Late last month, Amazon released its third batch of series pilots, ahead of the premieres of any of the shows from the second batch. (“Transparent” is being released on the 26th, and I’ll have a bunch of content about that next week.) “Red Oaks” — a comedy about a teenage tennis pro at a New Jersey country club in the summer of 1985, created by Gregory Jacobs and Joe Gangemi, directed by David Gordon Green and produced by Steven Soderbergh— was easily my favorite of the five new pilots (you can watch it here), and I’m hopeful that after the round of costumer feedback concludes at the end of this month, Amazon will order it to series.
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The New York Film Festival told us its main slate. We believed it. But it was hiding something.
Well, it happened. One ridiculous game twist ruined Frankie Grande's otherwise admirable game. The pink-haired imp was sentenced to 50 years of shellacking his sister's ponytails, and we may never hear from him again (unless you count Twitter and YouTube, where he apparently engages in "mogul"-like activities). Tough break, (31-year-old) kid.
Man. We're down to four: Victoria (who is about as threatening as a panda in a pop-up book), Cody (a man with gold pecs who's turning in a bronze-worthy performance), Derrick (a genius who is nice enough to feed his fellow players millet and cud every so often) and Caleb (a backwards cap with feet). Let's check in with our pal Andy Herren, the winner of "BB15," and put together our thoughts on the remaining players and the legacy of Frankie Grande. We've divided this week's evaluations into "What to love" and "What to hate," since Andy and I are incapable of any other emotional response.
What’s to Love?
Andy Herren: EVERYTHING. Victoria started the season as a joke and she has triumphantly morphed into something much more…JUST KIDDING. She’s still a joke, and it is so wonderful. Last night, Big Brother showed a clip of her staring at pita bread while everyone else talked game, insinuating that Victoria’s version of playing Big Brother is staring at pita bread. I’m imagining that Victoria is still unsure of the rules of the game, and she thinks the pita bread may have some sort of power. “Please help me, pita bread. I’m the last girl standing, and Derrick has stopped talking game to me,” Victoria bemoans, to which the pita bread replies, “Who are you?” Victoria remains unable to win a competition, which is yet another reason to love her. She is playing the most brilliant final two game I have ever seen played on Big Brother. Even better than Porsche from season 13, and Porsche from season 13 was replaced by a brick wall halfway through the season and nobody noticed. Lastly, Victoria’s Diary Room sessions are unbelievably entertaining. Sure, they are completely scripted, but can you blame the producers? I feel like Victoria walks into the Diary Room, sits down, and exclaims, “I wish I was a mermaid because mermaids get to talk to fish and I feel like fish have a lot to say!” The producers, exasperated, reply, “Yeah, Victoria. Mermaids are great. Read theses lines for us and we will give you a new necklace. It’s SHINY!” Victoria blinks twice and they have a deal.
HitFix: It is always, always fascinating watching Victoria pretend she has been alive and playing "Big Brother" like some sort of breathing, thinking organism. It takes nerve to stand on the block and announce you've "worked really hard" to get this far in the game when you spend most of your time losing staring contests with pita bread. Even Caleb, who is only capable of whooping in empty rooms and staring like a lonely Precious Moments figurine at Amber's portrait, made a mocking face at Victoria during her speech. She just presses on. And she's nothing. Go, nothing, go!
What’s to hate?
Andy Herren: Absolutely nothing. VICTORIA FOR AMERICA'S FAVORITE PLAYER!
HitFix: This woman is very likely to get second place. I'm not saying it won't be hilarious watching her sit on the witness stand and come up with reasons for angry acquaintances to give her $500,000 ("Zach's hat was a strong competitor and I took it down."), but it will be -- regardless of comedy -- the ultimate anticlimax.
What’s to love?
Andy Herren: Derrick has singlehandedly masterminded this season. Every week he has gotten his way, with the added perk of spending the entire season avoiding being nominated for eviction. He is one of the best, most masterful players to ever play Big Brother. He consistently remains five steps ahead of everyone else in the house. If anyone even mentions putting him up, they either find themselves evicted or profusely apologizing to him or DEAD.
HitFix: If you're a rational, un-obnoxious, thinking person who is chosen to be a contestant on "Big Brother," you are a true anomaly for the ages. I want to study you using a microscope and form controversial theories about your genes. Derrick's utter calm is just provocative. How did he get to be this savvy? Sure, he's a cop, but that doesn't explain how he's able to manipulate his closest pals in the house into believing he's the weakest member in the klatch.
What’s to hate?
