by Julian Spivey
When “Evil,” created by Robert and Michelle King of “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight” fame, debuted in the fall of 2019 on CBS it quickly became one of my favorite new shows on television. It wrapped in early 2020 and then due to the Covid-19 pandemic ended up being delayed more than a year and its second season was shipped off to the Paramount+ streaming service at the last second instead of airing on CBS.
There were probably minimal changes to the show because of this switch in where and how it’s seen – some more mature language was tacked on, it became possibly more gruesome (but that’s kind of hard to tell) and in the season two finale there’s some nudity.
What also changed between the first and second season was a bit of unevenness in the stories. Where there were few, if any, duds in the first season there were a handful of clunkers in the second season. However, amid these clunkers there were some truly terrific episodes like “S is for Silence,” which is possibly the second best episode of the series to date (I have season one’s “Room 320” as the best), and “I is for IRS.” Yes, all the season two titles have a children’s storybook theme that I hope is dropped for season three.
The biggest storyline of the season two finale “C is for Cannibal” is David’s (Mike Colter) ordination to become a priest is approaching and before the end of the episode has happened, despite some anxiety and questioning about it. All the while the team, which includes Kristen (Katja Herbers) and Ben (Aasif Mandvi), has their usual weekly case to work on in which a college student is having cannibalistic urges.
The cannibal storyline isn’t all that interesting, except for a couple of scenes, one in which David experiences a demon in the flesh for truly the first time and another in which we come to find the demons must eat the sigil of deceased demons to carry on their line of evil, in which Leland (Michael Emerson, the show’s main villain) performs essentially the satanic version of the Catholic Eucharist with the scalp of a dead demon (where the sigil was tattooed) before the new guy chows down on it.
The best part of the episode is saved for the end when at David’s ordination, Kristen sees Leland hand something to her daughter Lexis (who we’ve known all season isn’t quite right) and she confronts her daughter about it. Kristen, who gets real mama grizzly when her daughters are threatened, grabs her ice axe used for mountain climbing and seems like she’s finally going to put an end to Leland.
Instead, she ends up at David’s place and asks him to hear her confession, something she hasn’t done in probably 20 years as she’s become agnostic in her adult years. She comes clean to him about her previous murdering the serial killer Orson (who also threatened her daughters). There have been sexual inklings between David and Kristen for much of the series’ run, but of course the two have never acted upon it and now that David is a priest it’s forbidden – so what better time to have the two kiss than after his ordination and Kristen coming clean to him about offing a guy! That’s how season two ends.
It’s going to be interesting to see how “Evil” manages this moment we’ve all seen coming but will certainly have a massive impact on our two leads going forward. I can’t wait for season three but do hope the Kings can real in some of the clunkers – it’s the only thing keeping the show from being good to potentially the best on television.
by Julian Spivey
The second season finale of AppleTV+’s Emmy-winning comedy “Ted Lasso” hit the streaming service on Friday, Oct. 8 and wrapped up a terrific sophomore season with a few confrontations – some we knew were coming and at least one we maybe didn’t see coming.
Before I get into the finale let me talk about how important I think season two has been for the show and its characters. I know some viewers have been disappointed in the second season – and I get into a bit of that on the latest episode of The Word Podcast that I recorded with my wife and The Word contributor Aprille Hanson-Spivey directly after we watched the finale – but I think the character building, especially when it comes to Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) and finding out why he is who and how he is, has been a must for this show.
At the end of last week’s penultimate episode, we find out that an article is coming out about Ted’s panic attack during an important soccer match earlier in the season and that the source for the story was Nate (Nick Mohammed), his assistant coach who’s had a villain turn this season that we’ve seen coming for quite some time.
We know there’s going to be a tense moment with Ted and Nate coming into the episode and, boy, was it ever! Ted is blindsided by Nate’s feelings toward him, and Mohammed absolutely kicks this scene right into the back of the net in maybe his best acting performance of the show’s run. It’s hard to watch as the friends and mentor/mentee relationship is just destroyed on the spot, but I think it’ll be important going forward in season three, especially given the very last image we see in the season two finale. The next time these two see each other is bound to be epic.
One storyline that surprised me was Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) turning down the massive offer to go back to his home continent of Africa and become a superstar on his home soil. It’s mostly surprising to me because I don’t know how realistic it is for an athlete to turn down such a major offer. But “Ted Lasso” is a television series and it’s one that will be all the better for the character of Sam sticking around for more. The potential relationship between Sam and AFC Richmond’s owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) is somewhat left up in the air, but also might be kaput as Sam said he was staying for himself.
