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THE TV COLUMN

Titanic miniseries plods familiar ground, water

By Michael Storey

This article was published April 12, 2012 at 4:36 a.m.

— Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. TV viewers have been reminded about that through a number of specials in recent days.

Now we get (maybe) the most special special of them all — a four-hour, four-part “miniseries” airing over two nights.

Parts 1-2-3 debut beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, with the final hour wrapping up at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Not to spoil the ending for you, but the ship still sinks.

And if four hours seems like a long time to spend with a costume drama where you know what happens, consider this. James Cameron’s 1997 sudser has been re-released in 3-D and drags on for three hours and 14 minutes.

The movie drags on but, near, far, wherever you are, I believe that the heart does go on.

I’m sorry. I was having a Celine moment.

The ABC version won’t have Leonardo DiCaprio or Kate Winslet, but it does offer something just as special.

The miniseries comes from the creative minds of Julian Fellowes and Nigel Stafford-Clark. Clark created it and Fellowes wrote the screenplay.

Fellowes is the genius behind PBS’ Downton Abbey and Clark produced 2005’s Bleak House for the BBC.

Shot in Budapest, Hungary, Titanic is the dramatic retelling of the doomed voyage that weaves action, mystery and romance through all four hours.

The production features fictional and historical characters, ranging from the staff and crew to blue collar steerage passengers and society’s upper-crust guests in first class.

In this version, each hour follows similar events from different points of view, culminating in a cliff-hanger, as the ship begins to founder. The dramatic, foregone conclusion in Sunday’s final hour draws together all the stories.

If there is any suspense for viewers, it’s that we aren’t really certain which of the many characters we come to know live and which die.

The hourly changes in points of view allow the viewer a closer look at relationships — upstairs and down.

As the danger increases, ABC tells us, “secrets and resentments are revealed, love and fury are sparked, but when the unthinkable happens ... each person’s life will change.”

Linus Roache (Law & Order) stars as lofty firstclass passenger Hugh, Earl of Manton, while his wife, Louisa, is played by Geraldine Somerville (the Harry Potter films).

Veterans of PBS and BBC productions will recognize a lot of faces in the large cast besides Roache and Somerville’s.

Full disclosure: I’ve only had a chance to watch the first hour, but the entire miniseries got less than stellar reviews when it aired in Great Britain.

Evidence that ABC is hedging it’s bets lies in that three of the four hours are being aired on a Saturday night — the night the networks usually dump their jetsam to lighten the load.

Huzzah. HBO has announced that Season 5 of True Blood will debut June 10. New to the cast will be Law & Order: SVU’s Christopher Meloni, Scott Foley, Kelly Overton and General Hospital’s Carolyn Hennesy.

The Newsroom. On June 24, HBO will debut the highly anticipated new Aaron Sorkin series The Newsroom. The series stars Jeff Daniels as a harried cable news anchor trying to rebuild his show after a staff exodus.

Supporting cast includes Dev Patel, Sam Waterston, Emily Mortimer, Olivia Munn and Jane Fonda.

Yes. Jane Fonda. She plays the chief executive officer of the news network’s corporate parent.

Coming soon. Foodies, mark your calendars. A special two-hour premiere at 8 p.m. May 13 will mark the Season 8 start of Food Network Star.

Fifteen hopefuls journey to New York, where stars Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Alton Brown throw down in a three-way team competition to find the next Food Network star.

Each of the three chefs will pick five finalists to mentor through the challenges. Viewers will vote online before the July 22 finale to determine who will win and get his own Food Network show.

Getting real. Mega producers Dick Wolf and Mark Burnett are joining forces to create a new NBC reality show titled Stars Earn Stripes.

In the show, nine celebrities will gather at an undisclosed facility and be paired with experienced military trainers to prepare for a weekly challenge adapted from exercises used by America’s armed services.

Prize money will be donated to a military charity. No premiere date has been set.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. E-mail:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Weekend, Pages 32 on 04/12/2012

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