Category: Christians working in Arts and Media

UPDATED! Tim Allen’s ‘Last Man Standing’ May Rise Again — on CMT (or not)

Last week, in honor of the 63rd birthday of comedian and actor Tim Allen on June 13, we reported on the surprise cancellation of his still-popular ABC sitcom, “Last Man Standing.”

SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE …

Allen and many others feel that his outspoken Christianity and conservative politics contributed to the Disney-owned network axing the show, ABC’s most popular sitcom after the more politically correct “Modern Family.”

But, like ABC’s “Nashville” before it, “Last Man Standing” — whose six seasons were produced, not by ABC Studios, but by 20th Century Fox — may find a new home on CMT (formerly known as Country Music Television).

According to The Hollywood Reporter on June 14, one day after Allen’s birthday:

The Viacom-owned network is in preliminary talks to revive canceled Tim Allen comedy Last Man Standing. Insiders stress talks are in the early stages as CMT is exploring if it can revive the expensive show at a price point that works for the niche cable network. It’s unclear if a deal will be made as insiders cautioned that a renewal at CMT may be a long shot given the price tag on the veteran series. Also unclear is how big of a renewal the show could get as everything from a short order to multiple-season/20-episode run have been rumored. 20th TV, which has already placed calls to writers about a potential revival, and CMT declined comment.

THR also spoke to a 20th executive:

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter after the upfronts, 20th Century Fox Television’s Howard Kurtzman singled out Last Man Standing as the most disappointing and surprising pass. “If there’s a way to bring it back, we will explore those opportunities,” he said.

Deadline.com offered a few more details, also on June 14:

The talks are preliminary, exploring the financial feasibility of producing the series for CMT, which would involve virtually everyone on the show taking a pay cut. A deal is considered a long shot though not impossible.

While the studio has reached out to the writers on the show, who had all scattered to pursue other jobs, the cast has not been approached about extending their options, which expire in two weeks. Depending whether talks with CMT progress, the studio would likely move to pick up the actors if there is a reasonable chance for a deal.

CMT has found success with “Nashville,” a country-music-centered show that fit well with the cablenet’s core audience. Since the network is getting good results from syndicated reruns of “Last Man Standing,” it appears to also resonate with the same viewers.

Picking up the sitcom would further solidify CMT’s move from a countrified MTV-style music-video network to a viable niche alternative network, presenting middle-America-centric fare. This sort of programming doesn’t seem to much interest the major broadcast networks — with the possible exception of CBS — which prefer to program edgier shows that appeal to urban and coastal audiences.

If you’d like to tell CMT to pick up “Last Man Standing,” tweet them @CMT or drop a note to the network’s Facebook page.

UPDATE: Alas, it looks as if this won’t happen. From Deadline.com:

It was considered too long of a shot for fans of Last Man Standing to get their hopes up, and I hear now it’s final — CMT won’t be picking up canceled ABC comedy series Last Man Standing a new season. CMT, which carries reruns of the Tim Allen-starring sitcom, had engaged in conversations with the studio behind Last Man Standing, 20th Century Fox TV, about possibly ordering original episodes. The talks were only preliminary, exploring the financial feasibility of producing the series for CMT, which would’ve involved virtually everyone on the show taking a pay cut. I hear in the end, the two sides could not agree on the numbers.

Image: Courtesy 20th Century Fox

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.

Hallmark Announces Christmas Movies for 2017 (And Christmas in July!)

Now that summer is upon us, sister cablenets Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries are keeping it frosty by announcing their 2017 Countdown to Christmas event, starting in October, and a Christmas-in-July movie event

First up, from July 14-23, is the Christmas Keepsake Holiday Preview — lest you forget Hallmark’s “Keepsake Ornament” line of decorations — featuring several favorite Hallmark Christmas movies of years past, and one new one.

Airing July 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, “The Christmas Cure” (which had the previous working title of “Home for the Holidays) stars Brooke Nevin and Steve Byers (pictured below), and Patrick Duffy.

Here’s Hallmark’s description:

An emergency room doctor returns home for Christmas after many years to find that her father has decided to retire. After reuniting with her high school sweetheart and spending an emotional Christmas with her family, she must decide if she will stay in her hometown and takeover her father’s practice. Stars Brooke Nevin, Steve Byers and Patrick Duffy.

