Category Archives: Award Shows

For Your Consideration: Lead Actresses – Mary-Louise Parker and Kristen Bell

[In Week Four of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actress awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our fourth set of candidates. For complete listings for all Supporting and Lead Actor candidates from the past four weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Mary-Louise Parker (Nancy)

Weeds

It has now been about a week since I started watching Weeds, which perhaps makes it difficult to put the show in perspective compared to others. I finished both of the show’s seasons in the span of about a week, and I think that this should be seen as a testament to the show’s quality. However, let’s be honest here: while the supporting performances of Elizabeth Perkins, Justin Kirk, Romany Malco, Kevin Deacon are all great, the entire show hinges on Mary-Louise Parker’s portrayal of a suburban widow turned drug dealer. I think that a single episode could survive without her subtle and engaging portrayal of Nancy Botwin, but the series as a whole requires us to feel for Nancy, understand Nancy, relate to Nancy and to a certain extent judge Nancy on her actions. What Parker nails each and every time is a character who has no idea what she’s doing; every time she tries to assert herself, her character finds things moving too fast, and she’s forced to fall as she always invariably falls. But we always want to pick her back up: we want Nancy to succeed at selling drugs just as much as we would want the Dillon Panthers to win the big game on Friday Night Lights. As individuals living in a legal system that frowns upon this, we should see it as somewhat subversive…and we do, but just the right amount. That is the work of Mary-Louise Parker, and it is work that is worthy of Emmy consideration.

What I like most about Parker’s work is that there is that constant awareness of how dangerous what she is doing really is, and yet also her ability to get swept up in it all. The constant fear that her children will figure out what she does for a living was real for Nancy, especially in the case of young son Shane. Nancy got herself into hot water this season: her DEA agent beau found out about her occupation of choice, she married him to gain protection from the law, her grow operation was threatened by Armenians, her elder son figured out her position (And got his girlfriend pregnant), she realized how screwed she was in her sham marriage, and pretty well everything spiraled out of control in the season finale. And through it all you saw Parker both being overwhelmed by the emotion of it all and getting absolutely giddy as Snoop Dogg digs her “M.I.L.F. Weed”.

While Perkins and Kirk have the real “comic” roles, Parker’s core storyline forms the show’s entire dramatic construct. Without a deft hand, these storylines could become too dramatic, or perhaps even too comic. Instead, Mary-Louise Parker always gives Nancy Botwin qualities we find funny, charming, and just enough to make us sometimes forget the mistakes she’s made. And that is a performance that should garner her an Emmy nomination.

Episode Selection: “Mrs. Botwin’s Neighbourhood” (Aired September 11th, 2006)

“I have fires in two houses, Mr. Botwin…Mr. Scotson.” This line perfectly demonstrates why this episode is a strong submission for Parker: she is faced with conflict on both sides of her life (Mother and Pot Dealer/Grower). Silas’ girlfriend Megan is pregnant, and she tells her parents on her own…and then stops talking to Silas, who had wanted her to keep the baby. Meanwhile, Nancy has to deal with four Armenian pot growers in her neighbourhood who are more than a little hostile and her newly established growhouse, so she turns to her sham DEA husband (Mr. Scotson) for assistance. Combine this with a hysterical attack from Elizabeth Perkins, and you have a woman who is struggling to keep her head above water. She lashes out, attacking Megan’s father for hitting her son and just delivers a great performance in the process. This is Nancy at her lowest with a glimmer of hope in its conclusion, and it is an engaging performance worthy of consideration.

YouTube“Mrs. Botwin’s Neighbourhood”

Lead Actress in a Drama

Kristen Bell (Veronica)

Veronica Mars

Let’s be honest: Kristen Bell will not be nominated for an Emmy award. The show is too lowly rated, and struggled too much creatively in this its third season, for it to ever be considered a serious contender. However, I cannot help but continue to be engaged by Kristen Bell’s characterization of this young woman struggling with pretty well everything around her. She smart, intelligent, savvy, and yet is in many ways just as damaged as the rest of us. While her character has lost depth in the past two seasons, I still think that Bell remains the show’s highlight: without her turn as Veronica, I don’t know if the show would have ever engaged fans in the first place. As she moves on from the now cancelled Veronica Mars, I believe she has a bright future ahead of her. However, before she moves on, I think it is important that we at least bring attention to the fact that without her strong performance, Veronica Mars wouldn’t have lasted half a season. With wit and charm, Kristen Bell brought sophistication to the realm of teen dramas that it had not seen before: the result was a performance that, to hell with reality, is worthy of Emmy consideration.

