Tuned In Journal http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com Wed, 26 Nov 2014 17:52:14 -0500 en-gb TV turkey: 'When Turkeys Attack' on Destination America http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38551-tv-turkey-when-turkeys-attack-on-destination-america http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38551-tv-turkey-when-turkeys-attack-on-destination-america

turkey attack

Tonight at 10 cable's Destination America debuts "When Turkeys Attack," which sounds as silly as you might expect.

Here's how the network describes the show:


Featuring home video footage plucked from real families terrorized by turkeys, WHEN TURKEYS ATTACK reveals what happens when turkeys decide their feathers have been ruffled for the last time. From the farmyard to local neighborhoods, turkeys have taken the food chain into their own talons – attacking Americans of all ages who dare to get too close or look at them with hungry eyes.


The turkey attack survivors featured in WHEN TURKEYS ATTACK will never look at Thanksgiving the same. There is no telling what got the turkey’s gizzards in a twist, from petting zoo turkeys hot to trot over anyone who gets too close to turkeys that have barricaded people in their homes. Elsewhere across the country, turkeys cause gobbling gridlock, get peckish with pedestrians, and angrily pursue cyclists at an astonishing speed of 20 miles per hour.


But why bother watching Destination America when you can just type "turkey attack" in YouTube and find a bounty of videos?

Watch a humorously edited compliation after the jump. ...

Here's one turkey attack video:


rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Wed, 26 Nov 2014 08:43:01 -0500
Angela Bassett on 'American Horror Story: Freak Show' http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38518-angela-bassett-on-american-horror-story-freak-show http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38518-angela-bassett-on-american-horror-story-freak-show

angela bassett

FX's "American Horror Story: Freak Show" has Thanksgiving week off but will be back at 10 p.m. Dec. 3. The show is known for bringing back actors from past seasons with star Jessica Lange appearing in all four seasons to date (she's said this is her final go-around with the series).

Angela Bassett didn't make her debut until season three's "Coven" but she's back this year playing a member of the freak show, a woman with three breasts.

"I know that there are instances of individuals who have this sort of characteristic," she said in a recent teleconference with reporters.  "What they’re called is intersex, today. In 1950s, of course, the term was hermaphrodite, but today the terminology is considered passé, especially in that community."

Bassett said she signed on to "Freak Show" without knowing anything about her role.

"I didn’t have a clue whatsoever what the part might be, what it might encompass when I signed on," she said. "I just knew I had a great time the previous year, and if that was any indication, it was going to be a wild ride. I think it was about two weeks before I was scheduled to come down to start shooting that I got the, you know, the hot off the press script. I sat down to read it to see and I remember wondering, 'Now, how am I going to know who I am?'

"Then you read the stage direction, 'African American woman in her 40s, hermaphrodite, three breasts, and a ding-a-ling.' You’re like, oh, my gosh. You immediately close the pages, and have to walk around, and process that for a minute. You’re thinking, 'What does that mean?' Oh, my gosh. If they thought I was crazy demonic last year, what are they going to think this year?"

Read more after the jump. ...

To prepare for the role, Bassett had to get fitted with a prosthetic chest piece.

" I think it was three women and three men that it took to cast a mold of my chest area and then attempt to get the color right, you know, the color, the tone, that sort of thing.  Of course, the tone is very difficult and it still takes about 30, 40 minutes to paint it once it’s applied," she explained. 

Now before filming starts, applying the chest piece is part of her makeup routine and takes about an hour, "just enough time to check out a Netflix episode of "Orange is the New Black" or something.

"I go into my regular makeup artist. She applies the appliance to me, so that it’s there basically. Then I go over to the special effects trailer where her husband makes sure the edges and everything sort of blend seamlessly," Bassett said. "From there, he and the other special effects gentlemen will begin to apply the paint. They’ll start with brown. They spray it on. They’ll start with the brown. They’ll go to the red, and yellow, and green. It’s amazing these colors and undertones that they claim you possess. You’re like, oh, those are weird, weird colors. Then he’ll take a photograph of it to make sure that it appears as if it’s my own and based on that he’ll maybe go in, and do so more painting, and carry on."

But it was trial and error at the start.

"The initial appliance was extremely heavy," Bassett said. "I think it was made of silicon. It started out fine, but after about hour number 12 [of working] it became hot and heavy. I believe it started sagging, which I’m like, what is the point of having three sagging breasts? No, this is not good. They reworked it and made it out of foam, which I was so, so pleased about because it’s the difference of night and day. Still after about 12 hours that internal heat, you begin to sweat. You begin to itch. You can’t really provide relief because you can’t get to yourself, you know?"

