After a lifetime of preparation, McGowan gets her activist focus

The first time Rose McGowan talked to the Television Critics Association, she was an impressive person in a semi-impressive show. She was the new witch on "Charmed," on the WB network; she also seemed like a bright person, worth listenig to.

Now, 16 years later, WB is gone and McGowan has a very different mission, discussing sexual abuse and more. Her special is Tuesday (Jan. 30) on cable's E; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

For many people,
this can be unsettling: Suddenly, they're in the swirl of a
hot-button issue.

For Rose McGowan,
however, it's a natural. “My father said I was born with my fist
up,” she said.

She's been at the
core of the sex-abuse charges in Hollywood and beyond. Now comes her
“Citizen Rose” special; Amy Introcaso-Davis, development chief
for the E cable channel, calls it “an unfettered view into her
incredible mind and what propels Rose the activist.”

And yes, E – home
of the Kardashians and surface flash – may seem like an odd place
for activism. McGowan, however, has existed in both worlds.

She modeled as a kid
and, later, for the Bebe clothing line. Alongside lots of serious
roles, she spent five years as a witch in “Charmed” and was
Ann-Margret in the “Elvis” mini-series. She's known the flashy
side of show business.

But there's the
other side of her, as professed by her dad: “My birthday card from
him, when I was 10, said, 'Dear Rose, I've always admired your sense
of justice. Happy birthday.'”

That was the year
her family moved from Italy to Oregon. (Her parents, a writer and an
artist, were American-born, but lived in Italy, sometimes in a
Children of God commune.) Her rebellious side continued; she was
reportedly a teen runaway, becoming legally emancipated at 15.

But it wasn't until
her early 40s that the outspoken side fully emerged. “I started
shooting footage three years ago,” McGowan said. “I realized that
I could not speak on camera without a script .... I had to train
myself to just exist as me.”

In August, she took
the footage to Bunim-Murray Productions, the reality-show pioneer.

“Rose came in to
talk to us before the New York Times article (and) the New Yorker
article came out,” said producer Andrea Metz. “I personally was
intrigued by her and her story and the fact that she hasn't been
given the opportunity. She's been talking, but nobody has been

The company –
which created MTV's “The Real World” in 1982 – seems to fit a
feminist focus. “Probably 70 percent of our showrunners are female
and ... 20 percent are gay men,” said Jonathan Murray, who
co-founded it with the late Mary-Ellis Bunim.

It began filming
McGowan in September, Metz said, without knowing what the project
would be about. “She kept saying, 'It will be worth it. I

The next month, the
Times and New Yorker stories broke, with McGowan among the people
accusing producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse. A flurry news
stories followed.

Now some of the
footage, old and new, will be sifted into a four-week series this
spring and the two-hour special Tuesday.

In some time zones,
that special overlaps with an accused sex-abuser delivering the State
of the Union address. Talking to the Television Critics Association,
McGowan avoided mentioning individual names and stuck to the broader

years ago, equal pay for women was voted down on the Senate floor,”
she said. “We're the only First World country that has no
constitutional protection for women. So this is so big.”

-- “Citizen Rose,”
8-10 p.m. Tuesday, E; rerunning 10 p.m. to midnight.

-- In some time
zones, that overlaps with the State of the Union address, at 9 p.m.

-- Other reruns are
8 p.m. Thursday, 2 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3.


Hey, these Brits seem to know about acting

On one level, "Girlfriends" is kind of brash and soapy; on another, it has gifted British actors, bringing these flawed-and-interestinng characters to life. It's one example of why people like to catch British shows via PBS or streaming. Now "Girlfriends" reaches Acorn on Monday (Jan. 29); here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

We've always
suspected that the British are better at some things – playing
cricket and croquet ... using long words ... remembering World War
II ... and, especially, acting.

That last part is
clear to PBS viewers, but now there's more: Two streaming services –
Acorn and Britbox – deliver the rest of the British shows ...
which, it turns out, are skillfully acted.

