In the wake of Paul Walker's death (revealed today to be "combined effects of traumatic and thermal injuries"), Fast & Furious 7is going on indefinite hold. The movie was facing a tight turnaround to follow up this year's successful sequel; the July 2014 release date will likely be rescheduled. A statement says NBCUniversal is "committed to keeping Fast & Furious fans informed." Meanwhile, a portion of Fast 6 DVD sales will be funneled into Walker's charity, Reach Out Worldwide, "a network of professionals with first responder skill-sets who augment local expertise when natural disasters strike in order to accelerate relief efforts."
Love "Thriller" but get too spooked by the Vincent Price intro that haunted your childhood nightmares? Try this new one, with Britney Spears doing a different accent and affectation — including some embarrassing duds — for each line. She also tells us "It's Britney, witch" and does some prop work that rivals the chair dancing from "Stronger." It's deeply weird, but also fun to see Britney just being goofy.
This Sunday night on CBS, the 65th-annual Emmy Awards will celebrate the year in television excellence. Like most meth-addled Americans, I won't be watching — at least not live. Instead, I'll be tuning in to AMC to watch some truly excellent television in real time, a.k.a. the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad.
Still, many, many people will watch an Emmy ceremony that is likely to be among the most unpredictable in recent memory. (And by "many, many people" I primarily mean those of you with ready access to multiple screens, those with a lack of interest in the endgame of certain New Mexican science teachers, and/or those with an unquenchable fondness for Neil Patrick Harris production numbers). And so please consider the following as a guide to the moments to watch for — six potential upsets, shockers, and game-changers, a.k.a. the times you definitely don't want to be getting up for more guacamole. Save that for Best Actress in a Drama — unless you've forgotten the names of Claire Danes's publicist, manager, and husband over the past year. And save some guacamole for me.
Vanilla Ice has a Wikipedia page that is roughly 500 times the length that you would expect it to be. I'm kind of stuck on the paragraphs describing how he let his friends tattoo him when he was on a drug binge and the chronicle of when his pets, a wallaroo and a goat, ran away. There's much more — battery charges, motocrossing, Juggalo wrestling — and Ice, a.k.a. Rob Van Winkle, is going to be adding to his own personal canon in 2014 with a DIY Network show called Vanilla Ice Goes Amish. The show is a follow-up to Van Winkle's Vanilla Ice Project, but this time he's going to a settlement in Ohio and leaving his power tools behind. I think his thoroughly modern facial hair will look very becoming with a wide-brim straw hat and some suspenders. Hand-churned Vanilla, artisinally chipped Ice.
Miley gave her first post-VMAs interview to MTV: "We’re three days later and people are still talking about it. They’re overthinking it. You’re thinking about it more than I thought about it when I did it. Like, I didn’t even think about it ’cause that’s just me."
Kate Mara was a no-show for the Emmy announcements this morning, broadcast as they have been since time immemorial from the steerage class mess hall on Les Moonves's war yacht. Airplane trouble was to blame — the actress was reporting a story for Slugline in Arizona — but no matter, because the pre-dawn ceremony was about the only place where her House of Cards didn't make an appearance. The doomy Netflix original crashed the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards in a big way, garnering nine nominations in major categories ranging from dramatic actor (Kevin Spacey) to dramatic actress (Robin Wright) to dramatic clavicle (also Robin Wright). That means the happiest person in Hollywood this morning isn't actual Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris, whose celebrated podium charm replaced Mara at the last minute. It's Reed Hastings. This was exactly the outcome the Netflix CEO was envisioning when he outbid HBO for 24 episodes of the David Fincher–helmed Cards. Hastings knew his company needed the strong appearance of quality, if not the thing itself, in order to get attention and respect from a dubious industry. Regardless of whether Netflix actually goes home with any awards on September 22 — Jason Bateman was also nominated for Arrested Development; I have a feeling Spacey is taking the trophy — Hastings has successfully evolved his company from red envelopes to the red carpet.
