Tag Archives: Awards

Excellence on Selective Terms: Rewarding Series Television at the Peabody Awards

Excellence on Selective Terms

March 31st, 2010

The criteria for earning a Peabody Award, a prestigious honour in the area of electronic media, is listed as follows on the awards’ website:

The Award is determined by one criterion – “Excellence.” Because submissions are accepted from a wide variety of sources and styles, deliberations seek “Excellence On Its Own Terms.” Each entry is evaluated on the achievement of standards it establishes within its own contexts. Entries are self-selected by those making submissions and as a result the quality of competing works is extraordinarily high. The Peabody Awards are then presented only to “the best of the best.”

There’s a whole other post to be made about whether such a blatantly subjective criterion earns the awards the sense of objectivity that they hold, but for the sake of this post I think we can presume that the Peabody Awards have a pretty good track record. They have feted dramas like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Lost, and The Sopranos, while acknowledging comedies like 30 Rock, The Office and South Park; they are not limited to only mainstream fare, with cult hits like Battlestar Galactica getting recognition, nor are they beholden to narrative-driven series television, as reality shows like Project Runway and satire like The Colbert Report have been singled out.

This year, the Peabody Awards added four television series to their ranks, and on the surface there’s some nice diversity: Glee and Modern Family are mainstream hits that made a substantial impact on the television industry this year, while In Treatment and No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency are shows with smaller followings but with some substantial value in terms of performances (in the case of In Treatment) and (in the case of No. 1 Ladies’) a unique relationship with an emerging film industry in Botswana.

However, rather than simply listing the shows awarded and letting us figure out our own reasonings, the Peabody folks have written short and succinct reasons why the shows in question are being awarded. And it is in these brief distillations of their worthiness that the flaws of this process become apparent, as the qualities they point to for Glee and Modern Family demonstrate a selective gaze into multi-faceted, and still developing, series which fails to capture their true appeal in order to focus on their most hyped, and in some cases divisive, qualities. In the process, we start to understand the challenge of rewarding entire series alongside standalone news reports, and we start to wonder why they would so willingly call attention to those challenges with these short and imprecise justifications.

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Hope You Didn’t Take It Seriously (Ricky Didn’t): The 2010 Golden Globe Awards

Hope You Didn’t Take It Seriously (Ricky Didn’t):

The 2010 Golden Globe Awards

January 17th, 2010

I said going into the 67th Annual Golden Globes Awards that I was more excited than ever to watch the show but the least “interested” in the actual awards that I’ve ever been. And that made for an interesting viewing experience as what I was excited for most disappointed me, with Ricky Gervais’ hosting gig becoming a muddled mess from the moment he started.

However, while I’ll get into that below the jump, what’s interesting is how liberating it was to have no emotional connection with the winners: admittedly, I’m usually one of those cynical objective types when it comes to these awards, so I’m not going to be legitimately outraged, but not having been “following” the nominees in detail made the show a lot more fun. It helped me see the show more for what it is, an entertaining amalgamation of what’s popular, whats trendy, and what’s been successful with audiences. And while you could argue the show at times feels like the People’s Choice Awards and other times feels like a Hollywood roast of those who have been around the business forever, it’s never boring.

And although I thought we could have gotten a far better show out of what was on the table, I have to say that I enjoyed watching it. And let’s face it: that’s all the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is really going for.

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Casting the Nominees: AFI and the Golden Globes

When the American Film Institute delivered their list of the Top 10 Television Series of 2009, with critics Maureen Ryan, Brian Lowry and Matt Roush on the jury with CCH Pounder and David Milch, you start to realize that any sort of representative Top 10 is about casting a diverse group of shows which offer an objective spectrum of the television world.

The result, if we look down AFI’s list, is choices which may be more representative than they are substantive, more recognizable than entirely creatively successful. And, accordingly, we could “label” each show as filling a particular niche, if not necessarily filling it as well as another show in our personal opinions.

