Monday marks the 20-year anniversary of Friends — and just as we judge our old friends on Facebook to see how they’ve fared, we’ve done the same for the show’s cast. Here how the cast members ranked after the show ended:
The superproducer, programming all of ABC's Thursday night, has found that nothing succeeds like excess.
Beginning Sept. 25, superproducer Shonda Rhimes will take over a solid night of prime-time network TV in a way usually reserved only for pro sports. ABC airs Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy at 8 pm ET, Scandal at 9 and How to Get Away With Murder (created by Scandal co-producer Pete Nowalk) at 10. Aw yeah, America! Are you ready for some conspiracies, murder and romantic entanglements?
My column in this week’s print TIME looks at what makes a Shonda show a Shonda show, and what Rhimes has that other network producers don’t (and would love to):
That Rhimes commands an entire night on a major network puts her in the ranks of superproducers like David E. Kelley, Steven Bochco and Aaron Spelling. That she’s done it as an African-American woman is echoed in the casual diversity of her shows. And she’s achieved all this by figuring out a way for network drama to thrive in a challenging era: with smart, pulpy shows that emote like pop ballads, look like America and run like hell.
You’ll have to read the column (subscription required) for my take on Rhimes’ creative style. But anyone who gets three solid hours of programming on a major network is also a business success, and it seems to me that Rhimes has, in a couple of ways, used her art to overcome the problems facing big broadcast TV today.
First and most obvious is that Rhimes’ shows have unlocked social media, which can either be a distraction siphoning viewers away or an attraction tying them to you. It’s not just about how Rhimes’ cast, and she herself, have used Twitter so well and actively; in a way her shows, and Scandal in particular, are built for social media, with their OMG-ability and their sense of constant, crazy acceleration. It’s a way of making a scripted drama feel like an event, something you want to experience live.
But also, with Scandal–and maybe with Murder as well–she seems to have figured out one answer to the question of how broadcast networks can compete with the creative license of cable. At least since Tony Soprano came to HBO, there’s been a belief that cable protagonists have a freedom to embrace the dark side that network shows, with their broader audiences, don’t have.
But Rhimes’ series–like, in a different way, The Good Wife–draw their strength from allowing their characters to be bad, or at least ethically flexible. The fact that you don’t know precisely what moral lines Olivia Pope and her gladiators won’t cross doesn’t make them unlikeable; it makes them interesting. (It’s also helped keep the show grounded in character even as the third season’s plot spun further into quasi-Alias territory.)
As for How to Get Away With Murder: well, read the title–it’s taking moral compromise as a mission statement. Judging by the pilot (all I’ve seen so far) this show is a “maybe” for me so far. Viola Davis is as commanding as a pounding gavel, but the show still needs to establish that it has its own identity beyond “Scandal goes to law school.” But it starts off fast, and we can judge from precedent, will only get faster. Not for nothing does Shondaland’s production company logo feature a roller coaster.
Also, Jessica Biel clearly won this breakup
If 7th Heaven taught us anything, it’s that there’s no greater feeling than the love of family. Also, that anything that can go wrong (in an explosive, dramatic way) will go wrong — but that it will all be neatly resolved with a few hugs and a home-cooked meal.
Now, many years later, in true Camden fashion, the 7th Heaven cast has reunited for one more family dinner. Stephen Collins, who played the noble patriarch and devoted minister Eric Camden, was kind enough to share a photo from what appeared to be a rather joyful reunion:
You’ll notice two major absences: their dog, Happy (R.I.P, we assume), and the youngest daughter, Ruthie (played by Mackenzie Rosman.) We’re not sure where Ruthie was, but last we heard, she was posing for Maxim, which, ahem, doesn’t exactly fit into the wholesome Camden code of conduct. (Also, the twins are missing too, but they barely count anyway.)
Don’t they kind of look like they fit together as a real family though? Besides Jessica Biel, who stands out as the hottest and most famous. She clearly won this breakup, although Barry Watson isn’t looking half bad these days either.
Lip syncing is harder than it looks+ READ ARTICLE
Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton appeared on The Tonight Show Wednesday and had a lip sync battle with Jimmy Fallon, who is known for playing quirky games with guests on his show.
One of the performances had Shelton and Stefani singing the duet “Endless Love” with the male and female parts switched. Stefani played Lionel Richie’s smooth, deep voice, and Shelton mouthed the words to Diana Ross’s part.
Shelton and Stefani are coaches on the newest season of The Voice.
Jane Lynch reportedly turned the role down
Lifetime cast star Aubrey Plaza to be the voice of Grumpy Cat in its upcoming Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, says the Hollywood Reporter. This is truly the star on the Christmas tree.
Although Jane Lynch was originally set to speak as the curmudgeonly cat, she reportedly rebuffed the offer after getting an Emmy, reports THR.
But there is no doubt that Plaza will do the role justice. After all, the actress is best known for playing the somewhat grumpy April on ABC’s Parks and Recreation.
The film, starring the viral feline, will air Saturday, Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. May it be better than Lifetime’s Brittany Murphy biopic.
"It's the kind of firm decision-making we've come to expect from people who don't know what the f**k they're doing."
The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart blasted the NFL Wednesday evening for its handling of a series of alleged domestic abuse cases.
The league—which is also grappling with the severe health risks posed to players—is facing at least four separate players’ domestic abuse cases and has come under widespread fire for its inconsistent response to them.
