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A 40-minute special dropped by Netflix on Sunday checks in with some of the tangential players of the runaway hit, with only minor revelations

Calling all you cool cats and kittens Tiger King is back. Well, kind of. After the outlandish series took the world of memes and quarantine streaming by storm since its premiere in March, Netflix dropped a previously unplanned addendum on Sunday. The Tiger King and I, a special of short, softball interviews hosted by the comedian Joel McHale from his house in Los Angeles, featured interviews with eight people adjacent to Joe Exotic: Erik Cowie, Jeff and Lauren Lowe, John Reinke, Kelci Saff Saffery, Joshua Dial, John Finlay and Rick Kirkham.

McHale, a breezy interviewer in AirPods, mostly avoided the shows more controversial topics; if youre looking for further investigation into Joes crimes, the death of Carole Baskins ex-husband or the mistreatment of big cats in the US, this is not the place. But if 40 minutes of popcorn-style interviews (how many leather jackets does Jeff Lowe own? How are Finlays new teeth?) then Netflix has you covered. The Tiger King and I lacked the type of bombshells that characterized the series (as well as its directors, Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin) but did provide some small updates on life after Tiger King memedom. What, if anything, did we learn? (For those who havent seen, Tiger King spoilers ahead.)

Disputed portrayals

Photograph: Netflix

Several participants have aired grievances with their portrayals in the series, most notably the big cat owner Bhagavan Doc Antle and Joes arch-nemesis Baskin, both of whom did not participate in the special. Baskin in particular took issue with the charge lobbied by several in the series (and fans online) that she killed her ex-husband, Don Lewis, in Florida. (Police have never charged her with the crime, though a sheriff in Florida has reopened the investigation; to date, tips have been fans with theories.)

On Sundays special, Lowe, the business partner who implicated Joe in his murder-for-hire conviction and took over his zoo, disputed his characterization. I think they tried to sensationalize the story a bit to give it a villain, he said. McHale was a light interviewer, treating Lowe more as a charming character rather than someone with a shady criminal history; he glossed over Lowes charges in Las Vegas (federal mail fraud and an illegal exotic animal business) but did ask about the couples nanny and Lowes wardrobe of leather jackets and Affliction T-shirts.

Dial, Joe Exotics campaign manager for his presidential and Oklahoma gubernatorial runs, disputed Lowes claim of unfairness: Truth hurts, he said, calling the series fair and balanced.

Saffery, a trans man who goes by Saff, said he wasnt too concerned about criticism of the show for misgendering him. I dont think it bothered me as much as it bothered everybody else, he said. I didnt really pay it any mind.

Joes ex-husband Finlay, who appeared mostly shirtless and with several missing teeth in the series (the result of meth use, which he discussed openly), told McHale he was not happy with his portrayal as a drugged-out hillbilly, since that was not me then. At that time, I was four to five years clean.

The toll of Joe Exotic

Photograph: USA TODAY Network/SIPA USA/PA Images

Of course, most of the conversations revolved around Joe Exotic, the center of the series who has become a controversial hero to some viewers. High-profile fans such as Cardi B have suggested he was set up, and a question of pardoning Joe, legal name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, for his 22-year sentence in a murder-for-hire scheme against Baskin, has made it all the way to Donald Trump. McHale asked most of his guests if they were more loyal to Joe or the animals; Joe didnt get any takers. I think that justice was served, but I still dont want to see that man die in prison, said Saffery (though he said he would trust the tiger who bit his arm off over Joe).

Several also spoke to the lingering damage from their time in the Joe Exotic universe. Dial revealed that hes raising money for therapy to deal with the trauma of witnessing Joes husband Travis Maldonado accidentally shoot himself, point-blank, in 2017 Dials expression the moment he realizes Maldonados prank has gone horribly wrong, captured on security footage, is one of the seriess darkest and most tragic moments. Kirkham, who produced Joe Exotic TV for several years, said the attention from the series has caught up with him in Norway, where he now lives, but so have the nightmares. Despite the newfound fame from the hit series, I regret ever meeting Joe Exotic, he said.

Information holes ahead

Photograph: Netflix

The absence of the two major players in the series besides Joe, Baskin and Antle, went unmentioned by McHale; perhaps its because both have roundly criticized the series. Antle dismissed Tiger King as sensationalized entertainment with paid participants in a series of Instagram and Facebook posts, while Baskin posted a 3,000-word defense against the claim she fed her ex-husband to tigers. Neither of these disputes were mentioned. Instead, McHale simply asked the Lowes whether they thought Baskin killed her ex-husband, as Joe and many in his orbit long claimed. Unsurprisingly, they said yes.

Also missing from the special were James Garretson, Lowes former partner last seen riding into the sunset on a jetski, and Allen Glover, the alleged hitman hired by Joe to kill Baskin. Joe recently filed a malicious prosecution suit against both men, as well as Lowe and several others, in which he claims Lowe lied to authorities and planted evidence against him. This also went unmentioned.

Fantasy casting

Photograph: Netflix US/AFP via Getty Images

McHale jumped in to one of social medias favorite games since the series aired: who should play these outrageous real-life figures in the Hollywood adaptation? A scripted miniseries is already in the works with Saturday Night Lives Kate McKinnon slated to play Baskin, but other roles remain uncast. In Facebook posts somehow written while in prison, Joe has suggested Brad Pitt should play him. Asked by McHale to cast himself, Reinke picked Matthew McConaughey, Kirkham offered Billy Bob Thornton and Saffery offered Brandon Baker of Johnny Tsunami fame.

