Sunday, September 30, 2018

MB

Marty Balin has died.  He was a singer, songwriter and musician in and founder of Jefferson Airplane (later Starship).  He also had a solo career.









Saturday, September 29, 2018

Listen To The Lullaby

Today is Broadway Musicals Day.  I didn't know that till a few days ago.  It's not like it's widely celebrated.  But then, every day is Broadway Musicals Day (except Monday when the theatres are dark).

In some ways, musicals are as big as ever.  Broadway features huge, long-running hits like Hamilton, WickedThe Book Of Mormon, The Lion King and quite a few others.  Their national tours also sell out.

But in another way, the Broadway musical isn't what it used to be.  At the beginning of the 1900s, there were musical shows, but the music in them didn't generally have a special American character--the sound was an imitation of Europe. Then came songwriters like Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern, not to mention the rise of jazz, and musicals had a modern sound that swept American music.

Thus we get the age of the Great American Songbook in the 1920s and 1930, where composers like Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Cole Porter and many others did a lot of their best work.  The songs they wrote for Broadway (and movies) were the hits of the day.

The next turning point was Rodgers' Oklahoma! in 1943.  There had been precursors to the show, but now any self-respecting composer wanted to write songs that were part of a greater show, not just separable numbers they hoped would be hits.  And the following 20 years or so was the golden age of the integrated musical, with titles such as Carousel, Kiss Me Kate, Guys And Dolls, The Pajama Game, My Fair Lady, The Music Man, Hello Dolly, and Cabaret, to name a few.

But there was trouble coming.  As rock music came to the fore, hit tunes from Broadway shows became less common.  By the late 60s, Broadway essentially didn't create song hits (with exceptions like the rock musical Hair).

The Hit Parade had helped keep the Broadway musical alive--not everyone could see the shows, but they could hear the music.  Now, a new generation didn't care.  Musicals kept on, moving in many different directions.  Smart, concept shows, as exemplified by Stephen Sondheim, and operatic spectacles, such as those from Andrew Lloyd Webber (whose hits, of course, did not originate in America).  There were also jukebox musicals, where the book is written around old hits.  But all these types of shows could seem like museum pieces; sure, you could write a Broadway musical, but you could also write a minuet if you wanted.  Broadway shows sold out, but young people, by and large, weren't listening.

And that's where we are today. Plenty of fascinating, fun shows, some that even capture the imagination of the public.  And they certainly use modern idioms, such as rock and rap.  But somehow, when Broadway isn't a hit tune factory, it's not that same thing.

But who cares.  Celebrate Broadway Musical Day by listening to your favorite tunes from the Great White Way.

Friday, September 28, 2018

A Tale Of Two Sitcoms

This week I watched the season premieres of The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, the two most successful sitcoms of the past decade.  I've been a fan of both, but their age is showing.

This is the last season of The Big Bang Theory (they are leaving voluntarily), and not a moment too soon.  What started as a fairly fresh show about four young, single nerds and the hot babe across the hall has turned into a tired domestic sitcom, where almost all the characters are married--some with kids--and easing into middle age.

Not that they couldn't still be funny in a new situation. It's just that we've seen these characters do about everything they can do.  It feels like they're going through the motions.  And I feel like I'm going through the motions when I watch.

Modern Family is a bit different. From the start it's had superior joke writing, and it continues to come up with good lines.  But once again, after a decade of this stuff, there's not much to surprise us, no exciting new wrinkles to discover in the characters.  (And the kids were probably better before they became adults, while the new kids they've brought on to the show aren't great.)

Of course, every show seems this way to fans.  I remember people telling me MF was going downhill in its second season.  But even if the show is maintaining its level of quality (which I doubt), we've already got over 200 episodes in reruns to fulfill our needs.  With nothing new to discover, there's not much point in continuing. (Artistically, I mean--if I were getting a paycheck, that'd be different.)

At present, I'm much more excited to watch a relatively new (and good) show, such as The Good Place. In fact, it's up against The Big Bang Theory (as was a previous favorite, Community).  I know what I'll be watching Thursday nights.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Kunk

Russ Kunkel turns 70 today.  You may not have heard of him, but you've heard him.  He's a great session drummer who's worked with names such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Neil Diamond, Carly Simon and many others.

