Tag Archives: Jane Lynch

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: FOX’s Glee

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: FOX’s Glee

July 5th, 2010

[This is part of a series of posts analyzing individual show’s chances at the Emmy Awards ahead of the nominations, which will be announced on July 8th. You can find all of my posts regarding the 2010 Emmy Awards here.]

While critics have been somewhat divided on Glee’s quality, they have been fairly consistent in terms of its importance to the current television landscape: with its unique business models and its nearly earth-shattering levels of hype, the fact of the matter is that Glee is a phenomenon, so in some ways it represents the ultimate test of how “success” measures with the Emmy Awards.

The show has a lot of things going for its beyond the metric ton of promotion surrounding the series’ first season: it has a breakout supporting performer in Jane Lynch, Broadway imports like leads Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele to lend its musical elements some credibility, and some meaningful messages about difference and humanity sharing space with its elaborate production numbers. While I’d argue that Lynch’s Sue Sylvester was inconsistently used, and that Morrison and Michele were overshadowed from a character perspective by Chris Colfer and Mike O’Malley, and that its messaging was highly contradictory at various points, I think Glee is going to get an “A for Effort” by Emmy voters. Sure, the show isn’t perfect, but it’s doing so many interesting and potentially brilliant things that voters seeing only the episodes that work (the Pilot, “Wheels,” etc.) are probably going to look past smaller issues and focus on the parts of the series which brought it so much hype and success.

While part of the show’s appeal is its ensemble cast, FOX’s Emmy campaign has been pretty focused: Morrison and Michele have been labeled as leads and will contend in the category on the strength of their musical performances, while Lynch is the breakout “Comic” side of things and so is a shoo-in for a nomination and a likely favourite to win in the Supporting Actress category. For the most part, though, the more emotional storylines (like Kurt and his father, or Artie and his disability) are being lumped in with the series as a whole, a compliment to the musical performances which set the series apart. And to be fair, while I think Chris Colfer and Mike O’Malley gave the series’ best performances, they weren’t particularly comic, although the same could be said for more or less everyone but Lynch and Heather Morris (whose Brittany was the series’ comic highlight in the back nine).

The series’ best chances for wins, to be honest, probably come in the Guest categories: Neil Patrick Harris, shut out for his work on How I Met Your Mother, gets a number of strong performances and a meaningful (but still funny) storyline in “Dream On,” while Kristin Chenoweth (who won for a quasi-musical role on Pushing Daisies last year) has a similar turn in “The Rhodes Not Taken” which is going to garner her a nomination. These roles manage to capture, within a single character, all of the things that make Glee work, which is not always true for the other characters (Michele’s Rachel, for example, only got to become a dramatic character when her birth mother was revealed, while Morrison’s dramatic material with his ex-wife was a series low point). I’ve often argued that Glee would work better without serial continuity, and these guest roles best capture that sort of fleeting, but powerful, emotional connection the series is going for.

The Glee being sold to voters is the Ryan Murphy-led Glee of “Wheels,” which is perhaps the smartest choice: while I prefer Brad Falchuk-led Glee (“Sectionals” and “Journey,” for example), FOX is trying to connect with voters’ emotions immediately, and the show’s finales are sort of dependent on you having some sort of attachment to the characters in question. The fact of the matter is that Glee is the kind of show which will create those emotional reactions for better or for worse, and I think it will play to its favour with voters: while it might be messy and inconsistent, that isn’t going to matter with Emmy voters who pop the screener into their DVD players and see something completely different than everything else on TV and anything that’s been on TV in the last decade.

And that’s going to go a long way for the show on Thursday morning.

