Monday December 10, 2018

I watched season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It remains a delightful show. I enjoyed season 2 as much, if not more than season 1. I cannot get enough of the fast paced witty banter. There were also some spectacularly shot moments (e.g., Susie walking through the hula hoops). If you’re waiting for the holidays to watch this one, enjoy! More below.

BET has canceled Hit The Floor. Don’t worry, I didn’t know that was a thing either.

The season finale of HBO’s My Brilliant Friend airs tonight. I look forward to digging in on this one.

Court TV is being rebooted in 2019. “When it launches in May 2019, Court TV will feature ‘in-depth legal reporting and expert analysis of the nation's most important and compelling trials,’ according to a release. It will be based in Atlanta. Court TV will air 24 hours a day and seven days a week on some cable systems and be available for free over the air and on digital subchannels in several dozen cities. Katz Networks is distributing the channel and said it has secured agreements with Tribune, Scripps and Univision group owners.”

A&E is developing nearly a dozen projects with British production companies including a moving documentary format where terminally ill people deliver a message to their families from beyond the grave. The broadcaster is in the early stages of developing the project, which has the working title Voices From The Grave, from Naked Entertainment, the production company run by former Fox reality chief Simon Andreae. The development was revealed by Sean Gottlieb, VP, development and programming, A+E Networks, as part of a webinar organized by British trade body Pact. The format, which was being sold by A+E Networks International at October’s Mipcom, follows terminally ill people and creates holograms of them before they die so that they can give their families a message when they pass. It offers people facing their final weeks and days the chance to show that death is not the end of their story.”

A Stranger Things season 3 teaser has been released.

SNL’s Michael Che on bidets.

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “[This story contains spoilers from season two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.]

“As endlessly delightful as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's ebullient title character is, and as perfectly calibrated as Rachel Brosnahan's performance is, Midge is also a lot. Her boundless energy and lightning-speed dialogue might threaten to become exhausting for a viewer, if it weren't for the balancing presence of her manager Susie (fellow Emmy winner Alex Borstein), whose hard-bitten cynicism keeps Midge grounded. Equally, Midge is the only thing viewers have ever seen Susie truly excited about, ever since the moment in the Amazon pilot in which she saw the potential in her first chaotic, off-the-cuff open mic set.

“Season two, which is now streaming on Amazon, deepens Susie and Midge's relationship — and offers some glimpses into Susie's past — while also showing its edges start to fray. As Midge's career continues to flourish in gigs both in and out of New York, it becomes clear that the two women are approaching this venture with different stakes.

"‘Midge can walk away from this decision to do stand-up any time she wants and have a comfortable, happy life,’ Borstein tells The Hollywood Reporter. ‘For Susie, it's this or nothing.’

“Below, Borstein discusses Susie's evolving relationship with Midge, her own experiences with the "lonely, tough" path of stand-up comedy and why she thinks Midge needs to stick with it:

In season two it's clear that there's a real friendship between Midge and Susie, but Susie won't admit it. Why is that?

She's never really had a friend before. She hasn't had the luxury of that, and she's terrified of what it really means to have a friend, and doesn't want to be hurt. She prefers living alone; it's much easier to just take care of herself and have no surprises. I think it's like they're in a new relationship, and Susie's always terrified that Midge is going to run back to her old life and her ex-husband. Susie's always afraid of losing her.

The extent of Midge's privilege, in contrast to Susie really having to struggle and worry about money, felt pronounced this season.

The money is just one example of the differences in their upbringing. Midge has had the luxury of being in a home where she was cared for and looked after and raised, and Susie is more like a wild animal raised by wolves and by herself on the street. If you try to bring a cat from the street home, they tear people up and shit in the house and ruin the furniture, and I think that's really the basic difference between the two of them. She doesn't have a support system. Midge can walk away from this decision to do stand-up any time she wants, and have a comfortable happy life, but for Susie it's this or nothing.

