Martin Short and Maya Rudolph look to do what Neil Patrick Harris was unable to do: launch a successful variety show on NBC.
Harris tried it at the beginning of the 2015-2016 TV season with “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris” and that variety show was greeted with a resounding lack of interest.
Maybe the thinking is that Harris should have had a hosting partner. It worked for Rowan and Martin and Sonny and Cher. But having multiple hosts did nothing for “The Nick and Jessica Variety Hour” (with Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson) or the ultimate in failed variety programs, “Pink Lady and Jeff” (that would be Jeff Altman).
Despite the hit-and-miss history, Rudolph and Short launched “Maya & Marty” on Tuesday, May 31. The first episode featured comedy skits, musical numbers and big-name guest stars including Tom Hanks. It attracted 6.4 million viewers, which isn’t bad. But, a lot of that viewing strength came from being behind the season-opener of “America’s Got Talent.”
Short told TV critics at an NBC press day to promote the show that the strength of the new variety show will be how well he and Rudolph work together.
“I think that the main thing I would say is that we both come from improvisation. I’m Second City, she’s Groundlings. So it’s a very kind of loose exchange, even when we break into characters or in the writers’ room and we’re coming up with ideas,” Short says.
Rudolph was a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” for eight seasons plus has appeared in the films “Bridesmaids,” “The Way Way Back” and “Grown Ups.” Short is both a two-time Emmy and Tony Award winner who also appeared on “Saturday Night Live.”
As for Rudolph, she has nothing but praise for her co-host: “Marty is so lovely to be with as a human being, but is one of these people that you’re lucky enough to work with once, and makes you better and funnier and more inspired. He’s such a great collaborator.
“Because we both come from sketch and improv, we’re used to being part of a team. I think in terms of comedy, stand-up is more of a solo, solo thing. We’re used to working with people who make us laugh. So I got lucky.”
Ellen Barkin steps into character
The new TNT series “Animal Kingdom” features Ellen Barkin (”The Big Easy”) as the woman in complete control of the family criminal business. Joshua Cody (Finn Cole) moves in with his freewheeling relatives in their Southern California beach town after his mother dies of a heroin overdose.
The series is based on the 2010 feature film where Jacki Weaver played the role that Barkin now has. Barkin’s not concerned that she’s taking on a role played by another.
“I think of it like I would if I were doing a play that might have been done 10 other times. I don’t really think I’m stepping into anyone else’s shoes. It’s something that was created by someone,” Barkin tells TV critics at the winter meetings. “Now it’s being created again by someone else.
“Having said that, I certainly watched the movie several times and read about the real family. I did whatever research I would normally do.”
The other side of Ellen
Thirty years ago, while working in Louisiana, my assignment was to go to New Orleans to cover the filming of the movie “The Big Easy.” Filming was being done in a small house on a city street not far from the French Quarter.
Because no press was allowed on the set, the only place to see what was happening was across the street where a large crowd had formed. After a long wait, Barkin came walking down the street. From the middle of the crowd, I started taking pictures. That lasted only a few seconds.
From across the street, Barkin started screaming, “He can’t take my picture! Someone stop him! I want him thrown out of here!” She them hurried on to the house where the filming was being done.
A member of the crew came over and asked that despite me being on a city street and not anywhere near the set, the production would appreciate me either stop taking pictures or hide a little better. He said it would make life easier for everyone.
It didn’t matter, as Barkin never emerged from the house until hours later and it was too dark for me to see here or, better yet, her to see me.
Teamwork: Dierks Bentley joins forces with Elle King for the television debut of Bentley’s new single “Different For Girls” on the “2016 CMT Music Awards” airing at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 8. Also, Billy Ray Cyrus makes his return to the “CMT Music Awards” stage for the first time in eight years for a killer mash-up with Cheap Trick.
Lessons to be learned: Julie Andrews will star in “Julie’s Greenroom,” a new preschool show from The Jim Henson Company that features an all-new puppet cast of kids learning about the performing arts. The series will be available exclusively to Netflix members in early 2017.
Special appearance: Returning to the Tony Awards stage for the first time since 1970, Barbra Streisand will present at “The 70th Annual Tony Awards” that will be broadcast at 8 p.m. June 12 on CBS.