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‘Prime Suspect: Tennison’: Before Helen Mirren, Prequel Explores Sexism the Detective Faced in 1970s Police Force
3 hours ago
Twenty-five years ago, Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) debuted on Masterpiece’s “Prime Suspect,” a show which dug into the sexism that still exists on modern police forces. Now that Mirren has retired the character, Masterpiece has dipped back into that well by turning back the clock.
Based on the book “Tennison” by author Lynda La Plante, who had created the character, “Prime Suspect: Tennison” stars Stefanie Martini (“Doctor Thorne,” “Emerald City”) as Jane Tennison, who is at this point a Wpc — Woman Police Constable — in 1973. Jane is just starting out with the Metropolitan Police Force, and has to prove herself even more in a man’s world that mainly values her as a glorified secretary, who can tend to their busy tasks in between her other duties. She gets her chance with her first murder investigation into the killing of a young woman.
Read More: New Spending »
- Hanh Nguyen
‘Orange Is the New Black’ Hackers ‘The Dark Overlord’ Suspended From Twitter
17 hours ago
No crime goes unpunished, and so it is that the Dark Overlord — a hacker group responsible for leaking the most recent season of “Orange Is the New Black” online — has had its Twitter account suspended, reports Variety. It’s a bold move from the social-media site, and the message is clear: Harassing people in 140 characters or fewer probably won’t have any consequences, but messing with Netflix certainly will.
Or maybe not. Variety reports that the suspension likely had to do with the group’s decision to leak the contact information of several clients of a healthcare provider based in Beverly Hills. After coming across Season 5 of “Oitnb,” the Dark Overlord attempted to blackmail the post-production company they obtained the illicit episodes from — and, according to Variety, ending »
- Michael Nordine
‘Game of Thrones’ Characters Sing ‘I Will Survive,’ Even Though Most of Them Won’t — Watch
18 hours ago
We’re down to our last 13 episodes of “Game of Thrones,” which means that even the characters with the thickest plot armor — Tyrion Lannister, Arya Stark, Daenerys Targaryen — may soon be on the chopping block. To remind us of the impending void, Sung by Movies has released a new video featuring “GoT” characters (many of them deceased, natch) singing along to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
Read More: ‘Game of Thrones’: 7 Things You May Have Missed From the New Season 7 Trailer
Well, sort of — the Sung by Movies folks actually combed through the series and spliced bits and pieces of dialogue together, setting it to the music so that the likes of Ramsay Bolton, Brienne of Tarth, Littlefinger and others collectively “sing” the famous tune. It may be the best jokey rendition of the song since a pug sang it in “Men in Black,” a sentiment echoed by »
- Michael Nordine
‘Game of Thrones’ to ‘Twin Peaks’: Here’s Why Your Favorite Quirky Characters Wear Eyepatches
24 June 2017 5:30 AM, PDT
TV is full of characters that wear eyepatches for various reasons, and sometimes it’s simply to stand out among a huge cast.
When it comes to dramas like “Twin Peaks” or genre series like “Game of Thrones” or “The Walking Dead,” massive casts of characters allow for variety, whether it’s the run-of-the-mill diner waitress or the sword-swinging knight or the eyepatch-wearing neighbor.
Read More: Why One Company’s Attempt to Censor the Show Is the Worst Idea Ever
At the most basic level, an eyepatch sets a character apart, giving them a dangerous, rakish or even quirky air. Beloved by stereotypical pirates, the eyepatch has also been used to indicate that someone is a seafaring person.
But often, the eyepatch is used to signify some sort of trauma in the past. It’s also an easy way for a character to visibly show a badge of suffering without »
- Hanh Nguyen
Seth Rogen Wants to Party with Donald Trump Jr., Judd Apatow vs. Bill Cosby — The Week in Showrunner Tweets
24 June 2017 5:00 AM, PDT
One fascinating aspect of today’s media landscape is that many creators and executive producers enjoy using Twitter to engage with their audiences, share behind-the-scenes information about their shows, chat about politics, and otherwise communicate about what matters to them. So, each week, we’ll compile some of our favorite exchanges representing the wide variety of discourse seen on social media.
Okay, This Is Pretty Funny
— Gizelle Lugo (@GizelleSays) June 18, 2017
It’s really the photo that sells it.
Also, gotta love this behind-the-scenes snapshot from the set of “American Gods”: »
- Liz Shannon Miller
Quiz: Why Are These TV Characters Wearing Eyepatches?
23 June 2017 5:29 PM, PDT
Test your knowledge to see if you remember why these characters have one eye covered. »
- Hanh Nguyen
‘Power’: When Starz Began Targeting African-American Viewers, It Paid Off With More Ratings and Subscribers
23 June 2017 5:23 PM, PDT
“Power,” which returns for a fourth season this Sunday, continues to be perhaps the most-watched TV series that the industry still isn’t talking about. But they should be.
Last year, the Starz drama was the second-most watched series on premium cable (behind “Game of Thrones”), according to the network’s data – which cumed more than 8 million viewers per episode via multiple platforms.
