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Posts about Television

Minnesota actor lands high profile role

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: August 25, 2014 - 1:59 PM



Steve Zahn/ photo courtesy of ABC

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Earlier this year, Minnesota native Steve Zahn had a major bomb on his hands in the guise of ABC's "Mind Games," his first network series that was quickly canceled.

But the network hasn't given up on him.

Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Zahn will have a recurring guest-star role on "Modern Family," playing the husband of an annoying family that moves in next door to the Dunphys.

It's unclear just how many episodes will feature Zahn, who still spends a considerable amount of time in Minnesota.

"Modern Family" returns Sept. 24.

Jeremy Messersmith to appear on 'Letterman' Wednesday

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: August 19, 2014 - 12:06 PM



Jeremy Messersmith/photo by Tony Nelson

Local pop artist Jeremy Messersmith is scheduled to perform Wednesday night on "The Late Show With David Letterman." We emphasized "scheduled" because of the evening's other two guests: Kathy Griffin and Ken Burns, both of whom have a tendency to talk and talk and talk -- to the point where Messersmith could get bumped.

Unlikely, though. Letterman seems to be enjoying his Minnesota music these days. Trampled By Turtles made a triumphant appearance last month.

While Messersmith's gig has nothing to do with Robin Williams, we can't help but mention how touching it was Monday to watch Letterman pay tribute to the late comic. If you haven't seen it, check it out:


New HBO drama 'Stillwater' would make a star of Minnesota

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: August 18, 2014 - 2:56 PM

Lea Thompson and Howard Deutch

Could "Fargo" have triggered a sudden interest in Minnesota? Perhaps.

Deadline.com is reporting that HBO is considering a series called "Stillwater," in which a New York City cop's life spirals out of control once he moves to small-town Minnesota. No cast members have been announced, but the behind-the-scenes team has some strong local connections.

Howard Deutch, who will direct and executive produce the pilot, is married to Rochester native Lea Thompson, best known for playing Michael J. Fox's mom in "Back to the Future." Deutch also directed 1995's "Grumpier Old Men," which was shot in and around the Twin Cities. (He also directed a film called "The Replacements," but it has everything to do with Keanu Reeves playing football and nothing to do with our legendary band).

Mark Steven Johnson, who is writing the first episode, is from Hastings. He wrote the original "Grumpy Old Men," which remains one of the most successful films ever shot in the state.

And then there's co-executive producer Colin Farrell, who, um, may or may not have once had a drink at the Minnesota airport.

No word yet on when or where shooting will start.

Minnesota Film and TV Board executive director Lucinda Winter said Monday that she's reached out to HBO and Deutch's office, but that it's "way, way too early in the process" to know if the show is seriously considering shooting the pilot in the area.

Winter is hopeful that relatively new incentives, which could include a 25 percent rebate for local production, will have Hollywood come calling.

"We're going to make a lot of noise as things progress," she said.

Charles Keating had a long association with the Guthrie

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: August 12, 2014 - 1:50 PM

Veteran actor Charles Keating, whose roots extended to the early years of the Guthrie Theater, has died at 72. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer three year ago.

Keating is best known to the wider universe as a soap opera star, particularly for his superbly oily lothario Carl Hutchins on “Another World.” He was nominated for an Emmy in 1996 for his work as Carl. He also performed on “All My Children” and “As the Word Turns.”

But long before he was a daytime villain, Keating trained with Sir Tyrone Guthrie in Minneapolis. He appeared in “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” and “The House of Atreus.” He returned to Minneapolis in the past 15 years as Malvolio in “Twelfth Night” and as Scrooge (at right in Michal Daniel's photo) in the 2004 production of “A Christmas Carol.” His performance in that role was considered the best in Twin Cities theater that year by Star Tribune critics – an estimable achievement given how familiar the character is.

He also played a key role when Joe Dowling staged Brian Friel’s “The Home Place” on the Guthrie proscenium. In 2007, he brought a solo show, “I and I, about aging and the self, to the Guthrie studio.

“Charles Keating was a quintessential actor’s actor,” said Dowling, the Guthrie director. “Mercurial, flamboyant, highly intuitive and with a deep and rich voice. He was a joy to work with and brought his great intelligence and his inquiring mind to every role he played.”

His film credits included "The Thomas Crown Affair," and "The Bodyguard." In addition to the soaps, he did TV with "Alias," "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Hercules." And on stage, he was Tony nominated for a revival of “Loot” in 1986.

Keating, London born, was married 50 years and died at his home in Connecticut. His wife, Mary, and two sons survive.

TV critic Neal Justin: Memories of Robin Williams

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: August 12, 2014 - 11:03 AM

Robin Williams/ AP photo

I won't pretend for a nano-second that I really knew Robin Williams, although our paths crossed a few times.

The last occasion was this past January during a visit to the set of "The Crazy Ones," a sitcom unjustly cancelled by CBS after just one season.

I noted at the time that the comic genius seemed more at rest than he had previously when he could often suck up all the oxygen in the room with his manic energy. He said something telling that January afternoon that may go a long way in explaining the demons he was battling:

"It's not a contest, but it is a joy. You get a laugh, you go, 'Yeah, I'm OK now.' Sometimes it works and other times, no. Then it becomes very sad for a moment. The desperate comic boy comes out."

I also had the pleasure of seeing Williams in 2008 when he did three shows at the intimate Acme Comedy Co., in prepartion for a HBO special in Las Vegas. I was seated in the front row, which made me and my companions the all-too-willing targets of his improv humor.

In 2009, while he was promoting that HBO concert, he told me he had fond memories of his time in the Twin Cities:

"I was enjoying playing a place that was literate, where you could make references to Shakespeare's newest work, 'So That's the Way You Like It,' and have people go, 'I got it. Thanks.'"

In that same interview, Williams delivered one of his best lines as he talked about his recent heart operation:

"It was interesting that I had the surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. And I woke up, going , 'Where am I?' And they said, 'Cleveland.' And I kept going, 'Why?'"

Sadly, Williams time at Hazelden earlier this summer wasn't as successful at healing him.

He leaves us with a great legacy, work both celebrated and underappreciated. Here are 10 contributions that will stick with me:

"An Evening With Robin Williams" (1982): Williams' legacy begins and ends with stand-up. If you've never seen his entire, exhausting act, start with this HBO special taped in his beloved San Francisco.

"The World According to Garp" (1982): He would go on to make better movies, but this was the first that made us sit up straight and realize that Williams could do more than just vomit out one-liners. He's quite touching as John Irving's ultimate protagonist.

"Comic Relief" (1986): I'm deliberately leaving "Mork & Mindy" off the this list. While it served as a great showcase for Williams' fast-paced talent, it was actually a less-than-average sitcom that almost always spun out of control. Williams' greatest gift to television was "Comic Relief," the long-running telethon he hosted with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg that helped raise $80 million for America's homeless. The trio dug deep into their Rolodexes to bring together the best and brightest in the comedy. Williams gave constantly to various charities, including the LiveStrong Foundation and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. 

"Dead Poets Society" (1989): Seize the day, indeed.

"The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1992): Everyone remembers that Carson's last night with guests included Bette Midler singing "One For My Baby" through tears. But let's not forget the evening's other guest was Williams. The fact that the King of Late Night selected him for that penultimate show speaks volumes.

"Aladdin" (1992): There was talk that Williams should have gotten an Oscar nomination for his voice contributions to this animated classic. Hard to remember that when he signed up, big-name actors didn't do cartoons. That soon changed.

"Homicide: Life on the Street" (1994): Much has been made of Williams' ability to throw out the jokebook and tackle dramatic work. Three years prior to winning an Oscar for "Good Will Hunting," he played a tourist on this critically acclaimed crime series who goes through grief and anger when his wife is murdered. It remains one of Williams' most devastating performances.

"Good Will Hunting" (1997): His role as a loner shrink who tries to break through Matt Damon's shell could have been unbearable, but Williams managed to sidestep every cliche and collect his well-deserved Oscar.

"Blame Canada" (2000): Williams had nothing to do with "South Park: The Movie," but he was the ideal candidate to perform the film's centerpiece number when it was nominated for an Academy Award. It's a vigorous performance that pretty much stole the show.

"Louie" (2012): WIlliams played himself in a super-short, strangely sentimental story about he and Louie CK being the only ones to show up to the funeral of a despised comedy-club owner. To honor the man, they decide to visit his favorite strip club where they learn some startling things about the deceased. It's not Williams' best work, but it's the one that keeps rolling around in my head.


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