Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 07/15/21

And the award for most boringly irrelevant 17 minutes of 2021 goes to…

In terms of an excitement, that countdown opening really can’t compare to this and it’s downhill from there as Television Academy Chairman and CEO and boring white guy Frank Scherma takes the stage to begin our celebration of “the stories, the jokes, tender moments, news and pure fun from the last year that provided a lifeline for so many of us.” Oh, is that what TV has provided us over the last year? Because, IMHO, Bill Maher’s spot-on commentary about the 2021 Oscars and the film industry applies to the Emmys and television as well. “Pure fun” and “lifeline” are certainly not the words I would apply to a medium that has abandoned its mission to entertain and uplift its audience in favor of virtue signaling each other. As a result, it seems like many of these shows have more awards than viewers. Anyway, Frank was as trite as they come. Maybe next year he can cede his position to MJ Rodriguez. Now that would be groundbreaking – or, at least, less excruciatingly dull.

The nominations themselves were announced by Ron Cephus Jones and Jasmine Cephus Jones who Frank informs made Emmy history in 2020 by becoming the only father-daughter duo to win matching acting Emmys in the same year – he for NBC’s This is Us and she for #freerayshawn which ran on the blink-and-you-missed-it now-defunct Quibi which, ironically, billed itself as a short-form streaming platform. Prediction: Next year they’ll share the award for Most Stilted Onstage Banter. Although, admittedly, the competition in that category is usually fierce.

Now, as for the nominees. Here they are – and I think they say a lot about what’s wrong with the industry and why so few people give a darn (this is Beliefnet) about who’s nominated or who wins. Be honest. How many of these shows have you ever even heard of, let alone watched?

Best Variety Talk Series
Conan (AT&T), The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (ViacomCBS), Jimmy Kimmel Live (Disney), Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (AT&T), The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (ViacomCBS)
IMHO: Boy, talk about diversity. The five nominees basically have three corporate owners (AT&T, Disney and ViacomCBS) and one opinion between them. BTW, I’m categorizing these shows not by the platform they happen to be presented but by the corporations that control them. There are lots of channels but the same few corporations are behind nearly all of them. If diversity of thought or perspective – or access to the power of communication – is even a goal, they should be broken up or, at least, their channels should be required to identify who’s pulling the strings.

Anyway, if it were up to me, I’d give this award to Real Time with Bill Maher (AT&T) because, even though I don’t always agree with Maher’s opinions, at least he has the guts to occasionally express an opinion that isn’t rolled off the Woke corporate assembly line. I’d also give the award for Best Talk Show Punctuation Mark to the exclamation point in Gutfeld! (Fox). Despite its strong ratings, this joke is as close as Gutfeld! is likely going to get to an actual Emmy.

Outstanding Competition Program
The Amazing Race (ViacomCBS), Nailed It! (Netflix), RuPaul’s Drag Race (ViacomCBS), Top Chef (Comcast), The Voice (Comcast)
IMHO: Sorry Nailed It! but The Amazing Race should nail this one – if only out of nostalgia for those days way back in 2019 (when the last season was actually produced) when a group of people boarding an airplane wearing masks was usually frowned upon.

And, if they were to give an award for Outstanding Competition Program Debacle, that would have to go to The Bachelor (Disney). With so much potential sexual impropriety lawsuits just waiting to be filed, the anachronistic franchise somehow managed to turn (now-former) host Chris Harrison’s call for “understanding, “grace” and “compassion” be extended to a show participant who, while a young college student, unfortunately attended an antebellum party hosted by a group that reportedly has historical ties to slavery. And, no, the group in question isn’t the Democratic Party. There’s been lots of speculation over who will replace Harrison. My guess is that, given his on-the-record stand on “understanding,” “grace,” and “compassion,” Jesus probably isn’t on the network’s shortlist.

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Aidy Bryant (Disney’s Shrill), Kaley Cuoco (AT&T’s The Flight Attendant), Jean Smart (AT&T’s Hacks), Allison Janney (CBSViacom’s Mom), Tracee Ellis Ross (Disney’s Black-ish)
IMHO: I’ve never even heard of Shrill or Hacks before their nominations. I loved Kaley Cuoco in The Big Bang Theory but haven’t actually seen The Flight Attendant. I have seen Black-ish. Tracee Ellis Ross is fine in it but the show is dull-ish. Allison Janney is actually very good in Mom which, to my mind, actually ranks as one of the best TV sitcoms of all time. The problem is it was knocked off kilter by the sudden departure of Anna Faris as the daughter – which also rendered the title of the show somewhat meaningless. But, for it’s ability to realistically and hopefully portray recovery from addiction with both sensitivity and lough-out-loud humor, the show deserves to be regarded with great respect. Unfortunately, last season was not the show’s best. I still think the producer’s should have gone with my idea. Hey, if it’s possible to listen to the fans and reverse the cancellation, the idea’s still viable. While they’re at it, they can check out my thoughts on a potential premise for the reboot of Frasier (another all-time great sitcom) in the same post. I do have to admit that what little is known about the current plan sounds promising. My chief complaint about that is the CBSViacom revival is opting to put the show on it premium Paramount+ streaming platform rather than on its free broadcast channel. Of course, the money-grubbing corporation is running 60 Minutes repeats during the summer while offering new editions of 60 Minutes+ on its streaming platform. The rabble will have to be satisfied with dreck like Love Island and Big Brother.

What was I talking about again? Oh, yeah. The Emmys. I’d give the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series award to Folake Olowofoyeku for her role in CBSViacom’s Bob Hearts Abishola. If you’re unfamiliar with the show – about a white businessman (Billy Gardell) who falls in love with his Nigerian immigrant nurse (Olowofoyeku) following his heart attack. The funny show depicts how their two families come together and actually begin to love each other. The series celebrates immigrants and diversity without the finger wagging.

The show is produced by Chuck Lorre – who has also given us Mom, as well as the classic Big Bang Theory and its fantastic spinoff Young Sheldon. What these shows all have in common – beyond being actually funny – is an underlying tone of kindness, non-judgment and a belief that people can change for the better. That’s a pretty good formula for producing programming that will connect with ordinary people who are just looking for some laughs, heart and uplift – without having their values smugly mocked. And, yes, CBSViacom, please keep them free.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson (Disney’s Black-ish) Michael Douglas (Netflix’s The Kominsky Method) William H. Macy (CBSViacom’s Shameless), Jason Sudeikis (Apple’s Ted Lasso), Kenan Thompson (Comcast’s Kenan)
IMHO: I have to admit that, like most people, I’ve never even seen Shameless, Ted Lasso or Kenan and, despite their heaping praise from critics, have not been able to get into Black-ish or The Kominsky Method (which actually is produced by Chuck Lorre). So, I guess I’d just give the prize to Bob Hearts Abishola‘s Billy Gardell.

Outstanding Comedy Series
Black-ish (Disney), Cobra Kai (Netflix) Emily In Paris (Netflix), Hacks (AT&T), The Flight Attendant (AT&T), The Kominsky Method (Netflix) Pen15 (Disney), Ted Lasso (Apple)
IMHO: While I don’t watch any of these shows, the laugh-free clips shown during the nominations presentation suggest that I’m not missing much. The producers of Pen15, particularly, seems to think a vaguely crass title is the same as humor.

My personal choice here would be Young Sheldon. It’s warm, funny and extremely well cast.

And for Outstanding Individual Comedy Program, you really can’t top this. The only problem is that everyone in it is completely serious.

And when it comes to the nominations in the Limited Series or Movie and Drama Series categories, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I really don’t give a darn (again, this is Beliefnet).

My basic advice to television industry executives (and Hollywood as a whole) is get over yourselves. Worry less about your egos, the praise of cherry-picked agenda-driven critics and Borg-like Twitter mobs and start thinking more of your audience. Get about uplifting the hardworking people who make you rich and only ask for some respect and genuine entertainment in return. Step One might be giving the guys below a show.
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Lee Greenwood and Home Free "God Bless The USA" Telly Award win

Giving the people what they want. Home Free collaborated Lee Greenwood and members of the United States Air Force Band for stirring rendition of God Bless the USA. Their video of the now-classic ode to America (written by Greenwood in the early 80s) has had more than 200 million views over all social media platforms and has just won a 2021 Telly Award win for Most Viral Video. Founded in 1979, The Telly Awards honor excellence in local, regional, and cable television commercials as well as non-broadcast video and television programming.

Of the win, Greenwood says “This version just happens to be special because it includes the US Air Force Band and was arranged and put together by Home Free, who are an amazing vocal group. I have been inundated with questions about this version and how it came together as people just love the feel of it. Now to win an award and know that almost one-third of our entire US population has heard this version is astounding to me.”

Talking about the making of the video Home Free’s Austin Brown recalls “Working with Lee Greenwood on such an iconic song was amazing and intimidating, at the same time. First off, we didn’t know how to top the original. Secondly, we were in a pandemic situation with members of the group in different states. Then add in the US Air Force Band. All of us had chill bumps on the final outcome that we all immediately were in agreement to make a video…How could we make a video in so many places was the first thought. Then our team was able to make it all happen and we were thrilled to release it in time for July 4 of last year (2020). It was an honor to be part of this creative work.”

While Lee Greenwood is a music legend, the all-vocal singing group (including Austin Brown, Rob Lundquist, Adam Rupp, Tim Foust, and Adam Chance) has been slowly-but-surely building a following via videos that have amassed 466.8+ million views and a YouTube channel with over 1.2 million subscribers.

IMHO: The group’s sometimes poignant/sometimes witty song covers of hits by the likes of John Mayer, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Maren Morris, the Oak Ridge Boys, Kenny Rogers and others, as well as memorable collaborations with icons like Greenwood and Don McLean (American Pie) can be mesmerizing.

They also emit a warmth and likability that I think some savvy TV network should tap into. Give these guys an updated 7o’s-style variety show. The retro format will actually be fresh and new to younger viewers. Call it The Home Free Goodtime Hour. Personally, I see a hit there.

Anyway, here’s their award-winning collaboration with Lee Greenwood and United States Air Force Band. Patriotism and gratitude still sell, folks. Maybe now more than ever.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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