TIME Television

Could Jon Stewart Have Put Sunday Morning Shows Out of Their Misery?

Host Jon Stewart tapes Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Restoring Honor & Dignity to the White House" at the McNally Smith College of Music on Sept. 5, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The show was being taped in St. Paul during the week of the Republican National Convention.
Host Jon Stewart tapes Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Restoring Honor & Dignity to the White House" at the McNally Smith College of Music on Sept. 5, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The show was being taped in St. Paul during the week of the Republican National Convention. Ethan Miller—Getty Images

He reportedly turned down an offer to host Meet the Press. If so, too bad for NBC--but probably best for him

According to New York Magazine, before NBC hired Chuck Todd to take over Meet the Press, the network wanted to revive its flagging Sunday show by hiring a professional comedian to host it. Sounds like the sort of desperate, cynical move Jon Stewart would make fun of on The Daily Show. Except, says New York, that host was Jon Stewart:

Before choosing Todd, NBC News president Deborah Turness held negotiations with Jon Stewart about hosting Meet the Press, according to three senior television sources with knowledge of the talks. One source explained that NBC was prepared to offer Stewart virtually “anything” to bring him over. “They were ready to back the Brinks truck up,” the source said. A spokesperson for NBC declined to comment. James Dixon, Stewart’s agent, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Let’s be clear: If NBC wanted Stewart to do Todd’s job–doing dead-serious sit-downs about the news of the day with political newsmakers, this was a terrible idea. Not that Stewart isn’t a serious man. He’s become a much tougher, quicker-on-his-feet interviewer over years with The Daily Show–and honestly, he’s often more focused than the campaign-fixated D.C. press on policy and the actual acts of governing, as opposed to perpetual election strategy.

But he’s a supplement, a commentator, throwing stinkbombs in from the outside. To put him in that Beltway-priest, neutral-insider role would have been a joke, and not the ha-ha kind.

On the other hand, if NBC were hiring Stewart to replace not just David Gregory, but the idea of Meet the Press itself–to create, if not a copy, The Daily Show, a seriously funny issues show with a point of view and an adversarial attitude that would roast not just the guests, but the culture of Washington–now that could have been something.

It would not have been Meet the Press, but one less pro forma Sunday interview show would not be the end of the world. It would probably open up NBC to charges of bias if Stewart spoke his mind freely–which he’d have to or become a phony–but that’s NBC’s problem. A move that didn’t just fill the MTP chair but burnt up the furniture would have, at least, been an interesting attempt at something different.

It didn’t work out, and instead NBC is staying the course (and staying behind in the ratings) with Todd, a sharp political reporter but just that. Todd still tends to see the program through the frame of electoral maps and optics and messaging. Too bad. But probably a better result for Stewart. I can’t read the guy’s mind, but I’ve always liked that he seems to resist the notion that his career has to advance or die. He has a chance to weigh in on national issues every night, for an engaged audience. He shouldn’t feel obligated to move “up”–especially if that “up” means a format with less freedom and less original impact. (And–though I haven’t looked inside NBC’s Brinks truck–maybe even less money.)

Maybe Stewart is feeling some sort of itch, having taken time off to direct a movie and having watched Stephen Colbert get ready to go to CBS while John Oliver becomes the new “It Bloke” of late-night commentary. But I don’t blame him, in this case, for staying put. It’s just too bad that means Meet the Press has to stay where it was, too.

TIME Television

Watch Bill Hader Do a Terrible Kenan Thompson Impression in New SNL Promo

The former cast members returns to host the show this weekend

Recently-departed Saturday Night Live star Bill Hader is heading back to Studio 8H this weekend — but this time, to host the show. The newly-released promo video shows Hader goofing around with Kenan Thompson, who proudly introduces the actor as “Bill Hader, the movie star.”

Hader asks Thompson if anything has changed since he left, to which Thompson replies, “They renovated the bathroom, there’s spaghetti and meatballs in the cafeteria and we got a ton of black people now.”

We can only hope that Hader will thrive as host, since he did spend eight years on the SNL stage. Fingers crossed we’ll see Stefon back in action.

TIME Television

Shonda Rhimes Doesn’t Want to Talk About Her Race

Shonda Rhimes on the cover of the Oct. 17 Hollywood Reporter The Hollywood Reporter

"That pisses me off"

Shonda Rhimes is sick of talking about her race and her gender.

In a new Hollywood Reporter profile of the Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal mastermind, Rhimes said that when she was sent draft text indicating she would be introduced at an event as “the most powerful black female showrunner in Hollywood,” she crossed out “black” and “female” before sending it back.

“I find race and gender to be terribly important; they’re terribly important to who I am,” Rhimes said. “But there’s something about the need for everybody else to spend time talking about it… that pisses me off.”

Rhimes found herself at the center of a conversation about race and gender last month when the New York Times began a review of a show she’s producing called How to Get Away With Murder like this: “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.'”

Despite friends calling for the piece to be retracted, Rhimes said she wants the Times to keep it on its site: “In this world in which we all feel we’re so full of gender equality and we’re a postracial [society] and Obama is president, it’s a very good reminder to see the casual racial bias and odd misogyny from a woman written in a paper that we all think of as being so liberal.”



TIME Television

Robert Downey Jr.: ‘No Plans’ for Iron Man 4

After he said on Ellen there would be another movie

Robert Downey Jr. told David Letterman Tuesday night that there are no plans for an Iron Man 4. Fans were buzzing at the prospect of a fourth film after Downey Jr. hinted about it on Ellen that same day.

In a recent article on Deadline, Downey Jr. said he would do another Iron Man movie if Mel Gibson directed it, propelling the rumors for a fourth movie.

Although he quashed hopes of a new Iron Man release on Late Night, he did tell Letterman on Late Night that he’s “going to do other stuff with Marvel.” Avengers, assemble?

TIME review

Review: Freaks and Shrieks on American Horror Story: Freak Show

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW -- Pictured: Sarah Paulson as Bette and Dot Tattler. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX
Frank Ockenfels/FX

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's spooky anthology raises the curtain on a lurid, luscious roadside attraction

This article contains spoilers. Click here to reveal them.

Of all the premises of all the seasons of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, the fourth–American Horror Story: Freak Show (Wednesdays on FX)–is the Ryan Murphiest. Much of Murphy’s work (Popular, Glee) involves sympathy for the outcast and alienated. And it’s hard to render that much more literal than in a season among the misshapen, multi-appendaged, chicken-head-biting denizens of Fräulein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

We find the show having pitched its tents in Jupiter, Fla., in 1952, amid bad times that are about to get worse. The young medium of TV is leaching away the audience from roadside attractions. (Goodbye, Human Skeleton–hello, Red Skelton!) On top of that, bodies are turning up dead, the work–at least most of them–of a serial killer, a hulking, shabby, silent clown (John Carroll Lynch) wearing a mask with a leering smile. He’s unconnected with the freak show (so far as we can tell), but the carnies–mistrusted under the best of circumstances–are automatic suspects, leaving ringmistress Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) under pressure of money and the law.

We should all only hope that someone, someday, loves us as much as AHS loves Lange. Murphy and co-creator Brad Falchuk have again cast her as an imperious, jealous, yet somehow sympathetic diva, this time with a Teutonic twist. (Whether doing a southern drawl on Coven, a Yankee rasp on Asylum or her Weimar cabaret-croon here, too much accent is never enough for her.) When a local hospital comes across conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler (Sarah Paulson and Sarah Paulson), two heads and spines sharing a torso and limbs, Elsa sees her new headliner–or doubleheadliner–and her own ticket to fame.

Lange is both star and muse for AHS, which has used her over and again as a glamorous, tragic villain. She’s is fearsome and motherly here, plotting and dreaming of fame, controlling but also protective of the performers she calls her “monsters”–like a German Lady Gaga with a touch of Marlene Dietrich and John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig. (The premiere sells the latter parallel by giving her a show-stopping climactic performance–David Bowie’s glam-rock classic “Life on Mars”–whose anachronism is justified, beyond the play on Elsa’s surname, by the simple fact that it is awesome.)

