“American Vandal” Is a Brilliant Mockumentary

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Netflix is becoming known for more than its first-rate dramas. You can now add edgy new comedies to the mix as well, as evidenced by “American Vandal,” a brilliant mockumentary. This 8-part series is a wonderful parody of the true crime investigative dramas along the lines of “Making a Murderer” and “Serial.”

“American Vandal” is a brilliant satire of true crime investigative dramas

First and most importantly, “American Vandal” brilliantly captures the rhythm and cadence of those nonfiction true crime dramas. There are so many throwaway lines that have been so common in these shows that they are now cliché – “they got the wrong guy” and “everybody thinks I did it” are just two of the most obvious. “American Vandal” has characters intone those phrases with so much seriousness that you’re tempted to burst out laughing.

Here’s the thing – the brilliant joke at the center of this mockumentary is that a high school senior (Dylan Maxwell, played by Jimmy Tatro) has been expelled for drawing graphic, obscene images of cartoon phalluses on 27 faculty member cars. He, of course, claims steadfastly that he’s not the one behind this outrageous act. That leads a high school sophomore filmmaker (Peter Maldonado, played by Tyler Alvarez) to explore whether there might be a deeper, darker secret at the school that people are trying to cover up.

That leads to a whole slew of outrageous scenes, such as where characters examine the cartoon phalluses reputedly drawn on the cars with the cartoon phalluses that class clown Dylan Maxwell is fond of drawing. They find that the images are similar, but not exact matches. So is it possible that someone else might have really drawn them and then blamed Dylan?

“American Vandal” mockingly asks, “Who Drew the Dicks?”

You can immediately see how ridiculous this becomes. It is an 8-part comedy about, yes, dicks. It is filled with adolescent dick jokes. Characters call them “dicks” right there in the movie. Characters talk about “ball hairs.” And this is not a mistake – Netflix very much wants you to be having this conversation about dicks. The hashtag for this comedy is, in fact, #WhoDrewtheDicks. According to one media critic, dicks are mentioned or shown at least 1,000 times over the course of the 8-part series. You can not escape these dicks.

But here’s the thing – this is not a “dick movie.” At least, not one that we’re used to seeing and enjoying. The two creators of “American Vandal,” Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault, have a long history with two sophomoric humor websites (Funny or Die, College Humor), but they promised Netflix that this would not be just one long, extended “dick joke sketch.” Instead, it is meant to be more subtle, more biting, and thus, more brilliant.

Take that hashtag, for example. “Who drew the dicks?” has the potential to be a laughably bad line in the show, but it’s used in such a way that it brilliantly lampoons other shows that have used similar types of lines to attract visitors (“Who killed Laura Palmer?” is just one example). Thus, Netflix is lampooning more than just “dick movies,” it is going much further afield to lampoon other genres of films. This is brilliant stuff.

“American Vandal” is a brilliant example of narrative storytelling

But all of that dick humor would have gone to waste if there wasn’t an engrossing plot at the center. If that wasn’t, who would stick around for 8 episodes of dick jokes? But you do want to find out who’s responsible for this phallic graffiti, and each new episode comes with twists and turns.

One of them – spoiler alert! – involves the narrator. It turns out that this high school student might not be telling the whole story, or at least, presenting facts from a certain point of view. That helps to keep the viewer off-balance, as well as to cast doubt on everything that we’ve seen already. As a result, we’re kept guessing until the very end about the true identity of this American vandal.

“American Vandal” offers an authentic portrayal of American high school

Moreover, “American Vandal” gets top ratings for its realistic portrayal of high school. The characters are so believable, and the acting is so good, that it can be hard to forget that these are indeed actors and actresses playing the role. According to the film’s creators, that was built into the casting process. They were looking for people who could be believable in these roles. They wanted to capture the look and feel of a typical American high school.

“American Vandal” is a bold example of a comedy made for millennials

In many ways, Netflix was bold to green light this mockumentary. For one, mockumentaries aren’t known for being hits with movie audiences. Other than a few – such as “Spinal Tap” – how many mockumentaries could you name off the top of your head? But this 8-part series is bold for another reason – it is a brilliant exploration of millennial comedy.

Let’s face it – it’s difficult for many filmmakers to connect with the younger millennial generation. For members of older Generation X, a film like “The Hangover” is great comedy. But what do members of the millennial generation consider to be funny?

It’s no mistake, then, that the two creators behind this NSFW comedy are also veterans of Funny or Die and College Humor, both of which cater to young millennials. This is the direction Netflix wants to go with this 8-part fictional documentary, and the fact that millennials are connecting with it is proof of its brilliance. People are actually using the hashtag #WhoDrewTheDicks across social media. On Rotten Tomatoes, “American Vandal” has a nearly perfect 96% freshness rating.

“American Vandal,” then, is eminently binge-worthy. You can try to watch all 8 episodes in a single weekend, or you can spread them out over a period of 8 weeks, as you were encouraged to do with “Serial” or other investigative dramas that “American Vandal” so brilliantly spoofs. But you won’t be able to stop until you find out the true identity of the person who defaced 27 faculty member cars with a bunch of crudely-drawn dicks.

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“Me, Myself & I” Is a Fantastic New Comedy

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If you’re a big fan of primetime sitcoms, you need to check out the new CBS sitcom “Me, Myself & I,” which premiered on Monday, September 25. Starring Bobby Moynihan (of “Saturday Night Live” fame) and John Larroquette, “Me, Myself & I” is a fantastic new comedy that’s refreshing, funny and original.

“Me, Myself & I” wonderfully condenses 50 years of history into 30 minutes each episode

The basic premise of this show is unique and unconventional, and rarely – if ever – attempted by a 30-minute primetime sitcom: it shows three different episodes in the life of a single character (Jack Riley), showing how events and decisions have reverberated throughout 50 years of Jack Riley’s life.

These three events are (1) moving from Chicago to Los Angeles at the age of 14 and then falling in love with a young girl (2) divorcing with his wife at the age of 40 and moving from his house to a two-car garage and (3) retiring at the age of 65 in the year 2042 and meeting (again) the love of his life, this time 50 years older.

You can immediately see how this is a fantastic comedic concept – especially when you have Bobby Moynihan playing the 40-year-old Alex Riley and John Larroquette playing the 65-year-old Alex Riley. Once you get over your immediate question of how Bobby Moynihan (a bit of a slob) ever turned into the more refined, silver-haired John Larroquette, you’ll immediately be won over by the show’s comedic pacing and timing.

