Tag Archives: Breaking Bad

Why I’m Not Writing 2010 Emmy Nominations Predictions

Why I’m Not Writing 2010 Emmy Nominations Predictions

July 7th, 2010

Like anyone who follows the Emmy Awards, I have accepted that I will derive equal parts pain and pleasure from this particular interest. While I pride myself in remaining objective about the awards, I wouldn’t follow them the way I did if I didn’t get giddy on Nomination morning and if I didn’t spend the hours after the announcement bemoaning the mistakes the Academy has made. While my interest in the awards may be more intellectual than emotional on average, the fact remains that my analysis comes from a genuine love for the flawed and frustrating notion of award shows rather than simply an outsider’s curiosity surrounding a fascinating nomination system.

And so when I sat down to write out my final predictions, I balked: I’ve handicapped the major categories in comedy and drama, looked at the individual changes for a number of series of interest, and chatted about it on Twitter, and I sort of feel like I’ve run out of momentum. I think I have made most of the points I really wanted to make, and staking my claim on particular nominees doesn’t feel necessary or particularly valuable to me personally. It’s not as if I begrudge those who predict every category, or that I feel they are degrading a complex process: rather, the part of the process in which I have the least interest in is trying to consolidate all of the potential circumstances into a set of predictions that will be almost surely wrong.

You wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that I’m effectively copping out of this particular process, but it isn’t because I’m worried about being wrong: rather, I just feel like I’ve written so much already that going into every individual category seems like a daunting task which would make me less, rather than more, excited about the nominees and the process of sorting through the lists seeing how the races are shaping up.

However, since I don’t want to appear to be flaking out too much, here’s my basic feelings heading into tomorrow’s nominations in terms of who I’m hopeful for and who I’m hoping doesn’t make it onto the ballot, which best captures my state of mind as we enter the next stage of the process.

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Off-Site Learnings: More Thoughts on Familiar Topics

When writing my Across the Pond column for Jive TV, I often draw upon things I hint at in reviews, or discuss on Twitter – as a result, the material may not be new to you, per se, but I hope the column has become a decent repository for those ideas and more broad analysis of the industry. In some cases, I was ahead of the trend: I wrote about Steve Carell leaving the Office weeks ago, and now news emerges which confirms that he plans on departing after the show’s seventh season.

In my two latest pieces, though, I’m less predicting the future and more wondering just what that future might bring. First, I took a further look at AMC’s Rubicon: while my review stuck to the reasons why I have my doubts about the series creatively, the column focuses on the ways in which the series seems to clash with AMC’s other drama series, and how the experiment of stealth premiering the show behind Breaking Bad draws attention to that conflict.

Across the Pond: Rubicon vs. Scheduling

There is, of course, no perfect way to experience a series that starts quite as slowly as Rubicon. Even online viewing would also be problematic thanks to the wealth of distractions, and when the show premieres without a lead-in on 1 August it will still face certain challenges. However, AMC learned a lesson in terms of trying to leverage previous success in marketing new series.

In my latest, column meanwhile, I spilled more virtual ink on Treme, specifically addressing some of the claims that the show was a “failure.” I wrote a lot about the show last week, so I’m sure you’re all a bit fatigued about it, but in light of David Simon’s post-season interview with Alan Sepinwall there are some interesting tidbits in terms of why Treme met that response, and why it doesn’t affect the show’s momentum going into its second season.

Across the Pond: Treme vs. Failure

I would argue that Treme is flawed, as The Wire was at points within its run, but I would also argue that its willingness to go out on a narrative limb is bound to fail for some people, and that Simon has nothing to apologize for. No television show, if it’s a particularly good television show, should please everyone, and the freedom of HBO (and other cable networks like Showtime) is that shows like the ones Simon creates have a space where they can evolve at their own pace and afford to lose viewers who aren’t on the same wavelength (or the same rhythm, if you prefer).

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Sneak Preview: Rubicon – “Gone in the Teeth”

“Gone in the Teeth”

June 13th, 2010

AMC has officially dubbed their airing of Rubicon’s pilot a month and a half ahead of its premiere as a “sneak preview,” but I think a “teaser trailer” may be a more accurate description of the episode in question. A good teaser trailer shows you atmospheric scenes which give you a sense of the mood a particular movie or television series is going for, but really doesn’t tell you much about the plot in question: for example, HBO’s teaser trailer for Game of Thrones, the much-anticipated adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, shows a few key images and establishes the series’ tagline.

Considering this, it’s fair to say that my use of the designation for “Gone in the Teeth” is symptomatic of my frustration with the enigmatic lack of clarity which pervades this series. If a show’s pilot is supposed to be a teaser trailer, an aesthetic exercise designed to build hype, then I would consider this to be moderately successful: there was absolutely nothing here which would keep me from tuning into the series in August. However, a pilot needs to be something more than a teaser trailer, and the series’ shortcuts in establishing both its central character and its central conspiracy show a lack of elegance which does little to convince me that this belongs in the same breath as AMC’s other original series.

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Official Ballot Miscellany

Official Ballot Miscellany

June 4th, 2010

Earlier this evening, Emmy voting officially began; this isn’t particularly important to us non-voters, but it does mean that the official ballots were released (PDFs: Performers, Writing, Directing), which means that we know who submitted their names for Emmy contention and can thus make our predictions accordingly. In some cases, this simply confirms our earlier submissions regarding particularly categories, while in other cases it throws our expectations for a loop as frontrunners or contenders don’t end up submitting at all.

For example, Cherry Jones (who last year won for her work on 24) chose not to submit her name for contention this year, a decision which seems somewhat bizarre and is currently being speculatively explained by her unhappiness with her character’s direction in the show’s final season. It completely changes the anatomy of that race, removing a potential frontrunner and clearing the way for some new contenders (or, perhaps, another actress from Grey’s Anatomy). Either way, it’s a real shakeup, so it makes this period particularly interesting.

I will speak a bit about some surprising omissions and inclusions in the categories I’ve already covered this week, but I want to focus on the categories that I haven’t discussed yet, including the guest acting categories, writing, and direction, which are some interesting races this year.

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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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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama and Comedy Series

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama and Comedy Series

June 1st, 2010

What’s weird about predicting the Emmy nominations (which are on July 8th, for the record) is that it really doesn’t have anything to do with quality: sure, a bad season can certainly hurt your chances at getting an Emmy, and a good season is sure to be of some assistance, but the objective quality of a series doesn’t really matter until they’re nominated. Until that point, it’s one big popularity contest, combining old habits, much-hyped new series, and those nominees who seem particularly newsworthy.

This is why it’s possible to predict the nominees, or at least the long-list of contenders who could logically garner a nomination on July 8th, before the eligibility period even ends (which isn’t really that big a deal this year, as any series which aired the majority of its season before the deadline [like Breaking Bad] will still be able to submit their concluding episodes). And while it may seem a bit premature, I’m pretty Emmy obsessive, and wanted to take some time this week to run down the potential nominees in each category. In the case of the series and acting categories, I’ll single out some who I believe are guaranteed nominations, while I’ll likely be less able to do so with Writing and Directing (which are often much less predictable, outside of a few exceptions).

We’ll start with Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Comedy Series today, both because they’re a bit easier to handicap and because they’re the “big” races. They’re also the categories where I’m willing to put money down on a majority of the nominees, leaving only a few spots remaining for the other series to fight over in the months ahead.

And what a fight it’s going to be.

[Before we start, hats off to the great work of the Gold Derby forum members, especially moderator Chris “Boomer” Beachum, whose work continues to make projects like this a lot easier. Check out their Official 2010 Emmy Campaign Submissions thread for a full list of submitted nominees; you’ll end up there for at least a half hour before you realize how much time has elapsed.]

