While I’m on the record with my general dislike for Halloween (it’s a holiday that’s only fun when you’re a kid and free candy is on the table and then as you get older it just becomes a stressful blockade in the way of Christmas cheer), I do like – nay, love – the Vincent Price Halloween special sketches on “SNL.” While David S. Pumpkins might now be the go-to “SNL” Halloween memory, these sketches are truly modern classics and the above one might be the best of them all.
Starring Bill Hader as the titular Vincent Price, the sketch typically involves him trying to host some sort of spooky holiday special only to be upstaged by his chaotic guests and co-host, Fred Armisen’s delightful Liberace. In this case, those guests are the always-perfect Kristen Wiig as Gloria Swanson and the might-as-well-be-an-official-SNL-cast-member Jon Hamm as James Mason. From the beginning it’s clear that Swanson and Mason are only interested in getting drunk and being a mess, and nothing Price does will stop them in their pursuits. It’s gleeful and goofy and doesn’t leave you with nightmares, like most Halloween-related nonsense. (I don’t like being scared, okay? I just want to laugh!)
People like to say that your favorite “SNL” cast is the one that was there when you first really started watching the show, and this cast was mine. Hader, Wiig, Armisen and the others were so on top of their game, so absurdly talented and funny that it made every week a treat regardless of what was in the news or who held political office. While I definitely enjoy the current cast and the unique things they bring to the table, this one will always have a special place in my heart and this sketch is one of the many reasons why.
What do you think? What’s your favorite Halloween-related “SNL” sketch? Do you have a favorite Halloween costume from your childhood? Mine was definitely Penelope Taynt, “Amanda’s Number One Fan, Please.” I even had the laptop on a strap around my neck! (Although mine was made out of cardboard.) A true classic, to be sure. Tell all in the comments. And, of course, on this night before Halloween…
It was announced yesterday that Justin Timberlake will be the headliner at the 2018 Super Bowl Halftime show. This should be great news. It’s Justin Timberlake! He’s talented and fun! But it still sits in an uneasy place with me, and I’m sure countless others. Because we all remember what happened the last time he did the Halftime show.
For those who somehow missed Timberlake’s infamous 2004 appearance, here’s a quick refresher: when Timberlake got the the “have you naked by the end of this song” lyric in his song “Rock Your Body,” he stayed true to his word, revealing a part of co-headliner Janet Jackson’s body that is generally not allowed to be shown on a network like CBS. It’s always been somewhat unclear whether or not the move was intentional, but it was clear who seemed to get the most blame for the incident: Janet Jackson.
While Timberlake has been able to largely move on from what happened it became a constant topic of conversation whenever Janet Jackson was brought up, in some circles overshadowing much of the success she has had as a solo artist. Timberlake didn’t even really address the hypocrisy of the situation until two years later, and he barely took a stance then.
The whole ordeal spoke to the larger issues surrounding censorship in entertainment, something that has bugged me for years. You can’t show most nudity on network television, but you can show oftentimes gratuitous violence? A movie becomes R-rated if someone says the “F” word too many times, but remains PG-13 if it’s just people shooting guns at each other? The disparities there are definitely evident in the way that our society perceives certain events and situations, much like this one, and it’s not right.
There’s also, of course, the issue with the fact that Timberlake, the male artist involved in the incident, is being welcomed back while the female artist involved, who was possibly exposed without her permission or consent, is seemingly still banned from appearing on the Halftime show again. It’s just another example of the ever-present double standards between men and women, especially women of color and especially in the entertainment industry. Justin Timberlake was just a little scamp who make a mistake, and we forgive him; Janet Jackson was a grown woman who should have known better, so she doesn’t get to move on. It’s completely and totally unfair and this latest development only highlights that more.
I like Justin Timberlake. I’m a longtime fan of his music and have seen him in concert twice. I hope that he will use this opportunity to welcome Jackson back (regardless of what sort of consequences it might produce for him) and allow her the time she rightfully deserves after this whole ordeal. It’s really the least he could do, but it would at least be a big step in the direction of righting the wrong that started 14 years ago.
