Julia Roberts Is Taking Over TV With Two HBO Projects

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We may still be pulling ourselves together after HBO’s Big Little Lies miniseries wrecked our hearts and taught us how to love rich white California moms in a way we didn’t know was possible, but hope is on the horizon. Julia Roberts—the Oscar-winning actress and 90s rom-com queen of our hearts—is in talks to star in Homecoming, an HBO adaptation of the hit podcast series that wasn’t about about an elusive home workout guru.

In its original form, Homecoming was a political thriller told through a collage of telephone calls, therapy sessions and overheard conversations and centered on a caseworker at a secret government facility, her supervisor, and a soldier trying to adjust to life off the battlefield. While the original series featured the vocal talents of Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, Amy Sedaris and David Cross, the new TV adaptation has yet to name the cast members who’ll undoubtedly create our next obsession but it’s in good hands. The new series is being written by the original podcast writers and will feature the magic of Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail.

Alongside this high-profile project, Roberts is also set to make her starring role in another HBO show called Today Will Be Different. The limited series is based on Maria Semple’s bestselling novel and follows a single day in the life of Eleanor Flood as she tries valiantly to be her best self and get her life together while navigating modern life. Between Today Will Be Different and Homecoming, HBO is proving that the only thing better than one Julia Roberts show is two.

Shocker! James Franco Is Set to Star In Yet Another Porn Drama

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Here’s some shocking and altogether unprecedented casting: James Franco is starring in a drama about the porn industry. Oh, wait… he’s absolutely done that already. But history aside, this new HBO series, The Deuce, sounds pretty good. And it doesn’t hurt that his co-star is the goddess Maggie Gyllenhaal, who’s playing a prostitute-turned-porn-entrepreneur fittingly named ‘Candy.’

The series comes from the mind of David Simon, the writer and producer perhaps best known for creating the HBO hit The Wire. He’s also worked with everyone’s favorite Home Box Office on the series Treme and the Oscar Isaac-led miniseries Show Me A Hero. Simon co-wrote The Deuce with the help of George Pelecanos, a detective fiction novelist who also contributed to both The Wire and Treme. Breaking Bad’s Michelle MacLaren executive produced and directed the pilot.

The Deuce is set in New York City from the early 70s through the mid 80s, and tracks the rise of the porn industry after its legalization, as well as HIV/ AIDS epidemic and the widespread use of cocaine in New York at its most gritty, before the city was cleaned up and its rents rose to astronomical new heights.

Franco plays two twin brothers, Vincent and Frankie Martino, who became prominent figures in the Times Square sex industry and served as fronts for mob control of prostitution and pornography.

We do certainly find it interesting and disappointing that the central figure of a series set in AIDS-era New York is a straight white man. But putting out criticisms aside, here’s the trailer and first look at HBO’s upcoming The Deuce, set to premiere on September 10:

HBO Orders Muhammad Ali Doc from Antoine Fuqua

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HBO’s next documentary endeavor will be to tell the story of famed boxer Muhammad Ali. Variety reports the worldwide distribution company has ordered the doc from director Antoine Fuqua, responsible for the 2001 Oscar-winner Training Day,  and LeBron James, who will serve as an Executive Producer alongside Fuqua.

The doc, as yet untitled, will be assembled using archived and never-before-seen footage from the Ali estate, who has also partnered with the creative team to make this film, as well as dramatizations of certain scenes from Ali’s life.

“Muhammad Ali meant many things to many people, and he is someone who had a deep impact on me from an early age,” said Fuqua in Variety’s report. “Being given the opportunity to tell his story, both inside and outside of the ring, is a privilege, and a dream come true.”

Said James: “It’s tough to put into words how much it means to me to be a part of this project honoring the legacy and telling the extremely important story of the great Muhammad Ali. He transcended sports and used his platform to empower people, which paved the way for all athletes and people of every race and gender that came after him, myself included.”

No news yet on when the documentary will air.

WATCH: Trailer for HBO’s Filmed Performance of ‘Every Brilliant Thing’

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After a brief run Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theater two years ago, Every Brilliant Thing will experience a second incarnation on HBO, after the network loved the show so much they filmed one of its final performances to add to their collection of documentary programming.

Every Brilliant Thing stars the UK comic Johnny Donahoe and enlightens its audience on all of the good reasons to be alive in the world. It also tells the story of a boy’s life marred by a suicide. The HBO presentation is produced and directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.

Check out the trailer below:

The show will air on HBO on December 26, just in time to cure your holiday-related postpartum depression.

John Oliver Explains Ways You Can Help in Wake of Election

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On the season finale of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver dedicated his entire episode to Trump’s election as president. He implored America to realize the severity of the situation we’ve now found ourselves in.

“Optimism is nice, but it can feed into the normalization of Donald Trump. And he is not normal. He is abnormal. He is a human ‘What is wrong with this picture.'”

Oliver gave some concrete tips on how we can help the situation unfolding here in America:

“We’re going to need to stay here and fight. And not just politically in 4 years when he is up for reelection, but constantly, monitoring legislation as it moves through Congress. F*cking voting when your legislators come up for reelection in 2 years. But that is still below the barest minimum of what is going to be needed.”

He outlined several organizations that will need support and protection under Trump’s reign, including groups for women’s rights:

“If you’re concerned about women’s health, donate to Planned Parenthood or the Center for Reproductive Rights.”

For climate change:

“If you don’t believe manmade global warming is a silly issue, donate to the National Resources Defense Council.”

For immigration:

“If you don’t believe refugees are a terrorist army in disguise, donate to the International Refugee Assistance Project.

For people of color and members of the LGBTQ community, Oliver also suggested donations to the NAACP, the Trevor Project, and MALDEF.

Above all, Oliver implored the American people to not become complacent and get used to a Trump presidency. This is not normal.

‘The Young Pope’ Renewed for Second Season

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Worried you weren’t going to get enough scenes of Jude Law wearing a white sunhat and screwing up the Catholic church? You shouldn’t be.

Ahead of it’s premiere, HBO, in partnership with the European production company Sky, has already renewed their sexy religion show for a second season. In it, Law plays a hot American cardinal named Lenny who, in a twist of fate, ends up the new pope. Just to make sure we’re on the same page: Diane Keaton is also in the show, playing a creepy nun.

The show debuts tomorrow in Europe and early 2017 in the US. For serenity’s sake, here’s the trailer again.

5 Highlights From Last Night’s GIRLS Season Finale: Declare Independence, Lean In

Adam Driver, Lena Dunham, Girls, TV
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LOOKING BACK ON SEASON 4 

It may be time for Girls to say goodbye for now, but looking back on the fourth season, it’s hard to say that it left much of an impression. Lena Dunham’s hit series began to seriously lack momentum this time around, with dramatic conflict shoehorned into all of Dunham’s pet obsessions: self-aggrandizing performance art, the lows of creative nonfiction, co-dependent relationships and antiseptic sexuality. All hot topics, to be sure, but the sense of a narrative seemingly evaporated. Remember how fast Hannah left Iowa? That entire episode about Mimi-Rose? What about Marnie’s jazz brunch gigs? Those now feel like distant memories (or dull callbacks) from the ten-week journey we’ve spent with these characters, and it’s because the show rarely hints at a world outside of its own bubble.

What once made Girls so unlike anything else on television was its defiance in never giving us the closure wanted, with a nearly anarchic subversion of any momentum its characters had going for them. It made newly trenchant observations of how petty and easily thwarted one’s ambitions can seem in a teeming, multicultural landscape like New York. But this attitude can only reinvent itself so many times without challenging the culture at large. Instead, Dunham favors her own depictions of lives marred by boredom and nostalgia, and as the world spins outside of our HBO GO accounts, her characters feel smaller and less significant the more we spend time with them. I think it may be time to meet some new friends.

Alas, here are 5 highlights from last night’s Girls finale.

RAY CHEWS DESI OUT

“Marriage is such an outmoded concept,” claims Desi to his new record producer, “but until they invent something better, this is the best way to express my devotion to Marnie.” Tired of keeping a straight face in light of his ex-lover’s recent betrothal, Ray is completely honest when Desi confronts him about any bad blood there might be between them. “I fucking hate you.” And no, it’s not the whole Pacific Northwest thing. Desi has always been an egomaniacal prick, and despite his horrible behavior, Marnie will always underestimate herself and take him back. It’s wild to see how much faith Ray still has in Marnie, and to think that he would spend his considerable ambition and intellect into keeping her happy. Love may be blind as ever, but Desi’s reaction to this takedown is to leave the episode and never come back.

