2012 Televised

Farewell, 2012. Here’s what I watched, for better or worse. Let’s dig in!

BEST DRAMA: Mad Men

After a lengthy absence, everyone from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was back in full force. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to label Season 5 as the best of this outstanding series (I often go between Seasons 2 and 4 depending on the day), but this was indeed an amazing collection of moments as our characters hurtle closer towards the denouement that will be 1970. From “Zou Bisou Bisou” to Lane and Pete exchanging punches in the conference room, from acid trips to Hare Krishnas, from the prostitution of Joan to the suicide of Lane, each episode had the impact of a Ben Hargrove (or should I say Dave Algonquin) short story.

BEST DATE: Louie and Liz – Louie

Talk about acid trips! This was a Woody Allen filmscape turned inside out and upside down. Rooftops (from which I really wanted Liz to jump), dressing rooms, and can we all just take a moment and revel in the orgasmic splendor that was the detour to Russ & Daughters? It was never going to end well (as later episodes showed, maybe?), but what a night in Manhattan that I never wanted to end.

WORST USE OF A CLIFFHANGER: NCIS

Now I love me the escapades of Gibbs and his team, and I was on the edge of my seat during Season 9’s finale. But when the show returned, a summer’s worth of momentum evaporated in five minutes. Here’s the thing. Everyone knew that all of the actors negotiated new deals, so no one was going the way of Sasha Alexander’s Kate or Lauren Holly’s Jenny. But spread the revelations out a little bit! Bang! Ducky’s fine and Jimmy’s right there with him. Boom! Abby and Gibbs make it out of her lab with just a few bumps and bruises. Blammo! Ziva and Tony are killing time in the elevator, and she’s able to get a cell phone signal and speak to her father in Israel! And that piece of glass in McGee’s side? He’s fine after the commercial break. Don’t get me wrong. Season 10 is going strong with “Phoenix,” “Gone,” and “You Better Watch Out” among the highlights. But this was a waste of suspense on par with the Moldavian Massacre fallout.

BEST CHARACTER: Hannah Horvath – Girls

Played to utter perfection by series creator Lena Dunham, aspiring writer Hannah is without question “a voice of a generation.” Smart and funny but also self-absorbed and lazy, everyone has either been or known a Hannah at some point in their lives. She’s both the cool kid you want to hang with and the needy relative you desperately avoid. I can’t say I approved of every move she made in the show’s spectacular first season (weird as Adam is, she did him wrong by agreeing to move in with Elijah), but I understood that Hannah is driven by both fear and desire (like most of us). She is the most complex and the most compelling character to emerge this year, and I’m longing for January to see what she does next.

BEST EXAMPLE OF “EVERYTHING CONNECTS”: Boardwalk Empire

It’s more than a bit of throwaway dialogue from Lansky to Luciano. Boardwalk Empire faced a monumental task. Would the show work without Michael Pitt’s Jimmy? Admittedly, things got off to a slow start. Despite an awesome final ten minutes that had me longing for the next episode, the show still produced one of the most boring hours of television all year. But in the home stretch, wow! Eddie’s shooting tied into Chalky’s paltry narrative when his almost son-in-law, Samuel, is the only doctor available. Margaret’s quest to bring prenatal rights to AC paves the way for her to abort the late Owen’s child. And the strained relationship between Nucky and Rothstein allows Capone (and, probably, Van Alden) to stake their own claim to the boardwalk. Just great storytelling that fills one with hope and anticipation for Season 4.

WORST STUNT CASTING: Christopher Meloni – True Blood

So I pretty much stayed clear of these vampires and werewolves in the Bayou, but the announcement that Stabler was joining the cast sucked me right in. And I’ll admit, as crazy and overcrowded as Bon Temps is, the show gets to you, and I’ll be watching again next season. Still, Meloni was utterly wasted as vampire Guardian Roman. Why cast him if he’s only there to bide time until Denis O’Hare’s Russell steps to center stage as the most sadistic vamp going? I’m sticking with the show, but what a waste of a tremendous actor.

