JJJ is so excited to bring fans a sneak peek from The All-Star Nickmas Spectacular!
We have an exclusive clip of JoJo Siwa‘s performance of “Santa Clause Is Coming To Town,” which is from her new holiday EP JoJo’s Rockin’ Christmas.
The All-Star Nickmas Spectacular is going to bring cheer this holiday with star-studded guests and musical performances by JoJo, That Girl Lay Lay and Ne-Yo, as All That‘s Lex Lumpkin journeys to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus before the biggest show of the year.
There will also be special appearances from Gabriel Iglesias, Jay Pharoah, Tisha Campbell, Trevor Noah, Young Dylan and the casts of All That, The Astronauts, Danger Force, Group Chat and Nickelodeon’s Unfiltered, including Darci Lynne with Petunia.
Viewers will even get special messages from animated stars SpongeBob SquarePants, Lincoln & Lucy from The Loud House, and Ronnie Anne from The Casagrandes.
Tune in to The All-Star Nickmas Spectacular tomorrow night (November 28) at 9pm ET/PT on Nickelodeon!
JoJo also just released her new “Where Are You Christmas” music video. Click inside to watch…
The 1993 film won hearts with the story of a divorced father, Daniel Hillard, played by the late Robin Williams, who creates an elaborate plan to spend more time with his children. Posing as their nanny, Hillard dresses as an older woman and convinces his ex-wife Miranda (Sally Field) to hire him.
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Williams passed away in August 2014 at the age of 63, 21 years after the film was released. For the role, Williams said he felt able to explore the character. “I started to play with the voice. It was so freeing to be able to be someone totally different,” he said in an interview about the film.
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Field portrayed Miranda Hillard, Daniel’s ex-wife, who pursues a romantic relationship with a coworker, Stu. Since appearing in the classic film, Field, 74, earned one more Oscar nomination (making it a total of three nominations and two wins) for 2013’s Lincoln. She’s also been in Forrest Gump, Where the Heart Is, Brothers & Sisters and has come out with a memoir, In Pieces.
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Mrs. Doubtfire was Wilson’s first film and she quickly followed it up with another children’s classic Matilda in 1996. Since then Wilson, 33, has racked up a list of screen credits including roles in the animated show Batman Beyond, Broad City and BoJack Horseman.
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Jakub played the oldest of the Hillard children, Lydia, and steadily worked until 2000 when she made her last film Double Frame, according to her IMDb page. Besides acting, Jakub is also a writer and yoga instructor. In October 2018, the 41-year-old shared a sweet photograph with Pierce Brosnan, Wilson and Matthew Lawrence for a 25th reunion special.
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Lawrence, 40, played the middle Hillard child, Chris, and continued acting in the popular series Blossom, and more notably with his brothers Joey and Andrew Lawrence on Brotherly Love. He also played Jack Hunter in Boy Meets World and starred opposite Rob Schneider in Hot Chick. Lawrence is now married to Dancing with the Stars alumna Cheryl Burke.
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Brosnan, 67, played the charismatic Stu, who begins a romantic relationship with Field’s Miranda. The actor would become a worldwide star two years after the film’s release with 1995’s GoldenEye as James Bond. He followed it up with three more films in which be portrayed 007. In 2008, he showed off his singing skills in Mamma Mia! and again 10 years later in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.
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Fierstein, 66, played Frank, Daniel’s brother, who worked as a makeup artist and helped him create Mrs. Doubtfire. Since then, he’s starred in Independence Day, voiced Yao in Disney’s Mulan and also lent his voice to Family Guy. Fierstein also wrote the books for the stage musicals Newsies, Kinky Boots and A Catered Affair. He has won four Tony Awards.
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Prosky played Jonathan Lundy, the CEO of a TV station at which Daniel applies for a job. Prosky died in 2008 at the age of 77, but left a lasting legacy with roles in Christine, The Natural, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Dead Man Walking and Miracle on 34th Street.
PRESIDENT-elect Joe Biden has reportedly tapped Michele Flournoy for secretary of the Defense Department.
NBC News reported on Tuesday that Biden plans to nominate Flournoy for the role; if confirmed, she'd be the first woman to oversee the nation's military forces.
In all, Biden so far plans, or reportedly plans, to nominate three women to key roles where women have never led before: Janet Yellen at the Treasury, Avril Haines in the intelligence community, and Flournoy to the DoD.
