Bill T. Jones: Immense talent, immense contrasts

One of the best notions PBS has come up with lately has been the idea of nine straight arts-related Fridays.

The shows have differed widely -- from a deep portrait of Pearl Jam to a rather silly operetta. This week, it's a look at Bill T. Jones, who's been compelling as a dancer, a choreographer and more. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Rich contrasts ripple through the world
of Bill T. Jones, the dance master. He's:

"Prohibition": Ken Burns toms himself

Ken Burns seems to keep topping himself. "Prohibition" -- Sunday through Tuesday on PBS -- is another masterpiece. Here's the story I sent to papers:


For 14 noisy years, Americans had their
social experiment. They banned alcohol; they turned collectively

Well, not quite. Even leaders found
ways to duck the law:

Hugh Laurie -- comedy, crew, drama ... and now the blues

By now, you may have heard me lecture on the fact that "House" is TV's best drama and Hugh Laurie is the best drama actor. I do that sometimes; I also  blather about his comedy skills, which remain semi-tucked away in England.

Now there's more; he's also a bluesman who is the center of a terrific PBS special. In some markets -- including East Lansing and Cincinnati -- that airs at 9 p.m. Friday. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Placido Domingo: The first 70 years

In the midst of this week's commercial-network commotion, PBS drops in a Placido Domingo special on Friday. This varies a lot from market to market -- it airs Friday on Cincinnati, but not in Lansing -- so I'll put the story here. Check your local listings:


From his earliest moments, Placido
Domingo had music flowing into his ears.

Keeley Hawes: One of the best; not one of the best-known

Not all gifted actresses, it seems, get equal amounts of attention. I'm quite sure I've seen more about Sandra Bullock and Anjelina Jolie than I have about Keeley Hawes.

Still, let's be clear about this: Hawes -- who stars in the "Upstairs Downstairs" PBS miniseries that begins Sunday (April 10) -- is one of the best actresses around. Here's a story I sent to papers:


PBS has an endless appetite for people
who play upper-class English folks.

More good news: "Nova," "Justified," cable excess

The world seems to have an unlimited amount of television and a too-limited amount of really good television. So let's celebrate three bursts of good news -- two relating to shows tonight (Wednesday):

1) "Justified" has been renewed for a third season. This show (10 p.m. Wednesdays on FX) crackles with great characters and sharp dialog. Tonight's hour is a pretty good one, as two strong women -- a coal executive and a crime matriarch -- battle over mining rights.

Classical music gets its savior (again)

The sharp observor may have detected that I don't write nearly enough about classical music. This could be attributed to some combination of ignorance and circumstance.

Here's an exception: On Wednesday, PBS gives prime time over to a zestful young conductor, still not quite 30.

This is the story I sent to papers. If you're reading this in the Lansing, Mich., area, keep in mind that the Tavis Smiley hour will be pushed to WKAR World (23.4), because of a Gov. Granholm interview:


OK, here are TV's 10 best

The best thing about 10-best lists is that they let us fume, fret and argue -- to ourselves, to anyone nearby or to whoever created the offending list.

With that in mind, here's the story I just sent to papers, with my picks for the 10 best shows of 2010. Fell free to commence griping, by posting a comment here or simply upsetting your neighbors:



Amid the cascade of 10-best lists,
there's an annual trend:

Join the "Circus" on TV

This is the week when two terrific mini-series begin peaking inside colorful show-business worlds. "Moguls & Movie Stars" is from 8-9 p.m. for seven Mondays on Turner Classic Movies; "Circus" is from 9-11 p.m. for three Wednesdays on most PBS stations.

I found the "Circus" people especially interesting to talk to. Here's the story I sent to papers; if you're reading this after the first episode aired, check www.pbs.org:


The good old (and bad old) days of newspaper power

As newspapers struggle for their place in a multi-media world, it's fun to look back at the days when they had it all.

That's the focus of "Inventing L.A.," a terrific documentary that most PBS stations air tonight (Monday). It tells about the generations in which the Los Angeles Times used its power badly -- and about recent decades, when it used it wonderfully. Here's a story I wrote for papers: