Newsletters

Get Where+When delivered to your inbox every Monday and Thursday.

The HBO series returns Sunday. By Benjamin Freed
Nothing ever goes well for Gary (Tony Hale). Photograph by Patrick Harbron via HBO.

The third season of Veep, HBO's blistering satire about a vice president and her bumbling staff, ended with the not-ready-for-prime-time Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) getting called up to the big job after the show's never-seen president resigns. The new season, which premieres Sunday at 10:30 PM, picks up a few months later with Meyer and company still adjusting to life in the Oval Office while attempting to balance her campaign for a full term.

At Meyer's side for nearly every moment, as always, is her sad-sack body man Gary, who strives to be at the ready with whatever the now-president needs, from snacks to hand cream to sycophantic comments. Played by Tony Hale, who has won one Emmy and been nominated for another in the role, Gary is one of Veep's breakout characters, even if he's perhaps the most broken. The new season finds him even more marginalized before, as Gary's second-class status prevents him from accompanying Selina into every cell of the presidential bubble.

Four years into the gig, Hale, 44, says in an interview with Washingtonian he continues to be surprised by what Veep creator Armando Iannucci and the show's other writers churn out, especially the show's supremely vulgar insults. He's also plugging a children's book he published late last year, Archibald’s Next Big Thing, which could be good reading for kids (or middle-aged White House flunkies) who need a boost of self-confidence. We spoke by phone in March.

The last season ended with the president resigning and Selina Meyer being promoted. Is the dynamic of the show going to be different?

The stakes are higher. She’s president, and that’s terrifying. The country’s in a lot of trouble. She should never have been vice president. Between her and Kevin Spacey, it’s not looking good. She’s got a bunch of keystone cops around her, and it’s just absolute chaos. The stakes are entirely too high for these people.

You said when the show started you had consulted with some political assistants in developing Gary. Did you ever meet anyone this henpecked?

No one really in particular. I was able to meet a guy who was a body man to a really respected politician. He was telling me you have no life. You never see your familiy you never see your friends. People move away from this. My character is in his 40s and will never leave his position. Any kind of life outside of this would just be trauma. If she ever does leave office or politics, he might just still carry her purse to the grocery store.

But Gary is so clueless most of the time. Is he ready to jump from the veep’s office to the Oval Office?

Gary doesn’t bump up his game well. With the attention that comes from her being president, he’s kind of going through growing pains, and it’s not pretty.

His life has always seemed so much more miserable than the others', which is saying a lot for this show.

He has no friends in the office. He would like to be friends with some people. He’s such a sweet guy. He might hire a friend. He might get on Craigslist and put an ad out for a friend.

He occasionally stumbles into having the upper hand, though. Does Gary finally get his big moment this year?

My dream for Gary is that he’s just going to go off on every person. Now and then there’s been a dabbling, but I’m wanting that pressure cooker to explode.

But Selina is still running for a full term, right?

There’ll be a lot of campaigning. In Gary’s world she should have been in this position. I don’t even know if president is the right word. Maybe queen, or Jesus. But in reality, she should never have been in those shoes. I will say this is what probably most excites me about the show. I think for Veep, we are a satire, we take it to the extreme. But it does give a glimpse of humanity to these people. They always put the best foot forward. You never see them insecure. They are holding such big decisions in their hands, they’re human beings, they have to lose their shit sometimes.

Veep features a fair bit of improvisation. How does it compare to Arrested Development?

I feel very fortunate to have been on two shows I’ve been a fan of. They’re very different. Mitch Hurwitz, who created [Arrested Development], is such a mastermind. He knew so much about what he wanted to do. He choreographed bits and callbacks. On Veep, the writers do lay a pretty strong foundation, but they give it the freedom to go where it goes. It’s an environment I’m so thankful to be a part of. Typically in TV you show up, you get your script, and you move on. The writers work really hard to lay a foundation, but they aren’t too precious with their words. That’s very rare.

One of the amazing things about the writing on Veep is the insults characters throw at each other.

It’s beyond. The writers have a vault of insults I’ve never heard. The person who gets the most verbal abuse is Jonah. He gets called things I’ve never heard of. Human scaffolding. He was called "if the Washington monument was made entirely of dead dicks." Just awful. My character is screamed at. I think I was called cow-eyes once. But Tim [Simons, who plays Jonah], poor thing, just gets abused.

What’s the worst thing someone says to you in Season Four?

It’s just one big emasculating process. With Gary, it’s what’s not said. If he does not get attention for Selina, if she forgets something about him, if she turns her back on him, that’s just getting stabbed in the back. He’d prefer she scream at him.

You have a kids book out.

It’s called Archibald’s Next Big Thing. I was seeing a pattern in my life. I’ve been fortunate to have a bunch of great gigs, but I was always looking for my next gig. It’s not about something coming. It’s something I struggle with every day. It’s about being present. I have a nine-year-old daughter, and I want her to have the freedom to dream, but I want her to look around her. And I’m a freelancer. It’s part of my job to look at what’s coming next. You have to be looking at your job and being present.

Gary should read it.

Gary needs about 10 copies of this children’s book. He's pretty content where he is. But he’s content with abuse.

Posted at 08:00 AM/ET, 04/08/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Cast members gathered last week to present the Smithsonian with artifacts from the iconic series. By John Scarpinato
Left to right: AMC president Charlie Collier, cast members John Slattery, Christina Hendricks, Jon Hamm, and creator Matthew Weiner. Photograph by John Scarpinato.

Whether you’re a fan of Mad Men or not, it’s hard to escape the buzz as AMC's hit show heads into the second half of its final season. The show, which follows the professional lives of 1960s Madison Avenue advertising men and women, has won multiple Golden Globe and Emmy awards. It has also been praised for its historical authenticity, and that's exactly why the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has welcomed donations from creator, writer, and executive producer Matthew Weiner and the cast.

The objects, presented by Weiner and cast members--Jon Hamm, John Slattery, and Christina Hendricks--arrive as the museum prepares for its first ever business history exhibition, American Enterprise. The exhibit, which explores the advertising industry, will use artifacts from the show to help portray the country’s “creative revolution” from the 1950s and ‘60s. American Enterprise will be part of the museum’s first floor’s innovation wing scheduled to open on July 1st.

Susan Fruchter, deputy director of the National Museum of American History, even joked last week about how this isn’t the first Smithsonian/Mad Men collaboration. The show takes historical accuracy very seriously and once called the museum for an important consultation. “The advertising collection received a call several years ago from the man behind the show with a question,” she said. “'How was a telegram delivered in 1963?'”

Clothes worn by characters Don and Betty Draper form part of the exhibit. Photograph by John Scarpinato.

With more than 50 donated items, the exhibit includes iconic Don and Betty Draper costumes designed by Janie Bryant, a selection of props like business cards, liquor bottles, and an empty package of Lucky Strike cigarettes, as well as notes and scripts from Weiner. Each object adds to the museum’s entertainment collection, which already includes iconic items like Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Archie Bunker’s famous chair.

The show's end is quickly approaching, but both Weiner and AMC president Charlie Collier are excited about its preservation at the museum. So before you get emotional about the end of the Mad Men era, take solace in knowing that its influence will not be forgotten. “They say that all good things must come to an end, and all great things come to the Smithsonian,” says Collier.

Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 03/31/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Behind the ripped-from-the-headlines series is an old Agency hand putting his skills to work. By Tanya Pai
Rodney Faraon. Photograph by Danny Moloshok/Newscom.

If Katherine Heigl can convince us she’s a CIA analyst on NBC’s new political drama, State of Affairs, that’s going to be largely due to Rodney Faraon. The Arlington resident’s 14-year Agency career began the summer before his 1992 graduation from Georgetown; he wrote his first presidential daily briefing as a college senior. An executive producer and a model for the series—which premieres Monday, November 17, at 10—Faraon advises the show’s writers and director on Langley lore.

How true to life is the show?

All the plots are things that could happen in the real world. What we’re doing may seem ripped from the headlines by the time we air, but actually we had the [similar] story for the pilot done long before ISIS was even on the map. The caveat is: Look, we’re not doing a documentary. But there’s a core of authenticity, with the chemistry of the team and the dilemmas that briefers and analysts face.

What do the writers want to know?

At the beginning, I shared stories, atmospherics—all unclassified, because I have a security-clearance obligation. Now they come back and ask me, “Is this plausible? What jargon would they use?”

What did they think analysts do?

Like a lot of people, they had the impression that CIA officers infiltrate terrorist cells like the FBI or that the DEA infiltrates crime gangs. That’s simply not the way we do things. I’ve had to teach about minutiae but also about the big picture.

Katherine Heigl as CIA analyst Charleston Tucker in the show “State of Affairs.” Photograph by Michael Parmelee/NBC.

Why show business?

My first private-sector job was at Walt Disney after 9/11—they advertised for a director of threat-and-vulnerability assessment. On the studio lot, you couldn’t help but absorb the energy. [Alias and Lost creator] J.J. Abrams had his office right above mine, so I got to know some of the writers and producers, and I became intrigued with the entire art of it.

What CIA skills translate to Hollywood?

Washington and LA are very similar. You need to be aware of who you are and have great allies.

How do you explain the popularity of national-security shows?

Since 9/11, I think people want to understand these issues, and storytelling is a great way to learn about the process and really absorb it. It can be dangerous if you’re telling the wrong stories, or inaccurate stories, but they’ve made people more politically aware.


This article appears in the November 2014 issue of Washingtonian. Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

Posted at 10:20 AM/ET, 11/12/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Discovery Channel series begins its fifth season Friday. By Hallie Golden
Still from Gold Rush courtesy of the Discovery Channel.

The success of Gold Rush, one of Discovery Channel’s most popular series, seems simple: The more gold miners discover, the more viewers the show gets. And since season five, which premieres at 9 PM on Friday, is said to have more gold then ever before, the show’s future looks good. But executive producer Christo Doyle says the show’s success stems from the wish-fulfillment aspect as much as the action. “For someone like me, who works in an office environment all day every day, it’s sexy to think about dropping everything you’re doing and going North on a treasure hunt,” he says.

Doyle, who’s based in Chevy Chase, has been with the show since it was started in 2010 and with Discovery Channel since 1999. Gold Rush, for anyone unfamiliar, follows three mine bosses and each of their five- to ten-member crews on their hunt for gold in the same area where the original gold rush took place at the end of the 19th century. Because it’s a reality show, Doyle and the rest of the production team have little control over what takes place and how much gold is uncovered. They can choose which miners are followed and how much screen time each gets, but little beyond that. “We have to take what we’re given and tell the greatest story we can,” says Doyle.

For season five, according to Discovery’s Sarah Morgan, the crew was filming up until last week, so the turnaround time can be tight. This is especially challenging because the show’s key players—the production team, the miners, and Doyle—are nowhere near each other. The production team is based in London, the miners are hunting for gold in the Yukon, and Doyle is based in Washington. In order to travel to Dawson, where the show is filmed—about a four-day drive from Portland, Oregon—Doyle would need to take four different planes. “Each plane gets smaller and smaller, until you’re in a type of Indiana Jones duct tape on the ceiling situation,” he says. Understandably, he’s only made the trip three times thus far.

But there is one aspect of the show he is especially close to, both geographically and professionally: Gold Rush’s supplemental series, The Dirt. Doyle is the host of the hourlong show, which is filmed in Fairfax and allows super-fans to learn about the many events that were left out of the finished episodes. It’s aired immediately before Gold Rush to get viewers hyped for what’s to come, but it’s its own animal. “We can have a lot more fun on The Dirt than they have on the show,” says Doyle. “We can laugh at things. We can get serious about things. We can call each other out about things.” And they can interact with viewers via social media—all in service of translating the unpredictable thrill of striking gold into reliable entertainment.

Gold Rush season five premieres October 17 at 9 PM on the Discovery Channel.

Posted at 03:30 PM/ET, 10/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Olivia Pope and Associates return to your TV Thursday at 9. By Tanya Pai
Catch up on where we last left Olivia and company. Photograph via ABC.

Well, Scandal fans, it’s been a long, hot, wine-cardiganless summer, and even the most devoted Shondaland fan could probably use a refresher on where we last left things with Olivia Pope and Associates. The show returns Thursday at 9 PM; read on for where each of our characters ended last season, plus some questions for the future. For even more detail, revisit our season finale recap

Olivia

Our white-hatted (okay, mostly coated) heroine was dealt some stiff blows in the finale: First, she gets bested by smarmy rival publicist Leo, whose quick thinking and ruthless opportunism results in Sally Langston’s media-catnip Florence Nightingale moment on live TV. Then her boyfriend’s son dies, and not only does she have to let all of America know what happens, she then also learns (albeit falsely) that her mother is responsible. What’s a fierce, stubborn gladiator to do? Apparently turn to daddy with her tail between her legs and flee the country with her sometimes bed buddy who, let’s face it, she doesn’t even seem to like all that much. Cure for what ails her: Binge-watching one season of Liz Lemon’s Dealbreakers

Fitz

El Prez also has a rough go of it. In a single episode, he a) is told he is going to lose his place in the White House, b) learns that his father raped his wife and c) that his only son might not have been his this whole time, except d) he actually is, except e) said son dies of maliciously caused bacterial meningitis before he can even process the news, meaning that f) he gets another four years in the White House, but g) the murderer is his lover’s once-presumed-dead mother, so h) he’s now beholden to his lover’s also murderous father for killing her, although i) those last two are actually totally inaccurate. Also he gives up on his long-term pipe dream of moving to Vermont with Olivia on the grounds that he now can’t leave his wife because he just found out about something that happened to her almost 16 years ago*. Cure for what ails him: A bottle of Scotch and several pints of Chubby Hubby ice cream, because sometimes eating your feelings is the only good solution. 

The Parents Pope

Boy, did Maya get the short end of the stick at season’s end. After attempting to kill a President and several very high-level government employees with one bomb (in a plot that in hindsight seems a bit too sloppy for a criminal mastermind like her), she gets sold out by her former cohort Adnan Salif via her daughter’s usually ineffectual employee, loses all that cash she worked for, and ends up in B613’s torture hole for her troubles. Meanwhile, Papa Pope dances circles around her like some kind of demonic Backstreet Boy, dispatching Secret Service lunkhead Tom to murder everyone in sight while and expertly manipulating his daughter, her friends, and the President to maneuver himself back on top of the secret-shadow-government food chain. Cure for what ails them: One decade of intensive marriage counseling, some fruit leather for Mama Pope so she doesn’t return to snacking on her own wrists, and a Cuban cigar for Rowan Pope, because damn, he’s good. 

Mellie

FLOTUS, and Bellamy Young’s performance in this role, continues to delight and wrench with every episode. After her husband forces the dissolution of her one romantic tryst in a very long time, she contemplates the loss of the power role she’s sacrificed so much to maintain, which itself is immediately swallowed up by the death of her son. She then is forced to phone her crushed husband’s mistress in a desperate bid to scrape him off the Oval Office carpet in time to summon his flaky charm and address the nation about his triumphant reelection. Cure for what ails her: A standing prescription for Prozac and a 50 Shades of Grey box set. And a kitten. I feel bad for Mellie. 

Cyrus

Here’s a theory: Cyrus, in an incredibly elaborate Easter egg for Battlestar Galactica fans, is actually a Cylon who’s gone back in time to pervert American’s conception of democracy, love, family, and generally how to be an actual person. It’s the only way I can explain his enduring utter heartlessness: He pimps out his husband to score political points—which then gets said husband fully shot in the face—he contemplates letting hundreds of people get blown up just to cling to his own temporary position of power, and even when he admits to being a complete and utter monster, his confession is immediately undercut by his unrestrained glee at winning a second term. Cure for what ails him: Three episodes’ worth of listening to Dr. Gaius Baltar pontificate. 

Abby/David

Regardless of how you feel about gingers, Abby continues to be the soul of the show, telling anyone and everyone exactly how things are and dispensing the hard-nosed wisdom Il Papa was once capable of delivering. With Olivia jetting off into the sunset, she’s about the only person around able to keep OPA afloat—and thanks to Jake’s delivery of what looks like Operation B613’s entire backlog of files, she and David can surely get some gladiating done in between being in love and fighting about their polar opposite natures. (Yes, gladiating is a word. No, I’m not sure.) Also, with Olivia’s exit, maybe David will finally have some measure of professional success. Cure for what ails them: A publishing deal for their forthcoming memoir/self-help book, How to Succeed in Business and Other Stuff by Trying (but Mostly Lying) Your Ass Off

Jake/Harrison

Did you guys see Scott Foley’s hilarious shirtless ad campaign from a while back? I like to imagine it’s what Jake was actually doing during his vacation with Olivia, while she drinks wine and wears totally inappropriate white loungewear on a beach somewhere, and he’s all, “Well, someone has to pay for all these coconuts and Merlot.” Meanwhile Harrison—much like the actor who played him—made some truly poor life decisions, resulting in Short being fired from the show and his character likely offed by Rowan. Cure for what ails them: A copy of Abby and David’s book for Jake, and a spot on Celebrity Jailhouse for Harrison. 

