The fall line-ups: Fox and NBC bring quick surprises

This week, I'll have some quick stories as networks announce their fall line-ups. Here's the one I sent to papers this morning, combining Fox and NBC:

By Mike Hughes

This is a tough time
for Satan and a good time (as always) for doctors and anyone in

It's a mixed time
for science-fiction, a great one for Tim Allen and Andy Samberg, an
awful one for Clayne Crawford.

It's when the new
fall schedules are announced. NBC and Fox are already here (with the
others following in the next few days), with plenty of surprises. For

-- Fox has ended its
fascination with the devil. Both “Lucifer” and “The Exorcist”
are canceled; Gordon Ramsay, however, remains.

-- Two shows have
switched networks. Tim Allen's “Last Man Standing” jumps to Fox,
a year after ABC dumped it; Andy Samberg's “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,”
dumped by Fox, goes to NBC, where Samberg used to thrive on “Saturday
Night Live.”

-- All three of
producer Dick Wolf's Chicago shows will take over Wednesdays. It will
be “Med” at 8 p.m., “Fire” at 9 and “P.D.” at 10. That
nudges the 20th year of “Law & Order: Special
Victims Unit” to Thursdays; another NBC mainstay, “The
Blacklist,” will wait until January.

-- Medical shows are
prospering again. Mondays (already the turf of ABC's “The Good
Doctor” at 10 p.m.), will have Fox's “The Resident” at 8 p.m.
and “9-1-1” -- an EMT-fire-police mash-up – at 9. NBC is giving
its best spot – after “This Is Us” on Tuesdays – to “New

-- Science-fiction
fans get mixed news, as always. NBC hasn't decided about “Timeless,”
but will have two sci-fi shows this fall; “Manifest” gets a
strong slot (10 p.m. Mondays), “Midnight, Texas” gets a weak one
(9 p.m. Fridays). Fox has “The Gifted” this fall, but delays “The
Orville” and the final season of “Gotham” until mid-season. It
also has no encouraging words about “X-Files” ever returning.

-- Fox is bringing
back “Lethal Weapon,” but with a major change: Crawford is out as
star (alongside Damon Wayans); Seann William Scott of “American
Pie” takes over.

Speaking to
reporters Monday morning, Fox executives insisted that one was out of
their hands. The production company was dropping Crawford for
unstated reasons.

They also dismissed
the frequent rumors that ABC dropped “Last Man Standing” because
of Allen's conservative political beliefs. A more likely reason for
the change, they said, was the ownership: Fox – not ABC or its
Disney owners – produces the show and benefits from selling its

Another knock has
been that “Standing” draws an older audience – a problem for
any Friday show. Fox will accept that; it plunks the show back in its
Friday slot ... and follows it with “The Cool Kids,” with David
Alan Grier, Martin Mull, Vicki Lawrence and Leslie Jordan in a
retirement community.

The fall line-ups
are distorted by the move of Thursday-night football. Previously
shared by CBS and NBC, the games now go to Fox. Here are the first
two line-ups announced:

-- Mondays: Fox --
“The Resident,” 8 p.m.; “9-1-1,” 9. NBC -- “The Voice,”
8; “Manifest,” 10.

-- Tuesdays: Fox --
“The Gifted,” 8; “Lethal Weapon,” 9. NBC -- “The Voice,”
8; “This Is Us,” 9; “New Amsterdam,” 10.

-- Wednesdays: Fox
-- “Empire,” 8; “Star,” 9. NBC -- “Chicago Med,” 8;
“Chicago Fire, 9; “Chicago P.D.,” 10.

-- Thursdays: Fox –
football. NBC -- “Superstore,” 8; “The Good Place,” 8:30;
“Will & Grace,” 9; “I Feel Bad,” 9:30; “Law &
Order: Special Victims Unit,” 10.

-- Fridays: Fox --
“Last Man Standing,” 8; “The Cool Kids,” 8:30; “Hell's
Kitchen,” 9. NBC – Blindspot, 8; “Midnight, Texas,” 9;
Dateline,” 10.

