Emmy Predictions from a Game of Thrones avoider

You may or may not be watching the Emmy Awards on Sunday night but chances are you will be sampling some of it.

That’s the way it works these days.  You try a little and then you switch to something else.  Or you switch to this and then you get hooked.

Or you binge it all Monday night at 11pm when you can’t begin to think of sleep and don’t want to think at all.

Or you do it in clips that people post on social media, as an afterthought.  This can be done in the tradition of hate watching or in admiration of a particular saucy or emotional acceptance speech you HAVE TO SEE at that moment.  Though it might also be an embarrassing tumble across the stage or a mangling of someone’s name, or two, three or four names that becomes MUST SEE TV, err, clip.

Never Forget… that hair

The game of television has changed.  So many options and so, so much more time to waste/spend on them.

Still, what is particularly outstanding about this year’s list of nominees is the sheer number of networks and platforms involved.  Remember when it was just NBC, CBS and ABC with a little PBS thrown in?

I do.

Then Fox became a player.  HBO, Showtime and the rest of pay cable quickly followed.  Not to mention basic cable.  Yes, this year they are well represented with major nominees from AMC, TBS, FX and even BBC America.

Sadly still no love for Hallmark’s wall to wall Christmas movies #CandaceCameronisVERYRich

Though truly there is a new frontier that’s arrived and will not let up until it’s total domination.  That would be Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

It’s tiring to name every streaming show and special that’s award worthy that you will never catch up with.  Unless, of course, that special or show wins an award Sunday night.  Then it becomes the star of the platform and gets featured for at least, well, a few hours.  Maybe even a few days.

All of the above and more has made it nearly impossible to predict who the Emmy winners will be.  You don’t watch everything out there that’s nominated and neither do the voters.  Though this is why we can do just well at predicting them as any other viewer or professional prognosticator.

In that spirit, here is your Sunday night (or Monday, or Tuesday night), cheat sheet:

 

 

 

Outstanding Competition Program

Shantay, you stay

The Amazing Race • CBS

American Ninja Warrior • NBC

Nailed It! • Netflix

RuPaul’s Drag Race • VH1

Top Chef • Bravo

The Voice • NBC

For bringing drag into the mainstream  (Note: Never thought I’d write or read that sentence) –

Winner:  RuPaul’s Drag Race

 

Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series

Documentary Now! • IFC

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee • TBS

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver • HBO

Late Night With Seth Meyers • NBC

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert • CBS

Saturday Night Live • NBC

They all have their moments.  But ultimately it’s –

Winner:  Last Week With John Oliver

 

Outstanding Directing For A Variety Series

Documentary Now!, “Waiting For The Artist,” Alex Buono and Rhys Thomas • IFC

Drunk History, “Are You Afraid Of The Drunk?” Derek Waters • Comedy Central

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, “Psychics,” Paul Pennolino • HBO

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, “Live Midterm Election Show,” Jim Hoskinson • CBS

Saturday Night Live, “Host : Adam Sandler,” Don Roy King • NBC

Who Is America?, “Episode 102,” Sacha Baron Cohen, Nathan Fielder, Daniel Gray Longino and Dan Mazer • Showtime

We have NO idea.  You choose.

Oh, okay.

Winner:  Saturday Night Live, Don Roy King

This was one of the sweetest TV moments of the year #almostforgot

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah • Comedy Central

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee • TBS

Jimmy Kimmel Live! • ABC

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver • HBO

The Late Late Show With James Corden • CBS

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert • CBS

Simply put, John Oliver killed it this year and the majority of voters know it and love him for it.

Winner: Last Week with John Oliver

 

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

At Home With Amy Sedaris • truTV

Documentary Now! • IFC

Drunk History • Comedy Central

I Love You, America With Sarah Silverman • Hulu

Saturday Night Live • NBC

Who Is America? • Showtime

Until Trump is out of office, SNL feels like a lock in this category.  We coastal elites do what we can.

Winner:  Saturday Night Live

 

Outstanding Television Movie

What’s old is new again #2019TVMotto

Bandersnatch (Black Mirror) • Netflix

Brexit • HBO

Deadwood • HBO

King Lear • Prime Video

My Dinner With Hervé • HBO

It’s gonna be the return of HBO’s Deadwood. The voters really don’t want to give it to the interactive Black Mirror.  Partly because that would mean they have to deal with interactive television.

Winner:  Deadwood

 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie

Different kind of Brexit

Stellan Skarsgård, Chernobyl • HBO

Paul Dano, Escape At Dannemora • Showtime

Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal • Prime Video

Asante Blackk, When They See Us • Netflix

John Leguizamo, When They See Us • Netflix

Michael K. Williams, When They See Us • Netflix

This is another really tough category of wonderful performances that couldn’t be more different.  The most unusual of the bunch is Ben Whishaw’s gay boy toy who would NOT be ignored or discounted or marginalized, even back in the 1960s..  Truth be told, he was pretty funny, too, and the voters like that.

Winner:  Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal

 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie

Patricia Arquette, The Act • Hulu

Emily Watson, Chernobyl • HBO

Margaret Qualley, Fosse/Verdon • FX Networks

Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects • HBO

Marsha Stephanie Blake, When They See Us • Netflix

Vera Farmiga, When They See Us • Netflix

It will likely be the always terrific Patricia Clarkson for her performance as the devious Mom in Sharp Objects.  Nevertheless, The Chair has a feeling that Emily Watson’s deliberate, truth-telling scientist in Chernobyl won’t be denied.

