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’”