TIME Television

Seth Rogen Confronted the Guy Who Canceled Freaks and Geeks

The cast of 'Freaks and Geeks' on Aug. 5, 1999.
The cast of 'Freaks and Geeks' on Aug. 5, 1999. Chris Haston—NBC/Getty Images

Apparently, NBC wanted the freaks and geeks to triumph over the cool kids

Fifteen years ago, Judd Apatow and Paul Feig created a show about ’80s-era high school burnouts and nerds; the show starred Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel and Linda Cardellini. Sounds like a can’t-miss hit, right? And yet, to the chagrin of the show’s cult following, Freaks and Geeks was canceled after only one season.

Though the show’s stars and creators went on to successful movie and TV careers, they — like the fans — never quite got over the decision to drop the show. That’s why when Seth Rogen was presented with the opportunity to confront the show’s creator, he did:

Rogen shared the dirty details of the conversation in an interview with HuffPost Live. The actor was visting Saturday Night Live to support his friend Bill Hader when he overheard someone say the name of the executive who canceled Freaks and Geeks. “I know his name, obviously, because we’ve talked about how stupid he is for the last 15 years,” Rogen said. With the help of fellow comedian Paul Rudd, Rogen asked him why he decided to kill the show:

He oddly tried to justify it. He was like, “You know, Judd wouldn’t listen to my notes.” I was like, “The notes probably were stupid.” … He was like, “You know, I kept telling Judd, ‘Give them a victory, give them a victory.’ And I was like, “The whole show was about how in high school you always lose all the time.” He went to a private school and was very rich as a child.

Rogen was careful not to out the former NBC executive, but apparently the executive didn’t mind naming himself. Garth Ancier, a television programmer since the ’70s, took to Facebook to make his case:

I thought we had a very nice chat about “Freaks & Geeks” on Saturday night. As I said, my only note to Judd Apatow over the entire series was that either the Freaks and/or the Geeks should win the occasional victory over the cooler kids — especially since Judd Apatow has taken that note in every hit movie since. I absolutely hated canceling this particular show. It was clear from the very beginning that F&G had great writing from Judd and Paul Feig, and a tremendous cast. This was an awful decision that has haunted me forever…but the show was consistently NBC’s least viewed. For what it is worth, I have watched all of the episodes over and over again on Netflix, and asked myself what I could have done better to save it.

When Rogen dismissed Ancier as a rich kid who wouldn’t understand the trials and tribulations of public high school, he posted yet another response on Facebook:

We may never know how the conversation really went down. (Paul Rudd, care to respond?) But whether Ancier is a villain or not, Freaks and Geeks will forever be remembered — alongside Sports Night, Rome and Happy Endings — as a show that was canceled far too soon.

TIME Television

Jay Leno Breaks His Silence on The Tonight Show‘s Joan Rivers Ban

Jay Leno
Jay Leno. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner) Sebastian Scheiner—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The former late-night host says the ban on Rivers was "awkward"

Joan Rivers’s ban from The Tonight Show was finally broken this year, when the late Rivers appeared in a brief segment on new host Jimmy Fallon’s premiere episode and later sat on his couch. But until then, the Rivers ban had been an uncomfortable reminder of one of pop culture’s chilliest break-ups. Johnny Carson, the longtime Tonight host who’d employed Rivers as permanent guest host, never spoke to her again after finding out she’d left the show to star in an (ultimately short-lived) Fox late-night franchise.

But between Carson, who initiated the ban on Rivers, and Fallon, who broke it, came Jay Leno, who upheld the ban, in what he’s now describing as an “awkward” situation. Leno, interviewed on Access Hollywood in promotion of a new CNBC show about cars, said that “I didn’t want to [have Rivers as a guest] while Johnny was alive out of respect for Johnny. I don’t think he wanted to see her on the show and that’s why we didn’t do it.” Leno claims he never discussed the ban with Carson, but that it was upheld by vague mutual understanding.

But Carson died in 2005 — some nine years before Leno’s last Tonight broadcast. Leno told Access Hollywood interviewer Billy Bush:

“It got a little awkward by that point too. Joan was sort of going on and on about me and I thought, let’s let the ground lie fallow for a while and see what happens, but she always kind of kept it going! And I like Joan — I mean, that was the first autograph I ever got, was Joan Rivers… I went to see her at the Chateau de Ville in Framingham[, Mass.] and we were friends, and by then it just got to be awkward and then we never did it.”

For her part, Rivers, who appeared several times on Leno’s competitor David Letterman’s Late Show during the ban, spoke to the press with glee after appearing on Fallon’s Tonight Show. Making an obscene gesture, Rivers declared, “To Jay! Well, Jay. Twenty-three years. I’m still here and you’re going to be selling cars.”

Jay Leno’s Garage will premiere on CNBC in 2015.

TIME Television

Jay Leno’s Coming Back to TV With a Car Show

2014 Carousel Of Hope Ball Presented By Mercedes-Benz - Arrivals
Comedian Jay Leno attends the 2014 Carousel of Hope Ball at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 11, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic

Leno's taking his obsession with cars to primetime

Less than a year after Jay Leno retired from The Tonight Show, the comedian is returning to primetime TV, this time on CNBC. The series will likely be based on Leno’s Emmy Award-winning web show “Jay Leno’s Garage” and is set to premiere in 2015.

On the web series, Leno geeks out over everything automotive, from the best investments to read test. “This show will be about anything that rolls, explodes and makes noise,” Leno said in a statement. Maybe it’s all the explosions that draw 1 million subscribers to the “Jay Leno’s Garage” YouTube channel.

 

TIME Television

See Why Jennifer Garner Rented 120 Goats

Garner rented the goats to care for her property

Jennifer Garner needed a way to get rid of the rats and the ivy on her Los Angeles property, and somehow, the answer was goats, she told Conan O’Brien Tuesday evening.

She rented the goats to eat up the ivy growing on her grounds, which also took care of the rat problem she was having because the rats were living in the ivy. The only downside to having the goats was that they were pretty loud. And while they may have done the trick once, Garner says the ivy has since grown back.

TIME Television

‘Women in Comedy’ Isn’t a New Thing — Here’s Proof

Lucille Ball
The May 26, 1952, cover of TIME TIME

Lucille Ball was making 'em laugh before Tina Fey was a twinkle in her parents' eyes

It’s obvious that women in comedy are having a good couple of years, with names like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer often dominating discussion of the art — but even as those funny females get their due, it’s worth remembering that a woman was already dominating the field more than 60 years ago.

When I Love Lucy premiered on this day, Oct. 15, in 1951, TIME’s TV listings acknowledged as a “a triumph of bounce over bumbling material,” an “engagingly” funny show starring a good actress and her “adequate” husband. Yet within four months it was the fourth most popular TV show in the United States; within another three months, it was number one. As TIME reported in May of 1952, the show set a world record as “the first regularly scheduled TV program to be seen in 10 million U.S. homes” on the strength of well-written scripts and high-quality slapstick. The show’s estimated total audience consisted of more than 30 million people, or nearly a fifth of the whole population of the country.

In reaching that level of success, Lucille Ball dethroned several established — and male — comedians. As TIME explained in a 1952 cover story about the star:

An ex-model and longtime movie star (54 films in the past 20 years), Lucille Ball is currently the biggest success in television. In six months her low-comedy antics, ranging from mild mugging to baggy-pants clowning, have dethroned such veteran TV headliners as Milton Berle and Arthur Godfrey. One of the first to see the handwriting on the TV screen was Funnyman Red Skelton, himself risen to TV’s top ten. Last February, when he got the award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences as the top comic of the year, Skelton walked to the microphone and said flatly: “I don’t deserve this. It should go to Lucille Ball.”

Ball got her start as a model who went by the name Diane Belmont (after Belmont Park Race Track) and later as a contract player at RKO studio, at which point she took on her trademark redheaded look. Though she started out making $50 a week in her RKO days, I Love Lucy was estimated to have grossed about $1 million during its first season.

Even though she was an undisputed success, Ball — like so many of today’s comediennes — still had to contend with set expectations of what a female comedian should be or look like. Her past as a model set her apart, as fans coveted her clothes as well as her sense of humor, and she was elevated above her colleagues by the fact that she looked sexy, not funny. However, coverage of I Love Lucy indicates that there was actually less preoccupation with her gender than there is when it comes to today’s stars, even though the character she portrayed might seem more stereotypically constrained by gender than today’s TV characters are. Critics were surprised that this one family sitcom was so much more beloved than all the other sitcoms on the air, but that surprise wasn’t because the star was a woman. Ball’s skill at physical comedy was compared to Charlie Chaplin’s, and her ability wasn’t subject to extra qualifiers.

Which is not to say that Ball’s gender didn’t matter. Rather, she turned the only substantial difference between male comedians and female comedians into a mega Hollywood win when, in 1953, she and her I Love Lucy character both gave birth on the same day.

Read the full cover story about Lucille Ball, here in TIME’s archives: Sassafrassa, the Queen

TIME Television

Chris Rock Will Host Saturday Night Live With Prince As Musical Guest

Rock and Prince made previous appearances on SNL as a cast member and musical guest, respectively

Comedian and actor Chris Rock will host Saturday Night Live alongside musical guest Prince for its Nov. 1 show, NBC announced Tuesday on Twitter.

Rock, who began his career as a start-up comedian, rose to fame when he became a cast member of the NBC sketch comedy show in the early 1990s. Rock left the show in 1993 to join the predominantly African-American sketch comedy show In Living Color, later returning to SNL to host an episode in 1996.

It also isn’t Prince’s first time on SNL, which is celebrating its 40th season. Prince, who now performs with backing band 3rdeyegirl, first appeared on the show in 1981 to perform the song “Partyup.”

TIME Television

Christina Aguilera’s Return to The Voice Doesn’t Make Sense

Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans on Friday, May 2, 2014. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP) Barry Brecheisen—Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP

The pop star returns home, but her over-the-top image has never fit in on reality TV

There’s nothing like the original. Christina Aguilera, one of the inaugural coaches on NBC’s The Voice, is to return to the show next season following a maternity leave, replacing substitute judge Gwen Stefani. Pharrell Williams is to remain in place as a judge following the departure of Cee Lo Green.

It’s a boon for Aguilera, since a (rotating) seat at the table is a powerful promotional opportunity for any artist; it’s helped Williams, already famous for songs like “Happy,” become better known as a personality, and has further vitalized the careers of fellow coaches Blake Shelton and Adam Levine. But Shelton and Levine’s act was scaled for a reality show. The two of them seem, for all their success and recording-industry experience, like pals that might very well come over for a beer. Something has never quite connected with Aguilera, who in her early years on the show was better known for baroque costumes than for a “likable” personality. Aguilera, pouting and vamping as her co-stars tossed jokes over her head, failed to do what Jennifer Lopez, a female pop star as iconic as Aguilera herself, had managed on American Idol — to seem approachable.

There’s great camp value in Aguilera’s self-consciousness as she fans herself or purses her lips in response in reply to a performance; she has the awareness of the camera’s gaze that befits a pop star who’s been making hits since she was a teen. But her fun staginess isn’t in line with the chill, lo-fi characteristics that tend to make a relatable star. Perhaps that’s why, unlike Shelton and Levine, Aguilera’s been unable to convert her time on a huge hit show into commercial success; she’d previously taken a season off, in 2013, to promote her album Lotus, widely perceived as a commercial failure.

Aguilera has always been a bizarre fit for a show whose very conceit is that vocal performance is more important than image. The pop star’s own performances on the show (contestants aside, the coaches are and always have been the stars of The Voice) were competent if poorly judged in just how much she deployed her signature melisma. They were also reliant on costuming and weird spectacle to the point of incoherence. Aguilera’s Voice performances, like her duet with Lady Gaga, suffer from a labored-over diva act that runs entirely counter to the earthiness and humility of the aspirant singers on The Voice. Perhaps her time away will have brought her back to earth.

TIME Television

Why The Walking Dead Is So Brutal — and So Popular

AMC's gruesome zombie drama sets another ratings record, proving that on TV, extreme is the new mainstream.

This article contains spoilers. Click here to reveal them.

They just keep coming, more and more, as if rising from the very earth. Not zombies–Walking Dead viewers.

The season premiere of the, um, staggeringly popular horror drama set a new viewing record, once again: 17.3 million viewers, before we even count up DVR recordings and encores (which brought its viewership up to 28 million last season). 2.5 million more adults under 50 watched it than Sunday-night football. It may end the week the most-watched series on TV, period.

In other words: what is arguably TV’s most relentlessly disturbing and violent drama is also arguably its most popular. Extreme is the new mainstream.

It’s not as if we’ve never seen a popular horror show before. Scary stories are ingrained in our culture. The Walking Dead, though, is not just gory. It’s grim–unrelentingly, punishingly (which is not to say unentertainingly) grim. It kills beloved characters; it kills children; it gives very little reason to hope that, in the long run, any human will end up anything but a walker or meat for walkers.

And as the season 5 premiere proved, it’s morally and philosophically punishing too. When our band of survivors fought their way out of Terminus, “No Sanctuary” didn’t just give you the thrill of seeing them defeat cannibalistic monsters. It showed that those cannibals were themselves survivors, once an idealistic band who were taken captive, brutalized and systemically raped after they trusted the wrong group of refugees. The Walking Dead–TV’s most popular show by many measures–had you cheer for an escape, then revealed it as the final, if forgivable, act in an unspeakable tragedy.

It used to be, in TV, that you had mainstream entertainment and then you had edgy entertainment. Mainstream hits, generally, offered familiarity and security. They might be about terrible things–crime, or even, like M*A*S*H, war–but they would leave the audience with something to feel good about: warmth or hope or laughs. It might be violent, but good would prevail over evil, love over despair, and so on. Deep, dark, disturbing downers were a niche product at best.

The Walking Dead, on the other hand, is a nightmare–which millions of people want to visit every week. So what gives? I see a few factors:

* Nothing is really mainstream anymore. You have to look at any ratings story today in the context of shrinking audiences generally. With more entertainment choices, nothing gets as many viewers now: excepting the Super Bowl, the biggest shows today don’t get what American Idol did 10 years ago, or, hell, even a mediocre success 20 years ago. The number-one show the week ending Oct. 5, NCIS, had an 11.8 rating (almost 19 million viewers)–a figure that, in the 1994-95 season, would have put it in a solid 29th place. There are no monster hits that everyone watches now, so a huge hit among a certain group can top everything. And in that regard…

* The youngs love their zombies! If The Walking Dead is a surprisingly big hit overall, in viewers under 50–also known as the chief reason advertisers pay money for ads–it is stupendous. Among those viewers, New York magazine’s Joe Adalian notes, it had almost double the rating of the next-highest-rated scripted show last week, CBS’s The Big Bang Theory. It’s huge enough in the youth vote to top everything in an era of lower ratings. But it’s not just the young, because…

* America loves dark. Yes, The Walking Dead may have the most video-game splatter of anything on TV. But all those CBS dramas with their audiences, um, of a certain age? They’re murder central, and not quaint Angela Lansbury-style mysteries but–in shows like Criminal Minds and Stalker–truly ugly stories of sadistic, often sexually charged violence that imply we all live in a sick, sad world filled with predators. Gone are the days when Grandma and Grandpa warmed up with wholesome entertainments like The Waltons; family dramas like Parenthood are essentially niche entertainments now. After all…

* These are dark times. Look, I resist over-psychoanalyzing the American public on the basis of one hit TV show or two. I don’t think that “the zeitgeist” anticipated years ago that, say, there would be an ebola outbreak in 2014 and prepared The Walking Dead to resonate with it. But: if there is no such thing as a time without bad news, there’s a specific cast to the bad news of today. Often, it’s about systemic collapse, or the threat of it: pandemics, global financial crises, climate change and rising sea levels, the threat of mass-casualty terrorist events. In one way or another, we’re constantly asked to envision how we and our own would thrive if everything went to hell and we lost all our societal supports. It’s disturbing; in some way it all comes down to generating fear by selling fear. But it does sell. In the same way that cop shows like Starsky and Hutch or SWAT let viewers vicariously experience urban crime in the 1970s, an apocalyptic drama lets us face the end of the world once a week and live. But not just any apocalyptic drama, because…

