“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
It’s the middle of November and fall is finally, fully here. All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey. It’s just the right weather for a song, perhaps, or maybe to just sit inside and stare at the Internet where it’s warmer, thanks to the fires of indignation. What’s fueling those fires this week? Well, bad hair choices, bad advertising slogans, and the return of Shia LeBeouf to everyone’s hearts, thanks to a three-day livestream where he said nothing at all. Oh, Internet. Never change. Here, as ever: the highlights of the last seven days on the World Wide Web.
Finally, Someone Makes ‘WTF’ Safe for Work
What Happened: The Internet loves a comeback, but when it’s as fun as Missy Elliott’s return, who can blame it?
Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. plans to phase out killer-whale shows at its San Diego park next year and launch a program in 2017 that would focus on conservation and keeping the animals in a more natural setting, company officials said Monday.
Step through the sleek, anonymous metal door of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and you enter a world of memorabilia—the murderous Talky Tina doll from The Twilight Zone, rows of old VHS tapes labeled “Midnight Movies,” a Six Million Dollar Man board game, assorted Godzillas. But if you look closely (we looked closely) you will see a meticulousness to the madness: The props and tchotchkes are all dust-free and carefully arranged. Those vintage 1970s Star Trekaction figures aren’t just sitting there. They’re posed. This stuff is well loved. It’s clear that in addition to being one of the most gifted movie directors in the world, somehow the heir apparent to both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Abrams is also a superfan.
That puts him in a precarious situation. He has inherited the one megafranchise to rule them all. Sure, this won’t be the first time Abrams resurrects a beloved Enterprise. But … this is the saga. It’s one of the things that invented modern superfandom. And this is no reboot. With The Force Awakens, Abrams is marshaling the same actors, writers, designers, and even the same composer to reanimate the characters and themes that made the original Star Wars into, well, Star Wars. He loves those movies as much as you or any of your laser-brained friends do. But when he first met those movies he was just an apprentice. Now he must become the master.
No pressure, right? After all, the stakes are merely the future of the franchise that made Abrams a filmmaker; a mythology held precious by millions of people for four decades; and, oh, right, billions and billions of dollars in movies and merch over the next half century (at least). I sat down with Abrams to ask him about balancing these competing (ahem) forces to tell an epic story from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away. The lightsabers are drawn; the coordinates for the jump to hyperspace are calculated. Can Abrams do it? Well, you know what Yoda said about merely trying.
John Oliver’s “This Week Tonight” is far and away the most refreshing thing on late-night TV. While other shows center around round-table chats and celebrity interviews, Oliver uses his massive platform to highlight overlooked but important political issues. Recently, he told CBS that his focus was “absurd public policies.”
By highlighting the absurdities of American institutions, he milks the injustice for a laugh while drawing the attention of millions of viewers to the issue. It’s a brilliant combination that, when it fires on all cylinders, makes for great comedy and sometimes even triggers reforms.
Here are his seven best segments.
1. Net Neutrality
Arguably Oliver’s breakout hit, this segment masterfully dissected the knotty issue of net neutrality and its effect on free speech. Oliver explained why creating a two-tiered Internet was unfair, and even recruited the Internet’s “vile commenters” to spam the FCC’s website, which was taking public comment at the time. As a result, the website crashed and FCC Chair Tom Wheeler had to hilariously insist to the public that he “wasn’t a dingo.”
2. Abusive Animal Agriculture Practices
Possibly the least sexy topic his show has ever covered, Oliver took on huge poultry processing corporations that exploit small farmers and work to gut legislation that regulates the industry and protects animal welfare. In one of the more clear-cut political wins, the segment actually resulted in a pro-industry rider being left out of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill this summer for the first time in years. Several members of Congress cited Oliver’s segment for providing the political will to remedy the problem.
