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Media/Critic's Notes
We will never see a movie like The Dark Knight again
By Matt Patches, Polygon.com - Jul. 16, 2018

macking his lips from across the interrogation table, makeup smearing his face like acid wash, The Joker takes an existential swipe at Batman halfway through Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and leaves a scar. “I know the truth,” he blabbers. “There’s no going back. You’ve changed things ... forever.”

Shrouded by an iconic cowl, The Dark Knight’s version of Batman fights the blight eroding his world, Gotham City, by breaking the laws he vowed to protect. The Joker catches him in the paradox, and paints a picture of a world still festering. There are violent Batman imitators. There are “freaks” spawning each day. There’s the establishment, supposedly on his side, but righteous and ready to stab him in the back. Batman can try to be above it all, but in the end, his actions will have consequences.

At the time of the film’s release, Nolan told the L.A. Times that the interrogation scene was “so important and so central” to his vision, and one of the first scenes he and his co-writer/brother Jonathan Nolan needed to crack to understand how the rest of the movie should play out. Today the scene plays like a self-reflexive confession: As Batman and the Joker’s clash over the transformative power of extremism, Nolan seems aware of what he’s getting away with, and what impact his finished film could have on Hollywood. Nolan came to IP-driven blockbustering as a Batman, a determined defender of The Good Ol’ Days who had the fancy toys and symbolic mask to fly high. The Dark Knight challenged expectations, and as we know now, 10 years later, changed things ... forever. But could it help the industry revert to normalcy? Could anything ever replace The Dark Knight?

Speaking at a BAFTA event last fall, Nolan admitted that the conditions under which he made The Dark Knight, even more controlled on The Dark Knight Rises after his sequel grossed over $1 billion worldwide, were abnormal, and unlikely to be replicated down the road. The director insists he never even planned on sequelizing that foray into comic-book cinema, Batman Begins’ playing card Easter egg be damned. When he pounced on screenwriter David S. Goyer’s Joker-led sequel treatment (prepped before the release of Begins, just in case), he did so at his own pace, and with his own priorities. Reflecting on it, the distance between then and now sounds more like five decades instead of one.

”That’s a privilege and a luxury that filmmakers aren’t afforded anymore,” Nolan told the BAFTA members. “There’s too much pressure on release schedules to let people do that now, but creatively it’s a huge advantage. We had the privilege and advantage to develop as people and as storytellers and then bring the family back together.”

Nolan doesn’t exactly need to tell us this; after years of buildup toward a convoluted Justice League, “Release the Snyder Cut” conspiracy theories and continued plans for an extended DC universe, we know what Warner Bros. Pictures’ protection and investment looks like. The Dark Knight, released just two months after Marvel Studios’ breakout film Iron Man, is in debt to Batman without pandering to any single image or comic arc. There is little world-building outside the logic of the immediate narrative. Nolan’s Batman isn’t a superhero in the gleeful, laws-of-physics-defying, action-figure sense, instead burdened by ethical rhetoric and villain complications. The movie is not “for the fans,” and yet it’s held as a blockbuster pinnacle by those who’d self-identify as such. Quality notwithstanding, The Dark Knight is singular.

The director and his collaborators, Olympians of their crafts, seize the opportunity to push the limits of what movies can do. The Dark Knight is elegantly excessive, a confluence of Nolan’s film-tech obsessions, philosophical puzzles and wealth of popcorn movie knowledge. Everything that can be explored — architecture, performance, film chemistry, noir tropes, screenwriting “rules,” practical special effects, Ethics 101, action geography, orchestral sound, the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale, pragmatic costuming, the spectrum of humor, truck mechanics — is explored. The DNA of The Dark Knight is geek in nearly every way, except for the fulfillment of page-to-screen recreation. Nolan co-opts Batman like so many revolutionaries have over the character’s 75-plus-year history, and burns cash like he’s The Clown Prince of Crime.

Despite monetary evidence to be argued otherwise, it’s hard to imagine any director in the future having the same indulgent opportunity as Nolan had on The Dark Knight. This is not for a lack of a talent pool; only now, under immense pressure, are studios waking up to the fact that directors of various genders, races and other marginalized factors possess Nolan’s ability to project their collective knowledge onto the canvas of a $185 million blockbuster. But in 2018, the “auteur” director has been replaced by the masterminding producer and committees that ensure there’s a game plan for the next five installments in the megafranchise. The films will be shot, and reshot, whether planned in advance — which is often is the case, and wisely so — or abruptly interjected into the proceedings, in case, say, a Star Wars movie needs to be “more Star Wars” than the director was able to deliver. In theory.

There are outliers: Mad Max: Fury Road, plagued by quixotic, behind-the-scenes horror stories before release and by confidence-busting lawsuits after the fact, turned out to be an Oscar-worthy masterstroke. Black Panther found a voice inside the Marvel machine. This summer’s Nolan-esque Mission: Impossible - Fallout is a wildly successful experiment in letting a screenwriter make the movie they intended to make. All three follow established vocabulary with varying degrees of idiosyncrasy, but in the doldrums of the modern blockbuster, they pop with an aura of purity.

The difference is how The Dark Knight continues to be, watch after watch after watch, a knotted ball of bold choices that still steer — and allude to — its predecessors 10 years later. Inspired by Michael Mann’s Heat, Nolan wanted The Dark Knight to take on an epic, yet self-contained quality. The action never strays from the streets of Gotham, or grody, suffocating rooms often blown up through the magic of IMAX, a tactic that allows each scene to take on vignette-like properties.

We remember the explosion-heavy set pieces, Heath Ledger’s molten line readings (“How about a magic trick? I’m gonna make this pencil disappear”), Christian Bale’s growling investigations and every decision made under the pressure of a ticking time bomb. While Nolan’s editor, Lee Smith, masterfully links the ingredients together, the staying power of the film was an ability for each scene to live on its own — and in places not even Nolan could have expected them to simmer.

YouTube was only three years old when The Dark Knight blew up, and the fertile ground let making-of videos thrive, comedians produce spoofs and memes galore, and eventually, high-definition clips of the film circulate around dorm rooms everywhere. An avalanche of promo videos and fan takes, designed for minimal attention span and blaring “YOU AIN’T NEVER SEEN ACTION THIS BIG BEFORE” in unison, now circulate around the internet each day. In terms of virality, Dark Knight videos were an internet contagion.

The Dark Knight’s legacy was built brick by brick, put into motion by Nolan’s multifaceted vision, enabled by a deep-pocketed studio (that still had faith in the director after Batman Begins technically underperformed), and chiseled into the history books by an obsessed internet audience and an Oscar season that needed to look cool, then failed. Like the actual film, there’s no one way to talk about the movie — so we’re also going to talk about it brick by brick.

On the occasion of The Dark Knight’s 10th anniversary, Polygon is dedicating a week to Nolan’s pointillist work of pop art. Whether you think it’s a masterpiece or an inflated work of hype, the film survived superhero oversaturation and a faster, furiousier brand of action movie to remain a monolith of the genre. A decade later, we’re still quoting Ledger’s Joker. We’re still talking about “gritty reboots.” We’re still wishing there’d be more 18-wheeler truck flips in movies. Why so serious about a Batman movie? Because something like it will never happen again.

https://www.polygon.com/2018/7/16/17574690/the-dark-knight-10-years
 

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TV Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Jul. 16, 2018

ROBIN WILLIAMS: COME INSIDE MY MIND
HBO, 8:30 p.m. ET

This new biographical documentary about Robin Williams includes some rough-language ad libs, showing comedian Robin Williams at his most unstructured and unfettered, that make this a perfect presentation for uncensored HBO. But for me, the biggest treasures are Williams himself (in old interviews) and such comic peers as Steve Martin and Billy Crystal (in new ones), dropping the laugh track to speak seriously – very seriously – about comedy, and specifically about Williams. For my full review on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, listen today, or visit the Fresh Air websitehttps://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ later this afternoon.

DIETLAND
AMC, 9:00 p.m. ET

Plum (Joy Nash) has stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight – and likes it. In tonight’s new episode, called “Rad Fatties,” she embraces her inner rebel, as well as her outer self.

POV: "LINDY LOU, JUROR NUMBER TWO"
PBS, 10:00 p.m. ET

In 1994, Linda Lou Isonhood was one of 12 people in Mississippi who served on the jury of a man accused of a double homicide, and convicted him, sentencing him to death. In this new documentary film, she seeks out the other 11 jurors to ask them, after all these years, how they feel about the case, the experience, and their decision. Check local listings.


http://www.tvworthwatching.com/

* * * *

TV Review (Cable)
HBO Debuts 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind'
By David Hinckley, TVWorthWatching.com's 'All Along the Watchtower' - Jul. 16, 2018

HBO’s new documentary on the late Robin Williams may enhance our appreciation of his comic genius, not that it needs much enhancement. It does less to enhance our understanding of his conflicted private life.

That’s not to diminish Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, a two-hour documentary by Marina Zenovich that premieres Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

It’s openly affectionate, it talks to important people from his life and it selects performance clips that nicely track his career.

It only provides glimpses, however, of who Robin Williams became when the cameras stopped rolling.

David Letterman, who rhapsodizes about the bond among young comedians in the cowboy world of early-1970s Los Angeles, says that many years later he formed a deeper friendship with Williams over their new role as fathers.

Valerie Velardi, Williams’s first wife, recalls how they moved out of L.A. to northern California in the early 1980s so Williams could escape the drug-fueled craziness that had just led to the death of his friend John Belushi.

Williams wanted to decelerate and live a saner life, she says.

She then adds that as the ‘80s progressed, their marriage fell apart because Williams needed to move back into the action – not the drugs, necessarily, but the high-wire showbiz world where he had now become a movie star as well as a comedy icon.

Off-camera, Velardi says, Williams was quiet. That’s not an uncommon description of even the wildest comedians, but it’s notable in this documentary that not many other people who knew Williams say much of anything about his private demeanor.

Come Inside My Mind includes a number of Williams’s own words, from talk show appearances and other interviews, and they also don’t provide all that much illumination.

Williams was a master at answering a potentially serious question with a marvelous joke. He could turn the simplest sentence into a manic routine, which was part of the reason he became such a memorable comedian and also provided a handy mechanism for avoiding anything he didn’t really want to discuss.

Williams’s childhood, Zenovich suggests, was comfortable and a little lonely.

Growing up without siblings, he learned to entertain himself, and became fascinated with comedians like Jonathan Winters. He spent time excelling in an all-boys prep school, a path that swiveled 180 degrees when the family moved to California and he discovered other options.

He plunged into the exploding youth culture he found there, incorporating its rich panorama into his embryonic style of entertaining talk.

As Come Inside My Mind reminds us, he became a crazy man when he started talking, not telling jokes as much as spitting out a rapid-fire monologue for which he seemed to draw on a galaxy of references. He didn’t give audiences time to analyze anything instead tossing them into a raft that went careening down his wild river. Hang on and enjoy the ride.

The documentary doesn’t delve into his creative process, or ruminate on whether that would even be possible. A couple of friends say that while he had a lightning-fast mind, he did a lot of prep work before he took those monologues on stage.

After he committed suicide in August 2014 at the age of 63, it was morbid but natural to ask whether he was finally overtaken by his crazed Robin Williams persona, that the careening raft finally just flipped and took him under.

Come Inside My Mind suggests he did carry around some demons that made his life more difficult than we outsiders think stardom must be.

That’s hardly uncommon among the famous, however, and the prelude to his death seems much less dramatic. He had diffuse Lewy Body Dementia, a Parkinsons-related affliction that triggers cruel malfunctions in the brain and body.

Susan Schneider, to whom he was married at the time of his death, has said the disease triggered the depression that precipitated his suicide. She isn’t interviewed here, but Williams’s friend Bobcat Goldthwait makes a similar point, saying Williams’s brain was sending misdirected signals to his body.

Zenovich works hard not to let the tragic end of Williams’s story overshadow either his earlier triumphs or his legacy. She also makes it clear that he paid a price – and that the details of that price were very likely scattered with his ashes over San Francisco Bay.

http://www.tvworthwatching.com/BlogPostDetails.aspx?postId=16742
 

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TV Review (Broadcast)
Trial & Error is brilliant at stupid comedy
By Kristen Baldwin, EW.com

One of the many blessings of the peak-TV era is the way it loosens conventions, allowing pockets of brilliant weirdness to flourish in unlikely places. Over on NBC, as mainstream hits like This is Us and The Voice pay the bills, a group of off-kilter comedies are quietly letting their freak-flags fly: The Good Place, A.P. Bio, Great News (may it stream in peace), and the network’s most singular offering, Trial & Error (returning Thursday, July 19 at 9 p.m.). Packed with visual gags and meticulously-crafted lowbrow humor, the legal mockumentary is a worthy entry into that silly-smart subgenre of comedy that brought us everything from Airplane! to 30 Rock.

For those of you who haven’t seen it (i.e. most of you), season 1 of Trial & Error chronicled inexperienced New York attorney Josh Segal (Nicholas D’Agosto) as he headed to the fictional town of East Peck, South Carolina to defend local eccentric Larry Henderson (John Lithgow) on charges he murdered his wife. After the perfectly preposterous end to that case (you can stream season 1 for free on NBC.com through July 18), Josh decides to settle in East Peck full-time, and he doesn’t have to wait long to land a new client: Season 2 opens with beloved town heiress Lavinia Peck-Foster (Kristin Chenoweth) being pulled over by police, who discover her husband’s dead body in her trunk.

Hindering Josh as he prepares Lavinia’s defense is his comically unqualified legal team: Anne Flatch (the deftly daffy Sherri Shepherd), an assistant with a never-ending list of weird medical ailments, and Dwayne Reed (Steven Boyer), a dimwitted cop who is dangerously careless with his firearm. Once again, Josh is facing off against the ruthlessly ambitious ADA — and his screwball comedy love interest — Carol Anne Keane (Jayma Mays). Though the show’s writers have put together a real murder mystery, the case is secondary to the giddy shenanigans stemming from Josh’s efforts to prove his client innocent. Every scene is an opportunity for goofy wordplay (Josh investigates the victim’s life insurance policy at East Peck Casualty & Casual Tees Insurance), physical comedy, and relentless penis jokes (residents of East Peck are known as Peckers, as in, “You can’t become a Pecker — you have to have Pecker in you”).

It takes a tremendous amount of commitment and precision to make comedy this stupid work so brilliantly, and once again Trial & Error’s cast proves wonderfully capable. D’Agosto uses his earnest demeanor and subtle delivery to convey Josh’s determined optimism in the face of regular failure, while Mays’ doe-eyed beauty infuses her character’s scathing insults with a delightful incongruity. Though the constant stream of Anne’s odd afflictions (“I have something called hyperacusis, or ‘random dog-level hearing’”) could have grown tiresome quickly, Shepherd’s perfectly-calibrated obliviousness keeps the running gag from running itself into the ground. It’s also nearly impossible to follow an act like John Lithgow (just ask seasons 5-8 of Dexter), but Chenoweth is wholly entertaining as the swanning and flirtatious “first lady of East Peck.”

No doubt we’ll discover whether Lavinia killed her husband by the end of Trial & Error’s 10-episode run, but the real joy here comes from spending time in the quirky East Peck universe, a place as fully realized as Parks & Recreation’s Pawnee. It’s a town where “lady laws” prohibit women from driving “without a man with a red flag in front warning other drivers”; where locals wait anxiously once a year to see if Mickey Moose will see his breath because, as Anne explains, “it tells us how many Saturdays we have in a month.” If you haven’t visited East Peck yet, give it a try — you just might like having a little Pecker in you.

Grade: B+

http://ew.com/tv/2018/06/29/trial-error-season-2-review/
 

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TV/Critic's Notes (Cable)
Animal Kingdom: Why I Hate Myself for Loving TNT's Addictive Drama
By Charlie Mason, TVLine.com - Jul. 15, 2018

I’m as hooked on TNT’s Animal Kingdom as Billy is to smack — and I feel almost guilty about it. It’s not that it’s bad television; on the contrary, it’s freakin’ terrific — dark, funny, exciting, smartly written and beautifully acted. It’s just that… holy crap, every character on the show is a bigger piece of s— than the last!

When I first reviewed the premiere back in 2016, this was a big sticking point for me. But as the Cody family was fleshed out in Season 2, I slowly realized that I wasn’t watching anymore just in hopes of seeing the brutes get their comeuppance, I was watching because I’d started to like them — and halfway through Season 3, I’m not sure I should like them.

Yes, Pope is doing his best, often adorably, to parent Lena; that doesn’t change the fact that he murdered the little girl’s mother. Deran’s sometime boyfriend Adrian has forgiven him for that savage Season 1 beating (to the point that they still hook up); does that mean that we’re supposed to? I even feel conflicted about empathizing with young J, now that he’s dumped poor old Mrs. Fullerton (and her cat!) in the middle of nowhere, cheated on Nicky and left her to bleed out in the doorway of an ER!

Mind you, a total of none of this means that I am even considering giving up on Animal Kingdom. I’m as likely to do that as Craig is to go a whole episode wearing a shirt. What it does mean, however, is that my relationship status with the show is, and perhaps always will be, “It’s complicated.”

https://tvline.com/2018/07/15/animal-kingdom-season-3-review-guilty-pleasure-tnt/
 

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No political comments, please.

TV Review (Cable)

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America? Isn’t Just Fake News
By Jen Chaney, Vulture.com (New York Magazine) - Jul. 15, 2018

In a piece published ahead of the debut of Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Showtime series Who Is America?, Vox writer Aja Romano expressed concern about how Baron Cohen’s comedy will translate at a time when legitimate news is frequently branded fake by President Trump and other public figures.

“These politicians,” Romano wrote, referring to people like Sarah Palin and far-right failed Senate candidate Roy Moore, who have expressed outrage over being “duped” by Baron Cohen’s disguises, “were tricked into appearing on the record as themselves, in a way that further perpetuates and entrenches not only the cultural ideological divide, but the idea among conservatives that ‘liberal’ media, including entertainment media like Baron Cohen’s production, is a constant and perpetual trap to be distrusted at all costs.”

Before watching the first episode of Who Is America?, I had similar concerns. When Baron Cohen first rose to prominence on Da Ali G Show by assuming the identities of three roving interviewers — the nonsense-spouting Ali G, socially clueless Borat, and fashion snob Brüno — it was a pre-social media era in which duping others registered, at least to some, as a sly act of comedic rebellion. In a post-Jerky Boys, pre-Punk’d world, Da Ali G Show fit right in while taking the act of pranking to more daring and sophisticated levels. Much of Baron Cohen’s shtick involved saying blatantly outrageous or foolish things to his subjects, who usually seemed befuddled or offended. (There were exceptions, like the Arizonans who sang along with Borat’s blatantly anti-Semitic song “Throw the Jew Down the Well,” a bit that demonstrated how easily people will go along with a crowd even in the face of hatred.)

The joke of Da Ali G Show was how easily high-profile people would agree appear on camera with idiots, and how far and for how long Baron Cohen could push his form of idiocracy. The show was meant to shove back against societal norms and gauge what it took to break them. It is hard to imagine how that particular type of comedy could work now, when the idea of a guy being applauded for a song about throwing Jews down wells, for example, seems more like an actual outrageous incident than an act of squirmy social commentary on a sketch comedy series. But after watching the premiere half-hour of Who Is America?, I started to see how Baron Cohen’s approach might — and I emphasize might because I have only seen one episode — play an effective role in ringing alarm bells about off-the-rail politics, and for precisely the reason that initially concerned me: because the notion of violating norms has become far more extreme in 2018.

In Who Is America?, Baron Cohen invents four new alter egos: Billy Wayne Ruddick, a far right pseudo-journalist who runs a conspiracy-theory-spouting website; Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, an NPR-T-shirt wearing caricature of liberal extremism; Rick Sherman, a British ex-convict who makes art out of his own feces; and Colonel Erran Morad, an Israeli anti-terror expert with some extreme views on gun violence. As noted by Vulture’s Jesse David Fox, Rick Sherman is the least interesting of these characters and his portion of the episode is the least amusing. Two others, at least in this first half-hour, are very much in keeping with Baron Cohen’s approach in Da Ali G Show.

Although Billy Wayne Ruddick is very much a believable product of these times — he says he wants to take down the “mainstream media” and believes that Obamacare is flawed because it forced him to go to the doctor and get diagnosed with diabetes — operates in pretty much the same manner as Ali G or Borat. In the first episode, he sits down with Bernie Sanders and attempts to make the ridiculous mathematical point that the 99 percent could easily join the one percent if someone would just move some numbers around, while Sanders politely tells him that his equations make no sense. In the end, Ruddick comes across looking far more foolish than Sanders does, and what’s funny is how stupid he sounds.

To a more complicated extent, that’s true in the second sketch, too. In that one, Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello — who’s so liberal that he apologizes for being a white cisgender male — visits with a pair of Trump supporters and does everything he possibly can to play into the most ludicrous liberal stereotypes. He says that he and his partner allow their daughter to “free bleed” on to the American flag when she has her period, a decision that led them to create the Menstrual Flag Program, sponsored by the Clinton Foundation. He also says he has an open relationship with his partner, which enables her to continue having sex with porpoises.

You might expect a pair of South Carolina conservatives to toss Cain-N’Degeocello out of their home immediately — the husband seems like he might consider as much — but the wife seems so intent on presenting a good face that she responds to everything he says with almost zero judgment. On one hand, their willingness to think any of this is true suggests they must believe that liberals exist in some bizarre, anything goes, dolphin-screwing realm that makes them fundamentally different humans. On the other, though, their ability to calmly listen to this guy speaks to their sense of propriety and civility. The fact that Baron Cohen’s alter ego says things that are obviously out of bounds reinforces the idea that there are, in fact, norms upon which a conservative couple and the liberal audience watching Who Is America? can agree. The country may be divided, but I feel like we can all come together as a nation and declare that it’s very weird for a woman to want to have sex with Flipper. (There’s both a Free Willy and a Shape of Water joke in all this somewhere.)

In its way, Da Ali G Show also reinforced norms, even during Baron Cohen’s interviews with opinionated politicians. When Ali G once asked Newt Gingrich whether a woman might ever be president, Gingrich said yes without hesitation. Then, when the hip-hop wannabe laid out reasons why women couldn’t serve in such an office — because they’d be too preoccupied with facials or shopping — Gingrich batted them away. “I think if you said that to most women who could be president, you’d be surprised how tough they are.” He sounded incredibly rational, far more rational than he does these days. He said what most Americans would agree is right.

In another episode of Da Ali G Show, even extreme conservative Pat Buchanan came across as reasonable while explaining to Ali G that if the American people make a mistake and elect an inept president, they either have to live with it for four years or convince Congress to get rid of him. “We have rules,” Buchanan said, “whereby we can throw out the president.” The idea that there are “rules” that protect the many from one lunatic is something that, at the time, sounded like common sense. By asking a question that seemed a little out there, Baron Cohen actually highlighted the notion that there are lines in society that everyone, regardless of party, agrees that we should not cross.

Which brings me to the most controversial and brilliant sketch in the first episode: “Kill or Be Killed,” which introduces Colonel Erran Morad, a gun-crazy Israeli anti-terrorism expert who sounds a bit like a Hebrew Arnold Schwarzenegger and, thanks to the use of heavy prosthetics, makes Baron Cohen look like a deeply angry Freddie Mercury.

In the segment, Morad advocates for a program called Kinderguardians, which teaches preschoolers how to use guns. (“The NRA wants to arm the teachers,” Morad says. “This is crazy! They should arm the children.”) With the help of real-life gun rights advocate Philip Van Cleave, he makes a promotional video for “Gunimals,” weapons tricked out with plush animals in order to appeal to the youngest possible potential NRA members. Then Morad lobbies government officials on Capitol Hill to support the program.

Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, expresses skepticism about voicing support for a highly controversial program based on a brief meeting with Morad, but others — former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Represenative Joe Wilson, and former representative/professional blowhard Joe Walsh — all happily throw their support behind it. “In less than a month,” Walsh says with enormous conviction, “a first-grader can become a first grenader.”

In other words, Baron Cohen invites each of these men to cross the line of what most people would agree is acceptable. They not only cross it, but do so at high velocity with smiles on their faces. You keep waiting for someone to do what Sanders does early in the episode, or what Newt Gingrich did years ago on Da Ali G Show: explain that what’s been asked to say is wrong and unacceptable. The fact that almost no one does — and that some of them, especially Larry Pratt, executive director emeritus of the lobbying group Gun Owners of America, push the rhetoric even further — is darkly funny. It’s also disturbing. Is it surprising? Sadly, no.

Walsh is among those who have already publicly complained about being deceived by Baron Cohen. He told CNN that he believed he was receiving an award from Israel and read certain statements about kids using guns as part of what he thought was a video focused on “innovative products Israel has invented.” That may be what happened, but even so, at what point do you decide that the words you’re saying go against your principles and refuse to read them?

When compared to the antics on Da Ali G Show, “Kill or Be Killed” is especially striking because it casts Baron Cohen’s character as the straight man while his interview subjects unwittingly provide all the “jokes.” That’s why, if it consistently works, Who Is America? may turn out to be effective satire: It reminds us that some of the people running the country, or at least those spouting the rhetoric that fuels partisan debate, sound a lot dumber than Ali G did in 2003. Nothing strips an idea or a person of their power faster than exposing their absurdity.

Of course, as we saw during the 2016 presidential election and have seen many times since, what should sound universally absurd can still manage to be taken seriously by large enough sliver of the population to affect us all. Doing what Sacha Baron Cohen is trying to do in this fraught climate is really tricky, and my instinct tells me it won’t work more often than it does. Still, as a viewer who senses that the standard attempts to poke fun at our Trumpian political culture already feel played out, I’m intrigued to watch how he navigates this minefield. When Who Is America? is on point, as it is in the “Kill or Be Killed” segment, it doesn’t just remind us that some of our emperors have no clothes. It exposes them for walking around naked with no sense of shame whatsoever.

http://www.vulture.com/2018/07/who-is-america-showtime-review.html
 

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TV Notes
On The Air Tonight
MONDAY Network Primetime/Late Night Options
(All shows are in HD unless noted; start times are ET. Network late night shows are preceded by late local news)
From Zap2it.com's TV Grid - Jul. 16, 2018

ABC:
8PM - The Bachelorette (120 min.)
10PM - The Proposal
* * * *
11:35PM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Jason Sudeikis; former racecar driver Danica Patrick; Michael Ray performs)
12:37AM - Nightline

CBS:
8PM - TKO: Total Knock Out
9PM - Salvation
10PM - Elementary
* * *
11:35PM - The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (Armie Hammer; Colleen Ballinger; comic Paula Poundstone)
12:37AM - The Late Late Show With James Corden (Elizabeth Olsen; David Tennant; Anne-Marie performs)
(R)

NBC:
8PM - American Ninja Warrior: Los Angeles City Finals (120 min.)
10PM - Dateline NBC: Noises in the Night
* * * *
11:34PM - The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Jamie Foxx; Taron Egerton; Zoey Deutch; comic Mark Normand)
12:37AM - Late Night With Seth Meyers (Kristin Chenoweth; Andrew Rannells; Emmanuelle Caplette sits in with the 8G Band)
1:38AM - Last Call with Carson Daly (Titus Welliver; Coin performs; David Costabile)
(R)

FOX:
8PM - So You Think You Can Dance
9PM - 9-1-1
(R)

THE CW:
8PM - Penn & Teller: Fool Us
9PM - Whose Line Is It Anyway? (Guest comic Keegan-Michael Key)
9:30PM - Whose Line Is It Anyway? (Guest comic Jeff Davis)
(R)

PBS:
8PM - Antiques Roadshow: Vintage Chicago
9PM - Antiques Roadshow: Vintage Toronto
(R)
10PM - POV: Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2

UNIVISION:
8PM - El Rico y Lázaro
9PM - La Bella y Las Bestias
10PM - El Chapo

TELEMUNDO:
7PM - Exatlón (Series Premiere, 120 min.)
9PM - Sin Senos Sí Hay Paraíso
10PM - El Señor de Los Cielos

DISCOVERY:
8PM - Street Outlaws: Full Throttle
9PM - Street Outlaws
10PM - American Chopper (Season Finale)

DISNEY:
8PM - Andi Mack

ESPN:
8PM - 2018 Home Run Derby (120 min., LIVE)
10PM - 2018 MLB All-Star Legends & Celebrity Game

FOOD NETWORK:
9PM - Wedding Cake Championship (Finale)
10PM - Ridiculous Cakes: 30th Anniversary of Shark Week
10:30PM - Ridiculous Cakes: Pinball Wizard

FREEFORM:
8PM - Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings (Season Finale)

HBO:
8PM - Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (2018, 120 min.)

ID:
8PM - The Last 24
9PM - People Magazine Investigates: Crimes of Fashion (Series Premiere)
10PM - The Real Story With María Elena Salinas

NBCSN:
8PM - 2018 Tour de France: Stage 9 (3 hrs.)

NICKELODEON:
8PM - Double Dare

OXYGEN:
8PM - Deadly Power (Series Premiere)
9PM - The Price of Duty

USA:
8PM - WWE Monday Night RAW (3 hrs. 5 min., LIVE)

A&E:
9PM - Cultureshock - Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary (Special, 93 min.)

AMC:
9PM - Dietland (62 min.)
10:02PM - Unapologetic With Aisha Tyler

BRAVO:
9PM - The Real Housewives of Orange County (Season Premiere)
10PM - Southern Charm Savannah (Season Premiere)
* * * *
11PM - Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen

MTV:
9PM - Teen Mom 2
10:01PM - Floribama Shore

TV ONE:
9PM - Fatal Attraction
10PM - ATL Homicide

PARAMOUNT:
10PM - COPS
10:30PM - COPS
(R)

COMEDY CENTRAL:
11PM - The Daily Show With Trevor Noah ("Sorry to Bother You" writer/director Boots Riley)

SYFY:
11PM - Wynonna Earp: Season 3 Sneak Peek

TBS:
11PM - Conan (Kunal Nayyar; Adam Pally; comic Harrison Greenbaum)
(R)


https://tvlistings.zap2it.com/?aid=gapzap
 

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I do not know. I suspect that a google search will turn up that info.
I thought maybe the topic might have come up in your discussion but it's still JPEG 2000 even for 4K. Christie, which the local theater uses, has expanded their line quite a bit even providing servers ("media blocks"). They seem to have also entered the home theater realm too with lower priced projectors.
 

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No political comments, please.

Media/Washington Notes

FCC sends Sinclair mega-deal to likely doom
By Margaret Harding McGills, Politico.com - Jul. 16, 2018

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced Monday he has "serious concerns" about Sinclair Broadcast Group's acquisition of Tribune Media, saying he would send the transaction through a lengthy administrative process often viewed as a deal-killer.

As originally proposed in May 2017, the $3.9 billion deal would see conservative-leaning Sinclair, already the largest U.S. TV station owner, gobble up 42 Tribune stations in key markets like New York and Chicago, adding to its existing footprint of more than 170 stations and giving the company access to nearly three-quarters of U.S. households.

But the regulatory review dragged on for more than a year, as Sinclair revised the deal several times, offering to sell off 21 stations in an effort to gain government approval. Critics took issue with some of the proposed sales, which were so-called sidecar arrangements that would allow Sinclair to keep a stake in the revenue and programming of the spun-off stations, as POLITICO reported on May 30. Another two of the sales would have been to a company with close ties to Sinclair.

Pai said "certain proposed divestitures" were a sticking point for the agency.

"Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair/Tribune transaction," the chairman said in the statement. "The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law."

FCC officials said one problematic deal was the plan to sell Chicago station WGN to Steven Fader, a Maryland business associate of Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith who oversees car dealerships. Others that raised alarm were the deals to sell stations in Dallas and Houston to Cunningham Broadcasting, a company with close ties to the Smith family.

The FCC's decision is a significant blow for Sinclair, which has been been a frequent target for Democrats and liberal groups disturbed by reports that it favors President Donald Trump in its coverage via "must-run" segments pumped to its network of stations.

It’s also a surprising turn of events for Pai, who was nominated for the agency's top post by Trump. The chairman had earlier revived a regulatory loophole known as the UHF discount seen as critical to the Sinclair deal. It permits broadcasters to count only half the reach of some stations when calculating their national reach — and allowed Sinclair to avoid vastly exceeding federal limits on media ownership with the deal.

Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley, in a sign of the company's confidence after announcing the Tribune transition, said his company was optimistic on regulatory approval because of Pai’s leadership.

But on Monday, it was a different story, as Pai announced an administrative law judge would review the station spinoff issues. The FCC takes that step when companies fail to persuade it that a transaction, even with conditions, would be in the public interest.

The agency used the same move in 2015 with the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, which the companies abandoned rather than go through the hearing process.

Sinclair representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who has criticized Pai's media policy changes as being "custom built" to help Sinclair, said she has voted to approve Pai's plan.

"With this hearing designation order, the agency will finally take a hard look at its proposed merger with Tribune," Rosenworcel said in a statement. "This is overdue and favoritism like this needs to end."

Questions about Sinclair's coverage flared around the 2016 presidential election. The Washington Post reported Sinclair "gave a disproportionate amount of neutral or favorable coverage to Trump during the campaign" while airing negative stories on Hillary Clinton. That followed POLITICO's reporting on a boast by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner that the president's campaign had struck a deal with the broadcast group for better media coverage. Sinclair disputed the characterization, saying it was an arrangement for extended sit-down interviews that was offered to both candidates.

Sinclair has also drawn fire for mandating its stations carry conservative content, including regular commentary from former Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn. Earlier this year, the company faced heavy criticism from Democratic lawmakers and others for directing local anchors to read a script on the threat of “fake news,” widely seen as a Trump-style broadside aimed at mainstream press outlets.

Critics ranging from congressional Democrats to Sinclair's conservative media rivals like Newsmax have warned the Sinclair-Tribune merger would give too much power to a single company to control the airwaves. But Sinclair argued that broadcasters must get bigger to effectively compete in the modern media ecosystem.

Further complicating the merger’s prospects was the legal challenge to the FCC’s decision to reinstate the UHF discount. The discount gives broadcast companies the ability to reach up to 78 percent of U.S. television households without technically violating the 39 percent cap. Judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals expressed skepticism about the decision to bring back the loophole during oral arguments in April.

A simple tie-up would have seen the combined companies reach more than 72 percent of TV households. Under the deal structure Sinclair proposed most recently, with the 21 station sell-offs, the post-merger company would have reached about 59 percent of American TV households before factoring in the UHF discount. Critics said even that scaled-down deal would have given Sinclair an unfairly broad reach in light of the sidecar arrangements freeing the company to maintain close ties with certain divested stations.

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/16/fcc-sends-sinclair-mega-deal-to-likely-doom-722423
 

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TV Sports/Nielsen Notes (Soccer)
France’s World Cup Final Victory Snags 11.3M Viewers, Falls From 2014
By Dominic Patten, Deadline.com - Jul. 16, 2018

Twenty years after winning their first World Cup Final, France claimed FIFA’s biggest prize again yesterday in a 4-2 victory over Croatia that prompted a now famous leap and fist pump by President Emmanuel Macron up in the VIP box, cheers and tears in the streets of Paris and all over the nation, a rain drenched celebration in Moscow and Fox’s top result of the month long tournament.

With an 8.3/21 in metered market results and 11.3 million viewers on Fox, the Sunday morning end to the Russian hosted World Cup was a win and loss for Fox.

The early metric is a clear victory with a 66% jump over the previous top rated game of the 2018 tournament for the Rupert Murdoch-owned network when Croatia beat Russia on July 6. The game peaked with a 10.0/25 MM rating in the 9:45 – 10 AM PT time slot and with an audience of 14.6 million in the 9:30 – 9:45 AM PT period. The France winning final is the best MM ratings for any soccer match on Fox or Fox Sports 1 since Team USA beat Japan in the final of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

That match went on to pull in 25.4 million viewers for Fox which is far far ahead of what’s yesterday’s Men’s World Cup final snagged. The first World Cup Final not to go to extra time in 16-years, Sunday’s match was, however, the most watched non-NFL game on Fox this year.

However, on the flipside, Sunday’s World Cup final was down a not insignificant 14% in metered market numbers and a hard 20% in viewership from the ABC broadcast 2014 World Cup final where Germany beat Argentina. Though this year’s tournament has had some impressive numbers, the fact is that Fox has always been hobbled ratingswise by the lack of an American presence in the 2018 World Cup.

As we are at the end of the tournament, it is worth noting that Washington D.C. was not the number #1 market for the final, as it has been for so many of the big games this tournament. That top spot went to Comic-Con home San Diego with a 13.8/33 MM rating to the nation’s capital’s 13.6.34.

One more soccer stat – Fox and Fox Sports 1 coverage of the 2018 World Cup from June 14 to July 15 made up all of the top 20 highest rated shows among men in the 18-49 demographic over the last month. Boys love their footie.

https://deadline.com/2018/07/france-world-cup-final-victory-hits-ratings-down-2014-fox-1202427083/
 

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Nielsen Overnights (Broadcast)
ABC Edges CBS With Sunday Game Shows, Like ‘Celebrity Family Feud’
By Tony Maglio, TheWrap.com - Jul. 16, 2018

Led by “Celebrity Family Feud,” ABC just won its seventh Sunday in a row in TV ratings — though CBS’ “Big Brother” nearly turned primetime into a two-way tie this time.

ABC was first in ratings with a 0.8 rating/4 share in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic and in total viewers with an average of 5.1 million, according to preliminary numbers. Following an encore of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” at 8 p.m, “Celebrity Family Feud” scored a 1.0/5 and 6.3 million viewers. At 9, “The $100,000 Pyramid” earned a 0.9/4 and 5.2 million viewers. “To Tell the Truth” at 10 landed a 0.8/4 and 4.1 million viewers.

CBS was second in ratings with a 0.7/3 and in viewers with 4.6 million. At 7, “60 Minutes” had a 0.6/3 and 7 million viewers. “Big Brother” at 8 posted a 1.4/7 and 5.2 million viewers. Repeats followed.

NBC and Fox tied third in ratings, both with a 0.5. NBC had a 3 share, Fox got a 2. NBC was third in total viewers with 3.3 million, Fox was fourth with 1.4 million.

For NBC, “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” at 7 managed a 0.3/2 and 2 million viewers. After reruns, “Shades of Blue” at 10 got a 0.5/2 and 3.3 million viewers.

For Fox, following repeats, “Ghosted” at 9:30 received a 0.5/2 and 1.3 million viewers.

Telemundo was fifth in ratings with a 0.3/1 and in viewers with 728,000.

Univision was sixth in ratings with a 0.2/1 and in viewers with 449,000.

The CW does not currently nationally program Sunday nights.

Jenny Maas contributed to this report.

https://www.thewrap.com/celebrity-family-feud-abc-big-brother-cbs-ratings/
 

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TV Notes (Syndication)
‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Reruns to Air on Up, Freeform
By Jon Lafayette, Broadcasting & Cable - Jul. 16, 2018

Twentieth Television has licensed the cable rerun rights to the ABC family comedy Fresh Off the Boat to Up TV and the Walt Disney Co.’s Freeform.

The series will go on those channels later this year. The networks have licensed the four seasons that have already aired on ABC and a fifth that has been ordered and will air on ABC this fall.

“Fresh Off the Boat continues to grow its audience on broadcast, and with the recent pickup of a fifth season, we are thrilled that the series is coming to Up,” said Amy Winter, executive VP and general manager, Up TV. “Up celebrates family life and with all the heart and humor included in Fresh Off the Boat, this contemporary, family story is a perfect fit.”

The series, inspired the Eddie Huang memoir, revolves around an Asian family in the mid-90s in suburban Orlando. It was created for television by Nahnatchka Khan, who also serves as executive producer and showrunner.

“Fresh Off the Boat has a unique comedic voice that will resonate with young adult audiences and fit well alongside Freeform’s original content,” said Sarah Tomassi Lindman, senior VP of Content Planning and Strategy, Freeform. “The Huang family’s authentic, humorous and meaningful way of navigating a new environment reflects our viewer’s experiences and are exactly the kind of stories we are proud to have on our network.”

https://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/fresh-off-the-boat-reruns-air-on-up-freeform
 

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TV Notes (Broadcast)
'Ransom' Renewed for Season 3 at CBS
By Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter - Jul. 16, 2018

CBS is sticking with Ransom.

The U.S. broadcaster will stick with the imported drama for a third season as Canadian outlet Global has also picked up the drama starring Luke Roberts for another cycle.

The Ransom renewal comes as CBS continues to support original programming on typically little-watched Saturdays. Season two of Ransom, created by David Vainola and Frank Spotnitz, averaged 2.4 million viewers during its April-June run on the network.

The 13-episode third season will resume production in October for a premiere next year on Global in Canada and CBS in the U.S.
The series is produced by Entertainment One, Big Light Productions, Sienna Films, Wildcats Production and Corus Entertainment. eOne serves as the distributor.

Ransom is a low-cost imported series, which helps CBS afford to air the drama on a night that does not come with lofty ratings expectations.

Ransom is inspired by the professional experiences of crisis negotiator Laurent Combalbert, who, along with his partner, Marwan Mery, are among the top negotiators in the world. Roberts stars as expert hostage negotiator Eric Beaumont whose team is brought in to save lives when no one else can. Brandon Jay McLaren and Nazneen Contractor co-star.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/ransom-renewed-season-3-at-cbs-1127397
 

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I thought maybe the topic might have come up in your discussion but it's still JPEG 2000 even for 4K.
Ya, it never came up. Discussions were all about other things dealing with delivery and scheduling.
 

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TV/Production Notes (Cable)
‘Rugrats’ Returns With Nickelodeon Series Revival & Live-Action Paramount Movie
By Nellie Andreeva and Denise Petski, Deadline.com - Jul. 16, 2018

Tommie, Chuckie and his pals are coming back — on both TV and the big screen. Viacom’s Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures have set a revival of the iconic kids series Rugrats with a 26-episode order from Nickelodeon and a live-action film featuring CGI characters from Paramount Players. Both the TV series and the movie will include new adventures with the famous characters Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, Susie and Angelica, and will also introduce a new world of characters.

Original series creators Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó and Paul Germain will return to the new series as executive producers. Rugrats the series will be produced in Burbank, California, with production already underway.

The Rugrats movie will be written by David A. Goodman and is set to be released on November 13, 2020 by Paramount Players, the division of Paramount Pictures that develops and produces co-branded feature films with Viacom’s flagship cable networks. Rugrats is the seventh film to come out of the cross-company initiative, launched at the beginning of 2017.

“Rugrats is hands-down one of the most celebrated cartoons in TV history, and we are thrilled for a whole new audience to meet these iconic characters in brand-new adventures,” said Sarah Levy, COO, Viacom Media Networks; and Interim President, Nickelodeon. “What was true in 1991 when the original show premiered is still true today: kids are fascinated with the world of babies. We can’t wait for today’s kids to meet Tommy, Chuckie and pals.”

Added Brian Robbins, President of Paramount Players, “Now feels like the ideal time to reintroduce this iconic cast of characters to a whole new generation of young fans. Kids who grew up with Tommy Pickles and the Rugrats crew will now be able to share that experience with their own children.”

Rugrats focuses on a group of toddlers, Tommy Pickles, Chuckie Finster, twins Phil and Lil DeVille, and Angelica Pickles, and their day-to-day lives that became adventures in their imaginations. The original Rugrats series launched in August of 1991 and instantly became a groundbreaking phenomenon, spawning consumer products, three hit theatrical releases and cementing its place in pop culture history through its iconic characters, storytelling and unique visual style. Rugrats was in production for nine seasons over the course of 13 years, earning four Daytime Emmy Awards, six Kids’ Choice Awards and its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

This will be the fourth Rugrats movie, joining The Rugrats Movie (1998), which introduced Tommy’s younger brother Dil, Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (2000), which introduced Kimi and Kira, and Rugrats Go Wild, a crossover film with fellow Klasky Csupo series The Wild Thornberrys, released in 2003.

Rugrats joins the recently announced return of Blue’s Clues as the latest classic original series Nickelodeon is reviving. Nickelodeon produced and aired an all-new Hey Arnold! special in 2017, and has announced the return of two more beloved titles as forthcoming specials: Rocko’s Modern Life and Invader Zim. Along with MTV, it has been among the most active Viacom networks in bringing back well known series as part of the new Viacom mandate.

Goodman is repped by UTA and Fourth Wall Management.

https://deadline.com/2018/07/rugrats-revival-series-nickelodeon-live-action-movie-paramount-1202427458/
 

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Nielsen Notes (Cable)
'Who Is America?' Premiere Draws More Hype Than Viewers
By Rick Porter, The Hollywood Reporter - Jul. 17, 2018

Who Is America? generated tons of press for Showtime ahead of its on-air premiere Sunday, with some of Sacha Baron Cohen's marks helping to market the show with their reactions to being duped by the in-disguise satirist.

The deluge of promotion, however, did not translate to a big audience. In fact, in terms of hype-to-ratings ratio, Who Is America? is of a piece with Twin Peaks in 2017.

Sunday's debut delivered 327,000 total viewers and a modest 0.1 rating in the adults 18–49 demographic. The latter figure tied for 70th place among cable originals for the day.

The numbers for Who Is America? are in line with Showtime's other Sunday offerings, The Affair (538,000, 0.1) and Our Cartoon President (186,000, 0.1). But they're a good bit behind the channel's flagship originals like Shameless and Homeland, both of which averaged well above 1 million same-day viewers in their most recent seasons.

Twin Peaks, incidentally, premiered to 506,000 people and a 0.15 in the 18–49 demographic in June 2017 and averaged 287,000 viewers and a 0.1 for its 18-episode run.

Showtime released the Who Is America? premiere digitally on Saturday, so the Nielsen figure doesn't reflect the total weekend audience for the show. It will also grow with delayed viewing and streaming, as just about all shows do.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/who-is-america-draws-more-hype-viewers-1127497
 

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TV/Critic's Notes
TV’s New Favorite Thing Is the Surprise Release
By Jen Chaney, Vulture.com (New York Magazine) - Jul. 16, 2018

This morning, Hulu announced that it has picked up the fourth and final season of UnREAL, a series whose first three seasons aired on Lifetime. But the streamer isn’t adding UnREAL next month or two weeks from now. It’s available right now, immediately. Surprise!

“Surprise!” has increasingly become a way that networks roll out their shows. Showtime provided less than two weeks’ notice that Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America? would debut Sunday night. Before the initial teaser was released, there was no hint the show would be airing in July. Netflix announced the May 29 debut of Arrested Development season five less than a month in advance, and did the same with the second season of 13 Reasons Why. Netflix has been a pioneer in this regard, unleashing brand-new shows like The O.A. with next to no publicity and then letting word-of-mouth do its job.

For streaming services like Netflix or Hulu, it’s easy enough to take this sort of shock-and-awe approach. Unlike broadcast networks, which have specific time slots to fill and advertising to sell against their programming, streamers can be more flexible and reactionary with their programming decisions. Even a premium cable network like Showtime can jiggle things around a tad more easily because they don’t have to worry about commercials. Plus, given how many subscribers watch via apps like Showtime Anytime or HBO Go, they are trying to operate more and more the way the streamers do.

