Hey fans of Awards Daily TV! Heads up, we’ve moved our site to a new location. We’ve seamlessly blended our TV-related content with Awards Daily main to create a one-stop destination for all of your film and television content. You’ll still have the same team, so you’ll still get the same reviews, interview, awards analysis, and of course the Water Cooler Podcast. It’s just over at the main site to make the experience much easier for you.
Our new URL is http://www.awardsdaily.com/adtv. You’ll see some of our content on the Awards Daily main page too. Please stop by and check out the new digs!
Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale drama series drops in April, just in time for prime Emmy consideration. How can the series sneak into contention?
On April 26, Hulu will release The Handmaid’s Tale. The drama series hails from the celebrated novel by Margaret Atwood about a handmaid named Offred (as in belonging to “Fred”) stuck in Gilead – a rebranded Cambridge, Massachusetts, following a successful overthrow of the American government. Religious fanatics dominate this society, one that stripped all women of their basic rights. They cannot own property or possess currency or hold a paying job. Women are merely wives or servants or whores or, perhaps worst of all, vessels for semen and procreation. Reduced to biology. Atwood published the original novel back in 1985 during the height of the Reagan era, and the material remains incredibly relevant today.
This year, Donald Trump took office on January 20. On January 21, millions of women and those who supported them marched in cities across the world. They donned their “pussy hats” and proudly carried protest signs. The news looked like nothing we’d seen since the Civil Rights era in the late 60s. People protested in The Handmaid’s Tale too. Until they were shot down. Then, shit got bad. Real bad.
The recent trailer offer this voice-over from Offred (Elisabeth Moss): “I was asleep before, that’s how we let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the constitution, we didn’t wake up then either. Now I’m awake.”
In the face of such political resonance (more on that later), how can the Television Academy ignore the power of The Handmaid’s Tale? My head tells me too many shows sit in front of it, but my gut, my heart, tells another story. On last week’s Water Cooler Podcast, fellow Emmy watcher and friend Erik Anderson inferred that I’m banking too heavily on the show. Maybe. My heart leads me astray as often as it rewards me.
So, will The Handmaid’s Tale win major Emmy nominations in July? That’s a difficult question to answer since the property is largely sight unseen, although Hulu has scheduled multiple high-profile screenings in support. Traditionally, Emmy doesn’t respond well to freshman upstarts, but somehow this feels different. I’m convinced a path forward exists for a Drama Series Emmy nomination.
A wide-open field for Drama Series
This year, Emmy-winner Game of Thrones and perennial nominee Downton Abbey won’t factor into the major races. The Abbey closed its doors, and Game of Thrones premieres in the summer outside of the 2017 Emmy eligibility window. That frees two slots of last year’s nominees from the available seven Drama Series nominees. If we talk political resonance, The Americans seems destined to repeat last year’s series-first Drama nomination, if not outright win. Trump and his Russian connections dominate current political events, giving FX’s critically acclaimed series resonance that other series simply can’t match. Plus, it’s just a really great show.
Next, AMC’s Better Call Saulfeels like a repeat contender after a favorable guild reaction this winter and a Emmy-friendly April Season 3 premiere date. House of Cards is a bit riskier. Already accused of elaborate soapiness, it competes with political reality, and who the hell can complete with that? Plus, it drops the day before the nomination window closes. People will binge the hell out of it, of course. It needs to be smarter/bigger/better than the headlines to make that fifth Drama Series nomination. I think that’s likely, but it’s not a slam dunk.
Assuming that gives us three, we have to assess Mr. Robot. Season 2’s early reviews quickly became raves as creator Sam Esmail took the director’s reigns for the entire season. Still, the wild story and sense of sophomore slump turned viewers off. Need proof? Season 2 saw a 50 percent drop in average viewers. Of the returning Drama Series nominees, Mr. Robot appears the most vulnerable, and NBC Universal feels it. The cast and creative are out like never before, beating the pavement to push the series back into the top seven. Right now, Mr. Robot teeters on the edge of Emmy.
So, let’s say we have three confirmed: The Americans, Better Call Saul, and House of Cards. The Handmaid’s Tale has to be seen as better than Mr. Robot, Stranger Things, This Is Us, The Crown, and Westworld to break in. Stranger Things and This Is Us both appear to be massive culture phenoms. It’s in their favor that literally no one saw them coming as viable Emmy contenders. Netflix’s Emmy campaigning gets nominations, if not wins, so Stranger Things feels like a likely entry. That’s four confirmed.
This Is Us is the emotional wildcard coming from a network that hasn’t had a Drama Series nomination since Heroes. It wins the social media battle (don’t get on Twitter when This Is Us is on), but does that translate into Emmy votes? I’d be 100 percent behind it if had received that SAG nomination for the cast. Who else would push this actor-driven, large cast series forward? Still, the show will become the rallying cry for those working in network television tired of cable and streaming series dominating the Emmys. That plus the massive fan base pushes it forward.
That gives us five. Two slots for The Crown, Westworld, and The Handmaid’s Tale. The Crown hails from Emmy-hungry Netflix, receives the backing of critics and guilds, and fills that British drama slot. It’s in. So, it’s down to two dystopian (tired of that word yet?) shows with similarly negative views of women and the future. How can The Handmaid’s Tale beat Westworld to the top seven?
A political powerhouse
Is The Handmaid’s Tale just a book or a television drama? Or is there more to it?
Today, as women’s health services – Planned Parenthood chief among them – face extinction thanks to federal defunding, women continue the fight for basic control of their own bodies. Health care access. Equal pay for equal work. The right to be President of the United States. It becomes increasingly difficult to surf headlines or watch reports on television and not equate modern politics to the supposed fictional world of The Handmaid’s Tale. The parallels between the novel and reality remain impossible to ignore.
We live in an era where Hillary Clinton almost shattered the glass ceiling for women in politics. Did you hear that sound? That tinkling of shattered glass falling to the ground? That’s not the sound of that shattered ceiling. That’s the sound of the millions of hearts broken as the more qualified, female candidate lost to… well, you know the story. It’s a story many are unwilling to relive because, frankly, they’re still living it. The wounds from Bernie v. Hillary v. The Donald have yet to heal. We’re not ready for that movie yet. At least, I’m not.
However, there is a certain sense of gratification or morbid attraction to a piece of dystopian fiction like The Handmaid’s Tale in an era such as ours. There’s a reason everybody all of a sudden rediscovered George Orwell’s 1984. It’s the same reason that people will gravitate toward The Handmaid’s Tale bleak sense of future trauma. We want to wallow in the misery. Need to point to something that illustrates our sense of outrage, of indignation that THIS happened. Need warning signs and evidence of What Could Happen if we’re not paying attention. Many will tell you we’re there already.
For others, The Handmaid’s Tale provides a classic political horror story to galvanize the opposition to the status quo. People need to remain focused on making progress and maintaining rights for all. The Handmaid’s Tale becomes a shining beacon as to how quickly we could go wrong.
You think I’m reaching? Read the book. Watch the series. The steps are there, folks. Margaret Atwood saw it back in 1985. We’ve forgotten or ignored the past, and where we’re headed is dark indeed.
Those criminally overlooked actresses
Hollywood struggles with diversity. Not just ethnicity but also in terms of gender diversity. 2016 provided a thirst-quenching oasis when a film like Arrival – a brilliant story entirely told from a woman’s perspective – received 8 Oscar nominations. The Handmaid’s Tale was once a film, but critics and audiences ignored it. Television, however, adores women. It adores women of all ages and ethnicities. Television gives women roles of lifetimes, characters so rich and powerful as to elevate even the weakest of material.
How To Get Away With Murder. Grey’s Anatomy. Empire. The Expanse. The Good Fight. Big Little Lies. Westworld. American Crime. Shots Fired. Feud: Bette and Joan. American Horror Story: Roanoke. The Crown. Black Mirror. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
These shows range in quality, obviously, but they all give us female characters for the ages played by actresses often doing career-best work. The Handmaid’s Tale likely rises to the top of that bunch because it features three great actresses. Great actresses who, by the way, built up extensive good will with voters in previous Emmy-worthy series.
Star Elisabeth Moss never won an award for her work on Mad Men. Never. Won. A. Single. Award. We watched as her Peggy Olson rose up the advertising corporate ladder to become an incredibly complex and (shock) not particularly likable character. And that’s fantastic. Toss in some awards attention for her performance in Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, and you have a case for an underrated actress overdue for Emmy attention.
Samira Wiley broke onto the scene in Orange Is the New Black and became an unexpected fan favorite. After a buzzy Season 4 arc (no spoilers), she needs to prove she can deliver more than the tough prison lesbian with a poet’s heart. What better way to jump start that career than a role as a tough lesbian forced into heterosexual relations? Type-casting? Maybe but I bet it works, particularly since it’s a nice example of colorblind casting in a role that easily could have gone to a bigger name white or straight actress. No one would consider Wiley “overdue” for awards attention, but her immense good will from Orange Season 4 adds to Handmaid’s cache.
Ann Dowd. Is there another actress so criminally underrated as the great Ann Dowd? Enormously fun and brilliantly acted character work peppers her resume. Masters of Sex. The Leftovers. True Detective. Quarry. Those shows provide her best roles of the past few years. Her role as “Aunt Lydia” in The Handmaid’s Tale tops them all. Hers is a role in which she will sink every last tooth. Easily a candidate for Supporting Actress in a Drama, Ann Dowd provides that go-to cache for quality. She’s always great, and she lends The Handmaid’s Tale even more gravitas given her reputation and conviction.
The Handmaid’s Tale may strip women of their rights as human beings, but these three actresses propel the story forward into heavy awards consideration. They give the audience a better entry point than the similarly themed but nearly impenetrable The Man in the High Castle. Still, an Emmy play won’t materialize if the overall property isn’t of high quality, so…
It has to be great
I’ve seen a small portion of the premiere episode. Not enough to judge the overall quality, of course, but enough to know the series will be in contention. Yet, in this continued Golden Era of Great Television, a television show must be more than buzzy. It must be bigger than its cast or creative. The direction must be 100 percent on-point. The writing must be stellar. All elements must come together without flaw. The competition for Drama Series remains a gladiator fight to the death thanks to the overwhelming array of great television laid out for the Television Academy to choose.
The Handmaid’s Tale will air 8 episodes by the close of the Emmy voting window on May 31. The first season finale airs during the first week of the Emmy nomination voting period. There will be ample evidence and opportunity for success, but the show has to earn it. Critics have to be behind it. It must become a part of the television lexicon in the early Summer. Political resonance – trading the “pussy hats” for white blinders – gets it halfway there. It just needs to be great television.
Ultimately, that is how The Handmaid’s Tale can enter the final seven nominees for Outstanding Drama Series. Can it do it? Absolutely. It just has to be good enough to earn it.
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ hits the big 2-0 today. To celebrate, Joey Moser looks at 10 of some of the best episodes the series offered.
Well drive a stake through my heart! Buffy is all grown up!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my all-time favorite shows, and today marks its 20th anniversary. I personally started watching the show because I was a massive Sarah Michelle Gellar fan, but I couldn’t have imagined what a huge following it would amass through the years. It was one of the first real hits for the fledgling WB network, and it was always received positively by critics despite an almost nonexistent major awards presence.
So what makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer so special? Creator Joss Whedon was able to create a different type of drama when it debuted in 1997. He melded three different genres together to form a teen horror action series that just so happened to deal with pertinent high school teen issues. Think Dracula but with quippy dialogue and a lot more Noxema. Whedon’s dialogue might be his staple. After watching a few episodes of Buffy, go back and watch how he created a different type of Scooby Gang with his work on The Avengers. Nobody takes people from different cliques and forms them into families like he does.
To celebrate Buffy’s 20th anniversary, we wanted to take a look back at 10 classic episodes. Some are scary and some are strange, but all of them are unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a teen soap before.
“Welcome to the Hellmouth”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is true to itself from the very first episode. Buffy Summers arrives in Sunnydale eager to start her life over (burning down the gym at your last school can put a damper on your academic life), but it doesn’t take long for vampires and evil beings to find her. In order to fully immerse yourself in Whedon’s world, Hellmouth is essential viewing. Like most pilots it serves as an introduction to all of the tone and to the cheeky vibe of the show.
