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ABC goes medieval -- and musical -- in funny, spirited Galavant


Joshua Sasse stars as the halfway noble title character in Galavant. ABC photo

Premiering: Sunday, Jan. 4th at 7 p.m. (central) with back-to-back half-hour episodes on ABC
Starring: Joshua Sasse, Mallory Jansen, Timothy Omundson, Karen David, Vinnie Jones, Luke Youngblood, Ben Presley and Darren Evans with guest appearances by John Stamos, Ricky Gervais, Rutger Hauer
Produced by: Dan Fogelman, Alan Menken, Glenn Slater, Chris Koch

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
And now for something completely different -- even if it’s also more or less derivative.

ABC is going medieval again with Galavant after a summertime fling with The Quest, a “reality competition” series that turned out to be high on production values but deficient entertainment-wise. End result: it never catapulted in the ratings.

Galavant, an eight-episode musical comedy with back-to-back half-hours on Sundays through January, likewise may have problems gaining ratings traction. But that won’t be for lack of trying -- or entertainment value. This is a bright and bold step for a broadcast network, with sharp, pungent lyrics, economically crisp song and/or dance sequences and whimsy through and through.

It’s not in the league of The Princess Bride or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But Galavant makes a damn fine effort based on six of the eight episodes made available for review. It moves along nicely, sags a little at times but is always game to give it another go and hit more often than miss. So applause to ABC for putting Galavant out there and making it lots more fun -- and of much shorter duration -- than NBC’s unraveling Smash turned out to be. This medieval farce also is far cheekier than NBC’s pair of by-the-book live musicals -- The Sound of Music and Peter Pan. Sample song title from Episode 2: “Maybe You’re Not the Worst Thing Ever.”

The title character, played by Britisher Joshua Sasse, has been a dashing figure until his lady, Madalena (Mallory Jansen), is kidnapped and taken to King Richard’s castle. Galavant shows up just in time to interrupt their wedding vows, but is crushed to hear that Madalena has decided to “go with fame and fortune.” Galavant returns home to become a lazy drunk with a lousy diet. But then comes the comely Princess Isabella (a luminous Karen David), who implores Galavant to save her kingdom of Valencia while in the process defeating King Richard and reclaiming Madalena. But Isabella’s real agenda is not quite so noble.

King Richard is despotic, neurotic, thoroughly unmanly and played brilliantly by Timothy Omundson. Everyone comports themselves well in Galavant, but Omundson’s cavorting is the show-stealer. He’s an evil-doer whose long-time chief guard, Gareth (Vinnie Jones), contentedly does most of the dirty work while at the same time striving to make a red-blooded man of his King. Madalena has come to love the palace’s creature comforts while growing to loathe the rich Richard. Her boy toy is the court jester (Ben Presley), whom the King otherwise finds hilarious.

The principal guest appearances are by Jon Stamos (in Episode 2) as the vain jouster Sir Jean Hamm (har); Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville as the well-disguised Pirate King (Episode 4); and Ricky Gervais as an off-brand Merlin named Xanax (Episode 6). Also look for some singing Franciscans (“Hey, hey, we’re the monks”) in Episode 5 and Richard’s attempts to woo back Madalena (in Episode 4) by learning the fine points of standup comedy from the Jester. He’s a howl as the “King of Comedy,” riffing Jeff Foxworthy-style (“If you have more children than teeth, you might be a peasant”) to an unimpressed small audience of captive Valencians.

The cast also includes Galavant’s squire, Sid (Luke Youngblood), and a nervous palace chef played by Darren Evans. One and all have their moments (and King Richard has many of them) in a very agreeable romp that will be filling in for Once Upon A Time to start the New Year.

Viewers are strongly encouraged to mount Galavant and ride it out. It’s imaginative, energetic, and occasionally somewhat wobbly (particularly in Episodes 3 and 4). But Galavant is mostly a savory treat from the musical team of Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, who previously have collaborated on The Little Mermaid and Tangled. These guys know what they’re doing. And this time they’re doing it with a welcome edge in rousing, ribald times.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Uncle Barky's Countdown to Christmas (season finale)

We end as we almost always do -- with Darlene Love’s annual performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on Late Show with David Letterman.

