Tag Archives: Dexter

Equal Treatment: SAG delivers Disappointing TV Nominations

The other day, I tore into the Golden Globes for being star fetishists, arguing that their choices reflect a clear lack of interest in actually honouring the best in television (when Entourage is your default, there is something very wrong). However, I think sometimes we pick on the Golden Globes so much that we forget that other award shows which actually have some shred of credibility are just as capable of proving disappointing.

And so I feel I need to provide equal treatment, and criticize the Screen Actors’ Guild for a bizarre set of nominations (click the link to read if you want to know all of the context for the below rant) which seem to indicate that they’re not actually watching television at the moment. While the rut SAG has fallen into is less egregious than that of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, its relative credibility makes its shame a definite disappointment during this end of year awards season.

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2009 Golden Globe Nominations: The Hollywood Fetishist Press Association

The Golden Globes nominations are out (Check out the TV specific list here, or the full list here), and provided you have no expectation of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association being logical in their selections they’re about what you would expect. So, in other words, they’re kind of ridiculous.

For the most part, the nominations are driven by four separate impulses, all of which are almost like fetishes that the HFPA (who are mysterious and generally not very reputable) refuses to give up year after year. Their desire, at the end of the day, is to create nominees that bring in audiences and that provide them a false sense of credibility: after all, if every A-list Hollywood star who happened to be in a movie this year gets nominated, who dares to question what the Golden Globes aren’t connected with popular culture?

Of course, when it comes to both film television there’s much more involved than popular culture, so let’s take a look at the three main impulses of the HFPA (on the TV side, at least), and then after the jump offer a bit more analysis.

The “Star” Fetish

If you’ve been on a hit show before, your chances of being nominated skyrocket. Julianna Margulies, nominated for the Good Wife, spent years on E.R. Courtney Cox, nominated for Cougar Town, was on a little show called Friends. Edie Falco, nominated for Nurse Jackie, was on another little show called The Sopranos. These aren’t always undeserving nominees (I don’t entirely disprove of any of these candidates, although Cox is not even close to the best thing about Cougar Town), but they are always there as much for their previous fame as they are for their current role.

The “New” Fetish

The HFPA wants nothing more than to be relevant, but their idea of relevancy is fetishizing the new. Yes, Glee fit into the show’s love for musicals (which, after all, kind of have their own category in the film awards), but it was also something new and shiny, which gets Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, and Jane Lynch nominations. And Modern Family, without a single other nomination on the board, sneaks into Best Comedy Series – I’d say it’s because you just can’t separate anyone from the ensemble, but frankly it’s just because the Globes only value it for its newness.

The “HBO” Fetish

When in doubt, you can presume that a HFPA member has turned their television to HBO: the network’s pedigreed garnered a host of nominations which in some ways fly against the previous lenses, both positive (Big Love grabs three noms for series, Bill Paxton and Chloe Sevigny, Hung grabs acting nods for Thomas Jane and Jane Adams) and negative (Entourage picks up a best series not over Hung, Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara, Anna Paquin gets nominated over Katey Sagal, etc.). It’s like HBO is their default, which isn’t always a terrible thing (I really liked Hung) but does feel like a leftover impulse from the Sopranos era considering the breadth of great drama/comedy on other cable channels (Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad).

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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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2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis: Power to the People?

Emmy2009Title

Power to the People?

2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis

The people have the power, and the people have pretty darn good taste.

That’s the story out of this year’s Emmy award nominations (click here for Cultural Learnings’ list, and here for the Academy’s) where a few key surprises and a couple of major snubs indicate that the popular vote was not in any capacity an absolutely travesty for the Academy, as some quite logically predicted. I spoke earlier this week about just what the definition of popular would end up indicating, and the answer appears to be a healthy combination of an appreciation of great television and an eye for trendy selections. The result is an Emmys where nearly every category has a silver lining, and where a few snubs are not enough to give the impression that there’s going to be some very deserving winners in this field.

Mad Men and 30 Rock Dominate

There is no surprise here, don’t get me wrong: no one expected the iron grip of these two shows to stop after dominating last year’s proceedings. However, the scale of that domination is quite ludicrous. 30 Rock has 10 acting nominations, 4 writing nominations, 3 directing nominations, plus its nod for Best Comedy Series and all of its other technical nods. The result is an absolutely staggering number of nominations, and I’m happy about it: I like seeing Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski all get nominations for their work along with Fey and Baldwin, and although the four writing nominations kept other shows out of the running they are four pretty fantastic episodes.

