Big Bang Theory

2014 Emmy Preview: Best in Show

Picture 3_1

Emmy Day has finally arrived. Be sure to scroll through the rest of the Emmy preview on our homepage, but now it is time to preview the big two, Outstanding Drama and Comedy Series. Genre’s have become a bit muddled in Television over the years. When the Television Academy of Arts first gave out awards it was easy to distinguish between comedy and drama, but now the lines are blurred. It is great to honor two top shows rather than just one, as the Oscars do, but in some ways it dilutes the value of the Emmys.

A best show in television Emmy in which genre is thrown out the window would bring a lot more prestige to the series that wins it. However, as exciting as that sounds, there is so much quality television on-air that narrowing it down to even ten nominees is a daunting task. Voters would also elevate Drama series over Comedy, just as the Academy Awards do with film, and many deserving comedy series would be left out in the cold. This would be a far bigger tragedy than the dilution of the current Emmys by splitting them into two categories. Let’s take a look at this year’s nominees and see how they compare to the field of the “Tommy Awards.”

Outstanding Comedy Series

Emmy Nominees: ORANGE

Orange is the New Black, Netflix (3/2) – The new kid in town, Netflix, has found a lot of success in its early years of original programming. At least we can assume based on buzz and awards, but since Netflix does not release its viewership numbers there is no definitive way to know. But no one foresaw this series about a women’s prison being its biggest creative success. The show is fresh, riveting, and funny. It has the largest ensemble cast of any comedy and the fact that it is easy to remember the backstory on all of them even when they spend several episodes offscreen speaks to how well the characterization of each one is done.

Modern Family, ABC (2/1) – The three-time defending champ has seen its odds shift from (4/1) to (2/1) in the last month, which speaks to the power this traditional sitcom has over Emmy voters. It seems improbable that it would win four straight in its first four seasons. Yes, Mad Men just accomplished this feat on the drama side, but its fourth season is the best of the series and was also a fresh new creative direction. Modern Family, on the other hand, has grown more tired and repetitive with each passing season. veep_still_-_h_-_2014

Veep, HBO (3/1) – An all-timer that works on so many levels, political satire, dysfunctional workplace comedy, terrific performances, vulgar humor, etc. It should’ve topped Modern Family last year and upped its game again this season by taking Selina Meyer out on the campaign trail in an effort to become the next President of the United States. Selina and an outrageously expensive wooden crate equals pure comedic gold.

Louie, FX (10/1) – Any show that comes so singularly from the genius mind of Louis C.K. deserves to be amongst the best shows in television. It is not always laugh out loud funny, but C.K. is such a keen observer of human nature and how we function as a society that he always has something interesting to say.

The Big Bang Theory, CBS (10/1) – It’s surprising that with all the love Emmy voters have shown Modern Family they have failed to crown this more classic and successful throwback sitcom as Best Comedy Series. It is a well executed show that delivers punchline after punchline. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but succeeds ridiculously well at what it is trying to do.

Silicon Valley, HBO (30/1) – I have to plead ignorance on this one, having only seen the pilot episode of which I was not a fan. From what people tell me the show improved markedly as the season went along. It is by far the most surprising nomination in the category, but then again given HBO’s track record of lobbying for and getting the most nominations I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised.

Tommy Nominees: 600x400_broadcity_new

Orange is the New Black

Veep

Louie

Broad City, Comedy Central – Stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson shared my Outstanding Lead Actress award and led by their brilliance Broad City is the funniest new show of the year. It is ballsy and absurdist at times, but executes its ridiculous premises with ease. Glazer and Jacobson’s chemistry is so strong that the show could put them in any situation and mine comedy out of it.

Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central – Comedy Central has really come into its own the last few years and if this category was made up completely of its shows I would not take much issue with Key and Peele, the above mentioned Broad City, Review, and Nathan for You all worthy nominees. But Schumer gets the nod for the funniest sketch show on TV. A star on the rise, Schumer flips feminine stereotypes on its head and does so with unabashed brashness.

Shameless, Showtime – This is where the blurred lines of the comedy genre comes into play. Do I honor more traditional, network comedies such as Parks and Rec and Brooklyn 99? Or go with another Comedy Central sketch show such as Review or Key and Peele. Or honor the strangeness of FX with “Seinfeld on acid” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Wilfred, or Legit. All of those shows are worthy of recognition, but the last spot goes to Showtime’s Shameless. A category flipper from drama to comedy, this bold show does not fit either genre. It simply is what it is, nothing else, and what it is, is brilliant.

Best Bet: 

This is a wide open category with Silicon Valley serving as the lone “happy to be here” show. Any of the other five have a decent shot at winning. It feels like a good category to take a long shot. Modern Family fatigue seems very legit this year and the chances of four-peating feel a lot slimmer than (2/1). Emmy voters may not be ready to honor less traditional shows, such as OITNB and Louie. HBO’s track record in comedy is less successful than the drama side, eliminating Veep and Silicon Valley. This leaves Big Bang Theory at (10/1). Emmy voters may feel more comfortable voting for something more traditional as well as honoring far and away the biggest scripted hit on television.

And the Tommy Goes to…

Veep. The best comedy on television. It works on so many levels. While Broad City and Inside Amy Schumer made me laugh harder, no comedy left me more satisfied than Veep. Tremendous writing for a powerful lead performance with a splendid supporting cast around her. Veep has it all, including the honor of taking home the Tommy.

And the Emmy Goes to…

Orange is the New Black. The only thing I’m sure of is that Modern Family will fall. It is a wide open field behind it, but tonight just feels like a coronation of Orange is the New Black. The only thing that might prevent it from dominating is that the entire second season, which is not eligible till next year, has been watched by voters and is better than the first. Perhaps this makes them hesitate and wait till next year to crown it, but I’m banking on it only improving its chances this year.

 

Outstanding Drama Series

Emmy Nominees: 301px-BBS5

Breaking Bad, AMC (1/5) – Let’s remove the suspense, Breaking Bad should and will win this award. There is no one else to bet on and no case to be made for any other show. Yes, True Detective was fascinating and the performances from its two leads made it riveting. Game of Thrones is a true splendor to watch and more than deserving of a win in any other year. The only knock against Breaking Bad is the split season format in which AMC aired it. I’m not a big fan of this “split season” format as it is only used to cut down costs since everyone involved gets pay raises in each new season. It is obviously a terrific business plan as it saves money, increases streaming viewing of previous seasons, and led to a finale audience of over 10 million people.

But there should be a creative consequence in that the show cannot be eligible for awards until the entire season is completed. Last year, the first eight episodes were not nearly as deserving of the win, but when combined with these final 8 to form the complete 16 episode season then Breaking Bad becomes an even bigger favorite. It is the same reason why Mad Men shouldn’t be nominated this year for the first 7 episodes of its final season. A Mad Men season has a certain rhythm to it as it builds upon each previous episode to a satisfying conclusion. By splitting the season in half AMC has disrupted that rhythm and the seventh season of Mad Men is not complete, which is why it joins Downton Abbey and House of Cards on my undeserving nominees list.

Tommy Nominees: 

Breaking Bad, AMC – The Champ, plain and simple.

True Detective, HBO – Admire the balls on HBO for submitting in the drama series category instead of miniseries in which it would’ve most likely won, but Fargo would make it closer than expected. It will forever be remembered in the history of television thanks to the brilliance of McConnaughey and Woody.

Game of Thrones, HBO – A grand Hollywood epic that airs 10 weeks a year on our TV screens. Tied with Breaking Bad as far as entertainment value and deserves this award at some point in its run.

Boardwalk Empire, HBO – The best example of a novel format on TV. The whole of each season is more satisfying than each individual episode. The execution is simply remarkable.

Orphan Black, BBC America – All conversation about Orphan Black starts with Tatiana Maslany’s performance, as well it should, but behind that performance is the best thriller on television. The action packed thrills combined with the heart that Maslany’s performance brings makes this the most enjoyable show to watch.

The Good Wife, CBS – Grading a bit on a curve for this nominee, but The Good Wife continues to provide an example of the advantages to network television, the biggest being the extra episodes, 22 compared to 8, 8, 10, 12, and 10 from the other Tommy nominees respectively. While most other network shows view this as a burden, Good Wife sees it as an opportunity for more character study.

The Champ Says Goodbye

Back to tonight’s winner. Breaking Bad leaves an indelible mark on the television landscape and it will forever be debated amongst the best show’s of all time. As much as I’m against split season’s getting nominated twice, this show and especially this final season deserves at least two Emmys for all it has accomplished. Vince Gilligan is a television genius and the premise behind this series may never be topped, but the execution of the brilliant premise is what makes this an all-time great.

Advertisements

2014 Emmy Preview: The Jim Parsons Award

images (7)

Bazinga! Sheldon Cooper’s catchphrase has been appropriate for the man who plays him at the Emmys as of late. Jim Parsons has won three of the last four Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Emmys and received his sixth straight nomination for his starring role on The Big Bang Theory. As much as this era of dominance has upset people, especially considering that Steve Carrell never won one for the iconic role of Michael Scott, it is really not surprising looking at the current state of comedy in television.

The television landscape has changed dramatically over the last 20 years with an expansion of cable networks producing original programming, which has led to new digital platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon, now producing its own original content as well. It has led to a saturation of the market that has lowered viewership of most watched programs and created niche programming that allows people to find the shows that best fit their taste. Comedy has been most affected by this change in that it has moved away from the standard sitcom to an array of tastes that range from dark absurdist, to satirical, to sketch show, to whatever the hell Nathan Fielder is doing.

The variety makes it difficult for Emmy voters to select male leads to nominate since the traditional form they’re used to is all, but disappeared. Parsons is really the only traditional male sitcom lead left that is worthy of a nom, which explains why he wins the award so damn much. Look at the field for this event 20 years ago in 1994.

The former King of this category, Frasier Crane.

The former King of this category, Frasier Crane.

1994 Nominees

Kelsey Grammer, “Frasier” (Winner)

John Larroquete, “The John Larroquete Show”

Jerry Seinfeld, “Seinfeld”

Paul Reiser, “Mad About You”

John Goodman, “Roseanne”

 

Five nominees all from successful sitcoms and all with big name cache. Grammer won four lead acting Emmys for his role as Frasier Crane. Larroquete, while not as successful as a led, won four straight Supporting Actor in a Comedy Emmys for his performance on Night Court. Jerry Seinfeld is Jerry Seinfeld, enough said there. It may be easy to forget now, but Reiser was a big name in the 90s and Mad About You a smash hit. He received six nominations without ever winning. Finally, the multi-talented John Goodman starred as Roseanne’s husband on a smash hit sitcom that was deemed revolutionary for its time. He topped Resier with seven nominations for this role without ever winning. Now, look at the field for this year’s event.

Nominees

Jim Parsons, “Big Bang Theory” (1/1) – As mentioned he is a three time winner and the only traditional sitcom lead actor in this field. Say what you will about Chuck Lorre, but his formula works and a big reason why is the actor’s ability to nail the punchlines while remaining in character.

Ricky Gervais, “Derek” (3/1) – Gervais has been an Emmy staple ever since bringing The Office over to the US. Derek is a special project for him and completely different than anything else he has done. It is a dark comedy on the surface, but packs a lot of heart and filled with wry observations of human behavior. It will be interesting to see how voters compare this performance to a traditional comedic one like Parsons.

William H. Macy, “Shameless” (4/1) – The result of Emmy voters not finding leads from traditional sitcoms to nominate is turning to famous actors on television no matter how good or comedic the performance is. To be fair Macy is excellent on Shameless and the show’s consistent supply of humor. The only argument against his nomination is that he is far from the lead. If he were nominated for a supporting role it would make sense, but he seems out of place in this category.

Louie C.K., “Louie” (5/1) – There is no doubt about whom the lead is on this show, in fact C.K. quite literally does it all on his titular program. Louie is a result of C.K.’s brilliant mind and while it is not always traditionally funny, but never boring. For all the accolades he receives as a stand-up, writer, and director, C.K. is also a brilliant actor more than deserving of a nomination.

Matt Leblanc, “Episodes” (18/1) – “Hey it’s a former sitcom star on a Showtime comedy. It must be good, let’s nominate him.” The thought process of Emmy voters, despite being oh so wrong.

Don Cheadle, “House of Lies” (30/1) – “Hey it’s a movie star and Academy Award nominee starring on a Showtime comedy. It must be good, let’s nominate him.” While Cheadle is his usual charming self and does what he can with the material given, the material is too awful to validate a nomination.

Snubs

Andy Daly, “Review” – Review is a fun twist on the sketch show format. Daley stars as reviewer of life, Forrest Macneil. The premise allows for a variety of concepts that break up the show into three or segments of different things that people ask Forrest to review. However, instead of having each review standing alone with no consequences, like every other sketch show, every review impacts Forrest’s life mostly in negative ways. It eventually leads to him ending up divorce and bankrupt, but his unwavering desire to continue reviewing life.

Jake Johnson, “New Girl” – Johnson has really grown into the role of Nick Miller over three seasons. After Max Greenfield grabbed the early headlines with the much showier role of Schmidt, it would’ve been easy for the producers to turn New Girl into “The Schmidt Show.” However, it stuck with its other stars and for good reason as Johnson has become the most consistent supply of laughs and heart on the show.

Best Bet

Jim Parsons fatigue is very possible this year. But if it happens is there any viable candidate to step up and win? The best bet is voters awarding C.K. for all that he does on Louie. At (5/1) it is a great payout if they go in this direction. download

Should Win

Louis C.K. In a weak field he deserves to be recognized for the incredible work he has done. It is more than just rewarding him for writing, directing, producing, starring, and editing the show, he has also delivered a tremendous performance over the last four seasons. It is hard to say if it is more deserving than the others and Daly gave the best performance of the season, but I’m going to break my own rule of ignoring past seasons and awarding the Emmy to C.K.

Will Win 

The Parsons juggernaut rolls on to a fourth Emmy. Gervais is one for one when getting nominated in this category, but he’s made enough enemies in Hollywood that it will be difficult for him to get the necessary votes. Everyone loves Parsons and he is a throwback sitcom start that stands out in this list of nominees.