Thursday September 28, 2017

Will & Grace returns to NBC tonight.

As does an all new season of Nathan For You on Comedy Central.

A long interview with This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman.

RIP Hugh Hefner.

News seasons of Grey's Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder premiere tonight.

Will HGTV survive without Fixer Upper?

"Dean Norris is getting mixed up in another small-screen Scandal. The Breaking Bad alum will recur on the ABC drama in its upcoming seventh (and final) season, TVLine has confirmed. Though details about Norris’ role are being kept under wraps, the above photo of his character — seen chatting up Cyrus at President Mellie Grant’s first official state dinner — may hold a clue or two. Norris joins a growing list of actors appearing in unspecified roles this season, one which already includes Jay Hernandez (Nashville) and Shaun Toub (Homeland)."

If you're going to be on Survivor, the presumption is that you're familiar enough with the show to understand how to play the game.  Alan Ball didn't get that memo.  Here's a little more about him.

"On the heels of Young Sheldon‘s stellar Monday premiere, CBS has given a full-season pickup to the Big Bang Theory spinoff with an order for nine additional episodes, bringing the comedy’s freshman total to 22 episodes. It is the first new series of the 2017-18 season to receive a full-season pickup."

TBS has set premiere dates for its new series Snoop Dogg Presents The Joker’s Wild and Drop the Mic. Joker's Wild will debut at 10 PM Tuesday, October 24, followed by the new singing-competition series at 10:30 PM. 

30 Rock  heads to Hulu October 1, when the streaming service will begin offering the series in its entirety.

"Jessica Graf and Cody Nickson are moving from the Big Brother house to The Amazing Racestarting line.  It will be a live event, as CBS is inviting fans of the duo (otherwise known as Jody) to witness them take off at Washington Square Park (Fifth Ave. and Waverly Place) in New York on Sunday, Oct. 1. The public start will begin at 11:30 a.m. and as of now Jessica and Cody are the only names being revealed for The Amazing Race's upcoming 30th season."

Spike has canceled The Mist.

Meghan McCain has officially signed onto The View as a regular co-host, Variety has learned exclusively.

Zac Efron on Stranger Things?

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Per US Weekly, "Justin Timberlake is getting back in the game. Thirteen years after his controversial Super Bowl halftime performance with Janet Jackson birthed the term 'nipplegate' the 10-time Grammy winner — who’s currently working on his fifth solo album — has been asked to take the stage at the NFL championship in Minneapolis on February 4.

"An insider reveals the 36-year-old 'is finalizing' his deal, and though reports suggested the dad of 2-year-old son Silas (with wife Jessica Biel) might perform with onetime collaborator Jay-Z, the insider says, 'as of right now, it will just be Justin — no surprise performers.'

"Timberlake threw it back to his ’NSync days at the 2017 Super Bowl, when he appeared in a surprise Bai Antioxidant Infusions water commercial alongside Christopher Walken. In the ad, the legendary actor, 74, did a dramatic reading of the pop band’s hit Bye Bye Bye.

"Timberlake and the official Twitter account for 'NSync shared the commercial afterward. 'Here goes... #BaiBaiBai. With the one and only #ChristopherWalken. @DrinkBai #SB51,' Timberlake tweeted. The band's page added: 'Bye Bye = Bai Bai.'

"Timberlake’s 2004 performance with Jackson not only caused a stir, but changed the rules of the annual broadcasted sporting event as well. Following the shocking end to their performance of Timberlake’s hit Rock Your Body – in which he pulled part of Jackson's costume off, briefly revealing her pierced nipple and right breast – the Federal Communications Commission cracked down on new policies and a five-second broadcast delay during live performances was implemented."

"The Hills creator Adam DiVello is returning to TV.

"CMT has greenlit a new Nashville-centered docuseries from DiVello, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

"From Lionsgate, Music City follows a group of young up-and-coming artists chasing their dreams of success in the music industry while struggling to balance their personal lives. The eight-episode series will film in Nashville, just like CMT's scripted country music drama Nashville, and the two will be paired together when Nashville kicks off its sixth season in January. (Nashville, like Music City, also hails from Lionsgate.)

