How Black contestants made ‘Big Brother’ history
Welcome to the Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who spent this week trying to understand Travelgate.
That obscure Clinton-era scandal features in the premiere episode of “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” which starts on the road to the 1998 impeachment of President Clinton (Clive Owen) by introducing us to White House secretary Linda Tripp (played by Sarah Paulson), her colleague Kathleen Willey (Elizabeth Reaser), former intern Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) and Jones vs. Clinton plaintiff Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford). But if you missed Tuesday night’s premiere on FX and were hoping to catch up this weekend, you’ll have to pay for it.
Unlike “Mrs. America,” which went straight to the network’s corporate-sibling streamer via the FX on Hulu brand, or “American Horror Story,” which arrives on the platform the day after airing on FX, you won’t be able to stream “Impeachment” with your regular ol’ Hulu account. Instead, you’ll have to pony up for a live TV service like Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV; purchase a season pass on iTunes; or use the FX Now app, which requires a cable or satellite login.
Don’t want to spend the money? Practice patience. “Impeachment” will stream exclusively on Netflix — in roughly one year’s time. That’s thanks to a deal Fox, which produces the series, inked with the streaming giant back in 2016, shortly after “American Crime Story’s” breakout first season, “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” nabbed 22 Emmy nominations.
Five years later, the streaming wars are in full swing and audiences have long since come to expect TV shows to be available to stream in real time, or close to it, without having to shell out on top of their existing subscriptions. And in a culture where the elusive “buzz” has supplanted all-over-the-map ratings metrics, leaving a high-profile series without a next-day streaming option feels like a major missed opportunity.
The most talked-about TV series of the year, including “WandaVision” (Disney+) and “Mare of Easttown” (HBO), have tended to follow a similar model: a weekly release to build momentum, with episodes on a streaming platform where time-shifters can catch up. And with series such as “The Boys” (Amazon Prime) and “Love Is Blind” (Netflix), even streamers where the binge model once reigned supreme have increasingly seen the value of bringing episodic storytelling and cord-cutting convenience.
To which we say: C’mon in, “Impeachment.” The water’s fine.
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“Adventure Time: Distant Lands: Wizard City” (HBO Max). The fourth post-series special puts a period to the great adventure that was “Adventure Time,” though who can really say? It only takes a drop of ink to make a period into a comma. In “Wizard City” — which should perhaps be watched before the Finn-and-Jake-focused previous episode — a young Peppermint Butler, under the influence of his older self, becomes a student at the Wiz Arts academy in a bid for a dark magic do-over. New character and fellow outcast Cadebra, who correctly believes real magic is boring compared to stage magic, keeps him honest. The episode takes off on various “Harry Potter” tropes, but even when the story travels well-trod ground, the details and language, the cheekiness and character work, along with the suggestion that there is always more to know, keeps the world alive. Fans may take heart that a “Fionna & Cake” series (Finn and Jake, gender-swapped) is in the works, with longtime “Adventure Time” steward Adam Muto as its showrunner. —Robert Lloyd
“Top Chef Family Style” (Peacock). The family-centric episodes of “Top Chef” always get both my mouth and eyes watering: Late in the season, when everyone is plenty homesick, a loved one — often the person who first taught them to cook — flies in to help the remaining contestants win a crucial challenge and taste their creations in a gorgeous setting. This spinoff, with host Meghan Trainor and head judge Marcus Samuelsson, combines that concept with any of the kid-centric cooking shows out there: young chefs team with a family member to take on the competition as a duo. It’ll hold me over until the next season of the Bravo series.
In honor of actor Michael K. Williams’ untimely death, it’s time to revisit one of the best dramas ever, “The Wire” (HBO Max). The critically acclaimed series, which ran over five seasons from 2002 to 2008, explored the many ways Baltimore’s failed and corrupt institutions (law enforcement, local government, schools) contributed to urban blight and generational poverty among the city’s neglected Black community. In his recurring role as the iconic Omar Little, a robber of drug dealers with a face scar and strict moral code (never target innocent civilians), Williams was terrifying and sympathetic, a larger-than-life figure who was as fearsome as he was frail, as animated as he was authentic. Alongside an impressive cast that included Idris Elba, Wendell Piece and Dominic West, and with the literary genius of show creator David Simon and writer Ed Burns, Williams cemented “The Wire’s” legacy as an unparalleled examination of modern culture and politics, and a masterwork in exposing the flip side of the American dream. —Lorraine Ali
Less than three weeks remain before the season finale of CBS reality competition “Big Brother,” but one thing is already certain.