Bassett said the pace of TV is faster than movies but it was the opportunity to work with the other "AHS" cast members that initially led her to sign on.

"I couldn’t believe I’d get an opportunity to work with Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates in a lifetime, especially at the same time.  It’s wonderful," she said. "Everyone is just an ultimate professional.  We have a good time.  We have a good time with it.  We all have an appreciation for this crazy world and the things that we’re asked to do.  It stretches us and grows us.  The fact that we get to come back year after year and they fashion some completely new insanity for us to play out is a plus.  It’s thrilling."

She said she's feeling more at home with the cast now that she's in her second season.

"I feel like it is a traveling troupe of performers," Bassett said. "This year I feel more a part of the family. You know, having been here before, having established those relationships, not the brand new girl. We’ve got some other new faces. I feel like I’ve been around the block at least one time with them. I feel more comfortable. I was excited. I’m still excited, but I feel more a part of the family this year, most definitely."

rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Tue, 25 Nov 2014 09:22:01 -0500
Nuns on the run? 'The Sisterhood' on Lifetime http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38499-nuns-on-the-run-the-sisterhood-on-lifetime http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38499-nuns-on-the-run-the-sisterhood-on-lifetime


There's such a dearth of religion on television that I'm always pleased to see efforts to bring the role of religion in the lives of Americans to light. But too often this leads to disappointment either in the depiction itself or in the over-reaction of dogmatists (see the brouhaha over ABC's excellent 1997 drama series "Nothing Sacred as Exhibit A).

So it shouldn't be a surprise that Lifetime's docu-series "The Sisterhood" (10 p.m. Tuesday) leaves a lot to be desired.

Read more after the jump. ...

It's not that "The Sisterhood" is disrepectful or inaccurate -- it seems fine on both counts -- but it's all the usual bugaboos that are attendant in any reality show, especially the casting.

The show follows five young women as they go through a period of discernment about whether they want to become nuns. But of the five, only one seems to be mature and serious enough to actually hack it. The rest seem either deluded or starstruck by Jesus and the possibility to become one of the brides of Christ.

Even the nuns seem to sense this.

"Religious life can be difficult, especially if you're running away from something," says Sister Cyril.

Christie tells Claire about her dreams of "walking down the aisle to Jesus and he's flirting with me."

Claire, the sole serious cast member, tells the camera, Christie seems to have "the experience of faith on an emotional level and not so much on an intellectual level." Claire is being charitable.

Another one of the young women, Stacy, makes dolls of Jesus and Mary. And Francesca tells her father on the drive up to the convent, "I'm so scared, yo!" She later praises the uniforms the young women have to wear ("We have these dope crosses that are really big and nice") before dissolving into a puddle when she's told she can no longer wear makeup to hide her acne.

"Would Jesus make me take my makeup off if that was going to make me not be able to go on with my day?" she says between sobs.

By casting someone who is bound to make a spectacle of herself, the show's producers reveal their intentions are the same as any other reality show producer: they're seeking conflict and drama to entertain the masses. That is at odds with the seriousness of the sacrifice and choice that must be contemplated during real-world discernment.

rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Mon, 24 Nov 2014 09:47:01 -0500
TV Q&A: 'Sullivan & Son' canceled, 'Family Feud,' 'Dancing with the Stars' and a Fox News host http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38543-tv-q-a-family-feud-dancing-with-the-stars-continuum-and-a-fox-news-host http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38543-tv-q-a-family-feud-dancing-with-the-stars-continuum-and-a-fox-news-host

Click here for a link to headlines of recent TV news and views posts.

TV Q&A with Rob Owen

Submit a question to TV Q&A by clicking here.

This week's TV Q&A (after the "Read more" jump below) responds to questions about “Dancing with the Stars,” “Family Feud” and a Fox News host. As always, thanks for reading and keep the questions coming.

- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer

Q: Is there any word on renewing the Canadian sci-fi show “Continuum” that aired on Syfy?

Rob, 60, Sarver

Rob: The word is “limbo.”

“Continuum” has not been canceled but it hasn’t been renewed either. Several recent articles suggest there are financing issues and Syfy won’t bring it back without a Canadian partner


Q: This is a silly question: Where can I write to tell a company I love their television ad? Target has a Christmas ad that they air that is just adorable with a little girl and marshmallows and I want to tell Target I liked it. Any ideas how?  Thanks... Happy Thanksgiving!

- Marilyn, 53, Cecil

Rob: Your best bet to find the address for any corporation is to do a Web search for the company’s corporate headquarters. This is the address I found for Target using Google: Target Corporation, 1000 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403.


