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Netflix ‘Thai Cave Rescue’ Series Sets September Release, Claims Maximum Authenticity Amid Similar Projects



Netflix has set a Sept. 22 release date for “Thai Cave Rescue,” its six-part mini series about the dramatic events of July 2018 when 12 boys and their football coach were trapped in flooded limestone caves near Chiang Rai.

Their plight sparked an unprecedented international rescue effort that ended with the loss of just one life and a flurry of film and TV productions.

The Netflix series is at least the fourth on-screen retelling of the rescue tale and will follow two other efforts releasing over the next weeks. Netflix touts its series as “the most authentic and expansive retelling yet.”

First into the market, in 2019, was “The Cave,” by Thai-British director-producer Tom Waller, which mixed reconstructions and news footage. It gave prominent position to Europe-based rescue diver Jim Warny playing himself. And it broke ground by clearly depicting the controversial decision to fully sedate the boys during their extraction. Despite pushback from provincial officials, who sight unseen criticized the film’s depiction of their roles, “The Cave” enjoyed a local theatrical release in Thailand from Nov. 2019.

The National Geographic documentary, “The Rescue,” directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin played the festival circuit from Sept. 2021 and has been available on the Disney+ streaming platform since January this year. It made use of thousands of hours of body-cam footage from the actual divers and earned a BAFTA nomination.

Veteran Hollywood director, Ron Howard used an extensive Thai cast alongside international stars Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton and Tom Bateman, for his “13 Lives” produced by Amazon’s MGM. It filmed entirely in Australia, thus avoiding becoming a hostage to Thai government script approvals.

The film was initially expected to receive a wide theatrical release. Instead, it will now have a shorter cinema release from Friday (July 29, 2022), in some countries, before transitioning to Amazon’s Prime Video on Aug. 5.

The same day (Aug. 5, 2022), Lionsgate will give a limited theatrical and digital release to “Cave Rescue,” a re-edited version of Waller’s “The Cave.” A Blu-ray and DVD release of “Cave Rescue” will be in the market by Sept. 13, a week ahead of Netflix’s “Thai Cave Rescue.”

The Netflix series, while also a fictionalized retelling of real events, may present a different kind of authenticity. It was directed by Thailand’s Nattawut ‘Baz’ Poonpiriya (“One for the Road,” “Bad Genius”) and Thai American Kevin Tancharoen (“The Brothers Sun,” “The Book of Boba Fett,” “Warrior”). And it is the only filmic version that has been allowed access to the 12 boy members of the Wild Boars soccer team. Filming took place at the homes of the real boys and Tham Luang itself.

Thailand’s military-backed government set up a special purpose vehicle, 13 Tham Luang Company Limited, through which it controlled exclusive and lifetime rights to the boys. This ensured that each of the boys would be paid THB3 million (approximately $86,000 at current exchange rates) with additional sums paid to other organizations involved in the rescue. It then auditioned international companies that it would work with.

Pure Flix Entertainment and Universal had also announced cave projects. Universal’s pitch involved working with Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, who claimed earlier to have acquired the life rights of coach Ekkapol ‘Ekk’ Chantawong, Dr. Richard Harris, Dr. Craig Challen and the twelve boys. Neither of these ventures has come to fruition.

Company production credits on the Netflix series go to Electric Somewhere, SK Global Entertainment and Netflix. And Variety understands that the Thai government has no ownership stake in the series.

Both directors serve as executive producers alongside Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”) and Lance Johnson (“Troop Zero,” “The Equalizer”) for their Electric Somewhere company; John Penotti (“Crazy Rich Asians”) for SK Global and John Logan Pierson (“Spenser Confidential,” “Patriots Day”) and Tim Coddington (“Mulan,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Marco Polo”).

Created by Michael Russell Gunn (“Billions,” “Designated Survivor”) and Dana Ledoux Miller (“Designated Survivor,” “Narcos”), Netflix’s “Thai Cave Rescue” is nevertheless a fictionalized re-telling that deploys actors in key adult roles — park rangers, local officials and rescue divers — as well as the 12 real-life members of the boys soccer team. Nicholas Bell plays diver Vern Unsworth, Nicholas Farnell is John Volanthen, Christopher Stollery is Rick Stanton, Rodger Corser represents Dr. Richard “Harry” Harris and Damon Herriman portrays Dr. Craig Challen.

