Career options: Actors would make great con artists

Most of is have never really hear of Inbar Lavi. But on Tuesdays, you can see her do terrific work as a con artist in Bravo's "Imposters." Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Most actors need a
back-up plan, an alternate way to make money.

So this is
encouraging: Many would probably be really good at scams, grifts and

This year, we've
seen several of them skillfully portray con people. There's Giovanni
Ribisi in “Sneaky Pete” ... and Michelle Dockery in “Good
Behavior” ... and now Inbar Lavi in “Imposters.”

Lavi plays Maddie,
who uses love as a weapon. “Maddie is brilliant at ... seeng that
thing that the other person needs and (becoming what) the other
person has wanted,” said writer-producer Paul Adelstein.

This requires the
ability to change attitudes and accents. Actors are good at that ...
especially ones who have the sort of varied background that Lavi has.

“I grew up in
Israel,” she said. “My dad is Polish, my mom is Moroccan, and I
grew up around all kinds of different languages and I love playing
with it.”

In the opener, she
uses a Belgian accent – similar to what her grandmother spoke. From
there, she keeps adding new touches, proving that she can play a
strong scammer ... or could be one.

Adelstein is better
known as an actor, a regular in “Private Practice,” “Girlfriends'
Guide to Divorce” and more. But he's also done some writing and
directing and he started talking with writer Adam Brooks about their
favorite con films.

They concocted
“Imposters,” adding some detours. “The rug can shift under the
audience's feet every now and then,” he said. For Maddie, that

-- An unfaked
romance. “She meets somebody she may have actual feelings for,”
Adelstein said.

-- And revenge.
Suddenly, her old victims are linking and in pursuit.

That gives
“Imposters” an extra spin: Lots of shows offer people who are
skilled scammers; this one add her victims, who are (at first) quite
clumsy at cons.

“We get a bit
better at it,” said Rob Heaps, who plays one of the vengeful
victims. Still, he granted, they're far from being scam masters.
“That's a great thing about the show – it's accessible.”

Most viewers, after
all, would be really bad con artists ... unlike actors, who might be
great at it.

-- “Imposters,”
10 p.m. Tuesdays, Bravo; debuts Feb. 7, rerunning at 1:32 a.m.

-- Bravo also has
latenight reruns of the pilot on Thursday and Saturday nights
(technically, 12:30 a.m. Friday and 3 a.m. Sunday). Another rerun is
10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14,

-- Other channels
will also rerun the opener -- midnight Tuesday (technically, 12 a.m.
Wednesday) on USA; 8 p.m. Feb. 14 on E.


Anika Noni Rose's roles range afar ... and, occasionally, anear

By Mike Hughes

From the moment I saw Anika Noni Rose in "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency," almost a decade ago, I thought she was an amazing talent. She's ranged afar since then ... and now stars in a new series on BET. Here's the story I sent to papers:

Anika Noni Rose has
criss-crossed much of the human spectrum.

She's been a corrupt
cop, an honest lawyer and a frog-kissing princess. She's been a timid
secretary in Botswana and the hottest (and saddest) wife in
Mississippi; she's also been Kunta Kinrte's daughter.

“It's exciting,
it's fun, it's stimulating,” she said. “I have no desire to be
myself onscreen every time.”

But sometimes,
that's called for. In “The Quad,” a new cable series, she moves
South to be the first female president of fictional Georgia A&M,
a historically black college. That fits; Rose studied at a
historically black school ... which, until recently, had never had a
female president.

Her character, Eva
Fletcher, promptly upsets the school leaders. “She is a very
intense woman,” said Rose, 44. “She has a Northern way and a
Northern speed .... She's a younger woman, an attractive woman who
looks perfect from the outside – and it galls them.”

Beneath that surface
are mammoth imperfections. An affair with a grad student left her
with few job options. Her husband is estranged; her daughter is
angry. All of that is where the acting comes in.

For Rose, thia
started during her freshman year in high school, when she got the
lead role in the “Fame” musical. “I didn't know I could sing
until then,” she said.

Later, singing would
help her win a Tony Award (in “Caroline, or Change”), co-star in
the “Dreamgirls” movie and become Disney's first black princess
(in “The Princess and the Frog”).

Her college choice,
however, went beyond career ambitions. “I was interested in
cultural enrichment .... I wanted to go to a school where you can
learn and grow around people of your culture.”

She'd grown up in a
Jewish neighborhood in Connecticut, with her parents exposing her to
lots of black music, theater and dance. Now she wanted the full

Florida A&M
began in 1887 as State Normal College for Colored Students; it
continues to have a student body that is 87.6 percent
African-American. Rose said she was instantly impressed by its
academics; she reels off statistics about its business, music and
pharmacy programs and more.

She majored in
theater, went on to the American Conservatory in San Francisco, then
scored. In classic Broadway revivals, she was rebellious Beneatha in
“A Raisin in the Sun” and sizzling Maggie in “Cat on the Hot
Tin Roof.” On TV, she's ranged from Jukebox Thomas (the lesbian cop
with her own crime ring) in “Power” to Wendy Scott-Carr, the
State Attorney candidate in “The Good Wife.”

Most impressive may
have been HBO's “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” requiring a
new accent and attitude. She played Grace Makutsi, fresh from
secretarial school and overeager to help.

That was set and
filmed in Botswana. “I had never been to Africa; there were really
wonderful people.”

Now “Quad” takes
her to another interesting spot. The college is fictional, but the
backdrop is Morehouse College, in Atlanta, the alma mater of Martin
Luther King, Spike Lee, Maynard Jackson, Herman Cain, Samuel L.
Jackson and more.

“Morehouse has an
amazingly rich history,” Rose said. “And it's a gorgeous campus –
but not as gorgeous as Florida A&M.”

Therte's one other
difference: Morehouse is a private, all-male school (linking with
nearby female schools) and has never had a female president. Florida
A&M finally hired one in 2014, after 127 years of male rule. And
fictional Georgia A&M just got its first one, rattling some large

-- “The Quad,”
10 p.m. Wednesdays, BET, rerunning at 11.

-- Second episode is
Feb. 8, following the first two chapters (6 and 8 p.m.) of “Madiba,”
the three-part miniseries about Nelson Mandela.

-- Earlier, the
“Quad” opener reruns Tuesday night (technically, 12:03 a.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 8).

-- The first two
episodes rerun together on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 5:50 and 7:57 p.m.;
also, the second episode also reruns at noon Friday, Feb. 10.

Here's the Super Bowl Sunday line-up -- from morning to "24"

OK, now we can set our plans for Super Bowl Sunday,. (Mostly, they involve staring at a TV, with intermittent eating and/or drinking.) Here are the two previews I sent to papers. The previous one was an overview from the Fox Sports people. This story has the details, including a timeline that stretches from the first preview (11 a.m. ET) to the final, boom-bang moments of "24: Legacy."

By Mike Hughes

You really weren't
planning on doing anything on Sunday, were you?

If Fox has its way,
you'll skip chores and church and such. Instead, you'll stare at
Super Bowl coverage for 12-plus hours.

Partying during that
time is optional. Terry Bradshaw will be working this Sunday for Fox,
but he describes previous Super Bowls as “the greated day of my
life .... We were cooking and the men were playing gmes and having
fun and the pregame shows were on.”

Now there are more
of those shows than ever. Here's the line-up, with all times ET:

The pre-pregame

-- 11 a.m.: “The
Road to the Super Bowl.” This is the annual NFL Films production,
slickly edited.

-- Noon:
“Undisputed,” the cable (Fox Sports 1) show, with Skip Bayless
and Shannon Sharpe..

-- 1 p.m.: “Super
Bowl Kickoff.” Here are more transplants from Fox Sports 1.
Charissa Thompson hosts,with Colin Cowherd, Dave Wannstedt and
Charles Tillman.

The pregame

-- 2 p.m.: Bradshaw
and Curt Menefee host the marathon, which will include Howie Long,
Michael Strahan, Jimmy Johnson, reporter Jay Glazer and rules analyst
Mike Pereira. There will be celebrity drop-ins, said Eric Shanks, the
president of Fox Sports, and maybe some music, shortly before 6.

-- 6 p.m. or so:
Coverage moves to the field, with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the
broadcast booth and Erin Andrews and Chris Myers onthe sidelines.
Luke Bryan will sing the National Anthem – ending a string of nine
straight women, including stars from opera (Renee Fleming), Broadway
(Idina Menzel), country and pop.

The game

-- 6:30 p.m.: It's
the kickoff, with strength against strength.