Contender in:

  • Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Matthew Morrison)
  • Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (Lea Michele)
  • Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Jane Lynch)
  • Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Neil Patrick Harris)
  • Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Kristin Chenoweth)
  • Writing for a Comedy Series
  • Directing for a Comedy Series

Dark Horse in:

  • Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Chris Colfer)
  • Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Mike O’Malley)
  • Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Idina Menzel)

Should, but Won’t, Contend In:

  • Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Kevin McHale)
  • Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Dianna Agron, Heather Morris)

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Season (Series?) Finale: Party Down – “Constance Carmell Wedding”

“Constance Carmell Wedding”

June 25th, 2010

In some ways, there could never be a perfect finale for Starz’ Party Down. The show is about people confronting the fact that they might be living their finale, that working for a catering company may be the highest rung they will climb in southern California, and so “endings” are inherently unnatural. Instead, the characters are in a constant state of waiting to become, working hard or hardly working towards the end goal of achieving great success in their chosen field. And so while this may well end up the series finale (due to Starz reinventing itself as a genre network under new management and the middling ratings for the series) of Party Down, it is an episode about failed beginnings more than endings.

While very funny and quite poignant in a number of areas, “Constance Carmell Wedding” suffers a bit under the weight of those final moments, unsure of who would be returning for the following season or if there would even be a following season. Constance’s return is most welcome, and the focus on career goals is well met, but there’s a point where a half-hour comedy just can’t carry the weight of beginnings, endings, reunions, unions and everything else in between.

However, let’s not pretend this means I won’t miss the show should it truly be done, or that I didn’t find the second season to be particularly strong: while it may not have all come together perfectly, it was a confident second season which built on the first season’s success without abandoning its winning formula, and I sincerely hope that the show gets a reprieve if only to see what a third season would look like for these character I’ve come to admire.

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Season Finale: Glee – “Journey”

“Journey”

June 8th, 2010

“Life only really has one beginning and one end – the rest is just a whole lot of middle.”

In his attempts to inspire his Glee Club to achieve despite the nearly insurmountable odds placed before them at the upcoming Regional championships, Will Schuester makes the above remarks. And while I don’t think this was intentional, there’s a wonderful meta-commentary about the show itself in this statement: sure, the fragmented nature of the first season means that there were really two beginnings and two endings, but at the end of the day everything else was just a whole lot of middle that was more middling than I would have desired.

But if the back nine of Glee’s first season saw the series flipping and flailing wildly as it flew through the air, “Journey” demonstrates that this series knows how to stick a landing; in fact, I’d go so far as to say that the show would be amongst television’s best if they did two-episode seasons made up entirely of premieres and finales. Sure, the episode more or less feels like “Sectionals 2: Electric Bugaloo,” following the same patterns as the fall finale, but there is an unabashed sincerity to its storytelling which remains grounded without having to be undercut at every turn. It makes the show feel like it has earned this blanket sentimentality, that it truly has taken these characters on a journey which has changed their lives.

Matt Zoller Seitz wrote a great essay earlier today about Glee’s radical sincerity, but when I think about it nothing about “Journey” felt radical: so embodying the resiliency of the series’ spirit, and unapologetically engaging in theatrics we might have rolled our eyes at just a year ago, Glee proves that even considering all of the hype and success there remains a confident, passionate, absolutely entertaining series about a glee club that, gosh darn it, refuses to stop believing in itself.

And while I’m still going to dock the series some points for its poor form in the air during its back nine, I’m willing to throw up a good 9.5 or so for its landing, as “Journey” is unquestionably a series high point.

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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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Glee – “Funk”

“Funk”

June 1st, 2010

I focused a lot last week on the show’s unwillingness to embrace its continuities, and while I hate to be repetitive “Funk” runs headfirst into the same problem: airing out of order (originally intended to air before last week’s “Theatricality”), the episode has a number of chances to connect its at times random storylines to previous developments, and yet resists at every turn.

It’s especially strange in that the episode returns a couple of recurring characters into the mix, which seems like a great way to justify looking back a bit. The result is an episode which feels like the show spinning its wheels, shifting sharply from some intense dramatic storylines to a pretty stock “guess what? Regionals is coming up next week!” episode.

