Goy to the World

It’s officially holiday season and from now until New Year’s Eve life is officially a Christmas cookie cutter Hallmark TV movie and we’re all its willing and unwilling viewers.

Just try to scroll or flip or surf in the next five weeks and NOT land on one of them. For the Hallmark brand is no longer solely on the Hallmark channel.  It’s now an official genre – more of a template, really – that’s migrated to Lifetime and Hulu and Netflix and pretty much EVERY other network, cable and streaming platform out there.

Me, 10 minutes after Thanksgiving

You know what this is even as you DENY you would EVER watch one or HAVE EVER seen one because you are just THAT cool:

– A type A career person returns to their hometown around the holidays and meets the more rugged or relaxed person of their dreams

– A big city person reluctantly finds themselves trapped in the country for a few days and Cupid’s arrow strikes as they help resurrect a dying business, usually involving decorations, party planning, hospitality, a needy relative or a tree

TINSEL FIGHTS!

– A recent widow or widower, or happily divorced or unhappily engaged person, is forced to re-engage in a job with someone they initially loathe as sparks fly.  Then, as a result, they wind up getting over the bad partner or the hurt, though not without a few serious yet not too deep, i.e. truly humanly unrecognizable, complications.

Of course, these are only a mere sampling.  There are also the ones where:

– An ordinary guy or gal meet cute with someone who turns out to be a Royal or a celebrity or a mega-gazillionaire they have somehow never heard of or at least fail to recognize.   

And probably Candace Cameron Bure

Or the others  that feature  —

– A non-threatening but engaging person with an” issue” who travels to be with their family around Christmas and somehow and in some way, find their worst childhood trauma getting resolved in less than two hours by staying in a house that would make Martha Stewart go crazy with jealousy and run out to get stoned with Snoop Dog were she not already doing so.

Of course, more than one of these plots can or might be contained in a single episode.  In fact, as a viewer, one only hopes that as many of these tropes as possible be shoved into the narrative.  It’s part of the lure for not only hate-watchers but genre appreciators alike.

Also coats… so many beautiful coats.

And I know this because:

I AM THE CHAIR and I LOVE A GREAT/BAD OR ANYTHING IN BETWEEN HALLMARK MOVIE.

And since I love you so much, here is a list of the new ones available to keep you busy for the rest of 2020 on those days when things WILL inevitably get tough.

It would seem as if a Jewish gay guy like me would be loath to confess his fascination with a large swath of films in which he or his ilk seldom, if ever, appears.  I mean, there’s as much chance of someone like me showing up for the holidays at one of these places as there is of, well – me showing up for the holidays at one of these places.

I’m on my way

Yet ever since my folks brought the young me to my first Broadway musical in the late 1960s and I heard Angela Lansbury sing We Need A Little Christmas in Mame, none of that mattered.  The sparkle from the tinsel and the colors of the tree lights (Note: Yeah and the spotlights) onstage were exciting and fun and EVERYTHING my family and me NEVER experienced in December but that I so, so, SOOO wanted to that I was hooked.

Thus I, and I suspect many non-Christian Hallmark fans, don’t ever associate anything about these movies or shows with the birthday of a historical or even vaguely religious figure. 

Ain’t nothin’ meek about this

Instead, they are candy cane fantasies delivering us from our humdrum holiday realities with dazzle and glamour and impossibly delicious deserts.  And they do this with characters and food and fashion so ridiculously out-of-our world that we can actually safely LOVE laughing AT their ridiculous simplicity as much as we will DENY ever shedding  a tear when somehow their one huge fake life problem finally manages to work itself out.

Which begs the question of how quickly and completely every single one of these characters is even able to find true love in the end.  I mean, you could do an entire network or web channel series of sequels to each of these films where you revisit the couple several years later and unleash all the dirty little secrets of just how happy or, likely, unhappy their films’ endings truly wound up being.

How am I not wildly rich?

This is why as a writer I could never, ever EVER get hired to write one of these, as much as it would certainly be fun.  I’d keep insisting things like:

-But um, who acts like that? 

-What town is this? 

-Who are these people and why don’t they tell their f’n families off instead of allowing them to pressure them that way?

OR –

Leave N.Y. or L.A. to run a bed and breakfast or family bookstore with the most boring person in the world?  Are they KIDDING?  I don’t care how good-looking they are!  