Q: Will PBS (WQED, in particular) repeat the Ken Burns' series on the Roosevelts?

- Vince, 65, Belle Vernon

Rob: WQED already repeated “The Roosevelts” once – the station usually airs reruns of prime-time shows in its overnight hours, although this repeat evidently happened in prime time after the initial airing – and while I am sure PBS will schedule a rebroadcast systemwide someday, that’s probably a few years away. Ken Burns’ documentaries usually do re-air but only after several years.

WQED said there are no current plans to re-air the 14-hour documentary and Burns’ publicist did not reply to Vince’s question.

For now, Vince’s best bet is to watch “The Roosevelts” on DVD. It’s available for purchase at PBS.org and other online retailers.

Q: Why is “Family Feud” so cheap?  Even after all these years, the winning family gets a chance to win $20,000 during Fast Money.  Keep in mind, even if they win, the $20,000 is divided by the five family members, which means it nets out to $4,000 per person.  The "$10,000 Pyramid" increased its prize money to $25,000 40 years ago.  There's not much overhead to produce "Family Feud."  I just don't understand why the prize money isn't increased to $50K or even $75K. I watched a contestant on "The Price is Right" win $100K in less than 2 minutes on 11/14.

- Dan, 56, Imperial

Rob: They haven’t increased the prize money probably because they don’t have to. I don’t imagine most viewers tune in due to the dollar amount. If they can produce it on the cheap and people still watch, there’s no incentive to spend more on production.

Q: Last week, Herbert of North Huntingdon and Sharon of Greenfield commented and asked question about theSundayafternoon football games.  As we all know, a football games no longer takes three hours to play. It takes three and a half hours.  If we know that, why don't the network big wigs know?  Do you know of any reason they schedule follow-up programming three hours after the listed time for the game to end? They could fill in the extra time with the miscellaneous gab that many don't watch.
My second question is simple but not necessarily easy. Is it me who thinks we are seeing more and more commercials? We used to be annoyed by two or three at the break. Then four to six. Now, we have counted as many as eight commercials during a break. Dollars is probably the answer. I guess the good side is that it gives us time to go to the kitchen for a snack.

- Paul, West Mifflin
As we’ve noted before, CBS executives obviously know football will disrupt the prime-time schedule but THEY DO NOT CARE. The ratings for prime time rise with a football lead-in, so they are perfectly happy to continue in the current course no matter how frustrating it is to viewers.

As for ads, the amount of ad time really has not changed much. A Nielsen report from earlier this year found a slight increase on both broadcast and cable with more commercial time on cable shows. This does not appear to take into account time spent on network promos.

Judging by the screeners I receive of shows before they air, a one-hour program still has about 41-43 minutes of program time per hour and 17-19 minutes of commercial time. That hasn’t really changed appreciably in about a decade, though some research suggests reality shows carry heavier ad loads than scripted series.

The way networks organize commercials has changed. Often more commercials air in the second half of a show than in the first half. And the Nielsen report from earlier this year also confirms networks are selling more, shorter commercials so they can squeeze a greater number of advertisers into a break, but the actual total time devoted to promos and commercials is relatively unchanged.

For anyone interested in the cost of TV spots, while researching this answer I stumbled upon this useful data about the cost of ads in prime time over the years: http://www.tvb.org/trends/4718/4709


Q: Why has Elizabeth Hasselback NOT been on Fox News?  If anything was said on the air, I missed it. Think she's been off over a month. Wonder, perhaps, if she has been ill.

-- Viewer via email

Rob: The show announced a month ago that she was taking time off due to surgery. She returned to the air last Friday and discussed her cancer scare


Q: Just a moment for a complaint: Can you let the WTAE people know that they cheated me out of seven minutes of this week’s “Dancing With The Stars.”

I understand the need to give the Steeler game first preference for the 8 p.m. slot.  If they are going to delay broadcast of the “DWTS” show, don’t start the1:30 a.m. show after a seven-minute overlap with another show. I guess just like Sunday evening programming I should include the shows following everything I try to record. 

-- Jane via email

Rob: Whenever there is live programming involved – as with a televised sporting event -- viewers should always consider the start time for any program that follows (until about 4 a.m.) approximate and set DVRs to begin earlier than the approximate start time and record longer than the approximate end time. Stations have no way to predict the exact running time of a live event.


Q: I have a question that’s been confounding me a bit and was wondering if you may have any insight on it – I’ve been hearing ads for WPXI’s newscasts airing on KDKA radio in the morning, which I thought was very bizarre (since KDKA radio is owned by CBS Radio). Do you know if this is a common thing? I thought that only KDKA-TV newscast ads would air on KDKA radio, ha-ha.

