Saturday, September 19, 2015

All Hail Television

For basically centuries, or as far as I know upwards of 28 years (aka my entire life), Fall was the most important season for television fans. The long slog through the reruns of June, July, and August only were tolerated because the beacon of light coming from September represented new tales from all those treasured classics - Friends, ER,The Simpsons,Gilmore Girls, the various shows from the TGIF lineup, or whatever gems that got you excited in the past.

Explaining this makes me feel ancient, but kids, it used to be that the majority of television aired on five networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, The WB) and, as previously described, only kicked off their line-up once a year, in the season of changing leaves and the pumpkin spice latte. While the same big networks function mostly the same today (aside from one - let a single tear pour down your face for the defunct WB), gone are the days of reruns occupying a lot of the filler time between the beginning and end of a season.

You will still have to wait all summer for a new season of NCIS (otherwise known as the most watched drama on television), but shows of today are premiering constantly, creating a year long television calendar. In other words - there is always something on. You could throw your remote in any direction and hit a television show you haven't seen.

That is not an exaggeration. What made this clear is a staggering statistic that was released in a fascinating article called, "Television 2015: Is There Really Too Much TV". The writer, Linda Holmes, reported that this year during a presentation at the Television Critics Association press tour, smarties at the FX network had dragged out their number crunching devices and calculated that, in 2014, there were 371 scripted series. That includes programs from all the cable networks off the beaten path (FX, AMC, and USA, for example) and the ever expanding realm of internet sources (like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon). Also, notice the word SCRIPTED in that sentence. That crazy huge number does not even count things like talk shows, Jeopardy, or everyone's favorite guilty pleasure - reality TV.

Sheesh, that's sure a lot to sort through! No wonder fans of this medium feel overwhelmed.

With such a large array to choose from, how can people giving out awards like The Emmys even keep up with it all?

We are in the official time of year for people throwing shade over nominees and frustratingly proclaiming "snubs" for all kinds of awards. Now with the field ever expanding it seems that it will be even more difficult for second-fiddle, yet still terrific shows with a strong fan base, to pick up some of that recognition. Ironic, as wonderful shows with a smaller audience could most benefit from award nominations and being part of that endless stream of critical chatter leading up to The Emmys.

Fan outcry this year definitely had an effect on the voting committee, since Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black was finally given tickets to the party. It might have helped one performer, but there has still been no love for The Americans, noted by its fan base as a largely horrific oversight for numerous years.

The challenge here is just in seeing everything - a task that, when looking at that high number of original content, would be impossible. Maybe expanding some viewing habits, might help mix awards shows up a little though, hmm?

Let's take a look at the 2015 Emmy Nominees  - the shows and performers that were able to stand out in the crowded mass of television.

That's Exciting!

Although, he may have had a questionable role in Sucker Punch, The Hammster (aka Jon Hamm) has become one of this countries most reliable entertainers. He can do it all - comedy with a hook hand, drama with a drink, and sweet, sweet, karate moves in an underground bunker.

Proving this point, Hamm is nominated for two whole Emmy's this year. One for his role as Don Draper on Mad Men and the other for his (semi-spoiler) role on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (he already lost that one to Bradley Whitford though). Whether the voters pick him or not, these two performances will go down as my favorites for 2015. Not to be outdone, he also shows up for a third time in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. Seriously, give that national treasure an Emmy!

Another gem that had a show wrap this year is a classy broad who has yet to win an Emmy. Amy Poehler on Parks and Recreation delivered an immense amount of comedy and heart all wrapped up in one character, Leslie Knope. Everyone loves the perpetual winner in this category, Julia Louis Dreyfus, and Veep really is a solid comedy, yet, years from now Selena Meyers might be remembered, where, as it has already been established, Leslie Knope will still be an icon.

Poehler wasn't the only woman delivering some quality comedy this year either. Grace and Frankie may have started out rocky, however, there was no way I was going to stop watching. Just check out that entire cast list to see the immensity of amazing people who are involved. Lily Tomlin is nominated in the Best Actress Category over the other female star, Jane Fonda. Both are legendary actresses and still Tomlin was able to slightly outshine Fonda. This is simply because Tomlin was given the more interesting character. She was able to to play up all of Frankie's eccentricities to a wonderful degree, delivering a memorable performance in every episode.

Another new show stood out this year and is getting some recognition. Will Forte has been a solid performer for years and, even though it seemed like a risky premise, The Last Man On Earth turned out to be a welcome break from all the typical comedies. Every episode I wondered how they could sustain it into a whole series, and every time I was blown away with how the story advanced. At the center of this was Forte, who, for the entire first episode interacts with only himself and inanimate objects. Not everyone could do that successfully, but, being a glorious kook, he was able to pull it off tremendously. That alone deserves all of the accolades. 

Other than those favorites, I am also crossing my fingers that there are big wins for Titus Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), anything Better Call Saul (aka one of the best shows to air in 2015), and Finn Wittrock (the only outstanding part of American Horror Story: Freak Show). 

How's That?

Aside from my perfect loves Mad Men and Better Call Saul, the entire Best Drama category is problematic. It is filled with shows that have fallen from their prime after being on the air for years.

