In Carol’s Second Act, premiering Thursday, Sept, 26 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT, Emmy-winner Patricia Heaton returns to CBS — home to her hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond — now playing a 50-year-old divorced mother and retired teacher who pursues her lifelong dream of being a doctor. But when Heaton was facing her own medical challenge, she looked to a Higher Power.
Asked about her own hospital experience at the recent TV Critics Association Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California, Heaton recalled:
When I had my first child, it was ‑‑ I tried to do the whole “we’re going to do natural birth,” but I’m Irish Catholic, and we really believe in better living through chemistry. So I got that epidural right away, but I couldn’t get the baby out.
He was almost 10 pounds, so we had a C‑section, and they had to strap me down, and my arms were strapped down, and they cut me open, and they pulled Sam out, and everyone rushed to the end of the room, including my husband, to ooh and ahh over the baby, and I was still strapped down. The morphine was wearing off, and my jaw was starting to shake from the morphine wearing off.
And it was at a Catholic hospital, and I looked up, and there’s Jesus on the wall behind me with his arms out. I was like, “At least you know what I’m feeling right now!” So that was the older, wiser person that I saw at the hospital.
Heaton, a Catholic, is outspoken on Twitter and elsewhere about her faith and her pro-life views. While she describes herself as “judicious” about what she says, she has no plans to stop.
At the end of the day, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I stood up for the voiceless and for the poor and the hungry.”
“Clifford the Big Red Dog”/Scholastic Entertainment
The beloved children’s character Clifford the Big Red Dog returns in a new series in December on Amazon Prime and PBS KIDS — and then hits the big screen next year.
Scholastic Entertainment has announced that the new version of the classic tale hits Amazon Prime Video on Dec. 6, and PBS KIDS the next day. The 39 22-minute episodes feature Clifford, his best friend Emily Elizabeth, and new friends, adventures and original songs.
Along with the series, there will be an extensive licensing and consumer-products products and global publishing program, with new titles coming out in 2019. Scholastic is still actively seeking licensees for the brand, with the first group of new licensees to be launched soon.
As for the big screen, Paramount Pictures will be releasing a live-action/animation hybrid Clifford the Big Red Dog feature film on Nov. 13, 2020.
From the press release:
“We look at every character on PBS KIDS as a role model for the joy of learning,” said Linda Simensky, VP, Children’s Programming, PBS. “Emily Elizabeth and Clifford showcase the thrill of working together and learning from one another, through stories that weave together imaginative play, early learning, and social-emotional concepts.”
“With an exciting expanded world and so many big adventures ahead, Clifford The Big Red Dog will win over children and families around the globe once again,” said series co-executive producer Caitlin Friedman, SVP & General Manager Scholastic Entertainment. “From a fresh new look to a full-scale licensing program with products that will help kids extend the fun and positive messages of the series beyond the screen, Clifford is well-poised to make a larger-than-life return.”
We’ll have to see what the new series looks like, but regarding the previous one, CommonSense Media rates it for ages three and up and says:
Parents need to know that Clifford the Big Red Dog is chock-full of positive lessons and likable characters — and may remind parents of their own childhood fascination with Clifford. Kids are often magnetically drawn to stories about Clifford because he’s the magical pet every child wishes for. The series is full of educational messages on social, emotional, and physical matters.
When it comes to kids’ TV shows, I’m a big fan of shows that are highly entertaining for kids while also teaching them something.
Every once in a while, you can get a show like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that kids love, which happens to teach them some pretty great stuff about life.
This new PBS show Molly of Denali, which premiered the week of July 15 on PBS Kids (check local listings for time and channel in your area),has some high hopes along these lines. It’s not aimed to impart handily-wrapped up songified lessons like Daniel Tiger, but it’s aimed at slightly older kids and seems to want to teach them about other cultures, accepting others, and “diversity.”
I definitely think there are some good things here, but I’d say they don’t quite hit their mark.
Molly of Denali’s Aim
It’s about an adventurous preteen girl who is an Alaskan Native American. Molly has fun doing outdoor adventure-y things with her friends and learning about the culture of her ancestors.
