Bluntly speaking, Patrick Stewart does it all


When I turn 75, I highly doubt that a dozen chorus-line beauties will want to chat with me, much less dance with me. But then again, I'm not Sir Patrick Stewart, a master of past kingdoms and future universes. Stewart is remarkable in "Blunt Talk," which debuts Saturday on Starz, rerunning often. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Patrick Stewart's
vast skill-set is ready to go on display. In cable's new “Blunt
Talk” series, Stewart does ... well, everything.

In the opening
episode, he does comedy, tragedy, a bit of swordplay and a passage
from King Claudius in “Hamlet.” We kind of expect all of that
from a Shakespearean master.

But the second
episode starts with him embedded among a dozen chorus girls, doing a
big dance number. “We began about three weeks (early), because it
was an elaborate sequence,” Stewart said.

And before it was
trimmed, he insisted, it was “a piece of iconic American televion
.... The moments that are missing are Gene Kelly moments.”

He's joking about
that, perhaps, but the dancing is competent ... as is everything
Stewart tries. He's “conquered every genre that he has attempted,”
said Seth MacFarlane, a “Blunt Talk” producer. “He's done
hourlong drama; he's done live theater. He's done ... comedy; he's
hosted 'Saturday Night Live.'”

He's spent a lot of
time back in the 16th century, thanks to Shakespeare, but
also spent seven years in the 24th century, captaining the
Enterprise. Arriving from England, he said, he'd expected the U.S. to
be “a free society, in which status ... was of no significance at
all. Well, I very quickly found out that being in a syndicatedm
science-fiction television show put me way down that hierarchical
ladder.”

Yes, that's more of
the Stewart humor, encasing bits of truth. Somehow, Emmy voters
ignored his splendid stay on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

His other work,
however, has been roundly honored. He's had four Emmy nominations and
(for spoken word) a Grammy win. He has one Tony nomination, plus two
wins in the British equivalent, the Olivier Award. He's also been
knighted.

Now Sir Patrick
plays a deep character. He's Walter Blunt, a well-meaning news-talk
host.

“His heart is
always in the right place,” said Jonathan Ames, the “Blunt”
creator. “He wants to do the right thing, (but) there might be a
lapse in judgment or an impulsive moment or a vulnerable moment.”

He makes a huge,
alcohol-fueled mistake in the opener, then tries to right it with
sheer bravado; in the second eisode, he veers toward a giant lapse of
journalistic ethics. Yet in between, he seems so fragile that we feel
more sympathy than disdain.

Also in-between is
the dream scene. “I had seen these Busby Berkeley videos on YouTube
and I was fascinated with the images,” Ames said, “that something
would open up like an eye.”

So he asked a
75-year-old knight to spend extra time being in a chorus line.
Stewart agreed.

“When does an
actor with my kind of background get to do a scene like that with 12
brilliant and beautiful women?” he asked. “It was an unexpected
treat.”

-- “Blunt Talk,”
9 p.m. Saturdays, Starz; debuts Aug. 22

-- Opener reruns at
10:05 p.m., 11:15 p.m., 3 a.m.; then Sunday at 10:20 a.m., 3:10, 8
and 11:30 p.m.

-- Also reruns at
3:25, 6:05 and 9 p.m. Tuesday; 11:15 p.m. Friday (Aug. 28) and 8:25
p.m. Aug. 29, before the second episode. Plus 7 p.m. Sunday on sister
channel Encore.