-- Saturdays: Fox –
college football; NBC -- “Dateline” crime, 8; “Saturday Night
Live” reruns, 10.

-- Sundays: Fox --
“Simpsons,” 8 p.m.; “Bob's Burgers,” 8:30, “Family Guy,”
9; “Rel,” 9:30. NBC – Football.

Ready for more "Little Women"? Here are the basics


The previous blog is a story I wrote about "Little Women," which runs on the next two Sundays (May 13 and 20) on PBS. Here's an extended box with some of the details:

-- When: 8-9 p.m.
Sunday, PBS; then 8-10 p.m. the following Sunday, May 20.

-- Follow-up: From
10-11:30 May 20, PBS reruns an “American Masters” portrait of
author Louisa May Alcott.

-- The story: With
her husband (Dylan Baker) working as a Civil War chaplain, Marmee
March (Emily Watson) is raising their four daughters with little
money and much love. Others are better off, including her husband's
aunt (Angela Lansbury) and a neighbor (Michael Gambon) whose orphaned
grandson has just arrived from college.

-- The book: It was
published in 1868 – the 150th anniversary is this year –
with a second half (sometimes considered a sequel) the next year. Two
more sequels followed. Alcott, who was 35 when it came out, based the
characters on her and her three sisters, but adjusted the time and

-- The movies: The
major ones came out in 1933, 1949 and 1994. There were two silent
films and several TV films, including one in the U.S. (Susan Dey
played Jo) in 1978 and three in England.

-- And more. An
opera debuted in 1998. On Broadway, a play opened in 1912 and was
revived four times during Christmas seasons. A musical ran briefly in
2005, with Sutton Foster as Jo.

-- Those four
sisters. Here they are, from oldest to youngest, with the actresses
who have played them:

... Meg described as
the beautiful one. She works (reluctantly) as a governess, does
domestic chores at home and, at 16, has her society debut. Played by
Janet Leigh in 1949, Trini Alvarado in '94, Willa Fitzgerald now.

... Jo, the heart of
the story. At 15, she loves reading books, writing stories, creating
plays to act out with her sisters. Unlike the others, she shows
little interest in guys and marriage. Her hair, a sister is quick to
point out, is her one bit of beauty. Played by Katharine Hepburn in
1933, June Allyson in '49, Winona Ryder in '94, now Maya Hawke.

... Beth, sweet and
shy. She's a gifted pianist but, at 13, too awkward to visit a family
and play the piano. Then illness strikes. Played by Margaret O'Brien
in '49, Claire Danes in '94, now Annes Elwy.

... Amy, with curly
blonde hair, artistic talent and a personality that comes with
forever being the youngest. At 12, in a fit of jealousy, she does
something that strains Jo's ability to forgive. Played by Elizabeth
Taylor in '49, Kirsten Dunst in '94, now Kathryn Newton.


"Little Women": The British -- with lots of our help -- try an American classic

elThere are many good things about PBS' "Little Women" remake, from plus production values to extraordinary work by Maya Hawke as Jo. And at the core are characters who still move us, 150 years after they were created. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

There are things we
expect from a film on PBS' “Masterpiece”: The script will be very
smart, the actors will be very skilled ... and the story will be very

But now comes
“Little Women.” It's a thoroughly American story – even if some
people forget that.

“When it went out
in Britain, some people were tweeting, 'Why do they have American
accents?'” screenwriter Heidi Thomas said. “They don't perceive
it as an American novel, but as a universal one.”

Set in Concord,
Mass., it focuses on four sisters whose dad is in the Civil War.
Globally, it has sharply impacted some people ... and gone unnoticed
by others

“I was brought up
in England and we didn't read 'Little Women,'” said Angela
Lansbury, who plays the great aunt. “It wasn't part of our required

Many English people
read it anyway – Thomas was 8 or 9 when she did -- and saw the
movies. The classic character of Jo was Katharine Hepburn in 1933,
June Allyson in '49, Winona Ryder in '94.

