Emmys 2011: Some thoughts

Kyle Chandler. That’s all I keep thinking about when I remember last night’s Emmys. The good guys finally won. Our full hearts and clear eyes finally found some Emmy voters who agreed with not only Kyle Chandler as Best Actor in a Drama, but also the series finale, “Always” as Best Writing in a Drama.

That image, of Kyle Chandler (truly not expecting to win), and the favorite, Jon Hamm truly looking stunned he didn’t, keeps staying with me.

That, and the Best Actress in a Comedy beauty contest pageant lineup (dreamed up by Amy Poehler and Martha Plimpton) that ended up with long-overdue winner (for Gilmore Girls, not just Mike & Molly) Melissa McCarthy ending up with a tiara on her head, and roses in her hands, in addition to an Emmy.

Melissa McCarthy with a tiara. Kyle Chandler, nearly speechless. The good guys winning. That’s what this Emmys brought.

Many of my predictions (Peter Dinklage for Game of Thrones Best Supporting Actor, Drama; Julianna Margulies for Best Actress, Drama; Ty Burrell for Best Supporting Actor, Comedy) seemed easy to me, and came true (I had a 16-9 record). But it was the ones I thought were too good to actually happen that did.

Kyle Chandler, Melissa McCarthy. I had actually predicted “Always” to win Writing, but I thought it too sweet, too perfect to happen. Like Martin Scorcese, winning for Direction in Drama for Boardwalk Empire. It seemed like it must happen, I predicted it, but it seemed so far outside what everyone else was predicting.

I was wrong about Julie Bowen, though I was right about most of the rest of the Modern Family cavalcade. Both Jane Lynch and Julie Bowen triumphed thru being submitted on their competitors’ tapes this year. I’m really glad it was Bowen who pulled it out.

And when Peter Dinklage got up there (the common wisdom varied, usually centering on either John Slattery or Josh Charles), taking a statue for the Lannisters, all felt right with the world. So, too, when Margo Martindale (whom I also had predicted) got to the stage. It was like there was a collective “Awwww” heard all through Hollywood. Here was a working actress who had been one of those “jobbers” who’s constantly working in series after series, being recognized for what a great actress she actually is.

That was the tenor and the fabric of this year’s Emmys. No glossy winners who didn’t deserve it. Jeff Probst had won again at the Creative Arts Emmys last week (so very deserving). The Daily Show, deservedly, collected its stash of trophies. (So very deserving.) Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce, who made Mildred Pierce come alive, picked up theirs.

Stately Downtown Abbey won its share, including for Maggie Smith.

In fact, I can’t think of one winner where I thought, Oh, that’s so wrong, that person/show didn’t deserve it. And, for me, the ones I missed I credit to the fact that I hadn’t yet watched their tapes (Jim Parsons for Best Actor, Comedy; although everyone else was predicting Steve Carrell, anyway).

Let me speak to that for a moment. People who predict Emmys (for a living, even) often choose based on who is “due” or who seems to be hot at the moment. I believe firmly that the driving factor in choice is the tape in front of that Emmy voter, compared against the next tape. Perhaps, if, for example, Martha Plimpton and Melissa McCarthy both had brilliant and funny tapes, and a voter can’t decide, they will go to “Oh yeah, she’s been working in the industry for so long, she deserves it,” or “I loved her in Bridesmaids, so I’m going to pick her.” Perhaps it works like that. With the tape being 85% of the decision, and all things being equal, other factors being added in after that point.

Others, including big Emmy gurus, predict people like Steve Carrell because of the sentimentality, the picture they’d like to paint, that “well, it’s his last year on The Office,” of course people are finally going to give it to him.” I don’t think that factors in at all. (Or within 10-15%, at most.) I erred in my prognostications this year because I bought into the hype, thinking that Betty White, back together with Mary Tyler Moore in her tape, would be Emmy catnip.

Really, what counted was that in both Jane Lynch’s case and Julie Bowen’s case, they were on TWO tapes that Emmy voters watched. And since Lynch won last year, it was a simple choice.

I use these factors to make my Emmy prognostication better next time around.

But until then, go seek out Friday Night Lights, if you haven’t already. Cause you know: Clear eyes, Full hearts can’t lose. Congrats to all.

