Twin power reaches TV reality ... again


By Mike Hughes

Two years after
winning a summertime cable competition, some designing twins are at it
again.

This time, Claire
and Shawn Buitendorp, 27, are jumping to the top -- “Project
Runway,” a leader in ratings and in longevity. And this time,
they're not a team; they compete with each other.

On Aug. 17, “Runway”
starts its 16th season (plus five all-star editions) and
its first to deal with sizes from 0 to 22. The 16 contestants work
alongside top names, including hosts (Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn), judges
(Nina Garcia, Zac Posner) and guests (Katie Holmes, Demi Lovato, Kate
Upton, Olivia Munn, Maggie Q, Yolanda Hadid, Kelsea Ballerini and
more).

The twins are used
to that. They grew up (in Grand Ledge, Mich,) far from show business, but their father, Geoffrey, has been a stage manager for
rockers, presidents and corporations. The first person to wear one
of their dresses was Katie Perry – 25 times, in concerts. They've
designed for musician Lindsey Stirling, two “American Idol”
finalists and for their own fashion spread in Teen Vogue.

After graduating
from Grand Ledge High (2008), Lansing Community College and the
University of Michigan, they set up their brand, at shockandawww.com.
They also competed in “Twinning,” a 2015 VH1 show that separated
twins, then tested their intuition and knowledge of each other.

They won and hoped
to be hosts of a second season ... except there wasn't one. Instead,
a bit later, “Runway” beckoned.

The Buitendorps –
who split their time between Grand Ledge and New York anyway –
quietly slipped off to film the season. They couldn't tell people
they were on the show until the Lifetime cable channel made the
announcment; now they're waiting for permission to give spoiler-free
interviews.

The contestants are
widely scattered, including ones from Taiwan and Puerto Rico and two
each from New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta ... and Grand Ledge.

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For Trace, this one is easy -- singing about soldiers


Each 4th of July, PBS offers great music and -- at times -- strong emotion. This year, some of that emotion comes from Trace Adkins, the towering country star with the chaotic-but-compelling life. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Yes, Trace Adkins'
wild ride has had twists, turns and odd detours.

But occasionally,
it's had moments that seemed easy and obvious. One came when his
record producer handed him “Still a Soldier,” his latest single.

“He just knew he
was lobbing one over the plate for me,” said Adkins, who will sing
it Tuesday, during the “Capitol Fourth” concert on PBS. “He
knows how I feel about this.”

Adkins has long been
an admirer of soldiers, past and present. He's talked with veterans.
He's seen how the experience can stick with them, both for bad
(post-traumatic stress disorder) and good. “You know if the phone
rang and they got called back, they would do it – even if they're
wounded.”

And he can relate to
those vets. “I've visited them at Walter Reed (National Military
Medical Center); I'm able to lift my shirt up and show my scars.”

His biggest scar --
“from the neck to the navel” -- came when he said the wrong thing
to his second wife, when she was holding a gun. The bullet went
through his heart and both lungs.

Adkins hasn't been a
soldier, but he's been told by a doctor that he has PTSD. He's had
major injuries playing football, working oil rigs (one finger was
severed), driving a band's bus and more. “I've always tended to be
a little accident-prone,” he wrote in “A Personal Stand”
(Random House).

Adkins admitted in
that book, back in 2007, that he's been an alcoholic and into drugs
and depression; it wasn't until 2014 that he went into rehab.

Still, that
combative life is just one side of his ride. Adkins talks warmly
about small-town Louisiana life, about church and his years singing
bass in a gospel quartet. This 6-foot-6 roughneck has had lots of
feminine influences. “God is the ultimate practical joker .... He
saw fit to bless me with five daughters,” he wrote. Add in his
three wives and “I'm constantly surrounded at home by females.”

That brought one of
his hits: “My oldest daughter was going to get married,” Adkins
said. “I wanted something to sing at the wedding and Lee Miller
said he had this song.”

