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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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House – “The Itch”

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“The Itch”

November 11th, 2008

When David Shore and Co. decided to make the rather odd decision to “fire” the three fellows who worked for Dr. Gregory House at the end of the show’s third season while still employing them as cast regulars, I think we all asked ourselves a question: how, precisely, do they plan on balancing new fellows with the old ones who are off in various corners of the hospital.

And while they pushed Foreman back into the diagnosis group fairly quickly, this has remained a problem, especially as it relates to developing the characters of Chase and Cameron, and the new fellows for that matter. There have been some rumblings about House beginning to fall into the medical procedural trap, designing cases which are “on the nose” for individual cast members as a shorthand version of character development. And for Chase and Cameron, who have had almost zero “showcases” since leaving House’s team, this episode has been a long time coming.

“The Itch,” at the end of the day, is an episode that walked a fine line between organic investigation into the lives of these characters and a convenient episode that dealt with how we scratch that itch, whether through imaginary mosquitoes, coveting every single drawer in your apartment, or giving in to your agoraphobia. What we learn most of all is that some things never change: House will always be manipulative but emotionally stunted, Cameron will always be woefully incapable of self-rationalizing, and Chase will always be a character without, well, a character.

But even if it wasn’t a life-changing return to our former cottages, I’d say it was enjoyable enough.

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House – “Not Cancer”

“Not Cancer”

September 23rd, 2008

The bodies are piling up for Gregory House, but he’s not really worried about whether or not Felicia Day survives through the episode: instead, he’s busy speed dating for a new Wilson. When he lost his three fellows at the end of the third season, it took him a good few episodes before he’s start even a protracted search potential replacement. In this episode, replacing Wilson is more important than life, death, or whatever might come after death.

So, needless to say, House is not in the best position to be figure out what is causing multiple transplant recipients from the same donor to either die or nearly die through a strangely diverse selection of illnesses. Some lungs fail, there’s a heart condition, and the aforementioned internet sensation (and star of Dr. Horrible) Felicia Day as the one who is not displaying quite the same level of symptoms. With such a wide workload, and with his attention elsewhere, House makes a bold move: he hires a private investigator, someone actually trained to break into people’s home and do all of the non-medical thing House usually has his fellows handle.

And while it is decidedly problematic for them to be introducing yet another new character when the show can’t handle Chase and Cameron as it is, Michael Weston’s P.I. is a charming enough character who feeds House’s paranoia while offering enough of an investigation into his relationship with Wilson. Yeah, he’s a bit precocious, but as far as guest characters who might be sticking around a while, I’ll prefer a sarcastic one to one who pops up in midseason as a contrived roadblock for our genius doctor.

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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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Season Premiere: House – “Dying Changes Everything”

“Dying Changes Everything”

September 16th, 2008

Well, thanks for the obviousness lesson, House. Or, more appropriately, everyone other than House.

After perhaps the most emotionally powerful episodes in the show’s history ending the show’s fourth season, it was easy to romanticize the world of House: we’re supposed to be paying attention to Wilson’s grief process and 13’s reaction to news that her lifespan has been cut in half by Huntington’s disease, but nothing about the season finale really dealt with the show’s other problems. “House’s Head” and “Wilson’s Heart” were two episodes that stand alone as an emotional highpoint, but their fallout is somewhat less groundbreaking.

Don’t get me wrong: I like the show’s choice to investigate reactions to mortality, and there is nothing wrong with House working hard to keep Wilson from leaving the hospital after Amber’s death, but the rest of the episode kind of struggles dealing with the rest of the series. Whereas the finale demonstrated an intense connection between case and character, here the case is quite literally just a pawn in House’s game and, at worst, just a bland cliche to the same degree as Wilson’s desire for a clean start. And the show does nothing to help deal with the imbalance between characters, spending so much time with mortality that it’s continuing to let some of them die off, figuratively speaking.

So while dying is supposed to change everything, it doesn’t appear to change House much at all; while this means that the show is still entertaining, it’s taking its time to get to the point where it can improve on last season’s problems.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Dissecting the 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations

Emmy nomination morning is kind of like Christmas morning – you’re all excited about it as it approaches, wary of the potential surprises and the like, etc. But, unlike Christmas that ends in the complete elimination of suspense, the Emmy Awards are the start of a whole new game. In this case, not only do we react to what just happened (The good, the bad and the ugly of it) but also to what will happen in September when somebody in each of these categories has to win one of the darn things.

For now, it’s time to take a look at the big stories out of this morning’s nominations (You can check out the fill list here).