BEST COUPLE: Leslie and Ben – Parks and Recreation

Despite the conclusion of Leslie’s successful campaign for councilwoman and Ben’s gig in D.C., they found their way back to one another to build a life in Pawnee. Can we just stop and marvel at the proposal in their new house, a moment that Leslie wants to freeze in time to remember for always? I dare say that nothing was more romantic all year. Without question, this couple will defy the sitcom odds. They’re together, they’re happy, and there is no threat of the magic fading. From Leslie’s attempt to join their families with her unity quilt, to their encounters with a hated Eagleton architect, to a gift from Ben to Leslie in the form of VP Joe Biden himself, each and every note was exquisite.

WORST SECOND ACT: Homeland

A bit of a cheat on my part. I still have to watch the last five episodes of Season 2. But there’s a reason the going’s been so slow. After a freshman season showered in deserving accolades that took the characters to the point of no return, this show has backpedaled to the point of absurdity. From post-shock treatment Carrie being sent to Beirut (and conveniently finding Brody’s damning confessional tape) to the afore-mentioned Brody sitting in on video feed of Abu Nazir’s near destruction only to be granted the opportunity to text his former captor of the impending danger, this is one twisted pretzel of a mess. While the performances are still strong (and Carrie interrogating Brody was all kinds of amazing), Homeland seems to have found its voice at the expense of the audience that adored it in the first place.

BEST COMEDY: 30 Rock

Season 6 and the bulk of Season 7 will stand as one of strongest final bows of any sitcom ever. Liz became The Joker and wed as Princess Leia, Jack and Avery said goodbye after he fell for her mom and made a TV movie out of their whole affair, Tracy took steps towards respectability and becoming his own version of Tyler Perry, and Jenna and Paul tried a “sexual walkabout” before making their way to the altar. They slammed The Wiggles, featured Jon Hamm in blackface, and sent Elaine Stritch’s Colleen to her final resting place in hysterical style. I’ll really miss this show, but it’s going out on top.

…and

BEST TRIBUTE: “One Moore Episode” – Portlandia

Yeah. I’ve would’ve risked my job and utility service to continue watching Battlestar. An eager James Callis (“but you need to listen to me!”), a disgusted Edward James Olmos (“I command because I have the discipline to command!”), and a clueless Ron Moore (“flying the freak all over the place” ), set this geek girl’s heart on fire. The Doctor Who shout out was the icing on the cake, but “Be careful. Psychologically. It’s television.”

Bring it on, 2013!

BOARDWALK EMPIRE: Finale Thoughts

And so, a satisfying if not entirely shocking end to Boardwalk’s third season. Gyp is dead, Margaret aborts her baby and leaves Nucky (for now), Gillian is foiled by her own needle (think she’ll be a full-blown junkie next season?), and Richard proves he’s the baddest ass in AC (but it comes with a price; he turns his bloody face away from Julia in shame). Great end to a great season. And can Bobby Cannavale get an Emmy for doing Steve Buscemi better than Steve Buscemi?

BOARDWALK EMPIRE: Nine Lives

Who else can’t wait for Sunday night’s Boardwalk Empire season finale? It was a slow start, but now every thread of the narrative is coming together. It’s a perfect storm (between Nucky, Chalky, Capone, and Richard, many heads are set to roll). We’ve already lost Owen Slater and Billie Kent (so Nucky and Margaret are sans their illicit lovers; can they find their way back to one another and should they?). I think we’re due for one more death. Remember, this is the show that killed off Angela and the Commodore prior to last season’s finale when Nucky put a bullet in Jimmy. So who gets it on Sunday night? Discounting the factual characters (I doubt that the show will suddenly revise history and do away with Capone or Rothstein), anyone is fair game (with the possible exception of Eddie; if he was set to die, it would’ve happened last week when Chalky’s soon-to-be-son-in-law performed impromptu surgery). Here are the major players who could leave the canvas.

Nucky Thompson: But he’s the lead, you say! Well, so was Jimmy. One could argue that the first two seasons of Boardwalk were really Jimmy’s story. And yet Nucky did away with his surrogate son as payback for Jimmy’s attempt to take over Atlantic City. Nucky as a memory is unlikely, but since the show moved forward and, in many ways, improved following the departure of Jimmy, I would enter Season Four with sorrow and confidence if Nucky heads for the grave.

Margaret Thompson: She was so cool at the start of the show, plucky, resourceful, and even willing to help Nucky fight his enemies. Now she’s a sanctimonious mess, turning her nose up at Nucky and Billie as she knocked boots with Owen. He’s gone, but Margaret is carrying Owen’s child. So perhaps she turns to her doctor friend for an abortion and things go very, very wrong. If it were to happen, Nucky would have even more guilt to carry (storyline possibilities abound), but I doubt the show would do away with its female lead (unless Richard’s Julia is set to step closer to center stage).

Chalky White: After a season spent mainly on the sidelines, Chalky is back and poised to claim a space on the boardwalk. His dream of a club is too delicious an opportunity to pass up, but maybe that’s the point. Chalky and Nucky are finally on equal footing, and there might be a tragic irony in the fact that Chalky, just before he takes a huge step towards acceptance, is felled by Rosetti’s crew. This would be truly shocking and unfortunate given what Wire fans know Michael K. Williams is capable of. Probably not gonna happen, but anything is possible.

Nelson Van Alden: If anyone was going to meet their maker last season, the obsessed Prohibition agent seemed a very likely candidate. But Van Alden fled to Cicero under an alias, expanded his family with the help of the clever Sigrid, got a job selling irons, but ultimately left the firm when the work was no longer to his liking (who hasn’t wanted to smash a co-worker’s face with a hot iron?). Now, through several twists of fate, Van Alden is mixed up with Al Capone. Does Capone bring Van Alden back to New Jersey and his ultimate end? Probably. Eventually. But next week seems too soon to play that particular card.

Eli Thompson: Nucky’s formerly traitorous brother worked his way back into Nucky’s good graces. And Eli brought Capone to assist in the fight against Rosetti. With Jimmy and Owen gone, Nucky needs a right-hand man. Eli is filling the bill nicely, and he and Nucky have one of the most compelling sibling relationships on TV. Will the show throw all of that away? If it makes Nucky an even angrier gangster, more determined to spare no one, perhaps. And Eli has more than enough children to fill the the Thompson familial void. But I’d hate to lose the character.

Dunn Purnsley: Chalky has his own second, but he’s had even less to do than Chalky this season. That’s a shame when you remember how he went toe-to-toe with Mr. White in their jail cell. If Chalky were to come to an untimely end, Dunn could step in and pick up his mantle. But Dunn is the more likely victim from the Chalky camp. You might think that his death would do little to the fabric of the series. But giving Chalky yet another chip on his shoulder is tantalizing.

Gillian Darmody: Jimmy’s mother, far too loving, already took a life this season, her late, beloved son’s doppelganger. Don’t be surprised if she’s at it again on Sunday (Gyp doesn’t know who he’s tangling with). But Gillian could also meet her maker. At some point her treachery is bound to catch up. It could be now, paving the way for Richard to save young Tommy and make a family with Julia. I love to hate Gillian, but you don’t label Mr. Harrow “not a complete person” and get away with it.

Richard Harrow: Please, please, please don’t let it be Richard. He is one of the most compelling characters on television. And he’s finally found love! But despite the fact that he’s one of the few people who does not have it out for Nucky, he might get caught in the crossfire. It would be a tragic end for a tragic hero. And it wouldn’t shock me at all if the show dispenses with him in order to have Nucky and Gillian lock horns over young Tommy.

Gyp Rosetti: At first I thought that Gyp was set to become Boardwalk’s Ralphie Cifaretto, set for one more season before Nucky slices his head off. But Gyp’s number is up. Whether Nucky survives or not, too many forces are closing in on the Sicilian. Long and short, if he can’t even strap the bottles down properly, he can’t be a player in this game. I get Gyp; wanting what’s dangled before him, just out of his reach. But he doesn’t play well with others. It’s an obvious choice, but I bet Gyp doesn’t make it to Season Four.

Place your money on Gyp, hold your breath for Richard and Eli, and prepare to be shocked if it’s Margaret. Or Chalky. Or Nucky.

