True Detective

2014 Emmy Preview: Best in Show

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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.

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2014 Emmy Preview: The McConaissance vs The One Who Knocks

Yesterday we went over the stupidity of Tatiana Maslany not getting nominated despite giving far and away the best performance on television. Her male counterparts do not suffer from such an egregious snub. Yes, Jeff Daniels and Kevin Spacey have no business being nominated, but the formidable foursome of Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston, Matthew McConaughey, and Woody Harrelson are all there. Since no one outside of these four actors deserve to win the Emmy it is hard to get too upset over snubs, but I’ll try anyways.

Undeserving Nominees

Then put an end to your performance, Frank.

Then put an end to your performance, Frank.

 

Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards” – Oh man, look at that Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood manipulative and cunning with his grand monologues direct to camera. Is there no end to his brilliance? Spacey’s campy, over-the-top, scene chewing performance would be highly entertaining on a Funny or Die video or maybe even a feature film, but over the course of a 13 episode season it is just grating. A lead character doesn’t need to be likable, but he should be at least interesting and multidimensional, ala Tony Soprano. Underwood is a cartoon villain in the flesh. Just like House of Cards is a 80s primetime soap opera masquerading as quality television, Spacey is delivering an annoying, over-the-top performance that dupes everyone into believing it is brilliant. Tone things down and find some humanity in the character, Kevin, and oh yeah, learn how to throw a fucking baseball.

Jeff Daniels, “Newsroom” – Daniels is not undeserving because of his performance. In fact it is a great acting job considering Aaron Sorkin’s writing lends itself to falling down the same overacting well that Spacey did. He’s undeserving of nomination simply because he stole the award last year over far more deserving performers, top of the list being six, now seven, time nominee and zero time winner, Hamm as Don Draper. It would be perfectly acceptable for Daniels to take the sixth spot in this category every year. A nice face to pop up at the show, but to actually win the damn thing is unacceptable.

Snubs

Michael Sheen, “Masters of Sex” – Sheen is a brilliant actor able to slip into the skin of an array of characters with ease. He does it again as the cold, calculating, sex research pioneer, Dr. William Masters. Sheen brings out the humanity in this cold scientific man, especially in scenes he shares with the equally brilliant Lizzy Caplan. It is not a showy role, but rather reserved and complicated one, which is more difficult to pull off effectively. An actor of Sheen’s brilliance playing the complicated role of a real life figure is more than deserving of a nomination.

Hugh Dancy, “Hannibal” – It is rare for a broadcast network lead to break into this category with all the powerful male characters on cable these days, but Dancy’s Will Graham belongs in the conversation with his cable counterparts. It is the quieter role of the two leads on this psychological thriller, but with his arc of getting arrested and constantly having to deal with his own fragile psyche Dancy pulls off a memorable performance deserving of more recognition.

Best Bets

There are only two people to bet on in this category since only two people have any chance of winning, McConaughey and Cranston. It comes down to odds, McConaughey at (4/9) or Cranston at (3/1). Any time a former three time winner with a submission episode that was the best episode of television last year has (3/1) odds, you have to take it.

Should Win

Could Don slow dance his way to Emmy gold? Unfortunately not.

Could Don slow dance his way to Emmy gold? Unfortunately not.

 

Breaking my own rule of only considering the current season in which their eligible, but only slightly because he was still absolutely brilliant, Jon Hamm is the most deserving actor in this category. Don Draper and Walter White are pantheon characters in the history of television and will always be linked together since they appeared on our screens over the same time period. Cranston is absolutely incredible and the journey he took from High School Chemistry teacher to Drug Kingpin was unlike any ever seen before on TV. However, Hamm’s performance as Don Draper is slightly more impressive.

The character beats of Walter White are easier to see as the plot directs the changes in his attitude. Cranston nails all of these, but it becomes a showier performance thanks to the extreme change in White. Draper is a more muddled character, by design, and therefore more difficult to nail down. Yet Hamm knocks it out of the park. While he never gets badass lines to say like “I am the one who knocks,” or “Now, say my name,” he is able to floor me with the slightest facial movements that speak volumes.

There is no chance that Hamm wins it this year, making it seven nominations in a row without a win, and leaving him next year as his last chance. It should be his best one as Cranston, McConaughey, and Harrelson will all be ineligible, but it seemed like last year was his year and Daniels swiped it away, so with that luck Kevin Spacey will probably take home the gold next year.

Will Win

As I mentioned earlier, this is a two horse race. Let’s take a look at the case for and against each actor. Walter-White-I-Am-The-One-Who-Knocks-Breaking-Bad

Bryan Cranston: 

In His Favor – A three time winner nominated for the final episodes of an iconic television character. He has the best submission episode in ‘Ozymandias,’ which is sure to grab voters attention. There is a ground swell of Breaking Bad support as voters seem intent on honoring the show as much as possible on its way out. Cranston is also a very well-liked actor that has waited a long time to get this kind of recognition for his work.

Working Against Him – A three time winner nominated for the final episodes of an iconic television character. Where have I seen this before? The late, great James Gandolfini won three straight Emmy awards, three straight that he was eligible for as the long break between seasons meant a year with no Sopranos, for seasons 2-4 only to never win another for his last three years of being eligible including losing to James Spader in the final season. The parallels are very similar between these two and voters may decide again that three Emmys is enough recognition for this iconic character. Also, Cranston may be beloved, but he does not have the cache of McConaughey coming off an Academy Award as well.

