Friday February 22, 2019

The hostless Oscars air Sunday.

Here are some suggestion on how to speed up the telecast:

-STEP ONE: No more skits.
-STEP TWO: Institute a $100,000 per second fine for any speech that goes over 30 seconds.
-STEP THREE: Once the presenters read your name off the card and announce you as the winner, you have 10 seconds to get to the stage or the award goes to the runner-up. If they don’t make it in 10 seconds, it goes to whoever was in third place. And so on.

The season finale of True Detective airs on Sunday.

Netflix has renewed Haunting Of Hill House for a 2nd season.

Season 6 of Chef’s Table is now available to stream on Netflix.

As is Paddleton. Here’s the trailer. More below.

You can also stream Workin Moms on Netflix. More on this one below as well.

In the least shocking news of the week, Jussie Smollett has been dropped from Empire.

The moron still maintains his innocence.

Let’s agree not to ever mention him again.

Brooke Shields will star in The CW pilot Glamorous.

USA announced that Miz & Mrs. will air the rest of its extended first season on April 2.

Here is the official trailer for CBS’ reboot of The Twilight Zone. Before you get too excited, remember that this is only available on CBS All Access, meaning you have to pay to watch it.

The first 10 episode season of ABC and Shondaland’s legal drama For The People is now available to stream on Hulu, ahead of the season two premiere coming to ABC on March 7.

This doesn’t interest me, but “Jordyn Woods broke her silence on allegedly cheating with Tristan Thompson -- and screwing over her BFF Kylie Jenner's fam -- with an interesting choice of words. Then went right back to biz. Kylie's ex-bestie showed her face Thursday night at an L.A. launch party for her new line of false eyelashes ... and immediately referenced the scandal by thanking everyone for supporting her ‘through everything that's going on.’ She added, ‘You know, it's been real ... and Eylure (her co.) has been super real; this has been a project I've been working on for over 9 months right now.’ As you know, many Kardashian fans don't want to believe Jordyn could do Khloe like that... and have even speculated it's all contrived for Kardashian publicity. Nothing Jordyn said Thursday night even hinted at a denial. As we've reported, she's already moving out of Kylie's guest pad and back into her mom's house.”

Chandler Riggs said he sucked when it mattered on The Walking Dead. C’mon kid.

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “Mindy Kaling is on the move.

“The actress, writer and producer has, in a competitive situation, signed what sources say is a massive six-year, mid-eight-figure overall deal with Warner Bros. Television. The news comes days after Universal TV signed Nahnatchka Khan to a rich four-year overall deal that saw the Fresh Off the Boat creator leave her longtime home at 20th Century Fox TV.

”Sources say Kaling wanted a long-term pact as the overall deal market continues to heat up. Kaling will develop, write and produce new projects for Warners for broadcast, cable and streaming platforms, including comedy, drama, longform and event series as well as unscripted and digital fare. Her production company, Kaling International, will produce all-new series in association with Warners.

“The deal will see the Office grad leave her longtime home at Universal Television, where she has been based since breaking out on the former NBC comedy (on which she starred and wrote more than 20 episodes). For the NBCUniversal-owned studio, Kaling created the Fox-turned-Hulu comedy The Mindy Project and NBC's short-lived comedy Champions. She next has Hulu's anthology take on Four Weddings and a Funeral due this year.

“The Emmy-nominated writer and actress landed at WBTV in a competitive situation with multiple studios bidding. Sources say Disney was near a deal with Kaling when Amazon — who paid a whopping $13 million for her Emma Thompson-led Sundance feature Late Night — came calling with what was said to be a sizable offer that also included a film component. Warners swooped in, upped the offer and ultimately won over Kaling, who is riding high after strong reviews for Late Night, which she wrote and which was financed by 30West and FilmNation. (The pic was originally set up at Fox 2000, which let its rights lapse.) Heading into Sundance, buyers considered Late Night the most commercial of the festival's crop, with studios from Lionsgate to New Line also putting in offers for the pic. Amazon is set to release Late Night theatrically this summer.

“The Kaling pact arrives as competition for top talent has reached a fever pitch. Warner Bros., Comcast and Disney are all planning their own direct-to-consumer platforms in a bid to compete with Netflix, which has signed major players away from their longtime studio homes (such as Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, who left ABC and Fox, respectively). Kaling gives Warners an established comedy writer and actress to add to its roster of top producers including Chuck Lorre and Greg Berlanti, among others.”

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From TV Guide, “A common way to champion an actor is to say, ‘Man, I'd watch him read the phone book!’ Ray Romano, beloved former sitcom star nimbly pivoting to later-in-life dramatic acting roles (see: The Big Sick) has officially become one of these guys for me. The joke almost becomes a reality in Paddleton (streaming on Netflix now), an 89-minute movie where, for about 81 of those minutes, not a damn thing happens.

“In one scene, Romano argues with his credit card company. In another, he's rambling about ostriches. This is compelling cinema? Well, not exactly. But Romano, bouncing his unique deadpan off Mark Duplass' blank wall of a character, is undeniably watchable. Director Alex Lehman (who has co-writing credit with Duplass for what is clearly an ad-libbed jam session) keeps a melancholy lid on this low-fi buddy picture, building up to an all-timer of an ending scene.

“While there are laughs (more like minor chuckles) throughout this mumbly movie, it's important to know that it is quite sad. Or, at least, heavy. In the first scene, Duplass' Michael learns he has cancer. He seems pretty stoic. His pal Andy (Romano) is the one asking the physician all the questions. It becomes clear that this isn't a treatable form of the disease; Michael is on borrowed time.

“The pair are kind, but if you met them in real life you'd probably use an unkind word to describe them: losers. They are single, middle-aged dudes who live in cheaply furnished, ugly apartments in the middle of nowhere. They have menial jobs. Michael works at a copy shop, Andy wears a tie and files papers, and gets nervous around his attractive co-worker. Andy lives on the top floor, but spends most of his time eating frozen pizza and watching kung fu VHS tapes with Michael downstairs.

“The ‘adventure’ of Paddleton comes where they pair take what I guess in movie terms would be considered a road trip. They head to a little vacation village and a specialty pharmacy to get Michael's end of life medication. (This exists out in some states, like California where Paddleton is set.) When the time comes, Michael takes the pills.

“This scene — the ultimate dramatic act couched in a borderline anti-movie — is one of the most riveting things I've ever seen. I'm not kidding. There are a lot of reasons. The most obvious is, wow, could I do this? Could I drink the liquid that will quickly kill me, even if I knew I would die soon anyway? (Importantly: Michael decides to end his life before his body devolves too much due to the disease. This stretches credibility a bit. Most people who choose assisted suicide are in debilitating physical pain and see it as the only way out.)

“The other reason the scene stands out so much is that Duplass' Michael is such a quiet, passive character. Throughout most of Paddleton he's just some dude hanging out in shorts while Ray Romano's Andy is being weirdly funny. It all comes out in these few short minutes when he is facing the abyss. Similarly, all of Andy's self-doubt and prevarication strips away. When he is needed, he becomes the hero. This scene, shot in long takes, is a strange testament to bravery, friendship and compassion. When emotions are true, reflexes take over. I dare say that this movie is actually somewhat important.

“This scene is more than enough to recommend the film, but I do want to caution that many of the other scenes really do feel dashed-off. It is not to Paddleton's credit that their destination is clearly the town of Solvang, where so much of Sideways (streaming here), one of the best sad-buddy movies of all time, is also set. Any mental comparisons are not going to do this new one favors. There's also a whole schtick in a bar where Michael is talking about his favorite kung fu movie that just goes on forever. Is it supposed to be boring and awkward? Hard to say. Still, when Andy comes in to help out with the tale, it is warm.

Paddleton isn't intentionally named in a way to confound kids looking to stream movies about British bears. It's the name of a game Michael and Andy have made up that involves a rubber ball, the wall of an abandoned drive-in theater and a metal garbage container. As they whack the ball around, they mutter little asides. Like this home-brew of a movie, it's not quite regulation, but it works.”

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Per Variety, “[i]n terms of accolades, Workin’ Moms is at the top of the Canadian food chain. In two-and-a-half seasons the half-hour scripted comedy has garnered an International Emmy nomination, a dozen Canadian Screen Award nominations, and a 20% higher audience retention rate than the average series on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Meanwhile in its 2017 debut, the show also pulled in wins as the New York Festival’s World’s Best Comedy Television Program, and as the Most Innovative Canadian Production at the Banff World Media Festival.

“With Canadian audiences locked up and a third season currently airing, the series is now looking to capitalize on the international market when the first season drops globally on Netflix Feb. 22, following in the footsteps of other CBC series like Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience.

“‘Being a strong supporter of Canadian creators and producers we are thrilled when our series are seen around the world. There’s no denying that [streamers] like Amazon and Netflix have that incredible platform,’ CBC’s general manager of programming, Sally Catto, says. ‘They allow audiences outside the country and even perhaps within Canada that haven’t had an opportunity to see these series or weren’t aware of them be exposed to them.’

Workin’ Moms revolves around a quartet of women who return to work following a maternity leave. The dark humor tackles subject matter like postpartum depression and abortion, while also highlighting the realistic challenges of breastfeeding, body image, bonding with the baby and mom guilt.

“‘This isn’t just a show about flawed women trying to reclaim their ambition. There’s a repression against mothers where we’re expected to be full-time workers and pretend we’re not mothers, and then expected to be full-time mothers who pretend we’re not working. Simultaneously, within the hours of the week that exist,’ says show creator Catherine Reitman. ‘It felt like, OK we can’t just tell the story of women trying to be ambitions and those challenges, we have to show the darkness that we face all the time.’

“Reitman began creating the series after a rough Mother’s Day away from her six-month old as a result of an indie flick she was shooting. She and her husband Philip Sternberg sold what they envisioned as a premium cable project under their newly created production banner Wolf + Rabbit to FX, which then developed the pilot. Eventually FX passed on the project around the same time Pamela Adlon’s single-mom comedy Better Things was greenlit (FX declined to comment on its decision) and Reitman, whose Canadian father director Ivan Reitman always brought the family back to Toronto where they kept an apartment, sold the project to CBC.

“‘I didn’t even know at the time how empowering it is to make a show in Canada because you become a partner in your own product as opposed to an employee,’ Reitman says. ‘Unlike FX where I could technically get fired from my own project like most people at my level, at the CBC I had partners in it. I was equally invested as they were. So it was a spectacular place to end up. We made this show with very little restraints and we were really creatively supported there.’

“In addition to producing and showrunning the series, Reitman stars and directs, ensuring her vision was fully developed from all angles. She went on to create an all-female writers room, hired the first ever all-female A-camera team in Canadian primetime history, put females in key positions like DP, PD, casting, props and lead camera operator, and created a 13-episode first season in which seven episodes were directed by women. Meanwhile, CBC research revealed 44% of the show’s first-season audience was male.

“‘Workin’ Moms is so unique and appeals to a younger demographic but it also speaks to a wide demo,’ Catto says. ‘It has that unique voice that sticks out among the hundreds of shows available to audiences today. It’s a wonderful blend of comedy and drama, with a unique point-of-view that I don’t think we’ve seen before in terms of approaching that subject matter.’

“In addition to its first-season global release, the first two seasons of the series dropped on Netflix Canada at the end of January (Season 2 is scheduled for global release sometime this spring). Immediately, Reitman noticed an increased interest on social media and other channels.

“‘There was this rebirth of the show where our social media got flooded and people started stopping me in the streets more than usual,’ she says. ‘People were talking about what was happening in Season 1 as Season 3 was airing. It was wild. There really is such a thing as the Netflix effect.’

“For CBC, it’s that effect that keeps series — even accolade-ridden series like Workin’ Moms — in existence. While the broadcaster’s mandate is to create content that engages and speaks to Canadian audiences, financially it relies on partnerships either through product acquisition or the co-pro model.

