<![CDATA[NBC New York - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/entertainment/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:25:02 -0500 Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:25:02 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA["Horrible Bosses 2" Trailer]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:03:35 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/HB2-TT-003.jpg Warner Bros.' "Horrible Bosses 2" hits theaters November 26, 2014.]]> <![CDATA[10 New Holiday Albums for 2014]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:00:32 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Wopat+Schneider+album+cover+cropjpg.jpg

From "Frozen" star Idina Menzel to Darius Rucker, LeAnn Rimes, Anthony Hamilton, Renee Fleming and "Christmas at Downton Abbey," there's new holiday music to suit every taste this season.

Here, 10 new releases sure to put you in the festive mood:

"Holiday Wishes" — Idina Menzel 

It's only fitting that "Frozen" star Idina Menzel would release her Christmas album in 2014, following the international success of "Let It Go," her hit from the animated smash.

For this new release (which doesn't contain the Disney hit) the Tony-winner lends her soaring vocals to such seasonal classics as "Silent Night," "When You Wish Upon a Star," "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and a duet with Michael Bublé on "Baby It's Cold Outside." (Warner Bros.)

"Home for the Holidays" — Darius Rucker

The singer once known as Hootie is taking his country music crossover to the Holidays. 

Along with two original recordings — "What God Wants for Christmas," "Candy Cane Christmas" — Rucker covers seasonal classics including "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Winter Wonderland," "You're a Mean Once Mr. Grinch," and duets with Sheryl Crowe on "Baby, It's Cold Outside." (Universal Nashville)

"Home for Christmas" — John Schneider & Tom Wopat 

On the first full recording since they screeched onto screens in a cloud of dust as "The Dukes of Hazard" 35 years ago, former co-stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat take the pop/jazz route and mostly leave the country in the past.

The pair blend their accomplished voices on traditional seasonal fare including "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas, as well as some lesser-known holiday songs such as the anti-commercialism "Blue Xmas," by Bob Dorough. (D13 Entertainment)

"Christmas in New York" — Renee Fleming

Metropolitan Opera soprano Renee Fleming goes jazz for this collection of 13 holiday standards also featuring the talents of singers Rufus Wainwright ("In the Dark Midwinter"), Kelli O'Hara ("Silver Bells"), Gregory Porter ("Central Park Serenade," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas") and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis ("Sleigh Ride," "Winter Wonderland"). (Decca)

"Christmas at Downton Abbey" — Various artists

No, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) does not bust out a rendition of "Jingle Bells," but he does recite "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" with an orchestral backing on this two-disc compilation featuring 45 holiday tracks.

Aside from the spoken-word performance by Carter the only other "Downton" cast members participating are Julian Ovenden (Charles Blake) and Elizabeth McGovern (Countess of Grantham), both accomplished singers in their own right. (Warner Bros.)

"At Christmas" — Sara Evans

A sentimental collection of classics including "O, Holy Night," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Walking in a Winter Wonderland," and "O Come All Ye Fathful" is given a contemporary boost with the new titular song and a rendition of "Run Rudolph Run," made popular by Chuck Berry. (RCA Nashville)

"Home for the Holidays" — Anthony Hamilton 

Grammy-winning R&B singer Anthony Hamilton brings soul to the season with versions of "Little Drummer Boy," "Away in a Manger" and "Please Come Home for Christmas." Hamilton also harmonizes with Chaka Khan on "The Christmas Song" and Gavin DeGraw on "Home for the Holidays." (RCA Records)

"One Christmas" — LeAnn Rimes

The new reality-series star returns to her musical roots with this collection of Holiday standards that includes "Silent Night, Holy Night," "Carol of the Bells" and Elvis Presley hit "Blue Christmas." (Red)

"Motown Christmas" — Various artists

The first holiday album from the Motown brand in more than 40 years serves up familiar classics including "Joy to the World," "Little Drummer Boy," "Silent Night" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" and features performances from Smokey Robinson, India.Arie, Anita Wilson and Ne-Yo. (Motown Records)

"Heart & Friends: Home for the Holidays" — Heart

The new additions to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame lend their big sound to this live CD and DVD of less well known Holiday fare including "Seasons," "Santa's Going South" "Stairway to Heaven" and "Please Come for Christmas." (Frontiers)

Photo Credit: D13]]>
<![CDATA[2014 Holiday Album Releases]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:29:28 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Wopat+Schneider+album+cover+cropjpg.jpg Hear the Holidays! Your favorite recording artists are unwrapping a sleigh full of new Holiday albums just in time for the season.

Photo Credit: Schneider/Wopat D13]]>
<![CDATA[Q&A: NeNe Leakes Gets Real]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:53:29 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/163848016CB019_2013_Bravo_N.jpg

NeNe Leakes, the star of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” is known for her outspoken attitude and sassy one-liners.

It’s what’s made her one of the most successful reality stars working today, with runs on “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Celebrity Apprentice” and even her own clothing line, The NeNe Leakes Collection, for HSN.

But prior to her “Housewives” fame, NeNe Leakes was a working actress. It’s a muscle she flexed on NBC’s “The New Normal” and FOX’s “Glee.” And it’s one that’s brought the 46-year-old to her next step in her career: Broadway

Tonight, Leaks begins her run as the evil stepmother Madame in “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” Leakes will remain with the production through its final performance on Jan. 3.

On the eve of her opening night, Leakes spilled the tea with NBC 4 New York on “Cinderella” and the new season of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

NBC 4 NEW YORK: Is this your first holiday season in New York?
NENE LEAKES: It is. I’ve been here once or maybe twice for New Year’s Eve, but I’ve never lived here this long a period of time. My youngest son and my husband are here now, and right now we’re scrambling looking for a place to eat for Thanksgiving. Usually I cook for my family, but this year we’re going out.

NBC4NY:: How has the process been of preparing for “Cinderella”?
LEAKES: It’s been really tough. It’s not an easy role to play. I’m struggling with my voice now — sleeping with a humidifier and trying to make it to opening night. It’s a lot of work. Eight shows are a lot of shows in one week. But it’s definitely a dream come true. I think every actor dreams of doing Broadway one day.

NBC4NY: Your character in “Cinderella” has a villainous streak. Is it hard to relate to someone like that?
LEAKES: Well she’s definitely a lady with a dream. She wants her daughters to marry up, and she wants a better life for herself. Now, the way she goes about it may not be the way you go about it. But her intentions are good. I can relate to that. I’ve always been a dreamer. I want my children to have a better life. And she speaks her mind and is a little wicked, but she also has a heart. At the end, she asks to be forgiven. That’s a big thing to do.

