Category: Kate O’Hare

‘Masterpiece’: ‘Les Miserables,’ Jane Austen and Big-Screen ‘Downton Abbey’

Long a TV haven for beautifully produced drama — frequently, but not universally, suitable for middle-schoolers and up — PBS “Masterpiece” has more great literature and family drama in the pipeline.

Just don’t expect any of these to appear soon.

Let’s take a look …

“Les Miserables” (currently in production to air in 2019)

Victor Hugo’s classic novel has already been adapted into a hit musical, which also became a hit movie — both of which maintained the Catholic core of the 1862 story, which culminates in the 1832 anti-monarchist June Rebellion in Paris (not the French Revolution, that was from 1789-1799).

The six-part BBC/”Masterpiece” production stars Dominic West (“The Wire”) as Jean Valjean, whose minor misdeed runs him afoul of the authorities — especially the relentless policeman Javert (David Oyelowo). But the kindness of a bishop, which the desperate Valjean repays by stealing from him, sets Valjean on a winding path that ultimately leads to his transformation and redemption.

Also starring are Lily Collins as Fantine, whose child Valjean later adopts.

The writer is Andrew Davies, who has adapted many classic novels for the screen, including the BBC’s acclaimed 1995 version of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

The BBC has released some pictures. In order: Collins, West and Oyelowo.

Lily Collins as Fantine. Credit: BBC

 

Dominic West as Jean Valjean. Credit: BBC

 

David Oyelowo as Javert. Credit: BBC

“Sanditon” (begins filming in Spring 2019)

Andrew Davies is also adopting Jane Austen’s “Sanditon,” left unfinished at her death at the age of 41. He’s expanding the 11-chapter fragment into eight 60-minute episodes, produced by “Masterpiece” in partnership with ITV, and distributed by BBC Studios.

From PBS:

Written only months before Austen’s death in 1817, Sanditon tells the story of the joyously impulsive, spirited and unconventional Charlotte Heywood and her spiky relationship with the humorous, charming (and slightly wild!) Sidney Parker. When a chance accident transports her from her rural hometown of Willingden to the would-be coastal resort of the eponymous title, it exposes Charlotte to the intrigues and dalliances of a seaside town on the make, and the characters whose fortunes depend on its commercial success. The twists and turns of the plot, which take viewers from the West Indies to the rotting alleys of London, expose the hidden agendas of each character and sees Charlotte discover herself… and ultimately find love.

ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill commented: “It’s a rich, romantic, family saga built upon the foundations Jane Austen laid. There is no one better to adapt her unfinished novel than Andrew who has an incredible track record for bold and original adaptations. We’re delighted to commission Sanditon from Belinda Campbell and her team at Red Planet Pictures.”

And, said Davies on assuming the task of channeling Austen:

Jane Austen managed to write only a fragment of her last novel before she died – but what a fragment! Sanditon tells the story of the transformation of a sleepy fishing village into a fashionable seaside resort, with a spirited young heroine, a couple of entrepreneurial brothers, some dodgy financial dealings, a West Indian heiress, and quite a bit of nude bathing. It’s been a privilege and a thrill for me to develop Sanditon into a TV drama for a modern audience.

“Downton Abbey” (feature-film sequel planned; not in production yet)

All the major stars from “Masterpiece’s” megahit “Downton Abbey” are returning for the planned feature-film version, including Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham) — just confirmed by People on July 16; Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley); Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith Crawley); Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates); Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham); and Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham).

Directing is Brian Percival, who directed the series’ pilot; plot details are unknown. The writer is British Catholic Julian Fellowes, who’s also writing a 10-part series for NBC called “The Gilded Age.” Set in 1880s New York City, it follows the conflict as the city’s old-money families have to deal with a sudden influx of social-climbing nouveau riche.

Said Fellowes in the U.K. Guardian:

To write The Gilded Age is the fulfilment of a personal dream.

I have been fascinated by this period of American history for many years, and now NBC has given me the chance to bring it to a modern audience. I could not be more excited and thrilled.

The truth is, America is a wonderful country with a rich and varied history, and nothing could give me more pleasure than to be the person to bring that compelling history to the screen.

We’ll have to wait and see how many of these productions will be suitable for the whole family, but at least we know they’ll be intelligently written — and these days, that’s something.

Image: PBS/BBC

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.

‘God Bless the Broken Road’: Catholic Screenwriter Jennifer Dornbush’s Movie Releases a Trailer

This September, “God Bless the Broken Road” hits theaters, telling the faith-based story of a young wife struggling with her husband’s death in Afghanistan.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

In the film, a young mother (True Blood and Hatfields and McCoys‘ Lindsay Pulsipher) struggles to hold onto her faith as she raises her daughter (Steve Jobs‘ Makenzie Moss) in the wake of her husband’s death in Afghanistan.

In the preview, her character is heard saying, “I tried putting my faith in God. I don’t understand why he would do that to us. If he wants me, he knows where to find me.”

Meanwhile, her daughter is convinced a mustard seed she planted in Sunday school will grow and she meets one of the men who served alongside her husband (played by Arthur Cartwright), who tells her that her husband’s faith “gave him the courage to do the impossible.”

The cast also includes former NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson, Jordin Sparks and Andrew W. Walker.

Here’s the official trailer:

Director Harold Cronk (“God’s Not Dead”) is listed as one of the screenwriters, along with Catholic screenwriter, author and forensic specialist Jennifer Dornbursh.

Last year, Dornbush spoke at Family Theater Productions, and beforehand took a few minutes to sit down with us for an interview. Take a look:

Image: Courtesy 10 West Studios/A Really Good Home Pictures

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.

‘Last Man Standing’: Tim Allen Returns to America’s TVs on Sept. 28

Tim Allen returns to TV this fall — it’s ABC’s loss, and Fox’s (and America’s) gain.

TV networks are slowly realizing that if they want to be broadcasters — appealing to a broad audience — in an increasingly crowded marketplace of niche-programming suppliers, they’ll have to learn how to speak more to the middle of the country (or at least all those bits that aren’t major cities and university towns).

CBS has always kept a focus on that, but it’s been more of a challenge in recent years for the other three networks, who have worked harder appealing to young, hip and urban viewers.

With its cancellations of “The Middle” and its reboot of “Roseanne” (which is being reconfigured without its controversial star; we’ll see how that goes), ABC is having a particularly tough time. It didn’t help that the network also canceled Tim Allen’s popular comedy “Last Man Standing,” which ran from 2011 to 2017, despite high ratings.

The fall of the ax shocked Allen and his many loyal fans, who began with him in ABC’s “Home Improvement,” and came back to see him play Mike Baxter, a traditional man with conservative views, who works at a Denver sporting-goods store, and has a wife and three daughters at home.

The cancellation happened in part because the show is a production of Twentieth Century Fox Television, instead of one of ABC’s affiliated studios. But, Fox Broadcasting Company stepped in and picked up its sister studio’s show, which returns to the airwaves on Friday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Here’s how Allen reacted in a statement back in May:

“Excited? Team LMS was in the sixth inning, ahead by four runs, stands were packed, and then for no reason, they call off the game. It leaves you sitting in the dugout, holding a bat and puzzled. Now we get the news from Fox that it’s time to get back out on that diamond — hell yes, I’m excited!

When I heard the offer to create more episodes of Last Man Standing, I did a fist pump so hard I threw my back out. It’s the fans! I could not be more grateful for the fans who wrote petitions and kept up the passion and incredible support for the show. And a fist pump, ouch, for [Fox Television Group CEOs] Dana Walden and Gary Newman at Fox for not only listening to the fans, but for making the bold move to bring Last Man Standing back.

I’m sure audiences will be curious to see what we look like after all these years. Oh, has it only been one year? Well, just goes to show you — a lot can happen in a year.”

There will be some changes. Molly Ephraim and Flynn Morrison, who played Mike’s middle daughter Mandy and grandson Boyd, respectively, opted not to return. Both roles are being recast, but no word yet on the replacements (since production usually begins for the fall in July, they’d better hop to it).

The rest of the core cast is back, lead by Nancy Travis as Mike’s wife. Also on board is Hector Elizondo, whose competing pilot, “Guess Who Died,” got a pass from NBC. Show-runner/executive producer Kevin Abbott is also back.

“Last Man Standing” reflected Allen’s own conservative views, but it was known for presenting many different viewpoints.

