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July 2017

Judging the Possible New ‘American Idol’ Judges

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

With the “American Idol” revival definitely happening at ABC (and ya’ll know how I feel about that) and auditions set to begin August 17 in Florida, rumors are beginning to swirl about who will join the previously announced Katy Perry (and her reported $25 million paycheck) at the judges table.

 

“American Idol’s” success as a show is largely defined by the quality of its judges panel. Just look at the doomed from the start season 13, with its distracting Nicki Minaj/Mariah Carey feud or the season that Ellen Degeneres was inexplicably a judge. A healthy dynamic between the judges means that they will focus less on themselves and what they have to promote/gripe about and more on finding people who could actually have a successful music career if they were to be voted to the top. As a result, the viewers at home will pay more attention to the contestants and will be more inclined to follow their post-“Idol” paths. It’s why you probably can’t name any winners of “The Voice,” but you can describe in detail the relationship dynamics between whoever was a mentor that season. The focus there is on the mentors/judges, not the contestants and it’s reflected in the winner’s success after.

 

I still believe that the best group of “Idol” judges were the original three: Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell. Sure, they had their tiffs and attention-grabbing moments, but at the end of the day they were still the B-story to the contestants’ A-story. You liked them as a group, you liked how they interacted with one another, but they didn’t take away from what we were all actually there to see. Later judges groups didn’t always have that quality (see Nicki/Mariah, any group that included Kara DioGuardi), but I would say that the last trio on Fox, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban, got the closest to the original group’s quality. They were all bigger and more current stars than the original three judges, but they didn’t pull too much focus from the contestants. (Other when they all just had to perform during the once-believed series finale. Still don’t get that.)

 

So with all of that in mind, let’s look at who The Hollywood Reporter is claiming could be in talks to join that oh so illustrious group of “Idol” judges past and present, starting with Lionel Richie. Richie, according to the THR piece, is most likely to join the panel, as he is liked by all of the producing parties involved. I imagine him fitting into the Randy Jackson/Keith Urban slot as the judge that is largely chill and complementary, but could give a thoughtful piece of criticism from time to time. Also, given his longevity in the industry, he might be able to look more objectively at whether or not a contestant could really have a long and successful career post-“Idol,” a challenge that many more recent “Idol” winners have faced. I actually don’t think I’d mind him being a judge.

 

Another rumored judge is country singer Luke Bryan. I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about country music or the people who sing it (I tend to avoid it like the plague), but I fear that this is ABC trying to find their own Blake Shelton-esque figure, since Shelton has become such a star outside of the country world from his time on “The Voice.” If he would fit anywhere on the judges panel, I feel like it would also be in the Randy/Keith slot, but since I’ve already put Richie there I kind of hope this one just remains a rumor.

 

The third possible judge according to THR is singer Charlie Puth. I also don’t really know much about him other than that he was on that song from “Furious 7” that everyone was obsessed with for a summer and that he really awkwardly made out with Meghan Trainor at the AMAs, but I think I read somewhere at some point that he went to the Berkeley College of Music? If that’s true, then he could fit into the Simon Cowell/Harry Connick Jr. slot as the judge who can give educated criticism on the actual musicality of a performance (not that Simon Cowell really did that, he just fits into the “criticism” part of “educated criticism”). That’s a valuable tool when trying to explain to a contestant why they didn’t sound that great in a performance, although it can veer into pretentious territory somewhat quickly. He also isn’t a giant household name, so he hopefully wouldn’t pull too much focus from the contestants themselves.

 

As for Katy Perry, who is already fully on board, I see her fitting into the Paula Abdul/Jennifer Lopez slot of being largely kind and benevolent, but maybe a little more critical like Lopez was as opposed to Abdul. She might also have insight into how marketable a contestant would be in the current, social media-fueled music industry, since she clearly knows how to self market on social media.

 

(TMZ is also reporting that Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue is also in talks to judge, but I have a really hard time believing that to be true. If it is, I imagine him in the Steven Tyler slot of someone who’s just there to say weird stuff and make everyone laugh uncomfortably.)

 

We’ll probably find out who officially gets the other “Idol” judges gigs within the next week or two, and it could be all or none of the people above (except Perry, she is a definite). Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how the latest iteration of the “American Idol” judges panel stacks up against the others. I know I’ll be (begrudgingly) watching.

 

What do you think of the latest rumored “Idol” judges? Have any other people you think could join the panel? Are you also going to watch the premiere of “Siesta Key” tonight because much like Jennifer Hudson’s character on “Smash,” you “can’t let go” of “Laguna Beach“? (More on that next week, probably.) Let me know (Or don’t, haha more “Smash” jokes!) in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

The Podcast (And Soon to Be TV Series) ‘Homecoming’ Is Just What Your Ears (And Eyes) Need

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

Amidst all of last week’s big San Diego Comic-Con news, another bit of information came out that has the potential to be pretty exciting. Amazon announced that it has ordered two seasons of “Homecoming,” a scripted series adapted from the scripted podcast of the same name. If you’re not familiar with the podcast, and there’s a pretty good chance you aren’t, then get to listening. You will not be disappointed.

 

“Homecoming,” the podcast (and presumably the TV series), tells the fictional story of a woman working with returning soldiers at a secret government facility…and that’s about all I can say about the plot. To give anything else away would be to deprive you of the satisfying way that podcast creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg reveal more and more details and insight with each new episode. The story reveals itself through phone calls and recorded conversations and feels like a classic radio play of yesteryear.

 

The voice cast for the podcast is a who’s who of talents, including Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer and Amy Sedaris. It seems somewhat unlikely that any of them will join the Amazon series’ cast (Julia Roberts has already signed on the play Keener’s role), which is a shame, but it also means that you’ll get to see (or, at least, hear) different people taking on the same role, a rarity outside of the superhero genre.

 

The Amazon series will also be helmed by Sam Esmail, the brilliant mind behind “Mr. Robot.” Hopefully that means that the “Homecoming” series will be infused with the same mystery and ambiance (but maybe a liiiittle more clarity) as Esmail’s other works. I certainly have high hopes. Now all I need is an Amazon Prime account.

 

There’s not a set premiere date for the Amazon series, so for now dig into the podcast. It just started its second season this past Wednesday and now has a companion novel with even more detail available on iBooks. That might make it sound like I’m on the “Homecoming” payroll, but I swear I’m not. (I wish I was though. Call me, guys!) I’m just a big fan from the beginning who’s excited to see this story grow. Do I wish it was growing on Netflix, where I already have an account? Of course I do. But in this new world of a seemingly endless variety of different streaming services, I guess I have to get used to it. We all do.

 

What do you think? Have any other lesser-known podcasts you love? Did you also binge-watch the entire first season of “Insecure” yesterday thanks to HBO putting it all on YouTube? Share in the comments. And of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

A Look at the 2017 Emmy Nominations

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

It’s mid-July, which means it’s time for us to find out who and what will be battling it out (or, at least, pretending to battle it out until the inevitable people who frequently win do) for a nice and shiny 2017 Emmy Award. The nominations were announced last Thursday, and included lots of long-standing nominees, some exciting newcomers, a great surprise or two and several glaring omissions that filled me with rage. But hey, what else is new?

 

Comedy

The Outstanding Comedy Series category looked a lot like it did last year, with “black-ish,” “Master of None,” “Silicon Valley,” “Veep,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and yes, for some truly unknown reason, “Modern Family” all getting nominations. The one new addition, FX’s excellent “Atlanta,” was not exactly surprising, but it did knock out the only-a-comedy-because-it’s-a-half-hour “Transparent.” I’m hoping that “Atlanta” might beat “Veep” (if “Master of None’s” brilliant second season doesn’t do it) and take home the big prize, but we’ll have to wait and see. As for “Modern Family’s” insane ability to continue to get nominations despite the fact that it’s just so formulaic now continues to frustrate. Why not use that slot for something more interesting or different, like FXX’s woefully under-appreciated “You’re the Worst” or The CW’s consistently great “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend“? There’s great work happening in comedy on TV; it’s just not happening on “Modern Family.”

 

As for the acting categories, Donald Glover (for “Atlanta”) and Zach Galifianakis (for “Baskets“) joined Anthony Anderson (for “black-ish”), Aziz Ansari (for “Master of None”), William H. Macy (for “Shameless“) and Jeffrey Tambor (for “Transparent”) in Lead Actor, and in Lead Actress Allison Janney (for “Mom“) moved up from Supporting, Jane Fonda joined her “Grace and Frankie” co-star Lily Tomlin as a nominee, and Tracee Ellis Ross (for “black-ish”), Ellie Kemper (for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (for “Veep”) all got nominated again. Rounding out the Lead Actress category was one of the biggest and best surprises of the nominations, Pamela Adlon for her excellent FX series “Better Things.” Her chances of beating Julia Louis-Dreyfus are likely slim, but it was still exciting to see her nominated. Hopefully that’ll draw people to her lovely show. Supporting Actor was more of the same, with Louie Anderson (for “Baskets”), Ty Burrell (for “Modern Family”), Tituss Burgess (for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Tony Hale (for “Veep”) and Matt Walsh (also for “Veep”). The only change was the completely unacceptable replacement of Andre Braugher (for his consistently great work on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) with Alec-freaking-Baldwin as the president on “Saturday Night Live.” Completely ignoring the fact that his impression is not even that good (Anthony Atamanuik is doing a much better job on Comedy Central’s “The President Show“), it’s insane for Baldwin to be nominated like a cast member when he technically ISN’T ONE. Luckily the Supporting Actress category featured three great “SNL” cast members, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer and Leslie Jones, alongside Kathryn Hahn (for “Transparent”), Judith Light (also for “Transparent”) and Anna Chlumsky (for “Veep”).

 

On the Writing and Directing sides, all I’ll say is “Atlanta’s” brilliant “B.A.N.” episode got nominated for both, and if you haven’t watched any of “Atlanta” yet, you should at least watch that episode. I mean, you should really watch the whole thing because it’s great, but you should really watch that episode. It’s my favorite.

 

Drama

The drama side was a little more open to new things, since “Game of Thrones” was ineligible this year. And so they nominated “This Is Us.” I mean, they also nominated “Westworld,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” “House of Cards” and “Better Call Saul,” but “This Is Us“? Over “Mr. Robot“? Yes, “Mr. Robot’s” second season wasn’t perfect, but “Mr. Robot” at its worst is still better than “This Is Us.” “This Is Us” is a good show starring Sterling K. Brown‘s Randall and Ron Cephas Jones‘s William trapped in a bad show starring basically everyone else on “This Is Us.”

 

Luckily, Brown and Cephas Jones both got nominated in their respective categories. Brown was joined in Lead Actor inexplicably by his “This Is Us” co-star Milo Ventimiglia, as well as Bob Odenkirk (for “Better Call Saul”), Kevin Spacey (for “House of Cards”), Liev Schreiber (for “Ray Donovan“), Matthew Rhys (for “The Americans“) and Anthony Hopkins (for “Westworld”). Lead Actress included Robin Wright (for “House of Cards”), Viola Davis (for “How to Get Away With Murder“), Keri Russell (for “The Americans”), Claire Foy (for “The Crown”), Elisabeth Moss (for “The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Evan Rachel Wood (for “Westworld”). Lucky for all of them, reigning champ Tatiana Maslany won’t be eligible again until next year due to “Orphan Black‘s” later premiere date. As for Supporting Actor, Cephas Jones was joined by Jonathan Banks (for “Better Call Saul”), Mandy Pantinkin (for “Homeland,” which I didn’t even realize was still on), Michael Kelly (for “House of Cards”), David Harbour (for “Stranger Things”), John Lithgow (for “The Crown”) and Jeffrey Wright (for “Westworld”). On the Supporting Actress side the world went against what I thought was its better judgement and nominated one of those gosh darn “Stranger Things” kids with Millie Bobby Brown getting a nomination alongside Uzo Aduba (for “Orange is the New Black“), Ann Dowd (for “The Handmaid’s Tale”), Samira Wiley (for “The Handmaid’s Tale”), Chrissy Metz (for “This Is Us,” which, don’t even get me started again) and Thandie Newton (for “Westworld”).

 

Looking at the Directing and Writing categories is when I realize that I must not watch a lot of drama series, or at least not prestige drama series. Frankly, I’m still mad about “Mr. Robot.”

