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The first three episodes of The Following's second season have aired, and I have to say that it seems to be much of the same that made the first season sink into the morass that reduced it to "How Dumb Is This Thing Going to Become?" status. I am issuing early warning here that I will be saying some spoilery things from these episodes, so if you haven't watched them... close out of this piece now.
Let's review what has exactly happened. A new cult, or a splinter of the old one, has come to New York on the anniversary of Joe Carroll's (James Purefoy) death to try to lure him out of hiding. He apparently survived the explosion from last season's finale. They wear really creepy masks of Carroll. This is a fact that has escaped the totally annoying Emma (Valorie Curry), the one cult member that survived that whole season-ending bloodbath despite her BEING THE ONE I WANTED DEAD THE MOST. She's no longer wearing a pixie cut, instead going with a Lisbeth Salander goth look. The ones trying to get Carroll include a pair of French twins who like to kill people and then talk to them after their death, with one of them looking exactly like Christian Bale's character in American Psycho. In fact, I expect him to suddenly start talking about Genesis' Invisible Touch album.
Yeah, Carroll's alive. He's been livingin some rural town with a hooker (Carrie Preston) and her daughter, sporting a beard and baseball cap in the world's worst homage to Robert De Niro's Deer Hunter, replete with the most horrifying attempt at a southern accent. Of course, the show nudges Carroll to come out of hiding to New York. To me, it doesn't feel surprising when Carroll finally roars (or does his best imitation of roaring), "I. AM. INEVITABLE!" and then mercifully kills a priest who had discovered Carroll's real identity. No, he doesn't kill him by talking him to death, which is surprising, since Carroll loves the sound of his voice and talks and talks and talks and makes me glad I have a hearing aid to turn off to mute him. The show tries to make the killing a moral gray area, since the priest actually isn't that great of a guy because he keeps sleeping with the prostitute and leers at her daughter. But Carroll's first kill in a year doesn't make us feel anything, because we were all waiting for him to do that. A pacifistic Joe Carroll makes this show even more mundane than ever.
In the third episode, Carroll kills his hooker girlfriend after she finds the dead body of the priest. Actually, no, her daughter does it, since she is smitten with him despite his track record of, you know, KILLING WOMEN. They torch the place while Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" plays in the background, one of the most ludicrous background songs I think I've ever heard given the context. I love that song. I think this severely hurt that.
Let's not forget the the tired trope of Lily Gray, one of the first victims of the subway attack in the first episode, played by Connie Nielsen, turning out to be a follower herself. Add the fact that it had one of those aggravating chases, you know, where a pursuee (Hardy) is chasing someone (Gray) at full speed while the other person walks at an ambling gait a mere 20 feet ahead on a street and STILL DOESN'T CATCH HER. Yes, that happens here. Oh... and she's the mother of those two psycho twins. Of course.
Oh yes, how can we forget Kevin Bacon and his character of Ryan Hardy. You see, he's still obsessed with Joe Carroll, even going as far as to enlist his niece to help him out. But he's not revealing anything to law enforcement, including his former partner last season, Ice. His refusal to do so put quite a few people at risk, but he's just so tortured that he keeps all the info to himself. Bacon seems to be doing all the filming with a "I'm being paid by direct deposit, RIGHT?" expression. It's amazing he's gone three episodes thus far and hasn't been punched by someone.
I admit that I am already slipping back into my hate-watching mood when watching. Relax, dude. It's just a show. Just be entertained. The thing is, there has to be even a semblance of intelligence to even do that. When I see how sloppy the FBI seems to be in corralling these criminals, I shake my head. If they were this bad in real life, the United States would be taken over by another country in five minutes. So all I can do now is watch more and see if the show continues yet another downward spiral. Then we may be spared a third season.
Also, I'm sure that Bacon knows that his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, would have solved all this in two episodes of The Closer.
For the past nine years, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has enjoyed lasting celebration for its collection of all-purpose one liners. You'd be amazed at how frequently people manage to shout "Milk was a bad choice!" in regular conversation. But they do. Because they love it. And for my money, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has its own plump share of moments just as funny.
Admittedly, I've never found the original Anchorman to be all that uproarious. Some were hooked straight away, others grew fond of the wacky comedy over the years. But it never rang more than occasionally amusing for me. In Anchorman 2, the laughter is even more occasional. But when it hits, it's arguably more amusing. I'm thinking, foremost, of throwaway gags like the news team cackling over their mutual distaste for workdays, or plunging headfirst into an copy of Garfield at Large. Bits and pieces like these throughout the movie showcase some terrific humor, with a few of the larger conceits — like Ron Burgundy's mid-movie relationship with a beached baby shark — also landing, and hard. Unfortunately, they are separated by long, slow, dry spells. But to be honest, even this movie's dry spells rarely lose watchability.
The biggest shortcoming of Anchorman 2 can be pegged to the transformation of Steve Carell's weatherman character Brick Tamland. When we first meet Brick in the original film, he’s no more than a dimwitted weirdo, exhibiting anxiety and obliviousness in his few choice moments center stage. But such is not the case when we reunite with Brick in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. He's shouting hysterically, can't put a sentence together, and has no understanding of what is going on around him at any given time. And this doesn't work. It's not funny when Brick parades around the office like Godzilla, or takes full multi-minute scenes to wrap his mind around the simplest of concepts. Instead, it's grating. So it's quite the problem that this new Brick gets double the screentime and material of his old counterpart. Paired with an equally empty-headed Kristen Wiig, Brick enjoys his own romantic journey. There is no conflict keeping the two apart; their story just functions as a collection of interwoven scenes of two adults acting like moronic aliens — so it is played entirely for laughs. And, unfortunately, it deserves not a one.
The outstanding negatives end there. It's not always hilarious when Ron Burgundy struggles with the racial divide between himself and his new boss/ladyfriend Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), but it's consistently affable. The rivalry between Ron and ex-wife Veronica's new beau Gary (Greg Kinnear, playing a psychologist with a ponytail — and how) churns out some hearty chuckles. And kudos to the script for handing more material to David Koechner's lovably rancid Champ Kind, although I wouldn't turn my nose up at an Anchorman 2 that had more for Paul Rudd to do.
But the biggest victory of Anchorman 2 is that it actually has something to say about the news. Anchorman (likewise Will Ferrell's follow-up features Talladega Nights and the non-Adam McKay venture Blades of Glory) was primarily about gender roles and America's obsessive definition of masculinity. But Anchorman 2 looks specifically at the media, castigating the news industry for what it has devolved into. The film's message is broad, not especially constructive of a moral or solution, and not at all something we haven't seen before. But hey, it's been a while since Network, so this'll do just fine for the time being.
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The cultural phenomenon that was born from Anchorman is a rarity, reserved for special kinds of comedies that are just weird enough at just the right time. Anchorman 2 has all that weirdness in stock — hell, its climactic scene (the very best part of the movie, hands down) has more insanity in a three-minute span than the first movie does entirely. And in truth, it's worth seeing just for that. But leading up to it, you'll get big laughs, some duller (but not quite dull!) stretches, and some unexpected commentary on how America takes its news. All in all, a good time. Just ignore the Brick parts.
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Despite boasting a couple of headliners who, at one point, might have sported enough gravitas as to pull the masses in to see any feature film, 2 Guns doesn't have a whole lot of draw. The well-worn buddy cop trope gets an interesting makeover with both parties playing undercover agents for independent organizations (Denzel Washington works for the DEA, while Mark Wahlberg is a Naval officer) unaware of the other's affiliation. Throughout, both parties manage performances that invite laughter, with Wahlberg's hybrid of badass and nebbish earning particular favor. But for some reason, the film just can't seem to muster up a full dish of appeal.
Maybe it's because 2 Guns seems to be, and proves to be, a film that sets the bulk of its attention on forwarding the criminal plotline. In this area, 2 Guns offers little in the new. Yes, the dramatic irony that both Washington and Wahlberg are officers of the law, and each under the impression that the other is a bona fide crook, is a twist with some flavor. But too heavily stocked with your standard cop movie tropes — inhabited by drug cartel baddie Edward James Olmos and sociopathic CIA man Bill Paxton — the film crumbles under its decision to take its story too seriously.
When it has fun, though, it has a good deal of it.
The high points of the film are not when Washington and Wahlberg are facing off with their laundry list of enemies — criminals, fellow lawmen, former allies, you name it... nobody likes these guys — but when the mismatched pair tustle verbally with one another.
Washington's Bobby Trench is a smooth, serious, acerbic would-be loner; Wahlberg's blathering Michael Stigman operates at peak energy and volume, wearing his lust for attention and friendship on his sleeve as he works tirelessly to win over his target/partner. Their chemistry, while nothing unprecedented in the buddy cop genre, is endearing, helping to pass the hour-and-a-half occupied by 2 Guns with just enough chuckles.
So if you're already there, having wandered accidentally into the wrong theater or affixed against your will to a diehard Denzel fan's idea of a perfect night out, buck up — the comedic scenes will get you through it. But if you're on the fence, they're not quite worth heading out to the theater for.
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Tom Cruise had a real Sophie’s Choice before him: which 1960s TV series about secret agents taking on high-flying missions to defend the world against the international forces of evil would he choose to adapt for the big screen next? A fixture of the Mission: Impossible film franchise, Cruise was already set for a fifth go as Ethan Hunt when word spread that he was boarding Guy Ritchie’s cinematic take on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well. Deadline reports, however, that the blockbuster star has opted out of the latter picture, hoping to focus his energies entirely on M:I 5.
Although Cruise boarded U.N.C.L.E. with every intention of headlining both movies, even he — the man who rappelled from the tallest building in the world and claimed ownership of the most memorable episode of the most beloved talk show on television (that Oprah’s couch debacle) — had to recognize the endeavor was too grand. This is the same project that George Clooney exited back in 2011, citing the physical demands of the movie to be beyond his capabilities. Armie Hammer reportedly remains firmly on board as the second-in-command character, Illya Kuryakin. But perhaps the absence of Cruise, and his own escalating stardom, will promote Hammer to the lead position: Napoleon Solo (the greatest name in American fiction).
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It's a question Joan Rivers tells us she finds "boring," and it feels almost Seinfeldian in nature, but: What's the deal with the lack of female hosts on late night television?
It's been a few weeks since The New York Times' first reported Jimmy Fallon would replace Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, a story NBC confirmed Wednesday. And in that time, nary a woman has been mentioned in any serious context as Fallon's possible Late Night replacement. Certainly, there are plenty of talented ladies funny enough to replace him — after all, in his former post, the Saturday Night Live actor was often outshined by his female co-stars. (Hello Amy, Tina, Maya, and Rachel!) Still, with Seth Meyers as the only frontrunner, not one female's name has been brought up as a legitimate successor. Because late night is a total sausagefest.
And it has been since its inception. With very few exception, only men have been allowed to stay up late. Johnny Carson ruled the Tonight Show circuit for a whopping 30 years, with personalities like Jack Paar, Steve Allen, Tom Snyder, Joey Bishop, Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin, Arsenio Hall, Chevy Chase, Craig Kilborn, and even non-comedians Pat Sajak and Carson Daly all trying out the genre. And that's not even considering the men currently on air. With so many late night opportunities given out over the last half a century, the gender gap is a serious mind-boggler.
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So what's to blame? The fact that late night doesn't allow women to be themselves. Whereas male comedians are allowed to embrace their own style of humor for late night, female comedians are forced to change — to fit into a mold made up of the contradicting ideas about what we want from our late night hosts versus what we want from our women. History proves the genre has favored commercial male comedians to anything else — funny, class-clown types whose senses of humor are inoffensive enough to make them the everymen. Which is why folks like Fallon, Kimmel, and Leno flourish post-primetime. But when you look at some of the industry's most popular female comedians — Rivers, Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler, Roseanne Barr, Margaret Cho, Phyllis Diller, Sarah Silverman — one consistent unifier is evident: These are some bold and brassy broads. Just like Wanda Sykes, Mo'Nique, and Whitney Cummings — all women who failed on late night after failing to stay true to their comedy.
But bold and brassy is exactly what we need. We need to see different viewpoints, strong identities, and, yes, we need to be a little bit offended from time to time. In order to stand out in comedy — an industry that has long favored men — female comedians need to be tough and aggressive, traits that often end up bleeding into their comedy styles. (With, obviously, a few low-key exceptions, like Maria Bamford.) But to be a brash and opinionated woman on television is putting yourself in very sticky territory: loud, confident, opinionated women not only struggle to fit in with the mild late night comedy scene, but they also counter a female stereotype that still exists even years after women's suffrage. "Let me tell you, all women comedians, we are strong and we are lion tamers — and don’t you ever forget it," Rivers says. "We can have three little bows in our hair and [be] wearing six-inch heels, [but] we’re still lion tamers. And we go in there and we take over, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do stand-up."
The trouble is, as Fallon and Leno's success has proven, network audiences don't want to even see lions. They want cubs. And who better to sit in the late night position than the people we're already comfortable seeing in power: middle-aged white dudes. As Robert J. Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture and Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at at Syracuse University, says, "When you go down the line — especially the major players — there’s a couple of categories that link them. And those categories are 'White' [and] 'Men.'"
And, hoo boy, is he right. There's Leno, Fallon, and Daly on NBC, Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, with David Letterman and Craig Ferguson rounding out the pack at CBS. The biggest male outlier before the 2010 late night clusterf**k was Conan O'Brien, and that's really just because he's a ginger. Channel surf your way through the networks after 11 PM, and the only women you'll see will be sitting in late night's audiences. Cable, on the other hand, has been far more risky and female-friendly, but suffers from an already overcrowded late night field, with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Russell Brand, W. Kamau Bell, and O'Brien yucking it up after dark. That's a lot of competition. "A lot of women have been given a chance," Rivers tells Hollywood.com. "The ones that are good are going to stick."
But, so far, few have. Whereas Handler and Griffin have found success on E! and Bravo with Chelsea Lately and Kathy*, respectively, Wanda Sykes, Mo'Nique, Whoopi Goldberg, Rivers, and Whitney Cummings are among those who have been given a late night opportunity... only to watch it slip right through their fingers. And while MTV is attempting to strike comedy gold with its female-fronted-but-faltering Nikki And Sara Show, but as Thompson puts it, "It's different when you get put into a cable show versus when you’re put into The Tonight Show."
*One day after publication, Bravo canceled Kathy.
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And while the differences between cable and network are many, the genre still largely necessitates its women to change. Many reviews and reactions to Cummings and Mo'Nique's shows focus on the hosts' penchant for yelling — a kneejerk, low-brow humor trope that should admittedly be banished from any sort of regular use in comedy, period. (And that includes everyone, and Especially you, Dane Cook.) One fan review of The Mo'Nique Show laments about the change from a woman who "called you a b**ch and made you laugh at the same time" to someone whose "gushing over the guest and screaming 'yeeeeeees!' like a fake a$$ Oprah." Mo'Nique's noticeable change in appearance (a slimmer frame and shaved legs — something the comedian was quite vocal about not changing in the past), only proved to further disappoint fans who felt the strong-willed funnywoman wouldn't jump through such standard hoops in order to earn success. Sacrifice is always par for the course — but shouldn't come with a cost that compromises their very essence.
Cummings' stand-up routine is often described as transgressive — making jokes about sex, relationships, and the female body are run-of-the-mill topics for her. When placed on stage during Love You, Mean It, we saw a different Cummings. One that the production team felt a need to temper with the presence of her male sidekick, comedian Julian McCullough. While the thought is not an unwelcome one (a show co-hosted by a male/female duo has the potential for greatness), McCullough's presence came across as a way to reel Cummings back into what the show was really about: popular culture and entertainment. So why hire a female comedian whose jokes are primarily about love and relationships, to host a show about pop culture and entertainment? Just because she's a pretty face and a funny woman? Being female isn't a magical band-aid big enough to fix that sort of oversight.
That's not to say late night is an easy role for men either: Just recall the criticism Fallon faced during his first season on Late Night, which was far less refined than O'Brien's well-oiled machine. (Insert "oiled" and "masturbating bear" joke here.) Between the host's perma-laughter and doesn't-translate-to-TV jokes, viewers were calling for his head just episodes in. But the network maintained its faith in the comedian (thanks, no doubt, to comedy TV godfather, Lorne Michaels) and, after a season-and-a-half of Internet-friendly content, Fallon was at the top of his game, winning the Tonight Show gig a mere four years into his late night career.
But Fallon was lucky enough to be given enough time to work out Late Night's kinks. Not only was O'Brien canned less than a year after moving to Tonight — and less than one year after man fans criticized Coco's newly toned-down humor — but the women of late night haven't received much time come into their own, either. In a review of Cummings' show on E!'s Love You, Mean It, writer David Wiegand wielded a critique of Cummings' show that stated "...no one seems to laugh more loudly at Whitney’s humor than Whitney herself," something that rings eerily similar to criticism lobbed at Fallon in his early days. But Cummings' show was — you guessed it! — canceled after its first season.
In fact, of all the female-fronted late night shows, only two have lasted more than a season. Hardly seems fair, does it? Such disparities can be chalked up to the difference between what major networks can afford versus cable or the talent selection. Network executives may be simply picking the wrong women for what they want. Just look at critical response to anything Cummings seems to do. Or even Sykes' stint staying up late — though many were polarized by her bold comedic style, more people disliked the dialed-down, TV-friendly spin she put on her own late night series. To find the lowest-common denominators and risqué acts to prop up (and tone down) as tributes to the late night Hunger Games is practically asking for them to be weeded out early on. "In schools, boys tend to be rewarded for being the class clown more than girls," states Thompson. "Those kind of gender roles — even as we go generations into the women’s movement — a lot of that stuff is still, surprisingly, in tact ... If NBC had replaced Leno not with Fallon, but if they had chosen a really good female comedian, that woman would've had a real struggle, because I do think the genre, the formula of late night television, is so macho."
It's no surprise women often have to struggle to even get recognized in the first place. "I think, in general, truly — women are never looked at, primarily, as somebody funny," Rivers says. "Nobody’s ever quoted me a joke that Kate Moss did. So women already have that hurdle to go over, because they don’t ever think any woman is ... funny. And I don’t know if men want a woman that is, really. To this day. I do, all my friends are hilariously funny women. But we’re women with women. I think men just want you to be gorgeous. And available. I still believe that basically that’s really all they want from you."
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Listen, the concept of women as funny beings is debated ad nauseum. It's a stupid conversation that isn't worth having, full stop. But, as Thompson puts it, "To say 'Oh, this many women have tried and failed at late night comedy' — I don’t think we can draw the conclusion that that means women just can’t do this, or even that they were the wrong women; there are so many other variables there. When they were on, how much it was marketed, whether it was a cable channel or syndication — all those kind of things play into it."
That's not to say there haven't been some successes — even in the perceived failures. Rivers was a longtime guest host on Johnny Carson's iteration of The Tonight Show, and her ratings were often higher than Carson's. It's no wonder she was rumored to be in the running to replace him once he decided to retire. But in 1986, FOX came a-knocking and offered Rivers her own show. Naturally, she said yes. "I was the first, first permanent guest hostess on the Carson show, which is unprecedented," she says. "It was never done before in history — between me and 6,000 men. And they picked me."
When Rivers did go off the air less than one year later, it was for personal reasons, not ratings. But the conflict had little to do with her as a person — according to the comedian, the men at the top (including Rupert Murdoch and Barry Diller) did not get along. "I was told by them, 'The tail does not wag the dog,'" she says. "I was told that on a Thursday and we were off air on a Friday."
But, strangely, whereas Cummings and Mo'Nique have struck out with toned-down humor, bigger personalities have performed well in cable's late night arena. Taking a look at the women who have succeeded — namely Handler and Griffin — one thing connects them: They are who they are. No one is toning down Handler's schtick, and Griffin is still doing the same snarky, celeb-obsessed routine on her show that she does on stage. They perform well because they refuse to be anything but what they are — and it works. Right talent, right network. It was no doubt a challenge for them to reach the levels of success they have, but the pay-off has been obvious. To steal a phrase from The West Wing's Leo McGarry: it's time to let Bartlet be Bartlet. Let the ladies be the comedians that made them popular to begin with. "Their humor has balls," Thompson says. "[Griffin and Handler are] females, but they're almost working in that aggressive — what we think of as male — humor, even though that’s a very sexist thing to say." Sexism in Hollywood? No! You don't say.
But with a brawnier choice at the helm, could we find a late-night Katniss of our own? Perhaps, but it won't necessarily be easy for her, either. "People don’t want to see women in that position, even though we all know Cleopatra ruled the roost, and we all know that Marie Antoinette made the decisions," Rivers says. "[But] things have changed tremendously for women. When a woman is good, that's it: the door is open to her much more." Which brings us back to late night poster children Handler and Griffin, again. When it's right, and the metaphorical stars align (right network, right time, right show) it's just so right.
But there is still much work to be done when it comes to changing society's opinions even further. All women must push past expectations consistently and without fear. Step forth, funny ladies, and claim your throne.
For Rivers, her choice is simple: "Tina Fey — give her the job and let’s all go home." Sorry, Tina, looks like you're still the catch-all answer for the way society wants women to do comedy. But we're hopeful that it won't be for long.
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"No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough."
On Thursday, famed film critic Roger Ebert passed away from cancer — a shock to the large audience that followed his critical advice on a daily basis. His death came only days after a blog post ran in the Chicago Sun-Times, from which the above quote is pulled, that laid out his plans for the future. Although thyroid cancer and surgery had distorted the face of the man America knew from his popular film review show At the Movies, it never slowed Ebert down. According to the post, he clocked 306 movie reviews last year — not counting his numerous other blog posts and feature articles. That was just the surface for Ebert, who fostered other voices and added to the conversation on every level imaginable.
And that's always been the case.
Prolificacy came naturally to Ebert. He was hired by the Sun-Times in 1967. While it was the place at which he ended his career, it was also the entry point for his emerging style and voice on pop culture. Browse Amazon.com and you'll find that Ebert is a credited author of over 116 books, including his nearly annual Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook series, the Great Movies series, Scorsese by Ebert (an inside look at a famed filmmaker), Awake in the Dark (a compilation of his best reviews), and the infamous Your Movie Sucks: a highly regarded tome of the late author's best pans. In 1975, Ebert became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for film criticism — an honor that's only been bestowed four times since.
RELATED: Hollywood Pays Tribute to Roger Ebert
Ebert didn't just pen "movie reviews" and cast them off into a sea of cineastes. He wrote for everyone, because he knew movies of all types could be enjoyed by everyone. It didn't involved pandering, but a loose style that felt conversational and relatable. His jump to television was logical: reading Ebert was like talking to Ebert. So why not bring the act to the small screen? Ebert, along with his longtime sparring partner Gene Siskel, started Sneak Previews in 1975 as part of Chicago's local public broadcasting station WTTW, and quickly became the highest rated show on the network. In '78 the show was picked up by PBS and renamed At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. In '86, it moved up to ABC and became Siskel & Ebert & The Movies. The popularity filled a void in pop culture conversation as entertainment — it wasn't a late night show, it didn't bow down to Hollywood a la the Oscars, it wasn't the local broadcast critics rounding out the nightly news, and it predated Entertainment Tonight and the E! network. Ebert and Siskel took the arguments people had at bars and put them on television. It was unheard of. It was captivating.
The ripple effect of At the Movies may be Ebert's most important contribution. A wordsmith at heart, his television show was the gateway drug for pop culture fanatics and budding movie critics to take a moment and think. As he described it, film was important because it was "the most serious of the mass arts" and that criticism mattered because the movies mattered. That's where his influence shows its face: sift through the millions of writings on the Internet and find a unique angle, a personal love letter, or an introspective account on any given film. Any given film — blockbusters, indies, foreign, homegrown, genres from any given point on the spectrum. They all say something, and Ebert not only started the conversations but promoted them. At the Movies was a starting point.
Ebert championed personal tastes. There wasn't a "right" or a "wrong," but there were movies he didn't like and movies he adored. He was a man whose picks for the best films of their respective years included The Battle of Aligers, Apocalypse Now, Malcolm X, the sci-fi noir Dark City, and Synecdoche, New York. He would return to movies years later and reconsider them, even "hypocritically" (for those taking every choice he made as written in stone) ranking films above others — you won't find any of the previously listed films 2012 Sight and Sound "Top 10 of all Time" list. And just because someone loved it, doesn't mean he had to either. Roger Ebert hated Armageddon. Anyone who wonders why should read his review.
One of the major gripes against filmmakers is, "Why don't you try and make a movie?" as if it's necessary to know what goes into making a film to publicly wrestle, and occasionally knock, the ideas presented in one. While unnecessary, Ebert did that too. He penned Russ Meyer's shlocky 1970 flick Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, reviled at the time but looked back as a twisted piece of pop art. While his "filmmaking career" didn't pan out, Ebert remained steadfast in his role as an advocate for the arts. He wrote on the subjects that fascinated him, contributed to commentaries on DVD releases (he wasn't joking about loving Dark City), and in the final years of his life, blogged about the smaller films that needed a boost while each week delivering insight into whatever was flooding the multiplexes. After his thyroid cancer and an eventual hip fracture that impacted his ability to walk, he continued to attend the Sundance Film Festival, a pastime for the film critic who helped turn the fest into what it is today.
RELATED: Howard Stern Has a Few More Words for Ebert
There's no doubt that if Ebert had been able to vocalize his thoughts in later years, we would have seen more divisive, inspiring opinions from the critic. Vincent Gallo — whose Brown Bunny Ebert notoriously took to task for what felt like years after its debut at the Cannes Film Festival — is among the many to clash with the critic, but in the end, both filmmaker and critic were chasing the same goal. They wanted people to see and respect movies. Ebert didn't want to hate a movie, but more importantly, he didn't want people to misunderstand movies. He was ready to defend, as in the case of Better Luck Tomorrow's Sundance premiere:
At the Movies lost traction over the years, with the eventual loss of Gene Siskel and many alternatives to the show popping up on all mediums. Amazingly, that never felt like a hurdle for Ebert, even when At the Movies ended with Richard Roeper as cohost (and its short-lived revival produced by Ebert a few years later). Ebert launched his ship into the swirling microcosm of the Internet with little turbulence. He was a blogger at heart, ready to lay down thoughts on whatever topic he felt like. The politics of George W. Bush? Cooking? Video games? The last topic was one of his greatest conversation starters from the web: Ebert didn't think video games were art. He made it loud and clear. He started a vicious Internet flame war. He was pleasant the entire time. (And he even jokes in his final post about his future with the medium, supposedly working on an At the Movies mobile game app, that he was ready to argue the artistic authenticity of whenever people were ready.)
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People, both in Hollywood and those who never met him, loved Roger Ebert. He's been paid respects in all forms — few could help spoofing his rimmed glasses and "two thumbs up" catchphrase out of love, even Saturday morning cartoons. In 1997, capitalizing on his rare fame and support form his audience, Ebert began "Ebertfest," his own film festival that played host to the "under-appreciated" films of the world, past and present. Fans gathered from across the globe to see Ebert's picks. Even Patton Oswalt, upon hearing of Ebert's death, noted that missing Ebertfest was a missed opportunity:
What I wrote when I had to cancel my EbertFest appearance.Now it's one of my biggest regrets (link fixed):bit.ly/16tgyAT
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) April 4, 2013
Enthusiasm was key to Ebert's legacy. In the past, critics have pointed to his work as the "McDonald's" of film criticism, quick and easy. But that's mistaking Ebert's style for pandering. Instead, his work made the heady concepts of dramatic theory into talking points that could educate anyone's own cinematic vocabulary. A kid who spends every summer afternoon watching whatever the local theater is playing or scanning the cable airwaves or something remotely captivating was (will still be?) provoked by Ebert's short but sweet reviews. They may push that kid to seek out "films," try their hand at writing a "review," or watch a movie and look past its surface elements to "understand what they mean." Who is Frank Capra and why is Ebert namedropping him in a conversation on Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd's Trading Places? Seed planted.
Pop culture owes Roger Ebert for making demands, and anyone who takes in a movie, a TV show, a video game, a book, anything with an ounce of creativity put into it owes him for kicking them in the butt and pushing them to take it seriously. Ebert is no longer with us, but his dreams will be forever.
"So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Denver Post/Getty Images]
The little golden men have been carried away by the lucky winners. The rented jewelry is being returned. Quentin Tarantino is high-fiving himself in a mirror somewhere. Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic are weeping because E! has to put aside its 360 Glam Cam until Emmy time. And Captain Kirk is now safely back in the 23rd century. But, like the bad taste that lingers from host Seth MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” song, many questions about the 2013 Academy Awards remain. We consider it a public service to answer 10 of the biggest for you.
1. Who Was Snubbed During the In Memoriam Segment? While more than ever the Academy discouraged applause during the depressing annual segment honoring the film industry notables who’ve died in the past year—hence the lack of a true Applause-o-Meter this time around—we were crying foul about a few notable omissions from the weepy montage. Gee, pa, where was Andy Griffith? Before he played Sheriff Andy Taylor on his long-running sitcom, the Georgia native burned bright in Elia Kazan’s A Face on the Crowd (1957), as a rube turned demagogue, and showed the comic timing he’d later display on the tube in the charming military laugher No Time for Sergeants (1958). Not to mention his latter-day turn as a lovable diner patron in 2007’s Waitress. Not cool, Academy.
Less surprising omissions included Larry Hagman and Phyllis Diller, who, despite making movies, are most strongly associated with TV. The same goes for Richard Dawson, the Family Feud host who played the villain in 1987’s The Running Man. More egregious were the absences of Ann Rutherford, who played one of Scarlett O’Hara’s sisters in Gone With the Wind, Our Gang star Jack Hanlon, and Snakes on a Plane director David R. Ellis.
RELATED: Oscars 2013: See the Winners Here!
The Academy should consider itself lucky that they included Sans Soleil director Chris Marker, or we would have lost it.
2. Did Samuel L. Jackson skip over part of the teleprompter’s banter when presenting Best Visual Effects? It’s hard to tell if it was teleprompter problems or the awkwardness of having five Avengers stars presenting two awards—for Cinematography and Visual Effects—but Marvel’s Nick Fury got especially tripped up. After awkwardly getting through the cinematography award, Jackson jumped over most of the banter for Visual Effects just to announce the winner, while Robert Downey Jr. tried to stick to the script. Maybe Jackson was worried about getting played off with the Jaws theme—understandable considering his battle with sharks in Deep Blue Sea. Since no other presenters deviated from their sometimes lengthy scripts, despite the bloated runtime of the telecast, it seems Jackson made this decision without prompting from the producers.
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3. The sound editors for Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall both won in their category. How many previous ties have there been in Oscars history? There have been five previous tie winners, but none since the 1995 ceremony. In 1932, The Champ’s Wallace Beery and Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde’s Frederic March tied for Best Actor, because of a rule that allowed two people to share a prize if only one vote separated them. Beery received just one extra vote than March, so both took home statuettes. Under today’s rules, Beery would have been the sole winner.
RELATED: Anne Hathaway: Worst Dressed Ever?
At the 1950 ceremony there was a tie in the Best Documentary Short Subject category, and in 1987 there was a tie for Documentary Feature with Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got and Down and Out in America scoring the same number of votes. In 1995, Best Live Action Short film was split between Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Trevor.
But the most famous Oscar tie of all occurred in 1969 when both Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand walked away with Best Actress for their roles in The Lion in Winter and Funny Girl, respectively.
4. Where did the 2013 ceremony rank among the all-time longest? Actually, not that high. At three hours and 35 minutes it was the longest telecast since…2010, when The Hurt Locker won best picture at the end of a three hour and 37 minute broadcast. That’s still well short of the longest Oscars ever, the four-hour 23-minute sprawl that was the 2002 Awards hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. The fastest ceremony ever? The 1956 fete that lasted only a brisk 90 minutes.
NEXT: What’s up with Seth MacFarlane’s dig at Entertainment Weekly? And just who is Steve Battaglio?
5. What is Seth MacFarlane’s beef with Entertainment Weekly magazine? At the end of his opening monologue, in which Captain Kirk’s intervention had repaired the timeline and prevented MacFarlane from being declared the “worst Oscar host of all time,” a new headline appeared onscreen that said “Best Oscars ever, says everyone except Entertainment Weekly.”
Why such a pointed dig? Well, it all goes back to April 9, 1999 when EW’s TV critic Ken Tucker published a review of Family Guy. He gave the new show a "D" and never warmed to it thereafter. In the 2005 direct-to-DVD movie Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, the baby breaks the neck of a reporter the moment he learns he’s from Entertainment Weekly. Perhaps I should consider myself lucky then that I emerged with my hide after interviewing MacFarlane in 2011 for EW, after he hosted The Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump. His first words to me: “You’re from EW, huh? Have you fired Ken Tucker yet? Have you guys gotten rid of him yet?” Then on Jan. 13, 2013, he launched a Twitter war with Tucker, in which he said “Dear Ken Tucker and Entertainment Weekly: Please tell me how I may earn a review as glowing as the one you gave Urkel,” and linked to Tucker’s "A" review of Family Matters from 1990. Tucker tweeted back, “Easy: Just be as funny as Urkel once was.” Though the glossy magazine gave MacFarlane a major cover story just two weeks before the Oscars—not to mention that Tucker has left the publication—that faux headline during the ceremony shows he’s still holding a grudge.
RELATED: Ranking All 84 Best Picture Oscar Winners From Worst to Best
6. Who is Steve Battaglio? All of the fake headlines during that Captain Kirk segment were attributed to a writer named Steve Battaglio. No invention of MacFarlane’s feverish brain, Battaglio is actually the business editor at TV Guide Magazine, a publication for which MacFarlane seems to have greater affection than EW. TV Guide’s LA bureau chief Michael Schneider tweeted, “Seth MacFarlane picked @SteveBattaglio as the author of that nasty review as thanks - Steve was an early supporter of #FamilyGuy.”
RELATED: 20 Best (and Worst) Oscar Speeches Ever
7. How Does Captain Kirk’s Appearance at the Oscars Fit Into or Disrupt J.J. Abrams’ Rebooted Star Trek Continuity? Along with the realization that this is the first time we’ve seen William Shatner in the captain’s chair since 1994’s Star Trek: Generations comes the sorry recognition that we have to refer to his version of the character as "Kirk Prime," since he fits into the old Trek continuity that was almost entirely erased by J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film. Unlike Chris Pine’s Kirk, Shatner’s didn’t lose his father at the moment of his birth but was raised in a loving two-parent family, meaning that he has so few psychological issues to unpack that he can risk time-traveling to 2013 just to prevent Seth MacFarlane from being deemed the all-time worst Oscar host. Wait…or maybe this means this version of the character has even more issues than Pine’s. Then again maybe by traveling back through time, Kirk Prime erased the alternate history of Abrams’ franchise, throwing the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness into a third timeline—like Fringe! None of this addresses, though, why MacFarlane didn’t warn Kirk that he will be crushed by a bridge. That’s one do-over we really want to see.
NEXT: Are the Malfoys now Oscar winners? Take our quiz!
8. Which barber-free Oscar winner/Malfoy relative is which? These three guys are Claudio Miranda (Best Cinematography, Life of Pi), Paul N.J. Ottosson (Best Sound Editing, Zero Dark Thirty), and Per Hallberg (Best Sound Editing, Skyfall), but not in that order in the photo above. Try to match them up, then find out which one is which in the answers at the bottom of this post.
9. Were the technical nominees playing musical chairs during the broadcast? It sure seemed that way, huh? Seats were designated along the sides of the Dolby Theatre in which to place the technical nominees (for Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Makeup, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Costume Design, Film Editing) a couple minutes before the presentation of each category. That way, there wouldn’t be such a long delay as the winners march up to the stage. A good idea as a time-saving measure. Too bad this show was still 20 minutes longer than those in 2011 and 2012.
RELATED: 15 Oscar-Winning Nude Scenes
10. Is there precedent for someone from the White House crashing Hollywood’s biggest night? GOPers were crying foul on Twitter after Michelle Obama read the winner of Best Picture via satellite from the White House. They should note, though, that this is not the first time someone from Washington has been involved. Ronald Reagan recorded an address for the 1981 Oscar ceremony, shortly after taking office. And in 2002 Laura Bush also taped a segment for the first Academy Awards after 9/11.
What else about the Oscar ceremony left you scratching your head?
Answers to the Long-Haired Winners Quiz:
Oscar Victor on Left: Paul N. J. Ottosson, Sound Editor, Zero Dark Thirty
Oscar Victor in Center: Per Hallberg, Co-Sound Editor, Skyfall
Oscar Victor on Right: Claudio Miranda, Cinematographer, Life of Pi
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credits: Kevin Winter/Getty Images (3); Robyn Beck/Getty Images; Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images]
Oscars 2013 Special Coverage
Oscars 2013 Best Dressed: PICS!
• Anne Hathaway: Oscar’s Worst Dressed?• Seth MacFarlane’s Opening: How’d He Do?• Adele’s Performance Gets Mixed Reviews• 15 Oscar-Winning Nude Scenes• What Happened to Renee Zellweger's Face?• Oscars 2013: The Full Winners List• Why Kristen Stewart Was on Crutches
So, it's Valentine's Day, and you — again – are single. You could go out with your friends, hitting the town to scope out its most eligible of bachelors/bachelorettes. You could also use this rare pass you have to consume an entire bottle of red (or two) on a Thursday night, listen to some Joni, and cry. Or you could be a major whore and text your exes, and if that doesn't work, hit up the casual encounters section on Craigslist. No one is judging! (Yes, yes they are.)
But you know what? Screw that noise. Because maybe you have an excuse. Maybe you don't feel well. Maybe you're on a diet because you just moved to the city and drank too much last month, and you gave up chocolate for Lent. Maybe you just prefer the company of your cats to other human beings in general. Or maybe you're me, and it's all of the above. Either way, maybe you just DO NOT CARE about Valentine's Day. So saddle up, kids — there's a lot of good stuff on TV tonight, and despite what everyone in your office and on commericals is telling you, you are in your full right to sit on your ass alone and watch it.
RELATED: Be Mine! 6 TV-Inspired Valentines From Your Favorite Characters
If You're Longing for a Different Holiday... It may be February everywhere else, but it's still October in the hallowed halls of Greendale Community College. Community will finally air its Halloween episode tonight at 8PM, so tune in to NBC if you like joy and happiness. To make things even better, Parks and Recreation is on right after... with an episode that will feature Ron Swanson filling in for Leslie during a live TV performance. Oh Parks, you beautiful tropical fish.
If You're Searching for that Supernatural Someone... Why go outside with your REAL boyfriend when there are Salvatores on TV? The Vampire Diaries is new tonight at 8PM, with an episode that will heavily feature Jeremy's arms.
If You Want to Hear Sweet Songs About Love... Then Fox is the place to be. Not only is Glee having an (OMG) wedding, but American Idol will reveal its top 40.
If You Need a Little Mystery in Your Life... Kidnappings and Nazis and clocks, oh my! ABC will premiere its new mystery show Zero Hour tonight at 8PM, so tune in if conspiracy theories are your thing. Grey's Anatomy and Scandal will follow, so it's sure to be a drama-filled evening over at ABC.
RELATED: 'Community' Gets Scary For Valentine's Day: Six of the Scariest Romances at Greendale
If You Like Laughing at the Failure of Others... Search no more, friends! Bravo is serving up hours of The Millionaire Matchmaker, from morning until 10PM. Quick, let's leave work so we can watch crazy rich people get rejected!
If You Like Things That Are Beautiful and Wonderful and Oh God I'm Going to Cry Just Thinking About This... The Disney Channel is playing Wall-Eat 8. Sniff.
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If You...Oh, Just Why the Hell Not? Encore is playing Gremlinsat 8! This has nothing to do with Valentine's Day, but this movie should be watched every day.
If You Think You're Going to Die... The National Geographic Channel is playing Doomsday Preppers all night. Have fun making that bunker, weirdo.
If You Don't Give a Damn... Then TCM is playing Gone With the Wind at 8PM. Tune in to watch love lost! See, it's not just you.
If You're a Masochist... TLC is playing Say Yes to the Dress all night. But ew, why would you do that to yourself?
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Haston/NBC]
From the second Britta says to Abed, “I hereby therapize you,” we know we’re in for a wild journey through the recesses of Abed’s never-ending imagination on the Season 4 premiere of Community. It’s the perfect way to return to Greendale: by experiencing it through a ‘90s multi-cam sitcom lens, and later through an even simpler ‘90s cartoon lens. If we can’t have Dan Harmon, lord please give us some Abed.
We open on Abed’s happy place, and to Britta’s dismay, it’s not the babbling brook she taped a picture of to her notebook, but an evenly-lit three-walled version of the study room. Each of our favorite characters are boiled down to their bases essences, especially Jeff, who literally tells the room “congratulations” when he comes in. It’s a dream we didn’t realize Abed had, but when he replaces Pierce with Fred Willard, it all makes sense. Much like fans of TV’s remaining multi-cam giggle-fests: this reality is simply easier to take.
RELATED: ‘Community’ Season 4 Premiere: Our Review
The dark Harmon edges may be missing in this fourth season of Community, but the smart pop culture commentary mixed with the heartfelt antics of six best friends (and Pierce) delivers enough to keep us happy.
And while Abed’s Happy Community College Show on Abed TV may poke fun at the multi-cam sitcom, it also shows a great reverence for the format as an essential component of TV’s ability to act as an escape, a way of soothing us when life is simply too much. Community is not that same simplistic escape, and it’s a shame that an easy multi-cam show like The Big Bang Theory continues to crush it in the ratings, but they both have a spot on television. Abed says so.
When we come back into the “real” world, it’s the first day of senior year, Annie is “doing senioritis,” and Jeff is actually doing his best to help the whole group get into the overbooked history class: History of Ice Cream.
He’s even sending away cute, ditzy girls obsessed with Instagramming themselves (low hanging hipster jokes, ahoy), but there’s a catch: the Dean has set this whole thing up. He’s “forged” his own course cards, claiming his foolproof system of pink notecards and sharpies has been “hacked.” Oh, Dean. You’re not even trying to hide it now. (We missed you.)
Then we’re in it: the games the promos have been teasing for weeks. The Hunger Deans are a game that pits all the students against each other for a chance at ice cream (and that history credit for learning about the history of said tasty treat). It turns out Jeff took summer classes and he needs this class, which is the only history credit this semester (suspicious much?), to graduate early. “I want us to take the class together I just wanted it to be the last class we take together,” he says to the dismay of the whole group.
The notion that college is almost over, and that that day may come sooner for Jeff than the others, plays games with everyone. Annie, who’s busy executing senioritis by not sayin’ her Gs, is suddenly terrified of the boring future she’s been working for. But it’s Abed who takes this stimulus as an excuse to retreat to Abed TV, where the Dean has lost the MS Paint file that stored the school records, forcing the friendly friends to stick around for three more years to play catch up.
When Jeff throws down his Jobs magazine to chase from freshman hotties, Abed is totally comfortable, back in the glow of the reality he thinks he knows best.
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Jeff, convinced he’s “New Jeff” and not “Old Jeff,” who’s self-serving and addicted to texting. He dives headfirst into the Hunger Deans, nabbing six unforgeable balls (damn that Dean’s bite-mark system!) so he and his friends can take the ice cream class together. He won’t do it without them, but he really wants that credit, so he’s going to spend all his energy getting those balls. (Don’t worry, Pierce knows there’s a joke somewhere in all this.)
Jeff sexy tangos the Dean into submission and gets the truth: the Dean took away all the history classes and set up this elaborate ruse thinking Jeff wouldn’t participate in order to keep him at Greendale longer. Jeff doesn’t seem all that upset by it.
But when Britta and Troy return from their pseudo-erotic couple fight in the fountain after Britta fails to play by Abed’s rules for wishing in the fountain, Abed’s happy place has become a real problem. Abed’s Happy Community College Show characters, like all sitcom characters, have found a sudden way out of their problems: a safe, shaped like a rubber ball that contains backups of their school records. Huzzah? Not for Abed.
He retreats further into his happy place within a happy place: a shameless rip-off (or homage, depending on how you look at it) of Muppet Babies called Greendale Babies. It’s an even easier, more infantile version of escape and Abed is stuck there when he plays out the gang’s motto about playing together FOREVER.
Troy realizes Abed is not f-y-n-e, but f-i-n-e (which is code for “not fine”), and Britta admits she told Abed to go to a happy place in his mind. It takes all of Troy’s patience to not lose it on his new girlfriend (or something), and has the whole group hold hands with Abed so they can incept him out of his multiple dream levels. But it doesn’t work. They need Jeff, who must choose between Abed and the last Hunger Dean ball.
He ultimately makes the right choice, and Abed’s imagination gives cartoon baby Jeff a speech to deliver about change and how it’s difficult, but necessary.
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It’s a speech we can’t help but feel is directed at us. We’re resisting the change of a Harmon-less Community, and one whose final season may be flashing before our eyes right now. But as Abed says, everything he loves about the group was once the future.
So what’s the point in trying to stay in the past? Where’s the potential for finding the real life happy place with a group as perfect as the study group if we’re always insistent on stayi ng in the past?
There couldn’t be a better way for Community to come back to us. The dark edges brought by Harmon are gone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come to find value in this change and this new future. And who better to teach us this lesson than Abed? (Besides, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have listened to anyone else.)
Of course, that doesn’t help the fact that in addition the Dean living next door to Jeff this semester, we’ll also have to deal with that naked, slimy Kevin with “Changnesia” next week. And just when we thought that whole battle for Greendale last season scared him off once and for all.
Grading on a Curve
Abed was supposed to be envisioning a babbling brook for his happy place, but he pulled in layers of their world, something he knows will upset fans of the babbling brook, but he thought the initial universe was a bit limiting. +50
Abed has Jeff and the study group reading “Jobs” magazine while Pierce is reading “Coffins.” +60 Abed's reality TV show ad on Abed TV: American Sword Cooks +10
Troy and Abed living out a Bosom Buddies parody in the tag. +15
"I'm trying out the hipster look. It's cool, but also not." -Troy on his new hipster glasses +10 “Last year we wished for Osama Bin Laden and the Dorito taco.” -Abed "Yeah, but Obama got credit for both" -Troy +30
"F-i-n-e or F-y-n-e? We made one of them a code for 'not fine'" -Troy +35
"Why do I like this?" -Troy, being strangled by Britta +15
Shirley is the one with real prank ideas even though Annie didn’t think she could handle “doing senioritis”: they fill the Dean’s car with popcorn. Yes, because that is an actual prank. +30
Shirley making her "Oh lord, no" a sassy catch phrase in Abed’s multi-cam sitcom. +50
Annie’s prank on the Dean is sneaking into his office so he’ll have the sneaking suspicion that someone was there. Okay, she’ll move his stapler. -15
"Yay hospital administrator! I can't wait to be buried alive under a pile of paperwork hoping to summon up the courage to talk to Dr. Patel, the gorgeous Indian neurosurgeon who doesn't even know I exist." -Annie while pranking the Dean. Woo, senioritis. Killer fake future backstory though, bro. +30
“Is that blood on your shirt?” “No, it's cool, it's Leonard's.” - Jeff during the Hunger Deans +25
"Here's the deal, Jessica Biel" -Britta to Abed -5
"It's progressed, but it hasn't progressed progressed. It's progressing. It's progressive" -Britta, on her relationship with Troy -100
Britta does the wishing all wrong and wishes to “end all wars.” -50
In Abed's happy place Pierce is played by a man who got caught jerking off in a movie theater instead of Chevy Chase. -1000
"If you want something you have to work for it or use a spell" -Pierce on Abed and Troy’s wishing well tradition +15
“There’s got to be a ball joke in here,” -Pierce, holding Jeff’s balls and failing to see that that is the joke -15
"All these balls. So close I can taste it.” -Pierce holding Jeff’s balls -20
"Gay balls! Nailed it!" -Pierce -1000
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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