by Preston Tolliver
Over the last few weeks followers of The Word’s Facebook page have been participating in a tournament to select the “Greatest Drama Episode” in television history. Sixty-eight episodes began the tournament and on Monday the “Game of Thrones” third season episode “The Rains of Castamere” came out victorious over the “Breaking Bad” fifth season episode “Ozymandias” taking the crown with 59 percent of the vote.
The Word’s Preston Tolliver explains why “The Rains of Castamere” is a deserving champion:
Make no mistake. “The Rains of Castamere” (season three, episode nine) of “Game of Thrones” wasn’t voted The Word’s Best Drama Episode because it was captivating and enthralling start-to-finish. In fact, I don’t even remember what happened through most of it.
“The Rains of Castamere” won because of a scene. A scene that ripped viewers out of the Westeros they envisioned of hopes and possibilities and plunged them into what Westeros really was: a cold place where Cersei Lannister’s words of wisdom to Ned Stark in the first season, “when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” cut deeper than Roose Bolton’s knife in Robb Stark’s back. And in the world of Westeros, there were a lot of players.
It was also an episode that changed the way television is written - normally, you know who the main character of a TV show is when you start it, and you expect to ride with them until the final credits roll. Sure, Ned Stark losing his head (spoiler!) was a surprise, but they wouldn’t pull that again. But then they did, and our comfort for the rest of the series was as shaky as the towers on the wall during an ice dragon attack (another spoiler!).
With the penultimate episode of the show’s third season, “Game of Thrones” (or more accurately, George R.R. Martin, in the books) flipped the narrative on its head, fulfilling a promise that other shows left empty: a show that truly gave viewers the unexpected (OK, unless you read the books). Good doesn’t always conquer evil, and the main protagonist may sooner find themselves without a head than with a crown. In the face of “The Rains of Castamere,” all other dramas just became too predictable.
The Word’s Greatest Drama Episode Tournament: Top 40
By Aprille Hanson
One of TV’s classics “Will & Grace” ended it’s reboot run on Thursday, April 23 with “It’s Time,” it’s 246th episode since the show first aired on Sept. 21, 1998. When the show ended the first time in 2006, it had a two-part finale, which is something I would have loved to see here.
“It’s Time” was much more satisfying than the previous two-part finale that aired in 2006. The original finale included Will and Grace reconciling because of their children, who they had with their respective partners, years after a falling out. Karen divorces Stan and Jack marries Karen’s archenemy to inherit a fortune.
As a fan, that initial finale was a mess. Thankfully, when NBC rebooted the show in 2017, with the premiere episode “11 Years Later,” viewers learn that the previous finale was a weird dream of Karen’s -- no divorce, no kids, no Jack getting rich. Ironically, the current finale dealt, in some ways, with all of those themes.
The 30-minute finale centered around major themes for the four main characters. Grace (Debra Messing) is about to give birth to her baby boy; Will (Eric McCormack) has to decide whether or not to reconnect with former love McCoy Whitman (Matt Bomer); Karen (Megan Mullally) finally accepts that she’s still in love with Stan and the two reconcile; and Jack (Sean Hayes) finally gets to fulfill his dream of acting on Broadway, when multiple understudy’s to a non-speaking sailor role wind up ill. The writing was spot-on, particularly the running joke with Jack trying to remember if he actually still works at various places -- as a nurse, acting coach at a rec center, bar owner, etc. -- or if he can in fact drop everything to make the Broadway appearance. Either way, he does it and in a way, that’s all the riches that character needed.
“It’s Time” ended in a way that worked for fans. Was it the best episode? No. The show easily could have made it a two-part, hour-long finale because it honestly felt rushed. However, every storyline wrapped up for the most part -- we assume Will gets back with McCoy, but it’s not entirely confirmed. It was a sweet moment when McCoy says to Will that he too deserves the prince charming, fairytale ending and he’s not coming back to interfere with Will and Grace’s plan to raise their children together. For a show that has been so important for gay representation, it was almost a way to say, yes, everyone should get their forever love in life.
I would have liked to see them actually get back together. It would have been neat to finally see Stan, though I understand the choice not to reveal him. And I would have liked to see Grace finally hold her son, and maybe more of a mention regarding Will’s soon-to-be child as well. It’s where a flash forward could have made a difference, showing everyone in their new lives.
