powered by FreeFind

Apple iTunes


UP network's "uplifting" pair of Christmas movies are uniquely faith-based

4714_silverbells_dvd_lg guess_whos_coming_inline

Bruce Boxleitner & Drew Lachey star in new Christmas films. UP photos

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
’Tis the season for networks large and small to jockey for position as TV’s foremost spreaders of holiday cheer.

And of course they spread it on thick.

As previously detailed, The Hallmark Channel, Lifetime and ABC Family all began their big Christmas pushes well before Thanksgiving. But the fledgling UP network (formerly GMC/the Gospel Music Channel) is here to tell you that it’s “America’s Christmas Channel.” So let’s go rogue here by getting a little sloppily sentimental about two new holiday movies that underscore UP’s mission statement of providing “uplifting family entertainment.”

Silver Bells stars Bruce Boxleitner and premieres on Sunday, Dec. 1st at 6 p.m. (central). Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas, featuring Drew Lachey, arrives on Sunday, Dec. 8th at the same time.

UP sent both of them in a colorful little bow-fastened package. And hark the herald angels sing, I found them to be not only watchable but quite affecting down the stretch. TV criticism doesn’t live by Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy alone. Once in a great while it can be cathartic to give the anti-hero genre a little rest and succumb to some unabashed feel-good slush. Er, entertainment.

Here’s what’s unique about these two movies, though. Both have a strong faith-based religious message without getting all Bible-thumpy about it.

In Silver Bells, the durable Boxleitner plays hyper-competitive, vainglorious local TV sports anchor Bruce Dalt, whose on- and off-air slogan is “For the win.” He’s taken off the air and sentenced to community service -- as a Salvation Army bell-ringer outside a K Mart -- after bullying a referee at his son’s high school basketball game. Dalt’s new boss is Salvation Army Major Melvin Lowell (Antonio Fargas), who says things like “Humble yourself to the Lord and he will lift you up.” And Fargas is so good and persuasive in this role that’s it’s enough to make even a callow, cynical TV critic say, “Amen.”

Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas finds Lachey in the role of an aimless pop singer named Dax. His record sales are slumping and it gets worse for him after the New York paparazzi swarm to the sight of a passed-out drunken Dax clutching a frozen Thanksgiving turkey in his car’s passenger seat.

Dax’s manager, Jason (Matt Word), strong-arms him into an image-rebuilding contest in which he’ll spend the week before Christmas with a deserving fan before performing in a climactic holiday concert. The venue turns out to be dinky Cedar Grove, Illinois, with Dax miserably stuck in a farm house populated by a church reverend, his wife and their two kids. One of them is 26-year-old Kelly Harding (MacKenzie Porter), who’s living at home again after being laid off as a book jacket writer. Porter is very appealing in this role. Meanwhile, Pastor Harding (Peter Lacroix) provides the stern but benevolent moral backdrop. After a blotto Dax tumbles into the church manger, he’s informed that “in this family, we don’t give up on people. I hope you don’t give up on yourself.”

Contemporary Christmas movies generally bury any church-going or Bible passages under at least a foot of snow. Silver Bells and Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas are distinctly different in that respect. And they by and large succeed in pulling it off.

So yes, it felt surprisingly good to play along. The UP network means well while trying hard to break through and make a little name for itself. In these cases, it’s a pleasure to spread the word about movies that have predictable but satisfying outcomes -- but go against the grain in getting there.

Silver Bells -- B-minus
Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas -- B

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

If at first he didn't succeed: producer Jerry Bruckheimer serves leftovers with TNT's Marshal Law: Texas


Converging on crooks in drummed-up Marshal Law: Texas. TNT photo

Premiering: Tuesday, Nov. 26th at 9 p.m. (central) on TNT
Starring: Real-life members of the Houston-based Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitive Task Force
Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, Jonathan Nowzaradian, Kristie Anne Reed

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Prolific producer Jerry Bruckheimer obviously thinks he still has a workable concept here. So he’s sold TNT a bill of goods, er, an unscripted action hour modeled after his failed scripted NBC series, which premiered three falls ago.

The old one, called Chase, was primarily set in Houston but filmed in North Texas.

The new one, Marshal Law: Texas, talks just as tough and also is about the Houston-based U.S. Marshal Service. But its central characters are real-life enforcers. So there’s hardly any gunplay during their pursuits of what one Marshal calls “the worst people on this planet.”

Actually, some of them don’t seem all that heinous in the opening two episodes sent for review. Not that they’re pillars of society. But in Episode 2, wanted fugitive Erica Washington did nothing more than bust up a woman’s front windshield with a tire iron after seeing her with her ex-boyfriend. Hey, that stuff more or less happens all the time on Cheaters.

Some of the featured lawbreakers in fact are pretty nasty, though. Marshal Law: Texas parcels them out at the rate of three per each hour-long episode. And producer Bruckheimer (the CSI franchise, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, CBS’ struggling freshman series Hostages, etc., etc., etc.) again opts for overkill via constant drum-pounding and redundant replays of something shown just a few minutes earlier.

The nominal star of the show is Spencer Pellegrin, veteran member of the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitive Task Force. “Our good day is a bad guy’s worst day,” he says in Tuesday’s premiere episode.

Pellegrin also would like viewers to know that, “I don’t give up. I’m persistent.” His lighter side occasionally comes up for air, too. “I’m not gonna Philly fart around with this. I’m cold,” Pellegrin says in Episode 2 during the rather tepid hot pursuit of Erica Washington.

Some of the arrestees can be a little cranky. Torie Pruitt, wanted for robbery at gunpoint, carps about “the ho’ ass law, man” after being hauled in. The aptly named Chance Roach, on the lam in Episode 2 after robbing and shooting at a guy outside a home supply store, is irked about his tight-fitting handcuffs. He’s told to shut up.

Fans of Fox’s COPS and A&E’s Dog the Bounty Hunter have seen this all before but perhaps can’t get enough of it. Even so, Marshal Law: Texas (being paired on Tuesday’s with Season 2 of TNT’s Boston’s Finest) basically is a half-hour show stretched threadbare into a one-hour time slot. Its thumping, thudding theme music might give you a headache during those times when its constant re-statements of the obvious aren’t further dulling senses.

In the end, though, justice is served. Although with Bruckheimer, the serving spoon again tends to be a sledgehammer.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

HBO's Ja'mie: Private School Girl: gimme an F


Chris Lilley stars in Ja’mie: Private School Girl. HBO photo

Premiering: Sunday, Nov. 24th at 9:30 p.m. (central) on HBO
Starring: Chris Lilley, Georgie Jennings, Georgia Treu, Laura Grady, Phoebe Roberts, D’Arci Buckerfield, Tayla Duyal
Produced by: Chris Lilley, Laura Waters

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
This won’t take terribly long. HBO sent all six Season One episodes of Ja’mie: Private School Girl. Two were all I could take.

