Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Belated Emmy Round-up

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." That's how I felt about the Emmys.

I know, I know, quoting Dickens when writing about an awards show is sort of trite, although I suspect that if Dickens were alive today he'd be writing for TV. The magazines that he wrote for in his day were the episodic mass entertainment media of the day, delivering serialized stories for those who couldn't or wouldn't go to plays but probably patronized Vaudeville and Music Hall. Still whether or not Dickens was writing for TV, I do feel that he wouldn't have anything to do with awards shows except as a recipient. Sunday's Emmy Awards was a show that gave us the best of times and the worst of times.

So why did I use that quote? Well, I used the quote because there were times when the show worked for me, times when it was fun and it flowed. But there were other times too, when I was ready to throttle several of the people associated with the entire endeavour. The fact that the worst of it pretty much coincided with the Movie and Miniseries categories – aka the "let's honour HBO for being the only people to continue to make this sort of stuff" segment of the show – is not really the point. There were tons of problems with the show and the way it was paced and put together. It was a show of parts rather than one that really flowed well. On the whole it made the show a big disappointment.

The show got off to a reasonable start with a musical number featuring host Jimmy Fallon several of the young cast members from Glee and an assortment of actors from other shows, including (but not limited to) Tina Fey, John Hamm, Joel McHale and Jorge Garcia, all singing so reasonably well that one wonders if the Autotune equipment was deployed. Fallon even did a reasonably good Bruce Springsteen riff at the end... or maybe he was just lip-syncing. No matter it was an energetic start to the proceedings, but then one of the symptoms of the problems that I was going to have with the whole thing surfaced. We had Fallon with an acoustic guitar, assisted by Amy Poehler, introducing the Comedy portion of the show. And I don't mean that they were doing humour at the beginning of the show. We had Fallon "paying tribute" to the three big shows that that left the air this year, 24, Law & Order, and Lost by doing parodies of various musicians. To show how out of touch I am, the only one that I recognised was the Elton John tribute to 24 I had to discover later that the Law & Order tribute was Boyz II Men and the Lost tribute was Green Day. Now pardon me if I'm wrong but aren't those references all nostalgia but just nostalgia for different people? No matter my tolerance for musical Fallon is apparently quite low.

Something else that annoyed me was the whole idea of the "Twitter introductions." These were introductions to some of the presenters that were supposedly written by ordinary decent civilians like you and me who submitted them using Twitter, I suppose in the hope that the show would seem hip and involving for the viewers by embracing social media. Look, I already know that Hollywood is embracing the whole social media thing because they've got an entire show inspired by a Twitter feed on the Fall schedule ($#*! My Dad Says), but it's a fact that most of the people posting on Twitter aren't as funny as the guy whose posts inspired $#*! My Dad Says, and if you needed any proof you had it in the lame intros that the public submitted (or supposedly submitted). And these were the ones that someone involved in the show thought were funny! Can you imagine the ones they rejected?!

I mentioned that I had a low tolerance for musical Jimmy Fallon. I also seem to have a very low tolerance for Ricky Gervaise. This time around he came out to present the award for Outstanding Musical Comedy or Variety Show, a category that has basically become the catch-all for the late night talk shows since nobody is doing primetime variety or even variety specials anymore, and he riffs on the idea that the show needs for people to be drinking. Maybe then things would get more exciting, presumably in the hope that someone would say something outrageous that the FCC would want to fine NBC for (but can't at least until the Supreme Court rules on the decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals – and no Gervaise didn't go into that, that was mine). It's what goes on at the Golden Globes (which Gervaise is hosting this year). Setting aside the fact that this is a fairly serious event and would there be an open bar at the British version of this, the BAFTAs, the fact is that I thought that Gervaise was allowed to go on too long without being that funny (certainly not as funny as he thought he was) in a show that is inevitably tight for time.

One other thing that I found a bit annoying was the way that they handled the writing and directing categories in all four genres (Comedy, Drama, Musical Comedy & Variety, and Movies & Miniseries). Instead of announcing the names of the writers, the producers tried to replicate the vibe that the Musical Comedy & Variety writers and producers get up to with their short productions naming the (many) people who participate in putting their shows together. They asked the writers and directors questions and aired the answers. Some of the answers were humorous, but not all of them. That was part of the problem with doing it this way – some of the nominees didn't bring the funny – but the big thing was that I just didn't get the names of the people who won. I want to know the names of the people who win, and if you feel the need to have something under the announcement of the names, include clips of the show instead.

There were good things about the broadcast. In fact if I'm going to be absolutely honest the good things outweighed all but the worst of the bad things. For one thing Fallon and the producers seemed quite intent on running a tight show and showing the world that they were running a tight show. From time to time at the cutaways they showed a clock that indicated where they were in terms of run-over. The longest time of run-over that the clock showed – or that they showed on the clock – was 1:56. Not one hour and fifty-six minutes but one minute and fifty six seconds. And from that point the run-over decreased and by the end of the night I was under the impression that they were just slightly short. The better part of this is that they were able to pull this off without making whatever cuts they made in the running time without making those cuts seamlessly. It never felt like massive amounts of material was dumped, and as far as that part goes it flowed well. I suppose that they were helped by the fact that George Clooney's speech accepting the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award (the Hopes were friends of his Aunt Rosemary) was short but nonetheless a heartfelt call for people to keep giving even when the disaster of the day has left the headlines, because the need was still there. There was also time for some good material. I was particularly impressed with the comedy bit done with eventual Outstanding Comedy winner Modern Family that culminated with Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet together with George Clooney (who was a good sport about the whole thing). The use of John Hodgeman as a back stage announcer, giving "humorous" opinions about the winners of various categories as they made their way to the stage, was good if expected. After all he's been doing this for the past three episodes or so.