Only this really is the end. Letterman will be signing off on May 20th and Love says this is the last time she’ll do this song on television. It’s a tradition that dates to 1986, when Love and Letterman first joined forces on his old NBC Late Night show. Here’s a rousing video montage of Love throughout the years. And that’s a wrap for this season’s Countdown.
Ed Bark
@unclebarkycom on Twitter

Uncle Barky's Countdown to Christmas (Episode 7)

Although it’s been sung many times, many ways, no one before or since has ever done it better than Nat King Cole. Perfection. And so we present it once again.
Ed Bark
@unclebarkycom on Twitter

Uncle Barky's Countdown to Christmas (Episode 6)

There’s no telling how many cut or split lips emerged after recipients took a sip from “decorative glassware” made from Ronco’s Bottle & Jar Cutter.

Once upon a Christmas, Little Barky received “the greatest gift you will ever receive or get” and somehow emerged unscathed after turning a Sprite bottle into a jagged-edged drinking thing. But cousin Joyce had to go to the emergency room. Just kidding.

Here’s the special holiday season commercial.
Ed Bark
@unclebarkycom on Twitter

Uncle Barky's Countdown to Christmas (Episode 5)

We’re always looking for odd couple Christmas duos, and the Bing Crosby/David Bowie bit has pretty much played itself out. So how about this very lively, knee-slapping performance of “Jingle Bells” on a 1969 edition of The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour? The host is joined by a frisky Cher. Good times.
Ed Bark
@unclebarkycom on Twitter

Uncle Barky's Countdown to Christmas (Episode 4)

The oft-times numbing sameness of chain-owned, consultant-influenced local newscasts is brought home brilliantly in this Conan Christmas season clip-fest of anchors from around the country parroting, “It’s OK, you can admit it, if you’ve bought an item or two or 10 for yourself.”
Ed Bark
@unclebarkycom on Twitter

Fond adieus to Ferguson and Colbert, whose current late night runs end this week

Colbert craigferguson_big

Stephen Colbert & Craig Ferguson are capping their shows this week.

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Their departures this week won’t be rattling the late night terrain like David Letterman’s recently announced May 20th exit after 32 years on NBC and then CBS. Not that there won’t be some tremors.

Letterman’s successor, Stephen Colbert, will sign off Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report on Thursday, Dec. 18th after a nine-year run. His scheduled last guest is The Grim Reaper, who will come to claim Colbert’s conservative blowhard amalgam of Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Ferguson, whose Late Late Show has followed Letterman’s Late Show since January 2005, has booked Jay Leno as his closing guest on Friday, Dec. 19th. There’s a guy who knows something about stepping down.

Other puzzle parts are in place, but not all of them just yet. Colbert’s replacement is scheduled to debut his The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (formerly The Minority Report), in January 2015 on a still undisclosed date. Ferguson’s heir will fire up Late Late Show with James Corden on March 23rd. During the interim, CBS has booked a passing parade of guest hosts, including Drew Carey, Wayne Brady, Will Arnett, Judd Apatow and John Mayer.

CBS hasn’t yet decided what to do during the interim between Letterman’s goodbye and Colbert’s arrival. The latter’s start date remains up in the air and possibly won’t be until September of next year, according to some published reports.

Ferguson, who played a recurring character on ABC’s The Drew Carey Show, came out of nowhere to get the Late Late Show desk job. CBS had staged on-air auditions for several other better known applicants, ranging from D.L. Hughley to Ana Gasteyer to Tom Arnold. Ferguson’s pronounced Scottish accent also seemed to make him a longshot, but he eventually won the network over with a blend of enthusiasm and derring-do.

Ferguson, who in recent weeks has also been hosting the recently launched, decidedly lame quiz show Celebrity Name Game, became known for his freewheeling, mostly unscripted monologues and a remote-controlled skeleton sidekick known as Geoff Peterson. His ratings were decent although never dominant. But Ferguson nonetheless had a rumpled, Everyman appeal, whether going off on tangents or striding to within inches of the camera to almost jet propel himself into living rooms. Perhaps he paused to laugh at himself more than necessary. Still, Ferguson’s hard-core fans pledged allegiance to his every whim. No one could accuse him of being derivative of anyone else in late night, before or current. At his best he was simply brilliant.

