Thursday March 21, 2019

March Madness starts today. Enjoy. I know I will.

A new season of The Good Fight is now available on CBS All-Access.

“Fox Broadcasting unveiled a new sizzle reel on Wednesday night in the wake of the Disney-21st Century Fox merger officially closing, with the broadcaster touting its current series roster.”

TBS has announced the series regulars for its upcoming pilot Chad, created by Saturday Night Live alum Nasim Pedrad, who plays the titular 14-year-old Persian boy. Ella Mika portrays Chad’s younger sister Niki, and Saba Homayoon plays their mother Naz on the family comedy. Paul Chahidi stars as Hamid, a distant relative of Naz helping raise the kids and trying to adapt to American culture, and Alexa Loo plays Su Chin, the children’s school friend who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and uses a motorized scooter to get around.”

“It’s going to take more than the filing of a lawsuit to make the owner of a house inspired by ’60s primetime animated series The Flintstones remove the 15-foot dinosaur statues and a Yabba Dabba Do sign from her yard. The town of Hillsborough, Calif., is suing Florence Fang in California Superior Court in order to get some of the whimsical details taken down, alleging that she didn’t obtain the necessary permits and approvals. The so-called Flintstone House was built in 1976, although it was only given its pop culture nickname after it was painted all orange in 2000, according to Atlas Obscura. Fang, the retired owner of the San Francisco Examiner, reportedly purchased the property for $2.8 million in 2017 and made some changes. In October, Fang was ordered to pay a $200 fine to the city, as her home, which can be seen from the interstate, was deemed a ‘highly visible eyesore.’”

Here’s a photo of said Flintstones house. It’s undoubtedly an eyesore.

“Illustrating the strategy Netflix executives have long articulated — and pointing to a wider gap between the company and its rivals — a new report shows that for the first time most new releases coming to the platform are originals. Among all releases available in the U.S. that went live during the year leading up to December 2018, 51% were originals, as opposed to programs or films that had been acquired, according to a report by UK-based research firm Ampere Analysis. That share is more than double the 25% recorded in December 2016. ‘Original’ can mean a few different things, of course. There are shows or films that Netflix has nurtured from script stage, but also others where Netflix teams with established partners (e.g., Sony for The Crown, Lionsgate for Orange is the New Black).”

The WGA is deputizing managers and attorneys to procure employment for writers and negotiate their over-scale terms – essentially taking the place of agents. The move comes as the guild prepares for the possibility that it might ask all writers to fire their agents en mass if it can’t come to terms with the Association of Talent Agents for a new franchise agreement. With that agreement set to expire on April 6, the guild said that it is ‘preparing for the possibility that members may have to leave their agency after April 6. To ensure that as much support as possible will be in place for writers seeking work, the WGA is providing a limited delegation of our exclusive bargaining authority to managers and attorneys who represent guild members.’” Fire em. All of em.

Lena Dunham is proud of Wendy Williams and Lala Kent. Doesn’t that just warm your heart?

Why Jordan Peele is the new master of suspense.

I’m a fan of the way John Mulaney’s brain works.

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “Mindy Kaling is bringing her childhood to life at Netflix.

“The streaming giant has handed out a straight-to-series order for a half-hour coming-of-age comedy series based on the actress, writer and producer's childhood.

“The untitled project, which has received an order for 10 episodes, explores the complicated life of a modern-day first-generation Indian-American teenage girl.

“Kaling created the series and will serve as a writer, executive producer and showrunner alongside Lang Fisher, with whom she worked on the Fox-turned-Hulu comedy The Mindy Project. The effort is the last sale for Kaling under her Universal Television overall deal and was in the works before the Late Night writer decamped from her longtime home for a massive six-year, mid-eight-figure pact with Warner Bros. TV. 3 Arts' Howard Klein (who worked with Kaling on The Office) and David Miner (30 Rock, Master of None) will also exec produce the comedy. It's unclear if Kaling will have any sort of onscreen role.

“The series arrives as Kaling continues to see her stock rise since her breakout role on NBC's The Office. Her credits since include The Mindy Project, NBC's short-lived comedy Champions and Hulu's upcoming anthology take on Four Weddings and a Funeral, which is due this year. The Emmy-nominated writer also saw Amazon shell out $13 million for rights to her Emma Thompson-led Sundance feature Late Night. Kaling wrote the feature, which landed at Amazon following a multiple-studio bidding war. Amazon will release the feature, which has already garnered strong critical reviews, theatrically in the summer.

“Fisher's credits include the Fox-turned-NBC comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Billy on the Street and The Onion News Network. She is repped by UTA, 3 Arts and Ziffren Brittenham.

“The Kaling comedy arrives as Netflix continues to aggressively spend billions of dollars on scripted programming and days after the streamer canceled the critical darling One Day at a Time.”

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From TheWrap: “Duff Goldman is adding another course to his ever-expanding menu with a fifth — yes, fifth – Food Network show, Duff Takes the Cake.

“The five-episode, half-hour series joins four other Duff-hosted shows including Spring Baking Championship, in which 10 bakers face a panel of judges, and Buddy vs Duff, where Goldman faces off against Cake Boss Buddy Valastro. Goldman is also a co-host on Kids Baking Championship, which just wrapped its latest season on Sunday, and Holiday Baking Championship, which airs every winter-holiday season.

“Adding a fifth series puts Goldman up there with Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri in the league of Food Network hosts with the most shows airing in a single year.

Duff Takes the Cake finds the Ace of Cakes star creating next-level cake creations to celebrate important milestones for people doing good in their communities. From birthday cakes for survivors of the Northern California wildfires to cakes for Goldman’s own wedding reception, each order is riddled with obstacles for the chef and his team of cake engineers to overcome. Making things even more difficult, every custom creation must arrive on time to unconventional locations like a fireworks festival in Los Angeles’ Chinatown or even the middle of a rodeo.

“‘Viewers will be amazed by the unrestrained creativity and ingenuity of the one-of-a-kind, impressive cake designs that Duff and his extraordinary team of artists create,’ said Courtney White, president of Food Network. ‘No job is too big, and no detail is too small adding a mix of intensity and entertaining comedy to the series.’”

“Duff Takes the Cake premieres Monday, April 15 at 10/9c on Food Network.”

The creativity over there in Knoxville is just off the charts these days!

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Per EW, “[i]t is not only the moral responsibility of every great leader to govern the people with innovation, justice, compassion, and humility — he or she also must write a self-important autobiography that falls shy of compelling.

“The trailblazing Selina Meyer serves as your standard torchbearer in this department. The self-obsessed former vice president turned former president turned presidential hopeful appeared in season 6 of Veep on The Tonight Show to promote her book, A Woman First: First Woman, though the host (played by Adam Scott) was more interested in the scandal radiating from Mike’s diaries. If you ever wished that you could crack open that tome and learn about the rest of Selina’s rise to power via the written word, today brings great fortune. In full commitment to the bit, the Veep folks are making Selina Meyer’s A Woman First: First Woman available for your perusement.

“Described as ‘an intimate first-person account of the public and private lives of Selina Meyer, America’s first female president that we know of,’ the 100-ish-page book (Abrams Press)this link opens in a new tab unspools the life of the only woman brave enough to start a foundation that aims to eliminate attacked adult illiteracy, AIDS, and childhood obesitythis link opens in a new tab. In writing her own book, or at least having a ghostwriter write the book for her, the one-time short-term POTUS (played by the Emmy-winning Julia Louis-Dreyfus) chronicles the history of her family dating back to Mayflower times, explains how she met her financially and morally suspect husband Andrew, and triumphed in a male-driven sphere of politics. For those of you here just for some quality Catherine-bashing, there’s a chapter in which Selina authorizes Gary to organize a secret DNA test to find out if the First Daughter was actually adopted.

A Woman First is billed as written by Selina, but it was actually penned by Veep showrunner David Mandel and writer-producer Billy Kimball. Mandel viewed this tome in the tradition of bringing the Veepverse into the real world, such as with Jonah Ryan’s campaign websitethis link opens in a new tab. ‘I love when these things exist in reality,’ he tells EW, ‘and it just seemed that Selina would write that book. And, as far as I’m concerned, she did.’

“The goal of this project was to emulate the spirit of these grand memoirs that often leave something — or possibly, everything — to be desired. ‘These presidential autobiographies, but also these candidate-to-be autobiographies, as a genre unto itself, they’re never that good,’ says Mandel. ‘They’re never as revealing as you want them to be and certainly never quite as well-written as you want to be. And there’s a real art form to that terrible plaintive writing, in the sense of how badly these people want to run for president and they’re trying to tell you what they think you want to know and what you might want to elect. I think Selina’s book lives up to the finest worst candidate autobiographies ever.’

“Below, find an exclusive excerpt from A Woman First, in which Selina attempts to explain why she has earned the title of “The Education President.” And for those who hold fast to the constitutionally provided freedom to not read, you will be heartened to know that A Woman First will be available in audio-book form.

Veep returns to HBO for its seventh and final season on March 31.

***

It is well-known that I have often been called “The Education President.” Am I ashamed of this? No! Quite the opposite, in fact. I am proud to have been called “The Education President.” Of all the many issues that a president can concern him or herself with, I think a very good case can be made that education is one of the most important. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s try a little exercise: What do you think is the most difficult challenge we face in the world today? Maybe, for you, it’s jobs. Well, you can’t get a good job without an education, now can you? I mean, some good jobs, sure. Working turning a crank in a factory for a few months and then faking an injury that entitles you to both a settlement in a lawsuit and a lifetime of disability payments could be considered a good job, I guess, if you want to get paid to spend your life fishing or watching car racing on television, and you don’t need much education to fake an injury, one would think. And I suppose, in that case, your crooked lawyer would fill out all the forms for you so you wouldn’t really need to know how to read and write or express yourself particularly well.

But that’s an isolated case. An exception that proves the rule, if you will.

Let’s pick a different policy arena in which to prove the importance of education. How about climate change? You can’t do anything about climate change if you don’t have an education. You’d need to be a physicist or maybe a chemist to figure out what to do about that. It’s a huge, interdisciplinary problem with many facets, so biologists and biochemists also have an important role to play. Geologists a bit also maybe. Archaeologists not so much. And the algorithms that predict complex interactions in the upper atmosphere require the input (no pun intended!) of computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians who, like economists, are considered “poor man’s scientists.”

All of these different highly educated people—not just men but also women, too!—have to work together to solve the problem of climate change. Now, to be fair, while these scientists seem to be pretty good at identifying the problem, it’s not as if they’ve been terribly great at coming up with solutions, despite all their education.

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best example either. Doctors! Doctors need education. Think about the life of a doctor. Pretty much your entire working life is spent writing. Doctors write hundreds, if not thousands, of prescriptions every day, so there’s simply no way you can be a doctor if you don’t know how to write. I think we all wish doctors could spend a little more time learning how to write clearly so that a prescription for, say, sleeping pills isn’t filled incorrectly by the idiot pharmacist so that you wind up with a strong laxative or something. That happened to someone I know, which resulted in her inventing (but tragically failing to trademark) the expression “sh-t the bed.”
 Here’s something they don’t teach you in school but is really worth knowing: Take anything a doctor tells you with a giant grain of salt, because I have learned that more often than not they’re just lazy clueless losers like everyone else.

Pharmacists are supposed to be educated, but a lot of the time it doesn’t seem like they are or, if they are, it seems they weren’t educated very well. Don’t take this the wrong way, but a lot of them also look like they learned how to do pharmacy in Korea or the Philippines or someplace like that, and God only knows whether they value education as highly in those countries as we do here in America.