Big cats, little attention to cruelty

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The star of Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock and new period drama Dickinson discusses a career spent playing narcissists and some very strange souvenirs

There were two reasons that Jane Krakowski signed on for Dickinson, the new comedy-drama in which she plays the mother of the great American poet Emily. One was that her own mother was a fan of Dickinsons work, so much so that the young Krakowski could recite a few of the poets greatest hits by rote. The script, then, immediately piqued her interest. Its changed now, she explains, but in the original, it started with: Im Nobody! Who are you? And she reads the whole poem. At the end she looks into the camera and she goes: Im Emily. Im Emily fucking Dickinson. I was like, wait. What is this? She smiles: This is not your moms Emily Dickinson.

Krakowski also wanted to play a character who would be entirely unlike two of her best-known roles, 30 Rocks Jenna Listen up fives, a 10 is speaking Maroney and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidts Jacqueline White/Voorhees, another of her immaculate, iconic narcissists, a spoof of the 1%. They are two of the greatest comedy characters of recent times.

Krakowski is in London to promote her shift to the sort-of period, sort-of drama of Dickinson, but she is a devoted Anglophile, particularly when it comes to comedy. She had her first experience of panto last Christmas, when she took her son to see Julian Clary in Dick Whittington. He was hilarious. He seemed like the king of panto. I had the best time. I was like, why have I waited so long to go? My son didnt know all the double entendre jokes and he said, why are you guys all laughing so hard? I said, one day, youll understand.

Dickinson follows over a decade of Krakowski being Tina Feys favourite sort-of bad guy. Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock left her comedically fulfilled in a way that made her wonder what to do next. I think I came out of that going: Theres no way Ill be able to top that kind of comedic writing. So lets go for something entirely different, to have a whole other experience.

Whisper it, but the fact that Krakowski is playing the conservative mother of a 19th-century poet in a modern-historical hybrid with a thumping contemporary soundtrack, in which Wiz Khalifa has a cameo as Death, is quite, well, Jenna Maroney. Jenna is every excess of a celebrity turned up to 11; when Tina Feys Liz Lemon describes her as a high-strung perfectionist, she zings back: I prefer soul-sucking monster.

Cant stop the rock… Krakowski in 30 Rock with Tina Fey, Jack McBrayer, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan. Photograph: PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy

Krakowski arrived on 30 Rock after the unaired pilot, in which a far less ego-driven Jenna was played by comic actor Rachel Dratch. She was in Guys and Dolls in the West End when Fey and Robert Carlock, who co-produced the show, asked Krakowski for a meeting. They wanted to see what sort of sense of humour I had about myself, because the part was to send up the entity that is an actress. I couldnt think of anything more fun than to get to exploit the worst traits of actors and live them fully on screen, because then you get it out of your system and you dont have to do it in real life, in a way, she laughs. I could take every horror story I had ever heard and put it into Jenna.

One of Jennas many talents was an ability to belt out a tune at the drop of a hat, which was written into the scripts as a result of Krakowskis Broadway experience. Did she have favourites? I feel like Jenna was most known for Muffin Top, and, of course, Werewolf Bar Mitzvah [sung by co-star Tracy Morgan], which went viral before viral was a thing. [Kimmy Schmidts] Titus Burgess sent me a clip that I had totally forgotten about. It was a commercial I made in Japan … She laughs. And all I do is hold up a soda, and somebody slaps me, and then I just keep smiling and drinking the soda. We got to do such outrageously fun things as part of that show.

After 30 Rock, Fey and Carlock wrote the part of Kimmy Schmidts Jacqueline, a woman running from her past by hiding behind the self-involved grandeur of New York society wives, specifically for Krakowski. At what point does she start taking that kind of casting personally? I think people feel that Jenna and Jacqueline are quite similar, she says, gamely, and I do think the cadence of the comedy is very similar because its written by the same people. But Ive always felt that they were very different characters, certainly in the approach that I take to them, because Jacqueline was a far more vulnerable person than Jenna ever was or could possibly be.

For a comedy, she adds, Kimmy Schmidt was incredibly dark. You break that down and youre like: its about a woman whos been kidnapped for 15 years and comes out of a bunker … The show will end for good with an interactive special, due at the start of 2020. Does she think she will work with Fey and Carlock again? I would be so thrilled to do something else. Id like to convince them that its three times a charm.

Now 51, Krakowski grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey where her parents hobby was community theatre. We didnt have the funds to get babysitters all the time, so they would bring me with them. Her mother sent her to open calls when she was a child. I admired the moxie she had to give me the confidence to maybe just go try, she says. Her son Bennett is now eight, the same age as Krakowski was when she first started going to auditions, but she doesnt yet know if hell follow in the family business. Hes naturally very funny, she says. Hell do comedy bits at home, and Ill be like: Wait, how would you know that? But I havent felt his need for applause, or to be seen or heard in that way, which is probably psychologically more healthy. I dont want to necessarily keep him away from it, but Ill let him find his own way, if thats what he wants to do.

A lawyered performance… Krakowski with Calista Flockhart in Ally McBeal. Photograph: Everett/Alamy

She got her first TV role in the early 80s as a teenager, on the daytime NBC soap Search for Tomorrow. I was in high school when I was on that show, so I was doing my homework on the bus ride during my commute. After she made her career on Broadway in the likes of Starlight Express, Grand Hotel, Company and Nine she returned to TV in 1997 as Elaine, the office assistant in Ally McBeal who invented the face bra. Krakowski still has one at home. It was nice to have a souvenir, and I think that was the epitome of Elaines inventions.

