by KRL Staff
It’s that time again–time for the Emmy Awards! This year’s award show will be this Sunday, September 23 at 7e/4p on ABC. So in honor of the Emmys we are having another Emmy Award countdown where we review and talk about some of the shows that are nominated. Because several of the same shows that were nominated last year, are nominated again this year, you can find reviews of those shows in last year’s countdown article here in KRL. We have a look at some of the best actress and supporting actress nominees, Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Community, American Horror Story, New Girl and Homeland. Be sure and watch the Emmys on Sunday! Learn more about this year’s broadcast on their website and check out the list of nominees here at KRL.
American Horror Story
Review by Jesus Ibarra
Premiering in October of last year on FX, American Horror Story sought to bring the horror back to TV in an ongoing series. I was actually quite excited to see how the show would turn out, but when I found out that Ryan Murphy was behind the series I instantly knew how the show would be. Known for creating Glee and Nip/Tuck, Ryan Murphy has a tendency to go over the top with whatever the genre he is working in, but fortunately, that sort of worked in American Horror Story.
Set as an anthology series with each season being a new direction, the first season dealt with a haunted house full of ghosts and how it affected the Harmon family who just moved in. With sex, violence, gore, and over the top supernatural antics the show’s title is incredibly apt as it takes the basics of American horror stories and distills them into twelve episodes. The cast was led by Dylan Mcdermott as Ben Harmon, Connie Britton as Vivien Harmon, and the incredible Jessica Lange as Constance.
I was mostly intrigued with the different spirits of the house including the ghost in the gimp suit, and Jessica Lange stealing every scene she was in as an aging aspiring actress with a ton of secrets to keep. But half way through the series the creep factor was actually really boring. As a horror buff, none of the scary reveals was scary, twisted, or emotionally horrifying. By the mid season, the only thing that scared me on a consistent basis was the opening credits, which are still creepy as hell. It unfortunately suffered from Ryan Murphy’s tendency to have his shows burn bright but have no substance. However, I do like the fact that this was even given the green light and that people actually watched it, as it did incredibly well in its ratings.
In addition, we got to see Jessica Lange act her freaking ass off. As a television buff I have to say it has been a while where one actor commits completely to a character and just plays the part so well. Having garnered seventeen Emmy nominations, the only one I can see it having as a lock is Outstanding supporting Actress in a miniseries or movie for Jessica Lange. Because her performance was just that outstanding.
Review by Jesus Ibarra
Since the end of Friends, I haven’t really found a show that was consistently funny or that grabbed me in such a way that Friends did. To my great pleasure, New Girl did just that. Starring Zooey Deschanel as the titular New Girl Jess Day, who moves in with three guys after breaking up with her boyfriend. The cast has incredible chemistry, and Fox found the perfect balance between funny and sweet moments that were the hallmark of Friends.
I will admit I am not a big television comedy person because a lot of it really sucks, but New Girl is the exception. I was already interested in seeing how Zooey Deschanel would do in TV after years of watching her on the big screen and she did not disappoint, even coining the term Adorkable for her portrayal of the quirky but sweet Jess. What surprised me the most is how well the cast fits together which again reminds me of Friends. But the breakout character for me was Schmidt portrayed by Max Greenfield as the lovable womanizing douche. He even has a douche jar for when he says a Schmidty line that everyone finds offensive.
However, what I find the most compelling about the show is that the writing is incredibly strong and I can relate to the stories of these characters because we are in similar age groups. That is a testament to the talent of the show’s creator and showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether. She manages to take experiences that a lot of twenty somethings go through and find the funniest and sweet moments of those experiences. Being a breakout success for Fox it was also nominated for six Emmys.
The two acting Emmy nominations went to Zooey for best lead actress in a comedy series and Max Greenfield for best supporting actor in a comedy series. Although the Emmy for lead actress could go either way as Zooey faces tough competition, Max Greenfield on the other hand has to win the Emmy for best supporting actor because he was just that good. Although he faces tough competition from all the Modern Family actors, he was much better than them in my opinion. It would be a shame for the Emmys to overlook how good he was all season since the first episode.
Review by Jesus Ibarra
Homeland, based on an Israeli series that was developed by Howard Gordan and Alexa Gansa known for their work on 24, and staring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, was easily one of the best drama thrillers of last year. Taking a more realistic approach to the War on Terror and CIA operations the show follows Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison as a CIA officer who investigates whether or not Damian Lewis’s Nicholas Brody, a POW who was rescued and has been turned by Al-Qaeda.
This show is so good I don’t really know where to start. First I have to praise the writers and Claire Danes for finally getting a mental health condition right, as Carrie is bipolar, and throughout the season we see her start to destabilize as she continues her quest to prove Brody is a terrorist. It was emotionally gripping to see her struggle to keep it together managing her condition while trying to keep it a secret from the CIA.
