Friday, August 27, 2010

This Years Emmy's

I know it's a silly thing to get excited about, but there's something about award shows that make my heart pound faster. Maybe it's just because after all the political circuses, turmoil abroad and at home, and concerns about this country's future, the ability to focus on something as demi-serious as the Emmy's is always an entertaining distraction.

Of course, I have huge problems with the Emmys in general. I've never felt they fully honor some of the true greats in TV. (For my first witness, I call Joss Whedon, followed by David Simon and Bill Lawrence). And they have the annoying habit of just recognizing the same shows over and over, and recognizing new blood in nods, while honoring the same old faces. This has been true particularly the last couple years, where the nominees and winners in Best Drama and Best Comedy were duplicates. But they've made some big improvements in the last six or seven years--- they've fine tuned some of their rules, and I think there nominations for 2009-2010 were generally the best they've been in nearly a decade. Still, there are concerns. The Creative Arts Emmys held a last Sunday seemed to show the old habits are dying hard. I'm glad that John Lithgow and Neil Patrick Harris got recoginzed, but seriously Ann-Margaret for Law and Order SVU?! She wasn't even the best guest actress on the show this season. Lily Tomlin and Elizabeth Mitchell got robbed again. And really, showing them just seems to honor the same people over. Why do the Tudors, CSI, and this years Oscars always have to have this special time? And shifting the writing for Vairety series to this show is a robbery. The Writers Guild is going to be royally pissed.

okay. Enough bitching. Let's get to why I'm here. Here are my picks for this years Emmy-- what I think should win, and what I think will win. I'm focusing my energy on fictional programming--- reality TV is just something that I don't cotton to.

Outstanding Drama Series
Should Win--- Lost. Regardless of what you thought about the last episode (God knows I've got issues with it) it can't be denied that it did a much better job of wrapping up then any other mythology series ever has. And the last sixteen episodes featured some truly great writing, acting and directing. Add to this the fact that the Emmys have a habuit of occasionally recognizing great series in their final seasons (think The Sopranos, Everybody Loves Raymond) and I think it might pull off a sentimental vote.

Will Win--- Mad Men. I'll admit that Season 3 did drag a bit, but it's last three episodes were among the greatest I've ever seen on television. Plus it has won the Golden Globe and SAG awards, so it may be habit will be enough to carry today.

Best Actor, Drama
Should Win: Matthew Fox, Lost. This is more a sentimental favorite than a genuine preference. I think all six nominees are superb choices. But Fox has been the most underrated actor on that show even though he was the obstensible lead. Add to that, he probably won't be coming back to TV in any series, and he's a dark horse.

Will win: Michael C. Hall, Dexter. Everyone's sure Bryan Cranston's got this locked up, but no actor has repeated three years ina row in the drama category in nearly half a century. Plus Hall's work as America's favorite serial killer was even better than usual. He's won the Globe and the SAG award, and Lithgow triumphed in guest actor earlier,s o he's fresh in the academy's mind. I think he's going to upset the field here.

Best Actress, Drama
Should Win, WIll Win: Juliana Marguiles, The Good Wife. It's not just that she won the globe and the SAG awards or that her show has completely revitalized the legal drama. But she took what could have been a gimmick and helped turn out the best show on CBS in over a decade. January Jones had some great moments this season, but Marguiles owned the stage this year.

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Should Win: Terry O'Quinn, Lost. Ever try to play what may be the epitome of evil while maintaining the face of a character who was beloved by fans for five seasons? I've always loved O'Quinn's work, and though I missed John Locke this season, both the characters he ended up playing were nearly as fascinating. One of our best actors working today. I await his next project with bated breath

Will Win: Martin Short, Damages. To be perfectly honest, I want Short to win. He did some stupendous work on one of the best acted shows on TV, and we later saw that it was actually a dual performance, so he deserves more creit. My one debit is that we probably won't be able to see him accept due to tragic circumstances involving his wife. But if he wins, he earned it. Big time.

Best Supporting ACtress, Drama
Should Win: Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men. Peggy Olson is probably the most fascinating character at Sterling Cooper Draper Price--- its small wonder Don begged her to join. I'm only surprised she took the demotion to this category from best actress last years. But wherever you put her, she deserves to get it.

Will Win: Christine Baranski, The Good Wife. Honestly, I'm less sure about this category than any of the others. We've had more surprise wins in it then all the others. Baranski just seems likely because, like Short, she's a brilliant comic actress, and she did a compelte 180 in this show. The academy likes versatility--- some times.