The series, which has been plagued by allegations of racism and cultural insensitivity since its premiere in 2000, will make history by crowning its first Black winner on Sept. 29.
That’s because the six finalists still left in the “Big Brother” house are all Black. Their secret alliance, the Cookout, has remained intact while systematically picking off all non-Cookout players.
The development marks a startling milestone for the series: Several previous Black players have complained of being bullied, targeted and manipulated in the “Big Brother” house, and the casts of the 22 previous seasons have been predominantly white.
That pattern changed this season because of a pledge made in reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted last year in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. CBS Chief Executive George Cheeks ordered that the casts of unscripted shows starting this year must be at least 50% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color).
This season’s six Black players bonded soon after entering the custom-built “Big Brother” house in July, with the goal to stay in power long enough to make up the majority of the jury that will determine the winner of the $750,000 grand prize.
The success of the Cookout has also sparked controversy, with some longtime “Big Brother” fans accusing the show and the network of “reverse racism.”
The series now enters perhaps its most intriguing phase, as the Cookout dissolves and its individual members compete against each other for dominance. The reaction of the non-Cookout players to the existence of the alliance — and some of their methods, which included betrayal and lies, will undoubtedly add to the drama. —Greg Braxton
Football club owner Rebecca Welton, played by Emmy nominee Hannah Waddingham, has spent much of “Ted Lasso’s” second season looking for love in all the wrong places — namely on the Tinder-esque dating app, Bantr, that’s recently joined AFC Richmond as a sponsor — and finding fleeting comfort in the arms of the hunky Luca (Oliver Savile).
Friday’s episode, “Man City,” is another story. (No spoilers!)
Waddingham recently spoke to staff writer Yvonne Villarreal for “The Envelope” podcast, on which she discussed her family business (opera singing, natch), her relationship to “Lasso’s” optimism and the Emmy contender that she’s been catching up on.
You grew up in a family of performers. Your mom and your maternal grandparents were all opera singers. You sing and act, but was there a time when you thought you might follow their same path and be strictly an opera singer?
Back in the day, when I was leading lady in the West End constantly just belting, it didn’t cross my mind because that’s what I was there for. But now I feel like as I’m getting older — I did a show at the London Coliseum where my mum had been for 27 years, which was a rather lovely full circle [moment] last year before we all locked down in February. I was playing Queen Elizabeth II, in all her full glory and regalia, singing high-operatic, trilling soprano. And I have to say in that moment, I did think, “Oh, this feels like my most natural setting and maybe I should have been doing this all the time.” But I like the fact that I can swap and change it. It’s definitely the best of both worlds.
In the range of optimism, with Ted being the most optimistic and Rebecca maybe being the least or most cynical, where do you fall? How has the show made you reevaluate your outlook on things?
I’m very much “glass half full” — and if it isn’t half full, work until it is . And I don’t mean that as being self-congratulatory. I just know that that’s how I am. I’m not a negative person. I don’t think it serves you or anyone else.
What film or TV show are you watching?
I actually reached out to the cast to say shamefully that I had only just watched it: I’m pals with Noma Dumezweni and I watched her in “The Undoing,” and I just thought the whole thing was absolutely meticulously executed and just beautifully played by all of them. It was so exhilarating and immediately made me want to do something similar. Hugh Grant is just — you’d like to sit there with a notebook and a pencil and take down what he was doing in it.
If you’ve watched the camp-tastic trailer for “Days of Our Lives: Beyond Salem,” chances are you have a few questions about the limited series, now streaming on Peacock. Such as: Is this for real? As a once-passionate “Days” viewer with an abiding fondness for the bonkers soap, allow me to explain.
What does “Beyond Salem” have to do with “Days of Our Lives,” and why is it such a big deal?
