Christmas TV shows? They're all the time, everywhere


OK, it's time for a mega-list: Here's a round-up I sent to papers, with the holiday shows between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a large line-up, but I've  broken it into categories; here's the story and list:

By Mike Hughes

If some people have
their way, our schedule for the next month is packed.

There's no time for
sledding or sleighing or roasting chestnuts at an open fire; we'll be
watching TV.

It will be Christmas
movies, Christmas cartoons, Christmas music. It will start
Thanksgiving morning with a parade and end Dec. 25 with a “Christmas
Story” marathon. We may need extra TV sets.

Yes, this trend
started long ago. The classic specials for the Grinch, Charlie Brown
and Rudolph are 51, 52 and 53 years old.

But it hit overdrive
when The Family Channel created “25 Days of Christmas” in 1996.
That channel kept changing identities – Fox Family, then ABC
Family, now Freeform – but the idea stayed and was widely copied
and expanded upon.

This year, Freeform
– stuffed with old Christmas movies and cartoons – has only one
new film, “Angry Angel.” By comparison, there are five new ones
on Ion, six on Lifetime, a deluge on Hallmark.

The main Hallmark
Channel has a dozen new ones, including (this Saturday, Nov. 25) the
latest under the prestigious “Hallmark Hall of Fame” banner. Its
sister channel (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries) has six more.

Then there are all
the reruns, which is where this list had to draw the line.

We've included
everything new that's been scheduled so far – there will be more,
plus changes – and the perennials that people might consider
can't-miss. But that's just the start, with lots of other reruns,
plus Christmas episodes of series. You'd better cancel those
sledding/sleighing/roasting plans.

Parades

-- “Thanksgiving
Day Parade,” 9 a.m. to noon, NBC and CBS. Both networks have bands
and balloons and more, concluding with Santa. The difference is
early, with special performances: NBC has the Broadway casts of
“Anastasia,” “Once on This Island,” “SpongeBob SquarePants”
and “Dear Evan Hansen”; CBS has the casts of “Waitress” and
“Come From Away,” plus country star Kelsea Ballerini.

-- “Hollywood
Christmas Parade,” 8-10 p.m. Dec. 15, CW.

“A Christmas
Story”

-- The Broadway
musical will be done live, from 7-11 p.m. Dec. 17 on Fox.

-- A week later, TBS
has its annual marathon of the delightful 1983 movie. That starts at
8 p.m. Dec. 24 and repeats every two hours, until 8 p.m. Dec. 25.

New cartoon

-- “Trolls
Holiday,” 8:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24), NBC; also, 7 p.m. Dec. 24.
It's a musical with Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake and Zooey
Deschanel.

The cartoon classics

-- “How the Grinch
Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24), NBC; also, 8 p.m. Dec.
25. It's a 30-minute masterpiece.

-- “Frosty the
Snowman,” 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24), CBS. Its non-classic sequel is
at 8:30; they;re also 9 and 9:30 p.m. Dec. 9.

-- “A Charlie
Brown Christmas,” one of TV's greatest moments, 8 p.m. next
Thursday (Nov. 30) on ABC. The hour is rounded out with briefs in
“Charlie Brown Christmas Tales.”

-- “Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer,” 8-9 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 28), CBS; also, 8 p.m.
Dec. 9.

-- “Mickey's
Christmas Carol” is a half-hour gem; shown in theaters in 1983, it
has few laughs, but exquisite craftsmanship. It's on Freeform at 9
a.m. Dec. 2; 11 a.m. Dec. 14; 9:35 a.m. Dec. 16; 7 a.m. Dec. 20. On
the first two days, it's followed by the 90-minute “Mickey's Once
Upon a Christmas.”

More key cartoon
reruns

-- “Santa Claus is
Comin' to Town,” 8-9 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24), ABC; then often on
Freeform.

-- “Robbie the
Reindeer: Hooves of Fire” and its sequel, 8 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday
(Nov. 25), CBS.

-- “The Story of
Santa Claus,” 9-10 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 25), CBS.

-- “Grandma Got
Run Over by a Reindeer,” 8-9 p.m. Dec. 1, CW; reruns at 8 p.m. Dec.
20 on CW, also, 7 a.m. Dec. 21 and 22 on Freeform.

-- “Shrek the
Halls” and “Toy Story That Time Forgot,” 8 and 8:30 p.m. Dec.
7, ABC.