Here’s something you may not know about pharmacists: The arts and sciences of pharmacy are the second most popular thing for inmates to study in prison after—you guessed i—the arts and sciences of locksmithing. Look, I guess anything’s better than giving prisoners even more time to do pull-ups, lift weights, and toss around the medicine ball so that they can become even scarier and more dangerous than they were when they got sent to jail. And as the daughter and ex-wife of men who, due to misunderstandings both on their part but also on the part of law enforcement, very nearly went to jail on a number of occasions, I am a firm believer in second chances and in allowing people to pay their debt to society and get the whole thing over with rather than spend a fortune on legal bills.

All of that said, one kind of education I’m not a huge fan of is teaching prisoners how to pick locks and make drugs. Let me explain my reasoning here. Two of the activities that land people in jail in the first place are burglary and robbery and, if we want to reduce recidivism, I think we should make it harder for criminals to reoffend rather than making it easier by teaching them how to open locks better than they did the last time, when they got caught. The same goes for pharmacy. I mean, on some level, I get it. If we teach prisoners how to make their own drugs or give them better access to drugs by helping them get jobs as pharmacists rather than having to buy them on the street, which can often be a prelude to crime, we might be able to reduce drug crime or, at least, improve the quality of the drug crimes in this country. But I happen to think that it might be best if we tried to keep them away from drugs altogether and leave pharmacy work to Koreans and Phillipinesians. Besides, how do we know that inmates who study pharmaceutical dispensation in prison are going to actually try and get jobs in legitimate pharmacies such as Rite Aid, CVS, or, my personal favorite, Walgreens? If those pharmacies were not as deeply committed to second chances as perhaps they should be, then they might not want to hire former drug criminals to be their pharmacists. That would leave these prison-trained pharmacists with nothing to do except manufacture crystal meth in their bathtubs at home—crystal meth that, by virtue of the taxpayer-subsidized prison education, might be far more potent than their competitors’.

The one area of prison education that I do support wholeheartedly is legal education. It makes simple common sense that the best lawyers—the best criminal lawyers at any rate—would have at least some prison experience. The same goes for judges, though probably not Supreme Court Justices because, as with everything, there is a limit.*

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Per Deadline, “Ava DuVernay (Queen Sugar) has set her next series at OWN. The network has given a straight-to-series order to Cherish the Day, an original anthology series from DuVernay and Warner Horizon Scripted Television. The project is part of DuVernay’s overall deal with Warner Bros. TV. Oprah Winfrey will executive produce alongside DuVernay for a winter 2020 premiere on OWN.

“Created by DuVernay, in each season, Cherish the Day chronicles the stirring romance of one couple, with each episode spanning a single day. The season-long narrative will unfold to reveal significant moments in a relationship that compel us to hold true to the ones we love, from the extraordinary to the everyday.

“Tanya Hamilton (Queen Sugar, Night Catches Us) will serve as executive producer/showrunner and will direct the series premiere. DuVernay’s longtime producing partner Paul Garnes (Queen Sugar, Selma) will also executive produce the series.

“‘OWN is home. I’m honored to create television for a network headed by an artist with spectacular vision and unbridled passion for the stories that we want to tell,’ said DuVernay.

“‘Ava is a visionary storyteller. She brings so much care, so much heart, so much love to the art she creates,’ said Winfrey. ‘I’m excited to continue collaborating together with our very first anthology series for OWN.’

Cherish the Day is produced for OWN by Forward Movement and Harpo Films in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television. Ava DuVernay, Paul Garnes, Tanya Hamilton and Oprah Winfrey are executive producers.

Cherish the Day will join OWN’s programming slate of top-rated dramas includingQueen Sugar, Greenleaf, The Haves and the Have Nots and If Loving You is Wrong.In addition, OWN will premiere two new drama series in 2019, Ambitions from Will Packer and David Makes Man from Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight).”

Wednesday March 20, 2019

Two episodes of Survivor tonight on the eve of the NCAA Tournament.

HBO has renewed High Maintenance for a 4th season.

Season 2 of Step Up: High Water is now streaming on YouTube Premium.

The Act is now available to stream on Hulu. “The Act is a seasonal anthology series that tells startling, stranger-than-fiction true crime stories. The first season follows Gypsy Blanchard, a girl trying to escape the toxic relationship she has with her overprotective mother. Her quest for independence opens a Pandora’s box of secrets, one that ultimately leads to murder.”

Netflix has released its first trailer for the eight-part nature documentary series Our Planet.

Chris O’Dowd will appear on CBS All Access’ upcoming The Twilight Zone revival in an episode written by Glen Morgan (The X-Files). And I’m still not even close to pulling the trigger on subscribing to CBS All-Access.

Mom alumn Sadie Calvano is set as a series regular in CBS All Access’ Why Women Kill, billed as a darkly comedic drama from Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry. Ibid.

Netflix has ordered six episodes of The Queen’s Gambit, a limited series based on Walter Tevis’ novel from two-time Oscar nominee Scott Frank (Godless, Logan), with Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, Glass, The Witch) set to star. Co-written by Frank, who also directs, and Allan Scott (Don’t Look Now, The Preacher’s Wife), The Queen’s Gambit chronicles the life of an orphan chess prodigy. Set during the Cold War era, the story follows Beth Harmon (Taylor-Joy), from the age of 8 to 22, as she struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in the world.”

Wendy Williams has been living in a sober house.

0 for 1 on Temptation Island couples staying together. I expect a clean sweep next week on the finale.

Viacom has declared war against AT&T, blasting the telco giant on several fronts as the companies wrestle over a carriage renewal deal that is vital to Viacom’s long-term financial health. As of [yester]day, Viacom has begun running crawls and promo spots on its channels warning viewers that Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, MTV and other channels could go dark on AT&T’s DirecTV as of midnight ET on Friday, when the current contract expires. A Viacom spokesman accused AT&T of everything from price gouging to discriminating against ‘diverse audiences’ with the channel selections in its latest packages of skinny bundles for the DirecTV Now and Watch TV streaming platforms. ‘Unfortunately, AT&T is abusing its new market position by favoring its own content – which significantly underperforms Viacom’s – to stifle competition,’ a Viacom spokesman said. ‘AT&T-DirecTV’s behavior is also consistent with a recent pattern of gouging their customers by charging them higher prices for an inferior product with fewer channels. Especially troubling, AT&T-DirecTV is marginalizing diverse audiences in its new DTV packages and threatening to do the same with their existing products.’” Figure it out.

Jeff Lewis’ dating life isn’t going so smoothly post-Gage.

Here's every show, film, and star attached to Apple's upcoming originals slate.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, “Netflix released the trailer for the highly anticipated third season of Stranger Things on Wednesday, and the first look reveals that a new Demogorgon-style nightmare awaits the young kids — who are now growing up — at the center of the story. The supernatural Duffer brothers drama returns with eight episodes on July 4, more than a year following the second season's October 2017 release.

"‘One summer can change everything,’ reads the tagline from Netflix, echoing the previously released key art. ‘School is out, pool is open.’ Stranger Things teased the trailer drop from its official account on Tuesday with a video of rats scurrying and the accompanying caption (appearing to be written from The Upside Down): ‘It's almost feeding time.’

“Set in 1985, season three takes place several months after the events of the second cycle when viewers last saw Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Will (Noah Schnapp) and the rest of the gang escaping The Upside Down, the alternate universe name given to the dark dimension where Demogorgons, Mind-Flayers and other monsters live. Winona Ryder (Joyce), David Harbour (Chief Hopper), Natalia Dyer (Nancy), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan), Sadie Sink (Max), Dacre Montgomery (Billy) and Joe Keery (Steve) are all returning.

"‘We're not kids anymore. I mean, what did you think, we were just going to sit in my basement all day? Play games for the rest of our lives?’ asks Will in the trailer, seemingly teasing conflict among the boys as they evolve into teenagers. The trailer begins with a comical scene with Eleven and the boys surprising Dustin as he returns home, but then expands out to tease how things have certainly changed among the group and their friends. There appears to be friction among Hopper and Joyce (‘I want you to feel safe. I want you to feel like this can be your home,’ he tells her), as well as between Nancy and Steve.

“Aside from the relationship fissures, new threats await. Beyond the trailer's toe-tapping soundtrack to The Who's Baba O'Riley and colorful palette from the mall and carnival scenes, a man with a gun lurks; Will and Billy come to terms with secrets they are each harboring; and Eleven continues to wrestle with the pulls of her powers. In the end, the group once again comes face-to-face with a monster who has crossed into their world as the trailer warns, ‘One summer can change everything.’ The first look then ends with an enjoyable bit from breakout buds Steve and Dustin.

“The third season introduces new castmembers Cary Elwes, as the mayor; Jake Busey, as a local reporter; and Maya Hawke, as an employee at the Starcourt Mall's ice cream shop along with Steve. Starcourt Mall is poised to serve as a central setting for season three. Priah Ferguson will also reprise her role as Erica Sinclair (sister to Lucas).”

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From TheWrap: “In Food Network’s newest bake-off, winners get to have their cake and eat it, too. Or perhaps more accurately, viewers will be able to eat it.

“Hosted by Cake Boss Buddy Valastro, the newly ordered baking competition series will test not only contestants’ oven skills, but their business savvy as well. Bake You Rich lets four entrepreneurial pastry chefs face off for the chance to have one of their custom-made creations sold to the public on the Carlo’s Bakery website, per the popular cable channel.

“The four-episode series features new obstacles that go beyond tasting good and looking pretty. Each episode involves three challenges, with the final two competitors going head-to-head to mass-produce their confections at Carlo’s, all the while dealing with machinery malfunctions and last-minute recipe changes. The rotating panel of judges includes Valastro, Chad Durkin, Erin McGinn, Vincent Tubito, and Valastro’s wife Lisa, who must decide which tasty treat is best poised to sell big in Carlo’s online marketplace.

“‘Bake You Rich is unlike any other baking competition, showcasing all the elements that are required for a top-selling bakery item, beyond creating a delicious dessert,’ said Food Network President Courtney White. ‘Buddy Valastro is the ultimate expert with decades of experience, and he brings his unique business savvy as the host and business partner for the lucky winners.’

“Produced by Valastro’s Cakehouse Media, “Bake You Rich” premieres April 14 at 10/9c on Food Network.”

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Per Variety, “[t]he business of Hollywood doesn’t often intersect with the world of academia, but it did last week when actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were each charged with taking part in a college admissions cheating scheme that also ensnared dozens of alleged perpetrators beyond the entertainment business. Chris Hayes, who anchors MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes weeknights at 8 p.m., has studied the causes of such behavior in his 2012 book, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, which argues that people in society’s top echelons have grown too divorced from those in its lower ranks, and so have become more easily corrupted. Below, in an interview with Variety that has been edited for space and clarity, Hayes examines what the college scandal says about America:

Why do you think the news of this case has resonated so intensely?
It expresses something about the sort of ludicrousness of the notion of American meritocracy, right? The idea that America is equitable and socially mobile, and people from many backgrounds can work their way to the top. But the data belies that point. America actually has a very low amount of intergenerational mobility. The best measure we have is that it’s lower than other big countries. … One of the engines we have always had of this American meritocracy is college admissions. But we know that it’s a fairly rigged system, even without the obviously blatant criminal behavior we are seeing. This just makes it so totally explicit in a way that reflects something profound about how the system is already working.

Do you think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of discoveries about well-to-do people trying outlandish methods to get their kids into school?
If you give $15 million, your kid is probably going to get a pretty hard look. They are going to have to be pretty screwed up to not get in. … It’s not really clear to me that there’s a lot more to come because there are things that are stuck in place that are avenues for gaming the system in totally legal ways.

How is this different than a wealthy family making a big donation to a university with the not-so-subtle hope it might influence acceptance of generations to come?
One is legal, and one is not. One is sort of transparent, and one isn’t. But there is a great philosophical question of ‘What is the difference?’

