- This is the Denise Richards Fan Club now.
- Behind the scenes of Game of Thrones.
- “Reese Witherspoon” on the Street.
- The TV performance of the week.
- The comedy gathering of my dreams.
The Casting Achievement of the Decade
There’s no underselling the pop-culture miracle that is a perfectly cast show.
Most of Hollywood is just storm chasers at this point, running around studio backlots trying to capture the lightning in a bottle that gave us the casts of All in the Family, Golden Girls, Friends, or Will & Grace. There should be a Nobel Prize for the person who, when presented with the potential catastrophe of Shelley Long leaving Cheers, brought in Kirstie Alley. In the industry, the name Allison Jones is as revered as the most famous showrunners and stars, as she’s the genius who filled out the casts of Freaks and Geeks, The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Veep.
What I’m saying is that when there is a stroke of casting genius, attention must be paid. We all should be grateful! It is a gift! And that is why we must officially recognize the brilliance of Bravo casting Denise Richards on this season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Scoff or dismiss this because it is Real Housewives, but that would be lame and so would you. It cannot be stressed enough how entertaining Richards is on that show.
She is refreshingly unfiltered, whether talking about her sex life with her extremely hot husband Aaron Phypers or casually spilling details about her time married to Charlie Sheen and having him as a continued part of her life, as he’s the father of two of her children. (She recently revealed that Sheen sheepishly showed up to Thanksgiving dinner with a hooker waiting in his car. “I’ll set a fucking plate,” she said. “Even a hooker deserves to have Thanksgiving dinner.”)
My favorite thing about having Denise Richards on Real Housewives, perhaps even more than her shrugs while dropping tabloid-ready tidbits, is when she just pops the balloon of everyone else’s bullshit. She has no poker face, just quizzical, WTF expressions as the other women build exhausting mountains out of drama molehills. Her “I literally have no idea what’s going on right now” attitude is the most important thing a reality TV show can have, a reality check—especially on a show like this where too much manufactured or self-serving plot can ruin the show, and the women don’t realize they’re their own worst enemies in that regard.
She brings out the best in her longtime friend Lisa Rinna, who has always been my favorite on the show but needed a bit of recentering this year. Richards’ appearance on the show is the best kind of surprise, one that reveals that a celebrity is not who we may have assumed them to be. She’s an extremely warm, loving parent, without a hint of narcissism or vapidity about her.
Given how great she and Rinna are on the show, I wonder what other celebrities of that era and that level of fame are lining up at the Bravo offices desperate to join the show. Courtney Thorne-Smith? Yasmine Bleeth? A cast member from Wings?
One day when the royal babies—I have newborn twin nephews!—are all grown up and they ask me what TV was like “back then,” you bet that what will follow is a seven-minute monologue about when Denise Richards joined The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
The Game of Thrones Documentary Was So Good
It’s a lame joke, but I’m gonna make it anyway. The documentary about the last season of Game of Thrones that aired Sunday night on HBO was more enjoyable to watch than the final episodes themselves!
The Last Watch was a two-hour look at what went into making the last season of the show. The documentary was a fascinating peek behind the scenes of the largest television production, like, ever. Turns out making Game of Thrones was a lot of work!
You follow some incredible production people, including the location manager, the woman in charge of Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys wig, the snack stand lady who feeds the entire crew at wee hours of the night, and a person lays out all the fake snow in Winterfell, whose job title is literally Head of Snow.
By far my favorite people in the documentary were Sarah and Barrie Gower, a married couple who were head of the prosthetics unit. They were so sweet and unassuming, as they rigged severed arms and calibrated how much fake blood to put in a zombie flesh wound. They had to leave their daughter behind for months to work on the show, which was incredibly hard on them. Then the daughter flies in to be in an extra in the show’s final scene. I cried.
It’s a fascinating documentary. There’s no look in the writer’s room, however, I guess confirming what we learned while watching the final season: There wasn’t one! Hey-o!
Billy on the Street Is Still TV’s Funniest Sketch Show
There is a segment of Billy on the Street, the form-shifting sketch series in which Billy Eichner runs around New York City screaming absurdist pop-culture trivia questions at unsuspecting pedestrians, sometimes with a celebrity in tow, in which Julianne Moore performs iconic monologues from her past films that ranks among the most brilliant bits of comedy I have ever seen.
Eichner’s show is now released sporadically as standalone videos with celebrity guests, but it is as delightfully demented as ever. Case in point, this week he hit the streets with Kate McKinnon, who the entire time pretended to be Reese Witherspoon. Most people go along with it. It’s a ridiculous bit. It’s wonderful. Watch it here.
The TV Performance of the Week
Ava DuVernay’s Netflix limited series When They See Us is essential viewing, an artfully made and wrenching reintroduction to the Central Park Five, five black teens from Harlem who, in 1989, were coerced into confessing to and wrongfully convicted of the rape of a jogger in Central Park, spending between six and 13 years in jail before being exonerated in 2002.
Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Anton McCray, Yusef Salam, and Korey Wise were collectively referred to as the Central Park Five by the media, which vilified them. Donald Trump took a full-page ad out in The New York Times calling for the death penalty to be reinstated for them. And, even after their exoneration, their individual identities were never fully explored or their stories told. DuVernay does so beautifully, not abandoning them once they were put behind bars but continuing to show what their lives were like in prison and how the injustice affected their lives after release.
The show is impeccably cast—to revisit the subject from earlier—with Niecy Nash, Michael K. Williams, and Vera Farmiga doing excellent work in supporting roles. But it’s Jharrel Jerome, the only actor to play one of the Five, Korey Wise, both as a teen and as an adult, who knocked me out. It’s a subtle, powerful performance, one of the most devastating I’ve seen this year.
In a recent interview, DuVernay said, “My prayer for Jharrel is, may opportunities come for this young black man in the ways that they come for Ansel Elgort.” Amen.
The Hollywood Conversation of My Dreams
Award season campaigning has, by this point, spun completely out of control. It is an industry unto itself, with FYC screenings and panels and special interviews and profiles, costing millions of dollars and occupying months of media attention, multiplied by hundreds of contenders, many of whom don’t stand a chance of receiving nominations. It’s dumb! It’s a waste! I don’t like it!
Now that Kranky Kevin™ has had his say, there is one thing that I look forward to every year, and that is The Hollywood Reporter roundtable of Best Actress contenders. THR does these with actors and directors, too. They suck. The women are inherently more interesting, more revealing, and, inspired by the camaraderie of being together, have the most fun. Duh.
The Best Actress roundtables also typically double as a rotating edition of “Kevin’s Dream Dinner Party.” This week, that party was attended by Maya Rudolph, Jane Fonda, Tiffany Haddish, Regina Hall, Natasha Lyonne, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Alex Borstein for a Comedy Actress discussion. I mean…!!!
The whole thing is obviously worth reading. I am so excited for you to get the part when Jane Fonda compassionately clutches Maya Rudolph’s hand while tearfully talking about a fear of abandonment and Natasha Lyonne asks Phoebe Waller-Bridge if she’ll ever do “face nudity.”
What to watch this week:
The Handmaid’s Tale: Take a break from watching The Handmaid’s Tale unfold in real life on the news to watch it unfold on Hulu.
Rocketman: It’s thoroughly enjoyable! Not much more to say!
Always Be My Maybe: If a movie title inspired by a Mariah Carey song didn’t already grab your attention, this rom-com stars Ali Wong and Randall Park.
The Weekly: Yay, journalism!
What to skip this week:
Ma: So bad it’s fun, but I can’t in good faith say “spend money on this and not Booksmart, Rocketman, or anything else, really.”
Godzilla: King of the Monsters: Biiiiig pass.