-- Darryn, Pittsburgh

Rob: I thought that, too! Turns out it’s not unprecedented, given the response from WPXI general manager Ray Carter, but the timing is unexpected.

Hmmm. Strange,” he wrote in an email. “We haven’t purchased advertising on KDKA Radio in several years. We do buy WDSY and STAR (CBS-owned) but not KDKA. Unless KD ran our spot erroneously on their air, I can’t think of why it was playing there.”


BREAKING NEWS (or Broken News since it happened late yesterday?)

After my Friday Tuned In column went to press, Deadline.com reported TBS canceled Pittsburgh-set sitcom "Sullivan & Son" after a three-season run.


rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:46:01 -0500
USA re-schedules 'It Takes a Choir' featuring Brashear High ... again! http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38544-usa-re-schedules-the-choir-again http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38544-usa-re-schedules-the-choir-again

NUP 155123 0797

Clearly someone at USA has no faith in "It Takes a Choir," a reality show that filmed at Pittsburgh Brashear High School in December 2012 and has been scheduled and then postponed multiple times (see here and here and here).

Now the show has yet another premiere date that does nothing to instill confidence in the show's prospects for success. 

Read more after the jump. ...

USA is writing off the show, airing all the episodes between 12 and 8 p.m. on Dec, 29. The Brashear episode will air second, 1-2 p.m.

"It Takes a Choir" is based on BBC America's 2010 import "The Choir." Both shows feature choir master Gareth Malone attempting to bring unity to schools or communities through music. The USA version is set in the U.S.

It's not altogether surprising that USA soured on "It Takes a Choir." The network also bombed with the similarly feel-good show "The Moment" in 2013. On the other hand, "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" knock-off "Chrisley Knows Best" has been more successful, so look for USA to give its audience what they want, which won't be more feel-good shows like "It Takes a Choir."

USA is clearly burning "It Takes a Choir" off to get it off the books by the end of the tax year.


rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:10:04 -0500
'Odd Squad' from Fred Rogers Co. debuts next week http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38517-odd-squad-from-fred-rogers-co-debuts-next-week http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38517-odd-squad-from-fred-rogers-co-debuts-next-week


os group

It’s difficult to separate “Odd Squad” from its production company. Taken on its own, PBS’s “Odd Squad” (9 and 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and 7 a.m. weekdays starting Nov. 27, WQED-TV) is a terrifically quirky and engaging children’s series for ages 5-8. It manages to incorporate math in ways that support the outlandish investigations by Odd Squad, whether it’s about things that disappear in batches of four or a pizza maker who finds herself doubled. The show is not PBS-dull; it’s exuberant, creative and one of the better live-action kids’ shows since Nickelodeon’s “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” (1993-96).

But considering it’s produced in part by the South Side’s Fred Rogers Company, there’s reason to give pause: What would Fred Rogers think of a show bearing his name that’s the antithesis of the quiet, contemplative style of children’s television he exemplified? Would he admire its creativity or be outraged by its frantic excesses? No one knows but some viewers will surely draw their own conclusion.

Read more and watch a scene after the jump. ...


In the first episode when the show introduces the Mathroom, “Odd Squad” humorously plays off the notion that it sounds like “bathroom.”

“Otto, I can’t hold it anymore,” agent Olive says. “I really need to go to the Mathroom.”

Surely there will be Mister Rogers acolytes who wring their hands over “Odd Squad” but taken on its own without such comparisons and second-guessing, the series is a lot of fun.

In the premiere, Odd Squad agent Olive (Dalila Bela) and her new partner Otto (Filip Geljo) are on the case when zeroes begin to disappear. The invitation to Otto’s 10th birthday suddenly looks like an invitation to his first birthday.

That first episode, “Zero Effect,” is stuffed to the gills with special effects, more than the three stories that follow. Most of the effects are part of the introduction to Odd Squad headquarters, a “Men in Black”-style complex filled with agents bustling about while dinosaurs, swimming fish and a unicorn romp in the background. “Odd Squad” offers a visual feast.

The show is also filled with humor, some of which brings to mind the gags in “Airplane.” In “Bad Luck Bears,” which also airs Wednesday, prone-to-barking-orders boss Ms. O (Millie Davis) has a running gag involving a juice box and in the middle of an investigation shouts, “Oh no!” which viewers think is a reaction to the work at hand but then she quickly follows with, “I’m out of apple juice!” (Then she tosses the apple juice box over her shoulder, the second time she does that in the episode, which, while funny from a character standpoint, is not great modeling for kids whose parents want them to use a garbage can.)

