ENTERTAINMENT

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TV

CBS' 'S.W.A.T.' reboot 'will take on the Trump years,' #BlackLivesMatter, says Shemar Moore

Stephanie Sigman and Shemar Moore (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Stephanie Sigman and Shemar Moore (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Don't let the funky theme song or the '70s origins fool you. 

While technically a remake — of both the original series and the subsequent 2003 film based on it — CBS' upcoming cop drama  "S.W.A.T." is very plugged into the current moment, according to its cast and creators. 

In the series, former "Criminal Minds" star Shemar Moore plays a native Angeleno who runs a tactical unit for the LAPD and finds his loyalty torn between his fellow officers and the community in which he was raised.

As co-creator Aaron Rahsaan Thomas told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour, the series was inspired by his experiences growing up in Kansas City, which  have helped him understand both sides of the raging debate over police violence. 

"I grew up in a neighborhood that had a very complicated view towards police officers," said Thomas, who created the series with veteran showrunner Shawn Ryan. "On one hand, a 12-year-old kid who was a neighbor of mine was shot and killed by a police officer. On the other hand, another neighbor of mine was an actual police officer."

Moore, best known for his long run on the CBS procedural "Criminal Minds," noted the diversity of the cast and creative team and added that, while the show is primarily designed to entertain, it will also resonate politically. 

"We’re taking on the Trump years," he said. "I don’t care who you voted for. It’s just what’s happening today. It’s Black Lives Matter. As much as some people don’t want to hear it, it’s All Lives Matter. It’s not just black versus blue or black versus white. It’s every ethnicity. It’s fear. It’s racism. It’s terrorism. It’s subject matter of today."

Ryan, who created the groundbreaking drama "The Shield," about corrupt Los Angeles police officers, said he was excited about the chance to examine the often charged relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. 

"Los Angeles is such a diverse, amazing community, and seeing an officer who kind of lives in the city and sort of sees the people that are being policed as humans and as neighbors and as friends was really important to me." 

TV

Netflix getting 'A Little Help' from Carol Burnett

What do you get when you pair up a living legend with a bunch of little kids? Comedy gold, if Netflix has its way.

The online streaming service announced Monday that comedy icon Carol Burnett will be returning to television with "A Little Help With Carol Burnett," an original unscripted series that pairs Burnett with children to tackle life's dilemmas. 

“Someone once asked me how old I am inside,” Burnett said in a statement Monday. “I thought about it and came up with, ‘I’m about 8.’ So it’s going to be a lot of fun playing with kids my age.”

Kids ages 4 to 8 will join Burnett as celebrities and everyday folks bring their real-life problems to the show to get advice in front of a live studio audience. 

“We’re thrilled Carol is bringing her unique sensibilities to Netflix,” Bela Bajaria, the service's vice president of content acquisition, said in Monday's announcement. “Carol is truly a legend in the entertainment industry with unprecedented success and fandom across TV, film and the stage, and we are both honored and excited to work with her.”

"A Little Help With Carol Burnett" will be produced by Dick Clark Productions and is the company's first Netflix project. 

This is the second television project announced this year for Burnett, 84. In February, ABC ordered a pilot for the multi-camera comedy "Household Name," starring Burnett, though the series has not been picked up in its current iteration.

Debuting in 2018, "A Little Help With Carol Burnett" will feature 12 half-hour episodes.

GossipPolitics

Anthony Scaramucci is out and Twitter is having a field day

To lift a line from the pop song "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," go ahead and kiss Anthony Scaramucci goodbye.

It's been a robust 10 days since the former Goldman Sachs investment banker, affectionately known as "the Mooch," started his new job as White House communications director. And what a whirlwind 10 days they were.

During that time, Scaramucci's estranged wife, Deirdre Ball, gave birth to their second child. Scaramucci was not present for the birth, busy as he was at his new job in Washington, D.C. 

On Wednesday, Scaramucci lashed out on Twitter at then White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, seemingly implying that Priebus had leaked a publicly available financial disclosure form to Politico, tagging both the FBI and Justice Department in the tweet.

On Thursday, Scaramucci took to the CNN morning show "New Day" to continue his attack on Priebus. Later that day, New Yorker magazine writer Ryan Lizza confirmed that Scaramucci had spoken to him via phone Wednesday night and called Priebus a "paranoid schizophrenic" and had, somehow, even worse (vulgar) things to say about White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon. 

