The Pand-Emmys

What’s more meaningless and wasteful and escapist than watching an awards show during a pandemic several days after human rights icon and US Supreme Court Justice extraordinaire Ruth Bader Ginsberg died?

Not much.  Especially since at least 12 different people have assured me in the last 24 hours that the world as I know it will soon end.

As if it already hasn’t.

Welp

Anyway, this is one of many reasons why I decided to tune in to the mostly virtual 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday night.

What could be better than escaping into a sea of pop culture calamity?

My hope was for a night of diversion and bitchy commented asides that would allow for the venting of so many things that, okay, I haven’t exactly been holding down.

At all.  And not towards anyone.

If you’ve been reading here lately, or ever, you know.

And we still love you completely

Still, my husband and I are suckers for free Hollywood crack so gathering ourselves and our guacamole and chips around the TV at 5:00 PST to not exactly hate watch, more like love-hate divert, seemed like the best idea in at least five minutes.

Plus – we don’t have to social distance, wear a mask or even think about that sh-t – I mean, patriotic duty and kindness towards our fellow citizens – which we do happily since it’s no big deal and, truly, why would anyone in their right mind be complaining about it at this point?

Wear the damn mask

Like your past, who you are and what you are thinking follows you around like the plague and can rear it’s ugly head at any inopportune moment.  Which is why it’s best to show that unsavory, albeit snidely fun side of you only around people who get you’re not the total a-hole you seem to be, people like your significant other, best friend or even pooch…..during a Hollywood awards show…when you can talk back or even catcall to the screen at people in fancy clothes and over-privilege who can take it.

Even virtually.

WWJRD (What would Joan Rivers Do?)

This, of course, was not to be on Sunday night.

None of it.

This, in fact, was the opposite of what we hoped.  Overly polite people trying their best to gingerly entertain in a responsible way while consistently making the point that there was nothing really important going on this evening on this show except, well, group human hugs in a particularly difficult time of what could be our soon-ending civilization.

Ugh.  How disappointed were WE at my house?   (Note: Okay, mostly I).

Fortune 500!

But, I mean, what did we think?  That host Jimmy Kimmel wouldn’t wear rubber gloves to hand the winner’s envelope to in studio presenter Jennifer Aniston?

Or that we wouldn’t soon see that despite the early canned laughs and celebrity shots the massive Microsoft Theatre really had no audience at all and Kimmel was  really speaking to a sea of appropriately empty seats?

Or that instead of buying seats and ads and throwing lavish after parties the studios and TV Academy would pool their money and combined raise $2.8 million during the broadcast to feed hungry kids? (Note: nokidhungry.org).

Really channeling my inner Larry David

Or that many of the award categories, nominees and winners would be read by COVID-19 first responders like nurses, doctors, farmers and truck drivers?

The people putting their lives on the line to keep society going?  People taking time out of their day to appear on a silly awards show to amuse the likes of me?

These were people I bet were even expecting half of us watching at home would make fun of their hair, how they spoke or at least whom they were wearing.  That’s how cool they were.

Alas, we couldn’t do any of those things.  Nor, I suspect, could much of anyone else.

This but there’s nothing else on

Because despite how much we might very, very, VERY much want it, there is no true escape from the reality of these days.

I mean, if an award show can’t even deliver that, we truly have no choice but to face facts and become the actual heroes and heroines on our favorite TV shows in real life.

At least partly.

So yeah, it’s great that Schitt’s Creek set a new record for a TV comedy and swept in every major category – series, directing, writing, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress.  And that an out and proud gay guy, showrunner Dan Levy, took home four awards in one night.

Melting my cold dead heart

It’s also great that Succession, a show that takes on the unfeeling, corporate rich, won best drama series, best directing, best writing and best actor.

For this scene alone, Jeremy Strong earned it

Not to mention it’s great Watchmen was awarded best limited series, writing, actress and supporting actor for its original genre bending depiction of the destruction of Black Wall Street and the justice that, in turn, could have wrought.

I mean, is anyone better than Regina??

Kudos to all of them.  And many, many more not mentioned.

In fact, here is the complete list.

But what this year’s Emmys will best be remembered for, if it is at all, was for being the first major televised awards show up that best encapsulated the strangeness of our times.  (Note: Feel free to substitute strange with the angriest, or bitchiest, word of your choice).

This works too

As much as it did its job I’m hoping next year the 73rd go-round are A LOT worse, and, in turn, bring out the worst in those of us at home.

Because that will mean all of us, on the whole, are doing a hell of a lot better.

Emily Hampshire – “Maybe This Time” (from Schitt’s Creek)

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