And even with the joys of song and dance, those episodes just end up being a bit of a snoozefest, and in this case an occasionally problematic one as the show makes a couple of key decisions which take some strange routes to get to some fairly interesting conclusions.

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Glee – “Bad Reputation”

“Bad Reputation”

May 4th, 2010

It’s never good for a show about high school to raise comparisons to Freaks and Geeks, but by choosing “Bad Reputation” as the title for this episode Glee entered into that dangerous territory. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “Bad Reputation” was the theme song to that show, and it has to be said that there was an element of irony in its use. Deep down, all of the characters on that show cared about their reputations, but what set the show apart was that they cared about them for realistic and dynamic reasons that felt true to life. The show never felt like it needed to sensationalize high school to create conflict, and as a result is one of the best shows of the past decade.

I understand that the “point” of Glee is to sensationalize, but the show can’t have it both ways. The problem with “Bad Reputation” is that it wants to come to saccharine and emotional conclusions but it wants to get there through the sort of bombastic, over the top chaos the show enjoys so much. And while a few of the musical numbers nicely encapsulate the way the characters are feeling, the storylines the episode uses to crystallize and set up those qualities are so far off the mark that I never once believed what was happening on screen.

While the message of the episode seemed to be that people shouldn’t worry so much about their reputations in high school, I think we’re at the point where Glee should be worried about its own reputation as it heads into its second season.

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Glee – “The Power of Madonna”

“The Power of Madonna”

April 20th, 2010

Glee, as a series, requires the audience to believe in the power of positivity on a regular basis: regardless of the problems that face New Directions as they chart their new directions, there is a sense of hope and perseverance which lifts them from their somewhat sad existence in rural Ohio towards stardom in whatever form it may arrive. The series’ shameless positivity is one of its most distinctive qualities, an outlook which keeps the show from seeming too critical of its characters and their differences, and while I have some concerns with how that positivity is occasionally used to sort of gloss over its investigations of diversity I think it’s part of the show that should ultimately be celebrated.

However, if I have come to believe in the power of Glee’s positivity, I don’t necessarily think I feel the same about the power of Madonna, or “The Power of Madonna” as an episode of the show entirely predicated on the idea that the ubiquitous singer is somehow a stand-in for all of the values the show represents. Beneath the mountains of hype surrounding this particular episode, you realize that just about everything is taken for granted in an effort to bow down at the altar of Madge: characters rush into decisions for the sake of lyrical connection, allegiances change for the sake of demonstrating the power of Madonna’s message, and not once does a single character other than men behaving driven by sexism actually stop and question whether or not we’re willing to buy the outright idol worship on display in the episode.

Taken as individual scenes, the use of Madonna’s music indicates the quality of her contribution to popular music over the past quarter century; taken as an entire episode where none of those sequences were given the necessary development to create anything even close to real character development, “The Power of Madonna” both reveals Glee’s most fundamental problems and indicates that the show has every intention of pretending those problems don’t exist simply because they know that it will scream “You Must Love Me.”

And, well…I guess I’m “Frozen.” [Okay, seriously, that’s it for Madonna song title puns, the rest of the review will be pun-free. I’m “Sorry” about-DAMNIT.]

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Spring Premiere: Glee – “Hell-O”

“Hell-O”

April 13th, 2010

I considering myself an appreciator of Glee, one of the few “deconstruction-focused” critics who has been writing about the show in a dedicated fashion (some weeks, it’s just Todd and I), but I don’t like that being a “fan” has become an all-or-nothing proposal. I can like the show while admitting that it has some pretty considerable flaws, but it seems like FOX’s promotional blitz has very clearly divided those who are chugging the kool-aid and those who are sipping it politely and discussing the sugar to water ratio, and as someone who falls in the latter category I can already sense that this is becoming one of those shows where any sort of indepth, negative review is going to be attacked for “missing the point of the show” and the like from some – but not, of course, all – viewers of the show.

