by Aprille Hanson
What a 2020 thing to do to move an American classic like “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” to Apple TV+, a streaming service that just isn’t widely used. The small silver lining is it can be streamed for free from Oct. 30-Nov. 1. Or, sign-up for a free seven-day trial.
In these crazy times this seemingly simple move to me is un-American. And yes, I’m fully aware that there are so many bigger issues right now that don’t even compare to a 25-minute Halloween holiday special being moved off of cable. But of all the years to make this decision pretty much sums up the selfishness of 2020. For the past 20 years, the 1966 CBS special has aired on ABC during October, according to a USA Today article.
“It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” should’ve been available on every streaming service and whatever cable TV network wanted to pick it up. Hell, put it on PBS. While running by a CVS and wearing my “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” T-shirt, the cashier pointed out how much she liked it and in the same breath said, “Can you believe it’s not on TV this year?”
Why is it so important? Because we need a little bit of Linus’ hope. It’s the story of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang centered around Linus telling his friends that the Great Pumpkin would rise out of the pumpkin patch and give toys to all children, but they have to believe. The Great Pumpkin can sense insincerity in their belief. He’s willing to miss trick-or-treating because he believes so strongly that the Great Pumpkin will choose his pumpkin patch this year.
It’s coupled with Charlie Brown of course going trick-or-treating and getting nothing but rocks while his friends get the typical candy. And while Charlie Brown gets rocks in his Halloween bag and ultimately Linus gets laughed at by his friends and misses Halloween -- which I’m sure is the reality for a lot of kids this year -- and the Great Pumpkin does not show up. After all of that defeat and failure, the special ends with Linus being ever more hopeful and vigilant that the Great Pumpkin does exist and he will visit the pumpkin patch next year.
In the midst of disappointment, it’s a story of hope. So why in 2020, when hope is so desperately needed and so scarce, with all the rocks piling up in our Halloween bags, was the decision made to move a sweet, simple story that has been beloved for generations so only a small portion of the population could see it?
So many children and adults of all ages who don’t own it or have Apple TV+ are missing out. And I realize not everybody has cable, I’m sure a few houses do these days in competition with streaming. But it should honestly be available across the streaming networks and across the cable stations. It’s a story that we just don’t really get from kid’s shows today. If it had been made today, Charlie Brown would not have been bullied and he certainly wouldn’t have gotten rocks instead of candy. And the Great Pumpkin would ultimately have risen out of the pumpkin patch proving all of Linus’ friends wrong. But that’s just not reality and it’s certainly not the reality we live in today. And children feel that, adults feel that.
What is hopeful is nothing going right around you, but hanging onto the shred of hope, not really knowing what will happen in the future. Yanking that away, that nostalgia and classic tale that can reach the hearts of children and adults alike is cruel and unnecessary this year.
So I hope if you have a chance to watch it on Apple TV+ or somewhere, you take the time to watch the sweet simple classic. It’s a unique respite from crazy times and I hope, with the same fervor of Linus, that it will once again grace TV screens in more than just one place. And that our world will one day be hopeful again.
by Bryce Ratliff
I trust Nicole Kidman. Ever since I was young, Nicole Kidman has consistently picked projects that I’ve enjoyed immensely. Now, I haven’t seen everything she’s been in, but everything I’ve watched with her starring (except for maybe “Aquaman”) is typically something I love. After she starred in the wonderful, moving film “Lion” a few years ago, followed by the deliciously enjoyable “Big Little Lies,” I realized that Kidman picks projects that she feels are genuinely special. And I’m happy to say that so far, HBO’s “The Undoing” seems promisingly special.
I’m going to start off by pointing out what immediately caught my attention once the episode started. The locations in this show are gorgeous. “Big Little Lies” was often called “real estate porn” by many people, and I think “The Undoing” is that as well, just in New York City instead of Monterey, Calif. The townhouse that Kidman and Hugh Grant’s family live in is stunningly lavish. The home has glorious red walls matched with brick and beautiful accents, it’s a wonderful place to be. The visual splendor continues in other locations, but is also present in the costume design. Kidman gets some marvelous outfits (there’s one decorated coat she wears that is jaw-dropping). This is all accented by a wonderful mix of classical music that makes the show feel all the more luxurious.