All of which led to Priebus' unceremonious dismissal from his position on Friday, with the White House announcing that former general and current Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly would be replacing him.

Hopefully, Scaramucci enjoyed his weekend because it took only a few hours Monday before it was announced that he was the latest ouster in the revolving door that is the Trump administration. 

In a statement released Monday, the White House said it "felt it was best to give Chief of Staff Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team." 

Twitter, unsurprisingly, is beside itself.

Here are a few choice takes from social media. Fare thee well, Mooch. We hardly knew ye.

For the Record

1:45 a.m.: In a previous version of this post, Deirdre Ball's first name was misspelled as Diedre.

MusicTV

Goodbye, MTV Moonman trophy. Hello, 'Moon Person'

The Moonman trophy has been an emblem of MTV's Video Music Awards. (MTV)
The Moonman trophy has been an emblem of MTV's Video Music Awards. (MTV)

MTV's token space cadet just scored an identity revamp — and gender didn't make the cut.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, MTV President Chris McCarthy said the network's iconic Moonman trophy has been discontinued. From now on, the metallic figurine — whose impenetrably opaque helmet has become the unofficial "face" of MTV's Video Music Awards — will go by "Moon Person" instead. Because who knows what's really going on beneath that lacquered astronaut getup, anyway.

"Why should it be a man?" McCarthy told the Times. "It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be transgender, it could be nonconformist."

This new development is just the latest installment in MTV's string of efforts to do away with gender norms during its awards proceedings. The network eliminated gender-specific categories at its MTV Movie & TV Awards earlier this year, where all nominees were placed in neutral categories (i.e. best actor in a show, best actor in a movie).

And the network isn't going to stop there. McCarthy also announced a new MTV reality series — still in development —called "We Are They" about a group of gender-nonconforming young adults coming of age. 

With Katy Perry hosting, the VMAs will broadcast from the Forum in Inglewood on Aug. 27. Here's the full list of nominees.

ArtsMoviesMusic

Sam Shepard: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, actor and ... avant-garde drummer?

Sam Shepard in 2014. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Sam Shepard in 2014. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Sam Shepard, whose death at 73 was announced on Monday, will be remembered for his cross-discipline versatility. As a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, he penned classic off-Broadway plays including "True West," "Buried Child" and "Fool for Love."

An Oscar-nominated actor, he starred in films including "Days of Heaven," "The Right Stuff," "Crimes of the Heart" and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."

To fans of underground music, however, Shepard served a lesser-known role as the drummer for seminal New York avant-garde folk band the Holy Modal Rounders, with whom he performed on the crucial late 1960s albums "Indian War Whoop" and "The Moray Eels Eat the Holy Modal Rounders." 

The band is best known for its song "If You Want to Be a Bird," which plays during the classic scene in "Easy Rider" in which Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson roar down the highway on their motorcycles. That's Shepard playing drums as Rounders founders Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber whoop and yowl.

It was in his capacity as a percussionist, in fact, that he drew the attention of a young Patti Smith, who, in her 2010 memoir "Just Kids," recounted their first early '70s meeting at seminal music club the Village Gate.  

Escorted to the club by Todd Rundgren, who had just issued his album "Runt," Smith described the Holy Modal Rounders' set as "like being at an Arabian hoedown with a band of psychedelic hillbillies. I was fixed on the drummer, who seemed as if he was on the lam and had slid behind the drums while cops looked elsewhere." 

Smith, who at the time was freelancing for Crawdaddy magazine, introduced herself to this drummer, who said his name was Slim Shadow.

The two started hanging out, wrote Smith, describing his tales as being "even taller than mine. He had an infectious laugh and was rugged, smart, and intuitive. In my mind, he was the fellow with the cowboy mouth." 

Only later did she learn Slim's real identity when a friend pulled her aside after seeing them at a restaurant together. As recounted in "Just Kids," Smith wrote that her friend asked, "What are you doing with Sam Shepard?" 

"Sam Shepard?" I said. "Oh, no, this guy's name is Slim."

"Honey, don't you know who he is?"

"He's the drummer for the Holy Modal Rounders." 

No, corrected her friend, "He's the biggest playwright off-Broadway. He had a play at Lincoln Center. He won five Obies!"

Once she learned of his reputation and acclaim, Smith and Shepard continued to see each other -- despite his being married at the time -- and eventually collaborated on a play called "Cowboy Mouth." 

