Monday September 9, 2019

The final season of HBO’s The Deuce begins tonight.

MTV airs the season finale of its reboot of The Hills. On the 2-hour season finale, the “gang” heads to Santa Barbara for Heidi and Spencer’s vow renewal. Rather than the attention being on Spiedi, everyone is talking about Brody and Kaitlynn’s marriage. So, Spencer being Spencer, takes his crystals and sits down with Brody to try to get to the bottom of it all — and Brody is intent on remaining tight lipped. But the whispers create tension in Santa Barbara, and Brody and Kaitlynn aren’t having it. Drama!

HGTV’s stupid Very Brady Renovation airs tonight.

Speaking of stupid, CBS airs Lip Sync To The Rescue this evening.

Season premieres air today for The Talk and Jeopardy!

I’m enjoying Hulu’s Wu Tang Clan series. It’s not quite as good as Amazon’s Meek Mill series, but much better than the Travis Scott special on Netflix. Enjoy your hip hop programming.

A look at season 4 of The Good Place.

The existence of the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape was common knowledge at NBC, according to Billy Bush. In a tease for Gayle King’s sit-down interview with Bush for CBS, he says ‘everyone’ at the Peacock network knew about the vulgar recording and assured him it wouldn’t be a problem. ‘You knew there was a tape,’ King says in the interview. ‘Everybody did,’ responds Bush, the new host of syndicated entertainment show Extra Extra. ‘I didn’t,’ jokes King. ‘Oh, well everybody at the network,’ Bush answers. ‘I was comfortable it wasn’t going to be weaponized.’”

“The Super Bowl is TV’s most-watched annual event, but would any network executive bet on counting more people to watch in an age when viewers are moving to streaming video and mobile devices? CBS will. The network believes it could see a 10% to 12% lift in total viewers – ‘if not more’ – for its 2021 broadcast of Super Bowl LIII, says Radha Subramanyam, chief research and analytics officer for CBS Corp., in an interview. Her optimism is buoyed by the fact that starting in the fall of next year, TV’s national Nielsen ratings – those measurements of audience used to set rates with advertisers – will include people viewing programs ‘out of home,’ in places like restaurants, hotel rooms and at other people’s houses. At a time when TV ratings are eroding season after season as TV viewers latch on to new services like Netflix and Hulu, the move could send some ratings levels spiking upwards.”

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From The Hollywood Reporter: “Succession's Gerri is beginning to break out from behind the shadow of her tyrannical boss.

“In the latest episode of the HBO satire-drama on Sunday, J. Smith-Cameron's general counsel to Waystar Royco not only snaps back at her terrifying boss Logan Roy (Brian Cox), she and Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) deepen their strangely sexual relationship, initiated in an episode prior. When Roman seeks her out for a reprisal of the phone sex they in the fourth episode, Gerri at first appears disgusted by his pass at her — before making it clear her revulsion is play-acted to turn Roman on. She orders him to go to the bathroom ‘until you have done something with yourself’ while continuing to berate him.

“These events represent a turn for the character, who was a savvy corporate operative largely loyal to Logan in the first season (as it behooved her to be). By the second season, however, Gerri, like Sarah Snook's Shiv, pushes back publicly against the aging media titan — she's not a fan of his interest in buying rival media company PGM — while secretly helping Roman learn more aspects of the business. Gerri knows on which side her bread is buttered, of course, but still stands up to Logan during the third episode's hazing session in Hungary and is spared the humiliating competition to which Tom, Greg and her colleague Karl are subjected.

“This rebellion comes from the fact that Gerri is ‘feeling a little bit more vulnerable than she's used to feeling in terms of her status with the company,’ Smith-Cameron says in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. ‘That colors everything that unfolds, including her burgeoning new relationship with Roman.’

