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    Marty Callner Might Be the Most Influential Comedy Director

    Marty Callner made the first modern special, setting the template still in use. (He was also key to hair-metal videos. But that’s another story.)Since comedy is often overlooked at the Oscars, why doesn’t it have its own awards show?It’s been tried, but the self-seriousness of such events can be an odd fit. So when Netflix started an awards show celebrating the greats in stand-up — who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame being built at the National Comedy Center — it was inevitable that a participating comic would make fun of the whole thing.At the recent Los Angeles taping of that awards show, “The Hall: Honoring the Greats of Stand-Up,” which premieres on Thursday, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, George Carlin and Robin Williams were inducted with speeches by Dave Chappelle, Chelsea Handler, Jon Stewart and John Mulaney. When Mulaney introduced Williams by reading a letter from the late comic’s daughter, he appeared momentarily emotional before pausing to say: “I don’t want to cry at a fake awards show.”That didn’t sit right with Marty Callner, the show’s co-creator (with Randall Gladstein) and director, who cut that quip in the edit. “It’s real,” he told me in the backyard of his Malibu home. “The Hall” has been a longtime dream of his, an effort to reintroduce classic comedy to younger generations, and an honor that he says comics will appreciate and care about. “These guys are still human beings and they still have egos and they still want a legacy.”John Mulaney inducting Robin Williams into the Hall of Fame on the new special.Terence Patrick/NetflixCallner, 75, has his own complicated relationship with a public legacy since his remarkable career has largely existed in the background. In fact, he might be the most successful director you have never heard of.Over the past five decades, Callner has worked with some of the most famous brand names in popular culture — Madonna, Jerry Seinfeld, the Dallas Cowboys — and was a formative figure at the dawn of two modern art forms: the stand-up special and the music video, neither of which are known for giving much credit to the director. If that weren’t enough innovation, he also created “Hard Knocks,” a hit reality show that for 20 years, turned N.F.L. training camp into a soap opera.“The Hall,” whose inductees were chosen by a panel of comedy industry types like club owners and agents chosen by Callner, is only the latest institution he’s built, but it’s one he speaks about with personal passion, especially since he knew each of the first four comics being inducted. “Stand-up is such a part of my life that I wanted to give back,” he said.Callner was raised by a single parent (his father left when he was 2) in Cincinnati, a midcentury television hub. He credits a 1969 trip on synthetic psilocybin for awakening his previously dormant creativity, started working an entry-level job in live local news and immediately fell in love. He hung around the Cincinnati station at all hours, sponging up shot composition and camera angles. When a director suddenly left one afternoon for a family emergency, Callner got his chance, moving on to direct commercials and Boston Celtics games including their championship season in 1974. His success led to two offers: to work for NBC Sports, a national behemoth, or for a relatively unknown new cable channel called HBO, where he would be able to shape its look and style (and direct live coverage of Wimbledon). Callner bet on the option where he could have more sway. It wouldn’t take long for this to pay off in his big break.Two months after “Saturday Night Live” premiered in 1975, he directed a show that started a tradition that rivals it: “An Evening With Robert Klein” was the first HBO stand-up special. Shelley Berman and Bob Newhart had made specials for television the previous decade, but it was Klein’s hour that pointed the way to the future, even opening with a backstage scene of the comic preparing. This cold open would become such a stand-up special cliché that Callner said he wouldn’t use it again.HBO had a couple of advantages over network television: It presented longer sets, and, critically, comics could curse. The line that Klein cared most about, Callner said, came after he swore: “What a catharsis,” he quipped.Callner zoomed in on him during this moment to emphasize the point.The day after the show premiered, a positive review in The Times described the process of using five cameras to capture an uncensored long-form portrait of the comic as “innovative.”