TeleVISION by Julio Martinez
The mid-season primetime television season is well underway, but it is not too early to spotlight some notable programs and performances coming up in the not-too-distant future. This season is not flavored with an abundance of Latinos, but there are some notable efforts coming up.
SEDA IS DANDY…Though the HBO 10-part mini series, The Pacific, isn’t premiering until mid-March, the television press is already talking about Puerto Rican American Jon Seda’s transcendent portrayal of real-life Italian American World War II hero, John Basilone. Sgt. Basilone’s exploits on Guadalcanal during the early days of the fighting in the Pacific were legendary, earning him the Congressional Medal of Honor, and immortality as the inspiration for the comic book hero, G.I. Joe. Seda infuses himself within the spirit and character of a truly humble average guy who heeds the call to duty as naturally as he breaths.
“I believe everyone in the cast felt a deep responsibility to make sure we got this right,” says Seda. “I think there was a certain point in time for all of us when we realized how important this was. This isn’t just another show, another film. We had the task to be the voices for so many men, the real heroes. And I think this was especially true for me. Basilone was raised in New Jersey, and I was raised in New Jersey. So I wouldn’t be able to show my face at home if we didn’t get this right. I think overall, we did get it right, not just for all the Marines out there who are going to be seeing this, but also for the producers, directors and writers who were involved in making the series. They poured everything into getting this done. And we wanted to make sure we made them proud.”
The Pacific, a Playtone and DreamWorks production, is executive produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman. The series premieres Sunday, March 14 on HBO.
WILMER IS HANDY…Disney Channel’s Emmy-nominated preschool animated series, Handy Manny, starring the voice of Wilmer Valderrama, is going primetime with it’s 2nd special, Handy Manny Big Race, guest starring NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. and N'Sync's Lance Bass, airing Saturday, March 20 (7:00-7:25 p.m., ET/PT). In the special, Valderrama, Bass (who recurs on the series as surfer-dude Elliot) and the cast of Tools perform the new song "One Step at a Time." A music video for the song will premiere Saturday, March 6 on Disney Channel and online at Disney.com/HandyManny.
A Top 10 TV series with preschoolers age 2-5, the show is set in a multicultural, multi-generational community and follows a curriculum that models problem-solving. It is available in over 140 countries and in 23 languages. The first primetime special, Handy Manny Motorcycle Adventure, delivered the series' largest Total Viewer audience ever (Source: NTI, U.S. ratings, 10/4/09).
The show, which premiered in 2006, features the adventures of Manny Garcia, a bilingual Hispanic handyman, and his anthropomorphic, talking tools. “I am very proud to be associated with this series,” Valderrama affirms. “In addition to imparting life lessons about working together, communication and setting goals, the series also teaches viewers Spanish words and phrases and exposes them to various aspects of Latin Culture.” The series also features Carlos Alazraqui as Felipe. The series' cultural consultant is Marcela Davison Aviles, president and CEO of Mexican Heritage Corporation. Language specialist Dr. Rose Marie Garcia Fontana is the series' language consultant. Rick Gitelson is executive producer and story editor of Handy Manny, which is a production of Nelvana Limited in association with Disney Channel. Handy Manny airs weekdays at 9:00 a.m., ET/PT and weekends at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
MAYOR GOES APE…Later this Spring, National Geographic is launching NatGeo Wild, a new cable network dedicated to bringing audiences extraordinary wildlife programming. A highlight is the premiere of Mystery Gorillas with Mireya Mayor, featuring the former NFL cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins turned fearless and indomitable scientist, cozying up to one of nature’s most powerful primates. Long since putting down her pom poms, Dr. Mayor, a Ph.D. in anthropology, went on to become the first female wildlife correspondent for NGTV’s Ultimate Explorer series, and has spent more than ten years exploring some of the wildest and most remote places on earth, often armed with little more than a backpack, notebooks and hiking boots.
“In the promo footage to the series, it shows me being chased by a gorilla, and that was indeed frightening,” Mayor admits. “In all of the years of experience that I’ve had with gorillas, I’ve been charged by them dozens of times, and never once did I move out of its way or run like that. Generally, I act like a gorilla, and I react to them in a way a gorilla would, which is to get into a submissive posture and just let him know that, yes, I know you are boss. In this case — and this comes from years of experience out in the field — I knew that he wasn’t just doing a bluff charge.”
Looking back on her upbringing, Mayor knows it is ironic that she lives a good deal of her life in the wildest most untamed areas of earth. “I grew up in a big city as the only daughter of Cuban immigrants,” she recalls. “I couldn’t join the Girl Scouts as a little girl because my family thought it was too dangerous.” Since then, our Latina scientist has slept in remote jungles teeming with poisonous snakes, gone diving with great white sharks, has not only been charged by gorillas but chased by elephants as well.
“It is a part of the job I willingly accept,” Mayor affirms. “What Geographic has enabled me to do is go to these places and team up with some of the best scientists out there, with these amazing film crews that are capturing these amazing creatures in their natural habitat, and then share this experience with a worldwide audience that wouldn’t have the chance ordinarily to get face-to-face with a Central African gorilla and see all of these amazing behaviors and discoveries for the first time. I have a great job.”