Darlings in Dystopia

The first masterful piece of mass entertainment reflecting the Trump era is here and, strangely enough, it’s based on a novel from 32 years ago. Thanks Hulu, or more correctly, damn you, Hulu – for your new series The Handmaid’s Tale.

Set in a dystopian future where women have no rights and the country has undergone a cultural/religious revolution brought on by terrorism and perhaps limited (!) nuclear war, The Handmaid’s Tale is simultaneously riveting and extremely difficult to watch. Much like an accident. Or Sean Spicer’s daily White House press briefings when not given by Melissa McCarthy.

…and not nearly as delicious/campy/tragic/gorgeous as FX’s Feud #ohmamacita

Of course, to reduce the retelling of Margaret Atwood’s classic 1985 novel, which she wrote decades ago in Germany when the Berlin Wall was coming down, as merely an allegory for Trumpism would be selling it short. Not to mention it would be giving the Electoral College POTUS too much credit. (Note: The mere mention of his name is too much credit for me, but that’s another story, and not a particularly funny or readable one. So I will #resist the temptation).

The brilliance of Atwood’s story is that her dystopian world adapts to easily reflect the post-modern apocalyptic realities from any number of time periods in which we currently reside. Though perhaps this series just makes it look that way. More correctly, it’s probably a little bit of both.

Imagine a world where women are not in control of their reproductive rights or being gay is seen as “gender treachery” and appropriately punished.   Then revisit Trump’s sound bite at a town hall event with Republican voters in Wisconsin last year where he publicly stated that if abortion becomes illegal women should face “some form of punishment.

Or simply read about the well-documented death and torture of gay men now occurring in numerous “detention centers” in pro-Russia Chechnya.

Unless this is where you’d rather live #keepinitreal

In the Hulu/Atwood world of terrorism, contemporary women, who only hours before were annoyed that their Uber driver was late, now find all their digital imprints frozen and assets seized. It’s for their own safety, say the authorities. Terrorists. Nuclear war. Centralize power and control for PROTECTION.

When mass sterility (due to environmental poisoning) sets in only a few years later it’s not hard to see that the few females that are still somehow able to reproduce become a treasured governmental commodity. I mean, what price is the continuation of the WORLD, right?

Well.. don’t get ahead of yourself Ms. Knowles

The fact that this is a world now dominated primarily by wealthy WHITE men, helped along by a few female counterparts not quite as powerful as they are, is not really questioned. And the fact that it’s not really questioned by the masses is one of the few differences it has from the basic world order in 2017.

Right after the inauguration of Donald Trump 3.2 million people took to the streets in a march for women’s rights. Which in turn became a growing resistance to emerging authoritarian rule that promised to roll back the rights of numerous other minorities – of color, of race, of national origin, of sexual persuasion, you name it – by an authoritarian voted in by a PLURALITY of voters. The idea, to save the country going down the tubes by making it GREAT again, was not sitting particularly well with its masses.

Pretty much sums it up

So given what I saw as one of those 3.2 million masses marching back in January it was not too difficult, and more than a little scary, for me to make the leap this Hulu series asks. Especially since the three black hooded corpses of a priest, a doctor and a gay man hanging on ropes high from the walls of what used to be a former library were really only incidental backdrops. That’s how I often feel now as a gay man in Trump country and Trump logic.   An annoying incidental to the main story.

Which in some ways is a better place to be than enduring the indignities many females are facing in Trump America. Certainly, it’s better than what the lead women in the Hulu show were about to endure. Though even here I hate to sell the latter short.

We’re not in Stars Hollow anymore, Rory.

It’s hard to tell where any of this is going or whether fiction will for sure prove worse than fact. As a wise psychiatrist once told me, you can only operate from “what is.” And what we do know in the real world is that an estimated 13,000 women are now planning to run for office across the country and a group called Emerge America recently held training classes for 25 female Democratic candidates for Congress, state senate, city council, etc. in 18 states.

Their numbers are up 87% since the election, which seems reasonable. So do comments from the female candidates on a recent NBC news report where one admitted needing practice in the best ways to do things like “asking for money” and “connecting with voters.” Those skills don’t always come naturally for those not born into power positions. But what do they say – Necessity is the mother of invention? Actually, it was not they but the Greek philosopher Plato and yes, I had to look it up. (Note: And yes, he was a man, as far as we know. Which doesn’t make it any less true).

well, that too. #wink

As far as the series is concerned, I take some solace in the casting of Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss in the key lead role of Offred/June, our birth machine/handmaid heroine. Watching Ms. Moss personify the slow empowerment of the 1960s woman as Mad Men’s Peggy Olson – who goes from mousy, intelligent and intimidated to smart, savvy and, yes, empowered, gave hope to many of us hopeless incidentals. And to any of us who have ever felt, or will feel this way.

How I will always remember you girl #peggyforever

It’s one of the best gifts a truly gifted actor can give us. So in the bleak but all too truly allegorical world of The Handmaid’s Tale we can’t help but feel safe in her hands.

One wishes the same could be said about the leading player, or players, in our 2017 reality.

 

Global Warnings

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 9.20.00 AM

Why does one write about anything as silly and meaningless as an award show – especially the Golden Globe Awards – which are chosen by a bizarre group of international critics who have the collective credibility of, well – a blogger?

The correct answer is not – because you are a blogger.

Rather, it is the same answer I give my students and friends when they ask, Why does fill in name of a good or favorite actor do so many bad movies?

Answer: Look at all the choices available to them at the time. Which one do you think they should have picked?

In my case, I just can’t spend another week on The Republican Apprentice, Hils, the Bern or Grandpa Munster (Note: Oh please, you know who I mean).

I'm back!

I’m back!

Plus, our president has guns covered at the moment, there doesn’t seem much of a debate left on climate change and do you really need to read another 10 best/worst list of 2015 or a preview of your top choices or potential losses for 2016? No, you do not.

So here are my GG predictions. We’ll weigh in on Monday for a post mortem of the show. The commercials have host Ricky Gervais teasing us that he might make a celebrity cry. Don’t dress. And take that as seriously as any tease you encounter on television – or anywhere else for that matter.

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

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CAROL Number 9 Films; The Weinstein Company

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Warner Bros. Pictures / Village Roadshow Pictures / Kennedy Miller Mitchell

THE REVENANT Regency Enterprises; Twentieth Century Fox

ROOM Element Pictures / No Trace Camping; A24 

SPOTLIGHT Anonymous Content / Participant Media / First Look; Open Road Films

Winner: SPOTLIGHT

It’s got the heat, as they say. And it’s a really good film. CAROL is too rarified for this group, MAD MAX is too forward-thinking, THE REVENANT is too gross and ROOM is too small. If you are thinking a possible upset for your betting pool, remember this is an international consortium – so perhaps, REVENANT or MAD MAX. But, uh…no

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

the-danish-girl

CATE BLANCHETTCarol

BRIE LARSONRoom

ROONEY MARACarol

SAOIRSE RONANBrooklyn

ALICIA VIKANDERThe Danish Girl

Winner: ALICIA VIKANDER

This is one of the trickiest categories so don’t wager the house. Brie Larson should win and will probably be awarded the Oscar because it is likely Ms. Vikander will be put up for supporting actress. But given these nominations, the international appeal of THE DANISH GIRL should do it along with AV’s universal raves. The CAROL women will split. Possible spoiler is Saorise Ronan but that’s doubtful since the film is small and likely has not been seen by all the voters, “critics” though they may be.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 10.01.08 AM

BRYAN CRANSTON, Trumbo

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, The Revenant

MICHAEL FASSBENDERSteve Jobs

EDDIE REDMAYNEThe Danish Girl

WILL SMITHConcussion

Winner: LEONARDO DICAPRIO

FYI, I think Bryan Cranston will win the Oscar. But again – international voting is a big element here and Mr. DiCaprio seldom, if ever, wins awards. The true winner should be Michael Fassbinder who couldn’t grunt, bleed, accent or costume his way through the nearly impossible role of a somewhat unlikeable icon. But that won’t happen. Nor will Mr. Smith go to the stage.

BEST MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

globescomedycrop

THE BIG SHORT    Paramount Pictures / Regency Enterprises

JOY     Fox 2000 Pictures; Twentieth Century Fox

THE MARTIAN    Twentieth Century Fox

SPY     Twentieth Century Fox

TRAINWRECK    Universal Pictures / Apatow Productions

WINNER: THE MARTIAN

How much do you want to see Amy Schumer up there? Well, (NOTES SPOILER!) you’re going to have to wait for a category. And the true winner should be THE BIG SHORT. But I’m not entirely sure this group will go for the latter. The international market ADORES Ridley Scott and he’s another perennial non-winner. Not to mention, there are a group of critics who see the overly long, overly optimistic for humanity theme of THE MARTIAN irresistible. Well, no one can accuse we here at notes of any of that!

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

BFFs

BFFs

JENNIFER LAWRENCE, Joy

MELISSA MCCARTHYSpy

AMY SCHUMERTrainwreck

MAGGIE SMITH, The Lady in the Van

LILY TOMLINGrandma

WINNER: AMY SCHUMER. And no, you didn’t read that wrong.

It’s a comedy and this group also likes to feel both hip and out-of-the-box from time to time. Not to mention – the Hollywood Foreign Press’ main source of revenue (meaning how they stay afloat) is the broadcast of this show (which means ratings).

Lest we forget who won big at the 2010 Globes!

Lest we forget who won big at the 2010 Globes!

Not to say Ms. Schumer doesn’t deserve best comic (and even musical!) performance by an actress this year. Though my vote would go to Lily Tomlin. Why? Because how often do we get the treat of seeing Lily Tomlin playing a snide lesbian…in the movies, that is?

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

The world saves Matt Damon... again

The world saves Matt Damon… again

CHRISTIAN BALE, The Big Short 

STEVE CARELL, The Big Short 

MATT DAMONThe Martian

AL PACINODanny Collins

MARK RUFFALOInfinitely Polar Bear

WINNER: MATT DAMON

Sure, this feels ridiculous. Is ‘THE MARTIAN a comedy? As much as it’s a musical. Nevertheless, it’s Damon in a walk. My vote is for Bale or Carrell. Or Mark Ruffalo. Or Al Pacino, even though I haven’t seen that movie.

BEST MOTION PICTURE – ANIMATED

inside-out1

ANOMALISA    Starburns Industries; Paramount Pictures

THE GOOD DINOSAUR    Pixar Animation Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

INSIDE OUT    Pixar Animation Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

THE PEANUTS MOVIE     Blue Sky Studios; Twentieth Century Fox

SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE    Aardman; Lionsgate / Studiocanal

WINNER: Um, INSIDE OUT. Seriously.   (For my thoughts on the truly bizarre Anomalisa, check out last week’s post)

BEST MOTION PICTURE – FOREIGN LANGUAGE

#honesty

#honesty

THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT (BELGIUM / FRANCE / LUXEMBOURG)

THE CLUB (CHILE)

THE FENCER (FINLAND / GERMANY / ESTONIA)

MUSTANG (FRANCE)

SON OF SAUL (HUNGARY)

I have no business weighing in here since I haven’t seen any of the nominees. The talk is for SON OF SAUL. Few Hollywood groups or award contests can resist a Holocaust film.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN ANY MOTION PICTURE

Whatever Chairy, you know I'm fabulous!

Whatever Chairy, you know I’m fabulous!

JANE FONDA, Youth

JENNIFER JASON LEIGHThe Hateful Eight

HELEN MIRRENTrumbo

ALICIA VIKANDEREx Machina

KATE WINSLET,  Steve Jobs

WINNER: JENNIFER JASON LEIGH

I gotta say Jennifer Jason Leigh even though THE HATEFUL EIGHT is the one big film this year I still haven’t seen. Why? It’s only early January. Why JJ Leigh? Because she should have won years ago for GEORGIA and I’m still annoyed. Look it up. #SadieFlood4Ever

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN ANY MOTION PICTURE

Not a knockout for Sly

Not a knockout for Sly

PAUL DANO, Love & Mercy

IDRIS ELBABeasts of No Nation

MARK RYLANCE, Bridge of Spies

MICHAEL SHANNON99 Homes

SYLVESTER STALLONECreed

WINNER: MARK RYLANCE

Mark Rylance has the edge. Watching his performance is an acting master class in less is more. It should be required viewing for anyone serious about the craft.

BEST DIRECTOR – MOTION PICTURE

Le sigh

Le sigh

TODD HAYNES, Carol

ALEJANDRO G. IÑÁRRITU, The Revenant

TOM MCCARTHYSpotlight

GEORGE MILLERMad Max: Fury Road

RIDLEY SCOTT, The Martian

WINNER: TODD HAYNES

This is one of the toughest categories. The winner SHOULD be Tom McCarthy for not showing off and telling a story in a compelling way without all the bells and whistles. But likely it’s between Todd Haynes and Ridley Scott. Hmmmmmm. Okay, it’s Todd Haynes. It’s just the kind of film that would feel arty to these voters.

BEST SCREENPLAY – MOTION PICTURE

Is that my office?

Is that my office? #hotmess

EMMA DONOGHUE, Room

TOM MCCARTHY, JOSH SINGER,  Spotlight

CHARLES RANDOLPH, ADAM MCKAYThe Big Short

AARON SORKINSteve Jobs

QUENTIN TARANTINO, The Hateful Eight

WINNER: TOM MCCARTHY, JOSH SINGER, Spotlight

It’s hard to imagine they won’t win for making journalism heroic, dramatic and noble once again. The writers of THE BIG SHORT could be the spoilers here simply for originality. Though let’s not get carried away on that score.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – MOTION PICTURE

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CARTER BURWELL, Carol

ALEXANDRE DESPLAT, The Danish Girl

ENNIO MORRICONE, The Hateful Eight

DANIEL PEMBERTON, Steve Jobs

RYUICHI SAKAMOTO, ALVA NOTO, The Revenant

WINNER: ENNIO MORRICONE but…

…really no one has ANY idea, including the members of the Foreign Press.

Is this the tie-breaker in your pool? Then go for Ennio Morricone. Otherwise, drink every time someone onstage says original.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – MOTION PICTURE

Betting against the sentimental choice

Betting against the sentimental choice

“LOVE ME LIKE YOU DO” (Fifty Shades of Grey)  Music & Lyrics by: Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Ali Payami, Ilya Salmanzadeh

“ONE KIND OF LOVE” (Love & Mercy)  Music & Lyrics by: Brian Wilson, Scott Bennett

“SEE YOU AGAIN” (Furious 7)   Music & Lyrics by: Justin Franks, Andrew Cedar, Charlie Puth, Cameron Thomaz

“SIMPLE SONG #3”  (Youth)   Music & Lyrics by: David Lang

“WRITING’S ON THE WALL” (Spectre)   Music & Lyrics by: Sam Smith, Jimmy Napes

WINNER: ONE KIND OF LOVE 

Since the entire movie of YOUTH depends on and leads up to the performance of the haunting SIMPLE SONG #3, you’d think this was a lock. But I don’t believe this group can resist giving the much-loved Brian Wilson biopic, LOVE AND MERCY, some love. Or the much-admired Brian Wilson some long overdue awards attention.

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA

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EMPIRE (Fox)

GAME OF THRONES (HBO)

MR. ROBOT (USA Network)

NARCOS (Netflix)

OUTLANDER (Starz)

WINNER: MR. ROBOT

I’m going out on a limb here though it could easily be GAME OF THRONES. But the Foreign Press loves to be the FIRST to discover a show around awards time. I remember at the turn of the century when they SHOCKED the crowd on hand and at home and gave Fox’s PARTY OF FIVE best drama series. Again, look it up. As for MR. ROBOT – I’m in the middle of binge-watching it and I have to say I’m sort of hooked. Sort of? Huh?

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA

Friendly competition

Friendly competition

CAITRIONA BALFE, Outlander

VIOLA DAVIS, How to Get Away with Murder

EVA GREENPenny Dreadful

TARAJI P. HENSONEmpire

ROBIN WRIGHTHouse of Cards

WINNER: VIOLA DAVIS

Take it to the bank. She’s crazy good. Literally.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA

JON HAMM! JON HAMM! JON HAMM!

JON HAMM! JON HAMM! JON HAMM!

JON HAMM, Mad Men

RAMI MALEKMr. Robot

WAGNER MOURANarcos

BOB ODENKIRK, Better Call Saul

LIEV SCHREIBER, Ray Donovan

WINNER: JON HAMM

That’s the sound of me cheering.

