Amy Poehler would be totally up for a ‘Parks and Recreation’ revival

'I'll put on my suit again.'
‘I’ll put on my suit again.’

Image: Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We may now know the reason why a Parks and Recreation revival is yet to happen — and the issue doesn’t appear to be the willingness of certain cast members.

The problem may be that the show’s co-creator Mike Schur is just too damn busy.

“Mike Schur is currently working on about five shows,” Amy Poehler (aka Leslie Knope), told Variety on the carpet for Thursday night’s Parks and Recreation 10th anniversary reunion event. 

The good news? She definitely didn’t rule out the possibility of a return, once Schur has a bit more time on his hands.

“Whenever Mike is ready, I’ll put on my suit again for sure,” she said.

Parks and Recreation kicked off in 2009, then ended in 2015 after seven seasons.

Your move, Mike.

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March Madness, New Zealand mosque shootings, ‘Us’ hits theaters nationwide: 5 things to know Friday

Editors, USA TODAY
Published 4:33 a.m. ET March 22, 2019

Will Cinderella help March see a little more madness on Friday?

The first day of the NCAA tournament is in the books, and potential Cinderellas failed to provide that bubble-bursting upset. Fans will be looking for more of the madness that has branded previous tournaments when the action picks up on Friday. Seeking to avoid another major upset will be the South region’s No. 1 seed Virginia, which lost to a 16 seed last year but could be poised for a big tournament this time. Later Friday, the tournament’s biggest attraction, Zion Williamson, takes the court when Duke, the No. 1 seed in the East, plays North Dakota State. In the meantime, be sure to check how your bracket is faring against the competition. 

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New Zealand street gangs vow to defend mosques

Street gangs across New Zealand have offered to protect the nation’s mosques during Friday prayers in the wake of a gunman’s rampage last week that left 50 dead. Leaders of the Mongrel Mob, Black Power and King Cobras have said they will stand sentry at many of the mosques. Less than 2 percent of New Zealand’s 5 million people are Muslim, but thousands are expected to join in the prayers Friday in solidarity. New Zealand’s prime minister announced Thursday that she is banning all assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and military-style semi-automatic rifles.

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Will R. Kelly be allowed to travel to Dubai?

An Illinois judge on Friday could rule on R. Kelly’s request to be allowed to travel to Dubai to perform and and meet the royal family when the embattled singer appears for a pretrial hearing. Kelly was charged on Feb. 22 with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse for allegedly assaulting three underage girls and one adult woman. In a court filing Wednesday, Kelly’s lawyer said the singer needed to raise money “to pay his child support and other child related expenses.” Over the years, some celebrities and world leaders on the run have chosen the glittering city, located in the United Arab Emirates, as a safe haven.

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R. Kelly gave an emotional and explosive talk, defending his innocence in his first interview since being charged with sexual abuse.
USA TODAY

We have met the enemy, and they are ‘Us’

An African-American family of four battles scissors-slashing doppelgangers in “Us,” writer/director Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated follow-up to his Oscar-winning social thriller “Get Out” (★★★½ out of four; rated R; in theaters Friday). In “Us,” Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) takes her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two children (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) to her beachside hometown for a summer getaway. One night, mysterious figures show up in their driveway, and the little boy announces: “It’s us.” As he did in “Get Out,” Peele packs “Us” with symbolism and social commentary. “The man makes you think more than he can scare – and considering how scary Peele can be, that’s saying something,” writes USA TODAY’s Brian Truitt.

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Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke star in Jordan Peele’s horror film “Us,” about a family facing invaders during a summer getaway.
USA TODAY

Jimmy Carter to become the oldest living former US president

Jimmy Carter is set to become the oldest ever living former U.S. president on Friday, surpassing former President George H.W. Bush who died in November. Carter on Thursday tied Bush at 94 years and 171 days old. The 39th U.S. president was born October 1, 1924, and will be 94 years and 172 days old Friday. The Democrat from Georgia still works with the Atlanta-based Carter Center, teaches Sunday school classes and at Emory University, and helps with Habitat for Humanity builds one week a year, the Carter Center said.