Miller and Ashley
Gorley had written “You're Gonna Miss This,” about savoring even
life's most chaotic moments. In 2008 it became Adkins' third song to
be No. 1 on country charts.

No, Adkins isn't yet
to the “miss this” phase, with plenty of kids (ages 12 to 32) and
grandkids nearby.

And life keeps
finding new twists. He's covered the full range -- reality shows,
game shows, award-show hosting – on TV. “It's something I really
had to force myself to do,” he said.

He even done
“Celebrity Apprentice” twice, being runner-up (to Piers Morgan)
the first time and winning the second. He may be able to tell us what
the real Donald Trump is like.

“He's the same,”
Adkins insisted. “The person that we see on the news is the same
(as in casual moments). There's that uber-confidence.”

Adkins started with
little confidence, surviving as a saloon singer. “I would get to a
place on a Tuesday night and there wouldn't be anyone there.”

By comparison, there
will be swarms Tuesday, with an estimated 300,000 or more people on
the Capitol lawn. Adkins has done the Memorial Day concerts there –
“you feel the momentousness” -- but this will be his first Fourth
... and his chance to sing about people who are still soldiers.

-- “A Capitol
Fourth,” 8 and 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on most PBS stations

-- John Stamos hosts
and sits in with the Beach Boys. The Blues Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and
Jim Belushi) are joined by Sam Moore. Also, people from country
(Trace Adkins, Kellie Pickler), pop (Mark McGrath, Four Tops), gospel
(Yolanda Adams) and Broadway (Laura Osnes), plus Disney star Sofia
Carson, “Voice” winner Chris Blue, the National Orchestra and
fireworks.

-- Also at 8 p.m.
(rerunning at 10) is NBC's coverage of the Macy's fireworks in New
York. It has Kenny Chesney, Meghan Trainor, 5 Seconds of Summer and
the Radio City Rockettes.

 

A hard-edged Jane Tennison made TV history; now she's young and wide-eyed


The original "Prime Suspect" mini-series was just what PBS needed -- tough, gritty, contemporary. Now, 25 years later, an excellent prequel shows the main character on her first case. In the U.S., that will run as 90-minute movies on three Sundays, starting June 25; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

At first, Jane
Tennison seemed to be in the wrong time and place.

The time was
1991-92. The place, PBS, was cozy; it was filled with “drawing-room,
Agatha Christie-type mysteries,” recalled Rebecca Eaton, the
long-time “Masterpiece” chief.

Now it was adding
Helen Mirren as Tennison, a new detective chief inspector. Her male
employees were bitter; her cases were dark and gritty. “We thought
we were going to be one and out,” Eaton said.

Instead, “Prime
Suspect” had seven mini-series (six two-part, one three-part); it
drew raves and a dozen awards, mostly from England. And a decade
later, it's back ... sort of.

“Tennison” is
set in 1973, when she was starting. “Jane Tennison in her 20s is
very different, ... because she is young and naive and fresh-faced,”
said Stefanie Martini, who plays her.

Unlike her
colleagues, she doesn't smoke and she only drinks reluctantly. That
will change.

“This incredibly
powerful woman, (whom) Jane Tennison evolves into, had to go through
a man's world,” said Sam Reid, who plays the senior detective she
works with on her first case.

Tennison is on new
turf – which Martini, 26, understands. “It's all pretty new for
me in the same way,” she said.

Fresh from the Royal
Academy of Dramatic Arts, Martini landed three splashy roles – the
lead in the “Doctor Thorne” mini-series, a masked princess in
“Emerald City” and now this.

Like Tennison,
Martini grew up middle-class; unlike her, that was in villages in
northern England. “I'm more similar to Mary Thorne,” she said,
“(with) a kind of simple upbringing.”

But she can relate –
a little -- to Tennison's passion. “She's more work-focused and
like a straight line,” Martini said. “I'm much more kind of
scattered.”

Now Tennison is
taking her on a straight line into TV history.

