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    ‘Succession’ Season 3, Episode 7: Citizen Ken

    Ken tries to have it both ways with a birthday party that is both absurdly over the top but disownably ironic. Unfortunately for him, it is more tragedy than farce.Season 3, Episode 7: ‘Too Much Birthday’The streaming services have been cluttered lately with “anatomy of a failure” documentaries, which detail the downfall of formerly white-hot companies like WeWork and LuLaRoe. In nearly all these docs, there’s a scene like Kendall’s 40th birthday party in this week’s episode of “Succession” — some preposterously lavish and borderline cultish shindig, celebrating a business culture about to collapse under its founding genius.In the case of the event Shiv calls “KenFest,” the party is like an endless version of that scene in “Citizen Kane” in which the brash young media magnate Charles Foster Kane dances and sings along to a jaunty pop song about himself. Moments like these are equal parts awkward and reckless. They’re a grand illustration of the whole concept of “hubris.”“Too Much Birthday” is an often very funny episode, which curdles into devastating drama by the end. But most of all, it is a triumph of production design. Nearly every set reflects some aspect of Kendall Roy — whether he intends it to or not. A lot of the décor is meant to straddle the line between amusingly ironic and cockily sincere. If a guest considers some piece of design to be over the top, Kendall can always say, “But it’s funny, right?”Here are just a few of the attractions awaiting those guests:As they walk in, they are greeted by a big sign above the door, reading “The Notorious KEN Ready to Die.”Once they enter, they pass video-screens showing wriggling sperm before heading through a passageway made up of pink, pillowy folds, leading to a coat-check room where a greeter in a nurse uniform says, “You’ve just been born into the world of Kendall Roy.” (Shiv, looking back at what is clearly meant to symbolize her mother’s birth canal, says: “Cold and inhospitable. Seems to check out.” Kendall, hearing his younger brother’s concerns about the tastefulness of this display, says: “Roman, relax. Yes, you can take it home with you.”)Behind a curtain inside, there is a room containing giant-size mock-ups of newspaper front pages, predicting pathetic futures for Kendall’s family. (Connor, who is now up to 1 percent in the Republican presidential polling, is livid at this little joke. “What if McCartney tweets this?”)There is a “compliment tunnel” filled with lush greenery and actors saying nice things about anyone who enters. This hilariously flusters Tom, who came to this party to cut loose but ends up finding Kendall’s flourishes irritating. (To be fair, Tom thinks he “took the wrong drugs in the wrong order.”)There is a room flanked by video screens depicting a raging fire, which appear in the episode right as Kendall receives his “birthday present” from Logan and Roman: a sentiment-free greeting card and a term-sheet listing the amount Waystar is willing to pay him to leave the company forever.And then there is the treehouse.This episode is credited to the screenwriters Tony Roche and Georgia Pritchett, with Lorene Scafaria in the director’s chair. I don’t know if credit for the treehouse goes to one of these people or to the series’s creator, Jesse Armstrong, or to someone else; but it is a conceptual masterstroke. This week, all the Roy kids reunite to fight about whom their dad wants to be in charge. And here is Kendall, standing in front of a literal treehouse, built in the middle of his party, telling his siblings they can’t come in.Kendall’s pettiness is, to some extent, justified. When Roman, Shiv and Connor first show up at Kendall’s party, he seems genuinely happy, giving them hugs that appear to be heartfelt. But then he learns the real reason Shiv and Roman are there.Waystar needs to upgrade its streaming platform by partnering with the tech company GoJo, run by the mercurial Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard), who earlier that day skipped a meeting with Logan and sent his underlings. Kendall has Matsson — whom he calls “the Odin of codin’” — stashed away in his treehouse, where any illicit thing he needs is supplied by Kendall’s own “one-man dark web.” (“He’s not a good guy,” Kendall says to Matsson about his drug dealer. “Enjoy.”)When Roman and Shiv try to enter, Kendall personally blocks them, saying, “The treehouse is cool and you’re not cool.” He calls his siblings Nazi-lovers while he is “a defender of liberal democracy.” As his brother and sister argue that landing GoJo could raise the family’s net worth, Kendall replies, “I have to weigh that against the consideration that no losers are allowed.”Ultimately, Roman weasels his way into the treehouse anyway, where he appears to connect with Matsson. Roman pitches Waystar’s library of broadly popular entertainment and news content (not the “gay moms” or “wheelchair kids” the other media companies are selling); and he talks up GoJo’s platform, which unlike Waystar’s doesn’t take over 30 seconds to load a page. Matsson seems amenable to some kind of deal, so long as he never has to interact with the meddling, out-of-touch dinosaur Logan. (“When will your father die?” he asks earnestly, to which Roman chuckles and then mutters, “We’re laughing here, but that is my dad, so …”)This is the second “Succession” in a row where Roman notches a big win; and he is not gracious about it. He skewers Shiv, who has been excluded from the offer to buy Kendall’s shares, shielded from the decision to send private investigators to harass Kendall’s children and is absent when Roman gets a tentative yes from GoJo. Roman also insinuates that Shiv might be annoyed by rumors that the Justice Department is ending its investigation into Brightstar without sending Tom or anyone else to prison. If true, that would squelch her secret hope that the wicked Waystar dudes might be shoved out of her way by the long arm of the law.Shiv can take comfort, though, in knowing that on this show, no Roy thrives for long. Roman is likely overestimating how much power he has to make deals on his father’s behalf; and it is possible that deep in his bones he senses something is off. That may explain why he later tries to goad Kendall into hitting him and then gives his brother a shove in the back that sends him sprawling. Maybe Roman is trying to hasten his own inevitable comeuppance.It’s too bad for Roman, then, that Kendall is already too beaten down to stand up for himself. From the moment he gets Logan’s term sheet, Kendall starts to spiral — first slowly, and then in a hurry. He abandons his plan to sing Billy Joel’s “Honesty” in front of his guests while hanging from a cross. He falls into a maudlin mood, making what may be references to tragic F. Scott Fitzgerald characters (and, yes, “Citizen Kane”) by promising to buy his girlfriend, Naomi Pierce, “a diamond the size of the Ritz-Carlton and a couple of newspapers.”The real triggering moment for Kendall, though, is when his ex-wife tells him to keep an eye out for a present from his kids, wrapped in rabbit-patterned paper. The missing gift eats at Kendall — almost as much as it bothers him that his brother Connor refuses to pay him the simple respect of taking off his coat at the party. Finally, he starts tearing through his pile of presents until he breaks down sobbing. Here is a man who seemingly has everything, except for some cheap handmade trinket that represents his children’s love.Surely somewhere off in the distance, an old man is whispering, “Rosebud.”Due DiligenceShiv is getting concerned about Logan’s possible affair with his assistant Kerry, while Roman thinks this is actually one of the most normal things an aging oligarch could do. Shiv’s instincts may be right, though. After Matsson skips the meeting, Logan is swayed by Kerry’s blithe encouragement to ditch GoJo.The Roy family also questions Greg’s romantic interest in Kendall’s public relations agent Comfry (Dasha Nekrasova). Their skepticism ranges from Tom’s relatively mild comment that the relationship would be “like a haunted scarecrow asking out Jackie Onassis” to Ken’s savagely calling Greg “a human tapeworm” (and then refusing to clarify whether he’s kidding). But while Comfry may have to feed damaging intel about Greg to the press — something he clumsily forgives in an exaggerated southern accent, for some inexplicable yet delightful reason — she is so annoyed with her boss that she agrees to a date anyway. Her assent may be rooted in “rancor or pique,” but Greg will take it.Kendall has a grand vision for his party, hoping that even “the imagineers” and “the D.J. crew” will enjoy themselves as they work. (“No boundaries if you’re cool,” he insists.) He is especially stoked about the group of kids he hired to perform Wu-Tang Clan covers; but when he cancels his performance, he has to drop “tiny Wu-Tang” too. (Genuinely remorseful, he says, “Tell them they’ve got it all ahead of them, yeah?”)Kendall’s siblings show some crack comic timing when they ask him who’s at the party and he answers, “Who isn’t?” Without missing a beat, they rattle off a list: “Your dad.” “Your mom.” “Your wife and kids.” “Any real friends.” More

