Wednesday April 26, 2017

The first three episodes of The Handmaid's Tale are available on Hulu.  More below.

Kate Walsh talked to Yahoo! about filming Hannah Baker's suicide scene and the possibility of a 2nd season.  "Before the series began production, Walsh talked with a therapist who specializes in helping families who have lost a child to suicide — and she used that conversation to inform Olivia’s darkest moment. 'When I talked to the psychiatrist, I said, "It feels like when a parent finds a child like this, they’re in shock and they would try to resuscitate them, even if it’s completely obvious that [the child is] gone," and she said, "That’s right,”' recalled Walsh, who began tearing up at the memory. 'Even talking about it makes me very emotional. That was really important to me, so I said, "Brian, I think we have to try to go for that, and just see that struggle."'”

On that note, "Ross Butler, your official spring crush, is saying good-bye to Riverdale. He’s a standout on the CW’s Archie comics adaptation and Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, and it looks like scheduling has made it impossible for him to be on both of the most talked about teen shows of the season. Riverdale series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa confirmed to TVLine that Butler’s character Reggie is being recast due to the actor’s availability. 'We love what Ross did with the role of Reggie [this season], but because of his commitments to other projects, we couldn’t use him nearly as much as we would have liked,' Aguirre-Sacasa told TVLine. 13 Reasons Why hasn’t been renewed for a second season, so this news is another indicator that Netflix and executive producer Selena Gomez are bringing it back. '[Next season], we want more Reggie on our show — he’s Archie’s rival! — and because Ross is unavailable to come back to Riverdale, we’re looking for a new Reggie. Those are big shoes to fill, but we’re confident we can find an actor who is as funny and sexy as Ross. And of course we all wish Ross the best.'”

EW has a lengthy piece about former Big Brother winner Adam Jasinski, who was subsequently incarcerated for "possession with intent to distribute oxycodone and another for failure to file a tax return on his Big Brother winnings. He was sentenced to 48 months in prison. It was a shocking postscript to a show that was never even meant to air. And yet it launched a journey that ultimately saved Jasinski’s life."

"Scripps is teaming with Grammy-winning country singer Faith Hill on a new daytime lifestyle talk show slated to launch September 18 on Scripps-owned stations across the country.  Fellow country singer and TV personality Kellie Pickler and Emmy-winning New York City journalist Ben Aaron will host the untitled show, which focuses on everyday living and activities, covering everything from cooking, gardening, entertaining and home design to beauty and fashion."

AMC has renewed Into The Badlands for a 3rd season.

A whole host of episodes of Married At First Sight appeared on my DVR last night.  Meh.

At least Bill Cosby's daughter has his back.

"Bachelor Chris Soules is in custody after allegedly slamming into a tractor, killing the driver and then fleeing the scene ... TMZ has learned.  The incident happened in Iowa Monday at 8:20 PM. According to docs, Chris was driving a Chevy pickup and rear ended a John Deere tractor, sending it into a ditch. The driver was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died."  He has since deleted his IG account.  It's a start.

I've seen and heard more than I need to of Charlamagne The God this week.  Go 'way.

Ranking every Ryan Murphy series.

A Family Matters reunion?

Mike Rowe is pissed at Nordstrom: "I mean really, who has time these days to wait for a pair of jeans to naturally fade? I also understand the different cuts. Might as well get something that fits and feels comfortable. But they lost me years ago with their various stages of “distress.” The stone wash and the acid wash the rinsed wash and the bleached wash… And they really lost me when they started tearing holes in them on purpose.

"I saw a pair of jeans at Macy’s the other day that looked like they’d been bathed in boric acid, hung up and shot multiple times with a twelve-gauge, and then pounded on a rock down by the river. They too, were on sale, for $249.00.

"But forget the jeans themselves for a moment, and their price, and look again at the actual description. “Rugged Americana” is now synonymous with a 'caked-on, muddy coating.' Not real mud. Fake mud. Something to foster the illusion of work. The illusion of effort. Or perhaps, for those who actually buy them, the illusion of sanity."

"Dule Hill is returning to USA Network.

"The Psych grad has joined the cast of the NBCUniversal-owned cable network's Suits, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

"Hill, who will be in a season-long arc, will join Suits starting in season seven. He will play Alex Williams, a longtime friend of Harvey's (Gabriel Macht), who is currently a senior partner at rival law firm Bratton Gould, where he maintains an enviable roster of clients.

"Season seven of Suits, which returns July 12, will see Mike (Patrick J. Adams) officially recognized as a lawyer, having accepted Harvey’s offer to return to the firm. The team at Pearson Specter Litt is now back together, with everyone adjusting to a new world order without Jessica (Gina Torres).

"Suits brings Hill back to USA following his eight-season leading role as Gus on Psych. His credits include The West Wing, CBS' short-lived Doubt, the upcoming third season of HBO's Ballers and the J.D. Dillard film Sleight, which bows Friday."

Another show filmed in Toronto (in addition to the aforementioned Suits): "There's a reason Hulu's adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale filmed in Toronto though it is set in the U.S. The highly anticipated series is based on a book by famed Canadian author Margaret Atwood and is studied in schools across that country. 

"Picked up straight to series, the 10-episode drama stars Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss and takes place in Gilead, a futuristic but simplified world in which fertility issues abound and women's rights are a thing of the past. In order to keep the population up, government officials in a totalitarian society send young and fertile women — the 'handmaids' — to affluent families, where they are forced to help couples procreate via sexual servitude.

"To create the specific look of the series, production designer Julie Berghoff worked with producers to conceptualize and build the fictional world of Gilead. That included transforming exterior downtown Toronto location shoots into a Massachusetts town. Add in the intricate Waterford household sets in Mississauga, Ontario, (which were based on a house the production found in the province’s town of Hamilton), and there are plenty of extra details that even the camera might not pick up.

“'This house is Gilead,' showrunner Bruce Miller told THR during a set visit. “'The commander is the patriarchy. The women in the house occupy the different statuses. You kind of reduce Gilead to one place, but what you have to be able to then do is extrapolate. You have to be able to build a whole world out from the house otherwise. So we’re constantly putting little hints and details into it to get a bigger world.'

"Below, The Hollywood Reporter breaks down some of the biggest secrets on the show's elaborate set:

The Art

Almost all of the pieces that are shown in the series are re-creations from the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Producers say they felt that if the state was falling, those in power might hoard some of the famed pieces — so it made sense for Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), a painter, to have some of them in her house. The addition of the paintings came with further discussion though: did the designers then get rid of famous signatures like Monet, given that no text is allowed in this world? In the end however, they made the decision to leave the names on most of the pieces.

The Commander’s Office

It’s no secret that those in power don’t always abide by their own rules, and The Commander (Joseph Fiennes) is no exception. His office is what Berghoff jokingly referred to as a place where “books go to die.” The ceiling is an intricate and detailed map of the world; Berghoff pictured The Commander sitting below and throwing darts up at where he would conquer next. Meanwhile, there are plenty of available seating areas because Berghoff wanted to give the cast and crew a few different options when it came to the infamous Scrabble games between The Commander and Offred (Moss).

Serena Joy’s Room

By far the most beautiful room of the house, Serena Joy’s bedroom is full of art. All the shades of blue within correlate with the shades of blue from Serena’s costumes (the color-coordination was a huge one between Berghoff and costume designer Ane Crabtree) and the four-poster bed was purposefully designed with one thing in mind: The Ceremony. In fact, there’s a play on blue during Offred’s opening voiceover in the second episode in a scene that takes place in that very room.

Offred’s Room … and the Closet

Unlike the other rooms in the house, Offred’s room is bare and minimalistic. The off-white colors were selected to help make the red of her costumes pop even further, and the adjoining bathroom is completely old school. Meanwhile, the infamous closet where Offred finds the Latin message from a previous Handmaid is actually not a closet at all; it’s a door that leads out to the sound stage but is built out when needed for special scenes.

