A Super Sweet Resurgence of Reality on MTV

In 2005, a show called My Super Sweet 16 premiered on MTV. I was 14, fixated yet mildly disturbed as I watched teenagers just a couple of years my senior scream at their parents for buying  the wrong type of Mercedes as a birthday present.

Hillary Duff sang the infections theme song (which is stuck in my head as I type this). The episodes typically involved 16-year-olds barking orders at their parents and outlining outlandish demands, such as a casual half million dollar budget. The birthday princess would change costumes more times than Rihanna at the VMAs.

We watched in lurid fascination as catfights unfolded between friends, celebrity guests, and parents. We witnessed harsh consequences for parents who bought their children an underwhelming amount of diamonds:

Yashika, aka the Veruca Salt of diamonds, makes herself clear. (Photo courtesy of MTV)

This was the golden age of early 2000s reality TV. As always, MTV defined what was in vogue—and at the time, it was delightfully depraved, unscripted programming.

Along with My Super Sweet 16, MTV produced some of the most addictively decadent shows of that era—Laguna Beach, Cribs, 8th & Ocean, The Osbournes, et al. Americans were collectively hooked.

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Jordan Klepper Ramps Up for New Late-Night Show By Solving Guns

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The debate seems to slice like the Mississippi River through the center of America: you are either pro-gun or anti-gun. In this version of reality, you either want the Second Amendment repealed or you want to gear up like Rambo every time you step out to the mailbox.

Certainly, these extremists exist. But standing somewhere near the center is a huge percentage of the nation, individuals who support both a right to bear arms and some level of restrictions on that right.

It is this middle ground that seasoned Daily Show correspondent (and future late-night Comedy Central host) Jordan Klepper deftly pursues and, eventually, defines, in Jordan Klepper Solves Guns, a hilarious zig-zagging quest across the United States.

Despite its comedic undercarriage, the show is a thoughtful exploration of an important issue. “Klepper, ever the funny man, produced a serious piece of journalism filled with hard facts and relatable experiences for gun owners and anti-gun activists alike,” writes Paste’s Jacob Weindling. “It’s a special that doesn’t preach to us how similar we are, but it shows us. It is a feat of investigative journalism that is complemented by Klepper’s unique brand of humor.”

While Klepper starts his quest as a cavalier self-styled New York liberal elite promising to “solve,” guns (likely a poke at President Trump’s promise to “solve” North Korea), he is actually well-positioned to fairly explore the firearms debate. He grew up in Michigan, a politically mixed and moderate state, and his grandfather took Klepper out shooting often in his youth. His cousin Pete is an enthusiastic hunter and is featured prominently in the special.

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Nick’s Famous Slime Is Not Made of What You Think It Is

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

One recent weekend, I found our kitchen counters overrun with items that did not have any obvious place in a kitchen: shampoo bottles, shaving cream, various lotions and creams commandeered from closets and bathrooms. My 8-year-old daughter stood amid these scattered and emptied containers, churning their contents in a mixing bowl. The counters and floor had become a showroom of the varied colors and textures to emerge from the bottles.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Making slime,” she replied.

“Making slime?”

“Yes”

“Where did you learn how to do that?”

“On YouTube!”

Of course. This is the same child who recently asked me if I’d ever considered making a YouTube channel when I was little. When I confessed that I hadn’t, she wondered why. I told her that it had a lot to do with the fact that it didn’t exist until I was 27 years old.

This amazed her (“What did you do!?”), but I was pretty amazed, too, that even in the YouTube era, slime is something that still draws kids like birthday cake.

I grew up in the heyday of You Can’t Do That on Television, a youth-oriented sketch-variety program that ran on Nickelodeon throughout most of the 1980s. The show was also the birthplace of modern slime, which dropped like waterfalls from the ceiling anytime someone said, “I don’t know,” which seemed to happen a lot.

Decades later, as slime is having this DIY cultural moment, Nick is still the king of the gooey stuff. Just check out Pitbull’s Green Slime promo for the upcoming Kids’ Choice Sports Awards:

And if, like my daughter, you think that looks like fun, here’s how you can try making your own, Nick-sponsored slime:

But what was in that original Nick slime? Business Insider’s Chris Snyder recently put together this video where former Double Dare and What Would You Do? host Marc Summers reveals the composition of the torrential green downpours:

Footage courtesy of Chris Snyder and Business Insider. Used with permission.

We can’t confirm or deny  that Summers was correct – or whether Nick’s slime recipe has changed over the years – but it’s pretty fun to watch those old slime shots. In a world that has changed so much so rapidly – there was no real internet to speak of in the ’80s – some things, like slime, appear to be timeless.

