Browsing Tag

tina fey


For the last two months, I’ve been binge-watching several shows and they all happened to be British series…until Kimmy Schmidt returned for her second season last Friday on Netflix. Here are some overall thoughts on these shows’ entire seasons.

Des Willie, The Ink Factory/AMC

Des Willie, The Ink Factory/AMC

The Night Manager (starts April 19 on AMC)

Based on John le Carré’s novel of the same name, this 6-episode thriller stars Tom Hiddleston as the titular hotel manager and Hugh Laurie as arms dealer Richard Roper, whom the manager is determined to take down with the help of a spy played by Broadchurch‘s Olivia Coleman.

The pilot is very good, and sets up the reason for Jonathan Pine, the manager, wanting revenge. The second ep lags a bit when Angela the spy is convincing Jonathan to work with her, then he spends time creating his legend to go undercover and gain Roper’s trust. Once he’s in, the suspense ratchets back up.

As expected, the acting is top-notch. It’s entertaining to see Laurie play a full-on villain so effortlessly, but maybe Roper’s just an extreme version of Dr. House, who was not a nice guy, either. Coleman is always welcome on my TV screen, and here she’s as tough as ever despite her character being pregnant (the pregnancy was real).

Hiddleston deftly handles Jonathan’s arc from regular guy to hesitant spy to someone who shouldn’t be messed with. And his fans should have lots to discuss when they get an eyeful of him. I’ll just leave it at that.

One of the most commendable aspects of the series is that there are no bimbos, even when showcasing rich businessmen and their arm candy. The women are more substantial than how they first appear.

I’d never seen Elizabeth Debicki before her performance as Roper’s lover Jed, but standing at almost six foot three, she’s a towering presence. Jed and Jonathan were responsible for Mr. PCN and me screaming at the TV because they do some dumb things, but for the most part, the story and direction are solid.

Nerd verdict: Tense Night




Grantchester season 2 (PBS, Sunday nights)

This series, based on the novels by James Runcie, is as cozy as a warm blanket on a rainy day. Most of its charm comes from James Norton’s portrayal of vicar Sidney Chambers, a charismatic do-gooder who reveals rougher edges this season. His friendship with DI Geordie (Robson Green) is strained due to a disagreement on a case that serves as the seasonal arc, though the two also solve standalone mysteries each episode.

Sidney becomes more interesting as more colors are shown, but I found some of Geordie’s actions troubling, especially in the second ep when he allows torture of a suspect. I thought the friendship should’ve been more strained, because I couldn’t imagine Sidney continuing to hang out with a man he saw being cruel.

Al Weaver as Leonard and Tessa Peake-Jones as the housekeeper, Mrs. Maguire, continue to delight as they get their own personal arcs. Morven Christie, however, has less to do this season as Sidney’s childhood friend Amanda.

Though now married, Amanda continues to visit Sidney but she isn’t well integrated into the storylines. It’s as if the producers were contractually obligated to include the actress in a minimum number of scenes per episode, but they weren’t required to give her anything to do. The season finale will probably make most fans cheer, but I didn’t think it was a good idea.

Nerd verdict: Bucolic Grantchester 



Happy Valley season 2 (Netflix)

As much as I adore James Norton in Grantchester, I loathe his character in Happy Valley, and that’s a testament to the actor’s talent. He sports a closed-shaved head this season as rapist/murderer Tommy Lee Royce, the polar opposite of Sidney Chambers. Tommy seduces/brainwashes a vulnerable woman to help him get back at police sergeant Catherine Cawood for what she did to him last season.

The woman, Frances, is played by Shirley Henderson, perhaps best known as Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter movies. She may look harmless but she insidiously causes emotional damage in Catherine’s relationship with her grandson.

What makes Catherine a riveting character is that she’s surprising. There were moments when I expected her to explode in anger—heck, I probably would have—but she instead proceeds with kindness or uses an approach that’s more effective with a suspect than intimidation tactics. She’s very good at her job, and so is Sarah Lancashire, who plays her.

Also returning is Charlie Murphy as Ann Gallagher, now a rookie cop while still dealing with the aftermath of last season’s events. Ann is smart and more resilient than people expect, and Murphy is wonderful to watch, but when Ann develops an interest in a much older man with no clear redeeming qualities, my heart sank. Ann could do so much better.

Nerd verdict: Gripping Valley




Doctor Thorne

Downton Abbey‘s Julian Fellowes adapted Anthony Trollope’s novel into this series starring Tom Hollander as a 19th-century country doctor raising his niece Mary alone after her father—Thorne’s brother—dies. (Mary was conceived during an affair and her mother, married to a man other than Thorne’s brother, was forced to abandon her.)

