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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Jodie Whittaker is the New Doctor Who!

In mid-July, the BBC announced the identity of the new Dr. Who, driving fans wild with anticipation about what’s going to happen with the beloved British science fiction series in 2018. That’s because, for the first time in the more than 50-year history of the show, the BBC selected a woman (Jodie Whittaker) to play the role of Dr. Who. Here’s a list of what else to expect next season from “Doctor Who”…

Jodie Whittaker will help to reinvent “Doctor Who” as the first-ever female Time Lord

It’s now official: Peter Capaldi will leave his role as Dr. Who at the end of the year. According to tradition, the last show of the year is always on Christmas, so on December 25, “Doctor Who” will officially transition over to a new era. According to what we know so far, that episode will feature a regeneration scene, in which Peter Capaldi will disappear from the show and be replaced by the actress Jodie Whittaker.

As you might imagine, the selection of a female lead to play the new Dr. Who has resulted in a tsunami of fan opinion online. Most of the critical reception has been positive. However, some fans of the long-time series are at least apprehensive about what it means to have a female Time Lord at the helm.

The good news is that Jodie Whittaker (best known for her roles in “Broadchurch” and “Black Mirror”) is well aware of what fans are thinking and saying online, and she’s doing her best to calm any fears. In a public statement, Jodie noted, “Fans have been through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.” In other words, if you’ve been a long-time fan of this beloved British sci-fi series, there’s no need to worry.

And, certainly, amongst directors and TV talent, there’s been an outpouring of support for Jodie Whittaker. Charlie Brooker, creator of the hugely popular “Black Mirror” series, simply tweeted out, “Great choice.” And fans have been sharing their opinions online using new hashtags like #Doctor13 making it very easy to see what everyone’s saying. (This will be the 13th Dr. Who, hence the #Doctor13 hashtag)

The nearly 50-year-old show will become bolder than ever before

The selection of Jodie Whittaker as the new Dr. Who is not the only major change coming to the show in 2018. There’s also going to be a new lead executive producer, Chris Chibnall, who will take over for Steven Moffat as the showrunner next year. In an interview, Moffat has voiced his full support for Chibnall and his evolving vision for the show, so anticipation is building.

Moffat says to expect “beautiful dialogue” and an “amazing” show that takes “Doctor Who” in a new direction. Within the BBC, there has been concern that the show was starting to lose its freshness and inventiveness. Top BBC executives have pointed to falling merchandising revenue and the need to inject a new jolt of enthusiasm into this show. Some have described the need for a “total refresh” heading into 2018.

So, from what we can glean from newspaper reports, the BBC is looking for “risk and boldness” next year. They aren’t afraid about bringing in a new executive producer and letting him determine the new look of the show. The choice of Whittaker could just be the beginning of the changes coming. According to rumors, Chibnall has been given a five-year contract to develop the show in a new direction. Chibnall himself is a huge “Doctor Who” fan, so it’s almost a certainty that he will preserve all the best features of the show, while introducing new, fresh perspectives based on his earlier work with the sci-fi series “Torchwood.”

“Doctor Who” is going to reflect the broader change in the cultural zeitgeist

Right now, it’s clear that shows are being developed, created and re-imagined with women in mind. The spectacular summer success of “Wonder Woman,” the highest-grossing film ever directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins), has set into motion a number of new initiatives. At one time, the idea of a female-led project or a project starring a female hero meant that it wasn’t possible to get as big an audience as possible. That myth has now been debunked.

And it’s not just “Wonder Woman.” Some “Doctor Who” fans have pointed to the success of “The Hunger Games,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, as further proof that sci-fi films featuring strong female leads can be hugely popular.

The real question, then, is what a new female lead will mean for the plot direction of the show in 2018. Once Peter Capaldi regenerates into Jodie Whittaker, what can we expect to happen? The same battle of good vs. evil may not change, but the tools and approaches might.

The next season of “Doctor Who” is going to appeal to a younger audience

Right now, we don’t have any advance trailers for the new season. No scenes have yet been released because shooting has not yet started. From what we know now, filming on the series will only begin in January 2018, with the new series debuting in autumn 2018. Right now, the next season is expected to be 12 episodes, plus the traditional Christmas special, for a total of 13 episodes.