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

Still riveted

Still riveted

CASUAL (Hulu)

MOZART IN THE JUNGLE (Amazon)

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (Netflix)

SILICON VALLEY (HBO)

TRANSPARENT (Amazon)

VEEP (HBO)

WINNER: TRANSPARENT

It’s the show of the moment. It just is. I suppose VEEP could sneak in it but it’s doubtful.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

You know you love me Chairy

You know you love me Chairy

RACHEL BLOOM, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

JAMIE LEE CURTIS, Scream Queens

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, Veep

GINA RODRIGUEZJane the Virgin

LILY TOMLINGrace and Frankie

WINNER: JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS

Has Julia Louis-Dreyfus ever lost an awards competition? Who does she know? Still, there is a slim chance for Gina Rodriguez. Yeah, the international factor again. But I’ve learned my lesson betting against the Walt Disney of comedy actresses. (Note: I didn’t really just write that, did I?)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

Is there a Globe for failure to age?

Is there a Globe for failure to age?

AZIZ ANSARI, Master of None

GAEL GARCÍA BERNAL, Mozart in the Jungle 

ROB LOWEThe Grinder

PATRICK STEWART, Blunt Talk

JEFFREY TAMBORTransparent

WINNER: JEFFREY TAMBOR

The closest there is to a sure thing. A brilliant portrayal of a trans woman because he plays her very simply – as a person.

BEST TELEVISION LIMITED SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

A winner dontcha know

A winner dontcha know

AMERICAN CRIME (ABC)

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: HOTEL (FX)

FARGO (FX)

FLESH & BONE (Starz)

WOLF HALL (PBS)

WINNER: FARGO

It’s the most talked about drama this year. If one more person looks at me wide-eyed and says – What do you mean you don’t watch Fargo – you must! – I’M GONNA SCREAM. Ahhhhhhhhhh

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TV

Oh Chairy, you betray me!!!

Oh Chairy, you betray me!!!

KIRSTEN DUNST, Fargo

LADY GAGA, American Horror Story: Hotel 

SARAH HAY, Flesh & Bone

FELICITY HUFFMAN,  American Crime

QUEEN LATIFAH, Bessie

WINNER: KIRSTEN DUNST….

….Because c’mon, you HAVE to watch FARGO. Then you’d understand. Though remember when she burst on the seen as a young girl in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE? I do. Again, look it up.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TV

pg-6-wolf-hall-bbc

IDRIS ELBA, Luther

OSCAR ISAAC, Show Me a Hero

DAVID OYELOWONightingale

MARK RYLANCEWolf Hall

PATRICK WILSONFargo

WINNER: MARK RYLANCE

Because FARGO has to lose in some category and Mr. Rylance is that good in everything he does.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, LIMITED SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

You crazy, Chairy??

You crazy, Chairy??

UZO ADUBA, Orange is the New Black

JOANNE FROGGATT, Downton Abbey

REGINA KINGAmerican Crime

JUDITH LIGHTTransparent

MAURA TIERNEY, The Affair

WINNER: JOANNE FROGGATT

How do you not give DOWNTON ABBEY something? Talk about international appeal. Not to mention – it’s Anna.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, LIMITED SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

What about my comeback?

What about my comeback?

ALAN CUMMING, The Good Wife

DAMIAN LEWISWolf Hall

BEN MENDELSOHNBloodline

TOBIAS MENZIESOutlander

CHRISTIAN SLATER, Mr. Robot

WINNER: BEN MENDELSOHN

I actually saw all of Bloodline. If there ever were an award-winning type of role, Mr. Mendelsohn had it – and delivered. The others will have to make do being in his company this year.

OKAY – SEE YOU ONLINE where I’ll be live tweeting at: @NOTESFROMACHAIR. Tune in!!!

Sitting Down with the Emmys

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 12.01.09 PM

ATT: POP CULTURE VULTURES & TV LOVERS

RE: LET’S HAVE SOME FUN….please?????

Given the week we’ve just had it feels exactly right to spend a bit of time concentrating on an event that has pretty much zero affect on our everyday lives – the EMMY Awards.

This is not to say we don’t care at all or as fans, or friends of nominees, or of people who work on shows that are nominated – or – as possible nominees ourselves, (Note: Uh, no – not me) we think they are unimportant.   Actually, in point of fact they are very, very, very American.

We in the U.S. of A. love a good competition – how else can you explain why a liberal like myself actually spent 32 hours Wednesday night watching 11 Republican candidates gumming each other to death from a stage at the Ronald Reagan presidential library? No, I certainly wouldn’t do it for a football game (Note: Except the Super Bowl because its half-time show usually features either a gay icon or a band from the seventies) but then I never said we all like every competition. This is still, for the time being, a country that is pro-choice. Which brings me back to the topic at hand – television.

Lonely Island Emmys

Lonely Island Emmys

The Oscars might still have the classiest statue but the Emmys are more intimate and ultimately more fun. These shows and the folks who create them, star in them and actually make them, come into our homes. They’re not so much royalty but pseudo friends. We don’t spent a mere two hours or so in their company as we do with our filmmakers but rather upwards of two years or more doing all kinds of things while viewing them that we don’t need to go into here. I don’t know about you but for me that makes it a lot more familial and certainly much homier.

Not to mention – I can’t spend another evening obsessing about the14 year old Muslim boy who was handcuffed in Texas for bringing a clock to school, the apocalyptic El Nino weather warnings that everyone keeps saying will destroy my newly purchased home, or the unavoidable rantings and ravings of The Republican Apprentice on just about every topic and airwave imaginable.

giphy-1

On that minor point let me say this: If you’ve had your scalp reduced and hair plugs inserted in your head, the rat’s nest that rests on top of it certainly doesn’t count as ALL YOURS. Could you imagine having to look at that from the Oval Office for the next four years???

And no – I didn’t accuse anyone of anything so I don’t have to apologize.

In any event, Sunday’s festivities officially begin now with some major category predictions for your betting pool at home. A warning upfront: No one really has idea who is going to win for sure. Well, except when it comes to Jon Hamm. He WILL WIN for best dramatic actor this time out. This is not only true but it is one more reason to objectify him.

I. Can't. Even.

I. Can’t. Even.

He’s an actor. Trust me, he doesn’t mind.

And every time Jon Hamm’s name is mentioned or the camera is on him – DRINK!

The nominees/winners are below:

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES

It's Maura's night!

It’s Maura’s night!

“Louie”

“Modern Family”

“Parks and Recreation”

“Silicon Valley”

“Transparent”

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

“Veep”

Prognosticators are divided on this category, giving a slide edge to “Veep.” I don’t think so. This has been a defining year for the transgender community and thus it feels like Hollywood will give the award to “Transparent.” The story of how a family reacts when its patriarch comes out as a transgender woman has been universally praised and let’s face it – “Veep” will be even better in a presidential election year.

Winner: “Transparent”

 

LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY

Emmy Winner? Yes, that's me.

Emmy Winner? Yes, that’s me.

Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”

Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”

Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”

Will Forte, “The Last Man On Earth”

Louis C.K., “Louie”

William H. Macy, “Shameless”

Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

There are few sure things in an entertainment awards show but Jeffrey Tambor’s win for his performance as said patriarch in “Transparent” is about as close you you’ll get. Whatever one’s possible gripes with the series, Tambor’s work is exceptional. Go back and watch him on “The Larry Sanders Show” and figure out how it could be the same person. Besides, the industry loves when a character actor finally gets the breakout role they always deserved.

Winner: Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

 

LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY

A truly meta moment

A truly meta moment

Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback”

Lily Tomlin, “Grace And Frankie”

Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”

Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”

Amy Poehler, “Parks And Recreation”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

There is only one person deserving of the award in this category – Lisa Kudrow in “The Comeback.” In fact, it is one of the best female performances I’ve ever seen in a comedy series – equal parts hilarious, cringe worthy, heart-breaking, sad and joyful. The odds are that Julia Louis-Dreyfuss will win for the 80th time (Note: Yes, she’s won 80 times, you go figure) or the beloved Amy Poehler will get it for her last season on “Parks and Recreation.” Still…

Winner: Lisa Kudrow “The Comeback” (because I say so).

SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY

Real life win

Real life win

Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”

Adam Driver, “Girls”

Keegan-Michael Key, “Key & Peele”

Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”

Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Tony Hale, “Veep”

There is no stopping “Veep” in certain categories. All of these guys do excellent work but there is something about Tony Hale’s performance that woos Emmy voters. Possible spoilers are Andre Braugher or Titus Burgess for “Brooklyn” or “Kimmy.” Still, who in Hollywood will resist the aide to a delusional, clueless egomaniac?

Winner: Tony Hale “Veep”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY

Can you deny the Notorious RBG?

Can you deny the Notorious RBG?

Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory”

Niecy Nash, “Getting On”

Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”

Allison Janney, “Mom”

Kate McKinnon “Saturday Night Live”

Gaby Hoffmann, “Transparent”

Jane Krakowski, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”

Again, the supporting category is awash with great work. How much would I love to see Kate McKinnon pick it up for her rapping version of my Aunt Ruth (Bader Ginsburg). Quite a lot. But this town often ignores me. It’s going to be Allison Janney in “Mom.” Truth be told, she’s great playing the alcoholic mother of Anna Farris. And besides, she only has 75 Emmy statuettes for “West Wing.” She needs another.

Winner: Allison Janney “Mom”

WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES

David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik for Episodes, “Episode 409” from Showtime

Will Forte for The Last Man On Earth, “Alive In Tucson” (Pilot) from FOX

Louis C.K. for Louie, “Bobby’s House” from FX Networks

Alec Berg for Silicon Valley, “Two Days Of The Condor” from HBO

Jill Soloway for Transparent, “Pilot” from Amazon Instant Video

Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche for Veep, “Election Night” from HBO.

It’s really hard to compete with a well-written television pilot because it has to be a great episode and has the added degree of difficulty of introducing you to the characters and the world of the series. “Transparent” feels like a lock given it is unlike any comedy series ever on the small screen and it comes from a streaming service. Still, the writing award is, for some reason, often seen as a consolation prize for a show that is bypassed in other areas. Nevertheless —

Winner: Jill Soloway “Transparent”

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

Cmon guys... THIS HAPPENED!

Cmon guys… THIS HAPPENED!

“Better Call Saul”

“Downton Abbey”

“Game of Thrones”

“Homeland”

“House of Cards”

“Mad Men”

“Orange is the New Black”

A REALLY tough one. Many people I really respect swear this was THE season of “Game of Thrones.” More importantly, it led the pack this year with 24 Emmy nominations. So you can pencil it in on your own ballot. I’m going with the last season of the best-written show on television – “Mad Men.” Screw the rest of the field. And the Academy if they don’t vote my way.

Winner: “Mad Men”

LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA

You know Cookie will be throwing shade no matter what

You know Cookie will be throwing shade no matter what

Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”

Claire Danes, “Homeland”

Viola Davis, “How to Get Away with Murder”

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”

Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”

Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

The best roles for women have for some time been on television. This is an impossible category of excellence. But it’s going to be Viola Davis. Brilliant, frightening, frail and bold. It should also be noted that an African American woman has never one in this category. Yeah, it’s true.

Winner: Viola Davis “How to Get Away with Murder”

SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA

No nomination? Was it the moustache?

No nomination? Was it the moustache?

Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”

Ben Mendelsohn, “Bloodline”

Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey”

Peter Dinklage, “Game Of Thrones”

Alan Cumming, “The Good Wife”

Michael Kelly, “House Of Cards”

My spies tell me this it will be Jonathan Banks in “Better Call Saul.” Loved him playing the same character in “Breaking Bad.” It’s not unprecedented to get recognition the second time around. Baby boomers will instantly remember Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman winning for their work on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” only to go on to great acclaim in solo series bearing their characters’ names (Note: Okay, “Rhoda” and “Phyllis”). Banks doesn’t have his own show but lucky for “Saul” he’s on someone else’s.

Winner: Jonathan Banks “Better Call Saul”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA

Holloway-Harris for the win

Holloway-Harris, your Emmy is calling.

Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey”

Lena Headey, “Game Of Thrones”

Emilia Clarke, “Game Of Thrones”

Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife”

Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”

Uzo Aduba, “Orange Is The New Black”

It is a fact that no series regular on seven seasons of “Mad Men” has ever won the Emmy. Really? Yes. That’s why it seems as if the much deserved Christina Hendricks will pull it out of this really close competition. Also, because I’m willing it. If you have reservations, Uzo Aduba is a close second. But remember, Joan always gets exactly what she wants in the end.

Winner: Christina Hendricks “Mad Men”

WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES

Leonard for the win!

Thanks Leonard!

Joshua Brand for The Americans, “Do Mail Robots Dream Of Electric Sheep?” from FX Networks

Gordon Smith for Better Call Saul, “Five-O” from AMC

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss for Game Of Thrones, “Mother’s Mercy” from HBO

Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner for Mad Men, “Lost Horizon” from AMC

Matthew Weiner for Mad Men, “Person To Person” from AMC

It could easily be “Game of Thrones” – that’s what the smart money says. But, uh, no. The final moment of “Mad Men” is yet another image in the annals of TV history, even for those non-fans of the show. Yes, I’m biased. But what else is new.

Winner: Matt Weiner, “Mad Men” “Person to Person”

LIMITED SERIES

Is the Chair hitting the bullseye?

Is the Chair hitting the bullseye?

“American Crime”

“American Horror Story: Freak Show”

“The Honorable Woman”

“Olive Kitteridge”

“Wolf Hall”

This is tricky. Long-form, limited and mini-series categories tend to reward the unexpected.   It could easily go to any of the five but I think it will be “Olive Kitteridge” because you’ve seldom seen a less sympathetic yet compelling dramatic female character on television that is not a vampire, lawyer, stuck in medieval times or a sex goddess. She’s just a plain woman who is really, really difficult. That’s tough to do and make compelling over several nights.

Winner: “Olive Kitteridge”

LEAD ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Timothy Hutton, “American Crime”

Ricky Gervais, “Derek Special”

Adrien Brody, “Houdini”

David Oyelowo, “Nightingale”

Richard Jenkins, “Olive Kitteridge”

Mark Rylance, “Wolf Hall”

I’ve had to do reading on this one since I’ve only seen a few of the nominees. The overwhelming consensus is…

Winner: David Oyelowo “Nightingale”

LEAD ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Wore denim to win her Tony #badassforlife

Wore denim to win her Tony #badassforlife

Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”

Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story”

Queen Latifah, “Bessie”

Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Honorable Woman”

Frances McDormand, “Olive Kitteridge”

Emma Thompson, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street”

The winner should be Frances McDormand and hell, I’ll be honest, I’d bribe voters to make it so just to hear another one of her outrageously honest acceptance speeches. If you don’t know what I mean, pray that she wins. Though don’t be shocked if either Queen Latifah or Maggie Gyllenhall snatches it away at the last minute. But also pray they don’t.

Winner: Frances McDormand “Olive Kitteridge”

SUPPORTING ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

No arguments here!

No arguments here!

Richard Cabral, “American Crime”

Denis O’Hare, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Finn Wittrock, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Michael Kenneth Williams, “Bessie”

Bill Murray, “Olive Kitteridge”

Damian Lewis, “Wolf Hall”

Everyone seems to believe it’s going to be Bill Murray and having watched “Olive” I would not be disappointed. But I’m going out on a limb here and say any straight actor who can pull off playing a repressed gay effete homicidal killer named Dandy and not come off as an inaccurate and/or offensive stereotype deserves this award and more. Not to mention, he was hilariously awful.

Winner: Finn Wittrock “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

For the Emmys.. two heads may be better than one

For the Emmys.. two heads may be better than one

Regina King, “American Crime”

Sarah Paulson, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Angela Bassett, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Kathy Bates, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Mo’Nique, “Bessie”

Zoe Kazan, “Olive Kitteridge”

In the spirit of the above, any actress who can play conjoined twins and not only believably evoke two very separate personalities but endure all of the green screen and body doubles she undoubtedly had to contend with needs this statuette. Not to mention, Sarah Paulson has been one of the unsung heroes of each season of “American Horror” and has never gotten the award.

Winner: Sarah Paulson “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

REALITY-COMPETITION SERIES

giphy

“The Amazing Race”

“Dancing With The Stars”

“Project Runway”

“So You Think You Can Dance”

“Top Chef”

“The Voice”

How do you resist this category? I have no idea. So here’s the thing – “The Amazing Race” usually wins though 2 years ago “The Voice” deservedly stole it away. Fine, then considers most of the voters are in the industry and in their hearts become insecure again once they make the bolder choice, let’s go back to –

Winner: “The Amazing Race”

VARIETY TALK SERIES

Really Chairy?

Really Chairy?

“The Colbert Report”

“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”

“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”

“Late Show With David Letterman”

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

All the usual suspects – which is why I believe the freshest and least usual will win. John Oliver is not only funny and smart but the unlikeliest of hosts to not only be able to substitute for Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” while he was away directing a movie but to front his own once a week comic news commentary on HBO – not Comedy Central.

Winner: “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”

VARIETY SKETCH SERIES

All Hail Amy!

All Hail Amy!

“Drunk History”

“Inside Amy Schumer”

“Key & Peele”

“Portlandia”

“Saturday Night Live”

I’m only including this category for one reason. To give my vote to our much deserved comic gal of the moment –

Winner: “Inside Amy Schumer”

TELEVISION MOVIE

“Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain, Poirot’s Last Case”

“Bessie”

“Grace of Monaco”

“Hello Ladies: The Movie”

“Killing Jesus”

“Nightingale”

Should the television movie and limited series (which are often movies in several parts) be separated in different categories? Oh, who knows. Well, it’s not going to be “Grace of Monaco,” that much is for sure. The Academy has traditionally always loved a good Agatha Christie – which is why my vote goes to the Bessie Smith biopic. Queen Latifah playing the bisexual blues singer, a topless scene of her sitting at her makeup table and Mo’Nique playing her best frenemy Ma Rainey – are you surprised this gets my vote???

Winner: “Bessie”

… and you didn’t think I forgot…

tumblr_mn9avawJ7C1s6our6o1_500

LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA

Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”

Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”

Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”

Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”

Uh, seriously?

WINNER: JON HAMM!! “Mad Men”

(Note: He’s been nominated all 7 years of the series and has never won for breathing life into one of television’s most complex and iconic characters – Don Draper. This is the voting morons’ last chance to make good. And THEY WILL).

DONT WORRY! IT WILL HAPPEN!

DONT WORRY! IT WILL HAPPEN!

And no – I didn’t include the directing categories. The list got too long and writers too often get dropped in favor of directors on these lists.   Don’t feel bad. The directors have a much more powerful union and better residuals.

Okay – will check back after it airs. And remember:

JON HAMM = DRINK!!!!

 

For Your Consideration

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I used to have a poster in my bathroom that read ART OFFICIAL underneath a cartoon drawing of a deceased politician who, among other achievements over his 30 years in office, vigorously advocated for legislation in the U.S. Senate that would quarantine people with AIDS, reinstitute segregation in the South and defund all governmental support of the arts. His name was Jesse Helms and a looker, he wasn’t.  Still, every time I went to the bathroom and saw his face, snarling at me from over the bathtub, I felt as if I were taking a crap right in front of him and everything he stood for. This made me incessantly happy for quite a long period of time during a very difficult period of my life.  Okay, about 15 years.  Still, how many other $9.95 posters can you say that for?

Allow me to excuse myself

Allow me to excuse myself

Many people, including my now husband, criticized me for keeping Mr. Helms around for that long and begged me to take him down.  Nevertheless, I wouldn’t relent – even when Mr. Helms started to bend and fade after years of restroom abuse and we were towards the end of the Clinton administration where times had begun to change just a little bit.

Some months after Sen. Helms finally dropped dead at the age of 87 and my test of wills was won I decided it was time to move on.  Still, I sometimes miss that poster (Note:  The original piece was drawn by famed guerilla poster artist Robbie Conal) and everything it evoked – anger, color, sadness, triumph and, in the end, just plain justice.

I have a better idea for some bathroom art.

Perhaps some better bathroom art

Point being, it’s hard to quantify what a poster or any piece of art means to an individual.  What speaks to us, why it resonates, just how good “good” really is or just how “awful” a truly awful creation can be is purely subjective.  Can you really, as the old saying goes, sew a silk purse from a sow’s ear?  Well, for my $9.95 you couldn’t get any more piggish than Jess Helms yet, crossed with the expert purse-spinning of someone like Mr. Conal, you could not have wound up with anything more silken.  My dear husband to this day still disagrees but, fortunately, arguments like those are not relationship breakers.

Which brings us to the announcement of this year’s Emmy Awards.

But before we begin, here’s a photo of Jon Hamm.

hai

hai

And another.

Me again?

Me again?

This man has NEVER won an Emmy Award and yet has been nominated all eight seasons he has brilliantly played Don Draper on the equally brilliant television series Mad Men, which finally ended its run this year.

Yes, Mr. Hamm is the physical anti-Helms and in that sense certainly bears no relation to any sow I have ever seen.  But that is no reason to penalize him for achieving the equivalent of the finest silk etching of one of the medium’s most iconic and certainly-to-be enduring characters.  So if you’re a voter – you. must. vote. for.  him.  And if you’re not, consider joining the Television Academy just so you can make sure that this time justice will be done.  Or simply go through your phone book and lobby someone you love, like or even feel indifferent towards to do the same.

Even I will vote for Jon!

Even I will vote for Jon!

Now, where were we?

Ah yes – awards.  See how totally subjective these types of discussions can be?

For your conveniences, here is a link to this year’s nominees

There is no point going on about every one of several hundred categories and who was left out, included or otherwise justly ignored.  We all have our favorites.  And sows.  Yet here are some salient facts you might not have known:

Sizing up the competition

Sizing up the competition

1. Every nominee in every category must be officially “entered” into the race.  To do this it costs anywhere from $200-$800, which can be reimbursed if you are a member of the Television Academy – though that’s a yearly fee equivalent to the entry fee.  True, the studios or producers will often pay the money but not always.  Not to mention, any time anyone pays for anything that will give the general public pleasure, the cost will somehow funnel its way back to you – the audience – in some form.

Translation: This is not to say that there are not deserving people who win this or any other show business award.  But the next time you become outraged at the unfairness of it all, consider the paradigm on which this is all constructed. (Note: With the exception of any award for Jon Hamm).

2. The rules require most categories limit the amount of nominees from 2-6.  But you might notice that this year some have seven or eight nominees.  That’s because there is a 2% rule which means that if the last nominee who makes the cut is not getting 2% votes more than the next one in line, that BOTH have to be upped above-the-line.  Got that?  I thought so.

Whatever... she is marrying Joe Manganiello  #trophyhusband

Whatever… she is marrying Joe Manganiello #trophyhusband

Translation:  From the point of view of the television business – the more the merrier.  Meaning, if there is any way a network can somehow eke out another nomination it can advertise by getting one or two of its employees (who are often Academy members) to vote for one of their shows or performers or craftspeople they will do it with the hopes that they can land within 2% of the next marginal entry and somehow tip the scales in their favor.  Note:  This is not purely cynicism, though certainly something has to explain why Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been nominated 19 of the past 25 years for playing two very similar characters and Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black finally received her first in three years for a BBC series (Orphan Black) during which she convincingly plays 5-7 very distinctly different people. (Note:  Oh, hiss and boo your own selves – Copyright, Bette Midler – and save your outrage for world peace).

3.  There is similarly no accounting for why perennial nominees are suddenly left off of the list.  For instance, this year Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, a four-time winner and six-time nominee in the Best Lead Actor in a Comedy category, was completed overlooked.  Bill Maher, who has been nominated 18 times for hosting and writing his own show for 20 years (and has never ever won) was passed over entirely this time out.  (Note: He’s probably relieved).  Homeland was back among the best drama series in its fourth season after being dropped from the list last year following two consecutive nominations and one win in that category for its first two seasons.  Similarly, Mad Men has been nominated for best drama series for every year it has been on the air but NOT ONE OF ITS REGULAR ACTORS HAS EVER WON.  EVER.  #itsanhonorjust2benominated?

Will one of these admen (and women) bring home the gold?

Will one of these admen (and women) finally bring home the gold?

4.  A big deal is made each year over “new blood” being recognized during awards season.  This year, the people of the moment the zeitgeist seems happiest about are Amy Schumer for her much lauded sketch comedy show on Comedy Central, John Oliver for hosting a new HBO show that bears his name and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which scored a series and a handful of guest-starring nominees but none for uh, Kimmy Schmidt – aka Ellie Kemper?  There are no whys in this discussion.  Only why nots.

Hey... look who was on Kimmy Schmidt?

Hey… look who was on Kimmy Schmidt?

5.  It’s one thing to peruse a mainstream publication’s list of Emmy contenders for hits and misses but when you’re looking for something a bit more specific, or at least unusual, research shows (Note: Okay, fine, it’s just my opinion), people turn to blogs.  In this spirit, we’d like to point out that by far THE unique Emmy nominee of 2015 is the nod to Jane the Virgin’s Anthony Mendez as BEST NARRATOR.  The CW show has broken the barrier and become the first ever-scripted series to score a nomination in this category.  Since you’re wondering, this year he goes up against Neil deGrasse Tyson, who narrated National Geographic’s “Hubble’s Cosmic Journey,” Miranda Richardson, who did Nat Geo Wild’s “Operation Orangutan,” Peter Coyote, the voice of PBS’ “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” and Henry Strozier, narrator of Animal Planet’s “Too Cute!” series.  Though the much-hoped nomination for Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez in the lead actress category didn’t happen. #donteventry

6.  Finally, it could be argued that, historically, among the most competitive Emmy category has been lead actress in a comedy series.  Think about it – Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Jean Stapleton, all four Golden Girls in various years and, okay, yes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  (Note:  I never said she wasn’t good!).

However, there should really only be one winner this year and that’s Lisa Kudrow for comic/tragic/comic heroine Valerie Cherish on HBO’s The Comeback.

That girl!

That girl!

It doesn’t get any better than what she managed to pull off as actress, writer and producer.  Will she win against Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler. Lily Tomlin, Edie Falco and, um. J L-Dreyfuss??  If there is any justice, yes.  But as was the case with my under $10 piece of Jesse Helms artwork, sometimes it takes 30 years for justice to prevail.

Finally —

GIVE JON HAMM THE G-D DAMN EMMY!!!

The Real Thing

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 11.59.35 AM

Can people substantially change who they are? Or do they, as they get older, just become more of who they are?

Mad Men – one of the best-written series ever on television – grappled with the question of change and identity via the lens of the American psyche throughout its eight-year,seven-season, run. So it seemed only fitting – and simultaneously both obvious and brilliant – that this would be the primary question it answered in its finale episode.

A television program can only do so much but for my money and time there has not ever been a show to so accurately yet obtusely capture how Americans think, change or refuse to budge as this one. We have taken a lot of heat as a country for being a bit self-obsessed just as we have also always been lauded for our sometimes unsolicited generosity of spirit to others when their or our backs are to the wall. Perhaps America as a bastion of freedom that will always lend a helping hand and open door to those less fortunate has taken a beating in recent years. But the idea of the U.S. – and the desire for there to be a place where people can live free and be who they really are regardless of what they may or may not really be, observe or come from – is a concept that seems to only grow with power as time goes on and the world grows more (yet seemingly less) connected.

Don Draper's 1960 utopia

Don Draper’s 1960 utopia

The reason Mad Men was so often able to address these questions so brilliantly is that series creator Matthew Weiner chose exactly the right decade – the 1960’s – to tackle them. There has not been, nor probably will there ever be in the future, a ten-year period with so great a shift in cultural, political and social mores. It saw an unprecedented period of sweeping changes in how we thought, felt, and even dressed. Free love, the peace movement, a relaxing of social conventions that caused us to become (Note: Sometimes kicking and screaming) more inclusive and less discriminatory against the marginalized or less fortunate? Well, five plus decades later some of it would last – for a while – until segments of the majority in power (Note: Did I say the 1980s? Oh, now I did) decided to take a few more steps backwards from that advancing direction. But then again, all of this societal stuff tends to be cyclical anyway if you look at the rise and fall of any the world’s great super powers. At least we – well, many of the most fortunate of us, that is – still have a few more choices now than we did back then.

When one says Mad Men was about the sixties let’s be clear about something – it was really about the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The decade we really think was the sixties didn’t actually begin until after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Before that it was just the 1950s but with a more youthful glow. The 1960s then happened and took us through Vietnam, rock ’n roll, drugs and the search for love and that dirty term nowadays: self-actualization. But that ended after the 1968 assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, television bringing the atrocities of the Vietnam War home, and the unmasking of all of the rest of the American dream for every bit of the invented sham it always was. That, in essence, was where our slow recovery – meaning the 1970s – began and continues to this very day.

Don's reading materials

Don’s reading materials

None of this is meant as an insult to the American dream or to negate the fact that many beneficial aspects to it still do exist. But make no mistake – it was and is invented and made up. The very nature of all dreams is that they are NOT REAL. Which, on the other hand, makes them no less true (or potentially true) in some form. I tell this to my students in every writing class I’ve ever taught when they voice concerns that their stories are too contrived. Well, of course they’re contrived! I answer. All of this stuff is made up, even if it’s based on real life. The task is to make it not seem like it is – to somehow have it evoke reality. That was hard fought advice I gave to myself after decades of self-flagellation whenever I myself grew overly frustrated that nothing I ever wrote seemed real ENOUGH.

There is no main character – nee protagonist, nee anti-hero or hero, depending on how you want to see him – to dramatically travel so effectively in, around and through these issues as a man whose job it is to manufacture American dreams, wants and desires – meaning an American advertising man.

From the pilot episode

From the pilot episode

And what kind of ad guy – how about one whose entire personal identity is made up from the very beginning – both literally in Matt Weiner’s mind and figuratively in the character of Don Draper, a man who is really named something else he didn’t like or want to be and instead chose to assume the name and new life of a dead man. This is a guy who is so perfect looking, so talented, and so continuously successful in everything he does even when he is failing miserably – that he couldn’t be real. In fact, he couldn’t be anything more than the invention of some smart and savvy mind on Madison Avenue – which is what he is.

Don Draper’s journey from stud, to family man, to phony man, to rich man who remembers being a poor man, to rogue, alcoholic, reformed rogue with half a heart back to pseudo real, tortured American stripped bare at the end of the decade, seemed iconic and ironic enough. But it was only in the last episode this weekend, where the flawed yet somehow always enviable Don Draper took center stage alongside such other fictional American icons as Tony Soprano of The Sopranos, Walter White in Breaking Bad and even All in the Family’s Archie Bunker.

Television's (now) former leading men... casting long shadows

Television’s (now) former leading men… casting long shadows

It is giving nothing away (Note: Or perhaps it is so if you’re a stickler for these kind of things you might want to skip over the paragraph) to say that at his seemingly lowest point in the series Don decides not so much to change but to pull himself together the best he can and achieve what in his heart of hearts he’s always wanted – something uniquely his own and thus personally iconic.

But he does this not through the personal epiphany he has in the scene before when, in a burst of uncharacteristic, unguarded emotion, he is able to identify with and even hug a fellow lost male soul in a California encounter group when the man compares himself to an unchosen item in a refrigerator and laments that people “look right through you” and don’t see you. I mean in that moment you wonder if what Don feels is not so much kinship for a guy to whom he is essentially saying – that’s right, I feel the same way, they don’t see me either and I know how you feel – or whether as he’s hugging this poor shlub he is really saying – Listen bud, I AM the ideal, the guy you always think they see and who, in fact, they do see and always choose, and it’s no better on this side either. I don’t feel like anyone really knows me because I don’t know me, and let me tell you, just like you that feels like shit.

Sally gets it. Especially when she tells her father (in this season's "The Forecast"): "Anyone pays attention to you, and they always do, and you just ooze everywhere."

Sally gets it. Especially when she tells her father (in this season’s “The Forecast”): “Anyone pays attention to you, and they always do, and you just ooze everywhere.”

This would seem to be Don’s emotional catharsis and moment of self-actualization and perhaps it is in that moment. But like all heroes in very American art this hero has to take what he’s learned and apply it to real life. Or as they say via our take on modern dramatic film and TV writing, The Hero’s Journey — he needs to Return with the Elixir from whence he came and put his knowledge into practice in his own ordinary world.

Though we’ll never know for sure, it seems that Mr. Weiner’s (and Mad Men’s) answer to all this is NOT to have Don go home and become a better father, join the Peace Corp or set up a foundation for other lost souls less fortunate than he.

No – what happens is that during a subsequent day of mediation (complete with a joint OHM and all that entails) a literal bell goes off in Don’s head and he smiles – presumably with an idea.

Suffice it to say this is not a notion for how to achieve world peace or the beginnings of a cure for cancer. Though perhaps it is the ad man’s equivalent of that – a brilliant idea for a …Coke Commercial?

Say what you want about all of us as a culture, or as artists, but there is no idea too pure or life event too personal that we are above cannibalizing if we can turn it to our benefit into great art or at least a great business idea – though hopefully both.

Which I couldn’t help thinking about when Mr. Weiner revealed Mad Men’s final song and image – Don Draper’s last great idea. Cue one of the most famous television ads ever seen – a multi-cultural group of young people of different colors and nationalities atop a mountaintop having HIS Kumbaya moment but singing a song espousing the benefits and joys of us humans one day existing in perfect harmony as we each drink…our Coca-Colas.

You tell 'em, Rita!

You tell ’em, Rita!

Anyone who is of a certain age remembers I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke.  If not click here. First it was an ad jingle, then it was one of the first world videos, and then, and only then, was it re-recorded with new lyrics where it would become an…international hit record.

It was the beginning of another era – that of media cross-pollination, which would eventually give way to mass corporate ownership of the arts and vertical integration of all its divisions into a new world order.

Yes, we do have the Don Drapers of the world to thank for that.

But only THE Don Draper – and those who created him – to thank for seven seasons of appointment TV that, even in our current and vast media landscape, will sorely be missed.

Mad Memories

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Every television series has an expiration date – like all the rest of us. And as much as we love and adore a program, ourselves or someone else – what is inevitable is that after the many joys, heartaches, exhilarations and disappointments it will be time for a finale. That time begins this week for Mad Men – one of the most unlikely, game changing and creatively successful shows in television history.

Tonight marks the first of its seven-episode final season so it is really, for lack of a better phrase, the beginning of the end. Yet like all culminations (Note: Death sounds so awful doesn’t it – as if the opposite never existed) it carries a myriad of emotions depending on how one chooses to see endings – especially the creative kind.

MAYBE I WILL, SALLY!

MAYBE I WILL, SALLY!

Two of my favorite people in the world – Stephen Tropiano and Holly Van Buren – are currently working on a book to be published at the end of the year on this very subject called TV Series Finales FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Endings of Your Favorite TV Shows. It will cover a broad spectrum of many of our favorite series and it is more than likely at least one or more of the programs you have enjoyed most over the years will be included.

I, for one, will never forget the ending of Six Feet Under, the HBO program that centered on the mortuary-owning Fisher family. It seemed so obvious it would all conclude with the flash-forward death moments of each family member since they spent their time with us having to deal with the expiration dates of all the rest of the various people (meaning the surrogate versions of us) who entered into their home.

Nothing beats Brenda's "Death from boredom"

Nothing beats Brenda’s “Death from boredom”

Comedies like Newhart also gave us an equally creative finale – perhaps borrowed from The Wizard Of Oz, where in its very last scene Mr. Newhart wakes up from a dream in bed next to the woman he was married to from his previous 1970s series, The Bob Newhart Show. He then recounts to his 1970s wife, played by the deadpan and quite hilarious Suzanne Pleshette (Side Note: I met her at a Hollywood restaurant once through a mutual friend and she was down-to-earth and equally hilarious), the last eight-year synopsis of the other program as if it were some wild fever dream. To which Ms. Pleshette responds, among other things, Go back to sleep, Bob.

Absolute classic

Priceless

There are a variety of many other conclusions. The poignant M*A*S*H final helicopter departure; the more harsh, black comedy moment of the Seinfeld gang sitting in jail together, alienated from the world; and what will always seem like the pitch-perfect moment in Breaking Bad when Walter White’s reign of – shall we call it terror or victory? – finally comes to a close.

We all have our personal highs and lows and they’re often dictated by how and what we related to the entity that is ending – and even more so how we react when told by the Cosmos – or in the case of TV, a network or show runner – that despite what we might want there will be NO MORE.

Though perhaps some of us, myself included, are now thinking:

This metaphor doesn’t hold for TV anymore, Chair. What about all the sequels, reboots and reinventions? Maybe you should finally take a seat in your long overdue ROCKER!

Well, not quite. I know you’re all thrilled about the recently announced reboots of The X-Files with its original stars, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, and the return of Twin Peaks with the always Agent Cooper Kyle McLaughlin. The same way I was jazzed for that second season of Valerie Cherish this year in HBO’s The Comeback 10 years after the fact. However, the simple truth is that none of these shows is or will ever be the same as they once were – or are truly a continuation of what we knew them as before.

In the case of The Comeback – for me it was better. I mean, I’m 10 years older (which in show business years is truly almost a lifetime) and I now have an infinitely better understanding of Val’s trials and tribulations as a creative person in Hollywood even though I thought I knew just about all there was to know about it before. Perhaps that’s why I thought the second season was far deeper and more effective than the first – though it still could’ve rested there anyway since even that end was pretty good at the time.

I cherish you

I cherish you

Though I can’t say the same about the original ending of Twin Peaks I do admit its resume scares me even more since the black comedy dramatic irony it first pioneered 25 years ago in prime time has now been adopted by about 75% of most creative enterprises across the board in 2015 – and for quite some time. On that note, I can’t even imagine what Mulder and Scully will be up to on X Files – though I pray it won’t involve an introduction of alien spouses (Note: Wait, maybe I do!) even as I hope it will finally reveal what the heck happened to David Duchovny’s on-screen, never before seen sister. (Note: Yes, I’m sure it won’t work and I’d regret it if they did, but, well, as long as we’re going there, can’t they….Yes, I know).

One can’t hold on to time today and pretend it’s 10, 15, 20, 30 or 50 years ago. This is something the governors of both Indiana and Arkansas learned the hard way this past week when they were forced to deal with the severe public, not to mention financial, backlash from new religious freedom laws that could make it perfectly legal for businesses to choose not to serve gays and lesbians purely on religious grounds. This goes to show that even if one tries to recreate and build on something that once existed but doesn’t anymore it is impossible to get back to that moment of the first ending – or become overly nostalgic about that time in the past in this age and as the person you are now at this moment in time.

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As for impending endings and how best to deal with them – it would behoove all of us to simply revel in the final moments we have with ourselves, our friends and loved ones, as well as our favorite stories. (Note: That’s what my Mom used to call her soap operas). This is not a morbid thought because, well, many endings can go on for quite a long time. I mean, the final season of Mad Men has actually lasted more than a year due to AMC’s prescription of stretching it out that long to make more money and build audience ratings. And not to get too heavy (too late?) it can also be argued that we all are in the process of our own endings even when we think we are just beginning – given the constraints of existence. A pretty heady thought – especially for a Sunday blog. Or well, any day for that matter.

Though this seems appropriate for a show like Mad Men, which was, if nothing else, extremely heady (some called it dense) even as it was hilarious, devastatingly dramatic, sad and ironic. This gave it many detractors, including one person very close to me who in the past has often noted that despite its brilliance it often felt interminably slow – like watching paint dry.

Sometimes literally. (Season 4, Episode 3 The Good News)

Sometimes literally. (Season 4, Episode 3 The Good News)

Okay – fine. But why say that like that’s a negative thing? Isn’t life like that more times than we want to admit – mixed in with the excitement, fun and everything else?

Well – who the hell knows? All I am clear about is that while I dread the time two months from now without one of my favorite programs ever, I also know in my heart of hearts the moment has arrived to say good-bye. A relationship I stayed with far too long in the 1980s taught me that when I actually thought that I could…well, we don’t really need to get into that here. As for Mad Men, think of it this way – do you really want to see Don Draper in the 1970s? Not to mention – the eighties and nineties?   Now that would be sad.

i don't do polyester

i don’t do polyester

More happy are the seminal memories from the past. That is what I try to remember about all the people in my life who are long gone and it is what I choose to recall about what I consider – the consistently BEST WRITTEN SERIES ON TELEVISION. In the spirit of that, let’s close with the five best scenes of seven seasons that gave us so much more – not to mention so much more to think about.

#5 ROGER STERLING TAKES LSD

Season 5, Episode 6 Far Away Places

What happens when the middle-aged silver fox blue blood partner of an ad agency takes LSD with his much younger second wife? Well, the truth – of course.   At least that’s what it felt like in the mid-sixties. Drugs had a much different connotation then – freedom, creativity, inner understanding and, most importantly, eternal youth. In that one moment, MM captured not only a key moment for one of its characters but a significant moment in the cultural zeitgeist that too often gets twisted into more – and less – than it really was.

#4 – JOAN F-CKS THE JAGUAR GUY

Season 5, Episode 11 The Other Woman

You can’t say they slept together because office manager Joan knew exactly what she was there for – a partnership in the business. In a desperate attempt to keep a luxury car account, it is suggested that savvy Joan literally prostitute herself in the name of the firm and in an ironic, almost pre/post-feminist moment she agrees to for promise of a financial future far beyond the wildest dreams – or possibilities – of a woman in her situation during that time period. What made the scene (Note: Which is really a series of scenes in the course of the episode) particularly harrowing was that in some strange way her character had always served as the moral conscience of the show. She seemed to have an innate understanding of everyone and everything and the ability to keep it together her way. WE didn’t want her to DO THE JAGUAR but Joan always makes the right choice for herself before we get there. Or does she? This moment still leaves us wondering – and wondering why we’re judging. Not to mention just what our own price of a partnership is or could be.

#3 – GRANDMA IDA PAYS A VISIT

Season 6, Episode 7 The Crash

Come over here and give a hug to your Grandma Ida, says the middle-aged Black woman (NOTE: She is later referred to as an elderly Negro woman) to Don Draper’s very White pre-teen daughter Sally. Say what??? Of course, this is right after Sally catches the woman rifling through her remarried father’s living room in one of those divorced kids visits, so she’s confused and doesn’t respond. But Grandma Ida does with a condemning stare and the words: Now don’t you be rude to me, You come over here and give me some sugar.

Well, that would have been enough for this kid of divorce and I was almost Sally’s age during that time period and just as snide and mouthy. This said more about what it was like to be young enough to be a kid but old enough to understand more than the adults thought you did (though not quite as much as you thought) than almost anything else I’ve ever seen on television. I mean, could Dad really be…or have been raised by….? Not to mention how it addresses the issue of race. It’s still uncomfortable to talk about and still gives me the willies.

#2 – PEGGY TELLS PETE SHE HAD HIS KID AND GAVE IT AWAY

Season 2, Episode 13 Meditations in an Emergency

Click here for full clip

Click here for full clip

If it was difficult to believe that a young woman in that era could be pregnant in denial about it almost the moment she gave birth, it was also liberating to know that same woman could figure a way to pull herself out of it and back into normality. Except nothing about Peggy Olson, the smart, ambitious but sheltered young 20 something woman of her time, is NORMAL. Of course, what is normal anyway? Certainly not the 1960s, in retrospect. If you’ve ever known anyone, including yourself, who successfully managed to explain away the unexplainable with twisted logic – well, you gotta love Peggy here. And fear her – and for her – just a little. This scene is not the showiest and won’t mean much to non-fans, but if you’re a regular viewer and/or binge watcher you’ll never forget it.

#1  DON DRAPER: AD/MAD MAN GENIUS

Season 1, Episode 13 The Wheel

The heart of Mad Men is Don Draper – the handsome, square-jawed guy every woman wants to have and every guy wants to be. But it’s not Don’s looks, sexual prowess, success or reinvention that stand apart when one looks at the series of a whole – it his ability to deliver the goods when it counts. This is helped along greatly by brilliant writing delivered by the absolutely perfect casting/acting of Jon Hamm in that starring role. This scene more than any delivers the genius and heartbreak of this ad man and does so in the form of a faux advertising campaign pitch of a real product of the era in a way so personal to this character that we would have never imagined he’d go for it. Try doing that or acting it or writing it or even imagining it on your own some time and let me know if it’s a tenth as good. (Note: It won’t be). This is why Mad Men will endure and why its finale episodes – no matter which direction they go – will inevitably be worth watching.

Detour from Reality

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One of the best screenplays I ever wrote came extremely close to getting made into a film 15 years ago. It had been cast with two Academy Award nominated actors and was “supposedly” financed. Until it wasn’t. And then the whole thing fell apart.

However, when we were casting and having difficulty finding a bankable “name” who was up to the demands of handling the lead female role I distinctly remember one producer saying to me, “too bad you couldn’t have an all-black cast – you’d have your pick of the best actors in the business.”

Um... say what?

Um… say what?

I was sort of stunned at the stark admission of a fact that, when I thought about it, felt racist and yet I knew to be true. The pool of “bankable” actors, especially among women, was mostly limited to white people.

This is not to say it is easy to get any film made in 2015, especially the romantic drama kind we were pedaling. On the other hand, these days it has less to do with race and everything to do with the fact that your project has either too much dialogue that doesn’t translate overseas; contains no special effects or chance of a sequel; and has no tent pole potential – or even aliens.

My, times have changed.

This week Deadline Hollywood ran a news story about the upswing in the number of ethnic actors (Note: A euphemism for non-white) being cast in the current TV pilot season. The story quoted one talent rep who complained:

Basically 50% of the roles in a pilot have to be ethnic, and the mandate goes all the way down to guest parts.

To make matters worse, Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva, who wrote the article, led into that quote with the pronouncement that while it is nice to have diversity on TV, some suggest that the pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction.

Say that again now?

Say that again now?

I was not so much outraged, as some were, but amused and unsurprised. Because I was already hearing the following dialogue in my nasty little writer brain:

I mean, how dare there be such a sea change that allows the majority of available roles for actors to go to non-whites, especially when the only people on my client list are WHITE! It’s not fair! We have to nip this in the bud. And fast!

In some ways it felt like a scene out of the Mad Men pilot when WASP advertising agency partner Roger Sterling had to scour his office high and low for a Jew in order to land an important Jew account. (Note: He eventually did find one named David Coen – in the mailroom).

It as before my time

It was before my time

Now television is not the movies but there is no denying that the recent popularity of such fine series as How To Get Away With Murder, Empire, Black-ish and Jane the Virgin has caused some degree of white panic in the mostly white offices around town. Forget that many of these people are, like myself, liberal Democrats who don’t consider themselves at all to be racist.

What if this is a trend – and one that doesn’t limit itself to actors? What if…I mean, could it possibly spread to our writer and director clients, and then down to the below-the-line crew clients, and then up to… perish the thought… the executive suite? I mean, are they coming for OUR jobs???

Yeah!!

Yeah!!

I couldn’t help but wonder if this line of thinking isn’t much different from what happened in Indiana this week with the “religious freedom” bill signed into law by its governor, Mike Pence. That new law would allow any business owner in the state to not serve, sell or hire any person if it would impose a substantial burden on their religious beliefs. The law was proposed as a result of federal courts overturning Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage last year and is generally seen as a way to discriminate against the LGBT community.

I mean, those people can do what they want but don’t force me to participate in it. I don’t want them in my restaurant, I ain’t gonna bake them a cake and I am certainly for sure not gonna have anyone force me to hire one. Or two or three!

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No wonder six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald – the Black (or ethnic, if you prefer) actress who at just 44 years of age has more of Broadway’s top honor than any other performer in theatre history – went apoplectic on Twitter in reaction to it. Realizing she was soon scheduled to play several concert dates in Indiana, she tweeted directly to Gov. Pence such statements as:

What the ingenious and talented Ms. McDonald eventually decided to do was:

In a follow-up statement she announced she will be spreading the wealth and giving the money she earns in Indiana to the Human Rights Campaign Fund, Freedom Indiana and other charities fighting back against the new law.

One does not have to be part of one minority to fully understand the depths of discrimination, marginalization and general hatred the majority can feel for another minority but it certainly does help. As a Jewish gay guy I always felt a little different – even growing up in NY and working in Hollywood – so it was pretty easy for me to see at an early age that when other people were being bullied or treated unfairly because of who or what they happened to be that, well, it could easily be me. In short, it made me apoplectic and I had far less power (and still do) than Audra McDonald.

And I don't just mean lung power!

And I don’t just mean lung power!

Luckily, as I grew older and the world began to change I was able to become less angry and strident interacting with the world on that score and far more effective (in a limited power sort of way) in standing up and being adamant.   Yet I am also far more adept at sniffing out the inequality and prejudice which is now continually coming to my attention daily and often from thousands of miles away on the other side of the world. I guess it is a double-edged sword.

Of course, all of these experiences can also cause a person of my tribe(s) to completely go the other way. For instance, when I was growing up there was a great deal of anger and resentment among middle-class Jews towards the Black community (Note: Why, I never quite figured out), making the thought of something like inter-marriage one of the worst shondas (Note: The Yiddish word for disgrace) in the world. What they would have thought about a man marrying a man or a woman marrying a woman? I can’t even…. And let’s not even get into the transgender community. If for nothing else than for their sake.

I have a feeling I wouldn't find any of these in Indiana

I have a feeling I wouldn’t find any of these in Indiana

The bottom line is this:

If a few white actors, or even writers, directors or studio executives, have a few less opportunities because we are moving towards a more balanced racial representation on television – and perhaps the movies – TOO FREAKIN’ BAD.

And if a bunch of religious people have their sensibilities offended because they have to sell a cake to a same-sex couple – who for all they know might be buying it for their parents and not for their big fat gay wedding – BOO FREAKIN’ HOO.

You’ll ALL get over it.

Just make sure to move your cans over before you get trampled by history.