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    New to ‘It’s Always Sunny’? Watch These 5 Episodes

    The sitcom, about to become American TV’s longest-running live-action comedy, isn’t everyone’s kind of humor. These episodes capture the show’s brand of boundary-pushing satire.“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is one of the most successful comedies in TV history, but it isn’t for everyone.The show has obviously done something right — its upcoming 15th season, debuting Wednesday on FXX, will make it the longest-running live-action sitcom in U.S. television history. But fans of today’s gentler comedies, like “Schitt’s Creek” and “Ted Lasso,” will find little optimism or redemption in “Sunny.” They won’t even find much character growth.What they will find is a brilliant ensemble of self-centered neurotics who somehow manage to be likable, despite their best efforts. (Think “Seinfeld,” if everyone were stupider and worked in a South Philly Irish pub.) The show, which is available to stream on Hulu, has at times been called offensive. Its creator, Rob McElhenney, calls it “satirizing ignorance.” If you aren’t yet familiar, here are five great episodes (technically six) that should give you the overall flavor — somewhere between a delicious Jim’s cheesesteak and a beer with a cigarette butt in it.‘Mac and Charlie Die’Season 4, Episodes 5-6Spoiler alert: Mac and Charlie, two of the show’s main characters (played by McElhenney and Charlie Day, an executive producer), do not die in this two-parter. They do, however, fake their deaths in order to avoid being murdered by Mac’s jailbird father (Gregory Scott Cummins). It’s a long story. “First step,” Mac warns Charlie, “do not douse yourself with lighter fluid.” Step 2 involves removing a lot of Charlie’s teeth.‘The Nightman Cometh’Season 4, Episode 13A longtime fan favorite, this episode follows the rehearsal and performance of a stage musical written by Charlie, who is generally relegated to doing “Charlie Work.” (“Basement stuff,” as he once described it. “Cleaning urinals, blood stuff, your basic slimes, your sludges — anything dead or decaying, I’m on it.”) That’s probably with good reason; his musical’s many terrible double entendres suggest a flair for the kind of unintentional offensiveness that would get him fired from most other jobs.‘The D.E.N.N.I.S. System’Season 5, Episode 10Dennis (Glenn Howerton) is the gang’s Lothario, whose depravity is matched only by his arrogance. But just in case, he has designed a program, “a careful, systemic approach that has allowed me to become the playboy that I am today.” “You’re a complete sociopath!” his sister, Dee (Kaitlin Olson), exclaims in horror. As is often the case, she speaks for the audience as the show knowingly eviscerates its male characters’ macho toxicity.‘A Very Sunny Christmas’Season 6, Episode 13This hourlong special finds the gang determined to live in the holiday spirit but thwarted by ghosts of Christmas past. The episode includes several of the most memorable moments in Sunnydom, including a scene in which Frank (Danny DeVito) sews himself into a leather couch. There’s also a bloody animated spoof of Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, involving chain-saw dismemberment, a meat grinder and a singing group of racist California Raisins.‘Chardee MacDennis: Game of Games’Season 7, Episode 7In what is probably a meta moment reflecting the frustrations of brainstorming another new plot, the gang undertakes a game of its own making that includes stoppage time for injuries, a level devoted to “emotional battery and public humiliation” and a lot of drinking. “It’s about to get real dark, real quick,” Dee says, before the game devolves into a frenzy of absurdity and nihilism. Just another day at Paddy’s Pub. More

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    Don Johnson Is Back as ‘Nash Bridges.’ Why?

    The actor was already having a renaissance thanks to “Knives Out” and “Watchmen.” But those works don’t have a pedigree that includes Hunter S. Thompson.BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — On “Miami Vice,” Don Johnson, as the undercover cop Sonny Crockett, tooled around in speedboats and Ferraris, busted gunrunners and dope dealers and somehow made going sockless look good. The hit series transformed what a police procedural could look, sound and feel like — according to Hollywood lore, the show was pitched as “MTV cops” — and made Johnson an international star.But there is another, perhaps less appreciated contribution to Johnson’s global celebrity, one that predates his recent supporting roles in critically acclaimed films like “Knives Out” and TV series like “Watchmen.” From 1996 to 2001, he played the title character in “Nash Bridges,” a CBS police procedural that, like “Vice,” was set in a gorgeous city (San Francisco) and featured a buddy cop sidekick — played this time by Cheech Marin, one half of the stoner comedy duo “Cheech & Chong.” Twenty years on, Nash remains one of Johnson’s favorite roles.“I liked his nimbleness, how he could be funny one moment and dead cold serious the next,” Johnson said on a recent afternoon here at the Peninsula hotel. “And I was curious to see if I could capture that kind of lightning in a bottle again.”Cheech Marin, left, is back for the revival as well, as Nash’s buddy-cop sidekick, Inspector Joe Dominguez.David Moir/USA NetworkAt first blush, a leading role in the two-hour TV movie revival, “Nash Bridges,” debuting Saturday on USA, may not seem like the most obvious — or necessary — move for Johnson. But as with many a CBS procedural, the show’s popularity, and pedigree, belie the relative lack of attention it has received from the chattering classes. At its peak, “Bridges” had a sweet prime-time slot and a then-and-still-whopping $2 million-an-episode budget, with a weekly audience of more than 8 million viewers. In syndication, the series has found audiences in dozens of countries. And it’s a trivia lover’s dream, with origins tracing back to the writer Hunter S. Thompson.For Johnson, it is also his first time leading a police procedural in two decades. “I wouldn’t have been so excited about it if I had to write it for someone else,” he said.Johnson, who wrote the new movie with Bill Chais and Carlton Cuse, the creator of the original series, spoke candidly about his reasons for revisiting the ’90s procedural, in a wide-ranging conversation that also touched upon some of the stories from his younger, wilder days. Those reasons included love, money and the curiosity befitting a man who, at 71, is naturally given to reflections on the ways people change — or don’t — over time.He wanted to know what Nash — an amiable police inspector and amateur magician who patrolled San Francisco in an early ’70s bright yellow Plymouth Barracuda — would be like 20 years down the road. Not that he didn’t have ideas. Ideas derived, perhaps, from his own experience.The original series featured plots such as an undercover cop (played by the wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin) kidnapping a chimp as part of a scheme to capture a terrorist animal rights activist. Spike Nannarello/CBS“I imagine him to still be very fit, and very capable,” Johnson said of Nash. “I imagine him to be wiser, and more thoughtful about things.”“He would still slap the crap out you,” he added, using a cruder term. “But he’d think about it first, and make sure it was coming from a good place.”The decades since “Vice” first made Johnson a star, in 1984, have given him plenty of material. They have, in fact, been the stuff of legend — not all of which is verifiable, and not all of which he remembers. He married Melanie Griffith (twice), set a world record in powerboat racing and released two hit singles (one with his then-girlfriend Barbra Streisand). There were struggles with substance abuse, stories of women’s underwear virtually raining from open windows. There was Miami in the ’80s.Along the way, Johnson had five children, including a daughter, Dakota (of the “Fifty Shades” franchise), who is racking up A-list anecdotes herself these days. More recently, he has undergone a kind of renaissance, transforming himself from a leading man into a versatile character actor, specializing in a kind of winkingly scuzzy, unreconstructed American male in films like “Machete” (2010) and “Django Unchained” (2012), and in TV shows like “Eastbound & Down” (2009-13).When Johnson first took on the role of Nash Bridges, he had been looking for a change. Despite the structural similarities of “Bridges” and “Vice,” its two lead characters were very different. While Sonny skewed toward the tormented and dour, Nash was upbeat and funny, quick with a snappy line. Johnson appreciated the break.“I’d just done a stint on ‘Miami Vice’ for five years, and the show and the character had just gotten darker and darker,” he said. “After a while, it was like, how dark and desolate and without hope can we make Sonny? And I said, ‘I’m not doing that again.’”“I’d just done a stint on ‘Miami Vice’ for five years, and the show and the character had just gotten darker and darker,” Johnson said about his choice to do the original “Nash Bridges,” which was considerably lighter.Ryan Pfluger for The New York TimesThe series began as something of a favor to Thompson, the iconoclastic journalist and writer of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” among other books, who was a neighbor and good friend of Johnson’s in Woody Creek, Colo., at the time.“I was hanging out at his house, and he allowed to me that he was broke,” Johnson said. “And I had this 22-episode commitment at CBS. It was probably 3 a.m. in the morning, and I said, ‘Let’s just conjure up something, and I’ll take it to CBS and see if we can get it done.’”They sketched out an idea about two off-duty cops hired to protect a senator’s wife with Tourette Syndrome, called, what else, “Off Duty.” Later that day, Johnson looked at what the two had wrought.“It was unmakeable,” said Johnson, who became an executive producer on the eventual show. The premise was rejiggered into a procedural about two on-duty cops who were always getting into mischief with off-hours, get-rich-quick schemes. Johnson had the writers watch the 1940 screwball comedy “His Girl Friday” to get a taste of the snappy repartee he wanted.“We were still adjusting the tone of the show through the first order of 12 episodes,” he said. Thompson ended up writing two episodes and making an uncredited cameo as a piano player in the first season.The show had notable talent above the line. “Bridges” was the first series Les Moonves greenlit as head of CBS. Cuse, the creator, went on to become a showrunner of “Lost,” among other series. Writers included Jed Seidel (“Terriers,” “Veronica Mars,” “Gilmore Girls”) and Shawn Ryan, the creator of “The Shield.”Damon Lindelof got his start on “Bridges” before going on to cocreate “Lost” and create the acclaimed HBO series “The Leftovers” and “Watchmen.”“I was a writer’s assistant before ‘Nash Bridges,’” Lindelof said. “Don and Carlton gave me my first big-boy job.”The show garnered strong ratings for six seasons before being unceremoniously dropped in 2001, the result of a dispute between CBS and Paramount, one of the show’s producers. The whole thing “left a sour taste in my mouth,” Johnson said.Johnson with Jamie Lee Curtis in a scene from “Knives Out,” one the many more recent films and TV series that have demonstrated his prowess as a character actor. Claire Folger/Lionsgate, via Associated PressThe new movie, he said, was one way to remedy that. Johnson has a deep, protective love of the character, so much so that when the actor’s business partners at Village Roadshow, who co-own the rights to “Bridges,” approached Johnson about reviving the show, he couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Nash.“When Michael Mann was going to make ‘Miami Vice’ as a movie, he didn’t call me, and I didn’t call him,” he said. “But I knew it was a mistake, and a no-win situation for Colin Farrell. Because everybody on the planet identified me with that character.”And of course, there were also the financial benefits of bringing back a property that Johnson’s production company owns a big piece of, including a portion of the original show’s 122-episode library.“If I didn’t think there was something worthy here, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “But there’s no question there was a business component to it.” He hopes the “Bridges” movie might eventually lead to a series of some sort, or maybe a run of two-hour specials.In the revival, we catch up with Nash after 20 years — he’s still charming, still in San Francisco. (“We owned the city of San Francisco,” Marin recalled of the experience of shooting the original. “If you’ve gotta own a city, that’s the one to own.”) He and Marin’s character, Inspector Joe Dominguez, have evolved, but not so much that they aren’t befuddled by the changes that millennials and the intervening decades have wrought on the department.Production began in San Francisco in May. Johnson’s colleagues are quick to talk about what a fun and giving guy he is to work with and for, and the attention to detail he gives to every aspect of the show.“He knows the name of every crew member,” Marin said.Others mention his special skills, like his apparently uncanny abilities behind the wheel. For most driving sequences onscreen, the car is placed on a trailer so the actors don’t need to actually drive; sometimes they’re shot in a studio using green screens or projectors. The opening scene of the movie, which has Bridges zipping around San Francisco with a discombobulated Marin riding shotgun — that’s all Johnson.Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas starred in the hit ’80s TV series “Miami Vice,” which made Johnson into an international star and sex symbol.Sleuth “Don will hold the car at exactly 40 miles an hour to keep pace with the camera car, while doing a two-minute-long scene of dialogue perfectly,” said Greg Beeman, a director on both the original “Bridges” and the new one. “I’ve tried it after ‘Bridges,’ and no other actor can do it.”What co-workers won’t do is tell any Don Johnson tales out of school, even those they might have heard thirdhand or seen splashed across a tabloid.But Johnson will. That story about how he got sent to reform school at the age of 12 after hot-wiring a car? “Yeah, I probably made that up,” he said. The time he was snorting cocaine in the men’s bathroom of a club and ran into Jimi Hendrix? “That was a club in New York called the Hippopotamus,” he explained.Those wild “Vice”-era parties at Johnson’s home, where U2 and dozens of models might show up? Well, Johnson couldn’t go out back then. He was the hottest guy on the planet’s hottest show, so the party was brought to him.“What went on behind closed doors, I have no idea,” he said.These days, Johnson’s life is a lot more serene. In addition to his hopes for more “Bridges,” he has plans to do a film for Netflix, and has other projects in the works that he declined to name.Johnson can pick and choose projects “to a certain extent,” he said, but he still likes to be asked, as he was for “Bridges.”“I still like the idea that somebody asked for you,” he said. “I like the idea that someone sends a script and says, ‘We want Don Johnson to do this.’” More

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    Seth Meyers Skewers Subpoenaed Trump Cronies

    “It’s also important to remember these people only hang out with each other because there is no one else who will hang out with them,” 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.The Gang’s All HereSeth Meyers gave an update on Donald Trump’s cronies on Wednesday’s “Closer Look.”Meyers noted that the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection had subpoenaed five more Trump allies this week, “including disgraced right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who always looks like he’s trying to Hulk out even though he wasn’t exposed to gamma rays, and Roger Stone, the guy who famously showed up to Trump’s inauguration looking like an 18th-century oil baron that makes his own meth at home.”“What does it mean to be ‘fluent in Trump?’ You only use words with one syllable, you talk like a cabdriver from Queens, or you know how to stretch a single sentence into a rambling, hourlong monologue?” — SETH MEYERS on Roger Stone“I mean, your law license was suspended, and you lost every case you brought after the election. The only thing you succeeded at doing was drumming up publicity for a landscaping company.” — SETH MEYERS on Rudy Giuliani“It’s also important to remember these people only hang out with each other because there is no one else who will hang out with them.” — SETH MEYERS“And, believe me, I’m as shocked as you are that these misshapen potato chips had a plan. It’s much easier to think of them as a bunch of easily distracted doofuses who get caught trying to steal a pen from a bank without realizing it’s chained to the desk.” — SETH MEYERSThe Punchiest Punchlines (Thanksgiving Edition)“That’s right, Thanksgiving: It’s the day that you forget about all the fighting and division in the world and just focus on all the fighting and division in your family.” — JIMMY FALLON“According to the latest numbers, the average cost for a 10-person Thanksgiving dinner is $53, not including bail money.” — SETH MEYERS“And while last year people mostly stayed home because of the pandemic, this year, families are planning to return to larger Thanksgiving celebrations. You know what that means: Lot of people in their early 20s are going back to the kids table: ‘I know you just graduated from Swarthmore, Neil, but tonight, you’ll be with Madison and Parker, talkin’ “Paw Patrol.”’” — STEPHEN COLBERT“As more people are vaccinated, the holidays are returning to normal — a.k.a. cray-cray. In fact, about 53 million people are expected to travel for Thanksgiving, and all of them will be on your flight trying to board before their group gets called.” — STEPHEN COLBERT“That’s right, since it’s the night before Thanksgiving; lots of Americans are getting their antibodies checked to see if they can fight off Aunt Rita’s mystery casserole.” — JIMMY FALLON“I’m actually hosting Thanksgiving. My favorite part is guessing which relative is going to get the one chair that’s shorter than all the others.” — JIMMY FALLON“Of course, lots of people will be making turkey, while others will be cooking a turducken. You know what a turducken — it’s a coronary inside a stroke, inside a heart attack.” — JIMMY FALLONThe Bits Worth WatchingKeke Palmer did impersonations of Cher, Angela Bassett and Shakira on “The Tonight Show.”Also, Check This OutA test flight of Funko’s Grogu balloon, which will make its debut at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this week.A new Baby Yoda balloon will fly above the streets of New York at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. More

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    'General Hospital' Loses Actors Who Opposed Vaccination Mandate

    Two actors have left one of America’s most popular soap operas after declining to comply with an on-set vaccination mandate.The actors, Steve Burton and Ingo Rademacher, were fixtures of ABC’s “General Hospital,” a long-running daytime drama set in the fictional town of Port Charles, N.Y.About one in five American adults has not received a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Mr. Burton and Mr. Rademacher were outspoken opponents of a coronavirus vaccine mandate that applied to a part of the set where actors work unmasked, known in the industry as Zone A. The mandate took effect on Nov. 1.“Unfortunately, ‘General Hospital’ has let me go because of the vaccine mandate,” Mr. Burton, who tested positive for the virus in August and filmed his last episode on Oct. 27, said in an Instagram video on Tuesday.“I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions and both of those were denied — which, you know, hurts,” he added. “But this is also about personal freedom to me. I don’t think anyone should lose their livelihood over this.”Mr. Rademacher’s departure from the show was made public earlier this month. He had also refused to comply with the show’s vaccine mandate. “I will stand with you to fight for medical freedom,” he wrote in an Instagram post.Mr. Rademacher has also been criticized on social media in recent weeks for making comments that his critics perceived to be transphobic, a suggestion he has forcefully denied.Representatives for ABC declined to comment on the record. Publicists for the actors could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.Other Hollywood productions have imposed similar on-set mandates, but there is no universal vaccination requirement for people who work in film and television.“General Hospital” has been on the air since 1963. Its episodes are filmed weeks before they air.Mr. Rademacher played the character Jasper “Jax” Jacks on the show for 25 years. In his last episode, which aired on Monday, the character said — spoiler alert — that he would be returning to Australia.“I’m kind of on the outs with everyone in Port Charles right now,” the character said. Some fans interpreted that as a reference to the actor’s real-life tension with his castmates.In the same episode, Mr. Burton’s character, Jason Morgan, was caught up in a tunnel collapse.Mr. Burton said in his Instagram video on Tuesday that he hoped the show’s vaccine mandate would be lifted so that he could finish his career playing Jason Morgan.“And if not,” he added, “I’m going to take this experience, move forward and be forever grateful.” More

