Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mixed Results for The Rules

Well that was an “interesting” Emmy Awards. There were enough surprises to make the alteration of the voting rules to a single round plurality rather than a ranked ballot majority seem like a “good thing” and yet it is hard not to say that things haven’t changed that much.

Unlike a lot of people I was not in love with Jimmy Kimmel’s comedy stylings. There was some good stuff and then there was something like the intro of Bill Cosby that fell flat on it’s collective ass. The business with the peanut butter sandwiches seemed like it was recycled from the pizza delivery from a previous Oscar telecast. Like all of these things it was pretty hit and miss as far as I’m concerned. I think you have to ask why the comedy went on to the point where they had to eliminate the clips for the nominees in the Outstanding Actress in a Drama category.

But of course what I really want to talk about is how well I did or didn’t do using my rules to predict the results. And the answer is that I was right 50% of the time. Which means I was wrong 50% of the time. That’s glass half empty/half full territory. Watching the show I was in the “glass half empty” camp, disappointed and wondering about the validity of my predictive model. Then I moved to the glass half full side with the realization that 50% is probably better than most people did in their pools. And besides in some cases it was a matter of interpretation.

Let’s break things down.

Outstanding Supporting Actor Comedy
Predicted – Tony Hale, Veep
Winner – Louie Anderson, Baskets

Okay, this is a big surprise. Hale was a two time winner on an HBO show and Anderson was on a show that was unknown to me which I probably wouldn’t watch even if I knew about it. I was at a point where I wasn’t aware that Louie Anderson was playing a woman in the show. Apparently the show, or at least his performance qualifies as a hot new thing though.

Outstanding Supporting Actress Comedy
Predicted – Allison Janney, Mom
Winner – Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

Another surprise, maybe bigger for me than the Tony Hale loss if ‘m being honest. I wasn`t aware of McKinnon because I don’t watch SNL, and I have a bit of a bias on this since she’s on a show that doesn’t compete in the Outstanding Comedy Series but rather in the Variety Sketch Series category where it lost to Key & Peele. But there’s no category for performers in Variety Sketch series so there you go. I have a suspicion that this is a caegory where the change in the voting system came into play a bit.

Outstanding Supporting Actor Drama
Predicted – Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones
Winner – Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
I`m not sure but this may have surprised everyone. Bloodline isn`t one of the Netflix shows I watch, and given that they cancelled it after its upcoming third season apparently other people don`t watch it either (but who can tell with Netflix). Given that a lot of the talk around these Emmys was about how Game Of Thrones was going to dominate every category it was in, and that Peter Dinklage had won the category twice in the past, not to mention that Mendelsohn’s character was killed at the end of the first season and that much of his participation in the second season was through the medium of flashbacks I’m not sure it was outright predictable.
Outstanding Supporting Actress Drama
Predicted – Lena Headey, Game Of Thrones
Winner – Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
I said at the beginning that I considered this one of the most wide open categories of the night and I was proven right. I went with Headey in the anticipation of a Game Of Thrones sweep given that the previous season’s winner Uzo Aduba not receiving a nomination. I also said however that the Academy could very well go with Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey on the grounds that it was the show’s last season. I think that having three women from Game of Thrones in the category probably resulted in vote splitting and that using the plurality versus the majority system may have killed any chance that a Game of Thrones actress could have won. And Kimmel’s bit about Smith not showing up and thus not being getting the Emmy? Not really funny.
Outstanding Lead Actor Comedy
Predicted – Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Winner – Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Got it right. And while Anthony Anderson might have done one of the best episodes of the season on Black-ish I don’t think there was much chance he was going to win.
Outstanding Lead Actress Comedy
Predicted – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Winner – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Was there really any doubt?

Outstanding Lead Actor Drama
Predicted – Rami Malek, Mr Robot
Winner – Rami Malek, Mr Robot

Maybe my best pick of the lot. No past winner (for the same part) in the category and no one from an HBO show. Mr Robot was the recipient of a lot of critical buzz and Malek is a young guy. Wasn’t surprised to see him win, won’t be surprised to see him repeat unless something big shows up next year.

