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To say that 2023 has been a tumultuous year for the entertainment industry would be an understatement. Even before writers and actors struck for months in a largely successful effort to raise wages, secure residuals from streaming platforms, and place safeguards on such existential threats to their livelihoods as A.I., the streaming wars entered a chaotic new era characterized by cash-strapped studios’ scramble to turn a profit—or at least cut their losses. Industry giants like Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery, which had invested heavily in building proprietary streaming services, reversed course by licensing titles to other streamers. Shows with fervent fan bases didn’t just get canceled after a season or two; some disappeared from streaming libraries entirely. (A recent New York Times profile likened the strategy of WBD’s CEO, David Zaslav, to that of the Broadway impresarios who made Springtime for Hitler in The Producers.) The dreaded password-sharing crackdown finally happened. Subscription prices skyrocketed.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
As the Hollywood machine lurches back into production mode, the long-term outlook for television as an art form remains uncertain. But if it’s easy to be pessimistic about the future, that’s all the more reason to celebrate the best of a bad year. Looking back at the highlights of 2023 in TV, I’m struck by how many first-time creators—from I’m a Virgo culture jammer Boots Riley and author turned Rain Dogs auteur Cash Carraway to Dead Ringers phenom Alice Birch and BEEF breakthrough Lee Sung Jin—emerged with bold, new visions. Like so many on this list, their shows harnessed the subversive potential of an inherently commercial medium, in stories that spoke to an industry in crisis, a society divided, and a world at war.
10. Poker Face (Peacock)
Natasha Lyonne stars as a rumpled citizen detective in an homage to Columbo created by Knives Out mastermind Rian Johnson. It’s an idea so irresistible, the show could’ve been made on autopilot and still charmed its target audience. Instead, we got 10 episodes of case-of-the-week magic that sent Lyonne’s human polygraph Charlie Cale on a road trip through the contemporary American landscape, pausing to solve murders at barbecue joints, retirement communities, and race-car tracks. Each stop is its own vividly rendered social world, populated by such delightful guest stars as Chloë Sevigny, Nick Nolte, Hong Chau, Judith Light, and Tim Meadows. And before Charlie’s mysteries start to feel too cozy, Johnson not only ups the dramatic stakes, but also challenges viewers prone to worshiping Lyonne’s wabi-sabi sage persona, setting up a second season that’s bound to surprise.
9. The Other Two (Max)
The Other Two premiered, in 2019, with a narrow premise: An adorable teen finds overnight fame as a Gen Z Justin Bieber, and his underachieving adult siblings try to ride his coattails to success. But over the course of three seasons, the series evolved into a sharp satire of the entertainment industry at large—and ended its run this year as one of the funniest comedies on TV. While the rise of young ChaseDreams (Case Walker) sent up the teen-idol-industrial complex, his mom Pat (Molly Shannon) became a window into the cult of the “relatable” daytime talk-show queen. Brother Cary (Drew Tarver) exemplified the humiliations of the struggling actor and would-be gay icon. And sister Brooke (Heléne Yorke) apprenticed with Chase’s bumbling manager, played by the hilarious Ken Marino, learning to swim in shark-infested boardrooms. The show’s final season was the biggest and smartest of all, capturing the demented ambition, streaming fatigue, and fickle politics that define contemporary Hollywood.
8. Dead Ringers (Amazon)
The year’s most unlikely reboot was also its most inspired. In repurposing David Cronenberg’s 1988 cult-classic horror movie about twin ob-gyns torn asunder when one of them falls for a glamorous patient, Alice Birch entrusted the brilliant Rachel Weisz with the dual role originated by Jeremy Irons. No shallow gender flip, the adjustment endowed the bloody allegory of siblings desperate to be back in the womb together with new layers of meaning. This Dead Ringers meets a moment when women’s bodies are once again a battleground, a humane birth experience has become a luxury item, and the ghosts of brutal reproductive research past cast dark shadows over the cutting-edge gynecological technology of the present. It also announces Birch, who was able to flesh out such ambitious themes without sacrificing the style or humor audiences cherish in the original, as one of the most exciting new showrunners out there.
7. Telemarketers (HBO)
Documentary series, particularly of the true-crime variety, have exploded in popularity during the streaming era. The problem is, few of the dozens of new titles released in the genre each year are actually good. Some are trashy. Others are just unimaginative, in style and subject matter; do we really need more insight into the psychology of serial killers? Telemarketers couldn’t be more different. Drawing on wild footage he shot in the early 2000s of fellow employees cutting up and nodding out at the anything-goes offices of telemarketing company Civic Development Group, co-director Sam Lipman-Stern embarks on a quest to expose a shady industry that pretends to raise money for good causes but mostly just lines the bosses’ pockets. While the mood of the series is pretty light (think Roger and Me meets American Movie), the investigation couldn’t be more serious. With his former co-worker Patrick J. Pespas in the role of citizen journalist and moral beacon, Lipman-Stern unravels a web of amoral entrepreneurs, corrupt police organizations, and government cowardice in the face of powerful law-enforcement forces.
6. The Curse (Showtime)
How do you follow a revelation like The Rehearsal, which premiered last year as a sort of high-concept makeover show but ended up questioning our most fundamental assumptions about who we are, what we want out of life, and how those identities and aspirations are portrayed on screen? If you’re Nathan Fielder, you team up with two Hollywood luminaries, Benny Safdie and Emma Stone, for a scripted series that burrows even deeper into the fraught relationships between reality TV and reality, how we see ourselves and how others perceive us. The word most often used to describe The Curse, which won’t air its finale until January, is uncomfortable. That’s putting it lightly. In dissecting the interactions of a couple shooting an eco-conscious real estate series for HGTV, Fielder and co-creator Safdie touch third-rail issues like gentrification, cultural appropriation, and colonialism. The precision with which each episode provokes and unsettles echoes such masters of productive discomfort as Hitchcock and Kafka.
5. BEEF (Netflix)
What could be more timely than a show about anger? First-time creator Lee Sung Jin casts Ali Wong and Steven Yeun as two L.A. drivers whose random road-rage encounter escalates into a series of increasingly destructive pranks that threaten to ruin both of their lives. Each party’s fury is rooted in years, if not decades, of repression. Wong’s Amy has a talentless artist husband (Joseph Lee) and a successful houseplant business that she’s desperate to sell to a mercurial billionaire (Maria Bello). Yeun’s Danny is a hapless contractor hustling to bring his parents back from Korea. While the show isn’t about Asian-American identities per se, it’s grounded in the discrete ethnic communities to which the characters belong and feels specific to protagonists grappling with inequality, stereotyping, and the elevated expectations of immigrant parents. Darkly hilarious but also profoundly observant, BEEF pairs “minor feelings” with major stakes.
4. Rain Dogs (HBO)
Streamers are going broke scrambling to scale up television to fit genre-franchise-multiverse specs, but often the most effective small-screen stories are also the most intimate. Rain Dogs is this year’s most compelling case in point, a portrait of a fascinatingly unconventional family. Daisy May Cooper’s Costello is a peep-show dancer and aspiring writer struggling to support her wise-beyond-her-years tween daughter (Fleur Tashjian) with dubious help from her recently incarcerated gay best friend, Florian (Jack Farthing). He comes from a rich family; she can rarely make rent. He’s a gleeful sadist; she has masochistic tendencies. They’re toxic together, and they know it, but that doesn’t mean they can stand to be apart—or make them stop caring about each other. Creator Cash Carraway, an author making her first foray into showrunning, strikes the perfect balance of darkness, warmth, grit, and scathing British humor, ensuring that this emotional dramedy neither trivializes its characters’ pain nor devolves into a pity party.
3. I’m a Virgo (Amazon)
Less than two months after the WGA went on strike and just a few weeks before SAG-AFTRA joined them on the picket line to protest their employers’ greed, the streaming arm of a megacorporation led by one of the world’s richest people unveiled a flagrantly anti-capitalist comedy series devised by radical rapper and Sorry to Bother You filmmaker Boots Riley. It’s a complicated partnership to parse, politically speaking. But from an artistic standpoint, Riley’s surreal allegory about a 13-foot-tall Black teenager (the great Jharrel Jerome) in Oakland is among the year’s boldest and most imaginative statements. Jerome’s Cootie is a folk hero for our times—a gentle giant whose sheltered upbringing makes him slow to realize that powerful forces within American society, chief among them a vigilante billionaire played by Walton Goggins, will always interpret a powerful Black man as a thug and a threat. Riley’s secret weapons are humor and humanism. His message may be militant, but he delivers it in a package cushioned by laughs, love, and a lively vision of liberation. Your move, Jeff Bezos.
