Wednesday, June 16
Last year, a crew working with 60 Minutes ‘ Ed Bradley put a miniature camera on a social worker’s eyeglasses and sent him to work at a Charlotte, N.C., hospital for an investigation of Charter Behavioral Health System facilities for the mentally ill, in which there had been three patient deaths within four months. His exposé aired in April on 60 Minutes II , taking up the full hour. Earlier this month, the Charlotte hospital closed its doors, and CBS is taking credit for it. Tonight, it runs the show again with an update. “I’ve never seen anything that’s had the immediate result that this broadcast had,” said Mr. Bradley.
But, what’s a 60 Minutes guy doing on 60 Minutes II , which has its own cast and crew? Mr. Bradley said 60 Minutes always airs multiple segments and wouldn’t have the room Mr. Bradley wanted for his piece. ” 60 Minutes II has that format,” he said. “They’re willing to do an hour once a year.”
How is the new show doing? “They’re off to a good start,” he said, implying that II has a long way to go. “We’ve had 30 years at it. This is their first year.” Squirts. [WCBS, 2, 9 P.M.]
Thursday, June 17
There was Henry Miller, there was Anaïs Nin, and there is Julia Dahl, who wrote Neve Campbell’s girl-to-girl kiss scene for Party of Five .
She also wrote Wonderland , which opened at the American Place Theater on Monday, June 14. It’s got plenty of Party of Five -grist in it: a splintered family, an errant, infidel smooch, a suicide. But then there’s also other things you wouldn’t find on Fox: a deconstruction of Holden Caulfield, a debate on free will, raunchy humor. Ms. Dahl wrote it four years ago, when she was 24.
Still, over a late-night dinner at the Theater District’s Cafe Un Deux Trois the conversation kept coming back to Ms. Campbell and that lesbian kiss.
“I don’t believe that the character of Julia Salinger is actually a lesbian,” said Ms. Dahl.
“I think she had a collegiate tryst, like so many women do. It was never meant to say that she was a lesbian. All along it was just meant to say that she was searching for intimacy and this was one way, you know …”
Ms. Campbell was not exactly thrilled with the plot line when she was approached about it, Ms. Dahl said. With a sizzling kiss between her and Denise Richards in Wild Things , she was afraid of becoming type cast as a Class A chichi dyke. But then, things fell into place. “She was so open to it and generous about it and … having a little bit of reservation, she did it, anyway,” said Ms. Dahl.
The morning after Wonderland opened, Ms. Dahl left for Los Angeles to sit down with her fellow writers–who started a few weeks ago–and try to figure out exactly what will happen to Ms. Campbell’s character. [Lifetime, 12, 7 P.M.]
Friday, June 18
The Love Boat: The Next Wave still airs Friday nights, so you can still catch Robert Urich as the ship’s skipper trying to do the best he can, raising a 15-year-old son while helming the luxury liner. [WWOR, 9, 9 P.M.]
Saturday, June 19
HBO has picked up the animated version of Austin Powers and is likely to get with it voice-overs from Mike Myers. While HBO refuses to discuss the show–it’s “in development”–sources told NYTV that the network was happy enough with the idea to order up 13 episodes.
The writers are already working on it, even if HBO won’t admit it. It probably will come out of the Film Roman production house, which also does The Simpsons , Futurama and King of the Hill . Mr. Myers was not available for comment. The show won’t be ready until at least the end of this year. Meanwhile, start your day strong with a dose of Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Action Hero . [HBO, 32, 8 A.M.]
Sunday, June 20
Anthony Michael Hall just can’t get around the John Hughes thing. And why should he? He spent most of the 80’s in Mr. Hughes’ movies, running around in Molly Ringwald’s wake, looking like a super-horny Archie Andrews. And he was very good at it! But tonight, when he makes his big comeback as Bill Gates in TNT’s Pirates of Silicon Valley –if only Mr. Hughes had directed this one!–he’ll be playing a grown-up version of one of his 80’s sprouts. As a matter of fact, Mr. Hughes once directed him in a kind of a Bill Gates prequel– Weird Science –in which he and his best buddy somehow whip up Kelly LeBrock.
But it’s been a long while since anyone’s seen Mr. Hall, now 31. Mr. Hall said he is hoping the Gates movie–also starring ER ‘s Noah Wyle as Apple founder Steve Jobs–hauls him out of Where Is He Now territory.
“It’s been difficult to prove myself,” Mr. Hall said groggily–he had just gotten up–from his apartment in Los Angeles. “For years, people didn’t know how to place me. I’m a survivor and I work hard and I knew that I would continue and persevere.”
Mr. Hall has released his own rock album. His band’s called Hall of Mirrors, as in Anthony Michael Hall . “We’re trying to do something cool.” The album can be sampled on the band’s Web site, hallofmirrors.com. The idea for the Web site was inspired by Mr. Gates, whom Mr. Hall said he has come to respect.
“I don’t see him as evil,” he said. “I wanted to show his work ethic and a sense of his discipline. With Gates, you never get the sense that he is personalizing his success … “
A representative for Mr. Gates, John Pinette, said, “He’s not much of a TV watcher so it’s tough to know if he’ll see it at all.” Mr. Pinette said there are inaccuracies in the film: Mr. Gates convincing I.B.M. to let him design a personal computer operating system. Mr. Pinette said I.B.M. had approached Mr. Gates. “On any given day there’s a whole lot written about Bill,” he said. “Sometimes it’s true, sometimes not. His attitude is, generally, it comes with the job.” [TNT, 3, 8 P.M.]
Monday, June 21
DeForest Kelley is dead. He died at 79 last week in Woodland Hills, Calif. But his spirit lives on through Dr. McCoy tonight, on Star Trek . In this episode, Bones passes through a ripple in time and winds up changing the past. Would that he could have done it in real life! [Sci-Fi Channel, 44, 7 P.M.]
Tuesday, June 22
ABC television is facing a brain drain that could wind up leaving the network a far less talented place than it used to be (and that’s just not what Big Yellow, which has the lowest ratings of the Big Three, needs right now).
About 200 New York-based employees–from the marketing, advertising, daytime programming departments as well as the executive suites strewn throughout the Upper West Side–have been told that they have to move to Los Angeles next year if they want to keep their jobs. ABC president Patricia Fili-Krushel is among those being asked to make the move, which would make her the only chieftain of the Big Three networks to not be based in New York. It’s unclear whether television president Bob Iger will have to move, though he’ll certainly have to spend far more time flying between coasts.
Apparently, the Walt Disney Company’s chief executive Michael Eisner wants to bring the top executives–not including those from the news and ad sales divisions–more tightly under his iron-feathered wing. The company line is that it makes no damn sense to have members of the same team practicing in gymnasiums 3,000 miles apart.
“It’s like everyone’s coming under the watchful eye of Mickey Mouse,” carped a source with close ties at the network. The employees have until the end of August to tell Disney if they’re willing to do it.
But within the last two weeks or so, there have been a couple of major defections. Valerie Schaer, who helped head up daytime programming and development for the Mouse–you can thank her for the new Barbara Walters morning show, The View –has moved on to Studios USA, the USA Network’s production company.
“I know they’re trying to shift their base of power there, so, even if I stayed here, this becomes a satellite office,” Ms. Schaer said. “I’m sad about leaving. ABC is going to lose people who feel committed to the East Coast.”
Alan Wurtzel, who headed up ABC’s research department, has also recently left the network, for the same slot at NBC. That’s a big blow, and not just because Mr. Wurtzel’s such a well-respected guy. His job matters more than ever these days since it’s his department that has to figure out how viewers are reacting to cable and the Internet. (Speaking of the Internet, Bob Catalane, who was ABC’s vice president for broadcasting, has signed on with media firm TMP Worldwide, which is very active on the Web.)