The Kitchen

It isn’t exactly the heart of the home, but plenty of scenes take place here as Offred and Martha (Amanda Brugel) exchange words and tokens for food. Berghoff designed the kitchen to feel modern but rustic. With no appliances or modern trinkets she had the tough job of making it feel like a space that would exist in 2017, but one without cookbooks or other such texts. So she loaded it up with fresh herbs and other puritan items one could picture people using and needing in a time like this.

The Symbols

Perhaps one of the biggest jobs of all was creating a world with no text. It took months for an art department of more than 100 people come up with all of the different aspects, and in the end they came up with more than 500 different symbols and labels for the common goods found at the various marketplaces and such.  

The Exteriors

Berghoff and her team sourced plenty of modern, public spaces for some of the location shoots because they wanted to give the feeling that this is a world that could surface tomorrow — not in the past or in the distant future. They also had to make sure the locations they selected fit in with the show’s color scheme and that the costumes didn’t look out of place. In the end, they included exterior shots at Toronto’s City Hall, where some of the hangings take place, a wall by the water found in Cambridge, Ontario, street shots in Hamilton, Ontario, and various downtown Toronto locations like Front Street and The Harbourfront Centre. In one episode, as June (Moss) is being let go from her job, sharp-eyed viewers can even see the black-and-red Canadian Broadcasting Corp. building."

Just when you thought you had enough content to consume: "Get ready for nonstop live video inside Twitter.

"The company, which reports first quarter earnings Wednesday, plans to air live video 24 hours a day, 7 days a week inside its apps and desktop site, building on the 800+ hours it aired in the first three months of 2017, Twitter COO and CFO Anthony Noto told BuzzFeed News. Call it Twitter TV or The Twitter Network, the always-on realization of Twitter’s current live video offering of sports, news and entertainment programming is on its way.

“'We will definitely have 24/7 [video] content on Twitter,' Noto said during an extensive interview about the company’s live video strategy last week. 'Our goal is to be a dependable place so that when you want to see what’s happening, you think of going to Twitter.'

"Noto's assertion follows the loss of Twitter's cornerstone NFL deal to Amazon. But despite losing the rights to stream the package of Thursday night games, Twitter is seeing enough benefit from live video to make it a pillar of its growth and revenue strategy. Live video is driving up conversation volume on the platform, Noto said, and it’s helping Twitter offer the type of 15- and 30-second unskippable video ads for which advertisers typically write big checks to TV networks.

"Twitter will take some time to reach its 24/7 programming goal, Noto said, without offering a timetable. But he indicated much more programming in the works. 'We’re working on many, many things,' Noto said. 'There’s a lot in the pipeline.'

"The engagement live video is driving on Twitter stems in part from the company’s decision to heavily promote it. Twitter is autoplaying videos inside its desktop site and airing them live from its relatively new Explore tab. And the company's decision to do so has resulted in some sizable viewership numbers. Twitter’s NFL package averaged 3.5 million unique viewers and its Oscars pre and post shows brought in a combined 6.4 million. Meanwhile, its live inauguration day coverage from PBS netted some 8.6 million unique viewers. (BuzzFeed partnered with Twitter on an Election Day show that drew about 7.7 million unique viewers.)

"Next week, Twitter will pitch advertisers on the value of spending big bucks to reach its audience at its first ever NewFronts event. The company will introduce a handful of new shows in hopes of landing some big upfront ad buys from top-tier sponsors. Noto declined to go into detail about what’s coming.

"Twitter loudly touted its 2016 NFL deal in press releases and earnings calls last year, so losing it to Amazon the following year wasn’t a great look. But the company has some ideas about other programming that might fill the NFL’s shoes — the Ultimate Fighting Championship. 'We have a really big audience when there’s a pay-per-view UFC match,' Noto said. 'Should we provide that content to the audience on Twitter that’s not watching it, but might like to after seeing tweets about it? That’s something we’d consider.'

"Meanwhile, the $10 million Twitter spent on last year’s NFL package should continue working for it even after Amazon airs a similar set of games for $50 million next season. Twitter’s NFL deal helped it plant a flag in the live video marketplace, letting programmers know it was dead serious about live, and demonstrating an infrastructure that could handle millions of viewers tuning in at once.

“'It was instrumental [in generating additional interest],' Noto said of the NFL deal, declining to comment on the premium Amazon seems to have paid for it. 'It’s a really high-profile brand and one that has really high expectations for product quality. It caused people to come and see if we could deliver.'

"One entity that took notice of Twitter’s NFL deal was 120 Sports — a joint venture between MLB Advanced Media, the National Hockey League, and a handful of other big sports media brands and leagues. 120 Sports began airing a sports highlights show called The Rally exclusively on Twitter in September 2016, and its CEO Jason Coyle said the company's NFL deal played a role in the decision to do so. 'We could see that our deal was not going to be a one off,' Coyle told BuzzFeed News. 'We didn't want to just throw the show out there exclusively with a partner that wasn’t that serious about growing.'

"Shows like The Rally — a cheap-to-produce, laid-back version of ESPN’s Sportscenter — give Twitter the less polished, less expensive programming it needs to fill its airtime. Noto said the company will always look for a combination of ultra-premium content and not-so-ultra-premium content. So Twitter needs Rally-like programming. Indeed, it’s already airing similarly not-so-ultra-premium shows from financial news network Cheddar and the NBA, which is now programming a sports talk show called The Starters exclusively for Twitter.

"From Twitter’s perspective, becoming a source of always-on-in-the-background video in the way that CNBC is in airports would be a great outcome. 'We think that is a great way to have the programming carried along with you during your day,' Noto said. 'Focus in on it when you hear something that’s of interest, but then maybe not be 100% focused on it when it’s not of interest. I did that myself during the debates.'

"That kind of video falls into a category Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners calls 'ambient digital video,' which he believes exploits a gap left by digital video services like Netflix and HBO Now that are always looking for your full attention. Liew told BuzzFeed News in an email that Twitter may have hit on a potentially big opportunity here. 'If Twitter can own this use case, it may be a complement to the Netflix and Amazon use cases,' he said."

Per Deadline, "ESPN confirmed that there’ll be a new round of layoffs today that one source says could hit about 100 of the company’s roughly 1,000 public facing on-air announcers and dot-com writers.

"No one has been identified yet. These disclosures likely will trickle out once the people affected are told.

“'A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions,' ESPN President John Skipper says in a memo to staffers.

"Changes in ESPN content must 'go further, faster…and as always, must be efficient and nimble,' he says. That means 'we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent—anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play—necessary to meet those demands. We will implement changes in our talent lineup this week. A limited number of other positions will also be affected and a handful of new jobs will be posted to fill various needs.'

"ESPN said in March that the layoffs announced today were a possibility.

"So far this year sports viewing on Disney networks is down about 4%, Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser noted this week.

"But commentary shows such as ESPN’s SportsCenter have been especially hard hit as fans increasingly find the latest scores and video clips on their smart phones. ESPN’s commentary shows are down 16% so far this year, the analyst says.

"Disney reported ESPN’s ad sales fell 7% in the last three months of 2016, while programming and production costs grew.  Some of that was due to the shifting mix of games in the quarter vs. the previous year.

"Costs will continue to rise, however, as the company absorbs the higher price of its new NBA rights deal.

"The company plans to launch an ESPN-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service later this year with niche sports events it doesn’t offer to pay TV customers.

“'The most important thing for ESPN is to continue to support and nurture their program offerings,' CEO Bob Iger told analysts in February. 'Second to that, you have to be willing to either create or experience some disruption as we migrate from what has been a more traditionally distributed world to a more modern or more non-traditional distribution world. And some of that we’re going to end up doing to ourselves, meaning we understand that there is disruption, but we believe we have to be a disruptor, too.'”