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The Week That Was

A 'Fifty Shades' star is born, Kimye engaged, Netflix's surprising triumph

October 26, 2013|By Chris Lee

Rising above the Sturm und Drang, the entertainment stories that managed to captivate Twitter and move the cultural thermometer during this past week's news cycle seemed to cohere around a thematic grouping.

Call it a kind of autumnal stirring. Last week the bold-faced names, companies and IPs that made the biggest headlines could be seen as all having somehow grown up or beyond expected boundaries and outgrowing expectations (without ever entirely toppling the prescribed order of things).

Irish model-turned-actor Jamie Dornan, for one, finally shed his early renown as “The Golden Torso” by landing the hotly contested part of billionaire pervert Christian Grey in the movie adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It’s a big break for the Calvin-Klein-clothes-hanger-come-“Marie Antoinette”-bit-player (with whom OK! magazine readers may be most familiar for having dated Keira Knightley) -- a guy most celebrity watchers couldn’t have picked out of a police lineup before last week. But perhaps more notably, Dornan’s “Fifty Shades” selection arrives absent the petition to remove Charlie Hunnam, the now-departed “Sons of Anarchy” star originally slotted to play Grey. ("It's 2013 ... a new era," wrote the petition's originator. "The readers are as important as the director or producer.") Progress indeed.

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As if their individual celebrity footprints were not already megalithic enough, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West became more than the sum of their parts by getting engaged at San Francisco’s AT&T Park Monday. Footage of the Louis Vuitton Don putting a 15-carat ring on the sex-tape-star-turned-reality-queen’s finger quickly went viral thanks West’s perfectionist stage management. The rap god -- who stopped by the Hollywood Film Awards in L.A. to present an award to "12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen shortly before popping Kardashian the question -- can be seen dropping to a knee in centerfield. Cut to the flashing message (in signature all caps) “PLEEEASE MARRY MEEE!!!” on the field’s Jumbotron and music from a 50-piece orchestra.

And while pre-engagement Kimye was already almost nauseatingly ubiquitous, given Kardashian and West’s vast capacity for self-promotion and shrill din of hype, the couple’s post-baby nuptials are fairly certain to raise the stakes of their coverage – to bring tabloid scrutiny to royal wedding levels of frenzy and speculation.

Arguably, the week’s most unexpected growth spurt came in the corporate arena with the third-quarter announcement that Netflix has passed HBO in its number of paid subscribers: a streaming subscription service David toppling pay television’s chest-thumping Goliath. To put that accomplishment in perspective, beyond simply validating Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos’ strategy of doubling-down on original series such as “Orange Is the New Black” and the Emmy-nominated “House of Cards” (as well as “Sense8,” the upcoming series from “Matrix” co-directors Lana and Andy Wachowski), the service’s come-from-behind win -- surpassing HBO by 1.1 million subscribers -- highlighted the premium cable kingdom’s worst fear: increasing competition from streaming video sites including Hulu, Amazon Prime’s Instant Video, Apple and Verizon. The threat of cord cutting just became that much more real.

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Lest anyone decree that Netflix is the new HBO, however, the cable station’s parent company Comcast fired back Friday, announcing it's testing a new service called Internet Plus to offer all of HBO and HBO Go’s broadcast television, video-on-demand and streaming videos via Broadband with nary a basic cable plan in sight. In other words, attempting to out-Netflix Netflix.

Meanwhile, Katy Perry, the pop chanteuse responsible for “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream,” underscored her transformation into a woman of independent means this week with the release of her fourth studio album “Prism.” That process began in earnest in August, when the multi-platinum-sanctified bubblegum diva released a video teaser of her setting alight a blue wig -- an olique nod to Perry’s candy confection image of years past that relied heavily upon pastel-hued hair extensions and whip-cream-squirting bras. Now at a personal crossroads -- in large part due to her “failed marriage” to comedian Russell Brand – the singer’s new music comes freighted with new introspection and musical sophistication. Think of it as Perry’s IPO as a grown-up.

“I love being mature,” she told The Times. "I'm ready for my 30s."

Twitter: @__chrislee


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