A couple of the finale’s confrontations revolved around Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), who really had one of the best storylines of the second season and is truly a fan-favorite on the show. In the penultimate episode of the season Keeley (Juno Temple) tells Roy that her ex-boyfriend and Roy’s ex-nemesis/current player as an assistant for Richmond Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) recently told her that he still loved her. Upon confronting him Jamie immediately apologizes to Roy and Roy surprisingly forgives him. There’s a great moment between the two after the important soccer match in the episode later.
The other confrontation featuring Roy comes toward the end of the episode and is between him and Keeley and it’s one that I absolutely didn’t want to see – though doesn’t come as a complete surprise as there are moments during the season that made one think they may not last. But it’s a relationship that I wanted so badly to see last – and honestly, it might, it was left wide open in the end, but doesn’t really seem to be going the way I’d like. I’m kind of confused by this moment and it only really makes sense if Temple is leaving the show, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.
I can’t wait for the third season of this show, which might possibly be its last, as the show’s creators have previously said they originally planned on a three-season storyline.
by Julian Spivey
Tuesday night (Oct. 5) came the episode of the Fox medical drama “The Resident” that we all knew was coming (at least those of us who follow entertainment news), but we never wanted to see.
In August it was announced that original cast member of the series Emily VanCamp would not be returning for the show’s fifth season. Seeing how VanCamp’s character of Nurse Nic Nevin was the wife of the show’s main protagonist Dr. Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry) and had just given birth at the end of the fourth season it was obvious the only ending for her character would be tragic death.
It was surprising her death isn’t how the show decided to begin its season, but rater held it over to the third episode, with the character being away on a spa retreat over the course of the first two episodes of the season. It was also quite awkward for the show to place her death in the very next episode after another major character Dr. Devon Pravesh (Manish Dayal) almost died.
I’ve frankly been mad at VanCamp for leaving the show because of the massive hole it’s going to leave. Her reasoning for leaving had gone unreported for more than a month until Wednesday (Oct. 6), the day after the episode with her character’s death, when she told Deadline.com she left the show to focus on family after the birth of her daughter. I certainly can’t argue VanCamp doesn’t have her priorities straight, but many actresses do juggle a successful career with motherhood.
As I said, it’s an episode fans of the show didn’t want to see, but the show absolutely knocked it out of the park. You’re simply probably not a fan of “The Resident” if you kept dry eyes the entirety of “The Long and Winding Road,” written by Joy Blake. The episode is certainly the saddest of the show’s run, but it’s also one of its absolute best, with the entire cast really doing a superb job with the sadness of the impending loss of a friend and colleague.
Over the show’s fourth season I felt like Czuchry’s Dr. Hawkins sort of took a back seat among the cast, despite being the show’s main character from the start, but he’s obviously front-and-center here as we’re focused on his fight to save Nic, the realization that he’s lost her and having to cope with all that comes with losing the love of your life and mother to your recently born daughter.
The scene that really stood out the me the most was Conrad coming to the realization that Nic’s life is over right about the time that Nic’s father Kyle, played by Corbin Bernsen in a memorable recurring role, is refusing to let her go. Kyle has been through more than about any TV character I’ve ever seen as he lost his wife at an early age and now during this series alone has lost two daughters tragically. I hate that he told Conrad he’d never forgive him for what he saw as giving up on Nic, but it’s incredibly realistic for a man that broken down by tragedy. I’m sure we’ll see more from him in the future.
The other wonderful thing about this episode was how Nic saved many lives through her amazing gift of being an organ donor, including a character in the show’s other storyline of the week who needed a trachea replacement as the result of long haul Covid. Truly if you’re not an organ donor look into because you can’t take them with you when you’re gone and your lasting impact on this earth could be as a life-saver.
I look forward to seeing what “The Resident” has in store for us in the upcoming few episodes. We’re likely going to see the darkest side of Conrad we’ve ever seen.
by Julian Spivey
The 47th season of “Saturday Night Live” premiered on Saturday, Oct. 2 with an episode hosted by actor Owen Wilson with musical guest Kacey Musgraves.
I thought Wilson was an interesting choice to host the season premiere seeing as how this isn’t 2004 and he’s relevancy hasn’t really been high lately, but he does have a well-liked role on the recent Disney+ series “Loki.” I was also surprised to find out this was Wilson’s ‘SNL’ debut. He just seems like a guy who would’ve hosted the show a time or two before.
Wilson did yeoman’s work in the hosting stint appearing in most of the night’s sketches and doing a decent job, even if little of his work really stood out after the fact or provided many belly laughs throughout the night. His best work was probably as a teacher at a school board meeting who misread an email about Covid protocols as saying “segregate” students by six feet instead of “separate.”
The most surprising moment of the premiere for me was the screen time given to new cast member James Austin Johnson, who it seems we’ll see a lot doing impressions on the show, including being the very first cast member we saw during the season debuting his impression of President Joe Biden in a political cold opening. Johnson’s impression was spot on, even if the opening sketch didn’t provide too many laughs – that’s pretty much the fault of the writers (which has been the show’s weak link for a while now and doesn’t seem to be transitioning in the right direction after episode one of the season). In all my years watching ‘SNL’ I’ve never seen a new cast member given this much spotlight in a premiere, and especially be the first guy on screen!
There were some laughs to be had in the “Cars 4” sketch with Wilson resuming his voice role as Lightning McQueen, who has taken on a bit of a villain role in the latest installment of the series and seems to have a thing for underage lady cars. Wilson also gave some laughs impersonating NFL on Fox analyst Troy Aikman during a promo bit that provided few laughs otherwise.
The highlight of the first episode was Weekend Update with Michael Che already in midseason form with some controversial jokes about R. Kelly and NBA anti-vaxxers. I’ve always been a fan of Che’s style as an Update co-anchor, as I think he’s maybe the closest the show has had in that position to the late, great Norm Macdonald’s “I don’t give a damn if you think it’s funny” style.
Macdonald was tributed in the first Update segment since his death of cancer last month with the segment ending with the show showing some of his classic Update jokes from his tenure on the show in the mid-‘90s, including the great “Hey, that’s my lucky stabbin’ hat” O.J. Simpson joke. I was happy to see the tribute as Macdonald meant a great deal to me with my only complaint wishing it would’ve been a bit longer.
Pete Davidson also paid tribute to Macdonald during his Weekend Update segment with a shirt sporting the comedian’s face on it. Davidson began his bit saying, “I can’t believe I’m back,” which got a good chuckle as many though him and a handful of other veterans from the show wouldn’t return. He joked about his attending the Met Gala recently with my favorite joke being about how he thought Update co-anchor Colin Jost had attended as well and when Jost said he hadn’t they showed an image of someone in basically a gimp mask and Davidson said, “then who did I talk to all night.”
Musgraves’ two performances from her most recent album star-crossed, were nice with performances of “Justified” and “Camera Roll.” On “Justified” the Grammy-winner performed as if she were Jenny Gump (Robin Wright) from 1994’s “Forrest Gump” as if she were nude performing in just boots and with a guitar while seated on a stool.
Ultimately the season premiere didn’t provide many laughs but was probably one of the better one’s in years. You’d expect the show to always come out roaring with it having been off all summer, but the truth is it’s like any other week with the staff arriving at the beginning of the week with little to nothing already prepared.
Next week could be particularly rough with reality TV royalty Kim Kardashian West making her hosting debut on the show.
by Aprille Hanson-Spivey
I wasn’t expecting to tear up during the Sept. 29 episode “Education, Corruption and Damnation,” but “The Conners” has a way of tapping into the deepest human emotions, while also somehow making you laugh moments later. It’s a real testament not only to the veteran cast, but the writers.
Roseanne Barr’s early exit from the reboot after her controversial and racist comments has not impacted it the way I thought it would. Again, a testament to the whole team. Something I’ve found refreshing is that the show has continuously weaved in the death of Roseanne Conner from an accidental opioid overdose -- her character has not been forgotten or brushed aside.
In a recent storyline arc, her daughter Darlene’s (Sara Gilbert) life is more of a mess than usual. The character has dealt with brutal blows in recent years from the death of her mother, the stress of a promotion, constant financial woes, the loss of a close friend and the intense desire to find a moment to relax, even if that means jeopardizing her relationship by hopping a plane to Hawaii with a male coworker she barely knows. She doesn’t get on that plane of course, but it puts what seems to be an irreversible strain on her relationship with Ben (Jay R. Ferguson). The problems have piled up and practically buried her. So, despite being an atheist, she visits a psychic who cannot give her a proper palm reading. There’s too much of a cloud around her aura and the psychic believes it’s due to her lack of faith, spirituality.
Darlene struggles so much with this news, she gets on her knees and prays to God. It’s a powerful moment because you see someone so broken reaching out to the creator, even if she doesn’t quite know what that means.
Even though Darlene blames Roseanne a bit for her skepticism, her father Dan Conner (John Goodman) is quick to point out their mother was a believer and plucks out her Bible from the “Bible drawer” in the kitchen. It’s a good moment of comic relief when Darlene just assumes this is fate and it’s a sign, with Dan explaining that the Bible emerging from the Bible drawer that’s been there for years is hardly a sign. Her sister Becky (Lecy Goranson) introduces her to Pastor Phil (Jason Alexander) at her AA meeting who struggled in his own path of sin before becoming a preacher. He’s down to earth, relatable and, at least for this episode and I hope in the future, completely genuine. She decides to go to his church service with Becky and brings along Roseanne’s Bible.
It’s when the congregation is asked to turn to Isaiah that Darlene runs out of the church. In Roseanne’s Bible is a letter she wrote to God, begging to take away her pain and her addiction. If he just took away the pain, everything would be better.
My body froze as the scene unfolded. I’d wondered how many times my own mother had shared the same words with God. After a lifelong struggle with Lupus, she herself struggled with opioid addiction that the doctors continuously and recklessly prescribed. Her death in 2012 could be attributed to Lupus and irreversible damage of opioids on her body.
I felt a deep connection with Darlene in her moment of intense sorrow. She was angry at God. I was angry at God. As a Catholic, I was devastated that my pleading prayers weren’t enough to save my mother. In the years since, I’ve learned that God is not a genie -- something Becky points out to Darlene in a way that isn’t chastising her for her feelings -- and that free will and evil exists. Ultimately, God did take my mother’s pain away, just not in the way I had hoped.
But it’s important as the country continues to grapple with an opioid crisis to have episodes like this on television. It’s putting viewers face to face with raw truths that could save someone’s life.
I’m interested to see Darlene’s journey of spirituality and faith unfold because I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to. It wasn’t a perfect, rosy picture of someone’s life immediately turning around once they found God. It was messy, and God is not afraid of messy.
I hope the character can find peace and that the struggle can impact even one viewer to take a look at their own life and find a new path because it’s never too late.
by Julian Spivey
Maid - Netflix - 10/1
“Maid,” premiering today, is the newest limited series from Netflix and is a comedy-drama about a woman escaping an abusive relationship and trying to make a life for herself and her daughter working as a maid. Margaret Qualley plays the lead in the 10-episode series based on Stephanie Land’s bestselling 2019 memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. Qualley gets to act with her real-life mother Andie MacDowell in the series, which I’m sure was a real treat for the mother-daughter duo.
Muppets Haunted Mansion - Disney+ - 10/8
There are few, if any, groups I’d rather spend the holidays with than the Muppets. Back in the early ‘90s are favorite felt creatures did the classic Christmas tale of Scrooge better than just about any other cast ever has. Now I look forward to an evening of spooky family fun with Disney+’s “Muppets Haunted Mansion,” premiering Friday, Oct. 8. Believe it or not, it’s actually the first ever Halloween special from the Muppets! The plot features The Great Gonzo attempting to spend a night in The Haunted Mansion. The special will feature appearances by Will Arnett, Yvette Nicole Brown, Darren Criss, Taraji P. Henson and the late, great Ed Asner.
Dopesick - Hulu - 10/13
Hulu hasn’t had the same success when it comes to limited series as its main competition in Netflix, but maybe things will turn around a bit with “Dopesick,” an eight-episode series about America’s opioid epidemic based on Beth Macy’s bestselling book of the same name. “Dopesick,” which premieres Wednesday, Oct. 13, features Academy Award-nominated Michael Keaton in the lead role as a doctor who finds himself involved in Big Pharma’s deadly secret, according to Collider. The series also features Will Poulter, Kaitlyn Dever, Peter Sarsgaard, Rosario Dawson and Michael Stuhlbarg.
The Velvet Underground - AppleTV+ - 10/15
The Velvet Underground was one of the most innovative and original music groups of the 1960s featuring the supremely talented Lou Reed and John Cale and a truly unique sound and point of view. They also hung around pop artist Andy Warhol’s avant-garde community. Director Todd Haynes’ (I’m Not There, Carol) has helmed a documentary about the band that’s sure to be a must-see for all music lovers. “The Velvet Underground” premieres on AppleTV+ on Friday, Oct. 15.