-- “Prime Suspect:
Tennison”

-- In the U.S,, will
run as 90-minute movies at 10 p.m. on three Sundays, starting June 25

TV 's dance world leaps from a tiny ex-ballerina to booming b-boys


Two of the best things about summertime TV are the dance shows -- the long-running "So You Think You Can Dance" (8 p.m. Mondays on Fox) and the new "World of Dance" (10 p.m. Tuesdays, NBC). Both have astoundingly talented an cers. Now "World" is starting its second round on June 20 and reruns its final audition-hour at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 17. Here's the story I sent to papers, looking at two extremely different -- and extremely skilled -- acts.

By Mike Hughes

At first, there was
street dancing. It was done ... well, in streets or in parks or near
homes.

“It pretty much
was in my garage,” Jon “Do-Knock” Cruz recalled. “My garage
was my dance studio.”

And then it leaped
to bigger and fancier places, filled with lights and commotion -- Las
Vegas and rock tours and now “World of Dance” on NBC. “It's
definitely still a shock to us,” said Ben Honrubia.

They're founders of
Super Cr3w, a high-octane “b-boy” crew that's back in the
spotlight. In 2008, it became the second-season champion of
“America's Best Dance Crew”; now it's in the new NBC show,
alongside first-season “ABDC” winner Jabbawockeez ... and some
very opposite performers.

“It's definitely
different for us, because every genre is there,” said Ronnie
“Ronnieboy” Abaldonado. “You'd see a 12-year-old contemporary
dancer who was really good.”

Actually, Diana
Pombo won't turn 12 until November. She's in a different category
(juniors), but on the same show as Super Cr3w and Jabbawockeez; “they
are actual legends of the dance world,” she said.

Her roots are 2,600
miles from Cruz's. She lives in Miami, the daughter of Colombian
immigrants, and emulated her ballerina sister. “When I was 4, I
would put on a tutu and walk around, so I started in ballet class
.... I was also very hyper.”

Now she goes to
school Online, so she can have time for fun – rollerblading,
cooking, playing with slime – and for spending 5-6 hours a day on
her craft.

It's contemporary
dance now, with ballet and gymnastics influences. In one move, she
massages her face with her foot. “I really just experiment with my
body .... I improvise a lot.”

That dazzled the
judges – including Jennifer Lopez (“my idol,” Diana said), who
hugged her. “I don't think we realized how big this would be,”
said the girl's mother, also named Diana.

Or how varied. A
tiny soloist – 5-foot-1, 85 pounds – shared attention with 11
muscular b-boys.

Sometimes called
“breakdancing,” that style started in the Bronx in the 1970s,
then added a West Coast flavor. Cruz grew up in Moreno Valley, a
California city near San Bernardino, trying to match his brother's
dance moves; he soon led the three-person Battle Monkeys.

Honrubia and
Abaldonado were in Las Vegas, where show-business seemed natural. “I
always thought I'd be a performer,” Honrubia said. “My uncle was
a juggler; he took me to shows a lot.”

He started the
Knucklehead Zoo duo; Abaldonado started the six-guy Full Force Crew.
Then the three groups merged into one Cr3w. “We wanted to collect
the best in the b-boy generation,” Honrubia said.

That was in 2000,
when most of the guys were just finishing high school. Eight years
later, they won their TV championship and were surprised by the fame
it brought.

“It was the first
time for everything,” Abaldonado said. “We were doing mall shows
and people treated us like celebrities .... We met people with Super
Cr3w tattoos.

In addition to
backing rock stars, the Cr3w had its own tours, with others as the
opening acts “None of us really imagined this,” Cruz said. “It
keeps on getting bigger and bigger.”

What began with
teens now has guys near their mid-30s. What began as talented
individuals now has elaborate group choreography.

“You take b-boys
who didn't know how to perform,” Cruz said. “We pretty much had
to wing it. Now we've learned how to put a show together .... And
there's not just one choreographer in the room; we all work on it.
That's the best thing – everyone in Super Cr3w gets to be
creative.”

