by Julian Spivey
The question on seemingly most Whovian minds as we embarked on the debut of The Thirteenth Doctor, portrayed by Jodie Whittaker as the first female to play the over 50-year old role, was how would a female Doctor do?
The more important question that was on my mind was how would Chris Chibnall do as the newest showrunner of “Doctor Who”?
The answer is that both passed with flying colors, at least upon first impression.
The season premiere of “Doctor Who” was the most excited and anticipated for me as a fan since I began watching the series in the midway point of Matt Smith’s tenure as The Doctor. I was really looking forward to seeing what the show might do with an actor of the opposite sex in the title role, even though The Doctor as a Time Lord is not a being with a specific gender identity. I was even more so looking forward to what a new showrunner could do to rejuvenate a series that had started to see somewhat of stagnation under previous showrunner and head writer Steven Moffat.
The return of “Doctor Who” gives us a chance to get to know our new companions before we meet The Doctor’s newest body, and that’s probably a good decision on Chibnall’s part. I already found myself liking these new characters – Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), a young twentysomething warehouse worker who once seemed to be a big deal in school, his grandmother Grace (Sharon D. Clarke), his step grandfather Graham (Bradley Walsh) and a new to the force police officer Yasmin (Mandip Gill). One of these companions would not make it through the season premiere, but then again if you paid any attention to the casting of the show you knew that going in. The thing about the new companions I most look forward to (other than their chemistry with Whittaker’s Doctor) is the relationship between Graham and Ryan. One thing the show desperately needs to do quickly is give Yasmin more of a reason to exist in the show’s universe. She was the one character not well-built to start the new season. The Doctor, Ryan, Grace and Graham were all fully developed – something I imagine isn’t easy for a new showrunner, especially given one of the characters has such a long tradition, which fans can be picky with.
Whittaker’s debut was certainly entertaining with her crashing from the sky through a train besieged by an alien potentially endangering our newest companions. It really didn’t take long at all for Whittaker to work her magic as the new Doctor – thanks to a terrific opening performance and good and fresh writing by Chibnall. I think it helps immensely that Chibnall and Whittaker had a lot of experience working together for three seasons on the terrific British drama “Broadchurch.”
Many of the things that we love about a Doctor’s first episode are all in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” – The Doctor getting used to a new body, new personality, new companions. It’s almost like an adult going back into a toddler state and having to learn on the fly, while also saving the world from aliens.
Our premiere debuts a new alien, that feels like it’ll probably be a one-off, in Tzim-Sha – a bounty hunter of sorts trying to drag a chosen human back to his home planet in an effort to become its new leader. It wasn’t a weak alien by any means, but also not all that notable – the most interesting aspect is he takes a tooth from his victims and wears them as trophies upon his face (which makes for an ugly and unique look). It’s also not high on a list of important things to give us an all-time classic new villain on the premiere. Chibnall focused more on developing his new Doctor and forming relationships with most of the new companions, which is the most important part.
The Thirteenth Doctor does get an epic moment (though not the most epic moment for a first Doctor, which I believe will always be Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor) toward the end of the episode when she finally realizes who she is (should I be referring to The Doctor as gender pronouns, like I always have?) and defeats Tzim-Sha.
Whittaker hopefully put any fears of The Doctor now being portrayed by a woman to rest with her debut. It was pretty much all you could’ve asked for from her. As she continues to develop her personality and her chemistry with the new companions it’s only bound to get better too.
Chibnall is off to a fine start as showrunner (I wouldn’t mind seeing the credits and theme return to the show though), but his work as showrunner is something we really will have to get a feel for over the entire season. It’s a season I’m truly looking forward to after a quality start.
by Julian Spivey
The 70th anniversary of the Primetime Emmy Awards is tonight on NBC at 7 p. m. For the milestone ceremony I have ranked my 70 favorite Emmy winners of all-time. Note this is a list of my personal favorite Emmy winners and in no way a “Greatest Emmy Winners” of all-time list. If you don’t see some of your favorite Emmy winners than the odds or more likely that I haven’t yet seen this series or performances than simply not liking them. I hope you enjoy the list.
70. Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)
Controversial now because of harassment that came to light during the #MeToo movement last year, Jeffrey Tambor has been fired from the cast of Amazon’s “Transparent,” in which he was the lead. But before that, Tambor’s terrific performance as transgender character Maura Pfefferman made television history as he became the first to win an Emmy for portraying a trans character.
69. Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder)
Viola Davis made Emmy history when she took home the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2015 for the first season of “How to Get Away with Murder” becoming the first black woman in the almost 70-years of the Emmys to win in that category. Davis’s role as Annalise Keating on the ABC is one of the biggest badasses currently on network television.
68. John Larroquette (Night Court)
John Larroquette pretty much owned the Emmy’s Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category in the late ‘80s winning four consecutive awards from 1985-1988 for his smarmy lawyer Dan Fielding. The womanizing, know-it-all was such a successful character for Larroquette at the Emmys that after his fourth consecutive win he asked not to be considered for the honor to give others a shot.
67. Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live)
Alec Baldwin’s impression of President Donald Trump got stale in its second season on “Saturday Night Live,” even though he’s been nominated for a second consecutive year, but when he debuted the impression, which was thought to be a short-lived one, it was an absolute laugh riot. Baldwin’s impression might not be as accurate as say Darrell Hammond’s was, but it really hits home the awkwardness (yeah, that’s the word I’ll go with here) of the president. It certainly pulls no punches.
66. Mel Brooks (Mad About You)
I’m not sure anybody has ever provided more people with laughs than Mel Brooks, which made his casting as Uncle Phil, Paul Buchman’s (Paul Reiser) uncle on the underrated ‘90s sitcom “Mad About You” the perfect get. Brooks dominated the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy category in the late ‘90s with his outlandish performance on the series that typically seemed improvised on the spot and must have made Reiser and the rest of the “Mad About You” cast almost pass out by attempting to hold in laughs.
65. "Get Smart"
“Get Smart” showed us what comedic genius Mel Brooks was capable of before he hit the movie big time with “The Producers,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles” with this spy spoof of the James Bond movies that starred Don Adams as a bumbling American spy who somehow always slipped into solving the crime.
64. "Flip" - "The Larry Sanders Show"
“The Larry Sanders Show” revolutionized comedy series for television by airing on HBO in the ‘90s, where it could get a little bawdier than the stuff you saw on network TV. The show won three Emmy Awards over its six seasons, with two of them coming for the series finale “Flip” that won for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy and Outstanding Writing in a Comedy for Garry Shandling (also the star of the show) and Peter Tolan. It’s one of the greatest finales for any comedy in TV history.
63. "Arrested Development"
“Arrested Development” is one of the most unique comedies to ever appear on American television and that’s probably why it didn’t last so long (only three seasons originally, though revived by Netflix years later). Much like “Seinfeld,” the series tells the story of a group of unlikable people, but this time an entire family of them. The humor, according to The Guardian, would heavily influence future classics like “30 Rock” and “Community.”
62. Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond)
Brad Garrett’s performance as the goofy, lovable giant Robert Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond” won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series three times (2002, 2003 and 2005). Garrett’s Robert got a lot of laughs for his woe is me performance as Ray Romano’s older brother who fights for a shred of the amount of love Ray gets from their mother. My only issue with Garrett winning three Emmys is I wish (and I’m sure he does too) he could’ve shared one with Peter Boyle who was nominated seven straight years for portraying family patriarch Frank without winning.
61. Tom Selleck (Magnum P.I.)
Tom Selleck was the epitome of cool and sexy in the ‘80s as private investigator Thomas Magnum solving crimes in beautiful Hawaii, which served as a lovely backdrop for “Magnum, P.I.” Magnum was a man’s man, but also suave – in a Humphrey Bogart sort of way – with a good sense of humor to go along. Selleck won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama in 1984.
