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How Jennifer Aniston proved she can actually act — and deserves Emmys glory

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Jennifer Aniston has sustained a lot of friendly fire in the 25 years since she became America’s ageless Breck Girl next door — but this now-veteran actress is nobody’s victim.

Sure, the beloved former “Friends” star was typecast after a decade (1994-2004) as spoiled rich chick Rachel Green on NBC’s “must-see TV” sitcom, followed by another decade-plus of retread movie rom-coms — some smash hits, others total stinkers, often co-starring fellow slummers Adam Sandler and Jason Bateman.

Despite six previous Emmy noms (and one 2002 win) for comedy, armchair critics reveled in flooding social media with shady praise of Aniston’s flawless hair — and snide critiques of her supposedly one-note range as a lightweight actress.

Suck it up, haters: Gold Derby gurus now rank the 51-year-old as a front-runner to win Best Actress in a Drama Sunday at the 2020 Emmys for her revelatory, against-type performance as Alex Levy, an aging TV hostess on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the hit Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show.”

“Don’t underestimate Aniston just because many prognosticators pick Laura Linney or Olivia Colman to win,” Gold Derby founder Tom O’Neill told The Post. “Don’t forget that Aniston won the SAG Award earlier this year and that has virtually the same voting system as the Emmys — only actors voting for actors.”

Plus, “Aniston is having a triumphant career comeback that’s especially alluring to TV industry insiders,” O’Neill added. “She portrays a reigning TV celebrity struggling to survive a crumbling, cruel world around her — the threat of younger, rising stars and her shock to discover the awful secrets and betrayals of the old regime.”

Jennifer Aniston made her off-Broadway debut in 1988 at Joseph Papp's legendary The Public Theater.
Aniston made her off-Broadway debut opposite Tony winner Tony Shalhoub (“The Band’s Visit”) in 1988 at Joseph Papp’s The Public Theater.The Public Theater

But the actress proved long ago that she had real chops in a wide range of under-the-radar projects — the masses just slept on it. Here are nine times Aniston proved she can really act:

Before she had “Friends” (1980s to mid-’90s)

Aniston started learning her craft at Manhattan’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (a k a the “Fame” school), making her off-Broadway stage debut at 19 in “For Dear Life” at Joseph Papp’s legendary Public Theater in 1988.

When Hollywood came calling, the brunette with an allegedly different nose honed her chops in supporting sitcom bits. By 1992, she joined the repertory company of Fox’s short-lived sketch-comedy series “The Edge” (an “SNL” audition didn’t pan out) before starring in a starlet prerequisite: a horror flick — 1993’s “Leprechaun.”

But what many don’t realize is that she low-key returned to Broadway for “24 Hour Plays” marathons in 2006 and 2009.

“She’s the One” (1996)

Miles from her turn as glossy-locked debutante Rachel, Aniston’s sad-eyed plain Jane with true grit stole this sweet indie movie from va-va-voom blond bombshell Cameron Diaz, who was fresh off her star-making debut opposite Jim Carrey in “The Mask.” Critics noticed, but audiences — and Hollywood execs — seemed determined to pigeonhole her into Sandra Bullock/Julia Roberts castoffs.

“The Object of My Affection” (1998)

This saccharine soap opera about a gal who falls for —  and makes a baby with — her gay bestie (Paul Rudd) was a tone-deaf misfire. But its acclaimed director Nicholas Hytner, of Broadway and Shakespearean theater fame, hinted at Aniston’s future greatness. “Her first instinct may be to put a very skilled, polished, funny twist on a line — and believe me, she can make anything funny,” he told Vanity Fair in 2001. “But she can equally, after a moment’s thought, find a much more interesting, more truthful, much more touching way of playing a scene … when she spends more of her time with material that requires her to exercise other muscles, her really considerable gift as an actress will be more widely recognized.”

“Office Space” (1999)

One word sums up Aniston’s scene-stealing supporting role in Mike Judge’s offbeat workplace comedy: “flair.” As a frustrated waitress at Chotchkie’s — a stand-in for TGI Fridays — she goes off on the priggish boss who rides her for not wearing enough decorative buttons. A low-key flop at the time, it has since achieved true cult status, leading Aniston to once proclaim, “You know what I really love? I love when people say, ‘I loved you in some movie’ that didn’t really get any attention.”

