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Welcome back, “Murphy Brown”: Just in time to take on “alternative facts and fake news”

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AP/Brent N. Clarke

AP/Brent N. Clarke

The reboot of the 1990s-era sitcom "Murphy Brown" will arrive not just 30 years after it first premiered on CBS, but to an almost unrecognizable terrain of journalism, cable news and politics. The network released the first trailer for the revival Wednesday at its upfront presentation, the annual reveal of new shows for advertisers. Much of the original cast — star journalist Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen), features reporter Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford), investigative reporter Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto), and executive producer Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud) — will return to characters reimagined and reinvigorated to take on "this crazy new world of alternative facts and fake news," as Bergen declares in the trailer.

This "First Look" trailer doesn't feature any footage from the upcoming revival. Instead, the returning actors engage in a "Where Are They Now?" confessional segment, where in character, they catch viewers up on their departure from newsmagazine "FYI," how they respond to the current news and politics (including a freed O.J. Simpson and tiki torch-wielding white supremacists) and, most importantly, how they all reunited for a new cable morning show that Murphy will anchor, "Murphy in the Morning."

"We want to be really timely, that's why we didn't film a pilot," Bergen said during upfronts. "If we had, we'd already be several major headlines and a dozen Stormys out of date." Nearly half of the four-plus minute trailer features a mash-up of some of "Murphy Brown's" most charming, groundbreaking and iconic moments, some of which retain a startling relevance today. Take this scene, in which Murphy berates a new secretary: "If you are any of the following: a smoker, a manic depressive, a fan of Donald Trump, or a collector of Nazi memorabilia, this isn't going to work," she says. This was 1990.

For Murphy's new morning show, she won't just be battling the "alternative facts and fake news," landscape, but also her own son, millennial journalist Avery (actor Jake McDorman), who hosts a competing conservative morning show. CBS entertainment president Kelly Kahl said that the rivalry between "Fox & Friends" and "Morning Joe" was "pretty good characterization," Deadline reported.

"[Cable news] is populated with all kinds, like the Hannitys of the world and actual journalists too," Bergen said at upfronts. Yet "Murphy Brown" isn't just taking aim at the Fox pundits, but is likely to upset the Donald Trump administration, too. That's not unfamiliar terrain for the sitcom, which famously garnered criticism from vice president Dan Quayle when Brown became a single mom in season 4.

"Bearing babies irresponsibly is simply wrong," he said in May 1992. "It doesn’t help matters when prime-time TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice."

Not only did "Murphy Brown" challenge Quayle when it returned that fall in an hour-long episode, but it brought in 70 million viewers, CBS estimated at the time.

So, is Mike Pence next? It's likely, since Murphy cites the election of Trump as the reason she returns to journalism. So it's safe to say that "Murphy Brown 2.0" is ready to face not only Trump and all of his Twitter tirades that will predictably follow, but also the more quiet wrath of Pence and the conservatives who actually run the Republican Party.

A running theme of the teaser is that the returning characters are all wrestling with how to survive and practice journalism under the Trump administration. For producer Silverberg, two years at "The View" nearly broke him, while Fontana can't bear the thought of donning a Lacoste polo and an Ikea tiki torch to infiltrate neo-Nazis for a story. "We had to do something. Get the old gang together," Murphy says in the trailer. "It's our civic duty. And besides, you missed us — you know you did," she says directly towards the camera. A sly smirk barely raises the sides of her mouth, but it's charming as hell.

The 13-episode reboot will air Thursday nights on CBS at 9:30 p.m. beginning this fall, during its comedy bloc with "The Big Bang Theory," "Young Sheldon" and "Mom." The network was candid when asked if it hoped to amass similar viewership numbers to 1980s sitcom revival "Roseanne." "We're extremely hopeful. We'd love to get 'Roseanne' numbers," Kahl said.

Beyond parallel revivals, it will be interesting to see the reception around "Murphy Brown," or if the two reboots will constantly be put at odds. Yahoo has already dubbed the show the "anti-'Roseanne,'" and "full of liberal laughs." Either way, it seems inevitable that come this fall, "Murphy Brown" will be a talker on both sides of the political aisle.

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9 days ago
If this trailer is any indication, this is going to be every bit as good as my wildest hopes if not better. So happy to have Murphy coming back!
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Sony calls time on PS Vita game card production

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The end is nigh for the PlayStation Vita. Sony has revealed that it is calling time on the production of physical PS Vita game cards, marking a significant end-of-life milestone in the console's lifespan.

In a message leaked to Kotaku, and later confirmed by Sony representatives, it's stated that Sony's American and European arms "plan to end all Vita GameCard production by close of fiscal year 2018."

Developers must submit final code by June 28 of this year, and purchase orders by February 15 next year, just a few weeks before the 31 March 2019 financial year cut off point for Sony. 

A troubled life

The Vita hit the scene in 2012 to much fanfare, promising console gaming on the go. And though a powerful device with a lovely screen, it struggled to get a foothold following the rise of smartphone gaming and the then-unexpected resurgence of the Nintendo 3DS.

Pair that with proprietary, prohibitively expensive memory cards and a lack of first-party support, and within a couple of years the Vita's decline seemed terminally inevitable.

It maintains a strong following, especially in Japan, where its niche was found among the RPG community, and its second screen abilities with the PS4 still impress. Its indie game library remains a joy to explore, as does its wide ranging access to PS1 games. But with the Nintendo Switch now dominating the handheld space as a hybrid, the sun is setting on the PS Vita.

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9 days ago
The Vita is one of my favorite consoles, up there with the SNES and also underappreciated GameCube. RIP Vita. We’ll always have Monster Hunter.
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Arrested Development’s Season 4 “Remix” Is an Experiment Gone Horribly Wrong


Arrested Development just remixed its fourth season. It is terrible.

In 2013, the fourth season of Arrested Development premiered on Netflix. For production reasons including cast schedules and Netflix’s narrative flexibility, creator Mitch Hurwitz tried something new. Rather than a linear story, each episode focused on a specific character with jokes and references that only clicked after watching the whole season.

Fans were angry. They hated the creative storytelling and demanded straightforward chronology, one that reminded them of the first three seasons back in the early 2000s. Hurwitz made the mistake of listening to them.

Last weekend Netflix dropped the Arrested Development Season 4 remix, Fateful Consequences. Hurwitz recut the original 15-episode season into 22 shorter linear episodes. Both versions begin and end the same way, but while one tackles the narrative in an innovative way that challenges the viewers and retains the intellectual rigor of its original three seasons, the other remixes it into sometimes vastly less interesting.

One of Arrested Development’s main attractions is the density of its jokes.
Every minute of the series packs it in, but they’re not just the standard set-up punchline variety. We’ve got callbacks, off-screen references, and recurring gags, basically any joke format that exists pops up at one point or another. After going off the air in 2003, the series only grew in popularity as viewers rewatched over and over, catching weird mentions that only play out seasons later, and creating niche, extremely esoteric theories like that David Cross’ Tobias is really an albino black man.

When the series returned in 2013, those in-jokes persisted. A passing shot of a character’s back, or an overheard bit of dialogue only makes sense after watching it reappear later on. Because it was on Netflix, it was meant to be binged. And because it was Arrested Development, it was meant to be binged a few times. All the jokes only come into focus after multiple watches, they’re meant to be buried below the surface. Apparently, viewers didn’t like that. Now it’s just mostly Ron Howard saying ad nauseum, “Hey, remember that joke? Get it now? Do ya?”

The remix suffers from an aggressive amount of narration. It might as well just be a Ron Howard audiobook. To stitch together all these disjointed but intersecting plots Howard must over-narrate every step of the way, constantly reminding the viewer of all the plot threads stuffed into each 22-minute episode.