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What’s my Genre Again?: The In(s)anity of the Saturn Awards

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films comes together every year to recognize the best in genre entertainment (in both film and television) at the Saturn Awards. This is, at least in my view, a noble endeavour, and the awards have offered a space where shows like Battlestar Galactica and movies like The Dark Knight have been awarded deserved prizes that may not have been awarded at the Emmys or Oscars thanks to what is considered a bias against genre entertainment in general.

The problem is that, over time, the Saturn Awards have stretched the meaning of genre so far that it legitimately has no meaning, welcoming both genuine confusion and some outright derision based on some of their categories. The sheer volume of nominees and the rather ridiculous range of categories means that this year the Saturn Awards skew dangerously close to the Oscar while simultaneously veering dangerously towards an opposite and unflattering direction, while on the Television side their definition of what defines as genre may be the most confounding awards show process I’ve ever confronted, as demonstrated by this year’s nominees.

Rather than seeming like a legitimate celebration of science fiction, fantasy or horror, the Saturn Awards read like an unflattering and at points embarrassing collection of films and television series which reflect not the best that genre has to offer, but rather a desperate attempt to tap into the cultural zeitgeist while masquerading as a celebration of the underappreciated.

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Cultural Learnings’ 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards LiveBlog

Emmy2009Title

2009 Primetime Emmy Awards LiveBlog

September 20th, 2009

For Cultural Learnings’ complete review of the show, CLICK HERE. For the full live blog, read on below.

I was kind of on the fence about liveblogging the Emmys this year, I really was. Twitter has provided an outlet for quippy remarks and observations that I might have while watching the event, and I ultimately end up writing a huge 2000-word rundown when the show ends so it’s not as if a LiveBlog is going to stand as my only coverage of the big event here at Cultural Learnings.

However, ultimately I want something to be able to refer to when piecing together my final rundown of the night’s festivities, and a LiveBlog seems like the kind of setup that will capture my reaction to the various winners/moments in the ceremony for those who want to know how everything is going down as it’s going down.

So, if you want to follow along with the show or check back later to see my subjective take on a particular moment in the show, here’s where you’re going to want to be. Meanwhile, if you want things elaborate and substantial, check back later tonight for my full analysis of the evening’s winners, losers, and everything in between.

7:20pm: As we wait for the show to begin, feel free to check out my predictions for the big night (the acting categories all link to long analysis pieces of each category): Cultural Learnings’ Full Emmy Predictions.

7:54pm: Enjoying Christine Baranski’s guest spot in a pre-Emmys airing of The Big Bang Theory – an omen for Jim Parsons? Baranski was always going to lose to Tina Fey, but she was damn good in this episode.

8:00pm: And we’re off and running. Television: useful science of the electronic age, indeed. Making fun of Wipeout as “Unsophisticated” is a bit low of CBS, but I guess they don’t have anything quite as lowly…except for Big Brother. Anyways, time for NPH.

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

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

This is, without question, the least predictable race of them all. While yes, the Supporting races are pretty open and could go in many different directions, I don’t particularly like all of those directions. However, there are four people who could win this award, and I’d honestly be happy with any of them (and even one of the people without a chance) to walk away with it.

Simon Baker and Michael C. Hall are the two men who I don’t see walking off with the award, for different reasons. Baker should just be glad to be nominated, and while I legitimately like The Mentalist he’s just not dramatic or weighty enough to hold his own here. As for Hall, I think he’s amazing on Dexter (sustaining it through some less than engaging storylines on occasion), but it’s a tough sell of a performance and the show really gave Jimmy Smits the more explosive side of the acting this season, leaving Hall with really well-executed brooding that won’t connect with voters as much as it needs to.

As for Jon Hamm, this is his second straight nomination and his second time being a strong competitor. Hamm’s performance is also very understated, but Mad Men has a lot of buzz behind it and Don Draper is the absolutely perfect anti-hero that voters could gravitate towards. And Gabriel Byrne, in the second year of In Treatment, continues to gain a lot of buzz and has to be considered one of the hardest working actors in the category considering that there is rarely a single minute on In Treatment in which he isn’t giving a performance, and usually a pretty damn great one. Both have legitimate shots at this award, and I’d certainly be happy to see either win.