1. Succession (HBO) and Reservation Dogs (FX)
Ranking art is a fool’s errand, but I appreciate the annual list-making ritual just the same. If you abandon any pretense that it’s possible to pick an objective “best” show, what you’re left with is a record of the ones that made the most profound impact on you specifically. Well, for the first time in my career, I just couldn’t decide which of two series—both of which wrapped up nearly flawless runs this year—most brilliantly fulfilled the potential of the TV medium in the year 2023.
Succession was the obvious choice, an Emmy-winning, hour-long drama that aired on a platform synonymous with prestige TV and drove water-cooler conversation for practically its entire four-season run. Creator Jesse Armstrong and his virtuosic cast didn’t waste a second of the show’s final arc, which unfolded largely in the aftermath of Murdoch-like media mogul Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) ingeniously choreographed midair death. Every episode earned the fanfare with which it was greeted: Connor’s (Alan Ruck) miserable wedding! Swedish tech edgelord Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) waging psychological warfare on the Roy kids in Norway! Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Shiv (Sarah Snook) hosting an election-eve party that damn near ends their marriage! That white-knuckle election episode! That tour de force funeral episode! The bangers just kept coming. And the finale made the biggest bang of all, culminating in a race to the bottom that everyone, but especially the irreparably broken Roy siblings, won.
Reservation Dogs, by contrast, never chased the mainstream zeitgeist. Instead of homing in on the 1% of the 1%, Sterlin Harjo’s half-hour dramedy chronicled the hijinks of disenfranchised outsiders: four Native American teens on an Oklahoma reservation mourning a friend who died by suicide. Profane, poignant, and sometimes psychedelic, the series moved fluidly between coming-of-age awkwardness, small-town character comedy, and the spiritual immediacy that comes with growing up with ancient traditions in a place that has seen so many untimely deaths. While the teenage Rez Dogs remained at the show’s center, learning how to become adults from the elders around them, its circle never stopped expanding until it encompassed the entire fictional community of Okern—young and old, present and absent, living and spectral. In its final season, you never knew, going in, what kind of journey an episode was going to take you on. One rode a time machine to the 1970s; another reunited college-bound Elora (Devery Jacobs) with a long-lost father played by Ethan Hawke. A cast blessed with veterans like Zahn McClarnon and Gary Farmer but anchored by newcomers breathed vitality into every frame.
Yet the two shows had more in common than might be apparent. Both were irreverent. Both mixed comedy and tragedy, and each invented a poetically foulmouthed language of its own; where Logan had “f-ck off,” Rez Dogs has an endless supply of “sh-tasses.” Both shows had profound things to say about the sociopolitical realities of our time. And each accessed those insights through finely wrought characters that felt unique to their respective worlds—lonely masters of the universe in one case, members of a disadvantaged but fiercely loving community in the other. Together, they capture the polarized extremes of American life in the year that was.
A Small Light (Nat Geo), Barry (HBO), The Bear (FX), Extraordinary (Hulu), Fellow Travelers (Showtime), Party Down (Starz), Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (Netflix), This Fool (Hulu), Wrestlers (Netflix), Yellowjackets (Showtime)
Source: Entertainment – TIME | 30 Nov 2023 | 12:49 pm
Source: BBC News - Entertainment & Arts | 30 Nov 2023 | 9:27 am
Source: BBC News - Entertainment & Arts | 30 Nov 2023 | 8:40 am
The annual much-hyped Spotify Wrapped was released worldwide on Wednesday and soon went viral on social media, with users of the global streaming giant reacting to a new feature where the company matches a listener with a “Sound Town” based on their favorite music.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
The end-of-the-year phenomenon is hugely popular: The company has more than 574 million users, and on Thursday morning, Spotify was the top trend on X (formerly Twitter), with more than four million posts.
What generated the most buzz online this year were Spotify’s new “Sound Towns.” More than 1,300 cities across the globe were Sound Towns, Spotify told TIME in an email.
The Sound Town selected for each eligible user has the most similar taste profile to their own, based on their most streamed artists of the year and how much those artists are streamed in other cities, the company said. The concept is “objective and entirely driven by a user’s listening history” and available to all users who have at least three top artists who over-index in a particular city, the streaming service added.
The city with the most matches was San Luis Obispo, Calif., which paired with 0.8% of listeners, Spotify told NBC News. The hit caused the small city along the central California coast to go viral. The city’s government responded via social media with delight, saying it was trending because it listens to an “eclectic mix of music.”
The district’s U.S. representative Salud Carbajal also joked that he and the city’s mayor were “getting a lot of new constituents today” and welcomed Spotify users to the “beautiful Sound Town.”
Social media users also noticed the popularity of three other American cities—Burlington, Vt., Cambridge, Mass. and Berkeley, Calif.—and the sexual orientation of Spotify listeners getting matched with them. Online LGBTQ publication Them noticed many people who identify as queer had been paired with the three college towns.
One social media user quipped that “Spotify is trying to make a gay commune in Berkeley, a lesbian commune in Burlington, and a bisexual commune in Cambridge.” Another commented that Spotify Wrapped was the new “are you gay?” quiz online, popularized by Buzzfeed and others.
Spotify even acknowledged the focus on the three towns with a post on X calling out “hey besties” to the cities of Burlington, Berkeley and Cambridge. Some of the cities’ leaders responded, with Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui asking her followers what they thought of Spotify Wrapped’s playlist for the city.
City spokesperson Jeremy Warnick told TIME in an email that they were excited to see Cambridge among the most popular sound towns. Music is an integral part of the city’s culture, identity and vibrancy, he said, and Cambridge has a long history of supporting independent music venues and local artists.
Musicians like Taylor Swift, Charli XCX, boygenius, Gracie Abrams and Phoebe Bridgers, who matched with the Sound Town, “perfectly encapsulate the creative, progressive spirit of Cambridge,” he said.
“Our city values self-expression, inclusion, and innovation—the very qualities embodied by these musical trailblazers,” he said.
Some social media users joked that the cities’ tourism boards had worked with Spotify to boost their profiles.
Burlington City Arts communications director John Flanagan told TIME in an email that Spotify didn’t reach out to Burlington ahead of the Spotify Wrapped results being released and the city didn’t know it would be so prominently included.
The popularity has “been fun” and “we’re glad our City is being so publicly recognized for our diverse and passionate commitment to arts and music,” Flanagan said. Burlington and Vermont are home to many artists and musicians and City Arts has supported the community for decades.
Flanagan said he’d heard of so many different listening styles landing Spotify users in Burlington—from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard to Bad Bunny—which he thought was very “Burlingtonian” in itself.
“We are an eclectic city that takes pride in considering all tastes and interests,” he said. “There has been an especially strong association with artists who identify as queer, which is also spot-on. Burlington is an incredibly supportive and loving community.”
Source: Entertainment – TIME | 30 Nov 2023 | 8:18 am
Source: BBC News - Entertainment & Arts | 30 Nov 2023 | 7:56 am
LONDON — Shane MacGowan, the singer-songwriter and frontman of “Celtic Punk” band The Pogues, best known for the Christmas ballad “Fairytale of New York,” died Thursday, his family said. He was 65.
“It is with the deepest sorrow and heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our most beautiful, darling and dearly beloved Shane Macgowan,” his wife Victoria Clarke, his sister Siobhan and father Maurice said in a statement.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
The singer died peacefully with his family by his side, the statement added.
The musician had been hospitalized in Dublin for several months after being diagnosed with viral encephalitis in late 2022. He was discharged last week, ahead of his upcoming birthday on Christmas Day.
The Pogues fused Irish traditional music and rock’n’roll into a unique, intoxicating blend, though MacGowan became as famous for his sozzled, slurred performances as for his powerful songwriting.
His songs blended the scabrous and the sentimental, ranging from carousing anthems to snapshots of life in the gutter to unexpectedly tender love songs. The Pogues’ most famous song, “Fairytale of New York” is a bittersweet Christmas classic that opens with the decidedly unfestive words: “It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank.”