Now, moving onto the cast of the show, I love the Fraser family. Kidman’s Grace is extremely human and immediately likable. She’s a therapist (and a damn good one at that) who has wit and genuine compassion for other people. She’s well matched by the very charming Grant, who makes a lovable impression from the beginning. He’s funny, tries to balance work and family, and he has terrific chemistry with Kidman. I think the relationship they display seems (emphasis on seems, I’m not quite so sure things are as perfect as they appear on the surface) healthy and honest. I’m also impressed by the actor playing their young son, Noah Jupe. You may recognize him from “A Quiet Place,” where he also did solid work. He seems very natural for an actor his age, and his back and forth with the actors playing his parents is delightful.
Now, all of this seems marvelous on the surface. A loving family in a lavish townhouse in New York City, supporting each other through their work and school struggles and coming home to have playful, yet honest banter at the end of the day. It’s all fun and games until we bring in the rich private school and a dark dash of mystery.
Things enter “Big Little Lies” territory quickly in the pilot episode. We get passive aggressive auction committees and criminal activity all wrapped in an elegant NYC package. We go from a nice little escape to a brewing sense of worry very quickly. By the end of the pilot episode, I can’t help but feel as though the creative team behind this has lured me into liking this family and their lovely home, only for it all to be a façade. Things get dark in this posh community fast in a similar fashion to how they did on the aforementioned ‘Lies’: murder. Violent, dark, and grizzly murder.
I’m not quite sure who did it yet (though I had my eye on one character in particular) and I have little clue on motive, but there’s definitely something sinister going on in this show. And I’m excited to see how the creative team tackles this mix of murder-mystery and escapism. Not to mention exploring themes of projection (whether it be a child projecting his desire to quit an instrument on his music teacher, or an auctioneer projecting a value of $1,000 onto a mere glass of water), isolation, and possible darkness in those around you. This show has everything a drama pilot needs to hook me in.
However, I do fear it might unfold a bit slowly for some, and also might seem to focus heavily on style over substance for many. The show has its twists and turns but relies heavily on open-ended moments with Kidman staring off of skyscrapers or having very teasing flashbacks. That being said, if you’re into a show that seems to be a mix of “Big Little Lies,” “Defending Jacob” and “Nocturnal Animals,” you’re in for quite a juicy treat. As far as the pilot episode goes, I am definitely itching to see what happens next week.
Read more of Bryce Ratliff’s review at Please Press Play.
by Tyler Glover, Aprille Hanson, Julian Spivey & Preston Tolliver
Over the last few months on The Word’s Facebook page we’ve been holding a Greatest Emmy Winners of All-Time tournament where our readers and social media followers have been selecting the all-time greatest Emmy winners in the drama and comedy categories of lead actor, lead actress, supporting actor and supporting actress. The readers and social media followers of The Word did an exquisite job of pairing down fields of more than 32 winners in each category to pick the ultimate Emmy-winner in each and now we’re unveiling all eight of those winners and giving reasons why we believe they were excellent choices!
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Here's a short list of things Walter White did during the five seasons of “Breaking Bad”:
- He became a notorious drug lord who cooked and distributed methamphetamine to people across the United States and Mexico
- He watched his business partner's girlfriend overdose and did nothing to help
- He worked with Nazis to try to have that business partner killed
- He emotionally tormented his wife to the point that she attempted suicide
- He got his DEA agent brother-in-law (and his DEA agent brother-in-law's partner) killed by the aforementioned Nazis
- And he blew up part of a nursing home to kill a rival drug lord
And despite all that, he made you feel bad for him.
Bryan Cranston didn't win Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series because he portrayed one of the most evil characters on television. He won because he portrayed the opposite - an arguably good guy who broke bad in a way that made you say, "Holy shit. That could be me."
Walter White was a multidimensional character - on one side, he was the high school chemistry teacher, freshly diagnosed with cancer, desperate to find a way to make cash quick so he could leave his family enough to get by (writer's note: pay teachers more money). On the other hand, that desperation vaulted him into a life of meth and assassinations and straight up familial abuse (and using science to kill a lot of people, which just seemed like a really cool and unique and fun way to do that).
Let's be clear: Walter White was not the good guy of the story. He was in the beginning, sure - you could sympathize with the guy who doesn't make enough money for the work he does and is faced with leaving his family with crippling medical debt because of good old fashioned American healthcare. But as the series went on, you saw those incremental changes, and before you knew it, you were watching the show unfold from the lens of someone on the totally opposite end of the moral spectrum. And somehow, for some reason, we all still made excuses for him. Despite the abhorrent behavior (and sexual assault, even) toward his wife; despite the total disregard for human lives outside his home; despite the fact that, really, he was kind of just an asshole.