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Grey’s Anatomy recap: Things are not what they seem

Of all the unique environments hidden away in Grey Sloan Memorial, I think Maggie’s decision to introduce a Jungle Room and a Blue Room was desperately needed. Based on all the medical jargon and statistics she recited to the eager interns, I can report that a roomful of plants and a roomful of blue light produce higher levels of something positive and lower levels of anxiety.

It’s a good thing all the doctors are hot messes and have multiple reasons to visit the rooms so Maggie can take their blood pressure and prove her theory.

For example, Teddy is stressed because Tom and Owen are both accompanying her to a birthing class. But before things even have a chance to get awkward, Teddy looks alarmingly concerned when she feels a sharp pain. TO THE BLUE ROOM! Parker finds her breathing heavily, irritated that the azure habitat is not doing its job. He calls Carina, and we quickly learn that Teddy has an insufficient cervix.

Well, that’s not good. Carina maneuvers the hospital bed so Teddy’s feet incline in the air while her head is down below. Hey, gravity. Do your job.

Over in the Jungle Room, Karev and Meredith brood about their significant others. I expected their moods to drastically change surrounded by all that foliage, but I didn’t notice a difference. Karev is mad that Jo won’t answer his phone calls. He’s worried about his wife running off to find her birth mom. Meredith is mad at DeLuca for being a pain in her butt. He’s doing a pretty good job avoiding Meredith, and she’s about to throw down with him. Being angry at his dysfunctional father doesn’t not give him the right to blow Meredith off when she’s offering to help.

Meredith isn’t the only one lending a helping hand. While spinning in a chair with a big grin on her face, Amelia confesses to Maggie that she had “insanely good sex” at a conference in San Diego. Before any details are shared, Link comes in and apologizes to Maggie for not getting those documents to her sooner. You see, he was at a conference in San Diego. BUSTED.

Later, Amelia reminds Link that their interlude was nothing more than pain management. It was acute, one dose, zero refills, the opposite of chronic. However, he needs to steer clear because, you know, pheromones are a real thing and his make her feel tingly. Link agrees to keep a safe distance just as Webber puts them on a case together. Of course.

There’s been a snowmobile accident. Amelia and Link manage Kari, who has fractures on her vertebrae. Webber leaves them, and Link’s pheromones, to check on the other person who was on the snowmobile. Their name is Toby and they are genderqueer. The pronouns throw Webber off his game, and he has trouble adjusting. Or should I say, he wonders why he has to adjust. Can someone send him over to the Jungle Room? Maybe that will help him chill?

As Avery corrects with “they” every time Webber says “she,” the rest of our Grey’s Anatomy cast surround a little girl named Nora who needs a new pancreas. She’s been in the hospital FOREVER, but today all her levels aligned and she can finally have the surgery!

Just kidding. Her levels are off again, which is very odd. As they give her insulin, word gets out that Nora is a math whiz. She cannot be bested. Even by Qadri. So the intern enlists a few friends to compete in the nerdiest mathlete contest this side of the nurse’s station. Maggie, Schmitt, Qadri, and even Bailey do their best to usurp Nora, but none prevail. It’s all fun and games until Qadri finds a juice box behind Nora’s pillow. So this is why her levels were off.

We learn that Nora sabotaged her levels because she’s afraid to get better. If she does, she will have to go back to school. She’s bullied at school, but she has awesome friends who like math at the hospital. She’d rather stay. It’s her body and she doesn’t want the surgery.

Outside Nora’s room, DeLuca uses his outdoor voice, trying to convince Nora’s mom to make her daughter get the surgery. Karev is not happy with DeLuca’s tone. DeLuca continues to berate the mom, reminding her that Nora is in pain and she could do something about it. Karev makes DeLuca walk away or get fired. It’s his choice. TO THE GREEN ZONE!

DeLuca walks away, not in the direction of the Jungle Room, while Teddy remains stationary. But she’s not alone. Owen ditched Tom at the birthing class and is now upside-down with Teddy to show her that they are in this together. They both talk to the baby and it is Owen’s monologue listing all the wonderful things about Teddy’s character that makes me, and Teddy, tear up a little bit. Nice job, Owen.

