Wednesday June 26, 2019

Happy birthday to my mom.

Night 1 of the Democratic candidate debates begin tonight on NBC. The participating tonight are:
Cory Booker, New Jersey senator
Julián Castro, former housing secretary
Bill de Blasio, New York City mayor
John Delaney, former representative from Maryland
Tulsi Gabbard, representative from Hawaii
Jay Inslee, Washington governor
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota senator
Beto O’Rourke, former representative from Texas
Tim Ryan, representative from Ohio
Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator

The Office is leaving Netflix in 2020 and heading to NBCUniversal’s forthcoming streaming service, beginning in January 2021. NBCU said it has secured exclusive domestic streaming rights to all nine seasons of the sitcom for a five-year term. The streaming service is expected to launch in mid-2020. Unlike new offerings from Disney, WarnerMedia and Apple designed to compete with Netflix when they hit the market soon, NBCU’s effort will be free to the company’s pay-TV subscribers and supported by advertising. It will launch across the combined footprints of Comcast and Sky, reaching more than 50 million households from the moment it goes live. A stand-alone, subscription version is also said to be in the offing.”

Here’s a bit more detail, including the $500,000,000 cost.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I kind of enjoyed Mr. Iglesias on Netflix. It’s not good.

Speaking of which, I might be out on City On A Hill. I labored through episode 2.

Lena Headey will follow her role on Game of Thrones with a part in another epic saga. The actress has joined the star-packed voice cast of Netflix's series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a prequel to Jim Henson's 1982 film that's set to debut Aug. 30. Other additions to the cast include Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange), Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians), Sigourney Weaver, Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and the Wasp) and Henson and Muppets veteran Dave Goelz, who also worked on the original film.”

Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn’s Amazon fashion competition series has gotten a title, timeline and first-look photos. Newly titled Making The Cut ‘will bring together 12 talented entrepreneurs and designers from around the globe who are competing to take their fledging brands to the next level in becoming the next big global phenomenon,’ per Amazon. Looks from Making the Cut will be shoppable on Amazon, and the winner of the series will receive one million dollars to invest in their brand. It’s set for premiere in 2020. Amazon also unveiled the show’s judging panel which includes supermodel Naomi Campbell, who also serves as a consulting producer, former EIC of Vogue Paris Carine Roitfeld, designer Joseph Altuzarra and fashion icon, bestselling author and television personality Nicole Richie.”

David E. Kelley is returning to broadcast. The Emmy-winning creator of Big Little Lies and Mr. Mercedes has signed on to write and executive produce a CBS adaptation of Michael Connelly's best-seller The Lincoln Lawyer. The drama, which is currently in development, comes with a series production commitment attached. That means if CBS does not pick up The Lincoln Lawyer to series, the team behind the project will be paid a sizable penalty fee. The CBS drama, like Connelly's series of novels and the subsequent 2011 feature film starring Matthew McConaughey, revolves around Mickey Haller, an iconoclastic idealist who runs his law practice out of the back of his Lincoln town car as he takes on cases big and small across Los Angeles. Connelly is attached as an executive producer alongside Ross Fineman, who previously worked with Kelley on Amazon's Goliath. The project hails from A+E Studios and CBS TV Studios.”

The Hills returned to MTV with a new revival on Monday, marking the second most-watched cable series premiere among young adults of 2019. With a 0.70 rating among adults 18-34, according to Nielsen’s live-plus-same-day metric, The Hills: New Beginnings is only topped by MTV’s Double Shot at Love with DJ Pauly D and Vinny. MTV sister network VH1’s Cartel Crew currently holds the number three spot.”

Sorry, The Simple Life fans -- ET has learned there is no truth to speculation that a reboot of the popular reality series could be in the works. After an account for the series posted a photo of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan on Tuesday, social media was abuzz with talk of Netflix rebooting the show with Lohan replacing Hilton’s original co-star, Nicole Richie. The account also shared a photo of Hilton and Richie with the caption, ‘#SimpleLife6,’ further teasing a reboot of the series, which ended with its fifth season in 2007. The only followers under the account are Lohan, Hilton and Netflix. The account has since lost its verified mark.”

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From TheWrap: “Anthony Jeselnik is getting a new Comedy Central series. The stand-up comedian and Jeselnik Offensive alum will host what Comedy Central is calling a ‘comedic interview series,’ titled Good Talk With Anthony Jeselnik.

“The six-part series will premiere on Sept. 6 at 11/10c. David Spade, Kristen Schaal, Kumail Nanjiani, Natasha Leggero, Nick Kroll, and Tig Notaro are set as guests.

Good Talk is part of Jeselnik’s multiplatform development deal at Comedy Central.