Click here for the full July lineup.

The Countdown to Christmas promotion launches on Friday, Oct. 27, and features a record 33 new movies, on Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Click here for Entertainment Weekly’s rundown of the lineup, and here for the one on the Hallmark Channel Website.

Here are some highlights:

WHEN CALLS THE HEART CHRISTMAS!

Stars Erin Krakow, Daniel Lissing, Lori Loughlin, Martin Cummins, Jack Wagner, Pascale Hutton, and Kavan Smith

A loved one returns, Christmas spirit is renewed, and children’s wishes are granted in this heartwarming Christmas movie featuring the series’ beloved characters. Elizabeth’s fiancé, Jack, surprises her, coming on home on leave and bringing a young Mountie desperately searching for Christmas inspiration. The community of Hope Valley works together to aid this young man with the help of an enchanted Wishing Tree. And as mayor, Abigail is pretty busy. Recognizing that, her newly adopted son, Cody, engages classmates in creating the town’s annual Christmas Celebration. While Sheriff Bill Avery forges a relationship with the disgraced former mayor, Henry Gowen, Rosemary and Lee are reminded that family is the true meaning of Christmas.

EVERGREEN INN

Stars Alison Sweeney

Sophie Bennett begins a new holiday tradition of spending every holiday at the Evergreen Inn and Ski Lodge, which she inherited from her parents. Evergreen Inn is a special place filled with people who cannot make it home for the holidays or who have had such wonderful experiences that it has become their home-away-from-holiday-home. This Christmas, Sophie will meet an unforgettable family, and her own life will be forever changed.

ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS

Stars devout Christian spouses Alexa and Carlos PenaVega.

Weeks before Christmas, interior designer Laura is sent to her hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico to remodel a landmark hotel. As Laura is kept busy with the renovations, her 8-year-old daughter Nicole is introduced to the art of salsa dancing at a local dance studio. Laura is surprised to find that the studio’s owner is Ricardo, her old high school sweetheart and former salsa dance partner. When Laura and Ricardo reconnect, sparks fly on and off the dance floor. The beautiful Christmas traditions of New Mexico become the backdrop for spirited dancing and unexpected romance.

THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN

David Baldacci’s No. 1 New York Times bestseller comes to Hallmark Hall of Fame with this story of cynical journalist Tom Langdon, taking a train from D.C. to L.A. for Christmas. He’s not too thrilled with the journey, but Tom is the sort who’s not thrilled by much. Tom’s been briefly married but never had kids. Today his ex-wife wouldn’t accept a collect call from him in the most dire of circumstances. Tom is forty-one and has just lost his mother to a stroke; his father has been dead for several years. Being an only child he is truly alone now, and that has made him introspective. Half his time on earth is gone, and all he has to show for it is a failed marriage, no offspring, an informal alliance with a California voiceover queen, a truckload of newsprint and some awards. By any reasonable measure, it is a miserable excuse for an existence. But Tom’s cross-country journey will soon become an internal odyssey. Strangers remind of him of people’s innate goodness. Before long, Tom rekindles a love, and the magic of Christmas takes hold.

KAREN KINGSBURY’S MAGGIE’S MIRACLE

Megan spent one unforgettable summer with a boy when they were teens and she’s never forgotten his magical definition of love. Now a high-powered attorney in New York and a single mother, her young son unexpectedly connects them again.

ENGAGING FATHER CHRISTMAS

Stars Erin Krakow, Niall Matter, Wendie Malick.

It was supposed to be the perfect engagement. What could be more romantic than a Christmas proposal in a bucolic Vermont inn? Ian has it planned perfectly, or so he thinks. Miranda, an interior designer, returns to where she met Ian, a dashing former attorney who now runs the little hotel in the quaint town of Carlton Heath. After doing some digging to learn about her family roots, Miranda had traced her lineage to Carlton Heath. Though it’s Christmas, Miranda had always done her best to distance herself from the holiday; her mom, an actress, had died while performing a holiday play. Ian has carefully planned every aspect of Miranda’s visit so he could make the most romantic proposal. Too bad the best-laid plans often go awry.