The question is whether this approach benefits the shows and the viewers. Because I can tell you right now who it does not benefit: TV critics. I know, I know, you’re playing “My Heart Bleeds for You” on the tiny violin you keep inside your Sharp Objects dollhouse because no one ever, ever considers how the TV critics feel. (Won’t someone think of the men and women who are paid to sit on their butts and watch television?) For real, though: It is hard enough to keep track of everything that’s coming to the 80 million networks, platforms, and color-coded YouTube channels even when we know about each series well in advance. Now we have to anticipate surprise programming, too? If I go outside right now, is it possible that Making a Murderer season two will be lurking around the corner, ready to pounce? If I go to sleep for a few hours, will I wake up to find out that Shasta McNasty was rebooted, is improbably great, and has already been fully binged in anticipation of a just-announced season two? It’s not safe anymore, people!

Regular viewers may not feel the pressure to keep up in the same way that the “professionals” do, but I have to imagine they feel a little panicky when they suddenly realize there’s another show to add to their “must-watch” lists. Yes, there is a certain pleasure and sense of discovery that comes with surprises, not to mention the smug feeling one gets after bingeing a season that other people didn’t know had even arrived yet. This is why surprise album releases and pop-up stores and movies like The Cloverfield Paradox successfully generate so much buzz, at least temporarily: The market is so oversaturated with things to consume that being the first to know about a surprise album, movie, or TV show feels like an accomplishment.

In terms of getting media attention, the surprise approach can work well in certain circumstances. Take the two most recent examples: Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show and Hulu’s pickup of UnREAL. For practical reasons, keeping Who Is America? on the down low made sense. The less people knew about it in advance, the easier it was for Cohen to go out and perform his acts of undercover comedy. But once the Kinder-Guardian cat was out of the bag, the fact that both Cohen and Showtime had kept the whole thing hidden enhanced the sense of curiosity about the project. Whether it was good or bad, the hush-hush-ness around it made it feel like a must-see.

Unlike Who Is America?, UnREAL is not a new show and doesn’t represent a cable TV comeback for a comedy star. It is a pitch-black drama about the sleazy realities of reality TV, a once-buzzy show that lost its shine during seasons two and three. If it had debuted on Lifetime later this year, fans and critics would have paid attention to it, but probably not a whole lot. Releasing its final season like a surprise Childish Gambino single is a way to add fanfare to a series that could have very easily died a quiet death. The sudden arrival give it a little juice, at least for loyal viewers.

But surprise won’t work for every show. For Who Is America? and UnREAL, it’s a solid strategy because one has an established name behind it and the other has an established audience. While some totally untested shows have turned into breakout hits by taking an under-the-radar approach — Stranger Things is a great example of that — that is by no means the norm. In May, the same month that brought us Arrested Development season five and 13 Reasons Why season two, Netflix also released Safe, a new drama starring Michael C. Hall that arrived with minimal hype and generated minimal chatter. That’s the downside. People can’t experience the thrill of discovering something that’s so under wraps, it’s practically been buried, which is a fate that befalls far too many series these days.

Which is why I think networks should be very sparing with their surprise rollouts. If everyone starts to take that approach, the wow factor will fade quickly, and the fanfare about each surprise will overshadow the others. Pop music has already been wrestling with this problem, having been inundated with so many surprise releases over the past few years that it’s hard to process or appreciate one before another comes along. It’s easy to imagine the same issue arising in TV. The most important thing a good series can do these days is stand out and seem fresh, but an unexpected arrival can only help a show do that as long as every other show isn’t doing the same thing.

So be bold and go in the other direction, TV networks: Announce your shows a year in advance! Provide screeners months ahead of time! Eliminate all sense of mystery! That will definitely make you stand out. It may even engender good will with a bunch of jittery TV critics who must remain in a perpetual, catlike state of readiness out of fear that the next big television thing is going to strike during that millisecond when they decided to blink.

http://www.vulture.com/2018/07/unreal-who-is-america-surprise-premieres.html
 

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TV Notes (Streaming)
Ryan Murphy Netflix Series ‘The Politician’ Casts Zoey Deutch, Three More Series Regulars
By Joe Otterson, Variety.com - Jul. 16, 2018

The upcoming Ryan Murphy Netflix series “The Politician” has added four series regulars to its cast, Variety has learned.

Zoey Deutch, Lucy Boynton, Laura Dreyfuss and Rahne Jones have been cast in the series, though the exact nature of their characters is being kept under wraps. They join previously announced cast member Ben Platt, who will star. The music-driven series is described as a satirical comedy revolving around a wealthy politician from Santa Barbara played by Platt. It is believed that there will be musical numbers in every episode.

Deutch can currently be seen starring in Netflix’s romantic comedy “Set It Up.” She recently co-starred and produced “The Year of Spectacular Men,” and appeared in Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some.” She is repped by CAA and Gilbertson Entertainment.

Boynton will next be seen starring opposite Rami Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which explores the rise of iconic rock band Queen. She is repped by CAA and United Agents.

Dreyfuss currently stars in the Broadway musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” as Zoe Murphy. She is repped by Authentic Talent and Literary Management, Stone Manners Salners Agency, and Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein.

Jones will make her television debut in “The Politician.”

The series hails from the “Glee” team of Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan. Murphy will serve as writer, showrunner and executive producer, with Falchuk and Brennan serving as writers and executive producers. Fox 21 Television Studios will produce for Netflix. The streaming giant previously gave the series a two-season commitment.

https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/ryan-murphy-netflix-the-politician-cast-zoey-deutch-1202874352/
 

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TV/Production Notes (Broadcast)
‘Batwoman’ TV Series From Greg Berlanti in the Works at The CW
By Jennifer Maas, TheWrap.com - Jul. 17, 2018

The CW is adding yet another superhero to its team. The network has a “Batwoman” TV series from executive producer Greg Berlanti in development for 2019, with a lesbian character taking over the titular role.

Here is the official logline for the project: Armed with a passion for social justice and a flair for speaking her mind, Kate Kane soars onto the streets of Gotham as Batwoman, an out lesbian and highly trained street fighter primed to snuff out the failing city’s criminal resurgence. But don’t call her a hero yet. In a city desperate for a savior, Kate must overcome her own demons before embracing the call to be Gotham’s symbol of hope. Based on the characters from DC.

As The CW announced at its upfront presentation in May, Batwoman will first appear as part of the network’s DC crossover event in December. No casting news has been released for the series yet.

https://www.thewrap.com/batwoman-tv-series-greg-berlanti-works-cw/
 

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TV Review (Streaming)
The kitchen-sink final season of UnREAL is a Viking funeral of crazy
By Darren Franich, EW.com - Jul. 16, 2018

Reasons to be skeptical about the fourth season of UnREAL, which launched Monday in its entirety on Hulu. The meta-soap has struggled to hit the high heights of season 1. It only just concluded a rather miserable third season, ending its run on original network Lifetime in April.

That season’s buzzless reception led Lifetime to sell off season 4. You worry sometimes that our chic-new-now streaming services operate as part-time dumping grounds, vacuuming up all available content. (Remember The Cloverfield Paradox? Me neither.) And season 4’s arrival is, turns out, an exit: This will be the final season of the show.

Good news: the fourth season is a bleak riot. There are a couple essential improvements, terrible-character banishments that should’ve happened years ago. Jeremy (Josh Kelly), emo-killer camera guy, is gone forever. Rachel (Shiri Appleby) never once mentions her awful parents.

But there’s also a brazen new spirit, a kitchen-sink sensibility. In earlier seasons, Rachel was a desperate striver, struggling to communicate complex sociopolitical Deep Thoughts via sex-idiot romance competition. The confusing joy of UnREAL was how consistently she failed. Draped in the most aspirational dialectic of feminist empowerment, she was also an embarrassment engine, coaching contestants to catastrophe. Weirdly, her failings also became UnREAL‘s failings: Attempts at relevance wavecrashing against empty dramatic shock tactics, misbegotten characters who failed to symbolize anything but boredom.

In season 4, Rachel returns to the set of Everlasting with new look and a new attitude: Blonde hair, Don’t care. Everlasting — and UnREAL itself — follows her lead. The show-within-a-show is having an All-Stars season. The returning contestants are brand-focused personalities — the kind of C-list personality that claws for slightly more fame the way the characters in The Descent struggled for sunlight.

Everlasting All-Stars is a pastiche of reality nonsense, pointless rules, strange competitions, a million-dollar prize. The competition begins with women crossing a fairy-tale bridge, while masked men decide whether to drop them into the moat. “This is the most sexist, misogynistic bulls— we have ever done, and I love it!” exults Quinn (Constance Zimmer).

The spectacle’s never been less believable. Back in season 1, UnREAL approximated a fascinating ground-gritty look at the making of reality TV. In season 4, we seem to be living in a retro-future Gotham version of showbiz. Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman’s Jay finally gets to produce his passion project Invitation to Dance, an ambitious live-TV extravaganza that looks like it’s shot on the set of The Krusty the Klown Show.

But the mind games behind All-Stars are terrifying. Two of the returning contestants participated in one of UnREAL season 1’s most disturbing subplots. Back then, Maya (Natasha Wilson) had a brutal encounter with Roger (Tom Brittney), drunken, consent-free, “full-on fratboy date rape” in the direct language of one Everlasting producer.

They’re both back for All-Stars. Rachel dreams of a passionate showdown, a woman reclaiming her agency. But she also seems to be torturing poor Maya, pushing her into her rapist’s orbit. “I want Roger and Maya locked in a room together by episode 4!” Rachel demands in the premiere. She gets her wish, and the outcome of the Roger-Maya subplot represents UnREAL at its most exploitative and most clever, knife-twisting notions of empowerment and sisterhood, manifesting #MeToo justice with all the subtlety of a slasher-film sequel. I won’t spoil it, though it involves the phrase “girl-power rape revenge witch trial.” And, at one brilliantly dark-comic point, Roger rebrands, declaring of himself: “This is what a feminist looks like.”

That phrase was written on Rachel’s T-shirt way back in the UnREAL series premiere. It’s a long, sad journey from there to here, and the best thing about UnREAL‘s fourth season is how it fully embraces apocalyptic Trump-era cynicism even as it speedballs the show’s drama into soap opera excitement. Appleby was always so good at magnifying Rachel’s internal struggle. But season 4 Rachel is like the “Say My Name” iteration of Walter White, a bad self fully embraced. She’s using All-Stars as an old-fashioned casting couch, husband-hunting among three flavors of ideal-man contestants: hippie Australian, the bad-boy soccer icon, and even a Nice Doctor.

There’s also a new man behind-the-scenes, Tommy (Francois Arnaud), a producer who’s just as ambitious as Rachel. It’s hard to explain the Tommy-Rachel relationship. They’re kind of a will-they-won’t-they. Their flirty let’s-destroy-some-souls machinations resemble the plotting step-siblings in Cruel Intentions. “UnREAL season 4 is like a funnier Cruel Intentions,” have I sold you yet?

At eight episodes, this is the first season of a 2018 TV drama that feels like it’s precisely as long as it should be, no midseason aimlessness, a runaway-train kineticism from episode 5 onwards. Something in the basic structure still feels misshapen, at times. It seems like the only story UnREAL wants to tell about Quinn and Rachel is, like, They plot against each other and then forgive each other and then plot against each other. There’s a sensitive surprise-pregnancy plotline, but the sensitivity can’t quite obscure the fact that this is a surprise-pregnancy plotline, one of those late-stage subplots a show picks up from the Emergency Idea bin. And the wonderful Bowyer-Chapman still feels a bit wasted on a “cocaine bad!” subplot.

We’re still miles away from the majesty of season 1. There are real delights in this final season, though. Candy Coco (Natalie Hall) joins Everlasting All-Stars as a joke personality. She’s a single mom and a successful Florida stripper, potential star of a new docusoap called Stripper Queens. She’s also the sharpest operator that Everlasting‘s ever had, too smart to be interested in romantic-aspiration gloss, too savvy to fall for the producer’s tricks. I wish the show had gotten to Candy Coco sooner; she makes most of the contestants from season 2 and 3 look lobotomized by comparison.

I wish a lot of things about UnREAL, but I’m glad I stuck with it through the end. Season 4 goes far down its own rabbithole: At one point, Rachel and Tommy go to a bar full of Everlasting cosplayers, celebrating the series with drinking-game shenanigans, gleefully oblivious to the emotional horrors the contestants are living through. That moment feels a lot like 2018, like someone filled a Super Soaker with gasoline and sprayed it all on Rome Burning. And then, when you least expect it, UnREAL wraps on a tone of quiet hopefulness, with characters who long ago became self-parodies rediscovering the possibility of a soul.

Grade: B+

http://ew.com/tv/2018/07/16/unreal-season-4-review-hulu/
 

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Media/Business Notes (Streaming)
Netflix stock plummets after streaming video company misses subscriber target
By Steven Zeitchik, Washington Post - Jul. 17, 2018

Has the bubble finally burst on Netflix?

The video streaming company’s stuck plunged more than 10 percent Tuesday morning after Netflix’s latest earnings numbers fell short of Wall Street’s expectations for subscriber growth.

The streaming giant, which had previously had five quarters of meeting or exceeding analyst expectations, announced Monday afternoon that it had added just 670,000 subscribers in the United States. That was compared to the 1.2 million many analysts predicted in the second quarter, and 4.5 million overseas subscribers instead of the 5.1 million projected.

While the misses seem minuscule for a company with more than 125 million global subscribers, they could validate investors' fears of a company in slowdown mode for the first time in years. Wall Street has already been watching closely as Disney ramps up its subscription-content efforts and HBO, under incoming owner AT&T, is adopting a new strategy to compete.

Meanwhile, technology rivals such as Apple are upping their content efforts.

Analysts fear the added competition will lure away existing subscribers or prevent new ones from signing up with Netflix, resulting in a long-term revenue decline. They also are watching carefully for signs of a streaming ceiling–the point at which many of the people in the U.S. and around the world who are interested in signing up for video streaming have already done so.

The news of just 5.2 million total subscriber adds was especially pointed for Wall Street given Netflix’s addition of 7.4 million in the first quarter, well ahead of the 6.5 million projected then.

The news could end a rocket ride for Netflix’s stock price, which has more than doubled over the past year.

The company did come in just below analyst expectations on earnings, at $3.91 billion compared to estimates of $3.94 billion.

Executives sought to downplay the subscriber slowdown in a call with analysts later in the evening.

“The fundamentals have never been stronger,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said, as he suggested the quarter was more anomaly than omen. “Our viewing is setting year-over-year records.”

David Wells, the company’s chief financial officer, said that the first two quarters should be judged in their totality, which would bring growth on track with projections, and that he still believed subscriber growth would meet projections for the full fiscal year.

Hastings did acknowledge the second quarter has historically been rough for Netflix, noting another underperformance in 2016. “We never did find the explanation [for that],” he said.

Though Netflix lowered guidance on global subscriber growth from six million to five million for the upcoming third quarter, executives said they believed new shows will still help the company reach the larger goal of as much as doubling subscribers in the next several years. Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, noted the 40 shows that fueled the company’s industry-best 112 Emmy nominations last week and also said that new creators will continue to populate that pipeline.

Fresh shows from uber-producers Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes, signed to lucrative deals within the past year, would soon be reaching development and production stages, he said.

Rhimes and her staff recently moved their offices to Netflix, Sarandos noted.

Executives downplayed the digital emergence of Disney and other rivals.

“There’s a lot of new and strengthening competition with Disney entering the market and HBO getting additional funding,” Hastings said. “That’s all normal. We’re not going to change that. Our focus is on doing the best content we’ve ever done."

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/07/16/netflix-subscriber-growth-slows-panicking-wall-street/?utm_term=.4798996f4ea1
 
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