It’s not that “Australian sensation” Chris Lilley (Summer Heights High, Angry Boys) doesn’t know how to portray a thoroughly self-absorbed, lesbian-baiting, fat-loathing high school mean girl clique leader named Ja’mie King. It’s just that he quickly becomes a big drag (in drag) in this one-note, off-putting comedy series being paired on Sunday nights with HBO’s immensely superior Getting On.

Lilley’s character, striving to become “Best Girl in Year 12” at privileged Hillford Girls Grammar, is less inviting than colon cancer. Perhaps Lilley is endeavoring to make a “statement” of some sort. But lines such as “Shut your fat face” (to a female classmate) and “Shutup, who asked you?” (to his mother) are piled high to the point of gratuitously piling on. What can we learn from this? Nothing at all -- charitably speaking.

Ja’mie’s posse is a gaggle of six giggling sycophants whose collective IQ perhaps approaches room temperature in an igloo. Their all-that activities become redundant and tiresome at WARP speed, raising the overall question of whether watching Ja’mie: Private School Girl on a continuous loop would be worse than eternal burning in hell.

So no, I’m not a fan.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

HBO's Getting On has just the right prescription for a medical comedy


Alex Borstein and Niecy Nash commiserate in Getting On. HBO photo

Premiering: Sunday, Nov. 24th at 9 p.m. (central) on HBO
Starring: Laurie Metcalfe, Niecy Nash, Alex Borstein, Mel Rodriguez
Produced by: Mark V. Olsen, Will Scheffer

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
“There’s a turd on the chair in the lounge.”

Those are the first spoken words in HBO’s new hospital-set comedy series. And no, they’re not intended as code words for “Obamacare.”

In any case, don’t be put off. Based on the same-named BBC series, Getting On is amusing, caring and very deftly adapted for HBO by Big Love creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer. What’s more, you’ll see three revelatory performances from actresses best known for entirely different TV personas.

***Laurie Metcalfe (Roseanne) plays tightly wound Dr. Jenna James, who strongly resists being permanently assigned to look after the geriatric female patients inhabiting the Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit of Long Beach’s Mr. Palms Hospital. Grandiosely devoted to breakthrough medical research, she’s been fastidiously collecting stool samples for the past 17 months. Laughing is out of the question and smiling is a forced, pained expression for Dr. James. It’s all the more reason to savor Metcalfe’s amazing array of facial contortions during the course of her Emmy-worthy portrayal.

***Alex Borstein (Madtv and the voice of Lois Griffin on Family Guy) is Nurse Dawn Forchette, a 13-year veteran of the Billy Barnes facility. Her love life is a thorough beat-down, but Dawn continues to treat her elderly, oft-problematic patients with dignity and respect. Belittling them is not an option for this weepy but resilient Florence Nightingale. Situations present themselves, but Getting On never stoops to the level of a broad, crude situation comedy in which whacked out elders are reduced to punch toys. Borstein’s performance is letter-perfect under any form of duress.

***Niecy Nash (Reno 911!) co-stars as new nurse DiDi Ortley, who strives to do right by everybody. A little sass is called for on occasion. But DiDi is never crass or short on empathy for incoming or long-term patients. Nash likewise is terrific in this role, which makes it a threesome of standout performances.

Perhaps you’re wondering just where the comedy is. Well, don’t worry. There’s a very funny scene in Sunday’s Episode 1, with Dawn trying to translate the pained words of a new Asian patient by shouting them to DiDi, who in turn mouths them over the phone to a translator. Dr. James in turn thinks the woman sounds “Chinese-y.”

HBO sent all but the final half-hour of a six-episode Season 1. And all were gems in their own ways, with guest stars such as Harry Dean Stanton, Molly Shannon and Daniel Stern adding a little extra flavor.

Getting On’s fourth regular cast member is a new supervising male nurse named Patsy De La Serda (Mel Rodriguez). He arrives in Episode 2 to take some serious verbal abuse from a full-blown battle ax patient named Varla. De La Serda, over-sized, ambiguously gay and extra-sensitive, is the overall weakest link in this ensemble. But that’s in no small part because everyone else is so terrific.

The series is a “workplace comedy” without exception in the first five episodes. Personal lives are alluded to, but every scene is within the walls of Mt. Palms Hospital. Dr. James, for instance, isn’t shown going home to her husband (guest star Stern). Instead he’s worked into Episode 5’s late night Billy Barnes activities, with Nash the put-upon focal point while working a short-staffed “graveyarder.”

In the end, Getting On is about small triumphs in the face of ever-present indignities. Its tender moments register without feeling forced while the comedy comes in the form of a constant IV drip. Getting old -- or “getting on” for the purposes of the title -- is nothing to look forward to here. But discovering a new series of such unexpectedly high caliber is good reason to celebrate.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

ABC's big batch of midseason changes includes Texas Rangers drama Killer Women

131705_0277_pre 131705_0466_pre

Tricia Helfer and Alex Fernandez are Texas Rangers in Killer Women. ABC photo

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
ABC’s midseason schedule will have sweeping changes, including a new cowboy-hatted drama series about modern-day Texas Rangers.

Not that you’d know from the title. Killer Women, premiering Tuesday, Jan. 7th in place of the long-canceled Lucky 7, stars Tricia Helfer as “ballsy and badass” Molly Parker. As one of the first women to join the Rangers, she’s also of a mind to fire up an affair with a “sexy, dangerously handsome DEA agent” while her divorce from a “narcissistic” husband is still pending but supposedly imminent. Sofia Vergara of Modern Family is a co-executive producer.

Four other new series and a trio of returnees also are coming before spring. Here are the freshmen:

The Assets -- Set in 1985 and drawn from real-life events, it’s an eight episode limited-run series that will fill in for Scandal on Thursday nights. Jodie Whitaker and Harriet Walter play CIA agents in search of “the mole who would turn out to be the most notorious traitor in U.S. history.”

Mixology -- Ten singles mingle at Mix, a “high-end bar in Manhattan’s trendy meat-picking district.” Hearts flutter and get crushed in a comedy co-produced by Ryan Seacrest. It’ll replace Super Fun Night on Wednesdays following Modern Family.

Resurrection -- Decease loved ones begin reappearing in dinky Arcadia, Missouri. Omar Epps, formerly of Fox’s House, heads the cast. It’ll be swapping time slots with Revenge on Sunday nights, which means the end of the line for Betrayal.

