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Remington Steele News & Information
What's happening with "Remington Steele"
HOLLYWOOD STARS ALIGN FOR STAND UP TO CANCER FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
Pierce Brosnan and More Among Stars To Be Featured in One-Hour Broadcast,
with Special Performances by The Who, Jennifer Hudson and other artists.
Performances by The Who, Jennifer Hudson, Lupe Fiasco & Common, Ariana
Grande, and Dave Matthews
Stars Will Reach Out to Supporters from On-Stage Digital Lounge Hosted by
Katie Couric -- “We’re Calling You”; Facebook is SU2C’s Primary Social Media
Pierce Brosnan appears on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"
Tuesday 8/19 on NBC, and on "Conan" Wednesday 8/20 on TBS.
Pierce Brosnan appears on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" Wednesday 5/1 on ABC, on "The
Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" Thursday 5/2 on CBS, and on "Tavis Smiley"
Wednesday 5/1 on PBS.
James Read guest-stars on CSI: NY Friday 11/16 on CBS.
Doris Roberts guest-stars on "Desperate Housewives" Sunday 4/29 on ABC.
Pierce Brosnan appears on "The
Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" Wednesday 3/28 (Rerun from 12/8/11)
Doris Roberts guest-stars
on "Hot in Cleveland" on TVLAND 7/20 10:00 PM ET/PT.
From tvline.com: Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Doris Roberts tells EW.com she’ll
return to ABC’s The Middle as young Brick’s teacher on May 25. It’s been a busy
couple of months for the veteran funnylady.
Pierce Brosnan has 4
new movies coming out in 2011 and appears on "Live with Regis and Kelly"
For Zimbalist, it's 'Tea at Five' onstage and omelets across the way
Joe Kimball, Star Tribune
Stephanie Zimbalist, who's in town to portray Katharine Hepburn in "Tea at
Five" at the Ordway, gives a big thumbs-up to the omelets at Anita's Cafe in
She ate breakfast there three days in a row this week, but the staff didn't
realize they were serving the star of TV's "Remington Steele" and film and
stage productions until I introduced her to owner Jeff Conlin.
She keeps a low profile and wore a Minnesota Vikings cap Thursday (former
Vikings owner Red McCombs is a friend).
She also loved our bronze Peanuts characters in Landmark Plaza because the
late cartoonist Charles Schulz, who grew up in St. Paul, was an old golfing
buddy of hers. He drew an original Snoopy cartoon for her, which she keeps
on the refrigerator.
Zimbalist has many friends here, so she will have many chances to sample
other St. Paul treasures before the play ends its run Oct. 1. High on her
list: the St. Paul Gangster Tour.
9/20/06 from twincities.com
THEATER: TEA AT FIVE
Through Oct. 1: In the first act, we meet Katharine Hepburn at home in Old
Saybrook, Conn. It's 1938, and the freshly minted Oscar winner and promising
Broadway performer who has paradoxically been labeled "box office poison"
mulls her future. The second act takes place almost a half-century later, in
1983, when the now-legendary star looks back on the triumphs of her career
and her heartbreaking romance with Spencer Tracy. Stephanie Zimbalist plays
Hepburn in this loving look at one of America's great leading ladies.
McKnight Theatre, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St.
St. Paul; $45-$40; 651-224-4222. — Dominic P. Papatola
9/19/06 From .lse.co.uk
LIFE STYLE EXTRA (UK) - Former Bond star Pierce Brosnan is planning to
watch his replacement Daniel Craig in new 007 movie 'Casino Royale'.
The 53-year-old actor played the suave spy in four movies, including 'Goldeneye'
and 'Die Another Day', before being axed by bosses for allegedly demanding
too much money to reprise the role for a fifth time.
Brosnan was initially fuming after being told he would not be donning the
secret agent's famous tuxedo again, and let rip with a foul-mouthed tirade
against the producers, branding them "f***ers".
However, it seems the handsome star has got over his disappointment and
insists he will be going to the cinema to watch Craig in the new movie along
with the millions of other Bond fans all over the world.
The 'Matador' star said: "I'm looking forward to it like we're all looking
forward to it. Daniel Craig is going to do a fantastic job."
Since he was named as Brosnan's successor, Craig has come under fire from
some Bond fans who claim he is unsuitable for the role.
However, the producers seem pleased with their choice and have already
signed up the 38-year-old actor for a second movie, on which shooting is due
to start next year.
Brosnan and other celebrities campaigned and protested Friday
against plans to build a liquefied natural gas terminal off the
coast of Malibu. The $800 million dollar Cabrillo Port liquefied
natural gas plant will be located 14 miles off the coast of
Malibu. The facility is being shopped around by Australian-based
BHP Billiton, one of the world's largest energy companies.
TMZ cameras rolled as the stars came out in support
of the protest and Brosnan. Pierce says "This LNG project poses
significant and potentially irreversible negative impacts to our
coast, our environment and to the health and safety of our
families," adding the terminal fails to meet clean air
A post on Brosnan's web site urging Malibu residents to join in
the fight is signed by such A-listers as Tom Hanks, Charlize
Theron, Darryl Hannah, Cindy Crawford, Olivia Newton John, Jamie
Lee Curtis, Cher and Barbra Streisand.
TMZ spoke to a rep at BHP Billiton who said "If you are against
fossil fuels, you won't like our project. I can't argue with
that. But LNG is a better fossil fuel. Natural gas is the
cleanest, and until all of us can drive our cars and power our
homes with wind, solar, hydro or other renewables -- for the
millions of people in Los Angeles and California, Cabrillo Port
is a cleaner, safer solution."
9/15/06 from news.ninemsn.com.au
Aussie actor cast with Pierce Brosnan
Friday Sep 15 10:13 AEST
Australian actor David Wenham has been cast in a support role alongside
Pierce Brosnan and Rachel McAdams in an upcoming Hollywood flick called
Brosnan has described Wenham as a "good lad".
"He is a good lad, we had a nice time together," Brosnan told AAP at the
Toronto International Film Festival, where his film, Seraphim Falls, is
"He has a good sense of humour."
Marriage is being directed by Ira Sachs and was adapted for the big screen
from the book of the same name by John Bingham.
The film also stars Chris Cooper and Patricia Clarkson and tells the story
of a cheating husband who plots his wife's murder instead of putting her
through the humiliation of a divorce.
"Marriage is kind of a film noir, Hitchkocky love story set in Seattle in
1949," explained Brosnan.
"I play a bachelor and rogue who shags everything that comes his way. So it
is a good one."
Wenham recently wrapped production on 300, starring opposite British actor
Meanwhile, Brosnan's Seraphim Falls will be released in Australia early next
The US western also stars Liam Neeson and is set in the 1860s, at the end of
the Civil War, and follows an army colonel's attempts to hunt down a man
with whom he has a grudge.
For Brosnan, the role was different from anything the former James Bond star
had ever done.
"I am mixing it up you know," he said. "I have done Mr Smooth acting most of
my life and gotten away with it to one degree or less so now is a time to
get down and get dirty, change it, shake it up.
