Wednesday June 5, 2019

The 4th season of The Ranch will be the show’s last.

Amazon has canceled Sneaky Pete after 3 seasons.

Season 5 of Black Mirror is now available to stream on Netflix. More below.

The first 3 episodes of season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale are now available on Hulu.

The 5th and final season of The Affair will premiere on Showtime on August 25.

SyFy has canceled Happy! and Deadly Class.

Gwen Stefani is returning to The Voice to fill the seat vacated by Adam Levine.

Analyzing the new Stranger Things season 3 artwork.

MTV Studios continues to monetize its library. The Viacom unit has licensed Punk'd and Singled Out to Jeffrey Katzenberg's Quibi as shortform revivals. Each of the revived unscripted series will feature 20 new episodes — each under 10 minutes in length. Punk'd and Singled Out become the latest series to get the revival treatment as part of a larger effort by Viacom's recently launched MTV Studios as part of a bid to sell to third-party outlets and further monetize its rich vault of programming. They join Facebook Watch's The Real World and series like Daria, Aeon Fluxand Celebrity Deathmatch, with the latter trio all being shopped to new outlets.”

We TV has renewed Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition for a 10-episode 2nd season, which it said will be airing in early 2020.

SQRL Media, a new podcast division from Glass Entertainment Group, kicks off with Confronting: O.J. Simpson hosted by Kim Goldman, sister of Ron Goldman. The debut podcast looks at the crimes, victims and circumstances surrounding the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson, accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. Confronting: O.J. Simpson will release its first two episodes on June 12, in partnership with Wondery. Goldman co-hosts with Nancy Glass, who covered the trial as a journalist. Subsequent episodes will drop each week after that.”

Nashville Flipped star Troy Shafer died of an accidental drug overdose. According to the Erie County Coroner’s Office, the DIY TV personality’s death on April 28 at the age of 38 was ‘due to combined drug toxicity,’ multiple outlets are reporting. The specific drugs in his system were not made public at this time.”

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From The Ringer: “The only time fans of Big Little Lies have seen Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) be truly self-possessed is in a meeting. The reasons for the gathering are objectively petty and ridiculous: high-powered Renata Klein (Laura Dern) has lobbied the mayor of Monterey to shutdown a community theater production of Avenue Q produced by her archnemesis Madeline Martha MacKenzie (Reese Witherspoon). The mayor can barely help himself: “The puppets are fucking!” he squawks, oblivious to the total commitment of the women around him.

“Celeste, meanwhile, keeps her cool. A former corporate lawyer who left the profession to raise her twin sons, she’s broken out a sleek designer suit for the occasion. Her attitude is serious, though never histrionic, flattering the mayor for Monterey’s progressivism while firmly reminding him he’s about to violate the First Amendment. She wins, leading to a giddy postgame celebration where Madeline famously declares she “wants more” and Celeste immediately reverts to her shy, self-deprecating, uncertain norm. Slowly, the viewer starts to realize what made Lawyer Celeste so different, and so welcome: it’s the only version of the character we’ve seen completely outside the context of her abusive marriage.

“Apart from the shamefully underwritten Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz), every member of Big Little Lies’ core ensemble contributes something essential to the tone of the show. Renata provides comic relief and social satire of Bay Area tech wealth. Jane (Shailene Woodley), a working-class single mom new to Monterey, instigates conflict and acts as an audience surrogate, though she brings a history of violence that gives her more in common with her new friends than they might think. Madeline is arguably the skeleton key to the whole show, combining comedy and surprising pathos in one ferocious package. Celeste’s story, on the other hand, is almost entirely a tragedy.

Big Little Lies offers a host of themes it might otherwise be easy to write off as trivial, lightweight, or not particularly urgent. Projected perfection versus hidden insecurities; work-life balance; the existential plight of the wealthy stay-at-home mother—all feel decidedly, even refreshingly, disconnected from so-called ‘real problems.’ As the series’ location scouts and costume designers well know, escapism is one of Big Little Lies’ many valid pleasures. But Celeste’s subplot also grounds the action in visceral, undeniable, life-or-death stakes. Granted, there’s already the murder mystery that serves as the show’s plot hook and framing device, but in the first season’s finale, the two were revealed to be one and the same: After learning Celeste plans to leave him and laying eyes on Jane, whose son he fathered by raping her during a one-night stand years before, Perry explodes. A violent confrontation ensues, ending with Bonnie pushing Perry down the stairs.

“Outwardly, Celeste presents as the most contented of Big Little Lies’ major characters. She doesn’t have the barely suppressed rage that makes Renata and Madeline spiritual siblings as well as natural enemies, nor the class consciousness that isolates Jane or even Bonnie, an exercise instructor who provides other women with a transactional service. Celeste actually seems to be happy with her lot in life, caring for two photogenic children while Perry, an unspecified sort of wealthy businessman, drops in every once in a while to sweep her off her feet. In a rare concession to vanity—Celeste is too blessed and too WASPy to feel the need to flaunt her privilege—she posts carefully curated images from life in their seaside fortress to Facebook.

“Rather than clumsily characterize Perry as a Prince Charming by day, Prince Joffrey by night, Big Little Lies presents Celeste’s abuse as Celeste herself experiences and perceives it. Perry and Celeste are a ‘passionate’ couple, a euphemism that encompasses both their vigorous sex life and the arguments that almost always lead to violence, sex, or some combination of the two. Such a framing lets Celeste see the problem as a mutual one: The issue is with her and Perry’s relationship, not Perry himself. That the abuse feels so linked to sex also illustrates another reason Celeste finds it so hard to recognize Perry as an abuser; her feelings for him are genuine, and frequently expressed. Class plays a role, too. Perry and Celeste are the kind of sophisticated, modern couple who voluntarily see a counselor together. Would a real wife-beater do that?

“Slowly, Big Little Lies peels back the layers. Perry and Celeste have Skype sex until Celeste peels back her nightgown, uncovering a nasty bruise; immediately, she balks. Perry grabs her arm, only for the two to end up getting hot and heavy in their enormous walk-in closet. Some of Perry’s controlling tactics are easy to miss on first viewing, like when he frames his reservations about her renewed interest in the law by cruelly invoking her past struggles with mental health. Kidman plays Celeste as guarded, as anyone would be when their partner could assault them at any moment. Yet her character is as wary of violations from outside the home as within. Scenes in which Celeste’s gentle-yet-firm therapist pushes through her psychological barriers are nearly as tough to watch as the encounters with Perry, because Kidman shows how threats to Celeste’s sense of self feel as dire as threats to her physical safety.

“It’s only late in the first season’s seven episodes that we see a more cut-and-dry kind of abuse, with Perry punching Celeste while their sons play video games downstairs. It’s not because such incidents are a new occurrence, but that Celeste has only just started to acknowledge who Perry is, and how he’s affecting their children. Just as Celeste finally starts to reassert her agency, though, Perry dies—minutes after revealing himself to be a serial predator, not just a shitty husband. Jane spends much of the first season processing the aftermath of her trauma through seaside jogs and trips to the gun range. Before, Jane’s past had been just one more problem for Madeline and Celeste to middle with. Now, Jane is a harbinger of Celeste’s future, having already spent years in recovery from the same assailant. Both women have to compartmentalize their pain; both women share the fear their children’s father might influence their character.

“Prior to Big Little Lies’ official renewal, Perry’s demise was an abrupt, if cathartic, end to Celeste’s story. There was still plenty of healing to be done, but it would presumably happen offscreen. With the prospect of more episodes, the fallout from a school fundraiser turned deadly has gone from vague implication to a real set of problems for writer David E. Kelley to sort through. Inevitably, the vast majority of open questions fall directly on Celeste, especially with the revelation that Meryl Streep will play Perry’s mother.

“Many of these questions are pressing matters that promise to directly impact the plot. What is Celeste’s home life like now? Has she gone back to work? How is she adjusting to single parenthood? Will she tell the boys about their father’s behavior, or the half brother who’s a result of it? All of this feeds into the overarching question of the entire new season: Will the five women continue to escape legal consequences for what happened? But a disproportionate share of that conflict, as did Season 1’s, falls onto Celeste. On a show that so capably navigated the grey area between guilty pleasure and grounded storytelling, the nature of Celeste’s circumstances always kept her firmly on one side of that line, occasional cracks about Kidman’s accent work or wig aside.

“The more intriguing challenges for Celeste are also the ones that present an opportunity for the character to define herself outside the context of her toxic marriage. Having only just come to terms with Perry’s illness, will Celeste instinctively take on the blame for his death? How will Celeste and Jane navigate their surprising connection and redefined relationship? Can Celeste balance some measure of relief with genuine mourning? Finding answers would integrate her with the rest of the cast, no longer literally or tonally sequestered by the presence of Perry. Big Little Lies admirably avoided cliché in its portrayal of abuse, whether through Celeste’s chronic degradation or Jane’s single, brutal attack. Hopefully, it can do the same for its aftermath, and bring Celeste further out of her shell and closer to the woman we saw save Avenue Q.

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Per Deadline, “[a]nother classic sitcom is eying a return with its original star. UCP is developing Punky Brewster, a sequel to the 1984 NBC sitcom, with Soleil Moon Frye set to reprise her role as the titular character that became a pop culture icon of the 1980s.

“The original multi-camera series, created by David W. Duclon, centered on Punky (Frye), a bright young girl raised by a foster dad (George Gaynes). In the multi-camera/hybrid reboot, Punky (Frye) is now a single mother of three trying to get her life back on track when she meets a young girl who reminds her a lot of her younger self.

“The follow-up series is written and executive produced by Steve and Jim Armogida (School of Rock, Grounded For Life). Frye will also serve as executive producer along with Duclon and Emmy-winning producer Jimmy Fox (The Arrangement) of Main Event Media, an All3Media America company.

Punky Brewster, which catapulted its young star Frye to fame, ran for four seasons, two on NBC, the rest in syndication. It nabbed three Primetime Emmy nominations including two for Outstanding Children’s Program. Frye also voiced the Punky character in It’s Punky Brewster, an animated spinoff series that ran two season and earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program.

“While UCP has produced hourlong and half-hour comedy series with Difficult People, Psych, Playing House and Happy!, Punky Brewster marks a the studio’s first foray into multi-camera/family sitcoms.

“Other popular sitcoms of the 1980s and 1990s that have made a return with the original stars over the past few years include Boy Meets World, Full House, Will & Grace and Roseanne.

“Following her breakout role on Punky Brewster, Frye guest starred on such series as Friends, Saved by the Bell and The Wonder Years and recurred on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch opposite Melissa Joan Hart. Frye has done extensive voice work on numerous animated series and films including The Ren & Stimpy Show, The Proud Family, Robot Chicken, and Bratz. She also hosted three seasons of the Daytime Emmy-winning series Home Made Simple for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network and was an ongoing contributor for Today. Additionally, she has written two books, Happy Chaos and Let’s Get This Party Started. Frye recently wrapped production of Heirlooms, a crime comedy co-starring Shelley Long and Luke Wilson.”

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From EW: “Miley Cyrus made her TV return in Netflix’s Black Mirror season 5 where she played a pop star named Ashley O who launches a robotic doll based on her own personality. Yet things take a wild turn when she’s poisoned into a coma by her greedy aunt (Susan Pourfar) intent on substituting the real Ashley for a hologram.

“Below, creator Charlie Brooker and executive producer Annabel Jones take some burning questions in one part in our three-part season 5 interview (also read our chats about Striking Vipers and Smithereens):

Even though this is a media interview I hope you’re not only going to put a limiter on yourself so you only use 4% of your minds to answer my questions like the Ashley doll.
CHARLIE BROOKER: Unfortunately, I can only ever use a maximum of 6% of my mind.

ANNABEL JONES: You should tell us at the end!

I loved this one because it felt like you guys struck an entirely new tone for the show with some characters that were unlike any I had on seen on the show before. What was your inspiration for this one?
BROOKER: I’m glad you said that, because the tone of this one is quite nuts. It starts one place and accelerates into insanity by the end. Often with Black Mirror, there are two ideas that collide. Years ago I wrote a sitcom about a punk band from 1977 and all the members died, they’re killed in a mass hanging — it’s a long story, it was a comedy, they were hanged by a Tory minister. They miraculously come back in the future and discover their manager has been exploiting their back catalog and selling them out.

And we were discussing the rise of holographic versions of artists — Prince and Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse. It’s notable these people often pass away in extremely tragic circumstances. They’ve been chewed up by the fame industry and now they’re being resurrected. It’s extremely ghoulish. And we were thinking of A.I. too — what if you could program something that could write like John Lennon? And Alexa, all those virtual assistants, and how they provide companionship of a kind. That led to a conversation of, what if you had a virtual assistant based on a celebrity’s personality, and then I started jumping up and down, and thought, “Oh that connects to the hologram performer idea!” and it sort of spun out from there.

At first, I thought this was going to be the Black Mirror version of Twilight Zone’s “Living Doll,” but then it went a more interesting and fun direction, almost like one of those after-school kids shows. I half expected the evil aunt to somehow be literally unmasked at the end.
BROOKER: It’s funny you say that. At one point I proposed her face should fall off and show all sorts of circuits and cogs. I said she should disappear in a puff of smoke. I was down for that. I think she almost does that because she looks down the lens and acknowledges the viewer. That’s as close as we get.

You mentioned before you had a very short list for the lead role, and after seeing the episode it’s obvious why as it requires somebody who can convincingly play a pop star in performance scenes plus dramatically deliver off stage. But what did Miley Cyrus specifically bring to the part?
JONES: Probably more attitude. The whole film is about an artist and how they’re trying to find their own identity and break out from the commercial machine. And as we talked about, the tone gets increasing heightened and sarcastic and satirical, and Miley is all of those things. She has that attitude. She isn’t afraid to step aside and do something edgy. But what I love about the film is the vulnerability she brought amongst all of this. And then, of course, her observations about the world and her personal experiences and what it’s like to live that life and the demands that social media places on you and her relationships with her fans and how she tries to responsibly manage that. And she drew on all of that.

Was there anything she pushed back on in terms of portraying a pop star, in terms of realism or other reasons?
JONES: I don’t think she pushed back on anything. She had some thoughts on the costume and the look. She’s been through that role and we just fed off her.

BROOKER: Some of Miley’s observations ended up when the aunt is giving her presentation. During our initial conversation, she described recently supporting another act — an act for an older generation where she did a cameo. And Miley stepped on stage and saw their faces because they weren’t all filming her on their phone and she really enjoyed it and hadn’t realized how much she missed that. There were lines about that that ended up in [the episode]. She also has such a good sense of humor for somebody with that life; she doesn’t take the world too seriously.

Also while I have you: Any update on doing a spin-off series from the Black Mirror universe? I continue to think a Metalhead series would work.
BROOKER: That’s one we can’t answer. 

But you said that in an arch kind of way that makes me think there’s something there.
BROOKER: Or is it a triple bluff?”

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Per Yahoo!, “Late Night, the new comedy written by and starring Mindy Kaling as an inexperienced television scribe brought in to shake up a fading talk show hosted by Emma Thompson, is honest and topical in its handling of race and gender and the roles both play in an entertainment industry in long overdue transition.

“Molly Patel (Kaling) is hired onto the staff of Katherine Newbury's (Thompson) joke writing team for one key reason: She's a woman, and they desperately need a female perspective. Members of the all-white-male writer's room, meanwhile, are threatened by her presence: "I wish I was a woman of color so I could just get any job I want," one of them bemoans.

“The premise is deeply personal for Kaling, 39, whose Indian parents immigrated to the U.S. the year she was born and who rose to fame as a writer and ensemble cast member on the NBC hit The Office starting in 2005.

"‘I thought it was fun to actually talk about diversity hires in a really open way, because I was a diversity hire for The Office,’ Kaling told Yahoo Entertainment in a recent interview (watch above), where she was joined by her Oscar-winning costar Thompson. ‘I came up through the NBC diversity hiring [program].’

"‘And I used to be so embarrassed about that. I was so embarrassed that people would know about it. And I wouldn’t tell anyone. … The other writers will think that was the only reason I was hired.’

“Kaling was the only woman on the The Office's writing staff when she was first hired at the age of 24, and began appearing as Kelly Kapoor in the series' second episode — called Diversity Day. By 2012 she had her own hit sitcom, The Mindy Show, and has since appeared in tentpole films like Inside Out (2015), A Wrinkle in Time (2018) and Ocean's 8 (2018). In January, Late Night sold to Amazon Studios for a record $13 million at the Sundance Film Festival.

"‘What I didn't realize then was that it wasn't something to be ashamed of, that this really great organization was giving me something that other people have born access to, and I won't ever be embarrassed about it again,’ Kaling explained.

"‘What's great about the movie is we make no bones about it. She was strictly hired for that reason and then sort of blossomed through that role. So I thought that was really nice to be able to write about.’"