Tom shows up a little later, once Teddy is deemed out of the woods, and has a private word with Owen. He is not happy that he wasn’t called and wants Owen to know that he is not backing down. In fact, he is fighting for Teddy. And if Owen really wants Teddy to not have any drama or pain in her life, Owen needs to walk away. They may have history, but Owen made his choice and picked Amelia a long time ago. Tom’s history is simple: He picked Teddy. #truth (recap continued on next page)

Meredith. Alex. Bailey. Arizona. The doctors are definitely in on Shonda Rhimes’ hospital melodrama.

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Birmingham City to be deducted nine points for EFL rule breaches

Birmingham City are in their eighth consecutive season in the Championship

Birmingham City will be deducted nine points by the English Football League for breaching profitability and sustainability rules, reports BBC WM.

The sanction would see Blues drop from 13th to 18th in the Championship, five points above the relegation zone with eight games to play.

Losses in excess of £13m per year over a three-year period are not accepted under EFL rules.

An Independent Disciplinary Commission considered the matter on Monday.

There is no official confirmation of the punishment from the EFL at this stage, but it is understood that there will be no further financial penalties for the club, nor would they be under a future transfer embargo relating to this issue.

They are the first club to be deducted points since the EFL introduced its new profitability and sustainability regulations at the start of the 2016-17 season.

In January Birmingham revealed a £37.5m loss to the end of June 2018, largely a result of their wage bill rising from £22m to almost £38m.

Six months previously, they were put under a transfer embargo, which was lifted before Championship clubs were warned at a meeting in September of potential penalties – as high as 21 points – for breaches of spending regulations.

Blues had, by then, been given permission to sign five more loan players in August, but they were allowed only one signing in January.

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‘PEN15’ is a hilariously painful reminder that middle school mattered

Maya Ishii-Peters (Maya Erskine) and Anna Kone (Anna Konkle) in Hulu's PEN15.
Maya Ishii-Peters (Maya Erskine) and Anna Kone (Anna Konkle) in Hulu’s PEN15.

Image: Alex Lombardi / HULU

Every once in a while, social media is swarmed by people participating in 10 year challenges, where people dig up photos of themselves from a decade ago and juxtapose them with a more recent picture. These challenges are meant to show how much time has changed someone, but to be real — they’re really just a flex on how much hotter people are now than when they were teenagers. 

10 year challenges often start conversations about how wild fashion was back then, why anyone thought a then-trendy haircut looked good, or how everyone has puberty to thank for erasing the humiliating forms of their younger selves. The “after” picture exists as a thank you, or perhaps a thank god, that the acne and bad jeans of the past don’t exist anymore. 

PEN15 on Hulu is the opposite of a 10 year challenge. Through its setting in the year 2000, it forces grown people to confront what those younger years were like and flashes back to a time when just wearing a bra or seeing a boob felt like the epitome of adulthood. 

It is, like many too-real flashbacks, excruciating to watch at times. The slang and aesthetic of its era is grating, as are the reminders of how petty and irritating life as a middle schooler can be. But in between the moments of cringe is the quiet truth that everyone was young and dumb once, and getting older and smarter doesn’t make the emotions of youth any less valid. 

PEN15 stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle as Maya and Anna, their own teenage selves. Both actors are in there 30s, but use the not-quite-magic of clothes and hairstyling to portray their 13-year-old alter egos, who are as crushingly awkward as they are endearing. 

PEN15 packs a lot of funny into the idea that being a teen and having feelings is fine and important.

The awkwardness is compounded by casting age-appropriate actors to play every other character in their age range, so Konkle and Erskine play most of their scenes next to real pre-teens. Since Maya and Anna are definitely not cool kids, this setup often leads to the only adults in the room being bullied and belittled by actual children, which somehow makes every insult land harder. 

Maya and Anna go through a lot over the course of the season, but their outsized reactions to thongs, makeout parties, awful crushes, and petty betrayals never feel false or stale. PEN15 is transportive, bringing viewers back to a time when whether a 12-year-old with a butt-looking haircut liked you or like-liked you felt like the most important unknown in the world. It’s easy to empathize with its stars because literally everyone has been there, even if most people would like to forget. 

The fact that PEN15 focuses on the deep friendship between two young girls is another element in its favor. It’s heartwarming to see how obsessed Maya and Anna are with each other, and the tenderness of girls in perfect BFF love is something that doesn’t often get respect in TV shows about young people. 

No one looks back on middle school thinking that they made amazing choices, but PEN15 packs a lot of funny into the idea that being a teen and having feelings is fine and important. Sure, 10 years later the selfies look better, but shows like this remind us that the “before” picture was a person too. And probably a pretty awesome one. 

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Seasonal Reese’s are better than Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are obviously incredible, the envy of their chocolaty peers. But as Easter approaches and we begin to consider our springtime candy lineups (I assume everyone does this), it might be time to admit that specialty Reese’s — we’ll use the seasonal Reese’s Egg as an example — are better.

There are several key differences between Reese’s Cups and Reese’s Eggs, including size, shape, and the amount of peanut butter within the chocolate shell. Most notably, the cup has ridges and the egg does not. 

But Reese’s, it turns out, do not need ridges to be the best versions of themselves. In fact, they just need to be shapeless, chunky globs.

The peanut butter to chocolate ratio

People like Reese’s because they combine two good things that are also good together: peanut butter and chocolate. If a consumer wanted chocolate only, they’d eat a Hershey’s bar or one of those weird truffles in the corner of a Whitman’s sampler. It makes no sense that a Reese’s liker would not want each bite of their Reese’s to taste like a Reese’s: that is, like peanut butter and chocolate at the same time.

The trouble with the ridges: The thick edge they create disrupts the cup’s delicate peanut butter-chocolate balance. A bite including ridges will not contain as much peanut butter as a bite containing exclusively innards — and the latter is superior.

The best possible Reese’s bite is achieved by nibbling away the ridges around the entire perimeter: a method dubbed “stripping the gear” by the official blog for Hershey’s Chocolate World in Las Vegas (an authority on the matter). But there’s really only one of these bites inside the typical Reese’s; the rest are marred by the ridges. On a Reese’s egg, however, the entire surface is smooth and ridge-free. Every bite is the good bite, the perfect marriage of PB and C. 

The measurements

Any Reese’s of standard size will probably last you two to three bites, but the Reese’s Egg is slightly larger than the Cup. An investigative report from the Albany, New York-based publication All Over Albany found that a Reese’s Egg might weigh around 14 grams more than its cup counterpart — no small difference.

The egg they used in their test also contained 9 grams more peanut butter than the cup. (In fact, the egg contains the second-most peanut butter of any standard size Reese’s iteration, beaten only by the Reese’s Heart.) And what is the candy called? A Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (or Egg, or Heart, or whatever). It’s right on the label!

The allure of limited edition treats

Any one of us could walk into CVS any old day and buy a 2-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, house them, feel great, feel slightly bad, then feel fine again. But we can only do this with Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs — or Hearts, or Christmas Trees, or Pumpkins — during some parts of the year. 

This, of course, is incredibly alluring. We’re all vulnerable to the psychology of exclusivity, even if it’s just a limited edition holiday candy. When I see a Reese’s Cup in the checkout line, I feel nothing. But when I see a Reese’s Egg, I simply must have it. Who knows if one will be there the next time I find myself in this badly lit Duane Reade? (It probably will be.) And who knows when the next round of soft seasonal Reese’s will appear? (There will be pumpkins in the fall.)

Finally, the eggs are better because they come from hens.

If you disagree and think Reese’s Cups are the best, that is your opinion. However, you are legally obligated to send all your Reese’s Eggs to me by mail by Easter Sunday (April 21). Thank you.

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‘The Act’ offers up true crime at its most exploitative: Review

Warning: Spoilers for The Act lie ahead.

I’m a fan of true crime the same way some people are fans of Halo Top. 

After a long day, I’ll crack open nearly any true crime account and eat up the terrifying, true-to-life details with a metaphoric spoon. Whether it’s a movie, series, or podcast, I live for moment-to-moment reconstructed investigations, retrospective interviews with emotional eyewitnesses, and the big reveal of that one mistake that gets the criminal caught. Put plainly: True crime is very much my thing.

So, you can imagine my surprise when only an hour and a half into The Act, I had an overwhelming urge to turn off the TV —  and then possibly throw up. This is true crime in its most brutal and most transparently self-serving form.