“That changed my life,” Callner said, adding that the article led HBO to sign him up for a series of specials that made the cable channel the central home for this nascent form. He directed the first specials of Robin Williams, Steve Martin and Carlin, who became a good friend and the best man at his wedding. Did Carlin give a speech? “I’m sure he did but I don’t even remember being there,” Callner said, smiling. “It was the 1980s.”The look of these early specials did not draw attention to itself. “I learned the comedy directs me,” he said. “If a comedian is doing something physical, it better be a head-to-toe shot. If he’s making a poignant point, it better be on a close shot. It was reportage. My job was to capture their genius and not take shots that were superfluous. I see all kinds of directors today making this mistake. They are cutting around to show off.”“My job was to capture their genius and not take shots that were superfluous,” Callner said, with an Emmy for “Hard Knocks” on his desk.Peter Fisher for The New York TimesBy the end of the decade, Callner had become bored with specials and excited by a flashier art form in its infancy at another young cable channel, MTV.His first video, Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take it,” was a slapstick production that leaned on his comic background. In it, a boy (played by his son) sends his angry dad out the window thanks to the power of his declaration, “I want to rock!” (which was Callner’s voice dubbed in). This proved to be a major hit and led to directing jobs on hundreds more videos, including 18 with Aerosmith and four with Cher. It was Callner’s idea to put Cher on a cannon on a Navy ship in the video “If I Could Turn Back Time.” Asked why, he said, “It was phallic,” which is hard to argue with.In these early days of MTV, the aesthetic for videos was up for grabs, said Rob Tannenbaum, who co-wrote “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution” and is an occasional contributor to The Times. He explained, “Devo wanted them to be avant-garde films; Duran Duran wanted them to be Patrick Nagel-style reveries; Marty Callner thought videos should be funny, which proved to be a more durable concept.” He added, “He understood, early on, that videos could be about more than amusement — they could be about branding and even mythology.”To be sure, they were also about scantily clad women (MTV once gave him a note that his video for the Scorpions’ “Big City Nights,” had too many women in bikinis) and hair, lots of it. As much as anyone, Callner created the visuals for the era when rock was dominated by flowing, feathered locks. The secret auteur of the genre known as hair metal was his hairdresser wife of 40 years, Aleeza Callner, who blow-dried the heads of the members of Whitesnake, Poison, Kiss, the Scorpions — not to mention Sam Kinison and Jerry Seinfeld.After a career directing television that tapped into the raw American id, Callner, who said he hated the objectification of women “even though I can’t say I wasn’t culpable,” is now looking at an unlikely new idea. He’s planning a festival called “America’s Wedding” in which 2,000 couples would get married at the same time in Las Vegas.For now, he is focused on “The Hall,” which Netflix aims to make an annual tradition. Callner, who once directed a tribute to Lenny Bruce, said that the influential stand-up received the fifth most votes, and hopes he gets inducted in a future show.Asked if it ever bothers him that his work is so much better known than he is, he said what mattered to him was the final product. “I didn’t become a household name,” he said, in front of a beautiful view of the water, “but I did become the highest paid television director in Hollywood, and the reason is: I made people a lot of money.” More

