Super Bowl Sunday: A time for Brady, booty and frozen fun


OK, many people are already hyped up for the Super Bowl game itself. For the rest of us. the event brings a mixture of quirky fun; here's the story I sent to papers.

By Mike Hughes

Each year, the Super
Bowl has a sort of double identity.

“You have every
big football fan in America,” said Al Michaels, who will do NBC's
play-by-play Sunday. “But you have people who only watch one game a
year.”

The big fans have
plenty to buzz about, including an extreme contrast: One quarterback
(Tom Brady of the New England Patriots) has already started in seven
Super Bowls; the other (Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles) only
started four regular-season games in the past two years.

But what about all
the casual viewers? They get Justin Timberlake, clever commercials,
“This Is Us” and what passes for fun in Minnesota. Here's an
entertainment guide:

Halftime show

Justin Timberlake
was a young lad the first two times he did the Super Bowl's halftime
show.

He was 19 when he
did it in 2001 as part of NSYNC; the group was alongside Britney
Spears (his former “Mickey Mouse Club” colleague), Nelly, Mary J.
Blige and Aerosmith. He'd just turned 23 when he was in support of
Janet Jackson and ripped part of her costume off, revealing a breast;
afterward, he coined the phrase “wardrobe malfunction.”

Now, at 37, he'll be
the first person with three Super halftimes. This time, it's his
show; he has about 13 minutes, which may or may not include surprise
guests and a Prince tribute.

It also could be
high-energy; in one interview, Timberlake spoke to the camera: “Al
Michaels, if we can get you to shake your booty at the Super Bowl
halftime.”

Michaels reaction to
that now? At 73, he could plead generation-gap. “Can you shake your
booty with the fox trot?” he joked.

In truth, Michaels
is a pop-music fan. (He was singing Katy Perry tunes off-camera,
years before she did the halftime show.) But he said he'll stay out
of the booty business.

“I have an
8-year-old granddaughter who now wants to give Pop Pop lessons. I
said, 'Honey, it's hard to do that with spinal stenosis.'”

The pre-game

That starts at noon
ET Sunday with “Road to the Super Bowl,” an annual creation of
NFL Films.

“It's the season
set to the sounds of the players who wear microphones during the
games,” said Fred Gaudelli, who produces NBC's football coverage.
A “great musical score kind of recaps everything.”

And then ... well,
the pre-game show goes on and on (and on). It runs from 1-6 p.m. ET.

Some people skip
that part ... and could skip it this year out of general principle:
Bob Costas – the best and most-honored sportscaster in TV history –
isn't included.

Costas, 65, had said
earlier that he's cutting back – no more Olympics and just this one
more Super Bowl. But NBC decided not to invite him ... apparently
linked to comments he made at a sports conference. Due to
concussions, he said, he wouldn't let a son play football; “the
reality is that the game destroys people's brains.”

Instead, NBC will
stick with its regular pre-game crew – Dan Patrick and Liam McHugh
hosting, with Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Mike Florio ad Chris
Simms.

Some frigid fun

Alongside the
football talk, there will be lots of promotion for the Winter
Olympics, plus coverage of the host city ... which sort of looks like
the Winter Olympics.

“Downtown
Minneapolis is going to really turn into a winter wonderland,”
Gaudelli said, “with mini ski slopes and rock concerts.” He'll
even have drones taping some of it. “We want to really cover what
it's been like that week in Minneapolis.”

There have been
predictions of temperatures hitting 7-below-zero on the eve of the
Super Bowl. That doesn't affect the game (wisely, played indoors) and
Gaudelli didn't expect it to affect the pre-game fun. “Things that
would paralyze other states ... pretty much go unfazed in that part
of the country.”

Almost gametime

At 6 p.m., the
coverage moves to the stadium, with Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.

Pink will sing the
National Anthem and Leslie Odom Jr. -- who won a Tony as Aaron Burr
in “Hamilton” -- sings “America the Beautiful.” Kick-off is
6:30.

After the game

First we have the
trophy and interviews and such. Then – NBC estimates 10:15 p.m. PT,
which tends to be wildly optimistic – comes the post-game show.

This used to be a
time to debut a new series. After a few early successes (“The
A-Team,” “The Wonder Years”) that fizzled; now networks simply
show off their best.

For NBC, “This Is
Us” was the obvious choice. “These kind of game-changers just
don't come along very often,” said Bob Greenblatt, chairman of NBC
Entertainment.

That's no
exaggeration. The show has best-drama-series nominations from the
Emmys and the Golden Globes, breaking a cable monopoly; Sterling K.
Brown, as Randall, has won best-actor awards in both.

In this episode,
Randall hosts a Super Bowl party and we get flashbacks, possibly
telling us how the dad died. (The previous episode ended with a house
fire caused by a faulty crock pot.) These people are big Pittsburgh
Steeler fans ... and the Steelers, alas, lost the 1996 Super Bowl to
the Dallas Cowboys.

Even later

After the show,
there's a 35-minute break to allow for local news ... and for “This
Is Us” fans to possibly dry up their tears. Then – NBC says 11:30
p.m., again optimistically – is “Tonight.”

This one will be
live from the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Jimmy Fallon will have
Timberlake, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and the “This Is Us”
cast.

 

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
listening.”

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
promise.'”

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
issues.

“Two-and-a-half
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.
ET.

-- 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
years.

“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
record.”

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 www.acorn.tv
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.”

There
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
attitude.

Even
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.”

And
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.”

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

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

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

Some
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.”

-- “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
day.”

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
numbers.

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.