The cast of Big Little Lies revealed a few tidbits about season 2, Jared Harris discussed scary new HBO miniseries Chernobyl, Danai Gurira is leaving The Walking Dead, and more TV news.TOP STORYNew Big Little Lies Season 2 Photos —Plus, Meryl Streep Was As Addicted to the Show as You Were(Photo by Jennifer Clasen/HBO)If Big Little Lies was going to come back for a second season, the story had to be pretty darn compelling for stars and executive producers Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman (along with costars Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, and Shailene Woodley) to sign on. But when audiences continued to beg for more episodes of the Monterey, California moms embroiled in a real-life murder mystery, the cast and creator/writer/executive David E. Kelley said that finally agreed to come back — with a few caveats.“The storytelling — would it be compelling enough that it would rise up to the first year? Everybody up here can get jobs. We didn t want to do this unless we could at least have a fair shot of living up to the bar that we felt we had all set in year one,” Kelley told reporters at a panel for season 2 at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon. “So we met, and we talked about what the stories were. We were very unflinching and candid with each other about the ones we thought were viable and the ones we thought were not good enough, and we didn t finally agree to set sail until we had the commitment from all of us that this was storytelling that we all felt passionate about.”(Photo by Jennifer Clasen/HBO)While the first season had the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty to use as a guide, there was no sequel — until Moriarty, who is also a producer, wrote an outline for Kelley to use while plotting season 2’s story.“We were lucky Liane Moriarty wrote almost like a novella for us to use as a template,” said Witherspoon. “It really helped tremendously that the characters were alive in her mind and have these very rich experiences that were just as interesting, entertaining, as in-depth as they were in the original series. So that gave us some basis for which to go on for each character. We all had unresolved issues — you know, I had an affair and that was never resolved.”(Photo by Jennifer Clasen/HBO)While Kelley and his cast remained tight-lipped on what the actual plot of season 2 will entail, he did reveal that it picks up after the events of the first season. It’s still a mix of comedy and drama, tonally — “probably more dramatic than comedic this year,” he teased — and the Greek Chorus of fellow school parents at the fatal trivia night is gone.“When we come back, their lives — like all of our lives — are very well put together on the surface, but then the fissures begin to emerge and there is a big fault line that lies under all of us, which is this event that happened at trivia night last year,” Kelley explained. “So once the crevices start to widen it escalates pretty quickly.”(Photo by Jennifer Clasen/HBO)There’s also one major addition: Meryl Streep joins the cast as Celeste’s mother-in-law, Mary Louise Wright.“I love this show. I was addicted to it,” Streep gushed. “I thought it was an amazing exercise in what we know and what we don t know about people, about family, about friends; how it flirted with the mystery of things; what was unsaid, un-shown, unknown was sort of the whole gravitational pull of the piece and it was so exciting. So when I got the chance to join the crew I thought, yeah! [As for] the dynamic between Celeste and me, I do love her. And that s the only thing I ll tell you.”The Walking Dead Loses Another Major StarFans of The Walking Dead are used to their favorite stars exiting the series — there are gruesome deaths pretty much weekly (it is a zombie show, after all) — but this latest departure is going to hurt: Danai Gurira, who plays the badass Michonne, is leaving in season 10. The Black Panther star will appear in “a handful of episodes that will be interspersed throughout season 10,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Not all hope is lost, however — THR reports that she’ll likely join her former on-screen love Andrew Lincoln, a.k.a. recently departed leading man Rick Grimes, in the series of three TWD movies AMC is planning to produce.Will Veep Give Viewers a Satisfying Ending?(Photo by Lacey Terrell)In such a politically volatile world, it’s been challenging for the team behind Veep to push boundaries in its final season. But the series has given itself one key advantage in its ability to poke fun at politics without garnering too much ire on either side of the aisle.“We have this great virtue of having not identified a party in our show and not really identified any contemporary political figures,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus told reporters at a Television Critics Association winter press tour panel for the show’s final season. “We re in an alternate universe and that’s helpful particularly because in many ways it’s why the show’s lasted as long as it has — because it kind of invites everyone to the party. I think in a way it s more apt than it ever has been given the current insanity that we re all living in.”The final season will consist of seven episodes, which showrunner Dave Mandel said will bring the show to its natural conclusion.