TIME Television

Why We Need to Celebrate the Many Great Women of SNL

Nell Scovell is writing the 'Lean In' movie for Sony Pictures, based on the book she co-wrote with Sheryl Sandberg.

As Tina Fey noted, Jan Hooks deserved a "bigger career"—and she was among many SNL greats who should be household names

On Monday evening, Tina Fey dedicated her Elle Women in Hollywood award to “sweet Jan Hooks,” who had died two weeks earlier, at the age of 57. “It made me sad when she passed, and it made me mad at the time how available she was,” Fey said of hiring Hooks to play Jenna Maroney’s mother on 30 Rock. “Jan should have had a bigger career. Jan deserved a big movie career.”

The Saturday Night Live clips media used to celebrate Hooks were both hilarious and touching. They were also 20 years old. Hooks left the show after five seasons (1986-91), then went on to star on Designing Women and later landed a recurring role on Third Rock From the Sun. But by 2000, at the age of 43, this remarkably versatile actress was booking mostly voice-over and guest-star spots.

Very few women from SNL have gone on to “a big movie career.” Of course, Fey did, along with Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig. And in TV, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is in a class all her own, with 18 Emmy nominations and five wins for three different roles. Still, their success stories are the exceptions to Hooks’ rule.

This is partially a numbers game. In SNL’s 40-year history, male performers have outnumbered females almost 2 to 1 (83 men to 45 women—make that 46 after this week’s promotion of writer Leslie Jones). Not only have more men been hired, but they also stayed longer. A list of cast members who spent eight seasons or more on the show includes 14 men and only two women.

The cast didn’t begin so off-kilter. For its first six seasons, SNL averaged four men and three women. The men got more screen time, but there was an attempt to keep the genders close to equal. By the late 1980s, that effort had been abandoned. The number of male performers began to balloon until the 1990–91 season, which included 13 men and still only three women. As Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler might say: Really?!?

This lopsided pattern held for a decade. Even during the Fey-Poehler heyday, women held four to five slots while men grabbed nine to 11. The current season’s main cast is the first in 35 years to be split 50-50. That’s great news—if you consider going back to the way things were in 1979 to be great news. Still, five of the seven featured players are men. Since future cast members tend to be promoted from the ranks, the balance may once again tip male. It also took an Internet uproar to pressure the show into hiring an African-American woman. And good thing they did because Sasheer Zamata has been a highlight.

Recently, Sarah Silverman returned to host and poked fun at her younger self posing as a curious audience member. It was a good reminder of how many insanely talented female performers lasted only a single season—or in Laurie Metcalf’s case, a single episode. Jenny Slate, Janeane Garofalo, Michaela Watkins, Christine Ebersole and many other one-year wonders have gone on to success, making SNL just a footnote in their careers.

But a lot of other women fall into the same category as Hooks, who excelled on SNL but fell short of “a bigger career.” So instead of waiting for these gifted women to be praised posthumously, let’s celebrate some former SNL cast members right here, right now. Each spent more than a season on the show, and while they continue to work, we’d like to see more of them.

 

MOLLY SHANNON

Saturday Night Live
Molly Shannon as Jeannie Darcy during Weekend Update on May 12, 2007. Dana Edelson—NBC/Getty Images

It’s hard to accept that Sally O’Malley is actually 50 (50!) years old. During her seven-season tenure, Molly Shannon could kick and stretch and disappear into any character. Since departing in 2001, she has worked steadily but hasn’t yet achieved the superstar status that Mary Katherine Gallagher deserves.

Castmate who went on to a more visible career: David Spade

 

ANA GASTEYER

Saturday Night Live
Ana Gasteyer as Martha Stewart during the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia skit on Oct. 23, 1999. Mary Ellen Matthews—NBC/Getty Images

Ana Gasteyer’s range is remarkable. In her six seasons, she could be a loud Barbra Streisand auditioning for Star Wars or a quiet NPR correspondent who craved Alec Baldwin’s Schweddy Balls. Since leaving in 2002, she has starred as Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway and created memorable roles in both comedy and drama series. With all that talent, she can clearly handle meatier roles than Mrs. Gundermutt in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.

Castmate who went on to a more visible career: Tracy Morgan

 

JULIA SWEENEY

Saturday Night Live
Tom Hanks as Rick and Julia Sweeney as Katie during the She Turned Into Her Mother skit on May 9, 2010. Alan Singer—NBC/Getty Images

If you were lucky enough to see Julia Sweeney’s show God Said ‘Ha!’, you know how deeply compelling she is as both a writer and performer. Her work on four seasons of SNL was fearless. Pat was way ahead of his or her time. They’re remaking Ghostbusters; maybe it’s time for It’s Pat 2: It Gets Pattier.

Castmate who went on to a more visible career: Rob Schneider

 

RACHEL DRATCH

Saturday Night Live
Rachel Dratch as Peg during the Elderly Wiretap skit on Jan. 21, 2006. Dana Edelson—NBC/Getty Images

Everyone loves Rachel Dratch, especially her fellow performers. In skits like Debbie Downer or the old hot-tubber luv-ahs (with Will Farrell), you can see her cause seasoned castmates to break into laughter. Since wrapping up a seven-year run in 2006, she’s written a book, performed in a musical, guested on sitcoms and failed to name 20 white people in 30 seconds while Billy Eichner yelled at her. She also voices a character for The Awesomes and is currently starring in Tail! Spin!, an off-Broadway comedy.

Castmate who went on to a more visible career: Will Forte

 

MAYA RUDOLPH

Saturday Night Live
Maya Rudolph as Barbra Streisand during the Donahue skit on Nov. 16, 2002. Dana Edelson—NBC/Getty Images

Maya Rudolph might not belong on this list. Her movie career includes classic performances in Bridesmaids and The Way Way Back. She was nominated for an Emmy for hosting SNL in 2012 and, last spring, she tried to revive the classic variety format with The Maya Rudolph Show. It seems like she’s still looking for the right venue for her enormous talents. Late Night With Maya Rudolph would’ve had a nice ring to it …

Castmate who went on to a more visible career: Jimmy Fallon

 

NORA DUNN

Nora Dunn
From left: Nora Dunn as Liz Sweeney, Jan Hooks as Candy Sweeney and Marc Shaiman as Skip St. Thomas during the Instant Coffee skit on Oct. 18, 1986. NBC/Getty Images

Like her Sweeney sister Jan Hooks, Nora Dunn has never found a place to shine as brightly as she did in Studio 8H. Maybe she comes across as a tad strong, but that never hurt SNL’s Jim Belushi, who got to make 182 episodes of According to Jim. (Oh, yes, that happened.) Someone needs to give Dunn a role that suits both her comic and commanding nature: a Starfleet commander or Red’s sister on Orange Is the New Black…

Castmate who went on to a more visible career: Anthony Michael Hall

 

ABBY ELLIOTT

Abby Elliott
Abby Elliott as Rachel Maddow during The Rachel Maddow Show skit on Jan. 10, 2009. NBC/Getty Images

Abby Elliott was 21 when she joined the cast midway through the 2008–09 season. It was scientifically proven that she was underutilized and, after four seasons, she moved on to prime time. Here’s hoping she gets lots more opportunities.

Castmate who went on to a more visible career: Fred Armisen

 

LARAINE NEWMAN

Laraine Newman
From left: Jane Curtin as Prymaat Conehead, Dan Aykroyd as Beldar Conehead and Laraine Newman as Connie Conehead during the The Coneheads at Home skit on Jan. 15, 1977. NBC/Getty Images

One of the original “seven samurai,” Laraine Newman was a mysterious and nuanced performer. Her strength was sketch comedy, and her post-SNL credits have veered toward voice work. “Lorne urged me to repeat characters. I refused to do it because I wanted to, you know, dazzle everybody with my versatility,” Newman says in James Andrew Miller’s book Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. “So even though I loved the kind of work I did, and still do—I love the character work—I think it keeps you more anonymous than people who play themselves.”

Castmate who went on to a more visible career: Chevy Chase

 

JANE CURTIN

Jane Curtin
From left: Burt Reynolds as Lewis and Jane Curtin as Anita Bryant during the Deliverance II sketch on April 12, 1980. NBC/Getty Images

This time it’s personal. I was 14 when SNL premiered, and all my friends assumed I would identify with Gilda Radner, the original manic pixie dream girl. Nope. Jane Curtin was my favorite. I thought she was perfect: beautiful, tough, silly and real. Even as a conehead, she came across as grounded.

Curtin’s post-SNL career has been enviable. Kate & Allie was a massive hit. Third Rock From the Sun was a massive hit. But since that inspired sitcom ended in 2001, her TV appearances have grown sparser. In the past three years, she has appeared on the recently canceled CBS drama Unforgettable. Perhaps Curtin is working as much as she wants to, but selfishly I want to see her do more. I want to see her in the same quirky roles that Bill Murray gets. Imagine Curtin as an aging movie star in Japan who bumps into a young man at the hotel bar and they connect in an unclear and unsettling way. Or imagine Curtin as an eccentric oceanographer.

