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‘Fargo’ stars Chris Rock in a mob tale that rolls along a bit too slowly

The FX series was one of many delayed by coronavirus, having completed nine of its 11 episodes before the pandemic shut down production. Series creator Noah Hawley and his team were able to resume filming, although those final episodes haven’t been seen, so even critics don’t know if the big build-up actually pays off in…

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‘Fargo’ stars Chris Rock in a mob tale that rolls along a bit too slowly

The FX series was one of many delayed by coronavirus, having completed nine of its 11 episodes before the pandemic shut down production. Series creator Noah Hawley and his team were able to resume filming, although those final episodes haven’t been seen, so even critics don’t know if the big build-up actually pays off in a satisfying manner.As is, the new “Fargo” owes a debt to every Mafia movie ever made, but perhaps foremost to the graphic-novel-turned-2002-movie “Road to Perdition,” at least in the look and tone. A key dramatic device also brings to mind Jack Kirby’s epic “Fourth World” comic books of the 1970s: Leaders of warring factions (and in that case, planets) swapping sons in order to maintain an uneasy truce between them.The premiere establishes that history, and indeed the entire arc of American organized crime as it pertains to immigrants, with the rise of Jewish, Irish and Italian syndicates — whoever was “next off the boat,” it’s noted. These groups warily interact with each other, before Black mobsters enter the scene when the story begins in Kansas City in 1950, with Rock’s Loy Cannon as their boss. (Lest anyone have forgotten after the long layoff, “Fargo,” the title, is really just a state of mind, not the town referred to in the original Coen brothers movie.)”What does history tell us? Peace don’t last for long,” the narration notes at the outset, setting an ominous tone for virtually everything that follows.Cannon trades his son with the rival Italian mob, run by Schwartzman’s slightly fidgety Josto Fadda, himself the product of an earlier heir swap. Yet Fadda has his own internal troubles, with his ruthless brother Gaetano (“Gomorrah’s” Salvatore Esposito) having come over from the old country and itching for a fight.”Fargo” provides an assortment of lovingly constructed shots, artful split screens and eccentric characters, including Timothy Olyphant (not far from his “Justified” days) as a philosophical lawman who objects to strong language; Jessie Buckley as a nurse whose stiff outward demeanor doesn’t tell the whole story; and Ben Whishaw — who really steals the show — as an Irishman raised by the Italians, who becomes the world-weary chaperone of Cannon’s kid.Rock and Schwartzman sink their teeth into these serious dramatic roles, and there’s still plenty of the series’ trademark quirkiness, such as naming one of Loy’s lieutenants Doctor Senator (played by the ever-reliable Glynn Turman).Too often, though, the narrative moves at a crawl, filled with long conversations that carry the impending threat of violence. It’s fine if you’re there just to luxuriate in the atmosphere (which includes a glorious black-and-white episode later in the run), and a little frustrating if you’d prefer a bit more urgency about where all these roads lead and intersect.Given the spotty history of translating movies to TV, the first season of “Fargo” was a minor miracle — capturing the film’s peculiar rhythms — and the second was almost equally impressive. The third, however, featuring Ewan McGregor in a dual role, slipped from that creative plateau, and the fourth ranks right around that line, well below the show’s apex.That isn’t bad company, but in the “Fargo” pecking order, it’s closer to the runt of the litter than the top dog.”Fargo” premieres Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. on FX and the next day on FX on Hulu.

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Broadway comes to TV with ‘American Utopia’ and ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’

Both shows are worth the time, although seeing them at home, frankly, reinforces what’s lost in translation given the tingle that live theater, at its best, can send up your spine — a sensation that doesn’t quite emerge on either front. Together, they underscore what “Hamilton” so impressively accomplished by conjuring that elusive magic. Notably,…

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Broadway comes to TV with ‘American Utopia’ and ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’

Both shows are worth the time, although seeing them at home, frankly, reinforces what’s lost in translation given the tingle that live theater, at its best, can send up your spine — a sensation that doesn’t quite emerge on either front. Together, they underscore what “Hamilton” so impressively accomplished by conjuring that elusive magic. Notably, HBO Max’s “The West Wing” special also captures some of that by bringing a TV show to the stage for the purposes of watching at home. (Like CNN, HBO is a unit of WarnerMedia.)Byrne, the Talking Heads front man, has always possessed a theatrical and cinematic flair, including his 1986 directorial effort “True Stories.” Those qualities inform “American Utopia,” a collection of songs — imaginatively choreographed and lit — that conveys the joyous and playful aspects of his music.On the plus side, that sense of fun is entertaining enough. The main drawback is that while Byrne addresses pressing issues during his chatting with the audience — including the importance of voting, and introducing his performance of Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout,” name-checking Black people killed by police — there’s scant thematic adhesive to the presentation, unlike some other productions wedding rock to Broadway (Bruce Springsteen’s “Springsteen on Broadway,” filmed for Netflix, comes to mind).Lee does an admirable job of shooting the performance from every conceivable angle, although while the overhead shots are quite cool, one could probably do without closeups on Byrne’s feet, which along with the rest of the performers, are bare.Byrne’s playlist includes the hit “Burning Down the House,” and a boisterous rendition of “Road to Nowhere,” which includes a march through the appreciative audience.”American Utopia” doesn’t set the screen ablaze, but Byrne and his collaborators certainly know how to put on a show, even when it feels like they’re going nowhere.”What the Constitution Means to Me,” by contrast, is an audacious idea, one that starts slowly — at least in this format — before sinking in its hooks about halfway through.Playwright-star Schreck (a Tony nominee on both scores) earned college tuition money by competing in Constitutional debates, and revives her 15-year-old self to explore — humorously at first, pointedly later — its troubling and inequitable aspects, including mistreatment of women.Schreck’s reminiscing about “Dirty Dancing” and visiting legion halls to wax eloquently about the Constitution to mostly older men come into sharper focus when she exits the time capsule, and pivots to speaking in her 40-something voice.At that moment her memories and observations become sharper, from the patriarchal values of the court to violence against women to her own experience with abortion.”When abortion became illegal, it didn’t become rare,” she says, referencing the days before Roe v. Wade. “It only became deadly.”Schreck closes by engaging in a debate with a teen orator, Rosdely Ciprian, about whether the Constitution is indeed the living, breathing document that we’ve been taught to admire in school — adaptable to the modern age — or a hopelessly dated construct that needs to be discarded, starting over from scratch. It’s an interesting device, while lacking the impact of the material that precedes it.Directed by Marielle Heller (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), “What the Constitution Means to Me” serves as a reminder that those pining for the past tend to ignore historic inequalities. There’s even quotation from the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who caused a stir when she saw the show last year — which makes the special feel extra timely and poignant.Minor drawbacks aside, both shows have plenty to recommend them. And if live theater means anything to you, they provide at least a taste of what you’re missing.”What the Constitution Means to Me” premieres Oct. 16 on Amazon.”American Utopia” premieres Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO, which like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.