Another story airing Wednesday, “Soundcheck,” introduces a boy band reminiscent of One Direction or ‘NSync. When one of the boys quits the band, another member says they’ll need a replacement “who can sing, knows our moves and is willing to use an uncomfortable amount of hair gel.” Otto rises to the occasion on all counts.

“Odd Squad” does not feel like educational TV, which is mostly a good thing, as the show still manages to slip in some math concepts between the hijinks. It’s a welcome, if unusual, addition to the PBS Kids lineup.


rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Thu, 20 Nov 2014 08:58:01 -0500
Amazon debuts its first live-action kids show, 'Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street' http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38512-amazon-debuts-a-live-action-kids-show-gortimer-gibbons-life-on-normal-street http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38512-amazon-debuts-a-live-action-kids-show-gortimer-gibbons-life-on-normal-street

Gortimer blog

It’s a banner month for quirky, live-action kids’ shows. On Friday streaming service Amazon Prime Instant Video debuts “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” and Wednesday at 9 a.m. PBS debuts “Odd Squad,” a live-action series produced in part by The Fred Rogers Company of the South Side. (The first episode of "Gortimer" is streaming for free and does not require a Prime membership.)

In an age when so many live-action shows aimed at kids in the 6-11ish age range are relationship-based sitcoms (think: “Girl Meets World” and just about any other tween show on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon), both “Odd Squad” and “Gortimer” are more driven by creative plots about weird goings-on.

“Odd Squad” is educational with some math concepts snuck in but “Gortimer” is just for fun. (Perhaps, oddly, considering the channels they air on, fast-moving “Odd Squad” reminds me more of “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” while “Gortimer” is more leisurely in its pace.)

Created by pre-school teacher and first-time writer David Anaxagoras, Amazon’s series follows Gortimer (Sloane Morgan Siegel) and his friends Mel (Ashley Boettcher) and Ranger (Drew Justice) as they get involved in weird mysteries that happen on their anything-but-normal block. Parents are glimpsed occasionally – Robyn Lively (“Savannah”) is a series regular playing Gortimer’s mom; Paula Marshall (“Cupid”) pops up as Mel’s mom in another episode – but the focus is on the kids and their “Eerie, Indiana”-style adventures.

Read more after the jump. ...

In the first episode, the gang investigates what lurks under the home of Miss Hudspith (guest star Fionnula Flanagan). In another episode, loyal, helpful Gortimer tries to absolve a neighbor kid of bad luck. And in a third Mel learns winning is not everything at a science fair.

For kids TV, “Gortimer” is an unusually quiet show. Strange things happen but without a lot of (literal or figurative) bells and whistles. There’s calmness to the show. Even when investigating things that could be spooky, “Gortimer” was never scary in the three episodes I watched with my sometimes-scared-by-“Super Why!” 4-year-old son. But he never got bored, either.

There’s a wealth of programming aimed at children on TV these days but “Gortimer” is the rare series that’s creative, occasionally funny and engaging in its own subdued manner.


rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Wed, 19 Nov 2014 08:58:01 -0500
'The Middle' celebrates Thanksgiving http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38510-the-middle-celebrates-thanksgiving http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38510-the-middle-celebrates-thanksgiving

the middle 11-14

I quit watching ABC's "The Middle" (8 p.m. Wednesday, WTAE) about a year ago, not because I disliked the show, I'd just grown tired of it. I felt like I knew all I needed to know about the characters and I needed to move on to newer programs.

But when as screener of this week's episode became available, I decided to check in again.

Read more after the jump. ...

It's the show's sixth Thanksgiving episode and "The Middle" continues to amuse with its knowing takes on middle-class family life. Before CBS's "Mom," "The Middle" was the prime-time comedy most in sync with middle-class Americans and that's still a part of its appeal.

The plot finds the Heck family heading to a $7.99 Thanksgiving buffet, much to the chagrin of Sue, who will miss Frugal Hoosier corn on the family dining room table. Frankie (Patricia Heaton) orders Axl (Charlie McDermott) to bring the daughter of her relative's hairdresser to dinner and then grabs some old pants from her closet.

"I thought those were you pregnancy pants?" Sue says.

"They used to be my pregnancy pants," Frankie replies. "Now they're my holiday pants."

Written by Tim Hobert, it's just as funny a half-hour as I remember.