Andy Herren: Derrick has made this season BORING. I was accused of being a boring player last season, and even I had a few standout moments (most notably framing Elissa on live television). Derrick has deterred fights, calmly orchestrated nearly every eviction to be unanimous, and taken out all of America’s favorite players one by one (Zach, Donny, Nicole, JOCASTA). Derrick also has a habit of blatantly lying in his Diary Room confessionals. Like, GURL, we know you wanted Donny out. Quit telling us you “did everything you could” to save him. Just own up to your actions and stop treating the viewers like they are idiots. AT THE END OF THE DAY, however, Derrick is playing to win, and for that I say, “I hope Derrick wins.”
HitFix: Derrick is almost officially the Boston Rob of "Big Brother." Yes, his potential victory would be mighty, but he mostly succeeded because of dunderheaded competition. I like a man with a plan, but I also like a real fight. Cody shaking his head in the diary room and calling every noun in sight "Kid" is not much of a duel.
What’s to love?
Andy Herren: Cody is absolutely adorable. I’m pretty sure if my mother had to choose between saving my life or saving Cody’s, even she would choose Cody after one look at him batting his eyelids at her. Aside: I’m an only child and my mom REALLY, REALLY LOVES ME. Last summer, whenever "Big Brother "production would call to tell my mom about what would happen to me if I went to the Jury House, my mom would reply, “I don’t need to hear that. He’s not going to the Jury House. He’s going to win. I love him so much.” End of aside. Cody is also a better game player than people give him credit for. His social game is on point, and he has successfully put all of his eggs in the Derrick basket (the correct basket to put eggs in on Big Brother 16).
HitFix: Cody has an iota of game. Two minutes and twenty-one seconds is a very impressive score for that POV competition, and I really didn't expect him to win it. I expected to him to flounder at the last moment like he did during the HOH competition later in the episode. (Even when he was in the lead, didn't you have the sinking feeling he'd lose to Derrick?) But the point is: His slight skills and adamantium body are intriguing enough that he could be a Top 2 competitor. You never know: There may be an ab counting challenge in our future.
What’s to hate?
Andy Herren: Cody is big move phobic. This is smart…to a point. To spend most of the season getting what you want without making a big move is crucial, but the time to make a big move is NOW, Cody! NOW! I have a feeling that Cody will win the final HOH of the summer, and I also have an overwhelming fear that he will take Derrick to the finals with him, solidifying Cody as the sweet boy who lived under Derrick’s guidance all summer. By cutting Derrick at the end, Cody could finally make the move he needs to make and become the best player of the season (seriously…who would vote for Victoria over Cody? NOBODY), but the $500,000 question is, “WILL HE DO IT?”
HitFix: Cody has no convictions. He's just hustling to keep up with a game that's been orchestrated without and around him. He's doing an OK job. But it's not a performance you can root for.
What’s to love?
Andy Herren: Post-Amber, Caleb has become the lovable buffoon. The Scooby-Doo among the rest of the house’s Mystery Machine, he says things like, “Judy Chop.” He sticks the vacuum hose to his face. He still thinks The Bomb Squad is a thing. He is a living, breathing fart sound effect: Good for a laugh, but not much else. However, he has proven to also be a force to be reckoned with in competitions, with is worth a mention, even though he usually lets others dictate what he does with his HOH reign. Cough Derrick cough.
HitFix: As far as I know, Caleb hasn't asn't been scaring the daylights out of any female houseguests for a few weeks now, and I think we should throw a few dozen chocolate coins at him in celebration. Imagine him giggling and jerking his neck around like a fancy sea lion trying to eat up all those coins. Yee-hah! A wonderful time. Also: Hey, if he makes it to the final two with Victoria, he could win this ceaseless crapshoot. How 'bout that?
What’s to hate?
Andy Herren: The fact that his misogynistic behavior towards Amber didn’t get more negative attention is quite troubling, as it genuinely disturbed me (and lots of other viewers, if I’m remembering correctly). Do I think he is a bad guy? No, I really don’t. Do I think his behavior should have been reprimanded rather than rewarded? Definitely.
HitFix: All I know is after Frankie was eliminated last night, Caleb announced to no one in particular, "[His] picture is now black and white." That's an observant fellow right there. Do you think he understands that every eliminated player's picture turns black and white? Or do you think the producers picked out that special treat just for Frankie? Either way, it's hard to imagine Caleb deserving anything more from "Big Brother" than a new beach ball to smack around with his nose.
What’s to love?
Andy Herren: Frankie is a true competition beast, winning more than his fair share of HOHs, Vetoes, and A SOLO BATTLE OF THE BLOCK. Also, his social game was on-point for most of the season. He appeared to be everywhere, and he was everyone’s friend. It all started to unravel this week, though, as everyone turned on him and he realized that pressing the rewind button was his ultimate mistake. Frankie is by far the most hated houseguest at this point in the season, and while I understand some complaints the fans have, I also find a lot of the hate to be quite extreme. Frankie seems to always have a good attitude when faced with adversity, and I really hope he doesn’t let the bashing he will get upon leaving the house get to him.
HitFix: Let's face it, even if you really disliked Frankie, it can't be satisfying to see him leave the game like he did this week. "Big Brother" basically had to break itself in order to get Frankie sent home, and that's just what happened. Frankie's flawless week of gameplay turned into a meaningless black hole thanks to the "Rewind" twist, and his scared competitors used it to punish Frankie for schooling them with his shovel-loading skills. It seems like a lot of Twitter dislikes Frankie's attention-starved antics and self-absorption, but I actually think being annoying is an asset in "Big Brother." Nutty behavior can make you seem safe, even pathetic to fellow players. I think Frankie's preteen theatrics were usually effective; that damn confession about Ariana Grande turned out to be valuable maneuver on his part. He made it farther than most of us predicted, and it's all because he was smarter than we gave him credit for.
What’s to hate?
Andy Herren: His narcissism is quite appalling, but I still don’t think he’s a terrible person. The thing I found most troubling about Frankie was his championing of Caleb’s behavior towards Amber. Also, his continuous sex stories and constant desire to be the center of attention have made the feeds unwatchable at times.
HitFix: What's there to hate about Frankie? The correct answer is: Without him, the game loses its most serious threat to Derrick's laser-blasted path to victory. A Frankie/Derrick final two would've been a sumptuous end to an otherwise humdrum season, and now we don't even get that. Look, I know Frankie was hard to take. He's basically a Tropical Skittle in H&M shorts, and sometimes I don't want to give $500,000 to a candy-coated narcissist. But Frankie was subversive, and without him in the game, we're missing some serious down-and-dirty chutzpah. Frankie might've tried too hard to be liked, but was always trying harder to win "Big Brother." Respect.
Craig Ferguson tells Seth Meyers: “You’re going to go f*cking crazy, Seth”
Meyers admitted to his 12:30 counterpart, “I definitely don’t think I’m there yet” and Ferguson said it usually takes a few years to get the hang of hosting a daily talk show. “I think anyone who does a TV show over and over and over again, you’re going to go crazy,” Ferguson told Meyers.
CBS is replacing Rihanna with an 80-person Croatian orchestra
CBS’ “Thursday Night Football” will now open with an instrumental theme instead of a song by Jay-Z and Rihanna after she blasted the network on Twitter.
Report: Joan Rivers’ personal doctor took a selfie before performing a biopsy without her knowledge
CNN is confirming a prior report that Rivers’ own doctor, and not a doctor from the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic, performed the biopsy on Rivers’ vocal cords without her consent.
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On FOX's new hospital dramedy "Red Band Society," Wilson Cruz plays Kenji, a nurse who frequently gets to banter with Octavia Spencer's Nurse Jackson.
It's a dynamic that Cruz calls The Olympics of Sassy Nurse.
"It was automatic. I met Octavia on the set and it was as if I'd known her my whole life," Cruz says.
With "My So-Called Life" celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, it's notable that since that seminal teen drama, Cruz has largely eschewed regular TV roles, opting instead to concentrate his energies on a long-term advocacy role at GLAAD.
"I have to look at a teen show show through the prism of 'My So-Called Life' and I think this show comes as close as anything I've seen," Cruz told me when we sat down last week, admitting that he had thought he might be done with steady acting.
Instead, Cruz finds himself on the older side of a two-tiered cast of adults and kids with "Red Band Society." And do the "Red Band Society" kids even know "MSCL" anymore?
"I think a lot of them know and obviously the younger they get, the less they know. But don't worry, I fill them."
Check out the full Wilson Cruz interview above.
And "Red Band Society" premieres on Wednesday, September 17 night at 9:00 on FOX.
Waiting to catch Tuesday night’s “Sons of Anarchy?” Better water those nicotine-laced azaleas and clean up those airstreams because spoilers abound in this review.
A review of tonight's "The Mindy Project" season premiere coming up just as soon as I keep a box of my ex's hair for curses...
A review of tonight's "New Girl" premiere coming up just as soon as guys still like an Oakland face with an LA booty...
BAFTA-nominated cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema has been turning heads ever since his stunning work in the stylish Swedish horror film "Let the Right One In" crossed the Atlantic six years ago. And lately, he's just getting all the good gigs, having stepped in for Spike Jonze regular Lance Acord on last year's "Her" and for Christopher Nolan's right hand man Wally Pfister on the upcoming "Interstellar." Well, you can add another big pair of shoes for the talented director of photography to fill. With Roger Deakins exiting the James Bond franchise after 2012's "Skyfall," we can confirm that director Sam Mendes has tapped van Hoytema to shoot the still untitled 24th installment of the series.
DC Comics’ “Lucifer” is set to become a Fox series
“Californication” creator Tom Kapinos is behind the project based on the comic book character, about the Lord of Hell who abandons his kingdom and moves to Los Angeles, where he opens an exclusive piano bar called Lux.
