March 15, 2010

Bringing it homeMainers wanna have fun, too


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Staff Writer

Care to guess what TV vehicle got the most nominations for tonight's Primetime Emmy Awards?

You might guess one of those shows people talk about at the water cooler every week, like ''Lost'' on ABC or ''Heroes'' and ''The Office'' on NBC. Or maybe a critically-acclaimed, slightly edgy show, like AMC's ''Mad Men'' or NBC's ''30 Rock.''

Those last two are good guesses -- they garnered 16 and 17 nominations, respectively.

But the most-nominated work this year sprang from a history book written by a part-time Camden resident.

''John Adams,'' an HBO miniseries based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by David McCullough, garnered 23 Emmy nominations, including best miniseries and best writing for a miniseries. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, who played John and Abigail Adams, have been nominated for lead actor and actress in a miniseries or movie.

McCullough and his wife bought a home in Camden about five years ago, not far from their daughter and her family. They now split time between Camden and Martha's Vineyard off Cape Cod, where they have lived for many years.

One might not think of a work like ''John Adams'' as TV miniseries fodder. But producer Tom Hanks saw its potential and convinced McCullough that his book's powerful story about the founding father and second president could be even more powerful as a film.

''I wasn't sure at first that a miniseries based on my book was a good idea. But after meeting with (Hanks) and discussing the project and his ideas on how it should be done, I was convinced that this could be a powerful, compelling way to bring history alive for an enormous audience and that he meant what he said about doing it right,'' McCullough said in an interview when the miniseries debuted last March.

McCullough, 75, is active in Maine and makes many appearances here. He was in Connecticut for a funeral this past week and could not be reached to talk about tonight's Emmys.

We actually know the film already is a winner in some categories. The Primetime Emmys creative arts division gave out its awards on Sept. 13, and ''Adams'' was the top winner with eight nods. Most of the creative arts awards are for technical achievements and things like guest roles. ''Adams'' won for art direction, casting, and cinematography for a miniseries or movie, as well as in other categories.

McCullough is not the only Maine resident honored with an Emmy nomination this year for work that not only entertains but informs and educates.

Melanie Cunningham and Rushmore DeNooyer of the Lone Wolf Documentary Group in South Portland are nominated in the research category of the News and Documentary Emmy Awards for their work on the History Channel film ''Titanic's Achilles Heel.''

The News and Documentary Emmys are separate from tonight's Primetime Emmys, and will be awarded Monday in New York City. The ceremony isn't scheduled to be televised.

Cunningham and DeNooyer are nominated for their research into the aftermath of the Titanic's sinking in 1912, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,500 people.

They researched the congressional investigation that took place after the sinking. Lone Wolf also arranged for experts to examine recently discovered hull pieces of the ship, which were intact, as well as the wreckage of Titanic's sister ship, Britannic.

The results of their research? The film makes a strong case for the idea that Titanic was not as strong as its makers said it was, and that much of its hull fell off before it sank. If the hull pieces had not fallen off, and the iceberg's puncture hole was the only major damage, the ship probably could have stayed afloat long enough for many more people to be rescued, they argued.

The hull pieces were discovered about a half mile from the rest of the wreckage by an expedition Lone Wolf had arranged in 2005 for a previous History Channel film, ''Titanic's Final Moments.''

Cunningham and DeNooyer's research of the congressional hearing, as well as of records at Titanic's builder in Northern Ireland, led them to believe that the ship's builder and owner tried to cover up the structural flaws after the accident.

''We're tantalizingly close, though it's not definite, to being able to say there was a cover-up -- that the builders didn't want people to know they were concerned about the ship's strength,'' said DeNooyer of Searsmont, writer and producer on the History Channel film.

DeNooyer and Cunningham were assisted in examining the Titanic by Roger Long of Cape Elizabeth, a noted marine architect. Long concluded, along with other experts, that the ship probably did not break apart when its end was high out of the water, as depicted in most films about the disaster.

Instead, the ship was probably only slightly tilted in the water when two hull pieces broke off and led to the ship's sinking. This would account for why so many passengers and crew were caught unprepared by the sinking.

''There is a lot of evidence that the crew were taking their time launching the lifeboats. People didn't realize they were about to go into the water,'' DeNooyer said.

Of course, McCullough also conducted a ton of research to bring the life and times of Adams to life. Screenwriter Kirk Ellis also read most of the source material McCullough used before writing his screenplay.

But the real inspiration for the ''Adams'' miniseries comes from McCullough's mastery of narrative history. From Harry Truman to Teddy Roosevelt to the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, McCullough has built a reputation as one of the very best at recounting history with the all the power and passion of a great novel.

And Ellis was not going to mess with the work of a master.

''Tom Hanks was absolutely clear that we should be telling the story of David McCullough's 'John Adams','' Ellis said in an interview published on the HBO Web site. ''David writes like a dramatist himself -- it's what's made his books so popular -- and he understands the different demands of the biographical page and the screen.''

And now he understands what it's like to have a critically-acclaimed TV film on his resume as well.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Not all of the Maine connections to the Emmys have to do with historical, educational stuff like the ''John Adams'' mini-series and the documentary, ''Titanic's Achilles Heal.''

Maine can also claim some big stars in prime-time entertainment who are up for Emmys tonight.

Namely, Glenn Close and Tony Shalhoub.

Close, who shares a Prouts Neck home in Scarborough with husband and local businessman David Shaw, is nominated for lead actress in a drama series. She stars in the legal drama ''Damages'' on the FX cable network, playing a high-powered attorney tackling high-stakes civil suits.

Shalhoub, a University of Southern Maine graduate who started his acting career in Portland theater, is nominated again in the category of lead actor in a comedy series for his role as an obsessive-compulsive detective in USA's ''Monk.''

Shalhoub has won the Emmy in this category three times, all for ''Monk.''

Although Close and Shalhoub spend a lot of time filming, and not in Maine, both are active in the state. Shalhoub returns to make appearances on behalf of USM and has been a member of the USM Foundation's board of directors.

Close, a dog lover, recently helped launch a Portland-based dog supply company, Fetchdog, in which Shaw is the lead investor. Close also writes a dog blog on the company's Web site,

What are the chances of either Close or Shalhoub winning tonight?

Well, Shalhoub is facing off against Steve Carell of ''The Office,'' Lee Pace of ''Pushing Daisies,'' Charlie Sheen of ''Two and a Half Men'' and Alec Baldwin of ''30 Rock.''

Close is competing with Sally Field of ''Brothers & Sisters,'' Mariska Hargitay of ''Law & Order: SVU,'' Holly Hunter of ''Saving Grace'' and Kyra Sedgwick of ''The Closer.''

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DAMAGES: Glenn Close stars as Patty Hewes in the legal thriller DAMAGES, airing Tuesday, July 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/PT) on FX. Photo credit: Larry Riley / FX.


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