Just like the next sane person of today's world, I love an episode of Downton Abbey. Although, even the biggest fans can see that show is on its last breath. Good thing this upcoming season is its last. We still get treated to a beautifully crafted nod to the past, but the writing for almost all of the story lines is completely sub-par, a far cry from the very first season. There are still some honestly heart tugging moments (Carson and Mrs. Bates! Sigh), however, they are becoming rare.

House Of Cards has also drifted off course, so much so I lost interest and still haven't even finished the third season. Plus, how is Homeland still considered for anything? Other than Saul, that show is just bad. And then we have Game Of Thrones. This season continues on with the epic tale and there is  a solid story most of the time, and yet this show only delivers totally mind blowing episodes 50% of the time. The rest are just plain frustrating, often confusing, and time is spent waiting for interesting stuff to happen.

In other confusing news, Game Of Thrones (which has the most nominations) was nominated in the best writing and directing categories for the final episode this season, arguably, the most anti-climactic and frustrating episode of the entire season. There were actually great episodes worthy of that recognition. I complain, but really, as long as Peter Dinklage is there, I'm still all in.

Based on all the uproar surrounding the continual exclusion of The Americans, it seems like that should have easily filled in for one of these "past their prime shows". Or how about honoring the magnificently acted Parenthood instead? It's all too late. 

Blind Spots

We've already covered this - there are a lot of TV shows out there. It is because of this that there are several nominees I know little or absolutely nothing about.

Since the nominations were announced, I started Empire. Early takeaways: the story and writing is often laughable, Cookie Lyon lives up to her high praise, the scheming oldest son and his power hungry wife are everything, and Jussie Smollett is dreamy with killer pipes. The question: is it intriguing enough to keep tuning in? I'm not totally sure yet.

I had also wanted to completely catch up on Orphan Black before Emmy night, but again, this show doesn't give me that, 'I'm going to die unless I know what happens" feeling. Tatiana Maslany playing all the different roles that she does is an astounding feat, so that's why it is unfortunate that some episodes aren't as interesting and feel more like slogging through a show instead of enjoying every moment.

Off The Beaten Path

Everyone is buzzing about the Best Actor/Actress races, but what I really want to know is who is going to win the Short-From Live-Action Entertainment Program!

If I had to put my money on anything, it would be, “Billy On The Street With First Lady Michelle Obama, Big Bird And Elena!!!”

I think that goes without saying.

Shout Out

One of my favorite shows on television didn't get any love except for one category. That one nomination though is a doozy!

Let's give some snaps to Halt and Catch Fire for being nominated in the category of Outstanding Main Titles. As in, their rockin' opening credits sequence, which is, arguably, the best on TV.

That's Sad Guys

Everyone likes to talk about snubs, as in the people/shows that didn't get nominated, even though many fans believed they were robbed. I'd instead like to call these grievances, and I have a few.

This year was the last time Parenthood could have gotten nominations and that didn't turn out well.   

Broad City, which includes two of the funniest females on TV, missed out in all the categories. Hands down this one should have knocked something else out of the Best Comedy category.

Even though it is wildly unique (unless you call it House set in the 1900s), The Knick was also left out of the Best Drama category. It does, however, have numerous nominations in the more technical/behind the scenes categories.

Lastly, while The Walking Dead (much like Game Of Thrones) is often frustrating in how it decides to tell the story, what remains consistent is excellent acting. Those actors, specifically Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus, and Melissa McBride, powerfully hold the show together with their expressions of compassion and fear, and yet have never gotten acknowledged. One such detail that exemplifies that zombie shows, while totally excelling at telling a dramatic tale, are still not taken entirely seriously.

If I Voted

Best Actor - Jon Hamm
Best Actress - Elisabeth Moss
Best Show - Mad Men


Okay, guess what, it would all be Mad Men and Parks and Rec! I'm a little (or a lot) "obsess much". Those shows are gone and they were my everything. Let 'em win, nudge nudge, wink wink.

Hey, Is That a Real Category?
(No, but they should be.)

  • Best Trio - Jessica St. Clair, Lennon Parham and that BABY on Playing House! The baby is either naturally talented or has a really good acting coach.
  • Most Quotable - RuPaul's Drag Race. And, not to mention best costumed. "Condragulations". Party!
  • Best Theme Song - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. So addicting.
  • I Watched The First Episode, Liked It, But Decided I'd Watch It Once It Was Streaming Somewhere Instead - American Crime
  • Show That Scares The Crap Out Of You Just Because Of The Commercials - The Whispers
  • Most Fun Drama - Nashville. Oh, in such a good way.
  • That's Still On? - America's Next Top Model
  • How Did This Get Made (Seriously!) - Wayward Pines. Aside from casting the marvelous Melissa Leo and Siobhan Fallon Hogan. Otherwise it was majorly bananas.
  • Biggest Disappointment - American Horror Story: Freak Show

Check out the Emmy Awards, airing on Sunday, September 20th at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

This gal doesn't know what to do! Being a West Coast dweller, this awards show is airing opposite a v. important Seahawaks game this weekened!

How. Dare. They. This development has ruined my life. If you only knew just how much turmoil I am experiencing right now. I'll deal. Somehow.

Until next time!

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