Now Maya Hawke has
the role. “I have been sort of in love with that character since
the 8th grade,” she said. This role “was one of the
most terrifying and thrilling opportunities that I've ever had.”

And almost the only
opportunity. For Hawke – the daughter of movie stars Ethan Hawke
and Uma Thurman – this is the first TV or movie role.

“We wanted to find
actors who were starting out in their careers,” Colin Callender,
the film's producer, said of those playing the sisters. “You
haven't seen them, with one exception, in anything else.”

That sort of depends
on what you've been watching. Willa Fitzgerald (who plays Meg) did
one season of “Royal Pains” and two of “Scream.” Kathryn
Newton (Amy) did the “Big Little Lies” mini-series and was the
older daughter in the final season of “Halt and Catch Fire.”
Hawke and Annes Elwy (as Beth) arrive virtually unseen.

Elwy is Welsh, but
the other young actresses fulfilled a sort of compromise between the
two producing forces, one British (BBC), the other American

“Every attempt
would be made to cast the young women with American actresses,”
said “Masterpiece” chief Rebecca Eaton. “And the older people
with, as Colin used to say, 'British acting royalty.'”

These are regal
actors – Emily Watson as the girls' mother ... Michael Gambon as
the rich neighbor ... and Lansbury, who has had three Oscar
nominations – the first one 73 years ago, when she was 19 – and
18 Emmy nominations, without winning any of them.

They filmed in
Ireland, where the young actresses could hear Lansbury “telling us
amazing stories from all parts of her career,” Fitzgerald said.

All shared the
spotlight – at first. The story, Thomas said, is “shaped a bit
like an arrowhead. It starts from quite a broad place, with all four
sisters in full play. And it gradually narrows down (to) Jo.”

Jo has “a fervor
for life and for communication,” Hawke said. She also has
obstacles, something the actress can relate to: “Women weren't
supposed to read and weren't supposed to write, weren't supposed to
work. I did not have that, but I did have a real challenge in
learning to read and then learning to write. I came very late to

The project is part
of a powerful female focus, Eaton said. PBS' president, programming
chief and “Masterpiece” chief are women; this film also has women
as writer and director.

What about Jonah
Hauer-King, who plays Laurie, the boy next door? “I grew up in a
household with a mum and two older sisters,” he said. “They
treated me with a lot of kindness and cruelty in equal measure. This
felt like coming home.”

There are other
co-stars, including a parrot who, Hawke said, “had some rather
unpredictable behavior when it came to hair-pulling and shoulder

And appropriately
for this project and these times, Eaton said, “it was a female

-- “Little Women,”
8-9 p.m. Sunday, PBS; then 8-10 p.m. May 20


Cameron has seen sci-fi soar out of the basement

The science-fiction world has delivered some of the worst movies I've ever seen -- from "Plan 9" and "Creeping Terror" to films that had  bigger budgets but not better ideas. But sci-fi has also delivered greatness, all the way up to "ET" and "Terminator." James Cameron has worked on some of the bad ones and directed some of the great ones. Now he has a new series, talking to people about sci-fi; here's the story I sent to papers.

By Mike Hughes

science-fiction films have had a total transformation.

They've gone from
the bargain basement to the penthouse, from the outcast to the center
of the party. And James Cameron has been at both extremes; he's been
involved with:

-- The old,
mini-micro days. “Almost all science fiction was done on a fairly
low budget,” Cameron said. “If you think about the B movies of
the '50s, the production values were pretty cheesy.”

-- The modern,
mega-money days, including his “Avatar” sequel, planned for 2020.
“We can't afford for it not to work, (with) the budget level that
we are dealing with.”

Currently, he's
pondering sci-fi history. “James Cameron's Story of Science
Fiction” offers lots of clips plus, as AMC programmer David Madden
puts it, “interviews with lightweights like Steven Spielberg,
George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Will Smith, Paul W. Anderson, Keanu
Reeves, Christopher Nolan.”