"DiVello created the series and will exec-produce through his Done and Done Productions banner. The order also keeps him in the Viacom fold, where his series The Hills, its predecessor Laguna Beach and the Hills spinoff The City all aired on MTV. The Hills was by far the biggest hit of the trio, grabbing 4.8 million viewers. 

“'Music has always played a huge role in the storytelling process of my past series,' said DiVello, 'and with Music City, we’ll take that element to another level, as we document the real-life struggles, heartaches, and drama of those chasing their dreams of stardom. Nashville is such an exciting city and I can’t wait to share with the world the stories of this incredibly talented cast we’ve put together.'

"For CMT, the series order comes after nine consecutive months of year-over-year ratings growth at the cabler among adults 18-49. Quarter to date, the country music channel is up 17 percent in the demo, thanks to the addition of scripted drama Nashville, after four seasons at ABC. On the unscripted side, CMT's originals include Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, I Love Kellie Pickler and Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge.

“'After a banner year of growth, we’ve enlisted one of the industry’s most influential and talented producers to help guide our ever-expanding fan base deeper inside our beloved hometown,' said CMT and TV Land general manager Frank Tanki. 'Like its sister series, Nashville, Music City will spotlight a group of young artists as they grapple with love, life and the pursuit of their dreams through the incomparable lens of the creator of some of the most memorable series of the last 20 years. We welcome all the fans of Laguna Beach and The Hills that are now our target audience into the world of Music City, and CMT as a whole.'” 

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Per BGR, "[t]o be perfectly honest, Apple’s tepid foray into the world of original TV programming has been pretty atrocious thus far. From the universally panned reality show Planet of the Apps to the seemingly irrelevant spin-off of Carpool Karaoke, Apple’s TV efforts haven’t exactly inspired confidence in the company’s ability to deliver programming people actually care about watching.

"Apple, though, is well-aware of this and is actively looking to deliver a premium show similar in quality to HBO’s Game of Thrones. To help make this a reality, Apple a few months ago hiredJamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, two seasoned TV executives who were partly responsible for bringing Breaking Bad to AMC a few years back. What’s more, Apple has reportedly given Erlicht and Van Amburg a budget of $1 billion as part of its broad plan to develop, produce and acquire original content.

"Interestingly, Apple is reportedly 'taking meetings' with a wide array of A-listers, with Jennifer Aniston and Steven Spielberg cited as two such examples.

"Though Apple hasn’t secured anything of note just yet, the report notes that Apple has nonetheless become something of a player in the hyper-competitive TV space.

"Already, the Cupertino company’s Culver City outpost has leap-frogged much of its competition in the Hollywood hierarchy, with multiple agents acknowledging that any project they would take to Netflix or HBO is now taken to Apple as well. Some credit the company’s brand cachet for its overnight status; others cite the $260 billion-plus in cash on its balance sheet, which should translate to a content budget of at least $1 billion in year one.

"That notwithstanding, the reality is that Apple will have to spend huge sums of cash if it really wants to compete with juggernauts like Netflix. While Apple’s bank account easily dwarfs every other company on the planet, Apple, at least for now, is reportedly unwilling to spend as much as Netflix.

"Citing one such example, Apple was interested in acquiring Ratchet, an origin story based on a character from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Apple was said to have made a lucrative offer, only to see Netflix swoop in and make a better one.

"Van Amburg and Erlicht, who sat with the prolific producer to discuss the project this summer, made a rich, multiseason offer. But, like Hulu, Apple ultimately was outbid by Netflix, which, in addition to offering two seasons up front, threw in bells and whistles that made the offer impossible for Murphy and his studio partners to refuse. Among those enticements: a jaw-dropping sum to continue streaming Murphy’s American Horror Story, which also is available on Hulu.

"Truth be told, Apple may have to be willing to spend a tad more if it wants to start securing premium-quality content. A $1 billion fund for TV programming is certainly nothing to scoff at, but it pales in comparison to the $6 billion Netflix will have spent on content in 2017 alone."

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"A dystopian drama starring Elisabeth Moss has done more for Hulu than help it win 10 Emmys.

"The streamer's average daily sign-ups are up 98 percent since March, executives at the service shared with The Hollywood Reporter. In that same period, Hulu has broken its record for daily sign-ups seven different times.