OK, but I bet the wifi is terrible

Of course, when I voiced one or all of these to my husband as we watched Hulu’s Happiest Season, the first genre movie of this kind to center on a gay couple, one of whom was played by our own openly gay star Kristen Stewart, he rolled his eyes and replied to me:

Settle down, Rossellini.  This isn’t Italy in the 1940s.  They don’t live in your world.

True.. but brutal

Well, I’ll say.  In my world, Kristen Stewart would NEVER have put up with the crap her closeted girlfriend was putting her through with her quasi-TV conservative parents played by Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber (Note: The latter of whom is openly gay in real life), forcing her into pretending she was nothing more than her orphaned roommate from the big city desperate for a place in WASP nirvana.

Instead,  she would’ve left her for her closeted girlfriend’s ex-girlfriend from high school that also happened to be visiting their hometown for that weekend.  That gal, now a doctor who lives and works in New York City, is actually a much better match and is played by the wonderfully snide and sassy Aubrey Plaza. 

I want a movie about them just for the suits alone

Forget that Kristen already had sassy and snide covered with her on-screen best friend, played by our current male gay du jour Dan Levy.  A life with those two A-list queers could cover enough snide AND sassy to get me through each Christmas as well as EVERY OTHER  holiday season for the rest of the twelve lifetimes I plan to live over the next 958 years.

But alas, life is NOT a Hallmark film, real or reimagined.  I suppose this is why I will now and probably forever keep watching them.  The only way to get through life, real or imagined, is to willfully and completely soldier on, especially through the chafe, ever hopeful that one day we will stumble on to the imperfectly perfect mix of our own concoction.

Barbra Streisand – “Jingle Bells”

Auntie Emmy

Why is it the Emmy Awards telecast feels like something only your old auntie would watch in real time so she can root for her shows?

  1. Because it is?
  2. Because there is too much TV to have a favorite show if you’re under 90?
  3. Because there are too many award shows and none of them carry much weight?
  4. Because who wants to watch anything except the slow disintegration of the country?

Notice there is no all of the above choice.

At 70 years of age Auntie Emmy is a bit quaint.   She’s sort of the equivalent of a pop culture painting of Elvis on a velveteen blanket or arriving with a box of Fannie Mae chocolates for the beau you’re taking to the church social.

nuff said

Of course, the Chair has never been to a church social, purchased a box of Fannie Mae anything or really knows if there is such a thing as a velveteen blanket, much less one with Elvis painted on it.

Still, it sounds right, doesn’t it?  Something that used to be frivolous, fun and fiercely IMPORTANT now feels almost dull, superficial and, well…unpatriotic to spend any spare time on.

Except….

We Are Americans.

The only thing we love more than competition is…

TELEVISION!!!!!!

Lest we forget COMPETITION TELEVISION #ChoppedAllDay

So who am I/we kidding? We’ll be watching, tweeting, DVRing, reading, dishing and paying some sort of mind – even if it means going out of our way to proclaim both the show AND awards never entered our minds.

This became apparent to me about 10 years ago when I ran into a show biz guy I knew who had just been nominated for an Emmy at a trendy brunch spot that morning and, upon congratulating him, he synthetically replied:

Oh really, were those today? 

Well, yes, that’s why you are in the trendiest show business watering spot in town, you fake, I replied knowingly.

Okay, of course I didn’t.  I mean, I was there too.

Still, those were the days when Emmy was not an auntie and we were both A LOT younger so what does it matter?  He is no doubt still denying he cares as he grudgingly watches, along with the rest of us, silently cheering, or perhaps audibly jeering, for or against his shows.

Which is why every year from now until the end of our republic we will feature:

THE CHAIR’S EMMY CHEAT SHEET:

DRAMA SERIES

Nice try but I will NOT shut up about this show #BlessedBetheFruit

The Handmaid’s Tale
Game of Thrones
This Is Us
The Crown
The Americans
Stranger Things
Westworld

Sadly, there is nothing more timely than The Handmaid’s Tale.  Don’t say you know, but it’s too depressing to watch.  You owe it to your country to be forewarned.  Or at least keep up with current events by way of Gilead.

