Monday April 1, 2019

Great having both Veep and Barry back. More on the latter below.

Seven years after the last new episode, Rachael Ray returns to Food Network today for 30 days of 30-Minute Meals.

I do not watch American Idol, but check out this guy Uche from last night. Evidently, he set the Twitterverse ablaze.

Netflix has released a trailer for Dead To Me, starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, and available to stream on May 3.

The first 2 episodes of The Twilight Zone are available for CBS All-Access subscribers.

Law & Order: SVU has been picked up for a 21st season.

I remain shocked at how much post-show coverage Saturday Night Live gets amongst the trades. Are people really that interested in recaps of skits?

On that note, how are The Neighborhood and Man With A Plan still current shows on CBS?

Here’s what is coming and leaving Netflix in April.

Vanderpump Rules Vegas.

Here’s more: “While Lisa Vanderpump‘s employees came together to support her at the Vanderpump Vegas opening party at Caesar’s Palace on Saturday night, they returned to their old ways on Sunday. James Kennedy, Raquel Leviss and Jesse Montana tanned at a sunbed at the property on Sunday afternoon, while Stassi Schroeder, Katie Maloney, Tom Schwartz, Kristen Doute, Scheana Marie and Peter Madrigal were spotted at a separate cabana area just feet away. They occasionally mingled but maintained their respective home bases. We’re told that most of the crew arrived early in the morning, but Tom Sandoval showed up to the pool around 3 p.m.”

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted 7,882 to 392 to implement an Agency Code of Conduct, ‘if and when it becomes advisable to do so’ when the current AMBA agreement expires on April 6. That equates to an overwhelming 95 percent of votes in favor of new rules that require talent agencies to eliminate packaging fees in order to represent WGA members. Should the WGA and the Association of Talent Agents fail to reach an agreement this week, the Code will be enforced on April 7, with the guild calling on its members to leave any agency that does not adhere to the new requirements.”

More on this battle. “The real X factor at this point is whether the guild and agencies have the stomach and the resources to wage a costly legal war over their differences. If the agencies hope to head off litigation, they’ll surely be forced to find a bigger concession than the current offer to make the packaging process an opt-in or opt-out question for writers with greater transparency. There’s a big school of thought on both sides of this fight that the real parameters of a deal won’t present themselves until a few hours before the deadline.”

“She’s in trouble, but she’s also in love: Elizabeth Holmes, the indicted founder of the bogus blood-testing company Theranos, has gotten engaged to William ‘Billy’ Evans, the heir to a hotel chain, according to multiple reports. Holmes, 35, is facing up to 20 years prison on accusations that she swindled investors out of hundreds of million of dollars. Her 27-year-old fiancé is the former manager of special projects for Luminar Technologies, which develops sensors for driverless cars. He had also worked at LinkedIn. Theranos went belly up after its claims of having developed a device that could quickly diagnose multiple illnesses based on a tiny amount of blood were proven to be phony. The ugly story is the subject of a series on HBO and a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence.”

Discovery, Inc. and BBC Studios have struck a ‘multi-million pound global content partnership,’ the companies said on Monday, which will bring BBC’s Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Life, Dynasties and other natural-history titles to Discovery’s SVOD platforms. The 10-year deal, which should close in late spring, relies on Discovery launching a new global streaming service for natural history programming by 2020 that will operate outside the U.K., Ireland and China. In addition to the hundreds of hours of already existing content, Discovery and BBC Studios will develop new landmark factual content together. The two companies will co-fund a dedicated development team within BBC Studios.”

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Per TheWrap, “Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick has signed on to star in the short-form comedy series Dummy for Quibi, a spokesperson for the video platform confirmed Friday.

“Created by Deadbeat and Kidding veteran Cody Heller, the buddy comedy centers on a writer and her boyfriend’s sex doll. In keeping with Quibi’s concept of short, digestible episodic storytelling, each installment of the series will be 10 minutes or shorter.

“Tricia Brock is attached to the project as a director and executive producer. Kendrick will also executive produce.

“Founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg and former Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, Quibi (short for ‘quick bites’) is set to feature a variety of short-form content targeting mobile viewing. It is expected to launch in either late 2019 or early 2020 with a two-tier pricing model: an $8 per month option that doesn’t include advertising and a $5 per month priced tier that has limited ads.

“Directors Sam Raimi (Spider-Man), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) and Antoine Fuqua (The Magnificent Seven) and producer Jason Blum (Get Out) are all expected to produce content for the service.”

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Per Vulture, “[t]he new-media takeover of late night is complete. YouTuber Lilly Singh is taking over Carson Daly’s 1:30 a.m. spot, and Jimmy Fallon is recording entire Tonight Show episodes on a phone. (Specifically a Samsung Galaxy, in stores now!) Ever since the first SNL Digital Short, late night has been getting a second life online. But like some terrible cyberpunk movie, the online second life is becoming more important than the broadcasted first life. Entire chunks of late night are digital-exclusive today, and late-night hosts live and die by their branding and ability to surf internet trends.

Full Frontal tried to take advantage of videos that go viral to make the MAVNI program (and how Stephanie Miller simultaneously ruined hundreds of immigrants’ lives and harmed national security) do just that. Every media entity tries to go viral, but there are entire subsections of YouTube that rely on these #challenges to harvest clicks: trailer reaction videos, trying new foods, dance challenges. This is YouTube. But it’s also late night. Late night lives and dies by the brands of its hosts in a way even the most creator-driven prestige show doesn’t. Late night has a regular posting schedule akin to YouTubers, only with breaks built in. YouTubers can’t take a break unless they make a tearful apology post about their mental health and/or they say something racist. YouTubers rely on branded content for their money, and as evidenced by the joyful marriage of Samsung and Fallon, so does late night.

“Trevor Noah was one of the first in the late-night sphere to make digital-only content a priority. The Daily Show’s Between the Scenes clips regularly receive more YouTube views than his interviews or desk pieces, and they have their own Facebook Watch page. What’s odd about the popularity of these segments is how joke-light they are. While explaining the narrow definition of reparations to a white jabroni, Noah gets one laugh. What does it mean that some of the most popular content for a comedy show is not comedy?

“Explaining racism to a white guy for the one millionth time with good cheer is something Noah can exclusively bring to the table. He loves engaging in dialogue with people who disagree with him more than any comedian I can think of. Because there is so much media, and because a lot of that media is more immediate than a show that airs four to five days a week at a set time, late night has had to figure out what they can bring to the table that Twitter can’t. And that ain’t jokes.

“By the time James Corden has recorded his monologue, so many jokes about his subject matter have been done on Twitter, and new shit has hit the fan in between tape and air. But something Corden knows he can bring is production value. Everyone has been making hay with the Theranos documentary. Bee did an Elizabeth Holmes impression too. Both are a week late to the party Busy Philipps started on late night, and I maintain that no one’s Elizabeth Holmes is better than Tavi Gevinson’s. But what Corden can bring is a glossy parody that hits the vibe of the documentary perfectly. He can cast amazing character actors as the talking heads. He’s got a graphics department. That’s the advantage late-night shows have over every schmo online: money.

“And guests! The real TV shows still have bookers that can lock in real talent. YouTubers are getting names, slowly but surely. Lilly Singh was at Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’s wedding, for instance. But the Jonas Brothers still promoted their comeback for a week on Corden, and this week, Stephen Colbert snagged Karen O and Danger Mouse for his show Monday. They brought Spike Jonze, so The Late Show did a BTS clip about how Jonze created the visuals for the Karen O/Danger Mouse performance. At the moment, the actual performance has more views. But the BTS video for Jonze’s Apple commercial has longer legs than the commercial itself, so it’s entirely possible Colbert’s peak behind the curtain will outlive what happened on TV.

“There are some new-media spaces that late night won’t touch. Except Jimmy Kimmel, who got into the darker side of YouTube this week: baseless conspiracy theories. But the posting schedule and media reach of the new generation just can’t be done by olds and their corporate handlers. Late Night with Seth Meyers has a podcast, but it’s mostly just audio from the TV show. YouTubers have podcasts that generate entirely new content, apparently mostly about catfucking. They live in branded castles covered with their own faces and logos. They wear their own merch. They’re young, they’re hungry, and they’re unprotected by Jackie Coogan laws.

