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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Comedy Acting

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Comedy Acting

June 2nd, 2010

In comedy this year, a lot depends on what shows make it big: we know that Glee and Modern Family are going to make a statement (as noted in my piece handicapping the Comedy Series race), but is it going to be a statement of “this is a great show” or a statement of “this is the greatest show since sliced bread?” The difference will largely be felt in the acting categories: both Modern Family and Glee have multiple Emmy contenders, but it’s unclear whether some of the less heralded performers will be able to rise along with the big “stars,” or whether the halo of series success won’t help them compete against some established names already entrenched in these categories.

Ultimately, I’m willing to say that there’s going to be some pretty big turnaround this year in some of these categories, but others feature quite a large number of former nominees who likely aren’t going anywhere, so it should be interesting to see how things shake out on July 8th. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the four major Comedy Acting Emmys and see where the chips lie.

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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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The Theme Song Lives: 2009-10’s Emmy Contenders for “Main Title Design”

The Theme Song Lives: “Main Title Design” in 2009-10

April 19th, 2010

There’s a lot of news posts out there today which are viewing the elimination of the “Outstanding Main Title Theme Music” Emmy Award as a long overdue decision, a logical move to reflect the “death” of the theme song in modern television. I understand this impulse, and certainly think that there is an element of lament and loss to this particular development.

However, my immediate thought upon hearing this news was that it was perfectly logical: however, it is perfectly logical not because the theme song is irrelevant, but rather because the theme song is no longer a distinct element of a show’s identity. Just look at the winners over the past three years: two went to theme songs to anthology series (Masters of Horror in 2007 and Great Performances in 2009), and the other went to CBS’ Pirate Master (which was a complete and total bomb). The fact of the matter is that these are probably very impressive compositions which have had absolutely no staying power as pieces of music due to their lack of connection with the role of the Main Titles, as I discussed in earnest a few months back.

Really, the award for “Main Title Theme Music” is now wrapped up in the “Outstanding Main Title Design” category – I would personally consider theme song to be part of the opening credits design, and I’m presuming that a good theme has played a role in past winners like Six Feet Under, United States of Tara and Dexter taking the award. While I don’t know if the Academy would go so far as to include composers within this category as a way to honour them for their work (for the record, I support such a motion), I do hope that the role of the theme song within these openings becomes more important. It’s always one of my favourites to predict in each given year, and I think that this almost makes that category more interesting as we see whether a quality theme song plays an even more substantial role in this year’s winners and nominees.

And so out of respect to the composers who continue to write main title themes, and due to my love for both main title sequences and Emmy predictions, I figured I’d run down the contenders for this year’s Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Design (all of which feature effective use of music, albeit some using pre-existing musical soundtrack).

Predicted Nominees

HBO’s Hung

By cleverly combining the most buzz-worthy (the sex) and the most subtle (post-recession America) qualities of the series into a single set of images, the opening very clearly lays out both the tone and the premise of the show in an iconic fashion.

HBO’s The Pacific

I will be honest: I’m not a huge fan of this credits sequence. As impressive as the style of the piece is, and as strong as the theme may be in its own right, I think it’s honestly too long and has absolutely no sense of narrative or function beyond the stylistic flourishes of the charcoal. They’re guaranteed a nomination based on the strong technical work, but I haven’t watched them since the premiere.

FOX’s Human Target

While these credits deserve to be here stylistically, I think that the thematic value of these credits is perhaps their most important role: they very clearly place the series within the area of James Bond through the aesthetic choices, and the great main theme song from Bear McCreary informs us that this will in some ways be a throwback to something familiar and that some would consider to be old-fashioned. It really captures the tone of the series, which is something that any Main Title should strive towards.

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Screw Dramedy: How We Distinguish Between Comic and Dramatic Television

NurseJackieTitle

Screw Dramedy:

How We Distinguish Between Comic and Dramatic Television

November 6th, 2009

Mirror, mirror, on the wall – which television “comedy” is the least comic of them all?

There’s been some great back and forth on Twitter as of late surrounding the rankings of the best comedies currently on television, which is something that always brings out some controversial opinions. While I offered a very tentative ranking done without any sort of indepth scientific analysis on Twitter, I’m resistant to posting a more detailed list (like Jace at Televisionary, for example): I feel like there’s so many different categories of comedies on the air (long-running favourites which are very familiar, series which have improved so greatly that the relativity is almost blinding, and shows that are new and just finding themselves) that to rank them feels false.