Colbert amazingly kept his cocksure character fresh and percolating throughout the run of his show. Imagine Martin Short being Ed Grimley for nine years running. Or Dana Carvey always interviewing guests as the scolding Church Lady. It was an impossible task that Colbert made possible. Perhaps he longed to quit the charade. But he didn’t, making The Colbert Report a signature and very likely never to be duplicated half-hour of superb performance art.

He’ll drop the character and finally become himself again on CBS’ Late Show. And Colbert will have his work cut out for him opposite NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!.

Fallon’s ratings have remained amazingly strong since he replaced Leno in February of 2014 after five years of hosting Letterman’s old Late Night. He’s become an after-hours version of two old talk show glad-handers, Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas. Games are played almost nightly with Fallon’s increasingly willing celebrity guests. He may not ask many if any pointed or penetrating questions. But Fallon knows how to have a good deal of infectious fun while also assuring virtually one and all that “We love you so much.”

Colbert will bring a younger sensibility than Letterman has in his autumn years. But what will his niche be? Are late night viewers in the mood anymore for serious conversation? Or might too many of them dismiss Colbert as a bespectacled egghead in comparison to the still very boyish and bouncy Fallon?

For now, though, we salute two more distinguished keepers of the late night flame. Craig Ferguson and Stephen Colbert were decidedly and bracingly different within the realms of Late Late Show and The Colbert Report. They had the temerity and the skill-sets to do it their ways. And the longevity to leave some lasting late night imprints that will stand the tests of time.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Uncle Barky's Countdown to Christmas (Episode 3)

It’s been 32 years since this homey, hokey “We’re 4 You” Christmas spot aired on D-FW’s KDFW-TV (now known as Fox4).

Two of the principles are still featured players, though. Anchor Clarice Tinsley remains at Fox4 and sports anchor Dale Hansen, who somehow got through this one-minute promo, has long been the highly opinionated, irreverent bats and balls guy at Gannett8.

Viewers got an early glimpse of Tinsley supposedly welcoming the KDFW crew to her holiday-ready home. Others featured in the spot are late anchor Chip Moody, anchor Quin Mathews, weathercasters Wayne Shattuck and Ron Jackson, 4 Country Reporter host Bob Phillips, anchor Hosea Sanders, late feature reporter Jack Brown and anchor Marlene McClinton, who 17 years later famously quit on the air while with Houston’s KHOU-TV.

See Chip take a bite out of a Christmas cookie and Dale help hang a wreath. The four major players -- Tinsley, Hansen, Moody and Shattuck -- are last seen riding off in a horse-drawn carriage with holiday trimmings. No, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.
Ed Bark
@unclebarkycom on Twitter

Uncle Barky's Countdown to Christmas (Episode 2)

This surprisingly forward-looking clip from 1949’s The Cowboy and the Indians finds Gene Autry in the saddle and singing “Here Comes Santa Claus” while riding next to -- Santa Claus.

Behind them are canvas-covered trucks emblazoned with “Gifts From America To The First Americans.” The destination is a school house full of Native American kids, who happily join in the song. Watch for Jay Silverheels (later to become Tonto on The Lone Ranger) standing proudly alongside them.

Autry had a hit with both this song and, of course, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And the late “Singing Cowboy” never looked better than when performing this good deed.
Ed Bark
@unclebarkycom on Twitter

NBC strikes again with Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas


The “stop-motion” cast of Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas. NBC photo

Premiering: Tuesday, Dec. 16th at 7 p.m. (central) on NBC
Voiced by: Jim Parsons, Ed Asner, Mark Hamill, Gilbert Gottfried, Fred Armisen, Jay Leno, Matt Lauer, Rachael MacFarlane, Max Charles, Kate Micucci, Steve Higgins
Produced by: Sam Register, Toby Emmerich, Mark Kaufman

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
While rival networks are mostly content to reprise their arsenals of holiday chestnuts, NBC seems intent on presenting new would-be gifts that keep on giving.

