Yes, "Walker, Texas Ranger" is now eternal

This new world of digital TV antennas has brought many things, from old Chrismas specials to PBS' 24-hour kids' TV channel. But most of all, it has meant eternal life for TV reruns. The latest addition is "Walker, Texas Ranger" -- all 196 episodes of it. Here's the story I sent to papers.

By Mike Hughes

This was the show
that just kept going.

“Walker, Texas
Ranger” lasted eight seasons – which is one more than “The West
Wing” or “Cagney & Lacey” or “Hill Street Blues.”

It was sometimes
overlooked, especially at awards time. Those other three shows
totaled 224 Emmy nominations, winning 60 times; “Walker” had one
nomination, for sound editing.

But it persisted.
“You can't kill it with a stick,” Paul Haggis used to say with a

Haggis was one of
four scriptwriters for the pilot, then never did another episode. (He
had other things to keep him busy, including the Oscar-winning
“Crash.”) But as co-creator, he has a perpetual payday.

And yes, Chuck
Norris' show seems eternal. It went to 100 countries; its reruns
persisted on cable ... and now jump into a newer world: Beginning
Monday (June 4), “Walker” has four episodes each weekday
afternoon on GetTV, which many viewers can get via digital antenna or

Would anyone have
predicted this sort of success? Norris' co-stars insist they did.

“I knew that Chuck
had a deal for 13 episodes on the air,” Clarence Gilyard said. And
“I knew that Chuck had a huge following.”

Sheree Wilson says
she also knew Norris would succeed. “I'd already had the privilege
or working with Chuck for three months on a movie.”

Just before she was
cast in “Walker,” both had been in Israel filming “Hellbound.”
The story -- a murder mystery in which the killer turned out to be an
ancient, supernatural entity – wasn't your usual Norris kick-film;
it was shelved, then went straight to video.

By then, Norris'
career could survive any blip. “Chuck was a masculine icon,”
Gilyard said.

He had done big
business with Cold War films – two “Missing in Action” ones,
two “Delta Force” ones and “Invasion USA” -- and with
well-made cop films, “Code of Silence” and “Lone Wolf McQuade.”

The latter was the
basis in 1993 for “Walker,” the story of a modern Ranger who
reverted to old-time violence. His young colleague was played by
Gilyard, who says it was a solid match. “Both of us were from the
Air Force; we were used to being military and being physical.”

Gilyard, whose dad
was a career airman, had grown up on bases and went to the Air Force
Academy. Norris was in the Air Force, where he learned martial arts.
He became a champion, then a teacher, then a movie star. “When a
star says, 'Would you like to do a part with me?' you say yes,”
Gilyard said.

Gilyard was coming
off sidekick success on “Matlock”; Wilson was coming off
“Dallas,” where her character married Bobby Ewing (Patrick
Duffy), then -- in the Bobby's-wife tradition -- was killed.

“People don't know
that Patrick is a tremendous comedian,” Wilson said. “Patrick and
Larry (Hagman) were both like that. All they did was play.”

Norris, now 78, had
more of a no-nonsense efficiency on his set. He was, after all, doing
movie-style action scenes on a TV timetable. Still, Gilyard insists,
“Chuck is a very funny guy.”

In the final season,
Wilson's character (a prosecutor) married Walker. There was a TV
movie and then nothing ... except that “Walker: never really ends.

Now Gilyard and
Wilson, 62 and 59, are touring in “Driving Miss Daisy” onstage.
And “Walker” is persisting in the digital age. Don't try to kill
it, with or without a stick.

-- “Walker, Texas
Ranger,” 2-6 p.m. weekdays, GetTV, beginning June 4

-- GetTV is on Dish
(Channel 373) and on a digital sub-channels in most areas; check


Semi-hidden history: For 61 years, Americans flatly banned the Chinese

As the commercial networks scramble for summer attention, PBS remains steady: In any season, it includes some compelling documentaries. Here's the story I sent papers, about a terrific film ("Chinese Exclusion Act") airing Tuesday, March 29, on PBS:

By Mike Hughes

For many PBS
viewers, the “Chinese Exclusion Act” film will deliver a jolt.

It had the same
effect on its narrator. “Several times, ... I just stopped,” Hoon
Lee said. “It was difficult to process what was coming out of my

He's a Harvard grad
who thought he knew Asian-American history. But this, he said, was
new: “When I heard that the largest mass-lynching on record in our
country was of Chinese people ...”

That was in 1871 Los
Angeles, when 18 to 20 men were lynched. Later, a different type of
mob action happened in Congress.

The Chinese
Exclusion Act of 1882 said flatly that no Chinese people could move
to the U.S. ... and those already here couldn't be citizens. “They
were the only group (specifically) excluded until 1917,” filmmaker
Ric Burns said.

That exclusion
lingered until 1943 ... and is often overlooked by historians. “My
colleagues and I ... didn't know anything about it,” Burns said.

Li-Shin Yu -- the
editor of many Burns documentaries, including the epic “New York”
-- said she knew only some of the basics. Lee -- the Korean-American
actor who has starred on cable (Job in the “Banshee” series) and
Broadway (“The King and I”) -- was “frankly embarrassed that I
knew so little.”

For six-plus years,
co-directors Yu and Burns dug into details. During that time,
immigration issues re-surfaced in a presidential campaign. “1882
.... seems to be like today,” Burns said.

During that era, Lee
said, Chinese-Americans kept fighting back. “They would win battles
through the legal system ... and through government.”

That's a slow
method. It wasn't until 1943 that the act was repealed ... 1965 that
the Hart Celler Act addressed immigration biases ... and 2012 that
Congress passed a formal apology.

-- “American
Experience: Chinese Exclusion Act,” 8-10 p.m. Tuesday (May 29), PBS


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.