CHRISTMAS SISTER SWAP

Stars devout Christian Candace Cameron Bure

Just because they are identical does not mean these twins even like each other. Estranged twin sisters get together for an obligatory pre-Christmas lunch, a year after their mother died. Both women are unhappy and frustrated with their own lives. Though not close, each is envious of the other’s life. What’s a twin to do but take advantage of this? And who would be the wiser? They do what any identical twins in need of new outlooks would do — they swap lives until Christmas Day. And by doing so, each woman discovers the true meaning of her life and gains a deeper perspective and appreciation for what she already had.

Images: Courtesy Hallmark Channel

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.

Tim Allen of ‘Last Man Standing’: The Long, Hard Road to Faith

On June 13, comedian and actor Tim Allen turns 63 years old — and there’s good news and bad news. He’s had two successful sitcoms on ABC, one of which was just unexpectedly canceled. On the other hand, he’s sober, is the father of two daughters and has rediscovered his Christian faith.

Derailed by his father’s death in a car accident with a drunk driver when he was 11 — which severely impacted his faith — Allen went from a self-described “Episcopalian kid with a nice background” to 28 months in a federal prison for selling drugs in 1979. Paroled in 1983 at the age of 29, he picked up the threads of his life and began working as a standup comic, focusing on the differences between men and women, and especially on what makes men tick.

That led to the long-running hit sitcom “Home Improvement” on ABC in 1991, and such hit movies as “The Santa Clause.” Allen parlayed his man’s-man persona into stardom and wealth. But his first marriage, to the college sweetheart who stuck by him, ended in 1999, after producing one daughter.

But during that time, in 1997, Allen was arrested for DUI. Sentenced to probation, he went into rehab for alcohol abuse and has remained sober. In 2006, he married actress and longtime girlfriend Jane Hajduk, and they had a daughter in 2009.

In the fall of 2011, ABC premiered “Last Man Standing,” loosely based on Allen’s life as a conservative Christian Republican father of three (but the character is a sporting-goods executive, not a TV star).

Here he is in 2011, while “Last Man Standing” was just starting on ABC, talking to Elizabeth Vargas of ABC’s “20/20” about his life and how he regained his faith in “The Builder,” as the former “Home Improvement” star refers to God.

In part, he said (as transcribed in ABC News’ blog):

Allen’s father died when he was hit by a drunk driver when Allen was just 11. The comedian says that after that, he questioned whether if he had prayed harder or had been with his father that fatal day, he could have prevented his death.

“For years, I just did not like this idea of God, church,” he said. “(I was) still a churchgoer, but constantly a cynic.”

But the cynicism didn’t last. Today, he calls God, “The Builder.”

Despite “Last Man Standing” being ABC’s number-two sitcom after “Modern Family,” it got the ax last month from the Disney-owned network. That set off a furor from fans who believed it was because of Allen’s outspoken political and religious views, which don’t mesh with most of the Hollywood elite.

Here’s what he said to Jimmy Kimmel in March, as reported by Deadline.com:

“You’ve gotta be real careful around here,” Allen replied. “You get beat up if don’t believe what everybody believes. This is like ’30s Germany. I don’t know what happened. If you’re not part of the group, ‘You know what we believe is right,’ I go, ‘Well, I might have a problem with that.’ I’m a comedian, I like going on both sides.”

When the cancellation news came through a couple of months later, here’s how Allen responded:

 

Snopes.com checked into the reasons behind the cancellation. It cited ABC’s claim that this was a business decision, driven in part by the fact that ABC doesn’t own the show, so the network won’t share in any syndication, cable or streaming revenues. The network also says it’s moving away from a Friday comedy block.

All of these may be true, but there’s seldom a single reason a show gets picked up or cancelled. It’s always a calculation with money, scheduling and taste figuring in. Few shows on network TV feature overt orthodox Christians or political conservatives, although they make up a large chunk of the audience. It’s hard to know whether that’s a result of the networks thinking Americans don’t want to see those folks, or because the networks just don’t want to showcase those particular viewpoints.

But, since 20th Century Fox Studios, not ABC, produced “Last Man Standing,” this may not be the end. Reportedly, the studio is seeking another home for the popular show.

From Variety:

But the series, which was ABC’s second most-watched comedy last season behind “Modern Family,” may not be dead. Asked whether “Last Man Standing” would be shopped to other networks, [studio president Howard} Kurtzman said, “We’re starting to explore that. If it’s not going to go forward at ABC, of course Jonnie and I are hopeful that we can find another home for it.”

