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.