What do you think? Do you hope that Timberlake will bring Janet Jackson back for the Halftime show? Do you wish they had just gotten Beyonce to do it again? I feel you. Share your thoughts in the comments. But, of course…
Sure, I spend a lot of time on this blog writing about the things that I’m watching on stage and screens big and small but when I’m not ruining my eyes with screen time I’m most likely reading a book. Or sleeping. Or eating something I shouldn’t be. But often I’m reading a book!
Some people (like “Secret Life of the American Teenager Star” Shailene Woodley) like to believe that just because someone is an active and frequent enjoyer of things like television and film they can’t also be a reader, which is simply untrue. It feeds into the snooty idea that television and film are a lesser art, meant to entertain the mindless masses while the truly intelligent spend their time with fine literature. Yes, there are certainly many things on television and in movies that aren’t exactly mentally enriching, but there are also a lot of things that both entertain and make you think. And then, when you’re done watching those fascinating and thought-provoking pieces of entertainment, you can pick up a book! Crazy concept, I know.
Right now I’m reading “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah‘s memoir of sorts, “Born A Crime.” It features stories of his life growing up in South Africa, both during apartheid and after, and is actually really good. Not to say that I didn’t think it would be, it’s just that sometimes celebrity memoirs can fall a little flat. For a celebrity memoir to be truly great, you need someone who has a backstory that’s actually interesting and can write said story in a compelling way. I’m only about halfway through “Born A Crime,” but Noah is definitely hitting both of those marks. It’s a mix of humor (inevitable, given his comedy background) and more dramatic moments and offers a glimpse into Noah’s very fascinating life. Even if you’re not a fan of Noah’s current “Daily Show” tenure, I would recommend you check the book out. It might actually change your mind.
Have you read “Born A Crime”? Are you reading a different book right now that you’re really enjoying? Did you also absolutely love last week’s season premiere of “Mr. Robot“? (It’s finally baaaaaack!!) Let me know in the comments. And, as always…
The 2017 Emmy Awards may have only happened mere weeks ago but that doesn’t mean we can’t start talking about 2018 now, especially since there’s a good chance several key slots in the Best Comedy Series category might be opening up. Rumors are swirling that “Veep‘s” seventh and final season will likely not be ready to air by the May 31 cutoff date for Emmy eligibility and Aziz Ansari has basically said that there will be no more “Master of None” until he has lived more life worth writing a TV show about, meaning that both frequently nominated (and in “Veep’s” case, frequently winning) shows will be out of the running next year.
Of course, this could just mean that “Modern Family” will reclaim its wholly undeserved title as Best Comedy Series, but it also means that there will be room for some new shows to join the nominated ranks. I know who I want to take those slots, obviously. In the vast world of comedy on TV, there are plenty of shows that have, year in and year out, proven themselves to be worthy of recognition of the shiny trophy variety. Here’s just five that could (and should) be newly in the running.
One of what I consider to be the true heirs to the “The Office“/”Parks and Recreation” quirky workplace comedy with heart throne, “Superstore” has been a quiet delight for several seasons. Following the goings on at a big box store called Cloud 9, “Superstore” has its fair share of laugh-out-loud moments as well as moments that address things like immigration, PTSD and more. While it does deal with heavier topics from time to time, it’s always done with a sense of respectful levity. A lot of shows on TV now are meant to make you feel down or uneasy. “Superstore” just wants to make you smile, and it does. If that doesn’t deserve some Emmy love, I don’t know what does.
Many of the comedies nominated for the big Emmy are pretty straight-forward in their plot (other than “Atlanta,” which is great and should win next year if its second season ends up being as good as its first) so it would be great to switch it up with something as wild and unique as “The Good Place.” I’ll refer you to a previous post I’ve written about the show that describes the plot and urges you to watch it, if for nothing other than to be totally shocked by the big twist at the end of season one. The second season began a few weeks ago and has continued to surprise and amaze, throwing formula out the window to look at things like destiny and how to be a good person. It’s also just super funny.
