CBS’ Catholic-Family Comedy ‘Kevin Can Wait’ Returns Monday, Plus Leah Remini (SPOILERS)

When CBS’ comedy “Kevin Can Wait” returns on Monday, Sept. 25, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, retired Catholic cop Kevin Gable (played by Catholic Kevin James) is facing life with a new job, a new boss and …

SPOILER ALERT!

…and as a single father.

That’s right, the producers have killed off Kevin Gable’s wife, but they’ve added in Kevin James’ TV wife from an earlier sitcom, “King of Queens.”

In season one, Long Island resident Kevin was married to nurse Donna (Erinn Hayes), mother of their three children: law student/waitress Kendra (Taylor Spreitler); tomboy Sara (Mary-Charles Jones); and hypochondriac Jake (James DiGiacomo). Living in the family garage was English tech developer Chale (Ryan Cartwright), Kendra’s fiance.

As the season ended, Kevin’s former police partner, Vanessa Celucci (Leah Remini), reappeared as Kevin came out of retirement to pair up with Vanessa as fake spouses on an undercover assignment.

Remini played James’ wife for nine seasons on the hit CBS sitcom “King of Queens,” when she was still in the Church of Scientology. Now, she’s out of Scientology, back in the Catholic faith, and host of an Emmy-winning Tuesday-night reality show about her former religion on A&E, called “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.”

Between the seasons, in what was described as a “creative reset,” the producers let Hayes go and decided on her character’s demise. Some time has passed since the event — no so much time that Kendra and Chale have gotten married yet — Kevin is now a single dad, and he’s going to be working at a security firm — with Celucci as his boss.

Considering the howls of joy from the studio audience when James first slid into a booth with Remini, there are probably a lot of people — both TV types and fans — thinking about rekindling the actors’ romantic chemistry. Back during the summer, when the announcement was first made about Hayes leaving the show, I wondered if they would use a divorce to split the couple up, or whether they Donna would pass away somehow. Since James is a serious Catholic, having his character divorced would mean either no romantic involvement, or an annulment plotline that might puzzle the non-Catholics in the crowd, who’d just go, “Hey, he’s divorced. What’s the problem?”

So, I wasn’t surprised when the decision was made to make Kevin a widower. But we don’t yet know whether Vanessa and Kevin will be anything more than old friends and colleagues (at least not for a few episodes).

From an interview in the TVInsider:

Vanessa and Kevin go way back. What’s their dynamic?

Leah Remini: Like family. Nobody lets anything go—they hurl insults, but underneath it they care for each other.
James: They have that love/hate thing. It’s nice that we don’t have to build history.

Sounds like a recipe for some Moonlighting-esque chemistry…

Remini: We can only hope! But on the show, Kevin is adjusting to a new normal. There are so many stories to tell just around that right now.
James: We don’t know where it will go. Maybe they will get together, maybe they won’t, but we wouldn’t want to lock in on anything yet.

The season-two premiere is called “Civil Ceremony,” and here’s how CBS describes it:

KEVIN RUSHES TO THROW KENDRA THE PERFECT WEDDING WITH VANESSA’S HELP WHEN CHALE IS ABOUT TO BE DEPORTED, ON THE SECOND SEASON PREMIERE OF “KEVIN CAN WAIT,” MONDAY, SEPT. 25

“Civil Ceremony” – Kendra and Chale must get married immediately when the Gables learn that he is about to be deported. As Kevin chases down Father Phillip (Jim Breuer) to officiate the ceremony, Vanessa helps Kendra put together the last-minute affair, on the second season premiere of KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Sept. 25 (9:00-9:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Leah Remini joins the cast as Vanessa Cellucci, and Jim Breuer returns as Father Phillip.

And here’s a preview:

Here’s to hoping that Kendra and Chale finally tie the knot. There aren’t too many clean family comedies on network TV, but “Kevin Can Wait” seems to be one of them.

