Thursday, November 17, 2005

Review: Hart to Hart: The Complete First Season

In the retrospective featurette that graces the new DVD set of Hart to Hart: The Complete First Season, creator Sidney Sheldon accurately describes the sort of winky, black-tie tone he was aiming for in this serialized, early ’80s knock-off of The Thin Man films, in which Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers played a globe-trotting, make-cute husband and wife duo whose substantial personal fortune allows them to play amateur sleuths. With this in mind, the laidback charms of this show (after all, as the opening credit narration from co-star Lionel Stander cheerily notes of the Harts, “murder is their hobby”) can wash pleasantly over viewers seeking to relive their small screen past, when rakishness was embraced rather than castigated.

Wagner stars as Jonathan Hart, a self-made millionaire who is utterly bored with the business world. He runs his conglomeration of industries by loose proxy, leaving him the time to tend his magnificent coif and live a life of luxury and indulged inquisitiveness with his wife Jennifer (Powers), a former freelance journalist and his intellectual equal. Stander is their butler and sidekick, Max, who blends fruit-and-Jack-Daniels smoothies and is quick with a quip. While so many investigatory shows — be they cop, private investigator or, these days, forensic scientist — are little more than colorfully convoluted procedurals, one thing that’s notable about Hart to Hart is the amount of time it took to establish and delight in character. The cases the Harts tackle, therefore, are actually a little less than half the story, as the mock-exasperated interplay between the stars is what gives the show its true zing. The (little) action is dated and silly, sure, and the occasional stunt doubles among the worst you’ll ever see, but Hart to Hart has a great sense of its own style and mission.

While not without its low points (“Which Way, Freeway?,” wherein the Harts’ dog exposes an elaborate scheme to kill a reclusive jeweler and steal millions of dollars in gems, comes to mind), Hart to Hart works chiefly because of its leads. Wagner plays Hart in breezy, Steve McQueen-lite fashion, which isn’t as backhanded a compliment as it sounds; vacuumed free of his complications and surliness, one could see how the character of Hart — and indeed, this series — was a success with audiences, if never quite a critical darling. While it suffered some rocky reviews early on, Hart to Hart eventually went on to score six Emmy nominations and more than a dozen Golden Globe nods. Episode highlights here include a great opening pilot, “A New Kind of High,” “Hit Jennifer Hart,” “Cruise at Your Own Risk” and “With This Gun I Thee Wed.”

The full-frame transfers of the show look surprisingly good given their age, and the audio (in English and… Portuguese, with subtitles in the latter?) is equally crisp. Wagner and Powers sit with writer-director Tom Mankiewicz for a warm audio commentary track on the two-hour pilot. An abundance of anecdotes are shared (after a location set fire early during the shoot, the director of photography used gaffer tape to amend his novelty, pre-show crew T-shirt from, “I have complete confidence in my director” to read “some confidence”), and the banter between the three (“Did you learn that in star school?” jibes Powers to Wagner at one point) is loving and humorous. This track is a veritable blueprint for multi-party effectiveness, so balanced is it between yarns, interesting insight and quantifiable information. The aforementioned retrospective featurette clocks in at 22 minutes, and includes interviews with the stars, plus Mankiewicz, Sheldon, executive producer Leonard Goldberg and others. It too is a fantastic look back at the series, and a model of economic re-visitation — not too long, not too short.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

TV highlights: Nov. 14th - 19th

"Hope & Faith"

Robert Wagner returns in his guest-starring role as Hope and Faith’s father, who’s back in town earlier than expected for Thanksgiving. And what about that fellow who’s with him? The young man (Johnny Galecki) makes the sisters suspicious, at 9 p.m. on ABC. Friday, Nov. 18th.

It's time for Harold Lloyd

Harold Lloyd, the forgotten man of the silent-film age, is ripe for rediscovery on a seven-DVD collection out Tuesday.

The Lloyd Collection (New Line, $90) includes 15 full-length films, 13 shorts and a bonus disc with home movies, photos and a gallery of Lloyd's 3-D photos, with glasses included. "It's a very expansive look at one of the great careers in movie history," says film historian Leonard Maltin, who details Lloyd's life in the DVD extras.

From 1912 to 1947, Lloyd made more than 200 films, including his classics The Freshman and Safety Last! Starting as an extra, he became a box-office champion, surpassing the popularity of the era's more famous funnymen, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Over the Fence, a comedy short from 1917, was the first of a series of films that starred Lloyd as "The Glass Character," an ordinary guy with horn-rimmed glasses and pancake makeup. Audiences took to the character, and Lloyd began making feature-length films throughout the 1920s. He would do talking films, but his popularity waned in the '30s.

He is considered the father of romantic comedy and daredevil hijinks, suffering an accident in 1919 when a prop bomb temporarily blinded him and blew off his right thumb and index finger.