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Filed under Award Shows, Emmy Awards, Television, The CW, Veronica Mars, Weeds

For Your Consideration: Lead Actresses – America Ferrera and Mary McDonnell

[In Week Four of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actress awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our third set of candidates. For complete listings for the Supporting and Lead Actor candidates from the past four weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

America Ferrera (Betty)

Ugly Betty

There isn’t much that hasn’t already been said about America Ferrera’s breakthrough performance as Betty Suarez on ABC’s hit dramedy. Ferrera waltzed away with the Golden Globe earlier this year, and chances are good that she’ll walk away with an Emmy in hand in September as well. It would be easy, then, to take her actual performance for granted: her nomination is so assured at this point that people have stopped even speculating about it. Delving deeper, however, you do find a quality comic performance beneath the hype. Betty is a character we need to believe as both hopelessly awkward and yet a good-hearted, intelligent, smart individual. Ferrera, despiting being made “ugly” for the role, never appears less than radiant as Betty. She goes to extreme lengths to display Betty’s inner beauty, and it never feels clichéd. There is something about Betty that makes her a worthwhile star in the series; as the season progressed and her character became less picked upon, Betty became a complex and intriguing character capable of supporting physical comedy, romantic comedy, drama and just about everything else in between. And that diversity is the work of America Ferrera, and it is work worthy of Emmy consideration.

Beginning the series as a walking fashion disaster working for a fashion magazine, Betty is immediately a sympathetic character. However, she was not yet a sympathetic heroine, and it was Ferrera who really allowed that to blossom. I think that it is a result of how much responsibility lies on Betty’s shoulders: she had to balance supporting her family emotionally and financially, her strange and awkward boyfriend, her new job, her mean co-workers, and in the process she always kept a smile on her face. However, I found Ferrera best when that smile was wiped off and we saw her either at her lowest or at her most resilient. Those moments where Betty could have quit, could have been run down, could have given up; those were the times when Ferrera’s acting shone. Every time I see the show’s opening title, with braces-laden Betty smiling awkwardly, I am annoyed; really, Betty isn’t that cliché and showing her as such does the series little good. Ferrera is at her best when just plain happy, not happy in spite of others.

Episode Selection: “Pilot” (Aired September 28th, 2006)

I am resisting changing this selection because it is a strong performance from Ferrera and is perhaps her most comic. And, let’s face it, it won her a Golden Globe. However, I have serious issues with the Ugly Betty pilot on the whole, and they extend to Betty herself.

The pilot spends too much time attacking Betty for comic value: in fact, it got so played out that it basically stopped after the show’s third episode. Producers realized, much as I did, that doing so would only make everyone else look like complete assholes compared to Betty, which won’t sustain an entire series.

And I like Ferrera more when she is interacting with those new co-workers on a non-confrontational basis. I’d actually be tempted, then, to highlight one of those episodes. However, the “buzz” worthy elements of her character are how she has bad fashion sense and smiles through it all, so the Pilot highlights what voters will be looking for…but I don’t think it does her true acting ability justice.

YouTube“Pilot”

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Mary McDonnell (Laura Roslin)

Battlestar Galactica

I believe that President Laura Roslin is perhaps one of the best characters to rise out of the 2004 reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, which is saying a lot considering the amount of great ones that have been part of the series. What I love about Mary McDonnell’s portrayal of the character is that, without fail, you are always rooting for Laura Roslin to succeed except for those moments where she is clearly wrong. In those cases, McDonnell makes you want to see Roslin get let down as easily as possible, in order to ensure that she isn’t too damaged in the process. After becoming President from the lowly position of Secretary of Education, Laura Roslin had to learn the ropes and find her own middle ground on a variety of issues. This year has really been one where she had to face the consequences of those actions, and one where she was forced to deal with the growing problems facing the people under her command. All the while, her own personal demons came back to haunt her, and her journey forward into the show’s final season is perhaps its most interesting. Through it all, Mary McDonnell has delivered a subtle, visceral performance that is certainly to be considered for an Emmy nomination.

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Filed under ABC, Award Shows, Battlestar Galactica, Emmy Awards, Television, Ugly Betty

For Your Consideration: Lead Actresses – Tina Fey and Sally Field

[In Week Four of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actress awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our second set of candidates. For complete listings for the Supporting and Lead Actor candidates from the past four weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Tina Fey (Liz Lemon)

30 Rock

Saturday Night Live was a great stepping stone for Tina Fey, there’s no doubt about it; it provided her the opportunity to make a hit film (Mean Girls) and eventually to develop a successful television project in the form of 30 Rock. However, Saturday Night Live never really gave her much of a chance to stretch her acting abilities, although a small role in Mean Girls showed some potential. So, when it came time for her to take a starring role in her own series, there were of course questions to be had. And yet, there shouldn’t have been: Fey’s brilliant delivery on Weekend Update was no fluke, and she has proven more than able to transfer that comic timing into a half-hour comedy format. Liz is a funny, engaging, likable lead that is able to anchor both the fictional The Girlie Show and 30 Rock in the realm of sane human beings. Baldwin might provide the quips, Morgan might provide the insanity, but Fey is the one who either has to weather the insanity or response to the quips. That role is a difficult one, and while perhaps not a seasoned performer Fey is the perfect person for the job. Liz Lemon is the heart of 30 Rock, and Tina Fey’s portrayal of the at least semi-autobiographical character is worthy of Emmy consideration.