The decision came as Biden builds out his administration as he transitions to the White House.
Flournoy said in a statement about her possible nomination: "I'm thrilled that Joe Biden will be our next president and I would be honored to help him succeed for the American people in any way that I can."
On Monday, Biden released his picks for six Cabinet-like positions.
It was also reported by multiple news outlets that the president-elect has chosen Janet Yellen to run the Treasury.
If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would be the first woman to hold the position of Treasury secretary.
Yellen was also the first woman to chair the Fed, a position she held for four years during the Obama administration.
Biden confirmed that he's going to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state.
Blinken served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during former President Barack Obama's years in office.
Biden has also decided who he wants to serve as or run: Homeland Security, United Nations ambassador, special presidential envoy for climate change, director of national intelligence, and national security adviser.
John Kerry – a Vietnam War vet, former secretary of state, and senator who ran for president in 2004 and lost to George W Bush – has been nominated to lead the Biden administration's climate change effort.
Alejandro Mayorkas will be nominated as the secretary for the Homeland Security – the first-ever Latino and immigrant to serve as secretary.
Biden has chosen Avril Haines to serve as the director of national intelligence, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, as the US ambassador to the United Nations.
Haines served as the deputy CIA director from 2013 to 2017, and was the first woman to hold that office – and is the first woman nominated to lead the intelligence community.
He will also nominate Jake Sullivan to serve as national security adviser.
With Flournoy's confirmation, the Pentagon could see an unprecedented number of women in leadership roles.
Former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told NBC News of Flournoy: "She has been a mentor to women in the national security space over the course of 20 some years or more."
"So there is a crop of women who are highly, highly qualified and would certainly be very eligible to go into a number of positions in the Pentagon."
Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America.
He's being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department, or the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the first African American at the top of the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.
On Monday, Trump’s General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, acknowledged that Biden won the 2020 race – two weeks after Election Day.
It means the president-elect will now become party to the daily security briefing and be able to communicate with the country's Covid-19 task-force.
The Biden team previously said it was difficult to build out a Cabinet and administration without being able to access key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition.
From Alicia Silverstone’s appearance in multiple Aerosmith jams to Tom Hanks’ smooth-as-butter dance moves in Carly Rae Jepson’s “I Really Like You,” celebrities have been starring in music videos for decades. And why not? It adds a little extra star power, and it can only help boost a song’s popularity. Sure, we didn’t need an ultra-intense Shia LaBeauf starring alongside Maddie Ziegler in Sia’s “Elastic Heart” music video, but we got it. And even in that case, the video got us talking. It’s racked up more than one billion views to date.
Another star you probably didn’t know was in a music video is The Haunting of Bly Manor’s Carla Gugino. The actress has actually been in the biz for decades, per The Guardian. She played mom Ingrid Cortez in 2001’s Spy Kids anda caped crusader in 2009’s Watchmen years before appearing in both of Netflix’s Haunting shows. As Olivia Crain in The Haunting of Hill House and as the mysterious Storyteller in Bly Manor, Gugino has enthralled the masses with her impressive chops. Netflix users are still binging the spooky series well past Halloween, but unlike newcomers like Kate Siegel and Oliver Jackson-Cohen, you’ve seen Gugino way earlier. Like, in a Bon Jovi music video.
Yup, back in the 1990s, a young Carla Gugino starred alongside some A-listers in one of Bon Jovi’s biggest hits. Can you guess which song? Scroll down because you’re “halfway there” to getting an answer!
Here's why Carla Gugino may look extra familiar
So what music video did Carla Gugino star in? No, it’s not “Livin’ on a Prayer”. We got you, didn’t we? She appeared in Bon Jovi’s 1994 music video for “Always”! In the video, you can see a young Gugino intertwined in a steamy romance with a rock star who looks similar to Jon Bon Jovi, played by actor Jack Noseworthy. However, things take a turn when Gugino’s lover is unfaithful with … a young Keri Russell! A lot happens in the six minute-long saga, but fans were clearly digging the story that was told. As of this writing, the video has more than 650 million views on YouTube. See? Star power never hurts.
In February 2020, the actress told The Guardian that sexuality is “a primal part of who we are” and “part and parcel of who [she is]”. So she’s likely still proud of her Bon Jovi moment. That said, she thinks male filmmakers have a long way to go. “… [A]s a woman, I find it [sexuality] to be a huge center of our power that has been misused and misrepresented a lot of the time,” she told the outlet. “I find it so interesting that you can see a nipple shot off, but you can’t see a woman walking from the bed to the bathroom naked without being commented on.” Gugino has seemingly gone from showcasing her looks in a Bon Jovi video to being a force both on and off screen.
7 Little Johnstons is returning to TLC next month.
PEOPLE can exclusively reveal a new supertease for the hit series, which follows the world's largest-known little family, who live with a rare genetic condition called achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism.
The new episodes, premiering Dec. 29, will see Trent and Amber Johnston grapple with having all five of their children — daughters Anna, Elizabeth and Emma and sons Jonah and Alex — back under the same roof amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"During this pandemic, we've got find things to do. And one of those things to do are these viral videos," Amber says as the family of seven hilariously shows off their dance moves in several TikTok videos.
Meanwhile, after over two decades of marriage, Amber and Trent are looking for ways to spice things up in their relationship. From pole dancing, an intimacy coach and even building a "love shack" on their lawn, nothing is off-limits.
Plus, Amber is preparing to return to work full-time as a teacher — and anticipates that her height will be a topic of discussion amongst the students. "I figure the first week of school is to educate [the kids about] why I am little," she says.
After several days, she opens up to her family about her reception in the classroom. "One little girl goes, 'Nobody shrunk her, she's just a midget.' Alright now, we don't say that word. That's a bad word."
RELATED: Get to Know the 7 Little Johnstons
As for the kids, Elizabeth is balancing college courses and her relationship with boyfriend Brice, Anna is adjusting to moving home from college due to the pandemic, Alex and Emma are preparing to enter high school and Jonah is feuding with the rest of his family amid his romance with his long-distance girlfriend, Ashley.
"When Jonah's around Ashley, he's nicer," Amber says. "But around us, Jonah is a difficult individual. The wheels are being put in motion to start looking for places for Jonah to move out."
Eventually, Amber and Trent have a sit-down conversation with their son about his behavior.
"The motivation we're giving you is you need to be out of the house in three months," Trent says.
After each episode, viewers can get a behind-the-scenes look with the new digital original series Inside the Episodes, in which the Johnstons dish on all of the moments the cameras didn't capture.
7 Little Johnstons returns Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. ET on TLC.
Gillian Anderson is stellar as the UK’s first female PM Margaret Thatcher in Netflix’s The Crown but let’s not forget what the real Maggie said and did during her time at the top of the Tory party.
*Contains mild spoilers for season four of The Crown
The Crown is one powerful show. Not only does it pull in the viewers (73 million accounts around the world have watched since it began in 2016), with every new season it sparks controversy and creates national conversation about everything from the casting (superb so far) to the plot lines (internet searches for ‘The Crown vs real life’ are up 250% in the past week according to Google trends).
While Princess Diana’s storyline is one of the hottest topics of season four, the casting of the impeccable and versatile Gillian Anderson as Conservative PM Margret Thatcher has been a huge talking point too (from the fashion to the mannerisms, the voice and of course, that hair).
But Anderson’s star power and at times almost pantomime portrayal of the Iron Lady may be having an unintended effect – people seem to like Maggie.
Amy Roberts, costume designer for The Crown, was quoted in The Sunday Times saying: “The more I worked on The Crown, she was my favourite person.”
Online too, there have been defences of Thatcher’s leadership ratioed by reminders of what Thatcher did and said when she was in power.
Despite the fact that Thatcher was the first female PM (and held the position from 1979-1990) it’s important to remember she was no feminist.
Speaking on NPR’s Fresh Air podcast, Anderson addressed this head on saying: “The fact that she was in office normalised female success and I think that the girls who grew up when she was running the country were suddenly able to imagine leadership as a female quality, but at the same time she was not a feminist.”
“She didn’t have interest in social equality, she didn’t really know anything about female solidarity and had a lack of interest in childcare provision …so she really wasn’t a feminist icon.”
With Anderson’s faithful (and in my opinion, OTT at times) portrayal, we do see the human side of Thatcher the virago (you can’t help but feel for her and her mild mannered husband Dennis when they make a mess of the very stuffy protocol when visiting Balmoral) but it’s still good to remember what Thatcher stood for.