Mary and her childhood friend Frank are in love, but Mary is destitute and Frank’s mother forbids him to marry her. His family desperately needs money to save their estate, so Frank’s mother wants him to hook up with an older American heiress instead. Complications ensue, but since there are only 3 episodes, plotlines are resolved quickly. The story is predictable, but the journey is entertaining and the ending is satisfying.

Just like how James Norton makes me adore him in one series and detest him in another, Tom Hollander is nasty in The Night Manager but sympathetic here as the wise doctor. You won’t find guys like Norton and Hollander (and Hiddleston) always playing the same character the way some actors do.

I was surprised to discover Stefani Martini has only one prior credit on IMDb before playing Mary. She has talent and a graceful screen presence; I bet she’ll rack up more credits soon.

It’s dismaying to see Alison Brie play American heiress Miss Dunstable, a woman considered a homely spinster. The actress is 33 but looks like someone in her late 20s and she’s attractive. At least Miss Dunstable is confident and sharp witted, and Brie seems to have enjoyed playing the character quite a bit.

Nerd verdict: Predictable but enjoyable Thorne




Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt season 2 (Netflix)

Instead of being all stressed about taxes last Friday, I was squealing with joy because new episodes of Kimmy Schmidt became available. Of course I watched all 13 eps in one day.

Season 2 is even quirkier, with non-sequitur jokes coming fast and furious. You might have to do much rewinding to catch them all. Not all the jokes landed, but when they did, I laughed loud and long.

The good things:

Kimmy is finally dealing with her bunker experience. The process is very funny, but her breakthroughs do have emotional truths.

Titus has a new boyfriend named Mikey and the two are really sweet together, despite Titus’s efforts to sabotage the relationship because he fears happiness.

Tina Fey has a prominent role as a drunk lady who meets Kimmy and ends up making a difference in Kimmy’s life. This role is much funnier than Fey’s Marcia Clark-like character from last season.

One episode features several songs that sound like popular songs but aren’t, so that producers can avoid pesky copyright issues. So we get Dusk Mountie singing “Brother Baptist” instead of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” and “I’m Convinced I Can Swim” in place of “I Believe I Can Fly.”

Titus sings more this season, and his voice is astounding.

The bad:

Dong is back, and still not speaking in anything close to a Vietnamese accent. It just sounds like some generic Asian accent. Imagine someone using a vague European accent to play an Italian character. Hey, as long as the accent comes from somewhere on the continent, that’s good enough. Don’t bother getting specific or anything. And when Dong speaks Vietnamese? Forget about it. I couldn’t understand a word and had to read the subtitles. Why is it so hard to do some research and represent Vietnamese people accurately?

At one point, Titus does a one-man show in yellow face. I might have to write a whole other post to address that and Scarlett Johansson playing Japanese in Ghost in the Shell.

Carol Kane’s subplot involving Lilian fighting gentrification of her neighborhood is not funny. i can’t get behind her rejecting recycling and thinking graffiti is good. I guess that makes me one of the hipsters Lillian dislikes.

Nerd verdict: Still funny, still flawed



I’m still in rehearsals six days a week for the new play, and doing various freelance gigs, so this won’t be a full write-up, just a few highlights in case you missed the show (apparently it didn’t air in some territories).

I tune in to the SAG Awards, which are less glamorous than the Oscars and not as freewheeling as the Golden Globes, because I get to vote for the winners here. There are 15 categories, and I voted for 7 of the winners, so I was happy about 50% of the results.

The one I was most excited about was Argo‘s win for best ensemble in a motion picture. It didn’t surprise me because I polled my actor friends and there’s a lot of love and respect for that movie. This bodes well for Argo winning best picture at the Oscars next month, which should make Oscar voters look shortsighted for ignoring Ben Affleck.

As I mentioned on Facebook, he is the only director of a best-picture nominee who also starred in it. I don’t see Spielberg directing himself as Lincoln or David O. Russell playing bipolar. What Affleck did has a high level of difficulty and he pulled it off with aplomb. The Producers Guild of America likes Argo, too, because it also won the top motion picture prize at that ceremony Saturday night.

Two of my favorite quotes came from acceptance speeches by Tina Fey, who won for best female actor in a comedy series (30 Rock), and Daniel Day-Lewis, best actor in a motion picture (Lincoln). Fey said to Amy Poehler: “I’ve known you since you were pregnant with Lena Dunham,” a continuation of the joke they started at the Globes when Dunham thanked them for getting her through middle school.

Day-Lewis, who got a standing ovation, said: “[I]t occurred to me that it was an actor that killed Abraham Lincoln, and therefore somehow it’s only fitting that every now and then, an actor tries to bring him back to life again.”

Go here for the full list of winners.

Let’s discuss some of the fashion. There were no real standouts for me. Most were ho-hum (too much black) or in the what-the-Freud? category.

Anne Hathaway usually has impeccable taste but I hate this look, which is reminiscent of Demi Moore’s bicycle-shorts-under-a-skirt fiasco from the Oscars in the ’80s (click here to see it—if you dare). This style just doesn’t make sense to me. If you want to wear a short dress, do it. Don’t throw some froufrou around your hips to cover up your legs but not really.


Oh, dear. It’s really unfortunate that Julianne Moore, whom I think is amazing, attended a SAG ceremony wearing this.


Claire Danes‘s dress is interesting but makes her look much older. Helen Mirren would rock this.


This probably would look like a cheesy prom dress on me and most people, but Marion Cotillard makes it impossibly chic.


Rose Byrne gets the award for Most Creative Use of Grandma’s Bathroom Wallpaper.


I wondered if Jaimie Alexander was wearing her dress backward. Or if she’s a fembot who managed to turn her head all the way around.


The dress isn’t anything special—she’s worn this style before—but Naomi Watts gets my vote for Most Consistent when it comes to hair and makeup. She looks flawless every time. And as much as I enjoyed Jennifer Lawrence‘s performance in Silver Linings Playbook, I’m kind of hoping for an upset by Naomi at the Oscars. Her work in The Impossible is brave, raw, and devastating.


Nina Dobrev wore my favorite gown of the night. The pink is striking without being girlish, and that slash of bare flesh under lace adds unexpected sexiness.

Did you watch? What are your thoughts? Am I the only female alive who doesn’t think Bradley Cooper is hot?

Photos: Hathaway, Moore, Danes/WireImage; Cotillard, Byrne, Alexander, Watts, Dobrev, Affleck and Argo cast/Getty Images


Few Thoughts on the 70th Golden Globes

I had rehearsal today for the new play I’m doing, so I tuned in late to the Golden Globes. I’m now exhausted so this write-up won’t be long; I just wanted to throw out a few thoughts (for winners list, go here):

  • Adored Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as hosts. The line about best director nominee Kathryn Bigelow—Poehler said, “When it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron”—was hilarious and a strong way to open the show.
  • I liked most of the winners, even the ones I didn’t expect, such as Ben Affleck for directing Argo (I thought Steven Spielberg was going to take it). For years, I was not a fan of his as an actor, but he won me over as a director with Gone Baby Gone, and Argo is his most accomplished work yet. A few days after he was snubbed by the Academy, his win and the movie’s win for best picture drama must’ve been especially sweet for him.
  • What does it take for Jon Hamm to win an award??
  • Loved Jennifer Lawrence thanking Harvey Weinstein for killing whomever he had to kill to get her up there, and Adele saying she’d been pissing herself laughing. So much better than dull winners reading from sheets of paper.
  • Who freaked out at Michael J. Fox’s son looking exactly like him? Fox père sported that haircut all through his Family Ties years.
  • I don’t know what to think about Jodie Foster‘s speech. On one hand, I think if she wanted to publicly come out, she should’ve just done it instead of playing coy. On the other hand, I’m all for people, including celebs, retaining some modicum of privacy, and agree with Foster that she doesn’t owe the public any kind of explanation or statement about her private life. Then again, she brought up the subject. No one asked her to address her sexuality as part of her acceptance speech. If she didn’t want to talk about it, she could’ve just said thank you and gotten off the stage. I did think her tribute to her mother was touching. The L.A. Times transcribed her entire speech here.
  • Lena Dunham needs to learn how to walk in heels or don’t wear them. During the time it took her to wobble to the stage the two times she won, I finished my taxes and Christmas shopping for this year.
  • Kristin Wiig and Will Ferrell made me laugh as the most clueless presenters ever. Their fake description of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen‘s plot was ridiculous. Tommy Lee Jones looking like he was going to bust their kneecaps at an after-party was even funnier.
  • Favorite dress, and most appropriate for the cold, L.A. weather: Naomi Watts in Zac Posen

  • Favorite dress I wouldn’t wear but it looks cool on her: Lucy Liu in Carolina Herrera (it has pockets!)

  • Daniel Day-Lewis made me swoon with his elegant acceptance speech, telling Lincoln writer Tony Kushner: “Every day I have to live without the wealth of your language, which reminds me every day of the impoverishment of my own.” That’s impoverished? About the others nominated in his category: “If I had this [the Globe] on a timeshare basis with my wonderful gifted colleagues, I might just hope to keep it for one day of the year, and I’d be happy with that.” Um, I feel penurious now so I’ll just stop here.

What did you think? Happy about Les Mis‘s win for best picture, comedy or musical? Shocked Quentin Tarantino won best screenplay?