NBC4NY: You recently completed a run in the Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas hit, “Zumanity.” What did you learn there that you plan to take with you to Broadway?
LEAKES: There were some tough audiences some nights at “Zumanity,” let me tell you. But I learned to block out all the other things that were going on around me, and really play the moment. I’m hoping I’m able to do that — to really forget about the audience being there. I’m definitely nervous.

NBC4NY: Nervous? That doesn’t sound like the NeNe I know. 
LEAKES: Oh I am scared of my debut. I don’t want to miss my lines. But you’re supposed to be scared. At Zumanity, when I walked out there, I was a nervous wreck. But after you get the first show under your belt, you feel like you can really go out there and have fun. I’m sure the tonight will be a complete blur.

NBC4NY: Has this experience been very different than working on “RHOA”?
LEAKES: Completely. Working on “Housewives” can be very negative at times. I think that’s the way (the producers) position the show. I’m the original — I’m the center of the show. Every season they want someone to come for me. It’s tough. Broadway is more about the work and the art. It’s being creative. And every one wants to go out there and deliver and put on a good show. It’s very positive.

NBC4NY: I can’t imagine what it must be like to work in an environment like “Housewives” where you’re constantly attacked.
LEAKES: It is hard, I’m telling you. I promise it will take everything in your body to do that. The show has definitely damaged me to the point where I don’t want to make friends with new people. People who I open up, later on they turn on me once they get a raise on the show. I always think to myself, “God, these people will work for a $1.50 to do ANYTHING.” I just can’t do it.

NBC4NY: Do you ever have any regrets about doing “RHOA”?
LEAKES: There are some things along the way that I wish I hadn’t said. Like when me and my husband had our issues, or some of the conversations I had with my son. But there aren’t things I really regret. The show has been amazing for me, and opened up many doors for me. So for that I am very grateful to Bravo.

NBC4NY: Well I hope we get to see some of the NeNe sass we’ve come to know and love on “Housewives” in “Cinderella.”
LEAKES: I hope so too. I don’t know if you’ll see that the first night, but I hope I can grow into that.

"Cinderella," through Jan. 3, 2015 at the Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway (at 53rd Street). Tickets: $39-$157. Call Telecharge: 212-239-6200 or visit cinderellaonbroadway.com

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Late at Night on NBC]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 08:39:14 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP24762024125.jpg

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Full "Jurassic World" Trailer Unleashed Early]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:43:05 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/2424_D013_00290_R_copy.jpg

Only two days after the teaser travel was released for the highly-anicipated "Jurassic World," Universal Studios has decided to unleash the full theatrical trailer online ahead of the declared Thanksgiving debut.

The film's director Colin Trevorrow took to Twitter Tuesday to announce that due to "circumstances beyond [their] control, the park will be opening early." Trevorrow then gave a countdown before posting the link to the trailer.

"Jurassic World," the fourth installment in the series, pays homage to the 1993 original with a new cast featuring Chris Pratt and Dallas Bryce Howard and a new genetically-improved dinosaur.

Originally slated to debut during an NFL game at 9 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day, there was no word on why the full trailer was given an early release.

"Jurassic World" is set to take a bite out of the box office on June 12, 2015.

<![CDATA["Jurassic World" Full Trailer]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:08:17 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/2424_D013_00290_R_copy.jpg "Jurassic World" is scheduled to be released in theaters on June 12, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[ Jennifer Aniston Talks Marriage Rumors on "Ellen"]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:23:11 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/V29A3513r.jpg Jennifer Aniston stops by "Ellen" to chat about those pesky wedding date rumors. ]]> <![CDATA[A Big Job for "Horrible Bosses 2"]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:39:51 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/HB2-07345r.jpg

"Horrible Bosses," unlike its three bumbling, disgruntled employee/would-be assassins characters, carried out a surprise hit in 2011 as the higher-profile "The Hangover Part II" and "Bridesmaids" grossed and grossed out to great financial success and hilarity.

Now "Horrible Bosses" returns Wednesday with a sequel and a tougher job: To help end a challenging year for movie comedies with a fresh gust of laughter.

Sure, the immensely fun "Guardians of the Galaxy," the year's biggest box office hit so far, delivered the chuckles at warp speed. But the sci-fi adventure homage to "Star Wars" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," among other classics, isn't an all-out, flesh-and-blood (sorry, Groot) comedy.

"22 Jump Street," the only pure comedy (read: not animated or special effects-driven) in the year's box office Top 10, is hanging in – barely – at No. 10, with "Interstellar" and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1" just getting started and "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" on the way. Other than "Neighbors" and "Ride Along," there haven’t been any comedies among the major, mass appeal moneymakers, though the Mutt Cuts van of "Dumb and Dumber To" is just getting into gear.

The creative team behind “Horrible Bosses 2” can take encouragement from “22 Jump Street,” which was both funnier and more successful than the first installment. Plus, “Horrible Bosses” has a history of defying expectations.

The first installment might have benefitted from the tough economy, with the revenge fantasy resonating more amid high unemployment. Perhaps the film additionally satisfied moviegoers’ underdog jones by casting three actors best known for TV roles – Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development”), Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) and Jason Sudeikis (“Saturday Night Live”) – as the stars, above top Hollywood talent like Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston.

The chemistry of the star trio – fueled by Day’s standout performance as a manic loser with a, well, demanding boss (Aniston) – drove the movie, along with some great comic action sequences. The sequel’s premise – a kidnap plot aimed at foiling a vicious business rival – offers the promise of more laughs, tempered by concerns about the franchise running out of gas.

Bateman, Day, Sudeikis and their high-octane supporting players (joined by this time Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine) have their work cut out for them. Check out a preview as comedy fans hope for another good movie about bad people.


Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multimedia NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

Photo Credit: John P. Johnson]]>
<![CDATA["The Voice": Top 10 Performances]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:02:05 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NUP_166020_1978.JPG

With only 10 contestants remaining, "The Voice" action was red hot Monday night as some very special guest mentors stopped by.

Diana Ross, Colbie Caillat, Patrick Stump and Christina Aguilera were all on hand to lend their talents and encouragement to the final 10. The result was a live performances show to remember:

Group Performance

The top 10 kicked off the evening with a performance of some of Rascal Flatt's biggest hits. The girls got the ball rolling with "Bless the Broken Road" before the boys joined in with "Chimed."


Matt McAndrew

Team Adam mentor Patrick Stump (from Fall Out Boy) chose Coldplay’s "Fix You" for McAndrew and instructed the singer to take the song to the audience. Pharrell praised the performance by saying  he thinks rock stations should be playing all of Matt’s tunes.

Anita Antoinette

Coached by Gwen and mentor Aguilera, Antoinette tackled Passenger’s "Let Her Go," imbuing the song with a rocksteady/reggae vibe. Coach Gwen revealed that her son Kingston has picked Antoinette as his favorite this season.