Mad Men, meanwhile, didn’t add quite as many nods, although it did pick up a Lead Actress nomination for Elisabeth Moss, which makes me extremely happy. As I said in my preview, I really expected January Jones in the category, but I prefer Moss’ less showy role at the end of the day. Still, combine with Hamm (also nominated for his guest stint on 30 Rock) and Slattery returning (I’d have preferred Kartheiser, but I’ll take it), and its own four writing nominations (plus a directing nod), and the show is without a doubt dominating on the drama side of things.

Out with the “Popular,” In with the Popular

In the biggest shocker of all considering the popular vote, the Comedy Series category had one shocking exclusion and one suprising (but oft predicted) inclusion. The exclusion is the most popular comedy on television, in terms of viewers – Two and a Half Men failed to secure a comedy nod, something it has done in years previous. This makes me question the definition of popular, especially with the inclusion – Family Guy, the first animated comedy series since The Flintstones to make it into the category. While The Simpsons always chose to compete in the Animation category because it also reflects the work of the animators, Family Guy chose to cut out the animated part and compete with the big boys, and it paid off. However, unlike last year where they could submit their Star Wars special in order to get credit for the animators, this year they’re left off entirely, so MacFarlane’s ego is being boosted at the expense of the show’s direction.

The Sophomores Triumph

No one was quite sure what would happen with Breaking Bad, a second year show that won Emmys last year but without much support around it. Well, we have our answer: although snubbed out of both directing and writing, the series picked up a nomination for Drama Series, and Aaron Paul snuck into the highly competitive Supporting Actor (Drama) category for his work on the show, in addition to Bryan Cranston’s nomination for Lead Actor. Damages also impressed, delivering nominations for William Hurt (undeserved, but whatever), Rose Byrne, Glenn Close, Ted Danson (Guest), as well as Series and Directing nods.

The Freshmen Fail

True Blood had a real shot at some awards love, but it was empathically shut out of the proceedings: it’ll probably contend with United States of Tara for best Title Sequence, but with no Drama Series or Lead Actress love, it’s clear the Emmys didn’t find its vampire story appealing. That’s unfortunate for the show, but it’s a trend: no Freshman series broke into the series categories, and only Simon Baker (The Mentalist) and Toni Colette (United States of Tara) made their way into the major categories.

HBO “Domination”

In a popular vote, nobody quite knew where HBO would end up, but the answer is in far better shape than people anticipated – although Mad Men and Breaking Bad have AMC as the new “it” network, HBO is still holding some cache. Not only did Big Love score a huge surprise nomination as the 7th contender in the Drama Series race, but Flight of the Conchords is honestly the biggest story of the awards. With a Comedy Series nomination, a shocking Lead Actor nomination for Jemaine Clement, plus both writing and directing nominations, the show blew onto the radar like it wasn’t struggling with growing pains in its second season. While everyone saw the show’s Carol Brown getting an Original Song nod, the love wasn’t anticipated. The network also performed well with In Treatment, which missed the Drama Series race but picked up three acting nods (Byrne, Davis, Wiest).

The Year of How I Met Your Mother

I let out an extremely girlish “Yay,” nearly dropping my computer, when How I Met Your Mother was listed as one of the nominees for Outstanding Comedy Series (and I even predicted it!). I know it has no chance in the category, but its nomination is a vindication of the highest order that voters went with the popular vote, and that it jumped from not even being in the Top 10 to being in the Top 7. I call it the Year of HIMYM, though, because Neil Patrick Harris has an open door to pick up an Emmy for Supporting Actor in a Comedy – long live Barney Stinson.

After the jump: Surprises! Snubs! Etc.!

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2009 Emmy Nominations: And the Nominees Are…

Emmy2009Title

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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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Outstanding Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Outstanding Drama Series

Predictions

Last year, the big story in the Outstanding Drama Series category was the presence of three shows that broke down barriers for cable: Showtime’s Dexter was the channel’s first ever nominee in the category, and both FX’s Damages and eventual winner AMC’s Mad Men were the first ever basic cable series to make their way into television’s biggest category.

This year, the story is a little bit more muddled, as the return of a popular vote-only category raises questions about whether Dexter and Damages can make it back into the big dance competing against the juggernauts like House and Grey’s Anatomy. For shows like Damages and perennial nominee Boston Legal, that relied on showy episodes to sway the blue-ribbon panels, their popular support remains untested, which could lead to some surprises.

Mad Men is a lock to return to defend its title after a strong second season, while Lost’s popular support and the quality of its fifth season should be enough to grab a nomination. The real suspense will come down to whether some shows sitting at the edges might be able to make it in: Breaking Bad had a strong second season, aired very recently, and Bryan Cranston won Best Actor last year and is likely to be nominated again; The Wire broke the Top 10 with its final season, so perhaps The Shield could do the same; new shows True Blood and The Mentalist try to overcome mixed critical responses with their impressive ratings; 24 has been out of the running for a year, and even then was pretty well out of the running with its drop in quality.

Personally, my heart is with Battlestar Galactica, which is in its final year of Emmy eligibility. However, that’s a long shot that’s quite tough to predict when it’s going to come down to popular vote, and until my heart starts giving out Emmy Awards I guess Ronald D. Moore and company are out of luck in the big dance.

Predictions for Outstanding Drama Series

  • Breaking Bad
  • Dexter
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • House
  • Lost
  • Mad Men

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The 2008 Television Time Capsule: Dexter – “The Damage A Man Can Do”

timecapsuledexter

“The Damage A Man Can Do”

Season Three, Episode Eight

Airdate: November 16th, 2008

In my review of the show’s third season finale, I tore into Dexter for missed potential, for failing to take advantage of its early season ideas and instead investigating something interesting but not compelling. This isn’t to say that the show’s decision to focus its attention on the relationship between Dexter and Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits) was a poor one but rather that it felt like the story never fit the season in a way.

What it did provide, though, was a number of solid episodes that delved into the ramifications of their friendship. “The Damage a Man Can Do” is the most simple of these moments: not wrapped up in the show’s drive towards a conclusion, or in the show’s divided attention at the season’s opening, it answers the question of what could happen if Dexter Morgan had a partner, a friend who helped him with his dark secrets. The episode boils down Dexter’s dark passenger into a shopping list, and a series of disguises and actions that feels wonderfully scientific.

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2009 Golden Globes: TV Nominations Analysis

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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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Cultural Reflections on Comic Con 2008

While I’m genuinely addicted to Twitter most of the time, being away over the weekend and thus mostly away from my Twitter account was a good thing. Many of the people I follow, most of which I’ve met through some great times at the /Filmcast, were lucky enough to be out in San Diego, California for the biggest event in geekdom: Comic Con. My jealousy knows no bounds, as it sounds like an extremely exciting event that covers the gamut of entertainment.

Once mostly a haven for comic book adaptations and the like, the convention has taken on new life as pretty much “Any show that has fans on the internet or any kind of fantastical elements” when it comes to television presence. So this includes a show like The Big Bang Theory, which embraces its geek sensibilities on a regular basis, and a show like Prison Break that is really just there treating it as a fan convention in general terms. I won’t attempt to make an argument for the exclusion of such shows, though, because for the most part the convention has taken on a life of its own…and that life has brought a lot of new TV news to our attention.

Heroes

NBC’s highest rated drama series came to Comic Con with a devoted fan base to satisfy and a lot to prove to critical people like me who thought the second season was almost completely garbage. Perhaps realizing this task, they decided to placate both crowds and actually show the entire Season Three premiere. Now, some have commented that a show like Lost didn’t do anything similar (I’ll get to them in a minute), but Heroes has the added bonus of having started filming Season Three extremely early after NBC cut the second season short, so they’re in a unique position.

While I’m not reading the detailed recaps like Adam Quigley’s over at /Film or Dave3’s over at GeeksofDoom to avoid spoilers, there’s been positive word of mouth that this is, at least, better than last season’s entry (And perhaps better than the show’s pilot, which was kind of weak). I remain skeptical of Kring as a showrunner, though, and what I read of Adam’s review tends to indicate that the annoying dialogue and the tendency to delve into pointless subplots have not disappeared even as the quality elsewhere ramps up. Still, it’s a smart move to please both fans and critics alike, and once the pilot hits in September I’ll judge for myself whether they’ve got the quality to back it up.

Lost

While the lack of real Season Five footage (It doesn’t premiere for another 7 months, realistically) is certainly a bit of a downer, what Lost brings to the table is its usual blend of intrigue and mystery. While they weren’t there with new footage, they did have a new Orientation style video that seems a bit different. Although the YouTube link below is off a screen, it still seems to be higher quality than what we’ve used to. After the jump, I’ll go into some discussion on why this video has a LOT of ramifications (And is infinitely more interesting than an episode of Heroes).

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