Ally McBeal was a genuine phenomenon. Internationally, too, she notes, which I had never experienced before. I think, apart from Courtney Thorne-Smith [who played McBeals love rival, Georgia], none of us had been on a TV show.

She moved from New York to LA to work on it, and remembers being in her car, driving back from the set, hearing a radio show analysing a recent episode. Thats when I think we all realised it was what we now call a watercooler show.

It changed their lives completely. Far more for Calista [Flockhart] than for the rest of us. I think people felt Calista was Ally McBeal for a very long time, and she had to work very hard at making people realise that she was not that character, because she played it so beautifully. Many of the characters that Ive played, especially in the TV shows Ive been on, have been very heightened and exaggerated, and so I havent felt that people think I am my characters.

When it comes to Jenna Maroney and Jacqueline White, thats probably a very good thing.

Dickinson is available on Apple TV+ now

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As she prepares to take Glastonbury by storm, the country star opens a bottle of red wine and talks about the personal tragedy that coloured her new songs

Saturday night on the banks of the Ohio River, and the most American of scenes is unfolding. At the Ball Park, the Cincinnati Reds are playing the Texas Rangers, while at the US Bank Arena next door Carrie Underwood is making the latest stop on her global tour. Fans spill together through the muggy streets, a mingling of scarlet baseball jerseys and tan cowboy boots.

This is Underwoods first tour since 2016, a huge two-hour, 60-date monolith of a show in support of last years album Cry Pretty. Reaching UK arenas on Friday, it features a hydraulic stage, multiple costume changes and fearsome pyrotechnics, and it will carry her from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Detroit, Michigan, via the Glastonbury festival this weekend.

The most successful winner of American Idol, triumphing in the TV talent shows fourth season in 2005, Underwood has since recorded six albums, sold over 65m records, won seven Grammys, and earned more than $83m (65m). She is beautiful and blonde, and married to a retired ice hockey player: at first glance an unlikely addition to the Worthy Farm lineup.

Underwood and husband Mike Fisher at the CMT music awards in Nashville this month. Photograph: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

When we meet backstage after the show she is out of her costume but still in her stage makeup teary glitter circles smudged beneath her eyes. I got us wine! she announces from the sofa, pouring a large glass of cabernet sauvignon. This is actually a treat for me because normally I go straight to my bus, and I have a crying baby. Underwoods second son, Jacob, was born in January, and now he, her four-year-old, Isaiah, and her husband, Mike Fisher, have joined her on tour. I actually kicked my husband out of the bed and he sleeps on the couch up front, she says of their onboard sleeping arrangements. Its just a lot easier to wake up in a moving bus and grab the baby and feed him. She says she has puzzled over how to adapt her set for Glastonbury, deciding to largely play the hits, try to keep it eclectic and perhaps bust out an Aerosmith cover.

It must be a strange time for such a quintessentially American artist to be visiting the wider world, especially one who is white, southern and religious. I feel like more people try to pin me places politically, she says carefully. I try to stay far out of politics if possible, at least in public, because nobody wins. Its crazy. Everybody tries to sum everything up and put a bow on it, like its black and white. And its not like that.

She cites as an example the reaction to her recent single The Bullet, which looked at the long-running emotional impact of a shooting death. Immediately people said Oh you have a song about gun control! she sighs. It was more about the lives that were changed by something terrible happening. And it does kind of bug me when people take a song, or take something I said and try to pigeonhole or force me to pick a side or something. Its a discussion a long discussion.

She grew up in small-town Oklahoma, where like most families they kept guns under the bed. We had one stop light, one school, she recalls. Choir, band, football, basketball and baseball. Her parents, a teacher and paper-mill worker, drove her to other small towns in a homemade costume to compete in talent shows. The savings bond I would win wouldnt cover whatever we spent on gas to get there, she remembers.

Carrie Underwood wins American Idol in 2005. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

When she was 15, she landed a development deal with a record company and got to record in Nashville, though it came to nothing. I just got my braces off, my acne had cleared up decently but we had no idea what we were doing, she says of herself and her band. She went to college to study communications, joined a theatre group and found for the first time in her life a feeling that this is a safe place, we can sing and its OK here. Apart from the out-of-town talent shows, she had largely kept her voice to herself. I was more guarded with singing anywhere near where I grew up, she explains. Its that fear thing: what will they say? What if they laugh at me?

In 2005 she used her parents dial-up internet to register for American Idol. I thought: why not? she explains. Because then I figured at least the door will be shut and I could stop wondering. I could stop thinking what if? And then I could just come home, and graduate and get a job.

Carrie Underwood in glittery stage makeup. Photograph: Randee St Nicholas

I wonder whether, performing before thousands of people in vast arenas, she still worries about what they might think when shes singing. A lot of times I feel like Im alone, she says. Im obviously aware of people being around me. But its like Im in the song alone on stage. It is a good place. I like to be alone. My husband is probably the only person this planet I couldve married my mom, when I told her I was engaged, was even like I just never really thought youd get married. And so I feel like when Im alone and singing and I hear nothing but music, its a nice place to be.

A recent study found that lately country music has moved away from its familiar subjects of hardship and heartbreak towards party songs. Theres a lot of songs that arent actually saying too much, she says. Fun songs to listen along to; party vibe. She pauses. It makes my skin crawl when I hear somebody say Gurrrl in a song, you know?