“TV networks are responding to the new media onslaught by hiring new media stars. Lilly Singh will most likely continue to make YouTube videos once she has a late-night show, much as Busy Philipps has continued making Instagram stories and Desus & Mero have continued podcasting. The only way older late-night hosts can compete is passing off the auxiliary brand arms (the pods, vlogs, and the TikToks) to writers within the show. Yes, it is time to give Steve Higgins a vlog. He’s criminally underused standing at an announcer’s podium. Let Fallon play games with Cara Delevingne, but I want to see Steve Higgins mukbang Taco Bell. I want his ASMR cooking segments. I need him to do commentary on a marble race. Give the world the premium Higgins content it deserves, Tonight Show! It’s the only way you’ll survive.”

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From The Ringer: “One of TV’s original likable scumbags once offered his formula for getting away with (emotional) murder: ‘If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.’ All people want to do, including television audiences, is forgive and forget; the trick is to give them permission to do so by offering up a shiny new thing to fixate on. Their conscience will thank you for it.

“But Barry Berkman is not Don Draper. Adultery and identity theft are one matter, serial, cold-blooded murder quite another. The titular antihero of HBO’s Barry, played by writer-director-comedian Bill Hader, is guilty of crimes as literal as they are spiritual. Juxtaposed with the petty narcissism of his acting classmates or the mock professionalism of his organized crime overlords, the height of the Marine-turned-hitman’s body count is the foundation of his namesake show’s comedy. Barry’s kill tally, and his targets, also provide an alarmingly easy answer to the fundamental question of pretty much every antihero show before it: Is our protagonist a bad person, or just a person who does bad things?

Barry’s first season was impressive in part because it wasted so little time in giving this central query a definitive answer. In the seventh, penultimate episode, Barry escalated from taking out career criminals on his bosses’ orders to killing a nonviolent civilian on the verge of turning himself, and therefore Barry, in for a job gone wrong. Then, in case viewers didn’t get the point, Barry shot the warm, dedicated detective, who’d also become his mentor’s girlfriend, after she found him out—another innocent bystander caught in the crosshairs of his cover-up. To the central irony of an assassin trying to act, Barry added a deeper, sadder one: The harder Barry tries to go straight, the more irredeemable he becomes. Barry thinks he’s entitled to freedom from his old life without facing any of its consequences, and that belief in and of itself makes him a monster—a quiet, gentle, depressed, very deadly monster.

“But the strength of Barry’s debut also seemed to spell trouble for its longevity. If Barry came down so hard, so early on the issue of Barry’s integrity, or rather lack thereof, what more ground was there to cover? Would the show descend into nihilism, or be forced to backtrack? The New York Times’s James Poniewozik channeled this sentiment in a piece headlined On That Barry Finale and Why Some Shows Are So Good, They Need to End.

“‘Either Barry is capable of change or he’s not,’ Poniewozik wrote. ‘If he is, that seems like material for one more very good season or two. If he’s not … then the character’s drive (you, and Barry, want him to redeem himself) is at odds with the needs of the plot (you, and the network, want the story to keep going).’ Hader and his cocreator Alec Berg, also of Silicon Valley, have taken such worries in stride. ‘That review was like, “Oh, awesome!”’ Hader told The New Yorker’s Tad Friend earlier this month. ‘And then it was like, “But it’s actually bad, because we’re doing Season 2 now, so …” ‘So tough shit,’ Berg added.

“I, too, struggled to see a path forward for Barry that retained its delicate balance of humor, pathos, despair, and earnest soul-searching. But that’s also why I don’t currently have an Emmy taking up real estate on my mantel. (Both Hader and his costar Henry Winkler won awards for their performances in Season 1; Barry itself was also nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series.) The show’s sophomore effort, which premieres this Sunday, doesn’t continue to probe the same gray areas around guilt and atonement. It changes the conversation.

