Thursday August 22, 2019

The series finale of Baskets airs tonight on FX.

Food Network debuts The Flay List tonight: “Bobby Flay and his daughter, Sophie, begin the day in New York City with a crisp walk on the High Line to his taco pick, Los Tacos No. 1, in the buzzing Chelsea Market. They follow up Bobby's tacos with his favorite creamy Italian gelato at L'Arte del Gelato and then head over to Brooklyn for Sophie's taco pick, Oxomoco.”

I checked out the premiere of MTV’s Ghosted and have to admit that it’s not half bad. “MTV’s Ghosted: Love Gone Missing, premiering on September 10, will follow two people -- the ghosted and the ghost -- as they try to uncover the truth behind those unanswered messages. America’s Bachelorettesweetheart Rachel Lindsay and recording artist Travis Mills will serve as hosts; in the eight-episode docuseries, the two will help distraught individuals track down and confront a former lover, friend, or family member in an effort to uncover the harsh realities of why they ‘ghosted’ them.”

Hulu has ordered a 2nd season of Into The Dark.

Sheila Litt has filed for divorce from her real life husband.

Original Real Housewives of New York star Bethenny Frankel is leaving the Bravo reality show once again, she announced in a statement on Wednesday. Frankel, who was one of the show’s five original cast members, first exited the show after its third season. She rejoined in Season 7 and has been a full-time cast member ever since. Her departure comes ahead of the show’s 12th season. ‘I have decided to leave the ‘Housewives’ franchise to explore my next chapter,’ Frankel said in a statement. ‘It’s time to move on and focus on my daughter, my philanthropy and my production partnership with Mark Burnett, producing and starring in shows which represent a shift in the conversation for women. With the changes in modern culture, I want to highlight the strength, confidence and unstoppable power that women have.’ The statement continued, ‘My experience at Bravo has been an incredibly magical ride. I am so grateful to them for highlighting my entrepreneurialism and allowing me to pave the way for many women to achieve their goals. I am excited for my future. The best is yet to come.’”

Bill Burr’s new Netflix special will be available to stream on September 10.

Fox News announced Thursday that former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has joined the network as a contributor. She will deliver political commentary and analysis across Fox News’ platforms, including Fox News Channel (FNC), Fox Business Network, Fox News Digital, Fox Nation and the radio and podcast division.”

Despite completing a stint in rehab, Kathryn Dennis admits she still drinks. ‘I don’t smoke weed or do anything illegal like that,’ the Southern Charm star said on part one of the Season 6 reunion Wednesday, maintaining her sobriety issues involved marijuana and not booze. She then clarified, ‘It’s not like I’m drinking, though, going out partying, by any means.’ Dennis’ sobriety came into question after she was a guest on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen in May and appeared to be under the influence. ‘I haven’t really watched the episode because I’m too embarrassed to watch it,’ Dennis, 28, said, before telling co-star Austin Kroll, ‘But don’t ever think for a f—king second you’re going to come after me and my sobriety. You better back the f—k up.’”

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From EW: “It’s time to wish our Friends a happy birthday. On Sept. 22, NBC’s era-defining sitcom will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its premiere. The story of six lovably neurotic friends — played by Jennifer Aniston, now 50; Courteney Cox, 55; Lisa Kudrow, 56; Matt LeBlanc, 52; Matthew Perry, 50; and David Schwimmer, 52 — navigating the caffeine-fueled excitement and terrors of New York City, developed into a cultural phenomenon over the course of its 10-season run, winning Emmys and amassing 52.5 million viewers (live!) for its series finale in 2004.

“And Friends — or Friends Like Us, as it was once going to be called — has lived on in enduring Saturday Night Live impersonations, Central Perk coffee-shop pop-ups, old DVD sets, cable reruns, and endless Netflix binges. (Get those in while you can. In the U.S., the show will depart the streaming service for HBO Max in 2020.) It feels like the series is still at the height of its popularity, a success that owes everything to its magical combination of six practically unknown actors.

“And yet! As author Saul Austerlitz reveals in his new book, Generation Friends (publishing Sept. 17), the show’s casting was hardly so simple. In fact, the sitcom was dangerously close to going in several different directions. Here, EW presents exclusive excerpts from the book, detailing the fascinating behind-the-scenes machinations that went into creating the definitive TV gang:

THE ONE WITH A MELTING POT

The show only had eight weeks to find its cast—and preferably one as diverse as its New York City setting.

The producers expressed a desire to be open about race and ethnicity as well. They knew that the Ross and Monica characters were to be siblings, and had decided that they would be played by white performers, but were open to anyone for the other four roles. [Ellie] Kanner’s initial lists included numerous African-American and Asian-American performers. The flexibility was a step forward, to be sure, but some of Friends‘ later struggles regarding diversity were etched in stone here. Without an explicit desire to cast actors who looked more like New York, the producers were likely going to end up, as if by default, with an all-white cast. As later critics would note, comedy was a less integrated genre than drama. Dramatic series had room for a greater variety of characters, and their settings— hospitals, precinct houses, courtrooms—allowed for characters from different walks of life to interact. Comedy expected its audiences to embrace its characters and was far more tentative about asking them to identify with characters who were not white and middle-class. Television executives were more fearful of asking audiences to laugh along with characters of color, concerned that such shows would be ignored by the majority-white audience.

THE ONE WITH A DIFFERENT MONICA

Reality Bites star Janeane Garofalo was offered the role of a much harder-edged Monica.

Monica was to be “tough, defended, cynical, sarcastic.” In an ultra- nineties reference, they described her as having “the attitude of Sandra Bernhard or Rosie O’Donnell and the looks of Duff,” referring to the MTV VJ and model Karen Duffy. Monica, in this original conception, was to be a blue-collar New Yorker with aspirations of starting her own restaurant. She would work at a Le Cirque-like establishment: “We just think it would be fun to see this tough, downtown woman in this uptown, French bulls— arena.” Monica would also have a “real maternal side,” looking after Rachel and adopting a pregnant woman who would end up giving birth in her apartment. Monica dreamed of becoming a mother but first found herself in search of a man to have children with.

THE ONE WITH THE CHARACTER WHO NEVER WAS

The six friends almost had a seventh comrade.

NBC was mostly hands-off after ordering [Marta] Kauffman and [David] Crane’s pilot, with their notes running to such minor matters as the beige-toned color of the couch in the coffeehouse. (They preferred a less repellent shade.) The one major suggestion the network had for Crane and Kauffman was the addition of an older secondary character. NBC was concerned that if all the main characters were in their twenties, it would distinctly limit the series’ breakout appeal. An older character—even one that made only occasional appearances—could convince hesitant older viewers to check in with Friends Like Us. Perhaps, the network thought, there might be an older acquaintance they ran into at the coffeehouse who could give them advice about their lives?

It was a poor idea, and while it would not sink the show, it would undoubtedly weaken its spell. Kauffman and Crane reluctantly agreed, and began trying to wedge the character, whom they referred to as “Pat the Cop,” after an older police officer who used to hang out in the movie theater where Dream On writers Jeff Greenstein and Jeff Strauss used to work in Somerville, Massachusetts, during college, into their next script. The writers made a good-faith attempt, even casting the role, but hated the resulting script so much that they pleaded with NBC to drop the idea. If only NBC would kill Pat the Cop, they promised, they would give their six protagonists parents in notable supporting roles, and find older guest stars to attract a more mature audience. NBC gave its permission, and Pat the Cop was no longer.

THE ONE WHERE JOEY WAS FROM CHICAGO

Matt LeBlanc’s character was originally written as a “smug” lothario from Illinois.

Crane and Kauffman initially pictured Joey and Monica as the central romantic couple for the show. Joey, the perpetual horndog, would be lured, and possibly tamed, by the warm, affectionate Monica. In this initial version, Joey was less dim-witted than he would eventually become, with an emphasis on his ladies’-man style and his city-boy attitude. Initially, the casting search was for more of a leading-man type. Crane was taken aback to find that this approach led Joey to feel more boring than they had expected him to be. None of the actors they brought in to audition conveyed the charm they had in mind. As it stood, Joey felt as if he did not belong in this particular circle of friends.

THE ONE WITH THE CASTING CONFLICT

The team wanted Jennifer Aniston for the role of Rachel but she had already shot several episodes of an unaired CBS comedy, Muddling Through. If the CBS series was picked up, Friends would lose Aniston midway through its first season.

Muddling Through had already shot a half-dozen episodes, none of which had aired, and CBS, after some dithering, ultimately chose to put the show on its summer schedule, in the relative dead zone of Saturday nights. Hearing the news, [Warren] Littlefield turned to [Preston] Beckman, NBC’s scheduling guru, with a two-word order: “Kill it.”

Beckman returned with a crafty suggestion for eliminating Muddling Through‘s prospects. Beckman was sitting on a trove of unreleased original TV films adapted from Danielle Steel novels. They were practically guaranteed to attract a substantial, and substantially female, audience. If they were to be scheduled opposite Muddling Through? Well, no show about an ex-con motel manager and her daffy family was likely to provide stiff competition for Steel’s glamorous romances.

Beckman would schedule the Steel movies for the first few Saturday nights Muddling Through was on the air, with repeats scheduled for the weeks that followed. It was a necessary sacrifice, giving up some of the ratings the movies might have garnered on another, more attractive, night in exchange for eliminating a rival to potential future Thursday-night success.”

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Per Variety, “ABC’s announcement that its newest Dancing With the Stars cast will feature Sean Spicer, former press secretary for Donald Trump and frequent punchline, got immediate heat. The show’s tweet sharing the news was immediately flooded with derision and calls for reconsideration given the fact that Spicer gained his modicum of fame from defending some of the president’s most toxic policies and spreading pernicious lies in the process. The backlash got so immediately bad that even host Tom Bergeron felt compelled to say something, though his statement professing that he had nothing to do with the casting failed to mention Spicer by name and ended on a ‘why can’t we all just get along?’ sentiment that missed the point of the protestations entirely.

“That reaction, overwhelmingly negative though it may be, is exactly why Dancing With the Stars cast Spicer in the first place. Even if viewers don’t stick with Spicer week to week (and who knows how long he’ll actually last), there will inevitably be a burst of initial curiosity to boost the premiere ratings. The number of headlines surrounding his mere casting — yes, including this one — guarantee an outsized amount of interest in a season whose biggest cast members otherwise include James Van Der Beek and a Bachelorette. To give the producers an extraordinary benefit of the doubt, they may be a little confused about why Spicer’s any different from other controversial figures they’ve included before, most notably Tucker Carlson (albeit in his less odious 2006 iteration) and Bristol Palin (twice). The crucial difference that they and Bergeron (whose statement spoke vaguely of not wanting the show to indulge in “inevitably divisive bookings from ANY party affiliations”) either fail to understand or refuse to acknowledge is that Spicer’s previous life as a professional liar should really disqualify him from public life, period.

“At this point, Spicer may be best known for scolding the press about underreporting Trump’s Inauguration Day crowd (they didn’t), Melissa McCarthy’s impression of him on Saturday Night Live, and his subsequent appearance during Stephen Colbert’s 2017 Emmys hosting gig. In other words, Spicer quickly became known as a pop culture character rather than the political failure he was, and he in turn quickly found ways to cash in with media appearances and a book deal. But in his original role as a mouthpiece for Trump’s insecurities, Spicer didn’t just lie about something as inconsequential as a crowd. He lied about voter fraud, a near-nonexistent issue Trump’s administration has continually tried to gin up into a true crisis despite constant debunking. He lied about Trump’s conspiracy theory that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower. He lied about Adolf Hitler, whom he claimed “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” despite an incredible amount of evidence to the contrary. Over and over again, Spicer used his pulpit to bully the press and ignore the facts, maintaining a dangerous precedent of dishonesty that has remained a cornerstone of the Trump administration today, to increasingly horrifying effect.

“So, no, casting Sean Spicer on a show marked by ‘kitschy charm’ (as Bergeron put it) isn’t harmless. It only helps to re-contextualize his place in American history as a ridiculous oddity rather than the loathsome truth of his ascendance.”

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From Decider: “The 2004 comedy Mean Girls is an enduring modern favorite. From ‘You can’t sit with us’ to Glen Coco to the vaunted October 3rd, Tina Fey’s highly quotable, immensely meme-able movie remains a beloved early-aughts trove of hilarity. Mean Girls features no shortage of exceptional comedic performances, but when I think about it 15 years after the premiere, the first person who comes to mind is Tim Meadows.

“The long-time Saturday Night Live cast member isn’t the star of Mean Girls, obviously. In fact, other than his 2000 movie The Ladies Man, the Second City alum isn’t primarily known for starring roles. Tim Meadows is the guy who’ll pop into your movie and deftly deliver the greatest Tony! Toni! Toné! joke ever crafted. He’s the guest star who’ll inject subtle humor and stark realism into a silly lawyer character known for ‘trying his best’ and being a ‘mack’ at cases involving dog bites.

“Simply stated: Tim Meadows has a knack for making everything he’s in just a little bit better.

“The above bit and Meadows’ (non hyperbole) brilliant line read of ‘Hell, no. I did “not” leave the South Side for this!’ are two of my favorite Mean Girls jokes. Sure, ‘Stop trying to make fetch happen!’ and the Toaster Strudel line are firmly entrenched in the zeitgeist, and deservedly so, but the veteran comedian’s performance being comparatively overshadowed makes sense when you consider that one of Meadows’ best comedic traits is being the perfect scene partner.