We all want our kids to get into a good school, but why do you think the pressure has become such that people are resorting to this sort of behavior?
Even people very near the top are looking up above them and seeing people who are much bigger. The top 10% are looking at the top 1%. … On one level, all people’s kids are going to be fine. Just go to a college you don’t have to bribe someone to get into. They will be fine. They get a good education and a good life. But instead, the people in question are looking up at the top ranks. It’s people who can’t necessarily write a $15 million check to Harvard. They are very rich, but not at the very top.

Are these people evil? Or are they just trying to do the best they can for their kids in a misguided fashion?
I don’t have a final moral judgment to render. It’s profoundly wrong what they did. It’s a zero-sum game, and there are people whose positions they are taking. One of the most messed-up things about what they did is fraudulent use of dispensations for people who have disabilities. This all was really, really wrong. There are a lot of people trying to do the best for their kids who aren’t committing mail fraud.”

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From the desk of David Simon: “Just over a quarter century ago, when I was a young scribbler traipsing around the metro desk of the Baltimore Sun, I had an early opportunity to learn a lesson about money, about ethics, about capitalism and, in particular, about the American entertainment industry. And Dorothy Simon, she raised no fools. I only needed to learn it once.

I learned about something called “packaging.”

And now, finally, my apostasy from newspapering having delivered me from Baltimore realities to film-set make-believe, I am suprised and delighted that many of the fellow scribblers with whom I share a labor union have at last acquired the same hard, ugly lesson:

Packaging is a lie. It is theft. It is fraud. In the hands of the right U.S. Attorney, it might even be prima facie evidence of decades of racketeering. It’s that fucking ugly.

For those of you not in the film and television world, there is no shame in tuning out right now because at its core, the argument over packaging now ongoing between film and television writers and their agents is effectively an argument over an embarrassment of riches. The American entertainment industry is seemingly recession-proof and television writing, specifically, is such a growth industry nowadays that even good and great novelists must be ordered back to their prose manuscripts by book editors for whom the term “showrunner” has become an affront. A lot of people are making good money writing television drama. And so, this fresh argument is about who is making more of that money, and above all, where the greatest benefits accrue.  If you have no skin in the game, I think it reasonable, even prudent, to deliver a no-fucks-to-give exhale and proceed elsewhere.

If, on the other hand, you are my fellow brother or sister in the Writers Guild of America — East or West, it matters not when we stand in solitarity — or conversely, if you are a grasping, fuckfailing greedhead with the Association of Talent Agents, then you might wanna hang around for this:

Here is the story of how as a novice to this industry, I was grifted by my agents and how I learned everything I ever needed to know about packaging.  And here is why I am a solid yes-vote on anything my union puts before me that attacks the incredible ethical affront of this paradigm. Packaging is a racket. It’s corrupt. It is without any basis in either integrity or honor. This little narrative will make that clear. And because I still have a reportorial soul and a journalistic God resides in the details, I will name a name wherever I can.

*            *           *

To begin, I wrote a book. It was a non-fiction account of a year I spent with a shift of homicide detectives in Baltimore, a city ripe with violence and miscalculation. Published in 1991, “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” was repped by my literary agent at the time, an independent attorney who I found because his other clients included some other ink-stained newspaper reporters. Late in 1987, the Baltimore Police Department agreed to let me into its homicide unit for a year beginning that January, so I needed to quicly acquire an agent to sell the project to a publishing house and secure an advance on which to live while I took a leave-of-absence from my newspaper. This agent — and damn, I wish I could name the goniff, but I later signed a cash settlement that said I wouldn’t — was the first name that came to me. I did not shop around; I was in a hurry.  My bad.

Three years later, with the book ready to publish, this shyster suggested to me that he was entirely capable of going to Hollywood with it for a sale of the dramatic rights. And me, knowing less than a bag of taters about Hollywood, was ready to agree until my book editor, the worthy John Sterling, then helming the Houghton Mifflin publishing house, told me in no uncertain terms that this was a mistake.

It was customary, John explained, for even the best literary agents to pair with a colleague at one of the bigger entertainment agencies and split the commission.  My literary agent would give up half of his 15 percent to the other agency, but he would gain the expertise of an organization with the connections to move the property around and find the right eyeballs in the film and television industry. So I called my agent back and insisted.

With some initial reluctance, he eventually chose to go with Creative Artists Agency — one of the Big Four, as they call the largest entertainment entities repping talent, and an agent in CAA’s literary division by the name of Matt Snyder.  After making the deal with CAA, my literary agent called me back and said it was customary for me to give up a larger percentage commission as I now had two agents working on my behalf.  How much more? He suggested that he should keep his 15 percent and I should pay CAA an additional 10 percent. So a quarter of the profits from the sale of book would now be siphoned to agency commissions.

I called back John Sterling and asked:  Is this right?

John nearly dropped the phone. No, that is not how it works. Again, he explained that my literary agent was supposed to split the existing 15 percent commission on the book with CAA. The literary agent was supposed to keep 7.5 percent and give the other half to CAA, which in no way was entitled to any cash above and beyond that split.

I called my agent back. No, you split the existing 15 points, I told him. He threw a few chunks of pouty guilt at me, but I shrugged him off. This first attempt at a grift should have warned me, but hey, I was young.

Advance the story a couple months later:

CAA has sent the book to about a dozen A-list film directors, where it lays in their offices like a stale bagel, unloved and unsold. No one can figure out how to transform a year in the professional lives of a half dozen Baltimore death investigators into a feature film. Matt Snyder is bereft of a next idea. He does have one small-option offer from a small indy company. I get on the phone with a producer there and ask for his credits and it’s pretty clear, even to me, that it’s short money for a project that probably goes nowhere.

I call Snyder back.

Hey, I wonder aloud, how about Barry Levinson? He’s from Baltimore. He makes movies. Maybe he’ll like it. Did I mention he’s from Baltimore? Have you seen DinerTin Men?  I sure do love me some Diner.

This is the sum of my contribution to the initial sale of Homicide to Levinson and NBC, but let’s at least note that it’s the only salient action that would matter, because when CAA sent the book to Levinson, it turned out he was in negotiations with NBC to deliver a television series.  Gail Mutrux in his office read the book and put it in front of her boss; Homicide: Life on the Street was born.

So, great.

Then the contract comes back from Baltimore Pictures and while it’s all found money for a police reporter and rewrite man who’s working for union scale at The Sun, I check with some other authors who have sold stuff to Hollywood and they all acknowledge it’s on the low-end of where such offers usually reside.  Fine for the option money, a little light on the contingent pilot, pick-up and episodic payments and, of course, farce on the definition of net profits.  So I call Matt Snyder back and say so: This seems a little light and it’s a first offer. Let’s go back to Levinson with a counter.

And Matt Snyder of CAA acts as if his client, me, has just thrown a dead, rancid dog on the table. This is my first book sale to Hollywood and Barry Levinson is an A-lister; I should be grateful for this offer and worried that if I nickel-and-dime, Levinson may develop something else for his first television series. Reluctantly, as if he is being asked to traverse a vale of danger and uncertainty, Snyder eventually agrees to go back and see if he can’t get, maybe, a bump in the per-episode royalty, maybe $250 an hour. He’ll fight for me. He’ll see what gives. And sure enough, the per-episode fee goes up by 10 percent after Snyder, relentless carnivore that he is, returns to his client with pride and some pocket change.

And now, here’s where the real fun starts:

We push forward a decade to 2002 when I have sold my own dramatic television series to HBO. The Wire pilot turned out well enough that the project is set to get a first-season order from HBO and my television agent, Jeff Jacobs of CAA, suggests to me that this thing might really have legs.

“We want to package you,” he offers.

“Package me?”

“Yeah, we’ll take a package on this project and you get your ten-percent commission back.  Like with Homicide?

Hanh? “Jake, what the fuck are you talking about.”

Homicide was packaged and we’ll do the same thing with The Wire.

“Jake, slow down, what the hell does ‘packaged’ mean?”

And for the first time, Jacobs explains it to me: In order that my agents — the folks who held an absolute fiduciary responsibility to negotiate in good faith on my behalf and on behalf of my book — could be players in the creation of the TV project from that book, in order that they could own a chunk of the project itself and profit by millions of dollars from the work I had asked them to sell, they were willing to return my 7.5 percent commission and the commissions of any other talent they represented, packaging all of us together in a happy bundle for the network. Yes, incredibly, to avoid the most overt and untenable conflict-of-interest, they were willing to heroically give back to me a few thousand dollars in exchange for millions of dollars in points on a piece of NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street which ran for seven years.

Oh.

“Jake, no one told me. No one said anything to me. Ever.”

There was a quiet on the phone.  Until I asked a second question: “What other talent did you package with me?”

“Barry Levinson.”

At which point, there was no more quiet.

“Jake, do you mean to say that you represented me, a pissant police reporter from Baltimore in a head-on negotiation with one of Hollywood’s A-list directors and you also represented the director?  You represented both sides in the sale of my book and when the low-ball offer came to me, Matt fucking Snyder acted like it was the only offer I might ever get? Is that what you motherfuckers did?”

“I thought you knew.”

“I did not know.”

“Didn’t Matt inform you?”

He did not. Not in any of our conversations.

“Did your book agent tell you?”

“He did not.”

Then I asked another question: “Jake, do you have any written consent from me on file in which I authorize you to rep both sides of the sale of my book? I will answer that for you: You do not. I never authorized this. Not to CAA. Not to my book agent. I never gave informed consent. I couldn’t. Because I was never informed.”

Had CAA, in fact, returned the 7.5 percent of my commission?

They had — to my book agent, who pocketed it. Quietly. I immediately wrote a letter to that grasping bastard: Dear thief, you will remit all of that 7.5 percent to me by week’s end or I will write up what happened here and have it posted on every Newspaper Guild bulletin board in every newsroom on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard and you will be known for what you are.  Further, I might also contact a U.S. Attorney about a failure of fiduciary responsibility so fundamental that it effectively constitutes the sharing of a bribe in exchange for an agreement to reduce the sale price of my book. Suffice to say, a check to me for the full 7.5 percent arrived within days.

Then I turned to CAA, a Big Four agency that was once fully content to screw me over when I was a stumblefuck newspaper reporter who to their thinking could only provide them with a book or two for sale. Years later, I was now a client about to become a showrunner on a premiere cable network. I had a little more leverage.

“Jake, I’m firing you and I’m taking The Wire and everything else with me.”

“Look,” he pleaded, “I know you’re mad. I don’t blame you. But personally, I didn’t do any of this. I’ve been straight up with you. I wasn’t your agent then. I wasn’t involved in packaging your book.”

No, I explained, but your agency was. And the profits from that are fungible. You’ve been good, Jake. You’ve been fair. But on a lie of omission, CAA — your agency — made millions and millions of dollars and did so by undercutting my negotiation with Levinson and failing to inform me of an absolute conflict of interest. I gotta go.

“What can we do to make this right?”

I thought about that because unlike the fucksquib in CAA’s literary department who should die of venereal boils, I actually liked my TV agent. He had, in fact, been forthright and fair in all of my subsequent years in television. So I explained that the agency had made millions off the conflict of interest and that for a reasonable “taste of their taste” of Homicide, whatever that was, I would remain as his client.

He ran that back up the ladder and came back a few days later: “We can’t do that. If we agree to give you a percentage of our packaging fees, it would set a bad precedent for all of our other packages.”

“Motherfucker, you’re talking about bad precedents? CAA repped both sides of a negotiation without informing me so that your taste of the profits would dwarf mine, your client.  How much money did CAA actually make on Homicide?”

Jake wasn’t allowed to say. Transparency was not an option. Instead, he suggested another path:

“What about a one-time lump sum payment that isn’t officially tied to our package?”

