Hello, hello, hello dear friends!
It’s been a while since we last spoke. And trust me, there’s good reason for that.
I don’t mean to start things on a bummer, especially at the beginning of a newsletter which you might be reading with your morning coffee, but last October, my stepfather passed. In fact, the last newsletter I wrote was sent out just hours before he was rushed to the hospital.
Suffice to say, when you try to be creative, it’s hard to do so when you lose someone who has been such an inspiration to you.
Mac, not his birth name, but the name he gave himself and everyone else gave him, was someone who really was a cheerleader on the sidelines for any and all creative outlets I pursued. Sure, my mother is and was the same — she’s probably reading this right now — but whenever I tried to create something of my own, Mac was the first to encourage me for it. (For more on Mac, look back to my Father’s Day issue last June.)
In turn, the existential terror of facing a blank page and trying to sum up where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing has been a difficult one. Add a resurgence of this pandemic we’ve been dealing with and countless additional ups and downs, and the idea of trying to just reach out to you all and say hello felt hollow.
The weeks have churned on, and every week in my reminders, it was there. A note to write a newsletter on Saturday.
I checked it off, but it’d persist. Every Saturday. Write a newsletter. Write a newsletter. Write a newsletter.
And then, for some reason, today, I’m here.
I hope to be here more often, but we’ll see.
Now, onto the things…
It’s not a secret to those who know me: I’ve always wanted to be on Jeopardy!.
This year, in fact, I’ve made more a concerted effort than ever to get on.
While I can take the test literally any time I choose now, I’ve been watching every single night, I’ve got a Jeopardy! question-a-day calendar on my desk, and I’m finding my weak points and going down Wikipedia rabbit holes.
Now, someone who has already lived the dream is the record setting (and record breaking) Amy Schneider. 40 days straight of wins, the most money ever made by a woman, and a run which won’t be forgotten.
But we only saw Amy for 22 minutes a clip. What’s she really like?
Shane O’Neill sits down with her for The New York Times:
On the day I met Ms. Schneider, she had already given three interviews. If she was tired of speaking to reporters, she didn’t let it show.
She greeted me wearing an oxblood dress with big white polka dots from Anthropologie that revealed a large tattoo on her left arm of the titular character from L. Frank Baum’s novel “Ozma of Oz.” Ozma has special significance for Ms. Schneider. “When she was an infant, she was kidnapped and enchanted by an evil sorceress and raised as a boy,” she said.
“And then the enchantment was lifted and she was revealed to be the beautiful princess she was all along,” Ms. Schneider said.
In lieu of her signature pearls, she wore a necklace that depicted the Star, one of her favorite tarot cards. The necklace was a gift from her girlfriend, Genevieve Davis, 25, who is from Oakland and works as a nanny. The night they met, Ms. Schneider gave Ms. Davis a tarot reading. Ms. Schneider describes herself as an atheist who doesn’t believe in the occult or the supernatural but, as she said, “It’s not a queer meet cute if there’s not tarot.”
Ms. Schneider came to tarot via her ex-wife, who introduced her to Rachel Pollack’s book “78 Degrees of Wisdom.” Tarot would have been out of the question when she was growing up in Dayton, Ohio. Catholicism was very important to her family, and Ms. Schneider struggled with her faith when she was younger.
She recounted one moment in 2002 when she had driven with her brother and two cousins to Toronto to see Pope John Paul II for World Youth Day. Ms. Schneider agreed to the trip in part to avoid telling her mother that she no longer considered herself Catholic.
They waited in a field the night before to secure their spots but had neglected to bring tents or camping gear. As they tried to sleep, it started to rain. Then liturgical music started blaring over the sound system.
This time became a benchmark for Ms. Schneider. “Whenever it gets bad, I think, ‘I’m not lying in a field in the rain,’” she said.
It’s been twenty years since The Lord of the Rings Trilogy hit the silver-screen, and folks, we can’t get enough of Middle-Earth.
How do I know this? Amazon is dropping a rumored ONE BILLION DOLLARS on a multi-season epic series placed before the iconic trilogy.
Titled The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the series is due to hit Amazon Prime this September. The House that Bezos built has kept mum to this point (though a trailer is due to premier during today’s Super Bowl broadcast), but they finally started allowing peeks through the veil, kicking off with this first-look by Vanity Fair, written by Anthony Breznican And Joanna Robinson.
Because of Bezos’s immense wealth, The Rings of Power is actually less of a financial risk than it is a reputational one. Amazon needs to definitively make the case that it can produce giant prestige shows, and with this series, it’s courting the additional danger of amending and elaborating on the canon of a beloved storyteller. The showrunners, Patrick McKay and JD Payne, are agonizingly aware of the pressure. Their series will juggle 22 stars and multiple story lines, from deep within the dwarf mines of the Misty Mountains to the high politics of the elven kingdom of Lindon and the humans’ powerful, Atlantis-like island, Númenor. All this will center, eventually, around the incident that gives the trilogy its name. “The forging of the rings,” says McKay. “Rings for the elves, rings for dwarves, rings for men, and then the one ring Sauron used to deceive them all. It’s the story of the creation of all those powers, where they came from, and what they did to each of those races.” The driving question behind the production, he adds, was this: “Can we come up with the novel Tolkien never wrote and do it as the mega-event series that could only happen now?”
On paper, a streaming service dedicated exclusively to the majority of the comedy programming you knew and loved — standup specials, Saturday Night Live, Kids in the Hall, along with comedy in a similar vein, all for a low price — should have been a slam dunk.
Instead, for fans and comedians alike, Seeso is somewhat of a punchline.
Now, four years after its closure, those who worked on it, those who created it, and those who loved it have been brought together by Vulture’s Will Storey to look back on its gestation, its triumphs, and its sad fall. Seeso forever.
In June 2012, shortly after stepping down as president of IFC TV and Sundance Channel, then-45-year-old Evan Shapiro published a manifesto. It was an intervention for TV in the early days of the streaming wars, before your Pluses and Maxes and Quibis (RIP). Shapiro warned of the havoc millennial “cord-cutters” would wreak on content providers and included the results of an assignment he gave his students at NYU to draft up “the next big thing” for the TV industry. What they came up with was “a low-priced pay-TV sampler,” offered by cable companies, “designed to offer just enough TV to get a cord-cutter hooked, but not so much it competes with or cannibalizes mainstay cable packages.” The students named this fantasy streaming platform “Ditto.”
Nearly a decade later, Shapiro’s manifesto has proven prescient: TV isn’t dead, there’s more of it than ever — a direct result of those cord-cutting millennials turning to streaming platforms. (Credit to Shapiro for also predicting that Twitter would be the future venue for water-cooler chat.) This is especially true for comedy. For younger viewers, late-night shows are less a cable-viewing experience than a YouTube or Twitter clip-viewing experience the next morning. Tentpole series like Saturday Night Live and Insecure can be fired up on demand. A pile of Comedy Central stand-up specials and series, including critical darling The Other Two, have shifted off the linear platform to outlets like HBO Max and YouTube. So it’s not far-fetched to think that a Ditto-like platform for comedy would have worked. In fact, three years after he released his manifesto — long before the birth of Peacock — that’s exactly what Shapiro (Shap-eye-ro, not Shap-ee-ro) proposed with Seeso (See-so), NBCUniversal’s first, but not final, subscription-based video-on-demand service.
Thanks for sticking around. You mean more to me than you think. Missed you terribly, and hopefully you did too.
See you again in 7 days, I hope.