These are the people
who changed everything, starting with Lucas. “'Star Wars' came
along and all of a sudden, science fiction could be the highest
grossing film in history,” Cameron said.

One source
( has sci-fi films in eight of the top 10 all-time
box-office spots. (The lone exceptions are Cameron's “Titanic” at
No. 2 and “Furious 7” at No. 6; his “Avatar” is No. 1.)

And no, that's not
what was expected. “Science fiction was the redheaded stepchild of
movies,” said Cameron, 63. “It was not considered to be a very
lofty genre.”

As a Canadian kid
near Niagara Falls, he said, he was “growing up on a steady diet of
science fiction.” Hr read the classic authors, from Ray Bradbury to
Arthur C. Clarke. When Clarke's story became “2001: A Space
Odyssey,” Cameron saw it 10 times.

The next year, his
family moved to California, where Cameron spent his senior year of
high school. He tried junior college, then had a split life – a
blue-collar worker (as a truck driver and maintenance man) who
watched and made movies on the side.

“I just thought
... 'I'm wasting my life. If I've got all of these ideas and all of
these images, I've got to get them out.,'” Cameron said. “So I
quit my job ... and I started making a film.”

It fizzled, but the
resulting short got him a job with Roger Corman, the mini-budget

“You learn how to
do a lot with a little,” Cameron said. For “Battle Beyond the
Stars,” he “populated the walls of a spaceship interior with
McDonald's fold-out Styrofoam breakfast trays.”

The result worked
and Corman assigned Cameron to direct “Piranha Part Two: The

It was a trap, Marc
Shapiro wrote in “James Cameron” (Renaissance Books, 2000).
Corman didn't realize that the film's producer only wanted an
American director to fulfill a contractual requirement. He fired
Cameron, who then got control in the editing room, with so-so
results. “This is a routine monster film,” a Variety reviewer
wrote, “with an idiotic premise and laughably phony special

Soon, however,
Cameron's “Terminator” script was drawing a buzz. He insisted on
directing, with his girlfriend Gale Anne Hurd producing. While
waiting for co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger to finish another film, he
also did drafts of the “Rambo” and “Aliens” scripts.

cost under $5 million, Cameron said. “Even in 1984, it was not a
lot of money. So we had to shoot kind of guerrilla style .... We'd
drive around town until we found the brightest streetlights.”

The result scored.
Cameron was hired to direct “Aliens,” then went on to “The
Abyss” and “Titanic.”

The latter had a
character with a lot in common with the filmmaker. Like Jack, Cameron
was an artist who had painted his girlfriend (who later became his
first wife) in the nude. Like Jack, he was a blue-collar kid,
intensely pursuing someone (Hurd, who became his second wife) who had
grown up rich.

Unlike Jack, Cameron
survived the Titanic. He's married three more times; he's made “True
Lies,” “Avatar” and lots of sequels, often with an epic feel.

“It's very
possible for spectacle to overwhelm a film,” Spielberg said, but it
can also propel a story. “The question is: Are we letting our
visual imaginations overwhelm our emotional artistic expression?”

It's the sort of
question he can ask during his story of science fiction.

-- “AMC
Visionaries: James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction,” 10 p.m.
Mondays, AMC

-- The opener was
Monday (April 30), but it reruns at 4:40 a.m. Friday (May 4), 3:11
a.m. Saturday, 3:40 a.m. Sunday.

-- The second
episode is 10:05 p.m. May 7, rerunning at 3:50 a.m. Then the first
two rerun at 9 and 10 a.m. May 8.


Picasso: A "disruptive" genius left artistic beauty, personal chaos

Sure, there are some problems with the first chapter (April 25) of "Genius: Picasso." The story bounces around too much; it throws people into chaos before even introducing them.

But this is still a fascinating story, filmed in a gorgeously epic style. And if you're confused about who's who and what's what? This story, which I sent to papers, may be helpful:

By Mike Hughes

The word “genius”
gets tossed around easily.