Underwood prefers the traditional themes:the woman wronged, the sorrow worn. She will stand looking immaculate in a pretty frock, singing about hard times, being cheated on, drinking, messing up her unfaithfuls car. I hope people know you gotta have a little crazy in ya! she laughs. Ive got long blond hair and I like glitter But theres a little crazy in there, and I like that to come out every once in a while. I went through a phase where I killed a lot of people she mentionsthe Blown Away album in which the body count included Cupid hunted down with a shotgun and an alcoholic father taken out by a tornado. I have no idea why, but I wanted everything to be cinematic and dramatic. This album, things were a little more on the emotional side.

Last autumn, as she launched Cry Pretty, she spoke openly of the experience of suffering three miscarriages in the course of two years, and how that loss coloured many of the new songs, capturing the time when I was still trying to do my job and put on a smiley happy face and be Carrie Underwood. And then Id go home and fall apart.

Watch the video for Cry Pretty

The response to her speaking openly about miscarriage has been deeply moving. Its something that people dont really talk about, she says. Even people who are my friends and I know well, after I talked about it were like, My gosh, me too! And I feel like its something I shouldve known about them.

She takes a moment. I think you feel silly being so attached to something that you knew about for this long, she says, and holds up her fingers a short distance apart. But I still feel it, you know. I mean it took me a while to be able to sing certain songs and be able to get through them without really going there. It doesnt go away. Ever.

Today she finds singing songs such as Cry Pretty and Low difficult but therapeutic. I guess you wait for things to stop hurting at some point, she says gently. But letting yourself go there … other people that are going through the same thing, it kind of connects you to them. I will always mourn those children, those lives that were a shooting star, a breath of smoke, but I have Jacob, and he is incredible, he is the sweetest little baby. At the time it was awful, and it still hurts, but its kind of like OK, I have this.

Big stage she wrote and co-produced her album. Photograph: Ralph Larmann

Underwoods producer, David Garcia, says the number one question she gets asked is whether or not she genuinely writes songs, or does she just show up and Instagram the whole time? Underwood not only writes, she also co-produced this record an anomaly in the male-dominated world of country music. I mean, I get it: if you were a songwriter in Nashville, and 90-plus per cent of artists are male, are you going to go into your writing session and write a song for a woman?

She looks resolute. It doesnt bother me, she says. Ill do it myself. She pours one last glass before she heads to the bus and the crying baby. But we do it all. In high heels. Ill be waking up at God knows what time in the morning feeding my baby no one else can do that, and Im proud of that.

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In the absurd yet absurdly compulsive drama What/If, the Oscar winner makes an unlikely comeback as a devious, scenery-chewing billionaire

Its tricky to explain Renee Zellwegers new Netflix show What/If to somebody who hasnt seen it, because its an exercise in diametrically opposed contradictions. Its a sexy thriller, even though its about as sexy as slow-transit constipation. Its unique selling point is that it follows the consequences of actions, even though that also describes every single story ever told by anyone in the entire history of humankind. Its a television series, even though its title is punctuated like a sub-tier early noughties boyband.

And most importantly, I cant stop watching it, even though I hate it.

What I can say with confidence is that What/If is trash. The pilot episode was directed by the man who directed Sharon Stones 1993 boobathon Sliver, who appears to have been preserved in amber ever since the moment that film wrapped. The characters, the dialogue, the sets and costumes and music are all firmly in mid-90s, low-budget erotic thriller territory, and theres barely a concession to modernity to be found anywhere. Its confusing, too; the second scene takes place a year after the first scene, but the third scene takes place three days before the second scene. Whats more, almost all of the episodes establishing shots take place during a thunderstorm for some genuinely unfathomable reason.

One of the lead characters runs a struggling molecular sequencing company, despite being so aggressively stupid that its a wonder she ever figured out cutlery. The profession is an afterthought clearly, nobody from the writer down cares a jot about the nuts and bolts of molecular sequencing but it adds a vaguely futuristic sheen to the series, giving it shades of a Hallmark Channel Black Mirror reboot.

Taken on the surface, What/If looks like a grand error; like another Cloverfield Paradox sold off to Netflix in a fire sale because its studio couldnt believe what a clunker it was. But thats the weird thing about What/If. I think and I might be wrong, because this is pure conjecture that its trashiness might actually be sort of deliberate.

The best case for this argument lies with Zellwegers character, a sexually voracious billionaire puppetmaster taken to wandering around her sprawling apartment late at night pontificating about the nature of destiny versus free will into a 2010-model dictaphone. Read that sentence back. That has to be deliberate, right? No sensible person, with the possible exception of EL James, would ever create a character this preposterous on purpose, surely. And I havent even mentioned her primary hobby yet. Its doing archery in her kitchen. Of course it is.

And Zellweger relishes every second of it. Its a huge, camp, scenery-licking wink of a performance that channels every broad rich bitch trope you care to imagine. Shes the sort of person who writes AT ANY COST in block capitals on a piece of paper before we smash-cut to a day when her new book At Any Cost has become an epoch-defining bestseller. Shes the sort of person who keeps her keys in an enormous plexiglass cube in the middle of the room. Shes the sort of person who, when her butler sniffs that one of kitchen arrows has hit the target left of centre, smirks: Three words no one has ever used to describe me.

What/If might be the best worst show, but then again it also might be the worst worst show. Photograph: Erik Voake/Netflix

In What/If, Zellwegers character meets a barman and invites him home. He declines, and so she escalates her offer. For one night with him, she offers to pay his wife (the molecular sequencer) $80m to rescue her ailing molecular sequencing business. Its a plot, as the sequencer states in a rare moment of self-awareness, thats been ripped out of a bad 90s movie. But it doesnt end there, because it starts to look as if Zellweger chose the barman deliberately in order to ignite a bizarre Rube Goldberg sequence of events.

