White Lotus
White Lotus is a lot of things: a comedy, a thriller, a showcase of career-making performances, and, above all, a lesson in being less of an asshole.
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TV News

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's "Fleabag" Live Show Is Now Available Online

Before "Fleabag" was an award-winning TV show, it was a play.

Fleabag was one of the best TV shows of the past few years.

Searingly funny and unsparing in its evisceration of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's character, known only as Fleabag, it even made an impression on Barack Obama. (It also sparked a new wave of fascination with priests, but that's another story).

Now, you can see where it all began. Phoebe Waller-Bridge's excellent TV show started out as a one-woman show and was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. From there, it moved to the Soho Theatre in 2013, and it was eventually commissioned for the screen.

Fleabag The Play is available to stream (if you're in the UK or Ireland) on Soho Theatre's streaming website, and it will become available on the website for Australia, New Zealand, and Canada starting April 10th. For US-based folks, it'll be available for two weeks on Amazon Prime starting the same date. Viewers can download the broadcast for 48 hours.

One of those London performances was recorded, and you can now purchase it for only £4—and even better, all the proceeds will go towards coronavirus relief funds.

"I hope this filmed performance of Fleabag can help raise money while providing a little theatrical entertainment in these isolated times," said Waller-Bridge, whose fund has already collected over $300,000 (including a large donation from Waller-Bridge herself). "Thank you to all our partners and to the creative team who have waived their royalties from this production to raise money for such vital causes in this unbelievably challenging situation.

"All money raised will support the people throughout our society who are fighting for us on the frontlines and those financially devastated by the crisis, including those in the theatre community. Thank you in advance to those who donate. Now go get into bed with Fleabag! It's for charity!"

This isn't the only opportunity for you to binge something of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's during the pandemic. The new season of Killing Eve, which Waller-Bridge executive-produced, will be available on the BBC iPlayer on April 13th.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) Trailer # 1 - Martin Freeman HD

In the opening pages of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Earth is destroyed. Now if that doesn't scream 2020 so far, what does?

In Douglas Adams's 1979 novel, which premiered as a radio series on BBC Radio4 in 1978 (42 years ago—but more about the significance of that number later), Earth is suddenly blown up in order to make room for an intergalactic superhighway. Now, in a year that has—after only 3 months, people—given us a contentious, confusing democratic primary, the death of Kobe Bryant, new and worsening facts about our climate and habitat at large, appalling leadership, and of course the rapid spread of and global shutdowns by the coronavirus (COVID-19), it seems impossible to turn to any source for comfort.

Enter The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: a novel that starts with the global annihilation that we might be heading for and then follows the characters as they cope with new realities, with isolation and loss, an endless information source that brings with it endless anxiety, and an egomaniacal, arrogant, selfish, attention-craving president of the galaxy.

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TV Features

6 Ways to Celebrate Twin Peaks

Mostly, coffee.

Twin Peaks Agent Dale Cooper

via Twin Peaks

On February 24th, 1989, FBI agent Dale Cooper rolled into the town of Twin Peaks and took millions of viewers on a journey they'd never forget.

31 years after that fateful day, nostalgic fans celebrated Twin Peaks Day in February. But even if you're just enjoying a good Twin Peaks watch party, here are six ways to celebrate the glorious little town.

1. Pour a cup of strong coffee for Agent Cooper

Agent Cooper's love for coffee was one of the sweetest parts of Twin Peaks, and any celebration wouldn't be complete without a cup of joe (or several). Cooper prefers his coffee "black as midnight on a moonless night," but no matter how you take it, don't wait to caffeinate.

2. Listen to the Twin Peaks soundtrack

Twin Peaks is well-known for its incredible music. From Angelo Badalamenti's hypnotic theme song to Julee Cruise's haunting, ethereal "Falling," every song from the Twin Peaks canon is worth a listen, or several thousand.

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3. Start a dream journal

As viewers know, Twin Peaks often played with the boundary between dreams, hallucinations, and waking life. To honor the show—and all the clues that the subconscious offers—you might want to start keeping a dream journal. If you have trouble remembering your dreams, try to specifically think about dreaming right before bed, or journal about the thing you'd like to see in your dreams.

4. Cuddle a log for the Log Lady

One of Twin Peaks' best characters is the Log Lady. The least you can do for her is spend some time gently cradling a log while spreading apocalyptic truths across town. Here's one of her monologues, perfect to try on your new coworker:

"And now, an ending. Where there was once one, there are now two. Or were there always two? What is a reflection? A chance to see two? When there are chances for reflections, there can always be two — or more. Only when we are everywhere will there be just one."

Here's another one to try:

"How do you feel about yourself? Are you proud of your behavior? Are you ashamed of your behavior? You know in your heart if you have hurt someone — you know. If you have hurt someone, don't wait another day before making things right. The world could break apart with sadness in the meantime."

Just try saying this to the next FBI agent that comes to your house—you won't regret it.

"The heart — it is a physical organ, we all know. But how much more an emotional organ — this we also know. Love, like blood, flows from the heart. Are blood and love related? Does a heart pump blood as it pumps love? Is love the blood of the universe?"

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5. Visit a diner in a remote small town

Twin Peaks was iconic for the way it deconstructed small-town American life, revealing the cracks in the facade and the lies that populated a seemingly ordinary place. And what could be more classically American—bright, joyful, and eerie in a way you sense but can't entirely put your finger on—than a diner? Just find the smallest, most decrepit one you can, order some pie, tip your waitress, and wait for the monsters to start showing their faces.

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6. Attempt to time travel


The best way to honor Twin Peaks is to conduct some rituals that cannot be listed here, but those who know, know, and those who do not know, shall not know, unless the knowledge is bestowed. As you time travel, avoid Bob.

TV Reviews

Hulu's "High Fidelity" Finds Its Groove with Zoë Kravitz

The new series about a lovelorn Brooklyn record store owner nods at the Nick Hornby novel and John Cusack film but successfully goes its own way.

HIGH FIDELITY Official Trailer (2020) Zoë Kravitz, Comedy Series HD

Zoë Kravitz's well-produced, gender-flipped reboot of High Fidelity plays out far better than the usual remake.

The 10-episode Hulu series, which began streaming today, takes its framework and other elements from the 1995 Nick Hornby novel and the 2000 movie starring John Cusack and builds something surprisingly relevant and new.

In the new take on High Fidelity, Rob is still an intelligent but rudderless music-loving thirty-something record store owner navigating a string of bad relationships with the help of amazing soundtracks. Only now, she's a bisexual black woman in Brooklyn, rather than a straight white male in Chicago.

However, that doesn't entirely explain why the Hulu version of High Fidelity feels so different from its other iterations.

Maybe it's Kravitz. She plays Rob with warmth and brains, tempered with awkwardness in emotional situations. It makes for a far more likable lead character than Cusack's "sad bastard," whose rage occasionally boiled over.

And because she's more likable, the people around her are also more likable. Her record store employees, Simon (David H. Holmes) and Cherise (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), are far more nurturing than the ones in the film, which included a scenery-chewing Jack Black in his breakout movie role. Unlike previous versions, Rob now also has a seemingly normal, supportive family and her ex-boyfriends don't generally seem that horrible – though her ex-girlfriend, Kat (perhaps a nod to Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played the analogous role in the film) does seem pretty awful as an Instagram influencer.

Maybe the improvement is in the writing. In the new version, the clever banter from the movie and the book have deeper ramifications. For example, to start the second episode, Rob and her employees debate whether or not to sell Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" album to a customer.

"How does it benefit society to hold Quincy's genius hostage because the dude who sang over his sh*t ended up being a full-blown child molester?" Rob says, swayed by her love of producer Quincy Jones' horn charts on the album.

"Where'd you get that from, Rob?" Cherise asks. "'Convenient Opinions R Us'?"

"You still listen to a dude who raps in a MAGA hat, so..." replies Rob.

"Having sh*tty politics and a second-grade understanding of American history is a tiny bit different than being a goddamn child molester," replies Cherise.

They keep going, touching on Charles Manson, mental health issues, and the idea that few artists are unquestionably good people, then quickly changing the subject.

Thanks to the luxury of being a series rather than a film, High Fidelity can spend some time on these interesting characters and their interesting lives and ideas. In fact, though Rob counts down his "All-Time Top Five Most Memorable Heartbreaks" in this version like all the others, the series improves the further it deviates from that original framework.

Kravitz has clearly lived with this material for a long time. (Her mom, Lisa Bonet, played the small, but memorable role of musician Marie DeSalle in the movie, and Kravitz names the club the characters hang out in DeSalle's as a homage.) She also knows its shortcomings. Though Hornby's novel was influential in popularizing the idea of boiling pop culture down into lists, 25 years later the Internet is overflowing with Top 5 lists, and every listicle imaginable has already been written. Luckily, though that construct seems a bit dated, Rob's issues with her love life—and her worries about not having one—feel timeless. And once again, the crisp writing serves her well.

"Next week, on 'The Sad Lady Show,' we're going to team up," Rob says one bummed-out night, watching her neighbor across the street also smoke a cigarette alone. "Fight the loneliness together with cats and cigarettes and reruns of 'Murder She Wrote.'"

But in this "High Fidelity," those moods never last long. Rob believes in the transformative power of playlists, and her life is always one great song away from turning around for good.

Opinion

In Defense of "South Park": TV Doesn't Define Culture (People Do)

Can one show ever really be held responsible for a culturally pervasive pattern of thinking?

Comedy Central

She-Hulk writer Dana Schwartz started a massive online conversation (debate? angry dude screamfest?) when she tweeted her take on South Park's negative cultural impact.

"In retrospect, it seems impossible to overstate the cultural damage done by SOUTH PARK, the show that portrayed earnestness as the only sin and taught that mockery is the ultimate inoculation against all criticism," Schwartz tweeted. She went on to polish her argument, recognizing that series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have seemingly reckoned with themselves over issues they felt they misrepresented (notably global warming with Al Gore and ManBearPig), and she clarified: "To be clear, I don't blame the show itself as much as I do the generation of boys who internalized it into their personalities. Which maybe isn't the show's fault!"

Sure enough, Very Angry Men™ showed up to offer slurs and death threats in response to (*gasp*) a woman expressing an opinion they disagree with online. To be crystal clear, the people coming after Schwartz are the worst kind of human trash––the sort of people who delude themselves into believing that they're intelligent and reasonable while simultaneously epitomizing every negative male stereotype in existence.

Of course, Schwartz is hardly the first person to criticize South Park's libertarian-skewed, "both sides are terrible and nothing is sacred" brand of humor. In a semi-viral Reddit post from 2015, one user made a very good argument for their categorization of South Park as a "safe space" for people who don't want their views to ever be challenged: "It's a show that teaches their audience to become lazy and self-satisfied, that praises them for being uncritically accepting of their own biases, and that provides them with an endless buffet of thought-terminating cliches suitable for shutting down all manner of their challenges to their comfort zones."

But as a member of the generation of boys who grew up with the show, and, as Shwartz suggested, maybe even internalized it into my personality to some extent, I do think that there are reasonable arguments to be made in disagreement. After all, I turned out just about as leftist as a Brooklyn-based writer can get, and I still love South Park.

Nuance is a necessity here, and that tends to get lost amidst all the vitriol online. For starters, I agree with Schwartz on her point about the fault lying largely with many of the show's viewers––the men who showed up in her comments and DMs prove that point better than any argument anyone could possibly make.

So with that common ground on the table, my main disagreement with Schwartz is that I don't believe any one show can ever be held responsible for a culturally pervasive pattern of thinking.

It's important to keep in mind that South Park is a satirical comedy. That's not to suggest it's an invalid target for criticism. In fact, the argument that "it's comedy, don't take it so seriously" is one of the most brain-dead, non-thinking arguments that constantly shows up online and, again, paints the people who make it in a worse light than I ever could. But it is to suggest that the job of satire is to hold a critical mirror up to society and that, by its very nature, any position that South Park takes is reflective of the culture surrounding it.

Let's take the 2006 episode "ManBearPig" as an example, considering it's one whereby SouthPark clearly ended up on the wrong side of history. In that episode, Al Gore visits South Park to warn everyone about ManBearPig, a horrible mythic creature that served as an allegory for global warming. The thrust of the episode involved Al Gore making increasingly dangerous attempts to catch ManBearPig, which never actually shows up. It's still a funny episode, albeit one that aged very poorly.

But even though the episode aged poorly, and even though we now know for a fact that Matt Stone and Trey Parker were wrong about global warming, it's incredibly unlikely that "ManBearPig" actually convinced anyone that global warming wasn't real. Back in 2006, global warming was not as accepted as it is today. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth came out in the same year, and while it majorly shifted public awareness around global warming, doubt was still a lot more prominent. The movie's liberal sentiments and scientific accuracy were criticized in publications like The Boston Globe and even ScienceDaily, which would be inconceivable in the modern day.

People who believed the science surrounding global warming in 2006 were not going to be convinced otherwise by South Park. Similarly, anyone who took South Park's sentiments at face-value was almost certainly not someone who would be doing research for themselves in the first place.

Therein lies the main point here. South Park can't be held responsible for the beliefs of its viewers. Anyone who uses a show like South Park as a form of confirmation and protection for their beliefs is, at best, deeply ignorant, and someone like that is going to be ignorant regardless of whether or not they have a show like South Park to back them up.

When I was a suburban edgelord sh*thead in the mid 2000s, I agreed with South Park's general outlook on the world much more than I do now. But I wasn't an edgelord sh*thead because of South Park. Plenty of angsty teens going through puberty act like assh*les, and that was a fact long before South Park ever existed. Moreover, my political views were shaped far more by the conservative household I grew up in than they ever could have been by a TV show.

But as people grow up, they mature and hopefully question the "f*ck anyone who cares about anything" ideology that tends to plague angsty high schoolers. Of course, the people who cling to that outlook tend to become adult assh*les, but the ability to make it through adulthood while staying closed off to outside world views is much more closely related to complex, systemic socioeconomic issues (class mobility, the ability to afford a higher education, freedom to travel/leave one's hometown) than it is to what a person watches on TV.

Even as someone who strongly disagrees with a lot of the political views that South Park currently suggests, I still find the show funny. I enjoy the PC Principal character, for instance, and I like being able to laugh at some of the more absurd elements of my own opinions and beliefs. It's important to note, though, that I don't face the same sort of discrimination as someone who is non-white, non-male, or LGBTQ+. I'm capable of admitting that South Park can be genuinely super-problematic on a lot of issues (first and foremost, its frequent transphobia) and that I fully understand the reasons that a lot of people dislike the show and refuse to watch it. Not liking a show is valid, as is calling out the ideologies it supports.

But the truth is that TV shows, even incredibly culturally prescient ones, don't dictate people's views. People are either interested in doing the work or they're not.