That means we have more than a year for the “Doctor Who” rumor mill to start. We’ll get a big clue in the Christmas 2017 special, when Jodie Whittaker will get her big debut. Unless you’re a fan of “Broadchurch,” you might not know much about her. She’s a 34-year-old actress from Yorkshire who’s starred in a detective serial. Clearly, the choice of such a young actress is part of a broader strategy to bring in a more youthful audience.

According to BBC, that’s all part of a bold new plan to boost the popularity of the show amongst young kids. That might mean more plot lines that involve topics that are front and center with kids today. Just as time travel fascinated audiences from 40 and 50 years ago, today’s youth are fascinated by topics like artificial intelligence and robots. So what might that mean for the TARDIS?

There are a lot of science fiction programming options out there, and certainly far more than existed more than 50 years ago, when “Doctor Who” first became a sensation. What’s really interesting to note that Charlie Brooker of “Black Mirror” is really supportive of the new show, and he’s generally considered one of the most original and creative thinkers out there.

Other women may play a big role in next season’s “Doctor Who”

If you assume that the new “Doctor Who” will have more of a female point of view and perspective, then it’s only natural to take a closer look at the evolving role of Michelle Gomez. She was one of the first major “Doctor Who” characters to be reinvented as a female character. It was already proven in previous seasons that Time Lords could regenerate as different races and genders. And that’s what made it possible for Michelle Gomez to take on the role of “The Master,” a villain played traditionally by a man.

To reflect the new role of Gomez, the current version of “Doctor Who” recharacterized the villain as “The Mistress.” That move was pulled off without any complications, so maybe fans are just thinking too much about Jodie Whittaker as the new Dr. Who. It will be new to have a female Time Lord, yes, but it’s been very seamless so far to transition some traditionally male roles into female roles.

Chris Chibnall is going to bring a new artistic vision to “Doctor Who”

Chris Chibnall is hardly a newbie to the world of “Doctor Who.” Even though he’s coming over from “Broadchurch,” he has described himself as a lifelong “Doctor Who” fan. So perhaps it’s worth looking over his recent work for clues on how he will produce the next iteration of “Doctor Who.” His work with the sci-fi series “Torchwood” is especially relevant.

Judging from fan reaction online, there’s been a lot of love for Chibnall. Even diehard fans of “Doctor Who” realize that the show was in need of a refresh. Any show – even a classic – can always be improved with some fresh thinking. And Chibnall has shown everyone that he’s really a first-rate showrunner. As Moffat himself has pointed out, Chibnall is coming in a very real advantage because he already has a background as an executive director, so he won’t have to figure things out on the fly. He’s been given a clean slate to deliver a wonderful new “Doctor Who,” and it looks like he’s fully up to the task.

It’s clear that the BBC had so many different directions it could go with the next season of “Doctor Who.” Just check out all the bold-faced names who had been considered for the role of the 13th Doctor: Tilda Swinton, Kris Marshall, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (from the BBC comedy “Fleabag”), and Michaela Coel (from the drama “Chewing Gum’).

Perhaps the best advice about what to expect next season comes from Jodie Whittaker herself, who has commented on her commitment to making this the best “Doctor Who” yet. It looks like she is very focused on building strong fan rapport. She’s been reunited with Chris Chibnall (both from “Broadchurch”), so it’s clear that the two have very good chemistry together. If you’re a “Doctor Who” fan, it’s time to get very excited about what to expect in 2018. This could be the best season yet.

When Will the “Planet of the Apes” Franchise End?

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With each new “Planet of the Apes” movie, we’re getting closer and closer to the end of an epic journey that started nearly 50 years ago with the original 1968 “Planet of the Apes” movie starring Charlton Heston. And, yet, judging by the massive critical acclaim surrounding this new film (a 93% freshness score on Rotten Tomatoes) – the third in the much-hyped “Planet of the Apes” reboot – we might have at least one more film to go before the end of this popular franchise.

#1: This is the best “Planet of the Apes” yet

Once again director Matt Reeves has delivered a masterpiece, picking up on the action as we left it at the end of the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and focusing once more on the sentient ape Caesar (as played by Andy Serkis) as he faces off against the megalomaniac military veteran known as The Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson).

