TIME celebrity

Dave Chappelle Says He Never Quit His Comedy Central Show

Chappelle went on an abrupt hiatus from his show in 2005

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Oh, that’s what happened with Dave Chappelle.

The comedian went on Late Night on Tuesday and talked about his abrupt departure from his Comedy Central cult hit series Chappelle’s Show.

“I don’t talk about it,” Chappelle said. “Listen, here it is: Technically, I never quit. I’m seven years late for work.”

The interview was Chappelle’s first Late Show appearance in a decade.

In the full interview, Chappelle compared his departure to “getting divorced in the ’50s.”

“People didn’t go to divorce court. They just look at their wife and were like, ‘I’m going to go get a pack of cigarettes. I’ll be right back.’ They just leave with the clothes on their back and make a go of it.”

TIME Television

Breaking Good: How Fargo Changed Cable’s Antihero Game

FARGO "A Fox, A Rabbit, and A Cabbage" -- Episode 109 -- Airs Tuesday, June 10, 10:00 pm e/p) -- Pictured: (L-R) Keith Carradine as Lou Solverson, Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo -- CR: Chris Large/FX
Chris Large/FX

After morally gray stories have become a formula, FX's miniseries found a way to tell a story of decency vs. evil that's complex and a pleasure.

“I liked it. I was good at it. And really–I was alive.” –Walter White

“Well, the old Lester, now he would’ve just, well, let it slide. But not this guy.” –Lester Nygaard

For the past decade or so, the story of ambitious TV drama has been the story of antiheroes: protagonists (usually though not always men) who complicated the traditional categories of hero and villain. It could be Don Draper–deep-feeling and dedicated at work, insensitive crapball at home. (Or sometimes vice versa.) Rescue Me‘s Tommy Gavin, selfless hero, selfish heel. Captivating mob bosses, corrupt but effective cops, devious but philosophical Old-West crime lords.

The antihero was, among other things, a way of solving a storytelling problem: how do you break from the tired formula of good guys against bad guys while building a narrative around a protagonist people will want to keep watching for years? Those stories have been responsible for some great TV, but over time they threatened to became their own kind of formula: 50 shades of morally gray.

On its face, FX’s Fargo seemed like it could end up another riff on this format: regular schmo Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) grows a spine, embraces his demons, becomes–well, a bad man, but a man nonetheless. But over the course of the miniseries, Fargo has managed to do something different. It’s telling a story of actual good people and actual bad people, one in which we have clear rooting interests, without moralizing or dumbing down its worldview.

The relationship between Lester Nygaard and Lorne Malvo is like a answer-song to Breaking Bad, in particular to the idea that, however thoroughly Walter White damned himself, he at least got back his dignity. Malvo’s theories of man-as-animal–getting in touch with your “inner ape” and fighting off the “red tide” and recognizing your “predator” wiring–are like a Walter White fan page mixed with a little men’s-rights-advocacy and Discovery Channel. (You and me, Lester, we ain’t nothing but mammals.) It’s the old antihero rationalization taken to its logical, demonic extreme.

And I do mean “demonic.” Billy Bob Thornton makes Malvo a magnetic presence, but I think the character almost doesn’t make sense unless you view him as something like a magical being. He doesn’t have much backstory to speak of (maybe this week’s allusion to an “angry” dad and a “kid with a black eye” hinted at his childhood, maybe not). He’s a master of disguise, he can appear almost as if by sorcery, he has an almost beyond-human calm. In episode 9, he tells Molly’s dad that he hasn’t had as good a piece of apple pie “since the Garden of Eden.” But was he Adam or the serpent?

Malvo is more than just a villain in Fargo; he’s a Mephistophelian character whose hobby is creating villains–literally collecting them, in the form of a briefcase of angry, anguished confessional tapes that he listens to the way you and I might listen to ocean waves to get ready for bed. He breaks people, physically, to pay the bills, but for his own pleasure, he breaks people bad. Malvo, really, is no mere mortal: he is a cable-antihero-drama producer, for an audience of one.

And while Lester may seem to fit the role of the everyman who we identify with even as we deplore his moral failings, it turns out he’s not that: he’s simultaneously too weak and too depraved for it. At first, he’s overwhelmed by the murders of his wife, Sam Hess, and so on; then, given the cursed gift of villainy by Malvo, he’s too good and remorseless at self-preservation to root for in any way. Whatever personality he has has been subsumed by what he’s gotten from Malvo. By last night’s episode, when he manipulates his pitifully devoted new wife into walking to her death in his own orange parka, he’s neither a man nor a fearsome predator. He’s simply a rat who’s learned some tricks.

What keeps this from being depressing–indeed, what makes Fargo not just a powerful show but a pleasurable one–is that it sets Malvo and Lester against a larger background of goodness. The incredibly tense faceoff between Thornton and Keith Carradine in the diner was like a Western with pie. But Fargo‘s not a simple black-hat vs. white-hat show, because it’s concerned not with heroism or nobility but something both more common and more interesting: decency.

Molly Solverson is decent. Gus Grimley is decent. Even Bill Oswalt, frustrating Molly’s investigation at every turn, is essentially decent if clueless. But none of them gets anything done simply because of decency; none is a solitary hero. Decent people need one another to defeat the predators. Molly does a tremendous amount of sleuthing on her own, but it’s only so much use until someone else listens. (There’s a terrific moment from Allison Tolman in episode 9 where Key and Peele’s FBI agents eagerly ask Molly to tell them everything she’s learned and Molly catches her breath, just for an instant, as if she’s so happy not to be alone with her beliefs that she could cry.)

There’s good and bad in Fargo, yet not black and white. The decent people don’t automatically triumph because they’re good, in the old model of TV morality. But the show also doesn’t adopt the pose of gritty-drama-cynicism, where good is overwhelmed because evil is stronger and less constrained. (Game of Thrones, great show that it is, sometimes falls into this reflex pattern, though its philosophy is really that goodness is only effective when backed by power.)

In Fargo, decency isn’t a superpower or a curse. It’s just hard work, and yet Fargo‘s universe tends toward it. Like Molly, Noah Hawley and the Fargo creative team have taken on a job that’s tough but rewarding. They’ve managed to make good and evil interesting again.

TIME Television

Here’s How George R. R. Martin Would Improve HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
HBO

Author would make each season last longer if he had his way

With the season 4 finale that premiers this Sunday looming, the HBO series’ fans cannot help but wish Game of Thrones were longer — and George R. R. Martin agrees.

In an interview with the New York Times, the author of the books on which the series is based said he regrets that the show’s writers have had to leave out scenes because of the 10-episode cap on each season.

“I wish we had more episodes,” he said in the phone interview. “I’d love to have 13 episodes. With 13 episodes, we could include smaller scenes that we had to cut, scenes that make the story deeper and richer.”

For instance, Martin explained, a scene from the first book was left out in which sisters Arya and Sansa Stark argue when invited to meet with Queen Cersei because Arya would prefer to go hunting. He said he thinks the scene would have been helpful in developing the relationship between the two sisters. He added, however, that he understands “battles are expensive”—an episode of Game of Thrones reportedly costs around $6 million.

Martin’s first book in the Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones, is 825 pages long — so it is not surprising that the show’s writers had to be selective. Season 4 of the show covered the second half of the third book, A Storm of Swords, and the author has yet to publish the remaining two books in the seven-novel series, which has left some fans wondering whether writers will be able to keep each character’s storyline interesting as they use up the show’s source material.

Ironically, Martin began his career as a science fiction writer in the 1970s by writing short stories. Now, his A Song of Ice and Fire series numbers some 5,000 pages — and he cannot write the rest fast enough.

TIME celebrities

Paula Deen Cooks Up Her Own Online Network

"The fans are going to see things they have never seen before," the disgraced ex-Food Network star said. "They are going to see all of me"

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Former Food Network star Paula Deen announced on her website Wednesday that she is launching her own online network in September. She posted to her blog: “Guess who’s going digital, y’all!”

The Paula Deen Network will be a subscription-based service. For a fee, fans will be able to access recipes, tips and instructional videos at any time. Early registration will begin in July, and those who pre-register can win a trip to Savannah, Ga. to join her live studio audience. In order to court subscribers, Deen has set off on a 20-city summer food tour across the U.S.

Deen lost most of her endorsements, her book deal and her TV deals in 2013 after she acknowledged having used racial slurs—including the N-word—in the past. The confession, in a legal deposition, was sparked by a legal dispute with a former employee who accused Deen of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. The scandal worsened after it was revealed Deen had planned to host a “Southern plantation-styled” wedding featuring African-American servants.