Here's a sampling:











Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What's So Funny?

I just read Jeremy Dauber's Jewish Comedy: A Serious History.  And it is a serious book.  There are plenty of jokes in it, but Dauber's an actual scholar--a professor of Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture and Columbia.  So the book isn't just Mel Brooks and Jerry Seinfeld.  Sure, we get those names, but Dauber spends a lot of time in the past, well before modern show biz.

In fact, the book goes from the Torah to the Talmud to Tevye to today.  You may not think there are a lot of laughs in the Bible, but if you look at the stories of Esther (Dauber's favorite), Jonah, Samson, Job and others in the right way, there's humor there.  And there have been a lot of great, if mostly forgotten, Jewish wits in the millennia since.

Dauber approaches the subject in an odd way.  Rather than go chronologically, the book has seven chapters, each looking at a different aspect of Jewish humor.  Each chapter is generally chronological, though, tending to go back to the beginning and works its way to the 20th and 21 century.

The seven aspects are: Jewish comedy as a response to oppression, as satire on Jewish society, as bookish and witty, as vulgar and raunchy, as ironic and metaphysical, as folksy and everyday, and as about the ambiguity of Jewishness itself.

That's a lot to take on in a book with less than 300 pages of text, but Dauber handles it in a deft and scholarly manner.  So I you want to read about the usual suspects--Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, the Marx Brother, Philip Roth, Sholem Aleichem and so on--they're all here.  But perhaps the greater value of the book is in introducing us to names and eras we're less familiar with.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Mostly Marlys

I just read Lynda Barry's The Greatest Of Marlys, about 250 pages of Barry comic strips featuring Marlys, of course, but also with plenty of her friends and relatives, such as Maybonne, Freddie, Arna and Arnold.

I was introduced to Marlys and the whole unprepossessing gang when I started reading Barry's strip Ernie Pook's Comeek in the Chicago Reader in the 1980s.  Turns out Marlys actually came to her in 1986, several years after the strip began.  (I don't actually recall seeing much of Ernie Pook).  Marlys soon took off, becoming the lead character.

Marlys changed a bit through the years, but not much.  She's a kid (like all the others in the strip) who ries to navigate the tricky world of growing up, where parents and teachers and other kids are always working against her, one way or another.  But there are the little things that make her happy, like popsicles, or dogs, or hair styles.  On top of that, there's the constant mystery of the teenage world, as exemplified by older sister Maybonne.

The characters in the strip tend to narrate their adventures--in fact, there are so many words they often threaten to wipe the crude drawings off the page.  Sometimes there's not even a story--Marlys loves to address the audience directly, whether she's giving us beauty tips, discussing insects, or explaining why queers are okay.

Most of the strips are presented in four panels, arranged 2x2 in a square.  Sometimes Barry breaks the format (apparently in later years, and I'm guessing in a different periodical), though I prefer the four-panel work, at which Barry's a master.

While the strip is generally humorous, it can get pretty serious, and the laughter sticks in the throat.  On the other hand, sometimes it's just about how beautiful the world can be, without any laughs necessary.  And occasionally it gets so dark you're not sure what to make of it, such as a series of strips where a kid burns down a house and kills a woman--almost more than the comic can handle.

When Barry's at her best, as she often is in this book, I don't know of anyone else in comics who so successfully conjures up childhood--these kids live in a lower middle class (if not lower than that) America during the years Barry grew up, but they're universal.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Maniacal

I've started watching the new Netflix show Maniac.  It's a sci-fi drama (or perhaps dark comedy) starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill.  The two are still pretty big names in the movies--perhaps you remember them as a couple in Superbad, and since then, both have been nominated for two Oscars, with Stone winning one. The cast also includes Sally Field, Gabriel Byrne and Justin Theroux. 

Maniac was created by novelist Patrick Somerville.  All ten episodes were directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who did the first season of True Detective.

The story takes place in the near future--or perhaps an alternative universe, since it's a lot like our world, but still different, and a lot of the technology is sort of clunky.  Stone plays Annie, a young, troubled woman.  A bit of a drifter at present, she's got relationship problems with her family, especially her sister (played by Julia Garner, who I liked so much in Ozark).  Hill is Owen, the black sheep of a wealthy family.  He's having delusions, and believes there's a secret pattern out there he needs to discover, and also that he's a hero who will save the world.

Both could use money, and volunteer for a high-paying gig where they test out a new drug at a secretive pharmaceutical company.  The company tells them the various pills they'll take will have them recognize their worst fears and learn how to deal with them.

Part of the fun of a sci-fi show is to see how they develop the world.  For instance, there's a thing called AdBuddy, where, if you're short of cash, the company will pay for something as long as you agree to have an employee nearby who will present you various advertisements--presumably the more they're paying for, the longer the person hangs around.  (This doesn't seem economically feasible, but what do I know?) There are also little robot sanitizers that roll along the sidewalks cleaning up after dogs. (Now that one sounds like it could work.)

I've only seen the first two episodes.  Most of the first episode tells how Owen got there, and the second one tells Annie's story.  They've had little interaction so far--Owen believes Annie is a secret agent sent to contact him and, to put him off, she tells him she has to stay undercover.  The trial has just started, so I'm not entirely sure where the plot is going. But I'm intrigued enough to keep watching.  And at ten episodes, I'm guessing I'll make it to the end.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Let George Write It

I was in a local restaurant that had a lot of stuff on its walls.  While waiting to be seated, I saw an essay attributed to George Carlin.  It was titled "The Paradox Of Our Time."

It was the sort of bilge that people have been putting out for decades, or more likely centuries--bad formula writing that bemoans how we do seemingly big things but get the little things wrong, or other thoughts equally mindless. Here's a sample:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

I was pretty sure this wasn't Carlin, so I checked when I got home. Sure enough, Carlin, when made aware of the piece, said he had nothing to do with it and mocked how sappy it was.  In fact, the piece had been attributed to many others, including a student at Columbine and the Dalai Lama.

Turns out it's an essay from Words Aptly Spoken, a 1995 collection or writings by Dr. Bob Moorehead, a former pastor of Seattle's Overlake Christian Church.  Now if they'd attributed it to him, I'd have believed them.  But would I have read it?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Wait, What?

I was in a doctor's office and they had a sign in the waiting room.  I don't remember the exact wording, but it asked patients not to use their cell phones.

I honestly don't understand.  We're bored out of our minds waiting for the doctor (usually way behind schedule) to call us in.  And his magazine collection is nothing to write home about.

We're not at a movie theatre, or driving a car, or in line waiting to order.  We're just sitting there, doing nothing.  Why should we be prevented from using our phones?

If the doctor means we shouldn't make noise, fine. (Though even that would seem a little odd.) Just put up a sign asking people not to talk on their phones.  They should be allowed to text, or play games, or avail themselves of all the information in the universe.

Is the doctor just mad we might entertain ourselves, or even do something constructive, rather than sit there, wondering how the blood panel went?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Simonizing

When Neil Simon died earlier this year, I called him the best comedy writer of the 20th century.  I did note, however, that Lost In Yonkers (1991) was his last major play, and that his powers seemed diminished in his later work.

Still, trying to be a completist, I recently read Oscar And Felix: A New Look At The Odd Couple, Simon's update/rewrite of his most famous title.  And The Odd Couple had been central to his career, the work he kept returning to.

It was first presented on Broadway in 1965, and cemented his reputation as a hit-maker.  The play had serious third-act problems out of town, but Simon managed to solve them and, by all accounts, created (with the help of a great cast and director Mike Nichols) one of the funniest productions ever seen on Broadway.  And the story of finicky Felix Ungar moving in with sloppy Oscar Madison became iconic.

Simon then went on to write the screenplay for the 1968 movie version, which was a gigantic hit.  Next there was a TV series that ran for five years in the 1970s and forever in reruns--Simon had nothing to do with it, but it made the title even more firmly established in the public's mind.

In 1985, he wrote a new version of The Odd Couple with the sexes switched.  Starring Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers as Olive Madison and Florence Ungar, it ran the season on Broadway.  Still not done, in 1998 he wrote The Odd Couple II, a screenplay featuring the further adventures of Oscar and Felix.  So perhaps it's no surprise in the early 2000s, he updated his original.

