Hall of Fame Legend: Ted Danson
If you were to make a list of most accomplished actors in television history you wouldn’t get to too many names before coming across Ted Danson. Danson’s first starring network TV role came as former alcoholic Boston Red Sox pitcher turned bartender Sam Malone in the classic NBC’s comedy “Cheers” from 1982-1993. Danson would win two Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards for his performance as the funny ladies’ man. Most recently Danson has stolen the show as Michael, the evil architect turned good demon in NBC’s “The Good Place,” which wrapped its four season run earlier this year. Danson would garner two more Emmy nominations for his portrayal of Michael moving his career total of Emmy nominations to 17 (among the most nominated actors in Emmy history). In between “Cheers” and “The Good Place,” Danson also found network TV success as the cantankerous doctor John Becker in CBS’ “Becker,” where he gained a Golden Globe nomination, and as the final lead in the long-running CBS crime drama “CSI” in the show’s final few seasons.
Hall of Fame Show: Will & Grace
“Will & Grace” is one of the few shows to not only have one successful run on network television, but two. The series first had an incredibly successful run on NBC from 1998-2006 in which the series won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2000 and each of its four cast members (Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally) won at least one Emmy for their performances. The show returned to NBC in 2017 where it had another successful three season run that wrapped this April. While the show is certainly one of the funniest comedies to ever air on network TV it’s undoubtedly more importance in television history as being the first popular series to feature not one, but two homosexual characters in its main cast (Ellen DeGeneres famously came out in an episode of her series “Ellen” late in its run). Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told The Washington Post in 2012 that “Will & Grace” “probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done so far,” when it came to LGBT issues
Best New Comedy Series: Mixed-ish (ABC)
Best New Drama Series: Evil (CBS)
Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: Eddie Murphy (Saturday Night Live)
Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: Vanessa Bayer (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Guest Actor in Drama Series: Griffin Dunne (This is Us)
Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Tara Summers (Evil)
Comedy Episode: Eddie Murphy Hosts (Saturday Night Live)
Drama Episode: "Room 320" (Evil)
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Lecy Goranson (The Conners)
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Justin Hartley (This Is Us)
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Aisha Hinds (9-1-1)
Actor in a Comedy Series: John Goodman (The Conners)
Actress in a Comedy Series: Debra Messing (Will & Grace)
Actor in a Drama Drama: David Boreanaz (SEAL Team)
Actress in a Drama Series: Jane Levy (Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist)
Best Late Night/Variety Show: Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Best Comedy Series: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)
Best Drama Series: Evil (CBS)
by Julian Spivey
The much-talked about HBO Max streaming service debuts Wednesday, May 27 and I know you’ve had a lot of new streaming services thrown your way with Disney+ and the less than stellar AppleTV+ and Quibi, but you’re going to want to pay attention to this one.
The biggest negative HBO Max will have going for it is it’s going to be the priciest of the streaming services at $15 a month, but when you see the library of television shows and movies below I think you’ll see there’s a reason why it’s the priciest of them all – because it kind of makes Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime look weak by comparison.
We’ll get further into the television shows included with HBO Max in a bit, but I’ll just say it includes “Friends” off the bat because that is the biggest catch as it reportedly paid more than $400 million for the streaming rights to the series to steal it away from Netflix, where it regained mass popularity among younger audiences seeing it for the first time.
What stands out to me most about the library at HBO Max is the film catalogue, especially the number of classic films included, which puts every single other streaming service’s classic film catalogue to shame, even all of those service’s combined.
At least 27 movies that have appeared on one of the two American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All-Time are included on HBO Max.
Gone with the Wind
The Wizard of Oz
Singin’ in the Rain
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Maltese Falcon
Bonnie and Clyde
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
North by Northwest
A Streetcar Named Desire
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (the entire trilogy is on HBO Max)
Rebel Without a Cause
An American in Paris
The Shawshank Redemption
Also included on HBO Max are at least eight Best Picture Oscar winners that weren’t included on the AFI lists:
Out of Africa
Million Dollar Baby
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
And then you have fan favorites like:
Paths of Glory
Once Upon a Time in the West
Cool Hand Luke
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
When Harry Met Sally
And if you’re a fan of the Criterion Collection and its large list of foreign film classics this will also be the streaming service for you (and interestingly enough maybe actually a bad thing for Criterion’s streaming service) with a catalogue that includes:
The 400 Blows
Battle of Algiers
Jules and Jim
But the aspect of HBO Max’s movie catalogue that seems to be speaking mostly to younger audiences as noted in a Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll this week is the DC Universe of superhero movies including the entire Batman series (most notable Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy), Wonder Woman, Justice League and more.
And with the streaming service being affiliated with HBO any of the popular movies that come to the premium network will appear on the service, which currently includes recent fan-favorites like Joker, A Star is Born and Us.
Now on to those television series that should have folks from the ages of one to 101 excited.
We’ve already mentioned “Friends,” which the service spent a boat load on, but the service will also be the streaming home of shows like “The Big Bang Theory,” the most popular network sitcom in the Nielsen ratings of the past decade, and critical and fan-favorites like “The West Wing,” “Doctor Who,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “South Park,” “Mad TV,” and “Whose Line is It Anyway?”
