*Parts of this were excerpted and edited from a 2014 article.
by Julian Spivey
Multiple-time Emmy Award winning actor Jay Thomas died today at age 69 from cancer. I honestly don’t know a whole lot about Thomas, but his death legitimately made me sad because while I couldn’t tell you his bio without looking it up I do know he was a part of my favorite pop culture Christmas tradition for a good chunk of my life.
I’ll get to that in a bit.
Thomas was a guy many wouldn’t likely know by name, but you’ve more than likely seen his face pop up in terrific TV shows over the years. His most notable role was that of Jerry Gold on “Murphy Brown” throughout the ‘90s where he would become a love interest for Candice Bergen’s titular role. Thomas would win two Emmy Awards for his performance in the series. He would also have recurring roles in sitcom classics “Mork & Mindy” and “Cheers” and most recently the Showtime drama “Ray Donovan.” His last TV appearances came in 2015 guest starring on Fox’s “Bones” and CBS’ “NCIS: New Orleans.”
Thomas started his career in the radio industry and he seemingly never lost a desire for it becoming possibly more well-known for his SiriusXM radio show “The Jay Thomas Show” he hosted since 2005.
It was his start in radio that lead to my favorite pop culture Christmas tradition, though it partially had nothing to do with Christmas at all.
Every year in David Letterman’s, one of my many pop culture heroes, final episode of ‘Late Show’ before Christmas he invited Thomas onto the show to throw footballs at a giant meatball that sat atop the ‘Late Show’ Christmas tree. This tradition began on an episode in 1998 when then New York Jets NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde was a guest on Letterman’s show and he and Letterman attempted to knock the meatball off the tree. The pro football player struggled mightily to knock the meatball down, so Thomas, also a guest on the night’s show, ran out from the green room, grabbed a football and threw a perfect bull’s-eye on his first throw. An impressed Letterman invited him back every year since, except for 2013 when Thomas had to cancel due to surgery (John McEnroe stepped in to swat tennis balls at the meatball). The second part of Thomas’ traditional Christmas appearance is the telling of what Letterman has referred to as “the greatest story in late night history.” Thomas would tell the story of the time he was a radio DJ in Charlotte, N.C. and did a promotional gig with Clayton Moore, the actor who portrayed the original Lone Ranger on television. Forgetting to order a car for Moore, in full Lone Ranger costume, Thomas offered to give him a ride and what happened next is what makes the story the “greatest in late night history.” If you’ve never seen it you truly must and hopefully thanks to the power of YouTube it will become an annual tradition for you as it has for me. I can think of no better way to fondly remember Thomas.
by Julian Spivey
There are frankly so many quality shows on television now and so few spots for nominees in each category, even with the Emmys adding slots over the last few years, that it’s kind of hard to throw the word “snub” around. There are going to be many deserving shows and actors/actress who aren’t going to be able to be nominated on a yearly basis just based on this.
Still, here are 10 actors/actresses, shows or episodes that I wish would have been nominated for Emmys when the nominations came out this week.
10. “Memphis” – This Is Us
NBC’s hit “This is Us” received so many nominations for its first season, 11 in total, including the majority of the show’s cast that it’s hard to complain that the show was snubbed in anyway. But, “Memphis,” the episode where Randall (nominee Sterling K. Brown) and William (nominee Ron Cephas Jones) travel to William’s hometown one final time before the end of William’s life, was the best episode of television I saw all year and I feel like it deserved a nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for executive producer Dan Fogelman, who wrote the episode.
9. Lauren Graham
Lauren Graham frequently appears on lists of worst Emmy Award snubs of all-time, as she was never nominated for her fast-talking performance as Lorelai Gilmore in WB’s “Gilmore Girls.” Hell, I thought she should’ve been nominated for her incredibly dramatic performance in NBC’s “Parenthood.” Many thought the Emmys might right that wrong this year by giving the veteran actress a nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Limited Series for the four-episode Netflix revival “Gilmore Girls: A Year in a Life.” However, with a supremely packed field including Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon for HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon for FX’s “FEUD,” Carrie Coon for FX’s “Fargo” and Felicity Huffman for ABC’s “American Crime” there just wasn’t enough space.
8. Andre Braugher
Andre Braugher, who has previously won an Emmy for his dramatic performance on “Homicide: Life in the Streets,” had been nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his pitch-perfect performance as Capt. Ray Holt in Fox’s hilarious “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” for three consecutive years. I’d hoped Braugher would finally break through and win, but has been beaten out by Ty Burrell for “Modern Family,” Tony Hale for “Veep” and Louie Anderson for “Baskets.” His streak of nominations was snapped this year. Did the Emmys really need to nominate Burrell again?
7. Benito Martinez
ABC’s “American Crime” was one of the most brilliantly realistic dramatic series on television for its three-year run and the fact that it aired on network television made it even more surprising. The show has been nominated for 16 Emmys over its three seasons and has won two Emmys for Regina King, who’s going for the trifecta this year. Benito Martinez’s performance as Luis Salazar, a Mexican father searching for his missing son who came to America searching for a better life, was the most intriguing and impressive performance of the third season of the series, which is impressive given most of his dialogue was in Spanish (with not all of it being subtitled). The emotion on his face was all he needed to convey the character’s feelings.
6. Kaitlin Olson
I doubt you’ll see Kaitlin Olson appearing on any other “Emmy Snubs” lists, but I really would’ve loved to see her get recognition for her wildly entertaining and raucous performance on Fox’s freshman comedy “The Mick.” Olson goes all out in her performance as an incredibly inappropriate aunt tasked with taking care of her niece and two nephews when the parents flee the country due to fraud charges. The only comedic performance on television that likely rivals Olson’s in term of sheer tenacity is Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer on HBO’s “Veep,” which has won her five consecutive Emmys.
5. Lamorne Morris
Fox’s “New Girl” is obviously outside of its Emmy recognition window with the show not receiving a single nomination since its first season when it was nominated for five awards, including Zooey Deschanel (Lead Actress in a Comedy) and Max Greenfield (Supporting Actor in a Comedy). However, I think Lamorne Morris’ performance as Winston Bishop in the show’s sixth season was among the show’s best work and one of the funniest performances of any comedy on television this decade.
4. Orange Is the New Black
With the way the eligibility works for the Emmy Awards this snub is for the popular Netflix show’s fourth season, which aired last summer, and not the fifth season, which debuted on Netflix last month. It’s the first season in which the show hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy, but the switch from Comedy Series to Dramatic Series has likely hurt its chances from now on (even though that was a good switch – and one “Transparent” on Amazon really needs to make, as well). I believe ‘OITNB’ should’ve been nominated as an Outstanding Drama Series this year because season four was the show’s best season in my opinion with it taking on a more realistic portrayal of what was going on in the real world with policing (or in the show’s example guards) running amuck and profiles of racial issues.
3. Freddie Highmore
It’s almost psychotic that Freddie Highmore was never nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of a young Norman Bates on A&E’s “Bates Motel.” When you’re following in the footsteps of the incredibly creepy Anthony Perkins performance of Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic “Psycho” you absolutely must knock it out of the park and Highmore did consistently for five seasons with his best work ultimately coming in the show’s final season this past spring. It’s an incredibly packed category to fit in, but many think Liev Schreiber for “Ray Donovan” or Kevin Spacey for “House of Cards” could’ve taken a step back this year.
2. Joe Morton
Joe Morton has won an Emmy before for his tenaciously scary performance as Rowan Pope on ABC’s “Scandal” as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2014. But, ever since Morton’s role was expanded to the regular cast he hasn’t been able to slip back into the nominations (there definitely seems to be a bias against network show performances), despite the quality remaining at a high caliber. I’d argue that Morton’s finest performance on the show came this year and the Emmy voting body should’ve found space for him in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama category, perhaps taking a spot from frequent nominees Mandy Patinkin (Homeland) or Michael Kelly (House of Cards).
1. Late Night with Seth Meyers
A lot of articles feel like the biggest snub in late night television is that of NBC’s “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon,” which had been nominated the three previous years, but I believe the show that airs directly after Fallon’s, “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” is the bigger snub. In fact, I believe it’s the single most egregious snub of this year’s nominations. Meyers has brought a sophisticated brand of political humor to network late night television of the variety that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had done for years on Comedy Central and John Oliver has been doing on HBO and he should be feted for it. This isn’t really meant to be criticism of Colbert, but his ‘Late Show’ on CBS did receive a nomination for Outstanding Variety Series Talk Show this year when I believe Meyers hosts a similar, yet better show.
by Julian Spivey
They all stay filed away in my head – my favorite “Doctor Who” episodes – I can think instantly of favorite episodes featuring Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith. But, despite being The Doctor for three full seasons and doing a fine job of it I honestly don’t have many Peter Capaldi episodes that instantly come to mind, except for “The Husbands of River Song,” the Christmas special from 2015.
I think Capaldi may have saved his best performance for last, or likely second to last. The season 10 finale, “The Doctor Falls,” instantly becomes the most memorable performance of his tenure and the best written episode from “Doctor Who” producer Steven Moffat in some time.
We knew this was going to be The Twelfth Doctor’s last hurrah as we saw him beginning to regenerate in last week’s penultimate episode (which was really part one of a two-part finale) “World Enough and Time” at the very opening of that episode, but we didn’t yet know why. We wouldn’t find out until the end of “The Doctor Falls.”
“The Doctor Falls” is rather finite and Moffat does a terrific job of essentially bringing his era of “Doctor Who” toward an end – we aren’t going to have many recurring characters left after this episode – giving future showrunner Chris Chibnall, who’s currently wrapping up his fantastic mystery series “Broadchurch” on BBC America, a completely fresh start.
In “World Enough and Time” we were subjected to two great shocks – the conversion of companion Bill Potts (the excellent Pearl Mackie) into a Mondasian Cyberman, something that hasn’t been seen on “Doctor Who” since 1966, and the stunning return of John Simm as The Master. This was thrilling for fans who got a chance to see two Masters, him and Missy (the terrific Michelle Gomez), together like we had seen multiple Doctors together in “The Day of The Doctor.”
At the beginning of “The Doctor Falls,” The Doctor is teamed up upon by Missy and The Master, who look to use the Cybermen to annihilate the human race. Just one problem – The Doctor shrewdly tricked them by programming the Cybermen to target beings with two hearts, which Time Lords have, putting Missy, The Master and himself in a dire situation, but protecting the humans. The Doctor is struck down by a Cyberman before being rescued by Bill’s Cyberman, which hasn’t completely taken her over.
The group of The Doctor, Bill, Nardole (the great comic relief of Matt Lucas), Missy and The Master outrun the Cybermen to a different sector of the massive spaceship they’ve been on all along, reaching a solar farm with many kids the Cyberman are targeting for conversion. Here The Doctor heals from his wounds, though not completely as he’s showing signs of the regeneration we knew was coming. The first truly tear-jerking moment of this episode comes when Bill, not realizing she’s been converted into a Cyberman, sees herself as a Cyberman for the first time. She sheds a tear, something The Doctor finds hopeful, because Cybermen do not shed tears.
The group is preparing to save the children and fight off the Cybermen, but The Doctor simply isn’t going to get help from his old friends, turned foes The Master and Missy, though he’d hoped all along that he’d be able to turn Missy good again. It’s maybe the most dramatic and best scene of the episode and of the series in quite some time, with Capaldi’s monologue becoming the ultimate moment of his tenure as he tries to persuade the two to help.
Here is that glorious monologue in its entirety:
"Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone … or because I hate someone or because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun. God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent. And above all, it’s kind. It’s just that. Just kind. If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live … maybe not many, maybe not for long. Hey, maybe there’s no point in any of this at all, but it’s the best I can do, and I will stand here doing it until it kills me. You’re going to die, too, someday. When will that be? Have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.”"
Of course, it doesn’t change the minds or hearts of The Master, though for a split-second we believe he’s gotten through to Missy. She thanks him for trying, but turns down his offer. This leads to another tear-jerker moment when The Master and Missy are trying to escape back to safety when she turns on her prior self, slyly stabs him in the back and attempts to return to help The Doctor before The Master shoots her full blast in the back with his sonic screwdriver. It ends the run of two of the series’ finest villains in The Master and Missy.
Back at the battlefront The Doctor has sent the kids to safety with the aid of Nardole, bringing yet another tear-jerking moment when Nardole is forced to say bye to his friends. It’s crazy how attached you can become to characters like Bill and Nardole in just a 12-episode season, but that shows they’ve left a great mark on the series like other short-lived companions have before.
The Doctor and Bill stand side-by-side one last time together to bring kindness to the universe. The Doctor seemingly sacrifices himself to put an end to the Cybermen. He’s completely dead this time, no regeneration in sight. Then Bill comes upon him to mourn his death, before surprisingly finding herself back in her human form. In a finale full of surprises, one of the biggest was the recurrence of Bill’s love interest Heather from the season opening “The Pilot,” who has freed Bill from the Cyberman’s case, not saving her life, but giving her a happy ending as the two will roam the universe together. This is not before bringing The Doctor’s dead body back to his TARDIS for a proper sendoff. Remembering how important tears are Bill sheds one last tear on The Doctor before leaving. This tear begins the regeneration process all over for The Doctor, who like the ones before doesn’t want to go, he refuses to regenerate – trying to will the regeneration away. In the biggest surprise of the finale the TARDIS lands a snowscape, where The Doctor hears a familiar voice from long ago – it’s his original self as played by David Bradley, recapturing his role as the First Doctor who he portrayed as actual First Doctor actor William Hartnell (who died in 1975) in the 2013 BBC docudrama “An Adventure in Space and Time” about the creation of “Doctor Who.” Damn, this show can get weird and tricky at times.
I guess the Twelfth Doctor and the First Doctor are both going to have themselves a final hurrah in the Christmas special at the end of this year before Chibnall starts the series anew sometime next year. As good as Capaldi and “The Doctor Falls” was, though, it may be somewhat disappointing that his role of The Doctor was completely wrapped up in the Series 10 finale.
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.” That bothers me for two primary reasons: 1) it seems these shows are throwing excess sex and violence that’s unnecessary (don’t get me wrong sex & violence are both fine if they pertain to the story) into their plots and 2) there’s still so many of us television viewers who don’t have networks like HBO and Showtime, etc. and thus we’re not getting to see these shows anyway and want some love for those we do follow. That is why the Broadys exist.