While I mostly include this one because I want to see the great Andre Braugher get back in the Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category he was wrongfully absent from this past Emmys (curse you, Alec Baldwin and you bland impression of our garbage president!) and hey, maybe actually win for once, it’s also been a consistently great ensemble comedy. Much like “Superstore,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has the perfect mix of humor and heart, and unsurprising fact given that the show’s co-creator, Michael Schur, created “Parks and Recreation” and wrote for “The Office.” It would be great to see this and his other latest creation, “The Good Place” get the recognition they rightfully deserve.
Sometimes I feel like a one-woman campaign for this show, but it really is so great and so under appreciated that I will keep talking about it until someone, anyone takes notice. It recently began its fourth season on the super deep cable FXX and continues to be devastating, both in its biting comedy and bare-bones depiction of people at their worst. The drama categories at the Emmys were a home for the anti-hero for many years, whose to say the comedy category can’t take that over? “Veep’s” Selina Meyer certainly isn’t the most lovable women and yet people have watched and rooted for her for years, often against their own better judgement. Perhaps Gretchen and Jimmy can take that slot. I’m definitely on board.
In 2015 the Emmys adopted a kind of weird new rule stating that to be considered a comedy series, a show must only be 30 minutes long. While this certainly applies to most comedies, there are at least a few that break that mold and the absolutely excellent “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is one of them. The musical series created by and starring Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, a clearly mentally unwell woman who moves across the country to pursue a childhood crush, might not sound like a comedy from the outset but it really truly is. The show is endlessly funny and the songs are actually really good, not corny or uncomfortable like other musical television series (*cough* “Glee” “Smash” *cough*). If you know that Rachel Bloom is entertaining enough to intro the Emmys accountants at the ceremony, than you should know her show is entertaining enough to get an Emmy nomination.
So there you have it, five comedies that could (and should) fill the positions potentially left empty by “Veep” and “Master of None.” There are also reports that “Better Call Saul” might not be finished in time, opening up a slot in the drama category for “Pitch.” Did you think I wasn’t going to mention “Pitch”? BRING BACK “PITCH”!!!
What do you think? Have any other comedies you’d add to this list? Think I should move on from the Emmys? If so, have you ever read this blog before? I feel like you don’t get my brand. Explain yourself in the comments. And, of course…
After a summer off and a whole bunch of Emmy wins (some deserved, some not so much), “Saturday Night Live” came back this past Saturday with an episode featuring host Ryan Gosling and musical guest Jay-Z.
For a season premiere the episode largely felt devoid of anything particularly exciting. A lot of the sketches (save for a few – shout out to “The Fliplets“!) felt half-baked or purposefully designed to make “can’t keep a straight face despite being a serious and respected actor” Ryan Gosling break into a fit of giggles. And he did. Again and again and again. I, like most people with eyes and a pulse, am not immune to the immense charm, talent and hunky-ness of Gosling but even I got a little sick of the breaking. It was sweet the first time he hosted; this time it started to feel a little cheap and unprofessional.
The above sketch was a standout of the night, and not just because it was pre-taped, making it near-impossible for Gosling to break (at least, not in the final cut). Featuring an emotional Gosling struggling with the fact that the blockbuster film “Avatar” seemingly used the Microsoft Word font “papyrus” for it’s logo, the sketch was a moment of sheer originality. And it’s not entirely surprising, given who likely wrote it.
Based on his previous work on the show involving strange, specific things (like the inner monologue of an elaborate sink, for example) and this tweet, it seems pretty clear that this sketch came from the brilliant mind of “SNL” writer Julio Torres. He had a breakout year last season with some of the funniest and most clever sketches to be featured on the show in recent years, including “Wells for Boys“, “Melania Moments“, and a personal favorite, “Diego Calls His Mom.” You can almost always tell when a sketch is his, largely because it feels like a fresh break from traditional “SNL” fare, much like the way a “Lonely Island” sketch felt unique in its time.
While much of “SNL’s” season premiere fell a little flat for me, I look forward to what’s coming next. Especially if it means we’ll get more great, unexpected sketches like these.