“The Good Girl” (2002)

This dark comedy found Aniston channeling Sissy Spacek in “Badlands” with her dry voice-overs as a small-town cashier on the skids — and generated sparkling oddball chemistry with a pre-“Brokeback Mountain” Jake Gyllenhaal. After it premiered at the Sundance Film Fest, famed critic Roger Ebert raved, “Aniston has at last decisively broken with her ‘Friends’ image in an independent film of satiric fire and emotional turmoil … It will no longer be possible to consider her in the same way.” So why isn’t it available on any major streaming service?

Aniston and Brad Pitt at the premiere of “Erin Brockovich” in Westwood, Calif., March 14, 2000

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Brad Pitt And Jennifer Aniston Soon To Wed

Pitt and Aniston arrive at the 1999 Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.

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52nd Annual Emmy Awards

Aniston and Pitt arrive at the 2000 Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

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FR: Cannes International Film Festival: Troy - World Premiere

Pitt and Aniston attend the premiere of epic movie “Troy” at Le Palais de Festival on May 13, 2004 in Cannes, France.

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Rock Star premiere

Pitt and Aniston at the premiere of “Rock Star” in Los Angeles, Calif., on Sept. 4, 2001.

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The Good Girl Premiere

Aniston and Pitt at the premiere of “The Good Girl” in West Hollywood, Ca. Wednesday, August 7, 2002.

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New York Premiere Of "Troy"

Pitt and Aniston at the US premiere of “Troy” on May 10, 2004 in NYC.

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26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Media Center

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston come face to face at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles.

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As his 2012 victory at the U.S. Open moves further…

Tabloid princess (2005 to eternity)

It wasn’t a scripted performance, but embodying grace under pressure was perhaps the greatest role of her repetitive rom-com era. Despite being pummeled with “poor scorned Jen” tabloid headlines on a weekly basis after Brad Pitt ditched her for Angelina Jolie, Aniston’s steely depth seems so obvious now. In 2005, she told Vanity Fair, “I don’t have a halo that I’m polishing here [but] I am not defined by this relationship. I am not defined by the part they’re making me play in the triangle.” But by 2016, she was warning Marie Claire readers: “I have worked too hard in this life and this career to be whittled down to a sad, childless human.”

“Friends With Money” (2006)

Writer-director Nicole Holofcener thought outside the box to cast America’s sweetheart as a depressive stoner maid trolling luxury department stores, scooping up free beauty product samples to fill an emotional void when she’s not dead-end boning a younger dude. Aniston more than held her own opposite a cast of powerhouse character actresses (Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener) who possessed a wealth of acclaim that remained out of her reach.

“Cake” (2014)

Yes, they glued a prosthetic scar on her iconic face, drabbed up her golden tresses and wrote out her signature smile. The calculated “ugly her up for an Oscar” playbook would be laughable — if she wasn’t so damn good. Aniston’s haunting turn as an accident victim battling chronic pain earned her Golden Globe and SAG nods. “I felt like I went back to class,” she told ABC News at the time. “It’s been so long since I’ve had to, or ever had something like this to dive into. I’m thrilled. It was exciting to keep challenging myself.”

“The Morning Show” (2020) 

In a premiere episode boardroom monologue that calls to mind Faye Dunaway’s camp-classic rant — “Don’t f - - k with me, fellas. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo!” — from “Mommie Dearest,” Aniston delivers an electrifying jolt of thin-lipped rage. As a daytime TV diva fighting to survive after her longtime co-host (Steve Carell) gets #MeToo’d, she exposes previously untapped range — basically stealing the show from her Oscar-winning co-star/producer Reese Witherspoon, who plays her younger heir apparent.

Digging into the dark underbelly of celebrity culture was “cathartic,” Aniston has since revealed. “To actually look at it from an actor brain, observing it and acknowledging it, I had to look at it as opposed to pretending it doesn’t exist,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “That show was 20 years of therapy wrapped into 10 episodes. … I would read a scene and feel like a whole manhole cover was taken off my back.”