Yes, all of the aforementioned nominees have their merits, and yes The Americans is all wrapped up and sure Game of Thrones has won twice before and wasn’t up last year when The Handmaid’s Tale won the first time.  So what? Stranger Things and Westworld are audience favorites too and yes, This Is Us could sneak in because it’s the one network show critics, industryites and audiences all love.  But we’re going with the Zeitgeist.

LEAD ACTOR DRAMA

SO. MUCH. PLAID.

Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Ed Harris, Westworld
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us

Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

Trusting our gut here.  The season long tease of Jack’s death on This Is Us gave Milo Ventimiglia all season to be the 70s Dad, man, hottie (NOTE:  NOT all three at once, step back) of our dreams.  Prognosticators don’t give him a chance but sometimes ya get a feelin’.

LEAD ACTRESS DRAMA

Dare I say… SLAY!

Claire Foy, The Crown
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Keri Russell, The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

You’re gonna bet against OfFred?  Really?  No, really?  We didn’t think so.  And if one more person tells you Keri Russell gave the performance of the decade or that Sandra Oh’s win will make history ask them if their characters could endure sub freezing temperatures in the suburban wilderness nine months pregnant and then give birth by themselves in the middle of  drafty house with only the fireplace to light their way.  Please.

SUPPORTING ACTOR DRAMA

Wait.. I thought only Harry rocked the beard! #JusticeforHarry

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale
David Harbour, Stranger Things
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Matt Smith, The Crown

Tough category and all of these actors deserve the honor.  But in any other year The Crown could win best series and best actress.  So it’s Matt Smith here – an actor who somehow managed to make a younger Prince Phillip sympathetic and sort of sexy while not shying away from him also being a lying, priggish philanderer and full on abusive father.  That alone is award-worthy.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS DRAMA

Let’s hope this Serena isn’t robbed. #stillnotoverUSOpen

Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things
Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Vanessa Kirby, The Crown
Thandie Newton, Westworld
Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale

One of the only sure thing categories.  I myself find Serena the most heinous character on television so it’s amazing to see an actress who is actually able to make us believe she’s human.  Don’t know what that means because you haven’t watched the show?   Then WATCH IT!!!

COMEDY SERIES

Emmy’s Darling

Atlanta
Barry
Black-ish
Curb Your Enthusiasm
GLOW
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

There has never been a pilot episode of a television series less likely to break through as both an audience and critics TV favorite as much as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  As I said to my sister, who first turned me on to the show:  This is the most Jewish thing I’ve ever seen, I can’t believe anyone but us and our family is watching it!!

It will be a close race with the depth of storytelling in Atlanta and the sheer originality of Barry but count on Mrs. Maisel for bringing us an escape from reality by way of late 1950s Greenwich Village.

LEAD ACTOR COMEDY

Make more room on the shelf Donny! #thatsuittho

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Bill Hader, Barry
William H. Macy, Shameless

Donald Glover will deservedly and rightly win.  Everyone else in the category is good but he’s doing something different and real here we haven’t seen before – and doing it consistently in between his tasks as its creator and sometime writer.

LEAD ACTRESS COMEDY

Oh don’t worry Midge, we’ll be there. #Catskills #Season2

Pamela Adlon, Better Things
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Allison Janney, Mom
Issa Rae, Insecure
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

The other sure thing category.  It’s Midge in a w.a.l.k.  And when you watch Rachel Brosnahan being interviewed and see how far she is in real life from the character she portrays, well….it’s Midge in a w.a.l.k.

SUPPORTING ACTOR COMEDY

No shark this time

Louie Anderson, Baskets
Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
Henry Winkler, Barry

Henry Winkler was first nominated for an Emmy 42 YEARS AGO and has never won.  Five nominations and – bupkus.  This guy was THE FONZ!  Plus, his work as a deluded yet somehow effective acting teacher on Barry is heartfelt, fresh and more than deserving.  Not to mention, in real life he’s the nicest man.  Don’t mean to name drop but…..

SUPPORTING ACTRESS COMEDY

Never better #notalternativefacts

Zazie Beetz, Atlanta
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
Leslie Jones, Saturday Night Live
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace

A REALLY tough call.  Alex Borstein should win for being laugh out loud hilarious as Mrs. Maisel’s snide, baked beans eating manager and Megan Mullally has made Karen Walker one of the most popular female supporting characters in the history of TV.  Still, in the 24/7 world of politics Kate McKinnon playing the clown from It as Kellyanne Conway is so frighteningly…something that it trumps all else.

LIMITED SERIES

Welcome to Miami

The Alienist
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Genius: Picasso
Godless
Patrick Melrose

There was something so revolting and alluring about the Assassination of Gianni Versace that it’s hard to imagination it not taking the honors here.  It felt doubtful that this lurid tale warranted an American Crime Story show at all until we watched it use the tale of a twisted killer of one of fashion’s legends as a way to tell  an American tale of class and sexual repression at the turn of this past century.

LEAD ACTOR LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

Werkin that serial killer lighting like a pro.

Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose
Jeff Daniels, The Looming Tower
John Legend, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Jesse Plemons, U.S.S. Callister (Black Mirror)

Darren Criss played Andrew Cunanan as the boyish serial killer next door and against all odds it worked.  Criss never fell into psycho cliché or gave us outsider gay sociopath 101, which made his presence all the more disturbing and riveting.  It was hard to turn away even though, honestly, there were spots where you had to turn away.  Perhaps he was too much of an awful thing for some voters, which could shift the trophy to the equally good Benedict Cumberbatch – but probably not.

LEAD ACTRESS LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

OK fine, this is Dern in Pretty Little Lies but like… Renata forever.

Jessica Biel, The Sinner
Laura Dern, The Tale
Michelle Dockery, Godless
Edie Falco, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Regina King, Seven Seconds
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Cult

An odd category this year with no true standout.  Still, in the #MeToo era Laura Dern deserves the credit for a smart portrayal of a difficult character – a woman who must delve back into her past in order to save herself in the present.  She made the transitions between the adult self and the other actresses who played the younger versions of her character seamless, which elevated the material far beyond where it could have landed.

SUPPORTING ACTOR LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

I mean.. OK sure.

Jeff Daniels, Godless
Brandon Victor Dixon, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
John Leguizamo, Waco
Ricky Martin, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Edgar Ramírez, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Michael Stuhlbarg, The Looming Tower
Finn Wittrock, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Not going to lie.  This is a guess based on prognosticators.  But EVERYONE agrees it’s Jeff Daniels and the more you read his reviews the more you will also agree.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE

But also kudos to hair and makeup because this is late 90s perfection.

Sara Bareilles, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Penélope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Judith Light, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Adina Porter, American Horror Story: Cult
Merritt Wever, Godless
Letitia Wright, Black Museum (Black Mirror)

The majority of critics believe it’s going to be Penelope Cruz but I could only understand half of the words she said through all the episodes and that’s being generous.  Besides, there is only one Donatella Versace and that’s Maya Rudolph.  Heck, they even once shared the stage in matching evening gowns at the VH1 Fashion Awards.

However, Judith Light brought a new level of denial as the successful and privileged businesswoman wife of a closeted gay man.  It was a strange yet real type of character we don’t see much on television and she could easily get the Emmy for it if it doesn’t go to Merritt Wever or Lettia Wright.  Meaning, we’re not sure but we’re going with Judy.

VARIETY TALK SERIES

We seriously cannot forget about Marlon Bundo. #thebest

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The Late Late Show with James Corden
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Every single show is worthy.  It really depends on what their producers submitted.  But Last Week with John Oliver feels like the gold standard here and the rightful successor to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, especially after his win last year.  Though what do we know, we and everyone else we know voted for #HILLARY.

VARIETY SKETCH SERIES

This happened!

At Home with Amy Sedaris
Drunk History
I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman
Portlandia
Saturday Night Live
Tracey Ullman’s Show

Until Trump gets impeached it’s Saturday Night Live.  Never has there been a more perfect match of time, material and talent (Note: The White House being the exception).  Though it’s safe to assume SNL would gladly make a deal to give up the honor if they could get him out.  ……Wouldn’t they??

REALITY COMPETITION SERIES

DVR IS SET

The Amazing Race
American Ninja Warrior
Project Runway
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Top Chef
The Voice

The awards are on a MONDAY night this year and desperately needs some sashay. Besides, I’ve watched every season of The Voice and this last one sucked.  Gurrrrl…

Sissy That Walk – RuPaul

 

Stay tuned for the Chair’s recap of the Emmys! Follow along during the show using #NotesfromtheEmmys … hopefully it will be MARVELOUS (like I could resist).