Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Netflix: No Qwikster, and the SNL sketch that almost was

Netflix announced Monday that they're canceling their plans to split into two brands, Netflix for streaming and Qwikster for DVDs by mail, though there will still be an internal separation.

"Saturday Night Live" had a Netflix sketch planned that got cut for time, but they put it up online. It takes a shot at Netflix's public apologies, particularly this video. While the show elevates the situation for comedic effect, the setup isn't too far off from reality. SNL's Jason Sudeikis, playing Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, summarized what most see as Netflix's problems. "We raised our rates from $10 a month to $16 a month, but that's not all. We knew you loved Netflix because it was an easy to use website for all your movie needs. To make it better, we split it into two separate, slightly more confusing sites."

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Improv Lab aims to shake up traditional comedy world

Courtesy Jamie Flam

Improv Lab manager Jamie Flam

The Improv Lab is a 50-seat theater attached to the Hollywood Improv and marks an attempt by one of Los Angeles's traditional comedy clubs to try something different from the standard club formula. In an online editorial, Comedy Store marketing and development VP Alf LaMont wrote that "The Improv Lab is a ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak landscape."

Improv Lab manager Jamie Flam agrees with LaMont that one of the keys is developing talent. "It really is as simple as talking to people about their shows" and providing resources, Flam says. "Just talking about the show and helping give notes and feedback." Flam says that, as someone who knows other comedians and has produced hundreds of shows, he can recommend other comedians who should be on a show and give feedback on how to promote the show and what would take a show to the next level.

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On the road with singer-songwriter David Bazan

Kevin Lloyd/KPCC

David Bazan in an Aliso Viejo park.

Indie singer-songwriter David Bazan played a house show in Aliso Viejo Tuesday night. It's an example of the intimate connection he makes with fans both as a person and through his music, exploring topics like religion and political disillusionment in a deeply personal way.

Part of the way he connects with fans is by doing small house shows on his Living Room tours. He tours by himself, without a band, playing acoustic shows hosted by fans in their living rooms. The shows almost always sell out relatively quickly, as they're kept small due to the intimate venues. The sales are all done through Paypal. "I feel like the people that are at the shows have a good experience, and it builds trust."

Bazan says that doing these shows lets him come back to the same area more frequently than if he were to perform with his band at a rock club. He says he can do his solo tour in his van for under $100 a day, and gets a much higher percentage of tickets per person. "A lot of the things [I] do are geared so the pressure of money isn't the first thing on my mind."

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'Gossip Girl' moves from Upper East Side to beachside in new LA season

In the season 5 opener of popular CW guilty pleasure TV series "Gossip Girl," the excruciatingly rich Upper East Side cast find themselves in sunny Los Angeles. The cross-country move may be the last gasp of a show running out of New York plot twists, or it may simply be a chance to watch the fashion-heavy show take a stab at at west coast clothing.

The complicated, lusty and largely unbelievable plot of "Gossip Girl" unravels like a soap opera. The series began in 2007 with the teens in an upper crust private high school, and through an array of backstabbings, mental breakdowns, drug addictions and designer shoes, the beautiful cast manages to make it to graduation.

Although the series' narrative is decadent and addicting, the real mainstay of the show is the clothing. While there may be some wealthy real-life fashionistas who actually spend $1,000 on Christian Louboutin booties, for the rest of us, the show's a chance to be a voyeur into a world of indulgence.

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Tony Bennett performs at Staples Center for AARP hunger benefit

Tony Bennett's 85th Birthday Gala Benefit for Exploring the Arts

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Tony Bennett performs during his 85th Birthday Gala Benefit for Exploring the Arts at The Metropolitan Opera House on September 18, 2011 in New York City.

Tony Bennett performed Saturday night at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The concert was sponsored by AARP and benefited Drive to End Hunger, an effort to end hunger among older Americans. The venue was far from full, with the third level trapped off and large sections of open seats in the 100 level, as well as some open sections in the 200 level. The charity event likely made a good deal of money though, particularly thanks to tables in front of the stage with tickets coming in at over $1,500.

The event featured a special guest appearance by Stevie Wonder. Bennett introduced Wonder by saying, "He's a genius, and I don't use that word loosely." Wonder said he first heard Bennett sing when he was 14, and heard a song he fell in love with - "For Once In My Life." Bennett and Wonder dueted on that song, which Bennett had sung and Wonder later took and made into a hit himself. They'd also recorded a duet of the song for Bennett's first "Duets" album.

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