"You want to live as many lives as you possibly can and certainly acting
allows one to do that.
Brosnan has several films slated for production over the coming year and
said he would be very keen to work in Australia, although the right project
had not yet come along.
"I was speaking to (director) Bruce Beresford the other day, he's got a
project going down there and I had just done this period piece and his piece
was a bit like this piece so it just didn't work out.
"But I will get down there."
9/14/06 from theglobeandmail.com
Pierce Brosnan answers
Globe and Mail Update
James Rendle from Britain asks, What do you think of the new James Bond,
Daniel Craig, and will you be watching Casino Royale?
I asked Mr. Brosnan the question Wednesday morning while attending a press
conference for his new film Seraphim Falls, a western that takes place at
the tail end of the Civil War.
The question raised groans from the gathered press and photographers. "And
it was all going so well..." Mr. Brosnan said, seemingly to himself, and the
room erupted in laughter. After the everyone quieted down, Mr. Brosnan gave
a brief answer.
"I'm looking forward to it like we're all looking forward to it. Daniel
Craig is a great actor and he's going to do a fantastic job.
Related to this article
Pierce Brosnan smiles at a press conference for Seraphim Falls during the
Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto Wednesday. (Aaron Harris/CP)
The next journalist began his question, "This isn't about that [Bond]..."
9/14/06 From mi6.co.uk
Pierce Brosnan had a tough time filming latest movie
Pierce Brosnan's days of dodging bullets as Agent 007 were an apparent
cakewalk compared to the "treacherous" conditions he and actor Liam Neeson
faced on the set of their new film, "Seraphim Falls."
"It was pretty brutal, actually," the former James Bond star said at a news
conference at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the western
epic is debuting. "It was terrifying," said Neeson.
"Seraphim Falls," the feature directorial debut from David Von Ancken, is a
Western saga set in the 1860s, five years after the end of the U.S. Civil
War - reports Canada.com
Neeson plays a southern colonel who vows revenge on a northerner and former
Union Army captain (Brosnan), whom he blames for a major act of atrocity at
the tail end of the war. The film also stars Angie Harmon and Angelica
Filming took place over 48 days last year in Oregon, Colorado and New
Mexico, and although Neeson and Brosnan - both from Ireland - felt it was a
dream come true to be in a western, they suffered from the rigorous terrain
of Santa Fe.
"It was thirsty work, that's for sure," said Brosnan of filming with mounds
of heavy western attire in the desert last fall.
Their solution? "A good night in the bar at the end of a long day," said
Then there was the chase, which was central to the movie.
Brosnan's character had to run on foot for most of the pursuit in the Santa
Fe mountains, where the altitude "kind of took the stuffing out of you a bit
the first two weeks," he said.
The on-set conditions in Oregon in January of this year were equally
There, Brosnan, fastened on a tether, had to jump off a waterfall taller
than Niagara Falls into a river in temperatures as cold as -36 C - something
even the Navy Seals who were in the area wouldn't do, said Von Ancken.
"The ... people we had with us to protect everybody said the life expectancy
in the river was four minutes without a dry suit on," said the director, who
also co-wrote the script.
"And so Pierce had his modified dry suit on but he ... exposed (his) hands,
Neeson didn't have it so bad.
"Pierce ... he had to get in the water quite a few times and be naked and
stuff," said Neeson, whose film credits include "Schindler's List" and
"I always had my bear skin coat on. He had it rougher than I did."
Brosnan said it was a "fearsome" time but it made acting easy and provided
another opportunity to shake his Bond affiliation.
"I suppose I'd kind of painted myself into a corner there with suave and
debonair," he said.
"And it's time to get out there and do a bit of acting. Look for a bit of
9/15/06 from allheadlinenews.com
Pierce Brosnan Must Pass Audition To Appear In His Son's Film
September 15, 2006 11:00 a.m. EST
Nidhi Sharma - All Headline News Staff Writer
Los Angeles, CA (AHN) - Despite being a seasoned actor ex James Bond- Pierce
Brosnan will have to face the audition process if he ever wants to be a part
of one of his son's projects.
Chris Brosnan, who appeared on "Love Island" recently, plans to direct a
self written feature film next summer.
However, Chris told his legendary dad that he wouldn't automatically be
guaranteed a role in the flick, entitled "Sixteen Thieves," unless he proves
that he's best suited for one of the characters.
"I might cast him in my movie if he's lucky. He'd need to audition like
everyone else though," the Sun quoted him, as saying at the UK premiere of
Talladega Nights this week.
The call for the screen test does not mean that the newbie director doubts
his father's acting potentials, as he admits he does go to him for film
"We talk a lot. He's a man who's been in the business a long time. Whenever
I need to ask him anything he's a great person to go to," said Chris.
Pierce, who too has faith in his son, was seen glued to the ITV reality show
his boy appeared on recently.
"He loved it!" said the younger Brosnan.
9/6/06 from mi6.co.uk
Pierce Brosnan`s delight at IFTA lifetime honour
Irish actor Pierce Brosnan today revealed he was deeply honoured to be given
a lifetime membership of the Irish Film and Television Academy.
Drogheda-born Brosnan starred in four James Bond films as 007 and appeared
in many other movies including The Matador, The Tailor of Panama and The
Thomas Crown Affair - reports the Irish Examiner.
“I am honoured beyond words to be part of the Irish Film and Television
Academy, especially to be among the names of so many I greatly admire in the
world of film and storytelling," Brosnan said.
"I can only hope that this will lead to the inspiration of future artistic
generations to go forth within their time and place in history, fearless
The actor, who also runs his own production company, Irish DreamTime, has
just finished working on Seraphim Falls with Liam Neeson, which will
premiere at the Toronto Film Festival later this month.
Brosnan was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Irish Cinema
award in 2004 at the Irish Awards Ceremony.
The deadline for joining the Academy has been extended until Friday,
September 22 next. Industry professionals who join the academy will be given
voting rights for the annual awards, which will take place next February.
Academy chief executive Aine Moriarty said: “There has been a superb
response from the industry across all sectors, with some chapters getting a
stronger response than others.
“We are almost at capacity on certain chapters such as the producers
chapter, the directing and acting chapters, but we are eager to ensure that
the chapters which represent crews and production staff across the industry
are also properly represented.
"I want to reiterate that the Academy is open to all sectors of the
9/5/06 from nytimes.com
Saving Helpless Hostages but Not Their Own Affair
On “Bones” the sexual tension between the crime solvers is unconsummated
and unspoken. Now Fox is experimenting with postcoital tension: the F.B.I.
partners on “Standoff” have already slept together but really should stop to
continue working together as hostage negotiators.
“I’m wondering if the last time we had sex is going to be the last time we
had sex,” Matt Flannery (Ron Livingston) says to Emily Lehman (Rosemarie
DeWitt) after their secret is exposed.
Hostages had better hope that mystery doesn’t distract him from his day job.