-- “Disney's Prep
& Landing” is a slick, fast-paced look at Santa's advance team.
ABC has it at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 14, with its sequel at 8:30 p.m. Dec.
19; Freeform has them together, 2:30-3:30 p.m. Dec. 17 and 7:30-8:30
a.m. Dec. 25.

-- “I Want a Dog
For Christmas, Charlie Brown,” 8-9 p.m. Dec. 16, ABC.

-- “How Murray
Saved Christmas,” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 24,, NBC. The 60-minute original
rippled with clever songs; this is a 30-minute version.

-- Also: PBS Kids
plans Christmas specials for its “family movie night” on Fridays
through Sundays (check local listings). That starts this weekend with
“Once Upon a Sesame Street Christmas.” Coming are “The
Gruffalo,” Dec. 1-3; “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About
Christmas,” Dec. 8-10; “Splash and Bubbles” and “Peg and
Cat,” Dec. 15-17; and “Ready, Jet, Go” and “Wild Kratts,”
Dec. 22-24.

-- And much more:
There are plenty of Christmas cartoon reruns, as evidenced on
Freeform. We counted 73 hours of animation, between 7 a.m. and
midnight on Dec. 1-25. On 16 of those days, there's 7 a.m.
animation.

 

Comedy

-- “Greatest
Holiday Commercials,” 8 p.m. Dec. 12, CW.

-- “I Love Lucy
Christmas Special,” 8-9 p.m. Dec. 22, CBS. This again has colorized
versions of two episodes. One (a Christmas episode) is repeated
annually; the other has Lucy in a fashion show with movie stars'
wives. It's followed at 9 by colorized “Dick Van Dyke Show”
episodes.

Mostly music

-- “CMA Country
Christmas,” 8-10 p.m. Monday (Nov. 27), ABC. Reba McEntire hosted
at theGrand Old Opry. Performers included Luke Bryan, Kelsea
Ballerini, Alan Jackson, Brett Eldredge, Trisha Yearwood, Chris
Young, Dustin Lynch and gospel's CeCe Winans, plus Lady Antebellum,
Little Big Town, CB30 and Dan and Shay.

-- “A Very
Pentatonix Christmas,” 10 p.m. Monday (Nov. 27), NBC, rerunning
Dec. 6. Jennifer Hudson links with the group; others range from
“Voice” winner Darci Lynne Farmer, 13, to Jay Leno, 67.

-- “Christmas in
Rockefeller Center,” 8 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 29), NBC. There's music
by Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Nettles, Brett Eldredge, Leslie Odom J.,
Pentatonix and The Tenors.

-- “Magical
Holiday Celebration ,” 9-11 p.m. Nov. 30, ABC. Nick Lachey hosts in
the Disney parks with Julianne Hough and Jesse Palmer. Performers
include Ciara, Darius Rucker, Jason Derulo and Lea Michele, plus
Hanson, Fitz and the Tantrums and In Real Life, which was assembled
from ABC's failed “Boy Band” show.

-- “Disney Channel
Holiday Celebation,” 8:30 p.m. Dec. 1 on (duh) the Disney Channel.
It has music by Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson, Asher Angel, Milo Manheim
and Meg Donnelly, plus a look at Disney World's “Toy Story Land”
opening next summer and at three philanthropic families.

-- “A Nashville
Christmas” is 8 p.m. ET Dec. 7 on GetTV, with Wynonna, Pam Tillis,
Emmylou Harris and Vincent & Dailey. It's also on the
Sony Digital Network and reruns on GetTV at 10 p.m. ET Dec. 10; 10
p.m. Dec. 12; 9 p.m. Dec. 14; 10 p.m. Dec. 18; 8 p.m. Dec. 20; 8 p.m.
Dec. 23; 8 p.m. Dec. 25.

-- “Gwen Stefani's
You Make It Feel Like Christmas,” 9 p.m. Dec. 12, NBC. It mixes
music (Blake Shelton, Ne-Yo) and comedy, with Chelsea Handler, Ken
Jeong and Seth MacFarlane.

-- “iHeart Radio
Jingle Ball,” 8-9:30 p.m. Dec. 14, rerunning 8-9:30 p.m. Dec. 25.
It includes Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Camila
Cabello, Fifth Harmony and the Chainsmokers.

-- “Taraji's White
Hot Holidays,” 8 p.m. Dec. 14, Fox. Taraji Henson has her “Empire”
co-star Jussie Smollett, plus Ciara, Chaka Khan, Fergie, Leslie Odom
Jr., Salt-N-Pepa and the Ying Yang Twins. There's also humor, with
Jay Pharoah, Titus Burgess and Niecy Nash.

-- “Showtime at
the Apollo: Christmas,” 9 p.m. Dec. 14, Fox. Steve Harvey hosts, in
an hour that has newcomers plus Snoop Dogg, Boyz II Men, Fifth
Harmony and DMS.

-- “Magical
Christmas Celebration,” 10 a.m. to noon, Dec. 25, ABC. Here are the
same people who perform in the Nov. 30 special, this time adding 98
degrees (Lachey's group) and Telly Leung and Arielle Jacobs from
Broadway's “Aladdin.”

Music memories

-- “Christmas With
the King Family” has its 50th-anniversary rerun, 10 p.m.
ET Nov. 29, getTV.

-- Each night, Dec.
17-24, AXS reruns a special at 8 p.m. ET, introduced by Nancy Wilson
of Heart. They're led by Rod Stewart, Dec. 17 (followed by the
Trans-Siberian Orchestra at 9 p.m.); Faith Hill, Dec. 18; Jessica
Simpson, Dec. 19; Michael McDonald, Dec. 20; Jennifer Nettles, Dec.
21; Chris Isaak, Dec. 22.; the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Dec. 23; and
Twisted Sister (really), Dec. 24. Then they'll all rerun, starting at
11 a.m. Dec. 25.

-- Also, GetTV loads
up on past Christmas specials. They're led by Johnny Cash (10 p.m. ET
today, Nov. 23, 9 p.m. Dec. 7, 10 p.m. Dec. 17, 9 and 10 p.m. Dec.
23); Sonny & Cher (10 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m. Dec. 21);
Vanessa Williams (8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m. Dec. 21); Andy
Williams (8 p.m. Nov. 30); Cher (10 p.m. Dec. 3, 10 p.m. Dec. 21);
Perry Como (8 p.m. Dec. 5); Mac Davis (10 p.m. Dec. 7, 10 p.m. Dec.
24).

Some variety

-- “Masters of
Illusion: Christmas Magic,” 8 p.m. Dec . 1, CW.

-- “Great
Christmas Lights Fight,” 8 and 9 p.m., Dec. 4, 11 and 18, ABC. We
meet families that have awesome holiday displays; each hour, the
hosts (Carter Oosterhouse and Taniya Nayak) pick a winner.

-- Each weekday
morning, Dec. 11-15, Ovation will have a different international
“Nutcracker” ballet. That's at 7 a.m. ET; viewers will pick a
favorite, to rerun at 7 a.m. Dec. 18.

-- “The Great
American Baking Show” -- 9-11 p.m. Dec. 7, 14 and 21 on ABC –
returns, putting some of its focus on holiday goodies.

-- “Decorating
Disney,” 8 p.m. Dec. 18, Freeform, views work at the parks and
resorts. Also: 12:20 p.m. Dec. 19; 9:30 a.m. Dec. 20; 10:05 a.m. Dec.
22.

-- “Greatest
Christmas Movies of All Time,” 9 p.m. Dec. 20, CW; Turner Classic
Movies covers similar ground with “A Night at the Movies: Merry
Christmas” (2011), 6:45 p.m. ET Dec. 11 and 8:45 a.m. Dec. 17.

-- “Christmas
Cribs,” 10 p.m. Dec. 20, ABC, is a “20/20” special, visiting
celebrities' homes.

The movie classics

-- “It's a
Wonderful Life,” 8-11 p.m. Dec. 24, NBC.

-- “Mary Poppins”
(1964), 8-11 p.m. Dec. 9, ABC.

-- “Frozen”
(2013), 8-10 p.m. Dec. 19, ABC; then on Freeform, at 8:15 p.m. Dec.
17 and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 18.

-- “The Sound of
Music” (1965), 7-11 p.m. Dec. 17, ABC.

-- Judy Garland's
“Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944), 6 p.m. ET Dec. 24, Turner Classic
Movies; surrounded by “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945) at 4 p.m.
and “The Bishop's Wife” (1947) at 8.