ABC officials told NYTV that they expected to lose a few of their top people, but Mr. Eisner feels that the move has to be made. “The intention is to make sure all the programming people have an opportunity to work together,” said an ABC spokesman. “That means not only the creative people from ABC, but also to bring them closer to their colleagues in the rest of the Walt Disney Company.”
Scheduled this morning on The View : The ladies chat with Patricia Arquette; a discussion revolves around liposuction. And feel free to e-mail The View with your own views on the topic. [WABC, 7, 11 A.M.]
Peter Bogdanovich’s Movie of the Week
“You are not a director,” Vittorio De Sica once said, “unless you have directed a child.” Actor-director De Sica had proved himself memorable in this area with three of his postwar Italian neo-realist films, The Children Are Watching Us , The Bicycle Thief and Shoeshine . Two others that come immediately to mind for extraordinary child performances are Jackie Coogan in Charles Chaplin’s first feature-length Tramp picture, The Kid , and another Jackie–Jackie Cooper in the powerful four-handkerchief 1931 King Vidor production co-starring ever-popular Wallace Beery, The Champ [Sunday, June 20, Turner Classic Movies, 82, 10:30 P.M.; also on videocassette] . Of course, Vidor had already distinguished himself with a touching child performance in his classic humanist drama of three years before (one I’ve previously recommended as highly as possible), The Crowd [Sunday, June 20, Turner Classic Movies, 82, midnight; also on videocassette] .
But whereas the little boy in The Crowd is a supporting player to his parents’ story, in The Champ , Jackie Cooper dominates. And although Wallace Beery is absolutely superb in the title role of an alcoholic, degenerate gambling, ex-prizefighter, little Jackie as his long-suffering, ever-optimistic son pretty much steals the picture. Nevertheless, Beery won the Oscar as best actor for this movie in an unprecedented tie, with Fredric March for the inferior Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . A couple of years earlier, at the age of 11, Jackie had been nominated in the best actor category for his work in the title role of Skippy , directed by his uncle, veteran Norman Taurog. Beery and Cooper worked so well with each other and were so loved by audiences that they would appear again together in Raoul Walsh’s boisterous, and notoriously pre-Code, lower-depths saga, The Bowery (1933), and in Victor Fleming’s exceedingly likable version of the Robert Louis Stevenson favorite, Treasure Island (1934), Beery of course playing Long John Silver.
The legendary scenarist Frances Marion also won an Oscar for her original story of The Champ , and the movie was, not surprisingly, nominated for best picture and best director. Even today, despite some pretty dated aspects–especially the now wealthily remarried mother, in a conventionally weepy portrayal by Irene Rich–the film has a realistic intensity in the father-son sequences that is riveting, a kind of documentary flavor in the way Vidor shoots their scenes that retains a candid, seemingly improvised freshness. The stark, naked simplicity of some of these is surprisingly modern and often terribly moving.
There is, too, an uncompromised sense of the awful brutalization children undergo with parents who are addicted to alcohol (or any other kind of drug)–who cannot really take responsibility for their kids, who essentially are taken care of by their own offspring–and of how these innocents somehow inevitably blame themselves and suffer irreparable damage. The Champ in no way deals with these issues directly but it is implicit throughout, which does not diminish the aching pathos of the situation, neither Berry’s nor Cooper’s characters being judged nor pitied. Indeed, there is a decided lack of slickness or directorial manipulation that in these circumstances brings great integrity to the overall work, a higher seriousness than one would expect with the sometimes sentimentalized material. This comes straight from Vidor’s inherent honesty as an artist.
Another Vidor picture that deals directly with integrity–this time in the medical profession–is his 1938 adaptation of A.J. Cronin’s novel The Citadel [Tuesday, June 22, Turner Classic Movies, 82, noon; also on videocassette] , shot in Britain with an extraordinarily talented English cast that includes Robert Donat, Ralph Richardson, Rex Harrison, Emlyn Williams, Francis L. Sullivan and, in an uncharacteristic role very well done, Rosalind Russell.