At times it’s natural to feel for Thatcher as a woman battling the out and out misogyny in the media, her own cabinet and everywhere else in 1980’s Britain, but stanning Thatcher is a bit like stanning Trump (while Thatcher was undoubtedly a more polished politician they share the same dogged and divisive “MAGA” attitude, and neither ever cared a jot about causing controversy).
The real Margaret Thatcher makes Boris and his lot look like absolute softies – she doesn’t deserve any revisionist rose tinted glasses nor nostalgic sympathy.
Thatcher’s reputation as the Iron lady (and the women who uttered the indelible quote: “The lady is NOT for turning”) was well earned.
In episode four of season four of The Crown, we delve into Thatcher’s decision to go to war over The Falkland islands. Despite pleas from members of Parliament and advisers (as well as U.S. President Ronald Reagan who repeatedly urged Thatcher to pursue diplomatic solutions) she eschewed peace talks and on April 5, 1982 sent the 38 British navy warships 8,000 miles into the South Atlantic to take on the Argentine forces.
While that British victory was seen as a huge coup for Thatcher at the time, watching now it is a stark example of her firm belief that the British Empire was entitled to take what they wanted, stick a flag down and then kill to keep it.
Her stand on the Troubles in the North of Ireland was just as controversial.
As we see played out in season four, Thatcher was fairly new to office when the IRA murder of the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten brought the violence in North of Ireland right to the door of Number 10 Downing Street.
Thatcher’s ‘solution’ to the conflict (created as a result of Britain’s invasion of Ireland) was unflinching and inflexible. “Crime is crime is crime”, she famously said: “It is not political, it is crime.”
She held fast to that view, even when the Irish Hunger Strikes began in 1981. Thatcher refused to grant Irish republican Bobby Sands and other Irish prisoners prisoner-of-war status. Her decision led to the deaths of 10 of the hunger strikers and created an even deeper division with the Irish.
Around this time 36 years ago, on 19 November 1984, Margaret Thatcher dismissed the findings of the New Ireland Forum, saying “That is out” to all three suggested solutions to the conflict in Northern Ireland. President of Ireland Garret Fitzgerald said that Thatcher’s language was “gratuitously offensive.”
How many lives (on both sides) would have been spared had Thatcher been willing to talk to those on the other side of the conflict we’ll never know.
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has often been depicted as a political queen bee for failing to appoint other women politicians
At home she was no softer, as demonstrated by her unflinching approach to thecoalminers strikes in 1984, where the clashes often turned violent. Again Thatcher proved herself no friend to the everyday people of the county she served. Union memberships plummeted during her time in power and she showed as little regards for workers’ right as she did for the industries she obliterated.
Meanwhile, unemployment and poverty soared, making life in 1980’s Britain miserable for for the working classes as the effects of Thatcher’s “no such thing as society” belief were felt. A study of data conducted by The Guardian proved emphatically that poverty went up under Thatcher’s rule, according to figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
We would do well to remember too that although more than three decades have passed since Thatcher’s government introduced the anti-LGBT+ legislation, “its shadow still looms over schools and local authorities in the UK today”, as an article in Pink News states. The article describes the legal clause as the Conservative government’s “vitriolic and traditionalist” response to calls for gay rights.
It goes on to explain the effects of the rule: “The legislation meant that councils were prohibited from funding of books, plays, leaflets, films, or other materials showing same-sex relationships, while teachers weren’t allowed to teach about gay relationships in schools.”
To anyone who says Thatcher was just a product of her time, the gay rights movement was in full swing by the 1980s. Others supported it, Thatcher chose not to.
Near the end of season four, we come to Thatcher’s stubborn refusal to introduce sanctions against the South African apartheid government (48 other countries had already agreed the move in a show of support for Black South Africans).
Thatcher didn’t care about those people’s suffering, or being on the right side of history, she only cared about the effects sanctions would have on Britain’s economy. Thatcher’s stance even made the Queen think her uncaring.
So let’s all enjoy The Crown, swoon over Gillian Anderson but cast a cold eye over Maggie’s memory.
Actor Nicole Kidman has visited The Ellen DeGeneres Show a number of times — and Ellen DeGeneres loves to poke fun. After the success of HBO’s Big Little Lies, Kidman visited the talk show to what it was like working with Alexander Skarsgård as her on-screen abusive husband. And DeGeneres totally embarrassed Kidman by insinuating that Kidman assuredly had a crush on him.