Unlike TV dramas that focus on continuous character development, “Me, Myself & I” is more of a traditional sitcom – so it has to condense 3 different storylines (14-year-old Alex Riley, 40-year-old Alex Riley, 65-year-old Alex Riley) into a very tight 30-minute episode. But it’s done so well that you’ll be amazed at how everything ties together at the very end.

Here’s just one example of how a single episode is able to condense 50 years into 30 minutes: young Alex Riley moves to a new city and falls in love with a beautiful young girl named Nori. He invites her to the high school dance, and then blows his “big moment” when he accidentally chokes on a mint while trying to kiss her at a school dance. 50 years later, he mentions to a beautiful woman how “a mint cost me the love of my life 50 years ago,” only to look down at her nametag and see that she’s the same Nori he knew as a kid!

“Me, Myself & I” is about the little chuckle, not the big belly laugh

So just how funny is “Me, Myself & I”? Most critics have correctly pointed out that this sitcom is not about generating a lot of guffaws and belly laughs – it’s really about a lot of little laughs adding up to one giant comedic premise.

For example, it turns out that Alex Riley has always been an aspiring inventor, ever since he was a teenager. So there are a lot of laughs about all of his ill-fated or crazy inventions.

In one scene, he’s trying to pitch his “Switchfork” (a combination of chopsticks and a fork for eating sushi) concept to a room of Japanese business executives. He thinks that he’s winning them over, but then we see the subtitles of what the men are actually saying in Japanese, “This man has just brought dishonor upon this whole room.”

“Me, Myself & I” is a new kind of episodic comedy

In most sitcoms, there’s the “one funny situation of the week” and then some resolution of that issue following a lot of laughs. 30 minutes later, this situation has been resolved. But we may never see any of the supporting characters every again. Some critics have referred to this as the “shenanigans of the week” approach to comedy. It helps to keep every sitcom very light, meaning you don’t have to invest a lot into every show.

But “Me, Myself & I” takes a new, more refreshing approach. It’s all about serial storytelling and showing how different characters and events intersect over time. Take the title of the show, for example. That tells you all you need to know – it shows how the “me” of the year 1991 interacts with the “myself” of the year 2017, who in turn interacts with the “I” of the year 2042. In short, time proves to be a new kind of comedic element. Time changes how we view events, and how events affect us.

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“Me, Myself & I” is as empowering as it is funny

One core idea at the center of this very entertaining new comedy is that any story is not defined by what happens to you, it is defined by how you deal with it. Thus, it is too easy to go through life, complaining about all the bad things that happen to you – the boss who treats you badly, the drivers on the road who act like idiots, or the loud neighbor who keeps you up at night.

But “Me, Myself & I” doesn’t fall into this trap – it tells viewers that you have to go out there and change the story. In that way, you can view this new CBS comedy as being very empowering. You can’t let a single decision or action impact the narrative arc of your own life.

“Me, Myself & I” is a new kind of romantic comedy

Romantic success and failure is one thematic strand that ties together all three periods of Alex’s life. It is his budding relationship with Nori that is one failure. Another failure is his divorce with his wife. But there are also the successes – like the fact that he might actually get back together with Nori (now known as “Eleanor”) after all these years. But will an approach that worked 50 years ago still work in the year 2042?

As a result, from what we’ve seen already, “Me, Myself & I” is a fantastic new comedy from CBS. If you’re looking for a fun new show to watch on Monday nights, this is one great option that will have you laughing each week.

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The Best “Game of Thrones” Characters Who Met an Inglorious and Unjust End

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One of the distinguishing features of the HBO show “Game of Thrones” is how often an important character is killed off in the show, sometimes apparently for no reason at all. When it’s a despicable villain – say Joffrey Baratheon, Ramsay Bolton or Walder Frey – it’s easy to brush off. Hey, they had it coming.

However, when it’s a favorite character who is essentially good and pure of heart, that’s when it’s so disturbing. Over the first seven seasons of the show, many “Game of Thrones” characters have met an early demise, but here are the characters who truly met an inglorious and unjust end.

#1: Catelyn Stark

The Lady of Winterfell was one of the strongest-willed female characters on the show, taking efforts again and again to protect the House of Stark from disaster. But eventually even Catelyn Stark was no match for the dastardly plot hatched by the House of Frey (and backed by the Lannisters). She had her throat slit at the Red Wedding, and even worse, was forced to watch Roose Bolton stab her son. She was also forced to bear horrific witness to the fatal stabbing of her pregnant daughter-in-law Talia and her unborn child.

#2: Ned Stark

During Season 1, the one character who seemed to emerge as the lead star of the show was Ned Stark, the Lord of the North who’s asked to become the Hand of the King at King’s Landing. That, of course, is when things take a turn for the worse due to the treachery of the Lannister family. In Season 1, Episode 9, we’re forced to watch his beheading at the request of the boy-king Joffrey. At that point, everything we thought we knew about “Game of Thrones” was challenged: Who exactly are we supposed to root for?

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#3: Ser Rodrik Cassel

Another character, another beheading. In this case, it’s Ser Rodrik Cassel, the master-at-arms at Winterfell. He has already proven himself to be a loyal servant to the House of Stark – and that’s exactly what makes him so expendable when Theon Greyjoy returns to the North to exact his revenge. His beheading is as grisly as it is savage, since it takes young Theon Greyjoy a few whacks of the sword (and a little kick, for good measure) to behead Ser Rodrick.

#4: Ygritte

Remember the Wildling from the North who became the love interest of Jon Snow in Season 4? He met her on a spying mission beyond the wall, and had a few tender scenes with her. We think that maybe – just maybe – there might be a chance that their romance will bloom and we’ll find out that Ygritte is some kind of important character In the future history of Westeros.

Instead, Olly shoots her with an arrow during the Battle of Castle Black. Even worse, the show includes a scene where Jon Snow looks into the eyes of Ygritte as she meets her inglorious and unjust end. (Of course, that makes a perfect pretext for revenge, and we’re happy when Jon Snow finally has his way with Olly).

#5: Jon Snow

Speaking of Jon Snow, he also met an inglorious and unjust end in Season 5, as his fellow brothers-in-arm take turns stabbing and wounding him. Of course, his death turns out to be only temporary, as Season 6 returns with a dramatic resurrection scene featuring the Red Priestess Melisandre.

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#6: Tommen Baratheon

In the battle for the Iron Throne, there have been plenty of contenders. Some of them, such as Joffrey, have shown themselves to be wicked, sadistic and cruel at heart. But Tommen Baratheon, the young boy of royal lineage, seemed to be an exception. Some critics of the show have said that he was just “too good to be king.”