Anheuser-Busch, one of the Super Bowl’s biggest sponsors, is “concerned” with the NFL’s handling of recent controversies
“We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and code,” the company said in a statement. "We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league.”
A biography of Joan Rivers is due out in 2016
The book by journalist Leslie Bennetts will draw on interviews with Rivers’ fellow comedians as well as other associates. PLUS: Billy Eichner pens a tribute to Rivers.
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And Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon to the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor races as Ramin Bahrani's "99 Homes" has landed domestic distribution after playing the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Indie upstart Broad Green Pictures has landed the film stateside with an aim to release in the spring of 2015. The film will not, however, be competing for Oscars consideration this year, despite early reports to the contrary.
Chris Brown is an artist whose public persona is nearly impossible to separate from his art.
He's an obviously gifted singer, and frequently an even better dancer. His pout and his swagger, when he's performing, is all part of the act. And the act can often be the art. He's also been repeatedly arrested, charged and sentenced for assault; he publicly brawls with other artists; he's proven a hostile and defensive in television appearances and on social media. That recent Billboard interview was insufferable. He can be vile about women, boastful about commercial success and his own materialism.
His success is dependent on inspired live performances, a hit single and the support of his label and guest artists on his records. This need has worked its way into his art, onto his new album "X," though not always in the most explicit, lyrical terms.
"X" was an album that took a year-and-a-half to make, and publicly went through spits and starts. It's biggest rev really began with the success of "Loyal" feat. Tyga and Lil Wayne, a runaway hip-hop smash with a hugely catchy vibe and ugly, misogynistic lyrics that sprinkles drug use on top like the Weeknd showed up for the weekend. It's defensive as hell, too, which makes fans "loyal" to Brown defensive on his behalf. He doesn't even need to answer to its blatant, demeaning themes.
Except that he does anyway.
"If you're only as good as the company you keep / Then I'mma blame you for what they say about me," he warns in the first lines of the titular, opening dance-inspired track. It's a noisy and soaring offering, co-produced by Brown and Diplo. Then, cynically: "I can make you a believer if I turn the nonsense down."
The "company" he keeps on this album, in addition to Diplo? Chart-toppers like Usher, Ariana Grande, Kendrick Lamar, Trey Songz, Jhene Aiko and producer Danja. (Nicki Minaj wastes away on "Love More" from the deluxe bonus version, the same collection of excess tracks where Brown's terrible "Fine China" exists to be burned by a thousand fires.)
Some of these singers, rappers and beat-makers are contemporaries any artist would kill to keep in their cadre. Stylistically, Brown's riding their sonics. This does not make for a cohesive album.
"Songs on 12 Play" is an obvious homage to Kellz, plugging "Ignition" though inviting Songz to guest on vocals. R. Kelly shows up instead on messy pussy ode "Drown In It" which is just as explicit as you imagine. Perfectly innocuous "New Flame" reverses it's simple structure to cater to an Usher cameo and, worse, a dorky Rick Ross verse, promising to do you ladies "right."
Let's pause. I don't think for a single second the cameos from troubled artists like R. Kelly (for his chronicled history of sexual assault of young women), Rick Ross (who has difficulty grasping what sexual assault even is) and Akon (whose rep was partially staked on a fake criminal history) on an album of troubled artist Chris Brown is coincidence. I also think that guest spots from artists like Grande, Aiko, Brandy and Lil Wayne were from artists who wanted or could use the exposure: Grande and Brown were in the lab before "Problem" was even Grande's great career solution. Brandy's rebuilding the Brandy brand, as is loyal Wayne. Aiko is building off her breakout year.
This all returns to that initial assertion, that "guilt/innocence by association" I think its in moments like these that Brown forces an intersection of public face -- ego -- and art.
Perhaps that's why there's "Loyal," and its reheated machismo on "Stereotype." That's why there's the slobbery sex anthems and fluffy suite of "Body Shots" and "Drunk Texting." "X" is 17 songs long, including a throwaway "interlude" ("101"), performed in a lot of different styles and hardly a single one of them focus on the "personal" Brown, about forgiveness or debt, prison or rehab, girlfriends or exes, or growth.
Brown and his company think it's time you forget the ego: he wants a hit, whether descriptive, debaucherous or offensive. As long as it stays impersonal.
Reeling "Autumn Leaves" and "Do Better" do alright; "X" really is a wind-up toy that will get you ready for a game better than this. "Time for Love" and "Add Me In" are also highlights, with some vocal takes that actually sound inspired.
Overall, though, a prioritization of style over substance may explain why "X" just feels like R&B spit-balling, sounding like "now," not "for always," and zero fun at all. To quote another lyric from "X," "I swear to God I'm moving on": Brown breezily flitting between villainous provocateur to lover-man to pimp to The Good Guy -- the "moving on" -- is maybe what's holding him back.