For children and nostalgic adults, the service includes both modern animated hits like “Adventure Time,” as well as iconic classics like “Looney Tunes,” “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons.” “Sesame Street” is also includes for the youngsters to help them out with their numbers and ABCs.
Being the newest part of the HBO family, the streaming service will, of course, feature all current and classic HBO programming like “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Veep,” “Sex and the City,” “Barry” and more.
HBO Max will also have a lot of original programming solely for its service, but it’s to be seen of what kind of quality they will be – but HBO is known for quality programming.
So, yeah, $15/month is kind of a lot to ask of folks who are already spending a lot monthly on other streaming services, but after seeing what HBO Max offers you might be considering dropping one or more of those others for this new service.
by Tyler Glover
Before director Bong Joon-ho won three Academy Awards for "Parasite" this past year, he had already given the world another masterpiece back in 2013: the underrated "Snowpiercer."
"Snowpiercer" is a remarkable film that explores many different themes including class struggle, the politics of survival, and the fight for equality. It also invites us to a world like we have never seen before. Sometimes, movies take us to a place where we would like to spend more time than just the 120 minute running time. This may not be because the world is a great place to be but because we want to know more about it. If you are one of the ones who saw “Snowpiercer” and thought that, you are in luck. "Snowpiercer" has been adapted into a television show airing on TNT Sunday nights. From watching the pilot, it appears that while this world is an intriguing one to revisit, the execution of setting up the world in the series lacked in some areas.
The series begins very much like the film. Humanity is battling global warming and their efforts to stop it sends the world into a frozen wasteland with temperatures way too low to survive. Aware the efforts could backfire, Mr. Wilford decides to make a gigantic luxury train that can perpetually move across the globe. If you are rich enough, you can buy a ticket to board, which many who believe the end of the world is coming do. However, the day of its departure, multiple people without a ticket storm the train. They are kept in the very back of the train and given little to survive. The rest of the world dies leaving the only survivors on earth the passengers of the train named Snowpiercer.
The series follows Andre Layton, played by Tony-winner Daveed Diggs, who is the only remaining homicide detective left in the world.
So, when a murder occurs in the first class, Mr. Wilford seeks his help to find the killer. Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly plays Melanie Cavill, a first-class passenger and also the "voice of the train." Connelly acts on behalf of Mr. Wilford's wishes. Before Andre was taken from the end of the train, a revolution was being planned to change their fates. Andre sees the opportunity that being able to navigate the train allows him. Andre plans on gaining intel on how a future revolution could occur.
Connelly's performance is the standout here. Melanie is a character we instantly want to know more about. She stays very prim and proper and is a huge proponent of "order." However, you get the sense that there is so much more that lies below the surface with her. There is something she is not telling us. Connelly is finally getting a role since her Oscar-winning performance in "A Beautiful Mind" two decades ago, that is giving her a chance to show us what she can really do. There are lots of questions around Melanie's character and I have a feeling when the time comes for those questions to be answered, Connelly will deliver.
In the film, there are many intriguing and surprising plot twists. The series has set up the world to where some of those same twists could occur. However, there is a plot twist at the end of the pilot that shows that while the series may be in the same world as the film, it is here to make the world its own.
My biggest criticism of the pilot is that it really failed to garner interest in two areas: the murder mystery aspect and setting up the characters other than the two leads. Since the murder mystery is the route the writers are taking to get Andre out of his current state and drive the story forward, it definitely was a missed opportunity to not get us more invested in it. Also, the lower class train occupants are being treated unjustly but the series (so far) has not really explored their world enough to make us have much empathy for them. We are going to need to care about them and their futures for the series to work. I feel the pilot should have definitely made a point to include that. Hopefully, these things will be explored in further episodes and were just given little attention due to having a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time. However, despite these shortcomings, the pilot has me intrigued enough to come back for more.
So, will the series be better than the film? From what we have seen so far, it does not look like that will be the case but this is a show that will be full of plot twists. Will one of them be that my opinion changes into liking the show more than the film? Time will tell.
What are the Broady Awards?
In 2010 The Word created its own special awards for broadcast television shows called the Broadys. You may be asking yourself, “Broadys? What is that?” … Well, the Broadys are yearly awards for broadcast network television series and only broadcast network television series. For years I watched the Emmys and Golden Globes and saw almost exclusively cable or premium cable shows (especially in the drama categories) winning all of the awards. Most years you’ll be lucky to see one drama series from broadcast networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox & CW) nominated for anything. Why? Because there’s this stigma that because cable and premium shows can show things like graphic violence and sex and harsher language that that somehow makes them more “real” and thus “award-worthy.” There’s still so many television viewers who don’t have networks like HBO and Showtime, etc. and thus are not getting to see these shows anyway and want some love for those we do follow. That is why the Broadys exist.
Broady Winners Will Be Announced on May 24!!
