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

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

“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

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

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

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

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

-- 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

-- “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.



Morgan Freeman views love, hate and the tribal quest for humanity

Last season's "The Story of God" was a terrific documentary series. Now the same people -- including Morgan Freeman -- are back for "The Story of Us," another show that's huge in scope and high in quality. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Morgan Freeman has
become our consummate authority figure.

He's been a senator,
a vice-president, speaker of the house and chief justice ... a
sergeant major, a lieutenant, a colonel ... a professor, a judge,
several doctors, a shiek and Batman's research chief.

He's also been
Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela. He's been a messenger from God once and
God twice. When he speaks, we listen. And now we hear a central
notion of his “Story of Us” documentary series: There are a lot
of good people out there.

But what about
growing up as a black kid in 1940s Mississippi? Surely, he felt
hatred then.

“Not hatred,”
Freeman said firmly. “Never. Segregation was numbing, but I never
felt hatred.”

Instead, he said, he
felt love. As an infant, he was sent to his father's parents. “I
was raised by a small group of people, It rook a village, really ....
Everyone in my neighborhood knew everyone else.”

It was a warm family
that encouraged him. At 9, he had the lead in a school play .... At
12, he won a state drama competition .... In high school, he did a
radio show ... Throughout, he savored movies.

“I grew up in the
movies – watching them and not seeing enough of me, none of me,”
Freeman said. “So my film career is actually predicated on being
able to see me.”

That would take a
while. He joined the Air Force in the mid-50s; told there were no
black pilots, he became a radar repairman. He studied theater and
dance in San Francisco and recalls a time in 1962 when he was
crashing with friends, penniless and homeless.

That comes to mind
as he discusses “Story of Us,” which tackles a different theme
each week. The opener, on freedom, includes a man born into North
Korean slavery, a woman imprisoned in Russia and Albert Woodfox, who
seems at peace after 43 years of solitary confinement in Louisiana.

“I grew up in the
South, single-parent situations, having the opportunity to take the
wrong path,” Freeman said. “When I sit with Albert, (I feel):
''There, but for the grace of really good luck (go I).”

Others in the series
are people he can admire from a distance. Consider:

-- Joshua Coombes, a
London hair stylist who gives free haircuts to the homeless. “The
greatest feeling you have is when you share love with someone,”
Coombes said. “Often, that's reserved for family or a loved one.
But it's about trying to stretch out a bit and actually make that
work in communities.”

-- Megan
Phelps-Roper, whose grandfather (the late Rev. Fred Phelps) preached
hatred of gays, even protesting at funerals. She's broken from her
family, a change that she says came after social-media conversations
with people. “They are tired of endless yelling and lack of

Such divides are
part of human instinct, Freeman said. “We are naturally tribal.”

But the second hour
(on peace) views successful efforts to blend opposite sides in
Rwanda, Ethiopia, Belfast and beyond. And not included in the series
is an example closer to his life:

In 1991, Freeman
moved back to his boyhood home of Charleston – a Mississippi town
of 2,200 that had two proms, one black, one white. In '97, he offered
to pay for an integrated prom; the offer was finally accepted in 2008
– amid some dissent, including a small, private prom for whites.

“It was the
parents, not the kids, who caused the problem,” said Lori McCreary,
the producer of “Story of Us” and some other Freeman films.

The kids mostly
partied peacefully in Charleston; the grown-up eventually got
together in Rwanda and Ethiopia. Sometimes, hatred fades.

-- “The Story of
Us,” 9 p.m. ET Wednesdays, National Geographic; reruns are 11 p.m.
Wednesdays, 10 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. the next Wednesday.

-- Starts Oct. 11
with “The March of Freedom”; Oct. 18 is “The Fight for Peace.”


After sports stardom? Go jump in the (icy) lake

Retirement can mean whittling or checkers or solitaire or such. Or, for some retired athletes, it can mean swooping down hills or plunging into icy lakes. That's in "Advenure Capitalists," which starts its season Tuesday (Oct. 10). Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

So let's say you've
finished that pro-sports career you dreamed of.

You've made big
money, drawn big cheers. Now what do you do?

How about plunging
into ice-cold water ... or zooming downhill ... or racing through the
wilds? Those are things people do early in the new “Adventure
Capitalists” season.

“They're all new
experiences .... You get to evolve,” said Dhani Jones, a former pro

And sometimes you
invest in the company. “If 'Shark Tank' and 'Survivor' had a secret
love child, it would be 'Adventure Capitalists,'” said Jim
Ackerman, the CNBC programming chief.

Three athletes –
Jones, skier Jeremy Bloom and gymnast Shawn Johnson East – try
outdoor products, then listen to the pitch and sometimes invest.
“It's like a sibling rivalry, a little bit,” Bloom said. “Shawn
and I trained for the Olympics, Dhani spent 11 years in the NFL, so
we are used to putting our bodies at risk .... There's no instruction
manual; we just jump on them.”

These are type-A's,
in sports and in business. “We are always talking over each other,”
East said.

That may surprise
people who expect athletes to be one-dimensional. But consider:

-- East, 25. In the
five years since retiring, she's been a “Dancing With the Stars”
champion, written books and taken a long list of endorsement deals.

-- Bloom, 35. He
launched a big tech and advertising firm – something he was
prepared for: He's a Wharton grad, his dad is a psychologist ... and
his sister ran a Hollywood poker ring; she's being portrayed by
Jessica Chastain in the Aaron Sorkin movie, “Molly's Game.”

-- Jones, 39. His
mom is a doctor and his dad was a Navy commander; he grew up in
Maryland (and sometimes Japan), but traveled worldwide.

He learned some
discipline ... and entrepreneurship. At Potomac events, “I was the
kid who sold water at the side of the road. My friend and I would
bring a wagon and sell water.”

