Monday August 12, 2019

Welcome back Succession. This was, IMHO, the best show of 2018. And after only 1 episode, it’s well on its way to being the best show of 2019 as well.

Which Succession character are you?

The series finale of Legion airs tonight.

AMC debuts season 2 of Lodge 49 this evening.

HBO premieres Our Boys tonight. “In the summer of 2014, three Jewish teenagers are kidnapped and murdered by Hamas militants. Israel is shocked, shaken and furious. Two days later, the burned body of a Palestinian teenager from eastern Jerusalem is found in a forest on the western outskirts of the city. In the ensuing days, an agent from the internal terror division of the Shin Bet investigates the murder, while the parents of the slain teenager begin their long and anguished journey toward justice and consolation. Filmed in Israel, Our Boys is based on the true events which led to the outbreak of war in Gaza. The series follows the investigation of Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s murder, and tells the story of all those involved, Jews and Arabs alike, whose lives were forever changed by these events. Our Boys is a co-production of KI’s Keshet Studios and HBO; produced by Movie Plus; created by Hagai Levi, Joseph Cedar and Tawfik Abu-Wael; executive produced by Hagai Levi, Joseph Cedar, Avi Nir (Keshet Media Group), Alon Shtruzman (Keshet International), Karni Ziv (Keshet Broadcasting), Peter Traugott and Rachel Kaplan (Keshet Studios), Noah Stollman and Michael Lombardo; distributed internationally by KI.”

Season 3 of The Crown will be available to stream on Netflix on November 17.

If you’re looking for a good stand up comedy set, check out Chris Porter’s latest special (on Amazon) called A Man From Kansas.

Apple has released a teaser for its highly anticipated drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. The first look at The Morning Show, which also stars Steve Carell, provides a peek into the high-stakes drama that will pull back the curtain on early-morning TV. The teaser, which dropped Monday, includes dramatic out-of-context audio but no footage of Aniston, Witherspoon and Carell's characters. The clips from forthcoming scenes are played over a visual tour of the Morning Show set introducing the Apple original series.”

Dr. Christopher Duntsch, aka ‘Dr. Death,’ is getting the TV treatment. Universal Content Productions — the studio behind Amazon's Homecoming and Dirty John — is adapting Wondery's podcast Dr. Death for the small screen and has tapped Jamie Dornan, Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater to star in the series. A network is not yet attached; UCP is taking the series out to the marketplace, where it is expected to garner multiple offers. The series is based on the true story of Duntsch, a young neurosurgeon who was labeled with the nickname of Dr. Death for the malpractice that resulted in the death and maiming of multiple patients in Dallas. He was accused of maiming four patients and killing two more, and was found guilty of maiming one and sentenced to life in prison in 2017. The series will explore the twisted mind of a sociopath and the negligence of the system designed to protect the defenseless.”

“President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on Hollywood on Friday, telling reporters on the White House lawn, ‘Hollywood is racist.’ When asked by reporters whether he felt recent acts of violence in the country had anything to do with his own often provocative rhetoric, Trump turned the tables: ‘You talk about “racist.” Hollywood is racist,’ he said. ‘What they’re doing, with the kind of movies they’re putting out, it’s actually very dangerous for our country. What Hollywood is doing is a tremendous disservice to our country.’ He offered no specifics about what movies or programming he felt was ‘dangerous.’” Can someone just PLEASE?!?

HBO Max is going across the pond for the newest addition to its lineup of original series. The WarnerMedia streaming platform, which is due to launch in early 2020, has snagged U.S. rights to a comedy called Starstruckfrom comedian Rose Matafeo and Avalon Television. The Edinburgh Comedy Festival winner is writing and starring in the six-episode series as a young woman in London who works two dead-end jobs and has to navigate the awkward morning after when she discovers the complications of accidentally sleeping with a movie star. The series will also air in the U.K. on BBC Three, which commissioned Starstruck along with HBO Max.”

“The digital gloves are off. Miley Cyrus clapped back at Brody Jenner for joking there would be photos of him and Liam Hemsworth ‘holding hands’ after photos surfaced of her and Jenner’s ex Kaitlynn Carter kissing on a boat in Italy. First, Jenner’s The Hills: New Beginnings co-star Brandon Lee commented on one of Jenner’s Instagram photos, ‘Let’s round this scandal out and post a pic of us making out.’ So Jenner responded, ‘watch out! Pics of Liam and I holding hands on the beach coming soon.’ And that’s when Cyrus chimed in, writing, ‘go take a nap in your truck and cool off #HotGirlSummer.’ Cyrus and Hemsworth, who co-starred in The Last Song together, announced their separation over the weekend after less than one year of marriage. Shortly after the news broke, photos surfaced of Cyrus and Carter making out in Italy. Carter and Jenner also split earlier this month, though Page Six reported that while they did have a wedding ceremony, the nuptials were never legal.”

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Per TheWrap, “Jeremy Strong landed a great gig as one of the lead actors on HBO’s excellent media-empire drama Succession — but that doesn’t mean he has a ‘fun’ job, something we asked the actor behind the troubled Kendall Roy to talk about.

“‘I’ll be honest with you: It’s not a fun job. “Fun” is just not the word for it,’ Strong told TheWrap. ‘There are times where I experience real joy just in the creative process itself, but this is a f—ing heavy thing on me.’

“That Outstanding Drama Series Emmy nod the first time out probably helps Strong’s medicine go down a bit easier. And again, we’re the one who introduced the concept of ‘fun’-ness — or really, the lack thereof — here.

“‘The writing on this show — in-particular in this role — has demanded that I go to hell and back,’ Strong added. ‘The good news is I think I come back from the place that we find [Kendall at] in the beginning of the second season. But those first few episodes [of Season 2]…that was hard, and the headspace, as you can imagine, is not a place that anyone would want to stay in.’

“Jesse Armstrong’s writing is also nominated for an Emmy, as is the show’s casting, directing and main-title music.

“‘I wish I could say it was fun, but it’s not without a tremendous sense of relief and release that you get out of those episodes and into the rungs of the ladder towards some kind of redemption and some kind of return and resuscitation coming back to life,’ he continued.

“For those who missed it but don’t foresee a binge in their future, Kendall’s story arc goes a bit like this: The eldest son from Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) second marriage is about to be named his father’s successor atop mega-media company Waystar Royco. Then a whole bunch of bad stuff goes down, with Kendall eventually ending his downward spiral as a murderer — or at least, a manslaughter-er, legally speaking.

“There’s also a divorce he’s still taking on the chin, rampant drug abuse, and more professional setbacks that even the loaded pilot could foreshadow.

“After all that insanity, as you might imagine, Strong said it is a “very schizoid experience” to snap back into his normal life as a husband and a relatively new father to a 14-month-old baby girl.

“‘Yeah, you take it home with you,’ he said of Kendall’s struggles. ‘The truth is it weighs on you until you wrap the season.’

“For Strong, he was just dismissed from Season 2 production on Saturday, Aug. 3 — so give him a minute.

“Strong said he already feels a ‘looming dread’ about getting back into character for the Season 3 that we’re all hoping for — himself included. After all, somewhere in the sadness there will be more of this ‘incredibly, profoundly meaningful and exciting’ acting experience for Strong.

“Just, you know, after he gets a f—ing vacation.”

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One more for good measure (per The Hollywood Reporter): “Leave it to Succession's Logan Roy to publicly dangle the future leadership of his media empire in front of his sons, only to swerve left and secretly make his daughter his heir.

“That bait-and-switch formed the dramatic climax of Sunday's season-two premiere of the wicked HBO family drama, which kicked off with the return of Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) to the family business once he publicly disavows his previous attempt to take over his father's conglomerate, Waystar Royco. Faced with investors losing confidence in the future of his company — Kendall painted his father as an incompetent leader in the first season — Logan (Brian Cox) decides to stage a summit at his "summer palace" to name one of his children his successor and regain control. Each child is commanded to advise Logan on whether to resist or accept an investor takeover; and while both Kendall and Roman (Kieran Culkin) have been sparring for their father's affections in the office since the first season, his final, closed-door consultation with his one child outside of the business, political adviser Shiv (Sarah Snook), proves to be the most successful. She advises her father on resisting a takeover and is secretly crowned his successor (Roy promises to announce the promotion at a later date).

“The revelation creates a much more pivotal role for Snook, who demonstrated her family's cutthroat instincts in the first season of Jesse Armstrong's show but ultimately seemed more destined for politics than Murdoch-like leadership. It also sets up deepening tensions with her new husband, Tom (Matthew McFadyen), a sycophantic middle manager at Waystar Royco who has ambitions for a much larger leadership role, and her brothers, who Shiv sparred with mostly amiably in the first season. "Shiv is often sidelined for the sake of them, and so when the tables are turned, they don't like a taste of their own medicine," Snook says now.

“In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter before the season-two premiere, Snook explained the significance of Shiv's entry into the family business, how she prepared for her emotional, climactic premiere scene with Brian Cox and what's in store for her character in the rest of the season:

To start off, tell me a little bit about what your immediate reaction was to reading the script for the season 2 premiere.

It's always exciting, really, to get reengaged with the characters and see where Jesse [Armstrong, the showrunner] and the writers are going to take them in this new season. It was pretty exciting to see what direction Shiv is taking in the first episode already and the conflict that that sets up about whether she will remain in politics or become fully invested and put two feet into the family business.

How unexpected for you was the revelation that Shiv would be chosen as the heir to the Roy business? Did you ever suspect that might be the case?

Originally, I [thought that might happen] when I got the role back in 2016, when we were shooting the pilot, but in conversations with Jesse, he quite explicitly said that Shiv doesn't want to be in the business, doesn't want to take over, that's not something she's looking for. I was like, "Oh, that's completely not what I thought, but okay, you're the writer, you know what's up, so I guess I'll not be invested in that idea." And so then when I came back for season two and that idea came crashing down, I was like "Wow. That's pretty cool."

The premiere hinges on a pivotal scene between you and Brian Cox. Tell me a little bit about what it took to get it right.

For me, I was terrified. It was an amazingly well-written scene and it's quite a pivotal moment  for my character and I obviously wanted to do it justice. I wanted to do the scene and [feared] the creatives, like Jesse and Mark [Mylod, the premiere's director], would be like, "You know what, I don't think she's ready for this storyline, maybe we should rewrite" and take the whole thing in a different direction. So I spent a whole lot of time fretting and ended up putting that into learning the lines, and deciding what she wanted in terms of objectives. And then by the time we got to that day, I just forgot it all and just listened to Brian and focused on being in the scene and in that world.

Did you end up doing any improvisation for the scene and if so, what was that?

We certainly did quite a lot of that. Mark works in a way in which we will do a certain amount of takes with this set-up with cameras and then once we feel we've got the scene, we'll do a freebie with that setup and then move the cameras around. And to be honest, you've seen more than I have, so I don't know what's made the final cut and how they decided to end the scene, how far they've taken it: there were various iterations of the ending of that scene. Some of them ended more of an eternal, very touching family moment, and others it was a little more transactional, so I don't know what they decided to go for in the final cut of the episode.

Jesse Armstrong has said in interviews that the Succession cast has input on the script. Did you provide any on the season's premiere?

Only insofar as asking where things are going for Shiv in the upcoming season. I think certainly in discussions of what Jesse has planned for Shiv and what we feel is the desired direction, I guess. That's the really great thing about Jesse as a showrunner: He's so open to collaboration and to alternate possibilities, seeing other sides to the person, that you may not have considered. Whether that makes the script or edit is different, but it always feels like a very smooth [process].

Looking ahead, how is Shiv's new knowledge has father has seemingly picked her to run the business going to change her dynamic with her brothers?

That's a really tricky one for her to have to navigate because she's not allowed to tell anybody and so desperately, of course, wants to. Finally it all really does come out, but it drives a bit of a wedge between them all where the brothers feel that they were sidelined. It's interesting, because for the most part I would say Shiv is often sidelined for the sake of them, and so when the tables are turned, they don't like a taste of their own medicine. It poses difficulties for not just her and her brothers, but her and Tom as well.

Along those lines, in the season-one finale, Shiv told Tom that she had an affair and they still got married. How will the effects of that revelation show up this season?