Born on Christmas Day 1957 in England to Irish parents, MacGowan spent his early years in rural Ireland before the family moved back to London. Ireland remained the lifelong center of his imagination and his yearning. He grew up steeped in Irish music absorbed from family and neighbors, along with the sounds of rock, Motown, reggae and jazz.
He attended the elite Westminster School in London, from which he was expelled, and spent time in a psychiatric hospital after a breakdown in his teens.
MacGowan embraced the punk scene that exploded in Britain in the mid-1970s. He joined a band called the Nipple Erectors, performing under the name Shane O’Hooligan, before forming The Pogues alongside musicians including Jem Finer and Spider Stacey.
The Pogues — shortened from the original name Pogue Mahone, a rude Irish phrase — fused punk’s furious energy with traditional Irish melodies and instruments including banjo, tin whistle and accordion.
“It never occurred to me that you could play Irish music to a rock audience,” MacGowan recalled in “A Drink with Shane MacGowan,” a 2001 memoir co-authored with Clarke. “Then it finally clicked. Start a London Irish band playing Irish music with a rock and roll beat. The original idea was just to rock up old ones but then I started writing.”
The band’s first album, “Red Roses for Me,” was released in 1984 and featured raucous versions of Irish folk songs alongside originals including “Boys from the County Hell,” “Dark Streets of London” and “Streams of Whisky.”
MacGowan wrote many of the songs on the next two albums, “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash” (1985) and “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” (1988), ranging from rollicking rousers like the latter album’s title track to ballads like “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “The Broad Majestic Shannon.”
The band also released a 1986 EP, “Poguetry in Motion,” which contained two of MacGowan’s finest songs, “A Rainy Night in Soho” and “The Body of an American.” The latter featured prominently in early-2000s TV series “The Wire,” sung at the wakes of Baltimore police officers.
“I wanted to make pure music that could be from any time, to make time irrelevant, to make generations and decades irrelevant,” he recalled in his memoir.
The Pogues were briefly on top of the world, with sold-out tours and appearances on U.S. television, but the band’s output and appearances grew more erratic, due in part to MacGowan’s struggles with alcohol and drugs. He was fired by the other band members in 1991.
He performed with a new band, Shane MacGowan and the Popes, before reuniting with The Pogues in 2001 for a series of concerts and tours.
MacGowan had years of health problems and used a wheelchair after breaking his pelvis a decade ago. He was long famous for his broken, rotten teeth until receiving a full set of implants in 2015 from a dental surgeon who described the procedure as “the Everest of dentistry.”
MacGowan received a lifetime achievement award from Irish President Michael D. Higgins on his 60th birthday. The occasion was marked with a celebratory concert at the National Concert Hall in Dublin with performers including Bono, Nick Cave, Sinead O’Connor and Johnny Depp.
Source: Entertainment – TIME | 30 Nov 2023 | 7:54 am
Source: BBC News - Entertainment & Arts | 30 Nov 2023 | 7:43 am
Source: BBC News - Entertainment & Arts | 30 Nov 2023 | 7:27 am
Source: BBC News - Entertainment & Arts | 30 Nov 2023 | 7:07 am
Source: BBC News - Entertainment & Arts | 30 Nov 2023 | 6:58 am
December heralds the annual arrival of cheesy holiday movies to Netflix (though there aren’t too many this year), as well as plenty of stories to get you through that slow last week of the year. On Dec. 1, May December arrives, a gripping awards vehicle for stars Charles Melton, Natalie Portman, and Julianne Moore. In Leave the World Behind, on Dec. 8, a family’s luxe getaway is soured by a cyberattack and the ominous appearance of two strangers. And on Dec. 14, The Crown finally draws to a close with the second part of its sixth season: Queen Elizabeth II paves the way for King Charles III and Prince William.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
Here’s everything coming to Netflix in December 2023—and what’s leaving.
Here are the Netflix originals coming in December 2023
Available December 1
Sweet Home: Season 2
Available December 3
Welcome to Samdal-ri
Available December 4
Dew Drop Diaries: Season 2
Available December 5
Stavros Halkias: Fat Rascal
Available December 6
Christmas as Usual
Available December 7
Hilda: Season 3
I Hate Christmas: Season 2
My Life With the Walter Boys
World War II: From the Frontlines
Available December 8
The Great British Baking Show: Holidays: Season 6
Leave the World Behind
Women on the Edge
Available December 12
Kevin Hart & Chris Rock: Headliners Only
Single’s Inferno: Season 3
Under Pressure: The U.S. Women’s World Cup Team
Available December 13
Car Masters: Rust to Riches: Season 5
Se Eu Fosse: Luísa Sonza
Available December 14
As the Crow Flies: Season 2
The Crown: Season 6 Part 2
Yu Yu Hakusho
Available December 15
Carol & The End of The World
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
Face to Face with ETA: Conversations with a Terrorist
Available December 19
Trevor Noah: Where Was I
Available December 20
Cindy la Regia: The High School Years
Love is Blind Brazil: After the Altar
Taming of the Shrewd 2
Available December 21
Like Flowers in Sand
Supa Team 4: Season 2
Available December 22
Gyeongseong Creature: Season 1 Part 1
Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire
Available December 24
A Vampire in the Family
Available December 25
Ricky Gervais: Armageddon
Available December 26
Thank You, I’m Sorry
Available December 27
Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare
Available December 28
Available December 29
Here are the TV shows and movies coming to Netflix in December 2023
Available December 1
Basketball Wives: Seasons 3-4
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Big Brother: Seasons 6 and 17
Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Boyz n the Hood
College Hill: Celebrity Edition: Season 1
Holey Moley: Seasons 1-2
Man of Steel
Real Husbands of Hollywood: More Kevin, More Problems: Season 1
She’s All That
She’s the Man
The Suicide Squad
Wonder Woman 1984
Available December 3
The Super Mario Bros. Movie
Available December 5
Top Chef: Seasons 6 and 15
Available December 9
Love and Monsters
Available December 13
Holiday in the Vineyards
Available December 14
Married at First Sight: Season 14
Available December 15
The Hills: Seasons 3-4
Available December 18
Mush-Mush and the Mushables
Available December 19
Project Runway: Season 17
Available December 21
Flipping Out: Seasons 4-5
Available December 25
Star Trek: Prodigy: Season 1
Available December 31
Blippi Wonders: Season 3
The Millionaire Matchmaker: Seasons 3-4
Here’s what’s leaving Netflix in December 2023
Leaving December 14
The Hills: Seasons 1-2
Leaving Dec. 21
Leaving Dec. 27
Da Kath & Kim Code
Kath & Kimderella
Kath and Kim: Kountdown Specials
Kath and Kim: Seasons 1-4
Kath and Kim: The Souvenir Editions
Leaving Dec. 28
The Adventures of Puss in Boots: Seasons 1-6
Leaving Dec. 30
Taylor Swift reputation Stadium Tour
Leaving Dec. 31
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Catch Me If You Can
Crank 2: High Voltage
Field of Dreams
Friends with Benefits
Get Him to the Greek
Jaws: The Revenge
Kung Fu Panda
Lost in Translation
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Mission: Impossible II
Mission: Impossible III
Saving Private Ryan
The Wolf of Wall Street
Source: Entertainment – TIME | 30 Nov 2023 | 6:01 am
Source: BBC News - Entertainment & Arts | 30 Nov 2023 | 5:34 am
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Netflix’s Virgin River.
It’s finally Christmastime in Virgin River, where the weather may be chilly but the gossip always runs hot. Netflix just dropped the final two episodes of Virgin River’s fifth season, and while they focus on fun holiday fare, there’s plenty of drama swirling among the residents of the cozy fictional North California town.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
When we last saw Virgin River’s nurse Mel Monroe (Alexandra Breckenridge), she’d just learned some shocking information about her family. Having lost both her parents years ago, Mel long thought of herself as somewhat of an orphan. But at the end of the first part of season 5, Mel found out that her mother had an affair with a man—who might be her biological father. Determined to uncover the truth, Mel and her fiancée Jack (Martin Henderson) set off on an eye-opening adventure. As they follow the clues that lead them to the man who may be her father, the rest of the town is getting ready to celebrate the holidays, with several characters gearing up to make huge life changes. Here are the biggest moments from the Virgin River holiday episodes.