And, indeed, the one time that he stands up to his scheming mother, she practically blows up the Sept of Baelor with magical wildfire. That takes place in Season 6, Episode 10, and by that point, we’ve already resigned ourselves to the fact that the final winner in the Game of Thrones is going to be someone who’s a real schemer. Tommen eventually commits suicide by jumping out of a window.

#7: Oberyn Martell

One of the grisliest deaths that ever took place on “Game of Thrones” involved Oberyn Martell and his battle with The Mountain. The episode called “The Mountain and the Viper” shows the trial by combat set up by Tyrion involving Oberyn Martell and the Mountain. Since Oberyn Martell wants revenge on the House of Lannister, we suspect that things aren’t going to end well.

And, indeed, after a brief moment when we think that Oberyn Martell might actually defeat the Mountain in combat, the Mountain jumps up from the ground and gouges out the eyes of Oberyn. He then proceeds to exert so much pressure on his skull that his head literally explodes. What an inglorious and unjust end!

#8: Shireen Baratheon

It’s hard to decide if the Starks or the Baratheons are more doomed to suffer terrible and misfortunate deaths. Shireen Baratheon seems to be relatively pure of heart, and we’ve already seen her good side plenty of times. That’s why it was so disturbing to see her final demise near the end of Season 5. She’s burned alive by the Red Priestess Melisandre as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. Sadly, her tragic sacrifice never seems to bear the results hoped for by Melisandre and Stannis, so her death seems to be as pointless as it is tragic.

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To paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, life in Westeros can be “nasty, brutish and short.” That’s fair enough when it leads to violent deaths, inexplicable demises and cruel tortures for the “bad guys.” But when it means a sad and inglorious end for someone we’ve been rooting for, season after season, there’s something bittersweet about it all. But maybe that’s what keeps us watching – “Game of Thrones” seems to have an unmatched ability to pull us in and keep us watching, long after we know that one of our beloved characters has met a horrible fate.

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Why “American Assassin” Will Be Thrilling

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Forget Jason Bourne, there’s a new heartthrob action hero who’s taking down the bad guys around the world and his name is Mitch Rapp (played by Dylan O’Brien). The move “American Assassin,” based on the #1 New York Times bestseller of the same name, is a non-stop, action-driven, take-out-the-terrorists movie that doesn’t stop until the final credits. It’s easy to say that “American Assassin” will be a thrilling movie experience.

“American Assassin” features a super-assassin who’s young and lethal

The movie “American Assassin” has all the signs of being a major thriller-action franchise. The book series featured super-assassin Mitch Rapp in 16 different books, so you can pretty much bet that Hollywood has a good idea of what to do next. So think of this first film as an introduction to the youngest, hunkiest post-9/11 action hero that we’ve ever seen.

The core part of Mitch Rapp’s back story is that his beautiful girlfriend and fiancée (played by the incredibly lovely Charlotte Vega) has been gunned down in a terrorist incident at a beach resort in Tunisia, and now Mitch Rapp will stop at nothing to get his revenge on the Islamic terrorists. That includes becoming a lethal killing machine – he can handle a gun, of course. But he’s also trained in MMA and can handle throwing stars with the best of them. Just like Jason Bourne, he’s very much damaged – but at least he knows why. In a head-to-head cage match with Jason Bourne, Mitch Rapp would probably leave Matt Damon choking in the dust.

You see, Mitch Rapp doesn’t come with all the moral baggage of more traditional, pre-9/11 heroes. His job is to kill the bad guys, and he doesn’t really care how it’s done. That emphasis on the non-stop killing, while exciting for action fans (really, who doesn’t dream of massacring the terrorists?), has raised some questions in the liberal media, which has accused the filmmaker (Michael Cuesta) of taking an over-the-top “America first” approach to wiping out the bad guys.

But so be it. We’re in a new era now, and if the terrorists are going to be brutal and amoral when wiping out women and children in Paris, Brussels, and London, then they have it coming to them. And that revenge motif is something that the movie really delivers.

“American Assassin” is a global whirlwind that will leave you breathless

Just like in the “Bourne” film franchise, the action is a whirlwind of scenes, encounters and fight sequences all over the world. In the course of the film, we’re taken to destinations like Malta, Ibiza, Istanbul, Tripoli, Romania and Rome. And the action never lets up. You can be cynical and say that “American Assassin” is derivative in this regard, but you can’t ignore the fact that the scenes in places like Rome and Istanbul are just breathtaking.

“American Assassin” has a save-the-world plot you won’t believe

It seems like any great action film has to feature a rogue villain these days, and that’s exactly what “American Assassin” delivers. In this case, the rogue villain is “Ghost” (played by Taylor Kitsch) who may or may not have come up with a way to destroy the world. (Hint: it involves nukes)

At some point, in fact, this plotline might remind you of the last “Fast and the Furious” film, in which Vin Diesel briefly flirts with the idea of going over to the dark side to rescue his family. That film featured stunning CGI sequences of ships, nukes and cars. Who can forget the nuclear-armed submarine emerging from under the ice?

You could say that “American Assassin” goes one step further – it features the U.S. Navy, nukes, and a tsunami wave scene that has to be seen to be believed. This is a huge spectacle, and a save-the-world plot you won’t soon forget.

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“American Assassin” oozes machismo and testosterone

Did we mention that Mitch Rapp loves to sneer at people, that he won’t listen to authority, and that he enjoys bad boy sports (like drag racing and parkour). Oh, and he can really handle a gun. Some movie critics have suggested that the young protagonist could be a way to hook female viewers on this film franchise – these viewers might not like all the corpses piling up in the movie, but boy oh boy, does that kid have swagger. (One of his throwaway lines is, “If you’re not busy living, you’re dying.”)

Perhaps the only person who can tame this super-smart, super-badass kid is the character of Stan Hurley, an ex-Navy SEAL instructor played by Michael Keaton. It seems like it’s been awhile since we’ve seen Keaton do any blockbuster summer action films (he’s been too busy doing Oscar fare like “Birdman” and “Spotlight”), but he simply excels as the crusty mentor who teaches Mitch Rapp how to channel some of his instincts and reactions.

In one scene – perhaps the highlight of the whole trailer that the studio released before the film – Keaton’s character challenges Mitch Rapp to a duel of sorts. “Kill me,” he challenges the young newcomer. Well, you can imagine the ending to that. Mitch Rapp might think he’s a badass, but he’s on his back within seconds. Before he’s been fully trained, he’s no match for Stan Hurley.

Despite all the machismo in the film, it should be pointed out that two excellent female actresses (Sanna Lathan and Shiva Negar) also appear in the film in strong supporting roles. Negar, for example, plays a deadly and intriguing Turkish agent, while Lathan plays a no-nonsense U.S. intelligence chief.