Credit for the show’s – and Starz’s – success goes to tapping into an African-American audience that has traditionally been underserved by the pay cable networks.
“The secret weapon is targeting audiences that are voracious watchers of television,” CEO Chris Albrecht said, “and would like to have something on there that is targeted toward them and is high quality.”
Read More: ‘Power’ Trailer: Ghost Heads to the Slammer in Season 4 Sneak Peek
- Michael Schneider
Stephen Colbert May Be Joking on Russian TV That He’s Running for President, But He Should Seriously Consider It
23 June 2017 5:00 PM, PDT
Stephen Colbert is in Russia at quite an opportune moment. As he tapes segments there for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” breaking news back in the United States continues to confirm that Russia – and, specifically, Vladimir Putin – orchestrated hacking and other interference to impact last year’s presidential election.
After taking a few shots of vodka (with a pickle chaser), Colbert said, “I am here to announce that I am considering a run for president in 2020, and I thought it would be better to cut out the middle man and just tell the Russians myself! If anyone would »
- Michael Schneider
‘Twin Peaks’ Actor Brett Gelman Reveals David Lynch’s Secretive Casting Process
23 June 2017 4:07 PM, PDT
Brett Gelman had no idea what was going on. He arrived on the set of “Twin Peaks” to play Burns, the supervisor of a casino where a dazed Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) was winning one jackpot after another. Other than that? Pure mystery. Somehow, the long-lost FBI agent had escaped the interdimensional “Black Lodge” where the show had left him trapped 25 years ago. Gelman’s character was tasked with confronting Cooper about his massive haul. In between takes, Gelman recalled saying to MacLachlan, “I can’t wait to see what this all means.”
“Yeah,” MacLachlan replied, “Me too.”
Lynch’s latest round of episodes with the cult show was surrounded by so much secrecy in the months leading up to its premiere that even the actors were left in the dark. Gelman only found out about his role from his Los Angeles neighbor, Johanna Ray, who happened to be the show’s casting director. »
- Eric Kohn
‘Glow’ Review: The Series of the Summer is Netflix’s ’80s Wrestling Comedy
23 June 2017 3:18 PM, PDT
Every year, the cultural decision-makers come together to make one crucial decision for our country: the song of the summer. While the exact choice is debated among various music fans, the de facto musical definer of the season is generally determined by both popularity and perceived staying power. The song reflects what we’ll remember about that summer, generally from an optimistic viewpoint.
While pulling more good vibes than bad ones from 2017 may sound tough, if anything on TV is going to leave people on the ups, it’s “Glow.” Liz Flahive’s new Netflix series is upbeat, enthusiastic, and empowering. Chronicling a start-up group of women’s wrestlers in the ’80s, the 10-episode half-hour comedy is edgy, both in quick bursts and its overall message, but still consistently light enough for fluffy fun. »
- Ben Travers
‘Dracula’: 7 Things A Series About the World’s Most Famous Vampire Should Have
23 June 2017 1:24 PM, PDT
It was recently announced that Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, the creators behind the hit BBC series “Sherlock,” have signed on to write a new TV adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” Fan reactions have been mixed — some remaining hopeful that Gatiss and Moffat will pull the age-old story off, while others have expressed their lack of faith in the writing pair’s ability to keep the integrity of the story and its characters.
Read More: ‘Sherlock’ Review: ‘The Final Problem’ Proves to Be A Problematic Season Finale
While maybe a bit harsh, these concerns aren’t unjustified — Dracula-centered television shows are notoriously short-lived, and while there are a multitude of shows centered around the supernatural, there aren’t that many dedicated to the main vamp himself. NBC took a stab at it in 2013 with “Dracula,” a British-American horror drama that introduces Dracula as he arrives in London and poses as an entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to Victorian society (when in reality, he’s arrived to wreak revenge on the people who ruined his life centuries earlier). Though promising, the series only lasted one season.
Dracula was first introduced in Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel “Dracula.” The story reads as a series of letters, diary entries, news articles, and ships’ log entries that document the activity and evidence of a Transylvanian vampire in England; filled with mystery, blood sucking, and plenty of garlic, it’s one of the novels that helped kick-start the future surplus of vampire dramas, horrors, and romances that we see today.
One of the reasons that “Dracula”-based shows may not be inherently successful is that the shows don’t seem to capture the essence of who Dracula really is. So we’ve put together a few suggestions for the future series, most of which involve getting back to basics.
The classic “Dracula” story included terrifying fangs, ones that Dracula showed off well. But in the midst of all of the modern reboots of “Dracula,” many writers/directors decided that subtlety was more important than authenticity. If we’re looking for ways to incorporate Dracula’s fangs into 21st Century fashion, just think of them as a statement piece.
2. The Era
While all of the modern adaptations of “Dracula” and vampires in general have been interesting, it’s time to get back to its roots. The story of “Dracula” originally took place in the 1890s in England, so the new “Dracula” series should do the same. It would be a breath of fresh air after all of the recent modern retellings. Plus, who doesn’t love a good slick back and a cape? No one, that’s who.
