This week the long-running comedy show Saturday Night Livehired Sasheer Zamata as a new cast member. The show had come under criticism for its lack of diversity, especially its lack of black women; Zamata will be the show's first female African-American cast member in six years.
My two favorite film critics, A.O. Scott and David Edelstein, appear on the show today, and we've got a longer list of topics than we can possibly get to. I'm interested in the way a lot of the recent hit movies take little bites of our recent past: "Inside Llewyn Davis" tackles 1961. "American Hustle" bestrides the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s. "The Wolf of Wall Street" started with the Crash of '87 and pans forward into the 1990s. Suddenly, for Baby Boomers, the stretch of our living memory is a series of period pieces and costume dramas.
When you think about what Downton Abbey has achieved, and is continuing to pull off, it's actually pretty remarkable. In an era when the most acclaimed TV series of the decade is an edgy cable drama about a dying, meth-making criminal, Downton Abbey draws similarly large audiences on broadcast TV — public TV, at that — with an old-fashioned soap opera about servants and household staffers and those they serve. As Season 4 begins on PBS, Downton Abbey is the most popular drama in the history of public television.
Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 8:35 am
Are we witnessing the twilight of DVD and Blu-ray?
Kinda-sorta. With the emergence of various digital distributions systems — streaming and downloading through your laptop, your cable system, your game console — it's easy to see how these discs will be the next physical media formats to fade away. DVD and Blu-ray could well go the way of CDs and vinyl, becoming a niche boutique market for collectors.
Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 11:00 am
Here's why picking a Top 10 list of best TV shows has become such treacherous work for critics this year: Quite simply, 2013 was the year quality exploded in the television industry.
Thanks to the simultaneous maturing of Netflix, AMC, FX, HBO, Showtime, Amazon, BBC America, Sundance Channel, iTunes and many more media platforms, fans of great television had more options than ever to find high-quality product whenever and wherever they liked.
About a year ago I needed, for reasons not worth delving into, to learn "People Will Say We're In Love." If you're going to study a song -- maybe play it 20 times over a couple of days until the lyrics and changes are second nature -- you better pick a version you like. So I sampled a few dozen covers on iTunes and wound up picking a jazz singer -- previously unknown to me -- named Rachael Price. Rachael just swung it, and she had a low, throaty edge that I liked.
There are some holiday songs that should banned. I'm sorry, Burl Ives, but there's really no reason for anybody to have to hear "Holly Jolly Christmas" ever again.
And Little Drummer Boy? There's almost no way to describe the sinking feeling that tune gives me. Except, well, to call it a sinking feeling. On the other hand, I don't mind Mariah Carey singing "All I Want for Christmas Is You," but my producers are pretty much coming though the glass of the control booth at me for saying that.
"It was a miraculous year," film critic David Edelstein tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. At a time when Hollywood is churning out Blockbusters and superhero movies that are guaranteed to make money at home and overseas, "it's really great when so many interesting movies, somehow or other, manage to bleed through," he says. " ... You really feel as if directors are taking chances in their storytelling. They are creating a new syntax for every story."
Kevin Spacey (left) and Robin Wright star in <em>House of Cards, </em>directed by David Fincher. The Netflix series, which follows a Machiavellian politician, is an adaptation of a BBC series of the same name. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/01/31/170465471/spacey-and-fincher-make-a-house-of-cards">Hear an interview with Spacey and Fincher</a>.
Credit Patrick Harbron / Netflix
Bryan Cranston (left) stars as chemistry teacher turned meth dealer Walter White, and Aaron Paul plays former student and drug-dealing co-conspirator Jesse Pinkman in AMC's <em>Breaking Bad</em>. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/10/03/228813142/breaking-bad-writers-this-is-it-theres-no-more">Hear an interview with the writers of <em>Breaking Bad</em></a><em>.</em>
Credit Ben Leuner / AMC
Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan portray pioneering sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the Showtime series <em>Masters of Sex,</em> based on a book by Thomas Maier. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/07/30/206704520/pioneering-masters-of-sex-brought-science-to-the-bedroom">Hear an interview with Maier</a>.
Credit Craig Blankenhorn / Showtime
Taylor Schilling plays Piper Chapman in Netflix's <em>Orange Is the New Black</em>, which is based on Piper Kerman's memoir of her year in prison. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/08/12/211339427/behind-the-new-black-the-real-pipers-prison-story">Hear an interview with Piper Kerman.</a>
Credit Jessica Miglio / Netflix
Bob Stookey (Larry Gilliard Jr.), Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan), Tyreese (Chad Coleman), Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) on AMC's <em>The Walking Dead</em>.
Credit Gene Page / AMC
Carrie Underwood played Maria in NBC's live production of <em>The Sound of Music</em>. "If you give people reasons to watch live TV, or TV at the same time, they still will," says Bianculli.
