Tuesday August 27, 2019

I watched Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special last night. More below, but kudos to him for being unabashedly vocal and honest about race, gun control, suicide, abortion, molestation, sexuality, politics and pretty much any other taboo topic these days. If you do watch, and I implore you to do so, make sure you watch the Epilogue which immediately follows and bring your thick skin.

Saturday Night Live returns for Season 45 on September 28 with three live coast-to-coast shows. Woody Harrelson, in his fourth appearance as host, and musical guest Billie Eilish will open the season. Making his first return to SNL for the first since a somewhat awkward appearance for a tribute at the SNL 40th Anniversary special in 2015 is Eddie Murphy, who will host December 21 with musical guest TBA. This will be his first time as host since 1984.”

The next season of Below Deck will premiere on Bravo on October 7.

Adam Goldberg is stepping down as the showrunner of The Goldbergs.

Something remains off with Pete Davidson. “The SNL star was the headliner for a comedy show at the college [UCF] Monday night, but instead of using his time to tell jokes ... he blasted the audience for using their phones to film, calling them all ‘privileged little a**holes.’ After eliciting cheers in the face of insults, he bore in hard, saying ... ‘That's why we're embarrassing. That's why the world is gonna end in 25 years, because you're all f***ing retarded.’ Pete went on to call everyone idiots and morons and told them to grow up ... like an angry old man yelling at kids. Davidson is 25. Pete's rant came several minutes into his set, but even his intro didn't include much comedic material. After his tirade, he did a brief Q&A with the crowd but said he was only sticking around because he had to wait for his Uber.” Is he REALLY that wrong??

The fight to save The OA intensified this week after a digital billboard went live in New York City’s Times Square urging Netflix to renew the science-fiction drama series for a Season 3. The show, created by indie favorites Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, was canceled by Netflix on August 5 after two ambitious seasons that divided critics but earned a passionate cult following. Since the axe dropped on the show, diehard OA fans have rallied together to save the series and convince Netflix to reconsider a third season. The OA Season 2 ended on a meta cliffhanger that promised a bonkers Season 3, which is only adding to fan demand for more episodes. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, OA superfan organizer Ryan Lulofs launched a GoFundMe campaign on August 11 to raise money for a Times Square billboard that would campaign to save the series. The campaign started with a goal of $3,500, a number it hit on its first day. The OA fans eventually raised $5,500 for the billboard and would have probably raised even more had Lulofs continued accepting donations. The billboard launched Monday, August 26 in Times Square and features fan art by Magicelum and animation by a team of OA fans from countries such as the Czech Republic and Brazil.”

EW has learned that Demi Lovato has been cast as a guest star in the upcoming season of NBC’s Will & Grace. The singer-actress will play the role of Jenny, a guarded gal who comes into the life of Will (Eric McCormack) in an unexpected way. Lovato will appear in three episodes sometime in 2020, when the third season is expected to air as part of NBC’s midseason lineup.”

Disney+ is not going to carry anything with an R rating.

Netflix will open Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman on Nov. 1 in limited release. The crime drama, which stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, will keep adding cities over a three and a half week period before launching on the streaming service on Nov. 27. Scorsese reportedly had wanted the film to have a more traditional rollout, but this release pattern is more aligned with the limited, exclusive theatrical run that Netflix granted Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma in 2018. It’s unclear how many screens The Irishman will ultimately appear on, because major theater chains such as AMC and Regal are unlikely to agree to such a short theatrical run. Most major studio films wait roughly 90 days between their big screen debuts and their home entertainment bows and exhibitors are worried that shortening that window will cannibalize their businesses. Historically, they haven’t been big fans of Netflix, bristling at past comments that the streaming services’ executives have made about the health of theatrical business. Bashing Netflix is a frequent applause line at CinemaCon, the exhibition industry’s annual trade show — a sign of the tensions that exist behind traditional media and the streaming services that are upending their business.”

