Tag Archives: Winner

Heating Up Leftovers: Top Chef Season 7 Finale

Heating Up Leftovers: Season 7 Finale

September 15th, 2010

Technically speaking, every Top Chef finale is meant to stand alone – for the remaining chefs, it all comes down to the meal of their lives. However, for the audience sitting at home the finale is the end of a journey, and usually the end of a season of narratives; whether they be rivalries or redemptive arcs, there should be some sort of story coming to an end during each season of the show.

However, Top Chef D.C. never quite found a narrative that it knew how to work with, and the finale is a perfect example of that. Despite the fact that there were a number of potential narratives to build upon, the finale was left to stand entirely on its own without any real connection to previous outings. Sure, the surefire rivalry ended when Kenny left early, but after last season’s finale felt like the show finally getting the showdown we had all been waiting for, the showdown between Angelo, Ed and Kevin felt like leftovers, except that they were leftovers that you don’t remember having but still seem old and tired regardless.

And while the cooking itself wasn’t impacted by this particular concern, my emotional attachment to the conclusion most definitely was.

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American Idol Season 9 Finale: In Defence of Kris Allen

Season 9 Finale: In Defence of Kris Allen

May 26th, 2010

I’ve got a lot to say about this season of American Idol and the future of the franchise without Simon Cowell, but I’m going to be saving those for a Jive TV column in the coming days. However, since that piece will be more wide-reaching than tonight’s results, I want to comment briefly on two things.

The first is that, in case you didn’t notice it, Idol got a rare insurrection from quality music when Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago” was used to soundtrack the package of Lee and Crystal’s auditions in Chicago and their Idol journey. I would highly suggest you look up Sufjan if you have not been privy to his music in the past, as “Illinois” (the album on which the song is featured) was truly a revelation for me.

The second is that I think people are falling prey to an easy but ultimately false analogy when it comes to tonight’s results. Kris Allen was, in fact, the eighth American Idol, and there are plenty of arguments to be made that Adam Lambert deserved to win that season, but I think we need to make a distinction between “relatively” undeserving winners and undeserving winners.

[That’s more or less a spoiler, but I figure that if you read this blog and have been watching enough to understand that it’s a spoiler, you probably found out already, so come back after the break and I can defend Kris Allen some more.]

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Who Won So You Think You Can Dance Canada Season 2?

SYTYCDTitle2

Who Won SYTYCD Canada Season 2?

October 25th, 2009

Since I’ve been home this year, and since it has as a result been on every Tuesday evening, I’ve been following So You Think You Can Dance Canada where I didn’t last year. What I’ve discovered is that this is a show that can be really engaging for the reasons that any dancing competition show is, but that it constantly claims to be something “different.” It’s a weird cultural superiority scenario, wherein the mosaic we like to consider ourselves part of is somehow reflected by the decision to classify genres of dance more distinctly or how what the American show is claiming as progress (Tap Dancers! Krumpers!) was already achieved this season in Canada. The judges, as I ranted about early on during the competitive rounds, are also far too nice, often failing to critique routines that deserve some sort of constructive feedback.

It’s all part of the reason why I found tonight’s finale anti-climactic, as its celebratory tone was not that different from the self-congratulation that defines the show. I don’t think the show is misplaced in thinking itself to be entertaining or valuable to the development of Canadian dance, but there’s a point where that becomes the “point” of the show. And the result is that I actually don’t think we’ve spent enough time with these contestants for me to really suggest I am invested in them, or for that matter that the show is invested in them. The finale only further cements this fact, with some strange (if not entirely unjustified) approaches that indicate once and for all that this is not a show about dance so much as it is about how Canada is so uniquely situated to host a show about dance.

And tonight, Canada picked their ambassador.

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

  • Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Simon Baker (The Mentalist)

This is, without question, the least predictable race of them all. While yes, the Supporting races are pretty open and could go in many different directions, I don’t particularly like all of those directions. However, there are four people who could win this award, and I’d honestly be happy with any of them (and even one of the people without a chance) to walk away with it.

Simon Baker and Michael C. Hall are the two men who I don’t see walking off with the award, for different reasons. Baker should just be glad to be nominated, and while I legitimately like The Mentalist he’s just not dramatic or weighty enough to hold his own here. As for Hall, I think he’s amazing on Dexter (sustaining it through some less than engaging storylines on occasion), but it’s a tough sell of a performance and the show really gave Jimmy Smits the more explosive side of the acting this season, leaving Hall with really well-executed brooding that won’t connect with voters as much as it needs to.