“In an interview with Smith-Cameron that took place before the series' fifth episode aired, the True Blood actor explained that she's known Culkin for a long time — they worked together on Margaret, written and directed by Smith-Cameron's husband Kenneth Lonergan, who also directed Culkin on Broadway's This Is Our Youth — which helped their rapport on-set. She also discussed the fifth episode's ‘cringe-y’ dinner scene, Jeremy Strong's improvisational skills and what else we can expect from Gerri this season:

Did you ever foresee Gerri's relationship with Roman Roy playing out the way it has or did that come as a total surprise?

It was both. By the time it got to the end of season one, it seemed as if our characters had developed a rapport. And at the end of season one, there was one time when we had finished our dialogue at one of the receptions [scenes] in England, and we just had a little repartee that isn’t in the show, but I think the [production] recorded it all; they didn't say "cut." I was drinking a "martini" and then we had a little riff about how you can't order martinis in Europe outside of London. He walked away, and I looked back as if to look at his a--, to check him out. And apparently he did the same thing to me. I guess the writers were sort of amused by it — that's what I heard. They didn't know how to use it in those episodes and that story arc but they noted it.  

Cut to us shooting [episodes] 201 and the scenes that were meant to be in Japan, where Gerri and Roman are doing damage-control press and meetings because of his satellite disaster. We’re looking on the iPad to see Kendall's statement about the takeover, and Mark Mylod, who's the director, says, "Cozy up to him, get quite close to him; no, really cozy up, a little foreshadowing.” And then we cut, and I asked, “What on earth do you mean, foreshadowing?” And he went, "Oh my god, no one's told you? There’s going to be something that unfolds between Gerri and Roman." I was always on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would unfold with Gerri and Roman as the season goes on.

How did you make sense of their relationship?

I think from Roman’s point of view, he’s got some very complicated sexuality issues, and from Gerri’s point of view, I think it has do with that fact that, either consciously or unconsciously, she's a little bit out of the inner circle. She used to totally have Logan's trust and this season she feels that "he doesn’t want to hear what I have to say. He keeps me around, but he doesn't like hearing [honesty]." I think maybe an alliance with someone in the hierarchy is beneficially useful to both Gerri and Roman, whatever their ambitions turn out to be.

How did you and Kieran Culkin play that scene where you're having that illicit conversation between a door? Was it hard to get right?

It sure was hard. I am completely in awe of Kieran Culkin: He is someone with amazing facility for being spontaneous and extremely accurate. I don’t know what was difficult for him or easy for him, but he seems uninhibited by all things — he's always doing revolting stuff on the show.

For my part, I didn’t really know how to play it. I said to Michelle Matlin, our costume designer, who is really good at thinking outside the box about things, I went, "I just don't know how to think about this relationship," and she goes, “Oh, I imagine Gerri doesn’t, either.” And I thought, "Well, that is something to say." Even though you have to play your intention, what if your intention is changing 180 degrees moment to moment? You just have to trust that and try to navigate that. I don't know how well I conveyed that, but that's how I made sense of it.

Episode 5 was very intricately worked out, where it starts with [Roman] being very crushed with what Shiv blurted out around the dinner table and then he makes his ulterior motive known and I’m horrified and I realize the more I scold him the more turned on he gets. I think it's very moment-to-moment for Gerri. It flips on a dime back and forth being almost a little seductive and then a little disapproving and then incredulous and then back around again. I don't know if she's totally 100 percent interested, but she’s bemused by it and maybe thinks, even though he’s kind of a ridiculous character that he’s funny, charismatic and he's a Roy, so maybe there's part of her that is genuinely amused and impressed by that development.

How much of the interactions between the two power families in this episode — the Pierces and the Roys — was improvised and how much was scripted?

