Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Jan. 18 2017 1:52 PM

A New Play About Roe v. Wade Opens in a Very Different World Than the One Its Playwright Imagined

Over a year ago, Molly Smith, artistic director of Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage Theater, scheduled a new play, Roe, to open in the nation’s capital in January 2017. The stars, it seemed, would be perfectly aligned. January would mark both the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision legalizing abortion, and a historic presidential inauguration. “We thought it would be our first woman president,” Smith said, “I expected the play to open in a celebratory feel.”

Then, of course, Donald Trump got elected as the 45th president of the United States. Now, as Washington prepares for the inauguration, a new urgency has set in on both sides of the abortion divide. This weekend, the Women’s March on Washington will protest, among other things, Trump’s promise to appoint conservative justices to overturn Roe. Meanwhile, right to life groups are urging states to declare Jan. 22 as the Day of Tears and lower their flags to half-staff to “mourn the innocents who have lost their lives to abortion.” Roe opens this week, just a few miles from the Supreme Court, in a very different atmosphere than its creators anticipated but perhaps under an even greater spotlight.

Jan. 18 2017 1:46 PM

Will & Grace Is Officially Returning for a 10-Episode Revival

After weeks of speculation, NBC has confirmed that Will & Grace will return for a 10-episode revival with all four principal actors—Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally, Sean Hayes, and Debra Messing (you gays!)—all attached, alongside series creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick.

“We’re thrilled that one of the smartest, funniest and most defining comedies in NBC history is coming back,” NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said. “This groundbreaking series for everything from gay rights to social and political commentary—all disguised as a high-speed train of witty pop culture—is coming back where it belongs.”

Will & Grace ran for eight seasons on NBC, from 1998 to 2006, and centered on the friendship between a successful businesswoman and her gay best friend. The series is considered groundbreaking, as one of the most successful shows ever to feature an LGBTQ character in a lead role, even as it attracted controversy from its inception for trafficking in stereotypes. The cast recently reunited for a 10-minute special clip, where the Will & Grace characters mulled over the recent presidential election—yes, Karen is now a Trump supporter—which inevitably led to speculation about a potential revival.

The Will & Grace revival is set to air sometime during the 2017–18 TV season.

Jan. 18 2017 1:27 PM

Game of Thrones and Other HBO Hits Upstage John Oliver in This Cheeky Last Week Tonight Promo

John Oliver knows he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea—in fact, he isn’t even the star of a new ad for his own show. HBO’s promo for Season 4 of Last Week Tonight puts the network’s other, more popular hits at the forefront, poking fun at the fact that Oliver's Last Week Tonight isn’t as big as, say, Game of Thrones or as hotly anticipated as the long-awaited revival of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Jan. 18 2017 11:25 AM

Cannibalism Has Never Looked As Endearing As It Does in the New Santa Clarita Diet Trailer

As far as zombies on television go, Drew Barrymore might just be the most adorable there is. In the first full-length trailer for Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet, Barrymore stars as Sheila, an ordinary California realtor whose life is turned upside down—or in her case, inside out—by a mysterious illness that stops her heart and makes her crave human flesh. For most, that would be alarming, but it turns out Sheila’s new diet boosts productivity and confidence. “I can-parallel park in one move now!” she chirps.

Jan. 18 2017 9:44 AM

Fiona Apple’s New Anti-Trump Song “Tiny Hands” Is the Perfect Women's March Chant

Fiona Apple doesn’t much care for Donald Trump. The notably private singer-songwriter hasn’t released a new album since 2012, but she returned to the spotlight with her fiery “Christmas” song “Trump’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” replacing holiday lyrics written by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé with verses confronting the pending bleakness of the Trump administration. (“Everybody knows some money and entitlement/ Can help to make the season white,” goes one section. “Mothers of color with their kids out of sight/ Will find it hard to sleep at night.”) And now, just ahead of the Women’s March on Washington, Apple has unveiled “Tiny Hands”—another powerful song of resistance.

Jan. 18 2017 8:03 AM

Billy Eichner on Screaming with Purpose, Comedy Under Trump, and Taking Celebrities Down a Peg

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Every episode of Billy on the Street is a window on a social experiment unfolding on the streets of New York. How would New Yorkers react if a tall white man with a microphone breathlessly ran up to them to ask about the cancellation of Bones? They are startled, they try to ignore him, others are truly sad the show is over. The man behind the mic, Billy Eichner, 38, has been doing a version of this vox populi questionnaire since putting on his 2003 stage show Creation Nation, billed as a “live pop-culture-drenched variety-comedy-concert-comedy-variety talk show.” But it wasn’t until recently, buoyed by social media, that the show truly took off. Now in its fifth official season on truTV, the unique Billy on the Street is still one of the strangest shows on television—a delightful alchemy of pop culture, celebrity, performance art, and social anthropology.

In person, Billy Eichner speaks deliberately. He’s naturally voluble, but his intensity is more Jewish intellectual than it is New York City wildman. I met Eichner the day before Thanksgiving at the Funny or Die! offices in Los Angeles, where he was juggling a number of projects: He’s starring in a third season of Hulu’s Difficult People, the show created by one of his closest friends, Julie Klausner, as well as the upcoming Netflix show Friends From College, all while working on the current season of Billy on the Street. We were there to talk about Billy on the Street, which he oversees from start to finish, including final approval of every episode. Naturally, the conversation drifted into other realms, including the election of Donald Trump, hookup apps, and his chilly relationship with mainstream gay publications. And away we go.

Jan. 17 2017 11:41 PM

Jerry Seinfeld Signs Production Deal with Netflix

Jerry Seinfeld has signed a production deal with Netflix that includes creating two exclusive new standup specials, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Seinfeld’s series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee will also be relocated to the streaming service, leaving Sony’s Crackle. Seinfeld will be producing 24 new episodes of the series and also contributing to the network in a development capacity.

Netflix has been paying top dollar for comedy lately, most recently buying two Chris Rock specials for a total of $40 million dollars. Figures for the Seinfeld deal were not available, but the Hollywood Reporter estimated them to be in the $100 million range. Seinfeld, Seinfeld’s NBC sitcom, remains at Hulu. Meanwhile, Bee Movie is currently streaming on Netflix, while The Entire Bee Movie but Every Time They Say Bee It Gets Faster remains, now and forever, on YouTube:

Jan. 17 2017 10:37 PM

A Bearded Woody Harrelson Causes Chaos in the Trailer for Wilson

The trailer for Craig Johnson’s adaptation of Dan Clowes’ graphic novel Wilson was released on Tuesday, and it’s Woody Harrelsoneriffic. As Slate’s Jacob Brogan wrote when filming started, Wilson is an odd piece to adapt into a movie to begin with, since it’s built from comic-strip gags. The key to its success or failure as a film will be the title role, since the novel is told exclusively from Wilson’s perspective. Judging from the footage in the trailer, Harrelson is going to be a little less unpleasant than the novel’s version of his character: less “genuine misanthrope” and more “indie film misanthrope.”

The film looks to be structured around an attempt by Wilson to build an improvised family with his ex-wife (Laura Dern) and a daughter he didn’t know he had (Isabella Amara). Which sounds like it might be, at times, heartwarming? As evidence against that, the trailer also offers a terrible date with Margo Martindale and a Harrelson getting beaten up by prison Nazis. Here’s hoping the film makes it to theaters with bleakness and misery intact: The last thing we need right now is more optimism.

Jan. 17 2017 3:23 PM

In This Brilliant Sketch, Billy Eichner and Keegan-Michael Key Show How Easy It Is to Legally Buy a Gun

In a recent interview with Vulture, Billy Eichner discussed how his attempts at sharp political comedy on Billy on the Street often go unnoticed. “The downside to creating this loud, larger-than-life character is that people gravitate toward the loudest element of it,” he explained. “But there is some very smart, subtle social criticism and cultural satire that is happening on the show that sometimes goes underappreciated because people tend to focus more on the shouting.”

It’s easy to view Eichner’s newest bit for the show—“Super Sloppy, Semi-Automatic Double Dare!”—as a direct result of this frustration. Modeled in the vein of past Billy on the Street “obstacle courses,” “Super Sloppy” features Keegan-Michael Key trying to legally buy a gun in America. The twist, of course, is that he actually has very few obstacles to overcome thanks to U.S. and state law. Not even Eichner’s elaborately (and satirically) constructed roadblocks can stop Key from loading up on firearms.

If hardly subtle, “Super Sloppy” is a seriously effective work of sketch comedy and perhaps the clearest example yet of how Eichner can use his style for political commentary. Key having to crawl through literal loopholes, “fudge” the Second Amendment with a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup, search for a concealed weapon in a sandbox in Michigan—where you can now bring concealed weapons to a child-care center—and so much more makes for amusingly pointed entertainment on its own. But as the “obstacles” mount, the sad statement behind the game becomes achingly clear. Eichner’s own summation isn’t exactly wrong: “The more guns that you acquire, the safer and more American you become!”

Jan. 17 2017 11:06 AM

Michael Moore Says Trump Will “Absolutely” Ban Muslims, Build a Wall, and Dismantle the Obama Agenda

To say Michael Moore is pessimistic about the incoming Trump administration would be a profound understatement. In a new interview with Variety, the documentary filmmaker—who correctly forecast Trump’s victory before most it considered possible—said that Trump will “absolutely” ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and build an immigration wall. He explained that by Day 2, “Republicans will start printing laws the way you print fliers for a homecoming dance.” And he expressed near-certainty that partisan lawmakers will swiftly “rescind” President Obama’s many legislative achievements and executive orders.

Moore has been among the most active public figures involved in the Trump resistance, leading protests and promising to help create the “new” Democratic Party. Although he expected that Trump wouldn’t make it to Inauguration Day—a prediction that at this point appears unlikely to pan out—he’s long been clear about the failures of the left-wing establishment. “It’s the second time now in 16 years where the Democrats won [the popular vote] but lost,” Moore told Variety. “That is so revolting that the old guard of the Democratic Party should all resign. They let us down, the majority, now twice. I’m done with it. I’m going to help lead the charge to take over the Democratic Party.”

He did close on a call to action, explaining that because anti-Trump voters are in the “majority,” they don’t need to be afraid: “Get involved … Some people need to think about running for office themselves: school board, city council, precinct delegate. It’s not going to change until some of us start running.”

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