As for Jon Hamm, this is his second straight nomination and his second time being a strong competitor. Hamm’s performance is also very understated, but Mad Men has a lot of buzz behind it and Don Draper is the absolutely perfect anti-hero that voters could gravitate towards. And Gabriel Byrne, in the second year of In Treatment, continues to gain a lot of buzz and has to be considered one of the hardest working actors in the category considering that there is rarely a single minute on In Treatment in which he isn’t giving a performance, and usually a pretty damn great one. Both have legitimate shots at this award, and I’d certainly be happy to see either win.

But if I had to narrow this candidate down to two, it would be to last year’s winner Bryan Cranston and perennial bridesmaid Hugh Laurie. With Cranston, it all comes down to how much they liked his performance the first time around and how much it was a win defined by his lack of attention for the Emmy-favoured Malcolm in the Middle. Cranston never won for that show, so there was some sense that his win for Breaking Bad was a makeup Emmy, which happens quite often. However, at the same time, he’s amazing on Breaking Bad, and he was apparently just as amazing in the show’s second season, so if nothing has changed is he really going to lose the award?

However, the fact that Hugh Laurie doesn’t have an Emmy after five season of House is itself a travesty: he won two Golden Globes, he won two SAG Awards, and yet the Emmys has never given him an award for his really great work as the eponymous doctor. This is the year where he could break that dry spell: he’s got an intense drug-addiction storyline complete with some intense hallucinations that I found manipulative but unquestionably well-performed, and it really did feel like a bang-up Emmy submission that he knocks out of the park. That’s the kind of boost he might need to conquer this last hurdle in the triple threat of sorts, although if he’s lost three times before with similarly great submissions who’s the say he won’t lose again?

Predicted Winner: Hugh Laurie (House)

However, in the end, I think it’s about time that America once again gets surprised to hear Dr. House speaking with a British accent, this time with an Emmy in his hand.

Dark Horse: Jon Hamm (Mad Men)

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

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

Five heavyweights and one newcomer, defining a race that’s all about recognizability and not actually about the submissions being made…on the surface.

What makes this category interesting is that Glenn Close really doesn’t have a real shot of losing the award. She’s got just as much credibility as she had when she won last year for Damages’ first season, and she put forward yet another season of strong work on the series. She’s submitted its tense conclusion (which, full disclosure, I never got around to watching since the season got too uninteresting for me to continue), which gives her that element of added drama, and by playing the essential villain in the piece (a somewhat misunderstood villain, even), it’s the kind of performance that voters are really going to see stand out.

And the thing about this category is that there isn’t much variety, so Close’s familiarity and consistency is unlikely to lose when it won against more or less the same contenders last year. Field submitted poorly, and the procedural cop nature of Hargitary/Sedgwick/Hunter doesn’t seem like it can match her intensity. This leaves only one other competitor, young Elisabeth Moss, the first of Mad Men’s accomplished female cast members to garner a nomination.

The problem with Moss is that she has a one scene submission: outside of her amazing sequence with Pete in his office discussing the events of a year previous, she isn’t in a lot of the episode, and because entire episodes are submitted to voters to watch they’re likely going to be wondering just where she is the rest of the time. That scene is incredibly important when you’re a viewer of the show and understand the context, and there’s no question that Moss is stunning in it. The problem lies in the fact that it won’t have that impact with voters, who will see a great episode of television but one in which she plays a supporting role. While I think that submitting in Supporting is misleading to the role Moss/January Jones both play on the show, it does seem like the category would have worked better (where they show only the scenes the nominee is in) for this particular example.

Predicted Winner: Glenn Close (Damages)

I don’t think enough has changed since last year, nor do any of the other actresses have an amazing enough submission tape, for Close to be knocked off of her throne. Hopefully next year sees a bit more divorce lineup of competition and perhaps some room for some surprises.

Dark Horse: Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

  • William Shatner (Boston Legal)
  • Christian Clemenson (Boston Legal)
  • Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
  • William Hurt (Damages)
  • Michael Emerson (Lost)
  • John Slattery (Mad Men)

This is the kind of race that really makes you curious to know just what voters are really thinking about going into the ceremony. This is an intensely deep category, with quite a few potential contenders left to the sidelines, so it’s really a question of what voters are looking for in a winner and how well people’s submissions match up with that.

Last year, no one gave Zjelko Ivanek a chance because he was the character actor in a cast of giants, but with a stunning and emotional submission he was able to beat out a lot of bigger names. And really, that’s what is perhaps most interesting in this particular race: for all of the big names, it might just come down to whose submission really strikes at the heart of what voters want to see.

As much as it pains me, I think Michael Emerson is out of the race. He had an amazing submission last year and wasn’t able to pull out the victory, and his submission this year isn’t nearly as impressive. I would also tend to count out William Hurt – he wasn’t given the material on Damages to win out in a category this competitive, and while his name assured him of a nomination there really isn’t the room for him to pull out a victory. And while I think that he’s done some interesting work, Christian Clemenson is going to get overshadowed by his colleague, and go home empty-handed.

For me, this leaves your perennial winner, your wave of popularity choice, and this year’s Ivanek. For your winner, Shatner has a few of these statues in his trophy case already, and no one can deny that Denny Crane was an enigmatic character that made a lasting impact. The problem is that he has won before, and while voters overlooked the show’s mid-season demise when getting him into the category there isn’t that buzz factor about it. Yes, it’s the last time they could give Shatner an Emmy, but it’s not the first, and that’s going to mean they’re less likely to crown him here.

John Slattery was nominated last year, and I think he does an amazing job as Roger Sterling on Mad Men. The issue with him is that he is really riding the show’s success: he’s got a solid submission, and he certainly does strong work, but he’s also riding the wave of success of his show, winning last year’s drama Emmy and remaining the talk of the town when it comes to award shows.

But yet, I have a feeling about Aaron Paul, who I think is going to walk home with this one. He is the perennial dark horse, but so was Bryan Cranston last year, and I think a young actor really emerging out of the shadow of his Emmy-winning co-star is the kind of story voters can get behind (plus, although I am remiss in watching the show, I’ve heard the submission is really good).

Predicted Winner: Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)

He might be the dark horse, but he’s the kind of story that voters will move towards and that will stand out as a grittier performance in a category of either comic performances (the Legal men), more science fiction fare, and the slickness of Mad Men and Damages.

Runner-Up: William Shatner (Boston Legal)

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Predicting the 2009 Emmys: Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy2009Title

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Predicting the 2009 Emmys

And the nominees are…

  • Rose Byrne (Damages)
  • Hope Davis (In Treatment)
  • Dianne Wiest (In Treatment)
  • Cherry Jones (24)
  • Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy)
  • Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy)

In some ways, this year’s Supporting Actress category on the drama side of things lets us play the prediction game we thought we would be playing last year. Rose Byrne, nominated here for her role on Damages, is more of a Lead Actress on that show than Glenn Close is on most occasions, and while she’s solid in the role it isn’t exactly a mind-blowing dramatic onslaught. However, he screentime alone gives her a huge headstart on her competitors, something that will also benefit both Hope Davis and Dianne Wiest who by design are in every minute of their respective episodes that will be screened for critics.

On that front, it does feel like it is those three who this will come down to, and picking between them isn’t easy. Dianne Wiest won last year, and considering both her name recognition and the power she brings to her role as the therapist’s therapist there’s every chance she could walk away with another one. Hope Davis was just nominated for a Tony earlier this year, and she is also quite well respected: combine with a more vulnerable performance as a patient, and you have another strong contenders from the HBO series. While I think Byrne has a shot at this, I think that for all of her screentime she’s still going to be outperformed by Glenn Close, and it’s not as if Wiest and Davis don’t have Gabriel Byrne to boost their performances in kind.

The only spoiler here, I feel, is Cherry Jones. I didn’t keep watching 24 this year, but all seemed to agree that she was the best thing about it, and the fact that she managed to get nominated when both Kiefer Sutherland and the show were snubbed goes to show you that voters felt the same way. Being a strong presidential figure will help her, but I remain convinced that if neither Gregory Itzin nor Jean Smart managed to secure a win for 24 then it isn’t going to happen no matter how much the season around them makes them look amazing. As for Oh and Wilson, I think that they’re going to struggle to compete with the screentime and stature of the other performers, although both put in good seasons on Grey’s.

Predicted Winner: Hope Davis (In Treatment)

I think voters will want to keep it in the family for In Treatment, and Davis seems like the right choice so as to avoid Wiest dominating the category.

Dark Horse: Cherry Jones (24)

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