Smith described telling him of nervousness at writing for the stage, which she had never done. But Shepard urged her on, Smith wrote, telling her that "you can't make a mistake when you improvise."

Replied Smith: "What if I screw up the rhythm?"

"You can't," Shepard explained. "It's like drumming. If you miss a beat, you create another."

7:15 a.m. Updated to correct the title of Smith's memoir, "Just Kids," and to identify the Holy Modal Rounders' co-founders, Stampfel and Weber.

Music

Lady Gaga subpoenaed in producer Dr. Luke's lawsuit against pop singer Kesha

Lady Gaga (Collier Schorr)
Lady Gaga (Collier Schorr)

The ongoing offstage drama between the pop singer Kesha and her former producer Dr. Luke has entangled another platinum superstar: Lady Gaga.

On Saturday, attorneys for Dr. Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald, issued a statement regarding their attempt to depose Lady Gaga about relevant conversations she may have had with Kesha.

The artist, who was born Kesha Sebert, is the subject of a defamation suit filed in New York by Dr. Luke stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct, which the producer vigorously denies.

The statement reads:

“Dr. Luke’s counsel served a subpoena on Lady Gaga because she has relevant information regarding, among other things, false statements about Dr. Luke made to her by Kesha. This motion has become necessary because Dr. Luke’s counsel has not been able to obtain, despite repeated request [sic], a deposition date from Lady Gaga.”

The protracted legal battle between Dr. Luke, left, and Kesha has brought Lady Gaga into the fray. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
The protracted legal battle between Dr. Luke, left, and Kesha has brought Lady Gaga into the fray. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Representatives for Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, said in a statement issued to The Times on Monday morning: "As Lady Gaga's legal team will present to the court, she has provided all of the relevant information in her possession and is at most an ancillary witness in this process. Dr. Luke's team is attempting to manipulate the truth and draw press attention to their case by exaggerating Lady Gaga's role and falsely accusing her of dodging reasonable requests."

Among the information Lady Gaga has provided are copies of text messages that were, according to a report on TMZ, heavily redacted.

Lady Gaga has been a vocal Kesha supporter. Last year, Gaga wrote about her peer's plight in an Instagram post: "The very reason women don't speak up for years is the fear that no one will believe them or their abuser has threatened their life or life of their loved ones/livelihood in order to keep their victim quiet and under control. What happened to Kesha has happened to many female artists, including myself, and it will affect her for the rest of her life." 

The news comes at a particularly crucial moment for Kesha's career. On Aug. 11, she will release her highly anticipated new album, "Rainbow." The record, featuring songs such as "Learn to Let Go," will arrive via Dr. Luke's imprint, Kemosabe, a situation Kesha sought to avoid in a 2014 lawsuit of her own, which she later dropped.

Celebrity

'Ride on, genius': Celebrities mourn the loss of Sam Shepard

Acclaimed actor and playwright Sam Shepard died July 27 at age 73. (Charles Sykes / Associated Press)
Acclaimed actor and playwright Sam Shepard died July 27 at age 73. (Charles Sykes / Associated Press)

Sam Shepard — Oscar-nominated actor and critically acclaimed playwright, author, screenwriter and director — died on July 27 after suffering complications from  ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). When news of his death broke Monday morning, Twitter erupted with posts to mourn, honor and remember one of show business' beloved renaissance men. 

This story was updated with additional reactions. 

CelebrityGossip

Macaulay Culkin got his first tattoo with goddaughter Paris Jackson, and it's a match

 (Carl Timpone / BFA / REX / Shutterstock)
(Carl Timpone / BFA / REX / Shutterstock)

For Paris Jackson, getting inked is nothing out of the ordinary. With more than 50 tattoos already under her belt, the 19-year-old daughter of late pop king Michael Jackson collects body art like postage stamps. 

According to E! News, the budding actress got her latest over the weekend: an understated sketch of a red spoon, just below the crook of her left arm.

A new tattoo might be old-hat for Jackson, but it wasn't for Macaulay Culkin, Jackson's 36-year-old godfather -- and first-time tattoo patron -- who emerged from West Hollywood's Tattoo Mania with a matching spoon on his own forearm.

Though neither Jackson nor Culkin spoke to the meaning of the double-inking, the design is supposedly meant to represent a kind of chronic struggle.

