Critic's Notebook: Tonys and Tragedy on Sunday Night
Neil Patrick Harris
And by tragedy, we're not taking sides (or expressing too much schadenfreude) over Miami's climactic loss to Dallas in the NBA finals — although I'm sure ABC is weeping over being denied a seventh game to milk some more ratings juice out of this match-up. Before we discuss what went down on Game of Thrones, a few thoughts on a sparkling night of Broadway entertainment courtesy of the Tony Awards.
Once again, host extraordinaire Neil Patrick Harris brought the house down — albeit the uptown Beacon, since the mammoth Radio City was otherwise engaged — taking as his inspiration this year's much honored musical revivals: Anything Goes and How to Succeed. He succeeded by going anywhere and everywhere, with a hilarious spectacular of an opening number promising, "Broadway has never been broader. It's not just for gays anymore." (Long before the moment disco legend Martha Wash took the stage late in the show, singing "It's Raining Men" alongside the Priscilla cast, we knew better, but still.) Among the more memorable lyrics: "Put down your Playboy and go make a plan/To pick up a Playbill and feel like a man" and "Come in and be inspired, no sodomy required." He worked the glittery crowd like a pro ("Angela Lansbury, you're super hot. Those things real?") and even made light of poor Brooke Shields' colossal choke (she later got awkwardly bleeped during her presenter moment; not an auspicious omen for Broadway's soon-to-be Morticia Addams replacement). He even performed a costume change, wearing a garish purple outfit under his tux, then magically changing back after the final chorus.
A fitting stunt for a night where the two big musical winners, Sutton Foster and Norbert Leo Butz, profusely thanked their dressers.
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The indefatigable Harris later sparred with another ubiquitous awards host, Hugh Jackman, in a delightful "Anything You Can Do" duel — both won — and made mincemeat of the Spider Man musical by cramming a flurry of jokes into 30 seconds. His best jokes, though, involved one of the night's big winners, best drama War Horse. In the Spider Man medley, he quipped that ousted director Julie Taymor "found out it was over when she woke up and found the head of War Horse in her bed." And in a nod to How to Succeed star Daniel Radcliffe's earlier Broadway smash Equus, he joked, "I had to stop Daniel Radcliffe from poking out the War Horse's eyes." Maybe a little too inside, but once we saw the actual life-size War Horse puppet, first outside the Lincoln Center theater and then on the Beacon stage, with Harris astride, we were suitably impressed.
Most of the musicals were shown to great advantage — the play nominees had to settle for plot summaries by their stars — and as usual, the acceptance speeches (especially on behalf of the powerful best-play revival The Normal Heart) were impassioned. Most intense: Frances McDormand in her incongruous denim jacket over her gown. (A nod to her working-class character?) For a while, it's going to be even harder to score precious seats for The Book of Mormon and Anything Goes. As a glitzy commercial for Broadway, the Tonys hit its mark, but it kept coming back to Harris' prowess for showmanship. He performed alongside the all-star cast of his recent concert version of Company: Stephen Colbert, Martha Plimpton, Jon Cryer, Mad Men's Christina Hendricks (too bad more people can't see their sexy duet on the song "Barcelona"), Patti LuPone and more. And just barely missing the 11/10c cutoff, he rapped a speed-through summary of the night's highlights. It wasn't as blockbuster as the opening number, so don't fret if you recorded the show and missed it.
It was an eventful night elsewhere on TV, nowhere more than on HBO's enthralling Game of Thrones, which finally reached the point I had been dreading. (I'll never forget reading this chapter four years ago when I first plunged into the book series.) As often happens in the next-to-last episode of an HBO season, the boom falls on a major character. In this case, the boom is a sword, and it falls on the neck of the noble Ned Stark, to all intents and purposes the moral backbone and presumed hero of this sprawling saga. Held prisoner by the wicked Lannisters for the "treason" of defying the ascension of twin-cestuous spawn Joffrey to the Iron Throne, Ned weighs honor against duty to his family (a theme of this episode). Resigned to his own fate, as he tells "master whisperer" Varys "I grew up with soldiers. I learned how to die a long time ago," Ned still has the fate of his endangered daughters Arya (now a ragamuffin fugitive) and Sansa (trapped at the king's side) to consider.
While there's plenty going on elsewhere — Robb Stark's army captures Cersei's beloved twin/lover Jaime Lannister, and on the other side of the sea, Daenerys desperately tries to save ailing Khal Drogo's life, but may end up losing their offspring as well — it's the episode's final scene that will haunt us. Ned is brought out of his dungeon onto public display at a sacred temple, where he somberly confesses his plot to murder the new king and seize the throne for himself. (Which is anything but true; he spared the boy when he still had the upper hand, so to speak, and sought to secure the throne for the late King Robert's brother Stannis, the "one true heir" in his mind.) Even this humiliation isn't enough to appease the cruel, odious young King Joffrey. Despite his queen mother's wish to send Ned to the Night's Watch in exile, and Sansa's pleas for mercy, the little creep actually commands, "Bring me his head." And with scruffy Arya in the mass of onlookers and Sansa screaming her own head off, the blade falls as the episode goes to black. It's a stunning, cunning masterstroke of plotting. It was true of the books, and is powerfully executed here. Only one episode to go, and now I'm itching to read the books again (or at least get started on the fourth volume in anticipation of the fifth book's publication next month).
Things got hopping again, disturbingly so, on the penultimate episode of The Killing's first season on AMC. While Mitch Larsen lets husband Stan stew in jail as punishment for wrecking the family finances, we learn that dead daughter Rosie was socking money away in her own secret account — earned as an online escort in the same "Beau Soleil" business where her permissive Aunt Terry is also making extra coin. (Some of which she presumably uses to post Stan's bail.) And guess who's a client of Beau Soleil? Candidate Darren Richmond, that's who. We knew he was too good to be true. But is he the killer? The evidence is damning, as he appears to be "Orpheus," the client who took one of the girls down to the waterfront and talked obsessively about drowning. In a twist reminiscent of the ongoing Anthony Weiner-gate, Richmond is outed by a pinging e-mail alert when Linden pays another of her improbable late-night visits to his place. And just when things were starting to go his way again in the mayoral campaign, after the incumbent's waterfront project is stalled due to an Indian skull being unearthed on the property. Best line of the night, from Richmond's smarmy campaign manager Jamie: "Nothing beats dead Indians. Didn't you see Poltergeist?" Putting Richmond in the cross-hairs is just the latest of the show's risky moves. The campaign subplots have felt so tangential that making him the killer isn't likely to impress or satisfy the show's more vocal critics (who at this point aren't likely to applaud any decision the writers make). I'm not sure his ongoing grief (another of the show's themes) over his own wife's death two years earlier has led him to murder, but there must be a reason Rosie ended up in one of his campaign's cars.
As if all that weren't enough, this is also the night when Mary McCormack's pregnancy was acknowledged on USA Network's In Plain Sight, quite the complication for the infamously non-nurturing Deputy U.S. Marshal Mary Shannon. The father: her high school ex Mark (they were married for less than a week when she was 17), with whom she briefly hooked up (though apparently not briefly enough) in last week's episode. Oops. This reveal, telegraphed by her swelling breasts and her craving for pie and her sudden distaste for coffee (plus a tell-tale bout of nausea), plays out against a Witness-style case involving an uneasily transplanted Amish couple from, get this, Intercourse, Pa. Family is so not Mary's thing. Where this goes from here should be fun to watch.
So what did you watch Sunday night?
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