Outstanding Lead Actress Drama
Predicted – Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder
Winner – Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black

Every so often yo go to the track and the longshot comes in and you cheer even though you had your money on one of the favourites because it is just such a great story. So happy to see Tatiana win (and not just because she’s from Saskatchewan) inspite of all the obstacles in her way: going up against a previous winner, being on a science fiction-y show like Orphan Black, being on a show on a small network. The fact that she plays multiple characters (the clones) each very different in speech, character and even appearance is a bravura performance that thankfully wasn’t overlooked.

Outstanding Lead Actress Drama
Predicted – Veep
Winner – Veep
I know that some people complained afterwards that Black-ish was the best comedy on network TV and was robbed of the award, but is anyone really shocked or that unhappy that Veep won? I mean anyone who doesn’t work on the show…or for ABC?

Outstanding Drama Series
Predicted – Game Of Thrones
Winner – Game of Thrones

Anyone really surprised with this result? Spectacle with good writing wins every time.

Extra categories: I didn’t predicted these “officially” but I did nail them. In the Outstanding Variety Talk Show category I mentioned that there’s a big gap left by the departure of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s migration to CBS to host The Late Show in terms of doing political hunour. Of the nominees in the category only Last Week Tonight with John Oliver really filled that niche, so an easy pick. As was Limited Series categories. I predicted “Based on everything I’ve heard, expect a lot of awards for the cast writers and directors of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story before its eventual coronation.” The People v. O.J. Simpson won for Writing, Supporting Actor, Lead Actor and Lead Actress before winning Outstanding Limited Series. The only Limited Series categories it didn’t win were Supporting Actress (where no one from the series was nominated) and Directing.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

2016 Emmy Awards – By The Rules

emmysOr as it should probably be known: the night that a broadcast network gives up three hours at the start of the season to honour cable and streaming TV – particularly HBO. It’s true. Cable and streaming TV will take away most of the awards on Sunday night. Of the 63 nominees in the ten categories I look at here, twelve are on broadcast TV and of those twelve, four of the nominees are dramas only two of those are from a commercial network (as opposed to PBS). But debating the merits of having commercial network TV running a party for cable isn’t up for debate here. Picking winners is.
I’m going to try to predict this year’s Emmy awards “scientifically” using four basic rules. Two of the rules are Positive, one is Negative, and one is what I guess you could call Neutral or Preferential. There’s also a fifth rule that’s not yet proven. These predictions are based on things I’ve observed about the Emmys from long before I started this Blog and even before I had the Internet.
There is one thing that could disrupt “The Rules” and that is that the Emmy have adopted a new voting system. In the past they have used a “preferential ballot” in which the voters ranked the nominees from your favourite to your least favourite of the nominees. In tabulating the results the votes were counted and the show with the least number of first choice ballots was eliminated. The votes from that show were redistributed to the voters‘  second choices, and so on until one show had 50% of the vote. The Academy has switched to a plurality system (or “first past the post” as we call it in Canada) where voters pick the show they want to see win in the category and vote for it. The show with the most votes wins outright even if, in a six-way race they have 17% of the vote and the other five shows have a total 16.6% each. What this will mean to the Emmys is yet to be proven, but I’m predicting (hoping for actually) limited change.
So what are these rules? They’re actually pretty simple:
Rule 1: Winners win….until you know, they don’t.
The Emmys are unique among entertainment awards shows in that the same show or people can win year after year. The equivalent at the Oscars would be for last year’s Best Picture winner to win again this year. It doesn’t happen at the Tonys, the Grammys or the Oscars, just the Emmys and any other awards show that touches on TV. And the Emmys tend to give awards to previous season’s winners.
Rule 2: The “Hot New Thing” can overturn previous season’s winners, but it’s the academy that decide what the hot new thing is.
Funny thing about the TV awards. The people who choose the nominees and who vote for the winners don’t actually watch a hell of a lot of TV. TV critics (the pros) watch a lot of TV but the people at the TV academy are too busy working making TV shows to actually watch TV shows on a regular basis. What they know about what’s hot and what’s not is generally based on ratings and buzz and whatever  they decide is “quality” TV this year.
Rule 3: Premium cable trumps basic cable which trumps broadcast TV.
And by premium cable I mean HBO. This year HBO had 40 nominations, while Showtime had nine and Cinemax (!) had one. Those 40 nominations for HBO were greater than ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC combined although when you factor PBS into the mix it is greater. We don’t know yet were streaming video factors into this except to say that while they get more nominations than The CW, Amazon and Netflix have had very limited success.
Rule 4: Fantasy and Science Fiction don’t win… unless they come from HBO.
In fact Fantasy and Science Fiction shows almost never get nominations unless they’re on HBO. Battlestar Galactica may have been one of the best shows on all of TV during its run but never earned a Primetime Emmy nomination. Creative Arts Emmys sure, but not Emmy’s from Writing, Directing or Acting, let alone Outstanding Drama Series which are the categories being awarded on Sunday.
Let’s take a look at the series and acting categories and apply the rules. I’ll put the rule number that applies to the person or show beside their name. Previously nominated shows are marked with a *. As an added bonus I’ve found the odds that are being offered on the various nominees in the major categories (which is to say not the supporting categories) from a number of online sites that are offering Emmy bets. They are BetFred, 888Sports, William Hill, Unibet, and 32Red. I’l try to give an average of what they say with odds of the favourite in italics.
So who is going to get the chance to pay $400 to buy the trophy that they “won” (that’s right, the Emmys charge the winners the cost of manufacturing the Emmys if they actually want to take it home with them – cheap bastards)?
Outstanding Supporting Actor Comedy
  • Louis Anderson, Baskets, FX
  • Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, FOX *
  • Titus Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix *
  • Ty Burrell, Modern Family, ABC * (1a)
  • Tony Hale, Veep, HBO * (1,3) 
  • Keegan-Michael Key, Key and Peele, Comedy Central *
  • Matt Walsh, Veep, HBO (3)
So here we have a category with two “new” faces (I really can’t think of Louie Anderson as “new”) two broadcast shows, and no “hot new thing.” Last season’s winner Tony Hale is here as is previous winner in this category Ty Burrell. As much as I like Titus Burgess, he’s out of the “hot new thing” group. As much as I like Andre Braugher, a win on his part would be a huge upset. Ty Burrell is the only cast member from Modern Family to be nominated this year in a category that once was almost entirely made up of people from that show. At this stage I see a win by him as an incredible long-shot. Give it to Tony Hale again.