Lizzie tells her mom she’s pregnant
While Lizzie (Sarah Dugdale) and Denny (Kai Bradbury) are excited to become parents, the former is not excited to tell her mother that she’s having a baby. When she initially sees her mother, who is visiting from out of town, Lizzie avoids the topic altogether. Hope (Annette O’Toole) asks Lizzie if she is resistant to talking to her mother because she is having second thoughts about her pregnancy, but Lizzie tells her that she’s not having any doubts, and is more concerned that her mother will think she can’t handle raising a child. Unfortunately, as Hope and Lizzie are having that conversation, Lizzie’s mother is in earshot and overhears them.
Eventually, Lizzie finds her mother, and asks for support in her decision to have the baby. Her mother explains that she’s worried that Lizzie will be taking on too much by caring for Denny, who has Huntington’s disease, and their baby. But Lizzie reaffirms her deep desire to be a parent, and how much she wants the baby, which leads her mother to come around. Later, Lizzie and Denny announce to Lizzie’s mother and Hope that they are expecting a girl.
Cameron and Muriel reconsider their future
After the town play, Cameron (Mark Ghanime) gets a surprise: his ex-wife is there. Now sober, she wants to give them another chance and start a family together. But Cameron tells her that he has a life in Virgin River, with Muriel (Teryl Rothery). When he tells Muriel about the conversation, she is relieved, but she lets him know that she’s not interested in having children. Cameron says he is fine with their family as it is, which Muriel later doubts. She expresses to him that she doesn’t want him to resent her down the road, and asks him to really think about what it would mean for both their futures if they stayed together.
Charmaine finally gives birth
Finally, after being pregnant with twins for almost the entire length of the series, Jack’s ex-girlfriend Charmaine (Lauren Hammersley) gives birth. Despite lying to Jack and Mel about the paternity of the babies for several months, the couple have forgiven Charmaine and now all is amicable between the three. Mel even assists with the delivery at Doc’s clinic. Charmaine also has a confrontation with the babies’ actual father, the local drug lord Calvin, which might have induced her labor. Though he arrives with her at the clinic, Mel tells him to leave because Charmaine doesn’t want him there. Calvin is resistant, but walks away. While the situation with Calvin might be difficult, Charmine is happy to have given birth to two healthy babies.
Brady’s new girlfriend seems shady
After finally getting out of the drug ring that caused his personal life to implode, Brady (Benjamin Hollingsworth) is finally on the path to a simpler, safer life. He’s been seeing a single mother named Lark (Elise Gatien) who has a young daughter. The trio seems happy together, and Brady might actually be moving on from Brie (Zibby Allen). But while the three are playing in Brady’s bedroom, Lark takes a call outside. It’s Jimmy—the drug dealer in jail played by Ian Tracey—who appears to be the father of Lark’s daughter, and is asking her about Brady. Lark tells him that Brady “doesn’t suspect a thing.” It seems like Brady’s attempt to stay out of the drug circle’s drama has just gotten a lot more complicated.
Wes’ body is identified
Preacher (Colin Lawrence) and Kaia (Kandyse McClure) are basically in their own rom-com during these episodes, until it all falls apart in the final minutes for ol’ Preach. They’ve spent a lot of time snuggling up together, he even tells her that he loves her, and she tells him that she’s taking a job in Virgin River, so their future is looking bright. But looming over their lovefest is something quite troubling: Preacher knows that Wes’ body was found in the woods where he buried him. And it comes back around by the end of the last episode: Preacher gets a call that Wes’ body has been identified.
Mel tracks down her father
As teased in the end of the first part of the fifth season, Mel’s sister Joey (Jenny Cooper) discovers love letters written to their mother from before Mel was born. They are postmarked from Virgin River, which is curious because neither sister was aware that their mother knew anyone from the small town. Based on the content and timeline of the letters, Joey believes that the person writing them is Mel’s biological father. So, Mel decides to figure out the identity of the mysterious man with Jack. They begin by looking into the return address—a P.O. Box—and finding the old postmaster from that time. It turns out the postmaster is the Santa Claus in Clear River, which is where Mel and Jack go to ask him about the address. While the old man doesn’t remember the exact name of the man behind the P.O. Box, he does give Mel and Jack a very helpful clue: that the man used to brag about winning the 1976 Lumberjack Games.
With that detail, the couple is able to trace the winner and discover that his name is Everett Reid. They then reach out to Preacher who asks his private investigator to look into Everett’s address, which they are able to find. When Mel knocks on the door, the man (John Allen Nelson) who opens it says he’s not the person she’s looking for, and can’t help her. But Mel looks into his house and sees the trophy for the Lumberjack Games, confirming, to her disappointment, that he is indeed Everett, and he clearly isn’t interested in building a relationship with her.
In a twist, Everett shows up at Mel and Jack’s cabin at the end of the second episode to explain himself. He says that he was taken aback when Mel showed up because she looks so much like her mother. Everett confirms that he’s Mel’s father, gives her all the letters that her mother wrote to him, and announces that he has something very important he needs to tell her. While we won’t find out exactly what that is until next season, Mel is also left with a big update involving another father figure in her life: Earlier in the episode, she asked Doc to walk her down the aisle at her wedding—and he agreed.
Source: Entertainment – TIME | 30 Nov 2023 | 12:01 am
2023 proved to be a blockbuster year for video games. Hotly anticipated platform titles debuted on a monthly, and sometimes biweekly, basis, consuming video gamers’ time (and the contents of their wallets) like some viral new version of the ever insatiable Pac-Man. But it’s not as though gamers minded much, given the quality of the output. The biggest struggle proved to be staying on top of all the new releases, and there’s no doubt that many people will still be playing catch-up well into 2024, especially given the length of some of these games. Anyone who has already finished Baldur’s Gate 3 must be a wizard.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
On the subject of wizards: Hogwarts Legacy looks like it could be the best-selling game of the year. February’s release of the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts prequel game generated controversy due to J.K. Rowling’s harmful anti-transgender views, with many choosing to boycott the game. Hogwarts caused such a stir that both PlayStation and Xbox introduced a means to allow players to hide the game on their accounts, resulting in further controversy. Despite all of this, Hogwarts still managed to prove the resiliency of the Wizarding World brand—though in such a crowded release year it didn’t make the cut for this list.
Other major events in the world of gaming this year included yet another cancellation of E3, which was once the biggest annual video gaming event. Though it was set to be the first in-person iteration since 2019, it was canceled when it was unable to attract XBOX Game Studios, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Nintendo, companies which have all in recent years created their own events. And just so no one gets their hopes up, E3 2024 was also canceled—perhaps a sign to throw in the towel.
Despite the release of so many high-profile games, layoffs rocked the industry. Bungie, Ubisoft, Epic Games, and Unity all faced significant losses. Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. The purchase stands as the biggest monetary acquisition in video game history, giving Microsoft ownership over Call of Duty, Spyro, Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, and Candy Crush. Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA voted in favor of strike authorization for actors within the video game industry, part of an effort to ensure fair wages and manage the impacts of the rampant rise of AI. The outcome of these early negotiations between game companies and actors isn’t clear yet, but it’s only logical that these workers’ concerns parallel those of their peers in film and TV, as video games increasingly rely on performances that rival what we see in those mediums.
Over in those mediums, 2023 was a banner year for video game adaptations, starting off with the debut of The Last of Us on HBO. The series, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, proved to be a major hit with fans and critics, garnering 24 Emmy nominations. A second season, based on The Last of Us Part II, is currently in development. Other notable video-game-based series included Twisted Metal on Peacock and Castlevania: Nocturne on Netflix.
On the film side, true stories were in with Apple’s Tetris and Sony’s Gran Turismo garnering solid interest. But it was the fiction-based adaptations of popular video games that proved to be the real breadwinners. Despite early, and silly, fan backlash over Chris Pratt’s vocal performance, Universal’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie shattered records, grossing over $1 billion to become the highest-grossing video game adaptation, and the second biggest movie of the year, only behind Barbie. Universal struck gold again in October with Five Nights at Freddy’s, which relied heavily on the game’s lore and Easter eggs to become the highest-grossing horror film of 2023. Universal currently has sequels to both films in early development; their success has undoubtedly motivated other studios to take a look at the kid-friendly video game properties they have at their disposal.