“We reached just a very natural point, storytelling-wise, that we sort of looked at each other and went, ‘I think that s the end.’”While neither Louis-Dreyfus nor Mandel would get too specific about exactly what adventures ex-president (and ex-veep) Selina Meyer will have in the last episodes, which begin airing March 31 on HBO, they did tease a surprising (and satisfying) ending.“The one trap that the viewers ever so slightly fall into is assuming that somebody is Trump and somebody is Hillary, and that s a good thing for us because it means we get to always surprise you. It doesn t go the way you think it went when they ran against each other,” Mandel said. “I think this season, it sounds so generic, but I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised in a very, you know, hopefully funny way.”Added Louis-Dreyfus, “I m not going to say that Selena evolves, except to say that she s truer to herself by being as true to herself as she can possibly be. By the time this season ends. I ll leave it for you to determine whether or not that s a good thing, but I m not sure that evolution is necessarily her game.”Jared Harris Tackles a Different Terror in HBO’s Chernobyl(Photo by Liam Daniel/HBO)Is there something about The Terror star Jared Harris that inspires him to play scary, evil, or general sad-sack characters who die horrible deaths?“I’m a miserable person,” joked Harris at a TCA panel for his new HBO miniseries Chernobyl, about the 1986 nuclear meltdown in the Ukraine. In all seriousness, though, Harris said he was drawn to his role in Chernobyl (and The Terror) because of “good writing. Really, if you re working on a script that s really well-written, our job is much, much easier and more interesting as well because you can dig down into the story, you can dig down into the subtext and the substrata of the narrative and you can find stuff there that s been put down purposefully.”The five-part miniseries, which also stars Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson, follows the brave men and women who sacrificed so much to save Europe from complete disaster after one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history.Serial’s Story Continues in The Case Against Adnan SyedIf you are not one of the millions of people who was captivated by the Serial podcast in 2014, HBO’s new four-part documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed will fill you in on the case, which saw Baltimore high school senior Adnan Syed convicted for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee. The podcast examined the evidence in the case and whether Syed was wrongfully convicted. The new documentary will pick up where Serial left off, so it won’t be a retread of the podcast either.“It s gone through current events, just as recently as a couple of months ago,” said director Amy Berg.The documentary follows Syed’s legal team as they prepare an appeal for a new trial after questions about the State’s case and his own attorney’s performance.“Any time a wrongful conviction seems to be getting successfully challenged the system closes in, it doubles down, it trickles down, and it tries to protect itself and we expected that. We expected we were going to fight as far as it s going to take,” said Rabia Chaudry, a family friend and lawyer who has advocated for Syed for 20 years (and was the driving force behind the Serial podcast). “The State is going to continue to appeal it. It s not a surprise. And there s a reason for that. I understand the reasons for that. It s not always about the truth. It s about kind of maintaining status quo. So it s not surprising. It is more complicated. However, when there s so much notoriety around the case it gives more incentive for the State to save face and to save the conviction and to fight harder.”The Kominsky Method Books Major Guest Stars(Photo by Mike Yarish/Netflix)Netflix’s award-winning comedy The Kominsky Method will welcome three major guest stars in its second season: Jane Seymour, Jacqueline Bisset, and Paul Reiser. Seymour will play Madelyn, a 70-something well-to-do woman with whom Norman (star Alan Arkin) had a mad love affair in the ’60s before he met his wife, and they meet again 50 years later. Bisset will play Gabrielle, Mindy’s (Sarah Baker) mom and Sandy’s (star Michael Douglas) French ex-wife who delights in still being able to push the buttons of her ex-husband. Reiser will play Martin, a 60-something high school teacher who gets romantically involved with Sandy’s daughter, Mindy.