Talking about emotionally compelling, I don’t think I have ever seen such commitment and emersion in a character from an actor as I witnessed from Damian Lewis. He was absolutely mesmerizing as a POW and you never knew whether he was a threat or not. The show is also strong because it actually has things to say about the U.S.’s War on Terror both good and bad.
Ultimately, it was the incredible character writing that kept me coming back for more. And it wasn’t surprising that the show got nominated in three of the biggest categories for the Emmys. Nominated for best Drama, best lead actor in a drama series, and best lead actress in a drama series, it deserves all the nominations it got. Facing incredible competition in all three categories it could go either way but if they swept all the categories, I wouldn’t be surprised because it’s just that damn good.
Review by Roy Runnels
Community, a show about a group of unique individuals going to a community college, is something unlike anything else on television. When Community premiered in 2009 it was a show that spent half of its first season trying to find its footing. Those who stuck with the show would find that Community is not just a gem, but one of the best shows to ever be on television.
When Community found what kind of show they wanted to be, we started getting episodes about paintball, blanket forts, and a parody of Law & Order. Each of these episodes is among my top ten favorite episodes of any television show I have ever watched. Out of all of them, the episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” is easily the best and is nominated for an Emmy in Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.
Community’s lack of Emmy nominations outside of Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series shouldn’t deter you from the show. It’s one of the wittiest and funniest shows on television with an incredible cast. The show never tries to dumb down the material to appeal to a wider audience. Community knows what it is and has a lot more heart than most of the other shows on television.
The cast for Community includes Jeff (Joel McHale) as ex-lawyer, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) as a hippie anarchist, Abed (Danny Pudi) who is obsessed with entertainment, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) as an older Christian woman, Annie (Alison Brie) who refuses to take anything less than an A in her classes, Troy (Donald Glover) who used to be the “popular kid” in high school, and Pierce (Chevy Chase) as the owner of a million dollar company. The cast plays incredibly well off of each other and brings something great to the table.
Community may not be watched by many, but for those of us who do watch it, we know how special this show really is. It is the best comedy on television, and you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
HBO’S BOARDWALK EMPIRE has spectacle and great storytelling
Review by Heather Parish
While I may have hesitated in recommending Downton Abbey to the average television fan because it may have been a little to “period drama,” I actually never had that problem in recommending Boardwalk Empire—although, perhaps I should have.
Boardwalk Empire is perfect for television fans who enjoy crime stories—it is actually a solid cross between The Untouchables and The Sopranos. The fact that it is scrupulously slavish to the time period doesn’t get in the way of it at all. It enhances it. Whereas Downton Abbey takes a lot of liberty with period inaccuracy, Boardwalk Empire is near perfection in terms of its 1920s period accuracy in costume design, art direction, writing, and set design. We’ll just ignore the fact that Steve Buscemi is the direct opposite physical type to the real life Nucky Thompson- the crime boss he plays in the HBO series. He’s so delicious in the role, it really doesn’t matter.
For the uninitiated, Boardwalk Empire is the grand and gory story of Nucky Thompson, a crooked New Jersey elected official building his Prohibition empire in Atlantic City- in many ways, Nucky was the luckiest and unluckiest of mob bosses of the day. . .and the man who put Atlantic City on the map.
In terms of Season 2, the Boardwalk Empire world is chugging right along. Season one had a slow start, but began to pick up its storytelling steam half way through. The seeds planted at first season’s end had grown into fully formed, genre familiar conflicts. What’s a great gangster story without ‘family’ trouble? And whether it’s between blood or just mafia relations, the second season of Boardwalk Empire is flush with in-fighting, not to mention face smashes, throat smiles and bullet holes.
That’s right, those looking for violence won’t be disappointed, because this season says an often unsentimental farewell to several main characters. However, Boardwalk Empire is concerned with far more than spilling blood. Almost every drop comes at a price, and either to progress the story or the characters. This is what makes Boardwalk tick- the fact that every action has a result and nothing is truly gratuitous in terms of the effect on the story. It is complicated, beautiful storytelling- even when you have to avert your eyes.
The season also has a nice rise and fall structure, with a major confrontation coming to a head every three episodes so you don’t get too frustrated or bored with the life of the story. Every minor victory for Nucky is followed by a major defeat, while the opposite plays out for the rising Jimmy later on. The standout episodes include the premiere plus Episodes 3 (“A Dangerous Maid”), 5 (“Gimcrack and Bunkum,” my favorite) and 10 (“Georgia Peaches”). However, there were strong scenes littered throughout the season, not to mention consistently beautiful and compelling cinematography.