Comedy Central and the Creation of Colossal Clusterfest: The Bonnaroo of Comedy

Comedy Central’s first foray into the festival scene, a three-day music and comedy fete in June called Colossal Clusterfest, was quietly introduced in a press release back in February with the simple tagline: “Comedy. Music. Comedy.”

The San Francisco-based cluster boasted superb stand-up, live podcasts, musical performances, and interactive attractions. There were sips and suds from California’s renowned wineries and local fare from artisan chefs. The circus culminated in a live Comedy Central special.

The goal—to pack a whopping, fans-first immersive experience into one weekend—was lofty, especially for a first-time festival. But attendees and critics largely agree that it was a colossal success.

Watch the highlight reel:

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Power Struggles, Catfights, and Cocktails: VH1’s Daytime Divas Ring Nasdaq’s Opening Bell

VH1 rang the Nasdaq opening bell to celebrate its new scripted series, Daytime Divas. Nasdaq’s Rob Phillips welcomed the stars of the show to the podium, along with Maggie Malina, senior vice president and head of scripted for MTV and VH1.

Phillips praised Viacom’s “innovative and imaginative programming,” noting how much buzz the show has been generating. “We are honored to have Viacom as part of the Nasdaq family,” said Phillips. “Viacom truly represents what it means to be a Nasdaq company—the visionaries, the game changers.”

Watch the ceremony:

Daytime Divas is based on Star Jones’ novel, Satan’s Sisters. The book and series follow the women behind a long-running talk show called The Lunch Hour. On screen, their quirky personalities shine and their friendships seem genuine. Backstage, it’s a world of backstabbing, blackmail, and botched plastic surgery (luckily, these antics were not present on the podium at Nasdaq.)

But for a drama about a fake talk show, the plot points couldn’t be more real. Daytime Divas tackles ageism, sexism, transgender issues, sexuality, spousal abuse, addiction, sexual harassment in the workplace…and that’s just in the pilot.

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Leslie Jones to Host Star-Laden 17th BET Awards

The 17th BET Awards will celebrate top music, television, sports and movie talent on Sunday, June 25.

Comedian and Saturday Night Live actress and writer Leslie Jones, host of the 2017 awards show, got her start on BET and can’t wait to return to honor some of entertainment’s hottest stars.

The BET Awards have become a cultural touchstone. Last year’s awards captivated audiences with mesmerizing performances and a tribute to Prince. One of the evening’s most moving moments came when Jesse Williams, Greys Anatomy star and civil rights activist, utilized his Humanitarian Award acceptance speech to address how the challenges of living in a racially prejudiced world impact the black community.

This year’s Humanitarian Award winner is Chance the Rapper, whom BET is honoring for his strides toward improving the lives of young black men, decreasing gun violence, and financially supporting Chicago Public Schools.

Another highlight of the show will be incredible performances by artists Bruno Mars, Future, Migos, Trey Songz, Tamar Braxton and more.

The BET Awards draws top names from across the entertainment landscape, and many of them will ascend the stage to present awards. Among the major names will be Yara Shahidi, Cardi B, Issa Rae, Jamie Foxx, La La Anthony, Trevor Noah, Robin Thede, Cari Champion and Demetrius Shipp Jr.

The nominees include some of the biggest names in entertainment.  Queen Bey (Beyoncé) will be continuing her highest total nomination streak with seven new nominations, including Best Female R&B/Pop Artist, Best Collaboration with Kendrick Lamar for Freedom, Video of the Year, and Album of the Year for Lemonade. Bruno Mars is nominated in five categories, including Album of the Year, Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, and Video of the Year. Chance the Rapper and Migos each clocked four nominations. Check out the full list of nominees below.

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Superstars Combine, Allman Honored, Video of the Year Decided – All on Tonight’s CMT Music Awards

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Expect a parade of country music superstars performing and presenting. Expect blow-your-mind onstage collaborations between wildly different musical acts. Expect a down-to-the-wire vote on the video of the year. Expect a tribute to the late Gregg Allman. And expect it all to come together under Nashville star Charles Esten at tonight’s CMT Music Awards.

Yup, you can expect all of this:

There’s a lot to process in that quick video, so here’s a bit more of what you need to know about tonight’s show:

You can still vote for video of the year even after the show starts. 

Fans have narrowed the finalists for video of the year from an original 14 to these seven nominees: Carrie Underwood, Cole Swindell, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert and the CMA-produced 50th anniversary video, Artists of Then, Now & Forever. Vote now.

Also help us select a #SOCIALSUPERSTAR presented by Pepsi

You can honor an act who uses social media to connect with fans by tagging your social posts with #CMTawards and with the artist’s tag, #VoteBrett (Brett Eldredge), #VoteJake (Jake Owen), #VoteKeith (Keith Urban), #VoteKelsea (Kelsea Ballerini), #VoteLauren (Lauren Alaina) or #VoteThomas (Thomas Rhett). You can cast up to 50 votes.