Nicole Kidman wanted Alexander Skarsgård to star in ‘Big Little Lies’
Kidman never could’ve imagined Big Little Lies would attain the success that it did. But it certainly thrust her and all of her famous co-stars into the spotlight. She and Skarsgård made the perfect husband-wife duo on the show, as their troubling marriage played out until the final gut-punch of an ending.
It seems Kidman desperately wanted Skarsgård as her on-screen husband, too. “Yeah, he was so good,” she told Vulture. “I wanted him! I wanted him badly. I was like, ‘Come on, please. Come on, HBO, we’ve gotta get him.’”
Kidman continued on and explained why having the Swedish actor by her side was perfect for the show. “He’s obviously got that ability to pull you in and hold you, and he breaks down, you know?” she added. “He has that whole fragility to him as well — so this sort of dominance and then this fragility; it’s a weird mix. And, obviously, he’s very tall as well, which is really, really helpful for me. It’s not often that I look small.”
Ellen DeGeneres insinuated Kidman had a crush on Skarsgård
It’s clear Kidman is quite fond of Skarsgård — and it certainly didn’t slip past DeGeneres. Kidman visited The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2017 to discuss the show and her role. And, of course, the topic of her co-star came up.
“The tone of it’s really interesting,” Kidman says of the show. “Because it’s funny, yet it’s scary. … And it makes you, hopefully, emotionally, you’re attached to these women.”
“And Alexander Skarsgård is your husband,” DeGeneres clarifies. “And he’s fantastic.”
“Yes,” Kidman laughs. And she then notes that DeGeneres is giving her a very specific look. “Why are you looking that way?”
“Why are you looking that way?” DeGeneres countered at Kidman’s embarrassment. “I’m saying that he’s fantastic. What’s wrong with you?”
“‘Cause everyone always asks me about him,” Kidman added.
DeGeneres verified she wasn’t going to ask Kidman any questions — but she then projected a large photo of Skarsgård shirtless in the background. The comedian then noted that Skarsgård no longer looks like the shirtless photo, and Kidman agreed.
Kidman had to defend herself after kissing Skarsgård at the Emmy Awards
This is far from the only time Kidman was asked about Skarsgård. Kidman also visited The Graham Norton Show, and she was questioned about a photo that shows her kissing Skarsgård on the lips at the Emmy Awards. Kidman’s husband, Keith Urban, can be seen behind Kidman in the photo as well.
“You are so provocative, Graham,” Kidman said. “Why are you showing that?”
“It’s a lovely moment of celebration, though,” Graham Norton defended.
“I kissed my husband, too!” she exclaimed. She then verified that she did kiss Skarsgård, but it wasn’t in a romantic way. “You got to understand, I did everything with Alex ….”
“We saw it!” Norton joked.
“I’ve got an amazing, supportive, gorgeous husband whom I love more than anything in the world,” Kidman noted. “And I gave Alex a congratulatory kiss and he’s like … a mannequin.” Kidman then regretted calling her co-star a mannequin with the eruption of audience laughter.
No matter how many times Kidman gets teased about Skarsgård, it’s clear they’re really nothing more than co-stars and friends.
Supplying up-to-date COVID-19 information to Australians is a daunting responsibility for any media executive. But for Mandi Wicks – who replaced retiring SBS news and current affairs director Jim Carroll in September – it was especially challenging.
"We had to provide news and information across 63 different languages," says Wicks, who previously headed SBS's audio and language division. "Within about four days in March, we set up the SBS multilingual coronavirus portal, which is essentially a one-stop shop."
Mandi Wicks is the new director of news and current affairs at SBS.Credit:Janie Barrett
Each day, Wicks and her team updated a series of fact sheets – detailing the latest case numbers, government health alerts and changing restrictions in each state – in Cantonese, Hebrew, Rohingya and dozens of other languages.
"It’s taken a lot of focus over many months but it's a commitment we've continued," Wicks says. "As a result, we've seen more than five million unique visitors to that portal."
SBS's television network has also grown. For the first time, its suite of channels – comprising SBS's main channel plus Viceland, World Movies, Food and NITV – will finish the year with an audience share exceeding 8 per cent. Ratings for its flagship World News bulletin are up by more than 30 per cent compared to 2019 while news-satire program The Feed, which moved from Viceland to the main channel this year, has almost tripled its viewership. All up, SBS's TV broadcasts reached a record monthly average of 12 million Australians.