Lloyd also realized the audience's need to identify with a character.

"He's the beginning of what Tom Hanks is today," says Suzanne Lloyd, Lloyd's granddaughter and sole trustee of his film estate. Still, "people have no idea of who he is except an image of him hanging off a clock (in 1923's Safety Last!), and they will say, 'I know him. He's Buster Keaton.' No!"

Many of his films have gone unseen by generations because Lloyd owned the rights to his films and kept them off television because he thought commercials disrupted the story flow.

"Where Chaplin and, to a lesser degree, Keaton were always in the public eye, he was missing in action for quite a while," Maltin says.

Interviews include family friends Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner and director John Landis, who notes that Lloyd used a stopwatch to make sure he had enough gags per reel.

Before he died in 1971, Lloyd had begun restoring his films, a project his granddaughter, with help from the UCLA Film Archive, took over after his death. More than five years ago, she began looking for a studio to release the DVDs. She also is working on a deal for a remake of Safety Last! with producer Mark Gordon (The Day After Tomorrow).

Maltin says the silent film star translates well to modern times.

"Not many years ago at a film festival for a morning screening of The Freshman, they brought in a bunch of fourth- and fifth-grade kids," he says. "By the end of the film, they were cheering out loud as (Lloyd) ran up the field with the football. Harold still works his magic."

(Harold Lloyd wore a prosthetic right hand after losing a thumb and finger in a prop explosion in 1919).

New 'Stars' Waltzing In

Names of probable contestants on the next "Dancing with the Stars" — including former NFL great Jerry Rice — are starting to leak out.

Robert Wagner, soap star Lisa Rinna and Nick Lachey's younger brother, Drew, are among the stars said to be on board already.

Kevin Nealon, the former "Saturday Night Live" comedian, says he's been asked to join the new cast but hasn't decided yet.

"It's like when I play 'Celebrity Poker Showdown,' " he told the Kansas City Star over the weekend. "I don't want to be the first one out. I don't want to look like an idiot. Or clumsy."

The sensation of last summer, "Dancing with the Stars" partners celebrities with real ballroom-dancing champions in an "American Idol"-like competition.

Each week, the couples create and perform a dance routine before a panel of eccentric judges.

A voting formula that combines judges' scores with results of viewer phone-ins decides which couple is eliminated each week.

In July, "General Hospital" star Kelly Monaco won the first "Dancing with the Stars" competition, beating John O'Hurley (J. Peterman of "Seinfeld") in a controversial finale.

The dance show's second run starts Jan. 5.

ABC has made no official announcement of the new cast.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


The movie version of HOOT will hit U.S. theaters in Spring 2006. It was filmed in Boca Grande and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It's being produced by Jimmy Buffett and Frank Marshall (who produced Seabiscuit). Wil Shriner is directing the film. Luke Wilson plays Officer Delinko, and Logan Lerman and Brie Larson play Roy and Beatrice. Clark Gregg (of "In Good Company"), Tim Blake Nelson (of "O Brother Where Art Thou") and Robert Wagner (of the Austin Powers movies, among many others) have roles in the movie. Jimmy Buffett is contributing original music. The studios are New Line and Walden.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

More "Hope and Faith" Info

HOPE & FAITH – “BLOOD IS THICKER THAN DAUGHTER” – FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18 (9:00-9:30 p.m., ET) -- Hope and Faith are surprised to spot their dad, Jack (Robert Wagner, reprising the role), in town earlier than expected for Thanksgiving. His suspicious behavior with his companion, a young man named Jay (guest star Johnny Galecki) leads the sisters to jump to conclusions. They soon learn their father is harboring a secret about Jay, which has a huge impact on their family ties.

Dancing with the Stars

Robert Wagner is scheduled to be a celebrity dancer on the next season of ABC's smash hit Dancing with the Stars.

Robert Wagner Returns as a Guest Star on ABC's "Hope and Faith"

Robert Wagner (“Hart to Hart,” “Austin Powers” trilogy) reprises his role as Hope and Faith’s father, Jack Fairfield, on ABC’s hit comedy, “Hope & Faith.” On the Thanksgiving-themed episode, “Blood Is Thicker Than Daughter,” Hope & Faith learn that their father is harboring a secret which has a huge impact on their family ties. The episode will air FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18 (9:00-9:30 p.m., ET).

Additionally, Mr. Wagner is currently filming a family comedy entitled “Hoot,” and lending his voice to an animated comedy-adventure feature, “Yankee Irving.”

“Hope & Faith” stars Faith Ford as Hope, Kelly Ripa as Faith, Ted McGinley as Charley, Megan Fox as Sydney, Macey Cruthird as Hayley and Paulie Litt as Justin.