60. Lucille Ball (I Love Lucy)
Lucille Ball was essentially television’s first superstar when “I Love Lucy” debuted in 1951 and for six seasons her Lucy Ricardo would create iconic television comedy moments with her incredible physical comedy. Ball was also a landmark figure in television creating with her husband (both on and offscreen) Desi Arnaz the first ever ensemble cast in television history and the first interracial marriage on TV, which came 16 years before Loving v. Virginia legalized all forms of interracial marriage in the U.S.
59. Woody Harrelson (Cheers)
I don’t think anybody has ever played dimwitted ignorance on television better than Woody Harrelson did as the lovable bartender Woody Boyd, for which he won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy in 1989 for his role on “Cheers.” Harrelson was able to mix the sheer idiocy of Bob Denver’s Gilligan without ever drooping into annoyance levels.
58. Gillian Anderson (The X-Files)
Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully on “The X-Files” is one of the smartest and most heroic female characters in television history as the skeptic to David Duchovny’s believer Fox Mulder. Anderson and Duchovny formed one of the best friendships and will-they-or-won’t-they relationships in TV history, it’s just a shame both couldn’t be honored (Duchovny was nominated twice). Anderson was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series on four occasions, winning in 1997.
57. Donald Glover (Atlanta)
One of the best performances on television right now is the work Donald Glover is doing on FX’s “Atlanta,” in which he’s able to mix comedy and drama to great effect and earned him an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series last year. He should be considered the front-runner to repeat this year for what was even a better season, in my opinion, than the first.
56. "Always" - "Friday Night Lights"
I would think that most showrunners would say that series finales are the hardest to write because it’s always hard to bring a long-running series to an end and so often fans are not pleased with the ways in which shows are wrapped up. But, “Friday Night Lights” series finale “Always” managed to wrap every storyline up neatly and gave us a role reversal in the Taylor relationship with Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) having his wife Tami’s (Connie Britton) back this time, putting a bow on maybe the greatest and most realistic relationship in TV history. Jason Katims won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for “Always.”
55. Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown)
Candice Bergen’s portrayal as tough broadcast journalist Murphy Brown is one of the greatest and most memorable female characters in television history. Bergen’s Emmy-reign was so dominant in the late ‘80s through the mid-‘90s winning five Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series awards in the show’s first sevens seasons that she declined future nominations for her role. Bergen’s five Emmy wins were the most in the category for one performance until Julia Louis-Dreyfus recently won her sixth consecutive award for Selina Meyer on “Veep.”
54. Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
As “Modern Family” has gone on there have been times when Ty Burrell’s performance as the bumbling dunce Phil Dunphy has become a little old, but when the show first debuted almost a decade ago it was one of the funniest performances on television. Burrell’s knack for physical comedy and his delivery of awkwardly dumb stuff made Phil one of the easiest characters on TV to laugh at and with. Burrell won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2011 and 2014.
53. "The People v. O.J. Simpson - American Crime Story"
It seemed the whole world went O.J. Simpson crazy again for the 20th anniversary of the infamous murder trial in 2016 with an almost eight-hour documentary “O.J.: Made in America” winning an Oscar and the miniseries “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” dominating the Emmys for FX and producer Ryan Murphy. Simply put, the miniseries easily became one of the best in television history with terrific acting from Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown, who all won Emmys for their performances.
52. Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live)
When Tina Fey was on “Saturday Night Live” she almost never appeared in sketches, but rather co-anchored Weekend Update and was the show’s head writer, but during the 2008 Presidential campaign when it turned out she bear a resemblance to Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin she became the star of the show in a tour de force performance that earned her her first of two Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Emmys.
51. Gary Burghoff (M*A*S*H)
Cute. That’s probably the best way to describe Gary Burghoff’s Radar O’Reilly on “M*A*S*H,” a role he actually played in Robert Altman’s 1970 film of the same name before joining the television series two years later. They must’ve known Burghoff was the only one who could possibly be Radar. Burghoff won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1977.
50. Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Julie Bowen’s flare for perfect sarcasm is probably the best trait of her Claire Dunphy, in my opinion one of the most underrated characters on ABC’s modern classic “Modern Family.” Her sarcasm frequently comes when dealing with her bumbling husband, Phil, played brilliantly by Ty Burrell. Bowen won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series back-to-back in 2011 and 2012.
49. "Modern Family"
“Modern Family” was so successful with the Emmys that it got to the point where even big fans of the show, like me, were like “Oh God, can we just recognize another show now?” after it won Outstanding Comedy Series a record-tying five straight years, for its first five seasons. “Modern Family” was able to successfully take the family sitcom and mix it with the faux-documentary form made popular by “The Office” – though to be honest it doesn’t really make a ton of sense for this series.
“Veep,” which has won the last three consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series, is mostly known for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s powerhouse lead performance that has garnered her a record six consecutive Emmys, but the show overall boasts one of the most complete casts on television. Sometimes political shows give us the dream version of politics, but “Veep” gives it the way we know it must truly be behind the scenes – dirty and incredibly obscene.
47. "Dick in a Box" - "Saturday Night Live"
Andy Samberg created a pop culture phenomenon when he got to “Saturday Night Live” in the mid-‘00s with his digital shorts with his comedic musical trio The Lonely Island. The most notable and hilarious collaboration was 2006’s “Dick in a Box” featuring Justin Timberlake. It was shocking, even for ‘SNL,’ to go there with this raunchy bit, but it instantly became one of the most memorable moments in the show’s long history and won Samberg, Timberlake and The Lonely Island crew an Emmy for Outstanding Music & Lyrics. Now, if we can just get Samberg a nomination for his terrific work on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
46. "The Contest" - "Seinfeld"
Picking a favorite or greatest “Seinfeld” episode is no easy task with classic episodes like “The Soup Nazi,” “The Chinese Restaurant” and on and on, but the episode that most frequently seems to top lists is season four’s “The Contest,” in which our four characters compete to see who can go the longest without masturbating – with the word never being mentioned on the show and the topic very taboo for TV even in the ‘90s. The episode would win the Emmy for Larry David for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and was ranked as the Greatest Television Episode of All-Time by TV Guide in 2009.
45. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld)
A few years ago, Rolling Stone magazine named Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Elaine Benes as the greatest “Seinfeld” character (honestly all four leads were so perfect I’m not sure I can choose). Her performance on the show – Dreyfus has won Emmys for each of her three sitcom roles – is as outrageous as Elaine’s dancing with her superficiality and neurosis leading to anger that Louis-Dreyfus has proven in multiple roles to be an expert at. Louis-Dreyfus won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1996.
44. Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond)
Ray Romano is one of the most successful stand-up comedians of all-time being able to turn his stand-up routines – mostly revolving around his family life – into a classic TV sitcom. There have certainly been more interesting TV characters, funnier TV characters, more memorable TV characters, but when it comes to just living among the craziness of one’s family, I’m not sure anybody has been able to ring more laughs out than Romano as Ray Barone. He won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2002.
43. Loretta Swit (M*A*S*H)
Loretta Swit’s performance of Army Nurse Margaret Houlihan on “M*A*S*H” might well be the biggest character growth or change I’ve ever seen from a beloved television character. She started out as a know-it-all prude in the beginning, at odds with our main duo Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) and Trapper John (Wayne Rogers). But by the end of the show, she had grown into a dear friend of all the characters and just an absolute pleasure to behold. She won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1980 and 1982.
42. David Hyde Pierce (Frasier)
It’s a testament to David Hyde Pierce’s comedic abilities that he was able to play a character so similar to that of Kelsey Grammer’s pompous high society chasing Frasier Crane without completely getting washed over and in fact was able to do it while standing out. Pierce’s Niles Crane, the younger brother of Frasier, was at his best when matching wits with his brother or portraying his fumbling love for Daphne (Jane Leeves), his father’s live-in physical therapist. Pierce won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series on four different occasions (1995, 1998, 1999 and 2004).
41. Kevin Costner (Hatfields & McCoys)
I’ve always felt like Kevin Costner was an incredibly underrated actor. He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in “Dances with Wolves,” which won him two Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, and a few times for Golden Globe Awards, but he’d never won a major acting award until 2012 when he took home Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for his amazing performance as the Hatfields patriarch in the History Channel miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys.” The only downside of it all was I kind of wish he could’ve shared the award with Bill Paxton, who was just as good as the patriarch of the McCoys.
40. "Everybody Loves Raymond"
“Everybody Loves Raymond” is one of the funniest family sitcoms you’ll ever see, though toward the end it could become a bit grating (especially Doris Roberts’s character, which won her four Emmys, but you won’t find her on this list) because, well, families are grating. It’s likely the best television example of what kind of annoyance living close to your family can be once you’re an adult and trying to create a family of your own.
39. Roseanne Barr (Roseanne)
Now she’s been banned from television, for good reason, after an incredibly short-lived revival of her show, but there was a time when Roseanne Barr was one of the most important women on television and her character (possibly forgetting its demise in the revival) will always be one of the greatest in TV history for the way it portrayed a hard-working, middle class mother and family. Barr won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for “Roseanne” in 1993.
38. Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
One of the best performances of recent years on television, especially on a network TV drama, has been Sterling K. Brown’s performance as Randall Pearson on NBC’s hit “This Is Us.” When Brown won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at last year’s ceremony it marked the first time since Andre Braugher for “Homicide: Life on the Streets” in 1998 that an African-American had won the category and the first since James Spader on ABC’s “Boston Legal” in 2007 for a performance on a network TV series to win.
37. "Key & Peele"
Sketch comedy is hard, because every sketch comedy show is going to be compared to the legendary “Saturday Night Live” and if you don’t have your own take on the genre it’ll be hard to succeed. Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele” only lasted five seasons because its stars blew up so big and went to other things (Jordan Peele won an Oscar for writing “Get Out”). But, it left behind a treasure trove of hilarity from the African-American perspective that television needed since Dave Chappelle’s show had gone off the air a decade before.
36. Joe Morton (Scandal)
Few people can rattle off a long monologue like Joe Morton, who’s character of Eli/Rowan Pope on “Scandal” was one of the greatest – and scariest – characters of the last decade on television. First, as a guest character for which Morton won Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, he soon became a regular on the show and likely became the most intriguing aspect of it throughout the end.
35. Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne)
I realized earlier this year while watching the revival of “Roseanne” on ABC that Laurie Metcalf, who’s nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Jackie Harris again this year 24 years after last winning it, that she’s essentially the Don Knotts of female TV stars. Her Jackie Harris, which won her three consecutive Emmys in the ‘90s, is basically the Barney Fife of female sitcom characters. Metcalf’s performance, both in comedic timing and physicality is just perfection.
34. "In Excelsis Deo" - "The West Wing"
“The West Wing” came out of the gate swinging in its first season with a fantastic first nine episodes, but it’s 10th episode “In Excelsis Deo” was the first of what would be a handful of truly classic episodes. Written by show creator Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland the show’s main storyline revolved around Toby (Richard Schiff) trying to get a homeless Korean vet (who wound up dead in a coat he donated to Goodwill) a military funeral. It’s one of the most feel good stories seen on television and gives hope that some within politics might actually have a heart.
There were great medical dramas on television before “ER” came along in the mid-‘90s, but none that ever seemed to get down to the nitty gritty of the cases like this one. It quickly settled into its position of “greatest medical drama in television history” – a title it hasn’t given up since and likely never will. In fact, most medical dramas since “ER” haven’t succeeded merely because that show simply cannot be bested.
32. Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)
Kate McKinnon has won the last two Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her multitude of fantastic impressions and absolutely hilarious, and often crazy characters on “Saturday Night Live,” a show she’s been the Most Valuable Player on for quite a while now. McKinnon is entering her seventh season on the long-running sketch comedy show (which is hard to believe) and is already one of the five greatest female cast members in the show’s legendary history.
31. Ted Danson (Cheers)
For the longest time Ted Danson was the Peter O’Toole of the Emmy Awards, a terrific actor who was often nominated for his suave and utterly fantastic performance as bartender Sam Malone on “Cheers,” the greatest sitcom of the ‘80s, but after seven straight nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series he had never won. That all changed in 1990 and he’d win once again in 1993 for the final season of the show.
30. Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Julianna Margulies won an Emmy for her excellent performance as Nurse Carol Hathaway in the early days of NBC’s medical drama “ER,” but it’s her two-time winning performance for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series as lawyer Alicia Florrick in CBS’s “The Good Wife” that stands out most for me. Florrick is one of the greatest and most badass female characters in TV history with Margulies playing her with every emotion imaginable over the show’s seven-season run in what is certainly her tour de force career moment.
29. Harry Morgan (M*A*S*H)
Harry Morgan’s Col. Sherman T. Potter is one of the most warm, fatherly characters in television history, while also maintaining the role as a stern when necessary boss. Morgan was a veteran Hollywood actor who’d been appearing in movies as early as 1942 but found the role he was born to play as leader of the 4077th M*A*S*H unit in the Korean War when McLean Stevenson decided to leave the show and did so in a shocking manner. Morgan won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1980.
28. Michael Richards (Seinfeld)
Michael Richards’ turn as Cosmo Kramer on “Seinfeld” might be the kookiest character in television history, but while some kooky characters eventually become annoying (or start out that way) Kramer was always lovable from his outrageous hair to the way he just burst through Jerry’s door. Richards won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series three times (1993, 1994 and 1997).
27. Alan Alda (The West Wing)
There’s nothing most of us wouldn’t give up for Alan Alda’s Republican Presidential candidate Arnold Vinick to appear in real life and take over the U.S. Presidency right now. Alda’s performance of Vinick on “The West Wing” pretty much shows why the terrific NBC political drama was a pipe dream in that you just don’t see many, if any, conservative candidates like him in the real world. Alda brought his unique warmth and intelligence to the role and actually gave some fresh air to the series winding down its run. Alda won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2006, remarkably becoming the fourth different cast member to win this category.
26. William Shatner (Boston Legal)
William Shatner’s performance as gun-loving, cigar-smoking, womanizing, conservative Denny Crane on ABC’s legal drama “Boston Legal” was one of the most fun performances I’ve ever seen on television, but that was back in the Bush years when playing a conservative as a lovable buffoon was possible. His bromance with James Spader’s Alan Shore (similar in many ways and completely different in others) is probably my favorite TV friendship of all-time. Shatner won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his performance in 2005.
25. Don Knotts (The Andy Griffith Show)
Nobody won more Emmy Awards in the 1960s than Don Knotts for his laugh-out-loud performance as bumbling deputy Barney Fife on the timeless “The Andy Griffith Show.” Knotts won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a TV Series (three times consecutively) before the categories were split between drama and comedy and twice again after the split. The only disappointing thing is Knotts’s real-life and on-screen best friend Andy Griffith never got to share in Emmy glory for his excellent performance in the show. In fact, he was never even nominated in one of the biggest mistakes in Emmy history.
24. Tony Shalhoub (Monk)
Tony Shalhoub’s three-time Emmy-winning role as Adrian Monk in the 2000s USA Network crime dramedy “Monk” is one of the most outstanding performances I’ve ever seen because of the character’s obsessive-compulsive disorder and many phobias. It’s hard to see any other actor besides Shalhoub in the role as he deftly combines both the humor and drama in his character’s issues.
23. "The Office"
The American version of “The Office” is, without a doubt, one of the greatest workplace comedies of all-time and seems to have become essentially the “Seinfeld” for the millennial or post-millennial generation thanks to Netflix streaming. What the show did so well was being able to wrap one of television’s favorite love stories into an absolutely zany show filled with some of the most memorable and hilarious characters of all-time.
22. Helen Hunt (Mad About You)
Helen Hunt won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series four consecutive years (1996-1999) for her wonderful role as Jamie Buchman on NBC’s ‘90s sitcom “Mad About You.” Hunt, along with co-star Paul Reiser (who was nominated six times, but snubbed), made for my favorite sitcom couple of all-time because their marriage was so real to life and the two leads had terrific chemistry. Hunt also brought her terrific dramatic acting skills to the role, which really came in handy during some of the rough parts of the Buchman’s marriage.
21. Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom)
It shocked many people in 2013 when Jeff Daniels upset drama heavyweights like Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) to win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance as newsman Will McAvoy in HBO’s “The Newsroom.” But, I was elated and though somewhat surprised, not completely shocked. “The West Wing” proved that great actors reciting Aaron Sorkin dialogue was Emmy gold and Daniels basically had the Emmy wrapped up in the first few minutes of “The Newsroom” pilot with the epic “America isn’t the best country in the world” monologue.
20. Julia Louis-Deyfus (Veep)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s performance as Vice President Selina Meyer in HBO’s comedy that often feels like a mockumentary “Veep” has won her a record six consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. Louis-Dreyfus played one of TV’s iconic characters in Elaine Benes on “Seinfeld” (appearing already on this list), but it’s her performance as Meyer that I believe will go down as one of the 10 greatest female roles in television history.
19. Tina Fey (30 Rock)
“30 Rock” is one of my all-time favorite comedies because the absolute absurd mind of Tina Fey. Fey created, starred in and wrote episodes for “30 Rock,” which probably has more laughs and jokes per minute than any comedy in TV history. Her lead role as Liz Lemon, the showrunner of a sketch comedy show (which she no doubt used her years at “Saturday Night Live” as resource material), is a goofy nerd in charge of keeping order in a madhouse. Fey is sublime in that role.
18. Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Alec Baldwin’s performance as Jack Donaghy on NBC’s great sitcom “30 Rock” is one of the funniest characters in television history in a great spoof of the white, rich and conservative male figure in charge of a large conglomerate. His character is perfectly summed up in his best quote: “It’s after six, what am I, a farmer?” after Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon asks him why he’s wearing a tux. Baldwin’s terrific performance as Donaghy earned him back-to-back Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy in 2008 and 2009.
17. Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
I’ve often said that you know Kelsey Grammer’s performance as Dr. Frasier Crane on NBC’s classic ‘90s sitcom “Frasier” and before that in the ‘80s as a supporting member of “Cheers” is one of TV’s funniest and greatest characters because he’s able to ring all the charm out of someone so pompous, which isn’t easy to do. Grammer won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series a record-tying four times.
The ‘80s were simply not a good decade for American sitcoms. Few classics from that era remain and many of the shows were corny family-oriented fare. But, “Cheers” – revolving around the staff and patrons of a Boston bar – will live forever. The characters were lovable, and all had their own special quirks and the writing was superb.
15. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
Kyle Chandler’s performance as Coach Eric Taylor on NBC and later DirectTV’s “Friday Night Lights” is the man many of us want to be or strive to be. He wasn’t perfect. Coach Taylor had his faults throughout the series, but he was one of the most realistic portrayals on television of what it means to be a man and husband. His on-screen chemistry with Connie Britton made for maybe the greatest couple in TV history. Chandler surprised many by winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 2011.
14. James Spader (Boston Legal)
James Spader has the unique distinction of having won Emmys for the same character on two different television shows. Spader won his first Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance as the wild attorney Alan Shore on ABC’s “The Practice” before starring in the spinoff “Boston Legal,” which would earn him two more awards for the role. Spader is one of my all-time favorite television characters as the unpredictable, but extremely moralistic Shore who was always on the side of the underdog.
13. Richard Schiff (The West Wing)
12. John Spencer (The West Wing)
11. Bradley Whitford (The West Wing)
10. Allison Janney (The West Wing)
For my money, there has never been a better cast of a drama in television history than “The West Wing.” Pretty much every episode of the series was a showcase for all of the actors and their characters too, which shows you how great the writing was, as well. Pretty much anybody involved in the cast won an Emmy Award (except somehow Martin Sheen – who arguably gave the show’s best performance – never won one). Because Allison Janney, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford and Richard Schiff were all so talented and integral to the show I’m going to lump them all together. These guys and their characters made it seem so damn cool to be knowledgeable and caring individuals.
It’s not everyday that a show that’s potentially one of the 10 greatest sitcoms in American history had a spinoff that you could argue was actually better, but “Cheers” did just that by spawning off “Frasier.” You know that “Frasier” was a bloody brilliant show when it’s two leads played by Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce were so lovable while also being rather uppity and pompous – traits that rarely lead to lovability.
“Seinfeld” was the show about nothing – brought upon by the little things in life that filled Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up routines and intrigued him and co-creator Larry David. But, for being a show about nothing it didn’t take long to turn into quite something. Many consider it the greatest sitcom in television history and it’s certainly become a huge part of pop culture.
7. "30 Rock"
“30 Rock” might be the smartest comedy to ever appear on American television, at least network television, and that’s owed mostly to the brilliant comedic mind of Tina Fey. I’m not sure there has ever been a comedy with as many jokes per minute thrown at an audience and with pop culture references galore, it was right up my alley.
6. "Saturday Night Live"
“Saturday Night Live” might be the most successful show in television history. Some might roll their eyes at that statement because too many people think ‘SNL’ piqued when they were teens (whenever that may have been), but the show’s 44th season premieres airs this month and it still continues to be a star builder. Sketch comedy is hit or miss, period. That’s the way it’s always been and always will be – so sometimes the show is a dud and other times it’ll make you almost bust a gut. But one thing I completely believe to be true is there’s never been a TV show to give as much laughter as ‘SNL.’
5. Alan Alda (M*A*S*H)
Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce in the long-running CBS dramedy “M*A*S*H” is the greatest television character and performance of all-time, in my opinion. No actor has ever combined comedy and drama so deftly in a television performance. One minute Alda’s Hawkeye could have you in tears from laughing and the next could have you in tears from the sheer pain felt by having to operate on mere boys during the living Hell that is war. Alda won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 1974 and incredibly eight years later in 1982. He’s the only person in Emmy history to win for acting, writing and directing the same series.
4. "Late Show with David Letterman"
With apologies to Johnny Carson, who revolutionized late night television, I don’t believe anybody ever did it better than David Letterman – though he’s the guy I grew up watching, not Carson. Letterman’s sarcastic, irreverent humor just hit me hard and really shaped the kind of humor I have and love. But, he was also just terrific during tough or tragic moments like his first show after 9/11. He was also the best interviewer late night television had ever seen, mixing his comedy style with seriousness and general interest (or if he didn’t really like a guest, disinterest) that led to a late night show that you didn’t just turn off after the comedy bits.
“M*A*S*H” was perfect television. There’s never been a show on television that blended comedy and drama so terrifically. It was brilliantly written, acted and exactly what America needed at the time as it aired, at least initially, in the final years of the Vietnam War even though the show was set in the Korean War.
2. "The West Wing"
In my opinion, “The West Wing” is one of the two greatest written television series I’ve ever seen, alongside Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone.” The dialogue written by Aaron Sorkin comes off as Shakespearean and the liberal dream that is the Jed Bartlett — my favorite president in history fictional or real — administration was something I long for, though I know we’ll never achieve. The entire cast is exceptional, which is why most of them won Emmys and appear on this list. It’s one of the few shows I must re-watch every few years.
1. Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone)
It’s been off the air for more than half a century now, but for my money there still has never been a better written television show than “The Twilight Zone” or a better television writer than Rod Serling, who created and wrote numerous episodes (more than half) of the series. His writing earned him an Emmy twice for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series, the only two Emmys the show ever won. Serling’s writing for “The Twilight Zone” was fascinating in that it was an anthology and he had to create entirely new stories and characters every week.
What are some of your all-time favorite Emmy winners?
by Julian Spivey
10. Lily Tomlin (Grace & Frankie)
Lily Tomlin has been nominated four times now for her lovably kooky Frankie in Netflix’s underrated “Grace & Frankie,” but hasn’t been able to crack the winning streak that has been Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “Veep.” Well, Julia Louis-Dreyfus isn’t eligible for an Emmy this year so maybe it’ll be Tomlin’s best opportunity so far. I just wish that her terrific castmate Jane Fonda had been nominated alongside her again this year.
9. Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live)
Kenan Thompson is the longest-serving cast member in the illustrious history of “Saturday Night Live” with 15 seasons and counting and with his first ever Emmy nomination this year for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series he might be the consensus favorite nominee this year. Thompson is one of those ‘SNL’ players that will frequently make you laugh with just a look or the certain connotation he puts on a word, even when a sketch just absolutely is not working. He’s that good.
8. Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish)
Over the last few years Tracee Ellis Ross’s performance as Rainbow Johnson on ABC’s “Black-ish” has been the second best performance on television by a comedic actress behind Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ turn on HBO’s “Veep.” With Julia Louis-Dreyfus not in the running this year maybe it’s time Ross gets the Emmy she deserves to go next to the Golden Globe she won in 2017.
7. Ted Danson (The Good Place)
Ted Danson is a television legend and a previous Emmy-winner for his iconic Sam Malone on “Cheers,” but maybe his greatest work on television is being done right now on NBC’s “The Good Place” as Michael, a demon turned good who’s helping people he believes shouldn’t be in “the bad place” find their way in the afterlife. It’s a performance played with wide-eyed glee by Danson, who received his 16th Emmy nomination.
6. Milo Ventimiglia & Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
Milo Ventimiglia and Sterling K. Brown are giving two of the most honest and realistic performances on television, especially network TV on NBC’s terrific “This Is Us.” Brown won Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series last year, so maybe his castmate Ventimiglia will take the honor home this year?
5. Donald Glover & Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta)
Donald Glover, who is the defending winner for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, and Brian Tyree Henry are quite the dynamic one-two punch on FX’s stellar “Atlanta.” I’m particularly thrilled to see Henry receive his first nomination in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy category as Paper Boi, an up-and-coming rapper struggling with budding fame. The performances in season two from Glover and Henry were top notch and I believe both should be considered front-runners in their respective categories.
4. Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert got off to a bit of a slow start as host of the ‘Late Show’ after taking over for David Letterman in the fall of 2015, but he’s really gotten into his stride in the time of Trump bringing a fiercely humorous political mind to the show that allows him to be himself and not a character like he portrayed in the Emmy-winning “Colbert Report” for Comedy Central.
3. Late Night with Seth Meyers writing staff
I’ve been salty for a few years now that NBC’s fantastic “Late Night with Seth Meyers” hasn’t been able to garner a nomination in the Outstanding Variety Series – Talk category, as I believe it’s been the best late night talk show on television over the last few years. But, where ‘Late Night’ really excels is in its writing of jokes, particularly political jokes with Meyers’ “A Closer Look” segment, and it’s nice to see that writing staff recognized for Outstanding Writing in a Variety Series.
2. This Is Us
“This Is Us” is the finest show on network television and I’m glad to see it gets its due against maybe more prestigious fare like “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Game of Thrones” on streaming and premium networks. I don’t think it has much of a chance at becoming the first network drama to win Outstanding Drama Series since “24” in 2006, but I sure hope it does.
FX’s “Atlanta” is the best show I’ve seen on television this year and is frequently the weirdest and most unique show on TV, as well. The show simply does whatever it wants and whatever odd things pop into creator Donald Glover’s mind and it works perfectly. It’s a comedy, but with great dramatic moments and as the second season proved could even do horror better than most. I think “Atlanta” is definitely the front-runner to win Outstanding Comedy Series with “Veep,” the reigning three-time winner, not eligible this year.
by Julian Spivey
10. Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta)
I know I shouldn’t be greedy when it comes to FX’s “Atlanta” being snubbed for anything as it was nominated for nine major Emmy awards, including four in acting categories, but how could Lakeith Stanfield not be nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his fantastic performance in the episode “Teddy Perkins,” which is likely the show’s best episode thus far? I’m thrilled Brian Tyree Henry was nominated in that category as his performance as been the show’s best through its first two seasons, but give some love to Stanfield too.
9. Gael Garcia Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle)
I didn’t expect Gael Garcia Bernal to be nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for his wonderfully gleeful performance as orchestra maestro Rodrigo De Souza on Amazon’s underrated “Mozart in the Jungle,” which was unfortunately canceled after its fourth season, but I truly believe he should’ve been nominated at least once during the show’s run for his infectious performance. Bernal did win a Golden Globe for the show’s first season.
8. Fred Armisen (The Last Man on Earth)
Fred Armisen’s guest appearance as serial killer cannibal Karl Cowperthwaite on the fourth season of Fox’s “The Last Man on Earth” is one of the funniest guest performances and characters I’ve ever seen from a comedy series. Armisen is pretty much single-handedly featured in the fourth season’s ninth episode “Karl” and knocks it out of the park. He would’ve been much worthier of a nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series than Donald Glover for hosting “Saturday Night Live” or Katt Williams for what essentially was a cameo in “Atlanta.”
7. Heidi Gardner (Saturday Night Live)
Almost half of the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category was taken up this year by “Saturday Night Live” cast members with two-time reigning winner Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Aidy Bryant all receiving noms. I realize Heidi Gardner was a first-year cast member this year with lesser screen time than those three, who’ve all become ‘SNL’ legends as far as I’m concerned, but I really felt she was the standout performer on the show this past season with truly funny and original characters like Bailey Gismert, a teenage YouTube movie reviewer, and Angel – the girlfriend from every boxing movie. Gardner was at least more deserving than Bryant, in my opinion.
6. Andy Samberg & Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine Nine)
“Brooklyn Nine Nine” was the funniest show on television over the last year and that’s owed a lot to its two stars Andy Samberg, who’s never been nominated for his performance as Detective Jake Peralta, and Andre Braugher, who’s previously been nominated three times as Capt. Raymond Holt without winning. I’m a huge fan of Anthony Anderson’s work on ABC’s “Black-ish,” but Samberg could’ve easily taken that spot this year. As for Braugher, he should’ve had the spot given to Alec Baldwin – who’s performance as President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” (though deserving of his Emmy win last year) quickly became tired and stale.
5. Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black)
It was somewhat stunning that Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” was shut out of major category nominations for its excellent fifth season, that I believe was its best yet as it took a minute-by-minute look at a prison riot and brought race relations and abuse of power to television in a manner not seen often. The most hurtful snub though was that of Danielle Brooks, who played Taystee Jefferson, who was truly the heart of the season in the show’s best acting performance thus far.
4. Brooklyn Nine Nine
Fox’s (though moving to NBC next season) excellent workplace sitcom “Brooklyn Nine Nine” has never gotten love from the Emmys, outside of three nominations for Andre Braugher (who should’ve won at least once), and that’s a damn shame because during its fifth season it was the funniest show on television. It’s hard for even comedies on a network to receive Emmy noms these days, but “Brooklyn Nine Nine” had a better season than ABC’s “Black-ish” and should’ve taken its lone network comedy nomination.
3. Mandy Moore (This Is Us)
I was absolutely flabbergasted that Mandy Moore wasn’t nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for her second season turn as Rebecca Pearson, the matriarch on NBC’s massive hit “This Is Us.” Moore’s performance in the second season may have been the best of the entire cast – and damn it’s a great cast. Not bad for a once teenage pop star. Her onscreen husband Milo Ventimiglia and onscreen son Sterling K. Brown (a winner last year) were both nominated.
2. “Teddy Perkins” (Atlanta)
“Atlanta,” which is probably the favorite to win the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series this year, had two episodes nominated in the Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series category with show creator Donald Glover being nominated for “Alligator Man” and Stefani Robinson for “Barbershop,” two terrific episodes, but Glover not being nominated for the writing of “Teddy Perkins,” the show’s best effort yet, is crazy. I must wonder if maybe this episode wasn’t even submitted?
1. Late Night with Seth Meyers
Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC has been possibly the best all-around talk show on television over the last few years and has brought politics to late night network shows like no other one before it taking cues from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to provide an extremely insightful, as well as entertaining show. However, it has never been nominated once for Outstanding Variety Series – Talk. That’s just absurd. The writing staff has, however, been nominated for the second consecutive year for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series.
Best Drama - This Is Us (NBC)
Best Comedy - Brooklyn Nine Nine (Fox)
Best Variety Series - Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS)
Best New Drama - Rise (NBC)
Best New Comedy - Splitting Up Together (ABC)
Best Actor in a Drama: Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Best Actress in a Drama - Mandy Moore (This Is Us)
Best Actor in a Comedy - Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine Nine)
Best Actress in a Comedy -Briga Heelan (Great News)
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama: Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama - Katie Lowes (Scandal)
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy - Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine Nine)
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy - Amber Ruffin (Late Night with Seth Meyers)
Best Guest Actor in a Drama - Cameron Monaghan (Gotham)
Best Guest Actress in a Drama - Lyric Ross (This Is Us)
Best Guest Actor in a Comedy - Fred Armisen (The Last Man on Earth)
Best Guest Actress in a Comedy - Kristen Wiig (The Last Man on Earth)
Best Drama Episode - "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" (The X Files)
Best Comedy Episode - "Jake & Amy" (Brooklyn Nine Nine)
Hall of Fame Show & Legend:
Show: The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
Legend: Johnny Carson
by Julian Spivey
The recent downfalls of television legends Bill Cosby and Roseanne Barr has led me to wonder what should we do with their legacies – their television shows?
I’ve been thinking about writing about this topic since the Television Hall of Fame (yes, it exists) removed Bill Cosby from its honorees earlier this month.
Now I hate that I must come out and say this, but I don’t want to be confused as someone who’s sticking up for rapists and bigots (you can’t be too careful these days), but Cosby and Roseanne are obviously bad people.
Bad people shouldn’t be supported in the now. ABC made the right decision to cancel “Roseanne,” though it’s a major disappointment for anyone else involved with the show whether on the cast or crew. Many good people lost jobs yesterday because the lead of the show is an offensive asshat.
But, should the past – “The Cosby Show” and “Roseanne” – be completely stripped away because of controversial figures in the title roles?
The most disturbing part of the Roseanne controversy to me was the fact that Hulu, Paramount Network and others decided to immediately pull re-runs of the original run of “Roseanne” from 1988-1997. This move echoes the decision that networks made a few years ago when Cosby’s victims were coming out against him. Some have since returned “The Cosby Show” re-runs to programming, but most have not.
And, sure you can make the argument that horrible people don’t need to make money off re-runs airings, but you must remember it’s not just Cosby and Roseanne making profits off these airings. Can you imagine how much this might hurt someone like Michael Fishman, who’s not a professional actor anymore?
Removing these shows, especially from a streaming service like Hulu, also hurts fans of the series – many of whom don’t give a damn about the real-life Cosby or Roseanne and merely love the shows and fictional characters, even if they have some basis in the real lives of those portraying them. Many people can separate the shows from the controversial figures behind them.
The most important aspect of this all is just what Cosby and Roseanne mean to the history of television – both iconic figures in the history of the medium. When Cosby was a lead on “I Spy” in the ‘60s he was the first African-American to star in a television series. “The Cosby Show” was also highly important in the ‘80s, as it showed affluent African-Americans after many hits of the ‘70s like “Sanford & Son” showed another side of African-American life. The criteria for being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame (founded by the Academy of Television Arts & Science) is: “persons who have made outstanding contributions in the arts, sciences or management of television, based upon either cumulative contributions and achievements or a singular contribution or achievement.” Cosby fits that criteria and removing him from the hall of fame is a disservice to the history of television. Again, he’s a bad person, but essentially the TV Hall of Fame is editing history by trying to act like he didn’t exist.
“Roseanne” was one of the most important shows in television because it was the first to really show a middle class, if not lower class, family struggling to survive. Trying to act like it didn’t exist would be a bad thing for television history, not to mention keeping viewers from terrific performances by actors like John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf, who have nothing to do with Roseanne’s bigotry.
It’s truly a disappointment that this conversation must be had, but I believe we can separate the shows from the actors who’s name they share. Let’s exile the bad guys, but let each person make up their own mind what to do about the art that they made.
by Julian Spivey
The 43rd season of “Saturday Night Live” was pretty rough. It was the worst season in a few years and really it can be chalked up to a poor writing staff. The cast of the show is mostly terrific and the hosts this year mostly stellar choices, so the fact that laughs were few and far between must fall on the writing. I enjoy the duo of Colin Jost and Michael Che on Weekend Update, but maybe their addition as head writers wasn’t such a good choice. ‘SNL’ relied far too much on Alec Baldwin’s President Donald Trump impression this season, appearing in more than half of the episodes of season 43, which led to the performance, which was terrific in season 42 and worthy of Baldwin’s Emmy win, becoming stagnant. It would likely do ‘SNL’ some good to forget the President in sketches and just poke fun at him via Weekend Update.
Despite the season being disappointing overall there are always going to be highlights of the show. This season’s highlights include some legendary cast members returning as hosts, some great stand-up comedians providing hilarious monologues, a moment of coming together and strong after tragedy and a new cast member stealing the show.
10. Jason Aldean Won’t Back Down
One of the most memorable non-comedy moments in the history of ‘SNL’ came in 2001 in the show’s first episode after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when Paul Simon performed “The Boxer.” Another horrific American tragedy involving mass violence took place just after the start of the ‘SNL’ season when a gunman in Las Vegas perpetrated the worst mass shooting in American history at a country music festival during headliner Jason Aldean’s set. It wasn’t surprising that ‘SNL’ would take time out of the show to pay respect to those lost, but it did come as somewhat of a surprise to see Aldean himself for the first time after the tragedy less than a week before to give a stirring statement of perseverance: “When America is at its best our bond and our spirit, it’s unbreakable.” Aldean then performed Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” which also served as a tribute to the musician who had died of cardiac arrest earlier in then week and had also served as ‘SNL’ musical guest more than any in the show’s long history.
9. Kumail Nanjiani, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, John Mulaney & Amy Schumer Monologues
‘SNL’ monologues can often be tedious and among the least interesting aspects of the show when you have a host who isn’t used to being funny in front of camera, let alone a live audience, but they are an important part of the show’s history and should remain despite this. But, when an actual stand-up comedian is tabbed to host the show the monologue suddenly becomes one of the most anticipated moments on the show and often one of the highlights of that week. This season featured some of the best stand-ups in the game with Kumail Nanjiani, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart and Amy Schumer all showing off their different, yet fantastic comedy chops.
8. Black Jeopardy
“Black Jeopardy” has been one of the best, if not the best, recurring ‘SNL’ sketches over the last few seasons, but it’s one the show doesn’t feature much anymore with Jay Pharoah and Sasheer Zamata no longer on the show. The show broke the sketch out just once this season and changed the format up a bit – it still worked as one of the funniest sketches of the year. Typically, the sketch features two black contestants and one – out of touch with black culture – white person. The funniest aspect of the sketch this year came when Chadwick Boseman, fresh off his career-changing “Black Panther” performance, played his T’Challa against the other two contestants portrayed by Leslie Jones and Chris Redd.
7. Jurassic Park Auditions
I’ve always been a sucker for great impressions and one of the greatest impressionists in the history of ‘SNL’ was Bill Hader, who returned this season to host the show for his second time. When he was a cast member the show would often feature faux movie auditions for some of the biggest movie hits of the last few decades to show off Hader and the rest of the cast’s best impressions. This time the auditions were for “Jurassic Park” and featured Hader’s terrific Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood and, my personal favorite, Alan Alda (it’s just so ridiculously specific, I mean, who does an Alan Alda impression). The sketch also features funny impressions of Hugh Grant from Alex Moffat, Adam Sandler from Pete Davidson and Ellen DeGeneres and Jodie Foster, both by Kate McKinnon.
6. Lavar Ball
Bombastic and braggadocios basketball father Lavar Ball was right for the poking fun of by ‘SNL’ and served as an obvious opportunity for Kenan Thompson, the longest running cast member in show history, to add to his great Weekend Update recurring character repertoire. The first appearance as Ball came during the show’s special Weekend Update stand alone episodes in the late summer of 2017 before the official start of the 43rd season and the appearances continued into the season. My favorite part of Thompson’s exquisite Ball impression is the mispronunciation of certain words like rhinoceros as “rhinosaucerous”
5. Donald Jr. & Eric Trump
While Alec Baldwin’s performance as President Donald Trump has become stagnant through overuse (he’s appeared over 30 times in just two seasons), the use of Mikey Day as Donald Trump Jr. and Alex Moffat as Eric Trump as recurring characters on Weekend Update over the last two seasons has proven to be hilarious every time. The highlight of these two is clearly Moffat’s take on Eric as a toddler of an adult, which must truly be rage-inducing to the actual Eric Trump if he’s witnessed the performance. It’s Moffat’s tour de force performance on the show and really the only noteworthy thing he’s done in his two seasons, but damn is it perfection.
4. Stefon Returns
It was great to see some of my favorite ‘SNL’ legends return to host the show this year and Bill Hader’s return to the program may have been the best episode of season 43 overall. With Hader’s return came the return of Stefon, one of the greatest and most beloved recurring characters in the show’s legendary history. Stefon returned to Weekend Update to give some helpful tips on what tourists can do in New York City for St. Patrick’s Day, including clubs that feature Roman J. Israel, Esq., leprechauns that look like Farrah Fawcett, sexy asbestos and seizure-inducing Malaysian music. This Stefon appearance was particularly fun for featuring comedian and former ‘SNL’ writer John Mulaney as Stefon’s attorney (who’s also a conceptual piss artist) named Shy. Mulaney is the co-creator of Stefon with Hader and the one who inserts last second one-liners into the bit to frequently cause Hader to break character. Despite the great return of Stefon, I must say, it just isn’t the same without Seth Meyers there for Hader to play off.
3. Return of George W. Bush
Watching the overuse of Alec Baldwin’s President Donald Trump this year was a reminder of how terrific Will Ferrell’s impression of President George W. Bush in the early ‘00s era of ‘SNL’ was. Ferrell’s Bush really wasn’t as much of an impression as it was an embellished character that almost made President Bush lovable, which has been harped on a little bit over the years. When Ferrell returned to host ‘SNL’ for the fourth time he portrayed Bush once again in the season’s best cold opening. Bush returns to remind the public, who’s opinion of him has seemingly softened due to Trump’s presidency, that he was a bad president and they shouldn’t be wishing for his days in office. Ferrell’s return as Bush comes with great Bush-isms like “I’m no economer” and “I’m not a Trump synthesizer or anything.”
2. Tina Fey after Charlottesville
Late last summer when ‘SNL’ returned for its special Weekend Update editions before the 43rd season began it got into some controversy for the way it handled the Charlottesville situation when Tina Fey, a University of Virginia graduate, discussed protesting and not wanting any good people to be hurt. She urged people to protest in other ways like finding a Jewish run or African American run bakery and eating the hell out of a cake. It was a funny bit after a horrible situation that was trying to make the best of it and some people took the comedy way too seriously, as is something people do too frequently these days. Recently Fey did admit to regretting parts of the bit, but I think she’s being too hard on herself after the controversy. Watching Tina Fey angrily shovel cake into her mouth is funny. Relax and enjoy it.
1. Heidi Gardner
Rarely has a newcomer come into ‘SNL’ with the out of the gate hilarity of Heidi Gardner this season. The Groundlings alumna didn’t get the chance to appear as the lead in many sketches, as freshman cast members rarely do, but she showed off multiple great recurring Weekend Update characters that had me in stitches every time. There’s no doubt in my mind that Gardner’s Bailey Gismert, a teenage YouTube film critic, and Angel – Every Boxer’s Girlfriend from Every Movie About Boxing Ever – will become classic Update characters over time. Gardner has these characters down pat and you can tell they are ones she’s put great work and detail into to make this memorable. Of the three new cast members to join the show this season she was really the only one that stood out and boy did she ever. I hope to see more great characters from her on the show in the future and believe she will have a great run on ‘SNL.’
What was your favorite moment from the 43rd season of "Saturday Night Live"?
by Julian Spivey
“NCIS” is nearing the end of its 15th season and I’ve been a fan of the show the whole way, in fact I remember the backdoor pilot episode of “JAG” that led to the series which has now been on television for half of my life. The show has seen cast members come and go, as any show that’s been on this long naturally has and does, but I’ve never been irritated by anything. Until now.
I haven’t seen the final episode of Abby Sciuto’s (played by Pauley Perrette) 15-year run on the show, one of only three original characters remaining on the show, yet, as I’m a few episodes behind, but I already know that I’m irritated by it.
I follow Perrette on Twitter and noticed she posted some cryptic and vague tweets about leaving the series a couple of days ago and found it strange, so I had to look more into the story. The only thing I could find was a rumor-type article from a website that isn’t exactly one of the big ones in the entertainment industry stating that Perrette and “NCIS” lead Mark Harmon had gotten into a feud over Harmon bringing his pitbull to set, it biting a crew member and then him continuing to bring the dog to work with him despite some, including Perrette, speaking out that they didn’t feel safe with the dog around. Supposedly this incident led to some bad blood between the two and they haven’t appeared in scenes together since, including in the final Abby episode that aired last week. The rumor-type story featured an unnamed source (I hate when unnamed sources appear in articles) that seemed to place the blame on Perrette. Her tweets, while cryptic (I also hate her vagueness about the whole thing), would seem to suggest the situation was Harmon’s fault and the others in charge of the show.
I don’t really like writing about a topic that nobody seems to know the entire story of and there’s a great chance that nobody ever will with Perrette opting to remain vague and Harmon seeming like a private individual. Because of this I’m not even going to attempt to place blame on one person or the other. So, I’m frankly pissed off at both instead.
The greatest relationship on “NCIS” has been the almost father/daughter-like bond between Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Perrette’s Abby and because of a dumb (at least as far as we know) on set feud it became non-existent in Abby’s final season and that’s a detriment to every fan who’s spent hours with these characters and made the series the most popular on television for much of its run. I felt like there had been fewer Gibbs and Abby moments this season but didn’t really know the extent until reading about the feud. The fact that these two veteran actors couldn’t be professional enough to come together for even one damn scene in Perrette’s final episode is infuriating for someone who’s seen more episode of “NCIS” than any other television show in their life. I imagine there are numerous other fans out there who feel this same way. Instead it seems we get (again I haven’t yet seen this episode) a cobbled together final scene between the two through the magic of television in much the same way that Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi, another infamous CBS drama feud, had on Panjabi’s final episode of “The Good Wife.”
Again, I don’t know the extent of what happened between Harmon and Perrette, but I do know they should be ashamed of themselves for not coming together one last time for their fans.
by Julian Spivey
On Thursday, May 10 Fox canceled three of my favorite comedies on network television: “Brooklyn Nine Nine,” “The Last Man on Earth” and “The Mick” and even though I knew it was a possibility that all the series could be coming to an end due to poor Nielsen ratings it was something of a shock that all three were canceled in one fell swoop.
What really hurts the most is “Brooklyn Nine Nine,” which wraps its fifth season on Sunday, May 20, and ‘Last Man on Earth,’ which ended last Sunday on a cliffhanger, which I’ve watched for five and four seasons respectively and are far and away two of the funniest and, especially in the case of ‘Last Man on Earth,’ most creative comedies on television. I hope that “Brooklyn Nine Nine” saw the writing on the wall and doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but the series frequently does. I wish ‘Last Man on Earth’ had seen this coming and chosen to edit the last 30 seconds or so from it’s finale, which would’ve given it somewhat more closure.
It’s on a day like today when three of your favorite shows, and best comedies on TV, are all canceled simultaneously that you realize television is the most heartbreaking form of entertainment, because unlike with movies, books and music you don’t always get finality with something that’s important to you, and as dumb as it sounds to say, for a lot of us our favorite shows are kind of like family members.
I understand that television is a business, but how does network TV’s system even make sense anymore? In an era when nearly everybody watches television either through DVR-viewing or streaming, networks shouldn’t rely as much on live watching, especially when Nielsen families (how ratings for shows are tabulated) make up such a small percentage of TV viewers. Have you ever known a single person who was in a Nielsen family?
I know that networks rely on advertisement to thrive and advertisers need to see people watching programs to want to sell ads to a network, but wouldn’t it be great for the shows that are good (and all three of these canceled Fox shows were anywhere from critically-liked to critically-adored) could survive?
Is it a taste issue, as much as an antiquated system issue? Maybe, but I think it’s only part of the problem. For “Brooklyn Nine Nine” especially fans caused an uproar on Twitter with their anger at Fox for cancelling the show, showing that there’s a large audience for the program, after all. But, these fans don’t show up in the show’s ratings – ‘B99’ was the least watched non-animated sitcom on Fox this year. They exist in the streaming world, with Hulu having exclusive rights, and through syndication with re-runs of the series being popular on TBS. This leaves many with the hope that TBS or Hulu will pick the show up, but that’s not typical for TBS and Hulu, which thankfully saved the once canceled Fox comedy “The Mindy Project,” hasn’t “saved” a show in three years.
A couple of interesting things that could be harming comedies like “Brooklyn Nine Nine” and ‘Last Man on Earth’ is the nostalgia boom for TV shows, particularly comedies, and networks seeing the success of “Roseanne” among conservative viewers and wanting to go in that direction. After all, older people are the ones who tend to watch live television still and older people skew conservative.
I’m a fan of “Roseanne” and have been mostly happy with its revival, but it could turn out to be bad for the future of televised comedy. For instance, Fox is in negotiations to bring “Last Man Standing,” the Tim Allen sitcom that was canceled by ABC last spring and caused an uproar among fans who erroneously thought the cancellation had to do with Allen’s pro-Donald Trump politics, instead of lacking ratings, to its network in the fall. I highly doubt the network would be doing such a thing had it not seen the booming ratings for “Roseanne.” “Last Man Standing” certainly won’t have the ratings that “Roseanne” has had because with only one year away from TV it won’t have the nostalgia factor, but it could likely outperform “Brooklyn Nine Nine” and ‘Last Man on Earth’ in ratings, though the quality is not at the same level (I do enjoy “Last Man Standing” though).
The nostalgia thing might be an even bigger killer of original programming. Not only has “Roseanne” big huge for ABC, but the return of “Will & Grace” was successful for NBC and CBS is getting into the action by bringing back ‘90s hit “Murphy Brown.” Again, the networks are winning by bringing back classic comedies that now older people enjoyed watching 20-25 years ago.
There are many reasons why original television series, particularly comedies, aren’t working on network TV anymore and unfortunately, I don’t really have any ways to fix the problem. Maybe these original shows will have to keep seeking out cable or premium channels to survive and let network TV become a wasteland?
by Julian Spivey
We got a lot of great finality in the “Scandal” series finale “Over a Cliff.” We got one last shocking death, one last epic Rowan (Joe Morton) speech that ultimately saved our main cast from a “Seinfeld” ending where everybody ends up in prison, one last Olitz love scene, and one last Stevie Wonder track. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say the “Scandal” finale was perfect – it likely wasn’t the season’s best episode either – but, as far as wrapping things up in a bow it was nice and neat.
At the beginning of the finale it appears that all our “heroes” – which I’ve put in quotations because you could argue this show has no heroes, except for maybe Attorney General David Rosen (Joshua Malina) – are seemingly all off to prison for testifying on the nefarious B613 and all their criminal activity along the way.
The only way for “bad guys” Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) and Jake Ballard (Scott Foley) to escape surefire arrest is to kill Rosen. Ballard has threatened Rosen’s life many times, but always spared him. It seemed Rosen’s luck would finally run out in the finale. I’ve probably thought once or twice a season over the last few years that Rosen would eventually be killed off. But, Rosen doesn’t kowtow to Ballard like he has all the times before. He stands up to him. And, it works. Ballard lets him live.
Cyrus, never one to do the dirty work himself, is the one to do the dirty deed with a poisoned drink (the way a man of Cyrus’ stature would knock off a foe), which is the most shocking part of the death.
“Scandal” and its creator/finale scribe Shonda Rhimes has always had a bleak streak. There has always been talk of “wearing the white hat” and “being Gladiators” by Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and her gang and frankly I got sick of hearing about it because as previously mentioned the show has rid itself of all heroes one character at a time. But, never Rosen. And that’s precisely why he had to die. In the world of “Scandal” you must have at least some villain in you to thrive and survive. It’s a quality to the show I’ve often grappled with over its hit-or-miss run but has made for certain interesting moments in its characters. It’s almost as if Rhimes thought to herself, “what if I made a show where everyone eventually becomes an anti-hero.”
Our cast seems screwed when Rosen is killed – the official cause of death listed as heart attack – with the assistant AG being in Cyrus’ pocket. But, then Rowan comes and saves the day with another one of his epic speeches (which truly have become the highlights of the show and have given Morton ample time to show off his award-winning acting abilities). This speech saves the day, when his arrogance and far-fetched “I’ve run the world” probably should have come off as an unbelievable act of a father attempting to spare his daughter. Oh well. It’s just fictional television.
In the end its Ballard and Cyrus that fall with Ballard being arrested as leader of B613 and Cyrus being forced to resign as Vice President of the United States.
Quinn (Katie Lowes) exclaims that the “good guys win,” to which Abby, who was in love with Rosen, responded, “the good guy’s dead.” It was the most striking line of the episode for me as it truly captured the entire feel of what the series became. Good doesn’t do much winning in the world of politics.
The series is left with a bit of an open-ending with Olivia eschewing the world of politics and claiming she’s going to do whatever she wants. As she triumphantly walks away from all the monuments of D.C. she’s approached by black, official looking vehicles with Fitz stepping out and the two possibly living happily ever after.
Olivia Pope leaves television as one of its most important characters (it’s easy to forget that when the show began just seven years ago it was the first lead African-American female role on a network TV drama in decades) but ultimately a conflicted one – it didn’t always sit well with me that she turned into an anti-hero as the show went along. But, the same could be said for the series as a whole.