Thursday, 28 June 2012

Encore’s Emmy Ballot: The Comedies Part 1

The Emmy’s are even nearing, and if I want my imaginary ballot to be counted I need to expedite them. I offered up part one of my Drama ballot last week (Guest Performers, Casting) and turn to the comedies this week in the same categories.

- The Big C
- Enlightened
- Girls
- Nurse Jackie
- Parks and Recreation
- Veep

It’s to the credit of Girls and the people behind it that even when it feels that performers are not doing as effective a job as they should be, they still seem to be existing in the sphere they should. The casting of the show (nepotistic or no) turned into one of key attributes making the series work. As we were opened up to newer facets of main characters on Nurse Jackie, the genius of the casting directors became more apparent, and key additions like guest work from Rosie Perez and Joel Grey and an excellent recurring role from Bobby Cannavale was a great part of that. The remaining four comedies, incidentally like the previous, are all unique in their female-centric roots. Parks and Recreation and The Big C are two returning shows with effective ensembles (admittedly, the former more effective than the latter) – both saw significant success in the way of guest performers – Patricia Clarkson, Tammy Blanchard, Sean Hayes, Brian d'Arcy James, Kathryn Hahn, Susan Sarandon, and that’s just the type. Oftentimes in these situations there’s a propensity for guest stars to feel like stunt casting, but even if it still qualifies as stunt casting both shows made more than effective use of these well cast performers.

And finally, Veep and Enlightened, two new shows – on one hand we have a vice presidential office, in the other an accounting one. Louis-Dreyfuss and Dern are both well chosen to helm both shows but on the fringes we’ve got some excellent casting at work. Reid Scott as the less than savoury co-worker is a stroke of genius in Veep, Diane Ladd as the beleaguered mother in Enlightened is another. Amidst great contributions in both shows, the scales tip in favour of Enlightened in light of Luke Wilson. Proving that there’s a fine actor in there with a fine decision of casting him as our protagonist’s ex-husband. What more could you ask for in a good casting director?

Runners Up: 30 Rock; Community; Glee; Happy Endings Modern Family; Wilfred     
After the jump much love for Parks and Recreation, The Big C, 30 Rock and more...

- Bobby Cannavale in Nurse Jackie
- Hugh Dancy in The Big C
- Victor Garber in The Big C
- Justin Long in New Girl
- James Marsden in 30 Rock
- Paul Rudd in Parks and Recreation

This is a list I’m very proud of even as I suspect that only one, maybe two, will tip over into the actual Emmy ballot. The inclusion that was on the cusp was incidentally the one I was most uncertain about including – Justin Long. Even at its best New Girl isn’t particularly littered with focused character work and Long’s task of playing the male version of Zooey Deschanel’s Jess seemed a bit ill-formed. Still, am I ajuding the show or the performance here? For all its issues the Thanksgiving episode owed much of its humour to Long’s effective performance, which is all I can ask for from a guest. Conversely, Garber doesn’t have much leeway as Long to monopolise the comedy in his episode, but with just a few scenes his Willy turns into an effective bit of comedy for The Big C which is the same thing Rudd turns up to do in Parks and Recreation. True, Parks and Recreation is a more ostensibly funny show than The Big C but what Garber and Rudd do is appear briefly to play patently over-the-top funny characters whilst still managing to avoid archetypical performances.

Cannavale in Nurse Jackie and Dancy in The Big C appear in a greater number of episodes and I suspect that some argument might ensue as to their worth as “comedic” performers. For me, even if they’re not both playing funny men, they’re both playing in comedies, which is enough for me. Dancy edges out in front of Cannavale just a bit, mostly because The Big C’s interest in Lee allows him to develop as a more robust characters. Both, performers, though effectively find their best beats opposite their leading women making for good television. The winner, far and away, though is James Marsden for me who, like Dancy and Cannavale, finds his best beats opposite Fey – his leading lady. In a season of general goodness, Marsden encompasses one of my favourite things about 30 Rock season 6. Not only was he fun and funny, he helped to buoy the important themes of the show’s season long arc, and present a great diversion from major players of the show without hogging the spotlight. Criss Chros for the win!

Runners Up: Christopher Abbott in Girls; Will Arnett in 30 Rock; Will Forte in 30 Rock; John Goodman in Community; Jon Hamm in 30 Rock; Chris O’Dowd in Girls; Michael Kenneth Williams in Community

(Un-submitted Gems: Joel Grey in Nurse Jackie)
- Patricia Clarkson in Parks and Recreation
- Kathryn Hahn in Parks and Recreation
- Megan Mullally in Happy Endings
- Cynthia Nixon in The Big C
- Susan Sarandon in The Big C
- Elaine Stritch in 30 Rock

Narrowing this list down from my initial eleven to 12 was like pulling teeth, and I ended up with a list of 8 performers who I all wanted to shortlist. I wanted to say no show should appear twice, but why censor myself? This list might come across as something like star-grovelling with five of these women being stars in their own right, but so be it. Stritch and Mullally both turn up on their shows to play over-the-top mothers, albeit in different registers. Stritch has been a veritable constant at the Emmy’s and in keeping with the show’s resurge of goodness this season was the finest work I’ve seen from her. Mullally, too, might have given my favourite non-Karen performance this season on Happy Endings (including the goodness on display on previous Parks and Recreation seasons).

On the note of Parks and Recreation, let’s take a moment to single out to excellent redheaded ladies – Patricia Clarkson and Kathryn Hahn. Between Hahn’s steely coolness and Hahn’s loopier coolness the two did excellent things in short doses offering of performances I hope that we might see more of next season, if only for a bit appearance. And, look at that – from two redheaded Parks and Recreation gals I move to two redheaded The Big C gals. Susan Sarandon’s contribution to this season of The Big C came to an unceremonious end, but it was a contribution over exuding with Joy (pun-intended) and became a key asset in making this season work managing despite plot contrivances to make Joy not become a villain, and in some ways even a heroine. It was Cynthia Nixon (integral to season 2) who came out on top, though. Aside from Platt and Linney Nixon has turned in the show’s best performance nailing the abrasive zaniness and humorous selfishness of Rebecca. Kudos

Runners Up: Elizabeth Banks in 30 Rock; Jane Kaczmerack in Wilfred; Patti Lupone in 30 Rock; Chloe Moretz in 30 Rock; Rosie Perez in Nurse Jackie; Mary Steenburgen in Wilfred; Robin Wright in Enlightened

Previously: Emmy Ballot (Dramas), Part 1 - Casting, Guest Performers

Which comedy series is casted to perfection? Which guest performers are you supporting for the Emmy’s? Which of mine would win for you?


Squasher88 said...

I all for Paul Rudd and Kathryn Hahn in Parks and Rec, but I don't watch any of the other shows.

Paolo said...

I hate how OTHER writers talk about the casting of Girls as nepotism. Anyway, is Diane Ladd playing Lara Dern's mom again because that is awesome.