The Act isn’t bad television. A stunningly accurate eight-part dramatization of the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard, the series has everything a true crime aficionado could want. Half scam story and half murder trial, the lives of Blanchard and her daughter Gypsy Rose are particularly extraordinary, even in the sensational world of true crime. 

If you’re unfamiliar with their history, here’s an abbreviated version. 

Gypsy Rose Blanchard, widely believed to be a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, was abused by her mother Dee Dee for nearly two decades. Led to believe she was afflicted with an array of illnesses that ranged in severity from allergies to cancer, Gypsy underwent numerous, invasive medical procedures at her mother’s insistence — including the surgical installation of a feeding tube. Nearly all of these procedures were later revealed to be unnecessary.

‘The Act’ walks the audience through each horrifying fact of the ordeal with painful specificity. 

As Gypsy grew up and discovered that she was not in fact ill, she aggressively pushed back against her mother’s abuse. Ultimately, Gypsy snapped. In 2015, Gypsy persuaded her boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn, whom she had met online and who had a substantial history of mental illness, to stab Dee Dee to death. 

At present, Gypsy is halfway through serving a 10-year sentence for her role in the murder. Godejohn was sentenced to life without parole just last month.

The Act‘s dramatization of these events, led by the incomparable Patricia Arquette and the increasingly masterful Joey King, walks the audience through each horrifying fact of the ordeal with painful specificity. 

In Episode 2, viewers watch helplessly as Gypsy awakes from anesthesia to discover every one of her teeth has been extracted by a dentist, who was given her mother’s permission but not her own to conduct the procedure. Staring in the mirror, Gypsy cries in agony while examining her raw gums. The makeup done on King here looks disturbingly accurate in depicting the body’s physical reaction to the described trauma.

A few episodes later, the audience is asked to stare at the mutilated back of Dee Dee as investigators swarm the crime scene. Gypsy has taken back control, and now her mother is facedown in a pool of blood, clutching the pink sheets of the bed they once shared. It’s a gruesome image, difficult to shake.

The Act -- "  " --  Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette), Gypsy Rose Blanchard (Joey King) shown. (Photo by: Brownie Harris / Hulu)

Image: Brownie Harris / Hulu

If you fact-check the series as you watch, you’ll soon realize that The Act has almost everything correct, nauseating details included. Since her arrest, Gypsy has been vocal about the details of her life and reporters, lawyers, and investigators have gone to considerable lengths to confirm her version of events for the public record.

The series seems to exist not because it is important, but because it is tantalizingly weird.

But with an eight-hour runtime, The Act‘s efforts to maintain accuracy quickly morph from due diligence to exploitation. As the torture mounts, the point of the series seems to be lost. Rather than offering insight into the characters’ respective mental illnesses or circumstances, The Act seems to stew and almost revel in its depictions of abuse and murder.

While genre competitors like American Crime Story‘s The Assassination of Gianni Versace and The People v. O. J. Simpson offer up broader societal contexts to justify their graphic recreations, The Act makes few observations about why these crimes happened and even fewer as to why recalling them matters. The series seems to exist not because it believes the Blanchards’ story is important, but because it is tantalizingly weird, an easy framework for creating scenes that are sure to receive big reactions from audiences.  

Moreover, there’s little justice to be had in the Blanchards’ story. This isn’t a tale of good overcoming evil, of the good guys getting the bad guy in the end. What happened between Dee Dee and Gypsy Blanchard is sheer horror and its results are unquestionably tragic. An abused woman is now incarcerated, her mother is dead, her mentally-ill boyfriend will die in prison — and few lessons can be learned from their shared, real-life nightmare. 

What could have served as the basis for a productive discussion on mental health and society’s role in protecting children instead manifests as a kind of modern-day carnival side show, prioritizing the audience’s voyeuristic tendencies above all else.

Although meticulously factual and spectacularly acted, The Act is the kind of entertainment that ultimately makes the enjoyment I get from the true crime genre feel seriously questionable, if not entirely indefensible. 

For a genre already on slippery moral ground, this true crime account doesn’t seem to serve a purpose outside of letting its audience gawk at its source material. And for this true crime fan, that’s not enough to justify coming back for more.

The Act is streaming Wednesdays on Hulu.

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