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December 20: Happy Birthday Dick Wolf and Irene Dunne

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Emmy-winning television producer Dick Wolf turns 71 today.  After graduating from Penn, he worked for a decade as an advertising copywriter, before selling his first screenplay in 1978, for a film titled Skateboard.  He wrote several more screenplays in the eighties, and also wrote for series like Miami Vice and Hill Street Blues.  At the end of the decade, he had an idea for a series that would be a hybrid of a police procedural and a courtroom drama—the first half of a show would focus on the investigation of a crime, the second on the prosecution of the criminals.

Law & Order was not an instant success.  It wasn’t until its fifth season that it began to win a sizable audience.  But it went on to run for twenty seasons on NBC, tying Gunsmoke as the longest-running scripted primetime series ever.  As it became a bigger success in the late 1990s, it evolved into a franchise.  The first spinoff series: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, has become a long-runner itself, currently in its nineteenth season.  It was followed by Law & Order: Criminal Intent (which lasted “only” ten seasons), two short-lived spinoffs, and the anthology series Law & Order True Crime.

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December 19: Happy Birthday Jake Gyllenhaal and Ralph Richardson

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Jake Gyllenhaal celebrates his 36th today.  In comparison with his older sister Maggie, he has had more of a mainstream film career, although it has been more focused on prestige pictures of various sorts than would-be blockbusters.  But as a Gyllenhaal, he of course has not neglected the world of indie films; one of his first major roles was in an indie cult classic:

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The A-List: Don’t Call It a Comeback

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This past weekend, Dumb and Dumber To exceeded even the most optimistic box office projections.  Critics were unkind to the sequel, but audiences who have been waiting twenty years for more Dumb and Dumber didn’t care.  Now there’s talk of a Dumb and Dumber trilogy!

The box office success of Dumb and Dumber To has some people talking about a comeback for Jim Carrey.  Carrey’s movie career has cooled over the last decade or so.  His last unqualified box office hit was arguably Bruce Almighty in 2003.  When a Dumb and Dumber sequel was announced, it seemed to some (myself included) like a desperation move.  But now, it seems like a “hail mary pass” that connected.

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