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    Stephen Colbert Celebrates Sweden and Finland Applying to Join NATO

    Colbert called the move “good news” based on it being “bad news for Russia.”Welcome to Best of Late Night, a rundown of the previous night’s highlights that lets you sleep — and lets us get paid to watch comedy. Here are the 50 best movies on Netflix right now.The Swedish Are ComingLeaders from Sweden joined Finland in announcing plans to submit an application for NATO on Tuesday.Stephen Colbert called the announcement “good news” because it’s “bad news for Russia.”“Wow, first Finland, now Sweden. It seems like every day we’re learning about another country we could have sworn was already in NATO.” — SETH MEYERS“Finland and Sweden are very serious about making this official. They each left a toothbrush in NATO’s bathroom already.” — STEPHEN COLBERT“One of Russia’s main goals in invading Ukraine was to weaken NATO. Now, instead, the alliance is ‘on the brink of starting its largest potential expansion in nearly two decades.’ How ironic. It’s — it’s like that O. Henry story where the guy buys his wife combs for her hair, and she joins NATO.” — STEPHEN COLBERTThe Punchiest Punchlines (Primary Day Edition)“You can feel the electricity in the air because it is Primary Day all across America. Five states are choosing their party nominees for state and federal office: Pennsylvania, Oregon, Idaho, North Carolina and Kentucky. Or as election experts collectively know them, ‘POINCK.’” — STEPHEN COLBERT“Ah, yes, the excitement of midterm state primaries. Put the coffee on, honey, it’s gonna be an all-nighter.” — JAMES CORDEN“Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania all held primaries today, which, of course, is news to the vast majority of people in Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania.” — JAMES CORDEN“One of the most-watched races is in Pennsylvania, where Dr. Oz is trying to win the Republican nomination for senate. My apologies to Dr. Oz, but I can’t cross party lines — I’m a Dr. Phil guy through and through.” — JAMES CORDEN“Because there’s nothing more impressive than being called smart by a man who stared directly at an eclipse.” — STEPHEN COLBERT, referring to Dr. Oz’s touting his endorsement from Donald Trump.The Bits Worth WatchingJimmy Fallon and the “Tonight Show” guest Nick Jonas performed auto-tuned tracks based on topics such as “a Craigslist ad for a roommate.”What We’re Excited About on Wednesday NightSarah Silverman will appear on Wednesday’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”Also, Check This OutA commuter walking past Nick Cave’s video work, “Every One,” which plays every quarter hour and brings the suits to life in motion.Amr Alfiky for The New York TimesThe musician-artist Nick Cave’s “Each One” installation shows Soundsuits “that seem to be in motion, creating visual vortexes, variously spinning and rising or falling,” in the subway under One Times Square. More

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    A Central Park Birder Has a New TV Show

    Christian Cooper’s encounter in Central Park with a white woman who called 911 to falsely accuse him of threatening her spurred a national outcry. Now he is hosting a birding series for National Geographic.For years, Christian Cooper has studied the habits of Kirtland’s warblers, Swainson’s thrushes, Acadian flycatchers and the other birds he has spent countless hours searching for or observing.While Mr. Cooper, a resident of Manhattan, has watched birds all over the world, one of his most frequent haunts is his beloved Central Park, where more than 200 species, including, loons, egrets, falcons and owls, live or stop by during migratory flights.He is perhaps best known for his encounter there two years ago with a woman who called the police and falsely claimed that he was threatening her after Mr. Cooper asked that she keep her dog on a leash.Now, he is about to once again be in the public eye — this time on his own television show.On Monday, National Geographic announced a new series featuring Mr. Cooper, called “Extraordinary Birder,” that is expected to run on one of National Geographic’s channels or on Disney+. A premiere date has not been released.“Whether braving stormy seas in Alaska for puffins, trekking into rainforests in Puerto Rico for parrots, or scaling a bridge in Manhattan for a peregrine falcon,” National Geographic said in its announcement, “he does whatever it takes to learn about these extraordinary feathered creatures and show us the remarkable world in the sky above.”Mr. Cooper said that he first heard from National Geographic about the possibility of a show about a year and a half ago — “I was all in,” he said — and that he had completed six episodes of the show, traveling to deserts, cities, rainforests and the rural South.“I love spreading the gospel of birding,” he said in an interview on Tuesday, adding that he was looking forward to encouraging more people “to stop and watch and listen and really start appreciating the absolutely spectacular creatures that we have among us.”Mr. Cooper has loved birds since growing up on Long Island.Brittainy Newman/The New York TimesMr. Cooper, 59, has been a semipublic figure in various ways for decades. He served on the board of directors of GLAAD, formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. While an editor for Marvel Comics, he was credited with creating one of the first gay characters in the Star Trek comic universe.The confrontation in Central Park in 2020 thrust him into the public eye in a new way. Mr. Cooper took out his phone and began recording during a disagreement with the woman he encountered there, Amy Cooper. The video showed Ms. Cooper, who is not related to Mr. Cooper, making a 911 call and saying to him: “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”After Mr. Cooper’s sister posted the video to Twitter, it was viewed tens of millions of times. In the resulting furor, Ms. Cooper lost her job with the investment firm Franklin Templeton and was charged by the Manhattan district attorney’s office with filing a false police report. Ms. Cooper sued Franklin Templeton in Federal District Court in Manhattan, saying the company defamed and discriminated against her. Franklin Templeton has asked that the suit be dismissed.Mr. Cooper emerged as a thoughtful, measured voice. He spoke publicly about what he called the “deep vein of racial bias” that runs through society, and he said there was no excuse for the racism inherent in Ms. Cooper making a false allegation against him.But he also distanced himself from the public pillorying of Ms. Cooper and declined to cooperate with prosecutors, who ended up asking a judge to dismiss the case against her after she completed a therapeutic program that included instruction about racial biases.Mr. Cooper has loved birds since growing up on Long Island and being struck at the age of 10 by the sight of red-winged blackbirds. He still listens for birdsong, wherever he is.“It adds another dimension to just being on the street,” he said. “It adds another dimension to how you exist in the world.”While making “Extraordinary Birder,” Mr. Cooper said, he added to his life’s list, glimpsing burrowing owls for the first time. “They are actually quite adorable,” he said.Mr. Cooper still goes regularly to Central Park, especially this time of year — he’s usually there around daybreak. On Tuesday morning he had been excited to see a Tennessee warbler, a difficult-to-spot bird with “a really distinctive, urgent cry” that he said sounds in part like “a machine gun.”“The second you hear that,” he said, “it’s like, oh boy, there’s a Tennessee around.” More

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    Maggie Peterson, a Memorable ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Guest, Dies at 81