The latest is Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas after the Peacock earlier stepped out with Peter Pan Live! and How Murray Saved Christmas. All three are musicals, befitting the tastes of entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, who earlier developed a musical adaptation of 9 to 5 for Broadway and championed Smash as his first passion project for NBC.

Another of Greenblatt’s initiatives, last season’s The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood, became an unexpected ratings hit. Since then, not so much. Peter Pan Live! drew slightly less than half the 18.5 million viewers for Sound of Music, although it performed decently compared to previous NBC Thursday night offerings this season. How Murray Saved Christmas, shown on Friday, Dec. 6th, bombed with just 3.6 million viewers nationally while also faring poorly among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds.

Buddy’s Musical Christmas, featuring an enthusiastic performance by Jim Parsons in the title role, is appreciably easier to take than Murray. Drawn from the hit movie Elf and Broadway’s Elf: The Musical, it utilizes “stop-motion animation” in a manner somewhat similar to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But Buddy’s Musical Christmas lacks the vivid, primary color palette of Rudolph, even if Parson’s performance is very merry and bright as the giraffe-necked, orphaned central character. Those who remember the late Paul Lynde will definitely hear similarities here.

The orphaned Buddy’s ad hoc father is Santa Claus (Ed Asner), who discovered him in his bag of toys during one of his trips down the chimney. Buddy’s real dad, Walter Hobbs (Mark Hamill), has long been on the “Naughty List” after losing his Christmas spirit. So Buddy heads off to New York City to reunite with the father who never knew of his existence. He continues to sing agreeably merry tunes, even after being hit by a series of Manhattan vehicles.

Hobbs works for the Greenway Publishing Company, whose very disagreeable boss is voiced by Gilbert Gottfried. Jay Leno chips in as one of NYC’s “Fake Santas” and Matt Lauer has very few words to say as Mr. Sea Serpent in an easily forgettable early scene.

It all goes down fairly well, with Santa getting his “mojo back” while Buddy slowly defrosts his initially resistant father. There are nine songs in all, including “Happy All the Time” and “Nobody Cares About Santa Claus.”

Buddy’s Musical Christmas faces very tough sledding Tuesday night in a time slot opposite new episodes of NCIS and MasterChef Junior plus another ABC showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. So NBC probably can’t hope for much if anything ratings-wise -- at least not at the appointed 7 p.m. (central) hour. You might want to activate your recording device, though. As holiday newcomers go, this is much better than socks and underwear from Grandma. Just don’t expect a shiny new train set.

GRADE: B-minus

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Uncle Barky's Countdown to Christmas (Episode 1)

I’d somehow never seen this one. Dirk Nowitzki gives his Mavericks teammates special Christmas gifts in this amusing spot. Recipients include Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and coach Rick Carlisle.
Ed Bark
@unclebarkycom on Ttwitter

Syfy's Ascension launches and lurches


Brian Van Holt plays the jut-jawed captain in Ascension. Syfy photo

Premiering: Monday, Dec. 15th at 8 p.m. (central) on Syfy
Starring: Brian Van Holt, Brandon P. Bell, Tricia Helfer, Al Sapienza, Tiffany Lonsdale, Andrea Roth, Jacqueline Byers, PJ Boudousque, Ran Robbins, Gil Bellows
Produced by: Philip Levens, Jason Blum, Ivan Fecan, Tim Gamble, Brett Burlock

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Here comes another case of the Syfy ho hums.

The network’s latest “thrilling and highly anticipated” event is Ascension, which blasts off with a 90-minute premiere on Monday, Dec. 15th before continuing Tuesday and ending on Wednesday.

The production design is impressive, but the script and acting fail to achieve liftoff. Among the groaners is this one from dutiful First Officer Aaron Gault (Brandon P. Bell), who informs malcontent James Toback (PJ Boudousque), “Just because you can’t change the course of this ship doesn’t mean you can’t change the course of your life. I did.”

Unfortunately there appears to be no escape -- either from the dialogue or a covert U.S. space mission dubbed Ascension. Crew members are in the 51st year of a century-long endeavor to find a new world and populate it. But not all is what it seems.