30 Rock Domination

The Good: With a ridiculous 17 nominations, 30 Rock is the most nominated series at the awards. This includes nods for the series itself, Alec Baldwin, and Tina Fey, along with two writing and one directing nomination for the series, along with well deserved guest acting noms for Elaine Stritch, Edie Falco, Carrie Fisher, Will Arnett and Rip Torn.

The Bad: The rather unfortunate snubs of Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer sting a little bit, but they had tough races and this isn’t too much of a surpise.

The Ugly: Steve Buscemi and Tim Conway do not deserve guest acting nominations for this show – Buscemi was great, but he was barely in the episode, while Conway coasted on his past success with a role that never fit into the episode. Matthew Broderick, Dean Winters and David Schwimmer all did considerably better work on the series, and that they are not represented here is extremely unfortunate.

Lost is Back in the Race

The Good: In perhaps my favourite news of the ceremony, a bump to six nominees in the Drama Series category sees Lost make it into the fray ahead of Grey’s Anatomy, securing its first nomination in the category since its first season. Michael Emerson also grabbed a Supporting Actor nomination, as expected, while I’m extremely pleased to see Michael Giacchino pick up a nod for his great composing for “The Constant.”

The Bad: Still a bit annoyed that so few other supporting players were eligible for the major awards, so it’s a bit disheartening to see most of the show’s nominations coming from sound editing, mixing, editing, etc. when the cast is so deserving.

The Ugly: Despite getting the show nominated for an Emmy, no room is found for “The Constant” in writing or directing categories; the latter isn’t too disappointing, but the former is a bit more surprising and disheartens me as to Lost’s chances in the major categories.

Pushing Daisies Blooms…and Busts

The Good: Announcing the nominees was good luck for the ever charming Kristin Chenoweth, who along with co-star Lee Pace picked up an acting nomination to go with the series numerous technical, writing and directing awards resulting in the third highest total with 12 nominations.

The Bad: Unfortunately, they weren’t joined by their co-star Chi McBride, who really should have made the Supporting Acting Top 10.

The Ugly: And yet, despite all of this, the show failed to net a nomination for Best Comedy Series, an omission that just doesn’t make any sense. I will rant about who I think should have gotten the boot in a moment, but this is an oversight that will haunt the Emmys for a long time in my books, and is surprising considering both Pace and Chenoweth making their respective races.

Damages Gets it Right

The Good: So much, mainly the fantastic inclusion of Zejlko Ivanek in the Supporting Actor race, is right with this picture. Along with Ted Danson, they are a strong force in that category, and they’re joined by Glenn Close in the Best Actress race, and writing/directing/series nominations for the fantastic pilot.

The Bad: While it’s not quite what I’d call a bad thing, it’s a big surprise to see Rose Byrne snubbed in Supporting Actress Drama. Mind you, I was never a fan of her performance so I would personally not put her into the category, but that Emmy voters didn’t is surprising.

The Ugly: Not much, to be honest – while I felt the series fell apart at the end, the nominated performers and the Pilot were both great, so I’m content with this performance.

The Rise and Fall of The Office

The Good: Rainn Wilson and Steve Carell return to the nominations circle along with their series this year, including a number of directing and writing nominations for the uneven but very solid fourth season.

The Bad: Amy Ryan, fantastic in the finale “Goodbye, Toby” gets snubbed for her great turn in the episode, joining Sarah Chalke as examples of Emmy voters ignoring great performances from younger female competitors in favour of older ones (With Sarah Silverman being the only youth candidate, and a kind of annoying one).

The Ugly: Jenna Fischer, deserving of a win last year, doesn’t even break into Supporting Actress Comedy this year, and John Krasinski literally has his spot stolen away in Supporting Actor. Apparently the love for Jam at the Academy is limited, which is unfortunate as they both do great work.

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Cultural Learnings’ 2008 60th Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations Predictions

When I started my Emmys coverage for this year’s ceremony a while ago, I (as always) had a lot of plans: previews of every category (Got through a lot), reviews of every submitted episode (Almost got through those), and all sorts of other grand schemes that never come to fruition. This is the nature of being a television critic of sorts: you have a lot to say, but balancing it and the rest of your life (See: Watching Television, clearly) can be a bit of a challenge. Let it be known I took most of that free time doing my duty and finally watching shows like The Wire, Six Feet Under and Flight of the Conchords.

However, there’s no way I could possibly procrastinate on writing up my various predictions. Predictions are one of those things that I think about more than I write about (I tried writing more this year, and after a while it petered off). Great sites like AwardsHeaven or Coco at the Movies or TV with Abe keep detailed lists for weeks or months ahead of time updating when the Top 10s come out, but I tend to ruminate a bit more introspectively. We’ll see how that goes this time around, when our access to the Top 10 lists for various categories makes this task easier, yes, but also far more competitive. But, I’m not in it to win it, so to speak; I’m just an Emmy fanatic who enjoys the thrill of participation.

