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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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Cultural Learnings’ 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards LiveBlog

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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 Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

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

Five heavyweights and one newcomer, defining a race that’s all about recognizability and not actually about the submissions being made…on the surface.

What makes this category interesting is that Glenn Close really doesn’t have a real shot of losing the award. She’s got just as much credibility as she had when she won last year for Damages’ first season, and she put forward yet another season of strong work on the series. She’s submitted its tense conclusion (which, full disclosure, I never got around to watching since the season got too uninteresting for me to continue), which gives her that element of added drama, and by playing the essential villain in the piece (a somewhat misunderstood villain, even), it’s the kind of performance that voters are really going to see stand out.

And the thing about this category is that there isn’t much variety, so Close’s familiarity and consistency is unlikely to lose when it won against more or less the same contenders last year. Field submitted poorly, and the procedural cop nature of Hargitary/Sedgwick/Hunter doesn’t seem like it can match her intensity. This leaves only one other competitor, young Elisabeth Moss, the first of Mad Men’s accomplished female cast members to garner a nomination.

The problem with Moss is that she has a one scene submission: outside of her amazing sequence with Pete in his office discussing the events of a year previous, she isn’t in a lot of the episode, and because entire episodes are submitted to voters to watch they’re likely going to be wondering just where she is the rest of the time. That scene is incredibly important when you’re a viewer of the show and understand the context, and there’s no question that Moss is stunning in it. The problem lies in the fact that it won’t have that impact with voters, who will see a great episode of television but one in which she plays a supporting role. While I think that submitting in Supporting is misleading to the role Moss/January Jones both play on the show, it does seem like the category would have worked better (where they show only the scenes the nominee is in) for this particular example.

Predicted Winner: Glenn Close (Damages)

I don’t think enough has changed since last year, nor do any of the other actresses have an amazing enough submission tape, for Close to be knocked off of her throne. Hopefully next year sees a bit more divorce lineup of competition and perhaps some room for some surprises.

Dark Horse: Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

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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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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

  • Rose Byrne (Damages)
  • Hope Davis (In Treatment)
  • Dianne Wiest (In Treatment)
  • Cherry Jones (24)
  • Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy)
  • Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy)

In some ways, this year’s Supporting Actress category on the drama side of things lets us play the prediction game we thought we would be playing last year. Rose Byrne, nominated here for her role on Damages, is more of a Lead Actress on that show than Glenn Close is on most occasions, and while she’s solid in the role it isn’t exactly a mind-blowing dramatic onslaught. However, he screentime alone gives her a huge headstart on her competitors, something that will also benefit both Hope Davis and Dianne Wiest who by design are in every minute of their respective episodes that will be screened for critics.

On that front, it does feel like it is those three who this will come down to, and picking between them isn’t easy. Dianne Wiest won last year, and considering both her name recognition and the power she brings to her role as the therapist’s therapist there’s every chance she could walk away with another one. Hope Davis was just nominated for a Tony earlier this year, and she is also quite well respected: combine with a more vulnerable performance as a patient, and you have another strong contenders from the HBO series. While I think Byrne has a shot at this, I think that for all of her screentime she’s still going to be outperformed by Glenn Close, and it’s not as if Wiest and Davis don’t have Gabriel Byrne to boost their performances in kind.

The only spoiler here, I feel, is Cherry Jones. I didn’t keep watching 24 this year, but all seemed to agree that she was the best thing about it, and the fact that she managed to get nominated when both Kiefer Sutherland and the show were snubbed goes to show you that voters felt the same way. Being a strong presidential figure will help her, but I remain convinced that if neither Gregory Itzin nor Jean Smart managed to secure a win for 24 then it isn’t going to happen no matter how much the season around them makes them look amazing. As for Oh and Wilson, I think that they’re going to struggle to compete with the screentime and stature of the other performers, although both put in good seasons on Grey’s.

Predicted Winner: Hope Davis (In Treatment)

I think voters will want to keep it in the family for In Treatment, and Davis seems like the right choice so as to avoid Wiest dominating the category.

Dark Horse: Cherry Jones (24)

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2009 Emmy Nominations: And the Nominees Are…

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And the Nominees Are…

2009 Emmy Nominations

For analysis of the surprises, the snubs, and everything in between, check out:

Power to the People?: 2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis [Link]

However, in list form, the nominees for the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards are…

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Big Love
  • Breaking Bad
  • Damages
  • Dexter
  • House
  • Lost
  • Mad Men

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

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

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

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

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • Entourage
  • Family Guy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Office
  • 30 Rock
  • Weeds

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords)
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
  • Steve Carell (The Office)
  • Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)
  • Tony Shalhoub (Monk)
  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?)
  • Toni Colette (United States of Tara)
  • Tina Fey (30 Rock)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (New Adventures…Christine)
  • Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds)
  • Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program)

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