Of the new shows which premiered in fall network lineups in 2007, there’s only really one that expects to make a big splash at the Emmy Awards. While plenty of new shows will be highly competitive, they debuted in the summer on cable networks where much of the season’s quality came from. Between the strike and a fairly mediocre development season, the freshman lineup of the networks just didn’t measure up…except for Pushing Daisies.
It was the most-buzzed about pilot for a lot of reasons, from its witty writting to its fanciful direction to its lead and supporting stars. While the show only aired nine episodes before going off the air due to the strike, and won’t be returning until the Fall, the show still made a fairly big splash with critics and viewers, and was nominated for a handful for Golden Globes earlier this year.
But translating that to Emmy success will be difficult, not the least of which because comedy is an intense set of categories this year and because the show has been off the air for six months. Considering that so many networks basically gave up on a lot of their freshman lineups, I think that the general perception did the same: while the pilot’s strength in technical categories and for Bryan Fuller and Barry Sonnenfeld is likely to shine through, whether the show’s extremely talented actors can do the same remains a big question. But if the submissions are strong, perhaps there is hope yet for the little pie shop that could.
Outstanding Comedy Series
The reasons you need to submit the pilot episode for a show like Pushing Daisies are numerous: not only is it the show with the biggest budget and therefore the strongest effects work, but it also feels the most like a small, contained story. While ABC ensured that every episode opened with a detailed sequence explaining the complicated life/death sequences of the show, “Pie-Lette” is without question where it has the most resonance as he makes the decision to bring his childhood sweetheart back to life. Part of me wishes that the episode had more for the supporting players to do, but this is about selling this sweet and charming show first and foremost, and the pilot certainly does the best job of this.
YouTube: The Opening of the Pie-Lette
Chances: The show is a strong competitor in this category due to its hour-long running time and a very showy episode submission, plus it’s definitely the biggest new comedy if they’re looking for something new.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Lee Pace – “Pie-Lette”
It’s an understated performance for Lee Pace, something that we don’t often seen succeed in comedy categories. He’s more awkward than comic, but there needs to be a lot of credit given for being able to balance this show’s blend of emotional drama and witty line readings with such ease. The pilot, as it is for the show itself, is a great showcase for the emotional side to Ned’s character, and anyone who isn’t charmed by him at episode’s end needs to check their heart.
YouTube: Piemaker Pours His Heart Out
Chances: The category might just be too tough for him to break through to a nomination, considering how many of last year’s deserving contenders (Baldwin, Carell, etc.) are sticking around. However, consider him a dark horse.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Annal Friel – “Bitter Sweets”
It really isn’t possible to discuss one of these two in separation of the other, though – although they’ve submitted different episodes, their relationship is the core of the show itself. Friel, however, may be smart here: she plays second fiddle to Ned in the pilot, and perhaps her more central comic role (As a burglar and facing off with guest actress Molly Shannon) might be more likely to resonate with viewers, and there is a hope that in the process of their other Emmy research they also see the pilot (Which remains probably her most charming tape at the end of the day).
YouTube: Chuck commits a l’il Sabotage
Chances: It’s the smallest category in terms of number of competitors, so chances are she’ll make the Top 10 – grabbing a nomination, however, will be tough amongst a very difficult crowd.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Chi McBride – “Bitches”
If there was a single performer on the show that I had to pick as my favourite, it would be McBride’s work as the bitter and hilarious Emerson Cod. As a private detective who knits and makes picture books in his spare time, he’s always there for the sarcastic response, the hilarious look, and in this episode the Pavlov-like programming that he’s subjected to. While his work has very much been spread out throughout the season, which makes selecting a single tape hard, here he gets his own segregated storyline and should be well received as a result. The following clip isn’t in that episode, but I love it too much not to include it.
YouTube: Olive talks to Emerson
Chances: It’s the toughest category perhaps out of the entire lot of them, so if there’s anyone who will miss the Top 10 out of the show’s best players it will probably be him.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Kristin Chenoweth – “Girth”
And yet choosing McBride is tough when you have the delightful Chenoweth, who has managed to take a character on the surface designed to break apart the central romance of the series and turn her into someone intensely likable. Olive is a character that the audience can relate to, particularly after her submitted episode where we learn of her past as (wait for it) a professional horse jockey, as the above video demonstrated. It’s just a really funny turn, and she is the central point of the episode. As a result, those who view the screener will definitely see what made Olive such an integral part of the show’s cast.
YouTube: Olive’s first 8 minutes in “Girth”
Chances: She has the awards recognition that McBride lacks, and a bangup submission to boot – she’s a potential dark horse of a nomination, fitting considering her submitted episode.
Swoosie Kurtz & Ellen Greene – “Smell of Success”
This is one of those situations where you really wish that there was 10 nominees in every category, and a Top 20 to narrow them down. Kurtz and Greene, portraying Lily and Vivian Charles, deserve recognition for some great supporting work as Charlotte’s aunts. As characters largely disconnected from the leads in almost every episode, they have held their own when given storylines of their own (mostly related to the aforementioned Chenoweth). Although chances of them breaking the Top 10 are slim to none, this haunting final scene, where they (well, not them, clearly, since there’s synchronized swimming) rediscover their love of the water while Ellen Greene breaks out the broadway chops on a classic tune, would charm any voter.
YouTube: “Morning Has Broken”
Chances: Slim to None of ever cracking the Top 10, won’t be nominated.
Outstanding Writing/Direction for a Comedy Series
“Pie-Lette” should grab nominations in both categories without breaking a sweat.
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Paul Reubens – “Smell of Success”
While the show largely relied on its broad ensemble, Reubens continues his career rehabilitation with his second straight quality guest spot on a comedy series. Here, compared to his overstated and wacky performance on 30 Rock last season, he plays someone who’s less crazy than we realize, and who takes a particular interest in the smells of Chuck and smell in general. It’s a nice little performance, and while he likely won’t make the cut he should be recognized as being a go-to guest star in the future.