“American Assassin” lives up to its #1 bestseller origins

The first weekend box office numbers are almost in, and it looks like “American Assassin” is going to be a hit with U.S. movie audiences. Most likely, the film will be a hit with global audiences as well. So (dramatic pause) get ready for what comes next; the preparation for the sequel to “American Assassin.”

Now that Matt Damon has appeared in his final “Bourne” film, it’s time to anoint the next great American super-spy and his name is Dylan O’Brien. If you’re looking for a thrill-a-minute Hollywood film experience, then “American Assassin” will not disappoint. It’s thrilling, action-packed and filled with plenty of action scenes you’ll enjoy re-watching once this film becomes available for streaming.

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What To Expect From Season 4 of “Transparent”

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Season 4 of “Transparent,” available exclusively via Amazon Prime Now starting on September 22, already has all the makings of being one of the most-anticipated shows of the new fall TV season. “Transparent” is already an award-winning Amazon Original, and now it looks like the show’s creator, Jill Soloway, is going to take “Transparent” in some wonderful new directions. Here’s what to expect from Season 4 of “Transparent.”

“Transparent” will be more political than ever before

When Amazon Studios released the trailer for Season 4 on July 28, it caused a firestorm of controversy and debate on the Internet. The release of the trailer was timed to coincide with the announcement by the Trump administration of a total ban of transgender soldiers in the U.S. military. Since the thematic content of “Transparent” is inextricably linked to the concerns of the LGBTQ community, you can just imagine how the show’s creator and cast reacted to the latest Trump decision!

It wasn’t just enough to release the trailer and let it speak for itself. No, not at all. Show creator Jill Soloway had already hinted that the 10 episodes from Season 4 would be “more political than they’ve ever been.” And so she convinced the cast to release a joint statement along with the trailer, proclaiming that the release of the trailer was actually an “act of resistance.” Not only that, but the statement specifically called out “Trump’s continued assault on the transgender community.” Jill Soloway and the cast then signed off on the statement, saying that they were “all trans or allies to the trans community.”

So get ready for a big political hubbub when the show premieres on September 22. Although the trailer for Season 4 didn’t appear to have any overt Trump references in it, you can expect that plenty of people will be buzzing about the show online. GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has also spoken out, saying that it will continue to monitor any and all anti-LGBTQ actions taken by the Trump administration.

“Transparent” will have new twists on LGBTQ sexuality

Get ready for more plot lines involving LGBTQ sexuality, especially those involving the star of “Transparent,” Jeffrey Tambor, who plays an older divorced man who reveals that he’s transgender. Once known as Mort Pfefferman, he’s now known as Maura Pfefferman. That, of course, has been the subject of much debate, speculation and heartbreak during the first 3 seasons of the show, as each of his three children – not to mention his ex-wife – struggle to come to grips with what that all means.

Well, it looks like things are going to get a big dramatic twist in Season 4. The trailer hints that Maura Pfefferman is going to start dating again – but this time, she/he will be dating a man! We don’t actually see a glimpse of what Maura’s boyfriend looks like, but it’s sure to be a focal point of Season 4.

“Transparent” will take the Pfeffermans to Israel

If there’s one thing that’s an absolute certainty about Season 4 of “Transparent,” it’s that much of the action will take place in Israel. People who have seen advance clips from the show say that it will focus on the “spiritual and political journey” of the Pfeffermans. One of the plot lines of Season 4 will involve Maura Pfefferman being invited to Israel for a major conference, where she will make a “startling” discovery.

Of course, there will be scenes featuring all the classic Israeli tourist experiences – the visit to the Western Wall, a trip to the Dead Sea and even a camel ride in the desert. The whole time, the Pfefferman family will be coming to grips not only with Mort Pfefferman’s gender transformation, but also their identity as a Jewish family.

And there looks to be plenty of humor here, as well, including some self-deprecating humor about what it means to be Jewish. At one point, one of the family members describes Israel as an Orthodox Jewish Disneyland. And there’s a funny scene where the Pfeffermans kneel down to kiss the holy ground, and they are promptly plowed into by two Orthodox Jews. It all looks to be very humorous.

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“Transparent” will continue to explore themes of love and family

Part of why “Transparent” has become such an award-winning show over the first 3 season is because it has taken an unflinching look at themes of love and family – and it looks like Season 4 isn’t about to slow down on the brakes.

The key to the success of the show, of course, is the brilliant ensemble cast that includes Amy Landecker (Sarah Pfefferman), Jay Duplass (Josh Pfefferman) and Gaby Hoffman (“Ali” Pfefferman) as the three 3 Pfefferman children. The family obviously is very close and loving – but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be dysfunctional!

There are so many interlocking plot lines that make “Transparent” so much fun to watch each new season. The one that is perhaps most talked about is the decision by Sarah Pfefferman to leave her husband for a woman (Tammy). That also raises all kinds of questions about identity and sexuality.

Season 4 of “Transparent” could push the show into the cultural mainstream

While “Transparent” is an Amazon Original, past seasons of the show are now airing on the Sundance Channel. That opens up the show to a vast new audience that might not have watched it before. On top of that, the show’s creators have already said that they will take a much more political approach to the show in 2017, potentially turning it into a huge controversial hit.

The combination of all those factors – the show’s award-winning cast, the amped up political message from creator Jill Soloway about the show during a point in time when everything is politicized, and the brand new Sundance audience – could be the perfect storm that finally tips “Transparent” into the cultural mainstream. The LGBTQ community has never been more relevant than it is today, and this amazing Amazon show could be the perfect way to shine an even bigger spotlight on their role within today’s very diverse America.

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What Fans Think of Marvel’s “The Defenders”

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The build-up to Marvel’s “The Defenders” has been going on for three years, and as of August 18, it’s finally available to watch on Netflix as a brilliant 8-part series. Judging from early fan reaction online, “The Defenders” seems to have done the impossible: it has brought together the story lines and plot lines for each of the four main characters (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist) in a way that’s fun to watch.

“The Defenders” unites the strands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

For three years, Netflix and Marvel have partnered on shows for each of the four main heroes (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist). In some cases – as with “Iron Fist” – there was the sinking feeling that Netflix and Marvel were simply going through the motions, just to make sure all the pieces fit together when it was time to create “The Defenders.”

The basic premise of “The Defenders,” of course, is that four different characters are leading four different lives in New York City, each one of them individually focused on saving the city from villains. And, at some point, they decide that their powers are best used together, as part of a group called The Defenders.

