Westworld’s fourth season, scheduled to premiere on June 26 on HBO, will appear to test society’s very nature as the android ‘hosts’ threaten to throw the very concept of reality out of the window and pit us against each other.
As part of its promotional strategy for the premiere days ahead of the show, HBO partnered with agency Giant Spoon along with iconic New York city brands Magnolia Bakery, Sigmund’s Pretzels, and Joe Coffee for food and beverage carts, which were manned by mysterious vendors who are trying to capture more than just guest names. Participants are surprised at what they find once they receive their goodies, leaving them wondering: “These treats are free, but am I?”
I was there to witness the takeover. It was sure strange but also in character for the Westworld brand. It was also a windy weekend in New York City so the coffee over there was welcomed. The interior of the drinks had recognizable maze imagery from “Westworld” and the baristas served the beverages with somewhat unhuman mannerisms that made it hard to tell if they were human. In addition, the back of the carts featured the following message: “We are pleased you serve us.”
Several performances were staged on June 18th, including Stephen Petronio’s company’s performance of an immersive waltz at the High Line along with the revelation that the performers were not actual humans, but Westworld hosts controlled by their summoners. It is speculated that the High Line will be a central setting for Westworld’s upcoming season.
Westworld returns to HBO on June 26 at 9pm ET, streaming on HBO Max simultaneously. Through a collaboration with Giant Spoon, HBO has previously brought “Westworld” to life through an experiential activation at SXSW 2018 and a corresponding immersive dinner at the CES 2018 technology convention in early 2020.
HBO Max’s “Father of the Bride” movie is a hilarious, charming, feel-good family movie, that enthusiastically showcases social commentary in regard to blending cultures, gender norms, and family traditions.
HBO’s That Damn Michael Che follows in the footsteps of great Black sketch comedy. The show is an exciting introduction to Michael Che’s work. HBO premiered the first two episodes of season 2 at the Roxy hotel. Within the first few minutes of the first half hour episode, I was instantly reminiscing about The Chappelle Show. While related to Chappelle’s sketch comedy, Micahel Che makes some novel decisions with the genre.
Each episode begins with a skit, without any host-style introduction. The skits follow each other, weaving a plot through the episode. The plot fleshes out Michael Che’s perspective by letting him tell a story. The clips of his standup are interspersed through the skits. They’re black and white and have an off-the-cuff podcast feel to them. He even includes clips of him going back and forth on stage with another female comic, cementing the spontaneous conversational feeling.
The first episode depicts Michael Che being “canceled,” and he may be correctly predicting a backlash. It would be surprising if a cis male comedian poking fun at gender issues, over the span of many sketches, didn’t eventually cause some type of outrage. Michael Che is a black man and the show touches on Black issues, even those specifically affecting Black women. But Michael Che is a cisgender, heterosexual man who unapologetically creates sketches from that voice and perspective, sometimes leaning into the more contentious parts of that perspective. A frank depiction of these exploits runs the risk of coming off as oppressive, and in 2022 it will likely be met with public criticism. Whether Michael Che is able to avoid serious reprisal will be a testament to his craft, humor, and empathy.
As I mentioned in my previous review of PAUSE with Sam Jay, another HBO production, Ibram X. Kendi proclaimed in Time Magazine that we are experiencing a Black renaissance. This revival is saving space for women and queer people in a way never done before. That Damn Michael Che is testament to how HBO has been providing a platform for the new Black vanguard of T.V. Already, we are seeing a plethora of Black perspectives highlighted by big networks. Instead of just Black characters, or staff, or audience, we are finally witnessing the development of Black perspectives through the voices of Black writers over several seasons. Michael Che contributes to this revival through his candid portrayal of the hangups of masculinity. As a cisgendered Black man, who blasts his own perspective online, I hope that Michael Che will manage to participate in this renaissance in dialogue with women and queer people rather than in opposition to them.
All comedians have the ability to use framing and wordplay to open a dialogue or close it. In a country founded on free speech and democracy we have to find a way to engage in open and respectful conversations about difficult topics. Through their craft, comedians are especially positioned to impact the way the conversation proceeds. The legacy of Michael Che and his show will depend on how he brings his craft to bear on intersectional and political issues.