3. Tell the Original Story
While a lot of vampire stories have spawned from the original “Dracula,” there haven’t been nearly as many that actually tell Dracula’s story. Bring back characters like Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing! They don’t have to share the spotlight with Dracula, but they’re relatively new characters to the younger generation, and they would help inspire interesting plot points for the new show (something the previous “Dracula” series lacked).
4. Bring Back the Blood — Real Blood
While the premise of “vegetarian” vampires is intriguing, the new “Dracula” series would be better off just sticking to the classic “lust for human blood” angle. It’s what makes the character and story so morally conflicted — the fact that you know it’s wrong to murder but also understand that Dracula is a creature of the undead and has to prey on humans for sustenance. It also makes things more tense, and that makes for interesting content.
5. Make Dracula a Bit Ruthless
Rumor has it that Dracula was based off of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, better known as Vlad the Impaler. It’s said that Vlad Dracula (meaning son of the dragon, or son of the devil) would dip chunks of bread into buckets of blood drained from the people he killed, usually after he invited them to a feast and then immediately impaled them at the dinner table (he always finished his dinner afterwards, bodies and all, in case you were wondering). So it would be nice if that same sense of ruthlessness could be brought to the new adaptation of “Dracula.” There’s no rule that states you can’t be suave and merciless (just ask Klaus Mikaelson of “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Originals”).
6. Give Him a Sense of Humor
Speaking of “The Originals,” let’s bring in some of that dark humor and wit that makes characters like Klaus Mikaelson a baddie that we love to hate (but just can’t). That same natural charisma and use of offhanded sardonic remarks should be applied to our newest Dracula, because that’s what the audience connects to. It’s also what keeps people coming back for more, everyone needs a tension breaker once in awhile.
7. Mdha: Make Dracula Hungarian Again!
That is to say, Dracula should not be British, considering Dracula relocated from Transylvania to England and his accent most certainly should have relocated with him. In Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula,” the Count is described as being Hungarian, and even serves Jonathan Harker a bottle of Tokaji (Hungarian sweet wine) on his first night in the castle. For the sake of authenticity, let’s make Dracula Hungarian again (because he never should have stopped).
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- Gabrielle Kiss
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: 40 Photos That Capture the Show’s Unique Cinematography
23 June 2017 9:45 AM, PDT
“The Handmaid’s Tale” presented a unique production challenge for cinematographer Colin Watkinson and Reed Morano, an executive producer and director of the first three episodes. The show takes place in a near-future Gilead, where enslaved women forced to reproduce for the aristocracy wear costumes that reference a puritanical time — but the show isn’t a period piece. They needed to create a world that was “other” and could serve as sharp contrast to present-day flashbacks. To read more about how they created the show’s unique look, click here.
Related storiesThe Creepy Emmy Contenders of 'Stranger Things,' 'Legion,' and 'Westworld''The Leftovers': The Best Shots of the Final Season, Chosen by Director Mimi Leder'Portlandia': Carrie Brownstein on Directing, Men's Rights and Her 5 Favorite Sketches of Season 7 »
- Chris O'Falt
‘Glow’: 30 Years After the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the WWE and Others Are Still Figuring Out What to Do With Women
23 June 2017 9:00 AM, PDT
Netflix’s “Glow” arrives at a time when women who step inside the squared circle are taken much more seriously than they were 30 years ago.
The show re-creates the world of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the campy all-female promotion whose 1980s heyday is fictionalized in the new series starring Alison Brie. Fittingly, its subject helped start that process three decades ago.
Last weekend’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view was emblematic of the current state of women’s wrestling in WWE, both in terms of how far it’s come and how much further it still has to go. On the one hand, it featured the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank ladder match (progress!), which guarantees the winner a championship match at the time of her choosing. On the other hand, it ended when a dude named James Ellsworth ascended the ladder and dropped the briefcase down »
- Michael Nordine
‘Star Wars’ and Lucasfilm Have Lost Their Sense of Humor, and Firing Lord and Miller is Only One Example
23 June 2017 8:45 AM, PDT
“Star Wars”: I find your lack of funny disturbing.
The space saga has always been infused with a healthy dose of humor – C-3Po and R2D2, after all, are essentially a droid vaudeville team. And it’s Han Solo who has always brought the most levity to the film series with his dry, caustic wit.
But the exit this week of Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the “Han Solo” movie is a reminder that the entire “Star Wars” franchise has been moving toward a much more dramatic realm for some time – taking itself a bit too seriously, and losing some of the mirth and joy that came from being a fan.
There’s plenty that Lucasfilm has done right since Disney acquired the company and Kathleen Kennedy took over as president in 2012. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ultimately pulled in $937 million at the box office, while “Rogue One” raked in $532 million — so it’s hard to second guess that kind of success.
But in the transition, “Star Wars” lost some of its willingness to poke fun at itself. Pre-Kennedy, Lucasfilm executives were game to participate in parodies – giving their blessings to satiric takes by both “Family Guy” and “Robot Chicken.”
The “Family Guy” episodes – “Blue Harvest,” “Something, Something, Something, Dark Side” and “It’s A Trap!” – were all retellings of the original “Star Wars” triliogy, but with the show’s characters (Stewie was Darth Vader, naturally). “Robot Chicken” produced three specials that included quick sketches taking on all sorts of characters, and even George Lucas.