That's due in large part because of Vince Gilligan's writing, yes. But it's also thanks to Cranston's ability to portray a character that in the midst of the bad, he remained someone you could see yourself in. PT
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Claire Foy (The Crown)
Claire Foy rightfully deserves the crown for Outstanding Lead Actress of all-time for her performance of Queen Elizabeth II in "The Crown." At the start of the series, Elizabeth II is just a princess doing tours and being able to lead somewhat of a normal life. However, when her father dies, it is her time to become Queen. Queen Elizabeth II has to do her best to be impartial and do what is best for the country even if it is not what she would do. What makes Foy so incredible in this role is that even when she is saying nothing, she is saying a lot. Foy is a master at letting the audience know what she is thinking without saying anything. That's what makes it even more exciting when Foy finally speaks her mind on occasion. We see family conflicts come up where she wants to give her sister her blessing on a marriage but from a governmental standpoint and wanting to stay away from a scandal, Elizabeth has to make them wait. Foy shines through it all. Foy was the winner of a Golden Globe, a Primetime Emmy and two Screen Actors Guild Awards all for Lead Actress In A Drama Series. The only negative thing I could even think to say of Claire Foy in "The Crown" is that I hate that she only got to play the role for two seasons. This is because "The Crown" changes the whole cast for season three to older actors and will switch at the start of season five as well. Claire Foy was absolutely perfect in the role of Queen Elizabeth II. TG
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
Maggie Smith's portrayal of Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, in "Downton Abbey" was widely popular with the Emmys. Smith was nominated for five of the six seasons and won three Emmys: one for Best Supporting Actress In A Miniseries and two for Best Supporting Actress In A Drama Series. This is because "Downton Abbey" began as a miniseries but when it decided to return, the Emmys placed it to compete in the drama categories. The fact that Maggie Smith was voted as the absolute Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series of all-time by readers of The Word was not shocking to me. At the beginning of the series, the heir to become the Earl of Grantham has died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic. He was set to marry Mary Crawley, the daughter of the Earl of Grantham, before his demise. The problem facing the Crawley family is the heir presumptive, Matthew, is from the upper-middle class and does not desire to lead an aristocratic life. Smith plays Violet, Mary's grandmother, who is devoted to keeping her family's status, which she sees as their well-being. Smith portrays Violet with such elegance, sophistication, sarcasm and wit. She is ready to go to battle for her family and Smith shows that she is a force to be reckoned with. The series continues to show how the events of history affect the Crawley family through all six seasons and Smith does not miss a beat. Her performance is absolute perfection. TG
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama: Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
Peter Dinklage is the record holder for most Primetime Emmy wins for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series with four wins. This is most definitely not a fluke. In "Game of Thrones," Dinklage plays Tyrion Lannister, who is the brother to the Queen of Westeros and becomes Hand of the King. Over the course of the years, Tyrion goes from someone that is more concerned with sleeping with as many women as possible to someone who really cares about the kingdom and what is best for it. What is best for it may not be his family in power. Tyrion even kills his own father and then joins the other side of the war. Dinklage helps make Tyrion someone unlike we have ever seen before in television. He is flawed, complicated, and complex but also, compassionate, understanding, and seeks to do what is best for the kingdom. Dinklage is the only person that could have played this role and I cannot imagine anyone else could have done a better job. I am so glad that in this tournament of the Outstanding Supporting Actor of all-time that Peter Dinklage was the winner of the "game." TG
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Alan Alda (M*A*S*H)
Alan Alda is the greatest television actor of all-time. So, it’s not too surprising to see him voted as the greatest Lead Actor in a Comedy Series of all-time Emmy-winning performance on “M*A*S*H” in The Word’s fan-voted tournament. The only thing surprising about Alda, the Emmys and “M*A*S*H” is that he somehow only won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series twice in the show’s entire epic run, but he can mostly blame Carroll O’Connor and “All in the Family” for that. Alda did also win Emmys for both directing and writing episodes of “M*A*S*H” and remains the only person to have ever won Emmys for acting, directing and writing the same series. What made Alda the greatest television actor of all-time, in my opinion, was his gift for being able to make viewers cry via both laughter and dramatic acting and that fit a show about doctors serving in wartime perfectly. You can’t just outright have a comedy about war without bringing some drama into the fray – well, I guess if you’re “Hogan’s Heroes” you can, but you can’t have an all-time great show doing that. Alda’s greatest quality as an actor, which he (and a terrific staff of writers) brought to the character of Hawkeye Pierce on “M*A*S*H,” is empathy. Alda and his character Hawkeye Pierce sticks in the heart and minds of so many TV viewers because he truly makes us all want to be better people. JS
