Friday, July 18, 2008

My Emmy Nominations 2008

So, the Emmy nominations were announced today. I wasn't hugely thrilled with them, it was great to see Mad Men get a lot of respect, but almost all my other favorite shows were pretty much shut out. How would I have done it? Read on...

Actor (Comedy):
Alec Baldwin – Jack on “30 Rock”
Jemaine Clement – Jemaine on “Flight of the Conchords”
Ricky Gervais – Andy on “Extras”
Stephen Merchant – Darren on “Extras”
Tracy Morgan – Tracy on “30 Rock”

I combined supporting and lead actors for comedy, since I don’t watch enough comedy shows to fill both categories. So, we’ve got a dense bunch of talent here. Gervais’s work in the last episode of Extras wasn’t the funniest performance, but it was the best. Unlike other people in the “awkward” comedy movement, he always remembers the humanity underneath, and that makes it both funnier, and more emotional.

Actress (Comedy):
Tina Fey - Liz Lemon on “30 Rock”
Jenna Fischer – Pam on “The Office”
Melora Hardin – Jan on “The Office”
Ashley Jensen – Maggie on “Extras”
Angela Kinsey – Angela on “The Office”

People may point the American Office’s Pam as the soul of the show, but she’s just an echo of what Gervais can do with his characters, and Ashley Jensen was brilliant on her tragic path through the last episode of the series. I think some elements of the episode were overplayed, but she was great.

Supporting Actor (Drama):
James Callis – Baltar on “Battlestar Galactica”
Austin Nichols – John on “John From Cincinnati”
Ed O’Neil - Bill on “John From Cincinnati”
Andre Royo – Bubbles on “The Wire”
Michael K. Williams – Omar on “The Wire”

Perhaps the richest category this year, there’s another five or ten people you could easily fit here from John From Cincinnati or The Wire alone. However, my favorite supporting performance was Ed O’Neil as Bill. Shifting between a prickly surface persona and the emotionally wounded person underneath, he was consistently the more entertaining character on screen, be it delivering lengthy soliloquies to his bird, or shouting “Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ!” No One was more fun to watch this year.

Supporting Actress (Drama):
Ginnifer Goodwin – Margene on “Big Love”
Christine Hendricks – Joan on “Mad Men”
Keala Kennelly – Kai on “John From Cincinnati”
Emily Rose – Cass on “John From Cincinnati”
Katee Sackhoff – Kara on “Battlestar Galactica”

Katee Sackhoff was brilliant this season, fusing the religious destiny Starbuck with the hardass military Starbuck into a really compelling new evolution of the character. It’s a testament to her performance that I find it hard to imagine her in another role. She just is Starbuck.

Lead Actor:
Kyle Chandler – Eric Taylor on “Friday Night Lights”
Jon Hamm – Don Draper on “Mad Men”
Edward James Olmos - Adama on “Battlestar Galactica”
David Tennant – The Doctor on “Doctor Who”
Brian Van Holt – Butchie on “John From Cincinnati”

Jon Hamm looks like he stepped right out of a 50s movie, and it’s his very guarded performance that makes the series work. With another actor, the mystery surrounding Don’s backstory could have felt contrived or teasing, here it just plays out. Don never gives anything away, and it’s not until the final scene of the season that we get a real open, emotional moment with him. But, the genius of Hamm is that we know what he’s feeling the whole time, even when the character himself won’t face it.

Lead Actress:
Connie Britton – Tami on “Friday Night Lights”
January Jones – Betty on “Mad Men”
Mary McDonnell – Laura Roslin on “Battlestar Galactica”
Catherine Tate – Donna on “Doctor Who”
Jeanne Tripplehorn – Barb on “Big Love”

In her first appearance on the show, she was rather annoying, and not someone I wanted to spend a whole season with. However, over the course of Doctor Who’s fourth season, Catherine Tate’s Donna became the best companion on the show to date, matching Tennant’s swerves between ecstasy and tragedy. I have some issues with how it happened, but her acting in the final episode, as we watched the person she’d become get torn away made the moment one of the most excruciating character fates I’ve ever seen.