Oscar And Felix was presented in Los Angeles in 2002, starring John Larroquette as the former and Joe Regalbutto as the latter.  The script was published in 2004.

It's not clear to me if Simon just intended to update the show so it was set in the present, or if he planned to do a major rewrite.  My guess is he thought he could just make a few changes, but once he got going, couldn't stop.  He was an inveterate rewriter. The new version, while it keeps the original story beat for beat, has, I'd estimate, 75% new dialogue.

I don't think any update was necessary.  The original was a contemporary piece that had turned into a period piece, but was still uproarious.  And cutting references to the Playboy Club and the automat, while adding cell phones and frequent flyer miles, doesn't do anything to make the piece funnier. (In the original, Felix sends a suicide telegram. In the update, it's a suicide email.)

There's also a structural change.  In the 1960s, Broadway plays generally had three acts, and now they usually have two.  Simon solves this by creating a first act out of what used to be the first act plus the first scene of the second act, and a second act out of what used to be the second scene of the second act plus the third act.  This is fine, though it does make the original change from act one to act two, where the set goes from slovenly to immaculate, harder to pull off without an intermission.

Much, much worse, though, is the original was hilarious, and in just about every instance, the replacement material is weaker.  Sometimes the new stuff is passable, but the 1965 version has some of the funniest dialogue ever written.  And it's kind of creepy when, in the middle of mediocre lines, you hear one of the original gags and remember how funny it was.

Actually, even the older lines don't work as well, since they're playing in a different context, with slightly different--duller--characters who have less connection.  I could pretty much take any page from the script to demonstrate how much weaker the new dialogue is.  But let's look at just a couple cases where the original classic material has been changed, to its detriment.

From the first act of the original, during the poker game:

Oscar:  Life goes on even for those of us who are divorced, broke and sloppy.  (Answers phone) Hello?  Divorced, Broke and Sloppy. Oh, hello sweetheart. (Becomes seductive. The others listen.)  I told you not to call me during the game. I can't talk to you now.  You know I do, darling.  All right, just a minute.  (He turns). Murray, it's your wife.

Murray:  I wish you were having an affair with her. Then she wouldn't bother me all the time.  (Into phone.)  Hello, Mimi, what's wrong?

Oscar: (Imitating Mimi) What time are you coming home?  (Imitating Murray) I don't know, about twelve, twelve-thirty.

Murray: (Into phone)  I don't know, about twelve, twelve-thirty.  Why, what do you want, Mimi?  "A corned beef sandwich and a strawberry malted."

Oscar:  Is she pregnant again?

Murray:  (Holds phone over chest) No, just fat.  (Into phone again)  What?  How could you hear that?  I had the phone over my chest.

This material, when done properly, gets explosive laughter (the dialogue above starts 38 seconds in):



Here's the updated version:

Oscar:  Oh, hello, sweetheart...I told you not to call me during the game...Yes, we're still on for tonight... about twelve thirty.

Vinnie:  Twelve.

Oscar: Wear the high school outfit...with the scotch plaid mini skirt....Alright...just a minute...Murray, it's your wife.

Murray:  (takes cell phone, holds hand over speaker)  You know how long I've been asking her to do that?  (Into phone)  Hi, Hon...How'd you hear that?  I had my hand over the phone...

Perhaps there's no reason to explain why the latter is weaker, but let me try.  The set up for "Murray, it's your wife" is made unnecessarily long so Simon can try two new jokes which aren't as good--a Vinnie callback, interrupting the flow, about how he has to leave early, and Murray talking about what he wants his wife to do.  Further, the new version has replaced Murray's better line about Oscar having an affair, and ends up making the gag about Mimi overhearing Murray much weaker.  Also, the imitation gag is gone.

Here's another example.  From the original second act, Oscar and Felix are waiting for their dates to arrive.  Felix is angry because Oscar is late and the London Broil he slaved over has dried out:

Felix:  What am I going to do?

Oscar:  I don't know. Keep pouring gravy on it.

Felix:  What gravy?

Oscar:  Don't you have any gravy? 

Felix:  Where the hell am I going to get gravy at eight o'clock?

Oscar: I thought it comes when you cook the meat.

Felix:  When you cook the meat?  You don't know the first think you're talking about.  You have to make gravy.  It doesn't come!

In the updated version, Felix has made Chicken Valencia for their dates, who are Spanish, as well as "alcachofa," which is Spanish for artichoke:

Felix:  Tell me what to do, Oscar.

Oscar:  Just keep pouring gravy on it.

Felix:  Gravy?  The gravy turned into ink at seven o'clock...Any more suggestions?

Oscar:  Can you make gravy out of alcachofa?

Felix:  I put the alcachofa in the freezer, I thought it was the humane thing to do.

Oscar:  Don't they sell gravy in one of those stores?

Felix:  What stores?

Oscar:  Gravy stores...What do I know?  I'm a sports writer.

Here, a very funny and character-based comic idea--Oscar figuring gravy just comes automatically, and Felix aghast at his ignorance--has been replaced by fairly ordinary gags about food problems.

On and on it goes, great material being replaced by lines without any zing. The only new stuff that sort of works is the scene where Oscar and Felix have their date with two Spanish sisters, instead of the English sisters in the original. (Actually, this scene isn't entirely new, since it's adapted from the same scene with two Spanish brothers in Simon's gender-switched 1980s version.)  And even though this new scene is amusing, it's still not as good as the original, not just comically, but also dramatically--most of the new jokes are about the language barrier, where the previous scene told us more about the character of Felix as well as the sisters.

Which is the problem with the whole evening.  Less laughs, but also new material not as dramatically satisfying.  Look at the original ending, after the dispute between Felix and Oscar has been resolved, and Felix, a changed man, has just left:

Oscar:  Are we just gonna sit around or are we gonna play poker.

Roy:  We're gonna play poker.

Oscar:  Then let's play poker.  And watch your cigarettes, will you?  This is my house, not a pig sty.

Not hilarious, but thematically a nice ending--we see that life goes on, but also that the interaction between Oscar and Felix has affected them both.

The new ending has a lengthy--two pages--and dramatically inert exchange between Oscar and Felix before Felix finally leaves.  Then:

Oscar:  Come on boys, let's play poker, I feel lucky tonight.

(The poker players reenter room)

Murray:  What's the game.

Oscar:  Five card stud.  All cards are wild.  Geez, I'm hungry.  Murray, go into the kitchen and see if there's any linguini left on the wall.

Instead of ending thematically, we finish on a not-great callback gag to a great bit (from the original) where Oscar threw out Felix's linguini.  (By the way, if Simon was updating the piece, they should be playing Texas hold 'em.)

Really there was no need to update the piece, and, in any case, it would appear Simon no longer had the chops to write material that would hold up as well. It's no wonder when Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick starred in a Broadway revival in 2005, they stuck to the original.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

White Power

I've gone over some of the Beatles' albums on this blog, listing their songs from top to bottom. I thought about doing it with The Beatles, better known as the "White Album." But after looking at it, I realized there was so much mediocre material I wasn't sure if it was worth it.

So, instead, I'm going to discuss the idea that many have mentioned--imagine how good it would have been if they'd released it as a single album.  But there are 30 songs on the White Album, which is actually enough for three albums.

So I'm going to put the songs into three separate albums, from strongest album to weakest. (The songs are listed within each album in the order they appear on the White Album.)

There were a few tricky choices on the edges, of course.  Judge for yourself how you'd respond to each album.


White Album

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Martha My Dear

Blackbird

I Will

Julia

Birthday

Helter Skelter

Honey Pie


Off-White Album

The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill

I'm So Tired

Rocky Raccoon

Mother Nature's Son

Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey

Long, Long, Long

Revolution 1

Savoy Truffle

Cry Baby Cry

Good Night


Beige Album

Dear Prudence

Glass Onion

Wild Honey Pie

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Piggies

Don't Pass Me By

Why Don't We Do It In The Road?

Yer Blues

Sexy Sadie

Revolution 9

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

YK Problem

It's Yom Kippur, so pardon me if I don't blog today.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

No Kidding

I've watched the first two episodes of Kidding, the new Showtime comedy-drama that's Jim Carrey's return to TV.

He plays Jeff Piccirillo, better known as Mr. Pickles, star of a long-running kiddie show.  He's at the top of his profession when one of his twin sons dies in a car crash.  He has trouble adjusting, and he and his wife, Jill, split. (I think that's the order--it wasn't clear to me if they were already divorced when the accident happened.)