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Taraji P. Henson confirms split from fiancé Kelvin Hayden

The “What Men Want” actress confirmed during an appearance Monday on “The Breakfast Club” that she and the former NFL player have ended their engagement.”I just turned 50 and I mean, I hadn’t said it yet, but it didn’t work out,” she told the hosts of the popular New York City radio show. “I tried.…

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Taraji P. Henson confirms split from fiancé Kelvin Hayden

The “What Men Want” actress confirmed during an appearance Monday on “The Breakfast Club” that she and the former NFL player have ended their engagement.”I just turned 50 and I mean, I hadn’t said it yet, but it didn’t work out,” she told the hosts of the popular New York City radio show. “I tried. I was, like ‘Therapy, let’s do the therapy thing,’ but if you’re both not on the same page with that then you feel like, you’re taking it on yourself. And that’s not a fair position for anybody to play in a relationship.”The couple got engaged in 2018 and were scheduled to be married in June this year.In March Henson told “Extra” they were postponing the wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic.”It’s probably going to be more like July,” she said at the time. “We have to see what this will be like at the other end.”The “Empire” star was part of a panel discussion on “The Breakfast Club” about trauma and relationships.She said she loves Black men and Black love and is a fan of mental health support for her community. “It hurts when relationships don’t last,” she said. “I love to see Black love and I want to see more of it. I want to see our relationships last and make it.”

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‘Supermaket Sweep’ hopes to get you swept into the fun

The phrase “global pandemic” had just been thrown around in the news the day before and even though I’d been prepping supplies and canned goods since the month prior, I decided that morning that our household could use a fresh round of the basics so we could hunker down for a couple of weeks. Everyone…

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‘Supermaket Sweep’ hopes to get you swept into the fun

The phrase “global pandemic” had just been thrown around in the news the day before and even though I’d been prepping supplies and canned goods since the month prior, I decided that morning that our household could use a fresh round of the basics so we could hunker down for a couple of weeks. Everyone in West Los Angeles apparently had the same idea. I’ll remember that morning for the rest of my life because walking into a crowded grocery store with mostly bare shelves was something I had been privileged enough to not have experienced before. Though, there had been a time when I wanted nothing more than to run through a grocery store, clearing shelves as I went along. I loved “Supermarket Sweep” as a child and was convinced I could achieve financial independence if only given the chance to run the big sweep one day. (My plan was always to start by grabbing an inflatable bonus, running it back and then heading straight for the expensive meats.) This store looked like it had fallen victim to lots of sweepers but not in a fun way. Carts were piled high but faces were masked and not smiling. The eyes that poked above face coverings were filled with worry. By the time my turkey, ribs and I got to the checkout counter, and I heard that familiar beep, I didn’t think about “Supermarket Sweep.” I thought, “Get me the hell out of here.” ABC will premiere its reboot of “Supermarket Sweep” on Sunday, hoping to feed viewers’ appetite for escapist programming with their new take on the game show once hosted by David Ruprecht. In the process, it will confront the question of whether it’s escapist at all to be reminded of our complicated relationship with grocery shopping and food this year, whether you couldn’t find toilet paper or are one of the millions struggling with food insecurity in wake of the economic downfall. “We want it to be received with fun and laughter and joy and a little escape from the mask of it all,” executive producer Alycia Rossier told reporters on a recent conference call. “The grocery workers in the States have kept us alive for the last six months. They went to the store every day. And we see our store as a place of celebration.” The show honors a grocery store worker in every episode and awards them $2,000, Rossiter said. The groceries featured in the show’s store were also all donated to the Los Angeles Food Bank or, in the case of perishables, donated to animal charities that could use them as feed.”We were thinking about it every step of the way,” she said. That includes host and executive producer Leslie Jones, who noted that while people aren’t wearing masks inside their fictional grocery store, they are essential items. (Contestants and those on set were tested for coronavirus prior to filming, which occurred in late July, and safety protocols were instituted on set.) “I’m going to say right here, yeah, you’re supposed to have on your damn mask,” she said. If you appreciate Jones and her brand of humor for being as inherently joyful as intended, you’ll enjoy her in the role of host. Other than the prices of groceries, which will inspire sticker shock and the maximum amount of prize money ($100,000), no notable changes have been made to the game itself. And that’s great news because the game was perfect as it was. Jones sees the hour-long show as a chance for people “to bond together and know that there’s still some good stuff going on and that there’s hope.” Ultimately, viewers will decide if they’re ready to buy that.

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