The Atlanta Falcons
are pro football's highest-scoring team (33.8 points a game in the
regular season), but the New England Patriots have the toughest
defense (15.6 points a game). The Falcons' Matt Ryan had the top
quarterback rating ... with the Patriots' Tom Brady finishing second.

One catch: The
Patriots (16-2) also had the third-best offense; the Falcons were
27th in defense.

Whatever happens,
we'll see the details. Shanks said a chip in each helmet will allow a
replay from any perspective. “For the first time ever, we (will)
take fans inside the helmet of any player on the field.”


-- Lady Gaga
performs. The show is expected to include Tony Bennett, 90, her
frequent duet partner.


-- About 10 p.m.:
Bradshaw prevails with the trophy, post-game interviews, etc. After
that, football talks switches to Fox Sports 1.

-- About 10:30: “24:
Legacy” debuts with a high-octane hour, before moving to Mondays.

The story focuses on
an Army Ranger unit, similar to one that killed Osama bin Laden. In
this case, one Ranger took something vital; now all of them are being
chased. “We originally planned that for a general thriller idea,”
said producer Manny Coto. “It wasn't even '24.'”

But then they worked
it into the “24” format. Over 12 (not 24) hours, things seem to
be in real time.

Like Jack Bauer in
the past, the new hero (played by Corey Hawkins of “Straight Outta
Compton”) will be on the clock. “He can never go to the bathroom
or eat,” joked producer Brian Grazer.

Adds Hawkins: “I
can sneak a granola bar on a commercial break.”

Super Bowl -- a time for greatness (or maybe pretty-goodness)

The Super Bowl will take over the world again Sunday, gobbling up more than 12 hours of TV time. This is one of the two preview stories I sent to papers:


By Mike Hughes

It's Super Bowl time
again, bringing a battle of the best.

Here are star
quarterbacks, fierce linemen, great coaches and ...

Well, pause on that
last one. “There's only one great coach in the NFL,” insisted
Terry Bradshaw, who will co-host Fox's pregame show Sunday. “That's
that coach up in New England. That's a great coach.”
talking about Bill Belichick, who's now in his 17th year
with the Patriots ... and is taking them to the Super Bowl for the
seventh time ... all (including four wins) with Tom Brady as

That may make this
seem like a mismatch: The Pats are Super Bowl veterans; the Atlanta
Falcons have only been there once, and not in this millennium. The
Pats only lost twice this year, and one of those was during Brady's
four-game suspension; since his return, they've outscored opponents
by more than 15 points a game. The Falcons have lost five times.

But the Falcons also
have football's top offense ... and anything can happen in a Super
Bowl. Last season, the Carolina Panthers breezed into the game with a
17-1 record ... then suffered seven sacks, four turnovers and a 24-10
loss to the Denver Broncos.

People will keep
watching, whether it's close or not. Eric Shanks, the Fox Sports
president, points to the last time his network did the Super Bowl –
the Seattle Seahawks' 43-8 win over Denver in 2014.

“It was not close,
from the opening snap,” Shanks said. “I dreaded waking up the
next morning, to see what the viewership figures were. (But) the
Super Bowl is the Super Bowl .... We set a record.”

An average of 112.2
million people saw that game, a record that was broken the next year.
People keep watching ... and expect to have fun. “That was our
leader David Hill's No. 1 thing: 'Let's entertain the masses,”
Bradshaw said.

Hill was the
Australian who took over Fox Sports in 1993, when it was virtuallty
non-existent. (“It should be 'Fox Sport,'” John Madden used to
say, because football was the only game it had.) Some of his
innovations (the glowing hockey puck) were scuttled, but others have
become standard, including the on-screen scoreboard and first-down

Fox also launched
the first hour-long pregame show, which scored instantly. “From the
very first days, (Fox has) been the No. 1 pre-game ... for 23
straight years,” Shanks said.

It has done that
with Bradshaw, Howie Long and a relatively loose attitude ... which
tends to get looser on Super Bowl Sunday. Instead of one hour, the
pregame crew now starts at 2 p.m. ET (after three other advance
hours) and goes on past 6 .

“The Super Bowl
pregame is less about football, to a great extent, right up until
about the hour, hour-and-a-half before the game,” Long said. “It's
more about entertainment.”

Some of the talk
gets especially entertaining when Bradshaw is unfiltered ... which is
how the whole “great coaches” issue started. Bradshaw had said
the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin “is a great cheerleader guy,
but I don't know what he does .... I don't think he is a great coach
at all.”

