Category Archives: Daily Beast

What are ‘The Jinx’s’ Filmmakers Trying to Hide?

The Jinx

I was supposed to spend Monday morning interviewing The Jinx filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling for a Daily Beast Q&A about Sunday’s unbelievable finale, and those stunning final moments, in which Robert Durst is recording saying, “There it is. You’re caught. …What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.” The ending left me floored — I’d never seen anything like that on television before — and I was still shaking an hour later.

The next morning, I received word that my interview had been delayed an hour. That rescheduled time came and went, and I heard nothing. “We’re running being schedule,” says a rep. Meanwhile, some of their earliest interviews from the morning had begun trickling out, revealing that the filmmakers were being curiously evasive about basic questions regarding The Jinx’s timeline: when the final episode’s “second interview” was filmed, when they discovered the bathroom audio and when they shared their discoveries with law enforcement.

Soon after, I was notified that my interview — along with all the other interviews scheduled for Monday — had been canceled. Instead, the filmmakers released the following statement: “Given that we are likely to be called as witnesses in any case law enforcement may decide to bring against Robert Durst, it is not appropriate for us to comment further on these pending matters.”

As I wrote at The Daily Beast, I’m not buying it:

That excuse holds about as much water as many of Durst’s overt dodges within the show.  Jarecki has been giving interviews about The Jinx and Durst for several months now, and had already completed a few interviews early Monday—including one with CBS This Morning in which Jarecki said he had shared their findings with authorities long ago and expected Durst would be “arrested as soon as possible” and that “we were sort of amazed ourselves that he hadn’t been arrested for so long. But the authorities were never communicating with us other than in their normal cordial way. They were going through their investigation.”

So if they’d expected Durst to be arrested—which would likely lead to them being called as witnesses—why choose this morning to cease talking? Instead, the sudden media silence seems to be at least in part to deflect further questioning about the timeline, which increasingly seems to have been fudged by the series.

I pointed out later in the story,

If anyone should understand the importance of a clear timeline, it’s Jarecki and Smerling. After all, they spent much of Jinx’s six episodes poking holes in the various timelines Durst had offered around the murders. They proved he had ample time to get from Northern California in December 2000 to Los Angeles and back again, just in time to catch a flight out of San Francisco. And they also unearthed several inconsistencies about his whereabouts the night that his wife disappeared in 1982. In the finale, Jarecki’s crew caught Durst lying about his location to evade that finale interview. (Durst had said he was in Madrid or Barcelona, but he later told an associate he was in Los Angeles the whole time.)

But now that the tables have turned, The Jinx’s creators have proven to be just as elusive as their interview subject.

Monday should have been a triumphant day for the filmmakers, especially in light of Robert Durst’s arrest on Saturday, as a result of evidence they’d shared with L.A. law enforcement. But instead of taking their victory lap, the duo has blunted the impact of their amazing achievement with their evasiveness — and subsequent media blackout.

To be clear, I still love The Jinx and think the show is one of the best TV achievements of 2015. I just wish the filmmakers weren’t suddenly acting like they have something to hide.

What are The Jinx’s Filmmakers Trying to Hide? 

How to Get Away with a Series Finale: ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Justified’ and ‘Parks and Rec’ Creators Tell All

Parks and Rec finale

Tonight, Parks and Recreation says farewell after seven glorious seasons on the air. And like many long-running shows that are ending their runs this season — including Justified, Mad Men and Sons of Anarchy — the creators are under pressure to come up with a finale that sticks the landing, and validates all that came before it. As I wrote at The Daily Beast,

It’s a problem that TV creators are increasingly grappling with, as more networks are allowing them to end their shows on their own terms and their own timetable. But that freedom has intensified pressure for that final episode to stick the landing and in some ways justify all that came before it. Seinfeld’s everyone-goes-to-jail finale angered and alienated many fans back in 1998, but it didn’t taint our memories of the entire series the way that How I Met Your Mother or Dexter’s recent ludicrous conclusions did. These days, in order to cement their status in the TV pantheon, shows not only have to be great, they also have to end that way.

I spoke with Parks co-creator Mike Schur, Justified creator Graham Yost and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan about the increased spotlight on series finales since The Sopranos, as well as the finales they’re hoping to emulate. (“Everything is about the endings now,” says Yost.) And FX chief John Landgraf also weighs in on the importance of allowing a show to end when the story dictates, not when the networks have squeezed every last drop of money from a show.

Plus, you’ll want to hear Graham Yost’s joke about what a Deadwood-themed Justified finale could be like.

Farewell, Parks and Rec!

How to Get Away with a Series Finale: ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Justified’ and ‘Parks and Rec’ Creators Tell All

Oscars Flashback: Neil Patrick Harris and the ‘One Billion Viewers’ Myth


The 87th Annual Academy Awards air on Sunday, and while I’m nowhere near as invested in awards season as back when I was on the movie beat (I still need to see too many of the nominees), I did want to share two previous stories of mine that are worth taking another look at before the big show on Sunday.

