Modern online media is all about the signal boost, so every Friday here at Flavorwire, we take a moment to spotlight some of the best stuff we’ve read online this week. Today, a talk with one of our favorite TV talents, a look at a disrupter gone awry, a must-read investigation of the author of last year’s must-read novel, and some thoughts on the loaded notion of normal.
Carrie Battan interviews Pamela Adlon.
Pamela Adlon is the kind of working actor you don’t hear much about — decades in the business, grinding it out as a day player, supporting character, and voice actor (she played Bobby Hill on King of the Hill), making a living but never becoming a star. That started to change with her co-starring (and co-writing) work on Louis C.K.’s Lucky Louie and Louie; the latter show’s success led to her own series on FX, Better Things, which C.K. co-created. And then that all fell into peril when the long-whispered stories of his sexual misconduct came to the fore. At The New Yorker, Battan talks to Adlon about that experience, and continuing the show on her own.
A few days before the news broke, C.K. phoned Adlon and warned her that “people were calling people he knew” about reports of sexual misconduct. Although Adlon was his closest collaborator, she says that she was not contacted by any reporters. FX cancelled its extensive deal with C.K. and his production company. “What’s happening? What’s happening?” Adlon remembered thinking.
In one of the many phone calls between Adlon and C.K. “to process,” Adlon told him that she, too, would need to sever ties. She gave him a preview of the statement she would release: “My family and I are devastated by and in shock after the admission of abhorrent behavior by my friend and partner, Louis C.K.” She soon also fired Dave Becky, who managed her and C.K., and who was accused of making threatening comments to some of C.K.’s accusers.
Adlon describes the period after the news broke in the same extreme terms as she does the time of her divorce. (“These men,” she said, her voice dripping with disgust.) “I’ve had a few 9/11s in my life, including the real 9/11,” she told me one evening, driving her Audi Q5 S.U.V. from her post-production studio to dinner at a hip Thai restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. “It felt like the world was ending,” she said. “I was his champion and he was my champion for ten years.” She paused. “And then you’ve got these women, who’ve all been through these things. And you’re, like, what does that mean? What did you do?”
Andrew Gruttadaro on MoviePass, circa 2019.
When MoviePass bottomed out last summer, most of us wrote our obituaries and moved on. But the subscription movie ticket company is still standing — just barely — and The Ringer‘s Gruttadaro visited their nondescript offices for both a post-mortem and a look ahead:
By March 2018, Lowe says, MoviePass was buying 3 million tickets per month, a number juiced by the company’s inability to rein in fraud—people sharing their MoviePass cards with friends and family, or using MoviePass to gain AMC rewards points, or purchasing multiple tickets using the app and then reselling them at a higher price. “People are really creative,” Lowe says. “Every time we’d fix one thing, they’d figure out another way.
“Over 80 percent of subscribers were great customers,” says Lowe—“great,” in this case, meaning rule-abiding and low-frequency. “We were roughly breaking even on that group. It was the 12 to 22 percent of subscribers who were using it a lot or abusing it that got us.”
What MoviePass was doing was a gift from the heavens, as far as users were concerned. But in the eyes of business analysts, it was downright offensive. “They were selling other people’s services at a discount, while paying full price for those services themselves. It was like a bank giving you a dollar for every 25 cents you deposit,” says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, who seems mildly upset that I even had the temerity to make him talk about MoviePass. Most subscription companies are founded on a breakage model, meaning their revenue comes from those who subscribe but never actually use the service. In 2018, MoviePass’s business plan, too, relied greatly on breakage, but Pachter says they were obviously never going to benefit from a lack of usage. “Nobody was dumb enough to sign up for MoviePass and not use it.” When I ask Pachter what MoviePass’s biggest mistake was in 2018, he doesn’t hold back: “Their biggest mistake was launching.”
Drew Magary on the illusion of political “norms.”
“Over and over,” GQ‘s Magary writes, “I’ve had to hear about Trump gleefully obliterating the sacred norms of Washington.” But, he continues, that hasn’t changed the way they’ve covered him — or are covering another know-nothing billionaire who’s floating the notion of running for president:
Here is another fact: future generations should endeavor to make sure a man of President Trump’s ilk never ascends to power again, and yet that won’t happen because our media and most of our politicians treat him very much like a normal president. They do this because they don’t want to alienate Trump’s ever-shrinking base, but also because they believe covering him as a traditional leader and not a deranged 72-year-old seems like the proper and objective thing to do. It is not. Trump’s ascension is an emergency and a global catastrophe waiting to happen, and yet here’s Chuck Todd welcoming the president’s grotesque sycophants onto his show like they’re esteemed intellectuals. And here’s Twitter taking what is clearly a joking tweet about billionaires never cleaning toilets and framing it as a neutral “debate” people out there are having.
This passes for objectivity among the powers that be right now, but it’s not. It’s the deliberate sanding down of a criminal ruling class and the strife it has created. That is a crime itself. Right now, putting up the façade of having no opinion is its own form of punditry and is a deadly act, one that allows miscreants like Trump and his Cabinet to freely loot the national coffers while being presented as legitimate politicians.
Ian Parker on the mystery of Dan Mallory.
Dan Mallory’s debut novel The Woman in the Window (written under the pseudonym A.J. Finn) was a sensation, entering the New York Times bestseller list at number one, prompting raves from The Washington Post and Stephen King, and already the source of a film adaptation starring Amy Adams and Gary Oldman. But in an investigative profile for The New Yorker as riveting as the suspense novel in question, Parker digs in to the strange history of Mr. Mallory, who seems, by all accounts, to be a serial fabulist:
In 2016, midway through the auction for “The Woman in the Window,” the author’s real name was revealed to bidders. At that point, most publishing houses dropped out. This move reflected an industry-wide unease with Mallory that never became public, and that did not stand in the way of his enrichment: William Morrow, Mallory’s employer at the time, kept bidding, and bought his book.
Mallory had by then spent a decade in publishing, in London and New York, and many people in the profession had heard rumors about him, including the suggestion that he had left jobs under peculiar circumstances. Several former colleagues of Mallory’s who were interviewed for this article recalled feeling deeply unnerved by him. One, in London, said, “He exploited people who were sweet-natured.” A colleague at William Morrow told friends, “There’s this guy in my office who’s got a ‘Talented Mr. Ripley’ thing going on.” In 2013, Sophie Hannah, the esteemed British crime-fiction writer, whose work includes the sanctioned continuation of Agatha Christie’s series of detective novels, was one of Mallory’s authors; she came to distrust accounts that he had given about being gravely ill.
I recently called a senior editor at a New York publishing company to discuss the experience of working with Mallory. “My God,” the editor said, with a laugh. “I knew I’d get this call. I didn’t know if it would be you or the F.B.I.”