"'Three or four years ago, Hulu was largely known as that website where you watch last night's TV, but we've actually become a lot more than that,' says Hulu's head of experience Ben Smith. 'Handmaid's Tale was fabulous in and of itself, but what it also did was open up a conversation about everything else that is on Hulu.'

"Since Hulu bowed the dystopian drama in April, the streamer has found itself with a watercooler show for the first time in the six years it has offered original programming — a difficult feat given the more than 500 scripted series that crowded the television landscape this year. The momentum culminated Sept. 17 when it became the first streaming service to take home a best series trophy in either the drama or comedy categories.

"But Smith attributes interest in Hulu's service to more than just Handmaid's. During the same period, Hulu also launched its $40-per-month live television bundle (which includes a subscription to Hulu's limited advertising tier), began offering HBO and Cinemax as subscriber add-ons, and teamed with Spotify to sell its service to students at a discount. And, he says, since Hulu's redesign this spring, minutes viewed per week has grown by 5 percent.

"Sign-ups spiked around three key moments this last year, notes Smith: the premiere of Handmaid's (which also broke records for the streamer in terms of viewership of a single show and completion rates of the second and third episodes), the launch of its HBO add-on ahead of the Game of Thrones premiere, and the days leading into the fall television season, ahead of which Hulu has added 7,500 episodes from HGTV, A&E, Fox and other licensing partners.

"Smith calls September 'a really remarkable month' for Hulu's growth, saying with a laugh, 'We can't even make slides that show engagement and subscription records anymore because they're gone the next week.'

"Hulu declined to say how many subscribers it has added during the same six-month period in which it saw increased sign-ups. The company stopped revealing subscriber numbers earlier this year, reporting instead that it had 47 million unique viewers.

"That number, executives say, carries more weight with advertisers than subscriber growth. But it also benefits Hulu to discourage comparisons to Netflix, which when U.S.-only Hulu reported 12 million subscribers in 2016, had 47 million domestic subscribers of its own (a number that has since grown to nearly 52 million).

"The test for Hulu now is whether it can keep the momentum going. The streamer recently inked an exclusive licensing deal for NBC's Will & Grace. And with AMC veteran Joel Stillerman now running the content team, the number of high-profile projects (like Sean Penn-fronted The First from former House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon) is expected to multiply.

"Of course, growth comes at a price. BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield estimates that Hulu, which has an annual content budget of $2.5 billion, lost $353 million during the first half of this year, compared to a loss of $195 million during the same period last year. But, CEO Mike Hopkins, recently told THR, 'We're just getting started.'"

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From Vice: "When the mockumentary first infiltrated popular culture in the early aughts, it was only a few short years until the style was inescapable. Audiences couldn't seem to get enough of the single-camera shots, awkward silences, and bumbling dialogue. Traditional sitcoms and their laugh tracks suddenly had to share the primetime spotlight as comedies like The OfficeParks and Recreation, and Modern Family dominated airwaves and demanded coverage in the fledgling TV blogosphere.

"But a decade has passed since our entertainment hit peak mockumentary, and the genre has been all but forgotten, pushed aside for the current wave of high-stakes drama and dark comedy known as prestige television. So, where exactly did all the mockumentaries go?

"Like many things in comedy, you can trace the genre back to the hilarious ingenuity of Monty Python and Albert Brooks. In 1969, the first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus featured "The Funniest Joke in the World," a documentary-style sketch based on the premise of a single joke being so funny that anyone who hears it will die from laughter. Ten years later, Brooks directed and released Real Life, a full-length documentary spoof of the PBS reality showAn American Family. However, it's the 1984 film This Is Spinal Tap that is widely credited with launching the mockumentary style onto the larger pop-culture stage.

"The now-classic comedy was hardly a success upon its theatrical release, but found greater fame and a cult following after it was released on VHS. The movie featured Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer (who also acted in Brooks's An American Family), and Michael McKean. The cast would go on to find their own respective success in comedy, but Guest in particular would make his name synonymous with mockumentary.

"In the late 90s, Guest wrote and directed Waiting for Guffman, a mock docu-style movie with improvised dialogue about the community theater production of a musical. During the opening weekend, the film made an insultingly low $37,990 off a $4 million budget. The poor opening numbers hinted that American moviegoers weren't ready for the particular comedy of a mockumentary. Luckily, Guest never gave up on the genre, releasing Best in Show in 2000. It made more than ten times the opening weekend sales as his previous effort and went on to gross $20 million.