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Betty White (The Golden Girls)
Everyone loves Betty White. It’s something we can all agree on. So, it’s no surprise that White came out on top of the fan-voted Greatest Emmy-winning Lead Actress in a Comedy on The Word. In her career, she received 21 Emmy nominations, winning five, including in 1986 for her character Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls” and in 1975 and 1976 for Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” According to the Writers Guild of America, both sitcoms made its 101 best-written TV series of all-time list in 2013. White played Rose on ‘Golden Girls’ with the right balance of cluelessness and heart. It’s a hard line to tread because tipping the scale too much in either direction can make a character incredibly annoying. But when Rose launched into a story about St. Olaf -- the fictional Minnesota town she was from -- and all its absurdities, viewers laughed and bought into the nonsense because of her comedic timing and commitment to the craziness of it all. But just like the entire cast, no character was one dimensional. She could break hearts while cutting into a birthday cake by herself in her kitchen in St. Olaf, the first birthday after her husband died, in “A Piece of Cake” from season two to getting her childhood bear Fernando back from a bratty kid, ripping it out of her arms and shoving her out the door while saying “Sometimes life just isn’t fair kiddo,” in “Old Friends.” White plays all her roles with heart and humor, making her a perfect winner. AH
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Don Knotts (The Andy Griffith Show)
Don Knotts won more Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series all-time as he thoroughly dominated the category in the ‘60s for his role as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show.” It’s a performance that has remained with TV viewers for more than half a century and has certainly inspired many actors and actresses. Anytime I see Laurie Metcalf portray her Emmy-winning performance as Jackie Harris on “Roseanne” and “The Conners” I can’t help but think of Knotts. There were certainly bumbling comedic characters before him – perhaps Knotts himself took some notes from the great Lucille Ball – but he just had these wonderful facial expressions and such expressive eyes that he would often-times make you laugh as much or more with his physicality than the jokes that were coming out of his mouth. In 1999, TV Guide named Barney Fife the ninth greatest TV Character of All-Time and more than 20 years after that – even with the golden age of television the last two decades has seen – he’s still memorable enough for the readers of The Word to vote him as the greatest Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy-winner of all-time. JS
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Estelle Getty (The Golden Girls)
Picture it, Estelle Getty being named the greatest Emmy-winning Supporting Actress in a Comedy in television history -- it’s exactly how the fans of The Word voted in the Greatest Emmy Winners of All-Time tournament. She played the feisty Sophia Petrillo, the 80-year-old mother of Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) -- despite being a year younger than Arthur -- for seven seasons of “The Golden Girls,” as well as spin-off shows, making the character’s run 10 years on television. In 1988, she won her Emmy for playing everyone’s favorite Italian spitfire. She was nominated seven times. In a show about older women navigating life, with a lesser actress, it would have been easy for Getty to get outshined by the primary cast Arthur, Betty White (Rose) and Rue McClanahan (Blanche). But Getty brought a blunt sarcasm that threw the concept of a “sweet old lady” pretty much out the window. The show broke a lot of stereotypes of older women and Getty was a big part of that. Her comedic timing when throwing digs at Dorothy’s nonexistent love life, Blanche’s too frequent love life and Rose’s lack of awareness were perfection. Beyond the wisecracks, she played the character with warmth and an incredible depth in episodes like “Not Another Monday” from the final seventh season, where she, at the last minute, talks her best friend out of suicide. Getty’s versatility made that character something more than just one-liners and Sicily stories. AH
by Julian Spivey
The 2020 Fall TV season essentially finally kicked off with the return of ABC Wednesday night comedies on October 21 with new seasons of “The Goldbergs,” “The Conners” and “black-ish.”
It’s so nice to see the return of some old favorites after a longer than usual wait due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that ended many TV seasons prematurely in March and led to the delay of almost anything that wasn’t in the can by that point.
Many TV shows are back in production with numerous safety protocols to keep cast and crews as safe as possible.
I was thrilled to see the return of “The Conners” on Wednesday night with its season three premiered titled “Keep On Truckin’ Six Feet Apart” and the COVID pandemic was unsurprisingly the main theme at hand.
COVID is going to be everywhere among returning shows and I know that many of us are pandemic-d out and I’m certainly not looking forward to all of the COVID storylines that are going inundate many of my favorite returning shows - but it just felt necessary for “The Conners” to touch upon how hard the pandemic has been on the middle to lower class families across this nation.