The Thai cast is led by Papangkorn ‘Beam’ Lerkchaleampote as football coach Eak, Thaneth ‘Ek’ Warakulnukroh as Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn, and Urassaya ‘Yaya’ Sperbund and Manatsanun ‘Donut’ Phanlerdwongsakul as Kelly and Pim — fictional representatives of the real-world hydraulic engineers and park rangers. Supakorn ‘Tok’ Kitsuwan plays former Thai Navy diver Saman ‘Ja Sam’ Gunan, while Bloom Varin plays army doctor Colonel Bhak Loharjun.

“ ‘Thai Cave Rescue’ is the first opportunity for audiences worldwide to see the Tham Luang story in a new and more emotional light — centering the perspectives of the 12 Wild Boars, Coach Eak, and heroes like Saman ‘Ja Sam’ Gunan, whose lives beyond the operation remain largely outside the public spotlight,” said Poonpiriya in a prepared statement.

“I wanted to bring my experience of telling big superhero stories to the real world. One where real-life superheroes worked together for a common cause regardless of where they were from, and the only superpowers are the perseverance of the human spirit and what we can accomplish when we work together,” said Tancharoen.

“For us, ‘Thai Cave Rescue’ is ultimately a story about family and what we decide family should be,” said showrunner, writer and executive producer Gunn. “From the boys’ own parents and guardians to thousands of local and international rescuers joining the mission, this was the entire world coming together as one big family. We intended for the show to cover not just the rescue operation but also what the Wild Boars went through inside the cave, and we believe our focus on achieving authenticity — from characters and languages to locations and emotions — will shine through.”

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‘The Masked Singer’ Season 8 Finale Reveals Identities of the Harp and Lambs: Here’s Who The Winners Are



SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched Season 8, episodes 11 and 12, of “The Masked Singer,” “Two-Hour Epic Finale,” which aired Nov. 30 on Fox.

“The Masked Singer” ended its eighth season on a “Glee”-ful note. Singer and actor Amber Riley, known for playing Mercedes Jones on Fox’s “Glee” and more recently for projects including “A Black Lady Sketch Show” and Lifetime’s “Single Black Female,” was revealed as this season’s winner on the Wednesday night finale.

Riley was unmasked as the Harp, beating out the Lambs — who were unmasked as 90s vocal group Wilson Phillips.

“It’s very validating as an artis,” Riley tells Variety about her win. “It can get very discouraging in this industry especially as a music artist. I’m pretty much a new artist, even though I’ve been in this industry a really long time… to hear all the amazing things that the judges had to say about me [has been validating]. Even seeing online the things that people had to say about me and how positive feedback has been. My voice has been my lifeline for my whole entire life. It’s saved me time and time again.

“This show is something that I didn’t know that I needed, to keep me growing,” she says. “It refueled me.”

For Harp, Nicole Scherzinger was correct with Amber Riley. Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg guessed Jordin Sparks. Robin Thicke thought it was Yvette Nicole Brown. Ken Jeong named Jennifer Hudson.

“I really did try to cover up my voice by singing heavier and lower, but I don’t know, they guessed me pretty early on,” Riley says. “Which was OK. It’s kind of flattering that your voice can be recognizable because it makes you feel like an original. And I knew that Nicole was going to guess me early on too. So, I wasn’t very surprised by that. But I was really flattered by the other guesses, like Jasmine Sullivan and Jennifer Hudson.”

For Lambs, Robin Thicke got it right with Wilson Phillips. Nicole Scherzinger agreed. Ken Jeong guessed the Kardashians, Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg thought it was The Chicks.

Amber Riley as the Harp and Wilson Phillips as Lambs join Nikki Glaser as Snowstorm, Ray Parker, Jr., as Sir Bugaboo, Linda Blair as Scarecrow, Chris Jericho as Bride, Adam Corolla as Avocado, George Foreman as Venus Flytrap, George Clinton as Gopher, Joey Lawrence as the Walrus, Le’Veon Bell as the Milkshake, Kat Graham as Robo Girl, Jerry Springer as Beetle, Gloria Gaynor as Mermaid, Mario Cantone as Maise, Daymond John as the Fortune Teller, Barry Williams/Christopher Knight/Mike Lookinland as the Mummies, Montell Jordan as Panther, Jeff Dunham as Pi-Rat, Chris Kirkpatrick as the Hummingbird, Eric Idle as the Hedgehog and William Shatner as the Knight as the celebrities revealed in “The Masked Singer” in Season 8.

This season, “The Masked Singer” adopted a new “King or Queen of Masked Singer” format. That meant three or four costumed celebrities performed each week, but only one moved on to compete against two or three more people the following week.

That led to the semi-finals, with the Harp surviving Round 1 and is the first to make it to the semi-finals, while Lambs won Round 2 and also joined the semis, with Snowstorm winning Round 3. Harp and Lambs moved on to tonight’s finale.

“The Masked Singer” Season 8 featured costumes including “Bride,” “Avocado,” “Venus Fly Trap,” “Sir Bugaboo,” “Scarecrow,” “Hedgehog,” “Mummies.” Themed episodes included “Vegas Night,” “Comedy Roast,” “Hall of Fame,” “Muppets Night,” “Andrew Lloyd Webber Night,” “TV Themes,” “’90s Night,” “Thanksgiving” and “Fright Night.” Guests this season included Donny Osmond, Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Muppets, Will Arnett, Leslie Jordan, Joel McHale, Tori Spelling, Jon Lovitz, Jodie Sweetin, Carrot Top, Blue Man Group, Lance Bass, Danielle Fishel, Sheila E. and Drew Carey.

The Season 8 contestants “boast a combined 32 Grammy nominations, 16 Emmy wins, 8 gold albums, 4 Golden Globe nominations, 42 books, 10 Teen Choice awards, and 5 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,” according to Fox.  

Here were the contestants and their performances on the finale:

Harp, “The Masked Singer” (Michael Becker / Fox)
Pete Dadds

Harp (Amber Riley)

Songs: “The Edge of Glory,” by Lady Gaga; “Gravity,” by John Mayer

Previous songs: “Perfect,” by Pink; “I Have Nothing,” by Whitney Houston; “Thank You for Being a Friend” (“The Golden Girls” theme song); “About Damn Time,” by Lizzo

Package voiceover: “Becoming the Harp has been unlike anything else I have experienced as an artist. When I step into this costume, I am transformed. I feel regal. Elegant. And totally weightless. Which is ironic because this thing is no joke to cart around. But really, it’s freeing. Being under the mask has allowed be to separate from former jobs, my name, what people expect from me, and prove myself with just my voice. I’ll always be the Harp.”

Journey voiceover: “When I started this journey, I had no idea just how much this competition would mean to me. I’ve spent years in an industry that doesn’t necessarily celebrate who I am all the time. In Hollywood, you can be overlooked based on a more shallow viewpoint. But being able to be the Harp and step out and show my talent alone has been absolutely amazing. This opportunity has allowed me to reintroduce myself to the world on my own terms. And hearing the panel’s words of encouragement week after week has reminded me that I am more than enough. I want to win it not just for myself, but for all the girls who have felt less than perfect. Do not underestimate us.”

Panel guesses: Jennifer Hudson, Yvette Nicole Brown, Fantasia, Amber Riley

Previous panel guesses: Amber Riley, Ashanti, Yvette Nicole Brown, Queen Latifah, Jordin Sparks, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, Jill Scott, Fantasia, Ariana DeBose

Lambs, “The Masked Singer” (Michael Becker / Fox)
Pete Dadds

Lambs (Wilson Phillips)

Songs: “I’m Every Woman,” by Chaka Khan; “I Want to Know What Love Is,” by Foreigner

Previous songs: “Hot N Cold,” by Katy Perry; “Ironic,” by Alanis Morissette; “Need You Now,” by Lady A

Package voiceover: “Becoming the Lambs has been a transformative experience. And it’s kind of unbelievable how attached to them we’ve become. We fully embody these characters. We gave ourselves names. I am Rose, my sister is Lilac and my other sister is Blueberry. We’ve been on stages almost our entire lives. But this experience has pushed us as a group and as individuals. And I don’t think we would have made it this far without each other. It will be a part of our lives forever. It’s our rebranding. We’ll make an album with animals. Pet Sounds, Volume 2!”

Journey voiceover: “Coming into this competition, we didn’t know what to expect. But we invited this challenge, and we walked through fire. It’s reinvigorated a spark that we haven’t lit in a very long time. We spent 14 years apart and we went our own ways. We became mothers and carved out our own lives and careers. But there was always a missing piece. Our unique sound is something we discovered as little girls. And if those harmonies that have bonded us together and set us apart from the rest of the competition here. Music is in our blood, it’s the air we breathe, it’s our life force.”

Panel guesses:  Spice Girls, The Chicks, Wilson Phillips, The Corrs

Previous panel guesses: The Kardashians, Haim, The Chicks, The Corrs, Fifth Harmony, SWV, All Saints, Spice Girls, Wilson Phillips

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Daredevil Sister Maggie Actor On Joining Daredevil: Born Again



Actor Joanne Whalley discusses possibly reprising her Daredevil role as Sister Maggie Grace in the upcoming Disney+ series, Daredevil: Born Again.

Actor Joanne Whalley discusses reprising her Daredevil role on the upcoming Disney+ series Daredevil: Born Again. Whalley starred as Sister Maggie Grace, a character introduced in season 3 of the popular Marvel Netflix show. After Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil (Charlie Cox), sustained heavy injuries in The Defenders, Father Paul Lantom (Peter McRobbie) entrusts him to Sister Maggie at the Saint Agnes Orphanage. The titular superhero later learns that Sister Maggie is actually his mother who abandoned him and his father due to post-partum depression.


In a recent interview with, Whalley addresses the possibility of reprising her role for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new Daredevil show, Daredevil: Born Again. The actor recalls the “great time” she had working on the original series. Read what Whalley says about her desire to reprise her role below:

“I loved Daredevil! I had such a great time on that, oh my God. I haven’t heard anything [about returning], but I would love to get the wimple on again, though. Talking about characters to play again, I loved her.”

Everything We Know About Born Again

Daredevil in a hallway in She-Hulk

As Whalley has yet to receive the call to reprise her role for the new Daredevil show, she joins other cast members still waiting to return to the franchise. They include Deborah Ann Woll, who portrayed Murdock’s assistant Karen Page, Rosario Dawson (Nurse Claire Temple), and Iron Fist star Jessica Henwick (Colleen Wing). However, Vincent D’Onofrio is set to reprise his role in the upcoming show as the villainous businessman and crime lord Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin. He so far is the only person confirmed to return for Daredevil: Born Again in addition to Cox.

Set to hit Disney’s streaming service in 2024 as part of the MCU’s Phase Five, Daredevil: Born Again season 1 will consist of 18 episodes, making it the longest of Disney+’s original Marvel shows thus far. Although little has been revealed regarding the upcoming series’ story, D’Onofrio previously teased that the show will delve further into the characters than ever before and leave viewers on the edge of their seat after each episode. Cox has also suggested Daredevil: Born Again won’t be a direct continuation of the original Netflix show. Unfortunately, how Daredevil: Born Again fits into the greater MCU continuity remains unknown.

Last year’s Hawkeye saw the return of D’Onofrio as Kingpin, but also introduced Maya Lopez/Echo (Alaqua Cox), an antagonist dead set on killing Clint Barton who later comes to question her motives and relationship to Kingpin. The new character is set to receive her own television series in mid-2023 which will also feature Kingpin and Murdock as well. With both hero and villain appearing in various shows on Disney+ before Daredevil: Born Again, Marvel Studios appears to be laying down the foundation for these iconic characters before the show lands on Disney+ in 2024.


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‘Love Is Blind’ Creator Chris Coelen Explains How Bold New Reality Show ‘Love Without Borders’ Can Resonate With Every Audience



Chris Coelen knows what makes a TV show work. As the CEO of Kinetic Content, his current slate of shows includes Lifetime’s “Married at First Sight,” Netflix’s “Love Is Blind” and “The Ultimatum,” just to name a few.

Now, he’s moving he’s teaming up with Bravo for the second time, following 2020’s “Spy Games.” In Kinetic’s latest unscripted series, “Love Without Borders,” five singles are looking to change the way they’re looking for love — and where they’re looking. They drop everything and fly across the globe to meet their match with the help of relationship expert Arica Angelo.

“It’s an idea that I really liked and it resonated with me. I felt like it had some residence within the culture. There’s a statistic that I saw in 2016 that said something like 60 million Americans, if given the opportunity to leave the country and be set up somewhere else, they would take that,” Coelen tells Variety. “And that was 2016. A lot has transpired since 2016.”

Like most of his projects, Coelen also felt he could relate to the premise personally.

“At certain points in my life, I was stuck in a rut professionally. I felt like my geographic location was a hindrance to find love, find someone that I wanted to be with. I felt like ‘Oh, my God, I really need to leave Los Angeles and moved to Oregon for some air, and that’s when I’m gonna find the woman of my dreams,’” he recalls. “I would think to myself, ‘This is never gonna happen in Los Angeles.’”

Ultimately, he was wrong but he knows that he’s not alone in that feeling.

“I think that’s very relatable for people who not only want to find love — who doesn’t want to find love? — but also, many people feel like they want to change their lives,” says Coelen. “I think this is a show that’s really rooted in that idea of people who feel like they want to change their lives as much as they want to find love.”

“Love Without Borders” premieres Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. ET.

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