Outstanding Supporting Actress Comedy
  • Anna Chlumsky, Veep, HBO (3) *
  • Gaby Hoffman, Transparent, Amazon *
  • Allison Janney, Mom, CBS * (1)
  • Judith Light, Transparent, Amazon
  • Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live, NBC *
  • Niecy Nash, Getting On, HBO (3)*
Saying that Allison Janney will win in this category goes against every principle of The Rules, but it may prompt a special “supporting categories rule” namely that if an actress is nominated in a “Supporting” category for playing a role that is essentially a lead role they have a leg up on anyone else in the category. Except for Judith Light, everyone nominated here has been beaten by Janney – twice in the case of McKinnon and Chlumsky. There’s no hot new thing in this category so just give it to Janney again.

 Outstanding Supporting Actor Drama
  • Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul, AMC *
  • Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones, HBO * (1, 3)
  • Kit Harrington, Game of Thrones, HBO (3)
  • Michael Kelly, House of Cards, Netflix *
  • Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline, Netflix *
  • Jon Voigt, Ray Donovan, Showtime
For the most part this is the same group that Peter Dinklage beat last year. The only additions are Jon Voigt and Kit Harrington. Voigt is a good actor, but the Emmys tend to ignore movie stars in most cases – see Kevin Spacey and Matthew McConaughey as examples of actors who were supposed to set the Emmys on fire and ended up taking home nothing. And speaking of Spacey, I fear that if House of Cards hasn’t won an Emmy by now the chances are pretty slim for anyone on that series. As for Harrington, the past season of Game of Thrones has been pretty heavy on Jon Snow, but the fact is that I’ve always found Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister a more fascinating character. Dinklage for the win unless of course having two actors from the series leads to vote splitting under the new rules. But I honestly don’t think it’s likely.

