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More “Not Boring” Than Usual: Surprises Elevate the 2010 Primetime Emmys

More “Not Boring” Than Usual:

Surprises Elevate the 2010 Primetime Emmys

As a whole, the Emmy Awards live and die on surprise: sure, there’s always favourites, but the idea that “anything can happen” is what keeps us watching a show which so often punishes us for becoming emotionally involved. For every pleasant surprise there has been soul-crushing complacency, and so we watch hoping that something will cut through the pain in order to give us some sense of hope for the legitimacy of these awards.

And while we eventually leave each evening lamenting numerous mistakes, comfortable in our superior knowledge of what is truly great in television in a given year, I don’t want that to obfuscate the moments of transcendence. Sometimes, moments come together that defy our cynical expectations, moments that find the spontaneity in the scripted or make the spontaneous feel as if it was planned all along. And while I remain the jaded critic that I was before the show began, any chance of carrying that attitude through the entirety of the show was diminished at the sight of Jon Hamm booty-dancing towards Betty White, and all but gone by the time Top Chef finally ended The Amazing Race’s reign of terror over Reality Competition program.

It was a night filled with surprises, whether in terms of who was winning the awards (with a huge number of first-time winners) or in terms of emotional moments which resulted from those winners – sure, there were hiccups along the way, and there were still a number of winners which indicated that the Emmys are still stuck in their ways, but there was enough excitement for me to designate these Emmys as “not boring.”

In fact, I’d go so far as to say they were more “not boring” than usual.

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

  • 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)

Five heavyweights and one newcomer, defining a race that’s all about recognizability and not actually about the submissions being made…on the surface.

What makes this category interesting is that Glenn Close really doesn’t have a real shot of losing the award. She’s got just as much credibility as she had when she won last year for Damages’ first season, and she put forward yet another season of strong work on the series. She’s submitted its tense conclusion (which, full disclosure, I never got around to watching since the season got too uninteresting for me to continue), which gives her that element of added drama, and by playing the essential villain in the piece (a somewhat misunderstood villain, even), it’s the kind of performance that voters are really going to see stand out.

And the thing about this category is that there isn’t much variety, so Close’s familiarity and consistency is unlikely to lose when it won against more or less the same contenders last year. Field submitted poorly, and the procedural cop nature of Hargitary/Sedgwick/Hunter doesn’t seem like it can match her intensity. This leaves only one other competitor, young Elisabeth Moss, the first of Mad Men’s accomplished female cast members to garner a nomination.

The problem with Moss is that she has a one scene submission: outside of her amazing sequence with Pete in his office discussing the events of a year previous, she isn’t in a lot of the episode, and because entire episodes are submitted to voters to watch they’re likely going to be wondering just where she is the rest of the time. That scene is incredibly important when you’re a viewer of the show and understand the context, and there’s no question that Moss is stunning in it. The problem lies in the fact that it won’t have that impact with voters, who will see a great episode of television but one in which she plays a supporting role. While I think that submitting in Supporting is misleading to the role Moss/January Jones both play on the show, it does seem like the category would have worked better (where they show only the scenes the nominee is in) for this particular example.

Predicted Winner: Glenn Close (Damages)

I don’t think enough has changed since last year, nor do any of the other actresses have an amazing enough submission tape, for Close to be knocked off of her throne. Hopefully next year sees a bit more divorce lineup of competition and perhaps some room for some surprises.

Dark Horse: Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Predictions

Like with Lead Actor, chances are there are going to be a lot of familiar faces in this category, as veteran actresses in showy roles are unlikely to disappear from last year’s ballot. The difference here, though, is a bit more uncertainty in terms of how the popular vote will fall and who will benefit from the extra spot and someone potentially dropping from the category.

Glenn Close, who won last year for Damages, is a lock for another nomination, as are Sally Field and Kyra Sedgwick who will remain perennial nominees at this stage. This leaves three spots, which could go in a number of directions. The safest bet may be to give two of them to last year’s nominees, Mariska Hargitay and Holly Hunter. However, I have an odd feeling about Hunter, and Hargitay is one who I think benefited more from screeners than she may have from the popular vote, which creates some opportunity for some new blood.

While that may seem like a logical segue into another actress, I think the most likely individual is January Jones. Mad Men’s ladies were entirely unrepresented last year, a sin considering how great they are, but this year one would expect either Jones or Elisabeth Moss to break through. The reason Jones is the obvious choice is that Moss really had her big storyline in the first season; she was great in the second season, and part of me prefers her to Jones, but there is something iconic about Betty Draper and her connection with her husband (guaranteed nominee Jon Hamm) that is likely to pull voters towards her.

Also circling is Mary McDonnell, whose portrayal of President Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica reportedly made the Top 10 last year. It’s a showy role, and SciFi did their best to remind voters that this is their last chance to nominate her for her stellar work. At the same time, it’s still a science fiction series, and the emotion of her final scenes in “Daybreak” or her anger in “The Hub” are more powerful for fans than voters.

Speaking of fans, Anna Paquin has to be considered a contender; no, winning the Golden Globe doesn’t mean anything when it’s a Golden Globe, but she’s a former Oscar winner (if you haven’t seen The Piano, do so immediately) and the show has garnered a real following and has HBO backing its campaign. The show’s a bit too campy in order to break into the series race, but Paquin’s character shows some skin, has an accent (a bad one, but still), and has highly emotional storylines – that’s a solid recipe for Emmy.

Also on the periphery: Jeanne Tripplehorn, who is now the only of Big Love’s wives to be submitting in the category, Patricia Arquette, who continues to garner attention for newly-relocated Medium, and Jill Scott, whose Botswana-shot No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency was well-received critically and where she has a highly dramatic, engaging performance that could sneak in under the radar. I’m aware that she’s a definite long shot compared to former Oscar nominees slumming in television, but sometimes doing predictions I get bored and want to go out on a limb.

Predictions for Lead Actress in a Drama

  • Glenn Close (“Damages”)
  • Sally Field (“Brothers & Sisters”)
  • January Jones (“Mad Men”)
  • Anna Paquin (“True Blood”)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”)
  • Jill Scott (“No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”)

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