Eventually, frustrated but willing to compromise to keep Jake as my agent, I agreed to allow CAA to write a check for the same “penalty” that I had exacted from my literary agent. Another 7.5 percent of my original commission came back and  yes, Jeff Jacobs has remained my agent to this moment. Oh, I also asked Jake to make his CAA colleague get on the phone. I had some things to say.

I said them, and incredibly, the fiduciary pratfall and ethical void known as Matt Snyder stayed on the other end of that call insisting — after admitting he had no record whatsoever of me being informed of the conflict-of-interest between myself and the buyer of my book, or any claimed recollection of having informed me of such in all of our conversations — that he had done nothing improper, that my literary agent should have explained it all to me.

“Matt, absent any evidence of informed consent by me, that you and CAA proceeded to negotiate with Barry Levinson, whom you also represented, is a prima facie conflict-of-interest and a breach of fiduciary duty. If you were a realtor secretly representing both sides of a house sale, your license would be torn up. If you were a lawyer, you’d be disbarred.”

There was only a small pause before he explained himself:

“But I’m not a lawyer. I’m an agent.”

Yes you are.  Yes you fucking are.

*             *            *

So much of television and film is packaged by the Big Four agencies — CAA, ICM, WME and UTA — that it is now said to be the lion’s share of their income, so much in fact that they are running to Wall Street for equity investment in their producerial role. Fuck repping actors or directors or writers to earn a living. What rube would settle for 10 percent of anything when you can play for 100 percent of your larger stake in a film or a movie?

But of course, the astounding conflict-of-interest that underlies the corruption of packaging doesn’t simply end with the fact that agents no longer have any incentive to properly service the smaller and less advantaged client when they are repping both sides of a negotiation. Never mind the relentless obscenity of telling a seller that you can also rep the buyer and claim to still fight for top dollar.

The greater offense is that packaging has now artificially reduced the salaries of all screenwriters over decades, so much so that entry-level salaries for staffwriters and story editors in television, for example, are exactly where they were a decade ago save for the cost-of-living increases that the writer’s union achieved on its own. For junior producers, it’s even worse: The salaries for co-executive producers are about 16 percent less than where they were two contracts ago.

The agencies themselves like to claim that this is because shows now order fewer episodes and shorter broadcast seasons than in the past and that this structural change has more to do with the stagnation than packaging. But of course, that also begs the question: Where the fuck have the agents been to argue on behalf of their clients for a different pay structure, one that acknowledges the changing reality of fewer episodes and more work in the production of each episode?

I’ll tell you where they’ve been. They’ve been in another room, counting cash. Again, the problem with packaging is not merely that clients are poorly repped in negotiations with other clients. No, it’s bigger than that. The problem is that the agency incentive to package shows and provide larger payments to themselves has obliterated any serious thought about aggressively negotiating on behalf of any writer, or actor, or director, large or small.

Why bother to fight for 10 percent of a few dollars more for this story editor or that co-executive producer when to NOT do so means less freight on the operating budgets of the projects that you yourself hope to profit from?  Why serve your clients as representatives with a fiduciary responsibility and get the last possible dollar for them, when you stand to profit by splitting the proceeds of a production not with labor, but with management — the studios who are cutting you in on the back end?  Why put your client’s interest in direct opposition to your own?

No reason at all.

Perhaps the ugliest tell in the current negotiations between the WGA and the agencies is the incredible, self-oblivious claim by the ATA that writers are naive to think that any of the vast packaging fees, if denied to talent agencies by studios, would ever find their way into the pockets of the writers themselves.  No, they insist, the studios will just pocket that money and writers themselves will be no better off.

You grifting, soulless fuckbonnets.  You are so divorced from your fundamental ethos that you have actually just made this argument: You as agents are capable of achieving millions in benefits FOR YOURSELVES; you can leverage these profits FOR YOURSELVES if you are permitted to do so.  However, you are claiming in the next lying, mendacious breath that you couldn’t possible achieve any such outcome if you had to do it merely on behalf of YOUR CLIENTS.

In the face of that incredible self-own, I can only respond with a singular question that I would ask of any rank parasite:  If you can only leverage profit for yourself, but not for me, what the fuck do I need you for? Why are you on this ride at all? At the point that he can only achieve benefit for himself and not for his client, what the fuck good is an agent?

Years ago, when I first learned about packaging, I asked Jeff Jacobs that same question. He had no good reply then. He has none now. He is still my agent because his agency wrote me a check for some of the damage done in secret and because he promised in no uncertain terms that I would never be packaged again. Nor would my projects be packaged.  That has been the case for the nearly two decades now.  At the end of every business year, I write a check for 10 percent to CAA and with this client at least, Jake has no incentive to do anything but chase the last dollar for both of us. That’s what an honest agent does.  That is ALL an honest agent does.

Has it helped the writers on my shows to never be packaged?  Not as much as it ought. Why not?  Because, quite obviously, the entire universe of screenwriters has had salaries and work-quotes depressed for decades by agents who have failed to do their fundamental duty and negotiate for better. I know this because I see the comparable quotes that come into HBO business affairs and how closely they hew to WGA minimums; as a showrunner, it’s not possible to demand that a network spend more of its money to hire writers above their quotes and the quotes of colleagues.  Packaging has, over decades, crippled and circumvented the market for entertainment writers.  And every negotiation by every writer with every studio or production entity begins with that fundamental reality. Only the end of packaging will restore a market in which writers are paid competitively for writing.  And only an agent whose priority is having his client paid competitively is a means to achieving that result.

That this corruption has been allowed to go on this long is testament to the greed of the agencies themselves, to the inertia of the talent unions to this point, and to the anecdotal claims of some independent moviemakers that certain film projects only get made because of packaging by talent agencies.  But hey, I’m calling bullshit on that, too. For one thing, this simply constitutes a failure to imagine a world that never had a chance to come to be, a world in which agents  work aggressively for a film project not because they have a larger cut of the product, but because the 10 percent commissions on every sold project is the only true currency on which they can rely.  And secondly, it’s fair to suggest that as many movies failed to get made because the packaging limited the negotiation only to writers, directors and actors at a given agency. That’s right:  Why get the best talent for the best possible iteration of a story when it doesn’t maximize profit for the agency involved? The tail is wagging the fuck out of the entire dog, often to the great detriment of the work itself.

All in all, I’m delighted that the WGA has finally caught up to this malignant thievery and if indeed, the membership of my union is overwhelmingly convinced of the need to carry this fight forward, then I am certainly a good vote for such. I’ve been a good vote for such since anyone bothered to explain this horror show to me, however belatedly.

I’m for implementing a new code of conduct that requires any agency to abandon packaging before it can be permitted to negotiate with signatories to the WGA contract. And if that means I’ll have to depart from CAA and Jeff Jacobs, then that’s what it means. Bless you, Jake, but right is right and wrong is wrong.

Hell, I’m for more than that.  Personally, I’m for filing a civil suit against the ATA and the Big Four for an overt and organized breach of fiduciary duty in which they have effectively pretended to represent clients while taking bribes from studios to keep those clients’ salaries and benefits lowered across the board. Looking not merely at civil law, but at the federal statutes against extortion and bribery, a curious and ambitious U.S. Attorney might enjoy a deeper dive into the realm of racketeering, because for the life of me, I can’t see a difference between packaging and any prosecutable case of bid-rigging or bribery I ever covered as a reporter in federal or state courts.

For that matter, I’m for riding around Bel Air and Westwood and Santa Monica in a rental car, running up in the driveways of these grifting motherfuckers and slashing tires.  I’ve got that much contempt for this level of organized theft and for the tone-deaf defense of it by the ATA. But that’s me as an ex-reporter and a showrunner and a generally pissed-off writer talking. That guy is all in. As a WGAE council member, I’ll eschew the vandalism and listen to the members and support the will of the union as a whole. I just hope, after all these years of being robbed, that my colleagues are as united and as angry as they ought to be.

Tuesday March 19, 2019

I watched HBO’s Theranos documentary last night. It’s fascinating on many levels. And Elizabeth Holmes is a lying piece of trash who deserves to spend time in a cell next to Jussie Smollett.

Here’s how others are reacting.

Amy Schumer’s new Netflix special is available to stream in the event you think she’s funny.

Rob Lowe’s new Fox “game show” premieres tonight. It’s called Mental Samurai. I IMPLORE you not to watch.

NBC premieres The Village tonight. “Welcome to The Village, an apartment building in Brooklyn that appears like any other from the outside but is quite unique inside. The people who reside here have built a bonded family of friends and neighbors. Sarah's a nurse and single mom raising a creative teen; Gabe's a young law student who got a much older and unexpected roommate; Ava must secure the future of her young, U.S.-born son when ICE comes knocking; Nick's a veteran who's returned from war; and the heart and soul of the building, Ron and Patricia, have captivating tales all their own. These are the hopeful, heartwarming and challenging stories of life that prove family is everything - even if it's the one you make with the people around you.”

Here’s a review.

A new season of Tosh.O premieres tonight on Comedy Central.

Rachel Bilson is heading back to the network where she got her big break. The former O.C. star has landed the female lead in Lovestruck, a dramedy that unfolds over a single night at a wedding. Bilson will play the bride, Daisy Valentine, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Daisy is described as a "bolt of pure sunshine." She's sweet, thoughtful and assertive and works in music education. Bilson joins a cast that also includes Andie MacDowell and Richard Roxburgh as Daisy's parents, along with Kathleen Turner, Madeline Wise and Usman Ally. Lovestruck (formerly the untitled Tom Kapinos drama and Let's Spend the Night Together) is based on a French series, Quadras, and is described as a "structurally inventive" series with all the action taking place over one night. As viewers get to know the wedding party, they will learn about both their present and past and that things aren't always as they seem as the show explores the complicated bonds of love, friendship and family at different stages of life.”

Hopefully this will be the last anyone has to hear about Mama June. Jail awaits.

Anderson Cooper has a two-book deal and plans to collaborate with historian-novelist Katherine Howe. Harper announced Tuesday the 51-year-old CNN anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent will work on two books of nonfiction with Howe, who specializes in novels about witchcraft, including The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. The first release is scheduled for 2022. Harper declined to share further details.”

“CBS hopes to get a bigger bang out of the very last episode of The Big Bang Theory. The network is seeking between $1.2 million and $1.5 million for a 30-second ad in the finale of the veteran series, according to two people familiar with negotiations between CBS and its advertisers. Those figures would represent a price approximately five to six times higher than the average cost to run an ad in the show this season. The last original episode in the series is slated for broadcast on May 16.”

From EW: “Now you can decide whether Bear Grylls survives the wild or not…

“Well, sort of. Netflix is bringing interactivity to the survivalist experience with a new series featuring the Man vs. Wild host. Titled You vs. Wild, the series puts viewers in the driver’s seat as Grylls embarks on adventures around the world.

“As they follow Grylls through jungles and forests and across deserts and mountains, viewers will have the opportunity to make crucial decisions at key moments over the course of eight episodes. Whether or not Grylls succeeds or fails in his adventure is now entirely in audiences’ hands.

“‘I’m about to embark on one of my most epic adventures, and this time you’re going to be in charge,’ Grylls says in the series’ trailer. ‘So get packing, get ready, because every jungle, desert, mountain that I’m in, every decision is your decision. You’re going to dictate what I do.’

“The interactive trailer goes on to give a glimpse of the type of decision making in store. Every episode will feature myriad choices, such as what Grylls eats, encounters, and experiences.

“‘I’m so proud to deliver this first-of-its-kind live-action interactive series, really giving viewers an all-access pass to explore the world and its landscapes in my boots,’ Grylls said in a statement. ‘The stakes are high in this one!’