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    Late Night Riffs on Biden’s Order to Release Oil Reserves

    “For those who don’t know, the strategic reserve is a series of caverns filled with fossil fuel and strategically located inside Rudy Giuliani’s head,” Colbert joked.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.‘Black Gold’President Biden announced that he would release 50 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserve in an effort to lower gas prices.“For those who don’t know, the strategic reserve is a series of caverns filled with fossil fuel and strategically located inside Rudy Giuliani’s head,” Stephen Colbert joked on Tuesday night.“This is great news for me. I was just thinking of getting my wife a barrel of oil for Christmas.” — JAMES CORDEN“According to the president, this is the largest release from the reserve in U.S. history. And in response, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute released this statement: [Imitating an oil tycoon] ‘Oil! Black gold! Sweet dinosaur jelly! West Texas dirt milk, we’re rich! We’re richer than Jesus!’” — STEPHEN COLBERT“It’s not clear if this is gonna work. Energy experts have consistently said such a release would do little to lower prices at the pump. It’s also not the best look right after you come back from a climate conference: ‘We must end our addiction to fossil fuels. What’s that? Gas is $3.50 a gallon? Let the rivers be choked with crude oil and the carcasses of pelicans!’” — STEPHEN COLBERTThe Punchiest Punchlines (Man in Nantucket Edition)“President Biden traveled to Nantucket today for Thanksgiving, but only after Jill made him swear on the Bible: No limericks.” — SETH MEYERS“That’s how bad Thanksgiving traffic is — even the president has to leave two days early.” — JIMMY FALLON“Reminds me of the famous ‘There once was a man in Nantucket, whose poll numbers really did suck it.’ At least he is not that orange Pol Pot who ate all his meals from a bucket.” — STEPHEN COLBERT“I have a feeling Biden’s the only person who says, ‘I once knew a man from Nantucket,’ and then tells an actual story about that man.” — JIMMY FALLON“Yeah, once Biden left for Thanksgiving the Secret Service was like, ‘Human tryptophan is on the move.’” — JIMMY FALLON“When Biden asked Obama if Martha’s Vineyard would be nice for Thanksgiving, Obama was like, ‘Uh, you should check out Nantucket.’” — JIMMY FALLONThe Bits Worth WatchingJimmy Kimmel challenged viewers to share the weirdest thing in their mother’s house, inspired by the mom of one of his band members who collects clown figurines.What We’re Excited About on Wednesday NightAndy Samberg will catch up with his friend Seth Meyers on Wednesday’s “Late Night.”Also, Check This OutLady Gaga and Adam Driver in “House of Gucci.”Fabio Lovino/MGMRidley Scott’s “House of Gucci” mostly consists of “Guccis yelling at other Guccis.” More

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    Kevin Hart Discusses His Netflix Thriller ‘True Story’