And, BTW, Remini seems very happy at her new gig, if her Instagram account (which she also used to announce the Catholic baptism of her daughter) is to be believed:

Image: Courtesy CBS

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

 

‘Maya the Bee’ Controversy: A Question of Trust Between Animator and Audience

Every day, parents sit their children down in front of entertainment that presents itself as child-friendly and child-safe — and the majority of it is — but there’s a catch. Not everyone who works on these shows may have children’s best interests in mind.

Recently, “Maya the Bee,” a popular European cartoon offered on Netflix, became the center of a controversy when a mom noticed a very inappropriate drawing of a male body part etched in the background of a scene, and posted about it on Facebook. She wasn’t dreaming or mistaken — it was there.

Here’s the reaction from the studio, as published in The Hollywood Reporter:

“An absolutely inappropriate image has been discovered in a four-second fly-by scene in one episode of the total of 78 episodes of the series,” said production group Studio 100 in a statement on Friday. “The origin of this image obviously results from a very bad joke from one of the 150 artists working on the production.”

And from Netflix (which pulled the episode):

“This is indeed unacceptable to the Studio 100 Group as owner of the brand and all its partners and doesn’t reflect the quality of its work and its values,” the company’s statement continues. “Legal action has already been started. Studio 100 very much regrets this incident and would like to offer its sincere apologies to all Maya the Bee fans. At the same time the company is taking all suitable technical measures to remedy the situation.”

It’s a little hard to imagine the mindset of an artist who would think it was funny to put such an image in a show intended for small children. But, different sorts of people work on these shows, especially animated ones, and they all have their own sensibilities. I remember doing an interview with a producer turning out animated shows for kids on Nickelodeon. He said that he and his fellow 20-something animators basically did the shows primarily to amuse each other, and delighted in slipping in little jokes.

I don’t know that he or his pals did anything like the “Maya the Bee” animation artist (but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did). But this was before the rise of social media, so if they did, it wouldn’t have gotten the immediate response that the parents who took “Maya” to task on social media did.

In a perfect world, parents would pre-screen every bit of TV that their children watch — but we don’t live in a perfect world. We do, however, live in a world saturated with media. While the producers of “Maya the Bee” may not have had any ill intent, things slip through. This might be a good teaching moments for parents to explain how entertainment comes to be, how it’s made up of writers and animators, voice actors and producers, studios and networks.

The more kids know about the process, the less godlike and mysterious it seems, and the more they realize that people who make TV are flawed human beings like the rest of us. In our world today, there’s far too much hero-worship of those in showbiz, rather than a grounded realization that it’s a business like any other.

And if you see something in a show that caters to children that offends you or your values, speak out. Enough parents doing so caught the attention of both the “Maya the Bee” studio and Netflix, and action was taken.

In this highly competitive media environment, viewers matter. Every producer and network knows that people rely heavily on word-of-mouth, often through social media, to choose programming for their children. Never forget the power you have — and don’t be afraid to use it.

As Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust, but verify.”

Image: Courtesy Netflix

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

5 For Friday: ‘Blind Side,’ ‘Twister,’ ‘Cake Boss’ and More

Another weekend, another search for choices suitable for parents and younger kids or teens to watch as a family. Fear not, we got you — and all of these can be watched on your TV, without a streaming app.

(All times Eastern; check local listings for times in your area.)

“Twister” (1996) — Friday, 8 p.m., AMC

In a summer and fall of extreme weather, this one reminds us that there are folks out there working to understand storms better so we can be better prepared. Written by Michael Crichton (“Jurassic Park”) and his then-wife, Anne-Marie Martin, and directed by Jan de Bont (Speed”), this humor-laced action film follows storm chasers studying tornadoes during a Midwest summer. But under the thrills and chills is the story of a divorcing pair of meteorologists — played by Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt — who rediscover each other, rekindle their love and save their marriage.

There are NO sex scenes, just some kissing, but the reproductive-therapist character played by Jami Gertz does give some mildly suggestive advice to couples on the phone — but hey, they’re trying to make babies! Also, the huge laptop used by the scientists, and the therapist’s early-model cellphone, are pretty funny compared to today’s technology.