And that's not the only news that Culkin made recently. The Internet nearly lost its collective mind last week when a new photo emerged of the "Home Alone" actor looking healthy and happy. E! News even declared that Culkin "definitely just won 2017's greatest makeover."

Late-nightPoliticsTV

Alex Jones' products are almost as bad as his conspiracy theories, says John Oliver

John Oliver (HBO)
John Oliver (HBO)

Over the last year, conspiracy theorist and influential radio host Alex Jones has come under intense scrutiny for his fringe beliefs, most notably his claim that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax perpetrated by the government. 

On Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver noted that Jones’ status as a Sandy Hook "truther" qualified him for an  Easy Pass to “hell’s version of the champagne room.” But he spent most of his time on a relatively overlooked aspect of Jones’ conspiracy empire -- the wide range of products that he sells in order to fund it. 

According to Oliver, Jones spends nearly a quarter of his airtime plugging InfoWars-branded merchandise, including Wake Up America Patriot coffee to Combat One Tactical Bath Wipes and a powder called Caveman True Paleo (made from “chocolate and domesticated bird corpses,” Oliver joked). 

As the comedian pointed out, it just so happens that many of the products Jones sells, often at a significant markup, purport to address the conspiracy theories with equally wild-eyed zeal. Think: water filters to remove chemicals that supposedly turn frogs gay or vitamins to boost your immunity and ward off germs from allegedly disease-ridden refugees. 

Jones even has his own in-house “expert,” Dr. Edward Group, with dubious qualifications (and equally questionable hair) to back up his various outlandish claims. 

InfoWars is essentially a “QVC for conspiracy,” Oliver argued. 

So in the spirit of InfoWars, Oliver decided to introduce his own personal care product, John Oliver Moisture-Armored Tactical Assault Wipes, available via Infowipes.com. The price? A mere $1 million. Worth every penny, we’re sure.

You can watch the complete segment here.

Birthdays

A Star Is Born: J.K. Rowling turns 52 today

 (Louis Lanzano / For The Times)
(Louis Lanzano / For The Times)

One of my strengths, I think, is that I am able to know when I haven't done my best. I think I'm generally able to see where I fall short.

J.K. Rowling, 2000
PoliticsTV

Ken Burns explains why his Vietnam War documentary is more relevant than ever

Ken Burns in Beverly Hilton on Sunday. (Richard Shotwell / Invision)
Ken Burns in Beverly Hilton on Sunday. (Richard Shotwell / Invision)

"History doesn't repeat itself," Ken Burns told a room of journalists gathered Sunday at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills

"We’re not condemned to repeat what we don’t remember," Burns explained. "It’s that human nature never changes."

It's a curious statement from the storied documentarian, particularly given his latest project, the 18-hour, 10-part documentary series "The Vietnam War," directed with Lynn Novick.

But just because humanity isn't trapped in a constantly repeating cycle doesn't mean that the echoes of modern strife aren't plentiful throughout the upcoming PBS series.

"This is a story about mass demonstrations all across the country against the current administration," Burns said in response to a question about what the youth of America will find relevant in "The Vietnam War."  "About a White House obsessed with leaks and in disarray because of those leaks, about a president railing against you, the news media, for making up news.

"It’s about asymmetrical warfare, which even the mighty might of the United States Army can’t figure out the correct strategy to take, and it’s about big document drops of classified material that’s been hacked, that suddenly is dumped into the public sphere, destabilizing the conventional wisdom about really important topics and accusations that a political campaign reached out to a foreign power at the time of a national election to influence that election.

"This is the film we started in 2006, and every single one of those points are points about the Vietnam War having nothing to do with today," Burns concluded.

By creating a fully-formed picture of Vietnam, Burns hopes to shed light on the rancor and alienation defining this present moment, he explained.

For Novick, the thematic relevance only serves to help teachers who have long struggled in tackling the Vietnam War.

"We’ve had great response from teachers already that the Vietnam War is difficult to teach because it’s controversial and unsettled history and they’re looking forward to using the film in the classroom," Novick said. "Those resonances that Ken is talking about, those will be assignments for students. We’re not going to have to work very hard with teachers to come up with those themes, and students are curious about what’s happening now."

"The Vietnam War" premieres Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. PDT

Why people are tweeting #NoConfederate during tonight's 'Game of Thrones'

"Confederate," HBO's controversial alternate history series, which will include dramatizations of modern-day slavery and has come under fire since its announcement earlier this month, will be the target of a social media protest during Sunday's episode of "Game of Thrones."