That being said, I laughed throughout the episode and smiled at the sweet moments. My main complaint overall was that the reboot didn’t last beyond three seasons. I really would have loved to see the next chapter of their lives play out, but as Will and Grace realized in the finale, it’s not going to just be about them anymore. So could you continue “Will & Grace” when their lives are changing so much? Realistically, it wouldn’t have been the same, but I still think the writers could have made it work. Even the name of the episode was a not-so-subtle reminder to fans that it was likely time to let the characters move on.
I’m grateful that this wrapped up in a more satisfying way than the first go-around, allowing fans to say goodbye to some of the greatest friendships on television.
by Aprille Hanson
When “Will & Grace” debuted in 1998, it was the first show centered on the friendship between a straight woman and gay man. Ellen DeGeneres opened the door with her sitcom character on “Ellen” coming out to the world for a show like “Will & Grace” to even exist. As a fan of the original run of “Will & Grace,” seasons 1-8, it was thrilling to see the beloved characters return for a season 9 in 2017, 11 years later to an extremely different society, both in acceptance and politically. Without missing one beat, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes stepped back into their beloved characters, still able to capture what made the show a classic. My big complaint? We only got these characters back for a rebooted three seasons, as the show will conclude a second time on April 23. Let’s hope it’s better than that initial season 8 finale, which was ultimately erased in the reboot.
While none of the four main characters are subpar, here’s how they rank:
Grace Adler (Debra Messing)
Speaking of hot messes, Grace Adler is a talented interior designer, but knows little about getting her life together and it’s a joy to watch. She’s definitely not as absurd as Karen, but her moments of silliness in relationships to the ups and downs in her friendship with Will is played to perfection. She is a modern day Lucille Ball for more than just the red hair. Her physical comedy echoes the comedic icon in crazy moments, like one of her best episodes, “Das Boob” (season 2, episode 3) when she wears a water bra on a date and it springs a leak. Even this final reboot season, she’s willing to go to such gross lengths in “What a Dump” to “Accidentally on Porpoise” that you just can’t help but love this flawed character.
by Julian Spivey
“Saturday Night Live” returned on Saturday, April 11 with possibly the most innovative and certainly the strangest episode in the 45 years of the late night sketch comedy show.
In a special episode billed “Saturday Night Live: At Home” the show was completely filmed and produced by the cast of the episode filming sketches and bits from their home during the quarantine our country is experiencing due to Covid-19. It was the first episode of ‘SNL’ since Daniel Craig hosted on March 7.
The special episode was set up like a typical live episode would be complete with a host, musical guest, sketches and Weekend Update, all with a bit more of a confined feeling to them and without the terrific sets you usually see on a live broadcast. I particularly enjoyed the new “At Home” cast member introductions at the beginning of the episode.
Tom Hanks served as the episode’s host from his home marking his first televised appearance since being diagnosed with Covid-19 while filming a movie in Australia and recovering. Poking fun of one of the pandemic’s biggest pop culture phenomenon’s Hanks opened his monologue with “Hey all you cool cats and kittens” from Netflix’s docuseries “Tiger King.” Hanks would remark about how “it’s a strange time to try to be funny but trying to be funny is SNL’s whole thing.” He said there would probably be some laughs and maybe even a stinker or two, as most episodes go.
There was a real DIY aspect to this episode of ‘SNL’ that I absolutely loved. Entertainment writer and author Mark Harris tweeted: “That ‘SNL’ was so beautifully lo-fi. Entertainment stripped of everything but the determination to make an effort. I was moved.”
The effort by the cast and crew to get this ‘At Home’ edition of ‘SNL’ on the air for us long-time fans of the show in need of some good-hearted laughs and original content during this horrific time in our country is something that should be greatly commended.
Was it the funniest episode ever of ‘SNL’ or even this season? No. But, the effort and work put in by these comedians to give us these laughs and something fun to do with our Saturday night during this time in America makes it one of the most important episodes the legendary show has ever done.
Obviously do to social distancing and everybody being quarantined in their own homes the cast wasn’t able to get together to do typical sketches and most of the evening’s bits were single acted moments with some of the best including Ego Nwodim doing a makeup tutorial using Crayola markers, Mikey Day as a Twitch live streaming gamer who’s extremely bad at “Call of Duty” and one of my personal favorite recurring characters of the show Bailey Gismert, Heidi Gardner’s teenage YouTube movie critic. It was nice to see this character actually get to do a mock YouTube video, instead of just being a guest on Weekend Update and I hope the show allows the character to do this more in the future.
