Unlike last week, today’s News Worthy is far more aligned with my typical format for the series!
Like so many others, I was so excited for the premiere of This Is Us back in September. My roommate and I even watched the first few episodes live, which, if you’ve been around here long enough, you’ll know is a privilege usually reserved for PBS dramas. After the pilot finished and that big twist was revealed, I even felt motivated to write a blog post in response (which never happened – whoops). We fell behind on watching when the semester’s work piled up, but I caught up over Christmas break and was finally convinced of the show’s power by the time I finished the mid-season finale.
I loved this article, “‘This Is Us’ Is The Weepy Melodrama America Needs Right Now.” A lot of it actually focused on the theory that Christian viewers are a huge part of the show’s success, but I zoned in more on the the first few paragraphs of the piece. Those explained why the show’s intense success is unique and why its format is so rare in today’s TV climate.
As cable and streaming services double down on niche audiences and become edgier, with more sex and violence than ever, networks have seen less critical praise and smaller viewership than in years past. But This Is Us has changed the equation. The show tackles potentially fraught issues (adoption, race, drug abuse), but in a broad, comfortable way that reaches the biggest audience possible. “The world has grown so cynical and our art has grown so withholding and cynical,” showrunner Dan Fogelman said on IndieWire’s Turn It On podcast in September. “Everybody’s so scared to touch anything involving sentiment because you’re gonna get hammered for it, and it’ll happen here, inevitably. But we’ve done it in as elegant a way as possible, and I think if people don’t like it, fuck ’em.”
So far I think I still prefer Rebecca and Jack’s storyline over the others (although Sterling K. Brown is amazing), but I loved all of the holiday episodes that brought the whole family together. It’ll be really interesting to see how the show handles time jumps the longer it runs!
Being such a bookworm, I loved this New York Times article exploring how President Obama turned to books throughout his presidency to seek some inner peace. It reads as very introspective, and I think it has the potential to be a source for future historians or professors trying to characterize Obama’s nature. I read Katie Andersen Brower’s book about the modern First Ladies last year and have read so much about the Kennedys (I’m reading Jean Kennedy Smith’s book right now), but I haven’t really read much about the presidents’ inner lives. This article was such a personal look into what White House life was like for Obama, and I think it’s a must read for everyone.
“At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,” he said, reading gave him the ability to occasionally “slow down and get perspective” and “the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.” These two things, he added, “have been invaluable to me. Whether they’ve made me a better president I can’t say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.”
All of the recent Hamilton casting news has been great (Wayne Brady as Burr in Chicago?! Taran Killam as Broadway’s King George?!), this announcement has been my absolute favorite. James Monroe Iglehart has been the Genie in the Broadway production of Aladdin since the show opened, and he won a Tony for playing the role. You just need to watch his performance at the Tonys to see how much of a showman he is, and that quality is perfect for playing Lafayette and particularly Jefferson.
From what I’ve read and from what an old roommate who saw the show told me, the people who filled the role after Daveed Diggs left have been good, but resembling Diggs’ own performance too much. Knowing how vibrant of a performer Iglehart is, I think he’ll do great in Hamilton and really put his own spin on the role. If he can play the Genie without relying on Robin Williams’ portrayal, he can basically do anything.
In even more Hamilton news, Al Roker did a package featuring Taran Killam throughout his final rehearsal and preparations for debuting as King George this week.
Speaking of This Is Us, it was officially renewed for two more seasons of 18 episodes each, and a video released of NBC President Jennifer Salke telling the cast the news. I loved their reactions so much. Starring in a new TV series isn’t always the most stable job, so for these actors to know that they’re locked in for at least two more years of steady work is pretty big.
What about you? What kind of entertainment news stuck out to you this week?