Thanks for reading The Backstory, our weekly digest of the best new work at Puck.
It was a fantastic week: Julia Ioffe reported on the negotiations stalemate in Moscow; Bill Cohan investigated the agita inside Goldman Sachs; Dylan Byers caught wind of the anxiety permeating The Washington Post; Tina Nguyen translated Ron DeSantis’s legal Morse code; Tara Palmeri broke the news on Chris Christie’s presidential ambitions; Matt Belloni had the skinny on a Sundance catastrophe; and Teddy Schleifer offered a deep reading of the latest S.B.F. fallout.
Check out these stories, and others, via the links below. And stick around for the backstory on how it all came together. Lastly, if you haven’t yet taken our reader survey, I implore you to fill it out here. It’ll only take a moment. Your feedback will help us immeasurably. Thanks.
Bill Cohan digs into the latest Goldman Sachs drama.
Eriq Gardner has the insight on a lawsuit for the ages.
Teddy Schleifer uncovers the next shoes to drop in the S.B.F. case.
Dylan Byers captures the Bezosian anxieties in the Washington Post newsroom.
Matt Belloni scoops a Sundance plot twist.
Jonathan Handel authors the definitive piece on the coming WGA battle.
Julia Alexander measures a new milestone for Netflix.
In case you missed it, Dylan and Julia go behind the scenes of an Oscar darling, Fire of Love.
Julia Ioffe assesses the diplomatic options for Ukraine.
Tara Palmeri breaks the news on Chris Christie’s ’24 strategy.
Tina Nguyen deciphers Ron DeSantis’s pre-campaign dog-whistle.
Matt recalls the absurdities of the Sumner Redstone era on The Town.
Peter and Tara dig into all the 2024 foreplay on The Powers That Be.
Meanwhile, I also encourage you to take advantage of our article gifting feature. You can share our work with your colleagues, friends, and family. Subscribers are entitled to 5 article gifts per month.
|On Tuesday afternoon, I was chatting on the phone with my partner Tara Palmeri about the latest reporting nuggets that she was amassing for her forthcoming column in The Best & The Brightest, Puck’s newish Washington private email. I’m an information addict, and my favorite part of my job is hearing what my colleagues are discovering in their various fields of expertise. Moreover, I’m also fascinated by the meta trends that naturally emerge—the intellectual cartography that comes together, really—as one sees the impact that Puck’s various power corners have on one another, how ideas bubbling in the entertainment business, say, matriculate to Washington, and vice versa.
Tara ran through a trove of fascinating tips: details about Kyrsten Sinema, the implacable Arizona independent, and Jeff Roe, the Zelig-like Republican consultant, before offering up a comment that sent coffee through my nose. Chris Christie, she told me, might be contemplating his own run for the presidency in 2024.
I did a double take. Did she mean the former star of Bridgegate, and early Trump supplicant who had been neutered by Jared Kushner, whose books no longer sold, and now seemed like a perennial green room addict from a bygone era? Indeed, she did. And then she dispensed with an even more interesting detail. Unlike Haley or Pence or Pompeo, and the other milquetoast Republican also-rans, a strategy was formulating that called for Christie to sit it out till late in the summer, essentially letting Trump and DeSantis engage in mutually assured political destruction, which might open a new lane. Only then, perhaps, would Christie emerge as a remaindered best option, possibly alongside opportunists such as Glenn Youngkin and Rick Scott.
This strategy, in particular, was mesmerizing. For a generation, political candidates have jousted to pre-empt their competitors and enter presidential contests as early as conveniently possible, thereby creating an air of inevitability, maximizing their fundraising opportunities, and sidelining foes. It hasn’t always worked successfully, but the rush to succeed in early primary states has generally been the predominant political strategy of our time. And yet the latest conventional thinking on the right suggests that it’s now wisest to delay an announcement for as long as possible. I implore you to read Tara’s excellent Chris Christie ’24 Chaos Theory to see just how far the pendulum has swung.
Sudden change, of course, is a familiar leitmotif in our work at Puck. Only a few years ago, Bob Iger set the dealmaking template for an entire industry when Disney stopped licensing its content to Netflix in order to leverage its I.P. armada for its own proprietary streaming service, Disney+. Now, our biggest entertainment media conglomerates are regularly re-opening their walled gardens, and looking to monetize their shows and films as ruthlessly as possible, whether that means licensing them to a competitor or a free ad-supported streaming service, or just disappearing the content altogether. In Netflix’s ‘Arrested’ Development, Julia Alexander brilliantly traces the arc of streaming history through the strategy for monetizing a single show.
For generations, from The Marshall Plan to Murphy Brown, our most enticing industries followed playbooks. The upheavals of the last 20 years—from Facebook to House of Cards, and Trump to SPACs—have slowly rendered them useless, or at least reminded us that they require endless revision as we chart these disruptive times. If you only have time to read one piece this weekend, I urge you to dig into Eriq Gardner’s brilliant reportage on the looming end of the college sports business as we know it. It’s the story of our time—a confection of money, lawyers, history, and transformation—and precisely the sort of tale that you can only find at Puck.
Have a great weekend,