Thanks to Zoom, which seems to be having its heyday during this time in our country, there were sketches that allowed multiple cast members to be involved at once and the funniest of the evening was a work Zoom meeting in which Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant played receptionists not accustomed to such technology struggling to adapt to it. Having never used Zoom this sketch was somewhat lost on me, but had my wife, who’s had to use it for work meetings of late, in stitches, no doubt reminding her of some of her older co-workers.
I truly appreciate how ‘SNL’ tried to make this episode appear as normal as it could including a musical guest and Coldplay’s Chris Martin performed a terrific cover of Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm” from his home.
Possibly the oddest moment of the evening was Weekend Update with Michael Che and Colin Jost because it’s a more of a traditional set-up and punchline joke format that’s awkward without a live studio audience, even though the show tried with laughter from what I assume where other cast members or writers being involved via Zoom. This is an aspect that has made some of the late night monologues done at home by Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and the like awkward as well on weeknights.
In a touching moment during the show Che said that being able to come back to work this week helped with the grief of losing his grandmother to Covid-19 earlier in the week. In one of my favorite segments of the duo’s run on Weekend Update Che told Jost that it would’ve made his grandmother’s day to do a joke swap in which Che made Jost read a culturally insensitive joke coming from a white man. Che’s torture of Jost during this recurring bit always gives me a huge belly laugh. Che then remarked that he was just messing with Jost and that his grandmother had never watched ‘SNL.’ Che touchingly signed off of Weekend Update with “I’m Martha’s grandbaby.”
One of the episode’s most popular bits was an animated segment focusing on what the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would be up to as Middle Aged Ninja Turtles, including getting divorced and whether or not they should attend Shredder’s funeral.
The show ended with a touching tribute to Hal Willner, a longtime music guy on the show since 1980 who succumbed to Covid-19 on April 7 at 64. A group of current and former ‘SNL’ cast members talked about Willner’s importance to them and the show and how great of a guy he was. The most touching part of the tribute for me was Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Molly Shannon, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell and Emily Spivey singing Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” in his honor.
Thank you “Saturday Night Live” for doing this. At this tragic time in our country comedy and entertainment are truly important to keep up us from losing our minds. I sincerely hope the show does this again before what would’ve been the end of its season in May.
by Aprille Hanson
In a recent fan-voted tournament of the Greatest Sitcom Episode by The Word, fans were given iconic episodes to rank from some of the best classic and modern shows ever to grace television -- “M*A*S*H,” “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” “The Office,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Good Place” and a whole host of others. There were 68 episodes in all to choose from and I was thrilled when the final result was “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” from the 1952 season one, episode 30 of “I Love Lucy.”
It’s my favorite ‘Lucy’ episode, but I was still shocked it was the winner, purely because of all the modern shows mixed in that could have attracted younger viewers to vote for the newbies. But it really goes to show that the series not only transcends generations, but this episode specifically is so important to the history of comedy.
It’s always been Lucy’s goal to be a star, and when husband Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) doesn’t let her do a TV commercial, she takes matters into her own hands, answering the call from the actress telling her they found someone else.
Lucy of course shows up and hilarity ensues when she must taste the Vitameatavegamin medicine over and over again throughout the course of filming, despite the fact it contains 23 percent alcohol. She soon becomes intoxicated and the Vitameatavegamin speech is as iconic as her mannerisms, hiccups, facial expressions and chugging the bottle of medicine by the final take.
The fact that this episode is from season one shows just how genius the show was at the time. TV Guide ranked it as the No. 2 and then No. 4, 1997 and 2009 respectively, on their list of “TV’s Top 100 Episodes of All Time.” According to IMDB.com, it was Ball’s favorite episode of the series.
The episode is more than just a classic. Ball’s Vitameatavegamin scene was a roadmap for every female comedian. In 2017, it was revealed in Architectural Digest that actress Laura Dern owns the dress Ball wore in the episode. In 2013, the actress told the Los Angeles Times that “Lucille Ball was a huge influence on me,” when it came to her character Amy Jellicoe in the critically-acclaimed HBO series “Enlightened.”
In 2011, the 100th anniversary of Ball’s birthday, Entertainment Weekly ranked what female comedians were considered “the new Lucy,” ranking Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Debra Messing. There really can’t be a “new” Lucy, but influences are certainly drawn from Ball. According to a 2011 article on TheMortonReport.com, the author notes how Lucy’s influences are seen in Kristen Wiig’s “Saturday Night Live” big-eyed, slapstick characters to even the dynamic of characters Jay and Gloria Pritchett on “Modern Family,” a reverse play on Ricky and Lucy. As “Modern Family” wrapped up its 11th and final season on April 8, a special that played prior to the finale showed Sofia Vergara explaining how she hadn’t seen a true Latin depiction like herself on television since Ricky Ricardo.
Most poignantly, comedian Carol Burnett was influenced by Ball and explained in 2019 to the Detroit Free Press how far comedy for women has come: “When I started out, the main one was Lucy and that was it. And now you’ve got Tina and Amy and Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon and Maya Rudolph and Jane Lynch and on and on.”
While Lucy’s drunken state has no doubt been studied by female comedians, “Will & Grace” in the April 9 airing of “We Love Lucy,” paid direct tribute to the show and scene, with red-haired comedian Debra Messing playing verbatim Lucy’s Vitameatavegamin scene. She told Entertainment Weekly she felt “complete terror at first” because she had just a week to prepare for the reenactment of the scene.
“So, I had (the original) scene, and I would watch it over and over and over and over again and listen to it like music,” she said and did the seven minute-run in one take.
Though she explained she had several influences, like Burnett, Ball was the emotional attachment, saying in part that while growing up in East Greenwich, R.I., “TV was my life, being able to sort of escape into other worlds. And it was ‘I Love Lucy’ that just literally lit me up.”
Lucy for me has always been nostalgia. I grew up watching “I Love Lucy” with my grandparents and laughed out loud as a 6-year-old kid just as much as I laugh today at Lucy’s crazy antics. For as much as Ball influenced so many after her, we will never truly see another just like her. Her legacy is perfectly encapsulated in “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” and it’s why it should always rank No. 1.
The Word’s Greatest Sitcom Episode Tournament: Top 40
by Aprille Hanson
In the final season of the reboot for the iconic NBC series “Will & Grace,” the cast paid homage to “I Love Lucy,” a show that transcends generations and is truly one of the classics.
On April 9, “We Love Lucy” aired and I watched with great anticipation because I knew that Debra Messing specifically would do Lucille Ball justice. It’s clear from the years of watching Messing’s facial expressions and willingness to be an over-the-top slapstick comedian, that Ball is one of her big influences. In an April 9 article in Entertainment Weekly, Messing said while she’s been influenced by several, including Carol Burnett (who herself viewed Ball as a comedic idol), “Lucille Ball is far and away the one for me that I just have this emotional attachment to.”
She also explained the show has been trying to do this episode even in the series’ first run, but the Ball and Desi Arnaz children have always been protective of their parents' legacy. They agreed to this episode and Lucie Arnaz even worked with the show, the article stated.
As an admirer of Ball, myself -- my husband once counted the faces of Lucy on the memorabilia I had in our guestroom and it was over 30 -- this was the episode I knew would be the highlight of the season because the show itself is great.
But as it began on Thursday night, my mind shifted. The premise begins when Grace buys a new dishwasher as a gift for Will (Eric McCormack) and their apartment, but decides to install it herself, leaving dishwasher foam all over the kitchen. They soon get into the discussion of how she is the Lucy to his Ricky, when Karen (Megan Mullally) and Jack (Sean Hayes) stop by and each claim to be the Lucy of their foursome friendship. They’re quickly transported to the black and white opening scene of “Job Switching,” circa 1952, season 2, episode 1 of “I Love Lucy.”
My husband and I just recently watched the fan-favorite episode and quickly realized, the show wasn’t about to do an ode to ‘Lucy,’ setting up a storyline themselves in that world, but verbatim, they’d be reenacting the episode. To say the least, it was a bit jarring. It was not what I anticipated for this homage and my gut reaction was why in the world would they just replicate something word for word that’s already perfect as is. Of course, they didn’t play out the entire episode, but melded together the top three most iconic Lucy moments -- Messing reenacting the Vitameatavegamin scene from “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” Mullally becoming Lucy for the grape stomping scene in “Lucy’s Italian Movie” -- with the brilliant guest appearance of Leslie Jordan as the fellow Italian grape stomper -- and Hayes taking his turn as Lucy on the chocolate candy line in “Job Switching.” While I didn’t realize it as I was watching, it was neat to find out that Lucie Arnaz played the candy factory boss in that scene.
