Mailbag: ‘Mob Doctor’ done, ‘Proof’ moves

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Jordana Spiro (center) is Dr. Grace Devlin, a surgeon caught between two worlds as she juggles her promising medical career with her family's debt to Chicago's Southside mob, in the new drama The Mob Behind Spiro are (from left) Wendy Makkena, William Forsythe, James Carpinello, Jesse Lee Soffer, Jordana Spiro, Jaime Lee Kirchner, Zach Gilford, Zeljko Ivanek and Floriana Lima. (Mathieu Young/FOX)

If it’s Thursday, this must be the mailbag.

Q: Just wondering if “The Mob Doctor” is history? Really got hooked on it.

A: You should probably undo that hook. The show is done. Fox ordered 13 episodes and, before all those had aired, decided not to order any more. The last episode aired on Jan. 7.

Q: I missed season two of “Downton Abbey” and wonder when it will be available on DVD. Love that series.

A: The second season was released on DVD and Blu-ray last year. The third season, currently airing on PBS, will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 29.

Q: My husband and I just loved the show “Body of Proof” with Dana Delany. Can you tell me if it’s coming back?

A: As I mentioned in a recent mailbag, it is returning. But the airing of new episodes has changed a bit. New episodes had been set for Feb. 5 (following a rerun from last season on Jan. 29). But, with the State of the Union address on Feb. 12, ABC decided to start the airing of new episodes on Feb. 19 instead.

Q: In the late ’60s or early ’70s I saw a movie with James Whitmore called “Give ’Em Hell Harry.” I haven’t been able to find anything on it. It was here in the Omaha area for only a short period of time. Can you give me any info on it?

A: James Whitmore, who died in 2009, was a distinguished stage, TV and screen actor. His credits include The Shawshank Redemption (as the tragic inmate Brooks). He also did several one-man stage shows as famous characters, including Will Rogers, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Give ’Em Hell, Harry!, the show where he played Truman, was recorded on a 1975 tour for release in movie theaters and later to television.

Whitmore said before the tour that he had “great trepidation” about playing Truman, who had died a few years earlier. “I’m not an impressionist,” Whitmore told the Associated Press. “The main thing I strive for is to get the fundamental man, to re-create the rhythmic patterns.” But he did well enough that the movie version got him an Oscar nomination as best actor. (Jack Nicholson won, for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.)

The production was released on VHS tape but has not, as far as I can tell, made it to DVD. While there is a DVD called Give ’Em Hell Harry, which is about Truman, it is not Whitmore’s show. But you can see Whitmore as Truman in a series of Give ’Em Hell, Harry, posts on YouTube.

Q: I remember a television show set in Algeria during that country’s fight for independence from the French (1954 to 1962). Van Heflin (I think) was a French officer agonized by the use of torture. I have the impression the show was one of those in one of the prestige series: “Omnibus” or “Playhouse 90.” IMDB mentions “Playhouse 90’s” “The Cruel Day” with Van Heflin but there is not a plot summary. I’d like to see if the program is available in any medium.

A: You were on the right track about the production. The Cruel Day, which aired on Playhouse 90 in 1960, “concerns the moral dilemma that a French captain faces in colonial Algeria,” according to the Paley Center for Media’s website; that dilemma included deciding whether to torture a boy who may have information about the rebels behind a series of bombings — a still timely topic, to say the least. The cast included Heflin, Raymond Massey, Cliff Robertson and Peter Lorre; Reginald Rose (12 Angry Men, The Defenders) wrote the script and Franklin Schaffner (Patton, the original Planet of the Apes) directed. But I do not know of a release of it on home video.

Do you have a question or comment for the mailbag? Write to the Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com. Please mark the email or envelope with “mailbag.” Letters may be edited for publication. Please do not phone in questions. Individual replies cannot be guaranteed.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Twitter and Facebook.


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