“Miracle on 34th
Street”

-- This film (with a
9-year-old Natalie Wood) turned 70 this year. It has a marathon Dec.
10 on Sundance (3, 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m.) and Dec. 16 on AMC (8
and 10:15 p.m.

-- Also, AMC has it
at 8 a.m. Dec. 23 and 12:30 p.m. Dec. 24; Sundance has it at 8:30
a.m. and 4 p.m. Dec. 25. Those three days are part of Christmas movie
marathons.

-- The 1994 remake –
brighter and briefer, with Richard Attenborough – is 1 p.m. Dec. 23
and 5 a.m. Dec. 24 on AMC.

“A Christmas
Carol”

-- The Jim Carrey
version (2008) ia 11:25 p.m. Dec. 1 on Freeform. Also: 1:05 p.m. Dec.
2; 4:45 p.m. Dec. 7; 2:45 p.m. Dec. 8; 2:15 p.m. Dec. 10; 11:30 a.m.
Dec. 11; 12:10 p.m. Dec. 25.

-- A blistering
Patrick Stewart version (1999) is 8 p.m. ET Dec. 3 on GetTV. Also, 8
p.m. Dec. 12; 8 p.m. Dec. 22.

-- Older versions
are on Turner Classic Movies. They're from 1951 (Alistair Cook) at 8
p.m. ET Dec. 8; 1935 (Seymour Hicks) at 9:45 p.m. Dec. 8; and 1938
(Reginald Owen), at 12:15 p.m. Dec. 16.

-- A lush 1984
version with George C. Scott airs at 10 p.m. Dec. 23 and 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 24 on AMC, then at 10:45 a.m. and 8:15 p.m. Dec. 25 on Sundance.

-- Then there's
“Scrooged,” the 1988 Bill Murray take-off. AMC has it at 8 p.m.
and 12:30 a.m. Dec. 23 and at 10 p.m. Dec. 24; Sundance has it at
6:15 and 10:45 p.m. Dec. 25.

More key movies

There are plenty of
ones that started out in movie theaters: some of the highlights:

-- “Love Actually”
(2003), noon Friday (Nov. 24), CMT.

-- Tim Burton's
animated “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” 2 p.m. Dec. 1,
Freeform. Also: 3:10 p.m. Dec. 2; 2:15 p.m. Dec . 3; 1 p.m. Dec. 7;
11 a.m. Dec. 8; 2:20 p.m. Dec. 12; 12:10 p.m. Dec. 13; 1:05 p.m. Dec.
16; 10:40 a.m. Dec. 17; 11:15 a.m. Dec. 23; 11 a.m. Dec. 25.

-- Chevy Chase's
“Christmas Vacation” (1989), 11:30 a.m. and 8:50 p.m. today (Nov.
23) on Freeform. Also, 4:15 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26); 7:05 p.m. Dec. 1;
4:50 p.m. Dec. 2' 8:50 p.m. Dec. 4; 6:45 p.m. Dec. 5; 2:35 pm. Dec.
7' 10:45 p.m. Dec. 9; 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10; 12:10 p.m. Dec. 12; 7:30
a.m. Dec. 13; 8:50 p.m. Dec. 14; 7:10 p.m. Dec. 15; 10:45 p.m. Dec.
17; 10:40 a.m. Dec. 18; 8:50 p.m. Dec. 19; 6:40 p.m. Dec. 20; 11:05
a.m. Dec. 22; 7 a.m. and 7:10 p.m. Dec. 23; 4:25 p.m. Dec. 24; 2:35
and 8:50 p.m. Dec. 25.

-- Will Ferrell's
“Elf” (2003), 6:40 p.m. today (Nov. 23), Freeform. Also, 9:15
p.m. Dec. 1; 7 p.m. Dec. 2; 6::40 p.m. Dec. 4; 4:35 p.m. Dec. 5; 8:50
p.m. Dec. 6; 6:50 p.m. Dec. 7; 8:40 p.m. Dec. 10; 5:50 p.m. Dec. 11;
4:30 p.m. Dec. 13; 1:30 p.m. Dec. 14; 9:20 p.m. Dec. 15; 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 16; 9 p.m. Dec. 18; 4:30 p.m. Dec. 19; 8:50 p.m. Dec. 20; 6:40
p.m. Dec. 21; 11:50 p.m. Dec. 22; 12:50 p.m. Dec. 23; 9:15 p.m. Dec.
24; 6:45 p.m. Dec. 25.