It might go to any
filmmaker who blows up a robot or any designer who puts sparkles on a
handbag. But now the real “Genius” is back on National Geographic
Channel, viewing great talent amid chaos.

The first year had
Albert Einstein; this new one has Pablo Picasso. The third – Mary
Shelley, creator of “Frankenstein” -- may find fresh turf, but
what do these first two guys share?

“They are
progenitors of disruption in their time,” said Brian Grazer, who
co-produces the series.

Samantha Colley, who
has played key people in both lives, agreed. Both men had a
“relentless drive toward ... a different point of view,” she
said. That “doesn't necessarily make them good life partners.”

In the first
“Genius,” she was Mileva Maric, a brilliant physics student who
may have helped Einstein's breakthroughs during their 10-year
marriage. Now she's Dona Maar, a gifted photographer who was
considered Picasso's muse during their 10-year relationship.

Both received strong
financial support afterward. Maric's career never re-started; Maar's
did, after bouts of deep depression. “They knew the price of living
within excellence,” Colley said.

Picasso's obsession
with women was understandable, said Antonio Banderas, who plays him.
“This was a man who was born in the 19th century, but
got to Paris at 19, (at a time) of unbelievable freedom.”

Both Picasso and
Banderas grew up in Milago, Spain. When Banderas was born (in 1960),
it had about half its current population of 570,000; when Picasso was
born (in 1881) it had about 115,000.

“Going to school
when I was a little kid, with the hand of my mother, we always
crossed in front of ... the house where Picasso was born,” Banderas
said. “I am talking about a time (when) Spain didn't have too many
international heroes. (Picasso) was bigger than Franco.”

At 57, Banderas is
an international movie star, playing Picasso beginning at age 56.
That was in 1937, with Maar spurring his most epic work – a mural
decrying the bombing of a Basque village in Spain by German and
Italian planes, in support of Francisco Franco.

That era offered a
turning point in both stories. Einstein, facing extra danger as a
Jew, moved to the U.S. when Hitler took power in 1933; Picasso stayed
in Paris.

Both stories split
the lead role between two actors. “I didn't know much about the
younger Picasso,” said newcomer Alex Rich, who plays him. “I've
since read all kinds of books.”

Picasso, whose
father was a traditional artist and art teacher, grew up with strong
technical skills. His dad and uncle (who offered financial support)
wanted realism, but the young painter moved on.

“He practically
did every style in painting,” Banderas said, “from figurative or
expressionism to cubism.” He was so good, Banderas said, that
gifted artists – even Henri Matisse – hid paintings when he
visited. They feared “if Picasso had the opportunity to look at
them, he could do them better.”

Then Picasso created
his own style. He became a superstar, often leaving gifted women
behind. In the first night, “Genius” viewers meet Maar plus:

-- Marie-Therese
Walter, who met the married Picasso when she was 17. Later, he had
two mistresses he painted as opposites – Maar, dark and acerbic;
Walter, blonde and sunny. “He always promised her marriage and that
never happened,” said Poppy Delevingne, who plays her. “But ...
she was very considerate, compassionate .... I think she gave him a
little less grief than a lot of other women.”

-- Francoise Gilot,
a child prodigy who met Picasso when she was 21 and he was 61. She
later wrote that she knew this would be trouble, said Clemence Poesy,
who plays her. “She's like: 'I would rather have interesting
catastrophes than just mediocre love stories.'”

The result of such
“catastrophes” varied. Walter -- who never established a career
of her own -- committed suicide at 68. Gilot – an artist, author,
painter and the widow of Jonas Salk – lived to 96.

-- “Genius:
Picasso,” 10-part mini-series, National Geographic Channel.

-- First two parts
at 9 and 10 p.m. Tuesday, rerunnng at 11; also, 10 and 11 p.m.
Saturday, rerunning at midnight. After that, 10 p.m. Tuesdays.