Mind Games -- Two brothers played by Christian Slater and Steve Zahn make their clients’ dreams come true via a “little bit of science, a dash of con artistry, plus a smattering of Jedi mind tricks.” Yeah, right. It’s scheduled to get Killer Women’s Tuesdays slot on March 11th.

ABC also will be returning The Taste in a two-hour version that supplants Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday nights. Grey’s will come back but Wonderland probably won’t.

The Bachelor begins anew on Monday, January 6th in place of Dancing with the Stars, which is getting just one cycle this season. Juan Pablo Galavis of Miami is the new resident rose dispenser.

Finally, Suburgatory will be back on Wednesday, Jan. 15th, punching out Back In the Game. Which is a shame.

Here’s the complete replacement schedule announced Tuesday by ABC, with all times central.

Thursday, Jan. 2nd
The Taste (7 to 9 p.m.)
The Assets (9 to 10 p.m.)

Monday, Jan. 6th
The Bachelor (7 to 9 p.m.)

Tuesday, Jan. 7th
Killer Women (9 to 10 p.m.)

Wednesday, Jan. 15th
Suburgatory (7:30 to 8 p.m.)

Wednesday, Feb. 26th
Mixology (8:30 to 9 p.m.)

Sunday, March 9th
Resurrection (8 to 9 p.m.)
Revenge (9 to 10 p.m.)

Tuesday, March 11th
Mind Games (9 to 10 p.m.)

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

How'd he do that? ABC's star-studded David Blaine: Real or Magic mystifies, amuses, chills


David Blaine toys with minds of Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul. ABC photo

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
David Blaine stumps stars and commoners alike with the ease of Drew Brees completing a pass against the Dallas Cowboys.

Their reactions often are as much fun as the stuff he pulls off in ABC’s 90-minute David Blaine: Real or Magic. Feel free to shake your head in amazement -- or in some cases cover your eyes -- when it premieres on Tuesday, Nov. 19th at 8:30 p.m. (central)..

Blaine, who turned 40 this year, is notably less sober-faced than in his formative years. He’s now letting himself smile or laugh easily, whether performing a stunning array of card tricks or poking an ice pick through his palm as an ice breaker in the opening minutes of Real or Magic.

‘You’re just out of your mind in the most beautiful way possible,” Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul tells him after witnessing Blaine first dodge a hidden ice pick and then willingly pierce himself with it without ever drawing blood. These two performances also are experienced by Bryan Cranston, Kanye West, Woody Harrelson, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jaden Smith and assorted other unidentified witnesses.

“Man, I lost my erection entirely,” says Harrelson.

ABC warns viewers against trying this at home -- or anywhere else for that matter. Because after all, Blaine is a trained professional who in recent years also has hung himself upside down in Central Park for 60 hours; been buried alive for a week; and had himself encased in ice for three days and nights.

Blaine still takes to the streets to wow everyday people. But his latest special is thoroughly infused with legitimately major stars. Besides the aforementioned, there’s also Katy Perry, Woody Allen, Robert De Niro, Jon Stewart, Jamie Foxx, Olivia Wilde and Harrison Ford, who grins but also seems very creeped out when Blaine produces a playing card out of a piece of fruit in the actor’s kitchen.

“Get the (bleep) out of my house. OK?” Ford responds.

George W. Bush and Stephen Hawking also are among the mystified and amazed before Blaine hits the homestretch. First he’s determined to replicate a trick that’s puzzled him for years -- an old master’s ability to store water before imbibing kerosene, breathing fire and then putting the blaze out by using his mouth as a water hose.

“There’s hard evidence that ingesting kerosene will lead to death,” Blaine says rather needlessly.

Gervais is on the receiving end of his grand finale. Hoping to convert the comic from skeptic to believer, Blaine sticks a long needle into his bicep before an aghast Gervais watches it come out the other end.

“You’re a maniac. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he says before Blaine persuades him to pull it back out. It’s absolutely positively not for the squeamish in a special that ends up going on somewhat longer than it should.

Sure wish I could do some of those card and money tricks, though. Uncle Barky: Fruitcake or Nut Case could make for quite a special. But Blaine will always remain leaps and bounds ahead -- of everyone it seems. And for the most part, Real or Magic is one great big wow of jaw-dropping and sometimes hair-raising entertainment.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

A candid Dan Rather on his new assassination special, "airbrushing" him out of CBS News' history and the difference between Benghazi and "Memogate"

dan-rather1-618x400 hqdefault

Dan Rather reporting: present-day and 50 years ago in Dallas.

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Dan Rather and Dallas. They became inseparable in November 1963, even if CBS News keeps filing for divorce.

The network’s initial publicity release on its plans for this month’s 50th anniversary coverage of President Kennedy’s assassination made news by making no mention of Rather, who wasn’t invited to participate. After the fact, CBS said that clips of Rather’s reporting would be used, even if he won’t be. His fallback position is My Days in Dallas: A Remembrance with Dan Rather. The one-hour special premieres Monday, Nov. 18th at 7 p.m. central on AXS TV (formerly HDNet).

“This follows the pattern that they’ve had for some years of in effect trying to airbrush me out of their history,” Rather says of the CBS snub when asked about it by unclebarky.com during a Thursday teleconference. “That doesn’t bother me all that much, nor should it.”

But he’s not finished. “It’s one thing for the corporation, for their own purposes, to say, ‘Look, we just want it to seem as if Dan Rather was never here.’ But I think the news consumer might want to question whether you want large corporations trying to change history for their corporate interests. It’s not a big issue. It may not be an issue at all. But if there’s any concern about how they handled it, that would be it.”

CBS’ treatment of Rather is not entirely surprising. His unsuccessful $70 million breach of contract suit against CBS has made him pretty much a non-person at the network that made him famous. The suit alleged he had been made a “scapegoat” in the aftermath of a Sept. 8, 2004 story questioning George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. Rather subsequently apologized on-air after documents used in the 60 Minutes Wednesday story were called into question. It all became known as “Memogate,” with a subsequent in-house CBS investigation lashing Rather and other contributors for their “myopic zeal” in putting the story together.

Rather, now 82, has soldiered on and arguably is in a much better place after leaving CBS News in June 2006. Some might see AXS TV as the hinterlands. But it also can be viewed as a Sherwood Forest from which an exiled anchor/correspondent has been emboldened to do some of his best work on the weekly Dan Rather Reports, which premiered in November 2006. His boss is Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban, who unflinchingly hired Rather when many considered him radioactive. Cuban since has given him “complete, total creative and editorial control,” Rather says.