April Reign, the activist behind #OscarsSoWhite is one of the organizers of the protest which is asking people to tweet to @hbo using the hashtag #NoConfederate during the 9 p.m. East Coast and West Coast broadcasts of "Game of Thrones."  The series is being developed by "Game of Thrones" creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who are white. The pair invited husband and wife writer-producers Malcolm Spellman ("Empire") and Nichelle Tramble Spellman ("The Good Wife"), who are black, to join the creative team for the show.

"We want to show HBO the power of social media of those who are against this show, and demonstrate that there is a unified voice against 'Confederate," Reign said in a phone interview. "Our objective is for HBO to cancel this idea and spend no more money on it." 

Reign said she and others are tired of the pain of African Americans "being commodified for others' enjoyment."  Author Roxane Gay echoed this exhaustion in a recent opinion piece for the New York Times headlined "I Don't Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction." 

Reign stressed that the protest was not a boycott of HBO, which airs the critically-acclaimed comedy "Insecure," co-created by and starring African American actress and writer Issa Rae, a half hour after "Game of Thrones."

Said Reign, "We feel that HBO's money, time and energy can be better placed on a different idea."

The sci-fi-tinged series revolves around events that lead to the "Third American Civil War" and examines an alternate reality in which the South seceded from the Union and thus, slavery is still legal in part of the country.

Last week Benioff, Weiss and the Spellmans responded to the criticisms in an article in Vulture, explaining the genesis of the idea and saying they expected initial reactions to be negative. 

"It’s an ugly and a painful history," said Weiss, who called slavery America's "original sin."

"But we all think this is a reason to talk about it, not a reason to run from it. And this feels like a potentially valuable way to talk about it."

In discussing how they came aboard Malcolm Spellman said that he and his wife felt a sense of urgency in furthering a discussion about race in America. "As people of color and minorities in general are starting to get a voice, I think there’s a duty to force this discussion."

Tramble Spellman said she understands people's concerns about such volatile subject matter, but noted that she wished they'd reserved judgment on "whether or not we succeeded in what we set out to do" until they had seen the show, which is still in development.

Earlier this week, Casey Bloys, spresident of HBO programming, echoed that sentiment during the premium network's session at the summer edition of the Television Critics Assn. gathering at the Beverly Hilton.

"My hope is people will judge the actual material instead of what it could be or should be or might be."

But Reign said Bloys' defense of "Confederate" fell short: "''Wait and see' is what we were told about the Trump administration."

She also repeated criticisms of "Game of Thrones," saying that Benioff  and Weiss had been negligent in including blacks and other people of color in key roles both in front of and behind the camera on that show.

"We're still living in a time where there are protests about Confederate monuments coming down," Reign said. "How much history are we talking about? These are living concerns today."

 

ArtsMovies

Vintage 'Casablanca' poster sells for $478,000

Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in a scene from "Casablanca." (Associated Press)
Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in a scene from "Casablanca." (Associated Press)

How much would someone pay for a vintage movie poster? Well, if that film is "Casablanca," one person's answer is $478,000.

That's how much a bidder coughed up Saturday for the only known surviving Italian-issue poster for the 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. The poster sold through Heritage Auctions of Dallas.

“The buyer has just set a world record and acquired what we in the poster collecting world would equate to a masterpiece,” said Grey Smith, Heritage's director of vintage posters. “The stunning artistry put into this poster makes it stand head and shoulders above any paper produced for the film.”

An Italian-issue "Casablanca" poster sold at auction for $487,000 (Heritage Auctions)
An Italian-issue "Casablanca" poster sold at auction for $487,000 (Heritage Auctions)

The poster, measuring 55.5 inches by 78.25 inches, was produced in 1946. The film opened in Italy on Nov. 21 that year, almost four years after its U.S. premiere. Featuring artwork by Luigi Martinati, the poster is considered the best of the picture's numerous advertisements, Smith said.

Previous Italian-issue posters for the film have sold for as much as $203,000. A U.S.-issue of the poster has fetched $191,200.

The auction featured other rare posters for the film, with a half-sheet going for $65,725, and a postwar Spanish-release poster selling for $35,850. 

----------

For the Record

An earlier version of this article misstated the purchase price of the "Casablanca" poster sold Saturday as $487,000.

PoliticsTV

'There is no Plan B' for public broadcasting without federal funding, PBS president says

Paula Kerger, chief executive of PBS (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)
Paula Kerger, chief executive of PBS (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

PBS President and Chief Executive Paula Kerger wasn't pulling any punches Sunday at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills.

"When people say, 'What is the Plan B for [loss of federal funding]?' There is no Plan B for that," Kerger said of the potential budget crisis public broadcasting faces under the Trump administration.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been under fire for months, with President Trump's proposed budget axing the institution's $450-million budget. 

Though it's easy to suggest that budget cuts would threaten Big Bird's livelihood, the true victims of defunding would be far more human.

Kerger explained that of PBS' $450-million budget, one-third goes to radio. Of the television budget, most goes to community service grants that local stations use for up to 50% of their operating budgets. 

"PBS itself will not go away. But a number of our stations will. If you are a station for whom 30 or 40 or 50% of your funding is suddenly pulled away, there's no way you can make up that money," Kerger said. "You will find big parts of the country that will suddenly be without public broadcasting."

The fate of public broadcasting is currently in flux, waiting for the end of Congress' August recess for resolution. Currently, the House Appropriations Committee has approved the bulk of the PBS budget, while the House Budget Committee recommended doing away with funding altogether. 

Budget concerns aside, Kerger also addressed other unresolved PBS matters.

The second seat of "PBS NewsHour" has been vacant since the untimely death of co-host Gwen Ifill in November 2016, leaving Judy Woodruff as the show's sole anchor.

"We have encouraged [executive producer] Sara Just and Judy Woodruff and the team at 'NewsHour' to take their time and think very carefully about who that right person [to replace Ifill] is," Kerger said. "I'm hopeful that they will be making an announcement sometime over the next few months of a new anchor." 

Kerger also announced an upcoming project aimed at inspiring the country to come together in celebration of literature.

"The Great American Read" is an eight-part series launching in spring 2018 that explores the nation's 100 best-loved books, chosen by the American people and culminating in the first-ever national vote to choose "America's Best-Loved Book."

‘AMC Visionaries' adds Eli Roth, Roots, Gibney for new docu-series

Robert Kirkman, left, and Eli Roth at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills. (Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for AMC)
Robert Kirkman, left, and Eli Roth at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills. (Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for AMC)

AMC announced several additions to its upcoming “Visionaries” docu-series Saturday at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills.

Writer-director-actor Eli Roth (“Cabin Fever,” “Hostel”) will be offering a deeper look into his signature style of genre filmmaking with “Eli Roth’s History of Horror” (working title) and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter (founding members of The Roots) and Alex Gibney ('Going Clear," "History of the Eagles") will executive produce a series called “Rap Yearbook” (another working title). The cable network also has three other installments in development: “History of Video Games,” “Outlaws of the Internet,” and “History of Martial Arts.” 

The new “Visionaries” members join the previously announced programs “Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics” and “James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction.”

Kirkman and Roth were present at the AMC panel with Cameron appearing via satellite to show sneak peeks from the comics and sci-fi iterations of the series.

A sizzle reel for the “Secret History of Comics” utilized plenty of classic panel pages and a sort of motion comic-like animation to illustrate the early days of Marvel Comics, going all the way back to the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby days. But the real treat was a collection of cameos, famous faces opining about their love of the form including Lee himself, J.K. Simmons, Kevin Smith, and Method Man, who earnestly revealed, “You have to be born a comic book fan, I think.”  And there are plenty more talking heads to come, the AMC press release promised Patty Jenkins, Lynda Carter, Famke Janssen, Michelle Rodriguez, and Todd McFarlane. 

The second clip shared a look at Cameron’s love letter to science fiction. “Today, science fiction is mainstream but it didn’t used to be that way,” the director explained. “When I was a kid science fiction wasn’t cool, but I thought it was cool.” Cameron wants to focus on closing the gap between current fans' knowledge of modern day sci-fi to the pioneering works of literature that inspired the blockbuster offerings of today. The "Terminator" and "Avatar" director noted that without Jules Verne and H.G. Wells there would be no Avengers, “Star Wars” or his own works. The series will be divided by theme -- space travel, time travel etc.--  and include appearances from Paul W. Anderson, Roland Emmerich, Paul Verhoeven, Bryan Singer, Keanu Reeves, Jonathan Nolan, David Gerrold and D.C. Fontana. 

