Tag Archives: The Big Bang Theory

Being “Wrong” in Lost, The Big Bang Theory and So You Think You Can Dance

Being “Wrong”

December 17th, 2009

In an interview with GQ this week (where they were joined by J.J. Abrams and the rest of the Bad Robot crew), Lost co-executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse spoke candidly about their anxieties going into Lost’s sixth and final season (if not so candidly about what that season will involve, as per their spoiler policy leading into the much-anticipated swan song for the series). And in the span of that conversation, Lindelof shared their concern regarding what message viewers will take from the upcoming season:

“But in a lot of ways, the storytelling this year is just us telling people that they were wrong. They’ve built up theories for five years. When a show like this gets to a certain point and then it’s “Oh, man, we were cancelled,” people get to bring their theories with them to the grave. With us, it’s basically like, “No—you’re wrong.” And some people may have been right. Who knows?”

Questions, after all, beg answers, and only those of us with extraordinary will power have managed to avoid hatching an elaborate theory (or two, or twelve) about the island or guessing at where certain characters will end up by series’ end. But what happens when the show has built up five seasons worth of fan-generated answers, only to systematically disprove 99.9% of them over the course of the sixth season? Their job has, as a result, expanded to not only providing answers that satisfy plot or character, but also answers which are so satisfying that they also convince the audience that being “wrong” is not something to be ashamed of.

Because people don’t like being wrong, as a general rule, and they can often respond negatively (likely with “No, you’re wrong!”) when a show seems to be dead set on devaluing their theory, or ignoring a relationship they “ship,” or eliminating a contestant they cheer for. And reading that GQ interview, and witnessing the a Big Bang Theory fan community over the past months, and finding myself responding to tonight’s So You Think You Can Dance finale as if it were “wrong,” I’ve realized that we shouldn’t vilify being wrong; in fact, it’s probably one of the most powerful emotional connections we have to television.

[Spoilers for the So You Think You Can Dance Season 6 finale, and extended ruminations on the question of “wrong,” after the break]

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2009 Golden Globe Nominations: The Hollywood Fetishist Press Association

The Golden Globes nominations are out (Check out the TV specific list here, or the full list here), and provided you have no expectation of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association being logical in their selections they’re about what you would expect. So, in other words, they’re kind of ridiculous.

For the most part, the nominations are driven by four separate impulses, all of which are almost like fetishes that the HFPA (who are mysterious and generally not very reputable) refuses to give up year after year. Their desire, at the end of the day, is to create nominees that bring in audiences and that provide them a false sense of credibility: after all, if every A-list Hollywood star who happened to be in a movie this year gets nominated, who dares to question what the Golden Globes aren’t connected with popular culture?

Of course, when it comes to both film television there’s much more involved than popular culture, so let’s take a look at the three main impulses of the HFPA (on the TV side, at least), and then after the jump offer a bit more analysis.

The “Star” Fetish

If you’ve been on a hit show before, your chances of being nominated skyrocket. Julianna Margulies, nominated for the Good Wife, spent years on E.R. Courtney Cox, nominated for Cougar Town, was on a little show called Friends. Edie Falco, nominated for Nurse Jackie, was on another little show called The Sopranos. These aren’t always undeserving nominees (I don’t entirely disprove of any of these candidates, although Cox is not even close to the best thing about Cougar Town), but they are always there as much for their previous fame as they are for their current role.

The “New” Fetish

The HFPA wants nothing more than to be relevant, but their idea of relevancy is fetishizing the new. Yes, Glee fit into the show’s love for musicals (which, after all, kind of have their own category in the film awards), but it was also something new and shiny, which gets Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, and Jane Lynch nominations. And Modern Family, without a single other nomination on the board, sneaks into Best Comedy Series – I’d say it’s because you just can’t separate anyone from the ensemble, but frankly it’s just because the Globes only value it for its newness.

The “HBO” Fetish

When in doubt, you can presume that a HFPA member has turned their television to HBO: the network’s pedigreed garnered a host of nominations which in some ways fly against the previous lenses, both positive (Big Love grabs three noms for series, Bill Paxton and Chloe Sevigny, Hung grabs acting nods for Thomas Jane and Jane Adams) and negative (Entourage picks up a best series not over Hung, Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara, Anna Paquin gets nominated over Katey Sagal, etc.). It’s like HBO is their default, which isn’t always a terrible thing (I really liked Hung) but does feel like a leftover impulse from the Sopranos era considering the breadth of great drama/comedy on other cable channels (Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad).

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Cultural Catchup: The Week in Comedy

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!).

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

  • 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)

This is a battle that I have spent a lot of time thinking about, and even spent an entire post handicapping the category very carefully. There are three major contenders in this race (Baldwin, Carell and Parsons), and all have really compelling cases for their victory. While Shalhoub has won before (too many times), and Sheen is on a very popular show, and Clement is hilarious in his submitted episode (Carol Brown FTW), they are all out of this race that boils down to the safe, the overdue, and the next big thing.

As you’ll see in my handicap post, I think all actors have something going for them. Baldwin has a gimmicky performance that is integrated into all of the stories in his episode (which would be screened in its entirety for voters), Carell displays a pivotal moment for his character while nicely straddling that line between idiot and genius, and Parsons provides the single-most satisfying scene in the show’s two seasons. When you balance those things out against each other, it’s tough to pick a winner based on their tapes alone, especially as they all have their downsides (like Baldwin lacking subtlety, Carell lacking in broadness, and the rest of Parsons’ submission proving less effective).

So, then, it becomes about stories. Baldwin is a safe choice since he won last year and there are no signs of the 30 Rock train slowing down any time soon. And Parsons is (rightly) considered the next huge comic talent that could really breakthrough with a win here. At the same time, Baldwin is too safe a choice in some respects and his submission isn’t as good as last year’s, while Parsons is still young and one feels he is going to have plenty more opportunities to win this award.

As a result, my mind goes to two years ago. It was Alec Baldwin’s first year competing for 30 Rock, before the show really picked up, and the award seemed like a battle between his celebrity and the celebrity of Steve Carell, who was competing for the second time for his work on The Office. However, to the surprise of just about everyone, Ricky Gervais took home the award for his time on Extras, a decision which genuinely shocked people (even Gervais, who didn’t attend the ceremony).

And, as such, I think Steve Carell is going to pull a Ricky Gervais, just as I thought after watching their three submitted episodes. It’s a likeable performance for a character who some may view as unlikeable, and it’s an emotional performance from a show that some people might think cruel and cold. It’s the kind of performance that proves how vital Michael Scott is to the show and how crucial Carell’s characterization is to ensuring its success. And, while Baldwin might be the safe bet and while Parsons might be the epitome of a dark horse, I’ve got my money on the main in the Woman’s suit.

Predicted Winner: Steve Carell (The Office)

The Michael Scott Paper Company arc was the best thing about a strong season for The Office, and its conclusion was one of those moments where the show’s subtle qualities (especially in Carell’s performance) were on full display.

Dark Horse: Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

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Handicapping the 2009 Emmys: Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Emmy2009Title

Handicapping the 2009 Emmys

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Earlier today, as part of my catchup with The Big Bang Theory’s second season (which I’ll talk about in greater detail once I’m done), I came to the episode that Jim Parsons, nominated for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series at this year’s Emmys, has submitted for consideration. Then, sorting through some shows kicking around, I stumbled upon Alec Baldwin’s submission from 30 Rock in the same category, “Generalissimo.” Considering this crazy random happenstance, I figured it was only fitting that I sit down and rewatch “Broke,” Steve Carell’s submission for his work on The Office, in order to complete the trifecta.

Yes, there are six nominees in this category, but realistically the only three that have a chance are the ones listed above. The only two acting races where I would say there are three or less potential candidates are both comedy lead categories, as a combination of tape quality and prevailing opinion will shut out the other three nominees (Charlie Sheen, Tony Shahloub, Jemaine Clement). Once you get to these three, however, things become quite complicated: each has a fairly compelling narrative for victory, and perhaps more importantly they have three very different submission tapes that cover some diverse territory.

At the end of the day, all three actors deliver funny performances, but I think it’s going to come down to which tape best combines the award show narrative and a performance worthy of the Academy’s attention.

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2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis: Power to the People?

Emmy2009Title

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 Award Predictions: Outstanding Comedy Series

Emmy2009Title

Outstanding Comedy Series

Predictions

There is very little chance that 30 Rock won’t be running away with this category, which means that the other nominees aren’t going to really matter at the end of the day. However, there are a few shows in a position to make a big splash should they be able to break through into the category, especially for a couple of CBS sitcoms looking for their moment in the spotlight.

One can presume, right off the bat, that 30 Rock, The Office and Two and a Half Men will be garnering nominations based on popular vote, having been clear favourites of voters over the past number of years. The other three spots, however, could go in different directions. Last year, Entourage, and Curb Your Enthusiasm rounded out the category, but with the unpredictability of the popular vote combined with Enthusiasm taking a breather, the door is open for some new faces (especially with an extra nominee).

