January 14, 2020

While people will likely be talking about Tuesday's post-Democratic debate handshake-that-wasn't between Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for quite a while, the early takeaway is that all six candidates took it pretty easy on one another during the debate itself.

Several observers think former Vice President Joe Biden, in particular, was let off the hook. Biden, despite various gaffes, has remained the frontrunner since he jumped into the race last year, and his lead is steady, if not overwhelming. But the sense after the debate was that his opponents are still waiting for him to stumble on his own and therefore missed a chance to go after his resume and chip away at the polling deficit.

And, well, not losing might be just as valuable as a standout performance for the former vice president, who appears to have emerged without much more than a scratch. Tim O'Donnell

5:18 p.m.

There's a brand new way Democrats can make the debate stage next month.

The Democratic National Committee announced requirements to qualify for February's primary debate Friday, saying the donor threshold will remain steady, with candidates needing at least 225,000 unique donors. Candidates will also, as before, need to hit at least five percent in four qualifying national polls or seven percent in two polls of New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina voters. But there's now a third path that candidates can take to replace the poll requirement: If they win just one delegate in Iowa, they're in.

This could open a path for candidates such as entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who hit the donor requirement but didn't have enough qualifying polls to make January's debate. The Iowa caucuses are Feb. 3, and the next debate is Feb. 7 in New Hampshire. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:35 p.m.

After traveling the world hunting for treasure in his personal life, Nicolas Cage can soon resume doing so in the movies, too.

A third National Treasure film is in the works at Disney with Bad Boys for Life's Chris Bremner writing a screenplay, The Hollywood Reporter wrote Friday.

No further details were provided in the report, which only briefly mentioned National Treasure while focusing on the status of a fourth Bad Boys film, which is also apparently happening. But this news comes more than a decade after National Treasure: Book of Secrets hit theaters, easily outgrossing the original but for some reason not being followed by five to eight more installments centered around Benjamin Franklin Gates' increasingly wacky adventures.

A third National Treasure has been discussed going back years, though, to the point that this movie could just be about the mythical quest for its own screenplay. Director Jon Turteltaub in 2018 suggested the odds it would come together weren't great, telling /Film, "I don't think Disney wants to make it," though he suggested it could happen as a streaming-exclusive film.

Now that it's apparently moving forward, though, what treasure hunt might be at the center of this installment? Could it just completely ignore the first two films and turn into a documentary about Nicolas Cage the actor's totally real attempt to locate the Holy Grail, which he revealed last year and dubbed his "grail quest"? Probably not, but Disney can have that idea for free. Brendan Morrow

2:48 p.m.

The Harvey Weinstein trial officially has its jury.

Jury selection in the trial of the disgraced film producer ended Friday with seven men and five women set to serve, Variety reports. Three alternates, one man and two women, were also selected.

Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi during jury selection accused the defense and trying to "systematically exclude" young white women, The Hollywood Reporter writes. "They have eliminated every single white woman from this prospective jury panel," Illuzzi said, Variety reports.

The defense, in turn, accused the prosecution of trying to exclude men from the jury, but the Reporter writes Judge James Burke didn't accept either argument. The defense reportedly said it didn't seek to exclude young women but that, as The Associated Press writes, they "didn't want jurors who were too young to understand the way men and women interacted in the early 1990s."

The defense objected to one particular juror, a woman who wrote a forthcoming novel whose plot has to do with "predatory older men," Deadline reports. The judge ultimately said the woman could serve on the jury and denied the defense's subsequent request for a mistrial.

Weinstein is facing rape and sexual assault charges, which he has pleaded not guilty to. Opening arguments in the trial are set to begin on Jan. 22. Brendan Morrow

2:35 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is still promising "If you like your insurance, you can keep it" — with a twist.

In his endorsement interview with The New York Times published Friday, Biden is asked about that phrase both he and former President Barack Obama have said in the past. And after accepting that he actually did say it, Biden promised that "if you like your plan, you can keep it," provided "your employer doesn't take it away from you."

While the ObamaCare mantra of keeping the insurance you like ended up not exactly being true, Biden still modified it in a July 2019 primary debate to say under his presidency, "If you like your health care plan, your employer-based plan, you can keep it. If in fact you have private insurance, you can keep it." There's video proof of Biden saying that but, when confronted with it in his Times interview, Biden replied with "I didn't say that, by the way."

