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Cultural Learnings’ 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards LiveBlog

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2009 Primetime Emmy Awards LiveBlog

September 20th, 2009

For Cultural Learnings’ complete review of the show, CLICK HERE. For the full live blog, read on below.

I was kind of on the fence about liveblogging the Emmys this year, I really was. Twitter has provided an outlet for quippy remarks and observations that I might have while watching the event, and I ultimately end up writing a huge 2000-word rundown when the show ends so it’s not as if a LiveBlog is going to stand as my only coverage of the big event here at Cultural Learnings.

However, ultimately I want something to be able to refer to when piecing together my final rundown of the night’s festivities, and a LiveBlog seems like the kind of setup that will capture my reaction to the various winners/moments in the ceremony for those who want to know how everything is going down as it’s going down.

So, if you want to follow along with the show or check back later to see my subjective take on a particular moment in the show, here’s where you’re going to want to be. Meanwhile, if you want things elaborate and substantial, check back later tonight for my full analysis of the evening’s winners, losers, and everything in between.

7:20pm: As we wait for the show to begin, feel free to check out my predictions for the big night (the acting categories all link to long analysis pieces of each category): Cultural Learnings’ Full Emmy Predictions.

7:54pm: Enjoying Christine Baranski’s guest spot in a pre-Emmys airing of The Big Bang Theory – an omen for Jim Parsons? Baranski was always going to lose to Tina Fey, but she was damn good in this episode.

8:00pm: And we’re off and running. Television: useful science of the electronic age, indeed. Making fun of Wipeout as “Unsophisticated” is a bit low of CBS, but I guess they don’t have anything quite as lowly…except for Big Brother. Anyways, time for NPH.

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2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis: Power to the People?

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Power to the People?

2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis

The people have the power, and the people have pretty darn good taste.

That’s the story out of this year’s Emmy award nominations (click here for Cultural Learnings’ list, and here for the Academy’s) where a few key surprises and a couple of major snubs indicate that the popular vote was not in any capacity an absolutely travesty for the Academy, as some quite logically predicted. I spoke earlier this week about just what the definition of popular would end up indicating, and the answer appears to be a healthy combination of an appreciation of great television and an eye for trendy selections. The result is an Emmys where nearly every category has a silver lining, and where a few snubs are not enough to give the impression that there’s going to be some very deserving winners in this field.

Mad Men and 30 Rock Dominate

There is no surprise here, don’t get me wrong: no one expected the iron grip of these two shows to stop after dominating last year’s proceedings. However, the scale of that domination is quite ludicrous. 30 Rock has 10 acting nominations, 4 writing nominations, 3 directing nominations, plus its nod for Best Comedy Series and all of its other technical nods. The result is an absolutely staggering number of nominations, and I’m happy about it: I like seeing Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski all get nominations for their work along with Fey and Baldwin, and although the four writing nominations kept other shows out of the running they are four pretty fantastic episodes.

Mad Men, meanwhile, didn’t add quite as many nods, although it did pick up a Lead Actress nomination for Elisabeth Moss, which makes me extremely happy. As I said in my preview, I really expected January Jones in the category, but I prefer Moss’ less showy role at the end of the day. Still, combine with Hamm (also nominated for his guest stint on 30 Rock) and Slattery returning (I’d have preferred Kartheiser, but I’ll take it), and its own four writing nominations (plus a directing nod), and the show is without a doubt dominating on the drama side of things.

Out with the “Popular,” In with the Popular

In the biggest shocker of all considering the popular vote, the Comedy Series category had one shocking exclusion and one suprising (but oft predicted) inclusion. The exclusion is the most popular comedy on television, in terms of viewers – Two and a Half Men failed to secure a comedy nod, something it has done in years previous. This makes me question the definition of popular, especially with the inclusion – Family Guy, the first animated comedy series since The Flintstones to make it into the category. While The Simpsons always chose to compete in the Animation category because it also reflects the work of the animators, Family Guy chose to cut out the animated part and compete with the big boys, and it paid off. However, unlike last year where they could submit their Star Wars special in order to get credit for the animators, this year they’re left off entirely, so MacFarlane’s ego is being boosted at the expense of the show’s direction.

The Sophomores Triumph

No one was quite sure what would happen with Breaking Bad, a second year show that won Emmys last year but without much support around it. Well, we have our answer: although snubbed out of both directing and writing, the series picked up a nomination for Drama Series, and Aaron Paul snuck into the highly competitive Supporting Actor (Drama) category for his work on the show, in addition to Bryan Cranston’s nomination for Lead Actor. Damages also impressed, delivering nominations for William Hurt (undeserved, but whatever), Rose Byrne, Glenn Close, Ted Danson (Guest), as well as Series and Directing nods.

The Freshmen Fail

True Blood had a real shot at some awards love, but it was empathically shut out of the proceedings: it’ll probably contend with United States of Tara for best Title Sequence, but with no Drama Series or Lead Actress love, it’s clear the Emmys didn’t find its vampire story appealing. That’s unfortunate for the show, but it’s a trend: no Freshman series broke into the series categories, and only Simon Baker (The Mentalist) and Toni Colette (United States of Tara) made their way into the major categories.

HBO “Domination”

In a popular vote, nobody quite knew where HBO would end up, but the answer is in far better shape than people anticipated – although Mad Men and Breaking Bad have AMC as the new “it” network, HBO is still holding some cache. Not only did Big Love score a huge surprise nomination as the 7th contender in the Drama Series race, but Flight of the Conchords is honestly the biggest story of the awards. With a Comedy Series nomination, a shocking Lead Actor nomination for Jemaine Clement, plus both writing and directing nominations, the show blew onto the radar like it wasn’t struggling with growing pains in its second season. While everyone saw the show’s Carol Brown getting an Original Song nod, the love wasn’t anticipated. The network also performed well with In Treatment, which missed the Drama Series race but picked up three acting nods (Byrne, Davis, Wiest).

The Year of How I Met Your Mother

I let out an extremely girlish “Yay,” nearly dropping my computer, when How I Met Your Mother was listed as one of the nominees for Outstanding Comedy Series (and I even predicted it!). I know it has no chance in the category, but its nomination is a vindication of the highest order that voters went with the popular vote, and that it jumped from not even being in the Top 10 to being in the Top 7. I call it the Year of HIMYM, though, because Neil Patrick Harris has an open door to pick up an Emmy for Supporting Actor in a Comedy – long live Barney Stinson.

After the jump: Surprises! Snubs! Etc.!

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2009 Emmy Nominations: And the Nominees Are…

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And the Nominees Are…

2009 Emmy Nominations

For analysis of the surprises, the snubs, and everything in between, check out:

Power to the People?: 2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis [Link]

However, in list form, the nominees for the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards are…

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Big Love
  • Breaking Bad
  • Damages
  • Dexter
  • House
  • Lost
  • Mad Men

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU)
  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

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

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • Entourage
  • Family Guy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Office
  • 30 Rock
  • Weeds

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords)
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
  • Steve Carell (The Office)
  • Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)
  • Tony Shalhoub (Monk)
  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?)
  • Toni Colette (United States of Tara)
  • Tina Fey (30 Rock)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (New Adventures…Christine)
  • Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds)
  • Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program)

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

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Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Predictions

There are some years where you expect a lot of turnaround in categories, and this is a fine example of that: Kristin Chenoweth is unlikely to make it back for canceled Pushing Daisies, Vanessa Williams could lose her spot with Ugly Betty’s fall from cultural relevance, Amy Poehler is focusing her efforts on the Lead Actress race, and even last year’s winner Jean Smart could be in trouble with Samantha Who? being canceled. This leaves only Holland Taylor, whose role on Two and a Half Men seems to be pretty safe in terms of garnering another nomination, and thus five spots are potentially open for new entrants into the category.

Chances are that some of those faces will actually be familiar ones, just those which have been out of the category as of late. Elizabeth Perkins has made it here before for her role on Weeds, and there’s every chance that she could return. She could be joined by Conchata Ferrell of Two and a Half Men, who could return depending on the way the popular vote reacts to Two and a Half Men: was its success driven by popularity or by its traditional sitcom familiarity in the panels? Only time will tell, for now.

The one return that feels absolutely necessary is Jenna Fischer, who did some really strong work on The Office and deserves recognition for it after being snubbed last year. Similarly, Jane Krakowski is playing a tough role on 30 Rock, as Jenna is often used in ways that don’t really do the character justice and turn it into a thankless, one-note part of the show. However, when she has strong material (like when she faked her death, or had an epic battle with Tracy resulting in Jenna wearing black face), she’s absolutely fantastic, and deserves to ride the show’s momentum to a nomination.

The new contender in the field, meanwhile, is Rosemarie DeWitt, whose role on United States of Tara showed some nice evolution. While the similarity of this role to her role in Rachel Getting Married (woman jealous of her damaged and thus attention-seeking sister) was at times a detriment to understanding how good she is at it, it’ll work well for voters who know her from that film and who know that she probably deserved a shot at the Oscar with her performance, and likely deserves a shot at the Emmy here.

Predictions for Supporting Actress in a Comedy

  • Rosemarie DeWitt (“United States of Tara”)
  • Jenna Fischer (“The Office”)
  • Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”)
  • Jean Smart (“Samantha Who?”)
  • Holland Taylor (“Two and a Half Men”)
  • Vanessa Williams (“Ugly Betty”)

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Series Finale: Pushing Daisies – “Kerplunk”

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“Kerplunk”

Series Finale – June 13th, 2009

I should have known this day would come.

No, I don’t mean that I was actually in denial that, after the show struggled to regain its ratings foothold towards the end of Season One and bombed out the gate during season two, the show was short for this world, and that its final episode would be tossed aside in a ridiculous Saturday timeslot by ABC. Rather, I should have known when I first watched and fell in love with this pilot, but struggled to convince people I talked to that the show was worth watching, that it would never get the ending I knew it deserved.

When I reviewed that pilot (oh, sorry – “Pie-Lette”), I said the following:

…Pushing Daisies is as much a fairy tale romance as it is a dramatic television series. Unrequited love is one of those concepts that you see a lot of in television, but never has it been so whimsically (and maturely) portrayed. The entire pilot is about love and loss, and how mending those fences can be more difficult than you realize.

We, of course, don’t have Ned’s power to bring things back to life, but if we did I think all of us who watched until the end would, in an instant, touch this show and rescue it from the television graveyard as Ned did with Chuck. However, we can’t do that (although, presuming Lost would be protected, I’d be totally willing to let fate choose which ABC show has to die as a result of keeping it alive), and we’re left with a finale that we know shouldn’t be the end, that promises more than it concludes and that captures in its aquacades and elaborate disguises the whimsy that has set the show on a well-deserved pedestal that ABC chose to knock down late last year.

But I will give ABC credit for inadvertantly assisting in my ability to mend the fences of love and loss, delaying the airing of this episode until the show’s cancellation was no longer fresh. It may still hurt, certainly, but it’s given me a less angry and more celebratory perspective. While not everything you want a finale to be, and ending on a cliffhanger that seemed poised to breathe new life into the series, this finale finds the show joyously entertaining in a scenario and an environment that could only exist in the world of Papen County, the mind of Bryan Fuller, and, as fate has decided, the fond memories of viewers.

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The 2008 Television Time Capsule: Pushing Daisies – “Comfort Food”

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“Comfort Food”

Season Two, Episode Eight

Airdate: December 3rd, 2008

Perhaps it was destiny, written in pie filling the moment the show even aired, or perhaps we can blame it on the usual scapegoats (Writer’s strike, economic downturn, etc.) – regardless, Pushing Daisies has gone from a hopeful future for whimsy to a series destined to be a sought after DVD set of only 22 episodes.

With a majority of the second season’s episodes airing after the show had already been canceled, the season had a sense of bittersweet inevitability: knowing that it would be ending left us trapped between hoping to soak in every last moment and cursing the harsh reality that would soon take it all away. But while it may not have gone through the same sophomore resurgence as Chuck, Pushing Daisies never wavered: it remained, through the 10 episodes aired of the 2nd season, the best darn resurrection pie maker procedural on television.

And while the season had a handful of great episodes, and I have a particular affinity for the costumes of “Dim Sum Lose Sum,” I think that “Comfort Food” is the episode I would choose to represent the series within the Time Capsule. My reasoning is actually decidedly simple: it is an episode about baking pies, solving mysteries and the ramifications of bringing people back to life. It is at its core the episode that dealt most with the show’s central qualities, and it feels like a strong representative sample as a result. Throw in a musical number at the end (Olive’s unrequited love bursting into “Eternal Flame”), and you have a love letter to the show’s fans.

YouTube: “Eternal Flame” via Olive Snook

But what really pits “Comfort Food” over the top is that this familiarity is achieved through two pairings that the show rarely delved into on this level. Ned rarely gets to spend anytime with Olive by herself since Chuck came around, while Chuck and Emerson rarely interact without Ned present as a buffer of sorts. By placing Ned and Olive at the cook-off (complete with a cameo from a character from Bryan Fuller’s Wonderfalls), and sending Chuck and Emerson to solve the problem of Chuck’s betrayal of Ned’s trust, the show demonstrates a willingness to shake things up a little.

But you can’t shake this show’s charm: even cancellation will be unable to entirely wipe away the show’s impact on these actors, and on those who stuck with the show since the beginning. Yes, the show was never a mainstream success, but from a critical and creative perspective few would argue against its inclusion within the 2008 Television Time Capsule. This is a show that people will be watching, I believe, for years to come: and when they come across “Comfort Food,” with the series’ end in sight, I have every reason to believe they will stop, smile, and realize what a fun road it’s been.

Still waiting on those final three episodes, ABC – make it happen or release the DVDs ASAP.

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[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]

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Season Premiere: Pushing Daisies – “Bzzzzzzzzz!”

“Bzzzzzzzzz!”

October 1st, 2008

Sometimes a show isn’t profound, or fascinating, or deep. Sometimes, a show’s originality and charm are what elevate it to the level of being one of the most anticipated returns of the fall season, not a cliffhanger or any sort of buzzworthy (I know, I know) story element.

Pushing Daisies is one of these shows. I’ve always found it tough to blog about Pushing Daisies on any sort of extremely critical perspective: it’s a show that people either love or hate, and falling so strongly on the love side of things I can’t help but be more giddy with excitement than brimming with allegorical readings. If Pushing Daisies offers a cranky Emerson Cod, spastic Olive Snook, optimistic Chuck, awkward Ned, wacky Aunts Lily and Vivian, and more of Digby (Television’s best canine co-star) than I could ask for, I’m not going to be complaining anytime soon.

“Bzzzzzzzzz!” (With exactly nine Zs, I checked) is more of the same: not quite the revolution that Chuck’s second season premiere was for that show’s trajectory, it’s an episode that smartly places the focus on the central premise of the series while allowing the opportunity for almost all of its characters to have their various little moments. Settling in from the end of season drama that we were left with, Pushing Daisies remains what it was before: a comfy, cozy and whimsical universe to escape to for an hour each week.

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