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      • Mom and Last Man Standing may spell the end of an era for long-running sitcoms
        Source: Variety

        Mom wrapped up eight seasons and 170 episodes on CBS Thursday night. Last Man Standing ends its nine-season two-network 194-episode run on Fox on May 20. It doesn't seem likely that a new network sitcom premiering this year could ever reach those many episodes, says Michael Schneider. "Even as the broadcast networks prepare to order a crop of new series and announce their fall schedules next week, the idea that a new sitcom might make it to the once-vaunted threshold of 100 episodes — let alone more than that — seems antiquated," says Schneider. "For one thing, the big-bucks syndication marketplace of yore is mostly gone, making that four-season, 100-episode mark less necessary to reach. (Warner Bros. TV’s Young Sheldon was recently sold into syndication with 83 episodes, for example.) And in this age of primetime erosion and viewer migration to the streaming world, season orders are short — usually 10 episodes, a far cry from the once-common 22- or 24-episode count — and many comedies are wrapping up within a few years of launch. Or they take long hiatuses, keeping their episodic tally to a minimum." Network sitcoms like Black-ish, reaching 160 episodes at the end of this season, and The Goldbergs, which finishes this season at Episode 185, are still going strong. And so is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which has produced 154 episodes over 14 seasons. Meanwhile, Frasier is coming back for a Paramount+ revival after 264 episodes on NBC. Paramount Network TV president Garry Hart, who oversaw Frasier's original run, says that “historically TV has always had cycles, and funny never goes out of favor.” He adds: “I have my fingers crossed for a nice long run with chapter three of Frasier Crane.”

        # TOPICS: Mom, CBS, FOX, Frasier, Last Man Standing

      • Mom ends its eight-season run by going full circle
        Source: Deadline

        "I know that the series began with a question, which was could we do a sitcom that was about hope and redemption? I think that the finale answers that question," co-creator and showrunner Gemma Baker said of Thursday's series finale, which was written with fellow co-creator Chuck Lorre. Was it always the plan to go full circle with the finale? "No," says Baker. "We didn’t have a lot of time to grapple with questions or really plan anything out too far in advance. We got a chance to write the finale with Chuck, which was great. We wanted to tell a story about how much Bonnie had grown and how much she had changed, so I think that for us it was not so much that her life has changed but her reaction to life has changed. Her focus in her life has changed. Yes, she had challenges before and she has challenges now, but the difference is that she is willing to help someone else in the midst of her own problems. She’s willing to celebrate a friend who’s having a dream come true, and she’s willing to ask for help from Marjorie and be honest about what’s going on for her. In the past, when she had a challenge, Bonnie would often either go off on her own or come up with her own solution that sort of made the original problem worse. I think we get to see how much she’s changed in the course of this series, which you don’t always get to see and she also gets to recognize that change in herself."

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        # TOPICS: Mom, CBS, Allison Janney, Anna Faris, Gemma Baker, Series Finales

      • Ellen DeGeneres' farewell tour to her "legitimately great" show has become a "whiny, tone-deaf disaster"
        Source: The Daily Beast

