Saturday, June 26, 2010

Said I'd Finish it And I will

Many moons ago I started this site with an intent to name the 50 greatest episodes on TV in the last 20 years. Truth is, the closer you get to greatness the harder it is to measure up, and I've been trying to pick and choose. After several weeks and some analysis, I think I've finally narrowed it down.

So here, in no particular order, are the next five:

Quantum Leap --- Lee Harvey Oswald
Perhaps naturally enough, because it was the seminal event of an entire generation, the events surrounding JFK's assassination are at the heart of two of them. I've always had a soft spot for this show, and I've always considered this episode, it's finest hour. For the first time, Sam leaps into a 'famous' person, and there's a good chance that he's not alone this time We see Oswald in the midst of his long path, and watching Sam become more intermeshed is one of the most frightening events the series did. We see that Sam come this close to committing the ultimate horror, only to fail in the last minute. This takes the more frightening, and (at least in the shows creators mind) more plausible scenario that Oswald was the sole orchestrator of the events of November 22, 1963, and it is by far the most realistic look (from an erstwhile scifi show!).

Once and Again ---- Let's Spend the Night Together
Never mind all the sex and lust that pervade cable about having a relationship. This unjustly ratings deprived so by TV geniuses Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskowitz depicted romance in one of the most realistic ways I've ever seen on any medium. Watching Sela Ward and Billy Campbell as two forty-something divorced parents trying to give love a second chance led to some fairly genius work, and this episode demonstrated how great it could be. Watching them wind their way to their first sexual encounter was good enough, but the last ten minutes are among the most realistically sexual--- and romantic--- moments of TV relationships I've ever seen. It had a good run, considering its ratings, but shows like this don't come around as often as this.

Picket Fences --- The Dancing Bandit
I'd have a special place in my heart for this series even if it wasn't for, a bright shining moment, one of the truly great series of all times. I was fourteen when this episode aired, and found the stories and the character of Marlee Matlin's 'Dancing Bandit' bank robber so engaging, that I started watching this series regularly the following week--- this is the wellspring of my fascination with great television. But even seperate my feelings, this was a great show as David E. Kelley would for the first time demonstrate the true power of his genius. If nothing else this show demonstrated what a brilliant actress Matlin is --- it's hard to imagine some shows without her. This was a great moment in a fine series, and hopefeully, it'll make it to DVD someday

30 Rock --- Rosemary's Baby
Pretty much any episode from Tina Fey's laugh a second series is a masterpiece, but this diamond shown more brightly than most. I'm not sure which plotline is more side-splitting--- Liz getting in an argument with Jack, and leaving the show to write with her favorite idol--- only to realize in the past twenty years, she's gone completely round the bend, or Tracy's decision to take up dogfighting that leads to his therapy session, which leads to Alec Baldwin's hilarious reenactment of the Jordan household in the wildest group therapy session you'll ever see. And we know watching Carrie Fisher that she was going to send up Star Wars somehow, but the waY she does it--- that's comedy genius.

L.A. Law --- God Rest Ye Little Gentlemen
Technically, I shouldn't be counting this because I only watched it in syndication, but that doesn't change the fact that it was one of the formative shows of TV history, and this episode has a good measure of why it was. Of particular interest is Victor's case involving a doctor suffering with Elephant Man's disease. He's on the wrong side for once, and it's interesting to watch the show from that perspective. Or you can just watch Jon Glover's Emmy-nominated performance,; same difference. From watching the death of Roxanne's father (a good one, as he was spared the tortures of Alzheimers) to the annual Christamas party, this episode is one of the few that shows genuinely at peace with eac other. Which is good, because Rosalind Shays is about to reenter their lives, and once they do, disorder and chaso will shake the firm to it's foundation.

Stay tuned for the last ten episodes. Some real greats among them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Emmy Posts --- Part 2

Sorry for the delay--- Here is my second round of Emmy Picks, the comedies this time

Best Comedy
30 Rock --- Four years in, and it still sparkles like a diamond. What do they need to get viewers, have all musical episodes?

Glee --- Take away the fact that it's a phonemon, and you'd still have one of the best shows on TV. Never has being a loser been so much delightful.

How I Met Your Mother --- I wish that Ted would hurry up and meet her, but the byplay between the basic five characters is so brilliant, I could still wait forever.

Modern Family --- Any other year, this would have been the breakout show. It still features one of the best group of comic actors I've ever seen

Nurse Jackie --- This is the Showtime dramedy that deserves to be recognized because it is funny and as addictive as, well, a snort full of Percocet. Don't ever change, Jackie

The Office ---- Still funny after all these years. What else do I need to say?

Best Actor, Comedy

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock --- Does everything on this show but sing and dance, and I'm pretty convinced he could do that, too.