WINNER: The Blacklist (NBC)
Fan Vote: The Blacklist (NBC)
WINNER: Black-ish (ABC)
Fan Vote: The Mick (Fox)
Best Variety Series
WINNER: Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC)
Fan Vote: Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
Best New Drama
WINNER: This Is Us (NBC)
Fan Vote: This Is Us (NBC)
Best New Comedy
WINNER: The Mick (Fox)
Fan Vote: The Mick (Fox)
Best Actor - Drama
WINNER: Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Fan Vote: Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Best Actress - Drama
WINNER: Megan Boone (The Blacklist)
Fan Vote: Megan Boone (The Blacklist) & Kerry Washington (Scandal) - TIE
Best Actor - Comedy
WINNER: Anthony Anderson (Black-ish)
Fan Vote: Ted Danson (The Good Place)
Best Actress - Comedy
WINNER: Kaitlin Olson (The Mick)
Fan Vote: Kaitlin Olson (The Mick)
Best Supporting Actor - Drama
WINNER: Joe Morton (Scandal)
Fan Vote: Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us) & Jeff Perry (Scandal) - TIE
Best Supporting Actress
WINNER: Chrissy Metz (This Is Us)
Fan Vote: Chrissy Metz (This Is Us) & Virginia Madsen (Designated Survivor) - TIE
Best Supporting Actor - Comedy
WINNER: Lamorne Morris (New Girl)
Fan Vote: Scott MacArthur (The Mick) & Mel Rodriguez (The Last Man on Earth) - TIE
Best Supporting Actress - Comedy
WINNER: Mary Steenburgen (The Last Man on Earth)
Fan Vote: Mary Steenburgen (The Last Man on Earth)
Best Guest Actor - Drama
WINNER: Gerald McRaney (This Is Us)
Fan Vote: Gerald McRaney (This Is Us)
Best Guest Actress - Drama
WINNER: Susan Blommaert (The Blacklist)
Fan Vote: Susan Blommaert (The Blacklist)
Best Guest Actor - Comedy
WINNER: Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live)
Fan Vote: Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live)
Best Guest Actress - Comedy
WINNER: Melissa McCarthy (Saturday Night Live)
Fan Vote: Melissa McCarthy (Saturday Night Live)
Best Episode - Drama
WINNER: "Memphis" (This Is Us)
Best Episode - Comedy
WINNER: "LEMONS" (Black-ish)
Hall of Fame Legend
WINNER: Edward R. Murrow
Television news today is pretty maligned – whether right or wrong – with people going on about “fake news” and people mistrusting the media in an era of people wanting “news” to back up their own opinions in life. There’s no better time to remember one of the original icons of network news, Edward R. Murrow. Murrow got his start in radio, becoming a prominent name in news during World War II. Despite having misgivings about the new form of media television in the 1950s Murrow would join CBS Evening News doing editorials and covering special events. In 1951, his radio show “Hear It Now” was renamed “See It Now” and television news had its first major face. “See It Now” would run for seven years and most prominently took on Sen. Joe McCarthy and his “McCarthyism” witch hunts against suspected communists. The program essentially led to the downfall of McCarthy and showed for the first time how televised news could be used to make the world a better place. Boy, could we use Edward R. Murrow today. He was posthumously inducted into the first class of the Television Hall of Fame in 1984.
Hall of Fame Show
It's truly amazing that comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David could take a “show about nothing” and turn it into what’s generally considered the greatest sitcom in television history. Creators Seinfeld and David took the little everyday things that most would consider boring or even irrelevant and mined it for comedy gold. With a stellar cast including Seinfeld, as a version of himself, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards the show would go on to be a major part of the pop culture lexicon. TV Guide ranked the series as the Greatest TV Show of All-Time in 2002.
by Julian Spivey
The 42nd season of “Saturday Night Live” saw a major boost in the show’s ratings and recognition thanks to the wild political climate of the real world and the big-time actors called in by the show to portray these politicians, like Alec Baldwin as President Donald Trump and Melissa McCarthy as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. The show also featured numerous favorite guests of the show, including Baldwin, Tom Hanks, McCarthy, Scarlett Johansson and Dwayne Johnson – all of whom are a part of the 5-Timers Club.
Here are the 10 best sketches of the 2016-17 ‘SNL’ season:
10. Amazon Echo
Ever since “Saturday Night Live” debuted in 1975 it’s commercial parodies have been among the highlights of the show. The best commercial parody this year was the Amazon Echo Silver for elderly people. The Amazon Echo Silver will respond to any name even remotely sounding like ‘Alexa’ and has an ”uh-huh” feature for long-rambling stories. Kenan Thompson, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones portraying elderly people is hilarious.
9. Jingle Barack
The best President Barack Obama farewell that ‘SNL’ had this year was during the Christmas episode hosted by Casey Affleck when Kenan Thompson and musical guest that week Chance the Rapper did a Run-D.M.C. “Christmas in Hollis” parody about Obama’s last Christmas as President that featuredd actual Run-D.M.C. member Darryl McDaniels and a verse from Leslie Jones. Among the funniest lines were: “kids enjoy the presents while you can/’cause next year you might get a bomb from Iran” and “drinking egg nog like I don’t care/I’m gonna hurt myself before we lose Obamacare.”
8. Aziz Ansari Monologue/7. Dave Chappelle Monologue
‘SNL’ monologues oftentimes seem like a waste of time because the hosts are actors or musicians who aren’t necessarily used to doing comedy, but I always look forward to ‘SNL’ monologues when stand-up comedians host because you know you’re basically going to get a shortened stand-up routine. This happened a few times this season when comedians Aziz Ansari, Dave Chappelle and Louis CK hosted with Ansari and Chappelle’s particularly standing out. Ansari did his monologue the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration and Chappelle’s came the Saturday after Trump was elected and gave each comedian ample material. Chappelle recently apologized for saying he “messed up” by telling America to give Trump “a chance” during his monologue, something many of us were surprised by when it aired.
6. Hillary Actually
One of the most creative political sketches that ‘SNL’ did this season came in December, the month after Donald Trump had won the election when they gave Kate McKinnon’s terrific Hillary Clinton impression the chance to mimic a key scene from the film “Love Actually.” In the scene, an elector played by Cecily Strong opens the door to find Clinton with a set of cue cards asking her to change her vote for the Electoral College.
5. Cathy Anne
Every season it seems that ‘SNL’ debuts a new recurring Weekend Update character for the ages and this year it was without a doubt Cecily Strong’s Cathy Anne, a white trash woman likely from the South who gives her hilarious two cents on political topics ranging from being an undecided voter to President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. The most fascinating part of Strong’s character is how she rattles off the almost indecipherable lines without tripping over herself. I look forward to seeing the character often in the future.
4. Haunted Elevator feat. David S. Pumpkins
There’s little doubt in my mind that David S. Pumpkins was the most talked about ‘SNL’ sketch of the season, even more so than any one Donald Trump or Sean Spicer sketch. This wild-and-wacky character played by Tom Hanks – with a wonderful glee that reminds us that one of the world’s greatest dramatic actors is terrific at sketch comedy, as well – came out of nowhere (actually the mind of new cast member Mikey Day) and took the nation by surprise with its absurdity. Much like the Larry David as Kevin Roberts sketch last season (that wound up at No. 5 on my season end list) the sketch relies on sheer absurdity for its laughs. Any questions?
3. Black Jeopardy!
Black Jeopardy! proved to be one of the show’s best recurring sketches last season, but this season’s lone appearance of the sketch may have been the greatest yet. The premise of the sketch has always been two black contestants competing against a confused white contestant who is completely out of the loop with black culture. But, during the Tom Hanks episode Hanks played a Trump supporter – someone you wouldn’t think would have too much in common with black culture. Well, it turns out we may all have similarities. This sketch was brilliantly written.
2. Sean Spicer
It seems ‘SNL’ has created a trend of famous celebrities not among the cast portraying political figures. It began in season 41 with comedian Larry David portraying Bernie Sanders and continued this season with Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump. However, I don’t believe anybody saw Melissa McCarthy as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer coming – and it was a brilliant choice. First, it’s amazing how much McCarthy looks like Spicer with all the makeup on. Second, she just absolutely owned the craziness that is a White House Press Briefing during the Trump era. It’ll be amazing if she doesn’t take home an Emmy for this performance.
1. Presidential Debates
The biggest boost “Saturday Night Live” has seen in years was owed to Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Donald Trump and the zany antics of Trump that are too often hard to believe. You would think that would make the task of portraying Trump hard, but somehow Baldwin made it work. ‘SNL’ probably went to this well a few too many times during the season, but early on when the show mocked the Presidential debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton (brilliantly played by Kate McKinnon) it provided numerous laughs and proved why ‘SNL’ is always a little bit better in an election year.
by Julian Spivey
Late night television has been in the news a lot this week based on the emotional monologues of both Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert on their respective shows on Monday. Both moments were arguably highlights of each comedian’s late night stints, but as nothing in this country can seemingly be agreed upon both moments also brought out – well I’ll call it like I see it – a flurry of assholes.
Last week Jimmy Kimmel abruptly cancelled tapings of his ABC nightly talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and on his return Monday he tearfully announced that the cancellations were brought upon by the birth of his son Billy and health complications of his son, who required life-saving heart surgery. Billy will thankfully be OK, though he will require two more future surgeries, but the traumatic moment for Kimmel led to his most emotional moment on television where he talked of the importance of healthcare and challenged President Donald Trump’s views on it.
Kimmel said: “We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all. Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a pre-existing condition. And if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition.
If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”
Kimmel’s monologue brought tears to the eyes of many, including myself, because not only was it emotional to hear his traumatic story, but because he was right about healthcare and the fact that the implementation of Trumpcare could cause many deaths – including those of innocent babies (who many conservatives only seem to care about when in the womb).
On Monday night, Kimmel’s monologue was well-received by many, but then conservative pundits took to the airwaves and social media on Tuesday to blast the late-night comedian for bringing politics into his monologue. They took a moment of absolute empathy and showed that they have absolutely no feelings for anyone other than themselves.