-- Jim Carrey's “How
the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000), 9:10 p.m. Dec. 2, Freeform.
Also: 6:05 p.m. Dec. 3; 9:15 p.m. Dec. 16; 5:35 p.m. Dec. 17; 9:20
p.m. Dec. 23; 6:5 p.m. Dec. 24.

-- Tom Hanks' “Polar
Express” has a so-so story, but splendid visuals. Freeform has it
at 11:50 p.m. Dec. 2; 3:55 p.m. Dec. 3; 8:55 p.m. Dec. 5; 6:45 p.m.
Dec. 6; 9 p.m. Dec. 11; 6:40 p.m. Dec. 12; 2:45 p.m. Dec. 16; 12:20
p.m. Dec. 17; 8:50 p.m. Dec. 21; 5:25 p.m. Dec. 22; 2:15 p.m. Dec.
24; 12:35 p.m. Dec. 25.

-- Tim Allen's “The
Santa Clause” (1994) is 2:30 p.m. Dec. 4 on Freeform. Also: 6:25
p.m. Dec. 9; 4:20 p.m. Dec. 10; 8:50 p.m. Dec. 12; 6:40 p.m. Dec. 13;
4:55 p.m. Dec. 16; 3:30 p.m. Dec. 17; 3 p.m. Dec. 23; 11:25 p.m. Dec.
24; 4:45 p.m. Dec. 25. In several cases, the lesser “Santa Clause
3” follows.

-- Bing Crosby's
“White Christmas” (1954) is on AMC at 10:15 a.m. Dec. 23 and 2:45
p.m. Dec. 24, then it's on Sundance Dec. 25, at 1:15 p.m. and 12:45
a.m.

New movies

-- “The Mistletoe
Inn,” 8 p.m. today (Nov. 23), Hallmark; Alicia Witt stars.

-- “Finding
Santa,” 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24), Hallmark; Jodie Sweetin.

-- “The Christmas
Train,” 8 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 25), Hallmark. This is under the
“Hallmark Hall of Fame” banner, a tradition that spans 66 years
and 81 Emmys. Desperate to be home for Christmas, Dermot Mulroney is
aboard with Danny Glover, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Joan Cusack.

-- “Wrapped Up in
Christmas,” 8 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 25), Lifetime; Tatyana Ali. (Each
of the Lifetime films is followed by a Chistmas “mini-movie” at
10.)

-- “A Very Merry
Toy Store,” 8 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26), Lifetime; Mario Lopez and
Melissa Joan Hart.

-- “Switched for
Christmas,” 8 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26), Hallmark; Candace Cameron
Bure.

-- “A Joyous
Christmas,” 9 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26), Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries.

-- “Snowmance,”
9 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26), Ion. Also, 11 a.m. Dec. 9, 5 p.m. Dec. 23.

-- “Angry Angel,”
9 p.m. Monday (Nov. 27), Freeform. Also: 4:40 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 28);
2:30 p.m. Dec. 5; noon Dec. 6; 3 p.m. Dec. 15; 10:30 a.m. Dec. 20.
Brenda Song plays a young woman who has suddenly become an angel; she
can't get it right, especially when a romantic triangle intervenes.

-- “Four
Christmases and a Wedding,” 8 p.m. Dec. 2, Lifetime.

-- “Christmas in
Angel Falls,” 9 p.m. Dec. 2, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries;
Rachel Boston stars.

-- “My Christmas
Prince,” 8 p.m. Dec. 3, Lifetime.

-- “Miss Me This
Christmas (Dec. 3) and “You Can't Fight Christmas” (Dec. 10),
both 7 p.m., TV One. They're romances set in a small-town hotel. The
first stars Erica Ash, the second has Brely Evans, with supporting
roles for Persia White and Marla Gibbs. They rerun in a Dec. 24-25
movie marathon.

-- “The Magical
Christmas Ornaments,” 9 p.m. Dec. 3, Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries.

-- “The Spruce &
The Pines,” 9 p.m. Dec. 3, Ion. Also, 11 a.m. Dec. 24.

-- “Christmas in
Mississippi,” 8 p.m. Dec. 9, Lifetime; Jana Kramer and Wes Brown.

-- “The Christmas
Cottage,” 9 p.m. Dec. 9, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

-- “Runawaty
Christmas Bride,” 9 p.m. Dec. 9, Ion. Also, 1 p.m. Dec. 17.

