PBS’ Blast from the Past, America in Primetime and the Monkees’ Davy Jones

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By Frank Barron

Davy Jones.

From the beginning, television has served as a window to view American society. And now PBS is examining TV with the four-part series, America in Primetime, airing Sundays through Nov. 20. The production of WETA and The Documentary Group, in association with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation, examines today’s biggest television hits by going back to their roots in the shows of the past. The focus is put on the archetypes of the characters and their roles on the TV shows, with episodes dealing with the Independent Woman, Man of the House, The Misfit, and The Crusader.

Tom Yellin, the executive producer of America in Primetime, emphasized that the series is not a show about the history of television. Instead he said it is “an attempt to explore the creative process that great artists who work in the primetime scripted entertainment medium go through to bring characters to the screen that brings audiences back week after week, year after year.”

The spectrum of comedies and dramas are covered by the talented experts such as Phil Rosenthal, creator-producer of Everybody Loves Raymond. Others who participated were Felicity Huffman from Desperate Housewives, plus Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem, co-creators of Nurse Jackie. It was Rosenthal who noted that the glut of reality shows we’re seeing “could signal something larger than just a trend— and that’s the end of civilization.” That sounds funny, because Phil is a funny guy. But he could also be absolutely right.

There’s another show coming up that is a bit of history that will take you back in time, filled with music from the decade of peace, love, and profound social change. It’s called ‘60s Pop, Rock & Soul: My Music, airing Dec. 3 on PBS. It’s a show that will have you reminiscing with musical artists who perform the classics from the ‘60s.

The Monkees’ Davy Jones came to the television critics press tour to talk about the all-star lineup featured on the show. Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits will co-host the show with Jones. And the all-new concert spectacular will feature the favorites from Paul Revere and the Raiders, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, The Kingsmen, The Ventures, Question Mark & the Mysterians, and Jefferson Starship. It is sure to resonate with certain graying generations.

Jones, a spry 65, reported that he still goes out on the road performing, everywhere from the LA Greek Theater last year to the Albert Hall in London, England. He loves to entertain.

Although Jones is best known for his days with The Monkees, he has a showbiz background. “I was on Broadway in Oliver when I was 15 years old, and was part of the Oliver cast that appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show the night the Beatles went on. I was nominated for a Tony Award for the Artful Dodger when I was 16. My background is theater, radio, BBC in England, and other TV programs there. I have a passion for what I do. It’s been a pretty good life. It’s my 50th year in show business.”

All his memories, he said are in three books he has written about “Happy, good, great times.” He also said, “I could have gone to Dancing with the Stars, against a boxer and a baseball player. Hey, I’m a song and dance man. When I go out there on stage, nothing goes out there with me, other than me out there wanting to impress the audience and show off and have a great time, and sing those songs and dance, and talk to the audience. The feeling I get when I walk on the stage, I think, ‘what a relief; I’m on stage.’ The hardest part is going back to a hotel room.”

Surprisingly, music isn’t his only love. A former thoroughbred jockey, he now trains racehorses. “It started when I was a practice jockey in England in the early ’60s, and some agents saw me and got me an audition in London for the Oliver part.” But Jones had his jockey’s license and rode as late as 1996 in England, “and I won.” He admitted that he’s getting “a little more cautious. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t get up on a thoroughbred at this point in my life. I’m physically fit and pretty active, so I’m up early in the morning to workout with the horses, when I’m not doing concerts.”

Also keeping him busy is a musical he has written. And on the personal side, he said he has four daughters and grandkids, who are into the ’60s music. “It’s fun stuff and the kids listen to it. My grandkids are into it.” The ‘60s Pop, Rock & Soul: My Music show should be a treat for them.

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