Former Illinois Sen. Joe Walsh (not to be confused with awesome rocker Joe Walsh) took to Twitter to spout this hatred: “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s heath care.”
And, if that wasn’t asshole-ish enough there was Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt who accused Kimmel of turning his personal story into a political one (which, by the way, he has every right to do as it’s his show).
Hurt wrote: “After his slobbering wet kiss to federal bureaucracy, Mr. Kimmel then went squealing on about Obamacare and how insurance companies, the government and your neighbors should all be forced to pay for everybody else's health care. Easy thing to say for a gazillionaire from Hollywood."
I can’t imagine how big of a prick one must be to run-down somebody who not only underwent such a horrific life moment, but also had the bravery to talk and cry about it to a national television audience.
But, while Kimmel was getting emotional over a family health crisis on Monday night Stephen Colbert was emotional in an angry sense with President Trump on his ‘Late Show’ over on CBS.
Over the weekend, President Trump appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” in an interview with CBS News political director John Dickerson, in which the President demeaned Dickerson’s show, profession and walked out of the interview when asked a reasonable question.
Colbert, who is friends with Dickerson, stood up for his friend and journalism in general with an angry set of jokes that culminated in: “The only thing your mouth [Trump’s] is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cockholster.” The last word was partially censored by CBS.
Almost immediately Trump supporters took to social media with the Twitter hashtag #FireColbert, which trended all day on Tuesday, decrying the late-night host for his joke and accusing him of homophobia. It’s laughable that Trump supporters would want someone fired for homophobia given who the Vice President is and the fact that Trump will supposedly sign an anti-gay religious freedom executive order in the upcoming days.
The reality of the #FireColbert campaign was that Trump supporters were butthurt over Colbert blasting President Trump and used political correctness, something they hate until they can use it for their own good, to cause trouble. Some even compared Colbert’s joke to former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s firing for sexual harassment, as if sexual harassment and a crude joke are equals.
Colbert gave a statement about his joke during his Wednesday monologue, even though he really didn’t need to do so.
Colbert said: “I had a few choice insults for the president … I don’t regret that. He, I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it’s a fair fight. So, while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be. I’m not going to repeat the phrase, but I just want to say for the record, life is short, and anyone who expresses their love for another person, in their own way, is to me, an American hero.”
It’s that last part that seemed completely unnecessary, as only a real loon would have taken Colbert’s “cockholster” remark to be homophobic. Joking about oral sex, even when it’s an act of the same sex, isn’t homophobic. The joke would only be homophobic if the one telling it were to joke about how immoral or disgusting or wrong the act is – something Colbert did not do. Basically, the joke is about how under Putin’s thumb Trump is – nothing more.
The joke was one that took me by surprise a bit, just because I’m surprised it was something CBS would allow on air, but as someone who studied journalism in school and respects the medium I was mostly thrilled that Colbert took the time to stand up for journalism at a time when the President demeans it almost daily.
Frankly, I find it incredible that late night hosts are getting more personal and emotional on their shows. It makes them more down to earth, more affable. And, it’s important to note that these shows have their names on them and thus they can do and say as they please, if the network allows it. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
by Julian Spivey
“Saturday Night Live” made history on Saturday, April 15 with the first ever episode to air live in all time zones throughout the country. Unfortunately, for everybody watching the historical episode was mostly a let-down.
I had great anticipation for this episode hosted by former ‘SNL’ cast member and current ‘Tonight Show’ host Jimmy Fallon, a man who’s do a terrific job hosting the show before. It just seemed that the writing staff didn’t do the show many favors this week, much like last week’s also anticipated, but ultimately disappointing show hosted by Louis CK.
Saturday’s episode got off to a decent start with the usual Alec Baldwin reprisal of President Donald Trump in an ‘Apprentice’ spoof where he must decide between keeping Steve Bannon, always hilariously portrayed as the Grim Reaper, or his son-in-law Jared Kushner, portrayed without speaking by Fallon, because apparently, nobody’s ever heard the man say a word. The had its moments, but I feel the frequent Baldwin as Trump bits have stalled. The scarier Trump gets in real life the less funny the portrayal on the show seems to be. An interesting tidbit I thought of during the episode is that many, including myself, have claimed Baldwin is a lock to win an Emmy for his portrayal as Trump. The obvious Emmy category would be ‘Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series,’ but the Emmys have a rule stating that an actor appearing in 50 percent or more of a show’s season isn’t eligible. Baldwin should be very near that mark.
Fallon’s monologue was unusual, partly because it wasn’t actually a monologue. Fallon simply took the time to cover David Bowie’s classic “Let’s Dance” while being followed behind the scenes of Studio 8H by choreographed dancers. It was unusual, but still worthwhile and fun.
The post-monologue sketch was the often-used Family Feud, which almost always runs too long and has gotten a little old, but I always find at least somewhat humorous for Kenan Thompson terrific Steve Harvey impression. The sketch featured a time-travel episode featuring celebrities from today against celebrities from the ‘70s, which seemed to be written to solely feature Fallon’s John Travolta impression from both eras and make him have to run back-and-forth on the stage during a live episode to do both. It was unique, but not necessarily funny.
