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9 Live Television Spectacles

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The hills were alive with the sound of just everybody turning their televisions on to watch NBC’s televised live version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music last night, with the Carrie Underwood- and Stephen Moyer-starring event pulling in a solid 18.5 million viewers. Though the live televised musical format hasn’t been utilized in quite some time, it’s not nearly as foreign as some have made it sound. Though such a thing hadn’t been attempted in 50 years, there have been plenty of other large-scale live events piped into a TV near you over the past decades. 

1. 1955's Peter Pan (And again in 1956 and 1960)

Perhaps the most well-known live television spectacular, NBC’s version of the beloved J.M. Barrie play Peter Pan was also the first full-length Broadway production on color TV. The Mary Martin-starring live version first played on March 7, 1955, with a cast that featured nearly all of the stars of the 1954 Broadway production, and it proved to be wildly popular—it drew a then-record audience of 65 million viewers.

Peter Pan was so popular, in fact, that NBC restaged the whole thing the next year, with another live version hitting the airwaves on January 9, 1956. But even that wasn’t enough to sate hungry viewers, so yet another version was staged on December 8, 1960. This production was a bit different—there were some cast changes, it was expanded into a 100-minute version from the previous 90 minutes, and it was filmed in color for later telecasts. It’s still considered the definitive version of the Martin-starring “Pans” and it remains a perennial favorite.

2. 1957’s Cinderella

The magic of live versions of Rodgers and Hammerstein classics is not just confined to that new The Sound of Music: The Broadway duo’s Cinderella also got its own live telecast way back in 1957. The production starred no less than Julie Andrews herself, and the CBS telecast aired live on March 31, 1957, ultimately reaching a staggering 100 million viewers.

Despite being a bonafide Disney princess, the story of Cinderella was also lovingly rendered by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and two other film versions—the 1965 Lesley Ann Warren-starring version and the more recent 1997 Brandy Norwood-starring take—draw from the pair’s original work, not the animated classics.

3. 2000’s Fail Safe

It’s not just stage musicals that can go the terrifying live TV route, it’s also heady dramatic stage plays—even heady dramatic stage plays that star George Clooney. Back on April 9, 2000, CBS unleashed a live version of Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s Cold War novel Fail Safe on a history-hungry audience. (The book had previously been adapted into a film by Sidney Lumet back in 1964.)

It was an undeniably serious affair—the Stephen Frears-directed special was introduced by Walter Cronkite, it played in black and white, and it featured such glam settings as the Pentagon and a fallout shelter—but it also had a star-studded cast. Clooney was joined by Richard Dreyfuss, Harvey Keitel, Noah Wyle, Hank Azaria, Brian Dennehy, Don Cheadle, Sam Elliott, and James Cromwell in the special, which centered on the unexpected fallout when a U.S. bomber is mistakenly ordered to drop a nuke on Moscow.

4. 2005’s The Quartermass Experiment

Five years after Fail Safe, the BBC tried its hand at the super-serious live telecast with a remake of the 1953 series, The Quartermass Experiment. The science fiction serial from Nigel Kneale was adapted to a contemporary setting, starring Jason Flemyng in the eponymous role, an astronaut who is the only man to return from a three-person mission to space (and even he returns…well, different). The special also starred rising actor David Tennant.

The telecast wasn’t without a few bumps—it finished a full 20 minutes early, included limited line flubs and cast stumbles, saw the appearance of a cameraman and a sound guy popping up in a shot, and had two separate interruptions by on-screen graphics announcing the death of Pope John Paul II—but it was a big success for the BBC, as it became the fourth-highest-rated program in BBC Four history.

5. 1980’s The Oldest Living Graduate

Clooney isn’t the only big name star to take to live television for a beloved project—Sally Field did it, too, with The Oldest Living Graduate. Based on the 1974 Preston Jones play of the same name, Field and co-stars Henry Fonda, Timothy Hutton, Harry Dean Stanton, John Lithgow, and Cloris Leachman top-lined the talent-stacked production, which aired on NBC on April 7, 1980.

Filmed at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University, the tale of a Texas family and their many machinations, motivations, and maddening issues was a small-scale hit, one that was eventually bolstered by a sad bit of trivia—it marked Fonda’s final stage appearance.

