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2009 Emmy Awards Nominations Predictions: The Tale of the Tape

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The Tale of the Tape

July 15th, 2009

Heading into tomorrow morning’s nominations (5:30 Pacific Time, so 8:30 Eastern and 9:30 for me in the Atlantic time zone), there are a few certainties, and a few question marks. I talked before about the uncertainty of the popular vote, which places a show like Lost somewhere in between an equilibrium of popular shows like House and Grey’s Anatomy and more critical/industry favourites like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Here, it’s tie to take a look at some of the big stories that could emerge from the nominations, as well as a glimpse at some of the categories that I didn’t get to during the week. So, let’s get the Tale of the Tape.

Mad Men = The New Sopranos?

Last year, Mad Men racked up an Emmy for Drama Series, a nomination for Lead Actor and Best Supporting Actor, and five other statues (including Writing for Matthew Weiner). The question now really comes down to just how much the show’s second season is going to increase those odds. Chances are that one of the show’s two leading women will break through, now much more household names when it comes to the show’s success, and there’s room for more supporting players at well. If it follows the Sopranos pattern, it could break through big – if it, however, gets held back by being on AMC, it could end up with roughly the same nominations.

The Year of CBS?

It may be unlikely, with far more popular shows in terms of Hollwood and the Emmys in the category, but How I Met Your Mother is at the point where its breakout year might be upon us. Neil Patrick Harris is hosting, the show’s ratings have solidified it as a hit in its own right, and it is no longer in fear of cancellation which makes it seem like the kind of show that will be around for a while. It has to compete with stablemate The Big Bang Theory, which has Jim Parsons breaking out in a big way, and Two and a Half Men, but that two more legitimate Emmy contenders than the network had a year ago (and, in my mind, two more than it should have, but that’s neither here nor there). Combine with a chance for The Mentalist’s Simon Baker, and CBS is maybe not just the people’s network anymore.

Breaking Bad Breaking Through?

Last year, Bryan Cranston won in a bit of a shocker in the Lead Actor category for his work on the other AMC drama, Breaking Bad. Many have taken that win and viewed it as a sign that the show, which got even better in its second season, has a chance of breaking through in its own right. I’m of the mind that it will, but Cranston’s win was as much for his lack of a win for Malcolm in the Middle than it was for his brave performance, so it will be interesting to see if the show can join Cranston in the Emmy race. It has the benefit of having aired fairly recently, but it’s yet to be seen if it can break through on the popular vote.

The Final Chance for Battlestar Galactica

A real chance of breaking into the Drama Series race, or the various acting categories, just isn’t in the cards; Battlestar Galactica may have had an amazing finale, and its actors may have stepped up more than ever before, but in a popular vote competition it just isn’t going to get the support it needs. Mary McDonnell is going to get pushed out of her category, although remains a long shot candidate if things get really weird, but the show’s real chance lies in both writing and direction. There’s probably room in those categories for Ronald D. Moore and Michael Rymer, as they’ve been represented before, so it will be interesting to see if they can pick up those nods. They’ll also dominate the special effects categories, with the Visual Effects team easily picking up their third Emmy.

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Left on the Cutting Room Floor: “Deadlock,” Editing and Soap Operatic Indulgence

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Left on the Cutting Room Floor:

“Deadlock,” Editing and Soap Operatic Indulgence

Last weekend, still stewing in frustration over “Deadlock,” [my review] the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica, I tweeted the following to my twitter followers:

Pretty sure I could write five blog posts this week delving into points of contention on last night’s BSG. I must resist this.

As you can see, I lasted until this morning, as I have in weeks past, before needing to delve back into episodes that frustrated me, trends which concerned me, and that voice in my head that for all of my enjoyment of BSG’s four seasons is extremely cynical about the show’s direction when the show ends in three weeks. The last three episodes of the show have all felt “off” for me, and I’m at a point where I need to see something in tonight’s episode, “Someone to Watch Over Me,” that convinces me less of Katee Sackhoff’s talent or Bear McCreary’s musical genius and more of Ronald D. Moore and David Eick’s vision for completing this thing in only 4 more hours of television.

I am aware, of course, that these hours are really only 43 minutes, and that in that amount of time the show only has time to do so much. In fact, on numerous occasions this year, there have been moments where I’ve wondered what was left off the cutting room floor, and how some content seemed ill-fitting for particular scenarios. And after reconsidering “Deadlock,” and reading some of the interviews with the show’s writers regarding episodes like aforementioned Deadlock and No Exit, I’ve come to a conclusion that somewhere, in those minutes of uncut footage and those ideas not followed through on, there might have been a way to quell my cynicism.

But we got a love triangle instead.

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Cultural Flashback: Tim Kring and the Fall of ‘Heroes’

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Cultural Flashback:

Tim Kring and the Fall of ‘Heroes’

My brother asked me this week why I hadn’t yet commented (like Mo Ryan at the Chicago Tribune or James Poniewozik at Time) on the emerging story wherein Tim Kring, creator of NBC’s former-hit Heroes, referred to people who watch his show live weekly “dipsh**s” while discussing the show moving away from serialization in a recent appearance.

Now, clearly, this is hideously uncool and condescending coming from someone who runs a show that is only surviving due to these kinds of devoted fans, and who is being forced to dial back serialization as opposed to it happening naturally. But to be honest, my emotional attachment to Heroes is so low right now (five episodes behind and counting, I think) that it didn’t really affect me: I just shook my head, wondering whether the man seriously even understands his own show.

