Thursday May 9, 2019

Let’s start with some good news . . . Showtime has renewed Billions for a 5th season. This remains one of the better shows on television today.

The reboot of Paradise Hotel premieres tonight on Fox.

Comedy Central premieres Klepper tonight as well. “Klepper is a docuseries that follows host Jordan Klepper as he hits the road and leaves the comfort of his desk behind. Whether he's in a capsized boat with environmental protesters in a Louisiana bayou or waiting to post bail at the Fulton County Jail in Georgia, Jordan is on the front lines of American activism.”

The penultimate episode of The Big Bang Theory airs tonight.

The cast of Veep will appear on The Late Show tonight in advance of Sunday’s series finale.

BH90210 will premiere on August 7 on Fox. Here is a first look.

The DIY Network’s Nashville Flipped star Troy Shafer died April 28 at age 38 in his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, according to reports that have just surfaced. His brother said he passed away in his sleep and had no known medical conditions. His burial was a private family ceremony last week. The show aired for two seasons in 2016 and 2017, following Shafer as he restored historical homes in the music city. The show detailed how Shafer, his wife, Becky, and a team of construction managers worked on homes built in the 1800s through the early 1900s, carefully preserving old features while creating new custom designs.” I knew Troy. This is horrific news. Evidently he passed almost two weeks ago, but the news was just reported yesterday.

Tom Hanks will join Savannah Guthrie to co-host an hour of The Today Show on May 23.

Amazon Prime Video has set a June 4 premiere date for John Lloyd Taylor’s Chasing Happiness, a documentary profiling the newly reunited Jonas Brothers. Chasing Happiness will offer intimate insight into the personal lives of Nick, Joe, and Kevin Jonas through never-before-seen footage of the three brothers early days. The documentary goes beyond the headlines to focus on the brothers’ humble upbringing in New Jersey to their rise to pop superstardom, and the events surrounding their abrupt hiatus in 2013. The film also spotlights the brothers as they rebuild their relationships as siblings to rekindle their musical spark as band mates, resulting in the forthcoming album, Happiness Begins.”

Epix has closed the final link in the chain. At long last, the pay TV channel owned by MGM has set a distribution pact with AT&T’s DirecTV. A deal with the nation’s largest traditional MVPD has long eluded the premium movie network that was created as a joint venture of Paramount Pictures, MGM and Lionsgate in 2008. Epix bowed as a linear and digital service ithe following year, but met with resistance from the largest cable operators and leading satcaster DirecTV. DirecTV and others maintained that consumers didn’t need another movie channel at a time when theatrical releases have become more widely available than ever before via streaming and on-demand platforms. Epix wound up cutting a lucrative distribution deal with Netflix in 2010 that further alienated traditional MVPDs who even then eyeing as competition the company destined to become a worldwide streaming juggernaut.”

Ellen DeGeneres is not yet ready to give up her daytime show, she told Deadline ahead of Netflix’s FYSEE screening of her special Relatable on Wednesday. Saying she’s ‘torn’ on how long to keep the show, she joked, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’ While her wife Portia de Rossi wants her to have a chance to relax more and enjoy her life, her brother argues her voice is needed now in the Trump era more than ever. ‘He just feels like this is a really important time to be on television too, to put out kindness and a voice that you don’t get to hear and see a lot,’ she said. ‘I love doing the show and I also love doing other things. Meanwhile, DeGeneres also plans to explore documentary with her Warner Bros./ Ellen Digital Network (EDN) deal. “I love documentaries,’ she said, ‘I haven’t done that yet.’ And there’s a new film in the offing too. ‘There’s a movie I’m trying to make that was a very successful book that we’re working on right now,’ she said, while remaining tight-lipped on its subject. ‘She wants to write it and we need to get her to write it.’ Coming up, EDN has a new talkshow series coming up called Well, Well, Well with Lea Michele, a Jay Shetty project and Netflix’s Green Eggs & Ham.”

