Acclaimed and outspoken TV writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, she of Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and the new series How To Get Away With Murder, is famous for not only being talented and successful, but for putting women front and centre, and for mixing in characters of different ethnicity and sexual orientations and not making that their main storyline.
I love this woman, and not just for her spirit and politics... while I don't watch Grey's as much as I used to, I am totally hooked on Scandal and Murder. They are fun fast entertaining addictive soaps.
The new How To Get Away With Murder, which mixes high drama and high camp, stars Oscar nominee Viola Davis as a mysterious law professor. It has been controversial because of its aggressive gay character and his sex life shown on screen -- well shown as much as you can on network television, and no more than you would see with straight TV characters on a 10 PM drama...
From last week:
One (soon to be dead) male character said of another: "He did things to my ass that made my eyes water."
One woman to another: "If that were my husband, I would be able to walk straight."
Okay so the sexes are even here...
Then this weekend in twitter land someone challenged producer Rhimes on 'the gay scenes'... and her comeback made me love her even more... #oneLOVE:
Actress, comedienne, writer, TV host, Playboy centrefold, and general all around annoying person Jenny McCarthy is sticking her foot in it again. The former View host, best known for dangerous anti-doctor anti-vaccine campaign, and for making Sherri Shepherd look less dim during her one season on The View, is known for over sharing regarding her sex life, but that is not the issue now. The blonde bombshell gave an interview last week where -- likely with the best of intentions -- she came across as at best naive and uninformed. Talking about her guest shot on the sitcom Just Shoot Me as a transgender woman, she told PrideSource: “I feel like that inside. I always felt like one of the guys wearing, like, a Playboy bunny outfit. I was David Spade’s buddy to begin with, so I was a natural fit, and I always felt like his brother." So she thinks cross dressing is the same as transgender... and is totally missing the whole point of someone who is truly trans, i.e. their assigned gender does not match their expression or behaviour, often resulting in violence and discrimination towards them. And when asked how she'd feel if her son came out as gay, she said: “Oh my god, I would be so excited. We can shop! Do my hair!” Yep, no stereotypes there...! When asked about these comments, a spokesperson for the Centre for Transgender Equality simply noted this was not the worst thing McCarthy has said about trans people. So that's not good... I'm not sure what McCarthy has been doing since The View wisely dumped her last season, but maybe she should read a book or watch the news?
Producers announced today that Emmy and Tony winner Neil Patrick Harris will host the 2015 Academy Awards next February.
This is a great choice -- Harris is fast and funny, sings and dances, and does the occasional magic trick.
Long rumoured to be a contender for this high profile gig, Harris is an experienced host, having done the job at the Emmys and Tonys multiple times to great acclaim.
A TV star since childhood as Doogie Howser, Harris became a major star as womanizer Barney on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, and when that ended earlier this year headed straight to Broadway, winning a Tony for Hedwig And The Angry Inch. He is currently on view in a creepy supporting role in Gone Girl.
Harris is also a gay role model and activist, having been out for many years; he recently married his boyfriend of ten years, David Burtka, with whom he has 4-year-old twins.
Often referred to as 'the gay Superbowl' because of its audience (hey, I watch) the producers are living up to the name, as last year Ellen DeGeneres hosted to great reviews and ratings... so who's next, Rosie O'Donnell or Matt Bomer?
This is a big week for NPH -- whose funny twitter feed is at @actuallyNPH - in addition to the Oscar gig, he published his first book, a creative twist on his own story called Choose Your OwnAutobiography on Tuesday; I just started reading it.
If you have missed his hosting gigs, here are two samples of NPH at work....
Ok, forget the others... for 2016 bring on Fey and Poehler!
Sometimes you discover a totally unknown movie on Netflix or on demand, and it's a treat... okay more often it's a black hole time suck that you regret, but sometimes it is a real treat.
We discovered one of those treats this week; it's a Danish film called Love Is All You Need, a 2013 multi-lingual romantic comedy about and for grown-up's.
Love Is All You Need stars Pierce Brosnan as Philip, an angry widowed career-obsessed executive who goes to Italy for his son's impromptu wedding, where he falls for Trine Dyrholm as Ida, the mother of the bride, who happens to be going through a marital split and chemotherapy at the same time.
Her husband brings his young girlfriend to the wedding, the young bride and groom encounter some hurdles, and while Philip blames the world for his wife's death, Ida is trying not to be a victim of either her cheating husband or her cancer.
You will see the ending coming, however you won't see all how we get there in this feel good movie with depth.
I have some minor quibbles - the generic title, that the Brosnan character doesn't speak Danish but seems to understand it, that we hear That's Amore way too often - but they are minor in a really charming heartfelt movie.
This one is a quiet winner... the characters are intriguing, the plot has some twists, and the scenery is breathtaking... I was entertained and touched. Hell, I put the laptop away and just watched it old-fashioned like... now that is high praise. Check out Love Is All You Need ... or look for it by its way better Danish title, The Bald Hairdresser.
We are in fall TV premiere season, and tonight ABC will air the third episode of its acclaimed new comedy Black-ish, starring Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Laurence Fishburne.
The show focuses on an upper middle class black family, where just as he is promoted to the highest ranking back man in his white company, the father worries that his kids are not culturally black enough. So he interferes and bumbles as he tries to make them more culturally black. The dad is goofy, the mom is sweet, the kids are snarky... so a typical sitcom.... inside of 22 minutes, insight and comedy ensue.
The first episode, which focused on the dad's promotion while his son decided he wanted a Bar Mtizvah despite not being Jewish, was smart and funny.
This weekend while on the treadmill I caught the second episode on demand, and was surprised.
While ABC has put Black-ish in a prime spot, between two hits, the super-gay Modern Family and the gay-ish Nashville, Black-ish is not gay friendly.
In episode two, the dad is approaching the son to have the sex talk, and finds him stretching... and says of the stretching that "it looks a little gay" ... so gay like lame? Or gay like stupid? Or gay like gay?
Later in the show, when the dad is shirtless, his son takes off his shirt to mimic, and the dad says "two shirtless dudes standing around starts to look weird"... so 'weird' means gay, right? Gay is weird?
At best that is lazy outdated writing. More likely it is casual homophobia. Either way it's not good enough, TV people.
Sure these are just two quick lines, but they went through the writing and rewriting and filming and editing and whatever else those network people do... and made it through.
Much as I like TV, and crappy TV, I won't be going back to Black-ish which I now file away with Ducky Dynasty and Tim Allen... bye bye.
Legendary singer Aretha Franklin has a new album coming out, and last week was on Letterman to promote it.
Franklin's voice is iconic and undeniable, though her choice in songs has ranged from classic (Think, Natural Woman) to fun (Freeway Of Love, Jump To It), to utterly forgettable (the last twenty years).
This new album sounds like it has potential -- Aretha Sings The Great Diva Classics includes covers of great songs like Midnight Train To Georgia, At Last, I Will Survive, and Nothing Compares To You.
Check out the Letterman clip below, where Aretha performs her take on Adele's Rolling In The Deep. I love this song, though it may be too soon to call it a 'diva classic'... and I'm not sure how I feel about this take on it. She may be overdoing it, I may have issues. And I do have many, many issues with the dress.
Especially check out the surly background singer throwing shade... that is Cissy Houston, Whitney's mom, in one of the most bizarre performances of the year. She is out of sync with the moves, looks both angry and bored, and then seems like she doesn't even know the words... rolling her eyes as she judges Aretha, the audience, and everyone. Nasty.
Boy meets boy... Boy falls in love with boy... Boy gets drunk, does stupid shit and loses boy... Two years later at the wedding of his adopted interracial sister, now-sober boy meets same boy again, who is traveling with his pretend new boyfriend... Now sober-boy falls for his ex's fake boyfriend.. Romance and comedy ensue.
Okay it's more of a modern story.
In The Perfect Wedding, now on Netflix, the budget is low and it shows, the acting is earnest rather than experienced, and the script is not subtle at all, and yet the whole thing works.
What I liked about this flick was its sweetness, and that in this family and circle of friends, being gay or straight, black or white, is all normal and not even mentioned... there are no closets, there are no stereotypes.
These friends and family love and laugh, they care, they stare into their loved ones' eyes, they try not to hurt each other so they lie and hurt each other... and then it all comes together into a happy ending.
The message is the same as any other romantic comedy: life is better when you take that risk and open yourself up to finding that one special person to walk through life with. True in this film, and just true.
Oh... also discovered here... the gays love ABBA. In case that was a secret...
Actor/activist George Clooney is back in the headlines this weekend for his Venice wedding to human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin... not that he has been out of the headlines for the last decade or two. Long one of Hollywood's "confirmed bachelors" despite a string of starlet and model girlfriends, there were gay rumours that circulated around his apparent refusal to marry. Clooney took part in the marriage equality play 8 in 2012, and his he took on those rumours at the same time. His answer was awesome....
The gay rumor has followed you for years. I think it’s funny, but the last thing you’ll ever see me do is jump up and down, saying, “These are lies!” That would be unfair and unkind to my good friends in the gay community. I’m not going to let anyone make it seem like being gay is a bad thing. My private life is private, and I’m very happy in it. Who does it hurt if someone thinks I’m gay? I’ll be long dead and there will still be people who say I was gay. I don’t give a shit. When did you decide to get involved in the fight for marriage equality? It’s always been this albatross that stood out to me as the final leg of the civil rights movement. It really came to a head during the 2004 elections, when it was used as a wedge issue, and it was a very effective tool to keep the Republicans in office and to avoid talking about other issues. Well before Prop. 8, I’ve made the point that every time we’ve stood against equality, we’ve been on the wrong side of history. It’s the same kind of argument they made when they didn’t want blacks to serve in the military, or when they didn’t want blacks to marry whites. One day the marriage equality fight will look as archaic as George Wallace standing on the University of Alabama steps keeping James Hood from attending college because he was black. People will be embarrassed to have been on the wrong side. So it’s encouraging to know that this too will seem like such a silly argument to our next generation. There are even a lot of young conservatives today for whom marriage equality isn’t an issue. It always takes government an extra generation to catch up to the people.
What can we say? Smart, talented, started on The Facts of Life, works to make the world a better place... YAY George!
As I write this we are watching the much-hyped series premiere of How To Get Away With Murder, the new show from Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes. So far, looks like will be addictive....
The big networks still operate on a traditional school-year type TV season, and they are now mid launch of the new season.
Gotta say with Netflix movies on my computer and NextIssue magazines on my iPad, I care less what the big networks do...
Still, with PVR and on-demand I have been able to catch a fair sampling of what has been on, so here's the best and worst of what has launched and returned so far:
Mysteries of Laura
Super talented Will & Grace star Debra Messing is a single mom and rogue police officer in a generic cop show, which will be her third series to fail since W&G ended... gone by Christmas.
Former Today show and The View host Meredith Viera launches her own daily talk show; I watched 20 minutes last week and was embarrassed for her. Will be gone faster than you can remember the last big daytime bomb Katie.
Returning Rosie O'Donnell, who I usually love, dominates as though she is both moderator and last word on all subject.. it's too much pushy Rosie. Granted, it's better than last year's Jenny McCarthy train wreck but still awkward. Whoopi looks bored, the two newbies look uncomfortable.
The Batman origin series is beautifully, expensively shot, and yet predictable and empty. Glad I saw the premiere, no need to watch it again.
The season premiere was awkward and unfunny. These writers are out of stories. Put this one out to pasture already.
The Good Wife
While most series peter out after a few years, The Good Wife hit a creative high last year in season five, and roared back with a smart twisty suspenseful season six premiere this week... the best show on TV.
The Big Bang Theory
Brilliant nerds who are always funny. Love it.
The season premiere was less crazy than last year but still as suspenseful and surprising. Addictive.
Surprisingly funny sitcom, and less preachy than expected, about a modern black family where the father worries his kids may not be black enough.
Solid if non-explosive premiere, with Tea Loni as fake Hillary Clinton... great potential to become a political Good Wife. Or maybe the next Commander In Chief* (* a failed Geena Davis as first female president series).
The verdict is still out on Nashville and The Mindy Project who had 'meh' debuts, and I am not even gonna try the CSI or NCIS spin-off's... I have all the episodes of Outlander on my PVR and haven't watched one yet.
Monday night is the 827th Primetime Emmy Awards, honouring what the television academy thinks is the best in prime time TV from the 2013-2014 school year. On the upside, my secret boyfriend Seth Meyers is hosting this year. On the downside, the show tends to be somewhat dull. While I do watch more than my share of TV, with time shifting (hey, we get Jimmy Fallon at 9.30 PM), and Netflix, and PVR and VOD, I tend to miss or avoid most of the real prime time programming. Here are the nominees and my picks for the major awards.... what are your faves? Best Comedy Series Big Bang Theory Louie Modern Family Veep Orange Is The New Black Silicon Valley Should win: I love Big Bang, and also loving Veep in binge sessions on airplanes Will win: the buzzy Orange Is The New Black, which I don't love and don't think of as a comedy Best Drama Series Breaking Bad Downton Abbey Game of Thrones House of Cards Mad Men True Detective Should win: The not even nominated The Good Wife, so then the terrific season 2 of House Of Cards Will win: The buzzy final season of Breaking Bad (which granted I have not seen)
Best Actor, Drama Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom Kevin Spacey, House of Cards Jon Hamm, Mad Men Matthew McConaughey, True Detective Woody Harrelson, True Detective Should win: Spacey for House of Cards (especially as James Spader wasn't even nominated for The Black List) Will win: McConaughey for True Detective (haven't seen, this is his year for Oscar and Emmy and the world) Best Actress, Drama Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey Claire Danes, Homeland Robin Wright, House of Cards Kerry Washington, Scandal Julianna Margulies, The Good WifeLizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex Should and will win: Robin Wright for her masterful work in House of Cards
Best Actor, Comedy Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory Matt LeBlanc, Episodes Don Cheadle, House of Lies Louis C.K., Louie William H. Macy, Shameless Ricky Gervais, Derek Should and will win: among a weak list, Big Bang's Parsons will get his 4th win in this category Best Actress, Comedy Lena Dunham, Girls Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black Should win: Poehler for the subtle and very funny Parks Will win: Emmy record holder and repeat winner Louis-Dreyfus Other "Best" TV: There are lots of other categories and nominees, I am hoping for these winners... The Normal Heart for best TV movie Christine Baranski, best supporting actress in a drama for The Good Wife Jim Carter, best supporting actor in a drama for Downton Abbey Allison Janney, best supporting actress in a comedy for Mom Jesse Tyler Ferguson, best supporting actor in a comedy for Modern Family Actors from The Normal Heart: Matt Bomer, Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts Some call-outs to the amazingly overlooked at nomination time: Bellamy Young for Scandal, James Spader for The Blacklist, The Good Wife for best drama series. and the cast and total show of The Mindy Project. What were your faves of the year?
