Sunday, July 6, 2014

Give Them a Chance! 10 Deserving Shows The Emmys Will Probably Ignore

Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with the awards shows. It's no coincidence that this blog started at the beginning of Oscar season. And, as we grow closer to the announcement of Emmy nominations (on July 10th) I'm very excited, and filled with knowledge about which shows have buzz and which shows don't. Who are the frontrunners, who are the long shots?! It's all very exciting, and I've already made my predictions for the nominees in the drama and comedy categories.

As someone who constantly tries to predict awards show results, I truly find the odds-making side of it all fascinating. But, I always make it clear that the analysis of who WILL get a nomination has nothing to do with quality. When I say, for example, that The Big Bang Theory is a lock in the Best Comedy category, that doesn't mean I like The Big Bang Theory (I do not, but that's a blog post for another time). As with any awards show, the Emmys should never be viewed as an accurate litmus test for what really is the best that television has to offer. Consider that Breaking Bad didn't win best drama series until last year. Consider that The Wire-- generally considered one of the greatest series ever made-- never received an Emmy. Further consider that Two and a Half Men has nine Emmys. Nine. Nine.

Charlie Sheen was nominated for his work on Two and a Half Men four times. Four. Four.

Needless to say, the Emmys are subjective. While some outstanding shows will always be given attention, not every show is going to be a Homeland or a Veep. Some outstanding shows are always going to fall through the cracks, and they Emmy nominees are never going to be perfectly in line with the nominees at the annual "Things Miles Purinton Likes Awards."

I got this award especially for The Big Bang Theory.

So, I've decided to discuss some of the shows that the Emmys shouldn't, but will most likely ignore when nominees are announced. Here, in no particular order, here are the ten shows which deserve Emmys consideration...but probably won't get it. And, I'll give you a hint, The Big Bang Theory is not on this list.

What's that? I should stop picking on The Big Bang Theory? Is it frustrating that I'm making the same mean-spirited joke over and over again? YEAH. THAT WOULD BE ANNOYING. AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THE BIG BANG THEORY HAS DONE FOR SEVERAL SEASONS NOW.


Outside of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Comedy Central has never been much for Emmys attention, and their sitcoms typically don't come into play at all. But, the network has proven to have some surprisingly innovative programming in the past few years. Of its new comedies, Broad City is the one most likely to find some Emmys love, after it received nominations at the Critics Choice Awards. This is unlikely-- so unlikely that I didn't even mention the show in my Emmys predictions-- but if Comedy Central gets ANY consideration for its scripted programming this year, it will be for that series. Which means no room is left over for it's new series Review-- possibly the most underrated gem of the year. In the show, Andy Daly-- a comedian who has guest starred in pretty much everything and finally gets a leading role here-- plays Forrest MacNeil, a reviewer who embarks on a great experiment to review life experiences (as opposed to things like art or food). He chooses which life experiences to review based on viewer queries and typically tackles three per episode. It sounds like a fun and quirky premise-- perfect to have each episode remain unconnected and generally fun. the show goes on, a sense of continuity creeps in and, as an audience, we see an overarching plot. The gimmick of the show's premise is just that-- the show is not about the reviews at all, it's entirely about this main character, and an examination of how this tv show slowly ruins his life. It's deliciously black comedy at its best-- dark, awkward, and often just plain weird. It's not going to be everybody's cup of tea, but what it sets out to do, it does really well. Daly manages to be endearing in his portrayal of a hapless asshole, and gives what is certainly one of the most committed performances in the history of comedy.

Andy Daly, in a print ad for Review.
I really enjoy the show-- much more than I expected to. I would go so far as to say it is the most meticulously crafted season of comedy I've ever seen outside of Arrested Development (and fans of that show should DEFINITELY check out Review). The show is funny, yes, but it's also incredibly insightful and actually really heartbreaking. You become invested in these characters. The show has been renewed for a second season, and I couldn't be happier...but in some ways I almost wish it wasn't because the first season was such a perfect little gem and I don't want to risk the second season not being as good. That's how great this show is, for me. I simply cannot imagine a second season being as good as the first-- but given how much the first season surprised me, I can only imagine what the second one will do.

While it was one of my favorite shows of the year, it's too cerebral and unconventional to have ever been at play for best comedy series-- so I'm not even going to pretend like it has any chance in that category. But, there is one particular award that it unabashedly deserves: Best Writing. The show only submitted one episode for consideration in the writing category, and while the whole show is impeccably written, their selection-- the third episode, entitled "Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes,"-- is absolutely the standout of the series. Seriously, even if my gushing has not swayed you to watch the whole series, you should watch this episode. It's like what Dante would have written if one of the levels of the Inferno was a sitcom about a man eating pancakes.

Actual quote from either Review or Purgatorio.

And-- slight spoiler here-- Review features the single most surprising character death that I have ever seen. Forget Game of Thrones, I actually had to rewind Review to make sure that what I saw had really happened. It's amazing. Best death in a comedy series since Denholm Reynholm.

Key and Peele

Speaking of Comedy Central, another standout of the network's recent programming is the sketch comedy series Key and Peele. Written by, starring, and named for its stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the show has always been funny, well acted, and at times incredibly insightful. But, while the first two seasons were great, the third season which aired this past year was nothing short of incredible. Either Key and Peele finally found the show's true voice, or they were given more creative control by the network, or a combination of these things, but the show absolutely surpassed its already high standard. Not only was the show even funnier than before, but Key and Peele pushed the boundaries in a more adept way than any other series I've ever seen. I feel like in comedy, many comedians try to tackle difficult subjects, and frankly fall flat on their face. But what makes Key and Peele remarkable is that they do not mistake edginess for humor. They deal with what, for many, would be taboo subjects, ut they do a few things that a lot of risque comedian (cough cough Seth MacFarlane cough cough Daniel fucking Tosh cough cough) fail to do. For one thing, they are always informed-- they clearly have done their research and treat the subjects with the respect and weight they deserve. As Saturday Night Live, the undisputed top show int he sketch comedy world has come under fire in the past few seasons for what many perceive to be much weaker and less weighty sketches than what the show has aired in the past, Key and Peele has proven how sketch comedy can truly be an exciting and relevant medium. It's pretty standard for sketch comedy shows to be deemed "hit and miss," but I honestly cannot think of a single "miss" in this third season of Key and Peele.

Key and Peele satirize Les Miserables.

There are a few things that make Key and Peele stand out. For one thing, they always, always, always "punch down"-- meaning the punchline is at the expense of the bully rather than the victim. They have so many amazing skits, but the one that best demonstrates what I'm talking about is this skit which is inspired by, of all things, the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Were anyone else, and I mean ANYONE else to attempt to find comedy in this, I would run screaming, but Key and Peele make a genuinely funny and respectful skit. And I could share with you a seemingly endless number of good skits-- from the spot-on parodies, to the beautifully awkward, to the just plain funny-- but I highly recommend you watch the whole season. Some of their best skits are not released on their youtube channel.

So, what should it be nominated for, other than every single award ever? Definitely Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series. Despite its critical acclaim, clearly high level of quality, high production values, and two stars whose celebrity is thankfully growing more and more, it's unlikely that the show will be able to enter that field of nominees. Aside from SNL, no sketch comedy show has been nominated for this award since In Living Color back in 1990. The category prefers to nominate talk shows and awards shows, so it's hard to see Key & Peele breaking into this category. actually does have a long shot chance. The third season has already garnered multiple awards-- including a Writer's Guild Award and a Peabody. Even if it doesn't get the Outstanding Variety Series nomination it deserves, it might just gain a nomination in one of the more minor categories. Sadly, it's even more unlikely that Key & Peele themselves will gain nominations. While sometimes the Saturday Night Live cast members manage to sneak into the Best Supporting categories, it would be miraculous if Key or Peele were to manage this feat, despite the fact that they pretty much hold the entire show on solely their shoulders. But, they're really incredible. Their performances are versatile-- unlike in most comedic duos, the pair alternates playing the straight man and a wide variety of numerous wacky characters, meaning both have the opportunity to give what are probably some of the most brilliant comedic performances you can find. Jordan Peele's performance in their downright strange Continental Breakfast sketch from the Halloween episode should, in my opinion, be more than enough to earn him a nomination.

Face Off

And now for something completely different-- let's talk about reality shows. The reality show categories are interesting. Added to the ceremony as the genre continued to grow more popular, at first, it was shockingly predictable. The Amazing Race won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program the first seven years of the category's existence before it finally lost to Top Chef. andt looked as if The Amazing Race's domination was over...until it then proceeded to win again for the next two years. But last year, it lost for the second time in the category's history-- this time to The Voice. So this is an interesting category to watch-- has The Amazing Race finally lost its "favorite" status, or will it regain it with another victory this year? It could really go either way. But even as the category becomes more interesting, the nominees remain astonishingly boring. This category has the least amount of diversity out of any category in Emmys history. The nominees for the past two years have been exactly the same, and in eleven years with fifty-five different slots for nominees, there have been only ten nominated shows total. Of those ten nominees, nine have been nominated multiple times (the only series to only be nominated once was Last Comic Standing in the category's second year of existence). Part of this is due to the longevity of so many of these programs-- The Apprentice is the only nominated show that is not still regularly on the air. The Apprentice is off the air, right? Please, lord, let that show be off the air.

No witty caption needed. This man is already a joke. BAZINGA!
Because of this predictability, it's incredibly tough for a show to break into the small group of nominees-- especially a show with a relatively small audience. But I have recently become a fan of the Syfy Channel's competition Face Off. For those who don't know, it follows the format of more well-known shows like Project Runway and Top Chef where a group of contestants with a certain occupation compete in challenges to see who is the best at that skill. But instead of fashion design or cooking, Face Off deals with movie makeup. And while Top Chef will always be one of my favorite shows ever, Face Off comes close to being my favorite show of this style. The competitors are all incredibly talented, the judges are likable, articulate, and knowledgeable, and the challenges are wonderfully creative (bring a Dr. Seuss character to life, create a demon based on an unusual phobia, etc.) But, to the show's biggest credit, it KEEPS THE ATTENTION ON THE TALENT. The contestants rarely have drama and rarely have conflict-- in fact they often go out of their way to help each other out. It's refreshing, and highlights what I like about these types of shows in the first place. On the heels of an especially strong season, it deserves not only a nomination, but a wider audience.

One of the incredible makeups from Face Off-- inspired by the fairy tale Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

The television show Archer has been one of the most consistent animated shows on the air-- and one of the most consistently ignored. Much like the reality categories, this category has seen a lot of repeat nominees over the years, and so it's going to be tough for Archer to ever crack this category. But when one considers that The Simpsons has literally been nominated for this category every single year it has been eligible, one has to wonder why this deserving show can't gain a nomination. After all, it's a well-known fact that The Simpsons has declined drastically in quality over the years. Archer, on the other hand, has the fresh voice and edginess that made The Simpsons so popular when it was first on the air. Now, Archer has not been completely ignored by the Emmys. It has a single nomination-- for H. Jon Benjamin in the category of Outstanding Vocal Performance. But, after his one time nomination, he has yet to be nominated again, and as the show became more outrageous, it continuew to be left off of the Emmys' radar. There's nothing to suggest that trend won't hold true this year to, but if any season of the show deserves to put it in the runing, however, it's this one. Creator Adam Reed reportedly just got bored with the show's premise of having the characters work in a James Bond-esque secret agency, and decided to spend the entire season having the same exact characters deal with a literal ton of cocaine. In other words, the entire premise of the show changed for one solitary season. It was a massive risk, and it paid off-- and is certainly one of the strangest and most satisfying experiments a show has ever done. That risk-taking should absolutely be rewarded if the Emmys wishes to stay current.

Also, one of the characters randomly decided they wanted to become a country singer. It was a weird season.

The Americans

Fun fact: I have never seen The Americans. I'd like to, but...there's, like, a lot of television to watch and I don't have enough time to watch all of it. But, nonetheless, it so epitomizes the types of incredible shows that fall through the cracks at the Emmys that I HAD to include it. I have only heard incredible things about this show. Everyone has only heard incredible things about this show. It's supposed to be great. Last year, it garnered considerable Emmy buzz for its first season, and a lot of people saw it being a serious Emmy contender. It ended up garnering only two nominations-- one for guest star Margo Martindale, and one in the hotly contested category of Outstanding Main Theme Music. It was certainly a disappointing showing for a series which had its eyes set on multiple major awards. This year, it's being mentioned again as a possible contender-- but I'm going to risk my reputation as a blogger and say that The Americans will once again be shut out of the Emmys race. Not because it's not deserving-- from everything that I've heard it is-- but because it's really hard for a series to capture the attention of the Emmys if it didn't already have it. While there are a few exceptions (like Friday Night Lights, which didn't get major Emmys attention until its final season, when the Emmys rushed to honor the show seemingly to apologize for forgetting about it all those years beforee), most Emmy darlings receive nominations in the major categories in their very first season and then coast from there. For example, even though Breaking Bad didn't become an awards juggernaut until later in its run, Bryan Cranston was nominated for the show's very first season, meaning that Breaking Bad didn't have to fight to earn its place at the Emmys later in the show's run. Similarly, a one-time Emmy darling that suddenly loses its nomination can find it very difficult to regain it. A great example is the show Justified-- after a stellar second season, the show seemed to be in the Emmys' good graces. But what some saw to be an uneven third season meant that the following year, it didn't really get anything at the Emmys-- it's only major nomination was in the Guest Actor category (for Jeremy Davies-- who actually won the award that year). Then, the show's fourth season was acclaimed, but the huge drop in awards recognition between season 2 and season 3 meant that it now has significantly less buzz than before, and probably has lost its contender status forever. I predict that The Americans is, sadly, also going to be doomed to constantly being on the outskirts of the Emmys' attention. I call it the Fringe curse-- during every single year of that series' run, columnists insisted on pretending the show had a chance at Emmy recognition even though it failed to get any consideration every single year. And The Americans might have the same fate-- as long as it stays at the same level of quality, The Americans will always have slight Emmy buzz. But until its following increases significantly, I think it's doomed to always be on the sidelines.

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in a scene from The Americans maybe. Like I said, I've never seen the show. Is this what it's like?


This show is the reason there's a clause in the SAG-AFTRA contract that says you're not allowed to eat your castmates.

The drama categories have become pretty much exclusively a category for the cable channels. While networks like CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX still do well in the comedy categories, their dramas have been losing out to HBO, Showtime, and AMC consistently for the past few years (I don't count Downton Abbey, as even though that's a network drama, it's on PBS...which just feels different, right?) The past two years, the general thought has been that the only network drama with a chance at breaking into the field of nominees is The Good Wife, and that hasn't been nominated for the past two years. This year, it has a chance to gain major awards consideration again after what pretty much everyone seems to agree was an exemplary season...but the fact remains that it's the only network drama anyone's really talking about. Which is a shame, as NBC's Hannibal remains the best drama on television that simply no one is watching. A stylish thriller, Bryan Fuller's series about the titular notorious cannibalistic killer is hauntingly beautiful to watch, and as emotionally draining as the very best that the cable channels have to offer. Ignored in its first season, the second season has really upped the ante and has become astonishingly fast-paced and brutal-- maybe this might make the Emmys take notice? It is one of the most visually striking dramas of recent memory, and certainly deserves mention in the technical categories at the very least. I'd also love to see the cast get mention. Last year, I thought that Hugh Dancy should have been nominated for his work as the profoundly sad Will Graham-- and he's still wonderful, but, this year, I'm putting my hopes behind Dr. Lecter himself-- played by Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen portrays Hannibal as ruthless, intelligent, sly, and not without a dose of really bizarre humor. It's a performance that stays with you, and certainly carries more weight than, say, last year's winner Jeff Daniels in The Newsroom. A nomination for Mikkelsen is unlikely, but I can hope.

