Entertainment News: Queen’s Gambit, WandaVision, In & Of Itself, and more

Before we get onto our usual entertainment news here are a couple of mini reviews.

First of all the new Myaima Biaslik sitcom “Call Me Kat” didn’t get any better in subsequent episodes so you can cross that one off your list. The new Ted Danson sitcom “Mr. Mayor” has nothing going for it either. We will rate it “Skip It”.

This past week I binged the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit”, the fictional account of a young chess prodigy growing up in the 60s. It’s been a big hit miniseries that many people have binged during the pandemic. I can tell you that it is everything good that you may have already heard about it. One of the best acted, written, directed miniseries I’ve seen in a long time. Don’t be turned off by the chess theme. You don’t really need to know anything about the game to appreciate the story of this orphan who struggles with her genius, fears of mental illness like her mother’s, drug and alcohol addiction, and a passion to be the best in a male dominated world. The show actually brought me to tears at one point which is pretty hard to do these days. I tend to be somewhat cynical about drama. One of the amazing things I liked about it is that there is not a lot of explanation of what is going on during the chess matches. You just figure it out by looking at the actors faces. If you’ve not seen it yet, it is HIGHLY recommended.

The other recommendation this week is a documentary/filmed stage performance called “In & Of Itself”. Storyteller and conceptual magician Derek DelGaudio performed this show for over 500 performances off-Broadway in New York. It’s sort of a one man show reflection on the nature of self and identity mixed with some amazing sleight-of-hand magic tricks. I’ve heard great things about the show when it played live and was happy to see they finally put it on film. Directed by Frank Oz this film combines footage from several performances. In one sequence he picks a volunteer from the audience to read a sort of love letter written to a father, mother, son, daughter, or friend by some stranger and asked them to read it silently as if it were written to them. Watching the emotions play across their face and seeing many of them moved to tears is a very powerful experience. Because they intercut several performances of the show we get to see their reaction of more than one person to this experience. This is a deeply personal and moving reflection by the performer about his own life growing up with a lesbian mother and his own struggles with understanding himself apart from others expectations of who he is. I have to say that hearing of the rave reviews of the live performance I was a tiny bit disappointed but I can imagine how seeing this live in a small theater with perhaps 100 or so other people would be a much more intimate experience than watching at home on Hulu. It remains however a thought-provoking and worthwhile experience that I suggest you check out.

We’ve also seen the first three episodes of the new Disney+ Marvel series “WandaVision”. The Marvel superheroes Wanda and Vision are living as a married couple in some sort of alternate reality that Wanda has created for them. She is the living embodiment of the “reality stone” in the MCU and can remake reality around herself in any way she wants. Each episode is modeled after classic TV sitcoms from different eras. The first episode draws heavily on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “I Love Lucy”. Episode 2 resembles “Bewitched”. These first two shot in black-and-white and the first episode was actually shot before a live studio audience. Episode three as hints of “The Brady Bunch” and “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and is in color. It’s keeping diehard Marvel fans looking for clues as to what’s really going on. Probably not a show for everyone except diehard Marvel fans unless you want to relive the bygone era of classic sitcoms.

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

  • A third “Deadpool” movie is coming and it will be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will guest star as a temporary host of Jeopardy. Other upcoming homes include Katie Couric, Bill Whitaker, and Mayim Bialik
  • Stephen Weber will have a new recurring role on Chicago:Med
  • HBO comedy series “Insecure” will end after its upcoming fifth season.
  • TNT have renewed “Animal Kingdom” for a sixth final season.
  • All five seasons of the original “The Muppet Show” will still be available on Disney+
  • The reboot of “Saved by the Bell” has been renewed for season 2 on Peacock
  • Tyler Perry’s series “Sistas” had been renewed for season 3 at BET
  • Warner Bros. is producing a Willy Wonka prequel film slated for 2023 release.
  • “Snowpiercer” has been renewed for season 3 at TNT before season 2 has premiered.
  • Netflix has announced that “Bridgerton” has been renewed for season 2 and will be based on Book 2 of the series. My roommate Barbara just finished binging season 1 and gives it high marks.
  • AMC announced “Eli Roth’s History of Horror” has been renewed for season 3
  • Tom Brokaw is retiring from NBC news after 55 years with the network.
  • Food Network has pulled all content for season 20 of “Worst Cooks in America” after the arrest of season 20 winner for the murder of their adopted three-year-old daughter. I guess they really were the worst in America.

Politics and Showbiz

  • SAG-AFTRA the union for movie and television workers is meeting in special session to consider revoking Donald Trump’s membership.

Miscellaneous News

  • CBS All Access will change its name to Paramount+ on March 4
  • Among this year’s Kennedy Center Honorees are Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Allen
  • Netflix now reveals they have over 200 million global subscribers.
  • NBCSN sports network will close by the end of the year with live sports being moved to either USA Network or Peacock both owned by NBC/Universal.

In Memoriam

  • Legendary interviewer Larry King. Age 87.
  • Hank Aaron baseball legend who broke Babe Ruth homerun record age 86
  • Mira Furlan who played Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the sci-fi drama “Babylon 5” and also appeared in “Lost”. Age 65. No cause of death was given but she was known to be in failing health for some time.
  • Phil Spector famous music producer who was convicted of murder. Age 81. Covid.
  • Angie Jakusz a popular contestant on “Survivor: Palau” age 40 of cancer.
  • Pilar Schneider mother of comedian Rob Schneider who appeared in several of his films. Age 91.
  • Siegfried Fishbacher of the famous team Siegfried & Roy. Age 81
  • Joanne Rogers wife of Fred Rogers. Age 92
  • David Richardson writer producer for “The Simpsons”, “Two and a Half Men” and other shows. Age 65. Heart failure
  • Richard Lindheim co-creator of the 80s series “The Equalizer” and Executive Producer of the upcoming reboot. Age 81
  • Remy Julienne famous stunt coordinator and expert stunt driver for James Bond and other films. Age 90. Covid.
  • Gregory Sierra character actor who appeared in “Sanford and Son” and “Barney Miller”. Age 83.
  • Walter Bernstein a blacklisted writer who was banished from Hollywood in the 1950s but returned to write such films as “Fail Safe” and “The Front”. Age 101
  • Perry Botkin Jr. Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning composer known for the theme from “The Young and the Restless” a.k.a. “Nadia’s Theme” age 87

Links of Interest

Imagine the Hallelujah I Would Shout If People Understood “Hallelujah” and “Imagine”

Last night the nation witnessed a moving ceremony hosted by President-elect Biden and VP-elect Harris at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the over 400,000 people who have lost their lives to the pandemic. This is my entertainment blog so I will refrain from making political commentary about that event. But I want to talk about the choice of music.

We were treated to a very moving rendition of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah”. And as moving and has touching as the performance was, like most performances of that song it was completely inappropriate for the occasion.

Did you ever really listen to any of the words of the song other than the refrain “hallelujah”? It is not a hymn for a solemn occasion. It’s a song about a bad romantic breakup and a romantic rival. Listen to the damn words! What is God’s name does that have to do with honoring people who died in a pandemic or any of the other solemn occasions in which we’ve heard this song performed?

Can you imagine what Mr. Cohen might feel to have written such a beautiful song with a specific message in mind and then to hear that song performed by people who are clueless as to the meaning of the words he wrote.

By the way the version sung last night came from the Jeff Buckley version of the lyrics which is different from the original Leonard Cohen recording. I’ve heard the Cohen wrote as many as 80 versus but only recorded four of them. In live performances he used various versions of the lyrics.

While we’re on the topic of misuse of solemn songs let’s talk about John Lennon’s “Imagine”. While its message of peace, love, and understanding is indeed appropriate for many solemn occasions and has been appropriately used by performers during times of national tragedy such as 9/11, it surprises me the extent to which that song is used in a religious context and in a patriotic context.

Did you not listen to those lyrics said “Imagine there’s no heaven”, “Imagine there’s no countries… Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too”, “Imagine no possessions.”

Is that patriotic? Is that a religious hymn? Is that appropriate in a capitalist economy?

Don’t get me wrong it’s a beautiful song. The message of peace, love, understanding, brotherhood of man… All very laudable goals. But on the other hand you could argue its communist, anti-capitalism, anti-consumerism, anti-religion. And people sing it like it’s a hymn.

Being wary of copyright infringement I will not reproduce the entire lyrics of the song is here but here is a link to another site that has the complete lyrics of these songs.

Read them. Words matter. Pay attention to them and use them appropriately.


Long-overdue Entertainment News

With the holidays and other busy things going on in my life this entertainment news blog is coming a couple of weeks late. I was trying to get one out every week.

I miss IMAX!

I’ve managed to watch at home 2 big blockbuster movies that should’ve been seen not only on the big screen but on the biggest screen IMAX. I’m talking about “Wonder Woman 1984” and Christopher Nolan’s time twisting action flick “Tenet”. Watching them at home on a 50 inch TV with the surround sound cranked up was nice but nothing like actually going to IMAX and being immersed in these fantastic worlds.

Regarding WW1984, it was everything you would hope for from the franchise. Costar Kristin Wiig in some ways steals the show by re-creating one of her Saturday Night Live character’s timid personality. Then doing an admirable job of transforming into a villain and action star even though we have to presume most of the action sequences were either stunned doubles and or CGI. Pedro Pascal as the other main villain wasn’t quite as creepy as he could have been but he was far, far away from his more famous character the Mandalorian.

Tenet had such a confusing and twisted plot in which characters and plot lines move simultaneously forwards and backwards in time that most of the time I was just along for the ride and didn’t really follow what was going on. I consider myself reasonably adept at following complicated plots but this one really stumped me at times. I think by the end I figured most of it out. There’s an article at the bottom linked that attempts to give you a spoiler filled step-by-step explanation of the story. I’m not sure it helps. Despite this, it was still a very fun ride. The special effects and action sequences were stunning and I did actually follow some of the plot which was quite interesting. I might have to buy the Blu-ray just to watch the behind-the-scenes “making of” features. I heard they shut down a highway in Estonia where some of the film shot for three weeks in order to film the huge chase scene. It set box office records in Estonia so apparently they like it. Approach with caution.

I can also report that the new sitcom “Call Me Kat” starring Mayim Bialik is quite disappointing. She plays a single 39-year-old woman who decides to use the money her parents had been saving for her wedding to open a cat-themed café. The opening episode starts with her doing a spit take and then addressing the audience. She pauses to address the reviewers in the middle of the scene all throughout the show. It’s annoying and only mildly humorous. I might give it a second look just because I like but I don’t have high hopes that it’s going to get any better. Now onto our regular news categories.

Pandemic News

  • More than 30 TV shows are extending their holiday hiatus because of Covid shutdowns
  • S.W.A.T. star Shemar Moore has revealed he is positive with Covid. Says he will be okay.
  • Kaitlyn Bristowe recent “Dancing With The Stars” winner as Covid.
  • TV Dr. Drew Pinsky after downplaying coronavirus now has code 19.
  • James Corden and Jimmy Kimmel a both returning to remote broadcasting for their shows because Los Angeles County has such a big Covid surge.
  • The Grammy Awards in LA have been postponed from January 31 tentatively to March 14 which happens to be the same day as the SAG-AFTRA awards and they aren’t too happy about it. Tony nominated “Mean Girls” will not be returning to Broadway whenever it reopens.

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

  • Hulu has canceled Marvel series “Helstrom” after one season.
  • Fox has ordered a reboot of “Fantasy Island” for the summer of 2021.
  • “Servant” has been renewed for season 3 by Apple TV+
  • The plan reboot of “Lizzie McGuire” plan for Disney+ has been canceled.
  • HBO Max has renewed “Flight Attendant” for season 2.
  • Netflix has renewed “Locke & Key” for season 3.
  • Jim Carrey has announced he will not continue to play Joe Biden on SNL. Cast member Alex Moffet has taken over the role.
  • Disney+ has confirmed a Boba Fett spinoff series from “The Mandalorian” scheduled for December 2021
  • CBS’ new sitcom “B Positive” has been picked up for a full season order of 18 episodes.
  • HBO and BBC have renewed “His Dark Materials” for 1/3 file season.
  • Warner Bros. and HBO Max have already approved plans for a third Wonder Woman movie.
  • Candace Bergen will make a guest starring appearance on “The Conners”.
  • Actor comedian John Bishop will join the cast of “Doctor Who” in season 13. BBC will neither confirm nor deny rumors that the current Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker is leaving the show at the end of the season.
  • The revival of “Dexter” has cast Clancy Brown as the new villain. Should be great.
  • HBO Max reviving “Sex and the City” according to Sarah Jessica Parker. Cast will reunite without Kim Cattrall.

Politics and Showbiz

  • Several media companies and others are suspending all political contributions to lawmakers objected to certification of the election. Some are just suspending all political contributions entirely.
  • Richard and Mayuni Heene that claimed in 2009 that their six-year-old son was trapped in a mylar balloon floating across the Colorado landscape, has been pardoned by the Colorado Gov.

Miscellaneous News

  • HBO Max is now going to be available on Roku .
  • Eddie izzard standup comedian who has long been known as a cross-dresser is now using she/her pronouns to describe herself.
  • Roku has brought the program library failed streaming service Quibi including never released shows. Shows will stream for free.
  • Hulu is cutting the price for US college students to $2/month.

In Memoriam

  • See the link below for TV Line’s list of TV stars we lost in 2020
  • John le Carré author of “Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy” and other famous Cold War spy stories. Age 89.
  • Ann Reinking Broadway star of Chicago, Annie, and All That Jazz age 71.
  • Jeremy Bullock actor who played Boba Fett in original Star Wars trilogy. Age 75.
  • Doug Crane animator for Terrytoons, Hanna-Barbera, and MTV. Age 85
  • Roger Berlind 25 time Tony winning Broadway producer of “Amadeus”, “Book of Mormon” and others age 90.
  • Lin Qi chairman and CEO of Chinese game developer Yoozoo and executive producer of the upcoming Netflix adaptation of Chinese sci-fi saga “The Three Body Problem” has died at age 39 after allegedly being poisoned by a colleague.
  • Bluegrass musician Tony Rice age 69
  • Phil Neikro Hall of Fame baseball player. Age 81.
  • Tuck Tucker animator for “SpongeBob Square pants. Age 59
  • Nick McGlashan Fishman who appeared on “Deadliest Catch” 33. No cause released.
  • Legendary French fashion designer Pierre Cardin . Age 98.
  • William Link TV writer producer and cocreator of “Colombo” and “Murder She Wrote”. Age 87.
  • Joe Clark high school principal who inspired “Lean on Me” age 82.
  • Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. Age 82.
  • Alto Reed saxophone player for Bob Seeger’s Silver Bullet Band. Age 72.
  • Paul Heller from producer known for “My Left Foot” and other films. Age 93.
  • Phyllis McGuire lead singer of pop music trio The McGuire Sisters. Age 89
  • MF Doom influential rap star died in October age 49 it was just recently revealed.
  • Mike Fenton casting director on hundreds of famous movies including “ET”, “Godfather: Part 2” and countless others. Founding member of Casting Society of America. Age 85.
  • Paul Westphal basketball Hall of Famer. Age 70.
  • Gerry Marsden lead singer of Gery and the Pacemakers a British rock band from the 60s. Age 78
  • Kerry Vincent judge on the Food Network Challenge. Age 75.
  • Tonya Roberts Bond Girl and “That 70s Show” actress age 65. There were conflicting reports first she was dead. Then she wasn’t. Now she is dead real.
  • British actress Barbara Shelley will. Many horror films and “Doctor Who” age 88.
  • Marion Ramsey actors who appeared in “Police Academy” films and appeared on Broadway. Age 73.
  • Neil Sheehan Pulitzer Prize winner New York Times journalist who obtained the Pentagon Papers. Age 84
  • Dave Creek character designer for animated series “Bob’s Burgers” has died after a skydiving accident. Age 42
  • Country singer songwriter Ed Bruce who also appeared as an actor in James Garner’s “Bret Maverick”. He cowrote “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys” age 81
  • Michael Apted award-winning British filmmaker who directed “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and other major films. Age 79
  • Antonio Sabato,Sr. father of jr and actor who appeared in “Grand Prix” and “Escape from the Bronx” age 77 complications of Covid.
  • Veteran soap opera actor John Riley appeared in General Hospital and other soap operas. Age 86
  • Patricia Loud matriarch of the “Loud Family” a famous PBS documentary that was the precursor to just about every reality show around today. Age 94.

Links of Interest