surroundings. The show itself created all of these little definitions and buzzwords to categorize when people do certain things (“close talker,” etc.) that has since given us a lexicon to understand that behavior. It also encouraged us to do that in our own lives, so it not only created this vocabulary to understand the world but inspired us to expand it. And it, of course, deeply entertained us with each new reminder how times may change, methods of communication change, how we process the world may change, but what we do within that understanding really doesn’t change all that much. Which feels like a suitably bittersweet lesson for the show’s misanthropic view to impart.Allison Keene, TV Editor, Paste Magazine: The nothing-ness of the show encompasses all of the little universal experiences and pet peeves and desires that transcend its time and place. Seinfeld is wacky, hilarious, and incredibly smart, but the conversations and arguments and observations remain with us because we ve experienced them, too. The touchstones of the series — whether it be low-talkers or seeing someone sneeze while naked or the results of The Contest, etc. — all speak to the fleeting, mundane thoughts we have, but here they are augmented into something important and meaningful. Seinfeld gave context and importance to life s weirdness, and that s why it still resonates today.(Photo by Castle Rock Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection)Liz Shannon Miller, freelance TV critic for Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and The AV Club: It s strange to look back at Seinfeld and realize just how much of an impact it had on pop culture, an impact that still resonates today with phrases we use. They re real and they re spectacular is still something I say on a semi-regular basis, just because after 20 years or so, certain phrases get hardwired into not just our brains, but society itself. In the future, as we cluster around trash fires in the ruins of civilization, someone somewhere will probably tell a friend, No soup for you! Even if the context is lost, the meaning will endure.Peter Mehlman, writer and producer for Seinfeld: For the most part, [the show s most quotable lines] just came organically. In the case of double dip … it doesn t take any big genius to come up with that. With some of the others, like master of my domain and sponge-worthy, they were more creative and brilliant — they just came up as a natural bit of writing. It wasn t a concerted effort to come up with new terms for things. There was no poignant moment ever in a script — it was all about just being funny.Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, author of Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything: In many ways both social media and streaming have bolstered Seinfeld s legacy. The show and its characters lend themselves well to memes, and several sites, artists, and internet personalities have dedicated themselves to keeping Seinfeld alive. In 2013 a street artist named Jayshells made a reproduction of the poster for Rochelle, Rochelle, one of Seinfeld s fake movies, and put it up in Manhattan. Photos of it went viral online. We had @SeinfeldToday on Twitter, which pitched ideas for plots that could be on a modern version of Seinfeld. And we still have @seinfeld2000 on Twitter, an internet character obsessed with getting Seinfeld back on the air. (He s a creation of a TV producer named Jason Richards.)The characters were hilariously specific and oddly relatable(Photo by Columbia TriStar Television/Courtesy Everett Collection)Gilchrist: Their personalities don’t always translate directly to ourselves or our circle of friends, but the behavior of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer is deeply recognizable to us, and quite often in an unflattering way. We’ve all made choices, had social gaffes, and discovered little superficial patterns of behavior that became ridiculous pet peeves among both the people we cannot stand and the people with whom we’re the closest. We become our own obstacles to happiness because we can’t put aside those things — discarding friendships, relationships, and business exchanges because of an infringement that crossed an imaginary line in the sand. We may even be technically right to do so! But the wonderful thing about the show is that as entertaining as it is for us to watch, those decisions very seldom brought the characters greater or lasting happiness. Mostly, just the opposite.Tom Nunan, Oscar-winning producer and lecturer at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television: It s so funny because these characters are so relatable. And everything about them seemed kind of right down-the-middle: The way they dressed and where they lived, everything was pretty ordinary-looking. They never tried to make it feel like fantasy. The Friends apartment just seemed like a fantasy version of being 20 years old in New York. Everything about Seinfeld s world was really kind of drab, and I think that s why we relate to it so much more. It was obviously a super-sophisticated, brilliantly-executed show, but they made it all look so normal, and I think that s what makes it so popular.Rick Porter, staff writer, The Hollywood Reporter: Because it was so huge in its time, it seeped into the larger culture in a pretty big way, from yada yada to master of your domain and having fundamentally unlikable people be the center of a show. It probably doesn t get enough credit for the last part, but the characters were all low-key awful a good half-decade before The Sopranos.Armstrong: As horrible as they were, why did we love them? They re just really well-defined. Part of the reason people loved @SeinfeldToday