Everything about this “Planet of the Apes” is better – the music, the cinematic sweep and especially the motion-capture technology. Everything about these apes appears to be so realistic – you can literally feel and see the wet fur of our simian rivals. And the eyes, too, are just so remarkable. At one point, a character looks into the eyes of one of the apes and is blown away by how “human” they look.

But that’s not all – director Matt Reeves has a deft hand for the pacing and narrative arc of this blockbuster. The first two-thirds of the film set up an epic climax at the end, in which the rogue military colonel must do battle with Caesar to determine the future of the world.

#2: You’ll actually be rooting for the apes in “War For the Planet of the Apes”

Surprisingly, the underlying narrative of “War For the Planet of the Apes” is not one of war, but of humanity and morality. Throughout the film, we are asked to explore what makes us human and distinct from the apes. Is it our morality? Because at times, the apes appear to act better than the “monkey killers.” Is it our compassion and ability to forgive? Because Caesar comes a lot closer to this than Woody Harrelson. Is it our humor? Well, there are plenty of apes – including the new “Bad Ape” – who bring a new kind of feeling and emotion that is nearly humanlike.

It all adds up to the fact that you might be rooting for the apes and not the humans by the end of this film. It is the apes – including both Caesar and Maurice, the kindly orangutan – that are embarked on an epic quest for revenge, but as we find out, it is the apes who actually hold the upper hand. Apes fight only when their survival has been challenged, unlike humans, who have a variety of reasons to embark on warlike behavior.

#3: The cinematic value of “War For the Planet of the Apes” is unsurpassed

It’s a no-brainer that this “Planet of the Apes” is going to do very well around Oscars season, at least in the technical categories. Fans and critics can’t stop talking about the photorealistic motion capture, and how life-like the apes look. Andy Serkis, in his role as Caesar, is just phenomenal.

Combine that with the cinematic sweep of the movie and this is a clear winner. The crisp, dark images and gloomy colors on screen lend a brooding mood and atmosphere, as well as a sense of tension. The musical score, too, is ominous and dramatic, but not to the point where it overshadows the action taking place on the screen.

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#4: “War For the Planet of the Apes” is not your typical summer blockbuster

Judging from the title alone, you’d expect “War For the Planet of the Apes” to be filled with battle scenes and epic explosions. Yet, as hard as it may be to believe, there were probably more explosions and battle scenes in the earlier “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” And what war-like action takes place here does so in the final third of the movie, as it builds to a dramatic climax.

And the look and feel of this movie pays homage to so many other genres because it is so richly textured. For example, part of the movie plays out like a 1950’s Western movie, with a band of adventurers traveling through the Colorado Rockies. Another part of the movie will be reminiscent of WWII prisoner of war (POW) movies. The character of Woody Harrelson as the rogue military leader will remind you of Kurtz from “Apocalypse Now.” And still other scenes will evoke classic military films like “Full Metal Jacket.” There’s a lot more here than just chimps and guns.

#5: “War For the Planet of the Apes” provides tantalizing clues about what comes next

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly 50 years since the original “Planet of the Apes” movie with Charlton Heston. That movie really forced us to consider so many future scenarios, including one in which simians take over a planet that humans have somehow lost control over. How did we go from our present reality to that dim future where apes rule the planet?

This film is billed as the end of Caesar’s journey, but it does not mean that it is the end of this film franchise. There’s a clue nestled inside this movie, and it comes in the form of a young girl named Nova (planned by Amiah Miller), who may be the secret to the future of humanity. In the film, she is aided by the apes and not the humans, and that opens up all kinds of other ambiguities.

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War For the Planet of Apes” may be the last official film in the trilogy involving Caesar, but the franchise as a whole has a lot of staying power. There may still be a few more gaps to fill in before you want the “Planet of the Apes” franchise to stop.

By the end of this very thought-provoking film, you’ll be saying things like “Apes together strong” and wondering what difference – if any – exists between “good apes” and “bad humans.” That might be the real magic of this film, beyond all the truly transcendent CGI and motion capture work – forcing movie audiences to re-think what makes us truly human after all these years of evolution.

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What to Expect From This Season of “Big Brother”

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If it’s summertime, it must be time for another season of “Big Brother!” And this 19th season of “Big Brother” on CBS is shaping up to be one of the most exciting ones yet. Here’s what to expect from this season of “Big Brother.”