In the past, plenty of successful crime shows have relied on the love-hate
chemistry of the leads. “Moonlighting,” with Cybill Shepherd and Bruce
Willis was one. Another was “Remington Steele,” with Pierce Brosnan and
Stephanie Zimbalist. Couples who keep their relationships lighthearted have
also held their own, from the “Thin Man” movies to Stefanie Powers and
Robert Wagner on “Hart to Hart,” or Rock Hudson and Susan St. James on
“McMillan and Wife.” Stifled operating room romances are the lifeblood of
medical shows, from “ER” to “Grey’s Anatomy,” and even, up to a misanthropic
point, on “House,” another Fox show that has its season premiere tonight.
And while “Standoff,” is not exactly a playful romp, it tries not to take
itself too seriously. It serves almost as a comic version of “The Nine,”
ABC’s new drama about nine people taken hostage in a bank.
The negotiators’ passion for nonviolent resolution is scoffed at by Frank
Rogers (Michael Cudlitz), the tough-as-nails leader of the F.B.I.’s
hostage-rescue team, who prefers sniper resolution. And it is hard not to
side with Frank in most of these crises. When Emily demands to know why he
wants to shoot a demented television star who is holding his two sons
hostage at gunpoint in his S.U.V., Frank replies, “Have you seen him act?”
Even the funky 70’s music — whackita-whackita — that swells at tense moments
harks back to the days of “S.W.A.T.” and “T. J. Hooker.”
But chemistry is supposed to be the binding element of “Standoff,” and the
two leads, while appealing in their own right, seem neither well matched nor
sufficiently mismatched. Mr. Livingston, who played one of Carrie Bradshaw’s
lovers in “Sex and the City,” has a boyish smirk that he cannot quite
suppress even in life-and-death situations. (When the television actor
whines on about his problems over the cellphone, Matt rolls his eyes.)
When Ms. DeWitt is onscreen, she seems to be acting in a different show: a
tense psychological thriller or a production of “Medea.” This actress, who
has an elegant nose that seems to have been spared the plastic surgeon’s
knife, is an arresting beauty, but more by foreign-film standards than
prime-time television’s. In love scenes the two look as if they were
reaching out for their real mates, accidentally stumbled and wound up in the
If there is any chemistry at all, it is between the F.B.I. negotiators and
the deranged hostage takers they must verbally seduce to disarm. Off the job
the real romance is elsewhere: if there is a spark, it is most easily
detected in the enmity between Emily and Frank, who makes fun of her to her
face but has hidden admiration for her skill. In one scene, while observing
her through his rifle scope, he nods appreciatively at the way she talks
down the crazed son of a congressman.
One problem with choosing hostage takers as a dramatic pivot is that they
are all by definition disturbed, so from episode to episode, variety is
mostly found in the hostage takers’ choice of location, and those tend to be
fairly predictable: banks, schools and coffee shops. And maybe post offices.
But it is nice to know that even men who are trained in the art of
communication have trouble expressing their feelings when girlfriends are
involved. In the premiere Emily is understandably enraged when Matt, in the
course of trying to connect with a disturbed hostage taker, reveals their
clandestine affair to everyone listening, including their boss.
The next day she confronts him. “You can share your deepest hopes and fears
with a heavily armed psychopath for hours on end, “ she says, complaining
angrily that he nevertheless won’t open up to her.
He has a better idea. “Let’s talk about this later,” he says.
Fox, tonight at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time.
Craig Silverstein, creator and executive producer; The Angel, composer.
8/22/06 from jaunted.com
Chasing Vancouver: Pierce Brosnan Has a Hot Assistant
We have exciting same-day news: today Good Luck Chuck will be filming at the
Coal Harbour Community Center today, so those who want to head over have a
good shot at a Dane Cook or Jessica Alba sighting. Bring your cameras, but
remember, don't make her mad! She bites.
Once again, the movie and celebrity action is concentrated in the West End,
which we are sure is a lovely place, but c'mon, Vancouverites - let us know
about other awesome neighborhoods in your fair city! David Duchovny arrived
early in Vancouver to check out the scene before he starts work on Things We
Lost in the Fire, while Pierce Brosnan just keeps on charming the locals.
He's even doing the men of Vancouver a favor by introducing his reportedly
comely assistant to all and sundry. Thanks, Pierce! Remember to zoom in on
the map - with so much happening in one neighborhood, it's easy to miss a
PIERCE BROSNAN MOVIE!
Title: The Matador
Release date: 1/06 Top 20, 1/20 National
Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall, Adam Scott & Dylan
In writer/director Richard Shepard's dark comedy THE MATADOR, Julian Noble
(Pierce Brosnan) is a hit man who's very good at what he does, but is losing his
taste for the business. Danny is a salesman whose marriage and finances are in
trouble. One night, at the hotel bar, these two men meet. Before long, they find
themselves having an
extremely unique Mexico City experience, one that will change them both forever.
Julian the hit man, Danny the ordinary American businessman find that while they
have nothing in common, they both need each other in ways they never knew they
Last winter, Pierce Brosnan and a group of fellow nature
lovers took to the choppy waters off the coast of
Mexico's Baja California in inflatable boats for a
close-up look at some gray whales whose birthing grounds
they were trying to preserve.
As the observers approached, the whales circled
around, churning the water and spouting spray from their
blowholes. "Most of the people looked a little pale and
windblown," recalls environmentalist Ruben Aronin, a
participant. "Then, as I glanced around, I realized that
every one of us was covered with whale snot—everyone but
Pierce. Not a hair was out of place. He just looked
dashing, as always."
Cue the 007 theme music. It's Brosnan,
Pierce Brosnan, acting very much like his alter ego,
James Bond. Whether he's saving the world from evil in
the movies or battling rocky seas in the environmental
movement, Brosnan "has all the sensibilities of his
character," says Bond coproducer Barbara Broccoli. "He
also has the rugged good looks and the charm. He's
Good deeds. Good looks. Charm. Manliness. Those
happen to be the qualifications for this year's Sexiest
Man Alive. Now is not the time for dangerous bad boys
whom we wouldn't dare bring home to meet Mother. We're
looking for a real man with confidence, compassion and a
firm belief in commitment. Brosnan has all that -- and
then some. Just listen to his costars: "He's genuine,
he's gorgeous, and he's also funny -- like Cary Grant,"
says The Thomas Crown Affair's Rene Russo.
"There's a lot of arrogance in show business, and Pierce
seems to have none of that. He's a gentle, warm,
compassionate guy," attests The Tailor of Panama's
Jamie Lee Curtis.
Barbra Streisand, from The Mirror Has Two Faces,
says, "What's most compelling is the depth of his
commitment to so many causes." And his neighbor Linda
Hamilton, who appeared with him in Dante's Peak,
adds, "I've seen him in line for cappuccino looking
absolutely beautiful. He's a real leading man."
Brosnan's Movie Star Face owes nothing to
Hollywood's fountain of youth. While he admits to having
had his teeth fixed, he says, "I have not had any
plastic surgery in any shape or form. No implants. And
my hair is not dyed." Now 48, he'll begin work on his
fourth 007 film in January. "I'd like to keep doing Bond
as long as I can be plausible in the role physically,"
The part offers plenty of fringe benefits. "It's
pretty wild playing Bond," Brosnan admits. "Bedding and
kissing some of the most beautiful women onscreen. I get
to play it out, so I have no need to do it offscreen."