Huck/Quinn

If Huck and Quinn never again shared screentime, I would be one happy camper. The antics they got up to in the latter half of season three—spitting on each other, copulating next to a pool of their employer’s maybe-dead father’s blood—were beyond hard to watch and completely unnecessary to the plot. Quinn may think she loves Huck, but here’s hoping her decision to lead him to his estranged wife and son is enough to keep “Huckleberry Quinn” from . . . qucking ever again. Cure for what ails them: Better dental insurance for Quinn, a “Sorry I Let You Think I Was Dead for Like Six Years” Hallmark card for Huck to give his family.

Questions for Season Four

What will Olivia’s hair look like? 

What’s going to happen to B613 now that Jake’s shared all his intel with David, and why is Rowan keeping Maya alive? 

How will Huck’s wife react to realizing he’s not dead, and will he ever learn to speak at a normal volume?

Will El Prez’s grief finally drive him to transform into the cold, terrifying tyrant we’ve only seen glimpses of? A season in which Fitz and Mellie use their considerable combined force against Olivia and Cyrus is one I could definitely get behind.

First Daughter Karen was kind of a non-character—will she stick around to become some sort of Blair Waldorf queen bee nightmare and make Olivia’s life miserable?

A season four teaser is available via ABC; tune in Friday for the recap of the season premiere. 

*Not to sound insensitive, but I call BS on that whole plot wrinkle. Mellie’s been dealing with that struggle for more than a decade and a half—now that Fitz finally knows, nothing he can do is going to magically erase all of that. 

Posted at 10:55 AM/ET, 09/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Executive producer Morgan Freeman and Madeleine Albright were among the guests at Thursday night’s event. By Caroline Cunningham
Executive producer Morgan Freeman at the Madam Secretary premiere. Photograph by Caroline Cunningham.

Despite the name and setting, CBS’s new drama Madam Secretary isn’t very political.

In fact, Keith Carradine, who plays the President, isn’t even sure what term of his presidency he’s in. 

“We don’t talk about party in this show,” he said. “We are leaving it to the audience to make their own decisions about where we might fall ideologically.”

On Thursday night, the stars and producers of the new CBS drama gathered at the Institute of Peace, just down the street from the State Department, for a screening of the pilot. (The show premieres Sunday, September 21, at 8:30.)

Madam Secretary follows Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni), an ex-CIA agent who is dragged away from her bucolic family life by the President (an old friend) to become Secretary of State after her predecessor is killed in a plane crash. 

Though the pilot launches McCord straight into a geopolitical crisis, writer Barbara Hall said she was most curious about the life behind the powerful woman—what she still has to deal with at home after saving the world. 

“The most interesting thing to me was contextualizing her job with her home life­—giving people an idea of what it’s like to do a job like that and to maintain a home life that isn’t a shattered, broken home,” Hall said. 

Tim Daly, who plays Elizabeth’s husband, Henry McCord, said he was drawn to the realistic presentation of the couple’s marriage. 

“I think we’ve seen so many dysfunctional marriages on television, and so often we’ve seen women on television and in movies who, if they achieve some level of notoriety, their personal life is a disaster,” the actor said. “This gives people something that they can really relate to. Not only is she dealing with geopolitical stuff, but they are also at home being a passionate couple.”

Though many have speculated on who inspired the character of Elizabeth McCord—Hillary Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand are two of the top guesses—executive producer Morgan Freeman attests that she is “completely fictional.” Even so, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was present for the premiere, due to the educational role she played: She grabbed a cup of coffee with Leoni before filming (“She paid,” Leoni said), and shared some State Department dos and don’ts with the writers and cast members. 

“You can’t be calling Hillary [Clinton] or Condoleezza [Rice] or Madeleine in the middle of the night and saying, ‘If you had this situation handed to you, what would you do?’” Freeman said. 

The show may be more dramatic than political, but with the cast and team of producers behind it, it’s likely to be entertaining. Check back soon for our recap of the pilot episode.  

For more arts and entertainment coverage, follow After Hours on Twitter at @afterhoursblog

See also: “State of Affairs” Vs. “Madam Secretary”—Which Should You Watch?

Posted at 04:00 PM/ET, 09/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Decide between two new Washington-set TV shows with a few simple formulas. By Tanya Pai
Photograph of Heigl via NBC; Leoni by David M. Russell/CBS.

Despite Washington-set shows being snubbed at this year’s Emmys, the trend of sexing up government jobs continues apace. Looking to piggyback on the smash successes of Veep, Homeland, and Scandal, networks are offering two new series for the fall centered on high-powered women. NBC’s State of Affairs, beginning in November, brings Katherine Heigl back to the small screen as Charleston “Charlie” Tucker, a CIA analyst who advises the President on crises around the globe. Oh yeah, and she used to be engaged to POTUS’s son. CBS’s Madam Secretary—premiering this Sunday, September 21—stars Téa Leoni as ex-CIA agent Elizabeth McCord who’s suddenly thrust into the national spotlight when the Secretary of State dies in a plane crash and the President, an old friend, taps her to take over. So which should you tune in for? Below, we have a few formulas for understanding what each show has to offer. (Check back soon for our recap of Madam Secretary’s first episode.) 

If you want: Scandal’s eye-candy wardrobe PLUS Homeland’s authority-bucking, slightly unstable protagonist

Try: State of Affairs. Heigl’s character wears spike heels, leather jackets, and hoop earrings—and has a very Carrie Mathison-esque habit of drinking too much and picking up strangers at bars. 

If you want: West Wing-style political machinations MINUS the lightning-speed patter

Try: Madam Secretary. Téa Leoni’s drawling delivery seems as though she was aiming for gravitas but overshot and landed on “just took a muscle relaxer.” 

If you want: Veep’s woman-in-the-White House aspect MINUS the often harsh humor

Try: State of Affairs. Alfre Woodard brings her stern, inscrutable presence to the table as the “First Customer,” as Charlie’s team nicknames her—and as the mother of Charlie’s (supposedly) deceased fiancé. 

If you want: House of Cards-style visual flair MINUS the, you know, lawmaking

Try: State of Affairs. While the pilot sees Charlie receiving mysterious texts that pop up as bubbles onscreen, she’s far too busy defusing crises almost single-handedly to have much time to spend courting votes from congressmen.

If you want: Veep’s cast of quirky, recognizable supporting characters PLUS a slightly more family-friendly vibe

Try: Madam Secretary. Wings star Tim Daly plays Leoni’s character’s husband, Henry McCord (who, it’s heavily hinted, will probably cheat on her at some point), and Bebe Neuwirth is her largely unimpressed chief of staff, Nadine Tolliver. House of Cards alum Sebastian Arcelus and Body of Proof’s Geoffrey Arend also appear as staffers. As a bonus, Leoni’s character appears to have a (mostly) functional relationship with her two children. 

If you want: Homeland’s conspiracy theories linked to mysterious deaths PLUS Veep’s antagonistic male coworkers PLUS Scandal’s hyper-competent heroine known for thinking outside the box

Try: Either. Early impressions suggest Madam Secretary will be more focused on smaller-scale, human stories, while State of Affairs goes for big, splashy drama. Either way, it’s a safe bet that both series’ main characters have to deal with far less paperwork than their real-life counterparts.

Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 09/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
What we gleaned from clips of the new Discovery Channel show. By Hallie Golden
Martin Heinrich and Jeff Flake star in Rival Survival, premiering October 29. Photographs via Wikimedia Commons.

After spending six days on the remote island of Eru, in the Marshall Islands, there’s one thing senators Jeff Flake and Martin Heinrich have no desire to see again anytime soon: coconut water. 

“Everybody’s sort of into this coconut water fad, and I think both Jeff and I are completely over that,” said Heinrich Thursday morning during a sneak peek of Discovery Channel’s new show, Rival Survival. “The first coconut’s quite good, but not number 17.”

The political rivals—Flake is an Arizona Republican, Heinrich a Democrat from New Mexico—roughed it for nearly a week for the show, which airs as a one-hour special October 29 at 10 PM. The show follows the senators as they attempt to surmount their differences and work together to survive on an island whose main food source is tucked away in the ocean and where natural fresh water is nonexistent. 

The three short clips that were shown to a crowd of journalists on Thursday made it clear that Rival Survival will be a comedic mixture of the senators struggling to live on an island infested with coconut crabs—which can grow up to three feet long and weigh nine pounds—and lighthearted gibes at each other. “One of the advantages of going with a senator from Arizona is they start with a nice base tan,” says Heinrich in one clip. 

One of the points the senators emphasized was that this six-day adventure was completely their idea. They say the concept stemmed from their shared opinion that Congress is not working together because its members don’t trust one another. While it’s difficult to say whether Heinrich and Flake wholeheartedly trust each other now, they certainly got to know one another, announcing to the audience that Heinrich is good at building shelters, while Flake is handy with a machete (one of the items they were allowed to bring). 

A few other notable moments from the clips:

  • In the midst of a heavy downpour, the senators seek refuge in their rickety handmade shelter. “This is my first night sleeping with a Democrat,” Flake quips.
  • The two men are hunched over on the sun-soaked sand, desperately struggling to start a fire. “Our primary goal is to get this fire started,” says Heinrich. “Everything’s been going great, except the fire hasn’t started.”
  • Seeking sustenance, Flake and Heinrich successfully shake down an array of coconuts from a tall tree. “There’s a lot at stake here. It’s really a pride thing. You don’t want to be the one . . . who has to be taken care of,” says Heinrich. 

For more arts and entertainment coverage, follow After Hours on Twitter at @afterhoursblog

Posted at 01:45 PM/ET, 09/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The reality show attempts to force Democrats and Republicans to work together. By Tanya Pai
Martin Heinrich (left) and Jeff Flake (right). Photographs via Wikimedia Commons.

Congress’s recent performance record has plenty of Americans wishing they could dump their elected representatives in a remote location and forget about them for a while. But maybe two out of 535 ain’t bad?

That’s the premise of a reality TV series premiering on the Discovery Channel next month. Called Rival Survival, the show follows Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich as they rough it for six days and nights in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean—part of Micronesia—“surrounded by shark-infested waters that mirror the seemingly treacherous terrain of the US Congress,” according to a press release from the network. Their job: to find food, water, and shelter, and presumably to learn some kumbaya way to work together despite their political differences in the process. 

Flake may have a bit of an unfair advantage: The politician reportedly spent a week in 2009 living in the Marshall Islands, eating “coconuts and a lot of crabs.” Both men also undertook the task at their own personal expense. 

Neither Flake nor Heinrich is up for reelection. Their island excursion has been condensed into a one-hour special that will air on the Discovery Channel on October 29. 

Which lawmaker would you like to strand on a desert island? Sound off in the comments. 

Posted at 11:25 AM/ET, 09/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Featuring a House of Cards alum. By Tanya Pai
Carrie—and her headscarves—return to your TV screen on October 5. Photograph by Kent Smith for Showtime.

This week, Showtime released a new two-minute trailer for the upcoming fourth season of its Emmy-winning spy drama Homeland. In addition to Claire Danes in a headscarf, a gloriously bearded Mandy Patinkin, and one seriously ginger baby, the clip features Corey Stoll taking a break from his role—and his awful wig—on FX’s The Strain to play a much-less-hirsute possible double agent. 

Stoll, of course, also played the manipulable, alcoholic congressman Peter Russo on House of Cards’ first season. (The actor is having a big year; in addition to these high-profile roles, he also appeared in Ryan Murphy’s made-for TV movie The Normal Heart alongside Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts.) 

While much has been said about Homeland’s decline in quality after its inaugural season—including in our WashingTelevision coverage—perhaps the return of Saul and Stoll’s always welcome presence will mark the show’s triumphant renaissance. The season-four premiere airs Sunday, October 5, at 9 PM. 

Check out the trailer below.  

Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

Posted at 01:20 PM/ET, 09/10/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()