Many in this country have lost jobs and homes and this is something the Conner family is facing in the season three premiere. Toward the end of season two Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and her fiancé Ben (Jay R. Ferguson) were starting up their own publication, but an inability to sell ads due to companies not many any money spells the end of that start-up in the season three premiere. The end of season two also saw Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and Becky (Lecy Goranson) re-opening The Lunchbox restaurant that played a big role in the original run of “Roseanne” in the ‘90s and the beginning of season three sees it struggling to adapt to a new life of take out dining. Dan’s (John Goodman) dry wall business is also struggling with the fact that he’s recently gotten an eviction notice for his home and is trying to do dry wall without his crew that he was forced to lay off because he needs all the income himself.
It’s a hard to watch premiere – but “The Conners,” like “Roseanne” before it doesn’t shy away from the realities of life for blue collar families. This is what truly has always made this show and its predecessor brilliant. The episode had many laughs – something that I really needed – and continues to be one of the most well-written comedies on television, but was also the kind of showing that could lead to teary-eyes with our beloved characters all struggling simply to get by.
The biggest storyline of the season three premiere of “The Conners” is the return to Lanford, Ill. of Wellman Plastics, the plastic factory that Roseanne and Jackie spent the early days of “Roseanne” working at and the end of the premiere sees Darlene and Becky essentially stepping into the shoes of their mom and aunt more than 30 years later in a depressive tribute to both the show’s early days, as well as “Laverne and Shirley.”
Finding humor in a hard life is the strength of “The Conners” and this season certainly seems like it’s going to be a perfect mixture of that.
by Julian Spivey
“Evil” (Netflix) – Now
I’m thrilled that “Evil,” the best new television show from last fall’s slate of broadcast TV shows, is now available on Netflix for TV viewers who don’t watch television in a traditional way to enjoy. “Evil” is from Robert and Michelle King, the creators of “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight,” and is about a team that includes a Priest (played by Mike Colter) and a psychologist and religious skeptic (played by Katja Herbers) that investigate unexplained mysteries like demonic possession and supposed miracles. The show is creepy as all get out, but also incredibly well-written and acted. Now that it’s found a streaming home on America’s biggest streaming service, I can’t wait for new fans to find the show – and hopefully watch season two (whenever it airs) on CBS to help keep this terrific show alive.
“The Right Stuff” (Disney+) – 10/9
Disney+’s first original scripted series that seems to truly be geared toward an adult audience is “The Right Stuff,” based on Tom Wolfe’s 1979 novel and 1983 film of the same name. The series follows the U.S. space program’s Project Mercury and the seven astronauts that became known as the Mercury Seven. The series, which is co-produced by National Geographic, stars Jake McDorman (who was excellent in the short-lived CBS drama “Limitless”) as astronaut Alan Shepard and Patrick J. Adams (who starred in USA Network’s “Suits”) as astronaut John Glenn. It’s nice to see Disney+ trying something a bit different from what you’re used to from that platform.
“The West Wing” Election Special (HBO Max) – 10/15
“The West Wing” is my all-time favorite TV drama, so I’m completely biased about this choice. The cast and creators of “The West Wing,” an Emmy darling that ran on NBC from 1999-2006, is reuniting for an election special hoping to promote voting in the 2020 Presidential election next month. The special will include a theatrical streaming of “Hartsfield’s Landing,” a third season episode of the series, that will be shot from the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles early this month. Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, Dule Hill, Janel Maloney and Rob Lowe will all reprise their roles from the original series.
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – 10/16
October is a good month on streaming services for Aaron Sorkin, not only will he be reuniting with the cast of his iconic TV show “The West Wing” for a voting special on HBO Max, but his film “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which he wrote and directed, premieres on Netflix the very next day. The trailer for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” debuted a few weeks back and it looks absolutely phenomenal. Being written by Sorkin you know it’s going to be filled with fantastic dialogue at the very least. But the true story of a group of ant-Vietnam War protestors who were charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intent of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention also features an incredible ensemble cast that includes Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella, Mark Rylance, Michael Keaton and recent Emmy winners Jeremy Strong and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
“David Byrne’s American Utopia” (HBO Max) – 10/17
Legendary filmmaker Spike Lee directed a performance of David Byrne’s Broadway musical “American Utopia,” a musical based on Byrne’s 2018 album of the same name, but also featuring music going back to his work with the Talking Heads in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The concert film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 10 and will both be broadcast on HBO and made available for streaming on HBO Max on Oct. 17. I saw parts of the “American Utopia” performance earlier this year when Byrne and the cast of his Broadway show were musical guests on “Saturday Night Live” and it looked like a ton of fun.