Midge deals with some overt sexism at a comedy club early in the season. Did that resonate with any experiences you had as a stand-up?

Yes, I didn't tour, and I wasn't a huge practicing stand-up, but I did a lot of open mics, and one of the reasons I hated doing it was that feeling backstage. It felt very much like a club I wasn't invited to, or wasn't a part of. So it was nice to see Midge stand up and just take her space and own it, and push it down their throats a little bit.

And Susie ends up having to maneuver the spotlight herself, because Midge gets bumped to such a late slot that the lighting guy has left…

I remember many times going to do open mics at places and I would just give up. It would be 2 a.m. and there's no crowd left and I'd just be like, "Fuck it, you win, I'm leaving." It's definitely true that if Midge had gone alone — I would always go alone to these things — and I think if she had gone alone, she absolutely would have left. I think with Susie there, they both kind of have to be accountable for each other.

Susie is very funny, in terms of comic timing and one-liners. Does she know she's funny, and does she have any interest in being a comedian herself?

No, she thinks that she's got a funny turn of phrase, she's a smart-ass, she's quick and she's clever, but she's not a performer. It's more like she's an art collector. She's a purveyor of art, but she really can't paint herself. She can be whip quick, and lash out, but in terms of crafting something on stage that would tell a story or create a persona, that's not what she's built for.

Susie gets swept up into Midge's old world a lot more this season, particularly when she comes to the Catskills. How were those scenes to play?

It's funny because she goes, but she's kind of sidelined. She's not really invited, and she's not necessarily supposed to be there, so she's definitely an outsider coming into that world. Most of us while we were there at the resort kept thinking of Dirty Dancing, because that's kind of the vibe. It was weird being outside of our norm, and not wearing my usual wardrobe, and not being in our usual sets. It was definitely challenging and interesting to see, "OK, do these characters sustain themselves outside of our world?" It was nice to see that they do.

Midge encounters this insane situation in the Catskills where her father, Abe (Tony Shalhoub), shows up during her stand-up set, and she just has to keep going. Did you ever experience a moment of panic like that on stage?

There were definitely nights when I would go down a road, and you're realizing it's not working, but you're not sure how to pull out. There's no eject button, so you think you're going to make it better but you end up making it worse, you just dig the hole deeper. I've had many of those experiences! Stand-up is something that I did not because that's my craft or my art, I did it because I wanted to get on stage as fast as I could. I was so needy and so desperate to try to perform and get attention that that's why I turned to stand-up, and for me looking back on it, it's a bit of a sad, lonely experience. I much prefer doing sketch comedy with people, or scripted material where you're working with a group and building something, and it feels more lasting. Stand-up feels so ephemeral to me, even though you can shoot it and you can make a stand-up special. It gets used up, it's consumed, and you move past it. Rarely do people now re-watch a stand-up special from 10 years ago, unless it's a classic like Richard Pryor, George Carlin or Steve Martin, but everyone and their mother has a Netflix special now, and I feel like it's just ephemera, it disappears. Most of it's so topical that it doesn't have an evergreen quality to it, so for me, it wasn't satisfying for what I really wanted to do. But it was such a great way to get up and start performing immediately, because you don't have to wait for a play to be written or to be cast in something. No one tells you you're good enough, you just get up and say, "I am. Here I am. Deal with it."

The show also depicts that lonely, tough side of stand-up more this season, and shows Midge struggling with whether it's worth it. Susie obviously wants Midge to stick with it, but do you think she should?

I do think she should stick with it. This character, this is her craft. She is doing something at that time that no one else was doing, she's telling the world about the experience of being a woman and what it means and who she is, and no one was doing that. She's not Lenny Bruce but they're equating that, and she is this very different kind of truth teller of that time, in a woman's body, and she absolutely should be doing it. When I was doing it, I was just trying to get laughs, and get attention, and now I can't really see myself doing stand-up again. I'll occasionally do a charity event or something, a little set, but it just has such a different feeling to me now. I'm not the same person and I'm not that needy any more, for it. But with Midge, it's very different and it's super important at that time, and her story needs to be told and that perspective does not exist anywhere. It's a must, I think.”

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While we’re at it, “If you’ve managed to binge the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel since it dropped late Tuesday, then you’ve already discovered series newcomer Zachary Levi is a natural with rapid-fire dialogue. And that skill has earned the Season 2 star his stripes as a new member of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s fast-talking club.

“The Maisel creator and her husband, writer/director Daniel Palladino, are known for writing quick, witty banter for their characters, and Levi’s Benjamin — a Jewish doctor introduced as a new love interested for Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) in the Prime Video comedy’s second installment — is no exception.

“‘I think I’m pretty good at the rapid-fire speech. You know, when I don’t stumble over my own tongue, which is easy enough to do,’ Levi told TheWrap in an interview Wednesday.

“Levi says, ‘Amy and Dan and that writers’ room, they write just excellent material’ and notes there is definitely a particular way that they want that material delivered on screen.

“‘Not only is it rapid-fire, but they want you to be word perfect as well,’ Levi said. ‘And sometimes the way that they would word things was just really — I don’t know, it felt very counter-intuitive to the way I would word it.’

“The actor says the duo were ‘collaborative’ and open to letting him do what he needed to do so he could remember it all — and ended up nailing it on screen.

“‘I mean, look, I’m fast-talking right now!’ he said. (Which he was.)

“Benjamin and Midge meet about halfway through Season 2, when both of their families are staying in the Catskills for the summer and their mothers try to set them up.

“‘It’s a slow burn, you know? Because she’s very bossy, and Benjamin’s just not having it,’ Levi said. ‘People have kind of likened the character to a Mr. Darcy archetype, and I think that’s actually a really good, classic way to explain him. And he’s a progressively-minded guy, particularly for the late 1950s. He doesn’t want just some doting housewife; he wants somebody that challenges him. And Midge turns out to be quite a challenge… as she is to most of the people in her life.’”

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Last one, I promise: “Before shooting began on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s sophomore season, cast member Marin Hinkle got a hint that she might want to keep her passport handy.

“‘I got a phone call about a month or two before we were heading to Paris, asking me, “Hey, do you speak French?”’ Hinkle, who plays Midge’s mother Rose on the Amazon comedy, tells TVLine. ‘I didn’t know if we were going to Canada, maybe. I said, “Yeah, in high school,” and they said, “OK, we’ll help you out with a tutor.”’

“Good thing she brushed up on her verb conjugation: Season 2’s first two episodes find Rose in Paris, where the Manhattan mom impulsively moved — without husband Abe — after feeling like no one at home needed her anymore. There, she reinvents herself as a carefree bohemian who’s about a thousands times less uptight than the Rose we met in Season 1. ‘She didn’t feel like she had an identity any longer,’ Hinkle observes. ‘In times like that in life, people go on meditative searches and quests. I feel like that was Rose’s version of meditation. She basically finds herself again.’

“Hinkle didn’t have much time to prepare: ‘We never had a script until maybe a day or two before we left, and at that point, I basically had to really learn the French that I was going to say for those episodes.’ But the rushed schedule actually helped the actress get in touch with her character, she says. ‘That kind of fish-out-of-water feeling, of being back in a land that was unfamiliar that Rose has, was really similar to how I was feeling.’

“She points to Midge’s marriage falling apart in Season 1 as the earthquake that eventually led to the aftershock of Rose’s big move: ‘When Midge’s relationship with her husband broke, the ripple effect is that other breakages occurred.’ Plus, Rose and Abe were already suffering from ‘a lack of openness and deep appreciation that tends to happen in relationships after many years… I think she wasn’t feeling heard or seen, and she says that to her husband, waiting for a response. There’s a part of her that tested him a bit, and he failed the test.’

