Docs deal with death in way that in­spires, de­liv­ers mes­sage

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

ONE might think a col­umn about two death-re­lated doc­u­men­taries would be a com­plete downer.

In fact, this dou­ble­header re­view is any­thing but — the two films fea­tured here have death as their shared back­drop, but each finds a way to be up­lift­ing in its own way. And one of them is also im­por­tant be­cause of the pub­lic ser­vice it pro­vides.

First up is CBS’s The Gram­mys Will Go On: A Death in the Fam­ily (which airs tonight at 8 on CBS and Global), an hour-long spe­cial that looks back at the 2012 Grammy Awards and the last-minute re­vi­sions the show’s pro­duc­ers and per­form­ers had to make in the wake of Whit­ney Hous­ton’s death less than 24 hours be­fore the event.

As the Gram­mys’ ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, Ken Ehrlich, ex­plains in one of many re­veal­ing in­ter­views in the spe­cial, even be­fore Hous­ton’s pass­ing, the 2012 show was shap­ing up to be a mem­o­rable evening — in­clud­ing a Bruce Spring­steen opener, a 50th-an­niver­sary trib­ute to the Beach Boys, a ca­reer-farewell trib­ute to Glen Camp­bell, Adele’s re­turn to per­form­ing af­ter throat surgery and a clos­ing num­ber fea­tur­ing Sir Paul McCart­ney and an all-star gui­tar lineup.

“I was just so proud of where we were with the show prior to learn­ing that Whit­ney had passed,” he says. “I’ve done 32 of th­ese, and this one just had some­thing about it that was pretty re­mark­able.”

And then, of course, came the news. And im­me­di­ately, Ehrlich and the Gram­mys’ writ­ers and pro­duc­tion team were sud­denly faced with the task of cre­at­ing a much dif­fer­ent show on just a few hours’ no­tice.

“Through our sad­ness, one thing was cer­tain,” re­calls host LL Cool J. “The Gram­mys would hon­our this mu­si­cal icon, and the show would go on.”

And what A Death in the Fam­ily of­fers is a fas­ci­nat­ing, hour-by-hour look at how they pulled it off, com­plete with rare footage from re­hearsals and great in­ter­view clips with per­form­ers who ap­peared in last year’s tele­vised show.

Jen­nifer Hud­son re­calls get­ting a phone call from Ehrlich just min­utes af­ter learn­ing of the death of her life­long mu­si­cal in­spi­ra­tion; once she ar­rived in Los An­ge­les, she was of­fered a se­cluded re­hearsal space so she could deal with her grief while pre­par­ing a trib­ute song.

Her in­struc­tion from the pro­ducer: “I don’t want you to per­form this; I want you to sing this for Whit­ney.”

A year later, Hud­son’s ren­di­tion of I Will Al­ways Love You re­mains a guar­an­teed eye-mois­t­ener.

Among the artists fea­tured this well-crafted spe­cial are Spring­steen, Joe Walsh, Bon­nie Raitt, Dave Grohl, Ali­cia Keys, Bruno Mars, Adele, McCart­ney and Katy Perry.

The show went on, of course, and it was spec­tac­u­lar. It’s pretty cool to see how the Grammy peo­ple made it hap­pen.

Born of un­fath­omable sad­ness but filled with in­spi­ra­tion and hope is the TSN doc­u­men­tary Talk To Me: The Story of James Pa­trick Peek, which airs Mon­day at 7:30 p.m.

Pro­duced by the sports net­work as part of the Bell Let’s Talk Day men­tal-health ini­tia­tive, the half-hour film fol­lows TSN field pro­ducer Mike Far­rell as he steps out from be­hind the cam­era and in­ter­views a close friend whose fam­ily has turned tragedy into op­por­tu­nity. Hosted by LL Cool J Tonight at 8, CBS and Global

out of five Nar­rated by Mike Far­rell Mon­day at 7:30 p.m. TSN

out of five

Far­rell’s life­long best pal, Sean Peek, lost his older brother to sui­cide in 1999, and the Peek fam­ily has been run­ning a me­mo­rial golf tour­na­ment for the past 13 years to raise funds and aware­ness for men­tal health.

James Peek was a straight-A stu­dent, cap­tain of his high school hockey team, a promis­ing golfer and the life of ev­ery party he at­tended. But he car­ried a dark se­cret — de­pres­sion — and at age 17, felt he could no longer fight the ill­ness.

Younger brother Sean was 13 years old when he came home from school and found his brother dead in the garage.

“It was,” he says, “the worst day of my life.”

Peek’s par­ents, as well as his two sib­lings, speak frankly about James’s death, how they never saw it coming, and how im­por­tant it has be­come to them to pro­vide op­tions to other young peo­ple strug­gling with de­pres­sion be­sides the one Peek chose.

“You never want to be­lieve that there’s any­thing wrong with a child of yours,” says dad Randy Peek. “I think, prob­a­bly, the strong­est mes­sage I could ever give any­body is ‘Don’t as­sume any­thing.’”

Talk To Me is a beau­ti­fully crafted film that car­ries a mes­sage of hope — most em­phat­i­cally de­liv­ered by a cou­ple of 20-some­things who re­veal that be­ing able to reach out to the re­sources cre­ated by the Peek fam­ily’s fundrais­ing ef­forts lit­er­ally saved their lives. It’s pow­er­ful stuff. This isn’t a de­scrip­tive you’ll see a TV critic em­ploy of­ten, but here goes: Talk To Me is an im­por­tant film. It should be seen.

Jen­nifer Hud­son per­forms un­der

a pic­ture of Whit­ney Hous­ton.

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