I particularly like the concept of a girl’s show that’s about having adventures. After kids outgrow preschool programming, about all that’s out there for girls are shows about silly boy-craziness.
But I have serious doubts that this show will appeal to the kids it’s targeting. It’s a cartoon, with the same look as most preschool-friendly fair. Kids who aren’t into these preschool shows anymore are probably hoping for something a little more grown-up looking.
The technology issue
If it’s mostly just littler kids watching this, I’m not fond of its portrayal of characters using technology.
Molly and her friends almost constantly use phones and computers to make videos and do web searches. If maybe 12-year-olds are watching, I can see including this element to make it feel modern and relatable.
But a 5-year-old watching this? I imagine most young kids are plenty exposed to constant technology usage anyway. Do we really need to reinforce how fantastic it is and make them even more eager to use it, before they know how to be even remotely safe online?
The culture and diversity
This show has the first Native American lead ever in a kids show. I understand the desire to do this. Native American kids can see someone like themselves in a show, and kids of other races can see that we’re all the same despite physical differences.
All that is fine. But, as to be expected, this show tries a little too hard to reference the characters’ culture at every possible opportunity.
And then in the pilot there’s a reference to the past when Native American kids were forced into boarding schools and forbidden to speak their language or sing their songs. And it’s explained in a breezy little conversation that lasts about 30 seconds — an awfully heavy issue to speed through in a kids’ show.
Also, as they quickly explain it, the language they use (“We were made to feel bad about who we were — now we honor our traditions and can be proud of them”) has a faint resemblance to language surrounding LGBT ideology. I may be paranoid, considering the onslaught of this type of thing sneaking into kids’ shows and movies lately, but it’s definitely something to watch for with this one in the future.
The other issue that pops up regarding cultural stuff here is that someone says a quick prayer-like thing that seems to be addressed to a river. This could definitely be confusing for Catholic kids — “Well son, let me tell you about something called pantheism.”
I’m not a fan
I feel like there are a lot of good intentions with this show. I can definitely get behind the idea of creating content for girls that’s exciting and empowering. But I don’t think this show quite gets the job done.
(L to R) Terrence Malick, Christian Bale/Wikimedia Commons
According to various reports, filmmaker Terrence Malick is working, at least in part in Italy, on a movie about the life of Christ … but no one knows quite what it will be.
Malick (IMDB page here) is known for an eclectic string of films, including the crime drama Badlands (1973); romantic drama Days of Heaven (1978); epic war film The Thin Red Line (1998); the experimental epic family drama The Tree of Life (2011), a deeply philosophical film that attracted praise from many Christians for its Biblical themes (and confusion from other quarters); the love story To the Wonder (2013); and 2015’s Knight of Cups, an experimental drama about a depressed screenwriter’s sojourn through Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The Tree of Lifeblends an impressionistic portrait of a Catholic family living in a suburb of Waco, Texas, in the 1950s (and glimpsed in later decades) with a majestic procession of images from distant galaxies to microscopic organisms, exploding volcanoes to wounded dinosaurs. There are also surreal images and flashes of magical realism. Some critics have felt that Malick would have done better to omit the IMAX eye candy and focus on the human story; others have argued that it’s the cosmic grandeur that works and the banal human story that bogs it down.
Most recently, Malick released A Hidden Life, a biopic of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer, husband and father, who was executed for refusing to fight on behalf of the Nazis during World War II. The Church beatified him in 2007.
Now, according to reports, Malick is tackling Christ. From Aleteia:
“What does Christ want from us?”
According to Martin Scorsese, Terrence Malick posed this question to his fellow director in a letter after seeing Silence, the former’s long-awaited film about Jesuit missionaries in Japan.
The filmmaker has reportedly been shooting a new film titled The Last Planet, which “narrates various passages in the life of Christ, with the representation of evangelical parables.” One Italian website captured on-set images of “a man with a donkey” approaching “a sort of face in the sand” in the coastal town of Lazio, and quoted one person on set as saying that “the film is about humanity, starting from the Big Bang to the Apocalypse.” There are not a lot of other details available at this point, except that Malick has apparently been shooting around Rome as well as Iceland (a shooting location for The Tree of Life and Voyage of Time), and that actors Ben Kingsley and Björn Thors have been spotted on set.
FTP’s producer-at-large, Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a 2016 graduate of USC’s film school, is a Malick fan and was very exited to hear the news. So, I threw a few questions his way about the enigmatic filmmaker, an Illinois native who attended an Episcopal boarding school, then Harvard, Oxford and the American Film Institute Conservancy.
What’s your personal history with the films of Terrence Malick?
KUNA: I saw my first Terrence Malick film, the WWII film The Thin Red Line (TRRL), while attending the University of Notre Dame. It was a life-changing experience, to say the least. I began thinking in more philosophical terms towards the end of college, as theology interested me more and more. One would think ND’s top-flight philosophy and theology departments would have activated that desire, but for me it was film.
According to reports, Malick is filming a life of Christ. What do you hope it might be?
KUNA: Given his propensity to explore creation, whether through Job’s tour of the cosmos in Tree of Life, or in the documentary Voyage of Time, my best guess is that he takes up Jesus Christ as the Alpha and Omega. We see Christ working His redemption through the beginning of the universe until its apocalyptic end.
Some mainstream filmmakers use Christian themes and imagery, even Bible stories, without being believers themselves. Where do you think Malick fits in this spectrum?
KUNA: If memory serves me, Malick comes from a Syrian Christian background. He is a believer, although I can’t attest to how much he practices. One of his actors Jim Caviezel (Pvt. Witt in TTRL) once said if St. Pope John Paul II had practiced filmmaking instead of writing philosophy while serving as pope, he would have been a director like Terrence Malick.
What could filmmakers striving to put a Christian message into their films learn from Malick?
KUNA: As impressionistic as his films come off as, each one, like a soundly crafted homily centers around one underlying dramatic question. So, there’s always some subtext a filmmaker, whether Christian or not, will layer on. Make the subtext about one thing, and then write your story around it.
What are your top five Malick films, and why?
KUNA: The Thin Red Line (TTRL) and Tree of Life rank as my top two Terrence Malick films. TTRL because it played such a big part in my journey to priesthood and religious life. Tree of Life wins out, however, because of its depiction of domestic life. I’ve never been near war nor do I ever want to experience it, so TTRL remains somewhat inaccessible in a good way.
To the Wonder sits at #3. It best represents my answer to an earlier question. The dramatic question at the center of the film is conveyed in a literal whisper as the Olga Kurylenko character, through voiceover, mentions her previous marriage in France was declared valid after she sought the annulment process. This means her current relationship with Ben Affleck’s character is irregular.
That the two try to personally affirm the relationship through a justice of peace (and later, a Protestant service) doesn’t quash the objective sacramental reality of her previous marriage. She gradually realizes this and ends the relationship. And as a viewer, I felt good about the breakup.
#4 is Knight of Cups because it’s the most impressionistic and non-linear of all of his films. Truly a work of art. Days of Heaven rounds out my top five. My dad and I watched that twenty years ago and we didn’t know what to think of it. It’s a very personal “like” for me. Most of my present conversations with my 84-year-old father mirror our “left speechless” moment after that film. He’s taught me everything he knows, so most days when I visit him and my mom, it goes, “You want the sports section, Dad? (He nods.) OK, good talk.”
If you could have an hour alone with Malick, what would you most want to know?
KUNA: I think his films should stand on their own, and in some ways, I would not want to receive his personal annotation. Too much film and TV are now litmus-tested as “relevant to the current situation we find ourselves in” … whatever that means. We’ve lost the sense of timeless art for the sake of art, of the Van Goghs who aren’t appreciated in the own time on earth, but nonetheless create art for people yet to be born. Malick is the embodiment of timeless art. So, I wouldn’t need an hour with him, but a mere minute to say, “Thank you.”
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.