It’s Paulson, though, who gets the show’s killer role(s). Bringing her to walking, talking two-headed life is achievement enough. In the rough cut screened for critics, there’s an uncanny-valley effect to the CGI that it’s possible the final air version will smooth out. But the real special effect is Paulson, who invests the two sisters with such distinct personalities–Dot suspicious and rigid, Bette naive and starstruck–that I quickly forgot about the wizardry and saw them as people joined in an unhappy partnership. (They even have different opinions on the morality of masturbation, a bit of a problem when you share both hands and genitalia.) The way the two Paulsons carry themselves and react to each other–even argue–is a triumph of both editing and performance. She’s her own best co-star, playing her own worst enemy.

Like many an AHS season, the early going of Freak Show is a stew of ideas about identity and desire, plus a lot of things that appear to come up because they’re weird or provocative or look cool. There’s a theme of how the majority society is repulsed by alterna-bodies but also finds them intoxicating, even erotic; Jimmy “Lobster Boy” Darling (Evan Peters), for instance, finds that his large, fused fingers make him popular with the ladies behind closed doors, even if he can’t order in a diner without trouble.

Peters is one of several returnees from the AHS Repertory Players. We’re also re-introduced to Angela Bassett, Frances Conroy, and Kathy Bates, as Jimmy’s protective mother the bearded lady, whose heavy accent, if I’m hearing correctly, I place somewhere in the greater Philadelphia area with a couple of detours to the south. Newcomers to the troupe include Michael Chiklis, playing strongman Dell Toledo–someone had a lot of fun with the names this season–who emerges in the second episode as Elsa’s business rival.

But who are the monsters here? The show finds itself both critiquing the fear of the Other and–what with its murderous clown and various other bloody twists–feeding that same fear. This may be the old message that if you tell someone they’re a threat long enough, they eventually become one. But we’re also talking American Horror Story, which has a history of simply going for the most intense choice in any given moment, emotional or narrative consistency be damned. It works better more on the level of a dream than an essay. In AHS: Asylum, that grew into a stunning story of totalitarian control; in last year’s Coven, it slopped formlessly everywhere like a cauldron bubbling over. But no refunds! That’s the kind of show you bought yer ticket for.

And it’s a damned fine-looking one. From the premiere (directed by Murphy), its palette is more luscious and vibrant than past AHS seasons; the animated opening credits–sprightly deformed skeletons capering about–are ghastly and terrific. The show has a vintage-collector’s delight in the details of this specific brand of horror. (Among the nods to the 1932 horror classic Freaks, the first episode uses the signature phrase “one of us” two times.)

I’d be lying if I said I had any idea where this is going; after the two episodes screened for critics, despite all the accumulated bodies, Freak Show is more style than story. (The killer-clown plot, for instance, is terrifying without really being engaging. The early scenes in which he abducts and terrorizes a young woman and a small boy are tough to take, but he’s more monster than character so far.) But there’s enough talent and intensity here for me to step behind the tent flap, to see if all this can cohere into something super freaky.

TIME celebrities

7th Heaven Actress Sarah Goldberg Dies in Her Sleep at 40

A heart ailment is suspected in her death

Sarah Goldberg, who appeared in the television series 7th Heaven, died on Sept. 27 of natural causes, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. She was 40.

“She went to sleep and didn’t wake up,” her mother told the Sun-Times.

The Chicago-born Goldberg played 7th Heaven’s Sarah Glass Camden from 2002 to 2006. Her character was a rabbi’s daughter whose interreligious marriage to character Matt Camden, the son of the Rev. Eric Camden (Stephen Collins), was a favorite plot line among fans.

The Sun-Times says a heart ailment is suspected in Goldberg’s death.

Goldberg also had roles in the TV shows House and Judging Amy, as well as in the movie Jurassic Park III.

[Chicago Sun-Times]

TIME Television

FX to Produce Ryan Murphy Miniseries About O.J. Simpson, American Crime Story

O.J. Simpson, F. Lee Bailey, Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.
O.J. Simpson reacts as he is found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, at the Criminal Courts Building in Los Angeles. At left is defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey and at right is defense attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. Defense attorney Robert Shapiro is in profile behind them. (AP Photo/Daily News, Myung J. Chun, Pool, File) Myung J. Chun—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The miniseries, about behind-the-scenes legal drama, will begin production next year

Not content with the passel of Emmys already won by Ryan Murphy’s first three seasons of American Horror Story, FX is furthering its investment in the Murphy brand. The cable network has announced its order of an anthology miniseries entitled American Crime Story, the first season of which will focus on the case of O.J. Simpson, to begin production next year.

The series is to be based on Jeffery Toobin’s true-crime book The Run of His Life and focus on both the Simpson legal team and the case’s prosecutors. While the team involved is prestigious (announced writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski also wrote The People vs. Larry Flynt), it’s not hard to wonder the degree to which Murphy’s particular touch will inflect the proceedings. Murphy’s American Horror Story is indeed horrific, but it aims for screams of campy delight as often as screams of terror. His series Glee and the departed New Normal also sought to balance genuine emotion with self-consciously arch humor.

But the case of O.J. Simpson, hinging as it does on two senseless deaths, will be harder to turn into entertainment. Murphy’s comment, provided by FX, provides as much reason to hope for insight as it does reason to fear whether he’ll stick the landing:

“This is an exciting project for me, as I’ve been looking for the right property which could serve as an extension of the American Horror Story brand I love so much. The O.J. case was as tragic as it was fascinatingit seemed like everyone had a stake in the outcome. It was really the beginning of the modern tabloid age.”

Meanwhile, Murphy’s American Horror Story: Freak Show — about an entirely different sort of spectacle — is set to begin on Oct. 8.

TIME Television

The Walking Dead Is Staying Alive for a Sixth Season

"The Walking Dead" Panel At New York Comic Con
"The Walking Dead" Panel at New York Comic Con at Jacob Javits Center on October 12, 2013 in New York City. Laura Cavanaugh—Getty Images

Season 5 hasn't even premiered

AMC’s hit zombie thriller The Walking Dead will return to the small screen for a sixth season, the network announced Tuesday — before the fifth season had even hit the airwaves.

“In advance of Sunday’s season five premiere, AMC proudly confirms a sixth season order of this extraordinary series,” reads a statement from AMC President Charlie Collier, who revealed that many of the show’s original creators, including executive producer Scott Gimple, would return to produce the sixth season. “There’s plenty more Dead ahead thanks to their impressive, collective effort,” Collier said.

AMC backed its enthusiasm with metrics of audience engagement on social media, where the show has accumulated 30 million Facebook fans and 2.7 million followers on Twitter.




TIME Television

Ew! Listen to Jimmy Fallon and will.i.am’s New Song

The Black Eyed Peas singer appeared on the Tonight Show to perform the song

Jimmy Fallon’s recurring sketch “Ew,” in which Fallon dresses up as a tweenaged girl, got its own song Monday night.

Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am joined The Tonight Show, dressing up as a young girl complete with retainer (and beard), to perform the song along with Fallon.

The song, aside from featuring copious amounts of the word, “ew,” is also available for purchase on iTunes.

TIME Television

Relive Twin Peaks in 30 Unforgettable Photos

The David Lynch favorite is returning to television in 2016

The ’90s cult classic television show Twin Peaks is returning for a third season on Showtime in 2016.

How should you feel about this? Damned excited, says TIME’s television critic Jim Poniewozik. “Be happy about a thing without needing to coat it in prophylactic pessimism. Don’t give in to the defensive reflex to pre-disappoint yourself. Don’t be afraid of seeming like a sucker,” Poniewozik writes.

Need more reasons? Read his piece. Need a reminder of what you’ve missed? Check out these 30 shots from the show.

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