‘Euphoria’ memes are a sensation. They’re also crucial to its success

Three teen girls in a pink high school bathroom
Barbie Ferreira, from left, Alexa Demie and Sydney Sweeney in “Euphoria.”
(Eddy Chen / HBO )

This is the Los Angeles Times newsletter about all things TV and streaming movies. This week, we catch up with “Bel-Air’s” Jabari Banks, prepare for the return of Hollywood’s “Real Husbands” and more. Scroll down!

Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who wants a diploma from “Euphoria High.”

Though its first season made a splash, introducing us to Hunter Schafer, new layers of Zendaya’s (now Emmy-winning) talent and a sizable crop of penises, the second season of HBO’s gritty teen drama has leveled up in terms of both artistic ambition and social media commentary.


And perhaps more than any other show on TV, the two factors go hand in hand.

Far from working at cross-purposes, the Sunday night meme factory dedicated to “Euphoria” — riffing on Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) hiding in the bathtub, Maddy (Alexa Demie) losing patience with her airheaded bestie, and Rue (Zendaya) turning “Euphoria”-ville into her personal obstacle course — has become instrumental to its reception. (It’s also spawned a small cottage industry of meme-capping.) Just glance at the tartly funny entries in the phenomenon’s most entertaining subgenre, “Euphoria High”: Down to the sequined, glittered, androgynous, leather-clad last, it deflates the series’ age-inappropriate raucousness by pushing it to the breaking point. If Cal (Eric Dane), the loathsome father of two somehow-even-worse sons who’ve passed through its halls, can depart in a blaze of glory by urinating on the floor, who’s to say the school’s principal isn’t a dominatrix?

Unless you have “an intellect for CINEMA,” after all, stomaching the series may mean bringing it down a peg. Written and directed, auteur-style, by creator Sam Levinson, filmed on Kodak Ektachrome and confronting subject matter (addiction, abuse, homophobia, organized crime) as suited to “The Godfather” trilogy as a teen drama, “Euphoria” takes itself painfully seriously. Like, comically so. Its episode titles allude to Robert Rauschenberg and Henry Miller, for Christ’s sake!

Still, for all the ambivalence its construction provokes — i.e., every “Euphoria” needle drop is perfect and they’re overused anyway — Season 2, anchored by Zendaya and Sweeney’s knockout performances, feels like a home run: Part Paul Thomas Anderson, part “Gossip Girl,” charged with manic energy and relayed by megaphone. It’s just that the internet is acknowledging its tawdrier antecedents instead of Levinson himself (who has, surprise, cited “Magnolia” as a key influence).

In an age where social media is the real-time “watercooler,” “Euphoria” is not alone in igniting conversation; now everything from Super Bowl ads and Olympic figure skating to “The White Lotus” becomes instant fodder for screenshots, one-liners, takedowns and hot takes. The difference is that “Euphoria’s” memes have become part of the series’ text, balancing Levinson’s at time self-parodic instincts where the network will not.

“Euphoria” needs its memes to thrive. And b—, you better believe I’m not joking. —Matt Brennan


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Sullivan Jones as publisher T. Thomas Fortune and Denée Benton as Peggy Scott in “The Gilded Age”
(Alison Cohen Rosa)

How accurate is ‘The Gilded Age’s’ history of New York’s Black elite? We checked: The team behind the HBO series — from “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes — breaks down the real-life Black history behind character Peggy Scott.

Where to watch the 2022 Oscar nominees: What’s in theaters and what’s streaming?: A complete guide to where you can watch and/or stream all the movies nominated for this year’s Oscars, from “Drive My Car” to “The Power of the Dog.”

This L.A. sports ace has the Super Bowl down to a science. Here’s his game plan: NBC4 sportscaster Fred Roggin has seen it all. Before “Super Gold Sunday,” he sounds off on the Rams, Brian Flores, Tom Brady and the Olympics.

Touchdown or fumble? Check out the celebrities who star in the 2022 Super Bowl ads: Halle Berry, Scarlett Johansson, Pete Davidson and Kevin Hart are quarterbacking some of 2022’s Super Bowl commercials. Here’s a roundup of the celeb cameos.