“Moneyball” (2011) — Saturday, 6 p.m., TNT

Written by Aaron Sorkin and based on the 2003 book of the same name by Michael Lewis (who also wrote “The Blind Side” — see below), this surprisingly engaging film follows Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as he employs revolutionary economic theories to help his cash-strapped team create a winning roster. It sounds dull as dishwater, but it’s anything but. And if kids want to know what math has to do with real life, this movie is a prime example of its importance in many fields, including professional sports.

“Moneyball” is a rousing, exhilarating ride, and along with the baseball, there’s a sweet subplot about divorced Beane and his relationship with his preteen daughter (Kerris Dorsey). I don’t even like baseball, but I love “Moneyball.”

Bonus: Chris Pratt makes an appearance.

“Cake Boss” — Saturday, 8 p.m., TLC

Buddy Valastro of Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey — a Catholic who made dessert for Pope Francis when the pontiff visited America in 2015 — and his colorful family pastry business return with a 9th season of new episodes of the hit reality series. Expect family highjinks sprinkled in with some amazing confectionary creations.

“Lincoln” (2012) — Sunday, 8 p.m., TMC

Directed by Steven Spielberg, and loosely based on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln biography, “Team of Rivals” — this sprawling historical epic focuses on the last four months of Lincoln’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) life and his efforts to have the House pass the 13th Amendment (the one that abolished slavery). It’s PG-13, and it’s on pay cable, so it might not be suitable for younger kids (and it is two hours and 30 minutes long), but for preteens and up, it’s an absorbing look into a time in American history that reverberates right into today’s headlines.

“The Blind Side” (2009) — Sunday, 8 p.m., Spike

Based on the 2006 book by Michael Lewis, the film focuses on Michael Oher, an offensive lineman who played for the Baltimore Ravens (including the team’s 2013 Super Bowl win) and the Carolina Panthers. It follows him from his impoverished Tennessee upbringing, into Wingate Christian School (in real life, Briargate Christian School in Memphis), and his adoption by Christian couple Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy (Tim McGraw, Sandra Bullock).

“The Blind Side” is often hailed as a rare pro-faith and pro-family film that accomplishes both missions without overt preaching, while managing to be a sports film at the same time.

Enjoy!

Image: Courtesy TLC

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Bishop Robert Barron Launches New Streaming Platform, Talks Faith at Facebook

Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire apostolate has gone digital with a new streaming platform.

From the bishop’s message that landed in my inbox today:

We are offering a new way to view our content on this cutting-edge streaming site, and you’ll be able to watch any of my programs on any device and at any time.

With a Word on Fire Digital subscription, you will instantly have access to ALL of my video programs.

You’ll also be the first to gain access to new releases, as well as other content that will be added throughout the year.

Here’s how it works…

You can pay a low monthly price to access everything, or you can purchase programs individually, rent them for a limited time, or effortlessly send them as a gift.

I am confident that Word on Fire Digital will be another new way to reach souls with the Gospel via the new media.

Click this link to learn more and watch the new video trailer: http://WOFDigital.org

Click here for the trailer; and here to sign up for a free trial.

Now, you can have Bishop Barron all the time, and share him more easily with friends, family and faithful seekers.

This appears to be part of a new digital outreach by Bishop Barron, who headed to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Sept. 18, to talk about how to discuss faith on social media.

From Catholic News Agency:

Bishop Barron said authentic faith is not opposed to reason; it does not accept simply anything on the basis of no evidence.

He compared faith to the process of coming to know another human person. While one can begin to come to know someone by reason, or through a Google search or a background check, when a relationship deepens, other questions arise.

“When she reveals her heart, the question becomes: Do I believe her or not? Do I trust her or not?” he said.

“The claim, at least of the great biblical religions, is that God has not become a great distant object that we examine philosophically,” the bishop said. “Rather, the claims is that God has spoken, that God has decided to reveal his heart to his people.”

Click here to watch the full Facebook video.

Word on Fire Digital is not the only place to find great Catholic content online. Of course, there’s always the Vatican Website, but that’s just the beginning.

Try the Augustine Institute’s Formed streaming service, which aims to be “Catholic Netflix.” It features hundreds of Catholic videos, movies, audio content and ebooks. You can try a seven-day free trial or subscribe as a parish. Click here.