Read More: ‘Star Wars’: The Han Solo Movie We Will Never Get to See
Both shows premiered these episodes between 2007 and 2010 – but there haven’t been any since then, even after the film franchise returned with “The Force Awakens.” (One source said “Family Guy” hasn’t asked since then, after George Lucas retired and the original films moved from 20th Century Fox to Disney when Lucasfilm was sold.)
Also put on hold: “Star Wars Detours,” which was produced by Stoopid Monkey – the team behind “Robot Chicken” (Seth Green and Matthew Senreich), with George Lucas’ blessing. Around two seasons were produced around the time Lucas sold the company – and now it’s still sitting in a vault somewhere, five years later. Here’s the trailer:
And then there’s the fate of a previously announced parody Darth Vader talk show produced by Disney-owned Maker Studios, “After Darth.” The irreverent digital shorts series was completely shot in 2015, but then shelved after Kennedy put down her foot.
“[She] heard Disney was making a comedy show and flipped out,” said one insider. “She said ‘Star Wars’ and comedy do not co-exist — it’s a drama. She shut down that show, and the ‘Robot Chicken’ [and ‘Family Guy’] stuff is now on moratorium. No more ‘Star Wars’ comedy.”
That insider said Kennedy also put a halt to “Star Wars” characters dancing at Disney theme parks: “Apparently they banned Darth Maul and Darth Vader from doing a breakdance battle in the Disney Parks,” said someone familiar with a meeting Lucasfilm execs had with Disney over proper use of the franchise.
But there does seem to be a bit of an exception to the humor rule in the children’s space, as the “Lego Star Wars” shows frequently contain humor, as do the mini books “Darth Vader and Son” and its spinoffs. (Lucasfilm has not responded to a request for comment.)
That’s not to say Lord and Miller were making “Han Solo” as a comedy. But as a source told Variety, Kennedy apparently wasn’t a fan of their shooting style – which, as IndieWire has noted, “tends to be freewheeling, collaborative, and open to improvisation.”
The duo have become experts at mixing a bit of absurdist, sometimes dark humor with true dramatic moments, in both their TV and film projects. That includes “The Lego Movie,” which was ultimately about a ragtag group of misfits who are destined, via prophecy, to forge a bond and fight evil – while also telling a story of an estranged father and son. (Wait, it sounds like they already did a “Star Wars” movie!)
Lord and Miller also deftly pulled off tragedy, pathos, drama, and humor with the pilot to Will Forte’s “The Last Man on Earth.” That DNA continued with last season’s “Son of Zorn” and “Making History,” two shows that they executive produced (but didn’t direct or write).
Like many of those characters, a young Han would presumably be even more cocky and self-assured – which is why Lord and Miller made plenty of sense to helm Lucasfilm’s “Han Solo” prequel. Ron Howard is a fine choice to replace the duo, but definitely leans toward the more dramatic, and earnest, side of things.
Take the lightheartedness out of “Star Wars,” and as a wise, old green Jedi Master once said, “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.”
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- Michael Schneider
‘Portlandia’: Carrie Brownstein on Directing, Men’s Rights and Her 5 Favorite Sketches of Season 7
23 June 2017 8:30 AM, PDT
“Portlandia” remains one of television’s most oddball series, committed both to the craft of filmmaking as well as the absurdist notions of executive producers Carrie Brownstein, Fred Armisen and Jonathan Krisel. The show has always been a labor of love for its creators, one in which they’ve been involved intimately since the beginning. Brownstein in particular stepped up for Season 7, directing two episodes for the first time, in addition to writing and acting.
Before IndieWire got on the phone with Brownstein, she sent over a list of her five favorite sketches, two of which were part of episodes she directed. We discussed what went into the making of each episode, with Brownstein revealing why she prefers not to be in sketches she’s directing, the surprising depth of empathy she has for the characters she plays (even the Men’s Rights Activist) and how she didn’t mind the way in which one of her favorite sketches overlapped with a recent episode of “Black Mirror.”
Hotel Room Explanation, “The Storytellers” (Episode 1)
“I think we always relish having someone with the nimbleness of Vanessa on the show. We’ve been so fortunate to work with some of the best improvisers and comedians around them. Vanessa is one of those really brilliant performers — she and Fred have an innate chemistry together from being friends in real life and working together on ‘Saturday Night Live.’
“When I’m directing, I really enjoy not being in the scene — that allows me to really focus on performances and composition. You know, see it from a more holistic perspective. It was an incredible joy to watch them in that scene.”
How much footage did they actually shoot? “We could have made a six-part television series just from the footage we had. We really like the simple set-ups, because it allows more time for performance. When the sketches are more location-based or require more technical camerawork or choreography, the performers don’t get to delve as intensely into the scene and there’s not as much room for tangents or improvisation. But in a situation like this, we are basically just setting up the cameras and letting these people explore these characters and explore the scene.”
