on the tube

October 28, 2010
By Dean Robbins

‘Moguls & Movie Stars’ begins at the beginning of Hollywood history

The seven-part “Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood” (Monday, 7 p.m., TCM) takes a sweeping look at the American film industry from the late 19th century to the 1970s. “From the first flickering images of the 1880s,” says narrator Christopher Plummer, “it was a story as dramatic and unexpected and involving as the grandest Hollywood epic.”

He ain’t lying. Even part one (1889-1907) is thrilling, despite the profusion of grainy footage and hairy, homely actors. In this period, the prominent figures were not stars and directors, but inventors and engineers. They dreamed of creating the illusion of life — an advance on the magic lantern shows that passed for screen entertainment in America. Thomas Edison took up the challenge in the 1880s, inventing the peepshow. He caused a sensation with an early film showing an assistant doffing his cap over and over again. (Ah, the easy-to-please 19th-century movie audience.)

If an episode about obscure beginnings is this good, imagine the fun when the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Katharine Hepburn show up. I plan to doff my cap to “Moguls & Movie Stars” throughout November — over and over again.

‘The League’

Thursday, 9:30 p.m. (FX)
FX’s sitcom is one of TV’s finest satires of the male animal. Friends compete tooth and nail in a fantasy football league, an obsession that trumps marriage, career and other matters of interest to most, you know, adults. “The League” offers a vision of those men who are still 11 at heart, romping in their own private tribal fantasy world.

Far be it from me to judge: I enjoy romping with them for 30 minutes every week. CV



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