But is it enough to finally earn her that first Emmy for a legit drama?

“Come on, it’s Jennifer Aniston,” Gold Derby’s O’Neill told The Post. “Sometimes Hollywood industry awards are really just all about hugs — and Jen deserves a big one for her welcome return to the spotlight on red-hot Apple TV+.”

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20 of the ultimate fall TV shows available on streaming

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PRETTY LITTLE LIARS – “These Boots Are Made For Stalking” – (Freeform/Eric McCandless) TROIAN BELLISARIO, SHAY MITCHELL, LUCY HALE, ASHLEY BENSON, SASHA PIETERSE

Are you looking for a show to put you in that fall mood? Check out our complete list of the 20 best fall TV shows to make you feel cozy inside!

When thinking about the best fall TV shows, most people consider the new fall television season. We missed it this year due to the pandemic, but typically fall is when networks reveal all their original pilots and series, it’s exciting.

Read on to find out our top 20 best fall TV shows!

In this article, we’re highlighting the best fall TV shows to give you that snug autumnal feel. From family dramas to spooky series, this list has it all. And the best part is, they’re all available to stream or on VOD!

20. Best fall TV shows: Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars was one of Freeform’s biggest hits when it debuted over a decade ago. Following the group of teen girls try to solve mysteries and murders while being harassed by the creepy tech-savvy and omnipresent ‘A’ could be exasperating, but we stuck around to the end because we loved the characters.

I don’t know about you, but teen dramas that focus heavily on school always give me that fall feeling since it was typically when most of us started a new school year. I looked forward to PLL each week while I was in grade school. Plus, PLL always went big with their holiday episodes, even just rewatching their Halloween episodes would be a great way to spend some time. I rewatch “The First Secret” every October!

Pretty Little Liars is available to stream on HBO Max.

19. Best fall TV shows: One Tree Hill

Like PLL, One Tree Hill was also a teen drama that mostly revolved around the core characters and the ups and downs of high school. Also like PLL, OTH later transitioned to adult years in the back half of the series. Actually, OTH was one of the first significant dramas to do so and pull it off successfully as the series continued for five seasons after the time jump. Even though OTH didn’t have a character like A, it still had some of the craziest and most outlandish TV plotlines.

But it also had a lot of heart and got compared favorably to Grey’s Anatomy quite a bit in the early days of both shows. Plus, there’s just something charming about the small town of Tree Hill and its eclectic bunch of characters. And isn’t it time to revisit Brooke Davis and her exceptional character development?

One Tree Hill is available to stream on Hulu.

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Eddie Redmayne: Both sides of J.K. Rowling debate behave in “disgusting” ways

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As Harry Potter fans puzzle out how (or whether) to continue their fandom in light of J.K. Rowling’s controversial views, Eddie Redmayne both-sides it.

And we’re back talking about J.K. Rowling, the tremendously successful author of the Harry Potter books who has recently found herself embroiled in controversy after she first made a series of transphobic tweets and then doubled down with a lengthy blog post that basically amounts to a manifesto on why she thinks trans people are dangerous, confused and invalid in their identities.

The blowback has been pretty wide-ranging. Fan communities have scrambled to adjust to Rowling’s comments, WB Games felt the need to distance itself from Rowling just as it unveiled a new Harry Potter video game, and prominent LGBTQ have condemned the comments alongside Harry Potter stars like Daniel Radcliffe.

It’s been rough, and it’s ongoing. The latest Harry Potter figure to weigh in is Eddie Redmayne, who stars in Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter spinoff series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is currently two movies into a proposed five-movie run.

Speaking to The Daily Mail, Redmayne decided to take the “both sides are bad” approach, saying that he has “trans friends and colleagues” who are “having their human rights challenged around the world and facing discrimination on a daily basis.” At the same time, he disapproves of the “vitriol” hurled at Rowling on social media, deeming it “absolutely disgusting.” But he qualified that insults against trans people online are “equally disgusting.”

