Category: Family Movies & Television

Happy Birthday, Julie Andrews! Recalling the (Very Catholic) ‘Sound of Music’

Julie Andrews’ birthday is Sunday, Oct. 1, and in honor of her, let’s spend a little time talking her role as Maria in 1965’s “The Sound of Music.” It may be her most famous part — along with “Mary Poppins” — and it’s definitely her most Catholic one.

Set in Austria in 1938, the film adaptation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway show — itself based on a memoir, “The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers,” by Maria Von Trapp — stars Andrews as Maria, a young woman studying to be a nun in Salzburg, Austria. The Mother Abbess, suspecting the high-spirited Maria is a poor fit for the convent, sends her to be governess to the seven children of widowed retired naval officer Capt. Georg Von Trapp. After a rocky beginning, Maria wins over the children — and eventually wins Von Trapp’s heart. But the encroachment of the Nazis forces the Von Trapps to slip away, at great peril, and head over the mountains to Switzerland and freedom.

One of the film’s most iconic scenes came at the beginning. Andrews recalls:

“A giant helicopter came at me sideways with a very brave cameraman hanging out [its] side,” said the 81-year-old. “Every time he went around me, the downdraft from the jets would fling me down into the grass.”

In 2015, to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary, Lady Gaga — a Catholic — put aside her outrageous stage image and stunned the world with a tribute to Andrews and “The Hills Are Alive”:

Maria is obviously a devout Catholic, as exemplified in this prayer, as 16-going-on-17-year-old daughter Liesel (Charmain Carr) sneaks in late:

A few years ago, NBC did a live version of “The Sound of Music,” with Carrie Underwood, and much as the network might have been tempted to remove them, the nuns stayed in the picture.

“The Sound of Music” is example of a film that, while saturated in the Catholic faith and imagery, has an appeal to people across generations, decades and ethnicities. You don’t have to be Austrian or German or European or Catholic to appreciate a story of love and family in the face of oppression.

Observed a 2015 story in the National Catholic Register, written by a former Catholic schoolboy:

Seeing The Sound of Music with the sisters and my schoolmates was a life-changing experience. It is still my favorite movie, which I have watched dozens of times. When Mother Superior tells Maria that the monastery walls were not built to hide from the world, I get a sense of the courage and commitment involved in discerning a religious vocation. When Maria and Capt. von Trapp stand at night by the pond, the scene illustrates the chaste, delicate and awakening nature of love and the trust and sacrifice it requires. When the captain pulls down the Nazi flag from his home after returning from his honeymoon, I know in my bones there is evil in the world that attacks even the innocence of children — and that good men and women must stand against it, regardless of the cost.

Sadly, Andrews’ singing voice was irreparably damaged during a 1997 surgery for non-cancerous nodules in her throat. It was a loss, not only to Andrews, but the world.

Here she is at 12, singing opera:

Once asked about her favorite song from “The Sound of Music,” Andrews ironically named one she didn’t sing in the movie (but did often sing later in concert), a song that touches the heart of anyone who loves his or her homeland:

Early in the film, the nuns at the abbey despair, singing, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?”

The song returns later, when she weds Capt. Von Trapp. A Catholic wedding has seldom been portrayed more beautifully in a movie.

If you want to share this classic with your family, just click here for the DVD, or here to stream via Amazon Video.

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.

5 for Friday: ‘Great British Baking Show,’ ‘Mulan,’ Hallmark, ‘Shark Tank’ and More

And they say there’s nothing good on television! We disagree, and if you want to gather round the flatscreen this weekend for some good family viewing, you don’t even need to use a screening app.

Here’s a selection of cable and broadcast shows suitable for Junior to Nana and everyone in between (all times ET/PT):

“Great British Baking Show” — Friday, 8 p.m., PBS (whose affiliates are allowed to air shows on their own schedules, so check local listings for time and station in your area)

As addictive as the baked goods produced on the show, this British import is simultaneously charming, relaxing and incredibly tense. Diverse contestants — who, despite differences in faith, ethnicity and background, seem chosen for being generally lovely people — gather under a large tent on the lawn of a high-end British estate to compete in the creation of a dizzying array of British and international cakes, pies, biscuits, rolls, muffins, buns and cookies. Then they face the judgment of two baking experts: well-tanned Paul Hollywood, and persnickety octogenarian Mary Berry (at top).