Photos: Fey & Poehler/NBC, Watts and Liu/Getty


Book Review: ALI IN WONDERLAND by Ali Wentworth

Ali Wentworth, also known as the actress /comedienne/Oprah correspondent Alexandra Wentworth, adds author to her resume with a collection of stories about growing up in D.C. as the daughter of a journalist father and mother who was White House social secretary during the Reagan years. She also tells about her experiences at prep school, auditioning for her breakthrough gig on the sketch show In Living Color (Seinfeld fans might know her as Schmoopie from the Soup Nazi episode), and meeting and marrying her husband, George Stephanopoulos.

Despite her privileged upbringing (Henry Kissinger came to one of her mother’s parties), Wentworth manages to make her stories accessible, with a breezy style and some very funny moments. When she was twelve, her older sister Sissy decided she’d run away because she was bored out of her mind from being laid up at home after spinal fusion surgery. Instead of stopping her, their mother said to Wentworth:

“Please run away with your sister! I don’t want her out there alone!”

“But I don’t want to run away!”

“I’m asking you nicely, now go!”

I was getting irritated. “I don’t want to run away, Mom! I want to stay home! I’m happy!”

She also recounts what happened to one of her nannies:

Julia was our Mary Poppins, until one day she turned in her resignation. Marrying a successful financial adviser, not the chimney sweep. And she was off to have babies she wouldn’t be paid to love.

But while the anecdotes are witty, they often just peter out without going anywhere. Several stories end in ellipses or a question, making it seem as if even she wasn’t sure where she was going with them. I couldn’t help but think of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, in which the essays are wacky but when you get to the end of each one, the reason why Fey chose to relate that particular experience becomes clear, e.g. the rules of improv she learned at Second City can also apply to life. It’s okay to just be entertaining without making a point about something, but stories are more memorable when they can be taken at more than face value.

Nerd verdict: Lightweight Ali

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Book Review: Tina Fey’s BOSSYPANTS

Tina Fey’s essays on everything from girlhood rites of passage (such as “men-stru-hating”) to her days at Saturday Night Live and her struggles as a working mom are laugh-out-loud funny, but many of the details also come startlingly close to my own experiences. For example, she talks about trying to kiss a guy in front of the Monroe Hill dorms at the University of Virginia, making him run away from her. I lived at Monroe Hill while attending UVA and made a guy run away just by telling him I liked him. She says her go-to look in college was bicycle shorts with wrestling shoes, while I thought I was cool in bike shorts and jazz shoes. She played with Star Wars action figures, studied at Second City, and did touring shows. Check, check, and check for me, too.

But make no mistake—I am NOT comparing myself to Fey (who can?); I’m simply explaining her appeal to me and many people I know. She comes across like your witty and nerdy best friend, someone who doesn’t make you feel inadequate about how she’s a superwoman and you’re not. And while she’s making you laugh, she’s also slipping in wise nuggets like how the rules of improv can make good life philosophy:

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun, ” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger…,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt…Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But…at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you…

The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS…If we’re in a scene and I say, “Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here?…” I’m putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers. In other words: Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. We’ve all worked with that person…Instead of saying, “Where are we?” make a statement like “Here we are in Spain, Dracula.” Okay, “Here we are in Spain, Dracula” may seem like a terrible start to a scene, but this leads us to the best rule:

THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities.

Fey manages to convey a sense of gratefulness for her life while maintaining it isn’t easy, that she gets stress-induced canker sores just trying to decide if she has time for a second baby because two hundred people on the 30 Rock cast and crew depend on her for employment. (She must have figured it out because she’s now pregnant.) Just like her OB-GYN says to her in the book, “Either way, everything will be fine,” Bossypants makes you feel that way, too.

Nerd verdict: Bossypants rules

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Movie Review: MEGAMIND

While DreamWorks’ Megamind (opening Nov. 5) is diverting enough, it breaks no new ground and doesn’t have the emotional resonance of Pixar movies. It’s more like a Chinese meal you enjoy but end up hungry again an hour later, perhaps even forgetting you had dinner at all.

Megamind’s origin story is similar to Superman’s in that his parents sent him to Earth when his planet was destroyed. But he wasn’t the only baby who escaped. The other infant’s ship landed in a rich couple’s home, where the boy received every advantage that comes with his class, while Megamind’s pod landed in a much more unsavory place, supposedly setting his course in life. He decides his only choice is to become the baddest supervillain ever.

His biggest obstacle? The other baby growing up to be Metro Man, an alpha male in every way and protector of Metro City. Metro Man thwarts Megamind’s most dastardly deeds until one day, he can’t anymore, causing Megamind to have identity issues. What good is a supervillain when there’s no superhero to stop him? He gets a chance to find his true purpose when another bad guy shows up to wreak havoc on Metro City. Will Megamind stop him or join forces with him?