Catholic TV can be seen on several platforms, including Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, or on your iPhone or Android phone. But it’s also available online, just click here.

Of course, premier Catholic network EWTN is available on cable and satellite TV, but it also posts many of its shows on its Website and YouTube channel, and streams online live, right here.

So, if you can’t find anything good to watch, you can always find something to watch that celebrates truth, beauty and goodness.

And, as you see at the bottom of the post, you can also visit our YouTube and Ustream channels, and coming soon, we’re adding our catechetical Web series “Catholic Central” to the mix. For a preview and to learn more about our great young hosts, Kai (Kaiser Johnson) and Libby (Elizabeth Slater), visit CatholicCentral.com.

Image: Courtesy Word on Fire

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘The Emmys’ 2017: ‘This Is Us’ Carries the Flag for Family Drama

Did family viewing score any wins at the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards last night? Not much, and what there was, came from NBC’s megahit “This Is Us.”

In an honor handed out the previous weekend at the Creative Arts Emmys, veteran actor Gerald McRaney (“Simon & Simon,” “Major Dad,” “Deadwood”) scored his first (?!) Emmy win, for outstanding guest actor, playing kindly OB/GYN Dr. Nathan Katowski, a k a Dr. K, on “This Is Us.”

The kind widower Dr. K delivered the two of the “Big Three,” the triplets (one died at birth, and another was adopted into the trio) that form the core of the hit multigenerational family drama, which returns for its second season on Sept. 29.

Here’s what McRaney told the Los Angeles Times:

“Big, tough guys approach me,” McRaney said when he stopped by The Times’ video studio recently for an Emmy Contenders chat with Times television reporter Yvonne Villarreal. “You know, ‘You made me cry,’” they say. Fans, he says, often “go into depth and share some personal thing that relates directly to the show.”

The outpouring, he says, is a reflection of how good the writing is. The writers have captured a true human connection, tapped into a common humanity. They don’t need superheroes or even villains to make their stories compelling.

They’re just writing about decent people who have problems and find ways to solve them. “Good people in extraordinary circumstances,” he says.

When it got to the actual top Primetime Emmy Awards, Hulu’s dystopian fable “The Handmaid’s Tale” — which, despite appearances to the contrary, the producers have said is not an attack on actual Christianity — was the big winner. It took outstanding drama series, outstanding lead actress for Elisabeth Moss, outstanding supporting actress for Ann Dowd, outstanding writing for a drama series, and outstanding directing for a drama series.

The next big winner was HBO’s political comedy “Veep,” including outstanding comedy series, and outstanding lead actress in a comedy for Julia Louis-Dreyfus; and HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” about three upper-class moms in a swanky beachside community whose lives and marriages conceal deceit, betrayal and even murder. Both Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern took home awards, for outstanding lead actress and supporting actress in a limited series, respectively.

Are these shows family-friendly, pro-family, pro-marriage or pro-faith? No. Not at all.

Of all the things it was nominated for, including drama series, the only major honor “This Is Us” took home was a well-earned outstanding lead actor in a drama for Sterling K. Brown, whose acceptance speech was cut short, and his microphone was turned off. He then finished his speech backstage.

That included thanking the writers, producers, directors and series creator Dan Fogelman, or, as Brown called him, “the Hebrew hammer with which our house is built.”

Oh, and Brown also thanked his wife.

″Ryan Michelle Bathe, you’re everything,” Brown said. “You make my life worth living and you gave me two of the most beautiful things that God has ever put on this planet ― my sons Andrew Jason Sterling Brown, Amaré Michael Ryan Christian Brown. Your daddy loves you with the strength of 1,000 suns. I’ll see you Monday after work.”

So, the warmhearted family drama beloved of America — and at least one Emmy voter — lost out to a sci-fi dystopia beloved of TV critics and entertainment-industry types. A chance to change the trajectory of TV was lost or outright avoided. While the audience doesn’t much care about Emmys, they do impact the fate of shows and the future of writers.

It’s a shame.