The three took turns playing Fred and Ethel, while McCormick stayed as Ricky Ricardo.
There were gems within the way they did it. Messing plays the Vitameatavegamin scene to perfection -- and according to the EW article, used the exact same medicine bottle that Ball herself held in the original. Her look and mannerisms were spot on. Mullally coming up with a wine glass out of the grape vat was classic Karen and Hayes playing Lucy was so odd, that I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity.
And it was sweet, at the end, how Will explained that each of them are his Lucys -- he cleans up Grace’s messes, is exasperated by pretty much everything Karen does and pays for Jack’s lifestyle. It was a sweet tie-in and the dance they all shared as McCormick singing like Ricky was adorable.
But all that said, I’m not sure why it was necessary that they do the show like this. I would have preferred they weaved in classic lines from the script, but set the storyline, black and white, in a way that made sense in their world. Why simply redo it?
I can imagine how much of a thrill it must have been for the actors, particularly Messing, to reenact the scenes. And ultimately, I hope the byproduct is that young viewers who know nothing about “I Love Lucy” decide to look up the show and re-watch those episodes and more. If that happens, then doing it this way would be worth it. But I can’t help but be perplexed that some people’s first experience with the exact scripts of “I Love Lucy” is going to be from “Will & Grace,” and it really shouldn’t be that way.
I admire the work it took to replicate it, but I would have had even more respect for it had it tried to be a little more creative.
by Julian Spivey
The unintended season finale of Fox’s “The Resident” on Tuesday, April 7 titled “Burn It All Down” worked remarkably well as a season ender.
The third season of “The Resident” was supposed to air 23 episodes, but production had to be shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic resulting with the series ending its season at 20 episodes. Many series that had to shutdown due to the pandemic likely won’t be as fortunate as “The Resident” in where their storylines end up.
Eerily mirroring the real world of the moment “The Resident” finished off a multiple-episode arc of a superbug called Candida auris that has infected the son-in-law of Dr. Kitt Voss (played by Jane Leeves) and left him at death’s door after being intubated with a contaminated ventilator from patient zero, thanks to Dr. Barrett Cain’s (Morris Chestnut) – the third season’s main villain – keeping a brain dead patient alive long enough to receive a “success” rating on a previous procedure.
Dr. Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry) finds a potential cure for Derek, the son-in-law, about midway through the episode, but also finds that an abscess on his spine is keeping the curing antibiotics from working. A delicate procedure is needed on Derek’s spine to save his life, but the only problem is Dr. Cain is the only one in the hospital skilled enough to do it, and he’s the one who ultimately caused the problem and has a case dearer to his heart that he’s set his mind on doing.
Cain has been an egotistical, cares more about his success rate and his billing more than his patients guy from his debut in the season, but we finally see something he cares about when college girlfriend, his one true love, shows up at the hospital with a brain infection. It’s a procedure another surgeon at Chastain Park Memorial could probably do, but Cain doesn’t want anyone else touching his former flame Justine.
There are some complications – aren’t there always on a medical drama – with Derek’s surgery, but it’s ultimately a success. During the surgery, though, Cain receives word that Justine is in trouble and when he’s able to get to her it’s too late to save his life. Essentially, he receives his comeuppance for creating such a horrible situation for Derek and the hospital in losing the only thing he’s ever seemingly loved. I truly appreciated this almost Rod Serling-esque moral tale by the episode’s writers Tianna Majumdar-Langham, Chris Bessounian and Daniela Lamas.
It seems this is the incident Cain needs in his life to turn himself around, but with the season ending early it’s to be seen where the show intends to go with this in a potential fourth season, if they even bring the character back – typically the show has had a season-long villain each season. Part of that villain this season has been the Red Rock corporation that owns the hospital and toward the end of the makeshift finale its CEO Logan Kim is ready to put Cain on the chopping block and insert the show’s main character Dr. Hawkins into more of a leadership role, which has the always do-good, moralistic doctor afraid that he’s going to have to go a bit to the dark side, in a late episode conversation with his businessman father (played by Glenn Morshower).
It’s Conrad’s decision where the season ends off and ultimately why I believe it makes for a pretty good season finale, albeit an unintended one, because it lets us stew over the summer (if the show is renewed) on whether or not we’re going to see a darker side of him going forward.
The episode ended on a high note for the series ratings-wise with a season-high audience of 4.92 million viewers, which can only help its chances of receiving a fourth season order by Fox. Another thing that could be in the series favor is the network losing multiple dramas with the ending of “Empire” and the cancellations of “Deputy” and “Almost Family.”
by Aprille Hanson
When “Modern Family” premiered in 2009, it gave us a taste of a variety of family types dealing with the absurdity of life. After 11 years, there’s countless memorable moments and episodes, but here are my top five:
1. Run for Your Wife, Season 1, episode 6
Not only is “Run for Your Wife” the best episode of the series, it’s one of the best of any comedy series ever. With typically three or more storylines running at once, it can be hard for each to be pure comedic gold but this one nails it. Phil (Ty Burrell) tries to bond with Claire (Julie Bowen), assuming she’s feeling sad because it’s the first day back to school when all she wants to do is go for a quiet run -- explaining he really doesn’t have to go with since she’s much faster than him. This turns into a challenge that ends with Phil getting hit by his daughter Haley (Sarah Hyland), who is learning to drive. Meanwhile, Manny (Rico Rodriguez) wants to wear a traditional Columbian poncho to school, something Jay (Ed O’Neill) discourages because fifth graders are mean as is -- while Gloria (Sofia Vergara) defends it. And what is by far the best storyline, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) takes a break from baby-proofing the house at Cameron’s urging to dance with daughter Lily to Cher. He accidentally bumps her head on the doorway and after rushing her to the doctor, they accidentally lock her in the car. I can still hear Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) screaming “I SWEAR TO GOD I’M GONNA BREAK IT” as he is rushing toward the window with a trash can as Mitchell explains to the 911 dispatcher “We locked our baby in the car and people are judging us!” Each storyline was so creative, each of the adult actors' unique talents were on full display and for anyone who wanted to understand what the hype around “Modern Family” was and is, this is the episode to watch.
2. The Incident, Season 1, episode 4
“Modern Family” has always done a fantastic job utilizing guest characters and Shelley Long as DeDe, Jay Pritchett’s ex-wife, was likely the best. DeDe shows up for a surprise visit, hoping to make amends after “The Incident,” in which she had to be carried out drunk from Jay and Gloria’s wedding, mocking Gloria’s Columbian accent after giving an awful wedding toast. DeDe visits each house, trying to play to Mitchell’s emotions, trying but failing not to insult Claire and desperately trying to apologize to Jay and Gloria, which will allow her to move on with her new love as they move to exotic “French Canada.” As she’s crazy, it ends with her trying to strangle Gloria. While the episode on its own is hysterical, we get on of the classic moments when boyfriend Dylan sings a song he wrote for Haley in front of the whole family called “In the Moonlight (Do Me).” The look on each relative’s face is still one of the best moments of the series.
3. Fizbo, Season 1, episode 9
When it comes to a series of unfortunate events, “Fizbo” is the episode to watch. It opens with the family at the hospital, going back to retrace how exactly the events of the day unfolded around Luke’s birthday. Mitchell doesn’t want husband Cameron to break out his clown Fizbo outfit, almost as much as Phil who is terrified of clowns, possibly because he found one dead once. Then Jay insists on getting Luke (Nolan Gould) a crossbow and the kids are fascinated by Jungle Tanya, who brings a bunch of reptiles and other creepy creatures. Haley releases a scorpion after boyfriend Dylan is a little too close to Jungle Tanya and Claire is trying desperately to make her craft table interesting. When Cameron defends Mitchell against a jerk trying to pick a fight, in the full Fizbo outfit, he’s no longer embarrassed by his husband’s clown costume … sort of. All the main storylines and the smaller subplots combine when Fizbo freaks out at the scorpion causing a domino effect leading to a crossbow deflating a bouncy castle. The episode was a great introduction for Cameron’s Fizbo, who appeared throughout the series.