Surprise guests

First of, we had the totally unexpected return of Season 18’s runner-up, Paul Abrahamian. We thought that we were going to start the season with 16 players in the BB house, but we got 17! Abrahamian is not only a veteran of all the “Big Brother” alliances and in-fighting of the previous season, he’s also one of the most talked about characters, capable of swinging alliances and really stirring up the pot. Bringing him back was epic.

Surprising eliminations on “Big Brother”

On the opening night premiere of this season’s “Big Brother” we learned that one of the houseguests was going to be evicted less than 24 hours after arriving in the BB house. Like, thanks for playing. And the Night 1 exit turned out be Cameron Heard, the cute young microbiologist who totally couldn’t believe that he was leaving before he’d even had a chance to establish himself in the house.

The ebb and flow of rival alliances on “Big Brother”

Right now, the house is split into two groups of people – the insiders and the outsiders. The person who seems to have the most power right now is Cody Nickson, who was named Head of Household, and had the early power to break any ties in votes for eviction.

And here’s the thing… the first eviction is coming up on July 6 and it’s likely going to require Cody voting to break the tie. From what we know, it looks like the vote is either going to go down 7-5 to evict Jillian Parker (the blonde timeshare sales rep). But not everybody seems willing to vote for who they said they are going to vote for, and that means the final tally could be 6-6. If that happens, then Cody would almost certainly decide to evict Christmas Abbott, who is such a threat to everyone in the BB house.

What makes this event so dramatic are two big reasons. The first reason is that it will be a LIVE eviction ceremony presided over by show host Julie Chen. There have already been all kinds of blog stories written about this, predicting some really amazing outcomes. And the second reason is that it will test “the alliance” to see how strong it really is. It’s almost a certainty that, if Christmas is not voted out of the house, that the first alliance is going to be in a lot of trouble.

Who can you really trust on “Big Brother”?

It looks like Paul Abrahamian is going to play a huge role here. In the first week of the show, he has been working behind the scenes to turn people against Cody and Jessica. If the alliance seems to be fraying at the edges as a result of the first live eviction ceremony, then it could result in a massive change of circumstances for Cody – the person who seemed to be running things with the potential for picking off people at will could find himself getting evicted if he’s not careful! Paul is now safe for 3 weeks, and has totally turned the tables on Cody.

Totally unexplainable events

Put enough strangers into a small enough house, and strange things are going to happen. For example, one strange event that happened within the first two weeks was the surprise exit of Megan Lowder due to an “urgent personal matter.” There have been a number of different reasons offered online about what really happened, but the best explanation offered so far is that Megan had some kind of PTSD-triggered emotional breakdown.

On her bio page, Megan describes herself as a 28-year-old dog walker. But she apparently also worked as some kind of guard in Middle East prisons, so she’s probably seen a lot. You would too, if you worked in Iraq, right? So the buzz among “Big Brother” fans is that Megan “self-evicted” – she couldn’t take the fact that people seemed to be colluding against her, and that triggered some kind of PTSD-based event.

Romances on “Big Brother”

The 19th season is not even two weeks old, and we’re already starting to see the rise of “showmances” – or the short-term relationship between a hot girl and a hot guy as a way of protecting each other. (And it doesn’t hurt things, either, that “temptations” are a big part of this season!)

The first big “showmance,” of course, involves Cody Nickson and Jessica Graf. Cody walks around way too often with his shirt off, and Jessica is a real hot cutie herself, so maybe they really do have feelings for each other. But it’s far more likely that they are only using each other to advance far enough in the show so that they can win.

We’ve already seen why that might be a dangerous idea. Cody Nickson was one of the people pushing the idea for a grand alliance to take down all the “outsiders,” But within two weeks, he was already scheming to play a dirty trick on the alliance and take out some of his strongest rivals. First, he picked Paul for eviction, and then he picked Christmas. So if you were Jessica, would you really trust Cody?

Epic challenges

And, of course, no season of “Big Brother” would be complete without a set of epic challenges. In the premiere episode of the season, this challenge involved a really hardcore fitness challenge, as well as temptations from “snakes” with “poisonous apples” in some kind of demented Garden of Even.

Most of the houseguests seems to be in great physical shape, so it’s likely that future challenges will require more than just being a fitness superstar (Hahaha — just ask Christmas, who calls herself a “fitness badass”). It will take someone who’s smart, clever and able to wrap people around his or her finger.

And it’s likely that people who seem to be doing the best early in the “Big Brother” series are going to find the tables turned on them. After all, if you appear too strong, you’re likely to be targeted by the others. And don’t forget for a minute that Paul Abrahamian is now back in the house. His presence alone almost guarantees that Season 19 is going to be a thrill-a-minute epic fun ride to see who can be the last guy or girl left standing!

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Beyoncé – The Most Popular Female Entertainer of Our Generation

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It’s not an overstatement to say that Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is one of the most popular and bestselling musicians of our generation. She has sold more than 100 million records as a solo artist, and another 60 million records as the lead singer of the mega-popular R&B group Destiny’s Child. As a solo artist, Beyoncé has 6 studio albums that debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts.

And the critical acclaim has been just as great, with Beyoncé winning 22 Grammy Awards and becoming the most-nominated female performer in the history of the Grammys. Not only that, but also Beyoncé is now married to Jay-Z, making them perhaps the preeminent power couple in the entertainment industry. As of May 2017, her total net worth is estimated to be $350 million.

Beyoncé, the early years

So it might be surprising to learn that Beyoncé’s early years were not always so easy. She was born in September 1981 in Houston, Texas to Tina Knowles, a hairdresser and salon owner, and Mathew Knowles, a Xerox salesman. She spent her earliest years singing and performing, showing clear signs of being a musical prodigy. At the age of seven, for example, Beyoncé won a talent show where she was competing with girls twice her age. She also performed in the school choir, attended a music magnet school in the Houston area, and attended a special high school for the performing and visual arts.

But it was a chance encounter when she was only eight that changed her life forever. She was auditioning for a role in an all-girl entertainment group with her childhood friend Kelly Rowland, where she met the other girls who would form the group Girl’s Tyme. That group, as you might have guessed, became the template for the mega-famous Destiny’s Child. They even appeared on the national TV talent show “Star Search” together, but failed to win.

And it was in 1995, when Beyoncé was just 14, that her father took over management of the group. He quit his full-time job as a salesman and committed to making this all-girl group into a singing sensation. By 1996, the group had a contract with Columbia Records, and the rest is history.

Beyoncé becomes the lead signer and creative force of Destiny’s Child

In 1996, Girl’s Tyme officially changed its name to Destiny’s Child, and the group really took off. In 1997, the group released “Killing Time,” their debut song for a major label, which later appeared on the 1997 soundtrack for the movie “Men In Black.” And then came the group’s self-titled debut album and the first major hit, “No, No, No.” The group won some critical acclaim and posted moderate sales numbers for that first album.

The group soon followed up with a huge multi-platinum second album, The Writing’s On the Wall. That smash album contained some of the most popular songs recorded by Destiny’s Child, including “Bills, Bills, Bills”, “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” and “Say My Name.”  That last song – “Say My Name” – turned the band into a Grammy-winning sensation.

But it also led to some heartache, because the band was having a hard time sticking together. The band partially split up, and the media tabloids blamed Beyoncé. When two of the original girls were replaced by Farrah Franklin and Michelle Williams, it was time to really turn up the heat and produce another great album. That led to the group’s most popular single ever, “Independent Women Part I,” which appeared on the soundtrack to the film “Charlie’s Angels” (2000).

But it was clear that the group was starting to split apart – and that was happening at the same time as the group was preparing to release its third studio album. At the same time, Beyoncé was making her name in the movie industry. In 2001, she appeared in the MTV made-for-TV film, “Carmen: A Hip Hopera,” which was loosely based on the famous French opera “Carmen.” In 2001, Destiny’s Child released their third album (Survivor), and it was a huge hit, with songs like “Bootylicious” and “Survivor.” The group released a holiday album at the end of 2001, but that was largely the end of Destiny’s Child for a few years.

Beyoncé, as the real star of the group, went on to appear in movies like “Austin Powers in Goldmember” (where she played Foxxy Cleopatra) and “The Fighting Temptations” (2003), where she starred alongside Cuba Gooding, Jr. It was now time for Beyoncé to really become a solo entertainment star.

Beyoncé Becomes a Mainstream Recording Star

It didn’t take long for Beyoncé to establish herself as one of the most popular singing sensations in the world. If she was known primarily as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child from 1996-2002, it was time for her to show the world what she could offer. Her first solo album, Dangerously in Love, was released in the summer of 2003, after initial solo debuts from two of her group mates, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. But any guesses as to who sold more album copies?

