MTV VMA 2016: Minimal Effort for the Millennials (Editorial)

Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj

Perhaps the only thing more annoying than the faux fanboy “influencers” comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele was the minimal  effort expended to entertain the millennial audience.  The show itself seemed to be an extreme answer to the lack of diversity displayed by the academy at the Oscars.

Hip-Hip ruled the night. Amid lackadaisical performances and the overreaction of the tweens in the audience this years video music awards was nearly unwatchable. The older performers were uneasy with their interactions with the younger stars.

Nicki Minaj looked almost hostilely bored during her number with Ariana Grande. Rihanna, who opened the show in a long dance number,  either could not be bothered to lip-sync most of her songs, or forgot.

Beyonce, the big winner of the evening, gave the performance of the evening. A monument to eclectic dance moves and lip-synced lyrics.  The microphone covering the mouth is a dead giveaway by the way.

The MTV Video Music Awards felt geared to a generation who did not cut their teeth on Michael Jackson and may even be tiring of Justin Bieber. This was aimed at the demographic who joined YouTube after  its heyday.  The kids who look blankly when MySpace is mentioned.

It was painfully obvious that the days of truly gifted and spectacular performers like Tina Turner are over.  Beyonce is a personal favorite, but hearing Tina belt out “Nutbush City Limits” was a special treat and not one performance by any female artist on the VMA’s came near that level of power last night.

The show was all about dry ice, flashing lights and a huge amount of dancers supporting the artists.  Perhaps the main problem was that all the music had a sameness to it.  There was no variety.

(On a sidenote, there could have been a lot more of Jay Pharoah)

This year felt sophomoric and apathetic compared to years past.  Miley Cyrus, who made the VMA her plaything was replaced by two comics posing as Twitter poseurs. And just to set the record straight:   Whoever thought  having Kim Kardashian-North present Britney Spears was a good idea?

Spears, the queen of lip-sync (cop the mic over the mouth) performed with G-Eazy who did the lion’s share of the work. The performance, like the show itself, was underwhelming.

The multiple hosts  this year were incredibly annoying: DJ Khaled and Nicole Byer, along with Peele and Key,  put the VMA at a level of irritation never before seen.

More interesting than the actual awards program were the camera shots of the rich and famous in the audience, arguably the best of any MTV VMA.  Kim getting a close of up of Kanye smiling with her smart phone.  West sidled up to Jayden Smith, and that wild hair cut. The clear excitement of the Olympic guests, who later presented an award,  and who all looked around 12 years old.

Jimmy Fallon came out to present the video of the year award and died.  Perhaps the average audience member is not allowed to stay up that late.  (Beyonce won this one, no real surprise there as this was her night.)

Beyonce won a total of six awards by the end of the evening.  Making her the woman of the “hour.” Rihanna kept upping her game and her final performance was her best. Less about the dancers and more about the singing, RiRi killed it.

Rihanna took the Michael Jackson Vanguard Video award after a long winded and slightly rambling intro from Drake. It was here that he declared his love for the singer.

All in all, the evening was pretty blasé.  A sort of masturbatory experience for a privileged few, we are talking about you Kanye and Kim, and  a total yawn fest  without the antics of Miley Cyrus.  When the highlight of the event is Drake declaring his love for Rhianna perhaps it is time to rethink the formula.

Bring back the spectacle guys and dolls, this was a major disappointment.

SNL: Ariana Grande Double Duty Best of 2016 (Review/Video)

SNL made a wise choice in inviting Ariana Grande to host and be the musical guest. Grande’s double duty stint  was on top form, making this the best episode of 2016 hands down.

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SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Ariana Grande” Episode 1698 — Pictured: (l-r) Taran Killam and Ariana Grande on March 8, 2016 — (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC)

SNL made a wise choice in inviting Ariana Grande to host and be the musical guest. Grande’s double duty stint  was on top form, making this the best episode of 2016 hands down. While most of the Internet went stupid over the one-arm jacket wardrobe malfunction during her first number,none of the site gave credit to Ariana for knocking it out of the park. Apart from a funny open and a great first number, the rest of the show was clever, funny, and (in terms of the feminist song) catchy as hell.

Despite Larry David messing up Ariana’s name when introducing her first musical spot, the former Nickelodeon star and singer proved that despite a dangling jacket the girl’s got singing chops for days son. Grande also manages to kill it in the sketches and let’s face it; girl’s got comedy, yo. (Sorry could not resist that one after re-watching the Maria sketch.)

Leaving the Scream Queens actress for a moment, Weekend Update totally rocked it out. On point political gags, Cecily Strong killed it as “The Drunkest Contestant on the Bachelor” (and Jost was no slouch during the skit with his warning about Leslie Jones) and the crazed smile, and Jost’s corpsing at it was a priceless finish.

Kate McKinnon continued as the comedy pin-up gal for SNL with her Hilary/Bern morph and her blob-maid bit (a real OMG too funny moment, that almost outshone “Weekend Update”) was beyond hysterical and proved that this woman is the definition of funny.

The big surprise was Ariana’s impression skills, not only doing a pitch-perfect Jennifer Lawrence, but killing Britney Spears, Rihanna, Whitney Houston, Shakira, and Celine Dion before being sent for coffee by Jay Pharaoh’s “Jay Z.”

Grande has done her crowd pleasing party trick before on the Jimmy Fallon show, but SNL took her talents and amped the heck out of them. Where the surprise comes in is that she was just as spot on the second time around, proving her gig on Fallon’s show was no fluke.

Sidenote: Ariana’s Whitney brought both goosebumps and a huge lump to this reviewers throat…Wow.

The SNL opening monologue, where Keenan Thompson came to crack a joke with his fellow Nickelodeon alumnus, was brilliant. The song was pithy, funny and a great nod and wink to the naughty Miley and Justin, et al.

Keenan and Ariana shared the stage again on the “Family Feud” skit where Thompson did his Steve Harvey and Grande did her Jennifer Lawrence. While she killed it, the rest of the SNL players did their caricatures of famous people. It should be noted that Pharaoh did pretty decent gangster Brit, blood.

This was Saturday Night Live on fire. A return to the days when the episode was so well paced and spot on that it ended far too quickly. It has been some time since the show really finished on a “leave em wanting more” note.

It seems that allowing the tiny (five feet nothing) talented dynamo to do double duty gave the writers a much needed shot of comic adrenaline. For the first time in a while, the show outdid the political “cold open” and it was like old times.

Ariana Grande should be allowed to host, and sing, repeatedly. Which brings us back to “Bye, bye, bye, bye, Maria out.”

Scream Queens: Chainsaw OTT Fun Continues (Review)

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The pilot of Scream Queens last week started off the over the top (OTT) fun with Ariana Grande’s character, Chanel #2,  tweeting about being murdered by the Red Devil.  Something that Denise Hemphill brings up later in the second episode and then the scene follows up with a gag about Instagram and an obviously dead Chanel #2 posting to the social network.

Chainsaw, the second episode of the Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk project,  is apparently Brennan’s baby, written and directed by, and he has obviously channelled his inner Wayans’ and Zucker’s into this installment. The first look at the series, in the pilot, contained a lot of Scary Movie type humor, but now the show has shifted into overdrive with its clear homage to all things Animal House as well as the more comical side of every sorority house slasher ever made.

Emma Roberts continues to slay her role as Chanel #1, aka Chanel Oberlin (“Hello Idiot Hookers”) who manages to make every insult that comes from her mouth hysterically funny. The actress can literally deliver the goods with each gem that spills from her vitriolic lips. The makeover prelude with Lea Michele is brilliant.

Speaking of Lea Michele…the whole makeover scene is her baby. While Roberts starts off as the lead, Michele as the new Chanel #6 steals the entire set piece. Looking beyond stunning after coming down the stairs, one of the girls tells the pledge how great she looks. Hester (Michele) replies that she is in agony without her brace but it is worth it; all delivered between gritted teeth shaped into a smile. Brilliant.

In this installment, Denise Hemphil (Niecy Nash) continues to play the female version of Marlon Wayans’ character in Scary Movie, without the drug intake. Her lines throughout the series thus far are funny but one winces while laughing wondering when the PC police are going to strike.

Abigail Breslin has completely left her Little Miss Sunshine and Zombieland days behind her. The scene between Chanel #5 (Breslin) and Roberts is eyeopening and also requires a bit of wincing. Realizing that the young lady who is boasting of being “Eiffel Towered” is the same one who competes in the talent  contest in “Sunshine” is a little disturbing…but still so funny.

There are so many sexual innuendos that one can easily lose count. One of the best has to be the Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) line, “Cause munching box is what killed Michael Douglas…” (Note, Douglas is not dead for those who may have just panicked a little.) Later #3 comes out with a line that has nothing to do with sex but is still memorable. Discussing her family lineage she says to Sam (Jeanna Han) “You know Swenson? Swenson the frozen dinners, like Swanson’s for poor people…”

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Chad in The Warriors, A Clockwork Orange, West Side Story, boy band scene…

There are so many comic moments that it is hard to keep track. The whole The Warriors thing with Chad and his frat boys carrying bats and calling out the Red Devil but looking like A Clockwork Orange with their cricket whites on. Grace’s dad showing the film analysis class the Tobe Hooper 1974 original classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and his strange rambling summation of the film’s ending after.

Also the completely random but, oh so funny, battle between Coney the new mascot and the Red Devil after Aaron Cohen’s off screen monologue about how great it is being Coney and how he is never taking the costume off.

Back to Cody’s baseball bat carrying friends and their moment in the street against the two killers…Was that a riff on the 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail?  The “Come back and fight scene?” Answers in the comments please, or on a post card if you are over a certain age…

Scream Queens not only takes on all things from the slasher genre and makes over the top fun of it but also includes as many pop culture references as possible. Even the cast are culturally relevant. Ariana Grande,  Jamie Lee Curtis, and KeKe Palmer (one of the busiest young performers in the business apparently) are an example of the awareness of the casting directors and the show’s producers.

*Sidenote* How many folks instantly hear that YouTube kid’s song (Jenna Rose “My Jeans.”) when they see Palmer on screen? You know the one, “KeKe Palmer is wearing my jeans.” Never heard of the actress till that song…

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Wes, Grace’s dad, presents the best movie ever…

Back to the show, Curtis is still knocking it out of the park even when the dialogue and the action enter and  then go beyond ridiculous. The whole white noise gag bordered on idiocy yet both actresses managed to play it straight which made it work…after a fashion. A little too OTT chaps…just saying.

The show is still working though. The bit of almost Airplane! dialogue between Grace and ZayDay (Palmer) at the start :

“You want to put syrup on chips? You can’t be serious, right?”

“Yes, I’m serious.”

“You’re insane.”

Everything about episode two screams comedy. Dean Munsch’s  “Take back the night” speech and (disregarding the comedic Barfman and kelp in ice cream gag) Lea Michele’s character Hester’s rapt look while listening to the dean. Michele pretty much owned this installment on the sorority sister side. Watch that scene and you will see why.

The taser in the “nuts” gag, the chainsaw under ZayDay’s bed, the frat boy street battle…Chainsaw shoved comedy up front and slipped the horror under the bed with Williams’s granny’s protection present.

Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) and Roger Bart (Desperate Housewives, The Producers) as Ariana Grande’s Chanel #2’s parents worked brilliantly for obvious reasons.

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Roger Bart and Charisma Carpenter…

All in all,  Scream Queens still manages to deliver in the comedy stakes even if horror took a reluctant backseat in Chainsaw. The show airs Tuesdays on FOX. Tune in to learn the latest slang words for sexual acts and non pc humor and to laugh uncontrollably.

 

Scream Queens: Animal House Meets Scream Via Emma Roberts

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The Scream Queens pilot was just this side of brilliant. Why “this side?” There are a couple of items that feel like a clanger in the making, aka plot hole.  However, possible disconnects or logic check fails aside, the bottom line here is that Murphy and his two minion have come up with Animal House meets Scream   (the film not the TV version), with a nod to I Know What You Did Last Summer, via Emma Roberts and a slew of tweenie stars who have outgrown their initial Nickelodeon/Disney careers and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Take for example just part of the conversation between Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) at the beginning of the pilot:

Dean Munsch: “And Kappa is the source of rampant reports of alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, racism, as well as allegations of bestiality…:

Chanel: “No one forced that goat to get as drunk as it got. That’s on him.”

Yup, Animal House. However, a little later in this conversation, we learn that something really bad did happen at Kappa Kappa Ta, shades of Scream already and the hiding of the death at the start fits “IKWYDLS” quite neatly.

FOX has shown MTV the right way to do small screen horror using Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan’s version of a Wes Craven style horror with a heavy helping of comedy.  Scream Queens combines the slasher genre with some Scream type sly humor mixed in with a lot of over the top gags thrown in for good measure. (Think Marlon and Shawn Mayans’  Scary Movie but without the overkill punch lines.) While the music channel opted to take the Wes Craven classic film and shrink it to fit TV while they took out any semblance of humor and gave us characters that are impossible to like.

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Directed by Ryan Murphy, the maestro of small screen horror via the auspices of American Horror Story (and Glee), the pilot episode sets up the history of Kappa Kappa Ta; the sorority house with its own serial killer. The series opener also explains where everyone fits in and who they are in the scheme of things.

The pilot opens with a death, back in 1995, of a pregnant sorority sister who gives birth and then bleeds to death while her fellow Kappa Kappa Ta’s party-down to Waterfall. A brilliant opening shot has a girl walking down the stairs, hands covered in blood and not one person notices till she reaches the sorority head.

Self-centered is the catchphrase here and it sets the tone beautifully, even before the whole “no one wants to see that gross mess” schtick that prompts horrified giggles from the viewer. Murphy and co. manage to cram a huge amount of gags in the opening sequence and this tells us right off the bat that this is going to be comedy horror with a capital C.

The episode then segues into Emma Roberts doing a voice over, explaining her role in this verse, breaking the fourth wall effortlessly and letting us into the joke. Immediately the show enters non-pc territory with a Butterfly McQueen joke at the expense of the housecleaner at the sorority.

Adriana Grande is the first “Chanel” to become the victim of this verse’s version of Ghostface, a devil (that turns out the be the college’s mascot costume). This was the most surreal and hysterically funny death scene in the show. Chanel #2 getting a text from her killer and even as he is killing her, the two continue to text instead of verbally interact. Add to this cultural humor even more topical comedy as she crawls to her laptop and tweets that she is being murdered.

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Later the murders turn more horrific, a la Sleepaway Camp III where “Deaf Taylor Swift” is decapitated with a riding lawnmower.  The characters really do feel like Murphy has created them all as an extended homage to National Lampoon’s classic campus comedy.

There are a few hiccups. Dean Munsch, who is dead set on shutting down Kappa Kappa Ta by revoking their charter, appears to have helped to cover up the death scandal at the start of the pilot.  Emma Roberts, who kills it as the b*tchy, power-mad shrew who heads up the house, vacillates between being queen bee-hotch and whiny girlfriend (to Chad played by Glen Powell).

Other things do not add up completely but we are having too much fun to care. Scream Queens manages to make fun of everything. From Starbucks customers who insist on having their lattes too hot, and then complaining that the milk has been burnt, to Twilight.

This series is a showcase for not only the iconic Jamie Lee Curtis, but Emma Roberts as well. Roberts kills it with a precise comic delivery (her childish shrieking of the line, “Ms. Bean, I said, lets hit it!” is beyond priceless. Kudos to Lea Michelle who is sidesplittingly funny as the creepy “Can I call you Mom” pledge.

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All of the young stars knockout out of the park performance-wise and all the players have excellent chemistry with their co-stars.

To be fair since Ryan Murphy is in charge here, along with his co-creators,  this does really feel a bit like Glee and American Horror Story got married and gave birth to Scream Queens. The show airs Tuesdays on FOX and is the perfect mix of the right music, over the top humor, risque gags and very un-politically correct jokes.

Enjoy.

Saturday Night Live Hosted by Chris Pratt Not Hooked on the Feeling

Saturday Night Live Hosted by Chris Pratt Not Hooked on the Feeling

Saturday Night Live (SNL) hosted by Chris Pratt did not leave a “hooked on the feeling” aftertaste when the show ended. Pratt, as much as he was allowed to, pretty much rocked it. Even his opening monologue (sing-o-logue) felt pretty comfortable, and why not, he has cut his teeth on television so the format is one he would feel comfortable with. On a side note, who knew that Chris was in a relationship with that girl from the Scary Movie franchise (and My Super Ex Girlfriend, Lost in Translation…) aka Anna Faris, what a surprise. It was also very touching that she was in the front row for his “open.”