‘Saturday Night Live’ At Halfway Mark

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Saturday Night Live - Season 40Saturday Night Live, the show that Deadline commenters love to beat on like it owes them money, last night completed a first half season of shows that improved dramatically over the season opener. I have watched since SNL launched in 1975, and to me it has always been like hitching your wagon to a sports team. Some years, you enjoy winning seasons fueled by great talent rosters; some years you suffer through rebuilding seasons. I trashed the season opener, but noted the potential. In fairness, I’ve seen enough to say: this group of writers and performers of Saturday Night Live has gelled so quickly I only wish Lorne Michaels, and not Phil Jackson, was rebuilding the New York Knicks.

After losing stalwarts Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg and Jason Sudeikis, Michaels last season added too many newcomers with not enough racial diversity and didn’t know what to do with them. Most are gone.

I don’t see a weak spot in this cast. Vets Vanesa Bayer, Jay Pharoah and especially Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam and Kenan Thompson (his Al Sharpton is always funny) show no signs of overstaying; Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant and Beck Bennett are growing; newcomers Kyle Mooney, Sasheer Zamata and Pete Davidson are off to solid starts. Leslie Jones is a shot of life who has perhaps the biggest breakout potential of anyone, as evidenced by her turns as the Weekend Update relationship counselor and “Black Annie” in a parody of the new movie. Everybody finds their moment, without crowding out anyone else. The writing is quirky, unpredictable.

As for the show’s signature, Weekend Update: after a rough start, Colin Jost and Michael Che are hitting stride with a pseudo-newscast that is biting fun. Moving Strong off the anchor desk was smart. You can’t look at it as a demotion, if you watch her work in skits and when she shows up on Update as The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With At A Party; or The One-Dimensional Female Character From A Male-Driven Comedy, all of which she couldn’t do if shackled to the anchor desk. Strong is just part of an array of characters that has saved Update from beating Moynihan’s Drunk Uncle and Anthony “Secondhand News Correspondent” Crispino into the ground. Jost and Che have become much more comfortable playing off them.

Seth Meyers had a rough start, following predecessors Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon and Amy Poehler. He grew into arguably the best fake newscaster SNL ever had.

Che and Jost are establishing their own quirky style. SNL‘s off-the-wall filmed segments have filled the gap left by Samberg’s Digital Shorts, which no longer felt fresh and disruptive by the time he left.

As for the individual episodes, the one hosted by Jim Carrey (McConaughey’s rambling Lincoln car ads) and Martin Freeman (The Office: Middle Earth) were funny from start to finish, with not a weak skit in the bunch. Not every episode kills (last night came close), but there are more laughs late in the show than I remember in past years where they killed time with weak skits. Even NBC’s decision to give the 10 PM slot to episodes featuring the original cast has served as a helpful reminder that hey, those immortals weren’t always as funny as you remember, and that this isn’t easy.

Quentin Tarantino once told me that his retirement from directing will come when he hits a wall that only a few helmers like Tony and Ridley Scott avoided: they are among the few, Tarantino said, whose next film might not be good, might not be their best, but could be their best. Mounting a live show every week is a very hard task, and not every episode is going to nail it.

With the current cast and writers, you feel once again that they might. It is too easy in this cynical age to simply say everything sucks, but most who do that don’t pay enough respect to the difficulty of the creative process. What SNL has done in a short time is enough to keep us tuning in every week, just in case they hit that high mark. But what the hell, I’d still follow if it was a train wreck, like I do the 5-24 Knicks.

Imagine you start the 4oth season of Saturday Night Live, armed with a game host in Chris Pratt, a bundle of funny skits, and a couple of laugh-worthy pre-recorded bits. And still the show kind of sucks? That is what happened over the weekend, for the most inexplicable and unforgivable reasons. Live TV is always going to elicit its share of flubbed lines due to nerves, but you would think in preparing for the first show, there would be ample rehearsal time. We’re used to hosts undermining skits by relying on cue cards, but can’t the cast members learn their lines?

Why was Kyle Mooney staring off into the distance during his skits? Is he most comfortable reading off cue cards in the mezzanine level? Darrell Hammond had plenty of outrageous moments during his long run on SNL. Why did he go Perry Como with a delivery so mellow it was hard to hear him? Doesn’t he know we are already struggling to stay awake? The announcer was loud. Then, new Weekend Update anchor Michael Che displays as cue card reading delivery so robotic that it seemed like he wasn’t told about his new job until 11:45 PM.

There are signs this season could be good. Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon didn’t have enough to do, and the show continues to underplay Sasheer Zamata, added last January after an outcry for racial diversity. She’s as good as she is underutilized, but the cast will be better. Enough of the skits were good to imagine a sharp writing staff that will improve. There was serious irreverence, like the skit where NFL players introduced themselves, and instead of reciting their college, listed personal crimes. The best line was left to newcomer Pete Davidson. After other players described violent crimes, he went one better: “Willie Sampson. Treason.”

Davidson delivered the show’s funniest bit, an off-color Weekend Update rant that has been amply described elsewhere. If the sole newcomer’s debut is anything to judge by, he might have the awkward delivery and wacky sensibilities that made Adam Sandler so good. But Seth Meyers always made those bits funnier, and that’s what Jost and Che lack right now and need to work on. The cast has to get to know their lines better and Che needs to rehearse because iPhone’s Siri has a less robotic delivery than he displayed Saturday. The show has been a work in progress for 40 years, and there is potential here for good things ahead.

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Written by deadline.com

 

Dr. Evil Took Over ‘SNL’

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evil“SNL,” veteran Mike Myers returned to the show on Saturday as Dr. Evil to mock North Korea’s cyber war with Sony Pictures.

The Austin Powers nemesis, appearing in the show’s opening sketch, ripped everyone from the hackers (“There’s already a GOP and they’re already an evil organization”) to Sony, who, according to Dr. Evil “hasn’t had a hit since the Walkman.”

He also poked fun of “The Interview.”

“Come on, Sony, you think it’s a joke to have James Franco assassinate Kim Jong-un,” he asked. “The man singlehandedly almost killed the Oscars.”

Or he said of his last movie, “If you really want to put a bomb in theaters, do what I did put in The Love Guru.”

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Amy Pascal Called Sandler An ‘Asshole’

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And this time, it’s been revealed that comedian Adam Sandler was reviled at the studio.

Although Sony announced it won’t release its controversial Kim Jong-un assassination film The Interview, more embarrassing information has come out.

In the latest leaked emails, obtained by The Daily Beast, infamous Sony chief Amy Pascal complained that Sandler wanted a whopping $200 million from the studio to do a movie version of the board game Candyland.

“Adam is an asshole and this is more his fault than anyone’s but what we did was not communicate with each other and make assumptions,” Pascal wrote in an email after a meeting with the Happy Gilmore star.

Later, Sony had issues with Sandler again when he asked for more money for his producing partner on the animated movie Hotel Transylvania 2.

According to the leaked emails, Sandler wanted Allen Covert, who also did voice work on the film, to get an extra $100,000.

Raimo Kouyate, president of production for Sony Pictures Animation, said they wouldn’t pay more as they were already at the maximum they paid for executive producers at $500,000.

Kouyate told Pascal, who replied, referring to Sandler and Covert, “They are such assholes.”

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Written by radaronloine.com

 

David Schwimmer Cast As Robert Kardashian In FX’s ‘American Crime Story’

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swim“Friends” star David Schwimmer has signed on as Robert Kardashian in FX’s upcoming miniseries “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” the network announced Friday.

Schwimmer will play O.J. Simpson’s attorney, starring opposite Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson. Sarah Paulson is set to portray prosecutor Marcia Clark.

The first episode of “The People v. O.J. Simpson” will be directed by “American Horror Story” creator Ryan Murphy. Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski will write the miniseries based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book “The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson.”

Murphy, along with Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Alexander, Karaszewski, Brad Falchuk and Dante Di Loreto are executive producers.

American Crime Story” is produced by Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions. Production begins in Los Angeles in 2015.

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Written by variety.com

 

 

 

‘Inconsiderate’ Gwyneth Paltrow Reviled

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2pbvhEE’s lifestyle company, Goop, continues to grow, but RadarOnline.com has learned that the employees helping to build her empire are less than enthused about their boss.

According to a new report in Star magazine, a source close to the company says the “consciously uncoupled” actress is also disconnected from her employees.

“Gwyneth is unappreciative and inconsiderate and expects way too much of her staff,” the source said. “She works them into the group and doesn’t know the words ‘thank you.’”

The source continued, “She has zero concept of how life really works.”

But upset employees aren’t the only issue the company is dealing with. The company has been facing financial losses over the past couple of years, as Radar has reported. Several top level employees have also parted ways with Goop since its launch in 2008, including former Goop CEO Seth Bishop, who suddenly left his role at the company in the spring

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Written by radaronline.com

 

Written by radaronline.com

 

Sony Pictures: ‘We Had No Choice’

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interSony Pictures Entertainment chairman Michael Lynton hit back after President Obama faulted the Hollywood studio for canceling the Christmas release of “The Interview,” as the studio indicated that it is still looking for alternative ways to release the movie.

“We have not caved. We have not given in. We have persevered,” Lynton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview that will air on “AC360″ on Sunday, according to a producer at the network. The segment taped Friday.

“We would still like the public to see this movie,” he added. “Absolutely.”

The studio released an official statement on Obama’s remarks shortly after Lynton spoke to CNN, leaving the door open for some kind of way to release the picture.

“Let us be clear – the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it,” the studio said. “Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice.

“After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform. It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so.”

The studio was responding to the president’s remarks on its decision to pull the movie amid threats of violence from hackers who were linked to North Korea.

“Yes, I think they made a mistake,” Obama said at a press conference, in response to a question about whether he agreed with Sony’s decision. “We can not have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship in the United States,” he said.

Sony cancelled the film’s Christmas debut on Wednesday after a majority of theater owners declined to exhibit the picture. The hackers who hit Sony evoked the memory of 9/11 while threatening to strike movie theaters that showed the film.

“The president, the press, and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened,” Lynton said on CNN. “We do not own movie theaters. We cannot determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters.”

Lynton also addressed suggestions that Sony distribute the movie on either digital or multichannel VOD platforms, but indicated that no partner has stepped up. “There has not been one major VOD distributor or e-commerce site and said they are willing to distribute this movie for us,” he said. Sony owns the online streaming service Crackle, and its unclear whether that is an option that has been considered for releasing the movie.

“The Interview” centers on a hapless talk show host (James Franco) and his producer (Seth Rogen) as they attempt to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. As Variety reported exclusively, the film’s cancellation could end up costing Sony $75 million, only part of which will be covered by insurance.

Despite the financial hit, Lynton refused to second-guess the decision to greenlight the film.

“Yeah, I would make the movie again,” he said.

Lynton has long ties to Obama, having supported him in his Senate and presidential campaigns. Obama even appeared at Sony in 2011 for a reelection campaign fundraiser on a studio soundstage.

“I would be fibbing to say I wasn’t disappointed,” Lynton said. “You know, the president and I haven’t spoken. I don’t know exactly whether he understands the sequence of events that led up to the movies not being shown in movie theaters…Therefore I would disagree with the notion that it was a mistake.”

The studio’s statement also tried to counter notions that it caved in to threats.

“Sony Pictures Entertainment is and always has been strongly committed to the First Amendment. For more than three weeks, despite brutal intrusions into our company and our employees’ personal lives, we maintained our focus on one goal: getting the film The Interview released. Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion.

“The decision not to move forward with the December 25 theatrical release of The Interview was made as a result of the majority of the nation’s theater owners choosing not to screen the film. This was their decision.”

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It was about liability…liability if something should hapeen and who would pay for it. All Sony had to do was offer either privte or public security and all would have been fine. As everything in Hollywood and America for that matter…money talks and bullshit walks.

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Paul McCartney Worked On A Song About Police Killings

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paulSir Paul McCartney is 72, and only the wrinkles give his years away.

Interviewed recently at his midtown Manhattan office suite, he seems as boyish and light-footed as he was on stage decades ago for The Ed Sullivan Show, his manner informal, his build slender and well suited for jeans and a form-fitting sweater. He’s so young in his thoughts that he will dismiss the idea of a memoir as a project for his 70s, catch himself, and dismiss a book again as if time were still a distant bother.

Memories can be found in his otherwise bright and modern office, from a small black and white photo taken of him by his late wife, Linda, to the abstract paintings by his late friend Willem de Kooning. But he is here to promote the present, a score he completed for Destiny, a first-person shooter game for PlayStation and Xbox. The premise was intriguing partly because he is no more adept at video games than he is at reading sheet music (many rock stars can’t), and because the closing song he wrote, the ballad “Hope for the Future,” captures how he looks upon the world.

“I thought, ‘Seeing it’s a shoot-em-up game, I will be the optimistic hope for the future,'” he says. “I will write something that sums up that side of the game.”

Writing songs on commission has been a pastime for McCartney since his years with the Beatles, when he composed the soundtrack for the 1966 film The Family Way. He likes the challenge of fitting a piece of music into a pre-existing narrative, comparing it to solving a crossword puzzle. One of his favorite tests was coming up with the theme song, a top five solo hit for McCartney, for the 1973 James Bond thriller Live and Let Die.

“It’s like Live and Let Die, how the hell am I am going to write a song like that?” he says. “I can’t change the title. I can’t say I’m going to write a song, ‘Live and Let Fish.’ Then you sit around and go, ‘OK, “You used to say ‘Live and let live’ …'” You work out a whole hypothesis.”

McCartney doesn’t think of himself as a personal writer in the tradition of his former collaborator, John Lennon. His songs often are less about his own life than about assuming a mood or identity. So he is as comfortable declaring “Hope for the Future” as he was confiding “I believe in yesterday,” as likely to imagine a lonely old woman (“Eleanor Rigby”) as to put in a word for “Silly Love Songs.” At times he takes on social causes, or at least tries. Having written “Blackbird” for the civil rights movement in the ’60s, he attempted a song about police killings in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

“I was thinking recently about all these protests in New York and around the country. I thought it would be great to put something down about that, just to add my voice to the thousands of people walking in the streets,” he says. “I thought it through and it just didn’t come easily. I’m not giving up on it, but it didn’t come easily, whereas some other emotions might come easily to me.”

While forever a Beatle in the hearts of millions, he keeps his mind open to all moments. He sends out tweets on occasion and texts his friends, although the fine points of Spotify are beyond him (that’s what lawyers are for). Sam Smith is a favorite young singer, and McCartney recently attended a Jay Z/Kanye West concert, found it “amazing” and praised their lyrics as “modern poetry.”

McCartney makes frequent visits to his native Liverpool, where he helped found The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts on the site of the school he and George Harrison attended as boys. And he keeps in close touch with family members and past associates, enjoying local gossip or joking with Beatles producer Sir George Martin. Loved ones speak to him from beyond. McCartney finds himself remembering his late father’s pet expressions, like “Get stripped, you’re on next,” meaning asking a guest to take his coat off. While working on a song — the melodies come to him constantly — he might summon the spirit of Lennon.

“I imagine myself back into a room with John, and I’ll think (about a lyric), ‘Ugh, that’s no good.’ And I’ll imagine him saying, ‘No, can’t do that.’ So I’m using him as a sort of judge of what I’m doing,” McCartney says.

History — the Beatles, England, childhood — follows him everywhere, whether to a White House party where young friends of the Obamas gushed like the kids of old, or a birthday party in Tokyo for his current wife, Nancy. The entertainment was Queen and Beatles tribute bands.

“I had a kind of very emotional moment when we were sitting there — it could have been the alcohol,” he says. “And I’m thinking, ‘My God.’ The power of British music finally came home to me. All the way across the world, in Japan, these guys were breaking down Queen songs, and the others Beatles songs. They were replicating them amazingly. They got all the orchestra parts on ‘I Am the Walrus.’ They may not even speak the language that well, but they speak these songs beautifully.

“I should know that we’ve had that effect, because it’s historically true. But it doesn’t always come home to you in quite the way it did that night. I was welling up and I was (thinking) ‘I can’t well up to a Queen tribute band.'”

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Written by hollywoodreporter.com

Sarah Silverman To Star In HBO Comedy Pilot

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s1Sarah Silverman is returning to HBO.

A year after the premium cable network passed on People in New Jersey, HBO has picked up an untitled comedy starring the comedian-actress, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The untitled comedy is described as a comedic look at a pathologically honest woman (Silverman) having a modern midlife crisis.

Silverman will star and executive produce the comedy. Secret Diary of a Call Girl‘s Lucy Prebble will pen the script and exec produce alongside Silverman, Ash Atalla (Trollied, Cuckoo) Silverman’s manager Amy Zvi and Dan Hine (Cuckoo).

The new Silverman vehicle brings the actress back into the HBO fold following People in New Jersey, the comedy pilot from SNL’s Lorne Michaels and Bruce Eric Kaplan (Girls) that did not move forward. That comedy centered on life today as told through the prism of an adult brother (Topher Grace) and sister (Silverman) living in New Jersey.

Should HBO’s new Silverman vehicle go to series, it would mark her first small-screen series role since Comedy Central’s The Sarah Silverman Program.

Repped by CAA, Thruline and Ziffren Brittenham, Silverman’s credits include a recurring role on Showtime’s Masters of Sex, Bob’s Burgers and Wreck-It Ralph. She recently picked up an outstanding writing in a variety special Emmy for her HBO comedy special Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles, which was also nominated for best variety special. We Are Miracles recently earned a Grammy nomination for best comedy album. She’ll next be seen in the Sundance drama I Smile Back.

For HBO, the Silverman vehicle marks its second comedy pilot in the works, joining its untitled newspaper entry from Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin (which is being redeveloped). On the drama side, the cabler still has Laughs Unlimited in the works.

The pilot order comes as HBO is preparing its next batch of offerings after picking up comedies Togetherness, The Brink and Ballers to series in addition to reviving The Comeback.

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Written by hollywoodreporter.com

George Harrison, Bee Gees to Receive Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards

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georgeBeatles legend George Harrison will receive yet another honor in 2015 when the Recording Academy posthumously gives him the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Bee Gees and Buddy Guy will also be honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award on Feb. 7 at an invitation-only ceremony. A segment of the Grammys broadcast on Feb. 8 will also be devoted to recipients of this award.

Those three artists aren’t the only ones being feted with the award this year. Pioneering country duo the Louvin Brothers, hard bop saxophonist Wayne Shorter, French composer Pierre Boulez and Texas Tejano musician Flaceo Jiménez will also receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Written by hollywoodreporter.com

George Clooney Tried To Get Hollywood To Support Sony

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gcWhile some celebrities have been very vocal in their defense of Sony Pictures following a massive cyber attack that led to the cancelation of “The Interview,” George Clooney says those voices are an exception. In an interview with Deadline.com, Clooney revealed he tried to get major Hollywood players to sign a petition in support of Sony, and all declined.

“It was a large number of people. It was sent to basically the heads of every place,” Clooney said. According to the star, parties who received the letter told his agent that they couldn’t sign in support.

Clooney’s letter — the full version of which can be read at Deadline.com — included a plea for studios to understand that the attack wasn’t just limited to Sony Pictures.

It involves every studio, every network, every business and every individual in this country. That is why we fully support Sony’s decision not to submit to these hackers’ demands. We know that to give in to these criminals now will open the door for any group that would threaten freedom of expression, privacy and personal liberty. We hope these hackers are brought to justice but until they are, we will not stand in fear. We will stand together.

As part of the cyber attack, emails from top Sony executives leaked online and were published by media outlets. One note, between Sony co-chair Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin, was widely circulated because the pair mocked President Barack Obama.

“After the Obama joke, no one was going to get on the side of Amy, and so suddenly, everyone ran for the hills,” Clooney said to Deadline.com. “Look, I can’t make an excuse for that joke, it is what it is, a terrible mistake. Having said that, it was used as a weapon of fear, not only for everyone to disassociate themselves from Amy but also to feel the fear themselves. They know what they themselves have written in their emails, and they’re afraid.”

Pascal has since apologized for the email. On Thursday, she met with Al Sharpton to discuss diversity in Hollywood.

“The jury is still out with where we go with Amy,” Sharpton said during a news conference following his meeting with Pascal. He did not call for Pascal’s resignation.

Clooney joins a growing list of celebrities who are outraged over the events that led Sony to pull “The Interview” from theaters. Judd Apatow, Aaron Sorkin, Steve Carell, Ben Stiller and many others have spoken out in the last few days as well.

“I think every business has the right to do whatever they want, but when — en masse — all of these businesses decide not to present a movie, they’re basically setting themselves up for other people to threaten them,” Apatow told Los Angeles Times reporter Amy Kaufman. “Our community is based on freedom of expression. Are we going to suppress ourselves every time someone posts something online? It’s a dark future.”

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Written by huffingtonpost.com

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