April 23, 2010 · 11:51 pm
“Jackal Onassis Backstage Party”
April 23rd, 2010
“It’s no picnic being the boss, huh?”
When we write about Party Down, we tend to focus on the premise over the characters. Part of this has to do with the fact that we’re all preparing for the fact that the show might lose many of its characters if it gets a third season, so there’s a vested interest in emphasizing its revolving locations and the general focus on struggling actors/writers/show business folk working to support their dreams over Henry or Casey. While we’re attached to the characters, who were certainly one of the most important parts of the hugely enjoyable first season, it’s the diverse engagements that really set the show apart, and which have formed the basis for its most enjoyable episodes.
“Jackal Onassis Backstage Party” reminds us that these characters are very funny, but it also reminds us that the show isn’t used to handling quite this much character. While the dynamics of the first season cast took some time to develop, they eventually formed into something truly fantastic; however, it was rare that the show seemed like it was really spending a lot of time introducing, or renintroducing, or “changing” character dynamics. The second season premiere has to go through a lot of exposition, which keeps the humour from rising to the level achieved last season, but the central premise remains strong, and the changing dynamics work in the show’s favour at the end of the day.
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Filed under Party Down
Tagged as Adam Scott, Casey, Catering, Comedy, Episode 1, Escapade, Henry, Jackal Onassis, Jackal Onassis Backstage Party, Jimmi Simpson, John Enbom, Ken Marino, Kristen Bell, Kyle, Lizzy Caplan, Lydia, Martin Starr, Megan Mullally, Premiere, Roman, Ron, Ryan Hansen, Season 2, Season Premiere, Soup 'R Crackers, Starz, Television, TV, Uda
July 15, 2009 · 4:15 pm
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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Filed under Emmy Awards
Tagged as 2009, 30 Rock, 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, Acting, AMC, Amy Ryan, Award Shows, Battlestar Galactica, Breaking Bad, Cat Deeley, Comedy, Damages, Directing, Drama, E.R., Emmy, Emmy Nominations, Emmys, Friday Night Lights, Generation Kill, Grey's Anatomy, Guest Actor, Guest Actress, Guest Star, HBO, How I Met Your Mother, Jon Hamm, Kristen Bell, Mad Men, Nominations, Nominees, Party Down, Predictions, Preview, Reality TV, Sci-Fi, So You Think You Can Dance, Television, The Amazing Race, The Office, Tina Fey, True Blood, Variety Series, Writing
May 23, 2009 · 3:08 pm
“Stennheiser-Pong Wedding Reception”
May 22nd, 2009
There’s an argument to be made that Party Down is the season’s strongest new comedy, and it’s one that has become progressively easier to make as the season continues. Not to disparage Better Off Ted (which is good but not particularly revolutionary), or The United States of Tara (which was a drama before it was a comedy, realistically speaking), but this out of nowhere Starz series from Rob Thomas and John Enbom simply presented the most complete comedy to debut. A strong ensemble cast is supported by a series of constantly changing party scenarios, ranging from the ridiculous to the personal, where recognizable actors show up as guest stars to complicate the lives of the characters involved; it doesn’t sound too complicated when you really think about it, but it’s essentially an absurdist procedural dark comedy series, and one that has been remarkably consistent.
“Stennheiser-Pong Wedding Reception” is a strong way to end such a consistent season, if not the show’s best episode: like many other comedies, the show is often as its most effective when dealing with heavier dramatic material but at the same time can lose something of its essence. The presence of Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) helps to elevate the finale from a comic level, and Jennifer Coolidge’s continuing guest stint in place of Jane Lynch brings something fun to the table, but this episode is far less about the scenario than it is about the characters. While the series has often ignored the reality of catering in order to allow the characters to mingle about and face little to no actual work, here the whole point is that there is real work: this is the real world, and if you can’t take the heat get out of the barn.
And by the end of the episode, everyone but Henry sort of does.
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Filed under Party Down
Tagged as Adam Scott, Bathroom, Bobbie, Casey, Comedy, Constance, Elton John, Emmys, Entertainment, Episode 10, Finale, George Takei, Grandpa's Eyes, Guest Star, Henry, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, John Enbom, Ken Marino, Kristen Bell, Lizzy Caplan, Rob Thomas, Ron, Ryan Hansen, Season 1, Season Finale, Soup 'R Crackers, Starz, Starz Channel, Stennheiser-Pong Wedding Reception, Sun Eggs, Television, Uda Bengt, Valhalla Catering, Veronica Mars
September 23, 2008 · 1:56 am
“The Butterfly Effect”
Season Premiere, Part 2
[For my thoughts on “The Second Coming,” the first part of the premiere, click here]
When a butterfly flaps its wings, Heroes finally seems to emerge from a season-long cocoon.
“The Butterfly Effect” is not close to capturing the wonder that got the show’s weak writing and poor balancing of the ensemble cast through its first season, but what it represents is a show that is trying to expand its world without flailing about wildly. The show isn’t introducing any new heroes who require long periods of repetitive exposition, or trying to bring in whole new conspiracies and the like; instead, the show is letting its existing characters travel on new trajectories that all relate to a central theme of morality as opposed to a central theme of the end of the world.
If the first half of the finale was about starting to introduce these ideas, the second half puts most of them into motion: Peter’s storyline takes form, Noah Bennett finally returns to his kick-ass self, Kristen Bell is given (at the very least) something interesting to potentially expand upon, and Ali Larter’s new role certainly still raises intriguing questions.
At the same time, though, there’s a feeling that certain storylines are already repetitive, already derivative of past storylines and now dangerously going through the same motions in two straight episodes. If the show can iron out some of those difficulties, I think that the positive can outweigh the negative – if this can happen, Heroes might become enjoyable without qualifications again.
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Tagged as Entertainment, Episode Two, Francis Capra, Kristen Bell, NBC, Part Two, Season Premiere, Season Three, Stephen Tobolowsky, Sylar, Television, The Butterfly Effect
November 12, 2007 · 11:17 pm
“Four Months Ago”
November 12th, 2007
Remember when Heroes began its season by jumping four months into the future, thus robbing us of true resolutions to the few burning questions that last year’s mediocre finale left us? Well, this week’s episode is supposed to make up for the unfortunate start to the show’s sophomore season by filling in the blanks. However, that isn’t its effect, and Tim Kring knew this enough to apologize ahead of the episode airing.
You see, all this episode does is make you realize how much the producers screwed up the first time around. If this had been our first introduction to new characters, or our first visions of returning ones, this season might have started on a completely different note: a good one, even. It’s an attempt at a do-over that was, bizarrely, built into the season structure. And, even though Tim Kring apologized, I still think that there is a lot of blame to be thrown around. Because, while certainly worthwhile, this episode did not resolve every problem that Heroes faces.
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October 22, 2007 · 10:09 pm
“Fight or Flight”
October 22nd, 2007
Five episodes into its first season, Future Hiro showed up on a subway train informing Peter to “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World.” Five episodes into its second season, it might take more than Kristen Bell’s much-anticipated arrival to save a series struggling to get a grip on its own storylines. Will she bring with her the overarching storyline the season so desperately needs, or just a fanboy surge without any last impact?
Obviously, considering that her arc will last a fairly long period of time, it’s hard to judge what impact Bell will have. Her scenes were both sparse and uneventful, her impact limited thanks to either low budgets or the show’s deluge of storylines being juggled. I think her character at least introduces something new to the equation, which is at least the kind of step forward that the show needed at this stage of the game. While it doesn’t quite happen in this episode, even though Peter’s storyline moves forward slowly, there are more redemptive elements present than in weeks before.
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