Opportunity binge

How Black contestants made ‘Big Brother’ history


Welcome to the Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who spent this week trying to understand Travelgate.

That obscure Clinton-era scandal features in the premiere episode of “Impeachment: American Crime Story,” which starts on the road to the 1998 impeachment of President Clinton (Clive Owen) by introducing us to White House secretary Linda Tripp (played by Sarah Paulson), her colleague Kathleen Willey (Elizabeth Reaser), former intern Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) and Jones vs. Clinton plaintiff Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford). But if you missed Tuesday night’s premiere on FX and were hoping to catch up this weekend, you’ll have to pay for it.

Unlike “Mrs. America,” which went straight to the network’s corporate-sibling streamer via the FX on Hulu brand, or “American Horror Story,” which arrives on the platform the day after airing on FX, you won’t be able to stream “Impeachment” with your regular ol’ Hulu account. Instead, you’ll have to pony up for a live TV service like Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV; purchase a season pass on iTunes; or use the FX Now app, which requires a cable or satellite login.

Don’t want to spend the money? Practice patience. “Impeachment” will stream exclusively on Netflix — in roughly one year’s time. That’s thanks to a deal Fox, which produces the series, inked with the streaming giant back in 2016, shortly after “American Crime Story’s” breakout first season, “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” nabbed 22 Emmy nominations.

Five years later, the streaming wars are in full swing and audiences have long since come to expect TV shows to be available to stream in real time, or close to it, without having to shell out on top of their existing subscriptions. And in a culture where the elusive “buzz” has supplanted all-over-the-map ratings metrics, leaving a high-profile series without a next-day streaming option feels like a major missed opportunity.

The most talked-about TV series of the year, including “WandaVision” (Disney+) and “Mare of Easttown” (HBO), have tended to follow a similar model: a weekly release to build momentum, with episodes on a streaming platform where time-shifters can catch up. And with series such as “The Boys” (Amazon Prime) and “Love Is Blind” (Netflix), even streamers where the binge model once reigned supreme have increasingly seen the value of bringing episodic storytelling and cord-cutting convenience.

To which we say: C’mon in, “Impeachment.” The water’s fine.


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A man with a scar on his face in a black hat and black jacket

Michael K. Williams as Omar Little in “The Wire.”

(Associated Press)

“Adventure Time: Distant Lands: Wizard City” (HBO Max). The fourth post-series special puts a period to the great adventure that was “Adventure Time,” though who can really say? It only takes a drop of ink to make a period into a comma. In “Wizard City” — which should perhaps be watched before the Finn-and-Jake-focused previous episode — a young Peppermint Butler, under the influence of his older self, becomes a student at the Wiz Arts academy in a bid for a dark magic do-over. New character and fellow outcast Cadebra, who correctly believes real magic is boring compared to stage magic, keeps him honest. The episode takes off on various “Harry Potter” tropes, but even when the story travels well-trod ground, the details and language, the cheekiness and character work, along with the suggestion that there is always more to know, keeps the world alive. Fans may take heart that a “Fionna & Cake” series (Finn and Jake, gender-swapped) is in the works, with longtime “Adventure Time” steward Adam Muto as its showrunner. —Robert Lloyd

“Top Chef Family Style” (Peacock). The family-centric episodes of “Top Chef” always get both my mouth and eyes watering: Late in the season, when everyone is plenty homesick, a loved one — often the person who first taught them to cook — flies in to help the remaining contestants win a crucial challenge and taste their creations in a gorgeous setting. This spinoff, with host Meghan Trainor and head judge Marcus Samuelsson, combines that concept with any of the kid-centric cooking shows out there: young chefs team with a family member to take on the competition as a duo. It’ll hold me over until the next season of the Bravo series.

In honor of actor Michael K. Williamsuntimely death, it’s time to revisit one of the best dramas ever, “The Wire” (HBO Max). The critically acclaimed series, which ran over five seasons from 2002 to 2008, explored the many ways Baltimore’s failed and corrupt institutions (law enforcement, local government, schools) contributed to urban blight and generational poverty among the city’s neglected Black community. In his recurring role as the iconic Omar Little, a robber of drug dealers with a face scar and strict moral code (never target innocent civilians), Williams was terrifying and sympathetic, a larger-than-life figure who was as fearsome as he was frail, as animated as he was authentic. Alongside an impressive cast that included Idris Elba, Wendell Piece and Dominic West, and with the literary genius of show creator David Simon and writer Ed Burns, Williams cemented “The Wire’s” legacy as an unparalleled examination of modern culture and politics, and a masterwork in exposing the flip side of the American dream. —Lorraine Ali

Critics’ picks: “Impeachment: American Crime Story” (FX) | “Kid Cosmic” (Netflix) | “Come From Away” (Apple TV+)

Catch Up

A man in a yellow tank top and sunglasses with his arms held open as if gesticulating

“Big Brother” contestant Derek Frazier.

(Best Possible Screen Grab / CBS)

Less than three weeks remain before the season finale of CBS reality competition “Big Brother,” but one thing is already certain.

The series, which has been plagued by allegations of racism and cultural insensitivity since its premiere in 2000, will make history by crowning its first Black winner on Sept. 29.

That’s because the six finalists still left in the “Big Brother” house are all Black. Their secret alliance, the Cookout, has remained intact while systematically picking off all non-Cookout players.

The development marks a startling milestone for the series: Several previous Black players have complained of being bullied, targeted and manipulated in the “Big Brother” house, and the casts of the 22 previous seasons have been predominantly white.

That pattern changed this season because of a pledge made in reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted last year in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. CBS Chief Executive George Cheeks ordered that the casts of unscripted shows starting this year must be at least 50% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color).

This season’s six Black players bonded soon after entering the custom-built “Big Brother” house in July, with the goal to stay in power long enough to make up the majority of the jury that will determine the winner of the $750,000 grand prize.

The success of the Cookout has also sparked controversy, with some longtime “Big Brother” fans accusing the show and the network of “reverse racism.”

The series now enters perhaps its most intriguing phase, as the Cookout dissolves and its individual members compete against each…


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