Politics gave Hal Holbrook a memorable series


Hal Holbrook

Q: I was sad to read of the passing of Hal Holbrook. I know he appeared on “Designing Women,” but did he ever have a series of his own? — Julie Carr, via e-mail

A: The celebrated actor — who made a virtual second career out of his frequent performances as Mark Twain — also was a regular cast member on “Evening Shade” and had recurring roles on “The Event” and “Sons of Anarchy.” In terms of a show in which he was the top-billed star, though, that would be “The Senator” … one element of the rotating anthology “The Bold Ones.”

Though that drama lasted only one season (1970-71) on NBC, it cemented Holbrook’s television cred by earning him a Primetime Emmy Award for his portrayal of a political newcomer to Washington, D.C. The show might seem dated and almost quaint by the standards of current politics, but it also gave its star the image of an authority figure that would serve him well in numerous other roles on TV and in movies.

Holbrook also had considerable TV-movie and miniseries credits on his resume, including the groundbreaking 1972 drama “That Certain Summer” and such projects as “Lincoln” (in which he played that iconic president, a part he reprised in two “North and South” sagas), “George Washington” (Holbrook was John Adams), “The Awakening Land” and “Celebrity.”

Russell Hornsby

Q: I enjoyed the Lincoln series “The Bone Cutter.” Any chance there will be more of it in the near future? — Doris Swearingen, Weirton, W. Va.

A: In a word, no, if we’re correct in suspecting that the show you’re talking about “Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector.” Though we don’t often say a definitive “no” about such things, there was no activity in terms of a continuation of the show being ordered elsewhere after NBC canceled it a year ago.

With “Grimm” alum Russell Hornsby in the Rhyme role Denzel Washington played in the 1999 movie “The Bone Collector” (based on a novel by Jeffery Deaver), the series lasted 10 episodes. Its fate hasn’t put a damper on other shows being developed from popular books turned into movies, as is being proven currently by CBS’ “Clarice.”

Q: Will “The Ten Commandments” be shown on TV again this year? — George Wyman, Montrose, Colo.

A: We’d expect so, though ABC hadn’t confirmed its Easter-weekend programming plans yet at the time of this writing. It’s an annual tradition for that network to show legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille’s Oscar-winning 1956 epic on that weekend, one of extremely few theatrical films that still get that treatment from broadcast television. Other examples are “It’s a Wonderful Life” (NBC) and “The Sound of Music” (ABC).

Q: I was surprised to see a full night of “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune” recently. Does that mean ABC’s other two Thursday games aren’t doing well? — Melissa Ross, via e-mail

A: Not at all. The Sara Haines-hosted “The Chase” has been the top-rated show in its hour in both total viewers and adults 18-49 — and, very importantly, growing its numbers from week to week — while “The Hustler,” with host Craig Ferguson, also has fared very well in both categories (improving in total viewers as it’s gone along).

Unsurprisingly, “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune” has fared best of all three shows, with its immediate name recognition and the popularity of the game’s regular weeknight version and hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White (and … celebrities!). The three-episode night of it was a bid to play on that fact, even with all three of those hours being repeats, but all three ABC series were back the following week.

Q: Now that Dana Bash also is a host of “State of the Union,” does that mean Jake Tapper is leaving the program? — Frank Wallace, Attleboro, Mass.

A: No. Each is anchoring alternating weeks of the CNN program, in an arrangement similar to the one George Stephanopoulos and Martha Raddatz have on ABC’s rival show “This Week” on Sunday mornings. Some reports had it that CNN wanted to take Tapper off “State” for other assignments, but that he refused to give it up.

Send questions of general interest via email to tvpipeline@gracenote.com. Writers must include their names, cities and states. Personal replies cannot be sent.

Jay Bobbin

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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