The movie has good things to say about how we judge people and free will vs. destiny. As a kid, the giant-blue-headed Megamind always got picked last for dodgeball and he grows up thinking a life of crime is his only option after an unfortunate childhood. Ferrell does decent voice work, knowing when to turn on the frenzy and when to keep it quieter, but the movie’s casting is too obvious. Need a brainy, dry-witted brunette? Tina Fey, of course! A hunky guy who has it all? Who else but Brad Pitt? A nerd who can’t get the girl? Hey, let’s get Jonah Hill! Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to have Pitt play nerdy and Hill be heroic? In animation, where actors are unencumbered by their physical appearance, they should be able to play anything but Megamind seems content with making easy choices. In contrast, I wouldn’t have thought of Tom Hanks first to play a cowboy or Tim Allen to voice an astronaut.

While I’m comparing, I might as well mention that Megamind works fine as surface entertainment but I saw a missed opportunity for it to move viewers on a deeper level the way Pixar movies can. Megamind struggles with his image and outsider status, themes most of us can relate to, but the filmmakers merely do a gloss job on these matters. It’s okay to strive to only entertain, but playing it safe keeps the movie decidedly earthbound instead of blasting its appeal into infinity and beyond.

Nerd verdict: Megamind makes small impact

Photo of Tina Fey by Michael Murphree


Primetime Emmy Nominations 2010

No, I didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn to hear the Emmy nominations. I just went to a bunch of websites to look up the nominations. In case you haven’t seen them and care, the partial list below is from The ceremonies will be held on August 29, hosted by Jimmy Fallon and airing live on NBC.

A few things I’m excited about:

  • Jon Hamm getting two noms, for lead of Mad Men and guest star on 30 Rock. I like him much more as a comedic actor so I’m rooting for him for 30 Rock. Besides, Hugh Laurie should get his criminally overdue Emmy for lead dramatic actor in House.
  • Archie Panjabi getting nominated for supporting dramatic actress for The Good Wife. I don’t love this show, find Julianna Margulies’s character rather cold, but Panjabi is electric and steals every scene she’s in.
  • JANE LYNCH!! I’m also happy for Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen but really, they should just practice their game face for when the presenter calls out Lynch’s name instead of theirs as the winner in the supporting comedic actress category.
  • Mike O’Malley for guest actor on Glee as Kurt’s dad. Sure, O’Malley’s role is extremely well-written, but O’Malley really knocks it out of the park as one of the most loving, compassionate, coolest TV dads EVER.
  • Speaking of Kurt, I’m so happy to see Chris Colfer get a nomination. He does the pain cover-up really well.
  • Betty White for hosting Saturday Night Live. Other than her deserving it, I want her to win so we can hear the sure-to-be hilarious speech she’d give.
  • Elizabeth Mitchell finally getting a nomination for Lost but as guest actress. It’s as if Emmy voters didn’t realize how good she was until she wasn’t a regular anymore.
  • Tina Fey’s reaction to her nominations: “This seems like an appropriate time for me to announce to NBC that I will not be renewing my contract,” the seven-time Emmy winner joked in a statement, “with my gym.” On a short-lived serious note, Fey says that the cast and crew are “grateful” for their fourth straight nomination, adding that today is “the fifth anniversary of the day NBC forgot to cancel us.”

For other nominees’ reactions, click here.

What do you think of the nominations? Think Jimmy Fallon will make a good host? Do you even care about any of this?

Breaking Bad
Mad Men
True Blood
The Good Wife

Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit)
Glenn Close (Damages)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
January Jones (Mad Men)
Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)

Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Hugh Laurie (House M.D.)
Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Matthew Fox (Lost)

John Slattery (Mad Men)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Martin Short (Damages)
Terry O’ Quinn (Lost)
Michael Emerson (Lost)
Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)

Sharon Gless (Burn Notice)
Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
Rose Byrne (Damages)
Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

Beau Bridges (The Closer)
Ted Danson (Damages)
John Lithgow (Dexter)
Alan Cumming (The Good Wife)
Dylan Baker (The Good Wife)
Robert Morse (Mad Men)
Gregory Itzin (24)


Mary Kay Place (Big Love)
Sissy Spacek (Big Love)
Shirley Jones (The Cleaner)
Lily Tomlin (Damages)
Ann-Margret (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit)
Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost)

Modern Family
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Nurse Jackie
30 Rock
The Office

Lea Michele (Glee)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Toni Collette (The United States of Tara)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Matthew Morrison (Glee)
Steve Carell (The Office)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Tony Shalhoub (Monk)

Chris Colfer (Glee)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
Jon Cryer (Two and A Half Men)
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)