Actual line from the show, guys. Gore and puns-- who could ask for anything more?
I'd also really love a guest star nomination for Broadway veteran Raul Esparza, who brought new life to the boorish Dr. Chilton-- a rather one-dimensional character in his previous incarnations, who Esparza managed to make a formidable and fascinating presence.

 The Killing

I have already written on this blog about my love for The Killing, so please follow that link if you want to read my complete analysis on why this show is so good, and so unappreciated. The third season was well-received by critics but due to its release nearly a year ago, and the baffling stigma against the show, it's not likely for this show to make it into the Emmys' graces. But this show, and especially the superb cast should absolutely get recognition. Mireille Enos was previously nominated for her work as Sarah Linden, and she deserves the nomination again. Her co-star Joel Kinnaman is similarly deserving, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that somehow the impossible will happen and newcomer Bex Taylor-Klaus will gain a nomination for her performance as Bullet-- a new character introduced in the third season who will break your heart. But the most deserving actor this season-- and the only one who really has a (very slight) chance at getting one this year-- is Peter Sarsgaard, who does what I think is the best work of his career. Sarsgaard is known for playing creepy roles, and this role certainly has his signature creepiness-- but it is also incredibly heartfelt and devastating. Sarsgaard has started to get some notice for his work-- including a Critics Choice nomination-- but he's still a longshot at the Emmys. Still, I'm going to keep my fingers crossed.

Peter Sarsgaard talks to Mireille Enos in The Killing
In addition to the cast, I think that the show had some really powerful episodes which deserve some recognition. Showrunner Veena Sud absolutely deserves a nomination for her incredible writing for the episode "Six Minutes"-- an absolute stand-out that was my single favorite episode of television this year (yes, including Breaking Bad's "Ozymandias"-- as sad as I am to say that). And Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme would, in a just world, be nominated for directing the episode "Reckoning." This season proved that, despite what everyone else says, The Killing is/was one of the best dramas out there, and it's a shame that it features little to no buzz going into the Emmy season.

Orphan Black

Last year, the greatest injustice that the Emmys committed was not nominating Orphan Black's star, Tatiana Maslany. Maslany is not-so-secretly the best performer on television right now and has won overwhelming critical acclaim and numerous accolades. And it's not hard to see why. For one thing, her role in the show is incredibly ambitious-- in the first season she portrayed a total of six different characters. But the fact that she plays different roles is not what makes her performance impressive-- what makes it impressive is just how well Maslany rises to this task. These characters not only have completely different accents, but they're all immediately recognizable in their physicality. There's one moment, for example, where one of Maslany's characters named Allison has to pretend to be another character named Sarah. Because Maslany plays both roles, it could have been incredibly confusing--
not only is there no physical difference between the two, but in this particular scene, the character is SPECIFICALLY ACTING LIKE ANOTHER ONE. Yet, because of how well Maslany has defined these characters, Allison is immediately recognizable, even when she is acting like Sarah. To those who haven't seen the show, this explanation might be confusing, but...just trust me. Maslany's amazing.

Even though Maslany was snubbed last year, it is actually possible that she will get a nomination this year-- her exclusion last year is generally seen as a mistake, and while she's certainly not a lock for a nomination, it's not beyond the realm of possibility. So, while she might be destined to be forever ignored by the Emmys, we might just see her break into the field this year. But...I think the show itself deserves some recognition too. All anyone talks about is Maslany, but the show has other merit as well. It's well-written, and has the potential to be one of the truly great science fiction series. And while Maslany's performance is definitely the standout for good reason, I must say that I am also impressed by her co-star Jordan Gavaris, who plays Sarah's half brother Felix, and it's a shame that his name is not mentioned along with Maslany when people discuss the superb acting in the show. Granted, he only plays one role, but he plays it very well.

Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany, and Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black


Community has always had a troubled relationship with the Emmys...meaning that it hasn't had a relationship with the Emmys at all. Even as The Big Bang Theory has infuriatingly become an Emmys shoo-in (are you impressed with my restraint in waiting so long to mention that show again?), the internet-beloved but little-watched series has always come up short during awards season despite its fans high hopes. In its history, the show has garnered only a single nomination-- in the Outstanding Writing category for the brilliant episode "Remedial Chaos Theory." It doesn't help that right after the show finally got that nomination and might have had a chance to pick up some awards momentum, it went through a disastrous fourth season due to the absence of showrunner Dan Harmon. Now that Harmon is back, the show is mostly back in its audience's good graces, but most would agree that this season is far from the show's best work. In other words, if it didn't get nominations for, say, season 2 or 3, then it really doesn't have a chance of getting one here. And while I don't think that this season has been its absolute strongest, the fact remains that Community is one of the most interesting and innovative shows on the air. And, while it has been picked up for a sixth season by, it's unlikely that Yahoo will fight to give the show any chance at all at the Emmys next year, so this really is the show's last chance. It features an incredible ensemble cast, many of whom would be deserving of nominations, and consistently takes risks which other nominated shows really do not do at all. As groundbreaking as it pretends to be, Emmy-darling Modern Family has gotten, frankly, really boring. And that's putting it lightly. I mean, how many lessons can Ed O'Neill's character learn about acceptance?

Jonathan Banks and Danny Pudi in the episode "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality," one of the best episodes of the show's fifth season.

Parks and Recreation

To be fair, this show will most likely get SOME Emmy attention. Amy Poehler is a consistent shoo-in as a nominee, and maybe her Golden Globe award indicates that she might finally receive that well-deserved Emmy. The show was also nominated once for Best Comedy Series, and has been nominated for writing and, interestingly enough, has quite a few nominations for sound editing (so, when you watch the show, consider how well edited the sound is). So, considering that this show HAS gotten Emmys attention, how can I say that this show is ignored? Well, as I previously mentioned, it's incredibly difficult for a show to gain Emmys attention after it has lost that attention. Last year, the nomination for Amy Poehler was the only one the show received and so it is unlikely for the show to make the jump back into the Best Series category. And, unfortunately, while the show had a really fantastic season this year, it wasn't as strong as the season 4 story arc where Leslie Knope (Poehler) ran for City Council. If that season failed to get a nomination, it's, sadly, hard to imagine this season getting one. But this remains one of the best shows on the air. It deserves to once again join the ranks of the best comedy series, and-- much like with Community-- the ensemble supporting cast really needs recognition. Nick Offerman has created one of the most iconic breakout characters of television's golden age with his portrayal of Ron Swanson, Adam Scott is consistently incredible as Leslie's awkward and endearing foil. I was holding out hope that perhaps Rob Lowe might gain a nomination as a guest star this year, after his character left the show in the middle of the season. Unfortunately, Rob Lowe is a self-centered individual and submitted himself in the Best Leading Actor category, despite appearing in less than half the episodes of this season. So...yeah. No way he's getting that.

Rashida Jones and Amy Poehler as the very best of friends in Parks and Recreation

Anyway, those are my thoughts. What series do you think get overlooked by the Emmys all too often? What long-shot are you hoping will somehow earn a nomination? Let me know in the comments!


No comments:

Post a Comment