TIME politics

Veep Creator on Hillary Clinton and the Intense Pressure to Say Nothing

Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting in LeClaire, Iowa on April 14, 2015.
Charlie Neibergall—AP Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting in LeClaire, Iowa on April 14, 2015.

Candidates running now define themselves by their inaction

It’s possibly no coincidence that Hillary Clinton started her presidential run the same week that astronomical scientists at the University of Hawaii in Manoa announced the discovery of a Supervoid, a structure in space 18 billion light-years across and “distinguished by its unusual emptiness.” The Supervoid sits in a part of the cosmos known as the Cold Spot, where there’s far less matter to observe than elsewhere throughout the universe.

It’s a perfect analogy for how Hillary Clinton’s opponents seek to characterize her: as someone who is profoundly visible yet hard to identify. She is politics’ Dark Matter: We know she’s there, but we just can’t describe her. Is she on the left or the right, is she a friend of the rich or the poor, is she a testosterone-fueled superhawk or a grandmatronly van-driver popping into Chipotle for a chat with the staff?

Yet Hillary’s identity problem is prominent only because she has been on the public stage for so long. It’s a magnified version of a debilitating crisis of identity that sits at the heart of national American politics, the real Supervoid that constricts and confines most presidential candidates: and that is, the intense pressure to say nothing. Knowing that your every speech and interview sits in the digital archive, ready to be analyzed by an army of opponents with time to spare and money to spend, can kill spontaneity dead. Far better to sit contentious debates out. If you hold public office, be careful how you vote on any piece of legislation, no matter how obscure. Your voting record will be used by your opponents just as savagely as if it were a criminal one.

And far better to stand for president before you’ve done anything. It worked for Obama, who moved swiftly in the space of two years from senator to president and kept out of trouble as much as he could while still in the Senate chamber. It’s the same be-a-senator-for-a-few-years-then-jump strategy now being used by Marco Rubio. When you’ve not got much to show for yourself other than your face, you enter the presidential race without baggage and with the opportunity to attack all those who have. You enter not as someone with a legacy but someone who is a brand. The difference with Hillary is that she’s been around a lot longer, so she has had more time in which to try not doing very much. That’s a tougher challenge, and the fact she’s more or less managed it shows what a formidable candidate she’s going to be.

When I first started researching Veep, my comedy show for HBO with Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing Vice President Selina Meyer, I was much taken by the portrayal of LBJ in Robert Caro’s monumental biography of the president. What hooked me was the tragicomic dilemma of a once-powerful senator found sitting in his vice president’s office twiddling his thumbs and waiting for something to do. Looking at it again, I’m reminded of a state of politics now gone: When Johnson was major­ity leader, he got things done. Here was a Democrat, working alongside a Republican White House under Eisenhower and getting legislation passed by extending a hand across the aisle. He sometimes twisted the arm that was extended back; the negotiations certainly weren’t pretty, but they did achieve positive results. This was a time when the two parties in Congress talked to each other and found common ground. It’s worth remembering the Constitution is predicated on people at opposite ends of the political spectrum being forced to compromise.

Now, though, that doesn’t happen. The conversation is stalled, the vote delayed, the bill dropped. Which is why candidates running now define themselves by their inaction: “Vote for me because I voted against this, I stopped it from happening, I got this overturned, I will oppose this measure, I’ll make sure this is thrown out.”

This is the ultimate Supervoid now at the heart of politics. It’s the reason why for most presiden­tial candidates today, the only significant thing they can say about themselves is that they are running for president.

Iannucci is the creator and executive producer of HBO’s ‘Veep.’

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.

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TIME Television

How Last Man on Earth Reversed Its Male Gaze

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH:  Phil (Will Forte) in the "Screw The Moon" season finale episode of THE LAST MAN ON EARTH airing Sunday, May 3 (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Ray Mickshaw/FOX
Ray Mickshaw/FOX

This odd show started great, went bad, then evolved into a Darwinian sex comedy with the men as the objects.

I can’t remember the last debut season of a show that had the great-to-awful-to-pretty-good quality arc of The Last Man on Earth. It began as something absolutely stunning, an art film that somehow snuck onto network TV, a bittersweet comedy of loneliness. It was the first act of WALL*E reimagined with a sad bro. Phil Miller (Will Forte) was modern American humanity reduced to its last crude expression after a plague, living out his days in an endless, bored succession of slapstick pranks, recklessly consuming to the end, trying to amuse himself back to life.

Then Phil met Carol Pilbasian (Kristen Schaal). The plot thickened, but also curdled. At first, it seemed like a productive pairing: just as Phil reacted to the apocalypse by letting go–of rules, hygiene, order–Carol dealt with it by clinging to them. So that’s what this was going to be: a comedy about what makes a society, whether laws and manners matter even when there’s no one to enforce them.

Or it would just be a sex comedy, which was what LMoE turned into. Desperate for companionship–OK, desperate to get laid–Phil hastily agreed to marry Carol even though she grated on him, then instantly regretted it when they found a newer, hotter neighbor, Melissa (January Jones). Suddenly, this unique TV experiment was one more dude-centric comedy, where the main joke was that Phil was the only penis in town, yet could never have the hot woman.

It’s not that LMoE took Phil’s side–it showed him as a lying heel scheming for a do-over–but it all became unpleasant. The show bottomed out for a while, as Todd (Mel Rodriguez) showed up and paired off with Melissa, and the joke seemed to become: The fat guy’s with the hot chick! What’s wrong with this picture?

It was tough to stick with LMoE through this middle phase, but if you did, you saw it change again. Erica and Gail (Cleopatra Coleman and Mary Steenburgen), two hot-to-trot survivors, turned up in Tucson–followed quickly by a second Phil Miller (Boris Kodjoe), nicer, slicker and, above all, way, way hotter.

In one deft move, the show’s viewpoint flipped, as the community’s women went as bug-eyed over New Phil as he had over Melissa. A show that seemed to be all about ratifying every male-gaze joke every sitcom had ever made was now about Phil and Todd as humanity’s runners-up, feeling every bit as judged and objectified as, well, every woman in a sex comedy ever.

LMoE was still very different from its beginnings. But now it imagined the postapocalypse as a kind of ultimate dating show, with its women as much the pursuers as the pursued. So many stories imagine the end of the world as a struggle for survival, but biology being what it is, why wouldn’t it be just as much a struggle for sex?

Last Man on Earth is still not as amazing it it promised to be at its beginning (nor does the title make much sense anymore). It’s developed–maybe inevitably–into something more familiar. But it’s rebounded from its worst point. What’s more, I’m not sure if it could have become what it is without having gone through that off-putting stretch: we needed to spend time with Phil as a self-absorbed ass in order for the series’ gender-reversal shift to work. (That asked a lot of patience; I think Sonia Saraiya is right that this is a show that would have been better served by binge-watching.)

As it approaches its season finale (May 3), maybe the most interesting thing about Last Man on Earth is the level of faith it’s asked of the viewer: it invited us to watch without knowing exactly what kind of show it was, then changed itself week by week without warning. I loved the show, then I hated it for a while, and for all I know, I may hate it again a half hour from now. And I have no idea what it will be next season.

I can only say I’m glad I stuck around to see its current iteration: a comedy of Darwinism, with Phil Miller suddenly floundering at the bottom of the gene pool. That’s enough, at least, to make me want to come back and see how he and this curious show evolve.

TIME Television

Watch The Daily Show Say Goodbye to Samantha Bee

She was the longest-serving correspondent on the show

The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,The Daily Show on Facebook,Daily Show Video Archive

Jon Stewart bade farewell to Samantha Bee, the longest-serving correspondent on his news team, on Thursday night with a video clip reel highlighting the best of her work on The Daily Show.

Bee joined the show in 2003 and contributed biting, hilarious segments on topics like abortion, child labor and women in the military over the years. She always demonstrated a knack for backing her political and philosophical opponents into a corner until they articulated their own notions in the most absurd way possible, fell speechless, or admitted, “When you put it that way, it does sound rather arrogant, myopic, narrow-minded and bigoted.”

She’s leaving to host her own comedy series on TBS alongside her husband Jason Jones, a fellow Daily Show veteran.

TIME Television

Lady Gaga and Angela Bassett Will Clash in American Horror Story

Creator Ryan Murphy alluded to the show's next season

Yet another guest/employee/vistor/concierge has been added to American Horror Story’s fifth season, Hotel. Ryan Murphy tweeted today that Angela Bassett, who has appeared in the last two seasons of Coven and Freak Show, will be back yet again for the series’ latest iteration.

Bassett joins a cast that already includes Lady Gaga, Matt Bomer, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Evan Peters, Chloe Sevigny, Wes Bentley, and Cheyenne Jackson.

AHS: Hotel will shoot this summer in LA for a premiere this fall on FX.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME Television

A Roots Remake Is on the Way

Actor LeVar Burton signs and discusses his new book "The Rhino Who Swallowed A Storm" at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on December 20, 2014 in Burbank, California.
Paul Archuleta—FilmMagic/Getty Images Actor LeVar Burton signs and discusses his new book "The Rhino Who Swallowed A Storm" at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on December 20, 2014 in Burbank, California.

It will hit screens in 2016

Roots, one of the most successful miniseries of all time, is coming back to television.

