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May 2017

What Stephen Colbert Is Doing Right (That, No Offense, Jimmy Fallon Isn’t Really Doing At All)

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Frank Rich and Stephen Colbert at Vulture Festival. Photo by Jenn Murphy

Much has been said in recent months about the latest late-night battle between Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” and Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show.” In the early months of the new “Late Show’s” run, when Colbert somewhat struggled to figure out what his show’s voice would be amongst the many other late-night programs (and the famous character he was trying to step away from), Fallon continued to reign supreme with his fun, party-like atmosphere. But then the election happened, and a huge portion of the country didn’t feel like partying anymore.

 

Now, Colbert is beating Fallon in terms of viewership (albeit with some caveats) with his thoughtful yet scathing nightly takes on the current political landscape. Or, as Colbert referred to it at last weekend’s Vulture Festival (which was great, and I would know because I was there) the current political “dumpster fire.”

 

Colbert talked with Frank Rich at the event about how he’s choosing to handle the “dumpster fire,” saying, “it feels like things are on fire, and I’m not a fireman. I’m a guy who dances next to the fire and says, ‘Let’s all admit this is on fire. Do you think this should be on fire? Is this something we want to burn today for one man’s ego?”

 

To me, this is the epitome of what Colbert is doing that Fallon isn’t, and it’s what has caused him to currently surpass Fallon in viewership. Colbert (like Seth Meyers and Samantha Bee and John Oliver and Trevor Noah, to some extent) isn’t afraid to really discuss what is happening in the political world, because he knows that it’s in large part the primary thing currently on people’s minds. He’s able to tap into the things that are really making people nervous or frustrated and create points of discussion and connection that keep everyone from teetering off the edge. It’s a clever mix of topical horror and humor, something that seems to be increasingly popular in all forms of entertainment, from movies like “Get Out” to TV series like “Black Mirror.”

 

And none of this is to say that Jimmy Fallon isn’t a great host or entertainer. He was wonderful for years on “Late Night” and has maintained his charming showmanship on “The Tonight Show.” And sure, Fallon will frequently address the actions or behaviors of our current leadership, but he never cuts as deep or goes as hard as Colbert does. And that’s his choice. He’s made it clear that he wants to keep things light, and it’s becoming increasingly evident that lightness isn’t exactly what people are currently seeking out.  Perhaps once things calm down (if they ever do), people will want to go back to the “Tonight Show” party. But until then, it seems like Colbert and his “dumpster fire” dance will be on top.

 

What do you think? Which late-night host do you like the best? Are you also currently obsessed with Maya Rudolph as Dionne Warwick on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt“? Let me know in the comments, but keep it nice! And, of course…

 

Keep it classy.

Jenn

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I Don’t Really Know What To Write About This Week, So Here’s the Trailer for ‘The Glass Castle’

Honesty is important, and that’s why I’m honestly telling you that I had no clue what to write about this week. (To be even more honest, I’m actually writing this on Friday because I’m going to be away this weekend, including Monday.) I guess I could share some thoughts on recent TV season finales (“Quantico“: alright; “Designated Surivor“: irritating; “Grey’s Anatomy“: fantastic.) or the announcements that both Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden will return to host the Oscars and Grammys respectively in 2018 (BORING. I know award show hosts are repeated often, but let’s have a little variety, people!). Neither of those things feel right though, so instead I’ll talk a little about the trailer for “The Glass Castle.”

 

“The Glass Castle” is based on the memoir of writer Jeannette Walls, wherein she chronicles her unconventional upbringing and the lives of her eccentric parents. I know this because I read the book, both in high school and again in college. It’s very good and very compelling and I highly recommend it. I believe Jennifer Lawrence was initially attached to star in the film adaptation, but was eventually replaced by Brie Larson, as the trailer shows. Which is fine! While it would have been nice to see Lawrence in a role that’s a little more down to earth (Ha. Get it? Because “Passengers” was in space? I’m sorry.), Larson is a great actress as well (I’ll forever recommend “Short Term 12” and her amazing performance in it) so no complaints here. Plus, Woody Harrelson is pretty much the perfect person to play her Dad. (Although now that I think about it, his buddy Matthew McConaughey would also be a good pick.)

 

The movie is set for release in August, which I guess means that they don’t have huge awards expectations for it? I assumed it would get a November release, given its recent Oscar-winning star and moderately well-known story (at least among high school students and book club Moms). The trailer does feel a little bit flat, and it does seem to weirdly romanticize the Dad, who was not the greatest of guys in the book. I guess I’ll have to see it to find out, which I fully intend on doing.