6. 1961’s Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte’s beloved classic has been adapted for the screens—big and small—many times over, but it was only done live on television just once. CBS cut down the rich romance for a slim hour of live television back on April 27, 1961. The Sally Ann Howes- and Zachary Scott-starring drama focused on the middle section of Bronte’s sprawling novel, picking up when young governess Jane first arrives at the foreboding Thornfield Hall and meets the dashing (and dangerous) Mr. Rochester.

Despite its limited runtime, the special is considered a solid take on the material, and one of the very best American versions of the beloved British novel.

7. 1981’s All the Way Home

Just a year after hitting the small screen with the televised version of The Oldest Living Graduate, Sally Field returned to the stage for yet another live telecast of a hard-hitting play. Based on Tad Mosel’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning 1961 play (which was in turn based on James Agee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Death in the Family), All the Way Home centered on a Tennessee family in the midst of great upheaval and tragedy after the death of their patriarch.

Like The Oldest Living Graduate, the film was broadcast live from a performance, this one staged at the University of Southern California. The live telecast played on NBC on December 21, 1981.

8. 2005’s The West Wing episode “The Debate”

A number of television shows have used the gimmick of a live episode to enthrall audiences, but only a few truly stand out. One such winner is “The Debate,” the seventh episode of The West Wing's seventh season. The beloved series’ final season needed a big bang to get it going, and two live broadcasts, featuring characters going “off script,” seemed like the way to go.

Two live versions of the episode were performed—one for each coast—both starring Alan Alda as Senator Arnold Vinick and Jimmy Smits as Congressman Matt Santos gunning for the presidency in an aggressive, energetic “live presidential debate.” The episode certainly had the appropriate live flavor, and the production’s choice to not include any original cast members only added to that veracity (even as it riled West Wing devotees).

9. 1997’s ER episode, “Ambush”

NBC was no stranger to the live show format: The network quite memorably utilized the technique almost a decade earlier, when medical drama E.R. opened its fourth season with two live episodes.

Unlike “The Debate,” however, “Ambush” used the show’s principal cast to fine effect, while also adhering to an outside gimmick to drive it. The September 25, 1997 double-show was framed as a documentary, with a camera crew invading the E.R. to chronicle the recovery of Anthony Edwards’ Dr. Mark Greene. Along the way, the episode included a near-riot, a heart attack, and the arrival of Dr. Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston). The two episodes were successful, despite a few minor mistakes in each (a character drops a pen in one episode, a patient loses his concealed weapon in another).

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10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2
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Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.

1. IT WILL PREMIERE WITH TWO EPISODES.

When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.

2. MARGARET ATWOOD WILL CONTINUE TO HELP SHAPE THE NARRATIVE.

Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.

3. MOTHERHOOD WILL BE A CENTRAL THEME.

As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”

4. THE RESISTANCE IS COMING.

Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”

5. WE’LL GET TO SEE THE COLONIES.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.

6. MARISA TOMEI WILL APPEAR IN AN EPISODE.

Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.

7. WE’LL LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF GILEAD.

As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.

8. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE HANDMAID FUNERAL.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”

9. ELISABETH MOSS SAYS THE TONE WILL BE DARKER.

Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”

10. IT WILL ALSO BE BLOODIER.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

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6 Surprising Facts About Nintendo's Animal Crossing

by Ryan Lambie

Animal Crossing is one of the most unusual series of games Nintendo has ever produced. Casting you as a newcomer in a woodland town populated by garrulous and sometimes eccentric creatures, Animal Crossing is about conversation, friendship, and collecting things rather than competition or shooting enemies. It’s a formula that has grown over successive generations, with the 3DS version now one of the most popular games available for that system—which is all the more impressive, given the game’s obscure origins almost 15 years ago. Here are a few things you might not have known about the video game.

1. ITS INSPIRATION CAME FROM AN UNLIKELY PLACE.

By the late 1990s, Katsuya Eguchi had already worked on some of Nintendo’s greatest games. He’d designed the levels for the classic Super Mario Bros 3. He was the director of Star Fox (or Star Wing, as it was known in the UK), and the designer behind the adorable Yoshi’s Story. But Animal Crossing was inspired by Eguchi’s experiences from his earlier days, when he was a 21-year-old graduate who’d taken the decisive step of moving from Chiba Prefecture, Japan, where he’d grown up and studied, to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto.

