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Stream it Or Skip It: ‘The LCD Soundsystem Holiday Special’ on Amazon Prime, With Sitcom Riffing And The Band Doing Some Playing

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Stream it Or Skip It: ‘The LCD Soundsystem Holiday Special’ on Amazon Prime, With Sitcom Riffing And The Band Doing Some Playing

With the Omicron variant putting an aggravating and scary amount of coal in our public health stockings, maybe the hybridism of The LCD Soundsystem Holiday Special (Amazon Prime), this sitcom format send-up and standalone live performance realized by LCD honcho James Murphy and comedian Eric Wareheim, will be just the balm you need for another decidedly hinky Christmas season.  

Opening Shot: A theme song of plinky keys and woozy sax, and an introductory shot of a typical suburban home. It’s the opening credits of All My Friends, starring Eric Wareheim as “James” – as in James Murphy, leader of LCD Soundsystem – Christine Ko as “Nancy” (keyboardist/vocalist Nancy Whang), Aparna Nancherla as “Abby” (touring keyboardist Abby Echiverri), Jon Daly as “Tyler” (bassist and guitarist Tyler Pope), Cory Loykasek as “Al” (Al Doyle, guitar and percussion), a puppet named “Korey” (percussionist Korey Richey), Tony Cavelero as “Nick” (Nick Millhiser, synths), Rex Lee as “Manager Brian” (LCD manager Brian Graf), Luenell as “Tour Manager Andrea,” and – speaking of Christmas – Macaulay Culkin as “Pat” (drummer Pat Mahoney).

The Gist:All My Friends is filmed before a live studio audience,” an announcer tells us, and we join a few members of this sitcom fam version of LCD Soundsystem as they hash out a setlist. Broad jokes fly around the living room – even the puppet gets in a few yuks – and before long there’s some quiet piano as everyone learns a lesson about friendship. Awwww. And the action cuts commercial break-style to the IRL members of LCD taking the stage. The spare, funky “Beat Connection” breaks into a full fuzz wig out, and then we’re back to the living room on All My Friends. Uh-oh, spiked eggnog time! The canned studio audience laughter roars.

It continues from there. “I Can Change,” “Other Voices,” and a bit back in the family room, this time with Luenell offering “James” some swearing encouragement to get back on stage and play another jam. “American Dream” (“You took acid and looked in the mirror/Watched the beard crawl around on your face…”), and the extension of a vague storyline – mirrored by the real drummer on the real stage – of Culkin’s “Pat the drummer” having an existential crisis over his ability to play certain numbers in the set. Onward through “Oh Baby,” another cut back to the sitcom – “Chill, bro-ham, you know I don’t mess with egg drinks!” – and “Emotional Haircut,” and, finally, LCD’s sulky holiday single “Christmas Will Break Your Heart.”

THE LCD SOUNDSYSTEM HOLIDAY SPECIAL
Photo: Amazon

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The LCD Soundsystem Holiday Special is a live set, it’s a Christmas show, it’s a zany take on family sitcom cliche. That’s a novel setup, to be sure. But given Eric Wareheim’s involvement, there’s also his classic Adult Swim outing Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! to reconsider, as well as its hilarious spinoff, Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule.

Our Take: James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem, his era-specific-singles-having New York City band that broke up big with a 2011 show at Madison Square Garden (as chronicled in the doc Shut Up And Play The Hits), then famously un-broke up with the 2015 appearance of “Christmas Will Break Your Heart” followed by a headlining appearance at Coachella, were most recently performing a 20-date stand at the intimate NYC music venue Brooklyn Steel until COVID’s latest conflagration canceled the group’s remaining dates. So given that wrinkle, and given the season, The LCD Soundsystem Holiday Special might arrive just in time for any fans left out in the cold from the cancellations, or those spending another holiday season cooped up and quarantined. The live stuff here is intimate, well-shot, and sounds fantastic, with the band in fine form and Murphy wailing away in his busted crooner style, like a lovelorn and strung out Bernard Sumner from New Order. Murphy and his band have always reveled in alternate distribution, the idea that the impulse to make a jam can come from one particular or very small thing – a knob tweaked, a dial twiddled, a quiet high-hat, a single keyboard figure – and that concept is well on display here.

As for the sitcom sendup framing, it’s hammy and self-aware to the point of absurdity, and doesn’t really need to exist, but since it does it’s fun to get a few blithe reaction shots from Culkin, Luenell, and especially Rex Lee, who was always the best thing about Entourage.

Sex and Skin: Nada.

Parting Shot: As the set closes out and the band returns to the All My Friends living room, they reflect on how they’ve lived a little, laughed a little, and learned a lot. Everyone leans in for an eggnog toast, the theme music tinkles back in, and the scene becomes a fake still as everyone freezes mid-toast.

Sleeper Star: Christine Ko was featured in a recent installment of Decider’s “Woman Crush Wednesday,” and she’s a delight in the LCD Soundsystem Holiday Special playing the sitcom version of Nancy Whang.

Most Pilot-y Line: “Pat, I know you’re not excited about the setlist, but listen, we believe in you” – much of the sitcom side of The LCD Soundsystem Holiday Special has the feel of SNL sketches from the late 1980’s and early ‘90’s, usually featuring Phil Hartman playing a bland TV dad.

Our Call: STREAM IT. The sitcom riffing in The LCD Soundsystem Holiday Special is a kooky enough concept to keep itself interesting, but the real interest will probably be in the band’s straightforward live performances.

Johnny Loftus is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges

Watch The LCD Soundsystem Holiday Special on Prime Video

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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