 

Limited Series/TV Movie

Sure, other things (like “Fargo,” “Genius” and “The Night Of“) got nominated for Limited Series, but if we’re being honest it’s really a fight between “Big Little Lies” and “Feud: Bette and Joan.” As someone who has seen both, I can say that they are both excellent depictions of the complicated ways women interact with one another and the ways that men can be really, really awful… and that I’m not entirely sure who I want to win. As for TV Movie, the only thing I’m really excited about is that “Black Mirror‘s” wonderful “San Junipero” episode got nominated. How it snuck into the TV Movie category with “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love,” “Sherlock: The Lying Detective,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and “The Wizard of Lies” is beyond me, but I really hope it wins.

 

I truly have no opinion on Lead Actor nominees Ewan McGregor (for “Fargo”), Geoffrey Rush (for “Genius”), Benedict Cumberbatch (for “Sherlock: The Lying Detective”), John Tuturro (for “The Night Of”), Riz Ahmed (for “The Night Of”) and Robert De Niro (for “The Wizard of Lies”) as I haven’t seen any of the things they are nominated for. I’m much more interested in the Lead Actress category, as it pits Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman (from “Big Little Lies”) and Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon (from “Feud: Bette and Joan”) against each other. Sure, Felicity Huffman (for “American Crime“) and Carrie Coon (for “Fargo”) got nominated too, but it’s really a battle between the big four. The Supporting categories are a little more open, with Alexander Skarsgard (for “Big Little Lies”), David Thewlis (for “Fargo”), Stanley Tucci (for “Feud: Bette and Joan”), Alfred Molina (also for “Feud: Bette and Joan”), Michael Kenneth Williams (for “The Night Of”) and Bill Camp (for “The Night Of”) on the guys side and Regina King (for “American Crime”), Shailene Woodley (for “Big Little Lies”), Laura Dern (also for “Big Little Lies”), Jackie Hoffman (for “Feud: Bette and Joan”), Judy Davis (for “Feud: Bette and Joan”) and Michelle Pfeiffer (for “The Wizard of Lies”) on the ladies side. Although, it really is stacked in “Big Little Lies” and “Feud: Bette and Joan’s” favor. As it should be!

 

As for Writing and Directing, I’m rooting for “Black Mirror: San Junipero” for writing and “Big Little Lies” for directing. But “Big Little Lies” will probably win both, if “Feud: Bette and Joan” doesn’t win for its Oscars episode.

 

I don’t care about Reality so we’re just gonna skip that, okay? Cool.

 

Variety

Much deserved nominations for “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in the Variety Talk category, alongside a sure, okay for “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and some ugh, really? for “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” As for Variety Sketch, “Billy on the Street” finally gets some Emmys love alongside “Documentary Now!“, “Drunk History,” “Portlandia,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Tracey Ullman’s Show.”

 

On the Writing side, it’s pretty hard to lose with any of the nominees. They’re all great, so let’s just give them all a piece of the trophy, Cady Heron style.

 

So there’s a basic rundown of things from my obviously very important perspective. Here’s the full list. The Emmys themselves aren’t until September (the 17th, to be exact), so there’s plenty of time to ruminate and make your predictions. Get to work!

 

What do you think of this year’s Emmy nominees? Have any disappointing omissions of your own? Were you also excited to discover that Chance the Rapper is now an Emmy nominee for the “Jingle Barack” sketch he did with Kenan Thompson when he was a musical guest on “SNL”? Amazing, right? Before you go back and watch it, remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

2 Lesser-Known Movies You Should Definitely See This Summer

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

While summertime can be great for many things, like going to the beach, eating outside and seeing hunky men jog shirtless, it can be a bit of a rough spot when it comes to interesting movies. Since all of the darling little kiddos are out of school and mom desperately needs something to do with them so they don’t destroy the house with their sticky hands and excessive questions (can you tell that I just loooove kids?), most of the big movies that come out in the summertime are aimed towards families. Superheroes, “beloved” franchises and animated films dominate the theaters, which can be frustrating when that’s the absolute last thing you want to see.

 

(And I don’t want to shade all movies that fit under the tentpole umbrella; I absolutely loved “Wonder Woman” and so far I’ve heard pretty good things about the latest iteration of Spiderman. But other than that, yikes. “Cars 3“? The Mummy“? Really?)

 

It takes a little more digging this time of year to find movies that don’t feature minions, robots in disguise, or Johnny Depp trying to salvage what’s left of his career, but it’s definitely possible, as evidenced by the two great movies that I’m about to share with you. You might have to step out of your movie theater comfort zone to get to them, but I can assure you that it’ll definitely be worth it.

 

Baby Driver

I briefly mentioned last week how good “Baby Driver” is, so I thought I’d take this time to elaborate on that more. The film tells the story of a young getaway car driver named Baby (played by Ansel Elgort) who coordinates all of his action-packed getaway scenes to music. He’s trying to get out of the game, but his boss (played by Kevin Spacey of all people) isn’t ready to let him go. It’s like a bunch of awesome music videos packed into one film, and while that might sound a little silly in theory, on screen it works so well. Plus, it confirms my (probably unpopular) opinion that Jon Hamm doesn’t need to be a leading man, he should just be that one absurdly handsome character actor that everyone loves. It was definitely the most fun movie I’ve seen so far this summer, so get into it.

 

The Big Sick

Look no further, romantic comedy lovers, the next great one is here in the form of “The Big Sick.” It’s got all of the great romantic comedy beats: boy meets girl when she heckles him at a stand up comedy show, boy and girl face challenges in their relationship because boy is expected to fall in line and marry a fellow Pakistani woman as arranged by his parents, girl gets really sick and is then put into a medically induced coma…y’know, all the tropes. It might sound wildly unrealistic until you find out that it all actually happened to the film’s co-writer and star, the excellent Kumail Nanjiani, and his (spoiler alert, sort of?) wife and the film’s other co-writer, Emily V. Gordon. She’s played by the great Zoe Kazan, and her parents are played wonderfully by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. It’s a seriously lovely film that’ll make you both cry and laugh, sometimes in the same scene.

 

What do you think? Have any other lesser-known movies from this summer that you loved or are excited to see? Did you also look up the lyrics to Blue Ivy Carter’s “4:44” freestyle on Rap Genius so you could fully appreciate its greatness? Boom shakalaka in the comments. And before I leave you to come up with my Emmy nomination predictions (they’re announced later this week!), remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Make This “Hamilton Mixtape” Song (And Its Awesome Video) Your 4th of July Soundtrack

Sometimes I worry that I’ll accidentally write a similar piece twice on this blog, so I go back and double check that there isn’t potential for a duplicate. In going back to see if I had written about this song off “The Hamilton Mixtape” before, I discovered that while I had written about the mixtape before, I wrote about a different song. (I also wrote that post the day before the 2016 presidential election…but we don’t need to get into that again.)

 

“The Hamilton Mixtape,” in case you aren’t aware, is a really fantastic album composed of covers by current artists of songs from the musical “Hamilton,” as well as songs inspired by the show and its themes. (If you don’t know what “Hamilton” is, then I am very concerned for your well being.) One of the songs that really took off from the album is the above one, “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)”.

 

Inspired by one of the biggest applause-getting lines in the show, the song features artists (like K’naan, Residente, Riz MC and Snow tha Product) rapping about their immigrant experiences and the experiences of immigrants as a whole. It’s an excellent song with a very important message, made even more important by some not so great decisions and events following the 2016 election.

 

They just released a music video for the song, in conjunction with “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition, and it’s pretty awesome. The video has a very “Snowpiercer“-y vibe, which is interesting given that Daveed Diggs, a former “Hamilton” star (who appears at the end of the video), is now set to star in an upcoming TNT series based on the film.

 

So be sure to blast this song at your 4th of July cookout. Not only is it a definite jam (Did that sound cool? I highly doubt it.) but it has a very relevant message for the Independence Day holiday. Never forget who really made it all happen for the great U.S. of A.

 

What do you think of the song and video? Have another favorite song off “The Hamilton Mixtape”? Did you see “Baby Driver” yet? If yes, wasn’t it soooooo good? If not, what are you doing? Go see “Baby Driver”! It’s great! And, as always, don’t be like the new Ken doll with a man bun, instead…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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