Sunday, December 27, 2009

On The First Day Of Christmas...

On the first day of Christmas my true love – television – gave to me... One Epic Fail.

And surprisingly it wasn't my total failure to write anything for the past how many months?! It was close but... well actually no, it wasn't. Because the epic fail I refer to in this article was the attempt to move Jay Leno into a five night a week prime time series. Whatever they were smoking at NBC when they came up with that one was not just illegal but dangerous to the health. The problem was that it was dangerous to the health of one of the four major television networks, and if you look back to the days of radio, the company that spawned the idea of bringing a string of stations together and forming a more powerful union called a network.

I'm not saying that the prime time Jay Leno show is a failure compared to the hype surrounding the show. It would in fact be difficult for what Leno is doing to live up to the hype. The hype was over the top. If you remember when the show was announced, well before the upfronts, the brain trust at NBC – which at the time was Jeffrey Zucker and Ben Silverman if I'm not mistaken – was saying that this one show with this great host would change the face of television. Other networks would waste their time and considerable amounts of money producing dramatic series while NBC would prosper with equal or slightly lower rating because Leno's show wouldn't be that expensive to do... and this is even factoring in the amount of money they would be paying to keep Leno and his cars in the style to which they have become accustomed. And when you consider that the media en masse bought into the NBC hype – to the point where there were articles in big media (and we're talking Time Magazine here) were pubishing articles about how Leno moving to prime time would change the face of television – it would be nearly impossible to live up to the hype. And it didn't.

The problem with the Leno show is that it hasn't even lived up to NBC's normal standards. Fact one: the show routinely finishes third in its time slot in the ratings each and every week night. Fact two: the show routinely finishes third in the 18-49 year-old demographic each and every night of the week, including on Wednesday night when ABC had been airing the now cancelled Eastwick and Tuesdays when ABC airs the "hanging on by the skin of Jerry Bruckheimer's teeth" The Forgotten. Fact three: the show is not providing as good a lead-in to the local newscasts on NBC's affiliates as just about everyone had hoped. And since the late local news is a profit center for the affiliates they are not happy, to the point where there have been preliminary rumblings that they'll stop carrying the show which in turn will affect audience and advertising revenues for NBC. Fact four: increasingly the quality of guests that Leno is able to attract seems to be in decline. It's not a radical decline but it does seem to be trending down. Fact five: Leno's ratings have not improved when the show was up against reruns. This is a big one; it was always stated by NBC in their packages about Leno that while his show might not win the time slot against new dramatic shows it would perform better against reruns because 46 out of 52 weeks would be new shows. If that's not happening, and it certainly looks as though Leno is only improving slightly against reruns and CBS reruns are winning every night Leno's new shows. We know that hasn't happened when the CBS shows were running up against NBC dramas like the Law & Order franchise and ER. Which brings us to...Fact Six: Running Leno in the third hour of primetime has forced NBC to run their more adult programming – such as the Law & Order series – in the second hour at a time when either the content has to be dialled down or it is totally unsuitable. Or, in the case of the extremely gritty police series Southland they were forced to scrap the series entirely. Southland, which has fortunately found a home on TNT, was deemed to be too extreme for the Friday second hour time slot that it was originally slated to appear in and was cancelled by NBC.

Look, I can see the machinations that were going on at NBC with the whole Leno-Conan O'Brien thing. In simple terms the network had two cakes and wasn't willing to set down either one to safely deliver one of them. When they announced Jar's retirement from the Tonight Show in 2004, the network was undoubtedly worried that they couldn't keep the popular O'Brien in the second late night slot indefinitely and if they didn't move him to the Tonight Show they'd lose him to ABC. And Jay's statement at the time, "You can do these things until they carry you out on a stretcher, or you can get out when you're still doing good," seems to indicate that he may have thought the time had come to go. If that was the case, then the transition would have been smooth, but for many people – even those who thought that if Leno wasn't, "still doing good" – thought that the workaholic Leno would come to regret deciding to step down. And of course he did, which left NBC on the horns of a dilemma. Should they break their promise to O'Brien and keep Leno on the Tonight Show for as long as he wanted to stay, in which case Conan would be out the door and over at ABC or FOX. Or should they hold Leno to his agreement, in which case Jay would have been on ABC or FOX or even the Tribune stations and presumably demolishing Conan O'Brien. So they gave Jay Leno his prime time show and hyped it to make it appear as if it were the second coming of television...which it wasn't. The net result has been bad for Jay Leno – his show is not a good fit for primetime – bad for Conan O'Brien – there's the constant feeling that he's still under Jay's shadow – and good for one man, David Letterman. Since Conan has taken over the Tonight Show ratings for Letterman's Late Show have surpassed the Tonight Show not just overall but in the major 18-49 and 18-35 demographics. And not even the revelation that Dave had, before his marriage, slept with female members of his staff had an effect on that.

I can't fault Jay Leno for the Jay Leno show as much as I probably should. The decision to put the show on the air was after all NBC's. The network was the organization that wanted to keep Jay around at any cost and given Jeff Zucker's frequent musings on abandoning the third hour of primetime putting Leno on there must has seemed like a good idea at the time. Still, if there was anyone left at NBC who had an institutional memory that extended beyond Knight Rider and Bionic Woman they might have hearkened back to the first two hosts of the Tonight Show and what they did after leaving the late night grind. Both Steve Allen and Jack Paar had primetime series on NBC after they completed their runs on the Tonight Show, although Allen's series, which was on opposite The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights, started while he was doing the late night Tonight Show. Allen's NBC primetime show ran for four years from 1956-1960 while Paar's show ran from 1963-1965 (Paar pulled the plug on the show himself). The thing about these shows is that they were both hour long shows, one night a week. While it is entirely possible that the modern television industry would not accept a live hour-long talk and comedy series one night a week they way they did – at least for a while – in the 1950s and '60s, but it would have presented an opportunity for NBC to keep Leno and give Jay a real opportunity to do superior. Just about anyone who has seen even a few minutes of Jay's current primetime show will tell you that what he's delivering isn't the quality of comedy that he's capable of.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Apology Time Again

It's been a while since I've written anything for the Blog. Bad me, because while part of this has been due to circumstances beyond my control, part of it has also been a deliberate policy on my part which has been exacerbated by circumstances beyond my control.

I made a very conscious decision before the start of this TV season that I would not review a new show based on watching the pilot. There are good reasons for not reviewing a show based on the pilot. Inevitably the first episode of any new show is atypical, and that is true for a number of reasons. Pilots are inevitably about introducing people to the characters and situations that they encounter. I won't say that story comes second but the emphasis has to be setting the characters and the premise. Later episodes, after we know who's who and what's what, are inevitably truer to what the show is going to be like than the pilot.

Another thing about pilots is that they really aren't intended for those of us at home. Believe it or not that's true. In most cases pilots are made to sell the shows to the networks. They have to attract and hold the interest of the network executives who choose the shows they're going to air. And to a degree they have to sell it to the professional TV critics who get show screeners (and assorted press kit swag – I wish I could get either one!) well ahead of the premiere date so that they can tell the world how great the new show is (or not; I'm guessing that a lot of this is calculated risk). Often the episodes that they use to "sell" the shows are more spectacular than what appears in the following weeks. Don't believe me? Think about the pilot for Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. The critics raved about the pilot to the point where they were calling it the best of the season, but once the second show aired the critics were picking nits like monkeys grooming each other. Another example: Bionic Woman. That show had a spectacular pilot including the rooftop battle in the rain with Katee Sackoff's evil Bionic Woman. Fabulous pilot but what came afterwards was a steaming pile of crap – and that's insulting steaming piles of crap. Time and again you will see pilots with tons of bells and whistles, explosions and car chases which are never seen again after that first episode.

Pilots are also problematical because of changes in casting and, often more importantly, behind the scenes, with changes in writers, directors, and showrunners. Often these people have a different mindset than the people they're replacing, sometimes taking the show off in a direction than was anticipated in the pilot. So you can review the pilot and discover that the show you reviewed has changed in subtle – and not so subtle – ways. And maybe the result is a show that you like better than the one you reviewed. But maybe the result is not as good if not downright bad.

So that was the reason for holding back on reviewing pilot. It's a good idea... and an experiment that I won't be doing again. Because I wasn't reviewing pilots I got caught up doing other things. Real world concerns intervened. I was sick for a week; felt like crap, and not the good kind but the "Hershey Squirts" kind. There was work that needed to be done in the garden, and then there was the garden produce to deal with – including the tomatoes that my brother grows in his garden but doesn't actually eat himself because he doesn't like tomatoes. And when I actually had time to do some writing I sort of found that I forgot how to write reviews without having that base of mutual discovery that reviewing pilots gives you. It's not quite writers block; I know what I want to say and I know what I like and I don't like about the shows I've seen, I'm just having a problem setting it up. Worst of all I think I've settled into a comfortable pattern of what to watch on a given night. Not good!

I will be back to writing reviews again, probably with some stuff coming out next week. And from now on, I'm reviewing pilots.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Notes on the 2009 Emmys

I have a few notes related to Sunday night's Emmy Awards. They might be of use to someone.