This was a good year for TV, says critic David Bianculli, and that had a lot to do with two new shows from Netflix: House of Cards, the American adaptation of the BBC political thriller series, and Orange Is the New Black, a dramatic comedy which takes place in a women's federal prison. "I was very impressed with the overall quality of what Netflix gave us," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "... That was quite a string of good shows."
So, without further ado, here's Bianculli's top-10 TV list for 2013:
Here are the topics for The Nose today -- and this week we had to throw out a lot of perfectly good ones because there were so many:
We pretty much have to tackle the controversy around Duck Dynasty. One of the real life characters in the reality TV show gave an interview in which he aired his strong religious views, which included multiple denunciations of homosexuality as a sin.
Nothing's sacred in <em>We Are Miracles</em> — but then as Sarah Silverman <a href="http://www.npr.org/2010/12/31/132489395/sarah-silverman-playing-the-dummy-for-laughs">told Terry Gross in 2010</a>, "there's a safety in what I do because I'm always the idiot. ... I'm always the ignoramus no matter what I talk about or what tragic event, off-color, dark scenario is evoked in my material."
Sarah Silverman is funny — sweet, bawdy, innocent, outrageous, Emmy-winning, milk-through-your-nose funny. And her new comedy special, We are Miracles, debuts tonight on HBO.
Performing in front of a live audience, the comedian takes on religion, pornography, childhood, politics and stereotypes, and no one's left standing. (No really: One punchline involves Hitler being assigned "Heil Marys" as penance.)
Silverman tells NPR's Scott Simon that she thinks good comedy comes from "some kind of childhood humiliation or darkness."
Today, on The Nose, well we can't entirely ignore the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, but the subject is so vast we can only break off one little part. We're going to focus on an essay by Adam Gopnik and published in The New Yorker a couple of weeks ago. Gopnik probes the question of exactly what changed as a result of the crime and its murky aftermath.
Shonda Rhimes says the Washington she's created for the political drama Scandal is a dark, amoral one — and "a little Shakespearean," in the way it's a place where big themes play out among powerful people who aren't afraid to make bold moves.
"In the world of the show, [our] America sees Washington as this fairy-tale-beautiful place, and everybody who works there is really helping keep that illusion alive," the series creator tells Morning Edition's Renee Montagne.
Ok, Ok, you're a super-rational public radio listener but you live in a place drenched in supernatural legend. In fact, historians like David Hall and David Hackett-Fischer have argued that the new world was imbued with notions of magic and superstition from Jumpstreet. One of the paradoxes of the Puritan migration was that even as they imported a belief system that rejected popish superstition in favor of what they saw as leaner, cleaner Calvinist faith, they somehow also brought all kinds of magical nuttiness. And, you could say it never left.
Austin Newman, 10, of Menlo Park, Calif., is not allowed to play video games during the school week. His mother, Michelle DeWolf, says she had to take that step to keep her son focused on his homework during the week.
I don't know why we love it so much when anyone in front of a live audience loses their composure and bursts out into laughter. Maybe because it shows them for what they really are - human. It's so fascinating to witness a spontaneous surrender to, well, giddiness, and because of good ol' fashioned empathy, we can't help but laugh along.
A popular video this week was a highlight reel of Stephen Colbert being unable to stay in character as a pompous, self-pleased right wing blowhard. Instead, Colbert is swept up in the hilarity of the material. One of his adorable tricks is to hide the lower half of his face behind something, allowing us to see only his laughing eyes.
Watching the movie "Captain Phillips" -- in which Tom Hanks plays a commercial freighter captain kidnapped by Somali pirates -- I had a sense of deja vu. Movies like this are becoming a type. They're about the interaction between the U.S. and people who don't like us. In "Zero Dark 30" and "Captain Phillips," a crack Seal team shows up, so much better equipped and trained than our adversaries that the whole thing feels like an overmatch.
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were the real-life star-crossed lovers of the 1960s and '70s. No relationship better merited the adjective "tempestuous," and of none was that word more often uttered.
BBC America offers a dramatized glimpse of the relationship in its movie Burton and Taylor. The film focuses not on the couple's scandalous beginnings when they met filming the 1963 movie Cleopatra, but rather on their public curtain call as a couple, the 1983 Broadway revival of Noel Coward's play Private Lives.
Standup is not an easy thing to do. You might think you're funny, but funny takes on a new definition when you're stranded on stage with just a microphone, a spotlight, and a judgmental audience. Todaywe talked comedy with Jason Zinoman, first-ever comedy critic for The New York Times. While researching the show, I watched a lot of comedy (what a job I have!) so I thought it would be fun to provide you with a sampling of a few of my favorite performers. Caution: some of these sketches may contain NSFW language so, you know, don't blast it at your desk.
In the 2012 election, Latino voters accounted for ten percent of all voters nationwide - a large margin, which will only increase as the Latino population does. Between now and 2030, 40 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote.