Taking Inventory


A dear friend of mine periodically jokes:

You can’t have everything – where would you put it?

Think about it.

This applies not only in the case of material things but for more ephemeral items like love, success, health, revenge or recognition.  There is only so much emotional space one has to file the good, bad and indifferent.  Somewhere along the line you reach a breaking point where the uploading capacity of human beings will cause one or more of those items to take a back seat to the others if you receive too much of each.

This is a real thing.

This is a real thing.

I was waiting to have lunch recently at a well-known L.A. watering spot (that used to be hipster talk for an “in” place to eat and hang out) where I found myself staring face-to-face with a person who, coming towards me, I had had dinner with some years ago.  This person and I have many mutual friends and through the years have become very acquainted with each other.  However, since we last met this person has clearly transformed himself or herself  (I’m not saying which gender) with both an Oscar and a new body that shows off she/he’s very newly worked out torso.  Also transformed seems to have been this person’s mind, memory and manners because there was not a hint of recognition as she/he dramatically removed she/he’s sunglasses and stared knowingly yet blankly at me, again face-to-face, before blithely walking on.

Hmm, perhaps she/he was distracted by his/her own image reflected back in my non-sunglasses, which I somehow must have mistook for a stare into my eyes.  Um, well, I doubt it.  In point of fact, this person seems clearly to have OD’d on an item called the I’m better than you are attitude while things that they used to possess such as memory, intellect and, well, general…courtesy (?) seem to have fallen by the wayside.



If it weren’t so cliché Hollywood it would be laughable.  But as I and anyone else who has spent decades in the entertainment industry will tell you this is not an isolated incident and, in truth, happens more frequently than one thinks.  However what also quite frequently happens – given the cyclical nature of life and the industry is some decades later this very person, no longer at the top of their game, will spot you at a party and, sweet as pie, approach you as if it’s old home week and no time has passed at all as they sheepishly, and perhaps sincerely, actually inquire into your life.

Truth be told, this very incident also happened to me last year at a supermarket where another award winner I know (Emmy, not Oscar, but who’s counting), who, aged so, I barely recognized all these decades later, approached me with a big smile and enthusiastically affable manner for a long and generous conversation.  It was lovely and pleasant and a sharp contrast to the last experience I had with this person several decades ago at that VERY SAME L.A. watering hole where they blithely acted as if I was either a leper from another planet or possessed some rare form of show business plague.  Clearly, they now feel either:

a. My disease has been cured

b. They now have the same disease and no longer care, or

c. They have been newly gifted with such items as kindness, humility and the wisdom of age.  Or, perhaps, the ages.

My Dad turned 85 this past week and I took him out to a mini-family dinner.  This was celebratory for many reasons though my father likes to remind me that I should be particularly happy he’s still around and having birthdays since, The longer I live, the better it looks for you.

While on some level I do want to believe his longevity genes will be passed on, that was not the primary reason this dinner turned out to be great.  Throughout his life, my father – a gambler and once a frequent high roller at many famed Vegas hotels where he received countless complimentary luxury suites and free dinners for his family and other guests in exchange for a little of his action – has always been the generous big spender.  This being the case, it has been seldom, if ever, where my sister and I (Note: yes, WE took him out to dinner – yikes – sorry!) or anyone has been able to generously pay for anything in his presence – much less the tab at a hip and fabulosity-ridden au courant restaurant.

This all means that, if you wait long enough, anything can and probably will happen.  Anything at all.  But you don’t want it to happen all at once.  Where, indeed, WOULD you put it?  How could you appreciate it?  Or even, on a practical basis, how would you ever find the time, not to mention energy, to use and enjoy it all?  Cue Erica Kane…

I know for sure that in my younger days it would never have meant as much for my sister or me to take my Dad out to dinner because it would have seemed too tit-for-tat – that in some small way we were trying to imitate the grand gestures on his part that we had grown used to.  (Note:  This wasn’t only limited to Vegas dinners but extravagant birthday presents or memorable childhood items like being the first in our neighborhood with a remote controlled color TV in the mid 1960s – quite a BIG deal!).  But in 2013, with Vegas a shell of the Frank, Dean, Sammy and Ann-Margaret days of yesteryear and all the glitz and glamour of that type of childhood gone, it meant so much to bring a vague contemporary reinvention of it back to him on our dime – if only for just a few hours.

This is not an appreciate life, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, wisdom with age kind of message.  It’s merely a recognition that not everything, and its entourage of best friends, are worth having when you long for them or think they’re a must have.  It takes space, efforts expended, and more than a few bruises, knockouts or even slight bumps along the way to approach the state of mind where you can enjoy that which you are receiving.  It also, quite simply – takes physical TIME to enjoy using what you have.  And often experience in understanding how that item can best be optimally used, much less enjoyed.

The reverse is also true.  Some things are best acquired when one is younger – either physically, mentally or both.  For example, I think the window of opportunity has long elapsed where I can truly appreciate a great comic book superhero film.  Although I was recently quite entertained by the 5 year-old Batkid who had just beat leukemia and, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, got to fight crime throughout a Gotham City-enhanced version of San Francisco.

Three cheers for Bat Kid!

Three cheers for Bat Kid!

Also, given the fact that I could purchase a small home in Detroit for the amount of money I’ve shelled out to various dentists in the last few years, I can never again quite enjoy Skittles, Bazooka Bubble Gum or even Pixie Sticks in quite the same way as I once did.

Finally – and alas – I fear (and admit) I will never be, or even dream about being, a world-class ballet dancer or even low-rung astronaut – though the former not surprisingly appeals to me far, far, more than the latter.  Those days are long gone.  Which is exactly what Diane Keaton said some years ago when someone suggested she wear a dress cut on the bias.

Don't ever change baby!

Don’t ever change baby!

Still, I find these are all very small prices to pay as I look around all the stuff I do have at this moment and take real inventory.  Let’s start with my closet here – I mean, how many shirts and pairs of pants do I really need – how many can I possibly wear at the same time?

The same goes for awards.  And, most especially, attitudes.

The Chair’s Full Emmy Liveblog!

Below is a copy of the Chair’s Emmy liveblog (for those of you who weren’t religiously following along, wink).

If we’re keeping score, looks like the Chair went 6 for 13 in his Emmy predictions, which as you know, is infinitely better than Mad Men’s 0 for 17 (did we mention, ouch??). Relive moment by moment (Jon Hamm references!) right now:

Place your Bets (and lose): The Chair’s Guide to the Emmys

I knew awards shows were getting out of hand when several decades ago my Dad started asking me for inside information. This was because Las Vegas bookrooms were posting odds and taking bets on the Oscars.  We had a few good runs over several years  (a mint was made on Sofia Coppola winning best original screenplay for “Lost in Translation”), but recently Vegas wised up.  Their odds now give bettors such a low chance of return on their money (you have to put up something like $500 to win a mere $50 on an even a vaguely probable winner) that it’s barely worth it. The exception, of course, is hitting a year when someone like Marisa Tomei scores the upset of the century and gets gold for “My Cousin Vinny,” but we all know what the chances are of winning anything significant for acting in a broad comedy, right?  I mean, this isn’t politics.

There is even less chance and reward for figuring out who will win television’s annual Emmy Awards but that doesn’t stop all of us from jabbering on every year (or at least the weekend before the broadcast) about who will take home the sharp-winged lady. Seriously, have you ever held one?   it sort of feels like a murder weapon from an old Agatha Christie novel.  For those under 30 unfamiliar with Ms. Christie, think…oh, never mind…

That bitch will cut you.

Anyway, in the spirit of competition – and because the Chair will be attending and live blogging Sunday night’s Emmy Awards from the Nokia Theatre (hint hint, visit the blog)– but mostly because The Chair LOVES being embarrassed by making wrong predictions. The following is a guide to the winners AND losers of the evening.  But not all of them because there are approximately 963 categories.

Disclaimer:  There are also now approximately 963 TV channels so there is NO ONE in the world who can possibly judge who will win television’s highest honor (isn’t the latter syndication money?) both intelligently and accurately. Luckily, intelligence and accuracy are not particularly valued at this time in our history.  So – here goes.

Outstanding Lead Actor, Drama

Something about a man in uniform

The Nominees: Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Damian Lewis (Homeland), Jon Hamm (Mad Men).

Winner: Damian Lewis

Loser: Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm’s Don Draper has never won an Emmy?  No.  He should win this year, especially since MM’s creator Matt Weiner specifically wrote one of his Emmy-nominated scripts this season specifically to give the star a chance to show off by playing everything from seductive abuser to vomiting sick husband over the space of 60 minutes.  Still, fan favorite Steve Carrell was never shown Emmy love for The Office and it seems to get tougher to get the crowd’s attention as time goes on.  Enter Damian Lewis, a British actor playing an American POW turned potential terrorist in the first season of the much-heralded Homeland.  Enuf said.  Except that all of the actors in the category are as deserving.  But especially Jon Hamm (did I mention Jon Hamm??)

Heyyyy Jon…

Outstanding Lead Actress, Drama 

The Nominees: Glenn Close(Damages), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law), Claire Danes (Homeland), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

Winner: Claire Danes

Loser: Claire Danes

Claire Danes portrayal of a brilliant and bipolar CIA agent is astounding.  She will win.  If she doesn’t win, she deserves equal attention as loser du jour because, in case I didn’t mention it, she’s brilliant in the part.  Really enuf said.

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Drama

The Nominees: Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Jared Harris (Mad Men).

Winner: Giancarlo Esposito

Loser: Jared Harris

I’m taking the word of too many of my friends who say I’m an idiot for not regularly watching Breaking Bad.  So at the very least I have to acknowledge their insistence that Esposito will win.  Though I am a Downton Abbey fan (you can’t be surprised by that), no one role on the series is showy enough to take Emmy home.  Dinaklage and Paul are quite good but don’t have the heat behind them this year.  Jared Harris does, especially since it’s not easy to be convincing for more than a few moments as a hanging corpse, much less through a whole series of scenes.  Still, I’m predicting a Mad Men backlash in as many categories as a television awards show can muster because the broadcast networks are fed up and jealous.

Outstanding Supporting Actress, Drama 

Still cringing…

The Nominees: Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Christine Hendricks (Mad Men)

Winner:  Christina Hendricks

Loser:  Maggie Smith

Any TV watcher knows these are all terrific actresses.  However, sometimes an episode comes along during a season where a character and an actress are asked to make a turn so shocking that, if it works and works well, you need at least a new VW bug (I have an old one) to cart all the accolades away.  Such is the case for Christina Hendricks and what she had to endure playing poor Joan this year.  If you haven’t seen The Other Woman episode I’m not going to spoil it other than to say – I’m still upset!  But I mean, then there’s the Dowager Countess, who is of course brilliant. Snide, funny and wicked… I kind of want to see her reaction when she’s snubbed.

Speaking of cutting a bitch…


Outstanding Leading Actor in a Comedy

The Nominees: Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Don Cheadle (House of Lies), Louis C.K. (Louie), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men). 

Winner:  Jim Parsons

Loser: Louis C.K.

Jim Parsons is hilarious in a very broad, traditional three-camera sitcom fashion.  The problem is he’s doing the same performance year after year and has lately won year and after year.  Since in some circles television is all about entertaining repetition (and it feels like Alec Baldwin has been coasting a little bit as of late), expect JP to take the stage.  Like the even more wicked offspring of Larry David, expect Louis C.K. to be similarly ignored.  He’s so good he makes it look soooo easy.  And that rarely gets you an Emmy.

Outstanding Lead Actress, Comedy 

The Nominees: Lena Dunham (Girls), Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep).

Winner:  Amy Poehler

Loser: Zooey Deschanel

It’s Amy Poehler’s time and she’s never won.  And she deserves it for not only a great season but for helping steer a show that had a less than auspicious creative debut into one of the best half hour comedies now running.  As my friend says about Zooey Deschanel – she’s adorkable and that’s hard to do every week on television.  Plus, she’s has also taken a show with another less than auspicious pilot and made it much better than anyone could have ever expected.  But – it’s not her time.  Yet.

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Comedy

Club promoter: Baloney Danza

The Nominees: Ed O’Neill (Modern Family), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family),Max Greenfield (New Girl), Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live).

Winner:  Bill Hader

Loser:  Bill Hader if he doesn’t win.

One word – Stefon.  The Modern Family guys are good but still doing the same shtick.  Max Greenfield is good but it’s not his…well, you know.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

The Nominees: Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live).

Winner: Kristen Wiig

Loser:  Everyone else

Seriously, this IS Kristin Wiig’s year.  I mean, even The Chair was touched when Mick Jagger sang her sendoff on her last episode of SNL this season.  Plus, there was the Liza Minnelli Turns off A Lamp sketch.

Click for the hilarious video

KW also co-wrote and starred in “Bridesmaids,” the biggest grossing (and grossest) comedy of last year.  You can’t stop a tidal wave.

Outstanding Writing, Drama

The Nominees: Julian Fellows (“Episode 7,” Downton Abbey); Semi Chellas, Matthew Weiner (“The Other Woman,” Mad Men), Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton (“Commissions and Fees,” Mad Men); Semi Chellas, Matthew Weiner (“Far Away Places,” Mad Men); Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff (“Pilot,” Homeland.)

Winner: Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff (Homeland)

Loser:  Any episode of Mad Men

There is nothing on television as consistently original, thought provoking and chance taking as Mad Men (have I said that?) – especially when one considers its fifth season was probably its most risky.  Yet Homeland managed to take the suspense/political conspiracy genre to an entirely new level with an equal marriage of plot and character.  Any writer knows this is nearly impossible to do yet what most every dramatic writer strives for.  Kudos.

Outstanding Writing, Comedy 

Hipster paradise.

The Nominees: Chris McKenna (“Remedial Chaos Theory,” Community), Lena Dunham (“Pilot,” Girls), Louis C.K. (“Pregnant,” Louie), Amy Poehler (“The Debate,” Parks and Recreation), Michael Schur (“Win, Lose or Draw,” Parks and Recreation)

Winner:  Lena Dunham (Girls)

Loser: All of the other writers

Originality tends to be most rewarded in the writing categories, particularly in comedy.  Lena Dunham is a triple threat Emmy nominee (writer; director; actress) this year but it’s her unique worldview in Girls that makes the show so special. Some see it as comedy.  Others see it as tragedy.  We see it as winning.  An Emmy – not the Charlie Sheen kind.

Outstanding Miniseries or Made for TV Movie

The Nominees: American Horror Story, Game Change, Hatfields & McCoys, Hemingway & Gellhorn, Luther, Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia.

Winner: Game Change

Loser: American Horror Story

It’s too hard for television to resist Julianne Moore’s Sarah Palin or a chance to twist the dagger a little deeper into everyone’s favorite political mean girl  gal. (Ugh, please don’t write and say I’m sexist – she is mean!  And I crossed out girl, didn’t I?!)  Is Game Change the BEST in this category?  Well, no.  That’d be American Horror Story.  Because it’s the sickest, most wickedly funny and oddly twisted dramatic thing to come along in quite a while.  True – it’s not perfect by a long shot but isn’t that what makes it so great? (that’s rhetorical).

Outstanding Comedy

The Nominees: The Big Bang Theory, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, Modern Family, 30 Rock, Veep.

Winner: Modern Family

Loser: Girls

Girls is disturbing, uncomfortable, funny, sad and even slightly full of itself.  Just like life.  It is also new and different and even a little creepy so it won’t win even though it should.  Look for the entire cast and creators of Modern Family to go traipsing across the stage.  It’s a well-done show, but more importantly, makes people in network television feel hip and contemporary (which very few of them or even us are, especially those of us making snide remarks about other people’s work).  However, Veep?  Really?

Outstanding Drama

Don’t turn… away that is.

The Nominees: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Mad Men

Winner:  Homeland

Loser:  Mad Men

Mad Men is THE best written, acted and everything else shows on television.  There is NO debate about this.  Sorry.  And one could argue that this past season was its strongest.  However, if Matt Weiner & Co. walk away with best drama series this time it will be five years in a row and those who work in the TV industry aren’t ready to make AMC a record holder of anything.  Homeland is a more traditional show but brilliant in a different way.  The other nominees are also all excellent series.  This is the rarest of rare “embarrassment of riches” category.

OK, now it’s time for you to share your predictions in the comments, and join The Chair on Sunday, starting at 8pm EST/5pm PST for a hashtag filled moment-by-moment biting Emmy commentary. #JimmyKimmelwantstoknow