Adam chose "You and I" by Stevie Wonder for Damien to perform, saying he wouldn’t have given it to Damien if he didn’t think he could do it, but he feels like the song was made for him.

Reagan James

After duetting with mentor Colbie Caillat on Colbie’s song, "Try," Reagan mixed things up by performing her own take on "Fancy," by Iggy Azalea.

Luke Wade

After forgetting his song lyrics last week, Wade was out to show audiences why he deserves a place in the Top 10. Working with Diana Ross, Coach Pharrell chose Otis Redding’s "Try a Little Tenderness" for Wade.

Craig Wayne Boyd

Coach Blake chose Johnny Cash’s "I Walk the Line" for Boyd, but in the form of a ballad. His coach warned the country hopeful to build his performance and to not wait until the end of the song to really let go.

Ryan Sill

Woking with Coach Gwen and mentor Aguilera, Sill stayed on the rock bent he succeeded with last week. His coach chose "Starlight" by Muse.

DaNica Shirey

Shirey told legendary music producer Clive Davis, her mentor, that she is such a fan she wrote a report about him in high school. Shirey tackled the Whitney Houston hit "I Have Nothing."

Taylor John Williams

Much to Coach Gwen's concern, Williams came to rehearsals with idea of performing The Beatles’ "Come Together." After workshopping the song with mentor Aguilera, he turned in a bigger, grittier performance than in the past. Hat tip to Shelton for giving the audience grief over their inability to clap on rhythm.

Chris Jamison

Team Adam’s Jamison tackled "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars. Mentor Stump and Coach Adam worked on building Jamison's swagger and charisma for the performance.

Viewers can vote by calling, texting and downloading the iTunes song of their favorite artist.

"The Voice" airs every Monday and Tuesday at 8/7c on NBC.

Photo Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC
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<![CDATA[Meyers Talks Least Trending Hashtags]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 09:52:27 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/sethmeyers+2.png Seth Meyers talks about hashtags that are the least trending on Twitter on "Late Night."]]> <![CDATA[Meyers: John Goodman Talks Will Ferrell]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 09:48:43 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/459541278.jpg John Goodman and Seth Meyers talk about an "SNL" clip Will Ferrell wrote that never aired.

Photo Credit: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank]]>
<![CDATA[Tim Allen Talks Name Change on "The Tonight Show"]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 10:50:54 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/459541768.jpg Jimmy Fallon talks to Tim Allen about why he choose to go with his middle name early on in his career on "The Tonight Show."

Photo Credit: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: will.i.am, Fallon on Making of "Ew!"]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 09:38:30 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/william-fallon-ew.jpg will.i.am and Jimmy Fallon talk about the background of the "Ew!" single and its music video on "The Tonight Show."]]> <![CDATA[Katherine Heigl Address "Difficult" Rumors]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:24:50 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AB062_Rumors_On_Being_Difficult_PR_1200x675_362949187838.jpg Katherine Heigl talks Rumors on Meredith Vieira]]> <![CDATA[Sting Boards the Cast of “The Last Ship”]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:58:29 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/525114637RK005_The_Last_Shi.jpg

Your chance to see Sting on Broadway again is finally here.

The 16-time Grammy winner and frontman of The Police, who made his Broadway acting debut in the 1989 revival of “Threepenny Opera,” will join the cast of “The Last Ship,” the musical about struggling shipyard town in England for which he wrote the music and lyrics.

Sting’s limited run in the show begins Dec. 9 and goes through Jan. 10, 2015. He’ll play Jackie White, the shipyard foreman originated on Broadway by Jimmy Nail.

"We have spent five years working on ‘The Last Ship’ and I have relished every moment of that process," said Sting, in a statement. "It is my distinct honor to join this remarkable cast and play the part of Jackie until I pass the baton back to Jimmy."

“The Last Ship” opened to mixed reviews, and has been struggling at the box office in recent weeks. The production played only to 61.6 percent capacity for the week ending Nov. 16, grossing only $536,449 — over $100K less than it needs to cover its overhead costs.

This won’t be the first time Sting has performed the songs found in “The Last Ship.” He originally released his own recordings on a 2013 album of the same name.

This also won’t be the first time Sting has performed with the cast of “The Last Ship” either. The musician was joined by Nail for a special PBS “Great Performances” series filmed at the Public Theater last year.

He also often joins "The Last Ship" cast for the annual Saturday Night Scream, a tradition on 52nd Street where the casts from the August Wilson Theater and the Neil Simon Theater perform for five minutes before their Saturday night shows. Here is Sting and the cast doing “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” last month:

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-NBC Employee Says He Paid Women for Bill Cosby]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:51:45 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Cosby.jpg

A former employee of NBC Entertainment has come forward to claim he regularly brought young women to Bill Cosby's dressing room and was asked to send money to multiple women over the years.

Frank Scotti, who says he worked as a facilities manager for the Brooklyn NBC Studio where "Cosby Show" was filmed, is the latest to go public with stories of Cosby’s past.

Scotti, 90, said it was once his job to guard the door after bringing young women to Cosby's dressing room. "I felt like a pimp,'' Scotti told "Today." "Every time he had somebody I had to watch, I had the girl stay there. I felt dirty."

Scotti also claims he was asked by the comedian to send money to various women, sometimes thousands of dollars a month. "All I know is that Bill Cosby told me that certain people, I want you to send this money out to them. He told me how much and I said fine and I went and got money orders, said Scotti. He said he never delivered the money but always sent it by mail, and never met the women to whom he sent money.

"I just felt, you know, he's not the person I thought he was,'' Scotti said of his decision to come forward.

One of the women whose name appears on several money orders Scotti showed "Today" says the gifts were purely "generosity" on the part of Cosby and were intended to help pay for her son’s boarding school.

“It is a shame that Dr. William Cosby’s generosity is being questioned and maligned," said Alva Chinn, a model and actress who appeared in several episodes of "The Cosby Show." “The source could have asked me first before releasing these money orders."

Scotti told the New York Daily News he eventually quit working with Cosby, "because of the girls."

Cosby has never been charged with a crime, but 18 women have now publicly accused the star of sexual assault or attempted assault.

In response to Scotti's allegations Cosby's attorney, Martin Singer, told NBC News, "It appears that his story is pure speculation so that he can get his 15 minutes of fame.''

"I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendos,'' Cosby told Florida Today after receiving a standing ovation at a comedy show on Saturday. "People should fact-check." Cosby has always denied allegations of assault.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Through the Years]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 09:09:18 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP831821451169.jpg Click through for images of the iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade through the years.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cameron Diaz Mocks "Annie" on "SNL"]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:50:33 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2014-11-23+at+6.32.15+AM.png

Cameron Diaz hosted "Saturday Night Live" for the fourth time this weekend, poking fun at her upcoming musical film, "Annie."