That’s why the action in the first 2 episodes of “The Defenders” sometimes seems a little slow and clunky according to fans – the show is still setting up all the exposition and background to tie together all the strands in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In other words, there has to be a very good reason why all four of these individuals decide to meet up and fight crime together in New York.

“The Defenders” does a great job of mixing and matching the styles of the four superheroes

A lot of thought went into the creation of “The Defenders.” What the show’s producers wanted was a very seamless transition between all 4 of the shows, but also something that felt very new and different.

Take, for example, the fight scenes. We all know that each of the superheroes has a different fighting style. Daredevil (played by Charlie Cox) is trained as a boxer. Jessica Jones (played by Krysten Ritter) takes no interest in fighting, and simply wants each fight to be over as soon as possible. And Iron Fist (played by Finn Jones) can be somewhat hot-headed. Each of them has different fighting styles, and so the natural question of fans everywhere became: How would they all fight together as one unit?

The results, according to fans, have been breathtaking. “The Defenders” easily has the best fight scenes of any of the four Marvel/Netflix shows that preceded it. There’s an exuberance and energy on screen that’s a joy to watch. That’s one big lesson that the Marvel team took away from shows like “Jessica Jones” – they learned that fans wanted very tight, very streamlined fight scenes rather than ones that dragged on for a long period of time.

And the meshing of styles goes beyond just fight scenes. “The Defenders” also does a great job of capturing the right look for New York City, bringing us into the lives of our favorite superheroes. In some cases, it’s the result of re-creating the noir feel of “Jessica Jones,” in other cases, it’s capturing the type of music that would appear on the soundtrack of “Luke Cage” (which happens to be a big fan favorite).

Sigourney Weaver underwhelms as the villain in “The Defenders”

If there’s one thing that fans complained about, it’s the role of Sigourney Weaver, who plays the role of the evil and enigmatic Alexandra – the woman who may be trying to bring New York City to its knees. The show develops her as a particularly refined type of villain who enjoys classical music and Italian sculpture – but not as someone who’s “The Big Bad.” In short, fans found her to be “bland” rather than “menacing.”

In part, though, that’s a conscious choice made by the show’s producers. In many ways, they were threading a needle. They didn’t want to create the sort of over-the-top villain like you might expect from “The Avengers.” And they wanted a way to tie together the story of The Hand, which had already been developed in previous Marvel/Netflix shows. Finally, they needed a villain who was distinctly New York.

So, in many ways, Sigourney Weaver was the perfect choice. You could completely imagine her going for a stroll through the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue to check out some new Italian artwork from the Renaissance period before heading over to her high-powered corporate office near Central Park to cause evil and mayhem.

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“The Avengers” vs. “The Defenders”

It’s hard not to be impressed by the number of superheroes that Marvel has created. The only problem, according to fans, is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of which superheroes belong to which superhero unit. Moreover, which superheroes are from Marvel and which ones are from DC Comics? A common type of question that you’ll find online is something like, “Is Wolverine part of the Defenders?” (The answer is NO)

Right now, there’s the Defenders, the Avengers, the New Avengers, the X-Men, the Justice League, and the list continues to build. What makes things confusing is that Luke Cage was once part of The Avengers, and now he’s part of The Defenders. Moreover, the new trendy plot development technique by Marvel and DC Comics is to create all sorts of tension between the superheroes, such that they engage in feuds and wars with each other.

That’s why fans have been dying to hear from the show’s creators at events like Comic-Con to understand how the Defenders fit into the broader Marvel vision. The answer is a little confusing, but it seems to be that the Defenders are meant to be “street level heroes.” They are the type of hero who help the “everyday man” and are more like street vigilantes willing to take justice into their own hands. In contrast, the Avengers are more global, and tend to take on world-ending events – like a spectacular alien invasion, or a terrorist threat made by gods from another planet.

If you think of “The Defenders” as just a “war for New York” (as the trailer for the show suggests), it will help to make everything clear. These are distinctly New York City crime fighters with a bit of edge and grit to them. We’ve been waiting a long time for “The Defenders” to save New York City, and it’s a real joy to watch Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones all on the screen at one time.

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The Possibility of a 10th Kingdom Sequel

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Ever since “The 10th Kingdom” aired as a limited TV miniseries on NBC back in February 2000, there has been growing fan anticipation about a potential sequel. Much of the speculation surrounding a potential sequel seems to focus on a new story line involving both Virginia Lewis (played by Kimberly Williams) and Wolf (played by Scott Cohen), who have both hinted that they would be available for a new TV series.

Speculation about a “10th Kingdom” sequel reached a peak in 2015, when the show celebrated its 15th anniversary. For young teens and adults who had grown up in the early 2000s, the re-release of this TV show triggered some strong nostalgia. But just how realistic is the possibility of a “10th Kingdom” sequel?

Streaming services are making the possibility of a “10th Kingdom” sequel more likely than you might think

The good news is that “The 10th Kingdom” is available for streaming on both Netflix and Amazon, two of the premier creators of original streaming content today. The “10th Kingdom” has been available for streaming on Netflix since August 2012 and Amazon Video since March 2013. And don’t forget – Netflix has a $6 billion annual budget to create new content. So there’s obviously a big enough budget available if Netflix wants to consider a sequel.

That’s right – the rise of streaming services like Amazon and Netflix are making the possibility of a “10th Kingdom” sequel more likely. It has now become a fairly established pattern for Netflix to dip back into the fan favorites of a generation ago for new content ideas. Even HBO is getting into the nostalgia game, with a new “Curb Your Enthusiasm” show in 2017 after a long absence. Everywhere you look, it seems, content studios are looking for former cult TV hits that can be turned into must-see streaming fare.

If you think about the original “The 10th Kingdom,” you can see how it’s the perfect format for a streaming video binge. The show, when it premiered back in 2000, appeared as a five-part show, split into two-hour episodes. That’s a total of 10 hours of content. If Netflix were to make a sequel, it could easily transform that into a 10-part series with one-hour episodes. Get ready for the binge!

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A “10th Kingdom” sequel would tap into the peak popularity of the fantasy genre

Right now, we’re experiencing a level of peak popularity for TV shows in the fantasy and fairy tale genre. Think about some of the most popular movies of the past few years, like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Think about the most popular TV shows, like HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” There’s obviously a lot of pent-up viewer demand for these long-running fantasy-themed shows.

And a “10th Kingdom” sequel would seem to be perfect for those fans – it featured trolls, dwarves and all kinds of fairy tale characters like Cinderella and Snow White. It was a magical world of Evil Queens and characters that were half-man, half-wolf. Imagine how much fans of fairy tales like “Beauty and the Beast” would love to watch a sequel!