SEAL Team (CBS)
The Blacklist (NBC)
The Resident (Fox)
This Is Us (NBC)
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)
The Conners (ABC)
The Good Place (NBC)
Will & Grace (NBC)
Best Late Night/Variety Show:
Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC)
Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS)
Saturday Night Live (NBC)
The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
Best New Drama:
Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)
Prodigal Son (Fox)
Best New Comedy:
Perfect Harmony (NBC)
The Unicorn (CBS)
Best Actor, Drama:
David Boreanaz as Jason Hayes – SEAL Team
James Spader as Raymond "Red" Reddington – The Blacklist
Matt Czuchry as Dr. Conrad Hawkins – The Resident
Mike Colter as David Acosta – Evil
Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson – This Is Us
Peter Krause as Capt. Bobby Nash - 911
Best Actress, Drama:
Angela Bassett as Athena Grant – 911
Cobie Smulders as Dex Parios – Stumptown
Jane Levy as Zoey – Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard – Evil
Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson – This Is Us
Megan Boone as Elizabeth Keen – The Blacklist
Best Actor, Comedy:
Andy Samberg as Det. Jake Peralta – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Anthony Anderson as Andre Johnson – Blackish
Eric McCormack as Will Truman – Will & Grace
John Goodman as Dan Conner – The Conners
Ted Danson as Michael – The Good Place
Walton Goggins as Wade Felton– The Unicorn
Best Actress, Comedy:
America Ferrera as Amy – Superstore
Debra Messing as Grace Adler – Will & Grace
Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop – The Good Place
Leighton Meester as Angie D'Amato – Single Parents
Melissa Fumero as Sgt. Amy Santiago – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Sara Gilbert as Darlene Conner – The Conners
Best Supporting Actor, Drama:
Bruce Greenwood as Dr. Randolph Bell – The Resident
James Roday as Gary Mendez – A Million Little Things
Justin Hartley as Kevin Pearson – This Is Us
Michael Sheen as Dr. Martin Whitly – Prodigal Son
Neil Brown Jr. as Ray Perry – SEAL Team
Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson – This Is Us
Best Supporting Actress, Drama:
Aisha Hinds as Henrietta Wilson – 911
Allison Miller as Maggie Bloom – A Million Little Things
Freema Agyeman as Dr. Helen Sharpe – New Amsterdam
Grace Park as Katherine Saville– A Million Little Things
Mary Steenburgen as Maggie – Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth Pearson – This Is Us
Best Supporting Actor, Comedy:
Andre Braugher as Capt. Raymond Holt – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Brad Garrett as Douglas Fogerty – Single Parents
Gary Cole as Harrison Jackson – Mixedish
Jay R. Ferguson as Ben – The Conners
Kenan Thompson as Various Characters – Saturday Night Live
Sean Hayes as Jack McFarland – Will & Grace
Best Supporting Actress, Comedy:
Christina Anthony as Denise - Mixedish
Heidi Gardner as Various Characters – Saturday Night Live
Laurie Metcalf as Jackie Harris – The Conners
Lecy Gorsanson as Becky Conner – The Conners
Megan Mullally as Karen Walker – Will & Grace
Stephanie Beatriz as Det. Rosa Diaz – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Best Guest Actor, Drama:
Alan Tudyk as Ellroy Basso – The Rookie
Christopher Lloyd as Joseph Smith - NCIS
Donal Logue as Artie Banks – Stumptown
Griffin Dunne as Nick Pearson – This Is Us
Omar Epps as Darnell Hodges – This Is Us
Timothy Omundson as Gregory – This Is Us
Best Guest Actress, Drama:
Alexandra Breckenridge as Sophie – This Is Us
Cicely Tyson as Ophelia Harkness- How to Get Away with Murder
Cote de Pablo as Ziva David – NCIS
Jennifer Morrison as Cassidy Sharp – This Is Us
Laila Robins as Katarina Rostova – The Blacklist
Tara Summers as Nurse Linda Bloch – Evil
Best Guest Actor, Comedy:
Adam Driver as Himself/Various Characters – Saturday Night Live
Brad Pitt as Dr. Anthony Fauci - Saturday Night Live
Craig Robinson as Doug Judy – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Eddie Murphy as Himself/Various Characters – Saturday Night Live
Johnny Galecki as David Healy – The Conners
Stephen Merchant as Higgins – Modern Family
Best Guest Actress, Comedy:
Katey Segal as Louise – The Conners
Lisa Kudrow as Hypatia – The Good Place
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Herself/Various Characters – Saturday Night Live
Sarayu Blue as Anna – The Unicorn
Vanessa Bayer as Officer Debbie Fogle – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Vanessa Bayer as Amy – Will & Grace
Best Episode, Drama:
A Hell of a Week: Part 2 – This Is Us (Danielle Bauman)
Eye of the Needle – Prodigal Son (Wyatt Cain)
Fog of War – SEAL Team (Spencer Hudnut & Mark H. Semos)
Hurt/I Love You – The Good Doctor (Liz Friedman & Adam Scott Weissman/David Hoselton, David Shore, & Adam Scott Weissman)
Out of the Darkness/Into the Light – NCIS (Gina Lucita Monreal/Steven D. Binder)
Room 320 – Evil (Aurin Squire)
Rose 360 – Evil (Davita Scarlett)
Your Turn – New Amsterdam (David Schulner)
Zoey’s Extraordinary Dad – Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (Austin Winsberg)
Zoey’s Extraordinary Glitch – Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (Samantha McIntyre)
Best Episode, Comedy:
Accidentally on Porpoise – Will & Grace (Suzanne Martin)