My Days In Dallas is in large part a personal memoir with the added goal of providing “context and historical perspective to not just the assassination but to the time and place in which it happened,” Rather says.

It might seem like there’s a lot of that going around this month on networks large and small. But Rather is increasingly unique as one of the few network reporters who have survived to re-tell their eyewitness assassination tales 50 years after the fact. He hadn’t returned to Dealey Plaza in a decade or so and still considers it “sacred ground.”

“I remember the emotional earthquake that it was for me personally . . . It’s not a happy occasion for me to go back,” he says. “It’s uncomfortable, which is probably the reason in more recent years I haven’t gone all that often.”

Initially assigned to coordinate President Kennedy’s visit to Dallas -- White House correspondent Robert Pierpoint was to be the on-camera reporter -- Rather had been waiting for a film bag drop just beyond the motorcade route when the presidential limousine “sped past in a blur.” The resultant scene in Dealey Plaza “was a shock to me,” he recalls. His next steps were a feverish run back to the studios of CBS affiliate KRLD-TV (which later became KDFW). The next four days provided one shock wave after another, with Rather making his mark as CBS’ principal on-camera correspondent after Pierpoint was sent back to Washington.

“I don’t remember sleeping any time at all,” he says. “Your instinct kicks in and you say to yourself, ‘I can’t afford to get emotional. I’ve got to laser beam, zone in, focus on the story.’ I was so busy for so long, trying to be at or near my best on what I thought was maybe the greatest story I’ll ever cover. I just pushed my emotions down inside myself and refused to listen to them.”

Seven or eight days later, “the full emotional impact hit me,” Rather says. “I wanted to weep, I wanted to curse, I wanted to kick the wall. I wanted to, you know, hit somebody who was responsible for this.”

He went on to fame, fortune and finally no small degree of infamy at CBS News, which lately has its hands full with a 60 Minutes Benghazi investigation that went badly awry and led to two on-air apologies by correspondent Lara Logan. CBS had to admit that its chief source for the story, security contractor Dylan Davies, had misled if not outright duped the network. An in-house “journalistic review” is now underway. Sound familiar?

Asked to compare and contrast, Rather is adamant about one thing.

“The Bush story, for which I eventually lost my job and other people lost theirs, was a true story,” he says. “One can argue about the process by which we got to the story but ours was a true story and has never been denied by the president (George W. Bush).”

In the Benghazi report, “they have now acknowledged their key witness was caught in what appears to be lying and they’ve apologized. So there is a great deal of difference, but there is no joy in saying that.”

But there’s one overriding similarity, he adds. “Whatever happened and whatever if any blame there is, the tendency always is for the corporate leaders, and for that matter, the leaders of the news division to put all the blame on the correspondent. Common sense tells you that’s not the reality. I don’t know whether this story goes away quickly or not. But it doesn’t, I think part of it will lead away from the correspondent to others who were involved in the decision-making process. Including those high up in the corporation.”

One never-ending story is whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President John F. Kennedy. In that respect, television is regurgitating virtually any and all conspiracy theories while Rather sticks to his story. After prominently participating in several CBS News investigations that sought to prove otherwise, he believes that the Warren Commission presided over a “flawed” investigation but “reached the right conclusion.” And after 50 years of he said/she said, “it’s highly unlikely that anybody now is going to be able prove there was a conspiracy. It’s my believe that it was Oswald and Oswald alone who was doing the shooting that day.”

Others will continue to heatedly disagree. The more the merrier, Rather says in so many words: “Everybody who wants to should get a crack at it, even what I consider to be the most outlandish of the conspiracy theorists. This is America. Let them have their say.”

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Fox's Almost Human: another bleak future forecast


The future again is one big nightmare in Almost Human. Fox photo

Premiering: Sunday, Nov. 17th at 7 p.m. (central) with another new episode on Monday at the same time
Starring: Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Minka Kelly, Lili Taylor, Michael Irby, Mackenzie Crook
Produced by: J.J. Abrams, J.H. Wyman, Bryan Burk, Kathy Lingg, Reid Shane

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Present times can be trying enough.

But the future? Whether on big-screen or small-, look for pure hell in a hand basket.

In the case of Fox’s new Almost Human, it’s a very foreboding 2048. A lengthier than usual set of narrative bullet points sets the stage for a year you don’t want to live in. That’s because:

***Science and technology evolve at an uncontrollable pace.

***Unknown drugs and weapons flood our streets and schools.

***The contraband is controlled and distributed by violent, faceless, criminal organizations.

***And the crime rate rises an astounding 400%.

Yeah, and the “Obamacare” website is probably still a mess, too. So what are “outnumbered and overwhelmed” law enforcement types supposed to do? Well, for one thing, it’s now mandatory that every cop be partnered with an “advanced, combat-model Android.” So there.

Premiering Sunday before moving to its regular Monday slot on the following night, this apocalyptic, futuristic, blue-hued drama is from the J.J. Abrams (Revolution, Person of Interest, Alcatraz) factory of sinister overtones. Unlike those three series, though, his latest regular cast amazingly is without a co-star from Lost, which Abrams also birthed before leaving the driving to others.

Almost Human begins with a prolonged firefight in which the only surviving good guy is detective John Kennex (Karl Urban). But he’s left without much of his right leg, which is outfitted with a prosthetic device during the time he’s in a 17-month coma. Kennex yearns to find out how a gang of “Syndicate” bad guys knew about the police raid beforehand. Memory-jogging hookups to a jolting electrical device trigger a series of puzzle-part flashbacks. But these treatments also can be lethal when used too often.

Meanwhile, Kennex is very weary of his robotic, judgmental MX-43 Android partner. So he arranges a little accident and hooks up with a “flawed” but more human-like DRN (Michael Ealy as Dorian).

“I was made to feel. And I do. As much as you,” Dorian tells the still prickly Kennex.

Three of Fox’s new series this season -- Sleepy Hollow, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and now Almost Human -- have appealing Caucasian/African-American partnerships in which race bracingly is almost beside the point. And the Kennex-Dorian combo is the best part of Almost Human, which otherwise keeps twisting and turning itself into a series of unwieldy plot knots.

Other regular cast members are Lily Taylor (Six Feet Under) as Kennex’s supportive boss, Sandra Maldonado, and Minka Kelly (Friday Night LIghts, Charlie’s Angels) as a detective named Valerie Stahl. But Kelly is so little used in the pilot that she’ll probably have to be taken hostage soon in order to beef up her character. Viewers also will have to endure the by now obligatory surly, distrustful cop who’d like to kick Kennex off the force. His name is Richard Paul and he’s played by Michael Irby.

By the end of Episode 1 -- after another bam, bam, bam gun battle -- Kennex has pretty much figured out who sold him out. But that person remains at large along with an ever-present swarm of ruthless crime bosses. Earth isn’t even a nice place to visit in Almost Human -- and you certainly wouldn’t want to live there. Ah, the future. Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows still need not apply.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

One to watch: Smithsonian Channel's The Day Kennedy Died


@unclebarkycom on Twitter
At this point, 50th anniversary JFK assassination programming is pouring out faster than those chocolates on that old I Love Lucy conveyor belt.

One just can’t keep up with all of them. However, your time would be well-spent watching this one. Smithsonian Channel’s two-hour The Day Kennedy Died, narrated by Kevin Spacey, is a well-made, one-stop look at the cataclysmic events of Nov. 22, 1963. It premieres on Sunday, Nov. 17th at 8 p.m. (central).

There’s one caveat, though. Don’t believe Spacey’s opening declaration that four of the interviewees “have not spoken on camera before.” Technically, that might be somewhat true of Parkland Hospital Dr. Robert McClelland, who’s previously done radio interviews and videotaped presentations that are readily available on youtube.com.

The others, Clint Hill, Buell Frazier and Ruth Paine, are all veterans of previous TV interviews. Hill in particular has been readily available to talk about both his experiences and his lingering guilt as a Secret Service agent primarily assigned to protect Jacqueline Kennedy on that fateful day.

Other than that, British documentary filmmaker Leslie Woodhead (The Hunt for Bin Laden) has done a first-rate job of putting this all together again. Much of the video may be thoroughly familiar by now. Still, the information imparted -- both nuts-and-bolts and anecdotal -- is deftly meshed with the wealth of available images. Add the well-modulated play-by-play from Spacey, lately best known for playing duplicitous House Majority Leader Francis “Frank” Underwood on Netflix’s House of Cards.

Your friendly content provider is old enough to have been in high school French class when news of the shooting first broke. But 50 years down the road, the majority of this film’s potential audience hadn’t yet been born when President John F. Kennedy was murdered in broad daylight while riding with his wife, Jacqueline, in a motorcade that had just reached Dealey Plaza.

Those who remain less than familiar with that day’s chronology of events will find them very vividly re-told in The Day Kennedy Died. It’s an apt companion piece for National Geographic Channel’s previously aired JFK: The Final Hours, which revealingly looked at how the Kennedys spent their time in San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth before Air Force One landed in Dallas. (Final Hours will next be repeated on Friday, Nov. 15th at 5 p.m. central)

The Nov. 24th murder of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is also included in The Day Kennedy Died. Former homicide detective James Leavelle, who was escorting Oswald before Jack Ruby pulled the trigger, again makes it clear he had no use for the media who swarmed the Dallas police department in the two days after the assassination.

Leavelle also grilled Oswald, to whom he still seems more favorably disposed. Even though he lied about his activities, Oswald “wasn’t argumentative, actually a very pleasant individual,” Leavelle says.

Dallas Times Herald photographer Bob Jackson, who took the signature picture of Oswald grimacing while Leavelle recoiled, says matter-of-factly, “He fired and I fired. I couldn’t have planned it any better.”

The film’s final words are from Hill, who’s also prominently featured in JFK: The Final Hours. “Things like that just didn’t happen,” he says. “But they did.”

The Day Kennedy Died brings it all home anew in ways that are both affecting and highly effective.

GRADE: A-minus

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

History in a rush: National Geo's Killing Kennedy

will-rothhaar-killing-kennedy-inline 2074564_killing-kennedy1_jz6es6bbpo2xiga4fjfqn6pa33ncurxrbvj6lwuht2ya6mzmafma_380x285

Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald co-stars with Rob Lowe and Ginnifer Goodwin in Killing Kennedy. National Geographic Channel photo

From a pure publicity standpoint, this month’s Kennedy assassination anniversary onslaught is led by National Geographic Channel’s Killing Kennedy.

It’s adapted from the huge bestseller by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, includes a name brand star in Rob Lowe and has been advertised all over the place. The drum-beating included a day-and-a-half junket last month, in which media members were flown to North Texas for a screening of the movie and a bus tour through sites tied to the dark day of Nov. 22, 1963.

Despite all this, the Sunday, Nov. 10th premiere of Killing Kennedy (7 p.m. central on National Geo) will likely attract only a relative handful of real-time viewers in the city where it all happened. That’s because it just happens to be scheduled opposite the Dallas Cowboys-New Orleans Saints game on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

The Cowboys’ first two SNF games this season each drew more than 1.5 million D-FW viewers, ranking them one-two among the nine games played so far. Killing Kennedy may well find its way onto a good number of recording devices for its Sunday night unveiling. But while the Cowboys are on, other programming bets for the most part are off.

Directed by Nelson McCormick (Prom Night) with a screenplay by Kelly Masterson (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead), the film is competently made and superior to National Geo’s narrative-heavy Killing Lincoln, which aired last February. It’s also “stolen” in large part by the relatively unknown Will Rothhaar, whose portrayal of Lee Harvey Oswald gets more screen time and makes a sharper impression.

Lowe’s John F. Kennedy is suitably Eastern accented but somewhat flat. Jack Noseworthy as Bobby Kennedy never really registers at all. Nor does Francis Guinan’s Lyndon Baines Johnson, who mostly stands around colorlessly.

Ginnifer Goodwin, currently starring in ABC’s Once Upon A Time, has some solid scenes as Jacqueline Kennedy. But they primarily come after JFK is dead and she’s grieving him at Parkland Memorial Hospital. The film’s other principal, Oswald’s abused wife, Marina, is well-played by Michelle Trachtenberg, who navigates the part by speaking either in Russian or broken English. Casey Siemaszko chips in with a few scenes as Jack Ruby, the strip club owner who impulsively killed Oswald.

None of Killing Kennedy was filmed in Dallas. National Geo instead opted for Richmond, VA and a fast-paced 18-day shooting schedule. The filmmakers also had to cram a lot of story into an actual running time of less than 90 minutes. Commercials will fill the rest of a two-hour time slot.

The required hurry-up storytelling short-cuts its way through the bungled Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis and President Kennedy’s White House womanizing. The latter is accomplished via a scene of giggling interns in the company of JFK, followed by some frolicking in the White House pool. An eavesdropping, crestfallen Jackie is told that the pool is closed. But she later drops in to see a bikini top afloat in otherwise still waters before Bobby privately lectures Jack on his “woman problem” and tells him to cut it out. Cut, print, let’s move on.

Rothhaar’s Oswald in turn is depicted as a moody nobody yearning to be a somebody. On two occasions he envisions himself as a big-time newsmaker being interviewed by a gaggle of reporters. Instead the FBI dogs him before deducing he’s far more of a wacko than a Russian spy. Oswald’s domestic policies -- “You just do as I say. I’m the man of this house” -- include physical reinforcement. His slapping of Marina foreshadows a later scene in which she suddenly has a badly bruised left eye.

Some of the Jack and Jackie interludes are painfully awkward. Fuming over the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he tells his commiserating wife, “I’m supposed to be the most powerful man in the world. And I’m impotent. Well, I’ll tell you what. This is the last time anybody’s going to make a decision like that for me.”

Later, after their baby Patrick lives just two days, Jack tries a little tenderness while also ordering Jackie to get some rest on the Greek Isles. “I want you to be very careful around that Onassis character,” he adds. “And then I want you to come back to me.” Jackie responds with a somewhat quizzical look at her Commander in Chief.

Meanwhile, Dallas takes a number of heavy/heavy-handed punches during the course of firming up its “City of Hate” credentials.

“Dallas no good,” says Marina.

“Dallas isn’t safe,” says LBJ.

“Dallas is the murder capital of the country,” says a fed who’s worried about the president’s security.

“We’re headed into nut country today,” JFK tells Jackie after she shows him a “Wanted For Treason” leaflet being distributed in Dallas.

In a brief scene at Ruby’s Carousel Club, a Dallas cop derides JFK as a “traitor” who “should be shot.” Ruby cries foul, but then browbeats a bartender who hasn’t been quick enough in serving his cop friends some drinks.

Killing Kennedy easily could have been twice its length, the better to add both nuance and context. Instead it’s a watchable film with many missing parts, a broadly drawn Classics Illustrated version of what happened and why.

Older veterans of many an assassination anniversary easily will be able to fill in many of the missing details. Younger ones will mostly be at a loss when it comes to the film’s cryptic reference to “that Onassis character.” Hey, kids, tycoon Aristotle Onassis became the future husband of Jacqueline Kennedy. And now you know.

GRADE: B-minus

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Bare essentials: Epix's Filthy Gorgeous documentary spotlights Penthouse founder Bob Guccione


Bob Guccione pitted his Penthouse against Hugh Hefner’s Playboy. Epix photo

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Much suaver than Larry Flynt but far less iconic than Hugh Hefner, Penthouse magazine founder Bob Guccione ranks somewhere in the middle of America’s foremost 20th century flesh peddlers.

Wear rose-colored glasses and you also could view them as brave fighters for the inalienable First Amendment right to print pictures of nude, voluptuous women.

Flynt received star treatment in 1996’s The People vs. Larry Flynt, with Woody Harrelson in the title role. Hefner continues to make news whenever he adds or subtracts a new girlfriend or wife. Guccione, who died at age 79 in 2010 after squandering much of his fortune, gets a posthumous spotlight in the Epix network’s Filthy Gorgeous. The 90-minute documentary film premieres Friday, Nov. 8th at 10 p.m. (central).

It’s quite watchable, and not only for the abundant nudity permitted on a non-advertiser supported “premium” channel. Guccione, draped in chains and topped with a variety of toupees, cut a cocksure figure while also talking a very good game. One upon a time he studied to be a priest, “but I got over that.”

When he took on Playboy in 1969 -- “We’re going rabbit hunting,” said a Penthouse ad -- Guccione compared it to “Hannibal attacking Rome.” Confounding all odds, Penthouse caught Playboy a decade later in both revenues and sales.

Filthy Gorgeous, directed by Barry Avrich (Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project), includes the authorized participation of his two sons, Bob Jr. and Nick.

“He understood that men wanted the guilt veil lifted off of them,” says Bob Jr., who had an 18-year estrangement from his father after he demanded to go it alone as the publisher of Spin magazine. According to Bob Jr., they reconciled six years before his death and became close again.

Guccione’s youngest son, Nick, is less a part of Filthy Gorgeous. But he has one line that won’t sit well with the Plano Chamber of Commerce. Remarking on his dad’s death of cancer on Oct. 10, 2010, he speaks with disgust of a “crappy little hospital in Plano, which is in the middle of nowhere if you ask me.”

For the record, it was Plano Specialty Hospital on the outskirts of Dallas. Hardly the hinterlands, but Podunk compared to Brooklyn, where Guccioni was born with the elongated name of Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione. His fourth wife, April Dawn Warren Guccioni, was born in Plano. So that’s how they ended up there during the waning stages of his life.

Under Guccione’s direction, Penthouse became a magazine best known for showing female pubic hair (Playboy later followed suit) and for printing pictures of Vanessa Williams’ previous nude photo shoot after she was crowned the first black Miss America in 1984. It led to her ouster and huge sales for that edition. But the fallout also began.

“This Guccione’s a slob and a slime,” an unidentified woman says in news footage from that time.

Penthouse was forever besmirched,” Bob Jr. says in retrospect.

The magazine also soon faced battles with Ronald Reagan’s pornography-battling attorney general, Ed Meese, and televangelists such as Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. The 7-Eleven convenience stores led a boycott of both Penthouse and Playboy sales while Guccione fought back with exposes on the secret sexual activities of his accusers.

“I loved exposing the hypocrisy of the Falwells and the Swaggarts and the religious right, all of whom had zipper problems,” former Penthouse attorney Alan Dershowitz says in Filthy Gorgeous.

The film also includes footage of Guccione’s and Falwell’s joint appearance on an edition of Tom Snyder’s NBC Tomorrow program. Those were the days, with Snyder excelling as a combative interviewer who pulled no punches.

Guccione’s most infamous flop, a $17.5 million, 1979 big-screen production of Caligula, was also a key ingredient in his empire’s dissolution. The cast included Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole, Sir John Gielgud and a then largely unknown Helen Mirren. Filthy Gorgeous shows her saying at the time, “It has an irresistible mixture of art and genitals in it.” She then smiles thinly.

Guccione also invested very unwisely in fusion energy and an Atlantic City Casino that never got off the ground. In 1997, the death of his longtime companion and latter day wife, Kathy Keeton, further brought him to his knees. “Losing her blew my lamps. I was never the same,” says a printed quote.

Filthy Gorgeous also includes new interviews with onetime “Happy Hooker” Xaviera Hollander; Guccione’s longtime personal assistant, Jane Homlish (she still gets weepy about him); and former Penthouse Pet Divina Celeste, who says, “I wish that I could give one Penthouse day to every woman I’ve ever met.”

All speak glowingly of the boss, who supposedly was fonder of collecting world class art than bedmates while also developing his own considerable talents as a painter. Guccione loved to cook, too. Penthouse’s 1978 Pet of the Year, Victoria Lynn Johnson, recalls him whipping up a mean pasta before she instigated dessert.

VHS tapes and the advent of the Internet eventually turned Penthouse, Playboy and Flynt’s Hustler magazine into artifacts headed by aging purveyors. The print epilogue for Filthy Gorgeous says that Penthouse plummeted from a peak circulation of 7.4 million to 102,000 today while “the youporn.com website had 15 million new users per month.”

Bob Guccione lived very large before all that shrinkage set in. His story is more than a little airbrushed in Filthy Gorgeous, which is something Penthouse vowed to never do with its models. But it’s quite a story nonetheless.

GRADE: B-minus

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

National Geo's JFK: The Final Hours shows that Texas had many bright spots, too


Actor and Fort Worth native Bill Paxton, who narrates JFK: The Final Hours, is the eight-year-old kid atop his dad’s shoulders during President John F. Kennedy’s Nov. 22nd outdoor speech in Cowtown.

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Most of National Geographic Channel’s promotional muscles are being flexed behind Killing Kennedy, the Bill O’Reilly book adaptation starring Rob Lowe.

But although it’s something of an afterthought, National Geo’s JFK: The Final Hours (Friday, Nov. 8th at 7 p.m. central) is the one that shouldn’t be missed. Narrated by actor and Fort Worth native Bill Paxton (Big Love, Apollo 13), it recaptures the entire Texas stay of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

There’s a genuine thrill of discovery here. Footage from the president’s final moments on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas has been replayed to the point of total familiarity. Final Hours takes a far less traveled path, journeying with the Kennedys through San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth before that last short flight to Dallas.

Paxton was eight years old and perched on his dad’s shoulders when the President briefly addressed an outdoor crowd in Fort Worth on a drizzly Nov. 22nd morning. Final Hours has the black-and-white picture to prove this. Paxton adds, “That’s me, 50 years ago. What we didn’t know was President Kennedy was going to die in just a few hours.”

Well, of course not. The writing in Final Hours can be a bit pedestrian at times. But the visuals and a wealth of eyewitness accounts are the driving forces of a two-hour documentary directed by Erik Nelson, whose lesser credits include three editions of When Fish Attack and Sharkzilla. Oh well, gotta eat.

The President’s planned two-day swing through Texas, with Vice President Lyndon Johnson also along, was aimed at shoring up support in LBJ’s electoral vote-rich home state.

“Every waking minute was spoken for, and there was no time off whatsoever,” says historian Martin K.A. Morgan. Final Hours retraces a virtually non-stop itinerary of breakfasts, motorcades, luncheons, dinners, speeches and handshaking in a planned five Texas cities. But JFK never made it to Austin.

The footage from San Antonio, first leg of the trip, includes Kennedy’s seldom recalled visit to Brooks Air Force Base for the dedication of a new medical center. After a speech, the President departed from his planned schedule (as he did throughout the trip) to see four volunteers undergoing tests in a low-pressure hyperbaric chamber. One of them, Philip “Flip” Jameson, remembers the thrill of hearing Kennedy’s voice -- and then the shock of learning that he’d been assassinated just a day later.

“That there was the highlight of our lives,” he says. “And now he’s not here anymore.”

The Kennedys’ trip to Houston included an impromptu stop at a League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) gathering at the Rice Hotel. What was supposed to be a brief pop-in greeting became a 17-minute visitation highlighted by Jacqueline Kennedy’s address to the crowd in Spanish. Musician Fernando Herrera says she told him, “It is so nice to be away from the political arena.”

The First Lady ended her remarks by saying in Spanish, “Thank you very much. Long live LULAC.” It’s all replayed in Final Days, with Jacqueline aglow and her audience in ecstasy. Then it was on to a planned dinner at the massive and packed Houston Coliseum. Air Force One didn’t leave the city for Fort Worth until 10:15 that night.

Final Days also recounts the last-second efforts to arrange a world class art display within the Kennedys’ separate rooms at Fort Worth’s Hotel Texas. The President, for instance, “spent the night” with a Vincent Van Gogh original titled “Road with Peasant Shouldering a Spade.” But it was largely for the benefit of Jackie, who didn’t notice any of the artwork until the following morning. Both Kennedys then thanked the organizers by telephone.

Numerous eyewitnesses to the Kennedys’ visits recount the thrill of it all. They include former KDFW/WFAA TV anchor Quin Mathews, who was 13 years old when Air Force One landed at Dallas’ Love Field.

“It was probably the one moment in my life that carries kind of a weight in importance more than any other,” says Mathews. He now heads Dallas-based Quin Mathews Films, whose City of Hate: Dallas and the Assassination will air Wednesday, Nov. 13th on KERA13.

Nearly a half-century later, the Kennedys are seen and recalled as royalty during their last two days together in Texas. Final Hours, with surviving Secret Service agent Clint Hill’s first-hand accounts supporting Paxton’s narration, is a vivid and compelling picture of a visit replete with bright spots from San Antonio to Houston to Fort Worth. Those should be remembered as well.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

Hendrix gets his American Masters spotlight


Jimi Hendrix led an electric but woefully short life. PBS photo

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Long before Guitar Hero the game came Guitar Hero the man.

And Jimi Hendrix undoubtedly was THE MAN, if only for a few short years in times when he, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin all died within a 10-month span. Each lived to be 27.

Hendrix gets the American Masters treatment on Tuesday, Nov. 5th (8 p.m. in D-FW on KERA13) in a two-hour film subtitled Hear My Train A Comin’. It includes a wealth of performance footage, some of it with the requisite “previously unseen” tag. That’s more than reason enough to watch, but don’t expect to hear anything all that insightful on what made Hendrix live the way he lived or die the way he died.

Next to nothing is said about the extent of Hendrix’s drug use, which for the most part went hand in hand with the late 1960s rock music scene. Many are still around to tell some of those tales. But Hendrix died of a reported mega-sleeping pill overdose on Sept. 18, 1970 while staying with a lady friend in London. American Masters very briefly notes this before ending rather abruptly. Cut to the closing credits, which include a short Hendrix guitar solo as requiem.

The documentary film begins with footage of Hendrix at the height of his performance powers and accompanying off-camera verbal praise from -- well, that’s a good question.