Which is silly, right? The whole plot is so gaudy that it has to be tongue in cheek. But the thing is, Zellweger is the exception here. The rest of the characters, and all the subplots, are tedious and witless and played absolutely straight. Had What/If been The Renee Zellweger Show, it would have been fantastic. As it stands, shes the only thing saving the series from terminal mediocrity.

So, yes, What/If is tricky to explain. It isnt the best show youll ever see. It isnt even the worst best show. It might be the best worst show, but then again it also might be the worst worst show. Honestly, Im stumped.

  • What/If is available on Netflix from 24 May

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Short-form content has graduated from YouTube to attracting big stars, big studios and big Hollywood backing. Is watching in snippets the future of TV?

State of the Union opens in a bar, where Tom (Chris ODowd) and Louise (Rosamund Pike) hash out an agenda for their marital therapy session over drinks and witty diversions. The two banter and alternately confront and avoid the flailing state of their marriage, before the scene cuts at the therapists door.

And by scene, I mean episode. Each instalment of State of the Union, developed and written by Nick Hornby for Sundance TV, lasts a mere 10 minutes less than half the length of a standard sitcom, and just over a tenth of the latest episode of Game of Thrones. The show, with its two principal characters and single-scene conceit, is peak TV in short-form, specifically designed to fit the time spent between subway stops. At 100 minutes a season, its a refreshing antidote to seemingly endless hours of original shows, said Daniel DAddario, chief TV critic at Variety. There are so many shows nowadays where I think people really feel the burn, because shows can be as long as creators and streaming services want them to be, and they can often be longer than consumers need them to be, he told the Guardian.

Short-form content is not new ask anyone who has gone down a YouTube hole of music videos, makeup tutorials or cooking how-tos but State of the Union represents a growing trend of snackable, stylish short-form from some of Hollywoods major players.

Netflix recently debuted two series with episodes of about 15 minutes: Special, a show about life as a gay man with cerebral palsy adapted from writer and star Ryan OConnells memoir, and Bonding, a series based on creator Rightor Doyles past as the bodyguard for a dominatrix. Just last week, Adult Swim greenlit the quarter-hour comedy series Three Busy Debras, from star Sandy Honig (Isnt It Romantic) and producer Amy Poehler. And the upcoming short-form video platform Quibi arriving from Hollywood titan Jeffrey Katzenberg, formerly the head of Dreamworks, and former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman announced the series #Freerayshawn, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring If Beale Street Could Talk breakout star Stephan James.

In other words, short-form has gone prestige. Once the purview of DIY YouTubers and aspiring creatives looking for a big break (Issa Rae graduated from the minutes-long webseries The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl to HBOs full-length comedy Insecure), short-form now commands a deep well of resources the backing of major studios, streaming-service budgets and top talent. And as the slate of original content continues to expand, scripted short-form TV may become the most contested battleground for heavyweight tech and content companies, as everyone from Snap to YouTube to Sundance TV compete for a quarter-hour snippet of attention.

A still from Special Photograph: Netflix

Katzenberg has declared the shift to short-form as era-defining, telling a crowd at South by Southwest: Five years from now, we want to come back on this stage and if we were successful, there will have been the era of movies, the era of television and the era of Quibi. What Google is to search, Quibi will be to short-form video.

Quibi, short for quick-bite, is a $5 a month subscription service that will break full-length TV and movies into mobile-optimized six to 10 minute chunks. Set to launch in April 2020, the service is already worth more than $1bn and is developing projects with Lena Waithe, Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, Justin Timberlake and a Fatal Attraction 2.0 thriller with Naomi Watts.

Its still too early to tell whether Quibis world of short-form will fundamentally reshape the hierarchy of Hollywood content. But shows like State of the Union have already demonstrated that scripted short-form can open up TV to new formats and voices that might not otherwise make it to series in a traditional length.

Special and Bonding, for example, both feature marginalized perspectives who challenge the TV status quo, and were probably considered a risk in finding a broad audience on broadcast. Netflixs vice-president of product, Todd Yelling, has said that the decision to go short, standard or long depends on the material. Its really about flexibility in storytelling. Some stories are best told in six minutes and some stories are best told in 10 hours, he told Variety in March.

State of the Union isnt about inclusion, but it is a show that for many reasons couldnt really work at 30 minutes because of Rosamund Pikes stature, because of the kind of story that its trying to tell, said DAddario. Each episode is less truncated sitcom than entry in a length-based genre a short story to a novel, DAddario said, made possible by the proliferation of streaming. Streaming presents this real opportunity to experiment that on broadcast and even on a lot of cable, you cant really do a shorter show, he said. Youre locked into these time slots and these formats.

Chris ODowd and Rosamund Pike in State of the Union. Photograph: Marc Hom/SundanceTV

For Sundance TV, which has both a cable arm and a streaming service, the quality of the short product justified the risk of finding viewers. We loved the idea of using these incredibly talented people to break new ground in television, its executive director Jan Diedrichsen said to the Guardian. Sundance TV played each new episode of State of the Union linearly, at 10pm each night, and made them available for streaming at 5pm, in time for the evening commute. If youre on the train, youre on the bus, youre carpooling, what a great time to be able to catch 10 minutes of an episode in a way that a 50-minute episode may not be open to you, said Diedrichsen of the reasoning.

DAddario said thats exactly how he watched I Think You Should Leave, Tim Robinsons 15-minute sketch comedy show on Netflix and enjoyed it.

These kind of fast-moving 15-minute shows that are trying to do a couple things really well, and are youre in and youre out in a quarter of an hour, are a really satisfying mobile experience.