BOARDWALK EMPIRE: It’s Where You Finish

So is everyone else super-psyched for tonight’s Boardwalk Empire? Had you asked me last Sunday around 9:35, I would have said, “can’t this episode just end?” Between Nucky, Owen, and young Roland biding endless hours in that basement, Margaret passing out sanitary napkins and, coincidentally, meeting the young mother whose unfortunate miscarriage set her current story arc in motion (gotta love the way this show makes AC seem like a town of maybe 30 people at most), and that blasted Tabor Heights gas station, apparently the only fuel resource between AC and and NYC, I was ready for the whole thing to, mercifully, end. But then we had those last 10 minutes. Roland will not have Jimmy’s life but rather his death (Nucky’s getting mighty comfortable with his own bullets). Tabor Heights sees Nucky’s men ambushed despite Eli’s desperate attempts to warn the others of impending doom. And Al Capone gives his deaf son a song (if you didn’t tear up, you’re made of stone!). Boardwalk has its flaws, but if you can end on a note that leaves everyone wanting more, you’re doing something very right.

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: 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.

BOARDWALK EMPIRE: A Cast of Thousands

So we are well into Season Two of Boardwalk Empire. I’ve been enjoying it but have not yet had a chance to chime in here. Let’s start with the positives. The season begins with a bang (literally) as Michael K. Williams’ Chalky White engages in a brutal gunfight with members of the KKK’s Atlantic City chapter. While on the surface this is retaliation for Chalky’s carpentry lesson from the first season, it is also just one part of Jimmy Darmody’s (breakout star of the show Michael Pitt) plan to dethrone one time mentor and father figure Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi in a role unlike anything he’s done before) as the King of the Boardwalk. Now allied with his lecherous father (Dabney Coleman’s previously underutilized Commodore) and Nucky’s own jealous brother (Shea Whigham’s bitter Eli), Jimmy is attacking Nucky on all fronts. Neutralizing the uneasy Nucky/Chalky partnership is just the appetizer to the main course: Nucky is facing charges of election fraud for his role in last season’s battle for the mayorship of AC. Our man Nucky is down but not out. A plot to fold his charge into a federal matter, for which Nucky can buy the desired verdict, seems foolproof. But Nucky’s reach in DC is not enough to best one-time friend, now definite enemy, Senator Edge. For a moment we think that Nucky has another card up his sleeve by blackmailing twisted Prohibition Agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon stealing every scene), but the Fed’s new daughter with Nucky’s former mistress Lucy Danziger (a now underutilized Paz de la Huerta) influences Van Alden to turn his case file on Nucky over to US Attorney Esther Randolph (hello, Julianne Nicholson!). Van Alden’s game is still in question (is it possible that he’s playing up to Randolph and her team on Nucky’s behalf?), but Nucky has bigger fish to fry after a foiled assassination attempt. Finally heeding the words of real-life gambler and underworld figure Arnold Rothstein (a cool, controlled Michael Stuhlbarg), Nucky tells Jimmy that he’s throwing in the towel, giving up the boardwalk to focus on his lover (Kelly Macdonald’s tortured Margaret Schroeder) and her young children. Of course, Nucky his just biding is time, preparing to seek IRA assistance with associate Owen Sleater (newcomer Charlie Cox). Undoubtedly, more bloodshed is on the menu.

How many other subplots are in action? Well, there’s Jimmy’s longtime girlfriend and recent wife, Angela (the sorrowful Aleksa Palladino) wanting but not wanting to know about her husband’s illegal activities in between dealing with his manipulative mother, Gillian (the treacherous Gretchen Mol) and, possibly, a growing attraction to Jimmy’s disfigured partner in crime, Richard Harrow (the brilliant Jack Huston). For her part, Gillian finds a way to finally exact a kind of revenge on her rapist, the suddenly incapacitated Commodore. And Richard is battling his desire for a normal domestic life with his loyalty to Jimmy and the impulse to simply end it all (although an almost spiritual encounter with two hobos and a hungry dog seems to have curtailed the latter for the moment). All of this, plus a gorgeous production value unmatched on television, adds up to a rewarding viewing experience. So, you might ask, where’s the but…

