A TV and Film Article by Tim Riley

TV CORNER: NBC TV SHOWCASES PROGRAMS ON ITS SUMMER DAY TOUR   Like the good old days of rental car company Avis, the NBC Universal television conglomerate tries harder, at least by promoting its upcoming shows with the “Summer Press Day” held every spring for the edification of television critics. You could say that the range of panel discussions run on the eclectic side, with a mix of programming bouncing around from traditional NBC programs to the offerings of cable offshoots, including the Golf Channel and Bravo. For sports fans, the Golf Channel presents “Jack,” a three-part event beginning on April 9th capturing the spectacular career of Jack Nicklaus, one of the all-time greats who won a record-setting 18 major championships.  “Jack” will feature a collection of interviews from other sports legends such as Wayne Gretzky, Richard Petty, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Rice, Roger Federer and Bill Belichek.  For good measure, presidents past and present, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, appear in the film.

 The NBC network’s most ambitious offering won’t come until late July and it arrives with the kind of graphic intensity you would expect on a cable channel, such as the El Rey Network or even NBC Universal’s own Syfy Channel. “Midnight, Texas” hardly has the feel of a typical network show, though its slot in the 10 o’clock hour puts it out of reach of the traditional family period.  That’s a good thing, considering the steamy scenes and brutal violence skirt the boundaries for network standards. This supernatural thriller takes a journey into a remote Texas town where nothing is what it seems.  Where being normal is strange and only outsiders fit in.  It’s a sanctuary city for misfits seeking a safe haven.

 The central figure is Manfred (Francois Arnaud), a psychic who communicates with spirits and surrounds himself with both human and supernatural allies.  Dylan Bruce’s Bobo runs the local pawn shop and Parisa Fitz-Henley’s Fiji runs the town’s wiccan shop.  Olivia (Arielle Kebbel) is a mysterious assassin with more lethal weapons than a rebel army, while Jason Lewis’ Joe is a winged angel who’s been around for millennia and Peter Mensah’s Lemuel is a vampire with a long history. Everybody has secrets in the town of Midnight, but they have to band together as reluctant allies to fight off deadly biker gangs and other outside pressures.  The series is based on books by Charlaine Harris, the same author who inspired the “True Blood” series on HBO.

 I don’t know if they are the next Kardashians, but the Cyrus clan is expanding its cultural presence, so to speak, with “Cyrus vs. Cyrus: Design and Conquer.”  This time, it is matriarch Tish Cyrus and daughter Brandi (sister to the infamous Miley) with a reality show on Bravo.The mother-daughter design duo embarks on an adventure making over luxurious homes in Nashville in need of a facelift, and the rest of the family, including Billy Ray, Miley, Noah, Trace and Braison, get in the act with special appearances.

TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL PREVIEW  It’s that time of year again for the TCM Classic Film Festival, as fans from around the world descend on the heart of Hollywood for screenings of wondrous films over the four-day period of April 6th through April 9th.  The theme this year is “Make ‘Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies,” an exploration of funny business from lowbrow to high, slapstick to sophisticated comedies of manners, showcasing cinematic achievements of lone clowns, comedic duos and madcap ensembles.  A festival of classic films suggests homage to vintage comedies.  As such, there won’t be a retrospective of “The Hangover” trilogy.  A classic comedy on display is Frank Capra’s beloved “Arsenic and Old Lace,” starring Cary Grant dealing with insanity in his family. Cary Grant was also in fine comedic form in the screwball comedy “The Awful Truth,” playing opposite Irene Dunne, with the two of them as a divorcing couple at odds with one another, though still very much in love.

Peter Sellers’s “Dr. Strangelove” gets a well-deserved festival treatment, but the gem on display could be his little-known British comedy “I’m All Right Jack” (1959), a satire of the working class industrial life in England.  Humphrey Bogart’s “Beat the Devil,” a genre spoof that is often described as a parody of films like “The Maltese Falcon,” is being screened, along with a 75th anniversary celebration of “Casablanca,” which, of course, is not a comedy. For offbeat comedy, you can’t get more weird than “Harold and Maude,” a box office dud that later became a cult classic for its strange tale of a death-obsessed young man falling in love with a woman (Ruth Gordon) closing in on 80 years old. For a madcap ensemble comedy, there may be few more classic than “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” starring a wide range of talent from Spencer Tracy to Jonathan Winters, Phil Silvers to Ethel Merman, and Mickey Rooney to Milton Berle, just to name a few.  A journey to the TCM Classic Film Festival looks promising for the die-hard cinephile.