I love the fact that the creativity around this format really gives you a different sort of satisfying feel in premium television, said Diedrichsen of the length experiment. While its too soon to know how viewers responded to State of the Union did they watch episodes individually? All at once? Diedrichsen loves how the show takes the short-form structure and it makes it premium. The talent, the production values everything about it feels prestige and high-end.

Snappy dialogue, expensive lighting, slick production its the hallmarks of so-called prestige TV, pared down to the anti-Thrones extreme. In that way, the new short-form is as characteristic of the streaming era as is an overlong, somewhat bloated series, said DAddario.

I started watching State of the Union for this piece, intending to get a taste of the format through two or three episodes. But soon I fell into the rhythm of binge-watching, that liminal space where real-life hours become show minutes and the pull of responsibilities faded with each autoplay. Its not unusual for me to lose a whole sleepless night to an engaging seven episodes of TV. This time, though, it was just my lunch break.

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From an unlikely bodega musical to the return of Opera Man, a patchy season still brought with it some hilarious moments

Saturday Night Live finished its 44th season this past weekend which means its time to look back at the periods best moments. If theres anything to be gleaned from this highly subjective list, its that the show is at its best when avoiding political and pop culture headlines (which, to be fair, no one seems up to the task of adequately satirizing any more), and instead focusing on weirdness and idiosyncrasy.

So here are 10 of the best sketches from this past season:

10. Colin Jost and Michael Che swap jokes

Much of the critical ire aimed at the show these days is directed specifically at Weekend Update hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che and for good reason. At best, Jost and Che come across as bland and indifferent; at worst, as smarmy frat boys. But when the duo wrote jokes for one another and forced each other to read them on air, sight unseen, they showed they have the potential to use that same unlikability to their advantage. The malicious, envelope-pushing humor they display here is funny beyond its shock value, especially the edgy racial material written by Che for Jost.

9. Paranormal Occurrence

Of all of Kate McKinnons recurring weirdo characters, theres none so consistently hilarious as Coleen Rafferty the unflappable, chain-smoking southern schlemiel who finds herself on the disgusting end of some paranormal mischief. The character made two appearances this year, and while both were excellent, the first gets the edge thanks to its particularly creative references to genitalia.

8. Bodega Bathroom

This high-concept parody of Broadway and movie musicals everything from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to Rent set around a filthy New York bodega bathroom manages to make excellent use of almost the entire cast while juggling a series of difficult songs and impressive costumes, props and staging.

7. HSN

This deranged and profane sketch about a guest on the Home Shopping Network who leaves her wares in the Uber she took to the studio and then proceeds to verbally immolate herself on live TV is a masterclass of ratcheting hilarity. Cecily Strong is wonderful as the sympathetic but psychotic loser at its center, and things get even better when Aidy Bryant shows up as her monstrous mother and pulls everything into full-blown southern Gothic territory. Credit as well to host Claire Foy, whose subtle reactions are as good as the others histrionics.

6. Opera Man Returns

When it was announced that Adam Sandler would be returning to SNL for the first time since he was fired over two decades ago, hopes ran high that hed bring back some of his memorable characters. While Canteen Boy was nowhere to be found, Opera Man did make a glorious return to the Weekend Update desk. Sandler showed he still has the chops to pull off the character, while reminding us of what a great performer he can be when his heart is in the material.

5. Charmin

James McAvoy was one of the best hosts of the season, and this sketch which finds a focus group made up of idiots answering questions about a Charmin toilet paper commercial was the clear breakout from his episode. His scatalogically obsessed Philly meathead proved an instantly classic character, and if SNL is smart itll find an excuse to bring him back every couple of years to reprise the role.

4. Weezer

From thinkpieces to Reddit forums to entire podcasts, the question of when (or more generously, if) Weezer went downhill has given music nerds plenty to debate. SNL managed to capture this very specific argument beautifully in the standout sketch from its Christmas episode. While viewers unfamiliar with the alt-pop-punk icons might have been left scratching their heads, this was a true gift for fans (and detractors) of the group.

3. Whats That Name?

Already a sharp takedown of deeply ingrained cultural misogyny, what truly elevates this sketch is the psychological game of cat-and-mouse that develops between sinister talkshow host Vince Blake (Bill Hader) and dumb donkey contestant Todd (John Mulaney). Given their history as creative partners, its no surprise Hader and Mulaney displayed the best chemistry to be found anywhere within this season.

2. Chris Farley Tribute

Adam Sandlers homecoming provided one of the most moving moments in the history of Saturday Night Live when the comedian performed a tribute to fellow SNL alumnus and best friend Chris Farley, who died in 1997. The show had paid tribute to Farley on previous occasions, but none felt truly adequate until now. That Sandlers tribute was allowed to close out the show made it all the more powerful.

1. Career Day

The funniest, most gonzo, most rewatchable sketch of the entire season came during its first episode. As decrepit but fiery oil baron Abraham H Parnassus, Adam Driver turned in a character for the ages a cross between The Simpsons Monty Burns and There Will Be Bloods Daniel Plainview, all by way of Vincent Price (Drivers impression even managed to eclipse Haders). Everything in this sketch is pure gold every line of dialogue, every choice Driver makes, every interaction he has with the rest of the cast. Even Davidsons breaking adds to the electricity of it all. Parnassus could probably carry an entire movie, but for now well have to settle for this perfect five-minute sketch.

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The Emmy-winning creator of the hit crime drama series will revive the franchise with a 60s-set film featuring some familiar characters

David Chase is set to return to the universe of The Sopranos with a big screen-prequel.