Since my last check-in, Brick has acquired an oddball girlfriend (pictured above at far left) and Sue continues to date Darrin (John Gammon), who rubs Mike (Neil Flynn) the wrong way.

rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Tue, 18 Nov 2014 09:22:01 -0500
American media and the U.S. public embrace a visiting Communist star in 'Cold War Road Show' http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38511-american-media-and-the-u-s-public-embrace-a-visiting-communist-star-in-cold-war-road-show http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38511-american-media-and-the-u-s-public-embrace-a-visiting-communist-star-in-cold-war-road-show

cold war roadshow blog


PBS’s “American Experience” (9 p.m. Tuesday, WQED-TV) looks back at a largely forgotten episode in 20th century history in the one-hour documentary film “Cold War Roadshow,” which recounts the 1959 visit by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to the United States for a two-week tour of the country at the height of the Cold War. The trip included a stop in Pittsburgh.

Writer/director Robert Stone (“Oswald’s Ghost”) said this film is one he’s wanted to make for 20 years after coming across a trove of archival footage.

“It just struck me as a window into this bizarre anomaly of the Cold War that was covered from every conceivable angle,” he said, noting that Mr. Khrushchev’s two-week visit received wall-to-wall coverage on TV, something familiar to today’s cable news viewers but almost unheard of back then. “For something comparable you’d have to go back to the Lindbergh [baby] kidnapping to have a media frenzy like this. But what’s strange is this is a mass media event that has been almost completely forgotten. I think part of the reason for that is it’s such an anomaly to the conventional narrative of the Cold War that nobody knows quite what to do with it.”

Read more after the jump. ...

When Mr. Khrushchev arrived in America at the invitation of President Dwight Eisenhower and American citizens lined the streets to see him but they didn’t know how to react. Peter Carlson, author of “K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude, Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America’s Most Unlikely Tourist,” says in the film Americans were stymied for a reaction: It didn’t seem right to applaud a Soviet leader, but it also seemed inhospitable to boo him while watching his motorcade pass from the side of the road.

“So they just kind of stood there and looked at him,” Mr. Carlson says.

That’s at the start of the visit; by the end, Mr. Stone said it was more “like Beatlemania.”

“He had charisma,” Mr. Stone said. “He could be incredibly charming and he could be incredibly scary. He was unpredictable and that made for drama. He was very aware of that and he was unusually aware of his magnetism and his ability as a politician to command attention. You’d expect that from a savvy Western politician but not from a Soviet politician who doesn’t really need public support.”

Mr. Khrushchev’s visit includes a squabble over Disneyland – he wanted to visit the Anaheim, Calif., theme park after touring Hollywood but Americans feared for his safety there. Some protestors gathered to jeer the Soviet leader and death threats were made. Seeing Disneyland scratched from his itinerary angered Mr. Khrushchev.

“It was not about Disneyland itself,” explains his son, Sergei Khrushchev. “It was about managing my father not in the proper way. He was very sensitive about that.”

The film does not include Mr. Khrushchev’s Pittsburgh stop, though Mr. Stone said there is footage from that visit in the movie, just not labeled as such.

“It’s part of the collage of euphoria, the Khrushchev mania after he leaves Iowa,” he said. “It wasn’t a pivotal thing, like going to Hollywood or the Iowa farm. The crowds were the biggest and most enthusiastic in Pittsburgh because it was right at the end and he’d been on TV for two weeks and he was kind of a superstar.”

At the time Mr. Khrushchev’s visit seemed to portend a thaw in American-Soviet relations but then the Soviets shot down an American spy plane and the Cuban Missile Crisis followed after that.

“The trip didn’t end the Cold War but it did certainly place into the mind of Khrushchev the idea that these people he had missiles pointed at were human beings and humans he liked and enjoyed. One can’t help but think it would have given him pause in starting a war with the United States knowing there are flesh and blood human beings not cardboard cutout images from propaganda displays,” Mr. Stone said. “A really great lesson from this is that personal diplomacy and seeing people from other countries and other societies and political systems and confronting them on a human level can diffuse tension. … But nobody has done it before or since. We have these visits to the White House or Camp David or the U.N. but nobody else has been let loose like this.”


rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Mon, 17 Nov 2014 10:29:01 -0500
TV Q&A: 'The Big Bang Theory,' 'Deadliest Catch' and 'Hardcore Pawn' http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38515-tv-q-a-the-big-bang-theory-deadliest-catch-and-hardcore-pawn http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/38515-tv-q-a-the-big-bang-theory-deadliest-catch-and-hardcore-pawn

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TV Q&A with Rob Owen

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This week's TV Q&A (after the "Read more" jump below) responds to questions about “The Big Bang Theory,” “Deadliest Catch” and “Hardcore Pawn.” As always, thanks for reading and keep the questions coming.

- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer

Q: I saw a few posts on Facebook stating “Big Bang Theory” actress Carol Ann Susi died unexpectedly today:

It is with overwhelming sadness that we must say good bye to my dear friend Carol Ann Susi. Actress from “The Night Stalker” and most recently Mrs. Wolowitz on “The Big Bang Theory.” A very brief and valiant battle with cancer ended suddenly leaving many of us reeling in shock. Carol Ann was a kind and generous spirit. A talented and funny artist and a diva in the kitchen and crafting sessions, she was one of my favorite Halloween accomplices and I don't quite know how to process her loss at the moment. I was proud to cast her in my movie “Red Velvet” where she did a dazzling maniacal turn. I just don't know...

I also went on Twitter and found a few tweets stating the same thing. Can't find anything else online, though (except Wikipedia, which was just updated a few minutes ago to show 11/11/14 as her date of death).

Was just wondering if you'd heard anything? 

If this is true, I wonder if “Big Bang” will get a "sound alike" to voice Howard's mother or write her death into the show?

- Lin via email

Rob: When Lin’s email arrived Tuesday, I couldn’t immediately find any confirmation beyond some social media tweets. So, I emailed the show’s Warner Bros. publicist and a few hours later received these statements confirming the news:


Veteran character actress Carol Ann Susi, best known for her role as the unseen and bellowing yet beloved Mrs. Wolowitz on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, has died after a brief battle with an aggressive cancer.

A spunky Italian gal from Brooklyn whose passionate interests included Doctor Who, Halloween horror mazes, cooking and the Magic Castle, Carol Ann drew fervent circles of followers. She was a force of nature who didn’t suffer fools and was fiercely loyal to her friends. Known only to a very lucky few, she was a world-class culinary genius who frequently scored blue ribbons at the very competitive cooking competitions at the Los Angeles County Fair. 

As a teen, Carol Ann studied acting at the renowned HB Studio in New York and came to Los Angeles in the 1970s, when discovered by the casting department at Universal Studios. Soon after, she was cast as Kolchak’s secretary, Monique Marmelstein, in the hit ABC series The Night Stalker. Dozens of TV guest appearances followed, including Cheers; Doogie Howser, M.D.; Mad About You; Just Shoot Me; Seinfeld and Six Feet Under, to name a few.

She was an L.A. theater director’s dream girl and was cast in many productions, including Justin Tanner’s Heartbreak Help and Coyote Women, and was in the original cast of Ladies’ Room, by Robin Schiff.

Carol Ann is survived by her beloved brother, Michael Susi, and his wife Connie, and the multitudes of friends who truly were Carol Ann’s other family.

Carol Ann used to call herself “the one and only,” and there’s no better epithet.


The Big Bang Theory family has lost a beloved member today with the passing of Carol Ann Susi, who hilariously and memorably voiced the role of Mrs. Wolowitz. Unseen by viewers, the Mrs. Wolowitz character became a bit of a mystery throughout the show’s eight seasons. What was not a mystery, however, was Carol Ann’s immense talent and comedic timing, which were on display during each unforgettable appearance. In addition to her talent, Carol Ann was a constant source of joy and kindness to all. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with her family during this time, and we will miss her greatly.

The Hollywood Reporter suggested it’s too soon to know how the show will handle her death. My gut says they will kill off the character, too, but we’ll see.


Q: I believe the crab fishing seasons in Alaska begin in October. Were the crab fishermen of "Deadliest Catch" affected by the recent Typhoon Nuri that passed through the Bering Sea?

- John, 56, Green Tree
According to the show’s executive producer, “Thankfully the captains and crew were able to avoid the brunt of the storm but not without experiencing high winds and rough seas.”


Q: What is the status of “Hardcore Pawn” on TruTV? I heard it was canceled.

- Viewer via phone

Rob: Nope, still alive and kicking despite TruTV’s branding change to comedy, though it sounds like the emphasis may change some. New episodes are expected to air in January, according to a TruTV publicist.


Q: What shows surprise you that make the Top 20 on Nielsen? I can't believe “Dancing With the Stars” is still up there! I used to watch “NCIS” but now I think it has gone stale. Major networks only please.
- Linda, 50, Cecil

Rob: It’s a question that made me think and come to a realization almost immediately: I pay almost no attention to what’s at the top of the ratings chart anymore, I suspect because it matters so much less than it ever did before with networks taking into account social media buzz and DVR and on demand viewing when deciding a show’s fate.

But let’s look at the most recent Top 25 list (the second one for total viewers) and I’d say I’m surprised “Madam Secretary” is doing as well as it is. Honestly, I’m not really that surprised by anything except how different the lists are for total viewers versus the Top 25 with adults 18-49. That list more accurately reflects the shows I hear buzz about, particularly “Gotham,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”

But remember, quality and popularity are not the same so I’d expect to see the mix of reality shows and scripted dramas that we see on both of these lists.

