Wyatt Cenac can’t fix the world, but he’s sure going to try
The comedian’s new HBO show, ‘Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas’ isn’t about identifying everything wrong with the world. It’s about finding solutions.
12:46 PMThe most unusual thing about Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas, the comedian and Daily Show alum’s new late-night show for HBO, is its startling focus on finding solutions to complex, scary, seemingly impossible problems.
This approach to late night, to comedy and to, well, life on earth is, frankly, surprising. After all, Cenac, 41, is a self-proclaimed nihilist. And his show, which premieres Friday night, joins a field of late-night comedy shows that, to one degree or another, are about all the ways our hair should be on fire because of nutjobs with too much power. They’re all influenced by the OG of this model, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which called out hypocrisy and incompetence. Now we have:
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: calls out corruption and incompetence
- Full Frontal with Samantha Bee: calls out sexism and incompetence
- The Rundown with Robin Thede: calls out racism and incompetence
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: offers a nightly summation of all these things while making us laugh before we’re all vaporized in a nuclear Holocaust.
Perhaps sensing that there’s only so much ha-ha-hair-on-fire programming an audience can take, Cenac has steered Problem Areas in the other direction. While billionaires such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson may be looking for ways to bail on Earth, the vast majority of humans can’t afford to do that. The pragmatic approach, Cenac suggests, would be to make Earth work — you know, while it’s still here. This is particularly amusing given that Cenac’s last show, People of Earth, was a fictional comedy for TBS about a journalist investigating an alien invasion. Apparently the aliens aren’t going to save us.
And so, through 10 episodes, Cenac is taking a look at police violence and what can be done to curb it. His studio audience is composed not of other humans but of Siri and Alexa, and Cenac takes his television audience through his “problem areas” in the comfort of a ’70s news set appointed with lots of wood and earth tones. The show re-examines the death of Philando Castile with expert interviews, including of police officers.
The result is a show unlike anything else on late night, a mix of mirth, seriousness and palpable sensitivity. Problem Areas, whose executive producers include Oliver, Cenac and Oscar-winning documentary director Ezra Edelman, feels like a cross between 60 Minutes and Last Week Tonight, but hosted by a guy whose affect suggests he’s just taken couple of hits off a really good vape pen.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s interested in answering questions that too often are ignored. After showing a clip of the daughter of Castile’s girlfriend attempting to comfort her mother, Diamond Reynolds, while she’s handcuffed in the back of a police car, Cenac asks, “For the people of Philando Castile’s community around St. Paul, what needs to happen for them to feel safer? How do they get a different outcome?”
Can another late-night comedy news show change the world? Probably not. But maybe it can inspire us to think differently. And that’s a start.
‘Art of a Champion’ exhibit celebrates best playoff sneakers from Nike, Jordan and Converse
Ray Allen, Rasheed Wallace and Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving represented the three brands — and kicks they made iconic
4:20 PMNEW YORK — Back in 2012, a white mouthguard worn by LeBron James throughout one of his first playoff runs as a member of the Miami Heat featured one simple inscription: “XVI.” What those Roman numerals signify, 16, means a lot to the King and should to every player in the NBA. That’s because 16 wins in the postseason are what it takes to earn the distinction of being called an NBA champion.
On Monday, Nike, Air Jordan and Converse honored the upcoming 2018 playoffs, as well as that coveted number James put on his mouthpiece several years ago as motivation, with the exclusive “Art of a Champion” exhibit at Nike’s New York headquarters in midtown Manhattan. It featured a collection of 16 different pairs of sneakers from the three brands, representing multiple generations of basketball. Each pair, including a revamped version of the black-and-white low-top Converse that Bill Russell sported in Game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals and the “Pass the Torch” Air Jordan 1s that celebrate Kawhi Leonard’s winning Finals MVP in 2014, were put on display below unique portraits of the shoes, crafted by a group of artists.
Other sneakers in the collection included Kobe Bryant’s “Final Seconds” Nike Kobe 1 Protros, Kevin McHale’s “No Easy Buckets” Converse Fastbreak high-tops, Scottie Pippen’s “Trifecta” Nike Air Maestro IIs, Rasheed Wallace’s “Rude Awakening” Nike Air Force 1 High Retros, Maya Moore’s “Rook to Queen” Air Jordan 11 lows, Wes Unseld’s “Intangibles” Converse Star Player Oxes, Moses Malone’s “Fo’ Fi’ Fo” Nike Air Force 1 Low Retros, Kevin Durant’s “Battle Tested” Nike Zoom KD IVs, LeBron James’ “25 Straight” Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier 1s, Julius “Dr. J” Erving’s “The Scoop” Converse Pro Leather mid-tops, Michael Jordan’s “Last Shot” Air Jordan 14s, Ray Allen’s “Locked and Loaded” Air Jordan 28s and “Gold Standard” Nike Air Force 270s. Every pair will be available at retail from April to June.
Before the gallery was unveiled, ESPN’s Cari Champion hosted a panel discussion with Allen, Wallace and Erving, who shared their favorite playoff memories from their careers and the shoes they wore at the time. Allen repped Air Jordan (he’s been signed to the brand since its inception in 1996). Wallace, an Air Force 1 aficionado during his 15-year career in the league, talked Nike. And Dr. J, the O.G. of the bunch, reminisced about the old-school swag of Converse.
“It’s a lot to be said about this shoe, as well as the history of Converse,” said Erving, pointing to the Converse on his feet. “Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, the inspiration came from Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson.”
With the reporters, influencers and sneakerheads in attendance, Allen, Erving and Wallace stuck around to detail the experiences they had playing in their signature shoes that the gallery featured. In the middle of the exhibit stood the WNBA’s silver championship trophy and NBA’s gold Larry O’Brien Trophy, which many of the 16 pairs on display helped players obtain.
BET’s ‘The Quad’ ends after two seasons
The show’s co-creator Felicia Henderson sent out a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to fans
2:02 PMOne of BET’s most gripping nighttime dramas is coming to an end after only two seasons.
The Quad, which aired its season two finale on April 3, was one of BET’s most entertaining original shows set on the campus of a fictional historically black university. Many of the storylines that stretched over two seasons covered both pleasant and harsh realities of campus life, including corruption, sexual assault and financial woes.
The show featured prominent and seasoned actors such as Anika Noni Rose, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jasmine Guy, Sean Blakemore and E. Roger Mitchell. Plot twists and exposure to storylines of the show’s many characters were continually developing before Monday’s announcement.
A message tweeted out by the show’s co-creator Felicia D. Henderson indicated that lower ratings led to the show’s cancellation. According to Nielsen ratings, the show’s second season averaged a 0.2 in the adults 18-49 demographic and 553,000 viewers per episode in Live+Same Day — each metric down around 30 percent from the first season.
Henderson’s message was largely a thank you to fans who supported the show throughout during its two-season run.
Unfortunate news… #TheQuadBET #QuadSquad #sQuad #QuadStrong @TheQuadWriters #BestFansEver #Gratitude #VeryProud. Special thanks to @rolandsmartin for your ride or die support! pic.twitter.com/u7XP3EtTaV
— felicia d. henderson (@followFeliciaD) April 9, 2018