Outstanding Supporting Actress Drama
  • Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones, HBO * (3)
  • Lena Headey, Game of Thrones, HBO * (3)
  • Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey, PBS (1a)
  • Maura Tierney, The Affair, Showtime
  • Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones, HBO (3)
  • Constance Zimmer, Unreal, Lifetime (2)
Maybe the hardest category in this whole thing to pick based on The Rules…or even picked on merit. Last year’s winner, Uzo Aduba (Orange Is The New Black), wasn’t nominated. Only two of the actresses who were nominated last year were nominated again this year (Emilia Clark, and Lena Headey) because Mad Men and The Good Wife have gone off the air and last year’s Downton Abbey actress was replaced by the only previous winner in this category, Dame Maggie Smith. You have three newcomers in this category. Oh yeah and half of the nominees are from HBO’s Game of Thrones. The closest thing to a “hot new thing” is Unreal, and if pushed I suppose you could make a case for Constance Zimmerman because it’s an inside TV series and it skewers Reality TV and most of the creative types – in particular actors – are down with that. I could very easily see Magge Smith getting the Emmy because it was the last season of Downton Abbey. However, I’d put the bulk of my money on any of the women of Game of Thrones, and because I have to say something here, I’m picking Lena Headey over Emilia Clarke and Maisie Williams. Cersei Lannister is just such a deliciously evil character that I find it hard to bet against the actress who plays her, if only out of fear that the Emmy venue might be swallowed up in wildfire if she doesn’t win. (joking)

Outstanding Lead Actor Comedy
  • Anthony Anderson, Black-ish, ABC 5/1 odds *
  • Aziz Ansari, Master of None, Netflix 3/1 odds (2)
  • Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth, FOX 20/1 odds *
  • William H. Macy, Shameless, Showtime 14/1 *
  • Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley, HBO, 12/1 odds (3)
  • Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent, Amazon, 1/2 odds * (1)
One of the categories where there might possibly be an upset. The HBO factor isn’t as great in comedy as it is in drama, and Black-ish had some much talked about episodes that might be persuasive to some members of the academy. However I think it really comes down to the two streaming series, Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent and Aziz Ansari in Master of None. As I’ve mentioned here, I’ve seen about five minutes of Masters of None before I stopped watching and despite the huge critical buzz, including some from some professional critics that I really like, I haven’t gone back. The rules – and the oddsmakers – say Tambor, but I think I’ll out on a limb here and predict Aziz Ansari will get the upset win.

Outstanding Lead Actress Comedy
  • Ellie Kemper, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Neflix 3/1 odds 
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep, HBO * 1/2 odds (1)
  • Laurie Metcalfe, Getting On, HBO 20/1 odds (3)
  • Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish, ABC 14/1 odds
  • Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central 13/2 odds *
  • Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie, Netflix 13/2 odds *
I’m just going to say it – give Julia Louis-Dreyfus the Emmy as she walks down the red carpet. You don’t need to open the envelope except as a formality. It’s not that I don’t think the others are unworthy. I watch Grace and Frankie and I think that Lily Tomlin is brilliant on that show (although I have to give credit her chemisty with Jane Fonda as part of it). It’s just that Julia Louis-Dreyfus nails it on Veep and it’s difficult to beat the incumbent when she’s also quite good. I don’t see anyone on this list who can challenge her.

Outstanding Lead Actor Drama
  • Kyle Chandler, Bloodline, Netflix 10/1 to 12/1 odds *
  • Rami Malek, Mr Robot, USA 13/8 to 5/4 odds (2)
  • Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul, AMC 9/2 to 8/1 odds *
  • Matthew Riis, The Americans, FX 2/1 to 8/1 odds FX
  • Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan, Showtime 30/1 to 33/1 odds *
  • Kevin Spacey, House of Cards, Netflix 13/8 to 7/4 odds*
You may have noticed that I recorded the odds differently. That’s because the oddsmakers were all over the place here. Last year’s winner and the winner from several years before were both on shows that ended their runs. There’s no one from an HBO show in the category. The result is that the odds makers can’t agree on a likely winner in this category. They seem to agree that Schreiber and Chandler are outside shots, but Odenkirk ranges from 4.5/1 to 8/1 while Matthew Riis is anywhere from 2/1 to 8/1. For a while some of the oddsmakers were considering Kevin Spacey a lock, but then the odds on Rami Malek kept getting better and better to the point where it was either favourite or co-favourite with Spacey. Given that Mr. Robot is “the hot new thing” and has received a lot of buzz from the critics, I’m giving the edge to Rami Malek.