One of the strongest elements throughout the series’ history is when they manage to mix in the teenage drama with the supernatural scariness. For most of the beginning of “Surprise” you almost forget that there are demons running around Sunnydale, because Buffy is anxious over the idea of losing her virginity to Angel. The horror aspect to the plot (concerning a dismembered demon named The Judge) pales in comparison to the nervousness Buffy feels over giving herself to her boyfriend on her birthday.
What’s worse than breaking up with your first love? Having to kill your newly souled vampire boyfriend with a sword just so he becomes sucked into a vortex and die to save the world. Buffy’s relationship with Angel will always be a complicated one. It’s another example of how Buffy deals with a lot more than the normal teenage girl, and it’s one of the first times the audience is allowed to see how she deals with death. Her relationship with Angel will resonate with her throughout the rest of the entire series. If this season finale doesn’t get you weeping, you probably don’t have a pulse.
Lesson number one: never trust the creepy new girl with an amulet. At some point, it seemed that every show does an It’s a Wonderful Life spin to its story, and this might be a frivolous entry to this list. When Cordelia tells Anya (in her first appearance) that she wishes that Buffy Summers never came to Sunnydale, Anya grants her wish and transforms the town into a world where Cordelia’s social status is restored…but everything else is run by The Master and other vampires. It’s obviously a more standalone episode, but a lot of Buffy fans dig this entry.
This is one of Whedon’s personal favorites. Up until this point in the series, we had only seen Willow play an entirely different persona in “The Wish” when she and Xander were evil vampires wreaking havoc on Sunnydale (thanks, Anya), but she comes back with a vengeance in this episode. Alyson Hannigan gets to pull double duty in a classic good vs. evil episode, and you can tell she’s having a blast doing it.
One of the best things about “Earshot” is that the finale isn’t what you’d expect. The episode garnered attention because it was pulled from the WB’s lineup a week after the Columbine school shooting. Buffy gains the ability to read minds, and she overhears a student saying he’s going to kill everyone at the school. As Buffy deals with some jealousy issues between her, Angel, and Faith, it’s a race against time to stop whoever plans on going on murder spree. There is some humor when Buffy reads the minds of her friends, and Danny Strong, as nerdy Jonathan, has a nice scene with Gellar after he reveals that he was contemplating suicide.
My personal Buffy favorite barely features any of Whedon’s trademark chatter. “Hush” provides the only Emmy nomination for Writing in a Drama Series, and I still remember the commercials for this highly publicized episode.
Whedon wanted to create an episode almost devoid of speech after he kept reading that the dialogue was being heralded as the best thing about the show. This particular episode features on of the scariest bad guys in the history of the Buffy universe–The Gentlemen. These ghoulish, yet dapper, baddies silence everyone in the town of Sunnydale, so they can’t scream when they cut your heart out. These gents glide a few inches off the ground if that doesn’t scare you enough! It’s a truly frightening and eerie episode.
No one saw the death of Joyce Summers coming. Could you imagine the death of such a loving character if the show aired today? We would have seen her death publicized and announced weeks before it happened, and the shock of losing her so abruptly makes the episode so effective. The beginning of the episode hits you hard when Buffy comes home to find her mother unresponsive on the couch (“Mommy…?” she whispers before the credits roll), and then Buffy becomes the role of head of household from that point on.
In one of the best dramatic moments of the season, Buffy goes to Dawn’s school to break the news to her, but we don’t hear Buffy say the words, “Mom’s dead.” The scene plays from the perspective of Dawn’s classmates, and you can even see the art teacher in the scene has he hair styled sort of like Joyce’s. Season 5 stands out, and this episode provides perfect evidence to that claim.
“The Gift” might be the best episode of the entire series, and that’s because it feels like a series finale. I honestly could’ve had the series finish here and be completely fine with it. This is actually the last episode of the show on The WB before it switched to the final two seasons on UPN.
The arc of Dawn being The Key for Glory perhaps proves too complicated to summarize in a few sentences, but I’ll just say that it’s one of the most satisfying ones I’ve ever seen. The Scooby Gang really goes to battle to save the world (hey, they did it almost every week), but it’s Buffy who sacrifices herself to save her sister, and, ultimately, the entire world. Clare Kramer was a great villain for the show–she was the perfect mix of violent entity and sassy beauty–and the epitaph on Buffy’s tombstone sums up the tone of the series. It’s heartbreaking and satisfactory as an ending of the show.
“Once More with Feeling”
People burst into song in musicals because the emotions inside them are too huge to express in any other way. That’s how a plot is furthered by a musical on stage, and that’s certainly what happens in Whedon’s extravaganza, “Once More with Feeling.” This episode alone has a cult following. No Buffy list is complete without it.
A demon wreaks havoc in Sunnydale by making everyone sing about their innermost feelings, and then they dance so hard they spontaneously combust (Is that how Gwen Verdon died? I think so). Anya and Xander express their concerns with their marriage, Spike longs to not be under Buffy’s spell anymore, and Willow and Tara sings a flowery love song to Willow. But not everything is COMING. UP. ROSES! Giles wants to literally fight Buffy’s battles for her (full disclosure: I tracked down the sheet music for “Standing” to sing during voice lessons in college), and Buffy feels inhuman after returning to Earth from heaven. Hey, I’d watch this episode over La La Land in a heartbeat.
The entire cast does their own singing, and some of the results are better than others (I suspect that Alyson Hannigan wasn’t really asking for more music to sing). Like the best episodes, it’s hilarious, sad, and awesomely strange.
What are your favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Sound off in the comments below!
FX’s ‘Feud: Bette and Joan’ stars Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Does Ryan Murphy’s limited series live up to the catty hype?
When FX announced the Ryan Murphy production Feud: Bette and Joan, those familiar with his style instantly imagined the worst. The series focuses on the intense rivalry between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange). Potential cat fighting, old Hollywood glamour, and the backstory of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane all seem tailor-made for Murphy. Given that, many imagined the series would devolve into a high class trash-fest. Something perhaps akin to a limited series Mommie Dearest. Turns out, that’s not at all what Murphy intended.
