Exacting The Story: The PBS Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

PBS always understands the importance of relevant arts and science programming although sometimes its approach appeals more to a bygone generation settled in their ideas with a continual approach to knowledge but not a new approach to thinking in terms of process solving. The reflected programs take on a structure of life gained but still being maintained which in a good way provides a sense of both contentment and warmth in a constantly scitzophrenic state.

American Masters: When You’re Strange This documentary on The Doors which optimizes never-before-seen footage made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and has gone a tightening including a new narration by actor Johnny Depp to replace the temp track by director Tom DiCillo.

John Densmore, the drummer for The Doors, had always been a major proponent force in maintaining their culture relevance whereas other surviving members Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger seemed to want the music to speak for themselves. Despite a very public discernation of the use of the name “The Doors” in terms of touring a couple years back, this new ideal between them seems to translate into the want to create a museum piece to accurately represent the band. John says that he is honored that they have been included in the American Masters series making the joke that “now I know why I wear a cape”. He speaks of the process of The Doors from his perspective. He and Robbie had been living together and Jim [Morrison] came to the top of the hill and was depressed. He sat outside looking above the LA skyline and wrote the lyrics (People are strange/when you’re a stranger/Faces look ugly/when you’re alone) before he came back inside which in turn reflects the ideal behind the title. Densmore says that much of the footage in the docu he has seen before but with this incarnation “there is more depth to the story for me”. He speaks that when they played the Hollywood Bowl, Harrison Ford was a grip on the crew. In terms of the actual idea of the band, he likes the confusion. Some of the new footage brought in which he talks about is “The Highway” footage which was shot when they first got big. In “Strange”, Jim is driving in this footage and the radio comes on to say that Jim Morrison had just died which was trippy. He admits that doesn’t remember all the gigs that they played and honestly didn’t “realize what a dangerous force we were”. That came to a culimination he said at the New Haven concert: “Jim was backstage with some fan and the cops maced him”. The band headed onstage and start playing “Back Door Man”. Jim stopped the song and started talking about “the little blue man in the little blue cap”. That was the end of the show. Manzarek got on the mike and told everyone to go to the police station. While Densmore admits Morrison “couldn’t play one chord on any instrument”, “he was a genius with words” and “he had the melodies” and “could do them arpeggio”.

Densmore talks about the long sections of instrumental they would have in pieces like “The End”. He explains it as “very jazzy” but that “creativity sometimes comes in the same package”. In terms of the legacy of Morrison, Densmore says that he looks to him now and sees that “his destiny was to have this quick shooting star” adding that “he was channelling the angst, the music and the magic”. In reference to the Oliver Stone film in the 1990s which was based on his book, he said “Val Kilmer should have been nominated” because his performance “gave me the creeps on set”. He does admit that the Stone movie was “excessive” but as “Oliver says, ‘If you don’t like my film on your chest, don’t go see my movie'”. Densmore makes reference to the aspect of doing commercials because “Jim blew up” and that because of this “The Doors have never done a car commerical”. In terms of influence, he says “you can hear a little of us in U2” though “we didn’t have a bass player”. He admits that they did two albums after Jim died but they eventually realized: “What are we doing?” saying “we didn’t want to replace those leather pants”. Densmore says that Ray and Robbie tried to sing but it “didn’t give us the synchronicity”. The one aspect that he sees in “People Are Strange” which is not in Stone’s movie is “a humor and lightness”. Jim Morrison, he says, “was a blast in the beginning before his self-destruction” because “he became an alcoholic really”. The Doors’ time together he describes more now “as some kind of beautiful dream I had” but with “Strange” now he looks and “it is right there on the screen again”.

Dick Wolf, the TV magnate who was instrumental in getting this new film made, speaks to the addition of Johnny Depp’s voice over after the film was picked up at Sundance in saying “Johnny made one astounding change by personalizing it and using the [band members’] first names”. Wolf continues that “it gave a magnificent shift to evidence for the film” which is “something you can’t buy”.

Independent Lens: Dirt The Movie This film which also came out of Sundance in 2009 talks about the essence of what this specific resource does for the planet.