Q: “Pawn Stars” has finally convinced me that no matter how interesting the items, it's no longer worth sitting through the phoniest show since pro wrestling. They seem to believe it's impossible to insult their audience. Have their ratings shown signs of decline lately?

- Don, 78, Pittsburgh
As recently as a few weeks ago, “Pawn Stars” was still a Top 15 Thursday series – twice actually on the same night  – but it’s not drawing the 7 million viewers who tuned in in 2011 and its 2.4 million viewers while still significant for a reality cable show did not make the weekly cable Top 25.


Q: The past two weeks,4:30 p.m. start NFL games delayed theSundayprime-time shows. The normal10 p.m. “CSI” show was dropped here in the Eastern time zone. Were the missing shows shown in the Pacific and Mountain time zones or is it on hiatus?

- Herbert, 59, North Huntingdon

Q: Recently games that went long on CBS the “CSI” show never played. Will they show them? Also when are they going to plan for this in the schedule?
- Sharon, Greenfield

Rob: When a football overrun pre-empts a show on the east coast, the west coast usually gets a rerun of the same show, not the new episode, which is saved and pushed down to the next Sunday.

CBS doesn’t care how this inconveniences viewers because it’s good for their Sunday ratings. So the plan is to persist in the same, current frustrating scheduling.


Q: When does KDKA air the show “Your Pittsburgh.” They had it on oneMonday from 7:30-8 p.m.bumping “The Insider.” I thought the show had very interesting stories and seemed to have a lot of potential. The Comcast channel guide still shows it scheduled for Mondays, but “Insider” is back in that time slot. What have you heard?

- Jim via email

Rob: “Your Pittsburgh” has never been a weekly series. It started out airing quarterly in the 7:30 p.m. Monday time slot and this year will have aired six episodes before the end of 2014. There is no set air pattern but the next one is set to air on Jan. 12.


Q: What happened to Kimberly Gill, news anchor for KDKA TV news?

- Marc, 71, North Fayette

Rob: She took a job in Detroit as the Post-Gazette reported last month. It’s a larger TV market and I doubt it will be her final stop. I think she’ll make it to a still larger market or possibly to the network at some point.


“Hi Rob, great article today on the ‘Godfather of Pittsburgh’  I had to laugh, if you got to A&E website and look at the 2-minute preview, if your were playing the drinking game you suggested, you’d be drunk in two minutes. People ought to start calling [star Vince Isoldi] Tiny Tony. He’s just a small piece of ‘The Sopranos.’ I just think the nickname Tiny Tony would drive  him nuts. I don’t think I’d want to tell him to his face ‘cause I think the guy has a temper, but I thought you’d get a kick out of it. Just call him TT for short.”

- Caller who didn't leave his name



Concerning the article printed in the Sunday paper of 11/9/14, the question relating to the latest TV 4K technology, which should be referred to as Ultra HD, according to the industry experts, I must wholeheartedly disagree with the assessments of the spokesman and experts quoted in the article. 

I recently purchased an Ultra HDTV and after a month of viewing cannot believe the quality, clarity and overall lifelike appearance of the picture on my set. I purchased a 55" Samsung at a local retailer for $1600 and replaced a similarly sized LG TV that bit the dust. My new TV was $1000 less than the one I replaced and to my eye there is no comparing the picture quality. In the store I compared the 55" UHD to a 60" HD of the same brand and instantly had the clerk pick out the UHDTV. There was such a huge difference in the picture quality. 

As far as no UHD programming being available, the UHDTV upscales the lower definition signals. From what I have read the process is built in to the TV and cannot be turned off. On my TV everything looks great: regular network shows, Netflix, old “Rockford Files” and “Hawaii Five-0,” cartoons and Blu-rays all look awesome. I had given up on many of the old TV shows on my Netflix due to the poor picture quality, but my new UHDTV has made all that old stuff look great. Plus, Netflix does offer UHD programming. 

One other thing; my new TV is connected to an over-the-air antenna and the picture is actually better than my DirecTV signal, especially live sporting events. Plus that fancy PSPI signal is available with the guide button giving me a program guide, the ability to schedule programs to play and information on what is on and what is coming up in the near future. 

Thank you for your time and get out there and take a look at the new TVs, they are awesome and I personally am not an expert, although if they gave out degrees in TV watching I would probably have 20 masters degrees, but these televisions will be under many Xmas trees this season and there will be much joy in TV land!   

- Donald, Bethel Park


rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Fri, 14 Nov 2014 13:37:01 -0500