The script, with the working title of The Many Saints of Newark, has been purchased by New Line and will be set against the backdrop of the Newark riots of the 1960s. It was written by Chase and Lawrence Konner, who has previously written for The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire.

David is a masterful storyteller and we, along with our colleagues at HBO, are thrilled that he has decided to revisit, and enlarge, the Soprano universe in a feature film, New Lines chairman, Toby Emmerich, said.

According to Deadline, details are scarce but the script will see some familiar characters from the show appear. The HBO drama ran for six seasons, winning 21 Emmys and making stars of James Gandolfini and Edie Falco.

In 2016, Chase spoke about the possibility of a prequel with Deadline. Ive said it from the beginning: if I had a really good idea and I thought it could be really entertaining and it wouldnt upset what was done I might do it, he said. Last year, when speaking to Entertainment Weekly, he suggested that he was more open to the idea. I could conceive of maybe a prequel of The Sopranos, he said. I could never see [a return of the show] except as a prequel.

Since the end of The Sopranos, Chase wrote and directed music drama Not Fade Away in 2012. It received mainly positive reviews yet was a box office disappointment, making just $600,000 from a $20m budget.

The 1967 Newark riots saw four days of looting and violence that led to the deaths of 26 people. They were the result of a long-running feeling of disenfranchisement among black people who had been racially profiled, subjected to violence from the authorities, and denied opportunities. The inciting incident was an act of police brutality against a black taxi driver.

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The ultra-conservative politician has once again made himself look foolish while invoking the cartoon. But you have got to love his cultural masochism

To listen to Ted Cruz discuss The Simpsons at this weeks Conservative Political Action Conference is to witness a man who does not deserve The Simpsons. In what may well be the least accurate analogy of all time, Cruz said: I think the Democrats are the party of Lisa Simpson and the Republicans are, happily, the party of Homer and Bart and Maggie and Marge.

Where to start? First, Maggie is a baby who communicates exclusively in non-verbal cues, so assigning any political affiliation to her seems presumptuous. Second, the episode The Way We Was contains a flashback of Marge burning her bra during a feminist rally at school, which suggests a core of progressive liberalism. Bart, as has been pointed out elsewhere, demonstrates all the traits of libertarianism. Homer might be Republican, but then again Homer is a man so stupid that he once caused a nuclear meltdown in a van that contained no nuclear material whatsoever. And, yes, Lisa is a Democrat. Specifically, shes a Democrat who literally becomes president in order to fix the mess left by Donald Trump.

So, Ted Cruz is wrong. But whats really strange is that Cruz loves The Simpsons. Honestly, try shutting the man up about The Simpsons. He tweets clips of The Simpsons when he wants to make political points. One of the many highlights of his aborted presidential campaign was a BuzzFeed video where he attempted to impersonate as many Simpsons characters as possible. He has discussed his favourite Simpsons episodes at length in public, those episodes being Round Springfield (in which Bleeding Gums Murphy dies) and Treehouse of Horror VII (in which aliens disguise themselves as Bill Clinton and Bob Dole). Honestly, the man loves The Simpsons almost as much as he loves repeatedly getting accused of being the Zodiac killer.

Leaving aside the fact that anyone who claims to enjoy Treehouse of Horror episodes cannot possibly be a true Simpsons fan if only he had picked Cape Feare or And Maggie Makes Three or The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show this once again demonstrates how tough it must be to be a rightwing fan of pop culture. Because, make no mistake, this is not a two-way street. Simpsons showrunner Al Jean spent hours slamming Cruz last night, while actors such as Yeardley Smith and Harry Shearer have taken potshots at him over the years.

Cruz is not an isolated incident, either. When Trump used Neil Youngs Rockin in the Free World to announce his candidacy, Young asked him to stop. When David Cameron proclaimed his love for The Smiths, Johnny Marr banned him from liking the Smiths. When the NRA used a Parks and Recreation gif in a tweet this week, Parks and Recreation creator Mike Schur asked them to delete the tweet, adding that Amy Poehler the star of the gif had told him to tell them I said fuck off.

In one sense, its logical for rightwing figures to enjoy culture made by leftwing creators, given that if you remove all leftwing art from the world youre left only with a handful of Wagner operas and a Tim Allen standup special. But at the same time, you have to admire their pluck. Again and again these people proclaim their love for bands or shows and again and again they weather an onslaught of criticism from their creators and it still doesnt stop them.

They must have such thick skin. Certainly thicker than mine. A few years ago Jemaine Clement, star of one of my all-time favourite television programmes, tweeted about something I had written he made a snotty comment about the wording of a headline that I had no say in and it stung so much that my enjoyment of Flight of the Conchords dropped by a couple of points.

But there will be none of that with Cruz. He loves The Simpsons so much that he will keep on discussing it in public, no matter how hard Jean and the cast openly profess their hatred for him. You know what that means? It means Cruz is the greatest Simpsons superfan of them all. Or maybe it means hes just really dumb. That might also explain it.

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The True Blood actor takes glee in pricking the pomposity of his profession and wonders if he should be an architect instead, says Tim Lewis

Alexander Skarsgrd: Hollywood is very silly. People are so anxious

The True Blood actor takes glee in pricking the pomposity of his profession and wonders if he should be an architect instead

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Actor and singer who became a teen idol thanks to The Partridge Family but always hated his superstar status

Girls are following me around theyre ruining my whole life! cried Keith Partridge in a fraught moment on the 1970s sitcom The Partridge Family. Keith, played by David Cassidy, was the shows heartthrob, and for its four-year run Cassidys offscreen life mirrored his. Teenage girls didnt just follow him around they spirited themselves into hotels, camped in the air-conditioning unit of his house and howled at the sight of him. At his peak he received 25,000 letters a week and his fan club was said to be the biggest in the music business.

Cassidy, who has died aged 67 after several years of living with dementia, was a new kind of teen idol. While the Monkees had been groundbreakers in using television as a route to adolescent hearts, Cassidys weekly appearances were just one strand of an unprecedented marketing plan. Recognising that his run at the top would be brief, the TV studio ensured that every possible cash stream was exploited: 12-hour filming days were followed by night-time recording sessions both for his own albums and those released under the Partridge Family name and weekends were spent playing concerts.

If there was a surface where his photo could appear, it did on everything from lunchboxes and plastic guitars to pillowcases and dresses. The merchandising earned Cassidys handlers about $500m of which, he claimed in a lawsuit in 2011, he received only $5,000 and turned the young performer into a worldwide star.


Share your memories and tributes to David Cassidy

If you have memories and tributes to David Cassidy you can share them via our form here. There’s also an option to upload any photos you may have perhaps of a meeting with Cassidy or some memorabilia.

Most teen idols eventually find fame a grind, but Cassidy resented it almost from the start. His aim was to be recognised as a serious actor, but that was scuppered by playing cute Keith, the eldest of five singing siblings. I was pigeonholed as a teen idol [and] theres no credibility, he said in the 80s. I paid a tremendous personal price its a very empty, isolated, lonely existence.

He often reminisced bitterly about the turn his career had taken: just before The Partridge Family, he had believed he was on his way to professional acclaim after winning one-off roles in a handful of US TV dramas. But while he proved competent, nothing could distract attention from his fine-boned prettiness. Even before The Partridge Family launched in 1970, the teen magazines were circling, with introductory articles such as David & Those Special Kisses. Gloria Stavers, editor of the top-selling 16 magazine, said: Id been waiting for [someone like] him for years. Cassidy, for his part, responded: Ill feel really good when its over.

Cassidy performing in Birmingham in 2012. Photograph: Steve Thorne/Getty Images

Born in Manhattan, New York, David was the only child of Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward, both actors. His parents divorced when he was six, and at 11 he moved to Los Angeles to live with Jack and his second wife, the actor Shirley Jones, who later played his mother in The Partridge Family. David had a fractious relationship with his father, an alcoholic who resented both Joness success and his sons eventual superstardom. Jack died in a house fire in 1976, and David later spent five years in therapy to gain perspective.

His father had spurred his interest in acting, however, which he followed as soon as he finished school. Moving back to Manhattan, in 1969 he landed a role in a Broadway show, The Fig Leaves are Falling. It closed after four nights, but a casting director spotted him during the run and he returned to California, where he quickly picked up TV roles that deployed his ability to project boyish, fresh-faced vulnerability.

His stint as Keith Partridge made him an instant star. At 20, he looked young enough to pass for 16-year-old Keith, but where Keith was wholesome, Cassidy dabbled in drugs and loved the blues, once boasting that BB King had let him carry his guitar. The disconnect wasnt apparent to fans, who assumed he and Keith were interchangeable in 1972, a frustrated Cassidy made a point of posing naked for Rolling Stone magazine, and revealed in the accompanying interview his partiality to drink, drugs and sex. Though his fans were shocked and titillated, the article did not achieve his primary aim, which was to attract a more mature audience.

He had been hired on the show as an actor rather than a singer, but when his surprisingly resonant voice turned out to be more than passable, he was drafted in to add real-life vocals to the songs mimed every week (he and Jones were the only cast members who sang on Partridge Family albums). He had huge hits with both Partridge material and his own records. The first Partridge single, I Think I Love You (1970), reportedly sold 4m copies, and some of Cassidys own records, notably Cherish (1971), How Can I Be Sure (1972) and Daydreamer (1973), were inescapable on early-70s radio.

One of his biggest markets was the UK, where, in 1974, a 14-year-old fan was crushed during a crowd surge at one of his London gigs and died several days later. Cassidy had already announced his retirement from both touring and The Partridge Family; after the girls death, although he continued to make records and act, his idol status began to dissipate.

He had moderate success as a more adult rocker, returning to the UK Top 10 in 1985 with the dramatic ballad The Last Kiss. He also received an Emmy nomination in 1978 for an appearance in the US drama Police Story.

The 90s and 2000s were filled with jobs in Broadway and West End musicals, including a well-received turn in Blood Brothers. He also appeared in Las Vegas and on the 2011 series of Celebrity Apprentice, the latter after being persuaded by the then host, Donald Trump.

Cassidy was married three times: to Kay Lenz (1977-83), Meryl Tanz (1984-88) and Sue Shifrin, a songwriter, whom he married in 1991. He and Shifrin had a son, Beau, and he had a daughter, Katie, with Sherry Williams, a model.

His last decade was punctuated with problems caused by alcoholism. Between 2010 and 2014 he was arrested three times for drink-driving and he was sentenced to 90 days in rehab after the 2014 offence. The sentence coincided with Shifrin filing for divorce, followed a year later by Cassidy declaring bankruptcy. He continued to tour, but fans complained that he seemed drunk onstage and was forgetting lyrics to his songs. In February, after falling down at a concert, he revealed that he had dementia, the disease of which his mother and maternal grandfather had died.

His children survive him, as do Jones and his half-brothers, Shaun, Ryan and Patrick, from her marriage to his father.

David Bruce Cassidy, singer and actor, born 12 April 1950; died 21 November 2017

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