“‘We’re in a time in which financially we need partners. We need partners for all of our productions. Immediately you have to think about whether a show has the potential for an audience outside Canada in order for it to be financed,’ Catto says. ‘That fact alone makes it an absolute necessity. We’re in a global marketplace and we know our audiences are watching content from around the world, so it’s a completely different environment than it was even 10 years ago. First and foremost we are always creatively driven, but the reality of our world today is that you have to have partners and we absolutely need our global partnerships.’”

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From The Ringer: “With just one episode remaining, the third season of True Detective seems to have provided a broad outline for what happened in its central mystery. Barring a game-changing, tonal-shifting twist in the finale, all the evidence appears to implicate members of, as well as accomplices to, the Hoyt family, who’ve used their vast influence and power in the greater Arkansas area to cover up the 1980 kidnapping of Julie Purcell and possibly the murder of her brother, Will. But within this broad outline remain countless questions. The devil is in the details.

“Edward Hoyt (to be played by Michael Rooker) has yet to appear on screen alongside detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) in 1990; Old Man Hays is still trying to put a close to the decades-spanning Purcell case in 2015. We’ve got a lot of threads that still require some untangling in the finale. So before Sunday, here are seven pressing questions that need answers:

Where is Julie Purcell, and is she safe, in 2015?

As far as we know, Julie Purcell is still in the wind. Sometime between her kidnapping in 1980 and Hays and Roland West’s (Stephen Dorff) reinvestigation of the Purcell case in 1990, it appears that Julie somehow escaped the “pink rooms” of the Hoyt estate and lived on the streets with other runaway kids. The life of a drifter is not a great situation, to be sure, but it probably beats whatever she was subjected to at the Hoyt mansion.

It’s unclear what options Julie would have left in 1990. Both of her parents are dead—and while he’s only just disappeared, we know that the remains of her uncle Dan O’Brien (Michael Graziadei) will be found in a drained quarry. Can she turn to anyone? Will she continue to live on the streets, despite the renewed public interest in the case? And more importantly: Will we find her in 2015, and will she be safe?

Some fans on Reddit have theorizedthat the journalist interviewing Hays in 2015, Elisa Montgomery (Sarah Gadon), is actually Julie, having changed her identity and pursued the case to figure out what happened in her childhood. It’s a fun idea, but it doesn’t track. Elisa is, by all accounts, an accomplished investigative journalist living in New York who’s pursuing another unsolved case for the documentary series True Criminal (nice). The idea that this season was all leading to her—eventually—planning to pursue what happened during her childhood is a stretch. (Not to mention, Julie would have been in her 40s by 2015, and Sarah Gadon is 31.) Elisa certainly has her reasons to be interested in the Purcell investigation, to see whether the cover-up ties into a broader conspiracy that involves high-ranking politicians and businessmen, like she believes. She doesn’t have an emotional interest in the Purcells, necessarily; their case is the means to an end, so that her investigation could potentially take down an entire pedophile/kidnapping ring. In any case, I suspect we’ll be provided an answer Sunday.

Who killed Will Purcell?

With all the attention being paid to Julie’s whereabouts, let’s not forget that we still don’t know why her brother, Will, was killed in the woods—and who was responsible for doing the deed. We do know that a white woman (likely Hoyt’s daughter, Isabel, who lost her daughter in a car accident) and a black man with a scar (a “procurer” for the Hoyts referred to as both “Watts” and “Mr. June”) were spotted around the area in the woods where Julie and Will secretly played. (They also might’ve worn ghost costumes and handed out those unsettling dolls on Halloween night in 1980, days before the Purcell kids disappeared.)

That leads us to a few possible conclusions. Perhaps Isabel and Watts/Mr. June did not plan on taking Will, and when he (quite understandably) resisted them kidnapping his sister, one or both of the adults killed him. It also could’ve been even worse than that: Maybe the plan was always to kill Will, who was seen as collateral, while taking Julie away to the “pink rooms.” Conversely, we know it’s likely that Harris James (Scott Shepherd) was something of a cleaner for the Hoyts, since he’s probably responsible for killing both Purcell parents and Dan O’Brien. Who’s to say a guy who’s probably killed several people would draw the line at killing a child?

But none of that quite explains why Will’s body was found in a creepy, staged pose in a cave, at the end of a path lined with those straw dolls. That adds cultish undertones to the killing, but whether it confirms the existence of a grander conspiracy remains to be seen.

What happened in 1990 between Hays and Edward Hoyt, and how did Hoyt know that Roland killed Harris James?

The last thing we saw in True Detective’s penultimate episode was Hays getting into a car with Edward Hoyt, who knows that Hays and Roland killed Harris James during one of their “enhanced interrogations.” We know that Hays won’t be fatally harmed—otherwise we wouldn’t have been awarded Mahershala Ali in old-man makeup in a future timeline—but their conversation should have big implications on the rest of the 1990 story line.

We know that in 1990 the Purcell case is closed again, with Tom Purcell’s (Scoot McNairy) staged suicide serving as a clean conclusion, the same way Bret Woodard’s (Michael Greyeyes) death did in ’80. We also know that Hays quit the force in 1990, and that his wife, Amelia (Carmen Ejogo), never pursued a second novel about the Purcell case. Considering the way Hoyt implicitly threatened Hays’s family at the end of “The Final Country,” it seems he made sure that Hays and his wife would steer clear of the Purcell case. When Roland reunites with Hays in 2015, he’s still mad at the way Hays up and left the force, but Hays says: “I made a decision. Had other things to think about, including the family. I let it go.”

But we still don’t know exactly what went down, nor do we know how Hoyt found out that one of his lackeys was killed. It’s possible that this will be waved away by Hoyt’s being some all-knowing force who’s kept tabs on Hays since 1980, became aware of his interest in Harris James, and then intuited that Hays and Roland killed James when the latter didn’t show up at work the next day.

But the more tangible explanation is that someone told Hoyt what happened—except the only other person who knows what went down that night is Roland. Could Roland have ratted out Hays? That’s what some viewers have surmised on Reddit, with the key being that Hays crossed a line by convincing Roland to go along with the “interrogation” and eventually shoot and kill James. But maybe Roland’s been in on this since 1980. It would be one way to explain his ascension within the Arkansas police department, the same way James was awarded a cushy position at Hoyt Foods after planting evidence at Woodard’s home. If that’s the case, it would also explain why Roland is helping out Hays in 2015: because he wants to make sure his old partner doesn’t uncover the truth. I don’t buy it; the season has affirmed that Roland is nothing if not the most empathetic protagonist in the True Detective universe, brought to tears by Hays’s apology on his porch in 2015, a friend to Tom Purcell in his darkest days. That said, this theory is admittedly more realistic than the Elisa-is-Julie idea. It would be a heartbreaking reveal, but maybe that just speaks to how good Stephen Dorff has been this season.

How did Hays become estranged from his daughter, Rebecca?

At some point between Rebecca’s beginning college—which, given her age in 1990, was probably in the early-to-mid-2000s—and 2015, she broke off her relationship with her dad. The show has been frustratingly vague on what caused this rift. “I lost Becca,” Old Man Hays tells a vision of his wife in the season’s third episode. “No you didn’t,” Amelia responds. “Not the way you think.” Four episodes have passed since that moment, and still, what the hell does that mean?

Considering that the last episode opened with Hays dropping off Rebecca for college, this is an important thread that we should be getting some concrete answers about. What happened might hinge on the Purcell case—perhaps she discovered that he was blackmailed by the Hoyts, or that he and Roland killed and buried someone. Or, it could be as simple as Hays being a difficult father, since he expresses remorse that he taught his son to repress his emotions. He also constantly, vehemently argued with his wife, and the show makes it clear both kids were privy to their marital issues.

Hays and Rebecca’s relationship might not be pertinent to the Purcell case, but it paints a picture of Hays’s crumbling domestic life and the effects that such an obsession with an investigation could have on the people closest to him. Even if their relationship is irreparable in 2015, we should be getting some clarity on what, exactly, is at the root of that.

What about Amelia?

By 2015, Amelia is dead. I don’t think her death is another disturbing mystery waiting to be unpacked; I don’t think she was killed because she wanted to reinvestigate the Purcell case with another book or anything along those lines. More likely, Amelia’s death is probably just another tragic footnote in Hays’s life. I’m more curious about how Amelia felt about the way the investigation ended in 1990, and what the Hays-Amelia dynamic was like afterward.

We know that Amelia went on to have a successful career as a writer. Early in the season, Elisa calls her book “a classic in American nonfiction.” In a teaser for the finale, we see Amelia in a new timeline (maybe the same one with college-age Rebecca) teaching at a college.

But does Amelia have any regrets about how the case ended, with Julie still on the run? Did she ever forgive Hays for the events that effectively closed the investigation and her opportunity to write a follow-up book in 1990? There might’ve been some friction in their post-1990 relationship, even more than before—if only because Old Man Hays, in his deteriorated mental state, is haunted by Amelia. I mean, look at this poor dude’s face:

Early theories about this season posited that Amelia was secretly Will Purcell’s killer, trying to jump-start her true-crime-writing career. While we can safely table that under “fun, but totally ridiculous,” that doesn’t mean we won’t still be treated to some exciting revelations regarding Amelia on Sunday night.

Will Rust Cohle and Marty Hart make a cameo?

The last episode laid out what had been hinted at in an earlier teaser: The crimes of season 1 and 3 take place in the same universe. The excitement of an actual True Detective–verse notwithstanding, there are some similarities between the central crimes of both seasons—namely, that they are set in the South, deal with missing children, and bear some cultlike undertones.

Could these crimes have a more meaningful connection? It’s something we pondered in January, and it’s what Elisa lays out to Hays in “The Final Country” while showing him a digitized newspaper clipping about Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) capturing Errol Childress, a.k.a. the Yellow King. “These groups take runaways, kids in orphanages, outright kidnapping,” she says, theorizing that the Hoyts could be part of a larger network of pedophilia. “And wider investigations are consistently curtailed. In both the Louisiana and Nebraska cases, high-level politicians and businessmen were implicated. People with the power to make these things go away.”

Hays politely dismisses her suggestion of a larger conspiracy—though we also know he’s not being completely honest with her, since he’s investigating the same thing with Roland behind her and Henry’s backs. (He also told her that he never considered the similarities between the ends of the 1980 and 1990 investigations, which we know is false, thanks to a flashback when he says, “It’s like 1980 all over again.” This is a prime example of Hays obfuscating, perhaps out of fear that the Hoyt family could retaliate against him and his family.) Harris James also laughed off this conspiracy-laden theory when he was being interrogated by Hays and Roland in last week’s episode. Though he’d of course be motivated to downplay a conspiracy, his scoffs could have been genuine, a comment that everyone—and this includes the Reddit-enthused audience at home—was getting a little too Galaxy Brain about this whole thing. Maybe the Purcell case and the Hoyts’ efforts to make it go away are an isolated incident. Maybe Elisa is more of a tinfoil conspiracist than we’ve been led to believe and her theory of a plot perpetrated by high-ranking government officials has no basis in evidence.

Or maybe it does—it’s hard to say. We’ll find out whether True Detective wants to connect these far-reaching dots Sunday, or whether Season 3 will end the way Season 1 did, with one specific crime solved and no giant conspiracy uncovered. Still, imagine if we get Rust and Marty in the finale, a few years after their big Yellow King break in 2012, meeting up with Old Man Hays and Roland in 2015. It’s a big stretch, I know, but this tweet from 2017 is giving me a glimmer of hope as my inner monologue goes alright, alright, alright.

Will justice be served?

The two previous season finales for True Detective have been, in a word, bittersweet. In the second, Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) is killed in the process of getting incriminating evidence in the murder of Vinci, California, city manager Ben Caspere. (He also fails to reconcile with his pure, perfect, Friends-loving son, Chad Velcoro, something that will haunt me to the end of my days.) And as we addressed, while Rust and Marty successfully stopped Errol Childress in Season 1, nobody else was implicated in the crimes—despite compelling evidence that he had powerful accomplices.

So what will happen with the Purcell case? Will Season 3 stick to this bittersweet ethos? Can anyone be convicted for Julie’s kidnapping and Will’s murder? If someone is incriminated, will they even be alive in 2015 to face justice for what they’ve done? And maybe most importantly: Who would a conviction matter to, especially if Julie is no longer alive?

The best we can probably hope for is that the outcome will offer some closure for Hays, so that he can finally put the Purcell case behind him, possibly make amends with Rebecca, and live out the rest of his days in peace. (One positive note: His bromance with Roland has already been rekindled.) Whatever the direction of Sunday’s finale, though, we can be certain about this: True Detectivehas bounced back well enough that we actually give a damn about what happens. Considering how we left things in 2015, that’s no small feat.”

Thursday February 21, 2019

HBO dropped a trailer for The Case Against Adnan Sayed. The series “will explore the 1999 disappearance and murder of 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, a case brought to global attention by the hugely popular Serial podcast. The Case Against Adnan Syed premieres March 10.“

Desus & Mero premieres tonight on HBO. More below.

Pop debuts Flack tonight.

I didn’t want to even acknowledge this nobody again, but . . . Jussie Smollett should have stayed under the rock out from which he crawled. Now, instead of hiding under a rock, he can spend his time in the clink. Full story is below.

He’s currently in custody after turning himself in.

Per Chicago P.D., “[t]he stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied by his salary.”

Who isn’t?

Right behind Smollett on the moron leaderboard is Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson.

“Charter Communications, the No. 2 cable operator in the U.S., has announced plans to launch Spectrum TV Essentials, an OTT video service for the company’s existing internet customers who don’t already get pay-TV from Spectrum. Rolling out by the end of March, the service will cost $15 a month. It will offer live and on-demand programming from more than 60 lifestyle, entertainment and news channels owned by the likes of Viacom, Discovery, A+E Networks, AMC Networks and Crown Media. Starting in May, subscribers will also be able to get Spectrum Originals, a portfolio of shows created by a new programming arm of Charter. Sports — generally considered the ‘glue’ of the traditional cable bundle — is not an ingredient in Spectrum TV Essentials.”

Netflix’s upcoming docu-series Formula 1: Drive to Survive is set to premiere March 8 on the streaming platform. From the makers of Senna and Amy, the 10-part series will take a deep dive into the world of formula racing, following several race throughout a variety of countries including Melbourne, Bahrain, Canada, Austria, Singapore, Austin and Brazil, before culminating in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi. James Gay Rees and Paul Martin are executive producing alongside show runner Sophie Todd.”

The deceptive simplicity of Netflix series Dating Around.

While we’re on the topic, here is some F, Marry, Kill with Dating Around folks.

Lion and Rabbit got this week’s unmaskings… and they’re Empire‘s Rumer Willis and former *NSync singer Joey Fatone, respectively.

Wendy Williams will return to her talk show post on March 4. “Williams has been on leave from The Wendy Williams Show since Jan. 18 to deal with health issues including a fractured shoulders and complications from Graves disease, an immune system disorder which the host was diagnosed with last year.”

Nice to see that Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston still exchange birthday gifts.

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Per Variety, “[i]t wasn’t too long ago that Desus Nice and The Kid Mero were living their lives as Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez, two bored Bronx guys throwing jokes on Twitter about their frustrating jobs. But six years after joining forces, they’re poised to crash the overwhelmingly monochrome late-night talk-show party with their wicked wit, supreme confidence and a glossy new Showtime series, Desus & Mero, that bows Feb. 21. 

“Lounging in the neon, graffitied space at New York City’s Milk Studios, where they record the Bodega Boys podcast that launched their collaborations, Desus and Mero have just finished their first run of test shows for the Showtime venture. They aren’t necessarily surprised that they’ve climbed to such heights so quickly. (As Desus said on a recent episode of their podcast, they ‘do iconic s— accidentally — it’s just organic.’) But every so often, their leap into celebrity makes them reflect with awe on how far they’ve come.

“‘Five years ago, we were searching the couches for a five-dollar bill to get a Dutch, smoke weed and come up with some stupid plan like “If we invent spoons, we’ll get out of the hood,”’ Desus says.

“‘Now,’ adds Mero, ‘Anthony Anderson will text us when we’re in L.A. and be like, “Motherf—er, you’re in L.A. and didn’t tell me?!”’ [Not sure that’s something to brag about, but ok.]

“So it’s no wonder that Showtime has high hopes for Desus and Mero as they set about anchoring the network’s first real foray into the genre. But they see their roles in the TV landscape a little differently. ‘It’s a show that comes on at late night,’ says Desus, sitting next to Mero in the Jam Room the morning after the test run. ‘But it’s not a “late-night show”’ as anyone else has traditionally done it. 

:Sure, Desus & Mero might have hosts, celebrity interviews and an 11 p.m. start time. It even boasts writers from late-night standards like Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (a marked difference from their late Viceland show of the same name, which had no writers room). Other writers are coming in from Twitter and beyond to hone their voices and conceptualize ambitious sketches and field pieces. And yet from where Desus, Mero and even Showtime are standing none of that means they have to adhere to genre norms, let alone swap their sweatshirts for stodgy suits. ‘We give them the resources and the time to realize all of their ambition on their show, [but] there’s nothing we impose,’ says Gary Levine, co-president of entertainment at Showtime. ‘Our goal is to have Desus and Mero be Desus and Mero.’

“That mission statement is what drew them to the network. As Desus puts it, ‘We’ve always enjoyed doing this — as long as we can do it our way.’

“Mero nods. ‘Everybody goes at the same thing the same way, in late night, in news, everything,’ he says. ‘And it’s like, yo, can we do something else?’

“‘We’re outside the circle, but that’s cool,’ Desus says. ‘Since we’re on the outside, we do whatever we want.’

“That casual defiance is what drew legions of fans to their Twitter accounts back in 2012, when they first caught people’s attention with their quick blasts of observational snark. They forged a partnership rooted in riffs and good-natured attempts to outdo each other. Both on-screen and in person, Desus tends to take the conversational lead, slipping in sly lobs for Mero to spike with enthusiastic punchlines. Their banter takes sharp turns into improvised jokes so often that they merge and loop with sometimes dizzying speed, usually only stopping when one of them is laughing too hard to keep going. 

:Their obvious chemistry led to a stint at Complex as talking pop-culture heads and fledgling podcasters (Desus vs. Mero). That led to their now hugely popular Bodega Boys podcast, which features a pointed tagline: ‘The brand is strong.’ In 2016, they got their own talk show on Viceland — the ambitious but barely watched cable channel, a joint venture between Vice Media and A+E Networks. Four nights a week, for more than 300 episodes, they traded bemused reactions to the news and entertained guests ranging from Jimmy Fallon to Erykah Badu. (The night Trump won the presidency, they hosted a live special with an up-and-coming Bronx artist named Cardi B.) 

“On a channel that ranks among cable’s least popular, they were a lone standout; for as much TV is out there, and as many talking heads as there are to choose from, there was no show quite like Desus & Mero to take on the increasingly bewildering events of the day. No late-night hosts spoke to Kanye storming the TMZ offices with pro-Trump rants, or white people calling the police on black bystanders, or the perpetual disappointment of being a Knicks fan, like they could. As with the podcast, the show felt like a long overdue way to fill an obvious void.  

“But, as Desus and Mero reportedly told Bossip last July, they believed Viceland ‘undervalued’ them by pushing for 160 episodes a year without providing the time or resources to realistically make that happen, prompting them to leave the network 18 months in. The duo also claimed that once Viceland knew they were exiting for Showtime, the network pulled the plug on the program two months before their contract was up. In December, Vice CEO Nancy Dubuc told Elle magazine, ‘They’re going to a platform that their audience doesn’t pay for.’ Asked about the Viceland beef a few weeks out from their Showtime premiere, however, Desus and Mero are more diplomatic. 

“‘We’re grateful for the platform and for the opportunity, but we’re always looking forward,’ says Mero. ‘Never backward.’ (As for Viceland, network president Guy Slattery tells Variety,  ‘We couldn’t be prouder of what Desus and Mero did here. They’ll do great things at Showtime, and we wish them every success.’)

“This ethos is also why, Desus and Mero say, having to explain their origin stories and credentials over and over to more ‘establishment’ (and typically whiter) audiences can be frustrating. Whereas even just a few years ago they’d be shocked by podcast listeners who wanted to snap their pictures after random hosting gigs, they are now selling out theaters that seat thousands of devoted fans (aka the #BodegaHive), who show off tattoos of the Bodega Boys logo and gush about how the podcast has made them feel less alone. ‘The wildest part is, we’re just having fun,’ says Mero. ‘It’s not forced; it’s just natural. And to know that it has that effect on people is wild.’ 

“They have followers all across the country, but New York City has a special affection for Desus and Mero, not just because they’re local but because they’re from the Bronx — and say so every chance they get. ‘Growing up, we’d get insulted for being from the Bronx,’ says Desus. But now, with them, Cardi B and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as leading examples, the mainstream appears to be recognizing the historically maligned borough as the birthplace of a new cultural wave. In fact, it was announced last week that Ocasio-Cortez will be the show’s first guest.

“Still, Desus adds, ‘there are people who know nothing about us, and they’ll be like, “Who are these clowns?” And then their Twitter mentions will be flooded for three days.’ 

“‘We’re just gonna start making s— up now,’ Mero cracks, which immediately sends them off on one of their lightning-fast tangents. 

Mero: Yo, we met in junior high, right, and we both got bit by the same radioactive spider —

Desus: We went to Wakanda because we were being bad —

Mero: Then we came back with vibranium and became the Avengers of comedy. Whoa!

“This kind of off-the-cuff (yet precise) diversion is what their fans value — which creates a unique challenge for the new Desus & Mero writing staff, tasked with replicating their raw chemistry in a different way. ‘Knowing what the fans love about Desus and Mero, [there’s] a lot of pressure to make sure that what we’re doing translates, but it’s also kind of a North Star,’ says senior staff writer Josh Gondelman, who came to the show after five years with Last Week Tonight. ‘The fans, like Desus and Mero, don’t tolerate corniness. They won’t take an inferior product and be grateful for it.’ (For what it’s worth, Bodega Hive, the stars reverently call their writing staff ‘the Yankees’ for being able to pick and flesh out jokes from their speedy repartee.)

“So it’s unsurprising that everyone involved in the show is careful to emphasize that they don’t want to mess with the Bodega Boys brand so much that dedicated fans don’t recognize it anymore. In fact, says Levine, Showtime is hoping the duo’s social-media base will consider the talk show a must-have and become subscribers. For their part, Desus and Mero are seizing the opportunity of more time, more money and greater creative control as an invitation to again move forward. ‘And no bleeps, no commercials?!’ notes Mero in awe. 'I was like, “Yo, layup!”’ 

“As for winning over people who might not know them, no one, least of all Desus and Mero, is concerned. They’re excited for the Showtime series to amplify their voices — and confident it will pay off. 

“‘We’re getting exposed to a whole new audience,’ says Mero, ‘and good s–t is good s–t, no matter which way you slice it.’

“Besides, Desus insists, it doesn’t matter where they are; they’ll always find a way to make people laugh — on their terms.”

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You really need to be watching this show: “WE is betting the appetite for its breakout series Love After Lockup will continue into the spring.

“The cabler has extended the show's second season by 10 episodes, which will premiere in the spring. That brings the total for season two to 24. The additional order comes after the Feb. 15 episode set new series highs — something it's done regularly over the course of the second season.

“The most recent installment drew 1.4 million viewers, 890,000 of whom (about 64 percent) fall in WE's key demographic of adults 25-54, after three days of delayed viewing. Both numbers are the best ever for Love After Lockup and were up by more than 20 percent week to week.

“The docuseries from Sharp Entertainment (90 Day Fiancé) follows couples who fall in love while one is in prison and the challenges they face after the inmate is released. 

Love After Lockup has been on a steady upward trajectory in the ratings for most of this season. Through 11 episodes, three-day viewership among all viewers, adults 25-54 and women 25-54 has more than doubled since the season premiere in December. Every episode since the season premiere has outdrawn the show's first-season highs.

Love After Lockup also outperforms WE's typical primetime ratings by wide margins. In 2018, the network averaged 441,000 primetime viewers and 189,000 in the 25-54 demo.

“The ratings climb — which mirrors those of the scripted cable hits Killing Eve and Dirty John — is all the more rare in an era when ratings for most series on ad-supported channels are in decline. More than three-fourths (60 of 78) ad-supported cable entertainment networks saw their primetime audiences fall in 2018.”

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Per The New York Times, “Jussie Smollett, the Empire actor who said he was the victim of a hate crime, was indicted Wednesday night by an Illinois grand jury that found probable cause that he had actually staged the assault he reported to Chicago police in January.

“Law enforcement officials said a grand jury had decided that Mr. Smollett falsely reported being attacked in a case that quickly drew national attention, and charged him with a felony count of disorderly conduct.

“Mr. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, had told the police that, while walking in downtown Chicago, he had been confronted by masked men who hurled homophobic and racial slurs at him, and announced it was ‘MAGA country,’ a reference to President Trump’s campaign slogan.

“Mr. Smollett had received an immediate outpouring of public support. Many cited his account as an example of another in a rising tide of hate crimes, which the F.B.I. reported last fall had increased for the third straight year.

“But the change in thinking by investigators as the case progressed began to unleash criticism against the news media and politicians who many critics said were too quick to embrace a sketchy account in their drive to tarnish the president. It became a nightly topic on Fox News for Tucker Carlson, who called it a case of identity politics run amok. ‘Identity politics is a scam,’ he said, ‘and it is not so different from the one that Jussie Smollett just pulled.’

“Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at National Review, said on Wednesday: ‘I think that the initial reaction suggested that there is a lot of credulity, especially among liberals who were looking at a story that seemed to confirm their impressions about Trump supporters.’

“Mr. Smollett has continued to vehemently insist the incident occurred just as he reported it. A representative for him, Pamela Sharp, said that she was ‘aware of the news’ but had no further comment.

“From the start, investigators had difficulty corroborating Mr. Smollett’s story, even with about a dozen detectives assigned to the case.

“No surveillance cameras caught the attack. There were no witnesses. He had not reported it from the scene, and when he got home was still wearing a noose that he said the perpetrators had placed around his neck.

“Investigators, though, were able to track two men who appeared on video footage not far from the scene that night. Using ride share data, they discovered the two were brothers who in fact knew Mr. Smollett. One had acted as an extra on Empire.

“The police initially identified the brothers as possible suspects in the attack, but then released them without filing any charges. The men had reportedly told investigators that Mr. Smollett had coordinated a faux attack and paid them to participate in it.

“The brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, were brought in as witnesses to the grand jury Wednesday evening with their lawyer.

“Filing a false police report in Illinois is technically referred to as disorderly conduct and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In Mr. Smollett’s case, the police said the grand jury had decided on a felony count, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

“Mr. Smollett’s lawyers, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, have said their client denies the police account. ‘Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,’ they said in a statement Saturday.

“It added: ‘One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video. It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.’

“Mr. Smollett’s possible motive in pursuing a plan the police now suspect him of drafting remains mysterious. Various theories have surfaced, one suggesting he might have been worried he was about to be relegated to a lower profile on Empire, perhaps being written out of the Fox series entirely. The network vehemently denied that was the case.

“On Wednesday, in fact, before the police made their announcement, Fox had put out another statement saying it was standing by Mr. Smollett. It called him ‘a consummate professional on set’ and said, ‘as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.’

“A week before the reported attack, Mr. Smollett said he had received a virulently racist and threatening anonymous letter containing a white powder, later determined to be harmless. The F.B.I. is investigating the letter but has declined to comment.

“As Mr. Smollett first described the attack it occurred at 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. He said his assailants hit him in the face, bruising him, then poured a chemical substance on him as he walked back home along Lower East North Water Street, after a trip to buy a tuna sandwich. Mr. Smollett, in a follow-up interview with detectives, said the attackers had mentioned ‘MAGA country.’

“Mr. Smollett’s manager, Brandon Moore, said he had been on the phone with Mr. Smollett and overheard part of the attack, a statement later confirmed by phone records released to the police.

“Within days, the police released an image of two men they considered ‘potential persons of interest wanted for questioning.’ Mr. Smollett would later say in an interview on Good Morning America that he was convinced the men in the pictures were his attackers.

“‘Because I was there,’ Mr. Smollett said. ‘For me, when that was released, I was like, “O.K., we’re getting somewhere.” I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did.’

“On Feb. 13, the investigators detained the Osundairos after they landed in Chicago on a flight from Nigeria where they had flown just after the reported incident. Police raided their home and, according to CBS Chicago, removed items including an Empire script, a ski mask, a red hat and a magazine.

“Held for two days without being charged, the brothers, who have both acted and who train as bodybuilders, were reported to have ultimately provided investigators with an account that depicted them as pretend assailants in a bit of street theater intended to shake up public perceptions. Investigators came to believe that the rope used may have been bought by the brothers at the Crafty Beaver hardware store in the Ravenswood neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side.

“Police scoured the area, recovering some videotape from neighboring stories in an apparent effort to corroborate the brothers’ account.

“Public opinion, once so strongly behind Mr. Smollett, began to waver in recent days. Al Sharpton, for example, who was among the people who had initially condemned the reported attack, said that if the incident was shown to have been a hoax, those responsible ‘ought to face accountability to the maximum.’

“In some ways the marked shift in opinion resembled the aftermath of last month’s incident in Washington where videos appeared to show high school students from Covington, Ky,. wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats, engage in a standoff with an elderly Native American man. As more videos surfaced, the encounter appeared to have been more complicated. The students themselves had been subjected to ridicule by African-American protesters nearby and their defenders suggested they had been unfairly portrayed by a liberal media too quick to judge.

“In the Smollett case, the Chicago police continued for weeks to assert that Mr. Smollett was considered a victim. But in recent days, the demeanor of investigators changed. On Tuesday, they released an unconfirmed tip reporting that Mr. Smollett had been seen with the brothers in an elevator on the night of the attack. The report was later debunked but the change in perspective by the police was clear.”

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Per New York Magazine, “[w]hat happens after we die? In 2019, you don’t need to consult holy scriptures in order to find answers to the mysteries of the afterlife — you just need to turn on the TV. Despite the increasing secularization of mainstream pop-culture, depictions of the afterlife onscreen are currently a dime a dozen, with shows like The Good PlaceMiracle WorkersRussian DollForeverBlack Mirror, as well as an upcoming series from The Office producer Greg Daniels each advancing their own unique visions of demons and angels, heaven and hell, and everything in between. But why are we seeing such a glut of representations of this particular subject right now, and what can it tell us about our current cultural moment? We called up Dr. Greg Garrett, a professor of English at Baylor University, to pick his brain about TV’s new favorite subject. While Garrett was raised conservative evangelical, he now identifies as Episcopalian; his writing, including is 2015 book Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination, focuses primarily the intersection between religion and culture:

Why is the afterlife such a cultural preoccupation for us right now?
I don’t think that there is a time when we have had this many kind of versions of stories of the afterlife kind of popping up in the culture. They are a way of helping us cope with some of the stresses and difficulties that we might be experiencing in the present moment. We’re living in a time of really high tension — for some people, it feels like we’re living in hell — and these shows use fantasy to help us deal with real-life concerns and issues and figure out things like what do we owe each other and what does real justice look like and what is generosity and what does an authority figure look like?

What’s different about the way the afterlife is represented on TV now from the way it was portrayed in pop culture in the past?
I think what’s really interesting about The Good Place is that normally in a situation comedy you don’t welcome character change. The idea that somebody like Eleanor could become a better person is not a useful trope for situation comedy, because what you want to do is cast these characters in a familiar role that viewers are going to come back to over and over again. I think one of the really kind of audacious things that The Good Place does is it says: I’m going to make a commitment to taking this character who was not so great in her life on earth and show her dealing with what is the usual purgatory narrative, which is self improvement.

And what about Miracle Workers?
That’s also kind of fun. In afterlife stories one of the big questions is how did we get here, and the concept of God is the center of that. That is usually impossible to do in a heaven story. God is the most boring character in Milton’s Paradise Lost. In most iterations of God that emerged from traditions, God is unchangeable. God is just a literal force of nature that doesn’t move, doesn’t shift and it’s the thing that Margaret Atwood is talking about in The Blind Assassin when she says that, “in heaven there are no stories.” The thing that they do in Miracle Workers is to humanize God so that God is not God the force of nature — he’s just a slob like one of us. Afterlife stories are often about fairness and unfairness on earth. If you live a good life it’s nice to know that maybe there’s a place where you’re going to be rewarded for it and conversely if you’re a jack-hole here that there’s a bad place where you’re going to spend eternity getting tortured. So having this God who is so human and so capricious and wanders around in his sweats, that kind of explains some of the crazy stuff going on in the world.

Both The Good Place and Miracle Workers position the afterlife as a bureaucracy. What does it reflect about contemporary life that the afterlife is represented as a sort of failed corporation?
They’re like afterlife versions of The Office, and I think that’s because for many of us that’s the place where we spend much of our time. The easiest mechanism for us to understand something intangible is by comparing it to what’s in front of our noses every day, so I walk into my cubby and I sit down and I turn on my computer and things get done or don’t get done as the case may be. If that’s how the afterlife works as well, then that seems to explain a lot.

A lot of these shows also explore monogamy, soulmates, and the idea of commitment that lasts for all of eternity. Could you talk a little bit about the depictions of romance in the afterlife historically and what do you think these current shows are exploring? 
This idea of eternal love is one of the tropes that we have in our romantic love language. When you say to someone that you’re going to love them forever, actually that probably has an expiration date. But in shows like this and also in the Twilight novels where you’re talking about vampire lovers, they’re going to be young and eternally together. That’s something that grows out of the Mormon scriptures, the idea of a temple wedding where you’re going to be married not just for this life but for all eternity. And so you have to wrestle with what that means.

In my book Entertaining Judgment I talked about how one of the reasons that we’re so drawn to these imaginative versions of the afterlife is that the scriptures don’t talk about it much, so we put all of these kinds of things together in our head. What would heaven look like for me? Is it the place where dreams come true like in Field of Dreams? Well that means that I’m going to spend a lot of days in the bleachers in Wrigley Field watching a Cubs team that actually wins.

There are all these different iterations and for many of us the primary relationships in our lives, the love relationships, are the things that make life meaningful. So I think of my grandmother who is 99 now and has lived for 20 something years. After my granddad died, every time I would talk to her the first thing out of her mouth would be about how she can’t wait to get to heaven so that she can see my grandpa. So for her it can’t be heaven unless she is with the person she has loved the most in this life. But what I love about these shows is that they are also wrestling with the tensions we deal with with that. I’ve had happy marriages and unhappy marriages and if I were stuck with my first wife for all eternity that would feel like the bad place.

In Miracle Workers and The Good Place, these eternal beings watching over us are just as flawed and useless as we are. Is that a newer trend in these kinds of stories? 
That’s a much more recent way of thinking about the occupants of the afterlife. I would say maybe 30 or 40 years ago we started getting some ideas that these eternal beings could transform as a result of experiences, though as far back as the ’30s and ’40s there are some films about angels who fall in love with humans. But it’s not until you get toward much more recent times where you have the devil or God or angels angels who are able to transform.

I wonder whether that reflects our increasing loss of sources of authority we can trust. 
Yeah I think that’s a really good insight. Steve Buscemi’s God [in Miracle Workers] is light years away from the God that would show up in the consciousness of many seriously religious people. For those of us who are wrestling with what the world looks like now and as you’re pointing out all the different institutions that have failed us, the questions is: What do we place our trust in? And so here have have a character or characters who at the end of the day really are kind of like us, trying to make their way the best that they can. I really love that character of Michael [from The Good Place] and I love the way that he changes and grows and transforms. That is actually the kind of afterlife I would like. I don’t want to be sitting around on clouds plucking at a harp all day.

It’s like that line from the Talking Heads song: “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.” In The Good Place all the fun people are in the bad place. All the rock stars, all the philosophers. Is that also a new trope?
That’s an interesting question. There are fun people in Dante’s Hell and people who probably don’t belong there; he was just angry at them at the moment and thought that this was a good place for them to represent one of the things that he wanted to speak out against. But I think partly what also is happening is that the way we see religion, particularly conservative Christian religion depicted in America, it looks really joyless to a lot of us. I’m a religious person but that’s not my tradition, and to imagine spending eternity with a group full of really white, really boring, really joyless people, I can’t imagine how that could be any version of a heaven that I would want to be a part of. When I hear my grandma talking about heaven it’s like first she gets to see my grandpa and then she’s going to sing all day and walk streets of gold. I think I’d rather watch some good television.

Russian Doll is another show that plays on that purgatory idea. Why does this idea of repeating things over and over again, like we see in Russian Doll or Groundhog Day or even in The Good Place, end up as a feature in so many of these afterlife narratives? 
Well I think that’s how we learn in this life. I’ve been going to spiritual direction, which is my version of therapy, for 14 years, and what I discover is I have to do something over and over again to develop a habit of virtue which is actually the idea behind virtue ethics. The other thing is that there’s this really beautiful idea of these eternal second chances. There have been times in all of our lives when we have said Man I wish I could do that over or I wish I hadn’t said that. To go back and be able to start fresh with a little bit more data and maybe a little bit more hope that you can do better, that’s a real attraction in those stories.

Has researching your book or watching these shows informed your own conception about what you believe happens to us after we die? 
I was raised in a tradition where we had very clear ideas. We thought we understood everything about the afterlife because of the way that we read the Bible. Where I am now, strangely enough is I have less idea than I’ve ever had about what the afterlife might be and at the same time more faith that there is something good at the center of the universe. I believe that there is something after this where I will be in communion with whatever it was that created me, but I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t think it looks like a baseball field in Iowa and I don’t think it looks like The Good Place and I don’t think it looks like fluffy clouds. I think probably if I turn out to be right about this, it’s going to completely blow my mind. At the end of the day I’m really okay living in the not knowing.”

Wednesday February 20, 2019

A new season of Survivor kicks off tonight. Yes I still watch. And yes I’m excited.

Here’s a sneak peak.

Donna’s relationship complicates a potential deal for Alex and Harvey; Samantha helps Louis get justice. #SUITS

Digital series The Build Up, featuring Kitchen Cousins stars John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino has garnered almost 35,000,000 impressions to date. The 6-episode series was released over three weeks. You can watch it here.

Season 4 will be the last for Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle.

SyFy has canceled Nightflyers.

A review of Anna Paquin’s new show Flack.

Here is more information about Lifetime’s newly ordered unscripted series:

Temmoraland (working title)

Former recording artist Temmora Levy is on a mission to help future superstars achieve their highest potential through music. After her own tough upbringing in and out of foster homes, Temmora fell in love with the art of singing and performance. Today, Temmora owns Arommet Academy, an artist development academy in Memphis, providing a safe haven for talented children to escape whatever they might be going through. Juggling the challenges of training the kids while dealing with their stage parents, managing the teen girl group KARMA, and keeping up with the daily demands of motherhood and marriage, Temmora definitely has her work cut out for her. While she makes it her priority for each child to feel loved and accepted, make no mistake, Temmora is not an easy critic. If her students want to make it to the top, they better be prepared to work! Eight one-hour episodes have been ordered to debut later this year on Lifetime. Temmoraland (working title) is produced by Brian Graden Media for Lifetime with Brian Graden and Dave Mace as executive producers. Gena McCarthy, Brie Miranda Bryant and Mioshi Hill serve as executive producers for Lifetime.

Cheerleader Generation (working title): Cheerleader Generation is a documentary series set in the exciting world of competitive cheerleading, following the lives of two squads and their fierce, hardworking coaches, Lexington Kentucky’s Dunbar High School coach Donna Martin and her daughter, Ole’ Miss head coach, Ryan O’Connor.  While Donna pushes her team to new heights to return Dunbar to its former glory of reigning champs, Ryan is fighting to earn the respect of her peers, her collegiate team and her mother. The stakes are high as Donna and Ryan also compete to be the first ever mother-daughter coaches going after national championship titles in the same year while dealing with the real-life drama of college students trying to find their independence, high-school students trying to survive adolescence and their mothers who are trying to keep it all together too. Ten one-hour episodes have been ordered to air this year on Lifetime. Cheerleader Generation is produced by Propagate Content for Lifetime and executive produced by Ben Silverman, Howard Owens, Laurie Girion and Karri-Leigh P. Mastrangelo. Gena McCarthy and Cat Rodriguez executive produce for Lifetime.

Marrying Millions: Relationships are complicated, but when one partner is super rich and the other is most definitely NOT, “complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Marrying Millions follows six couples who are deeply in love and hoping to marry, but who come from completely different worlds. Regular people are whisked off their feet and plunged into a high-end life of riches, extravagant experiences, and glamorous trips around the globe. It sounds like a modern-day fairytale, but it’s definitely not all champagne and caviar. On the road to the altar, the couples must try to bridge their vast differences and fit into each other’s alien worlds. Ten one-hour episodes have been ordered to air for this year. Marrying Millions is produced by Sharp Entertainment for Lifetime. Gena McCarthy and James Bolosh executive produce for Lifetime.

Ubisoft is going where no video game adaptation has gone before. The publishing giant has teamed with Atlas Entertainment (Dirty John) to adapt its pirate adventure game Skull & Bones — before the game is even released. While the 2016 Michael Fassbender feature Assassin's Creed was based on one of Ubisoft's most popular franchises, this time the company's film and television division is doubling down on unproven IP.”

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“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is hitting the beach!

ET caught up with Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle -- who star as Abe and Rose Weissman, parents to the eponymous Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), in the series -- at the Writers Guild Awards on Sunday and they revealed a tropical turn for their characters in season three.

"‘I think I’ve heard that we’re going to Miami in June. That’s all I know,’ Shalhoub said of the show, which is due to start filming its third season next month. ‘I don’t know what that [entails]. It’s about [Midge's] tour, but that’s all I got.’

“At the end of season two, Midge was offered an opening spot performing her standup comedy on a musician's big tour, which will likely negate her recent engagement to Benjamin (Zachary Levi) and put on strain on her relationship with her traditional parents. Shalhoub, though, thinks Abe could turn a supportive corner for his daughter's comedy career.

"‘I think that maybe he’s starting to realize that this isn’t just a pipe dream and that maybe, in the eyes of the public, she’s got something,’ Shalhoub said of Abe. ‘I’m not sure, but I think there’s a little bit of a thaw going on.’

“As for Rose, Hinkle hopes that she'll began to evolve a bit, perhaps by spending time with Midge's manager, Susie (Alex Borstein).

"‘My hope would be that you stick Rose next to Alex’s character, Susie, and maybe we get to go to the fortune teller and have Katrina Lenk back because she’s magical. So I think that would be wonderful,’ she said. ‘Rose... knows that her daughter does stand up, but she’s never seen her do it. So that would be a delight.’

“It's not just Midge who's causing familial drama in the series. The Weissmans also have to deal with their son, Noah (Will Brill), who's been secretly working for the CIA and is expecting a child with his wife, Astrid (Justine Lupe).

"‘Astrid has announced that she’s pregnant so that means that we’re going to become grandparents again,’ Shalhoub said. ‘That will be an interesting thing because of her... wackiness.’

"‘And you can see how well we handle our own grandchildren already,’ Hinkle quipped of the obviously hands-off approach all adults seem to favor when it comes to Midge's two children. ‘We hardly seem to know what to do with them. Put them in front of TV sets!’

“Abe himself has a tumultuous upcoming period as well, with his desire to quit his jobs at both Columbia University and Bell Labs and return to work on social activism, something Hinkle noted may not fly with Rose.

"‘It’s exciting that Tony’s character is going to have a huge shake up in his personal and professional life, so that’s going to affect my life because my character needs clothes and needs a nice house,’ she said. ‘So we need to figure that out.’

“With season three about to begin production, Shalhoub and Hinkle looked back on the remarkable response to the series, which has taken home multiple Emmy, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe awards.

"‘It’s frosting really, on the cake. I mean we’re just happy that the show is as hot as it is,’ Shalhoub, who nabbed a SAG Award for his performance earlier this year, said. ‘The awards are all wonderful. They maybe shine a little brighter light on the show for a while.’

"‘I had never been to the SAG Awards before. I was absolutely blown away that our show had won an award,’ Hinkle added on the ensemble's win. ‘We’re so lucky to have a job. That’s the truth.’"

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Per Deadline, “Netflix has given a 10-episode series order to Medical Police, starring Childrens Hospital alums Erinn Hayes and Rob Huebel, from former Childrens Hospital executive producers Rob Corddry, Jonathan Stern and David Wain and co-executive producer Krister Johnson, as well as Warner Horizon Scripted TV. Several other Childrens Hospital alums,  Lake Bell, Corddry, Ken Marino and Malin Akerman, are set for recurring roles.

“Medical Police, which had been in the works for awhile, including at TBS at one point, is considered an offshoot of Corddry’s Emmy-winning Adult Swim series Childrens Hospital. He had hinted in interviews that he was working on a spinoff series.

“Written by Corddry, Johnson, Stern and Wain and directed by Wain and Bill Benz, Medical Police is described as an action-packed thriller, mystery and love story. It centers on two American physicians (Hayes and Huebel) stationed at a pediatric hospital in São Paulo, Brazil, who discover a civilization-threatening virus. The duo are recruited as government agents in a race against time and around the world to find a cure and uncover a dark conspiracy.

“Hayes and Huebel starred on all seven seasons of Childrens Hospital. The show was nominated for eight Primetime Emmys over the course of its run, winning four, including outstanding short form comedy or drama series, and actor for Corddry.

“At Netflix, Wain directed and co-wrote Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp, a prequel to his 2001 film. He also executive produced alongside Stern, with Johnson co-executive producing.”

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“George Stephanopoulos has signed a new four-year deal with ABC News, Page Six has exclusively learned.

“Sources say that the broadcasting veteran — who’s been with the network since 2002 and anchors both Good Morning America and Sunday show This Week — was heavily courted by both CBS and CNN as the end of his last contract approached. CNN declined to comment.

“But in the end, he stayed put, signing a deal with ABC worth somewhere between $15 million and $18 million per year. His previous, five-year contract was worth $15 million a year.

“We’re told that in an effort to entice him to CBS News, execs offered Stephanopoulos Jeff Glor’s anchor chair on CBS Evening News — often considered the most prestigious role in TV news — and a plum gig on 60 Minutes.

“Glor’s only been in the job for a year, but as Page Six has previously reported, network execs have been considering replacing him for months amid sinking ratings and newsroom strife. At the time CBS denied that Glor’s job was in jeopardy.

“Asked if CBS offered Stephanopoulos the CBS Evening News gig, a rep told us, ‘Not true.’

“Sources familiar with the situation say Stephanopoulos — who has had a major hand in the resurgence of Good Morning America in its battle with NBC’s Today — seriously considered the CBS offer, especially after Susan Zirinsky was named as the new CBS News president in January.

“‘He’s known Susan for 30-plus years,’ said an insider. ‘That made it even more real.’

“Insiders say CBS — which has recently undergone a series of scandals and reshuffles of top personnel — would have been unlikely to be able to offer Stephanopoulos as much money as ABC, but that the upheavals mean the network is something of a blank slate. ‘CBS could have been a great platform for him,’ we’re told.

“Sources say that eventually Stephanopoulos decided to stay because ‘ABC has been his home for 20-something years,’ although it didn’t hurt that, as a source put it, ‘ABC offered him a s–t-ton of money.’

“Stephanopoulos has had a big year, landing blockbuster interviews with former FBI Director James Comey, former Donald Trump fixer Michael Cohen, and the president himself.”

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“When Disney’s $71.3 billion deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox closes in the coming weeks, the combined company will remain an appealing target for investors, but only those willing to indulge hefty near-term spending on direct-to-consumer streaming.

“That’s the basic takeaway from a new research report by Macquarie analysts Tim Nollen and Stephen Beckett. In the 18-page note to clients, the analysts reiterate their ‘outperform’ rating on the stock, which has moved sideways since Disney prevailed over Comcast last July in the final battle over the Murdoch family jewels. Macquarie’s 12-month price target is $125. Disney closed today at $113.51, up nearly 1%.

“The mega-deal will redraw the Hollywood map, transferring to Disney assets such as the Fox film and TV studio and cable networks like FX, as well as giving it majority control of Hulu.

“‘Strategically, Disney is making the right moves, but financially we don’t see a near-term positive catalyst,’ the report cautions, adding that ‘flattish’ earnings over the next couple of quarters are likely. Once Fox joins the fold, the analysts warn about several potential headwinds. Those include the cost of integrating the two companies, higher debt, an additional 30% of money-losing Hulu, and interest expenses if the regional sports networks that Disney must sell fetch too modest a price.

“Because many details about 2019 and beyond remain fuzzy, at least until an investor day on April 11, the analysts  lay out the combined portfolios and look at all of the puts and takes.

“Their ‘cautious case’ sees a 4% hit to earnings in fiscal 2019 and a 5% one in 2020, excluding integration costs. Once Hulu and Disney+ losses moderate, synergies would start adding to earnings in 2021, ’22 and ‘23, by 2%, 9%, and 11%, respectively. Including integration costs, the analysts see no earnings bump until fiscal 2022.

“In their optimistic scenario, on the other hand, Hulu losses would moderate faster than expected and the RSNs would command a price higher than the current $15 billion projection. The deal would then become neutral to earnings in fiscal 2020, adding 9% in 2021 and high-teen percentages after that.

“Based on recent guidance from Disney’s first-quarter earnings call earlier this month, Nollen and Beckett say a $200 million hit to operating profit is expected during the current quarter due to investments in ESPN+ and Disney+. Launched last spring, ESPN+ has surpassed 2 million subscribers but is costly to operate due to sports rights fees. Holding back licensing rights to Disney movie and TV titles for Disney+, the company estimates, will create a $150 million hit to operating income in fiscal 2019.

“‘There may be as many as 18 films and 16 TV series in some form of development for [Disney+], plus we expect some licensed content to be purchased or repurchased from other outlets as Disney looks to fill in programming gaps prior to the service’s launch later this year,’ the analysts write.

“Nollen and Beckett point to recent strides by CBS in the streaming arena, indicating Disney has the potential to double its combined subscriber base each year. The analysts forecast a ‘perhaps conservative’ Year 1 number of 2.5 million subscribers to Disney+.

“As for Hulu, the pair expect the streaming service to finally break even in 2022, with a projected 50 million subscribers. Last month, it reported passing 25 million subscribers, up 48% from the same point in 2018. Comcast and WarnerMedia remain minority stakeholders in Hulu.”

Tuesday February 19, 2019

Netflix has canceled Friends From College. Not a major loss.

Netflix has also canceled The Punisher and Jessica Jones. More below.

Rumors continue to swirl that Colton Underwood, the virgin who is this season’s Bacehlor, is gay. I heard more last night (not on the show) that leads me to believe that is the case. How this all plays out and how ABC handles this if (and when) it comes to light should be pretty interesting.

Netflix likes Green Eggs and Ham, judging by the top-flight voice cast assembled for the new animated series set for a debut next fall. The Ellen DeGeneres-produced adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic will feature Michael Douglas, Adam DeVine, Diane Keaton, Ilana Glazer, Eddie Izzard, Tracy Morgan and Keegan-Michael Key, Daveed Diggs, John Turturro, Jeffrey Wright, and Jillian Bell.

A new trailer for the final season of Veep.

Season 2 of truTV’s At Home WIth Amy Sedaris premieres tonight.

Mandy Moore opens up about her marriage to Ryan Adams.

Here’s the trailer for the upcoming Netflix biopic on Motley Crue, The Dirt. “The biopic, directed by Jeff Tremaine, is based on the rock band's 2001 autobiographyThe Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band. Douglas Booth, Iwan Rheon, Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly), and Daniel Webber star as the core four members of the band — Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Tommy Lee, and Vince Neil — as they go from a mismatched group of misfits playing small rock clubs in Hollywood, to becoming one of the most notorious rock 'n' roll groups in history. Judging from the trailer, watching their rise to international fame will be deeply entertaining. The Dirt hits Netflix on March 22 and also stars Pete Davidson, Leven Rambin, and David Costabile.”

The imperfect afterlives of The Good Place and Miracle Workers.

Penn Badgley was annoyed that everyone thought he was 'the nice guy' until he played a murderous stalker in You.

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Per TheWrap, “HGTV duo Jonathan and Drew Scott apparently, somehow have time to do yet another show. The popular cable channel has ordered Property Brothers: Forever Home to series.

“The latest Property Brothers installment is set to premiere on Wednesday, May 29, at 9/8c. On this one, nobody’s moving, so we’re not entirely sure what Drew the real estate agent is doing here, to be honest.

“In the latest title in the power twins’ (Editor’s note: That’s HGTV’s phrasing, but they’re not wrong) HGTV arsenal, couples who are settled in their home but need the brothers’ expertise to make it perfect will qualify for a complete makeover, per the network. These new clients aren’t looking to flip their property for profit, because they know this place is ‘the one’ where they can put down roots and happily spend their lives. To unlock a home’s full potential, Jonathan and Drew will focus on overhauling the house to suit the families’ needs and wishes.

“‘When a family buys a house, they know when it’s the right one — the fixer upper where they can spend all their time and grow old together,’ Drew said of this gig. ‘But, before they know it, years go by and the house hasn’t changed.’

“‘Renovations cost more than they imagine, so their ‘diamond in the rough’ stays rough for years,’ added Jonathan, the contractor who will probably be doing the heavy lifting here. ‘That’s why we’re here — to help families unlock the dreams in their uninspiring houses.’

“In each episode, Drew will take the couple on a tour of nearby renovated homes to learn about the features they love and which ones they can live without, HGTV said on Tuesday. Oh, so that’s his role.

“With this information and the homeowner’s budget in mind, Jonathan will bring the family’s design dreams to life using state-of-the-art 3D graphics, the official description continued. He will present the homeowners with two animated options that showcase different ways their house can be reimagined. The stakes are high for everyone–for the couples, who must decide how their ideal home should look, and for Jonathan and Drew, who must deliver renovations that surpass the clients’ expectations.”

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “Netflix and Marvel's decision to terminate their five-year (and six-series) relationship is the most telling sign of the new world order in the streaming era.

“The streamer on Monday axed The Punisher and Jessica Jonesthe latter of which has yet to air its third season. Those join Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist (and limited mash-up mini The Defenders) as Netflix's partnership with Marvel has officially come to an end. And while the two companies had, up until recently, enjoyed a drama-free pact, Netflix's move was hardly unexpected given the current streaming landscape.

“As media behemoths like Disney, Comcast and WarnerMedia enter the streaming business, each conglomerate is now faced with the same, multimillion-dollar question: Keep their scripted originals and library content for themselves or continue to license shows — like Jessica Jones (owned by Disney), The Office (Comcast) and Friends(Warner) — to friend-turned-rival Netflix.

“Put simply: Netflix did not have an ownership stake in any of its Marvel TV series. Each of the six Marvel shows was owned by Disney. Netflix paid ABC Studios a (steep) licensing fee for each season of its respective series.

“While those licensing fees lined Disney's coffers, the Mouse House — like other conglomerates (and Netflix) — is increasingly focused owning its own content. What's more, Disney is increasingly focused on populating its upcoming service — Disney+ — with content and announced back in August 2017 plans to pull its Marvel feature films from Netflix. Disney and Marvel executives have also indicated that the canceled Netflix fare could live again on Disney+.

“To further illustrate how Disney is pulling back its Marvel TV properties for its own platforms, look no further than the rest of the comic book giant's scripted fare. Agents of SHIELD was Marvel's first live-action scripted series. The ABC drama — which now has shockingly outlived all of the Netflix series — has been a perennial bubble show despite the fact that the network owns it. The series scored a rare early seventh-season renewal for the 2019-2020 broadcast season — before its sixth season even aired. Disney-owned Freeform airs Cloak and Dagger (produced by ABC Signature). Hulu this month announced a slate of four animated Marvel comedies (and a mash-up special aptly named The Offenders).  The streamer also has YA-themed The Runaways awaiting word on a third season. And Disney, once its $72 billion Fox acquisition closes, will have a majority ownership stake in Hulu. Then there's Fox's The Gifted, which is produced by 20th Century Fox Television — with the studio also included in Disney's Fox buy. (The same is true of the upcoming third and final season of FX's Legion.) If you sense a theme it's because you should: Disney owns all of its Marvel TV programming across the dial and, save for The Gifted, has Marvel fare on all of its platforms: broadcast, basic cable and streaming (on both of its platforms).

“So then why would Netflix cancel Jessica Jones when its third season hasn't even aired yet? A couple reasons. First, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg left after production on season three was already completed (for a lucrative overall deal with Warner Bros. TV, home of DC Comics). Second, the stars of Jessica Jones are fielding offers for the broadcast pilot season and Netflix did not want to prevent them from taking other jobs given that the streamer knew its relationship with Marvel was on its last legs. Netflix makes renewal and cancellation decisions based on viewership vs. cost. Jessica Jones was an expensive series and, while Netflix doesn't release viewership data, a third-party measurement company tracked social media buzz and found that all of the Marvel series were down year-over-year. (That's pretty much the same narrative for broadcast and cable viewership.)

“Let's look at Marvel and Netflix's relationship next. The foundation started in 2013 with an epic five-show dealthat was considered groundbreaking at the time. Netflix shelled out millions for a five-show deal that created a multiple-series universe for the streamer with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist culminating — like a comic book crossover — in a massive superhero mash-up: The Defenders. The original agreement was for four, 13-episode series and the miniseries. Sources note that it was the episode count stipulation that, more recently, became an issue as Netflix is said to have wanted to reduce the standard episode count from 13 to 10 in a bid to tighten the creative. Sources stressed that the original 2013 deal did not have an expiration date and all of the respective series and spinoffs could have run for as long as both parties wanted.

Speaking of the creative: Nearly all of the Marvel Netflix dramas had showrunner changes.Daredevil showrunners included Steven S. DeKnight (season one), Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez (season two) and Erik Oleson (season three).Jessica Jones would have needed to have hired a new showrunner to replace Rosenberg for a potential fourth season.Luke Cage was showrun by Cheo Hodari Coker (who, two months after its cancellation, inked an overall deal with Netflix rival Amazon). AndIron Fist went from Scott Buck (season one) to Raven Metzner (season two). In short: Half of the original Marvel shows for Netflix experienced creative issues.

“So what is the future of Marvel on TV? In a word: Disney. Expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2019, Disney+ is already prepping TV spinoffs of its billion-dollar box office MCU films. There are three already in the works: a Tom Hiddleston-fronted Loki; a Falcon/Winter Soldier team-up limited series expected to star Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan; and Vision and Secret Witchwith Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen likely to on board to reprise their roles.