    As Charlene Darling, a member of the musical Darling family, she appeared in five episodes, beginning with one in which her character became smitten with Mr. Griffith’s.Maggie Peterson, an actress who in a recurring role on the hit sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show” memorably developed an infatuation with Mr. Griffith’s character, Sheriff Andy Taylor, died on Sunday. She was 81.Her death was announced in a post on her Facebook page. The post did not say where she died, but her family said last month that she had been moved from her home in Las Vegas to a nursing facility in Colorado. The family also said that her health took a turn for the worse when her husband, the jazz musician Gus Mancuso, died of Alzheimer’s disease in December at 88.Ms. Peterson was seen on “The Odd Couple,” “Green Acres” and other television shows from 1964 to 1987. But she was probably best known for playing Charlene Darling, a member of the musical Darling family, in several episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show.” (Her brothers were played by the members of the Dillards, a prominent bluegrass band; their father was played by the veteran character actor Denver Pyle.)Charlene and the other Darlings first appeared in the 1963 episode “The Darlings Are Coming,” in which the family visited Mayberry, the fictional North Carolina town where the show was set, and waited for her fiancé to arrive. Sheriff Taylor lets the family spend a night in the courthouse, and Charlene becomes smitten with the sheriff — an infatuation that ends abruptly when her fiancé arrives.Ms. Peterson was a successful singer before she became an actress.via IMDbThe Darlings returned to Mayberry four more times. In one episode, Charlene and her husband are looking for a young boy for their new baby girl to become engaged to. They pick Sheriff Taylor’s son, Opie, played by Ron Howard, but are eventually tricked into changing their minds.Ms. Peterson played a different character in a later episode of the show and two other characters in episodes of the “Andy Griffith Show” spinoffs “Mayberry R.F.D.” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” She also appeared in movies with Mr. Griffith and another “Andy Griffith Show” cast member, Don Knotts.She returned to the role of Charlene one last time in the 1986 TV movie “Return to Mayberry.”Margaret Ann Peterson was born on Jan. 10, 1941, in Greeley, Colo., to Arthur and Tressa Peterson. She was a successful singer before she became an actress, with a family vocal group called the Ja-Da Quartet (later known as Margaret Ann & the Ja-Da Quartet), which recorded an album for Warner Bros. Records in 1959, and the Ernie Mariani Trio.After her acting career ended, she worked for the Nevada Film Commission and, usually billed as Maggie Mancuso, was a location manager on “Casino” (1995) and other movies.Information on survivors was not immediately available.The Associated Press contributed reporting. More

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    Seth Meyers Skewers Tucker Carlson for Peddling Replacement Theory

    “When a cable news host opens his show with a red-faced rant about white people being replaced, that’s considered a typical episode of that show — routine and typical,” Meyers said.Welcome to Best of Late Night, a rundown of the previous night’s highlights that lets you sleep — and lets us get paid to watch comedy. Here are the 50 best movies on Netflix right now.Tuckered OutSeveral late-night hosts weighed in on the shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., over the weekend.Seth Meyers pointed to right-wing news shows like Tucker Carlson’s as encouraging white supremacy, saying the Fox News host “wants to pretend it’s not a problem because he’s also openly and repeatedly promoted replacement theory on his show.”“We live in a country, and I don’t know when it happened, where an 18-year-old boy goes into a gun dealership to buy an assault weapon, and it’s a routine transaction. Under the same legal system that won’t let a person buy a six-pack of Bud Light because it would be dangerous, but an assault rifle, that’s routine. Now, the implication is that 18-year-old boys go into that gun dealer and buy weapons of war regularly. When a cable news host opens his show with a red-faced rant about white people being replaced, that’s considered a typical episode of that show — routine and typical.” — SETH MEYERS“Second, why don’t you just do some journalism and find out it’s easy to just ask open-ended questions without answering them — anyone can do that. This dude’s like a search engine that just answers your questions with a series of more questions. He’s ‘Don’t Ask Jeeves.’” — SETH MEYERS“First of all, you don’t have to be a card-carrying member of a white supremacist organization to be a white supremacist. It’s not Costco — you can be a white supremacist without being an official member the same way you can watch movies without having a Blockbuster card.” — SETH MEYERS“Second, and more important, the so-called replacement theory is obviously racist, dangerous and dehumanizing. But on top of everything else, it’s also incredibly stupid. I mean, just think about it for, like, half a second — no one’s being replaced. There’s no capacity limit here. It’s not like there’s a bouncer who only lets two in when two leave.” — SETH MEYERSThe Punchiest Punchlines (You Are Who You Hang With Edition)“So where does someone get an idea that monstrous? Well, it used to be only from the furthest right- wing fringe organizations — your Stormfronts, your neo-Nazis. But these days you can see it every night on TV, thanks to Fox News host and deer caught masturbating in the headlights Tucker Carlson.” — STEPHEN COLBERT“Now, that doesn’t mean Tucker’s responsible, but I would hope it would give anyone pause to find out that their browser history matches that of a mass murderer. If I found out that Jeffrey Dahmer was really into ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ I might switch over to the ‘Narnia’ stuff.” — STEPHEN COLBERT“Also, if you think white people are being replaced, then who’s shopping at Vineyard Vines?” — STEPHEN COLBERTThe Bits Worth WatchingShakira took on Jimmy Fallon in the “Watch It Once TikTok Challenge.”What We’re Excited About on Tuesday NightThe cast of “Hadestown” will perform on Tuesday’s “Late Late Show.”Also, Check This OutOn “Barry,” Sarah Goldberg’s performance and insights have added complexity to her character.Philip Cheung for The New York TimesThe actress Sarah Goldberg plays one of the most complex characters on television on Showtime’s hit series “Barry.” More

