family Feud,” a morning radio show and the “Steve”
talk show.

-- And occasional
specials, from award shows to Miss Universe.

It's no way for a
guy to start his 60s. “My friends go play golf twice a week,”
Harvey said. “They do all this other stuff. They're actually at
home barbecuing in the middle of the week.”

And he's on a plane,
between Los Angeles and New York. He used to base the talk show in
Chicago, but that was a bit much.

“I do not miss
6-below-zero,” Harvey said. “I'll tell you what drove me out of
Chicago was the year before last, they invented a new cold and it's
called the vortex.”

Harvey does this by
avoiding preparation. “That's how I do all my shows,” he said. “I
don't meet the families on 'Family Feud.' I don't come to rehearsals
(or) meet the kids at 'Little Big Shots.' The thing that attracts
people to me is my authenticity.”

At times –
including when he read the wrong winner for Miss Universe – the
underpreparation can be a problem. More often, Harvey's instinctive
reactions are part of the charm.

The rest is work
ethic. This is a guy who was a coal-miner's son in West Virginia and
then a blue-collar kid in Cleveland. He held various day jobs and
sometimes slept in his car, while struggling in comedy.

Harvey had some
success at that, hosting and then owning a comedy club in Dallas. But
the big break came when he tried the Apollo Theater in the early

“It was probably
one of the scariest nights I've ever had,” he said. “It's such a
tough place to play.”

Over its 117 years,
this Harlem theater has been known for audiences that will boo an act
off the stage. “I went out, got a standing ovation, and my
television career was born,” Harvey said.

He was brought back
as guest host of the syndicated “Showtime at the Apollo” and
then, from 1993 to 2000, as host. When Fox brought the show back –
first as specials, then as a series – he was hosting.

Is there anything he
isn't doing? For now, Harvey plans no more books, no comedy tour and,
he says, definitely no movies.

“If you blow my
face up 25-feet high, it doesn't look good,” he said. “You've got
to keep me out of theaters .... My face, 25 feet tall, it's scary.”