The example of “Beauty and the Beast” is particularly important, because the new trend seems to be live-action remakes of popular cartoon fairy tales. That’s why a sequel for “The 10th Kingdom” would be so perfect – it would enable the producers to make a live-action remake of several fairy tales at one time!

A “10th Kingdom” sequel would tie together parallel fairy tale universes in a unique way

Another huge trend right now is an attempt by filmmakers and TV show producers to tie together “parallel universes.” In short, they are trying to come up with stories, in which several different cartoon superheroes can co-exist in a way that makes sense.

Marvel and DC Comics are at the forefront of this theme. Consider an example like the upcoming Hollywood blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok,” which combines a superhero from Norse mythology (Thor) with the Incredible Hulk. And just about any superhero film these days – think “The Justice League” – is really just an attempt to combine as many superheroes as possible in one film.

That’s why a “10th Kingdom” sequel would be genius. The story line already involves 9 magical kingdoms and a whole host of fairy tale characters: Cinderella, Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood. This is just perfect for a new parallel fairy tale universe. It’s time for Virginia Lewis and Wolf to go back to that alternative, magical world!

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The social media buzz is building for a “10th Kingdom” sequel

Ultimately, a massive wave of fan support across social media might result in a “10th Kingdom” sequel. That’s the way to put pressure on studios to create a new TV series. We’ve seen it again and again – a show goes off the air for several years or longer, and a sudden viral video on YouTube paves the way for the show to return. And there has always been an undercurrent of support on social media for “The 10th Kingdom.”

The former cast members of the show, too, have turned to social media. They’ve hinted that a sequel is a possibility, and all that is needed is for a TV studio to green-light the production. If NBC is not interested in a limited TV series, surely Netflix would be, right?

In fact, there are already fan fiction videos on YouTube showing “fan trailers” for a sequel. One is called “House of Wolves” and it focuses on the character of Wolf. This fan fiction tactic is also a classic way to build grassroots support for a sequel – if these videos get enough attention online, it’s a way to signal to TV producers that it’s time for another “10th Kingdom.”

Based on the above, it would seem that the possibility of a sequel to “The 10th Kingdom” might be more realistic than it first seems on the surface. There are so many macro-trends that seem to support a sequel, such as the current mega-popularity of fantasy TV shows and cartoons-turned-into-movies.

The world of the 9 Kingdoms was very special indeed. It’s easy to imagine a sequel in which Virginia Lewis, Anthony Lewis and Wolf return to that world to solve some new crisis involving witches, trolls or other things that go bump in the dark.

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What Season 2 of “This Is Us” Will Include

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For nearly a year, fans of the acclaimed NBC drama “This Is Us” have been eagerly anticipating Season 2. The show, when it premiered in September 2016, was an immediate breakout hit and became one of the most popular shows on NBC. So it’s no surprise that fans have been sharing their own ideas and thoughts about what Season 2 of “This Is Us” will include. At the same time, the show’s cast and producers have been leaving their own clues.

Season 2 of “This Is Us” will provide a final answer to how Jack died

In many ways, the death of family patriarch Jack Pearson (played by Milo Ventimiglia) is going to be the defining storyline of Season 2. So much of the drama that happens in “This Is Us” can only be understood as a story of Jack and his wife Rebecca, and how they helped raise a family of triplets (Kate, Kevin and Randall).

So far, however, NBC is keeping tight wraps on the final answer to how Jack died. Both Milo Ventimiglia and Justin Hartley (who plays Kevin, one of the triplets) have appeared in an interview with TV Guide, and all they could say was that, “People should brace themselves” for the final reveal.

In that same interview, they also discussed some of the more outlandish fan theories about Jack Pearson. One theory, for example, suggests that Jack is really an alien. Others have suggested that the entire Season 1 was just a massive dream sequence, and we’ll start the action fresh in Season 2. Finally, others have suggested that perhaps Jack faked his death, and his really still alive. However, both Milo Ventimiglia and Justin Hartley have shot down all those story developments.

Season 2 of “This Is Us” will pick up the action almost immediately after Season 1

The show’s producers have hinted that the action in Season 2 will start up almost immediately after the events of Season 1. There will be two parallel storylines – the first one involves the present day Pearson family, while the second one involves Jack and Rebecca from their old Pittsburgh days.

Here’s what we know: Episode 1 of Season 2 will start on the 37th birthday of the triplets, just like the pilot for Season 1. And Episode 1 will also pick up the action the morning after the big fight between Jack and Rebecca ended Season 1.

Season 2 of “This Is Us” will continue to flashback and jump-cut between time periods

One of the distinguishing narrative tools used by creator Dan Fogelman was the constant cutting back and forth between the present day and the past to explore the history of the Pearson family. Expect more of that to continue in Season 2.
And here’s the really fascinating part – the show’s creators have said that Season 2 will focus considerably on the “struggles of Jack.” Thus, even though he has died, his character is not going away! And the show’s creators have also suggested that we’ll see a lot more of Rebecca in the present day.

Season 2 of “This Is Us” will build out a storyline involving Miguel

In Season 1, Miguel was Jack’s best friend and confidante. He ended up marrying Rebecca after the passing of Jack, and so the show’s creators have decided to really extend the plotline and narrative surrounding Miguel.

This might not be something that fans are looking forward to, however. Some fans even have conspiracy theories that Miguel might have been responsible for Jack’s death. That theory, if true, would put his relationship with Rebecca and the triplets into a much different light! But the show’s cast has not given any evidence or tips to support that crazy idea. So, we should look carefully for any signs or tips about Miguel’s behavior.

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Season 2 of “This Is Us” could explore the theme of adoption much more

One of the most emotionally resonant storylines of Season 1 was the decision by Jack and Rebecca to adopt Randall. And now it looks like we’re going to get some really dramatic explanations about that adoption. The show’s creators have teased a clip in which Randall and Rebecca have a very emotional and heart-to-heart conversation about his adoption. From what we know, Rebecca wasn’t initially supportive of the idea – it was Jack who pushed forward the idea of adoption.

And there’s more – one big question on the minds of fans is whether or not Randall and Beth will end up adopting a child. The decision of whether or not to adopt could be based very strongly on what Randall finds out about his own adoption.

Season 2 of “This Is Us” will include a guest appearance by Sylvester Stallone

Perhaps the buzziest news around Season 2 involves the guest appearance by Sylvester Stallone in one episode. This is where things get very complicated, because in the 2006 movie “Rocky Balboa,” Milo Ventimiglia (Jack Pearson in “This Is Us”) played Rocky’s son. There’s a famous scene in “Rocky Balboa” where Rocky gives an inspirational speech to Milo about bouncing back from adversity.