Note #1 – To ABC, NBC, and FOX: Guys this is the way that you do an Emmy ceremony. When you talk about awards shows you usually end up talking about "flow" by which you generally mean the pace and whether or not the transition between segments was smoth and logical. Sunday night's Emmy awards didn't just "flow" they "flew." Things kept moving at a fast pace and that meant that the show, which clocked in a three hours and a few minutes didn't really feel like a show that ran for three hours and a few minutes. A well timed and well paced awards show can be a pleasure to watch. Comparing this year's Emmy awards with last year's fiasco is like comparing a Japanese Bullet Train to the Hooterville Cannonball. Last year you see every spot where jokes or comedy bits were cut to save time. By the time the last award of the night was presented even the presenter was acknowledging that they wanted to get this thing over and done with. By comparison if there was anything cut from this year's Emmys because of a need to save time it really wasn't obvious. Oh to be sure there were one or two moments when things seemed extraneous – I've heard a couple of critics say that they used Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Sminoff's dance before the Reality Show awards section (which consisted of two awards – that's something to look at for next year) as a convenient pee-break – but there were no really obvious problems and a lot of high points. Having Sarah McLachlan singing "I Will Remember You" for the Memoriam segment may not have been needed but was a nice touch, and the decision to use the Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog the way they did was a thing of beauty. There were very few bits of the show last night that I'd want to fast forward through if I hadn't been watching it live.

Note #2 – To CBS: Today – right now in fact, don't read another word before you do this – I want you to go down to the set of How I Met Your Mother and sign Neil Patrick Harris to a contract to host the Emmys the next time you have them. Really, I am serious, and I won't go away while you do it. Neil was the perfect host for this awards show. He didn't take himself or his role too seriously, and really when you are hosting an awards show taking yourself too seriously is death. As Mark Evanier pointed out he was "well aware that the evening was not all about him." That's an important quality. As much as anyone the host of an awards show is like the ringmaster in the circus – he's always present but people really aren't there to see him. Best of all, of course, is the fact that there was only one of him. That's actually a big deal. Last year's fiasco had a lot to do with the lack of a single face for the show. It was confused and confusing and it wasted a lot of time – well actually the whole absurd business of setting up the presentation of the Reality Show Host award wasted a lot of time, but that's beside the point. We've seen shows with two hosts that have worked, but that's a matter of chemistry between the hosts. We've also seen shows with no hosts, where the presenters simply came out, announced by some disembodied voice and that really hasn't worked. One central focus seems to work best, and when it is someone like Neil Patrick Harris who is in charge of keeping things moving, well that's just the cherry on the sundae.

Note #3 – To the Emmy Voters: You people might want to consider not being so locked into the same-old same-old. I mean take a look at the major categories. You voted for last year's winner in:

  • Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
  • Outstanding Actor in a Drama
  • Outstanding Actress in a Drama
  • Outstanding Reality Show Host
  • Outstanding Reality-Competition Series
  • Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Drama Series
  • Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series

The only acting categories where someone won who didn't win last year were the Supporting categories and Outstanding Actress in a Comedy, and probably the only person more surprised than me that Tina Fey didn't win was Toni Collette (of course the most surprised person at the Emmys was Jon Cryer; I mean for heaven's sake he's on Two And A Half Men and they never win anything...ever – Charlie Sheen just shows up for the booze). Don't get me wrong, I think that most of the people who won this year were deserving, which is something that you can't always say, but things are getting a bit predictable when the way to pick winners for an Emmy pool is to say, "Is the person who won last year nominated again? Well put them down and we'll probably be right. Now let's go to that place where they make guacamole at the table." The only thing worse is that the people who are voting for the Emmys seem to be saying the same damned thing.

While we're at it the writing categories are even worse than the acting categories. Are we supposed to believe that there are only two comedies and two dramas that have writing worthy of nomination? Really only one, since both the Comedy and Drama categories each had four entries from one series and one from another to fill things out. This practice needs to change and quickly. Series should either be rewarded for an entire season of writing or be limited to one – at most two – nominees. It is absurd to keep this the way it is.

I should say something nice about the winners. I was happy to see Kristin Chenoweth win for playing Olive Snook in Pushing Daisies even though the nomination seemed like a reward in itself and the win like a massive extension of the middle finger in the direction of ABC. Of course I love Kristin with a heart that is true, in part because she is a real trouper – on Sunday she attended your little Emmy shindig despite a serious Migraine (I read her Twitter feed), and believe me as someone who sometime suffers from migraines that is dedication above and beyond the call. Seeing Michael Emerson win for playing Ben in Lost was also a pleasure. Brian Cranston deserved his win as Outstanding Actor as well. In fact about the only win that I don't fully agree with was Jeff Probst winning for Reality Show Host, but then I'm a Phil Keoghan fan.

Note #4 – To My Emmy Poll Voters: You really really don't know how "well" you performed. If it's any consolation, at least you got Probst right.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Poll Results – What Series SHOULD Win As Outstanding Drama Series?

Final poll of the current Emmy Season and for me this is the big category. Comedy is fine but TV thrives on Drama. So let's get on with the results. Fourteen votes were cast. Tied for sixth place with no votes were Big Love and Damages. In a tie for fourth place with one vote each (7.1%) were Breaking Bad and Dexter. In a tie for second place with three votes each (21.4%) were Mad Men and House. The winner in this category however is Lost with six votes (42.9%).

This is another case where I don't entirely agree with the poll. I haven't watched Lost since the beginning of the third season (when they pulled that "we'll give you six episodes and then pull the show off the air for three months" stunt; it seemed as though they were treating us with a certain amount of disdain/arrogance). Still no one can deny that the show gave us a kick-ass season with plenty of twists and turns, not to mention time travel. Still I just don't think that the Emmy voters will reward the show. Part of it's because it does have the science fiction elements like time travel, and I suppose that in part the Academy is likely to see it as being past it "best before" date. I suspect that Mad Men is more likely to win in the category in part because it won last year and in part because it is a strong dramatic series (no matter what Marc Berman may say). Still, it may be the second best dramatic series on AMC because the network also has Breaking Bad, which won the Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for Bryan Cranston last season. The question is then whether the Academy is willing to give a series about a terminally-ill former science teacher who becomes a drug dealer the Emmy any more than they're willing to give one to show about an ethical serial killer (Dexter) or a pot selling suburban widow (Weeds). I think that House was another series that delivered a kick-ass season but I think it is unlikely to win against the array of cable shows. I'm convinced that while the people who vote in my poll tend to favour broadcast shows, the Television Academy is largely biased towards Cable series. So while I think that House, and Lost have had seasons good enough to win if no biases are figured in I think the probable winner will be either Mad Men or Breaking Bad. But that's just a guess on my part.

The Emmys air tonight. I don't think that I will be live-blogging the awards tonight (if I had a laptop and could report as I watched) it might be different but as it stands I have to run between the living room where the big screen TV is and my bedroom. There just isn't time to do a good job of reporting during commercial breaks. I will try to summarize the show after it ends though.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Emmy Poll Results – What Show SHOULD Win Outstanding Comedy Series


When I put up the poll for Outstanding Drama Series I fully intended to post the results for the Outstanding Drama Series I fully intended to get these results out within a few hours. Stuff kept popping up that had to get done (like digging potatoes) or that had a definite time line. Or that I've become increasingly involved with. eRepublik you are a harsh and unforgiving mistress... but if anyone is interested in giving it a try please sign up using this link (for every ten people that I "invite" and who make Level 6 I get a lollipop – well really some in-game gold. If you do sign up and are American or Canadian be sure to sign up in a region that is still American or Canadian – right now theres a big war going on and Canada is partly occupied by Hungary(?!) and Iran (?!?!) while the USA is partly occupied by Hungary, Russia(!) and Colombia (?!?!?!)).

Okay, there's the plug. Now the results. There were seven votes cast, which in a way isn't surprising since I suspect that my dislike for Comedy Series is apparent from the fact that I don't write about too many of them. This poll is rather unusual in that a number of votes arrived later than I expected and they were enough to tip the tide. In a tie for fifth place (remember there were seven shows in this category) with no votes are Family Guy, Flight of the Conchords, and Weeds. In a tie for second place are Entourage, The Office, and 30 Rock with one vote each (14.29%). But the winner is How I Met Your Mother with a massive (for this poll) four votes (57.14%).

Right. I'm now going to tell you not only why How I Met Your Mother not only won't win but maybe why it probably doesn't deserve to win. As I have said numerous times Flight of the Conchords or Weeds (though the latter is more accessible for me than the former was) but I think that applies for a lot of viewers. I also don't watch Entourage but reports that I've seen in various media – including other blogs of course – is that this season is nowhere near as good as previous seasons have been. A big clue in this is that Jeremy Piven, who won in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy the past three years wsn't even nominated this season. That has to say something about the quality of the show. So with four shows pushed to the side We're left with The Office, 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother.