SNL At Home: No. 1 – Saturday Night Live (Head Writers: Michael Che, Colin Jost & Kent Sublette)
Host: Eddie Murphy – Saturday Night Live (Head Writers: Michael Che, Colin Jost & Kent Sublette)
It’s Time – Will & Grace (David Kohan & Max Mutchnick)
Landford … Landford – The Conners (Bruce Helford, Dave Caplan & Bruce Rasmussen)
Lights Out – Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Dan Goor & Luke Del Tredici)
Ransom – Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Nick Perdue & Beau Rawlins)
The Final Chapter – The Good Place (Michael Schur)
The Jimmy Jab Games II – Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Vanessa Ramos)
The Prescott – Modern Family (Elaine Ko)
Hall of Fame Legend:
Will be announced on Sunday, May 24
Hall of Fame Show:
Will be announced on Sunday, May 24
by Julian Spivey
10. Dr. Anthony Fauci Cold Open (April 25, 2020)
Dr. Anthony Fauci has become something of an American hero during the Covid-19 pandemic and when asked by CNN in April who he would like to see portray him on ‘SNL’ he said Brad Pitt (everyone seems to say Pitt – “Tiger King” Joe Exotic wanted Pitt too). ‘SNL’ and Pitt granted Dr. Fauci his wish on the second At Home episode that aired on April 25 as Pitt starred as Dr. Fauci correcting some of the idiotic statements made by President Donald Trump on Coronavirus. One of the funniest corrections is when President Trump responds to Covid-19 testing being a beautiful thing and Dr. Fauci says, “unless your idea of beauty is having a cotton swab tickle your brain.” The hilarious sketch turns touching at the end when Pitt removes his glasses and wig to thank the real Dr. Fauci and all first responders across America for their service during the pandemic.
9. Joan Song (November 16, 2019)
‘SNL’ had a handful of really good comedy songs this season, but my favorite was “Joan Song” featuring Aidy Bryant in the episode hosted by singer Harry Styles. Song in a really sweet, nerdy voice that Bryant pulls off brilliantly she sings about the love of her life being her chihuahua Doug. My favorite line of the song is “we talk for hours and then I take him out to piss.” Midway through the song turns into a duet when Joan’s chihuahua metamorphosizes into Styles, in one of the more creative CGI moments you’ll ever see from ‘SNL.’ One of my favorite things about the sketch is Styles mimics David Bowie’s voice for Doug the chihuahua, which just seems right.
8. Cecily Strong on Weekend Update (February 8, 2020 & March 7, 2020)
There didn’t seem to be as many great recurring Weekend Update characters this season as in past years, but Cecily Strong was certainly a WU superstar with her recurring characters of Cathy Anne and Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party (her first breakout character on the show in 2012 – it’s hard to believe she’s already been on the show that long). Cathy Anne and ‘Girl at a Party’ are similar in that they seem like incredibly hard characters to portray as both stumble over their words and create new words by combining others and just show off Strong’s excellent gifts as a comedian. Cathy Anne’s most recent appearance was on President Donald Trump’s impeachment in which she hilariously claims, “I wish I could have a trial with no witnesses – but I always have my transgressions in very public places.” The appearance also includes the memorable: “You can do all the crack in the world, but you still can’t out pizza the hut.” ‘Girl at a Party’ about how the Coronavirus pandemic, this was shortly before the entire country essentially shutdown, was “misrespectful and blown so far out of abortion” and spends much of her appearance trying to shove her entire hand into WU anchor Michael Che’s mouth.
7. First Thanksgiving (November 23, 2019)
‘SNL’ had a couple of great sketches this season where they play on the different views on politics from the eyes of differing peoples. Host (and greatest all-time ‘SNL’ cast member, in my opinion) Will Ferrell appears as the Native American grandfather of Pocahontas (played by Melissa Villasenor) and looks upon the white (or “paleface” as he mockingly racist calls them) foreigners entering his country in a parody of how some white people are reacting to immigrants entering the country in today’s world. Ferrell’s Native Americans mimics typical conservative talking points of today and when Pocahontas’ parents (guests Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen) question him on his ignorance he exclaims he got his news from “The Fox,” which “makes a lot more sense than that lying peacock you talk to.” In the end, the Natives and John Smith (played by Beck Bennett) come to the realization that people are basically the same when they all realize none of them can completely digest corn.
6. Sleepover (January 25, 2020)
This was probably Kate McKinnon’s finest moment of season 45 for me. She plays a teenage girl who has wrecked the bathroom at a friend’s house during a sleepover by flushing a sanitary pad in the toilet and going to incredible lengths to cover it up. Adam Driver plays the distressed homeowner just looking to get the truth out of the girls so he can explain what happened to his insurance company. Driver’s descriptions of the lengths McKinnon’s character went to are hilarious, as are her reactions.
5. American Households (December 14, 2019)
Being an election year almost every “Saturday Night Live” cold opening was political and even though this has been the show’s bread and butter for much of its run I think most of us can admit we’re tiring of attempting humor out of the mess that is politics in this country. The show did an admirable job with its coverage of the many Democratic candidate debates, but I believe it’s smartest take of the year came in the episode hosted by Scarlett Johansson when it opened on three different types of households and their reactions to the impeachment of President Donald Trump. You had the stereotypical white liberal take where everyone is thrilled with the impeachment, the stereotypical white conservative family that feels the Democrats are attempting a coup and then a black family (where the real humor of the sketch comes through) who’d rather talk about “Bad Boy 3,” because they know white America is just going to give Pres. Trump a pass and then re-elect him.
4. Airport Sushi (February 29, 2020)
Every time stand-up comedian and former ‘SNL’ writer John Mulaney returns to host the show – this was his third hosting stint – he breaks out an elaborate Broadway tribute featuring some of the worst aspects of New York (memorably previously doing a musical on bodega bathrooms). This time he went full on epic tribute to Broadway taking on La Guardia Airport. Pete Davidson attempts to buy airport sushi for his flight and the event begins with the “Phantom of La Guardia” – played by Kenan Thompson as a goose hit by Sully Sullenberger’s “Miracle on the Hudson” plane – parodying “The Phantom of the Opera.” Throughout the incredible sketch there are parodies of numbers from “West Side Story,” “Annie,” “Wicked,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and then the week’s musical guest David Byrne joins the group with a parody of “Road to Nowhere” from his own Broadway show “American Utopia.” It’s truly a marvel, especially for anyone who might be a theater nerd.
3. The War in Words: William & Lydia (October 5, 2019)
Mikey Day’s “Letters From the Front” is a bit that I’ve loved ever since the first time I saw it on the short-lived summer variety series “Maya & Marty” in 2016 before Day was a cast member on ‘SNL’ (he was a writer on the show at the time though). It’s also one that has only been done a small number of times between “Maya & Marty” and ‘SNL.’ Day and the show brilliantly pulled out the sketch for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who’s comedic delivery is absolutely perfect as the ditzy British wife receiving correspondence from her solider on the front with responses like “I miss out dog too” when her husband talks about how he misses everybody at home, even the mutt. Day is absolutely brilliantly with the building distressed experienced by his character after so many letters to his life return with stunningly dense responses.
2. Medieval Times (January 25, 2020)
Adam Driver has hosted ‘SNL’ three times since 2016 and has quickly risen to become one of my favorite repeat hosts of the show. Driver is also perhaps the most unique ‘SNL’ host I’ve ever seen because he brings the same intensity with which he plays Oscar-nominated dramatic roles to his job as host, which leads to just incredible moments like this season when he played a fake knight at a Medieval Times type restaurant, but does so as a method actor trying to truly immerse himself into the role with homemade outfit and weapons to boot.
1. Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood (December 21, 2019)
Eddie Murphy returning to “Saturday Night Live” to host an episode for the first time since leaving the show almost four decades ago was truly a gift for longtime fans of the legendary sketch comedy show. Having Murphy come back was great enough, but we all wondered for months after the announcement whether or not he’d bring back classic characters that were so old. He didn’t disappoint as he brought back Buckwheat, Gumby, Velvet Jones and my absolute favorite of the night Mr. Robinson. Coming shortly after Tom Hanks’ Oscar-nominated portrayal of Fred Rogers in the film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Murphy reprised Mr. Robinson, a parody of Mr. Rogers featuring a black man in a poor neighborhood. Well, a lot has changed to Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood since the early ‘80s and it leads to probably my favorite line of the best sketch of the season in: “Can you say gentrification, boys and girls? It’s like a magic trick. The white people pay a lot of money and all the black people disappear.” It was great seeing something with so much nostalgia still be so incredibly funny so many years later.
by Julian Spivey
1. Eddie Murphy - December 21, 2019
This episode was the moment avid ‘SNL’ fans had been waiting almost 40 years – and for many of us our entire lifetimes – for. Eddie Murphy had never returned to host the show that made him a comedy superstar and at times had a bit of an ongoing feud with the show. But before season 45 even began it was announced that Murphy would finally return to host the show doing so months ahead of time it just helped to build the already heightened anticipation. My biggest question before the episode was – would Murphy bring back his classic characters that haven’t appeared on the show in nearly 40 years? He didn’t let anybody down, bringing back Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, Velvet Jones and Gumby. It was absolutely everything most ‘SNL’ fans wanted and one of the overall best episodes of the show in a long time, if not frankly ever.
2. SNL: At Home 1 & 2 - April 11, 2020 & April 25, 2020
The fact that “Saturday Night Live” just didn’t say, “OK, we were dealt a bad hand with the Coronavirus and we’re calling it a season” was amazing to me. The fact that they even tried at all means a great dealt to me as a longtime fan of the show. And, not only did the show make an attempt at putting together shows at home by recording sketches on their phones and laptops, they also succeeded in being very funny. The first two ‘SNL: At Home” episodes were among the funniest of the season to me, even with the awkwardness of mostly being one-person comedy monologues and having no live audience to laugh at them. The third ‘At Home’ episode this past weekend, which served as the show’s season finale, wasn’t nearly as funny as the first two, but again they all tried and they easily could’ve just closed up shop for the season.