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    ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 6, Episode 6 Recap: The Smell Test

    Jimmy and Kim prepare for “D-Day,” Howard tries to make peace, and Lalo has some questions.Season 6, Episode 6: ‘Axe and Grind’We’ve been snookered.At the end of last season, Kim and Jimmy talked about a plot to discredit and shame Howard, and for the last five episodes we’ve been led to believe that framing Howard as a hooker-exploiting drug addict was the point of the plan. It wasn’t. The point was to induce Howard to hire a private investigator who would photograph Jimmy conferring with a guy who looks like the mediator of the class-action suit against Sandpiper Crossing.The particulars of the coming end game are unclear, but we know enough to ask a few skeptical questions. Like: Were all of Kim and Jimmy’s slanderous antics really necessary? If you want to cajole your enemy into hiring a P.I., is the surest approach to plant a bag of drugs in his country club locker room, then steal his car for a joyride with a prostitute, whom you kick out of the vehicle in view of an esteemed colleague?Seems like a lot of effort, and risky, too. It was far from inevitable that Howard would think, “I need to hire a private detective and photograph Jimmy,” once he realized he was the target of a reputation-soiling scheme.The improbability of Kim and Jimmy’s takedown operation is just one problem. The bigger issue is that viewers are not invested in this scheme. (OK, this viewer, at least.) As Your Faithful Recapper has noted before, Howard has his flaws, but he doesn’t deserve whatever the Bonnie and Clyde of the Southwest are cooking up for him. And in this week’s episode, the writers complicate the morality of this entire matter by introducing us to Howard’s wife, offering a close-up of their marital struggles. They are sleeping separately and socializing separately. Howard seems eager to make peace with the missus — he even froths a peace sign into her latte — and she seems utterly detached.In short, Howard is decent to his somewhat aloof wife, which only adds to the sense that he isn’t a worthy target for an underhanded assault. And yet, the last scene of this episode is Kim’s highway U-turn from her drive to Santa Fe, away from a career-making meeting and back to Albuquerque.The Return of ‘Better Call Saul’The “Breaking Bad” prequel returned April 18 for its final season.A Refresher: After the show’s two-year, Covid-induced hiatus, here’s where things left off.Serious Success: Bob Odenkirk was a comedian’s comedian — until “Better Call Saul” revealed him as a peerless portrayer of broken souls.Writing the Perfect Con: We asked the show’s writers to break down a pivotal scene in the ​​transformation of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman.Cast Interviews: Rhea Seehorn and Tony Dalton told us how they created the complex Kim Wexler and the murderous Lalo Salamanca.Will Kim save “D-Day,” as she and Jimmy call this moment?It’s hard to care, at least not in a deep, emotional way. “Better Call Saul” has always been two very different planets — the drug world and the lawyering world — with orbits that only occasionally line up. (Think of when Kim meets Mike in Episode 5, or Jimmy’s work for Tuco and Lalo.) Otherwise, they spin on their own, with atmospheres that are dramatically different. Now that the cartel plot is on a boil, the legal plot seems slapstick-y at moments, dull at others and padded at times. Can anyone explain the dramatic reason for the encounter between Kim and Francesca in Jimmy/Saul’s office? If it had been deleted, what exactly would be missing?The episode heaves to life when the drugs-and-money part of the show finally gets some oxygen. Lalo has determined the identity of at least one of Werner Ziegler’s “boys” by reading the underside of the Lucite-encased slide rule that was a gift from the lads, and which Lalo handled during his brief visit to Frau Ziegler’s home. The piece was manufactured by a company called Voelker’s, the sticker said, and somehow Lalo finagled the identity of at least one of the boys from the company.Specifically, he got the name and address of Casper (Stefan Kapicic) who appears to live in the country and chop a lot of wood. When Lalo approaches, Casper flees into a darkened barn. The last thing a sane person would do is enter that barn with a drawn gun, but Lalo can be impetuous, and it isn’t a huge surprise when Casper blindsides him with the axe. This advantage lasts a matter of seconds because Lalo has a razor blade behind the Volker’s sticker (or business card?) that he’s brought along, and almost immediately he is in control and ready to begin an inquisition.This won’t be pretty, and it’s unclear what Caspar knows. He was surely in the dark about nearly everything related to the super lab construction, with a few exceptions. He knows that dynamite was involved, which wouldn’t have been necessary to build the “chiller” that Gus showed to Lalo in that staged, Potemkin-village version of the project at the chicken farm. Casper will remember that little show, and he’ll probably know that it was entirely for the benefit of the guy about to torture information out of him. (The two men were in the same cavernous room that day; hence Lalo’s “I don’t think we’ve officially met” right before he starts chasing Casper.)It’s worth remembering what the stakes are here. Lalo wants information on Fring’s construction project, which he will eventually discover is a super lab that will produce vast amounts of high-quality meth. Fring has no plans to share profits from the lab with the cartel, and we know from Jesse in “Breaking Bad” that it will eventually produce $96 million worth of the stuff every three months. It is the money-making machine of Gus’s dreams.Were Lalo to learn about this operation, Gus would either be murdered for his perfidy or forced to share the bounty. Given Don Eladio’s sensitivity to slights, the former seems more likely.Odds and EndsFor those who’ve wondered about the roots of Kim’s con artistry, or her attraction to Jimmy, the opening of this episode helps. We’re in Nebraska, where a very young Kim is helping her mother run a shoplifting scam on a store owner. Perhaps this experience, and others like it, have left Kim with the impression that love and fraud go together.Zafiro Añejo gets yet another cameo in this episode. It’s the pricey tequila brand that Gus will later use to poison and kill Don Eladio in “Breaking Bad” and that Kim and Jimmy order while hustling a mark at an Albuquerque bar in Season 2. Here, Jimmy buys a bottle at a liquor store and gets a warning about the sharpness of the crown-shaped top.That top is prominently featured in the season-opening montage of Saul’s emptied house. Either that thing will play a key role in this story or the writers are providing an elaborate feint.The little black book belonging to the veterinarian-cum-underworld fixer is also in the opening season montage, and now we know why it’s impossible to read without a decoder. Clearly, Saul somehow acquires it before the vet leaves town.A quick salute to Tina Parker, the actress who plays Francesca. She is flawless at conveying both exasperation (at Saul) and graciousness (toward Kim). Every gesture, every facial expression is impeccably authentic.Question of the week: What medicine does Jimmy take from the vet, and what role will it play in the plan to undermine Howard and win the Sandpiper case? We know only that the drug, if that’s what it is, will not show up in a blood test and that it will make Jimmy feel as if he had consumed two Red Bulls on an empty stomach. And we know that when Jimmy stares into the mirror, his pupils are wildly dilated.Huh? More

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    Madison Avenue’s Biggest Event Returns, to a Whole New World

    In the three years since the television industry’s biggest companies pitched their shows to advertisers in person at the so-called upfronts, the entertainment industry has been flipped on its head.For the first time in three years, the circus is coming back to town.The television industry’s biggest showcase for advertisers, the so-called upfronts, will return to Manhattan landmarks like Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall after the pandemic put the glitzy, in-person galas on hold. Just like in the old days, media executives will make their best pitch to persuade marketers to buy tens of billions of dollars of commercial time in the coming months.But thanks to the vastly changed media industry, many aspects will be radically different. The companies themselves have changed: CBS merged with Viacom and then renamed itself Paramount Global, and WarnerMedia and Discovery completed a megamerger, forming Warner Bros. Discovery. The tech giant YouTube is making its debut on the presentation lineup this week, and there is already intrigue that Netflix could join the fray next year.And instead of unveiling prime-time lineups that will roll out in the fall, media companies are expected to spend a large portion of their time talking up advertising opportunities on streaming services like HBO Max, Peacock, Tubi and Disney+. There’s good reason for that: Advertisers are now allocating closer to 50 percent of their video budgets to streaming, up from around 10 percent before the pandemic, several ad buyers said in interviews. The free ad-supported streaming platforms Tubi and Pluto were highlights for their owners, Fox and Paramount, in the most recent quarter.“The upfronts used to be ‘Here’s 8, 9, 10 p.m. on Monday night’ — I don’t think anybody cares about that anymore,” said Jon Steinlauf, the chief U.S. advertising sales officer for Warner Bros. Discovery. “You’re going to hear more about sports and things like Pluto and less about the new Tuesday night procedural drama.”Stephen Colbert during the 2019 CBS upfront. CBS merged with Viacom and then renamed itself Paramount Global since the last time it was featured on an upfront stage.John P. Filo/CBSThe courtship is no longer one-sided, when reluctant streaming platforms once put a stiff arm to commercials. As subscriber growth starts to slow for many streaming services, advertising — a mainstay of traditional media — is gaining appeal as an alternative source of revenue.Netflix, which resisted ads for years but is aiming to debut an ad-supported tier later this year after a subscriber slump, is expected to play a larger role in future upfronts. Disney+, which has so far continued to increase its subscriber count, said this year that it would also offer a cheaper option buttressed by ads.“Streaming is part of every single conversation that we have — there isn’t an exception based on who your target it is, because whether you’re targeting 18-year-olds or 80-year-olds, they’re all accessing connected TV at this point,” said Dave Sederbaum, the head of video investment at the ad agency Dentsu. Last year, ad buyers spent $5.8 billion on national streaming platforms, an amount dwarfed by the $40 billion allocated to national television, according to the media intelligence firm Magna. But television sales peaked in 2016 and are expected to decline 5 percent this year, compared with a 34 percent surge projected for streaming ad revenue as services offer more preproduced and live content.The rapid changes in viewing habits have caused many marketing executives to shift toward ads placed through automated auctions and “away from legacy models like upfronts” where “advertiser choice is limited,” said Jeff Green, the chief executive of the ad-tech company The Trade Desk.“As advertisers are seeing reach and impact erode from traditional cable television, they are focused on moving to premium streaming content,” he said during his company’s earnings call last week. “Increasingly, this is the most important buy on the media plan.”But streaming will not be the only topic at the upfronts — the events themselves will also be center stage.After two years of upfront pitches recorded from executives’ living rooms, buyers will fly into New York from around the country. They will shuttle among grand venues to watch presentations while seated alongside their competitors. Some venues are asking for proof of vaccination, while masks are a must at some; Disney is requiring a same-day negative Covid test.To many networks, hosting an in-person upfront was nonnegotiable this year.“This show cannot be too big,” Linda Yaccarino, the chairwoman of global advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal, said she told producers of the company’s presentation at Radio City Music Hall on Monday. “Having everyone in the room together, there is no surrogate for that.”“Every single brand and marketer and advertiser comes in for the upfront week,” said Rita Ferro, the president of Disney advertising sales and partnerships. “It’s going to look and feel very different because it is very different — there’s so much more that we’re bringing to the stage.”Many of the week’s showcases will eschew a detailed rundown of nightly prime-time schedules and instead offer a more holistic view of available content platforms.Mr. Steinlauf, the Warner Bros. Discovery advertising chief, who is a veteran of several decades of upfronts, described changes that represent “the biggest shift of my career.” He said streaming was “the future, the new frontier,” and heavily watched athletic events were “the new prime time.” Warner Bros. Discovery will make its upfronts debut on Wednesday in front of 3,500 people at Madison Square Garden.Jo Ann Ross, Paramount’s chief advertising revenue officer, said that its event on Wednesday would “show a broader look.” She described it as a “coming-out party as Paramount” for the company formerly known as ViacomCBS.“It will feel different than what it was in the past,” she said.On Tuesday, Disney will abandon its usual upfront home at Lincoln Center and move to a space in the Lower East Side at Pier 36. The presentation will feature its three streaming platforms — Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+ — sharing a stage for the first time. NBC Universal will highlight its technological capabilities, such as data collection, while also drumming up its Peacock streaming platform, even though the service already made a pitch earlier this month during NewFronts, an event for digital companies courting Madison Avenue.Linda Yaccarino of NBCUniversal said that “having everyone in the room together” this year for the company’s upfront was the only way to go.Tawni Bannister for The New York TimesThe competition could mean more demands from advertisers, like the ability to back out of commitments and lower thresholds for how much buyers must spend.“It’s basic economics — there are now more options available to media buyers and so you’re going to see a lot more willingness to be flexible,” said David Marine, the chief marketing officer of the real estate company Coldwell Banker.Potential headaches for advertisers this year could include Russia’s war in Ukraine, global supply issues and steep inflation, according to Magna. But low unemployment and other signs of strength from the U.S. economy, along with the coming midterm elections, are expected to feed a surge in ad spending.How the upfronts address those concerns, along with deeper movements in the industry, “will be telling,” said Katie Klein, the chief investment officer at the agency PHD.“There’s always going to be room for the upfront, there’s always going to be a need for it,” she said. “But it’s going to evolve as our industry is evolving.” More

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    What’s on TV This Week: ‘Merry Wives’ and George Carlin

