Making it Work

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The big news this week was that Tim Gunn – America’s Teacher and longtime Project Runway mentor and defender – finally went off on one of his designer contestants for the first time in 14 seasons and 11 years. Confronted with endless excuses and Swapnil Shinde’s admitted laziness despite his obvious talent, Mr. Gunn told him his behavior and excuses were a bunch of bullsh-t, adding what is the f-cking point of doing anything if you’re not going to commit and give your all.

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If someone else had ranted this – from me on up – it would have been just another day at the workhouse or of trolling the web. Certainly, it’s de rigueur when it comes from the mouth of The Republican Apprentice – who now ranks as America’s top GOP presidential candidate by a lot, to use his exact words. But when a beloved nice guy or gal explodes in your face it’s a lot different.

There is nothing like the unexpected – especially when it goes from nice to naughty – to jolt us into temporary attention and perhaps submission – if not shock, awe and/or revulsion. Remember when Tom Cruise jumped up and down like a madman on Oprah’s couch? Or when we found out that NY Congressman/nice Jewish boy Anthony Weiner was really Carlos Danger, the secret online seductor? How about when Disney’s own Miley Cyrus stuck her very elongated pointed tongue in and out and towards a man twice her age on television at MTV’s VMAs? The country went absolutely, positively apoplectic.

It could be a partial explanation for our preoccupation and fascination with the phenomena that is The Republican Apprentice – or at least it was until recently. It’s scary to write this out loud but yesterday I found myself saying over dinner to a handful of very smart people who asked me that I now actually believed for the first time that The Ole RA might very well be the presidential nominee by next year’s GOP. What was once shocking and unique has now suddenly become establishment and imaginably viable. Plus, there’s no denying several months of double-digit poll numbers.

Current mood

Current mood

But back to Mr. Gunn, for whom who I have always held a soft spot. He was on to something when he spewed out his tough love truths in a desperate attempt to deliver one final wakeup call. Think of it as a gay Hail Mary pass to a competitor possessing the clear ability to win the game but who lacked focus, discipline and respect for not only himself but the entire competition in which he voluntarily chose to participate in the first place. As a teacher myself I can tell you there is nothing more infuriating. You mean you have the goods but are just…. lazy… scared…. stuck in your own drama…. unwilling to move just three more steps…. prefer instead to… play??? Seriously??? See your less-talented colleague over there, the one who works 24/7? Don’t come bitching to me (or anyone else) in 20 years when you wonder why what they do has gotten the response they have – be it in either money or creative praise or both. It just doesn’t happen out of nothing. You have to put in the time in order to perpetrate the crime that you now see as success. They did. You didn’t. Now suffer the consequences.

Nice try, honey.

Nice try, honey.

Of course, this isn’t all there is to it. All the hard 24/7 work in the world doesn’t guarantee victory nor is the converse true. There are those in the minority who through timing, luck or extreme talent can stumble into a kind of momentary success despite all of their best efforts to NOT make it so. Still, on the whole it really is the hard work, the push back against the most desperate straits and all evidence to the contrary in those dark moments of doubt, that produces something unique or even spectacular. At least on any sort of consistent basis. Whether the world recognizes it or not is never the point. The real victory is when you know you’re leaving it all on the stage – as they say in show biz.  Or on the field – as is noted in sports. Or in/on the ________, as people tell you in whatever is your chosen field of labor and/or desire.

The fifth season of American Horror Story premiered this week and has gotten royally raked over the coals for — well, I’m not exactly sure what. It seems as if it is to some degree on this very subject. Have Ryan Murphy and company finally jumped the shark and delivered something so dull or gratuitous, as many culture vultures have so GLEEfully pointed out, or have we (meaning THEY) all just grown all too used to it? As a longtime fan of the series I am the first to admit that it occasionally lacks a certain story sense or too often than not falls victim to an overindulgence of style, sexual subversion and violent perversion. But jeez, isn’t that part of the fun of it all?

American Horror Story edition

American Horror Story edition

The brilliance of the whole concept is that there is nothing quite original in the storytelling, look or manner of the show in itself. The point is that it takes every subject trope of its season of choice – be it haunted houses, insane asylums, witches or carnivals – and ribaldly steals from every movie, television show, play or short story every executed on the subject. Then it throws it all together in some bubbling stew of camp, pathos and politically unacceptable (Note: Or acceptable depending on whether you’re me or everyone else) morality where it emerges with something if not new then unique unto itself. Its strength lies in its overall execution and what often becomes two handfuls of truly memorable moments over the season. Yet it is those moments that make the parts of the whole that fall flat work – which is more than I can say so far for either The Republican Apprentice or this season of Project Runway. (Note: Although Mr. Gunn did give me one of those in this past week’s episode meltdown so there is that).

I mean, whatever, I'm into it! #noshame

I mean, whatever, I’m into it! #noshame

Watching Lady Gaga and Matt Bomer portray what amounts to millennial versions of Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie in 1983’s much under-rated The Hunger as they executed deadly sexual games with another couple in their all-too-stylish boudoir on the premiere episode of AHS: Hotel more than worked for me. As did the creepy kids skulking around a la The Shining and The Innocents. As did loveable Max Greenfield’s gay, blonde hair-dyed heroin-injecting pretty boy burnout being sexually violated by a dead ghoul with a power tool. Yeah it was gruesome, but it was also Grand Guignol ridiculous. The gay positive sensibility of the series puts this sort of thing in the crazy context of just one more form of mindless brutalization the AHS word offers, rather than serving to cast a specific retribution towards a member of one specific minority group the creative forces behind the scenes don’t cotton to.

One wishes The Republican Apprentice, the entire GOP field or any number of religious organizations across the world would take note before they choose to scapegoat their next real-life victim(s) of choice. They’re dealing with real life choices not the creative ones in television and Grand Guignol theatre. Or are they? Well, if nothing else, at least they’re committed. Or should be.

Sitting Down with the Emmys

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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.

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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

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“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…

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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!!!!