Jamie Lee Curtis, who was brought in to narrate the doc after its pick up, explains that Bill Benenson [who directed the film] is a neighbor of hers. She admits they “both live surrounded by dirt” but that they “also ended up at the same school as parents”. Her actions in the film are “not on camera” but she “acts as the voice of reason if you will”. It is good now she says that everybody understands the importance of green. She and her husband Christopher Guest were selected to be the EV1 family in terms of getting the new hybrid but admits “they came and stole it back”. Now they got a Honda Clarity but explains that “we’re all trying to do something”. For her, it is about “educating”. She hopes that “one of our kids will fix [the mess we made]” confessing that “we fucked up”.

Gene Rosow, the co-director of the production with Benenson, says that every facet has an effect. He uses the example that a chef he knows in NY mentioned a difference in the tenderness of pork based on certain properties of the dirt it consumes. He speaks to the analogy present in “how we treat dirt is how we treat ourselves”. He does think that awareness is growing but that the generation of kids right now will have to be the ones to see it through. The paradox for him through is that he sees the US as being a divided country. A certain energy emerges because everyone has their own separate tribe though people are starting to understand the fundamental urgency behind the economic and environmental obstacles society is starting to face. Rosow’s belief is that there is starting to be “an awakening to a real crisis” but that there is “a lack of literacy on this issue” that will soon cause people to “wake up”.

Executive Briefing: Sarah Eaton The former Fine Line Features topper displays her key element of processing the different elements necessary to maintain public television on a national scale yet the key still is balancing an aspect of the baby boomer mentality but still bringing in some new viewers.

“Masterpiece” has always attracted a stable of names to its roster. Eaton announced that they are now working on a new production of “Emma” which will be created as a four-hour miniseries for the “Classic” brand while Kenneth Branagh will be working on “Mr. Mollander” for the “Mystery” brand which will also be undertaking three new “Foyle’s Wars”.

Masterpiece Classic: Anne Frank The new intentions of a classic literary anti-hero always revolves around the tendencies of the actress playing her and whether intended awareness is either subtle or oblique.

Ellie Kendrick, who plays the title character, explains, via satellite from London, that the transition of this young woman was difficult to play but “the reason she is so popular is because she is someone that we can identify with”. She sees Anne as “spirited and funny” but that “the diary became her only friend” which she professes “is the kind of woman you run into in this girl’s soul”.

Deborah Moggach, who adapted this new miniseries, explains that it took more than two years to persuade the Anne Frank estate to allows them to pen this new perception and that “it is a testimony to the BBC that it held”. She admits that it isa complicated work to do through Anne’s eyes” because she had to give the characters life “with their own journeys”.

The Tavis Smiley Show Smiley, in headlining a show both boosted by an integrity brand and, by certain accounts, immune to ratings and late night wars, has scored many exceptional interviews over the years especially with his no nonsense style of interviewing.

Smiley begins by talking about the parallel between Afghanistan and Vietnam. Specifically, he pinpoints the idea as “a call to conscience”. He says he was talking that morning with staff about they can get at the aspect of where the money is going in this conflict. The question he begs to ask is “Are we beyond the corruption and the damage done?”.

One of the new angles he is approaching this season is a behind-the-scenes view of Secretary Of State Hilary Clinton at work. Smiley has known her for many years but he was interested in how she would approach the ideal of rivals becoming allies. He says “I whittled it down and what I learned is that it is harder than I thought”. He doesn’t understand why she wants this job at 62. There is a point in the piece he did where he believes she might get out before 4 years is done but knows, for sure, she “will not have 8”. He “cannot think of a woman who has been more demonized by the press” but “was surprised how affable she was with the press pool” that travels with her but he did make the point that he was “the only person of color”.

In terms of other people he has met and interviewed he says Fidel Castro was the most interesting in that “there is a charm to him” and that “he is extremely well read and a witness”. He explains that Castro has a “a unique and strategic type of thinking” but that “there are games he plays in conversation” which had Smiley himself “most on edge”.

Smiley also comments on the late night melee that is occurring first indicating that he doesn’t know Conan but that Jay is “a personal friend”. In terms of his opinion, he says “it was a mistake to push him out of the time slot” citing that this move “will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of television” but that “it has been fascinating to watch”. Smiley indicates that “television is changing in alot of ways” but that “there is a comfort in consistency”. The problem is that “NBC ran up against something they couldn’t figure out”.

In terms of new initiatives, he and Jonathan Demme are working together on some piece in regards to the recent New Orleans & Haitian crises. Smiley has been to Haiti a number of times and says that “no country should have to endure the hell they have gone through”.

Demme says that as far as the initial footage they shot in regards to New Orleans “what we have going for us is the people” who have returned to the hard hit Ninth Ward. Demme explains that this is where Brad Pitt’s initiative was launched. The experiment in filming is being done over a 5 year period of which they are in year 2 . The parallel of Haiti he says “is on his mind right now” because of “what you discover when the structure is inadequate”. In comparison, he admits the initiative to rebuild New Orleans which was a distinct hope, did not happen. For him, it is “a humanist canvas of real life and real people” calling this project for him “a wonderful amazing challenge”. One of the most interesting aspects for him is the idea of what “big belief” and “forced faith” is. The reality as he sees it is that “it is take your medicine time but how do you circumvent that” which is the “struggle”.

NOVA: The Pluto Files This new perception and dissertation on the nature of modern astronomy and the changing view on the nature of the universe is elevated by the distinction of personalities, both dissecting and far ranging, that inhabit this new incarnation of the popular science series.

Mark Sykes, Director of the Planetary Science Institute, says the debate of Pluto as a planet or extrasolar object is “about fear”. His perception of the discussion is about points. He says Pluto “is round…it has an atmosphere…it has seasons”. The problem in the modern scientific community is that “the discoveries outstrip the vocabulary to slow them down”. He uses the analogy that the word “manufacturer” used to describe an object “made by hand” but “that definition has evolved”. With the definition of a “planet”, “it depends on what is useful” and if there is “independent importance”. He believes in the thinking “that more is not upsetting to people” but “less is” but that there should not be simply “abitrary change”.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist as well as host of the show, has his own ideas in regards to this mode of thought. His vector revolves around the the fact that you want a word in regards to a universal body that classifies an object in terms of its commonality. He revels in the fact that he believes that there is still “an insatiable appetite for the cosmos” and that there are “certain aspects that tap us all”. The frustrating anglet in terms of the education for him is the idea that the solar system is taught in a certain way which is viscerally outdated. However, in persistence of this specific subject, he says “even if Pluto had been demoted, it wouldn’t have tipped the apple cart”.

The Buddha On the other end of scientific speculation, this series examines a spiritual perception enlisting the eyes of a highly placed subject who is both indicative of the teachings but also is allowing himself to be aware of the world that inhabits new ideologies but that everything remains cyclical.

David Grubin, the filmmaker behind this endeavor which is narrated by Richard Gere, describes Buddha, in his mind “as really the first psychologist” and explains that “Buddha, like Freud, was a realist” in that “he saw an experience for what it was”. The message for the film he hopes is that “it is possible for everyone to be the Buddha”.

The Venerable Metteyya Sakyaputta himself was brought into the world in the same place as the Buddha and, although he was born Hindu, he became an ordained Buddhist Monk. Metteyya relates that the key to the question of Buddha is to become a better human being. In relation to modern ideals, he believes that there is always something in the mind from cultural ideas but that one must always take a closer look. In looking at Western culture, he sees that the people are getting something unique but that they are specifically looking for the direct benefit it brings them. This was the first time he had visited the United States. He had requested from his Dharma Mother some ways to see this country. One of the first TV series he saw was “Friends”. The next was “The Simpsons”. He describes the fact that Lisa Simpson takes on all the elements of a Buddhist which is a very adept statement.

In terms of being interviewed for this film (“The Buddha”), he explains that he had no idea what it would be like but that it was important. He looks and wants to understand what Western Buddhism is missing. He sees that people are much more tense here. They want to accomplish something in a ten-day course and “get on with it”. One of the recent books he read examines human intelligence versus IQ intelligence and that we are just starting to understand these connections. Patience is essential. Metteyya relates that “Buddha gave us a path to develop human qualities of sharing, loving others, having patience and not complaining about every single thing”. “The Buddha”, he says, “sees that you are now a seed with many potentials”.

The Venerable Sakyaputta understands that, through Buddhism, people think that they will find “keys to happiness”. However, he sees that “as a Western ideal” that is mired in something “very complex” because “in order to have peace in the heart, you have to think of the mind”. He goes on to say that “Buddha says that the mind and the matter is a unique phenomena that has impact on each other”. The perception he believes is that “mental thoughts have influence where we have emotion in our mind”. He reminds through teachings that “patience is a virtue but that doesn’t mean we have to be waiting and waiting and never get any work done.” The realization has to be “Buddha is not a rock…but a human being.”

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