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      • Mythic Quest: Quarantine is the most realistic use of a pandemic-themed episode
        Source: Variety

        The Apple TV+ one-off special was so good, "I forgot several times that it is, essentially, a very effective commercial for Apple products," says Caroline Framke. While All Rise and Parks and Recreation's pandemic episodes had a “let’s do it because we can” self-dare attitude, Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet's version "has the bonus advantage of an all-virtual episode making complete sense within its own established world," says Framke. The episode was also aided by Apple's high quality. "With video technology already layered into the show, Mythic Quest was simply better equipped for a virtual special than most shows ever could be," says Framke. "And from a character standpoint, the show’s collection of nerds work together at an increasingly powerful video game company and already spend their days making cyber connections more tolerable or even more interesting. That is, after all, their literal job... But what makes this Mythic Quest: Quarantine episode most interesting is that it takes a moment to figure out how its characters would actually be doing in quarantine beyond the base level of bored and annoyed that everyone in self-isolation can acknowledge."

        ALSO:

        # TOPICS: Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet, Apple TV+, Parks and Recreation, Michael Schur, Rob McElhenney, Coronavirus

      • Lost's polarizing series finale turns 10: How did Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse react to recently rewatching "The End"?
        Source: Vulture

        "To some fans and critics, 'The End' didn’t offer enough answers about the show’s mysterious island and mythology, and a decade’s worth of pop-culture pot shots have cemented that reputation," says Jen Chaney. "But the truth is that the reaction to the finale was much more mixed than its reputation suggests. Many people, myself included, appreciated the emotional way it wrapped up Lost’s story. If you go back and rewatch 'The End' now, you may be surprised to learn you appreciate it too, especially if the one and only time you watched it was on the night of May 23, 2010." Chaney recently convinced co-showrunners Lindelof and Cuse to rewatch "The End" for the first time in the decade since it aired. Both say they are still proud of the finale, but Cuse described having “a jumble of emotions" recently rewatching it, adding: “I was a little, kind of, out of time." Both Cuse and Lindelof said they appreciated certain aspects of the finale more than others. “I actually think that if we didn’t have that damn stained glass window that we would’ve gotten a full letter grade higher on the finale,” said Lindelof, referring to a window in the church that features symbols from several major religions. They were especially moved by the events that take place in the flash-sideways, where, one by one, each major character is suddenly awakened to memories of the island, often when someone who also had been there touches them. “I got emotional watching that stuff because it felt like the characters were in a Lost reunion show that they didn’t know they were in,” Lindelof said. “It was like The Truman Show. It was like, ‘Oh, Jack, you were actually on this show called Lost where you had all these adventures on an island.'" Cuse added: “I felt that the thematic intentions of nobody doing it alone — you need them and they need you — a lot of the emotionality of the themes was very poignant in this particular moment, when we’re all separated from each other by a pandemic."

        ALSO:

        # TOPICS: Lost, Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, Retro TV

      • Terrace House star Hana Kimura dies at age 22
        Source: Variety

        News of the death of the Japanese professional wrestler who was also a cast member on the most recent season of Netflix’s reality show was released on Friday. No cause of death was given, but Kimura had exhibited signs of suicidal behavior in her recent social media posts, including one implying that she had been cyberbullied.

        # TOPICS: Terrace House, Netflix, Hana Kimura, Obits, Reality TV

      • Is John Krasinski a sellout for selling the Some Good News format to ViacomCBS?
        Source: For the Win

        In YouTube comments and on Twitter, fans of Krasinski's feel-good YouTube show expressed disappointment that he would cash out to a big corporation. As a film professor put it on Twitter: “You got to love when what seemed like an act of goodwill during a pandemic can be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Mmmmm taste that sweet sweet capitalism.” On the one hand, Krasinski isn't selling out. "I honestly don’t know all the behind-the-scenes stuff with how Some Good News was produced," says Charles Curtis. "But I can imagine it was a heavy lift for Krasinski and whoever he was working with to put together these huge episodes and magical moments. There was the technical work to get everyone on video chat, the collecting of viral videos, writing the script, etc. So it wasn’t going to last forever, and frankly, I’d rather have more SGN than no SGN. And let’s all remember entertainment is a business. Something as magical as this was never going to sit in its own bubble forever." On the other hand, Krasinski should have let Some Good News be. "Not everything needs to be flipped for a profit," says Hemel Jhaveri. "The appeal of Krasinski’s SGN was that it had a homemade, low-budget feel that gave the product it’s authenticity. Krasinski nailed the formula from the start — a 'Weekend Update' style broadcast that focused on good things, was intermittently funny and relied heavily on famous guest stars. That people immediately wanted to take it off his hands and repackage it for a ton of money is not a surprise. Neither is the fact that he sold it, though I really wished that he had let it die. SGN was a delightful internet show, and turning it into some kind of network packaged special is sure to backfire. What made his clips go viral was their sincerity. That’s impossible to replicate at the hands of a behemoth like Viacom. The show also had a singular editorial vision and zero advertising."