3. Adam Driver - January 25, 2020
Adam Driver has quickly become one of my favorite ‘SNL’ hosts and he’s maybe the most unique host I’ve ever seen and the reason is that he seems to bring the same intensity to comedy sketches as he does to his Oscar-nominated dramatic roles. Watching him play a Medieval Times employee who takes the role with 100 percent sincerity was one of my absolutely favorite moments of season 45.
4. Phoebe Waller-Bridge - October 5, 2019
If you didn’t know who Phoebe Waller-Bridge was before last summer you were likely bombarded with her name everywhere when the final season of “Fleabag” made her the darling of last year’s Emmy Awards. That success propelled her to her first hosting stint on ‘SNL’ and she made the absolute most of it in one of the season’s funniest episodes, which included an incredible monologue, Waller-Bridge showing off a white trash American accent in a great sketch with Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant and one of the season’s funniest sketches where a soldier played by Mikey Day sends home letters to his confused wife, Waller-Bridge at her best.
5. Woody Harrelson - September 28, 2019
Woody Harrelson hosted the season premiere of ‘SNL’ back in late September and absolutely stole the show as Democratic candidate for President (and now nominee) Joe Biden, especially with his trademark smile. The show doesn’t always kick season’s off with good episodes after the summer layoff, but Harrelson certainly helped make season 45’s debut one of the best openers in years.
Jennifer Lopez - December 7, 2019
The 45th season of “Saturday Night Live” had a higher percentage of good episodes than any season in recent memory, but there were still clunkers every so often and none more so than the December 7, 2019 episode hosted by Jennifer Lopez. The episode marked Lopez’s second hosting stint and first in almost 20 years and essentially played upon her persona in the majority of the evening’s sketches. It just didn’t work for me.
Most Valuable Player: Kenan Thompson
Season 45 was the first season in quite a long time where the season truly seemed to be a collaborative effort by the entire cast and the show didn’t have one star cast member the writing staff always seemed focused on. In the last few years Kate McKinnon was that star cast member, but it didn’t feel like she had as much screen time this season. When Phil Hartman was on ‘SNL’ in the ‘80s and ‘90s they used to refer to him as “the glue” because he was the guy who held everything together. For a while now Kenan Thompson, who’s now the longest tenured cast member in the show’s illustrious history, has been “the glue.” Thompson has the ability to be the star or the sketch or steal laughs in the background of them as bit characters and frequently if he’s in a stinker of a sketch he can still pull a laugh or two out of you via his presence.
Least Valuable Player: Kyle Mooney
I was watching one of Kyle Mooney’s wacky sketches on the season finale of ‘SNL’ this past weekend and turned to my wife and said, “you know the show doesn’t shove him down your throat as much as some annoying cast members of the past, but my God he has to be one of the worst cast members in the show’s history.” I might be in the minority here, as people seem to get his weird type of humor – and every now and then he does have a winner in my book – but almost everything Mooney does leaves me shaking my head in confusion.
Best Newcomer: Chloe Fineman
The show featured two new cast members in season 45 – Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang, who became the show’s first Asian cast member ever righting a longtime wrong. Yang probably got more press and attention, especially for his recurring Weekend Update character Chen Biao, a Chinese trade representative, and a sketch involving the Sara Lee Corporation. I’m a sucker for great impressions, though, and Fineman proved herself to be among the show’s best impressionists, especially late in the season in the ‘SNL At Home’ episodes with spot-on impressions of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Timothee Chalamet and Britney Spears. She also had a terrific Weekend Update bit on the Oscars and stereotypical scenes that are always sure to get actresses nominated.
by Julian Spivey
I’m sure when television productions were shut down in mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic that shows in their first season that hadn’t yet wrapped for the summer were the ones most affected, after all the way a freshman season wraps could be the difference between renewal or cancellation.
The cast and crew of CBS’ freshman legal drama “All Rise” didn’t want the season to end without a proper finale and decided to do a virtual episode in which the cast members all filmed using their phones and computers to give viewers a an episode that very closely mirrored the quarantine feeling the nation has been under for almost two months now.
In the season one finale “Dancing at Los Angeles,” written by series creator Greg Spottiswood with Gregory Nelson, there is a backlog of court cases due to Covid-19 with arrests still being made, despite much of the city coming to a standstill because of the pandemic. Judge Lisa Benner (Marg Helgenberger) confers with her fellow judges on how the legal system should proceed and the show’s lead Judge Lola Carmichael (Simone Missick) offers to be a guinea pig by doing a virtual bench trial.
The case involves two brothers in a domestic dispute over a car that leads to one of them in jail and stuck there due to the pandemic slowing the legal process. Ultimately, it’s not one of the most interesting cases of the first season by far, but the real appeal of this episode is how it’s done, more so than what the story tells.