-- “A Royal
Christmas,” 9 p.m. Dec. 10, Ion. Also, 3 p.m. Dec. 23.

-- “Snowed-in
Christmas,” 8 p.m. Dec. 16, Lifetime.

-- “A Christmas
Cruise,” 9 p.m. Dec. 16, Ion.

-- Also: In
December, Hallmark has a new movie at 8 p.m. each Saturday and
Sunday, most with a female star who's fairly familiar: Dec. 2,
“Christmas in Evergreen,” Ashley Williams; Dec. 3, “Christmas
at Holly Lodge.” Alison Sweeney; Dec. 9, “Christmas Encore,”
Maggie Lawson; Dec. 10, “The Christmas Shop,” Ellen Hollman; Dec.
16, “Father Christmas” (with a male lead, Jesse Metcalfe); Dec.
17, “Christmas Connection,” Brooke Burns; Dec. 23, “Christmas
Getaway,” Bridget Regan. Skipping Dec. 24, there's a movie-length
“When Calls the Heart” on Christmas Day.

-- And more:
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries also has tentatively scheduled new
films for 9 p.m. Dec. 10 and 16.

-- And still more:
On Christmas Day, Ion will rerun its five new films from 3 p.m. to 1
a.m.

TV-movie reruns

There are plenty of
them on cable, but we would single out a few:

-- “Once Upon a
Christmas” (2000) and “Twice Upon a Christmas” (2001), 4 and 6
p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26), GetTV.

-- “Snow”
(2004), midnight next Thursday night (Nov. 30), Freeform.

-- “Eloise at
Christmastime” (2003), 7:30 a.m. Dec. 1, Freeform. Also, 2:05 p.m.
Dec. 6; 12:40 p.m. Dec. 8; 9:05 a.m. Dec. 9; 7:30 a.m. Dec. 12; 11
a.m. Dec. 15; 12:30 p.m. Dec. 20; 10:35 a.m. Dec. 21.

-- “Snowglobe”
(2007), 7:30 a.m. Dec. 6, Freeform.

 

Decades later, true crime stories keep gripping viewers


This is a story that I sent to papers, but failed to post here. Sorry about that; here it is.

 

By Mike Hughes

Joe Berlinger has
spent decades in a distant corner of the TV landscape.

He makes
documentaries, in a world that prefers adventure and comedy. He's
drawn praise, prizes (two Emmys, an Oscar nomination) and little
attention ... until recently.

“I've never been
busier,” he said.

That's because of
the surge in true-crime stories. It peaks this weekend with:

-- “Cold Blooded,”
his two-part documentary on Sundance; the first half is 9-11 p.m.
Saturday (Nov. 18, both halves are 7 and 9 p.m. Sunday. This is based on the
case Truman Capote described in “In Cold Blood,” a half-century
ago. “When I read it as a teen, I was obsessed with it,”
Berlinger said.

-- “I Am Elizabeth
Smart,” from 8-10 p.m. Saturday on Lifetime, rerunning Sunday. It's
a scripted film, not a documentary, but Smart narrates it and says
the details are meticulous. “It's the best/worst movie I've ever
seen .... I'm very proud of it, but at the same time, part of me
thinks I'll be happy if I never have to watch it again.”

-- And all the
shorter stories. Two cable channels – Investigation Discovery and
Oxygen – now focus on true crime; network newsmagazines (“48
Hours,” “Dateline,” “20/20”) are also obsessed.

“We have this
unbelievable explosion .... We are swimming in crime stories,”
Berlinger said.

That can make it
difficult for the real people who were involved. Smart is 30 now and
her ordeal was half-her-life ago, but people still spot her. “I go
to Costco still now and what should be 45 minutes usually turns into
an hour and 20 minutes,” she said.

By comparison, Paul
Dewey – whose dad Al was the prime “Cold Blood” investigator –
has avoided attention. “Nelle's advice was to not talk to anyone,”
he said.

Later, “Nelle”
would be known as Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Back then, however, she was just an unknown who accompanied her
friend Capote to this tiny town.

Most people avoided
them at first, but not the Deweys.

“My mother was
from New Orleans,” Paul Dewey said. “The poor woman had moved to
this little town in Kansas. When Truman Capote came to town, it was
love at first sight.”

