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.


Deep in the family roots, there's joy and agony

("Finding Your Roots" tends to be a fascinating journey through the lives of people's ancestors. This season's opener -- 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3, on PBS -- is particularly good, finding joy and tragedy in the family trees of Larry David and Bernie Sanders. Other good ones are coming up; here's the story I sent to papers.)

By Mike Hughes

Larry David is not
the sort of guy to be jolly or ... well, enthused.

But during “Finding
Your Roots,” his joviality grew. Here was family history, unfolding
before him. “I'm sure everybody's curious about their roots,”
said David, featured in Tuesday's season-opener.

Well, maybe not
everyone. “That's insane,” said Jeff Garlin, David's “Curb Your
Enthusiasm” co-star. “I'd never want to be on that show.”
jump at the chance, with genealogy pros finding deep details. “I
felt like I had won the lottery,” said Ana Navarro, a CNN and ABC
commentator. “I still don't understand how anybody says no.”

People on the show
do, however, have to be prepared for surprises. David got a big one,
but we won't mention that until after a spoiler alert, at the end of
the story.

One surprise – at
least for viewers – came last season, when husband-and-wife Kevin
Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick learned they're distant cousins. Sedgwick
said she kind of expected it.

“My dad's a WASP,”
she said. “The Sedgwicks are from New England and from England and
his family (is the same). I wasn't surprised, honestly, (but) I had
to act surprised.”

One unsettling
surprise comes when people learn their ancestors owned slaves. Ben
Affleck even convinced Henry Louis Gates (the producer and host) to
scrub any reference. When news of the change reached PBS, the network
said that won't happen again and temporarily halted production.

“We introduced
more fact-checking, a broader range of consultants -- academics and
scientists and genealogists – and made it a better show,” Gates

This year, David
learns he has slaveholders in his family. (“I figured that,”
dead-pans J.B. Smoove, another “Curb” co-star,) And Ted Danson
learns the same.

“Just my luck,”
Danson quipped. “My ancestor had a slave who wrote a tell-all

Not just any any
book. Venture Smith bought his freedom and then wrote a book
(speaking quite well of Danson's kin) that became a key chunk of
history. “All scholars of African-American literature know about
Venture Smith,” Gates said.

On the flip side is
Navarro. Growing up in Guatemala, she said, she had never seen a
black person until she was 7 or 8 ... so she was startled to find her
family tree has two generations of Costa Rican slaves.

Her father was even
more surprised, she said. “My dad was convinced we were going to
find out we were Spanish royalty.”

Janet Mock – a
writer and transgender-rights activist – also learns this season
that an ancestor was a slave. “It was incredibly emotional to see
this young boy – I believe ... my great-great-great grandfather --
was someone's property.”

Gates has been aware
of such extremes, ever since a West Virginia childhood in which his
mother wrote eulogies. “I would go as a little kid and just watch
this beautiful black woman read these stories.”

He delivers dark and
bright news. In this season's opener, Sen. Bernie Sanders hears of
ancestors' deaths in the Holocaust; later this season, Danson learns
that his 10th-great-grandmother fought the Puritans for
women's rights in religion. “I've been surrounded by women all my
life,” Danson said, “and it kind of makes sense that Anne Marbury
would be way back there kind of leading the way.”

ALERT – there was the surprise for David ... and Sanders.

They learn of a DNA
link, suggesting they are third or fourth cousins. David – who
impersonates Sanders on “Saturday Night Live” -- offered uncurbed
enthusiasm. “I love Bernie,” he said.

-- “Finding Your
Roots,” 8 p.m. Tuesdays, PBS; the Oct. 3 opener has Larry David and
Ted Danson

-- Oct. 10 has Carly
Simon, Fred Armisen and Christopher Walken.

-- Continues through
Nov. 21; Danson is Oct. 17, Mock is Oct. 24, Navarro is Nov. 14



Togetherness can be a good thing ... sometimes

There are plenty of troubled, tortured souls out there who produce great comedy. But there are also guys like Mark Feuerstein; he talks lovingly about his wife, his life, his parents and more. Fortunately, he also sees some humor in his parents -- portrayed by Elliott Gould and Linda Lavin in "9JKL," which debuts Monday (Oct. 2) on CBS; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

When it comes to
family, Mark Feuerstein decided, there can be too much of a good

But maybe not too
much of a funny thing. His personal chaos led to his CBS series,

Back in 2009,
Feuerstein was a grown adult -- 38, married, starring in his fifth
series, “Royal Pains.” But his apartment had his parents on one
side and brother on the other.

“I would wake up
to my father coming in his tidy whities, going, 'Mark, what would you
like for breakfast?” Feuerstein recalled.

Later, after a
15-hour shooting day, his mother was there. “The second my hand
would touch the doorknob, she'd ... go, 'Hi, Mark. Would you like to
come in for a salad?'”