There was another element to my detachment, though, and that is an element of “I told you so.” Last March, only two months into the life of Cultural Learnings (aka when likely very few of you were reading), myself and Matt Elliott (formerly of BE Something, a TV-focused blog, and now writing very intelligent pieces on generational workplace scenarios at Y Working) got into a lengthy discussion about the state of the two big serial shows of the time, Lost and Heroes. Remember, this was at the point before Lost’s tremendous third season really hit its stride (and before the amazing twist of Through the Looking Glass, which led Matt to renew his faith in Lindelof/Cuse), so Matt’s original article discussing what Heroes could do to avoid “becoming like Lost” was not as crazy as it might sound today (in other words, don’t hate on his article, he meant well).

Matt made a tremendous number of fantastic suggestions for Heroes’ future that would have done some good, but in writing my response my point was simple: with Tim Kring at the helm and with an already overbloated cast, I did not foresee a scenario where they would, or even could, implement the things that could save the show. I was not, in fact, a believer.

I don’t repost this to toot my own horn, though, so much as I repost it to remind us of a time when Heroes could have been saved, where the man at the helm could have made decisions that would keep him from having to degrade his own audience in an attempt to make his show seem…I don’t even know what he was trying to do. And, as they again attempt to reboot the series to become more relevant, maybe some reminders of Matt’s suggestions could prove beneficial to Kring or, ideally, whoever they get to replace him.

What you’ll find below the fold is my original article with some inserted commentary (consider it to the Director’s Cut) – enjoy!

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60th Primetime Emmy Awards Preview: Nominations Predictions for The “Other” Awards

When people predict the Emmy Awards, they predict the big awards: the ones with names we recognize, the ones that we’ll see on TV, and the ones that we’ll remember when the show is over. However, there are dozens of Emmy Awards given out each year, and when the nominees are announced Emmy fantatics like me will be poring over the epic list looking not just for the usual suspects but rather some of the trends that emerge elsewhere.

And it’s really a question of trends more than individual categories – I can’t possibly predict a category like Best Direction in a Comedy Series, but I can tell you who is likely to be kicking around and what kind of shows will perform well in the category. It’s one last bit of Emmy coverage before we head into tomorrow, where I’ll have live coverage of the nominations themselves followed by the full list of nominees and full analysis of how things went down. In the meantime, let’s discuss the “Other” awards, ranging from writing to directing, guest acting to individual performance, and everything in between.

Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series

Trend: The category is usually used to represent the best in episodic television along with the year’s standout pilots. It’s considered one of the best categories, mainly because of said high quality.

Changes: Unlike last year, there’s no show that is going to dominate with a large number of episodes in the tradition of The Sopranos – only Mad Men has a chance at that.

Watch for: Lost’s “The Constant” seems like a lock unless something goes hideously wrong (Even last year, with the show snubbed, they won a nomination for “Through the Looking Glass,” while the Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Damages pilots might represent new series on the list.

Repeat Offenders: Ronald D. Moore was a surprise nominee for Battlestar Galactica last year, so he could be back. Meanwhile, since three Sopranos episodes made the cut last year, there’s room for some returns – David Simon is likely back in the race for the finale of The Wire, for example.

Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series

Trend: A huge, expansive category representing quality drama pilots and standout segments of established series.

Changes: We don’t know if we’ll see yet another seven nomination kudos list, but if we do it means more of the same from the Academy.

Watch for: In terms of the year’s pilots, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll see cinematic Damages and intoxicating Mad Men on this list (Alan Taylor, who directed the Mad Men pilot, won for The Sopranos last year). As far as other series go, expect Lost’s Jack Bender to pop up again.

Repeat Offenders: Battlestar Galactica could see another nomination here, but Heroes and Friday Night Lights are likely both going to miss the cut. There could be other series, however, that would be more than willing to step in and fill the gap (The Wire and Dexter, in particular).

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Emmy Awards Preview – Nominee Analysis: 30 Rock

While it certainly didn’t come out of nowhere, considering that it had nominations in both lead acting categories, 30 Rock’s Emmy win last year was still a bit of a surprise. However, it was a pleasant one, and signaled and onslaught of critical praise and accolades for a series that (at that point) seemed to be on shaky ground where it matters most these days: ratings.

But with a third season guaranteed and more hardware in the closet, 30 Rock has gone from the upset victor to the perennial frontrunner for the 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. And with great power comes, well, great responsibility; in this instance, responsibility to pick the right submissions to reflect the season’s quality.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Submission: Unknown

My Suggestion: “Secrets and Lies”

It’s hard to pick a single episode to encapsulate an entire season: I think the show’s smartest segment has to be “Rosemary’s Baby,” for a lot of reasons I’ll discuss further below, while part of me gravitates towards “Greenzo,” featuring a fantastic David Schwimmer in the title role. However, I like “Secrets and Lies”: it has a great storyline featuring Baldwin and perennial Emmy favourite Edie Falco, a couple of great moments for Tracy Jordan, and the fantastic ending sequences as corporate republicans reveal their inner demons. Regardless of which they actually choose, however, the deal is sealed either way.

Chances: Definite Nomination.

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Tina Fey

Submission: “Episode 210”

My Suggestion: “Sandwich Day”

In this instance, my suggestion isn’t hostile: the last pre-strike episode may have been rushed, but Fey knocked both her initial interaction with and her late-night phone call sessions to the co-op board of her new apartment out of the park. In particular, the image of Fey on the phone while walking on her treadmill and drinking a glass of red wine while proclaiming that she bought a black apartment stuck with me for a long time. However, “Sandwich Day” had Fey doing what she does best: being neurotic and eating on camera (plus looking really attractive in the dress on the left. An argument could also be made for “Succession,” as Liz goes corporate, but something about that episode didn’t sit right for me.

Chances: Definite Nomination.

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