The show initially aired over eight nights in 1977, and it will hit screens again in a 2016 reboot by History, A&E and Lifetime, the networks announced Thursday.

Roots is the story of multiple generations of one family from their beginnings in Gambia, through their passage to the United States, enslavement, the Revolutionary and Civil wars, and eventually, Emancipation. It is based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel by the same name and centers on the life of Kunta Kinte.

“The opportunity to present one of America’s most powerful stories to a generation that hasn’t seen it is tremendously exciting. Contemporary society needs this story and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said executive producer Will Packer.

Original cast member LeVar Burton will be a co-executive producer on the remake, and he echoed Packer’s sentiment: “I believe now is the right time to tell this story so that we can all be reminded of its impact on our culture and identity.”

TIME Television

Watch Kristen Wiig Play Daenerys Targaryen on The Tonight Show

Khaleesi could not keep a straight face

Jimmy Fallon got a surprise guest Wednesday night when the Mother of Dragons stopped by The Tonight Show.

Game of Thrones dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen, played by Khaleesi Kristen Wiig, came on the show and deigned to be interviewed by Fallon, while her beloved dragon perched politely on her shoulder. Needless to say, neither Fallon nor Wiig could keep themselves from cracking up.

During the course of their chat, it was revealed that the Khaleesi’s real name is Karen and she lives in a dome in the forest with her shoulder dragon, Carl. Then, in a rapid-fire round of questions, Khaleesi claimed her favorite food was meat and delved into her hobbies, including mandolin playing and a yen to do stand-up comedy.

The only thing that became clear during the interview was that there’s a very good chance that Wiig has never actually seen the HBO show. That didn’t stop her from performing an ad lib song (no, not “That’s When You Break”) in a bit that was reminiscent of her Saturday Night Live act, Garth and Kat.

 

TIME Television

NBC Wants to Be Netflix. Netflix Wants to Be NBC.

Aquarius - Season 1
Vivian Zink/NBC Duchovny, right, in NBC's Aquarius

As the broadcaster embraces binge-watching, the streaming giant is pitching a big tent.

Serial killer, meet serial viewers.

Wednesday, NBC announced that it will make the entire 13-episode season of Aquarius, starring David Duchovny as a police detective on the trail of Charles Manson, available for streaming on May 28 immediately after its premiere on what we apparently now call “linear television.”

It’s the kind of news that’s both not so big and yet huge. On the one hand, Aquarius is a summer series, premiering just after the end of May sweeps, so the network is taking a relatively small chance in exchange for more attention than the show might otherwise have gotten.

On the other hand, that the network feels the need to test this at all shows that, not unlike an L.A. flatfoot in the Summer of Love, the world is changing whether it likes it or not. Binge-ers wanna binge, and if networks don’t give them that option, someday someone else will.

The announcement was especially striking after some recent news about Netflix. (When isn’t Netflix making news these days?) After its first-quarter earnings report, CEO Reed Hastings made the point of stressing the company’s big aim: not to replace companies like HBO, but eventually to replace the network system of TV generally. In Netflix’s view of the future, cable bundles will be replaced by baskets of Internet services (like itself) and streaming will supersede turning on a channel and watching what’s on.

The media covering Netflix (me included) have tended to cover it as a competitor to cable. It’s natural: like HBO, say, it’s a subscription service, not dependent on advertising, investing in original programming on top of its library of acquisitions so that people will feel they need to have it.

But there’s one thing that doesn’t match up in that analogy. Cable channels tend to have what you call “brands”–types of content or aesthetic philosophies that distinguish them from other channels. They may be literal: History channel is history, Comedy Central does comedy. They may be more amorphous: Bravo does aspirational lifestyle programming, FX does middle-aged male angst, HBO and AMC do the TV equivalent of movies or literature. (Not every show a channel makes will fit a brand, and brands can drift: USA, e.g., is moving from cheery “blue skies” programming to darker drama.)

Look at Netflix’s programming and its recent announcements, though, and try to tell me what Netflix’s brand is. It made House of Cards, a drama about a villain roughly, if superficially, in the HBO mold. But it also made Bloodline, a Damages-style potboiler, and Orange Is the New Black, a Showtime-esque drama/comedy from the creator of Weeds. It revived Arrested Development–but it’s also going to revive Full House. It dropped millions on Marco Polo, a lavish international historical production, and picked up Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a castoff comedy from NBC. It made Daredevil, a superhero drama one notch darker and smaller-bore than the superhero dramas on broadcast TV. It’s adapting Green Eggs and Hamas a series. (I guess you can devote an entire episode to “eating them on a train”?)

Look at those titles, and the other series in the pipeline, and tell me if you can discern a common thread, an ethos, an aesthetic. I can’t–except for this. The shows that Netflix creates and makes available to stream tend to carry DNA–subject or cast members or creators–from other, past TV series that its voluminous viewer data tells it that people are streaming. (Netflix, given the cost and difficulty of licensing movies, is mainly a TV-watching service now, though it’s also getting into the movie-making business.)

In other words, Netflix doesn’t have a brand, except: things that people have proven they like to stream on Netflix.

In TV, in this niche-targeted, specialized era, who has a brand of “Lotsa different kinds of stuff that different kinds of people like”? Not any cable channels–broadcast networks. NBC, ABC, CBS. That whole vast-tent approach was supposed to be fading in the cable-TV era.

Except that the way Netflix views the streaming business is as the most capacious virtual tent ever. In its view, there is a future for a TV-maker that is simultaneously broad and niche: selling a service to all kind of people and demographics, but appealing to them with very specific programs. It sees itself as a broadcaster of narrowcasting.

In a strange way, this vision would use a radically different way of structuring and watching TV to recreate one of the oldest paradigms in TV: something for everyone! Netflix sees itself as the next NBC or CBS, but for an era where everyone in the family looks at their own screen instead of gathering around a single hearth.

In different ways, in other words, NBC and Netflix seem agreed that eventually they will be in the same business. But Netflix is getting to NBC’s territory a lot faster than NBC is getting to Netflix’s.

TIME Television

David Duchovny: ‘X-Files’ Reboot Will Be ‘Like a 6-Hour Movie’

arrives at the 2015 NBCUniversal Summer press day held at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa on April 2, 2015 in Pasadena, California.
Michael Tran—FilmMagic David Duchovny arrives at the NBCUniversal Summer press day held at the Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, Calif., on April 2, 2015

It might take a few days for the actors to feel at home again, but David Duchovny guarantees that The X-Files reboot will be one crazy ride when it hits your TV screen.

“It’s been a while since I’ve played Mulder, so it’s going to be strange, for sure, the first couple days,” the actor, 54, tells the Hollywood Reporter of returning to his famous supernatural-investigating FBI agent character for a six-episode series.

But with costar Gillian Anderson and series creator Chris Carter on board, Duchovny knows they’ll get right back in the swing of things.

“We can all check on each other and say, ‘Is this the show?’ ” he says. “We’ll find it. It’s just a matter of relaxing and letting it happen.”

In addition to the TV series, which ran from 1993 until 2002, there were two X-Files movies – one in 1998 and another in 2008. Duchovny always figured they’d do a third movie rather than revive the TV show. But he says the upcoming series will be the best of both worlds.

“We just could make it like a six-hour movie,” he recalls saying to Anderson and Carter.

It’s been 13 years since the otherworldly procedural went off the air, during which time Duchovny did a whole seven-season run of Californication. But not much will have changed in The X-Files world, he says.

“It’s obviously going to be different times, and the characters are going to be older, and all of the things that are going to be changing naturally will change,” says Duchovny, who stars in NBC’s upcoming drama Aquarius. But in the end, he adds, “it’s going to be the same show.”

Production on the six new episodes begins this summer.

This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.com

TIME movies

San Andreas Is Still Going to Be Released in May Despite the Nepal Earthquake

Dwayne Johnson, a cast member in the upcoming film "San Andreas," poses before the Warner Bros. presentation at CinemaCon 2015 at Caesars Palace on Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in Las Vegas
Chris Pizzello—Invision/AP Dwayne Johnson, a cast member in the upcoming film San Andreas, poses before the Warner Bros. presentation at CinemaCon 2015 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on April 21, 2015

Warner Bros. says it will disseminate information about how people can donate to Nepal earthquake relief

Warner Bros. will stick to the original release date of May 29 for its earthquake blockbuster San Andreas despite the devastating tremblor in Nepal, Variety reports.

A studio spokesperson said Wednesday the company debated over moving the release date, but instead chose to alter promotional materials to include information about how people can donate to relief efforts in Nepal. They also accelerated an original public-service campaign that educates people on natural disaster safety and adjusted the messaging to encompass events in Nepal, Variety said.

The trailers and posters, however, will not be changed.

“We will continue to evaluate our worldwide marketing campaign to ensure that we are sensitive to those affected by this tragic event,” a Warner Bros. spokesperson told Variety.

The movie features Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Carla Gugino as an estranged couple who travels from Los Angeles to San Francisco to save their daughter after California’s San Andreas fault suffers a magnitude-9 earthquake. The trailer features scenes of Los Angeles skyscrapers tumbling and a massive tsunami bearing down on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

Nepalese police said Thursday morning the death toll from the magnitude-7.8 earthquake had topped 5,500 people across India, Bangladesh, China and Nepal, with an estimated 11,440 injured.

[Variety]

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