American Masters

A brief, brilliant life gets a superb TV portrait

The upcoming "American Masters" (Friday, Jan. 19) is one of the best TV films I've seen in a long time. (And yes, I've seem a lot of TV.) It beautifully portrays the short, brilliant life of playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Here's the story I sent to papers.

By Mike Hughes

Almost 60 years ago, theater producers were fretting about a landmark

Linklater: His slacker-free life creates impossible movies

At times, Richard Linklater makes a movie that delights the masses. "School of Rock" is great fun; "Boyhood" is a masterpiece. But beyond that, he keep making interesting movies in interesting ways. Now a documentry (9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, on most PBS stations), profiles him. Here's the story I sent to papers:


By Mike Hughes

Patsy Cline: A country-music life and an all-music voice

When CMT picked the best country songs of all time, it had Patsy Cline at No. 3 ("Crazy") ... and No. 7 ("I Fall to Pieces") ... and No. 41 ("Sweet Dreams"). I would have nudged "Crazy" -- written by Willie Nelson -- even higher, past the top two (Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" and George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today").

At 94, Norman Lear savors a victory lap through the TV world he changed

Norman Lear's impact on TV has been enormous. He turned a timid medium into a place for big emotions and strong ideas. And now, at 94, he's enjoying it. PBS' "American Masters" special is -- like his autobiography -- smart, entertaining and well-crafted. Here's the story I sent to papers: 

By Mike Hughes

Janis: A search for truth, joy and powerfully passionate music

Janis Joplin's life was perfect for "American Masters," filled with extreme high and lows, plus immense talent and moments of quiet subtlety. So it shouldn't surprise us that the film airing Tuesday (May3) is ... well, masterful. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

For Laura Joplin,
the letters were an unexpected treasure.

Loretta Lynn? She's 50 years a grandma, 55 a star ... and still hard at work

The Loretta Lynn story has fascinated people for generations. Now it's back -- with a few revisions and lots of new steps. On Friday (March 4), she has a new album and a terrific PBS special; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Loretta Lynn carries
large chunks of human history.

August Wilson let his words and his characters soar

Rhetoric seemed to flow splendidly from August Wilson's notebook and from his character's mouths. He was, perhaps, the great American playwright; now PBS' "American Masters" has created a splendid profile, which airs Friday. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Bing and Bowie? It was just one odd moment in a far-flung life

Each December, Bing Crosby's voice flows back at us, providing images of white Christmases and simpler times. What's interesting, however, is just how complicated Crosby's own life was. A superb "American Masters" portrait is airing Tuesday (Dec. 2) on some PBS stations and later on others; here's the story I sent to papers:


Somewhere in that blur, Billie Jean King saved the world

The official start of the TV season is still two weeks away and we already have the first truly outstanding special. That's an "American Masters" profile of Billie Jean King, at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 10) on PBS. Here's the story I sent to papers:


For Billie Jean King, the 1970s were a
grand blur.

She was winning tennis titles, starting
projects, creating a league. She was changing the world.

A joyous journey through Mel Brooks' life

PBS' "American Masters" Monday is a joyride through a busy life.Here's the story I sent to papers:



You learn a lot, hanging out with
comedy masters. You also learn by hanging out a hotel window.

Mel Brooks – the focus of a jaunty
PBS profile Monday – has done both. He loved the writers' room of
Sid Caesar's TV shows; he was less happy with a writing session on a
top floor of the Palmer House in Chicago.