That was the biggest takeaway from what felt like a transition year for the Emmys. All of the old favorites were nominated — and, in the case of Dame Maggie Smith, I mean that quite literally. 30 Rock received 13 nominations for its phenomenal final half-season and even a wheezing The Office grabbed a writing nomination for series adapter Greg Daniels's tasteful finale. The casts of Modern Family and Downton Abbey once again clogged up the ballots in the comedy and drama categories, leaving little room for fresh blood like New Girl and The Americans. While, speaking of blood, Game of Thrones (16 nominations) and American Horror Story: Asylum (17) treated the technical and miniseries categories the way Walder Frey treated guests at the Red Wedding. Boardwalk Empire was the only formerly major player to fall off the map this year (10 nominations, but mostly for hairstyling and costuming), and it's probably best to think of that not as a snub (although the second half of Season 3 did improve considerably) but as the first sign of big changes to come.
Plenty of people like to say "TV is the new movies." It's meant as a compliment: Look at all this great writing and non planet-exploding storytelling! But more and more it's starting to appear accurate in a less positive light. Though plenty of excellent, intricate character-based dramas remain, increasingly it seems that The Shield creator Shawn Ryan's words to me two years ago were prophetic: The huge debut of The Walking Dead was television's "Jaws moment," a ratings smash so huge it doesn't just change the bottom line for a network, it moves the goalposts of success for an entire industry. On most channels — including AMC — the age of auteurism is over, replaced with a potentially more stable slate of preexisting properties and pre-sold genre indulgences. Cable had its decade run of chasing gold statues. Now it's mostly chasing gold.
Earlier this week I wrote about how Sundance Channel is attempting to counterprogram this rising tide of Blockbusterism with an indie sensibility. But it's also worth keeping an eye on television's smartest executive, John Landgraf, who has built a remarkably successful record for himself at FX by both beating his competitors and joining them. When I recorded a podcast with Landgraf a few weeks back, he brought up The Walking Dead twice without any prompting. The first time it was in reference to current shows he had some regrets about passing on — though his reason for doing so, that he couldn’t quite "see" where nihilistic zombie slaughter could go as a series, has been justified creatively if not financially. The second and more interesting reference was to shows he'd like another crack at: Again he mentioned The Walking Dead.
Why was House of Cards antihero Frank Underwood a Democrat? "If we had made Underwood a Republican, it might look as though we are trying to take cheap potshots and that the show has a political agenda. But the show doesn’t have a political agenda, so making him a Democrat has an ancillary benefit of hopefully diminishing anyone’s thoughts about this show having some sort of political point of view or agenda that we’re trying to push." I see!
It turns out that Chris Ryan and I are slow bingers. One month after the entire first season of House of Cards was dumped onto Netflix's servers like a half-rack of ribs at Freddy's, we finally managed to digest all 13 episodes. If we held back in the watching, though, we certainly didn't in the discussing: We attacked this thing like Frank Underwood sinking his teeth into a side of Freddy's delicious slaw, breaking down everything from the feng shui of free-spirited photographers and the gravity-altering intensity of Robin Wright's neck bones to the confounding mysteries of lady journalists and their backward-buttoning sweaters. All spoilers apply here, and we're not talking about Major Dad knowing how to speak Chinese.
This Tuesday, Molly Lambert, Tess Lynch, and I convened in the hallowed studios of the Grantland Network, poured some freshly filtered water into those B.S. Report glasses, and kicked off our inaugural episode of the podcast that we're gonna call GrantlandW for now to talk about TV, the Internet, and other pop culture matters close to our hearts. We start things off with a (spoiler-free for the second half of the series) chat about House of Cards and the perennial Mara sister debate. Final verdict: We all love Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes, Rooney Mara is a great actress, and it's not a competition, guys. We also get into it with our alternating respect for and frustration with Girls and our even bigger frustration with the majority of the criticism about Girls. Is it our responsibility, as members of its titular gender, to support Lena Dunham's ever-controversial series, or should we hold it accountable the way we do other shows? Most importantly, have our feelings about Adam changed?