  • “The Big Bang Theory [Newly minted “hit”]
  • “Big Love [Transcendent Season]
  • “Friday Night Lights [New business model]
  • “Glee [New series]
  • “Mad Men [Unquestionable Quality]
  • “Modern Family [New series]
  • “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency [Int’l Co-production]
  • “Nurse Jackie [Dramedy]
  • “Party Down [Underground sensation]
  • “True Blood” [Fan Favourite]

You could replace a show like Big Love with Breaking Bad, or a show like Party Down with Better Off Ted, or Modern Family with Community, or Nurse Jackie with United States of Tara, and the list would ostensibly be the same. And in some ways, when you have the huge range of great television available at the moment, this is all that a small jury can do: use their own subjective analysis to craft a list objective in its diversity, trying to capture the trends and the series which helped define the year in television. We’d all swap out a few shows here or there (as the discussion on Twitter decided, Parks and Recreation is the big name that deserves to be here), but I don’t think anyone can argue the list is a failure (especially considering the fantastic mention of Starz’s Party Down).

However, when the Golden Globes casts its nominations tomorrow morning in the television field, its choices are far more indiscernible, its criteria limited to whatever happens to strike the fancy of the mysterious Hollywood Foreign Press Association. And in most cases that is “the new,” those shows which are new and hip and tapping into the cultural zeitgeist. Combined with the existence of “Comedy and Musical” categories, Glee seems like a sure bet to break through into this year’s awards, but with such a wide range of new shows it’s hard to know which will happen to match the Globes’ casting call.

I like analyzing the Emmys because you understand the nomination process, and can delve into individual performances in predicting who might grab a nomination. However, with the Globe, there is so little logic involved that all you can do is have no expectation of quality and be glad that you live in a time zone where the awards are nominated at a decent time (or, at least that’s what I do). Daniel Fienberg at HitFix has more patience with the awards than I do, and has a detailed analysis of every category, but I just can’t bring myself to predict the unpredictable.

I can, however, bring myself to watch the nominations at 5:30 pacific (that’s 8:30 eastern, and 9:30 for me) tomorrow morning to see just what those crazy folks at the HFPA are up to this year, especially since the show itself is a must watch with Ricky Gervais hosting.

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Predictions

This is not a good time to be a lead actor in a drama series.

All of last year’s six nominees are back this year, and almost all of them are likely to return. Bryan Cranston followed up his surprise victory for Breaking Bad’s first season (a nomination driven likely by the fact he was never honoured for Malcolm in the Middle) with an even more impressive second season. Hugh Laurie continues to single-handedly elevate House from its procedural roots, driving the show’s popularity and thus his chances at a nomination. Michael C. Hall is still a hero and a serial killer, a duality he pulls off better than anyone could have imagined. Jon Hamm, whose Don Draper was a complex man of mystery in Mad Men’s first season, became even more complicated in the show’s second season. And Gabriel Byrne, who managed a nod for his grueling In Treatment schedule in the show’s first season, is back again with what is generally considered an even stronger second outing. These five are going to be there again, and that leaves little room for new blood.

The one nominee from last year who could be in trouble is James Spader. His nominations (and wins) were always baffling to critics and viewers alike, and the general theory is that his epic, David E. Kelley-penned speeches were Emmy bait in their finest form. However, this year, Boston Legal has been off the air for months and there is no panel where that speech will be seen – he’s operating entirely on popular vote, and he could be ousted from the category faster than you can quote a Supreme Court precedent.

Waiting in the wings is a tough crowd: former nominee Kiefer Sutherland is back in the race, Michael Chiklis is in his final year of eligibility for The Shield, Kyle Chandler made the Top 10 last year for Friday Night Lights, or Big Love could break through and give Bill Paxton a shot. And, in the longest of long shots, Edward James Olmos is like Battlestar Galactica itself in his last year of eligibility, while Matthew Fox had a slightly lighter season on Lost but is doing fine work in an unfortunately crowded period.

