Tag Archives: In Treatment

Excellence on Selective Terms: Rewarding Series Television at the Peabody Awards

Excellence on Selective Terms

March 31st, 2010

The criteria for earning a Peabody Award, a prestigious honour in the area of electronic media, is listed as follows on the awards’ website:

The Award is determined by one criterion – “Excellence.” Because submissions are accepted from a wide variety of sources and styles, deliberations seek “Excellence On Its Own Terms.” Each entry is evaluated on the achievement of standards it establishes within its own contexts. Entries are self-selected by those making submissions and as a result the quality of competing works is extraordinarily high. The Peabody Awards are then presented only to “the best of the best.”

There’s a whole other post to be made about whether such a blatantly subjective criterion earns the awards the sense of objectivity that they hold, but for the sake of this post I think we can presume that the Peabody Awards have a pretty good track record. They have feted dramas like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Lost, and The Sopranos, while acknowledging comedies like 30 Rock, The Office and South Park; they are not limited to only mainstream fare, with cult hits like Battlestar Galactica getting recognition, nor are they beholden to narrative-driven series television, as reality shows like Project Runway and satire like The Colbert Report have been singled out.

This year, the Peabody Awards added four television series to their ranks, and on the surface there’s some nice diversity: Glee and Modern Family are mainstream hits that made a substantial impact on the television industry this year, while In Treatment and No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency are shows with smaller followings but with some substantial value in terms of performances (in the case of In Treatment) and (in the case of No. 1 Ladies’) a unique relationship with an emerging film industry in Botswana.

However, rather than simply listing the shows awarded and letting us figure out our own reasonings, the Peabody folks have written short and succinct reasons why the shows in question are being awarded. And it is in these brief distillations of their worthiness that the flaws of this process become apparent, as the qualities they point to for Glee and Modern Family demonstrate a selective gaze into multi-faceted, and still developing, series which fails to capture their true appeal in order to focus on their most hyped, and in some cases divisive, qualities. In the process, we start to understand the challenge of rewarding entire series alongside standalone news reports, and we start to wonder why they would so willingly call attention to those challenges with these short and imprecise justifications.

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

  • Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Simon Baker (The Mentalist)

This is, without question, the least predictable race of them all. While yes, the Supporting races are pretty open and could go in many different directions, I don’t particularly like all of those directions. However, there are four people who could win this award, and I’d honestly be happy with any of them (and even one of the people without a chance) to walk away with it.

Simon Baker and Michael C. Hall are the two men who I don’t see walking off with the award, for different reasons. Baker should just be glad to be nominated, and while I legitimately like The Mentalist he’s just not dramatic or weighty enough to hold his own here. As for Hall, I think he’s amazing on Dexter (sustaining it through some less than engaging storylines on occasion), but it’s a tough sell of a performance and the show really gave Jimmy Smits the more explosive side of the acting this season, leaving Hall with really well-executed brooding that won’t connect with voters as much as it needs to.

As for Jon Hamm, this is his second straight nomination and his second time being a strong competitor. Hamm’s performance is also very understated, but Mad Men has a lot of buzz behind it and Don Draper is the absolutely perfect anti-hero that voters could gravitate towards. And Gabriel Byrne, in the second year of In Treatment, continues to gain a lot of buzz and has to be considered one of the hardest working actors in the category considering that there is rarely a single minute on In Treatment in which he isn’t giving a performance, and usually a pretty damn great one. Both have legitimate shots at this award, and I’d certainly be happy to see either win.

But if I had to narrow this candidate down to two, it would be to last year’s winner Bryan Cranston and perennial bridesmaid Hugh Laurie. With Cranston, it all comes down to how much they liked his performance the first time around and how much it was a win defined by his lack of attention for the Emmy-favoured Malcolm in the Middle. Cranston never won for that show, so there was some sense that his win for Breaking Bad was a makeup Emmy, which happens quite often. However, at the same time, he’s amazing on Breaking Bad, and he was apparently just as amazing in the show’s second season, so if nothing has changed is he really going to lose the award?

However, the fact that Hugh Laurie doesn’t have an Emmy after five season of House is itself a travesty: he won two Golden Globes, he won two SAG Awards, and yet the Emmys has never given him an award for his really great work as the eponymous doctor. This is the year where he could break that dry spell: he’s got an intense drug-addiction storyline complete with some intense hallucinations that I found manipulative but unquestionably well-performed, and it really did feel like a bang-up Emmy submission that he knocks out of the park. That’s the kind of boost he might need to conquer this last hurdle in the triple threat of sorts, although if he’s lost three times before with similarly great submissions who’s the say he won’t lose again?

Predicted Winner: Hugh Laurie (House)

However, in the end, I think it’s about time that America once again gets surprised to hear Dr. House speaking with a British accent, this time with an Emmy in his hand.

Dark Horse: Jon Hamm (Mad Men)

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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 Award Predictions: Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Predictions

This is not a good time to be a lead actor in a drama series.

All of last year’s six nominees are back this year, and almost all of them are likely to return. Bryan Cranston followed up his surprise victory for Breaking Bad’s first season (a nomination driven likely by the fact he was never honoured for Malcolm in the Middle) with an even more impressive second season. Hugh Laurie continues to single-handedly elevate House from its procedural roots, driving the show’s popularity and thus his chances at a nomination. Michael C. Hall is still a hero and a serial killer, a duality he pulls off better than anyone could have imagined. Jon Hamm, whose Don Draper was a complex man of mystery in Mad Men’s first season, became even more complicated in the show’s second season. And Gabriel Byrne, who managed a nod for his grueling In Treatment schedule in the show’s first season, is back again with what is generally considered an even stronger second outing. These five are going to be there again, and that leaves little room for new blood.

The one nominee from last year who could be in trouble is James Spader. His nominations (and wins) were always baffling to critics and viewers alike, and the general theory is that his epic, David E. Kelley-penned speeches were Emmy bait in their finest form. However, this year, Boston Legal has been off the air for months and there is no panel where that speech will be seen – he’s operating entirely on popular vote, and he could be ousted from the category faster than you can quote a Supreme Court precedent.

Waiting in the wings is a tough crowd: former nominee Kiefer Sutherland is back in the race, Michael Chiklis is in his final year of eligibility for The Shield, Kyle Chandler made the Top 10 last year for Friday Night Lights, or Big Love could break through and give Bill Paxton a shot. And, in the longest of long shots, Edward James Olmos is like Battlestar Galactica itself in his last year of eligibility, while Matthew Fox had a slightly lighter season on Lost but is doing fine work in an unfortunately crowded period.

The only new threat to the race is Simon Baker, who has the benefit of being well-liked, extremely charming, and starring on the season’s biggest hit. The Mentalist is the highest-rated new show of the year, so Baker could follow in Laurie’s footsteps and break into the category. On the other hand, he’s never been nominated before, and it could be an example of the Emmys and the viewers not quite lining up.

Predictions for Lead Actor in a Drama

  • Simon Baker (“The Mentalist”)
  • Gabriel Byrne (“In Treatment”)
  • Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
  • Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”)
  • Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”)
  • Hugh Laurie (“House”)

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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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Credit Where It’s Due: The Golden Globes are not (entirely) Irrelevant

globes

Credit Where It’s Due:

The Golden Globes are not (entirely) Irrelevant

It is often very easy to discredit the Golden Globes for being one thing or another, or for not being one thing or another. It is not that these are all false: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are not cinematic or television authorities, and it is often very clear in their choices that their criteria is both highly erratic and highly suspect on most occasions. The 2009 Golden Globes were in part a testament to this particular part of their mystique, with a variety of winners which felt like they were entirely unrelated to the film or television series beside their name.

But we have to admit that there are certain points where this type of crass favouritism can actually intersect with what we as both award show viewers and as appreciators of good film and television considering to be something approaching justice. While I could easily speak to how Slumdog Millioniare’s numerous wins are a result of its international production (Always a big thing with the HFPA, see Babel defeating The Departed), or how Tina Fey’s victory is only the result of her time in the mainstream as Sarah Palin, does this really override the fact that I loved Slumdog Millionaire and that Tina Fey is a comic sensation on 30 Rock?

While the sheer cynicism with which we view the subjectivity of the Golden Globes is not wholly unique within the major awards circuit, I nonetheless feel like it is sometimes overstated in the case of the Globes for the purpose of focusing on those winners that we don’t like while choosing to view good decisions as the exception to the rule. This isn’t going to stop me from attacking the HFPA for being irrelevant with some of their choices, especially as it relates to nominees, but when it comes to the winners I think it’s safe to say that they might have actually paid attention to what they were watching in the past year.

Even if it was, per usual, for the wrong reasons in some instances.

[For a complete LiveBlog rundown of the show, click here!]

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