More than once a day I think of myself in a celebrity box on The Hollywood Squares and I’m not even famous. Nor has The Hollywood Squares really been a thing since around the time I graduated college.
But ZOOM – here we magically all are, perhaps multiple times a week, in a virtual new reboot of a TV game show where we play to the camera, try to seem intelligent and attempt to crack jokes when all else fails.
I don’t even want to see what 50th day looks like #itsnotpretty
Except, of course, we don’t have writers. Certainly not judging by any of the countless Zoom chats I’ve been on. Instead, midway through 2020 we are all solo acts, responsible for creating our own material and literally living and dying by each choice we make both inside and outside the grid.
It’s enough to make you long for the glory days when everything you said in your square was rehearsed and scripted for maximum effect. Sure, you didn’t always get to be your absolute true self but at least you didn’t have to think about who and/or what that was 24 hours a day. Note: I’m including sleep time because, well, haven’t YOUR dreams been more than vivid lately?
This seems normal now
For those of you who don’t know, The Hollywood Squares was an addictive daytime and primetime game show in the sixties and seventies (and rebooted shortly in the late 90s) where celebrities each occupied a box in a glamorous life-size tic-tac-toe board and answered true or false questions on a myriad of topics of the day. It was then up to a contestant to agree or disagree with the celeb, thus earning them an X or O and eventually prize money.
If you can’t quite picture it in your mind give it a few months and I’m sure some enterprising souls will come up with a Zoom version app and make a mint charging you for your own intellectual property.
This is too much to process
But back to the real Squares. By far my personal fave was center celeb, Broadway, TV and movie actor Paul Lynde, who occupied that prime spot for almost a decade and a half. Mr. Lynde was the funniest and outwardly gayest performer in the entertainment world during those years, quite a feat since he was never out at all, at least in how we traditionally define it.
If you want a sense of how it was back then with Paul and those of us who loved him, it went something like this:
Moderator Question: Paul, you’re the world’s most popular fruit. What are you?
Paul’s Answer: Humble.
.. with his signature giggle #icanhearthispicture
Of course, I can’t recreate the sniggering, snide delivery (Note: Well, certainly not these days, if we can’t be face to face) but you get the picture.
This particular Paul question came courtesy of a short, snappy profile of him in this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly. It’s officially called the PRIDE issue and in it the magazine devotes itself to pioneering LGBTQ entertainers and storytellers – past, present and future – and the many ways they have influenced culture, and in turn, our world.
Pour the champagne!
Lovely as it is to be noticed, by far the standout item in this week’s magazine is the bizarre cover, well, drawing, of noteworthy LGBTQ celebs of the last century in what could best be described as the gayest nighttime cocktail party you will never experience.
It’s a virtual queer dream team of a party with the likes of Queen’s Freddie Mercury beckoning Janelle Monae over to his side of the room; Marlene Dietrich grabbing Cynthia Nixon by the waist and pretty much ogling her; and Ellen DeGeneres with her arm so tightly wrapped below Rock Hudson’s elbow that he can only barely make eyes at the hot – well, I’m not quite sure who he’s making eyes at but rest assured from the expression on his face there must be a myriad of hotties he’s focused in on at some unseen corner.
As someone who’s been out since I first started almost 20 years ago, it is an honor to be on this cover oh wait I’m sorry that is a dead closeted person I’m so sorry https://t.co/cuqfYD8Mxz
And to top it all off there’s good ole RuPaul in a red gown and black satin gloves, flounced across a baby grand piano, making goo-goo eyes at – yes, you guessed it – Elton John.
If you didn’t know better you’d think the media was dominated by gay or gay sympathizing liberals who had nothing better to do than to gang up on straight America and subvert their traditions by showing them just how much fun you can have by not insulting the minority of your choice and, in fact, being inclusive.
Of course, the bigger message of the photo is, much like a fantasy sports league, it gets you to thinking of the dream teams of your choice in all kinds of areas and just how they might rescue you, or us, from the doldrums of Zoom chats and quarantine.
For instance, can you imagine if we could bring back Marie Curie and Jonas Salk to a medical cocktail party of choice with, say, Anthony Fauci, recently demoted vaccine expert Dr. Rick Bright and well, let’s throw in Albert Einstein for the hell of it. What might they all come up with, aside from witty chatter and medical cures, or even talk about? If not a cure or a shot, at the very least I’d bet they’d have plenty to say.
You know he’d be good at parties
And how about a political confab with Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Golda Meir mixing it up with Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and, okay I’ll say it, Donald J. Trump? Trump says Lincoln was his favorite Republican so he’d make it, right? Or would we have to invite Hitler Andrew Jackson?
Personally, I’d much prefer an afternoon run at a dog park I’d rent exclusively for Lassie, Lad-A-Dog and Nana because I’d get to bring my Jack Russell Rosie, my sister’s Havanese mutt Louie and several other friends’ pooches if they could make it down here in time. Not to mention, well, every other pooch I and any of my friends and family once owned and loved as part of our family in our pasts.
Sorry not sorry
Which is sort of the point of a dream team, isn’t it? Or even a tic-tac-toe board of celebrities on The Hollywood Squares. To bring out the best of us by coming up with exactly the right answers to all the top problems and/or questions of the day. And to make us feel a bit better in the process.
There was a time when a game show could do it with just a team of good writers and a handful of well-known performers. The U.S government generally accomplished this with a small Cabinet and a handful of clever appointees through every single Administration in the last century while also managing to avoid the most severe consequences of several severe global pandemics.
Don’t mind me as I weep
These days, um, we have Zoom chats, the Gang that Wont Shoot Straight Under Any Circumstances in the White House and Operation Warp Speed to do the deed.
I hate to say it but not even a cocktail party with every LGBTQ star in the history of the world, can take my mind off of that.
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…