The hallmark of a strong female comedy lead is their ability to balance the show’s different elements. Fey seems right at home sparring with Alec Baldwin, replying to his verbal jabs in funny, honest ways. Similarly, she seems the voice of reason with Jenna and Tracy, each crazy in their own way. Even outside of that workplace environment, Fey is able to handle Liz’s romantic exploits. Whether it is with pager salesman Dennis (Who hilariously appeared on “To Catch a Predator”) or with late season beau Floyd, it never dragged down the show’s comedy. Even when the show’s material got a little bit nuts (The Source Awards, as an example), Fey’s reaction was always exactly how it should have been: Liz would have been freaked out, and so was Fey. By allowing her character to have realistic emotions that didn’t feel like “acting”, the show never felt like it was falling off the rails. As a writer and producer, Tina Fey obviously held a lot of responsibility on the show at a conceptual level; however, without her performance as Liz Lemon, that concept would have gone out the window. And that makes her deserving of an Emmy nomination.

Episode Selection: “The Head and the Hair” (Aired January 18th, 2007)

Now, Tina Fey did not submit this episode: she submitted “Up All Night” which has a charming scene or two featuring her character. What she should have submitted is this episode, which is about one of her unfortunate romantic exploits. After a guy working at MSNBC asks her out on a date, Liz finds herself awkwardly struggling to fit in while being served oxygen by talking about Heroes. The entire episode, like most Fey wrote, is full of Star Wars and other geek references. This is Liz at her most charming: as the guy eventually becomes interested, everything is going completely great for Liz…until she realizes that he is her third cousin or so.

It shows a lot of comic range, some great comic timing, and comes to a funny and satisfying conclusion. While she also wrote the episode she submitted, this one just felt like a stronger episode for her character (And I think it’s a stronger episode overall as well). Nevertheless, regardless, her performances over the course of the season are worthy of consideration. And you’ll have to see one of them here, since YouTube isn’t being helpful.

YouTube“[Not] The Head and the Hair”

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Sally Field (Nora)

Brothers & Sisters

There’s a lot of talk right now about Sally Field and her co-star Calista Flockhart regarding their Emmy chances. Since both are likely to make the Top 10, voters will basically get to see two episodes worth of material from them. While I’m sure this will benefit Flockhart, I want to focus more on Field for the fact that, well, she is absolutely stunning in this series. This series could exist without Flockhart: while not terrible by any means, she doesn’t seem necessary in a way. Field, however, has crafted a matriarch so damaged, so haunted, so powerful that you can’t turn away. Nora is a character capable of being wildly comic (Smoking up in the back of a car) and powerfully dramatic (Just about every single episode). It is hard to imagine the show without her, but she was actually a post-pickup addition to the series. That decision was perhaps the smartest one made this television season, and the result was a tremendous performance from a veteran actress. And Sally Field’s work is more than deserving of Emmy consideration.

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Filed under 30 Rock, ABC, Award Shows, Brothers & Sisters, Emmy Awards, NBC, Television

For Your Consideration: Lead Actresses – Lauren Graham and Felicity Huffman

[In Week Four of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actress awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our first set of candidates. For complete listings for the Supporting and Lead Actor candidates from the past four weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Lauren Graham (Lorelai)

Gilmore Girls

There is little question that Lauren Graham is perhaps the individual most snubbed by the Emmys over the past decade. In an awards show dominated by the big four networks, and one where even cable champions like HBO have struggled to win the big trophies, there was little place for a lowly network like The WB. As a result, the deft handling of rapid fire dialogue and fabulous mother/daughter interaction being delivered by the Gilmore Girls star was basically left unnoticed. Not even last year’s rule changes allowed Graham a chance to sneak into the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category. And, well, chances are that this year she won’t make it either, being on a different network and in a different category. However, nonetheless, I cannot possibly ignore her performance. I shall stand on the side of optimism every year when it comes to Lauren Graham. Even next year, when the show is off the air? I’ll still sing her praises. Because her lack of recognition is one of the Academy’s biggest mistakes, and it is with no hesitation that I consider her worthy of an Emmy nomination.

This season has been a dramatic one for Graham, so it is perhaps fitting that she is submitting in drama this year (The show has submitted in comedy for the past number of years). After sleeping with Christopher, she basically screwed up what she had going for herself with Luke, and spiraled a tiny bit out of control in the process. She married Christopher and found herself swept up in wedding parties, family dinners, and realizing that Christopher doesn’t actually fit into her life. And that her life was about her daughter, about her family, about her friends in Stars Hollow. After being mired in a bit of a funk (Which coincided with new showrunner David S. Rosenthal finding his legs with the show’s dialogue), Graham hit her stride in the second half of the season. After breaking things off with Christopher and finding her feet again, her character’s journey of self-reflection brought her back to her daughter and to Luke…but not easily.

