Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

June 23 2016 4:44 PM

Watch the Very Funny Teaser for Issa Rae’s Long-Awaited HBO Comedy Series

It’s been a long time coming, but Issa Rae’s highly anticipated venture into television is finally (almost) upon us—and if the first teaser for Insecure is any indication, the wait will have been worth it. In it, Rae plays Issa, a young woman who often finds herself in uncomfortable situations at her job (being asked to explain “on fleek” to her white co-workers, for instance) and in her love life, with comfort and support from her friend Molly (Yvonne Orji). It appears we’ll also get some witty internal monologues along the way, commenting on all the uneasy action.

In other words, it looks like a sleeker version of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Rae’s breakout web series that launched her success in the first place. This is a good thing—it’ll be great to see what she can do with a bigger platform while sticking to her strengths in observational humor as it relates to race and gender. Insecure is set to premiere on HBO this fall.

June 23 2016 4:24 PM

This Eighth Grader Does a Mean Trump Impression—But His Bernie Sanders Is Even Better

Another day, another Donald Trump impersonation. This one comes from veteran Trumpersonator Jimmy Fallon, who lathered on orangeface to address speculation over who will be his running mate. Chris Christie? LeBron James? Chewbacca Mom? Fallon’s Trump has other ideas: “The only person good enough to be my vice president—is me.”

Enter Trump’s teenage clone, “Little Donald,” played by Jack Aiello, eighth grade impressionist. He may be only 14, but he has a pretty good grasp of Trumpisms already, as evidenced by a graduation speech he gave earlier this month in which he imitated several presidential candidates, including Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Cruz:

The video went viral, and so impressive was Aiello that he scored his Tonight Show gig, which let him show off those skills, including his best parody of all: Bernie Sanders.

June 23 2016 2:01 PM

Here’s a Teaser for Ava DuVernay’s New TV Series Queen Sugar, Which Will Have Female Directors for Every Episode

In Natalie Baszile’s 2014 novel Queen Sugar, Charley Bordelon inherits her late father’s 800 acres of sugarcane land in Louisiana, and seizes the opportunity to leave L.A. and start a new life alongside her eleven-year-old daughter Micah. But as a black woman unaccustomed to rural Southern life and all of the history behind it, she faces quite a few challenges, especially involving the business of sugarcane farming and her family.

That book will now be a TV show with some very impressive creative involvement—Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay are co-creators. (The series will air on Winfrey’s network, OWN, in the fall.) The first teaser has arrived, and while it doesn’t give us much in the way of plot, we do know that every episode of the show will be directed by a woman—including Tanya Hamilton (Night Catches Us), So Yong Kim (In Between Days), Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned), and DuVernay herself. At least one notable change will be made in the adaptation from page to screen—Micah has become a teenaged son rather than a tween daughter (played by Nicholas L. Ashe). Queen Sugar stars Dawn Lyen-Gardner as Charley and Rutina Wesley as her sister, Nova.

June 23 2016 11:24 AM

Kimmel Staffers Read Texts From Their Dads, Prove That Dads Are Universally Really Bad at Texting

For Mother’s Day, Jimmy Kimmel put a wholesome spin on his usual Mean Tweets segment to introduce Mom Texts, in which real Kimmel staffers read actual texts received from their mothers. The results were adorable, and in the interest of gender equality, Kimmel decided to do the same for fathers.

The resulting Dad Texts prove that moms don’t have a monopoly on oversharing—“Memaw is snoring like a f--king locomotive”—and that dads are just as adventurous when it comes to hip new technologies, like Bitmoji. (One message, an apologetic request for concert tickets, even comes from Kimmel’s father-in-law; Kimmel’s wife, Molly McNearney, is co–head writer on the show.)

One thing the video can’t explain? Why so many dads feel a need to sign their text messages. She already knows it’s you, Bill.

June 23 2016 11:18 AM

The New Ghostbusters Theme From Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott Is Here to Unite a Divided America

For more than a year now, the all-female Ghostbusters has divided our already divided nation. At every step of the way—with each announcement and new trailer—it has sown nothing but strife. But now, at last, it has given us something on which every American can agree: The new Ghostbusters song is bad.

June 23 2016 10:59 AM

The Premiere of Bill Simmons’ HBO Show Any Given Wednesday Was a Real Dog’s Breakfast

Like Dylan McKay blowing back into town in Season 9 of 90210, Bill Simmons has returned. Last night marked the debut of Simmons’ new half-hour HBO talk show, Any Given Wednesday, less than a month after the launch of his new website the Ringer. Through its first month, the Ringer has been excellent with exciting room to grow; through its first half-hour Any Given Wednesday is a real dog’s breakfast. To put it in the terms of tonight’s NBA draft, if the Ringer is a blue-chip talent with range and heaps of upside, Any Given Wednesday is a raw and lumbering “project” that currently lacks a clear position.

June 23 2016 10:03 AM

We’ve Never Had a TV Depiction of Mental Illness Quite Like Lady Dynamite

In a scene toward the end of the first season of Lady Dynamite, the Netflix comedy starring Maria Bamford, Maria shares her concern about her lack of friends with her life coach, Karen (played with perfectly vapid sincerity by Jenny Slate). At first, Karen answers with well-worn therapy jargon, telling Maria, “The only friendship you need to be concerned with is the one with the gal in the mirror.” Maria presses her, saying, “I’m just worried, because the only two friends I have left who will still be friends with me are Dagmar and Larissa”—to which Karen cheerfully responds, “Yeah, because you’re bipolar and you’re incredibly hard to stay friends with. I mean, people are really just going to fall by the wayside. And that’s life … for you.”

June 23 2016 8:32 AM

The Sequels of 2016 Aren’t About Storytelling; They’re Just Brand Extensions

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Last weekend, seven of the 10 highest-grossing movies in the country were sequels. Of course they were, you say. It’s summer. That’s what summer’s all about! But one of the most insidious things about how Hollywood sells its product is the ease with which it passes off a lowering of the bar as a maintenance of the status quo, so let’s do a reality check: No, it has not always been this way—not even during summer movie season. On the same weekend in 2008 and 2009, there were only two sequels in the top 10. In 2010, there were three. For each of the four years after that, there were four. And last year, there were five. Seven is new; seven, as the latest data point in a decadelong trendline, suggests that something fundamental has changed. It says that sequels have gone from being what summer movies mostly are not to what they mostly are.

Many noted this overkill early in the year, in the aftershock of Batman v Superman’s critical thud; the failure of some of these films relative to their expectations and budgets sparked buzz about sequel fatigue. But I think the news may be, instead, fatigued sequels. How could we not be a little tired of them? They’re now a year-round business, after all—sequels to movies that already felt like sequels (Ride Along 2), sequels to movies that didn’t need sequels (The Huntsman: Winter’s War), sequels the very titles of which suggest that the point has already been sufficiently made (God’s Not Dead 2). Summer sequels are just those movies with more money and noise behind them.

June 23 2016 12:12 AM

*Record Scratch* HBO Cancels Vinyl

Despite ostensibly renewing Vinyl back in February, HBO announced Tuesday that there will be no second season. The cocaine-laced tour of 1970s rock never caught on with critics or audiences, despite the involvement of Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger. Showrunner Terence Winter was let go before work began on the new season, but the creative shake-up didn’t turn the boat around. According to Variety, new showrunner Scott Z. Burns was still sketching out the second season when word came.

HBO’s new head of programming Casey Bloys was behind the decision; Vinyl was developed by his predecessor. Before being promoted in May, Bloys oversaw some of HBO’s least golden-age-of-Televisiony programs, including Eastbound and Down, Flight of the Conchords, and the late, lamented Enlightened. Could HBO be slowly backing away from the age of the angry male antihero? If we’ve learned nothing else from Vinyl (and the 1970s), it’s best not to set expectations too high.

June 22 2016 9:57 PM

Tom Cruise Is At It Again in the Trailer for Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Jack Reacher, Christopher McQuarrie’s 2012 adaptation of the popular Lee Child novels, opened in theaters a week after Sandy Hook, despite its horrific mass shooting scene. There was nothing inherently wrong with it as a throwback 1990s action film, it just had the worst timing since Vaughn Meader’s Christmas record. There’s no end in sight to the mass shootings that made the first Jack Reacher seem in such poor taste, but Paramount is giving it another go this fall, with Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Edward Zwick, who worked with star Tom Cruise on The Last Samurai, is taking over the directing.

This time the filmmakers have set their sights back a little further than the 1990s: the trailer opens with Reacher facing off against a redneck Southern sheriff who seems to have beamed in from decades earlier. As before, the film looks like it’s powered by Reacher’s almost comical willingness to use violence as a first, last, and only resort. In a world where action heroes are allowed to be as violent as they like as long as they’re charming, there’s something refreshing about watching Tom Cruise play a character who bluntly threatens to rip someone’s arm off and beat him to death with it. But there is one warning sign: The best part about the original Jack Reacher by miles was Werner Herzog’s gonzo performance, and the only person on the cast list who seems capable of something as delightfully over the top is, well, Tom Cruise. Since he’s already cast in another role, here’s hoping Reacher discovers he has an evil twin. 

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