After prep school,
he wanted to choose a college for academics, not athletics. He
recalls seeing a pamphlet that showed the University of Michigan
symbol on top of a globe. “I liked the audacity of the school; they
basically said they ARE the globe.”

So he went to the
school whose alumni include Arthur Miller, Gerald Ford, 21
billionaires and the unabomber. “I can go to New York City and
already know people,” said Jones, who had a major
(“self-representation”) he fashioned himself. “Or to Sioux

But yes, they play
football at U-M. He was an all-Big Ten linebacker three times
(1997-99); during that stretch, U-M was 32-5, winning the Rose,
Citrus and Orange bowls and a national championship.

Then came 11 years
in the pros, the final four with the Cincinnati Bengals. “I look at
Cincinnati and all the things going on there.I see a real renaissance
going on that I want to be part of.” So he's stayed there with his
love interest, plus two kids (4 and almost 2), a cafe (Bow Tie Cafe),
an investment firm (Qey Capital) and a creative agency

And he flies off for
“Capitalists,” which can be risky. “That's what the hospitals
are there for.”

But yes, some things
are scary the first time you do them. “He was freaked out riding
his first motorcycle,” East said.

And quite upset when
he was supposed to try a cold-defying fabric. Jones was reluctant to
jump into the ice water ... so he was pushed in. “I popped out of
the water, couldn't talk, and then guess what happened? They pushed
me right back in.” Sibling rivalries can be tough sometimes.


-- “Adventure
Capitalists,” 10 p.m. ET Tuesdays, CNBC; season-opener is Oct. 10.

-- Opener reruns at
1 a.m. ET, then at 11 p.m. Wednesday, noon Saturday, 9 p.m. Sunday


CW fills its week with super women

Oveshadowed by bigger (much bigger) networks, it's hard for CW to get noticed. It tries hard, with superheroes and, at times, super women. Now its season starts Monday (Oct. 9); here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

After giving the big
networks a two-week head start, little CW is ready for its season.

In one busy week, it
launches all 10 of is shows. Mostly, it gives us lots of women; many
are strong and smart, some are scheming, one is super.

After viewers see
Supergirl hoist a submarine over her head in the opener, the rest
might seem minor. But there are two clever, female-centered shows on
Fridays -- “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Jane the Virgin,” both
Golden Globe winners – and two new shows:

-- “Valor,” at 9
p.m. Mondays, with Christina Ochoa as Nora, a helicopter pilot for a
special-ops unit. “This is a female-driven military drama, which I
think does set it apart,” said producer Anna Fricke.

-- “Dynasty,” at
9 p.m. Wednesdays. This remake puts much of the focus on Fallon
Carrington, Blake's ambitious daughter. “She has a biting wit ... I
lover her strength and I think that's what really drew me to the
role,” said Elizabeth Gillies, who plays her. “I'm having to kick
it up a notch.”

Yes, “Dynasty”
is clearly a soap-opera ... and an over-the-top one at that. “Valor”
also slips in some hyper moments. “It's going to be a great soap,
on top of having a military background,” said Mark Pedowitz, the CW
programming chief.

Still, they're
sharply different worlds. In “Valor,” life is conducted amid
discipline. “Nora and her boyfriend can't touch each other when
they're in uniform and when they're on base,” Fricke said.

By comparison,
Fallon and her rival Cristal have fancy hair and gowns ... which
doesn't stop them from having a fierce fight, seeming like a
throwback to the old “Dynasty” days.

“If modern women
today (fight) for equal pay and to be treated equally and seen
equally as men,” said Nathalie Kelley, who plays Cristal, “why
can't we also have the right to fight like men? .... That's my
feminist take on why we pull each other's hair out (in) Episode 1.”

The key women offer
international roots:

-- Kelley is a
Peruvian native who grew up in Australia. She had supporting roles on
“Body of Proof,” “Unreal” and CW's “Vampire Diaries.”

-- Gillies grew up
in New Jersey and was on Broadway at 15. Then came Nickelodeon's
“Victorious” and FX's “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,”
vigorously tackling all of the elements in the title.

-- Ochoa is from
Spain and fits that new ideal of a modern woman – tall (5-foot-10)
and confident, conquering multiple fields. Her grand-uncle (Severo
Ochoa) was a Nobel prizewinning biochemist ... her father (Victor
Ochoa) is a noted sculptor. She's a member of Mensa, studied marine
biology and physics, speaks at scientific conferences, writes
articles ... and then does make-believe, jumping straight from
“Animal Kingdom” to this summer's “Blood Drive” and beyond.

“The intellectual
and the mental side are satisfied by my philanthropic endeavors and
science,” Ochoa said. But then there's “the creative side of my
life, where I smile the most. I get to play.”

Especially in
“Valor,” where Nora unleashes fierce emotions. For one scene,
Ochoa had to learn to bang a drum fiercely. “That was a skill that
I was not familiar with.”

For another, she
pounded walls of an abandoned house with a hammer. “They kind of
let me run wild with it .... They actually had to rebuild the wall
several times, because we got so carried away,”

That's modern life,
perhaps. Some people pull hair and rip gowns ... some batter walls
and fly helicopters ... one lifts a submarine. They're CW's

-- CW season starts
Oct. 9-13; “Valor” (9 p.m. Mondays) and “Dynasty” (9 p.m.
Wednesdays) are new.

-- Mondays:
“Supergirl,” 8 p.m., “Valor,” 9; Tuesdays: “The Flash,”
8, “Legends of Tomorrow,” 9; Wednesdays: “Riverdale,” 8,
“Dynasty,” 9; Thursdays: “Supernatural,” 8, “Arrow,” 9;
Fridays: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, 8, “Jane the Virgin,” 9.