And that’s the thing: much like the show’s dialogue, Lorelai’s life was never simple. Financially, well, things were fine; but her complicated relationship with everyone around her was something very different. Graham always managed to balance the comedy and the drama in a way that always portrayed Lorelai as someone who could at any moment spin out of control. That balanced, intricate performance has been, is, and will be deserving of Emmy Awards consideration.

Episode Selection: “Farewell My Pet” (Aired February 13th, 2007)

Now, I am of two minds with this selection: on the one hand, I did not like this episode all that much. It was actually kind of borderline annoying, and did not feature many of the elements that I enjoy most about the show.

However, on the other hand, it is that final moment where Lorelai realizes that her marriage with Christopher is never going to work. As she has to balance holding a memorial for Michel’s deceased dog Chin-Chin, Lorelai slowly comes to terms with her reality, and the hard decision she has to make. When she ends her marriage at the end of the episode, it is an emotional moment no matter whether you’ve watched the season or not. I think she’s better in the finale, to be honest, but it’s much more of a fan-friendly as opposed to voter-friendly episode.

And this final scene is, perhaps, one of her strongest of the season. And it will likely give her one last shot at her nomination.

YouTube – “Farewell My Pet”

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Felicity Huffman (Lynette)

Desperate Housewives

While someone like Lauren Graham might be fighting for her spot, Felicity Huffman is in pretty good shape thanks to a number of factors outside of her own control. However, no matter what people may say about Desperate Housewives’ drop in quality, I honestly believe that Felicity Huffman has never stopped being an absolutely fabulous actress in the process. While her character may, at times, be infuriating, I think that Huffman always captures those problems without trying to cover them up. When Lynette says or does something insensitive, Huffman does it as well without making it over the top or trying to hides its true meaning. She is a flawed character, and yet Huffman allows that to happen in a way that always feels right. Over the span of a season I pretty well want to strangle Lynette, but within individual episodes it is hard not to sympathize with her. With Marcia Cross not around much this season, and with Teri Hatcher as annoying as ever, I think that this is Felicity Huffman’s year to be considered for an Emmy nomination.

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Filed under ABC, Award Shows, Desperate Housewives, Emmy Awards, Gilmore Girls, Television, The CW

For Your Consideration: Supporting Addendum – Justin Kirk and Elizabeth Perkins

[With there being extremely few candidates for Lead Actress honours (Seriously, I struggled to even find five), I will alas be unable to fill seven days’ worth of candidates. As a result, however, this gives me a great chance to make up for some of my past errors, if you will. And so, after a marathon week of viewings, I am prepared to add two more to the supporting players lists. The Lead Actress series will begin on Sunday. For all of the past candidates, head to the For Your Consideration Index]

Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Justin Kirk (Andy)

Weeds

After a Golden Globe nomination in a notoriously difficult to enter category, Justin Kirk is looking to be in pretty good shape for the upcoming Emmy awards. While the Hollywood Foreign Press has been notoriously kind to cable television, especially compared to the Emmys, I still think that Kirk has a real chance. Andy is the obnoxious brother-in-law, the knowledgeable uncle, the scheming Rabbinate student, and pretty well the male comic highlight of this series. In a show heavy with drama, Kirk always offers a light-hearted sensibility that is both welcome and hilarious. You never really become emotionally invested in his storylines, but they are a breezy ride that allows the drama to flow from Nancy and Co. without bogging the series down. Whenever the show needs comic relief, it’s very easy to throw Andy into a situation, or give him a monologue…and comedy just happens. That quality, noticeable within even a single episode, makes Justin Kirk worthy of Emmy consideration.

Admittedly, I haven’t finished the show’s second season, but already Andy’s presence is just as strong as it was in the first one. From the moment Andy arrived in the family’s kitchen setting off the smoke alarm after breaking in, the character has been a breath of hazy but wonderful air for the show’s dynamics. This season has seen him expand into his own storyline, joining the Rabbinate and trying to romance his dead of admissions…and getting into some sexual exploits in the process. This is nothing new, perhaps, but Kirk just keeps getting better in the role. Flashes of brilliance within Andy are fantastic: his explanation of Noreaga and Panama to Shane was just a brilliant line reading from Kirk, and the entire series is chock full of them. I would compare him most to Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother: often not in the show’s “main” storyline, he steals every single scene he’s in. And that’s an Emmy worthy performance.

Episode Selection: “Last Tango in Agrestic” (Aired August 28th, 2006)

I don’t really need to say anything about this episode. It involves all sorts of things: Silas putting a hole in a condom (Argh, Silas, you frustrate me), Nancy getting married to her DEA agent boyfriend so that he won’t be forced to testify against her, and then Nancy rents a house to grow weed out of. Really, Andy doesn’t even have a storyline.

