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.
Why I’m Not Writing 2010 Emmy Nominations Predictions
July 7th, 2010
Like anyone who follows the Emmy Awards, I have accepted that I will derive equal parts pain and pleasure from this particular interest. While I pride myself in remaining objective about the awards, I wouldn’t follow them the way I did if I didn’t get giddy on Nomination morning and if I didn’t spend the hours after the announcement bemoaning the mistakes the Academy has made. While my interest in the awards may be more intellectual than emotional on average, the fact remains that my analysis comes from a genuine love for the flawed and frustrating notion of award shows rather than simply an outsider’s curiosity surrounding a fascinating nomination system.
And so when I sat down to write out my final predictions, I balked: I’ve handicapped the major categories in comedy and drama, looked at the individual changes for a number of series of interest, and chatted about it on Twitter, and I sort of feel like I’ve run out of momentum. I think I have made most of the points I really wanted to make, and staking my claim on particular nominees doesn’t feel necessary or particularly valuable to me personally. It’s not as if I begrudge those who predict every category, or that I feel they are degrading a complex process: rather, the part of the process in which I have the least interest in is trying to consolidate all of the potential circumstances into a set of predictions that will be almost surely wrong.
You wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that I’m effectively copping out of this particular process, but it isn’t because I’m worried about being wrong: rather, I just feel like I’ve written so much already that going into every individual category seems like a daunting task which would make me less, rather than more, excited about the nominees and the process of sorting through the lists seeing how the races are shaping up.
However, since I don’t want to appear to be flaking out too much, here’s my basic feelings heading into tomorrow’s nominations in terms of who I’m hopeful for and who I’m hoping doesn’t make it onto the ballot, which best captures my state of mind as we enter the next stage of the process.
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.
Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama and Comedy Series
June 1st, 2010
What’s weird about predicting the Emmy nominations (which are on July 8th, for the record) is that it really doesn’t have anything to do with quality: sure, a bad season can certainly hurt your chances at getting an Emmy, and a good season is sure to be of some assistance, but the objective quality of a series doesn’t really matter until they’re nominated. Until that point, it’s one big popularity contest, combining old habits, much-hyped new series, and those nominees who seem particularly newsworthy.
This is why it’s possible to predict the nominees, or at least the long-list of contenders who could logically garner a nomination on July 8th, before the eligibility period even ends (which isn’t really that big a deal this year, as any series which aired the majority of its season before the deadline [like Breaking Bad] will still be able to submit their concluding episodes). And while it may seem a bit premature, I’m pretty Emmy obsessive, and wanted to take some time this week to run down the potential nominees in each category. In the case of the series and acting categories, I’ll single out some who I believe are guaranteed nominations, while I’ll likely be less able to do so with Writing and Directing (which are often much less predictable, outside of a few exceptions).
We’ll start with Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Comedy Series today, both because they’re a bit easier to handicap and because they’re the “big” races. They’re also the categories where I’m willing to put money down on a majority of the nominees, leaving only a few spots remaining for the other series to fight over in the months ahead.
And what a fight it’s going to be.
[Before we start, hats off to the great work of the Gold Derby forum members, especially moderator Chris “Boomer” Beachum, whose work continues to make projects like this a lot easier. Check out their Official 2010 Emmy Campaign Submissions thread for a full list of submitted nominees; you’ll end up there for at least a half hour before you realize how much time has elapsed.]
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.
When you’re selecting the Top 10 shows of the year, you reach the point where you have to ask yourself: what would the year have been like if this show hadn’t been on the air?
And this criteria oddly kept a few shows off this list that I thought would have been here, shows which felt like they made a fairly substantial impact at the time but eventually felt defined more by a single episode than by the season as a whole, or by a single performer rather than the entire ensemble. And then there were shows which I love, shows that hold a special place in my heart and held special places within my End of Decade retrospective, but delivered seasons this calendar year which felt as if they were relying on rather than building on previous success. And then there were shows that I know are objectively better than some of the series which are on this list, but yet never felt integral to the year in television as we know it, that never felt as if they had made an impact on my experience with this medium over the past twelve months. Throw in the shows I just don’t watch, and those which just barely missed the cut despite meeting my criteria, and I’m sure there’s plenty of shows which you would contend should have a place on this list.
However, the shows on this list are a reflection of what was a really great year in television, a year where shows with intense fan support proved to withstand critical scrutiny and where shows with strong reputations delivered seasons that demonstrated intense control over their characters and their journeys. It was also a year where we recognize the joys of the Sophomore Season, where a network shows enough faith in a series to give it a second kick at the can and is rewarded with a creative explosion impossible to ignore. And it was also a year where, according to the list below, the network with the worst track record somehow managed to be affiliated with five of the best shows on television, demonstrating that there are some shows capable of transcending industry finagling to simply be great television.