In February, Deen told People that she was mounting a comeback: she launched her own company, Paula Deen Ventures, backed by private investment firm Najafi Companies. Najafi gave the Queen of Southern Cooking $75 million to $100 million to oversee her restaurants, cookbook publications and product endorsements. This new digital network with “network-quality” programming is Deen’s first attempt at a comeback.

Deen told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday that at least one network had offered her a TV show, but she declined. (A Food Network spokesperson told the Journal that she had no knowledge of any Food Network show being offered to the fallen star.) Deen said she decided an online platform was the best way to reach fans. “After much research and talking to our fans, this is what they wanted. They wanted to be able to watch me anytime, anywhere, any place,” Deen said. “iPads are so much lighter to tote around than a TV. In a network program, you only have 22 minutes. The fans are going to see things they have never seen before. They are going to see all of me.”

 

TIME Late Night

Mila Kunis to Expectant Fathers: Stop Saying ‘We’re Pregnant’

Kunis said she had a "very special message for all you soon-to-be fathers"

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On Tuesday night, actress Mila Kunis dropped by Jimmy Kimmel Live, and had some choice words for fathers-to-be who use the phrase, “We’re expecting.”

“Oh, you’re both having a baby?” the expectant Ted star asked sarcastically. “You and your wife are pregnant?”

“You’re not pregnant,” Kunis, grabbing a mike. “Do you have to squeeze a watermelon-sized person out of your lady hole? No.”

Kunis, 30, is expecting a child with fiancé Ashton Kutcher. Kimmel’s wife Molly McNearney is also pregnant with the couple’s first child.

 

TIME Television

Netflix Orders Reboot of The Magic School Bus

Scholastic Media

After the '90s kids science education series found renewed popularity on Netflix, the streaming service decided to order an all-new, rebooted series

Good news, ’90s nostalgists: The New York Times reports that Netflix is ordering a reboot of The Magic School Bus.

Called The Magic School Bus 360°, the new series will be a reboot of the popular ’90s children’s cartoon from Scholastic Media that originally from 1994 until 1997. The show — which was based on the science education book series of the same name — featured a group of children and their teacher, Ms. Frizzle (voiced by Lily Tomlin), who go on magical school field trips to places like outer space or inside the human digestive system.

Apparently the original series is still a fan favorite on Netflix. [T]he old version, is remarkably popular on Netflix,” the company’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, told the Times, adding that the program was their top educational show. “It teaches science in a way that transcends generations.”

With 26 half-hour episodes available for worldwide streaming sometime in 2016, the new series will use CGI animation. Other new features will include an updated Ms. Frizzle, an updated bus and modern scientific tools, such as robots. No word yet on who will sing the new theme tune — Little Richard performed the original — but our expectations are high.

[NYT]

TIME Scotland

JK Rowling Doesn’t Want an Independent Scotland

The author of the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, has donated $1.68m to the Better Together campaign which opposes independence for Scotland

JK Rowling has donated $1.68 million (1 million pounds) to the campaign against Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, the BBC reports. The Better Together campaign is being run by Alistair Darling, the author’s friend and former Labour chancellor.

On 18 September, Scottish voters will be invited to vote “yes” or “no” to the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Rowling, who was born in England but has lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for over 20 years, explained her decision to support the “no” campaign in a 1,289 word post on her website.

Seemingly careful to avoid causing offense, Rowling stressed that “there are intelligent, thoughtful people on both sides of this question.” However, the author added “there is a fringe of nationalists who like to demonise anyone who is not blindly and unquestionably pro-independence.”

Recognizing that she might not be seen as truly Scottish by nationalists, whom she labelled “a little Death Eaterish” in reference to a wraithlike creature from her Harry Potter novels, Rowling emphasized: “I happen to think that this country is exceptional, too.”

She went on, however, to add: “The simple truth is that Scotland is subject to the same twenty-first century pressures as the rest of the world… The more I listen to the Yes campaign, the more I worry about its minimisation and even denial of risks.”

Rowling is not the first big donor to enter the debate. Earlier this year, lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir donated £1m to the Scottish National Party who support independence.

Margaret Curran, the shadow Scottish secretary, thanked Rowling for her donation. She commented: ““It doesn’t take a wizard to work out that Alex Salmond’s case for breaking up the UK simply isn’t a risk worth taking.”

[BBC]

TIME movies

Dumb and Dumber To Trailer Premieres

Harry and Lloyd are back — and cruder than ever

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Never has watching something so dumb been this entertaining. Not since 1994, anyway.

After 20 years, Dumb and Dumber movie fans finally caught a glimpse of their favorite shaggy-haired pet groomer Harry (Jeff Daniels) and chip-toothed prankster Lloyd (Jim Carrey) reunited in the sequel’s trailer premiere last night.

Carrey and Daniels reprise their roles in Dumb and Dumber To, which follows the idiotic — but loveable — duo on a journey to find Harry’s long lost daughter. However it’s Lloyd’s ulterior motive for joining the pursuit that reignites hilarious tension between the two characters.

The trailer fortifies directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s taste for the crude, foul, irreverent, squeamish and just plain awful. But don’t let that deter you from watching the trailer.

So consider yourself warned – and invited.

Dumb and Dumber To hits theaters Nov. 14 this year.

TIME movies

A Sonic the Hedgehog Movie Is Happening

The movie adaptation of the popular video game series will be a mix of live action and CGI

Everyone’s favorite spiky blue speed demon is coming to the big screen.

Sony Pictures and 22 Jump Street producer Neil Moritz aare adapting the popular Sega video game series, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sonic the Hedgehog is a billion-dollar franchise that has sold more than 140 million games in its two decades.

The movie will be a combination of live action and computer animation, with Evan Susser and Van Robichaux, formerly of the Upright Citizens Brigade, handling the screenplay. Dr. Eggman, Sonic’s mad-scientist nemesis, will be featured in the story, though other characters from Sonic’s world have not yet been announced.

“We’re looking to capture everything that generations of fans know and love about Sonic while also growing his audience wider than ever before,” Sony Pictures production president Hannah Minghella said in a statement.

There’s no word on a release date yet, but it’s probably a good idea to start saving your golden rings to cash in later.

[THR]

TIME Television

Neil deGrasse Tyson Looks Back at Cosmos

The host looks back on 13 weeks of science

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Sure, the galaxy is still here, but Cosmos is over. The 13-episode reboot of the classic science docu-series came to a close on June 8, and the home video version is already available today, June 10. Host and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson stopped by TIME’s studios to look back on what the show accomplished — and it was immediately clear that, even when the show’s cameras aren’t rolling, he’s still very much “on.” Asked to count to ten to check his microphone, he counted down instead, noting that, “In ‘the universe’ we count down, because that’s how you launch rockets. Counting up to a number is pointless.”

Though the show had received a fair amount of attention for its head-on approach to hot-button scientific topics like evolution and climate change, Tyson shrugged off any notion that those issues were “controversial.” They’re just science, he said, and there’s nothing controversial about them.

“If you want to have a controversial conversation with people of different philosophical stripe from you, start with the science and then take it from there,” Tyson said. “Abraham Lincoln founded the National Academy of Sciences, tasked with advising the executive branch — the White House — and Congress on all the ways in which the discoveries of science may influence the running of the state, in an attempt to improve the health, the wealth and the security of all its residents. Lincoln was a Republican, last I checked. His brethren are not behaving consistent with his intent.”

Instead, what viewers should be focusing on is the growing popularity of science. In the show’s finale, Tyson made the point that it’s important to expand the group of people who are involved in the sciences, and he says he’s optimistic about that happening.

But don’t count on another Cosmos to help it along any time soon. The original Cosmos was 13 episodes, as is the more recent version, and Tyson says that it should be seen as more of a documentary than a normal TV show that comes in multiple seasons. Because the show tries to present a unified vision of our place within the universe, it’s not so easy to just create episodes that focus on different scientific topics — and that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing anyway, since the content needs to be “digested” more than the average TV content does.

“We’re all flattered that people are thinking [about a Season 2] but it’s not clear that this was the kind of content you want to rattle off one year after the next,” he says. “If some years down the line after my life has recovered, maybe. But I’d like science to be shared by all. If someone else came up and wanted to host it, I don’t have any ego invested in the visibility that hosting Cosmos brought to me.”

In the mean time, Tyson is looking forward to a vacation, and to returning to the academic and family roles that got “bulldozed” to make way for TV. Asking him whether he’d be up for another TV gig is, he says, like asking someone who just gave birth when she wants to have another kid. “I’ve never been female, but I’m imagining,” he says, “that that’s when you get punched in the face.”

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