Category: News & Trends

RIP Tim Conway, Actor, Funnyman, ‘Carol Burnett’ Star … and Catholic

Tim Conway on ‘The World Over’/EWTN

A bit of laughter has gone out of the world, with the announcement of the death of Tim Conway at the age of 85 this morning, May 14, in the Los Angeles area.

A native of Chagrin Falls, Ohio (he has something to say about that in the video below), Conway volunteered for the Army and later pursued show business. He was beloved as a funnyman but also as star of such classic TV shows as McHale’s Navy and The Carol Burnett Show. For younger viewers, he was also the voice of Barnacle Boy on SpongeBob Squarepants and won Emmy awards for guest appearances on the sitcoms Coach and 30 Rock.

From People:

Conway is survived by his wife of 35 years, his stepdaughter, his six biological children and two granddaughters. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family would like donations to be made to The Lou Ruvo Brain Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The beloved actor is best known for his work on The Carol Burnett Show, winning viewers over with characters like the Oldest Man and Mr. Tudball, whose accent he has said was inspired by his Romanian mother. He was known to ad-lib his sketches — even surprising his scene partners — and won a Golden Globe Award for the series in 1976, along with Emmys in 1973, 1977 and 1978.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, to an Irish father and a Romanian mother, Conway was baptized into the Romanian Orthodox Church but converted to Catholicism for a girl while in college. Faith wasn’t almost foremost in his mind, though, until back spasms later in life led Conway to discover that a high-school football injury could have left him paralyzed … but didn’t.

From a 2013 post at Tony Rossi’s Christopher Closeup blog:

That was a watershed moment for Tim, spiritually speaking. He writes, “Ever since that incident on the football field, which might have altered the course of my life, Jesus and I have stayed in constant touch. I never stop saying thank you.”

Though Tim, who converted to Catholicism in college because of a girl he liked, doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve, his relationship with God remains important to him. He admits that his journey of faith hasn’t always been a straight line, but adds, “All straight lines get a little crooked from time to time, but I tried to maintain a decent life.”

In the same year, Conway went on Raymond Arroyo’s World Over show on EWTN to discuss his career and his memoir, What’s So Funny?: My Hilarious Life — and his conversion to Catholicism …

Here’s just a taste of Conway’s comic genius on The Carol Burnett Show, with co-star (and frequent victim of Conway’s efforts to crack him up) Harvey Korman:

Conway was married twice. Among his six biological children and one stepdaughter is Tim Conway Jr., who currently has a radio show on L.A. station KFI AM 640.

Here’s a clip of Conway Jr. as emcee of the Orange (County, California) Catholic Foundation’s 15th Annual Conference on Business & Ethics, from 2017, including a selfie with Bishop Vann of the Diocese of Orange — and showing the comic apple doesn’t fall far from the tree:

Image: EWTN (screenshot)

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter  and YouTube.

For Oxygen: Kim Kardashian and Mark Wahlberg Projects Tackle Prisons and Sex Trafficking

Photo: Adobe Stock

Oxygen Media, which has shifted its focus from female-oriented lifestyle programming to true crime (also a favorite with female viewers) has just announced its slate of new programming and shows in development, with such stars as Kim Kardashian and Mark Wahlberg.

Kim Kardashian: The Justice Project

Among the projects given a greenlight is a documentary from socialite, entrepreneur, reality and social-media megastar Kardashian, reflecting her newfound interest in prison reform. She’s also apparently now in the midst of a four-year law apprenticeship, with the goal of taking the bar exam in 2020, following in the footsteps of her late father, attorney Robert Kardashian.

A attendee of Catholic Marymount High School in Los Angeles, Kardashian has — despite her racy public persona and multiple marriages — claims to be a Christian. She and current husband Kanye West had their daughter, North, baptized in the Armenian Apostolic Church, at the Cathedral of St. James in Jerusalem (more here on that).

In between her social, entertainment and family obligations, Kardashian has become involved with a group seeking to advance causes for clemency and prison reform. She was among those instrumental last summer in the release of 63-year-old Alice Marie Johnson, who’d been in an Alabama prison on a nonviolent drug charge since 1996. President Trump commuted her sentence last June.

According to TMZ, Kardashian and her legal allies have gained freedom for 17 inmates over the last few months, and now her efforts — as might be expected from a reality-show star — are coming to TV.

From Oxygen:

“Kim Kardashian: The Justice Project” (working title)

Executive produced by Kim Kardashian and Bunim Murray Productions with Gil Goldschein, Julie Pizzi and Farnaz Farjam serving as executive producers.

In June 2018, Kim Kardashian used her global fame to publicly campaign for criminal justice reform by convincing the White House to grant Alice Marie Johnson clemency.

Inspired by her work with Johnson, Kardashian has made it her personal mission to lobby for systematic change and advocate for the men and women who she and her legal experts believe have been unfairly sentenced.  Now, as she pursues her own career in law, Kardashian is dedicating both personal resources and her public platform to the cause.

In this compelling 2-hour documentary, Oxygen will capture Kardashian’s efforts to secure freedom for Americans who she believes have been wronged by the justice system. “Kim Kardashian: The Justice Project” is an exclusive, never-before-seen look inside her mission to tackle one of America’s most controversial subjects.

Mark Wahlberg’s Exploited

Among the projects currently in development is one from Wahlberg’s Unrealistic Ideas company. Wahlberg, a former rapper who spent time in prison for felony assault and had other run-ins with the law, has found a new life as an actor, producer, husband, father and devout Catholic.

He’s spoken about his conversion in many venues, including this 2010 interview with the U.K.’s Catholic Herald:

“Being a Catholic is the most important aspect of my life,” the A-list actor tells me firmly when we meet for tea in a posh hotel near his home in Beverly Hills. “The first thing I do when I start my day is, I get down on my hands and knees and give thanks to God. Whenever I go outside of my house, the first thing I do is stop at the church. The kids will be mad with me. ‘Daddy! It takes too long!’ I’m saying: ‘It’s only 10 minutes and this is something I really need to do.’ Because I do. If I can start my day out by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I’m doing the right thing. That 10 minutes helps me in every way throughout the day.”

“Once I focused on my faith wonderful things started happening for me,” he says now. “And I don’t mean professionally – that’s not what it’s about. These days, I’ll be in church and people will come up to me and say: ‘Do you mind if I sit and pray with you?’ And they’ll start praying and it’ll turn out they’re praying for their new movie to be a success or whatever, and I’m like, this is not what I come here for. For me to sit down and ask for material things is ridiculous. It’s a much bigger picture than that. I want to serve God and to be a good human being and to make up for the mistakes I made and the pain I put people through. That’s what I’m praying for, and I recommend it to anybody.”

Now, he’s looking to have an impact on one of the most compelling issues of our time — sex trafficking.

From Oxygen:

“Exploited” (working title)

Produced by Unrealistic Ideas and Blue Pacific. Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson and Archie Gips serve as executive producers for Unrealistic Ideas and Matt Bartley, Michael Janke and Chris Campbell serve as executive producers for Blue Pacific.

From Mark Wahlberg’s Unrealistic Ideas production company comes the new active crime investigation series that follows the on-going work of the DeliverFund, as they tackle the current US sex trafficking epidemic. In each episode the DeliverFund, comprised of ex-CIA, NSA and Navy Seal operatives Nic McKinley, Kara Smith and Jeremy Mahugh, take viewers on a journey to what victims call the center of hell. They will locate victims, work with local law enforcement and ultimately rescue sex trafficked victims and return them to their families.

Here’s wishing both celebrities luck with projects tackling important issues.

Images: HBO/Twitter

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter  and YouTube.

‘Game of Thrones’ Coffee Cup: How Could This Have Happened? (With HBO’s Response)

‘Game of Thrones’/HBO

In some ways, the world seems to be coming apart at the seams, but leave it to HBO’s blockbuster fantasy series Game of Thrones to give us all a momentary Monday distraction — in the form of a Starbucks coffee cup.

The cup in question made a cameo appearance in the May 5 episode, the follow-up to the previous week’s massive but murky battle scene. Since this was an interior scene on a set, it was likely filmed in Belfast — meaning, if you go to the Northern Ireland city, you can still get your Caramel Cloud Macchiato fix.

I’ve been on enough sets in my years as an entertainment journalist to know that mistakes happen, but usually they’re caught somewhere along the way. But, this one made it all the way to the final cut.

For some answers, I turned to our producer-at-large, Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a graduate of USC Film School. Here are my questions, and his replies:

What is continuity, and why does it matter in a movie?

To borrow from business parlance, continuity is a type of quality control in filmmaking that assures a visual coherence by the final airing. For instance, you would not want a character holding a knife in the right hand in one shot and then placing it in the left hand for another shot in the same scene. It creates a nightmare for editing to cut around. For a fantasy piece like Game of Thrones, especially, a set has to be wary of leaving anachronistic items in the shot — water bottles, coffee cups, cellphones, etc.

Whose job is it on a set to make sure anomalous objects aren’t visible?

It is the script supervisor’s specific responsibility to make sure anomalous objects aren’t visible within frame. That said, anyone on set who notices this should inform the script supervisor or one of the producers.

How could this have been missed in all the layers of editing and special effects?

In this day and age, especially in the world of television, when shooting must go quickly, physical production will sometimes film even though another camera crew is in the shot, presuming visual effects can take it out afterwards. Recently, I sat in on an editing session of a parishioner of mine who does visual effects on Paramount Network’s Yellowstone. He pointed out the shots where physical production knew visual effects would work their magic later. Some of the coolest fixes were taking out power lines in a panoramic shot or adding ominous looking clouds in an episode’s final shot, where they weren’t present in the raw footage.

If it had been caught earlier on, how could the error have been fixed?

Editing out the coffee cup could have been an easy fix in post. A colorist could have replaced the white of the Starbucks cup with the color and texture of the cup’s immediate surroundings.

When things like this happen, how often do you guess that it’s an intentional Easter egg and how often just an oops?

It’s hard to believe a show operating with the highest level of technicians in the world would miss this at that all levels of production and post-production, so I suspect it’s an intentional Easter egg.

I don’t watch the show and have found it to be pretty devoid of meaning. It would be the boldest of post-modern statements, if intentional. That for all the fans’ analysis and dissection, the show is ultimately nihilism, and even the producers ensuring the integrity of the fantasy world they’ve created is of no importance.

And fans are indeed debating. But you have to wonder, if you’re truly absorbed in a scene, do you notice these thing unless you watch it repeatedly? This episode only aired last night, so either folks have extremely sharp eyes, or they’re hitting the restart as soon as the episode is over.

Did you see it?

This particularly humorous take on it appeared in a story in The Verge:

And HBO’s response?

In response to inquiries from those who saw a craft services coffee cup in Sunday night’s episode of GAME OF THRONES, HBO states, “The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake.  Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea.”

Images: HBO/Twitter

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter  and YouTube.

BASED ON: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’: An Ending for Lorraine Warren, But for the Movie …

‘The Curse of La Llorona’/Warner Bros. Pictures

Our producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a USC film-school grad, does a regular feature here called BASED ON, looking at literary works adapted into TV or movies.

The Curse of La Llorona, a film written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis set within the The Conjuring Universe, whose films are based on the writings of the late Ed and Lorraine Warren.

The Conjuring Universe is to me what the Marvel Universe is to everyone else. Presuming I, or my priest colleague at Family Theater Productions, haven’t already consulted on one of the films, I’m there on opening weekend for a good ‘ole-fashioned scare. This is true of the main Conjuring Warren-centered films: the Annabelle prequels, The Nun standalone, and this most recent offering, The Curse of La Llorona.

Interestingly enough, Lorraine Warren, a real-life lay Catholic exorcist died on Holy Thursday, in the Eastern time zone, which meant it was already Good Friday in other parts of the world — the only day of the year Catholics are forbidden from celebrating Mass. So unable to offer a Mass intention for the repose of her soul, I sought a more secular connection through the big screen.

According to Mexican folklore, the Weeping Woman, or “La Llorona,”in inspired by the story of a 17th-Century woman, who, through a case of jilted love, drowned her two sons in a river. Wracked with guilt, she took her own life. She now supposedly haunts children, looking for a new pair of siblings to take the place of her own departed kids. Obey your parents, or La Llorona will come for you, many Spanish-speaking parents warn their misbehaving offspring.

The filmmakers put a literal demonic twist to this folktale. The ghost seems to be possessed by a demonic spirit(s) and exhibits supernatural powers typically attributed to said spirit(s). The widowed mother (Linda Cardellini) and her son and daughter receive burns on their forearms from the Weeping Woman. Once attached to the family like spiritual glue, La Llorona antagonizes the poor family throughout the film.

The subject matter orbits a very contested realm of demonology: can the souls of a dead, wicked person become possessed by a demonic spirit? The greatest exorcist of modern time, the late Fr. Gabriele Amorth, SSP (of The Devil and Father Amorth fame) would say “No.” A soul goes to hell, heaven or purgatory upon death. A minority of Catholic exorcists disagrees. The film chooses this dissenting path for a new take on a familiar genre.

Father Perez (Tony Amendola, who also played the same character in the first Annabelle prequel) tells the widow the Archdiocese would take weeks to approve a spiritual intervention. Since the nature of the offending spirit remains murky, the family is left with the local curandero. Raymond Cruz plays Rafael Olvera, a former priest, still believing in most of Catholicism, but mixing it with the rituals of native spirituality, he’s a shaman of some Latin America kind. Logically, then, his syncretistic prayers prove only partially efficacious.

It’s ultimately fitting that I don’t know how the film resolved. In the film’s culminating scene, when one of the children drives a crucifix through the heart of La Llorona, the power in the movie theater cut out …

Here’s the trailer …

Image: Warner Bros.

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter  and YouTube.

Ave Maria! A Dad Sings Schubert at Disney World and Brings Beauty to the Internet

Justin Gigliello/YouTube screenshot

A few days ago, Connecticut dad Justin Gigliello — who, as his Twitter bio states, is a private voice and piano teacher — mesmerized people in the lobby of the Grand Floridian Hotel at Disney World with a rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria.

Now the clip has gone viral on Facebook and in news articles, and he’s mesmerized the world.

Here’s the YouTube version, with this description:

I am performing Ave Maria at Grand Floridian Resort in Walt Disney World. My daughter asked the pianist if I could sing with him while he played. I hope you enjoy!

Just look at how his daughter Lyla looks up at her dad, who has a bachelor’s degree in voice performance from the Boston Conservatory.

From Fox35Orlando (who didn’t quite get the name of the tune — or prayer — right):

The video shows Justin Gigliello singing ‘Ave Marie’ at the Grand Floridian. His daughter, Lyla, asked the man playing the piano if her dad could sing along while he played.

The original post of the video on Facebook has over 8,000 interactions and 5,900 shares. It has since been shared onto several different news outlets.

But what’s up with the jersey for former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman? Apparently, the current San Francisco 49er player noticed on Twitter:

Maybe Justin should be singing the National Anthem, either at Foxboro or in Seattle. What do you think?

Oh, and he’s also a volunteer firefighter.

To hear more from Justin Gigliello, here’s his YouTube channel and his Twitter.

Image: YouTube screenshot

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter  and YouTube.

History’s ‘Jesus: His Life’: Is It Worthwhile Lenten Watching?

Photo: History Channel

Sorry to say it, The Bible miniseries notwithstanding, but History Channel is not always the best place to hear about Christianity. Jesus: His Life, premiering tonight, Monday, March 25, is no exception.

The four-week, eight-episode series aims to tell the story of Christ (and, to its credit, it emphasizes how important it is to understand that story, even for unbelievers, if one is to understand Western civilization) through the eyes of those who knew him. The first two episodes were made available to critics — Joseph: The Nativity and John the Baptist: The Mission.

There are the usual sword-and-sandal Biblical recreations, but at least actors were cast in the major roles, including Jesus, that are much more robust and expressive than the overly reverent stiffs that are too often found in these documentaries. Interspersed with the dramatic segments is an array of talking heads, including clerics and academics.

It’s a mixed bag, with the clerics including the controversial Father James Martin, S.J., and megachurch pastor Joel Osteen; along with Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry (famous for preaching at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle), Father Jonathan Morris, and Trinity United Church of Christ senior Pastor Rev. Otis Moss III.

Among the academics is Dr. Robert Cargill of the University of Iowa. At several points, he offers an, um, novel interpretation of Scripture, only to be followed by fellow scholar Dr. Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary, who disagrees with him. Being the resident skeptic appears to be Cargill’s self-proclaimed function.

As Kathy Schiffer noted in her detailed review at the National Catholic Register:

But the expert who seems intent on dredging up controversy – and who is given a primary role in the series – is Dr. Robert Cargill. I should not be surprised by Cargill’s questioning: Cargill, who has been called the “Skeptic in the Sanctuary,” sees his role as asking difficult questions. “This is where I stand,” Cargill wrote,

“…atop the continental divide between faith and science, with one foot in the range of rigorous academic inquiry and skeptical scrutiny, and the other on the often slippery slope of competing religious worldviews. And from this marvelous vantage point I can survey both directions and ask difficult questions of both faith and reason. I imagine that I’ll spend the remainder of my career here, the ever-searching soul attempting to mediate between the two.”

Lent is a favorite time for TV networks to run Christian-themed programming, often with a strong undercurrent of doubt and skepticism. They love to draw in the Christian audience but too often can’t resist the impulse to throw shade on their faith.

Jesus: His Life isn’t as bad as some, and there is some lively commentary that doesn’t make you feel like you’re sitting in the back of a dusty lecture hall. But, for faithful Christians, it doesn’t add much to the conversation. For the unchurched, it does put flesh and blood on Biblical figures, and that’s a good place to start.

It would be better for these folks if they watched The Bible, or Bishop Barron’s Catholicism. But, Jesus: His Life isn’t the worst thing on Christianity ever — and it’s way better than History’s fanciful drama Knightfall, the first season of which was about as much about the real Knights Templar as James Bond movies are about actual espionage.

Just remember that most, if not almost all, mainstream productions about Christianity are not designed to encourage or confirm people in faith. Often, it’s just the opposite.

Jesus: His Life doesn’t go that far, but frankly, I’d rather spice up my Lent by rewatching Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (here’s the whole thing) or The Ten Commandments.

Here are History’s episode descriptions and airdates:

Episode 1 – Joseph: The Nativity
Premieres Monday, March 25 at 8pm ET/PT on HISTORY
The Roman Empire occupies the land of Judea in a time of turbulent unrest. A simple craftsman named Joseph faces a personal test of faith in the small town of Nazareth, when his fiancée Mary tells him she is expecting a child, who is the Son of God. Joseph vows to love and protect his son Jesus through many dangers: his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, and the flight to Egypt to escape death at the hands of mad King Herod.

Episode 2 – John the Baptist: The Mission
Premieres Monday, March 25 at 9pm ET/PT on HISTORY
Some thirty years after Jesus is born, his life intersects with that of John the Baptist, a radical preaching in the desert against Judea’s rulers, including Herod’s son, Herod Antipas. John baptizes Jesus, starting his divine mission, but loses his own life, beheaded in a famous conflict with Herod Antipas’ step-daughter, Salome.

Episode 3 – Mary: The First Miracles
Premieres Monday, April 1 at 8pm ET/PT on HISTORY
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is torn between wanting to protect her son and letting him go to fulfill his sacrificial destiny when the time is right; until Jesus is thirty, only she and Joseph know his mysterious mission. Jesus performs his first public miracle at her request at the Wedding Feast of Cana. But as Jesus’ work becomes public, he puts his life – and that of his family – in increasing danger. When Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath in Capernaum, he enrages the authorities and reaches an important crossroad.

Episode 4 – Caiaphas: The Raising of Lazarus
Premieres Monday, April 1 at 9pm ET/PT on HISTORY
Caiaphas, High Priest of Jerusalem and religious leader of the Jewish people, faces an impossible dilemma. Caught between determination to preserve his faith and the repressive might of Rome, Caiaphas must judge how great a provocation Jesus of Nazareth might pose. Jesus’ astonishing raising of Lazarus from the dead marks a turning point. Afraid that Jesus could prompt an uprising and possible brutal retaliation from Rome’s prefect, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas decides Jesus must be stopped.

Episode 5 – Judas: The Betrayal
Premieres Monday, April 8 at 8pm ET/PT on HISTORY
His name a synonym for traitor even to this day, Judas is known as the devoted disciple who ultimately betrays Jesus. What prompted one of Jesus’ closest friends to turn on him remains one of the Bible’s great mysteries, one explored as Jesus and his disciples enter Jerusalem for Passover and what will become the Last Supper.

Episode 6 – Pilate: The Trial
Premieres Monday, April 8 at 9pm ET/PT on HISTORY
Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, has to make a decision about a troublesome preacher called Jesus. As pressure builds to execute Jesus, Pilate’s wife, inspired by a prophetic nightmare, urges him to leave Jesus alone. Instead, Pilate sends him away to be crucified, and publicly washes his hands of responsibility.

Episode 7 – Mary Magdalene: The Crucifixion
Premieres Monday, April 15 at 8pm ET/PT on HISTORY
Cured of “seven demons” by Jesus, Mary Magdalene is among his best-known female followers. With his mother, Mary Magdalene witnesses the torment of the crucifixion at the foot of the cross. But her faith is rewarded the most when she is the first to witness the seemingly unbelievable: His resurrection.

Episode 8 – Peter: The Resurrection
Premieres Monday, April 15 at 9pm ET/PT on HISTORY
A simple fisherman, Peter was Jesus’ most devoted disciple, his “rock.” But when a frightened Peter disavows Jesus three times during Jesus’ arrest, Peter despairs. The resurrected Jesus appears to Peter and restores him by commanding him to spread his gospel, and Peter takes on that mission, becoming perhaps the most important of Jesus’ disciples.

Image: History Channel

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter  and YouTube.