Ram-rodding this epic journey is taut, raspy-voiced, cuckolded Capt. William Denninger (Brian Van Holt), whose lascivious, layabout wife Viondra (Tricia Helfer) lets it be known that “you won’t find your courage in the bottom of a glass.” But the captain puts on a good front, barking out orders with a laughable, furrowed brow intensity. “Search the ship. Turn it upside down. I want answers,” he demands. Oh shaddup.

Denninger wants answers to who killed a young woman named Lorelei, whose battered corpse washes up on the ship’s fake beach. Lorelei’s mother insists that her daughter “didn’t run around like some lower deck trash.”

The lower deck is populated by snarly grunts who do the ship’s dirty work. This gives Ascension something of a Downton Abbey element, but with none of the texture.

Meanwhile, back on earth, Harris Enzmann (Gil Bellows from Ally McBeal) keeps the faith as the son of the Ascension mission’s founder. But what’s he really up to? Let’s just say that a requisite twist is coming at the end of Monday’s opener.

Ascension aspires to be a cautionary tale on a grand scale. But its cardboard characters and a paint-by-the-numbers script just aren’t up to the task. Poor Capt. Denninger doesn’t have the power to stand tall, throw up his hands and command, “Get me rewrite!” So in the end, everyone is just stuck.

GRADE: C-minus

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Netflix hits a wall with unremarkable Marco Polo


Benedict Wong and Lorenzo Richelmy star in Marco Polo. Netflix photo

Premiering: Friday, Dec. 12th on Netflix, with all 10 episodes available for streaming
Starring: Lorenzo Richelmy, Benedict Wong, Joan Chen, Zhu Zhu, Remy Hii, Pierfrancesco Favino, Olivia Cheng, Uli Latukefu, Chin Han, Amr Waked, Corrado Invernizzi, Darwin Shaw
Produced by: John Fusco, Joachim Ranning, Espen Sandberg, Harvey Weinstein

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Plodding, perplexing, meandering and often shot in the dim or the dark, Netflix’s 10-episode Marco Polo looks destined to be remembered only as the streaming programmer’s first big flop. No wonder the Starz network decided to pass on it.

Your friendly content provider endured all six hours made available for review, hoping that this reported $90 million production somehow would catch fire. Instead the mind wandered far more than Marco Polo does. Wasn’t he supposed to be a travelin’ man? Through the first four laborious hours, his most arduous journey is through 13th century Chinese emperor Kublai Khan’s in-house “Hall of Five Desires,” where the indentured Marco is ordered to look upon but not touch all the writhing, naked women engulfing him.

By the end of Episode 6, Marco (Lorenzo Richelmy) has ventured into the great outdoors to some extent, becoming a detective assigned to investigate who tried to assassinate the corpulent Kublai (Benedict Wong). Any viewers who have stuck it out this far almost assuredly will remain hard-pressed to figure out what the deuce is going on. Marco Polo, filmed in Italy, Kazakhstan and the Pinewood Studios in Malaysia, is harder to decipher than a current-day major league baseball player’s quickly scribbled autograph. War always seems imminent but never consummated during all of the head-numbing machinations among characters whose allegiances and identities remain a constant puzzlement.

Meanwhile, way too much of Marco Polo occurs either in the dead of night or in ill-lit interior venues. It gets depressing in short order, with full-blown daylight almost relegated to cameo appearances. The series rouses itself only at the end of Episode 2, when a fierce, winner-take-all sword fight takes place on the field of battle between Kublai and his duplicitous brother. It’s well-staged and convincingly choreographed. But any momentum is soon dissipated with more murk in subsequent hours.

Netflix triumphed from the very start with the heavily praised House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, which received a total of six Golden Globe nominations Thursday morning. But if Marco Polo is intended to be its answer to HBO’s Game of Thrones, well, that’s not gonna happen. A viewer would be better served trying to track down a copy of NBC’s 10-hour, 1982 Marco Polo miniseries, which likewise starred an unknown (Ken Marshall) but was enlivened by a passing parade of prominent guest stars, including Burt Lancaster, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, John Houseman, Leonard Nimoy and Ian McShane.

