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.
- Everyone’s Blue’s Clues hysteria is wrong.
- The only 9/11 content I can bear this week.
- I saw Sonja Morgan’s “caburlesque” show.
- I’m offended by Jennifer Lawrence’s bangs.
- The worst reality show I’ve ever heard of.
That’s not a particularly noble or educated stance to take, but it’s a product of exhaustion. This was a tragedy that occurred at the crux of a television, film, and internet explosion. For two decades, we never stopped parsing it, telling the stories, and grieving. Especially at a breaking point when it comes to horrific news and, it turns out, their direct connection to those events, I’m too emotionally expired.
With all that said, it is curious which pieces of 9/11-adjacent entertainment I have been drawn to these last few weeks. For example, there’s the filmed version of the Broadway musical Come From Away that premieres on Apple TV+ this weekend. “Musical about 9/11” sounds like nothing any human would want to see, which makes it all the more remarkable how healing and pleasing this show actually is—and what a gift it is that people outside of New York can see it on screen.
It takes place in the small Canadian town of Gander, where dozens of planes were forced to land when flights were grounded and their passengers made to live in a state of emotional chaos amid the citizens of the town. This really happened, and it’s rather shocking to me that more hasn’t been made of the unusual circumstances, especially since it is such a feel-good story about humanity and kindness.
In Come From Away, the songs are fine enough and the performances are solid. But it’s hard to remember a more cathartically emotional theatrical experience. By virtue of the subject matter and, all these years later, the rawness of what happened, you basically just cry the entire show. It feels good. I know that’s not always an attractive sell, but I encourage you to watch.
There’s also the Netflix film Worth, about the lawyer who was tasked with determining what dollar amount would be the proper compensation for the families of 9/11 victims. Again, because of those three numbers in the plot description, it’s an agonizing watch. But it’s paced like a legal drama, which allows you to dissociate a bit and get lost in the peculiar task at hand—until the weight of what the legal maneuvering is in pursuit of crashes back down.
There’s acting from Stanley Tucci and Michael Keaton that rank among their respective career best, and a breathtaking supporting turn from Tony-winner Laura Benanti as a widow. It’s just a really good film.
Most surprising, and probably very weird, is the way that I’ve gravitated to the bizarre TV commercials that I have clear memories of that aired in the wake of the tragedy and have gone viral again this week.
The New York Times published an oral history of Broadway’s ad campaign to bring people back to the theater, which adds a lot of color to the Where’s Waldo game of spot the random celebrity in the crowd of singers.
Then there’s NBC’s commercial promoting it’s fall lineup, featuring somber behind-the-scenes footage of stars from Friends, The West Wing, ER, Frasier, and more and an indescribably morbid piano score. I need an analysis of just what the American psyche was in that week that produced a tone that was… that.
In these “the world is sort of reopen but there’s still a raging pandemic” times, every social outing brings with it the calculus of, “What if this is the event where I got COVID?” And with that in mind, I found myself in a basement theater watching Sonja Morgan’s cabaret premiere.
Sonja In Your City, a hybrid stand-up comedy, improv, and cabaret show (“caburlesque” is her description) launched this week at Improv Asylum in New York City. That makes Morgan, who stars on The Real Housewives of New York City, the second cast member of the series to mount such a show.
It would be tempting to wonder if Morgan was stepping on the Jovani train of Luann de Lesseps, whose enthusiasm over her own cabaret tour has become her defining personality trait, were it not for the fact that Sonja In Your City is such absolute chaos. Beautiful, fitting, undeniably entertaining chaos.
Here are things that happened during the debut performance of Sonja In Your City: Two men performed a rap about her being “the baddest fucking bitch on the Upper East Side” as she twerked. She interviewed audience members to become her new “interns,” performing a lap dance on one. She took control of another audience member’s Grindr account. She instructed, using a dildo, how to give a perfect hand job. She went live on OnlyFans. She kept thinking she was in different sketches, or forgot which sketch she was in, presumably because of the nature of improv and things not being the same as in rehearsal. She revealed that Tom D’Agostino, the ex-husband of de Lesseps, was not good in bed.
There are people who paid good money to be in the audience of the Sonja In Your City premiere, and I can say with authority that they got their money’s worth. In between tossing off legitimately hilarious dick jokes—practically one a minute—and rambling until she occasionally lost the point herself, never has it been more clear that the Sonja Morgan you see on Bravo is the genuine Sonja Morgan. You leave feeling like you have hung out with her and that such company is a legitimately great time.
First-look images were released this week of the new film Don’t Look Up starring Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Meryl Streep. Presumably these bangs are a character choice. But is it worth it?
Every word in this tweet is more cursed than the one that precedes it.
Real Housewives of Salt Lake City: The first two minutes already leaked and they’re the greatest two minutes of television we’ve ever seen. (Sun. on Bravo)
Come From Away: It’s a great, cathartic show. (Fri. on Apple TV+)
LuLaRich: A documentary on the rise and fall of the leggings that one girl from high school kept trying to sell on Facebook. (Fri. on Amazon)
The Premise: An anthology series about “the biggest questions of our modern era” that is about as entertaining as that sounds. (Thurs. on FX)
Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol: The answer to “how much can they possibly milk this whole Dan Brown thing?” (Thurs. on Peacock)