So how does Sylvester Stallone fit within the “This Is Us” universe? The current thinking is that Sylvester Stallone will play himself. He will become a mentor to Kevin, who was working on a movie project in Season 1. In Season 1, it was Ron Howard who had called Kevin about the movie, and now it looks like Stallone is going to co-star in the movie with Kevin and become his mentor. Mind blown, right?

The great news for “This Is Us” fans is that NBC has already approved a full Season 3 of the show. So right now, it looks like we’re getting 18 new episodes starting in September, and then another 18 more episodes starting in 2018! And NBC has even hinted that there would be a special “This Is Us” episode that will air directly after the 2018 Super Bowl.

This could be a huge second season for “This Is Us.” In 2016, the show burst into the cultural mainstream and became a huge fan favorite. Now it looks like the show is going to become even bigger in 2017 with the involvement of Stallone and a special Super Bowl episode. Just imagine what’s going to happen if the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing in the Super Bowl next year (just like in the show) – fans are going to go crazy with new ideas for future seasons of triplets born during the Super Bowl!

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Why You Should Watch Hulu’s “Harlots”

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Hulu has really stepped up its game recently with its new Hulu Original shows. The latest Hulu Original to debut to critical acclaim was “Harlots,” an 8-episode British period drama TV series that premiered on Hulu at the end of March 2017. The show has been described as “Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones,” so you can immediately get a sense of why viewers have been so enthusiastic about the show. Here are all the reasons why you should watch Hulu’s “Harlots.”

#1: “Harlots” delivers powerful female performances with a uniquely female point of view

One reason why this Hulu show has gathered so much acclaim is because it’s a show written by women, with female performers in the starring role. Unlike other shows, which might have used scenes of lust and sexual desire to drive forward a very male-influenced narrative, “Harlots” is very much a character-driven show with a very steady narrative plotline that’s informed by a female perspective on London’s famous 18th century courtesans.

The role that everyone is talking about belongs to Samantha Morton, who plays brothel madam Margaret Wells in late 18th century London. It’s a little more complicated than just that, however, since Margaret Wells is also the mother of two young girls, Charlotte Wells (played by Jessica Brown Findlay) and Lucy Wells (played by Eloise Smyth), who themselves are being forced into a life of prostitution.

Layered on top of that, we find out very early on in “Harlots” that Margaret Wells herself was thrust into a life of prostitution at a very young age by her alcoholic mother, who essentially sold her for a pair of new shoes. She’s now struggling to meet ends meet, and one of the early episodes of the show ends with her grappling with the decision of how to auction off her youngest daughter’s virginity to the highest bidder.

Things are not going to be easy, and that’s why it’s so important that we get a female, rather than male, perspective on these matters. What “Harlots” has in its favor is the “female gaze” (rather than the oft-described “male gaze”) – the show has female creators (Alison Newman and Moira Buffini), female directors, and female producers. The show itself was inspired by another female, Hallie Rubenhold, who created “The Covent Garden Ladies.”

#2: “Harlots” offers plenty of intrigue, plotting and ruthlessness

The dramatic tension at the heart of “Harlots” concerns the struggle of Margaret Wells to carve out a better life for her daughters. Part of that involves a move across town to a more upscale London neighborhood, where her clients can become notable members of the British upper class. That move, however, immediately pits her against her former boss, the madam Lydia Quigley (played by Leslie Manville).

That’s not going to be easy, though, since nobody enjoys having new competitors encroach on their turf, least of all when it concerns the ability to make a considerable amount of money from prostitution. That struggle between the two madams – Margaret Wells and Lydia Quigley – constitutes another strong narrative plotline. And the dynamic performances from both of them are quite outstanding.

In many ways, the battle between the two rival brothels is as ruthless as a battle between two rival mafia clans. The tactics may be different, but the effect is the same. In one episode, there’s an attempt to use religious reformers as a way to shut down the upstart brothel and keep it from branching out into a more profitable neighborhood.

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#3: “Harlots” is not your standard 18th century period drama

If you were expected a slightly more lurid version of Jane Austen with “Harlots,” think again. Whereas many of Jane Austen’s works deal with the polite society of British lords and the unique dilemmas facing the members of the landed gentry, “Harlots” is firmly rooted in the gritty reality of a very debauched London.

As many viewers have pointed out, this realism is really what makes the show stand out. Yes, there is much of the stuffy decorum that we associate with that period, but we also get a glimpse of the poorest layers of society and the desperate measures they must take simply to stay alive. Being forced to sell your youngest daughter into prostitution is not exactly something that you’d encounter with Jane Austen, let alone Charles Dickens. (And, speaking of Dickens, one of the English estates used to film “Harlots” was also used to film BBC’s production of Dickens’ “Great Expectations”)

Thus, if you were expecting plenty of salacious bedroom scenes – or at least, the kinds of nudity we’ve come to expect from “Game of Thrones” – you might need to temper your expectations a bit. You’re just as likely to see depraved scenes of sex in a London alleyway as you are highly edited scenes of courtesans romping around in a stately English manor.

#4: “Harlots” offers insights into socio-economic problems still with us today

As “Harlots” makes clear from the outset, 18th century London was a place where as many as one-fifth of all women made a living by selling sex. There were only two real paths of economic opportunity – become a courtesan or marry well. One of the most popular reads of the era was called Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, which was essentially a ratings guide of the city’s best courtesans and how to find them. So you can get a sense of the debauchery of the era.

But how far off are those socio-economic troubles from those we see in Western society today? Go to any large metropolitan area in the United States, and we see the same stark division of society into the “haves” and the “have nots.” For some ethnic and racial groups, there is also a very limited number of paths to economic opportunity, such as playing sports or selling drugs. Any other path is really a dead-end.

As we see in “Harlots,” prostitution is not glamorous, and the sex is not “sexy.” 18th century London was a nasty, brutish place, and so you can almost excuse the machinations and intrigue of the two brothel madams at the heart of the story. This is a powerful TV show, and one that has earned all of its critical acclaim. You really should be watching Hulu’s “Harlots.”

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How AT&T Is Handling the Net Neutrality Debate

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On July 12, AT&T reaffirmed its support for net neutrality and the open internet. The move, timed to coincide with the internet “Day of Action” protests taking place around the nation, were intended to show Internet users that AT&T is firmly behind the development of a free, open internet.

Consider just some of the steps that AT&T took on July 12 – it displayed web banners articulating its support for an open internet. It sent messages to DirecTV users with the same message. And it gave internet users a very clear call-to-action: send a message to Congress to create lasting rules to make an open internet possible. And, to top it all off, AT&T linked to an “Open Internet” site on the company’s main website.