Netflix’s Marco Polo instead resorts to a passing parade of nudity, although much of it is -- all together now -- dimly lit. Episode 5 tricks things up a bit with a psychedelic interlude featuring a high-on-something Marco in a red-hued funhouse mirror setting with dozens of naked women. Again, though, it’s not worth the trip.

Richelmy’s Marco, abandoned by his father and uncle to be Kublai’s personal servant, is not exactly riveting in the title role. Wong fares better as the dictatorial but at times compassionate Kublai, who serves as the series’ only real command presence. He does a fine job of lumbering to and fro, but spends a good deal of his waking time sunk into an oversized throne.

It’s hard to envision many if any Netflix subscribers binge-watching this one. They didn’t have electricity back then, and neither does this “spectacle in the truest sense of the word,” in the words of an overblown publicity release. On the contrary, Marco Polo might best be utilized as a sedative or sleeping pill. All those dark to pitch black exteriors and interiors seem guaranteed to prompt an onset of heavy eyelids if not a complete conk-out. And if that doesn’t get you, the ponderous pace almost certainly will.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Golden Globe TV nominations again are nothing to scoff at

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Golden Globe nominees Dominic West, Ruth Wilson of Showtime’s The Affair and Billy Bob Thornton of FX’s Fargo. Showime/FX photos

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Just who are these people anyway?

That’s the underlying question whenever the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announces its annual Golden Globes nominations.

For the record, membership consists of roughly 90 Southern California-based journalists ranging from Paoula Abou-Jaoude of Brazil to Mira Panajotovic of Serbia. They’ve long been ridiculed as secretive, star-struck freeloaders who would vote “Aye” to the idea of crossing the Himalayas if a free massage were waiting at the other end.

Still, their adventuresome choices for television excellence lately have risen far above those of the stodgy Screen Actors Guild. They’re also on a par with the Emmy selections and frankly could teach our own organization, the Television Critics Association, a lesson or two.

Thursday morning’s 72nd batch of nominees was a combination of fresh, bold choices and the usual suspects. The HFPA’s feature film picks also were announced, but television is this site’s domain, even if most of the small-screen nominees will end up being clustered toward the back of the ballroom on awards night (Sunday, January 11th on NBC). After all, it’s only TV. And some things never change.

The big winners so far are FX’s Fargo, HBO’s True Detective, The Normal Heart and Olive Kitteridge, Showtime’s The Affair, Netflix’s House of Cards and Orange is the New Black and CBS’ The Good Wife. All received three or more nominations, with the HFPA in some cases jiggling and juggling categories to make everything fit.

True Detective and Fargo were lumped into the Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made For Television category, even though both in reality are series that will be returning for second seasons. This made room in the Best TV Drama Series category for the likes of House of Cards, The Good Wife and Downton Abbey. Two of those three series almost assuredly would have hit the bricks had they faced competition from True Detective and Fargo.

Similarly, Orange is the New Black and Amazon’s Transparent aren’t really comedy series. But both made the cut in that category.

It can be argued that category manipulation is for the greater good, allowing for larger numbers of worthy programs to be honored rather than left out. And that’s an OK argument to make in times when there’s an abundance of high-quality television. So much so that FX’s The Americans, Showtime’s Masters of Sex, AMC’s Mad Men and ABC’s black-ish were entirely snubbed.

Over-the-air broadcast networks received just nine of the 55 nominations, with the rest going to cable or streaming networks such as Netflix and Amazon.

The Big Three among cable networks were HBO, Showtime and FX, with AMC coming away with nothing this time. HBO as usual led the way with 15, followed by Showtime with nine and FX with eight. Netflix was close behind with seven nominations.

Other Golden Globe notables:

***The CW’s new Jane the Virgin received nominations for both the show and its breakout star, Gina Rodriguez

*** Viola Davis, star of ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, got a best actress nod.

***The Missing, still in its early stages on Starz after a Nov. 15th premiere, emerged with two nominations. It launched three weeks earlier on the United Kingdom’s BBC One.