He was well-fed, if
not well-slept. Clearly, this could be a situation-comedy.

Feuerstein's wife
agreed. Dana Klein is a sitcom writer (“Friends,” “Becker”)
who created “9JKL” with him ... and sort of gave her husband a

In real life, he
would fly from New York to California on weekends, to be with his
wife and kids. For the show, she said, “we thought having the
parents next door would really complicate his dating life.”

So Feuerstein has
spent time re-assuring his kids – and his parents – that this is

His real childhood
was quite enviable, actually. His dad was a lawyer; his mom was a
teacher whose skill involves nurturing, not cooking. (“She's good
at making reservations.”) He was a state wrestling champion and
went to prep school and Princeton.

But they are also
funny people. Feuerstein talks of “my father's collection of 600
bow ties”; on the set, he points to a refrigerator covered with
Post-it notes. “That is my parents' idea of an address book.”

They're bright,
caring and odd. That's sicom turf.

-- “9JKL,” 8:30
p.m. Mondays, CBS.

-- Debuts Oct. 2; in
the early weeks, it will start at 8:31, with “Big Bang Theory” as
the lead-in.


Princess power? That's fine in Disney dreams, shaky in Versailles

It's time to jump back into the world of Versailles, which has beautiful people in beautiful places ... doing rather ugly things. The series starts its second season at 10 p.m. ET Saturday (Sept. 30) on DirecTV and AT&T U-verse; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Fueled by Disney
dreams, the world has plenty of people who want to be European

They might
reconsider, after talking to the actresses in cable's lush
“Versailles” series.

“The women at
court spent a lot of their time getting dressed and undressed and
re-dressed,” said Elisa Lasowski, who plays Marie Therese, the
French queen married to Louis XIV.

And in their spare
time, they schemed. There was a lot of that, producer Aude Albano

“Louis XIV was a
womanizer,” she said. But “he would surround himself with
strong-willed, smart, witty women. His mother was, his wife was, his
mistresses were.”

But they were
cautious, Lasowski said. “It was very repressive. There was only so
much you could do.”

This was an
artificial world, created by a king who made love and war, but also
had an eye for the arts. “He had a great sense for culture, a love
of music and ballet,” said Anna Brewster, who plays his mistress,
Madame Montespan. “He had a great sense visually.”

His name lingers
everywhere, they point out, from furniture to the name “Louisiana.”
And Versailles itself persists. Louis took a former hunting lodge, 12
miles from Paris, and expanded it to 721,000 square feet, filled with
grand touches and powerful people, not all of them happy to be there.

It “was a way to
control them,” Lasowski said. “He sort of moved everyone away
from Paris (to) a Las Vegas or whatever. It was a palace of pleasure,
gambling, and a prison at the same time. That was a way he could sort
of control his opposition.”

That stirred the
scheming. These were “young souls, excited by power,” said
Suzanne Clement.

She plays Madame
Agathe, who had potions and poisons. The character is fictional, but
the situation is not: The real Versailles was rocked by poisonings;
in a five-year stretch, they led to 36 executions.

This was a notorious
era, Brewster said, dubbed “'The Affair of the Poisons.' Nowadays,
it would sound so far-fetched.”

Her own character,
the mistress, fit that mood. “She was famous fo her temper,”
Brewster said.

She also was the
king's favorite and had seven of his children. As this season begins,
Albano said, “she has it all. She has love with the king; she has
power. She is the envy of everybody at court. But behind that
strength ... is a vulnerable woman, madly in love and terrified she
might lose the love.”

By the end of the
season's first episode, the poisonings have begun. Early in the
second, we meet an important new force, Elisabeth Charlotte. She was
German and aristocratic, known as Princess Palatine; for political
reasons, she married Philippe, the king's brother, who was widowed
and gay.

This is a meaty role
for Jessica Clark, who expected to spend much of her life in theater.
Her father was a theater photographer and she was in a London show
when someone asked her to audition for Palatine.

“I got onto Google
to catch up on as much history as I could,” she said.

There happens to be
a mountain of it. “She had these letters that she wrote that are a
really amazing documentation of history,” Clark said. “In these
letters, you can see this incredible, ferocious, brilliant woman who
really didn't really want to hold back.”

So she didn't. On a
frigid morning, Clark found herself encased in a huge, blonde wig --
“this doesn't look anything like me, which is helpful” -- and
filming the moment she meets Philippe.

He is crossing a
bridge and she is ... well, urinating. That never seems to happen to
Disney princesses.

-- “Versailles,”
10 p.m. ET Saturdays, Ovation.

-- Season-opener
(Sept. 30) starts the poisonings; it reruns at 2:30 a.m. ET. The
second episode (Oct. 7) introduces Philippe's new wife; then the
first two episodes rerun at 3 and 4 a.m. ET..

-- Ovation is an
arts-oriented channel on DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, Verizon and some
cable channels.