        # TOPICS: John Krasinski, YouTube, Some Good News, ViacomCBS

      • ABC may have fewer comedy blocks next season
        Source: Deadline

        With five comedies not coming back, ABC is looking to reduce the number of comedy blocks.

        # TOPICS: ABC, Upfronts

      • Late-night shows have become more intimate under quarantine, and essential
        Source: Los Angeles Times

        "With the host and the guest essentially alone together — Face Time to Face Time is a joke I might have made before — the performance of intimacy that talk shows typically offer grows closer to real intimacy," says Robert Lloyd. "Interviews become conversations, even though they may still may be keyed, as in the olden days, to promoting a book or TV show or film. And because host and guest are looking into a camera, we’re placed into the middle of their virtual shared space, rather than looking on from afar as a member of an audience." Lloyd adds: "It may just be that I find these shows more than usually necessary for my well being, the times being what they are — they process the day, much as our own brain is said to do in sleep — but I am enjoying them mightily. I wouldn’t suggest for a second that a deadly pandemic is worth it, but if we have to have one, I’m glad these shows are keeping us company. Stephen, Jimmy, Jimmy, Samantha, Noah, Conan, Seth, John and James — thank you. You are doing essential work, and I do not need a studio audience to tell me when to laugh."

        # TOPICS: Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Coronavirus, Late Night

      • Chris Cuomo interviewing brother Andrew Cuomo on CNN has been bad journalism
        Source: HuffPost

        Reporters should be challenging New York Gov. Cuomo, not having friendly chats with him, says Lydia O’Connor. "The problem isn’t their on-screen banter; it’s that one of CNN’s top anchors is throwing softball questions at the man governing the epicenter of the coronavirus, all while evidence increasingly shows that his response to the outbreak was insufficient, especially for New York’s most vulnerable age groups," says O'Connor. "Of course, that’s an uncomfortable thing for family members to discuss in a professional setting, so why CNN repeatedly books the governor on his brother’s show baffles media watchdogs."

        # TOPICS: Chris Cuomo, CNN, Cuomo Prime Time, Andrew Cuomo, Cable News, Coronavirus

      • Full House's series finale, watched by a whopping 24 million viewers, turns 25
        Source: E! Online

        The iconic ABC "TGIF" sitcom ended its eight-season, 192-episode run on May 23, 1995, featuring a two-parter revolving around Michelle Tanner losing her memory.

        # TOPICS: Full House, ABC, Retro TV, TGIF

      • Hulu's The Great offers insight into President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic
        Source: The Atlantic

        "Throughout The Great, the black comedy’s satirical tone captures how theatrical and nearsighted politics can become amid a crisis," says Shirley Li. "Peter’s and his allies’ denial of the truth—a deeply distressing truth, involving hundreds of thousands of lives lost—resembles the Trump administration’s shunning of medical expertise. Ignorance paves the way for Peter III’s precious bliss; the president prefers to diminish the threat of the pandemic rather than confront the reality of its consequences. For Peter, ruling is a spectacle, not a duty. In the White House, briefings meant to inform the public have been molded into sales pitches and opportunities for the president to boast about his ratings. Peter’s court may be an exaggeration of real-life Russian politics in the 18th century, but the character’s foolish governing strategy in the face of disaster reflects Trump’s. Both men depend on the appeal of denial and ignorance. Theirs is a leadership style that, during an unprecedented global disaster, has endured because the message it spreads—that nothing is wrong and all is bliss—is enticing."

        # TOPICS: The Great, Hulu, Coronavirus, Trump Presidency

      • Simon Cowell posts moving footage of an America's Got Talent contestant who was wrongly imprisoned for 37 years
        Source: The Daily Mirror

        This is Archie Williams. I will never forget this audition for the rest of my life," Cowell tweeted Friday. "And I’ll never listen to this song in the same way ever again.”

