The celebrity-packed Friends reunion was conspicuously less star-loaded when it landed in China on Thursday. Approximately six minutes of the special episode was missing as it rolled out on Chinese streaming services. Among the cuts: special appearances by K-pop supergroup BTS, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, as well as brief cameos made by LGBTQ Friends fans.
China boasts an enormous Friends fan base and the reunion special was acquired by all three of the country’s leading video platforms — iQiyi, Tencent Video and Alibaba’s Youku. Each of the services appears to have made heavy-handed alterations to the episode in anticipation of complaints from Beijing regulators and the country’s notorious nationalist Internet trolls. Although the exact cuts made by each streamer differed slightly, they all ultimately shaved about 6 minutes from the original HBO Max version, which had a runtime of 1:43:50.
In the original version of the special, BTS briefly appears to share its love of Friends, with group leader RM saying the show “really taught me things about life and true friendship.” In China, this segment was missing altogether.
BTS have been a target of China’s censors and nationalists since last October. While receiving an award celebrating cultural relations between the U.S. and South Korea, RM mentioned the “history of pain” and “shared sacrifices” of South Korean and U.S. soldiers during the Korean War. Some in China viewed the remarks as an affront, since China supported the North in the war and also suffered heavy casualties. BTS-starring ad campaigns were promptly pulled in the country and the group has remained personae non grata ever since.
Lady Gaga’s widely praised rendition of “Smelly Cat” with Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe was trimmed back to just a few seconds to excise the pop star from the bit entirely. Gaga has been banned in China ever since she met with the Dalai Lama — a dangerous separatist in Beijing’s view — back in 2016.
Bieber accidentally infuriated Chinese fans in 2014 when he posted on Instagram about a visit he made to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, not knowing that the religious site is a source ofcontroversy because the souls of Japanese WWII war criminals have been interred there (Japanese political leaders routinely anger Seoul and Beijing by making ceremonial visits to the shrine). Bieber has been blacklisted in China ever since. Thus, Bieber’s brief appearance in the HBO Max special, in which he dons Ross’ ridiculous “Spudnik” Halloween costume, also got the ax.
Most repressive was the Chinese streamers’ handling of the brief moments in the Friends reunion that reference or celebrate LGBTQ fans of the show. Any sequences hinting at gay lifestyles was cut by all three platforms, including a heartwarming statement made by a German fan named Ricardo, who appears in the special to say, “I was a gay man who wanted to have hair like Jennifer Aniston, so you can imagine how lonely I sometimes felt.”
Other cuts were plainly prudish, if innocuous, such as the removal of a moment when Joey appears in a bathrobe with a picture of Ross pasted to his groin.
Despite the cuts, the Friends reunion appears to have struck a major chord in China. An outpouring of emotion and nostalgia for the show has proliferated across Chinese social media since the premiere. The special currently has a sky-high 9.5/10 rating on China’s movie and TV reviews site Douban, making it one of the highest-rated TV imports in recent memory.
January 6 Trump documents case: Takeaways from the appeals court hearing
The case is before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, after a federal judge earlier this month declined to halt the release of the Trump documents from the National Archives. President Joe Biden is declining to assert executive privilege on the documents, so Trump is asking the court to consider his assertion of privilege instead.
The case touches on some unsettled law around whether a former president can litigate executive privilege claims when the incumbent sides with transparency. And the three judges on the appellate panel — all Democratic appointees — signaled that they found some of the case’s questions difficult, even as they expressed doubt about Trump’s claims.
It’s nearly guaranteed that, however they rule, the case will end up appealed to the Supreme Court.
Judges ask why a former president should get to overrule the current one
The appeals court showed little sympathy for Trump’s arguments for blocking the documents’ release.
“Why should the former president be the one to make that determination when you’re talking about accommodating another branch of government?” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said while the Trump team was arguing its case.
“It would seem that the current president has not only the confidentiality factor that he’s thinking about, but the current duty to the interests of the United States even broader than those that the former president would be concerned about,” she added.
Judge Patricia Millett grilled Trump lawyer Justin Clark on what else the court is supposed to weigh in considering these kinds of disputes.
“You’re going to have to come up with something with more power to outweigh the incumbent president’s decision to waive,” Millett said. “You’re going to have to change the score on that scoreboard,” which, the judge said, would already be stacked with points in the president’s favor according to Supreme Court precedent.
The court appeared very uninterested in reviewing the White House records document by document.
In a series of troubling signs for Trump, the judges pushed back strongly on a request from the former President’s legal team that the court review records from his presidency, document by document, to determine whether they should be withheld from Congress.
Trump’s approach would have likely dragged out court proceedings — effectively blocking the House from access for an extended time. The trial-level judge previously rejected this suggestion.
“The issue, as I understood, before us was not about the content of the documents or when you look at them, but simply what happens when the current incumbent president says I’m not going to invoke executive privilege as to these documents with respect to this particular request,” Millett said early in Tuesday’s hearing.
Judge Robert Wilkins said Trump’s arguments for a document-by-document review were “inconsistent” with Nixon-era court precedent.
“That’s not the way we say we do this, at least the way I read those cases,” Wilkins said. He pointed out that the court considering Nixon’s case didn’t listen to the Watergate tapes one by one.
There are big questions this court may need to address if a former president and current president disagree
As rocky as the hearing went for the Trump side, the panel’s judges signaled that they were struggling with what a court could ultimately do to settle a standoff between former and current presidents.
“We don’t just flip a coin or draw straws or something. What, what tests are we supposed to use?” Wilkins asked Doug Letter, the lawyer representing the House January 6 committee.
The judges pointed out that the law governing historical records going to Congress doesn’t spell out what should happen if a former president keeps pushing a challenge against the current president on a privilege decision.
They also challenged the lawyers with several hypothetical scenarios — a current president releasing documents to “avenge” his predecessor, a former president claiming a release of his White House documents would endanger the lives of US agents abroad, or four former presidents imploring a current president to keep sensitive information private — to grill Trump’s opponents on whether there was any situation in which an incumbent’s privilege determination could be second-guessed by a court.
The judges also asked whether the court could stop Congress from publicly releasing White House documents it obtained from the National Archives. In this case, Congress couldn’t guarantee absolute secrecy, Letter, the House lawyer, pointed out.
Letter brushed off the hypothetical scenarios, describing them as far afield from the case before the court. He stressed that in this dispute there was no clash between the legislative and executive branches, so there was no separation-of-powers question that the court needed to resolve.
Brian Boynton, a lawyer for the Justice Department, took a different approach to helping the court navigate those questions. He suggested that it avoid making any sweeping conclusion about whether courts can ever side with a former president in privilege disputes with incumbents.
“We don’t think you need to or should issue a ruling that says the incumbent always wins, because this is an unsettled area of the law and there’s no need to reach that conclusion here,” Boynton said.
Still, Boynton maintained that few scenarios exist where a former president could override the decisions of the current office-holder.
A request that the Supreme Court get involved could be coming very soon
Since Trump brought the lawsuit last month, he’s had to act quickly in seeking court orders that would stop the documents’ disclosure, as the National Archives had originally planned to release the first tranche of the hundreds of pages in question on November 12.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who oversaw the first round of the litigation, ruled against Trump before that deadline, but the appeals court put an administrative hold on the documents’ release and so far has moved very quickly to advance the case.
The pause was already affecting the House’s investigation, with subpoenaed witnesses such as Steve Bannon and former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows pointing to the ongoing court case to either avoid or delay cooperating with the House.
As Tuesday’s hearing was wrapping up, Millett acknowledged that the case was “very, very urgent and everyone needs to proceed on a very tight timeline.” She suggested that if the court were to rule against Trump, it could still put in place a two-week hold preventing he National Archives from releasing the documents, so the case could be appealed to the Supreme Court.
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Pragati Mehra treats the cast and crew of YRKKH on her birthday, Rajan Shahi calls it a ‘sweet gesture’
30 Nov 2021 08:10 PM
MUMBAI: Rajan Shahi sure knows how to make the cast and crew of his show feel special. Actress Pragati Mehra, who plays Mahima Birla in the popular show “Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai” (YRKKH), turned a year older on Tuesday (November 30), and the ace producer ensured that he along with his team at Director’s Kut Productions (DKP) made her day a memorable one.
Rajan and his team got a cake for her and the entire unit got together for the celebration. In fact, Pragati treated them all with a special lunch to celebrate her birthday.
Rajan said, “It’s very nice to see the new cast of the show getting together so well. The Goenkas and Birlas are bonding so well. Valuing on and off-screen relationships have always been a priority for me and my team. We celebrated Pragati’s birthday today on the set, and it was a very sweet gesture by her to give a lunch treat to everyone, the unit, the workers, all of them present on the set. I wish her a very happy birthday again.”
We wish Pragati a very happy birthday.
“Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai” is produced under Shahi’s banner Director’s Kut Productions and airs on Star Plus. It features Harshad Chopda, Pranali Rathod, Karishma Sawant, Mayank Arora, Sharan Anandani, Ami Trivedi, Ashish Nayyar, Paras Priyadarshan, Pragati Mehra, Vinay Jain, Neeraj Goswami, Niharika Chouksey, Swati Chitnis, Sachin Tyagi, Ali Hassan and Niyati Joshi.
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