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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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Missed Diagnosis: Narrative Pollution in HBO Canada’s Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

Missed Diagnosis:

Narrative Pollution in HBO Canada’s Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

January 8th, 2010

I like to consider Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, a short-form Canadian series debuting on Sunday, January 10th at 8pm ET on HBO Canada, a show made just for me. This is selfish, I know, but I studied the book as an undergrad so it sort of feels like Vincent Lam’s work is following me on my academic/personal/critical journeys. In fact, I even gave a presentation on the short story composite’s (I’ll explain that term in a second, although not in as much detail as I might be tempted to) relationship with television narrative (in a class which had nothing to do with television, by the way) during my time at Acadia University, so the long-gestating adaptation announced soon after the book won the prestigious Giller Prize in 2006 has been of great interest to me.

And while I’ll spare you (most of) the more academic consideration of the series that’s floating around my head after watching the opening episode (which, for Canadians, can be streamed on TheMovieNetwork.com), I will say that this is one example where having first-hand knowledge of the text at hand has largely ruined the series for me. This is not to suggest that Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures is a failure, or that what has been put on the screen is of low quality – there are some solid performances here, and the characters from Lam’s book remain compelling.

The problem is that in a text, and a medium, defined by its presentation of various time periods, executive producer Jason Sherman simply got it backwards – the parts of the story which have the most weight are relegated to flashbacks, and instead of allowing the narrative to unfold on its own time the series creates a melodramatic and unnecessary “present” which keeps it from engaging with the complexities of Lam’s story, complexities that seem perfectly suited to a new generation of serialized storytelling. I do not mean to suggest that there is only one way to adapt this series (after all, any adaptation will skew the original source text based on the writers and directors involved – I’m not THAT guy), but I will argue that the changes made reflect a reductive view of the short story as a medium and are unnecessary measures meant to kow-tow to genre stereotypes the producers are actively trying to avoid, resulting in a series that (while solidly made) fails to capture what made the original text so compelling as both a short story composite and as a potential television series.

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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 Awards Nominations Predictions: The Tale of the Tape

Emmy2009Title

The Tale of the Tape

July 15th, 2009

Heading into tomorrow morning’s nominations (5:30 Pacific Time, so 8:30 Eastern and 9:30 for me in the Atlantic time zone), there are a few certainties, and a few question marks. I talked before about the uncertainty of the popular vote, which places a show like Lost somewhere in between an equilibrium of popular shows like House and Grey’s Anatomy and more critical/industry favourites like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Here, it’s tie to take a look at some of the big stories that could emerge from the nominations, as well as a glimpse at some of the categories that I didn’t get to during the week. So, let’s get the Tale of the Tape.

Mad Men = The New Sopranos?

Last year, Mad Men racked up an Emmy for Drama Series, a nomination for Lead Actor and Best Supporting Actor, and five other statues (including Writing for Matthew Weiner). The question now really comes down to just how much the show’s second season is going to increase those odds. Chances are that one of the show’s two leading women will break through, now much more household names when it comes to the show’s success, and there’s room for more supporting players at well. If it follows the Sopranos pattern, it could break through big – if it, however, gets held back by being on AMC, it could end up with roughly the same nominations.

The Year of CBS?

It may be unlikely, with far more popular shows in terms of Hollwood and the Emmys in the category, but How I Met Your Mother is at the point where its breakout year might be upon us. Neil Patrick Harris is hosting, the show’s ratings have solidified it as a hit in its own right, and it is no longer in fear of cancellation which makes it seem like the kind of show that will be around for a while. It has to compete with stablemate The Big Bang Theory, which has Jim Parsons breaking out in a big way, and Two and a Half Men, but that two more legitimate Emmy contenders than the network had a year ago (and, in my mind, two more than it should have, but that’s neither here nor there). Combine with a chance for The Mentalist’s Simon Baker, and CBS is maybe not just the people’s network anymore.

Breaking Bad Breaking Through?

Last year, Bryan Cranston won in a bit of a shocker in the Lead Actor category for his work on the other AMC drama, Breaking Bad. Many have taken that win and viewed it as a sign that the show, which got even better in its second season, has a chance of breaking through in its own right. I’m of the mind that it will, but Cranston’s win was as much for his lack of a win for Malcolm in the Middle than it was for his brave performance, so it will be interesting to see if the show can join Cranston in the Emmy race. It has the benefit of having aired fairly recently, but it’s yet to be seen if it can break through on the popular vote.

The Final Chance for Battlestar Galactica

A real chance of breaking into the Drama Series race, or the various acting categories, just isn’t in the cards; Battlestar Galactica may have had an amazing finale, and its actors may have stepped up more than ever before, but in a popular vote competition it just isn’t going to get the support it needs. Mary McDonnell is going to get pushed out of her category, although remains a long shot candidate if things get really weird, but the show’s real chance lies in both writing and direction. There’s probably room in those categories for Ronald D. Moore and Michael Rymer, as they’ve been represented before, so it will be interesting to see if they can pick up those nods. They’ll also dominate the special effects categories, with the Visual Effects team easily picking up their third Emmy.

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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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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Predictions

There is no tougher category to predict than this one, where it is actually possible that all six nominees could come from only two shows, and chances are that no one could really argue about their quality.