The 2014 rendition of the classic musical stars African-American child actress Quvenzhane Wallis as the new "Little Orphan Annie." 

In "SNL's" spoof of the remake, Diaz portrayed Miss Hannigan, a mean-spirited manager of the orphanage, as she awaited the arrival of Jamie Foxx’s Daddy Warbucks (Jay Pharoah) who was planning to adopt Annie.

But Warbucks wasn't interested in meeting "white Annie" (Vanessa Bayer). He wanted to meet "black Annie," instead.  

"Black Annie" (Leslie Jones), an overgrown 43-year-old orphan, came in, saying: “I’m an orphan, I’m a veteran, I did a half a season in the WNBA."

Warbucks ended up changing his mind about the adoption, worried "black Annie" will take all of his money.

"Well, I’m not sure you’re the little orphan girl I’m looking for, Annie, but I am in need of a security guard," he said.

Black Annie agreed with a few requirements.

“Only thing is, I need my money up front, and I’m only working three days, and I have three kids that you’re probably going to have to adopt too,” she said.

The cold open scene channeled a "School House Rock!" segment that took a stab at President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.

Kenan Thompson's character, portraying a "Bill," broke into song to explain the lengthy process of a bill becoming a law to a student visiting the Capitol Hill. But while he was singing, Obama (Jay Pharoah) entered the scene and pushed the human-sized bill down the steps.

Obama explained to the student that "there's an easier way to get things done around here." That's when Bobby Moynihan walked in, dressed as an "Executive Order."

"Im an executive order and I pretty much just happen," said Moynihan's character while smoking a cigarette. "And that's it."

When Obama explained that his executive order was providing relief from deportation to five million undocumented immigrants, Moynihan's character was surprised, saying he should have read the document himself.

"Okay, go big or go home, huh?" Moynihan said.

"Weekend Update" also covered Obama's executive action.

"For more on this immigration story, bring it up to your grandfather at Thanksgiving," quipped co-anchor Colin Jost.

Co-anchor Michael Che talked about how Missouri Governor Jay Nixon deployed the National Guard ahead of the grand jury decision on whether to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

"So spoiler alert, I guess we know what the verdict is," Che said. "Deploying the National Guard before the verdict is like your lawyer telling you to show up in something orange."

In a recurring sketch "Office Boss," Beck Bennet and his wife, Cameron Diaz invited co-workers over for dinner.

Bennet's character, a business executive trapped in the body of a baby, stumbled to the table and Diaz fed him while he sat in a high chair. The two even announced that they were having a baby of their own.

Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson performed "Uptown Funk" and "Feel Right" featuring Mystikal.

"SNL" will return on Dec. 6 with James Franco as host and musical guest Nicki Minaj.

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<![CDATA[Fallon Gets Angry Over Losing to Cera on "Tonight" ]]> Sat, 22 Nov 2014 16:10:49 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/459383268.jpg

Jimmy Fallon can't stand losing in a video game.

Fallon talked to Michael Cera about his new Broadway show, "This Is Our Youth," and mentioned how the actor and his castmates play video games during the day.

"Yeah, we play a lot of Mario Kart," Cera said.

Fallon explained that he set up "Mario Kart" in the "Tonight" dressing room before they taped Friday's show.

"I walked in, very nice and you weren't really making eye contact with me," Fallon said. 

"The reason I wasn't looking in your eyes is because I was getting a very weird vibe from you," recalled Cera. "You came in, [and] you went right to the celery."

"I went in and I grabbed a celery stick and you said, 'let's do this old man,'" said Fallon of Cera's challenge.

The two re-hashed the game, talking about which players and vehicles they used, and Fallon noted that he used a different player and vehicle than usual.

"Why'd you throw yourself off?" asked Cera.

"Because I wanted to be nice to the guest on my show!" Fallon yelled.

"When you play a game, you let someone win, and you beat me out there and then you beat me out here," he screamed, referring to "Catchphrase" game earlier in the show with Julianne Moore and Alan Cumming.

Photo Credit: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank]]>
<![CDATA[Fallon, Cera Play "Catchphrase" on "Tonight"]]> Sat, 22 Nov 2014 08:55:39 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/4593832641.jpg Jimmy Fallon played "Catchphrase" on "The Tonight Show" with guests Michael Cera and Julianne Moore. Surprise guest Alan Cumming also took the stage to play the game.

Photo Credit: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank]]>
<![CDATA[Movies to Be Thankful For]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 09:13:37 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/freebirds.jpg

Give thanks this holiday season for movies that remind us of what we love most about Thanskgiving: the coming together of families; how our own dysfunctional clan pales in comparison to the strangeness of others; and of course, turkey.

The following holiday-themed films offer something for all ages and tastes. So cut a slice of pumpkin pie, give thanks, and grab the remote.

"Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (1987)

Del (John Candy) turns to Neal (Steve Martin) and says, "There's no way on earth we're going to get out of here tonight. We'd have more luck playing pickup sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak." And so it goes in this epic comedy of errors from director/writer John Hughes about an impromptu duo's quest to return from a business trip in time for Thanksgiving dinner. A beloved classic with enough laugh-out-loud gags to temper the holiday schmaltz, "P,T and A" is a reminder to be thankful for the genius collaboration of Candy, Martin and Hughes, and that you already made it home to be on the couch watching a movie with family. (Available on Netflix, On Demand)

"The Ice Storm" (1997)

Set during Thanksgiving 1973 as a dangerous storm approaches New Canaan, Connecticut, this drama from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee features a stellar ensemble cast that includes Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood as two families struggling to come to terms with the changing political and social climates of the 1970s. Sexual experimentation, drugs and familial responsibilities are major themes in this insightful look at a period guaranteed to make you thankful for the current enlightened, if still sometimes confusing, state of modern society. (Netflix, Amazon Prime, On Demand)

"Free Birds" (2013)

For the younger members of the clan gathering for turkey day this bird's tale follows Reggie, a gobbler who goes from outcast to hero when he receives a presidential pardon and embarks on a time-traveling mission to try and turn Thanksgiving into a turkey-free holiday. Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, George Takai and Woody Harrelson, this movie will have you giving thanks you decided to wait and watch it after the big meal. (Netflix, On Demand)

"Home for the Holidays" (1995)