Of these three, the most conventional sitcom – although the definition of "conventional" has changed significantly over the past few years – is How I Met Your Mother and I think that notion that it's convientional is why it probably won't win. Don't get me wrong; How I Met Your Mother is a staple in my house, one of only two sitcoms that I actually watch (the other is The Big Bang Theory). When How I Met Your Mother debuted I saw it as being an American version of the British series Coupling done right, and that is an assessment that still holds. I like the characters and for the most part I like the situations. But if you ask me whether it is better than either The Office or 30 Rock I'd have to say "no." Part of my reaction is to that very conventionality. How I Met Your Mother is, dare I say it, safe. It doesn't push the envelope too much in terms of creativity and really doesn't "advance the form" the way that either the British or the American versions of The Office have. Both versions of The Office took the conventions of the workplace comedy and turned them on their ear through the use of the pseudo-documentary. Instead of the jerky boss being an aloof figure who is something of a nemesis for the lead characters, the jerky boss is the principal figure through whose eyes we see the rest of the office. But while doing this humanizes him somewhat it doesn't make him entirely sympathetic. Our sympathies – for the most part – are mostly with the poor schlubs who work for Michael Scott rather than with Michael himself. As for 30 Rock, which I think is likely to win, and which is not a bad choice, the key is the strength of the performances of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin and the palpable but non-romantic chemistry between the two of them. Add to that the fact that it is a satire not just of television but of NBC – with all the problems (which are the obvious seeds for comedic situations) that that implies – and I think it is a show that people within the TV industry can identify with. I think it's going to win for those reasons – it's seen as being cutting edge, a satire on the Television industry that people in the industry can identify with (or maybe just recognise people that they're familiar with), and it just happens to be extremely funny.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Poll – What SHOULD Win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series?

I'm changing the order of things around slightly today. I've been away from the computer all day but I wanted to get the Drama Series poll up right away. I'll give all the details on the Outstanding Comedy Series poll out in the morning.

The nominees for Outstanding Drama Series are:

Big Love - (HBO)
Breaking Bad - (AMC)
Damages - (FX)
Dexter - (Showtime)
House - (Fox)
Lost - (ABC)
Mad Men - (AMC)

As always vote for the series that you think should win in this category rather than the series that you believe will win, and remember that I crave your comments on why you are voting for the show that you choose to vote for. Due date for this poll is September 19th, 2009.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Series Debuts – Week of September 7

Even though the "official" start of the 2009-10 season is two weeks away the first of the new fall shows are debuting this week. Well sort of, given that Glee aired its pilot back in May and FOX has been re-airing it at least twice in the last week or two, and ABC has been running The Shark Tank on Sundays since the middle of August, but in the latter case the show seems to be more of a placeholder for ABC's revival of the science fiction cult favourite V. With that in mind we really do have several shows starting this week, mostly from The CW a network which, in terms of getting people to watch their shows, needs every advantage they can get.

Here are this week's new shows:

Tuesday September 8th

  • 90210 The CW – The revival of Aaron Spelling's FOX "classic" returns for its second year. I watched the pilot for the first season and found it to be less than I expected... or hoped for. I gather that the stories got a bit more adult than they had been in the first few episodes but it was never a high priority on my "to watch list." It won't be again this season.
  • Melrose Place The CW – Having had a certain amount of success in reviving one of Aaron Spelling's FOX hits, The CW has gone back to that well again by reviving Melrose Place. This version of Melrose Place follows much the same path that 90210 did by bringing on a mix of new and old characters – notably Laura Leighton reviving (literally) her character of Sydney Andrews (who had apparently been the end of the fifth season of the original) and Thomas Calabro in his role of Dr. Michael Manicni. Other cast member from the original expected to appear on the show in later episodes are Daphne Zuniga and Josie Bissett. Still the focus will be on the younger cast members, notably Katie Cassidy, Shaun Sipos and Ashley Simpson-Wentz. From the description of early episodes it sounds just as "soapy" (in a good way) as the original. Still, while I'll probably look at the pilot, I doubt that it will be a permanent part of my viewing diet.

Wednesday September 9th

  • America's Next Top Model The CW – The CW's big reality-competition hit. Actually it may be the networks biggest hit of any genre, drawing an average of 4.35 million viewers last season. It's a two hour episode this week, cutting back to its usual one hour next week with the debut of new series The Beautiful Life. I've never watched an episode of any national version of Top Model (and there are a lot of them) but we can expect the usual mix of catty diva-ish bitchy behaviour that gathering a covey of models together inevitably produces.

Thursday September 10th

  • Vampire Diaries The CW – When you think about it this show is a perfect fit for The CW. The current "Vampire Chic" trend exemplified by the HBO series Tru Blood and the Twilight movie franchise is a perfect fit for The CW's target young female target demographic. Like Gossip Girl the series is based on a popular "Young Adult" book series targeted at teenage girls which actually predates the Twilight series of novels. The CW is putting a lot of stock into the series by moving long-time Thursday favourite Smallville out of the first hour time slot to create a "supernatural" night by pairing the series with the more male oriented Supernatural. Descriptions of the show seem to have elements of Twilight/Tru Blood mingled with a slightly sinister Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls with maybe a touch of Buffy The Vampire Slayer added for flavouring. While The CW has been giving a lot of promotion to Melrose Place, this could be the most interesting of the network's new series.
  • Supernatural The CW – One of only two male-oriented series on The CW – the other is former Thursday series Smallville, this is the series fifth season and there are rumours that it is the final one (although the Jensen Ackles and Jared Padelecki are under contract for a sixth season). It's another season of the Winchester Brothers (along with this Blog's favourite character actor Jim Beaver) battling demonic forces. It's not a show that I watch but I do understand the mass appeal.

Saturday September 12th

  • Cops Fox
  • America's Most Wanted Fox – I'm lumping these two together. The doyens of the Reality genre, these two shows will probably outlast us all.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New Poll – What Series SHOULD Win As Outstanding Comedy Series?

This, together with the Drama Series category, is one of those where the voting was close enough for an additional nominee to be added to list. The seven nominees are:

Entourage - (HBO)
Family Guy - (Fox)
Flight of the Conchords - (HBO)
How I Met Your Mother - (CBS)
The Office - (NBC)
30 Rock - (NBC)
Weeds - (Showtime)

Remember, you are voting for the series that you think should win for Outstanding Comedy Series rather than the one that you think will win in the category. (Come to think of it, running two polls for each category might be an interesting experiment for next year.) Deadline for the next poll is Wednesday September 9th.

Poll Results - Who SHOULD Win The Emmy For Outstanding Host For A Reality or Reality Competition Program?

Before i do anything else, I'd like to state that this is probably a category that won't be polled next year. The response was better than I had hoped it would be yesterday, thanks to a sudden influx of votes between when I checked on Sunday and when I checked today. Of thirteen votes, eight were cast on the first two days and five were cast on the last day of polling. With anticipated changes to the way that I run polls dropping the reality categories entirely will allow me to do some other things that I want to get done.

Turning to the actual poll, as I said there were thirteen votes cast. Tied for fifth place with no votes are Dancing With The Stars host Tom Bergeron and Top Chef hosts Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio. In fourth place with one vote (7.69%) is Heidi Klum from Project Runway. In third place with three votes (23.08%) is Phil Keoghan, host of The Amazing Race. In second place is American Idol's Ryan Seacrest with four votes (30.77%), while the winner is last year's winner in this category Jeff Probst from Survivor with five votes (38.46%).

This category really should come down to two people, at least in my opinion; Jeff Probst and Phil Keoghan. Tom Bergeron is very personable and definitely the right person to host Dancing With The Stars if only because he tends not to take things too seriously and is very good in the live portions of the show, with an ability to react to the sort of surprises that come in live TV (like Marie Osmond fainting or just about anything that Cloris Leachman did). As far as the combination of Padma Lakshme and Tom Colicchio is concerned all I can say is that if that is allowed then Tim Gunn should have been nominated along with Heidi Klum. After all they're pretty much the same show, with fashion subbing in for cooking. As far as Ryan Seacrest is concerned, since I don't watch American Idol I'm not absolutely sure of how great his involvement in the show is. One obvious omission in this category is Gordon Ramsay who has more personality than just about anyone in this category. (While I going on about omissions in reality categories, you can't ignore the drama and conflict that dominated the most recent season of Celebrity Apprentice – even though I think the wrong person won and Trump set up the criteria to benefit a charity that his soon to be ex-sister-in-law is on the board of. Annie Duke raised more money throughout the process and Joan Rivers was a witch who came very close to libel.)

