Some people love the Super Bowl for the commercials (though in recent years they have not been nearly as good as the ones of old). Some love it for the drama of a championship game. But my favorite part of the Super Bowl, at least the last few years, have been the SNL Totino’s trilogy of commercials. Sadly, since Vanessa Bayer left as a cast member the show no longer makes these pre-tapes. But a Totino’s clip in January was the highlight of my SNL viewing season. Check them out below:
I still watch SNL every week, and while some episodes are more miss than hit, there is usually enough good material to make it worth my while. Over the last few years, some of my favorite sketches have been the Woodbridge High School theater productions, as seen here:
I love it – the kids are so self-indulgent, and think that their show is a seed that will sprout into a plant that will change the world.
A few weeks ago, SNL aired this genius commercial for a political musical:
(“”Jesus Christ.” – The NY Times” gets me every time.) It’s clear the show was “definitely written by the actors,” and, this is where my specific theory comes in: the actors in the musical are the alumni of Woodbridge High. You’ll note that a lot of the same cast is used. Moreover, their complete lack of self-awareness over how bad their high school productions went would totally translate into unearned confidence on the Broadway stage.
So, for the few of you who both read this blog and are devoted SNL fans like me, what do you think?
As my friend Tessa can attest, I’m not someone who easily changes his opinion. Or regularly changes his opinion. Or, like, ever changes his opinion. And one of my bedrock principles has always been “Natalie Portman = amazing.” I mean, ever since I saw her in The Professional I was hooked. I have seen every major release of hers in the theater with one glaring exception: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. And that continued through this past Monday, when I saw Annihilation. Which made me yawn and left me angry and confused:
I told co-workers yesterday that I was disappointed in Annihilation, despite its cast (Portman, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac) and pedigree (written and directed by Alex Garland, who wrote The Beach [the book], 28 Days Later, and wrote and directed Ex Machina). They acted surprised – what did I expect? And, what did I expect from a Natalie Portman movie anyway? They are never any good. And while my instinct was to rise to her defense, I realized something: they were right. Her movies, on the whole, are actually pretty bad. And while this may be an obvious statement to those reading this, that is akin to me realizing the sky is blue after thinking (knowing?) it was red all these years. How did I come to this game-changing realization? More after the jump… Continue reading
During Thanksgiving weekend, my nephew wanted my family to play a game. It was pretty simple, actually: name your favorite thing, from categories he chose. Name your favorite TV show. Name your favorite movie. Name your favorite video game. Etc. As simple as the concept of the game is, however, it was wholly impossible for me to answer his questions. Having to choose my favorite movie would be like having to choose which is the favorite hair on my head. The idea of even trying to narrow down to just a handful, let alone one, was way too complicated. While I was happy to rattle off all-time favorites (“Back to the Future,” “A Few Good Men,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” all of the “Star Wars” movies, etc.) there was no way to pick just one.
So why am I bringing this up now? Because, as in years past, I’m not going to blog about my “ten favorite shows” or “eight favorite films.” I’m not bound by space or word limit. These are just the things that I either loved or thought about critically in the world of entertainment in 2017. Even though it’s been a dumpster fire of a year politically, a lot of the below shows and movies allowed me some form of escape, at least temporarily. Here now is my list of the best of 2017, broken down by category. If you are able to narrow down your list(s), please feel free to provide it in the comments section below.
Love (Season 2)
Season 1 ended on a pretty good cliffhanger (Gus and Mickey kissing at the gas station seconds after Mickey has told Gus she needs to be alone for a year), and Season 2 really delved into the question of whether or not 1) these people actually like each other 2) these people are capable of love and 3) these people should be dating each other, either now or ever. Funny, and the show just feels…real. Special shout-out to Claudia O’Doherty’s Bertie, who cracks me up at least once an episode. Here’s hoping that the newly-announced Season 3 (the final season) sticks the landing.
Master of None (Season 2)
Man, this show. Season 1 was pretty great, and then Season 2 just upped the ante. From the premiere episode, filmed on location in Italy in black and white, to the incredible Thanksgiving episode (which rightly won an Emmy for comedic writing), to the doorman/cab driver/hearing impaired woman episode, to the episode at Storm King and ending with the helicopter ride, Season 2 was just incredible. I know Ansari is on record as saying he needs to live more before he can do a third season, and I don’t blame him. If we can get a third season as rich as this one was, I’ll happily wait a few years.
The Good Place (spoiler alert in the clip below)
Holy. Forking. Shirt. I thought The Good Place’s first season was pretty good, and it was a show that, like The Office and Parks and Rec before it, would get its sea legs in the second season. But that twist at the end of Season 1 was genius, and I did not see it coming. Special shout-out to Manny Jacinto, who has made Jason into the show’s MVP.
When I was growing up, NBC’s Thursday night line-up (aka “Must-See TV”) was the place for comedy. Cheers and Seinfeld and Friends are all sitcom legend, and some shows (Caroline in the City, The Single Guy, Boston Common) brought some laughs, despite lackluster ratings and having to be compared to those mentioned above. What does any of that have to do with Superstore? Superstore ticks a lot of boxes for me. It’s a funny workplace ensemble that really feels like a spiritual heir to The Office (without the awkwardness and the talking heads), and feels like it is of a place where it could have fit very easily into the Must-See TV schedule. It’s not the kind of show that will win accolades or awards (except from this blog, I guess), but it is consistent week-to-week, and its episode about health insurance was the best primer on the subject (in a funny way) that I’ve ever seen. Humor + distillation of timely political facts = a win in 2017.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 3)
Full disclosure: I thought this season felt a little muddled. Kimmy goes to college! Kimmy struggles in college! Kimmy leaves college! That’s a huge arc, and it was done in about 3 weeks of the show’s timeline. This season did great some great mileage out of guest stars like Laura Dern and Daveed Diggs, which I think bumped it up a notch for me.
Saturday Night Live
“Now I’d like to begin today by apologizing on behalf of you, to me, for how you have treated me these last two weeks. And that apology is not accepted!”
While some may argue that Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin overshadowed the regular SNL players, SNL is clearly having a renaissance. Also, “Woke Jeans” is the sketch of the year for me, in a walk.
Billy on the Street
In a year when a lot of us wanted to just yell and scream out our frustration, Billy Eichner was our avatar.
The Leftovers (Season 3)
This show just got better and better. The final season didn’t waste time, even as the characters moved from Texas to Australia. Unlike a certain other Damon Lindeolf show, this one stuck the landing in the end. And Carrie Coon – just wow. What an all-time performance as Nora Durst.
Veep (Season 6)
The first season with Selina out of power entirely (and without Sue – who I really missed), the show smartly pivoted into a few funny story lines, most notably three terrifying words: Congressman Jonah Ryan.
Silicon Valley (Season 4)
The other half of HBO’s spring comedy duo, Silicon Valley took a few characters in new directions this year. Big Head taught at Stanford, Gavin Bellson became something approaching relatable, and poor Erlich is now stranded off in an opium den.
The 2017 Academy Awards
Well, the ending, anyway. I don’t think we’ll ever see another moment like that again, especially for presentation of best picture.
The Challenge: Dirty 30
Didn’t necessarily end the way I’d like, and there was a lot of drama from some random people (Nelson, I’m looking at you) and way too much (racist) Camila. That said, what a stacked cast. Wish they could just run it back.
GLOW (Season 1)
GLOW makes the brave choice of (spoiler alert) having the main character (Alison Brie) sleep with her best friend’s husband in episode 1. The show concentrates so much of its time on good guys and bad guys (or “heels” in wrestling parlance) both in and out of the ring. Like my friend Mags, I found myself compelled to root for the bad guys. Bonus points to Marc Maron for killing it as the show’s director and as a surrogate father figure to all of the GLOW ladies.
Mostly because we finally got this moment:
Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later
When I first saw Wet Hot American Summer, and it had the joke about meeting up ten years later, I never thought I’d be watching a whole TV season of the counselors’ lives. Of course, I also didn’t know what “streaming” or “Netflix” was, but that’s another matter. This whole series is insane, but in the best way possible.
Late Night Shows
John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and even Jimmy Kimmel really stepped up to the plate this year and delivered scorching, heart-felt, and/or impassioned monologues and comedy bits about everything from health care to net neutrality.
My friend winning Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions
When I was growing up, I used to ride the bus (and later gave rides home to) a kid named Buzzy (whose dad, fun fact, sold me my Bar Mitzvah suit). Really exciting to watch him win the whole Tournament of Champions. (And let’s be honest, Austin was really fun to watch, too.)
Other shows I enjoyed: The resurgent third season of Mr. Robot (especially the one-take/”oner” episode), When We Rise, Handmaids Tale, The Young Pope, Future Man, This is Us, and Big Little Lies.
The Disaster Artist was great, full stop, and his performance on The Deuce was what brought that show from “huh, interesting idea” to fully watchable.
Between Big Little Lies, her role as Jon Hamm’s new wife on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and, of course, as Admiral Holdo, Laura Dern had an amazing 2017.
Comic Book Movies
Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, and especially Spider-Man Homecoming were all solid popcorn movies. (Of course, Justice League was about as entertaining as watching paint dry, but that was the exception, not the rule.) Bonus points to the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War for looking amazing.
While The Last Jedi isn’t my favorite Star Wars movie, at the end of the day it was a lot of fun, and years from now I’ll still be thinking about that scene of R2 playing Luke Leia’s original “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” recording. #DroidGuiltTrip
The Big Sick was the best movie of the year, and I’ll be quite upset if it doesn’t get nominated for several Oscars. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon wrote a tremendous screenplay, Zoe Kazan does great character work in what amounts to not a lot of screen time, and Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are both incredible.
War for the Planet of the Apes
I’ll admit it: I love this new “Apes” trilogy. I love the original, Charlton Heston-led Planet of the Apes (and its goofy sequels), but the serious tone of this new trilogy (especially the last two) is really enjoyable.
Gyllenhaal is on such a weird streak of choosing interesting, good roles, some of which really pay off (Stronger, Nightcrawler), some of which are disappointing (Demolition, Life), but all of which are captivating on the big screen. I wish this movie had gotten more awards-season recognition, but c’est la vie.
Other enjoyable movies: Get Out, I, Tonya, The Post, Call Me By Your Name, The Meyerowitz Stories, Lady Bird, and the movie I’d vote for Best Picture, The Disaster Artist.
Um, did both Gallagher brothers release new CDs this year? And did the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” become the unofficial rallying cry of the city of Manchester? Yeah, no matter what Camila Cabello and Taylor Swift tried to do, it was a good year for music in 2017.
To the men who committed horrific acts (Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose) and to those who covered up or abetted their behavior, don’t let the door hit you.
Always tough to lose people who meant so much to the entertainment world, and I obviously cannot touch on everyone. But 2017 will be remembered for the losses of Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Bill Paxton, Mary Tyler Moore, Miguel Ferrer, Erin Moran, Martin Landau, Powers Boothe, Don Rickles and, of course, Tom Petty.
Anything I missed? What did others enjoy in 2017? For what will you remember this year? Let me know in the comments.
A few weeks ago, my friend Kim and I went to see a live performance of Tituss Burgess (“Titus” from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”). While waiting in line, Kim mentioned that one of her friends had asked why she and I would go to something like that, considering that “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” isn’t one of the 20 funniest shows ever. I don’t disagree with the unnamed critic, at least as far as rankings go (though, as long as it’s a show that I enjoy, why wouldn’t I pay to see Tituss (and Jane Krakowski) live?). But of course, it got me thinking about what shows actually are the 20 funniest ever.
A few caveats: 1) I purposefully did not count talk shows, so you won’t see shows like Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, or the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on here. 2) Shows get dinged for going on past their natural expiration date. For instance, I have “How I Met Your Mother” off of the top 20 – had it ended after, say, season 4, it easily would have sailed into my top 20. 3) This is a list about funny shows. I know there are good shows, especially on cable, that are categorized as comedies (“Transparent,” “Shameless,” etc.). These are not funny shows. They are purposefully not included. No show has ever been more liberally described as a comedy than “Girls.” Yet there’s not one laugh in any of the episodes I watched. 4) My (long) list of Honorable Mentions is beneath the Top 20, presented in alphabetical order. 5) This endeavor is wholly personal. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments below. Without further ado, my top 20:
I love SNL. I still watch it religiously every week. Though some episodes drag, for the most part there are still two or three sketches per week that crack me up. Obscure returning characters like Gemma? Sign me up. But there’s something that’s bothered me the last few seasons: The same people hosting over and over again has resulted in a recent significant uptick into the five-timers club. Continue reading
The morning of Oscar nominations is one of my favorite of the entertainment year. As always, I make my choices morning-of, so as to not be too swayed by narrative. The past few years, that’s become more difficult, as Oscar punditry has become more popular (and started earlier in the year to boot.) Some of these choices are shoo-ins, some of these are dark horses, and each contains who *should* win as well. As always, feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments.