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The Politician: Netflix’s new show pokes fun at privilege

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Ben Platt as Peyton Hobart in The PoliticianImage copyright
Netflix

If you thought high school in the UK was tough, then just be glad you didn’t share a class with Payton Hobart.

That’s who Ben Platt (who you may recognise from the first two Pitch Perfect movies) plays in new Netflix show, The Politician.

It’s a big role for the 26-year-old actor and his first lead in a major TV show.

In this dark teen comedy, Payton strives to become high school president, convinced that one day he will be doing Donald Trump’s job.

In the US, most high schools hold elections for the role of student body president. It’s considered a prestigious post which can help people get into a top university – at least that is what’s behind Payton’s ruthless campaign.

People watching the show might feel relieved that British schools don’t have the same system.

Especially after hearing that characters like Payton – who’s willing to trample over his girlfriend and exploit a terminally ill classmate in his quest for success – are not just parodies.

“Payton is blindly ambitious, self-serving and aggressive,” Ben tells Radio 1 Newsbeat. “It’s rooted in reality for sure. There were a lot of kids who had a lot of ambition, particularly in the arts – myself included – who knew what they wanted to do from a young age.

“They were interested in investing in that and were willing to sacrifice social life.”

‘The pursuit of perfection’

The Politician’s main characters all seem to be white, privileged and – on the surface – mostly awful human beings. Most of them also seem to live in big houses and come from wealthy (and equally awful) families.

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Netflix

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The show is focused on the race to become the president of a US high school

And Ben thinks show creator Ryan Murphy – the man who made Glee, American Horror Story and Pose – handles the topic expertly.

The Politician echoes Ryan’s other work, in the sense that it mixes socially relevant storylines with his signature flamboyant style.

This series is the television producer’s first for Netflix since he signed a record-breaking deal worth $300m (£243m) with the streaming giant, and although it’s had mixed reviews there is still a lot of hype around it.

“I think Ryan is the perfect person to tell a story about this particular society, because it fits within the grander scale of all the work he’s done,” says Ben. “He’s looking at this particular community with exactly the lens that it should be looked at. We can’t look at entitlement or at privilege without being as ruthless as possible.”

“The Politician shows that all people from all walks of life struggle with the same issues of identity, authenticity and proving themselves.”

He says that The Politician is “poking fun at that community”, but at the same time “sheds light on the pursuit of perfection that many young people are obsessed with.”

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Netflix

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Characters like River (David Corenswet) struggle with mental health issues in the show

Mental health is a key theme of the show.

“Every character is grappling with something that, on the surface, they don’t seem to be,” says Ben.

Working with Hollywood A-listers

Most of the cast of The Politician are playing teenagers – with the exception of two notable actors that Ben shares scenes with. Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance, who you might know from starring as Pepper Potts in Marvel’s Avengers and Iron Man movies (among other things), plays his on-screen mum.

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Netflix

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Gwyneth Paltrow plays Georgia, Payton’s fiercely protective mum

“She’s been very maternal and protective of me. She really took me under her wing,” says Ben.

And then, there’s the matter of Jessica Lange who, as viewers of American Horror Story will know, tends to steal every scene she appears in. Oscar-winner Jessica plays Dusty, the manipulative grandmother of Payton’s terminally ill classmate, Infinity Jackson, who becomes his running mate.

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Netflix

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Ben says it wasn’t hard to act like he was in awe of Jessica Lange on set

“It was lucky for me that Dusty was forceful and somewhat frightening to Peyton’s character,” says Ben. “So I didn’t really have to pretend to be anything other than in awe of her, which is exactly how I felt in real life.

“But Jessica makes you feel immediately at ease because she’s so hilariously funny. And when you’re laughing, it’s hard to feel intimidated or scared.”

The Politician is streaming on Netflix now.

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Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.





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Jacqueline Jossa wins I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

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Jacqueline JossaImage copyright
ITV

Former EastEnders star Jacqueline Jossa has won I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! after spending three weeks in the Australian jungle.

The actress was named queen of the jungle, following in the footsteps of previous winners like Harry Redknapp, Stacey Solomon and Kerry Katona.

Co-presenters Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly revealed the winner at the end of the final of the ITV reality show.

Actor Andy Whyment was the runner-up, with radio DJ Roman Kemp in third.

Jossa played Lauren Branning in BBC soap EastEnders between 2010 and 2018.

After she was named queen of the jungle, she said: “I have no words.”

This year’s series – the 19th – was the first not to have live insects eaten as part of the show’s “bushtucker trials”.

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PA Media

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Coronation Street actor Andy Whyment took part in a “bushtucker bonanza” before he came second

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ITV

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Radio host Roman Kemp came third

Any insects consumed on the show were already dead – though live creepy-crawlies were still dumped on its celebrity contestants.

But the show was not without controversy, with former sports stars James Haskell and Ian Wright being accused of bullying their fellow campmates.

Viewers also contacted media watchdog Ofcom to complain that some of the show’s challenges were too hard and thus unfair.

There was contention before the series even aired, with former Commons Speaker John Bercow demanding a newspaper apologise for claiming he had asked for £1m to appear.

DJ Tony Blackburn was the first celebrity to be crowned King of the Jungle when the show first aired in 2002.

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email





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Juice Wrld: US rapper dies aged 21 ‘after seizure at airport’

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Juice Wrld, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, was considered to be a rising star of rap musicImage copyright
Getty Images

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Juice Wrld, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, was considered to be a rising star of rap music

Juice Wrld, a US rapper who shot to fame on music streaming platforms, has died at the age of 21.

Celebrity news website TMZ said he died after suffering a seizure at Chicago’s Midway airport on Sunday morning.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said the cause was unknown.

Juice Wrld, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, was best-known for his viral 2018 hit Lucid Dreams. Mental health, mortality and drug use were common themes in his music.

Chicago police told the BBC a 21-year-old man suffered a medical emergency at around 02:00 local time (08:00 GMT) and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

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Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesman, told the Chicago Sun Times there were “no signs of foul play” and it was unclear whether drugs played a role in his death.

Who was Juice Wrld?

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1998, Juice Wrld started rapping in high school, using online music streaming platform SoundCloud to upload and promote his music.

He went on to release his debut full-length EP, 999, on the platform in 2017, garnering him attention from fellow Chicago-based artists such as G Herbo and Lil Bibby.

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Getty Images

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Juice Wrld shot to fame in 2018, when hit single Lucid Dreams reached number two in the charts

The rapper rose to fame in 2018, when hit singles All Girls Are the Same and Lucid Dreams, which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, drew the attention of music fans and record labels.

More plaudits followed the release first studio album, Goodbye & Good Riddance, in 2018, cementing his himself as one of the rising stars of US rap.

In early 2018, he was signed by Interscope Records, landing a record deal reported to be worth more than $3m (£2.2m). He topped the Billboard chart this year with his second album Death Race for Love.

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Getty Images

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Juice Wrld celebrated his 21st birthday last week

In one of his songs, Juice Wrld rapped about the short lives of artists, saying “all the legends seem to die out”.

The song, titled Legends, was dedicated to two late rappers, 20-year-old XXXTentacion and 21-year-old Lil Peep, who died in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

In the song Juice Wrld rapped: “What’s the 27 Club? We ain’t making it past 21. I been going through paranoia.”

Juice Wrld had celebrated his 21st birthday last week. In a tweet, he said it was “one of his best” birthdays yet.

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Media captionGrime artist Ransom FA spoke to the BBC about the challenges of breaking into the music industry

His music has been described as emo rap, a genre that draws influences from hip hop and alternative rock.

In a four-star review of his second album, music publication NME said the rapper “makes songs that stick, his vocal dissonance capturing what it feels like to be young and in pain, and feeling a sense of indifference towards authority figures”.

In a 2018 interview with the New York Times, Juice Wrld opened up about his use of cannabis and Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication.

“I smoke weed, and every now and then I slip up and do something that’s poor judgment,” he told the paper.

Who has paid tribute?

In a tweet, British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, who collaborated with Juice Wrld on her 2019 single Hate Me, described the rapper as “such a sweet soul” who had “so much further to go”.

Chicago-based artist Chance the Rapper paid a heartfelt tribute on Instagram, writing: “Millions of people, not just in Chicago but around the world are hurting because of this and don’t know what to make of it.”

“Wow, I cannot believe this. Rip my brother juice world,” tweeted fellow rapper Lil Yachty.

US rapper Lil Nas X, also writing on Twitter, said it is “so sad how often this is happening lately to young talented rising artists”.

Hip hop artist HaHa Davis wrote on Twitter: “Heartbroken @JuiceWorlddd I love you bro.”