This is unfortunate because I think how Glee tries to accomplish its goals is actually far more interesting than the goals themselves, as the balance between music and dialogue, or comedy and drama, or fantasy and reality all create some very intriguing problems that Ryan Murphy and Co. have to deal with on a weekly basis. That the show isn’t always successful shouldn’t be a surprise considering the volatile elements it chooses to take on each week, and the idea that its can-do spirit or its exuberance can account for its occasional missteps is the sort of romantic notion that only works in the show’s universe, not in ours.

“Hell-O” is a strong season premiere not because of the hype, or because of the musical numbers that the show chooses, but because those musical numbers are very well focused, the introduction of new characters is well-handled, and the thematic parallels are useful enough that the contrivances necessary to create them are forgivable. After a closure-heavy conclusion that wrapped things up too neatly, the show manages to complicate things quite effectively as it prepares for what appears to be a lengthy run – forgive me if I don’t let the show run around the hurdles every week.

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Hope You Didn’t Take It Seriously (Ricky Didn’t): The 2010 Golden Globe Awards

Hope You Didn’t Take It Seriously (Ricky Didn’t):

The 2010 Golden Globe Awards

January 17th, 2010

I said going into the 67th Annual Golden Globes Awards that I was more excited than ever to watch the show but the least “interested” in the actual awards that I’ve ever been. And that made for an interesting viewing experience as what I was excited for most disappointed me, with Ricky Gervais’ hosting gig becoming a muddled mess from the moment he started.

However, while I’ll get into that below the jump, what’s interesting is how liberating it was to have no emotional connection with the winners: admittedly, I’m usually one of those cynical objective types when it comes to these awards, so I’m not going to be legitimately outraged, but not having been “following” the nominees in detail made the show a lot more fun. It helped me see the show more for what it is, an entertaining amalgamation of what’s popular, whats trendy, and what’s been successful with audiences. And while you could argue the show at times feels like the People’s Choice Awards and other times feels like a Hollywood roast of those who have been around the business forever, it’s never boring.

And although I thought we could have gotten a far better show out of what was on the table, I have to say that I enjoyed watching it. And let’s face it: that’s all the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is really going for.

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More than One Way to Steal a Scene: Thievery in Television Comedy

More than One Way to Steal a Scene: Thievery in Television Comedy

January 6th, 2010

Last night, when watching Better Off Ted, I tweeted the following:

When I made the comment, I was really only trying to say that while I enjoy Lynch’s work on Glee (for which she could well win a Golden Globe in under two weeks) I believe Portia de Rossi is doing some stunning work on Better Off Ted that is being comparatively ignored by the major voting bodies (I’m with James Poniewozik: we need to ensure she remains consistently employed on sitcoms for all of time). However, a few alternate suggestions for television’s best scene stealer made me realize that I was commenting less in terms of who is the better actor, and more on what precisely I consider “stealing a scene.”

The Chicago Tribune’s always spot-on Maureen Ryan made a case for Nick Offerman, whose Ron Swanson is an unquestionable highlight on Parks and Recreation. And my immediate reaction was that, as great as Offerman is and as hopeful as I am that he receives an Emmy nomination later this year, I don’t know if I consider him a scenestealer. Of course, as soon as I say that, she comes back with the example of Offerman simply raising an eyebrow and demanding your attention despite an only observational role in the scene in question, making me look like an idiot.

However, I’m going to argue that our differences of opinion on this issue are not simply the result of my poor memory or our subjectivity when it comes to what we enjoy on television, but rather the result of the various different ways one could define “stealing a scene.” Based on different intersections of acting, writing, and cinematography, I would argue that we all have our own impression of what this term means, as we all have our own readings of each individual show and who the scene in question actually belongs to.

Which is why I didn’t initially consider Nick Offerman a scene stealer, and why I don’t expect everyone to feel the same way.

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