Winner:  Emily Watson, Chernobyl

 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie

This is a tough one

Jared Harris, Chernobyl • HBO

Benicio del Toro, Escape At Dannemora • Showtime

Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon • FX Networks

Mahershala Ali, True Detective • HBO

Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal • Prime Video

Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us • Netflix

Dreading this category.  You could make a convincing case for each actor to win.  Still, using dramatic long form dramatic television acting as the barometer it boils down to Jared Harris in Chernobyl and Jharrel Jerome in When They See Us.  Both gave us heartbreaking, career-defining performances in totally different vehicles.  For pure intensity of emotion and riveting breakout moments –

Winner: Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us

 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie

Joey King, The Act • Hulu

Patricia Arquette, Escape At Dannemora • Showtime

Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon • FX Networks

Amy Adams, Sharp Objects • HBO

Aunjanue Ellis, When They See Us • Netflix

Niecy Nash, When They See Us • Netfli

Yes, they were all good.  But bringing the real Gwen Verdon back to life for us?  Please.

Winner:  Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon

Start practicing that speech Michelle!

 

Outstanding Writing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Dramatic Special

Chernobyl, Craig Mazin • HBO

Escape At Dannemora, “Episode 6,” Brett Johnson, Michael Tolkin and Jerry Stahl • Showtime

Escape At Dannemora, “Episode 7,” Brett Johnson and Michael Tolkin • Showtime

Fosse/Verdon, “Providence,” Steven Levenson and Joey Fields • FX Networks

A Very English Scandal, Russell T. Davies • Prime Video

When They See Us, “Part Four,” Ava DuVernay and Michael Starrbury • Netflix

Oh gosh, who knows???  We live in a TV landscape with seemingly endless, brilliantly done limited series.  All were unique and had incredibly strong episodes.  But for the overall cohesive body of work on every episode –

Winner:  Craig Mazin, Chernobyl

 

Outstanding Directing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Dramatic Special

Make way for the next EGOT winner (step 1)

Chernobyl, Johan Renck • HBO

Escape At Dannemora, Ben Stiller • Showtime

Fosse/Verdon, “Glory,” Jessica Yu • FX Networks

Fosse/Verdon, “Who’s Got The Pain,” Thomas Kail • FX Networks

A Very English Scandal, Stephen Frears • Prime Video

When They See Us, Ava DuVernay • Netflix

It comes down to whether the evocation of nuclear disaster or American racism had the biggest effect on the voters.  This year it’s the racism.

Winner:  Ava DuVernay, When They See Us

 

Outstanding Limited Series

About to walk into Emmy history

Chernobyl • HBO

Escape At Dannemora • Showtime

Fosse/Verdon • FX Networks

Sharp Objects • HBO

When They See Us • Netflix

The good news is that there are numerous award-worthy entries in this category.  The bad news is that only one will win.  Given the voting membership of the TV Academy and the timeliness of the material despite it being a period piece, Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us will likely not go unseen.

Winner: When They See Us

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series

Barry, “ronny/lily,” Alec Berg and Bill Hader • HBO

Fleabag, “Episode 1,” Phoebe Waller-Bridge • Prime Video

The Good Place, “Janet(s),” Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan • NBC

PEN15, “Anna Ishii-Peters,” Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle • Hulu

Russian Doll, “Nothing In This World Is Easy,” Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler • Netflix

Russian Doll, “A Warm Body,” Allison Silverman • Netflix

Veep, “Veep,” David Mandel • HBO

Phoebe Waller-Bridge created Killing Eve AND Fleabag.  The unexpected six-episode second season of Fleabag was a perfect package of writing genius.  Ask EVERYONE.   Not to take away from the other very worthy nominees, but –

Winner:  Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag, Episode 1

Only she can pull this off

 

Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series

Barry, “The Audition,” Alec Berg • HBO

Barry, “ronny/lily,” Bill Hader • HBO

The Big Bang Theory, “The Stockholm Syndrome,” Mark Cendrowski • CBS

Fleabag, “Episode 1,” Harry Bradbeer • Prime Video

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “All Alone,” Amy Sherman-Palladino • Prime Video

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “We’re Going To The Catskills!” Daniel Palladino • Prime Video

Boy, the “We’re Going to the Catskills” episode of Maisel was masterfully directed.  Yet the Academy has a love affair with Barry and Bill Hader that feels unstoppable.

Winner:  Bill Hader, Barry,” ronny/lily”

 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

For this sequence alone…

Anthony Carrigan, Barry • HBO

Stephen Root, Barry • HBO

Henry Winkler, Barry • HBO

Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method • Netflix

Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel • Prime Video

Tony Hale, Veep • HBO

The Television Academy LOVES Tony Shalhoub and he had a number of especially strong episodes this time out.

Winner:  Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

Sarah Goldberg, Barry • HBO

Sian Clifford, Fleabag • Prime Video

Olivia Colman, Fleabag • Prime Video

Betty Gilpin, GLOW • Netflix

Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel • Prime Video

Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel • Prime Video

Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live • NBC

Anna Chlumsky, Veep • HBO

Eight nominees in a category?  Really?  But it doesn’t feel like anyone can beat what Alex Borstein does with the snidest New Yorker ever on TV.  Not even Oscar winner Olivia Colman or SNL’s Queen of Everything Kate McKinnon.

Winner:  Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

.. but only because I was robbed.. right Chairy? #wealreadymissyouLeslie

 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

Bill Hader, Barry • HBO

Don Cheadle, Black Monday • Showtime

Anthony Anderson, black-ish • ABC

Ted Danson, The Good Place • NBC

Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method • Netflix

Eugene Levy, Schitt‘s Creek • Pop TV

Hollywood loves a loveable assassin who wants to be an actor.  Or is it up and coming loveable actors who employ all the traits of a trained assassin that they love?

Winner:  Bill Hader, Barry

 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

She’s gonna need more hands

Christina Applegate, Dead To Me • Netflix

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag • Prime Video

Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel • Prime Video

Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll • Netflix

Catherine O’Hara, Schitt ‘s Creek • Pop TV

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep • HBO

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is among the most Emmy honored in history and had a triumphant final season after battling cancer in real life.  Plus, this is the last opportunity to award her work on Veep.  Despite the heavy competition, it’s –

Winner:  Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

 

Outstanding Comedy Series

Who’s it gonna be?