One of the weakest bits of the night was the ‘Legally Blonde’ high school musical taped sketch that had one punchline of “high school musicals/plays are always” awkward that couldn’t carry an entire sketch.
It was followed by another one-note joke where an ex-boyfriend is trying to win back his girlfriend by performing Savage Garden’s “Truly, Madly, Deeply” for her before proposing and her saying, “No, you dragged a man off a plane this week.” It certainly wasn’t the place where I thought we’d get the obligatory United Airlines joke this week and got the loudest laugh of the night from the studio audience, but it was another example of how one joke can’t carry an entire sketch; something ‘SNL’ does too often these days.
The best part of the episode wasn’t even performed live in New York City, but (once again) uniquely from Los Angeles where Melissa McCarthy, another seemingly Emmy lock, reprised her impression as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. In his third performance as Spicer it felt like the bit was wearing a little thin, as well, but it was still hilarious.
Weekend Update was a snoozer this week, as it has been often lately. The worst aspect of it was the guest characters – the much too often used Jewish teen Jacob, played by Vanessa Bayer, and Kyle Mooney’s terrible stand-up comedian Bruce Chandling, by far the worst current Update character in the show’s rotation.
There wasn’t too much worth raving about during the second half of the episode, but it was kind of nice to see Fallon and former cast member Rachel Dratch bring back their classic Boston Teens – Sully and Zazu. It wasn’t my favorite sketch back in the day, but having not seen it in years it wasn’t unwelcomed.
The best bit during the second half of the show was the very last bit of the night, a pre-taped sketch of a director filming a basketball movie in which the extras attempting to play ball in the background of the scene are the world’s worst basketball players. It was an easy attempt at humor, but watching Fallon and Mikey Day suck at basketball did make me chuckle more than most anything did during the episode.
It was a historical night for ‘SNL’ airing live coast-to-coast for the first time in its legendary 42-year history, it’s just a shame the comedy couldn’t bring the A-game on the same night.
by Julian Spivey
NBC is celebrating its 90th anniversary as a network, starting out as a radio network and later television, this year and the Paley Center for Media paid tribute to the network with a three-hour retrospective on Sunday, Feb. 19. The milestone had me thinking of my all-time favorite NBC shows, and you could argue the network is the greatest of all-time based on its terrific output.
Here are my 10 favorite NBC shows of all-time:
10. “Late Night”
‘Late Night’ has seen four terrific hosts (David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers) in its 35-year history on NBC who all have brought their own style and brand of humor to the show. It’s often been an edgier, funnier version of “The Tonight Show” that has led its hosts to often brighter and bigger careers in late night television.
Basically, any sitcom that has succeeded in the last 25-30 years owes a debt of gratitude to “Cheers,” which essentially took a group of completely different strangers, tossed them into one location and made a family out of them. The sexual tension between Sam and Diane in the show’s first seasons essentially created the “will-they-or-won’t-they” aspect we’ve seen in numerous sitcoms ever since.
8. “Mad About You”
“Mad About You” is probably the most underrated sitcom on NBC’s acclaimed “Must-See TV” comedy lineup of the ‘90s. It doesn’t have the legacy of a “Friends” or “Frasier,” but the show featured one of the most realistic relationships in television history with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt having one of the best chemistries of any duo on television.
Frasier Crane was honestly not one of the more interesting character on “Cheers,” but lo and behold the spinoff featuring his character actually made for a funnier show, in my opinion. “Frasier” featured Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce in terrific roles as sophisticated know-it-alls, who cracked us up with their one-upsmanship.
6. “Friday Night Lights”
On the surface “Friday Night Lights” might just seem like a show about football, but it truly captures the realities and hardships of small town life, relationships and friendships in a realistic way that hadn’t been seen often on network television. At the center of the show was the fantastic relationship portrayal by actors Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton.
“Parenthood” brought realistic family drama to NBC (and network television in general) that it hadn’t seen in many years, and perhaps had never been done as well. The Braverman family instantly melted our hearts on a weekly basis and is likely the reason why NBC’s current hit “This Is Us” is what it is.
4. “30 Rock”
If you like absurdist and witty humor than “30 Rock,” from the brilliant and wacky mind of Tina Fey, is definitely for you. Fey took her time spent on “Saturday Night Live” as that show’s head writer and imagined what it would be like as an absurdist sitcom. The result became one of the most critically-acclaimed sitcoms in television history.
For a show about nothing “Seinfeld” was really quite something. Focusing on a group of four friends in New York that weren’t the greatest people in the world the show based on Jerry Seinfeld’s brand of stand-up about the little things in life became the most critically-acclaimed sitcom in television history.
2. “Saturday Night Live”
For more than 40 years “Saturday Night Live” has been at the center of pop culture on NBC. The greatest sketch comedy series of all-time has seen legends of comedy born on its stage and created numerous memorable sketches and moments that we will never be able to forget.