At the very least, I want Curtin to know that she’s appreciated and admired. And for all the female SNL vets, I hope the people in power—producers, directors, agents and managers—have a fire lit under them now before we are forced to light a candle later.

Note: This is not a complete list. Please add your favorite performers in the comments so we can applaud them all.

Scovell is writing the Lean In movie for Sony Pictures, based on the book she co-wrote with Sheryl Sandberg

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Television

Aaron Paul’s Response to Toys ‘R’ Us Breaking Bad Controversy Is Perfect

Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) - Breaking Bad _Season 5 - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels/AMC
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in Breaking Bad Frank Ockenfels/AMC

The actor says Barbies are more damaging to kids than meth-dealing dolls

Under pressure from angry parents, Toys “R” Us pulled Breaking Bad figures from their shelves Wednesday. But Aaron Paul, who played Jesse Pinkman on the show, was perturbed by the concession, tweeting out:

Though the Breaking Bad toys were sold in the adult-action-figure area of Toys “R” Us stores, parents said that the figures were “a dangerous deviation from [Toys R Us's] family friendly values.” After all, Breaking Bad does follow a teacher and his former student as they try to cook and sell meth, and the dolls come with detachable bags of drugs and cash. A campaign on Change.org to ban the toys that had over 9,000 signatures as of Thursday evening.

But Paul makes a legitimate argument—at least about the potentially damaging effects of Barbie dolls: A recent study published in The Journal of Sex Roles found that girls who played with a buxom Barbie dressed up as a doctor thought they had fewer career choices than those who played with an amorphous Mrs. Potato Head doll.

No word yet on how playing with a Jesse Pinkman toy affects major life choices.

Paul isn’t the only Breaking Bad star to weigh in on the conflict. Last week, Bryan Cranston, tweeted about the toys, too:

Tough break for Breaking Bad. But what did they expect? Walt and Jesse always did have trouble moving product.

Read next: Breaking Bad Action Figures? Really, Toys R Us?

TIME Culture

‘Law & Order: SVU’ Ripped an Episode From My Headline

Belle Knox
Courtesy of Belle Knox

I don’t write or discuss my rape often, because I don’t want to be viewed as a porn star cliché

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I’m obsessed with “Law & Order: SVU.” But that obsession is reaching a whole new level of absurdity.

You know that whole “ripped from the headlines” tagline? They just ripped mine, and it’s incredibly hard — but insanely riveting — to watch.

Warren Leight, the executive producer of the show was nice enough to let me see an advance copy of “Pornstar’s Requiem” and he agreed to answer my questions about how this entire episode came to be.

When I asked Leight (who used to be executive producer on HBO’s “In Treatment”) why he chose to dramatize my story, he explained, “As usual, we tried to distill several stories and headlines into one character’s journey. You, and others, have made the case that sex work is legitimate professional work, a potentially empowering choice individuals should be able to make without repercussions or stigmatization. Other students who’ve done pornography have not survived the harassment that followed. We wanted to tell their stories, too.”

From the very beginning scene of the episode, which shows “Evie Barnes” (played by actress Hannah Marks), a college freshman at “Hudson University” nervously doing her first porn scene on the day of her 18 birthday, my jaw dropped. Not only is Marks a slim brunette who could be my sister, she is also eerily semi-recreating one of my earliest scenes which was for a rough sex website (I will not give the company any more publicity than they’ve already received). The entire sequence soon after of a frat guy uncovering my secret through watching porn himself was all too real. I’ve never made so much noise watching an episode of “SVU” before as I did watching this, and there were certain instances where all I could say was “Oh my God, oh my God.”

Not unlike how I created the alterego of “Belle Knox,” Evie Barnes takes on the stage name of “Roxxxanne Demay” in the world of hard-core pornography.

She is eloquent but naïve, delivering many speeches during the episode with a few lines cutting me to the core. At one point she says something that felt like hearing my heart speak: “I knew I would be opening myself and my family to judgment and humiliation. But I chose to send a message that people who work in adult entertainment are still people, just like everyone else.”

Since March, when I was outed by a fellow student at Duke, I’ve felt like I was sleepwalking through a David Lynch-style dream that has included everything from hugging Whoopi Goldberg on “The View” to facing a crowd of screaming paparazzi and flashing lights to being asked to trademark a replica of my vagina. This episode of “SVU” flips that dream into a nightmare of how things could just as easily have gone very horribly terribly wrong for me.

I don’t write or discuss my rape often, because I don’t want to be viewed as a porn star cliché, nor do I want people telling me that this is why I’ve made the choices I’ve made, but I know well the chilling rape culture entitlement that comes along with men discovering that I’m a porn star. This is the scenario that plays out on the episode. One of the frat boys accused in “Pornstar’s Requiem” even goes so far as to say to the police the following jaw-dropping line: “I didn’t think you could rape a girl like that.”

Have I heard this before?

Not in those exact words, but in actions and in snide remarks, in the assumptions people make with my body and my livelihood because they have watched me in porn or heard that this is my profession. One time a hotel provided a key card to a friend of another man I knew, and at 2 in the morning, this large and loud, older and incredibly drunk stranger wandered into my hotel room — with his own key. I was terrified. Did he think that because I was a porn star he could just come in? Did he think he could do something with me?

Since my outing, when I’ve gone on dates, there have been times when a man has told me quickly, easily and creepily, “You like this [sexual act], right?” without asking for consent or having any discussion to imply that we might make the decision to be intimate together later on. I shut things down, but as occurred in my rape earlier in my life, this has not always been the case.

And this sexual entitlement and double standards (how could a girl who plays out a rape fantasy ever be given the privilege of consent; doesn’t she relinquish that forever if she ever engages in rough play?) is the crux of the episode. Similar to the rough scene I filmed that was my entrée into porn, Evie is smacked — hard — in the course of her filming and the appearance could be interpreted as rape fantasy. While I do not consider what I did to be that, I have heard from others that they do consider it within this purview, and I respect their right to feel that way.

Because Evie does not appear to be giving consent in her rough sex porn film, these frat boys decide that is what she likes. They don’t need her to say yes! Even when she is crying and saying no, it doesn’t count! Why, they have the other film of her as proof.

It makes me want to barf.

I won’t get into the spoilers of the episode (you should watch on NBC), but I’ll share with you what the executive producer told me about the writers’ room and the process for putting the script together.

“The writers’ room had been hashing out a number of overlapping issues lately,” Leight told me. “The increasing number of students who’ve turned to pornography to pay their tuition. How for some of those students, it’s been empowering, but for others, it’s led to horrific slut-shaming. And how a few students have been so stigmatized when their sex work becomes public, they felt driven to suicide. We also had long wanted to do an episode about how hard it is for sex workers to get justice when they are victims of sexual assault. The more we talked about these issues, the more we felt they’d combine well into one episode.”

Evie says at one point during the episode what could be the anthem of anyone who has ever done sex work: “I’m not a slut. They think just because I do porn they can do anything they want to me.”

And then she explains something that many people refuse to accept no matter how many times I try to delineate real life versus porn life. Describing her alterego of “Roxxxanne Demay,” Evie says: “I followed a script. I created a character that was different from myself. I followed an act.”

Because that’s what it is. Porn is an act. Porn stars are acting. In our personal lives we are often still sexual and flirtatious and there might be some crossover, but to categorize porn stars and sex workers as being this lesser-status breed of women who are “unrapeable” is so offensive and mind-boggling, it physically makes my head hurt.

As soon as I heard that my story was being “ripped” for an episode, my gut assured me that “SVU” would give a fair and balanced account “inspired by” what happened and have a strong feminist message against slut shaming. But soon after that, my gut turned nauseous. Happily, all of that nervous energy turned to excitement when I realized what was really happening, bottom line, through the show tackling this important topic: “SVU” was accepting the challenge of viewing consent through the lens of pornography and sex workers, a multifaceted and very necessary dialogue.

Because while Evie is brutally gangraped in a bathroom at a college party, the video evidence taken by her rapists is in no way the slam-dunk that it should be for the prosecution. Instead, it forces a question so insane, so absurd, so enraging I can barely type it without screaming.

Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba (played by Raúl Esparza) actually has to ask, “Do you believe any woman, even a porn star, can deny sex?”

I also found myself cheering whenever Sgt. Olivia Benson (played by the inimitable Mariska Hargitay) said something profound (which was like, all the time), and covering my face when things felt too real. At several points, my cheeks burned hot with rage listening to the evil defense attorney (played by Delaney Williams) who mocks and shames and aims to discredit Evie. It is brutal. It is condescending. And it brought back painful memories of the betting pools started online as to when I would kill myself, the detailed and dedicated websites all devoted to telling the world what a slut and whore I am, and why I deserved to be punched and kicked and hit and destroyed.

Then there was Judge Briggs (played by Richard T. Jones), who says something I have heard so many times from my friends, family and peers it practically feels like my first name: “I hope going forward you find a way to respect your body and yourself.”

Yeah, thanks. I wish the same for you. I also hope you going forward you find a way to be less of a passive-aggressive sanctimonious concern troll — but you know, we can’t all have everything we want, can we?

After viewing the episode, I didn’t get much that sleep that night.

Memories of last semester came rushing back to me.

My public outing and the subsequent media storm that put every private, painful detail of my life on display seemed to play over and over in my mind. The most excruciating line from the episode was from Evie, who said, “They think just because I do porn they can do whatever they want to me.”

There is this sense of ownership of porn stars from strangers, which is, quite frankly, chilling.

I’ve found this to be exceedingly true in these past months, as strangers behind their computer screens have threatened me with rape, murder, and public humiliation. And then there are the students who have done pornography who have not lived to survive the harassment that follows, like the beautiful young woman Alyssa Funke, which is nothing short of a Shakespearean tragedy. This is a narrative that “SVU” confronts compassionately in the episode.

The episode hit close to home to say the least.

“SVU” has showed us time and time again that we should never take a character at face value, and there is so much more to a person than a tabloid headline (which in the case of this episode is: “From Straight As to XXX”) will ever reveal.

I am happy that “my” character was not portrayed as a caricature of the porn industry, but as an imperfect young woman who made some controversial choices that did not define her. Watching the episode was an emotional, at times nausea-inducing experience, and one line in particular I will never forget, as Evie tells the detectives why she will not stop doing porn. Because, she says: “At least here when I say ‘no,’ they stop.”

I asked the executive producer about what he thought about this haunting moment in particular. Leight said, “The sadness comes from Evie’s desperation, her absence of alternate options outside of porn, the confiscation of her choice. It wasn’t porn that brought her to a place of isolation and depression, but rather her sexual assault, her support system, and of course the academic system — the very one she was attempting to pay for.”

In other words, the sex industry wasn’t the problem. Society was.

Belle Knox is an adult film star and student at Duke University.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Television

Game of Thrones Gives a Tourism Boost to Southern Spain

Game of Thrones
HBO

Restaurants are already creating menus inspired by the show

How do you write dollar signs in Dothraki? Game of Thrones is filming its fifth season in Osuna, Spain, and the show’s presence there may be good news for the territory with an unemployment rate of 34.7 percent — one of the highest in the country.

More than 500 locals from around the town of 18,000 are receiving approximately $65 a day to work as extras for the HBO hit, The Independent reports. But local business may get an even bigger boost after the production leaves, as previous filming locations in Iceland, Northern Ireland and Croatia have reported dramatic increases in tourism following the show’s visit. The number of tourists visiting the town and the Seville area is expected to rise by 15 percent, according to U.S. ambassador to Spain and former HBO exec James Costos. (Could there be anyone more qualified to talk about HBO’s Spanish tourism impact than a guy who’s held those jobs?)

Those who do make the trek to southern Spain can unwind at Casa Curro, an Osuna restaurant that’s prepared a Games of Thrones-themed menu with dishes like the Joffrey — a bacon and trout dish with mulled wine.

TIME Television

Watch a Teaser for Netflix’s New Kyle Chandler Thriller, Bloodline

"We're not bad people, but we did a bad thing"

Looks like Coach Taylor is up to no good. Former Friday Night Lights actor Kyle Chandler is starring in a new, binge-watchable Netflix original series called Bloodline, from the creators of Damages. The above teaser doesn’t reveal much — the streaming video giant only just confirmed the title Thursday — but the show will follow four siblings in the Florida Keys whose interpersonal drama gets dug up when their ne’er-do-well sibling comes back home. (A burning boat is also involved, evidently.)

Linda Cardellini, Ben Mendelsohn, Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard will also star in the show, whose 13 episodes arrive all at once in March.

TIME Television

black-ish Whips Up a Conversation About Spanking

MILES BROWN, ANTHONY ANDERSON
MILES BROWN, ANTHONY ANDERSON John Fleenor/ABC

A suddenly topical episode about corporal punishment is the new show's riskiest, and its best yet.