“Grylls has called many networks home, most notably the Discovery Channel for seven seasons of Man vs. Wild and NBC for the celebrity-studded Running Wild. He’s hosted extreme adventure shows around the world, but You vs. Wild is the first to include a choose-your-own-adventure component.

“Netflix previously experimented with interactive viewing via last winter’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

You vs. Wild hits the streaming service April 10.”

the-good-place.jpg

Per Vulture, “[h]ave you ever watched The Good Place and wondered, How do they do that? It’s a fair question. The Good Place is a bit of a marvel of modern TV writing, with its ability to pack so much story, character, and ideas in a network sitcom format. At Vulture Festival L.A. last November, we tried to get to the bottom of that question by hosting a panel with the show’s writers. Moderated by cast member and The Good Place: The Podcast host Marc Evan Jackson, the show’s creator and showrunner Mike Schur was joined by writers Megan Amram, Jen Statsky, Josh Siegal, Dylan Morgan, Matt Murray, Cord Jefferson, Kassia Miller, Dan Schofield, Andrew Law, Christopher Encell, and Rae Sanni:

When assembling the room, Mike, what did you look for? 
Mike Schur: I knew many of these people from Parks and Recreation, but the ones I didn’t, I read the stuff they wrote, obviously. But I think I was most interested in like, I hate the word, but diversity. It’s not ethnic diversity; it’s like intellectual diversity. I remember talking to Andrew about what he studied in college, and I remember talking to Rae about doing stand-up in New York, and it was like there were enough of us who had worked together from Parks and Rec who were coming over to this show where I was like, I know exactly what that crew is, and I was just looking for things that were not what that crew is. And that proved to be a pretty good way to go about it. The reason diversity is a lame word is because it is used as a sort of catchall to just mean people who aren’t white, but the intention was sort of intellectual background diversity.

The show is weird, and we do a lot of weird stuff, and we’re constantly emailing each other like, “Listen to this podcast,” or like, “Read this article that someone wrote.” Like the guy who’s the sort of main philosophical adviser of the show is a professor from Clemson. Dan Schofield found him after we were talking about what happens to a person’s sense of moral philosophy or ethical worldview if that person is immortal, and Dan went and found this guy who had written a book about that exact thing. We read the book, and then I called him and he ended up being our main adviser guy. That is the result of having people who are just intellectually curious — just people who are curious about the world in different ways.

Did anyone of you have backgrounds in philosophy prior to doing this job?
Andrew Law: I was a political philosophy major, which is the only time that that degree has helped anyone. But when I met with [Schur] for my interview, he was like, “Is there any chance you’ve ever read any philosophy?” and I was like, “Oh my God, yeah.” And then he was like, “Cool, because I’ve been reading some Foucault, and so what do you think about that?” And I was like, “Okay, um, so I just I flew in from New York, I’m very tired, and …”

Are there any of you for whom that seemed daunting? To have to go back into, you know, high school– and college-level stuff and have to do the homework?
Everyone: Yeah.

MS: I don’t want to speak for anybody, but the thing is, it paints this picture of us, like, taking long walks around a college campus, deeply engaged in conversation. We read Wikipedia entries. I don’t want people to imagine that this is an intensive, graduate-level course. We mostly listen to podcasts. We find articles. We find little things. When we were starting the show, I put together a packet of a bunch of stuff that I had read, and some of it was arcane, but also, the message that I was saying to everyone who was reading was like, “I don’t know if I understand this, but this seems interesting.” It’s really not this super over-the-top thing. We’re all Eleanors. None of us is Chidi.

Matt Murray: Also, I’ve been doing this now for 18 years and it is refreshing to use your brain in a writers room. It’s like, a lot of shows you’re just making dumb poop jokes — that’s cool too.

How did you come up with Jeremy Bearimy?
Rae Sanni: Jeremy Bearimy thing happened in the room, in part because I am a lot less smart than these people. Mike was trying to explain time, and I didn’t get it for a full afternoon. I’m new on the staff, I’m the least experienced, and I’m boldly interrupting their ability to tell a story because I don’t understand how time works. And Josh just was like, “What about Jeremy Bearimy? That’s how you explain the time.” And so, when Chidi says, “The dot on the i is what broke my brain,” that’s actually what happened in the room. What happened to Chidi’s brain there happened to my brain.

MS: Rae’s being modest, because what was happening was, she was saying, “How can events be happening on Earth, but they’re not happening in the afterlife?” And we were like, “Well, we’re trying to say that this …” And she was like, “Yeah, but that doesn’t make any sense.” And she was totally right. So, we were searching for a way to pithily answer all of the natural questions that would come up. And then, Josh giggled out loud. He actually giggled at his own thought, which is very rare. And he was like, “What if Michael just says that the timeline is just Jeremy Bearimy.”

It was another one of those things where the entire room could have pitched for two weeks of solutions to explain what we needed to explain and nothing would have beaten it. It saved us so much time. It’s basically a middle finger, right? It’s like, “You have a problem with the way that you think time works? Too bad. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Josh Siegal: This is the way I’d wanna learn about that. I believe what I first said was, “Jeremy Jeremy.” And everyone got it right away. “There’s gotta be a B in there.” And then someone over here said, like, “Well, there has to be an iin it, ‘cause then we’re really in trouble, for what that dot over the i is.” And then Megan goes off with it and writes all this funny stuff about Janet’s birthday and that it’s also Tuesdays in July and never. Everyone gets to hang out with an idea. It makes me feel really lucky.

Is it true that what we see onscreen is an approximation of Joe Mande’s handwriting?
MS: Yeah, we spent more time probably writing versions of the name Jeremy Bearimy than any other thing. And then, Joe’s a very talented artist, and we had him do it. But, like, there was a really serious session where Joe Mande had a Sharpie. And it was all these giant poster boards, and he was doing it over and over. And then he would hold it up and we would go, “Hmmm, yes, perhaps a little squigglier on the B” or whatever. He did it like 500 times. The one you see is actually his handwriting, or his work, or whatever you’d call it.

When you’re breaking the season, how do you decide, “Okay, this is what we’re gonna sort of ask this season?”
MS: That sort of comes organically out of the discussion that we have at the beginning of the year. We knew the whole first season before we even started writing it. We were able to talk about season two while we were writing season one. And so, by the time we got to the end, we knew what season two was a little bit. We knew that it was about getting Michael on their team and then him slowly realizing that maybe the point system was unfair. We’re able to know a year in advance what the general idea of what the next season’s gonna be.

And then, it also happens, because, again, people are poking around and finding articles and podcasts and stuff and saying, like, “This is an interesting thing that sort of affects our show.” Someone sent me an article about why Aristotle is really relevant today and was like, “Oh, this is really meaningful.” So, we, right now, have an idea of what season four is in a very, very general way.

Go on …
MS: No. And so the trick is to have some juicy ideas and then go into the season and get the whole brain trust together and start talking about it, but not to decide too early. Because if someone has a better idea, we always want to follow that better idea. It’s having stuff to hold on to, but also being willing to risk throwing it all away if someone comes up with something better. It’s a dicey proposition for a show like this. But, again, we’ve been at least a half a year ahead every year, so it makes it more possible. Long before the season ends airing, we’ll get together for a couple days and talk big-picture stuff about next year. And that’ll begin that process.

Is there a next year?
MS: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I assume. If they cancel us now, I’d be really pissed. That’d be terrible. Yeah, I guess they haven’t picked us up yet. Goddamn it. All right.”

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An interesting deep dive if you want to geek out on how Netflix structures deals, per Deadline, “[f]or decades, the success of a TV series had been measured by its longevity. The standard series regular contracts are for six years, which has been considered a threshold for a show to be deemed reasonably successful. Netflix may be rewriting the rulebook with a business model that involves shows often running for two to three seasons.

“The Internet network also is assuring its series will remain Netflix exclusives even after their cancellation, with a moratorium allegedly built into deals that prevents axed shows from moving to a new home. That is despite the streamer readily taking in series canceled elsewhere, like Lucifer and Designated Survivor.

“Netflix on Thursday announced it would not proceed with a fourth season of its lauded comedy series One Day at a Time. Producing studio Sony Pictures TV quickly started shopping it, and I hear there was an inquiry from CBS Corp’s CBS All Access, but the show’s Netflix deal would not allow for the comedy to move to another streaming platform.

“Netflix also recently canceled all of its Marvel series after two or three seasons. They all had developed solid followings and drawn sizable viewership, so there was speculation when they were canceled that  they could migrate to Disney’s upcoming streaming platform Disney+, which will feature a lot of Marvel-branded original content. Disney and Marvel TV executives likely would’ve liked to do that, but again their Netflix contract did not allow them to.

“I hear there is a standard clause in the deals for Netflix series from outside studios that prevents the shows from airing elsewhere for a significant period of time, said to be 2-3 years, making a continuation on another network/platform virtually impossible. That is probably why we haven’t seen CBS TV Studios’ comedy American Vandal — a breakout hit for Netflix when it launched but canceled in October after two seasons — move to CBS All Access.

“I hear the moratorium on OTAAT [sic]is a bit less restrictive than others — a couple of years for SVOD but just a few months for network — which would allow the Latinx family comedy to pursue a fourth season on a broadcast network, for example. (For more on that, read our story.)

“In addition to One Day at a Time, also canceled after three seasons at Netflix were LoveBloodline and Hemlock Grove, with a slew of shows canceled after two. Besides Netflix’s legacy series House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, the first two originals that put the streamer on the map and generated awards buzz throughout their six-season runs, there is only one live-action series that has lasted that long: comedy Grace and Frankie. In addition to also being an awards-attention magnet for its stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the series comes from Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman, whose presence at Netflix is believed to have helped the streaming platform secure and maintain the sought-after SVOD rights to Friends, one of the most prized off-network assets out there.

The Crown was bought by Netflix as a six-season series chronicling the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Outside of that, out of dozens of original live-action scripted series launched, only three have gone beyond three seasons. One is the reliable awards contender Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which ran for four seasons, earning a slew of major nominations. The two others are multi-camera comedies done under a different business model — Fuller House, which will end after five seasons, and The Ranch,which has been renewed for a fourth season. (Hit drama Narcos was wrapped after three seasons and succeeded by a new series, Marcos: Mexico.)

“I hear at least some of the cancellations on the list were prompted in part because the shows were deemed to have gotten too expensive. That is because of how many of Netflix’s series deals are structured. It is widely known that Netflix employs a ‘cost-plus’ model, offering to pay upfront a show’s production costs plus a premium of 30%+ of the costs. Even after Netflix subtracts a distribution fee, outside studios are at break-even or in a positive territory from Day 1, versus having to deficit finance series for the first few seasons on most traditional networks. But in exchange for the upfront payments, outside studios give up the potential upside that normally comes up with owning a long-running successful series, including off-network and international sales.

“Instead, Netflix’s deals include bump/bonuses after each season that are getting progressively bigger. White the payments are relatively modest after Season 1 and a little bigger after Season 2, I hear they escalate after Season 3, especially for series owned by Netflix — sometimes from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars — as the studio starts to pay off the shows’ back-end. For series from outside studios, which I hear cost about 20% more than their Netflix-produced counterparts, I hear the built-in payment increases do not skyrocket as much but still are bigger after Season 3, Season 4 and beyond.

“Netflix is known for giving writers and producers creative freedom and has been relatively patient, picking up a significant portion of its freshman series for a second season, giving them time to find their legs. But as the shows’ prices start going up, the network tightens its renewal criteria.

“‘It’s a combination of things, when we’re investing, we decide how much to invest based on the audience that will show up,’ Netflix’s head of original content Cindy Holland said of the streamer’s cancellation decisions at the INTV conference in Israel last week. ‘If the audience doesn’t show up, we think about the reason to continue to invest in something that doesn’t do as well as we had hope. Obviously critical acclaim is important too, but we’re really about trying to stretch our investment dollars as far as we can and make good on our investors’ money – it’s theirs, not ours.’