From Tony Rossi of Catholic organization The Christophers:

One of the strengths of “Last Man Standing” is that it manages to give valid arguments to both its liberal and conservative characters. Not each one is right all the time – and it is a comedy so laughs are paramount – but the writers ably walk the fine line of political debate that still respects the humanity of its characters. In that sense, it’s a more successful entity than the United States Congress and many online comments threads. As a viewer, I appreciate the fact that I’m not being hammered with an agenda, but rather being told an entertaining story with some implicit relevance to today’s times.

The show is also faith-friendly. Mike Baxter is a churchgoer and a man of faith, as is Allen, in his own way.

Here’s Allen, who was raised an Anglican, in the transcript of an ABC News interview, quoted in this blog last June:

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.”

Allen also told Parade magazine that he and his second wife, actress Jane Hajduk — with whom he has a daughter — attend church on Sundays, and added:

On a philosophical level, I’m very religious. I call myself an intellectual Christian.

Here’s a Father’s Day video from last month with Allen, in character as Mike Baxter, talking about fathers and sons …

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.

‘Today, Hope, Faith and Love Won’: Twitter’s Fr. Goyo on a Wedding He’ll Never Forget

Fr. Gregorio “Goyo” Hidalgo lives the life of an ordinary parish priest not far from the Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California. What makes his ordinary life extraordinary is he has a gift for sharing it on social media — even if the story he’s telling is both beautiful and tragic.

On May 12, the Spanish-born priest shared on his Twitter account (@FrGoyo) — where he currently has 11.8K followers, after only about a year — the story of Estela and Nicolas. He officiated at their wedding … in the hospital where Estela is in the last stages of a battle against cancer.

The hospital staff came together to put on a lovely event for the couple. which Father Goyo shared in a series of tweets. EWTN’s ChurchPop picked up the story, but it wasn’t the only one. Here it is on Catholic News Agency’s Spanish-language sister agency, ACI Prensa; and here it is in Hungarian.

This isn’t the only time Fr. Goyo was in the news because of Twitter. Back in January, he tweeted about going to a hospital to offer Communion to a patient, when a mix-up in room numbers allowed him to also administer the sacraments to a dying woman — which Catholic News Agency also picked up.

A couple of weeks ago, he updated the story of Estela and Nicolas:

But none of the places that picked up the original Twitter thread reported the whole story. Fr. Goyo is the vicar at St. Rose of Lima Church in Simi Valley. On a warm June day, we settle at a table and chairs outside the rectory kitchen to talk. He reveals that the couple was already civilly married and had a family.

“They had kids,” Fr. Goyo says, “and they would marry sacramentally. So, they needed what we call a convalidation, which is a sacramental marriage. They knew it. The most beautiful part about this was, both of them wanted to receive the sacrament, and they didn’t know how to do it.

“They said, ‘Father, we married civilly. We don’t know why we did it. We came to this country; we did it this way.’ … And, you know what, I’m going to say this, I admire those who know this state of life (and say), ‘I’m going to get out of it.’

“It’s not like they said, ‘Who cares? Let’s go to Communion and Mass every day. We don’t care. We are not including the eyes of God.’ They knew it, and because of knowing it, they wanted to get out of it.”

In other words, the couple had not been wed in the Church and were technically living in sin. So, before Estela died, they wanted their marriage blessed by the Church, so that they could licitly receive all the sacraments.

So, Fr. Goyo consulted a canon lawyer and made sure he did everything necessary to do the sacramental wedding properly. He’s thrilled that this couple let conscience be a guide.

“In fact,” he says, “there are people showing up to get married at parishes, who are living together, right? They’re just doing it to shut their parents up and really don’t think it’s that big a deal. Yeah, these people knew it was a big deal. They have three kids; six, five and two.”

Fr. Goyo wanted to make sure his readers knew that he was doing something by the Church’s rules, to bring Estela and Nicolas fully back into the fold.

“Even though it was a love story,” he says, “it was a sacramental story. It was a love story with God, more than themselves.”

While he’s very open on Twitter, Fr. Goyo is still feeling his way about the best use of it to describe a priest’s life and the Faith. Sometimes, a joke goes wrong, but he approaches all of it with an open heart and a sincere desire to make people love the Church.

That’s because he knows what it’s like to abandon the practice of Catholicism and embrace the secular world.

Fr. Goyo has much in common with St. Augustine. Both spent their youth seeking wealth and pleasure, while devout mothers kept praying. After a decade or so away from the Faith, Goyo Hidalgo crashed. When he picked himself back up, a childhood desire to become a priest was reawakened. (BTW, he put his full conversion and vocation story in a video on Twitter, of course.)

As I type, Fr. Goyo, who’s on vacation back in his native Toledo, Spain, just tweeted:

Power of prayer, indeed.

Image: Courtesy @FrGoyo on Twitter; 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.

Want to Win a DVD of THE DATING PROJECT?

Boston College singles Matt and Shanzi, “The Dating Project”

We’ve got five DVDs of our groundbreaking documentary, “The Dating Project,” and we’re looking for five lucky folks to take them home.

After our theatrical preview in April — with sold-out theaters in Los Angeles, New York and other major cities — the film is now available on DVD at Target and Walmart (and at their online stores), and for digital streaming or purchase at Amazon.com (which also sells the DVD), Vudu, Google Play and iTunes (actually, we sold out at Amazon and just restocked).

Or, you can just go to the official Website. There’s also a curriculum for friends or small groups.

Here’s what a professional matchmaker in L.A. recently had to say:

As soon as I watched The Dating Project, I started recommending it to our Bachelors and Bachelorettes. With beautiful cinematography and honest, touching testimonials, this film challenges the hook-up culture with grace and dignity. It begins a dialogue for all singles to look beyond superficial encounters to unearth true, joyful love in their own lives.

– Cristina (Conti) Pineda, Celebrity Matchmaker at Matchmakers In The City

“The Dating Project” was also mentioned in a video from social-media influencer, speaker and college chaplain Father Mike Schmitz:

Here’s how the Quad City Times described it:

“The Dating Project,” whose subtitle is ”A movie for every single person,” is a documentary. Don’t think that means it isn’t interesting or full of fascinating characters, because it is. It’s every bit as engaging, compelling and thought-provoking as a feature film.

The movie’s demographic is the 50 percent of people in the United States who are single. Of those, it’s especially aimed at people in their early 20s to 40s who seek a partner they can love and with whom they can form a relationship. The script follows in particular five different people who consider why they are alone, what their romantic history is like and what they think about the concept of dating.

 At the center of the movie is Kerry Cronin, known as “the dating doctor,” a professor at Boston College who teaches her students about dating (check out some of her wonderful lectures on YouTube if you’d like to do a little research before you go.)
And, Catholic relationship experts Jason and Crystalina Evert, sponsored by Ascension, are sponsoring a Catholic Dating Facebook Live at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday, July 2. Click here for the event page.

Now that I’ve got you all interested, click HERE to enter to win (starting Saturday, June 23). We’ll randomly choose five winners from among the entrants and notify them in early July. Note: To deliver your DVD, winners must supply a full name and mailing address (NOT a P.O. Box).

The giveaway starts Saturday, June 23 and ends one week later.

Images: Courtesy Family Theater Productions, Paulist Productions, MPower Pictures, PureFlix

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.

‘Tag’: The Real ‘Tag Bro’ Priest on Family, Friendship and Sacrifice

Tag premiere — Father Sean Raftis (6th from the left)

Father Sean Raftis is an ordinary parish priest in Columbia Falls, Montana, but an extraordinary group of friends he’s maintained since grade school — and their decades-long game of tag — recently inspired a Hollywood movie.

Released on June 15, “Tag” is very loosely based on the real-life story, outlined in a 2013 Wall Street Journal article (which, to this day, is behind the WSJ’s paywall). What stays the same between reality and fiction is men well into midlife who still designate a period of time during each year, as outlined in a Tag Participation Agreement, to see who’s It.

What’s changed is that the 10 Tag Brothers are now five, and the tag time is in May instead of February. Also, while the Tag Brothers did do some wacky things to tag each other (as you can see in clips at the end of the film), the movie takes it to an extreme level, as four pals (Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson) try to tag the one who’s never been It (Jeremy Renner).

“Tag: is “40 to 50 percent more profane than it needs to be…”

As to the movie, here’s what I said in my Pax Culturati blog at Patheos (which also includes an account of going to the premiere with Father Raftis):

Frankly, the movie is 40 to 50 percent more profane than it needs to be; there’s a miscarriage gag that’s in seriously poor taste (not sure, though, how a miscarriage gag could ever be in anything but poor taste); and the breaking of a (not Catholic) church stained-glass window seemed both unnecessary and a lost opportunity for a laugh and a realization that maybe some things are still sacred. Oh, well.

But, it was funny (and I’m a hard sell on comedy), and the underlying sweetness of a story about male friendship enduring into adulthood somehow survived.

Needless to say, none of the pals in “Tag” is a priest or likely to become one, but Father Raftis was a bit of a hit at the premiere, especially with young viewers who wanted photos with him.

The priest as “every man,” and a nod to Father Peyton …

But, he hasn’t gotten a big head.

“I like the idea of the priest being every man,” he says. “I grew up on the north side of Spokane, as a regular kid, an ordinary kid, wasn’t that great in athletics. I had health issues, but I was still able to make great friends through grade school.”

Father Raftis also gives credit to the love and self-sacrifice of his parents, who sent him to Catholic school and to Gonzaga University (named after Jesuit St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose feast day is today, June 21).

He even tosses in a reference to Family Theater Productions’ founder, Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., noting that his siblings also serve others: his brother, as a police officer, and his sister, as a caregiver.

“Therein lies the domestic church of Father Peyton,” he says. “The family that prays together, stays together.

“Having that domestic church and living that out made all the difference in my life, and I’m so grateful to God for everything. I wrote to [my friend, screenwriter Karen Hall], before I went to the premiere, and I said, ‘Any counseling you can give?’ Her counsel was exactly right. She said, ‘Soak it in and give all the glory to God, from whom all good things come.’

“That was an opportunity to try, as an ordinary guy. It’s kind of funny, because the monks saved Western civilization by preserving the great works of philosophy and Scripture. Here I am — I played a game of tag.

“Christ blesses that ordinary aspect, and that’s something that’s necessary for us priests. It was a great privilege and a blessing and a humbling lesson to be there as a priest. I’m not Cardinal Avery Dulles; I’m not Father Richard John Neuhaus; and I’m certainly not Karol Wojtyla, but being a Tag Brother, or a Tag Priest, is pretty cool.

“I’m trying to reach out to people who might not otherwise have had contact with a priest, because a lot of people don’t.”

Finding God in everything …

I watched Father Raftis take pictures with the young people, greet the actors, greet a couple of young police officers outside the premiere, shake hands with any number of folks who probably never see a priest except on TV.

The movie wasn’t especially holy, and certainly not for the whole family, but it did introduce a lot of people to Father Raftis and his friends.

“We’re to find God in everything,” he says, “especially in the small things. It’s like that tiny, whispering sound. I didn’t find God in the earthquake; I didn’t find God in the great noises; it was in that tiny, whispering sound.

“That’s something we need to reconnect with, and part of that is our association with our friends in Christ, our friends at the work place, where we’re called to witness to Christ.”

But don’t fear, Father Raftis has not gone Hollywood.

“I’m not a star, and that and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee. Fame is fleeting; time is fleeting. What matters is how we follow Christ. That’s the one thing I have to be very cautious about and very cognizant of, is my calling to be a priest. I’m not called to be a Hollywood star.

“That comes with its own set of talents, and its own set of disciplines. I have enough of a challenge being a priest and trying to be a good one.”

After his Hollywood adventure, Father Raftis returned to St. Richard Church in Columbia Falls.

“I had Mass on Sunday [after the premiere]. I did the Extraordinary Form only, and I did a homily, and I did an apologia [about the movie], saying, ‘Look, it’s R-rated.’ One of the guys came up — he’s a highly decorated retired Marine — and he said, ‘Father, look, the movie is going to do what it does. We know who you are. There are going to be good things happening because of this.’

“That’s my only hope, that something good happens for God out of it. … People yearn, they starve for brotherly or sisterly affection. When we yearn for friendship, we yearn for the Divine.”

Does the game go on?

“Yeah,” he says, “it goes on indefinitely, until one of us is standing.”

Images: Courtesy Kate O’Hare, Warner Bros., Father Sean Raftis

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.