Tag Archives: Neil Patrick Harris

The Trick is to Actually Watch TV: The 2010 Emmy Nominations

The Trick is to Actually Watch TV: The 2010 Emmy Nominations

July 8th, 2010

The Emmy nominations (which you can find in full here) are less a sign of what’s truly great on television and a more a sign of what the Emmy voters have actually been watching.

Series and performers are nominated for Emmys for one of two reasons: either the Academy members watched episodes carefully and saw them deserving of an award, or they looked at their ballots and chose a familiar name, a much buzzed-about series, or the first name on the ballot. And, frankly, most years the latter seemed to be their modus operandi, to the point where I’ve started to disassociate voters with any notion of television viewership – I’m not even convinced most of them own televisions.

However, for once, I’d say that the 2010 Emmy nominations seem to have been made by people who actually enjoy the medium, with plenty of evidence to demonstrate that voters actually watched many of the shows they nominated and discovered not only the most hyped elements of that series but also those elements which are truly deserving of Emmys attention. There are still plenty of examples where it’s clear that Emmy voters didn’t truly bother to watch the series in question, and all sorts of evidence which indicates that the Emmy voters suffer from a dangerously selective memory and a refusal to let go of pay cable dramedies, but the fact remains that this is the most hopeful Emmy year in recent memory.

It isn’t that every nominee is perfect, but rather that there is evidence of Academy voters sitting down in front of their television and watching more than a single episode of the shows in question, making them less like soulless arbiters of quality and more like actual television viewers – it might not stick, but for a few moments it’s nice to finally see some nominees that indicate voters aren’t so much different from us after all.

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The 2010 Primetime Emmy Award Nominations

The 2010 Primetime Emmy Award Nominations

July 8th, 2010

[For complete analysis of the 2010 Emmy Nominees, head to my full breakdown, “The Trick is to Watch TV,” here.]

Here are the nominees for the 2010 Emmy Awards (and, for added value, my gut feelings in terms of early favourites have been bolded): for all of the awards, click here to download the Academy’s PDF.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • True Blood
  • Breaking Bad
  • The Good Wife
  • Dexter
  • Lost
  • Mad Men

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU)
  • Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
  • Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)
  • January Jones (Mad Men)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Matthew Fox (Lost)

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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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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Official Ballot Miscellany

Official Ballot Miscellany

June 4th, 2010

Earlier this evening, Emmy voting officially began; this isn’t particularly important to us non-voters, but it does mean that the official ballots were released (PDFs: Performers, Writing, Directing), which means that we know who submitted their names for Emmy contention and can thus make our predictions accordingly. In some cases, this simply confirms our earlier submissions regarding particularly categories, while in other cases it throws our expectations for a loop as frontrunners or contenders don’t end up submitting at all.

For example, Cherry Jones (who last year won for her work on 24) chose not to submit her name for contention this year, a decision which seems somewhat bizarre and is currently being speculatively explained by her unhappiness with her character’s direction in the show’s final season. It completely changes the anatomy of that race, removing a potential frontrunner and clearing the way for some new contenders (or, perhaps, another actress from Grey’s Anatomy). Either way, it’s a real shakeup, so it makes this period particularly interesting.

I will speak a bit about some surprising omissions and inclusions in the categories I’ve already covered this week, but I want to focus on the categories that I haven’t discussed yet, including the guest acting categories, writing, and direction, which are some interesting races this year.

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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 – “Dream On”

“Dream On”

May 18th, 2010

I made a case a few weeks ago that Glee would work better if it wasn’t so concerned about plot or character development: if each individual episode were allowed to serve as a standalone story about high school students overcoming adversity through the powers of song and dance, I think the show would feel less rushed, less burdened by the need to maintain something approaching momentum. By focusing on ongoing character arcs, it means that the show’s whiplash storytelling feels like the show is being pulled in fifteen different directions, and characters who appear only occasionally in the “main” narrative feel objectified when they’re given the “spotlight” on rare occasions.

“Dream On,” I would argue, works in a bubble: if you choose to take an entirely anachronistic view to this series, then there are inspirational moments, some decent jokes, and some strong musical numbers, all of which is well directed by Joss Whedon and bolstered by Neil Patrick Harris’ presence. However, once you start thinking about these characters as something more than archetypes and think about where they’ve been in the past and how they came to be in these situations, you start to realize that something doesn’t add up. We’ve seen these stories before, and in some ways we’ve moved past these stories, and the expectation of character development feels betrayed by the apparent regression.

I want this show to be able to show me growth in its characters, and I want it to work harder at developing ongoing storylines that make sense and which enrich the show’s storytelling, but I feel like they don’t have the execution or the vision to pull that together, which makes me wary of the show’s long term prospects amidst the hype surrounding its more successful (and more popular) elements.

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How I Met Your Mother – “Of Course”

“Of Course”

March 8th, 2010

When How I Met Your Mother threw in the towel on Robin and Barney’s relationship earlier this season, I was angry.

The reasons I was so frustrated were, just to be clear, not simple. I was not just a “shipper” of the couple or someone who thought they should stay together forever, someone who responds negatively because the show doesn’t go in the direction I want it to. Rather, I was also annoyed that it felt like the show was abandoning a story which had untapped potential in order to return to its status quo, shallow Barney stories where he turns into a complete womanizer. I prefer Barney when he shows some sense of humanity, some shred of awareness of his own actions, and his relationship with Robin felt like it had the potential to bring that out more often.

For their relationship to end – according to interviews with the creators at the time – just so that the show could return to a more one-dimensional version of Barney’s character felt like it ignored the show’s emotional complexities, and it has in some ways tarnished the entire season for me. While Barney’s womanizing is still funny, it has seemed spiteful and at times even hurtful as the season has continued without giving the breakup time to settle in. Instead of laughing at Barney’s antics, I found myself focusing on Robin, and how she must be feeling to know that Barney is moving on so quickly. In some ways, it bothered me that the show was moving on so quickly, that it was so willing to turn its back on comic and dramatic potential for the sake of returning to something familiar that, let’s be honest, won’t remain fresh forever even with Neil Patrick Harris at his Emmy-nominated, should be Emmy-winning, best.

“Of Course” is effectively the show’s apology, where they admit that there were unseen consequences to Barney’s quick return to his normal self, and where they admit that there was unresolved tensions surrounding their breakup. So, as one of the most vocal critics of the way in which the pair were broken up and certainly the critic most unable to look past it as the season wore on, the question becomes whether this retconning was enough to convince me that the show made the right decision.

The answer to that question is “No,” even though “Of Course” is a damn fine episode of television.

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