Why AT&T supports the open internet

There has been a common misconception in recent years that AT&T and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not in support of an open internet. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

The open internet, as AT&T sees it, stands for several key principles, all of which are at the heart of the net neutrality debate:

  • Transparency in rules and pricing for customers
  • No blocking of Internet traffic
  • No censorship of Internet traffic
  • No discriminatory throttling of Internet traffic

All of these are principles that are also espoused by supporters of the open internet. That’s because they are all based around fundamental beliefs that most (if not all) American citizens have. These citizens don’t want companies trying to censor content, and they don’t want companies throttling or otherwise slowing down content that they don’t approve of or don’t support.

If you look at how the modern Internet has evolved, it’s clear that the key to innovation and competition is ensuring that traffic flows freely. Yet, the way that the internet is regulated is largely at odds with this vision of a free and open internet.

AT&T supports a new regulatory approach that favors innovation

The reason why AT&T has been so supportive of customers reaching out to their congressmen and congresswomen about the open internet is because the way the internet is regulated now is largely an anachronism. Congress has been looking for the right way to regulate companies like AT&T, and can’t find the right piece of legislation that will favor innovation and competition.

During the early 2000s, Congress settled on classifying Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934 as an “information service.” But then in the mid-2000s, the push was made to re-regulate ISPs under Title II of that same act, in which they would now be classified as “common carriers.”

You might think that switching from Title I to Title II wouldn’t be a big deal – but you’d be wrong. That’s because Title II was designed to regulate the original phone companies in America. As phone companies began to form and expand in America, there had to be some way to ensure that all communities could receive the same quality of phone service at an affordable price. It wouldn’t be fair, would it, if New Yorkers could make phone calls to each other at a certain level of quality, while those living in rural areas in America couldn’t?

And, in the minds of many people in Congress, the growth of the Internet resembles the growth of the phone companies. They envision wires and cables that the Internet Service Providers use to connect Internet service to your home, and that immediately reminds them of the wires and cables that the phone companies used to connect homes to phone networks. So they are adopting the same regulatory framework.

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What’s the best way to regulate companies like AT&T?

But is the Internet the same thing as your phone network? That’s hardly the case – think of all the things that you use the internet for – yes, you use it for communication purposes, but you also use it for other things, like entertainment or news or information. You can’t define what the Internet is because the uses for it keep changing. Who could have imagined streaming movies and TV shows over the internet even 20 years ago?

That’s why regulating AT&T under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 seems so ridiculous. And so, on the “Day of Action” for the open internet on July 12, AT&T let that fact be known. One message that AT&T sent out to consumers simply read, “Make sure the internet isn’t subject to heavy-handed laws created for the rotary phone.”

So what are the other alternatives? Well, one suggestion that some have mentioned is Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which is much more up-to-date than the 1934 Communications Act, by more nearly 60 years. But it still dates back to 1996, during the early period of the Internet. Back then, Netflix hadn’t been invented yet. Facebook didn’t exist. There was no iPhone or iPad. So even that 1996 act might not be all that useful or effective.

There is one big advantage of the 1996 act over the 1934 act – and that’s the diminishment of the regulatory burden on companies like AT&T. Just one section of the 1934 act – Title II – runs to over 100 pages of rules and guidelines and regulations. That’s a lot! But compare that to Section 706 of the 1996 act – that’s only 2 paragraphs long!

And Section 706 specifically mentions the need to “promote competition” and “remove barriers to infrastructure.” Both of those are vital to today’s consumers. It means that they will have a choice of services in a very robust, very competitive marketplace. And it also means that companies like AT&T will have a much easier time deploying new, faster and more efficient broadband infrastructure. Everyone wins in this scenario.

So if any new legislation gets passed by Congress, it will almost certainly contain these two clauses – more competition and faster deployment. When AT&T talks about reducing the regulatory burden, it’s talking about moving from 100 pages of regulations to 2 paragraphs of regulations!

Title II is not the same thing as the open internet

The problem right now is that some people are trying to confuse the issue of Title II and the open internet. They see AT&T fighting against an old, obsolete and burdensome regulatory framework, and they assume that AT&T is fighting against an open internet.

But nothing could be further from the truth – AT&T has repeatedly laid out its support for all the most important principles of an open internet. And it has gone one step further by suggesting that the open internet be protected by a full and permanent law. Once net neutrality and the open internet are enshrined in law, it will be a lot harder for anyone to change it later. That’s going to benefit both AT&T and internet users, and is going to be one of those rare examples of a “win-win” in business.

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The fate of an open internet in a Trump administration

So why are we having this debate over the open internet now? The easiest answer is that the new Trump administration, which officially came into office in January 2017, has been signaling its support for changes to net neutrality.

If any changes are going to happen, they will start with the FCC, which now regulates the Internet. The current chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is very much in favor of removing regulations and making it easier for companies like AT&T to invest in modern 5G infrastructure as well as create new innovative services for customers. From the perspective of the FCC, too much regulation is a bad thing for business, so it’s important to get rid of any unnecessary regulations.

That means that a decision about Title II could be coming soon. The FCC is very much in agreement with companies like AT&T that Title II doesn’t make sense. The FCC keeps asking the question: Why is Congress trying to regulate a modern technology company like AT&T the same way it regulates a phone monopoly? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Just keep in mind — if any change is forthcoming, it will meet a lot of resistance from people who are afraid that net neutrality is coming to an end. They will fear that the FCC is trying to end an open internet.

But, as we’ve seen above, that’s confusing the facts. All the FCC is trying to do is remove the burden from AT&T that’s keeping it from doing some really spectacular things with the Internet.

And AT&T is just trying to ensure that what it refers to as the “FCC merry-go-round” (the changes in FCC rules with every new administration) finally comes to a stop. AT&T doesn’t want to have to worry about the open internet with every new U.S. president – it wants the fundamental basis for an open internet to be set down in law so that it can move on to bigger things, like building a really cutting-edge broadband network for its customers.

Would AT&T support a compromise solution?

There is one other possible scenario in the net neutrality debate, and that’s moving regulation of the internet from the FCC to the FTC. That would be a recognition of the fact that ISPs should be regulated like all other commercial companies. That might be a way out of the impasse.

As companies like AT&T become even bigger, and as they get involved with even more kinds of services for customers, it’s clear that they can’t be treated as just “information services” or as just “communications companies.” It’s clear that a big company like AT&T, which recently acquired DIRECTV, is blurring the line between entertainment, communications and information. That should open up more opportunities for the further growth of the internet.

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