Season 2 of Pause with Sam Jay returns to HBO on May 20th.
Last week, guests walked back in time with HBO’s Human By Orientation, who hosted a lavish uptown affair in an Upper East Side mansion that felt it could have belonged to Gentleman Jack‘s main character herself. Gentleman Jack, a queer period drama is now in its second season and is based on the collected dairies of Anne Lister. Those diaries contain over four million words and are written largely in secret code, documenting a lifetime of lesbian relationships maintained by Lister. The first season was celebrated for its exploration of the complex social landscape of the 19th century and the subtle wit and passion of Lister (expertly portrayed by Suranne Jones).
In our own way, guests were able to luxuriate in Lister’s atmosphere by way of the soirée in a hallowed home: the austere, dramatic Fabbri house, built in 1916. The property and building were bought and financed by Margaret Louis Vanderbilt Shepard as a wedding gift to her daughter, Edith Shepard Fabbri. It was said that dinners would not begin until after 1am and guests would stay weeks.
Today, we partake in a similar pleasure in the spare and delightfully cold Italian interior (already of antique demographic by 1916), warmed by candle sticks lining the walls and halls, a string quartet providing music through the evening, and even period-influenced dances by Cortney Key and Lenai Wilkerson. Cocktails were prepared in the spirit of the period on the mezzanine, served in glassware of a rare regal scale and quality, weighing more than 2 pounds each. In the courtyard, a Mercedes-Benz SL350 “Pagoda” sat, the car Ms. Lister would have been well-likely to drive if she had the choice. The grand library of the Fabbri house was converted into a screening area where guests watched the first episode of the new season of Gentleman Jack. The drawing room with its important and intricate ceiling (coming way of Italy by boat) was the site of a photo studio, complete with gorgeous floral arrangements by Nicole Absher framing a period sofa.
The beautiful florals continued into the dining room, where a U-shaped table was arranged at the foot of an imported mantle. Guests assembled for a multi-course meal prepared by celebrated chef Melissa King (Melissa was quite busy this week as she had the MET Gala dinner to serve yesterday as well). The menu, according to Melissa, was heavily influenced by the period (especially the pea soup, “Always the pea soup”). But Melissa also included a part of her own legacy, that of being a queer person with Cantonese heritage. “There are some Asian influences here, especially in the selection of ingredients”.
Read more about Lister and her diary at the West Yorkshire Archive Service Exhibit blog. Gentleman Jack seasons one and two are streaming now on HBO Max as part of their Queer Voices collection. Learn more and watch the series here. Follow along with HBO’s LGBTQ community on Instagram @humanbyorientation.
April 24th 2022, Barry Season 3 kicked off on HBO.
A week prior to the release date, I attended the Barry Season 3 Red Carpet Premiere in Arts District CA at Rolling Greens Nursery. There I got to chat with the cast of the show about their proudest and most challenging moments. Bill Hader expressed his enthusiasm for starting back on the show and having avid watchers experience all the new season has to offer.
After the red carpet attendees were led to an outdoor seating area where we had an exclusive sneak peak of the first two episodes. Following the screening, guests were welcomed to an after party. There was an open bar with signature cocktails, a vegan salad bar, a spaghetti station and a pizza station. All things were in the theme of Barry.
Guests were also able to customize their own pottery in a tie dye pattern. Once it dried you were able to pick your own plant to tuck into the pot. There was a dance floor and comfortable seating area throughout the event to relax and enjoy the ambiance.
Overall, the show itself has a darker tone than ever. The dark humor and the drama are at an all time high, it will be great to witness the show reach its boiling point. Barry Season 3 new episodes will be available every Sunday on HBO Max.
Watch our red carpet interview with the cast on our youtube page.
The “We Own This City” series premiere started off by giving me A$AP Ferg music video vibes with it’s fast and detailed editing, showcasing archival footage of the police department, Baltimore and it’s civilians, through overlapping photographs, colorfully highlighted text, and documentary-style videos, that all pause and fast- forward in a moment’s notice.
The Knockturnal was on the scene for a special screening of director Barry Levinson’s latest film “The Survivor.”
The outrageously hilarious comedic show, A Black Lady Sketch Show returns for season 3 with more wigs, more costumes, and more ridiculously funny characters.