The only new threat to the race is Simon Baker, who has the benefit of being well-liked, extremely charming, and starring on the season’s biggest hit. The Mentalist is the highest-rated new show of the year, so Baker could follow in Laurie’s footsteps and break into the category. On the other hand, he’s never been nominated before, and it could be an example of the Emmys and the viewers not quite lining up.

Predictions for Lead Actor in a Drama

  • Simon Baker (“The Mentalist”)
  • Gabriel Byrne (“In Treatment”)
  • Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
  • Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”)
  • Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”)
  • Hugh Laurie (“House”)

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Predictions

Like the Lead Actor race, Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category isn’t particularly deep, although it’s got a bit more room for surprise. Not too much will be different from last year, where the category was a runaway victory for Tina Fey, but there’s one new face and a few old faces that could theoretically enter into the Emmy scramble depending on how the popular vote turns out.

Fey is a lock to return, likely alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mary-Louise Parker who continue to give strong performance and continue to have a lot of pedigree with voters. The other three slots could be filled by other returning nominees Christina Applegate and America Ferrera, but Applegate’s show has been canceled and Ferrera’s show might as well have been with its anemic ratings. However, both actresses are integral to the appeal of their show, and past nominations can only help you in a popular vote driven system.

Very likely to take one of the spots is Toni Colette, whose multi-faceted performance as Tara and her three alternate personalities on United States of Tara is what makes the show possible – her supporting cast is strong, but the way she pulls off both a struggling wife and mother and a male Vietnam war veteran who won’t stop sexually harassing women is the show’s most valuable asset, and she stands a legitimate chance at taking this award.

Amy Poehler garnered a nomination last year in the Supporting Actress category for Saturday Night Live, so there’s a chance that she could be back for her role in Parks and Recreation. The question is whether or not the low-buzz comedy, that never quite caught on and which didn’t particularly know how to handle Poehler’s character, made enough of an impact for Poehler’s rising fame to bring her above other more seasoned competitors.

Waiting on the periphery, meanwhile, are the women of Wysteria Lane (absent from the category the last few years), plus voters could theoretically be swayed out of habit to choose Debra Messing and Megan Mullaly without realizing that their respective shows were, you know, The Starter Wife and In the Motherhood. There’s also the potential for Sarah Silverman to break into the category, although this happening in a year that doesn’t involve songs about fornicating with Matt Damon isn’t likely.

Predictions for Lead Actress in a Comedy

  • Christina Applegate (“Samantha Who”)
  • Toni Colette (“United States of Tara”)
  • Tina Fey (“30 Rock”)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”)
  • Mary-Louise Parker (“Weeds”)
  • Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”)

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False Pluralism: Emmys go from 5 to 6, but not from Wrong to Right

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False Pluralism:

From 5 to 6, but not from Wrong to Right

If you’re the kind of person who is reading this article, there are certain hopes you have in life.

They were once personified by Lauren Graham, critics’ darling and star of Gilmore Girls, who went seven seasons without an Emmy nomination. Then, you had The Wire, a low-rated but critically acclaimed HBO series that despite being hailed as the greatest series of all time failed to garner any non-writing nominations. And then there’s Lost, which after winning an Emmy in its first year out faltered due to its genre elements getting in the way of its taut and well-constructed drama, only returning in 2008.

The last decade or so of the Emmys have been defined less by who was winning (dominated as it was by The Sopranos and The West Wing), and more by who wasn’t even getting invited to the dance. In the internet age, this is to be expected: internet chatter is always more focused on the negative than the positive, and when the Emmy system is a complex unknown to most people assumptions are made and grievances are aired. The three above examples, and countless more, will go down in the annals of message boards or blogs as those shows which represented a black spot on the Emmy Awards – and, unfortunately for the Academy, their record is getting spottier every year.