4. The Prescott, Season 11, episode 10
While there’s bound to be misses over 11 seasons, it’s always a nice surprise to get an episode like “The Prescott” during the final season. When Alex (Ariel Winter) moves into a luxury apartment complex, paid for by her company, the family takes turns pretending to be residents to access the swanky amenities, despite specifically being told not to do it. Jay settles in for a movie before trying to find a food critic he despises and Phil, the “Foodie in a Hoodie” critic tries to get into the apartment’s restaurant to review the slider. Claire wants to get her hair done by Gloria’s enemy; Gloria gets stuck on a pool slide; Manny and Luke try to pick up older women and Mitchell and Cameron just want to meet David and Victoria Beckham. Higgins, actor Stephen Merchant, is hilarious as the concierge in the middle of all the madness. This episode was really a love letter from the writers, showing off how “Modern Family” has always flawlessly weaved in the different story plots.
5. Connection Lost, Season 6, episode 16
“Connection Lost” really should top any “Modern Family” episode list and not because it’s the most hysterical, but because it’s shown entirely on a MacBook Pro screen. A range of Apple products are on display, most prominently the Facetime function of an iPhone. Claire tries to get ahold of Haley after a fight and when she can’t, she starts virtually connecting with everyone else in the family. The show’s co-creator Steve Levitan told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015 when the episode debuted he got the idea after Facetiming with his daughter. It wasn’t so much about product placement, but “This just came from life, and it made sense,” he said in 2015. In a show that put the modern version of families on screen, it was such an innovative move to bring technology front and center.
by Aprille Hanson
In honor of “Modern Family” wrapping up its 11th and final season tonight, here is a ranking of all the main characters ...
by Preston Tolliver
Professional wrestling exists in its own universe, one free of disbelief, where all arguments end in some form of fisticuffs instead of rational conversation. The problems inside the wrestling ring are not like the problems outside of it; in fact, the world outside the ring hardly exists to a wrestler once they step inside those ropes. Wrestling is, of course, at its core, theater. It’s television, not competition (at least not in the traditional sense). It’s a fictional world, where fictional problems exist. Not real ones.
The problem, of course, is the real one. The empty-seated elephant in the arena; that the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just ruin the plans of tens of thousands of wrestling fans planning to attend the event set in Tampa this year, but that it also adjusted the way the company had to approach the show - and its storylines - entirely. What do you do when fears of a deadly virus remove your biggest star from your biggest event, or when social distancing rules prohibit a match you’ve been promoting for weeks?
The answer for WWE has been to change everything while acknowledging nothing at all. To steer the course and run business as usual, within the restrictions you’ve been given. To play the hand you’re dealt without acknowledging you’re even sitting at the table. Even though their biggest star, Roman Reigns, announced weeks ago that he would miss Wrestlemania because of concerns he is immunocompromised (the real-life Joe Anoa’i recently survived leukemia), the company promoted his bout against Bill Goldberg until the night before the scheduled event. And on that night, they simply announced that Bill Goldberg would take on Braun Strowman, with no mention of Reigns or the situation that caused him to bow out of what WWE bills as its biggest night of the year. There were multiple other instances in which the company would have done well to acknowledge the world outside, from the limited number of talent they could have in the area of the ring at one time to the open of Night 1, in which WWE Chief Brand Officer and heiress to the throne Stephanie McMahon stated that simply due to “the current circumstances,” that the event was different this year. It’s a level of denial unmatched outside of the White House.
But perhaps that’s what we needed this weekend, entering week three or four (depending on where you’re at) of this new life of self-isolation. Professional wrestling is nothing if not persistent in its denial of everything that happens outside its own ropes; for a couple nights, it was nice to pretend alongside with it.
As for the event itself - the one that WWE tried to save by billing it as “too big for just one night” - it certainly didn’t feel like Wrestlemania, nor did anyone expect it to. This weekend’s shows lacked the pageantry and stakes we’ve become used to. It was like watching the Super Bowl happen in your back yard, with no onlookers and not enough room.
Despite its name and the giant signs that adored the WWE Performance Center, it wasn’t Wrestlemania. It wasn’t a bad show, but it wasn’t the biggest or the best of the year. Like any other WWE show, it had its highs and lows. It was entertaining, but only as entertaining as the circumstances could allow. But more important than all that, it was a distraction - and this weekend, that was enough.