SHOSHANNA LEANS IN

We finally had the gratification of watching Shoshana ace an interview for a marketing position, but there’s a twist: the job would outsource her to Tokyo. The most important question of the episode (personally speaking) became: is Jason Ritter really worth it? He implores Shosh not to take the job; to stay in New York and work for his company (the position she originally interviewed for, mind you). After all, he explains: “I’m going to be in love with you soon.” Love is conditional for the characters on Girls, but it’s a goal they’re willing to work around. She goes to Ray’s café to try and ask him for advice, but unfortunately, he’s not there. (Let’s beat the dead horse of Ray and Shosh’s relationship one more time.) Yet Ray’s migraine-fraught superior reminds Shosh of the tenets of Sheryl Sandberg’s bestseller, and she makes what is clearly the right decision.

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SPIKE JONZE AND GABY HOFFMAN LAY ROTTEN EGGS

There were two guest stars this episode, both memorable for very different reasons. Spike Jonze played against his nebbishy nice-guy persona as the record label president repping Desi and Marnie’s band, giving too much personal information about his failed marriage and effectively souring any hope of Marnie and Desi’s long-term happiness (nice work!). Gaby Hoffman, fearless as usual, returned as Adam’s pregnant sister in perhaps the lengthiest nude scene in the show’s history, as Hannah and Jessa tried to get her out of the bathtub and into the hospital. The shouting match between her, Adam and her husband Laird played merely like fireworks, and the situation was a trite placeholder for Adam and Hannah’s long-overdue reconciliation.

 HANNAH REJECTS ADAM AND MOVES ON WITH HER LIFE

Looking over his sister’s newborn baby, Adam tells Hannah that it’s over with Mimi-Rose, and that he misses her. Too little, too late—she tells him he’s tired and that he’ll get over it. Ignoring his protests, it was a relief to see Hannah not give into Adam, and letting this rather played out, multiple-season-long drama end once and for all.

When Hannah calls her parents from the hospital, we find them in a negative state, with Hannah’s mom disparaging her “cowardly” husband as he sits next to her at the table. “You have your whole life ahead of you, and not to waste it on one man,” she says. But then a title card takes us six months into the future, only to find a well-adjusted Hannah with her new beau, Fran (Jake Lacy)— presumably having forgiven her crazy ways. Is this a muddled message for Girls viewers regarding the merits of monogamy, or is Dunham complicating her narrative on purpose? I’m frankly puzzled by this last bit of provocation, but I hope Dunham finds it in herself to give us a more coherent statement when she returns.

GIRLS Fashion Recap: An Exploration of Professional Attire

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We’re down to the wire here. There are only two episodes left and a major new story arc with Hannah’s dad’s revelation (or rather, admission) that he’s gay.

Let’s begin with an examination of Hannah’s continually ill-advised substitute teaching attire.

hannah teach

My brain knows this is inappropriate for a classroom of 15-year-olds. Anything with a full-body zip is not teacher attire…can we get this girl some trousers? A trip to J.Crew needs to happen…like now.

Still, we’ve seen Hannah in so much worse. And she’s clearly experiencing some weird desire to relive high school so perhaps this outfit is a manifestation of that.

fran

This week, Fran’s literary tee-shirt (from his mom) is the piece of attire that makes it into the script. It is both cute and dorky and only makes Jake Lacy’s character more endearing.

marnie

Marnie continues to wear clothes that are simple, but weirdly embellished. Since this week, I’m taking the makeover look, I think Marnie would do really well with a trip to Everlane. Trade in the weird embellishments for equally “artsy” pocket tees and a pair of loafers. Done and done.

jessa

Jessa looks like Jessa, but more normal and with a bit of lovable trashiness, something that perhaps only Jemima Kirke can pull off. This is spot-on though for a stroll around Brooklyn getup. And with the weather warming up, at long last, we’ll soon all be wearing ripped up jeans.

shosh robe

Oh Shosh! You would have a blue silk robe and (duh!) a matching turband for bodily tweezing pre-date. Honestly, 100 points for making getting ready for a date seem like an affair out of a 1950s movie.

campaigning

An appropriately conservative, buttoned-up look, with a much more acceptable skirt length than we’ve seen so far, for Shosh’s work helping Ray canvass. Keep this look for some of your job interviews, Shosh!

shosh date 2

Finally, let’s talk about Shoshanna’s date, which is promising (even in spite of her very weird porny advances at Jason Ritter). Here’s what’s not surprising: her decision to wear pink, her dedication to barrettes (hair accessories in general, for all occasions), and her employment of a statement necklace.

See you next week!

Lisa Kudrow Tells Us She’s Working on Ideas for a Possible Season 3 of The Comeback

Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
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After the brilliant second season of HBO’s The Comeback left us in tears and wanting more, we were anxious to know more about the show that, not only has kept its devoted fan base for nearly a decade, but served as the vehicle for her greatest performance yet. Here she delves deeper into the history the series and, to our excitement, reveals she and Michael Patrick King are working on a ideas for a third season of The Comeback and there’s more Valerie Cherish to come.

When Friends was ending, did you plan to become more creatively involved in the projects you’d be working on?

At the time, I thought I would always be able to do independent films, not even guessing that independent films would go away. So I thought I’d do that, and if I want to do TV again, I’m really going to have to be creatively involved. I thought I better get more used to the idea that I’m an actual producer and not just someone with vanity deal because I’m on a show. You get the deal because you’re on a show and then you actually have to do the work to demonstrate otherwise. So that was the goal, and I was really not expecting to do a show that soon after Friends; it just happened. I thought, Oh well, it’s happening now, what can I do? But then I thought, maybe it’s okay because it’s not even trying to be anything like Friends—that would be a disaster.

Were you concerned that it being so soon after Friends and Sex and the City people would be expecting something much more connected to those shows?

Yeah, part it was that people were expecting it to be Phoebe in Manolos, and it of course had nothing to do with that, nor would it. We wouldn’t try to do anything like that. It was just an idea that came up and we started talking and it was, well this is great, let’s do this. We weren’t expecting there to be a huge audience for it, that’s why we were so happy to be at HBO because it had always been the place where the requirement was not for everybody on earth to want to tune in, just their subscribers. It just seemed like the perfect place to be in at the time.

Did you and Michael have one singular inspiration for Valerie or was she a composite of different people you’ve known? Was it the same for the peripheral characters like Paulie G?

Valerie is a composite of different people that I brought to her and Michael brought to her. We just kept track of all the little  humiliations of life you wouldn’t want caught on camera and then broadcast. Nowadays you’re thankful if there’s no camera around because it’s expected. My only experience on a sitcom was just how the schedule works, when the network panics then what happens, that kind of thing, but Michael had run shows and been in the writers room of many shows for years and years. Then the writers we had come on they also had a ton of experience—and they all thought they knew exactly who Paulie G was. Everyone had a different idea and they were certain it was that person, but that’s how many Paul G types you can imagine existed. So they informed a lot of that part of the story. 

How did you conceive of the show’s format and did you know from the start that you’d want the show to consist of the raw footage from a reality show?

Our idea started with, Oh my god reality TV, I can’t believe it’s happening. People are signing up for this!  What a mistake, do they know what they’re getting into? We were initially going to call it Raw Footage and it was going to be the raw footage from a reality shoot, so just the unmanipulated footage. Then we realized we couldn’t do that, so we thought it was just going to be one camera all the time, but we immediately thought we couldn’t do that. Finally we decided it would just be a rush assembly, so it wasn’t perfectly produced and manipulated. We really wanted to demonstrate that, although the editing is not manipulated much, you could see how much the producer is working things. So it has to be shot this way and that’s what drove the look of it. It wasn’t, oh let’s do something different.

When we were talking about it, we thought, well can it be like this? And then we looked at each other and went, that’s different, I haven’t seen anything like this, can it be done? How do we make it clear what’s happening? Are people going to understand what this is? Then we just figured it out because that’s what was important to us, to tell that part of the story. So we never set out to do something different, it was this idea and we followed it.

When first watching the show, it made me incredibly anxious. She was constantly being humiliated and you couldn’t tell whether to not like her or feel sorry for her. But eventually that question is stripped away when you realize that she knows exactly what she’s doing and how smart she is about the business. Her smile may be fake but her intentions aren’t and you begin to admire her for that.

In the beginning were talking about how unlikeable she was because she was so phony. Like with Mickey, she’s often like, you’re talking but no one’s interested in that, put a pin in that, or here comes something more interesting and having to do with me. I know Michael felt that we need to make people feel bad for her or win them over. I just thought, I don’t think we need to do much because we’ll see that this is a mask and we’ll see something underneath that—so we had to find that balance.

All of the everyday insults that are mostly minor, but because there’s a camera on her so close, you see it register and then you see her spin it, so it feels like a huge impact. She knows it’s happening, but she won’t take it in, she won’t have it. She’ll spin it into something else for the cameras or for herself, and I think that’s what was unclear. I knew she was spinning it for herself and that’s just how she copes. You can’t be in this business if you see reality completely. Not even reality, but your interpretation of reality is always going to be, oh this is too hard and you can’t stick with it.

At one point I couldn’t help but think how sore your cheeks must have been from smiling that  much.