Three months after wrapping its four-season run on Netflix, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is returning. The streamer on Wednesday announced that it is reteaming with creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock for an interactive special featuring stars Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski and Carol Kane. The special is similar to Netflix's Black Mirror film Bandersnatch in that viewers will be able to make choices for the characters. ‘We're thrilled to announce that we’re about to start production on an all-new interactive Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt special, set to debut on Netflix in 2020,’ Fey said Wednesday during a Netflix For Your Consideration Emmy panel. ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was one of the first original comedy series on Netflix, and now it will be its first interactive comedy event. Fans will be able to make choices on behalf of our characters, taking different story paths with, of course, different jokes. I think it’s a great fit for our show and will be a great way to officially complete the series.’"

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Right now, we don’t know much about season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones. As the penultimate installment of the show, it’s set to feature some kind of showdown between the forces of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) to determine the fate of the Iron Throne. Very little information is available other than that, but HBO did release a batch of preview photos Wednesday, one of which prominently features Captain Harry Strickland (Marc Rissmann).

“Wait, who’s Captain Strickland again? At a time when many story lines on Game of Thrones are coming to a close, some fans may be surprised to have to learn the name of a new character. But it’s only thanks to Strickland that Cersei has an army comparable to Daenerys’ right now. He’s the commander of the Golden Company, the mercenary group Cersei hired using the wealth acquired from the conquest of Highgarden. Strickland arrived in Westeros at the beginning of season 8 with thousands of men and horses — but no war elephants, much to Cersei’s disappointment.

“The Golden Company is the most famous mercenary company in the world of Game of Thrones. It was formed by Westerosi nobles and knights who fled the continent after participating in the failed Blackfyre Rebellion (the second-most-famous Targaryen civil war). House Strickland was one of the houses that went into exile, and its sons have served in the Golden Company ever since.

“Harry Strickland does appear in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books, but as of A Dance With Dragons, the Golden Company has a slightly different role than in the TV show. Far from being hired by the Lannisters, the book version of the Golden Company has been hired by a Targaryen! Not Daenerys, though. In Martin’s fifth book, a young man claiming to be Aegon Targaryen (not Jon, but the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell of Dorne) hires the Golden Company to invade Westeros. Aegon’s surrogate father and protector, Lord Jon Connington, is not terribly impressed by Strickland, whom he judges more fit for arranging lucrative contracts than military conquest. But once the Golden Company commits to Aegon’s cause, they succeed in taking Connington’s ancestral home of Griffin’s Roost; in an early preview chapter from The Winds of Winter, they also conquer the Baratheon castle of Storm’s End.

“This Sunday, the Golden Company will be defending the Iron Throne instead of trying to conquer it. We’ll have to wait until then to see how Captain Strickland fares.”

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “Hilary Swank is continuing her TV push.

“The actress, who most recently starred in FX drama Trust, has been tapped to topline Netflix's space drama series Away.

“From Jason Katims (Parenthood) and Matt Reeves (Batman, The Passage), Away centers on Emma Green, an American astronaut who must leave her husband and teenage daughter behind to command an international space crew embarking on a treacherous mission. The drama explores hope, humanity and how people need one another in order to achieve the impossible.

“Jessica Goldberg has signed on to serve as showrunner, reuniting with Katims following Hulu's The Path. Ed Zwick (Nashville, The Last Samurai) will direct the first episode and exec produce. Andrew Hinderaker will pen the script for the first episode and exec produce alongside Katims, Reeves and his Sixth and Idaho topper Adam Kassan, former True Jack head of development Michelle Lee (the pilot) and Katims' current True Jack topper Jeni Mulein (episodes two through 10). Away is loosely inspired by Chris Jones' Esquire story of the same name.

Away marks Swank's latest TV series role. The two-time Oscar winner (Boys Don't Cry, Million Dollar Baby) is fresh off Trust, which marked her largest TV foray since recurring in the late '90s on Beverly Hills, 90210.

“The series is produced by Universal Television and represents one of Katims' (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights) last series for the studio before he departs his longtime home for a deal with Apple starting in the summer. He also has Fox drama pilot Sisters looking likely for a series pickup and Amazon pilot On the Spectrum.”