“Below is Comedy Central’s description:

In Good Talk, Jeselnik switches gears from his signature acerbic style for tongue-in-cheek interviews with his fellow comedians about their careers, influences and what it’s like to live in his massive shadow. Jeselnik and his guests center their extremely funny conversations around stand up, stories and bits and participate in unconventional studio segments.

“Christie Smith and Meaghan Rady are executive producers of Good Talk with Anthony Jeselnik, with Rady also serving as showrunner. Anne Harris, Tara Schuster and Jackie Sosa are executives in charge of the series for Comedy Central.”

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Per Variety, “Quibi keeps shelling out cash for content: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s richly funded startup has ordered a short-form murder-mystery comedy written by and starring former Saturday Night Live writers Paula Pell and John Lutz, and executive produced by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video alongside Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker.

“In Mapleworth Murders, Pell (pictured above) is Abigail Mapleworth, a murder-mystery writer who solves homicides in her quaint small town of New Woodstream. Each episode will feature guest victims and suspects in search of answering a bigger question: Why are there so many murders in one small town?

“The series is one of dozens of shows — designed for on-the-go mobile viewing in sub-10-minute episodes — coming to Quibi, which is slated to launch in April 2020 at $5 monthly with ads and $8 without ads.

“Led by former DreamWorks Animation chief Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman, Quibi has raised $1 billion from investors including major Hollywood studios and is seeking to raise another $500 million ahead of its spring 2020 launch. The company last week said it had booked $100 million in upfront ad deals from advertisers including Google and Procter & Gamble.

Mapleworth Murders is executive produced by Lorne Michaels, Broadway Video’s Andrew Singer, Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker, and co-executive produced by Hilary Marx and Jason Carden. The show is being produced at NBCUniversal’s Universal Television.

“Quibi has announced a slew of projects including  Steven Spielberg’s After Dark, a horror series users will be able to watch only between sundown and sunrise local time. Other partners include Guillermo del Toro, Antoine Fuqua, Sam Raimi, Jason Blum, Steven Soderbergh, Catherine Hardwick, Anna Kendrick, Doug Liman, Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Curry’s Unanimous Media. Quibi also has ordered shows featuring Tyra Banks, Chrissy Teigen, Don Cheadle and Idris Elba as well as a remake of MTV’s Punk’d.

“Quibi’s untested theory is that people will pay to watch premium entertainment, produced specifically for mobile consumption. Its challenge will be to carve out a large and loyal subscriber base, amid stiff competition from free and paid video services and apps. In the first year of launch, Quibi is aiming to deliver 7,000 pieces of content, including scripted and unscripted shows and daily news and lifestyle programming.”

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “WarnerMedia has added two more original series to its forthcoming streaming platform, both coming from showrunner Patrick Somerville.”

“The streamer, which is set to launch in beta in the fourth quarter, has ordered a comedy called Made for Love, based on a novel of the same title by Alissa Nutting, and the limited series Station Eleven, a post-apocalyptic thriller based on the book by Emily St. John Mandel. Both shows hail from Paramount Television and will have 10-episode runs on the as-yet unnamed streaming platform.

Made for Love centers on Hazel Green, a thirty-something woman on the run after 10 years of marriage to an unstable, needy and possibly sociopathic tech billionaire. She discovers her husband has implanted a revolutionary monitoring device called the Made for Love in her brain, allowing him to track and watch her and even know her feelings. Somerville (Maniac, The Leftovers) is adapting Nutting's book and will executive produce with S.J. Clarkson (Orange Is the New Black, Succession, the Game of Thrones prequel pilot), who will also direct. Nutting, Liza Chasin and Dean Bakopoulos will also executive produce the comedy, which is a co-production of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Paramount TV.

Station Eleven takes place in a world where survivors of a devastating flu try to rebuild and reimagine the world while holding on to the best of what's been lost. Somerville will be credited as the creator and will executive produce alongside director Hiro Murai (Atlanta, Barry), Scott Steindorff, Scott Delman and Dylan Russell; Nate Matteson will be credited as co-EP.

“WarnerMedia is set to feature a roster of scripted originals as well as content from WarnerMedia-owned platforms including HBO, TBS, TNT, CNN and more. Made for Love and Station Eleven are the fourth and fifth series in the works for the upcoming SVOD service, joining Paul Feig's comedic anthology Love Life, starring Anna Kendrick; a Dune sequel; and the Ansel Egort-led drama Tokyo Vice. A Gremlins animated prequel TV series is also in the works.

“Details on WarnerMedia's streaming launch date, as well as a name for the service, its price point and other key information, have yet to be revealed.”

