Thursday, September 21, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Writing for a Drama Series

This is the fourteenth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Writing for a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: The Winds of Winter (Game of Thrones), AKA Ladies Night (Jessica Jones), (Mr. Robot), Descensos (Narcos), The Same Boat (The Walking Dead)

Emmy nominees: The Americans (The Soviet Division), Better Call Saul (Chicanery), The Crown (Assassins), The Handmaid’s Tale (Offred), Stranger Things (Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers), Westworld (The Bicameral Mind)

Semi-finalists: Episode 8 (The Affair), Stuff to Steal, People to Kill (Dark Matter)

Finalists: Of Mice and Men (Goliath), Faithful (The Handmaid's Tale), The Bicameral Mind (Westworld), Thief (12 Monkeys), Chicanery (Better Call Saul)

The nominees:

Offred (The Handmaid's Tale)
Pilot (Sneaky Pete)
Chapter 1 (Legion)
What If… (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Three of this year’s pilots were completely different but equally appealing: a dark vision of an oppressive contemporary society, a lighter tale of a creative con man, and an extremely complex, mesmerizing mix of mental illness and science fiction. ABC’s long-running action series got a much-needed and superb reboot with the immersion into a new universe that could have been.

The winner:

Trompe L'Oeil (Westworld) demonstrated, more than anything, the idea that its writers had a grand plan for their show and its layered worlds, culminating in a twist that many fans may have seen coming but was nonetheless extraordinary.

Next up: Best Directing in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Directing for a Drama Series

This is the thirteenth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Directing for a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: The Winds of Winter (Game of Thrones), AKA Sin Bin (Jessica Jones), AKA WWJD (Jessica Jones), (Mr. Robot), Descensos (Narcos)

Emmy nominees: Better Call Saul (Witness), The Crown (Hyde Park Corner), The Handmaid’s Tale (The Bridge), The Handmaid’s Tale (Offred), Homeland (America First), Stranger Things (Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers), Westworld (The Bicameral Mind)

Semi-finalists: Chapter 7 (Legion), Citizens United (Goliath), Episode 8 (Humans), Episode 8 (The Affair), Masks (12 Monkeys), No Regrets (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Offred (The Handmaid's Tale)

Finalists: All the Madame's Men (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother) (The Leftovers), The Bicameral Mind (Westworld), All the Things (Good Behavior), Pure Peckinpah (Longmire)

The nominees:

Faithful (The Handmaid's Tale)
Late (The Handmaid's Tale)
You Want a War? (Sense8)
Thief (12 Monkeys)

Two particularly influential episodes of Hulu’s new dystopian drama stood out for the way that their searing content was framed. What was almost the series finale of Netflix’s trippy sci-fi show was also its most exciting installment yet. And one eye-opening hour of Syfy’s time-traveling show presented everything in an entirely new and adventure-centric light.

The winner:

Chapter 1 (Legion) was immensely captivating and incredibly designed, showcasing a visual story just as fascinating as its narrative one.

Next up: Best Writing for a Drama Series

What I’m Watching: People of Earth

People of Earth: Season 2, Episode 9 “Truth or Dare” (B+)

It’s sad that there’s just one episode left this season, but I’m very comforted by the fact that this show will be back for a third season. I’m a bit puzzled about the speed with which Walsh is planning to bring back Ozzie, but apparently it’s a big ship, so I guess we just don’t know what’s going on in this episode, which didn’t even feature Don at all. I think that Jeff has officially become my favorite character this season, trying hard in this episode to work up the courage to tell Kurt how he feels about him, egged on by Walsh, and then ultimately relegated to pretending that he loves scrubbing every surface of the ship with a toothbrush. Discovering that Eric charges every night is important, and could help with the mutiny, but Gerry appears to have finished his project, which is bad news for everyone. I enjoyed Richard’s mediation and the fact that he was able to achieve a victory for the believers, which he followed up by taking the settlement money he got and quitting his job so that he could find something he actually likes. Everyone bringing him pajamas was especially sweet. Alex showing up at Gina’s door for some free therapy was funny, and her rambling voicemail was a pretty big disaster, culminating in her saying “I love you.” My favorite part was her realization that her last name was Foster because she lived in a lot of foster homes. It seems that her connection has been a positive one, and I can’t wait until she finds out that her birth mother was abducted by aliens while giving birth.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What I’m Watching: Vice Principals (Season Premiere)

Vice Principals: Season 2, Episode 1 “Tiger Town” (B+)

I actually just rewatched this show’s pilot a few weeks ago with my wife and some friends, none of whom were quite as enchanted with it as I found myself. It’s great to see how much this show has grown in season two, opening from a similarly dramatic standpoint of Neal recovering from his gunshot wound and laced with just as much infantile behavior from its two main adults. Neal has come full-circle in regards to Ray, who he now likes, while he’s not so into his ex-wife, who has hated him for a while. Lee has gotten himself very comfortable at school, turning it into exactly the operation he’s always wanted it to be, but he’s missing something crucial, which is Neal’s presence. The triumphant return of Mr. Gamby the disciplinarian at the very end of the episode was fantastic, and I like how the new vice principal, Dayshaun, and Amanda were all excited about it. Neal’s reaction to the celebrations in his honor was typical, and even though he’s become mellowed by his injury, he’s the same man he’s always been. Tracking down Belinda and accidentally throwing the gun across the floor made for a magnificent moment that I assume will be the last we’ll see of her, featuring her proudly revealing the tattoo of Neal and Lee that she got on her back so that she can literally put the shit behind her. Only on this show would that fly, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the next six episodes of this show play out since, sadly, that’s all we’re going to get of it.

