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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actor in a Drama Series

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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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Series Finale: Battlestar Galactica – “Daybreak Part Two”

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“Daybreak Part Two”

Series Finale – March 20th, 2009

“Ever since we found out who…what we are…”

When the Battlestar Galactica Miniseries first began, there were two main questions: who are these people who are leading humanity forward after this devastating tragedy, and what is the nature of the Cylons who caused that devastation? It was part of that central binary the show put forward, humans vs. Cylons, but from the very beginning these are not two separate questions. In the character of Boomer, this balance between who/what was inherently questioned, as those who straddled the line between human and Cylon were forced to confront these types of questions. When the Final Four Cylons were revealed, they all fell on different sides: Tyrol accepted “what” begrudgingly in the quotation above, Tory downright embraced it, while Tigh refused to abandon “who” and continued to emphasize his personal identity.

At this point, we as viewers are all people straddling this line between “who” and “what” in the shadow of “Daybreak,” a series finale which struggles less from pressure within the show itself and more from the external pressure of fan expectation. The problem is that we, as fans, grapple with similar problems: are we concerned, moving into the finale, about who these characters are and what journey they have taken, or are we too caught up in the “plot holes” or the questions to which we demand answers? It’s not a new binary amongst viewers: for ages people have been complaining about episodes for having too few explosions, or for being too slow, or for not doing enough to advance the show’s complicated plot structure. Whereas for most of those episodes, I’ve noticed strong character development, effective mood building, and an almost cathartic sense of pacing that is part of what makes the series more than just science fiction.

“Daybreak” is an episode that, more than answering which side of this binary people should fall on, should destroy it altogether. This isn’t about plot, or character, but the intersection of these ideas. In the show’s fourth season, amidst some admittedly complicated and on occasion bungled storylines, one thing that has remained consistent is the idea that the definitions of human and Cylon are melding together. Much as Edward James Olmos argued against race being used as a cultural determinant during the United Nations panel earlier in the week, we should be beyond the point of considering these people purely along the lines of human vs. Cylon, just as we should be beyond the point of considering the show in terms of plot vs. character.

So, let there be no red line drawn down the deck: with this epic, sprawling, action-filled and philosophically-driven finale, Ronald D. Moore has accomplished what he set out to do. He manages to meld together the cheeky with the solemn, the profound with the surreal, the whimsical with the emotional, in a way that gives you that sense that destiny is not a four-letter word, that plot and character are neither slave to the other, and that whatever this show accomplished it will go down in a fashion befitting of one of television’s most effective pieces of programming, period, independent of its science fiction heritage.

So say, if not us all, then at least this particular believer.

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Battlestar Galactica – “Islanded in a Stream of Stars”

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“Islanded in a Stream of Stars”

March 6th, 2009

“You know sometimes I wonder what “home” is. Is it an actual place? Or is it some kind of longing for something, some kind of connection?”

The entirety of Battlestar Galactica has been about a search for a new home. From the end of the miniseries, when Commander William Adama told everyone that they had a map to a new home called Earth, there was always a preoccupation with finding someplace to settle, someplace to rebuild what they had before, somewhere to plant the roots that had been so violently uprooted by the Cylon attack. But from the very first moments of ’33,’ it became very clear that this wasn’t going to be a simple journey, and at every point where they felt like they had found home (In season 2’s visit to Kobol, appropriately titled “Home,” or on New Caprica at the start of Season 3) it was taken away from them by some cruel reality from their past.

But every character on the show has nonetheless remained buoyed by something, some sort of vision or location which connects them to something imaginary yet more real than anything they were experiencing. It’s almost a metaphor for the show itself: even with all of its spaceships and explosions and epic battles, the show has found grounding in human emotions and human relationships in the same way that its characters, faced with the surreality of their years of struggle, return to that which offers the most peace with themselves. We saw our first direct example of this last week, wherein Boomer had actually built a home for her and Tyrol that, when she was sad, she would go to in order to get away from it all.

Moving this into the realm of Cylon projection is reflective in the fact that the search for a home has become even more complicated when you include the Cylon side of this equation – they too had their initial home destroyed by some unknown force, and were forced into a bitter search for purpose. And they too thought they had found the answers, whether it was the Colony revealed in this episode (where the Final Five built the Other Eight Models) or Caprica and Boomer’s plan to settle the Cylons on New Caprica with humanity. But for whatever reason, fate and destiny never led them to the point where either Cylons or humans were able to find a home that was their own, that brought them not just complicated questions or theories but rather something approaching the peace that only the imagination could create.

While the second half of this season has had a number of episodes which serve as a clearing of the air in an effort to make distinct the themes the show is looking to delve into in the two-part finale to come in the weeks ahead, this one is the one that is most broad-reaching: whether it is Adama’s realization that his search for Home never really even started, or how the principles of fatherhood drive both Helo and Tigh into very different perspectives of what makes a place or home, or how Laura Roslin has always held onto her own dream-like projection, or eventually how someone like Kara Thrace acknowledges that she’ll never quite be home until she accepts just who she is. The only thing that ties everything together is that, for all but one of them, none of their conceptions of “home” have anything to do with Caprica and its ruins, Kobol and its gods, or even Earth and its destruction.

They’ve been “Islanded in a Stream of Stars” since the attack began, but the island meant something different to every single one of them; the problem has not been that their actual location or condition have been wrong, but rather that the various different secondary realities have been in conflict. Now, as we move closer to our conclusion, the people aboard Galactica are starting to rise to the occasion, finding in themselves not just their place of peace but also the self-awareness necessary to either let go of their inhibitions or accept that their vision of home might not be what they’ve been searching for all along.

And the result is an emotionally powerful penultimate episode of a series that, having always been about a search for home, has at the very least found itself one in the annals of television history.

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The Top 12+ Snubs of the Emmy Top 10s

The Top 12 Snubs of the Emmy Top 10s

This post has been delayed a bit after getting captured between my new and old computers, but I think it’s for the best. When the Emmy Nominations are announced in just over a week’s time, more names will be added to this list, but what this list allows us to do is spread out the disappointment. That these contenders won’t even have a chance in front of a panel, though, is its own tragedy, and the more time I had to embrace this fact the more I realized how much this process hurts.

And it’s not that it’s not fair: while it may not always produce results I like, the current Emmy system is perhaps as close to democracy that they could possibly achieve. The reality of popular and patronage-dominated shows performing well at the Emmys will not go away anytime soon, so we should be thankful that there were some pleasant surprises as I discussed last week. But at the same time, we can’t help but feel it: that the people who were snubbed at this end of the process deserve recognition, no matter how they get it.

So, without further delay, and in no particular order, my Top 12 2008 Emmy Snubs…and let’s hope the list doesn’t grow too greatly next week.

1. Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)

Category: Supporting Actress, Drama Series

What more does she need to do to get noticed? Britton moved herself to the supporting category to avoid juggernauts like Sally Field or Glenn Close, but at the end of the day the category proved to be even more difficult to break into unless you’re heavily featured in a popular show or an award show veteran. She gave a fantastic performance through an uneven season, the constant rock the show could lean on. She makes weak storylines solid and good storylines great, and if that’s not a great supporting actress I don’t know what is.

2. January Jones (Mad Men)

Category: Supporting Actress, Drama Series

January Jones is the victim of her series’ plot – the show’s pilot, the episode most voters would have seen, doesn’t actually feature the character of Betty Draper, revealing her existence only at episode’s end. While someone like John Slattery was able to ride his reputation to a nomination, Jones doesn’t have the name recognition and is unfairly snubbed here. She did some amazing work embodying the 60s housewife, especially in “Shoot,” and that this portrayal won’t be seen by the judges is a disservice to the ensemble nature of the series. While I’m happy for Christina Hendricks, that was Jones’ spot.

3. Chi McBride (Pushing Daisies)

Category: Supporting Actor, Comedy Series

With all three of his primary co-stars breaking into their respective Top 10 lists, forgive me for being upset that my favourite was left off. Not known for his comic work, McBride’s Emerson Cod has been a delight. He’s a knitting private detective, for cripes sake, and he has adapted maybe best of all to the witicisms and whimsy that this world entails (albeit it through cynicism and sarcasm). The shortened season robbed him of a showcase episode (We got hints of a baity fatherhood episode), something that the other actors by comparison had, but that doesn’t mean that the show’s most consistently hilarious character should get snubbed. Here’s hoping the voters smarten up for the show’s second season.

For more snubs including performers from House, Lost and Battlestar Galactica, click on through.

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(Mid) Season Finale: Battlestar Galactica – “Revelations”

“Revelations”

June 13th, 2008

Since New Caprica, Battlestar Galactica has been a series defined by the intersection of two races – of their people, their beliefs, their actions and their futures. At odds with one another from the moment the Miniseries began, humans and Cylons have slowly but surely centralized into two groups of people who are searching for a greater purpose and a greater understanding. When the Cylons occupied humanity on New Caprica, Caprica Six and the other Cylon leaders felt that they were meant to co-exist – of course, one cannot force such a peace as easily as they had hoped.

No, it takes the right moment for that to happen, which is perhaps the very definition the show’s purpose in the first half of its fourth and final season. It seems as if the search for Earth is, in fact, that point of intersection: conveniently for the series’ narrative, the human desire to discover a new home on Earth requires the discovery of the Final Cylon models, the discovery of which is the goal of the current batch of renegade Cylons. And so we have spent nine episodes bringing these two groups together, now finally reaching the point where all the pieces are in play.

We started the season with a mysteriously untouched viper and four newly found Cylons, and they return here to ask the question of everyone on each side of the conflict: are you willing to accept the intertwined fate of these two peoples, or will old wounds win the day? As the driving force behind a tense showdown with an infinite number of potential outcomes, “Revelations” proves something we knew all along: that few shows on television can have us questioning everything as easily as this one, and that no show on television can measure up because of it. Plus, after all the questions are over, we’re left facing an answer we never saw coming, and a future that waiting seven months for will be, well, a frakkin’ bitch.

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