The remix trades delayed gratification for cheap shortcuts to punchlines that fall flat without any substance to support them. Instead of indulging in the episode-length jokes and guest star performances central to character-focused episodes, everything gets chopped up and divided across the remix, trying to season each episode with comedy but really just leaving us with the faint taste of a better show on our tongues.

Season 4’s strongest bit player is Maria Bamford as Tobias’ sidekick, a washed-up actress and recovering drug addict. She shines through in his episodes where we get heavy doses of Bamford’s bleak and twisted style, but in the remix her performance is spaced out, transforming her character into someone pitiful and painful to watch.

Isla Fisher guest stars as Ron Howard’s daughter, and while the first version of season four quickly throws her in the mix by episode two so small side jokes throughout the season land, the remix first shows her to us in some odd decontextualized PSA jokes that make zero sense to a viewer unfamiliar with the character.

The remix of the fourth season only really works for those who’ve already seen the original (still available on Netflix, although bizarrely hidden under the “Trailers and More” tab). It’s basically an idiot’s guide to Hurwitz’s style and undermines the skill with which he crafted it the first time around. Just look at his other recent production for Netflix. Lady Dynamite, starring the genius Maria Bamford, eschews linear storytelling by leaping between past, present and future with increasing speed as the series plays out because the comedy doesn’t come from where the characters end up, it comes from how they get there.

Mitch Hurwitz tore apart a great season of television simply because viewers didn’t like it. Now we’re stuck with a misshapen garbage heap of comedy remnants. I hope they learned their lesson.

[Ron Howard voiceover]: They did not.

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12 days ago

Season 4 was brilliant, a rare gem that was best watched twice back to back. The remix is watchable, but barely.
12 days ago
This made me sad, I *was* going to watch the remix but I'm definitely turned off to the idea now.
11 days ago
Season 4 was good, the remix is fine, I'm enjoying it now just because it's been 5 years since I saw S4 and it's reminding me how good that was. The biggest mistake was putting a show like AD on a platform where everybody puts netflix on in the background and doesn't pay attention to the show :P
9 days ago
I take back "but barely". It's okay. It's not anywhere near as good as S4 and is a bit redundant in a way less clever than the original. With too much voice over. But it's probably worth while if you haven't watched in a while.
9 days ago
Either way, gotta watch one version or other before season 5 launches!
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2 public comments
11 days ago
faaak I love AD but there is an ocean of great TV out there. I've gotta binge watch the same season several times in a row to make it "click"?

"innovative" and "intellectually challenging" aren't the first terms that come to mind.
Bend, Oregon
12 days ago
I was disappointed after 1 episode of season 4. Disgruntled after 2 episodes. Didn't continue watching after 3 episodes.

Maybe this remix will make it worth another attempt.

AT&T Takes Bold Action to Pretend It Disapproves of Michael Cohen

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From the Wall Street Journal:

AT&T Inc. boss Randall Stephenson said it was a mistake to hire Trump attorney Michael Cohen and ousted the telecom’s giant’s top Washington executive after his office paid Mr. Cohen $600,000 last year. The company told employees Friday in an internal memo that Senior Executive Vice President Bob Quinn was retiring, but people familiar with the matter said the policy chief was forced to leave.

I realize I’m just saying the sky is blue here, but I want to point out that Randall didn’t fire Quinn because he hired Cohen. That happened a year ago and Randall has been fine with it ever since. He only fired Quinn when the arrangement became public and “something had to be done.” So he did something.

POSTSCRIPT: Since writing my last post, I have had a cookie. A lemon Oreo. But I am still feeling crabby.

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16 days ago
The postscript 🆒
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Fortnite Streamer Ninja Accused of Being a ‘Sellout’ for Swearing Less

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Fortnite streamer Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins comes under fire and is accused of being a 'sellout' by fans after he makes a decision to make his streams more family friendly.
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16 days ago
Sellout? "How dare you take a more mature tone while continuing to balance entertaining and kicking ass. How dare you!" lol

I'm no prude but I approve. Anyone who measures validity on crudeness alone is an idiot (and no doubt spends a lot of time commenting on YouTube)

My kids are fans of Ninja. I guess I am too.
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They spewed hate. Then they punctuated it with the president’s name

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This article originally appeared on Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting

Editor’s note: To provide a full picture of what hate speech victims experienced, we have not edited out offensive language.

It was the day after the 2016 presidential election. Melissa Johnson was walking out of a Trader Joe’s in the heart of San Diego when a shiny BMW pulled up alongside her. The driver was a man in his late 30s. Dark hair. Green eyes. Her first thought: He’s kind of hot.

The car slowed down. Then the man shouted at her through the open window.

“Fuck you, nigger, go back to Africa. The slave ship is loading up,” he said. Then he added an exclamation point: “Trump!”

As the man drove away, Johnson, looked around at the shoppers who had witnessed the attack. She was the only African American in the parking lot. Not one person met her eye. Nobody said anything. So the 37-year-old walked, stunned, to her car, where she sat and wept.

This renaissance of hate features something new: xenophobic, racist and homophobic attacks punctuated with President Donald Trump’s name. To understand the scope of the phenomenon, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting identified more than 150 reports of Trump-themed taunts and attacks stretching across 39 states over the past year and a half.

Interviews with the targets of and witnesses to these incidents showed a striking pattern. The abusers had a clear message: Trump’s going to take care of a problem — and that problem is you.

This pattern extended across races, religions and sexual orientation. Two days after the presidential election, a gay man in Michigan heard a taunt from a group of men: “Trump is going to get rid of people like you.” A week later, a Jewish woman in Austin, Texas, said she heard exactly the same threat from a middle-aged white man as she lined up to buy groceries. Two months later, a Latino man in California said he was told by a white ex-girlfriend that Trump was going “get rid of the Hispanics.” By March, a black woman in Houston reported that she was told by a white man that Trump was going to “get rid of all you niggers.”

Immediately after the election, there was a surge in Trump-related taunts. But all last year and into this year, the threats kept coming: An Asian American woman in Hollywood, California, had her hair pulled by an older white woman and was told that she had to “go back to China” now that Trump is president. In the Washington, D.C., area, the Trump-tainted threats got so frequent and so bad that Mohammad Qureshi, a Muslim American man who works at the Dulles Airport Marriott, changed his nametag to John.

These interviews reveal the trickle-down effect of a president who has called Mexicans rapists, proposed barring Muslims from entering the country and denigrated certain nations as “shithole countries.” Sometimes the perpetrators quoted the president’s words nearly verbatim. Other times, they signaled that as far as they’re concerned, the country has changed in their favor now that Trump is in charge.

For most of those targeted, it wasn’t the first time they have heard hateful speech. But dozens of people interviewed for this story said we’ve entered a new era of hate — one of open, blatant shouts, not whispers. And now that hate features a presidential seal of approval.

Racism in America used to be more subtle, Johnson said. As she shopped for dresses and handbags at Nordstrom, she said the security guards would follow her. The old lady in the elevator would clutch her Louis Vuitton bag a little tighter in the enclosed space — never mind that Johnson has five of those bags herself. Neighbors discouraged their son from dating her.

Now, things are different.

“Trump is giving these people so much power, so that they feel as though they’re also running the country,” Johnson said. “These horrible, ugly people now have a voice. And I’m so tired of hearing it because I’ve heard it my entire life. But it was whispers before. Now they’re yelling.”

Reveal culled the reports of Trump-themed attacks from Documenting Hate, a media collaborative led by ProPublica that tracks hate incidents across the country. Overall, Documenting Hate has received more than 300 reports of people using Trump’s name in hate speech since the effort launched in January 2017. That’s out of about 4,700 total tips.

Reveal spoke with more than 80 people who reported the Trump-themed cases, and located another 70 that had been reported by other media organizations or confirmed with documentation.

Most of the victims of abuse by Trump supporters said they’re scared. But their fear isn’t just that they will be attacked again by people emboldened by Trump. They worry that America has taken a step backward after generations of civil rights gains.

Najwa Sebbahi, for example, witnessed a middle-aged white woman’s Islamophobic rant against several customers in a store in the New York borough of Brooklyn three weeks before the 2016 election.

“Trump is going to get rid of all of you terrorists,” the woman said. The attack culminated in the woman pushing a Pakistani American girl and the police being called. Sebbahi, who immigrated to the U.S. from Morocco in her teens, said police refused to charge the woman with a crime, citing her right to free speech.

It’s not the only attack Sebbahi has witnessed recently, and she said things have become palpably different for Muslim Americans since Trump took office. The president’s hostility toward Muslims, including his push for a ban on immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries, has opened the floodgates of hostility, the 32-year-old said.

“Every time I’m in public with my mom and she’s wearing her hijab, I’m very cautious and I tell her: ‘Don’t even, like, try to interact with anyone,’ ” Sebbahi said. “I just don’t want any of these interactions anymore. I feel like some people are just waiting for the slightest mistake to start an attack against you.”

‘He will get rid of all of you’

While most of the incidents were verbal, some taunts turned violent.

The week after the 2016 election, 32-year-old Dusty Paul Lacombe was arrested and charged with attacking an African American man outside a convenience store in Texas. Lacombe, who is white, announced that he was a Trump supporter right before the attack, according to a police report. He wasn’t charged with a hate crime.

In January 2017, prosecutors say Robin Rhodes, a 57-year-old white man, attacked a Muslim American employee at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. They say he knelt, mocking Muslim prayer, and yelled: “Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you.” He also is accused of shouting, “Fuck Islam.” Rhodes was indicted on hate crime charges two months later.

In February 2017, Brandon Ray Davis rented a scooter while on vacation in Key West, Florida. The 30-year-old North Carolina man spotted a gay couple riding bikes and ran into one of the men, shouting, “Faggots” and “You live in Trump country now!” Davis was charged with aggravated battery with hate crime enhancements and pleaded guilty to lesser chargesin a plea agreement. He was sentenced to probation and community service.

But even in the dozens of cases of Trump-related abuse that did not result in physical attacks, victims of the hate speech say they were left scarred.

Kelly Ha was walking to the bus stop one day in January 2017 near her home in Washington, D.C., when a middle-aged white woman suddenly screamed at her. Ha had stopped briefly in the middle of the sidewalk to search for something in her handbag, and this delay had sent her attacker into paroxysms of rage.

“Go the fuck back to China or wherever you came from,” the woman said.

“Trump should have started with people like you,” Ha remembered the woman saying. “You’re the real threat to this country.”

Ha, a 23-year-old Korean American who has lived in the U.S. her entire life, was dismayed by the outburst. She has spent her life studying and working hard and has never considered herself anything other than just another American.

As she recalled the incident, Ha’s voice trembled and broke with emotion.

“You know, people have used (Trump’s) name to justify all sorts of things. And racism is really just the start of it,” Ha said. “Some people are just racist. They only see you for what you look like — the color of your skin or the color of your hair or what your face looks like.”

Dozens of people across the country said the same thing: What hurts most in these attacks is being told that you don’t belong in America. That you’re not welcome. That since Trump was elected, the country has been reserved for a certain group – a group that doesn’t look like you or dress like you or practice the same religion as you.

The more than 150 reports likely represent only a tiny fraction of the Trump-related hate speech going on every day. Most are never officially reported anywhere to anyone. Documenting Hate catches only incidents picked up by the media or in which people self-report. And Trump-tainted taunts are just a subset of a flood of hate speech and hate crimes that has been catalogued by Documenting Hate and advocacy organizations.

