As Russia is just about to invade Ukraine, and the U.S. and its European allies are just about to retaliate by crippling Russia economically, and the combined fallout from those actions are just about to start the 21st century version of World War III, I spent my Friday night with my good friend Midge Maisel.
Not only that, I plan to spend Sunday night with my new friend Sam, as played by the magnificently freaky Bridget Everett, and might even this week, if I have time and have to escape that badly, finally check in with my four-decade old frenemy Tammy Faye Baker via the unique metamorphosis of Jessica Chastain.
Though I considered loving Lucy (and Desi) a second time if Nicole (and Javier) will have me (Note: As if THEY (or anyone else) have a say these days about ANYTHING I do).
I’m talking about the fourth season of The (indeed) MARVELOUS Mrs. Maisel, the new episodes of the first season of my fellow freaks on HBO’s Somebody Somewhere and the reverse of nostalgia (Note: Rage?) provided by the 2021 feature film I’ve thus far resisted, The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
Not to mention my favorite film (or is it streaming platformed movie) of 2021, Being The Ricardos, which didn’t get a best picture Oscar nomination but should have.
And no, I don’t care that you didn’t like it. I was thoroughly and totally entertained.
As for Russia, F them and the Trump they rode in on.
I write all this to remind myself, and anyone within earshot (or brain-shot), that TV and movies, especially these days, are important.
These people are our friends and family because too often our real family and friends are not to be had or enjoyed at the snap of our fingers.
Even if they are, who knows if they’re our 2022 definition of safe to be around without wearing a f’n mask?
Screw Bill Maher and the rest of his acolytes who are over masks. Safe is safe and sometimes only a pre-selected and pre-screened handful of a virtual few can provide true comfort and joy in an age of duress.
Duress meaning not so much threats or pressure but looming and persistent international insanity.
It might seem strange that a gay male adult of advancing years such as myself could find pleasure in spending time in 1960. But the brittle, sarcastic wit and survival skills of Midge Maisel reminds me of just how much I have survived and just how much I’ve used my humor, brittleness and sarcasm to get me through in the past.
Plus, um, the clothes. I couldn’t fit into them but there is something inspiring when you take the time to match your hat and shirt with the color of your wallpaper. That kind of attention, that effort, well, it does make you believe that anything is possible if you can get yourself motivated enough.
As for Somebody Somewhere, it’s not like I’ve ever lived in, or even been to, small town Kansas. I’m a New York City boy whose idea of exploring the heartland was the two years I spent in grad school and working in Chicago.
However, what Sam and her non-traditional cohort of friends point out to me in each edgy half-hour segment is just how small town everyone’s life truly is when you strip away the big buildings and your own ego.
No amount of sophistication can diffuse the internal rage you inflict on yourself because of the actions of some friend, family member or acquaintance the kid version of yourself endured in the past.
Not to mention, it’s nice to remember that big can be just as small and equally as lethal if you don’t figure out a way to get over yourself and behonest and bold from this moment going forward.
But what the first season of this show helps remind me most is that no one, not any one person, can do this alone. We like to think we’re one-man bands in survival and endurance, especially those of us who see ourselves as survivors.
Yet watching Ms. Everett and company I’m reminded that often it’s only when you stop pretending and admit that you’re at your absolutely crappiest in the presence of someone you’d normally never tell anything to, and certainly never deign to hang out with, that you learn anything valuable about yourself.
Meaning insanity IS doing the same thing (or person) over and over again but expecting different results. (Note: Thanks Einstein and sorry for the parens).
I can’t explain why I am once again tempted to be in the presence of Tammy Faye since she and her then evangelical hubby remind me of many of the hypocritical bigoted, destructive and hateful forces that truly changed American society for the worst.
Not only do we still feel their effects today but understanding the personal foibles that caused them to create a movement that is still with us in an even more poisonous form somehow makes it all worse.
Many of us got her, and them, then. I mean, is it really that difficult to understand those were the actions of several deluded and damaged people?
But perhaps that’s exactly the reason to spend a few hours with her now. To remind ourselves (Note: Okay, myself) that it’s nice to understand but it’s even better to use that knowledge to move around, over and right damn, gub through them.
In order to diffuse the bomb you need to know what makes it tick, if you want to use World War lingo.
Which leaves us with Lucy (and Desi), who so many of us still love.
I can count on one finger the number of TV characters from the fifties who have survived to this day. And still make us laugh uproariously. And are still loveable.
This provides me, and you, with perhaps the greatest gift of all.
To know that survival is, indeed, possible. Especially if you are able to laugh at yourself and the world as it quickly unfolds, and sometimes upends, all around you.
Why is it the Emmy Awards telecast feels like something only your old auntie would watch in real time so she can root for her shows?
Because it is?
Because there is too much TV to have a favorite show if you’re under 90?
Because there are too many award shows and none of them carry much weight?
Because who wants to watch anything except the slow disintegration of the country?
Notice there is no all of the above choice.
At 70 years of age Auntie Emmy is a bit quaint. She’s sort of the equivalent of a pop culture painting of Elvis on a velveteen blanket or arriving with a box of Fannie Mae chocolates for the beau you’re taking to the church social.
Of course, the Chair has never been to a church social, purchased a box of Fannie Mae anything or really knows if there is such a thing as a velveteen blanket, much less one with Elvis painted on it.
Still, it sounds right, doesn’t it? Something that used to be frivolous, fun and fiercely IMPORTANT now feels almost dull, superficial and, well…unpatriotic to spend any spare time on.
We Are Americans.
The only thing we love more than competition is…
Lest we forget COMPETITION TELEVISION #ChoppedAllDay
So who am I/we kidding? We’ll be watching, tweeting, DVRing, reading, dishing and paying some sort of mind – even if it means going out of our way to proclaim both the show AND awards never entered our minds.
This became apparent to me about 10 years ago when I ran into a show biz guy I knew who had just been nominated for an Emmy at a trendy brunch spot that morning and, upon congratulating him, he synthetically replied:
Oh really, were those today?
Well, yes, that’s why you are in the trendiest show business watering spot in town, you fake, I replied knowingly.
Okay, of course I didn’t. I mean, I was there too.
Still, those were the days when Emmy was not an auntie and we were both A LOT younger so what does it matter? He is no doubt still denying he cares as he grudgingly watches, along with the rest of us, silently cheering, or perhaps audibly jeering, for or against his shows.
Which is why every year from now until the end of our republic we will feature:
THE CHAIR’S EMMY CHEAT SHEET:
Nice try but I will NOT shut up about this show #BlessedBetheFruit
The Handmaid’s Tale Game of Thrones This Is Us The Crown The Americans Stranger Things Westworld
Sadly, there is nothing more timely than The Handmaid’s Tale. Don’t say you know, but it’s too depressing to watch. You owe it to your country to be forewarned. Or at least keep up with current events by way of Gilead.
Yes, all of the aforementioned nominees have their merits, and yes The Americans is all wrapped up and sure Game of Thrones has won twice before and wasn’t up last year when The Handmaid’s Tale won the first time. So what? Stranger Things and Westworld are audience favorites too and yes, This Is Us could sneak in because it’s the one network show critics, industryites and audiences all love. But we’re going with the Zeitgeist.
LEAD ACTOR DRAMA
SO. MUCH. PLAID.
Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Ed Harris, Westworld
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld
Trusting our gut here. The season long tease of Jack’s death on This Is Us gave Milo Ventimiglia all season to be the 70s Dad, man, hottie (NOTE: NOT all three at once, step back) of our dreams. Prognosticators don’t give him a chance but sometimes ya get a feelin’.
LEAD ACTRESS DRAMA
Dare I say… SLAY!
Claire Foy, The Crown
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Keri Russell, The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld
You’re gonna bet against OfFred? Really? No, really? We didn’t think so. And if one more person tells you Keri Russell gave the performance of the decade or that Sandra Oh’s win will make history ask them if their characters could endure sub freezing temperatures in the suburban wilderness nine months pregnant and then give birth by themselves in the middle of drafty house with only the fireplace to light their way. Please.
SUPPORTING ACTOR DRAMA
Wait.. I thought only Harry rocked the beard! #JusticeforHarry
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale
David Harbour, Stranger Things
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland Matt Smith, The Crown
Tough category and all of these actors deserve the honor. But in any other year The Crown could win best series and best actress. So it’s Matt Smith here – an actor who somehow managed to make a younger Prince Phillip sympathetic and sort of sexy while not shying away from him also being a lying, priggish philanderer and full on abusive father. That alone is award-worthy.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS DRAMA
Let’s hope this Serena isn’t robbed. #stillnotoverUSOpen
Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things
Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Vanessa Kirby, The Crown
Thandie Newton, Westworld
Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale
One of the only sure thing categories. I myself find Serena the most heinous character on television so it’s amazing to see an actress who is actually able to make us believe she’s human. Don’t know what that means because you haven’t watched the show? Then WATCH IT!!!
Atlanta Barry Black-ish Curb Your Enthusiasm GLOW The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Silicon Valley Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
There has never been a pilot episode of a television series less likely to break through as both an audience and critics TV favorite as much as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. As I said to my sister, who first turned me on to the show: This is the most Jewish thing I’ve ever seen, I can’t believe anyone but us and our family is watching it!!
It will be a close race with the depth of storytelling in Atlanta and the sheer originality of Barry but count on Mrs. Maisel for bringing us an escape from reality by way of late 1950s Greenwich Village.
LEAD ACTOR COMEDY
Make more room on the shelf Donny! #thatsuittho
Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm Donald Glover, Atlanta Bill Hader, Barry
William H. Macy, Shameless
Donald Glover will deservedly and rightly win. Everyone else in the category is good but he’s doing something different and real here we haven’t seen before – and doing it consistently in between his tasks as its creator and sometime writer.
LEAD ACTRESS COMEDY
Oh don’t worry Midge, we’ll be there. #Catskills #Season2
Pamela Adlon, Better Things Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Allison Janney, Mom
Issa Rae, Insecure
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
The other sure thing category. It’s Midge in a w.a.l.k. And when you watch Rachel Brosnahan being interviewed and see how far she is in real life from the character she portrays, well….it’s Midge in a w.a.l.k.
SUPPORTING ACTOR COMEDY
No shark this time
Louie Anderson, Baskets Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live Henry Winkler, Barry
Henry Winkler was first nominated for an Emmy 42 YEARS AGO and has never won. Five nominations and – bupkus. This guy was THE FONZ! Plus, his work as a deluded yet somehow effective acting teacher on Barry is heartfelt, fresh and more than deserving. Not to mention, in real life he’s the nicest man. Don’t mean to name drop but…..
SUPPORTING ACTRESS COMEDY
Never better #notalternativefacts
Zazie Beetz, Atlanta
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
Leslie Jones, Saturday Night Live Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace
A REALLY tough call. Alex Borstein should win for being laugh out loud hilarious as Mrs. Maisel’s snide, baked beans eating manager and Megan Mullally has made Karen Walker one of the most popular female supporting characters in the history of TV. Still, in the 24/7 world of politics Kate McKinnon playing the clown from It as Kellyanne Conway is so frighteningly…something that it trumps all else.
Welcome to Miami
The Alienist The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Genius: Picasso Godless Patrick Melrose
There was something so revolting and alluring about the Assassination of Gianni Versace that it’s hard to imagination it not taking the honors here. It felt doubtful that this lurid tale warranted an American Crime Story show at all until we watched it use the tale of a twisted killer of one of fashion’s legends as a way to tell an American tale of class and sexual repression at the turn of this past century.
LEAD ACTOR LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE
Werkin that serial killer lighting like a pro.
Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose
Jeff Daniels, The Looming Tower
John Legend, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Jesse Plemons, U.S.S. Callister (Black Mirror)
Darren Criss played Andrew Cunanan as the boyishserial killer next door and against all odds it worked. Criss never fell into psycho cliché or gave us outsider gay sociopath 101, which made his presence all the more disturbing and riveting. It was hard to turn away even though, honestly, there were spots where you had to turn away. Perhaps he was too much of an awful thing for some voters, which could shift the trophy to the equally good Benedict Cumberbatch – but probably not.
LEAD ACTRESS LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE
OK fine, this is Dern in Pretty Little Lies but like… Renata forever.
Jessica Biel, The Sinner Laura Dern, The Tale
Michelle Dockery, Godless
Edie Falco, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Regina King, Seven Seconds
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Cult
An odd category this year with no true standout. Still, in the #MeToo era Laura Dern deserves the credit for a smart portrayal of a difficult character – a woman who must delve back into her past in order to save herself in the present. She made the transitions between the adult self and the other actresses who played the younger versions of her character seamless, which elevated the material far beyond where it could have landed.
SUPPORTING ACTOR LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE
I mean.. OK sure.
Jeff Daniels, Godless
Brandon Victor Dixon, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
John Leguizamo, Waco
Ricky Martin, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Edgar Ramírez, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Michael Stuhlbarg, The Looming Tower
Finn Wittrock, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Not going to lie. This is a guess based on prognosticators. But EVERYONE agrees it’s Jeff Daniels and the more you read his reviews the more you will also agree.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE
But also kudos to hair and makeup because this is late 90s perfection.
Sara Bareilles, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Penélope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Judith Light, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Adina Porter, American Horror Story: Cult
Merritt Wever, Godless
Letitia Wright, Black Museum (Black Mirror)
However, Judith Light brought a new level of denial as the successful and privileged businesswoman wife of a closeted gay man. It was a strange yet real type of character we don’t see much on television and she could easily get the Emmy for it if it doesn’t go to Merritt Wever or Lettia Wright. Meaning, we’re not sure but we’re going with Judy.
VARIETY TALK SERIES
We seriously cannot forget about Marlon Bundo. #thebest
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Full Frontal with Samantha Bee Jimmy Kimmel Live! Last Week Tonight with John Oliver The Late Late Show with James Corden The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Every single show is worthy. It really depends on what their producers submitted. But Last Week with John Oliver feels like the gold standard here and the rightful successor to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, especially after his win last year. Though what do we know, we and everyone else we know voted for #HILLARY.
VARIETY SKETCH SERIES
At Home with Amy Sedaris Drunk History I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman Portlandia Saturday Night Live Tracey Ullman’s Show
Until Trump gets impeached it’s Saturday Night Live. Never has there been a more perfect match of time, material and talent (Note: The White House being the exception). Though it’s safe to assume SNL would gladly make a deal to give up the honor if they could get him out. ……Wouldn’t they??
REALITY COMPETITION SERIES
DVR IS SET
The Amazing Race American Ninja Warrior Project Runway RuPaul’s Drag Race Top Chef The Voice
The awards are on a MONDAY night this year and desperately needs some sashay. Besides, I’ve watched every season of The Voice and this last one sucked. Gurrrrl…