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Star Wars: The Leicestershire factory at the centre of a toy galaxy

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Tie fighterImage copyright
Bob Brechin

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Palitoy executives visited the United States to see the very first Star Wars toys

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, released on 19 December, is sure to set tills ringing just as loudly in toy shops as in cinemas. But the decades-spanning success of Star Wars toys owes much to the early hard work and vision of a group of British workers.

In 1977, Star Wars was still little more than a rumour. The first film in the franchise would not get its UK premiere until 27 December, seven months after it opened in the United States.

Among the first people to see previews of the movie were executives from Leicestershire firm Palitoy, tasked with rendering George Lucas’s celluloid galaxy in plastic.

Kenner, the company’s US sister firm, had bought the rights to Star Wars but needed a factory to manufacture the toys for the UK.

“I’d never heard of Star Wars, but they said ‘There’s a film. We can give you a quick look-see’,” said Bob Simpson, Palitoy’s managing director.

“I was amazed. It was just a toymaker’s dream.”

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The Star Wars range quickly became must-have toys

Mr Simpson was among the Palitoy employees tracked down for a new documentary that tells how its Coalville factory found itself at the centre of a manufacturing phenomenon.

But initially, with no guarantee that the first film would be a box office success, let alone spawn a smash-hit series, and with no actual toys or market data to show potential buyers, Palitoy had a tough job to convince retailers to invest.

“You have to remember, this was a film people weren’t sure about… they were reluctant to take stuff because it was what they thought was a B-movie – you know, science fiction, all that business,” said Bob Brechin, the firm’s chief designer.

Salvation came in the form of Action Man. Retailers were offered discounts on the firm’s hugely popular soldier figures if they would take Star Wars toys.

Sales manager John Nicholas recalled how one chain’s whisky-loving buyer was handed a bottle of Scotch and asked how many Star Wars figures he wanted.

About half an hour later, and with a third of the bottle gone, he had decided. He would take a million.

“Well, it was my biggest order ever. I’ve never taken an order for that, and, you know, when Woolworths came along and said, ‘All right, I’ll have 100,000’, it was ‘Oh, is that all?’.”

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Palitoy offered retailers discounts on Action Man if they would stock the new Star Wars range

As the first film became a hit with audiences, demand grew. An entire cast of figures, at pocket-money prices, and a selection of spaceships and vehicles, helped confirm Star Wars as the must-have toy, boosting Palitoy’s sales to £20m in 1978.

Production line worker Gina Morton remembers a supervisor called Wendy urging the workers on. “She was rather like a schoolmistress, actually because, we were young girls – 17, 18… You know, if your Millennium Falcons weren’t touching, ‘Come on girls, what’s going off here? We’ve got to get this out!'”

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Coalville Heritage Society

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Demand for the toys meant production line employees had to work quickly

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Coalville Heritage Society

By the time Return of the Jedi, the third movie, was released in 1983, 20 million Star Wars figures had been sold in the UK, and half of those in that year alone.

But with some parts of its empire posting losses, parent company General Mills, a food producer, was questioning its involvement in the traditionally volatile toy business.

The Palitoy brand was discontinued, production of Star Wars toys at Coalville ended, and in just under 10 years, the company was sold three times.

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Coalville Heritage Society

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The former Palitoy factory is now a business centre, but its history is marked with a green plaque

The factory closed in 1994. Its last owner was Hasbro, which still manufactures Star Wars toys today.

“Devastating” is how designer Brian Turner remembers the effect on the town, already reeling from the decline of coal-mining. “I think the life went out of the place,” he said.

Although they initially sold for a pound or two, original Star Wars figures can today fetch hundreds – even thousands – with Palitoy products, rarer than their US counterparts, particularly sought after by some collectors.

“I mean, I wish I’d put a few in the garage. I’ve always thought that,” said Bob Brechin.

Marketing manager Geoff Maisey said: “I think we’ve a lot to be proud of. We actually launched Star Wars and made it what it is.

“Other companies now have taken it and extended it. But without those efforts in the early days, it wouldn’t be here. So yeah, I’m really proud.”

Toy Empire: The British Force Behind Star Wars, will be shown on BBC 1 in the East Midlands on 9 December at 19:30 GMT, and then on BBC iPlayer. It will be shown on BBC Four on 16 December at 21:00 GMT.



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