***Jessica Lange received her annual nomination for her latest crazed character on FX’s American Horror Story. Another of the series’ recurring players, Kathy Bates, likewise got a nod.

***Ricky Gervais, the controversial two-time host of the Golden Globes TV ceremony, received a nomination for Netflix’s Derek.

Here is the complete list of TV nominees.

Best Drama Series
The Affair (Showtime)
Downton Abbey (PBS)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
The Good Wife (CBS)
House of Cards (Netflix)

Best Performance By An Actress in a Drama Series
Claire Danes (Homeland/Showtime)
Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder/ABC)
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Ruth Wilson (The Affair)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Best Performance By An Actor in a Drama Series
Clive Owen (The Knick/Cinemax)
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan/Showtime)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
James Spader (The Blacklist/NBC)
Dominic West (The Affair)

Best Comedy Series
Girls (HBO)
Jane the Virgin (The CW)
Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Transparent (Amazon)

Best Performance By An Actress in a Comedy Series
Lena Dunham (Girls)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie/Showtime)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep/HBO)
Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin)
Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)

Best Performance By An Actor in a Comedy Series
Louis C.K. (Louie/FX)
Don Cheadle (House of Lies/Showime)
Ricky Gervais (Derek/Netflix)
William H. Macy (Shameless/Showtime)
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

Best Movie or Miniseries
Fargo (FX)
The Missing (Starz)
The Normal Heart (HBO)
Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
True Detective (HBO)

Best Performance By An Actress in Movie or Miniseries
Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honorable Woman/Sundance TV)
Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freak Show/FX)
Frances McDormand (Oliver Kitteridge)
Frances O’Connor (The Missing)
Allison Tolman (Fargo)

Best Performance By An Actor in Movie or Miniseries
Martin Freeman (Fargo)
Woody Harrelson (True Detective)
Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart)
Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)

Best Performance By An Actress in Supporting Role in Series, Movie or Miniseries
Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black)
Kathy Bates (American Horror Story: Freak Show)
Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey)
Allison Janney (Mom/CBS)
Michelle Monaghan (True Detective)

Best Performance By An Actor in Supporting Role in Series, Movie or Miniseries
Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart)
Alan Cumming (The Good Wife)
Colin Hanks (Fargo)
Bill Murray (Olive Kitteridge)
Jon Voight (Ray Donovan)

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

PBS' Bing Crosby Rediscovered makes belated Dallas debut


Bing Crosby at the height of his considerable powers. PBS photo

Bing is best known as an Internet search engine to many of today’s kids and young adults.

Should they search for Bing Crosby, they’d discover what baby boomers already know. The guy was a giant during the ‘30s, 40s and ’50s. He still has more No. 1 records -- 41 -- than anyone ever, including The Beatles or Elvis. He also had a smash hit radio show, won a best actor Oscar and teamed with Bob Hope for a series of seven “Road” pictures that dominated box offices.

It’s all brought home in Bing Crosby Rediscovered, which premiered nationally on Dec. 2nd but is airing in Dallas for the first time on Friday, Dec. 12th at 7:30 p.m. on KERA13. Narrated by actor Stanley Tucci, the 90-minute American Masters presentation also will be repeated on Dec. 26th -- both locally and nationally.

Crosby, who died on Oct. 14, 1977 at age 73 after a round of golf in Spain, has a re-coming out party every holiday season, when his White Christmas is heard throughout the land. The best--selling single of all-time originated in the 1942 film Holiday Inn before getting its own showcase in 1954’s White Christmas starring Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen.

Crosby’s last TV Christmas special, which aired shortly after his death, also became renowned for the odd couple “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” duet with David Bowie. It currently has more than 5 million views on youtube.

“He became the Christmas man,” says author Gary Giddins, whose 2001 biography, Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, details the many other accomplishments of an older generation’s foremost crooner and matinee idol.

“Every woman in the world wanted to marry Bing Crosby, whether they were married already or not,” his second wife, Kathryn Grayson, recalls in the opening minutes of the PBS film.

