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2010 Emmy Award Predictions: Supporting Acting in a Comedy

Supporting Acting in a Comedy

August 24th, 2010

When it comes to the supporting acting awards in comedy, it’s an interesting microcosm of the larger comedy race: while 30 Rock is unrepresented in a competitive fashion, both races boil down to a showdown between the freshman contenders, Modern Family and Glee.

The problem is that what works from a series perspective won’t work from an acting perspective: the overwhelming positivity of Glee, or Modern Family’s rekindling of the family sitcom tradition, won’t be as evident in acting submissions. However, it will be a part of the process when Jane Lynch’s position as frontrunner is tested, and where we see whether the men of Modern Family can deal with vote-splitting.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
  • Jane Lynch (Glee)
  • Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
  • Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men)
  • Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
  • Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)

With Supporting Actress, Lynch has been the frontrunner from the beginning despite the fact that she’s yet to win anything: with SAG not recognizing supporting players, and with the Golden Globes lumping her in with far more substantial roles like Chloe Sevigny’s, she has yet to found a platform where her comic role could be recognized. It’s a broad, juicy comic role, which makes it an ideal fit in this category. While Glee as a series could prove divisive, everyone seems on the same page that Lynch’s scenery-chewing is some really strong work, and any problems people have with the role are regarding how the writers use her as opposed to Lynch’s performance.

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And Your Winner, by Submission…: Analyzing 2010’s Emmy Tapes

And Your Winner, by Submission…: Analyzing 2010’s Emmy Tapes

July 15th, 2010

Last week, I wrote a piece for Jive TV which described the next step in the Emmy Awards process, and the ways in which this post-nomination period is honestly more interesting for me than the pre-nomination period: as my Twitter followers have noted, I’m a bit obsessive about the submissions process, where the nominated series and performers choose episodes to represent their work over the past season.

It fascinates me because of how unnatural it is: performers can’t simply put together a reel of their strongest moments from throughout the season, they need to find a single representative episode (which, for supporting players, is cut down to only their scenes), and so what they choose is incredibly telling. For example, the cast of Glee have very clearly been instructed to submit episodes which feature big musical performances: Chris Colfer submitted “Laryngitis” because of the show-stopping “Rose’s Turn,” while Lea Michele submitted “Sectionals” based on her take on “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” These might not be their more consistent episodes in terms of overall material, but musically they are character-defining performances, and Glee has decided that this will be its Emmy focus. And yet, for Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch, their submissions don’t work as well when oriented around their most show-stopping musical performances, and so sometimes a series’ approach doesn’t match with each performer.

It’s a delicate balance, and one which I think best captures the equally maddening and addictive nature of this process, which is why I will now take a closer look at the submissions strategy from a number of series: for a look at how they look as categories, and for more submissions I don’t talk about here, check out Tom O’Neill post at Gold Derby.

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: ABC’s Modern Family

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: ABC’s Modern Family

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.]

Last September, I would have called Modern Family the favourite in the Comedy categories, but times have changed: after winning at both the Golden Globes and the SAG awards, Glee has all of the momentum, which means that handicapping Modern Family’s chances becomes a bit more complicated.

A lot of it will come down to how much people appreciate Modern Family’s sturdiness: while it has been related with The Office (for its mockumentary style) and other single-camera comedies, its focus on family dynamics and fairly traditional sitcom plots makes it a far more comfortable show than one might have imagined when it debuted, especially compared to the messy but ambitious Glee. The show, not unlike CBS’ The Good Wife, hearkens back to the classic era of the family sitcom while using the trendy single-camera style, and so the show feels like it would appeal to voters from both camps. The problem, though, is that there are a lot of comedies which “pick a side” a bit more comfortably, and last year’s nominations skewed towards the trendy (30 Rock, Family Guy, The Office, Flight of the Conchords, Weeds, Entourage).

These reservations, however, are more about the series winning than about the series being nominated: there’s no question that Modern Family will be nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, and it will certainly compete in the Writing and Direction categories. The question, though, is in the acting categories, where the entire cast is submitting in the Supporting races. This isn’t a bad reflection of the series’ dynamic (able to mix things up and being anyone into a “leading role” when asked of it), but it makes predicting the categories somewhat challenging, and there’s the risk that the show will garner fewer nominations as a result of vote-splitting.

In Supporting Actor, there are three front-runners: Ed O’Neill has sitcom pedigree (if not Emmy pedigree) that earns him some respect, Ty Burrell was the breakout performer from the Pilot, and Eric Stonestreet was the breakout performer from the rest of the season. The other two floating around the race, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Rico Rodriguez, are in the race but not to degree I wish they were: Rodriguez would probably be my choice if you forced me to pick one of these contenders, but I don’t think he can compete with the big three.

In Supporting Actress, meanwhile, there are two contenders that could easily make it into the race: Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara are playing such different characters (the former as the straight woman, and the latter as accent-accentuated comedy) that they won’t split votes to the degree of the men, which means each could garner a nomination. I think Bowen has a slightly better chance (since she’s been around longer, and was largely well-liked for her turn on Ed), but Vergara is arguably the “funnier” of the two performances, although it’s never clear just how much voters value that within these particular awards.

In some ways, Modern Family’s most direct historical comparison comes from ABC’s Desperate Housewives: yes, they’re very different shows (calling Housewives a comedy is a stretch, really), but both have expansive casts which threaten to split votes, both represent a turning point for ABC in terms of critical and ratings success, and both seem like “ideal” Emmy candidates but could still get beat out by other contenders (in Housewives’ case, by Everybody Loves Raymond). Housewives wasn’t the last time ABC had a nominee in Outstanding Comedy Series (Ugly Betty broke through in 2007), but it’s the first time they’ve had a real contender since then, so we’ll see if the network can finally enter the winner’s circle for the first time since The Wonder Years in 1988.

Contender In:

  • Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet)
  • Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara)
  • Writing for a Comedy Series
  • Directing for a Comedy Series
  • Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Fred Willard)

Dark Horse In:

  • Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Rico Rodriguez)

Should, but Won’t, Contend In:

  • Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Shelley Long, who didn’t submit)

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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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Modern Family – “Hawaii”

“Hawaii”

May 12th, 2010

I don’t think this was, in particular, one of the show’s funniest episodes. There were certainly some clever lines in “Hawaii,” as the show tried out some familiar but not yet tapped out character combinations within the central family, but the show wasn’t going for what you’d call broad humour here.

However, there was a nice sense of realism in the way these stories unfolded; everything reaches a heartwarming conclusion, but rather than undercutting some sort of broad comic satire it seems like a logical extension of a trip which got “real” in a hurry. Everyone was caught dealing with certain realities they hadn’t faced in their daily lives which people are technically supposed to leave behind on vacations, and that led to a focus on these characters as real people in a way the show sometimes elides in its search for comedy.

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Modern Family – “Fears”

“Fears”

March 4th, 2010

I understand sitcom formulas: I know why they exist, I know why they can sometimes be very funny, and I understand why there are quite a few viewers who are in love with them. And while I’m on the record as amongst those who are not quite on the Modern Family bandwagon, I respect a lot of what the show is doing, and do not begrudge it for being formulaic to varying degrees each week.

If I’m being honest, “Fears” was one of the best episodes the show has done in its most limiting formula, the separation of the three families into distinct stories. The theme was consistent, the comedy was varied, and the show perhaps came the closest yet to earning its saccharine conclusion. None of the stories fell too far into comic farce to feel like they were shoehorned into the corny conclusion, and while every story was on the edge of tipping into that land of love and caring that makes me want to throw up, they mostly stayed within something funny and sweet without going too far.

And yes, that’s the most convoluted way of saying “this was a pretty good episode of Modern Family” you’re likely to find.

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Modern Family – “Up All Night”

“Up All Night”

January 6th, 2010

For a show that likes to wrap up each episode with a lesson that defines the show’s themes, I’m somewhat disappointed that Modern Family seems to be unable to learn lessons based on the first part of its season. Now, don’t get me wrong: the show is still early in its run, so I’m not expecting the show to have ironed out all of its problems. However, for a show that is often considered such a “well-crafted” comedy (a quality that I would not challenge in terms of the show’s best episodes/scenes), there’s a point where some fairly serious structural issues are coming to the surface for me as an audience member, and I’m concerned that the level of critical praise for the series will keep them from investigating these problems further so long as the ratings stay strong.

So when episodes like “Up All Night” seem particularly flat, I want the writers to notice that it’s because they separated the families, and that as a result one story felt like an extended comedy sketch, another felt like a series of comedy sketches, and the other rested on its laurels due to the presence of the week’s guest star. There were some token efforts to tie the three stories together, but in the end the show told three stories that felt like they were only firing on one cylinder.

And while, as always, the show is capable of being quite funny on occasion, there are episodes like this one which indicate that the writers aren’t willing to go the extra mile to push the boundaries of their characters or their situations each week. And the Modern Family we see in “Up All Night” is not the show at its finest, and I have to wonder if the creators will bother to recognize that so long as the show remains an “unqualified” success.

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