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Per EW, “[w]ith just 45 minutes to go until American Idol goes live for two hours, Ryan Seacrest is in his trailer, lounging in a zipped-up hoodie, seemingly unphased by the ticking clock. Having just been groomed and debriefed on the episode where the Top 6 finalists will perform, nerves don’t seem to phase the 44-year-old, who’s served as host of the singing competition since it launched in 2002, logging more than 550 episodes (he’s missed just one — more on that later).

“Little does he know, his name is also going to be announced in a couple hours at the Daytime Emmy Awards, which are being handed out not too far away in Pasadena, just outside of Los Angeles, winning Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host with his Live partner in crime Kelly Ripa. He was named permanent cohost on May 1, 2017, a year after Michael Strahan moved over to Good Morning America.

“‘I kept telling everybody I could do it but I wasn’t quite sure I was going to be able to pull it off,’ he tells EW of returning to host Idol — Fox canceled the show in 2015 and ABC officially revived it in May 2017, not long after Seacrest joined Live — while holding down daily talk show duties alongside Ripa, plus fronting his own four-hour iHeartRadio show. ‘And we’ve got it down to a science. It’s the most I’ve ever worked.’

“And working well. Ratings are up for all of his shows; American Idol — which features Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan as judges — regularly wins Sunday night ratings and is the most-watched reality show (even without those juggernaut ratings it used to rack up); and Live‘s audience has been growing while in recent weeks while Dr. Phil and Ellen have seen small losses or held even.

“What’s the key to making it all work? Seacrest reveals that answer and talks to EW about why this current crop of American Idol finalists is regarded as some of the best the show has ever seen, having to call in sick this season, how Live has made him a better host, and more:

In the 17 seasons of the show, many think this is the best batch of finalists the show has ever had. To what to attribute still being able to find such great talent after all these years?

It’s funny because you would think after going out for almost 20 years that maybe you’ve tapped all the talent in different places, but then you forget kids are born every year and after being around for 20 years they can graduate to being old enough [to compete on the show]. I think this year, the judges did an exceptional job bringing in contestants who are all pretty different who had a sophistication prior to being on the show. And with the technology that we’ve got and the accessibility to everything that kids have now, I’ve seen a sophistication grow; when we started with Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini and that group, they weren’t as sophisticated coming in because they didn’t have access to as many things. Now they’re singing in their bedrooms and they’re posting videos, so you see there’s a different level of talent from the start of the series than we used to have years ago.

Looking back a couple years ago to when the decision was made to revive the show, many weren’t sure it was a great idea — there was concern over audiences growing tired of TV singing competitions. Two new seasons in, American Idol is the highest-rated reality show and is doing well week after week. Were you concerned about whether audiences would come back?

Well, remember, I’ve been on the show since we were getting 35 million viewers twice a week, so that was a peak performance for the show and it began to taper down as the years went on, but as a producer and someone who tries to create television, there are very few franchises like this that can get an audience. So when we signed off on the other network, I did have a feeling — a pretty certain feeling — that we would be back somewhere else. And it has found more of an audience this year, in its second round, in these live episodes than it did in the first season ask.

I was going to ask about these live coast-to-coast episodes…

It’s cool.

Do you wish it’s something the show had been doing sooner?

Yeah, I do! I think there’s an immediacy and excitement to it. I actually love the format of the votes don’t even close until the last 30-second commercial is playing on ABC. I think that’s fun and it adds stakes to that two-hour show.

And an adrenaline rush injected into the proceedings.

Yeah! There’s a rush, it’s simplified, it’s efficient, but it’s cool that the voting is open until that last 30-second spot of the last commercial break.

This season, if I recall, is the first time you’ve missed a show because you were sick. On the radio, I’ve heard you power through while having a cold and things like that, so you really must’ve been down for the count to take a sick day.

Yeah. It was rough. It was rough. My schedule is… it caught up to me. My schedule is as intense as its ever been and I have to travel every four or five days, and I can fight through a lot but this had me down and out. [Laughs] I guess when I look back on 17 years and hundreds and hundreds of episodes, it was the only one.