* Authenticity pays off. If it were as easy as slapping up one end-of-the-world drama after another–and TV has done that lately–the Nielsen top 10 would be full of apocalypse serials and Revolution would be enjoying a long life on NBC. But a lot of these efforts, especially on broadcast networks, have felt sanitized and tentative. I haven’t always loved The Walking Dead as a drama–its characters can be one-note, and its ambitions as a character drama can get lost amid the kill-quotient-of-the-week. But I will say this for it: it freaking commits. It’s dedicated to showing the raw implications of its premise, right down to the splattering of heads and gobbling of guts. (See also its fellow cable hit, Game of Thrones.) Sure, it allows us the distance of knowing that most of its “kills” are walkers, who are already dead; but its living suffer too, often horribly.

And that matters in an era where entertainment is no longer massaged to be palatable to audiences of every age and taste, as it was in the three-channel days of the 20th century. In a niche-ified era, every niche can be more, and more extremely, itself. If I can see unvarnished darkness in the world of video games, or movies, or novels, I expect to be able to see it in TV too.

It was, maybe, another dark, brutal, popular cable drama–Breaking Bad–that put this modern mindset best. In an age of extremes, no one wants to settle for half-measures.

Read next: Everything You Need to Know Before Season 5 of The Walking Dead

TIME Television

Dancing With the Stars Watch: The Switch-Up

CARRIE ANN INABA, JULIANNE HOUGH, BRUNO TONIOLI
Adam Taylor—ABC

Jessie J is a very harsh temporary judge

Welcome back to Dancing With the Stars, where each week the stars cinch up their spandex and hoof it on the dance floor in the hopes of currying America’s favor and a shot at a Mirror Ball Trophy. This week we are being treated to the Switch-Up. No, the dancing reality show has not been preempted by either the Jason Bateman movie, The Switch, nor the Jason Bateman movie, The Change-Up, nor Teen Wolf Too nor, sadly, anything to do with Jason Bateman whatsoever. Instead, all the spray-tanned and hair-sprayed stars switch partners, and it’s supposed to kick up the drama, but in reality just kicks up the dramatics.

Since Len Goodman is still supervising the sambas on the U.K.’s Strictly Come Dancing, there’s still an empty seat at the judges’ table. This week that seat is filled by singer Jessie J, who introduces herself to the viewing audience by singing her hit “Bang Bang” without the assistance of Nicki Minaj or Ariana Grande, before taking her seat at the judges’ table.

Here’s what happened on Dancing With the Stars:

Antonio Sabato Jr. and Allison Holker: The professional hunk teamed up with the new pro for a Bollywood routine, which is sort of unfair because the judges never know what to do with Bollywood numbers and always judge them harshly. Antonio delivered the goods, but he’s no Akshay Kumar, if you know what I mean. 28/40, with guest judge Jessie J lowballing with a 6. (Tom Bergeron helpfully suggested having someone else start her car for her as a safety precaution.)

Bethany Mota and Mark Ballas: One of TIME’s most influential teens admitted that she does not know what “swag” is, but promised to try and bring it to her hip-hop routine. The duo busted some moves to Usher’s “She Came to Give It to You,” and Bruno Tonioli thought she did a fantastic job and is “blossoming with confidence,” which is something only Bruno can say. Jessie J thought she “attacked it,” and Julianne Hough took the opportunity to diss her brother. 32/40, which Mark considered an unfairly poor score.

Jonathan Bennett and Peta Murgatroyd: Jonathan was still reeling from his low scores last week, but was ready to rumble with Peta with a fierce … jitterbug. They performed a fast-paced 1950s-inspired routine that was filled with lifts and kicks, but after Jonathan almost dropped Peta on her head, they lost a little luster. Carrie Ann Inaba thought there were moments of brilliance, but many parts were off. Jessie J and Julianne competed for harshest critique with Jessie J just eking out a win. Jonathan was shocked, but should not have been what with the whole almost dropping Peta thing. 24/30.