Matthew McConaughey: tumblr_n22t898ntl1tumz3so1_1280

In His Favor – An Academy Award winning actor being eligible for an Emmy in the same year? This just does not happen in the world of television. Voters are sure to be thrilled that a movie star of this caliber chose to “slum it” on TV, even if only for 8 episodes on HBO. It was also a fascinating character in which he had to play three different incarnations of in a show that covered 20 years of time. It is a both showy and reserved role, which speaks to its brilliance. The mystery crime elements of True Detective never fully came together, but no one cared cause the real pleasure of the show came from watching McConaughey and Harrelson work together. And while Harrelson still does not get enough credit for his performance, there is no denying the McConaughey was truly something special to watch for 8 weeks at the beginning of this year. Plus everyone wants to see another McConaughey speech on Monday night.

Working Against Him – Perhaps voters are turned off by this outsider masquerading as a TV star for only 8 episodes and instead honor one of their own. There also may be some McConaughey fatigue at this point considering he spent the winter racking up award after award. True Detective has also been receiving some backlash since Nic Pizzolato has opened his mouth and given interviews. This might hurt the show’s chances to rack up as many awards as possible and McConaughey could get pulled under as well.

Prediction: 

The McConaissance continues. It is just impossible to imagine voters not voting for him. He just has far too much momentum and with three Emmys already on his shelf no one feels the pressure to give Cranston any more.

My Subjective Ranking of TV This Week – Part Four

#2 and #1Arrow Season 2

2. Arrow – I almost put it at #1. I really did.  Last night I tossed and turned all night debating whether or not I should do it. Part of me wanted to just in an attempt to get you people to give Arrow a chance. Ultimately I decided I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t disrespect what True Detective is doing right now, but in some ways Arrow is more impressive.

Look, I watch some crappy, total guilty pleasure TV shows. I understand why it would be easy to brush this off as just another “silly Tommy” thing, but I promise everyone that Arrow does not fall into that category. It is a legitimately well-written, well-acted (for the most part), and extremely well-produced show that does more than get teenage girls hot and bothered at the sight of Stephen Amell’s abs. Amell abs gets everyone hot and bothered.

Soak it in ladies and gentlemen.

Soak it in ladies and gentlemen.

It deals with real issues, like the wealth gap, addiction, lies and deception, corruption and so much more. It does it all adeptly without looking completely ridiculous like so many other CW shows do when they attempt to deal with the subjects Arrow does every single week. Is Arrow completely without total teen gush moments? No, it cannot completely bite the hand that feeds it. Everyone has to pay up to the CW piper at some point. However, the show serves as an excellent example of how network guidelines, especially CW guidelines, does not restrict creativity. Show runners for CW shows can no longer complain about the limitations placed upon them as Arrow has proven it is possible to create a top tier show on this network.

The most impressive thing Arrow does is choreograph and produce the best action sequences on television with a miniscule CW budget. The lighting team and gaffers on the show deserve an award named after them as they play a big part in the smoke and mirrors the show utilizes to give it a big budget movie feel.

Arrow has the most expansive roster of characters of any show on TV. This serves as both a strength and weakness. The strength is that it allows for a multitude of avenues in which to take storylines, or better yet makes filler episodes entertaining since it has so many great side characters to call up for an episode or two. It also keeps everything feeling fresh as no story arc gets overplayed and even when one is boring it does not last long. The audience will not get burnt out on the show by season four. There is just too much good stuff for the writers to allow that to happen.

Get ready to fall in love with Felicity Smoak.

Get ready to fall in love with Felicity Smoak.

The weakness of this expansive roster of characters is that a lot of entertaining characters disappear for long stretches of time. What the hell happened to Summer Glau this season. Did I miss something about her dying or going on a pilgrimage to Mecca?  It would be fine if Arrow was a purely serialized show. Yes, it is highly serialized, but since it has a lot more masters than a Boardwalk Empire, a show with a similar deep roster, it needs to do stories at a more accelerated pace. There is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I wish things could play out over a few episodes or even half the season. Currently there are so many different arcs and groups of people plotting against Oliver Queen, aka the Arrow, that it makes the show feel more like a thrill ride than a TV show. My only hope is that most of these arcs carry over through the end of this season and do not get tied up neatly in a bow come the season finale. There are so many potential big bads that have the potential to stick around for if not the entire life of the series, at the very least a few seasons.

I have at least 10,000 more words in me about how everyone should be watching Arrow, but in the interest of not having everyone turn against me I’ll just end it with this point. It has Caity Lotz, which as you’ve seen is a very good thing.

1. True Detective – As a compromise for putting it number one over Arrow I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Plus when a show is number one there is not much else I have to say. Right now, True Detective is in a league of its own. Each episode has built beautifully on top of each other and now I’m starting to care more about the investigation, both in the past and the present, in addition to how incredible the lead characters are.

Another impressive aspect of the show is its grasp of the world in which it takes place. The Louisiana bayou has played a big part in the show thus far and it is a setting ripe with great story telling prospects. More disappointing than the total lack of excitement the Super Bowl delivered was the fact we were robbed of watching True Detective for a week. Thank God that will not be the case this week and for the next four afterwards. I cannot wait to watch this story unfold over the next month.