‘Queer Eye,’The Great British Baking Show,’Nailed It!,’ ‘Making It,’ and especially ‘Terrace House’ make the case — but even unscripted comfort food is underpinned by something ugly

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‘Making It,’ ‘The Great British Baking Show’, and ‘Terrace House.’ Photo: From left; by Paul Drinkwater/NBC, by Mark Bourdillon/©PBS/Love Productions/Everett Collection, from Everett Collection

By Sonia Saraiya

Terrace House is a reality-television oasis in a sea of slime. A new batch of episodes for Opening New Doors drops on Netflix Tuesday, offering four more hours of understated interpersonal dynamics between six strangers sharing the same house. In the past, Terrace House has set up its abodes in the middle of Tokyo and on a beach in Hawaii; the current season nestles its participants in the mountain resort of Karuizawa.

A kinder, gentler interpretation of MTV’s Real World, this unscripted Japanese program feels nothing like an American reality show, which is what makes it so compelling; there are no visible cameras, no wires, no microphones, no talking heads. A half-dozen young, heterosexual, single people are put in a house and left to interact with each other; it’s a mild pressure cooker for romantic intimacy, in a country where dating is on the decline and fertility rates are at an all-time low. Each half-hour episode covers a week of life in the house; sometimes, the drama simply revolves around whose turn it is to do the dishes. The editing is elegant; the sound effects are limited to inane, uplifting pop music. …


Lauren Greenfield explores that question and more in Generation Wealth, her documentary about the absurd lengths we go to approximate Kim and Kendall’s Instagram-filtered depiction of fame and fortune.

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(Photo by Maureen Donaldson/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

By JULIE MILLER

Seven years ago, photographer Lauren Greenfield was documenting a spa party in Beverly Hills, California, where guests were treated to massages and paraffin treatments. For Greenfield, who has spent 25 years documenting a growing obsession with wealth around the globe, the party was not particularly extraordinary. What was out of the norm, however, was that the spa party was for tweens, rather than adults — one of whom was Kylie Jenner.

Since that spa party, Kylie — one contoured tentacle of the Kardashian family’s multi-media empire — has gone on to become a beauty mogul, whom Forbes recently declared on track to become the youngest self-made billionaire in history, depending on how one defines “self-made.” …


Mark Warner’s manifesto is the first shot in Washington’s war against Silicon Valley. Will Zuck, Dorsey, and Brin take them seriously, or will both sides hit the mattresses?

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By NICK BILTON

Less than a week after Donald Trump took office, in January 2017, I reported a story that scared the crap out of me. By that point, it was already clear to most of the world (with the exception of Mark Zuckerberg and, possibly, Trump) that fake news had played a significant role in our country’s division and Trump’s election. To wit, a 28-year-old man named Edgar Maddison Welch had recently opened fire inside a D.C. pizzeria because he had read apocryphal journalism claiming that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile ring in the basement. As bad as the fake news stories that dominated the presidential election were, I noted, they were essentially a beta version of what was to come. …


Inside the house of Plepler, creatives see an “insurance policy” that will protect them from becoming Netflix

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Actor Bryan Cranston, Richard Plepler andactor Jon Hamm attend HBO’s Official Golden Globe Awards After Party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California — Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic

By Joe Pompeo

In summer 2016, Richard Plepler flew to Dallas to attend a business dinner with a relatively new contact of his named John Stankey. The two men could not have appeared more dissimilar. Plepler, the urbane C.E.O. of HBO, was a natural creature of Manhattan and Beverly Hills, who had helped turn the premium cable network into perhaps the most pre-eminent cultural product in American life. Stankey, on the other hand, was a career AT&T executive who had once overseen the business solutions and operations departments. He had since segued into media, however, and been placed in charge of the telecommunications giant’s freshly acquired satellite-television service, DirecTV. Stankey approached the new space steadfastly. …


A woo-hoo heard around the world.

By DARRYN KING

In the spring of 1986, in the bedroom of a walk-up apartment on South Beverly Drive in L.A., a semi-struggling songwriter named Mark Mueller pressed “record” on his rudimentary reel-to-reel tape recorder, sat down at his Roland Juno 1 synthesizer, and started thinking about ducks.

Disney was looking for a theme song for a new animated series called DuckTales. They wanted a sense of adventure and excitement, a tune that would complement the technicolor energy of the show itself. …


As new accusers continue to emerge in the wake of Larry Nassar’s abhorrent crimes, gymnastics — and the idea of girlhood that the sport perpetuates — is undergoing a revolution.

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Aly Raisman (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for DirecTV)

BY VANESSA GRIGORIADIS

Few icons of American girlhood are as symbolically complex as elite gymnasts. They appear on the mat as tiny shining birds: gems sewn into their leotards sparkling under bright competition lights, and colorful bows plopped on their French-braided hairdos like feathered crowns. Scouts looking for young gymnasts with the potential to reach the Olympics sometimes spot girls as young as seven. Their careers usually peak before they can vote and end before they can legally order a glass of wine in a restaurant. Yet they are athletes of extraordinary accomplishment and fortitude. They’re strong women, or girls becoming women, who fly through the air seemingly by sheer force of will. As a child glued to the television during the Summer Olympics in the 1980s, I thought of them as real-life versions of Superwoman. …


John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin on crafting a comedy classic sharp enough to make a man laugh himself to death.

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Writer Michael Palin, actress Jamie Lee Curtis and actor/writer John Cleese attend ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ New York City Premiere on July 7, 1988 at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, Lincoln Center in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

By DARRYN KING

There’s a fittingly dark footnote in the history of the classic 1988 comedy A Fish Called Wanda: the movie killed someone.

In 1989, Dr. Ole Bentzen, a 56-year-old Danish audiologist reportedly in good health, laughed himself to death while watching the film.

“I was shocked to hear him break out laughing like that,” Dr. Bentzen’s medical assistant Einer Randel told Danish medical journal Medicine Today after the incident. “The next thing I knew, he was dead.”

The film itself is a love story, an exquisitely constructed farce, a crime caper, and a dissertation on the differences between Americans and the British, all at once. Its intricate plot, which revolves around a crew of criminals crossing and double-crossing each other following a diamond heist, involves copious layers of deceit, the unintended assassination of three Yorkshire terriers, one character flattened by a steamroller into wet cement, and likely the most absurd love scene in cinematic history. …


A recording salvaged from three miles deep tells the story of the doomed “El Faro,” a cargo ship engulfed by a hurricane.

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BY WILLIAM LANGEWIESCHE

I. “THE CLOCK IS TICKING”

In the darkness before dawn on Thursday, October 1, 2015, an American merchant captain named Michael Davidson sailed a 790-foot U.S.-flagged cargo ship, El Faro, into the eye wall of a Category 3 hurricane on the exposed windward side of the Bahama Islands. El Faro means “the lighthouse” in Spanish. The hurricane, named Joaquin, was one of the heaviest ever to hit the Bahamas. It overwhelmed and sank the ship. Davidson and the 32 others aboard drowned. They had been headed from Jacksonville, Florida, on a weekly run to San Juan, Puerto Rico, carrying 391 containers and 294 trailers and cars. The ship was 430 miles southeast of Miami in deep water when it went down. Davidson was 53 and known as a stickler for safety. He came from Windham, Maine, and left behind a wife and two college-age daughters. Neither his remains nor those of his shipmates were ever recovered. Disasters at sea do not get the public attention that aviation accidents do, in part because the sea swallows the evidence. It has been reported that a major merchant ship goes down somewhere in the world every two or three days; most are ships sailing under flags of convenience, with underpaid crews and poor safety records. The El Faro tragedy attracted immediate attention for several reasons. El Faro was a U.S.-flagged ship with a respected captain — and it should have been able to avoid the hurricane. Why didn’t it? Add to that mystery this simple fact: the sinking of El Faro was the worst U.S. …


Foreign agents have been stealing tech companies’ secrets since the 70s. But now, in the wake of Facebook’s public crisis, the biggest companies in the world are coping with the challenge on an unprecedented level.

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BY NICK BILTON

On the day that they entered the headquarters of a renowned technology company, the security unit was nondescript — quiet as a mouse. It had to be that way, naturally. For months prior, the tech behemoth’s upper management had suspected that something nefarious was going on inside their organization: files were disappearing; millions of dollars’ worth of intellectual property was being copied, they believed; personal and private information, too. Worse, the executives in the corporate suite were mystified about their culprit. …

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VANITY FAIR

In-depth reporting, gripping narratives, and world-class photography, plus heaping doses of Oscar-blogging, royal-watching, and assorted guilty pleasures.

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