Steve Carell, The Office --- Considering that next year may be the sitcoms final taste, we might want to consider honoring him for six years of awkward genius.

Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm--- I liked the Seinfeld storyline too, but this guys quirks still make this show shine after nearly a decade.

Matthew Morrison, Glee --- I've loved watching him thrill all season, and he can do anything to make us laugh.

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory --- This is the Jim Lorre performer who should be recognized for his skill. Let's hope the focus is off Charlie Sheen.

Tony Shalhoub, Monk --- Never much cared for it, but I have to admit his work in the final two episodes was a good mix of comedy and drama as it promised all those years ago

Best Actress

Toni Colette, United States of Tara --- Showtime is where all of the abrasive, complex woman hang out, and watching Tara deal with all her crisis --- and two more personalities is always fun.

Courtney Cox, Cougar Town -- Forget the icky title, and revel in her glory. Besides, we owe her for ignoring her decade of work at Friends

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie --- A character with bigger issues that Carmela Soprano? Only she could have played Jackie Peyton, even though she'll have to buy a new trophy case for the prizes she'll win here.

Tina Fey, 30 Rock --- Oh, Liz Lemon, will you ever find love? Or relative normality? She hasn't changed in four season, to which I can only say huzzah

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, The New Adventures of Old Christine --- This was a good show that deserved a better fate. Let's hope she's around for one last bow.

Lea Michelle, Glee --- Rachel can fill up a room just by being there, and watching her perform is astounding. She deserves to be recognized.

Best Supporting Actor

Chris Coifer, Glee --- The show's secret weapon. He's a great performer and comic, but the most marvelous moments of this series have come between Kurt and his fathers relationship, any one of which was Emmy worthy

Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother --- This guy can sing and dance. And host award shows. And made one of the most indelible characters on the TV landscape. Will the fourth time be the charm?

Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock --- It's not easy to play things as daffy as he can. This guy deserves as much credit for this shows working as Baldwin and Fey. How else is he going to complete his GOTE?

Kevin McHale, Glee--- Doesn't take center stage often enough, but when we watch Artie, the heart melts. He's a lot more than the guy in the wheelchair

Ed O'Neill, Modern Family--- Any member of this cast is brilliant, but I've been in this guys corner since Married With Children. This is another perfect marriage between show and actor.

Rainn Wilson, The Office --- You can never have too much Dwight Schrute.

Best Supporting Actress

Diana Agron, Glee --- If you watch the show from Pilot to Season end, Quinn took the greatest journey of any character this year. This is a woman with a lot of range.

Eve Best, Nurse Jackie --- It's not easy to steal scenes from Edie Falco and Anna Deveare Smith, but this doctor can do it. She's a diamond in the rough, this one.

Julie Bowen, Modern Family --- Again this is a personal preference--- the whole cast is brilliant, but I've been a fan of hers through four different TV shows. She deserves to be recognized for her work sometime

Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock --- Has been at the top of her game for four years, and her romance was one of the most screamingly funny highlights of the show.

Jane Lynch, Glee --- The most stunning character of a great cast. She's deserved this nod from the first time we saw here. That's not just how Sue sees it.

Amber Riley, Glee --- No shrinking violet, Mercedes has owned the stage every time she steps on it. There are going to be a lot of awards in this woman's future.

Tune in to this blog soon, when I will discuss a couple of more shows to disappear prematurely from the screen this season.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Emmy Posts--- Supporting ACtors

Best Supporting Actor, Drama

Nestor Carbonell, Lost --- I didn't think he had a brilliant performance in him, but seeing the epic story of the islands ageless wonder was probably the highlight of a strong season. There's a reason I'll miss Lost

John Goodman, Treme--- There's a lot of talent on this show, but so far, watching this embattled New Orleans writers struggle with his book while ranting about New Orleans n YouTube are among the high points of this series.

John Lithgow, Dexter --- He's played psychos before, but rarely one quite like Arthur Richmond, aka Trinity. And the episode where he walked into Miami Metro, saw the photos of his victims, and just... smiled. Most chilling scene of the season. It's been six months and I still can't get it out of my head

Chris Noth, The Good Wife--- The 'bad husband', its been fascinating watching Noth play a character with a little sleaze in him for once. Sometimes I care more about his election than Alicia's casework, and I'm not alone.

John Noble, Fringe --- Long shot, I know, but his stunning performance in the episode where Walter lost his son, and the finale where we finally met the Walternate probably the most brilliant work of an already strong series.

Martin Short, Damages --- He can do a serious role, and because the character he played was putting on a performance of his own, that gives us another reason to revel in this evil lawyers schemes.

Best Supporting Actress

Christine Baranski, The Good Wife--- Took what could have been a cliched part and has really made it her own. Deserves to have credit for this next to all the nominations she's gotten for playing comedy.