Boardwalk Empire, like most great television dramas, is a morality play writ large. The sprawling narrative and large ensemble allows the period piece to engage with the most important issues of the day, shining a light on how many of them still plague us today.
Boardwalk Empire is nominated for 11 Emmy’s and Seasons 1 & 2 are currently available on DVD.
Emmy nominations include:
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA-Steve Buscemi
OUTSTANDING ART DIRECTION
Review by Roy Runnels
Breaking Bad premiered in early 2008, and not many expected a show about a high school chemistry teacher cooking meth to be as critically acclaimed as it has now become. We now find ourselves in 2012 where Breaking Bad has thirteen Emmy nominations in this year alone.
When I began to watch the series, I kept wondering what direction they were headed. I wondered what they were going for and how long the show could sustain itself. As time went on, I realized that this show wasn’t just about a teacher breaking bad. Breaking Bad is about a decent human being on his spiral downwards.
Walter White is easily the most complex character on television. His character arch isn’t just something that can be described in a few paragraphs, but rather something that needs to be seen. Breaking Bad isn’t about meth or fallen heroes, it’s about people. It’s about how anyone, under the right circumstances, can fall.
Bryan Cranston delivers a chilling performance as Walter White. Many plot points would have fallen flat had it not been for Cranston’s incredible and grounded performance. That’s not a jab at the writing either. The writers of the show have enough faith in their lead actor to write things that would otherwise come across as over the top. Cranston isn’t alone as far as talent goes. All the supporting actors have their own strengths. Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, Walter’s partner in the meth business, gives one of the most emotional performances on the show. Anna Gunn, as Skyler White, provides a very realistic portrayal of a wife of a meth cook. Out of all of the roles, Giancarlo Esposito plays the most unsettling character, Gustavo Fring, a business associate of Walter’s. All of the mentioned cast are nominated for Emmy’s this year.
Other Emmy nominations include Mark Margolis for Outstanding Guest Actor, Vince Gilligan for Outstanding Directing, Michael Slovis for Outstanding Cinematography, Skip MacDonald for Single-Camera Picture Editing, and Kelley Dixon for Single-Camera Picture Editing. The episode “Face Off” has also received nominations for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series, Outstanding Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series, and Outstanding Visual Effects in a Supporting Role. Breaking Bad has been nominated for Outstanding Drama.
Downton Abbey An Unexpected Smash for PBS!
Review by Heather Parish
As a theater and television aficionado, I am asked pretty regularly to recommend titles to acquaintances. But usually, after I give an answer, I get the responses such as “I don’t want to watch a show about a meth dealer,” or “I don’t want to watch a show about spaceships and cowboys.” As a result, I’m saddened by lives that will never experience the thrill of Breaking Bad or the adventure of Firefly. Alas.
But one show that I rarely recommended outside of my set of historical costuming friends was Downton Abbey. I assumed–mistakenly, apparently–that the very LAST thing the average viewer would want to watch is a period piece filled with top hats and repressed emotion. But I was so, so wrong.
Several months ago, 5.4 million people watched the two-hour finale of the second season of Masterpiece Classic’s Downton Abbey. Who would have guessed that the riveted viewers would not only be the older PBS stalwarts who dutifully pay their membership fees to local PBS stations each year in order to receive their literary medicine, but also the coveted-by-advertisers female demo 18-34 years old?
For decades, Masterpiece Theatre has been filled with English dukes, earls, kings, queens, ladies and gentlemen, most often walking their lush country estates in gorgeous costumes. And it seemed that the lauded 1970s series, Upstairs, Downstairs, had said all there was to say about the relationships between nobles and their servants.
So why is Downton Abbey a sensation–at least by PBS terms (5.4 million viewers won’t rival American Idol anytime soon)?
First and perhaps most importantly, Downton Abbey isn’t medicine. It’s delicious soap-opera-esque fun full of hot, hot British repression.
Secondly, if it doesn’t ignore the clichés of its period–so far roughly the decade from 1910 to 1920 bisected by World War I–it bounces them back and forth like a tennis ball. It is obvious to any reader of romance fiction that the handsome, young middle-class lawyer who just may become the next Lord Grantham of Downton Abbey cannot be paralyzed for the rest of his life no matter what the doctors say about his war wound. But how he walks again and what romantic complications his ability to walk causes are not expected. Will he end up with the right woman? Of course. But the road to getting there is lined with thickets full of thorns.
What writer/producer Julian Fellowes, who also wrote the exceptional Altman film Gosford Park, has succeeded in doing is layering the small, often subtle, changes that give texture to a class-bound, rigid society. Watch Carson (Jim Carter) the butler trying to remain imperturbable when he deals with a telephone for the first time. Or see the embarrassment on the doctor’s face when he is asked to stay for dinner, but is still wearing his daytime suit.