But he does have this scene. And this scene could very well single-handedly win him an Emmy award.

YouTube – “Last Tango in Agrestic”

Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Elizabeth Perkins (Celia)

Weeds

I don’t know how Elizabeth Perkins does it. Celia is a complete and utter bitch, and yet I am always rooting for her. I seriously think that the way she treats her daughter, her husband, her friends, her community, and just about everything else is so deplorable that it would even overpower the cancer sympathy. And yet, I find her hysterical, and want her to torture everyone and anyone she can get her hands on. She’s a villain in the traditional sense: we do root for Isabelle, her daughter, and her husband Dean in their fight against her tyranny. But in the end, I think I’m rooting for Celia. Perkins embodies Celia’s bitchiness, her insecurities, in such a way that I don’t really know how she has yet to win a major award for her work. Every single time she walks into Nancy’s home unannounced, I wonder how someone so ridiculous could exist…but then seconds later believe it all. As the bitchy and delightful Celia Hodes, Elizabeth Perkins is more than Emmy worthy.

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Emmy Nominations: How They Work, Who They Benefit

Today, June 21st, the first stage of the Emmy Nomination process ends. Getting nominated for an Emmy Award is not an easy task, and the entire process is ludicrously complicated this year. To help you follow the process as it unfolds over the next month, here’s a rundown on how the decision is made and who benefits from each stage.

Stage One: The Popular Vote

How it Works: Voters select their favourite candidate from all individuals who have submitted themselves for nomination. They read For Your Consideration ads, watch screeners, but in the end likely just pick who they like.

Who it Benefits: Shows that are either perennial nominees or extremely buzz-worthy, and actors that are well-known in Hollywood. Shows like The Sopranos or Desperate Housewives are guaranteed to do well at this stage because they have star power and award show history. Thus, voters don’t really even need to see what these candidates have to offer, they just assume they’re really good. Much hyped new shows, like Heroes and Ugly Betty, will also benefit.

Who it Harms: Ratings-deprived, critically acclaimed programs without any of the above, and actors or actresses who lack star power. While a show like critically acclaimed 30 Rock has a lot of star power (Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey), Friday Night Lights does not and will not perform well at this stage of the competition. Similarly, a show like Jericho lost so much steam in the post-hiatus period that it is unlikely to be on voters’ minds, even with the recent campaign to save it.

Stage Two: The Top 10 Run-Off

How it Works: The Top 10 series from the popular vote are isolated and screened in front of a blue ribbon panel. Each show/actor/actress selects an episode that will be screened for the panel if it makes the Top 10. They also prepare a short written statement explaining their show and the episode in context with the show. For example, should Lost make the Best Drama Series panel (Count on it), they will be screening the season finale, “Through the Looking Glass.”

Then, each member of the panel will rank the shows from 1 to 10, and a final ranking will be decided.

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Filed under 30 Rock, Award Shows, Dexter, Emmy Awards, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, Jericho, Lost, Television, The Office, The Sopranos, Ugly Betty

For Your Consideration: Lead Actors – Alec Baldwin and Kyle Chandler

[In Week Three of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actor awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our seventh and last set of candidates. For complete listings for the Supporting candidates from the past two weeks, and soon the Lead Actors, check out our For Your Consideration index]

 

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Alec Baldwin (Jack Donaghy)

30 Rock

Alex Baldwin gave, in my personal opinion, the best comic performance of the season on 30 Rock. He stole every scene he was in, shared great scenes with pretty well the show’s entire cast, and managed to find a balance between forceful boss and a man in need of attention. While his time spent hosting Saturday Night Live was certainly good training ground for Baldwin in terms of comic chops, what he really brings to the table is his ability to craft a character. So often, leads in comedies can fall into the same old clichés, the same old structures, and in the process don’t define a character. While he may also play a boss with insecurities, Baldwin doesn’t really steal from Steve Carell’s performance style; what he crafts is something all his own, a boss whose insecurities are so well hidden that he’s risen to the executive level. Jack is so good at hiding and limiting those insecurities that few would ever question his leadership, and in much the same way Baldwin commands respect. As a comic presence and as a character-driven actor, Alec Baldwin makes 30 Rock worth watching each and every week. While the show came together around him in the end, Alec Baldwin’s show-justifying role is worthy of Emmy consideration.