But hope is not gone for a show like Lost, or shows like Battlestar Galactica and Friday Night Lights, for the Academy is making another change to its nomination structure:  they’re taking all Drama and Comedy series and acting categories into six horse races. Once reserved for a tie, the six-way battle is now the standard, and to quote Academy president John Shaffner this move “exemplifies the academy’s awareness of the amount of great television and fine individual work that is seen across the enormous spectrum of the television universe.”

Of course, what Shaffner is really saying is much simpler: “Dear Internet fans, *Insert Favourite Show* now has a better shot at being nominated, aren’t the Emmys relevant again?”

And sorry, Mr. Shaffner, but this wasn’t the only change, and your statement is an inherent contradiction of the OTHER methods taken by the Academy today. While the Emmy system was before extremely complex, (which I try to explain here), they’re going back to the drawing board: gone are the Panels that made up 50% of the final standings, replaced by, in the case of series, nothing but the popular vote of the entire membership and, in the case of acting races, by small, selective sections of the membership.

Which is officially the most egregious example of “one step forward, two steps back” that I’ve ever seen.

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The 2009 Golden Globes LiveBlog

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Open Bar. Slavish appreciation of celebrity and the cult therein. The Golden Globes are not about who wins, really, but that doesn’t mean that I would ever miss an opportunity to complain about it. Watch as I discuss the television awards with a false sense of authority, write about the movie awards with an even more false sense of authority, and gossip about celebrities with the exact amount of zero authority almost all internet commentators have on the subject.

I am not live-blogging the pre-show per se, but I have been writing some tweets, so follow me on Twitter for more fun on that front. But, really, we’re here for the judgments of the Hollywood Foreign Press – those guys are crazy.

7:49pm: First word of warning – time might jump forward an hour, I’m adjusting Atlantic Time to Eastern Time for your benefit and might occasionally screw up. Time for the pre-awards ten minutes of pre-show blogging.

7:54pm: Basics of the pre-show – NBC mindbogglingly combining people in a line so that they could get through more people, resulting in some enormously random combinations. Only real moment of any interest was Mark Wahlberg quite hilariously calling Jeremy Piven out on his mercury levels, and then Piven getting gravely serious about it, resulting in a lot of awkwardness. Otherwise, no drama of note, and I won’t attempt discuss anything related to fashion.

7:56pm: Okay, I lied – Kate Winslet looks really, really good. That is all.

7:58pm: Brooke Burke and Tiki Barber aren’t allowed to have opinions, silly Nancy O’Dell – that’s not why they’re there!

8:00pm: And here we go – wait, the Jonas Brothers are there? Oy vey.

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2009 Golden Globes: TV Nominations Analysis

globes

2009 Golden Globe Awards: TV Nominations

December 11th, 2008

Predicting the Golden Globe awards is, quite literally, a devil’s bargain. While the Movies side is its own monster, the Television nominees are perhaps one of the most difficult to predict in all of awards-dom. Yes, the Emmy Awatds are a broken process, but they at least have a structure that allows for observant parties to analyze. With the Globes, it’s about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s whim – it’s what they consider hype-worthy, what they wake up one morning obsessed with, and overall what about 100 obscure and oft-maligned international journalists decide people should be watching.

Which makes this more fun than anything: we can’t take it too seriously, so it’s just a fun head shaking exercise. The big question is what big new show they’re focusing their attention on (The answer: HBO’s cult hit True Blood, although not as much as they could have), which returning shows they continue to be obsessed with much to my chagrin (The answer: HBO’s Entourage), and which nominees actually sneak in to be deserving independent of their trend-driven qualities (The answer: Neil Patrick Harris).

Overall, these nominees aren’t bad, but they do little to save the show’s reputation: while often lauded as potential kingmakers for films during Oscar season, they are still content to pretend that liking HBO is still hip and cool. While they were the first to recognize Mad Men, and will good reason, there were some other cable shows this year (Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, in particular) which probably could have snuck in for some attention. Unfortunately, the awards don’t quite work that way, and I guess we can’t expect them to. All we can do is sit back or, if you’re me and obsessive about award shows, delve into each individual category with critical gusto. So, let’s take a look at the madness.

Best Television Series: Drama

Dexter, House, In Treatment, Mad Men, True Blood

This category tells us a few things. First, it tells us that the HFPA are fans of both Dexter’s dark sensibilities and House’s dour but occasionally light-hearted medical mysteries, along with being big fans of the show’s eponymous performances. Second, it tells us that Mad Men is going to be a show that the HFPA continues to like: after winning last year, the show is back in the awards’ marquee category. The other two nominees are no surprise: often one to pass over great seasons of returning dramas (See: Lost) and shows which don’t have the same international appeal as others, it is no surprise that their interest in international connections, HBO series and hip new series would lead them to the low-rated but Israeli-created In Treatment and the buzzworthy vampire lust of True Blood. If there’s one show missing, it’s AMC’s Breaking Bad, but it couldn’t repeat Mad Men’s successful ascension from AMC to the interest of the HFPA (even with Cranston’s Emmy win), plus it aired quite some time ago.

Best Television Series: Comedy

30 Rock, Californication, Entourage, The Office, Weeds

While I am more than slightly annoyed that it is the uneven and kind of boring Californication and not Pushing Daisies that proved to have legs for the HFPA following their freshman frames last year, I’m more annoyed at their continued obsession with HBO’s Entourage. I just don’t see how the show belongs in this category over some other, much better, comedies. This isn’t a new sentiment for me, sure, but it warrants mentioning. I’m glad that The Office and 30 Rock have both stabilized in this category, something that is difficult for a show like The Office being in its fifth year. Similar to Entourage, Weeds is a HFPA favourite, having been the first to recognize Mary-Louise Parker for her role in the series; they’ll apparently nominate it until the cows come home. Missing shows here include any new network sitcoms (The Big Bang Theory) as well as some deserving holdovers (How I Met Your Mother, It’s Always Sunny…)

For all of the acting nominations, click below.

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Cultural Learnings’ 2008 60th Primetime Emmy Awards Predictions

Last year, during this important period of the pre-Emmy festivities, I had a bit more time to really delve into some key issues. This year, things are busier, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to make some prognostications about the end results. I’m going to be discussing more themes and the like tomorrow in my Emmy Preview, but for now let’s get to what we really care about: predicting who is actually going to walk home with Emmy Awards.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Boston Legal (ABC)
  • Damages (FX)
  • Dexter (Showtime)
  • House (FOX)
  • Lost (ABC)
  • Mad Men (AMC)

There is some wiggle room here, as each some has something (Pedigree, viewership, buzz, etc.) that makes it stand out, but there is nothing on this list quite as emphatically received and, more importantly, different from your standard fare than Mad Men. I’ll discuss more of this tomorrow, but its combination of a small network, a small fanbase, fresh-faced actors and its attention to detail will be unstoppable.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • James Spader (Boston Legal)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment)

This is a category where only one thing is important: that James Spader finally loses. Either Hamm, C. Hall or Laurie are in a position to usurp last year’s winner, and I’ve got my money on Michael C. Hall. After getting snubbed here last year, and with his show in the big race, voters might choose to recognize his brave and fantastic performance even when the show itself loses them with its dark atmosphere. But, this is maybe the night’s most up in the air race.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU)

This race, however, is not up in the air at all. Its highly serialized nature and red herring use might keep it from being the best drama series on television, but there is no way that Emmy Voters can ignore Close’s pedigree with such a richly portrayed character (even if I’d argue that character isn’t nearly as important as voters might think it is to the show’s success).

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Dissecting the 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations

Emmy nomination morning is kind of like Christmas morning – you’re all excited about it as it approaches, wary of the potential surprises and the like, etc. But, unlike Christmas that ends in the complete elimination of suspense, the Emmy Awards are the start of a whole new game. In this case, not only do we react to what just happened (The good, the bad and the ugly of it) but also to what will happen in September when somebody in each of these categories has to win one of the darn things.

For now, it’s time to take a look at the big stories out of this morning’s nominations (You can check out the fill list here).

30 Rock Domination

The Good: With a ridiculous 17 nominations, 30 Rock is the most nominated series at the awards. This includes nods for the series itself, Alec Baldwin, and Tina Fey, along with two writing and one directing nomination for the series, along with well deserved guest acting noms for Elaine Stritch, Edie Falco, Carrie Fisher, Will Arnett and Rip Torn.

The Bad: The rather unfortunate snubs of Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer sting a little bit, but they had tough races and this isn’t too much of a surpise.

The Ugly: Steve Buscemi and Tim Conway do not deserve guest acting nominations for this show – Buscemi was great, but he was barely in the episode, while Conway coasted on his past success with a role that never fit into the episode. Matthew Broderick, Dean Winters and David Schwimmer all did considerably better work on the series, and that they are not represented here is extremely unfortunate.

Lost is Back in the Race

The Good: In perhaps my favourite news of the ceremony, a bump to six nominees in the Drama Series category sees Lost make it into the fray ahead of Grey’s Anatomy, securing its first nomination in the category since its first season. Michael Emerson also grabbed a Supporting Actor nomination, as expected, while I’m extremely pleased to see Michael Giacchino pick up a nod for his great composing for “The Constant.”

The Bad: Still a bit annoyed that so few other supporting players were eligible for the major awards, so it’s a bit disheartening to see most of the show’s nominations coming from sound editing, mixing, editing, etc. when the cast is so deserving.

The Ugly: Despite getting the show nominated for an Emmy, no room is found for “The Constant” in writing or directing categories; the latter isn’t too disappointing, but the former is a bit more surprising and disheartens me as to Lost’s chances in the major categories.

Pushing Daisies Blooms…and Busts

The Good: Announcing the nominees was good luck for the ever charming Kristin Chenoweth, who along with co-star Lee Pace picked up an acting nomination to go with the series numerous technical, writing and directing awards resulting in the third highest total with 12 nominations.

The Bad: Unfortunately, they weren’t joined by their co-star Chi McBride, who really should have made the Supporting Acting Top 10.

The Ugly: And yet, despite all of this, the show failed to net a nomination for Best Comedy Series, an omission that just doesn’t make any sense. I will rant about who I think should have gotten the boot in a moment, but this is an oversight that will haunt the Emmys for a long time in my books, and is surprising considering both Pace and Chenoweth making their respective races.

Damages Gets it Right

The Good: So much, mainly the fantastic inclusion of Zejlko Ivanek in the Supporting Actor race, is right with this picture. Along with Ted Danson, they are a strong force in that category, and they’re joined by Glenn Close in the Best Actress race, and writing/directing/series nominations for the fantastic pilot.

The Bad: While it’s not quite what I’d call a bad thing, it’s a big surprise to see Rose Byrne snubbed in Supporting Actress Drama. Mind you, I was never a fan of her performance so I would personally not put her into the category, but that Emmy voters didn’t is surprising.

The Ugly: Not much, to be honest – while I felt the series fell apart at the end, the nominated performers and the Pilot were both great, so I’m content with this performance.

The Rise and Fall of The Office

The Good: Rainn Wilson and Steve Carell return to the nominations circle along with their series this year, including a number of directing and writing nominations for the uneven but very solid fourth season.

The Bad: Amy Ryan, fantastic in the finale “Goodbye, Toby” gets snubbed for her great turn in the episode, joining Sarah Chalke as examples of Emmy voters ignoring great performances from younger female competitors in favour of older ones (With Sarah Silverman being the only youth candidate, and a kind of annoying one).

The Ugly: Jenna Fischer, deserving of a win last year, doesn’t even break into Supporting Actress Comedy this year, and John Krasinski literally has his spot stolen away in Supporting Actor. Apparently the love for Jam at the Academy is limited, which is unfortunate as they both do great work.

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