The interview moved on, and Biden was asked about how if there was a public health insurance option, employers may stop offering insurance altogether.

That all devolved into what Biden saying something that would look perfect on a campaign coffee mug as long as it fits: "If you like your plan, you can keep it, assuming — I should add the obvious — if your employer doesn't take it away from you. Okay?" Kathryn Krawczyk

1:52 p.m.

An era in the film industry has officially come to an end.

Disney is rebranding the 20th Century Fox film studio it purchased in its acquisition of Fox assets last year, Variety reports. Going forward, 20th Century Fox will instead be known as 20th Century Studios, and Disney will also rebrand Fox Searchlight Pictures as just Searchlight Pictures.

Audiences will start seeing these changes fairly soon, as The Call of the Wild will reportedly be released next month under the new 20th Century Studios branding, although the opening logo complete with that iconic fanfare will be kept unchanged other than the altered name being swapped in.

This decision, The New York Times notes, will mean that "consumers do not mistakenly think the movie studio has anything to do Rupert Murdoch's polarizing Fox News media empire." Indeed, an insider told Variety, "I think the Fox name means Murdoch, and that is toxic." Fox News was among the assets Disney didn't acquire in its $71 billion 21st Century Fox purchase, which gave it the rights to properties like Avatar, X-Men, and The Simpsons ahead of the launch of its streaming service, Disney+.

Still yet to be decided, according to Variety's report, is whether Disney will similarly rebrand 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios, which produce shows like The Orville, This Is Us, and Pose. On TV, then, the Fox name lives on inside Disney — for now. Brendan Morrow

12:43 p.m.

Some major changes are apparently coming to Springfield.

Hank Azaria has revealed he'll longer voice Apu on The Simpsons, telling /Film, "All we know there is I won't be doing the voice anymore, unless there's someway to transition it or something."

The Simpsons faced renewed criticism over Apu since the release of the 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu, in which comedian Hari Kondabolu and others discuss the character who Kondabolu has described as "a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father."

The documentary sparked a conversation about whether The Simpsons should write out the character some view as an offensive Indian stereotype, though others suggested keeping Apu but recasting Azaria with an Indian voice actor. Azaria, who also voices other characters on the show like Moe and Chief Wiggum, appeared to allude to that option Friday by referencing a possible "transition." But while Azaria said it's "up to them and they haven't sorted it out yet," he made clear that "I won't do the voice anymore," also saying, "We all made the decision together."

The Simpsons previously addressed the criticism over Apu in a meta 2018 episode, in which Lisa, looking directly at the camera, says, "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect." She then looks at a picture of Apu and asks, "What can you do?" Marge and Lisa, again addressing the audience, promise this will be "dealt with at a later date," "if at all." That later date is evidently coming up.

Azaria previously expressed his willingness to step down from the role of Apu, saying on The Late Show, "the idea that anybody who is young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad." No official announcement about the future of the character has been made. Brendan Morrow

10:51 a.m.

President Trump's impeachment defense team is getting the celebrity treatment.

As Trump prepares for House impeachment managers to share their case against him on Tuesday, he has reportedly tapped some big-name lawyers with impeachment and televised trial experience to defend him. Former Special Counsel Ken Starr, his successor Robert Ray, and famous defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz are all expected to join Trump's legal team, sources have told The New York Times, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow are slated to lead Trump's impeachment defense, the Times says. Dershowitz "will present oral arguments at the Senate trial," the legal team said in a statement, while Starr and Ray "are expected to play a constitutional and historic role," CNN reports. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Trump's personal counsel Jane Raskin will reportedly also be on the team.

Both Starr and Ray are known for their work during former President Bill Clinton's impeachment, with Starr serving as the independent counsel whose report led to Clinton's impeachment, and Ray eventually replacing Starr and finishing up the reports in Clinton's case. Dershowitz was on defense team for O.J. Simpson and gained notoriety in that televised trial. His reported appointment fits with Trump's desire to turn his impeachment into a "TV spectacle." Dershowitz was also recently questioned over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of running a sex trafficking ring. Kathryn Krawczyk

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