Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Encore’s Emmy Ballot: The Dramas, Part 1

Although the primary audience of this little blog happen to be cinematically inclined people I must remember to take note of the “TV” portion of this Encore’s World. After all, I do spend a significant amount of time watching primetime TV and wit the Emmy nominations one month away it’s time I submit my own ballots, because if I don’t submit my own, I have no right to lambaste the Academy when I disagree with their choices. Right?

Bit points, I’m not sure how many know but the Emmy’s are an interesting awards’ ceremony because competitors submit themselves for consideration. For example, performers are allowed to submit in leading even if they’re character may seem peripheral to us or in guest even if they’re in every episode of a season – the nature of the beast. And, if they don't submit themselves, they don't make my ballot (although I do mention them below).

So, my ballots begin. I begin with the guest categories and the casting directors for drama. Eligible shows (i.e. shows I watch) are found HERE and the entire Emmy ballots to choose from are HERE.

- Boardwalk Empire
- Damages
- Game of Thrones
- The Good Wife
- Homeland
- Justified

It’s not the mere fact that these six shows depend a great deal on their larger ensembles that makes them a worthy ballot for their casting, I could think of six other ensemble shows easily – but the effectiveness of the performers chosen for these six is what makes them stand out. Justified returned for its third season with its general ensemble the same on the main fronts, so it was the recurring and guest planes where the casting had to shine, and it did. I’d probably have Justified here simply for the excellent one-two punch of well-casted Harrington (alas but for one episode). With Damages a new case meant a wholly new ensemble and it works from smaller bits like Judd Hirsch and Derek Webster to larger lions like John Goodman and Dylan Baker.

Homeland is the only new show on its ballot, and with reason. Sure, Patinkin, Danes, Lewis are all effectively chosen for their roles but if I’m awarding the prize for a character, Linda Purl as the fearlessly tacky politician wins. And on the note of awarding the casting prize to a character, Game of Thrones managed to absolve itself of some issues I have when it cast Natalie Dormer and used her to perfection. In an outrageously large ensemble they’ve always managed to ensure that, for the most part, performers are well chosen. In that way it rests beside Boardwalk Empire, navigating through dozens of performers but astutely considered (Eric LaRay Harvey’s loquacious fool, particularly).

Still, these five shows are mere runners up to the work done on The Good Wife, which with each week performs master classes in casting for the small-screen. It’s my pick for best casted television drama.

Runners Up: Downton Abbey; Mad Men; Parenthood; Shameless; True Blood

Guest performers in a drama after the jump with selections from The Good Wife, Mad Men, Shameless &etc

- Dylan Baker in The Good Wife
- Ben Feldman in Mad Men
- Michael J. Fox in The Good Wife
- Chris Messina in Damages
- Matthew Perry in The Good Wife
- Jason Ritter in Parenthood

This is an especially tough category to work through, for example some popular gems are not mentioned above and below, it being so packed with candidates. First off with the duo of Feldman and Foxx, both of them tasked with playing characters with just a side-serving of quirkiness. Fox does his best work in “Parenting Made Easy” putting the quirks on the backburner and making Canning’s appeal and danger easily discernible. Feldman, too, works around the ostensible quirks and in tiny moments (asking Peggy for a hug, the final bit his father) carves an oddly specific character, despite the on-the-nose way it develops. Baker and Perry represent two more foes for Alicia Florrick in different ways. Baker’s having so much fun chewing the scenery but such a register is essential for Sweeney. Most significant? His ability to be hilarious while be chillingly scary. Perry, curiously with a more rote-villain, must be subtle and we’re still getting to know Mike. He ends up being most efficient being worryingly charming despite his words opposite Peter.

I had this weird feeling that both Messina and Ritter would leave their shows by death, and I was wrong in both cases – and thrilled to be so. In a season of goodness, Messina’s soldier who set it all in motion is not remembered as much as he ought. He successfully subverts the typical notion of tortured veteran (and does fine things in the torture scenes). Ultimately, Ritter emerges as a winner. There’s not much that seems to unfold from playing Sarah’s younger lover, but Parenthood is able to make the ostensibly mundane worthy of attention and Ritter’s winsome tenderness turns this into a performance that we come to care for as much as the main ensemble.

Runners Up: Jason Biggs in The Good Wife; John Corbett in Parenthood; Charlie Cox in Boardwalk Empire; Zach McGowan in Shameless; Fred Willard in The Closer

(Un-submitted gems: Usmann Ally in Damages; Desmond Harrington in Justified, Denis O’Hare in The Good Wife)

- Joan Cusack in Shameless
- Louise Fletcher in Shameless
- Margarita Levieva in Revenge
- Martha Plimpton in The Good Wife
- Carrie Preston in The Good Wife
- Anika Noni Rose in The Good Wife

Finding a slate of nominees for this category was simpler, but ranking them was a quandary. Plimpton’s appearance in The Good Wife’s finale is proof of how satisfying she is in these suspect roles. Patty’s exasperating nature as a character is what makes her such a delight to watch, multiple children and whatnot. And speaking of mothers – the mother to stop all mothers, Louise Fletcher as Grandma Gallagher became an effective horror story buoyed to life by Fletcher’s visceral portrayal of this vicious mother. Levieva’s Fauxmanda is not as vicious as she believes herself to be, and it’s been a treat watching as she navigates through the rough exteriors of her character to reveal the sad softness at the centre.

Rose was gifted with a larger arc this season and came off stellar work in season 2 to even more superlative results in season 3. For all her insidiousness it’s difficult to completely denounce Wendy Scott-Carr simply because of the singularity and ethic she brings to the performance. “Oh, look at all this paper”, and with that the mic was dropped. Preston is so outstanding as Elsbeth mere words could not do her justice, in short brilliant comedic and dramatic gold. If only Cusack would submit in the Supporting category where she belongs….nonetheless her performance is a gem. She emerges as season MVP of Shameless, but it’s not just her large role that makes her emerge as winner here. In a single scene in the finale, Cusack does more with her face and body than many actors have done over this entire television season.

Runners Up: Debbie Allen in Grey’s Anatomy; Kate Burton in The Closer; Kate Burton in Grey’s Anatomy; Pamela Dunlap in Mad Men; Bernadette Peters in Smash)

(Un-submitted gems: Lisa Edelstein in The Good Wife; Mamie Gummer in The Good Wife; Mary Beth Peil in The Good Wife; Amy Sedaris in The Good Wife

Casting and guest work for the dramas....who makes your ballot? Who would you root for from mine? 


Squasher88 said...

It's hard to remember all the guest actors (especially since I don't watch that many of the contenders) but I like a lot of your choices. I'm basically rooting for all your choices on The Good Wife.

Btw, isn't Ben Feldman a regular on Mad Men? I feel like he's always there.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

shane the good wife really knows how to succeed with its guest performers. feldman submitted as a guest performer, and he is more guest than supporting in the way cooper submits in guest (i've never understood his nominations, though, although he shall probably get another nod.)