Feud: Bette and Joan immediately settles on the theme of tossed-aside actresses “of a certain age.” The first two episodes available for press featured less about the actual making of the classic horror film than Davis and Crawford’s pitied state in Hollywood. Crawford, desperate for cash, scoured female-centered novels for the right material, something Hollywood wouldn’t provide. Davis, a 2-time Oscar winner, found herself relegated to New York theater. Crawford’s discovery of Henry Farrell’s original Baby Jane novel spurred hit-starved director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) to drive the production forward.
Ryan Murphy directs much of the series. Judging from the two episodes I’ve seen, that’s both a blessing and a curse. Murphy’s steady hand behind the camera helped set a respectful tone for The People v. O.J. Simpson, surprising many with his nuance. He tries to strike the same tone here as clearly the topic of aging Hollywood actresses carries the same gravitas as the O.J. Simpson case. He understands working with actors and framing them in exquisite set design. However, the material longs for a juicier touch. The pilot’s script by Ryan Murphy large eschews the bitch-camp factor we’d all expected. Kudos to him for continuing to defy expectations, but the material, while often very entertaining, runs the risk of becoming too dry, too stately to enjoy.
This being a Ryan Murphy production, Feud: Bette and Joan‘s performances are uniformly very good. Neither Sarandon nor Lange try particularly hard to completely impersonate their famed actress counterparts. Lange gives a very “Ryan Murphy production” performance with echoes of American Horror Story: Coven‘s Fiona Goode sprinkled throughout. Still, she’s the weaker of the two here, miscast and instantly appearing much older than Crawford at the time of Baby Jane. She tries to explore the alcoholism and resentment that plagued Crawford’s personal life, but you watch the performance feeling you’ve seen it all before rendered through the now-patent Jessica Lange mannerisms.
Sarandon, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air. I haven’t seen her give a performance this bold in a long time. While her voice isn’t quite right, she completely nails the overall aura of Bette Davis. She parades around the sets in Davis’s uniquely confident, fuck-you way. In public, she’s a bitch on wheels, but in private, she’s desperately lonely, unable to nurture healthy relationships. My favorite scene of the series thus far belongs to her – the construction and revelation of her Baby Jane costume and infamous makeup. Molina also registers a strong performance as the constantly “between a rock and a hard place” director, and Judy Davis’s Hedda Hopper performs Hedda Hopper exactly as you imagined she would.
I have a hard time imagining exactly who Feud: Bette and Joan appeals to. It’s a very strong limited series with a lot to offer, but it doesn’t dig enough into Baby Jane to satisfy hard-core film enthusiasts. On the flip side, it doesn’t offer enough depth to engage more serious-minded viewers. The two leads feel relatively well written and fleshed out, but the Greek chorus of Olivia de Havilland (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Joan Blondell (Kathy Bates) annoyed me intensely. Also, the role of Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci) has all the subtlety of a mustache-twirlling villain.
Feud promised the sauciness of a Hedda Hopper headline, but it feels watered down and vaguely neutered. That said, there’s still much to admire in the series. The set designs and costumes are literally perfect and seem destined for Emmy glory. Sarandon, too, appears to be the natural front-runner here, but it’s unlikely Lange will be campaigned in the Supporting category. But the theme of Hollywood throwing away women “of a certain age” already feels stretched very thin over the first two episodes. Feud is something the Television Academy will clearly embrace, just perhaps not as hard as they did O.J. Simpson.
Jean-Marc Vallée directs an all-star cast in HBO’s take on Liane Moriarity’s Big Little Lies. Is there substance to the style of this Monterey-set drama?
Parents of troubled children will tell you that they often hold their breath. A lot. Waiting for “the call.” Waiting for the looks from daycare/school employees. Waiting for a parent to accost you in the parking lot. I know it all too well. I’ve been there with my son, formerly a biter. He grew out of it fairly quickly. Different story for his parents. That connection propelled me through Liane Moriarity’s 2014 breezy novel Big Little Lies and, now, the HBO-pedigreed limited series adaptation from Jean-Marc Vallée. I liked the novel, flaws and all, but I loved the adaptation, a textbook example of how to expand and deepen the world of a beach-read novel without compromising its integrity.
Big Little Lies stars Reese Witherspoon as Madeline, an opinionated firecracker of a mother who never backs down from a fight. Nicole Kidman plays Celeste, her impossibly rich and beautiful best friend with (naturally) a dark secret. Shailene Woodley rounds out the main trio as Jane. She’s a single mother new to Monterey whose son Ziggy (Iain Armitage) may or may not have strangled Amabella, the daughter of power mom Renata (Laura Dern, an Emmy-worthy scene stealer for sure). The central story gradually reveals itself over the course of the series through the gossipy voices of other parents, a Greek chorus of sorts. There’s a Desperate Housewives-y murder at an “Audrey and Elvis” school fundraiser, but the series smartly focuses on relationships over the whodunnit. Think True Detective for the soccer mom set.
Throwing stones in glass houses
Swift pacing and entertaining set pieces elevated Moriarity’s novel above its occasionally one-note characterizations, my major issue with it. In the series, writer David E. Kelley (Picket Fences, Ally McBeal) takes the novel’s events and smartly creates subtext. Working extraordinarily well with Vallée, Kelley gives the actresses meaty material on which to feast. Witherspoon’s Madeline rages both beneath the surface and openly, publicly – raging against her growing children, her ex-husband, and her sense that life is moving too quickly. Woodley’s Jane fears the world thanks to a bad one-night stand which resulted in her biggest joy, her son. She’s a brittle, isolated woman unable to trust.
The most intriguing evolution from page to screen centers around Kidman’s Celeste. Married to the good looking, wealthy Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), Celeste finds herself attracted to and repulsed by their toxic, abusive marriage. Perry’s unconfined anger results in bruises and in hot, dirty sex. Celeste’s shame in both deepens the material in fascinating ways. The book’s Celeste was defined by her abusive marriage, but, in the series, Celeste feels torn between the idyllic family and real danger. Kidman’s scenes in marital counseling provide some of the best acting she’s ever done with Skarsgard going toe-to-toe.
Vallée frames his actresses in and around as much glass as possible. Glass houses on the beach. Glass windows in cars and glass iPhone surfaces. You have the sense that, if anyone breathed too hard, everything would shatter. These characters fight against the seemingly perfect trappings of their high class surroundings. That theme is a bit of a cliche, of course, but it still works incredibly well here. You simply have to understand the environment – one where a birthday party omission is akin to a horse’s head in the bed. Yes, these are white, privileged families, but they still have stories to tell. Their kitchens may be better than ours, but, at the end of the day, we all face the same central issues with life, love, families, and the safety of our children.
Big Little Lies ultimately feels like an incredibly well made, thematically rich throwback to old ABC miniseries. You could ignore it or dismiss it as too white bread for your time. Doing so would mean you’re missing some of the best acting on television this year. Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman are revelations in their roles, digging into the nuances like the great actresses they are. And I will never ignore a Laura Dern performance after HBO’s great Enlightened. The men turn in strong performances as well with Skarsgard shading the abusive Perry to shockingly good effect and Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) makes Madeline’s doormat husband Ed a soulfully supportive presence, haunted by the insecurity he feels against his wild wife.
I love Big Little Lies because it balances the bitchy, big moments with gentle moments of real contemplation. Thank Vallée and Kelley for breathing much needed nuance into Moriarity’s robust story. There may be better limited series this year, but there likely won’t be as grand an entertainment that literally delivers on all fronts. It’s a dark little gem that digs much farther beneath its glassy surface than you’d ever imagine it would.
Big Little Lies premieres Sunday, February 19, at 9pm ET.
Oscar-nominee Jude Law plays Pope Pius XIII, the American young pope. The pope-tasctic insanity only starts there with this acclaimed limited series.
HBO’s incredible limited series The Young Pope stars Jude Law as the first and youngest American pope – Pope Pius XIII. Elected to the position by scheming Vatican cardinals, Law’s Pius ascends to the position without the slightest hint of decorum or respect for the post. The series, directed and co-written by Paolo Sorrentino (Youth), explores faith, tradition, modern Catholicism, and the politics of the Catholic Church in a remarkably fresh and urgent manner. In fact, it feels a little (a lot) like another political situation of note. More on that later…
I am neither Catholic nor a remotely religious person. I’ve been to the Vatican, and it’s incredibly difficult not to feel insignificant amidst the pageantry of the institution. So, while I do have respect for the Catholic faith, it wasn’t something that particularly resonated with me. The greatest asset of The Young Pope is its ability to inspire deep conversations about topics on which you’ve already formed solid opinions. Like religion itself, everyone takes away different things from the series. If you’re looking for a discussion of those themes, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Reading this piece, you’ll likely accuse me of having the most superficial reaction to The Young Pope possible. And maybe that’s true. Well, it probably is. Just because I want to focus on the craziest aspects of the series doesn’t mean I don’t ruminate on the deeper topics. It’s just much more fun to talk about shock value. So here are 7 crazy things I found memorable over all 10 episodes. The series wraps Monday, February 13, at 9pm ET. Be warned, spoilers follow for those uninitiated.
Forgive me father, for I have sinned…
7. The 3-way sex scene.
Given my pubescent obsession with sex on TV, you’d think this ranked higher on the list. However, given a show starring Jude Law as a young pope, you’d think the titular pope would be getting SOMETHING on the side. Turns out, he’s completely dedicated to the task of celibacy. It’s not for lack of opportunity – many woman and men have cast a longing look at this pope. No, one of the biggest surprises of the series is that Jude Law remains clothed and chaste for nearly all 10 hours. Well, except the gratuitous ass shot in the first five minutes.
The same cannot be said for his best friend Cardinal Andrew Dussolier (Scott Shepherd). As Chapter 6 begins, Dussolier returned to his flock in Hondouras after accepting a Vatican post. How does he say goodbye? An extremely active 3-way with a very attractive married woman and a young stud. And there’s little doubt as to who’s a top, bottom, sideways, voyeur… You get the picture.
So, while this feels kind of shocking and crazy, it doesn’t achieve the same sense of insanity we’d anticipated. Way to play it chaste, The Young Pope.
6. Sister Mary’s Nighttime Gear
Diane Keaton playing a nun is almost as surprising as Jude Law playing a pope. Almost. She gives (likely was directed to give) a very subdued performance as Sister Mary. In several scenes, she just stands in the background, placed here and there for emphasis on the foreground or to reference pieces of art. But her most memorable scenes take place out of her habit and in her nighty. It’s not the lacy nighty variety of course. What did you think this was, Black Habit Diaries? No, she sports a well-worn t-shirt with an amusing, did-I-just-read-that catchphrase. See for yourself below.
5. Cardinal Voiello And The Booby Statue
You know something’s up in the pilot episode when Cardinal Angelo Voiello (Silvio Orlando) stares longingly at a statue in Pope Pius XIII’s office. It’s not a tiny little Virgin Mary, which would seem setting appropriate. Instead, do you remember The Witches of Eastwick? Do you remember Cher making all those tiny little booby statues with tiny little vulvas? Well, The Young Pope recycled some props because the booby doll makes a grand return right here. They just glammed it up with a fancy little rope hat, as one does. And Cardinal Voiello harbors impure thoughts for it. Openly. Like, there’s definitely cardinal wood springing up under that robe. Which is sort of reassuring given how much time he spends at night with a mentally handicapped boy.
4. Pope Pius’s Crazy Ass First Homily
Remember Pope Benedict XVI? Nazi ties aside, poor fella couldn’t take a picture without looking like the Emperor from Star Wars. Homeboy ain’t got shit on Lenny Belardo, better known as Pope Pius XIII. After postponing his first homily for days (two episodes), he finally delivers the utterly insane, completely batshit address we always wanted. “I don’t know if you deserve me,” he proclaims a crowd of increasingly disenchanted followers in St. Peter’s Square. He rants and raves while dramatically backlit to enhance the terror. My favorite part? Someone, some dumb ass kid probably, has a laser pointer and shines it on Lenny’s shrouded face. And like a feral cat in heat, Lenny becomes enraged, all but flipping his congregation the bird.
3. Even Being Married To God Himself Cannot Help Sister Mary’s Free Throw
Sister Mary/Diane Keaton – sometimes it’s hard to separate the two – does not excel at basketball. It’s often shown but never fully explored exactly why she loves the sport so much. She seems to understand the object of the game – put the round ball in the circular hoop. It’s just that she’s completely devoid of skill. If ever there were a nun’s league, poor Sister Mary would be consigned to the bench, warming it with her lovely black habit and presumably high-top Converses up under there. Not even all the holy water in all the Vatican could deliver us from this shitty form.
2. The Goddamn Kangaroo
In Episode 2, Pope Pius XIII pays a visit to his gift barn, the building dedicated to housing all his swag. Here, he finds and frees an actual, real-live kangaroo. Now, this kangaroo was given to him as a gift, of course, but it was stashed in the gift barn with a giant cloth draped over it. Like it was a bird. Like someone had no idea what the hell to do with an actual, real-live kangaroo and decided it would go to sleep if they draped a giant cloth over it.
Lenny, sorry Pope Pius XIII, frees the kangaroo and commands him to run in the Papal Gardens. And run he does. He pops up every so often, day or night. No one seems to be feeding this poor creature, but it just majestically hops around. Well, except when Pius tried to Force command the mammal to jump. This bitch was having none of that.
1. And This Came Before Trump?
I kid you not, The Young Pope aired in Europe in October 2016. This was, of course, well before Donald Trump would become our 45th President. But the allusions are uncanny. So uncanny, in fact, that you’d be wise to snag Lotto numbers from Paolo Sorrentino. Pope Pius XIII ascends to the papacy as the pawn of scheming cardinals who foolishly thought they could control him. Pius then initiates his legacy with the promise of Making Catholicism Great Again.
How is this achieved? By reversing every single socially liberal policy the church tentatively enacted, including imitating a witch hunt for non-practicing (save Dussolier) homosexual priests and kicking them out of the church. Pius effectively closes the church and the image of the Pope off to the world in attempts to govern with fear. He threatens world leaders with ridicule. He brings in unqualified toadies to serve as his underlings, and he tortures those who know what they’re doing.
Granted, it’s not an exact match: Trump is obsessed with his public image and popularity while Pius gets pissed when there are more than 17 people in St. Peter’s Square at any given time. By the end of the series (perhaps its most crazy feat), Pius learns to put aside his insecurities and embrace a doctrine of love, making him incredibly popular and beloved. Is this Trump’s fate? Ask Paolo Sorrentino. I swear he knows.
But Wait There’s More!
These are hardly the most insane moments of the series, and I’m holding some back from the finale because you need to discover them for yourself. But the thing I love most about The Young Pope is its willingness to balance deeply felt theology with utterly batshit side notes. Leaving the audience half marveling at the brilliance and half befuddled wondering if what they’d seen was some Lynchian fever dream. The “Sexy and I Know It” dressing sequence. The thrusting of Cardinal Voiello onto Pius’s shoe for kissing. Pius dropping a baby on its head. Pius and Dussolier sneaking out for cigs in track suits. And the Cherry Coke. The papal diva’s Cherry Coke. I won’t revisit The Young Pope for a while, but I’ll never look at a Cherry Coke the same way again.
Mary Tyler Moore died today at 80. Her legacy will last forever.
Mary Tyler Moore was, is, and always will be a television icon. Famous for re-inventing the image of the modern woman for an entire generation, Moore’s influence spanned decades. Facets of her persona and struggle appeared in such varied television women as Murphy Brown, Rachel Green, and Liz Lemon. Moore died today at the age of 80 due to cardiopulmonary arrest after contracting pneumonia.
Her most famous role was her Emmy-winning turn on The Mary Tyler Moore Show which aired from 1970 to 1977. Moore co-produced the iconic series with her second husband, Grant Tinker. Tinker died November 28, 2016.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Mary Tyler Moore decided at an early age to be a dancer which led to early appearances in 50’s commercials. Her first regular TV role was an relatively unseen – save her legs – performance on Richard Diamond, Private Detective. Her biggest break happened in 1961 when Carl Reiner cast her in The Dick Van Dyke Show. The role won Moore her first Emmy Award. During her acceptance speech, she famously said, “I know this will never happen again.”
It would. She would receive 15 Emmy nominations over her long career in television, winning 7 times. She stands with Candice Bergen and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for most Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series wins. Moore also received Golden Globe and Tony Awards for her work. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in 1980’s Ordinary People.
Few women in television touched as many as Mary Tyler Moore. Aside from her decades of charity and political work, she helped usher portrayals of women in television from standard mother roles to women who prided themselves on their careers. Looking at Moore, millions of women found courage and inspiration to reach for something greater than the televised images of women in the 1950’s. After all, Mary Tyler Moore was indeed the woman who could “turn the world on with her smile.”
Without that smile, America’s television sets seem a little bit darker today.
Share your thoughts on Mary Tyler Moore in the comments section below.
There are no words.
She was THE BEST!
We always said that we changed each other’s lives for the better.
The AwardsDaily TV gang lists some of their favorite individual TV scenes of 2016.
2016 gave us some incredible television, including these favorite scenes from the AwardsDaily TV crew.
Mr. Robot – USA
Season 2, Episode 12 “eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z”
“All is Revealed”
*SPOILERS* When you finally learn what Dom has been up to. Everything about this scene is haunting. The music, the dialogue, the direction.
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee – TBS
Season 1, Episode 29 “Meet the (Russian) Press”
“The Fascinating Emails of a Sixty-Something”
As the show intern, Sarah Paulson reads Hillary’s emails. Please Print.
South Park – Comedy Central
Season 20, Episode 2 “Skank Hunt”
Membah when Kyle’s dad was Skankhunt and trolled everyone to the music of Boston?
Saturday Night Live – NBC
Season 42, Episode 6 “Dave Chappelle/A Tribe Called Quest”
“Kate McKinnon’s Cold Open”
Proved she can make them laugh—and cry.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life – Netflix
Everyone talked about those final four words, but neglected the understated but beautiful midnight wedding courtesy of a budget crunch.
Stranger Things – Netflix
Season 1, Episode 3 “Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly”
“Barb’s Death Scene”
While Nancy is losing her virginity to the sound of Foreigner, Barb is losing her life. Creepy.
The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey – CBS
Airdate: September 18/19, 2016
Not only did this show build a replica house to reexamine the case (for real), but it also brought in a kid to bash in a human skull.
Man Seeking Woman – FXX
Season 2, Episode 4 “Tinsel”
“Santa Clause is Coming”
Liz (Britt Lower) starts dating Santa and things get really weird in the bedroom. Watch this episode for yourself. You’ll never look at holiday train sets the same way.
Unreal – Lifetime
Season 2, Episode 1 “War”
“Money, Dick, Power”
Season 2 started out strong, with the best BFF tattoos ever between Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel (Shiri Appleby).
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Netflix
Titus Andromendon’s performance is so good that is causes one of the haters in the scene to spontaneously combust afterward because there’s nothing else to complain about. Tituss Burgess is brilliant.
Season 2, Episode 7 “Season Two: Episode Seven”
*SPOILERS* After shooting a bully at school, Taylor (Connor Jessup) visits his mother Anne (Lili Taylor) at work and completely breaks down. Lili Taylor, as the mother who would do anything for her kid, is spectacular in this scene, as is Jessup. (Photo: ABC)
Season 2, Episode 5 “Patches”
“That’s a Wrap on Julie!”
Julie thinks it’s her big break on an Affair-esque show, but little does she know her accent makes producers think she’s mentally challenged.
American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson – FX
Season 1, Episode 3 “The Dream Team”
Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) drops the F bomb when she realizes Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) is on the case. The plot point wasn’t a surprise to anyone, but the use of the mother of all swear words on network TV was. (Photo:FX)
Season 5, Episode 7 “Congressional Ball”
“A Selina Meyer Dress-Down”
Before President Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) dressed down with Tom James (Hugh Laurie), she delivered this speech to Penny Nickerson (Stephnie Weir).
Television felt really diversified this last year. Not just in terms of bringing important themes to light, but in a way that all different types of shows put out quality work. Both network and streaming shows stepped it up this season. This Best TV Shows of 2016 list could have included way more than 10 entries, but I’ve managed to narrow them down.
10. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee – TBS
There was a lot of talk about the roles of men and women on late night talk shows, but TBS gave us a wonderful gift. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is the only way that I want to receive my political news from now on. Is that OK with everyone? Bee has the easiest job in the world partly because a lot of people in politics can’t resist the overwhelming urge to be complete assholes, and she is more than happy to call them out on it. During the election (or the Decision That Shall Not Be Named), she provided an intelligent and acid take both candidates, but she’s not a one trick pony. Full Frontal is not SNL — it won’t be good just every four years. Watch her angry reaction from this summer’s Pulse nightclub shooting, and you will see someone who wants to see positive change for everyone. Plus, she’s hilarious. Dangerously hilarious. We need her.
9. Westworld – HBO
It’s safe to say that we should only build theme parks if guests can be assure they won’t be shot or murdered. Westworld, the presumed Game of Thrones successor, isn’t perfect. Some of the story feels rushed and some loose ends feel like they will never be revisited again. But when Westworld works, boy, does it work. The show features boasts production design and costumes, and you can tell the creators are having fun with a show that questions identity and playing God. It’s aided by a heavy hitting cast including Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Jeffrey Wright. It’s Thandie Newton, however, that rips the rug right from under her co-stars. As the host Maeve, we sympathize with her, cheer for her, and, by the end, fear her.
8. American Crime – ABC
A limited series in only its second season, American Crime feels risky for one of the big networks. The topics of racism, homophobia, and bullying are catnip for HBO and FX, but the show succeeds because of its restraint and good writing. Lili Taylor breaks your heart as a mother trying to protecting her son that admits to being raped by a fellow teammate, but Connor Jessup is the real star here. It’s criminal that he was snubbed for an Emmy this past year. While the adults scream and fight with one another, his sensitivity and confusion quietly radiate through the entire season. Another actor would have changed the entire tone of the entire season.
7. black-ish – ABC
ABC has been slowly churning out family sitcoms for the last few years, but the best brood to watch remains the Johnsons. It feels like this family–consisting of Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, Marsai Martin, Jennifer Lewis, and Laurence Fishburne–has truly made its mark on the network and broken away from the shows that surround it. This season’s premiere (where the family heads to Walt Disney World) started things off very strong, and they have continued through the winter finale. Anderson and Ross balance out each other’s crazy and allow one another to shine, and the kids are starting to take center stage in a way that would make Modern Family jealous.
6. ThePeople v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story – FX
The most buzzed about show of the year is also the most awarded, and that’s because it’s damn good television. Ryan Murphy has disciplined himself to create one of the most captivating true crime saga ever. Packed with top notch performances, Murphy managed to re-create a volatile time in American history and pulled back the curtain to showcase the anguish this case caused. Bravo, Mr. Murphy.
5. Difficult People – Hulu
My favorite show from last year has only gotten bitchier and funnier. It’s a testament of how great this television year has been if I can say my number 1 show came down to number 5 and it’s actually a better season. Thank God for Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner! I only hope that they would scream at me one day. A guy can dream. I don’t need to convince you anymore. All I will leave you with is this: Patches.
4. RuPaul’s Race All Stars – LOGO
Come at me, bitches. Is is wasteful to put a drag queen reality competition series on my top ten? Hell no! Drag Race is the most self-aware reality show out there. It embraces the ugly and diverse and raunchy, but the highly anticipated second season was also great because it gave us ten contestants looking for redemption. And the twists just kept coming from Mama Ru. In first episode, she informs the girls that they will be eliminating each other in the competition. It was as if the Plastics and Heathers were bitching in the girls’ room, and she threw in a rabid honey badger to mess with them. Choices.