Alfonso Ribeiro and Cheryl Burke: Expectations were riding high for Alfonso after he got a perfect score last week for his Carlton. This week, he didn’t get to do a dance he originated, but a traditional flamenco. Cheryl choreographed a “fully professional” routine for him, which he was able to pull off. Julianne said it was the first partnership she believed in tonight. It was so good Jessie J “turned American.” 34/40.

Janel Parrish and Artem Chigvintsev: Janel and Artem set out to make their partners Lea and Val jealous, and luckily they were assigned a burlesque routine, which helped them meet their goal. Janel wore sparkly bustier and underpants, while Artem went for the suspenders and no shirt look for their sultry routine set to a Jessie J song (awkward). Val hammed it up on the sidelines and Janel apologized to her dad for the overly sexy routine. Julianne thought it was not “authentic” burlesque, whatever that is, but Bruno dismissed her criticism, because there’s no such thing as “too sexy.” Jessie J thought it was all hilarious, because she wrote that song about her mom (more awkward!). 33/40.

Michael Waltrip and Witney Carson: The producers let Michael’s inner dad out, by assigning him a disco routine with the youngest pro on staff for the ultimate Dad-portunity. The routine was a silly trifle, but the judges were really harsh in their critique. Julianne announced that it was getting awkward to watch him continue in the competition. By the time he made it off the dance floor, Michael looked upset, but then he made a Drake reference proving that even when he is down he is still the ultimate dad. 20/40, which clearly broke Michael’s heart.

Tommy Chong and Emma Slater: After getting some tips from Peta for how to navigate Tommy’s “memory issues,” Emma choreographed a mambo to Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie” while clad in a Rasta-colored bikini. As much as the producers cast Michael as Ultimate Dad, Tommy gets the full stoner treatment. Jessie J liked the routine, but Julianne thought he looked “tired” and thought he was “running out of material.” 23/40.

Sadie Robertson and Derek Hough: After spending a week on the Robertson family farm, Derek and Sadie had plenty of time to perfect their Charleston. The chaste routine was one of the first dance of the night to garner almost universally positive remarks. 36/40, which is the highest score of the night.

Lea Thompson and Val Chmerkovskiy: Lea wisely reminded Val that she’s “not Janel” before they got ready for their “Broadway” routine. (Is “Broadway” really a dance style?) For the performance, Lea dressed as a nurse and Val was inexplicably dressed as an old man with a walker. While not completely clear, it appeared that Lea was a naughty nurse hitting on her patients at a nursing home. Tom dubbed it “Mama’s Family the Musical,” while Bruno made a Cocoon reference. Julianne thought Lea felt “a little unsure,” but that it was generally a fun routine. Carrie Ann called it “wackadoodle” and Bruno thought it was a treat. Val finally explained that it was the home for retired ballroom dancers with “a little bit of swag,” which almost made sense. 34/40.

The Leaderboard: Alfonso Ribeiro is in the lead with 74 points, followed by Sadie Robertson and Lea Thompson with 73 points each. At the bottom are Jonathan Bennett with 48 and Michael Waltrip with 45.

Best Reason to Come Back Next Week: Pitbull will be on the show to bust a move while screaming, “Dale!”

Worst Reason to Come Back Next Week: Pitbull will be on the show to bust a move while screaming, “Dale!”

TIME Television

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon Developing Thriller for Syfy Network

The Good Will Hunting bros have a new project, Incorporated, in the works

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are headed to the land of Sharknados.

The long-time friends and frequent collaborators are working with cable network Syfy to develop Incorporated, a spy thriller about a man trying to stand up to a futuristic world where big corporations rule, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Ted Humphrey (who has written and produced for The Good Wife) will be the showrunner. Affleck and Damon are among the drama’s producers.

Affleck is currently starring in the marital thriller Gone Girl, which is the number one movie in the country for the second week in a row.

[THR]

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