Category Archives: TV

CNBC’s Sharon Epperson Poses Questions at GOP Debate on Student Loans, Retirement

My favorite moments at this week’s GOP debate were when my wife, CNBC senior personal finance correspondent Sharon Epperson, challenged the candidates to confront two of the biggest issues facing America: student loans and retirement. Nobody wants to talk about retirement in part because it’s hard to face up to the idea of getting old, and many folks don’t want to talk about student loans because we’re filled with guilt about failing our young. Retirement and student loans may not be sexy subjects, but they are just the kind of important issues candidates need to grapple with during an election year. “This country has over $100 billion in student loan defaults–that’s billion with a b,” Sharon said during the debates, before posing her question. “What will you do to make sure that students, their families, taxpayers, won’t feel the economic impact of this burden for generations?” Here are the videos of the questions Sharon posed to the GOP candidates.

Danai Gurira AKA Michonne on ‘The Walking Dead’ Season Premiere

I spent the summer binge-watching every episode of “The Walking Dead,” and all that time in front of the tube paid off. Actress Danai Gurira, who co-stars as Michonne on “The Walking Dead,” stopped by the WSJ Café to talk to me about the new season of the show. Gurira also discussed her play at the Public Theater, “Eclipsed,” that deals with civil war in Liberia and stars Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o.

For more, go to the WSJ Cafe.

‘I Am Chris Farley': My Life As a Fat White Man

ComicChrisFarley1There’s a new documentary out called “I Am Chris Farley.”

I haven’t seen the movie, and probably never will.

You see, I am Chris Farley.

Chris Farley–the subject of the new documentary–is white, fat and dead.

Chris Farley–the author of this essay–is black, runs a couple miles a day to avoid obesity, and is very much alive.

This Chris Farley wants his name back.

In the age of social media, names matter. Establishing an identity before someone else grabs it is important. @KanyeWest is a brand name. @KanyeWest73 is just jumping on the bandwagon. You know that line from the theme song of the sitcom “Cheers”? “You want to go where everybody knows your name”? The web is the opposite of “Cheers”–nobody knows anybody’s name, not for certain. Nobody knows if the person they’re communicating with is really who they say they are, or if they really know what they’re talking about. When you have a name that people recognize and respect and can verify, it elevates you above all the folks who are Tweeting and Instagramming and Facebooking, because it gives your opinions some credibility.

As a journalist, novelist and film producer I’ve spent a lot of time building up my name–only to see it taken away by someone I never met.

I knew I was going to have trouble with the other Chris Farley the first time I went to meet Chris Rock back in the early 1990s. Both of them were serving as cast members at “Saturday Night Live,” and I was working across the street at Time magazine and had to see Rock for work. The security guard at the desk downstairs at 30 Rock didn’t believe me when I gave him my name and things quickly devolved into a “Who’s on First” routine. “You’re not Chris Farley,” the guard declared to me.

Not long after that, I accidentally got a script in the mail for a big-screen version of the “SNL” sketch “Coneheads.” Someone had been trying to send it to the other Chris Farley and it wound up at my apartment instead. The script was terrible, so I figured I was doing the other Farley a favor by not passing it on. Not that I had his address. He was already so famous, it was unlisted.

But when the other Chris Farley died of drug overdose in 1997 at the age of 33 part of me died too. The jokes I used to get from office receptionists and switchboard operators and reservation takers at restaurants–”You don’t look like Chris Farley!” “Isn’t Chris Farley white?” “Isn’t Chris Farley dead?”–began to fade away with his memory.

You know what? Maybe I will see “I Am Chris Farley” after all. I used to feel threatened by the other Chris Farley. We all have the feeling that no matter how hard we’re working, we’re not doing as much as we could with our lives. When somebody who shares our names becomes more famous, it feels like proof that we’ve failed do as much we could have with what we were given. If someone with the same name managed to make it big, what’s my excuse?

The other Chris Farley has been dead for almost 20 years now, and maybe, with this new movie,  it’s time to let go of this weird competitive feeling I’ve always had with him, and to be thankful for the things that have gone right in my life. If I had shared a name with another celebrity comedian, one who was a little less white and a little more alive, things might have been even more confusing.

I’m sure glad my name is Chris Farley and not Chris Rock.

Check out my new novel “Game World.”

I Play the ‘Game of Thrones’ with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

The fifth season of “Game of Thrones” has arrived, and I recently had a chat with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who co-stars as Jaime Lannister on the HBO fantasy series. I shot a video of the conversation for the WSJ Cafe, an arts and culture conversation series that I host, and I wrote a short blog post about it. Here’s the full interview below. For more go to WSJ.com/WSJCafe and follow me on Twitter @cjfarley. Did I mention I have a fantasy book for kids called “Game World“?

What Can I Learn From Hilary Mantel?

Hilary Mantel‘s book “Wolf Hall” is about Henry VIII’s brilliant chief minister Thomas Cromwell, but the author is every bit as smart as her subject. Mantel has leveraged writing a literary work of historical fiction into a TV miniseries on PBS and a new Broadway show. As an author–my book “Kingston by Starlight” is a work of historical fiction– I had to find out how she did it. So I sat down with her at the WSJ Cafe, the Wall Street Journal’s video interview series, to get her take on “Wolf Hall”–the book, the TV show and the stage production. I wrote a brief about Mantel for WSJ.com; here’s the video.

Check out my book “Game World” and follow me on Twitter @cjfarley.

Out and About with ‘Outlander’ Stars Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies

Here I am (middle) with Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies.
Here I am (middle) with Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies.

Outlander” stars Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies stopped by the WSJ Café (The Wall Street Journal’s video interview series) to talk to me about the show’s first season, which kicked off its final batch of episodes tonight. I’ve been interested in the historical adventure fantasy  “Outlander” since the show started in part because I’m the author of a historical adventure (“Kingston by Starlight”) and a fantasy (“Game World”). When Sam and Tobias stopped by the Journal for a chat, they were game to talk about anything, including Scottish independence and adult spanking.

Watch the videos.

For more on culture and the arts, follow me at @cjfarley on Twitter and check out my novel “Game World.”

Here I am on CNN talking about "Empire" and "Blackish" and forgetting to smile.

The One Where I Talk About ‘Empire’ and ‘Blackish’ on CNN

TV shows featuring African-Americans are doing well and since I’m African-American I figured it made sense for me to go on TV to talk about it. “Empire,” “Blackish” and all those shows Shonda Rhimes puts out like “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder” are scoring high ratings. The big question is whether this will be the flavor of the month–African American Swirl!–or something lasting. It’s important to have open discussions about race and pop culture, but it’s crucial to not just talk about race when it comes to black shows. I’d like to see more folks have race-based discussions about programs that don’t feature ethnic minorities. How does “Girls”–a show partially set in Brooklyn–get away without having a single minority in its core cast? Certainly creator Lena Dunham has every right to write what she wants–she’s super-talented, and I watch the show every week–but viewers have every right to think she should get out more.

Watch my interview on CNN about race and TV here.

Check out my new novel “Game World.”

Stuart Scott, Game Changer

StuartScott2Stuart Scott was a game changer.

The long-time ESPN anchor passed away today at the age of 49.

We’ll remember his catchphrases–like “as cool as the other side of the pillow”–but he was more than the sum of his taglines.

One of hardest things to do in any medium is to speak in your own voice. There’s constant pressure to talk like everyone else, to speak in the corporate voice if you want to be heard and respected.

That’s not quite how Scott played the game.

What I admired about Scott–and what lots of people loved about him– is that he didn’t sound like every other broadcaster on ESPN.

But a lot of broadcasters now sound like him.

Former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson said on ESPN today that, after he left football to become a commentator, Scott helped give him the courage to be himself on the air. “He was able to bring the hip hop culture, that urban feel to television sports broadcasting–something that’s never been done before–[and] gave me the hope that I didn’t have to be some corporate guy.”

I never thought of Scott as hip, let alone hip-hop, but he brought some of the flavor of the way people actually speak, some of the rhythms of the music many sports fans listen to, to sports broadcasting.

“He was a role model for me,” former NFL player turned broadcaster Cris Carter said today on ESPN. “He talked, on SportsCenter, like me and my friends talked.”

Lots of times, I turn on ESPN radio, and I hear about brothers on the court, but there are no black broadcasters talking about the action. Lots of times I turn on ESPN on TV, and I see brothers on the field, but I don’t see a single person of color giving their views about what’s going on.

In the book “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” former ESPN executive Keith Clinkscales is quoted as saying “Sports journalism’s record on hiring minorities is abysmal, and network television’s record is abysmal.” He calls Scott getting vernacular on the air at ESPN one of black America’s “great cultural moments.”

Scott’s voice will be missed. He was much cooler than the other side of the pillow.

He was the other side of the story.

Please leave your thoughts about Scott in the comments.

Check out my new novel “Game World.”

“Downton Abbey” Co-Star Laura Carmichael on Fifth Season Secrets

Here I am talking to Laura Carmichael aka Lady Edith Crawley about the fifth season of "Downton Abbey."
Here I am talking to Laura Carmichael aka Lady Edith Crawley about the fifth season of “Downton Abbey.”

Downtown Abbey” is back–and I recently sat down with a star of the show to get a preview of the coming fifth season of the series.

“Downton Abbey” co-star Laura Carmichael stopped by the WSJ Café–that’s the arts and culture interview and performance series I run at the Wall Street Journal–to talk about what’s next for her character Lady Edith Crawley and other secrets of the show.

The show captures a period when the horse-and-buggy 1800s were giving way to the more technology-driven 1900s, and Lady Edith is at the center of that change, seeking out new roles for herself as a writer, a mother, and a member of a turbulent family. She’s arguably the most interesting character in the series, because she promises to show the most growth, and may prove to be the Crawley who is best suited for a new century of suffrage and superhighways. Plus, previews for the fifth season showed Lady Edith being overcome by a fire raging through Downton, so I had to find out what that was all about. And what’s the deal with Lady Edith’s baby daddy?

Watch a video of my chat with Carmichael.

The fifth season of “Downton Abbey” will premiere Sunday, January 4, 2015, on Masterpiece on PBS at 9 p.m. ET.

Check out my new book “Game World.”