Tag Archives: Andre Braugher

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

June 3rd, 2010

On the drama side of things, there’s fewer trends that we can follow through to the nominees than there are in comedy. There, we can look at Glee and Modern Family and see some logical directions the awards could take, but in Drama there’s really only one new contender (The Good Wife), and the other variables are much more up in the air in terms of what’s going to connect with viewers. Lost could see a resurgence with voters in its final season, or it could be left in the dust; Mad Men could pick up more acting nominations now that its dynasty is secure, or it could remain underrepresented; Breaking Bad could stick to Cranston/Paul, or it could branch out into the rest of the stellar cast.

That unpredictability isn’t going to make for a shocking set of nominations, but I do think it leaves a lot of room open for voters to engage with a number of series to a degree that we may not have, so it’s an interesting set of races where I’m likely going out on some limbs.

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Season Finale: Men of a Certain Age – “Back in the Shit”

“Back in the Shit”

February 22nd, 2010

“The grand essentials of happiness are something to do, something to love, something to hope for.”

I took a couple of stabs at making this introduction into a fairly elaborate discussion of how surprising I find Men of a Certain Age’s quality to be at points, and how glad I am that I sat down to watch the pilot despite being far outside of the show’s demographics, but I realized that I wrote about a lot of that the first time I tackled the show. The message, I hope, was received: this is a damn good show, and one that you should be watching.

But I was drawn into trying to recreate those points because the show continues to surprise me, and more importantly it continues to be really compelling. There is an honesty about this show that makes me like it more and more with each passing episode, and even when the show gets a fairly romantic sendoff (out of fear that this would be the show’s one and only season) it feels imminently satisfying because it leaves at least one of its three protagonists lacking in one of the above “grand essentials of happiness,” and leaves its others with work to do before they truly achieve those goals.

“Back in the Shit” is perhaps not the show’s best episode, rushing to take characters to dark places and rushing just as quickly to bring them a bit more good fortune, but it does so while retaining the subtlety that took the show from a middle-aged male version of Sex and the City (as it was once sold) into an adult drama series with heart, humour and good reasons I want to punch Ray Romano in the kidneys – the grand essentials, if you will.

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Television of a Certain Quality: TNT’s Men of a Certain Age

Television of a Certain Quality: TNT’s Men of a Certain Age

January 3rd, 2010

As we enter a new decade, there is no question that time and age become important questions. On New Year’s, there was a twitter meme of “10 Years Ago,” which is not only prompting us to remember what we were doing at the dawn of Y2K (Hint: not recovering from a massive technological crisis) but also prompting us to compare where we are now to where we were then. And while this might not be a particularly meaningful exercise for me (considering that I was in eighth grade ten years ago, I don’t have too much to compare), the ruminations on age and life trajectory are probably more meaningful for people who were actually living lives (middle school doesn’t count) in the year 2000.

I raise this point not to try to make those older than me feel older, but rather as a nice excuse to finally write something about TNT’s Men of a Certain Age, a show that I had no expectations of enjoying but which has become a nice piece of consistency during this off-time for the bulk of my favourite series. I believe it was James Poniewozik who suggested that Men of a Certain Age is the male equivalent of The Good Wife, a show for which you have very limited expectations but that surprises you with a subtlety and a focus on execution, and I buy that (I’ve blogged about The Good Wife a heck of a lot more than I expected, after all). I expected the show to be something very different than what it is, but I’ve enjoyed its subtle approach to its storylines and its ability to find both humour and tragedy in legitimate and believable places in the lives of its characters.

And while I like James’ comparison, what really sets this show apart is that unlike The Good Wife – which had lowered expectations based primarily on the network and its penchant for procedurals – Men of a Certain Age faces an even more significant challenge: convincing a cynical audience that Ray Romano is capable of taking himself seriously.

While it might not seem fair, the show lives or dies on this question, and that it has felt so dramatically satisfying is a testament to his work here.

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Season Premiere: House – “Broken”

housetitle

“Broken”

September 21st, 2009

“You’re not God.”

There was a lot of response to “Broken,” as there is to many House premieres and finales. House, like many other shows which on a week-to-week basis only seem to dabble in serialized storylines, likes to pile on the sudden tension in the late and early parts of each season. It’s the time of year where Amber dies in a tragic accident, or when House begins hallucinating due to his use of Vicodin, or when House gets shot and goes into a dream-like state and regains some use of his leg. In all instances, the show presents us with a simple question: what if Dr. House changed? What if, after losing Amber or having his leg fixed or firing all of his fellows or the suicide of one of his fellows or (in the Season 5 finale) being institutionalized, he grows up in a way that changes his dynamic with the people around him and how he does his job?

Every year, however, the same thing happens: he and Wilson reconcile, he convinces himself his leg isn’t better, he hires new fellows and everything effectively goes back to normal. House is, ultimately, like every other procedural in that there are parts of its identity which cannot change as fundamentally as the finales want us to believe, the premieres always designed as a first step to righting the character’s universe. This is something that I’ve complained about in the past, but I think I’ve finally come to terms with it.

“Broken” is certainly, at the very least, the most impressive effort yet to make House’s re-entry into his world both believable and not without consequence. Taking the form of “House: The Movie,” ditching the entire cast save a cameo from Robert Sean Leonard in favour of a collection of doctors, patients and visitors from Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital, the two-hour episode takes the time to go through every stage of House’s process. It allows us to see his usual behaviour, conniving and manipulative, and then to deconstruct it in a way which never feels preachy, and which in the end reveals a character who remains acerbic and charming but who does seem a lot closer to what one might consider happy.

And while only time will tell how far these changes go, I’m not really concerned: long-term change or no, this was an extremely compelling two hours of television.

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