“One of the most important American musicians of the 20th century . . . No one pushed the envelope like he did,” says one unseen, unidentified talking head.

Too many PBS films begin this way, requiring viewers to possibly later match the speaker with his or her opening words. It’s a structure that could use a makeover.

The review copy made available on PBS’ media site also does not differentiate between who’s living and who isn’t. Interview subjects such as Paul McCartney and Steve Winwood obviously are very much among us -- and still on tour. Both presumably sat down for new interviews in connection with this film.

But it might surprise some viewers to learn that the other two members of The Jimi Hendrix Experience -- Britishers Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell -- have both been dead for quite some time. As has Jimi’s father, Al, who fed his son’s early musical appetites and bought him his first electric guitar.

Absent any such notations, Hear My Train A Comin’ leaves the impression that all three are as much among the living as McCartney and Winwood. But a little research shows that Redding died in 2003, Mitchell in 2008 and Al Hendrix in 2002.

Another key and very regularly recurring interview subject, Hendrix record producer “Chas” Chandler, died in 1996. American Masters usually does its own new interviews for these presentations, which have been rightly acclaimed over the years. But this one appears to be far more a cut-and-paste job without any on-screen notifications that some outwardly fresh reminiscences date as far back as 17 years. There’s still time to remedy that in the finished product. Truth in packaging is more than a nitpick in a case when so much of a film is compiled from old interviews.

Hendrix wasn’t much for interviews but was relatively expansive during his only talk show appearance with Dick Cavett.

“Hie ego was still the right size. I don’t think he was really bitten by the serpent of fame,” remembers “friend/musician” Paul Caruso, who died earlier this year.

“He only wanted to communicate with his playing,” says “friend” Linda Keith, who first met Hendrix in New York City and eventually introduced him to producer Chandler, previously the bassist with The Animals. “I knew he was going to be a sensation in England,” Chandler says.

Hendrix’s managers later tried to land him a spot on The Ed Sullivan Show, a premium destination for any rock performer seeking full-blown stardom. But Hendrix was rejected as too wild and untamed, even though Morrison and Joplin both were allowed to perform on the show.

Hendrix first attracted a following in London, where McCartney remembers seeing him in small clubs before small audiences.

First impression: “He knows his way around a guitar, this guy.” And McCartney still says with considerable awe, “Here he was, just bein’ phenomenal.”

His first major U.S. appearance came on June 18, 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival, where Joplin also became a star. McCartney recalls recommending Hendrix for the festival because The Beatles, who’d been invited, had previous studio commitments. Hendrix, Redding and Mitchell performed “Wild Thing” before Hendrix shocked many in the crowd by setting his guitar on fire and then smashing it. Says Dweezil Zappa (hmm, what’s he doing in this?), “Before that day, there was nothing like that that ever happened in the world.”

Hendrix recorded just three albums -- Are You Experienced? Axis Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland -- before his death. His enduring rock anthems include “Hey Joe, Purple Haze,” a cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and a searing rendition of The National Anthem during the August 1969 Woodstock festival.

Hear My Train A Comin’ is fully loaded with Hendrix ablaze on stage, even including an impromptu club performance of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that remains “one of my proud moments,” says McCartney.

Off- and-on girlfriend Fayne Pridgon, relied on heavily in the film, says that Hendrix in reality was conservative and shy offstage. “They had him out there as this Wild Man from Borneo or something,” she says. “He wasn’t anything like that.”

What he was really like remains in large part a mystery. In that respect, Hear My Train A Comin’ doesn’t try to play a gumshoe. Its strengths are Hendrix in action, his guitar on fire whether he set a match to it or not. The rest is a patchwork quilt of new and used anecdotal interviews, with the living and the dead mixed and matched throughout.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

The Thundermans gives Nickelodeon a breath of fresh superpowers


Meet mom, dad and the Thunderman kids, all with a super power. Nickelodeon photo

Premiering: Saturday, Nov. 2nd at 8 p.m. (central) on Nickelodeon
Starring: Kira Kosarin, Jack Griffo, Addison Riecke, Diego Velazquez, Chris Tallman, Rosa Blasi
Produced by: Jed Spingarn, Dan Cross, David Hoge

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Hey hey, it’s The Thundermans.

Little Barky likely would have liked this show. Grizzled Barky keeps repeating to himself, “Remember who it’s aimed at, remember who it’s aimed at . . .”

Premiering Saturday, Nov. 2nd on Nickelodeon, The Thundermans has a very loud laugh track, high energy, bright colors and some surprisingly zippy special effects to help sell the notion that this is a family equipped with various super powers, all of which they’re trying to hide from the real world.

We don’t know how they got them. But take it from the bouncy-bounce theme song, the Thundermans are “just your average family trying to be normal and stay out of trouble, living a double life.”

Mom, dad and the four kids lately have moved to the conveniently named “Hiddenville,” where their secrets for now are safe. And just what are those secrets? Here we go:

Fraternal teen twins Phoebe and Max (Kira Kosarin, Jack Griffo) are both equipped with “freeze breath” and telekinesis.

Younger bro Billy (Diego Velasquez) zips around at super speed.

Little sis Nora (Addison Riecke) can cut through solid objects with her laser beam eyes.

Dad Hank (Chris Tallman), who of course is something of a buffoon, has both super-strength and the ability to fly.

Mom Barb (Rosa Blasi) is able to emit lightning bolts from her hands.

In the premiere episode, mischievous Max happily pranks his sister, sending showers of chocolate and cheese onto her head while she’s posing on high school picture day. She vows to get even by coming up with “the best prank ever.”

Max, who for some reason also aspires to be a “super villain” someday, regularly uses an in-home slide to descend into his “lair,” which includes a talking rabbit in a cage. Meanwhile, Dad blusters as best he can. “We have four kids. There is always reason to yell,” he reasons.

In a second episode sent for review, Phoebe and Max are assigned to babysit their younger siblings while Hank takes Barb out to dinner. None of this goes very well, especially when Phoebe violates Dad’s edict of “no non-supes in the house” by inviting a live-wire high school friend named Cherry, who wears a “Trending” tank top.

The two Thunderman daughters are more fun than the boys, at least in these two early half-hours. Little Addison Riecke does a nice job with her tart dialogue while Kira Kosarin is winningly and constantly exasperated with Max. Chunky Dad tries not to fly off the handle but can’t resist flying through the roof when he has cravings for foods from faraway places.

Parents of kiddoes, tweens and young teens can be assured that all of this is quite harmless, but can be used as a bribe. As in, “Get your homework done or there won’t be any Thundermans this weekend!” With Little Barky, that probably would’ve worked.


Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net