It's still an 11-man
group, but the make-up has changed. Now Cr3w includes individuals
from Brazil, Japan, Korea and Venezuela; it really has become a world
of dance.

-- “World of
Dance,” 10 p.m. Tuesdays, NBC

-- With the audition
rounds concluded – the final one reruns at 8 p.m. Saturday (June
17) – the “duels” round starts June 20, with judges choosing
between match-ups of two acts

 

 

The big shift: Suddenly, the comedy capital moved west


Like most comedy acts and comedy careers, "I'm Dying Up Here" has its ups and downs. It's an ambitious attempt to catch the full range of stand-up comedians in 1973 Los Angeles.Jim Carrey, who arrived a decade later, is one of the show's producers; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

There was a time, 45
years ago, when the comedy capital switched coasts.

It had been in New
York, alongside the poets, folksingers and mezzo-sopranos. Then came
the shift.

“When (Johnny)
Carson moved 'The Tonight Show' to (Los Angeles), that became the
scene,” said Michael Aguilar, producer of a new cable show (“I'm
Dying Up Here”) that captures the era. “It shifted from New York
to L.A.; everything changed.”

Soon, stand-up
comics were looking west. “There was a beam, you know, that could
catapult people to the stars,” Jim Carrey recalled. “And that was
'The Tonight Show.' And we all came out and gathered around the heat
of that.”

Most had to grind
their way through the L.A. comedy clubs, like the one depicted in
“Dying.” But as a 21-year-old Canadian, Carrey seemed to have an
express route.

“I was a big deal
in Toronto,” he recalled, “and they booked me on the show.”
Then he did a random night at a Los Angeles comedy club. “I had a
kind of a lukewarm night. And then I heard the news that I had lost
'The Tonight Show.'”

He had gone
instantly from a national spotlight to living in a closet –
literally.

At a comedy club,
Carrey recalled, someone “said he had a room, and it turned out to
be a closet. So the first year or so I was here, I lived in that
closet .... I woke up the first morning that I lived in the house, to
walk out in the kitchen and find a beautiful young girl making bacon
with no pants on.”

Carrey offered such
memories to the “Dying” producers, who paid attention. The first
episode includes a closet and a pantless cook; the second sees a
“Tonight” invitation yanked away.

Alongside that is
the heart of the series – Oscar-winner Melissa Leo as a comedy-club
owner. “She's not playing Mitzi Shore,” Carrey insisted, “but
she is a tribute to women like Mitzi.”

In 1972, comedian
Sam Shore and his wife created The Comedy Store; two years later, she
received the business in a divorce settlement. It became a favorite
spot for “Tonight” to scout.

Now we see a
fictional version named Goldie. “She has a marriage of commerce and
creativity,” said Dave Flebotte, the “Dying” creator. “She
loves comics, (but) it's also her bread and butter.”

So she has a mixed
relationship with them,Aguilar said. “She nurtures them, she trains
them. She pushes them when they need to be pushed .... She knows the
moment when they are ready.”

And in real life,
Carrey was ready. During his post-rejection, closet-living time, he
found another express route: He was cast as the star of the “Duck
Factory” situation comedy. That was on NBC, the “Tonight”
network; still just 21, Carrey was on the show.

That was in 1983,
when comedy and Carson had been thriving for a decade in Los
Angeles. Now Carrey produces and advises a show set in 1973, when
this was starting.

“The '70s
(brought) the golden age of stand-up comedy,” said Gary Levine, the
Showtime programming chief. That brought “comic geniuses like
George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Dave Letterman, Jay Leno,
Andy Kaufman and Robin Williams.”

It was a time when
big talents were working in small clubs – and maybe sleeping in
small closets.

-- “I'm Dying Up
Here,” 10 p.m. Sundays, Showtime

-- Debuts June 4,
rerunning at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.; then reruns nightly

-- Also: 9 and 11
p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 10 p.m. Wednesday; 9 p.m. Thursday,
rerunning at midnight; 7 p.m. Friday, rerunning at 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.;
7 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday