Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

March 24 2017 9:59 AM

Jimmy Kimmel and Patton Oswalt Investigate the Shockingly Terrible Comedy of Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee’s Twitter “comedy” has been an object of fascination for liberals recently, if only for one unfortunate reason: His jokes are really, really terrible. So terrible, in fact, that his tweets could reasonably be construed as parody—knowingly bad humor where the point rests in its mediocrity.

On Thursday night, Jimmy Kimmel enlisted Patton Oswalt to test this theory—to perform some of Huckabee’s more infamous tweets to see if there’s something we’re not just getting. If you’re unfamiliar with the Arkansas Governor’s insult comedy routine, then you’re in for a painful treat. And if you already are? Well, Oswalt’s gloriously cringe-inducing readings are unlikely to change your mind on the matter. At the very least, it's funnier listening to Oswalt stumble through saying “Poop Dogg” than having to read it on your iPhone.

March 24 2017 8:03 AM

A Worthy, Trump-Era Successor to The Wire, American Crime Dares Us to See the Real America

In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning election victory, ABC’s president of entertainment, Channing Dungey, signaled a change in direction for the network. “With our dramas, we have a lot of shows that feature very well-to-do, well-educated people, who are driving very nice cars and living in extremely nice places,” she said at the Content London media summit in November. “There is definitely still room for that … but in recent history we haven’t paid enough attention to some of the true realities of what life is like for everyday Americans in our dramas.”

American Crime, created by Oscar winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), has been an exception to that nice-cars-in-nice-places rule. The ambitious anthology drama burst onto the scene in early 2015 and was immediately recognized for its unsparing exploration of drug abuse, class divisions, and mass incarceration—exactly the kind of content Dungey suggested her network was in serious need of. In that first season, it could feel preachy and didactic, a little cold and humorless, but the show was admirably invested in the problems plaguing everyday life. And where Dungey’s “everyday Americans” was taken by many industry observers as a reference to Trump’s white working-class base—the “real America,” Ridley managed to invoke many of the campaign’s themes without erasing people of color or religious minorities.

American Crime has drawn comparisons to HBO’s The Wire from the outset. But those comparisons were often at the new show’s expense: Notwithstanding its visual panache and impressive ensemble of actors, American Crime in its first season could feel like a dour lecture, relentlessly pummeling viewers with issue-centric dialogue. The series improved exponentially in Season 2, starting from a clean slate with new plotlines and characters and shifting its focus toward LGBTQ identity, gun violence, and consent; it retained the first season’s polemical nature, but compensated with richer character dynamics. By the end, the season’s ambitions became a liability rather than a strength, but at its best, the story of a gay working-class teen’s allegation of rape showcased American Crime’s astonishing potential, placing achingly human faces onto pressing sociopolitical problems. Its third season has perfected that formula. Through a sweeping but meticulous approach to rural America, American Crime has emerged, at last, as the true successor to The Wire—the essential TV series for the Trump era.

March 24 2017 7:33 AM

Two Former Power Rangers Kids See the New Reboot (and Kind of Love It)

The only proper way to deal with the existence of a new Power Rangers movie is to send two millennials—the Power Rangers generation—to see it and then chat about it. Their conversation is below.

Jeffrey Bloomer: Aye yai yai yai yai, Heather, we’ve just watched the Power Rangers reboot no one particularly wanted. We should talk about our shared history with this franchise, but first I feel obligated to report that the movie is ... not bad? I actually had fun!

Heather Schwedel: Morphin’ time waits for no man! Which is to say, me too. But before we get to that, I must know about your pre-existing relationship with the Power Rangers.

Bloomer: Well, I was the Green Ranger, if that’s what you’re asking. Like many kids, I was very into the show when I was younger. That said, until this movie, I had forgotten almost every detail about it. Do we have collective Power Rangers amnesia?

