EMMY 2012: Recap

So what did you think? Shocked that Mad Men was shut out? Overjoyed for Homeland? Angry that the wrong Modern Family actors took home awards? Sad for Poehler? Thrilled for Louie? Thinking of rewatching Game Change? Want to hunt Dame Maggie down? Not the most exciting ceremony, which is a shame considering that this was such a strong year for TV. Such is life. Time to start making next year’s picks (although after tonight I can tell you that Partners will not make my list).

EMMY 2012: Directing for a Drama Series

Last but not least, the drama directors.

DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA SERIES

Tim Van Patten, Boardwalk Empire
Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad
Brian Percival, Downton Abbey
Michael Cuesta, Homeland
Phil Abraham, Mad Men

Guess what? I’m not going to go all Mad Men with this pick! But I’m not going to go all Breaking Bad or Downton either. In my mind, this is a choice between the Homeland pilot and Boardwalk’s season finale. Cuesta expertly staged the prologue for a televised political thriller like no other, and I fully expect him to get the win. But the Boardwalk finale broke all the rules. So maybe the montage of murder and the Nucky/Margaret wedding was lifted right out of The Godfather playbook. Jimmy’s death in the rain transitioning to the battlefield that claimed his soul? That was artful. That was bold. That filled me with both hope and dread for Season Three (they’re off to a decent start, but I really miss Jimmy). Boardwalk will not sweep, but this is the show’s best shot at a trophy.

Think I got any of these right? Tune in tonight to find out!

EMMY 2012: Writing for a Drama Series

I took issue with Modern Family totally dominating one category, so as much as I love Mad Men, I think it’s unfair that they continue to hog this category (even if it is the best written show on TV). Still, a script from the world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce stands the best chance of winning (but don’t discount the Homeland pilot; Emmy voters love pilots). That being said, which script nets Mad Men this win?

WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES

Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey
Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon & Gideon Raff, Homeland
Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner, Mad Men
Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton, Mad Men
Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner, Mad Men

Chellas and Weiner played with time and place in Far Away Places and The Other Woman. The former is worthy for showing how one’s moment of truth is another’s afterthought (Peggy’s phone call to Don). But let’s give a shout out for possibly the most unique depiction of an acid trip ever (Roger’s bottles practically sung). The latter gave us Don seemingly triumphant after apparently rescuing Joan, but she had already made her choice and secured her place at the partners’ table. Plus, we saw Peggy leave Don’s controlling brand of mentorship, possibly for good. Both standouts, but…

The Jacquemettons’ Commissions and Fees was more than Lane’s last gasp. We saw Sally enter womanhood alongside the realization that Glen is not her Prince Charming, and Don go balls to the wall for Dow Chemical (yeah, it was an insane pitch). So while I applaud the experimentation of the other two Mad Men nominees, I’m banking on the straightforward drama of the season’s penultimate episode to go for the gold.

EMMY 2012: Supporting Actor and Actress – Drama

I’m going to do my biased thing with these nominees. And since one show inevitably gets both my votes, here are we go:

SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTOR

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad
Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo ‘Gus’ Fring in Breaking Bad
Brendan Coyle as John Bates in Downton Abbey
Jim Carter as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones
Jared Harris as Lane Pryce in Mad Men

SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTRESS

Anna Gunn as Skyler White in Breaking Bad
Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey
Joanne Froggatt as Anna in Downton Abbey
Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma in The Good Wife
Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in The Good Wife
Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway Harris in Mad Men

I celebrate each and every name listed above. All are gifted thespians, and a win for anyone would not anger me… yes it would! It is a crime that Mad Men, consistently an Emmy favorite, has yet to claim an acting prize. Now is the time to break the streak, and Harris and Hendricks are poised for acceptance speeches.

Ladies first. As Joan, Hendricks had her best season ever. I thought finally kicking her slimy rapist/husband to the curb was enough to net her the award. But then Joan went out for drinks with Don and then Joan allowed every partner but Don to prostitute her for the Jaguar account. But she was never the victim in this scenario. This was Joan putting her own unique spin on feminism and grabbing a share of the agency so that she and her son would not have to wait for a man to provide a future. She’s come a long way from the secretary that advised Peggy to lose some weight to snare a husband. And Dame Maggie better not steal this Emmy just because she’s Dame Maggie (although she is awesome in her own way).

Jared Harris. I never thought I could miss a Mad Men character more than Sal. But at least he can feasibly return. Lane is gone. But what a swan song! If beating the crap out of Pete wasn’t enough, Lane got a final hour for the ages. Exposed as an embezzler, putting on a brave face for his wife, planning the perfect suicide, which just drove home the point that Jaguar sucks, and finally taping his glasses back together and typing a suicide a note that will haunt Don forever. Too much? Maybe. But Lane’s fate still haunts me. Harris won’t get another shot at Emmy for this role (unless Lane re-materializes as Don’s conscience or something). Guess it could happen, but this is Harris’ moment. This is Hendricks’ moment. Now let’s cross our fingers and hope the Emmys get it right.

EMMY 2012: Lead Actress – Drama

Ladies next! And the fiercest females in TV drama are:

DRAMA ACTRESS

Glenn Close as Patty Hewes in Damages
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife
Kathy Bates as Harriet Korn in Harry’s Law
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson in Mad Men

I’ll admit that I only caught one episode of Harry’s Law, and even the talented Bates got on my nerves. Moving on. Close and Margulies are also making like legal eagles on their respective shows. Close is a major long shot. Emmy’s been good to Margulies, so she stands a real chance of repeating. Dockery, the romantic heroine of Downton, might bewitch voters. And Moss is never anything but amazing as Peggy (but let’s be real; Jessica Pare was the true leading lady of the most recent batch on Mad Men episodes).

For the most part, all strong turns, but no one is beating Danes. Her Carrie is the type of role every actress covets. She’s smart, she’s strong, and she gets to deal with issues both familial and romantic. And to top it all off, she’s kind of crazy! But seriously, we didn’t know how fragile Carrie’s psyche is until she started searching for patterns in every one of Brody’s actions and wallpapering her living room with these theories. And what’s truly terrifying for Carrie and us is that she properly connects the dots, but no one believes her. It’s a phenomenal performance by a tremendous actress, and if you’re a betting person, here’s a sure place to set down your money.

EMMY 2012: Lead Actor – Drama

Now we have six great actors giving great dramatic performances. And the nominees are:

DRAMA ACTOR

Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan in Dexter
Hugh Bonneville as Robert, Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody in Homeland
Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men

I think we can all agree that Cranston’s work is career-defining, and I fully expect him to claim this prize for the fourth time. And I have no problem with this. But an upset is always fun. So who might it be?

Hall is consistently creepy, but he’s on a show that many agree has passed its prime. By contrast, Bonneville is doing his thing on one of the hottest shows of the season (if Downton is set for a streak, he stands to benefit). Buscemi is one of my favorite actors, and now that Nucky is set to become a full gangster, he’ll likely be a top contender next year. But if we’re being honest, Michael Pitt deserved the Boardwalk nomination for Jimmy’s bitter rise and tragic fall.

So what of Hamm and Lewis? Much like Cranston, Hamm’s work as Don Draper is the stuff of TV legend. However, Don spent much of this past season in a happy place (give or take the occasional fever dream or desertion of this wife miles from home). The result? Not as much meaty material for Hamm to sink his teeth into (but it’s still a crime that he has yet to take home an Emmy for this role). So my pick is Lewis who got to wear many hats in Homeland’s freshman season (scarred POW, would-be assassin, betrayed husband, adulterous lover, caring father). Don’t believe he can play all these parts? Then just watch him on the verge of blowing up the powers that be in the season finale. And then his daughter calls him. And with no words, Lewis takes you through every conflicted emotion his character experienced throughout the entire season. It’s an acting feat to say the least and should be rewarded.

Cranston almost definitely has this in the bag, but a win for Lewis would be a nice suprise on Sunday night.

EMMY 2012: The Dramas

Drama time! This was a great season for old and new series. In any of these categories almost anyone or any show could take the cake, and they’re all worthy of recognition. So it really comes down to personal preference. Allow me to share mine.

DRAMA SERIES

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Breaking Bad (AMC)
Downton Abbey (PBS)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Homeland (Showtime)
Mad Men (AMC)

For me this is a two-show contest. So let’s take a moment to acknowledge the best of the rest.

Breaking Bad strikes me as the anti-Mad Men in the sense that its performers get ample Emmy love, but I think the show itself will always come up short (confusing things these Emmys!). Downton Abbey made PBS cool, and the Emmy voters could easily respond to that. And both Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones are coming off strong sophomore seasons (and a vastly improved, if crowded, season in the case of Boardwalk). But it’s a certain freshman show that stands a real chance of taking it all.

Homeland is a Manchurian Candidate for our times that ups the ante with a complex, mentally unbalanced CIA officer (played by Claire Danes) seeing how the pieces of the puzzle fit together but having a hell of time convincing everyone in her orbit (even her mentor, Saul, who is played to perfection by Mandy Patinkin; the Broadway vet really deserved a nod for his strong and subtle work). Danes’ Carrie has an equally complex adversary (and momentary lover) in Damian Lewis’ Brody. As the season unfolds, and we learn more about Brody’s time as a POW, we understand his motives. Yet the character becomes more of an enigma. It’s a weekly thrill ride laced with messy familial drama, and while I have some slight worries about whether or not they can keep the momentum going in Season Two, there’s no question that Season One could easily walk off with the award.

And then there’s Mad Men. If you’ve visited this blog even once, you know we love us the goings on at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Season Five saw Megan take center stage (and became a fan of the new Mrs. Draper), and Roger took a series of mind-altering trips. Ken picked up his pen, and Pete picked up an unstable Rory Gilmore. And while Peggy left the agency, Lane left forever. Maybe Don didn’t have a “Suitcase” moment, but our final glimpse of him on the precipice of falling back into his old habits after everything that went down was both chilling and exciting. It’s the best show on television, and while I like to see new winners, I gotta go with Mad Men. But don’t count Homeland out.

EMMY 2012: Directing for a Comedy Series

Now we come to our last comedy prediction (no disrespect to guest actors and art directors, but there’s only so much time on this blogger’s hands!). So who’s going to be honored as the best director of a television comedy? Let’s see…

DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY SERIES

Robert B. Weide, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Lena Dunham, Girls
Louis C.K., Louie
Jason Winer, Modern Family
Steven Levitan, Modern Family
Jake Kasdan, New Girl

Okay. So the New Girl pilot basically soured me on the whole series, so I can’t pick Kasdan. Curb was a disappointment (and “Palestinian Chicken” was right up there with the Bill Buckner episode in terms of absurdity). Modern Family walked away with this award last year (but in all fairness, neither Levitan or Winer were the victors). Still, this is really a battle between C.K. and Dunham.

At the heart of Louie’s “Duckling” is the conviction that laughter is the the universal language. If we would take the time to listen to it, there’d be a lot less conflict in the world (sounds kind of hippy-dippy I know, but what other message can you draw from the sight of a man chasing a bird in a war zone and thus stopping the fighting for a few moments?). I’d like to see C.K. win something, and I think he has a better shot here than in the Lead Actor race. But then there’s Dunham. The season finale of Girls tied up no loose ends but rather set new plots in motion (Jessa’s marriage, Adam and Hannah breaking up, Shoshanna losing her virginity, Marnie starting to look for what lies beyond Charlie, etc.). Everything went down within the confines of a beautifully quirky wedding ceremony, which was capped off by Hannah’s subway mugging, long walk home, and lonely wedding cake breakfast on the beach. My pick is Dunham because her efforts topped off a brilliant first season and made me want the next batch of episodes ASAP.