When you look at what Jack faced this year it’s kind of a laundry list of fantastic comic setups with every single character on the series. He spent a day as an NBC page with Kenneth cleaning Brian Williams’ office after one of his tirades, and played poker against him, he spent time dealing with racism with Tracy, he tried to help Pete’s love life by pushing him to wear a toupee, and perhaps greatest of all he constantly interacted with Liz. His chemistry with Tina Fey is palpable: their dialogues were sharp, their delivery perfect, their pace ideal. But it was always Fey keeping up with Baldwin, and that’s the way it really should be. And yet, in moments of insecurity, Jack does falter: whether it’s his ex-wife (Isabella Rossellini in a fantastic guest role), his troublesome family (Nathan Lane, Molly Shannon), or even his late season relationship with Phoebe the bird girl. Jack does have a heart, of sorts, but yet his life as a cutthroat executive is always first and foremost. He might eventually pull Kenneth out of performing sex acts to guest star Will Arnett, but he definitely sent him in the first place to help out his own cause. That duality is funny, charming, and pulled off wonderfully by Baldwin. And it’s a performance that is likely to garner him an Emmy nomination.

Episode Selection: “Jack-Tor” (Aired November 16th, 2007)

I am ignoring his actual selection here not because I dislike it, but because of my affection for this particular episode. “Hiatus”, the season finale, features some great interaction with Elaine Stritch playing his mother, and his arc within the episode is certainly a decent one. But it has Jack out of his element: he’s in bed with Phoebe, or stuck in a hospital bed. Jack is at his finest in his own habitat.

And thus I have to choose an early season episode that convinced me that this series was officially going somewhere. Jack-Tor covers everything great about Jack: his corporate background, his tough exterior, his attempts to fit in, his insecurities, his relationship with Liz, his…well, this episode has everything for me. More than Hiatus, this episode defines what Alec Baldwin is able to bring to this character on a weekly basis. Plus, it contains perhaps the greatest sequence in all of comedy this past year, which will follow in YouTube form. The rest of the episode has some other stuff…but this is basically an Emmy reel in itself.

YouTube“Jack-Tor”

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Kyle Chandler (Eric Taylor)

Friday Night Lights

A small town football team is only as good as its coach. While there may be individual stars, while there may be supportive fans, they will be nothing without the guidance of a coach who can step forward and lead his or her team to victory. Much like a small town football team, a television drama is nothing with its lead actor, and in this case this analogy could not be more apt. Kyle Chandler delivers a career performance as Coach Eric Taylor, a man who is still overwhelmed by the spectacle of small town Dillon, Texas, but is always powerful and strong when it comes to leading his team. I don’t think I knew Chandler had it in him: to be so vicious and intimidating in the locker room at halftime when his team needs encouragement or discipline takes a lot of skill, and Chandler always nails it. Coach Taylor is never too mean, too vindictive, and yet is never too soft in the process. Even as we see his softer side at home with his family, we always still believe he could kick our ass if he put his mind to it. That duality is brought to life in Eric Taylor by Kyle Chandler, and it is most certainly an Emmy worthy portrayal.

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Filed under 30 Rock, Award Shows, Emmy Awards, Friday Night Lights, NBC, Television

For Your Consideration: Lead Actors – Steve Carell and Matthew Fox

[In Week Three of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actor awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our sixth set of candidates. For complete listings for the Supporting candidates from the past two weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Steve Carell (Michael Scott)

The Office

I don’t really know what to say about Steve Carell that hasn’t already been said. The fact that he didn’t win this award last year was a travesty, as his loss to Tony Shalhoub should have never happened. I wrote about Rainn Wilson two weeks ago that The Office really wouldn’t work without him, and I stand by that statement…but Dwight wouldn’t really work without Michael, and I don’t think that much of the show’s comedy would be as funny if the uncool, trying to be cool boss wasn’t around. What makes Carell so great in this role is his ability to throw everything into his comic performance, but then be able to bring it all back together to appear as a real human being. Without that quality, Carell would be a loose cannon on a show where all firearms must be precision weapons designed to entertain. However, although often giving the appearance of being entirely unstable, Michael Scott is a human being first and foremost, capable of love and loss and friendship and emotions. And with a deft comic hand and a sense of who his character really is, Steve Carell delivers a consistently Emmy worthy performance.

This season has allowed Carell a lot of movement within Michael’s character. He continued to go through relationship drama, struggled to relate to his co-workers as per usual, and had to deal with a convict and a gay man in his office (He didn’t do so well with either of them). And I have to commend him for managing to go through all of this (especially “Gay Witch Hunt”, which I found more disturbing than funny) while maintaining some level of sanity within Michael’s character. At the end of the season as he finds himself caring for a rapidly falling apart Jan and wondering how he got stuck in this mess, we relate to him and his situation. Carell can go through from hapless to empathetic in about two second flat, and he did so admirably throughout the season. While he doesn’t always get the same types of “gags” as Dwight or Jim, I think that his comedy is all in the setup. And this season saw a wide range of setups, and Carell’s performance within them is worthy of Emmy consideration.