The latest example
is the six-part “Girlfriends,” via Acorn. It's written and
directed by Kay Mellor, who has been making British TV series for 27

“It was her
passion project, she always says,” said Phyllis Logan.. “And the
commissioners at ITV (network) let her do it, because of her track

Mellor created three
women who were in a long-ago singing group, split into wildly
different lives ... then re-united after a tragedy. More crises
follow, in a show that veers perilously close to soap opera, rescued
by the skill of its stars:

-- Miranda
Richardson, who got her Oscar nominations (“Damage,” “Tom &
Viv”) more than 20 years ago. She plays Sue, the flashy one. “She's
driven; she's single-minded .... She loses just about everything in
the first episode, but then she regains two girlfriends,”
Richardson said.

-- Zoe Wanamaker.
She plays Gail, the sad one – working as a crossing guard and
claiming that her son is back from Indonesia, not prison.

-- Logan. She plays
Linda, who was doing fine until the perplexing tragedy struck.

PBS viewers have
seen Wanamaker in lots of one-shot roles ... and Logan as the earnest
Mrs. Hughes, head of the abbey's housekeeping staff. “I never
planned that I was going to be doing six years of 'Downton Abbey,'”
she said. “None of us did.”

And that's one
reason they're so good at this. Americans might get tied into an
unchanging character; the British juggle tiny seasons (“Girlfriends”
has six episodes) on TV, plus movies, theater and more.

That's a tradition
that starts with repertory theaters, leaping between shows.

“You played
several characters throughout the season,” Logan said. “Old
grannies, young blokes .... I used to play a series of Shakespearean
youths with penciled mustaches and stuff. That was all part of the
deal, that you just have an array of different characters and
different jobs.”

Eventually, the
Brits get noticed by Americans – as evidenced by others in
“Girlfriends”: Matthew Lewis played the heroic Neville Longbottom
in Harry Potter movies; Anthony Head was propelled by coffee
commercials, before becoming the mentor of Buffy, the vampire-slayer.

Now they reverse
direction: Head plays Richardson's self-possessed boss and ex-lover;
Lewis plays Wanamaker's non-heroic son. “He's got a good soul, as
it were,” he said, “but ... he needs to grow up.”

He's a perpetual
screw-up who is liked by many people and loved by Logan's daughter
... played by Daisy Head, Anthony's daughter. It's a two-Headed,
multi-dimensioned, very British bunch.

-- “Girlfriends,”
six-part British drama. Episodes reach
on six Mondays, starting Jan. 29


It's a blue world of flying fish, big bubbles and quick sex changes

Some of TV's finest work has gone into the various "Planet Earth" projects. BBC people mix technical skill, esthetic brilliance and solid science. Now the second underwater edition is Saturdays on BBC America; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Deep below the
surface, there are worlds we never imagined.

There are clever
fish that crack shells ... leaping ones that snag birds ... and
pleasant ones that then change sex and attitude.

“Changing sex is
commonplace in the ocean,” said Mark Brownlow, a producer of
cable's lush “Planet Earth: Blue Planet II.”

are even “gender-fluid fish” that change often, said producer
James Honeyborne. Still, he's struck by the kobudai, which does it
spectacularly. As a female, it's gentle; then comes the
transformation: “That male is an extraordinary expression of
testosterone, with a huge head and wobbly chin” and aggressive

the experts find new things
Brownlee is struck by the
tusk fish: “It picks up a clam and smashes it against its coral
anvil, to open it up and get to the meat inside .... We never really
thought that fish were capable of these levels of complex behavior.”

David Attenborough, 91, can still be surprised. He marvels at a
trevally, leaping at low-flying birds. They “have to calculate
where it's going to be,” he said. “It would take a bank of
computers to do that, but that's what the trevally does. It comes out
of the water and wallop! It's quite extraordinary.”

started in TV's black-and-white days, far from this mega-project

took over four years,” said BBC America president Sarah Barnett.
“The teams mounted 125 expeditions, visited 39 countries and filmed
on every continent.”

means every one; Antarctica is prominent in Saturday's episode.

expeditions were “utter disaster,” producer Orla Doherty said,
and some brought bonuses. Had one arrived a day later, it would have
found nothing. Instead, it filmed a spectacle -- “giant bubbles,
just shooting out like rockets. It was like we had landed on another

-- “Planet Earth:
Blue Planet II,” 9 p.m. Saturdays, BBC America.

