Joshua Bassett Flaunts His Driver’s License in ‘Feel Something’ Music Video

Bassett and three photogenic friends stargaze, eat cake, stumble around on the grass, snuggle, climb a fire escape, and mess around in a car wash, which all seems like good, wholesome, startlingly attractive fun. But knowing the drama with his ex-girlfriend Olivia Rodrigo, one can only wonder: Is all this happy-fun driving around in a car a response to Rodrigo’s “drivers license,” which publicized the messy emotions of their breakup? In the music video for High School Musical: The Musical: The Series star Joshua Bassett’s new single, “Feel Something,” he sings about the joys of driving around with your friends and getting up to a whole lot of nothing on the streets of Los Angeles, and the video shows exactly that. Related

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Tags: We definitely “Feel Something” about all this, we’re just not sure what. Add to that the knowledge that Bassett co-directed the video with Sabrina Carpenter’s sister, Sarah, and the plot only thickens.

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Tawny Kitaen, Whitesnake Music-Video Star, Is Dead at 59

According to Variety, Kitaen died in her home in Newport Beach on the morning of Friday, May 7. In the 1990s, she continued to act in sitcoms like Seinfeld and The New WKRP in Cincinnati, and had a co-hosting role on America’s Funniest People. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Tawny Kitaen 🧜🏻‍♀️ (@tawnykitaenofficial)

Tags: In 1989, she married the band’s lead singer, David Coverdale, whom she divorced in 1991. Drew. Kitaen rose to MTV icon status when she danced on the hood of Whitesnake’s car in the “Here I Go Again” video in 1987, which was followed by appearances in the music videos for Whitesnake’s “Still of the Night,” “Is This Love,” and “The Deeper the Love” music videos. Photo: Getty Images

Actress and reality-TV star Tawny Kitaen, who became an icon of the 1980s hair-band era for her appearances in Whitesnake music videos, has died at the age of 59, according to her family. You gave her life everyday. From there, she went on to an acting career, starring opposite Tom Hanks in the 1984 sex comedy Bachelor Party and in the 1986 cult horror movie Witchboard. We miss her and love her and we know her legacy will live on forever.”

Born Julie Kitaen in 1961, Kitaen’s modeling and acting career took off in the early 1980s after appearing on the album covers of her boyfriend Robbin Crosby’s band Ratt. In a post made to Kitaen’s verified Instagram account on May 8, her daughters Wynter and Raine wrote, “We are heartbroken and saddened to announce the death of our mom. In the 2000s, after divorcing her second husband, Chuck Finley, Kitaen had a brief career in reality television, appearing on VH1 series like The Surreal Life and Celebrity Rehab With Dr. We just want to say thank you for all of you, her fans and her friends, for always showing her such support and love.

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Professional Mermaid Halle Bailey Adopted a Cat Named Poseidon

The 21-year-old singer posted two selfies to Instagram with the kitty on Friday and captioned them, “meet poseidon.” Poseidon is a perfect name for a royal Disney mer-cat, because while it’s vaguely mermaid related, it’s not IP (that would be the mer-daddy King Triton). Photo: Getty Images for Billboard

New celebrity pet dropped! Chloe commented on the kitty reveal, “the baby angel 😭😭 he needs to hurry and meet his aunty 😂🥰🥰.” Wasted opportunity not naming him Pusseidon, though. Professional mermaid. Literal professional mermaid Halle Bailey, who is playing Ariel in the upcoming live action Disney remake of The Little Mermaid, has adopted a very adorable cat and named it after the God-Fish-Man of the great mythical ocean deep. It’s yet another example of the two strong and distinct Insta-identities sisters Halle and Chloe Bailey have established since splitting into their own separate accounts earlier this year, with wholesome kitten-posting just being extremely on-brand for the Disney princess singer. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Halle (@hallebailey)

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Mj Rodriguez Joins the Cast of Maya Rudolph’s Upcoming Apple Comedy

Mj Rodriguez will play opposite Maya Rudolph after Pose Season 3 ends. Photo: Getty Images

When TV closes a door, it opens a window. And if you’re lucky, that window has Maya Rudolph in it. The new Apple TV+ series, created by Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard, was previously announced in March with the hilarious premise that Rudolph will star as “a woman whose seemingly perfect life is upended after her husband leaves her with nothing but 87 billion dollars.” Rodriguez will play Sofia, “the hard-working executive director of the non-profit funded by her absentee billionaire boss.” Watching Rodriguez face off with a bratty wealthy lady played by Patti LuPone was one of the highlights of Pose season two, so we expect only amazing things. On Friday, Variety reported that Mj Rodriguez, who stars as Blanca on Pose, will co-star in an upcoming comedy series, tentatively titled Loot, opposite Rudolph. Related

Maya Rudolph to Be a Billionaire in New Apple TV+ Show

Tags: It’s frankly a bummer that FX ballroom drama Pose will end after season three, because there’s nothing else like it on television, but it means the show’s ridiculously talented ensemble is freed up to do exciting new projects.

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Recap: A Dingo Ate My Snitch Game

Elektra Shock as Catherine O’HaraAll I can really say for this one is “????????????” I’m really really trying to be kind to Elektra Shock, but she makes it hard when dishing out this kind of impression, which goes for Catherine O’Hara realness and lands, in terms of voice and manner, somewhere closer to Tilda Swinton in old-man prosthetics in Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria realness. Something something something … blue ring octopus? It was also one of the smarter choices of the bunch: We know that Ru loves when contestants do old British lady drag, meaning that this performance goes over wonderfully. In Untucked, Dannii Minogue Zooms in to give the queens some “advice,” which, in this scenario, means some extremely low-energy dance moves. As with last week’s Taika Waititi guest spot, we get a very special prerecorded message from Kylie Minogue this week, one that can’t help but feel a little flat. VULTURE NEWSLETTER
Keep up with all the drama of your favorite shows! Why does she look, sound, and move like an extra in a German senior centre’s production of Chicago? In the New Zealander section of the room, Kita (boss) is asking Elektra (employee and competitor) whether to do Dr. Both Art and Scarlet have prepared a Bindi Irwin, and both are trying to pass off their bitchy passive-aggression as fun banter. Seuss is not altogether terrible. There’s a little tension between Karen and Art, which is to be expected, given how polished both of their runways were. She openly tells us, “I think I’m hilarious” in confessional, and I guess that confidence is really working out for her. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. Art’s made me feel like I was having the gayest stroke ever. Still, a Zoom call from Kylie is better than pretty much any other Zoom call, so the queens are justifiably thrilled. A question for another time.) Either way, this week Coco is 100 percent that bitch who disappointed me because of her huge potential, but who could still come to surprise in the overall scheme of the competition. Coco and Art seem to take that advice to heart: When they’re called upon to lip-sync for their lives — to RuPaul’s “I’m That Bitch,” a better RuPaul song but altogether a jaw-dropping, ghastly choice in an episode where Miss Kylie Minogue was a guest star!!! Anita Wigl’it as Queen Elizabeth IIAnita’s gags as Queen Elizabeth were disgusting, bizarre, and surprisingly dark — in other words, probably the best overall performance this week. As Kita alluded to earlier in the episode, Anita’s bubbly persona is something of a shield, and it’s nice to get to know her beyond the performance. The next day, Scarlet says she thinks the Snatch Game was one of the strongest in the show’s history, which Art agrees with, thereby vaulting the cast of Down Under way, way up the Drag Race delusion rankings. The next day, the Australian queens explain to the New Zealand queens what a shoey is (gross), and then Scarlet suggests that next week the New Zealand queens teach them how to fuck sheep. (Can I believe in prison abolition and still think users of the word “bussy” should go to jail? Elektra responds with a confused “They’re completely different,” in a tone I can identify from years of personal experience as the cadence one adopts when not wanting to be fired. As Anita Wigl’it might say: It’s time to play the Snitch Game. RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under
Snatch Game

Season 1

Episode 2

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2 stars

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Crikey, sheilas! Hooroo, haters! Art’s dress looks a little constricting for such a high-energy song, while Coco just walks back and forth across the stage. You think because I recap this show I wish anything other than pure, unmitigated chaos upon these contestants? Lucky for Elektra, she gets a couple of confused laughs from the judges and is genuinely not the worst performer this week. Perhaps by the virtue of lowered expectations, what transpires is altogether just … fine. A bad Snatch Game isn’t necessarily a curse — although, in this particular case, it did feel a little like some kind of malevolent spirit was casting plague upon my brain cells one-by-one — so I’m going to maintain that Art still holds overall front-runner status, but it’s tenuous. Seuss. Coco Jumbo as LizzoCoco joins Detox, Phi Phi O’Hara, and Lil Kenya Michaels in the ‘Misunderstood Snatch Game and Did a Weak Pop Star Impression’ Hall of Fame. Etcetera reveals she’s doing Lindy Chamberlain — cue Ru in stitches — and Karen rightfully points out that, well, her baby literally died. Scarlet Adams as Jennifer CoolidgeIn her nude gown, Scarlet looks once again like, to borrow a phrase from RuPaul, “a human fleshlight.” But this week, make that a human fleshlight with a half-decent Jennifer Coolidge impression! Two weeks in and Scarlet has not yet done anything that could remotely be considered damage control for her off-show antics, but hey, every season needs a villain, right? On the runway, the theme is Sea Sickening, and everyone does swimmingly. Ru seems to think so, too, because this week, we’re getting into one of the show’s most real-deal, high-pressure challenges. SeussDespite her two closest allies in the competition straight-up attempting to sabo her by recommending this character choice, Kita Mean’s Dr. Once again, I am left praying for Anita and Kita’s so-called best-friendship, which is looking more and more like a Caroline Calloway–Natalie Beach–style vortex of hate-fueled worship. Still, hats off to Etcetera for seeming to survive on sheer confidence and commitment to the bit alone. Had the show filmed in Sydney as planned, she probably would have been filming in real life, and the thought of what could have been will probably haunt me for years to come. When it comes time for critiques, Ru, for what I think is the first time ever, calls out Anita first, announcing she’s the “hands-down” winner, a definitive victory that spells disaster for the rest of the queens: Aside from Kita and Etcetera, they’re all in the bottom this week, on account of that heinous Snatch Game. — neither queen really turns it out. Let’s go through queen by queen:

Karen From Finance as Dolly Parton     Karen’s choice to do Dolly, made in light of the fact that nobody’s ever done her, is risky — nobody’s done her for a reason, babe! Did any of her responses make any kind of sense at all? — and other times, as when she uses the word “bussy,” I feel like she should go to jail. While she looks the part, it’s hard to consider this Lizzo as anything other than misguided. Art Simone is sent home, and I am gagged. The rhyming gags are sometimes funny, and it’s at least a bizarre kind of bad, as opposed to Coco and Art’s more predictable style of terrible impersonation. Email

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Terms of Service apply. Maxi Shield as Magda SzubanskiThere’s a lot of great Magda bits to draw from for a bit like this, so it’s disappointing that Maxi and her big unnaturals avoid them all like the plague. Some outfits have a little less polish than others — Coco’s Ursula look can’t help but pale in comparison to Kita’s, while Maxi’s outfit feels only tangentially sea-related — but overall, it’s a strong runway. This is a decidedly nothing Snatch Game act, but given the material available, that’s pretty unfortunate. Seuss or Carol Baskin (wildly disparate American cultural figures). Scarlet doesn’t get that much screen time, but she does get to say “fat ass” in a Jennifer Coolidge voice, which is a win in my book. “I guess there’ll be two Bindis, ’cause I’m not changinggggg!” Art trills, a white-hot, murderous fury clearly visible in her eyes. I truly thought she was the one to beat. I’m team Art in this conflict, not because I hold any particular allegiance toward Art but because Scarlet’s other option, Jennifer Coolidge, is clearly a train wreck waiting to happen. Etcetera Etcetera as Lindy ChamberlainAlthough Karen and Art may have found the idea of doing Lindy Chamberlain objectionable, Ru clearly doesn’t mind a bit of blue humour, and seems to genuinely enjoy what, in the episode, feels like a pretty one-note “dingo ate my baby” bit. Post-elimination, the queens read and erase JoJo’s parting message before getting into the nitty-gritty of the judges’ critiques. Anita, called over to consult, is, like Elektra, completely ready to sabotage Kita — she openly admits it in the confessional, which, honestly, I stan — and advises her to do Dr. Maxi is given the task of asking what the queens’ relationships with their parents are like — as delusion reaches new highs, producer subtlety plumbs new lows — which leads to a touching moment where Anita talks about being rejected by her father. This isn’t RuPaul’s Best Friend Race Down Under recaps, bestie! Although she gets in a couple of good zingers, Karen’s gags are mostly overlong and extremely confusing, which seems to be a trend this Snatch Game. Either way, this leaves the competition wide open, and hopefully means that some of the girls who have been fading into the background will get to hock their wares come next episode. Sometimes, the gag is overprepared — you can’t get him out of your … DNA test? Tags: At least somebody is, right? Art Simone as Bindi IrwinKaren’s confused, winding answers were mildly disappointing. RuPaul arrives to check on the queens’ progression, and seems delighted by Anita’s cracked-out kids’ entertainer persona. Kita Mean as Dr. It’s the first whiff of a conflict being set up, but in confessionals, Art seems to have picked up on the reality-TV-ness of it all, so who knows whether it’ll come to fruition. Preparation for the Snatch Game begins, and, as expected, things immediately get off to a rough start. We’re only at week two of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, but the catty aggression of this small group of queens means that it already feels like we’ve reached the heated middle stretch of the competition. There were rumblings during filming that Drag Race Down Under’s Snatch Game was one of the worst in the show’s history, and this is the first clue that things are about to go downhill. Until then, I’ll be in my psychoanalyst’s office, trying to make sense of Elektra Shock’s Catherine O’Hara.

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Daily Mail Argues Nothing Defamatory About Buying Booze, Dating Jane Krakowski

Well, in the aftermath of the story, Lindell sued the outlet, which is now asking a New York federal judge not to let him amend his defamation suit as it will be “futile,” since rumors that Lindell dated the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star and bought her alcohol do not constitute defamation. Related

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Tags: And finally, even if the Daily Mail’s statements could be considered defamatory, Sager asserts, Lindell himself has already torpedoed his own public reputation with “widespread, negative publicity that includes his advocacy of fake COVID-19 ‘cures,’ false theories about election fraud, and support of martial law.” Meanwhile, both Krakowski and Lindell have vigorously denied having a relationship with one another. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

We all remember earlier this year when we stopped dead in our tracks, mid-sexual walkabout, and read the extremely alleged rumor in the Daily Mail that 30 Rock star and beloved everything Jane Krakowski was dating CEO Mike Lindell, famous in equal parts for founding My Pillow, Inc. According to The Hollywood Reporter, one of Daily Mail’s lawyers Kelli Sager argued in a May 6 filing that even a “devout Christian” would not be “subjected to hatred or contempt by ordinary readers, applying today’s societal mores, because of a report that he dated a popular actress and gave her gifts that included alcohol.” Additionally, she points out, Lindell is a public figure, which would explain how he got on Jimmy Kimmel Live! As for why Lindell, who is sober, is now trying to amend his suit, Sager claims, it’s because, so far, he has allegedly “failed to cite a single case where a court has found innocuous statements about a consensual romantic relationship between two adults, or those involving gifts of alcohol, are defamatory,” whether or not the person is “a recovered addict, pious, or conservative.” She says of the Daily Mail report itself, “Nothing in the Article states or can reasonably be read to imply that he drank alcohol, engaged in sexual misconduct, or otherwise acted inconsistently with his professed Evangelical Christian faith.” Lindell claims that the rumor he purchased alcohol has lead some churches to distance themselves from the nonprofit the Lindell Recovery Network, for which he is a spokesperson.

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Steel Yourself for Lily James and Sebastian Stan’s First Pam & Tommy Pics

The ’90s was a much more nipple-piercing-filled era, and it’s only natural they should make their cyclical return to the zeitgeist. Photo: Hulu

Wow, well, first of all, sorry to all these TikTok teens who are going to get their nipples pierced this year. And, well, here we are today. DeVincentis, and directed by Craig Gillespie, the eight-episode show will follow the romance of the Baywatch star and Mötley Crüe drummer as they marry approximately four days after they meet, then later enter into a legal battle with Internet Entertainment Group for attempting to distribute their sex tape illegally, eventually agreeing to a settlement that allowed the video to be disseminated. We can’t wait to live through it again. Seth Rogen co-stars as Rand Gauthier, the tape thief himself, with Taylor Schilling appearing as his wife, Erica, and Nick Offerman as porn-world power player Uncle Miltie. Here to be their harbingers are Sebastian Stan and Lily James, who on Friday posted their first, unsettlingly accurate photos as the titular, tatted married couple Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee in Hulu’s upcoming Pam & Tommy. Written and executive-produced by Rob Siegel and D.V. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Sebastian Stan (@imsebastianstan)

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Sebastian Stan (@imsebastianstan)

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Lily James (@lilyjamesofficial)

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Tags: Sure, a few other things happened since then, but this whole saga is definitely in the top ten when it comes to the trajectory we as a country have continued on ever since. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the upcoming limited series will return us once again to 1995, when the couple’s honeymoon sex tape was stolen from their home, leaked to the internet, and changed us as a nation.

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Turns Out, Aubrey Plaza Has a ‘Darling Husband,’ Screenwriter Jeff Baena

According to Deadline, Spin Me Round will star the Community actress as “the manager of the Bakersfield, California, franchise of the Italian chain eatery Tuscan Grove” who wins a trip to Florence, a chance to meet with the chain’s owner (played by Alessandro Nivola), and “a far different adventure than the romantic fantasy she had imagined.” The film also features Zach Woods, Tim Heidecker, Ben Sinclair, Fred Armisen, Debby Ryan, Ego Nwodim, Molly Shannon, and this year’s Oscars VIP, Lil Rel Howery. The screenwriter also penned Joshy and co-wrote last year’s Horse Girl with its star Alison Brie, who also co-wrote the upcoming ensemble comedy. On Friday, fans could be forgiven for initially breezing past Aubrey Plaza’s mention of her “darling husband,” I Heart Huckabees co-writer Jeff Baena, in an Instagram post announcing their new comedy, Spin Me Round, set to film in Italy. And by fans, we, of course, mean Mary Steenburgen. The pair previously collaborated on 2014’s Life After Beth and 2017’s The Little Hours, which Baena wrote and directed. View this post on Instagram A post shared by aubrey plaza (@plazadeaubrey)

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Tags: According to People, who confirmed the news that the couple has wed with Plaza’s rep, the Child’s Play actress has been in a relationship with the appropriately named Baena since 2011. “Just took in the word husband and I am sending you both love and congratulations and blessings!!!!!!” So say we all. Tell us nothing, queen. Photo: George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

If there’s anything we like more than a surprise celebrity baby announcement, it’s a secret celebrity marriage. Wrote Brie under Plaza’s post, “Let’s gooooooo!!” Seriously, so say we all. “Whoa!!!!,” commented the actress.

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Yo-Yo Ma Tells Desus and Mero That Cello Is His Weed

There, Ma declared that he’d want to be the godfather if Mero had a baby with a cello, described his dream cello as like an NFT but real, and joked that he acts like a mature 66-year-old despite only being 65 (wait till 69, Mero added with a wink). Watch Desus and Mero get high on Ma’s music in the full video above (and stick around for the final shot of Ma crawling off camera in embarrassment when his phone starts ringing). He rounded out his mini concert with a performance of “Song of the Birds,” a classical piece by Pablo Casals (a cellist who was the namesake of Desus’s middle school). “Exactly,” Ma replied. Related

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Tags: “This is my weed,” Ma said after he finished playing. Ma started with a rendition of the late DMX’s “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” as Desus and Mero chanted, “That’s how Yo-Yo Ma rolls,” and then covered “Toxic” by Britney Spears and “Thong Song” by Sisqó. The musician appeared as the guest on the latest episode of Desus and Mero’s Showtime show, taking the Bodega Boys to La Flamme Barber Shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The legendary cellist said he wanted to be exposed to music he didn’t know, and asked the late-night duo to recommend some songs to play by ear. “So you want to hit the … hit the cello?” Mero asked. Yo-Yo Ma might be known for his cello skills, but he’s also got some major comedy chops.

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The Marfa Tapes Ends on a Hymn to West Texas

Not only do you feel like you’re right there with them, but you get the sense that they believe in these songs. Related

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Visit Texas With Miranda Lambert & Co. “Beautiful,” Lambert says, laughing. “Tin Man” won the an Academy of Country Music Award for Song of the Year, and marked Lambert’s first collaboration with singer-songwriter Jack Ingram and Jon Randall, a mainstay country writer and producer. Not even “Tin Man,” though, could convey what would end up making The Marfa Tapes so special: the love these three musicians have for their chosen setting. Talent overflows on The Marfa Tapes, and some of the best songs on aren’t even sung by Lambert herself. These songs dig into sentiments as old as the Texas soil, and convey them with clarity and heart. Then, they let the wind and the cows have the last word. Marfa let the trio tap into heartbreak, anger, and joy. There’s nothing new about noticing the beauty in a sunset or the solace in a somewhere quiet, and the trio doesn’t pretend there is on “Amazing Grace.” The lyrical scenes speak for themselves: a storm after a dry spell, whiskey-lemonades at sunset. What’s so impressive is that Lambert, fresh off her first country No. Photo: Miranda Lambert/Facebook

When Miranda Lambert first released “Tin Man” on her 2016 double album The Weight of These Wings, and later as a single in 2017, the song was a direct hit. Lambert joins on the chorus with some of the characteristically shining harmonies she’s perfected with her other group, the Pistol Annies, through the years. “So good.” Many of the songs on The Marfa Tapes end with some expression of praise or awe from fellow performers. It was a poignant tale of heartbreak in the wake of Lambert’s 2015 divorce from Blake Shelton, a plainspoken song built around a compelling metaphor that remains one of Lambert’s best. After Randall sings that final note of “Amazing Grace,” he puts down his guitar, but the recording keeps going. But listening to a song like “Amazing Grace (West Texas)” illuminates why it all felt so necessary. His voice is steady and warm, with less twang than his counterparts. 1 in years and second-ever Grammy win, would cede a bit of spotlight for a project like The Marfa Tapes, which surely won’t crack country radio or spawn an arena tour. As the album goes on, there’s a campfire sing-along called “Am I Right or Amarillo,” a showstopping ballad called “Waxahachie,” and a riot of a dance number called “Two Step Down to Texas.” Then there’s the closing track, “Amazing Grace (West Texas).” It’s not a cover, but a hymn of its own, and the best expression of the magic that Ingram, Lambert, and Randall found out in Marfa. The songs on The Marfa Tapes were all recorded in acoustic single takes in the vast expanse of Marfa, where you can hear the whistle of the wind and groan of the highway. They should — The Marfa Tapes is a high mark for all three careers, never mind one of the best country releases of the year. The three had written it on a trip to Marfa, Texas, in July 2015, after Randall finally convinced them to go. So at the end of “Amazing Grace,” Ingram, Lambert, and Randall raise a well-earned toast with a chuckle. That’s not to say they sound old on purpose, like some sort of hokey revivalism. Jon Randall, Jack Ingram, and Miranda Lambert. Then this March, when they announced The Marfa Tapes, a full album of songs written and recorded by Ingram, Lambert, and Randall in Marfa, “Tin Man” stood out on the track list as prime evidence of the exemplary writing the trio could get done out in West Texas. “You can’t do anything else but look inside,” as Jack Ingram recently told Rolling Stone. in Marfa Tapes Film

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Tags: Opening track “In His Arms” sets the tone, with a string of lines about Texas cities, from El Paso to San Antonio to Marfa. Many of the best songs on The Marfa Tapes, like “Amazing Grace (West Texas)” sound like time-tested country standards. Randall takes lead on “Amazing Grace,” and it makes sense to give him the last word if he prompted the trip in the first place. But instead of closing on their own stories, the trio ends The Marfa Tapes on the tranquil splendor of West Texas — what was, after all, so inspiring in the first place. The Marfa Tapes was never marketed as a Lambert solo project — the performers are even credited alphabetically, as Ingram, Lambert, and Randall.

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The Secret to Superhuman Strength and 9 Other Reads I Can’t Get Out of My Head

Maybe we can start a new bookstore section called VOFZR, or Vicarious Optimal Fear Zone Reading. • Scamper among London’s construction sites, BROTHELS, elite clubs, and townhouses? The company thrives and the family begins its climb from poverty to the upper-middle class, with each rung on the ladder a discrete event: the day they get a stove, the day they move to a fancy house, the day they buy a TV. The graphic memoir–to–musical pipeline was (I think?) unprecedented but also appropriate, because both are divisive formats. My senses are heightened, but not fried. But a lot of people gravitate toward situations of semi-controlled risk: competitive sports, blind dates, dancing in public, shoplifting, gambling … the opportunities are endless, as are the laws and regulations devised to circumscribe them. There are detours into transcendentalism and marriage and death, but exercise is the through line, and the framework through which Bechdel finds her own OFZ. I settled in to grade the book, which was translated from Kannada by Srinath Perur, against its own impossible 19th-century Russian standards. RIYL: Hari Kunzru, apophenia, the podcast Rabbit Hole, dipping a pinky toe into simulation theory, staying vigilant

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Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Fiction, 2017

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

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Despite (or perhaps because of) being a nonstop composer of blurbs, I’m exceedingly suspicious of their claims. You have to buy into their ground rules from the start: Musicals are excessive and memoirs are self-involved. Possibly because of the interim, I am rarely comfortable in the water and usually find myself somewhere on a spectrum between “a little scared” and “terrified.” The factors dictating fear level include strength of current, presence of territorial locals, hypothetical presence of hungry-hungry sharks, and a thousand other nuances that register only on the semiconscious level (e.g., I find greenish water vaguely more frightening than bluish water). Prosperity brings a mixture of chaos and listlessness. Bechdel wrote Fun Home, which is a terrific book that became a terrific Broadway musical. We must conclude that the Chekhov blurb was accurate. Entering the OFZ requires putting your own skin in the metaphorical game; you can’t read yourself into it. Every editorial product is independently selected. Tags: The book situates her sweaty episodes of skiing, cycling, and running punishing distances among other escape methods — booze, meditation, sleeping pills, and extracurricular flirtation. To quote the English philosopher Chumbawamba, “I get knocked down, but I get up again.”

Reaching your OFZ is something that can only happen electively. Nestled into and around Scott’s tale of vexation are Twilight Zone versions of QAnon, the Proud Boys, the manosphere, neo-Nazis and other bizarre phenomena of our time. Recommend me a book. The narrator of the novel, who goes unnamed, lives with his size-L family in a size-XS house in Bangalore. But there’s a whole genre of books about other people entering it. She really milks her life for all its worth. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. “Vivek Shanbhag is an Indian Chekhov,” it said. The Alison Bechdel book below will be entry No. Sign up for the Read Like the Wind newsletter. • Inaugurate BEACH READING SEASON with a Silicon Valley escapade? In MOFZ my cortisol levels are approximately where they’d be if I were being chased by a single wolf on a summer afternoon, but not by a pack of wolves at midnight. The best of either are triumphant acts of self-expression that obliterate whatever grumbling a person may have about corniness or narcissism. The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

Graphic memoir, May 4

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

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This is a graphic memoir about Alison Bechdel’s lifelong obsession with exercise. There’s nothing optimizable about uninvited fear. • Tunnel into a snippet of WEIRD ANTHROPOLOGY (the best kind!)? (What better compliment can you pay a memoirist?) The topic here is exercise, which Bechdel has used for various purposes throughout her life. The Secret to Superhuman Strength is Alison Bechdel’s third graphic memoir and, amazingly, her third triumph. • Disregard the marketing copy that describes this as a “haunting fable” (BORING!) and find, instead, a riveting and ice-cold tale of art, narcissism, and MARSHES? Chon shines the multicolored light of his intellect onto ugly hot-button topics, which is the sort of risk-taking I seek and indeed revere in novelists, especially debut novelists, who have everything to lose by doing so. One member of the family loses his job and the whole crew is plunged into a momentary economic crisis, which is solved when another member gets the idea to start a spice distribution company. (This story will turn out to be false.) Now he is an adult in Oregon living under a veil of professional disgrace and getting brain-drunk on conspiracy theories about pedophiles. Scott, the surviving shooter, is the son of adoptive American parents who claim they “found him in a basket” in Seoul. Read if you’re the type of person who’s always wondering whether you should be “in” crypto! More From This Series

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Get our monthly newsletter of book recommendations and mischief from New York literary critic Molly Young straight to your inbox. RIYL: Being left to your own devices, fretting, Nabokov’s short story “Symbols and Signs”

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WHY DON’T YOU …

• Perform a FACTORY RESET on your shattered attention span? • Enjoy a recent fictional history of fizzy wit and FUN? SUGGESTED PAIRING

Get the taste of the Oscars out of your mouth with THE iconic 1980s Hollywood novel! Shanbhag is interested in tweezing extraordinary tales from ordinary-seeming characters, and here he has created a devastating plot out of prose that is both brisk and deep. My nostrils are aflare, but I am receiving adequate oxygen. RIYL: Throwing a tennis ball against a wall, Spalding Gray, testing your own discipline, yogurt-covered raisins, The Diary of Alice James

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Hashtag Good Guy With a Gun by Jeff Chon

Fiction, May 1

Hashtag Good Guy With a Gun by Jeff Chon

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Get a load of this premise: An embittered man named Scott Bonneville packs a gun and heads to a pizza parlor intending to perform an act of senseless violence … only to find that there is already a different guy in the same pizza parlor waving a gun and intending to perform his own act of senseless violence! Sometimes it is a shortcut to the sublime; sometimes a bulwark against despair; often a tactic for avoiding other people. Email

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Terms of Service apply. Just ask Jon Krakauer! Within that range, there’s a narrow band that you might call Molly’s Optimal Fear Zone (MOFZ). If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I surfed as a kid in California and then stopped for many years before resuming in adulthood. 1. If a book’s cover says something like “Relentlessly propulsive!”, my internal brat will respond, “I’ll relentlessly propel your book — straight into a trash can!” This one included a cover blurb of such force that I practically steepled my fingers and cackled. A first act of this caliber (pun not intended, but also not disavowed) has a high chance of overpromising and underdelivering, so I was elated to find that this, the author’s first novel, is sick and nasty and funny until page 247, which is the last one. Scott shoots him and instantly starts trending on Twitter as #goodguywithagun — and nobody but Scott knows that his heroic salvo was a blooper. The narrator, part of the family’s layabout younger generation, spends a lot of time at a local café, trying to extract advice from a reticent waiter, while avoiding various explosive conflicts at home.

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Foundering Tells the Story Behind TikTok (and 3 More Podcasts Worth Trying)

There were troves of leaked emails that disrupted Hollywood and disclosed a decent amount of embarrassing details about individual stars, executives, and power brokers. Email

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Tags: Also: I would recommend pairing this series with Assassins, the recent documentary about the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, and what happened to the two women at the center of the plot. Somewhere in the tale is an entity called the Lazarus Group, a plot to steal a billion dollars, and the ways those things fit into the history, economics, and geopolitics of the reclusive state with a nuclear-weapons program. I totally get it. For these purposes and more, the latest season of Bloomberg’s Foundering will come in handy. A new audio documentary from the BBC World Service, the ten-part series takes the Sony Pictures hack as an anchor point to illustrate a much larger story about North Korea and its subterranean engagement with the rest of the world. There’s also something to be said about the structural effectiveness of the dual-host format with subject matter as thorny and complicated as this: It allows for a nice bounce-back effect in which the two sides can work off each other and alternately serve as the audience surrogate when necessary. There was a shadowy cybercrime group linked to North Korea and a public rebuke by then-President Barack Obama. There’s a lot to dig through in the TikTok story, and having all the basics in one package is a good thing. It also became a momentary point of political intrigue when former president Donald Trump tried to get it banned because it was owned by a Chinese conglomerate. Sign up here to get it weekly. Sure, you have to brace yourself for some clunky elements endemic to the genre, like gossamers of founder worship, particularly in the telling of the platform’s origins, but that’s nothing too distracting at the end of the day. In The Lazarus Heist, the personal and the geopolitical clash in thoughtful, compelling ways, and I’m eager to see where the story goes. Foundering, Season 2

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Website

Let’s say you’re not familiar with the ever-shifting, rapidly changing world of social-media platforms. Based on the first three episodes out now, The Lazarus Heist is doing a supremely competent job of telling this wild and complex story in a calm, collected, and clearly accessible way. • This may be interesting for fans of the Saw franchise: There’s a new horror fiction podcast out next Monday called The Gloom, and it’s set to star Tobin Bell, who played Jigsaw in those movies. Hope you enjoyed it. The Lazarus Heist

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Website

What can you immediately recall about the Sony Pictures hack of 2014? Chances are it’s a blur of international security, political intrigue, and show-business spectacle. The app has launched careers and flipped new songs into hits. 1.5x Speed: A Weekly Newsletter of Podcast Recommendations and Reviews
Listening notes for the top shows, from Vulture’s critic Nick Quah. And that’s a wrap for 1.5x Speed! This article was featured in 1.5x Speed, New York’s podcast recommendation newsletter. Hosted by the reporter Shelly Banjo, this new series is basically one long Businessweek profile told in a serialized audio format — which, I don’t know about you, really hits for me as one of those people who generally like business-type profiles. All of which is to say you may want to brush up on the app’s full story just in case: how it was born, how it’s designed, how its underlying incentives work, and how it’s fundamentally reshaping the broader entertainment-industrial complex. Let’s say you find the jumble of names overwhelming: Cameo, OnlyFans, Twitch, Clubhouse, Discord. It can be a lot, after all. Find me on Twitter or reach me over email: nicholas.quah@vulture.com. At least some portion of the motivation behind the cyberattack had to do with The Interview, the Seth Rogen–James Franco movie featuring the assassination the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (played winningly by Randall Park), but whether that was the sole reason was unclear even at the time. We’re back next week, but in the meantime: Send podcast recommendations, feedback, or just say hello at nicholas.quah@vulture.com. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. It’s fertile ground for the creation and amplification of all sorts of memes (sheesh). That’s what you get, I suppose, when you have a reporting duo made up of Jean Lee, a Pulitzer-nominated foreign correspondent who has operated out of North Korea, and Geoff White, a veteran freelance investigative journalist who specializes in cybercrime. An incident that big and bizarre rarely stands in isolation, which is where The Lazarus Heist comes in. If there is, however, at least one platform you should keep particular tabs on, it’s TikTok, which nowadays has become an incredible force that is increasingly shaping the terrain of pop culture and the legions of people who actively participate in it. Meanwhile…

• Timestorm, a great time-traveling fiction podcast from Cocotazo Media — mostly for kids, though not always — returned for its third season last week. Photo-Illustration: Vulture

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12 Essential Mom Episodes

This setback comes just as Bonnie’s latest impulsive decision causes Christy to question how much progress she and Bonnie have made in their relationship, and to indulge in self-pity about who she can confide in. After reluctantly agreeing to see a therapist at the free clinic, Violet invites Bonnie and Christy to participate in one of her sessions, which brings them to a subject Christy seems to have hoped she’d never have to tell Violet about. Here are 12 essential episodes to get you started. Bonnie is eager to make a good impression, but Mitch and Leanne make it difficult by getting sloppy drunk and causing drama with personal revelations no one asked for. “Turkey Meatballs and a Getaway Car” (Season 2, Episode 15)

Christy’s on-again, off-again relationship with Gabriel (Nate Corddry), her manager at the restaurant, has generally not been something she’s especially proud of, since he’s married — unhappily, but it still counts. Christy’s arc with Nora has been fascinating in terms of how different Nora is as a sponsor than Marjorie has been; Mom producers always seem conscious of their responsibility to show all the ways recovery can work. Bonnie refuses to see her, but a curious Christy arranges to meet her alone. This permitted producers to focus on the show’s more compelling characters and concerns: Bonnie and Christy’s friendship with the women at their regular AA meeting; Bonnie and Christy’s fragile peace with one another; and how the work of sobriety can either facilitate or complicate them. Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros./CBS

After eight seasons — and two Emmys for Allison Janney — CBS’s Mom is coming to a close, with the finale set to air on Thursday. “Cottage Cheese and a Weird Buzz” finds Christy bristling at Jill’s insistence that Christy adhere to the repayment schedule they’ve worked out, given that Jill is so wealthy that she could easily forgive the loan. She agrees to date Rudy, but soon learns she probably should have heeded Christy’s warnings about him. Johnston’s antic energy meshes so well with the rest of the cast that it was no surprise when the production brought her character back in season six and eventually made her a series regular. With the entire series run available to stream — seasons one through seven are on Hulu; the eighth is on Paramount Plus — perhaps you’d like to check it out? “A Cricket and a Hedge Made of Gold” (Season 4, Episode 20)

Marjorie’s sponsor of many years relapses, causing Marjorie to take a few days off from her own sponsees to settle her own feelings about the crisis. “Illegal Eels and the Cantaloupe Man” (Season 8, Episode 10)

While Bonnie and Adam have never really splashed out for Valentine’s Day in the past, he decides to plan a special date at a very fancy restaurant (and Bonnie could use the distraction, since the ladies have just found out that Wendy is knowingly dating a married man and doesn’t back down when they confront her about it). Gabriel’s separation from his wife, Claudia (Courtney Henggeler), smooths out some of the issues between Gabriel and Christy, though this episode adds a new kink, as Christy learns nothing turns her on as much as the risk that they might get caught having sex. In “Cheddar Cheese and a Squirrel Circus,” Cookie has recovered from her surgery and is living it up — maybe a little more than Tammy thinks is wise. MadTV veteran Sullivan makes a meal of the slapstick required for her role; West Wing fans will delight in seeing former co-stars Whitford and Janney reunite to play very different parts than the ones that first made them famous on TV. What no one predicts (… but someone probably should) is that one of the women serving time is Tammy (Kristen Johnston), Bonnie’s former foster sister and someone to whom Bonnie definitely owes amends. Tammy’s family backstory is extremely dark, so it’s particularly heartbreaking to watch her decide whether she wants her last known relative to remain in her life; Johnston and Turner are both excellent. “Free Therapy and a Dead Lady’s Yard Sale” (Season 2, Episode 8)

Since placing her newborn child for adoption in the first season, Violet has been aimless, depressed, self-medicating with alcohol, and resistant to Christy and Bonnie’s attempts to help her. (Bonnie tries and, of course, mostly fails to fill the vacuum.) Marjorie’s sabbatical comes at a terrible time, coinciding with Christy running into someone she had hoped to never see again: a stranger who raped her when she was drunk. Jill’s very comfortable financial circumstances — particularly relative to those of her friends, who are all struggling — is a topic the show uses for episode fodder very judiciously and effectively, as in this episode, when Christy must acknowledge what this debt really means. Though one of the qualities we most appreciate in Mom is how much it sidelines men, this episode is a sweet confirmation of how much Adam has been accepted by Bonnie’s true family, and how much he values their role in her life, too. The rest of Mom’s extremely gifted ensemble of 40- and (mostly) 50-plus women have ably filled the space, and while I personally could have watched them do it for as many more years as they wanted to, CBS apparently needed that money for another NCIS, and pulled the plug in February. Revolving around a single mother, Christy (Anna Faris), navigating both recovery from alcohol and drug addiction and the difficulties of having her messy and also newly sober mother, Bonnie (Janney), back in her life, the series has gone through several evolutions over its run. In the third-season premiere, however, she tries to reconnect with Bonnie after decades of estrangement. “Bad Hand and British Royalty” (Season 4, Episode 9)

Bonnie’s longtime boyfriend Adam (William Fichtner) is excited to introduce her to Leanne (Nicole Sullivan) and Mitch (Bradley Whitford): Mitch is a film director, and they’re old friends from Adam’s former career as a stunt performer. Turns out Bonnie’s got an ex at this one, too: Jeanine (Rosie O’Donnell), with whom Bonnie and Christy lived for a significant period when Christy was a child. “Corned Beef and Handcuffs” (Season 1, Episode 12)

Rudy (French Stewart), the chef at the high-end restaurant where Christy works as a server, has occasionally made sexual advances toward her in the kitchen — more out of curiosity or boredom than any real drive, one assumes, since he mostly seems contemptuous of her. “Cottage Cheese and a Weird Buzz” (Season 6, Episode 6)

That Christy’s drug and alcohol addictions are concurrent with an addiction to gambling has been established since the show’s earliest seasons, but not until the penultimate episode of the fifth season does Christy have a relapse with her gambling, requiring her to borrow money from Jill. “Quaaludes and Crackerjack” (Season 3, Episode 10)

Having made things weird at their usual coed meeting by sleeping with and then dumping fellow attendee Steve (Don McManus), Bonnie insists on bringing Christy to a different one. O’Donnell fits in beautifully with the ensemble; her scenes with Janney are both fun and sexy. However, as the night wears on, all of Bonnie’s best friends end up joining her and Adam for their romantic evening. “Terrorists znd Gingerbread” (Season 3, Episode 1)

We’ve known for a while that Bonnie grew up in foster care after her biological mother abandoned her. “Cheddar Cheese and a Squirrel Circus” (Season 7, Episode 14)

Tammy has recently been released from prison, and she’s approached by Cookie (Kathleen Turner), an aunt who contacted her to see if she might be a match for the kidney transplant Cookie needs. Faris is shattering in her portrayal of Christy’s complex feelings of anger and self-recrimination, but her friends closing ranks and loving her through it is Mom at its best. But when he runs into Christy and Bonnie at the Burgundy Bistro, their favorite hangout, we see what it looks like when he really turns it on with a potential sexual partner: Bonnie. First, Christy’s children, Violet (Sadie Calvano) and Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal) were demoted from full-time cast members to very occasional visitors. “Crazy Snakes and a Clog to the Head” (Season 5, Episode 17)

Marjorie convinces Bonnie, Christy, Jill (Jaime Pressly), and Wendy (Beth Hall) that they should all take their AA meeting to a prison, and share their recovery stories with women who could really benefit from hearing them, as Marjorie did when she attended her first meeting while incarcerated. Janney and Stewart are tremendous scene partners, and their scenes fizz with crack timing and extremely committed physical comedy. Tammy is disappointed to learn that Cookie could have adopted her as a child and spared her entering the foster system, but agreed to donate one of her kidneys anyway. This episode also has a strong B plot, as Bonnie takes over as secretary at the women’s AA meeting and wields this tiny amount of power without proportion or grace, but the standout is Faris in the A plot, leaning all the way in on her portrayal of female desire. Calvano deserves credit for having always played Violet’s bad attitude without vanity; this is an episode where we get to see there’s something deeper and darker underlying what sometimes reads as standard teen brattiness. “Crazy Hair and a Teeny Tiny Part of Canada” (Season 6, Episode 22)

Christy is distressed to learn that her newish sponsor Nora (Yvette Nicole Brown) has accepted a job in another state and will be moving away very soon. Related

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Tags: Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) convinces Bonnie that she owes Jeanine amends for taking advantage of her, but it seems as though the circumstances underlying their relationship weren’t so straightforward. The show’s last pivot was its most surprising: Anna Faris shocked both viewers (and, apparently, her colleagues) by announcing in September that she was exiting Mom halfway through her current contract. No spoilers, but both June Squibb and Ellen Burstyn appear as guest stars in the episode, and Janney’s performance of Bonnie’s lifelong hurt, shame, and rage is blistering.

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An Ever-Higher Chair Won Late Night This Week

spark. This segment of “Andy’s Sports Blast” managed to avoid “sportsball” feigned cluelessness by really amping up the yelling quotient. He also heavily implied that he fucked his cello. Oops. 3. There they hung out with celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who is really leaning into his adorable grandpa years. Wouldn’t that be better? Richard Kind is a hoot and a half in this May 3 interview with Seth Meyers. 2. Ma played the “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” in honor of the late DMX. 5. It was surreal, like that scene in American Gods where the God of Media speaks to Shadow through the visage of Lucy Ricardo. Senior VP of late-night programming Nick Bernstein joined the Corden stage for a week of shows to get roasted for his hair and put in increasingly high chairs. James Cordon Elevates His Boss

“This was a funny joke a few days ago.” So ended a bit that lasted all week on The Late Late Show. It’s very tall! Richard Kind Believes in Ghosts? Consider egg. Every night this week, Bernstein’s chair onstage got higher, and every night they also pressured CBS to let them do a week of shows on a Carnival Cruise. What will we lose if late night becomes completely untethered from time? Carson seemed confused about why anyone would spend time on this, let alone why it was on his show. That’s why this week’s winning clip was the culmination of a weeklong surreal bit. Then he interviewed Truman Capote, who described an unsolved murder at great length. Team Coco already leaned into that asynchronous model, uploading old clips at random times in the week, dropping podcasts into the main YouTube channel, and uploading the long-form celeb interviews right next to the shareable clips. The first segment was a domino champion setting up an elaborate OK Go music video–esque domino setup. This week, Jimmy Fallon and Vince Vaughn discussed their childhood racetrack visits, and I got a little of that Why is this happening? When Peacock first launched, I watched one of the old Johnny Carson episodes they have available to stream. Yo-Yo Ma is cool. 4. It was a glorious showing of disrespect to corporate hierarchy, to tell your boss’s boss’s boss that he looks like a replacement Fran Lebowitz. The genre is named after a time of day, yet thanks to YouTube, most people encounter its content completely divorced from linear time. Andy Richter’s Big Huge Sports Yell

Conan may be ending, but there’s still plenty of time for weird bits. But if that wasn’t enough to endear them in the hearts of white America, they got an NPR luminary on the show. O’Brien has been on terrestrial TV almost every night since 1993, and his upcoming move to HBO Max is part of a greater sea change. There were plenty of fake NBA draft names that would fit in the East/West College Bowl, plus Richter destroyed one of the cutout fans that has been populating the Largo Theater since Conan started filming there. Earlier in the show, they vowed to watch Paddington 2. Desus & Mero had their last show for a while, NBC announced that A Little Late With Lilly Singh is ending, and TBS revealed the air date of Conan O’Brien’s final late-night show on the network. Yo-Yo Ma Vibes With Desus & Mero

Right before their big hiatus, the Bodega Boys pulled out all the stops. Moments like that still occasionally occur on late night today, but they are rare. More From This Series

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Tags: Late night needs to remain for those who are already half-dreaming. John Oliver Wants You to Consider Egg

John Oliver’s May 2 show discussed vaccine hesitancy, and why a giant cicada mascot is not the way to get the word out. He not only described Blink-182 guitarist/alien enthusiast Tom DeLonge as “a rock ’n roller,” he called him “Thomas DeLonge.” Thomas! Seeing the true fear in Bernstein’s face — both because he’s very high up and could fall, and because he’s having to say many words unvetted by a legal department — was a delight. 1. Kind also discussed the ghosts of Second City and delivered the sentence that will help you do a flawless Richard Kind impression: “I can’t, I’m doing a Commish.” Whisper it to yourself on cold days: “I can’t, I’m doing a Commish.” Pure poetry. Beyond subverting his usual third-act stunt structure, Oliver dropped one of the gnarliest JFK jokes I’ve ever heard, and put forward an interesting thought: What if you lived in an egg, surrounded by albumen and unaware of the larger world outside of the egg? Desus and Mero went north to Cambridge Mass: home of Harvard, and thus the center of comedy. This week had all the energy of kids trying to have class outside, and I loved it. What is late night anymore? Photo: The Late Late Show with James Corden/YouTube

This was a momentous week in late night. On May 3, Andy Richter did what he does worst: talk about sports. It’s safer in egg.

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The Abysmal Wrath of Man Proves Guy Ritchie Is His Own Worst Enemy

Wrath of Man could have been salvaged had it delivered on some decent action sequences, but once such sequences come, they tend to be either lifeless or unintelligible or both. Was there any way to make such talk convincing? But he keeps stepping on his own feet. It’s not that Ritchie doesn’t have any talent. I got you.” “That way you can, you know, make your own cappuccino.” Is this supposed to be naturalistic? He appears to be his own worst enemy. As a result, the movie opens with a blast of muddy annoyance. He has a great eye and can certainly set a mood. The scene with the wife is a dead end for him, just an item to check off the list. What’s more, shot from that perspective, the scene also winds up being totally incoherent. Hell, I don’t even entirely hate Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes flicks. “A Dark Spirit.”) There’s an idea here, of course, about masculinity encircled, about hunters become prey, primitive warriors forced into emasculated domesticity. He clearly does. It’s odd that Wrath of Man is so alienating — it’s a revenge picture at heart, one of the most visceral of genres. It’s your-co-worker-signed-up-for-a-weekend-drama-workshop bad. The problem isn’t so much that it’s inauthentic or unrealistic. No, it’s meaningless. Yet Ritchie loves to double down on that narrative and dialogue. We learn that he and his men have spent the past few months searching in vain for the killers, upending the underworld in their violent quest, but have failed to find the unknown crew responsible for the death of his son. This should be interesting: H’s own coldness, his dissociation from the consequences of his actions, could serve as an emotional through line in the film, maybe a subtle psychological engine powering his undying crusade for revenge. Sometimes, the words are merely inane: “You ever thought about, uh, buying a coffee maker?” one guard awkwardly asks the other in the prelude to that opening heist scene. The title of this chapter? No such nuance exists, however. Ritchie is good at building up to such scenes, which somehow manages to compound the problem: We keep waiting for that kick-ass climax, the emotional denouement, the moment when everything comes together. Last year gave us the dense, chatty, inert The Gentlemen, which brought Ritchie back to the intricate, multi-character crime dramas on which he initially made his name. But yet again, the director has overpromised and underdelivered. Because, well, she would say that, wouldn’t she? Ritchie has the opposite problem: He repeatedly eats away at the charisma of his stacked casts.Wrath of Man has an impressive supporting cast, but the actors seem adrift with the hapless script (credited to Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, and Marn Davies). Le Convoyeur, directed by Nicolas Boukhrief.) And ordinarily, I’d be a sucker for this type of whiskey-sipping, lizard-brain, honor-among-thieves, manly-man bullshit, but Ritchie’s choices — and they are certainly bold choices — repeatedly confound. A somewhat more worrisome example: You would think that, given his own criminal ways, and given the fact that his own crew was also hoping to rob that truck, H would feel some sense of cosmic guilt over his son’s death. Which would lead a viewer to believe that the man’s identity will in some way be significant. (It’s based loosely on a 2004 French film, called Cash Truck, a.k.a. Ritchie can’t be bothered. His ornate exchanges envelop us, and his words have an uncanny ability to turn even uncharismatic actors into momentary stars. And despite the fact that he seems to keep failing up, he has made some terrific movies: Revolver and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. “A coffee maker?” “You know, the one that’s got that froster thing?” “Oh yeah, the frother. In case we didn’t get it, someone later opines that H isn’t just a man, that he’s “a dark spirit.” Then, a few seconds later, they repeat the line: “A dark fucking spirit.” (The film’s segments are broken into discrete chapters. Other times, the words are portentous: “What has the world come to? (If the alienation came with a sense of artistic purpose, we might have had something, but here, it just feels like a miscalculation. Statham manages to escape mostly unscathed, probably because his character is so quiet. Indeed, you would also think that the rather hilarious aforementioned coincidence regarding two separate crews targeting the same truck would practically mandate such a development — and we do see a scene of H’s wife blaming him for their son’s death. There’s a fine line between enigmatic and confusing, and he repeatedly bulldozes past it. (both flops, admittedly) are top-notch weirdo masterpieces, and there’s enough good stuff in a film like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword to qualify it as an entertaining misfire. The writing in Wrath of Man isn’t just bad. And often the lines are just thuddingly obvious: “I don’t care what you guys think. When his films work, they tend to be driven by energy, atmosphere, and visual wit, which can sometimes paper over such notable shortcomings as narrative incoherence and idiotic dialogue. We soon learn why H is really here: His own son was that murdered bystander, and he wants revenge. Photo: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Does Guy Ritchie even know where his strengths and weaknesses lie as a director? But one needs more than ideas, and Ritchie keeps failing at the execution. Admittedly, to preserve the time-juggling plot, some elements of the heist do have to be kept hidden — but Ritchie hides the wrong things. Ritchie shoots it from a distance, in one take, a sure sign of emotional reserve. Now we get the even more ambitious Wrath of Man, filled with shoot-outs and heists upon heists and reams of obnoxious banter that will make you wonder if sound cinema might have been humanity’s greatest mistake. What’s more, H is himself a dangerous criminal — a powerful gangland boss whose own crew, in a rather wild coincidence, just happened to be, on that fateful day, staking out that very same armored truck for a future heist. Quentin Tarantino turned inauthentic, unrealistic crime-movie dialogue into its own art form decades ago, and it’s been clear from the earliest days of Ritchie’s career that the director, with his motormouth gangsters and jigsaw-puzzle structures, has been aping the generational talent who gave us Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Kill Bill. A direct line of evolution from Paleolithic man to a diabetic house husband,” a co-worker observes philosophically to H after a conversation about, uh, Pop-Tarts. More on that in a bit.) Jason Statham plays Hill, or “H,” an aloof, mysterious tough guy who starts working for an armored-truck company that was recently hit with a heist that killed two of their drivers and a bystander. That man’s a dark horse,” another co-worker helpfully observes about H early on. They talk hesitantly and trip over lines, as if they were speaking in phonetics without any idea what’s actually being said. The only thing uniting all this macho hothouse banter is that it’s regularly delivered in such half-hearted fashion that we might wonder if we’re listening to a read-through by mistake. He can’t seem to tell a story, yet he keeps trying to tell more and more complicated ones. So now, H has temporarily gone undercover on the right side of the law, lying in wait for the culprits to strike again. Jason Statham in Wrath of Man. He can’t seem to create compelling characters or give them meaningful exchanges, yet his tales get more crowded and verbose. Some chasmic gaps in logic aside, that’s actually a pretty nifty premise for a crime movie. For all his visual bravado, he doesn’t seem to have any idea where to put the camera to best service a story or a scene. And then, Christ, there’s the dialogue. A small but telling example: He shoots the opening heist from the back of the armored truck, with our view of the driver pointedly concealed. Related

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Tags: (“You ain’t much for talking, are you, Mary Poppins?”) If nothing else, Ritchie does seem to know how to best utilize him, which not every filmmaker does. But Tarantino weaves entire worlds with his dialogue.

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These Are the Movies the Academy Is Counting On to Save the Oscars

titles simultaneously debuting on HBO Max, it seems the most likely to get dinged by the perception that it’s more TV than movie. NIGHTMARE ALLEY (December 3)The case for Oscar: Fresh off his Best Picture win for Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro got Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett for his adaptation of the 1946 carnival noir.The case for skepticism: Can you really picture a Hollywood legend opening the Best Picture envelope and saying the words, “Nightmare Alley”? RED, WHITE, AND WATER (Undated)The case for Oscar: If Don’t Look Up isn’t Jennifer Lawrence’s big Oscar comeback, might this disabled-veteran drama do the trick?The case for pessimism: The film apparently shot way back in the summer of 2019, but little news has emerged since. Odds and Ends

Even in this double-stuffed year, there are still Sundance indies and other assorted Oscar hopefuls. THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK (September 24)The case for Oscar: More than a few viewers spent quarantine catching up on The Sopranos, and hey, here comes the series’s long-gestating prequel, starring James Gandolfini’s son as the teenage Tony Soprano.The case for skepticism: Though this is one of a few Warner Bros. THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE (September 24)The case for Oscar: ’80s televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker is one of those figures who seems to cry out for the biopic treatment. BELFAST (November 12)The case for Oscar: Kenneth Branagh makes his Roma, drawing on his childhood in the Northern Irish capital during the early days of the Troubles.The case for skepticism: The presence of Jamie Dornan in the cast may spur unpleasant memories of Wild Mountain Thyme. This film, which concerns a race of superpowered immortal aliens, may sport slightly less real-world relevance. Seems like a good week to skip the internet. The Yee-Haw agenda finally gets its cinematic moment.The case for skepticism: This is the first feature from Jeymes Samuel a.k.a. Related

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Tags: THE LAST DUEL (October 15)The case for Oscar: Matt and Ben, together again! Jordan plays a soldier in Iraq who leaves letters for his unborn son, in a film directed by Denzel Washington. And could the emotional pull of Daniel Craig’s swan song get it into a ten-strong Best Picture lineup?The case for skepticism: No Bond film has ever cracked the above-the-line categories, so there might be a ceiling on this one. It’s literally star-studded!The case for skepticism: Per W, the film will “skewer politics, the media, and our tendency toward science denialism,” which, if you did not enjoy Vice, will probably make you shudder instinctively. IN THE HEIGHTS (June 11)The case for Oscar: Jon M. I would be very surprised if all of them actually come out this year. Keanu Reeves has quieted concerns over his acting since the original trilogy, and has now become one of the most treasured actors in Hollywood. (Affleck is the local nobleman.) Boys and their toys, sure, but a script co-written by Nicole Holofcener is more than a little intriguing.The case for skepticism: Have you seen those haircuts? With a field made up almost entirely of streaming and VOD releases, this year’s Oscars ceremony pulled in record-low viewership. (Though it did win Roger Deakins his long-awaited trophy.)

NO TIME TO DIE (October 8)The case for Oscar: Bond movies are always in the mix in the Song and Sound categories at least. Am I crazy for thinking he could put together a case for a career-achievement nom?The case for skepticism: Recognizing blockbusters is one thing; recognizing the decades-later fourth installment of a ’90s action franchise is another. CRY MACHO (October 22)The case for Oscar: Could you guess from the title that this is a Clint Eastwood film? But with each Oscars season being in part a reaction to the one that came before, you can bet there are many nervous insiders hoping the post-pandemic pendulum will swing back toward those big mainstream movies. DON’T LOOK UP (Undated)The case for Oscar: Adam McKay recruited seemingly every famous person in Hollywood — including Leo, J.Law, Meryl, Timmy, and a bunch of other A-listers who don’t have cute nicknames — for a comedy about astronomers who have to tell everyone the world is ending. The Bullitts, who’s better-known for his music videos. Non-Delayed Blockbusters

The industry’s COVID protocols succeeded in getting sets up and running last year, and we have these new movies as proof! UNTITLED FOURTH MATRIX FILM (December 22)The case for Oscar: The original Matrix won four craft Oscars, and those could be in play again here. If you’re one of the old-school industry types inclined to stick an asterisk on the 2021 Oscars, the 2022 crop should be much more to your liking. You may recall that Spielberg’s last adaptation of a Broadway hit, War Horse, earned a Best Picture nomination, as have three of his five movies since. KING RICHARD (November 19)The case for Oscar: It’s Will Smith as Richard Williams, domineering — and potentially misunderstood? Now he returns with this Oscar Isaac–led gambling drama.The case for pessimism: One wrong word on Facebook could derail this campaign before it even begins. ETERNALS (November 5)The case for Oscar: Can Chloé Zhao make like Iñárritu and win two in a row in Best Director? And, as luck would have it, thanks to the very disruption that marred this year’s ceremony, next year’s Oscars race should feature roughly twice as many of those movies as usual. So here’s an early look at the presumptive awards field, starting with the very movies the Academy is surely hoping will save the Oscars. SOGGY BOTTOM (November 26)The case for Oscar: It’s Paul Thomas Anderson, do you need any more information? THE POWER OF THE DOG (Undated)The case for Oscar: Jane Campion’s first feature since 2009 is a Western about a terrible man (Benedict Cumberbatch) who torments his brother and sister-in-law (real-life couple Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst).The case for pessimism: Campion’s instincts have always been more arthouse than Oscar, so it’s possible this one could be for critics’ groups only. Oh, and it’s based on a true story.The case for pessimism: This seems like the kind of dutiful awards movie people will feel very bad about criticizing. DON’T WORRY DARLING (Undated)The case for Oscar: Olivia Wilde earned a lot of fans with Booksmart, and now she’s recruited an ultra-hip cast, led by Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, for this 1950s domestic thriller.The case for skepticism: This is of course the project on which Wilde and Styles became an item, and you never know when the tabloid knives will suddenly come out for a couple. The people behind this Kurt Warner biopic, which stars Zachary Levi as the former Rams QB, probably do.The case for skepticism: Blind Side aside, the vaguely Christian inspirational sports-movie genre hasn’t quite paid off with Oscar the way it has at the box office. If you’re concerned about whether the script can duplicate their sitcom patter, good news — it’s written and directed by Mr. RESPECT (August 13)The case for Oscar: Jennifer Hudson plays the late, great Aretha Franklin. Auteur Passion Projects

The latest efforts from some venerable Oscar-nominated filmmakers. CODA (August 13)The case for Oscar: The big sensation of virtual Sundance, this coming-of-age drama follows the child of deaf adults in the Massachusetts fishing community.The case for skepticism: The tiny indie will need a careful campaign, but it sold to Apple TV+, which is still finding its footing at the Oscars. (Undated)The case for Oscar: Lin-Manuel Miranda feels like the kind of guy who’s going to get an Oscar eventually. But otherwise, it’s currently shrouded in as much mystery as PTA projects usually are.The case for skepticism: Critics are sure to love it, but awards-wise there’s always a chance this could be more Inherent Vice than Phantom Thread. Of course, after The Crown, there is the possibility that audiences may be a little sick of this subject, so — just kidding!The case for skepticism: How will the ultra-American Stewart handle Diana’s Sloane Ranger cadence? Of course, the Academy itself has little sway over what its members vote for (something that was made painfully clear at the close of this year’s telecast). TICK, TICK … BOOM! DUNE (October 1)The case for Oscar: It’s a gigantic sci-fi blockbuster based on source material, with a pedigreed cast and crew — Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, director Denis Villeneuve — to provide the necessary patina of prestige.The case for skepticism: Villeneuve’s previous film, Blade Runner 2049, was also a much-heralded sci-fi adaptation that proved a little too austere to catch on with audiences or Oscar. We have proof that Oscar ratings are not fated by God to always go down every year: For the 2019 telecast, the trend briefly reversed. Fortunately, there’s one tiny glimmer of hope. Without any popular titles in the mix, Hollywood’s biggest night had become a niche product. WEST SIDE STORY (December 10)The case for Oscar: Beloved elder statesman Steven Spielberg remakes the 1961 Best Picture winner. — father to Venus and Serena.The case for skepticism: When Smith has aimed for Oscar recently, the results have alternated between mediocrity (Concussion) and disaster (Winter’s Tale, Collateral Beauty). BLONDE (Undated)The case for Oscar: After she broke out in quarantine season one, Hollywood finally lets Ana de Armas be your star in Andrew Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe biopic, based on the book by Joyce Carol Oates.The case for skepticism: De Armas was great in Knives Out, but the role of Marilyn is an order of magnitude more difficult, and until there’s a trailer, we’ll just have to take it on faith that she pulls it off. AMERICAN UNDERDOG (December 10)The case for Oscar: Remember how The Blind Side made a bunch of money and won Sandra Bullock an Oscar? Just a little? PASSING (Undated)The case for Oscar: Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as light-skinned Black women navigating issues of race and privilege in 1920s Harlem.The case for skepticism: Reviews out of Sundance were more respectful than effusive. For her MCU debut, Zhao pulled off the groundbreaking feat of shooting outside, and to populist-minded voters, the Academy’s new favorite filmmaker joining the biggest franchise in Hollywood could be two great tastes that taste great together.The case for skepticism: The MCU’s sole previous Best Picture nominee was Black Panther, the rare billion-dollar grosser that also had actual things to say. As I’m sure everyone in the Academy has noticed, that was the year the Best Picture field was stacked with massive theatrical hits, including Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star Is Born. THE HARDER THEY FALL (Undated)The case for Oscar: Not a Harder They Come sequel; it’s actually a Black-led Western starring Jonathan Majors as real-life cowboy Nat Love. Photo: Clockwise from Top Left: Searchlight Pictures, Warner Bros., MGM

The Academy Awards are in crisis — even more than those other times they were in crisis. A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN (Undated)The case for Oscar: Michael B. HOUSE OF GUCCI (November 24)The case for Oscar: Not just a fantastic publicity photo — it’s also going to be an actual movie! Witticism himself, Aaron Sorkin.The case for skepticism: The casting has already been controversial, and even if you’re inclined to give Sorkin the benefit of the doubt, you have to admit Kidman and Bardem are perhaps not the most natural picks for Lucy and Desi. Utter Mysteries

Right now, these movies exist more as Deadline announcements than anything else. Oscar-nominated actors Adam Driver and Lady Gaga star in this ripped-from-the-headlines tale of Italian fashion and murder. THE CARD COUNTER (Undated)The case for Oscar: After years of VOD purgatory, Paul Schrader got his first-ever nomination for First Reformed. In a reversal of The Mule, here the 90-year-old Eastwood plays a rodeo vet who goes into Mexico to bring a kid back to his American father.The case for skepticism: A movie about Clint Eastwood smuggling a Mexican child across the border, separating him from his family in the process? Ridley Scott, the hardest-working octogenarian in Hollywood, also directs this one.The case for skepticism: One for the stans, certainly, but the melodrama will probably have to be pitched just so for the Academy to take notice. BEING THE RICARDOS (Undated)The case for Oscar: A week in the life of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, starring a pair of past Oscar winners in Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem. And isn’t Uncle Steven seemingly overdue for another Best Director trophy?The case for skepticism: Remakes can be a hard sell with voters, even without the whiff of scandal attached to star Ansel Elgort. Okay: It’s about a teenage actor (Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Phillip Seymour) in the 1970s, and Soggy Bottom is apparently just a working title. The Good Will Hunting pair reunite on Ridley Scott’s medieval epic, which sees Damon and Adam Driver duking it out over a 14th-century legal case. DEAR EVAN HANSEN (September 24)The case for Oscar: Our third big-screen adaptation of a Tony-winning musical reunites Ben Platt with his original Broadway cast. And unlike the recent Genius: Aretha, this project had the support of Franklin herself.The case for skepticism: Originally set for a qualifying release in late 2020 before being pushed to the New Year, the August release date might not suggest a ton of optimism. Chu’s big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway smash seems poised to become the official movie of our upcoming Summer of Horniness — a cinematic feat undoubtedly worth recognizing.The case for skepticism: No matter how successful, this is still a June release, so awards-wise it probably needs both a long tail (and for all the fall Oscar movies to fail spectacularly) to stay in the conversation. SPENCER (Undated)The case for Oscar: Jackie’s Pablo Larraín fixes his gaze at another political wife: Princess Diana, played here by Kristen Stewart. Even worse than the poor ratings, though, was the sense that, for much of the entertainment-going public, the Oscars had become an afterthought. THE FRENCH DISPATCH (Undated)The case for Oscar: Wes Anderson was finally let into the Oscar club with Grand Budapest Hotel, and if his live-action follow-up debuts at Cannes as expected, it’ll have one heck of an awards-season runway.The case for skepticism: How will a film that went into production all the way back in the autumn of 2018 wind up playing in 2021? She finally gets one here, played by Jessica Chastain, an actress who can go big with the best of them.The case for skepticism: Director Michael Showalter is more known for lighthearted romantic comedies, so we’ll see what kind of vibe this one ends up with. Clockwise from top left: The French Dispatch, In the Heights, Dune, and House of Gucci. (The other actors have been replaced with movie stars.) The stage version succeeded in getting hundreds of strangers to cry together in the dark; audiences returning to theaters could do the same.The case for skepticism: Again, this is the third Broadway adaptation of the season, and probably the most likely to get lost in the shuffle. Delayed Blockbusters

In another universe, these movies might have been competing against Nomadland. THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH (Undated)The case for Oscar: More like “single single toil and trouble” — Joel Coen flies solo with this black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation, featuring the gold-plated cast of Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand (his IRL wife).The case for pessimism: What if this is how we find out Joel has merely been coasting off his brother’s genius this whole time? But now, they’re playing in a very stacked field. Biopics

If you want to win an acting Oscar, you’ve got two options: (1) play the Joker, or (2) star in a biopic! Here he makes his directorial debut, taking on Jonathan Larson’s semi-autobiographical musical.The case for skepticism: With three Broadway movies already in the mix, can an Off Broadway adaptation break through?

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MTV’s Downtown Is a Hyperspecific Time Capsule

And even longer ago, it stopped being a life on the cheap … Downtown illustrates the truism that by the time something’s deemed fit for mass consumption, its moment has passed.” It’s always getting worse, isn’t it? Tiny sunglasses are back in style and the city still smells of hot trash, but I mean the vibe. So it does come down to money. She has 97 pairs of shoes and her new iguana likes to crawl in and out of them. A time capsule is useful for seeing not only what’s changed, but what never really does. A state of slight inebriation allows for rewatches, because there will never be more than what we’ve got: MTV canceled the series after one Emmy-nominated season. It stopped being an adjective attached to a sometimes dubious aesthetic. Prynoski wasn’t surprised. Originally from Trenton, New Jersey, he was a New York resident for “basically the entire ’90s,” working on other MTV shows like Daria and Beavis and Butthead. Downtown is an ensemble show that follows a diverse cast on odysseys through the city, like painting graffiti in abandoned subway tunnels, and through mundane moments like bantering with the cute comic-store cashier. That was kind of a line of demarcation where society changed completely. I don’t really care if Prynoski’s cartoon dispatch is inaccurate. According to Carr, the East Village died during the Tompkins Square riot of ’88. Again and again we cry wolf that the city is dead. Comparing this to the downtown I’ve constructed through Prynoski’s animations, old Chloë Sevigny photos and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I think what’s missing is the grunge. “It was going to be a niche show no matter what. We were wrapping up the 13th episode and made it intentionally a super sad, weird ending where the hero doesn’t get the girl and that’s it. Photo: YouTube

I found Downtown — an animated, cinéma-vérité-style series about New York in 1999 that aired on MTV — when I chanced upon a Spotify playlist of hazy, hypnotic, electronic sounds. I’m nostalgic for the aesthetics of the signified. The animators perfectly rendered a shapeshifting closet of platform Mary Janes. The centerfold spread of indie magazine Civilization’s latest issue was a semi-parody diagram called “2021 Godhead Silo, NYC”: a “cosmic imagining” of what being downtown feels like right now, that name-drops a bunch of people and things between the realms of the metaphysical (Dasha Nekrasova), physical (Gigi Hadid’s place), temporal (colonics), astral (“missing my mom”), and subconscious (Mister Softee). I just follow the scene, literally. The narrative revolves around 24-year-old Alex, a copy shop employee living somewhere east of Avenue B, but he’s like Charlie Brown in Peanuts, an anchor that lets the screenwriters feature the lives surrounding him: There’s Fruity the chick-chaser, Chaka the partier, and Matt the sensitive artist. A team of three, all in their early 20s, they geared up at Washington Square Park then traveled south and east until they hit Ludlow Street, approaching kids on stoops with a bulky video camera, a mic and some release forms. I would be friends with Downtown character Jen, who works at a kitschy used-clothing store. Downtown was for Prynoski what Slacker was for Richard Linklater. Every character is somewhere on a weirdo spectrum, and Alex is the most concerned with where he sits. I am intimately familiar with the micro-neighborhood Dimes Square, whose mythology has been sewn by the many alt-media professionals who live there, even though I don’t really hang out there. I’m nostalgic for last Saturday. It’s a feat of naturalistic dialogue, based on real conversations that creator Chris Prynoski and his collaborators recorded in lower Manhattan. The underemployed, aimless kids of Downtown wouldn’t be hanging out on Ludlow Street now because they couldn’t afford it. MTV Raps

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Tags: The original appeal of grunge was the way artists tapped into young people’s unhappiness and sincere desire for a way out of the capitalist churn. My understanding of the Lower East Side today is as much from internet discourse as it is from occasional voyages to pick up from the herbs shop or to feel fancy drinking a martini. Like micro-influencers tweeting about making it onto the Civilization map, Downtown is obsessed with coolness. The playlist caption was “this is my favorite show … if u know u know.” I desperately wanted to know. His conceit is a crush on intimidating goth babe Serena, who Prynoski said was “probably the most well-adjusted character.” An interview with the real-life inspiration for Serena lives on YouTube, and it’s a peek into the process of creating a story out of little details. He now lives in L.A. The animation is sketchy and the colors are saturated, playing up the puke green of a neon sign and violet of an alleyway. She says she’s sick of people associating goths with Marilyn Manson fans (they wear black and white striped tights; goths would never) and vampires. Massive Attack, DJ Shadow, FKA Twigs. “There are certain nights in New York where it’s like everybody’s friendly. There was a change in executives, and even from the initial pilot MTV was angling for more comedy and more throughline as opposed to ambient slice-of-life. Related

An Oral History of the Very First Episode of Yo! Grunge decamped and dispersed and grew up. The fact that Prynoski was thinking about what his work would look like to a future audience means he too is romantic about people he passes in the street. I was like, ‘I want to make [Downtown] so that when people watch it 20 years from now, it feels exactly like 1999 in New York,’” Prynoski says. “When I was in the mid-’90s watching Ralph Bakshi films from the early ’70s, they felt so much like a time capsule. Downtown’s 13 episodes are on YouTube and should be watched in the blurry hours between late night and early morning, collapsed in bed after drinking and smoking and a greasy midnight snack. It stopped feeling like an artists’ community. “It was made before cell phones were really in the mix, it was just businessmen [who had them]. It’s all a big party on the street, anybody will talk to you about anything.” That’s every night in Downtown, a hyperspecific place in a hyperspecific time that we’re never getting back, if it was ever there at all, in the way we imagined it’d be. (“If you want to hear a super jaded point of view,” Prynoski says, “there’s too many rich people with too much at stake to let that happen.”) Cynthia Carr writes in her August 1999 Village Voice review of the show, “The East Village stopped mattering years ago. And that’s what makes it a show that lasts, that inspired a Dutch college student to make a playlist on Spotify and an anonymous 17-year-old girl to upload clips for 17,000 followers on TikTok. I would have liked to make more but we kind of knew [it was over]. The popular kids have literally been identified on a map à la the Mean Girls cafeteria scene. I live in Brooklyn, like Prynoski did in his New York years, though he was dating a girl who lived on Orchard Street. Gentrification is a stale topic of conversation when we’re using white bohemians’ leisure spaces as the point of reference. and heads his own animation production company. “Being out at night is when you find the good people, the people who are willing to talk to you about whatever thing they’re doing, whether it’s drunk people or people on ecstasy outside a club or kids just hanging,” Prynoski tells me on a recent phone call. The conversation about Downtown online inevitably ends up a lament that it wasn’t renewed — “an atrocity to the animation community,” says one fan. They cast people they met on those downtown treks as voice actors, like 15-year-old friends Leora and Aurora as the joined-at-hip Chaka and Mecca, whose gab is entertaining eavesdropping: “Ugh, Lizzie is not our friend, she’s always weirdly preaching, like, raver pride, except she never dances at any parties.” The show’s own music is a mix of original, slinky beats by Kimson Albert and contemporary alt hits, as the crew could use anything that had aired on MTV in the last five years without paying a licensing fee. We thought that if the series ends like this, that’ll be fitting.”

The finale is a Halloween episode featuring the stuff of New York legend: drug-poisoned candy, the Greenwich Village parade. There’s Jen as the self-deprecating gal pal, and Goat the beloved neighborhood freak. I am basically Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris. The cover image was of long-limbed kids in big pants/tiny shirts hanging on a couch on the street, the colors all olive and purple, and a sign behind them for the Gowanus Canal. I wanted to be able to have nostalgia for what doesn’t exist now.”

I’m grateful for his prescience. From 1990 to 2014, rent in Chinatown and the Lower East Side increased by 50 percent, compared to 22 percent citywide.

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Pink Passes On Her Wisdom in New Video ‘All I Know So Far’

Yeah, that’s icon behavior. “Since this song is sort of the story of my life and a letter to my daughter, making this video with Dave after we did our first video together 22 years ago is a really special full circle moment. Pink’s new track is included on her upcoming project All I Know So Far: Setlists, which includes live recordings from her 2019 Beautiful Trauma World Tour. It accompanies her documentary, P!nk: All I Know So Far, which launches on Friday, May 21, exclusively on Prime Video. He’s truly a genius and I am full of gratitude for our friendship and to experience all the times we’ve been able to work together.” If it feels like you’ve already been inspired by “All I Know So Far,” it’s probably because it was written with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Grammy-, Tony-, and Oscar-winning lyricists responsible for The Greatest Showman, La La Land, and, of course, Dear Evan Hansen. In addition to cameos by Cher and Judith Light, the video reunites the singer and Grammy-winning director, Dave Meyers, who’s helmed 16 of her videos, including “Get the Party Started,” “Stupid Girls,” and “So What.” “Dave Meyers and I are back together again,” Pink says in a statement. Related

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Tags: Pink explores her own modern-day fairy tale in her new music video “All I Know So Far,” imparting more of the wisdom she’s gained in her life. Inspiring the next generation? Two days later, she’s set to receive the 2021 Billboard Icon Award at this year’s ceremony.