“And then there's the politics between Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Disney CEO Bob Iger. With an influx of executives coming over to Disney, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey — who developed Marvel's Agents of SHIELD and late and great Agent Carter for the broadcast network — jumped ship and moved to Netflix. Dungey will reunite with Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy) and Kenya Barris (Black-ish), both of whom negotiated an early exit from their overall deals at ABC Studios. (And that's just the tip of the iceberg in the increasing rivalry between Disney and Netflix.)

“In short, it's easy to say that Netflix canceled its Marvel fare because of economics, the answer is much more complex than simple ownership as Disney and Netflix have not exactly been good bedfellows in the past year. So while Marvel may have been caught, at least partially, in the crossfire, media titans like Warners and Comcast may very well be next when it comes to pulling their respective content from Netflix as the new (streaming) world order takes over.

“With WarnerMedia and Comcast both launching their own direct-to-consumer streaming services (due in the fourth-quarter 2019 and 2020, respectively), both companies are going to have to consider whether they will continue to get a Netflix check with a lot of zeros to license Friends and The Office or if the companies will pull their crown jewels and put them exclusively on their own platforms. For the time being, Friends and The Office will remain on Netflix through 2019 and 2021, respectively. But after that? ‘Sharing destination assets like [Friends], it's not a good model to share,’ WarnerMedia streaming service chief creative officer Kevin Reilly said this month. ‘They should be exclusive to the service.’”

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From EW: “If you’ve seen headlines about a potential revival of HBO’s The Newsroom coming to save the state of journalism in the era of fake news, don’t get your hopes up. Series creator Aaron Sorkin shot down those rumblings while appearing on The Late Late Show Monday night.

“‘I wish the show was on the air now,’ he said. ‘I would love to be writing it now, but there are other things coming up. I have no plans to return to anything else I have done.’

“Does that also apply to anyone hoping for another iteration of The West Wing or a sequel to The Social Network? Sounds like it.

Olivia Munn, who starred as ACN’s financial expert Sloan Sabbith on The Newsroom, told Entertainment Tonight that she and costar Tom Sadoski had “conversations” with Sorkin about a reboot. “He’s very busy, but we have very high hopes that it would be able to come together, hopefully,” she said.

“Now those hopes are dashed.

“After adapting To Kill A Mocking Bird for the Broadway stage, Sorkin is now assembling his next directorial effort for film with The Trial of the Chicago 7, a story of the truly wild 1969 trial of seven defendants charged with multiple offenses relating to counterculture protests during the Democratic National Convention. He also wrote the script for Cate Blanchett’s Lucille Ball movie, Lucy and Desi, and NBC’s live production of A Few Good Men.

“So, yeah, he’s busy.”

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Per The Ringer, “In 54 days, Game of Thrones will finally return. And 35 days after that, Throneswill end. In less time than it seemingly took Littlefinger to zip around to every corner of Westeros, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will deliver a conclusion to the story George R.R. Martin first introduced 23 years ago—and in that precious time they’ll have to answer half a hundred pressing questions: Who will live? Who will die? Who will tell Jon he’s doing it with his aunt?

“Separate from those series-shaping questions are countless smaller but still crucial details that the show may or may not explore in the final season. These are Thrones’ loose ends: the characters, places, events, prophecies, and more that the story has made audiences wonder about over the past seven seasons but the show has yet to wrap up. In the run-up to the final season’s April 14 premiere, we’ll be digging through these loose ends, looking at why they matter and how they could affect the endgame as we count down to Thrones’s long-awaited conclusion.

“Can Dany have children? The books are clear that she cannot, but the show less so.

“In Baelor, the penultimate episode of Season 1, the Lhazareen witch Mirri Maz Duur, at the behest of Daenerys, performed a blood rite on her husband Khal Drogo. The horselord was already near death, stricken by an infection, which Mirri may have caused, that took root in a wound he suffered defending Dany’s honor.

“When Dany awoke, her child with Drogo, the future Stallion Who Would Mount the World, Rhaego, had been delivered stillborn and monstrous. ‘l pulled him out myself,’ Mirri told Dany. ‘He was scaled like a lizard, blind, with leather wings like the wings of a bat. When l touched him the skin fell from his bones. Inside he was full of graveworms. I warned you that only death can pay for life.’

“The blood magic, and Rhaego’s death, preserved Drogo’s life. But he languished in vegetative state. Not dead, yet not truly alive. A sickly and hollow shadow of the once vibrant Khal. When Dany asked how long he would remain this way, Mirri said, ‘When the sun rises in the west, sets in the east. When the seas go dry. When the mountains blow in the wind like leaves.’ This exchange is similar to the one that appears in the books with one crucial omission: ‘When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child.’

“So when Tyrion says to Dany, ‘You say you can’t have children,’ when the two are discussing governing philosophy on Dragonstone ahead of Season 7’s summit at the Dragonpit, the reasoning behind Dany’s belief is, for viewers, a bit opaque. Clearly Dany does not think she can conceive, an impression that numerous encounters with Daario Naharis seem to have proved true. But she was never explicitly told that was the case.

“Well, because the potential child of Daenerys Targaryen, last living kin of King Aerys II Targaryen and Queen Rhaella, and Aegon Targaryen, otherwise known as Jon Snow, the secret legitimate son of Crown Prince Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark, would be an immensely powerful symbol with an impeccable claim to the throne! Such a child would cement the succession of the renewed Targaryen dynasty and bring the promise of much-needed stability to the realm.

“Well, let’s see, Dany could miss her period by a couple of days, suddenly develop (even more) luminous skin, and generally, you know, become obviously pregnant!

“Before our heroes can rejoice, however, they should know that Targaryen pregnancies have a tendency to be hazardous for mother and child. Dany’s mother, Queen Rhaella, suffered through numerous miscarriages and stillbirths before successfully delivering Viserys later in life. The queen died giving birth to Dany.

“Even couplings in which the mother is not a Targaryen can be troubled. Princess Elia Martell of Dorne, Prince Rhaegar’s first wife, bore him two children. She was bedridden for six months after giving birth to the first, and the second pregnancy nearly killed her. After that the Maesters informed her and Rhaegar that she shouldn’t have more children. Then Rhaegar pursued Lyanna Stark, who died giving birth to Jon. The mothers of both Jon and Dany died in childbirth; even without Mirri’s prophecy, pregnancy would be a mixed omen for the Mother of Dragons.

“Even if Dany’s experience isn’t traumatic, it would be too dangerous for her and the realm for the Khaleesi to ride Drogon into battle while pregnant. Jon and her small council would likely insist that she remain safe behind the walls of some castle. This, obviously, would seriously weaken the war effort!

“Dany’s possibly quickening womb is incredibly important to the show, to her relationship with Jon, to the battle against the Night King, and for the future of the kingdom of Westeros.”

Monday February 18, 2019

Barry returns to HBO on March 31.

I watched a few episodes of The Umbrella Academy on Netflix. It’s interesting and different. An adaptation from a comic book penned by My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way, it’s worth a look. More below.

I continue to enjoy The Resident on Fox. I’m not usually one for medical dramas, but this one stands above the rest IMHO.

A sneak peak at Survivor, which kicks off another season on Wednesday.

Showtime released a trailer for season 3 of Billions. “When everyone is out for revenge, no one is safe. This is never more true than in season four of Billions. Bobby Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades, former enemies, and Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), the chief counselor to each, have come together to form an uneasy but highly effective alliance, aimed at the eradication of all their rivals, including Grigor Andolov (guest star John Malkovich), Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon), Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore) and Waylon ‘Jock[ Jeffcoat (guest star Clancy Brown). Ambition and betrayal have long been at the heart of Billions, and this season all the characters find out exactly how high a price they'll have to pay to satisfy those needs. Catch the season premiere Sunday, March 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. “

Did you catch that connection back to season 1 of True Detective on last night’s episode? The newspaper photo with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey?

I knew Jussie Smollett was a lying scumbag. He deserves to rot in a cell.

Of course he’s denying the allegations.

John Mulaney will host SNL on March 2.

Netflix has ordered a 2nd season of Carmen Sandeigo.

“Paul Shaffer has mastered the art of captivating conversation from his seat at the piano, and the renowned bandleader and four-time Emmy nominee will further hone his chat chops with the launch of his new multiplatform series, Paul Shaffer Plus One. This summer, Paul Shaffer Plus One will bring several of Shaffer's famous friends and colleagues across the music industry — including Sammy Hagar, Graham Nash, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Steely Dan's Donald Fagen and more — to the program, which will air monthly Sunday nights at primetime on SiriusXM and AXS TV. Shaffer and his esteemed guests will discuss everything from inspiration and influences to notable songs, with a few impromptu musical moments thrown in. The interviews of Paul Shaffer Plus Onewill be conducted in a recording studio setting — and with Shaffer stationed at his trusty piano, of course, just in case the mention of a particular track moves him and his special guest to perform.”

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From 9to5Mac: “The launch of Apple’s long-rumored streaming video service is closer than ever. After building an executive team and signing numerous TV shows and movies, Apple is seemingly set to launch its video service in 2019. Here’s everything we know so far about Apple’s streaming service.

“Apple’s efforts in streaming video really got started in 2017 when it hired Jamie Ehrlicht and Zack Van Amburg, two veteran Sony Television executives. Ehrlicht and Amburg serve as the co-heads of Apple’s video programming worldwide division and report to Eddy Cue.

“While at Sony Television, Ehrlicht and Amburg spearheaded some of the biggest TV shows including Breaking Bad, Better Caul Saul, The Crown, and more.

“In addition to Ehrlicht and Amburg, Apple has made numerous other TV hires. Carol Trussell of Gaumont Television joined Apple as its head of production. Apple also hired a Channel 4 TV exec, as well as executives from WGNAmazon StudiosUniversal Television, and more.

“What’s notable about these hires is that Apple isn’t trying to launching its streaming service on its own. The company’s first originals, Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke, were developed without veteran TV help and ended up being widely criticized.

“By hiring outside executives from such big-name studios, Apple is seemingly signaling that it’s ready to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon when it comes to original content and its streaming video service.

“Apple has signed dozens of TV shows and movies for its streaming video service. The shows range from sci-fi to comedy to drama and include star-studded casts.

“While Netflix original content is notorious for being unapologetically raunchy, Apple is taking a different approach. A pair of reports from Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal have outlined Apple’s aversion to adult language, violence, and nudity in its TV shows.

According to The WSJ, of the shows Apple is producing, ‘only a few’ will veer into TV-MA territory. Bloomberg, meanwhile, says that Apple wants its TV shows to be “suitable for an Apple Store” and is focusing on “comedies and emotional dramas” similar to what you might see on NBC.

“So what TV shows can we expect from Apple? Quite a few of them.

“One of Apple’s flagship TV shows will star Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell. The drama will center around a morning show and offer a look at ‘the lives of the people who help America wake up in the morning.’ It’s based Brian Stelter’s book Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV.

“Apple is also working closely with Oprah Winfrey on original content for its streaming video service. Last summer, the company announced ‘a unique, multi-year content partnership’ with Winfrey. The press release for this partnership was also one of the clearest indications of Apple’s TV plans:

“Apple today announced a unique, multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey, the esteemed producer, actress, talk show host, philanthropist and CEO of OWN. Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.

“Apple is also collaborating with Steven Spielberg on a new Amazing Stories sci-fi series. The high-budget show will feature at least 10 episodes and act as a continuation of the anthology of the same name that ran on NBC in the 1980s.

“The big name productions don’t stop there. J.J Abrams is producing a pair of TV shows for Apple. One will star Jennifer Garner, while the other is a dramedy with Abrams and Sara Bareilles.

“As for movies, Apple’s efforts there aren’t quite as broad as its TV shows. Apple is partnering with film studio A24 to produce original movies. The first collaboration between the two is a film On the Rocks starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones, with Sofia Coppola serving as director and producer.”

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Per EW, “I think we’re alone now… but are we?

