“The Good Fight” Is Taking On Free Speech In Donald Trump’s America

Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart on The Good Fight.

Patrick Harbron / CBS

There has never been a steadier stream of jaw-dropping news to satirize — and The Good Fight is certainly taking advantage of that.

The series — which tackles fake news, freedom of speech, and, most recently, the alt-right, the political movement grounded in white nationalism — has been approaching contemporary politics with the same ripped-from-the-headlines immediacy as its predecessor, The Good Wife, ever since the first scene of the pilot: Die-hard Hillary Clinton supporter Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) watched the inauguration of Donald Trump in horror.

The show, co-created by Robert and Michelle King, is not solely critical of the right either — The Good Fight makes a point to satirize liberals as well, as in the incessant badgering of attorney Julius Cain (Michael Boatman) with anti-Trump talking points. Robert King believes any suggestion that TV should pander to Trump voters is actually a “TV executive attitude toward patronizing an audience” that underestimates the intelligence of conservatives. “When they say that, they mean dumb it down to dumb jokes and set things in the Midwest,” he told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview. “There’s a sense that one side of the political divide has a monopoly on intelligence. I don’t know if that’s the case.”

Michelle and Robert King.

Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images

Even the opening titles of the CBS All Access spinoff underscore the sense of disorder that many people have been feeling since the November 2016 election: Familiar items — a vase, a laptop, a gavel — suddenly explode from within.

The sequence “is a very good representation of our times — everything’s just exploding,” Robert said. “That makes it a very interesting time to write. Not necessarily a better time to live or have kids, but it’s a very interesting time to be writing.”

The Good Fight follows Diane, a central character on The Good Wife, after she has her finances wiped out by a Ponzi scheme and is forced to delay her retirement by finding new work at a largely black law firm, Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad. Joining her are The Good Wife’s Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) and Diane’s goddaughter, Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie) — the daughter of the financial adviser who may have bilked Diane out of millions.

The most recent installments of The Good Fight have explored the limits of freedom of expression. The March 12 episode, “Stoppable: Requiem for an Airdate,” focused on a fictionalized version of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’s Trump-inspired episode, which has not aired, while the March 19 episode, “Social Media and Its Discontents,” guest starred John Cameron Mitchell as a character inspired by recently disgraced alt-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos. The fear of censorship is a particularly pressing concern for the executive producers of a politically charged TV series.

“The worrisome thing is, the show survives on saying things that outrage people,” Robert said. “These are the things that people get into fights talking about, whether religion or sex or money, and so to have free speech under threat, or [Trump] calling the press the enemy of the people is worrisome.”

The Kings stressed that they have not had to face any censorship head-on: CBS has been supportive of everything they’ve wanted to do on the series. (And The Good Fight, because it’s streaming, also allows for the swear words and bare asses that couldn’t make it onto The Good Wife.)

John Cameron Mitchell guest-stars as the Milo Yiannopoulos-inspired Felix Staples.

Elizabeth Fisher / CBS

The key to exploring contentious issues, for the Kings, is to avoid getting preachy. “The last thing we would want to do is grandstand in that way,” Michelle King said. “Because we wouldn’t want to be around people in life who did that. We certainly don’t want to be around people in fiction that do it.”

And the Kings are committed to writing satire that is still bitingly funny — while taking into account the very real fear that many of their viewers are experiencing. It’s a fine line to walk, but they continue to believe, as they did on The Good Wife, that trusting in their characters is the best course of action.

“We’re hoping that we approach these things in a way that’s a little different — if there’s comedy to be mined, if not in the thing itself then other people’s reactions to it — so dread doesn’t really play in,” Michelle said. “Long before the Trump administration, we always tried to stay away from whatever was earnest.”

Cush Jumbo as Lucca Quinn.