Those two shows are Grey’s Anatomy and In Treatment. The former has Katherine Heigl back in the mix with some material (Terminal Illness! Ghost Sex!) that is definitely “good enough,” Chandra Wilson dealing with professional and personal struggles (always a winner), and Sandra Oh getting strangled by her PTSD boyfriend. The latter has last year’s winner Dianne Wiest, plus two new patients who made a big impact: cancer patient Alison Pill, and former patient turned lawyer turned patient Hope Davis. Any of these women could garner a nomination, although my money is on Heigl, Wilson, Wiest and Pill at the end of the day.

This only leaves a few spots available. In terms of old contenders, Rachel Griffiths is always a threat for her work on Brothers & Sisters (she’s another one getting nominated for never winning for another show, Six Feet Under), while Rose Byrne looks to make up for last year’s snub with another highly illogical supporting performance that’s clearly a lead. Plus, while she didn’t make the cut last year, Connie Britton continues to do amazing work on Friday Night Lights, and the voters actually picking up on this would make me extremely happy. However, with veteran Candice Bergen submitting for Boston Legal, that could all go up in flames.

There’s also an opportunity for Mad Men to break through here, as Christina Hendricks was a surprising top 10 choice last year and the show has only increased in buzz. Combine with a hugely impressive story arc, including a scene I simply can’t erase from my mind, and she should be a shoe-in – however, it’s hard to know whether she can compete with a huge number of big names, especially with Mad Men’s second season ending earlier than most back in the fall.

Elizabeth Mitchell, who has never managed to break the Top 10 for her work on Lost, put together some strong work, but ultimately is too far off Emmy’s radar to break through on popular vote, as Lost has never connected with voters outside of Supporting Actor and Drama Series. Her chance was in Season 3, I think, although I’d be mighty pleased to see her sneak in as a surprise.

The two big “newcomers” are enormously different. Marcia Gay Harden is an Oscar-winning actress who joined the cast of Damages as a head-strong lawyer who went head-to-head with Glenn Close. Anika Noni Rose, meanwhile, was not nominated for anything for her role in Dreamgirls but gets a showy role on No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency that’s very funny but also highly emotional. While I may be convinced that Hurt isn’t going to grab a nomination, I think Harden was more closely connected with Close and stands a better shot here.

Predictions for Supporting Actress in a Drama

  • Marcia Gay Harden (“Damages”)
  • Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy”)
  • Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”)
  • Allison Pill (“In Treatment”)
  • Dianne Wiest (“In Treatment”)
  • Chandra Wilson (“Grey’s Anatomy”)

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Predictions

In the Comedy supporting categories, I actually feel as if there’s some trends that you can follow, shows that are dominating the main nominations and therefore are clearly catching voters’ attention. However, I just don’t see that on the drama side: there are people here who are going to get nominated entirely independent of their series, and some who have other variables that will place them in contention. With last year’s winner Zjelko Ivanek out of the running (feel free to watch his Emmy-winning performance to find out why), this leaves a wide open category for some familiar faces.

Michael Emerson and William Shatner are likely to be repeat nominees, as even with Boston Legal’s cancellation voters are likely to gravitate towards Shatner and Emerson has taken the mantle for Lost when it comes to the Emmys, especially with Terry O’Quinn choosing not to submit himself into the category. In terms of the other nominees from last year, though, John Slattery and Ted Danson are not going to be returning, the former due to a lack of material and the latter due to being bumped to recurring guest star on Damages. This means there’s a lot of room, and a lot of options.

Lost has to be considered in the running with two of its co-stars. Josh Holloway has never really been taken seriously by the Emmys, but Sawyer came into his own this season in a leadership role and Holloway nailed the drama therein and deserves attention. However, if there’s going to be a second castaway on the ballot, my money (illogically and against all expectations) has to be on Jeremy Davies, whose performance in episodes like “The Variable” but also throughout the season was consistently strong as he crafted a memorable and complicated character in Daniel Faraday – whether the Emmys notice or not will depend on where Lost sits on their popular radar.

William Hurt, meanwhile, looks to capitalize on Damages’ two nominations in the category last season with a nod here. As an oscar winner slumming it on television, he’s bound to get some attention, but I think people are overestimating Damages’ awards potential this year (let’s remember that Rose Byrne did get snubbed last year in a bit of a surprise), and I just think Hurt’s role was so slight and without nuance that there’s no justification for a nomination beyond his name. Or, more realistically, I thought his role was stupid and pointless, and will blindly ignore his guaranteed nomination in order to make myself feel better.

More likely to break into the category is John Mahoney, who has two things in his favour. The first is that the former-Frasier co-star never won an Emmy for that role, having been beaten out by David Hyde Pierce on a regular basis. The second is that his role on In Treatment has gained a lot of buzz, and with three acting nominations last year it’s clear that the show will be on Emmy’s radar.

The long shots, meanwhile, are a couple of young(er) actors who are sitting in wait. John Slattery is fine in Mad Men, but its real supporting star is Vincent Kartheiser, who expertly turns Pete Campbell into a heartless bastard when required, but always with this tinge of sadness as if the facade he puts up has begun to tear away his soul. Mad Men could dominate the nominations this year, and he could emerge as a contender, but he has another show’s dark horse to contend with. Patrick Dempsey might be submitting in Supporting this year with a lot of strong material, but it’s Justin Chambers who surprised people, continuing to do really strong work with Katherine Heigl and demonstrating the depth of that show’s cast.

Predictions for Supporting Actor in a Drama

  • Justin Chambers (“Grey’s Anatomy”)
  • Jeremy Davies (“Lost”)
  • Michael Emerson (“Lost”)
  • Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”)
  • John Mahoney (“In Treatment”)
  • William Shatner (“Boston Legal”)

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