Turn on

Streaming recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

A smiling man stands before a large flaming grill
Roy Choi at Chavez Ravine in “Broken Bread.”
(Randall Michaelson/KCET)

Kogi BBQ Taco Truck creator Roy Choi has returned with a second season of his entertaining, uplifting, KCET-produced series “Broken Bread,” which looks at food systems, how they go wrong, and how, mostly at the grass-roots level, they are being made better. Food is by its nature an emotional subject, caught up in family and tradition, engaging the senses so fully that even seeing a picture can make you hungry; it’s what keeps us alive and, at its best, makes life lovely. The series, which is available to stream from KCET’s website, as well as over the air (check the site for times), and also from Tastemade, is peopled with cooks and activists and cook-activists; it stands with the community against the corporate, biodiversity against monoculture. (I get a little choked up watching it.) And it’s one of the best pictures you’ll find of the ethnic and cultural variety of Southern California, though it wanders northward now and again and, this season, south to Tijuana. There are visits with Wolfgang Puck and Alice Waters, but also to street vendors, Compton community gardens and a Boyle Heights organic tortilleria. Choi is an informal and interested host, and if I say he’s got a little Huell Howser in him, understand that as high praise. —Robert Lloyd

HBO’s “Somebody Somewhere” is not about surviving the pandemic except that it’s very much about surviving the pandemic. Misfit 40-something Sam (Bridget Everett) has returned to her small, cornfield-bound hometown in Kansas to nurse her dying sister, and now that her sister has gone, Sam is stuck. In the inertia of grief, in toxic family relationships and in small-town Kansas. A burgeoning friendship with a former high school classmate (a miraculous Jeff Hiller), and Sam’s own ability to spark laughter from the darkest void, help her move slowly forward. Come for Everett, stay for the sweet hilarity of a true ensemble comedy, which has the added benefit of being set on a farm. Who doesn’t love a farm? —Mary McNamara

Catch up

Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about

A man in white sits by a fountain
Boris Kodjoe in “Real Husbands of Hollywood.”
(Clifton Prescod/BET)

I smile every time I think about “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET+), the reality TV parody that has returned with its original crew intact five years after it rode off into reruns — this after starting its life as a skit on an awards show. Led by Kevin Hart playing a bizarro version of himself (one can only hope), the crew includes Nick Cannon, Boris Kodjoe, Duane Martin, Nelly, J.B. Smoove and Robin Thicke.


Other stars, waxing and waning, had a great time during the series’ first go-round: Tiffany Haddish, who played the babysitter to Kevin’s child, Regina Hall, Nadine Velazquez (“Queens”), Wayne Brady, George Lopez, Russell Simmons, Eva Marcile (“All the Queen’s Men”) and Nia Long. And no one could forget the guest appearances of Terry Crews, who was inextricably tied to Thicke. This outing has just as many guest stars, including Dr. Phil, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Angela Rye, Mark Cuban and more.

In the new six-episode limited series “More Kevin, More Problems,” Hart has become an actual superstar, but his insecurities (and absurdity) remain. This Kevin lacks self-confidence. He isn’t book or street smart, and his next move is almost always the wrong move. Even though he thinks he’s near the top of the world (pro tip: Some of the biggest laughs come from the chyrons), his crew (and his lawyer, played with perfect resignation by Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) brings him down to Earth.

Some of the zingers hit hard enough and with enough truth to make you wince; no part of the husbands’ careers — or accompanying faux pas — is off-limits, including acrimonious divorces, enthusiastic fatherhood, too-good-to-be-true looks and lawsuits. They face the jokes head-on in confessionals, which isn’t the only thing in common with the “Real Housewives” franchise. Contrived outings, partnerships for the sake of hijinks and all sorts of fights … if you like your celebrities with notes of schadenfreude, this is chef’s kiss. —Dawn M. Burkes

Guest spot

A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching

A teenager in a private school uniform with headphones around his neck
Jabari Banks as Will in “Bel-Air.”

Jabari Banks is now seated at the throne of Peacock’s new series “Bel-Air,” playing a new version of the “Fresh Prince” character made famous by Will Smith. “He’s arguably stepping into some of the biggest shoes ever filled in the history of television, and did it fearlessly since the very first take of our shoot,” says series creator Morgan Cooper. Banks — who is actually from West Philadelphia! — spoke with The Times about auditioning for the lead role and going toe-to-toe with the new Carlton. —Ashley Lee


Before “Bel-Air,” were you already a “Fresh Prince” fan?

It literally raised me. My family had a six-season boxed set on repeat in my house all the time. We had Will Smith Christmas sweaters!

How did you feel when you learned you got the role?

I was moving at the time of all the auditions for this show, so it was very chaotic. I had to tape three scenes, and each time I was in a different friend’s house and on a different white wall. I got a message that the producers wanted to have one more meeting, so I jumped in my friend’s closet and got on the call, and there’s Will Smith, saying I got the part. After that, I called my mom, she’s screaming, my dad’s crying. And then I went straight to bed. It was too much for me. I remember thinking, “Oh my God, why did they pick me? Why did they pick me? Why did they choose me? Why is it me?” Throughout the audition process, I had to talk to Morgan, who happened to be looking at locations in Philly at the time, and he said later, “That first day, I knew it was you.” That was definitely a moment for me where I was like, “Wow, I just need to lean into my instincts and just be me, because that’s what they want to see.” That was huge for me.

What do you hope people see in your take on this character?

I hope people are excited to see a young man being authentically himself, and changing his environment as a result. That was why it was so exciting to watch Will — he was a “fish out of water” in the story and in real life. He had never acted before. I feel blessed to be able to show people who I am and this new rendition of Will. He’s a little grittier, he’s very prideful, he doesn’t like getting his toes stepped on, and any chance he gets to prove someone wrong, he will do that. He don’t take no s—, and sometimes that gets him into trouble.


Will and Carlton do not get along in the first “Bel-Air” episodes. What’s it like offscreen between you and Olly Sholotan?

Olly’s my brother, he’s an amazing human being. When I first got to L.A., he drove me around to different neighborhoods to scope ‘em out and see where I wanted to live. We hang out all the time, and that comfort we have with each other lets us get to the dark places as scene partners and artists. It’s not easy, what we’re doing. They have two different ideas about how the world works, but they have to figure out how to coexist in the same house and the same school, which is Carlton’s world. The stakes are high.

Do you feel any pressure to represent Philadelphia right?

I mean, I got to carry it with pride, that’s how we do it. I don’t feel like I’m a hometown hero yet, but I know I’m getting there, and they’re already proud.

What’s next

The TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on in the coming week

A woman in a black suit and sunglasses on a private jet
Julia Garner as Anna Delvey in “Inventing Anna.”
(Nicole Rivelli/Netflix)

Friday, Feb. 11

“everything’s gonna be all white” (Showtime): Renaissance man/polymath Sacha Jenkins makes a docuseries about race in America, dropping in its entirety on VOD.

“Inventing Anna” (Netflix): The frustratingly shallow tale of socialite scammer Anna Delvey (a mesmerizingly accented Julia Garner) and the journalist who brought her to the nation’s attention (a mesmerizingly grumpy Anna Chlumsky). With Shonda Rhimes in the showrunner’s seat for the first time since she moved to the streamer.

“Love Is Blind” (Netflix): The reality sensation that swept the nation on the eve of the pandemic is back with a new set of singles blind dating all day in futuristic “pods” in the hopes of landing an incredibly chaotic TV wedding.

“Marry Me” (Netflix): JLo and Maluma. In a rom-com. With Owen Wilson! No further questions.

Sun., Feb. 13

Super Bowl LVI (NBC): You may have heard there’s a little football game happening in L.A. on Sunday. Accompanied by an Olympic pre- and post-game.


Mon., Feb. 14

“State of the Union” (Sundance): Nick Hornby and Stephen Frears’ short-form experiment returns (on Valentine’s Day, fittingly enough) with a new couple (Patricia Clarkson and Brendan Gleeson) drinking coffee before marriage counseling in 10-minute increments.

Wed., Feb. 16

“Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” (Netflix): A three-part, career-spanning Kanye docuseries that you can’t binge. Better be juicy!