Boardwalk Empire’s expansive sets are equally matched by an ever-growing cast of characters. And that’s not always a good thing. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes an addition to the cast has unquestioned value to the show as a whole (Huston’s Harrow did not show up until late in Season One, and now it’s almost impossible to envision the show without him). But this season alone has seen the afore-mentioned Owen and Randolph, William Forsythe’s Philadelphia crime boss Manny Horvitz, and Dominic Chianese’s lawyer Leander Whitlock among many, many others. I have nothing against large canvases of characters; any self-respecting daytime drama fan will tell you that’s where half the fun and most of the magic lies. In the HBO universe alone, Boardwalk Empire’s most obvious parent, The Sopranos (Chianese’s old stomping ground), has its share of more mobsters than you can count. And The Wire (where Williams first came to the public’s attention) actually infiltrates every aspect of the Baltimore drug scene to paint a complete picture of that city and, by extension, the world. But there is a difference.

Let’s go back to The Sopranos for a moment. Take a character like Vito Spatafore. Whatever you thought about his eventual arc, and actor Joseph R. Gannascoli’s ability to play it convincingly, Vito is gradually integrated into the landscape. By the time he is involved with Johnny Cakes, the audience was invested. Returning to The Wire, I cite Bunny Colvin. His act of questioning how much good he’s doing as a cop in the second season leads to Season Three’s “Hamsterdam” experiment then a stint working with at-risk youths, and finally to a role as young Namond’s adopted father. In both instances, the shows took the time to let its audiences get to know these people before the drama hit. Now there are exceptions. As Ralphie and Tony B., Joe Pantoliano and Buscemi, respectively, appeared and dominated their Sopranos’ seasons. Seasons Two and Four of The Wire basically reset the stages with new casts of lead characters. But it those instances, there was no question where our focus belonged. I can’t always say that about Boardwalk Empire.

A few episodes back, Empire’s Owen encounters an old enemy from Ireland and promptly murders the man. And I was most relieved. For a moment, my thoughts were “oh God, now I have to get to know this guy, too.” It’s not that I have a problem with new faces appearing on the landscape, but every entrance on Boardwalk Empire is scripted and directed in such a way that you wonder if this man or woman is going to take center stage. And it comes at the expense of established characters. Last week, I could have done without Angela mixing it up on the beach with a liberated female novelist. Where are her scenes with Richard? The Commodore’s stroke gives Gillian an explosive moment of vengeance as she brutally strikes the now helpless man, but I’d rather see the Commodore as opposed to Leander advising Jimmy as he makes his move to take over Atlantic City. This is a show in need of some major balance.

Boardwalk Empire is still on my must-see list (and it’s currently filling the Sunday night void until my beloved Mad Men returns). I almost hesitate to judge this show, or for that matter any TV show, before its current season or the series as a whole is revealed. But this is a viewing experience of highs and lows, and while I welcome the debates after each episode airs, I’d rather discuss what will come next as opposed to what just transpired on my screen.

Emmy Thoughts

Emmy Nominations announced today, boys and girls. Here are the top five reasons why I am happy and frustrated all at once:

  1. Mad Men’s writing nod for the best episode of anything of 2010: I’ve already discussed on this blog why “The Suitcase” was the most compelling hour of television offered last year. What was essentially a Don/Peggy duet is in no way hindered by a viewer unfamiliar to the complicated relationship of our two leads. It helps to know the whole story behind the screams, the laughs, the tears, the poor punches (Duck does make an appearance), and the ultimate love on display between the unraveling genius and the protegé who is more than possibly even he ever imagined. Naturally the experience is only enhanced if you know the entire backstory, but so sublime are the performances from Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss and so skilled the words making their way from page to screen, a glimpse into what makes any “most important” connection between two people work, that I cannot see how it will be denied the trophy (but of course, this is the Emmys, people).
  2. Parks and Recreation a contender for Outstanding Comedy Series: Guess the Emmys will never got on board with Community (their loss), but Parks and Recreation definitely made moves to find its own identity on NBC’s Thursday night lineup. April and Andy’s wedding, the permanent additions of Ben and Chris, Ron Swanson’s turkey burger, and Leslie at something of a professional and/or personal crossroads at the season’s conclusion added up to a show that I will be rooting for even if I think it has zero chance of claiming a title it held for more weeks than not.
  3. Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series?: Where the fuck are the Boardwalk Empire boys? Michaels Pitt and Shannon (especially Shannon) mesmerized with characters who defied expectations. At one point, Pitt’s Jimmy seemed doomed to fall into a self-loathing addiction reminiscent of Christopher Moltisanti, but he got his head together to partner with his long-estranged birth father, and he is poised to go after father figure Nucky in Season Two. And Van Alden? Van Alden?! Only the most twisted character in a world of gangsters and murders. And he’s the law! Should have both been recognized.
  4. Everybody from Mildred Pierce but…: I didn’t get a chance to properly praise HBO’s compelling mini-series, but let me express how pleased I am to see most of the stellar cast and the brilliant writing rewarded with nominations. Evan Rachel Wood is worthy for her turn as the older Veda, a budding singer who betrays her titular mother in the worst way imaginable. But Morgan Turner’s performance as the younger Veda showed the audience how and why Veda could and would go to such monstrous lengths. I adore Kate Winslet (and she will win the Emmy), but this was the highlight of an awesome collection of episodes.
  5. Where’s Jason Segel?: How I Met Your Mother has been better, but props where props are due. Jason Segel acted the shit out of  Marshall’s fear of trying to have a baby/becoming a dad, the loss of his own father, a radical change in career paths, and the news of Lily’s pregnancy in the season finale. Should have been nominated, wasn’t, so while I’m looking forward to the telecast, you can see why I’m far from pleased with today’s announcement.

Telephoria’s Favorites: 2010

Time to count down our favorite episodes of 2010, the ones that stuck with us when all was said and done. So without further ado…

HONORABLE MENTION:

THE OFFICE – “The Delivery”

Not the strongest of days for the Scranton crew (although Season Seven is finally starting to pick up some steam). Still, the birth of little Cecelia Marie Halpert featured an unraveling Jim, a mad dash to the hospital, Pam breast feeding the wrong baby, and the sweetest Andy/Erin moment to date. Long awaited, it was classic Dunder Mifflin.

10. SHERLOCK – “The Great Game”

This re-imagining of the classic mystery series (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson, respectively), did not substitute 21st century technology for plot but rather used it to enhance familiar stories and make them seem more relevant than ever. The season finale saw Holmes investigating a slew of seemingly unrelated crimes all engineered by the sinister Moriarty (a truly scary Andrew Scott). Funny, thrilling, and closing with a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more right now.

9. PARKS AND RECREATION – “Telethon”

I haven’t yet blogged about this show because it kind of crept up on me during NBC’s Thursday night line up. Little by little, it won me over, so you can imagine my displeasure when NBC bumped it for Outsourced. Thankfully, Leslie and Co. are on their way back. This episode, penned by series star Amy Poehler, focused on a diabetes fundraiser so lacking in talent that Andy’s band, Ron’s skill at caning a chair, and ultimately Leslie’s recollections of her favorite Friends episodes had to fill the void (all because Tom is delayed in bringing guest of honor Detlef Schrempf). This zaniness combined with Mark’s doomed proposal to Ann gave every character a moment to shine, and if you’re not watching yet, tune in as soon as it’s back on the air where it belongs.

8. CAPRICA“Things We Lock Away”

Gone too soon. Sure Syfy burned off the remaining episodes of this Battlestar Galactica prequel, but lost is the opportunity to delve deeper into the origins of the Cylons and the spiritual divide between monotheistic and polytheistic humans. I enjoyed most of the first part of the first and only season, but “Things We Lock Away” stood out. Zoe and Tamara, after a particularly brutal fight, come together to reshape V-World, and Amanda became a spy in the Willow household. But it’s her husband Daniel, manipulated into killing business rival Tomas Vergis and then calling on the Adamas to wash the blood away, who best suggested the compromises these characters could and would make in service of their own needs, their own survival. Think of the magnitude of suffering witnessed on BSG. And while Caprica lacked the action sequences of its predecessor, how fascinating and terrifying to contemplate that it was the result of the whims of a few longing to reclaim parts of their pasts and work them into their futures. Shame we won’t get to see more of that.

