This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
The Amusing, Enduring Legacy of “Smelly Cat”
“Hallelujah.” “Feeling Good.” “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” “Smelly Cat.”
The most-covered songs of all time are indelible vocal showcases, emotional tributes to the subtlety of the human experience, and paragons of timelessness that, when paired with the right performer, can stir the soul in new and unexpected ways. And then there’s “Smelly Cat.”
Of course the song, first performed by Lisa Kudrow on Friends before becoming standalone pop-culture iconography, is not literally the most covered. But it is starting to feel that way. You know what? It kind of deserves it.
Most of the one-hour-and-45-minute Friends reunion that launched this week was just James Corden eliciting the same stories that have been told hundreds of times over the last 17 years, blooper reels that every superfan has already seen, and a Mad Libs of celebrities stopping by to toast the cast in one of the most overproduced TV events in recent years. But there were some genuinely great moments, too.
For the most part, those moments came when the cast was allowed to sit together and just hang. They reminisced, told half-memories while others filled the gaps, and revealed mundane details about their experiences that ended up being the most exciting part of the show. Isn’t that what we wanted? To watch these six actors together again, being friends?
I was surprised, given how the rest of the special played, that a stunt in which Lady Gaga came out to sing “Smelly Cat” with Kudrow ended up being one of the show’s only celebrity-driven highlights.
Gaga was dressed in ’90s-era Phoebe kooky drag and sounded great, revealing how the simple chords of the ludicrous song actually kind of rule. A gospel choir came in, and it was all building up to such a level of silly that it risked zooming over the taste-level cliff, but then Gaga brought the moment down to earth.
She thanked Kudrow for “being the person for all of us on Friends that was the different one, or the one that was really herself.” It was really genuine, and a great point about the ways in which the sitcom had meaning that dug deeper than its jokes, but without being pretentious about it.
Gaga now joins Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders and Taylor Swift among famous music stars who have dueted on “Smelly Cat” with Kudrow. Swift even had the Friends star join her on an arena stage to perform it during one of her tours. It’s quite a legacy for any song to have, let alone one that was meant to be a silly joke on a comedy series. But it speaks not only to the legacy of Friends, but to the fact that “Smelly Cat” is actually a bop.
“Soft Kitty” could never.
A Musical Theatre Gay’s Angry Screed
Over 14 months after Broadway shut down due to COVID and seven infuriatingly silent months after the nominations were announced, a date has finally been set for the Tony Awards.
The ceremony will be on September 26, overflowing with the usual bullshit you’d expect from the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League, which operate with all the efficacy of a clogged toilet on behalf of the art it represents.
You see, while there will be a Tony Awards special that airs on CBS that features performances and the three top awards, every other category will be presented in a pre-ceremony that can only be streamed on Paramount+.
It’s a huge slight to the performers and creatives who deserve the recognition, especially as they work now to reinvigorate Broadway after the pandemic. But it’s also a disservice to the people around the country whose only opportunity to bear witness to these artists is during the Tony Awards.
The young kid doing school musicals in Maryland (that kid is me) would be devastated by this. The Tony Awards were a passport each year to a fantasy, not just because I got to see numbers from various musicals performed, but also because I got to see the talented people who made their dreams come true get recognized. A child should not need to subscribe to Paramount+ to be introduced to the concept of Audra MacDonald winning Tony Awards!
In any case, a virtual hug to all the closeted teens out there in a panic wondering how they’re going to ask their parents to pony up for Paramount+ so they can watch the Tonys.
Merry Christmas to Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan is returning to acting! Nature is healing! Or perhaps it is still very ill and we should probably check on it to see if it’s OK!
The star with the troubled career who we all keep rooting for, but only to a point—right?—will reportedly star in a new Netflix Christmas movie. According to Variety, Lohan will play a, “‘newly engaged, spoiled hotel heiress’ (according to the logline), who gets amnesia after a skiing accident and ‘finds herself in the care of a handsome, blue-collar lodge owner and his precocious daughter in the days leading up to Christmas.’”
Yes, that is the plot of Overboard, plus Christmas music. But once upon a time you could have argued Lohan was on a Goldie Hawn-esque path and new ideas went extinct with the dodo bird, so why complain when you can just deck the halls, pour some cocoa, and cozy up for a potential trainwreck?
The Richest Zip Code in America Is Actually Flavortown
It was reported this week that Guy Fieri signed a new deal with the Food Network worth $80 million over three years.
It is not enough.
A Quiet Place II: To everyone who hurriedly asked me if this is good: It is! Very much so! (Friday in theaters)
Cruella: I enjoyed it more than pretty much every recent Disney remake/retread/reimagining. (Friday in theaters and Disney+)
Bluey: Attention parents (and, honestly, everyone): The greatest kids’ show out there is back for season two. (Friday on Disney+)
Mare of Easttown: A PSA that the finale airs Sunday night and it is GOOD. (Sunday on HBO)
Friends: The Reunion: I love Friends. Just watch episodes of Friends instead. (Now on HBO Max)
The Daily Beast’s Obsessed
Everything we can’t stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.
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