Books, binging, and perhaps some Beatles, Brubeck, and Beethoven will have to fill my summer because after looking carefully over a long roster of series debuting or renewing in July and August, I jotted down four I thought deserved a look.
Two of them made the list more out of curiosity than interest.
It looks as if the most consequential of the series will mean a wait until August 21.
That’s “House of the Dragon” on HBO. Its drawing card is being the first spinoff from the monumentally successful “Game of Thrones.”“Dragon” is a prequel of sorts to “Thrones” and deals with the rise and fall, through civil war, of the House of Targaryen. We are taken back to Westeros 200 years before “Thrones” begins to see the origin of the Targareyens.
“Doctor Who” alumnus Matt Smith plays Daemon Targaryen. Paddy Considine, so memorable from “The Ferryman” on Broadway, also has a key role, as do Olivia Cooke, Emma D’Arcy, Rhys Ifans, and Eve Best.
On Thursday, a six-parter called “Moonhaven” comes to AMC and is about a Utopian planet 100 years from now.
On Friday, Taron Edgerton, who plays Elton John in the movie “Rocketman,” stars in an Apple+ show, “Black Bird,” as a white collar criminal who is offered to option to forgo 10 years in prison if he agrees to go instead to a maximum security facility for the criminally insane to coax a confession from a suspected serial killer, played by Paul Walter Hauser, so good as the title character in 2019’s “Richard Jewell.”
Greg Kinnear also stars, and the late Ray Liotta is seen in the last part he did for television.
Next Friday, July 15, Nathan Fielder, known for a couple of rather good comedy series about a man who looked for people whose life he could allegedly improve, returns to TV is an HBO series called “The Rehearsal” about a group of actors who are rehearsing for an unknown critical moment in their lives.
Among my recent binges was “Mad Men,” which had the same effect on me it originally did. I enjoyed the details and trappings of the 1950s when the story begins but became dissatisfied with the show as it moved into the 1960s.
I also enjoyed catching up with a missed season then watching the new season of “Peaky Blinders,” in which Paddy Considine has a recurring role.
Simon Cowell’s expression changed from a scowl to a pleased grin when “America’s Got Talent” contestant Merissa Beddows proved that she was not going to compete solely as an opera singer but also as an impressionist would could warble in the styles of Celine Dion, Ariana Grande, and Stevie Nicks as well as display her own dulcet mezzo and imitate an old lady squeaking out a tune.
Cowell wasn’t the only one impressed with Beddows’s vocal versatility. She earned a standing ovation and four “yes” votes from AGT judges Cowell, Sofia Vergara, Howie Mandel, and Heidi Klum.
In “AGT” terms that means Beddows aced her audition and will compete against other acts for a spot on the NBC program’s live show from which this season’s winner will be determined.
Beddows may be from Yonkers, N.Y., but local viewers have a good reason to support her effort on “AGT.”
She is a bona fide opera singer who refined her talent at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, where she held the Eula Mae Pharis Fellowship, a scholarship endowed by Pharis’s daughter, Aulana Peters, and which will be presented in turn to students at Curtis.Beddows was the first to hold the fellowship.
Eula Mae Pharis was born in Louisiana but spent most of her adult life in Media, Pa., where she raised her five daughters, each of whom achieved distinction in her field, as chronicled in Carole Saline and Sharon J. Wohlmuth’s unique 1997 book, “Sisters.”
Peters in the oldest of the five sisters. Next in line, the second born, is Linda Munich, known to local viewers from her long career at Channel 48 and at Channel 6, where she was the host of several public affairs programs before she shifted from an on-air role to be Vice President for Public Affairs for Channel 6, a position she held for more than 30 years and which earned her a venerable place in Philadelphia television history.
Naturally, Peters and Munich are much interested in Beddows’s career. Her “AGT” showed an entirely new side to her talent. Impressionists were once an integral part of the entertainment spectrum. Rich Little, David Frey, Frank Gorshin, and others were frequent and welcome guests on talk and variety shows.
Beddows rekindles that art, one that I was afraid wasn’t being practiced much, except perhaps for “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon.My theory is impressions aren’t done as much because there are fewer stars with distinctive voices, and even performers who may have a distinctive voice but don’t last long enough for a large cadre of the public to remember how they sound.
Beddow was amazing, especially considering how difficult it is to muster the power and expression of a singer like Celine Dion, especially when segueing from a performer who has a much smaller, airier voice like Ariana Grande.
Simon Cowell, I’m sure, was afraid Beddow was going to launch into some operatic aria, not exactly a talent he enjoys. He was not only relieved but won over when she so flawlessly sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in so many stars’ styles.
“AGT” has one more week of auditions, airing Tuesday, July 12, before the programs featuring those, like Beddows, who will compete for the show’s top prize, begin. Tomorrow’s show is a holiday week filled called “Simon’s Favorite Golden Buzzers.”
STORY BREAK – STORY BREAK –
I was right.I tuned into a Phillies game on WIP (94.1 FM), and Scott Franzke was the terrific announcer I always considered him to be because he was working with former Phillies reliever Larry Andersen.
Andersen loosens Franzke. His play-by-play takes a different tone. He can be both cleverer while commenting and more analytical because he has someone equally quick and lively to play off of.
I have always take a special pride (as if I have anything to do with it) at how much better Phillies radio announcers are compared with teams from other markets.
Those teams don’t have the provided by Franzke and Anderson, and before them, Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn.
I listened to Franzke with former Phillies outfielder Michael Bourn most of the last two weeks.
I came appreciate Bourn’s knowledge and some insights in the game that could only come from a former player.
Bourn gave his audience something to listen to. Franzke was businesslike with the play-by-play, but the spirit, tone, and zippy pace, and great one-liners he and Andersen trade were missing.
Scott, I think you’re one of the best no matter with whom you share the booth, but I can’t help wishing it was always and only Larry Andersen.
Of course, once the games were over, and WIP resumed its regular programming, I fled back to jazz on WRTI (90.1 FM).Why? Because the announcer all sound like blowhard gripers.
Sure, you want the home team you cover and your listeners love to vie for a pennant. Sure, there a bound to be botched plays and missed opportunities that turn you momentarily ballistic.
The beef I have with the WIP talk hosts is they whine over imperfections as is no mistake should ever be made or no longer should ever be stranded on base.
Sports are not scripted. The random occurs. Gaffes or sudden turnarounds take their toll.
They are not the end of the world or even, in most cases, enough of a issue, to declare a season lost or in jeopardy.I prefer a more reasoned approach, one that accounts for the reality of baseball and not the overwrought desires or expectations of a commentator.
Thank heaven for jazz. It gives me refuge I wouldn’t be so hasty to take if hosts could relax and talk baseball instead of bellyaching like a sad sack at a dive bar.
Next Tuesday the nominations for the 2022 Emmy Awards will be announced.
Predictions for who will get those nominations or win categories are flying left and right.
Like any viewer, I have my preferences, Laura Linney for “Ozark” and Rhea Seehorn for “Better Call Saul” in the Best Actress in a Drama Series, for instance.
In general, I’m content to wait until next Tuesday and not speculate. There will be plenty of time to sift through the nominations, pick the worthy from the wondrous, and mention who was unaccountably left out.
Neal Zoren’s television column appears every Monday.
Source: Berkshire mont