Endangered Species: The Emmy Merge and the Miniseries Form
February 25th, 2011
It is not particularly surprising to learn that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is merging the Outstanding Miniseries and Outstanding Made-for-Television Movie categories at this year’s Emmy Awards.
While I am sure that many will consider this part of a larger attack on cable’s dominance in both categories in light of ongoing negotiations with the networks, the concern here seems to be largely practical. There have not been five nominations in the Outstanding Miniseries category since 2004, and in the past two years only two miniseries warranted a nomination due to the complete lack of competition in the category. While the Made-for-TV Movie has been able to pull together 5-6 nominees each year during the same period, let’s not pretend that Why I Wore Lipstick to my Masectomy deserved to be nominated alongside Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. By merging the two categories into a six-nominee pack, you will solve both the concern over quantity in Miniseries and the (lesser) concern over quality in Made-for-TV Movie.
However, ignoring practicality for a moment, is this actually logical? On the one hand, I think that award show logic has to be concerned about issues of practicality, and streamlining these awards will in some ways appease the networks who worry about Cable’s dominant presence within the Emmy Awards broadcast. However, what does it mean for a Miniseries to compete against a Made-for-TV Movie? Does the longer format of a Miniseries give it a distinct advantage over its shorter counterparts? Or does the succinctness of a Made-for-TV Movie make it more likely to resonate with voters who likely don’t have time to spend five or six hours to spend watching a true long form narrative?
September 5th, 2010
“Open or Closed?”
Not writing up last week’s Mad Men was inevitable: I watched the episode in the wake of writing about the Emmys, and then it was my first week of my PhD program, and there were just too many reasons to let it go. I also didn’t feel like “Waldorf Stories” was particularly rife for critical analysis: it was a very good episode, but it was fairly devoid of subtexts. Don Draper continued his self-destructive behaviour, but the episode fairly elegantly laid it out for him, analyzing his behaviour itself and making my job more “pointing out the obvious” than “examining the episode.”
However, “Waldorf Stories” was another strong bit of escalation in a season which is unafraid to be “slow”: a lot of time has passed so far this season, but Don Draper seems to be stuck in a single moment, best exemplified by the scene where Don wakes up to discover someone entirely different in the bed beside him, an entire weekend gone like sand through the hourglass (and yes, these are the days of our lives).
“The Suitcase” is memorable because it is the point at which the show slows down to meet Don’s shattered life: as he lets Peggy into his world, the show stops to capture a single evening in the life of a broken man, an evening where he regains his connection to reality on the same evening where he loses the one connection to his past. It is the moment the season has been leading up to, that moment where Don less regains his previous form and more admits that he is entering a new stage in his life.
And, simultaneously, Mad Men’s fourth season heads into its next stage with a truly stellar episode of television.
More “Not Boring” Than Usual:
Surprises Elevate the 2010 Primetime Emmys
As a whole, the Emmy Awards live and die on surprise: sure, there’s always favourites, but the idea that “anything can happen” is what keeps us watching a show which so often punishes us for becoming emotionally involved. For every pleasant surprise there has been soul-crushing complacency, and so we watch hoping that something will cut through the pain in order to give us some sense of hope for the legitimacy of these awards.
And while we eventually leave each evening lamenting numerous mistakes, comfortable in our superior knowledge of what is truly great in television in a given year, I don’t want that to obfuscate the moments of transcendence. Sometimes, moments come together that defy our cynical expectations, moments that find the spontaneity in the scripted or make the spontaneous feel as if it was planned all along. And while I remain the jaded critic that I was before the show began, any chance of carrying that attitude through the entirety of the show was diminished at the sight of Jon Hamm booty-dancing towards Betty White, and all but gone by the time Top Chef finally ended The Amazing Race’s reign of terror over Reality Competition program.
It was a night filled with surprises, whether in terms of who was winning the awards (with a huge number of first-time winners) or in terms of emotional moments which resulted from those winners – sure, there were hiccups along the way, and there were still a number of winners which indicated that the Emmys are still stuck in their ways, but there was enough excitement for me to designate these Emmys as “not boring.”
In fact, I’d go so far as to say they were more “not boring” than usual.
Outstanding Drama & Comedy Series
August 29th, 2010
Despite being the biggest awards of the evening, I’ll admit that this is one of my least favourite categories to analyze: yes, this is where things should become even more interesting, but more often than not this is where the complacent power of inertia kicks in worst of all. While a good actor being killed by a bad submission has nuance, and a great submission can truly change the nature of a category, there is a sense with the Series awards that the episodes themselves are more or less irrelevant. If they submit tapes that resemble the series’ cultural influence, then it will be enough to make this a race of hype vs. hype rather than actuall quality.
Of the legitimate competitors for these awards, there is nothing that would cause me to become outraged or anything – while there are certainly some contenders which I would prefer, it’s more a question of which series have the quality to go beyond the hype, and whether or not the voters will actually see through those layers to find the actual most outstanding series on television.
Why I Write About the Emmys
August 27th, 2010
On her Twitter feed, the illustrious Maureen Ryan (soon to be of AOL TV) posted the following:
This would likely be a common sentiment amongst TV critics: they write about the Emmys less because they care about them and more because they’re a major television event which their employers (whether they be print or online outlets) feel they need to have coverage of. There’s a general cynicism towards the Emmys, with many critics writing posts which question their validity or offering their own alternative ballot to better reflect a more objective (albeit decidedly subjective) survey of the year in television.
However, in my unique position without any sort of employer, I am able to write about what I want to write about, which begs the question: why, precisely, do I write about the Emmys as much as I do? I don’t have to predict the nominations, or analyze the submissions, or break down each individual category, but I choose to do so. I had originally planned to just predict Comedy and Drama series and be done with it, but there’s been enough talk about how and why we cover the Emmy Awards floating around that I wanted to offer my personal perspective before we head into the weekend.
Lead Acting in a Drama Series
August 26th, 2010
The Lead Acting awards on the Drama side this year are polar opposites: one has a clear frontrunner and a slightly tired set of nominees, while the other category has a ridiculously packed lineup of potential winners where no clear frontrunner exists and where I’d be happy with anyone winning the trophy.
Lead Acting in a Comedy Series
August 25th, 2010
There is nothing particularly progressive about the Lead Acting awards on the comedy side: with Modern Family’s cast choosing to submit in supporting across the board, and with Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison both submitting poorly, the big comedy battle of the year really isn’t relevant here, which means that we’re left with less interesting battles.
Or, more accurately, some less heartening battles: the reality is that these awards are unlikely to go to new faces, with previous winners dominating both fields. I’d like to believe that someone like Amy Poehler or Jim Parsons could walk away with these awards, but only the latter really has a chance, and even then something big, boring, and potentially enraging stands in his way.
Supporting Acting in a Comedy
August 24th, 2010
When it comes to the supporting acting awards in comedy, it’s an interesting microcosm of the larger comedy race: while 30 Rock is unrepresented in a competitive fashion, both races boil down to a showdown between the freshman contenders, Modern Family and Glee.
The problem is that what works from a series perspective won’t work from an acting perspective: the overwhelming positivity of Glee, or Modern Family’s rekindling of the family sitcom tradition, won’t be as evident in acting submissions. However, it will be a part of the process when Jane Lynch’s position as frontrunner is tested, and where we see whether the men of Modern Family can deal with vote-splitting.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
- Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
- Jane Lynch (Glee)
- Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
- Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men)
- Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
- Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
With Supporting Actress, Lynch has been the frontrunner from the beginning despite the fact that she’s yet to win anything: with SAG not recognizing supporting players, and with the Golden Globes lumping her in with far more substantial roles like Chloe Sevigny’s, she has yet to found a platform where her comic role could be recognized. It’s a broad, juicy comic role, which makes it an ideal fit in this category. While Glee as a series could prove divisive, everyone seems on the same page that Lynch’s scenery-chewing is some really strong work, and any problems people have with the role are regarding how the writers use her as opposed to Lynch’s performance.
Supporting Acting in a Drama Series
August 23rd, 2010
The complete lack of a frontrunner in neither Supporting Actor nor Supporting Actress in a Drama Series isn’t particularly surprising: these categories are always fairly stacked, and so predicting them is always a bit of a crapshoot.
This year, though, the lack of a frontrunner should prove particularly interesting, and potentially quite frustrating for the majority of television viewers.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
- Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)
- Martin Short (Damages)
- Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
- Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
- Michael Emerson (Lost)
- John Slattery (Mad Men)
On the Actor side of things, it’s a problem of too much talent: while many are right to complain about John Lithgow getting dropped down to (and winning) Guest Actor from Supporting on a technicality, I think this category is better for his absence, as it allows people like Aaron Paul (still looking for his first Emmy win for this spectacular work on Breaking Bad) to have a legitimate shot at the trophy instead of appearing as also-rans. However, when he’s alongside someone as respected as Martin Short, and when former winners Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson are riding the momentum of Lost coming to its conclusion, Paul still seems like a small fish in a big pond (Slattery, as good as he is, is simply not going to be the Mad Men actor to break the series’ drought in performance categories).
2010 Creative Arts Emmys Predictions
August 21st, 2010
Each year the Creative Arts Emmys are a celebration of the unsung heroes, albeit a celebration which remains largely unsung: few ever really get to see the awards, and so there’s a certain lack of fanfare. However, with the Guest Acting awards given out at the show and with the battles between shows like Glee and Modern Family unfolding for the first time, it’s a good early indicator for how the big awards will fall.
I’m still grappling with the idea of doing predictions for the big awards, and waiting until the Creative Arts ceremony is over is a good reason to put it off for another day. So, let’s take a look at the Creative Arts awards, and go from there.