Proving his point, on Aug. 4 he took as his bride
longtime love and the mother of his two youngest sons,
Keely Shaye Smith, 38. "I found a great woman in Keely
Shaye," he says. "Not if I searched a million times over
would I find one as good." Keely returns the compliment.
"He's intelligent, captivating and his real beauty
emanates from the soul," she enthuses. "And, like a fine
wine, he's aging beautifully."
Fittingly, their lavish wedding reception in Ireland on
the grounds of 13th-century Ashford Castle could have
doubled as a movie set. "It felt so storybook," reports
the couple's friend, photographer Nancy Ellison, one of
120 guests flown in from London and L.A. "From her, he
got this huge ice sculpture of Rodin's The Kiss. For
Keely, he produced an incredible fireworks display. It
blew us all away."
The couple's home life in their $7 million-range Malibu
ranch house overlooking the Pacific is equally idyllic.
There, Brosnan and Keely bike, beachcomb and share
child-care duties for Dylan Thomas, 4, and 9-month-old
Paris Beckett. "Pierce changes diapers and loves
connecting with the baby," says Keely's best friend,
jewelry designer Cynthia Wolff. "He's very involved with
his kids. And that makes a man that much more a man."
There's a reason family comes first for Brosnan. His own
father, Tom Brosnan, a carpenter who died in 1988,
walked out when Pierce was 2. "Having not known my dad,
having met him only once," he says, "I suppose that's
why I enjoy family life so much and being the father I
These below are mostly
from TIME or PEOPLE
December 15, 1997
SHAKEN AND STIRRED UP OVER ENDORSEMENTS
ANITA M. BUSCH/LOS ANGELES
Robin Williams wouldn't do it for McDonald's. KEVIN COSTNER wouldn't do it for
Ralston Purina. But PIERCE BROSNAN has to do it for BMW, Visa, Smirnoff,
Heineken, Omega watches, L'Oreal cosmetics and Ericcson cellular phones. The
"it" is shilling for products with promotional tie-ins to the new
James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, which MGM/UA will release Dec. 19. The
current 007, wanting more control over his image, is likely to renegotiate a
tougher deal with the studio for the next Bond installment. Most A-list actors
refuse to do commercials for product tie-ins, but when Brosnan signed on as Bond
three years ago, he didn't have the clout to make such demands. According to his
spokesman, Dick Guttman, "[Brosnan] has a classical actor's training from
London, and there's not a class in endorsements or implied endorsements."
Perhaps there ought to be, or maybe Brosnan should take some lessons from his
February 17, 1997
DANTE'S PEAK IS PURE FORMULA, AS IT SHOULD BE
The obsessed scientist whose instincts for catastrophe are more finely tuned
than any predictive instrument; his bureaucratic superiors whose waffling makes
a bad situation worse; businessmen determined to stifle talk about threats to
life, limb and, above all, property for fear of the impact on their interests; a
woman, scared but spunky and available for romance when she is not dodging
falling objects; and, if possible, an adorable dog to be lost in whatever chaos
the movie is trafficking in, then found and daringly rescued to the cheers of an
audience that has stoically watched hundreds of anonymous human extras perish.
Disaster movies are our millennial No plays, totally stylized, totally
predictable, but comforting in their familiarity. Whether the threat to domestic
tranquillity is a ferocious shark, invading spacemen or a rogue volcano (as in
Dante's Peak), it reassures us that nice people, if they are smart, brave and
quick on their feet, will somehow survive.
Writer Leslie Bohem and director Roger Donaldson brush briskly through the
standard scientific and romantic blather. They know that in movies like this,
complexity is the province of the special-effects people. It's the same with the
actors. Cool Pierce Brosnan and warm Linda Hamilton understand that their job is
mainly to provide human scale for the lava flows and firestorms, the lake that
turns to acid (the better to eat their boat) and the blizzard of volcanic ash
that eventually buries a small town. We want to feel for them. But not too much.
We want our doomsdays to be thrilling. But not scarily final. Or fatal to
November 27, 1995
SHAKY, NOT STIRRING
IN GOLDENEYE, Q'S STILL AROUND AND SO ARE THE VILLAINS, BUT MI5 HAS A FEMALE
M, AND 007 LOOKS A LOT LIKE A BOND-OSAURUS
JAMES BOND MOVIES ARE AS STYLIZED as a Noh play--or should one say a Dr. No
play?--and the 17th film in the series raises only one question. How well do
Bond's established conventions survive after a third of a century's hard use,
the post-cold war deglamourization of espionage and the arrival of yet another
actor in the central role? The short answer is, on wobbly knees. But herewith
some further reflections--007 of them--on a Goldeneye:
001 The Character Issue: Pierce Brosnan is not as gravely witty as Sean
Connery, not as insouciant as Roger Moore and not a pompous twit like Timothy
Dalton. He's a mid-range James Bond, on whom a certain self-consciousness has
been imposed. He continues to register emotions mainly by arching or furrowing
an eyebrow. But in the age of sexual correctness they have cut back his double
entendres, and people keep telling him he lacks the capacity for mature
relationships with women. Worse, he seems to believe them. What next?
Sensitivity training? A condom in his wallet? Teetotaling, with perhaps a demand
that his Perrier be served in a bottle, not a can?
002 The Supervillain: He may, as usual, have a superweapon trained on a
Western capital, but Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), a freelance mastermind
operating in today's chaotic Russia, has a dreary back story explaining how he
went wrong instead of truly evil elan. Big mistake: we don't want motivation in
a Bond nemesis; we want psychosis on a joyous, cosmic scale. Gert Frobe, you are
003 The Supervixen: She's got the right sort of name--Xenia Onatopp (get
it?)--the right sort of attitude--sado-masochistic--and the right sort of
wardrobe--parodically sexy--but Famke Janssen is more aggressive than seductive.
You know too soon where she's coming from--out of an abnormal psychology text.
004 The Henchman (or -woman): Oddjob, Jaws, Rosa Klebb--this is a job for
grotesques. Gottfried John as a rogue Russian general looks weird all right, but
he has no unique killing skills--just a sneer and a routinely itchy trigger
finger. Richard Kiel, you are missed.
005 Vehicular Manslaughter: The usual planes, trains, automobiles crash and
burn with noisy, deadening regularity, sending many a nameless extra to his
unmourned, uninvolving and unimaginative doom.
006 M: Big switch--a sex change, no less--here. Judi Dench, the distinguished
English stage actress, is now running Bond. She has a butch hairdo, a brusque
Thatcherite manner and a license to kill with unkindness. She calls Bond a
"sexist, misogynistic dinosaur" right to his face. There's a chic in
her cheek the rest of the movie direly misses.