The book was
followed by an acclaimed, 1967 movie. Al Dewey “had mixed emotions
about it,” his son said. “His concern was that the film had too
much about the killers.”

Now Paul Dewey lives
in Oregon and has had little contact with the story ... until
Berlinger found him. After, “finding that he's a very serious
documentarian, I thought, 'Well, maybe now is the time.' I went
through all the old boxes that Mom had saved (and) thought this was
the chance to tell that story.”

There are chances to
tell – and re-tell – many stories, during TV's true-crime spree.

A master chef vanishes -- and re-appears -- in surprising ways


(There have been some fascinating documentaries late, as people take a fresh interest in American food and American chefs. No comes an  intriguing one, tentatively set for Nov. 12 and 18 on CNN; here's the story I sent to papers.)

By Mike Hughes

It's one thing to be
the best. It's another to do it and disappear.

That has happened to
authors (Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger) and athletes. And to Jeremiah
Tower, a master chef.

“He was there –
and suddenly he wasn't there,” said Anthony Bourdain, a chef and TV
personality.

So Bourdain produced
a documentary, coming to CNN. Producer-director Lydia Tenaglia (who
also does Bourdain's series) captured Tower's quiet life in Mexico
and his un-quiet past.

“He was a
celebrity chef with an open kitchen .... He was the first sexy chef,”
Bourdain said.

In 2014, the filming
was almost done ... and Tower suddenly un-vanished.

“We opened up the
newspaper and found he'd taken the job at Tavern on the Green,”
Bourdain said. Tenaglia “said this would mean another year of
shooting. I said, 'Don't worry, he won't last a month.'”

Tower quit in April
of 2015, after a difficult year at New York's mega-restaurant

In Tokyo, Tower once
met an acclaimed chef whose restaurant seats nine people. Tavern on
the Green lists a seating capacity of 1,600. “It's a chef-killer
.... On Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, it's like Yankee Stadium,”
Bourdain said.

That was an odd stop
in a far-flung life.

Tower, 75, grew up
in a comfortable-but-distant family. He went to top schools –
including an architecture graduate degree from Harvard – and became
a chef.

He reshaped the menu
at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Bourdain said, then quit when owner
Alice Waters took credit in her cookbook. He created the Stars
restaurant in San Francisco, then sold it in 1998 and semi-vanished.

Along the way,
Bourdain said, he'd sparked a revolution in American food. People
used to try dinner and a show, talking about the show. “Now you go
to dinner and talk about the food.”

-- “Jeremiah
Tower: The Last Magnificent”

-- Debuts 9 p.m. ET
and PT Sunday (Nov. 12) on CNN, rerunning at 9 p.m. ET and 11:30 p.m. PT Nov.
18.

-- Schedule could
change with breaking n

On a quiet Sunday, young Americans faced a deadly crisis


"The Long Road Home" -- the book and the cable mini-series -- tells a compelling story of young men caught in a deadly ambush. I had a chance to talk to two of the soldiers who also were military advisors for the mini-series. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

These men seem like
everyday slices of Americana.

-- Eric Bourquin is
a towering Texan. He's married, with four kids, ages 4 to 11.

-- Aaron Fowler
summarizes his life cheerily: “I'm a ballet dad,” he said. That's
sort of like being a soccer mom, except it involves whisking his
three kids to lots of ballet classes.

They seem to be in a
different universe than they were on Palm Sunday of 2004. That was
the start of a fierce ambush, vividly retold in Martha Raddatz's “The
Long Road Home,” now a cable mini-series.

“It has been part
of the healing process, getting the story out,” Fowler said.

Bourquin – a
military advisor on the film with Fowler – agreed. “I'm still
realizing what happened,” he said. “You don't understand it until
after the fact.”

At 6-foot-3 and
solid, Bourquin strikes a strong image. “Now I know him for the
sweet circus bear that he is,” said Jon Beavers, who portrays him.
“But at (first), he looked very intimidating.”

Bourquin left home
on his 16th birthday and was on his own. A few years
later, he joined the Army with, Raddatz wrote, “a strange fantasy
that some bad Iraqi would take a few wild shots at him.”

Even that seemed
unlikely when his unit arrived from Fort Hood in April of 2004. That
was a year after Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled, 11 months after
George W. Bush stood in front of a “mission accomplished banner,”
four months after Hussein was captured.

The men in his unit
were new to this. “The vast majority had never seen combat,”
Fowler said.

