Sonny Bunch hosts The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood, a new podcast featuring interviews with folks who have their finger on the pulse of the entertainment industry during this dynamic—and difficult—time.
Charlie Chaplin's Life in Exile
This week, I’m rejoined by Scott Eyman, author of Charlie Chaplin Vs. America: When Art, Sex, and Politics Collided. We discussed the great silent star’s exile from America, how the press and the government conspired against Charlie Chaplin, the personal and professional perils of being prematurely anti-fascist, and why Buster Keaton seems to be more fashionable than The Tramp these days. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to check out Scott’s book, available at all fine booksellers now. And please share it with a friend!
Why You Can Finally Watch 'Moonlighting' on Streaming
This week I’m joined by Glenn Gordon Caron, the creator and showrunner of Moonlighting, to talk about that series’s long-awaited arrival on streaming. We discussed the show’s creation, the discovery of Bruce Willis, how he and costar Cybil Shepherd kept up with the show’s trademark rapid-fire patter, the difficulty in clearing music rights (and how Moonlighting was one of the first shows to heavily incorporate pop music into the show), working with legends like Orson Welles and Stanley Donen, and so much more.
If you’ve never watched the show, I highly recommend checking it out on Hulu; the folks at Disney have done an amazing job restoring the episodes. A handful of highlights, if you’re trying to figure out where to start:
Season 1, Episode 1: The Pilot. Tonally this is a bit different from what would follow, but it’s genuinely kind of wild to see Willis show up onscreen fully formed as Bruce Willis, Star in what was almost literally his first role.
Season 1, Episode 2: Gunfight at the So-So Corral. Again, the show is still finding its footing, but it’s a pretty good representation of the combination of smart dialogue, great casting, and clever resolutions to the onscreen mysteries.
Season 2, Episode 4: The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice. Orson Welles introduced this episode—which is structured with a mysterious intro and then two dream sequences (one dreamt by Shepherd’s Maddie Hayes as a sort of MGM musical; the other by Willis’s David Addison as a sort of 1940s noir)—in part because the network was terrified no one would want to watch a black-and-white episode of TV.
Season 2, Episode 18: Camille. Whoopi Goldberg and Judd Nelson co-starred, and their mystery is all well and good, but it’s the closing sequence in which the (fourth) walls of reality come crashing in on the cast that makes this second season finale a must-watch.
Season 3, Episode 6: Big Man on Mulberry Street. The mid-show dance sequence was done by Stanley Donen, and, again, I just can’t imagine what it was like to have this sequence pop up in the middle of network TV in the 1980s. Wild stuff.
Season 3, Episode 10: Poltergeist III — Dipesto Nothing. One of the show’s episodes focusing on the adventures of Ms. Dipesto (Allyce Beasley) and Mr. Viola (Curtis Armstrong), who make for a delightful pairing.
Season 4, Episode 2: Come Back Little Shiksa. Shepherd had to leave the show for a while due to her pregnancy, which led to a series of episodes that separated her and Willis. But the creators used some clever ways to get them in the same room. Plus: John Goodman’s in this one!
Stopping Piracy Before It Starts
This week I’m joined by Terri Davies. Terri heads up the Motion Picture Association’s Trusted Partners Network, which helps studios and other partners develop best practices for avoiding leaks of films and TV shows pre-release, from pre- to post-production. We discussed her time at Sony Pictures from 2000 to 2015, a period of time during which the business of distribution was revolutionized (and digitized), how the MPA helps studios reduce the likelihood of a movie leaking before its release date, and how different solutions are tailored for content creators of different sizes. If you enjoyed this episode, share it with a friend!
How What We Watch Defines Us
This week I’m joined by Walt Hickey, the author of You Are What You Watch: How Movies and TV Affect Everything. Among the many topics discussed on this show: the surprisingly durable effect of Warner Bros.’s merchandising efforts aimed at adults; how identity and pop culture become hopelessly (and negatively) intertwined; and how violent movies can help stop violence from occurring. If you find this podcast interesting, I hope you check out Walt’s book; it has tons of charts (one of which is reproduced above) and many fascinating nuggets I simply did not have time to dig into with him today. And make sure to share this episode with a friend!
Zoey Ashe's Life in the (Future) Panopticon
This week I’m rejoined by Jason Pargin to discuss his new novel, Zoey Is Too Drunk for This Dystopia, and the ways in which the futuristic panopticon he envisions for Zoey and the other citizens of Tabula Ra$a is a little like now, but moreso. We talk for a bit about how book marketing has evolved over the last decade-plus, why TikTok became a must for novelists like himself, and why despite the word “dystopia” being in the title of the book, he doesn’t necessarily think of his vision of the near future as a downer.
Unpaid endorsement: I really enjoy Jason’s novels (he is also the author of the John Dies at the End series), and the Zoey Ashe books (the first two of which are available on Kindle Unlimited) are pretty compulsively readable, a pleasing melange of ideas and imagery and just enough suspense from moment to moment to activate the “okay, just one more chapter” portion of my brain. Zoey Is Too Drunk for This Dystopia is understandable if you’ve not read the other books in the series, but you can’t go wrong by picking up copies of the previous entries. And if you want a signed copy of his latest, you can get one from Parnassus Books in Nashville, but you have to order by Monday.
How Siskel and Ebert Got Their Thumbs
I’m joined by Matt Singer this week, author of Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel and Ebert Changed Movies Forever. The book, out this Tuesday, is a wide-ranging look at the myriad ways in which Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel’s seminal show—or, really, three shows, which ran across multiple networks over multiple decades—changed not only film criticism but film marketing as well. We talked about the introduction of the thumb system—which, shockingly, was not with the duo from the beginning—and why their genuinely antagonistic relationship hasn’t really translated to the YouTube/podcast era of film criticism. If you enjoyed the episode, make sure to share it with a friend!
That we can keep learning more about movies? Mr. Bunch’s curiosity is far-reaching.
The Warner Brothers
Really interesting episode! Lots of history very well done!
This is a great podcast on the film business. Super interesting guests from the industry and lots of Frank discussions on the state of the movie business.