What About Men?, “Carrie Dates a Hunk” (Episode 2)
“A big thing of the season was this notion of masculinity and gender. I think they were two themes that we explored in a variety of permutations. And we were thinking a lot about people who come into this world assuming a certain amount of privilege and inheritance and cultural relevance, and seeing themselves as the center of a narrative that’s kind of been written for them throughout history.
“There are these two guys who suddenly don’t see themselves in a society that’s slowly changing — the dismantling of the binary, moving towards an examination of the patriarchy. So we wanted to have these characters who felt a fragility within that environment and were lashing out against it. So they kind of came into fruition last year because we wanted to explore some of those themes.
On the casting of the video’s extras, who perfectly embody who you might expect to identify as a Mra: “We very explicitly want very real people. We’re not casting for good looks, we’re casting for people who are interesting in their authentic selves and embrace the kind of weirdness we want from them.
“We have an amazing casting director who is local and he really has an acumen for pulling from the local pool of talent. Simon Max Hill is wonderful and we have an extras casting guy, Adam Rosko, who is also great. We really rely on them for filling out the world of the show and yeah, that video is a good example of really nailing our requests.”
That said, they don’t think of the casting in terms of stereotypes. “I think you start getting into trouble when you start to assume what [an Mra] looks like. I think when we were talking about those sketches in general, we were realizing through anecdotal evidence that a lot of the men in our lives were also feeling vulnerable, sort of as if they were willing to admit it because culturally we are shifting away from perhaps white straight male dominance. It wasn’t just the alt-right guys online, it was people we knew, who were just having to reconsider their own lives and position.”
Massage Chair, “Fred’s Cell Phone Company” (Episode 3)
Lance (Brownstein) gets trapped in a massage chair purchased for him by Nina (Armisen). Director: Carrie Brownstein.
Was acting from a confined position easy or tough? “It means focusing the faculties you have with which to communicate, creating a whole language with tics and your eyes. Those of us who are able-bodied are able to compensate for nuance and misunderstandings with our hands and with our body language. So it does become a different kind of communication tool, when you don’t use your entire body.
“I had already mapped out Lance’s Pov, combining a ‘Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ or a ‘Misery’ kind of aesthetic. There was a little bit of a challenge to direct, because I was limited to this one sphere and I didn’t have as much of a sense of the scene, because I was stuck in one single place.”
Men’s Film Festival, “Friend Replacement” (Episode 6)
On playing two different characters who happen to be men: “They are two very different characters, so I approach them differently. I don’t want them to be a caricature. Lance is of course a broader character and we try to focus on a little more on his fallibility and vulnerability… I don’t really approach it too much from a gender perspective. It’s just, ‘Who is this person and how much can I say about his humor?’
“We had a lot of fun writing that sketch and just coming up with alternatives for film titles that they wanted to see or remakes that they were afraid of. It was interesting in the wake of the ‘Wonder Woman’ release and all of the screenings that happened — just seeing the backlash against that.”
What other filmmakers were mentioned in alternate takes? “I think Barry Levinson, there might have been a little bit more Michael Bay. There was a shoutout to Anthony Scalia, the former Supreme Court judge there.”
Why so much mention of Kathryn Bigelow? “For so long, she was the go-to female director — like, no one could conjure another name. So we were sort of playing with that.”
Passenger Rating Pt. 1, “Passenger Rating” (Episode 9)
Carrie (Brownstein) is having trouble with her rating on a ride sharing service. Director: Steve Buscemi.
“This one stems partially from that feeling that the sharing economy or the gig economy requires a certain level of performance. We were just thinking about how that can really become awkward.”
How it relates to the “Black Mirror” episode “Nosedive,” starring Bryce Dallas Howard: “That ‘Black Mirror’ episode came out after we had filmed ours, but we hadn’t aired yet. It was really interesting to watch — there was only a couple of degrees of separation between the two, and both explore something so simple and innocent-seeming as a rating system, a desire to be liked. That need for likability can turn dark. Ours explores the same themes, without the sort of craziness of that show. But I am such a big fan of ‘Black Mirror.'”
What to Expect from Season 8
As of writing, production has begun on the final season of “Portlandia.” “We’re going into a season where the theme is, not surprisingly, anxiety. There’s an anxiety and sense of isolation that permeates a lot of the sketches this year, all through the absurdist lens of the show. But as we sat back and looked at the board in the writers’ room, we realized living in a state of constant uncertainty had really permeated the show.”
How does that connect to this being the last season? “I think in some ways it’s coincidental, but in some ways it helps our cause, because as we wind down we didn’t want to make any sort of big, sweeping statements. But there’s definitely an onus. People expect closure.”
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- Liz Shannon Miller
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‘Playing House’ Review: Season 3 Still Be Bangin’ Because of the Aspirational Friendship That Conquered Real-Life Cancer
23 June 2017 5:00 AM, PDT
While doing press in January for the third season of “Playing House,” co-creators, writers, stars and real-life best friends Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham hinted that they shared a major bonding experience that they had written into the show. But they decided to keep mum about it until early May, when St. Clair revealed in a post on the StandUp2Cancer website that she had underwent treatment for breast cancer, with her best friend by her side every step of the way.