        Oprah Winfrey's appearance on Thursday's The Ellen DeGeneres Show was a reminder how far DeGeneres has come since it was Winfrey who played a therapist on DeGeneres' groundbreaking 1997 coming-out episode of her ABC sitcom Ellen. "Nearly 25 years later, and after DeGeneres fought back from being essentially blacklisted in the industry for daring to be openly gay at the top of her career, Winfrey resumed her role as the sounding board for a monumental career decision," says Kevin Fallon. "It should be an occasion for emotional remembrances of all that was suffered, all that was triumphed, and all that was accomplished. But, damn, DeGeneres is making that hard. Their interview was perfectly sweet. It turns out it’s been nearly 10 years to the day that Winfrey announced she was ending The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the two talked through their processes in coming to their respective shows, and the parts of hosting daytime TV that they do or will miss. But the genuine sentiment is overshadowed by deeply cynical interviews with The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday and Savannah Guthrie on Thursday’s episode of Today. DeGeneres queued up similar talking points in both conversations, though her talk with Guthrie seemed especially tone-deaf...Each time the allegations about her behavior were brought up, there was an incredibly off-putting flippancy in DeGeneres’ responses. She kept referring to stories from low-level employees about not looking her in the eye as ridiculous, something that she at first laughed at, assuming it would go away. She equated the avalanche of continued stories to a conspiracy or an agenda. 'It was too orchestrated,' she said. 'It was too coordinated.' She even told Guthrie she believed it was easy clickbait—'What if the "Be Kind" Lady isn’t kind?—and misogynistic. She said she was being unfairly targeted because she is a successful woman in Hollywood." DeGeneres was especially off-putting when she told Guthrie, "All I’ve ever heard from every guest who comes on this show is what a happy atmosphere this is and what a happy place it is." As Fallon notes, "A few things about that. One, if you are a person who has even been tangentially associated with the entertainment industry over the past decade, you have heard the whispers—which eventually grew to the volume of a banshee’s wail—of DeGeneres being difficult, demanding, and entitled toward people who work for her. But beyond that, it takes a certain privilege and blindness to reality to assume that because Sofia Vergara and Taylor Swift never noticed that junior employees were being harassed, abused, or taken advantage of, there was no such problem in the workplace. In fact, each time she has been asked about the allegations of a toxic work environment, DeGeneres has brought the conversation back to her personal insult that people found her mean. The effect is a dismissal of the people who worked for her and felt harmed. So here we are, wondering where the lines are drawn between this total lack of accountability, the schadenfreude people seem to be delighting in as the show ends, and remembering that this show was legitimately great—and ushered a transition in how we thought not only about daytime television, but the entire industry."

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        • Ellen DeGeneres is a reminder that even the most relatable celebrities are still putting on an act, still trying to sell us on an image: "That disarming tone and Everywoman vibe — just as starstruck by her celebrity guests as we might be — helped turn Ms. DeGeneres into a household name with a daytime hit that has lasted nearly two decades," says Amil Niazi. "Her showcasing of regular people doing remarkable things was the strongest asset: From yodeling kids to star teachers, Ms. DeGeneres understood that the secret to her success was becoming a vehicle for everyday American exceptionalism. But as her own fame and fortune grew, and stories emerged about her less friendly reputation behind the scenes, Ms. DeGeneres’s relatability began to look like a performance. It’s easy to forget how paradigm-shifting The Ellen DeGeneres Show was at its inception. Six years after her coming-out as a lesbian on her sitcom Ellen drew praise in some quarters and also raised questions about her career future, Ms. DeGeneres reached a turning point with the talk show, as well as a milestone in the mainstreaming of L.G.B.T.Q. culture. Her playful affability and ability to laugh at herself caught on quick with viewers. A palpable sense of joy, exemplified by the way she danced onto the set every day, stood out in a sea of stiff, old-fashioned daytime hosts. She became, if not America’s sweetheart, its lovable lady next door. Even as her star rose, she was able for years to maintain an identification with the normalcy of the audience — marveling at the celebrities who graced her couch, as awed by their charm and shiny hair as we might be. Ms. DeGeneres’s aw-shucks humility also allowed her to bring an unthreatening version of progressivism into America’s living rooms, though her on-air politics were muted at best, often avoiding thornier subjects like race and sex. At the height of her influence, she was criticized by some as the kind of centrist, toothless liberal who could navigate controversy simply by avoiding it altogether. Meanwhile, her massive real estate holdings, star-studded birthday parties and a friendship with former President George W. Bush began to chip away at her ordinary-person image."
        • It's deeply cynical for Ellen DeGeneres to play the victim: "Cancel culture is often painted as a modern, social media-fueled phenomenon, but in reality, celebrities have been suffering career setbacks and public backlashes over innocuous reasons for decades," says Dani Di Placido. "Laura Dern was blacklisted after playing DeGeneres’ love interest in 1997, the Dixie Chicks were blacklisted (and even received death threats) after speaking out against the Iraq War, and Sinéad O’Connor suffered an intense public backlash after condemning child sex abuse in the Catholic Church during her SNL performance - she was never invited back to the show. Few would argue that the reveal of the toxic environment of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and the subsequent public backlash, is an example of cancel culture run amok."
        • What’s even more apparent through Ellen's interviews is the narrowness and narcissism of her framework: "All the reports were about people who worked for her going through hell—racism, intimidation, sexual misconduct— as well as about her own chilly distance from the toxic mess she presided over," says Samantha Grasso. "But in Ellen’s mind, this added up not to something that required any reflection or humility from her. No: what it really was was a personal affront to her. In her retelling of these events, DeGeneres is the real victim here because people said mean things about her and her show. DeGeneres isn’t the person in charge whose oversight these things happened under. She’s the woman who’s just trying to be nice, and it’s sexist to imply otherwise! But the very obvious truth, is that DeGeneres was, at least, a boss who was less kind to her employees than she thought, who didn’t want to admit it, and at most, a boss who allowed a toxic workplace to fester, which in turn affected the lives of so many people who didn’t have the agency to do anything about it. Whether she wants the responsibility or not, DeGeneres has been in control this entire time, and her recent slate of course-correcting interviews are just another instance of that."

