Lukas Gage’s Zoom encounter raises a mute point | Rebecca Nicholson

Lukas Gage’s Zoom encounter raises a mute point | Rebecca Nicholson
Ten million or so people watched a director talk about the Euphoria actor Lukas Gage on Zoom, as if he could not be heard, while Gage, waiting to audition, listens in. “These poor people live in these tiny apartments,” says the director, as Gage adjusts his hair, and the realisation that he is one of the “poor people” dawns on him. “I’m looking at his background and he’s got his TV…”

The actor makes a simple noise, an “ooh” with a sharp exhale, for which he should now probably win an Emmy. “Yeah, unmuted,” says Gage, with a polite but pointed wince. Posting the excruciating and mercifully brief exchange online, he wrote: “psa if youre a shit talking director make sure to mute ur shit on zoom mtgings.”

Two things immediately went through my mind. The first was a there-but-for-the-grace-of-god moment of sympathy for the director. I’m sorry. I know that, instinctively, I should feel for Gage, and I did, but, honestly, I have nightmares about this kind of situation. If I gossip, I have to then check my phone to make sure Siri hasn’t interpreted “wow, so-and-so was really annoying” as “call so-and-so and put them on speakerphone while I say awful things about them”. Surely, as Zoom meetings and working from home creep further into our lives, and more of us are asked to turn that Ikea desk and chair, which somehow survived 10 house moves, into our permanent office, this is happening regularly all around the world?

I know that Jeffrey Toobin must wish he had learned how to turn off his screen before he went to his own private happy place, but I am surprised we aren’t seeing more catastrophic Zoom clangers being made public.

I also assumed that the director must be older, because who expects anyone aged under 30 and in a city to live in anything other than a tiny apartment? If the camera could have shown a wider shot, and the lavatory wasn’t in the middle of the kitchen, or the bed somehow fashioned from an armchair with a microwave built into it, then Gage’s apartment seems pretty standard to me. He quickly made the point that if he got the job, he’d be able to afford a better one. Gage didn’t name the director, but Tristram Shapeero outed himself with a mea culpa of an open letter on the Deadline website. He explained that he meant “poor” as in “I feel sorry for”, not “poor” as in “why hasn’t he sold the TV yet?”. Everyone, in fact, seems to have handled themselves with decency. I think it’s called a learning experience. I, too, have learned… to triple-check the mute button.

The Grammys go for girl power

The Grammys are the bumbling uncle of awards ceremonies. I quite enjoy their scatter-gun approach to handing out nominations, as if they have put all the names into a hat and pulled out as many as they could before being distracted by the next episode of The Crown. It is like someone’s cousin’s friend’s brother showed up at a party uninvited and left his phone plugged into the speaker on shuffle. The record, album and song of the year categories are a particularly odd jumble of styles, genres and levels of success. There is an element of surprise, at least.

There was good surprise value in this year’s nominations for 2021, when, for the first time, the rock performance category featured women only – they having learned to “step up”, as patronisingly suggested by former Grammys boss Neil Portnow a couple of years ago – all wonderful, some magnificent, some new stars and some reaching new heights. Fiona Apple, Haim, Phoebe Bridgers, Big Thief, Grace Potter and the incredible Brittany Howard featured. Howard was also nominated in this year, so this could be her time.

Peter Sawkins was the icing on the Bake Off cake

The judges said it was the closest final they had experienced to date, but The Great British Bake Off crowned its youngest ever winner last week, in 20-year-old Peter Sawkins. Sawkins, fondly nicknamed “the baby-faced assassin” by Noel Fielding, was a worthy winner who had watched the show since he was small, revealing in the final moments just how much of a fan of it he was. It was a bit like the later series of RuPaul’s Drag Race, when the younger drag queens start to do impersonations of older drag queens who were made famous by RuPaul’s Drag Race. It develops its own ecosystem.

This was a beautiful series of the Bake Off, bringing just the right level of comfort at just the right time. The best bit of any year is almost always the last minute or so, when we find out what everyone has been up to since filming ended. I welled up at the thank you offered to the crew and by the time we found out that Dave had had his baby, it was as if I’d just watched Beaches, Steel Magnolias and My Girl all in one go. I know it’s only a TV show about cakes, but this year it meant something more and I am going to miss it.

Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist

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