“In the three episodes, out of an eventual eight, provided to critics, Barry accepts as a given that its central character isn’t a good person. Instead, it poses a new question: How long will it take until he can, or is forced to, admit that to himself? Given that actors stereotypically lack self-awareness, this line of inquiry applies to most of Barry’s cast, not just its eponymous lead. Emotional honesty is the core of good acting, and yet few people are less capable of being honest with themselves than theater types, even the ones who aren’t secret mercenaries.

Barry’s first season ended with a flash-forward, a near future the second-season premiere dutifully fleshes out. Barry is sharing an apartment with two of his classmates and working a day job with another at Lululemon. His unlikely comrade, a genial Chechen mobster named NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan), is adjusting to the responsibilities that come with being boss. Barry’s acting teacher, Winkler’s serenely egotistical Gene Cousineau, is shattered by grief, going so far as to consider shutting down the acting class that gives him purpose and a steady stream of adoring disciples.

“It’s not a spoiler to say he doesn’t; the show must go on, including the tragicomedy of ditching crime for bad Shakespeare. But the new project Gene seizes on also happens to be the perfect vehicle for Barry’s slightly retooled mission. Rather than rehash monologues out of everything from Macbeth to Magnolia, Cousineau charges his pupils with writing their own material, sourced from the most traumatic moments of their own lives. For Barry, that means his time in Afghanistan, which left him so shattered that a gig as a murderer for hire looked like a life raft. For his girlfriend Sally (Sarah Goldberg), a bona fide working actress still stranded in thankless bit parts, that means the abusive marriage she left to pursue her dreams in Hollywood. For Gene, it prompts one of the funniest lines of the series to date: “LET’S MAKE IT ABOUT OURSELVES FOR ONCE!”

“This pivot dovetails nicely with the standard work of a sophomore season: broadening and deepening an ensemble beyond the outlines we came to know in Volume 1. As viewers, we’ve only heard about Barry’s time at war. Now, we get full-blown, unflinching flashbacks in keeping with the show’s skepticism toward a killer who wants to move on from his past without accounting for it. (Jingoistic young men let loose in a foreign country are about as glamorous as mercenaries who strangle drug dealers in a pile of their children’s toys.) Sally’s origin story, too, provides important context for the character and her single-minded drive to succeed. But Gene’s assignment isn’t just about his students’ histories; it’s about how they choose to present those histories, often in a more flattering, less truthful light than the project calls for. Just as Barry won’t let himself reckon with the true meaning of his actions, he can’t bring himself to admit to his peers that he got a rush out of his first kill, or that he’s not the war hero they might have pictured. For her part, Sally learns she may have exaggerated her own defiance, only to shut down any doubts before they start to interfere with her self-image.

“Slowly but surely, Barry turns into a show about people who can’t acknowledge the truth about themselves, even when it’s staring them right in the face. (A version of the theme even plays out in the gangster subplot, as NoHo Hank persists in believing he can co-run the mob with his Bolivian BFF, despite pressure from his bosses and a new Burmese rival.) We know Barry’s soul is beyond repair; more importantly, Barry knows we know it, and shapes its plot accordingly. Rather than handicapping the show, the undeniability of Barry’s badness ends up a boon, precisely because he continues to deny it. The dramatic irony continues to build, likely toward its breaking point. But Barry isn’t there just yet.”

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “Rick Devens is a whole new man. 

“The Survivor castaway broke free from the Edge of Extinction in this past week's merge episode, returning to the game with fire and fury — which may or may not be the unofficial names of the two halves of the whole immunity idol he returned with, playable only if he survived the first vote of the merge. (It's not.) The Georgia newscaster survived the merge vote indeed, though not without weathering two votes against him, one of which was cast by evening's ultimate victim: Joe ‘Joey Amazing’ Anglim, betrayed by his own Kama tribe.

“Of course, Devens knows a thing or two about getting cast out by his own people. He was first voted out at the fourth Tribal of the season, in what was supposed to be an emotional elimination for all parties involved. Turns out? Not so much, as veteran player Kelley Wentworth declared Devens her new public enemy following his unexpected return to the game. (For her part, it appears there are reasons to doubt the extent of Wentworth's desire to take down Devens, as revealed by the San Juan Del Sur and Second Chance contestant herself.) 