“Halfway through the first episode of The Umbrella Academy, five of the seven Hargreeves siblings — Luther (Tom Hopper), Diego (David Castañeda), Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus (Robert Sheehan), and Vanya (Ellen Page) — all find themselves reunited in their childhood home for the first time in years. They’ve been brought back together by the only event that possibly could, the death of their adoptive father, Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore). But after scattering their father’s ashes and bringing up various old grievances, they all find themselves back in their old rooms: reunited, yet still alone.

“And then the music kicks in. Music is a big part of The Umbrella Academy, dating back to its origins as a comic written by former My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way (and illustrated by Gabriel Bá). There is even more music in the show itself, ranging from the casting of singer Mary J. Blige to the eccentric soundtracks for fight scenes. In this moment, it’s Tiffany’s cover of I Think We’re Alone Now that starts playing over the house speakers, inspiring each sibling to start jamming out without realizing the others are doing the same thing.

“‘Everyone can relate to the moment when you shut the door of your room, and maybe you haven’t been in your childhood home for years, and it brings you back to being a kid,’ showrunner Steve Blackman tells EW. ‘They think they’re so different, but in that one moment, with that one song playing, they’re all dancing. They think no one else is, but they’re all doing the same thing. Deep down, they’re all desperate for the same thing, which is acceptance and being a part of a family again. If only they could just take a minute to tell each other! But they won’t, and that’s the fun of the show, seeing if maybe one day they’ll figure it out and also possibly save the world.’

“When the dance sequence begins, the camera alternates between rooms, giving us a sense of each sibling’s dancing style (as well as their personalities: Luther’s room is full of toy airplanes and rocketships from even before he went to the moon, while Allison’s colorful boas seem to have predicted her career as an actress). But then, slowly but surely, the camera pans out, and Umbrella Academy headquarters starts to resemble a dollhouse that we’re peering into, watching each member dance by themselves.

“Blackman explains the camera angles and special effects that created the dollhouse shot.

“‘I’m very proud of that shot,’ he says. ‘When I was rewriting the pilot script, I put that in. No one understood it, but I just said, look, it’s one thing to see them dancing in their own rooms. But when you sort of put it in the perspective of a dollhouse, where you pull back and see that they’re all doing the same thing, it brings a micro back to a macro. They’re siloed off, but they’re all together in the same house. It’s a fully VFX shot. We shot them all individually in their own rooms in green screen, and our VFX people did an incredible job of creating that shot, which is fully CG and animated. It just does something to see them from the dollhouse perspective, it brings you into a new perspective of how this family works. In my mind it shows you they’re all together, but they’re alone, but somehow they’re gonna make this work. I really loved it and I pushed hard for it. It wasn’t until people saw it they understood what it did. It’s just a beautiful perspective of a family, apart yet still together. It’s a very tricky shot to do, and it took a lot of extra effort. We also threw in lots of extra bits and Easter eggs that you might notice when you watch it a second time.’

“Season 1 of The Umbrella Academy is streaming on Netflix now.”

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “[f]ollowing a big haul of awards for its first two seasons — and a new overall deal for its creative team — The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is giving its stars a hefty raise.

“Rachel Brosnahan and Tony Shalhoub have both earned sizable pay increases after renegotiating their deals, and Alex Borstein is close to a new agreement as well, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

“Amazon declined comment.

“Brosnahan stands to reportedly make as much as triple her previous salary, potentially earning up to $300,000 per episode, and may also get a piece of the show's back end with her new agreement. Though she's number one on the call sheet, Brosnahan's starting salary was said to be lower than that for some of her more established co-stars; that has likely been rectified.

“Shalhoub's pay will also rise substantially, to a reported $250,000 per episode, and Borstein's is expected to as well. Regulars Michael Zegen, Marin Hinkle and Kevin Pollak are also likely to get pay bumps.

“Season one of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won eight Emmys, including individual wins for Brosnahan and Borstein as well as the award for best comedy series; Shalhoub was nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy.

“Shalhoub and Brosnahan also won individual SAG Awards in January, and the cast took home an ensemble award.

“The raises for the cast come on the heels of Amazon signing Mrs. Maisel showrunners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino for a new overall deal to create more projects for the tech giant's Prime Video platform.”

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Per Vulture, “True Detective’s first season introduced two major new voices in television — creator-writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga — and cemented the McConaissance, but it became a pop-culture supernova thanks to an occult-conspiracy angle that fueled a cottage industry of clue-finding and connection-making but ultimately went nowhere. Pizzolatto had written a show about rich pedophiles and their poor, mentally ill splinter cell; their Yellow King of Carcosa pretensions were never intended to be anything but delusions of grandeur. The season’s strengths (Fukunaga’s filmmaking, Matthew McConaughey’s performance, a pervasive sense of dread) and weaknesses (tough-guy dialogue played completely straight, a dearth of women characters given anything to do but react to the menfolk and occasionally disrobe) largely got lost in the shuffle.

“Following Pizzolatto and Fukunaga’s less than amicable creative divorce and a lingering sense that season one’s Lovecraftian antics had been a big bait and switch, season two was bound to face an uphill battle in recapturing the magic. Its near-total disconnect from the first season on practically every level — thematically, aesthetically, the nature of the crime and the criminals, the relationship between the detectives — didn’t help. Nor did a Byzantine murder mystery, dialogue even more stylized than the first go-round, and a suite of confrontationally unpleasant lead performances by co-stars Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, Rachel McAdams, and Vince Vaughn. I get the sense that time has dimmed the furor against the second season and led more people to discover its own murky beauty — it certainly did for me; consider exhibit A and exhibit B — but it still hovers somewhere between “cult favorite” and “contrarian curio” on the prestige-TV continuum.

“Where does that leave season three? How do we talk about a show that’s been talked damn near to death two seasons running?

“Creatively speaking, the show’s in a pretty good place. Despite sharing its southern-gothic setting, sex-abuse-conspiracy story line, and odd-couple investigators with season one (the events of which it has even referenced directly), it’s much less dorm-room trippy and much more focused on the human element than on supernatural winks and nods. Yet in keeping the show down to earth, Pizzolatto (who now serves as the show’s occasional director as well as writer and showrunner) has also avoided the sense of smog-choked confusion that dogged so much of the California-based second season.

“A friend’s description of the series’s overall arc has stuck with me. Imagine a big-ass equalizer knob on a stereo. First, it wobbles all the way to one side — the heady, reference-laden metaphysical season-one stuff. Then it swings wildly in the opposite direction, deep into season two’s exhausted, outclassed losers who couldn’t even outthink a bunch of mildly mobbed-up city bureaucrats, much less describe the nature of space and time. Finally, it settles in the middle, where a troubled but fundamentally reasonable cop, his less intuitive and more careerist but still decent partner, and the ambitious but talented and well-intentioned writer he marries (Mahershala Ali, Stephen Dorff, and Carmen Ejogo respectively) do their best to solve a sad and tricky case, despite hitting dead end after dead end.

“Maybe they’ll get to the bottom of it, like McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s detectives did, even if they were never able to bring the real ringleaders to justice. Maybe they’ll be hounded into defeat, like the quartet of characters in season two, wrapping up the season with only a slim, but still tantalizing, prospect of justice winning out in the end. Either way, the solution seems far, far less important than what they discover in the act of attempting to find that solution. The death of Will Purcell, the disappearance of his sister Julie, and the myriad crimes and killings that surround them keep spiderwebbing out into deeper, darker, and ever less glamorous corners of the community so badly rocked by these events.

“True Detective season three is about the fate of the Purcell children, yes. But it’s also about the prejudice and PTSD that drove Native American Vietnam vet Brett Woodard to spark a lethal firefight after his neighbors tried to lynch him for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s about the mysterious one-eyed man who gave the Purcell kids a doll he purchased from a racist parishioner at the local Catholic church, then resurfaced a decade later to harangue Amelia for profiting off other people’s suffering. It’s about the black neighborhood that understandably reacts to a visit from the police like an invasion by outside occupiers. It’s about the three random metalhead teenage assholes who nearly get jammed up for murder because they’re surly and wear Black Sabbath shirts in a God-fearing southern community. It’s about Tom Purcell, driven to alcoholism to dull the pain of life in the closet. It’s about his wife, Lucy, who employs drugs, drink, and promiscuity in much the same self-medicating way after a childhood of abuse and incest. It’s about the contemporary true-crime boom, and how well-meaning filmmakers and podcasters and writers can get us closer to the truth but do a lot of damage on their way there. It’s about the way wealthy men and their allies in government and law enforcement can collude to treat the communities they rule with the kind of impunity that would make a feudal lord envious. It’s about an old man with Alzheimer’s, whose own life is fast becoming as big a mystery to him as the case he could never quite solve, and whose loved ones are slowly slipping into anonymity the same way the real killers and kidnappers did.

“In this respect, True Detective season three has learned lessons not only from its own direct predecessors, but from the ne plus ultra of small-town murder mystery television: Twin Peaks. And it’s learned the right lessons, too.

“Though separated by time and distribution methods alike, the first two ABC Network seasons of Twin Peaks, the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and the Showtime revival Twin Peaks: The Return add up to much more than the buzzword Lynchian could ever hope to capture. It’s true that David Lynch and Mark Frost’s creation had all the head-scratching clues, eye-popping surrealism, and chilling supernatural flourishes that fans of True Detective season one enjoyed, or at least thought they were enjoying; that stuff’s nowhere to be found in season three. Lynch and Frost also have a pronounced fondness for the soap-operatic — the sex, the scandal, the silliness — that none of Pizzolatto’s three True Detective seasons to date have gone anywhere near.

“But when that one-eyed man popped up at Amelia’s book reading in Hunters in the Dark, disruptive and distraught, perhaps complicit in the central crime in some tangential way but seemingly remorseful and also very obviously disturbed by his own experiences, I didn’t think of the Black Lodge or the Red Room, Norma Jennings and Dougie Jones. I thought of Russ Tamblyn’s Dr. Jacoby, the eccentric psychiatrist who had an unethical relationship with his teenage patient, snapped when she was murdered, and wound up a conspiracy crank in the woods.

“There are so many people like that in Twin Peaks, people driven to the margins of the idyllic small-town society by abuse, poverty, mental illness, drugs, or their own bad actions, never to return. Harry Dean Stanton’s Carl Rodd, wise and sad in his trailer park. Alicia Witt’s Gersten Hawyard, a onetime child prodigy clinging to her suicidal and abusive junkie lover. Lenny Von Dohlen’s Harold Smith, the shut-in with the lonely soul. Catherine E. Coulson’s Log Lady, whose prophetic gifts couldn’t save her from dying of cancer like anyone else. Addicts, adulterers, crooked cops, scheming hoteliers, lonely gas station operators.

“Some are closely connected, in one way or another, to murdered high-school student Laura Palmer — herself pulled in a million different soul-damaging directions long before her murder and quite apart from the demonic forces feeding off her misery. Others have no connection at all except geography. All of them float around in the dark and icy waters of the American underclass. In Twin Peaks, Laura’s tragic murder is the crack in the ice that allows us to observe the sea of suffering underneath.

“That’s what I think of when I think of True Detective season three, not Matthew McConaughey’s twitchy nihilism, nor Colin Farrell’s thousand-yard, eight-beer stare. Wayne Hays, Amelia Hays, and Roland West may well be the truest detectives we’ve met yet. But from Agent Dale Cooper on down, not even the best investigators have ever truly seen an open-and-shut case, one they could comfortably solve and file away forever. The forces that made life so hard for the Purcells and the people around them, that empowered their community’s worst elements and discarded otherwise decent people like corpses at a crime scene, will be there even if Will and Julie’s attackers are taken down once and for all. Who killed Laura Palmer?was the start of a discussion about what we do in the face of endemic pain and injustice, not the end of it. If True Detective season three wraps up with the same strengths it has displayed so far, it will ask a similar question, and offer just as challenging an answer.”