Episode Selection: “Business School” (Aired February 15th, 2007)

I’m skipping forward to this section quicker than I might usually because I want to explain that this is where Carell lost the Emmy last year. His submitted episode, where he burnt his food on his George Foreman grill, was Michael at his most annoying. There was no heart, no caring within his character. This wasn’t Michael as an innocent, it was Michael as an ungracious jerk. So, this season he needed an episode that showcased that.

And he bloody well found it. Business School is a great episode for Carell because he is forced to face reality straight in the face, and his emotional side is showcased in the action’s coda. As he speaks to Ryan’s business class, he realizes that people believe he is irrelevant, that he has no future. He finds himself being attacked, and responds with throwing candy bars and ripping apart textbooks. But he is visibly angry at the end, frustrated with his place in his job. And then, at episode’s end, he visits Pam’s art show and proudly hangs the photo of their office up on the wall. It is poignant, it is funny, and it is great television. This is the episode that could win him an Emmy.

YouTube – “Business School”

And another of the episode’s coda, which wasn’t set to Edward Scissorhands or mashed with it in real life, but it makes it even more dramatic.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Matthew Fox (Jack)

Lost

Matthew Fox has the rather unfortunate reputation as being someone who fans of Lost don’t really care about. Locke is the badass, Hurley’s the comic relief, Ben is the villain, Sawyer’s the rebel, and Jack is just kind of there. It didn’t help that this season we had to sit through one of the series’ most pointless backstories, a muddled mess of crazy tattoos and other such things from Jack’s past. “Stranger in a Strange Land”, and all of this talk of Jack lacking a hook needs to be put to rest, however. What makes Matthew Fox’s performance so strong as Jack is that, believe it or not, he’s all lies. He was on this island as a man damaged by his past, but he had to become a hero. Becoming a hero basically neutered Jack as a character, which is why there are very few who claim him as their favourite. However, there needs to be recognition for those who step up and who are conflicted heroes struggling to keep it together. Jack Shepherd is one of those characters, and Matthew Fox’s portrayal of him is worthy of Emmy consideration.

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Filed under ABC, Award Shows, Emmy Awards, Lost, NBC, Television, The Office

For Your Consideration: Lead Actors – Hugh Laurie and Jason Lee

[In Week Three of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actor awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our fifth set of candidates. For complete listings for the Supporting candidates from the past two weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]

Lead Actor in a Drama

Hugh Laurie (Gregory House)

House

Alone amongst procedural dramas, there is no question that there is a single star of FOX’s House; Hugh Laurie’s portrayal of the prickly doctor has perhaps been one of the most universally loved in recent years. There is something about his demeanor that is so incredibly engaging, and there is little question that it elevates this drama from being a mid-level success to one of the highest rated dramas on television. And yet, there is something more to House than just his jokes; he is a damaged man, struggling to come to terms with his own lot in life. While the character can occasionally be written into a bit of a hole (And parts of the season find him mired in annoying legal drama), Laurie always manages to pull something out of his ass that is sheer genius. What makes his performance Emmy worthy is that in those moments that the show reveals itself as the shallow procedural it is at its core, Hugh Laurie’s House always shines through as a beacon of hope and high class television. It may just be my affinity for British accents, but I must consider Hugh Laurie as a serious Emmy contender.

What Laurie brings to the table, every time, is a sense of complete and total apathy for his co-workers, his patients, and pretty well everything around him. It’s a difficult role to play while remaining likable, but Laurie always does it. Whether he’s tearing apart Chase, Cameron and Foreman, or sparring with Wilson, or torturing Cuddy, it always seems like House is having a hell of a lot of fun with himself. For an entire episode he exists only in that mode, but then he ends up stepping in by episode’s end, meets the patient, interacts with them, and all of a sudden he cares. It’s like a light switch very suddenly turns on, and Laurie makes that transition every time without seeming too obvious about it. I keep waiting to see whether House will at some point cross a line between cantankerous doctor and insufferable jerk, but Laurie always walks that line extremely carefully. And, in his show-making efforts, Hugh Laurie turns in an Emmy worthy performance.

Episode Selection: “One Day, One Room” (Aired January 30th, 2007)

Smartly, the episode Laurie is submitting is the one where all of that is challenged, and where someone sees him for the tortured soul he really is as opposed to the façade he places in front of people. Unfortunately, it’s not the episode I would have picked. One Day, One Room isn’t his selection, but I like it more than “Half-wit”. When a rape victim enters into the clinic and spends time with House, who of course is his usual clinic self, and decides that she will only speak to him. She realizes that he is kind of like her, in a way…or maybe she’s just crazy. Either way, the entire episode lets Hugh Laurie enter into deep philosophical discussions, and under the guise of “drama” I believe that it is his strongest performance of the season. Of course, he submitted a different episode (One where he treats Dave Matthews’ musical savant) that is also good, but I like this one better. So tough, Hugh Laurie.

YouTube“One Day, One Room”

EDIT: Okay, so Half-Wit is good too. It has Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays”, a song I adore.