-- Second episode,
Jan. 27, includes Antarctica. It's surrounded by a rerun of the
original, 11-hour “Planet Earth,” from noon to 9 p.m. and 10:30
p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Well, maybe we don't have to get physical

Sometimes,TV just goes for the fun. Tha's the case with "Let's Get Physical," a broad comedy starrig people who have varying attitudes about their bodies and the gym. Here's the story I sent to papers.


By Mike Hughes

OK, we can forget
one new-year's resolution.

That's the one about
going to the gym. The stars of cable's new “Let's Get Physical”
downplay that.

“You could never
go to the gym, (but) eat correctly,” Chris Diamantopoulos said.
“And ... people would think (you spend) hours at the gym every

The comedy has a
chunky chap (Matt Jones, who plays Baxter on “Mom”) inherit an
old gym, which he runs with his mother (Jane Seymour). His former
girlfriend (AnnaLynne McCord) and his old nemesis (Diamantopoulos)
are married and have a competing gym.

“Our gym kind of
represents the '80s (and) the cheesiness of aerobics,” Jones said.
Theirs is “very scientific and soulless.”

That seems to work
for them. Diamantopoulos, 42, and McCord, 30, look sleek and slick;
we assume they've spent a lifetime working out.

“I hate the gym,”
McCord said. “I hate it ... Getting up and having to do something
where I sweat sounds just terrible.”

Diamantopoulos does
it, but not voluntarily. “My brother runs a strength facility and
... I'm sort of his guinea pig.”

But he mostly
credits food -- “lots of vegetables and some fruits” -- and mere
luck. “Having good genes is a good place to start.”

And instead of gyms?
“I like the brain gym,” McCord said. “I would rather spend my
time reading.”

Onscreen, she plays
seductresses – Eden in “Nip/Tuck,” Naomi in “90210,” even
The Siren in “Bad Girl Island.” Offscreen, she talks fondly about
Scrabble. Her scores are in the 350 to 400 range, she said, and her
best for one play is 78. In Scrabble circles, those are great

What all of the
“Let's Get Physical” people do have in common is a different sort
of activity – the fierce energy of song, dance and musicals:

-- McCord grew up in
a modest-income home, where her father -- “very altruistic, always
talking to people” -- sometimes was a pastor in Seventh Day
Adventist and other churches. She memorized and recited all the lines
in a school play, until her sister simply gave her the role she was
going to have. At 15, she graduated from high school, started
modeling and became an actress.

-- Diamantopoulos
split his childhood between Toronto (where his dad ran a Greek radio
station) and Athens. “Greek was my first language,” he said. He
started theater early and persisted as a pro -- “eight shows a week
for 12 years.” That peaked last month, with Fox's live production
of “A Christmas Story” ... after several troubled rehearsals.
“The only time we got it right was that night.”

-- Seymour, 66,
takes more easily to the work-out world. “I used to be a ballet
dancer, back in the day, and I actually was on the cover of Jane
Fonda's workout book for pregnancy – in a striped leotard.” Now
she races between roles, business and more; on the day after this
interview, she was flying overseas for a charity project. “She
can't stay still,” Jones said.

-- Jones, 36, can
stay still, quite happily. “I'd rather eat and have a drink than
wake up and go to the gym .... Food is really great,” he said. But
he has stayed busy, doing theater and singing in a rock band. “He's
got a great voice,” Diamantopoulos said. “Really, truly.”

Jones said he does
sometimes go to the gym and finds the habit understandable. “A lot
of people ... want to feel part of something, want to feel like in a
club, want to feel like they're being proactive.”

Maybe we shouldn't
dump that resolution after all.

-- “Let's Get
Physical,” 8:31 p.m. Wednesdays, Pop (formerly TV Guide), after
“Schitt's Creek”

-- Debut repeats at
11:31 p.m.; then 11:30 a.m. Thursday and that night at 12:30 a.m.