Patrick Harbron / CBS

Also like The Good Wife before it, The Good Fight does not cap off its episodes with tidy morals about how to go forward, head held high, in a world that seems suddenly against you. But while Julianna Margulies’ Alicia Florrick is no longer around to offer her well-reasoned opinion, there are clear perspectives articulated by characters like Diane, who often emerges as the moral center of this universe. At the end of the most recent episode, she tells Mitchell’s Felix Staples that while she hates what he’s saying, she’ll defend his right to say it.

Even while eschewing sincerity, Michelle admitted that addressing issues like free speech and censorship through the series is a good way to work through their own complicated feelings. “It allows you to feel just a touch less powerless if you’re able to put it into your show,” she said.

“It must be whatever people use Twitter for,” Robert added.

If Trump is watching The Good Fight, he hasn’t yet sent out any tweets about it the way he has about other entertainment critical of him, including Saturday Night Live and a Snoop Dogg music video. If he did or if he plans to, it would be an inspired instance of life imitating art: The March 12 episode’s final twist came in the form of a fictional Trump tweet, which transformed the case from an issue of copyright infringement to one of free speech.

When asked if she hoped President Trump would eventually respond, Michelle said, “My hope is that he’s taking care of the needs of the country and not worrying about a streaming show.”

One Of The Best-Known Film Composers In The World Is Calling Out Sexism

Courtesy of MasterClass

Oscar-winning film composer Hans Zimmer says filmmakers who hire him are still taking a “huge gamble,” despite the hundreds of credits to his name. “I am gonna try and come up with some crazy idea a lot of the time — it might not work out,” he told BuzzFeed News at the London West Hollywood in Los Angeles earlier this week. But he lobbed an even more “enormous” dare at filmmakers: Hire more women.

“A lot of female composers I know are better than me,” the acclaimed German musician and record producer said, citing Oscar winners Anne Dudley (The Full Monty, Elle, American History X) and Rachel Portman (Emma, Chocolat, The Joy Luck Club) as examples. “Shirley Walker could write a kick-ass action cue better than I ever could. … So take that risk.”

It’d be an understatement to say there’s a general lack of female composers working on major Hollywood movies: According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women made up just 3% of composers working on the top 250 highest-grossing films last year. Yes, there was one woman (Jackie’s Mica Levi) out of five nominees up for Best Original Score at the Oscars in February, but there were only six women among the 169 composers with eligible feature-length entries from 2016. (Compare that number to the nine potential nominees named John.)

Mica Levi at the 89th Annual Academy Awards

Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Explaining the source of the disparity, Zimmer cited “sheer bloody sexism” and “a lack of equality.” “All the things you know to be true are true,” he said. “They are not given a chance.”

Zimmer’s had firsthand experience with urging new musicians to make their way into what he calls his “weirdly conservative” world. He’s taught and mentored musicians out of his LA-based Remote Control Productions studio for 27 years, and more than 10,000 students have already signed up for his new MasterClass online course on film scoring, which launched this week. In his experience, he noted, the movie music realm can attract a homogenous crowd of artists.

Zimmer said he and Hidden Figures collaborator Pharrell Williams discussed just that topic while they worked together the first time, providing music supervision for the 2012 Oscars ceremony. “The people that apply for jobs at my studio are mostly white, and mostly male. Why is that?” Zimmer said he asked Williams, who then explained how racial barriers cause black film composers to remain underrepresented. “I broke down your door. … Do you have any idea how many doors and walls I had to break down to enter, just to get to your door?” Zimmer said Williams retorted.

Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer at the 2015 Grammy Awards

Larry Busacca / Getty Images

Similar barriers exist for female composers, Zimmer said. “Maybe the problem is, partly, that women have been so socialized and so beaten down by a system constantly denying them access that they don’t even try.”

He tipped his hat to Levi as an instigator of change in the film music world, as one of the rare women to have earned an Academy Award nomination. “She’s an exception. But you always need to have an exception to start leading the charge. She’s completely original and [does] completely brilliant work,” he said. “If something as conservative and established as the Oscars can actually [nominate] eclectic music,” then perhaps gender won’t be a consideration in the future, he mused.