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The duo had worried that introducing such a serious storyline into the show wouldn’t feel organic or that it would overpower the comedy, but that fear was unfounded. “Playing House” is funnier, more in tune with its beating heart of comedy than ever, because of how the battle with cancer brought the two friends closer together.
Making the series after that was an exercise in gratitude, and the show exudes positivity, hope and joy through every line and scene. If anything, “Playing House” balances out its humor and multiple storylines so well that it’s actually easy to forget that the cancer plot is coming until it happens. And then bam — right there amidst the laughter — a feeling of being blindsided and stunned. And then come the tears.
This is what sets “Playing House” and a few other powerful comedies apart from the pack — their ability to bring genuine pathos and character growth into a genre that usually favors cautious inertia. The series is fearless: It’s unafraid to change, to evolve, to grow up.
When the show began, Maggie (Parham) left her cheating husband just before she’s about to have their baby. Her best friend Emma (St. Clair) leaves behind her job overseas to move in with Maggie to help raise the baby together. But this season, it’s Maggie who’s supportive of Emma through the hard times. In between single motherhood and cancer, the friends are consistently there for each other through all the changes: reentering the world of dating (with a hot new British doctor played by Ben Willbond), turning 40, having a healthy relationship with exes, career changes, and raising children. Aging isn’t a cause for mourning or denial, but is celebrated and yes, mocked mercilessly.
Early on in Season 3, when Emma is considering sleeping with an ex she knew in high school, the following exchange takes place:
Real talk: do penises age? Asking for a friend.
Check out this first look at Season 3! We're dying a little with excitement. pic.twitter.com/TfxtuxfNo9
— Playing House (@PlayingHouseUSA) June 22, 2017
What’s beautiful about their relationship is that Maggie doesn’t even hesitate to answer in the most earnest and detailed manner possible. Oh yes, “Playing House” is crass, inappropriate, silly, but most of all vital. This season might be about embracing all the ups and downs of age 40, but it doesn’t act its age. Emma and Maggie’s lust for life and sharing is infectious, so much so that a new character introduced in the first episode gets visibly verklempt after hearing about the extent of the women’s friendship. Nobody is immune to the power of their triumphant and gleeful bond.
As strong as their friendship is though, it is not exclusive. Characters on the show get swept up in their wake, only to be embraced as extended family. And while some of the scenes featuring these characters without the benefit of the Bff presence or chemistry falter a bit, that too is part of the growing and learning process. This season we see more of exes Mark (Keegan-Michael Key), Bruce (Brad Morris), Zach (Zach Woods) and even Tina, aka “Bird Bones” (Lindsay Sloane), among a slew of others who are game to ditch their dignity for laughs. And in a way, we the audience are invited into that circle of friends as well.
St. Clair and Parham deciding to incorporate their partnered cancer battle into the show isn’t just brave or smart; it’s generous. And that’s true of how the show has operated from the beginning. Sure, their friendship is a pleasure to watch and even aspirational in its strength, but sharing it in all of its imperfect glory — warts, tumors and all — is the ultimate in honest communication, trust and building a community. We’ve been invited into the house to play, and it’s exactly where we want to be.
Watch this exclusive sneak peek of the bloopers from Episode 2 below:
“Playing House” premieres with back-to-back episodes on Friday, June 23 at 11 p.m. and the entire season will be available on VOD on Saturday, June 24.
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- Hanh Nguyen
‘Downton Abbey’ Movie: 8 Possible Storylines to Pursue Even After Everybody’s Had Their Happy Ending
22 June 2017 5:52 PM, PDT
“Downton Abbey” ended on the best possible note possible when it wrapped up after six seasons in 2016. Every character that fans cared about had a happy ending. People paired off — even the ones downstairs — and some had babies or babies on the way, a new business venture was started – and better yet, nobody was accused of murder.
Now comes word, according to a recent report, that a “Downton Abbey” movie will likely start cranking into production in 2018. Creator Julian Fellowes has been diligently working and reworking the script, and the cast has publicly stated that they’re game to return to Downton.
But where can it go from here? Short of resurrecting Matthew (Dan Stevens) from the grave for some creepy zombie triad love story, this was as tidy and pleasant an outcome as a fan could hope for. It will be intriguing to see what conflict the movie brings as a matter of course while storytelling but not tarnish the happiness that was granted the characters after so many hard times.
With very few clues to go on though, it’s not clear what will be in store for the Crawleys and friends when they return. The series’ timeline ended around 1925, and Fellowes had stated that he didn’t want to bring the story into the 1930s, so that leaves a window of five years for a time jump. Based on our knowledge of the characters and of general history, here are some of the things we’d want to see in the “Downton Abbey” movie:
The Crawleys in the Workforce
This was already in the works with Tom (Allen Leech) and Henry (Matthew Goode) teaming up to be used cars salesmen. Hopefully that business is flourishing, and maybe even Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) will get involved because of course she’s not going to be a very involved mother even though she’ll have two (or more?) kids by the time the movie rolls around. We could see her taking charge of some innovative business ideas like driving around town to draw in female customers or arranging motor tours to Downton.
Mary has been and can be a really garbage person at times, but Matthew brought out the best in her. It’s no accident that Mary only after she’s with Henry, that she commits a completely selfless act by not stealing Edith’s wedding-day thunder to reveal she’s pregnant.
A Really Good, Modern Nanny Arc
With the exception of the horrid Nanny West, who had called poor little Sybbie a “wicked little cross-breed,” the nannies haven’t been part of the fold either upstairs or downstairs much. Although it’s accepted that the nobility don’t really have a hand rearing their children, this could all change. Edith is far more involved with her daughter Marigold anyway, and who knows how Tom’s experiences in America may have changed his views. Mary is probably the most traditional, but with the lines blurring between classes, the nanny or nannies could become an indispensable family friend. Or it could be a friend they have already.
Stop Before the Great Depression
Given that this is probably going to be the last time we’ll see the “Downton” cast together since they’re no longer under contract and have been scattered to the winds on different projects, let’s not end on a really depressing (heh) note or cliffhanger. Besides, 1929 is also when frozen food was invented, and we really don’t want the knowledge of that to send the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) into an early grave. That said, the age of innovation can’t stop, won’t stop, and we’d love to see someone talking about the wonders of TV or talkies.
Ripped From the Headlines
While we don’t want to see the Great Depression happen, it’s always intriguing to see events of the day pierce the Crawley bubble. We can’t imagine that Edith (Laura Carmichael), the new Marchioness of Hexham, will fully give up journalism, especially since she’ll want to be a good role model to Marigold, and so we could see her getting involved with the biggest news items in some form. The British occupation of Shanghai and the resulting protests could create some new dramatic situations in which lines are drawn about imperialism. And we could see someone, maybe Daisy (Sophie McShera) or Edith getting pulled along the tide of women’s suffrage when women over 21 finally get the vote. Oh, and since Princess Elizabeth is born in 1926, there must be some diehard royalists who will be obsessed with her every move and appearance.
Read More: The ‘Downton Abbey’ Series Finale Brings All the Ships Into Port
Thomas Barrow Tries to Find Love
Sadly, this wishlist item is probably one of the most difficult storylines to make happen given the time period. As with Rose’s interracial romance that “Downton” tried and failed to make happen, a straightforward romance for Thomas (Robert James-Collier) would be improbable or at least incredibly difficult, and we do not wish Thomas any more pain. Homosexuality at that time was seen as indecent and criminal, consent not even part of the discussion, and it’s no wonder Thomas had issues. That said, despite society’s condemnation, queer people still existed and yes, even loved. We’ll leave the logistics to Fellowes.
Anna and Bates Will Continue to Live Happily Ever After
Nothing bad can or will happen to them ever again. They get as many babies at they want and are very, very happy. We don’t care if that makes for boring storytelling. With rape, accusations of murder, jail time – and hey did we mention rape? – they’ve been through enough already. Ok, maybe some new medical treatment can give Bates (Brendan Coyle) some false hope about losing his limp, but it doesn’t, and Anna (Joanne Froggatt) can tell him how much she loves him because of his bum leg anyway. But that’s it.
The Requisite Giant Celebration
It’s not “Downton Abbey” without a really big set piece gathering everyone together. While we wouldn’t say no to a ball, a picnic or outdoors village activity might be the best because that would mean the servants wouldn’t be required to work too much, even though so many of them have their own separate lives now. A picnic is more egalitarian. But for old times’ sakes, maybe Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Daisy could bake something up again. And we’re not exactly sure what a happy and married Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) would look like, but we imagine them dancing and maybe partaking in some drinks. Who else? Lord and Lady Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) doting on their grandchildren, and Cousin Isobel (Penelope Wilton) finally enjoying a life of her own with Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) would be essential, with wry commentary by the Dowager Countess of course.
What would you want to see in a “Downton Abbey” movie?
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- Hanh Nguyen
‘Better Call Saul’: Why That Blockbuster Video Scene Was Important, But Also a ‘Nail-Biter’ to Make
22 June 2017 1:41 PM, PDT
[Editor’s Note: Mild spoilers for Season 3, Episode 10, “Lantern” follow.]
It’s at times easy to forget that “Better Call Saul” is a period piece, if only because its 2002-2003 setting isn’t always noticeably distinguishable from the present day. But then every once in a while, creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould slap us in the face with a reminder that this show is happening in the past. It can be as simple as a trip to a video store — but not just any video store.
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It’s something we all accepted as routine, just 15 years ago: Want to watch a movie? Go to Blockbuster Video. So in the Season 3 finale, “Lantern,” Kim (Rhea Seehorn) asks her assistant Francesca (Tina Parker) for a ride to what was once the dominant source for Americans in search of movie rentals, and we then get to see her browse the aisles in search of the perfect comfort viewing, following her near-fatal car accident the episode prior.
Executive producer Gennifer Hutchison, who wrote the season finale, told IndieWire that the decision to have Kim visit a video store came in the writers’ room, as the team discussed what Kim might possibly do after deciding to relax following her accident. “I just really loved the idea of her renting a bunch of videos and sitting around watching movies and eating junk food. Just because it’s something I relate to, it’s something I like to do when I destress. And I feel like it’s not something you see a lot of on TV and in movies,” she said.