“For the most popular shows, like blockbuster hit Stranger Things, renewals are a no-brainer as each new season is an event, driving viewership and subscriptions. (Being owned by Netflix, Stranger Things also is a money maker for the company with auxiliary revenue streams such as theme park attractions and merchandising, including Halloween costumes.)

“But for everyone else, there is intense scrutiny. Netflix is unabashedly data driven, with many of its decisions based on algorithms. That’s how the network reportedly switched from the initial (and traditional) 13-episode seasons to seasons of 10 episodes or less. Word is that those shorter seasons are considered optimal for consumption, and any additional episodes beyond 10 a season do not add value, so they are an unnecessary expense for the network.

“The same goes for the number of seasons. If a show has not broken out in a big way during its first couple of seasons, there has been chatter Netflix does not see significant growth potential beyond Season 3 (and sometimes beyond Season 2).

“As for acclaim, I hear anecdotally that strong critics reviews, which One Day at a Time has in spades, could get a show a second-season renewal at Netflix (but rarely a third). Beyond that, only major awards recognition counts as awards — along with strong worth of mouth/curiosity — are thought to help drive subscriptions. Despite its acclaim, One Day at a Time, maybe hindered by its multi-camera format, has not been able to land big nominations.

“I hear One Day at a Time came close to cancellation last year when the show’s producers and talent rallied fans in a spirited renew-the-show campaign. Netflix ultimately gave it a reprieve, but it came with a warning. Despite the fact that One Day At a Time’s viewership had reportedly grown between Season 1 and 2 and Seasons 2 and 3, word is Netflix brass claimed its numbers still were not where the network wanted them to be.

“I hear that, according to Netflix’s data, beyond Season 2-3, middle-of-the road series — even those with loyal fan base like One Day at a Time — would not generate significant new signups.

“But new shiny things will. Netflix’s strategy to grow subscription base is focused on introducing new series all the time, sometimes multiple ones each weekend. According to industry observers, fans of some of the canceled series would be disappointed by their demise but not upset enough to drop Netflix as there is new product coming out all the time that catches their attention.

“‘At the core of their business is churn,’ one industry insider said, noting that there are always subscribers who drop Netflix after a free trial period or a month or two later, and the goal is to get more people to sign up, which comes mostly thanks to hot new series everyone is talking about.

“As an asset, having 30 episodes of a series (three seasons) is considered enough to satisfy viewers discovering the show. Tacking on more episodes does not add significant value, I hear. ‘A show doesn’t serve a purpose (anymore),” an observer said. “There is no reason for the network to continue to invest in it.’

“That is why so many Netflix series are being outright canceled versus the streamer employing the oldest trick in every network’s bag: trying to renegotiate the terms of its deals. I have heard of instances when Netflix has sought reduction of previously agreed upon fees and bonuses based on a series’ performance. For example, there was some back-and-forth between Netflix and Marvel TV, including the network requesting a season-order trim from 13 to 10 episodes, before the streaming giant pulled the plug on all Marvel series that it had picked up years ago at a very high price. (There were creative issues on some shows as well.) The first Marvel series were a big draw as they were among the handful of original series on the service. Two, three seasons in, the shows didn’t get the same attention because of the huge volume of new product. Netflix has built an adequate Marvel library, which will live on the service, while the Internet company cut a major expense by canceling the superhero series to invest in new fare.

“Additionally, like traditional networks in the era of vertical integration, Netflix has been ramping up in-house production, redirecting funds from outside productions to in-house series — including shows from its roster of A-list talent under rich overall deals such as Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, Kenya Barris and Shawn Levy — and thus avoiding the cost-plus surcharge it has to pay to shows from other studios.

“The shorter runs are something spreading to other platforms, where shows also are ending relatively quickly. Amazon recently announced the upcoming fourth season of its flagship drama Man In the High Castle will be its last. Only two original series on Amazon or Hulu, Amazon’s Transparent, which put that service on the map, and Bosch, have gone beyond four seasons, with the majority of shows canceled after two or three seasons. Industry observers see the trend also carrying over to premium networks, which now have a dual play as linear and SVOD outlets.

“‘Fifty is the new 100,’ an industry insider said, referring to the traditional milestone of 100 episodes that used to kick off a financial windfall for studios and profit participants from syndication and other off-network sales. It is now considered unattainable, especially on digital platforms, with 50 episodes pretty much the most you can get there.

“Added another source, ‘they are proving that they are not in the back-end business.’”

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One more deep dive for you, per Variety: “The Writers Guild of America has singled out Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, William Morris Endeavor and Creative Artists Agency, for allegedly soaring profits.

“The WGA, in an acrimonious negotiation over proposed new rules about how agencies represent writers, issued a report called ‘agencies for sale’ on Monday morning — a few hours before a fifth round of talks are scheduled to resume between the guild and the Association of Talent Agents.

“The report claimed that WME and CAA have received ‘billions’ of dollars from private equity firms, sovereign wealth funds, and other institutional investors, leading to them being transformed from agencies with the primary purpose of representing talent to conglomerates singularly focused on expanding their bottom lines and returning value to investors. That’s led to the agencies being in the business of acquiring and owning content — creating a conflict of interest by making them employers of their own clients.

“‘The agency has always and will always put client interests first,’ a CAA spokesman said in response to the report.

“The WGA’s key proposals require that agencies exit both producing and packaging. The WGA and ATA face an April 6 contract expiration deadline to hammer out a new franchise agreement governing the rules for agents representing WGA members. The WGA has scheduled a March 25 vote to implement its own code of conduct spelling out new rules, which will require members to fire their agents if they haven’t signed the agreement.

“The report alleges that WME and CAA’s private equity owners have already seen their investments double and triple in value. The WGA estimates that TPG’s $340 million investment into CAA had more than tripled in value between 2010 and mid-2017. Silver Lake Partners’ $750 million investment in WME had doubled in value to almost $1.5 billion by mid-2016.

“‘As this report makes clear, big investments by private equity firms have pushed the talent agencies into even more conflicted business practices,’ said WGA West President David A. Goodman. ‘It’s no longer just the problems caused by packaging fees. They are also aggressively moving into producing content — making them both the representatives and the employers of their writer clients. The conflicts of interest will only continue to grow if we don’t do something now to realign agents’ economic interests with their clients’ interests. The solution will come from either a negotiated agreement with the Association of Talent Agents or through a code of conduct.’

“The WGA report quotes credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s, which recently wrote of CAA, ‘The explosion of content from over-the-top (OTT) players such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu has favorably affected the company’s television revenue, particularly its TV packaging revenue. … The packaging of talent, along with the massive increase in TV content production, has driven most of the growth in the company’s TV segment.’

“Hollywood agents offered counter-proposals last week to the WGA, which brushed them off. The ATA said its ‘statement of choice’ emphasized that writer clients get to decide whether they want to work on a packaged show and that they have the choice to work with an ‘affiliated entity’ — meaning a production company affiliated with the agency.”

Monday March 18, 2019

I watched the final season of Catastrophe. It was akin to seasons 1-3. Solid show, but not one I’m really going to miss all that badly.

Here’s a review.

If Billions were 2 hours each week, who would complain?

Here’s a full appreciation for last night’s season premiere.

Do yourself a favor and watch Free Solo on Hulu. It’s spectacular.

I also enjoyed Triple Frontier on Netflix. They should be making more films of this ilk.

Animal Planet has announced that Tanked will come to an end after 15 seasons. Helluva run.

Starz has ordered another season of American Gods.

John Oliver was great last night, as usual. . . both his jab at Jay Leno and his sit down with Monica Lewinsky.

ABC premieres Marcia Clark’s new show The Fix tonight. She’s an EP, not on camera, don’t worry.

HBO airs documentaryThe Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley tonight. More below.

How Trevor Noah spends his off time.

About last night’s episode of The Walking Dead.

A fat girl’s take on Hulu’s Shrill.

Get it together Shep Rose.

Don’t sell your Netflix password.

Piers Morgan continues to call out Gordon Ramsay for becoming vegan.

How to win Hannah B’s heart.

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Per Variety, “[n]ews on the Breaking Bad movie seems to be coming in fits and starts.

“At the Sun Valley Film Festival on Friday, series star Aaron Paul didn’t confirm whether he was involved in the upcoming movie sequel, which will first air on Netflix and then AMC, as Variety reported in February, but did indicate that he was open to reprising his role as Jesse Pinkman.

“‘Rumors are funny — I once heard a rumor that I was being cast as Han Solo,’ Paul said to a packed house at the fest’s Coffee Talk event, which was sponsored by Variety. “I haven’t heard anything about the ‘Breaking Bad’ movie but if there is one and it comes together I’d love to be a part of it.” ‘If it were to happen, yes, I would love to do it.’

“All hoping for a Pinkman return doesn’t seem to be lost, however.

“‘In case you haven’t caught up on the TV series, Walter dies, so….it has to star Jesse,’ Paul continued.

“It’s unknown if Bryan Cranston, who played main character Walter White in the series, will appear in the film. Cranston previously confirmed the film was happening but would not say whether or not he would be involved.”

“Per the New Mexico Film Office, a film titled Greenbrier was scheduled to film in Albuquerque from November to mid-February. The official description of the film states: ‘Greenbrier tracks the escape of a kidnapped man and his quest for freedom.’ Fans of the series will recall that Pinkman was kidnapped by a gang of neo-Nazis and forced to continue cooking meth for them until he escaped with the aid of Walter White.”

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Per Inc., “[s]ometimes entrepreneurs do have to take "no" for an answer. In Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes's case, it took her years to learn this lesson and she learned it the hard way--when the Securities and Exchange Commission finally shut down her company. 

“The Stanford dropout who lost $900 million of investor capital with her blood-testing startup built on a lie is the subject of the fascinating new documentaryThe Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley. The film examines how Holmes deceived business leaders around the world into thinking she could revolutionize the U.S. healthcare industry, but it also highlights the dangers of Silicon Valley's ‘fake it till you make it’ mentality. The movie screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January and premieres on HBO Monday.

“Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, whose 2015 documentary Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine took a critical look at the Apple co-founder's value system, The Inventor serves as a film companion to Wall Street Journal investigative reporter John Carreyrou's bestselling book Bad Blood. The first journalist to expose what the SEC called a ‘massive fraud,’ Carreyrou is one of many people interviewed in the film who helped debunk Holmes's claim that her invention, named the Edison, could quickly perform hundreds of diagnostic tests using only a few drops of blood. Holmes was the subject of an Inc. cover story in October of 2015, the same month Carreyrou published his first story about the company's struggling technology.

“Some of the most compelling parts of the film are accounts from former Theranos employees who worked on the company's failing technology while witnessing Holmes go to greater and greater lengths to deceive investors and the media. When the truth finally caught up with Holmes, who had been heralded as the youngest self-made female billionaire, federal prosecutors indicted her and Theranos chief operating officer Sunny Balwani on fraud charges. Theranos's valuation eventually dropped from $9 billion to zero.

“One of the central questions The Inventor seeks to address is how Holmes attracted  financing and support from so many people--from Theranos investor and Oracle founder Larry Ellison to board member and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis--without providing audited financial statements or proof that her technology worked. Part of the answer, Gibney suggests, has to do with the power of storytelling.

"‘Stories have emotions that data doesn't, and emotions get people to do all kinds of things, good and bad,’ behavioral economist Dan Ariely says in the film. ‘If you think about the people who invested in her with a very little amount of data, it's about having an emotional appeal.’ In presentations, Holmes often cited her uncle's death from cancer as her motivation for trying to create ‘a world in which no one ever has to say goodbye too soon.’ Theranos's fast and simple blood tests, she claimed, would lead to earlier detection of health issues and allow the company to ‘democratize’ healthcare.