Dune - HBO Max - 10/22
I must admit I’m not all that interested in “Dune,” which will be premiering in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on Friday, Oct. 22. But it is one of the most anticipated films of the year, so I’m making space for it on this list. “Dune,” directed by Denis Villeneueve (‘Blade Runner 2049,’ ‘Arrival’), is a sci-fi epic set in the far future on a desert planet where a drug exists that can extend human life. The film stars Timothee Chalamet in the lead with Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin in supporting roles. Director David Lynch made a version of Frank Herbert’s novel in 1984 that was received with mixed reviews, but has developed a bit of a cult following.
Colin in Black & White - Netflix - 10/29
In what will surely be a controversial limited series to some (check out the ridiculous IMDb user rating for it before it’s even premiered that shows racists have too much time on their hands) Netflix brings to the screen the high school years of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick being the song of adoptive white parents in a mostly white community and the moments that led him to becoming an activist. Jaden Michael stars as Kaepernick, who himself will narrate the series. Kaepernick’s parents are played by Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker.
by Julian Spivey
ABC’s “The Rookie” kicked off its fourth season with a devastating shock to the fans and ultimately one of the show’s best episodes to date.
Season three of the series ended with Det. Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz) being kidnapped before her wedding by cartel leader Sandra “La Fiera” De La Cruz (Camille Guaty), as revenge for not being able to protect her son from being killed (and Lopez’s rather callous reaction to it).
Within the first few minutes of the season premiere “Life and Death,” written by showrunner Alexi Hawley, we realize Officer Jackson West (Titus Makin Jr.) has been killed by being shot in the back trying to resist being kidnapped along with Lopez. It comes as a shock to viewers because West is an original cast member of the series, played a crucial role in the show’s third season and unlike many cast changes during the summer is one that was kept underwraps well by the show.
It’s disappointing to see the character killed off “The Rookie,” but with Makin choosing to leave the show and how season three ended the show didn’t really have much of an option when it came to the character’s fate.
I will say I’m a bit fed up with actors abruptly leaving shows at the moment, as this is something Fox’s “The Resident” is also having to deal with right now, to a much worse extent.
Officer West’s death is particularly hard on Sergeant Gray (Richard T. Jones), who was a bit of a father figure to him, and Officer Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neil), a longtime friend and roommate of his. One of the best scenes of the episode is when Grey captures West’s killer and has this moment of whether or not he’s going to get revenge by killing him.
While Grey and Chen are focused on finding West’s killer, Officer John Nolan (Nathan Fillion), Officer Tim Bradford (Eric Winter) and Det. Nyla Harper (Mekia Cox) head to Guatemala where La Fiera is holding the very pregnant Lopez with the intention of kidnapping the child upon its birth and raising it as her own as replacement for her deceased son.
Yes, it’s bit of a ‘Rambo’-esque move for “The Rookie” to make with three Los Angeles police officers going to a foreign country to save one of their own and some fans online have an issue with that, but it’s a television show I don’t expect everything to be completely realistic. I think the high-stakes action plotline of the premiere made for one of the show’s most thrilling episodes to date.
The only real criticism of the episode is that many of the characters don’t really seem to be taking West’s death all that hard - or as hard as you’d expect - but it’s probably because they’re mostly focused on not losing another friend in Lopez. Hopefully the show will delve deeper into the grief felt by the officers going forward, but as the episode ends with a three month time jump there’s a chance we won’t get to see this take place.
by Julian Spivey
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” ended its eight season, two network (Fox and NBC) run on Thursday, Sept. 16 with “The Last Day,” a finale that truly had something for every fan of network television’s best sitcom of the last decade.
The final season of the show was a bit hit or miss, though with more hits and the biggest miss being that it only ended up being nine episodes, but there was nothing to really complain about with “The Last Day.”
The episode begins with the Nine-Nine’s final heist – where all our favorite characters compete in one final epic game to determine the best heister of the precinct. The show’s heist episodes, which they did on almost a yearly-basis, often proved to be among the show’s highlights.
We find out early in the episode that this final heist is really just an elaborate way for Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) to say goodbye to the precinct, as he’s made the decision to become a stay at home dad, as wife and co-worker Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) takes an important promotion within the NYPD.
There were some things I feel like all fans of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” wanted from the finale – to be heist related, to see Capt. Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) get one more sick Madelyn Wunch burn in and the return of Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti), Holt’s ex-assistant who left the series in its sixth season.
There were also as couple of nice, heartfelt cameos in the finale that I didn’t even realize until after the viewing: the precinct’s janitor Dan is portrayed by series co-creator Dan Goor and the random Berlin Philharmonic cellist Holt includes in the heist game is played by Samberg’s real-life wife and multi-instrumentalist Joanna Newsom.
I don’t want to get too into what happens within the heist just in case some reading haven’t gotten around to watching the episode yet, but it’s fulfilling.
The most touching moment of the finale for me as a longtime fan of the series is the final heart-to-heart moment between Capt. Holt and Jake, a duo that’s always played well off each other despite the immense differences between the characters. These two were peanut butter and caviar (I’m sure you can guess which is which), but it always just made for the perfect laugh.
Braugher’s performance as Holt was my absolute favorite on any long-running TV comedy over the last decade. Braugher was always known for dramatic rolls, especially his Emmy-winning turn on NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Streets” in the ‘90s and it surprised many to see him among the cast of a broad comedy. But his dry reading of Holt and the writing staff’s completely owning of the character from day one made the character an all-time great. Braugher has been nominated four times for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance and will be eligible for a fifth in 2022 for the final season, but if he finishes his run without an Emmy win (which is highly likely) it’ll be one of the greatest performances ever to never win.
The entire cast of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” was incredible and importantly it was maybe the most diverse cast on television. I know some are going to roll their eyes at that sentence but seeing all sorts of folks together as one on TV is not just hopeful, but honestly realistic.
I was never really going to be ready to let “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” go, as I still felt it was even in its eighth season one of the best comedies on television. But the show went out as well as it possibly could, and it did so by remaining true to itself and not going for some sort of television altering creative finale (which it pokes fun at in a scene where Jake is tricked into thinking he’s been in a coma for seven years). Well done “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” I salute you.
by Julian Spivey
I think we all have “our guys” when it comes to comedy. Comedians who’s sense of humor just hits us or we identify with because it’s like our own – or maybe because they have shaped our humor with their own.
David Letterman has been “my guy” for as long as I can remember. In the summers when I was younger, I could stay up later than during the school year and this meant I could watch Letterman’s ‘Late Show’ on CBS five nights a week for two-and-a-half months. When I became a college student in 2006, I could watch it year-round.
I identified with Letterman’s dry wit, which came off as intelligent, but also mixed in some silliness along the way. It wasn’t long after getting into Letterman that I became familiar with “Saturday Night Live” via re-runs on Comedy Central that would show mostly episodes from the entirety of the ‘90s, including those three glorious seasons when Norm Macdonald was the anchor of Weekend Update, the mock news segment that poked fun at the biggest stories of the day. Macdonald was a lot like Letterman when it came to the dry sense of humor but was a bit darker (which really came out more in his stand-up than his television appearances), and this matter-of-fact “I don’t care if you like me or not” way of reading jokes about the biggest news stories of the day, particularly the O.J. Simpson trial, just tickled me. Macdonald was the rare comedian who made you laugh by occasionally turning off the live audience, like he was speaking instead directly to you watching from home.
He became another one of “my guys.” Reading so much about him today from fellow comedians and fans after his surprising death at 61 after a nine-year battle with cancer that he kept secret it seems he was “my guy” to an awful lot of people. That makes me incredibly happy. Though I’m not sure he would’ve cared all that much.
A lot of people felt Macdonald was the greatest Weekend Update anchor of all-time. Another thing Macdonald likely was was the greatest late night talk show guest of all-time, or at least of his era, particularly guest spots with Letterman and on all of Conan O’Brien’s shows, where he was regaling the audience with some long meandering story that you’d often wonder if there was a point or a punchline, but the trip was always well worth taking. His “The Moth” story on one of Conan’s shows is the stuff of legend. His appearance on Letterman after his firing from ‘SNL’ is legendary and the two men together on that episode are the epitome of “not giving a fuck.”
My favorite Macdonald late night talk show appearance was his final stand-up routine on Letterman’s ‘Late Show’ in 2015 where he got choked up talking about how much Letterman meant to him. I know the feeling was mutual between the two. Letterman released a statement following Macdonald’s death on Tuesday, Sept. 13 that read: “In every important way, in the world of stand-up, Norm was the best. An opinion shared by me and all peers. Always up to something, never certain, until his matter-of-fact delivery leveled you. I was always delighted by his bizarre mind and earnest gaze.”
A few months after Macdonald’s final appearance on Letterman’s show I had the true honor of getting to see him perform live on stage with his friend and former ‘SNL’ co-star Kevin Nealon with my brother and a close friend, who’d always shared a love for Macdonald’s comedic style.
It was everything I wanted from a Macdonald performance. He could open his mouth and stutter gibberish (and sometimes did) and I’d still find it the funniest thing ever – he just had that kind of hold on my funny bone.
Nothing shocks me any more in this world we’re living in. Even though you expected anything and everything with Norm Macdonald he was still capable of shocking you with a devastating punchline. Now he’s dead. It’s not a good punchline, but it’s shocking and the set up was fantastic.
by Tyler Glover and Julian Spivey
'Ted Lasso' for Basically Everything
The 20 total nominations for AppleTV+’s “Ted Lasso” are the most ever for a comedy’s first season and the show is certainly deserving as its freshman season was one of the funniest and most charming television seasons I’ve ever seen. Golden Globe-winner Jason Sudeikis was nominated for Lead Actor in a Comedy for his titular role and nearly the entire supporting cast of the series received nominations, as well, including a whopping four nominations in the Supporting Actor in a Comedy category with Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed and Jeremy Swift all being nomination. Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple were both nominated for Supporting Actress in a Comedy. Most importantly the series itself was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series and must be consider the favorite by far to win. JS
'Bridgerton' for Drama Series
The identity of the mysterious Lady Whistledown may still be unknown to the ton of London but what is known is that “Bridgerton” is one of the best television shows of 2020! “Bridgerton” made its debut on Christmas Day on Netflix and became an instant hit. Millions became intrigued at watching the budding romance of Daphne Bridgerton and the Duke of Hastings as well as trying to figure out who was writing the letters revealing all the secrets of the ton. “Bridgerton” is Shonda Rhimes’ first Netflix entry after having enormous success with her ABC hit shows, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” “How To Get Away With Murder” and “Private Practice.” If this is any indication of what we have to look forward to, there are tons of reasons to be excited. “Bridgerton” was a show that while it gained acclaim from viewers, I was worried it would be something the Emmys might look over and not “get” the buzz for but luckily, I was proven wrong. “Bridgerton” received a total of 12 Emmy nominations including Best Drama Series. I was also very excited for Rege-Jean Page for Best Lead Actor and for Julie Andrews to get nominated for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance for her performance of Lady Whistledown. I am on the edge of my seat like at the end of one of these episodes to see if it will win. Hopefully, it will! TG
'The Queen’s Gambit' for Limited Series and Lead Actress in a Limited Series
It was really a no-brainer that Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit” and its lead Anya Taylor-Joy were going to receive Emmy nominations. I’m still thrilled by it anyway as “The Queen’s Gambit” is likely the greatest limited series I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing. I am a bit concerned about its competition in this absolutely stacked category that features HBO’s “I May Destroy You,” HBO’s “Mare of Easttown,” Amazon Prime Video’s “The Underground Railroad” and Disney+’s “WandaVision.” Literally any of these five nominees could win. Taylor-Joy’s biggest competition will likely be Kate Winslet for “Mare of Easttown.” JS
'The Crown' for Best Drama Series
“The Crown” season four was the season that I was looking forward to the most when the show first premiered in 2016. Season four introduces Emma Corrin as Princess Diana, as well as Gillian Anderson as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Both actresses should win Lead Actress and Supporting Actress In A Drama Series in my opinion. Season four mostly covers Prince Charles meeting Diana, their marriage, and the beginning of the end of their relationship as well as all of Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister of Great Britain. This season was the most binge-worthy season of “The Crown” so far and season five, I’m sure will be just as brilliant. It was highly speculated that Olivia Colman, Corrin, Josh O'Connor, Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anderson would reap bids, but it also excited me to learn of Emerald Fennell’s nomination for her portrayal of Camila Parker Boles. Fennell has had an incredible year. Earlier this year, Fennell won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for her film, “Promising Young Woman.” TG
'Late Show with Stephen Colbert' for Variety Talk Series
“Late Show with Stephen Colbert” has been my go-to for variety talk show for a few years now as I believe it has the best mixture of comedy, politics (which is truly a must-have for the genre now) and interesting and informative interviews. I think it’s probably a long shot to win. HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” wins every single year and if it’s going to have its streak snapped many believe it could be by Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” COVID-19 threw many of these variety talk shows a huge curveball and Colbert and his staff really knocked it out of the park. JS
