It’s a strange weekend on TV. Most notable early summer series have already launched and more substantial ones will arrive in the coming weeks. This is a pause weekend.
The 72nd Annual Tony Awards (Sunday, CBS, CTV, 8 p.m. ET) is the top pick for fun and frolics. And not just because it’s an awards show that is usually lacking the faux-seriousness of the Academy Awards and the Emmys. This is an awards show about theatre, but it is not a Eugene O’Neill drama of depth and despair.
Nope, this year’s list of nominees is crammed with movies and TV shows that have become plays, such as Mean Girls, Frozen, Harry Potter and SpongeBob SquarePants. As co-host Josh Groban joked on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert the other night, “Have you ever watched a movie and wished it was on stage, or tuned into a TV show and wished it was on stage?” Actually, he sang that line, as Broadway people tend to do.
Groban co-hosts with Sara Bareilles, a singer-songwriter mainly, not an actress. She composed music and wrote lyrics for the Broadway musical Waitress, and if she’s been on TV, it’s been playing herself as a singer.
Tied for the most nominations with 12 are Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical. The former is of course based on the hit 2004 film and the latter on the TV cartoon. In the category of best musical they are up against two other movie tie-ins, The Band’s Visit (based on a 2007 Israeli film) and Frozen (adapted from the 2013 animated film).
Time was, the Tony Awards had the kind of theatrics that didn’t translate into a hit awards show on TV, and ratings were low. There was over-the-top joshing from presenters and winners and for all the attempts to inject glamour, the show had the feel of an industry event with a lot of insider jokes that were impenetrable to the general public. But as Broadway leaned more toward mass-market entertainment, the awards show became less obscure and more exuberant.
This year, there are numerous performances from nominated shows, including The Band’s Visit, Carousel, Frozen, Mean Girls, My Fair Lady, Once on This Island, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.
If that isn’t enough to tempt you, no less a personage than Bruce Springsteen will make a rare TV appearance. He will perform live and receive a “Special Tony Award” for his ongoing Springsteen on Broadway performances.
Also airing this weekend: Clear History (Saturday, HBO Canada, 10 p.m. ET) is a repeat but a peculiar gem from five years ago. Written by and starring Larry David, it is distinctly peculiar because it’s actually a feel-good movie of sorts, a story of redemption. In it, David plays Nathan, a guy who works in marketing for an electric-car company. Nathan quits when he doesn’t like the name given to the car (“The Howard”) by the boss (played by Jon Hamm from Mad Men). It’s a ridiculous, crackpot decision. The car becomes a hit and Nathan misses out on being a billionaire. In embarrassment, he retreats to an island much like Martha’s Vineyard, changes his name and cuts off his hair and beard. Then, a decade later, the past comes back to greet him.
A lot of critics and viewers liked Clear History, mostly out of surprise at the lightness of the humour when David’s general demeanour, and his show Curb Your Enthusiasm, are often so bluntly scabrous and churlish. This isn’t that at all.