Tuned In: The horror between Hitchcock and 'Girl'

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- According to the HBO film "The Girl" (9 p.m. Saturday), acclaimed director Alfred Hitchcock, as played by Toby Jones ("Frost/Nixon"), was obsessed with leading lady Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller, "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh") to the point that he repeatedly harassed her -- sexually and mentally -- on the set of their two 1960s films "The Birds" and "Marnie."

In this dull, dreary account, viewers see Hitch, as he asked Hedren to call him, attempt to seduce her in the back of a car (she resists and falls to the ground in her effort to escape once the car stops).

When that fails, sad, pathetic Hitch seems intent on harming her on the set physically (she's attacked by real birds for more than 45 takes) and mentally (a rape scene in "Marnie").

While it's somewhat fascinating to know this ugly side of the acclaimed director -- first detailed in the book "Spellbound by Beauty," which "The Girl" is based on -- it's not clear why this story warranted a movie. It's a small character study about a large man who comes off as a terrorizing buffoon.

The film posits that Hitch's obsession is stoked by Hedren (aka "the Girl," in Hitchcock parlance) because of her willingness to put up with his brutish behavior. She doesn't quit and it's almost as if he feeds off her resolve. Although she's a stalwart over the making of two films, Hitchcock's behavior clearly takes a toll.

"It's like he wants to get inside me and squeeze me out until there's nothing of me left and he's the one looking out of my eyes," Hedren says.

"The Girl" also explores in minimal detail Hitch's relationship with his wife (Imelda Staunton, "Vera Drake"), but the movie never really gets at the psychological underpinnings of Hitch's obsession with Hedren beyond some scenes of self-loathing over his girth. The film implies that Hitchcock treated other actresses in a similar manner, but "The Girl" doesn't offer much evidence of this.

If nothing else, "The Girl" serves as a cautionary tale about workplace harassment.

"I hope that young women who do see this film know that they do not have to acquiesce to anything that they do not feel is morally right or that they are dissatisfied with. ... That you can have a strength, and you deserve it," the real Tippi Hedren said at an HBO press conference in August. "My whole life began with the education that my parents gave me through the background of my Lutheran teachings, and all of those teachings served me very, very well throughout my life. I can look at myself in the mirror, and I can be proud. I feel strong. And I lived through it beautifully. He ruined my career, but he didn't ruin my life."

The actress, who was cast in "The Birds" as a virtual unknown, said until recently she hadn't discussed her experience with Hitchcock with anyone.

"Studios were the power," she said. "And I was at the end of that, and there was absolutely nothing I could do legally whatsoever. There were no laws about this kind of a situation. If this had happened today, I would be a very rich woman."

But she is also quick to say her experience with Hitchcock was not a complete nightmare. She credits the director with helping her learn to act, and she said any 90-minute movie can't completely reproduce the totality of what really happened.

"It was perfect to have someone as brilliant a genius as Albert Hitchcock being my drama coach," she said. "And Hitchcock had a charm about him. He was very funny at times. ... It wasn't a constant barrage of harassment to me. There were times of delight and joy, all kinds of different things. So that is the fault of any film. It can't possibly have everything in it. But as I said before, if it had been constantly the way we have had to do it in this film, I would have been long gone."

Cinemax gets 'Hunted'

Tonight at 10, "Hunted" joins "Strike Back" as Cinemax's second original scripted series. If "Strike Back" was overly gruesome, "Hunted" is generally less gory as it tells spy stories.

A smart thriller, written by former "X-Files" scribe Frank Spotnitz, "Hunted" centers on Sam Hunter (Melissa George, "In Treatment"), an operative for a private European spy firm. The story begins with a flashback to Sam in Tangiers, where a mission goes awry. She goes underground and emerges a year later, returning to work with co-workers she no longer trusts.

"Hunted" is a serial with Sam embedding herself with a family in the first episode, a plot that will carry through the show's eight-episode first season.

Tonally, "Hunted" is most reminiscent of the great British import "MI-5." "Hunted" is a darker show, but it's still fun to see spy games in play and the assorted tools in a modern spy's arsenal.

'Boss' season finale

At the end of another season of Starz's "Boss," every character, even the crusading journalist, has become compromised. There are no good guys on this show, just bad guys in varying shades of black.

That said, this cynical, ugly world view has become more normalized on "Boss" and, in a way, more acceptable. The second season finale (9 tonight) threatens to take a monumental step forward but then falters -- a disappointment. The show could have set up a propulsive end game -- low-rated "Boss," which hasn't been renewed for a third season, seems unlikely to merit more than one more season anyway -- but instead whiffs.

Viewers do learn more about the background of mysterious mayor's aide Ian Todd (Jonathan Groff), but this new information was easy to predict a few episodes back.


USA renewed "Suits" for a 16-episode third season to air in 2013. Fox ordered a 22-episode fourth season of animated comedy "Bob's Burgers."

The CW ordered a 20th edition of "America's Next Top Model" to air next summer. It will be the first edition to include male models competing alongside women.

TV One renewed "Find Our Missing" for a second season to debut in January.

Channel surfing

Another one bites the dust: NBC canceled freshman sitcom "Animal Practice" Thursday, announcing it will be replaced by sophomore comedy "Whitney" in the 8 p.m. Wednesday time slot beginning Nov. 14. ... More than 10 million viewers watched the third season premiere of AMC's "The Walking Dead" on Sunday, making it the best-rated drama series telecast in basic cable history. ... "Victim No. 1" from the child sex abuse case against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky will be interviewed and reveal his identity tonight at 10 on ABC's "20/20." ... This weekend Pittsburgh's own Mac Miller will be featured on MTV's "This Is How I Made It" (noon Saturday) discussing his rise to fame as a rap star. ... Although NBC seems disinclined to move forward with a new "Munsters" TV show, the network will air the completed pilot, "Mockingbird Lane," at 8 p.m. Oct. 26. ... Fox's "Cops" will begin its 25th season on Dec. 15. ... "Oprah's Favorite Things," an annual special edition of her daytime talk show, will get a two-hour special on OWN at 8 p.m. Nov. 18. ... Reruns of ABC's "What Would You Do?" will air on HLN, 9-11 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, beginning next week. ... Pennsylvania Cable Network will air a debate between attorney general candidates David Freed and Kathleen Kane at 7 p.m. Monday. ... At 10:30 a.m. Sunday, WQED-TV will debut the second season of "SciGirls," which encourages girls to have an interest in science vocations by pairing girls with professional women mentors. ... The McClain family from Pittsburgh will appear Monday on "Family Feud" (7:30 p.m., WPCW), including Na-Tasha, Lisa, Rodney, Terry and Jack, who are all aunts, uncles and cousins to each other. ... "We Shall Not Be Moved: The Catholic Sisters of New Orleans," a one-hour documentary about the impact of 2005's Hurricane Katrina on six Catholic communities in Louisiana, will air at 4 p.m. Sunday on WTAE. The film's funders include Pittsburgh's McAuley Ministries, the grant-making arm of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System.

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about a Hallmark Channel movie, two TV doctors (one real, one fictional) and an MIA news report. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "How I Met Your Mother," "Suburgatory" and a former Pittsburgh TV reporter. Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about "Arrow," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Walking Dead." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.


TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.


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