        # TOPICS: Simon Cowell, NBC, America's Got Talent, Archie Williams, Reality TV

      • Amy Schumer Learns to Cook has distinguished itself from other quarantine shows
        Source: Variety

        The new Food Network show that Amy Schumer hosts with her chef husband Chris Fischer "acknowledges, often literally, the stress of living in a world on hold but allows for the idea that pleasures — including togetherness, including taking time to make food with care and attention," says Daniel D'Addario. "For all that its title seems to root it in a sort of celebrity culture that’s in the process of falling away, Amy Schumer Learns to Cook is an elegantly, unfussily made document about learning to live, at least for a time, in a new world."

        # TOPICS: Amy Schumer Learns to Cook, Food Network, Amy Schumer, Chris Fischer, Coronavirus

      • Black Mirror's Charlie Brooker: Actually, viewers might have an appetite for dystopian storytelling amid the coronavirus pandemic
        Source: The New York Times

        Brooker made headlines earlier this month when he said he wasn't sure viewers could "stomach" another season of Black Mirror when the real world is so bleak. When The New York Times asked if he's working on Season 6, Brooker said: "I’m not allowed to say. I have been keeping busy. I’ve been writing." But he did admit that it's possible for dystopian storytelling to work during a pandemic. "If you look at the film Dr. Strangelove, which was made in 1964, a period of time where nuclear extinction looked like a real possibility, that’s the darkest of satire, depicting an unfolding dystopia that people were in," he says. "So I don’t know that there isn’t an appetite for that sort of thing. In a way, lots of comedy shows are dystopian because it’s a humor in which the worst thing is constantly happening, even on the small scale, even if it’s like, 'Oh no, I hope my housemates don’t walk in and catch me doing this embarrassing thing.' Sure enough, they will. It must be a way of your brain expressing itself in some way and obviously in the midst of all this, there are a lot of worried brains around."

        # TOPICS: Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror, Coronavirus

      • A new documentary tells the story of Harry Belafonte guest-hosting The Tonight Show for one week in 1968
        Source: Variety

        The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show recalls a "monumental moment" in TV history in February 1968 when "an African American would be the frontman of the most dominant program in late night — and perhaps all of TV — for an entire week," per Variety. Belafonte’s intention was to use the week to introduce ideas of social change to a mass audience. Guests that week included Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, months before they were each assassinated, plus Lena Horne, Paul Newman and Aretha Franklin. The documentary was scheduled to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival before the coronavirus pandemic.

        # TOPICS: Harry Belafonte, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Documentaries, Retro TV

      • Age is the best part of Fox's Labor of Love: It's nice to see a reality show cast that's not in their 20s with real jobs
        Source: The Daily Beast

        "Age is talked about a lot here," says Kevin Fallon of the Fox reality show starring former Bachelor star Kristy Katzmann. "It’s the best part of the show. Kristy explains that she’s turning to something like this because when she’s dating, family-minded men are turned off by the fact that she’s older. That is candid and heartbreaking. The ticking clock here is far more palatable than while watching The Bachelor, in which 23-year-old women gripe with certainty that if they don’t find love now, they’re a lost cause and will never find it. To that end, it’s nice to see a cast of reality TV contestants in their late thirties and early forties for once. There’s a whole, dynamic array of hairlines, and even some grays. Unlike on The Bachelor, their jobs are actually real. Of course, there’s still not an ounce of body fat on any of them; this is still reality TV, after all. Which is to say, if the goal of the premiere is to cheekily get the audience to visualize this group of men masturbating into cups...well, it’s time well spent."

        # TOPICS: Labor of Love, FOX, Reality TV

      • Insecure's Molly-Andrew relationship is helping to push back against racial bias in the real world
        Source: The New York Times

        "The Molly-Andrew relationship is part of a larger cultural trend in which black women, especially those of medium-to-dark-brown complexions — long positioned at the bottom of the aesthetic and social hierarchy in the United States because of racist standards — are increasingly appearing as leading ladies and romantic ideals in interracial relationships onscreen," says Salamishah Tillet. "In some cases, these are works created by black women themselves, like (Issa) Rae’s Insecure.” Other shows like Bob Hearts Abishola, Mixed-ish, How to Get Away with Murder and Love Is Blind have also been "part of a broader mainstreaming of black women’s beauty and cultural influence," says Tillet. She also points to The Jeffersons' Tom and Helen Willis relationship and Scandal's Fitz and Olivia for changing the way black women are viewed in interracial relationships. Kerry Washington, who played Olivia on Scandal and Helen Willis in last year's live taping of The Jeffersons, adds:  “I do think the ways that we are thinking about interracial relationships now, it’s about two consenting individuals’ choosing. We’re in a moment of being able to really deal with the complicated nuance of two individuals coming together across cultural divides and choosing each other, both having free will.”