Probably the best part of the episode is how we get to see Judge Carmichael in the same courtroom (albeit it a virtual one) with her best friend and Deputy District Attorney Mark Callan (Wilson Bethel), a moment I’m sure most viewers of “All Rise” have been dying to see all season, but under normal circumstances would never take place due to conflict of interest and as Lola says at the episode’s end will never happen again.
“All Rise” while handling plots and episodes in a typical CBS procedural fashion has done an amazing job at character building in its first season with warm performances from the actors making us care for every one of them greatly and having a nice camaraderie with each other – even in the case of Callan and public defender Emily Lopez (Jessica Camacho), who are frequently against each other in court (as in this finale episode). I was amazed how effortlessly this camaraderie between cast members came through via Zoom calls and FaceTimes.
I’m always willing to give a pass for those who try their hardest, and even as I previously mentioned the storyline for this episode wasn’t the most entertaining, it was honestly hard for it to be given the circumstances, it’s clear that the entirety of “All Rise” gave their all to get this episode out for its fans and that means an awful lot. Hopefully the effort is rewarded by CBS giving this show a second season.
by Julian Spivey
NBC’s “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” had one of the best opening seasons of any show I can remember in some time. Of course, it helps that it’s the most unique show currently on network television with its mixture of hilarious moments, heartfelt drama and musical numbers where the cast takes popular music and inserts it into everyday situations and feelings. There’s no guarantee the series will see a second season – which would be a real bummer – but even if it doesn’t, I believe the show set out to do all it intended in a near perfect first season.
In the pilot episode Zoey Clarke (Jane Levy), a programmer recently promoted to engineering manager at a San Francisco-based tech company, is receiving an MRI when an earthquake hits and somehow has seemingly every song ever recorded download into her brain and gives her the power of hearing the thoughts and feelings of those surrounding her in the forms of these songs. It’s a quirky idea for a series, but it doesn’t take long for us to completely fall in love with it.
Levy, in her first network TV role since ABC’s “Suburgatory” (2011-2014), is the absolute perfect choice for Zoey. Truly one of the funniest actresses around she can display so much sarcastic humor in her voice and facial expressions and this series has shown she can handle drama with the best of them and also sing and dance, although her character being the one that sees and hears the music doesn’t get as many musical numbers as the rest of the cast.
The first season sees Zoey primarily dealing with two issues: deciding between two guys who like her (both of whom are co-workers and one of which is her best friend) and the debilitating disease that’s killing her father Mitch, played by Peter Gallagher in a terrific performance that sees him sitting wide-eyed and out of it for much of the season, while coming brilliantly to life in musical numbers only Zoey can see.
The which-guy-will-Zoey-end-up-with plot doesn’t come to an end with the season finale – they have to give the show something to look forward to in a potential second season, after all. But, for the first time it feels like Zoey is leaning toward her best friend Max (Skylar Astin) over Simon (John Clarence Stewart) as she is about to hook up with him before receiving a devastating call about her father.
The whole season has been leading up to the heartbreaking moment where the Clarke family must say goodbye to Mitch and it’s a moment even though you could see coming from a mile away I hoped the show would find away around because the performance by Gallagher is so good, whether doing song and dance numbers solo or beautifully with Mary Steenburgen, who plays his wife Maggie. But, despite the fantastical musical numbers this isn’t a fairytale and tragedy strikes, just as I recently learned it did in the real world for the show’s creator Austin Winsberg, who patterned Mitch and his disease after his own father’s struggle with the rare progressive supranuclear palsy.
Watching the Clarke family say goodbye to Mitch was absolutely heartbreaking, with the most emotional performance coming with the father and son and daughter-in-law performance of Billy Joel’s “Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel),” which would seem written specifically for this show/scene had you not realized it’s an actual previously recorded song, with the wrenching moment of knowing Mitch will never meet his grandchild.
Steenburgen, who’s seemingly perfect in everything she does rather drama or comedy, tears and the heartstrings with “Dream a Little Dream Of Me.”
And, then as Mitch is taking his last gasps of breath before succumbing to his illness he, seemingly the only one who knowingly communicates with Zoey via the “heart songs” as she calls him, calls her over and assures her that everything is going to be OK before the two do a ballroom dance number to an instrumental “True Colors,” which played an a major role earlier in the series between the two. It’s potentially the show’s most beautiful scene of the entire season.
While the father/daughter dance might have been the show’s most beautiful moment, the freshman series saved it’s most impressive number for last with the entire cast doing a seven-minute nearly uncut performance of the Don McLean classic “American Pie” as the Clarkes gathered with friends and family back at their residence following Mitch’s funeral.
Something that is truly amazing about “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is that the series probably did 60 or more musical numbers in the season and I never once felt a song selection was misguided or out of place, but the moment that Steenburgen’s Maggie went into “American Pie” I cringed ever so slightly. I felt like the show was about to make its first misstep in this department in the very last scene of the season, possible series if it’s not renewed. It probably only took about 30 seconds before I realized how wrong I was and that I never should’ve doubted this show. As the entire cast danced and sang these classic lyrics that somehow fit perfectly with what was happening in the scene and series I marveled at how perfect it all was and after reading an interview with Winsberg after the finale it became even more amazing when he mentioned it was his father’s favorite song.
