‘Orange’ Showrunner Jenji Kohan on Hollywood’s Pay Inequality, ‘F— You’ Money and Her ‘Friends’ Regrets
“It began at the family dinner table, where Kohan, the youngest of three, fought for attention among comedy giants — her father, Buz, a king of variety shows; her brother David, a creator of Will & Grace. As she entered her teens, she was the quirky misfit in a privileged Beverly Hills community. And later, when she joined the family business and wrote more than a dozen pilot scripts that never aired, she fought for recognition in a network system where she lacked both the commercial sense and the capacity — or desire — to be politic.
But as she sits on this day in her spacious office in the heart of Hollywood, news of Orange is the New Black’s 12 Emmy nominations — the biggest haul of any comedy contender — still fresh, it’s not hard to see that she finally has attained the respect and acclamation she has spent her lifetime chasing. And in the evolving landscape of premium television, where a Netflix dramedy can live as far out on the edge as her imagination does, Kohan has become the establishment.”
Anytime I can share a profile of a strong, fabulous, trailblazing, not to mention rainbow-haired woman, I will. Also, I find insider Hollywood stories irresistible.
Viola Davis Gets Groundbreaking Role As ABC Bets On Diversity
“A lot of the questions I get about race are really annoying,” [Shonda] Rhimes said. “I get a lot of ‘Why is it so hard to cast people of color?’ questions. My answer is always ‘Why are you asking me that question? Why don’t you ask someone who is not casting people of color? … I would rather you just look at the work. Because the world of television should look like the world outside.”
The fact is, Hollywood has found it extremely difficult to cast people of color as stars in TV shows. Forget about Seinfeld or HBO’s Girls presenting a New York that seems mostly devoid of nonwhite people; even ABC’s fall comedy Manhattan Love Story has few nonwhite supporting characters, despite its setting in one of the most diverse cities in the nation.
Looming in the background is a question you would think TV had settled years ago: Will mostly white network television audiences watch shows with mostly nonwhite casts and subject matter?
I am tired of this question. If it’s a well-written show, especially if it’s starring Viola Davis, I will, as a white person, watch it. In fact, I will go out of my way to watch this show. So there, Network Television Execs. Take that.
How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood
“If you use Netflix, you’ve probably wondered about the specific genres that it suggests to you. Some of them just seem so specific that it’s absurd. Emotional Fight-the-System Documentaries? Period Pieces About Royalty Based on Real Life? Foreign Satanic Stories from the 1980s?
If Netflix can show such tiny slices of cinema to any given user, and they have 40 million users, how vast did their set of ‘personalized genres’ need to be to describe the entire Hollywood universe?
This idle wonder turned to rabid fascination when I realized that I could capture each and every microgenre that Netflix’s algorithm has ever created.
Through a combination of elbow grease and spam-level repetition, we discovered that Netflix possesses not several hundred genres, or even several thousand, but 76,897 unique ways to describe types of movies.”
I can’t lie; I completely geeked out over this article. I’ve always been amused by the extremely personalized genres on Netlflix, and the analysis here fascinated me.
The Post-Hope Politics of ‘House of Cards’
“Part of what has made ‘House of Cards’ so successful — and what sets it apart from its political-snake-pit brethren — is how Willimon’s personal obsession about power, and the freedom Netflix grants him to explore it, dovetails so perfectly with our collective impressions of the current political arena. You can make the case that ‘House of Cards’ will one day seem as instructive about our current political moment as ‘The West Wing’ was of its political moment. The latter show appeared in 1999 as a kind of late-Clinton-era liberal cri de coeur, full of dedicated, snappily literate bureaucrats who would always win their debates, serving under an unimpeachable President-Dad whose moral compass never wavered from true north. Aaron Sorkin’s ‘West Wing’ was a vision of American government, presided over by a morally righteous liberal leader, unfolding each week even as Bill Clinton was assailed for abandoning liberal principles and subsuming important issues in his own moral messiness. Jed Bartlet was the kind of president, albeit fictional, we could believe in.
The politicians in ‘House of Cards,’ by contrast, are morally bankrupt and endlessly opportunistic. The show is no cri de coeur, but a cold dissection of the post-Obama (or post-the-Obama-many-hoped-they’d-elected), post-hope political landscape. It’s a vision of American government not as we wish it were, but as we secretly fear it is. Good old Jed Bartlet wouldn’t last a single news cycle here.”
Nipplegate at 10: How Justin Won Superbowl XXXVIII, and How Janet Lost
“We know exactly how it happened: At the end of their live duet of Timberlake’s ‘Rock Your Body,’ the finale of the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, the former ‘N Sync member sang, ‘Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song,’ reached over, and pulled off the plate-and-lace combo covering Jackson’s right breast. She whipped her head back and then down, and inched her hands up toward her exposed boob (clad only in a sun-shaped piece of nipple jewelry). It was a shocked expression of theatrical proportions.
The condemnations came swiftly and loudly. Her next album flopped, and she’s all but disappeared from glossy magazines and MTV, while Timberlake is still winning Grammys and Michael Powell is presenting a revisionist history of the event to ESPN Magazine.
But how? How did this happen? How did the superstar scion of one of America’s most recognizable families come completely undone in 9/16ths of a second, while the boy-band refugee became one of music’s biggest stars? How did Janet lose the Super Bowl, and how did Justin win?”
One of the best pieces of media criticism I’ve read in a while. An absolutely brilliant breakdown.