It's kind of a slow boil, I think, which is smart as well. Jesse's really interested in all the subtleties of human interaction and what those textures are. I think if we were maybe more inclined for a soapy pursuit of story then that would be front-and-center, but Jesse's class and taste in constructing a storyline, we encountered that relatively softly, I guess, but it's always simmering. Eventually by [episode] 10, things blow up a bit.

How has Shiv's more pivotal role in the business this season changed your experience on set? Is it fun to the play the boss-to-be?

Oh, yeah, definitely. I feel like Shiv was always doing that anyway: That's her M.O. She doesn't know how not to be a bull in the china shop sometimes. The thing that I've been most interested in exploring are the ways in which Shiv and Logan are similar and how you can't escape being your father's daughter sometimes, and how long that lasts — that's been fun to play with, that dynamic.

What are we going to learn about Shiv this season that we didn't know previously?

I guess it's hinted at previously in episode 10 in season one, but we definitely get more of a sense of there having been a past where Shiv was maybe a little bit less in control of her emotions or feelings. There's been a situation in the past where she's been out of sorts and that both Logan and Tom were aware of. There's a history of something that's happened.”

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Per EW, “The Challenge is leveling up.

“The brutal MTV competition series just unveiled the cast list and details for season 34’s War of the Worlds 2 set in the jungles of Thailand, and it’s already shaping up to be the most epic season yet. The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2, a sequel to last season’s global War of the Worlds (which featured half veterans and half new players), is the first time the franchise is returning to a two-team head-to-head format since The Ruins aired in 2009.

“And to celebrate the return to the classic format, The Challenge is bringing back some of the best players to ever compete in previous seasons. The teams, split between Team USA and Team U.K. (after the organic split between the vets and new British competitors formed last season), are full of the fiercest veterans, some of which haven’t been back on the show in years. Others, like Johnny ‘Bananas,’ have just never left.

“Some notable returns include Jordan Wiseley (who hasn’t been back on the show since he won Dirty 30), Laurel Stucky (her last full season was Free Agents which she won but her last appearance was as a mercenary on Invasion of the Champions), and Tori Deal (last seen on Final Reckoning) for Team USA. Team U.K. is full of many new faces but the most exciting return is promising rookie-turned-vet Joss Mooney (last seen on Final Reckoning).

“Check out the full list of competitors below:

Team USA

Ashley Mitchell
Cara Maria Sorbello
Faith Stowers
Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio
Jordan Wiseley
Josh Martinez
Kam Williams
Laurel Stucky
Leroy Garrett
Nany Gonzalez
Paulie Calafiore
Tori Deal
Wes Bergmann
Zach Nichols

Team U.K.

Esther Falana
Georgia Harrison
Idris Virgo
Jenny West
Joss Mooney
Kayleigh Morris
Kyle Christie
Nicole Bass
Rogan O’Connor
Sean Lineker
Stephen Bear
Theo Campbell
Tula “Big T” Fazakerley
Zahida Allen

“But that’s not all! For the first time ever, The Challenge is introducing the twist of ‘reinforcements.’ The mysterious new feature comes in the form of Chris ‘C.T.’ Tamburello and ‘Ninja’ Natalie Duran for Team USA and Turabi ‘Turbo’ Camkiran and Dee Nguyen for Team U.K.

“There’s no information yet on what ‘reinforcements’ even means — Will they be playing on the teams? Will they come take the place of whoever gets voted out? Will they act like previous seasons’ mercenaries and play for their right to take someone’s place? — but with two previous winners (including the near-mythic Terminator-like Turbo) and two formidable women who proved their worth last season, they are definitely not to be underestimated.

“Hosted once again by fan-favorite TJ Lavin, The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2 premieres Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 8 p.m. on MTV.”

In. Obviously.

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Here is one opinion, courtesy of Variety: “Facebook might be about to save free TV.

“With the news that the social network is dusting off plans to trial selling subscription services through Facebook Watch (á la Roku, Amazon, Apple etc.), and also plans to release their own streaming deviceFacebook is demonstrating it has its eyes on new video revenue streams. 

“Should this prove successful, it’s highly unlikely that the platform would stop there. With 187 million daily users in the US & Canada (and 244 million using monthly), it dwarves the 31 million homes using the Roku platform, or the 34 million homes using Amazon Fire at least once a month to access video.

“With scale like that, advertisers would be chomping at the bit to utilize it for what is still one of the most efficient ways to reach an audience en masse: linear channels.

“Facebook is demonstrating serious intent to chase after all available ad dollars and meet the need of marketers. The next step is offering live TV feeds like rival online video distributors Pluto TV, Roku Channel, Amazon Fire and STIRR (note: entirely different than the livestreaming capabilities Facebook users enjoy but have really only brought controversy to the platform).

“If Facebook isn’t strongly considering offering live feeds of over the air stations like Stadium, Buzzr, MEtv and Bounce, they should. Likewise, owners of free-to-air diginets and online linear video streams, such as CBSN or Cheddar, should be sending out feelers to Facebook. Being offered on Facebook Watch could considerably boost their own audiences. 

“For diginets not yet included on a free ad-supported TV (a.k.a. FAST) platform, inclusion on Watch would also combat the recent audience growth seen on online FAST services. These platforms may lack some of the higher-profile syndicated shows the larger diginets offer, but make up for it with sheer accessibility and interface. 

“The coming introduction of 5G networks to America will also aid this concept. Being able to watch a live stream in high quality and with zero buffering would aid consumer adoption. The growth of Pluto TV et al shows that viewers will watch free TV, even of lower quality, if it is easily available to them and presented well. Facebook offers a means of reaching more viewers than most, if not all, diginet and FAST services currently can, so for networks looking to boost audience numbers, it’s a no-brainer.

“It wouldn’t be altruism in Facebook’s part to become a free TV distributor. It has been reported that Roku and Amazon Fire takes between 20%-30% of the ad inventory for live video on their platforms. With digital TV revenues reported by Magna Global to grow by 39% to $3.8 billion by the end of this year (and forecast to grow to $5 billion by the end of 2020), grabbing a slice of that pie will be motivating Facebook’s execs.

“It’s not just the scale that Facebook’s social network offers. With Facebook owning Instagram and WhatsApp, services with a higher reach among younger audiences than Facebook itself, it’s not hard to imagine a reconfiguration of IGTV along similar lines to provide the younger demos advertisers covet with access to free live TV.

“Facebook has been struggling to get a real toehold in the online video game. Figures such as 50 million users in the US are watching at least 60 seconds of content a month on Watch hardly set the pulse racing. Their slate of originals on Watch may have some dedicated fans, but none have broken out and set the world on fire.

“Adapting Facebook Watch into a live TV distribution platform would see Facebook instantly rise to the top of online TV platforms. It would also help to transform how we watch TV; imagine being able to watch a live feed and decorate it with virtual stickers or tag friends as can be done with Facebook or Instagram Stories. 

“A world where going onto Facebook and being able to watch feeds from networks such as Ion and CBSN, together with popular FAST feeds, will boost the revenues for all partners involved. TV would become more accessible. Live viewing would increase (measurement for this is another story). 

“That’s why we shouldn’t be surprised when Facebook announces this in six months or a year’s time. Thanks to services like Pluto, free live TV is already cool again. Facebook can take it mainstream.”

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Per Realscreen, “HGTV has set a late August premiere date for Warm Springs Productions’ eight-part series Stay or Sell.

“As previously announced, the series will trace real estate and home reno experts Brad and Heather Fox as they present their Minneapolis clientele with two options — renovate their current home or buy a new one that can be customized. Once the couple has made their decision, the Foxes get to work on creating a dream home for the families.

“Throughout the season, the Foxes help transform a variety of homes throughout Minneapolis by incorporating custom designs tailored for each client, including a gender-revealing nursery renovation, wall murals by local artisans and family heirlooms repurposed into fresh décor.

“‘There are a lot of people who need more house but don’t want to move out of their neighborhood,’ said Brad in a statement. ‘That means they have to choose between living in a house that’s too small or moving away. That’s where we come in.’

“‘We give people an option — build onto your current house or find another home nearby to make amazing,’ added Heather. ‘If you’re not living in the house of your dreams, it might just be around the corner.’

“Warm Spring’s Marc PierceChris Richardson and Nick Capodice serve as executive producers on the series.

Stay or Sell is scheduled to debut on Aug. 27 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV. The first two episodes of Stay or Sell will also be made available on demand across all platforms and on HGTV Go on Aug. 27.”