“By the end of Episode 2, though, Rose ultimately decides to return to New York with Abe and resume her life as an Upper West Side housewife. How did Hinkle make sense of that character choice? ‘One way I got my brain around that was to say, “Look at that time period,”’ she says. ‘I often, as a woman in 2018, question Rose’s choices, but I have to go back in history and say, She was a woman in her 50s, in the ’50s, who clearly needs to be devoted to her husband to keep that marriage afloat.” Also, she adds, it’s not like Rose had Skype or FaceTime to keep in touch with her family while in France: “It would be too hard to be actively connected to her daughter and her son and her grandchildren. I think that played a part in it, too.’

“But she still enjoyed some lovely times in Paris — including that gorgeous fantasy dance sequence with co-star Tony Shalhoub along the Seine river at night. ‘We had a French dance teacher teach Tony and me to do this extraordinary waltz,’ Hinkle reveals, and she found herself just watching ‘all these beautiful Parisian dancers who I was just in awe of.’ But whenever she had any time to spare, she did her best to immerse herself in the native language: ‘I would sit down with any of the people we were working with, and say, “Please just talk to me in French.” I’m not going to understand 90 percent of it, but I just want to hear those sounds.’

“Altogether, Hinkle spent about two and a half weeks in Paris — so was she actually fluent by the time she left? ‘My French was… passable,’ she admits. ‘Most of the stuff that I learned was to really understand what I was saying in those scenes. But if you put me in a museum to actually have a real conversation, I never would’ve made it.’”

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Per TheWrap, “Showtime’s limited series Escape at Dannemora focuses on real-life escaped convicts Richard Matt (Benicio del Toro) and David Sweat (Paul Dano) and the prison worker who aided their escape, Joyce ‘Tilly’ Mitchell (Patricia Arquette). But when you have a pair of hardened criminals and the woman who is carrying on an affair with both of them, it’s hard to figure out who the viewers should be rooting for.

“That’s where Lyle Mitchell, the unaware husband of Joyce, comes in. ‘He’s very much a sympathetic character in the show,’ Eric Lange, who plays Lyle, tells TheWrap, describing him as the ‘human cost of this tabloid-sensationalized thing.’

“Lyle was one of the people involved in the ordeal who the show’s producers never got to speak with, co-showrunners Brett Johnson and Michael Tolkin had previously told TheWrap. Which makes sense. After all, would you want to speak about one of the most embarrassing moments of your life: finding out your wife of 21 years was not only sleeping with two prisoners but also aided in their escape and might have even plotted to kill you?

“‘He’s like shrapnel in all of this,’ Lange continued. ‘He’s one of the big victims in this whole story.’

“The limited series, which is directed and executive produced by Ben Stiller, is based on the 2015 prison break from Clinton Correctional Facility by Matt and Sweat. The two escapees — both convicted murderers — broke out of the Upstate New York facility, aided by Joyce ‘Tilly’ Mitchell, who reportedly carried on affairs with both men while supervising them in the tailor shop. It spawned the largest manhunt in the history of New York State.

“The real Lyle Mitchell has only spoken once about it, in a 2015 interview with Today show. ‘I’ll never forget watching it and feeling so sorry for him. He genuinely seemed confused and angry,’ Lange continued. ‘It was just so embarrassing on so many levels for him.’

“Lange had to rely mostly on that one interview to help him capture Lyle’s speech patterns and facial tics, but also got information through stories from other people that work at the prison that knew him.

“‘We got to tour the prison [which is still in operation] when we first started production, so all the guards that I met I would ask, “Did you know Lyle?”’ Lange said. ‘And all of them did, and all of them told me a little something about him.’ He added that a lot of background actors for the show were also from the area. ‘They all had a story.’

“The series paints Lyle as being mostly unaware of what his wife is up to, even if he does appear suspicious at times. But Lange explains that love can make you do crazy things, like look the other way when your wife might be sleeping with inmates and helping them break out of a maximum security prison.

“‘The great question is how much does he know? And how much is he going to let anyone else know he knows?’ Lange said. ‘Love is deaf, dumb and blind.’”

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From InStyle: “Lisa Vanderpump is on her way to downtown Los Angeles in pursuit of the perfect tablescape. “I’m such a control freak,” the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star says, explaining that she prefers to choose the flower arrangements for her four L.A. restaurants and lounges herself. “I’m very ambience-driven. You see this with Villa Rosa,” which is her 8,800-square-foot Beverly Hills home. Though "controlled" is not exactly how she'd describe her shopping habits. “I’ve been frivolous — I’ve spent way too much on a dress, on a handbag. I’m guilty of all of the above. I’m sure people see my wardrobe.” It’s generally topped off with glinting jewels and accompanied by a small, fluffy dog in one hand and a designer bag in the other. “I love things.”

That may be the first thing that’s apparent about Vanderpump — her imperial put-together-ness that teeters between camp and earnest extravagance. Her cheeky wit is the second. “I’m always rather inappropriate,” she says, telling me about the “mutterings of naughtiness” she slipped into a recent speech. This could explain why she's a fan favorite Housewife (if a pariah among her cast), and reportedly the highest paid. Vanderpump, 58, has embraced the role of reality-TV star, but by the time she became one in 2010, she was already a successful businesswoman. Growing up in London, she waitressed for a while (“I wasn’t that good”), began acting as a tween, and says she bought her first home at 19 with “not one penny from a man or my parents.” At 21, she married restaurateur Ken Todd, and they began building their nightlife empire.

If Housewives launched her, Vanderpump Rules is her zazzy mid-air flip. The spinoff casts her as a mentor and matriarch to the waitstaff at her West Hollywood restaurant SUR (eye-openingly, an acronym for Sexy Unique Restaurant), whose debaucherous dating antics and booze-fueled catfights make for high drama. It also places Vanderpump’s business center stage.

“I will take full credit for that,” says Vanderpump. After Season 1 of Housewives, “I was offered another job, and Bravo said, ‘No, we want you to stay with us.’” They wooed her with the promise of her own pilot, and Vanderpump had just the thing. Her young, attractive waitstaff at SUR and Villa Blanca, another Vanderpump establishment, had formed a convoluted and volatile social-sexual web. “It wasn’t three degrees of separation — it was one degree of separation, and the temperature got really hot between those relationships,” she says. It was easily greenlit.

Vanderpump’s sweet, functional marriage to Ken is a foil to the casual hookups and screaming matches that take place in the restaurant alley. “I’ve been married since I’m 21 so my knickers were not on automatic release when I was their age,” she jabs. She recently partnered with the two starring Toms (Schwartz and Sandoval) on Tom Tom, a venue she describes as “industrial romantic.”

The VPR origin story is momentarily interrupted by the sound of L.A. traffic. “Sorry — Puffy, one of my rescue dogs, has terrible gas, and I had to open the window,” Vanderpump says. She has six more at home (in addition to eight swans and two miniature ponies), and ever since an Internet rabbit hole led her to the gruesome discovery of China’s Yulin Dog Meat Festival, she and Ken have become devoted activists, lobbying Congress to pass a resolution condemning dog slaughter, funding a documentary, and opening the Vanderpump Dog Center in L.A.

This is something of a passion project for Vanderpump who says she “had a very tough year emotionally, [with] the tragedy that transpired in our family,” referring to the death of her brother, which she opened up about on both of her shows. She is mourning, but moving forward. She recently introduced a rosé brand. VPR Season 7 premiered on Monday. And next year, she’ll appear on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Season 9 (which may be her last, according to reports), while opening a new cocktail bar in Vegas. Eventually, she’d like to collaborate with her daughter, Pandora, on a kitchen line.

Vanderpump recons she’ll probably work, in some capacity, forever. But she has a pretty clear vision of retirement: “I could easily have a chateau in a vineyard in France and a place in L.A., obviously have all my dogs and horses around, and maybe be banging George Clooney every night.” Scroll down to read why she doesn’t own a credit card, but does own a $20,000 dress.

On her most regrettable purchase… “I bought a ridiculous ball gown from Valentino, and it was a fortune. You could buy a nice car for this dress. It was a black, lace wedding dress. I thought I’d be wearing it and wearing it and wearing it — and I’ve worn it twice. So I think I’ve paid basically $10,000 every time I’ve worn it.”

On her parents’ frugality… “My parents never lavished gifts and money on us. God, I hope they don’t read this. They were a bit stingy. I would get nice Christmas and birthday presents, but they were frugal. So I worked every school holiday.”

On how Housewives changed her life… “Oh my god, I can pick up the phone and get anybody I’d like. I could probably get the President of the United States on the phone. I’ve worked with him on Miss Universe. I’ve managed to tell him off for a couple of things, that’s for sure. You have access. I’ve spoken at United Nations. We have Congress’s ear. And it’s been good for our business.”

On turning down Housewives… “Bravo asked me a couple of times, and I refused. I said it’s so not me — I’m useless at arguing and fighting. It was Jennifer Stallone who said to me, ‘Come on, you should go.’ And then Robert Kovacik, the news anchor, one of my best friends, drove me to be interviewed. I had to start thinking, ‘Well, it’ll be fun.’”

On one thing that's missing from her wallet... “You’re not gonna believe it, I don’t even have a credit card. I have a debit card, and it comes out of my account. Because if I had a credit card, I would never pay the bills. I just wouldn’t remember. Pandora says, ‘With the amount of money you spend, you should have a credit card so you can get points.’ But I like to know where I stand.”

On her favorite products to 'hoard'… “I do spend a ridiculous amount of money on entertaining pieces, things that make the table look good. Because you keep those forever. Ken says, ‘You’re hoarder.’ We’ve just done our kitchen again, and I love rummaging through the flea markets and finding unique pieces, and having a tea party, and finding a little second-hand teapot that you fill with roses, that kind of thing.”

On molding her Vanderpump Rules proteges… “They still work at SUR because they love being part of a family and want to be on the show, but they’ve obviously benefited from being reality stars, doing things on the side, and I encourage that. I’ve always seen a lot of myself in Stassi, except she’s more petulant than I am. But she’s got the smarts. Brittany, I adore. There’s not a better person on the planet. I love Jax Taylor. Jax Taylor is a complicated human being. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I love them all. Well, Kristen does create a distraction. But when the chips are down, they support me. So many of the Vanderpump Rules kids put up their hands, bidding at our gala. So I can’t be pissed off with her for too long.”

On supporting her own kids… “I’ve always kept some money and invested in property, and I encourage my kids to do the same. I helped Pandora [and her husband] out with the deposit, they have their own mortgage, and already they’re moving up in the property market. Same with Max. It’s very difficult now for young people to get started in a place like Los Angeles. That was something I could help them with, but they have the responsibility of their bills and their mortgage, and I think that’s an important part of growing up.”

On the importance of financial independence… “Money is freedom. It gives you the power as a woman to say that you come and go when you want to. And, you know, ‘Let me pick up this dinner bill.’”

On working with her husband… “For the most part we agree. We’ve been married 36 years. All men are a pain in your ass — they just are — but he’s also my best friend. Everybody knows that you’ve got to pick your battles. He is incredibly kind, philanthropic, hard-working, he’s been a great father, and I just have a lot of respect for him. And he loves dogs as much as I do. Any man that loves the dog rescue and lets me live with dogs is worth marrying.”

On who looks at her bills… “I have total autonomy over my own money. That would drive me crazy. If Ken saw, he’d be saying, ‘What’s this? What’s that.’ But actually, I’m more conservative than he is.”