“Days of Our Lives,” which has aired on NBC since 1965, is set in Salem, Ill. — a small town where amnesia, serial killers and Satanic possessions are unusually prevalent. “Beyond Salem” brings together the biggest stars from “Days of Our Lives” past and present — including supercouple John and Marlena (Drake Hogestyn and Deidre Hall) — and sends them on a globe-trotting quest to retrieve priceless gems removed from a stolen peacock statue. (Yes, as in Peacock, the streaming service NBC Universal wants “Days” viewers to watch.) The series revives a number of fan-favorite storylines from the “Days” vault, including the saga of Princess Gina, an art thief whose personality was implanted via microchip into the brain of series heroine Hope Brady by archvillain Stefano DiMera. (Hope’s daughter, Ciara, is a main character in “Beyond Salem”). Sadly, Dr. Drake Ramoray does not make an appearance.
If I’m a “Real Housewives” fan, what do I need to know?
“Beyond Salem” has a lot of fun playing up the shared DNA between “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “Days of Our Lives.” Beverly Hills housewife Lisa Rinna reprises her role as intelligence agent Billie Reed — a part she played in the early ’90s and has returned to sporadically since — whose hunt for the stolen jewels leads to a Bravo-worthy confrontation with villainess Kristen DiMera, played by longtime “Days” regular and former housewife Eileen Davidson.
Kristen first appears in “Beyond Salem” in disguise as a buck-toothed nun — a nod to a character named Sister Mary Moira, who was one of four Kristen look-alikes Davidson also played on the series during a period in the late ’90s. Speaking of doppelgängers, there’s also a guest appearance by drag queen Jackie Cox doing a Rinna impersonation. Just go with it.
Was that Jackée Harry from “227” and “Sister, Sister” I saw in the trailer?
Yes, it sure was. The sitcom queen joined the cast of “Days of Our Lives” this year and brings her much-praised comedic sensibility to “Beyond Salem,” which includes a running gag about her friend “Michelle” who lives at the White House.
Will this make sense if I don’t watch “Days of Our Lives”?
To the extent that it makes any sense, yes. Daytime soaps are designed to be easy to follow (and get hooked on). Just be prepared for hilariously expository dialogue such as “I was married to Ciara’s dad when everyone thought her mom was dead” and “It turns out my mother was living in New Orleans and Stefano brainwashed her into thinking that she was Princess Gina.”
What if I’m just a “Housewives” fan who loves a bit of self-aware camp?
Then hurry up and watch. —Meredith Blake
Fri., Sept. 10
“Kate” (Netflix) Unacknowledged Tokyo-set bloody remake of 1950 noir classic “D.O.A.” finds Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an assassin with 24 hours to live, tracking down her poisoners.
“Malignant” (HBO Max) More horrorjinks from James Wan (“Saw,” “The Conjuring”). A woman’s bad dreams are real. Theatrical, but streaming free for a month.
“The Voyeurs” (Amazon Prime). Sydney Sweeney in a sex thriller with “Rear Window” vibes.
Sun., Sept. 12
“Scenes from a Marriage” (HBO). Red carpet meme generators Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac are in for Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson in an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 Swedish television series. Written and directed by Hagai Levi (“The Affair”), which some will consider a recommendation.
“Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” (Bravo). One day every city will have one of these and then time will end. Season 2.
Mon. Sept. 13
“Back to Life” (Showtime). Serious comedy in which a cheerful woman rejoins the world after 18 years in prison. Season 2.
“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” (Comedy Central). Back from hiatus with something old? Something new? Something just the same?
“Y: The Last Man” (FX on Hulu) One male remains on an Earth otherwise populated by women. Not a comedy.
Tues. Sept. 14
“Karen “(BET). Racist white lady wants new Black neighbors gone by any means necessary.
Thurs. Sept. 16
“Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol” (Peacock). Prophetic global bushwa from the Master of Prophetic Global Bushwa. But with Eddie Izzard!
“The Harper House” (Paramount+). Sparky animated family sitcom centers on a downwardly mobile Alabama family who just might find the wrong side of the tracks is the right side. —Robert Lloyd
Want to know more about one of the filmmakers we’ve interviewed? Need a new show to binge now that your fave is done for the season? If you have a question about TV or streaming movies for the pop culture obsessives at The Times, send it to us at email@example.com and you may find the answer in next week’s edition.
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