We have access to lived experiences and authentic voices that other outlets might not be able to reach.
But this growth was accompanied by claims from former SBS journalists alleging racist treatment and bullying at the hands of colleagues.
"We exist to contribute to our society being more inclusive so any form of racism or exclusion is totally unacceptable," Wicks says. "I've got a commitment to meet with every single person in my division; there are 160 people and I've met with about 50 so far. My job is to listen, to understand what they're loving and what they want more of, and to provide a safe place to enable them to be creative and implement their ideas."
Wicks will soon announce the new host of long-running current affairs series Insight, which has been anchored by Jennie Brockie since 2001. She will also reveal a new role for Brockie, who has won several prestigious awards including four Walkleys, an Australian Film Institute Award and a Human Rights Award.
Wicks says that Insight – which devotes an entire hour to a single topic and features participation from studio guests – will remain "a politician-free zone" in 2021.
"We did one episode about menopause through the eyes of women, which is not something most broadcasters would give an hour to. We also did one about people who had been taken hostage and one about veterinarians' high rates of suicide, which really struck a chord with the audience. Those first-person stories are really the hero of the program."
Former Insight host Jenny Brockie will take on a new role at SBS in 2021.Credit:SBS
Wicks says it's too early to discuss the new television and radio programs she intends to launch. Her immediate priority is to increase collaboration between journalists who work closely with various cultural communities.
"A good example is the recent French terrorist attacks," Wicks says. "Our SBS Arabic24 service did an interview in Arabic with the Grand Mufti of Australia; we can then translate that interview and include it in our other news services to bring that perspective to all Australians.
"We operate in almost 70 languages that represent more than 100 cultures, which means we have access to lived experiences and authentic voices that other outlets might not be able to reach. I also want to work more closely with our incredible journalists at NITV [National Indigenous Television] to amplify and promote their stories across other SBS news platforms."
After completing an arts-journalism degree in the late 1980s, Wicks worked as a reporter and newsreader at Adelaide radio station 5KA, followed by a stint at Macquarie Media. Since then, she has helmed the newsrooms at Triple M and Nova in Sydney and was promoted to run Nova and oversee the launch of sister station Vega, now called Smooth FM. In 2010, she joined SBS.
"Everything we do is in pursuit of increasing understanding between people and communities and building social cohesion," she says. "We've been storytellers for 45 years and although that hasn't changed, the world has become increasingly polarised. For us, it's really important to remain impartial and balanced while also reflecting different perspectives and voices who might not otherwise be heard."
Start the day with major stories, exclusive coverage and expert opinion from our leading business journalists delivered to your inbox. Sign up for the Herald‘s here and The Age‘s here.
Welcome to the W TV Club, a spin-off series of W Movie Club, in which W magazine’s editors pick a season of a television show they’d recommend you binge-watch while in quarantine. This week, features editor Andrea Whittle goes deep on the *other* NXIVM show, the Starz docu-series Seduced, about former member India Oxenberg.
On a humid afternoon this past September, two friends and I spent hours sitting on a picnic blanket in Central Park, debating whether we thought we would ever be susceptible to cult recruitment. The conversation was, of course, sparked by the fact that all of us had been watching The Vow, the nine-episode HBO docu-series about the unraveling of the self-improvement-scheme-turned-sex-cult NXIVM. The conclusion we landed on: probably, yes, in our darkest, most insecure hours—it’s not like someone walks up to you and says, “Hey, wanna join this cult and get brainwashed?” If you’re lonely and looking for purpose and community and some happy-seeming person starts gushing about these classes they just started taking, who wouldn’t be curious?
What I find so fascinating about cults (and about NXIVM’s weirdly corporate approach in particular) is that the more I learn about how they function, the more I’m convinced it could happen to anyone. The lines between self-improvement and destructive delusion, self care and self-deprivation, tight-knit community and fringe faction look surprisingly blurry when you start looking at them too closely. If you’ve ever taken a workout class anyone has off-handedly described as “culty,” you know what I mean—the phrase ”push through your discomfort,” feels innocuous when said in the context of an ab workout, but it’s hard not to hear it in former NXIVM bigwig Nancy Salzman’s voice once you’ve seen the ways language like that can be weaponized.
The NXIVM story is insanely compelling because it seems so unlikely at first—all of these people moved to the least charming part of upstate New York and had sex with that guy? But once you’ve watched enough hours of television about it, the way it ends all seems somehow even crazier than you thought and totally inevitable. Leader Keith Raniere appears so goofy and repellant on the surface, but after watching enough video clips of him proselytizing, it’s clear he’s a manipulative psychopath.
That tension between the tragedy of what he did to so many people’s lives and the comedy of his approach makes for incredible television. A sad little man in sweatpants saying “Albany, it’s the Rome of the 21st century” is just funny. The room full of people nodding enthusiastically around him is terrifying. I keep watching because I want to understand where people lose the plot.
What’s simultaneously compelling and frustrating about The Vow is its glacial pace. The series does an incredible job at dragging you through the narrative as if you were riding along on one of the subject’s shoulders, witnessing all of this stuff for the first time. But during its nine-hour run, it can get too caught up in the minor melodramas of the central characters without actually doing that great of a job at putting NXIVM into a larger context. It’s almost like the producers got so caught up in maintaining the mystery of it all that they forgot to explain what was actually happening to these people, and why it worked.
This is not to say that I didn’t love The Vow. I did, but it left me wanting more. And not in a “I can’t wait for season two!” way, but in a “I need to learn every single thing I can about what the hell happened here, right this second” way. The night my boyfriend and I finished watching the finale, I remembered that one of my coworkers, Brooke Marine, had mentioned that there was another NXIVM documentary on Starz. We signed up for the network’s streaming platform and started the first episode of Seduced: Inside The NXIVM Cult five minutes later. And if you just finished The Vow and are jonesing for more, I highly recommend that you do, too.
In The Vow, former member India Oxenberg is presented as a kind of brainwashed bogeyman figure—we never see or hear from her aside from archival footage and images of her text exchanges with her mother, the actress Catherine Oxenberg. One reason is timing, since most of The Vow was shot years ago, while she was still ensnared in Raniere’s net; the other is that she’s been busy executive producing and starring in her own version of the story.
Seduced follows India as she tries to piece together her life after NXIVM, but it’s as much her personal narrative as it is a sharp, coherent explanation of the cult’s machinations and how they fit into the history of “high control groups.” In just four episodes, you learn more about what actually happened in DOS (the “sorority” of NXIVM women who were coerced into becoming Raniere’s sex slaves) than you do in all nine hours of The Vow.
India’s calm, frank, confessionals are interspersed with unseen archival footage (which is somehow even crazier than what HBO got their hands on), testimonials from other former members, and interviews with a bunch of “cult experts” (including one named Rick Ross, which I just think is a great detail) who break down the psychology behind how Raniere-designed NXIVM’s Executive Success Programs to manipulate and indoctrinate participants. The show also features extensive interviews with the FBI agent who built the case against Raniere as well as the local Albany journalists who had been on top of the story way before the New York Times got involved.
Basically, Seduced takes a more traditional documentarian approach to the subject, which makes for a really satisfying companion piece to the drawn-out meta commentary of The Vow. If you feel like mainlining cult content for another few hours, go ahead and sign up for the 7-day Starz free trial to keep the craziness going. I myself might need a break, though, since I caught myself accidentally quoting a line from a “JNESS Track” seminar during a lover’s quarrel the other night. (But I’d still watch another 13 hours about this thing, in case any other networks want to get in on the game…)
Guys ‘n’ Dolls singer Dominic Grant has died aged 71.
His family confirmed his death on Friday, with a statement released on behalf of his wife, Julie Forsythe.
Known for hits There’s A Whole Lot Of Loving and You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, Grant was a founding member of the group which formed in 1974.
Grant died ‘suddenly’ on Wednesday, following an aneurysm.
A statement via Press Association read: ‘It is with such great sadness that I have to tell you I have lost my darling Dominic, suddenly on Wednesday November 18, to an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
‘He was an amazing husband, father, brother and brand new grandad. My heart is shattered.
‘He was kind and strong and always the life and soul of the party. His distinctive, beautiful voice will live on forever – I couldn’t have loved him more and don’t quite know what our family will do without him… he was our shining star.’
Forsyth – the daughter of entertainer Sir Bruce Forsyth – was also a member of the group, who found success in the 1970s.
Their singles There’s A Whole Lot Of Loving and You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me reached the top 10 in the UK.
After the group split, Grant and Forsyth performed together.