007 Q: He's still being played by Desmond Llewelyn as a cranky English
eccentric, still making fountain pens that explode and wristwatches that do more
than tell time. He's the last link to the boyish silliness that once animated
this series. One wishes him good health and long life, for if, as the closing
credits threaten, "James Bond Will Return," they--and we--are going to
August 18, 1986
SARA C. MEDINA
"The name is Bond, James Bond." Those clipped words have identified
the legendary hero of 15 films, beginning with Sean Connery in 1963's Dr. No.
Connery played the suave Agent 007 seven times, as did Roger Moore; George
Lazenby played him once. For Bond's next appearance, in The Living Daylights,
which begins filming in London next month, Producer Albert Broccoli had selected
the debonair, Irish-born Pierce Brosnan, star of TV's Remington Steele, after
the NBC series was canceled. When Steele was renewed two months later, however,
Brosnan had to bow out. So Welshman Timothy Dalton, 38, who has played
Shakespeare as well as gracing such sudsy TV mini-series as Mistral's Daughter
and Sins, got the part. "Connery and Moore are tough acts to follow,"
says Dalton, practicing Bond's good manners. Is playing 007 a comedown for
someone who has been Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and Petruchio in The Taming
of the Shrew? Not at all, says Dalton. "Bond is one of the few major roles
for British actors."
September 14, 1987
How Does Broadway Play in Peoria?
For pizazz, many road shows match the originals -- or outdo them
WILLIAM A. HENRY III
The 37 theaters that constitute Broadway occupy a few acres in midtown
Manhattan. But to much of America, a Broadway show is something to be seen
hundreds, even thousands of miles from Times Square -- in Atlanta or Dallas,
Phoenix or Detroit or any other of the dozens of cities that make up what
suitcase-toting actors wearily call "the road." Like the Shakespearean
troupe in Kiss Me, Kate who "open in Venice" and schlepp their show
from town to town, ensembles representing recent Broadway hits take to the
byways every year. This summer at least a dozen tours have offered purportedly
the same entertainments as those on the Great White Way. But are they really?
The idea that what you see in Peoria might be every bit as good as Broadway
makes many New York theater professionals scoff. In the not too distant past
there was ample basis for derision. On this summer's evidence, however, the
doubters may be narrow-minded and wrong.
Producers put shows out on the road for three basic reasons: to prepare for
Broadway; to capitalize on a Broadway success already attained; and
occasionally, when a show's concept and stars are more marketable than its
actual merits, to bypass Broadway's fierce competition and legion of reviewers.
Steep staging costs have made offerings in the first category, known as tryouts,
a vanishing breed. Nowadays pre-Broadway tryouts are usually limited to one
city, unless a show has a big-name cast or is a revival of a fondly remembered
musical, like the current tours of Cabaret and West Side Story. Sometimes what
is labeled a tryout turns into a bypass of Broadway, as happened with a just
closed revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, starring
Mickey Rooney, and with the Carol Channing-Mary Martin vehicle Legends!, which
ran a year to box-office triumph but abysmal reviews, then closed in January
after its stars said they had no desire to bring it to the Main Stem.
The essence of the road show, however, is a touring version of a work that is
already firmly established on Broadway or that recently closed. Almost all tours
are of musicals, although the comedies I'm Not Rappaport and Social Security
played across the nation into the summer. For audiences, the crucial but often
unresearchable question is how a touring version measures up to its Broadway
forerunner. Based on a sampling of half a dozen offerings, including two
versions of Cats, the verdict is mostly favorable. Sets may be simpler, lighting
more rudimentary, and the miked-up sound systems uniformly lousy. The more a
show was shaped to fit a particular space and circumstances, the clumsier it
looks shoehorned -- or stretched -- into a new configuration each week. But when
it comes to performance pizazz, even second-string unknowns compete effectively
with first-run counterparts -- and sometimes outdo them.
The best of the shows now on tour is also the best in its Broadway
incarnation: Big River combines Mark Twain's exuberant celebration of the open
road with Composer-Lyricist Roger Miller's wistful echo of frontier freedom. The
book derives from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The score mixes bluegrass,
gospel, Tin Pan Alley and a twangy tang of Nashville. Like the novel, the show
comes alive when Huck and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, get out onto the
Mississippi. The moment when they break into an up-tempo hymn to that Muddy
Water -- and a backdrop lifts to reveal the signature image, a painting of a
plank walk that merges into a river twisting away beyond the horizon -- remains
thrilling on even an umpteenth viewing. As Jim, Michael Edward-Stevens has as
glorious a voice and as hard-won a self-awareness as any of his three
predecessors in the role. Romain Fruge looks a bit old to play a boy of Huck's
pubescent innocence, and some of his acting is a bit cute, but no one else has
been as good in delivering Huck's introspective songs of self- definition, I,
Huckleberry, Me and Waitin' for the Light to Shine. Among the supporting
players, Walker Joyce as a scalawag con man malevolently outperforms his
antecedents. Even more impressive than these performances, however, is the
production's fidelity, as unflinching and unsettling as the Broadway original's,
to Twain's harrowing evocation of slavery, ignorance and lawlessness in the
often idealized frontier times.
In My One and Only the chief pleasures are precisely the same as those that
won Tony awards in 1983: Tommy Tune as the aviator who gives up everything for
his girl and Charles ("Honi") Coles, 76, as the sage elder who teaches
him to pitch woo, crack wise and tap-dance. As the love interest originally
played by Twiggy, however, Stephanie Zimbalist (of TV's Remington Steele) sings
indifferently, dances with studied intentness rather than carefree abandon and
employs an English accent that leapfrogs from Brighton to Kansas.
Pop Singer Melissa Manchester has less trouble with the accent and none with
the melodies in Song & Dance. Her Merman-size voice enhances rather than
flattens the tricky satiric lyrics. But her portrayal of a young English hat
designer on the make in Manhattan suffers badly by comparison with Bernadette
Peters' fetching portrayal on Broadway. Manchester, 36, looks too worldly to be
as dippy-innocent as the first scenes require. The part calls for her to be
onstage solo for the first half of the show but to create the illusion that
other people are there with her -- a trick for which Manchester, in her stage-
acting debut, lacks the technique. She appears only briefly during the second
act's wordless choreography. Anyone who saw the Broadway opening might be taken
aback by the considerably coarser final 20 minutes, in which the cast ! puts on
a vulgarized dancing display while shouting out amateurish greetings like
"Hello, Atlanta!" Although the producers insist the differences in
staging are small, what was a brief sentimental encounter between the separated
lovers now feels bathetic.
With 42nd Street the failing is plainer. Except for David Brummel as the
veteran musical-comedy director and Linda Griffin as the snappy chorine Anytime
Annie, nobody in the company can act. The book has always been silly and
illogical, and requires high style to bring off its camp excesses. Most at sea
is Gina Trano as the kid from the chorus who replaces the injured star. Although
she manages a lovely awakening into competence during the course of the
musical-within-a-musical, there is nothing special about her in the earlier
scenes to justify everyone's much voiced confidence in her talent.
The most popular Broadway show on the road is Cats, which through its three
companies has been accounting for about half of current touring-troupe revenues.