7. FUTURAMA – “Lethal Inspection”

Science Fiction of a far lighter variety, ostensibly this was the story of robot Bender seeking revenge on the inspector who sent him out into the world flawed, unable to download into a new body, and therefore mortal. What followed was a road trip where Hermes aided Bender in his quest for answers and ultimately helped his friend to focus on living for whatever time he has rather than dwell on the fact that it’ll all end someday. Food for thought to be sure, but then came the revelation that Hermes himself saved Bender from the scrap heap, valuing the little robot’s life over policy, and he accompanied Bender on his journey to keep the secret. Not quite “Jurassic Bark,” but pretty damn close.

6. COMMUNITY – “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”

I loved the character work of “Cooperative Calligraphy,” but this was such wild take on Christmas specials that I have to rank it. Abed, abandoned by his mother and their tradition of watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, descends into a stop-motion fantasy and learns the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is a feeling that translates into video games, liquor, and, ultimately, just being with the ones you love. You have to appreciate the skill that crafted the episode and the heart at its center.

5. BOARDWALK EMPIRE – “A Return to Normalcy”

I almost went with “Nights in Ballygran,” the episode that really made me a fan, but the first season finale did what all season finales should. I can’t wait for the show to come back. I want to see Nucky and Margaret in the next phase of their relationship, Van Alden coping with his and Lucy’s unexpected baby, and Jimmy scheming with the Commodore and Eli to take back Atlantic City. I tuned into Season One in large part because of the hype, but I’ll be back for Season Two for the promise of what’s to come.

4. KIDS IN THE HALL: DEATH COMES TO TOWN – “Dead Man Walking”

How great was it to have KITH back on our screens, doing the kind of intricate comedy that SNL barely remembers? This series about a small town plagued by murders and secret lives climaxed with morbidly obese hero Ricky battling and defeating Death during a public execution (bow down to the genius that arrived at such a conclusion). But the entire outing was obviously the troupe having fun, shocking each other and the audience, and let’s hope they have similar projects planned for the near future.

3. AS THE WORLD TURNS – “Finale”

The final months could have been stronger given the length of time between the cancellation notice and our last glimpse of Oakdale. Still, that last episode was satisfying. Tom and Margo were solid while Katie and Chris were just starting out. Carly and Jack prepared for a new child while Janet and Dusty celebrated Baby Lorenzo. Paul and Emily got their happy ending, and Barbara and Henry danced the night away. Maybe Lily and Holden, like Luke and Noah, remained estranged, but reconciliation seemed in the cards in an unseen future. But it was patriarch Bob Hughes, retiring at long last and reflecting on a life well-lived, who quietly summed up the journeys of these characters (and that of the loyal audience). An ending is always a beginning. Goodnight, ATWT.

2. IN TREATMENT – “Sunil: Week Seven”

Yeah. It’s the twist that stayed with me. Paul’s sessions with Sunil were an elaborate con. The patient knew how to push the right buttons to force his therapist to punch his ticket home. As a result, you have to re-watch every Sunil episode in a different light. And that’s good television.

1. MAD MEN – “The Suitcase”

Nothing else matched it. Peggy and Don’s all night duet addressed all the love, resentment, gratitude, and frustration between mentor and protege. Low blows (Don using the fact that he quietly supported Peggy post-pregnancy as an excuse for taking her for granted), laughs (they found Roger’s memoir and learned about Cooper’s… surgery), and punches (both witnessed on TV and pathetically delivered by Don and an equally drunk Duck) were just the prologue to the main event. Don admits what he’s known for the entire episode (Anna is dead), and he cries to Peggy who picks up the pieces and assures him that he is known by someone else who loves him in her own way. About as perfect an episode as you’ll ever find, and I’ll wager that Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss are assured Emmys for their efforts.

So here’s to 2010. Let’s hope 2011 is as exciting and rewarding.