And as a result, Gould — who directed the finale — got very excited about the idea of Kim going to not just any video store, but Blockbuster in particular. However, don’t think that this was an easy choice for the show — because according to production designer Michael Novotny, “it was a total nail-biter.”
Novotny told IndieWire that as soon as he received word that “Saul” wanted to recreate a Blockbuster, he got his team to work — specifically, the graphics department. “I can always do a set. A set’s the easy part. The hard part is the graphics and all of the art work you’re going to turn out,” he said.
But that process started before the show had actual permission to recreate a Blockbuster. “We started to build it without approval. That’s part of the nail-biting process,” he said. “It wasn’t until the day before we shot it that we got approval.”
This is because, as anyone who works in production might tell you, trying to depict a real brand on screen can be an incredibly difficult task. And the “Saul” team wanted to actually use Blockbuster iconography, which isn’t the easiest thing given that it’s a brand name you haven’t probably seen in the wild in years.
Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010, and “roughly a dozen” stores currently exist today. Thus, the set was built on one of the show’s Albuquerque soundstages, and in fact, a great deal of what was on screen was made from scratch by the “Saul” production team, including the big Blockbuster sign hanging in the wall and the period-accurate movie covers.
One thing they were able to buy: the shelving units came thanks to an ironic stroke of luck and an Albuquerque video store that was going out of business. The production was thus able to buy those displays, which Novotny made sure were shortened so that, as they shot the scene, Kim and Francesca could be seen walking through the aisles. That framing was based on Gould’s storyboards, which were altered slightly during the production process, but otherwise didn’t require any major additional construction.
But really, here’s what people care about — the movies that are being considered, as Kim prepares for an epic binge in the pre-Netflix days. None of the titles are fake, and Novotny did work carefully with his team to carefully curate the movies that appeared on screen during the scene, all of which were drawn from a list provided by Peter Gould and the writers. Here are just some of the ones we happened to spot while freeze-framing:
“A Knight’s Tale” “Lawrence of Arabia” (the 40th anniversary special edition) “Love Liza” “The Mothman Prophecies” “Punch-Drunk Love” A Richard Pryor stand-up special “Beverly Hills Ninja” “The Cheap Detective” “Hanky Panky” “Blue Thunder” “American Sledge” “Darkness Falls” “Night of the Living Dead”
They’re all movies that feel appropriate to the era at least within a year or two or as classics, though unfortunately a quick Internet search can reveal whether a film in question would have been available on DVD in the year 2003. Perhaps the most glaring oversight is the appearance of Tim Burton’s “Big Fish,” which was released in theaters December 10, 2003 and made available on DVD April 27, 2004 — something Hutchison’s husband (who actually worked at Blockbuster in the past) noticed while watching the final product. “We don’t always get it right,” she admitted.
Novotny acknowledged the “Big Fish” error, but he was relatively zen about it, given the intense pressure of making the scene happen in the first place. “It really was a down to the wire thing,” he said. “If that’s as much as I’m wrong… I’m sad to hear that but at the same time I’m happy that it went as good as it did.”
Update: On Twitter, Gould offered a little clarity as to why “Big Fish” might have time traveled back a year:
And that #BigFish they mention? Could be a shoutout to my former student @johnaugust… #YesYouReadThatRight
— Peter Gould (@petergould) June 23, 2017
Hutchison couldn’t remember every one of the 10 films Kim officially rented, though such a list was made during production. Beyond “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Monty Python,” she said the rest were mostly legal dramas, though she did make sure to include the Luc Besson sci-fi romp “The Fifth Element.” “That was one for some reason I was really stuck on making sure was in her stack,” Hutchison said.
While hardly the most memorable scene of the finale, it still sticks in the mind because of how it triggers memories of an experience we’ve largely lost, traded in for the convenience of Netflix.
“I like the idea of physically walking around and choosing movies,” Hutchison said. “There is something about actually going into a store, having everything broken down by genre. Sometimes with the streaming services it’s a little overwhelming, but having that physical space… I don’t know. It was like a ritual.”
And depicting that ritual was just more proof that “Better Call Saul” will always find a way to surprise us with the seemingly mundane.
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- Liz Shannon Miller
‘Game of Thrones’: 7 Things You May Have Missed From the New Season 7 Trailer
22 June 2017 11:56 AM, PDT
“Game of Thrones” is entering its highly anticipated seventh season with much fanfare but an equal amount of mystery — more so than with Season 6 even, which was the first season that went off book for the series. This year, the convergence of everyone back on the same continent promises several epic clashes, but also unexpected betrayals and partnerships.
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The second full trailer dropped for Season 7 on Wednesday, and to be honest, we couldn’t stop watching it. It should be noted it also sounded great because of the song, “Light of the Seven,” which is part of last season’s score by theme song composer Ramin D Jawadi. As we pored over each frame, a few thoughts came to light, as if the Red God illuminated our way:
Jon Snow Wants to Bury »
- Hanh Nguyen
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