That’s not a bad track record.

Yeah, sick only once every 17 years. [Laughs]

So you’re on the radio every morning for a few hours, you do live TV six days a week between Idol on Sundays and every weekday at Live With Kelly and Ryan— and you’ve now been there two years…

Yeah, entering my third year already.

What was that adjustment like?

Moving to New York was significant because I had lived here in California for almost 20 years, and I will tell you when I sat down and tried to figure out how to do the show, four hours of live radio, and getting back here on Sundays, I kept telling everybody I could do it but I wasn’t quite sure I was going to be able to pull it off. And we’ve got it down to a science. It’s the most I’ve ever worked.

And the ratings are up there as well.

Ratings are up at Live. Ratings are up at KIIS, and the last few episodes are here too.

So what’s the magic element?

To not think about it too much. I think for Live, Kelly is an unbelievable talent and she is America’s best friend in a way. So many people have watched her have her kids and raise her kids, and I walked into something that is already a successful franchise and has been for years, but to see in a climate where television is declining for the most part, especially in the daytime talk world, to see it go up makes it fun. Makes the work worth it.

You’ve been interviewing celebrities for years, but how has doing that show changed and made you better?

I think the format of that show, you become much more accessible to a TV audience because you’re talking about your life for the first 20 minutes, and it’s very unscripted and unplanned. On the radio, I talk about things a lot more [that are] more personal, but on Idol, I’m not talking about going out for fondue the night before for dinner and what happened. For me, creatively, it’s been fun because I get a chance to just be a human being on the TV show and the two of us have known each other for almost 20 years so we have an extreme partnership — a great and deep partnership, and a very profound trust for each other, so that makes it also more fun to do.”

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Per TVLine, “[i]f you’re among the Resident viewers hoping for Mina Okafor and AJ Austin to dive into a relationship, you’ll need an extra-large dose of patience when the show returns for Season 3.

“Though viewers already know that AJ (aka the Raptor) is in love with his mentee — and Mina seems to have real feelings of her own, if her recent defense of velociraptors is any indication — the two doctors are not yet dating. And according to series co-creator Amy Holden Jones, romance won’t be in the cards anytime soon.

“‘At the moment, a very close friendship is going to evolve more,’ Jones tells TVLine. ‘I see that friendship deepening a lot. It’s not going to turn into a love relationship in Season 3.’

“Jones’ hesitance to pair up Mina and the Raptor stems partly from the characters’ working relationship: AJ is Mina’s mentor at Chastain Park, and she is not yet an attending physician. To that end, Jones and the series’ writers don’t feel it’s appropriate to put the characters together when Mina’s residency is still in progress.

“‘She’s still his mentee, and that’s a #MeToo boundary that we couldn’t cross,’ she reveals. ‘But I’m not sure that what you want to see isn’t the very strong friendship between them. I’m not sure I want to see the love relationship between them. Friendship can be a very deep love.’

“Of course, Mina and AJ have already shown their loyalty to one another, particularly in the recent Season 2 finale (read our first post mortem Q&A with Jones here). While preparing to insert a pacemaker for Micah, Mina’s ex-boyfriend, AJ learned that Micah had already moved on to a new girlfriend, and AJ passed that news along to Mina later in the episode.

“‘For what it’s worth, you deserve better. Anybody who could replace you so quickly doesn’t deserve you,’ the Raptor had told her. And Mina seemed to agree: At the end of the hour, she spotted Micah canoodling with his new woman, but she seemed unfazed and merely turned her attention to the lung biopsy she was about to perform with AJ.

“‘That’s a really important moment to me,’ Jones shares. ‘In fact, in planning the final episode, that was the signature image that I had in my mind at the very start: the Raptor and Mina walking off to their work together — a solid team, leaving Micah behind.’

“She adds that Season 3 will find Mina ‘coming to realize the same thing [AJ] has: They put their work first, and the person they share the most with is the person who feels the same way and shares the work they share.’'“