He played a priest in two hugely successful films, Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s. But Crosby was no saint. At the height of his fame he played hard, drank hard and, by his own admission, pretty much made a mess of his first marriage to Dixie Lee, who died in 1942 of cancer. They had four sons, Gary, Lindsay and twins Phillip and Dennis. Two of them -- Lindsay and Dennis -- committed suicide. And Gary wrote a tell-all book, Going My Own Way, that depicted his father as a cold, cruel, distant disciplinarian who repeatedly spanked him with a metal-studded belt until blood was drawn.

“I’m not gonna have you grow into a fat, unattractive slob,” Crosby said in a letter to Gary.

This is acknowledged in the PBS film, with Crosby’s only daughter, Mary, saying, “I think he felt always that he had failed them.”

But Mary also is a staunch defender of her father, recalling a lunch she had with Gary in which he supposedly told her that his book wasn’t entirely factual and was trumped up in the interest of selling more copies.

In Bing Crosby Rediscovered, Mary says her response to him was, “You (expletive). How could you do that to your dad, to your family, to his legacy?”

Crosby otherwise is portrayed as a generous, self-deprecating star who stood by artists such as Rosemary Clooney and Judy Garland during some of their darkest hours. He also befriended and showcased Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald in times when many in Hollywood weren’t nearly as willing to embrace black performers.

Through it all, Crosby cultivated a neighborly, relaxed persona that made him seem like a next door neighbor who just happened to make hit records and movies. And his second marriage clicked, with Mary and sons Harry and Nathaniel all still speaking glowingly of a father who learned to accept and welcome their advances.

“Mom just taught us to crawl all over him,” Mary says in the PBS film. “It’s like a dog that’s not used to being petted.”

Bing Crosby Rediscovered is a full-bodied, even-handed look at an entertainer who reigned supreme during a long bygone era that largely pre-dated television, rock music and even 33-and-a-third LPs. For the growing legions who say “Bing Who?”, this is the what, when, where and how.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Television's best of show via annual hitfix.com national poll (which included your friendly content provider)


FX’s Fargo reigns as both best new program and best of all programs in this year’s hit fix.com poll of the nation’s TV critics.

Three of the series’ actors also ranked in the Top 10 of a new “Best Performances” category. But Matthew McConaughey of HBO’s True Detective placed No.1 on that list.

Your friendly content provider, among the 52 critics participating in the poll, had the same three No. 1 finishers. After that, my list and the consensus list varied, although we still agreed on many of the top 10 finishes in all three categories.

Here are the comparative lists, with the caveat that this is getting to be a much more difficult task in light of all the quality programming available on cable, broadcast TV and streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon. OK, here we go.


Hitfix List
1. Fargo (FX)
2. The Good Wife (CBS)
3. Game of Thrones (HBO)
4. Transparent (Amazon)
5. True Detective (HBO)
6. The Americans (FX)
7. Mad Men (AMC)
8. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
9. (tie) Louie (FX) and Broad City (Comedy Central)

My List
1. Fargo
2. Game of Thrones
3. The Americans
4. True Detective
5. Orange is the New Black
6. Masters of Sex (Showtime)
7. Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
8. Mad Men
9. The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (PBS)
10. Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO)


Hitfix List
1. Fargo
2. Transparent
3. True Detective
4. Jane the Virgin (The CW)
5. (tie) The Affair (Showtime) and Silicon Valley (HBO)
7. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
8. Gotham (Fox)
9. black-ish (ABC)
10. Broad City

My List
1. Fargo
2. True Detective
3.Olive Kitteridge
4. The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
5. Transparent
6. The Honorable Woman (Sundance TV)
7. Silicon Valley
8. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
9. The Knick (Cinemax)
10. black-ish

mcconaughey-true-detective true-detective-matthew-mcconaughey-s1-e3-02-636-380


Hitfix List
1. Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
2. Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)
3. Allison Tolman (Fargo)
4. Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black/ BBC America)
5. Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge)
6. Woody Harrelson (True Detective)
7. Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)
8. Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
9. (tie) Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder/ABC) and Martin Freeman (Fargo)

My List
1. Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
2. Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge)
3. Allison Tolman (Fargo)
4. Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex)
5. Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
6. Martin Freeman (Fargo)
7. Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham)
8. Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honorable Woman)
9. Judith Light (Transparent)
10. Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish)

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net