The Watchman: Sketches of Miles Davis on PBS; ‘Dispatches’ from Philly on AMC

Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
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Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool airs on PBS Feb. 25. The film offers never-before-seen footage, including outtakes from Davis’s recording sessions. Stanley Wilson directs the two-hour documentary, which looks at the famed trumpeter’s childhood in East St. Louis, Illinois; his time playing in Paris, where Davis hung out with Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso and other intellectuals; and his years as a jazz icon.

Miles Davis: The Birth of the Cool

Miles Davis: The Birth of the Cool

Davis’s nephew, Vince Wilburn, played drums with his uncle. “You’re afraid, but after the first song the fear went away,” he said at January’s TCA Winter Press Tour. “The fear factor brought out that inner thing in all of us.”

Carl Lumbly voices Davis in the film. Quincy Jones, Carlos Santana and Clive Davis offer their perspectives.

Even seasoned musicians were iffy about playing with a taskmaster like Davis, but they lined up anyway to perform with a legend. “You know what Miles was best at?” Marcus Miller, bassist and Davis collaborator, asked at TCA. “Being himself.”

‘Dispatches’ from Philly on AMC

On March 1, Jason Segel’s Dispatches from Elsewhere premieres on AMC. The anthology series centers around four ordinary folks with something missing in their lives. The foursome is brought together when they stumble onto a puzzle hiding around the city they share.

Segel starred in How I Met Your Mother and Freaks and Geeks, and his films include Knocked Up and This Is 40.

Mark Friedman, executive producer and showrunner, said his job is to “help make Jason’s vision come to life.”

He was at work on another AMC show that did not make it to air when the Segel project was sent his way. Segel and Friedman chatted on Skype about it, then met in Los Angeles. “We definitely bonded over food,” said Friedman. “There was a lot of eating.”

Dispatches from Everywhere on AMC

Dispatches from Everywhere

Dispatches is set in Philadelphia. “It definitely has that working-class, lunch-pail, Rocky Balboa reputation,” Friedman said. “It was important to Jason to set it in a place that celebrates the beauty of everyday life.”

The cast is Segel, Andre Benjamin, Eve Lindley and Sally Field. Benjamin, under his stage name Andre 3000, was part of Outkast. Lindley has appeared in Mr. Robot and High Maintenance. Sally Field is, well, Sally Field. “It was sort of like having your mom on the set,” said Friedman, who mentioned the wisdom and humor the veteran actor brought. “I laugh when I think about her.”

Dispatches is filled with tiny clues related to the grand puzzle that propels the plot. Friedman said there are two ways viewers can watch: “You can sit and watch it as entertainment, or pause and rewind and look for clues.”

If Friedman does his job, Segel’s vision will come through in the series. “Jason is ultimately a hopeful person,” Friedman said. “He believes we have more in common than separates us.”

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