    In a candid interview, the prolific comic and actor talks about taking a darkly dramatic turn in this Netflix thriller, and about getting support from his friend Dave Chappelle.Getting Kevin Hart’s attention occasionally requires some perseverance, but it is ultimately worth the wait.As he approached for our lunchtime interview last Thursday, Hart was in the midst of a phone call that he couldn’t get out of or wasn’t finished with. For a few minutes he walked the aisles of the MO Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in midtown Manhattan, a cellphone pressed to one ear as he strolled tantalizingly close to our table, then veered off in another direction as he continued the conversation.Then, in one seamless motion, Hart ended the call, slid into a chair across from me and switched effortlessly into face-to-face conversation mode.“Talk to me, let’s go,” he said.Hart, the 42-year-old stand-up and comic actor, keeps a relentlessly busy schedule and he seems to like it that way. You can catch him pretty much round-the-clock in lighthearted adventures like the “Jumanji” series; dramedies like “The Upside” and “Fatherhood”; animated features like “The Secret Life of Pets”; his commercials for Chase banking; any of his past stand-up specials; or his streaming talk show, “Hart to Heart.” Hours after we spoke, it was announced that the diminutive Hart will play Gary Coleman’s role in a live TV re-enactment of “Diff’rent Strokes.” And on Tuesday, his comedy album “Zero _____ Given” was nominated for a Grammy.To this expansive résumé you can now add the Netflix series “True Story,” a seven-episode thriller starring Hart as a celebrity who is racing to cover up a death he may or may not be responsible for.In “True Story,” which is scheduled for release on Wednesday, Hart plays a mega-popular comedian and actor known simply as the Kid. Following a misguided night out with his struggling older brother, Carlton (Wesley Snipes), Kid awakens in a hotel room next to the body of a dead woman — and then undertakes a series of increasingly reckless decisions in order to cover up her death and protect his career.In the series, Hart’s character and his brother, played by Wesley Snipes, get enmeshed in a murder.Adam Rose/NetflixYou might wonder if Hart can handle such a role, with its life-or-death stakes and occasionally brutal action scenes. He shares none of these concerns. As Hart explained to me between bites of French fries and sips of coffee, “True Story” was created to show that he is as capable of hard-edge drama as he is of any other genre. (Hart is also an executive producer on the series.)“When it’s all said and done with me and my career, people are going to realize that I’ve checked every box,” he said. “This is just to simply show, I got that. This is in my bag. If I get the itch to do it, I’ll create the thing to scratch it.”“True Story” arose from this ambition and from Hart’s conversations with Eric Newman, an executive producer and showrunner of the crime dramas “Narcos” and “Narcos: Mexico.”Newman, the creator of “True Story” and a writer on the series, said in a phone interview that Hart wanted to play a character who was similar to himself but who was driven to desperate measures by what he considered an existential threat.But, Newman said of the show’s protagonist: “His version of existential threat might be different than yours or mine. I might perhaps be driven to do something horrible if my children were in jeopardy. In the case of a celebrity, a famous person, if you take their career away, that is a fate worse than death.”“True Story” is largely fictionalized, but Hart’s real life has not lacked for drama. He is only two years removed from a car accident in which he sustained major back injuries, requiring surgery and rehabilitation, and which he has said left him a changed man. And it has been almost three years since he stepped down as host of the Academy Awards after some of his past jokes and comments were criticized as homophobic.While Hart has continued to reflect on the Oscars controversy, he has also received renewed public support from Dave Chappelle, his friend and fellow stand-up, who said in his recent Netflix special, “The Closer,” that Hart was treated unfairly. (“The Closer” has itself been criticized as transphobic, and dozens of Netflix employees walked out of the company’s Los Angeles office last month in protest.)Hart spoke further about his desire to make “True Story,” the facts and fiction behind the series and his understanding of the criticism that he and Chappelle have received. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.“Your biggest believer in what you do should be you,” Kevin Hart said. “Me wanting to do drama is because I know I can do it.”Ike Edeani for The New York Times“True Story” is far darker than anything we’ve seen you in before. What made you want to do this?The goal was to present a side of my talent that would never be expected. The best way to do that was to kill. How do I kill on camera? Blunt, just like that. In entertainment, the joy is doing the things that you can never do in life. Comedy has presented the opportunity to be funny in different ways. Buddy-cop movies. Action-adventure. It’s given me a world where I’ve been able to play and have fun. Well, this is the complete opposite. I’m still playing, but I get to be dark as hell.Is there a chance your audience won’t accept you in something like “True Story”?When you start doing it for the perceptions of others, you’re never going to win. Your biggest believer in what you do should be you. Me wanting to do drama is because I know I can do it. I know I’m good at it. So I’m going to do it and put this out there. I would never put that much power in someone else, to think that their opinion controls my narrative.What was it about “Narcos” that made you want to work with Eric Newman?Eric made you root for a bad guy. Although we all know how Pablo Escobar dies, you still found yourself rooting for Pablo when he’s running from the officers on a roof. You find yourself going, “Come on Pablo, get out of there.” For me, I said: “I have to be believable in this space. If I’m going to kill, how do I make people care about me in the same way?”The show’s depiction of celebrity life is informed by Hart’s own experiences.Tyler Golden/NetflixThe nonstop demands of the professional world that Kid inhabits on “True Story” seem pretty punishing. Is that how your work feels to you?When we were in the development process, I explained my world to Eric. Everybody’s giving you their energy, good or bad. Their problems. It’s: “I need you to do — ” “Can you — ?” “You know what’s going on with me, you think you can help?” When is it too much? Nobody wants to hear that you don’t want to, or that you can’t. So you find yourself getting pushed around.Do you find, as he does, that there are temptations to bad behavior around every corner?