So, without further adieu, my predictions for the nominations for the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Boston Legal (ABC)
  • Damages (FX)
  • House (FOX)
  • Lost (ABC)
  • Mad Men (AMC)

This is a very hard category to call, and admittedly I’m following my own interests here: there’s every chance of Grey’s Anatomy replacing Lost on this list based on its popularity alone, but something tells me that Lost’s episode submission (The fantastic “The Constant”) will elevate them through. Mad Men and Damages represent the new crop of summer cable hits, while Boston Legal and House should ride baity submission and Hugh Laurie, respectively, to nods.

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)

The first four are pretty much locks: while his show is too bloody to make it into major categories, Hall’s Emmy pedigree and the fantastic nature of his performance should get him the nomination he deserved last year. Meanwhile, “should have won before” Laurie and newcomer and Golden Globe winner Hamm will try to dethrone undefeated Emmy king Spader, and that last slot is up for grabs. I’ve gone with Bryan Cranston’s brave performance in the AMC series, one I need to finish watching at some point (Only got through the opening two episodes). Gabriel Byrne is the other option, but I believe that if Cranston made the Top 10 people were watching, and he would have performed well on the panels.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)

Those following the Emmy race will sigh at that last name – while the first four are more or less locks based on name recognition and showy performances, the fifth candidate in this category is somewhat more open. However, with previous nominees like Mariska Hargitay and Minnie Driver waiting in the wings, the chances of an actress from a science fiction series breaking through are slim. However, frak that kind of logical thinking: I want to have hope, for once, that they’ll see through the Science Fiction and discover a tremendous performance that is worthy of consideration.

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Assessing the Contenders: Drama Series Catchup (Dexter, FNL, Grey’s, House)

So, last week I was all set to really dig into all of the various submissions that the panels saw in both Comedy and Drama a few weeks ago now, but then life got in the way and I’ve been distracted. It also didn’t help that I had actually seen most of the episode, so I had already formulated opinions and therefore didn’t feel an urgency to write about them (Something I do have when I’m seeing something for the first time). So, I figure I’ll provide some short-form reviews of at least some of the remaining episodes over the next few days, and then offer a more comprehensive overview next week leading up to the nominations themselves. First, a view into the drama contenders.

Drama Series

Dexter – “The Dark Defender”

Synopsis: Dexter, with the help of his similarly crazy friend Lila, confronts his mother’s murderer in an emotional attempt to achieve closure.

My Thoughts: I hate Lila with a fiery passion, and found the character ultimately disruptive, but her role as Dexter’s kindred spirit of sorts was strong. Michael C. Hall is great in the episode, and it displays the show’s usual great use of violence and gore to serve story purposes.

Panel Potential: Unfortunately, its use of blood and gore has been what has held it back, as pretty well all awards potential goes out the window when older voters can’t stomach the show’s bloody reality. So, all signs point to a rough panel performance.

Friday Night Lights – “Leave No Man Behind”

Synopsis: Tension between coach and quarterback reaches its climax, and love triangles and parental strife round out the episode.

My Thoughts: The best episode of the show’s second season, it is most importantly a view into where football and life intersect as opposed to simply the lives of these characters. For the scene where Eric Taylor throws Matt Saracen into a cold shower to wake him up from his depressive state alone, this one’s a winner.

Panel Potential: There’s a lot of strong elements here, from performance to relativity to the standard lives of panelists, so it should have a decent performance (but likely not enough to make up for its poor Popular vote showing).

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Season Finale – House – “Wilson’s Heart”

“Wilson’s Heart”

May 19th, 2008

Last week, I thought House was style over substance for 55 minutes before, in the final moments, it transcended into something more interesting – suddenly, a rather pointless and indulgent episode took an intensely personal turn, and “Wilson’s Heart” had a lot more dramatic resonance by default. Placing Amber in danger is actually an incredibly smart move, mainly because we really don’t know what will happen.

Anne Dudek has been enough of a revelation as Cutthroat Bitch that keeping her in the cast could be a theoretical option, or at least keeping her alive long enough for her to appear as a recurring character. At the same time, this episode in particular did a great job of escalating tension to the point where Amber’s death could fundamentally change these characters enough to justify the whole selection process that resulted in three new cast members in the first place.

The result is a finale far less interesting or eventful as last week’s finale, but a hell of a lot more tension-filled, and with a lot more dramatic interest – I didn’t really care about House’s head games last week, but this is the most that I’ve cared about a patient on the show in forever. And in a procedural show that is too often self-centered on House, it was great to see a final hour that barely even dealt with his head in favour of Wilson, 13, and more people who really needed their time in the sun.

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