Sheila E. and Prince in 2007

Vince Bucci / Getty Images

Zimmer also pointed out that artists like Prince — who “always had the tightest band ever” with players like Sheila E. and Wendy & Lisa — helped to change the game by including women in their ensembles. “This is everybody’s job in entertainment. We’re supposed to do something new. And not just new, but it needs to register. It needs to communicate. So if you’re leaving out 50% of the great communicators by leaving out women, then you’re only talking to half your audience.”

As for women who are making their way through the film-composing industry today, Zimmer has this advice: “Don’t think of yourself as anything other than an equal. Break down the doors. It’s only doors.”

Can We Just Decide Once And For All If The Beast Is Hotter Than The Prince?

Tale as hot as time…

I’m just gonna cut to the chase: Disney is all about giving us that sweet, sweet hunk of man candy.

I'm just gonna cut to the chase: Disney is all about giving us that sweet, sweet hunk of man candy.

Disney

And there’s no better candy than in Beauty and the Beast, aka that movie where one dude serves two very different looks.

And there's no better candy than in Beauty and the Beast, aka that movie where one dude serves two very different looks.

Disney

Only now that there’s the live-action version, we have four — count ’em, four — pieces of candy to choose from.

Only now that there's the live-action version, we have four — count 'em, four — pieces of candy to choose from.

Disney

There’s the classic animated Beast and his undeniably perfect baby blues.

There's the classic animated Beast and his undeniably perfect baby blues.

Disney


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People Think The Beast From “Beauty And The Beast” Is Hotter Than The Prince

Ready for Beast Mode, tbh.

Hi, hello, first off, I’d just like to say that this is a SAFE PLACE, and we’re here to talk about the Beast…who is hot AF.

Hi, hello, first off, I'd just like to say that this is a SAFE PLACE, and we're here to talk about the Beast...who is hot AF.

Haters can exit stage right, please.

Disney

HEAR ME OUT: This is Dan Stevens, who plays the Beast/the Prince, and here we can see him in his perfectly attractive human form.

HEAR ME OUT: This is Dan Stevens, who plays the Beast/the Prince, and here we can see him in his perfectly attractive human form.

Disney

And this is also Dan Stevens, in Beast form and, well…

And this is also Dan Stevens, in Beast form and, well...

Disney

I’m sorry, but the Beast is just way hotter than the Prince.

I'm sorry, but the Beast is just way hotter than the Prince.

vulture.com


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Attack Of The Conscientious Monster Movie

Kong: Skull Island.

Warner Bros.

The most interesting things about Kong: Skull Island are what it chooses to leave out — its female lead defined by the degree to which she’s no longer a damsel, its monster by how much he’s no longer a veiled figure of xenophobic dread. Kong: Skull Island deals with a story that’s beyond familiar — it’s the iconic one of the big screen’s biggest ape, first seen in silvery black and white in 1933, last played by a motion-captured Andy Serkis in Peter Jackson’s 2005 revamp, with other iterations in between.

Kong is one of those creations so woven into the fabric of pop culture that people who haven’t seen any of the movies he’s been featured in over the past 84 years still have a sense of what happens in them. His story is very famous and, from a contemporary perspective, fraught, replete with enough retrograde and racist elements that Kong: Skull Island ends up inventing whole swaths of new narrative to fill in the gaps and create something that, despite being set in the 1970s, feels contemporary.

Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) in Kong: Skull Island.

Chuck Zlotnick / Warner Bros.

King Kong is at its core a fable about Otherness, something the new movie, directed by The Kings of Summer’s Jordan Vogt-Roberts, struggles to reckon with. The characters in the original film blithely set forth for territory uncharted by Westerners, an actual “there be monsters” location whose inhabitants are portrayed as a collection of primitive, human-sacrificing stereotypes. They, like their simian god, are entranced by whiteness, offering to trade six local women for the “golden” Ann Darrow (a character, played in the original film by Fay Wray, who’s brought on the trip by a documentarian “because the public, bless ’em, must have a pretty face to look at”).

And Kong himself is a veiled figure of racist dread, an outsized projection of fears about black physicality and sexuality, a long history of simian slurs made literal. He’s an example of what film professor and historian Ed Guerrero referred to as “cinematic eruptions of socially repressed forces of sexuality that carry the threat of a dreaded primordial ‘blackness.’” He’s treated as an exotic, titillating spectacle to be put on stage for a formalwear-clad audience in a phantasmagoric parody of a slave auction — until he proves uncontrollable, loosing himself on white civilization and white women, at which point he’s put down.

Kong: Skull Island isn’t a particularly good movie, but it is a markedly conscientious one, aware of the baggage that needed to be shed from its source material while not entirely sure what to do in its place. It does try to have its giant ape be just a giant ape — fighting the rapacious lizard-like predators that one character nicknames “Skullcrawlers,” mourning his even more massive dead parents (the Kong family boneyard makes for a choice backdrop for a showdown), and bonding in a carefully lustless way with photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) over a shared recognition of the other’s compassion and desire to keep peace.

Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) in Kong: Skull Island.

Chuck Zlotnick / Warner Bros.

But even in a movie in which humans turn out to be — duh-dun! — the real monsters, it’s also still humans who guide us into the story and provide the point of view. Kong: Skull Island swaps out perpetual damsel Ann for Mason, a capable if not all that developed photojournalist. It gratifyingly delegates objectification duties to Tom Hiddleston, who plays hunter-tracker-whatever James Conrad, sleeves creeping further and further up his toned biceps as the movie goes on. And it steers itself toward some disappointingly half-baked references to Apocalypse Now in an aim for greater thematic weight, its shell-shocked soldiers trading the jungles of Vietnam for those of Skull Island, with Samuel L. Jackson’s Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard as a kind of insta-Kurtz who’s gone wild-eyed and unstable from being too long at war.

Kong: Skull Island is a prequel of sorts to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 film Godzilla, following in the swimming-pool-sized footsteps of a movie that treated its homo sapiens like unavoidable but distasteful obstacles on the way toward hot kaiju action. But the new movie actually has more in common with Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, an alien drama that’s significantly better, but that similarly pivots on a female character battling through a sea of testosterone and actually attempting to connect.

Arrival is also a fable about Otherness, its tentacled extraterrestrials different not only in their form and in their language, but in the very way they experience time. It is also a story about communication, an anti-action movie in which the tension comes not from fight scenes but from whether fighting could be avoided. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is alone in a room (and, it seems, on a globe) led by men whose first instinct when faced with something powerful and unknown is to assume it’s a threat. In her attempt to prove otherwise, Louise desperately charts out a grammar and vocabulary so foreign it actually requires her to change herself, to become a little less human in order to comprehend it.

Kong: Skull Island.

Warner Bros.

Kong: Skull Island is very much pro-action — Kong is introduced swatting down helicopters like flies for reasons that are later revealed to be reasonable, the first of several set pieces. But, like Arrival, it also affirms that empathy is the opposite of war, that the urge to go to battle in some ways requires a willful refusal to understand the other party. Kong: Skull Island starts off during World War II with the crash landing of two pilots, one American and one Japanese, who continue to attempt to murder each other until something more alarming comes along, and who, we learn later, eventually become friends. It’s a lesson that Mason, the war photographer — or, per her regrettable preference, “ANTI-war photographer” — never needs to learn: She, like Louise, is a professional communicator, though she traffics in images rather than words.

It’s a shortcut, casting women as figures for whom empathy comes more naturally, and not an entirely fair one — women can’t and shouldn’t be excused from being shoot-first aggressors. But these movies also have commonalities with children’s fare like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Iron Giant, in which kids are the ones who bond with otherworldly characters, in defiance of government and military forces who react with defensiveness and hostility. It’s not gendered critique these films are making, it’s one of authority that happens to still be relentlessly tied into patriarchy, one of us-against-them certainty.

Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) in Kong: Skull Island.

Chuck Zlotnick / Warner Bros.

“The world is bigger than this!” Mason retorts in Kong: Skull Island when Packard insists, “We’re soldiers, we do the dirty work so that families back home don’t suffer! They shouldn’t even know that a thing like this exists!” He cuts her off with a very Jackson-y “Bitch, please.” Over eight decades, the figure of Kong has progressed from racist projection to, in subsequent remakes, a more overtly tragic but doomed figure, to, finally, a full-on hero. But at that moment, the Ann figure feels like she’s changed just as seismically — like she’d happily be snatched up in a giant hand and spirited away into the jungle, because a monster would be better company than these men.

Which TV Shows Have Been Renewed, Which Have Been Canceled, And Which Are We Waiting To Hear About?

The broadcast networks are starting their cycle of renewals and cancellations. Here’s where everything stands now!

The CW

The CW

Awaiting News
Frequency, iZombie, No Tomorrow, The Originals

Renewed
The 100, Arrow, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Flash, Jane the Virgin, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Riverdale, Supergirl, Supernatural

Renewed Off-Cycle
Masters of Illusion, Penn & Teller: Fool Us, Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Ending
Reign, The Vampire Diaries

The CW

NBC

NBC

Awaiting News
The Biggest Loser, The Blacklist, The Blacklist: Redemption, Blindspot, Chicago Fire, Chicago Justice, Chicago Med, Chicago P.D., Emerald City, Law & Order: SVU, Little Big Shots, The New Celebrity Apprentice, Powerless, Taken, Timeless, Trial & Error

Canceled
Aquarius

Renewed
The Good Place, Shades of Blue, Superstore, This Is Us (for two more seasons), The Voice (through fall 2017)

Renewed Off-Cycle
America’s Got Talent, American Ninja Warrior, Better Late Than Never, The Carmichael Show, The Night Shift

Returning Shows That Haven’t Premiered Yet
Hollywood Game Night

New Shows That Haven’t Premiered Yet
Great News, Little Big Shots: Forever Young, Marlon, Midnight, Texas, Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update, Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge, World of Dance

Ending
Grimm

New Shows for 2017-2018
Will & Grace

Peter Kramer / NBC

ABC

ABC

Awaiting News
America’s Funniest Home Videos, American Crime, American Housewife, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Beyond the Tank, Black-ish, The Catch, Dancing With the Stars, Designated Survivor, Dr. Ken, Fresh Off the Boat, The Goldbergs, Last Man Standing, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Modern Family, Once Upon a Time, Quantico, The Real O’Neals, Secrets and Lies, Shark Tank, Time After Time

Canceled
Conviction, Mistresses, Notorious, Uncle Buck

Renewed
Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder, The Middle, Scandal

Renewed Off-Cycle
Bachelor in Paradise, Celebrity Family Feud, Match Game, The $100,000 Pyramid, To Tell the Truth

New Shows That Haven’t Premiered Yet
Downward Dog, Imaginary Mary, Somewhere Between, Ten Days in the Valley, Untitled ShondaLand show

New Shows for 2017-2018
Marvel’s Inhumans

ABC

CBS

CBS

Awaiting News
2 Broke Girls, The Amazing Race, Code Black, Criminal Minds, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Elementary, The Great Indoors, Hunted, The Odd Couple, Ransom, Training Day, Undercover Boss

Renewed
48 Hours, 60 Minutes, The Big Bang Theory (for two more seasons), Blue Bloods, Bull, Hawaii Five-0, Kevin Can Wait, Life in Pieces, MacGyver, Madam Secretary, Man With a Plan, Mom, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, Scorpion, Superior Donuts, Survivor

Renewed Off-Cycle
Big Brother (through Season 20), Zoo

Canceled
American Gothic, BrainDead, *Doubt, *Pure Genius

*CBS will not say that Doubt and Pure Genius are officially canceled yet, because the network’s policy is not to use the “c-word” until absolutely necessary. But CBS did not order more episodes of Pure Genius, and Doubt was pulled off the air after two episodes. So…logic.

CBS


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