Whatever happens, at least Allen knows he’s got “The Builder” to rely upon.

Image: Courtesy ABC/20th Century Fox Videos

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.

Former “Bad Boy” Mark Wahlberg Speaking Out for His Catholic Faith

Today, June 5, is the 46th birthday of actor and producer Mark Wahlberg, a Catholic and, like all of us, a work in progress.

In his youth, he committed crimes and acts of violence and served time in jail for them. As a rapper and actor, his music and roles have often employed foul language, overt sexuality and violence. He was also an underwear model.

But if a repentant thief crucified next to Christ could find his way into the kingdom, there is hope for us all.

In recent years, Wahlberg publicly recommitted to his Catholic faith and married longtime girlfriend Rhea Durham — at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills, where he has been a regular Mass attendee. Their children also attend a Catholic school.

While not all of his movies are family fare, he was a star and producer for “Deepwater Horizon,” the film about the 2010 explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and “Patriots Day,” about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Both of these films celebrated the heroism of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

He’s also spoken out publicly about the difference returning to the Church as made in his life.

From 2012, on Piers Morgan’s now-defunct CNN talk show:

As the Master of Ceremonies for the World Meeting of Families festival in 2015, during Pope Francis’ visit to America …

He also had to make a little apology to Pope Francis for his raunchy movie, “Ted” …

And from 2016, a viral video calling for vocations to the priesthood, and talking about what priests have meant to him …

We all make mistakes, sometimes terrible ones, and when you become a public figure, there’s no escaping your past. But if the best use of fame is to help others, Wahlberg is making good use of his celebrity to show what repentance and redemption can mean.

Happy Birthday, Mark!

Image: Courtesy Amazon Prime

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.

Protecting Kids (and Their Souls) in a Media/Digital World

While parents are rightly concerned what their kids see on television or hear in school, every laptop, tablet and smartphone opens a door to a digital world where the best and worst of humanity is on view.

There is software to help parents filter what their children can see — click here for a current rundown of top offerings, via PC Magazine — but social media especially opens up risks of trolling and cyberbullying, and may allow child predators to target potential victims.

How is the Church Helping Protect Kids in the Digital World?

This coming October, the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome is host for a congress called “Child Dignity in the Digital World.”

From Vatican Radio:

Spearheaded and hosted by the University’s Center for Child Protection headed by Prof. Hans Zollner SJ, the congress entitled “Child Dignity in the Digital World” will examine new forms of abuse children can be subjected to in the digital world, and discuss the risks and challenges of the digital age and its impact on the dignity of children.

The congress foresees the participation of global scientific and technical experts and decision makers, and aims to promote appropriate action.

The International event will take place from 3 to 6 October in partnership with WePROTECT Global Alliance. At the end of the congress a declaration will be presented to Pope Francis who is scheduled to receive the participants in audience.

Although hazards to children abound online, a lot of responsibility lies with those who create content, and those whose job it is to curate content, including parents and teachers. Even if they’re kept away from a TV screen, in many families, it’s extremely difficult to protect innocent young eyes from images on social media.

What Does Pope Francis Have to Say About Digital Communication?

A lot of what’s televised and posted online does no good for adults, either.

In his recent address for the 51st World Communications Day in January, Pope Francis spoke directly to content creators, appealing to the better angels of their nature:

I would like, then, to contribute to the search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamorize evil but instead to concentrate on solutions and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients. I ask everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart “good news.”

What Can Parents and Parishes Do?

Along with commercial filtering programs, fellow Catholics can help each other find great, faith-affirming family content. Here’s one great resource, “Strong Catholic Family Faith,” formed with the help of experts from the dioceses of Jefferson City, Missouri; San Jose, California; St. Petersburg, Florida; and Joliet, Illinois.

CatholicFamilyFaith.org: As described, “The Strong Catholic Family Faith website has been created to assist parish and school leaders in finding the best and most relevant content and experiences for developing faith-filled Catholic families.  All of these resources have been selected and reviewed by the Project Team and drawn from trusted sources.”

The site offers media resources (including reviews), faith practices, the liturgical calendar, parent and grandparent formation, information on the sacraments, and leadership training and other initiatives for adults and youth.

It’s impressive.

Here’s one of the videos:

Image: Courtesy Pixabay

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.

John Wayne and Steve McQueen: Finding Faith at the End

Hollywood stars John Wayne and Steve McQueen apparently found new faith — and not a moment too soon.

Friday, May 26, is the birthday of Wayne, born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, in 1907. He died on June 11, 1979, at the age of 72, from stomach cancer (after surviving lung cancer).

He was baptized a Presbyterian, but he married three Catholic women, and his children and grandchildren were raised Catholic (we know the first wife never remarried after the divorce and continued to pray for Wayne’s conversion).

One grandson, Father Matthew Munoz, is a priest in the Diocese of Orange in Southern California.

Because of his spouses, Wayne moved in Catholic circles and became good friends in Los Angeles with Archbishop Tomas Clavel. But, he still didn’t become Catholic.

But, as told in an article at ChurchPop:

Then, in 1979, as he was dying of cancer and surrounded by his family in his home, he finally decided to join the Catholic Church. He requested for Archbishop Clavel to come to his house, but he was too ill to come, and so another archbishop in the diocese was sent.

Wayne was received into the Catholic Church and then died just two days later.

Why did he wait until his deathbed to convert? His grandson explained that Wayne was regretful about not becoming a Catholic sooner, blaming “a busy life.”

That other archbishop was Archbishop Mark McGrath, C.S.C., of Panama City, Panama, a member of the Holy Cross Order — which also operates Holy Cross Family Ministries and its subsidiary, Family Theater Productions.

I contacted Father Willy Raymond, President of HCFM and former head of FTP, to ask about Wayne, since there is a parking spot for him in the lot at the FTP offices on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

While Fr. Willy — as he’s widely known from his years in Los Angeles — doesn’t believe that Wayne ever worked for Family Theater Productions or its founder, Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., but his “The Quiet Man” co-star Maureen O’Hara did (and she also has a parking space, as does fellow Catholic and “Quiet Man” director John Ford).

Fr. Willy wrote back:

I had a long conversation with Maureen O’Hara, who said that she loved John Wayne and loved working with him. He was always a perfect gentleman, always well-prepared.

There was never anything inappropriate in their relationship, but she said one of the great joys of her life was working with John Wayne on “The Quiet Man.”

He added that Wayne’s son, Michael Wayne, was a regular donor to the Angelus Student Film Festival, which FTP used to run, and that he was a member of a Catholic parish in the San Fernando Valley.

Now, although Wayne came into the Catholic Church on his deathbed, he was already a Christian.

The same can’t be said of the late conversion of actor Steve McQueen, who died of malignant mesothelioma in Mexico in 1980 at the age of 50.

As related in the upcoming book, “Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon,” coming out on June 13, Southern California Evangelical preacher Greg Laurie (co-author with McQueen expert Marshall Terrill) relates that McQueen had a dramatic conversion experience near the end of his life.

From The Christian Post:

The book includes interviews conducted by Terrill and Laurie with people who were close to McQueen and can attest to his spiritual transformation, such as McQueen’s widow, Barbi, the pastor of McQueen’s church, McQueen’s flight instructor and even a metabolic technician who served McQueen in the days leading up to his death.

“There was a statement that McQueen made, which was, ‘My only regret in life was that I was not able to tell others about what Jesus Christ did for me,'” Laurie said, quoting what McQueen had told Pastor Leonard DeWitt of Ventura Missionary Church before he died.

“I thought, that’s a wrong that needs to be righted,” Laurie added.

According to the book, McQueen began asking profound questions about the reliability of the Bible and the nature of Christianity, with the help of his pastor, a flying instructor and a stuntman friend.

McQueen met with renowned evangelist Dr. Billy Graham in his last days. The book relates how his son, Chad McQueen, found his father holding tight to the Bible that Graham had given him, and that it was with him when he died.

Here’s a video of Laurie discussing McQueen’s conversion at an Evangelical event last year:

God works in His own way and in His own time. Of course, it’s better to come to the realization of faith as soon as possible, but the last guest to the banquet is as welcome as the first.

Images: Flickr: Steve Avery (McQueen); Wikimedia Commons; Family Theater Productions/Kate O’Hare

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.