3. Orange is the New Black – Netflix
Trust me, I had no idea that I was going to put Orange is the New Black so high in my top ten this year. Season 4 was its best season so far, and the stakes are raised from the very beginning. By the time the credits roll on the first episode, a few inmates have dismembered a guard’s body and bury it on the grounds. Corporate shakeups put angry, inexperienced, and immature people in charge of the safety of the inmates, and the last shot of the season has to make viewers wonder if more lives are in the balance at Litchfield. This isn’t a show about a basic white girl going to jail any more. This dark season could be the launching pad for another landmark, topical season.
2. Black Mirror – Netflix
There are images from this season of Black Mirror that haunt me so much that it makes me want to move to the Amish country and take up basket weaving. The anthology series has effectively made us justifiably wary of the devices in our hands, yet we don’t learn and keep on tweeting, texting, messaging and judging from the safe, warm glow of our individual machines. Bryce Dallas Howard is sad as a woman desperate to make a connection in the premiere, “Nosedive,” while fan favorite “San Junipero” swoons with 80’s influences and a warm color palette. Mirror also delves into nightmarish horror based on your fears in your head (“Playtest”) and the potential from very real outside threats (“Shut Up and Dance”). I’ve only seen each episode once, but I’m too scared to go back just yet.
1. Fleabag – Amazon
It’s difficult to bare your soul and put yourself really out there. For instance, would you be able to play a character that wonders if her new plaything is into you because you have a…shall we say…large anus? And would you be able to air these concerns out within the first few minutes of your new show? Didn’t think so. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the hilariously inappropriate mind behind this British gem, makes a splash in the starring role of a woman who is trying to get by and not let everyone know what a total wreck she is. This is the what an actual mess looks like. She makes the viewer her friend whether you want to be a part of it or not, but it’s handled in such an easy way that it’s not distracting or obnoxious. To go into the plot details of this 6-episode comedy would be a disservice to the material, so just go watch it now. It’s simultaneously sad and shocking and so, so funny.
ADTV’s Megan McLachlan proudly proclaims her Best TV Shows of 2016
I’m a self-proclaimed comedy queen when it comes to TV, but this year a lot of my favorite shows are either dramas or are comedies with dramatic ends. Here are my Best TV Shows of 2016.
10. Black Mirror – Netflix
What makes Black Mirror scarier than conventional horror shows like American Horror Story is that there’s a very real element to it, in the form of where technology is taking us. “Nosedive” is one of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen, with so much depth, hilarity, and drama rolled into one episode. It may make you think before you post the next time you’re on your favorite social network.
9. Lady Dynamite – Netflix
During the first 10 minutes of Maria Bamford’s show, you may wonder if Netflix sent everyone the wrong copy of the episode. But stick with it because this show is unlike any series you’ve ever seen, dealing with one woman’s battle with mental illness while she tries to succeed in show business (comedy, of all genres). Bamford is wonderful and weepy, and even though it’s billed as a comedy, there are some seriously dark moments. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: This is what I hoped Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on CW was going to be like.
8. Insecure – HBO
Issa Rae was one of the freshest faces on TV in 2016. Her show Insecure may be compared to Girls, only for the network and demographic, but at the core of this series is the special friendship between Issa and Molly (Yvonne Orji), a closeness you don’t necessarily see on the Lena Dunham series. Issa is at a crossroads on Insecure, mining through relationships and career opportunities while rapping to herself in the mirror to amp herself up. Issa feels complacent, but thankfully television didn’t in 2016. Otherwise, we might not have been gifted a show like this one.
7. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee – TBS
Trevor Noah does a fine job in Jon Stewart’s chair on The Daily Show, but Bee’s the one who’s really grabbed the reins of political comedy and discourse. In 2016, we desperately needed Samantha Bee for her coverage of the election, and in 2017, we’ll need her even more.
6. Fleabag – Amazon
Think: Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, but with depth (and an editor). Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is a cafe owner who’s really just the worst. Worst girlfriend (she treats poor Harry like crap), worst sister (she steals her sister’s clothes), and worst stepdaughter (steals her stepmother’s artwork). But she’s spiraling out of control for a reason, surrounding the death of her best friend and co-owner of the cafe. Waller-Bridge is wickedly enchanting, her witty asides smoothly interrupting the scenes without skipping a beat.
5. Schitt’s Creek – POP TV
Schitt’s Creek only got better in Season 2, which is rare for a sophomore season. It’s dangerous to have a fish-out-of-water premise like this one, which can seem one-note, but this show continued to challenge its characters in interesting and funny ways. The rich-man-poor-man jokes have worn off, and now we’re just dealing with this quirky characters in this quirky town. How Catherine O’Hara’s Jazzagals’ scene didn’t earn her an Emmy nomination and win, I’ll never know.
4. Casual – Hulu
What I loved most about the second season of Casual was its exploration of adult friendships and how rare it is to form strong connections as you get older. Michaela Watkins is heartbreaking in the episode “Trivial Pursuit,” when she discovers she has no friends. This series really pushes interesting buttons, including Tara Lynn Barr’s storyline where she gets involved with someone who has leukemia and loses interest in him when she realizes he’s going to live.
3. Divorce – HBO
No show surprised me more in 2016 than Divorce. How do you make a show out of a divorce? THIS is how. Everything from the inescapable wintry setting to the supporting players is pitch perfect. A lot of attention is on Thomas Haden Church, and rightfully so; Robert is so layered with sadness and comedy, getting most of the funniest lines. But Sarah Jessica Parker is just as vital to the show’s success. You need both actors for the show to work, and thankfully, the chemistry between the two is a match made in heaven.
2. American Crime Story: The People Vs. OJ Simpson – FX
Ryan Murphy’s TV miniseries feels like the equivalent of flipping open a People magazine from 1994. But this particular magazine gives you a new perspective on an old case, especially in the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” episode which highlights the blatant sexism within the media and how it affected Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson). I watched the Pilot of the series at least three times, and it has one of the most chilling openings ever.
1. Search Party – TBS
Don’t let the promos fool you: This isn’t a twee Hardy Boys mystery show with everything tied up in a bow at the end. After watching the devastating finale of Search Party, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. But it sat with me, helping me discover that this is really the only way you could end the season while staying true to the theme. If you want one of the most unpredictable endings of the year, you got it.