March 23 2017 5:29 PM

There’s So Much New Gorillaz Music All of a Sudden

Where other artists tease with glimpses of their forthcoming albums, Gorillaz, the ever-shifting musical entity headed up by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, is flooding the zone, releasing four new songs from their forthcoming album, Humanz, which is due out April 28.

The complete album will consist of 14 tracks, 19 on the deluxe version, and will also be available as a “super deluxe vinyl box set” with each of the 14 tracks on a separate 12” slab, backed by an alternate version. A list of the album’s featured artists includes Vince Staples, Peven Everett, Popcaan, De La Soul, Danny Brown, Grace Jones, Mavis Staples, Pusha T, and Carly Simon, with actor Ben Mendelsohn narrating the album interludes.

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Here’s the music, and note that the Hewlett-directed six-minute video “Saturnz Barz (Spirit House),” which contains clips from all four songs, is available in both regular and, via supported web browsers, 360-degree versions.

“Saturnz Barz (Spirit House)” (featuring Popcaan)

“We’ve Got the Power” (featuring Jehnny Beth)

“Andromeda” (featuring D.R.A.M.)

“Ascension” (featuring Vince Staples)

“Saturnz Barz (Spirit House)” (360-degree version)

March 23 2017 1:30 PM

“Bingeing Is Bad”: Read Damon Lindelof’s Letter to Critics Before The Leftovers’ Final Season

Damon Lindelof has had a turbulent online relationship with critics of his TV shows, eventually quitting Twitter entirely after deciding that engaging with his haters was “unhealthy.” But that doesn’t mean he’s entirely given up on trying to control  the narrative around his shows. HBO today sent seven of the eight episodes in The Leftovers’ third and final season to critics, but that release was preceed by a note from Lindelof asking them to not rush through all seven back to back, and a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that he might be micromanaging their release just a tad.

Lindelof’s missive, which is reprinted in full below, also tweaks the famously controlling letters sent out with screeners by Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner, which enjoined critics from revealing even the most minute details of his season premieres—by Mad Men’s final seasons, all that Weiner would allow anyone to see in advance. The Leftovers has done exceptionally well by critics, who have played a significant role in keeping the low-rated show alive and giving Lindelof and Co. a chance to wrap up their story as they see fit—and Lindelof knows, and is grateful for, that. But he’s still not going to send his baby out into the world without at least a note pinned to its backpack, and if anyone starts tweeting out opinions on The Leftovers’ endgame seven hours from now, they can expect to hear from him again.

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Here's the letter.

Dear Critical Community,
G’day!  Welcome to the third and final season of THE LEFTOVERS.  On behalf of our entire team, I just wanted to say one thing before you embark on the journey.
Bingeing is bad.
I am old school.  And not just because I agree with Joss Whedon about everything. Never before in the history of the English language has “binge” been associated with something healthy or productive.  Just because there is an entire can of Pringles in front of you does not mean you should eat them all in one sitting.  Every time I have done this, I feel sad and guilty, and then mad at The Pringles Corporation.  Which is probably not even a thing.  But I also must acknowledge times have changed.  I must acknowledge there is not just too much television, but too much good television (“Fleek TV?”) and in order to make any kind of dent, we folks who produce it have to get out of our rocking chairs and get hip to the times.  Which probably includes not ever saying “hip” again.  Anyhoo…
We’re providing you with seven of our eight episodes.  Watch them however you see fit.  Review them however you see fit.  It’s not my place to suggest how to do your jobs.   I’d rather you not spoil some stuff, but I ultimately think it’s ridiculous to list that stuff, as it would seem completely arbitrary.  All I ask is that if you were surprised by something that happens on the show (either positively or negatively), it would be cool to maintain that same surprise for the audience.  For example, when Liv Tyler shoots lasers out of her eyes in Episode 4, we want that to be as shocking for them as it was for you.
Liv Tyler does not shoot lasers out of her eyes in Episode 4.
It’s Episode 6, actually.
But aren’t you bummed that I told you?
You get it.  You’re pros.  The point is, I’ve never sent out this many episodes in advance and I feel scared and I am trying to mitigate that fear by controlling things, but the way I’m controlling them is by trying to convince you that I’m okay with not controlling them.   I also ate an entire can of Pringles last night while watching the entire first season of FLEABAG until three in the morning, so y’know, hypocrite.
One last thing.  Please do not reveal the year this season takes place nor the new architectural design of STERLING, COOPER, PRYCE, GARVEY & JAMISON.
Your Pal,
Damon

March 23 2017 11:28 AM

Trevor Noah Defends Conservative Tomi Lahren, the Bill O’Reilly to His Jon Stewart, After Her Blaze Suspension

There’s more all-caps BREAKING NEWS in a single day of the Trump administration than a reasonable person could be expected to keep up with. Trevor Noah certainly understands the struggle to stay well-informed. He simply does not have time to address all of the country’s major headlines in a single episode of The Daily Show, which is why he introduced a new segment, Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That, in which he rattles off the news stories he might otherwise not cover at all. Its first installment tackles the hearing of Supreme Court nominee and whitest man alive Neil Gorsuch as well as Ivanka Trump’s ethically questionable level of involvement in the White House.

But the highlight of the segment was Noah's coverage of reports that Glenn Beck’s network, the Blaze, suspended conservative media darling Tomi Lahren after she made pro-choice remarks during an appearance on the View. “I’m someone that’s for limited government. So I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government but I think the government should decide what women do with their bodies,” Lahren said. “I can sit here and say that, as a Republican and I can say, you know what, I’m for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well.”

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Lahren had previously appeared on The Daily Show for a fascinating, if often uncomfortable, debate with the obviously liberal Noah about Donald Trump (she’s for him), Colin Kaepernick (she’s against him), and Black Lives Matter (she has compared them to the KKK). At times, the conversation recalled the days of Jon Stewart sparring with Bill O'Reilly, with whom Stewart disagreed on virtually every topic but still enjoyed a weird, begrudging kind of respect. Noah showed that Lahren truly is his O'Reilly, as he called out the Blaze for being hypocritical after so often accusing the left of being easily offended “snowflakes” who can’t tolerate different opinions. “Tomi comes out and speaks her truth, says that she’s pro-choice, and then suddenly her bosses go, oh, you like choices? How about you choose a new job?

Apparently, snowflakery doesn’t just belong to liberals after all. But while Noah says he was offended by the double standard and wants to show support for Lahren, protesting the decision is out of the question. Why? “Unfortunately, there’s no type of black-people protest that Tomi is comfortable with.”

March 23 2017 9:32 AM

#GOPDnD Uses Dungeons & Dragons to Process Republicans’ Cartoon Villainy

Kill the commoners with your own blade or the effects of your actions. Wage war against populations willy-nilly, blame a third party for the aggression. Increase the price of health care, then belittle people for getting sick or hurt in the first place. The mind reels at such cartoon villainy, but #GOPDnD can help you come to terms with it.

The hashtag, which appears to have originated from the Twitter account of One Shot podcast co-host James D’Amato, has been steadily gaining steam since it appeared last Friday. It usually takes the form of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign leader or dungeon master arguing for (or against) common decency in the face of a rogue player—either the GOP or POTUS himself. Many use spells or in-game terms that just don’t translate to normie speech well. However, some transcend the form.

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Grab your bag of holding, we’re going in.

Most #GOPDnDers make use of their limited tweetspace to grapple with a single GOP-affected issue, framed in a way that would make Wizards of the Coast proud.

On “draining the swamp” and building the wall:

On women:

On healthcare:

Assigning politicians or pundits D&D alignments like Lawful Good/True Neutral/Chaotic Evil, or comparing them to easily identifiable fictional characters, has been played out again and again and again. (And again—it might be time to read a new book, guys.) But the fact that the actions of the Republican Party, or the day-to-day doings of President Donald Trump himself, are so easily paralleled by textbook bad-guy behavior isn’t just hilarious—it is also concerning.

But the parallels only go so far. It’s one thing when a single bad or unfair player in a D&D campaign gets huffy, picks up his or her dice, and storms out of a session. But if the GOP storms out? If the president storms out? How does this end? Will they tear up the Constitution, hold the budget hostage, get countless people killed either by illness or military action? Does our future hinge on a roll of the 20-sided dice? Could that even matter if the leadership is weighting the dice, then disregarding whatever it says anyway? Will we be left sending a bunch of low-level adventurers, played by children, up against the Demogorgon?

Maybe it’s time to look forward to the next campaign. America Second Edition will probably haved worked out the bugs in the system by then.

March 23 2017 8:32 AM

Every Excuse The Americans Has Used to Hide Henry Jennings Offscreen

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

The Americans is a tour de force about identity, ideology, and truth. But for a prestige TV show that questions our very beliefs, the most frequent question is a surprising one: “Where’s Henry?” While Philip and Elizabeth are busy with nefarious spy craft and Paige is moping about Pastor Tim or her boyfriend Matthew, the youngest member of the Jennings family is frequently missing in one way or another.

Think about that: These Soviet spies are tasked with smuggling biological weapons out of the country, decoding secret communications, and bugging the homes of American diplomats, but they can’t keep track of a single teenage boy. And during the rare moments when Henry isn’t missing, Philip and Elizabeth have to make sure he’s not able to hear their conversations. That’s why, whenever they’re divulging their deepest and darkest secrets to Paige, The Americans needs to toss out a plausible excuse about where Henry might be so he doesn’t overhear any sensitive information.

During the show’s five seasons, characters have enquired about Henry’s whereabouts no less than 22 times. That means in nearly half of the 54 episodes that have aired, a writer had to concoct a reason why Henry wasn’t around. Here are all of the excuses we’ve heard so far.

March 23 2017 12:35 AM

Check Out the Trailer to Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

Teaching children the proper disrespect towards authority figures can be a difficult thing, but since 1997, Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series has been nothing less than a godsend. Now Dreamworks Animation is bringing Pilkey’s epic to the big screen, and parents around the world will have a new quiver in their bow. The film stars Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch as two prank-loving fourth graders who hypnotize their authoritarian principal (Ed Helms) into believing he is a superhero named “Captain Underpants.” This is basically the best possible outcome in fourth grader-principal relations, especially when, as the trailer reveals, there are supervillains around.

In this case, Captain Underpants will face off against Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll), in a struggle that is all-too-familiar to our nation’s youngest children. David Soren directs from a script by Nicholas Stoller; Jordan Peele and Kristen Schaal round out the all-star cast. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie will be released June 2, which should give our nation’s children just enough time to learn hypnosis before school starts again in the fall. Great news, principals of America—the upcoming school year just got a lot more interesting!

March 23 2017 12:03 AM

Seth Meyers Tries to Untangle Trump’s Wiretapping Fiasco and Russian Ties; Fails   

“If you thought you’d heard enough about the wiretapping story, think again,” Seth Meyers ominously says about halfway through his latest “A Closer Look” segment, and, unfortunately, he’s not wrong. We’re all still running around on the wild goose chase set off by Trump’s last Fox news binge/early-morning Twitter fiasco, and today brought even more nonsense, this time from Devin Nunes. Unless someone puts a Faraday cage around the White House bathroom, next Saturday morning will probably be worse, but in the meantime, Meyers does his best to explain the current state of play. But it’s complicated: there’s Manafort, Nunes, Trump himself, and his various squid-ink squirting spokespeople. Fortunately, Meyers hits the single image that makes everything clear: Trump adviser Roger Stone’s inauguration outfit:

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