Tag Archives: Weeds

The 2008 Television Time Capsule: The Ones That Didn’t Make the Cut

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If you’ve been following along with Cultural Learnings’ 2008 Television Time Capsule [Full links available at the intro post], you will have surely noticed that there are shows I watch that didn’t make the list. I could have just ignored this fact, but in writing the various pieces that comprise this epic journey through the year in television I had to, for my own benefit, justify my decisions.

Here are my reasons for not including various shows on the list, and feel free to comment with any shows you think I unfairly left out of the time capsule for one reason or another.

The Shield (FX)

Last year, it was The Sopranos that had me left behind as the rest of the world of television criticism discussed its ending and the show’s role in shaping a decade of television. This year, I missed out on The Wire and The Shield both, and at a certain point I had to make a decision about which one I wanted to rectify first. The Wire won, which leaves the Shield’s highly acclaimed seventh season, and the six which came before it, on my catchup list for 2009. I reserve the right to dig up the time capsule, should its genius not be overstated.

Breaking Bad (AMC)

I fell behind on a fair few shows last year, but Breaking Bad is the one that feels like the biggest mistake: I could take not finishing off the first season runs of Reaper or Eli Stone, but this is a show that won Bryan Cranston an Emmy, had a really compelling pilot, and has earned a great deal of critical acclaim. The show is returning in 2009, and I do hope that I’ll find time to watch the shortened first season in time to see if season two might find a spot in 2009’s time capsule.

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

After starting out with a great deal of promise, Grey’s Anatomy’s fifth season quickly devolved into a bizarre experiment on how far Shonda Rhimes could push her audience. It wasn’t just the scandalous departure of Brooke Smith, or even Denny’s ghost rising to bring Izzie to a point of emotional breakdown, but rather that the show has at the same time introduced some elements (like the arrival of Kevin McKidd to the cast, or the guest appearance by Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)) that should have made a difference and have been either squandered or terribly conceived. I’m willing to put a show that shows potential but doesn’t live up to it in the time capsule as a lesson, but right now I don’t want anyone following Rhimes’ example.

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2009 Golden Globes: TV Nominations Analysis

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2009 Golden Globe Awards: TV Nominations

December 11th, 2008

Predicting the Golden Globe awards is, quite literally, a devil’s bargain. While the Movies side is its own monster, the Television nominees are perhaps one of the most difficult to predict in all of awards-dom. Yes, the Emmy Awatds are a broken process, but they at least have a structure that allows for observant parties to analyze. With the Globes, it’s about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s whim – it’s what they consider hype-worthy, what they wake up one morning obsessed with, and overall what about 100 obscure and oft-maligned international journalists decide people should be watching.

Which makes this more fun than anything: we can’t take it too seriously, so it’s just a fun head shaking exercise. The big question is what big new show they’re focusing their attention on (The answer: HBO’s cult hit True Blood, although not as much as they could have), which returning shows they continue to be obsessed with much to my chagrin (The answer: HBO’s Entourage), and which nominees actually sneak in to be deserving independent of their trend-driven qualities (The answer: Neil Patrick Harris).

Overall, these nominees aren’t bad, but they do little to save the show’s reputation: while often lauded as potential kingmakers for films during Oscar season, they are still content to pretend that liking HBO is still hip and cool. While they were the first to recognize Mad Men, and will good reason, there were some other cable shows this year (Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, in particular) which probably could have snuck in for some attention. Unfortunately, the awards don’t quite work that way, and I guess we can’t expect them to. All we can do is sit back or, if you’re me and obsessive about award shows, delve into each individual category with critical gusto. So, let’s take a look at the madness.

Best Television Series: Drama

Dexter, House, In Treatment, Mad Men, True Blood

This category tells us a few things. First, it tells us that the HFPA are fans of both Dexter’s dark sensibilities and House’s dour but occasionally light-hearted medical mysteries, along with being big fans of the show’s eponymous performances. Second, it tells us that Mad Men is going to be a show that the HFPA continues to like: after winning last year, the show is back in the awards’ marquee category. The other two nominees are no surprise: often one to pass over great seasons of returning dramas (See: Lost) and shows which don’t have the same international appeal as others, it is no surprise that their interest in international connections, HBO series and hip new series would lead them to the low-rated but Israeli-created In Treatment and the buzzworthy vampire lust of True Blood. If there’s one show missing, it’s AMC’s Breaking Bad, but it couldn’t repeat Mad Men’s successful ascension from AMC to the interest of the HFPA (even with Cranston’s Emmy win), plus it aired quite some time ago.

Best Television Series: Comedy

30 Rock, Californication, Entourage, The Office, Weeds

While I am more than slightly annoyed that it is the uneven and kind of boring Californication and not Pushing Daisies that proved to have legs for the HFPA following their freshman frames last year, I’m more annoyed at their continued obsession with HBO’s Entourage. I just don’t see how the show belongs in this category over some other, much better, comedies. This isn’t a new sentiment for me, sure, but it warrants mentioning. I’m glad that The Office and 30 Rock have both stabilized in this category, something that is difficult for a show like The Office being in its fifth year. Similar to Entourage, Weeds is a HFPA favourite, having been the first to recognize Mary-Louise Parker for her role in the series; they’ll apparently nominate it until the cows come home. Missing shows here include any new network sitcoms (The Big Bang Theory) as well as some deserving holdovers (How I Met Your Mother, It’s Always Sunny…)

For all of the acting nominations, click below.

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Cultural Learnings’ 2008 60th Primetime Emmy Awards Predictions

Last year, during this important period of the pre-Emmy festivities, I had a bit more time to really delve into some key issues. This year, things are busier, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to make some prognostications about the end results. I’m going to be discussing more themes and the like tomorrow in my Emmy Preview, but for now let’s get to what we really care about: predicting who is actually going to walk home with Emmy Awards.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Boston Legal (ABC)
  • Damages (FX)
  • Dexter (Showtime)
  • House (FOX)
  • Lost (ABC)
  • Mad Men (AMC)

There is some wiggle room here, as each some has something (Pedigree, viewership, buzz, etc.) that makes it stand out, but there is nothing on this list quite as emphatically received and, more importantly, different from your standard fare than Mad Men. I’ll discuss more of this tomorrow, but its combination of a small network, a small fanbase, fresh-faced actors and its attention to detail will be unstoppable.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • James Spader (Boston Legal)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment)

This is a category where only one thing is important: that James Spader finally loses. Either Hamm, C. Hall or Laurie are in a position to usurp last year’s winner, and I’ve got my money on Michael C. Hall. After getting snubbed here last year, and with his show in the big race, voters might choose to recognize his brave and fantastic performance even when the show itself loses them with its dark atmosphere. But, this is maybe the night’s most up in the air race.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU)

This race, however, is not up in the air at all. Its highly serialized nature and red herring use might keep it from being the best drama series on television, but there is no way that Emmy Voters can ignore Close’s pedigree with such a richly portrayed character (even if I’d argue that character isn’t nearly as important as voters might think it is to the show’s success).

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Weeds – “Yes I Can”

“Yes I Can”

July 28th, 2008

The title of “Yes I Can” refers to both Sammy Davis Jr. famous autobiography and the drive of Nancy Botwin to remain independent within the existing operation. This storyline drives most of the episode, and while it suffers from some stretches of logic (including the entire purpose of a “front,” but never mind that) it does give Mary-Louise Parker plenty to do and has some potential.

But, really, this episode is about the moments when Silas and Shane Botwin, officially speaking, stopped being the characters they once were. In the beginning, Silas was a teenager of innocence, certainly sexually promiscuous but certainly still finding his footing so to speak. Shane, literally, was a child, someone whose naive world view was tempered with an intense knowledge of its inner workings – he was always smart, but he was still removed from the reality of it all.

This week, though, it’s officially over: these two are not kids anymore, not in the way they once were anyways. Silas’ conquest of Mrs. Rad, Lisa, is forceful and mature: his newfound confidence is almost beyond belief, but the show seems intent on turning him into a sexual animal even weeks before the character’s eighteenth birthday (nudity and all). And Shane, who has had his bouts with insanity in the past, has officially transcended to a whole new realm with his choice of jerk-off material.

Both transitions aren’t beyond the stretch of the imagination, but I’m not quite sure I’m on board enough to trot out Sammy’s answer to the question of “Can you tolerate this?”

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Weeds – “Excellent Treasures”

“Excellent Treasures”

July 21st, 2008

Well, Weeds, you might have run out of goodwill. Thus far this season, as some have been critical of the show’s new direction, I’ve been a herald of prosperous futures. I embraced the change of scenery, cared not for the departure of Conrad and Heylia, praised the introduction of Albert Brooks, and didn’t even blink as the show transitioned Doug and Celia back into the mix without even a wiff of plausibility. This resulted in last week’s episode getting at least a moderately solid review, as Andy’s Mexican oddysey was balanced out by the return of the great dynamic between Celia and Nancy.

But the jig is up, Jenji Kohan. While I felt the change in scenery was breathing life into the shaky framework the show operated on (with some success) in the third season, now it has fully reverted back to retreads of previous storylines in a way that feels neither fresh or organic. What was once a show about people doing things has become a show about things happening to people, and whatever agency the characters have is largely either hideously misguided or just inexplicable. I’m fine with some of this, as it certainly can still be funny, but when I leave the episode thinking mostly of how good the show used to be versus where it sits now I have to be concerned that these “Treasures” just aren’t worth searching out.

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Cultural Learnings’ 2008 60th Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations Predictions

When I started my Emmys coverage for this year’s ceremony a while ago, I (as always) had a lot of plans: previews of every category (Got through a lot), reviews of every submitted episode (Almost got through those), and all sorts of other grand schemes that never come to fruition. This is the nature of being a television critic of sorts: you have a lot to say, but balancing it and the rest of your life (See: Watching Television, clearly) can be a bit of a challenge. Let it be known I took most of that free time doing my duty and finally watching shows like The Wire, Six Feet Under and Flight of the Conchords.

However, there’s no way I could possibly procrastinate on writing up my various predictions. Predictions are one of those things that I think about more than I write about (I tried writing more this year, and after a while it petered off). Great sites like AwardsHeaven or Coco at the Movies or TV with Abe keep detailed lists for weeks or months ahead of time updating when the Top 10s come out, but I tend to ruminate a bit more introspectively. We’ll see how that goes this time around, when our access to the Top 10 lists for various categories makes this task easier, yes, but also far more competitive. But, I’m not in it to win it, so to speak; I’m just an Emmy fanatic who enjoys the thrill of participation.

So, without further adieu, my predictions for the nominations for the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Boston Legal (ABC)
  • Damages (FX)
  • House (FOX)
  • Lost (ABC)
  • Mad Men (AMC)

This is a very hard category to call, and admittedly I’m following my own interests here: there’s every chance of Grey’s Anatomy replacing Lost on this list based on its popularity alone, but something tells me that Lost’s episode submission (The fantastic “The Constant”) will elevate them through. Mad Men and Damages represent the new crop of summer cable hits, while Boston Legal and House should ride baity submission and Hugh Laurie, respectively, to nods.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • James Spader (Boston Legal)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)

The first four are pretty much locks: while his show is too bloody to make it into major categories, Hall’s Emmy pedigree and the fantastic nature of his performance should get him the nomination he deserved last year. Meanwhile, “should have won before” Laurie and newcomer and Golden Globe winner Hamm will try to dethrone undefeated Emmy king Spader, and that last slot is up for grabs. I’ve gone with Bryan Cranston’s brave performance in the AMC series, one I need to finish watching at some point (Only got through the opening two episodes). Gabriel Byrne is the other option, but I believe that if Cranston made the Top 10 people were watching, and he would have performed well on the panels.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)

Those following the Emmy race will sigh at that last name – while the first four are more or less locks based on name recognition and showy performances, the fifth candidate in this category is somewhat more open. However, with previous nominees like Mariska Hargitay and Minnie Driver waiting in the wings, the chances of an actress from a science fiction series breaking through are slim. However, frak that kind of logical thinking: I want to have hope, for once, that they’ll see through the Science Fiction and discover a tremendous performance that is worthy of consideration.

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The Top 10+ Pleasant Surprises of the 2008 Emmy Top 10s

The Top 10 Pleasant Surprises of the Top 10s

[If I was currently wearing a hat, I would take it off in honour of Tom O’Neill’s continued amazing work gathering up leaks in regards to the Top 10 lists of semi-finalists for the Emmy Awards panels taking place over the next few weeks. While he doesn’t have the complete list, I’m willing to go out and indicate the 10 choices (In no particular order, but the top 2 probably are) that actually make me optimistic about the show’s relevancy (Before, admittedly, taking a look tomorrow at the ones that give me no hope at all).]

1. Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)

Category: Lead Actress, Drama Series

Last year when writing up my For Your Consideration posts, I said the following about Mary McDonnell’s work as President Laura Roslin on my favourite Sci-Fi series:

“What I love about Mary McDonnell’s portrayal of the character is that, without fail, you are always rooting for Laura Roslin to succeed except for those moments where she is clearly wrong. In those cases, McDonnell makes you want to see Roslin get let down as easily as possible, in order to ensure that she isn’t too damaged in the process.”

This is even more true this season, where her character finds her cancer back and where a whole new perspective is reached. Her performance in “Faith” is heart-wrenching, and that panels will finally get to see an episode of this fantastic series in the Top 10 warms my frakking heart. This is one of those surprises that gives you faith that the Emmys are willing to recognize performances off the beaten path, if you will, and they don’t get much better than this.

2. Zeljko Ivanek (Damages)

Category: Supporting Actor, Drama Series

When previewing this category, I lamented the likely lack of recognition for Damages other supporting actor contender:

“While he seemed fairly minimal in most instance, sparring with Patty or reasoning with Frobisher, Ivanek burst into the main narrative with “I Hate These People.” Without falling into total spoiler territory, the character took a sudden turn to the tragic, a dramatic fall that was more compelling than anything the other supporting characters went through.”

That he broke through was a highlight for me, a sign that people were watching all of Damages and not just the show’s pilot. Ivanek may have had accent issues, and certainly the show wasn’t near perfect, but his performance in his submission is simply stunning, and I can only hope voters enjoy the time they have with this amazing piece of work.

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Weeds – “The Whole Blah Damn Thing”

“The Whole Blah Damn Thing”

June 30th, 2008

There are certain points in time when I question whether or not Nancy Botwin really understands what she does for a living. It’s one thing that she isn’t a seasoned professional when it comes to the drug trade, such as last week’s embarassing excursion to Mexico, but when she remains so shocked at the voltatility of it all I have to wonder if she even understands her own life. When she programs her new “secret” home into her GPS that Guillermo has access to, why should she be survived that he knows where she lives?

In what was technically an episode about assisted suicide, this is the only real pressing issue: the episode featured some strong performances from Justin Kirk and Albert Brooks, and ushered in a somewhat questionable if also potential-filled scenario that reintroduces Celia into the mix more quickly than anticipated. It’s a quickening of the pace that, following Bubbie’s passing, allows the show to stop dealing with the past and moving forward to the future.

And that’s a good stage for a series putting itself through an identity crisis on purpose.

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Weeds – “Lady’s a Charm”

“Lady’s a Charm”

June 23rd, 2008

When Nancy Botwin is wearing an extremely short dress, her family knows the score: she isn’t shopping for a bed skirt, that’s for sure. After we learned last week that Guillermo had plans for her that went beyond the “sales floor,” it was pretty easy to put two and two together that he had plans to exploit his muse to the fullest, so to speak.

The result is the usual theme for Weeds, as Nancy’s new experiences are told through an alarming sequence wherein she’s way over her head and where Mary-Louise Parker can continue to indicate why she’s so great in this role. It’s at least, though, more of a learning experience for Nancy than before, as she might just have some time to grow into this one without fear for her life…but probably not.

The second episode of Weeds’ fourth season is a lot like the first: a lot of setup with little payoff. This isn’t a bad thing, I’ll stress that point a lot, but it does mean that the most shocking thing about the episode was that Silas got a new haircut. This isn’t to say that Weeds needs to shock us, but it does mean that things are continuing at the snail’s pace the show can be known for.

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60th Primetime Emmy Awards Preview: Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

In the Emmy Awards’ smallest acting category, there’s not much in the way of wiggle room. The small numbers should mean more of a chance of grabbing a nomination for newcomers, like Pushing Daisies’ Anna Friel or Miss/Guided’s Judy Greer, but it’s also one of the most tightly contested of the major categories. This is because there’s a lot of forces at play here: you’ve got the power of the four Housewives, the heritage of Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond and Married…with Children, and the credibility of awards-show favourites like Mary-Louise Parker or Tina Fey.

Combine all of this with last year’s winner America Ferrera, and you have a category where making the Top 10 isn’t enough; you need to have something special that’s going to make you overcome the logjam that could lead to the category’s five nominees. On the one hand, this shuts out a lot of good candidates who probably deserve a shot, as they won’t rank highly enough in the popular vote to have a chance.

However, the one good spinoff is that for the candidates who do have that name recognition, it’s going to be a race that is decided by who has the best tape. The seven or so candidates who have a chance of cracking that Top 5 will have to put forward their best material of the season, and the result is a race that’s going to be very close even if there’s so many “real” contenders.

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