And in Lady Violet, the dowager countess of Grantham, Fellowes has written the best domineering matron since Oscar Wilde created Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. The role is played to magnificence by Maggie Smith. Although perhaps the Dowager Duchess is not quite as stiff as she appears. When her granddaughter, Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), runs off to marry Lord Grantham’s (Hugh Bonneville) socialist Irish chauffeur, it is the Dowager Duchess who tells her son that the aristocracy has not lasted by being intransigent. And, after all, someone on the other side may come in handy some day in the future.
As to that future, I can hardly wait for Season 3, when Shirley McLain joins Downton Abbey as the Earl of Grantham’s American mother-in-law. Fellowes said recently that the seed of Downton Abbey was planted when he read a book about American heiresses who married land-rich and often cash-poor British aristocrats in the late 19th century.
World War I and the Spanish flu are now behind Downton and Lady Sybil is pregnant with the chauffeur’s child. But Bates (Brendan Coyle), Lord Grantham’s much-too-noble-to-be-true valet, is still imprisoned for a murder he surely did not commit. And the Roaring Twenties lie ahead.
Season Two of Downton Abbey is nominated for 16 Emmy Awards and returns for Season 3 on PBS beginning January 6th 2013.
2012 Emmy Nominations:
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA: Hugh Bonneville
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA: Brendan Coyle
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA: Jim Carter
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA: Maggie Smith
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA: Joanne Froggatt
It’s Good to be a Lawyer/If You Want to be an Emmy-Nominated Actress
Review by Deborah Williams
In the best actress category this year there are three lawyers.
Julianna Margulies plays Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife, Kathy Bates is Harriet Korn of the recently cancelled Harry’s Law and Glenn Close is lawyer Patty Hewes on Damages. Also in the running are Clare Danes as a CIA agent on Homeland, Elisabeth Moss’s secretary turned copywriter from Mad Men and Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary, Michelle Dockery.
My personal favorite is Julianna Margulies, because I think she has the most nuanced performance. That is largely due to the scripts she is given with multiple story arcs evolving at a rapid rate. Her character is restrained on the surface with much going on behind the façade. The whole premise of the show is a woman putting up a good front for the public.
On the other hand Kathy Bates gets to give those great David Kelley speeches in the courtroom, which she does with fine curmudgeonly zeal.
Glenn Close does ruthless and cunning better than anyone I know. You can see the wheels going on in her head as she smiles sweetly and plans to cut someone off at the knees, or worse.
Dockery’s Lady Mary is constrained by the conventions of the day. She is alternately pouty, feisty, resigned and calculating which is totally appropriate to the character, but has more of a soap opera feel to me.
Clare Danes’ has much to work with. Not only is her Carrie Mathison tracking terrorists, but she has to deal with bi-polar disorder. Playing a showy part, with drama both internal and external, has gotten her a Golden Globe and quite possibly could bring her the Emmy.
On the best-supporting actress side, the competition is fierce and wide-open. It’s exciting to see juicy women’s roles from 20-something to 70-something. Topping the list is Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley. Smith is as strong as she was in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She moves effortlessly from her parts in Harry Potter to the recent Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and back to Downton Abbey–a work of art in motion (with a little snark).
Also nominated is her co-star Joanne Froggatt, head housemaid, Anna Smith. Her romance with Mr. Bates is gripping. She is tested in multiple ways. Good character conflict makes for good acting and she has earned the recognition.
The Good Wife presents two actresses for consideration. Archie Panjabi, is Kalinda Sharma, the edgy, bi-sexual investigator for Lockhart/Gardner. She knows a lot of people’s secrets and has more than a few of her own. This is a part of many parts. Kalinda is sexy, steely, warm, protective, loyal, wily, duplicitous, potentially lethal and occasionally, and surprisingly and effectively, vulnerable. Panjabi is a compelling actress.
Less flashy but equally strong is Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart. Baranski describes her character’s scenes with the male members of the cast, “She can comfort them. She can pull them in line. She can drink scotch with them. She can laugh with them. Diane’s got a great sense of how to live in a man’s world and talk to men.” Whether you remember Baranski as comic foil to Cybill Shepherd, or dancing with Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia, she has great range and experience. She keeps her comedic timing honed with guest shots on shows like Big Bang Theory and Psych.
The last nominee is the Christina Hendricks, Mad Men’s Joan Holloway. Hendricks takes the sexy secretary cliché and turns it on its head, representing multiple facets of the women’s movement in one character. The actress has become a full-figured icon in a TV world of skinny actresses, as popular with women as she is with men (voted in a poll of female readers as “the sexiest woman in the world.”) She has taken a good part and colored outside the lines with her own talents (even playing the accordion!) to make it great.
Who will be the winner? Tune in Sunday, September 23rd to the Emmy telecast on ABC, and may the best woman win.