3. Bail System Exploits the Poor
America’s bail system is a two-tiered system where those who can afford to pay their bail go free and those who can’t are often forced to plead guilty or waste away in lockup before trial. Like many of the topics Oliver covers, it’s an injustice that exists largely due to inertia, despite being widely condemned as being unfair. One month after Oliver’s segment aired, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announcedthe city was reforming its bail system to lessen the burden on low-level offenders, allowing a judge to release up to 3,000 defendants awaiting trial. While there were certainly other factors at play, many pundits insisted Oliver’s segment helped bring the topic to the forefront of public debate.
Mark the date, James Bond fans: In 2015, a 007 movie finally asks whether, in this age of mass surveillance and oversharing, we even need superspies anymore.
Spectre, the 24th movie in the franchise, asks this on two levels. The first is in the movie’s subplot, which focuses on a new head of the Joint Intelligence Service who’s set on discontinuing MI6’s 00 program and replacing its agents with wiretapping and drones. But the second level presents a more philosophical question: Are we over James Bond?
On the surface, Spectre has all the best of Bond: Car chases, Dr. No vibes, a perfect bad guy in Christoph Waltz, two great Bond women in Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux, and lots of martinis. But it’s 2015, and chauvinism and excessive drinking aren’t as cool as they used to be. Spectre is clearly aware of this, and even our current Bond, Daniel Craig, seems to be a little bored with 007’s antics—both on-screen and off.
Spectre, out Friday, may not be the best Bond. It might not even be as good as the last 007 movie, Skyfall. (OK, it’s definitely not.) But it’s still a hell of a lot of fun. Find out why in this WIRED video review for the film.
Advertisement.Skip Article Header. Skip to: Start of Article.AUTHOR: K.M. MCFARLAND. K.M. MCFARLAND ENTERTAINMENT DATE OF PUBLICATION: 11.03.15.11.03.15 TIME OF PUBLICATION: 2:06 PM.2:06 PMJON STEWART IS BRINGING HIS COMEDY CHOPS TO HBO MARTIN CROOKMaybe Jon Stewart wasn’t kidding when he described life without applause (aka off of TV) as a “barren wasteland” at the Emmys back in September. HBO just announced that Stewart has signed a four-year production deal with the cable network that will begin with “short-form digital content” pushed to HBO Now and HBO Go, along with a first-look development option for film and television projects.Stewart, according to HBO’s announcement, will be working with a cloud graphics company called OTOY Inc. to “allow him to produce timely short-form digital content, which will be refreshed on HBO Now multiple times throughout the day”—essentially filling the part of HBO’s comedy landscape not taken by Jon Oliver’s in-depth segments on Last Week Tonight.The move is a very smart one for Stewart. For HBO, it’s a play for more up-to-the-minute reactions to current events, something the cable network wasn’t equipped to handle before HBO Go and HBO Now, and that Stewart couldn’t do with his afternoon tapings for The Daily Show on Comedy Central. It’s basically the fast-paced maneuverability of online sketch comedy and satire partnered with Stewart’s established voice. Expect cool things.
The addition of the ad-free option has made it a TV and film obsessive’s dream.
If you can only afford a subscription to one streaming service right now, it should be Hulu without ads. It’s the best one going.
Netflix, the long-running champion, has the hype, and Amazon Prime has the massive amounts of cash necessary to mount a challenge to Netflix. But Hulu has what really counts: programming. I subscribe to all three and spend far, far more time watching Hulu than the other two. It’s turned itself into a service for true TV and film obsessives.
Let’s take a look at what I mean.
Hulu’s list of TV series to watch is second to none
Here’s the thing about Netflix’s TV library: It’s not terribly deep. Certainly, the service has the benefit of some of the best shows in TV history, like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Louie. But if you’ve already seen the shows the service has had on offer — for years now! — then you’re likely scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Where Netflix is struggling is in adding new acquired shows to the list of series it already has. Yes, its partnerships with AMC and The CW have added exciting new programs like Better Call Saul, The Flash, andJane the Virgin to its library in recent months. But more and more TV programmers seem to be trying to make deals with other services, in order to level the playing field a bit.