When asked how their respective series would showcase diversity -- the footage screened was very male-centric -- Kirkman responded that “History of Comics” would have two episodes devoted to diversity. One will focus on the women who helped Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston steer the course of the hugely famous female superhero, and another highlighting people of color titled “The Color of Comics.” 

The episode "explores the history of black characters, and the lack of black characters in the comic book industry,” said Kirkman. “which touches on the creation of Black Panther — the Marvel character — and does a really cool focus on this company called Milestone Comics that was founded by a group of African American comic book creators to create characters that appealed to them and represented them, because there was a huge lack of representation in comics even in the '90s.” 

“You wouldn’t have horror without Mary Shelley and 'Frankenstein,'” Roth added. He cited the late George Romero as an example of how he wants to break down the themes within the horror genre. “At the height of the civil rights movement [Romero] puts an African American as the lead of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and at the end of the movie he’s shot by a bunch of rednecks. Not because of the color of his skin, but because they think he’s a zombie. But you can read into the implications of that. What [Romero] was doing with using genre to explore racism was so ahead of its time. it’s just as potent today as it was 50 years ago. It’s absolutely something we’re going to be discussing.” 

Roth’s urgency to document the horror masters was apparent. It was the death of “Scream” moviemaker Wes Craven that inspired Roth to get involved in "Visionaries."

The panel then took a turn for the analytical when the creators were asked how their series would reflect the world today.

“The fact that dystopian science fiction has come back, especially in television and in movies, is very important,” said Cameron. “It means that in the age that we live in right now the challenges that face us are technological. They’re science challenges: climate change, genetics, artificial intelligence, things like that. These are really on our horizon as major, existential threats.” 

“The best horror reflects what’s going on in our times,” said Roth. He used Jordan Peele's "Get Out” — which addressed modern day racial tensions— as a reference. “It’s no accident that movie coming out right now is making over $200 million at the box office. You can tell it’s really resonating with people.”

Bouncing off Cameron’s dystopia revelation, Roth then turned his lens onto the current political climate, “I don’t think we’ve ever seen a cast of characters like this in our White House that’s straight out of WWF wrestling in the '80s. When [Anthony Scaramucci] is coming out with things that would make 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper in his heyday blush. This is a farce, is this actually happening?” 

When will we start seeing this dystopian outlook on the current political climate in the movies? Possibly before Roth's series, which will air sometime in 2018, after "History of Comics" and the "Story of Science Fiction" in 2017. 

Birthdays

A Star Is Born: Arnold Schwarzenegger turns 70 today

 (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Imagine getting off the boat. Someone calls and says, 'I hear you're Mr. Universe. Do you want to be in a movie?'  I say, 'Sure.' And all of a sudden I am running with the chariots through Central Park. Of course, no one can expect much of one's performance but it was on-the-job training.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1991
Arts

Broadway's 'Great Comet' producer apologizes for controversial Mandy Patinkin casting

 (Jeff Schear / Getty Images)
(Jeff Schear / Getty Images)

The producer behind Broadway's struggling musical "Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812" has joined the apologetic refrain for the diversity uproar that followed the decision to bring in Mandy Patinkin to replace departing star Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, who is black.

The production came under fire this week following its move to replace Onaodowan, who was in the original cast of "Hamilton," with Tony Award winner Patinkin in a titular role.  

"As part of our sincere efforts to keep 'Comet' running for the benefit of its cast, creative team, crew, investors and everyone else involved, we arranged for Mandy Patinkin to play Pierre," co-producer Howard Kagan said in an official statement posted Friday on Twitter.

Kagan said they had the wrong impression of how Onaodowan felt about Patinkin's casting and how it would be received by members of the theater community, "which we appreciate is deeply invested in the success of actors of color – as are we – and to whom we are grateful for bringing this to our attention."

"We regret our mistake deeply, and wish to express our apologies to everyone who felt hurt and betrayed by these actions," he said.

The legendary Broadway star dropped out of the musical on Friday after the announcement that he would be replacing the African American star was met with disdain. Patinkin was to join the cast for a limited run from Aug. 15 through Sept. 3, but declined the part because he "would never accept a role knowing it would harm another actor."

"I hear what members of the community have said and I agree with them. I am a huge fan of Oak and I will, therefore, not be appearing in the show," the "Homeland" alum tweeted.