1. "The West Wing"
“The West Wing”In my opinion, there has never been a better or smarter drama on television than Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing.” “The West Wing” succeeded in making both politics and smart writing/television cool, something that many didn’t think was possible. The stellar performances all-around likely make the show’s cast the greatest ensemble in TV history.
by Julian Spivey
The sixth season of “Scandal,” delayed to the spring due to Kerry Washington’s pregnancy, premiered on Thursday, Jan. 26 with a predictable and fast-moving episode.
The season picks up on Election Night with First Lady and Republican candidate Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) believing she is about to be elected the first female President of the United States, before being shocked by Frankie Vargas being the winner. This all happens before the title card is even displayed.
I think “Scandal” chose to blow through the Presidential campaign and election far too quickly, which was also my take on the end of the show’s fifth season. I would’ve liked to have seen the drama and action spread out at least over a few episodes – but that doesn’t appear to be the way things are done in Shondaland. There’s a good chance that Washington’s pregnancy delaying the season until the end of January led to creator Shonda Rhimes speeding up the process to time the premiere’s Election Night shocker with the inauguration.
The big shock of the Election Night episode “Survival of the Fittest” wasn’t that Mellie lost the election, but that Vargas was assassinated during his victory speech. Except if you’re a fan of “Scandal” it wasn’t really that shocking, but rather predictable. The “surprise” of Vargas’ Vice President pick Cyrus Beene (the always entertaining Jeff Perry) being the one to have Vargas knocked off was also too predictable. Sure, there was a thought that it may have been Olivia’s father Rowan Pope (the excellent Joe Morton), who’s in a battle for the ages with Cyrus for TV’s biggest villain, but the death of Vargas didn’t have much for him to gain.
The only real question about the death of President-elect Vargas is … who is the shooter? We know the man arrested for doing it is a patsy. But, the show gave a big clue that it might be Jake Ballard (Scott Foley), who mysteriously went missing right after the election results and showed back up instantly as the fake shooter was detained. The shooter could easily be Jake, but in typical “Scandal” fashion this could also be a MacGuffin.
The most interesting aspect of the season six premiere of “Scandal” was the choice President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) had to make following the death of Vargas. Despite Vargas winning the election, the results would eventually come down to the Electoral College that didn’t necessarily have to go with Vargas’ VP choice. Fitz could’ve put in a good word for Mellie and gotten her the Presidency, as Attorney General David Rosen (Joshua Malina) said it would, but after being involved in fixed elections before Fitz was ready to make the right decision – despite not knowing he played right into Cyrus’ hand.
The only real question after the premiere of “Scandal” is can Olivia (Washington) and her team find a way to stop Cyrus from taking the oath of office, which should set up an interesting series of episodes down the road. I just felt like everything that happened in the premiere could’ve been seen from a mile away.
by Julian Spivey
“This Is Us” has been such a surprising hit out of the gates for NBC that the network made the rare decision to renew the show for not just a second season, but also a third on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Each season will feature at least 18 episodes.
President of NBC Entertainment Jennifer Salke told Deadline: “’This is Us’ is as good as anything we’ve ever had, we’re thrilled to renew it for two seasons and there’s no doubt it will have a long life at NBC.”
The show, which features a cast of Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz, is about two generations of the Pearson family and uniquely features two different timelines throughout the series.
“This Is Us” is no doubt one of the two or three best new dramas of the 2016-2017 network television season, and by far the buzziest. But, there’s one thing about the series that irrationally bugs the hell out of me and has since its debut was met with so much success and critical praise and it really has nothing to do with the show at all. This irrational irritant popped up again on Wednesday when the network decided to give the show two more seasons before its first even wrapped.
When “This Is Us” debuted the popular thing to do among critics was to compare the show to NBC’s previous realistic family drama “Parenthood,” which aired six seasons from 2010-2015. Other than being realistic portrayals of family life the two shows don’t hold many other similarities with “This Is Us” featuring two different timelines.
“Parenthood” was one of my all-time favorite TV dramas and while six seasons is a fantastic achievement for network television the show never really got the respect it deserved from NBC. Only half of its season received a full order of 18 or more episodes and the show was always seemingly on the chopping block come time for renewals and culminated in a final season where prices were cut so much for its survival that all the cast members had to appear in fewer episodes.
Fans of “Parenthood” were always on pins and needles come the spring when the fall schedules for the next season were announced and it was truly unfair for the network to do for such an amazing show.
“This Is Us” may become a classic TV drama, it’s too early to tell, but it’s kind of irritating to see the show get so much love from NBC when an arguably better series struggled so much and for so long just to survive. I understand it’s a ratings business and “This Is Us” first season is averaging more than twice the number of live viewers than the final season of “Parenthood” did two seasons ago, which is strange to me in general with the similarity of the two shows being family dramas, but it’s still something that draws a slight bit of jealousy from me.
“This Is Us” has been fantastic in its freshman season and I hope it continues to provide great entertainment, but “Parenthood” – I got your back.