Bourquin was 23 and
a staff sergeant. Assigned to a quiet Baghdad suburb, the men had
been in country for four days and were leading a convoy to take
sewage trucks to a disposal spot.

Then came the
ambush, leaving them with no way to get out. “I could see the look
in my soldiers' eyes,” Bourquin said.

And, perhaps, in his
own eyes, when he was point man in a harrowing moment: Trapped in an
alley, the men needed to get into a top-floor apartment that had roof
access. Bourquin had to shoot open the door and charge in, ready to
kill anyone who fired at him.

Such moments awe the
actors portraying them. “They will literally walk into a room where
there's a man with a gun on the other side of the door,” Darius
Homayoun said.

In this case, he
held his fire. Inside, Raddatz wrote: “Two Iraqi men stood frozen
in panic; three small children sobbed and shook in the arms of an old
woman. From an adjacent room, several other women could be heard
whispering.”

As it turned out,
Bourquin said, “they were very helpful.” That could have been
deadly for them or for him. “It was something I think about –
what could have gone wrong.”

Another crisis came
as the attackers tried an unprecedented strategy: They marched down
the alley, with riflemen in the back and children in the front. He
fired his grenade launcher twice; as did the soldiers, he tried to
aim above the children's head. Soon, more than 100 bodies were being
cleared.

The fighting
continued for days, until rescuers (including Fowler) could finally
break through. Eight Americans had been killed and more than 60
(including Bourquin) had been wounded.

Bourquin would
re-enlist; in all, he spent 16 years in the Army, including two
stints in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and retired as a sergeant
first class. Since then, he has tried nursing studies ... has walked
the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail, to publicize the needs of veterans
... and has raised his family.

“These men have
worked incredibly hard,” Raddatz said.

Each man has
adjusted to a ballet, Little League world that's far from any
alley-shootout past. “He's become a good husband, a good dad,”
Raddatz said. “He's fought just as hard to be a good person.”

-- “The Long Road
Home,” eight-hour mini-series, National Geographic Channel

-- Opener is 9-11
p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 7), repeating at 11; it repeats at the same times
Saturday (Nov. 11), wrapping up a Veterans Day marathon of military
shows

-- Subsequent hours
are 10 p.m. Tuesdays, rerunning at 11

-- The Martha
Raddatz book was 2007, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008, Berkley

 

"Flint": A gentle approach to a gritty crisis


If you scroll a few blogs down, you'll see the storty I sent to papers about the "Flint" movie on cable's Lifetime channel. Here's one more thing, a review:

By Mike Hughes

The Flint water
story could have been told in many ways.

It could have been
stuffed with rage and frustration. It could have been political,
swinging at Michigan's power structure.

But “Flint,”
debuting Saturday (Oct, 28) on Lifetime, goes another way. It's more interested
in heroes than villains. It's sharply acted, beautifully filmed and
good-spirited – the approach that director Bruce Beresford
(“Driving Miss Daisy”) is known for.

“Flint” settles
on three real-life heroes – LeeAnne Walters, Nayyirah Sharif and
Melisa Mays (Betsy Brandt, Jill Scott and Marin Ireland). Sometimes
dismissed as “housewives” with no science background, they
battled the experts.

Oddly, a fictional
character (well-played by Queen Latifah) is added. That leaves us
with a muddy fact-fiction blur.

“Flint” is
harshest on Dayne Walling (Flint's ex-mayor), Steven Busch (district
supervisor of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) and
Jerry Ambrose, who was
Flint's emergency manager for four months. It spares Gov. Rick
Snyder, except for brief criticism of state inaction.

Mostly, it
criticizes government for failing to listen to people ... and praises
the people who insisted on being heard. It also transports two
events:

-- The “smoking
gun” discovery that corrosion controls weren't used. Other reports
say that came from conversations between Walters and the EPA's Miguel
Del Toral; in the film, the women find it together.

-- The idea of
having Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a Flint pediatrian, study records of Flint children. Other reports say that
came from a conversation with her former high school classmate; in
the movie, it comes from Latifah's fictional character.

But the overall
story – non-experts confront their government and sometimes win –
remains consistent. For a tragedy, “Flint” has some feel-good
moments.

 

-- "Flint," cable's Lifetime channel.

-- Debuts at 8 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 28); reruns at 12:02 a.m. and then at 10 a.m. Sunday