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‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Co-Creator Aline Brosh McKenna on the Song From the Show That’s Stuck In Her Head

50 minutes ago

In a TV world that often asks for creators and series to make sacrifices to get on the air, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has always felt like a show that fights to keep its best parts intact. What other serialized TV show could squeeze in a shanty about alcoholism, a riff on “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” an elaborate tap duet, a forlorn Disney princess ballad and a relationship exit interview version of “My Way,” all in the span of three episodes?

It’s a specific brand of energy that powers this CW gem, one that persisted all the way through to a fateful, seismic season finale written and directed by the show’s co-creator, Aline Brosh McKenna. As she explained in a recent interview, one of the season’s best moments almost didn’t happen.

“We didn’t have a song in there for a very long time and it was going to be a more straight-up, dramatic episode for us,” McKenna said.

Still wanting to find a place for another comedy song, the answer came in a surprise revelation from the show’s star — and other co-creator — Rachel Bloom.

Read More: 10 TV Shows Emmy Voters Need to Watch Before They Fill Out Their Ballots

“We were all in the writers room, working on a rewrite and Rachel kind of busted into the door and said, ‘Oh I know how to do this! We should do death metal,'” McKenna said.

Yes, in the middle of a momentous episode where its main character, Rebecca Bunch, is on the precipice of her dream wedding, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” delivered the Rammstein-adjacent headbanger “What a Rush to Be a Bride.”

For McKenna, the best part is that this wasn’t simply a tossed-in gag meant to be funny simply because it was contradictory. The choice came from a place of odd truth. “What I love about it is that there is something about being a bride which is really aggro and hostile and ‘Fuck you, give me my stuff!’ and ‘Watch me wear this dress!’ And I think that, by finding that genre, [Rachel] really pulled out this hilarious hostility of being a bride and how controlling that is,” McKenna said.

It’s also indicative of the kind of jokes that McKenna wanted for a finale that could survive on its own merit and not merely the goodwill it had built up from fans over its sophomore season. That approach meant that Rebecca’s wedding morning song (“It’s magic hour lighting, which doesn’t make a heaping amount of sense, but who cares? It’s gorgeous,” McKenna explained) having two season’s worth of reprises built in proved to be a tricky balance.

“My goal always with the show was not to ever do a joke or a reprise that you can only enjoy if you were a fan of the show. Rachel and I talked about it a lot and what I came to realize is that it was an acting piece for her. She performed it like a dramatic monologue, without any sense of musical comedy cutesiness. She really, I thought, brought it to life in this way that was very real and emotional where you really saw her struggle and you really feel her pain,” McKenna said.

That ability to bring real emotion and consequences into this semi-heightened world is a running theme of the series. Even though Rebecca has gone through multiple iterations of being the show’s title character, she’s brought just as much out of her fellow West Covinians.

“Her presence in town has caused everyone to change their life and has had a profound effect on everyone’s approach,” McKenna said. “Darryl realizing he was bisexual, Valencia finding a new job, Josh breaking up with Valencia, Greg leaving town, all those things would not have happened had Rebecca Bunch not shown up. That’s kind of a running theme in the show, that she’s inadvertently helping people transcend in their own life as she’s struggling to transcend herself.”

Even though these past two seasons have been a special roller-coaster for Rebecca, McKenna is adamant that she and the show’s writers still want the best for the character. They don’t want to give her an unrealistic shortcut to happiness, but he understands what it’s like to want to see a protagonist escape a cycle of unfortunate events.

Read More: ABC’s Live ‘Little Mermaid’ Should Just Use the Cast Of ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

“She’s struggling and I think you always know and sense that she’s trying really hard and she means well and doesn’t want to hurt anybody, even when she’s doing terrible things. Fans care about her and so I completely understand where that comes from. I know myself as a viewer, the shows that I binge, that sometimes I’m feeling like on ‘The Americans,’ Phillip seems really bummed out and I’d like for him to be happy. I get that,” McKenna said.

Now that the show is prepping for Season 3, that means figuring out how to utilize the show’s impressive ensemble after the finale’s reshuffling. While juggling the fate of all of these beloved characters is a tall task, sometimes it’s the show’s tracklist that can inspire the biggest personal reaction.

“There’s always people that we’d love to get in the show more and song genres that we love, but because the seasons are so different, there’s usually not a ton of carry-over. Except I was insisting that we were going to do ‘Heavy Boobs,’ no matter if it had anything to do with the story or something or nothing. It just was going to be done,” McKenna said. 

Does that mean that McKenna gets certain songs stuck in her heads, just like fans do? Of course.

“I’ve literally had things where I’ve had to have a glass of wine before bed because the songs will get wedged in my brain from working on them,” McKenna said. “And then I can’t function because I’m walking around singing, ‘They’re probably straightforward niiiipples…‘ to myself, which is not good for anybody. That’s not what anybody wants. Nobody wants to be around someone who’s singing that. No one. It’s a little bit of an occupational hazard.”

Read More: ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Welcomes New Cast Regulars the Only Way It Knows How: Through Song

In an early run of episodes that had the catchiest date prep, fatherly appreciation, and friendship celebration songs imaginable, memories of one particular Season 1 entry still linger, over a year later.

“You know what was the worst for me? Like, I almost had to go to the hospital? The ‘Dream Ghost’ song from Season 1,” McKenna said. “‘We pay out of pocket for cleeeeeanings!‘ Oh my God. I literally walked around, saying to people, ‘We pay out of pocket for cleanings’ for no reason. It was terrible. If we’ve done that to other people, I apologize.”

A small price to pay for one of the best comedies on TV.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Season 2 is currently available to stream on Netflix. 

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- Steve Greene

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‘Glow’ Producers Didn’t Want to Cast Alison Brie — Here’s How She Fought to Change Their Minds

2 hours ago

Life often imitates art, but Alison Brie’s “Glow” story is kind of amazing.

Brie’s character on the new Netflix original series — from creator Liz Flahive (“Nurse Jackie”) and executive producer Jenji Kohan (“Orange is the New Black”) — is an actress whose resiliency is rewarded with the role she needs. But the connection between artist and art is a touch more specific than that.

Ruth spends the first scene of “Glow,” and much of the first episode, auditioning. The first scene is an audition, and she’s quickly rejected. Another audition, another rejection. It’s a pattern in the pilot, and it was a pattern for Brie when she was trying to be a part of it.

“They did not want me to have this part,” Brie said, remembering the long, challenging audition process while sitting next to Flahive and co-star Betty Gilpin (“American Gods”). “I’ve never felt more like Ruth than when I was auditioning for this show.”

Read More: ‘Gypsy’ Review: Naomi Watts’ Netflix Series is Impossibly Dull Given Who’s Involved

The first hurdle: Flahive and casting director Jen Euston were looking for an unknown to play Ruth, the lead in the series, and that meant the former star of “Community” and “Mad Men” wasn’t an option.

“I think we had an idea in our head that [Ruth] was somebody who hadn’t been cast; who you hadn’t seen,” Flahive said, noting they got past it by watching Brie’s auditions. “[Casting] was a combination of seeing people again and again and again, and the other roles where it was just, ‘There’s only one person. This is the person.'”

Brie and Gilpin fell into the former group, as the duo had to come in repeatedly to try out for their parts.

“It felt like a series of tests,” Brie said. “‘But will she come in and do a pre-read for casting?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely, I’ll wear no makeup.’ ‘Will you fly to Toronto and read with Betty in front of no one?’ ‘Yes, absolutely, whatever you want me to do.'”

In total, Brie and Gilpin went on four auditions — two individually and then two together to test their chemistry. The first step was reading for Euston, and the second was in a “very cold, weird, silent room” with producers. Even when they got the call to come in together, they were filmed “alone in a room with like two casting assistants who were not working on this project,” Brie said.

“[It was] like a stoned 16-year-old who they found on the street to press record,” Flahive said, laughing.

Read More: ‘Kingdom’ and ‘American Gods’ Star Jonathan Tucker Bled for His Art, and That’s Just the Beginning

Because of these oddities, each actress developed individual rituals to keep their expectations in check.

“Every audition for Debbie, I thought of it as the last time,” Gilpin said. “I would say goodbye to her every time because I was like, ‘You cannot take this dream all the way in.'”

“I cried in my car after every audition,” Brie said. “I would sit in my car like Ruth and sob. And we were both listening to the same Ultimate ’80s mix while auditioning, so “Flock of Seagulls” was playing [while we were sobbing].”

Their final audition was in Los Angeles “five days before my wedding,” Gilpin said. Flahive said they needed to see the two of them together again because “[Ruth and Debbie] is the relationship of the series,” but it was all more than worth it to the actors because of the script’s unique opportunities.

“I’ve been in this strange sweet spot of making my living as an actor but not doing crazy big shows like this,” Gilpin said. “I’ve auditioned for a lot of what’s out there, which is like squinty cop in tight outfits who aren’t taking any shit in the first scene and in the second scene they’re naked and blowing the captain of the police force. And I tried really hard to get those parts because I want my future children to go to school and have appetizers at dinners.”

“So when this came along I was just shaking reading it because I hadn’t really allowed myself to dream of a part like this,” she said.

Brie agreed, taking it one step further. “It was amazing to get the opportunity to prove myself the way that Ruth also does,” she said of the audition process. “But I also had this dream criteria in my head where I was ready to sign off on certain shows that checked like two of the six boxes, and I was like ‘Two whole boxes!’ And then ‘Glow’ came in, and it really did check every box.”

“It was indescribable when I first read it, in the same way that Betty described: the fear and excitement at reading it and being like, ‘Oh my God. This is the thing!'”

But even now, with the season wrapped and rolling out on Netflix and plenty of prestige TV in their past, these actors are still nervous for the next audition.

Do you feel like there’s been a tipping point? Was there a moment where you thought, “Ok, I’ve got this. I feel like I’ve broken through?”

Gilpin: Absolutely not, no.

I hope you feel that way now.

Gilpin: I don’t!

Soon, though, maybe?

Brie: We never do.

Gilpin: But there is a feeling on set, in every department on “Glow” that everyone has sort of paid their dues and gritted their teeth through certain jobs to get to this one.

Brie: To be rewarded with this.

Gilpin: That this is the passion project.

If art does imitate life, may this piece last as long as Brie, Gilpin, and Flahive care to live in it.

Glow” premieres Friday, June 23 on Netflix.

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- Ben Travers

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‘Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later’ Trailer: Camp Firewood Reopens Once More This August

4 hours ago

Only two years have passed since we last took a trip to Camp Firewood in the prequel series “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” but we’re about to take a big 10-year jump in the sequel series, which of course bares the title “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.”

Read More: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: Fantasy Camp’ Is The Roleplaying Game of Your Wet Hot Dreams

Netflix has released the first official trailer for David Wain and Michael Showalter’s next run of eight episodes, and it takes everything you love about the original and puts an amazing (or disturbing, depending on how you look at it) 1990s spin on things. The new installment is set in 1991 and centers around the 10 year Camp Firewood reunion. Expect very odd things to go down.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later” debuts on Netflix August 4. The ensemble cast includes Amy Poehler, Chris Meloni, Chris Pine, David Hyde Pierce, Elizabeth Banks, Janeane Garofalo, Jason Schwartzman, Kristen Wiig, Paul Rudd and many more.

Watch the official trailer below.

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- Zack Sharf

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‘Fargo’ Season 3 Squandered TV’s Greatest Cast By Trying to Be Every Show At Once

6 hours ago

After two seasons worth of magic, “FargoSeason 3 — or Year 3, to use the preferred nomenclature — was finally unable to outrun the specter of Peak TV hovering over its shoulder. Even with one of the greatest TV casts ever assembled, the story of feuding brothers and a nefarious conglomerate slowed the series’ hot streak and brought it back down from the realm of tightly constructed, riveting crime drama into the realm of ordinary.

Wednesday night’s season finale showed why the rest of the previous episodes lacked the distinctive spirit that’s helped make “Fargo” into its own creative entity. The previous two seasons have funneled their experiences through the police officer Solversons at the center: Alison Tolman’s Molly and Patrick Wilson’s Lou both anchored their respective seasons amidst a maelstrom of criminal (and in notable instances, supernatural) activity.

Read More: Noah Hawley on the ‘FargoFinale and Why the Fate of Gloria Burgle Matters More Than You Think

But with a near-unprecedented cast including Ewan McGregor, Carrie Coon, David Thewlis, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Scoot McNairy, Mary McDonnell, Shea Wigham and Michael Stuhlbarg, “Fargo” had that unique but very real problem of juggling an ensemble of actors who were each carrying their own shows within their respective plot lines. Gloria Burgle’s pursuit, the existential quandary of loyalty from Sy, and the classic, biblical blood feud between the two Stussy brothers all seemed like they were vying for supremacy in a show that tried to have it every way.

With all that impressive output in front of the camera, the various adventures that these characters went on seemed too stylistically disparate to be part of a focused season of television. Take Episode 8, “Who Rules the Land of Denial?” as an example. It’s a striking hour of TV, but one that owed its visual and philosophical approach to some of the other biggest TV shows on air right now. Nikki’s kitten-filled encounter in the bowling alley dipped into “Twin Peaks” territory, complete with Ray Wise’s presence. The bloody escape from the prison bus into the woods was practically a dimly lit “Game of Thrones” set-piece, complete with a surprise garroting.

These scenes came in the wake of the overtly Don Hertzfeldt-ian animation sequence from Episode 3 and presaged a “Leftovers”-adjacent piano theme at the end of Episode 9 that would probably make Max Richter do a double take. “Fargo” has always worn its influences on it sleeve, often with an accompanying wink and nod. This season felt like the first time some of the most gorgeous images on TV were in service of a faithful recreation of what’s worked elsewhere, rather than a visionary reinterpretation.

A series that had previously managed to bring together a nuanced look at opposing forces of good and evil managed to play this season fairly straight. By Thewlis’ own admission, V.M. Varga is a character completely without any redeeming qualities. He’s an out-and-out villain from frame one, drab business attire and all. The closest that he comes to any kind of sympathy is his sniveling, tiptoeing towards the elevator after he’s found out he’s under attack in the season finale.

Varga’s two defining characteristics — his rotting teeth and propensity to vomit up his nervous binge eating — were far more literal manifestations of the evil rotting him from inside and out than the show ever burdened its predecessors with. Lorne Malvo and Mike Milligan, previous “Fargo” heavies, were more than just sophisticated bad guys. Their calm demeanor, without much affectation, hinted at the insidious nature of human corruptibility. By placing all its narrative weight on a character who showed so much outward, borderline-cartoonish villainy, Season 3 robbed its central conflict of comparable substance.

And as far as the victim of Varga’s plotting, Emmit Stussy never really moved beyond being a hapless victim, closer to the bumbling cycle of unfortunate circumstances of Jerry Lundegaard from the “Fargo” film than the poisonous, bitter edge that Martin Freeman added to Lester Nygaard. As a result, Ewan McGregor’s double casting never really had the opportunity to move beyond a half-baked treatise on the nature of free will.

One of the reasons “Fargo” succeeded in creating something all its own in preceding installments is that it guided its ambiguities towards a greater purpose. Season 3’s many allegories and literary allusions left little room for interpretation or subversion. Whether listening to Billy Bob Thornton explain the opening of “Peter and the Wolf,” Varga explain Lenin’s appreciation Beethoven, or a series of animated characters float through the Stussy-authored sci-fi universe, each of these came with a blatant, explicit connection to the characters we saw on the screen. In previous seasons, those conclusions would be left to the audience to draw.

The conversation between Gloria and Winnie in Season 3’s penultimate episode also helped to underline this idea. A mystery that our own Ben Travers pointed out fairly early on — Gloria’s invisibility to technology — was made more intriguing by the explanatory distance the show took from it. But in baring her soul to Winnie, there was Gloria expressing all of those concerns out loud in convenient, metaphorical detail. The old “Fargo” would have had her merely stare down the bathroom sink sensor before finally realizing that her circumstances had changed, taking out any references to it in the conversation that came before.

As one final parting confirmation, the show delivered its Season 3 version of a time jump; a transformation that seemed so radical in Season 1 but here seems like a tacked-on afterthought. That audience handholding became even more literal when, without leaving the audience to fill in the blanks, it put the aftermath of the Stussy fortune in direct on-screen text. You could argue that this is a playful, twisted diversion meant to make Emmit’s kitchen assassination all the more shocking. But instead it seemed like a final emphatic exclamation point on the season’s special brand of reinforced cynicism.

Read More: The Coen Brothers’ Rules: 4 Filmmaking Practices That Give ‘Fargo’ Its Cinematic Consistency

All told, this season of “Fargo” was far from without merit. As much as Sy was hamstrung for most of the season, Stuhlbarg still proved that he’s one of the greatest working actors and a worthy addition to the series’ roster of Coen Brothers alumni. The Ray Stussy apartment ambush sequence is one of the best-directed scenes of the year. And the finale’s Mexican standoff was delivered in such a simple and unadorned way that made its consequences all the more tragic.

But even in the artistry of showing the two bodies fall from far away, Nikki’s character farewell underlined how much this version of “Fargo” reveled in making each new development as definitive as possible. A bullet hole to the forehead leaves little room for doubt. “Fargo” is still one of TVs most visceral crime shows, but one thing it didn’t borrow from its fellow 2017 TV shows was to let the mystery be.

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- Steve Greene

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‘Fargo’ Review: Season 3 Finale Ends the Debate and Tells Us If We’ve Been Wasting Our Breath

16 hours ago

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Fargo” Season 3, Episode 10, “Somebody to Love.”]

Immediate Reaction

In a way, “Fargo” Season 3 could only end ambiguously. Not only do the connections to its fellow Carrie Coon-led prestige drama demand it — the last words of the season are “wasting our breath,” after all — but the overall goal of the season was to examine the gray area between fact and belief. The gap between the two should be evident, but the world has shifted into a space of alternative facts and chosen truths. Just like the man brought in front of a German officer at the start of Season 3 was found guilty despite evidence to the contrary, Gloria’s mountain of proof couldn’t keep Emmit Stussy behind bars.

So with all this uncertainty in a world demanding certainty, why was the open-ended finale ultimately unsatisfying?

The easy answer is that we want answers. Whether we want to simply know what happens next — whether it’s Snickers bars for Gloria or a vanishing act for Varga — or if we merely want to know what Noah Hawley & Co. think will happen next, we instinctually want resolution to the narrative as well as the central thematic problem. It’s whether or not such finality is necessary or merely desired, and I would argue it’s the former.

Read More: Noah Hawley on the ‘Fargo’ Finale and Why the Fate of Gloria Burgle Matters More Than You Think

All season, the audience hasn’t merely been asked to invest in the theme of facts and alternative facts, but also the characters. We may care less what happens to Varga, even if it would be better to know he’d rot in jail, deprived of deep-fried Snickers bars for the rest of his life. But we do care about Gloria, and what happens next will determine the course of her life, to one degree or the other.

Now, one could argue we knew Gloria would be Ok after Episode 9, that her resolve was strengthened and closure to her arc given when she shared a few drinks and a few stories with Winnie Lopez. Specifically, it was when Winnie shoved Gloria to disprove her secret belief. When she touched her, she illustrated that Gloria does exist. She’s real. She’s here, and in that moment, “Fargo” offered an ending to Gloria’s ongoing thread. Her resolve strengthened, she went back out there and kept doing the work of the righteous.

And in seeing her stride down the hallway in that Department of Homeland Security jacket, it’s clear her perseverance has been rewarded. But we can’t help but feel that since Gloria was fighting for truth itself — for moral rights as much as legal ones — promotions aren’t good enough. She needs to defeat the purveyor of false truths, the embodiment of America’s evils.

Last Week’S Review: ‘Fargo’ Review: Carrie Coon and Ewan McGregor Bring Season 3 to an Emotional Peak in Penultimate Episode

To say, realistically, what would or wouldn’t happen is obviously an impossible task to assign a TV writer. And yet, even if we can’t know for certain that our country will be Ok, we need to know if Gloria will be. Rather than providing a bit of cathartic fan service by showing Mr. Wrench take vengeance on Emmit, it may have been more satisfying to let the corrupt businessman represent our failing societal laws than ending on a question mark for the best character of Season 3.

Give us an answer for Gloria, no matter how harsh, rather than let us wonder if she’ll get that Saturday with her son. “Fargo” is too reliant on its citizens to leave us wondering whether they’ll be happy or miserable for the next 40 years. Theme cannot trump characters, especially in a world built on them.

Continue reading for the performance highlight, best quotes, and episode grade.

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- Ben Travers

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‘Marvel’s The Defenders’ Look Ready to Crack Some Skulls in Stylish New Poster

16 hours ago

This August, “The Defenders” are finally banding together to clean up New York City.

Now that Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) have all starred in their individual series, it’s time to create the supergroup to take out the bad guys in the long-awaited culmination of the Marvel series on Netflix. The streaming service released a new poster today to tease the battle to come this summer.

Read More: ‘The Defenders’ Trailer: Watch Daredevil, Jessica Jones Luke Cage, and Iron Fist Team Up for Marvel Summer Fun

War is being waged for control of the Big Apple, and while details are scarce so far, it seems that Sigourney Weaver’s character is going to be one of the main antagonists, following in the footsteps of the likes of evildoer such as Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio). The Oscar nominee will play Alexandra, the sophisticated and way too smart head of an ancient organization who are up to no good. Also on the bad guy front are the Hand, a group of assassins who not only have ridiculous martial arts skills but also have a pesky habit of coming back from the dead. In fact, they even resurrected Elektra (Elodie Yung), the ex-girlfriend of Daredevil, aka Matthew Murdock.

The series will also bring back Daredevil’s mentor Stick (Scott Glen), Matt’s legal partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville), Misty Knight (Simone Missick), and arguably the best part of “Iron Fist,” Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick). Oh yeah, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) will also be back because she’s in all of them.

Check out the individual moving posters and the badass, stylish team poster below feating all of The Defenders giving their best perfume ad stare (except for Daredevil, who’s wearing shades):

I don't need sight to know you're staring. #Defend pic.twitter.com/ImHiFFvcCU

Daredevil (@Daredevil) June 22, 2017

This is my face. Now get out of it. #Defend pic.twitter.com/UI6yYFGPNj

Jessica Jones (@JessicaJones) June 22, 2017

Straight outta Harlem. #Defend pic.twitter.com/P859gY7wAm

Luke Cage (@LukeCage) June 22, 2017

They didn't teach this kind of focus in K'un-Lun. #Defend pic.twitter.com/0H2Qphr8EG

Iron Fist (@MarvelIronFist) June 22, 2017

All eight episodes of “The Defenders” will be released on Aug. 18 on Netflix.

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- Hanh Nguyen

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Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers Reunite for Julius Caesar-Themed ‘Really!?! with Seth and Amy’ — Watch

17 hours ago

When “Late Night with Seth Meyers” producer Mike Shoemaker teased that Amy Poehler, “Saturday Night Live” fans knew that meant one very exciting thing: another edition of “Really!?!”

She is the best. Really. pic.twitter.com/rTEomHvtFD

Mike Shoemaker (@shoemakermike) June 21, 2017

The segment first popped up back when Poehler and Meyers were co-host of SNL’s “Weekend Update,” with the two taking aim at headline-makers like then-Senator Larry Craig and members of a Congressional committee on birth control. (A new addition to the canon is always exciting, but nothing tops that combo of the old graphic with Don Pardo intro’ing the title.)

When Poehler left the show for Pawnee pastures, Meyers kept the “Really!?!” flame alive, co-delivering the indignation with Kermit the Frog (who knew he was so passionate about Twizzlers and Hot Pockets!) and an also-returning Tina Fey.

With Poehler in town promoting her upcoming summer comedy “The House,” it made sense that another desk-sharing “Late Night” moment would be in the works. For this particular go-around, the two focused on the protests of the Public Theatre’s production of “Julius Caesar” depicting the ruler as Trump-like with insight  into Tuesday’s news that Daniel Day-Lewis would be retiring from acting.

Though many of the “Really!?!”s touched on political news, this isn’t the first time the two have focused their laser questions elsewhere. The first time Poehler and Meyers re-teamed for the segment, the pair took aim at a pair of sports commentators who claimed that women’s soccer wasn’t worth watching.

“Really!?!” Reunion, Vol. IV is another notch in a great June for “Late Night,” which has already seen the show’s “Closer Look” segments continue to trend, another scorching edition of “Ya Burnt” and one of the most delightful bloopers in the show’s history. Keep it coming, folks.

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- Steve Greene

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Jerrod Carmichael Says It’s No Coincidence That His Show’s Mass Shooting and ‘N’-Word Episodes Are Extremely Timely

20 hours ago

NBC’s decision last week to pull an episode of “The Carmichael Show” came down to the last minute – literally.

According to star and executive producer Jerrod Carmichael, NBC went back and forth in deciding whether to air the episode, “Shoot-Up-Able,” in light of the shooting earlier that day at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., as well as a separate multiple shooting incident in the Bay Area.

“At 5:55 [8:55 in the Eastern Time Zone], I ultimately got the call that it wasn’t going to air, five minutes before it was scheduled to go on in the East Coast,” Carmichael recalled to IndieWire.

“I had a great conversation with [NBC Entertainment chairman] Bob Greenblatt, and I think it’s important to note that he had very real concerns that we address [why] we stood behind the episode,” Carmichael said. “And to his credit, he made it very collaborative. He was very open and actually made the decision to air it. It went back and forth.”

The episode centers on Carmichael’s title character, who returns home after witnessing a mass shooting at a shopping mall. According to the listing, “he fights against being coddled by his family and being labeled a victim, but things are made harder when he’s forced to tell a police officer exactly what he saw.” Later in the episode, Jerrod admits that he may be suffering from post-traumatic stress.

The Carmichael Show’: Jerrod Carmichael On NBC’s ‘Criminal’ Decision to Pull Mass Shooting Episode (Updated)

That day, Carmichael raced to Universal City to tape a disclaimer to run before the episode and explain why he and NBC thought it was valuable to run in light of the news.

“We wanted to tape something to let people know that we are not trying to capitalize on this, but rather have a conversation,” he said. “That we do respect that there are true victims here and that if we didn’t think that this episode had a lot of love and integrity with it, then we wouldn’t want to air it. I’m not trying to make anyone on the show look bad or look opportunistic. It was really such a sad unfortunate thing. And we only thought that the episode could contribute [to the dialogue].”

Carmichael even suggested that Greenblatt join him on camera to discuss the decision. (The comedian said he was inspired by a special episode of “Saved By the Bell” where then-nbc boss Brandon Tartikoff appeared to give the audience some context.) But Greenblatt demurred.

“Ultimately the network’s largest fears won out and they decided not to air it,” Carmichael said. “But it was a great moment for me and Bob Greenblatt talking about this. He was very thoughtful about it and he had a lot of real things to say, a lot of real concerns and I think we handled it. It was a very great collaborative moment. It unfortunately did not produce like the result that I think we wanted.”

But Carmichael said, in being cautious, he understood the reasons. “The worst thing possible is that someone related to the events is watching television and sees something that they don’t want to see at that moment,” he said. “But I do think that we handled [the subject of mass shootings] so delicately and so honestly that I think it would have been a relief.”

The Carmichael Show” has earned critical praise for its storylines, which often tackle the same kind of relevant social subjects that real families often discuss in their homes – including politics, race, religion, sexuality and more.

This week’s episode, “Cynthia’s Birthday,” is also unusually timely, as it addresses the use of the “n” word by white people – coincidentally right after HBO’s Bill Maher found himself lambasted for using the term on “Real Time.”

“We choose a lot of these topics because of how much they’ve already come up and how much how they are already part of our lives,” Carmichael said. “And so everything that we talk about on the show is a bit evergreen. It’s never just one event that causes us to want to talk about it. These are series of events and things that we’ve seen over the course of our lifetime. [Timely examples] like this are inevitable. It’s inevitable we’ll have another example.”

Carmichael does acknowledge that the show has hit a string of real-world coincidences recently. “This season has been a bit more than ever before timely,” he said. “But I think it’s just an example of how much these things really come up.”

And that’s why, when asked whether “The Carmichael Show” will ever produce a live episode, Carmichael said it wasn’t necessary. “Shoot-Up-Able” was taped months ago, but felt so current – including a “Dear Evan Hansen” joke the same week it won a Tony Award – that live isn’t necessary.

“I don’t think we could have done a stronger live episode,” he said. “I think this was essentially a live episode.”

Except that it ultimately didn’t air – yet. Carmichael said “Shoot-Up-Able” is set to be rescheduled, possibly on June 28.

Read More: ‘The Carmichael Show’ Review: TV’s Boldest Sitcom Is Funnier Than Ever, Even In A Season 3 Filled with Deep Questions

Meanwhile, “The Carmichael Show” cast remains in limbo as NBC makes a decision on a fourth season. The network doesn’t have much longer if it wants to lock in the cast, however, as their options expire at the end of the month. And since “The Carmichael Show” went on the air, a number of stars — including Lil Rel Howery (“Get Out”) and Tiffany Haddish (“Girls Trip”) — have started to break out on their own.

“If I may, this cast is really the best cast on television,” Carmichael said. “This cast is so busy and so great. You couldn’t lock down a cast like that on television, it would be impossible to get… we’re still in this place of waiting. It’s a fickle industry, and you never really know. I wouldn’t want to hold them up in any way or keep them in limbo for too long.”

As for the future of the show, “this season is my favorite, so whatever happens I’m over the moon,” he said.

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- Michael Schneider

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‘Bkpi’ Clip: ‘Bored to Death’ Meets Gentrification In Web Series Starring 3 Women of Color — Watch

20 hours ago

For those feeling conflicted by both mourning the loss of “Bored to Death” while tiring of neurotic male protagonists, your dream series has arrived. The amateur Brooklyn detective comedy gets a radical spin in “Bkpi,” a delightfully wacky new short form series from writer/director Hye Yun Park. The series, which is produced by Super Deluxe, is in the middle of a triple-header festival run, playing La Film Festival, Outfest, and Frameline all in the span of a few weeks.

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The series stars Park, Dina Shihabi (“Madam Secretary”), and Celine Justice as three badass, working-class women of color who start a private investigation firm to solve minor crimes affecting their Brooklyn neighborhood. But this isn’t some tired parody of hipster Brooklyn filled with beards and skinny jeans; the world of “Bkpi” looks much more like the actual Brooklyn than anything you’ll see on television currently.

“I could not bare to watch another white-washed portrayal of Brooklyn where wealthy millennial hipsters hash out their lives, while working class people witnessing the gentrification of the borough are sidelined to store keepers with funny accents,” said Park. “I wanted to shatter that misrepresentation and have 3 strong, independent women of color stomp around Brooklyn, giving no fucks and claiming their powers.”

Mission accomplished. The experience of watching “Bkpi” is akin to that of watching “Wonder Woman,” albeit on a much smaller scale. It is utterly thrilling to see a group of strong women kicking ass and getting shit done, all while cracking jokes and taking care of their neighbors and each other. Park is an energetic and charismatic ringleader, rocking a shaved head and cracking dirty jokes. It’s refreshing, but also a bit disorienting (in a good way) to realize just how rare images like this are.

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Park is no stranger to the short form series, having produced two seasons of the wryly self-mocking “Hey Yun,” a play on her name. She also had a viral hit with “First Kiss NYC,” where she invited total strangers to kiss on camera. The sweetly mesmerizing short reveals so much about human vulnerability, and the imaginary barriers we put between ourselves and others. It clearly struck a chord: It’s been viewed nearly 8 million times on YouTube and was picked up by Jill Soloway’s Wifey TV.

The cast and crew of “Bkpi” were 95% women, many of whom were queer and trans women of color. “It was the first time I experienced a synergy from having the humans behind the camera reflect the humans on camera,” said Park.

Check out this short exclusive clip for a taste of “Bkpi”:

Bkpi” plays Outfest in Los Angeles on July 7. It is produced by Super Deluxe.

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- Jude Dry

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Emmy Predictions 2017: Best Actor in a Comedy Series Contenders

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- Steve Greene

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‘Twin Peaks’: Diane’s Style Continues the Problematic Orientalism From the Original Series

23 hours ago

Twin Peaks” finally introduced fans to Diane, the oft-named but never seen secretary whom FBI Agent Cooper addressed his recordings to in the original 1990s series: David Lynch saved the plum role for one of his favorite actresses, Laura Dern, and her performance has been nothing short of thrilling and moving. Apart from the performance though, the character’s striking style is Orientalist, using Eastern images and themes to evoke a sense of exoticism.

Not much was known about Diane to begin with, since Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) only ever left recordings for her. It was a one-way exchange that left viewers in the dark. In “The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes” written by series co-creator Mark Frost, Cooper offers the only real description of Diane:

“I have been assigned a secretary. Her name is Diane. Believe her experience will be a great help. She seems an interesting cross between a saint and a cabaret singer.”

Read More: ‘Twin Peaks’ and David Lynch’s Love of the Color Red

That summary of the off-screen, off-page character only added more to her air of mystery. Therefore, when we finally meet Dern as Diane, the impact is pronounced, with her striking and unusual appearance: The sleek, platinum blonde bob, the multicolored fingernails that coordinate with her ensemble, and those clothes. The glimpse of each of the three outfits that Diane has worn thus far are showstoppers. They also have a strong Eastern influence in their design.

Diane’s initial look can only be seen from the bust upwards, but its heavy and ornate gold embroidery is Eastern-inflected, and her haircut super-straight styling with heavy bangs is reminiscent of how Asians have been depicted in the past, such as with actress Anna May Wong. While this first glimpse at Diane in Episode 6 isn’t enough to tell her overall aesthetic, Episode 7 certainly gives a clearer idea of her taste.

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When Agents Rosenfield and Cole (Miguel Ferrer, David Lynch) visit Diane’s home, she enters the room in a red, silky, kimono-style robe. At that point, the Asian influences cannot be ignored, especially once you add in her home’s decor. A glance around Diane’s house confirms a mix of mid-century modern and Asian pieces ranging from multi-panel screens/room dividers, vases, decorative cranes and black lacquer objects accented with mother of pearl. Even her third outfit, a red and black leather number shows samurai inspirations that gives the illusion of criss-cross styling and a gathered waist.

Diane’s tastes and styling aren’t the most racist or even overt example of Orientalism on the show, but the series does assign its characters quirks that are often the marks of marginalized people. For example, many characters have some sort of physical disability like an eye patch or hearing loss. Making that the most identifiable mark of their characters creates a vicious cycle of reinforcing the perception of their marginalized status: Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie) isn’t described as the woman whose husband is in love with another woman, but as the kook with the eyepatch. Meanwhile, in the current season, the only Asian character is Naido (Nae Yuuki), the woman without eyes who doesn’t speak in the Purple Room.

Read More: ‘Twin Peaks’ Review: Part 7 Leaves More Clues Than We Can Count as David Lynch Digs Deep Into the Past

Diane’s bold style is used to emphasize her strong personality (“Fuck you, Tammy”) but also her mysterious, exotic qualities that Cooper had tried to encapsulate in his description. Therefore, the Asian trappings are used as costuming and Otherizing to show how interesting and unusual she is. While this practice of using Eastern clothes as costumes was far more prevalent in the past, it still shows up in properties such as “Star Wars” (Princess Amidala’s costumes are very ceremonial Asian, down to the makeup) or critical favorite “Pushing Daisies.”

The Orientalism on “Twin Peaks” was far more pronounced when the show first aired in the 1990s. Although Agent Cooper was a white man teaching Eastern philosophy to solve crimes and Josie Packard (Joan Chen) fulfilled the stereotype of the Asian seductress, the worst affront came in Season 2. Josie’s sister-in-law Catherine Martell for some reason appeared in yellowface for several episodes as a businessman named Mr. Tojamura who sported a samurai hairstyle, spoke in a stereotypical accent and even invoked the bombing of Nagasaki in a conversation. Take a look at that trainwreck below:

Twin Peaks” has come a long way when it comes to its depiction of Eastern cultures as merely costume or lesser-than. Sadly, it seems to have doubled-down on its brutality towards and objectification of women. But more on that later.

Twin Peaks” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

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- Hanh Nguyen

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‘Kingdom’ and ‘American Gods’ Star Jonathan Tucker Bled for His Art, and That’s Just the Beginning

21 June 2017 11:47 AM, PDT

When people say they’ll give you everything they’ve got, few mean it the way Jonathan Tucker does. Blood, sweat, and tears only begin to describe what he puts into his work, and he’s literally given all three to “Kingdom” — you can watch him do it.

The sweat and the tears are to be expected when portraying a fighter, as Tucker has done for nearly 40 episodes on the Audience Network original series (now airing and set to end this year). Long before he stole the opening scene of “American Gods,” the young actor from “The Virgin Suicides,” “Sleepers,” “The Black Donnellys” and “Justified,” has embodied the physical and emotional requisites of an impassioned tough guy. He trained every day on the “Kingdom” set’s functioning gym, and he’s wept repeatedly on camera during Jay Kulina’s many vulnerable moments.

But the blood, well, there’s a story there.

Before Tucker gets into sharing why he sought medical advice from a fight choreographer instead of the recommended emergency room doctor, it’s important to know something about Tucker: The man respects his art. No — the man really respects his art.

“We’re storytellers; that’s the reason why our species has succeeded so extraordinarily,” Tucker said in a recent interview. “We’re able to tell and subscribe to stories in a potent and unique way. They’re important for our culture, but also for our species, and we have to take that responsibility seriously as storytellers because these stories mean something to people.”

Read More: ‘Kingdom’ Season 3 Review: Nick Jonas Finishes Strong in a Drama That Deserves More Viewers — and More Time

When you speak to Tucker, either over the phone or on set, he’s relaxed and well-reasoned; he speaks with passion, but he’s not overly indulgent. You get the sense praise given is praise earned, and he’s only willing to exalt his co-workers — especially the crew on “Kingdom.” He sees acting as a “luxury” and feels privileged to be able to hone his skills during downtime on set, while producers, directors, gaffers, lighting technicians, and more crew members handle the real problems.

But it’s not that he’s lazy. Tucker firmly believes in being as prepared as humanly possible before coming to work. “Life is too short for us to warm up,” Tucker said. “You have to do the warm-up on your own. When you come to set, it’s time to put everything on the line.”

Such quotes could sound cliched if he didn’t back them up. For instance — regarding the day he shed more blood than one should for a TV show — he said “I was completely and utterly obsessed with finishing this fight.” And you know he’s serious. He wasn’t there for himself, he was there for the show, for the art, for the story, and they were going to get this scene — even if it meant forever scarring the face that supports his career.

The short version of the story is that Tucker got clocked, hard, right in the face by a real Mma fighter, and he needed stitches before they could finish shooting a pivotal scene. But the long story, which takes a bit of prying to get out of Tucker, is much better.

“In that scene, I was fighting Jay ‘Thoroughbred’ Hieron, who is a terrific Mma star and weights probably 35 to 40 pounds more than I do — at least — because in the story, I was fighting significantly above my weight class,” Tucker said. “In the scene, he picks me up and puts me down on the mat and then he puts me in a position called ‘full mount,’ which means both of his knees are over my shoulders or over the sides of my arms. So he’s fully mounting me, and he comes down with an elbow. He puts that elbow into the ether of the heavens and then drops it right down into my head.”

Tucker blamed “a miscommunication” between himself and Hieron for what happened next.

“He opened my eye up a good three inches — a good gash, but it looked a lot worse than it ultimately ended up being when the stitches went in at Cedar Sinai at one in the morning.”

The “miscommunication” happened before lunch, so why did it take so long for Tucker to get stitches for the bloody gash in his face? He had to finish the fight.

Read More: Giancarlo Esposito is Invisible on ‘Dear White People,’ But It’s His Best Performance of the Year

“I spent all this time rehearsing this scene, and the fight choreography is really what gives our show street credentials for so many of the Mma fans,” Tucker said, again crediting the crew, trainers, and choreographers. But he wanted to help build that legitimacy, too.

“I did not want to go to the hospital. I wanted to finish the scene up,” Tucker said. “They said ‘super glue’ and they super glued my eye closed as much as they could.”

While Tucker did not elaborate on who “they” were, a representative for the series said it was Tucker who refused to leave — knowing how many problems it would cause the production for him to be gone for hours on end — and that he asked the Mma fighters on set what they would do in a real-life fight. One told him he’d use super glue to close the wound, and no one could talk Tucker out of doing just that.

“The problem, though, is that it would pop open from time to time when I was exerting myself physically — the blood flow pops the glue,” Tucker said. “That happened a few times, which was pretty shocking for a few people on our set. [But] it gave me just a bit more information to put into the files for my character and to the show.”

When pressed about whether or not he would have done the same thing for any role, any show, any team of storytellers, Tucker said he doesn’t want to work on projects where he’d feel Ok about “leaving my crew behind.” But first he tried to think of a scenario in which he would’ve left the “Kingdom” set.

“It wasn’t like my leg was broken,” Tucker said, before immediately reconsidering. “Even if my leg was broken, it wasn’t like I was going to lose my arm or something. Having some stitches on my face — as a male [actor] — is not a problem.”

Moreover, Tucker saw the moment as a way to prove to his collaborators how seriously he took his part in the story.

“Everybody knows I’ll literally bleed for this character and their jobs,” he said. “I’ll bleed for this show, just like I’ll ask you guys to make sacrifices on your end. So it was a good thing.”

Yet after all this — all the training, all his physical efforts to bring the production together as a team, and for his complete dedication to earning the respect of the Mma community — these aspects aren’t the most remarkable elements of his onscreen performance. The series is realistic in a way that keeps you from questioning the legitimacy of these fighters, which is exactly the effect Tucker described.

And that allows audiences to marvel at his intimate, honest scenes outside the ring. Much like “Friday Night Lights” wasn’t really about football, “Kingdom” is about the men and women of their sport more than the sport itself. Tucker’s range extends from quiet intensity to open-hearted anguish; from sweat counted in beads to tears rolling like a stream.

For the blood, Tucker has a simple rule to live by:

“Life throws elbows at you, and you’ve got to superglue the wounds together.”

Kingdom” airs new episodes of its final season every Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Audience Network. 

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- Ben Travers

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Why James Corden Sent 297 Copies of the Movie ‘Philadelphia’ to Donald Trump

21 June 2017 9:48 AM, PDT

The Late Late Show” host James Corden turned to Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning film “Philadelphia” this week to help educate President Donald Trump on an important global issue: HIV/AIDS. Responding to the news that six of the 18 members of the Presidential Advisory on HIV/AIDS resigned last week because they said Trump simply does not care about HIV/AIDS, Corden mentioned that until he saw the 1994 film “Philadelphia,” starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, he knew relatively little about the disease.

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“I was thinking, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe Donald Trump doesn’t care because he’s never seen ‘Philadelphia,'” Corden said during on the show. “In fact, I’m almost certain that’s probably what it is.”

Rather than send a copy of the film to the White House, Corden decided it would have a better chance of reaching Trump at Mar-a-Lago. He also decided to send as many copies of the movie as “The Late Late Show” could possibly buy, which was 297, sourced from Amazon and a number of Barnes & Noble stores.

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“We hope that if Trump watches ‘Philadelphia,’ he’ll understand two things,” Corden said. “One, Tom Hanks definitely deserved that Oscar, and number two, we hope that he’ll realize that HIV and AIDS is something that you or any president of the U.S. or any world leader for that matter can never afford to ignore.”

To watch the full segment from “The Late Late Show With James Corden,” check out the video below.

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- Graham Winfrey

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Vice’s Shane Smith on Trying to Avoid the ‘Crack Cocaine’ of Donald Trump — IndieWire’s Turn It On Podcast

21 June 2017 9:44 AM, PDT

Last Week’S Podcast: ‘Better Call Saul’ Star Rhea Seehorn and Producer Peter Gould Discuss the Road to ‘Breaking Bad’ — IndieWire’s Turn It On Podcast

Shane Smith is a year into his multi-prong TV extension of the Vice brand and he remains bullish — as he should be. Vice Media just landed a $450 million investment from asset firm Tpg, which puts its valuation up to $5.7 billion. Not bad for a company that started as an edgy street magazine in Canada.

Now Vice Media’s assets include the TV network Viceland, the nightly HBO news program “Vice News Tonight” and the HBO documentary series “Vice,” several digital channels, and a film unit, among many other things. Viceland is on tap to expand into 80 territories. And in a world where Facebook and Google dominate, Smith is growing Vice’s library to be what he calls the largest collection of millennial intellectual property out there.

IndieWire’s Turn It On sat down with Smith to discuss the status of Vice’s expansion, plus running a company that prides itself on reporting the truth despite living in a time of a president who spreads lies and is stirring up hatred against the media. Listen below!

Smith has ambitious plans for Viceland over the next year and a half, as he looks to the future and realizes that only the strongest networks will be included in “skinny bundle” offerings.

“Online and TV, it’s all going to merge,” he said. “If you look at skinny bundles, it will be skinny bundles for cable but also Ott [over-the-top] providers. Unless you’re in on the skinny bundle on both sides, you’re going to be screwed. We want to get into the top 30 [of networks], that’s our goal for the next 18 months.”

How might Viceland reach that goal? “Having the largest library of millennial IP is important for us,” he said. Smith is also watching as other networks – such as Pivot and Esquire – fade away. “People are looking at us and mimicking what we’ve done,” Smith said of using a linear platform to build up that video library.

As for operating multiple operations with multiple partners (A+E, HBO), Smith admits that there is a bit of confusion out there. But he lays it out this way: News goes to Vice News via the HBO properties, and lifestyle goes to Viceland via A+E. “The good news for me as a megalomaniac is that I vote the board, 95% of the parent. I can Napoleon or Stalin it between the networks.”

While we live in an age of outrage, Vice built its brand on usurping tradition and occasionally courting controversy. “If you are trying to manage out of fear of what will happen, you’re not going to do anything new or innovative,” he said.

But Smith said Vice has gotten more careful: “In this day and age of opposition research, we have to be buttoned up and squeaky clean. At some point there has to be a backlash. Everyone goes after everybody. It becomes mud slinging.”

As for his partners, “I think they’d like us to be a little more controversial because controversy brings in ratings. They would like to see more Kim Jong-un [who appeared on the first episode of “Vice” on HBO] in the mix.”

How does Vice navigate the current Trump administration? “Early on we said we can’t fall prey to the crack cocaine that is Trump because if you get addicted to it you have to ween yourself off,” Smith said. “What we did say to differentiate ourselves was we were going to follow policy. Trump can tweet and do all these things but, what does it mean to have [Scott] Pruitt running the Epa who tried to shut down the Epa? What does it mean to have [Rick] Perry running the Department of Energy when he campaigned to undo the Department of Energy?

“What does it mean that the entirety of Trump’s cabinet are climate change deniers? Thats being lost in the headlines. We are literally marching backwards as fast as we can. Not just for the environment but social justice, Lgbtq rights, and were obsessed with lunatic fringe tweets. It’s the greatest reality show ever but the symptoms are dire.”

With Vice reporters risking their lives in hotspots around the globe, Smith is particularly sensitive to Trump’s attacks on the press.

“He calls the press the opposition, but that’s the press’ job,” Smith said. “Without free press there is no democracy, it’s just propaganda.”

Does Smith think he could get anything out of interviewing Trump? “Anyone who gets an interview with him is going to get something. He’s not like Putin, who’s sort of strategic and well thought out. He’s got buttons that you can push.”

IndieWire’s “Turn It On with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now in TV – no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “Turn It On” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.

Listen: How to Recover From the End of a Great Show — Very Good TV Podcast

Be sure to subscribe to “Turn It On” on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week.

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- Michael Schneider

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‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Trailer Promises That ‘The Enemy Has Always Been Real’

21 June 2017 9:26 AM, PDT

For six seasons now, the world of Westeros has torn itself apart with political infighting between the various Houses of the land. But the external pressures we’ve seen brewing for a while now seem likely to come to a head in Season 7, as the White Walkers rise with the coming of Winter.

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That’s the super-fannish intro for this new trailer for “Game of Thrones,” the Emmy-winning blockbuster of a television series returning to HBO on July 16. But even if you’re not obsessed with the dragons and magic of the fantasy series, the compelling human drama tied to the epic filmmaking make the show a must-see for any pop culture enthusiast.

The returning, unmurdered cast of Season 7 includes Peter DinklageNikolaj Coster-WaldauLena HeadeyKit HaringtonEmilia ClarkeAidan GillenLiam CunninghamCarice van HoutenSophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie WilliamsAlfie Allen, and Gwendoline Christie.

While not all of them may survive the season (given “Thrones’s” reputation for a body count), per Sansa Stark’s ominous voice-over “the pack survives.” At least until Season 8, that is, at which point the series concludes and one of several potential spin-offs come into being.

Read More: ‘Game of Thrones’ Spinoffs: George R.R. Martin Hints at Fifth Pilot In Works

Game of Thrones” Season 7 premieres July 16. Check out the trailer below.

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- Liz Shannon Miller

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‘Preacher’ Review: A Bloody Search for God in New Orleans Uncovers a More Focused and Colorful Season 2

21 June 2017 8:02 AM, PDT

You couldn’t ask for a harder reset than the one “Preacher” unleashed at the end of last year’s first season. Even though much of the show’s first ten episodes had the familiar beats of a trial-by-fire origin story, it was a methane-induced farewell blow that effectively cleared the board of all but a handful of main characters.

And it left “Preacher” in a precarious situation, one where its title character has the most powerful weapon in any plane of existence and is leading an unlikely gang of folks on a road trip/deity hunt. Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy, a motley crew of ex-lovers and ex-humans, escaped that fateful blast with a common goal: find God, who went missing some time before Jesse came into control of Genesis, the cosmic power that can compel people in his path to obey his will. Because when they find God, they have some questions for him.

Read More: ‘Preacher’ Season 2 First Look Photos: The Road Trip to Find God Makes for Strange Bedfellows

Armed with a greater knowledge of the tool that Jesse has at his disposal, the outset of Season 2 finds “Preacher” at an even more solipsistic level. And it’s working to the show’s advantage. More than ever, Jesse and the power inside of him become the specific mechanisms powering the story forward. But with every passing interaction, Jesse’s web of influence is regrowing, catching in more side characters after so many were wiped away by last season’s explosion. There’s a rich world lying right outside the boundaries of what this preacher is concerned with, and the show has taken full advantage of its quick breather before the rest of the calvary catches up.

Catch up it certainly does, showcasing an even more solid handle on the whirlwind action that “Preacher” already did fairly well. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg waste little time recapturing that thrill of the chase far outside the former Annville city lines, this time with a grindhouse-tinged highway shootout in the first episode that plunges viewers into Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy’s strange new world.

Violence in the world of “Preacher,” especially when an all-powerful force like Genesis is involved, has become a means of expression, not merely a means to an end. As last season’s finale filled in some major gaps in Jesse and Tulip’s past, the new ways in which they respond to outside threats help to show who and what they value most. For good measure, there’s even a sly “good guy with a gun” commentary slipped into one of these early-episode standoffs. (One particular Michael Slovis-directed fight sequence also shows that the series has some new tricks up its sleeve as well.)

Thankfully, this action evolution hasn’t come at the expense of the irreverent banter that carried Garth Ennis’ warped vision from the comics into the TV realm. There’s an endearing nature to the way that the show uses some well-timed whimsy to cut through the overbearing implications of an all-consuming, heaven-hell throwdown. One standout winking quip that sounds like a secondary series mission statement: “The Internet is a soul-killer. Stay clear of it if you can.”

Yes, the Saint of Killers, a terrifying and timeless cowboy assassin with a Groot-esque vocabulary, is lurking right behind every one of this trio’s pit stops, even when Jesse and Tulip and Cassidy pause to enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company. But with every confrontation that this ragtag gang can escape from with everyone still alive, the show keeps a steady rotation of vices to help ease the journey on their way to finding God.

It’s a fitting addition, given that “Preacher” has left much of its grimy palette behind, trading it in for one that still acknowledges the show’s nihilist streak but leaves room for plenty of color. Those neon lights and bright casino interiors make for an indicative shift as its central cast of characters try on some tiny, added doses of hedonism and — dare we say it — happiness.

Dominic Cooper is as dutiful as ever as Jesse, handling the soft-spoken charge of a man of God with a quiet stubbornness. Though “Preacher” has yet to fully unleash Tulip’s potential, Ruth Negga continues to be a highlight, whether or not bullets are flying. Tulip hasn’t fully escaped the consequences of last season’s late revelations, but whenever the show slightly veers from Jesse’s quest, any added layers to Tulip’s character are a welcome chance for Negga to show why she’s one of TV’s most versatile actresses.

Read More: Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper Kick Ass to ‘Come On Eileen’ In ‘Preacher’ Season 2 Teaser — Watch

And even as vampire Cassidy is put through physical torment, it’s hard to imagine an actor having more fun in a role on TV right now than Joseph Gilgun. After the persistent “Lebowski” criticism from last season, Gilgun continues to dig into Cassidy’s perplexed reactions to human nature with delightful results.

With Jesse still taking much of the main focus, this newest season of “Preacher” benefits from his sense of singular purpose. Having an overarching goal and a shortened list of distractions has left the humans and immortal beings in his inner circle with the perfect antidote to a world where God is missing and an honest mistake can trap a teenager in Hell. There are plenty of miles on the odometer still left to travel, but few shows have done a better job tidying up the roadmap.

Grade: B+

Preacher” Season 2 premieres Sunday, June 25 at 10 p.m. on AMC.

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- Steve Greene

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Pablo Picasso Will Be the Subject of National Geographic’s ‘Genius’ Season 2

21 June 2017 8:00 AM, PDT

National Geographic has announced who its next “Genius” might be, and the choice moves the ongoing drama series from the world of science to art.

Following its well-received exploration into the life of Albert Einstein, Season 2 will dig into the complex life of artist Pablo Picasso. The artist, who lived from 1881 to 1973, is famed for his skewed looks at the world, which created not just a lifetime’s work of unforgettable art – but an entire movement that made us reassess what art could be.

Read More: ‘Genius’: Hear the Song That Foreshadowed Johnny Flynn’s Breakout Role as Young Einstein

“Genius” is executive produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the latter of whom directed the first episode of Season 1. Executive producer and showrunner Ken Biller will return for Season 2. Other executive producers include Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane from Madison Wells Media’s OddLot Entertainment.

There is no official word yet as to who will play Picasso, but in the first season of “Genius,” Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Flynn played the older and younger versions of Einstein (respectively). Producers said they plan to court a similar level of talent for the next season.

Prior to “Genius,” on screen Picasso has been portrayed on screen about 40 times, with portrayers including Marcial Di Fonzo Bo in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and Anthony Hopkins in the film “Surviving Picasso.”

Also, Picasso mingled with plenty of other historical figures of his time we might look forward to seeing depicted — from the official release:

His passionate nature and relentless creative drive were inextricably linked to his personal life, which included tumultuous marriages, numerous affairs and constantly shifting political and personal alliances. He lived most of his life in the vibrant Paris of the first half of the 20th Century and crossed paths with writers and artists including Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Gertrude Stein, Georges Braque, and Jean Cocteau.

“What we were looking for, as with Albert Einstein, was someone who saw the world in a completely different way,” Biller said during a conference call this morning tied to the announcement. “One in scientific realm and one in art realm. This is a declarative statement, that ‘Genius’ is not only about scientists, [but people] who are iconic figures in history who changed the world. Pablo Picasso came to mind among many figures for Season 2.”

Picasso was the first name the producers considered for the project, Biller said, and after discussing several names, “we circled back to that idea and felt that his story, which is rich and emotional and passionate and controversial, would not only allow us to expand the palette, but his life was so turbulent and interesting. It’s a fascinating story.”

Howard said many men and women were considered for the project, and the producers used the success of depicting Albert Einstein’s life as a guide in finding a story subject with similar breadth.

“We wanted to try to live up to an achievement we were very proud of, with Einstein’s life, and we needed to know the drama was there,” Biller said. “Talking to friends, family, and kicking it around, his name stimulates curiosity in people. He’s famous, a household name, but you don’t really know the story of his life – how through the turbulence, he achieved artistic greatness in many ways and over many years.”

Biller said the producers considered a female subject for Season 2, and are “hoping to do a woman for Season 3.”

“Unfortunately the way history works, when you Google ‘geniuses’ online, history doesn’t remember a lot of [women],” Biller said. “The pool from them to choose is smaller. We explored ideas of people in science, politics, the arts. It’s a fun parlor game. There are probably very few people you could mention that we didn’t discuss on some level.”

Biller pointed out that although Season 1 was about Einstein, it spent time on the women characters surrounding him, including his first wife, physicist Mileva Maric.

“We did feel a responsibility to explore this other brilliant scientist we didn’t know, Mileva,” Biller said. “You’ll see also in Picasso’s story that there are many fascinating women in his life who inspired him and were artists in their own right. We will give them their due and explore what it was like to be a woman not only in that time but also in Picasso’s life.”

Given the subject matter, Howard said he expects to be able to play with visuals in Season 2. Like Season 1 of “Genius,” Season 2 will cover different stages of Picasso’s life and include two actors portraying the artist.

“We have no casting in mind yet but we’re hoping to attract that same level of talent to the project,” Biller said.

Biller defended the idea of portraying Einstein’s sexuality. “The idea of seeing Einstein with his pants down wasn’t designed for titillation,” he said. “One of the truths of Einstein is that most of the world didn’t know about was he had many sexual relationships. He was not faithful to his wife. He had an unorthodox view of sexuality and monogamy. If we were going to spend ten hours exploring character, the audience wouldn’t be interested in watching him at a blackboard for ten hours.”

“We’re in heavy development of the show,” he added. “We have some of the same writers from the first season, and some new ones. Our intention is to be in production before the end of this year in the fall.”

The Season 1 finale of “Genius” aired Tuesday, June 20. The 10-episode second season is expected to air in Spring 2018.

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- Liz Shannon Miller and Michael Schneider

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‘Glow’: Alison Brie Gets Slammed, Slapped and a ‘Crotch to Face’ in Behind-the-Scenes Video – Watch

20 June 2017 5:42 PM, PDT

“There’s a lot of crotch to face.”

Community’s” Alison Brie makes this observation in a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of Netflix’s new series “Glow,” which looks to be the most fun, spandex-laden series ever, and that includes superhero shows.

Read More: ‘Glow’ Trailer: Alison Brie Enters the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling Ring for Netflix

The series is a fictional retelling of the rise of women’s wrestling in the 1980s. Brie stars as struggling actress Ruth Wilder, who gets her shot of stardom with Glow, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. She’s part of an elite, dirty dozen of misfits who are all looking to take their frustrations in life and channel them into take-charge personas in the ring.

“Every woman has a wresting character sleeping inside of them,” adds Betty Gilpin, who plays Ruth’s chief rival, a former soap star named Debbie who took a break from acting to have a baby.

A few of the other more colorful wrestler names include Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel) and Sheila the She Wolf (Gayle Rankin). Leading the pack is Marc Maron as Sam Sylvia, the has-been B-movie director with the vision for Glow.

The behind-the-scenes video also show how the actresses trained for what we presume are their wrestling debuts, taking hits, getting clotheslined, learning to flip, fall and flop with grace, all while having an armpit or crotch in their face.

The series was co-created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, and executive produced by “Orange Is the New Black’s” Jenji Kohan. Take a look at the series below:

Glow” will release all 10 episodes of Season 1 on Friday, June 23.

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- Hanh Nguyen

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‘Watchmen’: Damon Lindelof Developing HBO TV Series

20 June 2017 5:07 PM, PDT

The Leftovers” may have departed HBO, but Damon Lindelof is still here — and he’s getting back to work.

Variety is reporting the co-creator of the most critically-acclaimed drama series of 2017 is in talks to return to the pay cable giant for a new adaptation: “Watchmen.”

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ limited series of comic books was published by DC Comics in 1987 to great reviews and booming sales. In 2009, Zach Snyder adapted the graphic novel collection into a movie for Warner Bros., which was met with mixed critical reaction and middling box office returns, given its budget.

Read More: ‘The Leftovers’ Creators Discuss Finale Reactions and Give a Few More Unexpected Answers

Lindelof is under an overall deal with Warner Bros. Television, but the HBO series is not expected to be connected to the film. In 2015, it was reported that HBO was interested in making a “Watchmen” series with Zach Snyder, but nothing developed beyond a meeting between the network and director. Lindelof is expected to start over, rather than adapt any pre-existing scripts.

Watchmen” has long been considered a tricky project to bring to screens. The comics’ story focuses on an alternate timeline where superheroes change the course of human history. After emerging in the ’40s, superheroes helped the United States win the Vietnam War, but the Watergate scandal was never brought to light and Nixon remained president through the early ’80s. By 1985, when the story primarily takes place, the U.S. is headed toward World War III (against the Soviet Union) and superheroes are outlawed. Some have retired, while others are working for the government.

Read More: ‘The Leftovers’: Damon Lindelof on the ‘Tremendous’ Debate Over the Finale’s Biggest Twist — ‘Everybody Was Depressed’

Functioning as a serious, dramatic story, “Watchmen” deconstructs the traditional superhero comics that preceded it. During an investigation into the murder of a superhero, Doctor Manhattan, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, and more superheroes uncover a massive government conspiracy.

The original comics covered just 12 issues, telling a complete story, but there’s no word so far as to whether the HBO series will be an ongoing property or a limited series. Lindelof has made it known in the past that he’s a proponent of shorter series with definitive end dates.

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- Ben Travers

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Noah Hawley on the ‘Fargo’ Finale and Why the Fate of Gloria Burgle Matters More Than You Think

20 June 2017 3:11 PM, PDT

“Reality is fractured” — think about those words for a second. Reality is supposed to be the one thing that’s absolute. It’s a state of existence we all must face, whether we’re waking up to a cold reality or embracing the reality of now. For it to be fractured, to be broken, is an impossibility. Reality simply is, and what is cannot be undone.

Unless, of course, you’ve been watching the third season of “Fargo.”

Throughout its television saga, Noah Hawley’s period drama about unexpected violence in small town America has been framed as a “true story.” It’s not, of course — that’s merely an appropriation from the Coen brothers’ film. Specifically, like the 1996 movie each episode begins with the statement: “This is a true story,” even though, like the film, it’s not.

Read More: ‘Fargo’ Review: Season 3 Finale Ends the Debate and Tells Us If We’ve Been Wasting Our Breath

But Season 3 has doubled down on its tricky typeface: Hawley, through characters like former police chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and a mysterious crime lord named V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), has broken down the meaning of truth in modern America.

“At a basic level, I have to be aware that I’m saying it’s a true story and that reality rarely ties itself up neatly; that reality is subject to randomness and coincidence and all of those things,” Hawley said in an interview with IndieWire. “I felt like our first season, the story basically played itself out until the very last scene. […] The second year, the ninth hour was really the big hour, […] and yet, in the end, it was a tragedy with a happy ending — just like the movie and just like the first season.”

“You’ll see how it turns out this year, but I’ll say I don’t want to take anything for granted like ‘Oh, it’s okay, it always wraps up neatly,'” he said. “There is a sense to which this year’s ‘Fargo’ is really a mirror reflecting our reality back to us at this moment in time, but we don’t know how it’s gonna end or how it’s gonna play out.”

Speaking the day after James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Hawley was quick to point to relevant parallels between “Fargo” and our current cultural status.

Read More: ‘Fargo’ Creator Noah Hawley On Whether There Will Be a Season 4

“At the end of the day, everyone said, ‘Well James Comey testified and said a lot of damning things for the President of the United States.’ Then this morning the President of the United States tweets that he’s totally vindicated by the testimony yesterday and you go, ‘These two things are completely opposite — only one of them can be true.'”

And yet they’re both true. Objectivity has been tossed aside and much of the news, much of the world, is interpreted solely through the eye of the beholder. In 2017, alternate facts form alternate realities, and the same can be said of “Fargo’s” 2011 world.

Read More: ‘Fargo’: Noah Hawley Explains the Season 3 Connections to Past Seasons, ‘The Leftovers,’ and ‘The Big Lebowski

“I think that the most jarring impact of this last year — on storytelling in general but certainly on this season of ‘Fargo’ — is the sense that our sense of reality is fractured and that what you think is real and true can be completely opposite from what someone next to you thinks is real and true,” Hawley said.

As an example, Hawley brought up a key scene from Season 3: After a particularly jarring experience, Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) returns home to his wife, hugs her, and says, “The world is wrong. It looks like my world but everything is different.”

Read More: ‘Fargo’ and ‘The Leftovers’ Collide as Damon Lindelof Interviews Noah Hawley, Ewan McGregor and Carrie Coon

“I think there are a lot of people who feel that way [right now],” Hawley said. “Like, ‘Wait what? I went to bed in one America and I woke up in a different America.’ And there’s something violent to that.”

Fighting back against the violence is Gloria Burgle, embodying the world’s general symbol of truth, as well as “Fargo’s”: a police officer. Gloria’s journey in Season 3 has filled her with tremendous doubt, and there are many, many scenes of a flustered, frustrated, but resolute Gloria fighting for truth in a world ready to accept a lie. Whether she was rejecting her new chief’s theory that there was a serial killer targeting people with the last name “Stussey” or resisting the transition to technology over one-on-one human interaction, Gloria is both a dying breed and a beacon of hope.

“The war Gloria is really fighting is for the truth itself, that a case can be solved, that we can look objectively back into the past and say, ‘This happened,'” Hawley said. “This idea that you would be presented with a reality that you fundamentally don’t believe in is something that I think a lot of people who live in other countries are more familiar with, but as Americans we’re really not.”

Who wins the war between facts and alternative facts will be revealed in the “Fargo” finale, but the casualties have been clear throughout the season. For now, we wait to see who else will join the list and pray, for the sake of our country, that Gloria is not among the fallen.

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- Ben Travers

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