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This will become a bit of a trend/fad that should pass quickly, but you will see more than 1 gift wrapping show. Here are details on one of them: “Freeform is adding an original competition series to its mix of holiday programming.

“The Disney-owned cable network has started production on Wrap Battle, a six-episode series that aims to determine the best gift-wrapper in America. Sheryl Underwood (The Talk) will host, with Carson Kressley (Get a Room) and Wanda Wen — founder of stationery and luxury paper brand Soolip — serving as judges.

“Guest judges include Broadway producer Candy Spelling — the widow of producer Aaron Spelling, known for having a room just for gift wrapping in their Los Angeles mansion — Sandra Lee, Good Trouble's Sherry Cola, Grown-ish's Diggy Simmons, Lala Kent and designer Sabrina Soto

“The winner will receive $50,000 and a chance to design their own custom holiday wrapping paper to be sold at Paper Source stores. They also will get to showcase their talent at a holiday installation at The SoNo Collection in Connecticut.

“The series is set to premiere in the winter. Freeform annually puts forth a bonanza of holiday programming in December as part of its 25 Days of Christmas branding.

Wrap Battle comes from Michael Levitt Productions, with Levitt (Skin Wars, My Life on the D-List) executive producing along with Jill Goularte and Colleen Sands.”

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Per Variety, “[i]t’s fair to say that Viola Davis’ potential next TV role will come with a lot of pressure.

The actress has signed on to play former First Lady Michelle Obama in a series titled First Ladies which is in the works at Showtime. The network has given the prospective one-hour drama a three-script commitment, with novelist Aaron Cooley on board to write and executive produce.

“The series will peel back the curtain on the personal and political lives of First Ladies from throughout history, with season one focusing on Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michelle Obama. First Ladies will turn it lens on the East Wing of the White House, as opposed to the West, where many of history’s most impactful and world changing decisions have been hidden from view, made by America’s charismatic, complex and dynamic First Ladies. The series hails from Showtime and Lionsgate Television.

“Davis and her partner Julius Tennon serve as non-writing executive producers on the project via their JuVee Productions banner, alongside Cathy Schulman via Welle Entertainment, Jeff Gaspin via Gaspin Media, and Brad Kaplan via LINK Entertainment.

“Michelle Obama has been portrayed on film before, but never on television. She was notably played by Tika Sumpter in the 2016 picture Southside With You.

“The Obamas are making the leap into content production themselves via their recently launched Higher Ground Productions. So far, the company’s originals slate is staying away from anything directly involving politics, with Bloom, an upstairs/downstairs drama series set in the world of fashion in post-WWII New York City, and a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom high up on the list.

“Davis’ TV schedule is set to clear up in early 2020 as her five-year, six-season stint on “How to Get Away with Murder” comes to an end. Speaking at Variety’s Inclusion Summit earlier this year, Davis discussed some of her upcoming projects with JuVee and how to stop Hollywood from “dictating the storytelling” for people of color.

“‘If you look to the past and look at storytelling where there’s a huge deficit in terms of our voice and our presence, that’s not a good place to start,’ she said. ‘What we have to fight for, and this is what I’m proud about with JuVee, is autonomy in storytelling and production and all of it. Don’t just tell me that the only way Viola can exist in the story is if a white person is leading the charge and I’m in the background.’”

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From Vulture: “Note: The review below was written after attending one of Dave Chappelle’s Broadway shows in early July, but much of the same material was also recorded in Atlanta and then released for Chappelle’s Netflix special, Sticks & Stones. This review is of a different performance, and the recorded special is different in a few pointed ways — there is less preoccupation with ticket prices in the Netflix special, for instance, although you can see some of that material if you stay tuned for the Epilogue”\ that auto-plays after Sticks and Stones. The Epilogue also lets you see some of the Q&A structure discussed in this review.

“With the added benefit of distance from the review, I’d add one thing to the context of my original thoughts on the Broadway show. It originally ran with the headline ‘Dave Chappelle Performs for Privilege,’ which makes sense in the context of Chappelle’s focus on ticket prices and his Broadway surroundings. But that headline was also meant to point out how much of Chappelle’s current comedy seems to be shaped by his wealth and celebrity. The new headline reflects another element of the show, one that’s less about Chappelle’s constant awareness of wealth, and more about how he relies on shock value, and how ineffective that device is in this set.

“The ticket to see Dave Chappelle on Broadway is expensive, and in the second night of his two-week limited run, he did not want to let anyone in his audience forget it. Even more than the jokes about trans people, and the jokes about how Michael Jackson probably didn’t actually molest boys, and the jokes arguing that what Louis C.K. did was not that bad, the ticket price was the recurring drumbeat of his set, the idea he returned to time and again.

“‘You paid $765 for that seat!’ he told one man sitting in the front row. ‘That’s fucked up! I did the exact same show in Atlanta for $60!’ Not long after, he announced that he was about to say something he probably shouldn’t, before laughing that the audience had paid for these $4,000 tickets, and at that price, he should probably fess up. (The confession that followed was more of a complaint, a story about how the documentary Surviving R. Kelly implicated Chappelle in the broad cultural blindness toward Kelly’s crimes when Chappelle had nothing at all to do with it.) At one point he asked a young guy in the front if he’d gone to college. ‘Of course you did,’ Chappelle said when the guy answered yes. ‘You paid for this $800 ticket.’

“Chappelle’s consciousness about how much the tickets cost, and his insistence on reminding everyone in the room about it, felt like more than just a line he could keep coming back to for a solid laugh. Something about that idea seemed to get at the heart of Chappelle’s set: that he was performing for a room full of people who could afford the price of entry, that no one in the room (most especially Chappelle) would qualify as ‘broke,’ and that the immense price of being there was wildly inflated but everyone was happy to pay it. He was performing, that is, for the privileged.

“That positioning — the alignment toward perspectives of power rather than powerlessness — comes up again and again in Chappelle’s set, especially in the first hour, during which he delivers a traditional stand-up set. When he tells a long story about buying a shotgun after moving to a farm in Ohio, he imagines a scenario where he would need to use the shotgun against a ‘poor heroin-addicted white’ who had trespassed into his kitchen. The perspective he takes is not from the point of view of the heroin-addict he imagines breaking in; it’s his own as the prospective shooter. When he delivers a defense of Louis C.K. (“a good friend of mine before he died of a terrible masturbation accident”), it’s from the perspective of the poor man accused of nonconsensual sexual activity, not the women he masturbated in front of without their consent. And when he backpedals briefly, suggesting that he does agree with elements of the #MeToo movement, he then swiftly swings back with a line that sounds like a threat. The fury of the #MeToo response means that ‘it’s gonna get worse than it was before,’ he says, before pointing out that, as if in direct response to women calling out their abusers, eight states have recently passed intensely restrictive abortion laws.

“There are moments when he seems to teeter on the edge of some newer, more interesting insight. In a sequence about trans bathroom laws, he walks right up to a line that seems primed for a reversal of his previous transphobic bits, which he was criticized for in earlier specials. After a setup to explain that transness is just inherently funny (an almost identical bit to the one he uses in his Netflix special Equanimity), Chappelle seemed to be setting up a different idea, one about the awful unfairness of trans bathroom restrictions. ‘Could you imagine having to present your birth certificate to take a shit at a Walmart in North Carolina?’ he says. It seems like the beginning of an obvious twist in another direction, where the observed absurdity might be about the regulations rather than about trans people. Instead, the joke doubles back on Chappelle’s own perspective again. He imagines himself in that bathroom, feeling freaked out by a hypothetical woman who might walk in and then ‘pull out a dick’ next to him. In addition to being unfunny (and cruel), it feels frankly unimaginative.

“On the same day Chappelle opened, Netflix released Aziz Ansari’s new special Right Now. Although neither of them likely intended it to be that way, it’s hard not to notice that the two male comics, both grappling with their legacies, chose to engage with overlapping material. Both Ansari and Chappelle point to Michael Jackson and R. Kelly as use cases for thinking about what a bad man actually looks like, and both indict their audiences for their roles in bringing down good men. It gets even closer: Both Ansari and Chappelle deliberately single out the youngest-looking audience member they can find, and then joke about that person potentially being a victim of either Jackson or Kelly.

“In this case, though, the differences between them are more interesting than the overlap. When Ansari pulls a 10-year-old onstage in his special, he puts himself in the mock position of Michael Jackson, pointing to the kid and yelling ‘I don’t know him!’ The joke is on Jackson (and, implicitly, on Ansari and his own misconduct allegations). In Chappelle’s hands, that line goes, ‘You’re 15? Sorry to tell you, but you’re squarely in R. Kelly’s range.’ The joke, such as it is, lands on the 15-year-old would-be victim.

“Far and away the most compelling element of Chappelle’s Broadway show is the stuff that happens after his official set — a more improvisational second hour of crowd Q&A that Chappelle surprised his audience with on the first night of his run and then repeated on the second night. Freed to respond to whatever the audience shouted at him, it’s not as though Chappelle’s underlying stances changed — if anything, his readiness with a transphobic punch line in the second hour only underlined how completely inelastic he is on that topic.

“But that hour also demonstrated something that felt in short supply in the first hour. When he walked back onstage to tell the crowd to sit back down, Chappelle pointed to a woman near the front who, he told the audience, was holding a sign that read, ‘Poor after buying your ticket.’ ‘This is why I came back out,’ he said. The ticket-price joke was back, but this time it was with the sense that he wanted to make sure he was creating value for the audience, that he wanted to be generous in return for their generosity. He happily responded to prompts like requests for birthday shout-outs, a question about whether he’d ‘rather fuck a dude, or watch that dude fuck [his] wife’ (a real stumper, for Chappelle), and closed with a lengthy story about the first time he met Obama. At one point, a man in the front row asked the chain-smoking Chappelle if he could bum a cigarette, and rather than the one cigarette the man asked for, Chappelle gave him two — one so he could smoke it now, and the other so he could take it home and tell his friends that Chappelle gave it to him.

“Suddenly the crowd was not made up of the ‘bitch-ass fault-finders’ Chappelle had accused them of being earlier in the show. The first hour, he said, was like a “deep-tissue massage,” meant to hurt the audience for their own benefit. In the second, he wanted to make sure they got their money’s worth. ‘It was worth every dollar!’ a man shouted in response, from the balcony.”

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Per Realscreen, “Vice Studios, the film and TV production arm of youth-skewing media brand Vice Media, is collaborating with Canadian LGBTQ+ network OUTtv on a new makeover show celebrating transgender and gender-non-conforming identities.

Clothes Minded will focus on trans and gender non-conforming young adults preparing for major upcoming events (a job interview, a wedding, prom) while struggling to feel comfortable with their identities and outward appearance. The show will be a ‘comrade in arms,’ providing support for participants to find the perfect look and feel comfortable with their authentic, true selves.

“The series marks the first collaboration between Vice and OUTtv. Vice Studios will handle global distribution outside of OUTtv’s territories, which are Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and India.

“‘Clothes Minded is a natural next step for us in original programming as we continue to develop content for and about the LGBTQ+ communities,’ said Brad Danks, CEO of OUTtv, in a statement. ‘Vice Studios always strives to shine a light on underrepresented communities and we look forward to joining forces with them to bring new and inclusive programming to our respective audiences.’

“‘Celebrating unique viewpoints of the world that connect humanity together is emblematic of Vice’s ethos,’ added Vanessa Case, SVP of Vice Studios Canada. ‘Clothes Minded is the perfect series to bring that spirit to audiences in partnership with OUTtv.’”