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Mythic Quest Returns, Imperfect But Easy to Love

Photo: Apple TV+

Mythic Quest, the Apple TV+ comedy about a video game production company, is really two ideas sewn together. It’s a workplace comedy, sure, but the series is really about creativity and artistic partnerships, about the challenge of making something that needs to be commercially successful and also creatively satisfying. That’s a lot to tackle in nine half-hour comedy episodes! The second season of Mythic Quest establishes an uneasy new workplace dynamic, with Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao) and Ian (Rob McElhenney) on newly equal footing. Season two, which premieres its first two episodes today, has to pick up from that uneasy new workplace dynamic, and once again, the show has to figure out how to tie “let’s all hang out with these people!” together with “it is very hard to make good art.” It’s not easy. It’s a premise that ripens over time — so much of the appeal is in watching characters you already know and love, and that kind of connection doesn’t happen instantly. Those two characters are the biggest tells: they get used as the fix-it glue, shuffled between other plot points in a way that doesn’t fully disguise the fact that it’s a structural mechanism at work rather than plausible character development. Great, hit play and keep ’em coming. And Mythic Quest season two doesn’t always pull it off. The first is a familiar workplace hangout sitcom, and Mythic Quest is pretty good at that part. (That bottle episode also features great work from Carol, the recurring HR manager played by Naomi Ekperigin. The pieces are often compelling on their own, but the show struggles to make Ian and Poppy’s ongoing creative challenge seem like it’s happening in the same world as Jo’s silly and unhinged power play between David and Brad, or the interpersonal developments between the testers Rachel and Dana. What do you do when your boss makes something great, but he’s also a real asshole? Like the first season, there’s a midseason flashback episode that becomes the gestalt for all the big resolution gestures, and all of it is rooted in character work rather than too-visible external plot devices. Tags: The questions it cares about most are all the legitimately harder ones. Plus, the episodes can be really uneven. What do you do when no one else thinks your art is good? Longbottom (F. How to balance creative desire with financial pressure? How do you remake a personally toxic but creatively fruitful relationship into something more balanced, more healthy? The back half of the season leans into all those big questions about artistic creation and personal ambition, though, and once that side of the equation really starts firing, it becomes so easy to excuse all the earlier bumps. As Ian continually came up with fantastic new ideas for what the game should be like, Poppy had to figure out how to implement them, often struggling not just with the engineering but with her desire to make the game a fundamentally different experience for the players. After all, most of its observations about video games could just as easily apply to any TV series. Murray Abraham) tackle the issues and resolve them, usually by wrestling with the soulless head of monetization, Brad (Danny Pudi). The workplace comedy is something that can happen in a gentle, solve-it-and-forget-it world. It would be one thing to loop that together with a pro forma investment in Ian and Poppy’s rivalry, a Silicon Valley–style season-long arc where everything does not work right up until the moment it does, voilà. wants to write can also be meaningful, thoughtful, careful, sincere works of art. The video gaming elements are sometimes big and dumb. Mythic Quest cares about those questions even when it doesn’t have the answers, and it’s always rewarding to watch the show try to figure it all out. Making Ekperigin a series regular is high on my wish-list for a Mythic Quest season three.)

Especially in the later episodes, Mythic Quest starts to nail the tricky tonal dance it has to do in its treatment of the art at the center of the show. The ball doesn’t always get passed smoothly between each half-hour installment, and this is where Mythic Quest’s dual engines tend to sputter. That perspective is sincere. (Can you even do that, without losing the creative success?) What’s the value of everyone loving your art if you secretly hate it? Mythic Quest is admirably uninterested in that. It’s all a craven ploy for money, all about maximizing the loot boxes and downloadable character skins that will make the game as profitable as possible. It is all laughable dumb video game nonsense, easy to remake as nearly identical derivatives that players will still pay money for, forever. That kind of show isn’t often revolutionary or revelatory, but it can be intensely satisfying. Problems pop up and we get to watch the game testers Rachel and Dana (Ashly Burch and Imani Hakim), power-mad assistant Jo (Jessie Ennis), limp leader David (David Hornsby), and horny old writer C.W. We like these characters! Not a boss and a subordinate, but partners. It’s warm bath TV: a group of enjoyable characters who all have their own friendships and rivalries, hanging out and overcoming the regular, low-stakes obstacles of everyday employment. Even when Mythic Quest slips sometimes, I continue to love the show for how seriously it invests in the hard questions of creative work. In the first season, that element played out through a power struggle between the company’s creative director Ian Grimm (Rob McElhenney) and its lead engineer Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao). There are some early-season episodes in particular that come off as goofy, ineffective wheel spinning, and characters like Jo and David — even a main figure like Poppy — do not always feel like wholly the same person from one episode to the next. Ragtag weirdos and their daily frustrations that are just excuses for us to spend more time with them? They can be truly lovely stories built on innovative new models, centering ideas that have real weight for their audiences and players. There’s a bottle episode that traps everyone together for a trivial reason so they can hash out all their issues with one another, which is always a good idea for this type of show, please take note of this for the future. In its second season, this part of Mythic Quest gets to lean on the work its first season already accomplished. That side of the series doesn’t always mesh easily with the different demands of a workplace comedy story, but it makes Mythic Quest a stronger, more compelling series even when the gears don’t always turn smoothly. Characters like Brad and Jo laugh at them, openly mock them, all these idiots running around with swords and elf ears, all these creatives who seriously care about backstory and meaning. It’s also not hard to love a show that takes itself this seriously while also laughing at itself. How to make it accessible but original? By the end of season one, Ian was forced to recognize Poppy’s creative skill instead of viewing her as just an engineer, and they ended on newly equal footing. But Mythic Quest runs on twin engines. As the show emphasizes, though, the game Poppy and Ian want to make and the stories C.W.

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Isaiah Rashad Returns Ready to Party With ‘Lay Wit Ya’

After he left rehab, Rashad said, he also caught up on new rap, along with learning to freestyle from hip-hop producer Kenny Beats. Eventually, he said, he went to Top Dawg about his drinking and spending in spring 2019, and began treatment at a California rehab center. Rashad cut many slow songs from The House Is Burning and hinted at releasing them later. Turns out they were right — today brings a new Rashad song, “Lay Wit Ya,” the lead single off his long-awaited sophomore album, The House Is Burning. In that Fader cover, Rashad opened up about dealing with alcoholism and spending problems after his 2017 tour, and struggling for years to record his Sun’s Tirade follow-up. Related

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Tags: But there was a smaller, vocal subsection of followers clamoring for new music from Chattanooga rapper Isaiah Rashad, who near-disappeared after releasing his debut album, The Sun’s Tirade, in 2016. “If I’m sad, people don’t need to be able to tell,” he added. “Lay Wit Ya” is a surprising party track from a rapper known for his more interior, emotional work; in a new cover story, Rashad told the Fader, “I just wanted this shit to sound fun.” The song comes with an energetic feature from Memphis rapper Duke Deuce and a post-pandemic party dream of a music video. When quality-over-quantity rap label Top Dawg Entertainment teased a new release last week, most fans’ minds went right to the label’s heaviest hitters, Kendrick Lamar and SZA. “And this is probably my most depressing album.” The House Is Burning is set to come out in June.

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J. Cole Gives a Taste of The Off-Season on ‘i n t e r l u d e’

The rapper just dropped a new single, “i n t e r l u d e,” ahead of the album. “Told myself I would drop the album all at once,” he tweeted before the release. But that’s not the last we’ll hear from Cole ahead of the album. Photo: Suzi Pratt/WireImage

J. Cole recently announced he’ll release The Off-Season, his “years in the making” album, on May 14. It’s the North Carolina rapper’s first song since last summer’s “The Climb Back” and “Lion King on Ice,” but don’t expect to see those on The Off-Season — they’re the leadoffs from The Fall Off, Cole’s planned follow-up to this album. “Sometimes you gotta say fuck it tho.” The song does not, in fact, sound like an interlude — Cole delivers a full, motivated verse over a soul sample. Related

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The Calzones Betrayed This Jeopardy! Contestant

Still can't believe he said this. All-time wrong answer pic.twitter.com/NatDzhSPcj— Becks (@BecksWelker) May 7, 2021

Pizza is old news, Chris.Pizza is your grandfather’s calzone. Ben Wyatt would’ve melted his portable, delicious brain while watching Thursday night’s Jeopardy! episode, where one contestant was confident that he answered the following clue correctly: “Stefano Ferrara is a famous maker of these, which can reach a temperature of 800 degrees inside.” No, he didn’t guess the actual answer, which was “oven.” And no, he didn’t try another blazing kitchen tool, like “microwave” or “toaster” or “the Smeg kettle you never use.” He just took the highway to the calzone zone, baby. Related

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The Challenge: All Stars Recap: Scaredy Kat

But Laterrian is definitely coming back. They’re making jokes about not wanting to be picked but don’t seem to be doing any real begging or negotiating for obvious reasons that don’t even have to be articulated. Kellyanne reminds Katie that the men still have to decide whether or not they want to nominate her since she’ll be deciding which guy she brings into the Arena with her. She makes it a thing about fairness because she doesn’t think the other women who actually tried at the puzzle deserve to be nominated. In a confessional, Aneesa says that if she can get rid of Laterrian’s “hard exterior” that they “may be able to work on something” outside of the show. This is clearly a huge deal for Big Easy based on his reaction, but also because he’s long been resented and undervalued (sometimes appropriately valued) by his fellow castmates. But for the men, who seem to get the biggest kick out of intimidating everyone, I imagine this will be a tough pill to swallow. Derrick is pretending like he was injured from the challenge, with a fake bloodied bandage around his head. The competitors, split into teams of four, are lined up inside a shed suspended 30 feet over water. I don’t immediately think of these two as having chemistry or Laterrian as being someone who Aneesa is attracted to. We also get a confessional from Katie revealing her strategy, which is just embracing her status as one of the weaker women. But Katie also has to do well. She doesn’t know if she’ll have enough time to rearrange hers before the floor caves in, so she just leaves it as is, hoping she’ll still get partial credit like on a two-part math problem. Plus, they’re balancing on a small stump, so their bodies are constrained, and we don’t really see a lot of movement. I’m mostly glad the producers didn’t have to rig the elimination in his favor in order for him to stay on. Something. Allow me to be cheesy and a little bit thirsty for a moment. Or at least it wasn’t obvious! But Mark and Kendal win the last two rounds, which I should’ve known would happen. The men seemingly don’t know either, so they just agree to let Katie nominate herself and see what happens. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. But I also can’t imagine him not receiving Challenge invites for the rest of his life, so who is this all for?? Mark doesn’t even look like he’s internalizing this information, and waiting for TJ to say, “Just kidding!” There’s no way the Godfather, the man who made this entire show happen, can even be allowed to step foot in the Arena. It’s one of those challenges where the competitors are exerting a lot of energy, but it doesn’t really translate onscreen, aside from seeing them sweat. I understand the economic quality of screen time when it comes to reality television. Literally, what else would they do? May be able. But it was exciting going into the Arena truly having no idea what the outcome would be and being shocked when Katie beat Kendal in the first round. This isn’t a dig, per se. I’m not really sure how valuable these moments are right after a bus ride, where presumably everyone has already discussed whatever took place at the elimination, but the producers are intent on starting every episode this way. The Black Team gets the fewest puzzle pieces correct, which means Kendal and Mark are automatically sent to the Arena. So everyone returns from the Arena. I love that Aneesa isn’t just ambivalent about being with this man but that her ambivalence is also conditional. At this point, I’ve heard more people talk about their dislike of Kendal than actually hear her speak or see any discernible parts of her personality. It’s nice to see this charming, ruggedly handsome white man making awful Paramount jokes, poking fun at the players, and expressing his observations about the game unprompted while showing all his teeth. He’s managed to maintain a decent amount of confidence and bravado throughout his time on the show, even though it hasn’t really been substantiated yet. Once again, Katie decides to throw herself into the elimination. Considering that he fractured someone’s rib during his elimination on the first episode and won the last challenge, I would say that the odds are in his favor to perform well. Who knows if Katie would leave her family again to barely compete on this show another time. Email

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After six riveting episodes, I’ve decided that the best part of this season is ultimately TJ Lavin’s smile. But there’s a high level of suspense and palpable sense of anxiety among the competitors from the time they start the challenge to the moment TJ announces the winners, which I really appreciated. The last time we saw this was on War of the Worlds 2, when Josh went against Jordan and somehow lost what’s basically a game of tug-of-war to a man with one hand. The challenge feels like a better-developed version of the skydiving/puzzle mission on Double Agents (sorry!), in which the players had to jump out of an airplane and memorize a series of colors, then complete a puzzle on the ground. The skydiving element was supposed to psych the players out to the point where they couldn’t look at the colors, even though they’re parachuting for a substantial amount of time and have time to chill out after the initial jump. So we finally go to the Arena for an elimination that I find a little underwhelming. He and Aneesa kiss good-bye. VULTURE NEWSLETTER
Keep up with all the drama of your favorite shows! I’m sure we’ll find out she keeps vials of blood, doesn’t shower, or some other ridiculous thing at the reunion. This challenge, on the other hand, seems psychologically torturous the entire time and seems to impact everyone’s completion of the puzzle, considering that only one person assembled it correctly. Everyone else thinks they did well, for the most part. I find it hilarious, though, that with the LifeSaver element being removed, the challenge winners don’t have any actual power to wield over the elimination, just immunity, which might be a relief for certain players. On the ground, TJ reveals that Big Easy was the only person to get the puzzle right, so he and Ruthie, their team’s captains, are safe from elimination. See you next week! This week, however, we do see a spark of romance between Laterrian and Aneesa, which threw me for a loop. The costumes, the props, the incessant interaction with the main characters of the episode, the unnecessary animatedness whenever he’s in a shot. Except for Katie, of course. Anyway, Katie decides to go the route of picking a male competitor who she knows is a beast but doesn’t have a close relationship with. It reminds me of the old days — which is, like, the point of all of this, obviously — when TJ was just a dude who showed up to work in sunglasses, cargo shorts, and flip-flops, with a bullhorn in his right hand, and wasn’t being instructed to lean into some sort of intimidating character. Wow. The way this elimination is edited also makes it seem like each round lasted ten seconds, so I can’t say I was as riveted as last week’s challenge. Jemmye, our audience surrogate, reminds us that this is famously not how the game works. But other female competitors like Aneesa and Kellyanne are threatening, but no one hates them for it. This woman is so traumatized that she flips over all of her puzzle pieces and just decides to stand there waiting to drop with the most bewildered expression on her face. Tags: I’m not sure what’s so off-putting about this woman that it needs to be reiterated this much. Next, it’s on to this week’s challenge, called Escape the Room, which I found a little odd and not immediately compelling when TJ explained it. Speaking of Kendal, we have another episode of cast members saying how much they don’t like this outwardly affable woman, particularly Mark. To work on. This is reality TV! It isn’t clear whether Katie will go for a strong male player who she isn’t close with so that she won’t be sabotaging a friend if they lose, or if she’ll go for someone who she feels like she can trust. So we say good-bye to Laterrian and Katie. What sucks more is that Kendal actually got the puzzle right but, because it was upside down, it didn’t count at all. It’s funny because Derrick’s Challenge legacy has primarily been that he’s a physical specimen but not much of a personality, so watching him decide to take on this eccentric improv-guy schtick at the eleventh hour is a little unsettling. But Lavin’s relaxed, approachable demeanor and communication style with this group of OGs, as opposed to the seriousness he projected on Double Agents, is extremely refreshing. Also, I don’t want to hear about anyone talking about their differences with anyone else without ratting them out for whatever shit they’ve done to annoy you. They each have to complete a puzzle before the floor opens beneath them, starting with the person on the left and moving to the right. I quickly realized after the first round that I couldn’t imagine Mark not competing in the final in terms of what he means to the show. At the club, Katie is getting the treatment that the holder of the Lifesaver previously had from all the men. But now he has a victory on his hands. Kendal makes the confounding mistake of forming her puzzle upside down, even though each one makes a giant letter. She seems to have a lot of male and female players on her side, so she’s able to actually garner pity for being scared of heights instead of being side-eyed like Kendal. You’re supposed to avoid elimination at all costs (unless you’re trying to get one of those godforsaken skulls) and have no problem watching innocent people get sent in before you. Also, excuse me for comparing this all-stars season to the regular season of The Challenge for the umpteenth time. Can we take a second to talk about how thirsty this man has been for camera time than this entire season? Most of the women chalk up their resentment of Kendal to her just being a threatening player that they don’t want to compete against in a final. Everyone is rushing not just to earn points for their team, but so that they can hold onto their vest, plug their nose, and try to control the way they land in the water, hopefully without injury. But good Lord. And that guy is Letarrian. Most importantly, I like knowing that TJ still enjoys his job and is not just showing up for an easy check.

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Will Chloe and Mitchell From The Circle Just Start Dating Already?

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Tags: She also “FaceTimes him every couple of days.” Wow, that sounds like a thing! Photo: Netflix

Reports are swirling that Chloe and Mitchell from The Circle have been sittin’ in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g, and that first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes an end to the palpable sexual tension we’ve all been enduring for weeks. Mitchell’s take, however, is that it is “not an official dating relationship by any means,” but that they “have a relationship.” But then he goes on to say that he “adores Chloe” and that she is “beautiful inside and out,” but that they are “still trying to figure that out.” Meanwhile Chloe says she’s spoken to Mitchell’s mom and “things are going really well.” This all begs the question: Can virgins be fuckbois? In a video update on season two’s cast posted to YouTube today by Netflix, several bombshells were dropped: Deleesa found out she was pregnant with her second child while filming, Bryant shaved his head and changed his name to Ikar, and Chloe Veitch — America’s favorite person from Essex — revealed that she and Mitchell have, in fact, kissed. Luckily, it seems like Lee has quickly become besties with just about everyone in the cast, so, should things go south for Chloe, our favorite Brit who screams for no reason will have plenty of support.

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Noel Clarke Accused of Sexually Harassing Women on Doctor Who Set

After the widespread allegations against Clarke became public, he was dropped by ITV, Sky, and the BBC for future creative projects. “He made advances on me,” she said, “regularly asking me if I wanted a ‘piece of his dark chocolate.’” Another woman, who worked with Clarke during a fan convention in 2016, claims that he grabbed her legs and thighs under an autograph table and asked her for sex. Related

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One week after actor and writer Noel Clarke was accused of being a serial abuser of women, a new report from The Guardian is alleging that Clarke sexually harassed and inappropriately touched multiple women on the set of Doctor Who. He was also stripped of a BAFTA Achievement Award for his contributions to cinema. These accusers, who worked as runners, costume assistants, and drivers during Clarke’s tenure on the popular sci-fi series from 2005 to 2010, claim that in addition to Clarke’s frequent harassment, graphic remarks, and sexual advances, he would become “rude and aggressive” if he was rejected. A Doctor Who actress, who remained anonymous, claimed that she was repeatedly harassed by Clarke for sex during the filming process. “Constantly the conversation was about sex,” one woman recalled. Clarke denied all of the allegations to The Guardian through his lawyers.

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Family Vloggers Euthanize Their Dog, Prompting Collective ‘Why?’

Several influencers, including Jaclyn Hill, Jeffree Star, and Tana Mongeau, have commented on the situation. THIS IS AWFUL: Influencer Nikki Phillippi outrages fans by putting down her dog Bowser because he bit her son. YouTuber LaurDIY, who also owns a bull terrier, posted an entire reaction video, in which she says, “They failed to set boundaries for their child and their dog, who has obvious past, unaddressed trauma that was their responsibility to correct and rehab.” The outrage continues below. (launch day) But I’m just too disgusted. Especially by the “goodbye photo shoot” like WHAT!?— Jaclyn Hill (@Jaclynhill) May 6, 2021

How sick do you have to be to take a ✨photoshoot✨ with your “dangerously aggressive” dog knowing you’re about to end his life? For many, the controversy is a flashback to last year, when YouTubers Myka and James Stauffer were denounced for “rehoming” their adopted son. For 3 days, this story of @NikkiPhillippi unnecessarily euthanizing her bull terrier has truly shaken me to the core and makes me SICK. https://t.co/EKDv2c1Iyw— Meghan Rienks (@meghanrienks) May 5, 2021

You guys know I pretty much never insert myself in “drama” especially on a special day like today! The dog reacted to Logan taking food from him, the couple said, but the injury “wasn’t bad” and their son has a “little mark.” “In the moment, I’m thinking I grew up with the movie Old Yeller and I wanted to pick Bowser up by the back of the neck and take him to the backyard and put him down right there,” Dan Phillippi says in the video, adding that Bowser had injured other dogs in the past. Dog murderers.” pic.twitter.com/NLtDxzODyJ— Def Noodles (@defnoodles) May 6, 2021

Imagine having a million followers and the money to train or ask ur audience to help or find help and instead u kill ur dog bc u cant admit how hard it is to have a baby and a dog or embarrassed ur dog bites— Kelsey Darragh (@kelseydarragh) May 6, 2021

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Tags: Your dog is so aggressive but had no issues putting the baby next to it for a cure lil pre-murder photoshoot? Nikki and Dan Phillippi. In addition to the YouTube video, Nikki Phillippi posted an Instagram slideshow of a photo shoot with Bowser before his death, which included photos of the dog with their child. YouTubers Nikki and Dan Phillippi revealed they had euthanized their nine-year-old bull terrier, Bowser, in a YouTube video on Monday, after an incident in which he bit their 1-year-old son, Logan. Many saying she could’ve rehomed pet instead of ending his life. Please hold them accountable for this cruel decision and know that there are OTHER OPTIONS. Chris says “F*ck these ppl … https://t.co/oCKN62VpdB— lauren (@laurDIY) May 6, 2021

add this to spreading deadly misinformation, alt-right conspiracies, being anti-mask, anti-vaxx, anti-abortion, anti-BLM, (let’s just say it, racist) bigot. One person said “Some dogs can’t live with kids but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to live” pic.twitter.com/mQcFMhgViZ— Def Noodles (@defnoodles) May 5, 2021

The post and video have received mounting backlash over the past week. pic.twitter.com/2jX9FfJywZ— ᵗᵉᵃSpill (@TeaSpillYT) May 6, 2021

CALL OUT: Chris Klemens reacts to Nikki and Dan Phillippi’s video where they address why they put down their dog Bowser after he bit their son. Photo: NikkiPhillippi/YouTube

There’s only one thing that could get the internet this riled up: dogs. They claim the Humane Society told them rehoming would be impossible, so they used a euthanasia service to him put him down at home. Her Instagram account has since gone private.

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IMDb TV Wants to Win the Free Streaming Wars

One hundred percent. Why does there need to be an IMDb TV when Prime Video already has 200 million subscribers? So for us, no, I can say very, very directly, no. (Or, in my case, to watch a compilation of TV commercials which aired exactly 25 years ago today on UPN.) The most interesting stat to me: 57 percent of Americans now regularly watch YouTube on TV screens (as opposed to via phone or computer), making it the Google-owned company’s fastest-growing platform. Lauren Anderson and Ryan Pirozzi. You talk about IMDb TV as a “modern network.” What does that mean? Instead it simply said there’d be stuff from Fox’s Bento Box animation studio and some documentaries. A subscription service in Prime Video, and an ad-supported service in IMDb TV. We had Schitt’s Creek during its final two years. We have Chicago Fire right now. Being able to say we believe in this concept and this world and this vision and in these creators, to us means let’s do more series, as opposed to pilots. We embrace it. So maybe two years from now, we’re talking about dozens of IMDb TV shows? What about multi-cam comedies with studio audiences? Or will you follow the old network model and make pilots and see what sticks? Lauren Anderson:  Licensing is always going to be a huge part of what we do. There were, of course, plenty of clips from the Quibi acquisition–the newly-branded Roku Originals– but still no word on when or how they’ll start rolling out. And one of the ways we stand out is an original slate of programming that’s also free, which is unique. I know you’re free. Head to vulture.com/buffering and subscribe today! We’ve launched two more this year. Does having advertising change the kind of shows you can do? But for us, it’s just about what we think people are going to enjoy watching, and then maybe taking learnings from that. Has that been a thing? With Leverage: Redemption, there is some of that. It’s also the modern classics, like Mad Men and Lost, and even shows that are currently on, or just recently gone. You can sort of watch a show do well and say, “Hey, let’s reimagine this,” which is certainly something that you see happen. ➽ Tubi’s presentation was well-produced and reasonably entertaining (thanks to host Will Arnett). Lauren Anderson: I will say that the vast majority, if not everything that we’ve picked up, has been straight to series, and that is our prevailing model. Email

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Terms of Service apply. The company made the point that its traditionally gaming-centric service is about far more than watching the Youngs play video games, and suggested Twitch (along with IMDb TV) is a big part of the reason the company’s ad-supported content now reaches 120 million users every month. We launched our first original in November. To me that suggests Fox plans to drive Tubi’s growth by putting more shows from its broadcast network on its new digital sibling. While the global e-commerce giant already has a firm footing in the subscription business via Prime Video, IMDb TV represents an opportunity for the company to grow its already-significant advertising revenues and dominate the rapidly growing category of free, ad-supported TV — or FAST, for short. But it also did a great job reminding advertisers and the press that while YouTube is no longer making traditional scripted TV shows (such as Cobra Kai, now on Netflix), it still is where hundreds of millions of folks go each day for compelling, episodic, TV-like content. Ryan Pirozzi: We want to do a lot, to Lauren’s point. It’s really about having something for everyone. Related

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Tags: Ryan Pirozzi: Absolutely. IMDBb TV’s Alex Rider. This story first ran in Buffering, Vulture’s newsletter about the streaming industry. ➽ YouTube may have actually pulled off my favorite presentation. So for us, being in an ad-supported environment does not at all change the ambition of what we’re trying to do. The streamer’s secret sauce is its ability to microtarget ads to customers, including through the beachfront real estate that is the Roku menu homepage. Do you still want to keep acquiring more “old” shows as you build your library of originals? And one of the biggest players in the space is IMDb TV, which suffers from an unfortunate six-syllable mouthful of a name but also boasts one very important asset: It’s owned by Amazon. Yes, full stop. But we absolutely have those pitches where people have talked about how Amazon devices or other properties can be used inside of the show. Ryan Pirozzi: I would say we’re 100 percent open to it. And then in terms of the signals that we take from those shows, it’s an interesting thing, because you can do it two different ways. It had the most stars, both from the YouTube universe and more traditional media (including host Hasan Minhaj and closing performer Miley Cyrus). Maybe we’ll hear something when the company announces its first quarter earnings Thursday afternoon? We think there’s a home for them in streaming. NOW PLAYING: BUFFERING
Sign up for Vulture’s insider newsletter on the streaming industry from editor Joe Adalian. We don’t ever think that we’re going to move away from that. And then we’re also delighting people that don’t want to be behind the paywall for one reason or another. I like to talk about these two big groups of customers. One hundred percent, that happens. It doesn’t change the creativity of what we’re trying to do. Who Broke Through at NewFronts

Several of IMDb TV’s recent content announcements — the Dick Wolf and Greg Garcia shows, for example — were timed to coincide with this week’s NewFronts presentations. Are those genres that you’ve talked about? You’ve announced a bunch of projects in development, but how much of that is going to get made into a series? So maybe that means looking to reinvent those exact series, or maybe that just means taking the spirit and the flavor of those series and creating something fresh and new. We’re delighting Prime members who want more selection and are willing to watch ads to get it. And do you look at how those shows perform to inform what kinds of originals you make? IMDb TV so far has mostly been defined by series which have already aired on other networks. It’s more of an embracing of the convenience and ubiquitous access of streaming. Like the decades-old TV upfront, they’re designed to give advertisers a better understanding of what’s ahead for major ad-supported platforms. This is not about doing everything. But we want to be a top-of-mind destination service … so that’s both about the quality of content we’re making, and then the quantity that we’re making.  

Ryan Pirozzi: It’s premium [shows] across a wide variety of genres. But a lot of people already think of Prime Video as free, since it’s included with the overall Prime two-day shipping plan. Per CNBC, that number was 20 million at the start of 2020. Lauren Anderson: We are doing a little bit of everything. Its ability (and willingness) to commit significant resources to original content has become clear in recent months as IMDb TV has announced one big project after the next: a new court show from Judge Judy Sheindlin; spinoffs of Bosch and Leverage; a new comedy from My Name is Earl creator Greg Garcia; a half-hour drama from Dick Wolf. I mean, one of the things we talk a lot about on the team is, with cord-cutters and cord-nevers flocking to streaming, it’s not because of the rejection of the content you might find on broadcast and basic cable. Are you going for basic cable-type content? We don’t just look at other competitors in the AVOD space. To find out more about exactly what IMDb TV is up to, I recently chatted by telephone with Lauren Anderson and Ryan Pirozzi, who serve as co-heads of content and programming for the streamer. We definitely think there’s an opportunity for those kinds of programs you might have only found on broadcast and basic cable. Columbo and Murder, She Wrote and those sorts of classic shows, that genre is just never going out of style.  

Lauren Anderson: So no one has fully pitched something that revolves around Alexa at the center of it. Originals, in a lot of ways, are the centerpiece of our business. Those are some of the best shows that have been made. Not every single thing is going to get picked up, but we do feel that if we’re putting it into development, we’re putting it into development because we want to make your show, period. We look at competing for customers’ interest and time, so we have to stand out. Netflix famously said it green-lit House of Cards because its members really liked Kevin Spacey movies.  

Ryan Pirozzi: I think the best way to say it is, Amazon Studios is programming two services now. And those are the shows that audiences continue to love. I come from network television. So it is those sort of classic shows, the Norman Lear shows, Bewitched, etcetera. Industry folks I’ve talked to think IMDb TV has a leg up in the FAST fight because of the deep pockets of Amazon. I won’t try to sum up all the news from the past few days, but here a few things that caught my eye:

➽ While Amazon is obviously pushing IMDb TV hard, don’t sleep on Twitch. We are planning to at least quadruple that amount as we continue to move through the year, and then are going to use the next, I’d say, 18 months or so to figure out what that right number is. We talked about the difference between Prime Video and IMDb TV, what types of programs are in the pipeline, and the most important question of all: Is Alexa getting her own TV show? Definitively. But I think for us, it really is about betting on a creator and then making a great show together. We do have some things that we’re thinking about as pilots. We’ve talked about this concept of being daypart agnostic, recognizing that people love the kind of shows you can typically find on daytime TV, but they might watch it at any time and really enjoy those genres on demand. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. Lauren Anderson:  So it’s funny, one of the things early on, when we were sort of going around and talking to creators and talking to the town about content, I actually spent time reminding people that shows like Mad Men and Atlanta and The Shield — all of those shows are shows that were launched inside of ad-supported networks and channels.  Okay, so this is probably a dumb question, but: Has anyone come to you with a pitch for a series based on Alexa? It’s a big part of what we’re going to continue to do. What’s the goal? What kinds of acquired shows do you want to have on the platform? Lauren Anderson: I feel comfortable saying yes. Would you ever do a daytime-style soap opera or a game show or a talk show? Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios/Nick Wall/Eleventh Hour Films/So

The hottest front in the streaming wars right now is the battle for free TV. But we also pride ourselves on being curated. It doesn’t change the talent we want to work with. Platforms such as Roku Channel, Pluto, and Tubi are scrambling to give subscription-wary consumers zero-cost alternatives, betting they’ll be willing to put up with a few minutes of ads in exchange for the sort of content you’d traditionally find on broadcast TV or basic cable. I do think that these services should be complementary to one another. I just want to make sure I say that very clearly: It’s never going anywhere. It’s not so much that we won’t ever do pilots. But licensed content is never going anywhere. What’s the difference between Prime Video and IMDb TV? Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Lauren Anderson: A lot. [Laughter.] I don’t want to give an answer that is sort of just randomly picking a number. They will not feel the same. But it was also frustratingly short on specifics: The platform promised 140 hours of original content, but didn’t announce any big new shows or talent deals. Also, the pilot doesn’t always tell you all that you need to know about a show. In terms of overall content, how many shows do you want to make every year? (A slew of unscripted Fox shows, including The Masked Singer, already live on Tubi as well.)

➽ Roku Channel also spent more time focused on ad technology than content, which makes sense, I suppose. And what that allows us to do is open up the aperture of people we reach.

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Dark Side of the Ring Exposes Wrestling’s Seedy, Sensational Secrets

In addition to the behind-the-scenes-augmented series Dark Side of the Ring Confidential, Dark Side of Football is slated to take the series’ approach to the gridiron starting on May 13. “The Brawl for All” examines a truly baffling how-did-this-happen series of matches in which professional wrestlers, trained in the art of pretending to beat the shit out of each other, were given the ill-advised opportunity to do so for real, perplexing fans and altering careers forever. Related

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Tags: No series has understood this better than Dark Side of the Ring. “The Montreal Screwjob” episode, for example, features not one but two prominent industry figures — arch-rival producers Jim Cornette and Vince Russo — claiming credit, if that’s the right word, for the most infamous swindle in the sport’s history, for the first time ever. Billed as the most-watched show in the history of Vice TV, Dark Side digs into the history of professional wrestling for its most controversial and criminal moments, which it portrays with genuine style and considerable compassion. Filmmakers Jason Eisner and Evan Husney have made no bones about the fact that the stylistic inspiration for Dark Side is legendary documentarian Errol Morris’s 1988 breakthrough film, The Thin Blue Line. (Dark Side tracked down enough of the figures involved to conclude that his death, though tragic, was not a murder.)

In the case of Frank “Bruiser Brody” Goodish, however, the line was a bright one. Photo: Vice TV

Is it real or is it fake? But whereas many antihero dramas end on a down note, Dark Side frequently concludes with its most uplifting moments. On a darker note, it’s hard to shake the moment when Martha Hart, the widow of wrestler Owen Hart, digs into her archives and produces the chintzy hook that held her late husband aloft during a spot in which he was to be lowered from the arena ceiling to the ring in a harness — the very hook that gave out under a weight it was not meant to hold, sending Owen plummeting to his death in front of a live crowd. And like any good series, Dark Side has a recurring villain: Vince McMahon, the mercurial WWE CEO. But both his fellow wrestlers (Abdullah included) and his widow, Barbara, attest to the fact that he was a thoughtful, gentle giant outside the ring. Returning for its third season on May 6, it’s a must for true-crime junkies and wrestling aficionados alike. An absolute monster in the ring, he was known for bloody confrontations with his nemesis, Lawrence “Abdullah the Butcher” Shreve, which would frequently spill out into the stands, terrifying onlookers. Is it a sport or is it an art form? McMahon has played the villain on camera since the Screwjob went down; as far as Dark Side is concerned, this may once again be a case of a performer living the gimmick. There he is, helping usher his superstar wrestler Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka through local law enforcement’s questions regarding the death of Snuka’s girlfriend, Nancy Argentino. There he is, berating a reporter at a press conference for asking uncomfortable questions about Owen Hart’s death. Some of the series’ more lighthearted episodes (relatively speaking) focus on what goes on inside the ring, tackling controversial behind-the-scenes decisions that led to public debacles. Similarly, “Gorgeous” Gino Hernandez’s fast-living, big-spending character reflected his real-life underworld connections, leading to speculation that he was killed by his criminal associates. But the return of the original article is something to be celebrated. This fact was lost on the local authorities attending to his stabbing by another performer in a locker-room shower; they at first believed it was all part of the show. It’s hard not to root for retired wrestler Kevin Von Erich — the last surviving son of a wrestling dynasty, whose brothers succumbed to suicide and misfortune — as he lives out his life in a Hawaiian paradise, surrounded by nature and the sons who look to him for inspiration. The promise of genuine, never-before-seen revelations is key to Dark Side’s appeal. For starters, Dark Side claims lineage from one of the most important entries in the true-crime genre. It’s hard not to be moved by Chris Benoit’s surviving son David’s reunion with his slain mother’s family, a reunion facilitated in large part by Dark Side itself. The piecemeal discovery of the facts surrounding this horrifying incident led the WWE to air a full-fledged tribute episode to the performer, only to reverse course and virtually erase his career from the history books when the truth came out. Set in a larger-than-life world with all-too-human heroes, it’s about as good as a true-crime series can get. You don’t need to be a pro-wrestling scholar to find it a gripping, moving watch. It puts a fascinating art form under the microscope, with real cinematic panache and true sympathy for its subjects. “The Life and Crimes of New Jack” details the titular wrestler’s gangsta-rap-inspired persona and in-ring transgressions, which at different times involved the use of a surgical scalpel and a taser on his unsuspecting opponents. Dark Side’s success has already spawned something of a cottage industry. Is the story what goes on inside the ring or what happens behind the scenes? These questions animate any serious discussion of professional wrestling; the key to understanding this American pastime is that the answer is yes, on all counts. One of the show’s most fascinating leitmotifs is the degree to which wrestlers “live the gimmick” — intentionally blurring the line between performer and performance for added verisimilitude in the ring. There he is, wiping Owen’s brother Bret’s spit off of his face after the Screwjob, live and on camera. In other episodes, the crimes are genuinely tragic. Foremost among these is the two-part season-two opener, simply — and, if you know your wrestling history, ominously — titled “Benoit.” In what is widely referred to as wrestling’s darkest hour, wrestler Chris Benoit, one of the most technically accomplished performers in the sport’s history, killed his wife and young son before hanging himself in his home gym. Season three kicks off with the two-part story of Brian Pillman, whose “loose cannon” character was reflected both in his reckless lifestyle — a difficult balancing act given his ever-expanding family — and the very real car wreck that shattered his career before his death of a heart ailment at the age of 35. It’s a thin line indeed that the series walks: It necessarily requires the portrayal of devastating events without exploiting them, and the shadowy reenactments, coupled with archival footage and extensive first-person interviews, are what make it work. It’s hard not to root for Owen Hart’s widow, Martha, and son, Oje, as they translate his legacy into a foundation helping underprivileged mothers. “The Montreal Screwjob,” for example, chronicles a successful ploy by the then–WWF management to strip wrestler Bret “Hitman” Hart of his championship in the middle of a match, against the agreed-to script. Dark Side also hints at the possibility that Brody’s fearsome reputation helped lead the jury to believe his killer’s successful claim of self-defense at the subsequent murder trial. That movie’s approach to a Texas murder and the likely conviction of the wrong man for the crime inspired Dark Side’s vivid, noirish reenactment segments, in which actors and wrestlers are filmed in vivid silhouette, portraying important events in each story. Multiple explanations for Benoit’s crimes — roid rage, CTE, an inability to recover from the premature death of his best friend, wrestler Eddie Guerrero — have been suggested; all of them trace back to professional wrestling’s unforgiving culture. For some wrestlers, like “Macho Man” Randy Savage — the subject of the season-one premiere, “The Match Made in Heaven” — the line simply didn’t exist: What you saw on camera was virtually indistinguishable from the bombastic, paranoid life he lived offscreen.

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A Little Late With Lilly Singh Is Coming to a Little End

The show replaced Last Call With Carson Daly in the 1:30 a.m. Related

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Tags: “I’m going to focus on the slate of projects my company Unicorn Island Productions is developing, and we’re saying good-bye to A Little Late With Lilly Singh,” she said in a statement. But there shan’t be anyone attempting to fill Singh’s time-slot shoes, as Deadline is reporting that the network will move away from airing original content in the 1:30 a.m. That’s pretty incredible and it’s been a true honor.” I guess now we’ll all get to bed a little earlier, at least. ET slot on NBC in 2019, and at the time it was the only late-night show hosted by a woman of color. Photo: Erik Voake/E! “I have a desire to make longer-form content telling underrepresented stories, which is difficult to execute on a nightly show.” The host also gave a shout-out to her staff and touted A Little Late’s work increasing the inclusivity of the genre. However, this is only a small good-bye as Singh is already attached to star in a Netflix comedy series she’s developing with executive producer Kenya Barris, and she will also develop other work with NBC, where she’s signed a first-look deal. ET slot, probably because that is a bonkers time to be watching television, but that’s just a guess. “We’ve given 21 people their late-night debut this season. Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

After a promising start, a renewal, and a retooling of the writing staff, A Little Late With Lilly Singh will cease to be once its current and second season ends on June 3, according to Deadline. (That is, until Amber Ruffin came along.) However, that whole global-pandemic thing forced the show to go remote for season two, a challenge for even well-established shows with earlier time slots.

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Welcome to Ziwe’s House. Make Yourself Uncomfortable.

Ziwe is just as much about what comes immediately after an interview subject’s flub — the part when Fumudoh turns to the camera, twitching an eyebrow in amusement and victory. Ziwe has the same aesthetic, exploded on a grander scale. These interviews are both pointy and pointed, mixed in with interstitial sketches designed to lay out Fumudoh’s larger project. Most interview shows are built to feel neutral-comfortable, an inviting, easy space with a subtle TV sheen. Ziwe Fumudoh’s Comedy Is Iconic, Folks

Tags: Stephen Greenberg, whom she visits on the pretext of wanting a cosmetic-surgery consultation. Ziwe may depend on its guests, but it proudly proclaims its allegiance to Ziwe the person. Most guests are aware of the trap being put in front of them. By the time the guest tries to answer, they have already been eviscerated. They ping-pong for a bit before he admits that her nose could look “more refined.” “Refined,” she says. None of this is a secret. “They volunteer that information — for better or worse!”

Fumudoh’s new Showtime series, Ziwe, debuting this Sunday, is an adaptation of her Instagram show that adopts that same premise, while putting more emphasis on something that was visible but less explicit in the original format. It’s having to listen to a Black woman and not being able to make me stop.” She is the all-knowing arbiter, the ultimate arched eyebrow of amused critique, and her assumption of that persona is as much a part of Ziwe’s politics as asking Fran Lebowitz about white women’s failures or singing an elaborate song about how pop-music aesthetics infantilize women. Fumudoh’s signature is the sharp, puncturing question, often delivered with a conversational casualness that masks the treacherous waters underneath. “See, this is funny!” the show says. “My comedy is about power. Fumudoh has a high threshold for awkwardness, an ability to destabilize her guests and allow that feeling to transfer to her audience. Fumudoh shoots a look at the camera like a glowing, neon “Can you believe this?!” Dr. Alex Jung last year. The primary purpose of the chyrons and the interviews’ intrusive editing is to reflect brilliance back on Fumudoh — her confidence in asking the question, her wit in responding, and her magnanimity when she chooses not to jump on someone’s inept answer. “You can handle this!” Ziwe, so much bigger and glossier than Fumudoh’s Instagram show, is best when it recaptures the original videos’ feeling of live, uneasy, intimate, and intense conversation — when it’s riding on friction and interpersonal messiness. That doesn’t mean the series is always a convincing platform for those politics. For all of Fumudoh’s skill as a performer, the show’s songs tend to be long and thematically repetitive. She loves to reveal her guests, setting traps for them, then shooting a knowing look at the camera as they blithely waltz right in. Ziwe may depend on its guests, but it proudly proclaims its allegiance to Ziwe the person. Her first episode is about white women and their failure to side with equality over self-interest, the second is about wealth inequality, the third about beauty standards. Ziwe is an interview show, a sketch-comedy series, a musical, a cultural commentary. Photo: Showtime

Ziwe Fumudoh practices the art of discomfort. Rather than ask guests about their areas of expertise, Fumudoh asked them about things they may not have examined about themselves, things that make them uncomfortable — usually involving race. The host’s high-glam look, the camera angles that have her looming over her underlings, the lengthy, jokey musical numbers that largely exist to show off Fumudoh’s charisma — all of it is part and parcel of the larger project. “I don’t really think I need to trap anyone into saying anything racist,” she said in a conversation with Vulture’s E. When someone like Colbert forced guests to play along with his antics, it was only a reification of the cultural power he already held. “I have gotten through life as a Black woman in white spaces by being extremely controlled,” Fumudoh told Jung last year. Her Instagram tagline has been co-opted for this show: “You’d be an iconic guest,” she says to the person she is luring in. While guests like Alison Roman and Caroline Calloway often held themselves at a slight remove from their cameras, Fumudoh leaned close enough to hers to fill the entire frame, making her presence superficially pleasant but inescapable. The series builds Fumudoh’s selfhood as a space, something that guests may enter and feature in but that is ultimately intended to solidify and further define Fumudoh, her style, her worldview, her interests, her brand. Related

Who’s Afraid of Ziwe Fumudoh? It’s as pink as the inside of a mouth, and you can feel the teeth closing in. “Does my nose bother you?” she asks Dr. Ziwe’s incredible pinkness evokes an exclusive female club. Her interviews have always been about putting her guests at unease; the Showtime iteration makes it clear they are equally about holding up these people as foils for Fumudoh. The comedian is most effective as an interviewer and best known for her Instagram Live series, in which she hosted intense one-on-one interviews with other comedians and internet personalities. He goes on to describe a nose that is thinner, narrower — and, his description implies, less Black. Her studio set is all fur and hot pink and prominent book props, her wardrobe somewhere between Barbie and wealthy high-society widow. When Fumudoh does the same thing, it is a radical reversal. That is its own form of performative commentary. Why do you think ugly people can’t be powerful?” she asks Real Housewives of New York City star Eboni K. Like in interviews on The Colbert Report, a guest’s answers on Ziwe are held up for display, often in hilarious, out-of-context chyrons (“White Woman Has Opinion on Obama”) that appear suddenly onscreen. “What bothers you more: slow walkers or racism?” she asks Fran Lebowitz, who retorts, “That’s a real question?” before explaining that on a day-to-day basis she encounters more slow walkers. The sketches often feel like emptier, less complex explorations of the same ideas that come up in her interviews. Even the interviews, the show’s strongest feature, are so heavily edited that they feel mediated with music cues and unsubtle signaling that let the audience off the hook in a way that her early interviews never did. “How much money do you make?”

“You have a book called Pretty Powerful. Fumudoh’s eye contact with the camera underscores what the audience already knows: The moment she started asking questions, it became her space, not his. But the icon has always been, and still is, Fumudoh. It is very different for Fumudoh, a Black woman, to demonstrate a Colbertian balloon of self-love. Greenberg is behaving as though his office is still his domain. “Does it bother you?” he asks. Some, like the plastic surgeons Fumudoh consults with for the beauty episode, seem barely aware that the jaws are closing around them. Williams. “Thank you for being here!” Fumudoh greets comedian and SNL cast member Bowen Yang. The gesture says, “Look at them!” It also says, “Look at me!”

On Instagram, that “look at me” element had to be created through Fumudoh’s extreme close-up framing, her glam makeup, and occasional glimpses of dramatic wardrobe pieces like shoulderless tops or glossy, full-length gloves. She claims not to see it that way, though.

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