Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Encore’s Emmy Ballot: The Dramas, Part 3 (Leading Performers)

The Emmy nominations are tomorrow, and because I’ve been so unwieldy and slow with turning out my fake Emmy ballot I’ve still not completed the process. I have, however, come to the end of the performances themselves as I take a look at the nods I’d most like to see happen tomorrow (although most of them won’t). The list of shows eligible for my awards are HERE (I don’t watch everything).

Previous entries in the ballot:
Dramas, Part 1: Casting, Guest Actor, Guest Actress
Dramas, Part 2: Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
Comedies, Part 1: Casting, Guest Actor, Guest Actress
Comedies, Part 2: Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
Comedies, Part 3: Leading Actor, Leading Actress

-Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire (for “To the Lost”)
-Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (for “Crawl Space”)
-Kelsey Grammer in Boss (for “Listen”)
-Damian Lewis in Homeland (for “Achilles Heel”)
-William H. Macy in Shameless (for “I’ll Light a Candle for You Everyday”)
-Timothy Olyphant in Justified (“When the Guns Come Out”)

Lead actor in a drama is rarely the strongest batch of nominees, and with this last year in dramatic television been particularly on point it wasn’t. Still, all nine of the gents shortlisted – particularly the six on my ballot, turned in fine work in their shows, sometimes doing making excellent shows even better. I re-watched the pilot of Boss recently and realised some of the finer nuances in Grammer’s performance I hadn’t noticed before. The show itself is still a bit too self-aware for its own good and occasionally lands with too much of a thud but Grammer (curiously the only person on my ballot I can say this for) is easily the MVP on his show which means that despite the flaws of Boss he comes out looking well. Conversely, William H. Macy is definitely the MVP in his show. Cusack and Rossum have particularly towered over him this year but Macy is still doing fantastic work, nonetheless. Sure, Frank has more sensitive moments when his mother arrives but he’s at his despicable best and worst in “I’ll Light a Candle for You” and works the nuances of the character so well that even as you loathe him you get what he’s abut.

Olyphant has not been given as much expressly dramatic work as some of his competitors (not that Justified is a comedy, but the general congenial nature of it may belie the excellent work he’s doing). The thing is, playing sanguine is not indicative of a lesser performance and “When the Guns Come Out” are a fine example of the subtle tics Olyphant excellently uses to establish his performance. A similarity between Cranston and Buscemi’s performances is the way that both, this season, have depended on a rapport between a young quasi-son figure. “Crawl Space” for Cranston has excellent beats not only with Jesse but the showdown in the dessert and closing capper with an excellent Gunn (who I wish I could have found space for on my ballot). Buscemi might seem to have it more difficult because in some “To the Lost” could work as a submission for Pitt, but that’s because Pitt sort of took the season out of everyone’s hand. Even as Pitt triumphs more than he in the final showdown, Buscemi does excellent work in the season closer and with Pitt gone I’m anxious to see if he steps up his game even more.

Ultimately, Damian Lewis gets my win here, which I sort of hate to do because truthfully Buscemi, Cranston, Olyphant and Lewis are on equal footing for me – all giving fine performances. What might push Lewis forward – if only infinitesimally – is the many layers of mood Brodie has had to travel through in this first season. Even as he isn’t the MVP of his show he’s still turned in an exceptionally year of work. Like all the men singled out here.

Runners Up: Michael C. Hall in Dexter; Jon Hamm in Mad Men; Peter Krause in Parenthood

-Glenn Close in Damages (for “This War Will Go On Forever”)
-Claire Danes in Homeland (for “The Vest”)
-Miereille Enos in The Killing (for “72 Hours”)
-Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife (for “Blue Ribbon Panel”)
-Emmy Rossum in Shameless (for “A Great Cause”)
-Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer (from “Silent Partner”)

Aaah, the women. This would be a perfect ballot for me, and in many ways all these ladies are in the running (three more assured than the rest). Of the performers below I’d love to give some love to Washington, Dockery and Moss for doing fine work but as much as I like what they’ve done the six women on my ballot have impressed me much more. Like Emmy Rossum, for example, who should be getting an easy second nod this year but who probably won’t be on the ballot. Adept more at the drama than the comedy, she’s grounded the entire season of the show and any qualms about her performance are shattered at the end of “A Great Cause” when she breaks down realising just how reckless her parents are, and how much she must – continue – to sacrifice for her siblings. It’s these sorts of strident beats Enos doesn’t get to play because Linden remains a notoriously reticent woman and in a way “72 Hours” is not necessarily her best work. But, I choose it because the difference her general register only reaffirm the quality of her talent and the performance she contributes to the show. The final meeting with the therapist are the things accolades are made of.

Sedgwick and Margulies both have battled with authority figures in their seasons and in the not-quite a finale of The Closer even as Brenda’s had louder moments the revelation of how the case ends presents Sedgwick with such a fine opportunity to lose it and show emotion and she uses it for all its work proving that the show cares more about character beats than some realise. And, true, Alicia’s battle might be the typical good woman/bad man one, but the writers handled it deftly and even if I occasionally doubt the veracity of the character Margulies’ ability to examine Alicia’s righteousness, confusion and disappointment at the state of affairs is praiseworthy.

Ultimately, it’s down to two women….Close and Danes. Close has done fantastic things with Patty for four years and she continues to make good on the promise of the character. As with many stage performers she’s at her best when working opposite another good player and the deposition scenes opposite Goodman were the highlight of her this season for me. Still, for all her goodness I can’t deny the fineness of Claire Danes work. True, the register of Carrie requires some broader tics, and yes the performance is a treat for any actor. But do we not appreciate Claire’s work just because the character itself is a treat? NO. Who knows a lesser performer might have fumbled with it. Claire eviscerates the role, and particularly in that episode eviscerates all other performer. “My kingdom for a fucking green pen,” she says. An Emmy for this performance, I say.

Runners Up: Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey; Elizabeth Moss in Mad Men; Jessica Paré in Mad Men; Madeline Stowe in Revenge; Kerry Washington in Scandal
Which lead dramatic performers made your TV year excellent?

1 comment:

Luke said...

I'm so please you're able to see the greatness in Enos's subtle performance. I simply do NOT understand the blind hatred for The Killing - I think the pace is fantastic, and I wouldn't have it any other way! Also loving the Shameless bids here - on its face it's such a seemingly trashy show, but there are some great performances happening amongst the madness. (Finally, I'm just now becoming acquainted with Damages for the first time, and season one has got to be one of the best seasons of television I've ever seen!)