“Zoey’s Extraordinary Dad” made for an amazing send-off to a show that had one of the best first seasons of any series I’ve ever seen and Winsberg and his entire cast and writing staff deserves a huge standing ovation.
by Tyler Glover
There are friends that may part ways for a while but come back together like no time has passed at all. This is exactly what happens when the cast members of "Parks and Recreation" come back together in a socially distanced reunion special that aired on NBC on Thursday, April 30.
The ‘Parks & Rec’ cast returned in an effort to raise money for Feeding America's COVID-19 Response Fund and show us that, though, we may have been apart for a while, we are back with our friends.
The special begins with the optimistic parks director, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), reaching out to her friends through what appears to be a Zoom call. Leslie is worried about their mental health so she has created a Phone Tree, where everyone reaches out to someone from their group. Through these calls, we get to see all of our friends. The cast members all walk back into their character's shoes like they never left. Through the conversations, Ben (Adam Scott) is struggling to teach his and Leslie's kids at home, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is hunting meat and social distancing (which he has been doing since he was four), April (Aubrey Plaza) is still her quirky self, and Andy (Chris Pratt) does karate kicks. We also see Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), who is still in perfect health (his blood type is "just positive"), Ann (Rashida Jones) is a volunteer nurse, Tom (Aziz Ansari) is still trying to invent something to get rich quick even during a pandemic, and Donna (Retta) is still her absolutely fabulous self. Also, during the pandemic, no one still really seems to care about Gary (Jim O’Heir).
The beginning of the special and the end are the real treat. Seeing these characters interact again after five years reminds us just how great this show was and why we miss it. During the middle of the special, it reunites us with some of the recurring characters of the show like Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins), the local host of "At Home With Joan," and the Pawnee news anchor, Perd Hapley (Jay Jackson), among others. While it is well-intentioned and brings more actors into this effort, the collection of talk shows, news programs and commercials felt disjointed with the rest of the special. It was not as funny as the beginning and end.
However, despite the middle of the program, the special manages to be hilarious, uplifting, sweet, positive, and very heartfelt at a time when the world needs it.
by Julian Spivey
Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill – Netflix – May 5
Jerry Seinfeld is one of the greatest and most successful stand-up comedians of all-time and just based on the syndication and streaming rights to “Seinfeld” is likely one of the richest people in the entertainment industry, but the thing I most respect about him is he doesn’t just sit in his rich home on his rich couch counting all his millions like many who made their bones in stand-up and left it behind seemingly never to return. Seinfeld still loves doing stand-up sets on late night TV shows and is returning for his second stand-up special for Netflix and the first completely original stand-up special since 1998.
Dead to Me: Season 2 – Netflix – May 8
Netflix’s “Dead to Me” was billed as a comedy in its initial advertising and with its lead Christina Applegate being nominated in comedy categories at award shows. But, while their were moments of humor sprinkled here and there “Dead to Me” is pretty much a drama (and that’s not a knock on the series) and it’s nice to see Applegate shine in something a bit more dramatic and darker after spending much of her career on traditional sitcoms. Applegate is terrific in her role as Jen Harding, a widow whose husband was killed in an unsolved hit-and-run and is out to solve the crime. She befriends Judy Hale, played by a strong Linda Cardellini, in season one and it’ll certainly be interesting to see where these two take off in season two after the shocker of a season one ending.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend – Netflix – May 12
When Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” ended in early 2019 after four seasons I was alright seeing it go. It certainly still had its laugh out loud moments but wasn’t quite as fresh as it was in the beginning. With that said, I’m still happy to see the one-off interactive special premiering on May 12 titled “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend.” Netflix had success with the interactive movie “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” in late 2018 and decided to give it a shot with Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) who will be attempting to foil a new plan by the villainous Rev. Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) in a choose your own plot adventure.
Rocketman – Hulu & Amazon Prime – May 22
“Rocketman,” the biopic of Elton John that received major praise from critics and won Taron Egerton a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the pop-rock piano legend, is debuting on both Hulu and Amazon Prime on May 22 giving many folks who haven’t yet seen it a chance to see one of the best films of last year. Director Dexter Fletcher did a terrific job of telling the story of Elton John’s heyday in all its glory, and most important imperfections, and does so with a flare that gives the biopic a feel of a grand musical in some scenes. I highly recommend this film even if you’re not a huge fan of its major focus.
Space Force – Netflix – May 29
Steve Carell has re-teamed with “The Office” showrunner Greg Daniels for a new Netflix comedy that pokes fun of one of the Trump administration’s dumbest ideas, the creation of a sixth brand of the United States Armed Forces called the United States Space Force. There is absolutely no other actor I’d like to see in charge of a Space Force than Carell, and I think a lot of that has to do with this brilliant ‘SNL’ sketch from last season. This series seems like it’s going to be wacky as hell and a ton of fun, especially with John Malkovich co-starring in a role that amounts to a parody of Dr. Strangelove.