Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

July 28 2016 11:40 PM

Meryl Streep in Talks to Join Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Upcoming Mary Poppins Sequel   

Meryl Streep is negotiating to appear in Disney’s upcoming Mary Poppins sequel Mary Poppins Returns, Variety reports. She’ll join the already-attached Emily Blunt, who will play magical nanny Poppins, and Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, who will play a lamplighter named Jack. (Jack is not to be confused with the chimney sweep/one-man-band player named Bert played by Dick Van Dyke in the original film.) Rob Marshall is directing from a screenplay by David Magee, with a score by Marc Shaiman and songs by Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

The new film will be set during the Great Depression, as the original P.L. Travers novels were; the 1964 Disney film moved the story back to 1910. Although it will draw from all of the Mary Poppins books, Mary Poppins Returns is an original story, not an adaptation. Technically it will be a sequel, of sorts, to the film: the Banks children from the first film will now be adults, and Michael Banks will have children of his own.


Streep will play a character named Topsy, who is described as Mary Poppins’ cousin, though it seems likely she’s a cousin by marriage. In Mary Poppins Comes Back, Poppins has a cousin named Mr. Turvy, who marries one Topsy Tartlett, making her, of course, Topsy Turvy. The Travers books, as Charlotte Runcie wrote in the Guardian, are much weirder than Disney’s film, so it will be interesting to see how Magee has adapted them. The cast may not be complete yet, but Mary Poppins Returns already has a firm release date of December 25, 2018. Chim Chim Cher-ee!

July 28 2016 9:48 PM

Disney’s Developing a Rocketeer Sequel with a Black, Female Rocketeer

Disney has hired screenwriters Max Winkler and Matt Spicer to write a sequel to their 1991 film The Rocketeer, according to the The Hollywood Reporter. The new film will have a black, female lead wearing the rocket pack featured in the original movie.

The first Rocketeer film, Joe Johnston’s adaptation of a series of comics by Dave Stevens, underperformed at the box office in its original release, but has had a long tail, due to the fact that it’s utterly charming. Set in 1938, the film was an homage to the serial adventure films of the period. Billy Campbell played a stunt pilot named Cliff Secord, who stumbles on a stolen top-secret rocket jet packet. Secord, along with his mechanic (Alan Arkin) and girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) cross swords with Timothy Dalton, playing a swashbuckling Nazi actor based loosely on a later-discredited biography of Errol Flynn


The new film, to be called The Rocketeers, will be set six years later in 1944: Secord has disappeared, and a new rocketeer steps forward: an African-American female pilot, who will battle to keep the jet pack technology out of the hands of the Soviets. So it’s a comic book Operation Paperclip starring Bessie Coleman. Which sounds like a lot of fun, but maybe not as much fun as Nazi blimps over Hollywood. No word yet as to who will play Wernher von Braun.

July 28 2016 3:42 PM

Matt Damon Fights Strange Creatures in the Visually Stunning Trailer for Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall

In the trailer for The Great Wall, Matt Damon is a 15th-century warrior defending humanity from—monsters? Dragons? It’s a little tough to tell, but whatever they are, they’re not human, that’s for sure. The Great Wall marks Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s English-language debut with a multinational cast that also includes Tian Jing, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, and Willem DaFoe.

Zhang is best known for visually spectacular films like House of Flying Daggers and Hero, so it’s no surprise to see that the trailer contains glimpses of some stunning vistas. The Hollywood-China co-production is being billed as the largest production ever shot entirely in China, with a budget of reportedly $135 million.


The Great Wall was supposed to debut in November, but has been pushed back and will now hit theaters Feb. 17, 2017.

July 28 2016 3:11 PM

It Is Perfectly Reasonable for Tim Kaine to Carry Four Harmonicas

Tim Kaine’s two big speeches since his announcement as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee have relied heavily on his biography. America knows that Kaine helped out in his father’s welding shop, became a civil-rights lawyer, learned Spanish while volunteering for the Peace Corps in Honduras. But until recently, many voters were unaware of another central fact of Kaine’s life: his eagerness to play harmonica at a moment’s notice.

So this tweet from the Atlantic’s Molly Ball caused quite the firestorm during the veep nominee’s convention speech Wednesday night:

A naïve reader might imagine that four harmonicas would be overkill—that surely a primary harmonica and perhaps a backup in case of loss or damage would suffice. In fact, serious players have good reason to carry multiple instruments. Most harmonicas are diatonic, meaning that they are in a fixed key: If you want to jam and you don’t want to be stuck in one key, you’re going to need to pack a lot of harps. (That’s why Blues Traveler’s John Popper, the recognized master of playing a lot of notes on the harmonica very quickly, wears that cool-looking bandolier.) You need a dozen harmonicas to cover the full range of major key signatures; for a serious harp player who also happens to be a U.S. senator and thus probably can’t wear a bandolier all the time, four is a perfectly reasonable compromise.

The election of a harmonica-playing vice president wouldn’t be a milestone: Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Ronald Reagan all played. Al Gore was known to blow harp, too, although in his diffidence he was Kaine’s polar opposite:

July 28 2016 1:03 PM

HBO Fired Three Beloved Old-Timers from the Sesame Street Cast. Watch Some of Their Best Moments on the Show.

Sesame Street is moving to HBO, and the show is undergoing some changes during the transition, including a switch from hour-long to half-hour episodes, the addition of some new faces, and a major overhaul of the set. This also, it turns out, means some heartbreaking departures: At a Q&A in Florida earlier this month, original Sesame Street cast member Bob McGrath announced that he, Emilio Delgado, and Roscoe Orman (aka Bob, Luis, and Gordon) had been “graciously let go” from the HBO series.

Executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente told Entertainment Weekly in January that the switch to HBO meant that the new Sesame Street would focus more on core characters, especially Muppets like Elmo, Abby, and Cookie Monster, to better appeal to tech-savvy kids. In a statement on Twitter, Sesame Street assured those concerned that McGrath, Delgado, and Orman would remain “a beloved part of the Sesame family and continue to represent us at public events.” But knowing that those characters will be departing from the screen is still pretty devastating for grown-ups.


Bob McGrath, now 84, has played the character Bob since Sesame Street’s premiere episode in 1969. After a brief but successful singing career in Japan, McGrath was initially reluctant to appear on children’s television, but joined the cast after being impressed by Jim Henson’s vision. The character sang many of Sesame Street’s songs over the decades, including “People in Your Neighborhood” and “I Am Your Friend.”

Emilio Delgado has played Luis, a handyman, on the show since 1971 and was crucial to introducing Latino culture to Sesame Street. Luis and Maria, played by Sonia Manzano, who recently retired, married on the show in 1988 and went on to have a daughter, Gabi.

Roscoe Orman joined the cast in 1974, becoming the fourth actor to play Gordon, the patriarch of the Robinson family, after Garrett Saunders, Matt Robinson, and Hal Miller. Gordon, who is a science teacher, was the first character introduced in Sesame Street's pilot. Chris Knowings, who plays Gordon’s nephew, will remain with the show, as will Alan Muraoka, who joined the cast in 1998.

July 28 2016 12:05 PM

Stephen Colbert Officially Retired “Stephen Colbert” Because Corporate Lawyers Made Him

The world rejoiced recently when Stephen Colbert, host of the Late Show, brought back “Stephen Colbert,” beloved host of The Colbert Report, to cover the Republican National Convention alongside Jon Stewart.* Viacom, parent company of Colbert’s old stomping grounds Comedy Central, on the other hand, did not. Instead, as the host put it on Wednesday evening, Viacom’s corporate lawyers contacted CBS’ corporate lawyers to claim “Colbert” as their intellectual property. “[It’s] surprising,” he said, “because I never considered that guy much of an intellectual.”

July 28 2016 11:00 AM

A Cartoonist Remembers His Hero, Cul de Sac’s Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson, the cartoonist who created the comic strip Cul de Sac and whose work was featured for years in the Washington Post Magazine, died Wednesday at the age of 58 of complications from Parkinson's disease. Cartoonist John Martz drew this appreciation.


July 28 2016 10:28 AM

John Oliver Offered Some of His Own Dad Jokes in Honor of America’s Stepdad Tim Kaine

Tim Kaine charmed the internet on Wednesday night by giving a very dadlike speech at the Democratic National Convention, complete with terrible impressions and cheesy jokes. Now, “America’s stepdad” can count John Oliver among his fans: On The Late Show, Oliver told Stephen Colbert that Kaine is just what the doctor ordered after a difficult campaign season, calling the VP candidate “a tall glass of Lactaid” and admiring his break-into-a-harmonica-solo-at-any-moment demeanor, along with all the "jokes and impressions that came out of that man's soft face."

The two former Daily Show correspondents also chatted about the RNC, Oliver’s Instagram feud with a Chechen warlord who lost his cat, and his shoutout in the new Gilmore Girls trailer. (Yes, Lorelai, John Oliver does think you’re hot.)

July 28 2016 8:02 AM

Deep Down, BoJack Horseman Is a Hopeful Show

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Very sad and serious things happen on BoJack Horseman. The third season alone, which recently dropped another motherlode of Hollywood satire and unrelenting bleakness onto Netflix, features storylines involving tragic drug overdoses, abortion, pop songs about abortion, alcohol abuse, sexual harassment, and potentially terminal cancer diagnoses. Everyone on this show is miserable, self-involved, and either in the middle of an existential crisis or merely taking a brief break before the next round of soul-crushing “Why am I here and what’s the meaning of life?” questions start again.

July 28 2016 7:32 AM

The New MadTV Is Not Nearly As Offensive As the Original. Or As Interesting.

Like practically every cultural property made within the last 25 years or so, MadTV has risen from the dead: On Tuesday night, the long-running sketch comedy show returned to kick off a limited eight-episode primetime run, nearly a decade after it first went off the air. A new crop of relative comic unknowns are leading the pack, with original cast members, including Nicole Sullivan and Will Sasso, returning to make cameos as their signature characters. Instead of airing on its original network, Fox, its revival is on the CW.

Aside from giving birth to the far superior Key & Peele (Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key both started as MadTV cast members), the show is probably best remembered as a scrappy, less sophisticated cousin of SNL. Like its predecessor In Living Color, which ran from 1990 to 1994, MadTV specialized in boisterously broad and scathing humor, trafficking unabashedly in racial, gendered, and sexual stereotypes. This identity didn’t make it a critics’ darling, but it was popular with audiences for some time. (Yes, the show was nominated for 35 Emmys, but almost all of them were for technical awards, like hair and makeup.) In 2016, many—most?—of these caricatures don’t hold up well, if they ever did to begin with. And so the biggest question surrounding this resurrection—besides “Why?” and “Wait, did this show really stay on the air for 14 seasons?”—was this: Will the new MadTV adjust to the current cultural climate and be a little less … politically incorrect in its new incarnation?