Cheyenne sings his way from small-town musical to big-city glitz

Trust me on this: Cheyenne Jackson is a terrific singer and a fun story-teller.

Viewers will get a tiny sampling of him Friday. He was the first voice in the opening-night concert at the lush Smith Center in Las Vegas; that night is now a two-hour PBS special (9 p.m. Sept. 21).

Broadway passion burns bright

Imagine "American Idol" on steroids -- more finalists (60), more talent, more pure passion.

That's "Broadway or Bust," a fascinating, three-week documentary series, Sundays on PBS. The first hour has already aired, but you can watch it on the PBS Web site; here's the story I sent to papers:


For a while there, a classic American
art form seemed to be fading.

Sir Ken and I have a lot in common

So it turns out that Ken Branagh -- or Sir Kenneth, as he's now known -- has something in common with me.

In most areas, we're far apart. He's mastered Shakespeare plays; I don't understand them. He's been knighted; I've seen "Camelot."

What we have in common, however, is illustrated by an exceptionally inept serving tray that it took me months to make in shop class. This remains on exhibit at the family cottage -- which my grandfather built, shortly after building his family home. The building-stuff trait bypassed me entirely.

You've gotta love Daniel Tiger

Daniel Tiger is one of those guys you like instantly. He's cute, he's 4, he's well-meaning and he's animated. Even better, he links back to the kindly days of the late Fred Rogers. Daniel's new show -- a "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" spin-off -- debuts Monday (Memorial Day) on PBS. Here's the story I sent to papers:


LOS ANGELES – Daniel Tiger is ready
for his spotlight now. He brings an imposing TV legacy.

Political conventions on TV -- once huge, now ... well, interesting

The storm has stirred up some complications with the Republican convention this week in Tampa. Monday's events -- including Ann Romney's speech -- have been postponed; they'll be compacted into the next three days. Here's the updated version of the convention story I sent to papers:


There was a time (really) when the big
television networks savored political conventions.

Islamic art: massive or intimate

OK, our expectations for Friday-night TV may be fairly low. Still, PBS keeps offering exceptions A prime example, July 6, an elegant look at Islamic art. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Spanning centuries and continents, the
phrase “Islamic art” brings immense range.

It goes from the supersized splendor of
the Taj Mahal to the delicate lettering of Mohamed Zakariya. And now
Zakariya is the starting point for a sweeping PBS special.

Old Inspector Morse: He's younger (and less cranky) now

"Masterpiece Mystery" starts its summer spurt this weekend on a strong note.

Sunday (July 1) brings "Endeavour," a terrific prequel to all those old "Inspector Morse" mysteries. Then are four straight "Inspector Lewis" films. The first (July 8) is excellent, the second is so-so, the third is quite good. I haven't seen the fourth yet.

For now, however, let's savor "Endeavour," and be glad that more early-Morse filmsare being made. Here's the story I sent to papers:

"Masterpiece" is back, amid high expectations

It's always good news when "Masterpiece" returns, with its richly crafted dramas. Now -- after another long pledge-drive pause -- three minisries will air on Sundays, starting with "Great Expectations" and Gillian Anderson's wondrfully offbeat performance. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Sprawling from the marshes of Kent to
the ballrooms of London, Charles Dickens'“Great Expectations” is
a key part of some British educations.

B-52's: the whimsical side of rock 'n' roll


In between "American Idol" blogs, let's pause to remember that rock music needn't always be pitch-perfect. Sometimes, it's just fun.

Here's a story I sent to papers about the B-52s, which have a 35th-anniversary concert that shows up on many stations during pledge drive. Cincinnati, for instance, airs it at 8 p.m. this Saturday, March 10; East Lansing, alas, hasn't yet scheduled it:



Facing crime, eye-to-eye

I have to admit I'm really not a fan of verite-style documentaries.

Those are the ones that simply have a camera follow around, hoping to capture something. They have their moments, but can't compare to the crisp power of the great documentaries of PBS' "American Masters," "Frontline" or "American Experience."