        # TOPICS: Ellen DeGeneres, Ellen, Oprah Winfrey, Daytime TV

      • Eric Andre, Jason Schwartzman and Eric Roberts join The Righteous Gemstones
        Source: Variety

        Andre will recur as a megachurch pastor from Texas in Season 2. Schwartzman will play a journalist working on a story on the ministries. And Roberts will play Junior, who grew up with Eli and has suddenly re-entered his life

        # TOPICS: Eric Andre, HBO, The Righteous Gemstones, Eric Roberts, Jason Schwartzman

      • ABC is not moving forward with Jimmy Kimmel-produced Adopted comedy pilot starring former Green Beret Shawn Vance
        Source: Variety

        The inspired-by-a-true-story adoption comedy pilot also starred Bruce Campbell and Wendie Malick.

        # TOPICS: Adopted, ABC, Jimmy Kimmel, Shawn Vance, Cancelations, Renewals & Pickups

      • Ronnie Ortiz-Magro to take time off from Jersey Shore Family Vacation as he seeks mental health help following his latest domestic violence arrest
        Source: Deadline

        The 35-year-old Ortiz-Magro said he would seek medical treatment for “mental health issues” that he has long “ignored.”

        # TOPICS: Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, MTV, Jersey Shore Family Vacation, Reality TV

      • Judge Judy can't envision retiring as she prepares to launch Judy Justice on IMDb TV
        Source: The Hollywood Reporter

        "I’m not tired," says the 78-year-old Judy Sheindlin in a Hollywood Reporter interview. "I don’t play golf or tennis. I have no desire to learn how to play mahjong, chess or checkers. I know what I like to do. Why, at my stage in life, would I try to find something else when I already know what I like? And this isn’t a 9-to-5 job. I’ve still got the time to see the children I love, the grandchildren who are growing up very fast and the cute mate who I still get a kick out of." Sheindlin was also asked about how her hefty salary has become part of her lore. "The People’s Court, they’ve had several judges," she says. "The Tonight Show has had several hosts. But I Love Lucy only had one Lucille Ball. So, almost 20 years ago, I told the company that I worked for this: “I want to be more of a partner. Don’t treat me as a paid employee. I could make this show without you — I created a deal where I could do that — but you can’t make it without me. I can take Judy Sheindlin anywhere else. And good luck with you if you can find somebody else. Otherwise, let’s share the gift that this program has brought to both of us.” I don’t think that there’s anything unreasonable about that."

        # TOPICS: Judy Sheindlin, Judge Judy, Judy Justice, IMDb TV

      • Smallville's series finale turns 10
        Source: TVLine

        Read an oral history of the 10-season WB/CW superhero series starring Tom Welling, Allison Mack, Kristin Kreuk, Michael Rosenbaum, John Schneider and Annette O’Toole.