There is always a lot of both. Around the dinner table, which I find to be one of the all-time most cringe-y, dangerous Roy family disasters, with Tabitha and Roman talking about their sex life in front of the Pierces and Shiv blurting out what she does at the dinner table, it was incredibly tense and funny and dangerous. Even though the two families are out of sync with each other, among the actors, there was a great feeling of joviality on the set because there was a great amount of respect for our guest actors, all of those people who play the Pierce family. On my end of the table, Jeremy [Strong] was just nonstop improvising, as we had to, because while the dialogue was going on, we were having all the side conversations. Jeremy was just absolutely hilarious: We were choking on our dinner and biting our cheeks trying not to break character and laugh at Jeremy. And so it was this really balanced evening of being really impressed and amused by your fellow actors, and then being on a tightrope in terms of what was being revealed in the family dynamic.

As we see in this episode, Gerri is one of the few characters who can take a lot of abuse from Logan Roy and also give it right back to him. Do you think she has a few lessons to teach the Roy children?

Definitely. Part of what’s so irksome about the Roys is they feel above the law, like some other real-life dynastic families we know of. It doesn’t occur to them that they have anything to learn or that they are ever in jeopardy. I don’t know that they're listeners, but I do think Gerri does [listen]. Maybe Roman would listen to Gerri, which is maybe why they have a strange, twisted sympatico. He's on the rise: He's tired of being thought of as the buffoon, and he's quite clever, just a Little Lord Fauntleroy; no one takes him seriously, and I think he’s getting close to having had enough of that. I think you see from episode three, when we’re in Hungary and I give him advice, that the dynamic picks up.

On a more general level, tell me about your first reactions to Gerri's evolving role this season.

I noticed right away in episode 201 that Gerri did not quite have the status with Logan that it felt like she had had last year. It became clear to me as we began work on the season that that’s how it is when you work for Logan, for everyone: it blows hot and cold and you're in and out of favor and it shifts about. I think that's because Gerri is a little bit more outspoken, finally, about how she feels about trying to acquire the Pierce company. I think he doesn't want to hear that, but I think it's in the back of his mind that Gerri is knowledgeable and realistic. Gerri is feeling a little bit more vulnerable than she's used to feeling in terms of her status with the company, so I think that colors everything that unfolds, including her burgeoning new relationship with Roman. They both have a common goal, which is what's their place of fitting into the hierarchy at Waystar?

Where can we expect Gerri to be headed this season?

You know at the end of Casablanca when you see Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart watching the plane go off with Ingrid Bergman and Bogart says to Rains, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”? I feel like that is beginning to be the overall feeling between Gerri and Roman. However much the romance or sexuality is a component in it, it remains to be seen. But I think they’re beginning to really be allies and part of it is deliberate and part of it is unconscious. Part of it is a real, interesting, symbiotic connection that is unfolding throughout the season, not a deliberate business strategy. Also, the business is petering in this really dangerous area, and I think that that gives Gerri room to exert her expertise down the line.”

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Per EW, “Eva Longoria is taking a walk down Wisteria — and memory — Lane. The actress is just one of 27 people who wrote letters of support for Felicity Huffman in the case for Huffman’s role in the college admissions scandal, in which she paid $15,000 to facilitate cheating on daughter Sofia’s SAT test by having a proctor correct the teen’s answers. In Longoria’s letter for her costar, obtained by NBC News, she reveals that she was bullied on the set of Desperate Housewives and Huffman stepped in to stop it.

“‘There was a time I was being bullied at work by a co-worker,’ Longoria writes, not naming the costar. ‘I dreaded the days I had to work with that person because it was pure torture. Until one day, Felicity told the bully ‘enough’ and it all stopped. Felicity could feel that I was riddled with anxiety even though I never complained or mentioned the abuse to anyone.’

“Longoria goes on to detail how three of the four lead women on the series, Huffman, Teri Hatcher, and Marcia Cross, were each nominated for a Golden Globe Award while she was not, and says it was Huffman who consoled her. ‘I was the only one who was left out of the nominations,’ Longoria writes. ‘I wasn’t devastated but the press made it a bigger deal than it was between the four of us actors and that did affect me a bit. Felicity came to my trailer and said, “It’s just a piece of metal, that and $1.50 will get you a bus ticket.” She then proceeded to tell me how talented I was and how I never needed an award to know that,’ she recalls. ‘I know I would not have survived those 10 years if it wasn’t for the friendship of Felicity.’

“And because Longoria knows that these sound like ‘first-class problems or small insignificant moments,’ she goes on to explain that ‘to a young, naive, Mexican girl who felt like I didn’t belong, those gestures meant the world to me.’

“Longoria also reveals in the letter that Huffman helped champion pay parity on set for all the leads on Desperate Housewives, even when the other actors fought against it. ‘This fight lasted weeks, but Felicity held strong and convinced everyone this was the right thing to do,” Longoria adds. “And thanks to her, I was bumped up.’

“Reps for Longoria had no comment. Read her full letter of support for Huffman here.

“In the ongoing college admissions scandal case, Huffman may face up to one month in prison if a judge follows the recommendation of federal prosecutors. But, through her attorneys, Huffman asked the judge for one year of probation and community service with the 27 letters of support to prove her character. In addition to Longoria, Huffman’s husband William H. Macy also submitted a letter. The actress will be sentenced on Sept. 13.

“‘I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions,’ Huffman said in April upon agreeing to plead guilty.”

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From The Motley Fool: “When Netflix got its streaming start in 2007, it was the only service of its kind. Locking down deals to stream movies and TV shows back then was not quite as difficult as it is in today's highly competitive field. But Netflix foresaw that it wouldn't be the only game in town forever, and it prepared for a cost-efficient and promising future by investing heavily in original content. Last year, Netflix spent more than $12 billion on content, around 85% of which was earmarked for original films and series.

“Netflix needs to spend big. It's facing down a lot of new competition, and many of the incoming competitors are major content producers -- effectively taking certain shows, movies, and franchises out of Netflix's consideration. But the newcomers have to spend, too, because toppling Netflix won't be cheap. The result is a pricey battle for the best content. Let's take a look at what the major companies are shelling out.

“Amazon spent $1.7 billion on music and video content in the first quarter of 2019, an increase of 13% year over year that put the company on pace for $7 billion of content spending in 2019. But that combined total makes it tough to figure out how much Amazon is spending on video as opposed to music.

“According to one analysis, Amazon's 2019 content budget will include roughly $6 billion earmarked for original content. That figure would put Amazon neck and neck with a new competitor: Apple.

“Apple's new streaming service, Apple TV+, is designed to take on Netflix and draw customers to Apple's TV app, an Amazon Channels-like service that gives Apple another chance to charge a platform tax. But Apple TV+ is entering a market with established competitors like Netflix, and Apple does not have a back catalog to leverage like Disney does.

“What it does have, like its peers in the tech industry, is a lot of cash on hand. Apple is using that cash to play catch-up. Apple's big spending on original content has only gotten bigger since numbers were first reported, and it now stands at an eye-popping $6 billion.

“AT&T's HBO boasts some of the biggest shows in streaming -- and some of the priciest, too. AT&T spent a whopping $14.3 billion on content in 2018, according to RBC Capital Markets analysts. With a new streaming service on the way, AT&T is likely to spend even more this year.

“AT&T has already beefed up HBO's streaming budget (HBO spent about $2 billion a year before being acquired), and now it's poised to spend even more to get HBO Max off the ground.

“Walt Disney is making a big push in the streaming space, because it already has a lot of content to offer subscribers, so it's no surprise to find some numbers here that aren't completely relevant and others that look a little low. Disney's entire content budget is $23.8 billion -- but that includes content not only for three streaming services (Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu) but for non-streaming outlets like movie cinemas and Disney-owned television channels (like ABC and Freeform) as well. Take out sports and that drops to $16.4 billion.

“Further confusing things is the fact that there's so much overlap; for instance, Disney funds shows on ABC that are available to stream on Hulu after they air.

“However, Disney is spending $1 billion on Disney+ original content this year, a figure that the company expects to rise to $2.4 billion by 2024. That's less than many competitors spend, but Disney has lots of content to supplement the originals with -- which is why the company is also spending $1.5 billion to license content from its own catalog to Disney+.

“Then there's Hulu, which had a 2018 content budget of $2.5 billion. Hulu's CEO says that Disney will step up spending on Hulu now that the former company controls the streaming service, but neither Hulu nor Disney has revealed any figures on that alleged boost in investment.

“Ultimately, Disney's spending isn't entirely what it seems, especially in terms of original content. Disney has a massive and valuable back catalog of movies, and Disney-owned shows and movies that hit TV channels and movie theaters in 2019 are all candidates for inclusion on Disney+ at some point down the line. These content paths make Disney's original streaming content spending figures a poor comparison to streaming-only competitors like Netflix, while Disney's overall content budget remains a poor comparison for the inverse reason.

“As mentioned earlier, Netflix has been spending big on content in general and original content in particular. The company's budget has risen quickly, hitting $12.04 billion in 2018.

“Some analysts expect Netflix to keep spending even more, up to a projected total of more than $15 billion. But that might not come to fruition. According to a report last month from The Information, Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos has told some film and TV executives that Netflix will tighten its belt. The company can't afford to waste money in a battle against such powerful and deep-pocketed new competitors.

“There's a lot of money flying around the streaming space right now, and more is likely to pour in. We still don't know, for instance, how much Comcast will spend after committing to a $500 million deal to bring The Office back home. With subscription churn likely and competition everywhere, the stakes are high for these companies as they bet more and more cash on their streaming futures.”

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I like the logic behind this POV (from TV Guide): “A lot of news about the forthcoming Disney+ streaming service emerged from last month's D23, from more details about Jeff Goldblum's docuseries The World According to Jeff Goldblum to the revelation that Marvel cult favorites Moon Knight and She-Hulk would be getting their own series. But one of the most significant details had nothing to do with what we'd be seeing than when and how we'd be seeing it. Rather than dropping full seasons at once, Disney+ will roll out episodes on a weekly basis. If you, for instance, want to see what The Mandalorian does with its corner of the Star Wars universe, you'll have to follow it one week at a time rather than blazing through all the episodes at once. And as promising as many of the Disney+ shows look, this might be the best news of all.

“When Netflix first employed the full-season-at-once model, it felt innovative... daring even. Rather than having to wait week-after-week for the next installment of a favorite series, viewers could binge it. The early days of Netflix's streaming service had to reassure subscribers that they could have the selection and viewing quality of its DVD-by-mail service at the push of a button. The full-season releases of early series like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black took this push to another level. It was akin to getting a full-season DVD box set. And for viewers then increasingly in the habit of catching up with seasons of shows like The Sopranos and Lost after they aired, what could be better?

“The approach worked brilliantly, at least for a while. When Arrested Development released its fourth season in May 2013, you could chart fans' progress by watching references to it on Twitter. (You could also chart a creeping sense of disappointment, but that's another issue.) Other streaming services like Amazon Prime followed Netflix's example, and even NBC tried to get in on the action by experimenting with releasing a whole season of its summer series Aquarius at the same time as its premiere. (Hulu, notably, has opted for a hybrid approach. New comedy Shrill, for instance, premiered all its episodes at once, while series like The Handmaid's Tale typically begin their seasons with two or three episodes before rolling out subsequent installments weekly.)

“The approach has obvious advantages for viewers. One day, you don't have any new episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The next, you have every episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. But it's also led to a feeling of overload. That sense of never being able to keep up with every series worth watching has much to do with the fact that there's more TV now than ever — and more high quality TV as well — but also because shows land on our virtual doorsteps in bulk quantities with alarming frequency. It's not great for TV fans. But it's also not great for TV series.

“When the Disney+ news broke, TV critic Alan Sepinwall tweeted it came as good news both ‘selfishly and as a fan of the conversation around TV.’ Those of us who sometimes have to write about full seasons of TV all at once don't need any pity. (Nice work if you can get it, even if it can be overwhelming.) But the full-season release model has changed the ways both TV critics and TV fans talk about some of the best series on television. Specifically, we don't talk about them enough.

“One recent example: Stranger Things released its third season on July 4th. It was, by and large, another fine season for the show, and a season with plenty to unpack, from its use of an '80s shopping mall as a central setting to the breakout work of Maya Hawke. It's not as if all of that passed without notice, but the window for talking about the show opened and closed so quickly that by the next weekend no one seemed to be talking about Stranger Things much at all.

“More recently, Netflix's GLOW dropped a third season on Aug. 9th that should have provided conversational fodder for weeks. One episode ended with Debbie (Betty Gilpin) purging after a heavy meal, a character detail the series left unresolved, a development that raises a lot of issues in a season that also touched on the Challenger explosion, AIDS, and the changing face of Las Vegas entertainment, to say nothing of major developments between characters. (What's going on with Ruth and Sam? And does it make any sense?) It's a pretty great season of television, but three weeks later, is anyone still talking about GLOW?

“That doesn't mean they shouldn't be. Or that they couldn't be. For a counterexample, consider HBO's Succession. It's currently halfway into its second season and each installment feels like an event. Can the season produce a plot development even more notable than the third episode's already infamous game of Boar on the Floor? You'll have to tune in to find out. By drawing out its seasons, networks and streaming services give them water cooler value, and they broaden their cultural footprint. Succession's cultural moment will last for weeks while Stranger Things and GLOW recede into memory.

‘There's nothing wrong with binge watching (within healthy limits, of course) and the idea of having full runs of TV seasons past and present accessible at all times is an innovation that might have seemed like science fiction even 15 years ago. But where the option of giving viewers new seasons of TV en masse once served as a novel competitive advantage — why wait when you can have it all now? — its limitations have started to become apparent. That's to say nothing of how intimidating it can be to stare at 10 or 13 episodes and wonder when you'll have the time to watch all of them, particularly with new full-season blocks following so quickly on their heels. (Done with GLOW? Here's nine hours of Mindhunter for you.)

“TV released on a weekly basis, however, becomes part of the ebb and flow of daily life. The days of everyone sitting down at the same time to watch the same show are in the past, apart from outliers like Game of Thrones. But the all-or-nothing option of the full-season-at-once feels like an inadequate replacement, offering few of the communal pleasures that have defined TV from its start and blunting the cultural impact of shows we should all be talking about together. Miss the too brief and usually too shallow conversations summoned up in the first days after a season's release and it's easy to feel like you're watching alone in the dark.”

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Per The Hollywood Reporter, “Brad Paisley is ready for his Larry Sanders moment.

“The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter is set to star in and exec produce TV comedy Fish Out of Water, which has landed at Amazon with a script commitment following a multiple-outlet bidding war.

“The comedy is described as a Larry Sanders take on celebrity vanity projects and a behind-the-scenes look at country music star Paisley's struggle to keep a simple little fishing show from turning into his own personal Frye Festival.

“A.D. Miles (Arrested Development, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) will pen the script and exec produce the half-hour comedy alongside Will Arnett, Artists First's Peter Principato, Marc Forman, Paisley and his longtime manager Bill Simmons, and Kendal Marcy. The comedy hails from Sony Pictures Television, where Arnett and Forman's Electric Avenue have an overall deal.

”Should Fish Out of Water move forward, it would mark Paisley's series-regular debut following guest gigs on shows including The Crazy Ones, According to Jim, King of the Hill and Nashville.

Fish Out of Water re-teams Paisley, Miles and Arnett after the trio worked together on the ABC reboot of The Gong Show. (Paisley was a guest judge on season two of the show, produced by Myers and written by Miles.)”