Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Dec. 8 2016 1:09 PM

Jennifer Hudson Single-Handedly Turned Hairspray Live! Into a TV Musical Tour de Force

Despite the decidedly rocky start, NBC’s resurrection of the live televised musical has emerged as one of broadcast TV’s more effective gambits in recent years. It can be easy to read the stunt as a cynical ratings ploy, a line of glitzy productions with big names attached for expensive ad buys. But the transporting power of musical escapism—particularly well-done escapism, as was the case with last year’s The Wiz Live!—can be similarly difficult to deny.

NBC’s choice of Hairspray for its next live event turned out to be more prescient than was likely intended. John Waters’ original 1988 cult film was relatively surreal, a spoof of ‘60s progressivism and culture; but it has since evolved, churned through the Broadway and Hollywood machines into a sort of utopian dream. Hairspray as it stands today unabashedly conflates fatphobia with racism, and envisions an integrated society, with people of all shapes and sizes and complexions coming together to sing, dance, and fall in love. It deliberately shies away from harsher truths, ignores more realistic paths to progress. Considering the divisive political climate we’re currently living through, such a tidy formula can either—depending on the execution—make for the perfect sweetened cocktail, or the latest unwarranted attempt to try to get the country to forget its troubles.

Dec. 8 2016 1:07 PM

Watch the (Funny!) First Trailer for the Baywatch Movie, Starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. They’re making a Baywatch movie.
  2. It stars Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron.
  3. It’s a comedy. (Yes, really!)
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On the surface, a Baywatch movie seems like pretty lazy nostalgia-bait, but based on the trailer, this ain’t your ’90s Baywatch. The leads may be wearing swimsuits, but with all this talk of dead bodies washing up on the beach and bullets flying, this looks an awful lot like a buddy-cop movie, and not just any buddy-cop movie, but a 21 Jump Street-style reimagining that finds the humor in the qualities of Baywatch, like danger, romance, and (of course) running in slow motion.

It will certainly be fun to watch Johnson and Efron solve beach-crimes and crack jokes about their testicles while wearing next to nothing. And between his performances in Neighbors 1 and 2 and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Efron has proven a gift for frat-bro comedy, making him perfectly cast as a dim-witted former Olympian. (Remind you of anyone?) But it would also be nice if some of the movie’s female characters got to do more than just act as jiggling eye candy, considering that the film also stars Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, and Kelly Rohrbach.

The stars of the original TV show, David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, are expected to make appearances in the film, in theaters May 26.

Dec. 8 2016 10:57 AM

Madonna Strikes a Pose (and Twerks!) With James Corden on Carpool Karaoke

On Wednesday, Madonna hopped in the passenger seat for a round of Carpool Karaoke with James Corden. But in the passenger seat she did not stay, as the Queen of Pop kept getting up to pose and kick while performing some of her greatest hits, including “Vogue,” “Music,” and even an a cappella rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” from Evita. (Donald Trump would be pleased.) James Corden, bless him, just couldn't keep up.

There was plenty of chatter between songs, with Madonna revealing she once put the moves on Michael Jackson and that despite being excommunicated by the Catholic Church—three times—her lifestyle isn’t really as rebellious as her work. “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t party. I’m quite square,” she said. That she executed Carpool Karaoke’s first-ever in-car twerk suggests otherwise.

Dec. 8 2016 10:39 AM

Stephen Colbert to WikiLeaks, Alex Jones, Conspiracy Theorists: “Grow the F--k Up”

Stephen Colbert is no stranger to conspiracy theories—he even has his own Late Show segment dedicated to spinning some crazy webs of his own. But on Wednesday, the late night host explained that he has actually found himself on the other side of the tinfoil hat, implicated in a real conspiracy theory: Pizzagate. Colbert naturally denied any involvement: “I have absolutely no part in the Pizzagate conspiracy ... is what they want me to say.” He has some pretty compelling evidence for that denial though, because the story, of course, is fake.

How did Colbert come to be implicated in something as silly and dangerous as suggesting Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of a Washington, D.C. pizzeria basement? For starters, Reddit conspiracy theorists took note when Colbert mentioned pizza during his Election Night Special. Suspicious! Colbert is also, according to InfoWars host, friend to Donald Trump, and professional nutjob Alex Jones, on the Clinton payroll, as evidenced by a hacked Podesta email about a Colbert Report special featuring Bill Clinton. “For the record,” quipped Colbert, “[Clinton] can’t afford me.”

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Colbert wrapped up the segment by revealing that he is in cahoots not only with the left but also with our current presidential-elect, producing actual evidence that Trump’s appearance on the Late Show was rehearsed beforehand. But Colbert chose not to share the details of that pre-interview, “because here’s what these conspiracy theorists don’t get. There’s a difference between a conspiracy and an agreement.”

“A conspiracy is what villains do. An agreement is what adults do.” So to WikiLeaks, Alex Jones, and the deep, dark corners of Reddit, Colbert had just this to say: “Grow the fuck up.”

Dec. 8 2016 10:09 AM

The Grammys Still Don’t Think Beyoncé’s “Daddy Lessons” Is a Country Song

Beyoncé’s “Daddy Lessons” is country enough for the Country Music Association, but not for the Grammys. According to the Associated Press, the song was rejected by the Grammys’ country music committee, even as Beyoncé was nominated nine times in other categories, including Record of the Year and Album of the Year.

A handful of country stations gave “Daddy Lessons”—whose lyrics, as the AP notes, “include references to the Second Amendment, the Bible and shooting guns”—a test spin when Lemonade was released in April, but they were met with a swift negative reaction from both listeners and industry tastemakers. “It doesn’t sound like a country song to me,” sniffed a writer for CMT’s website. “She didn’t cut it at a studio in Tennessee, and it certainly wasn’t written by a group of Nashville songwriters.” Dixie Chicks, who have their own longstanding issues with the country establishment, made their feelings clear by adding “Daddy Lessons” to their setlist, and they came along when Beyoncé was asked to perform the song at the CMA Awards last month. (The Chicks’ Natalie Maines made it clear they were there at Beyoncé’s invitation, and not the other way around.) But that performance was met by a new backlash, and the Grammys responded by chickening out.

Is “Daddy Lessons” a country song? Beyoncé thinks so, and country stars like Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley agree. More to the point, is it any less country than Maren Morris’ Hero, which is nominated for Best Country Album despite the fact that it titles heavily towards pop contains hip-hop-inflected lyrics like “Boy I'd be rich, head to toe Prada/ Benz in the driveway, yacht in the water/ Vegas at the Mandarin, high roller gambling/ Me and Diddy drippin' diamonds like Marilyn.” Artists have always pushed boundaries, and there’s no reason why an artist like Morris shouldn’t be recognized for doing so, but it’s hard to conceive a definition of “country” that fits her songs and not Beyoncé’s, unless you want to straight-up make the argument that “Daddy Lessons” can’t be country because Beyoncé is black.

Dec. 8 2016 8:32 AM

The Safe Progressivism of This Is Us

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Spoilers ahead for the first season of This Is Us.

This Is Us—which, in its gentle, feel-good way, has delivered almost as many twists this season as Westworld and Mr. Robot combined—revealed another in Tuesday’s mid-season finale: William (Ron Cephas Jones), Randall’s birth father, is gay.

Actually, it’s unclear at this point whether William identifies fully as gay, but at the very least, we know that William is sexually fluid enough to currently have a male partner, played by Denis O’Hare, with whom he reconciled just in time for the Pearson family Christmas Eve gathering.

Dec. 8 2016 12:18 AM

Tina Fey Knows Why Hillary Lost: “Not Enough Celebrity Music Videos”

Tina Fey spoke Wednesday morning at the Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment breakfast, where she received the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award. Her wide-ranging remarks covered everything from her experiences working for Lansing on Mean Girls, her preference for John Slattery over Jon Hamm (who introduced her), and what the future holds for her and her cohort of female Saturday Night Live alums, a question she phrased as, “What is my role in this business gonna be once nobody wants to grab me by the pussy anymore?”

Besides referencing our president-elect’s favorite kind of sexual assault, Fey spoke more generally about the election and its aftermath. “What an amazing year it’s been for women!” she proclaimed, before collapsing face down on the podium in a gale of sad laughter. “What a year for women!” Fey went on to offer a postelection analysis (at 15:00 in the video):

Dec. 7 2016 10:26 PM

Kate McKinnon Will Play a Witch Forced to Work as a Lunch Lady in 2018 Best Picture Front-Runner The Lunch Witch

Kate McKinnon, everyone’s favorite veteran of Saturday Night Live and ensemble comedies from Ghostbusters to Office Christmas Party, is finally getting a starring role, Deadline reports. She’ll play the title character in Amblin Entertainment’s film adaptation of The Lunch Witch, a series of children’s comics written and illustrated by Deb Lucke. The film will be directed by Clay Katis, who co-directed Angry Birds with Fergal Reilly.

The Lunch Witch and its sequel The Lunch Witch: Knee-Deep in Niceness tell the story of Grunhilda, a witch from a long line of witches (her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother invented the recipe for Hansel and Gretel Pie). As the inheritor of all of her family’s potion recipes, she thinks she’s got it made, but the decline of belief in witchcraft means her potion shop goes under. After an unhappy stint playing a fake witch for tourists at the Salem Haunted Museum, she finds a new life in the one place her talent at cooking horrible tasting things is appreciated: a school cafeteria. Once there, she’s promptly blackmailed by an underachieving kid who figures out she’s a witch. The plot suggests Roald Dahl, the illustrations suggest Quentin Blake’s illustrations of Roald Dahl, and if we’re lucky, the film will suggest Danny DeVito or Mel Stuart’s adaptations of Roald Dahl.

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This sounds like a perfect role for McKinnon, who has always been at her best when things get silly, weird, and a little gross. Will Grunhilda have a change of heart about the students at her school? Will Kate McKinnon manage to bring her genius timing to a children’s movie? Will President Trump mistakenly serve Hansel and Gretel Pie at a state dinner? All we can do is wait and hope.

Dec. 7 2016 4:00 PM

Yas, Queen! Broad City Is Coming Back for Season 4 in August 2017.

Consistently one of TV’s best comedies, Comedy Central’s Broad City has finally settled on a return date. The show’s creators and stars, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, announced via Twitter that Season 4 is set to premiere sometime in August 2017:

Dec. 7 2016 1:09 PM

New Fifty Shades Darker Trailer Has Fewer Masks, More Flagrant Disregard for Indecent Exposure Laws

The last trailer we saw for Fifty Shades Darker, sequel to the blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey, notably featured lots and lots of masks. In the new trailer, Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey remove those masks—and several other articles of clothing along with them, proving that Fifty Shades is actually the story of two people who terrorize Seattle with their inability to keep it in their pants in public. (There’s also a love story and a stalker or something, but it’s a little hard to focus on those given everything else going on in this trailer.)

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