Best Comedy Series
Should Win, Will Win: Glee. Some critics would argue that given the opportunity, the voters will vote for the more traditional brilliant comedy, Modern Family. No insult to the ABC shows, but are they nuts? Glee has been running against it in every major preaward show this year and beaten it. Modern Family is a great show and will probably win in the future, but Glee is a phonemenon. It's also the most original show to come up on TV in decades. This is a lock.

bEST Actor, Comedy
Should Win: Matthew Morrison, Glee. The fulcrum of what is a brilliant cast, he's made Will positively enduring. Add to this, everything his character went through this season, and he went on the greatest journey.

Will Win: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock. Sigh. It's not that his work isn't genius, that he's not comedic dynamite, and that he's still wondrous to watch four years in. But really, hasn't he gotten enough awards already. Isn't it time to let someone new, or at least recognize the fine work of Jim parsons or Steve Carell, into the winners circle.

Best Actress, Comedy
Should Win, Will Win: Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie. No other actress could make drug addiction or falling apart this much fun. Showtime has created a new genre-- the half hour dramedy, and Jackie is one of the most delightful portrayers of it. Another couple seasons, and I'll be able to forgive her for The Sopranos

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy

Should Win: Chris Colfer, Glee. The show's secret weapon, and one of the most real performers of the entire cast. He took what could have been a cliche, and turned him into the most fascinating characters in TV.

Will Win: Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother. Am not sure whether the two Emmys he's already won this year mean it's going to be his time to shine or whether the Academy will think it's finally his time to shine. This is probably Modern Family's best chance to win to upset, so watch this category carefully

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Should Win, Will Win: Jane Lynch, Glee. What can I say about Sue Sylvester that she wouldn't already say funnier? She's had a lock on this award since the series debuted. All I can say is I can't wait to see how she'll see this.

Am not sure about any of the other categories. Except for Varietyb Series--- I want to see Bill Maher win at least one award in my lifetime. And if Conan O'Brian pulls off an upset--- this could have the most drama of the night.

Well, i've written myself out. See you Sunday night.

Monday, August 23, 2010

nOT quite an A for the Big C

Well, I promised that I would take a look at Showtime's latest entry into the dramedy field, and now after two episodes, I think I'm ready to make an assessment.

First of all, there are very few actress capable of hitting notes of subtlety that Laura Linney. In both salary and talent, she hasn't gotten her fair due in awhile. And I can see why the idea of the character of Cathy Jameson would appeal to her so much. And she manages to make the show come alive whenever she's on the screen. Some of the funniest moments in the first couple of episodes come to life when we see Linney just hang lose. The problem is we've never gotten a picture of why she was so uptight or what exactly has begun to free her so much. The family life was very confused, but considering the condition that her brother seems to be in (we'll get to that in a moment) they can't have been happy.

Then there's the problem of making the surrounding characters accessible. This is not something that most of the Showtime half-hour shows, with the exception of Nurse Jackie, have managed to do very well. Oliver Platt is one of the most buoyant personalities in any medium, and his manboy of Cathy's husband is very entertaining at tiems, but we've got no idea what happened to make their mariage fall apart, and when it comes to figuring otu what's going wrong, he seems pathetically clueless. Cathy's brother is apparently living the ultimate green lifestyle by being homeless, and while John Benjamin Hickey's h occasionally entertaining, I can't help but be reminding of Steve Buscemi's 'God' on Nurse Jackie, who in a much smaller part managed to seem much more real. And I loved Gabourey Sibide in Precious and I know that she's a real talent, so why the hell would she want to play a character who barely seems more recgnizable than half a dozen other black teenagers on any television show? These characters might be multidimensional, but the script rarely lets them loose or see them outside the parameters of how they relate to Cathy. This is the kind of thing that will sink a new program if it isn't rectified fast.

The writingis, so far, hit or miss, mainly because the writers while they've been able to make Cathy and her surronding characters amusing, still haven't realized a way to make cancer funny. I know that dying is easy, while comedy is hard, but the overall purpose of this show is to entertain, not lecture Right now, Cathy's interactions with her doctor are by far the most real thing about the show, but they're only funny in the darkest sense of the term. We know he's going to be seeing her as the disease progresses, but how is it going to work as television.

I'm not going to give up on The Big C. I like the actors too much not to give up on the show, but it doesn't solve the problem--- if the show survives, how will they justify Cathy's being alive? I hate to put things in such dark terms, but that would be giving the show more gravitas than it currently has.

My score on a scale of 1 to 10: 6.5

Stay tuned this week for my predictions of this years Emmys.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How other TV Characters have dealt with the Big C

tommorrow, Showtime premiers yet another darkly humorous show around a very dire subject anchored by a resonant female lead. But this one has even more difficult job than making MPD and drug addiction -- the subject is a woman with cancer.

Now having a show based around a central character developing cancer is nothing new. Bryan Cranston has already won two Emmys for playing cancer-ridden meth dealer Walter White on Breaking Bad. And other shows have had central characters deal have battles with cancer. Lynn Scavo went through a bout with it on Desperate Housewives, but the highest degree of her suffering seemed to be that she wore several handkerchiefs around her head symbolizing weeks of chemo. Dana Scully went through a bout of cancer as a result of her experience on the X-Files, but that seemed even harder to measure as the most symptomatic she ever got was the occasional bloody nose. Also she miraculously went into remission while on death's door, but considering they never explained how that happened either, I think the writers lost a lot of fans in that particular story arc.

In his last two seasons on ER, Mark Greene suffered from a brain tumor. He underwent radical surgery for it, and he seemed to be in remission. Then little more than a year later, he suffered from recurrence, and succumbed a few months later. That one really did hurt because Anthony Edwards was the pillar of that show, and without him, there always seemed to be a gap at Cook County that was never refilled.

The most pertinent case of cancer appeared to be that of Dr. Daniel Auschlander on St Elsewhere. 73 years old when he was diagnosed with liver cancer in the show's Pilot, one would have expected him to succumb within the first season, at the very latest.. But he battled with it nobly for the entire six season run of the show, dealing with bouts of chemo, struggling with the battles with old age. One could make the argument that he was the symbol of St. Eligius--- as long as he was still alive, the hospital could survive. And he did outlive quite a few younger cast members, which is probably symbolic as well. Of course, he might just have been Tommy Westphall's imagination, but I don't buy into that particular theory.

What will separate Cathy from the characters that have come for her is trying to keep this show funny while staying true to the source. Nurse Jackie is still amazing two seasons in, while Weeds has become so dark and so far from where it started that it should be put out of his misery. Laura Linney is one of the most subtle actresses that I have ever seen and God knows she has the capable to make comedy emerge from death. (Watch her Oscar-nominated role in The Savages and you'll see why) And arguably, her bio is more varied than Toni Collette's or Edie Falco's. Seeing her interviewed on Wednesday's The Daily Show demonstrated that she has an understanding of how to make death and comedy merge. Can she do it for real?

Tomorrow at 10:30, she starts proving it. Stay tuned to this spot for more updates, because this is one show I want to get behind.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Forgot I was here...

I'll admit that it's been awhile since my last post, but I've been trying to explore new avenues for the last few weeks, and am now ready to resume posting. They will come more frequently from now on, I promise.

As I watch the new season of Mad Men unfold, several thoughts cross my mind every time I watch an episode.

First off, I know why HBO decided to pass on it, probably to their detrment. There's not enough action for the network of The Sopranos, Deadwood and True Blood. Even on shows which were more character based--- Six Feet Under, The Wire, etc. There was always a certain amount of action. Mad Men flows a lot slower, at a pace that no doubt struck some of the other networks as near glacial. I'm not criticizing. It is in the smaller things that Mad Men has it's finest moments. When we see Betty Draper unnecessarily scold one of her children, or watch Roger Sterling subtly watch a secretary, we see the minor cracks in the picture perfect establishment.
And given the fact that the shows rating have been slowly going up for each succeeding season, it's good to see that more and more people have been willing to go on this particular journey.

Another thing that becomes more and more obvious with each season. The people at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are celebrated for being retro. They're the establishment. What none of the characters realize is that they're quickly becoming old-fashioned. In a memorable moment, disguised as a throwaway, Bert Cooper discussed with another fellow Republican how Medicare and Civil Rights were going to bring down the end of civilization. And right now, the woman that they regard as little more than eye candy are on the verge of a revolution of their own. The series just entered 1965, which means that they're about to become--- to millions of young people--- the enemy. We saw hints of it in this week's show; I've got a feeling it's going to get a lot less subtle in succeeding episodes.

The Draper's marriage was based on a lie. We saw it implode last season when that lie was discovered. It's also clear that they're no happier apart then they were together. I love watching January Jones struggle with the desperation of Betty. She seemed imprisoned by her life the first season of the show. She tried to rebel against it in Season 2, but was brought back to earth when she became pregnant with their third child. She tried to find happiness both with and without Don, and finally seemed to break in the last few episodes. But as has become obvious, she's no happier without him than with him. If anything, her children seem to have become even more unhappy, and it's more clear she was never meant to be a mother. Don is little better off on his own. He's splitting his energy between half-hearted dates with friends of friends, and now he seems to be openly seeing prostitutes. This episode, he saw Anna, and he seemed happier with her than we've seen with any other woman. But now she is dying of cancer, and he dealt with this by going straight in the arms of a $25 hooker. Is happiness even possible for these people? Will the series end with them coming back together somehow? Cause these people can't fit in the world's they've built for themselves.

It's always like pulling teeth to get information about what will happen next week, but I would remind the people at Sterling Cooper, et al. the times they are in changing, and I can't wait to see how Roger Sterling reacts when he learns his daughter listens to Dylan.

Stay tuned for more news.