Which brings me to the biggest problem I had with the show and it's a big one. One of the things that I learned when I was running my old Diplomacy zine was laying out a page. I wasn't great at it but I did alright. Setting the running order of the awards is the equivalent of doing layout on a printed page, and in this case I think that they producers of the Emmy's did a lousy job. They did a lousy job – in my opinion – because the segregated the categories by genre. Thus you had all of the comedy awards that were given out on Sunday night (except the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy, which was the last one presented on the night) all together, followed by "all" the Reality Emmys (all one of them!?) presented together and so on. That was a real problem for me and, if the ratings are to be believed, for a lot of people. According to Marc Berman of Media Week viewership for the last half hour of the Emmy Awards dropped from 11.21 million to 9.37 million. The last half hour of the Emmys roughly coincided with the grouping of all the Movie & Miniseries Emmys, or as I like to call it, the "Let's pat HBO on the back for doing the stuff that Network TV can't make pay and is afraid to do anyway" portion of the Emmys. And why would they. If we accept the premise that most Americans either only watch Broadcast TV or watch Broadcast TV and a selection of basic cable channels but don't subscribe to a premium service like HBO, then why would they be interested in watching Temple Grandin and You Don't Know Jack sweep through the awards in this category like Sherman swept through Georgia. Only slightly more absurd than the fact that there was only one Reality show category in the Emmys and yet there was a whole section of the awards ceremony devoted to Reality Show is the fact that there were only two entries in the mini-series category. People skipped this part of the ceremony in droves, I suppose preferring to watch the end of the pre-season football game on FOX.

Ah I can hear people say, but how else can you do it? If you only put the big categories at the end of the show won't people tune out and just catch the big awards at the end? That's what defenders of the way the show was set up this year are saying. The fact is that you don't have to present all of the big awards at the end of the night. Why can't you mix up the categories and present the award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy right after Outstanding Writer Movie or Mini-series and just before Outstanding Reality-Competition Series. You can still have the clip pieces about the year in TV Drama or Comedy or what have you but they don't serve to demark sections of the show. There are really only two awards that have to be at the end – Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series – but otherwise they can pretty much be presented in whatever order works for the producers, and people will keep watching because they won't know when a category they'll really be interested in will be coming up. But that's just my opinion.

Turning to the awards themselves, it was a big night for Modern Family, winning in the Writing category as well as for Supporting Actor in a Comedy for Eric Stonestreet, and the Outstanding Comedy Series award. Where it didn't win was in the two lead categories where the show had no one entered, and in the Directing and Supporting Actress categories where everyone knew that Jane Lynch was going to win for her portrayal of Sue Sylvester. (Interesting note – both Jane Lynch and Eric Stonestreet had minor speaking parts in third season episodes of The West Wing: Lynch was a reporter in the press room and Stonestreet was one of White House Council Oliver Babich's assistants.) As the blog poll predicted Jim Parsons won the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy, but the bigger story is that the Outstanding Lead Actress Emmy went not to the poll's preferred actress Amy Poehler but to perpetual Emmy favourite Edi Falco. It seemed to come as a shock to her, because she claimed in her acceptance speech that "I'm not funny." And while that may be her self-deprecating way of saying that she herself isn't funny it sticks with the sense of a lot of people that her show isn't funny. Also in the realm of surprises was that Kyra Sedgwick won the Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama after her fifth nomination. I would like to note for posterity that our Emmy poll had a three way tie in this category and still failed to name the winner in a six woman race. I guess that our preferences as fans don't match what the TV Academy is looking for.

Despite the fumble with the Outstanding Actress in a Drama category the poll had a good time at the awards this year, getting not only Parsons and Modern Family but also the Reality Competition winner. You guys picked Top Chef when I was sure that The Amazing Race would win a seventh award despite a lacklustre season (but I still contend that this last season of Survivor had it over both shows and has only been nominated once in this category since they started giving Emmys in it). The Emmy for Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad was, despite the poll's support for Michael C. Hall, less a case of Emmy Entropy than it was a case of the Academy getting it right and rewarding outstanding work. The same can be said of the award for his Breaking Bad co-star Aaron Paul in the Supporting Actor category. Still, it was only in the two Actor categories that Breaking Bad triumphed. Despite, or perhaps because, Mad Men having two cast members (Elizabeth Moss and Christina Hendicks) in the Supporting Actress in a Drama category, it was The Good Wife's Archie Panjabi who won there. Dexter's Steven Shill won as outstanding Director in a Drama series, but it was Mad Men that won the Outstanding Drama Emmy, not poll choice and departing series Lost.

And that's the 2010 Emmy awards. Not the best Emmy show ever and with plenty of room for improvement, but far from the worst Emmy show ever – that "honour" would go to the year the Reality Show hosts hosted. Hopefully whoever has the show next year will learn from the good points and missteps of this year's show. Somehow I doubt it though.