But back to the games themselves: If there is an overarching theme to this year’s best releases, it is the power of human connection and what it means both to have and to lose it. Perhaps it’s a result of moving out of the pandemic era, or maybe it’s because divisions along political, religious, and cultural lines feel increasingly pronounced. But whether it comes in the form of games that encourage a multiplayer experience, or solo games that hinge on the importance of community, the best games of 2023 consciously placed attention on the far-reaching consequences of the personal decisions made by the characters we play as—and, by extension, ourselves.
Here are TIME’s favorite games of the year.
One of the year’s most pleasant surprises came from New Zealand indie developer Black Salt Games. What initially appears to be a normal fishing game takes a disturbing dive into Lovecraftian lore. The player controls the Fisherman, who on a small motorized boat traverses the waters surrounding a group of islands, catching various fish and salvage they can sell at the settlement or to traveling merchants for boat upgrades. And those upgrades are certainly needed when night falls as the catch of the day turns to sea monsters, ghost ships, and strange phenomena enhanced by the Fisherman’s hallucinations. As he explores, completing side quests, gathering artifacts, and capturing messages in bottles, it becomes clear that the waters are hiding a much larger mystery. While the game lacks the polish of its AAA counterparts, eye-catching art design, great use of sound, and an ambitious format built into seemingly simple gameplay make Dredge one to play and Black Salt Games one to watch.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC
9. Diablo IV
The iconic dungeon crawler returned with more classes, more weapons, and more demons to slay. Blizzard Entertainment’s fourth core game in the series plays much like the previous ones in which players choose between several customizable classes (Druid, Barbarian, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Necromancer) and travel between five beautifully rendered regions. As usual, the player collects better gear and weapons while taking on harder enemies, leading to the game’s main antagonist, Lillith. While the game has faced some criticism over its somewhat repetitive nature, it’s a formula that has been proven to work for the franchise. Diablo IV may not be a big risk-taker, but it’s possessed by the kind of casual, satisfying fun that doesn’t place pressure on completing in a certain number of hours or avoiding spoilers. As far as play-at-your-own-leisure games go for this year, Diablo IV is one of the strongest, and bloodiest.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
8. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Respawn and EA’s sequel to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order picks up five years after the events of the first game, with Jedi Knight Cal Kestis (Cameron Monaghan) separated from his friends and performing missions for Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). New threats working in service of the Empire emerge and bring the old crew back together, testing Kestis’ resolve to the Jedi way. The game offers new customizable features, like Kestis’ appearance, force abilities, and lightsaber stance (single-wield, double-bladed, and dual-wield), allowing the player to change combat strategies depending on the enemy type. Much like the first game in the series, don’t get too comfortable with your Jedi prowess as enemies are often tougher than they appear. Even a well-placed shot from a Stormtrooper can take the player out, forcing them back to the last save point and stripping them of their XP until that same enemy is defeated, Dark Souls-style. The game introduces a fast travel feature, which makes going back for collectibles and previously locked doors all the easier. As fun as the combat and new features are, it’s the emotional storytelling that makes the game such a balanced experience.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
7. Super Mario Bros. Wonder
It’s been a big year for Mario. Not only did the plucky plumber star in one of the biggest movie hits of 2023, but he also got his magic mushroom on in one of the best-reviewed games of the year. Wonder is the first side-scrolling Mario game since 2012’s New Super Mario Bros. U, inviting plenty of nostalgia. Players can choose between Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Toad, Toadette, Nabbit, and Yoshi as they explore the Flower Kingdom and work to save it from Bowser. The game also supports multiplayer, up to four characters. It’s a great entry-point game, especially for younger gamers getting into Mario through the recent movie. For older gamers, it still feels like classic Mario, but now with better graphics, which means there’s plenty to love and little to explain in terms of gameplay. But one new feature that mixes things up is the Wonder Flowers, which have a reality-altering effect on the map when collected. The result is enough to make gamers of any age proclaim “Wahoo!”
Available on Nintendo Switch
6. Dead Space (Remake)
Whether or not anyone can hear you, there will be plenty of screaming in Dead Space. The remake of the iconic survival horror game from Motive Studio and EA may retell a familiar story, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you know what’s around every corner. Dead Space puts the player back into the mining suit of Isaac Clarke as he searches the U.S.S. Ishimura for his girlfriend, Dr. Nicole Brennan. Of course, that’s easier said than done as the ship is overrun by Necromorphs, set loose by the mysterious stone artifact known as The Marker. Not only is Isaac no longer a silent protagonist, he also now traverses the ship’s anti-gravity sections with more ease. Small blessings like these make the game’s scares a little more endurable, but one can never rest too comfortably as threats lurk around every corner, bursting out of doors, vents, and fallen crew members. It’s an incredibly designed game, with lighting and sound design that not only takes full advantage of the current-gen systems, but creates an end result so terrifying that it forces the player to take a deep breath and check their supplies before venturing forward at every point.
Available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
5. Resident Evil 4 (Remake)
The best entry of the Resident Evil series gets an upgrade that is more than worthy of the original’s reputation. Capcom has been on quite a run with their Resident Evil remakes and RE4 is the best of the bunch, despite its more action-driven gameplay taking away some of the fright factor of the earlier entries. The story of the original game is retained—players take control of U.S. Agent Leon S. Kennedy as he fights to save the President’s daughter, Ashley Graham, from the dual threats of the Los Illuminados cult in Spain and the mysterious virus known as Las Plagas. The remake updates combat, allowing Leon to move and fire his weapon at the same time as well as block with his knife. The map has also been updated, with additional areas and enemies for Leon to make his way through. One of the biggest improvements to the game is that Ashley has a lot more agency, and feels more like a partner to Leon, rather than being a constant chore for him to keep track of. All of these improvements and additions make RE4 a more enthralling adventure and a high point for contemporary survival horror.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Mac, iPad
4. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
The sequel to 2017’s Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom is the result of the planned DLC content for Breath of the Wild growing too ambitious. Nintendo’s Tears of the Kingdom permits the time and space for all of that ambition to get the spotlight it rightly deserves. Once again, the player takes control of Link as he explores the world of Hyrule in search of Zelda, and tries to prevent the Demon King, Ganon, from destroying the world. Tears of the Kingdom expands the open world aspect, adding caverns and sky islands to explore. The fluidity of both Link’s movement and combat, along with new powerups, makes traversing Hyrule a fun, though naturally challenging, experience. It’s easy to get lost in the beauty of the game and just explore, but the compelling story, linked to the ancient history of Hyrule, always brings the player back to the central quest and solving the mysteries that await there.
Available on Nintendo Switch
3. Spider-Man 2
One of the most-anticipated games of the year, the follow-up to Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an epic and emotional journey that furthers the themes of the previous two games and allows the characters and the city they inhabit to evolve. Spider-Man 2 puts the player in control of both Peter Parker and Miles Morales, giving them both their own arcs that aptly reflect where they are in their lives respectively. The return of Harry Osborn and the emergence of Kraven the Hunter shake up Miles, Peter, and MJ’s partnership, and the arrival of Venom threatens to tear the city apart. While the previous two games were already incredibly intuitive, Insomniac somehow managed to improve the gameplay even further with the addition of web wings, and a reconstructed gadget and power wheel which makes taking down enemies a much smoother and more immediate process. While the game may be a little shorter than Spider-Man, the side quests are more meaningful and work better within the context of the game’s themes on the finite nature of time. Ironically, Spider-Man 2 is a game you just won’t want to end. When it does, we’re left with the greatest superhero game ever made.
Available on PlayStation 5
2. Baldur’s Gate 3
Larian Studios’ third entry in the Baldur’s Gate franchise takes the RPG to new heights. Based on Dungeons & Dragons, Baldur’s Gate 3 is set in the open world of the Forgotten Realms. Players design a character, choosing from 12 classes, and join a party of pre-generated characters for an adventure that can be played solo or multiplayer, allowing the player to toggle between the two. If you want to start the game solo and then join friends for a particular mission, Baldur’s Gate 3 allows for that back-and-forth experience. The gameplay utilizes turn-based combat and encourages mixing up attacks and relying on the party.