        # TOPICS: Insecure, HBO, Alexander Hodge, Issa Rae, Kerry Washington, Yvonne Orji, African Americans and TV, Diversity

      • Sarah Paulson explains her big Mrs. America moment
        Source: Slate

        "It’s very important to me," she says of this week's episode. "I had less to do in the beginning of the series, but I knew there was going to be an episode about Alice’s journey, so I tried to lay as much track as I could that preceded it, so you would believe and understand where I end up at the end of that episode—and then, once people see Episode 9, why that ending happens the way that it does." ALSO: What's it like for Paulson to paly a character holding political beliefs opposite her own?

        # TOPICS: Sarah Paulson, FX on Hulu, Mrs. America

      • Pamela Anderson disliked Dwayne Johnson's Baywatch movie: "Let's just keep the bad TV as bad TV"
        Source: ETonline

        "I didn't like it," the Baywatch alum said on Watch What Happens Live. "Let's just keep the bad TV as bad TV. That's what's charming about it. Trying to make these movies that are television are just messing with it."

        # TOPICS: Baywatch, Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Pamela Anderson, Retro TV

      • Normal People has been immensely important in making Peak TV more female-centric
        Source: The Globe and Mail

        "It adds to the through-line in the past decade of great TV that begins with Lena Dunham’s Girls on HBO and runs through FX’s Better Things to The Handmaid’s Tale to Fleabag, Netflix’s Unbelievable and others," says John Doyle. "This line is a cultural phenomenon. If the first part of this Golden Age of TV was male-centric, rooted in the crises of men in The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Mad Men, the near-future of it is female." ALSO: How Normal People makes us fall in love.

        # TOPICS: Normal People, Hulu, Women and TV

      • Snowpiercer's visual effects and design teams built an 18-car train on four stages to represent a 10-mile-long train
        Source: Variety

        The crew of the TNT series created the interior of its train by looking at Japan and China's locomotive design technology.

        # TOPICS: Snowpiercer, TNT, Production Design, Visual Effects

      • Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey respond to Kate Walsh marking the 15th anniversary of her Grey's Anatomy debut
        Source: ETonline

        "Unreal that today marks 15 years ago to the day since this little lady walked on to your screen and checked ya for screwing her husband," Walsh tweeted Friday. Pompeo responded: "thank god I messed with your hubby!!...it worked out well for us both!!!" Dempsey also chimed in on Walsh's Instagram, adding three hand clapping emojis.

        # TOPICS: Kate Walsh, ABC, Grey's Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey

      • She-Ra’s final villain was modeled after real cult leaders
        Source: Polygon

        “Specifically suicide-cult leaders,” says creator Noelle Stevenson. “People who have this element of control over everybody, who thinks they are the beginning and end of everything, and (their followers) are completely dependent on them.” ALSO: She-Ra's Season 5 finale was surprising in the actualization of its central queer love story.

        # TOPICS: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Netflix, Noelle Stevenson

      • Selling Sunset sells the super rich as normal people
        Source: BuzzFeed News

        Adam DiVello, creator of the Netflix high-end real estate reality show, has a history of working on glitzy reality shows with credits including Laguna Beach and The Hills. "The DiVello brand is built on nearly impossible aspirations, often with a cast of beautiful (but often quite bland) white women fighting over (usually) very low-stakes issues," says Scaachi Koul, who went behind the scenes of the Netflix reality show. "Like most reality TV, the arguments are frequently petty, often rooted in little miscommunications, the conflict largely passive-aggressive, but DiVello knows to add just enough high-end appeal to make his shows feel elevated and compelling. (His shows aren’t even called reality TV — instead they’re seen as docusoaps.) His brand of television is a lot like the house he was showing me: visually stunning, unaffordable, not really my style — and yet, I would happily be buried in the kitchen." Koul adds "When Adam DiVello is producing a reality TV world, it’s hard not to wish you could spend a week or lifetime in it. That’s the beauty of his shows: You feel, on some level, that if you tried hard enough and had the right stylists and doctors, maybe there could be a possibility that you too could live in his world. These are not the girls next door — unless you live in the Hollywood Hills. But despite the fact that all the women who inhabit the DiVello universe are in a different stratosphere of wealth, beauty, and access, there’s still something relatable about them. Unlike other shows about the rich, they’re not produced to be caricatures that veer into absurdity; rather, they’re just normal people who wear feathered cocktail dresses to their boss’s casual dinner."

        # TOPICS: Selling Sunset, Netflix, Adam DiVello, Reality TV

      • What happened to the shows that were supposed to be "the next Game of Thrones"?
        Source: The Ringer

        The Witcher, Westworld and His Dark Materials have all tried to become the next big buzzed-about genre series.

        # TOPICS: Game of Thrones, His Dark Materials, Westworld, The Witcher

      • Growing Up Hip-Hop has been compelling showcasing the new, messy generation of the children of rappers
        Source: The Muse

        Though there have been Atlanta and New York spinoffs of Growing Up Hip-Hop, "it’s the Los Angeles cast that most efficiently combines entertainment value, trash TV, and the psychological turmoil of being the child of a famous person. This comes with an unfortunate side dish of dramatic editing that cheapens the show’s production," says Clover Hope. "There’s enough real-life salacious material on hand in the cast’s lives that there’s no need to overdramatize it, but WE tv too often misses the memo. For that reason, Master P and Romeo, upon realizing they were on a show that veers too much into lowest-common-denominator TV, recently criticized producers for abandoning positivity in favor of messy storylines and shade, i.e. airing a montage of members ridiculing Romeo for texting bible verses to them. This is a known repercussion of banking on reality TV stardom as a career strategy. (Master P and Romeo have since quit the show.)"

        # TOPICS: Growing Up Hip Hop, We TV, Hip-Hop, Reality TV

      • Reality TV no longer feels like escapism amid the pandemic
        Source: Gen

        "There’s an even more warped sense of nostalgia attached to shows like The Circle, Love Is Blind, and Too Hot to Handle," Colin Horgan says of the three hit Netflix dating reality shows that premiered this year. "Watching them in our current state doesn’t prompt a memory of our former routine lives or the closeness we once shared with other people. Instead, they create a strange longing for a time when the extreme scenario we now seem to inhabit was still considered… well, extreme. Perhaps now our binge-watching preferences have simply flipped. Our escapism is no longer in reality TV’s extremes, but in our boring old lives — the formerly routine existence that shows sought to manipulate. We miss when things — even people — were, for lack of a better term, normal. That feels like a simpler time, when reality TV was not merely comfort food for the brain — a warm loaf of mental sourdough — but also a way to witness a distorted and unfamiliar version of our world, safely. Because as effective as reality TV is at amplifying human nature beyond its usual limits, it’s equally good at bringing things down again and returning us comfortably to a place where, by comparison, our own lives feel under control."

        # TOPICS: The Circle, Netflix, Love Is Blind, Too Hot to Handle, Coronavirus, Reality TV

      • Will there be a streaming bidding war for Mad Men reruns?
        Source: Observer

        The AMC Peak TV hit leaves Netflix on June 9, paving the way for a bidding war among all the new and old streaming services.

        # TOPICS: Mad Men, Netflix, Peak TV

      • Julianna Margulies: Joining Billions has been "so easy" because "it feels like going home"
        Source: Entertainment Weekly

        "I walk into the read-throughs and I know so many of the people, so it doesn’t feel foreign to me, it feels like going home," she tells EW of having worked with many cast and crew members before on The Good Wife and other projects. "Yet, I don’t have to carry the whole show. It’s been really easy. Paul Giamatti is the consummate actor. He’s actually an actor who works very much like I do, in that I love to run lines until we know them inside and out. He loves doing that, so there’s a real kismet going on set that’s just easy and gentle and it doesn’t feel like I’m breaking my back. I’m just having a really good time."

        # TOPICS: Julianna Margulies, Showtime, Billions

      • John McEnroe says he was "definitely not familiar" with "thirst trap" while narrating Never Have I Ever
        Source: Vulture

        "Sometimes I get razzed by my kids," he says. "'You don’t even know thirst trap?' No, I don’t know it. But you know, that’s okay. I know some other things, but I don’t know the lingo today. That’s what ends up being funny. It’s like, Call Mindy up. She’ll explain it to you. She’s the one that wrote it."

        # TOPICS: John McEnroe, Netflix, Never Have I Ever, Teen TV

      • Sequels tend to be worse than the originals, but not Holey Moley II: The Sequel
        Source: reality blurred

        The second season of the mini-golf reality show has managed to become more like Wipeout but also more like pro mini-golf.

        # TOPICS: Holey Moley, ABC, Reality TV

      • Ranking Netflix reality shows based on their similarities to The Great British Bake Off
        Source: Vulture

        Next in Fashion, Blown Away and Rhythm + Flow are among the Netflix reality shows that bears similarity to the acclaimed British reality show.

        # TOPICS: The Great British Bake Off, Netflix, Reality TV

      • Presenting the 13 kinds of pandemic ads
        Source: Slate

        From the “We’re Here for You” ad to the “You Can Count on Us” ad to the “God Bless Our Heroes” ad.

        # TOPICS: Coronavirus, Advertising

      • Nat Geo's historical drama Barkskins is crowded with scheming characters but thin on reasons to care about them
        Source: The Hollywood Reporter

        Marcia Gay Harden and David Thewlis star in the 10-part historical drama, premiering Memorial Day, set in French-colonial Canada in the 1690s and based on the novel by Annie Proulx. ALSO: How Thewlis tackled playing an "eccentric" 17th Century French settler.

        # TOPICS: Barkskins, National Geographic, David Thewlis, Marcia Gay Harden

      • AKA Jane Roe starts with a fascinating story but fails to go deep into the mind of a woman who was constantly changing
        Source: The Hollywood Reporter

        Nick Sweeney’s FX documentary on Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe in the Roe v. Wade landmark U.S. Supreme Court abortion case, doesn't let its subject find her own voice, says Kristen Lopez. In fact, the documentary hardly offers any insight into McCorvey's life. "And Sweeney’s camera is always focused on showing us who Norma is versus how she is perceived by others," says Lopez." It’s hard to fathom an old woman who spends her days coloring — her walls caked in colored pictures of gardens and birds — to be the face and voice of a movement that inspires such anger and hostility. And yet, Sweeney and crew never actively push McCorvey to answer anything tough. For a documentary touting itself as having McCorvey’s last interview — she died in 2017 — there’s no active instigation from the interviewer, although we hear him push other interview subjects." Lopez adds: AKA Jane Roe starts with a fascinating story but fails to go deep into the mind of a woman who was constantly changing. One of the most significant figures in the 20th Century is divisive, but it would have been great to narrow the focus to her feelings about that divisiveness and not the people who profited."

        ALSO:

        • AKA Jane Roe suffers for being too focused on Norma McCorvey's "deathbed confession": "If AKA Jane Roe is a fascinatingly humanizing tale of the life behind the lawsuit, it also suffers greatly from Sweeney's narrow focus on his subject's theatrical bent and 'deathbed confession,'" says Inkoo Kang. "McCorvey's decision to join Roe v. Wade is strangely glossed over, as is her 180-degree turn from pro-abortion activist to anti-choice spokeswoman. (Even if her sole motivation was money, which it very well may not have been, I would've loved to know what went into the calculus for that extreme pivot.) It also would've been illuminating to have some cultural context of the tactics within the religious right that McCorvey was best suited to carry out, such as the spectacles of public contrition that we see McCorvey perform in archival footage. Most disappointingly, Sweeney never gets his subject to account for her contributions in curtailing the reproductive rights for so many disadvantaged women like herself. And yet, as limited in scope as AKA Jane Roe is, it does illustrate an urgent point that its filmmaker likely didn't intend to make: McCorvey's life demonstrates one pitfall after another of using emotional arguments for a policy debate that affects tens of millions of women in every walk of life."
        • Why did director Nick Sweeney feel McCorvey wanted to give him her "deathbed confession"?: "I didn’t know it was going to be the final year of her life, obviously, but I think she had an inkling," he says. "She knew that her health was in decline and this was her chance to define the terms of her legacy and to set the record straight and to do it on her own terms. If she didn’t, somebody else was going to tell her story. I think she felt very much like she had been used throughout her life. She felt she was certainly overlooked for her involvement in the case, she said that she wasn’t a picture-perfect, white-gloved lady. She felt like she wasn’t the right poster girl that the pro-choice movement wanted, and then later in her life she certainly felt used by the anti-abortion movement. When I asked her, ‘Did they use you as a trophy?’ Her response was, ‘It was a mutual thing. I took their money, they put me out front and told me what to say and that’s what I’d say.’ She felt disgruntled, she wanted to just be herself, she wanted to go off-script and kind of defy the expectations that people had for her. She subverted people’s expectations at so many different points in her life, and in this film is probably the last."
        • What does Sweeney hope will be the documentary's outcome?: "That it will help people understand this enigmatic, mysterious woman, who lived a very perplexing life," he says. "Being at the center of these huge issues are real people. Norma was the plaintiff who fit the bill, and she was forever tethered to this huge issue. Behind the symbolic case and divisive debate (was) an actual person. The other thing is that people — younger people, in particular — maybe take for granted the history of all of this. Not just in terms of the case and the abortion debate, but also just what it was like to be a queer person. It was very brave of [her] to live openly and proudly when things were much more conservative and in a place where things were not easy."

        # TOPICS: AKA Jane Roe, FX, Nick Sweeney, Norma McCorvey, abortion, Documentaries

      • Homecoming Season 2 is almost bizarrely no-frills, but at least the acting is a pleasure to watch
        Source: The Hollywood Reporter

        "The first season of Amazon's Homecoming was a stylish pastiche of '70s conspiracy thriller elements," says Daniel Fienberg. "As entertaining as it was — and as great as Julia Roberts and Stephan James were in the lead roles — the result still felt like a bit of a disappointment; every time the show appeared poised to open up or dig deeper, it instead retreated into a mystery that initially seemed complex but ultimately dodged nuances related to PTSD and memory. The second Homecoming season — entirely Julia Roberts-free and reducing Stephan James to a prominent supporting role — might have been an opportunity to expand the world of the story (adapted from a podcast), to delve more substantially into character and conspiracy. Instead, it makes the first season look expansive by comparison. With an episode count trimmed to only seven half-hours, Homecoming returns as a tiny, almost ephemeral, mystery, a set of very simple puzzle pieces that need to be put together with almost no related emotional component. There's some minor elegance to how small creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg keep this chapter, which can be viewed as a curious checklist decently executed and finally nothing more." Fienberg adds: "The writing is spare, the directing bland, but at least there's pleasure in watching the actors. Roberts gave an excellent performance in the first season, one that ended up being almost inexplicably under-recognized. (Janelle) Monáe is an interesting non-replacement, a performer of both tremendous presence and deceptive stillness, which works well as her character's disorientation increases."

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        • The most crucial difference between the two seasons of Homecoming is the way they function as thrillers: "The first was a conspiracy thriller down to its marrow, both in its visual aesthetic, which borrowed heavily from ’70s films of the genre, and in its revelation of a corporate and government cover-up regarding the treatment of the soldiers at the Homecoming facility, sent there ostensibly to help them reacclimate to civilian life. By season two, we already know what the conspiracy is," says Jen Chaney, adding: "Part two, then, is less a conspiracy thriller and more of a psychological one, the main mystery being who is Jackie, what happened to her, and how is she linked to the events and people from season one? It’s less The Conversation or Three Days of the Condor and more Memento, but with fewer tattoos. Season two is more straightforward than season one, but also not as dense or provocative."
        • Homecoming Season 2 misuses Janelle Monáe and Hong Chau: "The problem is that her journey, and the show’s other 'new' riddles and subplots, seem designed to drive viewers back to the central story of last season," says Lorraine Ali of Monáe's character. "Things feel mechanical rather than risky and clandestine, serviceable rather than seductive. But such shortfalls may not be a problem for all viewers. Fans of last season might welcome an addendum to the mind-bending mystery they consumed in 2018, even if it’s just to remind them why the show was so good in the first place."
        • It’s refreshing to visit a reality where Janelle Monáe is the new Julia Roberts: "Monáe has spent a career exploring the interplay of dichotomies—the android and the soul, the significance and the meaninglessness of gender and sexual binaries, the vitality of nostalgia for the past and the vibrancy of an Afro-futuristic revolution—and their role in creating the human, specifically herself," says Kevin Fallon. "Homecoming explores technology, conspiracy, and dystopia in relation to a new reality. Monáe is stripped out of her splashy costumes and poignant stagecraft for her role, but the themes fit how we’ve come to know her persona perfectly. That she would be ruled a surprising choice for a show like Homecoming is part of why she wanted to do it."
        • It's not Monáe's fault Season 2 is a letdown from Season 1: "Following (Julia) Roberts at the peak of her powers is a hard ask, made more complicated by the fact that the scenario is so similar," says Daniel D'Addario. "Monáe, like Roberts, plays a person whose eroded memory conceals an involvement at the goings-on of the cryptic Geist corporation. To say more would, perhaps, give away twists and turns, but those plot movements are of more purely academic interest than emotional involvement. The genius of the Roberts performance came in the way she supplied familiar warm gestures to cover over all she didn’t know. Monáe, whose character wakes up in a rowboat with no idea how she got there, is all action by contrast, and is given little time to let moments breathe."
        • Season 2 of the psychological thriller isn’t nearly as captivating or complex as its predecessor: "Rather than advance the story significantly (or startlingly), it functions more as an afterthought or a predictable epilogue," says Hank Stuever. "And although it adheres to the spooky, paranoid style of the first iteration (minus Roberts’s character, and also minus Sam Esmail’s direction), it simply isn’t mysterious enough to satisfy. Its coolness has gone cold."
        • Homecoming’s got style for days, but there’s substance here, too: "Monáe, in common with first-season star Stephan James, has a face that can flicker between strength and vulnerability in an instant," says Ellen E. Jones, adding: "So often, us viewers unpack a mystery box TV show like this one, only to find it empty inside. Homecoming manages to add layers of meaning and complexity even as its secrets are revealed. It’s the carefully wrapped TV gift that keeps on giving."
        • Homecoming Season 2 finally finds its groove as it nears its conclusion, but getting there is such a tepid journey that there’s little reward: "As wonderful as the actors are here – and they truly are wonderful across the board – Homecoming season 2 fails to remember what made the first season so exciting," says Chris Evangelista, adding that Season 2 has "none of the spark and flair that made the first season so eye-catching. It’s a handsomely mounted season of TV, sure – but it’s lacking in distinction."
        • Everyone involved in crafting Season 2 seems hellbent on telling a story that exists on the periphery of what came before: "That helps distance the new episodes from a set that already nailed its ending, but the remaining ties create nagging questions that threaten pristine memories of the O.G. 'H.C,'" says Ben Travers. "Worse still, too many aspects of Season 2 suffer by comparison, leaving audiences with as many questions about why this new story had to be told as what the story itself has to say."
        • Season 2 was designed to be more pulpy: “That was always my joke to Amazon: ‘There’s going to be chases this year.’ It’s more outwardly thriller-y as opposed to Season 1, which was toying with you," says director Kyle Patrick Alvarez, adding: “One of the producers called me and was like, ‘What do you think about Janelle Monáe?’ I was like, ‘Absolutely, 100%.’ And it wasn’t just because I wanted the job. I was incredibly excited to hear her name for it. It felt like a light bulb went off. I always try to look at casting announcements from a distance. If I saw that and I wasn’t involved with it, would I think that was cool? And I was immediately like, ‘Oh yes.’ Because what is Janelle Monáe in Homecoming going to be like? I didn’t know the answer to that.”
        • Casting Hong Chau in Season 1 was always a longer play for Homecoming: "We were lucky about the moment in her career that we got her because, for practical reasons, it was important that that character not be some megastar,” says co-creator Eli Horowitz. “She’s supposed to be overlooked, not just by the characters but by the viewer. Two years ago, she was still someone who, if you paid attention, you were keeping your eye on, but she was also able to disappear into a role. Her arc over the two seasons of Homecoming has paralleled her rise as a performer.”
        • Janelle Monáe says this is her first role that wasn't written specifically for a black actress: "Well, I don't think anybody could've played the role like me, but it wasn't specifically written for a black woman," she says. "For the first time, I got a script and it didn't say 'African American' or 'black.' So I got an opportunity – because I am black – to bring my experience to the role, and I got an opportunity to play around. I watched a lot of films (and TV) to get prepared: Olivia Pope in Scandal, Memento, The Bourne Identity, Before I Go to Sleep with Nicole Kidman. A lot of those films dealt with memory loss and I needed to decide how I was going to play Jackie."
        • Monáe on filming her first TV series: "I took a lot more risks," she says. "I’m the type of artist where I need to see a few takes of work, because that actually helps enhance the work that I do, and Kyle was so relieved and happy. He was like, 'Most actors don’t want to see themselves,' and he just kept saying how he noticed better takes after I had watched that first take. So it was great that we rehearsed, which I love doing. I love talking through the scenes with the director and the rest of the cast, troubleshooting things. I just felt in good hands the whole way, and it felt like family. For that to be my first experience, it’s going to be one that I’ll never forget. I’ll always remember my days shooting Homecoming."

        # TOPICS: Homecoming, Amazon, Eli Horowitz, Hong Chau, Janelle Monáe, Julia Roberts, Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Micah Bloomberg, Sam Esmail, Stephan James