Jane Lynch (Glee)
Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
Holland Taylor (Two and A Half Men)

Mike O’Malley (Glee)
Neil Patrick Harris (Glee)
Fred Willard (Modern Family)
Eli Wallach (Nurse Jackie)
Jon Hamm (30 Rock)
Will Arnett (30 Rock)

Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory)
Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives)
Kristin Chenoweth (Glee)
Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live)
Betty White (Saturday Night Live)
Elaine Stritch (30 Rock)
Jane Lynch (Two and a Half Men)

The Colbert Report
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Real Time With Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live
The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien


Betty White on SNL

Photo: NBC

Did you see Betty White hosting Saturday Night Live last night? It was one of the funniest episodes in years. She scored in almost every skit while the average host is lucky to get a couple laughs in the entire show. Though the running theme was “Let’s see how dirty Betty White can be” (it did get gimmicky towards the end), she was game and showed she could raunch it up with the best of them.

And she was among some of the best cast members from the show’s recent history. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph and Ana Gasteyer returned to form an all-star company around Betty, with Shannon bringing back her Sally “I’m 50” O’Malley character, only to have Betty whup her ass (she did the kicks!) by declaring “I’m 90.”

Highlights: (click on links to watch the skits)

  • Gasteyer and Shannon reprising their roles of the droll NPR ladies hosting the Delicious Dish talk show, discussing food in double entendres (see: the famous Schweddy balls skit with Alec Baldwin). This time they bring on Betty to talk about her muffins. Gasteyer: “There’s a tangy taste in this muffin. Is that a cherry?” Betty: “My muffin hasn’t had a cherry since 1939.”
  • Betty giving wacky answers to Fey when Fey shows up at her apartment as a census taker. Asked what her ethnicity is, Betty replies, “Superior to Asians but not as intelligent as blacks.” Fey: “How many people live at this residence?” Betty: “Zero.” Fey: “You don’t live here?” Betty: “Oh, including me? Three.”
  • In her opening monologue, she makes fun of Facebook, which fans used to campaign for her hosting gig. “[In my day], we had poking but it wasn’t something you did on a computer. It was something we did on a hayride. Under a blanket.” She concluded by saying, “If I could, I would take you all on a big hayride.”
  • In an old-fashioned Little Women-style skit, Betty tells her girls if she could do it all over again, she’d probably be a lesbian. “There’s one thing I would not miss: balls.”
  • Betty telling some punks if they don’t shape up, they won’t get a fairy tale ending but will instead come face to face with “the Wizard of Ass” in prison.

What did you think of the show? Did you find Betty being naughty funny? Or did her saying “motherf***ker” go too far?


Movie Review: DATE NIGHT

Date Night is a flawed movie with plot holes bigger than Central Park but boy, is it funny. Steve Carell and Tina Fey are sharp comic actors who manage to elevate a script that might have turned into an unwatchable movie if it had starred, say, Matthew McConaughey and Katherine Heigl.

Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, “a boring couple from New Jersey” who starts re-evaluating their lives after learning their friends Brad and Haley (Mark Ruffalo and Kristin Wiig) are separating. To spice things up, they decide to have date night in NYC at the latest hot spot in town, a pretentious restaurant called Claw with prices that make Phil say, “I’ll just suck on a napkin.” Not having a reservation, they take the one belonging to “the Tripplehorns” when that couple doesn’t show. This seemingly harmless stunt results in an outrageous, all-night adventure that involves mob bosses, strippers, corrupt cops and politicians. Yes, it strains credulity but fuggedaboutit, you’re there for the laughs, not the logic.

What also seems unbelievable is that Carell and Fey never worked together before this or knew each other well. Theirs is such a lived-in, real-world chemistry that I had to keep reminding myself they’re not really married to each other. Their comic rhythms are perfectly synced, making every scene as funny as possible without looking like they’re trying too hard.

The rest of the cast consists of many name actors, most of whom are criminally underused. Taraji P. Henson, who excels in emotionally complex roles, is wasted as a tough cop. Ruffalo and Wiig don’t have enough screen time to make an impression, while the only thing notable about Ray Liotta’s appearance is how much eyeliner he wears. And Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester as the Fosters’ babysitter? The gig should have been given to a middle-tier actor who could use the paycheck instead of someone already on a hit series who doesn’t need a thankless part.

More successful in supporting roles are Mark Wahlberg, hilarious as a shirt-shunning security expert who helps Claire and Phil, and James Franco and Mila Kunis as the real Tripplehorns, though that’s not their real names, either. Franco may be an academic in real life looking to pursue a PhD at Yale, but he cracks me up when he plays clueless and stupid. Sometimes it takes a lot of smarts to portray morons (see Carell as Michael Scott on The Office). And Kunis has consistently proven she is as funny as she is gorgeous.

Director Shawn Levy, he of the Night of the Museum movies I have no desire to see, throws in car chases, helicopters and shoot-outs for those in the audience who might be resistant to something called Date Night (does it say in Levy’s contract he’ll only direct movies involving nocturnal activities?). But the main attractions remain Carell and Fey. I had no expectations except to laugh and laugh I did (stay for outtakes over the end credits). I also expect—hope—that Carell and Fey will have many more cinematic dates together.

Nerd verdict: Fun first Date with Carell and Fey

Photos: Twentieth Century Fox


Nerdy Hot 10 List—Female Edition

Last May, I published a Nerdy Hot 10 List of actors who are goofy or awkward but sexy because of it. As of this writing, that post alone has received over 52,000 hits. Crazy!

I’ve received numerous requests to post a female version, so I now present in random order my list of 10 actresses whose silliness make them hot.

  1. Tina Fey. I know, this is obvious, but her goofiness is brilliant so how can she not be here?
  2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The Elaine dance alone cemented a place for her on this list, but her continuing knack for physical comedy on The New Adventures of Old Christine and in those Healthy Choice commercials proves she’s got more than one move.
  3. Judy Greer. She’s got leading-lady looks but producers dumb her down so she can play the best friend (13 Going on 30, 27 Dresses) without stealing focus from the star. The friend usually gets the funniest lines, though, and funny is sexier than pretty and bland.
  4. Anna Faris. One of the goofiest actresses around, never saying no to humiliating situations on screen, but also hot enough to play a Playboy bunny in The House Bunny.
  5. Sandra Bullock. Yeah, she looks phenomenal naked in The Proposal, but it’s her special blend of on-screen klutziness and social awkwardness that puts her on this list.
  6. Jennifer Coolidge. Her presence, often in Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries, guarantees that lunacy will ensue. I’ll watch anything with her in it (even the awful series Joey) and that, to me, is true star power.
  7. Missi Pyle. Out of character, she’s stunning, but her absolute fearlessness in playing freaky characters (remember the unibrowed terror in Dodgeball?) is what makes her so winsome.
  8. Leslie Mann. Because she’s married to Judd Apatow and looks like that, one might be tempted to say she gets roles due to nepotism and for merely being pretty. But her hilarious turns as the girl who terrorizes Steve Carrell while driving drunk in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and as Katherine Heigl’s much funnier older sister in Knocked Up have proven she’s one dynamite talent.
  9. Elizabeth Banks. Her looks qualify her for magazine covers, but she’s most winning when she goofs it up in movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and on shows like Modern Family.
  10. Andrea Anders. Sure, she’s a cute blonde, but there are busloads of those in Hollywood. It’s her zeal for making her character on Better Off Ted (and earlier, on Joey) socially inept and sometimes just plain wrong that makes her stand out.

Who’s on your nerdy hot list? Sound off in the comments! (UPDATE: See my new 2010 Nerdy Hot Actors list here.)


Nerdies for Best & Worst of SAG Awards

I usually love movie award shows but last night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards bored me. Many of the winners were the same as Globe winners from less than a week ago so I couldn’t muster up enough excitement to cheer even if they deserved it.

For a complete list of winners, see here. Read on for my random thoughts and nerdies for the event.

Most Shocking Winner Even Though I Really Like Her: Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side. Yes, I know she won a Globe but that performance wasn’t up against Meryl Streep’s in Julie & Julia (Streep won in the comedy category). I’m a big fan of Bullock’s, thought she was quite good in the movie and with her acceptance speeches, but Streep’s Julia Child wasn’t just a performance, it was a complete transformation.

Least Likely to be Wearing Any Underwear: Kate Hudson. How do you squeeze anything under that dress? How did she keep her bits in? I’m not picking on her; I really want to know.

Most Potentially Riotous Glee Guest Star: Justin Timberlake. After cast members said they wanted him on the show, Timberlake said he’d love to do it but no one has asked. Ryan Murphy, call JT’s people first thing Monday morning! Is it wrong for me to want the cast to do “Dick in the Box”?

Best Inclusion of Overlooked Co-Stars: Mo’Nique. In winning for Precious, she thanked the co-stars who haven’t been in the spotlight with her but are no less deserving of attention and accolades. She mentioned the actors who played the students in the Each One Teach One program and, most movingly, the child with special needs who played Precious’s daughter, Mongo. Mo’Nique has proven to be the most elegant acceptance-speech giver of the season. I can’t wait to hear what she says when she wins her Oscar.

Most Likely to be Working Until She’s 150: Betty White. Usually, during tributes to life achievement recipients, I take a bathroom break. Heck, I take a whole shower, those tributes are so long. But the one for White showed what an engaging entertainer she’s been throughout her long career, and her acceptance speech (“I look out at this audience and I see so many famous faces…I’ve worked with quite a few. Maybe had a couple”) proves that, at 88, she’s still got the wit and spunk to go a few more decades.

Best…Oh, Never Mind: I just wanted to run this picture of Colin Firth. Do I need an excuse or a fake award category?

Favorite Homegirls: Tina Fey and Bullock. Fey went to my alma mater, University of Virginia (I have a yearbook with her picture in it—no glasses, listed as Elizabeth Fey), and gave it a shout-out when she thanked her acting teachers there. Meanwhile, Bullock went to high school at Washington-Lee in Arlington, Virginia, not far from where I grew up (my brother’s best friend was in her class).

Best News for 40-Year-Old Men: The stunning Sofia Vergara says she’s single and looking for a 40-year-old guy. Her publicist’s inbox is going to explode.

Did you watch the awards? What were highlights and lowlights for you?

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Nerdies for Favorite Things of 2009

Hope you all are enjoying the holidays. Me, I’m having so much fun with family, I need more gigabytes in my brain to store all the memories being made.

I get grateful this time of year for 1) making it this far and 2) all the wonderful experiences I had in the last 12 months. So, between all the eating and social gatherings, I present to you my Nerdy Awards for favorite things this year.

Most Valuable Preposition: Up. Apparently, the best way to make sure a movie is good is by putting this two-letter word in the title. Up and Up in the Air tie for best movie I saw this year. Both are perfect blends of comedy and poignancy, light and dark, entertainment and explorations of what makes us human.

Best Reasons for Staying Home Wednesday Nights: Glee, Modern Family and Cougar Town. Wednesday nights are always a party in my house, as I sing along to Glee then laugh my face off with Family and Cougar. You’ve probably heard plenty about the first two but may not know that Cougar‘s cast, led by the game Courteney Cox, has really gelled into one hilarious ensemble.

Most Unique New Voices in Crime Fiction: Chet the Jet from Spencer Quinn’s Dog on It, Pietro Brwna from Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper, and Stella Hardesty in Sophie Littlefield‘s A Bad Day for Sorry. The field is crowded with cops and detectives but this year, I met fresh new characters starting with Chet, a dog who narrates the adventures he has while solving crimes with his human partner, Bernie. Brwna is a hit man turned jaded medical intern who uses a deadly weapon I’ve never seen used before. And Littlefield introduced us to a 50-year-old, slightly overweight woman who helps abused women keep their partners in line partly by using S&M restraints. These books are all first in a series so discover them now before the next installments come out (Chet’s new case, Thereby Hangs a Tail, arrives January 5).

Best Noir Debut: Richard Lange‘s This Wicked World. This is Lange’s first novel but it reads like he’s been writing them forever. Worthy of a place on my shelf among the genre’s greats.

Best Avoidance of Sophomore Slump: Gillian Flynn with Dark Places. Her debut, Sharp Objects, was so stunning, I wondered if her second novel would measure up. I was thrilled, then, to find Flynn delving even more deeply into the female psyche’s dark, twisted side in Places. Few writers can write about damaged, prickly women and make them so mesmerizing.

Fattest Books I Finished in Shortest Time: I got lost in Kate Morton’s gothic, 560-page The Forbidden Garden for 3 days, while my eyeballs were glued to the 512 pages in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire for 34 hours, finishing it in almost one sitting, minus a few hours of sleep.

Most Soul-Shaking Book: Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. This non-fiction tale of a star football-player-turned-soldier gunned down by friendly fire in Afghanistan ripped me apart and made me re-evaluate how I live my life. A searing read I won’t forget anytime soon.

Funniest Person I Least Expected to Be: Brian Williams on 30 Rock. The veteran NBC Nightly News anchor made me laugh hard when he unexpectedly showed up on Rock, telling Tina Fey he wanted to audition for her show within the show by doing a stand-up act. The punchline wasn’t funny at all but Williams’s hammy, goombah delivery was very much so.

Favorite Movie Trend: Women 45 and over kicking ass at the box office. Sandra Bullock had two big hits (The Proposal, The Blind Side), Meryl Streep had three movies (Julie & Julia, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, It’s Complicated), one of which may win her a third Oscar. And Sigourney Weaver returns as sci-fi queen in Avatar. I hope this trend continues so I can stop watching actors get older while their female co-stars get closer to infancy every year.

Best Performance by Any Actor, Male or Female: Mo’Nique in Precious. Not so much a performance as a terrifying inhabitation of a nightmarish character.

Most Memorable Movie Quote: I just met you and I love you.” —Dug the talking dog in Up.

What were some of your favorite things this year?