Dangerously in Love ended up selling 11 million copies worldwide, and songs like “Crazy in Love” (featuring Jay-Z) became instant sensations. In fact, “Crazy in Love” became her first #1 single as a solo recording artist. She won all types of Grammy nominations for her work, and a total of 4 songs from that album cracked the Top 5 on the Billboard charts. The success from that album was incredible – it led to massively popular tours, a Super Bowl performance and, yes, the reunion of Destiny’s Child to create one more studio album, Destiny Fulfilled.

In 2006, on her 25th birthday, Beyoncé released her second solo album, B’Day, which easily became another album to debut at #1 on the Billboard charts. The album had several songs that were huge commercial successes (such as “Irreplaceable” and “Ring the Alarm”), and Beyoncé continued to work on film deals. She starred in the comedy “The Pink Panther” (2006) and the music industry drama “Dreamgirls,” where she played a pop singer based on Diana Ross.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z Become the Power Couple of the Entertainment Industry

In 2008, Beyoncé finally got married to Jay-Z, and that one event helped to catapult her to even more fame. She was a huge crossover star with so many different audiences, and the celebrity tabloids couldn’t get enough of this power couple.

In the period from 2008-2013, Beyoncé would go on to produce three more chart-topping Billboard albums, including I Am… Sasha Fierce (2008), 4 (2011) and Beyoncé (2013). The song that really made Beyoncé an undeniable global star was “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” which appeared on her I Am… Sasha Fierce album. Music video parodies of that song became, according to many, one of the first true dance crazes of the Internet era, with versions showing up everywhere you looked online.

It was during this time period that Beyoncé became involved in even more film roles. She appeared in the 2008 music biopic “Cadillac Records” and later in the thriller “Obsessed.”

And, of course, Beyoncé continued to produce some of the most popular music anywhere. On her 2011 studio album 4, for example, she sang “Run the World (Girls),” which became a major anthem for girls everywhere. That album ended up going platinum.

Her fifth studio album, Beyoncé, was a breakthrough in how it was released in 2013. It went straight to the iTunes Store without any marketing or promotion. Word of the new album spread virally across the Internet, quickly turning it into another #1 album,. That album featured one of her most famous songs, “Drunk in Love,” in which Jay-Z again appeared.

By this time, Beyoncé had had her first child (Blue Ivy) with Jay-Z, and her music began to explore new themes, such as motherhood and depression. That only made her more popular. At the 2015 Grammy Awards, Beyoncé was seemingly everywhere – she was nominated for 6 awards, and ended up winning 3 Grammys.

Beyoncé Establishes Herself As an Iconic Star of the Industry

In February 2016, Beyoncé was back with even more musical hits. She released the mega-popular song “Formation” and performed at the Super Bowl. Then, in April 2016, Beyoncé released her sixth studio album, “Lemonade,” which went straight to #1 on the Billboard charts. It was accompanied by the 1-hour HBO film, “Lemonade.”

That album was incredibly successful, with all 12 songs on the album charting simultaneously in the Top 100, making her the first female musical performer ever to achieve that feat. The album became a streaming sensation with over 100 million streams, and it also sold over 1.5 million copies. The album became her most critically acclaimed ever, and it was time for music critics – and not just her adoring fans – to gush over her rare talents.

Beyoncé Prepares For Her Next Era of Stardom

By 2017, it was clear that Beyoncé was the most popular female recording star anywhere in the world. Even though Adele ended up edging out Beyoncé for “Album of the Year” at the Grammys in 2017, even Adele admitted publicly that Lemonade was just “monumental,” incapable of being matched by any other performer.

Going forward, it looks like Beyoncé is already lining up new creative projects for 2017-2018 and beyond. For example, she will headline the Coachella festival in 2018, making her only the second female headliner of the festival ever. And now that Jay-Z and Beyoncé have had twins in June 2008, it will be interesting to see how that influences Beyoncé’s music going forward, as well as her ability to go on world tours.

But the key point is that, just 20 years after forming Destiny’s Child, and just 10 years after launching her own brilliant solo career, Beyoncé is now one of the most recognizable, most popular and most successful female recording stars of all-time.