    A recording of a Public Theater Shakespeare show airs on PBS. And a documentary about George Carlin debuts on HBO.Between network, cable and streaming, the modern television landscape is a vast one. Here are some of the shows, specials and movies coming to TV this week, May 16 – 22. Details and times are subject to change.MondayTHE NIGHT HOUSE (2021) 7:08 p.m. on HBO. Rebecca Hall plays a grieving New York schoolteacher reckoning with a profound loss in this horror movie from David Bruckner. After her husband of 14 years, Owen (Evan Jonigkeit), takes his own life, Beth (Hall) holes up at her lake house. She begins experiencing sinister, apparently supernatural phenomena that call into question whether she’s haunted by grief or something else. The result is a “hyper-focused, unnervingly sure” thriller, Jeannette Catsoulis wrote in her review for The New York Times. “Bruckner maintains a death grip on the film’s mood,” she said, “while his cinematographer, Elisha Christian, turns the home’s reflective surfaces into shape-shifting puzzle pieces.” Hall, Catsoulis added, is “spectacular, flinty and fraying.”TuesdayLIONEL RICHIE: THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS GERSHWIN PRIZE FOR POPULAR SONG 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Since its inception in 2007, the Library of Congress’s Gershwin Prize has been given to Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Smokey Robinson and two Pauls — McCartney and Simon — among other important pop musicians. In March, Lionel Richie became the latest recipient, in a ceremony at the D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., where he was honored by other performers including Gloria Estefan (who was a recipient of the prize in 2019), Yolanda Adams, Luke Bryan and Boyz II Men. A recording of the event debuts on PBS on Tuesday night.WednesdayKINGDOM BUSINESS 10:30 p.m. on BET. Two sides of the gospel singer Yolanda Adams are on display this week: See her in a tribute to Lionel Richie (above) and in this new BET drama, in which Adams plays Denita Jordan, a fictional gospel star who runs a record label. Jordan’s popularity is threatened by a younger singer, Rbel (played by Serayah), whose rise is made complicated by a checkered past.ThursdayMONEYBALL (2011) 5 p.m. on AMC. The Oakland Athletics get a boost from bean counting and a man named Beane in this biographical drama. Adapted from a nonfiction book by Michael Lewis, “Moneyball” revisits a period around the beginning of the 2000s in which Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), then the general manager of the A’s, leads a transformation of the team — and, eventually, of baseball strategy itself — using statistics. In her review for The Times, Manohla Dargis called it “the kind of all-too-rare pleasurable Hollywood diversion that gives you a contact high.”FridayGeorge Carlin in “George Carlin’s American Dream.”George Carlin’s Estate/HBOGEORGE CARLIN’S AMERICAN DREAM 8 p.m. on HBO. It makes sense that this new documentary about the comic George Carlin is split into two parts: There was really more than one Carlin. There was the suit-wearing Carlin of the 1960s. The shaggy “seven dirty words” Carlin of the early ’70s. The aged firebrand Carlin of the 2000s. “At the moment when it seemed like he was out of gas, he would suddenly recharge and reinvent himself,” the comedian and filmmaker Judd Apatow, who directed “American Dream” with Michael Bonfiglio, said in a recent interview with The Times. The new documentary, which will be shown over two consecutive nights on Friday and Saturday, explores the many ups and downs of Carlin’s career, and includes interviews with other comic performers including Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Patton Oswalt, Stephen Colbert, Bill Burr, Bette Midler, W. Kamau Bell and Jon Stewart. It takes its name from a line Carlin delivered in one of his final specials, “Life Is Worth Losing,” recorded in 2005. “It’s the American dream,” he said, “because you have to be asleep to believe it.”GREAT PERFORMANCES: MERRY WIVES 9 p.m. on PBS. After a pandemic pause, the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park series returned last summer with this rethink of the Shakespeare comedy “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” Adapted by the playwright Jocelyn Bioh, who is a child of Ghanaian immigrants, and directed by Saheem Ali, who was born in Kenya, this version of the play is set in an African diasporic community in contemporary Harlem. Its cast is led by Jacob Ming-Trent (“Watchmen,” “The Forty-Year-Old Version”) who, as Falstaff, “combines into one bigger-than-life portrait your drunk uncle, a horndog Redd Foxx and some would-be Barry White,” Jesse Green wrote in his review for The Times. This PBS broadcast is a recording of the 2021 show shot at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.A scene from “The New York Times Presents: Elon Musk’s Crash Course.”FXTHE NEW YORK TIMES PRESENTS: ELON MUSK’S CRASH COURSE 10 p.m. on FX. Late last year, The Times published a deep-dive story on Elon Musk’s persistence in pushing autonomous-driving technology with Tesla in ways that former employees said undermined safety. The work of the journalists behind that story — the technology correspondent Cade Metz and the auto-industry reporter Neal E. Boudette — is at the heart of this new, feature-length documentary from the director Emma Schwartz, which goes even further into how Musk’s enthusiasm for self-driving cars may be inconsistent with where both the business and the technology is.SaturdaySATURDAY NIGHT LIVE 11:30 p.m. on NBC. Natasha Lyonne will host the finale of SNL’s 47th season, fresh off the Season 2 debut of Leone’s own show, “Russian Doll,” on Netflix. Japanese Breakfast is set to be the musical guest.SundayA scene from “Bob’s Burgers.”20th TelevisionBOB’S BURGERS 9 p.m. on Fox. Loren Bouchard’s animated sitcom about the Belcher family and its meaty restaurant ends on Sunday night with an episode whose plot hinges on erotic fiction writing. The show was renewed for a 13th season on Fox, but it will be back much sooner on bigger screens: “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” is slated to hit theaters on May 27. More