I liked the pilot of black-ish a lot. But–as often happens with sitcom pilots–I wondered how the show would sustain the premise over a series. Would it, on the one hand, be a string of variations on “Is our family black enough?” questions? Or, on the other hand, would it settle in and become another ABC family comedy, with hijinks and conflicts and special holiday episodes?

Over its first few episodes, though, black-ish has shown that at best, it can be something more nuanced and rewarding than either. “Crime and Punishment,” the show’s riskiest episode and its best yet, uses a universal parental question–how to discipline kids–to both bring out illuminate its characters’ group identity and treat them as specific individuals.

“Crime and Punishment” gets at the racial dynamics of spanking, which came up most recently in the Adrian Peterson child abuse case. The injuries that Peterson’s son received went well beyond “spanking,” of course, but the controversy also raised the charge that Peterson’s critics were imposing outside values on black parents who still favored corporal punishment.

[Note! I'm not trying to draw sweeping conclusions about how black or white parents discipline, but that's the argument people were making. And for disclosure's sake, I'm not a spanker nor was spanked--though I was told my parents spanked my older siblings, so maybe they were just worn out by the time I came around. In any case, I'm not trying to adjudicate the spanking issue here, but feel free to have at it in the comments.]

Unlike the pilot, which underlined its points about what is and isn’t “a black thing,” “Crime and Punishment” doesn’t directly identify spanking as a racial-cultural issue. It doesn’t have to–by bringing Pops into the conversation (“An ass is an ass is an ass is an ass“), it shows that André and Rainbow’s ambivalence has everything to do with the tension between how they were raised and where they are now.

But that tension isn’t simply about race–it’s about time passing and social mobility and the different boundaries of acceptable parenting in different social and economic classes. It’s not “White folks punish their kids like this, but black folks punish their kids like that!” here. With impressive concision, the episode makes the point that there isn’t one “white” or “black” position on discipline–when it comes to parenting, there are millions of opinions, each certain it’s right (and terrified it’s wrong).

When André polls his coworkers, their experiences bring in other cultures (South Asian, Korean-American), different generations (his older boss remembers spanking almost fondly), and general anxiety about the future and class security (“countries that beat their kids are beating our asses”). André and Rainbow’s own private discussions betray their own fears about Jack’s future, imagining what spanking and not spanking will do to him both ways he ends up homeless, though in one scenario he has a dog. (This too comically echoed some of the rhetoric around Peterson, who said that his own parents’ discipline kept him from being “lost on the streets.”)

What worked best about André and Rainbow’s dilemma is that “Crime and Punishment” presented it as a conversation they’d had before: André spanked Junior once, and they decided never again. (This again is an improvement on the pilot, in which the are-the-kids-black-enough questions, while funny, seemed to be suddenly hitting André for the first time, though at this point he’s the father of teenagers.)

The conversation was, for broadcast primetime, refreshingly direct: not just “spanking,” but “beating” and “whipping.” For all the parenting comedy on TV, corporal punishment rarely comes up as a question on sitcoms today–even though it certainly comes up in viewers’ homes. (The pilot of Modern Family, actually, included a subplot about Phil vowing to shoot Luke with a BB gun as punishment for shooting his sister, but it played mostly as slapstick.)

And it took its time coming up here too: according to an interview with Vulture, the episode was one of the first made, and producer Kenya Barris hoped it would air as the show’s second episode. After the Peterson scandal, ABC held off. But I hope the network gives black-ish the running room to be provocative like this in the future; there aren’t many sitcoms right now outside South Park that I could see doing a similarly funny-but-slightly-uncomfortable topical story.

And it gives me hope for black-ish as a series. “Crime and Punishment” was something different in a primetime network sitcom, in a way that wasn’t entirely about its characters race and wasn’t entirely not about race either. “Should we spank?,” it argued, is not simply a black parents’ question. But it’s also one to which these specific characters’ blackness is not irrelevant. It is–as they say–black… ish.

TIME celebrities

Sofia Vergara on Taking Risks as an Actor: “It’s Not Like We’re Doing Brain Surgery”

Sofia Vergara
Follow The Script Campaign/AbbVie

...And other advice from the Modern Family star

Most know Sofia Vergara for her role as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on the long-running hit ABC comedy Modern Family. But many don’t know that Vergara, the highest-paid actress on TV, is also a survivor of thyroid cancer. Diagnosed at 28, Vergara had her thyroid removed, developed hypothyroidism and has been on medication ever since. Vergara is now a spokesperson for the Follow the Script campaign, which aims to raise awareness about hypothyroidism.

TIME sat down with Vergara to talk about surviving cancer, that controversial Emmys skit and how actresses can lean in.

TIME: You were criticized this year for your Emmys skit in which you were placed on a pedestal. Were you surprised by that?

Sofia Vergara: Yes, I was. Obviously it was a joke. It was something that was staged. It wasn’t like I was tricked into it. So we were laughing about how some people have to bully others for no reason.

I’ve read that the character of Gloria is based on you. How similar are you two?

I play her the way I see my mother and my aunt behave as Latin women. And now the writers know more about the Latin culture than when I started doing the show, and they know me better, too. So at this point, I pretty much follow the script.

But before you would improvise more?

Well, not improvise. I would talk to them and tell them, “We wouldn’t do this.” One time we were at a party with Colombians, and the Colombians were dressed like Mexicans. So I went to the writers and was like, “Colombians don’t dress like that.” Little things like that, but now they’re really good about it.

Latina women are underrepresented in Hollywood. Do you feel like it’s gotten better since you started your career?

Yes. There’s more scripts now. But it takes time. I cannot blame the writers because when you’re a writer, you write about what you know. So you cannot tell an American writer to just write about some other culture and think it will be as natural as writing about an American person.

Do you hope to see more Latin writers working for TV shows?

I think that would be ideal, because there are plenty of Latin actors out there. We just need a little bit more material.

So what do you look for in a movie or show?

I started acting so late in my life, I’m still just trying figure out what I do right. I realized when I started doing auditions that I was good for comedy. Growing up I always tried to make my friends laugh, but I didn’t know I was going to be able to make a living out of it. But then I got really good feedback when I was doing comedy, so that’s what I do.

Gloria is very protective of Manny, her son. Do you have a similar relationship with your son?

Yes, of course. I’m a Latin mother, so it’s like we never let go of our kids. My son is almost done with college now, and I’m already like, “So you’re coming back home, right?”

Obviously one of the hardest parts of getting diagnosed with thyroid cancer and then hypothyroidism is talking to your family about it. How did you discuss it with your son?

It was scary, because I was only 28 years old. When they tell you you have cancer, you don’t know that much about it and think you’re going to die immediately. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself. When I told him, I tried to not panic him, because it’s your kid and you don’t want him to have a horrible time dealing with it. I tried to make it as light as I could.

What have you had to change about your lifestyle since you had your thyroid removed?

I take a hormone pill every day. The only way to know exactly what amount of hormone I have to take is by doing a blood test, so I’m very religious about that.

You are the most well-paid actress on TV. Do you have any tips for young women or actresses about negotiating for what they want?

You really don’t have anything to lose if you are in the entertainment business, because it’s not like we’re doing brain surgery where you can actually kill someone. The worst thing that will happen is nobody goes to your movie. So I try to take risks and have fun with it.

 

TIME Television

Time Is a Round Donut: The Graze-Watching Possibilities of Simpsons World

THE SIMPSONS: Join (L-R) Maggie, Marge, Lisa, Homer and Bart Simpson for the 21st season premiere episode "Homer The Whopper," of THE SIMPSONS airing Sunday, Sept. 27 (8:00 - 8:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. THE SIMPSONS ™ and © 2009 TCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
'The Simpsons' Fox

The addictive new Simpsons website proves that there's more than one way to binge on TV. Mmmm.... TV.

Make 550-some episodes of any TV show, and some unusual coincidences start to turn up. Tuesday, I was playing around with Simpsons World, the immersive website/app that allows cable subscribers access to every Simpsons episode ever made. The very first two episodes I watched–one randomly served for me by the site, the other chosen after I did a search on “Marvin Monroe”–both began with Homer wrecking his car after a toy got lodged under the brake pedal. As one does. (The episodes: season 21’s “Rednecks and Broomsticks” and season 15’s “Diatribe of a Mad Housewife.” You can check it for yourself.)

I mention this not to criticize The Simpsons as repetitive–again, 550-some episodes–but as an example of the different kind of experience that this new kind of TV streaming promises. Put hundreds of hours of TV programming online in a searchable, customizable form, with 25 years of TV equally accessible, and you’re going to find yourself discovering some strange connections.

One of the major influences on TV’s current cultural glory days is “binge-watching”–the marathon viewing of a show first enabled by VHS and DVD sets, which really took off after services like Netflix made it frictionless. Bingeing allowed new audiences to discover great serials like Friday Night Lights, while turning dramas like Breaking Bad from cult shows to blockbusters as they addicted viewers between seasons.

Besides bringing in viewers, bingeing helped elevate TV’s cultural status, by underscoring its similarity to the novel. If the original airing of The Wire, week by week, recalled Dickens’ publishing serial novels in English newspapers, bingeing it several episodes at a time allowed you to go through it the way we read Dickens now.

Bingeing, however, tends to confer that prestige on a particular kind of show: the ambitious serial drama, which compels you to begin the next episode after the last ends. This is one genre that has taken advantage of the TV medium’s strength for telling linear stories, which begin at a beginning and can take much more time than movies to drive forward toward an end.

But that’s not the only kind of expansive storytelling that TV’s open-endedness makes possible. Sitcoms, in particular, don’t generally drive in a straight line from a beginning to an end–not even, necessarily, more serial recent ones like The Office. Comedies, like The Simpsons, create immersive worlds rather than propulsive narratives. You can certainly binge a sitcom as much as you can a drama–Netflix, for instance, is counting on you to do that in the new year with Friends. But you don’t need, or necessarily even want, to do it in a particular order.

If a serial drama creates its effects by driving forward along a track, like a train, something like The Simpsons expands outward, like a cloud, or maybe a spiral galaxy extending from a center. You can live inside it, jumping from point to point, discovering new corners or echoing themes, skipping from season 2 to season 23 as if through a space-time wormhole.

The Simpsons World site is still incomplete; it went live Tuesday but has yet to add features like allowing people to find and share customized clips. (You’ll know when that feature is added, because they will be everywhere on the damn Internet.) Yet you can already see that this kind of format has the potential to do for this kind of TV show what binge-watching did for serials. You can search for terms, for instance–episodes involving the inanimate carbon rod, or Hans Moleman, or gambling. You can skip around and explore the series like a character inside a massively-layer online game universe.

It’s not binge-watching, exactly, though it could be just as time-suckingly immersive. Maybe we can call it graze-watching. (Or gorge-watching, for those with more Homer-like appetites).

And while it’s not every show that could take advantage of this kind of destination viewing, it could work for more than The Simpsons. If Friends hadn’t done a streaming deal with Netflix, for instance, I could easily imagine a Friends World, letting you customize clips, search for favorite quotes and skip around through every possible permutation of who’s dating whom. It doesn’t even need to be comedy-only: imagine creating a Law and Order World, with the rights to each season and spinoff of the franchise, searchable and drilled deeply for data and themes. (I’m envisioning a vast crime map of NYC with everyone murdered by L&O plotted on a block-by-block level.)

TV is still figuring out what it’s going to do with streaming and what streaming will do to it. But one thing that excites me about Simpsons World is that it suggests that different kinds of streaming can work better to show off TV’s different strengths–and thus to celebrate different kinds of TV greatness. Not all “Golden Age” TV–or whatever you want to call it–is about stories that drive in a straight line from this thing to the next thing. Some is about world-building that allows you to skip from this thing to that thing to that thing.

One of the new patron saints of serial drama, Rust Cohle, said that time was a flat circle. In Simpsons World time is, maybe, more like a round doughnut.

TIME Television

Bill Murray Loved Working at Little Caesars

Back in the day, he worked alongside celebrity chef Kerry Simon

Actor Bill Murray came from humble beginnings — and so did his friend, celebrity chef Kerry Simon. They both worked at a Little Caesars pizza shop in Illinois, Murray said during a visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live on Tuesday. It was the best job he ever had, Murray admitted, although it’s hard to see how anything could top Ghostbusters.

TIME Television

Toys R Us Pulls Breaking Bad Toys

Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) - Breaking Bad _Season 5 - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels/AMC
Frank Ockenfels—AMC

They're on an "indefinite sabbatical," the retailer said

Toys R Us said late Tuesday it had begun to immediately remove from its shelves a quartet of dolls based on AMC’s meth-themed Breaking Bad in response to outraged parents.

“Let’s just say, the action figures have taken an indefinite sabbatical,” Toys R Us said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. The move comes just days after a Florida mother launched a campaign on Change.org to ban the toys, which are based on meth-dealing characters like Walter White.

The collectibles were sold in limited quantities in the adult-action-figure area of the stores, but one mother, Susan Schrivjer, alleged that some had made their way over to the kids’ section. Though Schrivjer said she enjoyed the show, she pointed out that the toys came with detachable bags of meth and cash, and called them “a dangerous deviation from their family friendly values.”

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, who plays White, will be disappointed by the news. On Monday he tweeted:

[AP]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser