This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- That Nicole Kidman show is confusingly not good.
- That Jeopardy shitshow depresses me.
- A new Sandra Oh series! Rejoice and be glad!
- Oh no, Carrie Underwood, no…
- Pretty photos, as a little treat.
It’s truly astonishing that Jeopardy! managed to screw things up this badly.
Few things in entertainment seem as sacred as the show, which, after decades on air fostering intimate relationships with viewers each night as they sit down for dinner, found its cultural significance only heightened in the last year. That was partly a product of the climate in which it was airing. There was the terror of the pandemic and its unknown. There was the lunacy, anger, and actual violence of the political landscape. And there was the knowledge that Alex Trebek was likely in his last run as host as he battled cancer.
Tenets of what the show stood for were a comfort in contrast to the reality outside of our living rooms. Truth in the age of disinformation. Stability in the face of unrest. Certainty in uncertain times. The show was a soothing nightly reminder of what we valued, everything from its example that seriousness can still be silly and fun to the memories of time spent watching the show with family baked into every episode’s theme song.
That the show would carry on its legacy following Trebek’s death with class didn’t seem to be an arduous responsibility. To most of us, it seemed like an inevitability. Another certainty. Another fact. The show is an institution, and the institution would carry on nobly.
How, then, did we end up in this unpleasant disaster, a PR nightmare that is already threatening to taint the show’s future?
In the wake of reports that newly announced replacement host Mike Richards, who will take on nightly duties while actress Mayim Bialik emcees primetime specials, had made sexist remarks while executive producer of The Price Is Right and as co-host of The Randumb Show podcast, Richards released an apology and stepped down from his position this week. It came after intense social media backlash and outcry from Jeopardy! fans—fans who were already unhappy that Richards had been chosen over frontrunners like Ken Jennings and Levar Burton.
It’s a hurricane of negativity rattling the foundation of the one thing in pop culture that was supposed to be stalwart and undisturbed. Can the show dig itself out of this wreckage?
It was hard to tell how much the social media uproar surrounding Richards had infiltrated mainstream audiences, most of whom might still be more upset that Burton didn’t get the gig than even aware of this controversy. Someone wondered if the show would adopt a “this too shall pass” attitude and hope the storm blows over. Or would producers cut it off at the pass and replace Richards before the new season starts, which would only reignite the bad press and the ugliness of the host search?
To that latter point, Richards said, “I want to apologize to each of you for the unwanted negative attention that has come to Jeopardy! over the last few weeks and for the confusion and delays this is now causing.” The new season will now begin with guest hosts once again while another replacement is sought out.
When Richards was announced as Trebek’s successor, I personally didn’t mind. He was, I felt, the strongest of the contenders that I watched during the test trials. In reality, the show seemed like such an institution—and Trebek so singular and irreplaceable—that the choice of permanent host didn’t seem to matter to me. The fact that almost everyone who took part in the trials was competent, endearing, and entertaining proved that it would be the show’s reputation that would carry it into the future more than the magnetism of any replacement.
But now that reputation has been tarnished, and that future is threatened. A lot of people wanted Richards, whose Machiavellian dealings have also been off-putting, to step down. Is that enough to repair the damage that’s already been done to the hallowed show? I feel like, for the first time when it comes to Jeopardy!, there is no right answer.
In contrast to Nine Perfect Strangers, a series in which, in its first three hours, essentially nothing happens, Netflix’s The Chair is a series for which three hours is its entire season, and everything happens.
It is a swirl of so many ideas—provocative, thrilling, heady ideas—that it starts to resemble one of those kaleidoscopic Magic Eye posters that, when you stare at it, another image emerges. In this case, it is the image of Sandra Oh, holding an acting trophy for the way she lassoed all those ideas from the messy tornado they could have created into yet another tour de force performance.
In six episodes so breezy I had windburn after watching them, The Chair tackled (deep breath): bureaucracy in academia, institutional misogyny, institutional racism, institutional ageism, cancel culture, disinformation, journalistic responsibility, cultural assimilation, gender norms, internet trolls, grief, sexual harassment, and even touches of When Harry Met Sally’s “can a man and a woman just be friends” question.
And yet it’s really funny and, somehow, coherent—a feat pulled off by actress Amanda Peet, who created the show and produced it along with her husband (wait for it), Game of Thrones’ David Benioff and his producing partner D.B. Weiss. Maybe it’s not that surprising of a follow-up series for the Thrones duo. After all, Sandra Oh is and always will be our Khaleesi.
The Great Celebrity COVID Comeuppance is upon us and I haven’t felt this electric and excited since that one time a glitch in my local pizza place’s delivery order computer system caused them to send me a surprise second pie the day after the first one for free.
It’s not because I’m particularly happy about the fact that there are rich and influential people who are anti-vaxxers or anti-maskers as we enter month 400 of this fresh hell. It’s because karma is a raging bitch and I can’t wait for all of them to feel her wrath as they get exposed.
This week, Broadway star Laura Osnes lost out on a performance gig because she refused to be vaccinated and American Idol Carrie Underwood was caught liking a tweet by conservative hemorrhoid Matt Walsh raging against school mask mandates. There will be more of these revelations. These people might fancy themselves discreet, but like teenage boys fresh off their runs as Ren in their high-school production of Footloose, they will always come out.
It’s sad to learn that some of your favorite performers are absolute dipshits. But [grabs karaoke mic] maybe next time she’ll thiiiiiiink before she [likes] tweets.
What I love about this photo of Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in the upcoming season of The Crown is how much care was taken in everything from her appearance to her facial expression to the way she’s lounging to evoke a near, almost eerie mimicry of the late icon.
And what I love about the accompanying image of Dominic West as Prince Charles is that they were just like “eh, comb his hair a little different and that’ll do.”
The Chair: Nothing more satisfying than six episodes of Sandra Oh excellence. (Fri. on Netflix)
Work in Progress: Season two of a true gem of a show that I wish more people would discover. (Sun. on Showtime)
The Other Two: One of the funniest shows on TV, plus a superior Molly Shannon performance. (Thurs. on HBO Max)
Reminiscence: 2021 has been surreal enough. I don’t need my mind being bent in my entertainment, too. (Fri. in theaters and on HBO Max)
The Walking Dead: Truly the only show I will tolerate a “wait, that’s still on!?” reaction. (Sun. on AMC)