This leaves me with the person that you, and last year's Emmy voters thought should win, and the person I think should win although he wasn't nominated – Jeff Probst and Phil Keoghan. While there are six (well seven in a way) nominees in this category It is my belief that it will come down to a race between these two. Personally I favour Keoghan, who should have been nominated last year. There is a significant difference between Phil and Jeff and it's a contrast in their typical day on the show. On a day when Jeff shoots (which is usually two out of every three days) he puts on his nicely pressed khakis and either takes a boat or a helicopter (or maybe and SUV) to the challenge site, then greets the players. He explains the challenge and then carries out the most strenuous part of his job – raising his hand and dropping it. After that part is done he head back to the crew site, and probably has supper and a couple of beers before watching the crew's satellite TV. Now compare that to Phil Keoghan. On a typical production day – which is pretty much every day when the race is being run – he sends all of the teams off from the starting line. Then he has to rush ahead to each of the route marker on that segment of the Race to shoot stand-ups explaining and sometimes demonstrating the activity that they'll have to perform. That could be two, three or even four stand-ups during the course of the leg frequently at different locations (Roadblock, Detour – two activities – and on some occasions either a Fast Forward or a Speed Bump). After that he has to reach the next Pit Stop before the first team arrives to greet them. On travel legs during the Race he's frequently travelling on the same plane as at least one of the teams. This also means that hair, make-up and wardrobe also have to keep up with him. In short, while Probst seems primarily to hold more of a traditional host role on Survivor, Phil Keoghan is almost a participant in terms of what he has to do to host The Amazing Race.

New poll up in a few minutes. I'm running a bit behind time on this.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

New Poll – Who SHOULD Win The Emmy For Outstanding Host For A Reality or Reality Competition Program?

Okay, I've thought it over and decided to go with the Reality-Competition Host category.The thing is that I don't really think that it's very likely that the show that has won in the Reality-Competition series category literally since before the category was created will lose this year. And I don't just say that because The Amazing Race is one of my favourite shows. I just don't see it losing against the same four shows that it beat last season, and the season before that. While I'm not convinced of the necessity of the Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program, at least it seems like the category is more competitive(!) than the Series category is. Besides, it contains one of the oddest nominations of any category in the Emmys, the two hosts of Top Chef being nominated as one. So here are the nominees:

Tom Bergeron - Dancing With the Stars
Phil Keoghan - The Amazing Race
Heidi Klum - Project Runway
Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio - Top Chef
Jeff Probst - Survivor
Ryan Seacrest - American Idol

As usual, vote for who you think should win, not who you think will win. And as always feel free to submit comments here about how you've decided to vote – or even if you've consciously decided not to vote. I want to see comments. I'm begging you to comment. I'm down on my knees here people! (And believe me with my knees the only thing harder than getting down on them is getting up.)

Deadline for votes is August 31, 2009.

Poll Results – Who SHOULD Win The Outstanding Actor In A Drama Emmy?

Well here we go again with another round of poll results. There were twenty-six votes cast. In sixth place, with one vote (3.85%) is Simon Baker from The Mentalist. In a tie for fourth place, with two votes each (7.69%) are Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston and Dexter's Michael C. Hall. John Hamm from Mad Men came in third with three votes (11.54%). Second place is held down by Gabriel Byrne from In Treatment with six votes (23.08%). But the overwhelming winner, with twelve votes (46.15%) is House himself, Hugh Laurie.

Simon Baker brings a charming and witty take to his role as Patrick Jane on The Mentalist, something that is not totally surprising since he had the same qualities on his first North American series The Guardian. Behind that facade though there's frequently an unsuspected depth to the character. Still, I'm afraid that I'm convinced that – not knowing which episode he was nominated for (and not really caring since this poll tends to focus on overall performance) – the principal reason why Baker was nominated was because this show is the highest rated new show of the 2008-090 season. But then I'm a bit cynical about these things. I haven't seen either Cranston or Hall's performances in Breaking Bad and Dexter. In both cases its rather a case of having too much on my plate rather than the shows not being available on channels that I get. Cranston's performance however was strong enough for him to stage a major upset by winning the Emmy in this category last year for his role as the science teacher who has turned to making and dealing drugs to provide a nest egg for his family after he dies of cancer. Still, I'll turn to my friend Ronniecat for her thoughts. She was conflicted between Cranston, John Hamm, and Hugh Laurie before finally coming down on the side of Bryan Cranston: I think I have to go with Bryan Cranston. His work in Breaking Bad is just outstanding. The character's desperation is so palpable I feel sometimes like I need to leave the room. Like her, I find the lack of support for Cranston this time around to somewhat disappointing and more than a bit surprising given both his success in last year's Emmys. I am a big fan of John Hamm's Don Draper character from Mad Men, which has become appointment TV for me. Draper's internal demons came to the fore in this past season and he finds himself increasingly questioning whether or not to throw all that he has away. It's a powerful performance. As far as Gabriel Byrne's second season of In Treatment goes, it is one that I haven't seen because it is on HBO and I don't have HBO's Canadian service.

This leaves us with House and the always strong Hugh Laurie. This season's storylines have focussed on Dr. House's relationships with his two peers and best friends, Wilson and Cuddy. At the same time we were privy to House's descent into mental instability – or at least greater mental instability than had been produced by his drug addiction and his generally abrasive personality. The last two or three episodes of the season, where House is unable to differentiate between his reality and his fantasies or hallucinations, are impressive bits of acting, and as is always the case with Laurie's performance as House deserving of acknowledgement. While I think that the Emmy will most likely go to Cranston, I don't think that anyone would be shocked, surprised, or unhappy if Hugh Laurie won the Emmy.

Turning away from the actual poll, I want to discuss something that I observed in the voting. Analysis is providing interesting results – I won't go into detail until this set of polls is completed but next time I run a poll the amount of time it will be open will be shorter – but one thing is rather odd. The poll receives fewer votes for the Actress categories than for the Actor categories. For the two comedy categories Actresses had a total of five votes cast while Actors had a total of twenty-two. In the Drama category Actresses had eleven votes cast while Actors had twenty-six. I'm not sure what this means. Are most of my readers (or at least the people who stop by from time to time) men? Or do my readers just find performances in the actor categories easier to judge? Thoughts?

New poll will be up shortly. It will be Outstanding Reality-Competition although there is a part of me that thinks it should be Outstanding Reality-Competition Host.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Poll - Who SHOULD Win The Outstanding Actor In A Drama Emmy?

I'm putting this poll up a few hours later than expected, but we were making Borscht and large quantities of soup take precedence over just about everything.

The nominees are:

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

Vote for the actor that you believe should win rather than the actor you think is going to win, and as always, please feel free to post comments on this post about why you believe that the person yu chose should take home the Emmy.

Deadline is Saturday August 22nd,2009 at noon or there abouts.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Poll Results – Who SHOULD Win The Outstanding Actress In A Drama Emmy?

With nine votes cast, the turnout for this poll wasn't as large as for the one for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy where there were 22 votes cast, it was still larger than the turnout for the Actress in a Comedy category where only five people voted. The voting pattern continues to solidify my views on just how long future polling periods should be. And while my Internet connection has gotten faster (much faster than it was) it has a tendency to drop for a few seconds without apparent provocation. Just in case you were interested.

The results were as follows. Tied for fifth place with no votes were last year's winner Glenn Close from Damages and Holly Hunter from Saving Grace. In a tie for third place are the 2007 winner Sally Field from Brothers and Sisters and
Mariska Hargitay from Law & Order SVU who won in 2006. They each had one vote (11.11%). In second place was Kyra Sedgwick from The Closer, with three votes (33.33%). But the surprise winner was Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men with four votes (44.44%). It's interesting to note that Sedgwick and Moss led from the beginning, with Sedgwick edging ahead on the fifth day of polling but with Moss taking the lead the next day.

I have to say that I'm not at all convinced that the voters are right in this one. First of all I think that Glenn Close will win this battle of the Oscar nominees (Hunter has four nominations and one win, Field has two nomination and won both times, and Glenn Close has been nominated five times – and never won which I constantly amazed at). I'm not entirely convinced that she's the best actress of the group, but she has the name and the reputation and it's a showy role. Since I don't watch Brothers And Sisters on a regular basis I can't be sure if Field has brought anything new to role of Nora Walker. Certainly Mariska Hargitay hasn't changed things up too much in Law & Order: SVU. She's an excellent actress but I'm not sure why she keeps getting nominated.

Turning to the actresses who I consider to have turned in the best performances, my personal favourite is probably Holly Hunter. Grace Hanadarko is a deeply scarred and twisted character who has been given a second chance to try to be a good person even though the temptations that she faces and the life she is living aren't always conducive to her reform. As for Kyra Sedgwick's Brenda Leigh Johnson, she faces none of the metaphorical demons (and one very real angel) that Grace does but she is very hard when she is in her element – interrogating suspects – and confused and vulnerable when she is out of it. As a character Brenda is a great deal of fun to watch.

Which leads us to Elizabeth Moss and the character of Peggy Olson on Mad Men. There is a part of me that feels that Moss is nominated in the wrong category; that the only lead character in Mad Men is John Hamm's Don Draper, and that the other characters are there to support him. And yet I don't think you can ignore the emergence of Peggy Olson as a character on this show. She has gone from being the largely innocent secretary turned junior copywriter with a secret in the first season to become one of the powers in the office of Sterling Cooper, eclipsing both the women that she worked with in the secretarial pool, including the chief secretary Joan Hollaway, and many of the male characters, some of who are senior to her. Time and again we see glimpses of Peggy that give her greater depth and reveal more about her. Meeting the women of her family, who basically resent her for rising above her station (this is particularly true of her sister) give us a sense of why she frequently acts in such a repressed manner. And yet Peggy is coming into her own. There's a scene in the next to last episode that illustrates this quite well I think. Alone in the empty office before a huge presentation, without her mentor and safety net Don Draper to take charge, Peggy takes a cigarette and starts smoking. It's clear from the way that she does it that this is the first time she's smoked, and perhaps the last. In a way it signifies the moment that she becomes an adult at the office because after a few puffs she puts the cigarette out and has apparently gained the confidence that she needs because she wins the contract for the company. Throughout the season Elizabeth Moss has turned in little moments like that that add up to a strong performance. But I'm still not sure if it is a role that deserves to be considered a lead, and I'm definitely not convinced that it is on a level with Holly Hunter's Grace.

