How genre shows like ‘Stranger Things’ are shaping TV

No question: Genre shows have been having a banner decade. “Game of Thrones” won Emmys for top drama series four times. “Mr. Robot,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “American Horror Story” are regular nominees. Amid peak TV’s ongoing moment, on every platform, science fiction, fantasy and horror regularly get the prestige treatment.

But there’s something … lacking. And if you ask Seth MacFarlane, creator and star of Hulu’s “The Orville,” it can be summed up in one word: pies.

“There were brief moments of levity from [Peter] Dinklage in ‘Game of Thrones,’ but something like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ — that’s more the norm,” he says. “I love it, but every once in a while I think, ‘Could someone just throw a pie?’ ”

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Why risk launching a whole new TV series when you can build on an existing one?

“Dick Wolf and I were in Chicago for the shooting of the ‘Chicago Fire’ pilot, freezing … our asses off on this bridge, and Dick was saying, ‘We’ll do a medical show next, and we’ll have three of these on the air in the next three years,’” recalls Peter Jankowski, who now executive produces NBC’s “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Med” and “Chicago P.D.” “It took four years, though.”

Once upon a time, the notion of three shows on the air under the same brand, taking up an entire night of prime-time broadcast real estate — which the “Chicago” shows do — would have been an extraordinary feat. But in this extended golden era of 500-plus TV series on multiple platforms, the “Chicago” story is really a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses exercise. More and more creators and networks are turning not to original content for new programming but to expanding the universes they already have.

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Narration can get a bad rap. For these stories, it’s a truth portal into a character

“When I realized that the way to do ‘Atypical’ properly was to do it from Sam’s point of view, I got so mad at myself, because I knew it was going to be challenging and I knew I wanted to do it right,” says “Atypical” creator Robia Rashid. “Because Sam has trouble saying what’s in his head — so having voice-over really helped us to ‘get’ him.”

Voice-over narration is a tricky stylistic choice; it gets dunned for being a “tell not show” form of storytelling, and doesn’t often work. But series including “Atypical,” “The Goldbergs,” “Why Women Kill,” “High Fidelity,” “black-ish,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Mr. Robot,” “Batwoman” and “You” all prove that done right, voice-over can be a poignant, intimate shortcut to getting into a key character’s head.

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Bradley Whitford, architect of disturbing dystopian future? Yes, and he sings too

Bradley Whitford knows what you think of him: He’s Josh Lyman, the earnest Deputy Chief of Staff on “The West Wing,” the role he played from 1999-2006 that earned his first Emmy. (“It’s probably the first line in my obituary,” he quips.) But Whitford has aged into roles that showcase his range: as a singing choirmaster on NBC’s “Perfect Harmony” and a troubled architect of dystopia in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” (which earned him his third Emmy last year). Zooming from home mid-quarantine, Whitford spoke with Randee Dawn for The Envelope about versatility, Clint Eastwood – and how his beliefs have guided his career choices.

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How novelist Michael Chabon lured Patrick Stewart back to the ‘Star Trek’ universe

Longtime “Star Trek” fans can skip ahead. For those a little newer to the vast “Trek” canon, which has gone boldly etc. etc. since 1966, here’s a summary: As Captain (later Admiral) Jean-Luc Picard, Patrick Stewart helmed the Enterprise on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” from 1987 to 1994 (and in multiple feature films), becoming one of the franchise’s most beloved characters. Michael Chabon, who cocreated CBS All Access’ “Star Trek: Picard” this year, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and TV newbie but a lifelong “Trek” fan.

The Envelope transported them to the Zoom universe to find out how it felt to send Picard back into space — while also altering him entirely.

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Depressed? Sure. But ‘BoJack Horseman’ brought plenty of laughs in its run

Few TV births are preserved in virtual amber, but “BoJack Horseman” creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg can point to the exact moment his show was born, which he shared on Twitter in March: A screen capture of an email he sent in 2010 to former high school buddy and comic artist Lisa Hanawalt: “Hey, do you have a picture of one of your horse guys, by himself? I came up with this idea for a show I’d like to pitch. Tell me what you think: BoJack the Depressed Talking Horse.”

A decade later, BoJack the depressed talking horse has hung up his hat, following six seasons, 77 episodes on Netflix, and two prime-time Emmy nominations. With him goes the legacy of one of the most unusual, insightful, adult animated TV series ever. And yes, that five-word concept Bob-Waksberg sent out in an email described the show to a T.

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TV in the time of COVID-19: Why we flock to stories of pandemics and other disasters

When “Brockmire” creator Joel Church-Cooper decided to push his IFC satire about a disgraced sports announcer 10 years into the future for its fourth and final season, which began airing in March, star Hank Azaria had doubts.

“I was a little skeptical of going there,” says Azaria. “He was imagining where we might end up as a society — and it included a pandemic.” Specifically, a Lassa fever epidemic with such a high body count that people can’t be buried: They’re being burned. (Also, temps on the East Coast are a balmy 115 degrees and the Southwest has collapsed into Disputed Lands.)

Adds Azaria, “Who knew that it wasn’t 10 years away — it was 10 minutes away?”

Long before COVID-19 changed the course of our daily lives, TV writers had spent countless hours finding ways to entertain audiences with dystopias, apocalypses and disasters. And while indulging in end-of-the-world (or change-of-world) scenarios might seem tasteless in the middle of a real-life pandemic, audiences actually began flocking to these topics as the novel coronavirus took hold: In late March, Netflix’s top titles included films like “Contagion” and TV series like “Containment.”

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Making inroads for women behind the scenes in television one step at a time

The good news: The number of women working behind the scenes in television is growing. The bad news: It still ain’t great. In the 2018-19 broadcast television season, women made up just 31% of all creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and directors of photography on comedies, dramas and reality programs, according to the annual “Boxed In” study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. And if you think the relatively newer fields of cable (basic and premium) and streaming might have led to more progressive hiring, think again: It’s still 31%.

Still, it could be worse: TV is better for women than feature film, according to the center’s “Celluloid Ceiling” study. There, women comprise just 21% of those jobs, a number that’s remained steady since Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center, started keeping records in 1998.

Which leads to the big question of why TV is friendlier to women — and also why women still struggle to achieve parity, particularly in this extended golden age of programming?

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Necco Wafers candies make a sweet comeback after 2-year absence

If you’ve been craving the classic candy known as Necco Wafers, for the past two years, you’ve been out of luck. Amazon doesn’t have them. Ebay might — for a price — but bear in mind that any rolls would be at least two years old.

Soon, that’s about to change.

This week, in an exclusive interview with TODAY Food, Kirk Vashaw, the chairman and CEO of Spangler Candy, revealed that fresh rolls of Necco Wafers are set to hit store shelves in just a few days.

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Candace Cameron Bure Drops Spoilers for Hallmark’s ‘Aurora Teagarden’ & Reveals the Soap She Watched for 10 Years

Candace Cameron Bure began her acting career at 6 with guest roles on TV series, but she progressed quickly to a career-making role on Full House, where she played D.J. Tanner from 1987 – 1995. More recently, she took another spin in the role in Netflix’s sequel series Fuller House, but she’s also carved a niche for herself making what she guesstimates is about 25 Hallmark Channel movies. Her latest feature is a return to form, as she plays the title character in Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek on Sunday May 17 on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. She talked to Soaps.com about being “kick butt” as Aurora, yearning for a manicure, and the soap that kept her entertained for a decade.

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