2011 Emmy Predictions

NOTE: Items marked in bold are the ones I got wrong…

Just a quick list. Will have more detailed explanation in my podcast, MBH116, which should be out tomorrow.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

The Amazing Race

Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce

Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

Edgar Ramirez, Carlos

Mildred Pierce

Ty Burrell, Modern Family

Betty White, Hot in Cleveland

Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope

Louis C.K., Louie

Louie, “Poker/Divorce”

Modern Family, “Halloween”

Modern Family

Margo Martindale, Justified

Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

Hugh Laurie, House (Happy to get this one wrong! Kyle Chandler! Swoon!)



The Good Wife Really? Mad Men only wins HAIRSTYLING and DRAMA SERIES? Really?

Congratulations to all the nominees, and all those who didn’t get nominated, but nonetheless turned in great work this year.

Emmy predictions 2011, part one: Comedy Series

Emmy season is upon us again, and I’ve been deep in episodes, trying to view as much as humanly possible before those gold statues are handed out. I pretty much bombed my Creative Arts Emmy predix, but then, I don’t usually predict those, so I chalk that up to a learning experience. My stellar ace in the crown last week was predicting Hot in Cleveland for Art Direction. C’mon! Who else had that one?

But it’s this week’s awards, especially in this unpredictable year, that are going to really separate the true Emmy prognosticators from the slackers. I am gonig to give my full predictions in my podcast, which should be posted in the next couple of days, but I wanted to use this column to cover some aspects of the judging that have come up for me.

Once again, people do not seem to realize that you rise and fall, or Emmys are given, based on the episodes that you submit. This is true for actors, who submit one of their stellar performances from the season (which is then pitted against other actors also nominated), and it’s true for Series nominations. In both Comedy and Drama Series, the shows put together packages of six episodes. Three tapes, two on each. These are then randomly given to voting members, so they see one of each show, in various combinations, and then vote on which is best. It behooves people, then, to select their best episodes, AND their best shows paired together. Sometimes people seem to forget this.

And if you have storylines that carry over, it’s best to have it make sense. To have self-contained episodes, that aren’t reliant on you knowing the whole season and its intricacies. Lost lost out a few times due to that.

So I wanted to explore what those who’ve been watching TV all season already know. Here’s the way I judge it. You have six episodes. Three of those (by my rating system) have to be an A+ episode to win an Emmy. And even then, they also have to best your competitors’ A+ episodes. You pretty much have to have all A episodes to stay in the game. Anyone with a B episode or lower is out. Simple.

This year, I’ve done something different than I normally do. I’m trying to watch every episode in the Drama Series category that’s been submitted. (In some cases: Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Friday Night Lights, The Good Wife, Mad Men–it meant catching up with entire seasons of shows I was behind on; in other cases: Dexter–I have stopped watching any because the one I did watch (“Teenage Wasteland” which is a Series submission and Michael C. Hall’s submission) was so dreadful, C+ by my grades, I need go no further. Dexter is out. So is Michael C. Hall. Sorry, pal.

I feel really remiss in the Comedy category, and I may pay for it on Sunday. I am super behind (like more than a season) on both 30 Rock and The Office, so I’m not even factoring those in. I normally hate jumping into a season, without having seen the seasons before, so I’ve been hesitating about The Big Bang Theory, though I probably will watch their eps before Sunday.

The one big question mark is the wonderful show Parks and Recreation. I did catch up with the early seasons and it just keeps getting better and better. However, I have not, and will likely not, caught up with this Season before Sunday. If they win, I’ll be happy for them, but bummed that I didn’t have time to view these eps.

I want to focus in this blog post about two of the Comedy Series competitors that I have been spending quite a bit of time with. One that I think has no chance in hell of winning, and one that I think will win.

First up: Glee. Sigh. What the hell happened to you, Glee? There were so many things about Glee last year that I totally loved, but this year, WOW. It’s, as the kids say: “A hot mess.” That it got nominated astonishes me. (Where is Hot in Cleveland?)

But let’s take a look at it, shall we?

I’m still slogging through it. I have the last six eps to force down. Boy, has it been a tough slog this season. In fact, it’s been so jaw-droppingly awful, I would be hard-pressed to pick the worst moment of the season. Sue Sylvester marrying herself would be right up there. Characters were all over the place, bed-hopping with abandon. Mr. Shue even kissed the football coach (for no apparent reason). Sometimes people were gay, sometimes they weren’t. In much of the beginning of the season, the viciousness and hurtfulness was almost too much to bear. If I didn’t have Emmy predictions to do, I would’ve stopped back then.

Kurt goes to another school, cause he just can’t take the harrassment, then he gets ridiculed and put in his place (in a different way) at his new school. New characters get dropped into the story, also for no apparent reason. Emmy-winning Gwyneth Paltrow, whom I thought was just awful in the episode she won an Emmy for, actually comes back later in the season and redeems herself. Mr. Shue’s wife has all but disappeared. Shue and Emma had a hot wistful romance going at the end of Season 1, then she gets cold feet, then she takes up with AND MARRIES, completely out of the blue, a hot dentist. Then she’s not having sex with him, cause she really still loves Will. Yawn.

Very few parts of what any of these characters do is plausible. Their motivations change like the wind. Even the great dance and song numbers from last season have regressed to Top 40 pandering. The season included tracks from Ke$ha, Justin Bieber and My Chemical Romance instead of last season’s Streisand. (Are you puking yet? I certainly was.) The episode, Original Song, mind-bogglingly one of the episodes they submitted for consideration, included songs written (supposedly) by the students themselves. I think those were even worse than the Bieber stuff.

The lip-synching is out of control. Even Sue Sylvester was dancing and singing in a song. She was the most all over the place this season. She has Cheerios, then she has none. She was on TV, then she wasn’t. She hates Will, then she goes with him to see some sick kids sing, and nearly cries. And if she wins another Emmy this year (which she very likely will) I think I’ll cry. (Listen to my podcast, MBH116, for more on that fiasco.)

But, in the midst of all that real dreck and pablum, there are moments of absolute brilliance. The entire Rocky Horror Glee Show was genius, from start to finish. Shue and Emma do a fabulous “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” then they all come to their senses and realize, “Oops this is a high school. This is too racy.” So they can’t perform it. Even though they already have.

It’s just stuff like that. Eye-rolling constantly.

But then you have a beat-for-beat recreation of Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” which just took my breath away. Excellent stuff.

I also loved how the hot stud falls in love with the “fat chick.” He sings a rowdy and wonderful version of Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” which anyone would be complimented to have sung to them, but said girl gets offended. Yet, later in the season, when he sings her a much more offensive song about fatness that he “wrote,” she loves it.

The saddest thing about Glee’s contention at the Emmys is that they didn’t even INCLUDE the Rocky Horror Glee Show as their Emmy submission. So, to my eyes, Glee is out.

Tape 1: “Audition” = B/“Silly Love Songs” = A
Tape 2: “Original Song” = C+/”The Substitute” = B+
Tape 3: “Duets” = B/“Never Been Kissed” = A (their strongest tape)

Compare this to a show that, in its second season, only built on and improved the amazing stuff they brought us in their first season. I am talking, of course, about the show I believe will take its second Emmy for Comedy Series: Modern Family.

Tape 1: “Old Wagon” = A/”Someone to Watch Over Lily” = TBA
Tape 2: “Mother’s Day” = TBA/”Caught in the Act” = TBA
Tape 3: “Manny, Get Your Gun” = A+/”The Kiss” = A (their strongest tape)

A little more Neil and a lot less CBS next year, OK Emmys?

Emmy show recap

With the debacle of the pointless multi-host banter and declining ratings staring them in the face, CBS and producer Don Mischner decided to try something different with this year’s Emmys. To my eyes, it was a breath of fresh air.

New host Neil Patrick Harris kicked the show off with a sprightly song, “Put Down that Remote.” He sang, he danced, it was funny. He was dapper, he was amusing. Throughout the show, various winners stopped mid-acceptance speech to comment publicly on what a great job Harris was doing hosting. And he was.

The set was a marvel of modern technology, from the multi-screen panels, used to various effect throughout, to bringing the band up from their nether regions to visibility onstage.

The biggest change, a quite welcome one, was giving a shape and a form to the proceedings at hand. Usually the awards are grouped by perceived importance, with the heavy-hitters last. But you end up with a mish-mash of comedy, drama and mini-series that really pleases no one.

This year, they had five distinct groupings: Comedy, Reality, Miniseries/Movie, Variety/Music/Comedy and Drama. Made so much more sense. Gave the whole thing a shape and format, which seemed to make it flow better.

The first winner of the night actually followed on the heels of what seemed like hundreds of awards that were given out already at the Creative Arts Emmys the weekend previous. At those, the now-cancelled comedy, Pushing Daisies won a bulk of the tech awards, more than any other show. Best Supporting Actress, Comedy was Kristen Chenowith from that show. A bittersweet moment.

(There were reports of her fainting backstage afterwards as well.)

30 Rock favorites: Alec Baldwin and writing favorite “Reunion” made predictable dents on the comedy palette. The expected winner Tina Fey (for Best Actress) was instead replaced by Toni Collette in her first season on the Showtime show, The United States of Tara. (Multiple personalities always wins awards.)

Even the Comedy Directing award for The Office’s Stress Relief was somewhat predictable.

The only true Comedy shocker was Best Supporting Actor. It was expected that once the 900-lb. gorilla Jeremy Piven got out of the way, that long-overdue nominees Neil Patrick Harris and/or Rainn Wilson would duke it out for that Emmy. Gasps could be hear all over Hollywood when Jon Cryer’s name was called out.

We slid back into more predictable and comfortable territory when previous winners Jeff Probst (Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program) and Amazing Race (Reality-Competition Program) took another statue. Probst gave the most inspirational speech of the night, quoting Joseph Campbell: “The adventure you get is the one you’re ready for. Go for it.”

The Amazing Race has won every year it’s been nominated. So has Probst.

Once we got into the Miniseries/Movie section, the awards were pretty split between Grey Gardens and Little Dorrit. Generation Kill had won some tech awards, but took home nothing at the big show.

One notable win was Shohreh Aghdashloo, Best Supporting Actress, Miniseries/Movie for House of Saddam. In addition to her Oscar nomination, she had turned heads with her memorable turn on 24 on a previous season. She was a gracious winner.

In the Variety Series section, previous winner Daily Show with Jon Stewart again took the major awards. American Idol had won several during the tech ceremony, and won the directing award tonight.

Justin Timberlake’s “Mother Lover” song was expected to follow in the footsteps of his previous win for “Cock in a Box.” It was not to be, with the 81st Annual Academy Awards opening song taking the Music & Lyrics honors.

The highlight of the Creative Arts Emmys (to these eyes at least, and ok, I admit I’m a total Buffy the Vampire Slayer fangirl, and think that Joss Whedon should have many Emmys on his mantlepiece by now) was when the web series Dr. Horrible (starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day) won an Emmy FINALLY for Joss Whedon. So it was hilarious when NPH introduced the accounting guys to discuss the vote tabulation, and instead had the screen “highjacked” by Dr. Horrible. Very funny stuff.

Very sad stuff came in the In Memorium segment, where Sarah McLaughlin sang. Too many wonderful and memorable TV folks passed on this year. The montage ended, fittingly, with Walter Cronkheit, a paragon of CBS News.

This was a good example of CBS patting itself on the back. One of the most annoying things about the show, however, was how gratuitously CBS pimped its own shows in the montage sequences. Most glaringly when they showed a Drama montage which didn’t even mention Mad Men or Breaking Bad, the perceived favorites. It did, however, include long segments of CSI and NCIS, neither of which would be on anyone’s short list for best dramas of the past year.

On the upside, they did also include the wondrous 24, which got slighted in too many categories. But the CBS glad-handing got to the point of nausea.

The Oscars, at least, know how to do this right. For heaven’s sake, if you have SEVEN Best Drama nominees, you should at least START with some footage of each one.

One thing that was good as far as the video clips shown is that at least with the acting nominees (in most cases, not all; CBS’ Jim Parsons’ tape was an exception) they used clips from the tapes the actors submitted for judging. This was a step up from previous years, when tape editors didn’t even seem to be conscious of the process of tape submission.

Now to the Drama segment, arguably the most anticipated.

First with the expected wins. Mad Men won again. Mad Men’s Meditations in an Emergency (the season finale) won for Best Dramatic Writing. Glenn Close again won Best Actress. Bryan Cranston again won Best Actor.

30 Rock, also at the end, was an expected repeat win for Best Comedy Series.

The somewhat surprising other awards included Michael Emerson finally winning for his evil Benjamin Linus on Lost. Sadly, the bravura finale of Battlestar Galactica (which also got roundly dissed at the tech awards, losing VFX to Heroes) lost out to the series finale (after a gazillion years) of ER, “And In the End” in Best Directing.

When filling out my predictions, this one had given me pause because it was quite stunning how after so many years and so many episodes, the last episode of ER had so many echoes of the first one.

But the one win that had the pundits stunned (in fact, on Gold Derby, I was one of only two people who predicted it) was Cherry Jones winning for her role as the president on 24.

So, all in all, it was a good Emmys. Some will never understand why Jon Cryer and Cherry Jones won. But I think that the people who deserved to win, did.

And here’s hoping that they already have Neil Patrick Harris pencilled in for future hosting duties. And that someone talks to the editors and gets them to put in far less CBS crap next year.