New poll up shortly.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No Phones, No Lights, No Motorcars – At Home!

One of the worst things you can probably say about a TV series may be that it is derivative. Everyone wants their show to stand out as original, or if not original then as the best of the type. I think that's why CSI and The West Wing became such huge hits when they debuted. They were original; they weren't derivative (of course the fact that the shows treated their audiences like intelligent human beings not only didn't hurt but helped). And maybe that's why there are so few reality shows that really pop. Most of the reality shows out there, particularly the summer reality shows, are as derivative as hell. A few years ago there was a deluge of The Apprentice clones, and only one of them worked. That was Hell's Kitchen, and it works not because of what is similar to The Apprentice but because of what is different. Unlike Trump, and the hosts of virtually all of the clones, Gordon Ramsay has his eyes on the donkey's every working minute of the process. Ramsay is very much a part of the process, and his personality – or at least the part of his personality that comes out when dealing with a crew of what are essentially novices that he is trying to mould into a team – is an essential part of the show, even more than Trump's personality shows up in The Apprentice. (Anyone who has ever seen Ramsay's big British show, The F Word, will have seen a different aspect of his personality; of course that show would never sell on FOX.)

In the new CBS show There Goes The Neighborhood the show being cloned is Survivor, with some Big Brother thrown in for good measure. Call this Survivor: Family Edition if you want to and you wouldn't be far wrong. Of course you can't whisk kids – some as young as 6 years old – off to a tropical hellhole paradise, so the show instead tries to replicate the tropical hellhole paradise atmosphere in their own homes. This is accomplished by erecting a concrete wall around eight houses in an Atlanta neighbourhood (it looks like the Berlin Wall without homey touches like the guard towers), and then cutting the power to the neighbourhood. The loss of power not only means no TV, no video games, no chargers for cell phones but also no electric stoves, no refrigerators, no hot water and no air conditioning. And they're in Atlanta. That makes it the next best (?) thing to a tropical hellhole paradise but without the poisonous snakes and man-eating fish. Of course in Survivor (and Big Brother) the real threat isn't from those things but from the people that you're competing with and on this show that makes things more than a bit complicated.

Casting in a reality show is essential of course. That's complicated in this case because they're actually casting a neighbourhood with both pre-existing relationships and pre-existing groups. It's not like they can bring people in to fill some real or imagined quota system that requires a certain number of each group. That said, the producers managed to find a street to do this show on that is almost surprisingly diverse, both demographically and interms of human interest stories, which is another aspect of reality show casting. There's a mixed race family (the Upshaws), a mixed faith family (the Schindlers – the father is Jewish, the mother is Christian – they go to temple and celebrate Christian holidays), a same sex couple (listed as the Mullenix family), a single parent family (Laurie Southey and her daughter), a family consisting of three generations (the Bussieres), and another where the wife's niece is living with them while going to school (the Johnstons). The human interest stories are there as well. Clarissa "Chris" Mullenix has her own son from her previous marriage and adopted her two nephews after her brother and sister-in-law were killed in a freak accident (only one of the nephews is participating in the show). When Susan Bussiere suffered a stroke in 2008 her mother moved in to help the family out and has stayed. David Schindler is a workaholic whose kids often don't see him as much as they'd like, and when they do see him he usually has his phone glued to his ear. The participants on the show range from 5 to 74 (Jake Bussiere and his grandmother Marcia Flerra, with most of the "adults" being in their 40s.

As you might expect most of the first episode deals with the players getting used to their new situation and throwing in the various twists – like the power going out – before the game part of the game really gets going. Losing the power, is a big thing of course. The children and teenagers primarily think about playing their video games, using the computer to communicate with their friends and being able to charge their cell phones. For adults of course the worries are more basic questions of survival; storing food (think how much of it goes into the refrigerator), cooking it, staying cool (think of how dependent all of us are on air conditioning), and even being able to do things after dark. It is very much like being on the island in Survivor. And of course that's where competitions come into play.

The competition in the first episode required one player from each team to wear a T-shirt covered in mud and another player from the team to unravel a tangled fire hose and use it to wash the mud off the shirt, revealing three numbers printed on the shirt (water supplied by a fire engine on the other side of The Wall). Once the numbers were revealed the two team members had to run to a box locked with a combination lock – the three numbers on the T-shirt were the combination to the lock, but they had to be put into the correct order to open the lock. It was a close race, but in the end it was won by the Nelsons, the self-described "Southern Family." They became "Kings of the Neighbourhood, which carried both a Reward a Responsibility. The Reward in this case was a refrigerator full of food powered by generator, probably on "the outside." There's also a plentiful supply of food, and of course the Nelsons are expected to share with their neighbours. The Responsibility is to nominate two families one of which will be removed from the game. The Nelsons choose the DeGirolamo family (a competitive but overweight poker player) and the Mullenix Family. Chris Nelson (the father of the family) has some rather interesting logic in making his selections. He believes that the neighbours will see the Mullenixes as being weak competitively – he sees Chris Mullenix as being a bit of an emotional basket case – so that they will vote to keep them and eliminate the "strong" team," the DeGirolamos. After the nominations are made, the other families adjourn to their homes to talk about which of the families they wanted to keep. Voting was done by handing in photos of the family they wanted to keep. As Chris Nelson predicted all but one of the teams – probably the Southeys – elected to keep the Mullenixes.

I'm not entirely sure what to think about There Goes The Neighborhood. On the surface it seems like a rather ordinary reality-competition show, a reworking of an older, superior, format that manages to rise slightly above the level of most such reworkings of originals. It's not on the same level as Hell's Kitchen when it turned the format of The Apprentice on its ear, creating – in my opinion at least – a product that is in some ways superior to the original (or maybe I just like Gordon Ramsay's personality better than I like Donald Trump's – Ramsay would have appreciated Annie Duke over Joan Rivers in a second). On the other hand the show is much better than that ersatz version of The Amazing Race that NBC put on the air called The Great American Road Trip. Quite frankly, as viewers we basically know what to expect from There Goes The Neighborhood; there will be competition and interpersonal conflicts and from a purely detached point of view there's nothing really to object to. The show isn't cheaply done or badly thought out. It is, in its own way, as comfortable for the viewers as an old boot.

My problem with this show isn't with the show as television, it is with the concept itself. In most reality-competition shows the relationships are transitory. With relatively few exceptions the people who appear on these shows have no previous exposure to each other, no bonds to be tested, and after the event they will have as much or as little connection as they wish with each other. Famously, Rob & Amber got married after their time together on Survivor: All Stars (and in July of this year became parents of a daughter, Lucia Rose), but I have no idea of how close Amber is with her fellow Survivor: Australian Outback competitor Elisabeth Hasselbeck. These are, by their nature mostly transitory relationships so that the disagreements and battles and other relationship stressors cease to matter outside of the context of the game. A major exception is The Amazing Race in which team members have pre-existing relationships, but the teams are competing against people with they don't have a history. That's different in There Goes The Neighborhood. There are pre-existing relationships, friendships or at least acquaintances. Chris Nelson was able to make the strategic move that he did because he knew his neighbours, both the ones he nominated and those who would be doing the voting. That's where the show seems somehow unsavoury. There will come a time when, despite the fact that everyone knows that it's just a game and that what goes on in the game stays in the game, feelings are going to be hurt in a way that goes beyond the game, and that after the game things aren't going to be the same. I find it vaguely unsettling that the production company was willing to take that chance with people's lives. I find it even more unsettling that the producers were able to find eight families willing to risk their friendships.

As a detached TV viewer I find There Goes The Neighborhood to be an competently executed, if not particularly compelling, summer reality-competition; the sort of thing that will hold your interest for a while but which you won't particularly miss when it's gone or care about when it's not back next year. But part of me is disturbed by the voyeuristic aspects of this show. It's one thing to see people who don't know each other brought together in a highly stressful environment and watch how they interact because they know that once they're done with this show they don't necessarily have to see each other again. It's quite another thing to watch the possible disintegration of existing relationships. Somehow it makes me feel just a little unclean. But maybe that's just me.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New Poll - Who SHOULD Win The Outstanding Actress In A Drama Emmy?

Here we go again with the Emmy poll for the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama. As always, vote for the actress that you think should win in this category, not necessarily the one that you believe will win. The Nominees are:

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

As always I desperately want to see comments on why you voted the way that you did, and I am more than willing to keep those comments anonymous.

The poll will end at noon (approximately) on Thursday August 13th.