Only one of them, of course, is actually new: Showtime’s United States of Tara was the only real buzzworthy comedy debut of the year (Parks and Recreation proving too mixed to make an impact), driven by a strong (and likely Emmy-nominated) lead performance from Toni Colette and the Hollywood swagger of Diablo Cody. The show has a shot at making the category, but it will likely have to fight it out with stablemates Weeds, which has been close in the past, and Californication. Still, it feels like there’s room in the category for a new show, and Tara might just be it.

The other two shows with a real shot are How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. HIMYM has the rising starpower of Neil Patrick Harris and four strong seasons in its favour, while The Big Bang Theory is slightly more populist and comes from the much revered Chuck Lorre. I’d say that Jim Parsons will be the latter’s breakthrough, so if one of them finds its way into the category my money’s on HIMYM. It’s a definite long shot, but this is around the time that Scrubs broke into the category and I think fears over its premature cancellation are gone, which could allow it to gain some more credibility.

HBO, meanwhile, is likely to stay in the category with stale but apparently popular Entourage, and it’s impossible to discount Family Guy, submitting into the Comedy Series category with a big campaign and trying to overcome the stigma facing animation. ABC would like to think that Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives could benefit here, but the shows have disconnected from the Emmy base for good outside of their performers. All in all, it’s really going to come down to just how popular the popular vote skews, which is a variable we can’t really predict properly at all.

Predictions for Outstanding Comedy Series

  • 30 Rock
  • Entourage
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Office
  • Two and a Half Men
  • United States of Tara

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Predictions

There is no category at the Emmys that will be less contentious in terms of deciding the nominees than this one, where a number of current favourites, a few old favourites, and one newcomer are going to duke it out: there’s six slots available, and I’d tend to argue that there’s really only seven contenders, making for a disappointing wakeup call for one individual.

Returning to the category will be four of five of last year’s nominees: Lee Pace rode a lot of popular support for Pushing Daisies last year, but shows that were canceled in December aren’t going to make it to the Emmys nine months later. This leaves Charlie Sheen, Steve Carell, Tony Shalhoub and winner Alec Baldwin, a competitive group (although my money’s still on Baldwin).

The two remaining spots are really divided between three people. First, you have previous favourites Zach Braff and David Duchovony. In the latter case, Duchovony was expected to get a nomination last year but failed to make the category; if the voters were supportive of him but the panels didn’t like his morally corrupt character on Californication, he could make it in this time around. Braff, meanwhile, got a tearful sendoff on Scrubs this season, and his fame coupled with the show’s return in quality could make him a contender (if not the show itself, which was off the radar for too long).

They’re likely duking it out for one spot, however, since Jim Parsons is the talk of the category. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to beat out Carell and Baldwin, but Parsons has been delivering an absolutely amazing performance on The Big Bang Theory, equally broad and nuanced in a way that indicates a real talent. The show around him is rarely as good as his ability, but the way he manages to bring humanity to this cold and unfeeling character is noticeable even for non-fans of the show, a quality that makes him a definite dark horse and a likely nominee (he’s announcing the nominees, after all).

This all doesn’t leave much room for even any other competitors: while I could cheer for Zachary Levi, Chuck was definitely a critics’ darling more than it was an industry darling, and outside of a left-field guest star nod for Chevy Chase the show won’t connect with voters.

Predictions for Lead Actor in a Comedy

  • Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”)
  • Steve Carell (“The Office”)
  • David Duchovony (“Californication”)
  • Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)
  • Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”)
  • Charlie Sheen (“Two and a Half Men”)

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Upfronts Analysis: CBS 2009-2010 Fall Schedule

UpfrontsCBS

CBS 2009-2010 Fall Schedule

May 20th, 2009

If you’re looking for surprises, why the heck are you watching CBS?

It’s the question we face all the time, really, and I’m sure advertisers feel the same way: CBS never really gives them any reason NOT to buy ads on their shows, considering that they are by far the most consistent network, but at the same time they make so few changes every year that it’s hard for the ad buyers (or us as critics) to really get excited about what they have to offer.

Their new shows are really the only thing of much interest usually, but admittedly I think that their schedule changes this year are quite perplexing and worthy of some analysis. CBS is a network that is trying to maintain their existing image while building new hits, but two decisions in particular are quite strange and indicate a sign that CBS is trying to look further into the future than it might seem like at first.

Full schedule and analysis after the jump.

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