Similarly, there continues to be a hideous torrent of abuse towards trans people online and out in the world that is devastating.

I’m on board with Redmayne that online abuse is unacceptable no matter who the target is, but I think what this approach misses is that Rowling is more or less insulated from the bad affects of online harassment by her hundreds of millions of dollars, whereas trans people, who are part of a marginalized community, don’t have that to fall back on. It also sidesteps the idea that Rowling’s comments, coming as they do from someone with a ton of influence, directly contribute to an atmosphere where people think it’s okay to come after trans people online and off.

That said, everyone is trying to work through how to deal with Rowling’s new direction, and as someone at the head of her new movie franchise, he’s in a tricky position. The same could be said for a lot of Harry Potter fans, who now have to reconcile loving Rowling’s work with her publicly committing to bigotry. “Fan sites and events like LeakyCon have had to distance ourselves from things that J.K. Rowling and the franchise have done,” said Jackson Bird, a trans Harry Potter fan who once served as communications director for the nonprofit Harry Potter Alliance. Instead, fans are trying to focus on fan-created work, “but the more she keeps on going, the harder it gets.”

Bird made his comments to Yahoo Entertainment, who talked to prominent members of the Harry Potter fan community to get their takes on the situation. “There’s no way I’m leaving the community that I’ve been a part of,” Bird continued. “I will probably go to LeakyCon next year and probably still go to wizard rock shows. Anything that is fan-created, I’m still down with … I don’t want to give any money to the official franchise. I want to re-read the books because I like them and I haven’t read them in a very long time, but I don’t know if I could stomach that for a while and I hope that changes someday.”

But not everyone feels that way. Robyn Jordan, co-founder and chief community officer for Black Girls Create, thinks it’s time to reevaluate the original books. “I’ve read those books over and over again, and as I grew up, I’m constantly seeing new issues with them,” she said. “It’s still an extraordinarily important story, though.”

As for Rowling herself, Jordan is happy to let her “fade into obscurity.”

She’s proven that she doesn’t deserve to have any cultural influence because she doesn’t understand — or want to understand — culture, people, humanity. With her showing us this, we reserve the right to ignore her.

The organizers of LeakyCon, the world’s biggest Harry Potter convention, are also trying to thread the needle, moving forward with their fandom while making it clear they don’t endorse Rowling’s viewpoints. “Externally, Leaky released a commitment to make our community more inclusive, take action to ensure all are welcome within the fandom, and to ensure it is made clear that we do not agree with J.K. Rowling’s views, and stand firmly with our transgender friends and colleagues,” said Emma Pocock, senior news editor for The Leaky Cauldron. “This was part of a collective action with other leading fan sites and groups. There are so many other groups who have been putting in the work from day one, so our job now is to uplift those voices, and do more to make sure we aren’t actively harming communities of vulnerable people.”

Melissa Anelli, who helps run LeakyCon, is also on board. “LeakyCon is about being a Harry Potter fan and part of the Harry Potter community, not just about celebration of the books; those who have been inside the community for two decades, as we have, know that the community stands against these transphobic stances. We have an opportunity to make a community that is more accepting and model a more inclusive world for this fandom than J.K. Rowling is trying to present, and we’re going to continue to work hard in that aim.”

However, there are some fans who can’t get past this turn. Take Flourish Klink, who co-founded the Harry Potter fanfiction site Fiction Alley and helped organize HPEF Harry Potter conferences. They even named themselves Flourish after Flourish and Blotts Booksellers from Rowling’s novels, but now they’re rethinking things.

“When J.K. started expressing her opinions about trans folks, it became really clear that she would fundamentally disapprove of me as a nonbinary person, and that she holds beliefs that I think are fundamentally dangerous to people like me,” Klink said. “It hurt because when I was a child, I idolized her so much. It’s one thing to write books that kind of imply a regressive worldview, and it’s another thing entirely to speak out so loudly and stridently, you know? Her words felt extremely personal to me. After reading what [Rowling] said, just being around anything Harry Potter-related kinda hurts. Her blog post about trans issues was the moment I knew I had to completely let Harry Potter go.”

It’s extremely hard to leave Harry Potter behind. It’s hard to express how much it’s shaped my life — I’m 33 now and it’s been with me for two-thirds of my existence. There’s so much of my life that’s intertwined with Harry Potter that it’s difficult to comprehend that I won’t be taking part in any of it anymore. But when I do try to think about it or interact with it, it just makes me sad.

So the fan community is split, but one thing they seem to agree on is that whatever their feelings about J.K. Rowling, none of this is actually going to affect her livelihood, which makes sense: she’s way too rich and powerful to really feel the consequences of her actions unless she wants to. “She can’t destroy her career — she’s J.K. Rowling,” said Bird. “She’s gonna die a billionaire but … she’s digging herself in so deep. It’s kind of wild to watch.”

Jordan agrees. “She makes corporations too much money,” she said. “She is a corporation.”

I don’t think she will be canceled, and I’m not surprised by it, because I don’t think the people that she’s harming have any power, and that’s just being reinforced. One of the things that I’ve noticed, just as being Black in the fandom, is that people are able to rationalize and accept a lot of things when they don’t affect them … If you’re not a marginalized person, there doesn’t seem to be much of an outrage.

As for the prospect of J.K. Rowling coming around on trans issues, it’s possible…but I dunno how likely it is. Rowling has dug in her heels on the topic, something Strategic Vision PR Group CEO David E. Johnson could serve her well. “Normally not doing a mea culpa in this era would be a death knell for a celebrity like J.K. Rowling with the comments she made,” he said. “But in her case, I think not doing the mea culpa is consistent with her brand identity. If you look at Rowling’s career, she has never been afraid to speak her mind and not back down. At this point, if she were to apologize for her remarks, it would be perceived by many as being insincere or just caving into pressure and going against her brand of telling like it is.”

Also Rowling seems passionate about what she said and determined to make a stand on it. In many ways, it has helped her because we are constantly talking about her far more than we would have without her remarks.

Johnson opined that standing her ground could help Rowling become a “pop favorite among those who oppose political correctness,” which is probably true, although if that happens I think Rowling will soon find herself cheered by the sort of people she never thought she’d be in league with.

Meanwhile, many of her former fans are drifting away, which Jordan sees as a natural consequence of taking the message of the books to heart. “The funniest thing is that those books … gave a whole generation of people a language of love and acceptance,” she said, “so the people who grew up internalizing those things are the same people who will turn their backs on her because she doesn’t live up to the lessons we read in those books.”

Next: J.K. Rowling signs letter condemning cancel culture

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The 100 Series Finale: EP Promises Closure, ‘Surprise Guests’ and More

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After seven seasons of interplanetary shenanigans (and occasional genocide), The 100‘s fight comes to an end this Wednesday (The CW, 8/7c). So, what can fans expect from the sci-fi drama’s final hour?

“We’re going to try and wrap up as many things as we can,” showrunner Jason Rothenberg tells TVLine. “It’s a finale — and it’s a series finale on top of that — so there will be some surprise guests. Fans can have expectations of a certain scope and scale that I feel we’ve always been able to achieve in these finales.”

Wednesday’s finale also marks Rothenberg’s directorial debut, an opportunity he simply couldn’t pass up. “This was a difficult season, because we also made a pilot within the season in the middle of everything,” he says. “And because we shot the pilot so late in the season, I went right from being on the set of the prequel to prepping the finale. … It was definitely a challenge, but I’m glad I did it. I kind of wish I’d done it earlier, so I could have four or five [episodes] under my belt now, but it would have been a regret had I not.”

And here’s a fun fact (about a not-so-fun moment): The final scene from last week’s episode, during which Clarke decided to relieve Madi of her pain, was originally intended to open the series finale. “I actually wrote and directed that scene,” Rothenberg admits. “But the finale was too long, so I had to put it at the end of the previous episode. That episode originally ended prior to Clarke making the decision to euthanize her child, so there was going to be a little more time — at least in the audience’s mind — before she got to that decision.”

So, which “surprise guests” are you hoping to see? And what are your hopes for Clarke and the gang in their final hour? Drop ’em all in a comment below.

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