Barry • HBO

Fleabag • Prime Video

The Good Place • NBC

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel • Prime Video

Russian Doll • Netflix

Schitt‘s Creek • Pop TV

Veep • HBO

It should be Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Russian Doll, with Schitt’s Creek or The Good Place as the dark horses.  But it will be between Barry and Veep.  Why?  Because the TV Academy NEVER honors the comedy series that I believe in my heart of hearts should win.  (Note: Except last year when Maisel won).  So I bet they give it to the last season of –

Winner:  Veep  (Note:  Barry is a very close second and could win).

 

 

 

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series

You can’t beat Villanelle in this scene

Better Call Saul, “Winner,” Peter Gould and Thomas Schnauz • AMC

Bodyguard, “Episode 1,” Jed Mercurio • Netflix

Game Of Thrones, “The Iron Throne,” David Benioff and D.B. Weiss • HBO

The Handmaid’s Tale, “Holly,” Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder •

Killing Eve, “Nice And Neat,” Emerald Fennell • BBC America

Succession, “Nobody Is Ever Missing,” Jesse Armstrong • HBO

Without giving too much away, the “Nice and Neat” episode of Killing Eve was one twisted piece of writing in the very best way.  Of course, so was Episode 1 of Bodyguard.  Ditto the pilot of Succession.  Aaargh!!!!!  Okay, let’s once again go out on a limb here.

Winner:  Killing Eve, Emerald Fennell

 

Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series

Game Of Thrones, “The Iron Throne,” David Benioff and D.B. Weiss • HBO

Game Of Thrones, “The Last Of The Starks,” David Nutter • HBO

Game Of Thrones, “The Long Night” Miguel Sapochnik • HBO

The Handmaid’s Tale, “Holly,” Daina Reid • Hulu

Killing Eve, “Desperate Times,” Lisa Brühlmann • BBC America

Ozark, “Reparations,” Jason Bateman • Netflix

Succession, “Celebration,” Adam McKay • HBO

Oh gosh, again?  Well, no.  Despite the odds makers saying it will be that really long  83-minute episode on that show that has three nominees in this category we’re not having it.  The pilot to Succession IS a justly sad commentary, an the evocation of an American Armageddon of amorality.

Winner:  Adam McKay, Succession

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Gwendoline Christie, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Lena Headey, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Sophie Turner, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Maisie Williams, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve • BBC America

Julia Garner, Ozark • Netflix

It would be great to live in a world where four in a category was seen as overkill and Fiona Shaw could win for one of the most delicious deadpan performances on TV in Killing Eve.  But she won’t and we don’t.  Instead bet on the scene-stealer in you know what — and this one stabbed her way to the top (or so I’m told, I have no idea)

Winner:  Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones

The Chair has no idea what this is #justthetruth

 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul • AMC

Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul • AMC

Alfie Allen, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Michael Kelly, House Of Cards • Netflix

Chris Sullivan, This Is Us • NBC

The rule is when you have three or more actors from a show nominated in the same category, one of them has to win.   So let’s go with the brooding intensity of –

Winner:  Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

Miss Eve Pilastri

Emilia Clarke, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Robin Wright, House Of Cards • Netflix

Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder • ABC

Jodie Comer, Killing Eve • BBC America

Sandra Oh, Killing Eve • BBC America

Laura Linney, Ozark • Netflix

Mandy Moore, This Is Us • NBC

Sandra Oh is a beautiful, irresistible mess on Killing Eve.  That is all.

Winner:  Sandra Oh, Killing Eve

 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

You know you want this acceptance speech

Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul • AMC

Kit Harington, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Jason Bateman, Ozark • Netflix

Billy Porter, Pose • FX

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us • NBC

Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us • NBC

We’re a sucker for Milo Ventimiglia on This Is Us. Or maybe it’s his character, the now deceased but never really dead great dad, Jack Pearson.  Though maybe we just have our own Dad issues.  (Note:  Maybe?).

Still, it’s not Milo’s year.  That honor goes to Billy Porter for his work on Pose.  Playing a gay man in the AIDS era on weekly television is a first that will be rewarded.

Winner:  Billy Porter, Pose

Outstanding Drama Series
Better Call Saul • AMC
Bodyguard • Netflix
Game Of Thrones • HBO
Killing Eve • BBC America
Ozark • Netflix
Pose • FX Networks
Succession • HBO
This Is Us • NBC

Oh, please.  Is there even a possibility Game of Thrones won’t win?  It’ll be worth it to never have to read another story on it again.

Yes, yes, riveting storytelling, intelligently done, blah, blah, blah.   But we’d give it to Succession, the timeliest and sickest reflection on where we, as a society, truly are at this moment in time.  And…we’re not voting.

Winner:  Game of Thrones

Pose – House Evangelista vs. House of Ferocity

 

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Good Luck Shane

Saturday Night Live announced earlier this week it signed a comedian named Shane Gillis for its upcoming season and there’s already a lot of backlash.

Like, a lot.

See, Shane’s primary shtick is playing the aggrieved, tough-talking, straight white guy who tells it like it is under the guise of comedy.  Though what this consists mainly of is him hurling politically incorrect insults at Asians, women, LBTQ people, Muslims and other straight men he thinks are too soft because they’re either too depressed or too PC-acting for his tastes.

When do the jokes start?

Though I’ve never seen Shane live I’ve listened to about an hour of his comedy from various clips and podcasts (Note: Some of which he tried to scrub from the Internet but have since resurfaced.  Let that be a lesson to all of us).

Suffice it to say, they’re peppered with bon mots like:

White chicks are literally the bottom of the comedy chain,

Judd Apatow and Chris Gethard are f-cking gayer than ISIS and white faggot comics and,

Heavily accented imitations of chinks in Chinatown (Note: Not since Mickey Rooney in Breakfast and Tiffany’s) as well as numerous references to chink food.

Yup, Shane’s clearly got a comic persona.

Oh I see, he’s an asshole.

But he doesn’t present as a caricature of machismo like, say, Andrew Dice Clay or in the category of smarmy walking/talking radio id like Howard Stern did back in his shock jock days.

Instead, Shane simply comes across as, well, one of the boys.  The type of guy that hangs out at comedy clubs and bars, stays for drinks afterwards and has opinions, lots of opinions.

This is almost too polite

His delivery isn’t unusually exaggerated nor does it feel drunk or even particularly ranting.   Rather, he seems to mean every single thing he is saying, and not in an Andy Kaufman-esque, are you putting me on way.

It makes one wonder, what is the stuff he’s choosing not to say and would I be safe if a guy like that became popular and got in the White House?

Oh, oops.

but also ughhhhh

Certainly, don’t take my word for any of this.  You can listen here to any number of Shane clips here or here and judge for yourself.

The question now is, what are we (and NBC) to do with our fellow traveler Shane?

Object too strenuously to him and we’re accused of being the freedom-hating censors that we claim to loathe and resent.   We can’t take a joke and we’re humorless, unless of course the joke is on anybody but us.

Wait, I’ll get my coat

Yet if we simply stay quiet and let the free market dictate Shane’s fate we are denying ourselves our first amendment right to speak up and out about that which we are aggrieved by.  And history shows that for those of us who are NOT in the straight white male majority no good can come of that (or us).  Reverting to silence and behaving is how our nightmare started to begin with.

So, what’s a double minority like the Chair to do?

What’s any minority to do?

Heck, what are the straight white guys who DO NOT share Shane’s aggrieved view of the world, nor think it’s particularly funny, to do other than think to themselves that these days THEY just might be the most aggrieved minority of us all because they can’t complain about anything to anyone out loud anymore and NOT be called on the carpet by EVERYONE except Shane, et al, for it?

Nope, Chairy, not getting me to feel bad for this.

Well after some thought I, for one, think we should just let Shane be Shane on NBC’s Saturday Night Live and see what happens to him in our 2019 social media infested world.

Allow him to stew for a while in the town square of Twitter.  Give him and the SNL writing team time to work up his first couple of mini-appearances on NBC late night and see if any of those routines get more hits than the racist ones already existing on YouTube.

Then…let’s see if, in turn, he gets invited to the White House.  Or, better yet winds up there some years later by some fluke of electoral fiat via social media platform performance.

Um.. wait… what? #StanKenan4ever

What, it’s happened before to the unlikeliest of NBC stars?

But this time we’ll be ready.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Right now Shane is merely a rookie member of the group formerly known as The Not Ready For Prime Time Players.  It takes at least a full season to be bumped up to first string and, well, who knows where we’ll all be by then.

Hopefully, funnier.

Frank Sinatra – “High Hopes”

 

UPDATE!! Welp, Shane was fired... so I guess… 

NEVERMIND!

Home is where the….?

There’s a fascinating movie now available on Amazon entitled The Last Black Man in San Francisco.  It’s a semi-autobiographical story about its star and co-writer Jimmie Fails and his odyssey to reclaim the old Victorian-style house his grandfather built many decades ago in San Francisco.

The film is about many things and is quite artfully done.  But ultimately it very masterfully asks us to consider the loaded and timeless question of:

What is home?

It’s difficult, and short sighted, NOT to think about the answer these days.

A coat of paint, and a whole lotta heart

The ravages of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, where we’re now being told current estimates of under 100 dead are likely to jump into the 1000s, are seen not only in TV satellite shots of rubble that were once more than habitable houses.  They are equally felt on the faces of every displaced Bahamian staring back at us from the wreckages or through the ache in their voices on radio or through the telephone.

That tone and those images are eerily familiar.  They build from last year’s wildfires in California, the devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Florida (Note: $91.61 billion in damages, according to estimates), which were preceded by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey earlier that year, which built on various other blizzards, floods, hurricanes and fires in the two years before in the U.S., all of which (and more) harken us back to what feels to be (but surely won’t be) the granddaddy/parent of them all in the U.S., Louisiana’s Hurricane Katrina (2005 and $125 billion in damages).

It is important to note that in human terms, over 150 million people were displaced internationally due to national disasters in just the time period between 2008-2013.  Still, that number doesn’t even include any of the disasters randomly mentioned above.

What she said

Nevertheless, there is ONE bright spot we can safely assume in all of this:

The vast majority of ALL of these people in all of these disasters still have a place in their lives THEY call home.

Last Black Man in San Francisco, a multiple winner at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, forces us to confront our value judgments on where people live and how they live these days.

Sure, an old Victorian townhouse in one of the great urban cities in the US is nice and trendy and all that and more.  Yet it all depends on where that particular piece of brick and metal and neighborhood fall in your personal (and racial) hierarchy and in what year it’s being rated.

How much do you think Don Draper’s whorehouse is going for these days? #stillthinkingaboutit #madmenforever #jonhamm

If you live in a big city it’s likely the hip area you’ve probably overpaid handsomely for was once a slum, an ordinary working class neighborhood or even a downtown factory outlet on the wrong side (or no side) of town.

You may think you’re hip and cool now but the same people who lived in that same place 40 years prior were on the outside world looking in and considered anything but.  Nevertheless, their place might have also been considered a whole lot homier than what you’ve made of it.  Perhaps they themselves were even a lot happier.

And if we were to really stretch the metaphor that could even be said for the guy whose only house consisted entirely of an illegal tent pitched in the alleyway of one of those streets or cul-de-sacs not more than a block from you.

Really?

Yes, truly.

Right, Chairy, it’s real easy to philosophize about all this when YOU’RE writing with a roof over YOUR over-privileged head!!

Well, perhaps.

But no one (Note: Not even Chairy) is advocating living without a bed and/or a place to stay warm or cool, is what most humans want.  It’s just that, well, NOT having these material comforts does not make anyone homeless in the truest sense of the word.

To brand a person as homeless is to dehumanize them.  It is to relegate them to a category of disenfranchised and forces them into some overall sad statistic WE can keep a healthy distance from.

It is to also put them into a group too many of us Americans these days want to keep a distance from.

When people are homeless we assume they lost the home they had, are fleeing some inferior home they occupied in some unwise place or for some unknown reason for which THEY are solely to blame.  Or are not smart enough.  Or were born into a caste system where they never really had the very basic of human needs.

Yes #kindnessalwayswins

Whichever is the case, and in some cases we assume there are many, clearly THEY are not US.  Most certainly they are also lesser than.

The images of so many immigrant families standing on line, or in 2019 American parlance cutting in line, in order to make a life in the United States is our other new version of those people without homes.  Those people who are homeless.

Imagine the effort it takes to leave the place in which you were raised by accident of your birth and come to a strange country where you likely do not speak the language and have few, if any prospects other than the fact that you won’t be murdered in cold blood.

Could YOU make the journey?  Would YOU make the journey?  Finally, WHY would YOU make the journey?

You were born and raised in Honduras, Nicaragua, Syria, Guatemala, et al.  You’d leave everything behind with the pipe dream of making your home in the United States?  What could possibly make you think a homeless person should be lucky enough to be given a HOME in the United States???

Of course, the answer is every one of those people making that journey already have a HOME, i.e. a place where they can feel safe and warm, because they brought it with them from their own country. 

We should all be the Baileys welcoming the Martinis #breadsaltwine

It might not be brick and mortar or discernible by the contents of their suitcases or the money in their wallets.  Sometimes, it is merely a spot where they know they are okay, or will be okay in the face of adversity.  For each and every one of us, home is at least partly that or we are, indeed, the ones who are truly homeless.

As the world shifts, drowns and burns, and the borders of our respective countries of origin are slowly beginning to be sealed off, it’s important we be clear on who and what makes a real home.

As the offspring of two sets of immigrant grandparents, and a member of at least two minority groups still persecuted very actively worldwide, I know how and where I LIVE is not the determinant of who I AM.

… plus it’s not like I have an infinity pool #soLA

I especially know this after buying my first house a mere three years ago in a city prone these days to natural disasters.

If I lost it tomorrow, yes, I’d be devastated.  But I would never consider myself homeless.

Nor should you.  In regards to yourself or anyone else.  And that’s especially true if you right now you are fortunate enough to have any sort of physical roof over your head.

Diana Ross – “Home” (from The Wiz)

So Long, Dear Friend

The death of Valerie Harper this week got me to thinking about TV characters and the people who love them.

This is Us.

You see what I did there.  Even in writing about television a TV reference sneaks in.

For those too young to remember, Valerie Harper played Rhoda Morgenstern, Mary Richards’s talky, funny, Jewish best friend forever neighbor on the famed Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s.  She was so popular she was later spun off as the star of her own show, Rhoda, where she was given a fuller life, less catastrophic dates and, finally, a hunky man who became her husband in one of the highest rated episodes on TV at the time.

Picture Perfect

Of course, television being what it was/is, she eventually had to get divorced (Note: for no good reason, in my opinion) so the whole cycle of jovial unhappiness could begin again.

I grew up with Rhoda and she meant a lot to me, mostly because I knew her.  In the seventies there were 0.0 young Jewish New Yorkers on hit television shows and certainly none as instantly recognizable and human as Rhoda.  We all not only knew her, we were her on any given day.

And who wouldn’t want to be?

The head scarves alone!

Rhoda joked about her life being a mess but she wore vibrant colors, had perfect one-liners for every occasion and was smart.  Moreover, she was a survivor.  You always knew Rhoda would be okay and even if you couldn’t literally be her or have her physically in your life you wanted her to at least be in your living room or bedroom or wherever you watched television, with you, whenever possible.

Much of this was due to Valerie Harper’s ability to embody a well-written sitcom role, take her beyond the laughs and make her feel real.  It was just impossible to believe that in real-life she wasn’t Jewish, didn’t speak with a trace of a New York accent and had never appeared in a TV comedy before she became Rhoda.  But she wasn’t, she didn’t and she never had.

Yes way! #acting

Certainly, you don’t have to be a Jewish New Yorker to play one but back in the 1970s, and even now, many performers become so obsessed with playing us that they get the accent and the mannerisms exactly right to the point where they are not playing anything else.   They (nee we) become wawking, tawking hand-waving neurotics ready to mow down anything and anyone that gets in our way.

Okay, sure, we are all of that.  (Note: See Larry David on any given day, even though he long ago transplanted to L.A.).  But there are times when we also do color outside our given lines.  Rhoda always did that and without a very special episode where a beloved relative gets hit by a car and she has to deal with it seriously.  Or one where she’s chastised by everyone around her for making a bad joke about the accident. (Note: See Larry David again).

See? Relatable.

Of course, this phenomenon stretches across all ethnic, sexual and religious lines.  As a gay man I’ve cringed, ranted and left the room numerous times over the years as some straight actor badly pretended he was a certain type of homosexual male and then went on to win an award for said performance.

What? Who? #shade

Name your minority group and I bet you could, too.

Meaning, we all need our Rhodas.

Luckily times have changed and, with it, the level of writing, especially on what is now broadly considered to be contemporary television.   Given where cable and streaming series have taken us, it is not unusual in these times for many actors to transcend their actual selves and portray believable niche characters that bear little relation to whom they truly are in real life.

But they exist in a 2019 world where the roles are a lot deeper and niche is the new…Black? Asian? Jewish? Gay? Hispanic?

…or if you’re Andre Braugher: Black, Gay, and a Police Captain for the NYPD

It is also a world where, ironically, the brilliant work Valerie Harper did might today almost be required to be done by a New York, Jewish actress.  See if that gets you to thinking a whole host of non-PC as well as PC thoughts.

This is exactly the point where, for me, television comes in handy.  Every time things get too heavy or confusing in my life I know l can feel comfort in being able to wander onto the couch – or if it’s really bad, a bed – and spend minutes or hours with a whole host of non-existent people who, in those moments, are as real to me as anyone I’ve ever met.  By my count over the years:

Lucy Ricardo’s determination made show business not seem all that bad.

 Murphy Brown allowed me to hold out hope that in the end journalism would get the last  laugh, and word.

Let’s just not talk about the reboot, OK?

 Olivia Benson on the street reinforced to me that on balance there is someone to protect those of us who somehow managed to survive against all odds.

 Don Draper shamed me back to the gym for fear we (or the actor playing him) happen to meet on a busy NYC street (or preferably empty stuck elevator) during one of my yearly trips.

working on my time machine right now

Walter White scared me into always protecting myself by reminding me there can still be great danger around the corner because anyone could break bad.  

Liz Lemon made me feel sane and well adjusted, by comparison.

Jack Pearson helped me imagine a world where I really did want to spend time with every member of my extended family, and

Midge Maisel made me laugh, cringe and sometimes cry at seeing all of my dead relatives and their friends on the small screen in ways that I could never have imagined in the days when I first met Rhoda.

What is it about funny ladies in good headwear?

RIP good friend.

I will still miss you even though I can see you tomorrow and every day of the week for the rest of my life.

Rhoda Opening / Closing Credits Season 1 

Tiny Dancer

So 6-year-old Prince George of England got mocked this week on network television for loving ballet.

It happened on ABC’s Good Morning America as pop culture correspondent Lara Spencer reported on the young boy’s curriculum in school.

After telling us he will take classes in computer programming, religious studies and poetry, Spencer could barely contain herself when she had to include ballet on the list.

It seems Prince William, George’s dad, revealed George absolutely loves ballet, Spencer noted through now full on giggles.

Yeah, we’re with you Rosie

Which then morphed into uproarious gales of laughter from the studio audience AND from GMA host George Stephanopoulos.  To which Ms. Spencer knowingly remarked, staring snidely into the camera:

I have news for you, Prince William, we’ll see how long that lasts.

Umm, what year is this???  Okay, if you say so.

I must confess that when I first heard about this I thought:

Oh Chairy, in the scheme of things, is it really THAT big of a deal.  I mean, look what’s going on in the world????

Point taken.

Not to mention, the f-n’ Rainforest is burning down and all those animals with it. Its destruction will destabilize weather patterns, threaten food production and cause…

Not today, Satan

I said POINT TAKEN!  To myself and, now, to you.

Nevertheless, and despite all my best efforts, I still can’t stop thinking about young George.  The idea that another little boy has to endure being mocked for wanting to dance or draw or sing or color… and on national TV no less….

I mean…

What year was Billy Elliot?  2000?  That was almost TWO DECADES ago.  And we’re not even including the 2008 Tony Award winning Broadway musical.

But we’ve entered a 21st century renaissance these last few years, haven’t we?  One in which we have been tasked to re-fight and re-litigate all of those pesky social issues we thought we had settled way back in the sixties and seventies.

Oh we hear them loud and clear, believe me

Men have the right to be men, especially when it comes their business(ES).  In business, anything goes.  Pollution is not personal, only profits are personal.

How big is the Rainforest? That BIG?  So can’t we spare a few hundred miles so your father can make a living?  If he doesn’t have a job or a company, you don’t eat, our worldwide economy slowly goes into the toilet and our standard of living….

Well, don’t even get me started.

And now we’re panicking. #ripEarth

This is why it’s not cool to have important boys like George, future world leaders, wasting their time with… ballet?

I mean, what IS important or worthy of any productive future MAN’s attention??  Certainly not… grand jetés and rondelets.

Get em’ George.

There’s a kind of insidious strongman sensibility circulating worldwide right now.  It seeks to define our aspirations, what we find valuable and how we define our behavior not only personally but towards the world and, most importantly, towards each other.

This is not about Lara Spencer, a woman who I never see on television and have no reference to other than at one time she used to host Antiques Roadshow. (Note:  Which in itself is proof she should know better).

Oh, and if truth be told I also once saw her on Flea Market Flip, a cheesy HGTV show I just remembered I watched five episodes of one lazy weekend afternoon before this current strongman nightmare started.

If only that show continued maybe she and I wouldn’t be in this pickle right now.

The show is still on, Chairy. #lol

Anyway, just like it’s now not okay to make fun of little girls who like to play basketball or soccer it’s now not okay to shame little boys who prefer to pirouette. Not only that but, mocking, shaming or snidely laughing at anyone of any age who loves to do something that doesn’t hurt anyone else is NEVER okay.

Don’t worry about me, Chairy. I’m like so, so, so, rich.

One would think this wouldn’t bear repeating but we seem to be living in a time when everything needs to be repeated ad infinitum, even the fact that you shouldn’t shame boys (or girls) under 10.

Though how are we to know that when half of the world leaders seem okay to hunt them, starve them, lock them up in cages or do worse.   And often right in plain sight, sometimes even on camera.

Is the affront like the one that happened to Prince George, earth shattering?  No.  Though once you really think about it, perhaps the answer is yes.

In the meantime here’s a challenge for Lara Spencer and all those supporting her, male or female:

Film yourself doing a proper twirl around the house to, say, Swan Lake, if you think it’s so easy.  We’ll be happy to post it here and let the public be YOUR judge.

KHS & Vincint – “Tiny Dancer” (Cover)

I See You, You See Me

A dear friend told me months ago to watch the new short form Netflix series Bonding because I had liked Special, another short form Netflix series, and that this one, too, struck similar coming-of-age chords for LGBTQ people like ourselves.

Of course, I never did because, well, who has the time? There is too much white supremacy to not look away from, too many racist Twitter feeds to respond to (Note:  Because if I don’t, who will???) and far, far too much programming already backed up on the DVR that I’m already pretending that I’ll get to but know I never will.

I promise I’ll get to you Sandra… PROMISE!

Nevertheless, a stolen August weekend several hours away with still other dear friends frees you up for all kinds of things.  These include: philosophical talks, ocean views, good food and wine and…bonding.

Both kinds.

One of the coolest things about being an LBTQ young person these days is that you get to see yourself more fully represented in films, television and elsewhere.  Though not fully acknowledged, you are at least not relegated to lurking in the corners of the big and small screen as a coded center box on The Hollywood Squares or as a closeted and/or severely depressed third act revealed killer in some edgy Hollywood detective movie.

or you’re Liberace.

That is pretty much what I experienced as a 17-year-old gay kid and a big part of the reason why I now find shows like Bonding to be such a delight.

Why does a 13-18 minute per episode/seven show season about a NYC female psychology grad student/dominatrix and her aspiring stand up comic gay male assistant/best friend from high school resonate with me so deeply and, well, queerly?

There are many reasons.  So many, many, many.

Oh, calm down.  It’s not even barely remotely about the S&M, at least not in a sexual way.

Chairy, give the fans what they want #hehehe

Nor is it because it is set in NYC and has an absence of heteronormative-espousing straight male white supremacists controlling the narrative, though that helps.

Instead, it is because during its very short season Bonding managed to reflect back to me a version of myself in both its male and female protagonists.  I got to see the pain, the struggle and the triumph of getting beyond the scars of childhood wounds with characters whose sensibilities reflected the types of thoughts and challenges that I actually experienced at the time in my own world. 

This is me.

It didn’t matter that I was their age decades ago or that the world in which they now live in is a very different place than it was way back then.  What does matter is that the smart, somewhat nerdy gay guy and his female best friend (who sort of have sex on the night of the senior prom but don’t) now have the kind of loving, oddball relationship that is/was me.

No, I never donned a leather mask and urinated on…(oh gosh, never mind!) for money.  Nor was any one of my friends bold enough to be a sex worker in leather even though I can recall one or two gals I know meeting up with men they don’t know in weird places where they proceeded to…well, never mind again.

You’re leaving us hanging!

Still, by using this as a setting and embracing the gay of it all and single white female sex of it all and the general insecurity and uncertainties of one’s twenties and all, without being leering or exploitative AT ALL, something happens.  We, the audience, get beyond the window dressing of what at first glance make these stories feel rarefied and extreme.

These are two people.  They date and go to school.  They live in the kind of small and/or drab unenviable apartments most of us did/do in our twenties.  More importantly, they are plagued by the same existential questions of:

1. How will I fit in and forge enough of my own path where I don’t sell out my soul?

2. Will I find love or am I even capable of it?

And, most universally —

3.Where is home and how do/will I even begin to know how to get there or recognize it if it ever arrives?

Srsly, watch Bonding. #plug

These are the ongoing tasks of not only every young person but of every member of a generation no matter what age they are or will become.

What’s different in 2019 is that audiences get the opportunity to take these journeys with LGBTQ characters in the leads, with Black, Brown and Yellow people in the leads, and with members of either sex of any age or non-binary disposition in the leads.

And play to audiences who will WILLINGLY go along for the ride.

Euphoria is also on my DVR. Don’t at me.

There was a moment not so long ago where you’d get feedback at a writers’ pitch meeting on stories such as these like:

  1. Why does this character HAVE to be gay? Or –
  2. The people in this world feel really specific rather than relatable. Or –
  3. There isn’t enough of an audience to justify spending time with two leads who are so fringe and, too often….unlikeable.

Yeah, you might still get some of that.  But more often than that it’s –

  1. Wow, that’s an original voice we really could respond to in this format. Or –
  2. Is that based on a real story? Because that will be a real plus in reaching out beyond yours, and our, niche markets. Or –
  3. We need it now. Yesterday.  YES!

At the end of the day commercial storytelling is still a business.  But right now we live in a time when a weekend of entertainment away can also mean finding yourself seen (and heard) not only in areas where you didn’t expect to be but on platforms where you were previously very much being silenced.

It’s not everything but for today…….I’ll take it.

“This is Me” – The Greatest Showman

 

Revolting

Any era but this one seems to be the mantra of the day and who can blame any of us?   If the world isn’t falling apart, or at least regressing, well, it’s doing a pretty darn good imitation.

This is where nostalgia comes in because, well, when things seem this bad who can blame us for wanting to escape to the gauzy dreams of pre-selected luxurious times gone by?

This is where artists come in and in Hollywood there is no higher art than being a creator in film and/or TV.  Or is that TV and/or film.  It’s so confusing these days as to which medium gets first billing.

Don’t ask this guy what Netflix is… #spoileralert #heiswrong

But let’s table that discussion for now.

Much has been made about Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Once Upon A Time in… Hollywood in recent weeks.  Everyone seemed to love the recreation of the period but many balked at the context.

Are we really supposed to look back nostalgically at the 1969-era machismo of a nearly washed up leading man of TV and spaghetti westerns and his loyal, impossibly handsome stuntman?  Well, when the almost has-been is Leonardo DiCaprio and the sweet natured uber-hunk is a delectably shirtless 55-year-old Brad Pitt…come on, we all know the answer to that.

That’d be a YES MA’AM

And anyway, I dare you or anyone to look away when Brad peels his vintage tee off on that roof.  Because you won’t.  And you can’t.

But why spend all this money revisiting the Manson family murders for the umpteenth time, bathing Margot Robbie in impossibly flattering sunshine and white go-go boots as Sharon Tate?   Is presenting her in this new Tarantino-esque light (Note: No spoilers here) really worth all the trouble?  And who the heck is Quentin to take it upon himself to do that, anyway?

The latter is the real issue for critics of the film and its nostalgia.

Mary McNamara, the LA Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning culture critic, went so far as to call out Once Upon A Time… as nostalgia porn, likening it to the equivalent of a cinematic MAGA hat for its narrow, reductive and mythologized view of a world that didn’t exist.

Girl said whattttt?

That is unless you were a member of the white, male, Christian, heterosexual, able-bodied, culturally conforming, non-addicted, mentally well, moneyed elite.

Okay but….what film world really does exist???

Every artistic project is told through the lens of its maker, for better or worse.  The worse is that there are not enough non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-heterosexual, non-able-bodied, non-culturally conforming, non-money, non-elite making the highest profile content in order to round out the picture.  (Note:  I purposely left out non-addicted and non-mentally well because it’s show biz and, well, who are we kidding?).

I was driving in the car with my husband the other day listening to an old John Mulaney comedy special (Note: Yes, we do that sometimes) where Mulaney did a hilarious bit about all of the illogical characters and plot holes in the classic Back to the Future. 

In it, the comedian muses at how any mainstream studio could green-light a film where a teen travels back in time and almost sleeps with his mother, one where his only real friend is a man in the neighborhood three times his age who he meets with secretly AND is a crazed, criminal loner of a “scientist.”  Not to mention a thousand other twists of logic and convenience that were as likely to happen as not anything ever.

I HAVE BEEN SAYING THIS FOR 3 DECADES!!!!

Now I can’t tell you how long I have been waiting – okay, THIRTY PLUS YEARS – for someone, anyone, to bring up these and many other moments of silly suburban wish-fulfillment contained in the script pages and prized cinematic moments of all three Back to the Future films.  Cause as a gay kid from the boroughs of NYC all they ever offered to me was a twisted Leave it to Beaver on steroids non-reality that I could never relate to or imagine ever truly existed.

Where is/was MY Back to the Future, I used to wonder?  Well, until someone creates a gay, Jewish superhero kid who is befriended by an eccentric Holocaust survivor down the street, I guess that it doesn’t exist.

I would see that movie #doitchairy

Sure, I’m being a bit flip but the truth is that is some small way, I am STILL waiting for it.

Thinking about all this and more led me to recently begin writing a period piece all of my own.  In doing so, I discussed the idea with a female friend and former student/now colleague who suggested I watch a one-season now defunct but very fine Amazon series that took place in a similar era entitled Good Girls Revolt.

Now how is that I, a journalism school grad who majored in magazine writing and came of age (and came out) in the seventies could have missed a show about a group of twenty-something gal magazine researchers who were aspiring to be writers in the 1969/early 1970s era?

feeling that Mad Men-esque energy #whereisjonhamm

If they couldn’t have been me they certainly could have been the older sisters I never had or the more experienced mentors I wish that I had met and related to at the time.  Because god knows I wasn’t getting very many breaks or invitations to hang out after hours from the straight guys in power.

Well, the fact is, gay or not I’m still a guy and the title, I don’t know, it seemed strange – like one of those borderline offensive Girls Gone Wild  vintage videos.  And with so much out there I guess it wasn’t a must see.  I mean, much as I don’t run for the macho stuff do I really go out of my way to look for shows with four female protagonists??

I guess not, since once I started my binge and got into the show I began to vaguely remember having heard more in its initial run about it, the book it was based on and the real female writers who wrote and created both based on fictional and real characters, some of whom even I knew about at the time.

Boo for me for not paying attention..  Like – BOOOOOOO, boo, boo.  What kind of typical faux macho…guy….was/am I?

I am ashamed.. so very ashamed

But more to the point, why was there only ONE season of this very fine and, for me, unusually period accurate depiction of a world that, after watching, I couldn’t imagine millions more wouldn’t be fascinated with?

After all, this was an early streaming series on Amazon, a service that wanted to take chances.  And it was female-centric (a key demographic), got good reviews, great audience reaction and respectable ratings in comparison to other Amazon renewals at the time.  Well, a lot of factors worked against Good Girls

#1 was that its premiere was two weeks before the 2016 presidential election, a time when a significant number of males in the country were rebelling against anything too female-centric, especially if it was on TV and let off even a whiff of women’s lib. (Note: #Hillary4Evah).

Me, thinking about November 2016

More importantly and #2 –

The head of Amazon at the time was Roy Price, a guy who didn’t get the show and at one second-season story pitch asked the show runners to use the actresses’ names when proposing future episodes because he hadn’t taken the time to learn the names of the characters they were playing.

Of course, little did he or any of the rest of us know that in less than a year he would be forced out of his job amid accusations that he harassed, this time sexually, Isa Dick Hackett,  not a character name but another real female show runner of another Amazon show, The Man In The High Castle.  Coincidentally, Ms. Dick Hackett is an out lesbian who also happens to be the daughter of Phillip K. Dick, the novelist who wrote the book on which the High Castle series is based on.   (Note: A play on words based on the surname of both the novelist and the show runner were among Mr. Price’s more noteworthy utterances reported during that time period).

This, in turn, was followed by the many revelations surrounding Harvey Weinstein from his accusers and the emergence of what we now sometimes all too glibly refer to as the #MeToo era.

There’s nothing glib about the story of the cancellation of a promising show like Good Girls Revolt, of course, most especially when it’s considered in light of all the attention a film like Once Upon A Time in…Hollywood is now receiving.

The only IT girl of the moment

Sure, I admittedly very much liked the Tarantino film but after watching the one season of Good Girls and learning of the circumstances of its cancellation, and my own initial indifference/ignorance towards it, it’s easy to see why so many are currently so publically over the whole Tarantino/DiCaprio/Pitt of it all. (Note: And not only women).

The fact is, until many more diverse voices get to create material with actors and directors from their communities who are every bit as bankable as a Tarantino, DiCaprio or Pitt, an inequity of point-of-view that is as world worn as the nostalgia those names so often propagate will dog their every achievement in the zeitgeist.

That’s not so much an objection to their POVS but to the fact that so many of us don’t get to see ourselves and our worlds reflected back at us at a time when being seen and heard is no longer a luxury of entertainment but a necessity for our very survival.

“Big Yellow Taxi” – Joni Mitchell