Eguchi wanted to recreate the feeling of being alone in a new town, away from friends and family. “I wondered for a long time if there would be a way to recreate that feeling, and that was the impetus behind Animal Crossing,” Eguchi told Edge magazine in 2008. Receiving letters from your mother, getting a job (from the game’s resident raccoon capitalist, Tom Nook), and gradually filling your empty house with furniture and collectibles all sprang from Eguchi’s memories of first moving to Kyoto.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY DEVELOPED FOR THE N64.

Although Animal Crossing would eventually become best known as a GameCube title—to the point where many assume that this is where the series began—the game actually appeared first on the N64. First developed for the ill-fated 64DD add-on, Animal Crossing (or Doubutsu no Mori, which translates to Animal Forest) was ultimately released as a standard cartridge. But by the time Animal Crossing emerged in Japan in 2001, the N64 was already nearing the end of its lifespan, and was never localized for a worldwide release.

3. TRANSLATING THE GAME FOR AN INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE WAS A DIFFICULT TASK.

The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was released in Japan in December 2001, about eight months after the N64 edition. Thanks to the added capacity of the console’s discs, they could include characters like Tortimer or Blathers that weren’t in the N64 iteration, and Animal Crossing soon became a hit with Japanese critics and players alike.

Porting Animal Crossing for an international audience would prove to be a considerable task, however, with the game’s reams of dialogue and cultural references all requiring careful translation. But the effort that writers Nate Bihldorff and Rich Amtower put into the English-language version would soon pay off; Nintendo’s bosses in Japan were so impressed with the additional festivals and sheer personality present in the western version of Animal Crossing that they decided to have that version of the game translated back into Japanese. This new version of the game, called Doubutsu no Mori e+, was released in 2003.

4. K.K. SLIDER IS BASED ON ON THE GAME'S COMPOSER.

One of Animal Crossing’s most recognizable and popular characters is K.K. Slider, the laidback canine musician. He’s said to be based, both in looks and name, on Kazumi Totaka, the prolific composer and voice actor who co-wrote Animal Crossing’s music. In the Japanese version of Animal Crossing, K.K. Slider is called Totakeke—a play on the real musician’s name. K.K. Slider’s almost as prolific as Totaka, too: Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS contains a total of 91 tracks performed by the character.

5. ONE CHARACTER HAS BEEN KNOWN TO MAKE PLAYERS CRY.

A more controversial character than K.K. Slider, Mr. Resetti is an angry mole created to remind players to save the game before switching off their console. And the more often players forget to save their game, the angrier Mr. Resetti gets. Mr. Resetti’s anger apparently disturbed some younger players, though, as Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s project leader Aya Kyogoku revealed in an interview with Nintendo's former president, the late Satoru Iwata.

“We really weren't sure about Mr. Resetti, as he really divides people," Kyogoku said. “Some people love him, of course, but there are others who don't like being shouted at in his rough accent.”

“It seems like younger female players, in particular, are scared,” Iwata agreed. “I've heard that some of them have even cried.”

To avoid the tears, Mr. Resetti plays a less prominent role in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and only appears if the player first builds a Reset Surveillance Centre. Divisive though he is, Mr. Resetti’s been designed and written with as much care as any of the other characters in Animal Crossing; his first name’s Sonny, he has a brother called Don and a cousin called Vinnie, and he prefers his coffee black with no sugar.

6. THE SERIES IS STILL EVOLVING.

Since its first appearance in 2001, the quirky and disarming Animal Crossing has grown to encompass toys, a movie, and no fewer than four main games (or five if you count the version released for the N64 as a separate entry). All told, the Animal Crossing games have sold more than 30 million copies, and the series is still growing. In late 2017, the mobile title Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released for iOS and Android. It's a big step for the franchise, as Nintendo is famously selective about which of its series get a mobile makeover. A game once inspired by the loneliness of moving to a new town has now become one of Nintendo’s most successful and beloved franchises.

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