“It’s the kind of firm decision-making we’ve come to expect from people who don’t know what the f*** they’re doing,” he says of the league.
Stewart also relished in the statement from NFL’s official beer sponsor, Anheuser-Busch, chastising the league’s handling of the domestic violence cases.
“How crazy is this? A company that sells alcohol is the moral touchstone of the NFL.”
This moody prequel is less a superhero show than a dystopian crime drama.+ READ ARTICLE
What is a superhero drama about if it’s not about superheroes? Last season, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD tried to answer that question by making an Avengers companion series about, well, the Avengers’ companions. By the end of the season, the show had started to find a voice and a drive of its own, but for a long time it dithered without stakes or apparent purpose; watching even its better-executed episodes was like waiting a long, long time in a theater lobby for the movie to start.
Fox’s Gotham (Mondays, premiering Sept. 22) has a different and at least immediately better answer: a superhero drama without superheroes is about the world that needs saving.
Focused on the rise of young James Gordon (Ben MacKenzie)–someday police commissioner, now a detective–Gotham renders DC Comics’ alterna-city as a place of corruption, wealth and squalor whose civilians and cops have accepted injustice as a way of life. Creating this show as a prequel was a smart idea. We’re not visiting Gotham City in the lulls between when Batman shows up; we’re immersed in the conditions that will make Batman necessary.
Now, a disclosure: I am not the person best-qualified to tell you how faithfully Gotham renders the setting of the DC universe. Because I don’t care. I’ve watched my share of Bat-TV and Bat-movies, but I’ve never been a huge superhero genre fan, (and to the extent I am, I’m more of a Marvel guy). Maybe harder-core Batman fans will find an extra layer in how the series introduces familiar characters like Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), Catwoman (Camren Bicondova) and The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor)–now Oswald Cobblepot, flunky to preening gang boss Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). Or maybe–as I’ve heard from a few–they’ll find it heavy-handed in the way it nudges and winks in introducing them. As with Game of Thrones or Outlander, there will be Readers and Noobs, and no one can be both at once.
But watching as a Noob, you have the advantage of seeing Gotham not as Batman Jr. but as what it mostly is: less a superhero and -villain saga than a surprisingly fresh, dystopian cop show.
Gotham comes from creator Bruno Heller, who after making HBO’s Rome produced CBS’s The Mentalist, a crime drama that, while not groundbreaking, was about 50% better than it needed to be. It’s not so much an origin story–though, no surprise, we see the ur-moment when young Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered in front of him–as it is a root-causes story.
Heller has imagined the city as a noir capital; it seems to be night almost always, which seems to match the mood of the citizens. When Gordon vows that he’ll catch the Waynes’ murderer, Bruce’s servant-guardian Alfred (Sean Pertwee)–here, a stony tough guy–scoffs bitterly, “New boy, are you?” Other cops, like Gordon’s partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), feel otherwise: in their Gotham, there aren’t good guys and bad guys, only buyers and the bought.
Gotham is not big on realism; the sets look like sets, in a good way, reminiscent of comic panels. (This is one case where the cliché “The setting is the star” may actually be true.) But it brings an emotional realism to this stylized backdrop, especially McKenzie, who was excellent as an officer on Southland. When Gordon crisply scolds Bullock, “You’re a cynic–a slovenly, lackadaisical cynic,” he communicates not just his idealism, but a fastidious superiority that probably does not win him a lot of friends, and that appears to compensate for damage in his own backstory.
OK, this too is a variation on an old story. Gotham is not reinventing the dark cop show, or the dystopian drama, or the superhero genre. But it combines them in a way that’s invigorating–and, honestly, it’s probably better than a new series with this built-in fanbase needed to be.
I’m not sure I’ll be watching Gotham every week: I wasn’t looking for a new cop drama, and I’m not a part of the aforementioned fanbase. For all that, I found the first hour of Gotham a surprisingly interesting place to visit. You just might want to live there.
Live from New York, it's Darrell Hammond
Darrell Hammond, the longest-serving cast member in Saturday Night Live history, is returning to be the voice of the show.
Hammond will take over as the show’s announcer after Don Pardo, the host for all 39 seasons of SNL, died in August at age 96. The show’s 40th season begins Sept. 27.
SNL’s Weekend Update segment confirmed the move—first reported by the New York Times and USA Today—in a tweet:
Hammond, the master of impressions, was a cast member from 1995 until 2009. As host, he won’t be expected to replicate Pardo’s announcer voice, Executive Producer Lorne Michaels told the Times.
“He had the greatest run and he’s a completely beloved figure. So I thought: Don’t turn this into something else. That period ended,” he said. “I think it will be good to have Darrell doing his own separate thing.”
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For three hours on Thursday, it’s OMG TV
Correction appended: Sept. 23, 2014
It’s no coincidence that the logo of Shonda Rhimes’ production company, ShondaLand, is a roller coaster built around a heart. Fast, sexy and entertaining, her prime-time sagas are twisty, funky constructions built of licorice whips and cotton candy. And like an amusement-park attraction, they could well come with a list of warnings: May cause narrative whiplash. …
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A new book explores America’s favorite TV dad
Whenever young Bill Cosby visited his grandparents as a child, his Granddad Samuel would tell him stories from the Bible. But rather than just offer recitations, Samuel turned his tales into full-on performances, creating narratives filled with uniquely voiced characters and ending with strong moral lessons. Those encounters, according to Mark Whitaker’s new biography, Cosby, shaped the premier comic storyteller of our time. …