While much of this is fairly customary for fantasy RPGs, it’s the supporting characters and relationships you can develop that really make Baldur’s Gate 3 a special experience. Relationships, and romances, develop through plot and dialogue choices, and each companion character feels fully fleshed out, harkening back to the heyday of BioWare (which developed the first game). The game is perfect for those seeking the dynamic character complexity of the Mass Effect trilogy and Dragon Age: Origins. Unlike several other RPGs, Baldur’s Gate 3 encourages freedom, meaning there’s no one way to defeat an enemy or complete a quest, and key NPC characters can be killed off without creating an inability to progress through the story. Given the length of the game, which is well over 100 hours, there’s plenty to explore, both on your own or with friends, making Baldur’s Gate 3 the gamer gift that keeps on giving.
Available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Mac
1. Alan Wake II
Some believed it would never happen. But after 13 years, the cult game Alan Wake finally has a proper follow-up—and it’s a doozy. More than just another video game, Alan Wake II is a celebration of art infused with meta-narratives, musical numbers, connections to Remedy’s games, Control, and Quantum Break, and a frightening and elegant examination of writing and what it means to put your words out in the world. And if all of that wasn’t enough, it’s also one of the most terrifying survival horror games of the last decade, and practically begs you to keep the lights on. The game is divided between two protagonists and their journeys. The first is FBI Agent Saga Anderson, who is drawn to the small town of Bright Falls, Wash., to investigate a mysterious cult with ties to Wake’s novels. The second is Alan Wake as he tries to free himself from the seemingly endless loop of the Dark Place that he’s been trapped in for those 13 years. Eventually, their two narratives converge and their seemingly separate journeys are revealed to be more enmeshed than either of them thought.
Both protagonists are forced to question their reality: For Anderson, it’s through her detective skills and case files, the evidence of which is collected throughout the game by exploring and interacting with the various residents of Bright Falls. And for Wake, it’s through his ability to change the reality of the Dark Place and the world outside of it through his writing. While both characters carry with more than just a handgun and a flashlight this time around, the player is never made to feel comfortable or well-equipped. Alan Wake II is a complex yet rewarding narrative, as is customary for the game’s director and lead writer, Sam Lake. And it’s a game worth revisiting to discover additional clues and connections. Just remember to stay in the light.
Available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Source: Entertainment – TIME | 29 Nov 2023 | 11:53 am
Spotify keeps receipts of what songs and artists you’ve listened to. And by year-end, the Swedish streaming giant packages your user data—be it your countless replays of Taylor Swift’s re-recorded 1989 album or BTS member Jungkook’s boppy solos—in what has since become one of its most successful and most shareable marketing ploys on social media: Spotify Wrapped.
Since its inception in 2016, many have replicated Spotify Wrapped’s campaign of individualized, annual analysis of users’ behavior: not only streaming platforms like Apple Music, but also for a variety of other industries like the Washington Post, Duolingo, Reddit, and Nintendo. Wrapped presents that analysis in customizable, jazzy graphics primed for Instagram Stories, adding another layer of authenticity and character that makes it such a viral hit.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
The popularity of Spotify Wrapped has ballooned over the years: in 2017, there 30 million Spotify users accessing it, and in 2021, there were more than 120 million. That year, nearly 60 million Spotify Wrapped stories and graphics were also shared across social media platforms. The year 2022 is no different, over 156 million users engaged with Wrapped, a spokesperson tells TIME. It’s become so popular that people—even U.S. senators and Australian federal police—have piggybacked on it, and made memes of the year-end phenomenon.
With the launch of 2023 Spotify Wrapped, here’s what you need to know.
How to access Spotify Wrapped
To get the Spotify Wrapped experience, users must be subscribed to Spotify. Opening the latest version of the app is more than likely to lead users to Spotify Wrapped directly once it’s out.
But don’t fret if it doesn’t: Spotify users on desktop and on mobile can simply type in “Wrapped” in the search bar, or find Spotify’s Wrapped button in the home page.
You can also click here.
The math behind Spotify Wrapped
Spotify Wrapped collects data all throughout the year. A Spotify spokesperson says data used for the 2023 Wrapped spans streamed content from January to an unspecified date “a few weeks prior to launch”—Nov. 29 for this year. “We aim to leave the cutoff date as late as possible to create a truly personalized experience,” the spokesperson tells TIME. The period puts songs and albums released earlier in the year to an advantage.
For a song or podcast to be considered streamed, a user must listen to it for 30 minutes or more. The three most awaited year-end statistics—top albums, top songs, and top artists—are all based on aggregated stream counts. The list of top podcasts is assessed differently, this time based on the number of unique listeners.
The 2023 winners list
Taylor Swift takes over Bad Bunny as the most-streamed artist on Spotify worldwide, with more than 26.1 global streams since January 1. Puerto Rican musician Bad Bunny held the top spot for three years since 2020, but fell to second place in the global list, followed by The Weeknd, Drake, and Mexican singer Peso Pluma.
But Swift hasn’t been able to oust Bad Bunny’s 2022 album Un Verano Sin Ti as the most-streamed album of 2023, for the second consecutive time. Her album, Midnights, ranks second, followed by SZA’s SOS.
The most-streamed song of the year in the world is “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus, with more than 1.6 billion global streams. “Kill Bill” by SZA and “As It Was” by Harry Styles fall in second and third place respectively, with Jungkook’s “Seven (feat. Latto)” and Ella Baila Sola” by Peso Pluma and Eslabon Armado to round out the list.
“The Joe Rogan Experience” remains the most consumed Spotify podcast for the fourth time running.
How Spotify Wrapped became so popular
Back in 2013, Spotify launched its first year-end review, aptly named “Year in Review” after realizing it had a trove of streaming data at its disposal. The graphics were on brand but not as kitschy as they are today, yet they still piqued audience interest.
By 2016, Spotify called the data stories Wrapped. Every iteration, Spotify Wrapped introduces quirky features also based on the data it’s collected from users—ranging from detecting your supposed “audio auras” to being classified under 16 “listening personality types.” This year, Spotify Wrapped would have the features named “Me in 2033” which assigns a “listening character” that best describes your streaming habits, and “Sound Town” which matches users to a city based on their listening and shared artist affinity. It’s these creative data presentations that have been made shareable across social media platforms.
The fanfare is not just on the user side: creators are also active in promoting Spotify Wrapped. In 2022, artists recorded special messages for their listeners who placed them on the platform’s toplists. Celebrities like Dionne Warwick, John Mayer, and Lizzo have also jumped on the bandwagon of talking about the campaign.
In an interview with Variety in 2021, Spotify vice president and global executive creative director Alex Bodman said: “I’m sure we’d all love to sit down and say it was a marketing stroke of genius, but when it was first built it was a loyalty play. I don’t think we had any idea that people would want to share it so much.”
Source: Entertainment – TIME | 29 Nov 2023 | 10:36 am
November isn’t the last month of the year, obviously, but it is pretty much the last month of new TV shows that don’t involve people in garishly patterned sweaters discovering the true meaning of Christmas. And you know what? Television is finishing up 2023 strong, with a range of solid-to-excellent premieres for every imaginable taste profile. There’s a comforting family melodrama and the most uncomfortable Nathan Fielder project to date (which is really saying something); a dead-serious murder mystery set at the world’s most exclusive retreat, and a murder dramedy that unfolds in small-town Ireland; and a handful of great Anglophone imports, including, as a bonus, yet another not-exactly-new show about the dearly departed.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
Black Cake (Hulu)
Sweet, dense, intoxicating, island-spiced, painstakingly assembled, and culturally hybrid, Caribbean black cake is a fitting avatar for the character at the center of Hulu’s epic adaptation of Charmaine Wilkerson’s best-selling novel. Although she dies just a few scenes into the eight-episode series, it is Eleanor Bennett—a loving mother who kept a lifetime’s worth of secrets from her children—who grounds this globe-spanning family drama. Cast as the young Eleanor in flashbacks, Not Okay star Mia Isaac skillfully plays against her own Disney-fresh effervescence, endowing the teenage girl with grit and maturity beyond her years. On the fairly frequent occasions when the script errs toward blandness or treacle, Eleanor sets it ablaze, burning off the excess sugar to uncover another layer of richness. [Read the full review.]