Outstanding Lead Actress Drama
  • Claire Danes, Homeland, Showtime * 5/1 odds (1a)
  • Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder, ABC 3/2 odds * (1)
  • Taraji P. Henson, Empire, FOX 12/1 odds *
  • Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black, BBC America 20/1 odds * (4)
  • Kerry Russell, The Americans, FX 4/1 odds 
  • Robin Wright, House of Cards, Netflix 7/4 odds *
This is a category that the oddsmakers are getting wrong. They have made Robin Wright the odds on favourite to win this category while almost totally ignoring last season’s winner Viola Davis. The Rules seem to put Davis in a strong position. There is no HBO series in the mix here, and while there are two basic cable series and a Showtime series represented – and the star of the Showtime series, Claire Danes has won in the past – none of them qualify in the “hot new thing” category. Worst of all for Tatiana Maslany (for whom I have a sentimental rooting interest in; she’s from Saskatchewan originally – even if it is Regina) she triggers the dreaded Rule 4 by being in a science fiction series. She has no more chance of winning than an actor from a CW show has of getting nominated. As strong as Robin Wright’s performance apparently is (I don’t watch the show), she’s been nominated twice before and hasn’t delivered. Unless the voting changes alter things significantly I don’t see her getting it this time either.

Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Black-ish, ABC 14/1 odds
  • Master of None, Netflix 6/1 odds (2)
  • Modern Family, ABC 20/1 odds* (1a)
  • Silicon Valley, HBO 30/1 odds * (3)
  • Transparent, Amazon 10/1 odds *
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix 10/1 odds *
  • Veep, HBO 1/3 odds * (1)
I’ve seen a certain amount of speculation that Black-ish could be a contender based on the episode they submitted, but looking at things realistically the most likely outcome is yet another win for Veep. And while many may consider Black-ish to be a challenger, my longshot in this category is this season’s “hot new thing” Master of None. I don’t think it will win, but I do think it is the show most likely to win if Veep doesn’t.

Outstanding Drama Series
  • The Americans, FX 10/1 odds
  • Better Call Saul, AMC 40/1 odds *
  • Downton Abbey, PBS 30/1 odds* (1a)
  • Game of Thrones, HBO 1/3 odds * (1, 3)
  • Homeland, Showtime 14/1 odds * (1a)
  • House of Cards, Netflix 20/1 odds *
  • Mr. Robot, AMC 3/1 odds (2)
There are three recent winners in this category, one of which is a sentimental favourite because it’s the show’s last season. Sometimes that’s enough to get a show like Downton Abbey a win just as a recognition of how good and beloved the show was. It doesn’t always work out that way of course. Some shows that are acknowledged as being truly great have gone their entire runs with plenty of nominations but no wins. And let’s not even talk about shows like Battlestar Galactica that don’t even get a nomination for anything. I don’t think Downton Abbey will pull it out this time around simely because I can’t see it beating Game of Thrones, which has intrigue, blood, beautiful naked people, and dragons (and also a superlative cast, high production values and a great story of course). I at least think better of Downton Abbey’s chances than the odds makers who made it at 30/1 longshot. Mr. Robot get’s my nod for having a distinct chance of breaking through as a “hot new thing” but that would have been more likely to pay off in a year without Game of Thrones.

A couple of final parting shots on categories that I don’t cover largely because The Rules don’t apply. Outstanding Variety Talk Show is going to be interesting for the first time in years because The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart aren’t around to be nominated any more. Interestingly The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was the only one of the three 11:30 p.m. talk shows not to be nominated. Given America’s taste for political humour in this category I expect the Emmy to go to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

As to the Outstanding Limited Series, it and the Television Movie category are the one area where the Emmys are most similar to the Oscars. In most cases a limited series is just that; it plays out over a number of episodes in a single season and generally doesn’t reappear over and over again, although shows like Fargo and American Crime contradict this notion. In this category if you don’t see the nominated shows, you really have to look for the show that has the most buzz. If/when you find it you will also find that it tends to monopolize the awards in all of the subsidiary categories for Limited Series and Television Movies. Based on everything I’ve heard, expect a lot of awards for the cast writers and directors of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story before its eventual coronation.

The cheap bastards Television Academy awards the Emmys Sunday night on ABC (charging people to keep an award they’ve “won” – it sounds like something Donald Trump would think up).