        # TOPICS: Smallville, Retro TV

      • Conan O'Brien's move to HBO Max will be the real test for late-night-style programming on streaming services
        Source: Indiewire

        Late-night-style programming has been an undermined genre on streaming services. A lot of Netflix shows have failed, while comedians like Amber Ruffin has gained traction on Peacock. But the real test will be when longtime late-night hosts like Conan and Jon Stewart start their own shows on HBO Max and Apple TV+, respectively.

        # TOPICS: Conan O'Brien, HBO Max, Late Night

      • Elite Season 4 will arrive with Netflix celebrating "Elite Week"
        Source: Out Magazine

        Netflix says the June 18 premiere will be preceded by four new short stories, "surprises, parties, and crushes." The short stories are aimed at expanding the Elite universe.

        # TOPICS: Elite, Netflix, Marketing

      • HBO Max's Hacks is the rare show about the business of comedy that actually manages to be funny
        Source: Entertainment Weekly

        "It's not easy to make a good TV show about comedy," says Kristen Baldwin. "(RIP: I'm Dying Up Here, Studio 60, the first few episodes of 30 Rock where they still focused on 'The Girlie Show'). There's no quicker way to drain the humor from a situation than to deconstruct all the work that goes into making said situation humorous. 'If you start a sentence with, "It's funny because…," then it's probably not,' sniffs veteran Las Vegas comedian Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) to her surly new twentysomething writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder) in Hacks. At the risk of offending Deborah, this HBO Max series is funny (and moving, and weird, and smart) because it focuses not on the arduous process of crafting jokes, but on the hilarious, gifted, and deeply flawed women who tell them." Baldwin adds: "Veteran-vs.-upstart is a fairly standard character dynamic, but for Hacks — created by Broad City alums Downs, Lucia Aniello, and Jen Statsky — it's just an entry point. Ava and Deborah are both funny women, but their world views and lived experiences are so divergent, they can barely understand the fundamentals of each other's existence. It's only after Ava hurls a devastating insult at Deborah during their disastrous first meeting that the legendary comedian sees something she recognizes: A brilliant, sharp-witted young woman fighting for her place in a cutthroat industry."