Colin From Accounts (Paramount+)
It sounds like a What We Do in the Shadows spinoff that follows corporate-coded energy vampire Colin Robinson to work, and as amusing as that might be, I doubt it could top the pleasures of what is actually an offbeat Australian romantic comedy. One morning, Ashley (Harriet Dyer), a medical student flailing in the aftermath of a breakup, impulsively flashes a silver-fox brewery owner (Patrick Brammall’s Gordon), and the resulting car crash critically injures a sweet little dog. The two strangers take him to the vet and decide they can’t bear to see him euthanized. From then on they’re in each other’s lives as the co-parents of a special-needs pet with wheels for back legs. While Gordon is more than a decade older than Ashley, and each has plenty of baggage, their banter reveals undeniable chemistry. “Colin from accounts” turns out to be the identity they bestow upon the dog in one of their charming riffs.
This is all pretty adorable. But Dyer (American Auto) and Brammall (Evil), who also created the series, are careful not to overload the scripts with saccharine tropes. There’s a lot of messy behavior and raunchy humor here, and the show is smart about the way it addresses the age gap between Ashley and Gordon. Fans of rom-coms about charmingly imperfect couples, like Catastrophe and Starstruck, will surely find another favorite in Colin From Accounts.
The Curse (Showtime)
In the third episode of Showtime’s strange, riveting, and often hilarious new scripted series The Curse, the married co-hosts of an in-development reality show watch a focus group respond to the pilot.. “I like the lady,” says one woman. “I do wish that he had a sense of humor or a personality.” “There’s zero sexual tension,” another participant complains. The final verdict: “There was just something off about him. Like I said, either be hot or funny. He wasn’t either to me.”
The character in question, Asher Siegel, is played by co-creator Nathan Fielder, of the high-concept reality comedies The Rehearsal and Nathan for You. And the persona he adopts here shares much with the fictionalized versions of himself that he’s portrayed in those series: awkward, pushy, disconcertingly affectless. Genre-wise, The Curse is a different kind of show; what begins as a scripted satire of HGTV’s ample real-estate porn builds tension until it becomes, of all things, a Hitchcockian psychological thriller. Fielder’s inscrutable presence is as pivotal to building suspense as it was in setting the offbeat tone for his past projects. [Read the full review.]
A Murder at the End of the World (FX on Hulu)
A Murder at the End of the World is a tricky title. It might refer to a murder in a remote location or a murder amid the literal End Times. In the case of FX’s smart, stylish new drama, it’s a true double entendre. The plot works on multiple levels, too. Set up as a classic cozy mystery, the detective story grounds an investigation of technology and enterprise in the age of climate apocalypse. Are the world’s wealthiest innovators saving humanity or hastening our demise?
This combination of thematic ambition and narrative complexity will be familiar to fans of creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s previous TV project, Netflix’s spiritual sci-fi puzzle box The OA. Murder is a more grounded show, trading heady speculation for terrifying reality. [Read the full review.]
Speaking of murder shows, how is it possible that TV creators have yet to run out of ideas for them? See also: Irish import Obituary, which mixes elements of crime drama and dark comedy to tell the wicked tale of Elvira Clancy (Siobhán Cullen), a morbid, depressive young writer who lands her dream job penning obituaries for her small hometown’s newspaper. She isn’t on the job long when an editor looking to cut costs demotes her from staff writer to freelancer, a gig that certainly won’t sustain her when deaths in the sparsely populated community are few and far between. So Elvira does what any quietly unhinged person in her predicament might do: she starts killing the worst people she can find. Meanwhile, the paper hires a handsome crime reporter (Ronan Raftery) whose investigation into a five-year-old murder gives the series an element of mystery. Imagine Dexter meets Bad Sisters, with a chilling yet somehow quite likable lead performance from Cullen, and you won’t be far off.
Bonus: Ghosts UK (CBS)
Abbott Elementary may get more media attention, but CBS’s Ghosts has, by many metrics, been the most popular comedy on network TV since it premiered in the fall of 2021. It’s fine—an innocuous ensemble sitcom about a young couple who move into a historic mansion that the wife inherits, hoping to convert it into a B&B, only to discover that it’s haunted by a millennium’s worth of ghosts. But the British show it’s based on is a lot funnier. And although that series isn’t entirely new to US audiences—it used to stream on Max—it premiered this month on CBS and Paramount+, presumably thanks to the strikes that decimated the fall broadcast schedule.
While the premise is the same, and some of the plots will be familiar to viewers who’ve seen them repurposed in the American version, the UK cast is sharper, the seasons are refreshingly brief, and the jokes are just better coming from a culture that’s more educated about its long, weird history. (A Guardian review of the stateside remake ran with the mean but accurate headline: “remove the original sitcom’s best bits and you have… this.”) Standout ghosts include a Romantic poet (Mathew Baynton) who swoons over the new owner, Alison (Charlotte Richie); a 17th-century witch-trial victim (Katy Wix); a decapitated Tudor nobleman (Laurence Rickard); and a literal caveman (also Rickard). Frankly, though, everyone in this cast is a big improvement over Ghosts US’s dire hippie and finance bro spirits. Enjoy this gem in prime-time while you can.
Source: Entertainment – TIME | 29 Nov 2023 | 6:02 am
For Koreans, becoming a K-pop idol is said to be harder than winning the lottery. For those outside Korea, the path to stardom in the genre may seem even rarer—though soon, industry executives and aspiring stars around the world alike are hoping, those odds may be starting to change.
Last week, some 70 students in Singapore got a taste of what it takes to become a K-pop idol, having spent five days attending a K-pop training camp taught by some of the industry’s most renowned dance and vocal coaches who traveled to the Southeast Asian nation from Seoul. The camp was organized by the Singapore Raffles Music College (SRMC), which is planning to open—pending approval from Singapore’s education ministry—the first K-pop high school outside of Korea next year, in collaboration with the School of Performing Arts Seoul (SOPA), a popular arts high school in Seoul that has produced some of K-pop’s biggest names.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
“We understand that [SOPA] has very strong links in terms of students entering the industry,” Ryan Goh, the executive director of SRMC, tells TIME, adding that he hopes the upcoming program will build the “necessary competency within Southeast Asian talent” to become K-pop stars.
The outward-looking expansion—engaging and collaborating with foreign cultures— is “a natural evolution of K-pop,” says Goh, who notes the genre’s increasing internationalism, particularly in the last few years, as the likes of BTS and Blackpink have topped charts and achieved mainstream popularity across the world. “We hope that we’ll have a little part in helping to build that pipeline of talent that will be part of this journey,” he adds.
Non-Korean K-pop idols have been around since as early as the 1990s, with groups like Fly to the Sky (a duo with a Korean-American singer) or S.E.S (a girl group with one Japanese member). Today, Blackpink’s Lisa, who is Thai, is the firm favorite of fans across Thailand, a testament to how international K-pop group members can mobilize international audiences. NewJeans and Stray Kids, two relatively new groups fast on the rise, each have two Australian members.
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“Strategically it makes so much sense to get people who can communicate with fans from different areas,” CedarBough Saeji, assistant professor of Korean and East Asian studies at Pusan National University, tells TIME.
The new school may seem like an unprecedented gateway opening for young Southeast Asians to join the ranks of professional K-pop artists, but success—and happiness—is certainly not guaranteed.
While high schools that cater specifically to K-pop training are a relatively new, but growing, phenomenon, the system of “idol training” that the K-pop industry is looking to export is already firmly established in Korea, where every year thousands of adolescents are filtered through a notoriously brutal regimen, during which they are made to adhere to punishing schedules and maintain strict diets, while being deprived of a social life and much of their personal freedom. And even among those who complete their traineeship, only a fraction are selected by record labels to debut as K-pop idols. For every group or solo act that breaks through, there are thousands of other dashed “Hallyu-wood” dreams—trainees who land in crippling debt or who have alleged coercion or exploitation by their management.
“I love that young people have dreams, and the K-pop industry is enormously attractive, but it’s also a really, really tough industry,” says Saeji. “I see too many young people who get into the industry, perhaps too young, and it chews them up. It is not an easy life. And I think that when you’re 16 years old, you don’t understand how hard it can be.”
“I worry a little bit that these kinds of schools are making up profit off the dreams of young people,” Saeji adds. “They’re setting some young people up for a difficult future, perhaps for disappointment.”
Still, for many students and their parents, the rigorous curriculum and sizeable pricetag of K-pop training aren’t enough to deter the pursuit of stardom.
“These past five days have been really tough,” says Chu Xiyi, a 17-year-old camp attendee and incoming vocal training student at SRMC. “But if this would let me have a better future, then I think this is all very worth it.”