Rose Byrne, Damages --- This season Ellen dealt with some pretty big demons of her own, on top of her dance with Patty. If this is the series last hurrah, let's give her the love she deserves

Cherry Jones, 24--- Not as good as the last year; watching the final eight episodes and her moral collapse was mesmerizing. Just another example of when bad things happen to good presidents

Melissa Leo, Treme--- Don't get me wrong; Khandi Alexander and Kim Dickens are brilliant too, but watching Leo's lawyer try to get through the morass of the New Orleans justic system is one hell of a windmill to tilt at it. Besides, I've been a fan of hers since Homicide; she deserves a nomination for something.

Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men --- Always fascinating to watch, at the rate she's going, Peggy will be the head of her own agency by the end of the 60's. She can do just about anything

Lily Tomlin, Damages --- Watching the Tobin matriarch preside over a crumbling family situation while trying to hold on to her money and dignity was quite memorable, particularly when it became clear thats she couldn't. And she's never won for any major show. Sensing a theme?

Tomorrow, I take up the comedies.

The Season is Over-- Emmy Time begins

It's been another good year for TV--- Jay Leno wars at NBC non-withstanding. And now we've reached the time of year that often fills me with the most anticipation--- the period where the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences gives its picks for this years Emmy nominations.

Now I know that while this organization is supposed to celebrate the best and the brightest, it has a nasty habit of ignoring quiet great shows for flashier, birghter show, and the better shows are usually ignored. (For my first witness, I call Joss Whedon) But they've shown better sense the last few years with gives me hope that might be refocused. And this season will give them a chance to make up for some past slights.

So here are the shows and actors that I think should be nominated this year, along with my logic. Because this is a big project I'll do it in two posts

First, the Dramas

Damages --- I still don't know if this show has a future, but it doesn't change the fact that this may have been its finest season. This show has redefined what a legal drama can do.

Dexter--- This show gets better with every year. And this season dealing with the Trinity Killer may have presented us with Dexter Morgan's most worthy adversary. Plus the finale still has me reeling.

The Good Wife -- Just when you thought there were no good courtroom dramas anymore, this show comes back to redefine both legal and political drama. This has a formidable future ahead of it

Lost --- Even if you had a problem with the final episode, it doesn't change the fact that this magical mystery tour ended stronger than any other series before it. And it deserves to be honor for its superb six years on the air

Mad Men--- I don't know what there is that's left to say about this show that hasn't been said before, save that watching the Drapers marriage implode while simultaneously dealing with JFK's assassination was a landmark episode even for a series which sets the bar high each year. And that wasn't even their finest hour this year.

Treme--- All right, it's not as good as The Wire, but David Simon's latest series demonstrates that he truly is one of the most important writers of any generation. And honoring him for this would make up for ignoring him twice before.

Best Actor, Drama

Matthew Fox, Lost--- His work on this series was always excellent, but he surpassed it this year. Considering he will probably never do another show, we should honor one of the most undervalued actors in one of TV's finest shows

Michael C. Hall, Dexter --- I thought that there wasn't anything that Dexter could do that could surprise me. But watching Dexter's confrontation with Trinity and it's immediate aftermath was devestating. I still get shakes thinking about i

Jon Hamm, Mad Men --- The real man in the grey flannel suit, he dealt with the loss of his liberty, the revelation of his true identity, the death of his marriage, and started a new Sterling Cooper. What the hell does he have to do to get an Emmy?

Peter Krause, Parenthood --- This generation's Henry Fonda, his dignified work on this rapidly improving series is special. Three brilliant series, no Emmy love: come on

Hugh Laurie, House -- Turns out House off Vicodin is just as fascinating on Vicodin. He alone makes this fading series engaging six years later

Kiefer Sutherland, 24 --- This is a sentimental favorite, but come on, watching Jack Bauer on a vengeance kick showed us why we followed him for the last nine years.

Best Actress, Drama
Glenn Close Damages -- What can I say about her that hasn't been said the last three years?

Lauren Graham, Parenthood--- Her work on this series isn't quite as good as it was on Gilmore Girls, but give her time. She may not have been the first choice for the role, but it's hard to believe it now

Holly Hunter, Saving Grace --- Why are they killing this show after just three seasons? This may be the last chance we get to honor the most gutty policewoman on TV.

January Jones, Mad Men-- Frankly, she should have gotten a nomination the last two years, and her work was not significantly better than it was this year. That's how high she sets the bar. Betty Draper may never find happiness, but we do just watching her.

Julianna Marguilies, The Good Wife --- It's hard to believe, but Alicia Florrick makes all those years being the heart of ER seem like she was being underutilized. The heavy favoritr.

Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer--- I actually feel sorry for some of the murderers that Brenda Leigh Johnson interrogates. And I feel for someone who is so fixed in her routines she can't bear to witness her cat be put down. These are the reasons I love her.