He wants to make death a subject in his show, and break other boundaries, though he's fought by the show's producer, Sebastian Piccirillo--also his father.  Meanwhile, one of the puppeteers on the show, Deirdre--also his sister--has problems with her own kid.

Kidding, created by Dave Holstein and directed by Michel Gondry (who directed Carrey in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind), is an odd project.  I think the show is trying to be funny and unsettling at the same time, but only manages the latter.

The main problem, aside from the lack of laughs, is Carrey's character is not fun to be around.  He's a mixture of innocence and anger, which perhaps could work, but as written and played comes across as annoying.

The show has a stellar cast. In addition to Carrey, there's Judy Greer as Jill, Frank Langella as Sebastian and Catherine Keener as Deirdre.  But talent can't make up for a shaky premise and indifferent scripts.

Monday, September 17, 2018

If I Ran The Zoo

The Emmys are tonight.  I'm not going to try to guess who will win, but I'll tell you whom I'd vote for if anyone allowed me to.


Outstanding Comedy Series
 
Atlanta

Barry
Black-ish
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Glow
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Intriguing season of Atlanta, though the show isn't always a comedy.  Didn't see season of Mrs. Maisel.  Most of the others pretty good, but for laughs I guess I'd go with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (which has no chance of winning).  I'd pick The Good Place if I were allowed a write-in.
 
Outstanding Drama Series

The Americans
The Crown
Game of Thrones
The Handmaid’s Tale
Stranger Things
This Is Us
Westworld
Three of these I haven't seen.  I love Game Of Thrones, though it was a weak season.  This Is Us was okay, but not as good as its first season.  Guess I'll go with Stranger Things, which was nice to have back.

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose
Jeff Daniels, The Looming Tower
John Legend, Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesse Plemons, Black Mirror: USS Callister
Easy choice--Plemons cracked me up doing his imitation of Shatner, yet was a truly creepy, even terrifying character.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Bill Hader, Barry
William H. Macy, Shameless
I love Danson (though is he a lead?).  Donald Glover did some amazing stuff.  But I might go with Hader, who was quite memorable playing a character who couldn't express himself well.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta
Henry Winkler, Barry
Louie Anderson, Baskets
Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Excellent category.  It comes down to Henry Winkler, who shows he hasn't lost a step, and Brian Tyree Henry, who was the best thing (arguably the lead) in Atlanta.  Think I'll go with Tyree Henry.  (Have to include "Tyree" or you wouldn't be sure which one I'm referring to.)

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Pamela Adlon, Better Things
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Ms, Maisel

Allison Janney, Mom
Issa Rae, Insecure
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
Brosnahan, even though I've only seen stuff from season 1.  She's that good.

Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

Zazie Beetz, Atlanta
Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne
Betty Gilpin, Glow
Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live
Leslie Jones, Saturday Night Live
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace
As much as McKinnon dominates SNL, I'd go with Betty Gilpin, who stands out in a solid ensemble.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Jason Bateman, Ozark
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us
Ed Harris, Westworld
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld
I guess Sterling K. Brown, who has created a truly memorable character.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
David Harbour, Stranger Things
Matt Smith, The Crown
Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale
Mandy Patinkin deserves it for years of fine work on Homeland.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Keri Russell, The Americans
Claire Foy, The Crown
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

Actually, the only one I've seen this year is Wood.  She's good (on a ridiculous show) but can't choose without seeing at least most of them.
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series


Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things
Vanessa Kirby, The Crown
Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale
Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale
Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale
Thandie Newton, Westworld
Once again, haven't seen Handmaid or Crown so can't choose.  Headey is good, if not her best season. Brown is memorable, but not as exciting as first season.  Newton is solid but I thought her part was sort of silly.

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

At Home with Amy Sedaris
Drunk History
I Love You America with Sarah Silverman
Portlandia
Saturday Night Live
Tracey Ullman’s Show
Guess I'll go with SNL, even if their batting average is low.

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The Late Late Show with James Corden
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
How do you like your Trump attacks, relentless or even more relentless?  Guess I'll go with Corden simply because of Carpool Karaoke with Paul McCartney.

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