Sunday, 22 September 2013

Personal Emmy Ballot: The Dramas, Part 1

Well, isn’t this awkward? I promised, months ago, to complete my regular personal Emmy ballots but business intervened. I considered shelving the drama section for the 2012/2013 TV season, but I’m nothing if not consistent – even if late – so with the Emmy’s tonight I decided it’s now or never to unveil my choices for the drama side of TV. Guests and writing and directing below, main performances to come later.

- Dylan Baker in THE GOOD WIFE
- Rupert Friend in HOMELAND
- Nathan Lane in THE GOOD WIFE
- Matt Lauria in PARENTHOOD
- Matthew Perry in THE GOOD WIFE
- Jason Ritter in PARENTHOOD

I managed a 2/6 cross-over with the Emmy’s this year, although, how surprising that last year’s shock winner – Jason Ritter – didn’t make it back on stronger work this season? Lauria and Lane are two men giving fine, smaller, performances on shows packed with large ensembles and many guest stars. Lane playing against type as the hard to read Hayden was an inspired bit of casting from The Good Wife, Lauria fresh off Friday Night Lights is not so much playing against type but as Amber’s most recent love-interest manages to make the ballad of the angry young man seem fresher than you’d imagine. Perry and Baker are playing, broader and sometimes funnier angles on The Good Wife, both succeed in their excellent ability to not only use their broadness to good effect but to maintain a stellar rapport with Julianna Margulies. Baker in particular, season after season manages to ensure that his presence suggests a good episode. Friend’s arc on the last season of Homeland showed him to better effect than some of his recent filmography proving what a talented young actor he is. But, far and away, my favourite of the category is Jason Ritter who gave one of my three favourite performances (main or guest) on last season’s Parenthood. Mark Cyr has been a character for the ages, and I shall miss him if he doesn’t return.

(Un-Submitted Gem: Zach Grenier in THE GOOD WIFE)

Runners-Up: Michael J. Fox in THE GOOD WIFE; Eddie Izzard in HANNIBAL; Nick Robinson in BOARDWALK EMPIRE; Stephen Root in BOARDWALK EMPIRE; Ray Stevenson in DEXTER

- Stockhard Channing in THE GOOD WIFE
- Joan Cusack in SHAMELESS
- Abby Miller in JUSTIFIED
- Bernadette Peters in SMASH
- Carrie Preston in THE GOOD WIFE
- Meg Chambers Steedle in BOARDWALK EMPIRE

I went 2/6 in this category, too. I admit that some part of me will always be very partial to the lovely Bernadette Peters, but as Leigh Conroy she continued to be one of the finer elements of Smash’s not always flawless second season. Miller and Steedle are two young actors I knew would never get recognition even as they offered significant turns in their shows. Miller’s mousey Ellen Mae was developed in this season of Justified and Miller’s performance only improved with the weight given to her character. Steedle’s Billy Kent took some warming up to, but it was in her final episode “The Pony” that she channelled the old Hollywood glamour she so yearned for and turned in a massively impressive turn. Cusack and Channing play somewhat similar registers of overbearing mothers, with the former warmer than the latter, mixed with comedy and drama. Watching Cusack, in particular, react to her daughter’s arc this season was a lovely thing to watch. But this year, it’s all about Carrie Preston’s whose guest turn on The Good Wife was a highlight of season four.

Runners-Up: Gillian Anderson in HANNIBAL; Kristin Chenoweth in THE GOOD WIFE; Lydia Fraser in BREAKING BAD; Marin Ireland in HOMELAND; Shirley MacLaine in DOWNTON ABBEY

....writing and directing choices below the jump...

“Margate Sands” / BOARDWALK EMPIRE“Red Team, Blue Team” / THE GOOD WIFE
“The Choice” / HOMELAND
“The Bird Has Flown” / JUSTIFIED
“What to My Wondering Eye” / PARENTHOOD

I went 0/5 here, but who cares? Parenthood’s ability to give each player in its large ensemble room for development has continuously made it one of the more impressive dramas on television even as it takes the most mundane family issues and make them must-watch TV. Justified’s best written episode this season was something of a diversion where the season’s main drama was abandoned for a taut one hour chase, supplemented by Ava and Ellen Mae’s drama, it’s a sure sign that even when the main game is not the focus Justified handles its arcs well. The best season finale Boardwalk Empire has done managed to work so well because of how expertly it managed to wrap up each dangling arc of the season in a satisfying, tension filled, manner.

Homeland’s expert season closer doesn’t wrap up as much as lead t more questions, but it’s the same sense – like in Boardwalk – of revealing to the audience what the entire season has been hurtling towards in excellent fashion. It’s very possible “The Choice” was my favourite episode of Homeland. But, as far as well written goes there was no choice but “Red Team / Blue Team” which so expertly uses the confines of network TV to create a perfectly scripted forty minute showdown between emotions and workmates. Good stuff.

Runners Up: “Two Imposters” / BOARDWALK EMPIRE; “Dead Freight” / BREAKING BAD; “The Rains of Castamere” / GAME OF THRONES; “Beirut is Back” / HOMELAND; “Natural Selection” / ORPHAN BLACK

“Margate Sands” / BOARDWALK EMPIRE“Two Imposters” / BOARDWALK EMPIRE
“Dead Freight” / BREAKING BAD
“The Choice” / HOMELAND
“Natural Selection” / ORPHAN BLACK

I went 1/5, and I wonder/hope how possible a third consecutive directing nod for Boardwalk Empire would be. I debated whether to include “Natural Selection” of the entertaining, but not always finely tuned, Orphan Black, but the pilot episode has such a fine handle on the show’s conceits and ironies I had to. The same for my favourite episode of the first eight of Breaking Bad’s fifth season. I wasn’t as enamoured with the first half of the season until “Dead Freight” which benefited from a great (Emmy nominated) script, but even more from an excellently directed coda.

“Two Imposters” was the most unusual episode of Boardwalk Empire, claustrophobic in mood, deliriously focused on only a few characters and it was the expert direction which sold it. In the end, it’s the finales of Boardwalk Empire and Homeland which round off my top 2. “The Choice” benefits from surprising turns, rousing dramatic pleas and a beautiful final shot but “Margate Sands” wins for the sheer energy of that shoot-out at Gillian’s house and that haunting hallway conversation between Nucky and Margaret. (Also, Gyp’s final scene.)

(Un-submitted Gems: “The Pony” / BOARDWALK EMPIRE; “Red Team, Blue Team” / THE GOOD WIFE; “Running with the Devil” / THE GOOD WIFE; “Beirut is Back” / HOMELAND; “The Bird Has Flown” / JUSTIFIED)

Runners-Up: “The Milkmaid’s Lot” / BOARDWALK EMPIRE; “The Rains of Castamere” / GAME OF THRONES; “State of Independence” / HOMELAND; “There’s Something I Need to Tell You” / PARENTHOOD

I know, this is later than the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, but what are you rooting for in the writing and directing categories? What did you think of the results in guest performers last week at the Creative Emmy’s?

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