But if I had to narrow this candidate down to two, it would be to last year’s winner Bryan Cranston and perennial bridesmaid Hugh Laurie. With Cranston, it all comes down to how much they liked his performance the first time around and how much it was a win defined by his lack of attention for the Emmy-favoured Malcolm in the Middle. Cranston never won for that show, so there was some sense that his win for Breaking Bad was a makeup Emmy, which happens quite often. However, at the same time, he’s amazing on Breaking Bad, and he was apparently just as amazing in the show’s second season, so if nothing has changed is he really going to lose the award?

However, the fact that Hugh Laurie doesn’t have an Emmy after five season of House is itself a travesty: he won two Golden Globes, he won two SAG Awards, and yet the Emmys has never given him an award for his really great work as the eponymous doctor. This is the year where he could break that dry spell: he’s got an intense drug-addiction storyline complete with some intense hallucinations that I found manipulative but unquestionably well-performed, and it really did feel like a bang-up Emmy submission that he knocks out of the park. That’s the kind of boost he might need to conquer this last hurdle in the triple threat of sorts, although if he’s lost three times before with similarly great submissions who’s the say he won’t lose again?

Predicted Winner: Hugh Laurie (House)

However, in the end, I think it’s about time that America once again gets surprised to hear Dr. House speaking with a British accent, this time with an Emmy in his hand.

Dark Horse: Jon Hamm (Mad Men)

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

  • William Shatner (Boston Legal)
  • Christian Clemenson (Boston Legal)
  • Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
  • William Hurt (Damages)
  • Michael Emerson (Lost)
  • John Slattery (Mad Men)

This is the kind of race that really makes you curious to know just what voters are really thinking about going into the ceremony. This is an intensely deep category, with quite a few potential contenders left to the sidelines, so it’s really a question of what voters are looking for in a winner and how well people’s submissions match up with that.

Last year, no one gave Zjelko Ivanek a chance because he was the character actor in a cast of giants, but with a stunning and emotional submission he was able to beat out a lot of bigger names. And really, that’s what is perhaps most interesting in this particular race: for all of the big names, it might just come down to whose submission really strikes at the heart of what voters want to see.

As much as it pains me, I think Michael Emerson is out of the race. He had an amazing submission last year and wasn’t able to pull out the victory, and his submission this year isn’t nearly as impressive. I would also tend to count out William Hurt – he wasn’t given the material on Damages to win out in a category this competitive, and while his name assured him of a nomination there really isn’t the room for him to pull out a victory. And while I think that he’s done some interesting work, Christian Clemenson is going to get overshadowed by his colleague, and go home empty-handed.

For me, this leaves your perennial winner, your wave of popularity choice, and this year’s Ivanek. For your winner, Shatner has a few of these statues in his trophy case already, and no one can deny that Denny Crane was an enigmatic character that made a lasting impact. The problem is that he has won before, and while voters overlooked the show’s mid-season demise when getting him into the category there isn’t that buzz factor about it. Yes, it’s the last time they could give Shatner an Emmy, but it’s not the first, and that’s going to mean they’re less likely to crown him here.

John Slattery was nominated last year, and I think he does an amazing job as Roger Sterling on Mad Men. The issue with him is that he is really riding the show’s success: he’s got a solid submission, and he certainly does strong work, but he’s also riding the wave of success of his show, winning last year’s drama Emmy and remaining the talk of the town when it comes to award shows.

But yet, I have a feeling about Aaron Paul, who I think is going to walk home with this one. He is the perennial dark horse, but so was Bryan Cranston last year, and I think a young actor really emerging out of the shadow of his Emmy-winning co-star is the kind of story voters can get behind (plus, although I am remiss in watching the show, I’ve heard the submission is really good).

Predicted Winner: Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)

He might be the dark horse, but he’s the kind of story that voters will move towards and that will stand out as a grittier performance in a category of either comic performances (the Legal men), more science fiction fare, and the slickness of Mad Men and Damages.

Runner-Up: William Shatner (Boston Legal)

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