Up next, the Dramas!

EMMY 2012: Writing for a Comedy Series

WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES

Chris McKenna, Community
Lena Dunham, Girls
Louis C.K., Louie
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Michael Schur, Parks and Recreation

Forgive the brevity of this post, but for me this is no contest (okay, maybe a slight contest when you factor in the brilliance of the Girls pilot; I usually hate pilots, but this was an episode that did not need to be regurgitated once the series proper began). To my mind, it’s all about Community and “Remedial Chaos Theory.” Check out this earlier post on why it was the best comedic episode of 2011. Will it win? Probably not. Girls probably takes the cake, and while I’m okay with that, nothing beats Greendale’s Study Group and their first foray into the alternate timelines.

EMMY 2012: Supporting Actor and Actress – Comedy

Lumping these categories together is in no way meant to disrespect these talented nominees by not awarding them their own, respective posts. However, my issue with each category is essentially the same. So rather than repeat myself, allow me to speak my peace.

SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTOR

Ed O’Neill as Jay Pritchett in Modern Family
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell Pritchett in Modern Family
Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy in Modern Family
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker in Modern Family
Max Greenfield as Schmidt in New Girl
Bill Hader as various characters in Saturday Night Live

SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTRESS

Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory
Kathryn Joosten as Karen McCluskey in Desperate Housewives
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy in Modern Family
Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett in Modern Family
Merritt Wever as Zoey Barkow in Nurse Jackie
Kristen Wiig as various characters in Saturday Night Live

Twelve nominees. And six of them are from Modern Family.

Let me reiterate that I like Modern Family. The cast elevates the sometimes formulaic writing, but it is an outstanding cast. And it is an ensemble show. But no one wants to step up to the Lead table. Maybe it’s good for morale on set, but it freezes out so many other worthy nominees. Just off the top of my head: Donald Glover and Danny Pudi from Community, Adam Driver from Girls, and Aziz Ansari and Nick Offerman from Parks and Rec (personally, I’d swap out Burrell and Stonestreet for Glover and Offerman). Burrell as Phil never fails to delight, but if there’s a lead actor on Modern Family, he’s it. And Stonestreet has had better seasons. As for O’Neill and Ferguson, I accept their nominations (only O’Neill submitted it, but both were awesome in “Baby on Board,” especially Ferguson when the adoption fell apart). But these actors need to take stock of who’s driving storyline each season and submit themselves accordingly (just a guess, but Gloria’s pregnancy has the potential to make O’Neill more of a leading man than he has been in seasons’ past). Sadly, this is a trend that shows no signs of changing, and it also excludes Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez (then again, I don’t want the Modern Family boys taking over the entire category).

Things are a little more balanced on the ladies’ side. Bowen and Vergara are only taking up two slots. But like Burrell, Bowen is a leading actress (Phil and Claire dominate more episodes than not). If Bowen switched to lead, Gillian Jacobs of Community, Zosia Mamet of Girls, Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock, or Anna Chlumsky of Veep might have received an invite to the dance.

As far as the other nominees are concerned, I love Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, but I still have mixed feelings about SNL performers getting these nods; talented as they are it is not the same thing as someone who nurtures one character though a myriad of plot twists. I have not seen enough (or any) of Bialik and Greenfield to fairly gauge their chances. Wever is something of a dark horse, but Joosten has a real shot at nagging the prize posthumously.

I guess I’m a bit of a hypocrite. Here I am complaining about the glut of Modern Family nominees, and here they are taking up the bulk of my post. So who takes home the trophies? Someone from the Prtichett-Dunphy clan seems to make the most sense. I’d like to see O’Neill and Vergara emerge the winners, but I think Burrell and Bowen will repeat. I’d write in votes for Glover and Jacobs if I could, but I guess you have to play within the bounds of the system.