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News of the Week: Maher’s Remarks, Murray’s Christmas, and a Memento Remake Nobody Asked For

Published: November 20, 2015

Stephen Colbert vs. Bill Maher

You ever watch an interview on TV that makes you squirm a little bit? I don’t mean on the cable news networks, where arguments can sprout like mold on an old bagel. I mean on a show where you don’t expect to see something uncomfortable. You’re looking for laughs and skits and music and you get a serious discussion.

That’s what happened on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Monday. Colbert had Real Time host Bill Maher on his show, and along with the laughs there was a sense of realistic tension too. And this wasn’t one of those fake things, like when David Letterman conducted that weird interview with Joaquin Phoenix that turned out to be a prank. This was a nuanced, realistic kind of tension. Here’s the entire interview, including footage not shown on TV because of time restraints:

It starts amiably enough, but then about two minutes in Maher makes a comment about Nixon being the type of person Colbert would have voted for, and it’s odd from there. Though Colbert remains amiable enough throughout the entire interview, and it’s not the type of wall-to-wall tension where you think they hate each other, you can see Colbert disagrees with Maher on a few things, including religion. It’s almost as if you can look inside Maher’s brain and see he’s thinking, “But Stephen, you’re liberal! How can you believe in God and be serious about religion?!” You can also see that Maher wasn’t particularly thrilled when, at the very end of the interview, Colbert takes over the bit and Maher doesn’t get to finish his joke.

The interview has a lot more bleeps than you’ll usually see on television. But isn’t it interesting that Colbert’s Comedy Central show moved over to CBS largely intact? There’s a lot more political humor and serious discussion of current events than I thought would happen when Colbert took over for Letterman, and when you have that you get nights like this.

By the way, at the start of this episode, Colbert’s band, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, performed the French National Anthem as a tribute to France and the people lost in the terror attacks last week (and we send our thoughts out to the victims and their families as well):

A Very Murray Christmas

Netflix has released the trailer for their new Bill Murray holiday special A Very Murray Christmas, which debuts on December 4. It features a cast list that can only be described as “irreverently epic”: George Clooney, Amy Poehler, Jason Schwartzman, Miley Cyrus, Rashida Jones, Michael Cera, Paul Shaffer, Chris Rock, and Maya Rudolph. How is Tina Fey not in this?

Judging from the trailer, A Very Murray Christmas serves as both the title and also a description of what the special will be like:

These Are a Few of Oprah’s Favorite Things

Every year Oprah Winfrey gives us her list of Favorite Things. This year she’s teaming up with Amazon.

I won’t list of all of the things that she likes that most of us wouldn’t want to spend money on (Okay, I’ll mention one — the rose gold iPhone 6s for $839.00), but there are some nice gifts here, including some that, oh, I don’t know, you might want to buy for a Saturday Evening Post columnist. I mean, who wouldn’t want an Elvis cake?

And This Is One of My Favorite Things

<em>Mad Men Carousel</em> by Matt Zoller Seitz

Mad Men Carousel by Matt Zoller Seitz

TV criticism — and I can say this because I’ve been doing it for 21 years — is often terrible. The writing is terrible, the observations are weak or obvious, and if you read enough of it you realize that just because there’s more of it doesn’t mean it’s better (we’re currently drowning in TV reviews and “hot takes”). But when TV criticism is done right, when it’s done by a good writer who not only loves television but can write about it with a mixture of wit and thoughtfulness, it can not only be important, it can rise to the level of art.

And that’s what you’ll find in the new book Mad Men Carousel by Vulture writer and RogerEbert.com editor Matt Zoller Seitz. Matt’s one of the best critics around today, and this book is filled with his perceptive, detailed reviews of every single episode of the show, along with a historical time line of things mentioned throughout the show’s run, poems by Martha Orton at the start of each season, and some great illustrations by Max Dalton.

This book is not only the perfect gift for the Mad Men fan on your Christmas list, I think that Lionsgate and Abrams Books should make some deal to make sure it’s included with every single Mad Men complete series DVD set that is sold.

Wait. Did I mention above that I wanted an Elvis cake? I meant to say the Mad Men complete series DVD set. (And an Elvis cake.)

Christopher Kimball Has Left America’s Test Kitchen

Christopher Kimball

Glenn Dettwiler [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine O, The Oprah Magazine without Oprah. Imagine Turner Classic Movies without Robert Osborne. Or imagine The Daily Show without Jon Stewart (and judging by viewer reaction to new host Trevor Noah a lot of people don’t want to). That’s how I feel about Christopher Kimball leaving the company he founded and the company’s magazines, including Cook’s Illustrated. Kimball couldn’t come to an agreement on a new contract with the new people in charge at Boston Common Press, so he’s out. Kimball will also be giving up his hosting duties on the TV cooking shows America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country (Kimball will still be seen as host of the 2016 seasons of the shows because production has already finished on them).

And to drive home the fact that this move is EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, Kimball’s blog is already gone from the America’s Test Kitchen Feed site.

There are plenty of talented cooks on the TV shows, and they’ll probably find a new host that’s “fine,” but it’s going to be very, very weird not to have Kimball as host. He set the tone and the style for the show. You think of the show, and he’s the person on it you think of. You can’t just throw a bow tie on someone else. It just won’t be the same.

Memento Is Being Remade, For Some Reason

You ever notice that books don’t get rewritten? You never see a publishing company issue a press release that says they’ve hired a writer to rewrite A Tale of Two Cities or The Great Gatsby or The Bonfire of the Vanities. Sure, there might be other books in a series featuring the same characters or sequels or prequels or new writers hired to continue a series after an author dies, but you never hear a publishing company say they’re going to remake a novel.

I know I went off on a little tangent there, but it’s just my way of saying that doing a remake of Memento is a really dumb idea.

Thanksgiving Recipes

Spirtz Cookies

Spirtz Cookies

If you wanted to eat what was served at the first Thanksgiving, you could have clams, venison, mussels, and plums. But it’s 2015 and we have a lot more options than they had in 1621. Besides, try explaining to your family that, hey, this year, instead of turkey, we’re having boiled eel!

If you want a one-stop for all of your Thanksgiving cooking needs, you probably can’t do better than The New York Times’ Thanksgiving headquarters. You’ll not only find recipes there, but also a complete guide on how to plan the day and how to not freak out during that planning. But I’d also add some recipes from The Saturday Evening Post archives, including Red Rice Stuffing with Dried Fruit, a Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake with Spiced Glaze, and Spritz Cookies.

You could also be like Marilyn Monroe. Cooking-wise, anyway. Here’s her recipe for stuffing that was found among her personal letters. If the instructions are a little confusing the New York Times made it and lists the ingredients and instructions on their site a little more clearly. Note: There’s no eel in it.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

President Kennedy assassinated (November 22, 1963)

There are approximately 3,000 different theories on the assassination, and Newsweek has a terrific, detailed piece on what happened that day.

Boris Karloff born (November 23, 1887)

The voice of The Grinch also made a mean guacamole dip you might want to try this holiday season.

Lee Harvey Oswald killed (November 24, 1963)

Millions of people watched Oswald get shot by Jack Ruby on national television.

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species published (November 24, 1859)

You can read the entire text of the groundbreaking book for free at Literature.org.

National Hockey League is formed (November 26, 1917)

The NHL replaced the NHA, the National Hockey Association.

Thanksgiving (November 26)

You can start the day by watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the rest of the day watching marathons of your favorite shows.

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