Fred’s farewell to TV: Comedy star Willard’s final projects

TV Pipeline

Fred Willard

Q: I was sorry to learn of Fred Willard’s passing. What was the last project he did? — Keith West, via e-mail

A: The much-mourned comedy veteran had completed a role in the Netflix series “Space Force,” which was released (as it had been scheduled to be) last month, with the timing turning out to be very shortly after Willard’s passing. Before that, he had recurred on “Modern Family” as Phil’s (Ty Burrell) father Frank, who — in a sad irony — died in one of that show’s final-season episodes.

“Blood & Treasure”

Q: I am curious as to when “Blood & Treasure’s” second season will start. — Gayle Wenger, Grand Junction, Colo.

A: So are we. The CBS adventure-drama’s sophomore round originally had been planned to premiere in May, but as with so much scheduling during the coronavirus pandemic, that obviously changed. Filming on Season 2 began last October, and even though “Blood & Treasure” is a limited series, the production involves carefully choreographed stunt work and travel to various countries … so it’s possible that not everything was completed before the television-drama business basically was shut down by the pandemic.

Though it was intended to air in the summer again this year, CBS said recently that it is retaining the option to use the show this fall instead if the new programming season isn’t ready to go then — which very well could turn out to be the case. This much we do know: Whenever “Blood & Treasure” returns, “Criminal Minds” alum Paget Brewster will be a new cast member, joining returning stars Matt Barr and Sofia Pernas.

Q: Every so often, I see that a TV episode has been directed by Kimberly McCullough. Is that the same person as the actress who plays Robin Scorpio on “General Hospital”? — Heather Keller, Elyria, Ohio

A: It is. She’s been calling the shots on certain shows’ episodes fairly steadily since the mid-2010s, accruing such credits in that job as “Pretty Little Liars,” “Fuller House,” the “One Day at a Time” reboot, “The Conners,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Roswell, New Mexico.”

One show that greets McCullough with particularly open arms is “The Bold Type,” since Meghann Fahy recently told us — bemusedly though truthfully — that she and her co-stars are “obsessed” with McCullough and enjoy having her on their set whenever possible.

Q: Please settle a debate. Did James Stewart ever star in a television series? — Mark Lee, Alpena, Mich.

A: Actually, a couple of them. In the early 1970s, he headlined the aptly titled “The Jimmy Stewart Show,” which lasted one season on NBC and cast him as a college professor, and he reportedly was relieved that it didn’t last longer since he wasn’t used to the schedule of making a TV series. (For anyone interested, it can be purchased on DVD via Warner Archive.)

A couple of seasons later, Stewart returned as a lawyer in “Hawkins,” which was an element of “The New CBS Tuesday Night Movies.” The episodes were three times as long as those of “The Jimmy Stewart Show,” but there was more time to make them, since “Hawkins” only aired every three weeks. In-between were Richard Roundtree in new adventures of his urban-detective character “Shaft” and a variety of other TV-movies. “Hawkins” also ended up lasting only one season, but Stewart won a Golden Globe Award for it.

Q: Was “Flipper” a movie before it became a TV series? — Karen Wade, via e-mail

A: In fact, it was two movies (both of which turn up with fair regularity on Turner Classic Movies). The 1963 feature film “Flipper” starred Chuck Connors, but Brian Kelly — who would continue in the TV show — assumed the main adult role of warden and park ranger Porter Ricks for the 1964 sequel, “Flipper’s New Adventure.”

Both pictures effectively served as pilots for the NBC series that premiered later in 1964, with Luke Halpin continuing his part from the two films as Ricks’ son Sandy … and getting a younger brother named Bud for the TV version, played by Tommy Norden.

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Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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