Looking back at that
now, Bradshaw said he should have said “motivator,” not
“cheerleader,” and should have said there are no great coaches
... except Bill Belichick. On Sunday, we'll see if a great coach and
his superstar quarterback can stop the Atlanta Falcons and football's
best offense.

All sitcoms are the same? Not at 8:30 p.m. this Thursday

Can one network be right and all the others be wrong? It's possible. CBS is sticking with traditional situation comedies -- done before a studio audience, with multiple cameras -- while all the others abandon that approach. You can have your choice on Thursday (Feb. 2), when CBS and NBC each debut an 8:30 p.m. comedy; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Two new shows
collide Thursday, from opposite sides of a comedy chasm.

It's old vs. new,
talk vs. action, CBS vs. the world. Surprisigly, CBS – the old,
talky one – is winning.

The latest
collision, at 8:30 p.m., brings the debuts of:

-- “Powerless.”
Like all NBC comedies, it's filmed movie-style; that allows big sight
gags, at a company owned by Batman's clumsy cousin. “They are
working on stuff that makes (us) a little bit safer, in a world where
demigods are flying around,” said producer Patrick Schumacker.

-- “Superior
Donuts.” Like most CBS shows, it's performed in front of a studio
audience, with several cameras. There are no superheroes, but lots of
punchlines and lots of doughnuts.

This “multi-cam”
approach is the way most old comedies were done – including past
hits from two of the “Donuts” stars – Judd Hirsch's “Taxi”
and Katey Sagal's “Married With Children.” Still, Sagal hadn't
worked that way in years, until she was a “Big Bang” guest,
working in front of an audience.

“I weas
terrified,” Sagal said. “I hadn't done it for a while. And
actually, I had a good experience on 'The Big Bang' and I remember
calling my manager and saying, 'I like this; this is fun.' Because
it's all a rush of the live audience.”

Bob Daily, a
“Superior Donuts” producer, agrees with that. “A live audience
keeps us honest,” he said. “It tells us what's working, what's
not working.”

That's been the
style of hit comedies, from “I Love Lucy” to “Big Bang,” with
“Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “All in the Family,” “Friends,”
“Frasaier,” “Seinfeld” and more. “MASH” was a rare

But then comedies
slumped and “Modern Family” (filmed single-camera, movie-style)
soared. Soon, multi-cam comedies existed only on CBS ... which
happened to dominate the Nielsen ratings.

clearly savors its movie approach. It has huge sight gags, often at
the expense of Vanessa Hudgens, the former “High School Musical”

“She's so fun and
cute and probably has enough money that she doesn't have to do it,”
said co-star Ron Funches. “But (they'll say) 'Let me put this
baby-food powder in your mouth.' She just goes, 'OK.'”

There's no room for
big sight gags in “Superior Donuts.” It's sort of like a play ...
which it once was.

In 2008 – the year
he won a Pulitzer Prize for “August: Osage County,” Tracy Letts
opened this play in Chicago. An employee (young and black) argued
with the owner (an elderly Polish immigrant) about modernizing the
doughnut shop.

The show had a brief
Broadway run, with Charles Isherwood of the New York Times calling it
“a gentle comedy that unfolds like an extended episode of a 1970s
sitcom.” And now, of course, it is a sitcom. Like anything from
“Cheers” to “Night Court,” it's has a setting where people
pop in quickly.

The pilot was shot
with comedian Jermaine Fowler opposite Brian d'Arcy James, who's had
11 Broadway shows and three Tony nominations. CBS rejected it, but
asked for a second pilot.

That was followed,
Flowers said, by “extra months of just retooling and reshaping the
story,” plus luring Hirsch to replace James.

“I was doing a
play in the Berkshires and a dozen doughnuts came in the mail,”
Hirsch said. “And I (thought), 'Whoa! I've never been asked'”
like that.

He gave the
doughnuts to the crew, but took the job ... and now has access to
plenty of food on set.

“We eat the (heck)
out of those doughnuts .... It makes us hyper, really,” Fowler

That's as close as
the show gets to having a secet weapon. Other shows have big sight
gags; “Superior” has clever talk and enticing doughnuts.

-- “Superior
Donuts” (CBS) or “Powerless” (NBC), both debut 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 2

-- “Powerless”
stays on Thursdays; “Donuts” moves to 9 p.m. Mondays