so much was that they loved imagining these characters in modern scenarios, and that s because we know them so well that it s easy to imagine what Kramer might do with Amazon or Elaine might get into on Tinder. These characters — and many who came after them — are proof that viewers aren t particularly interested in watching characters because they re good people. They want to watch characters who are interesting, and interesting people are often somewhere between imperfect and awful.Mehlman: It was before political correctness got completely out of hand, you know? There was a certain kind of innocence about it. Because it s all about just being funny, and just observing the world and not really making points. Characters on shows now are basically so good to each other and if they are not, they apologize. On Seinfeld, they screwed each other over every single week and remained best of friends the next week.Seinfeld disrupted the TV sitcom formula(Photo by Columbia TriStar Television/Courtesy Everett Collection)Nunan: The ambition that Jerry and Larry had for this — these multiple story lines and multiple scenes per episode — mixed with a cast that was a murderer s row of phenomenal, superstar comic talent … that kind of magic is rare. And then there s that old saying that this is a show about nothing. In other words, it s not about family cohesion; it s not about romantic comedy; it s not about politics. It s about what Jerry Seinfeld became known for as a comedian before ever signing onto his own show, which was about the little observations in life — these little things that are universal and that we all share in common.Thompson: It wasn t really about nothing. It was just about different things that television generally didn t deal with. It was about the kind of details of daily life that people go through. For example, the classic Chinese Restaurant episode that was not something about nothing, it was about something we very much deal with on a daily basis: waiting in line for a restaurant.Mehlman: You know, we didn t have a writers room. You basically pitched ideas to Larry and Jerry for each of the characters. They d say, I like that, or, I m not crazy about that. And you d go off and write on your own. The very first script I wrote for the show [was The Apartment ]. It was the first outside script they produced and it was just about Jerry absentmindedly telling Elaine that an apartment opened up in her building. That was the whole thing that they sent me off with. I added in this whole story about George going to a party wearing a wedding ring to see if it would really attract women. I just added that in as I was writing. And Larry and Jerry had no idea what that was going to be.The jokes were the priority, and no topic was off-limits(Photo by Columbia TriStar Television/Courtesy Everett Collection)Porter: I think it s the template for most of the hangout comedies that followed it. Stakes are never terribly high, which allows more room for jokes and bits of character work and giving everyone in the core cast their time to shine. You can see its DNA in everything from Friends to Happy Endings to The Big Bang Theory. The low stakes and jokes-over-all ethos of the show also gives it a more timeless feel. They all have landlines and stuff, but with a handful of exceptions, stories don t hinge on things that are so of their time that it feels dated. There s a B-story in one episode where Jerry taped a Mets game and doesn t want to know the score before he gets home to watch it, which How I Met Your Mother riffed on in a Super Bowl–themed episode and this still plays well in the current spoiler-phobic era.Mehlman: It was a very male-centric show. I think the big upside of that is that you got to see conversations in mixed company that you never saw before. You know, we got to talk about anything. So I think that made a lot of people feel kind of liberated. It was kind of a very male show, yet, I always felt that if you didn t have a good Elaine story, or if Julia didn t have a big part in an episode, there was no way it could be a great episode. All the great episodes needed to have really strong Elaine stories or you were in trouble.Seinfeld is available to watch by subscription on Hulu and to purchase in its entirety on FandangoNow, Amazon.com, iTunes, and other sites where you buy video on demand.
(Photo by Photos courtesy of Everett Collection)Oscars Trivia Part I: The QuizYou may have seen every Academy Award-nominated movie this year. You might have memorized each director s filmography. But how well do you know your Oscars history? For example, did you know that the Academy didn t always call their favorite flick of the year Best Picture ?Whether you think you know the Oscars inside and out, or you re looking to learn a bit before impressing your film buff friends at a party, we have your best (and most fun) resource: a trivia quiz! From award superlatives and Tomatometer rankings to voting protocol and category changes, it s all here.Test your knowledge of the world s most-watched entertainment awards ceremony, and once you re finished, continue to page 2 to brush up on your Oscars history with the answers and explanations.