 

What do you think? Excited for “The Glass Castle”? Disappointed in the blandness of this post? They can’t all be winners. And hey, I did have a pretty great/terrible Jennifer Lawrence-“Passengers” joke in there! Tell me you own terrible jokes and things that you would have wrote about this week in the comments. And, before I go finish the second season of “Master of None” (which is great, by the way) I’ll leave you with a simple reminder…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

‘American Idol’ is Officially Coming Back and I Have Some Thoughts

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

Welp. It happened. “American Idol,” the FOX series that supposedly had its big grand final finale after 15 seasons last spring, is officially coming back to TV this spring, this time on ABC. You would think, given my previous loving words about the show and what it meant to me for years and years, that I would be excited by this news. Energized, even. And yet, I’m not. Not. At. All.

 

Because “American Idol” was supposed to be over. I had made peace with it ending. I was fully ready for it to be a thing of the past, something we could all look back on lovingly. Even though it sucks when something we like on TV ends, if it’s had a long life (like “Idol” did) it can often be for the best. As much as I knew I would miss it, (and trust me, I have) it was time to move on.

 

But we do not live in an era of moving on.  From “Gilmore Girls” to “Twin Peaks” to “Will & Grace,” it seems like all you have to do is say an older, beloved TV series’ name into a mirror three times for it to get revived or rebooted. And while we have yet to see if the “Twin Peaks” and “Will & Grace” revivals work, the “Gilmore Girls” one decidedly didn’t. It’s hard to get back the magic, especially after years of being off the air.

 

It would appear that “American Idol” has the advantage, given that they’ve only been off the air for a year. But really, “Idol” lost its magic years ago. All you have to do is listen to the “Good Morning America” team announce ABC’s acquisition of “Idol.” They talk all about the album sales and Grammy wins (and of course that Oscar win) without acknowledging that the bulk of that (especially the awards) came from contestants and winners from the earliest seasons.

 

While the last few seasons of “Idol” still did pretty well in the ratings, the post-“Idol” success rate of its winners and contestants shrunk significantly. Much of that can be blamed on the viewing, voting public, who consistently chose handsome, talented but generic white guys for the “Idol” crown. If ABC thinks that viewership is going to change in just a year and they’re going to start churning out legitimate pop stars again, then they’re clearly not paying attention.

 

It also doesn’t help their case that two of the “Idol’s” biggest stars have evidently jumped ship, signing on to coach on upcoming seasons of “The Voice.” A traitorous move to be sure, but not entirely surprising given “The Voice’s” popularity and the fact that most people only watch it for the coaches and not the actual contestants. Seriously, try to name a winner of “The Voice.” You can’t, because none of them have done anything.

 

Right now, all this “American Idol” reboot has going for it is rumors that Katy Perry could join as a judge (despite reportedly turning it down during the show’s original run) and the slightest possibility that the busiest man in the world aka Ryan Seacrest might be able to carve out some time to come back and host the show that made him a star. They will also likely still have a rabid fan base to watch it, but like I said earlier, that fan base is both a gift and a curse.

 

In conclusion: Am I happy that “American Idol” is officially coming back? Not exactly. Do I think that it will do as well as it did in its heyday on FOX in its new incarnation on ABC? No way. Will I watch it? Yes, of course. Come on. I am only human.

 

What do you think of the “American Idol” revival news? Do you think it’ll do well? Are you also incredibly upset that not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of the shows on my list of five that deserved to be renewed were unceremoniously cancelled? I feel like we should starts some petitions or something. Help me form a game plan in the comments. And, before you go watch Masterpiece Theater’s fantastic adaptation of “King Charles III” remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Let’s Talk About the New and Improved (?) MTV Movie & TV Awards

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

Last night was the debut of the MTV Movie & TV Awards, MTV’s attempt at modernizing their big award show that doesn’t yearly feature an amazing performance from Beyonce. Among the updates: new and gender neutral categories and the addition of television shows and actors as viable candidates.

 

Now, of course, you can’t exactly take an award show that chooses to recognize Emma Watson for her acting skills entirely seriously, (And before you come for me, Harry Potter fans, go see “The Circle.” It’s really bad despite being based on a great book, and her stiff-as-a-board performance is significant reason for that.) but in many categories the show celebrated diversity in a way that the bigger shows haven’t. Best Kiss went to Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome for “Moonlight,” Best Hero went to Taraji P. Henson for “Hidden Figures” and the Next Generation award went to Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out.” (You can see the full winner list here.)

 

As for the decision to eschew male and female categories and go for two big gender neutral awards for TV and film, the idea itself is great, but it poses some concerns when it comes to nominations and wins. It is of course incredibly important to recognize performers who don’t identify as solely male or female, but by condensing those categories into one you A) lose opportunities to award equally worthy performers of all genders and B) lose opportunities to recognize under appreciated performances with a nomination. The limited number of nominations that come with just one award as opposed to two means that performances that perhaps went under the radar of the general public won’t be recognized with a nomination because only the best of the best and the most universally known will get nominated. It seems highly unlikely that bigger shows like the Oscars or the Emmys will go in this direction any time soon, but if they did choose to go the way of MTV, that would be something to take into consideration.

 

As for new awards that blended both movie and TV nominees, the winners still leaned more on the movie side. Out of the 10 categories that featured both movie and TV contenders, six were won by movies and four were won by TV. This might not mean anything other than the fact that those were the actors who were willing to show up (I am convinced this is the case for many of these award shows that are voted on by the public, but that might just another one of my conspiracy theories), but it does show that even though TV is considered to be competitive with film again, it might not be with the younger generation.

 

Overall, the show was fun. Host Adam Devine continued to do a great Jack Black impression (jk jk, he was lovely) and the special sneak peek of the new “It” remake genuinely disturbed me in ways that only a creepy clown can. Did the updated MTV Movie & TV Awards change the world? No, not really. But did it keep me entertained for its 2-ish hour duration? Yes, yes it did.

 

Did you watch the MTV Movie & TV Awards? What did you think of the changes? Mad that “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” wasn’t recognized at all? Me too. Before you write you complaint letters to MTV though, remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

‘Colossal’ is Hard to Explain But Easy to Enjoy

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Courtesy of Google Images. Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

Every once in a while a movie comes along that’s truly great but burdened with the fact that on paper it just seems…well…odd. It can be for a whole multitude of reasons but whatever they are, they often keep people from making the trip to the movie theater even if you tell them that once they see it, they’ll be happy they did.

 

A great example of this is 2015’s “The Lobster“, which I wrote glowingly about previously on this blog. If I said to you, “hey, want to go see this movie about the absurd lengths people will go to in order to find love and companionship?” you’d probably say “sure!” But if I then told you that movie involved a man going to a resort where he’s expected to find love in 40 days or he gets turned into the animal of his choosing, you’d likely run screaming. (I mean, you probably wouldn’t run screaming. Realistically you probably just look at me weird and say “hmmm maybe not”, but for the sake of this argument, let’s go with the running and the screaming.)

 

The same probably goes for “Colossal“, a lovely movie I saw recently. If I said, “hey, want to go see a movie about how powerful women can intimidate the often-fragile male ego?” you’d probably say “sounds dope, let’s do it.” But if I then told you that movie involved a woman who discovers that she has a weird mental connection to a giant monster wreaking havoc on Seoul, South Korea, you’d probably slowly back out of the room. (Again, you probably wouldn’t really slowly back out of the room. At least, I hope you wouldn’t. That would be super rude.)

 

And yet, that’s what “Colossal” is, and it’s great. Starring Anne Hathaway as the woman in question, the film follows her as she returns to her hometown after she loses her swank writing gig and gets kicked out of her boyfriend’s apartment.  There she runs into Jason Sudeikis‘ character, her sort-of childhood friend who gives her a job at his bar and becomes one of the first people she tells about her grim discovery.

 

There’s isn’t really much I can say about the movie other than that, but you can probably assume it doesn’t veer into predictable territory. In fact, that’s what makes it great. From the start, it’s nowhere near predictable and it keeps you guessing until the end. Sure, there are some elements of the story that don’t make a whole lot of sense, but if you’re really looking at a movie like this for logic, then you should probably go elsewhere.

 

So do your best to look past the more than a little ridiculous description and go see “Colossal.” I’m like, 85% sure you’ll like it. And then you too can struggle to try and explain it to your friends.

 

Have you seen “Colossal”? Have any other movies that are great if you can get past their weird-sounding premise? Are you also somehow connected to a monster wreaking havoc on a foreign city? I certainly hope not! If so, you should definitely remember to…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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