20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
Consider the superhero movie sequel. With the millstone of the characters' origin stories removed from around the collective necks of the filmmakers, they are free to jump right into a rip-roaring premise with plenty of superhuman action bursting from the screen. Fans are eagerly awaiting X-Men: Days of Future Past for exactly that reason... we've already seen two different origin movies for the the mutants, so let's get on with the time-bending heroics.
Why, then, is it that so many superhero sequels don’t live up to their promise? More importantly, what it is about the ones that do that make them rise above the others? Let's take a look at what anyone making a superhero sequel after decade's worth of examples both good and bad.
Don't Waste Time Rehashing What We Already Know
Just trust that we saw the origin story movie. There's no need to tell us who the characters are and why they're important. Anyone that needs to know what's happening isn't the target audience anyway… and they can be brought up to speed by whatever friend dragged them along to the theater. If you really, really feel the need to catch everyone up then just do what Superman II did and stick a montage with the opening credits.
The awesome thing about being past the origin story is that we can get right into the action. Even if the new story is going to take a while to set up, don't lead off with that. Don't meander into things like Iron Man 2. Don't give us action that we don't fully understand like in Thor: The Dark World. The hero doesn't even have to be involved. Go right for the jugular like they did in X2: X-Men United, with Nightcrawler ransacking the White House, or Christopher Nolan's dual threats of setting up first the Joker in The Dark Knight and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
Find a Great Bad Guy
As Nolan showed, really any superhero sequel is going to live or die by the choice of the super-nemesis. By unleashing Heath Ledger's Joker in the second film, filmmakers didn't force audiences to wait for him while the story tried to get Bruce Wayne to the point of being Batman. Similarly, the first great superhero sequel, Superman II, did likewise by giving us Terence Stamp's awesome General Zod from the beginning to the end. Don't make them weak or sympathetic either. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 is a solid sequel, but it suffers from making us feel sorry for Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus. And, don't get us started on Arnold Schwarzenegger's depressed Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin.
Just Don't Find Too Many
It sounds great… now that the superhero has been established; let's start throwing a bunch of his comic book foils at him in the movies. After all, most superheroes have a whole group of villains that they've been doing battle with for years. Only, it never works that way. Diverting attention away from one main bad guy just muddles the plot… and it's already touch-and-go whether there's enough of that anyway. Going the Spider-Man 3 route where it was Green Goblin and Sandman and Venom gets confusing and feels lazy. It doesn't mean that there can't be other bad guys around, especially when we're talking about seminal characters like Lex Luthor, we just need to have one at the center that leads us into a fitting (and ginormous) climactic battle.
Mo' Superheroes, Mo' Better
It's not an accident that The Avengers was such a smash… we like to see the costumed crowd playing together. It reminds us of the greatest part of comic books where we could imagine all of these spectacular personalities in a universe where they would sometimes collide. That's the same reason that X-Men fans screamed and shouted when fan favorites like The Beast and Gambit were slow to join the fun (if they ever got to at all) in the Bryan Singer films. It doesn't even have to be characters that are household names. The average person didn't know Black Widow before Iron Man 2 or Falcon before Captain America: The Winter Soldier… but the people that do are the ones that help create a buzz for the movie.
Even a bad sequel, can provide at least a few minutes of interest with a crossover… like The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The Marvel diehards that saw that one did so just to see Mr. Fantastic and The Thing interact with the metallic former Galactus henchman… and the fact that the movie actually made money proves the point. Whether they like the choice of Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight in Zack Snyder's Batman vs. Superman, you can bet that superhero fans everywhere are still going to line up to see the DC Comics' titans go at it. (And, ok, to see Gal Gadot in her Wonder Woman outfit.)
Taylor Swift seems to be in a dating rut. The country-pop superstar has largely been hanging out with pals like Lorde and Karlie Kloss over the last year, leaving the relationship drama to friends (or former friends) like Ed Sheeran and Selena Gomez. There have been rumors that she was dating Zach Braff or Divergent's Theo James, but both turned out to be false. While it's probably good that Swift is spending some time without a male companion and getting to know herself better — she's still young after all — we're jonesing for the days when her dating habits were fodder for tabloids and the basis for her songs. Since we don't have anything new to talk about, we've decided to look backwards. Swift has had plenty of boyfriends over the years, but who's your favorite?
When the Jonas Brothers were first a thing and Swift was bursting onto the scene, there was a tour bus romance. While he has taken a couple of veiled shots at Swift for her habit of taking out her relationship pains out in her songs, instead of throwing her under the bus the way that he did with Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, he's largely been complimentary of his ex.
The duo had a brief fling while filming Valentine's Day, where they played a cute jock-cheerleader couple. The face of Twilight's Team Jacob is now dating The 100 star Marie Avgeropoulos, but for a brief time the Taylor-Taylor combo was adorable.
It was the coupling that was so crazy that it made sense. Mayer is 12 years older and came in with his own set of dating issues… he's the (far) less innocent male version of Swift. As with all of either singer's past relationships, the pairing was fairly brief but they both at least came away with great fodder for new lyrics.
The grandson of Robert F. Kennedy enjoyed some summer loving from Swift when he was 18 and she was 23. Like all great summer flings, it ended with the start of the school year.
Swift's other dalliance with an older man — Gyllenhaal is nine years her senior — led to exceedingly sweet paparazzi photos of the two enjoying morning walks around New York. They were together enough that she reportedly scored an introduction to Jake's epically cool sister Maggie Gyllenhaal. That alone would make the whole thing worth it to us.
Then there was Swift's other younger gentleman, the One Direction cutie. The two dated for a few months into the early part of 2013, until they broke up after a fight while taking a Caribbean holiday. While they've reportedly been polite to each other while making the party rounds, it seems that Styles might irritate Swift more than the other exes. Some were shocked when Swift appeared to mouth "Shut the f**k up" in reference to Styles talking to reporters at the 2013 MTV VMAs.
All of Swift's ex-boyfriends have a certain amount of appeal — otherwise she probably wouldn’t have dated them — but the two that stand out above the rest are the "bad boy" John Mayer and the "boy toy" Harry Styles. Vote below to tell us which ex, Mayer or Styles, you think Swift will most regret never, ever getting back together with.
NBC Universal Media
When Community was finally canceled by NBC, it was really just the wrap-up of a death march that has been playing out in slow motion for years. Actually, it could be argued that the fact that Dan Harmon's quirky ensemble sitcom set at a community college managed to make it as long as it did on a network is a victory in and of itself.
Network television has always had difficulty knowing what to do with smart, off-beat comedies, whether it was Taxi in the late '70s, NewsRadio in the '90s, Arrested Development in the 2000s, or Happy Endings this decade. Shows that need time to build an audience as more people get in on the joke perplex executives that are looking at ratings and ad revenue that don't add up. The fact that Community had a stellar cast headlined by Joel McHale, featured some of the most original writing on television and regularly took chances by embracing its uniqueness (and, yes, stunts like making an animated episode or setting a storyline against the backdrop of a pillow fort war) gets lost in the shuffle of bottom line numbers.
The thing is that you would expect that networks would've learned their lessons by now… since their counterparts on the cable side have been trying to show them the way for a while now.
Social Media Is Your Friend
Sitcoms like Workaholics on Comedy Central and The League on FXX, have loyal followings that their broadcasters try to cater to instead of alienate. They make the group that is in on the show's humor feel like they're part of a cool club. Counterparts like Louie on FX and Maron and Portlandia on IFC do the same thing and are also savvy about using social media to promote the shows. Instead of just sending out generic "Hey, watch our show" messages, as the networks regularly do, they utilize and encourage the online followings that their stars walked in the door with.
NBC has used their website effectively for a decade now to provide additional content for some of its comedy programming — The Office, Saturday Night Live, and even Community come to mind — but all of the networks continuously lag behind in embracing other new avenues to reach desirable audience members as they start to carry real cache, like Twitter and Instagram. With Facebook having been part of the public's consciousness for nearly a decade now, there's been plenty of time for network executives to become forward thinking in regards to social media, instead of continuously being reactionary.
Have Realistic Expectations
Nobody is expecting a network to have the flexibility that HBO has when it comes to the sort of content that they can handle on everything from Veep to Girls to Eastbound and Down… but networks have more flexibility than they are willing to admit. A sitcom doesn't have to have swearing or nudity to be buzz-worthy… it just needs to be done well by people that are given the freedom to enact their vision.
In today's fractured market, cultivating a TV show that has a smaller but desirable audience should be a true option for any network. By keeping production costs down and cultivating a specific audience base before the show hits the air, a network should be able to get away with smaller ratings for a sitcom. Ratings only truly matter when it comes to setting ad rates, but that's a model that hasn't changed much since Nielsen started tracking it in the early '60s… and it's a system that is ripe for change.
Targeted TV ads are the wave of the future, but selling broader based ads for a show that is reaching a key demographic isn't that hard. NBC already off-sets the cost of The Biggest Loser by partnering with advertisers that want to reach women 18 to 34 with disposable income are willing to pay to be a part of the show. Smart comedies have their own key demo, and it's typically affluent 18 to 34-year-olds. It seems like a target audience that a lot of advertisers could use.
One of the biggest hits of the last 25 years should provide all of the incentive any network needs to remember the importance of cultivating a show that is initially too hip for the audience. When Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David's show first started, it didn't have a suitable spot on the NBC schedule and bounced around. It wasn't until Seinfeld's third season that it really began to catch on with a bigger audience, and it wasn't until the fourth season that it was really a hit.
Seinfeld also produced shorter seasons its first two years, something that cable networks have now been doing successfully for a while now (and British television has always done). Networks have seemingly been more flexible with doing that with hour-long programming than with sitcoms, yet there's no reason that a 13-episode comedy can't work just as well if marketed properly. If networks can figure out a way to sell an audience on fantasy shows like Once Upon a Time or intricate dramas like The Blacklist, they should be able to figure out how to sustain smart comedies like Community and Happy Endings.
Robin Williams is one of the funniest people on the planet. His dizzying rapid-fire delivery style and stream of consciousness rants have been wowing live audiences for nearly 40 years. He's found kindred spirits in fellow performers as diverse as Jonathan Winters, John Belushi, and Billy Crystal… delighting in their ability to play his comedic games at his own high level. Why is it, then, that Williams seems to have so much trouble being funny in movies? Go ahead and think about the last time that you really laughed hard at one of his films. It's okay, we'll wait.
Well, There Was That One…
The go-to answer for a lot of people is Mrs. Doubtfire, which was released 21 years ago and boasts as many melodramatic moments as it does comedic ones. The same is true for two of the actor's other '90s hits, Jumanji and The Birdcage. When Williams goes the straight comedy route in films like Old Dogs, RV, or Club Paradise, the result is never in line with his talent and abilities. The fact is that Williams' funniest cinematic role was probably one where we never actually saw him: as the Genie in Disney's Aladdin.
Flair for the Dramatic
With The Angriest Man in Brooklyn being released, in which Williams plays a bitter borough resident who finds out that he only has 90 minutes to live, the discrepancy is being reinforced once again. Williams is far better — and garners far more acclaim — when he's putting his Julliard training to use on the dramatic side. He notched Oscar nominations for his roles in The Fisher King, Good Morning, Vietnam and Dead Poets Society, and took home the award for Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting. He's won acclaim for darker roles in projects like One Hour Photo and Insomnia, as well.
In many of his dramatic roles, Williams has a unique ability to add funny moments admidst the seriousness… like his D.J. patter in Good Morning, Vietnam. In actuality, that's what makes him appealing as a dramatic actor… his panache for showing a glimpse of Comedy while wearing Tragedy.
Perhaps we're just being selfish in wishing that Williams would find a film role that would unleash his comedy id the way that Mork & Mindy did during his early days on television, where it seemed as though he might in fact burst with energy.
He's not the only comedian that has had difficulty figuring out a way to channel a stage persona onto the big screen. Richard Pryor and George Carlin, two of the most influential stand-up comedians ever, both struggled to find roles that played to their strengths. Much like Williams, his idol Jonathan Winters slid between characters so quickly that a movie script was too confining.
From a comedy standpoint, Williams has always been at his best when he's free to go anywhere his muse takes him in a given moment and, with the exception of Aladdin, that's hard to capture in a film. Difficult as it may be, it's also not impossible. Two of Williams' contemporaries — Steve Martin and Bill Murray — have been able to shift between comedies and dramas effectively in their film careers.
It might be that he needs a filmmaker that isn't afraid of Williams and his scattershot approach to really showcase him properly in a movie. You get the feeling that Mel Brooks would've known what to do with Williams in his heyday, but there are still active directors like Todd Phillips and Seth MacFarlane that have proven to be unafraid of most anything.
It would just be a shame if future generations are strictly left with Williams' HBO concert specials to prove just how funny he can be.
NBC Universal Media
Next fall, NBC will air The Biggest Loser to its Thursday night lineup, giving it the 8 PM slot. Once football season ends, the network will put its only true hit from this season, The Blacklist, at the 9 PM slot on Thursday. Why is any of that news? Because it means that for one of the few times since 1983, NBC will not air a block of sitcoms during the 8 - 10 PM timeslots.
NBC's Thursday nights has been the home to some of the biggest hits and most influential sitcoms in history, and while the network's programming strategy might make business sense it's hard not to feel a little sad at the end of what became one of the medium's few constants.
The Peacock first experimented with the idea of grouping sitcoms on Thursday during the 1983 - 84 season with a rotation of shows that included fare like Gimme a Break and We Got It Made… but it also included a pair of building blocks that would provide the basis for what was to come.
The following season in 1984, NBC debuted its first classic lineup on Thursdays with holdovers Cheers and Family Ties, paired with The Cosby Show and Night Court. The formula of two smart family sitcoms during the 8 - 9 PM hour and then two slightly more adult oriented sitcoms between 9 - 10 PM wasn't new — CBS did the same thing throughout much of the '70s — but the quality of the four shows was so good that it was hard for the grouping not to standout.
NBC's success on Thursdays — particularly with The Cosby Show, which at its peak was averaging nearly 30 million viewers a week — propelled the network to its first standalone win in the season ratings since Nielsen started keeping track in 1960.Cheers and The Cosby Show anchored the night for the rest of the decade until a little show about nothing came along to keep the ball rolling.
In its early days, Seinfeld bounced around the NBC schedule in search of a home, sometimes airing after Cheers. When the Ted Danson sitcom finally ended in 1993, however, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David's creation was ready to take over.
Seinfeld and Friends
Seinfeld, Mad About You, and starting in 1994, Friends became "Must See TV." For most of the next decade, Friends and Seinfeld were such strong ratings winners that they could carry a variety of weaker shows (Caroline in the City, Suddenly Susan, Veronica's Closet, etc.) that followed them. The pair of New York-based sitcoms became so iconic that Friends generated a fashion sensation as women rushed to have their hair styled like Rachel and Seinfeld fans quoted the show so much that phrases like "Master of your domain" and "No soup for you!" became part of the cultural lexicon.
When Seinfeld called it quits, the Cheers spinoff Frasier moved back to Thursday to stabilize the night for a couple of seasons until suitable replacement could be found. NBC found that replacement when it turned to a show about a group of friends far different from Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry and company: as Friends started to wind-down, the night became the domain of Will & Grace. The sitcom about a gay man and his female best friend (Eric McCormack and Debra Messing), along with their two flakey cohorts (Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally), provided the network with another hit to build around.
Beginning of the End
When Friends came to a close, NBC's Thursday lineup went through a period of flux. The first signs of trouble began when Scrubs had difficulty finding a larger audience, despite being well received by critics. With ratings dropping, The Apprentice spent time in the 9 PM Thursday slot, as did Deal or No Deal.
The comedy lineup reemerged, however, in 2007 when Tina Fey's 30 Rock joined The Office, My Name Is Earl and Scrubs to form one more stellar block of sitcoms. By 2009, Community and Parks and Recreation had joined The Office and 30 Rock, but as smartly written as the group was, ratings never quite rebounded fully.
By this past season, when only Community and Parks remained and were grouped with the now canceled Welcome to the Family, Sean Saves the World, and The Michael J. Fox Show, the writing was on the wall. With not much more than The Big Bang Theory, CBS easily defeated NBC's offerings. With CBS' announcement that they would air NFL games on Thursdays in the fall, it became clear that NBC was going to have to counterprogram to keep from being trampled.
At some point, NBC lost its touch and patience for building sitcoms like Cheers, Seinfeld, and The Office... none of which was an immediate ratings success. That's too bad, but instead of lamenting the network's inability to come up with suitable sitcoms, it's better to sit back and marvel at the decades of comedy success that NBC managed to pull off. It was a heck of a run while it lasted.
Lionsgate via Everett Collection
If Battle Creek, Michigan is known at all, it's for being the home of Kellogg's, the country's largest cereal manufacturer. If Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has anything to say about it, however, that's all about to change. Gilligan, along with former House executive producer David Shore, has the crime drama Battle Creek premiering on CBS in the fall. The show follows Josh Duhamel as an FBI agent dispatched from Detroit to the Southwestern Michigan city to set up a new field office, who has to work with a local detective, played by Dean Winters (Law & Order: SVU). It's a high powered affair with X-Men: Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer helming the first episode and serving as one of the show's producers.
In Breaking Bad, Gilligan charted the rise of Walter White, an unlikely drug kingpin in the semi-odd location of Albuquerque, New Mexico. While that locale was strictly chosen for financial considerations — the cost to shoot there was cheaper than California — this time the show's setting was done with a purpose.
By placing the show in a small, economically depressed city — especially one surrounded largely by rural areas and tied to the rest of the world by the interstate that runs through it connecting Detroit with Chicago — Gilligan has set his story up to deal with issues that we don’t normally see a big city crime drama delve into. The detectives on the show will be working with basically no budget and without much support. Unlike, say, the detectives on Castle, a show where there is a seemingly neverending supply of resources, Battle Creek's law enforcement will be forced to work with the outdated technology and Duhamel's earnest FBI agent won't be getting a warm reception from the locals (who also include Kal Penn and Janet McTeer).
Settling in a Midwestern city, where there's a stark racial disparity between the population within the city limits and the population just outside, gives Gilligan and his writers an opportunity to address social issues that frequently get ignored these days by most police dramas... namely the rifts that still exist throughout much of the nation along both racial and socioeconomic lines. In a nod to Breaking Bad — and given the actual level of the crime in the actual Battle Creek — expect to see some storylines that deal with crystal meth producers.
Unlike some other crime shows that have been set off the beaten path — such as Twin Peaks or Justified — the feel of Battle Creek isn't meant to come off as unique or quirky. The real Battle Creek is a mix of urban decay, Midwestern values and apathy brought on by the steady decrease in the area's industry and economy (full disclosure: I grew up in the area and still pass through on a semi-regular basis). It's a situation that is germane to a lot of small cities that once had a wealth of manufacturing that helped it grow but then did not have anything to replace the jobs or money when those companies moved or closed.
Gilligan originally tried to sell his pilot script about 10 years ago at the onset of the country's economic downturn. Years later, the situation hasn't changed markedly for Battle Creek and dozens of cities exactly like it. Deciding to tell a police story amidst that reality is an interesting choice… what Gilligan and his team decide to do with it will be fascinating to watch.
United Artists via Everett Collection
It all starts with a mullet and an attitude. By the time that Patrick Swayze appeared as the legendary bouncer (or cooler) Dalton in 1989's Road House, he was two years removed from his star making turn in Dirty Dancing. Audiences already knew that he could dance, but nobody knew that he could rip a guy's throat out with his bare hands.
In the 25 years since its release, Road House has become a cult classic, both for its over-the-top fight scenes and Swayze's mock-philosophical dialogue and awesome hair. With its frequent appearances on cable television, it's never out of sight for very long, but we've compiled some fun facts to help you enjoy the greatest bad movie ever the next time you find yourself drawn in by the majesty of Swayze. Just remember the immortal words of Dalton: "I want you to be nice, until it's time not to be nice."
1. Although the film is set in the town of Jasper, Missouri, the exterior of the film's infamous bar The Double Deuce was built strictly for the filming on location in California and then was torn down. Some of the interiors were shot, however, in a real bar in Anaheim that has since closed.
2. Screenwriter David Lee Henry has said that Dalton was named after the town of Dalton, Georgia. He stopped at a bar there during a road trip and it ended up serving in part as the inspiration for his script.
3. Dalton is shown reading Jim Harrison's Legends of the Fall, which is the basis for the 1994 Brad Pitt-Anthony Hopkins movie of the same name.
4. Movie trailers frequently feature parts that are subsequently cut before a film is released, but Road House has the unofficial record for the most occurrences of deleted scenes. The original trailer had at least five different clips that don't appear in the finished version.
5. The Jeff Healey Band, which serves as the house band of The Double Deuce, had their biggest hit "Angel Eyes" on the charts while Road House was still in theaters, but the song isn't from the movie. Healey, the blind Canadian guitarist, and his group recorded their album See the Light concurrently with the movie soundtrack.
6. In a sad coincidence, both Swayze and Ben Gazzara, who played Dalton's nemesis Brad Wesley, both died of pancreatic cancer… Swayze in 2009 and Gazzara in 2012.
7. As awesome as Swayze's mullet was, the actor himself didn't like it. In the book One Last Dance, Swayze's biographer Wendy Leigh quoted the actor as calling the Road House hair style the "bane of my existence."
8. Red West, who played the owner of the auto parts store (also named Red), was a high school friend of Elvis Presley. West was a charter member of Presley's "Memphis Mafia" and functioned as one of the singer's bodyguards into the 1970s.
9. Even though Dalton famously says that "Pain don't hurt," the axiom didn't apply to Swayze. Among the various ways he was banged up during shooting was when Marshall Teague, who played Jimmy (the bad guy who gets his throat ripped out), hit Swayze with what he thought was a prop log... only to find out that it was actual hard wood.
10. One of the fired bartenders from The Double Deuce was played by John Doe, better known to music fans as the founder of the punk band X.
11. Kevin Tighe, who played Dalton's boss, bar owner Frank Tilghman, was better known for his work on television. He was one of the stars of the '70s hit Emergency! and later played Locke's father on Lost.
12. Even though Swayze is shown practicing t'ai chi, Dalton never actually uses that particular style of martial arts in the movie's fight scenes. Instead he uses moves from various sources, including the Korean discipline of hapkido.
13. Annette Bening was originally cast as "Doc," the ER doctor played by Kelly Lynch.
14. Lynch said in an interview with The AV Club that Bill Murray and his brothers like to call her husband, screenwriter Mitch Glazer (Scrooged), every time that they see Road House on TV to remind him about her steamy sex scenes with Swayze.
15. Lynch reportedly spent a month hanging around a real emergency room to prepare for her role. She learned the proper way to sew a medical stitch… but then the script was changed so that she never got to showcase her new skill.
16. Dalton had a thing for Buicks. Before he leaves for Missouri the "beater" car that he drives to protect his prized Mercedes is a 1964 Buick Riviera. Once he gets to Jasper, he buys the 1965 edition of the same car model.
17. Just as he had with Dirty Dancing, Swayze sings on the soundtrack and his song "Cliff's Edge" is heard on a radio in the film.
18. The Otis Redding song "These Arms of Mine" is used during one of the love scenes between Swayze and Lynch. In Dirty Dancing, the same song is used during the initial love scene between Swayze and Jennifer Grey.
19. Kitschy stage director Timothy Haskell did an off-Broadway retelling of Road House in 2003 titled Road House: The Stage Version of the Cinema Classic That Starred Patrick Swayze Except This One Stars Taimak from the '80s Cult Classic 'The Last Dragon' Wearing a Blonde Mullet Wig.Try saying that three times fast.
20. Road House has been a running gag on both Mystery Science Theater 3000, where it was Crow's favorite movie, and in Family Guy, where Peter punctuates every fight by name-checking the film. Not to be outdone, teammates of Cincinnati Bengals' quarterback Andy Dalton call him "Road House" thanks to his surname.
Trae Patton/NBC Universal Media
More than its counterparts in the singing competition wars, The Voice rises or falls based on the celebrity coaches that sit in its spinning chairs. While the bromance and prank wars between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton always seems to take center stage, whoever it is that fills the show's other two spots can make or break a season. The original line-up that included Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green had chemistry that is tough to match. Their replacements, Shakira and Usher, have plenty of credentials but have never quite developed a great rapport with Levine and Shelton.
That's why fans of The Voice should be excited about the additions next season of Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani. They might not be Xtina and CeeLo, but they have the potential to be significantly better than Shakira and Usher.
Pharrell has become a media sensation with his "Happy" video and his Arby's hat, but he's far from a flash in the pan. Before he was an artist in his own right, Pharrell partnered with Chad Hugo to form the superstar production team The Neptunes, working with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Britney Spears to Robin Thicke. Pharrell, Hugo, and Shay Haley also formed N.E.R.D. to essentially record avante garde hip-hop. His influences are so diverse it's hard not to believe that he'll have an interesting take on the singing auditions.
More than that, though, Pharrell doesn't shy away from controversy. He's 41 years old and he's comfortable with who he is and what he does. When the plagiarism accusations came up over Thicke's "Blurred Lines," which he cowrote, he didn't run away and he wasn't defensive. He was honest… which is always a welcome addition to a singing competition show.
Likewise, Stefani doesn’t have anything to prove at this point and should be particularly able to handle being the lone female in the boys club. Stefani was the lead singer of No Doubt, after all, so she's already been the only feminine voice in a room full of guys. Perhaps just as importantly, she's been married to Gavin Rossdale for more than a decade… so she's got plenty of experience with keeping a pretty boy rock star in his place. The key to dealing with Levine and Shelton is to be willing to give as much as you get, and you get the feeling that Stefani will have no problem taking them on.
Levine and Shelton will continue to be the focus of The Voice, as everyone watches to see how they will top Shelton giving out Levine's cell phone number and Levine dumping manure on Shelton's truck. The duo is basically a step away from having their own sitcom. But in Pharrell and Stefani, the producers have hit upon a pair that should be able to give The Voice a new and distinctive perspective… or at least a more interesting one than Usher and Shakira ever have.
NBC Universal Media
For a number of years Andy Samberg, along with his The Lonely Island cohorts, was Saturday Night Live's king of the digital shorts, with such classics as "D*** In a Box" and "Motherlover." With Samberg off the variety show and starring on Fox sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine now, there is an opening for a new digital master and freshman cast member Kyle Mooney seems to be filling that void.
Mooney, along with Beck Bennett, who frequently joins in the digital fun, came to SNL from the sketch group Good Neighbor, where funny YouTube videos made up a large part of their comedic output. Mooney's oddball shorts have typically occupied the last half hour of SNL, which traditionally is a dumping ground for half-baked sketch ideas. In this case, however, the placement has more to do with the nature of the shorts, which tend to be more esoteric than normal SNL fare.
At the beginning of the season, no one quite knew what to do with them — they engendered more WTF social media reaction than anything the show has done in recent memory — but as time has gone along Mooney's looniness has developed a following. For those who regularly turn off the show after Weekend Update, we proudly offer up the best of Mooney's digital shorts from the season.
Miley Sex Tape
What able bodied young man wouldn't want to make a sex tape with Miley Cyrus? Based on how easily he keeps being distracted from the task at hand, even with his buddies Bobby Moynihan and Bennett trying to get him back on task, the answer is apparently Mooney.
Mooney plays the male lead opposite Vanessa Bayer in a three-minute rom-com about apartment neighbors who keep meeting cute. His enthusiasm when she agrees to a date is so infectious, you can almost join him in ignoring what she's about to do with Bennett.
The story of an ice cream parlor clerk (Mooney) who becomes so distracted by the meaning of a joke told by a customer (Bennett) that he ceases to function. The kicker is when the joke garners the same reaction from his boss (Taran Killam).
Mooney becomes a dance sensation and finds fame after being discovered by Bennett, and then loses it just as quickly, all in the span of a few minutes and without ever leaving his living room.
You know that one friend that you have that always knows everything? Mooney plays one to such an extreme that not even death can stop him.
One of the personas that Mooney brought with him from Good Neighbors is the disaffected skate punk. In this short, Mooney and Bennett play a modern Wayne and Garth as they host their web show from a party at the condo of the dad of one of their buds (Jonah Hill).
Mooney does a tribute to the stoner holiday, even though he doesn't smoke. It wouldn't be the same without Seth Rogen's take as the confused pot dealer who's called upon to join the celebration.
Jay Pharoah and John Milhiser think that they're going to a pledge party at the biggest party frat on campus… that is until Mooney and Bennett explain the way that the brothers rolls. Let's just say it's not Animal House.
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Back in the day, when a sketch was cut from Saturday Night Live, it was lost forever to history. But thanks to the Internet and Seth Meyers, that doesn't have to be the case anymore. Earlier this week, Meyers debuted a new feature on Late Night called "Second Chance Theatre" where he gives new life to bits that never made it to show night during his long tenure as SNL's head writer. The first entry gave us a look at a sketch that Will Forte has long lamented missing the cut.
Meanwhile, a few weeks ago SNL viewers were caught off-guard when the show suddenly, and inexplicably, reran a short called "Bird Bible" from earlier in the year. It wasn't until later when the show posted the Kyle Mooney-Beck Bennett digital short that was scheduled to run on the show's website that we got to see what had been bounced.
Now that we've gotten to see the two sketches though, which one most deserved to have gotten its chance with the audience at Studio 8H?
Jason Sudeikis is being set up on a blind date by his friends Fred Armisen and Vanessa Bayer, since he's hit a dry spell "in the sex department" after his divorce. They assure him that their choice is just his type and it turns out that they're right. Even though Jennjamin looks an awful lot like Forte crossed with Benjamin Franklin crossed with Betsy Ross, the two lovebirds soon have trouble keeping their hands — and other body parts — off of each other. The sexual tension between Sudeikis and Forte is positively electric.
In what was supposed to be the closing sketch on the show hosted by The Amazing Spider-Man 2's Andrew Garfield, the old After School Special tropes get skewered in an unusual way. Garfield plays a hungry jock that would do anything to have the last wing from the order that he's sharing with Bennett and Mooney. Unfortunately for him, Bennett takes that "anything" very literally and wants to touch Garfield in ways that Emma Stone might not find acceptable. Mooney plays the earnest friend caught in the middle and trying to do the right thing. The stilted acting will look familiar to anyone that's ever seen a real After School Special, especially when Garfield is reduced to forlornly eating carrots in the corner.