The number of hate crimes committed in 2016 reached a five-year high, fueled by a spike around the November election, according to official FBI hate crime statistics. The Anti-Defamation League reports that anti-Semitic activity such as harassment and vandalism of synagogues rose 57 percentfrom 2016 to 2017. The Council on American-Islamic Relations tallied a 24 percent rise in anti-Muslim bias incidents in the first half of 2017 compared with the first half of 2016.

“This dry kindling was already there,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. “The president’s invocation of various negative stereotypes has both coalesced, solidified and, in some ways, normalized the stereotypes in a mainstream discourse.”

This mainstreaming of negative stereotypes has spilled over into an increase in hate incidents and hate crimes, Levin said. He pointed out that in the days after the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, while candidate Trump was enthusiastically pushing his Muslim travel ban on Twitter and in public appearances, there was a surge in anti-Muslim hate crimes.

Reveal’s analysis showed that people reported being targets of Trump-inspired hate speech in at least 39 states. Most incidents involved angry shouts of abuse, sometimes in private and sometimes in public. There also were incidents of Trump-inspired property damage and graffiti on victims’ property. And Reveal confirmed two dozen incidents of people writing hateful notes, letters or social media posts specifically referring to actions Trump would take against racial or religious minority groups.

Attacks have occurred in tiny rural towns and liberal neighborhoods in major cities. People have shouted Trump-laced insults from car windows and threatened passengers on public trains and buses. Trump supporters have accosted shoppers in grocery stores and malls, on beaches and in diners. And even schools have become steeped in political poison as children interpret Trump’s words, tweets and actions in their own ways.

‘He’s trying to create a white world’

Growing up in Arvada, Colorado, was always going to have its challenges for Aaliyah, Chris and Khalil Stevens-Roesener.

The three biological siblings, who are African American, were adopted by their mothers, Jorie Stevens and Tara Roesener, in 2011. They live in a sprawling suburb northwest of Denver that is overwhelmingly white.

According to census data, Arvada was less than 1 percent African American in 2010, and little seems to have changed since then. Aaliyah, Chris and Khalil say they’ve always been among only a handful of black kids at school.


Still, 2011 was an optimistic time for Stevens and Roesener.

The U.S. had its first black president. The country seemed more accepting every day. They didn’t believe racism was ever going to go away completely, but Stevens, who is white, and Roesener, who is Asian American, had hope for the future.

“You know, you’re still going to hear the occasional backwater person use the N-word, and that’s unacceptable,” Stevens said. “But we didn’t hear it as directly and as comfortably – the nasty things that people are saying right now.”

The kids dealt with isolated incidents of racism in their early years at school. But they largely brushed these off as anomalies. Aaliyah began dreaming of working for NASA, while Chris and Khalil got into football and set their sights on playing in the NFL. The color of their skin set them apart somewhat, but the kids never felt like they were targeted by their classmates.

Then came the 2016 presidential election.

Within a few months of Trump’s election, all three were targeted by explicit racist abuse at school. Thirteen-year-old Aaliyah was told by a white classmate that now that Trump was president, he could “shoot as many black people in the back as I want,” Tara Roesener said. Chris, 12, said his white classmates started ostentatiously using racial slurs in his presence, snickering at him when he told them to stop.

Khalil, now 10, said a white boy in his class started building a wall out of blocks during playtime. The boy purposefully placed the blocks between a group of white kids and a group of black and Latino kids.

“He said, ‘This is Trump’s wall,’ ” Khalil said.

Khalil said he thinks about the taunts he and his siblings have heard as he’s trying to fall asleep.

“At nighttime, I think about, like, what would happen if Trump did succeed in what he was planning to do, which he hopefully won’t,” he said.

Asked what he thinks Trump wants to do, Khalil was unequivocal. “I’m gonna say it like this: He’s trying to create a white world.”

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20 days ago
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