After a week away in New York, which was really exciting, I came back to a pretty huge backlog. While I might not end up reviewing any individual shows beyond Mad Men (which went up earlier tonight), I do want to be able to comment on the comedy of the past week or so. Drama might be a bit more intimidating (was two episodes behind with both House and Sons of Anarchy), but we’ll see if we get to that in the days ahead (Reality won’t be there at all: Top Chef was predictable, Runway was boring, Survivor was expendable, and Amazing Race was a week ago and similarly uneventful).
For now, thoughts on (deep breath) The Office, Community, Parks and Recreation, Glee, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Saturday Night Live, Modern Family, Cougar Town, The Middle and Greek (phew!).
Like the Lead Actor race, Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category isn’t particularly deep, although it’s got a bit more room for surprise. Not too much will be different from last year, where the category was a runaway victory for Tina Fey, but there’s one new face and a few old faces that could theoretically enter into the Emmy scramble depending on how the popular vote turns out.
Fey is a lock to return, likely alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mary-Louise Parker who continue to give strong performance and continue to have a lot of pedigree with voters. The other three slots could be filled by other returning nominees Christina Applegate and America Ferrera, but Applegate’s show has been canceled and Ferrera’s show might as well have been with its anemic ratings. However, both actresses are integral to the appeal of their show, and past nominations can only help you in a popular vote driven system.
Very likely to take one of the spots is Toni Colette, whose multi-faceted performance as Tara and her three alternate personalities on United States of Tara is what makes the show possible – her supporting cast is strong, but the way she pulls off both a struggling wife and mother and a male Vietnam war veteran who won’t stop sexually harassing women is the show’s most valuable asset, and she stands a legitimate chance at taking this award.
Amy Poehler garnered a nomination last year in the Supporting Actress category for Saturday Night Live, so there’s a chance that she could be back for her role in Parks and Recreation. The question is whether or not the low-buzz comedy, that never quite caught on and which didn’t particularly know how to handle Poehler’s character, made enough of an impact for Poehler’s rising fame to bring her above other more seasoned competitors.
Waiting on the periphery, meanwhile, are the women of Wysteria Lane (absent from the category the last few years), plus voters could theoretically be swayed out of habit to choose Debra Messing and Megan Mullaly without realizing that their respective shows were, you know, The Starter Wife and In the Motherhood. There’s also the potential for Sarah Silverman to break into the category, although this happening in a year that doesn’t involve songs about fornicating with Matt Damon isn’t likely.
Predictions for Lead Actress in a Comedy
Christina Applegate (“Samantha Who”)
Toni Colette (“United States of Tara”)
Tina Fey (“30 Rock”)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”)
NBC is not a network of surprises: it announced its new shows at its Infront presentation, we’ve known about Jay Leno moving to 10pm for ages, and even Chuck’s renewal was something that was pretty well guaranteed before today’s upfronts presentation. At the same time, the network’s schedule is perhaps the most interesting of the major networks since, with less primetime real estate than CBS or ABC, they are working on a whole new schedule and forced to make some important decisions.
It’s a better schedule than I expected, to be honest: yes, the network has been forced to make some tough decisions (My Name is Earl and Medium cut, but potentially returning on another network – FOX and ABC interested in Earl, CBS likely to pick up Medium), but they’ve been pretty smart in how they’ve scheduled everything else. With smart strategies for launching their new comedies, and one last attempt at seeing whether Heroes’ audience is capable of serving as a lead-in, NBC has at least leveraged what momentum they have going into this year (not much) to try to create a schedule that could keep them out of last place.
Even with all that work, though, ten to one Leno ends up keeping them there.
In this week’s first “normal” edition of The McNuttCast, we can’t entirely get away from talking Battlestar Galactica – while I had the privilege of collaborating with Devindra Hardawar and Meredith Woerner on the epic /Filmcast Series Finale discussion [LINK], the Elder McNutt didn’t get the same chance, so there’s a few minutes of BSG spoilers in here that are clearly marked.
The rest of the show, meanwhile, diversifies beyond television to the world of film, music and video games, as my readers get to see whether I actually know anything about these subjects. We discuss the genius of the Where the Wild Things Are trailer, delve into the latest release from local Canadian artist Joel Plaskett, and discuss the dominance and continued evolution of Nintendo’s current position in the video game market. And, of course, I still find time to discuss the state of NBC bubble shows, the Parks and Recreation testing “controversy” and the ratings for Dollhouse’s “Man on the Street.”
In our feature discussion, coincidentally only a day after 30 Rock made a joke about the Canadian Grammys, we discuss the biggest music-based awards show in Canada, the Juno Awards. Don’t worry, our international listeners: we contextualize our anger, and try to make sure that you don’t view the winners and nominees as representative of the best Canada has to offer.
We’re still working on getting onto iTunes (it’s our weekend project), but in the meantime you can listen and download below – full show notes are after the fold! If you have any comments or questions or suggestions of what you might want us to cover, send us an email: you can reach us through either of our sites, or by emailing us (for me, cultural.learnings @ gmail.com).