While the competition is nerve-wracking, the hosts — the comic team of Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc — keep it light, the judges are stern but loving, and there is zero backbiting or unpleasantness among the contestants.

As a bonus, if your kids wonder how math is used in the world, just have them watch the bakers working out amounts of ingredients and cooking times, and doing complex engineering for gingerbread houses and other towering creations.

The show is also available on Netflix.

“Mulan” (1998) — Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Freeform

One of the directors of this Disney animated film is Christian Tony Bancroft (read an interview with himself and a fellow Disney animator here), and the film got four out of five stars from watchdog group Common Sense Media, which wrote:

Parents need to know that although Mulan is a decidedly Disneyfied take on a Chinese fairy tale, elements of Chinese culture and history ring true. It also offers kids a strong female character who (like Moana and Merida) stands out from the Disney Princess pack and offers a positive gender representation for young viewers (even though gender-related stereotypes are also sometimes played for laughs). Expect some scary/intense battle scenes, weapons use, explosions, sad moments, and a very menacing bad guy. The Huns destroy Chinese villages and kill people (not shown). There’s a bit of flirting/romantic tension. While Mulan ultimately becomes a hero and helps her people, she does so by rebelling against authority, which is worth discussing. But in the end, this is a story about perseverance, teamwork, and courage that’s bound to choke up dads and daughters everywhere.

The site also offers 23 parent reviews and suggestions for how to discuss the movie with kids.

“Up” (2009): — Saturday, 9:35 p.m., and Sunday, 7:20 p.m., Freeform

Upon release, this charming and heartfelt Pixar animated film was just about universally loved, and to this day, it has a 98% positive score on film-rating site Rotten Tomatoes.

Ed Asner voices elderly man Carl Fredericksen, who, together with his wife Ellie, had always dreamed of traveling to Paradise Falls in South America. After Ellie dies, Carl decides to honor her by making their dream come true, so he lashes hundreds of helium balloons to his house and floats off to find Paradise Falls. Unbeknownst to Carl, he’s got an unintended stowaway — an eager scout (voice of Justin Nagai), who has more enthusiasm than skills.

A few caveats from Common Sense Media, which gives the film 5 out of 5 stars:

Parents need to know that Up is the second Pixar movie (after The Incredibles) to receive a PG rating, mostly due to a few potentially frightening scenes involving a band of trained talking dogs trying to get rid of the protagonists, some moments where characters almost fall from a floating house, and some guns firing. That said, it’s Disney/Pixar, so the violence is mild. Viewers should note that an early wordless sequence follows an emotional and potentially upsetting trajectory that could trigger questions about old age, illness, and death.

“Harvest Love” (2017) — Saturday, 9 p.m., Hallmark Channel

This is a romance, so younger kids will probably wrinkle up their noses, but at 9 p.m., it’s after the bedtime of a lot of little ones anyway. But preteens and up — and especially moms — may enjoy this story of love after loss. Here’s how Hallmark describes it:

A widowed surgeon visits her family’s pear orchard in hopes of taking a break from her overbooked life and reconnecting with her distant son. She starts to fall for the farm manager, Will, who is growing a new hybrid pear and teaches her the importance of her heritage. Stars Jen Lilley and Ryan Paevey.

“Shark Tank” — Sunday, 8 p.m., ABC

Business magnate, inventor and philanthropist Richard Branson joins the “sharks” for the Mark Burnett-produced show’s 9th-season premiere, which runs for two hours. Here’s how ABC describes it:

An 11-year-old inventor from San Clemente, California, recycles a skateboard deck to fit inside lockers and backpacks; an entrepreneur from Meridianville, Alabama, revolutionizes aerial sports; a husband and wife team from Vicksburg, Mississippi create outdoor camping gear; and an entrepreneur from San Francisco, California, claims her five-minute meditation app will help the world reduce stress.

In “Shark Tank,” inventors pitch products and services in hopes of securing funding from the panel of wealthy potential investors. The “shark” element comes in as the panelists grill the hopefuls and also compete with each other for the most likely prospects.

While it wasn’t intended as a show for kids, it’s turned out to be one of the several reality shows that families watch together. While most of it will go over the heads of younger kids, middle-schoolers and up can get a quick masterclass on how business and investing work, and what it takes to recruit people to support your dreams.

And sometimes, as in this episode, kids come on to pitch their own ideas — and the panel doesn’t go easy on them.

Images: Courtesy BBC/PBS, Disney/Pixar, 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.

Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas — One Month Away!

Marry Me at Christmas

Los Angeles is already starting to decorate for Halloween, which is more than a month away, so why wouldn’t Hallmark launch its annual Countdown to Christmas movie event exactly a month from today?

On Friday, Oct. 27 until Dec. 31, Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries go wall-to-wall with holiday-themed movies, including a total of 33 original movies between the two channels.

Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas features new movies every Saturday and Sunday (except. Oct. 29) at 8 p.m. ET/PT — click here for the full rundown — starting on Oct. 28 with “Marry Me at Christmas”:

Stars: Rachel Skarsten, Trevor Donovan
Organizing a Christmas wedding is a true treat for bridal boutique owner Madeline Krug. She loves the challenge of finding the perfect dress for the bride and orchestrating an exquisite event. What Madeline didn’t expect was to be swept off her feet by the bride’s gorgeous brother, movie star Johnny Blake. Jonny came to the quirky town of Fool’s Gold to support his sister — not to fall in love. Yet Madeline is the most extraordinary woman he’s ever met. Planning the perfect wedding leads to candlelit dinners and strolls through snow-covered streets. Madeline finds the real Johnny even more captivating than her celebrity crush. Will the action star be brave enough to take on the role of a lifetime?

Here’s the whole thing (you can download the schedule from here):


Hallmark Movies & Mysteries begins its celebration, called The Most Wonderful Movies of Christmas” click here for the full rundown, on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 9 p.m. ET/PT with “Mr. Christmas”:

Starring: Sam Page, Tara Holt
Tom Jacobs has built an entire business around helping clients find the perfect gift for their loved ones. Since his company’s busiest time of the year is the holidays, he’s earned himself the nickname Mr. Christmas. When Tom’s good friend Paul comes to him asking for help in finding a gift for his girlfriend, Jenny, Mr. Christmas finds himself in a bit of trouble. The more he learns about Jenny during his research, the more he likes her, and the guiltier he feels being caught between his heart and his best friend. With Christmas rapidly approaching, Tom dreads his encroaching deadline as it will mean an end to his time with Jenny and perhaps an end to his only chance at being with his one true love.

Here’s the rest (you can download the schedule from here):

Heaven knows we could all use a little cheer!

Image: 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.

UPDATED: CBS’ Catholic-Family Comedy ‘Kevin Can Wait’ Returns Monday, Plus Leah Remini


This post was written without having seen the season-two premiere of “Kevin Can Wait,” which apparently upset many viewers in how it dealt — or didn’t — with the demise of Donna, the wife character played by Erinn Hayes.

From Entertainment Weekly:

 In June, CBS president Kelly Kahl had promised, “It will be treated with dignity and respect, something that will have taken place in the past.”

Well, how it was handled was in 20 seconds with a postcard from Donna’s gym and a kung-fu joke. There was no explanation or insight into her demise, only that it had been over a year since she died. On Twitter, many fans expressed outrage about how quickly the death of the show’s female lead was glossed over.

“Wow,” wrote one Twitter user. “Really. #KevinCanWait just casually mentions his wife ‘died over a year ago.’ Just to bring Leah Remini back. Sad and distasteful.”

I’ve been around show business long enough to know that there is probably a lot more to this than appears on the surface, but this is very disappointing. We’re pleased that the Kendra/Chale wedding finally took place, and that dad Kevin (Kevin James) got a priest to perform it, but as to the rest …

Very disappointing indeed.


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 …


…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:


“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.


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.