The first is this Daily Beast chat with Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris, where he looks back on his favorite emcee moments over the years. This story ran before he hosted the Emmys in 2013, but it’s just as relevant now in the walkup to his biggest hosting gig yet — and a wonderful reminder of what a gifted emcee he is. There’s even a story about the last time he appeared on the Oscar stage!

Neil Patrick Harris on His Best and Worst Emcee Moments

The second Oscar piece worth looking back on is this Quartz story from last year about the silly, yet annoyingly persistent, myth that one billion people worldwide watch the Oscars ceremony. I look into where that billion-viewer figure first came from, and why people continue to reference it today, despite all factual evidence to the contrary.

No, one billion people do not watch the Oscars

Happy Oscar viewing!

Vince Gilligan on Ending ‘Breaking Bad’ and the Perils of Spinning Off ‘Better Call Saul’

better call saulAfter a couple of months, I’m back at The Daily Beast with this fantastic chat with Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, who created the new Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul. I had a fantastic chat with them about the new show, the perils of spinoffs, the paralyzing fear of trying to come up with a proper Breaking Bad ending and, unexpectedly, O.J. Simpson.

While Gilligan was certainly entitled to a nice, long hiatus after wrapping one of the greatest TV shows in history, the Breaking Bad creator was back at work on Saul barely a month later. As he told me,

“It’s like that old thing about if the horse throws you, you’ve got to get back up on the horse or otherwise you’re never going to ride it again,” says Gilligan. “Breaking Bad was so beyond any wildest dreams I could’ve imagined that if I’d had more time to sit on my hands and contemplate it, I’d probably sit around and double- and triple-guess every subsequent new idea I had for a program and say, ‘You know what, it’s not as good as Breaking Bad; I’d better wait for something that is as good.’ Suddenly, it’s 15 years later and it’s like, ‘People magazine has photos of the old guy who used to do Breaking Bad. Whatever happened to him?’ It’s better to get back up on the horse.”

It was such a pleasure speaking with Gilligan and Gould, and that interview is packed with terrific detail from them. In even better news, I’m happy (and relieved) to report that Better Call Saul is no Joey: it’s much more ambitious and rewarding, and is a worthy companion to Breaking Bad.

Vince Gilligan on Ending ‘Breaking Bad’ and the Perils of Spinning Off ‘Better Call Saul’

‘The Blacklist’s’ Frustrating Fall: Keen’s a Keeper, but Red Regresses

blacklist season 2

At The Daily BeastI check back in on The Blacklist, which aired its fall finale last night. I wrote last spring that James Spader was single-handedly keeping the show together with his virtuoso turn as Raymond “Red” Reddington, and the NBC drama should wipe the slate clean of his costars and reboot with a group more worthy of sharing the screen with Spader.

Amazingly, the show did almost exactly that in the offseason, but the problems still exist. As I wrote at The Daily Beast,

So why does Season 2—which just had its fall finale Monday night—feel like such a disappointment so far? Because in focusing on all those necessary fixes, producers lost sight of the show’s raison d’être: Spader. Two steps forward, two steps back.

The Blacklist’s Frustrating Fall: Keen’s a Keeper, but Red Regresses

Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris on His Best and Worst Emcee Moments

Neil Patrick Harris

Today, Neil Patrick Harris was named to host pretty much the only awards show he has yet to emcee: the king of them all, the Oscars. In light of the news, I suggested that the Daily Beast dust off my interview with him from last year about his best and worst hosting moments, and that’s exactly what they did:

Neil Patrick Harris on His Best and Worst Emcee Moments

Stop Hating on ‘Modern Family’ (But Also Stop Giving It Emmys)

modern family s6

Few people were more upset than I over Modern Family’s return to Emmy dominance back in August, when it once again won best comedy, beating Louie (!), Veep (!!) and Orange is the New Black (!!!). But at the same time, I felt like the backlash against the show — some people seemed to want it taken off the air immediately — seemed overblown. As someone who had watched all five seasons worth of episodes, I knew that Modern Family still had its moments. This fall seemed like a good time to revisit the show, so I did that today for The Daily Beast:

So, following Jay’s advice and putting all the hoopla aside, it’s time to examine how good—or bad—Modern Family really is at this point in its run. After watching Season 6’s first three solid episodes, it’s clear that Modern Family is much better than many of its haters remember. It’s still reliably and solidly funny, capable of several genuine laughs each week, which is more than most network comedies can say. But equally evident is the fact that the show, while still entertaining, stopped being groundbreaking long ago, and serves largely at this point as comedy comfort food.

This story also gave me an opportunity to talk about the most bitter, loveless couples on television: Mitch and Cam, who should really go their separate ways. But I still love Audrey Anderson-Emmons, who plays their daughter, Lily, my favorite character on the show. And I admire the show’s restraint in turning Modern Family into The Lily Show.

In its sixth season, Modern Family is still worthy of adoration from audiences — just not Emmy voters.

Stop Hating on ‘Modern Family’ (But Also Stop Giving It Emmys)

The TV Superhero Guru Behind ‘The Flash’

berlanti the flash

Greg Berlanti and I have been Twitter friends since back in 2012, when I fell for his USA summer miniseries Political Animals. But we’d never actually met until we sat down together at TCA summer tour to do this Daily Beast profile.

One of TV’s most prolific producers — he’s co-showrunner on Arrow and The Flash, a producer on The Mysteries of Laura, has three series (and counting) in development for next season, and is also producing the bigscreen Peter Pan reboot Pan — Berlanti talked about what’s in store for The Flash, his obsession with comics, how he’s succeeded with TV comic adaptations where Marvel has failed and the disadvantage to having so many projects on his plate:

The only slight disadvantage to doing more and more things is you really have to be where the problems are. So you don’t get to be as much where things are going well. And so, if there’s two things that I’m working on that are going well, I’m not in that story room or on that set. I’m wherever we’re having some challenges. Then, by the time we take care of those, I go back to the other ones. So the disadvantage of having multiple things is on a day where everything is going badly on all things. You want to shoot yourself! The advantage is that’s usually not the case. Usually one or two things are going all right, and it buoys your spirits a little bit.

His take on The Flash is broadcast’s best pilot this fall. While almost all new shows take much of the first season to find their way, Flash arrives impressively fully-formed and self-assured. And, oh yeah, it’s a helluva lot of fun.

The TV Superhero Guru Behind ‘The Flash’

How Cristin Milioti Met Sitcom Stardom

cristin milioti

What if How I Met Your Mother had actually been about, you know, how Ted met the Mother? The result would have been something like A to Z, the new NBC romantic comedy starring, yes, Cristin Milioti, who played the Mother in that show’s final season last year. At The Daily Beast, I spoke to the charming actress — who, it turns out, went to the same high school as I did (a full decade either before or after me; I’ll never tell) — about the controversial HIMYM finale, dropping out of college, what she learned from Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese on The Wolf of Wall Street and (spoiler alert) how she discovered the Mother’s fate:

Milioti first discovered Tracy’s fate late last year, at the show’s Christmas party. “I was sitting with Craig and we were like three cocktails in,” she says. “He’s very happy and giddy when he gets a little tipsy, and he said, ‘Do you want to know how the series ends?’ I was also tipsy and I was like, ‘What, do I die?’—as a joke. Then he got real serious and was like, ‘Wait, do you know?’ He told me how it happens, and I sat there bawling. I just didn’t see it coming.”

I did this interview with her at TCA summer tour; it was nice to be able to do this one in person and swap South Jersey memories.

How Cristin Milioti Met Sitcom Stardom

SNL’s Kim Kardashian Konundrum: Why Nasim Pedrad’s Exit Hurts So Much

Kim Kardashian SNL

Every once in a while, one of my random tweets blossoms into its own story. That’s what happened during TCA summer tour, when I tweeted this during the panel for Mulaney, in which Nasim Pedrad talked about leaving Saturday Night Live to do the Fox sitcom.

I spoke with Pedrad later that day (she’d seen the tweet and loved it), and she talked about her Kim Kardashian impression, and mentioned that she would be open to popping up on SNL on occasion to perform it.

With SNL’s season premiere this weekend, the time seemed right to write this Daily Beast analysis of Pedrad’s exit (which was largely overlooked this summer amidst all the other firings and hirings), and how much she — and her Kim impersonation — will be missed. As I wrote,

For better or for worse—okay, for much worse—and in the face of all 15-minutes-of-fame logic, Kim Kardashian isn’t going anywhere, even after seven years in the spotlight. We’re still stuck seeing the reality star plastered on every tabloid cover, starring in endless iterations of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and instagramming and tweeting as if her life depended on it. Pedrad’s take on Kim has been our reward for having to put up with the real thing, and the only acceptable version of Kim Kardashian on television.

It’s also deceptively nuanced. Anyone could simply play Kim as a dim bulb. (Both Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong’s impressions of the other two Kardashian sisters—Kourtney and Khloe, respectively—are cut from the same cloth as their recurring “not-porn-stars-anymore” commercial models.) But Pedrad brought more layers to the role than even Kim herself actually has.

With no logical choices in the current cast to impersonate Kim, here’s hoping that SNL does the smart thing and brings back Pedrad for the occasional “Waking Up with Kimye” sketch. She’s the only Kardashian worth Keeping Up with.

SNL’s Kim Kardashian Konundrum: Why Nasim Pedrad’s Exit Hurts So Much