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 5, Episode 4 “Episode 504” (B+)

We learned at the end of the last episode that Merc was actually with Morning despite telling Carol that he wanted to start over with her and do things right this time, and it was absolutely worth it to learn it all over again when our three protagonists found out. As usual, Matt was cold to his former costar, and I love that Morning accidentally let slip that she used to have a thing with Merc based in the 70s, an always amusing reference made funnier by the fact that actress Mircea Monroe wasn’t born until 1982. Beverly seemed very upset and concerned about her friend while the boys could do nothing but talk about her breasts, and of course that translated to her being very awkward on the phone when she should have used her token bluntness to tell Carol what’s going on, since their friendship will surely be in trouble once Carol finds out that Beverly knew and didn’t tell her. Everything has changed now, and Kathleen Rose Perkins once again deserves the awards attention she never gets just for the physical comedy involved with accidentally putting the pregnancy test in her mouth when she went to answer the phone. The getaway at the ranch house was most worthwhile for Matt’s complete inability to concentrate and his insistence on writing on the board and then ordering lunch. The shooting scenario wasn’t as exciting, and watching them lift a pig up to rush it to the vet only to abandon it when they found out how much it would cost was far from the most worthwhile plot point of the episode.

Round Two: The Deuce

The Deuce: Season 1, Episode 2 “Show and Prove” (C+)

Well, a second shot at this show didn’t turn out to be enlightening at all, with more of a foray into the porn industry proving to be less than engaging. Sure, this show has its moments, like Candy’s naïve guess that the movie they were filming would be nine hours long instead of eight minutes, and Darlene’s realization that a movie she thought she filmed for a private audience of one was actually being sold in a store, which was promptly raided by some amused policemen looking to give the owner a really hard time. Overall, however, this show is still hopelessly dense, and its access points aren’t appealing. James Franco is an undeniably charismatic actor, who handed in a career-best performance in “127 Hours,” but he’s just too casual here in his dual roles, which are becoming much more clearly intertwined with the mob, especially as Vincent got an offer he couldn’t refuse to own his own business with only a minor monthly debt to his investor-realtors. I knew I recognized Rudy from somewhere, and I mistakenly thought he might be Adam Ferrara from “Rescue Me.” It turns out that he’s one of the more influential if infrequently-seen figures from “The Sopranos,” Jackie Aprile portrayer Michael Rispoli. This show isn’t afraid to be violent, as evidenced by the stabbing of the fake cop by one quick-thinking pimp. I don’t think there’s much more to be gleaned from watching this show, which has already been renewed for a second season, and while I’m sure I’ll regret it if it ends up being an awards juggernaut, something tells me this show will go the way of his predecessors “Treme” and “The Wire” and earn precious little Emmy attention.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 5, Episode 6 “Shelley Duvall” (B+)

Ray’s in better shape than he was at the end of the last episode, but he still doesn’t have a good handle on what’s going on around him. He went to Winslow to ask for payment for unexpected consequences of his work like having a gun pointed at his head, and in the process saw that she had the Oscar that should have been in the hands of the dead man found hanging in a motel room. Lena is a loyal right-hand woman for Ray, but she seems to be growing tired of hiding in car trunks and helping to stash away beautiful women in Ray’s apartment. Doug was not at all pleased when he found out via the news that Natalie was holed up there, and Ray’s attempt to deny it failed almost instantaneously. It was haunting to see him return from that first initial dalliance with his neighbor to Bridget, unimpressed that he had somewhere else to be, as Abby decided that she didn’t want treatment, much to the misery of those around her. Bridget was pretty thrilled when her uncle Terry showed up to see her, and we got to see him loosen up much more than he usually does, smoking and laughing with Bridget and Smitty in an effort to cope with the unforgivable deed he helped to commit. Bunchy’s stint in jail seems to be getting more serious than expected, though it has also provided the opportunity for him to come face-to-face with one of the men who ruined his life, a circumstance I imagine he’ll find a way to turn to his advantage.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pilot Review: American Vandal