Guest Actor
Julian Bleach – Davros on “Doctor Who” (Journey’s End)
Bernard Cribbins – Wilf on “Doctor Who” (Journey’s End)
Callum Keith Rennie – Leoben on “Battlestar Galactica” (The Road Less Traveled)
David Schwimmer – Greenzo on “30 Rock” (Greenzo)
Paul Schulze – Hobo on “Mad Men” (The Hobo Code)

I was talking about the show with someone, and she said that Bernard Cribbins’ Wilf was exactly like her grandfather. I felt the same way, I feel like Wilf tapped into this archetypal grandfather role, such that you were instantly emotionally attached to him. In “Journey’s End,” it’s him telling the Doctor “But she was better with you” that breaks open the emotional floodgates, and his final speech to the Doctor is a beautiful capper for the season.

Guest Actress
Ellen Burstyn – Nancy Dutton on “Big Love” (Take Me as I Am)
Camille Choudri – Jackie Tyler on “Doctor Who” (Journey’s End)
Edie Falco – CC on “30 Rock” (Goodbye Toby)
Alex Kingston – River Song on “Doctor Who” (Forest of the Dead)
Lucy Lawless – D’Anna on “Battlestar Galactica (Revelations)

Lucy Lawless walked onto the show in its second to last episode and immediately took control of everything. Her glee at knowing something that no one else does was wonderfully played, and she had a lot of fun with the role. It was great to have her back on the show, and hopefully she’ll be there for the whole season next time.

Best Writing:
“The Wheel”: Mad Men by Matthew Weiner and Robin Veitch
“His Visit, Day 5”: John From Cincinnati by Alix Lambert
“Forest of the Dead”: Doctor Who by Steven Moffat
“Late Editions”: The Wire by George Pelecanos
“Series Finale”: Extras by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant

These are all absolutely brilliant episodes, each emotionally devastating in its own way, but I’ve got to give the respect to “Forest of the Dead.” The others are more about paying off year long arcs, “Forest” builds several worlds in the hour and brings them all to a smashing close in an emotionally wrenching, mind blowing hour. It’s one of the best episodes of new Who, and definitely the most well written. It’s basically everything I want from a piece of fiction.

Best Direction:
“The Wheel”: Mad Men by Matthew Weiner
“His Visit, Day 9”: John From Cincinnati by Daniel Minahan
“The Stolen Earth”: Doctor Who by Graeme Harper
“Late Editions”: The Wire by Joe Chapelle
“The Hub”: BSG by Paul Edwards

The other episodes are all downers, that push their characters through awful, awful things. But, can’t there be some joy in the world? “His Visit: Day 9,” the series finale of John From Cincinnati is pure joy from the opening frame on. The opening sequence of this episode is one of my favorite film moments ever, the soaring descent from the heavens to John and Shaun surfing to shore. It’s an unparalleled rush, the payoff of the entire series. The rest of the episode keeps the strong energy, particularly during the manic party sequence that closes the episode. The show went out on a high note.

Best Series (Comedy):
30 Rock
Flight of the Conchords
Pushing Daisies
The Office

Extras closed out its run with an emotional odyssey of a TV movie that was at once bitingly funny and really emotional. Gervais approaches comedy differently from anyone else. He stresses character and narrative arcs as much as laughs, and that means that we’re much more engaged with the material. It’s a great story on its own, the laughs are a bonus. I do think some of the musings on fame got a bit self indulgent, but there were enough great moments to keep it strong on the whole.

Best Series (Drama):
Battlestar Galactica
Doctor Who
John From Cincinnati
Mad Men
The Wire

These are all exceptional series. Doctor Who and Battlestar each had their strongest seasons yet, Mad Men had one of the greatest debut seasons of all time, and The Wire was up to the brilliant standard of its previous years. But, one show captivated me like no other, the much maligned, but brilliant John From Cincinnati. JFC was interesting on a narrative level, and featured some of the most fun characters on any series, but what made it so great was the spiritual nature of the series. It wasn’t like a normal show, it was a religious experience in the guise of an ensemble drama, and a window into one man’s view of the world. At its best, it worked like our minds do, dealing in symbols and dreams and archetypes as a way of understanding the world. It will be remembered as one of the most underappreciated series of all time, it’s just taking the world a while to catch up.

Total Nominations/Wins

The Wire - 5
John From Cincinnati – 8 (3)
Big Love - 3
Battlestar Galactica – 8 (2)
Mad Men – 7 (1)
Doctor Who – 9 (3)
Friday Night Lights - 2

Pushing Daisies - 1
Flight of the Conchords - 2
30 Rock - 6
The Office - 4
Extras – 5 (3)

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