YouTube – “Half-Wit”

Lead Actor in a Comedy

Jason Lee (Earl)

My Name is Earl

I don’t watch My Name is Earl on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. While the show’s first season started strongly, I lost interest when it felt like nothing was really changing with the series. It was a charming show, and one that I enjoyed watching, but it just stopped surprising me at a certain point. What bits of this past season that I’ve seen haven’t been any more surprising, don’t get me wrong, but what I think has become clear is that consistency is the name of the game. And, central to that consistency, Jason Lee’s performance as Earl Hickey remains the central piece of the show’s puzzle. A show entirely about Joy, or Randy, or Darnell, or Catalina…none of it would work. Without Earl, the show would lack its everyman, a man who despite his past has a heart and has a purpose in life. I always believe Jason Lee in this role, and I empathize with him even as those around him might grate on my nerves. While the show might not have been able to keep my attention, I can’t help but believe that Jason Lee’s strong and consistent performance makes him worthy of Emmy consideration.

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Filed under Award Shows, Emmy Awards, FOX, House, My Name is Earl, NBC, Television

For Your Consideration: Lead Actors – Edward James Olmos and Andy Richter

[In Week Three of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actor awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our fourth set of candidates. For complete listings for the Supporting candidates from the past two weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]

Lead Actor in a Drama

Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama)

Battlestar Galactica

Emmy voters like to pretend that Battlestar Galactica doesn’t exist, but I don’t really understand this perspective. The show is incredibly powerful television, and while its writing can be uneven I believe that its cast is always its strongest asset. And, as the pivotal figure at the center of it all, Edward James Olmos’ Bill Adama is the show’s rock if you will. This past season has seen Adama face a wide variety of different emotions, struggling to come to terms with his abandonment of his own crew on New Caprica and once again the betrayal of his son in a time of need. What Olmos brings to Adama, and to the show, is a sense of maturity; while the rest of the characters around him fall into various turmoil he is left to reassure and comfort all of them while also struggling with his own inner demons. That portrayal, voter ignorance or no voter ignorance, is worthy of Emmy consideration.

What makes Olmos so powerful in this role is that he has to wear so many hats (Note: none of these hats are literal, but I’d picture him in a nice fedora). He has to be admiral to the crew of the Battlestar Galactica. He has to be shrewd negotiator (And romantic tension partner) with President Roslin. He has to be father to Lee, and to more or less his adopted daughter Starbuck, but at the same time they are crew members and need to be treated accordingly. He needs to be friend and AA sponsor for Col. Tigh, and he also has to, you know, protect the entire flight from the pursuing Cylons. And, at season’s end, he sits on a tribunal which judges the guilt of Gaius Baltar in the mass murder of numerous humans on New Caprica.

And through it all Olmos is equal parts fatherly, orderly, strong, vulnerable, empowering, inspiring and just plain fantastic. There are parts of the show that we may criticize, but there can be no one who speaks ill of the performance from Edward James Olmos. Plus, he had a kickass moustache for a while this season. And all of those qualities, especially the moustache, make him worthy of Emmy consideration.

Episode Selection: “A Day in the Life” (Aired February 18th, 2007)

I don’t like this selection for one main reason: I didn’t particularly enjoy the episode. What frustrated me about this episode was that its gimmick, Adama’s wife comes back to haunt him in the present, just isn’t that engaging and seemed to be airing at a time when I really wanted the series to return to its more entertaining elements. However, I can’t deny that it perhaps contains the most dramatic and central performance that Olmos was able to give all season. It shows his tough life, having to balance all of those various roles while also struggling to come to terms with his past. It might not be my favourite episode (definitely isn’t), but I think that it has a decent chance with Emmy voters.

However, my selection would be “Unfinished Business”, where a series of boxing matches and flashbacks tell multiple stories, including Adama’s. Since so many BSG YouTube videos are fan shipper videos, I have to settle for a YouTube clip of this episode. Which is awesome.

YouTube“Unfinished Business”

Lead Actor in a Comedy

Andy Richter (Andy Barker)

Andy Barker P.I.

It may have only lasted for six episodes, but Andy Barker P.I. was yet another perfect vehicle for Andy Richter that just didn’t catch on with audiences. While some may take this as final proof of his irrelevance, I like to view it as yet another example of society not quite “getting” Andy Richter. I don’t understand it: here, he plays an everyman, a simple accountant who finds himself wrapped up in criminal investigations that could not be more over his head. Watching him find delight in how he can connect accounting to the case (Being a P.I. isn’t so hard after all) is incredibly engaging, and Richter plays the perfect straight man. Straight men are often not appreciated enough within television comedy, and I think that this needs to change: as the innocent and yet incredibly intelligent Andy Barker, Andy Richter shines in a fashion worthy of Emmy consideration.

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Filed under Andy Barker P.I., Award Shows, Battlestar Galactica, Emmy Awards, NBC, Television