Oscar winning actor and legendary stand-up comedian Robin Williams died last week, at his own hand after struggling with depression, addiction, and other health issues.
His death was shocking and sad, and has in the media and online worlds brought out the best and the worst ... look at Jimmy Fallon's touching tribute as an example of the best, and the venom spewed at Williams' daughter Zelda by internet trolls as the worst.
Maybe people will learn something about depression, or just about kindness, from all of this?
I loved Williams in everything from Mork and Mindy to Aladdin and Good Will Hunting and Mrs Doubtfire and The Birdcage and so many more...
To see his range, check out little seen gems like Insomnia and One-Hour Photo... the man was an incredible actor.
He also was by all accounts a kind and decent human being who did tons of charity and community work.
Here is a fun performance by Williams at the 2000 Academy Awards, when he was a surprise performer of best song nominee "Blame Canada" from the South Park movie...
Much as I love escapist fluff entertainment -- hell, I am re-watching chick flick Confessions of A Shopaholic as I write this -- once in a blue moon a smart substantial film wows me.
Or sometimes twice in a blue moon.
I recently watched two AIDS-themed dramas that dazzled me, and caused me to shed some tears: How To Survive A Plague and The Normal Heart.
How To Survive A Plague is the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary about the early days of the AIDS crisis and the beginning of activist groups like "Act Up" and their struggle to get recognition, assistance, caring or respect from the government, the media, and the medical establishment.
Plague is culled from hundreds of hours of arrived footage and is brilliantly woven together into a personal story. It is emotionally brutal and absolutely breathtaking.
It is available on demand, on Netflix and on DVD... gear yourself up and watch it.
The Normal Heart is the long-delayed film version (made for HBO this year) of Larry Kramer's seminal 1985 play on AIDS in the 80s, based on his own life. It's star studded cast includes Matt Bomer, Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Jim Parsons, and it is up for 16 Emmy awards at next month's ceremony.
Ruffalo is Ned Weeks, the Kramer-ish activist who rails against the politicians, reporters, doctors, and closeted gay men who ignore 'the gay cancer' in the early 80s while all his friends are dying... and all while he is falling in love with a fashion reporter (Bomer) who will be struck by the disease. Their charming love story among all the suffering is amazing.
The Normal Heart is the anti-Philadelphia... it shows the disease, and the anger, and also the love and lust among the gay men at is centre. It is loud, lusty, messy, angry, and yes sometimes preachy. And it works as a drama and as a history lesson.
Both films ask the question shouted by Weeks in The Normal Heart --- "Who cares if a faggot dies?" -- and both are mesmerizing. Watch them... but I do not recommend a double feature.
Sure it's summer TV rerun season, and most of the new programming out there is the level of America's Got Talent crap, however we have discovered a fantastic new sitcom... smart, funny, totally bitchy, we love it! The show is called Vicious, and it is a BBC import that shows on PBS on Sunday nights (and is available on DVD). In Vicious, Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi are Freddie and Stuart, an elderly gay couple who have been together for 48 years and maintain a love/hate relationship... they are bitter and petty and bitchy and yes vicious to each other. And it is awesome. I told my husband this was our future... his response was that this is our now. Underneath Freddie's and Stuart's vicious co-dependency bickering they have a deep love for each other and it is sweet in it's own way. Joining in the fun every week are their lovelorn best friend Violet (Frances de la Tour, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and Ash (Iwan Rheon, Game of Thrones), their young, hot upstairs neighbour. The first season of Vicious aired in the UK last year (it's only 6 episodes) and is on here now. A second season is coming later this year. Check Vicious out... it is fast, it is funny, and let's face it, at this time of year your other options are Botched and Dance Moms.