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2010 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Acting in a Drama Series

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.

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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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Hard-Boiled or Sunny-Side Up: The Divisive but Satisfying 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards

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Hard-Boiled or Sunny-Side Up:

The Divisive but Satisfying 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards

How do you like your Emmys?

Oh, don’t pretend as if you don’t have an opinion. Anyone who is reading this column has some sort of an opinion about the award show and its brethren, lavish ceremonies designed to recognize the very best in a specific industry. However, the Emmys are not a universally accepted success story, and while there are some who view the awards as a valuable institution for recognizing talent others see them as an antiquated and slow-minded organization hellbent on refusing to accept that which is different in favour of more traditional “awards” fare.

As such, Emmy producers really have two entirely different bodies of viewers to be concerned with (throwing out those who would never watch the show in the first place). On the one hand, they have those people who believe in the dignity of the Emmy Awards, who highly respect the work of the Academy and believe quite strongly that this is a serious occasion meant to honour the very best in television. On the other hand, you have those who are angry that Battlestar Galactica never won a major award, and that The Wire and The Shield got snubbed for their final seasons, and who are convinced that any time the Emmys do make a good decision it was by some sort of fluke.

What host Neil Patrick Harris and producer Don Mischer put together for the 61st Annual Emmy Awards was what I would considering to be the Sunny-Side Up version of the Emmy awards. With a charming and self-deprecating Harris at the helm, and a sarcastic and rarely serious John Hodgman playing the role of announcer, they staged a show which spent nearly every moment not taken up by awards being self-deprecating or dismissive of something, whether it’s the future of broadcast television or Harris’ own bitterness over his loss in his own category.

For those who have little to no faith in the Emmy institution, this was an ideal point of view which gave them an entertaining show that one almost feels joins in on their frustration, if not directly. However, for those who look for a more hard-boiled and serious awards ceremony, chances are that they viewed this year’s Emmys as an ill-conceived attempt to pander to younger audiences.

Me? I’m just happy they weren’t scrambled.

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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

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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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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actress in a Drama Series

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Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Predictions

Like with Lead Actor, chances are there are going to be a lot of familiar faces in this category, as veteran actresses in showy roles are unlikely to disappear from last year’s ballot. The difference here, though, is a bit more uncertainty in terms of how the popular vote will fall and who will benefit from the extra spot and someone potentially dropping from the category.

Glenn Close, who won last year for Damages, is a lock for another nomination, as are Sally Field and Kyra Sedgwick who will remain perennial nominees at this stage. This leaves three spots, which could go in a number of directions. The safest bet may be to give two of them to last year’s nominees, Mariska Hargitay and Holly Hunter. However, I have an odd feeling about Hunter, and Hargitay is one who I think benefited more from screeners than she may have from the popular vote, which creates some opportunity for some new blood.

While that may seem like a logical segue into another actress, I think the most likely individual is January Jones. Mad Men’s ladies were entirely unrepresented last year, a sin considering how great they are, but this year one would expect either Jones or Elisabeth Moss to break through. The reason Jones is the obvious choice is that Moss really had her big storyline in the first season; she was great in the second season, and part of me prefers her to Jones, but there is something iconic about Betty Draper and her connection with her husband (guaranteed nominee Jon Hamm) that is likely to pull voters towards her.

Also circling is Mary McDonnell, whose portrayal of President Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica reportedly made the Top 10 last year. It’s a showy role, and SciFi did their best to remind voters that this is their last chance to nominate her for her stellar work. At the same time, it’s still a science fiction series, and the emotion of her final scenes in “Daybreak” or her anger in “The Hub” are more powerful for fans than voters.

Speaking of fans, Anna Paquin has to be considered a contender; no, winning the Golden Globe doesn’t mean anything when it’s a Golden Globe, but she’s a former Oscar winner (if you haven’t seen The Piano, do so immediately) and the show has garnered a real following and has HBO backing its campaign. The show’s a bit too campy in order to break into the series race, but Paquin’s character shows some skin, has an accent (a bad one, but still), and has highly emotional storylines – that’s a solid recipe for Emmy.

Also on the periphery: Jeanne Tripplehorn, who is now the only of Big Love’s wives to be submitting in the category, Patricia Arquette, who continues to garner attention for newly-relocated Medium, and Jill Scott, whose Botswana-shot No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency was well-received critically and where she has a highly dramatic, engaging performance that could sneak in under the radar. I’m aware that she’s a definite long shot compared to former Oscar nominees slumming in television, but sometimes doing predictions I get bored and want to go out on a limb.

Predictions for Lead Actress in a Drama

  • Glenn Close (“Damages”)
  • Sally Field (“Brothers & Sisters”)
  • January Jones (“Mad Men”)
  • Anna Paquin (“True Blood”)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”)
  • Jill Scott (“No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”)

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Yes, I’m Still Watching…FX’s Damages

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Yes, I’m Still Watching…Damages

February 25th, 2009

Oh, Damages.

When the show debuted in 2007, there was something very fresh about its structure, something that I couldn’t really put my finger on at the time. It was a show that brought to the table some great acting talent, in particular strong work from Glenn Close and a career re-making role for Ted Danson, and a flash-forward plotline that at the very least kept you guessing of how the show was going to traverse from Point A to Point B. I never had a problem with either of these two elements: I thought the show started on a good note with the introduction of Ellen Parsons as a naive young attorney in the cutthroat world of Patty Hewes, and I felt the end of the season was similarly sophisticated in its handling of the long known climax.

But when Damages began its second season, I was reminded that the journey between Points A and B was more than a bit meandering, and while a few stops along the road were worthwhile (Hi, Zjelko Ivanek!) there were other storylines that felt like killing time. I began to think back to another show that had followed almost exactly the same road, a show that I once thought quite fondly of and now have very little interest in. But I didn’t want to, early in the season, so quickly link Damages with 24, a show that I have more or less written off.

As the season has gone on, however, the similarities are getting tougher to ignore: the show has become about a constant state of well-acted but poorly executed elevation. Characters and storylines are tossed aside at the writers’ whim as soon as they find something more interesting, and mysteries are solved without resonance but instead with a sense that one can’t linger on one moment too long before the next storyline needs to get started. If each of these arcs felt like they were being sufficiently wrapped up, that we got out of them all that we could, I’d be fine with this: but Damages, like 24 in its hey day, is all about leaving you wanting more, and the bad news for Damages is that I’m starting to see through it all too clearly.

Which says more for the writers’ reliance on the same ol’ bag of tricks than it does for the actors who are at their whim, a disconnect broad strong enough on the latter end to keep me watching but weak enough on the former to keep me at an emotional distance.

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