Jodie Foster directs this darkly comic look at that fine line between loving and liking your family. Claudia (Holly Hunter) is apprehensive about her decision to return to her parents house for Thanksgiving. With good reason: she's just lost her job; her teenage daughter (who is not making the journey with her) has announced she plans to spend the holiday losing her virginity; her homosexual brother arrives with a new friend in tow; her brother also barely tolerates their prim younger sister and openly antagonizes their brother-in-law; and eccentric and boozy Aunt Gladys is also on the guest list. Also starring Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Geraldine Chaplin, Dylan McDermott, Cynthia Stevenson and Steve Guttenberg, "Home for the Holidays" will leave you thankful for your own dysfunctionally normal family. (DVD)

"Pocahontas" (1995)

Disney's first animated film to be based on actual events and people retells the story of Pocahontas, the daughter of an Algonquin chief who is betrothed to a member of her tribe but becomes enamored of European settler John Smith. Featuring the voices of Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers, Christian Bale, Linda Hunt and Billy Connelly, this fictionalized account has been given the Disney spin, but younger viewers will enjoy the Oscar-winning melodies, sweeping drama and give thanks for Grandmother Willow, the wise old talking tree. (Netflix, On Demand)

Photo Credit: Relativity
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<![CDATA[Leno's Jay-Walking Victory Lap]]> Sat, 22 Nov 2014 07:57:35 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP821910960974.jpg

During Jay Leno's boisterous appearance this month on "The Tonight Show," his first since leaving the late night staple in February, he took Jimmy Fallon's right hand. "Look at these hands, ladies and gentlemen – look," Leno told the audience. "That's like a puppy's paw!"

Leno's hand grab came during a conversation about working on “old-timey” cars, but perhaps the former longtime "Tonight Show" host also was taking a gentle swipe at the relative inexperience of his youthful successor.

Either way, Leno clearly relished being back in the TV spotlight, which is again shining on him, albeit without the fierce “Tonight Show” glare. His Fallon guest shot followed the news that he'll be back on the tube next year with “Jay Leno’s Garage,” a CNBC show that taps his auto obsession.

Meanwhile, Leno lends his voice "Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas," an animated special set to air on NBC Dec. 16. Two days later, he’s slated to be outgoing CBS "Late, Late Show" host Craig Ferguson's final guest – and some hope he’ll do the same when Letterman his friend-turned-rival-turned-frenemy takes his last "Late Show" bow next year.

But the biggest of the latest Leno headlines comes Sunday when PBS broadcasts the star-filled celebration of his Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Leno, not one to Jay-walk into the sunset, is in the midst of a seemingly endless victory lap.

Fancy accolades are at odds with Leno's Everyman persona, but not with the ferocious work ethic and drive that got him the "Tonight Show" job twice. Leno should be proud to take his victories where he can get them. He'll never be able to claim the influence and critical laurels of Letterman. But he beat him to “The Tonight Show” gig, beat him in the ratings for the better part of two decades and beat him to the Twain Prize (even if Letterman notched Kennedy Center Honors first).

Letterman didn’t attend Leno’s Twain ceremony, recorded in October, and neither, of course, did Conan O’Brien. Other funny peers paid Leno tribute, though, including Fallon, Chelsea Handler, Seth Meyers, Wanda Sykes and fellow NBC legend/car aficionado Jerry Seinfeld.

But Leno, still active on the stand-up circuit, finds his greatest validation in getting laughs from the hoi polloi. Plenty of chuckles can be expected from the Twain Prize ceremony for a comedian who held on to a big late night TV audience like no other host since Johnny Carson.


Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multimedia NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
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<![CDATA[Thai Cinema Chain Pulls "Mockingjay"]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:09:16 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Mockingjay.jpg

A cinema chain in Thailand's capital has canceled all screenings of the latest "The Hunger Games" movie after a student group planned a protest at a theater against the country's military coup. Activists said Wednesday that police pressured the theaters to halt the showings.

Opponents of the May military coup have adopted a three-finger salute from the movie series as a sign of defiance. The military-imposed government has banned the gesture, which symbolizes rebellion against totalitarian rule in the film series.

Protest against unjust rule runs throughout the "Hunger Games" franchise. The latest installment in the popular series focuses on the mechanics of rallying support for imminent revolution.

A group of anti-coup students from Bangkok's Thammasat University purchased about 100 tickets for an opening-day showing Thursday of the "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" at the Scala cinema and planned to attend together.

Ratthapol Supasopon, an organizer, said the group was informed by the theater management that the film's showings had been canceled.

"The theater told us they were uncomfortable and wanted to avoid any problems that may arise. They said they did not want to be involved in any politics," he said. "The police contacted them and pressured them not to let us hold the event."

An employee answering the phone at the Scala who declined to identify himself said the movie had been canceled at all theaters belonging to Bangkok's Apex chain. The film is still scheduled by some other cinema chains.

Lionsgate, "Mockingjay's" Hollywood production company, had no comment on the situation.

Initial protests against the May coup largely died out because of crackdowns on dissent by the army and police, but there has been a small upsurge in recent days.

On Wednesday, five university students were arrested in northeastern Thailand after giving the three-fingered salute during a speech by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup as army commander.

The students, wearing T-shirts saying "Don't Want a Coup," stood in front of Prayuth as he spoke on a stage in Khon Kaen, a stronghold of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in an earlier 2006 military coup.

Prayuth, who is usually prickly with critics, stopped his speech and smiled calmly when the students stood up. "Anyone else want to protest? Come quickly. Then I can continue with my speech," he said.

The students were taken to a police station and then an army camp, where they were questioned by soldiers, human rights lawyer Sasinan Thamnithinan said. She said they had not been charged.

Rights groups have criticized the government's tight limits on speech and the media. Last week, public broadcaster Thai PBS dismissed the host of a TV program after a visit by army officers who complained that the show's content was provocative. The government, which can shut the station under martial law, insists the officers merely expressed their concerns.

Several dozen Thai protesters and others carrying anti-coup banners and giving the three-finger salute attended the world premiere of "Mockingjay - Part 1" in London on Nov. 10.

In "The Hunger Games," the three-finger salute signifies thanks, admiration and good-bye to a loved one. Some Thai protesters say it also represents the French Revolution's values of liberty, equality and fraternity, while others say it means freedom, election and democracy.

Photo Credit: Lionsgate]]>
<![CDATA[Jose Canseco Pranks Everyone with Finger Hoax]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:56:59 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP565783519558.jpg

Looks like Jose Canseco gave everyone the finger. 

The former Major League Baseball player took to Twitter at the end of October to announce that he had shot off his middle digit and had it reattached during surgery. Last week, Canseco claimed that the mangled finger fell off during a poker tournament because it had been “very loose” and “smelling really bad.” He also said he would be selling the thumb and gun that shot it off on eBay a few days later.

“Maybe I will make it a package the chrome 45 caliber Remington with the finger both for sale a package deal," he tweeted on Nov. 17.

But despite continuing to post on social media about the plan, Canseco reportedly will not be selling his appendage to the highest bidder—it was all just a prank.

When TMZ reporters followed up about the details of the unique eBay sale, Canseco finally admitted it was all a hoax, the site reported. He said he thought of the whole plan when he saw a fake finger in a Halloween store. 

What remains true, NBC Sports reports, is that the prankster did shoot off his finger but had it successfully reconnected with surgery.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[8 Classic Christmas Commercials]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 10:28:41 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2014-11-21+at+9.14.49+AM.jpg

Each year the holiday season delivers a sleigh-full of new Christmas advertisements. But more often than not, the latest commercials soon fade into a distant memory like the appeal of last season's must-have toy.

But along with mistletoe, holly, eggnog and holiday ornaments, a few classic ads never fail to get people into the holiday spirit.

Here is a collection of some old favorites:

M&Ms Meet Santa

In a classic M&M’s commercial, the red and yellow "spokescandies" that haved appeared in many advertisements carry a bowl of the Mars chocolates. When they encounter Santa Claus next to a Christmas tree, the red M&M and St. Nick faint upon realizing that they both are real. 

Coca Cola Polar Bears

Coca Cola first presented polar bears to be used in many of its Christmastime campaigns in a pair of commercials that first aired in 1993. The first shows a polar bear showing off some smooth ice skating moves before falling. Santa arrives to give the poor polar bear a Coca Cola. Another shows the animals successfully dragging a Christmas tree up a mountain before enjoying bottles of the soft drink.

Scrooge Eats Cheerios

This Honey Nut Cheerios commercial uses the well-known Charles Dickens' tale “A Christmas Carol.” The cereal's cartoon mascot bee Buzz knocks on Ebenezer Scrooge’s door on Christmas, but the angry miser tells the cartoon to go away. However, the bee passes the Scrooge a bowl of cereal, which put a smile on his face.

Campbell's Soup Snowman

In this classic Campbell's soup commercial, a snowman eats a bowl of hot chicken noodle. The snow melts with each spoonful and it is revealed that the snowman is actually a young boy.

Hershey's Kisses Bells

Sometimes less is more. In this Hershey's Kisses commercial, a group of chocolates ring like bells and perform the holiday tune “We Wish You a Merry Christmas." One chocolate rings harder than the rest and has to wipe its “brow” with the narrow strip of paper on its top.

A Bedrock Christmas

As it turns out, even Bedrock celebrates Christmas. Santa Claus comes down a chimney and Fred Flinstone gives St. Nick a bowl of his Fruity Pebbles cereal. However, Barney Rubble also comes down the chimney to trick Fred into giving him a bowl. Although Fred isn’t fooled, he still gives Barney a bowl because “tis the season to be sharing,” as Santa says.

Oreo Cookies for Santa

In this commercial, a boy tries to stay up through the night to see Santa Claus and give him Oreo cookies and milk. He says to himself, “I’ll just take a little rest.” Santa stops by and begins eating the cookies with delight. But when the boy starts to wake, Santa disappears and the boy discovers the cookies are gone.

Michael Jordan Shoots Hoops With Santa

Santa Claus went head-to-head against Michael Jordan for a Nike commercial. The ad features some smooth moves from the basketball player. Although St. Nick delivers presents, he doesn’t seem to be gifted when it comes to the sport.

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<![CDATA["Late Night" Writers Give Seth Affirmations]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 06:29:08 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Meyers+Affirmation.jpg Seth Meyers asked the writers on “Late Night” to write affirmations for him again. Watch the clip to see what they really think about their boss!

Photo Credit: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank]]>
<![CDATA[Fallon: "I've Got Good News and Good News"]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:46:48 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/No-Scrubs.jpg To counter all the bad news being reported, "The Tonight Show" asked NBC news anchors across the U.S. to read stories that make us happy.]]> <![CDATA[Musical Beers With Ruffalo on "Tonight"]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:04:01 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Fallon+Musical+Beers.jpg It's every man for himself as Jimmy Fallon, Mark Ruffalo, Stephen Merchant, Steve Higgins and Tariq from "The Roots" compete in a tense game of Musical Beers, a game that puts an adult twist on musical chairs.

Photo Credit: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank]]>
<![CDATA[NBC Brings the Holiday Viewing Cheer]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 10:35:41 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NUP_165234_1792.JPG

From classic Holiday moments such as "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," the lighting of the tree during "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" and watching the beloved "It's a Wonderful Life," to getting cozy in front of new seasonal specials including "Peter Pan Live!" and "Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas," NBC is the place to be for family fun and holiday cheer in 2014.

Through the dawn of 2015 the network will feature holiday programming featuring stars Allison Williams, Jim Parsons, Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, Jason Alexander, Dennis Haysbert, Trisha Yearwood, Michael Bublé, Sara Bareilles, Cyndi Lauper, Seth MacFarlane, Idina Menzel and Christopher Walken.

Walken stars as Captain Hook in one of the most highly-anticipated productions of the 2014 holiday season: "Peter Pan Live!" Williams tackles the titular role of the boy who never grew up in this live musical retelling of J.M. Barrie's children's tale.

Beginning with a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at "Peter Pan Live!" and ending with a cheer as we celebrate "New Year’s Eve With Carson Daly" live from Times Square, NBC has the holidays covered.

"The Making of Peter Pan Live!"

This hourlong special will go behind the scenes to give viewers an inside look at the incredible teamwork it takes to create the event “Peter Pan Live” (Thursday, Dec. 4, 8 p.m.). Watch Allison Williams learn to fly and Christopher Walken practice his sword fighting as he prepares to play the villainous Captain Hook. From casting to costume design, this is an all-access pass to whet viewers’ appetites for all things “Peter Pan Live!” Wednesday, Nov. 26 (8-9 p.m. ET)

"SNL Thanksgiving"

An hilarious compilation of the best Thanksgiving-themed clips from 40 years of the iconic late-night series “Saturday Night Live.” Wednesday, Nov. 26 (9-11 p.m. ET)

"Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade"

Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie of "Today" will host one of the biggest spectacles of the holiday season as more than 8,000 participants make their through the streets of New York City. Celebrities participating include Lucy Hale, Nick Jonas, Idina Menzel and Meghan Trainor. The parade will include high-stepping numbers from this season’s Tony Award-winning best musical "A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder," Sting’s "The Last Ship," "On the Town" and "Side Show," as well as a sneak peek at NBC’s "Peter Pan Live!" Thursday, Nov. 27 (9 a.m.-noon ET)

"The National Dog Show Presented by Purina"

Hosted by award-winning actor, author and Broadway star John O’Hurley ("Seinfeld," "Dancing with the Stars") and expert analyst David Frei, an AKC-licensed judge and host of USA Network’s "The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show," the 13th annual "National Dog Show" showcases the best of America's purebred canines. Thursday, Nov. 27 (noon-2 p.m. ET)

"Christmas in Rockefeller Center"

The arrival of the holidays wouldn’t be complete without a dazzling display of musical talent and the lighting of the famous Christmas tree. Hosted by "Today" show anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales, this year's star-studded lineup includes Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett, Cyndi Lauper, Seth MacFarlane and will feature Sara Bareilles, Idina Menzel, Pentatonix, LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood. Wednesday, Dec. 3 (8-9 p.m. ET)

"SNL Christmas"

The funniest Christmas-themed clips from 40 years of the iconic late-night series “Saturday Night Live.” Wednesday, Dec. 3 (9-11 p.m. ET)

"Peter Pan Live!"

The classic Broadway musical about a boy who refuses to grow up, "Peter Pan Live!" stars Allison Williams as Peter and Oscar winner Christopher Walken as the villainous Captain Hook. Thursday, Dec. 4 (8-11 p.m. ET)

"How Murray Saved Christmas"

From four-time Emmy-winning writer and executive producer Mike Reiss ("The Simpsons"), "How Murray Saved Christmas" is based on Reiss’ best-selling children’s book of the same name and is written entirely in rhymed verse. The musical centers on cranky deli owner Murray Weiner (Jerry Stiller), who is forced to fill in for Santa (Kevin Michael Richardson) one Christmas and, with the help of Edison Elf (Sean Hayes), does a weirdly wonderful job. The special also stars the voice talents of Dennis Haysbert, Jason Alexander and John Ratzenberger. Friday, Dec. 5 (8-9 p.m. ET)

"It’s a Wonderful Life"

The NBC annual tradition continues as the iconic 1946 film once again returns to primetime. Directed by Frank Capra, "It’s a Wonderful Life" stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, who contemplates suicide before a guardian angel intervenes and allows him to see all that is right in his world. Saturday, Dec. 6 (8-11 p.m. ET) and Wednesday, Dec. 24 (8-11 p.m. ET)

"Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas"

Starring four-time Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory") as Buddy, this original stop-motion hourlong animated special is based on the popular film "Elf" and the hit Broadway show "Elf: The Musical." Santa narrates the story of Buddy’s travels to New York City to meet the father he never knew he had. Along the way his unrelenting cheer transforms the lives of everyone he meets and opens his father’s eyes to the magic of Christmas. With nine new songs, the special features a voice cast including Mark Hamill, Ed Asner, Fred Armisen, Jay Leno, Matt Lauer and Gilbert Gottfried. Tuesday, Dec. 16 (8-9 p.m. ET)

"Michael Bublé’s Christmas in New York"

Grammy Award-winning singer Michael Bublé celebrates the season with his fourth annual special. Special guests join Bublé at the storied Radio City Music Hall in New York City for an hourlong celebration of his favorite holiday songs. Wednesday, Dec. 17 (8-9 p.m. ET)

"The Sing-Off"

A two-hour holiday special of the popular musical competition series showcases six new groups who compete for a prize of $50,000. Returning judges Jewel and Shawn Stockman will be joined by Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump, while Nick Lachey once again hosts. Wednesday, Dec. 17 (9-11 p.m. ET)

"One Direction: The TV Special"

From Universal Studios Orlando, this musical special offers TV viewers a rare inside look at the wildly popular band, and its members: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. Tuesday, Dec. 23 (8-9 p.m. ET)

"WWE Tribute to the Troops"

A tribute to the men and women who serve our country, WWE brings together the best of sports entertainment and pop culture with superstars and divas celebrity appearances, as well as performances from music’s most popular acts. Saturday, Dec. 27 (8-9 p.m. ET)

"New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly"

“The Voice” host will celebrate the arrival of 2015 from Times Square with an array of musical guests. Wednesday, Dec. 31 (10-11 p.m. ET and 11:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. ET)

Photo Credit: Nino Munoz/NBC
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<![CDATA[Hungering for a Great "Mockingjay"]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 10:33:05 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/SP1_D08_03267_Rc.jpg

Like its arrow-slinging protagonist Katniss Everdeen, "Catching Fire," last year's second chapter of "The Hunger Games" movie series, did more than just survive in a fierce, unforgiving field. The flick pulled off a Hollywood feat as rare a Hunger Games without a solo winner: The sequel far outshined the initial installment.

The first film based on the dystopian book trilogy about an annual competition pitting children from a dozen "districts" against one another in a televised fight to the death took aim at Reality TV, among other targets. But for all the action and drama, the 2012 box office hit largely missed the mark, falling flat and bloodless for considerable stretches.

"Catching Fire" lived up to its name as characters from the first film blazed to life, fueling a compelling story that ended with the oppressed nation of Panem on the verge of a revolution led by Katniss, a star for the ages. Now "Mockingjay — Part 1,” the first installment in the dual finale, arrives in theaters Friday, leaving us wondering which "Hunger Games" we're going to get.

The fate of "Mockingjay," on-screen and off, rests largely on the impressive shoulders of Katniss and her real-life alter ego, Jennifer Lawrence.

Like Katniss, Lawrence is eminently relatable in her civilian life (her eschewing of celebrity trappings and her Oscar night stumbles have endeared her to fans) and beloved for turning fierce when attacked (see Lawrence's strong rebuke to the those who posted hacked personal pictures of her and other stars). The actress is a symbol of Hollywood hope and celebrity sanity.

Katniss also is a powerful symbol to both the government forces that made her a star and the rebels who broke her out of the Hunger Games dome in "Catching Fire." But Katniss is far more than either side's Joan of Arc/martyr-in-waiting. As we saw from her flaming entrance in last year's chapter, she controls the fire.

The full flesh-and-blood realization of Katniss Everdeen is a tribute to the ability of Lawrence, at 24 a great, Oscar-winning actress who more than held her own against Robert DeNiro in "Silver Linings Playbook."  In "Mockingjay," she's again surrounded by top-notch "Hunger Game" players, including Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who filmed most of his scenes for the “Mockingjay” movies before his death in February.

As we saw with the initial "Hunger Games" entry, fine acting alone can't carry a film. Splitting the final chapter into two parts might follow the largely money-driven trend of milking lucrative book-inspired movie franchises ("Twilight," "Harry Potter," "The Hobbit”). But the gimmick doesn’t necessarily bode well for quality as we wait to see whether "Mockingjay — Part 1" leaves us hungering for or just plain hungry.


Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multimedia NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[The Broadway Community Remembers Mike Nichols]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:57:15 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/456420222.jpg

Iconic director of stage and screen Mike Nichols died of cardiac arrest on Nov. 19. He was 83.

Among the many accomplishments of Nichols’ esteemed career is the immense effect he had on the Broadway community.

Nichols debuted on Broadway in 1960 as a performer in “An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May.” The comedy duo’s recording of the hit show earned Nichols a Grammy for Best Comedic Performance -- the first of Nichols’ EGOT achievement.

Nichols directed more than 20 Broadway shows -- winning eight Tonys for best director along the way. He made his directorial debut in 1963 with Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” -- and would go on to helm Neil Simon-classics like “The Odd Couple” and “The Prisoner of Second Avenue.”

He also directed the original productions of Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” and the Monty Python’s “Spamalot” -- both of which would take top honors at the Tonys.

Last season, Nichols was represented on Broadway with the Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz-lead “Betrayal.” Before that was 2012’s acclaimed revival of “Death of a Salesman,” for which he took home his eighth Tony and directed the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final Broadway outing.

Nichols produced Broadway shows, too, including the original production of “Annie” and two solo shows for Whoopi Goldberg.

His career as a film director began while sticking to his theatrical roots -- directing the film version of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” He would win an Oscar for that and take home two Emmys for small screen adaptations of Margaret Edson’s “Wit” and Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.”

He also directed film adaptations of Simon’s “Biloxi Blues” and Patrick Marber’s “Closer,” plus the hit film “The Birdcage,” an adaptation of “La Cage aux Folles” starring Nathan Lane and the late Robin Williams.

At the time of his death, Nichols was once again adapting a popular stage play for TV -- this time, Terrence McNally’s “Master Class” for HBO. The Tony-winning play, about opera legend Maria Callas, reunited Nichols with frequent collaborator Meryl Streep, who hailed Nichols as one of the essential artists of our time.

"No explanation of our world could be complete and no account or image of it so rich if we didn’t have [him],” Streep tweeted.

Known for making stars out of the actors whom he cast, Nichols worked with many of the greats on the Great White Way, including Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand, Peter Gallagher, Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce, Andrew Garfield, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver and Judith Ivey.

“Grey’s Anatomy” star Sara Ramirez, who won a Tony for her role in “Spamalot,” tweeted that Nichols was“an extraordinary man who impacted so many lives with his art, love, wit and humor.”

“My first Broadway audition was for ‘Spamalot,’” tweeted Tony-winner Steve Kazee (“Once”). “My time with Mike Nichols...I consider to be some of the most valuable time of my life. He was truly a genius. More than that he became a friend and a mentor. I could never truly express all the good he brought to my life on so many levels.”

"Thank you to the legendary Mike Nichols for directing me in my Broadway debut," tweeted "Pitch Perfect" star Anna Camp, who worked with Nichols in 2008's "The Country Girl." 

Many of Nichols other collaborators and friends shared their memories of him. 

"I'm absolutely heartbroken," tweeted Audra McDonald. "I love you."

"River" star Hugh Jackman called him "A true visionary and friend" on twitter, while "Glee" star Matthew Morrison thanked Nichols for giving him the advice to help him continue on his own path when he was a struggling young actor.

"I wish I could capture in 140 characters what a wonderful man Mike Nichols was, and how much I loved him and his work," tweeted Hank Azaria, who worked with Nichols in "Spamalot." "I will truly miss him." 

Patrick Wilson, who starred in "Angels in America," said Nichols "gave me my film career" and praised him for his unmatched legacy. "His Cheshire Cat smile looms large." 

The marquees of Broadway theaters in New York will dim their lights Friday, Nov. 21 at 7:45pm in memory of Nichols. 

Photo Credit: WireImage]]>
<![CDATA[Mike Nichols: Humanity on a Cinematic Scale]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 10:38:16 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP050607019325.jpg

Mike Nichols understood and celebrated the power of everyday human experiences. As a director he crafted stories about love, heartbreak, death, grief, anger, humor and hope, placing them in the context of modern-day life and examining them under a microscope via the stage and screens both big and small.

The Hollywood legend, who was honored with Emmy, Tony, Grammy and Golden Globe Awards as well as a Best Director Oscar for "The Graduate," died Wednesday. He was 83.

A performer who ultimately found his career niche behind the camera, Nichols spent more than five decades cajoling award-winning performances out of a diverse company of actors that includes Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Cher, Shirley MacLaine, Alan Arkin, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeffrey Wright, Robin Williams, Al Pacino, Julia Roberts, Nathan Lane, Anne Bancroft, Sigourney Weaver, Harrison Ford, Melanie Griffith, John Travolta, Kathy Bates and Larry Hagman.

Here, some of his most beloved screen outings:

"The Graduate" (1967)

Capturing the post-college malaise affecting his protagonist Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), Nichols used held a mirror up to middle-class America as it wrestled with the growing youthquake of the 1960s. Braddock's affair with the wife of a family friend (Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson utters the oft quoted famous question from the film: "Would like to seduce me?") and then subsequent relationship with her daughter was underscored perfectly with music by Simon & Garfunkel.

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966)

Real-life pair Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton play a married couple whose seemingly pleasant academic life unravels over the course of one volatile and argument-filled evening at home. At times funny and horrific, the film peels back the emotional layers until the characters face their deepest fears and regrets. "Woolf" was awarded five Academy Awards including the Best Director win for Nichols.

"Working Girl" (1988)

Melanie Griffith plays Tess McGill, the titular character of this movie that explores the role of women in the workplace, class and interoffice relationships against the backdrop of Wall Street greed and ambition in the 1980s. Sigourney Weaver is the boss trying to keep our heroine down while Harrison Ford plays the man enamored of both McGill's beauty and brains.

"The Birdcage" (1996)

A broad comedy farce, this remake of the popular French musical "La Cage aux Folles" stars Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman and Diane Weist as two disparate couples — one, a gay nightclub owner and his longtime partner who is also his headlining drag act, the other a right-wing Senator who founded the Coalition of Moral Order and his buttoned-up wife — who must come together for the sake of their soon-to-be-married children.

"Silkwood" (1983)

Nichols' first foray into strict drama was awarded five Oscars. A true story about a whistle-blower at a plutonium processing plant was also Nichols' first on-screen collaboration with Meryl Streep. The two Hollywood heavyweights would go on to team up three more times: "Heartburn" (1986), "Postcards From the Edge" (1990), "Angels in America" (2003) and the in-development HBO adaptation of Terrance McNally's play "Master Class," about legendary opera diva Maria Callas.

"Angels in America" (2003)

Nichols fashioned Tony Kushner's award-winning play about the advent of HIV/AIDS in New York City in the 1980s into powerful six hour, two-part miniseries featuring Streep and an all-star cast that would go on to win 11 Emmys and five Golden Globe Awards.

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