From there we somehow stumble onto a discussion of the 12th season of American Idol, and the line in the sand is drawn between Team Mariah and Team Nicki. We also discuss our mixed feelings about the highly addictive, highly suspicious Catfish: The TV Show and reminisce about the good old days when you didn't need Facebook to meet weird strangers off the Internet. Finally, we take a brief survey of our varying levels of apathy about the Academy Awards, which we may be too busy looking up exotic insects and stoner music videos on YouTube to care about.
The day after the Super Bowl is usually reserved for hangovers, trips to Disney World, or, if you're one of the other members of Destiny's Child, picking up a few extra shifts at Gimbels. (I kid! Luv u, Kelly!) But a case of the Mondays isn't enough to stop Chris Ryan and me from podcasting. Especially when there's so much to talk about!
Inevitably, we started by discussing the Beyoncé concert that broke out in the middle of a football game. Was this one of the best halftime shows ever? Or did it lack a purple-obsessed sex elf masturbating with an electric guitar? (I mean, it definitely did lack the sex elf. That's not up for debate.) Perhaps inspired by the impressive Mrs. Carter, we then went deeper into music, talking about the surprise new My Bloody Valentine album and the surprise-ier reunion of Fall Out Boy (something predicted by the Hollywood Prospectus show back in December!). What do these developments have to do with drinking lite beers with members of the Ruff Ryders in midtown Manhattan? And what, exactly, does Nas have to do with Chris's love life? You'll have to listen to learn more.
House of Cards begins with a bang, followed immediately by a whimper. A hit-and-run has broken the smug, moneyed calm of an immaculate Georgetown street; an unseen dog lies on the curb, dying. From the low POV of the expiring pooch we see Kevin Spacey, natty in a tuxedo, emerge from a townhouse and address the camera. "There are two kinds of pain," he intones, fiddling with his cuff buttons. "The kind that makes you strong, and useless pain." Spacey's character, South Carolina Congressman Frank Underwood, has no time for the latter. We know this because he tells us directly: He's the rare sort of man willing to act, to "do the unpopular thing, the necessary thing." We also know it because in the midst of this monologue, he kneels and calmly smothers the dog to death with his bare hands.
As far as introductions go, it's a memorable one. But then Cards was constructed specifically to make a big impression. An adaptation of the highly regarded 1990 BBC miniseries of the same name, the project is the first original series to be bankrolled by Netflix. And, in order to draw your attention from midnight binge streams of Say Yes to the Dress and Cake Boss, the former envelope company backed up the Brinks truck to secure top-flight talent, including Spacey and executive producer David Fincher, who directed the first two episodes. Like a fish sidling up to a poker table full of whales, Netflix also had to pay a premium to snatch the project away from more established content farms like HBO and Showtime; it did so by guaranteeing, sight unseen, 26 episodes, spread out over two seasons, at a cost of over $100 million. (Netflix isn't exactly NPR, but it's hard not to feel like I had some financial stake in all this by letting those Eric Rohmer DVDs collect dust on my coffee table for the better part of 2010.) Beau Willimon, the one-time Howard Dean aide who transformed that idealism-crushing experience into a highly regarded play ("Farragut North" which was later Clooney-ized into the film The Ides of March), was drafted to Americanize the story of a scheming government minister who will stop at nothing to achieve power. Anyone who's glanced at Politico.com over the past four years — or watched The Ides of March on Netflix — could tell you that it can't have been too taxing an endeavor. The cynical Willimon probably had to resist the urge to have Underwood strangle a bald eagle.
Sometimes Chris Ryan and I talk about TV on the ol' Hollywood Prospectus podcast. Other times we talk about movies. But this time we decided to talk about both — at once. Inspired by a fun question in last week's mailbag, Chris and I discussed the long-standing tradition of adapting films from the big screen to the small (2:07). We also took some time to pitch each other on our own ideas, ranging from Chris Messina driving an ambulance to Kevin Kline cooking in San Francisco, but not speaking Chinese. Sorry, Charlie Schlatter — we'll find something for you next time out.