The two productions viewed deliver at least the raucous pleasures of the
original. The version that has been playing in Washington since July has more
elaborate lighting and staging effects than one of those that are moving from
city to city every week or two, but the differences are minor. The celebrated
catlike movements look more Vegas-like now. In both casts, only the dancers
playing the secondary role of Alonzo (Ken Nagy in Washington, Stephen Moore
touring) achieve the cool detachment of another species. The singing, although
always vibrant, is uneven. In the peripatetic cast Andy Spangler glows as the
Elvis-like Rum Tum Tugger and Leslie Ellis is haunting as Grizabella, the faded
glamour cat, but in the Washington troupe the performers in those roles, Douglas
Graham and Janene Lovullo, do not measure up.
One gutsy production radically improves on its Broadway model: the 1966 and
1986 hit Sweet Charity, dazzlingly restaged for a North American tour by its
original creator and re-creator, Bob Fosse. From the first appearance in
silhouette of the title character, a taxi dancer who in the face of all
experience remains a fool for love, to the ironically identical finale, this
version zips along with style, assurance and the ingredient it lacked in its
1986 Broadway reprise, real heart. Whereas Debbie Allen seemed too tough, too
much a survivor to elicit audience sympathy when she played Charity on Broadway,
the road show's Donna McKechnie -- the original Cassie in A Chorus & Line --
manages to be forever vulnerable without seeming stupid. As the buttoned-down
businessman who takes up with her, says he can forgive her slightly checkered
past and then finds he cannot, Ken Land is more likable and believable than his
Broadway counterpart. As a result, what is virtually an identical show plays
louder, faster and funnier -- to cite Centenarian Director George Abbott's
hallowed instructions to performers -- and also seems more true. It is as bubbly
and brisk and bittersweet as Broadway, at home or on the road, is always
supposed to be.
September 16, 1985
Coming Up From Nowhere
With class, smarts and luck, NBC has become the Cinderella network of '85
The lead-off batter is Brandon Tartikoff, a sharp-fielding spray hitter in his
sixth season as president of NBC Entertainment and third baseman on the company
softball team. As Tartikoff steps to the plate against the Warner Bros. squad, a
giant radio in the bleachers begins to blast out the driving theme song from
Miami Vice. Inspired, Tartikoff slaps a double, leading NBC to a four-run
inning. The team's "music manager" puckishly announces that all who
have not hit safely must henceforth bat to the somewhat less blood- quickening
theme from Punky Brewster.
At their weekend softball games in Burbank, Calif., as in their offices
nearby, Tartikoff and his NBC crew radiate the highly competitive, slightly
giddy elan of a Cinderella team, up from nowhere to challenge the league leader.
They have every reason to feel peacocky. After running dead last in ) prime-time
audience ratings for nine years, NBC since September '84 has scrambled to within
a tenth of a rating point of the dominant network, CBS, in that arcane but
widely accepted Nielsen yardstick of "television homes." For those who
count heads rather than houses, NBC leads in the number of viewers: 24.9 million
to CBS's 23.2 million and ABC's 22.3 million, according to Nielsen. NBC also
delivers more of Madison Avenue's prized target audience, the 18-49 age group;
here ABC is second and CBS last. Says Joel Segal, executive vice president for
broadcasting at Ted Bates Advertising: "By the standards of practically any
advertiser NBC is No. 1."
The networks make money by selling viewers, in bulk and by demographics, to
advertisers; NBC has done this so successfully that, since Grant Tinker was
named chairman of the network in 1981, an estimated $5 million of red ink has
been alchemized into a projected $200 million profit for 1985. But what has NBC
sold viewers on? Mostly a feast of slick weekly series in three broad
categories: the traditional situation comedy, led by last season's phenom The
Cosby Show (2nd in the yearlong Nielsen ratings to CBS's Dallas) and including
Family Ties (3rd), Cheers (9th), Night Court (19th) and The Facts of Life
(24th); a quartet of red-meat adventure shows, from The A-Team (6th) and Riptide
(12th) to Miami Vice (33rd, with a bullet); and three Emmy-laden hours from
Tinker's old production company, MTM Enterprises. Hill Street Blues (31st), St.
Elsewhere (52nd) and Remington Steele (21st) may not woo the Nielsen families,
but they wow the yup-scale viewers every advertiser covets. They have helped
establish NBC's reputation as a Bloomingdale's among networks, the class act of
This summer the former doormat network found itself in a record hot streak:
14 consecutive weeks as No. 1. But Tinker cautions, "That's not to be
confused with winning in the fall, when the new season starts, but it's a lot
better to win 14 than to lose 14. It suggests that nothing has come off our
fastball lately. To fall back in the new season, we'd have to have another of
our historic collapses. And I just don't see it." If momentum means as much
to a network's success as it does to a baseball team's, then NBC is wellfixed
for the prime-time pennant race. This summer viewers got steamed up over Miami
Vice, which found a regular perch among the top ten shows. Moviegoers made a
bimedia star of Family Ties' Michael J. Fox, whose Back to the Future and Teen
Wolf were the biggest box-office winners of the past two weeks. Fox could be the
first teen throb since John Travolta to commute between a sitcom and movie
stardom. Just another lightning stroke of NBC luck.
To add muscle and luster to the new season's prime-time competition, which
promises to be the tightest in years, NBC has lured the executive producer of
Back to the Future, Steven Spielberg, to mastermind a suspense anthology series
called Amazing Stories. With Hollywood's alltime hitmaker anchoring the Sunday
night lineup, and with a flock of summer comers, Tinker figures that "this
fall may be the time when NBC blows right by everybody." Tartikoff seems
energized by the thrill of the chase. "In the past," he says,
"every time a show bit the dust, you figured you'd be joining it. This kind
of pressure is easier."
One pressure valve is self-mocking humor, long an NBC staple. On his Late
Night hour, David Letterman has provoked "feuds" with NBC stars Mr. T
and Today's Bryant Gumbel. Among Letterman's supporting comedy cast is a silver-
haired gent who purports to be one "Grant Tinker"; he recently
celebrated NBC's No. 1 status by offering lunch money to habitues of the network
commissary. The real Brandon Tartikoff, who has been host on Saturday Night
Live, will play himself next week on a comedy special called Bob Hope Buys
NBC?--a needling joke in itself, since NBC was the only network that did not
have to concern itself with a serious takeover threat in 1985. Tartikoff can
even joke about the "downside" of the Miami Vice whirlwind: "It
has encouraged a lot of middle-aged men with potbellies to start wearing pastel
Armani jackets over T shirts, and for that I'm eternally sorry."
As recently as 1981, only outsiders (and Johnny Carson) were cracking jokes
about NBC. An air of frantic desperation hung over the place as then Chairman
Fred Silverman threw onto his schedule, and then pulled off, one expensive flop
after another. To the savviest TV producers, "it was as if NBC didn't
exist," recalls Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties). "We didn't go there
with an idea, because we knew it would be crucified." Silverman, who had
earned a reputation as a programming wunderkind at CBS and then ABC earlier in
the '70s, was also scalded by the boycott of the Moscow Olympics, which left him
with $34 million worth of dead summer air. Moreover, there was turmoil at the
top of NBC's parent corporation, RCA: three presidents and four chairmen within
a decade. It was not until the fifth chairman, Thornton Bradshaw, hired Tinker
to run NBC in July 1981 that hope and trust were restored to the network. Says
Steven Bochco, whose Hill Street Blues had been spawned by Silverman and
produced by Tinker: "The day Grant went to NBC, the industry's attitude
toward that network changed profoundly, overnight."
In the week of his accession, Tinker outlined his master plan: "Try to
attract to NBC the best creative people, make them comfortable, give them
whatever help they need, and then get the hell out of the way." It
surprised no one that Tinker, who would be cast as a noble Senator if Hollywood
still made movies about noble Senators, proved to be a man of his word. But two
funny things happened: his plan worked, to NBC's profit as well as its honor,
and it was implemented by Brandon Tartikoff. At the time, Tartikoff was thought
to be Silverman's Silverman: a hard-driving guy with a passion for the lowest
common denominator. But as Tinker and Tartikoff discussed the multidimensional
chessboard of prime-time scheduling, they realized they saw eye to eye on many
things, especially the need to lure the handful of producers who could set NBC
on the high road to success. In the process, according to Goldberg, "Grant
brought out the best in Brandon, as an executive and as a man." Now 36,
Tartikoff has become Tinker's tinkerer.
Tartikoff is both a master and a child of the medium. Son of a Long Island
clothing manufacturer, young Brandon split his spare time between playing
baseball and critiquing TV shows. At Yale, where he was graduated with a B.A. in
English, he took tutorials with Novelist Robert Penn Warren. Called upon one day
to analyze a D.H. Lawrence story, Tartikoff suggested, "Wouldn't it be
better if the girl had first seen the guy over here in his other setting, and
then met the other person over there?" As Tartikoff recalls the incident,
"He stared at me for a moment and said, 'Have you ever thought of going
into television?' He was serious."
So was Tartikoff. He took a job at a New Haven TV station, while playing
semipro baseball for the New Haven Braves. Soon he was at Chicago's WLS-TV, run
by Lew Erlicht, who introduced him to Fred Silverman. From Erlicht (now
president of ABC Entertainment), Tartikoff picked up programming smarts; from
Silverman, he learned the importance of loving TV. Even today Tartikoff can
rhapsodize about his job as if he were a kid who has just been deeded the -
candy store. "In movies," he says, "unless you make E.T., you
reach maybe as many people as watched a TV show that got canceled last week.
With television there's something wonderful in knowing that, if you hit, 50
million people are watching and enjoying what you've done. Wherever you go--on
the street, in a restaurant, at a party--you hear about it. And that shared
experience is so exciting."
Four years ago, Tartikoff had few viewers with whom to share the experience.
Hill Street Blues may be the finest dramatic series American TV has produced,
but in 1981 it was a glorious anomaly on NBC's schedule. "It was also the
very first show whose demographics were young, urban and upscale,"
Tartikoff says. "Consequently, nobody saw it, because the other 21 hours of
NBC's prime time had mostly rural appeal and skewed older. Its lead-in shows
were utterly incompatible; first Walking Tall, then B.J. and the Bear. If you
can find one person in America who actually watched all three shows, we should
give him a Hill Street jacket or something."
Tartikoff set about devising a compatible, competitive schedule from the
rubble of Silverman's legacy. It was no simple task. As Media Analyst Anthony
Hoffman points out, "The producer of a TV series wants to get on the air,
get a hit, keep it on long enough to have 120 episodes" that can be
lucratively syndicated to local stations. But a new show is unlikely to become a
hit on a network in shambles. Further, as Tartikoff notes, "a producer
coming to NBC knew he might have to run against Dallas or The Love Boat. That's
part of the problem of being last--you don't get to bat against your own
pitching. There was one thing we could offer good producers, though: that they
could make the show they wanted to make." That promise applied to Steven
Bochco in 1981 even as it does today to Steven Spielberg. "I started my
career directing TV," Spielberg says, "and my shows were often changed
by the networks in ways I didn't like. When I returned to TV, I wanted the same
freedom I have in feature films. NBC gave me those assurances, and they've been
true to their word."
From the beginning, Tinker made the equally enticing promise that NBC would
give the audience time to find good new shows. That patience was frequently
tested in Tinker's first two years. Before it won eight Emmys in September 1981,
Hill Street regularly dwelled in the lowest-rating's precinct. During the fall
of 1982, Cheers was dead last, and Co-Producer Les Charles wondered % if
"maybe we should call NBC and tell them it'll get better. Instead we got
calls from Brandon saying, 'Don't worry. We'll give it time.' " Soon after
Family Ties made its debut, Tartikoff found himself slinking into Tinker's
office: "I'd say, 'Family Ties just got a 16 share, and the renewal notice
is up this week and we won't get to see another rating before we have to renew
or cancel.' And he'd say, 'Brandon! Is the show still good? Do you think the
ratings are going to improve? Then pick it up.' " Tinker insists there was
no altruism in his strategy. "You're spending less money," he notes,
"when you stick with the stuff you bought in the first place." As it
happened, NBC's quality shows, however low-rated, were attracting what
advertisers call a quality audience. Mad. Ave. ad mavens were discovering that a
rule long applied to magazines--that 1,000 New Yorker readers are more valuable
than 1,000 National Enquirer readers--made sense in prime time as well. Says
Tartikoff: "When you pull a tab on the St. Elsewhere audience, you find
that many of them don't watch any other entertainment show on network TV.
They're well-educated, well-paid people whom certain advertisers are eager to
reach because they can't be reached in these numbers anywhere else on TV. So we
can make a very good living off St. Elsewhere even though it earns only a 24
Demographics pay off. Last season Hill Street's rating was about 13% lower
than that of its CBS competition, Knots Landing, yet both sold a 30-sec.
commercial slot for about $200,000. And while viewing of all network programming
declined by 4% in 1984-85, NBC increased its share of the 18-to-49 group by 10%.
NBC also benefited from the shrinking of the network audience --15% since 1980.
The threshold for ratings success was shrinking, thus giving shows with more
specialized appeal a fighting chance for survival.
By 1982 NBC was revving up its Rolls-Royce schedule, but its financial graph
was strictly De Lorean. A quick hit was in order, and Tartikoff lucked into it
at the Larry Holmes-Gerry Cooney title bout in Las Vegas, where he saw Mr. T,
fresh from Rocky III, monopolizing the crowd's attention. Back in Los Angeles,
Tartikoff penned a legendary proposal to Producer Stephen Cannell: "Road
Warrior, Magnificent Seven, Dirty Dozen, Mission: Impossible, all rolled into
one, and Mr. T drives the car." Cannell cobbled up The A-Team, which won a
40 share in its first season and pulled hard-to-find adult male viewers back to
In the 1983-84 season, NBC introduced nine series, all of which were
canceled. Worse, most of the shows were about as sophisticated as a mud-
trucking derby. "The saddest kind of failure," says Tartikoff,
"is when you aim low and miss. At least when you aim higher and miss, you
can hide behind your target and say, 'It's the audience's fault.' "
Fortunately for Tartikoff, one night in the dead of that bleak winter his baby
daughter was crying, and Dad decided to keep Mom company. He switched on The
Tonight Show, where Dr. William H. Cosby, Ed.D. (U. Mass.) was telling a story
about middle- aged parents trying to instruct their kids in the facts of life.
Next morning, Tartikoff phoned Cosby's agent and floated yet another of his
brainstorming haiku: "A black Family Ties." The following autumn The
Cosby Show became the first sitcom smash since Mork & Mindy in 1978,
cemented NBC's Thursday-night schedule, and propelled the network toward No. 1.
Can NBC grab that laurel this season? Tinker and Tartikoff are pinning many
of their hopes on Amazing Stories, which is slotted on Sundays at 8 p.m. against
CBS's Top Ten sleuth game, Murder, She Wrote. Traditionally, notes Tinker,
"people go to CBS for 60 Minutes, and many of them just sit there all night
long, through some rather indifferent programming. With Amazing Stories we're
asking them to get up and change that dial. And if we do hear the thunder of
dials across the land, the whole face of Sunday night will change, because maybe
they won't come back to CBS." NBC is spending about $800,000 per half
hour--twice the budget of an ordinary show--and has committed to 44 episodes, or
two years on the schedule. As Spielberg notes wryly, "Amazing Stories means
a lot of money to NBC--a lot of money going out, so far." Says Tartikoff:
"If it fails, it will be an expensive failure. But if we capture viewers at
8 o'clock, it will be a major and very profitable victory."
Amazing Stories takes prime-time TV not so much back to the future as forward
to the '50s, when series like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone
invited viewers on a different adventure of the imagination each week. Because
Spielberg has enlisted such directors as Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Clint
Eastwood, Paul Bartel and Peter Hyams (Mr. E.T. will direct two of his own the
first season), each of the Stories promises a distinctive style. Hyams' episode
boasts sepulchral lighting and tension as taut as piano * wire; Bartel's is a
slapstick black comedy; Spielberg's two shows are wistful parables about death
as creative transcendence. Each offers a unique frisson, to be relived on Monday
morning at the playground or around the water cooler.
Therein lies the daunting challenge that Amazing Stories faces. Prime-time
series attract loyal viewers by their familiarity, not by offering a vagrant
astonishment each week. The operative word-of-mouth phrase is "you ought to
see," not "you should have seen." Amazing Stories has no
continuing characters, tone or stars--not even a regular host, like Hitchcock or
Rod Serling. Viewers may prefer to settle in with Angela Lansbury's rumpled
caginess in Murder, She Wrote instead of taking a chance with the faceless
brilliance of the Spielberg series.
Harvey Shephard, the CBS programming chief who preferred to retool The
Twilight Zone rather than take a chance on Spielberg's anthology of original
stories, is convinced that Amazing Stories is actually his network's secret
weapon. Shephard predicts "a high initial tune-in sample" of the NBC
show, followed by a return to tele firma. And if that does not happen, all CBS
has to do is contrive to let a Sunday-afternoon N.F.L. broadcast run overtime,
thus pushing 60 Minutes back by ten or 15 minutes, and 60 Minutes loyalists will
miss the first half of an Amazing story. That is precisely the tactic CBS used
to shoot down ABC's Mork & Mindy when that hit show challenged the CBS
Sunday lineup in 1979.
NBC can hardly be faulted for encouraging Hollywood's top talent to put big
visions onto the small screen. Nor can the NBC brass be accused of gambling
everything on one show. The network's other new series, including Hell Town,
starring Robert Blake as a vigilante priest, and the highly touted sitcom The
Golden Girls, have decent shots at survival. So do any number of new entries on
the competing networks' rosters. Tartikoff, one of whose ten TV commandments is
the famous "All hits are flukes," is sanguine about the immediate
future. "We won't be surprised," he says, "if CBS and ABC, even
by sheer luck or by stepping in it, come up with a Cosby-size hit. In that case,
we'll just have to regroup--and for the past three years we've been pretty good
Because NBC's prime-time schedule is the most stable of the networks',
Tartikoff has time to devote to the rest of the broadcast day. The Today show,
the most bracing of the three sunrise coffee klatches, has mounted a strong
assault on longtime ratings champ Good Morning America at ABC, while the CBS
Morning News continues to flounder with the abrupt departures of Anchors Bill
Kurtis and, last week, Phyllis George. The Saturday-morning kidvid schedule
remains No. 1. Carson is still king of late-night, and Letterman the hippest of
clown princes. Only daytime is a slum for profits when it could be a gold mine;
ABC's supremacy with its afternoon soaps helps it lead NBC in total network
profits, despite the tailspin ABC has taken in the evening. Recently, NBC's
afternoon schedule has begun to mimic the NBC prime time of the early '80s: its
ratings are still abysmal, but its share of women in the 18 to 49 age group now
rivals CBS's. Each week Tartikoff hosts a "Santa Barbara lunch," in
which he and his staff watch the network's newest soap and discuss how it and
other daytime fare can be improved. Tinker knows habits die hard among the soap
watchers. "It's like turning an ocean liner around," he says.
One suspects that the two Mr. T's will accomplish this feat; they have worked
miracles enough in prime time. The trust they lavished on producers has resulted
in fruitful relationships. Tartikoff is especially well liked because he
participates fully in a show's creation, unlike the committee that runs CBS. ABC
has more severe problems. Lew Erlicht strikes the flagellant's pose when
discussing last year's flop shows: "We had to ask ourselves in each case,
'Why did this show fail?' And usually the answer was: 'It stinks.' " As for
ABC Broadcast Group President Tony Thomopoulos, Analyst Hoffman maintains that
he "went Hollywood" when he took over. "That is a critical
mistake," Hoffman says of Thomopoulos' style. "The production
community in Hollywood likes to feel that they're the dazzlers. Tartikoff is
smart enough not to compete. Compared to Thomopoulos, he's just an average slob
who does his job and does it well."
The "average slob" maintains a sense of humor about his good
fortune. "Sure, it's different," he admits. "Where last year I'd
have seats in the left-field stands, now I have seats in the center-field
stands." And at his weekend softball games, almost everyone stops by for a
"Hi, Brandon." Between innings on a recent Saturday, an NBC secretary
brought her little Sarah to meet Tartikoff. "Sarah, this is Mr.
Brandon," she said. "Do you know who he is? Do you remember the dog
named Brandon on Punky Brewster? Well, this is the man he's named after."
Unimpressed, Sarah stuffed the hem of her dress into her mouth and turned back
toward the action on the field.
March 04, 1985
DIED. Efrem Zimbalist, 94, Russian-born violinist of high technical polish and
emotional understatement, a considerable composer of songs and chamber music and
a musical administrator and teacher who for 27 years, until 1968, headed
Philadelphia's Curtis Institute; in Reno. He was the father and grandfather,
respectively, of TV Actors Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Stephanie Zimbalist.
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