"Around this time, Larry David was working with HBO on developing an hour-long comedy special in which David would play himself returning to stand-up, with an unknown actor cast as his wife (so those watching might mistake her for his actual wife) and everything shot as if it was a real documentary. The mockumentary-style special would eventually turn into the breakout show Curb Your Enthusiasm, and although the series strayed from the style of the special, it never lost the cringeworthy quality often associated with the genre.

"It took a couple of seasons before Curb Your Enthusiasm found a following, but audiences' comedic tastes were starting to change anyway. Guest struck gold again in 2003 with his movie A Mighty Wind, another mockumentary that was praised by critics and audiences alike. Comedy Central teamed up with comedy troupe the State for the Cops spoof Reno 911; Canadian TV was airing the mockumentary-turned-series Trailer Park Boys; over in the United Kingdom, the BBC began broadcasting Ricky Gervais's The Office, a bone-dry mock documentary about an everyday workplace that became the first British comedy to ever win a Golden Globe Award.

"All of this proved that viewers were finally ready for comedy that blurred the lines between reality and farce. The repeated pattern showed the suits in showbiz that the success of the genre wasn't a one-off. Hollywood finally saw that the mockumentary had the potential for both financial and cultural success—but could it thrive on basic cable and win over a mainstream-sized audience?

"True to typical Hollywood form, the first major network foray into the mockumentary sitcom was a remake. NBC looked to BBC's The Office to woo American audiences. It was a slow start; the first season lacked the same punch of the original, but by its second and third seasons, the show had swept the nation and was a full-blown cultural phenomenon. The larger success of the mockumentary wasn't limited to the small screen either. In 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen unleashed Borat on the world, bringing in a staggering $261 million at the box office along with two Academy Award nominations. Both projects were a case study of mockumentary success, and that was all it took for the style to overtake our TV screens.

"A couple of seasons into The Office, NBC greenlit another mockumentary project from its alumni: Parks and Recreation, which applied the same mock-doc lens to a ragtag team of government employees in small-town America. That same year, ABC premiered a mockumentary series of its own: Modern Family. Primetime television suddenly had three mockumentary-styled comedies running at once. All shows were award-winning, long-lasting hits: The Office ended in 2013 after nine seasons, Parks and Recreation in 2015 after seven seasons, and Modern Family is currently in its ninth season. There are currently at least 184 award wins (of a whopping 651 nominations) between the three shows.

"Within the past few years, though, the majority of new attempts at the genre have fallen flat or outright failed. Last year, ABC canceled a mockumentary-style version of The Muppets after just a single season; Documentary Now! on IFC can't seem to break through the TV landscape to a larger audience; Saturday Night Live alum lost more than $10 million with their mock-doc movie Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. (Though it should be noted that both Documentary Now! And Popstar found some cult success.) Even the 2016 Christopher Guest mockumentary Mascots scored a dismal 51 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. (All of the aforementioned Guest mockumentaries have ratings between 88 percent and 95 percent.)

"The wants of audiences and thematic trends in entertainment change. AMC's Mad Men and Breaking Bad ushered in a new era of envelope-pushing TV. So did HBO's Girls and Amazon's Transparent. Family dramas like NBC's Parenthood and This Is Us also came into the picture. TV was suddenly either highbrow with a glossy finish, brutally sentimental, or unpolished and raw. Audiences no longer wanted television to masquerade as real for the sake of comedy; they wanted shows to mimic real life purely for the authenticity. Our current definition of TV comedy has gotten weirder, more political and everything in between. Complex, layered comedies like FX's Better Things and Atlanta, Netflix's Master of None and ABC's Black-ish are all thriving on both critical and cultural levels.

"The days of the deadpan half-characters and intentionally shoddy camerawork may be behind us, but it wasn't coldly calculated; audiences seem to have simply moved past the mockumentary. The state of broadcast and cable comedy is sharper, darker, and sometimes more surreal, but ultimately still as wonderful as it's ever been. Like a lot of things in pop culture, nothing gold can stay—and the mockumentary was one of them."