“The actor often plays the straight man, but it’s usually a straight man with a twist. On Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Meadows portrays Jake’s prison friend Caleb, a fellow inmate who’s passionate about woodworking and cannibalism. Similar to Phil Hartman, Meadows’ greatest comedic gift is elevating the people around him. Few people are as inherently funny as Meadows, so he doesn’t need the big laugh line to get a reaction.

“This rare ability is one of the many reasons the comedian is in such high demand, making guest appearances on Bob’s BurgersDetroiters, and The Goldbergs, among many other shows.

“Meadows has an ineffable comedic quality that simply can’t be quantified. His time at Second City and SNL transformed the actor into a versatile, surgical performer. One of the most under-appreciated Weekend Update segments from the ’90s is Meadows’ bit about how much he loves hockey.

“Minus the intro and outro, the whole monologue is only about a minute long, but it’s so delightfully bizarre. The subtle tonal shifts are next level. First, he just randomly lists the names of popular hockey players before heightening his emotional involvement: ‘I swear to God there are only a few things that really get to Tim Meadows: racism, sexism, and no hockey.’

“If you read the transcript of the sketch, it’s not really all that funny. But therein lies the power of Tim Meadows. He makes a line like ‘I need my hockey like I need air, or water, or food, or clothing, or whatever’ work.

“The ‘or whatever’ still kills me.

“Nobody does relatable, cozy strangeness better than Tim Meadows. Everyone loves him, yet he’s still somehow under-appreciated, which to me is unacceptable. I swear to God there are only a few things that really get to me: racism, sexism, and a lack of reverence for the comedic stylings of one Tim Meadows.”

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Per TVLine, “Barry star Sarah Goldberg now has something on her résumé that her character Sally is still dreaming of: an Emmy nomination.

“Goldberg’s work as self-involved actress Sally in Season 2 of HBO’s pitch-black comedy earned her a nod for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, alongside big names like SNL‘s Kate McKinnon and Oscar winner Olivia Colman. (Goldberg was actually in Greece with her boyfriend when the nominations were announced, so she was ‘the last to know,’ she says.) Sally’s years of toiling away in Hollywood finally seemed to be paying off this season, but when Barry stumbled into a coveted audition for a big studio comedy in Episode 7, an envious Sally unloaded on him in a three-minute, stream-of-consciousness rant filled with resentment towards his instant success, anxiety about her own career trajectory and so much more — so it’s no surprise that Goldberg ended up submitting that episode for Emmy consideration.

“‘Sally doesn’t really have a filter,’ Goldberg tells TVLine with a laugh… and that monologue didn’t really give her a chance to take a breath, either, she remembers. Star/co-creator Bill Hader ‘pitched the idea to me early on when we were shooting the season… “We’re just gonna write two pages, no punctuation. It’ll be like one long run-on sentence. Don’t even breathe. You’re just gonna keep talking.”’ They went off and wrote a draft of her speech, ‘and Bill very generously gave me that draft and said, “Here’s the scaffolding. Now go away and do your Sally spin on it.” So I got to have a lot of input and fun adding in asides and all kinds of meta jokes that we were experiencing in the shooting of Season 2.’

“Goldberg took Sally’s speech ‘and rehearsed it like a piece of music,’ she recalls, ‘because I knew it was going to have to be one long take.’ She likens it to ‘doing a monologue in theater… I had to learn it inside out.’ She was still ‘really nervous’ on the day of shooting, though, she admits, and while she normally pitches jokes to the writers before cameras roll, this time, ‘they were like, '“Surprise us!”’ So she did: ‘I turned those two pages into three pages. Because Sally wants to say more!’ The first take went so well that director/co-creator Alec Berg was ready to move on… but Goldberg wasn’t. ‘I never ask for a second take, but I was like, “Guys, I worked so hard on this. We need another go.”’ They ended up doing four takes of the monologue altogether, and they ultimately used the fourth take ‘because that was the one where I felt loose and free and like I was really enjoying it.’

“Looking back, Goldberg regards Sally’s rant as ‘a real gift,’ and credits Hader for his generosity as a producer: ‘He kind of picks out what people’s strengths and quirks are, and then works with that in order to give everybody a real platform to do their best work.’ Of course, a full, three-minute monologue from one character is a rarity on any TV show, and Goldberg knew that, ‘so I thought, ‘This will never see the light of day. It’ll be chopped to bits, because we’ve got 30 minutes to tell so much story.”’ But she was ‘delighted’ to see that the full version made it to air, without any cuts at all. She did do what she could on set to help make that happen, she adds: ‘I talked very, very quickly, really hoping they wouldn’t cut it. “I can go faster! I really can go faster!”’”