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Per Vulture, “[i]f you spend any time online, you’ve seen it: a short GIF of Homer Simpson disappearing backward into a hedge, his eyes wide open — a visual ‘don’t mind me.’ Taken from a 1994 episode of The Simpsons, it’s generally used as a reaction to express embarrassment or the desire to disappear from an awkward social interaction, a longing for an exit so seamless that it’s like you were never there. But before it appeared on The Simpsons, and long before it took on its final form as a meme, the concept of inter-hedge travel was just an idea in the head of a sci-fi-obsessed kid running around the suburbs of northeast Philadelphia named David Mirkin.

“Mirkin, who was the Simpsons’ showrunner when the episode aired and still works on the show today, spoke with Vulture about the meme’s origin.

“‘Him coming through the hedges was based on my childhood behavior of walking through hedges in my neighborhood. I would pretend that I was dimension-hopping,’ Mirkin says. ‘You can only do it a few times before you leave a hole, and so I did tens of thousands of dollars of damage to people’s hedges I’m sure.’

“As a child, Mirkin — who worked as an electronics engineer before becoming a writer and director — devoured movies, comics, and horror magazines, as well as science-fiction shows like Star Trek, The Outer Limits, and The Twilight Zone. ‘I was incredibly obsessed with all of that,’ he recalls. ‘It was around the time of 2001 [A Space Odyssey] too, which was dimension-hopping, stargates, and stuff like that.’

“That idea of hedges as suburban stargates stayed with him until it made its way onto The Simpsons in season five, episode 16, Homer Loves Flanders, a morally nuanced episode written by David Richardson in which Homer has a sudden desire to befriend his irritatingly Christ-like neighbor Ned Flanders and, in the process, ruins Flanders’s life.

“Mirkin wanted to subvert the common sitcom trope of the annoying neighbor who always pops over uninvited and put a twist on it. This led to Homer’s mounting obsession with Flanders, which goes from endearing development (‘Nacho, nacho man!’) to surreal nightmare over the course of the episode as Homer’s bone-deep ignorance of common decency and personal space slowly drive Ned to the brink of destruction. As Mirkin puts it, ‘[Flanders] was always hopeful of being more friendly with Homer, and always trying, and getting his wish and that actually happening turned into his worst possible nightmare.’

“It’s a dark episode, even by Simpsons standards, and the moment Homer emerges like a liquid hologram from the bushes marks the exact moment where his behavior goes from overbearing to scary. After a scene of biblical corruption in which Ned tells what might be his first-ever lie to get out of spending more time with his neighbor, Homer says “Oh, okay” in a monotone, then melts, unblinking, back into the bushes.

“Mirkin says he pushed animation director Wes Archer and his team to make the motion as smooth and slow as possible for maximum unsettling effect, and he attributes the meme’s popularity largely to the striking, uncanny quality that their meticulous work achieved. ‘I’m really proud of it because I had to have the animators do that motion — both coming out and going back in — about five times to get it slow enough and detailed enough so that it felt right to me, because I wanted it to be a kind of a magical, creepy thing,’ he recalls.

“Indeed, the movement is distinctly unlike Homer — smooth and disturbingly effortless rather than clumsy – resulting in something along the lines of Homer Simpson, Transdimensional Hedge-Monster.

“A storyboard caption from the episode hints at the desired level of menace: ‘Never taking his eyes off of Flanders, he back through the hedges.’

“The website Know Your Meme has a useful rundown of how ‘Homer Simpson Backs Into Bushes’ became the all-conquering meme it is today. It reportedly first appeared in 2010 on a site called GIF Garage under the heading “Homer appears, then disappears in bush,” though it doesn’t seem to have caught fire at that point. Its profile was raised in 2012 when a Tumblr blog posted a version of the GIF with a blank background that allowed users to replace the hedge with other images, spawning remixes like Homer backing into a wall of pizza, which resulted in a post on Uproxx titled ‘Homer Backs Into Things Is The GIF Theme We Need Right Now.’

“A Reddit post from 2014 advertised a ‘Homer backing into things generator,’ hosted on the now-defunct URL HomerBacksIntoThings.com, encouraging Redditors to make new versions of the meme, resulting in further media coverage. Once it hit the mainstream, the meme mushroomed on Twitter, where quick-fire reaction GIFs are king. According to Know Your Meme, the meme gained additional traction as a panel of four images, rather than as a GIF, in 2014 when people used it to roast fair-weather fans who ‘disappear’ when their team is losing, resulting in its inclusion in various lists of the funniest memes about the Super Bowl and the 2014 World Cup.

“There are many other highly popular Simpsons memes (Grandpa Simpson’s Nothing To See HereLisa giving a presentation, and that evergreen plea for online mercy: Stop! He’s already dead!), but Homer Backs Into the Bushes remains the most ubiquitous. It’s even inspired a browser game called Hide Homer.

“It’s the nature of memes to be shorn of their original context and used as emotional shorthand, often with no regard for their original meaning. As Mirkin points out, the Homer meme is no exception. ‘What’s really interesting is the meme really has nothing to do with the way it was used in the show, because it’s not a retreat or an embarrassment, as it’s used — it was really just an ominous, threatening look and a very weird backing up while never breaking eye contact with Flanders,’ he says. ‘So it’s great the way it’s been changed, but it’s not the original intention.” He notes that while people have reinterpreted Homer’s expression as one of shame, “it’s a creepy stalker energy instead of an embarrassed, retreating energy.’

“Mirkin adds that another common misconception about the sequence is that people often think it’s a Terminator 2 reference, which, he concedes, is an easy mistake to make considering the almost shot-for-shot Terminator homage that immediately follows, in which Homer robotically chases down Ned’s sputtering Geo as the Flanders family desperately tries to escape his affections.

“At this point the meme has become so well-known that it’s even been referenced on The Simpsons itself, making it that rare unit of entertainment matter that makes the orbital journey from TV to cultural absorption and back again to its original medium.

“It was Cesar Mazariegos, a new Simpsons hire and one of the youngest writers in the room, who pitched the idea of Homer texting his own meme in the season 30 episode, The Girl on the Bus. Mazariegos, who previously created the comedy High & Mightysays that it may in fact have been his first joke that made it onto The Simpsons.

“‘I was brand new. It was literally my first week,’ he says, explaining that he pitched the idea at a screening of the episode’s animatic (essentially a rough cut). The episode had been written before he joined the writing staff, and when producer Al Jean and the writers decided that a scene in which Homer texts Lisa “needed a pop” at the end, he tossed out the idea and it got a laugh.

“The internet loved the reference-within-a-reference, and even Time magazine covered the rare instance of the Simpsons universe folding in on itself. Mazariegos was stunned by the reaction.

“‘I’m showing it to my wife like, “Yo check this out, I pitched this like my first week there!”’ he remembers, calling the positive response ‘a pretty fun, cool way to get welcomed into the Simpsons fold.’ Like most of the meme’s users, Mazariegos grew up watching The Simpsons, taping it on a VCR to watch over and over. ‘So when I saw it as a meme, of course it went into my phone,’ he recalls. He agrees that the meme’s popularity is down to the quality of the animation as well as the meme’s versatility. ‘It’s the perfect button to, you know — you’re having a conversation and it’s a TMI moment or like an ‘I don’t need to be here’ moment. It fits into whatever people are trying to say in that moment.’

“As far as Mazariegos knows, this is the first time The Simpsons has referenced a Simpsons meme on the show, at least so explicitly. As for meme culture, he drew an analogy with early New York City rap.

“‘These GIFs are kind of like sampling — little snippets, removed from their original context and repurposed into a whole new creative thing,’ he says. ‘You can hate on it or you can embrace it, and I think it’s cool that the show gave a little wink and embraced it.’

“After 30 years and going on 700 episodes, The Simpsons has put so many jokes and ideas into the ether that it seems inevitable that some would mutate and bubble back up in unexpected ways, including as memes.

“‘It’s a great compliment,’ says Mirkin of the cultural feedback loop The Simpsons has created. ‘It’s one of the greatest gifts you can have as a writer, because you go, “Oh yeah, that made an impact — that hit people in the imagination” … We’re always thrilled with that, and it really is the goal to get as much of your stuff out there into the culture as you possibly can, because it’s guaranteed that you will live forever when that happens and never die.’

“Though it’s been decades since Richard Dawkins coined the term ‘meme’ for ideas and cultural artifacts that propagate themselves by ‘leaping from brain to brain,’ exactly how memes work is a bit of a mystery.

“We all know what a meme is, but as for how and why some become part of the vernacular while most blink out of existence almost immediately, that’s still anyone’s guess. Memes remain more alchemy than science.

“Mirkin, whose other work has included Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and the surreal sitcom Get a Life, says he’s always looking ‘for images and moments that you haven’t seen before,’ and that impulse toward novelty may be the most anyone can do to create something indelible. After that, the culture takes over. Make it weird and different enough — like Homer teleporting through a hedge — and maybe it’ll stick.

“‘And then if you’re also lucky that it has some sort of art to it, some sort of look that is striking in addition to being something you haven’t seen before, you have some sort of a chance that it’ll hit people just right,’ he says.

“But, he adds, there’s still a lot of luck involved.

“‘The timing has to be right, and it’s impossible to ever guess what the public will be super excited about and what, no matter how excited you are, they’re going to completely ignore or hate. That’s part of the fun of it.’

“‘It really is a roulette wheel, and you’re just happy when something works.’“