Jmunney’s 2021 Emmy Wish List, Part 4: Variety and Reality

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot

It’s that time again! The 2021 Emmy nominations will be announced on July 13, which means I’ve got a Wish List for the nommy noms I’d most like to see! In case you’re wondering, I haven’t held myself to any minimum or maximum number of entrants per category, nor do I strictly adhere to official Emmy rules. (I’ve included explanations for my deviations.) And of course, I must mention that I haven’t seen everything, so there are probably some worthy considerations I may have missed. Finally, on Day 4, we wrap things up with Variety and Reality.

Did you know that there’s a talk show hosted by an alien puppet on Disney+? If you didn’t before, you do now. And you’re going to want to watch all of it as soon as possible before you die. It’s called Earth to Ned, and it’s hilarious and boasts a lineup of fantastic guests. It’s got vibes of Jiminy Glick, but it’s much more kind-hearted. It’s a celebration of talk shows as an art form and general phenomenon, and that’s why I believe that it should win the Emmy for Variety Talk Series.

Variety Sketch Series is where the oddballs that don’t slot easily into any other category end up, and thus that’s where the inimitable How to with John Wilson deserves our love.

And as for Reality, my enthusiasm is much the same as it was last year, when I was demanding praise for the first season of mini-golf extravaganza Holey Moley while the second season was airing. And now this year, I’m demanding praise for Season 2 while we’re in the midst of Season 3.

KEY:
Bold=My winner

Variety Talk Series
Conan
Earth to Ned
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
WILMORE

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Best Movies of 2020

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Clockwise from Top Left: Promising Young Woman (Focus Features); The Invisible Man (Universal Pictures); Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Studios); Da 5 Bloods (David Lee/Netflix)

Cinema has always been an escape, and that escape was sorely needed in 2020. Unfortunately, it was often difficult to get that full immersive experience in a theater during a pandemic. In fact, only one of the movies that made my top 10 list this time around was viewed that way, while the rest I took in at home while doing my best to ward off distractions. So with that in mind, I’m in the mood to just celebrate what I loved most about the movies that I loved that somehow found a way to arrive into the world in the past 12 months. So get ready for a tidal wave of enthusiasm as you read ahead!

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Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 10/16/20

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The Trial of the Chicago 7 (CREDIT: Netflix)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Movies
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (October 16 on Netflix)
The Witches (October 22 on HBO Max) – Bobby Zemeckis takes on Roald Dahl.

TV
Card Sharks Season Premiere (October 18 on ABC)
Supermarket Sweep Reboot Premiere (October 18 on ABC) – Host Leslie Jones sends the contestants on their grocery hunts.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Season Premiere (October 18 on ABC)
black-ish Season 7 Premiere (October 21 on ABC)
The Conners Season 3 Premiere (October 21 on ABC)
The Goldbergs Season 8 Premiere (October 21 on ABC)

Music on TV
-Miley Cyrus Backyard Sessions (October 16 on MTV)

Music on Stage as a Movie on TV
David Byrne’s American Utopia (October 17 on HBO)

Podcasts
Dead Eyes Season 2 (Premieres October 22) – Connor Ratliff is still wondering why Tom Hanks fired him from Band of Brothers.

‘American Utopia’ Doesn’t Lose Any of Its Power in Its Trip From the Stage to HBO

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American Utopia (CREDIT: David Lee)

Starring: David Byrne, Chris Giarmo, Tendayi Kuumba, Bobby Wooten III, Karl Mansfield, Gustavo Di Dalva, Jacquelene Acevedo, Angie Swan, Mauro Refosco, Daniel Freedman, Stephane San Juan

Director: Spike Lee

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Release Date: October 17, 2020 (HBO)

Stop Making Sense is one of the best, if not The Best, concert documentaries ever made. I don’t know anyone who’s seen it who doesn’t share that opinion. Can lightning strike twice? Probably not, but something very similar to (but not exactly the same as) lightning can strike (or do something similar to striking) after that initial lightning strike. And that’s what we have in the case of American Utopia, which features Talking Heads frontman David Byrne with a group of musicians who are not Talking Heads members performing a set that includes some Talking Heads songs as well as other prime selections. It started as an album of originals released in 2018, made its way to Broadway in 2019, and now one of those performances has been recorded for a concert film directed by Spike Lee. If you know Byrne and his singular penchant for showmanship, then it goes without saying there’s no reason to think that that could ever be a formula for dilution.

“Once in a Lifetime” is one of the most iconic songs in rock music history. It was retooled for the stage show, and I first saw that version when Byrne was the musical guest on SNL back in February of this year. Despite my thorough familiarity with the song, I got chills once again while watching the latest filmed performance as if I were witnessing the birth of a new classic. That is the power of what has been assembled here. Byrne and his crew strip everything down to basics and reintroduce to us what we thought we already knew thoroughly. It is as if for an hour and 45 minutes we forget that there was ever any music before American Utopia.

We also get a refresher course on philosophy, as Byrne muses in between songs about the wonders of human perception. At one point, he asks why it is that we find looking at other people inherently more interesting than looking at anything else. If anyone is looking for any evidence as to why that is the case, American Utopia provides plenty of examples.

David Byrne, Spike Lee (CREDIT: David Lee)

If you’re wondering what attracted Spike Lee to direct, there won’t be any confusion once the credits are rolling. I’m not terribly familiar with his musical tastes, but he and Byrne clearly share many concerns over the state of the world, which is most obvious during the performance of “Hell You Talmbout,” a cover of a 2015 Janelle Monáe protest song that invokes the names of people of color who have been killed by police. When Byrne asked Monáe what she would think of a white man of a certain age performing it, she responded that she loved the idea and declared that the song is “for everybody.” This segment takes the fullest advantage of the journey from stage to screen, with relatives holding up memorial images of the deceased. American Utopia is a call to change for a better country and a better world. Can we ever meet the promise of that title? It’s a daunting task, but the wonder that this show inspires can’t hurt.

American Utopia is Recommended If You Like: Stop Making Sense, the Black Lives Matter movement

Grade: 4 out of 5 Gray Suits