But, the viewers have made “This Is Us” such a hit that not even Hollywood can ignore the deep desire of ordinary Americans to see such extraordinary, ordinary lives onscreen.

Let’s hope someone is listening.

Oh, BTW, fewer people are listening to the Emmys, since the overnight ratings cratered.

With 11.38 million viewers tuning into the 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards is even with last year’s show on ABC, which was the all-time low. The 2016 show was down 5% from the 2015 show, which was the previous low. Among adults 18-49, last night’s Emmys snagged a 2.5 rating. That’s down 10% from the Jimmy Kimmel hosted show of last year, the previous demo low.

Image: Courtesy NBC

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

5 Family-Centric Shows to Check Out if You Love ‘This Is Us’

Cast of ABC’s “Speechless”

As fans of NBC’s tear-producing family drama “This Is Us” wait to see if it’s going to win the Emmy Award for outstanding drama on Sunday — or if that win could change the TV landscape — fans may be wondering if there’s anything like it out there.

Our newest Catholic-mom blogger, Adrienne Thorne, has some suggestions. Take it away, Adrienne…

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that I’m not the only one kind of counting down the days until NBC’s “This Is Us” returns on Tuesday, Sept. 26. What I loved most about the show’s first season was importance it places on family in one’s life — kind of a rare quality in today’s TV landscape.

Or is it?

Statistically speaking, probably. But there are at least a few good choices out there you can watch for a happy helping of family togetherness wrapped in a 22-or 43-minute package.

“Parenthood”

If you’re a fan of “This Is Us,” you’ve probably heard it compared to “Parenthood.” Starring Lauren Graham (Lorelai from “Gilmore Girls”), “Parenthood” is a light drama that is very much about family.

The series begins when Lauren Graham’s character moves herself and her two teenage kids back home to live with her parents and near her three adult siblings. Despite a bit more sexual material than you’d find in “This Is Us,” it’s still a pretty uplifting show with a strong emphasis on the importance of familial love. Take a look at the trailer:

“Malcolm in the Middle”

This one’s a little bit older but still a great choice (and available streaming on Netflix!). You might not think of a comedy as something with similar family themes, but this show about a genius teenage boy (played by Frankie Muniz) in a slightly eccentric family of four boys is actually very family-centric.

Highlights include a pretty good portrayal of marriage between his parents and a lot of lighthearted fun. Low points include some occasional sexual material that might make the show unsuitable for younger members of the family. Read my full review here.

“The Wonder Years”

A coming-of age-sitcom starring Fred Savage (aired in the late ’80s, but set in the ’60s). This one’s not entirely about family, as Savage’s character navigates the rocky waters of middle school drama and friendships, but his family issues play a strong part in his maturation. This show actually surprised me quite a bit with unexpected depth and feels, especially since it’s rather on the older side.

Currently available streaming on Netflix, but hurry if you want to watch it because it leaves in October!

“Life in Pieces”

A current Monday-night sitcom on CBS, “Life in Pieces” — returning for its third season on Thursday, Nov. 2 — reminds me of a comedy version of “Parenthood.” It’s about three adult siblings who live in close proximity to each other and their aging parents. This show is often quite hilarious but does suffer from more crudity than I’d like to see (or technically hear, since most of it is of the dialogue/joke nature). The good thing, though, is that in addition to having an emphasis on the importance of family in your life, this show also has quite a few moments where elements that I thought were going somewhere immoral turned around into a good message, in a pretty clever way. Read my full review here.

“Speechless”

I’ve saved my favorite for last. “Speechless” is a current ABC sitcom — returning for a second season on Wednesday, Sept. 27 — starring Minnie Driver about a family with a special-needs son, who is unable to talk because of his cerebral palsy. Personally I don’t think the premise necessarily sounds super-fun, and yet the execution is top-notch. In other words, it’s absolutely hilarious, not to mention very pro-family, pro-life, and even pretty clean.

I would say this show is a pretty rare gem in today’s TV landscape, and I’m kind of holding my breath for season two, hoping against hope that it stays this good. Read my full review here.

Image: Courtesy ABC

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.