“We had a concerted effort not to only sell to Netflix,” he said. “Ultimately, we sold Justified and The Americans to Amazon, and now we’ve made an output deal with Hulu.” And indeed, FX sold some of its series to Netflix in the past, but it hasn’t since Louie, which debuted in 2010.
For a time, it seemed like this shift would be to Amazon’s benefit. That service scooped up exclusive deals for shows like Orphan Black and Hannibal, in addition to the FX series Landgraf mentioned and a good chunk of HBO’s back catalog.But in recent months, the momentum has swung toward Hulu, which has acquired show after show after show, and every one among the best TV has to offer.
If it’s debuted in the last three years or so, it’s far likelier to have an exclusive deal with Hulu than with Netflix. And if you’re someone who’s reasonably up to date with recent classics (as I am), that makes Hulu a much more attractive option.
But wait, as they say, there’s more.
Hulu still offers something no other streaming service has
If you subscribe to Hulu, you can watch brand new episodes of TV shows from four of the five major broadcast networks the day after they originally air, to say nothing of many cable networks. You can also do this on Amazon, but you have to pay a per-episode fee for the privilege. Because Hulu is owned in a joint venture between ABC, NBC, and Fox, watching the episode is rolled into your subscription fee.
Yes, it’s a huge headache how the various networks handle availability. Fox generally makes all episodes of a current season available, while ABC seems content with only a handful. And CBS, the biggest broadcast network, keeps its own shows segregated into its own streaming service (though its sister networks, The CW and Showtime, both have Hulu deals).
But this is not something Netflix or Amazon offers. Really, the only comparable services are those offered by various cable networks, like HBO Go or FX Now. And both of those feature only that network’s content and are tied directly to your cable subscription. Hulu is limited by what networks and studios will allow it to do, but it’s the closest anybody’s yet come to putting all of last night’s TV in one convenient place.
Hulu’s library of classic and foreign TV is also second to none
Netflix has gotten lots of attention in recent years for its overseas imports, shows like Black Mirror, Peaky Blinders, and Witnesses. And those are all terrific shows, well worth watching if you haven’t yet gotten to them on your Netflix crawl.
But Hulu, thanks to partnerships with other providers like DramaFever, bests Netflix in this arena as well. It has massive amounts of content from overseas, including a bunch of unheralded classics, like Rev., a British sitcom about an inner-city pastor, and Braquo, a dark French cop drama. And that’s to say nothing of the massive amounts of foreign-language dramas DramaFever brings to the site. Honestly, in this regard, Hulu may offer too many options, which could be why it seems to downplay this side of itself.
Finally, Hulu is your best option for classic TV shows, too — and I don’t mean recent classics. I mean classic classics. Sure, there are plenty of shows that are on essentially all of the major streaming services, like Cheers, but thanks to its connection with Shout! Factory, Hulu has some gems that nobody else does, like shows from MTM Productions (Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show, etc.) and Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Netflix still has advantages in a few areas — but the gap is closing
My infamous run-in with Eddie Murphy has been discussed and repeated so many times over the years, by so many people, that I’m sort of done with it. But I feel like I should put it down in print one final time, to sort of put the bow on it and move on. That way, when the aliens come looking for some mildly amusing anecdotes to take back to their planet when they blow ours to smithereens, this one will be primed and ready to go.
When I finally came up with my Hollywood Minute sketch, as previously recounted in great (and probably excruciatingly boring) detail, it was a huge relief to me. I needed something to stick. Things were so dire for me then that whenever I saw Adam Sandler in his office tuning his guitar I’d just crumple up whatever I was writing, go out for pizza, and stick a gun in my mouth between bites. Because he always killed.
The first joke I used on Hollywood Minute went along with a photo of Michael Bolton. The line went “Hey, Michael Bolton, your hair is really long in the back, but guess what? We all know what’s happening on top. It’s called Rogaine, look into it.” Then came “I know you’ve sold eight million albums but guess what? I don’t know anyone that has one!” Laughs all around. I did “the min” (gross term for it that I never actually called it) again two weeks later, and then as often as I could despite everyone probably rolling their eyes whenever I brought it to the table.