'WandaVision' for Limited Series
“WandaVision” is the kind of limited series that gets me really excited to see where television will continue to take us. Upon watching the first episode, I really enjoyed it but was unsure of how this would fit into the Marvel universe and just exactly what was going on. Luckily, it intrigued me to continue to watch and I’m so glad that I did! As the episodes progress, we learn things are not as they appear, the secrets begin to unfold, and we become even more thrilled to learn that just because our lead characters think they know everything does not mean that they do. This is the best kind of television to watch! “WandaVision” successfully brings the superhero genre to a limited series in ways that I have not seen before. “WandaVision” was nominated for a whopping 23 nominations including for Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen and Kathryn Hahn. TG
'This Is Us' for Best Drama Series
“This Is Us” is still the best drama on network television five seasons in and it’s the only network drama to continue to receive love from Emmy voters. As happy as I am for the show receiving Emmy love I feel the love went to many of the wrong people on the show. Phylicia Rashad received a nomination for Guest Actress (which she has no shot at winning after her disgusting pro-Bill Cosby being released from prison tweet recently – voting for nominations finished before her tweet). The performance on “This Is Us” by Jennifer C. Holmes was much more worthy of nomination anyway. I was shocked to see Chris Sullivan nominated for Supporting Actor when Justin Hartley (who I don’t understand why is consider a supporting actor on this series and not a lead like Sterling K. Brown) had maybe the best performance on the show in season five. Griffin Dunne also would’ve made for a better nominee in the category than Sullivan. But it’s great to see the show still getting love, especially in the Outstanding Drama category, where it’ll probably lose to “The Crown” from Netflix. JS
Kaley Cuoco for Lead Actress In A Comedy Series for 'The Flight Attendant'
Kaley Cuoco has been an actress I have admired and enjoyed for many years. Her portrayal of Penny on “The Big Bang Theory” criminally went unrewarded and did not manage to get her an Emmy nomination. It is not like “The Big Bang Theory” was not on the Emmys’ radar either. Cuoco’s co-stars Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik were all nominated, and the series was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series several times. Luckily, the Emmys decided to make up for the past and nominated her for Lead Actress In A Comedy Series for HBO Max's “The Flight Attendant.” Cuoco also received a second nomination as an executive producer of the show for its’ nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series. “The Flight Attendant” follows Cassie Bowden as she tries to solve the murder of a man, she spent the night with and found dead the next morning. The series is surprisingly very funny for a whodunit and Cuoco manages to balance the comedy and drama perfectly. Hopefully, she will win at least one of these bids but thankfully, Cuoco is at least an Emmy nominee now! TG
'black-ish' for Outstanding Comedy, Lead Actor in a Comedy and Lead Actress in a Comedy
It’s amazing that ABC’s comedy “black-ish” is still so strong in its seventh season and it’s big Emmy nominations prove the voting body hasn’t given up this many years in. “black-ish” was the only network comedy show nominated in the Outstanding Comedy Series category out of eight total nominees (the other seven are all on streaming services). I was also thrilled to see Anthony Anderson nominated for his seventh consecutive Emmy for his performance, though at this point he’ll likely be one of the most nominated actors for a single role all-time to never win which is unfortunate. I also liked to see Tracee Ellis Ross nominated for the fifth time for her performance on the show. JS
'Friends: The Reunion' for Variety Special
“Friends” is my favorite television show of all-time. I have watched the show so many times that there are episodes I can almost quote line for line. When I learned they were doing a reunion, I was so ecstatic to learn that the friends were going to be there for me one more time. The special turned out to be almost perfect and getting to see Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer back together was everything we could have wanted it to be. The main reason I am excited for this nomination is for Cox. During the initial run of "Friends," Aniston, Kudrow, LeBlanc, Perry and Schwimmer all reaped Emmy bids (with Aniston and Kudrow each winning once). However, Cox was the one cast member that never received an Emmy nomination during all 10 seasons. Cox, along with the rest of the cast, served as an executive producer of the special. Therefore, Cox finally received an Emmy bid for “Friends” after 17 years of being snubbed. I am so glad the Emmys were finally there for this friend! TG