Never-before-seen combinations of superstars will hit center stage

The country music crossover is now a thing, and we will bring you one of the coolest tonight, when The Chainsmokers perform alongside Florida Georgia Line. Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood will perform a duet. Jason Derulo and Luke Bryan will reunite. Earth, Wind & Fire will appear alongside Lady Antebellum, while Peter Frampton will team up with Brothers Osborne.

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SpongeBob SquarePants Follows Season 12 Renewal With Voyage to Broadway

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The power of positive thinking has been working out pretty well lately for SpongeBob SquarePants. The eternal optimist will star in his third movie in 2019. Last month, Nickelodeon greenlit a 12th season, which will correspond with the show’s 20-year anniversary when it debuts in 2019. America’s favorite talking sponge continues to be the most popular cartoon on the block, scoring the top ratings slot among core kids demographics.

And now, there’s even more to celebrate:

The play – in which an unnamed savior rises to save Bikini Bottom from volcanic annihilation – moves east after a successful run in Chicago, landing at Broadway’s Palace Theatre, which sits just a couple blocks north of Viacom’s global headquarters in Times Square.

“We could not be more thrilled to bring Nickelodeon’s iconic SpongeBob SquarePants to the theater in an original musical conceived specifically for Broadway,” said Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami. “We are also incredibly honored to be in such a gorgeous house as The Palace, where audiences will be immersed in the fun and surprising world of Bikini Bottom.”

SpongeBob is pretty happy about it too:

via GIPHY

And so are the folks who watch Broadway for a living: “While we’ve been so excited about plenty of other great plays for kids, this one surely takes the cake,” writes Time Out New York’s Allie Early.

There’s a lot to be amped up about. The Chicago run was well-reviewed, with high praise for many of the disparate parts that seamlessly merge into a big-time stage production. Let’s take a look at a few highlights.

The story

SpongeBob has built a reputation as an all-ages crowd-pleaser, and the musical continues that tradition.

In his television review for Chicago local station WGN 9, Dean Richards observed, “Instead of kid-like dialogue,  the story is multi-layered for kids and adults. It all adds up to one of the most fun, well-produced, and best-acted shows Chicago has seen in a long time.”

And while the plot is relatively simple – a volcano is about to destroy their world, how do we save it? – the production’s subtext is ground in a greater, unnamed sophistication that addresses the issues of the larger troubled world we all actually inhabit.

Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Hedy Weiss noted, “Part allegory of the precarious world in which we all now dwell, and part satire on everything from the bureaucratic babble of modern-day politicians to the hunger for moneymaking, the bloated egos of pop music groups, messianic leaders and the eternal lure of stardom, the show is full of wildly energetic performers and playful, imaginative stagecraft that might best be described as one part lavish Dollar Store ingenuity, one part Cirque du Soleil and one part childlike invention.”

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BET Says Yes To Our Fans, Yes to Our Stories at the 2017 Upfront Presentation

BET continues its 16-year reign as the number one cable network for African-American viewers. With a broad slate of programming that includes award-winning, original series such as Being Mary Jane, whistle-blowing documentaries such as Charged: The DA vs. Black America, momentous specials like Black Girls Rock!, and renowned tentpole events that include the BET Awards, BET unfailingly captures the zeitgeist of its fans’ world.

At BET’s annual upfront presentation – an event where programmers preview their upcoming shows for advertisers – CEO Debra Lee revealed the network’s plans for the upcoming year: Rebranding sister network Centric, a swell of hit biopics and miniseries, and a partnership with Twitter that focuses on African-American social media trends.

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 27: (L-R) Actor Deon Cole, comedian Wanda Sykes and Endyia Kinney-Sterns attend the 2017 BET Upfront NY at PlayStation Theater on April 27, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for BET)

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TV Land Releases Teaser-Filled Trailer for Younger’s Fourth Season

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Liza (Sutton Foster) has exposed herself as an acting-26-but-actually-40 fraud to best bud Kelsey (Hilary Duff). And she has been exposed to boyfriend Josh (Nico Tortorella), who was going to propose to her anyway, until he caught her making out with her boss (Peter Hermann).

And that is where we were left at the end of season three of Younger, TV Land’s hit original that is so good that it’s already been renewed for two more seasons. So where will Liza go and what will she do (and who will she do it with), now that her original lie has sprawled and spiraled into such a New York-sized mess?

The season four trailer, released late last week by TV Land, gives us plenty of teasers suggesting how things may go for her:

Season four of Younger debuts June 28 on TV Land.