“The Silicon Valley mantra of "move fast and break things" popularized by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg may have also played a role in Holmes's ability to raise money from investors despite the fact that her company's technology hadn't been proven. Many startup founders stress the importance of entrepreneurs not giving up, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. At Theranos's offices in Palo Alto, California, one of the quotes Holmes put on the walls in giant letters was the famous line from Yoda in Star Wars: ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ 

“Although the Edison device couldn't reliably perform the tests Holmes said it could, she and the machine's namesake, the inventor Thomas Edison, did have one thing in common: both overpromised when it came to their accomplishments. As Gibney points out in the film, Edison claimed he had solved the mystery of the incandescent lightbulb four years before he actually got it to work. He also faked demonstrations in order to raise more money from investors, a tactic Holmes employed by processing blood tests on commercial analyzer equipment in Theranos's lab and claiming the tests were performed by the Edison.

“Unlike Edison, however, Holmes's deception took on much greater consequences when  Theranos, in need of additional financing, signed a deal with Walgreens and began performing tests on real patients that often yielded inaccurate results. Tragedy also struck when a lawsuit involving a Theranos patent led blood-testing expert Ian Gibbons, the first experienced scientist hired by the company, to commit suicide.

"‘He was so distraught over this stupid patent misappropriation case and not knowing what he was going to do with the rest of his life,’ Gibbons's wife Rochelle Gibbons says in the film. She added that Holmes never contacted her after her husband's death, and that her only communication with Theranos came when she was asked her to return her late husband's confidential documents to the company.

“While The Inventor depicts Holmes as a talented con artist, it also suggests she had a blind faith that Theranos would eventually disrupt the U.S. healthcare industry. In the documentary, one of the quotes Holmes cites during an interview comes from Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase.’ As Gibney says in the film, Holmes ‘never lost her faith in the power of invention.’"

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From The New York Post, “[a]ctress Lori Loughlin’s 2017 humble-brag about spending a lot of money on her daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli’s education has taken on an ironic new dimension — now that the [FORMER] Fuller House actress was busted for shelling out $500,000 in bribes to get her dimwit daughters into University of Southern California.

“‘If you said “England is my city,” I would have said “Why did I pay all this money for your education?”’ Loughlin told Olivia Jade during a YouTube clip in which the daughter tried to teach her slang.

“‘We’re just gonna leave it at that,’ Olivia Jade then quips to the camera.

“Loughlin was busted last week in a bombshell college-admission cheating ring that ensnared her Target T-shirt tycoon hubby Mossimo Giannulli, fellow actress Felicity Huffman, a cadre of other wealthy parents and a handful of corrupt coaches from the likes of USC, Yale and Georgetown.

“Loughlin allegedly paid scam ringleader Rick Singer half a million dollars to get Olivia Jade, 19, and her sister Isabella Rose, 20, admitted to USC under the guise they were recruited to the crew team — even though neither of the waif-like girls is an actual rower.

“Singer allegedly had the girls pose for photos and then doctored the images to make them appear to be rowing.

“The girls both dropped out of USC after the scandal broke — because they claimed they were afraid of being bullied.

“Olivia Jade is perhaps best known as a social media star, who has amassed 1.4 million followers on Instagram and almost 2 million on YouTube by doing makeup tutorials, creating inane videos about what she got for Christmas, and generally just being the child of famous people.

“Many of the videos netted Jade lucrative endorsements from fashion, make-up and hair-care brands — but sponsors have been shedding the teen since the scandal broke.

“Make-up company Sephora dropped her on Thursday and hair-care company TRESemme followed suit Friday.

“Loughlin too has been losing gigs since her arrest Wednesday — Netflix announced it was booting her from Fuller House, and she has also lost her longtime position as the face of the Hallmark Channel.”`

Per Variety, “Saturday Night Live aired last October a sketch about a pumpkin patch where the employees, much to the consternation of the proprietor, engage in sexual intercourse with the product. The Pumpkin Patch was lewd, funny, and seasonally appropriate. But according to Nick Ruggia and Ryan Hoffman, it was something else — theft.

“Ruggia and Hoffman are the founders of the sketch troupe Temple Horses. Since their first collaboration in 2011, the two New York comedy scene veterans have filmed more than 60 sketches together, many of which are available on their YouTube channel, which boasts more than 3,000 subscribers. Ruggia and Hoffman claim that two of those sketches, Not Trying to Fuck This Pumpkin and Pet Blinders, were plagiarized by Saturday Night Live.

“‘Imagine, one day you come home and it looks like somebody’s robbed your house,’ Hoffman told Variety. ‘What do you want from that situation? We feel like somebody took our stuff, and this isn’t the kind of thing where you can just get it back or call your insurance company to have it replaced, so at this point we’re just speaking out about it.’

“An NBC spokesperson declined to comment. A Saturday Night Live source noted that The Pumpkin Patch and the other SNL sketch in question, Pound Puppy, were penned by different writers, but did not identify who wrote either sketch.

“In a letter sent to NBC last month and obtained by Variety, Ruggia and Hoffman’s attorney Wallace Neel laid out in detail the alleged similarities between the Temple Horses sketches and those that followed them. In the case of Not Trying to Fuck This Pumpkin and The Pumpkin Patch, each opens with the protagonist owner of a pumpkin patch doing business. In each, said owner then confronts a group of multiple men and one woman, accusing them of performing indecent acts with his pumpkins. The behavior is denied, and the owner scolds the accused — pointing out in each case that children are nearby. In each sketch, the offenders are ultimately barred from the pumpkin patch.

“Ruggia and Hoffman’s sketch was first uploaded to YouTube in October 2014 — four years before The Pumpkin Patch aired on SNL.

“In the Temple Horses’ Pet Blinders and the Saturday Night Live sketch Pound Puppy, a fictional product is being sold that prevents pets from watching their owners perform sex acts. In the former, the product is a blind that goes over the pets’ eyes. In the latter it is a large, dog-shaped blinder that the owners climb inside in order to have sex while obscured from their pets’ field of vision. Each sketch, as the letter points out, uses ‘[three] separate settings for pet-interruption, introducing the pet owners’ dilemma.’ Each sketch uses a dog’s-eye-view and reverse shot. In each, a labrador retriever, a mid-size dog, and a custom-breed dog is used.

Pet Blinders was uploaded to YouTube in Sept. 2011. Pound Puppy first aired last month.

“According to Ruggio and Hoffman, an NBC attorney responded verbally to Neel’s letter roughly a week after it was submitted, saying that an internal investigation found that the writers of The Pumpkin Patch and Pound Puppy had independently developed the ideas for those sketches and found no similarities to the Temple Horses sketches that would be protected by copyright law. The Saturday Night Live source confirmed that account and said that NBC is in the process of drafting a formal response asserting those claims.

“‘This is not “parallel construction”: Two separate instances of wholesale lifting of concept, setting, characters, plot, and outcome in the same season do not happen by coincidence,’ Neel wrote in the Feb. 27 letter, which continued, ‘Someone(s) at SNL is plagiarizing material.’

“Allegations of joke theft is a recurring issue in the comedy world, across various mediums. The most recent instance involves claims of plagiarism against the FuckJerry Instagram account, with comedy editor Megh Wright spurring a movement to unfollow the popular Instagrammer. A number of high-profile comedians and celebs are in support of the effort, encouraging their followers to #fuckfuckjerry.

“When it comes to SNL, this is far from the first time that the longtime sketch comedy show has been suspected or accused of stealing other comedians’ work. As just one example, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! enthusiasts called out SNL in 2010 on social media for similarities between two sketches involving tiny hats.

“In 2017, fans of Tig Notaro noted similarities between her 2015 short film Clown Service and an SNL sketch featuring Louis C.K., in which the protagonists of both pieces are lonely, and hire a clown to cheer them up. Notaro said that one of the writer-directors who developed the SNL sketch had already been aware of Clown Service, and called the situation ‘extremely disappointing.’

“Ruggia and Hoffman are less well known. Temple Horses’ Pet Blinders sketch has amassed a little more than 4,800 views on YouTube since its 2011 debut. The pumpkin sketch has nearly 29,000 YouTube views since being uploaded four and a half years ago.

“In each case, Ruggia and Hoffman learned about the alleged plagiarism from friends the morning after the SNL sketch aired. When The Pumpkin Patch premiered in October, the two comics recognized it as strikingly similar to their work, but decided not to pursue any action in response.

“‘We felt like nothing good would come from addressing it, and also we were afraid of potential repercussions, and we were kind of afraid of being dismissed by our peers, even though everyone we showed it to said it was blatant,’ Hoffman said. ‘So we decided to let it go.’

“But their thinking shifted after SNL aired Pound Puppy last month. ‘It was twice in the same season, and we felt that at this point, that we didn’t really have a choice but to address it,’ Hoffman said. ‘And we don’t really want to be involved in a mess like this, but there’s a certain point you have to stand up for yourself and your work’”

Friday March 15, 2019

A new season of Billions begins on Sunday night on Showtime! More below.

Netflix has canceled One Day At A Time.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is trying to save it.

The final season of Amazon’s Catastrophe is now available to stream.

Amazon Studios has given a pilot order to a half-hour comedic drama based on the Israeli format On the Spectrum, from Jason Katims and his True Jack Productions, original series’ creators and producer yesStudios and Universal TV. Written by Katims, On the Spectrum is a coming-of-age comedic drama about three 20-something roommates on the autism spectrum, striving for the same things that we all desire: To get a job, keep a job, make friends, fall in love, and navigate a world that eludes them. This has been a passion project for Katims, tackling a subject that’s personal for him. He has spoken publicly about having a son with Asperger’s, which inspired a storyline on Katims’ NBC series Parenthood.” You had me at Katims.

“NBC has found its replacement for Carson Daly. Lilly Singh will take over the 1:35 am timeslot with A Little Late with Lilly Singh, making her the only woman to currently host a late-night talk show on a Big 4 network. Debuting in September, A Little Late with Lilly Singh will be a half-hour program with an array of guests. Singh will conduct in-studio interviews as well as create and star in pre-taped comedy sketches and signature segments.” I’ve said this before, but if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it . . . .

All 6 epsiodes of Hulu’s Shrill, starring SNL’s Aidy Bryant, are available to stream.

Here’s a little more about how this series came to be.

New episodes of Arrested Development are available to stream on Netflix.

As is Idris Elba’s Turn Up Charlie.

And new episodes of Queer Eye.

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann is now streaming on Netflix. More below.

MTV‘s Double Shot at Love with DJ Pauly D and Vinny will premiere with back-to-back episodes on April 11.

Lori Loughlin’s daughters have dropped out of USC. Ya don’t say.

The Hallmark Channel on Thursday said it will no longer work with Lori Loughlin, the Full House actor who has become a staple on the channel over the years, after she was charged in connection with the massive college admissions fraud case. Loughlin is a series regular on Hallmark's drama When Calls the Heart, which is currently in its sixth season and is one of the most-watched shows on cable TV.”

Netflix has released a first look atTuca & Bertie. “From creator Lisa Hanawalt and the creative minds behind BoJack Horseman, Tuca & Bertie, starring Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong comes to Netflix on May 3.”

Rosario Dawson and Cory Booker are a couple.

“Mark Burnett and MGM Television are getting more stylish. Burnett and stylist Rachel Zoe are teaming for a fashion-design competition series that will have contestants competing to sell their creations immediately after an episode ends. The as-yet untitled project doesn't yet have a network or streaming home; MGM will distribute it internationally.” Zzzzzzzz.

Here are the guys who will be vying for awkward Hannah B’s hand on the next season of The Bachelorette.

And who else was under consideration to be the next Bachelorette besides Hannah?

“Many TV viewers know Donnie Wahlberg for the way he helps solve crimes on the CBS drama Blue Bloods. Starting this weekend, they may come to know him for the way he does the same on HLN. Wahlberg, known for his CBS role and his time in the band New Kids on the Block, will debut the documentary series Very Scary People on Sunday, March 17, at 9 p.m. eastern on HLN. Over six epsiodes that last two hours each, Wahlberg and producers will tell the stories of diabolical characters like John Wayne Gacy, the Reverend Jim Jones and Charles Manson. The CNN sister cable outlet will make good use of that relationship, Wahlberg says. ‘The access to archival footage is just amazing. What we are able to do is really take you back to these places. You get fully immersed, and that really helps tell the story of these people and helps you to understand how they could be doing what they were doing.’”

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Per EW, “Chuck Rhoades and Bobby Axelrod still have a billion problems, but their long-standing rivalry is no longer one of them…for now.

“When Billions returns on Sunday for season 4, Chuck (Paul Giamatti) and Axe (Damian Lewis) find themselves in a new position: drinking buddies and cautious allies. This new development in the relationship will surely be welcome considering they’re each dealing with more than enough: Chuck is out as U.S. Attorney and his run for governor was shelved following the threat of his unorthodox sex life coming to light, while Axe is determined to bring down his former protégé Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon), who has struck out on their own.

With plenty of political maneuvering and money trading ahead, EW talked with Giamatti about flipping the dynamic that Billions was built on:

Where do we pick up with Chuck? Last we saw, he lost his job and his planned run for office was thwarted.
He kind of thwarted his own plan to run for office. Well, I suppose he was both thwarted and thwarted himself. He’s opened a private practice, but that’s not satisfying him, so he’s looking to build his reputation back up and to get his high-powered career going again. He’s got this alliance with Axelrod that will prove fruitful and helpful, but they’re both pretty shifty guys, so one doesn’t know how long that will last.

What should we expect from that relationship? I have to imagine there’s still plenty of baggage.
There definitely is. There’s a sense in which they identify with each other. There’s a certain amount of conceding that they’ve been staunch rivals and a recognition that they’re similar guys, and that’s the way in which they connect. But they’re always looking out for their own interests. Wherever it goes, it’s definitely been made more complicated. It’s a different sort of rivalry now, if the rivalry does, in fact, reassert itself.

And where do things stand at home between Chuck and Wendy (Maggie Siff)?
It starts okay, but she goes to some complicated places this season. I play a very crazy political card during the middle of the season that’s complicated for her, and then she gets involved in some stuff that is complicated for me. There’s a lot of fallout from it. Everyone’s always doing something self-subverting on the show. They kind of step on their own d— all the time.

The show’s worlds are split between politics and finance. Do you ever want to hang out on the money side?
No, not so much, because I don’t understand what the hell they’re talking about half the time. [Laughs] I’d get lost in about 30 seconds. I’ve liked being in the weird political thing that I do. Although I do go over to Axe Capital at some point this season, and may be able to do more next season.

This being your first long-running TV series, how have you kept it fresh for yourself?
I’ve never done anything for this long. The longest I had ever done anything with one sustained role was a play that I did for a year. This is a whole different thing. A lot of it is [creators] Brian Koppelman and David Levien keep the character interesting, so that’s the sole way that they can keep me interested. And it’s endlessly interesting. They’re always great at throwing curveballs at you. I don’t ever get bored because of the stuff I get to do and the language I get to utilize. And the character is very strange, so he can go to some odd places, and he does this season, which has been really fun.”

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Per Deadline, “NBC has greenlighted a pair of entertainment-competition series for the summer: the songwriter-focused Songland and stand-up comedy show Bring the Funny.

“Set to premiere at 10 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, after the season premiere of America’s Got TalentSongland takes an inside look at the creative songwriting process. It provides one winner per episode the opportunity to have their song recorded for a global audience by the chart-topping guest recording artists featured in their show. It’s billed as a one-of-a-kind opportunity for talented up-and-coming songwriters to be exposed to and mentored by three music producers per episode who are responsible for today’s biggest hits.

“The concept was devised by Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart, The Voice producer Audrey Morrissey and director Ivan Dudynsky. They serve as executive producers alongside Chad Hines and The Voice’s Adam Levine.

“The panel of producer-songwriters includes Ryan Tedder; lead singer of OneRepublic and Grammy-winning producer of Adele, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Jonas Brothers; Ester Dean, Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer of Rihanna, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj; and Shane McAnally, a Grammy-winning producer of 38 No. 1 country records).

Songland is produced by Live Animals in association with Universal Television Alternative Studio, Dave Stewart Entertainment and 222 Productions.

“NBC says Bring the Funny will feature the world’s best comedic acts and will embrace every style of comedy performance in one competition. It will feature the best of the best stand-ups, sketch troupes and comedic variety acts. From solo comics to musicians, magicians, puppeteers, YouTubers and more — anyone who can make audiences laugh will have the chance to receive the career-changing $250,000 prize package and see their name in lights in the Bring the Funny showcase.

“The judges are longtime Saturday Night Live cast member Kenan Thompson, cultural tastemaker Chrissy Teigen and comedy star Jeff Foxworthy. Comedian Amanda Seales serves as host.

“Premiering at 10 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, Bring the Funny is executive produced by  David Friedman and Matilda Zoltowski, with Just for Laughs President Bruce Hills serving as consulting producer. The series is produced by Universal Television Alternative Studio.”

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “Pachinko is moving forward at Apple.

“The iPhone maker, ahead of its March 25 formal video announcement in Cupertino, has handed out an eight-episode series order to Pachinko. The title becomes the third series at Apple for Michael Ellenberg's Media Res.

“The adaptation of Min Jin Lee's New York Times best-selling novel landed at Apple in August with a sizable script-to-series commitment following a multiple-outlet bidding war.

“The book, one of the NYT's 10 best of 2017 and a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction, chronicles the hopes and dreams of four generations of a Korean immigrant family. Described as epic in scope and intimate in tone, the story begins with a forbidden love and crescendos into a sweeping saga that journeys between Korea, Japan and America to tell the story of war and peace, love and loss, triumph and reckoning. The Apple drama, which comes with what is said to be a sizable premium show budget akin to Netflix's The Crown, will be told in three languages: Korean, Japanese and English. Sources say the series is among the biggest budget projects Apple currently has in the works.

“Korean American Soo Hugh (who oversaw on season one of AMC anthology The Terror) penned the script for Apple, exec produces and serves as showrunner on the series. Author Lee will also be credited as an exec producer. Pachinko hails from Ellenberg's Media Res, which is also behind Apple's Reese Witherspoon-Jennifer Aniston morning show drama (the tech giant's entry into the scripted space) and recently announced untitled Brie Larson CIA drama. Media Res secured the rights to the novel with Ellenberg exec producing and the company's Dani Gorin set as a co-EP. As part of her deal for Pachinko, Hugh inked an overall deal with Media Res (the company's first such pact). Sources say five outlets bid on the rights to the book.

Pachinko arrives as Crazy Rich Asians became a box office smash and pop culture hit. The feature film, based on Kevin Kwan's 2013 best-seller of the same name, is the first Asian-American-focused studio movie in 25 years. With its success, Crazy Rich Asians has opened the door for more culturally specific stories as it continues to reshape Hollywood. A sequel is in development. Pachinko, which will have an almost all-Asian cast as well, is tonally different from Crazy Rich Asians and is the more critically acclaimed of the two books. 

Pachinko becomes the latest high-profile TV project to land at Apple and joins a roster that includes series starring Chris Evans, Hailee Steinfeld, Sara Bareilles, Jennifer Garner and content from producers like J.J. Abrams, M. Night Shyamalan, Damien Chazelle and Ron Moore, among others.”

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“Topher Grace has been working out!

“Well, at least it appears that way in the art for his new podcast, Minor Adventures With Topher Grace — which EW can exclusively reveal.

“Grace’s podcast will be released under the umbrella of Faris’ Unqualified Media, which is also responsible for the hit podcast Anna Faris Is UnqualifiedGrace will host the podcast with Faris’ Unqualified cohost, Sim Sarna. It’s being billed as ‘a weekly exploration of all the things that you never knew you wanted to learn about, from dating preferences to niche careers to alternative medicine and so much more.’

EW can also exclusively reveal the guest list and subject matters of the podcast’s first season ahead of its March 31 release:

1. Topher and Whitney Cummings take a lie detector test.
2. Topher and Jillian Bell heal their energies.
3. Topher and Lewis Howes write a pop song.
4. Topher and Nina Dobrev learn to DJ.
5. Topher and Paul Scheer try telemarketing.
6. Topher and Tig Notaro learn to be auctioneers.
7. Topher and Tony Hale get hypnotized.
9. Topher and Chelsea Peretti take the Myers-Briggs assessment.
10. Topher and Taran Killam analyze their dreams.
11. Topher and Wilmer Valderrama lend their voices to movie trailer narrating.
12. Topher and Chrissy Metz attempt beatboxing.

“‘With only a mere 3.832 billion podcasts on planet Earth, I’m excited to bring my own take the podcast-o-sphere,’ Grace told EW in January about working on this new endeavor. ‘This was never something I anticipated doing, but I’m such a huge fan of Anna’s show that when Sim asked me to join him on this adventure I couldn’t resist.’”

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Per Variety, “[n]ew Netflix documentary series The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, about a missing girl whose case has sparked fevered speculation in Britain for more than a decade, is set to drop on the streaming platform Friday. The eight-part series is controversial and anticipated in equal measure, with the girl’s family suggesting it could hinder the long-running police investigation and a tabloid saying there could be explosive new revelations.

“Three-year-old British toddler Madeleine McCann went missing from the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz while on vacation with her parents in 2007. Her disappearance sparked a huge investigation involving Portuguese police and Scotland Yard, which is still pursuing leads. It remains one of the highest-profile cases in modern U.K. crime history and the subject of intense media scrutiny, especially from Britain’s sensationalist tabloids.

“The Netflix series promises new interviews with people connected to the case, with input from more than 40 contributors in all. The Pulse Films-produced documentary will also reconstruct events pertaining to Madeleine’s disappearance.

“But it received no input from the McCann family, who said last week in a strongly worded statement that they knew the series was being made and were asked by Pulse Films to participate, but that they did not want to take part.

“‘We did not see and still do not see how this program will help the search for Madeleine and, particularly given there is an active police investigation, could potentially hinder it,’ the McCanns said. ‘Consequently, o­­ur views and preferences are not reflected in the program.’

“Netflix and Pulse have been tight-lipped over potential revelations in the series, but provided Variety with a list of interviewees. They include Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, the investigative journalists who co-wrote 2015’s Looking for Madeleine; Gonçalo Amaral, the investigating coordinator with the Policia Judiciaria in Portugal; Robert Murat, who was once considered a suspect in the case; Jim Gamble, former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in the U.K.; and Phil Hall, the McCanns’ former PR rep, Phil Hall.

“Madeleine’s disappearance from her family’s vacation apartment, while her parents were out having dinner nearby, was manna to Britain’s aggressive and often ruthless tabloid press, which sent reporters to hound the McCanns and track the investigation. The Portuguese police have been accused of bungling the case by fixating on Madeleine’s parents as potential kidnappers or killers instead of conducting a thorough investigation.

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann is the second controversial project in recent months about the high-profile disappearance or murder of a British toddler. The Oscar-nominated short film Detainment, about the brutal killing in 1993 of 2-year-old James Bulger by a pair of 10-year-old boys, sparked a public petition for it to be withdrawn from Oscar contention.”