However, I do think there’s something to be said for the fact that how we as critics (and viewers in general) individually define comedy is somewhat different from how the networks might define comedy. Genre definition in television is always a little bit slippery, especially when the oft-labeled “dramedy” exists, as has been demonstrated yearly at the Emmys when shows that walk the fine line are slotted into either category seemingly at random. Gilmore Girls is perhaps the most famous example, where Lauren Graham was submitting dramatic performances in a comedy category that perhaps fit the show in general but seemed to be out of place with the show’s highlights. The issue was never resolved (it was never nominated for Emmys outside of craft categories, despite the amazing work of Kelly Bishop/Graham), and right now there is perhaps more than ever before the sense that comedy and drama just aren’t clear divisions.

I was discussing the return of Showtime’s Nurse Jackie (returning alongside United States of Tara on March 22nd) with Maureen Ryan, and in particular I noted that I actively refuse to call Nurse Jackie a comedy. Mo, however, correctly noted that disqualifying Nurse Jackie calls into question a whole lot of cable “comedies,” and that this is a can of worms she (quite logically) doesn’t want to open.

I, apparently, like worms, so let’s dig into just why I refuse to accept certain shows as “comedy” in good conscience (and how my refusal is indicative of the role personal opinion plays in such classifications).

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Cultural News Flash: Podcast, Virtuality Ratings, Tonight’s TV

Off to a family gathering today, so I figured I’d drop a few notes on a number of exciting (or depressing, so as to counterpoint the exciting I guess) notes for the day ahead.

(Myles on) TV on the Internet

Todd VanDerWerff is pretty well known around these parts as a fellow TV critic and friend of the blog (a term I steal mercilessly from Alan Sepinwall, it’s just plain fun to use), but I haven’t given nearly enough attention to the really engaging, wondefully consistent, and now special guest enhanced TV on the Internet Podcast that he does with the lovely Libby Hill. I spent part of last evening defending some of my own unpopular opinions (warning: I’m not nearly objectionable enough, so they’re pretty boring) and more excitingly analyzing some particularly insane (and hilarious) opinions from Todd and Libby. We’re also joined by Carrie Raisler, who I know from my days back writing a bit for Todd’s South Dakota Dark, and who does TV recaps for Zap2it. It was a blast to be on the show, and hopefully the podcast can bring more great guests from Todd’s TV rolodex into the fold with time.

Link: TV On the Internet – Episode 13 – Unpopular Opinions

Virtuality Ratings

I made a note of this on Twitter (a few actually, since bad news always begets bad puns), but any chance of FOX’s Virtuality (Which I discussed Friday night in excessive detail for its position as a pilot being burned off in the summer) being picked up went away yesterday when its ratings revealed a mere 1.8 million viewers and a 0.5 in the key 18-49 demographic. For those who don’t follow ratings news, this is particularly awful even for summer, drawing less viewers than ABC’s Surviving Suburbia (which is less surprising than embarassing) and just not connecting as it needed to in order to feel like it had momentum to gain in the future.

Sure, there’s still a long shot of DirecTV or Sci-Fi (I refuse to call it by its new name) stepping in to save the show, but with an expensive budget, an extensive cast, and considering these ratings, the show really doesn’t have a chance of surviving, which is really a pity as the show came together really well. Alas, it’s another disappointment in a string of Sci-Fi television getting a bump rap, so Fringe and Dollhouse in all their inconsistency (if particularly strong on their highs) will have to do.

Tonight’s TV

Tonight is the beginning for HBO’s Hung, a show about a high school gym teacher who embodies the show’s title and decides when down on his luck to take advantage of it – critics are somewhat divided on the show (some, like Mo Ryan, find it a disappointment, while Alan Sepinwall is a fan of the show and is adding it to his blogging rotation), but I’m giving it a shot tonight regardless and will be back with my review later tonight.

I’ve also taken a look at the first episode of Merlin that NBC will air tonight, “The Mark of Nimueh,” and the show remains what it was before: low budget, simple, and in some ways charming. Tonight’s episodes feature Michelle Ryan (“Bionic Woman”) as an evil sorceress, and the second episode, “The Poisoned Chalice,” has a storyline that focuses more heavily on Arthur, for those looking for more branching off in that direction.

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