[Expletive] yes, it’s still there! It’s so easy to do dumb [expletive]. It’s available whenever you want it. Doing the right thing, living life correctly, there’s a conscious effort behind it. And it’s work. Not to say it’s work in a bad way, but you’re working constantly to make sure that you’re doing things correctly, appropriately. You need a good team around you that’s OK with saying no.How did you get Wesley Snipes to play the role of Kid’s brother, Carlton?As we really started to get into this character, we realized he was such an important piece of the puzzle. We need a real good actor that can pull Carlton off, and Wesley Snipes’s name came up. We were like, “Do you think we can get him?” I was like, “I’m going to reach out.” Wesley thought it was a comedy at first; he was a little distant. I had to explain to him that this was serious and I wasn’t joking. When he latched onto the material, he said: “OK, you’d better bring it. Because if I do it, that’s what I’m expecting.” I said, “Say no more.”[Hart excuses himself to go to the bathroom. When he returns, he is again speaking on his cellphone, this time to the filmmaker F. Gary Gray, who is directing Hart’s upcoming heist movie, “Lift.”]Is this how many balls you have to juggle to make it as an entertainer these days?My reality is insane. The amount of things that I’m able to manage and delegate and operate at the same time, it’s mind-blowing. It’s a talent within a talent. I can multitask like nobody else’s business.I assume you could dial this all back if you wanted to — just do one or two projects a year?Then what am I supposed to do with the rest of the year? [Laughs.] I’ll be twiddling my thumbs. I’ll go crazy, man.Dave Chappelle spoke in your defense at the end of his new Netflix special, “The Closer.” How did you feel about that?That’s my brother. My relationship with Dave is one that I value, respect and appreciate. In our profession, it’s a crab-in-a-barrel mentality. There’s this perception that there can only be one star or one funny guy, and we’re always pitted against each other. When you have that confidence and security to embrace another talent and stand by another talent, it says a lot about who you are. Chappelle’s operating at a different frequency, man, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.Were you concerned that his mention of you would reopen your old controversy, or put you in a position of having to defend Chappelle from the criticism he has received?In what world is a friend not going to be a friend if he wants to be a friend? With Dave, I think the media have an amazing way of making what they want a narrative to be. Within this conversation attached to Dave, nobody’s hearing what his attempt is. They’re hearing a narrative that’s been created. So the conversation is now amplified into something that has nothing to do with the beginning of what it was. That’s where it gets lost. Everybody needs to come down off the soapbox and get to a place of solution.But where is there a middle ground between Chappelle and people who have felt hurt by “The Closer”?That man don’t have a hateful bone in his body. And I don’t say that because it’s hypothetical — I say that because I know him. I know his world. I know that he embraces the LGBT+ community, because he has friends who are close to him from that community. I know that his kids understand equality, fair treatment, love. I know that his wife embeds that in their kids. I know why people embrace him. He’s a good dude.Do you agree with the argument — as some of Chappelle’s defenders have made, and as often comes up when a comedian is criticized for insensitivity — that anything said in the context of a joke is permissible?You can’t say that. “It’s just a joke,” right? I understand why people would want that to be the case. But it’s not the case. If there is a joke, there’s an attempt to be funny. You can find a joke tasteful or distasteful. If you’re a supporter of a performer, then you’re probably OK with whatever’s happening. And if you’re not a fan, you’re infuriated and you’re outraged. Rightfully so — you have every right to be. You also have a right to not support it. But the energy that’s put into wanting to change or end someone, it’s getting out of hand.Has this experience given you a new perspective on when you were criticized for your remarks?I can only relate because of what I went through. The difference in what I went through: I learned a lesson in ego. My ego blinded to me where I couldn’t see what the real thing was about. My ego had me thinking: You want me to apologize? I already did. This is 10 years ago. Why are you asking like this is me, now, when I said these things?But it wasn’t about the people that may or may not have known that I apologized. It was about the people who wanted to know that I don’t support violence in any type of way. Because I missed it, that doesn’t make me a person who hates — that makes me oblivious to a moment because I was wrapped up in my own [expletive]. I was human. You can’t lose that. And that’s what happening today: We’re losing that in the attempt to say, “I’m right and you’re wrong and that’s it.” I don’t understand how we ever evolve.Does it feel strange that comedians should be the focus of this much attention — that their words should carry this much weight?You can’t ignore the attention that comes with the stage that we’re on. The one thing you have to be conscious of now is that words have impact. You have a choice to make, as a person who has a platform, when you speak. If you want to say things, that’s your right. With those things you choose to speak on, there can come backlash. If you’re OK with the plus and the minus of it, then that’s your choice.I’m much more aware today than I was yesterday, and I’m conscious of the things that I say. I’m making sure that I’m on the side of understanding. That doesn’t take away my ability to be myself. It just means that in being myself, let’s just make sure we’re respectful in our approach. More

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    Late Night Celebrates Biden’s 79th Birthday

    Jimmy Fallon joked that when the president blew out his candles, “everyone started clapping and the lights went on and off.”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.Happy Birthday, Mr. PresidentLate Night belatedly celebrated President Biden’s 79th birthday, which took place over the weekend.“Biden spent his birthday in Wilmington, Delaware, and went to a 5 o’clock Mass. Man, does this guy know how to party or what?” Jimmy Fallon said on Monday night. “I mean, even Mike Pence was like, ‘Ever heard of Chuck E. Cheese?’”“Democrats call it a happy occasion, and Republicans call it proof that inflation is out of control.” — SETH MEYERS“To give you perspective on how old that is, Bill Clinton — remember him? The guy who was president almost 30 years ago? — he’s 75 now.” — JIMMY KIMMEL“But you can tell Biden’s 79 because, when he blew out his candles, everyone started clapping and the lights went on and off.” — JIMMY FALLONThe Punchiest Punchlines (Healthy and Vigorous Male Edition)“Biden kicked off his birthday weekend with a colonoscopy. Doctors said there were no traces of malarkey. Everything looked good, or everything looked as good as the inside of an elderly man’s butt can look.” — JIMMY KIMMEL“White House physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor says Joe Biden is a ‘healthy and vigorous male.’ ‘Vigorous.’ Why does every presidential checkup sound like a Cialis ad? I mean we need them to run the country, not impregnate our women.” — JIMMY KIMMEL“Glad he’s healthy, of course. Kind of hoping they’d find that he has that Benjamin Button disease — he’s actually getting younger every day.” — STEPHEN COLBERT“Personally, I’m grateful that on Friday, history was made because Joe Biden temporarily transferred power to Vice President Kamala Harris while undergoing a routine colonoscopy, making Harris the first woman to assume presidential power. Yes, 100 years after women got the right to vote, we finally got the first female president on a technicality.” — STEPHEN COLBERTThe Bits Worth WatchingJames Corden makes the case for why massages are strange for people in committed relationships on Monday’s “Late Late Show.”What We’re Excited About on Tuesday NightLady Gaga and Tony Bennett will appear on Tuesday’s “Late Show.”Also, Check This OutAlva SkogTorrey Peters’s “Detransition, Baby” and Kiese Laymon’s “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America” are among the 100 Notable Books of 2021. More