Another tweet on the show's account included an apology to Patinkin "for any misunderstanding" and said they understood his decision to withdraw from the show.

Onaodowan, who had replaced recording artist Josh Groban in the role of Pierre earlier this month, is scheduled to continue to perform through Aug. 13, after which, he stated Friday on Twitter, he will not return to the show. It is unclear if his decision to leave the production was his own or prompted by other factors.

Show creator Dave Malloy, whose musical was inspired by a portion of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace," also apologized Friday on Twitter for "how everything went down" and missing the “racial optics" of their casting decision.

They had previously asked actress Brittain Ashford to step aside for the casting of better-known singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson during the summer months and they didn't anticipate that Patinkin's casting would be viewed differently, Malloy said.

Despite 12 Tony Award nominations, "Comet" only received two wins -- for set and lighting -- at the June ceremony and ticket sales ebbed when Groban departed.

Malloy said that sales for shows after Aug. 13, when Michaelson's run would also end, were "catastrophically low." So they decided to cast Patinkin, hoping that his star power would help boost sales, because the "weird show" was in "desperate shape" and on the brink of closing.

Late-nightPoliticsTV

President Trump got a fan letter from a young boy this week. Stephen Colbert introduced another young 'fan' Friday

Stephen Colbert, host of CBS' "The Late Show." (Michael Loccisano / Getty Images)
Stephen Colbert, host of CBS' "The Late Show." (Michael Loccisano / Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took time during a White House briefing this week to read a fan letter to President Trump from a 9-year-old boy named Dylan who has the nickname of "Pickle."

Sanders read part of the letter to reporters: "You're my favorite President ... I don't know why people don't like you." Sanders interjected, "Neither do I, Dylan." 

The letter continued, "You seem really nice. Can we be friends?" Sanders assured Pickle that she had spoken directly to Trump about him, and the president would "be more than happy to be your friend."

Stephen Colbert on Friday brought another young "fan" of Trump's onstage Friday night to read her own letter during his CBS "Late Show."

"Dear President, my name is Norah, but everybody calls me 'Mustard,'" the little girl recited. She continued, "You're my favorite current president."

Norah then presented some probing questions to Trump: "I was wondering, does the attorney general enjoy your full support? And how do you plan to implement the ban on transgender people currently serving in the military? Will those on active duty be called home? Sounds like a logistical nightmare."

She continued, "One more thing: Are you a puppet of Vladimir Putin? I love puppets! I made one at camp! Love, Mustard."

The "Late Show" audience cheered.

Birthdays

A Star Is Born: Ken Burns turns 64 today

 (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

I'm asking, 'Who are we? Who am I?' It's an obvious question for any artist. For me, it's intensely personal and psychological.

Ken Burns, 2000
Music

Eagles, Doobie Brothers will play Classic Northwest show Sept. 30 in Seattle

The reconfigured Eagles, shown during a July 15 performance at Dodger Stadium, will continue with a Sept. 30 Classic Northwest concert with the Doobie Brothers in Seattle. (Kevin Mazur / Getty Images)
The reconfigured Eagles, shown during a July 15 performance at Dodger Stadium, will continue with a Sept. 30 Classic Northwest concert with the Doobie Brothers in Seattle. (Kevin Mazur / Getty Images)

The Eagles’“Classic” music festival series will continue with at least one more stop, this time in Seattle.

But unlike the inaugural Classic West bill July 15-16 at Dodger Stadium, which is having a Classic East encore this weekend in New York, the added Classic Northwest show on Sept. 30 will be just a single day and feature the Eagles and Doobie Brothers only.

The Classic West and East shows teamed the Eagles, Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers on one day, with Fleetwood Mac, Journey and Earth, Wind & Fire on the second day of each.

Tickets for the Classic Northwest bill go on sale Aug. 5 at 10 a.m. at Ticketmaster.

At the outset of the Eagles’ portion of Classic West on July 15, co-founder Don Henley indicated it was still uncertain how much of a future his long-running band might have absent co-founder Glenn Frey, who died last year at 67.

To make the Classic West and East shows possible, the group tapped Frey’s son, singer-guitarist Deacon Frey, and country music star Vince Gill to handle the lead vocals on the many Eagles songs that were originally sung by Glenn Frey.

“In case this is our last dance,” Henley told the crowd at Dodger Stadium, where he was joined by longtime bandmates Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit, “we want to thank all of you in Southern California for all your support.”

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