Lai Hooi Chin, who enrolled her 12-year-old daughter in the camp, which cost more than $2,000, tells TIME they’ve also signed up for another K-pop boot camp held in Seoul next month for around the same price. Her daughter, Ong Lixuan, tells TIME, after participating in a showcase on the camp’s final night, that the grueling five days of training only strengthened her resolve. “I told myself before that even if it’s hard, I’m not gonna give up,” she says. “Because that’s my dream. That’s what I’ve been chasing for.”
K-pop teachers don’t shy away from the hard reality. “Being an idol is not just a dream,” one SOPA instructor solemnly told a room full of enthusiastic teen and tween attendees on the last day of the camp. “It’s a job, just like any job.”
SRMC’s Goh says that the recent camp was aimed at giving students a “complete experience” of the K-pop industry. The school, he adds, which is expecting to commence with 75 students in the second half of 2024, will make sure to incorporate sufficient breadth in its curriculum to prepare students “if they are unable to become a star.”
Source: Entertainment – TIME | 29 Nov 2023 | 3:00 am
In the first episode of Virgin River, Alexandra Breckenridge’s Mel Monroe, a nurse practitioner from Los Angeles, arrives in the fictional North California enclave after signing a year-long contract to work at the town’s family medical clinic with Doc Mullins (Tim Matheson). Over the course of five seasons, Mel and her fellow residents of the cozy wooded community see plenty of drama: characters have survived stabbings, shootings, car crashes, and drug rings; houses have been intentionally burnt down, and others destroyed in a ravenous wildfire. And yet, Mel’s first-year work anniversary has not even officially passed.[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]
Despite there being five seasons of Virgin River since it debuted in 2019, with a total of 52 episodes, the actual timeline of the series is shockingly slow. Beyond Mel’s contract, it’s easy to know that not that much time has passed in what is essentially the West Coast version of Stars Hollow since one character, Charmaine (Lauren Hammersley), the ex-girlfriend of Mel’s fiancée Jack (Martin Henderson), has been pregnant with twins since the end of the first season.
But Virgin River is finally speeding things up—a little. The final episode of the first part of the fifth season followed the characters around on Labor Day, and, in its last moments, flashed forward to winter, with Christmas just around the corner. Now, two new episodes will drop on Netflix on November 30, and pick up where things left off. They’ll be packed with all the twists and turns that the series is known for, along with some quaint holiday fare. (And if you can’t wait until then, Netflix just released the first nine minutes of the new installment here).
Because so much happens on Virgin River—and in so little time—it can be hard to keep up. So, here’s a refresher on what went down the last time we saw Mel Monroe and all her friends, and what’s going on in their lives ahead of the new episodes.
Where do Mel and Jack stand now?
All characters on Virgin River seem to be a little cursed, but no one more so than the town’s midwife and nurse practitioner Mel. She arrived in town (remember in VR time, around a year ago) grieving the recent loss of her husband and the stillbirth of their daughter. She refers to herself as somewhat of an orphan—her mother died when she was 11, and her father a decade ago—and has no other family besides her older sister Joey. In Virgin River, she meets the local bar owner and former Marine Jack, who becomes her lifeline (remember, he confesses that he’s falling in love with her after knowing her for a month).
And they’ve been through it together. Jack’s house was burned to the ground, and he was later shot and nearly killed. Things started to turn around for the couple: Mel got pregnant, Jack started building what promised to be a lucrative glamping business, and they got engaged. But that all came crashing down. Mel had a miscarriage during the wildfires of season 5, and it turns out that Jack’s biggest investor was running a drug trade out of their construction site.
Though Jack’s money is now tied up in an FBI investigation over what happened on his site, when we last see the couple, they’ve decided to make a huge financial investment. After Ava (Libby Osler) reveals that she’s selling her family’s land, where their beloved farm once stood, Mel tells Jack that she wants to purchase it, so they can live there with their children one day. This is a huge moment of growth for Mel, who was very resistant to the idea of trying to have a family with Jack again after her miscarriage. For the first time in a long while (take that with a grain of salt in VR world), she is looking forward to, and optimistic about their future.
How about Brie, Brady, and Mike?
When the drug trade is finally busted, police officer Mike (Marco Grazzini) is shot, and taken to the hospital, where Jack’s sister Brie (Zibby Allen) stays by his bedside. They are not officially together yet, but sparks were flying at the baseball game earlier in the season when they kissed for the first time. Mike seems a lot less complicated than Brady (Benjamin Hollingsworth)—Jack’s fellow Marine who got caught up in the drug drama, risking Brie’s safety in the process. Though it is Brady who leads the police to finally catching the person at the center of it all, Brie tells him that she wished she knew that he was cooperating with the authorities. She does also say that she will always love him.
Both Brie and Brady have promising new romances on the horizon: Brie and Mike share chocolate shakes in his hospital room on their “first date,” and Brady starts hanging out with the woman whose daughter he helped rescue during the wildfires.
Who is the father of Charmaine’s babies?
After spending three full seasons making Mel and Jack’s lives absolutely miserable, Charmaine reveals at the end of season 4 that the father of her babies is not Jack, the ex-boyfriend who has been by her side for several months, preparing for a nasty and expensive custody battle over the twin boys. The shocking development left Jack angry and confused—he had fully embraced becoming a father and was excited, even if Charmaine was constantly threatening that he would never see the children because he hurt her feelings by being in love with Mel instead of her.
In season 5, the paternity of Charmaine’s babies is finally revealed. Calvin, the troubled drug lord, is the father. But when did they even get together? It’s an open question. The Christmas episodes at least promise to offer one huge resolution: After being pregnant for almost the entire duration of the series, Charmaine will finally give birth.
What’s going on with Lizzie and Denny?
Doc’s grandson Denny (Kai Bradbury), who revealed that he has Huntington’s Disease, is happily in love with his girlfriend Lizzie (Sarah Dugdale). Though he’s still coming to terms with his terminal prognosis, Denny tells Lizzie at the Labor Day carnival that he might want to leave Virgin River, and see what the world has to offer with the time he has left. He even asks Lizzie if she would consider leaving Virgin River to go with him. But then Lizzie drops a bombshell: she thinks she’s pregnant.
What did Preacher do with Wes’ body?
Another character with a burgeoning romance is Preacher, the chef of Jack’s bar played by Colin Lawrence. He’s fallen hard for firefighter Kaia (Kandyse McClure). And doesn’t he deserve a little happiness in his life? Preacher spent the past few seasons wrapped up in the chaos that is Paige—a baker who had assumed a new identity because she was on the run with her son from an abusive relationship. When her ex-husband Wes finally found where she lived in season 2, she pushed him down the stairs in self defense and accidentally killed him. Scared, Paige called Preacher and he helped hide Wes’ body in the woods. Though Wes’ twin Vince eventually turned up in Virgin River on the hunt for his brother, he was arrested for attempted murder and kidnapping and taken away. This was a huge moment of relief for Preacher—Vince was the last person to really care about Wes, so now the beloved cook is in the clear. Or so he thought.
At the carnival, Kaia gets a phone call from her boss who says that they’ve just found a body in the woods. Preacher asks if it was a victim of the wildfires, and Kaia says that the body looks like it had been up there for some time, “like someone buried it.”
How are Hope and Doc getting along?
These two curmudgeons spent the full first season of the show at each other’s throats, on the brink of divorce after 20 years of being separated. They decided to give it another go, and are now happily in love, even if they bicker like the old married couple that they are. Now that Hope, Virgin River’s mayor played by Annette O’Toole, has basically recovered from her near fatal car accident, she is finally hoping to take care of her husband for a change. Doc, who suffers from macular degeneration, is grappling with what it will mean for his life as he loses his vision. But at the carnival, he learns that he’s been accepted into a clinical trial. Hope emphasizes that she will be with him every step of the way as he navigates the disease.
Why is Mel looking for her father?
In classic Virgin River fashion, the final episode of the first part of season 5 ended with a big twist. Mel receives a phone call from Joey, and learns that her sister has been rummaging through some of their late mother’s stuff, including love letters from decades ago. The letters are not from their father—and they are postmarked from Virgin River. Having read through them, Joey believes that their mother was writing to the man who might be Mel’s actual biological father. Yet again, a paternity puzzle is upon us. This is Virgin River after all.
Source: Entertainment – TIME | 28 Nov 2023 | 11:02 am
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