From "Waco" to "Yellowstone," the Paramount Network arrives

A new name popped up in TV listings Thursday (Jan. 18), leaving viewers with a question: What is the Paramount Network, anyway?

Well, it's a little like Spike (which it replaces, after Spike replaced The Nashville Network and The National Network) and a little like Paramount Pictures, its owner. Its image may be clearer when the "Waco" mini-series starts Wednesday (Jan. 24); here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

The name “Paramount
Pictures” represents a century of Hollywood history.

And the name
“Paramount Network”? It represents a week of viewer confusion.

Eventually, the
images might start to merge. That could be when the network wraps its
six-week “Waco” mini-series ... or when it debuts a “Heathers”
series March 7 ... or when it launches Kevin Costner's “Yellowstone”
series this summer.

Those point to a
goal. Kevin Kay, the network president, calls for shows that are
“cinematic in scope.”

In short, he wants
ones that are kind of like Paramount movies. That's a stretch for a
network that has previously been know as The Nashville Network, The
National Network and Spike.

Spike's image was
clear, Kay said. Its audience was “sometimes 70, 80-percent male in
prime time.” But it was owned by Viacom, which also has Paramount
Pictures; now comes the makeover.

The new name brings
lots of memories. Paramount is the studio of “Gump,” “Grease”
and “Godfather,” of the “Star Trek” and Indiana Jones films,
plus “Titanic,” “Top Gun,” “Airplane” and more. The
network doesn't particularly have access to any of those, but it does
have the tradition.

Among the major
studios, Paramount is the second-oldest – it's 102, Universal is
104 – and the only one still based in Hollywood. Costner remembers
making “The Untouchables” there and feels movie tradition is
important. “I like our history,” he said. “It's flawed and it's
great and it's a lot of things, but we're all standing on the
shoulders of people.”

The flaws have been
obvious lately. (“Waco” and “Yellowstone” were co-productions
with Harvey Weinstein's company, which is being extricated from both
shows.) So have the strengths; the new network will have:

-- Some reality
shows -- “Lip Sync Battle,” “Bar Rescue,” “Ink Masters”
-- carried over from Spike.

-- Comedies. Coming
are “American Woman,” an Alicia Silverstone show based on Kyle
Richards' eccentric childhood, and possibly an adaptation of “First
Wives Club.” First is “Heathers,” adapted by Jason Micallef,
who watched the 1989 movie on homevideo – often. “'Heathers' was
my 'Star Wars' .... I loved that it was a dark-but-funny view on

-- Documentaries.
Keith Cox, the network production chief, said that includes films on
Trayvon Martin and, April 2, on Martin Luther King, “told through
the prism of Dr. King's most iconic speeches.”

-- Movies and
reruns, a key for most cable networks.

-- Dramas, which is
where Paramount may finally seem like Paramount. That could peak in
June with “Yellowstone,” which has Costner owning a mega-ranch
near the national park.

Fresh from
triumphing with the low-budget “Wind River,” writer-director
Taylor Sheridan found several networks interested. He said he chose
Paramount because it offered “complete creative freedom ... almost
too much of it. I told them my vision, I told them how I wanted to
make it, and they agreed.”

Before that, there's
“Waco,” sprawling over six Wednesdays, with Taylor Kitsch as
David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidian complex. Producers leaned
heavily on David Thibodeau and Gary Noesner, who wrote books about
the 1993 siege.

Thibodeau – one of
only nine people to survive the compound fire – speaks well of
Koresh. “He was always a reasonable individual the entire time that
I (knew) him. I think what happened was the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) messed up horribly on the first
day. And then the FBI came in and the miscommunication was so

Noesner, the
government negotiator, tried to bridge the gap. “I couldn't get
David Koresh and my on-scene commander to act reasonable at the same
time,” he said.

The final
confrontation was giant in scale and impact ... something that may
define a new cable network that bears an old studio's name.

-- “Waco,” 10
p.m. Wednesdays, Paramount; six weeks, beginning Jan. 24