“What's the real reason Wentworth wanted Devens gone at the merge? The official Survivor answer will have to wait until this week's coming installment, if not later. For now, here's another account on the record: none other than the island's very own Kool-Aid Man, Rick Devens himself, who joins The Hollywood Reporter this week for an active player interview about what life was like out on Extinction, what was running through his mind on his journey back into the game, his perspective on the merge Tribal Council, and more:

Welcome back, Rick Devens! You were voted out, you survived Extinction, and now you're back. As someone who lived on both sides of this season's twist, how would you say the Edge of Extinction most impacts the traditional game of Survivor?

There are the obvious things, like sending advantages back into the game and the possibility of having to face castaways you had a hand in voting off. Another big one is the free exchange of information on the Edge of Extinction. We told each other pretty much everything. That wasn't very beneficial to me however, because everyone except Aubry was original Manu. Aubry told me a lot about Kama, but it was clear by her blindside that it might not be the whole story. Wendy tried to bring clarity to that Manu 2.0 dynamic for Aubry, but she was clearly also outside of the decision making.

You spent nearly a full week on the Edge of Extinction. How bleak was your existence out there? Who were you closest with? Who did you avoid at all costs? How did you keep comfortable, pass the time, and hang onto any shred of sanity?

It is so boring.  It's shocking how quickly you lose track of the game. I don't believe I ever would have made the mistake of solving the map for everyone if it had been "inside the game." It's a unique healing process. I didn't try to avoid any individuals, although at times I'd walk to the other side of the island to avoid everybody. Chris and I definitely got close. He was the one I felt I had most betrayed and he was really big about forgiving me. The worst thing about the Edge is the boredom and the lack of information. I fished (unsuccessfully), I napped, we talked, and we played stupid games to pass the time. Have you ever played "Big Booty"? Don't.

The six Extinct players competed in a challenge to return to the game. Congratulations! It's you! Can you walk us through that experience, from the revelation of your existence to the other players, through winning the challenge?

The six of us were waiting right outside the challenge. We knew we were competing but had no idea how it would work. We had talked, and agreed that we hoped the others would not be watching. We hear Jeff yell, "Come on in guys!" That's when we know they'll be watching. Jeff yells it again and we come in. Everybody looks shocked. I'm trying to make eyes with David and my Lesu tribe. They're all playing it cool. When Jeff describes the challenge, I think, "I can do this." By no means did I feel like it was mine to lose, but I knew I could compete. I was right on Chris' tail through the physical part of the rungless ladder and cargo net. Aubry got that lead on us using the bamboo to get the key but I was very focused on keeping pace with Chris. We got to the snake about the same time and he had the knots to work on. It felt like an out of body experience. I could hear everyone cheering us all on. I did hear Wardog supporting me quite a bit, which felt great. I was so locked in. When the ball dropped in the snake's mouth and Jeff called out my name, I was elated. But I was surrounded by these people I really cared about and we thought their game was over. It was a wide range of emotions.

As you reentered the game, what was your plan of attack? What was your philosophy on how to play the game now that you had this new lease on life?

Coming back into the game, my number one priority was to check in with my buddy, David. He and I had been 100% loyal and I wanted to make sure that was still the case. Other than that, I saw myself as a free agent. I was happy to work with former Lesu because I really liked and cared about those guys, but I also felt justified in finding new allies since I knew I was at the bottom of that five. In a big picture sense, I was going to play harder. I spent a lot of time on the Edge feeling like I had gone out too easily the first time.

I felt coming back that I was in a great position. I thought Lesu would be trying hard to reel me back in and I felt I had the social skills to fit in with the original Kama folks and wait for cracks. I tried hard at the merge feast to find that common ground and make friends. Julia and I bonded over being Army brats. Eric, Julie and I talked a lot about our kids.  Ron and I hit it off quickly, two Georgia guys. Gavin and I were fast friends and I thought Victoria was hilarious.

What were the other players' reactions to learning about the Edge of Extinction? What kinds of questions did you weather from everyone? Did you lie about any of the details?

I was pretty open about what the Edge of Extinction entailed. I withheld information about the competitions for advantages but told them about everything else. There was a real sense of dread. It was obvious people did not want to visit there. Kama was so curious about Reem and Keith. Apparently they had adopted Keith as some sort of secret mascot for their tribe. I guess you have a lot of time for that sort of thing, dancing, and singing when Joey Amazing is on your tribe. My tribes were so consistently jealous of the vacation Kama was on with Joe. He is, by the way, as amazing as advertised.

After your return, in no time at all, Wentworth set her sights on you — a surprising development given the closeness of the Lesu Five, as seen in your fateful Tribal Council. Can you help us understand what's happening here, as best as you're able?

I loved Lesu. I went to Joe and pitched a Lesu plus Joe and Aurora alliance. David did too. Then Julie came to me and said Wentworth and Lauren wanted to send me right back to the Edge. I was shocked. I couldn't believe they'd do that to me on a personal level, and it made no sense to me on a game level. I thought they'd be overjoyed to have me back. I told David, he was just as confused. As weird as it was to hear, it's important to note that I also never doubted Julie, Ron, and Eric were telling me the truth. Lesu had been less than welcoming. I was told by Kama folks that Wardog did not want to do it. Wardog and I were good friends and he was pushing for David to go, but was overruled.

You ended up working with Kama on this vote. Was this simply self-preservation, or did you feel you could trust and work with these people moving forward?

I felt like Kama was such a big and untested group that they would fracture. I believed if David and I could get Kama to focus on the three other Lesu for a few Tribals, they would turn on each other and David and I would be able to pick our path. David was a lot less comfortable. He felt we were putting too much power in their hands by letting them leave us out of the vote. They did not tell us who they were voting for because they did not trust us. I told them we would vote for Wentworth and they said, "Do it." David and I talked a lot about possibilities but didn't have a lot of options because we did not want the other Lesu to know their plan was not the plan.

As part of your reentry into the game, you earned a two-part idol that can only work if you survived the first vote of the merge. What were your thoughts on how to use it?

There was no doubt I wanted to give half to David. The thought of using it as a bargaining tool with Kama was too much risk. If someone came to me and said, "I have an idol. I can't use it tonight but after tonight it's full power." I'd vote that person out. One less idol to worry about. So I knew I could trust David. The problem was making sure both of us made it through Tribal. Once Joe was voted out, our idol gained its wings. Now the powerhouse DAVENS™ alliance has an extra tool in our arsenal.

At Tribal Council, we saw Reem, Chris and Aubry return as members of the jury. Were you surprised?

I was shocked. I was also happier than ever that I had won the challenge to re-enter the game. We didn't know where Keith and Wendy had gone so we didn't know why these three were still around and those two were not. But I was really happy to see those guys. I really had grown to care about them and was crushed when I thought they were out of the game. I was happy to see they still had a chance. I also felt like my time on Extinction could pay off in the form of jury votes. Reem and Chris had never met anyone from Kama and disliked most of Manu. I had made my peace with them, and formed a friendship with Aubry outside of the strategic game.

Heading out of this Tribal Council, Joe's gone and the Lesu Five have shot their votes all over the place. You have a newly minted idol burning a hole in your pocket. What's your take on the state of the game and your place in it as you're exiting Tribal that night?

I'm feeling good exiting Tribal. Three days earlier I was on the Edge, now I was safe because strangers had come to my aid. I felt like David and I proved ourselves to the Kama Six and that put us in a much better spot than the Lesu Three. With our idol, I felt like David and I were in a strong spot to take advantage of the fallout. I'm also feeling super smug towards my old tribe because they took a shot and missed. I was hurt, mad, and so happy to be playing Survivor again.

Oh, yeah. Before you go, one last thing: what's up with you and the Kool-Aid Man?

That took on a life of it's own. I think I said the Kool-Aid Man's "Oh Yeah!" line twice during the game, once in an interview on day one, and once before the very first immunity challenge. I was surprised when they showed it and embarrassed. When I'm self-conscious about something I try to own it (think: dadbod) so that's what I did. But then people didn't make fun, they seemed to laugh with instead of at me. The whole thing became really positive and I've doubled down with GIFs as I was voted out and won my way back in. My wife Becca, who is an amazing twitter follow, really bought in. The rest is history.”