(This article is way late. I'll just give the excuse that I had to go to my brother's birthday party on Monday, and couldn't get much work done during the whole day. It has the singular virtue of being true. This would never have happened if they'd run the show when it's supposed to run - the middle of September. Then I'd have a host of other excuses for being late.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Emmy Poll Round Up – Who Should Win and Who Will Win

Or at least who I think will win. Since of course should win and will win are entirely different animals.

In the Outstanding Actress in a Drama category the result was a three-way between Glenn Close, Connie Britton and Mariska Hargitay. Wait, let me try to scrub that image from my mind. No, that's not going away. Of these three I think that Glenn Close has the best chance of taking it home, the Academy tending to follow a policy of giving the statue to whoever won it last unless they've got a damned good reason not to. The thing is that the more I think this over the more I think that they do have a damned good reason to give it to someone else, but that someone else is someone who didn't get any votes in this poll. That would be Julianna Margulies, whose performance as Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife is a strong one and is getting a lot of favourable buzz the closer we get to the Emmy's. She already has a SAG Award, a Golden Globe and a Satellite Award for the part. And it's a good fit for her. I think the Academy will complete the set by giving her the Emmy, and I think it's probably well deserved.

In the Outstanding Actress in a Comedy category, the poll came up with Amy Poehler from Parks & Recreation as the winner. This is really a category that I have no strong opinion on because I don't watch any of the shows. The one thing that I will say is that I don't get Edie Falco's nomination here, even though reportedly this is a performance that will make you forget she was ever Carmela Soprano. But is it a comedy? In a situation like this I will retreat to "Emmy Entropy" and suggest that either last year's winner Toni Collette or the winner in earlier seasons Tina Fey will take it. Still you can't ignore the fact that the Academy does love Edie Falco. This one's a real scramble.

The poll for Outstanding Actor in a Drama gave us Dexter's Michael C. Hall as your choice to win the Emmy. It is a very strong field this year and I think that Hall is probably deserving of the award. I just don't think he'll win it. As I said in the article when I gave out the poll results, I think that Bryan Cranston is almost certainly going to win this category for a third year in a row. Anyone else, but in particular Kyle Chandler is a long shot. The academy has shown that they prefer the complexities of Cranston's performance to just about When you consider that everyone in this category except Chandler and Fox – both of whom have been nominated for the first time in this category – has lost to Cranston in the past two years, it seems unlikely that there'll be an upset in this category. Give the Emmy to Cranston again, but at least you can't belame "Emmy Entropy"; he's earned it.

Turning to Outstanding Actor in a Comedy responses to the poll came down heavily on the side of Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory an opinion that I personally share. Incumbent winner Alec Baldwin was a distant second in my poll. I won't disagree that Parsons is what elevates The Big Bang Theory above the level of some sort of Friends knock-off and for that alone he is deserving of the award. I desperately want him to get it, hope that he'll get it, will that he'll get it. I just fear that, like last year, the Emmys will ignore Parsons's performance and give the thing to Alec Baldwin... in which case I'm blaming Will Wheaton because that's something Sheldon would do.

Of the three "Outstanding Series" categories that I polled on, Outstanding Reality-Competition Series is probably the least suspenseful of them all. The poll picked Top Chef over American Idol but the perpetual winner in the category is The Amazing Race and despite what I think most viewers would consider a pair of less than stellar outing in the past TV season, it's the show most likely to succeed. Part of the reason is that American Idol didn't exactly have a great season either. And while Dancing With The Stars did have two strong seasons I don't think the Academy will reward it. The problem with all of this is that none of these shows was the real Outstanding Reality-Competition Series this year. The true Outstanding Reality-Competition Series was Survivor: Heroes vs Villains and everyone except the Academy knows it. The show had all the elements that a good Reality-Competition show needs; drama, comedy, a bit of carefully blurred nudity, injuries, despair, a villain that you could really hate (Russell Hantz), an unlikely hero (Boston Rob, the first person who really saw Russell for the rat that he was), and a winner who was both unexpected and likeable (Sandra Diaz-Twine). But for whatever reason – probably because the Academy thought it "unworthy" – the show wasn't nominated. Of the shows that were nominated Amazing Race is the one that they probably liked the best.

In the Outstanding Comedy Series category the poll chose Modern Family over The Office. Now I won't disagree with Modern Family as the winner. I think that it's a show that has altered the dynamic of the family comedy significantly. That said I'm not convinced that it will be the winner in the category for two reasons. The first is that it might be a victim of "Emmy Entropy" and lose to repeat Emmy winner 30 Rock even if the show has been weaker this year than in previous years. The other possible winner is this year's critical darling Glee. All things considered, while I personally think that Modern Family should win, 30 Rock is the show that I think will win.

Finally, in the Outstanding Drama Series category, Lost won the most votes in my poll. I think this reflects in part the show's cult following and also the fact that the show has left the air. I think that if it does win the Emmy it will be because it was the show's final season. I just don't think that it will win. I'm mostly convinced that Mad Men will repeat in this category for the third season in a row. It would be my personal pick, but The Good Wife has a lot of buzz. Still, I think that "Emmy Entropy" will win out again, and that Mad Men will be the last show to be honoured in tonight's show.

I won't be live-blogging the Emmy's this year, but I will be taking notes and will be doing a wrap-up, after I recover from the show.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Poll Results - What Show SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Drama Series?

Our final Emmy Poll, and I wanted to get it out no so I can do a round-up of the Poll Results tomorrow. We had ten votes cast which is down from fourteen last year, but is at least up from the eight votes we had last week for the Comedy category. In a tie for fourth with no votes are AMC's Breaking Bad, Showtime's Dexter and HBO's True Blood. In third place, with two votes (20%) is last year's winner in this category, AMC's Mad Men. In second place, with three votes (30%) is the CBS drama The Good Wife. The winner in this category however, with five votes (50%) is ABC's Lost, which ended earlier this year.

There is one thing that rather surprises me about voting in this category, and that is that True Blood didn't get more – as in any – votes. I've never seen the show, though there are several episodes from earlier seasons on the DVR thanks to Space: The Imagination Station here in Canada (new episodes air on HBO Canada but the specialty channels do buy older season of shows that air on HBO... and Showtime if I'm not mistaken), but I expected that as with many of these cult type shows, it would have a rabid following that swarms a site that mentions there show. It wouldn't be the first time that happened here, notably in the Actress in a Drama category back in 2007 when there was a sudden surge of votes in a 36 hour periods, all but one for Patricia Arquette in Medium. But this time around my readers showed no love at all for the vampires and their lovers. Breaking Bad is another show that doesn't get much love around here. It's an excellent show but I wonder if most of the support for the show is channelled through Brian Cranston's truly outstanding portrayal of the good man who is turning bad as he sinks into the world of drug manufacturing and distribution. Dexter is another show which I think that, if it is honoured at all in this year's awards, will be honoured with an Emmy for its star rather than with a win for the series as a whole.

Turning to the shows that received votes in this poll, I'm going to dismiss The Good Wife in the category, and probably unfairly I am going to give the same reason that I did for Breaking Bad and Dexter. The Good Wife has an outstanding cast and looks at something that we are seeing increasingly in recent years, the politician's wife who has to stand by her husband when his personal indiscretions erupt into the public arena. That said, I think that if Juliana Margulies wins the Emmy as Outstanding Actress in a Drama there are, probably unfairly, going to be those who see it as the show's reward particularly if Christine Baranski picks up the Emmy in the Supporting Actress category.

Turning to the other two shows, I'm going to say that personally I think Mad Men will get it again this year, and I think it should (I don't vote in these polls; if I did Mad Men would get my vote). While the central figure in Mad Men is the conflicted Don Draper, played by John Hamm, there are plenty of stand-out characters and the show has a lot of depth. I guess I just love it. And I really don't care too much for Lost. That's a personal prejudice however. I stopped watching the show after the way the network suits and the producers handled the third season. It had an arrogant quality to it. Can't blame the show for that but you can blame the network executives and the showrunners. That said of course, I think it is highly likely that the show could challenge Mad Men this season. Not only did the show leave the air this season, but the truth is that it left the air on a high note unlike this year's other high profile Drama that ended this season, 24. I'm convinced that it is going to come down to Mad Men and Lost and I absolutely would not be surprised to see Lost win it.

Toby provided our only comment this time around: "I'm a "Lostaway" at heart and they really tried to answer as many questions as they could (an impossible task!) while at the same time providing something a little different in the storyline. (A shame that a BBC series beat them to the same conclusion by two days.) But it was appointment TV, one in which it held my interest so well that I wouldn't allow my family or friends to call me during the hour...." That's high praise from just about anyone, and I can see how, if someone made it over that "hump" in the third season, the show would become appointment Television. My problem is that I didn't make it over that hump and because of it I was never really able to catch-up (not I confess that I really had any great desire to). If I'm going to fault the series on that it is that if that third season had been done better, or maybe more responsibly, I'd have hung around abd become as engrossed with it as you obviously were.

No new polls for a few days, though I should be able to do a "what shows will be cancelled first" type poll that won't become irrelevant when a show is dropped before the poll ends. Tomorrow I'll be summing up the poll results for this year's Emmys and giving my own opinions as to which shows will win, no matter whether I think they should. Then tomorrow night I will not be liveblogging the Emmy's because I don't feel like running back and forth between the TV and the desktop computer. Instead I'll post a summary after the business is over.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Poll – What Show SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Drama Series?

Here's the final poll of the 2010 Emmy series of polls. As always I want you to vote for the show that you think should win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series, rather than the show you think will win. Of course the two might not be mutually exclusive. And as usual, if you have reasons for believing that a show should win, post them in the comments section. As I've mentioned in the previous "Poll Results" posting I do like to quote comments in the blog when I get them, as long as they aren't spam for Taiwanese porn sites or offers of generic Viagra. I love publishing legitimate commentary and trying to establish a discussion; it's the old zine publisher in me.

Deadline for this poll is Saturday August 28th, only because I need to get an "Emmy Poll wrap-up" piece written on Sunday.

Poll Results - What Show SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Comedy Series?

Back to a Sunday poll result thanks to the inevitable circumstances beyond my control (I had to spend Saturday afternoon mowing my brother's lawn – he and my sister-in-law and my nephew are on holiday). Beyond that, because this particular poll didn't exactly set the world on fire in terms of votes cast – and with six votes cast we were down from last year's count in this category when we had seven – I had a sneaking hope that maybe we might get a couple of more votes here, but I guess not.

So as I've said, we had eight votes cast. In a tie for third with no votes we have HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, FOX's Glee, Showtime's Nurse Jackie and NBC's 30 Rock. In second place, with two votes (33%) we have The Office from NBC. But the winner for this category with four votes (67%) is Modern Family.

I think this is probably an accurate assessment, although if I were to look into the minds of the Emmy voters (a scary prospect to be sure) I'd be guessing that they'll stick with their "insider" mentality and vote for 30 Rock. Skipping over 30 Rock which others have assured me has slipped in the past season, the other shows which got no votes are a mixed bag. For example I am not convinced that Nurse Jackie is actually a comedy, and I'm fairly convinced that Glee is in this category because the Academy can't believe that a show with music can fit into the Drama category. Actually I think that it is as much Comedy as it is Drama, and that generally gets a show slotted into the Comedy category so maybe that's not such an inaccurate choice. Curb Your Enthusiasm has a strike against it for being a cable show – the Emmys tend not to reward comedies from cable networks and for the most part cable networks don't do comedy well.

Turning to the two shows that received votes, The Office is the old established veteran, a show with proven pedigree and an excellent choice. Except that it has been stated that this hasn't been the best season for The Office, just as it hasn't been the best season for 30 Rock. Admittedly a bad season for either The Office or 30 Rock would be considered an excellent season for lesser series. On the other hand the other show that was nominated – Modern Family has had an excellent season, something that was proven by the nominations for five of the six adult actors on the show. Modern Family takes a fairly pedestrian and well worn premise – the family comedy – and expands it by expanding the definition of family. Instead of the husband wife and kids, with the requisite funny neighbours/in-laws, Modern Family has three different perspectives on families; the gay couple with an adopted child, the older man with a younger woman and her child from a previous relationship, and the "conventional" husband wife and two kids family. It works.

We had two comments on this category (which means that 1/3 of the people who voted also commented; if the voter turnout were higher this ratio would be exciting). First up we have this comment from Toby in support of Modern Family: "I've gone with 'Modern Family'. The mockumentary premise sometimes gets violated, but it's all in service to the humor. And so many great characters, especially Cameron and Phil and young Manny...." The characters are one of the big points of this show. As I've said the strength of this cast is shown by the nominations for every adult actor on the show except Ed O'Neill, which is regarded as one of the great oversights of this Emmy season. Casting is important, but giving actors the material to work with is what sets the top shows apart.

The other comment is from Ben who commented on an earlier poll: "First off, I thank you for quoting me a few posts back." No problem. When I get comments for polls – at least ones that don't redirect to Taiwanese porn sites or other spam, which seems to be a growing problem – I like to run them. I like to see the reasons why people vote the way they do. "I'm voting for The Office. The show may be having growing pains, but it's fundamentally one of the strongest shows on TV. Given the chance I'd have voted for Parks and Recreation, but that's another story." I'm not sure that you can say that a show that is in its sixth season can be described as having "growing pains" but I can see that the show, like any show, can have an off season in spite of having the same writers and the same cast. And yes the show is fundamentally strong. The question for me is whether it should win this time with a show like Modern Family or even the incumbent 30 Rock. As far as Parks and Recreation, I'm going to again hide behind my general antipathy towards comedy as a reason for not watching the show. I have had good reports about the series after what some regarded as a rocky start. Think it is probably more worthy of a spot on the ballot than Nurse Jackie but then that's my own personal prejudice rearing its head.

New poll, the last in the current Emmy Polls, will be up in a few minutes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Poll - What Show SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Comedy Series?

Okay, we're in the home stretch, with just this category and the Outstanding Drama Series to be voted on. As always please vote for who you think should win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. Not necessarily who you think is going to win but who you think is most deserving of the win. I really want to hear your reasons for voting for the show tha you vote for, if only because it makes a major break from Taiwanese porn and (the latest) male enhancement products. I can honestly say that I've never had a complaint in that department, so I refuse to take part in their little games to improve their position on Google Searches.

This poll will run until August 21st.

Poll Results - What Show SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Reality-Competition Series?

I didn't poll this category last year, preferring instead to look at the Reality-Competition Host category. That was a mistake, and I admitted as much last year. As a result I don't have anything to compare the voting turnout with. Anecdotally I think that with eight votes this category is having a downturn of interest, but I can't be absolutely certain.

As I said there were eight votes cast, and they all went to just two shows. In a three-way tie for third place we have ABC's Dancing With The Stars, Lifetime's Project Runway, and the show that has won in this category every year that it has been on the Emmy ballot, The Amazing Race from CBS. In second place with three votes (38%) is FOX's American Idol. Finally the winner with five votes (63%) is Bravo's Top Chef.

Now the fact of the matter is that the only shows on this list that I watch are Dancing With The Stars and The Amazing Race and as I've stated many times before, The Amazing Race is one of my favourite shows and certainly my favourite Reality Competition series. I can't speak to the quality of the other three shows. I have heard that both Project Runway and American Idol have had less than stellar seasons. Supposedly Project Runway suffered in the transition from Bravo to Lifetime. In the case of American Idol there's a sense that the drama at the Judges table – the replacement of Paula Abdul by Ellen Degeneres, and now the announcement that Ellen herself is joining series star Simon Cowell in leaving the series (and that Kara DioGuardi might be leaving as well) – might be overshadowing the talent on the show. American Idol is slipping in the ratings, not that that really means much to the Emmy voters.

As far as the two shows that I do watch is concerned, Dancing With The Stars is an enjoyable series and invariably delivers an audience. As with all such series – and in my mind this sort of show is essentially the same as The Apprentice or Hell's Kitchen or even Top Chef and Project Runway; the early stages weed out the less capable cast members. The difference is of course that the fact that the public votes on who goes home means that the incompetent sometimes end up staying longer than you would suppose. As for The Amazing Race the show not only brings the world to its viewers, it manages to give ample doses of local colour and interest while still maintaining a certain amount of imagination in the preparation of its challenges. And even though it is thought by some that the past two "seasons" of the show were less than the best that they've delivered, that still puts it ahead of most reality-competitions shows (and maybe more than a few scripted shows). That's why I think that it's a permanent Emmy favourite and a show that is going to be hard to unseat.

Top Chef is a show that I used to watch occasionally. I don't anymore. I'm a big fan of Hell's Kitchen, so it may be a surprise that this show doesn't really do anything for me. Maybe it's because this show has a lot more to do with the artistic side of cooking rather than examining the business of working in and running a restaurant. Whatever the cause it frequently seems to me as though the chefs on Top Chef are continually producing "signature dishes" and artistic presentations that would be very hard to duplicate on a consistent basis. And that doesn't even mention how it sometimes seems to me that the whole show is some sort of gigantic product placement.

Now I'm going to tell you something that will surprise you. You're choice is wrong. Don't feel bad; My choice is wrong too. Worst of all – because it is why you, gentle readers, and I are both wrong – the Emmy voters made the wrong choice as well. Because as far as I'm concerned the Outstanding Reality-Competition series of the past year wasn't even nominated. That would be Survivor. If you want to break it down further, into one of the show's two seasons this year, I would say that the show should be judged on the Heroes vs Villains, which early on featured the "demented Hobbit" (Russell Hantz) against one of the best strategists that the show has ever produced (Rob Mariano) And later on produced one of the most satisfying results, when the alleged "floater" – Sandra Diaz-Twine – beat Hantz who received no votes at all...and sill insisted that he should have won if it weren't for some flaw in the way the game is set up. The Heroes vs Villains season was a truly outstanding bit of Reality-Competition programming. I'm not sure why it wasn't nominated. Maybe it was the episode they submitted but I think it is equally possible that those people who voted for who will be nominated for the Reality-Competition Emmy have a certain disdain for most shows in this form, including Survivor – in short they're being snobs about it – and that might just explain a lot about what gets nominated.

New poll up in shortly.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

New Poll - What Show SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Reality-Competition Series?

We turn now to the series awards. This category is always one of my favourites (because it has only ever been won by one of my favourite shows!), the Reality-Competition series award. As always please vote for who you think should win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama. Not necessarily who you think is going to win but who you think is most deserving of the win. If you've got reasons for picking the actor that you've chosen, please please please feel comment in this thread, the official place on this blog to give reasons for why you chose who you did or to debate with other readers about whay they're wrong and you are right. I really want the conversation, and I know that this is one category where my friend Toby's contribution will be along the lines of "nothing at all" – as in "If you can't say anything nice about something say nothing at all." (Because Toby is too much of a gentleman to say what he really thinks – something along the lines of "Reality sucks!!!") Deleting Taiwanese comment spam is getting to be a habit. One that I'd like to break.

To get us back on a schedule that I'm more comfortable with – and because next Sunday is my birthday – I'm going to make the deadline for this one Saturday August 14th.

Poll Results - Who SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama?

We're back again with the poll results. We've had another good turnout although the total number of votes cast was down significantly from last year. This year eighteen votes were cast, while last year there were twenty-six votes. The poll was up longer last season than this season however that doesn't explain precisely why we had fewer votes. There was a major push of voters on the second day last year, when I was tracking this material (to decide on how long the voting would run) but I can't really tell you if that holds true this year. I guess I just find it curious.

As I said, there were eighteen votes cast. In sixth place, with no votes was John Hamm from AMC's Mad Men. In fifth place, with two votes (11%) is last year's winner in this category, Bryan Cranston, the star of AMC's Breaking Bad. In a three way tie for second place, with three votes each are Kyle Chandler from NBC and DirecTV's Friday Night Lights, Hugh Laurie from FOX's House, and Matthew Fox who played Jack in ABC's Lost with three votes each (17%). But the winner, with seven votes (39%) is the star of the Showtime series Dexter, Michael C. Hall.

Let me start off by saying that I fully expect Brian Cranston to win the Emmy again. Sorry, but that's what I think is going to happen. The Academy seems to love Cranston's portrayal of a man who is – or was – basically good descending into the evil of drug manufacture, and becoming increasingly corrupted and evil in the process. Cranston gives a bravura performance.

I gave up on Lost long ago so I don't know if Matthew Fox's nomination was based entirely on merit or whether it was because he was the nominal lead actor in a big ensemble on a show which was both popular and critically acclaimed and had a huge influence on the industry...while it was on. Remembering what I can of Fox's performance during from back when I was watching the show, I'm inclined to believe the latter while admitting that the former is a vague possibility. There are better actors on Lost, two of whom are nominated in the Supporting Actor category. I was frankly surprised that John Hamm didn't get a vote for Mad Men. While he probably won't win, Hamm's portrayal of the outwardly confident, successful and aggressive – all to the point of arrogance – but inwardly conflicted and insecure Don Draper is far better that what I've seen Fox do, and better than some of what the other nominees in this category have done. There are those that would argue that this includes Hugh Laurie. There are those who have said that the character of Dr. House is mostly always the same, and therefore not really deserving of a nomination. There are, they say, episodes where the show breaks out and that in those episodes Laurie tries to do something different but for the most part he doesn't change. They forget that the Emmy nominations aren't based on a whole season of work but on episodes submitted by the actor and/or his agent. And those outstanding episodes of House where Hugh Laurie really shows his acting chops are the episodes that get submitted. Finally we have Kyle Chandler, getting the nomination he should have had when Friday Night Lights debuted rather than as it heads into its final season. Chandler's portrayal of Coach Taylor is spot on, a man who is by turns a firm but loving father and husband, a tough task master, a giving mentor and friend, and someone who even though he tries his best doesn't always triumph. It's a great role. I still can't get over the feeling that there will be people voting in this category who will look at this and say that the nomination was his award.

Which brings me to Dexter, a show that I don't watch, and to Michael C. Hall, an actor whose other work I am only slightly familiar with. The cynic in me might say that he has a better than average chance because of his recent illness, while I haven't seen the show I am given to believe that Hall's performance in Dexter, in which he makes the audience relate more to a serial killer than to his victims, is perhaps worthy on its own. I just have my doubts as to whether it will win.

We had two comments last week. Unfortunately – well you know what I mean – they weren't about this week's category but about last week's, the Lead Actor in a Comedy category. Judith writes: "I agree that Parsons gives a fine performance. Big Bang Theory is a big hit here in NZ, mainly because of Sheldon!" True. Sheldon is pretty much universal in his appeal as a comedic character. On the same topic, Ben writes: "Either Carell or Baldwin would be acceptable. Carell leads a great cast. If there's a problem with 30 Rock it's not with Jack or Liz, but with the fact that the writers haven't done much with the other characters. But Baldwin is excellent." I think that part of what helps Alec Baldwin is that he was primarily regarded as a dramatic actor for a long time; someone who did occasional comedies, but did drama, often serious work and not just the sort of action-adventure stuff that a lot of actors get tagged with. Baldwin is an actor who does comedy well rather than a comedian who acts. It's quite a valuable asset. Since I've never really watched 30 Rock, I can't fully comment (actually I take that back, I watched the first episode, but I found the Tracy Jordan character played by Tracy Morgan to be too annoying for me) on your assessment of the past season. I have to wonder how far you can go in bringing up the other characters without losing focus on the leads. In other words to what extent do you push this towards being an ensemble show. In something like Friends or Will & Grace it was easier because of the relatively small core cast but here it think it could be a bigger problem.

Ben continues: "That said, I do think Parsons deserves to win. He gives such a unique charm to his character. Of course regardless of how many viewers like him, you're probably right that he won't win." I think that Jim Parsons has a thin line to walk with Sheldon. It's not so much that taking him "out there" too much will destroy the charm that Sheldon has, although that is of course a risk, but there is the possibility that if the character is taken too far it might be seen by some as some sort of insulting stereotype or caricature. I think he manages to walk that line beautifully.

New poll up shortly – or maybe not so shortly, depending on when my brother comes to pick me up for dinner.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

I Was A TV Addict

In lieu of a full Weekend Videos segment, which I've put on hold while I'm doing the Emmy polling, I thought that I might give you this, which I stumbled upon while looking at something else; a classic Wayne & Shuster bit from 1959: "I Was A TV Addict."

This piece is an audio piece only from an album (maybe their only album) they apparently did around 1960 which features four of their greatest routines, including, "Shakespearean Baseball," "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga," "Frontier Psychiatrist," and this one. I distinctly remember seeing this bit on a series of black & white Wayne & Shuster retrospective shows that Frank Shuster had on CBC shortly after Johnny Wayne's death. Pretty funny stuff, but unlike the other three routines on this album it's probably not something that could be updated over the years as necessary.

And trust me, if they could've they would've. Wayne & Shuster were into recycling long before blue box programs. I don't know how many versions of "Shakespearean Baseball" I've seen. Details might change, like the ultimate destination of Wayne's destination after he's hit on the head, but the basic script remained the same. If all they ever did was recycle the same material they'd have been tired and unsuccessful, but for the most part they interleaved the recycled material with new stuff.

It isn't easy to find too much Wayne & Shuster material online or for sale for that matter. Between their estates and the CBC there isn't much out there outside of a little bit of material they did in the 1970s and '80s, which wasn't their best era. There's one retrospective DVD out there and that's it. A lot of this has to do with the contract that ACTRA forced on the CBC years ago which makes it prohibitively expensive in terms of royalties to be paid to the actors and their estates to actually air old radio and TV shows. This pretty much explains why there is precious little in terms of Canadian Old Time Radio or TV on the air anywhere.

Anyway, for your entertainment and elucidation, I Was A TV Addict."

Sunday, August 01, 2010

New Poll - Who SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama?

We wind up the Outstanding Acting categories with the Lead Actor in a Drama category. As always please vote for who you think should win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama. Not necessarily who you think is going to win but who you think is most deserving of the win. If you've got reasons for picking the actor that you've chosen, please please please feel comment in this thread, the official place on this blog to give reasons for why you chose who you did or to debate with other readers about whay they're wrong and you are right. Don't let Toby carry the conversation part of this all on his own. You don't have to of course but I am so tired of deleting Comment Spam for Taiwanese porn sites they add nothing to the conversation and I really would like to see people some discussion. It doesn't even have to be intelligent discussion J.

This poll will be up for a week. I will have the results and the next poll up on August 8th.

Poll Results - Who SHOULD win the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy?

I'm a day late with these results, which has allowed three more votes to be cast. I spent most of Saturday afternoon installing a new screen door on the back of my house, and most of the rest of the day recovering from the job. It was hot out and that door was heavy. So was the one it replaced.

There were nineteen votes cast which is actually down from last year's total of twenty two votes, but is still the highest number of votes that we've seen this year. But what is really impressive is the margin of the winner's victory.

So to the results. In a two way tie for fourth place, with no votes are Larry David from HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Tony Shaloub from Monk on the USA cable network. In fourth place with one vote (5%) is Matthew Morrison from ABC's Glee. In third place with three votes (16%) is Steve Carell, the star of NBC's The Office, while in second place is another NBC star, Alec Baldwin from 30 Rock with four votes (21%). But the winner, with eleven votes (a whopping 58%) is Jim Parsons from CBS's Big Bang Theory. I think the poll is right, in that I think that Jim Parson's performance as Dr. Sheldon Cooper really is the outstanding performance by a lead actor in a comedy by a long shot. After last year however, I'm afraid the person who should will again be robbed.

Turning to the two "also-rans" in this category who failed to earn a vote, we have one actor from When it comes to the Tony Shaloub nomination, I have seen some early episodes of Monk although that was some time ago, and I've been told that the show has slipped in quality over the years. I don't deny Tony Shaloub's talent. What I do know is that Shaloub being nominated seems to be a reflexive action on the part of the Television Academy to the point where, as I've said before, I wonder if he'll get a nomination next year despite the fact that the show no longer airs. I suppose that it's possible that he could win this time around because the show is ending it's run. As for Larry David's nomination, since I've never seen show I can't say anything constructive about it or his performance.

I can't evaluate Matthew Morrison's performance however it seems to be fairly rare for a freshman show to be nominated for an Emmy unless it is outstanding. There have been those who have questioned whether this show really belongs in the Comedy series category. The problem is of course that if it doesn't belong there, where does it belong? Since I've never seen it, I don't know. I'm also not sure to what degree Morrison's nomination is based on Glee being the past season's hottest new show, at least in terms of critical buzz at least (NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife had higher ratings than Glee).

Turning next to the second and third place finishes, taken together, it is difficult not to call them the favourites in the category, even though both The Office and 30 Rock have had off seasons (or so I've been told). Steve Carell's performance as Michael Scott is inevitably good, even if the character is someone who is totally clueless – or maybe because the character is totally clueless and Carell just does such a good job portraying him as totally clueless. Whatever the case, even though you don't actually root for Michael there are sometimes moments when you feel something for him. Just that little bit of sympathy is what it takes. As for Baldwin, well, it's hard to argue with someone who has won the last two Emmys in this category for the role of Jack Donaghy and was nominated for the role in the show's first season. I have a suspicion that Jack reminds many members of the Academy of the various network weasels they've met over the years, but Baldwin manages to bring a great deal of comedic talent, not to mention a bit of his own reputation, to the role. But again, I don't really watch either of these shows.

The Big Bang Theory is a show that I watch, and a big part of the enjoyment that I get out of it is as a result of Jim Parson's portrayal of Dr. Sheldon Cooper. If there is an indispensable character in any sitcom it is Sheldon. The show would be just another comedy about a group of friends without Parson's portrayal of the highly eccentric – to the point where some viewers come to believe that Sheldon suffers from Asperger Syndrome – condescending and self-centered character. In most cases these traits would make Sheldon a totally unsympathetic character which people would reject. In Sheldon, these traits are part of the charm. Beyond that Sheldon has a sort of vulnerability that builds sympathy despite the character's traits. Parson's deserves a lot of credit for bringing these traits out, particularly when you consider just how different the character is from his portrayer (Parson's plays the piano and is a sports fan; I don't know is Sheldon plays the piano, but while he's knowledgeable about Football at lest, he's totally inept at sports and doesn't really see any point in them). Friend of the Blog Toby O'Brien provided our only comment again this week (or at least the only one that didn't lead back to Taiwanese porn), and it is one that agrees with my own sentiments: "I went with Parsons because it has to be a fine line to walk making that character funny and not (too) uncomfortable for the audience. And Parsons handles it expertly."

As much as I want Jim Parsons to win in this category, I fully expect the Academy to reject the performance that is clearly the funniest and reward either Baldwin or Carell for their work. It's the safer, or maybe just the more elitist, way to go.

New Poll up in about an hour.