Poll Results - Who SHOULD Win The Outstanding Actor In A Comedy Emmy?

I'm back with the results of the poll on who should win the "Outstanding Actor in a Comedy" Emmy, and I have to say that I'm impressed on a number of levels. After the anaemic turn-out in the first poll, I wasn't expecting many votes, but the response to this poll totally exceeded even my most optimistic expectations. On another note, the voting patterns, which I have also been tracking seem to reinforce the results of the first poll as to when people vote in these things. Of course more data is required to come up with a definitive answer, but what I'm getting so far is probably going to have an effect on how I do poll in the future.

Now to the results of the voting. There were 22 votes cast – four times as many as in the first poll for reasons I don't fully understand...yet. In sixth place, with no votes is Charlie Sheen from Two And A Half Men. In fifth place, with one vote (4.55%) was Jemaine Clement from Flight Of The Conchords. In fourth place with three votes (13.64%) was last year's winner in this category – both in this poll and at the awards – Alec Baldwin from 30 Rock. In third place, with four votes (18.18%) is another previous winner in this category, Steve Carell from The Office. In what for me was a surprising second place was yet another multiple winner in this category, Tony Shaloub from Monk. But the winner with eight votes (36.36%) was Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory.

As usual, Charlie Sheen gets no love from people voting in this category on this blog. And as usual I will make the comment that he's probably crying all the way to the bank. His father has enough Emmys for the whole family anyway. The poor turnout for Flight Of The Conchords star Jemaine Clement probably has a dual cause; his show is on HBO and the focus of this blog tends to be on broadcast TV. Clement, and the show, was the subject of the only comment that I received for this poll (and just as a reminder, I do welcome, and even beg for, comments on why you voted the way you did – I'm even willing to make them anonymous on the blog) even though part of it was a sales pitch for some merchandise: "Their music rocks and i love their show. Who knew kiwis were so funny! I especially love there (sic) First season of songs." Since I can't afford HBO Canada, I can't possibly comment intelligently. The only New Zealander that most of us get exposed to is Phil Keoghan, who I find to be somewhat funny.

Moving on, we have Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell. Although Carell received one more vote than Baldwin, I'm lumping them together here because it is my expectation that either Baldwin or Carell is the likely winner in this category (although they aren't who I want to win) and if I had to choose between the two I'd say that it would be Baldwin who will win. I believe that the Academy voters like what they perceive to be "intelligent" and "sophisticated" comedy. What will probably give Baldwin an edge in the voting is that 30 Rock is a show about television and very specifically about NBC. I'm willing to bet that people in the industry will see people that they know reflected in the show.

I want to spend a minute on Tony Shaloub who is doing his last season of Monk right now. Shaloub regularly gets more votes in this poll than I usually expect him to – he finished second to Alec Baldwin last year and in third place in 2007 – for a show that, if others better qualified to comment than I (who again doesn't have access to the most recent episodes of this show) are to be believed is becoming less sharp as the years have passed. I'm not saying that Shaloub doesn't deserve the nomination, I am however questioning whether he deserves eight votes in this poll.

Or winner however is Jim Parsons, and I think that the acclaim here is well deserved (I should mention however that this is the only one of the nominated comedies that I watch on a regular basis). While The Big Bang Theory is at its heart a fairly routine comedy about a group of friends with a "fish out of water" aspect in the form of Kelly Cuoco's character Penny, and a hint of unrequited love thrown into the mix, Parsons as Sheldon is an absolute stand-out. As the obnoxious roommate/best friend from Hell he's hilarious. He nails the behaviour of this uber-geek so well that there have been several things written trying to diagnose Leonard's behaviour – they tend to come down on the side of Leonard suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, a view that Parson himself agrees with, saying that Sheldon "couldn't display more traits" of AS." His lack of a sense of humour, his total failure to understand irony and his obsessive compulsive adherence to routines ("You're sitting in my spot.") are the principal sources of comedy in this show. What makes Parsons worthy of this award – and why I personally think that he should win it – is that in the wrong hands this role could be obnoxious and a caricature, one of the most disliked characters on TV. The obvious comparison is with Jaleel White's Urkel character on Family Matters; Urkel took over the leading part in the series, but can anyone really say that they liked Urkel as a person? Sheldon could have been the "next Urkel" but instead Parsons has given him enough endearing qualities that for all of his obnoxious character quirks we, as the audience, like him and his friends on the show don't want to throw him under a bus...too often.

New poll up in a few minutes.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Soup Can Post Minus The Soup Can

Mark Evanier created the "tradition" of posting a picture of a Campbell's Tomato Soup can on his blog on those occasions when he knows or believes that he won't be able to post for a while. Well even though I haven't been posting all that often this summer I'm posting the Tomato soup can. Except that I can't post the image, and here's why.

A few days ago I got an email from my ISP, Shaw Cable telling me that because of changes they were making that would make my Internet faster, but to make this work I'd have to replace my modem which wasn't being supported by the manufacturer, which was reaching the end of its expected life span. So yesterday – Saturday – I took my old Motorola Cybersurfr modem down to the soon to be closed office in the mall and replaced it with a brand new SB5102 Surfboard Modem. I took it home and hooked it up... and I've been hating it ever since!

Downloads have been significantly, observably, slower. Images in particular have slow in downloading. Running Speedtests – including Shaw's own Speedtest – revealed download speeds hovering around 1 mbps and upload speeds of about 450 kbps. For the service that I'm paying for I am supposed to be getting download speeds as high as 7.5 mbps. Podcast downloads, which usually take about a minute now take up to ten. The breaking point came when I was trying to play poker online at Full Tilt Poker. It was a nightmare. The client kept disconnecting and at one point crashed entirely. I had to restart the program and when I did it took about five minutes for it to actually connect get me back to the tournament I was playing in. I think I can safely say that this has cost me (a small amount of) money. I've done everything that I can think of – short of calling Shaw, which is the next step after I finish writing this post – and nothing has changed. And since I don't how long this is going to take I post the Tomato Soup Can.

Ah, but of course I can't. That would mean uploading an image file and with the way things are going, who knows how long that would take. So I'm afraid I'm going to have to post the Tomato Soup Can without actually posting the Tomato Soup Can.

P.S.: It took me three tries to get this posted from Word. Wholly unacceptable.

Update: Apparently the problem has remedied itself without my having to call Shaw. Well not quite remedied itself. Turns out that for some unearthly reason best left to wizards and gurus, all it all had something to do with my power bar. I plugged the modem into the power bar as I have with just about every electronic device on my cluttered desktop. The exception is the printer because the cord won't reach. In a last desperate move I pull the printer plug from the wall socket and the modem plug from the power bar, plugged the modem into the wall socket and Hocus Kadabra, Alika Pocus (as a certain Wascally Wabbit would put it) everything is working as advertised, although I haven't tested it yet with Poker. Makes me wonder if maybe I should get a new power bar though.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Poll - Who SHOULD Win The Outstanding Actor In A Comedy Emmy?

Here's the new poll: "Who SHOULD win the Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Emmy?" The nominees are:

Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock
Steve Carell - The Office
Jemaine Clement - The Flight of the Conchords
Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory
Tony Shalhoub - Monk
Charlie Sheen - Two and a Half Men

Remember, you are voting for who you think should win the Emmy, not who you think will win. This is a case where I have a personal favourite to win but I expect one of two other people to actually win the Emmy. No, I won't tell you who right now, but I also won't be voting in the poll.

Deadline for voting on this poll is noon on August 4th. Please, please,
please feel free to comment here on the nominees and why you think the person you believe should win in this category deserves to win.

Poll Results - Who SHOULD Win The Outstanding Actress In A Comedy Emmy?

Our first Emmy Poll and I've got some interesting preliminary data. Oh not about who you think should win the Emmy; we're dealing with a small sample size here and the result was about what I was expecting. No, what I'm thinking of here is when you voted. If nothing else this should allow me to streamline next year's process assuming some degree of consistency in the data over the long term. Assuming of course that there is a "next year" (well you never know what's going to happen in 365 days – we've all lost friends suddenly).

As to the poll results, there were five votes cast. Tied for fifth place in this six horse race were Sarah Silverman and Mary Louise Parker with no votes. In a three-way tie for second place are Christina Applegate, Toni Collette, and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss with one vote each (20%). But the winner with two votes is Tina Fey with two votes (40%) Yeah, I know, hardly a ringing endorsement.

Still I think you guys got it exactly right. You know that I don't watch comedies very much, but you'd have to have your head buried pretty deep in the sand (or some other dark and even more inaccessible place not to hear the news that 2008-09 was Tina Fey's year. She was in the perfect place at the perfect time for the arrival of Sarah Palin on the scene, which is why I anticipate that she'll win the Guest Actress in a Comedy Emmy as well, but you can't ignore the fact that doing Palin on Saturday Night Live had have an impact on viewership of 30 Rock. Add to that the fact that she won last year – deservedly – and that 30 Rock has maintained its quality, and you come to the conclusion that she's heading for another date with Emmy. But hey, what do I know – I've never seen a full episode of any of these shows!