It’s very fun to be her, wondering if she’s selling something, are you buying it. That’s a very fun thing to try and communicate. Her priorities are so off, but I also just admire her perseverance. Even if you don’t agree with what her goal is, it doesn’t matter, ultimately we have to admire a person who won’t give up. Ironically I guess it was also, well, if you’re going to be in reality TV this is how you have to be and this is who we see: people who just spin and lie. People who say to themselves, nope it will be okay because I’ll sell this book. And then you have people who do know exactly why they’re doing it and they don’t care that their name is going to be associated with very bad behavior.

So how did HBO approach you about bringing the show back? Did you have any idea?

It was a complete shock. We were asked to go into HBO and talk to them about The Comeback. and we didn’t know what they meant—a movie, a special, some episode? What do they want? But then before we went in to talk with them, we talked about what we might want. But we went in there and they said, yeah, whatever you want. If you want to do an hour, if you want to do six episodes or a movie, you tell us and we will do it. And we went, Oh my god, we’ll do it, we’ll make six episodes—that then turned into eight. They were wonderful and said, we’re not going to audition The Comeback, we’re just not, so you tell us what you’re going to do and we’ll do it. Then we went away and thought about it; we wanted to let them know what we had in mind because HBO was such a huge part of what this round was going to be about and we needed to know that they were okay with that. They were fantastic!

Now that reality TV is such a massive part of our culture and so engrained into the collective unconscious that we see it as normal, did that factor into how you want about writing this new season and what would have to have changed in the last nine years?

We knew this show wasn’t going to be a conversation about reality TV like the first season was, because we’ve accepted it now. It’s here, it’s been here for ten years or more and that’s not what we’re talking about. So we just decided to embrace that it’s been nine years and what has she done. She was feeling like she was a pioneer in reality TV, because she was before the Housewives, and she wants back in because she got it wrong. She took herself too seriously before and she’s going to do it right now and she’s making a pilot presentation for Andy Cohen. We had that almost immediately. We thought maybe that’s what this whole round is about, until Michael had the idea that Pauly G has written an HBO show. Then we thought that she’d have to audition for the part of herself, and it’s a horrible version of herself. Then I said, “Well can’t she get it, what if she got it?” And we both went, Oh my god that’s what the whole thing is about. That audition was a lot of, how do we justify this happening, because we wanted it to happen but how can we make it believable. We figured it would be interesting to repurpose an actor, so that would already be attractive to them and then how meta it would be, because it’s all meta. Then we decided to just go meta meta meta, just too much that now maybe everyone will be sick of that.

We also felt like there was unfinished business with Pauly G. I don’t think we ever fully explained why his hatred of her was so intense. We could see that he was definitely a person in crisis back then, which we had no idea about, and just that he is her. He’s every bit as desperate, but she says it out loud. He sees her and he is just horrified—”Is it showing?” Everything about her feels like he’s looking in a mirror.

How did you feel when the show came back and to see how excited fans still were after all this time?

I don’t know how to put it, it was the best feeling. We would hear about people that were so excited and that was thrilling, and then terrifying if you gave it enough attention, which we tried not to because then you’re paralyzed. When it came out it was just holding your breath for the first interview. So you just try to figure out, did we do it or did we miss something, because we did this so fast we could have missed some huge big thing. In the final round of editing, when it’s about to go out, that’s when it’s, oh I don’t know about that, let’s not show it to anybody.

Did you know how you wanted the show to end? 

Early on we did know how we wanted it to end, that she leaves the Emmys to go to the hospital. I have to say, when I saw an early cut of that final episode, when the “Cherish” music plays, I started crying and I thought I would never stop. It was just crying for ten years worth of this woman, and, Oh thank god, she’s a person, and I know I thought this is who she’s always been underneath. She’s always been a decent person but there were all these cameras on her and she felt like she needed to be an entertainer first, human being second. Now we know who she really is. I don’t know if I want the reality cameras to go away when we do more, because that’s fun to see that version of her. 

So is it coming back? Will there be a season 3 of The Comeback?

We’re talking about what comes next, but we’re not in a rush. At first I didn’t talk to Michael about it, out of panic, but we were done in December and I thought, oh god that means we have to start up again next month. I don’t know if I can, it’s too soon, I’m too tired. And then we talked about it, and said we don’t have to, we can wait a year and a half. Then HBO said, yeah, whenever, whenever you have it, let us know. It’s wonderful. I don’t know, would feel like shit but we’ve got to get moving now and hopefully it will be good enough.