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        • Hacks lets Jean Smart play a role befitting of the showbiz legend that she is: "Good comedies lighten life for a time," says Melanie McFarland. "Great comedies like Hacks make you wish you could live in the world they create no matter how dispiriting they can be. Or maybe it's a matter of its creators knowing the extraordinary talent they have in Jean Smart, lately the standout performer in any number of dramas  – Watchmen, Legion, Mare of Easttown come to mind the quickest. Here she has top billing in a 10-episode show pitching her as Deborah Vance, a Las Vegas legend meant to recall Joan Rivers. Smart has plenty of experience in the comedy side of the business, having become a household name starring Designing Women. Younger viewers probably recall that less readily than her operatic turn on 24. In Hacks Smart to works all sides of the emotional spectrum, utterly plausible in her stand-up scenes and even better in the transitional moments between being onstage and the curtain coming down. Deborah never deflates before our eyes; that would be typical, and Smart can never be that. Instead she switches her character into pure business mode, always moving like a shark, never exposing her vulnerability to anyone but those closest to her."
        • Jean Smart is great, but Hacks runs into the "Studio 60 Problem": "This setup is at once enticing and tricky," says Alan Sepinwall. "On the one hand, Smart — continuing a glorious TV second act that’s included Fargo, Legion, Watchmen, and Mare of Easttown — is charismatic and utterly convincing as a performer of a certain age who has survived every obstacle put in her path, only to discover that she has nothing left other than the career itself. And she and Einbinder develop quick and appealing chemistry as representatives of two different generations who have nothing in common other than their insatiable need to craft the perfect joke. On the other hand, Hacks runs into what I’ve come to call the Studio 60 Problem, named for Aaron Sorkin’s infamous NBC drama about a fictionalized version of Saturday Night Live, where the sketches were never remotely as funny as we were told they were. Hacks is terrific in a lot of ways, but it’s also a reminder that writing fake comedy — fake stand-up comedy in particular — is one of the hardest things to do in the world of filmed entertainment. There are plenty of 'That Thing You Do'-level song pastiches out there, but far fewer convincing comedy facsimiles. There’s something intensely personal about a good stand-up routine that’s almost impossible to recreate, even if the material isn’t meant to be personal. Comedians tend to write for themselves, especially at the beginning. They know what sounds good coming out of their own mouths, what their performance rhythms are, what feels true. And they understand how to make honesty and humor complement each other, rather than coming into conflict. It’s a different discipline from writing scripted comedy dialogue, and even if you’re great at that, the skill doesn’t necessarily translate. (Midge on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, for example, is almost always funnier off-stage than on.) Most fictional stand-up routines come from the pens of non-comics. They also have to serve two masters: 1) make the audience believe that this person is a successful, funny comic; and 2) reveal important details about who this person is and what makes them tick. More often than not, those goals wind up at odds. And even if the jokes are somehow grade-A stand-up material, there’s still the matter of them being delivered by actors who may be great at comedy within scenes, but not at the specific demands of standing at the mic."
        • Hacks is especially sharp and clever on the concept of cool — what it means to observe it from afar and not to have it: "Nothing about Deborah is casual: She is a punishing employer and has an exaggerated personal aesthetic that requires constant upkeep," says Daniel D'Addario. "The attention to the specifics helps make the case for Deborah’s rigor, and the ways that rigor traps her. We see the painful, demanding recovery from plastic surgery in a midseason episode; we also see a great deal of a fussily decorated mansion, run by a full-time house manager (Carl Clemons-Hopkins, a perfectly pitched wit, joined by an always welcome Rose Abdoo as Deborah’s housekeeper), that comes to seem a bit like a prison. These dubious rewards stem from a life devoted to work, but Deborah’s ability to work is now under threat: She has turned her misfortunes into a joke, and finds as she becomes a legacy act that her labor hasn’t been enough. And, attempting to restart her own derailed career, Ava seems uncertain of what kind of comedian or even person to be. She’s only working for Deborah because her career ended over a joke she doesn’t defend. When Deborah hears the one-liner for the first time, her instinct — driven by an energy she’s stopped bringing to the stage — is to workshop it, to fight for it and polish it. It’s this relentlessness that Hacks exists to celebrate and to interrogate. Smart shows us the fervor and eagerness in Deborah’s push for the punchline."
        • Against all odds, Hacks grows in appeal with every episode: Hacks succeeds "on the expert execution and sound structure of great scripts as well as the never-in-doubt genius of Smart," says Ben Travers. "Hacks works wonderfully as a show business comedy, a comedian’s comedy, and a character-driven comedy — and yes, it’s very funny...Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Smart is on fire throughout. Anyone enamored with her magnificent prop work and prickly retorts on HBO’s Mare of Easttown will be in seventh heaven watching her run the gamut in Hacks. Her line delivery, physical comedy, and character work are all second-to-none, as she easily slides into the cadence and command of a comedian who hasn’t had a day, hour, or minute off in the last four decades. Smart is such a believable stand-up I’d give her a late-night show right now if I could, but it’s her moments off-stage that really stand out."
        • The core of the show is Smart’s performance, which brings the perfect balance of steeliness and vulnerability: "She’s one of few actors who could do justice to every facet of the (Joan) Rivers archetype—the charismatic comedian, the bitter primadonna, the tireless workhorse and the traumatized Hollywood heel who’s elevated her defense mechanisms into an art form," says Judy Berman. "We’ll have to keep watching to find out whether Deborah seizes her opportunity for a triumphant second act. Meanwhile, the pithy, insightful Hacks offers further confirmation that Smart is living through a career renaissance of her own."
        • Ultimately, Hacks is about two women struggling against similar forces even though they may not realize it: "One is a funny young comedian with a distinctive voice that she isn’t sure people in the entertainment business want to hear," says Jen Chaney. "The other is an established, famous comic who spent decades working within the confines of a sexist business and isn’t sure how to break free of those restraints. It’s obvious that they can learn a lot from each other. One of the joys of Hacks is watching how hard and how long they’ll knock heads until they realize that."
        • Smart is finally able to showcase her talents in a starring role: "Smart has enjoyed a welcome career revival in the past few years, becoming a go-to supporting player in buzzy dramas like Fargo, Watchmen, Legion and Mare of Easttown, but her starring role here allows her to finally showcase her wild versatility," says Inkoo Kang. "Along with its Vegas setting, Hacks takes place in the many fissures between Deborah and Ava, but series creators Downs, Lucia Aniello and Jen Statsky are clearly more fascinated by their grande dame than their surly, street-stupid newbie. Smart repays their favor with a charmingly unpredictable performance full of sneaky barbs, naughty insouciance, aloof authority, mercurial changes in mood and sundry layers of repressed pain. You’ve seen versions of Deborah before, but Smart keeps you anticipating what she’ll bring to her character in each new scene."
        • Hacks is lightning fast on its feet: "It peppers the viewer with comedic jabs before landing laugh-out-loud blows," says Chris Vognar. "Most of these are drenched in Smart’s acidic delivery. 'Do yourself a favor,' Deborah tells her charge after DJ leaves the room. 'Take the morning off and get your tubes tied.’'
        • Hannah Einbinder received her comedy education as the daughter of SNL's Laraine Newman and comedy writer Chad Einbinder: “My parents met in A.A., so heavy concepts were introduced early,” says Einbinder, who at 23, became the youngest comedian to perform on Stephen Colbert's i last year -- days before the pandemic began. The New York Times' Jason Zinoman writes of Einbinder: "Her early comedy education involved listening to albums by Patton Oswalt and the Sklar Brothers while Newman drove her to school. Stories of the fabled years of Saturday Night Live also made an impression, but for her mother, these represented not just an era of nostalgic memories and comic innovation but also insecurity, addiction and an eating disorder. Einbinder, wearing a Phoebe Bridgers shirt, explained the role of the seminal sketch show in her youth: 'It’s a spooky legend that’s always lurked around.'"
        • Hacks has an unlikely origin story: the idea came on a road trip to a monster truck rally in Portland, Maine: Paul W. Downs was filming a Netflix series and he was accompanied by longtime partner, director Lucia Aniello, and comedy writer Jen Statsky. “We were talking about all the older male comedy guys who were getting prizes and lifetime achievement awards and how their female counterparts, at some point along the road, were forced to exit the industry in one way or another,” Aniello says. “We weren’t really seeing women being held up in the same way.” Which made Aniello and Statsky reflect on their own relationship to their predecessors: “These women, we all are following in their footsteps. (But) even we don’t really even appreciate them or know their stories as much as we should,” Aniello adds.
        • Jean Smart was drawn to Hacks because it "ticked every box": “I mean, if someone has said, ‘OK, now at this stage of the game, write down your ideal situation for a show,’ it had everything, which is the character, the writing, just everything about it,” Smart says. “I mean, I just thought it was so unique and so original and so funny and very moving and I’m home every night for dinner.”
        • Smart says she didn’t model Deborah Vance off of any one comic: But she acknowledges she may have borrowed unconsciously from Elayne Boosler, Phyllis Diller and even Sam Kinison. “I kind of go with my gut instinct,” Smart says, “and the writing is so good that that usually works out.”
        • Smart wishes she could share her Hacks success with her late husband Richard Gilliland, who died in March: Smart met Gilliland, her husband of 34 years, when he recurred on Designing Women. “I had to actually work for the week after he died,” Smart said, wiping tears from her eyes. “Which was, I guess, in some ways, a good distraction, but otherwise hard, because there was a funeral scene. But yeah, I wish I could share all this with him.” Gilliland, Smart adds, helped her prepare for Hacks by running lines with her. "He gave up a lot for me to be where I am," she says. "I mean, he really sidelined his career the last five or six years so that I could take advantage of these incredible roles that I’ve been offered. He was a tough critic, and he just thought that scripts were amazing. Just amazing.”

        # TOPICS: Hacks, HBO Max, Hannah Einbinder, Jean Smart, Jen Statsky, Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, Richard Gilliland