New poll up in a few minutes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

40 Years Ago

It was forty years ago today that man landed and walked on the Moon. Everybody is going to be posting about this of course, particularly we old farts, who remembers seeing it when it happened. I think we want to share our memories.

I don't know that my memories are much different from most people. Back in those days Saskatoon was a one channel town. CFQC was a CBC affiliate – as was every station in a single station market. What CBC did was to take the CBS coverage pretty much in its entirety and intercut some of their own material into the coverage. Lloyd Roberston was the CBC news anchor, but the face of it that we all remember was Walter Cronkite working along with Wally Schirra. In fact I remember very little about the CBC's own coverage beyond a very strong memory of a sort of three sided interview involving writer Isaac Asimov and (I believe) Abbie Hoffman, and the only part of that I remember was Hoffman "explaining" to Asimov that "obviously" no one with a name like Asimov would ever walk on the Moon, because a name like that didn't fit the WASP white-bread vision of America that NASA was designed to promote. Which of course has turned out to be true but certainly not for the reasons that Hoffman imagined.

I watched the Moon landing with my grandfather, and I'm pretty sure that we saw it on a black & white TV (which I still have by the way). As you'll see from the clips it didn't make too much difference. While the show was in colour, the important bits – the events from the surface of the moon – were in pretty low definition black & white. Apollo 12 was the first Moon mission with a colour TV camera; not that it did them much good after Alan Bean accidentally pointed the camera at the Sun which burned it out. The parts that were in colour were the clearly labelled animations and simulations. Thus we saw Neil Armstrong step on the Moon live, but thanks to the positioning of the camera (which dropped out on a shelf on the side of the descent stage of the Lunar Module, deployed when Armstrong pulled a lanyard on the "porch" of the module) we could barely tell what we were seeing. It got better.

My grandmother wasn't watching. She hated the idea of men walking on the moon, as if the very fact of their presence changed it somehow. In fact, at the time I remember her saying, "It's not the same Moon." In a way I guess she may have been right. A bit of the mystery had been taken away. Later flights would take away more of the mystery, but they would add more as well. As it turns out, the Moon Rocks weren't just gifts to be handed out to foreign dignitaries, they reveal a considerable amount about the formation of the Earth and the Moon and have led to at least one new theory about how the Moon was created (the Giant Impact Hypothesis which is currently the leading theory on the formation of the Moon). Still, when I was watching the Moon Landing as a 12 year-old kid I wasn't worried about the Moon being somehow changed by the event, or even about the science of the thing. I was excited by the sheer joy of the exploration in the one place where it seemed there was still the chance to explore. We knew our world (or thought we did) now there was nowhere else to go but up and out of the cradle. Little did we know how brief the time out of the cradle would be.

Regardless, here are the key events of that marvellous (in the true sense of the term – full of marvels) day forty years ago, mostly as I saw it. There are eight 10-minute parts to this playlist.

New Poll – Who SHOULD Win The Outstanding Actress In A Comedy Emmy?

I wrote this yesterday and thought I had posted it but obviously something went wrong, so here's the abbreviated version.

Vote for the Actress who you think should win the Emmy in this category. The nominees are:

Christina Applegate - Samantha Who?
Toni Collette - The United States of Tara
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - The New Adventures of Old Christine
Tina Fey - 30 Rock
Mary-Louis Parker - Weeds
Sarah Silverman - The Sarah Silverman Program

The polling period will last nine days. This year for the first time I will be tracking the number of votes cast by day and for whom they are cast (just to satisfy my own curiosity).

Please feel free to comment on the reasons why you voted the way that you did. I'll include the comments in the post listing the results and offer my own opinions. Actually my knowledge of the shows in this category is so limited that having someone else available to offer opinions would be most welcome.

Remeber, the deadline for this poll is noon on July 26th.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ah For Those Simpler Times!

And of course before Ted's time there was a period when shows went off for the summer and the networks made new shows that were, shockingly, actually reasonably good, and didn't involve people calling each other "bleeps" and "blaps" and words that aren't obscenities but that the networks don't think we should be allowed to hear. Or calling the wife of the network president a whore. (Sorry; I watched a clip of the live feeds of Big Brother yesterday and it's still seared into my brain.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Emmy Nominations 2009

The Emmy nominations are out and I'm suddenly left to wonder where the summer has gone. Oh sure, we've still got half of July and all of August and the first couple of weeks in September before the new TV season starts but all the things I wanted to do that haven't been done. I was (and still may) recap the one and only season of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, a show I still feel was unfairly abused by the critics, mishandled by the network, and sadly ignored by the mass of the public, in the latter case for apparently treating the audience as if it was smarter – and less sheep-like – than it apparently was. But no, the Emmy nominations are out and that means the Emmy polls and the analysis of the categories and the comments that go with it and even now it is putting me to sleep just thinking of it. Or maybe that's the allergy tablet I took a couple of hours ago. And yes, for anyone who thinks that this stuff is unimportant, I do realise that in the context of worldwide recession, international crises and yet another Canadian soldier dying in Afghanistan this morning writing about the Emmy Awards is a frivolous use of time, but writing about TV is what I like to do.

Before I get on to a quick glance at the "major categories" in this year's Emmy Awards, I would like to show you part of what is wrong with the Emmy Awards by showing you the nominees in the two writing categories:

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy
Flight Of The Conchords – "Prime Minister" (HBO) - James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie,
30 Rock – "Reunion" (NBC) - Matt Hubbard
30 Rock – "Apollo, Apollo" (NBC) - Robert Carlock
30 Rock – "Mamma Mia" (NBC) - Ron Weiner
30 Rock – "Kidney Now!" (NBC) - Jack Burditt, Robert Carlock

Outstanding Writing For A Drama
Lost – "The Incident" - (ABC) - Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Mad Men – "A Night To Remember" - (AMC) - Robin Veith, Matthew Weiner
Mad Men – "Six Month Leave" - (AMC) - Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Matthew Weiner
Mad Men – "The Jet Set" - (AMC) - Matthew Weiner
Mad Men – "Meditations In An Emergency" - (AMC) - Kater Gordon, Matthew Weiner

And there you have part of the problem with the Emmys summed up in a proverbial nutshell. Apparently only two comedies and two dramas were considered "worthy" of a nomination in their respective categories. And presumably if Mad Men and 30 Rock could have come up with a fifth writing team they could have gone without competition from any other show. This business of multiple nominations for a given show – even if the categories are for writing teams rather than shows – indicates a certain clsed mindedness amongst the academy. I'm certainly not convinced that there wasn't at least one episode of Battlestar Galactica that was better than the worst of the for four episodes of Mad Men that were nominated, and the same goes for the comedy category – surely there was an episode of The Office that could or should – have been nominated instead.

Several of the major categories have more than five nominees. This apparently is a result of a quirk in the Emmy rules which allows shows to be nominated if the number of votes they receive in the nomination process falls within a certain percentage of the nominee with the fifth highest total. Even so, as always there were a lot of snubs and a lot of "questionable" inclusions. Is Tony Shaloub really worthy of yet another Actor in a Comedy nomination for the tired and soon to be departing Monk? Anyway here are the major categories and a few more which caught my attention.

Outstanding Comedy Series
Entourage - (HBO)
Family Guy - (Fox)
Flight of the Conchords - (HBO)
How I Met Your Mother - (CBS)
The Office - (NBC)
30 Rock - (NBC)
Weeds - (Showtime)

Entourage is nominated yet again even though a lot of critics that I respect feel that the latest season of the show has been the worst yet. One interesting entries in this seven-way race is Family Guy. Family Guy is the first animated show to be nominated for Outstanding Comedy since 1960 and The Flintstones. Of course back then the category was called "Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Humor," but it was up against The Jack Benny Program (which won), Candid Camera and The Andy Griffith Show so that counts.

Outstanding Drama Series
Big Love - (HBO)
Breaking Bad - (AMC)
Damages - (FX)
Dexter - (Showtime)
House - (Fox)
Lost - (ABC)
Mad Men - (AMC)

More proof – if any is needed – of the depths that network drama has fallen. Of seven shows nominated, only two – House and Lost – are from a broadcast network. Beyond that there are no shows from the most watched network CBS. Of course there are no shows nominated from NBC or The CW but really, have either of them produced any show that is worthy of a nomination? A bigger travesty is that two departing shows Battlestar Galactica and The Shield weren't nominated (something that we shall see carried on through most of the categories. The snub for Battlestar Galactica can probably be explained by the collective prejudice that the Emmys have against science fiction and fantasy, regardless of how good those shows are, but what explains the refusal to honour The Shield? And what explains Friday Night Lights?

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
The Amazing Race - (CBS)
American Idol - (Fox)
Dancing with the Stars - (ABC)
Project Runway - (Bravo)
Top Chef - (Bravo)

I confess that this is one of my favourite categories because it includes my favourite show. Of course it has edged towards a "usual suspects" line-up of nominees. In fact this is the exact same list of shows that were nominated in 2008... and 2007. Obviously the Emmys decided not to reward the "sturm und drang" that was on display in this year's edition of Celebrity Apprentice. I have no expectation (or wish) that the winner will be different this year than it was last... or the year before... or the year before that.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock (NBC)
Steve Carell - The Office (NBC)
Jemaine Clement - The Flight of the Conchords (HBO)
Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Tony Shalhoub - Monk (HBO)
Charlie Sheen - Two and a Half Men (CBS)

It must be very frustrating to be Charlie Sheen, to star on the top rated situation comedy on network TV, and to be nominated repeatedly for an Emmy and not only never win but have people complain about you being nominated more than they complain about Tony Shaloub being nominated for the increasingly unfunny Monk. Charlie will never be the hip new thing. That role is filled this year by Jermaine Clement from The Flight of the Conchords and even more by Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory. Nor will he ever have the critical acclaim that Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell receive for their shows (and how awesome would it be to have Baldwin and Carell present an award and actually hav time to work off of each other – make it happen please). Yeah, I'm sure that Charlie Sheen is crying about this... all the way to the bank.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Christina Applegate - Samantha Who? (ABC)
Toni Collette - The United States of Tara (Showtime)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS)
Tina Fey - 30 Rock (NBC)
Mary-Louis Parker - Weeds (Showtime)
Sarah Silverman - The Sarah Silverman Program (Comedy Central)

What I know about this category is this: Tina Fey - very funny; Christina Applegate - cancelled (and had a mastectomy); Mary Louise Parker - nude scene in the bath. In other words I know nothing about the performances nominated in this category.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Simon Baker - The Mentalist (CBS)
Gabriel Byrne - In Treatment (HBO)
Bryan Cranston - Breaking Bad (AMC)
Michael C. Hall - Dexter (Showtime)
Jon Hamm - Mad Men (AMC)
Hugh Laurie - House (Fox)

The only change in the list of nominees this year from last year – which also had six nominations – to this year is that they've quite rightly dumped James Spader and in his place inserted Simon Baker from The Mentalist. Now don't get me wrong, I like Simon Baker. He mixes an impish charm and inquisitiveness with a sense of tragedy and sadness that totally makes his character. He's just not going to win. Edward James Olmos or maybe Michael Chiklis would be contenders in this category if it weren't for that whole not being nominated thing. Kyle Chandler should have been nominated too for Friday Night Lights. Bryan Cranston pulled out a surprise win last year, and I think it's between him and John Hamm again this time around.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Glenn Close - Damages (FX)
Sally Field - Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
Mariska Hargitay - Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Holly Hunter - Saving Grace (TNT)
Elisabeth Moss - Mad Men (AMC)
Kyra Sedgwick - The Closer (TNT)

Just about everything I said about the Lead Actor Drama category can be said about this one. Okay, so there were only five nominees in the category last year, but all five are nominated again. This time they're joined by Elizabeth Moss for her work as the ambitious Peggy Olson in Mad Men but good as she was she probably won't win the Emmy. In terms of snubs in ths category, I'm not familiar enough with The Shield to know if there was a strong enough female role to to qualify for lead actress (maybe CCH Pounder?), but I do think it was incredible that Mary McDonnell as President Laura Roslin deserves not only to be nominated but also to win. No mention of Friday Night Lights star Connie Britton either. And I don't even want to start on the Katherine Heigl thing except to say that she was right to take herself out of contention in 2008 – given the Emmy's obvious propensity to repeat nominations as if by rote as seen in these two categories – because her part wasn't nomination worthy last season.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Jon Cryer - Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Kevin Dillon - Entourage (HBO)
Jack McBrayer - 30 Rock (HBO)
Tracy Morgan - 30 Rock (HBO)
Neil Patrick Harris - How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
Jeremy Piven - Entourage (HBO)
Rainn Wilson - The Office (HBO)

Why does Jon Cryer always get sent to the Supporting Actor category from Two and a Half Men? It strikes me that he carries at least as much of the acting load as Charlie Sheen does and does so with far less credit. Not that he's going to win in either category of course. Jeremy Piven has totally owned this category for the past three years, and even though the show has increasingly gone down hill he can't be counted out. There's a lot of talent in this category, and a lot of great characters as well. The hope is that Neil Patrick Harris will finally win some recognition for playing the legen – wait for it – dary Barney Stinson, but I can't help but worry that he'll lose to the showier roles played by Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer and Rainn Wilson. As long as he doesn't lose to Jermey Piven, I'll be happy.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Kristin Chenoweth - Pushing Daisies (ABC)
Jane Krakowski - 30 Rock (NBC)
Elizabeth Perkins - Weeds (HBO)
Amy Poehler - Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Kristin Wiig - Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Vanessa Williams - Ugly Betty (ABC)

The nominees are all worthy – which is to say that none came from According To Jim, Kath & Kim or Do Not Disturb, but I would love to see Kristin Chenoweth win just because. I don't expect her to, but I love for her to.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Christian Clemenson - Boston Legal (ABC)
Michael Emerson - Lost (ABC)
William Hurt - Damages (FX)
Aaron Paul - Breaking Bad (AMC)
William Shatner - Boston Legal (ABC)
John Slattery - Mad Men (AMC)

Shatner? Shatner?! Hasn't he been nominated enough for this award? Otherwise this is a category stocked with strong actors and and amazing performances. But again, four out of the six actors in this categories were nominated last year and there are only one new shows represented on this list at all, the nomination for Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Rose Byrne - Damages (FX)
Hope Davis - In Treatment (HBO)
Rachel Griffiths - Brothers & Sisters (HBO)
Cherry Jones - 24 (Fox)
Sandra Oh - Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Dianne Wiest - In Treatment (HBO)

The Supporting Actress in a Drama category is another one with strong performances. Only three of the nominees form last year are back – Rachel Griffiths, Sandra Oh and last year's winner Dianne Wiest – which is a pleasant change from the other acting categories. I've seen Cherry Jones's performance as the tough but loving (at times to the point where her love for someone overrides her good judgement) President of the United States in 24 and Sandra Oh's work in Grey's Anatomy which first rate. Naturally I don't expect either of them to win.

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series

Alan Alda - 30 Rock (NBC)
Beau Bridges - Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Jon Hamm - 30 Rock (NBC)
Steve Martin - 30 Rock (NBC)
Justin Timberlake - Saturday Night Live (NBC)

I'll be honest with you; of the nominees I only saw Beau Bridge's performance on Desperate Housewives and while I liked the character and his story, quite frankly it totally failed to blow me away. One of the others has to be better, right?

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series
Edward Asner - CSI: NY (CBS)
Ernest Borgnine - ER (NBC)
Ted Danson - Damages (FX)
Michael J. Fox - Rescue Me (FX)
Jimmy Smits - Dexter (Showtime)

I wanted to comment on this category to to mention how blown away I was by Ed Asner's work in this particular episode of CSI: New York. The show doesn't get that much attention but his performance as an elderly man whose whole life since World War II has been an elaborate lie absolutely blew me away. He won't win – it will probably go to Michael J. Fox for playing against type in Rescue Me because the Emmy voters love him and his fight against Parkinsons Diseas – but I thought it was a great performance.

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series
Jennifer Aniston - 30 Rock (NBC)
Christine Baranski - The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Tina Fey - Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Gena Rowlands - Monk (USA)
Elaine Stritch - 30 Rock (NBC)
Betty White - My Name is Earl (NBC)

Tell me that we don't know that Tina Fey is going to win this one. She had the perfect character served up to her on a silver platter and she knocked it right out of the ballpark, sometimes just by using Sarah Palin's own words.. Which in a way is a shame, if only because it cuts out Christine Baranski's inspired performance as Sheldon's mother.

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series
Brenda Blethyn - Law & Order; SVU (NBC)
Carol Burnett - Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Ellen Burstyn - Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Sharon Lawrence - Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
CCH Pounder - The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (HBO)

I've only seen all of Sharon Lawrence's performance in this category and just the tail end of Carol Burnett's part so it's not fair of me to comment. Still, the little bit I saw of Carol's role in this episode absolutely blew me away and reminded me once again of just how much range this lady has.

Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program
Tom Bergeron - Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
Phil Keoghan - The Amazing Race (CBS)
Heidi Klum - Project Runway (Bravo)
Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio - Top Chef (Bravo)
Jeff Probst - Survivor (CBS)
Ryan Seacrest - American Idol (Fox)

How do you get seven nominees in six nominations? Are Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio somehow joined bodily to each other? (I mean I'd like to be joined bodily with but that has nothing to do with hosting unless it was on Cinemax.) The only notable thing in this category this year is that the Emmys corrected last year's snub and nominated Phil Keoghan for his work on The Amazing Race. I for one am glad that he wasn't nominated last year so that he didn't have to participate in that hosting travesty last year.

The Primetime Emmy Awards will be held on September 20th – I think, since they were moved at least once due to conflicts with something else on TV. Sadly this, together with the absolute determination to end the show on time at the expense of prepared material and even acceptance speeches in major categories, shows the regard with which the awards are held in the very medium they honour. At least this year they have one host, and an awesome one at that: Neil Patrick Harris who did such a spectacular job at the Tony Awards that people were actually talking about the Tony Awards after they ended.