American Vandal (Netflix)
Premiered September 15

I couldn’t tell at first if this was meant to be a documentary or something scripted, but it didn’t take more than a few seconds of watching to realize that this was a satire of hugely childish proportions. I actually just listened to the first episode of “Serial” a few weeks ago during a long drive, and while I know I’m late to the party (and not hooked only because I don’t drive regularly and prefer to watch TV when I can), I think it was perfect timing so that I could fully appreciate what this show is trying to do in parodying it. Appreciating it and liking it are two different things, however, since I can respect it without thinking there’s actually all that much to it. I don’t think anyone is pretending that this is supposed to be taken seriously, and instead it’s taking a lot of jabs at the excessive drama portrayed in this kind of long-form exposé. That the subject, Dylan, is on trial for drawing many, many penises on staff cars, says it all. Naturally, that’s part of the investigation, since, while Dylan was a known penis-drawer, his style and form is considerably different from what was found all over the cars, which means that maybe he’s…innocent? It is possible that this show could have been a bit more sophisticated, but I suppose then the comedy factor would have been impacted and the absurdity of it all would be lessened. Still, this isn’t something I can bear to watch for even another episode, and I’m surprised that it seems to have been so widely well-received.

How will it work as a series? I can’t imagine what’s going to take place over the next seven episodes, since that seems like an awfully long time to spend on these characters and this silly crime. At least each installment is only half an hour rather than a full hour, but that’s only some consolation.
How long will it last? The reviews appear to be pretty good, and ratings data isn’t something that Netflix tends to release. I’d hedge my bets on this show getting renewed, albeit for a second and totally different anthology chapter with something equally immature and ridiculous meant to send up pop culture and the excitement of this type of series.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Narcos

Narcos: Season 3, Episode 3 “Follow the Money” (B+)

This season really is revving up, with Pena doing his best to really make some progress in taking down the Cali cartel while his American comrades are actively working against him to ensure a continuation of the status quo. To think that such violence is permitted is especially disturbing considering the real-life news that a location manager for the show’s fourth season was recently killed in Mexico. The two senators who came down to find out where their money is going were familiar TV faces, Glenn Morshower, best known as Agent Aaron Pierce on “24,” and Louis Herthum, who played Dolores’ father on “Westworld.” Pena didn’t need much information to realize the scene of destruction he was seeing was staged, but it doesn’t matter, since he’s not receiving any kind of support. His agents are indeed smarter than they look, as Feistl and Van Ness toured around with a man who definitely isn’t the most honest cop in Medellin and then surprised him with a warrant. It was pretty intense to see Jorge, who is the definition of calm under pressure, get out of his car and bolt inside the building after Guillermo repeatedly refused to heed his warnings to then literally hold the dirty money in his hands behind the door so that the agents wouldn’t find it. Hearing his accent was a big win, but not as incredible as being led to the very hiding place where Gilberto was. Pena’s already on to his own leads, following Miguel Angel Silvestre’s cleaner Jurado and his wife American wife Kerry Bishé, whose passport is like gold. I’m eager to see what happens next.

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the twelfth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Sasha Alexander, Eliza Coupe, Claire Danes, Regina Hall, Callie Thorne

Emmy nominees: Becky Ann Baker, Angela Bassett, Carrie Fisher, Melissa McCarthy, Wanda Sykes, Kristen Wiig

Semi-finalists: Adrienne C. Moore (Orange is the New Black), Amanda Stephen (Orange is the New Black), Amy Landecker (People of Earth), Anna Camp (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Becky Ann Baker (Girls), Condola Rashad (Master of None), Gabrielle Ruiz (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Katie Aselton (Casual), Leisha Hailey (Silicon Valley), Lesley Nicol (The Catch), Lindsey Kraft (Grace and Frankie), Lori Petty (Orange is the New Black), Maggie Lawson (The Great Indoors), Marceline Hugot (The Detour), Maya Rudolph (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Natalie Morales (Santa Clarita Diet), Olivia Colman (Fleabag), Samara Wiley (You're the Worst), Tina Fey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Tiya Sircar (Master of None)

Finalists: June Squibb (Shameless) was endearing and entertaining as an aging woman without too much memory recall or much in the way of social skills. Collette Wolfe (You're the Worst) was a shining star on her show, never meant to stay long due to her kindness and genuine excitement. Tiya Sircar (The Good Place) did a marvelous job representing what it means to be good, sticking out among a group of terrible people. Katie Finneran (Brockmire) went head-to-head with Hank Azaria for command of their scenes and left quite an impression with her formidable appearances. Blair Brown (Orange is the New Black) brought some celebrity Southern charm to a place where it definitely didn’t belong.

The nominees:

Britt Robertson (Casual) presented herself initially as a professional colleague and then became something altogether more unforgettable very quickly. Rebecca Naomi Jones (Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll) jived well with Gigi right away and helped to liven up the energy of her show in an unexpected way. Portia de Rossi (Santa Clarita Diet) used her signature style of speaking to tremendous effect in a memorable, matter-of-fact role. Jane Adams (Atlanta) was hard to forget as an agent who definitely didn’t remember the person she was talking to correctly.

The winner:

Laura Benanti (The Detour) was relentless and excessively exuberant in all the right ways, taking her role as a member of the mail police so incredibly seriously. “Mail, mail, we will not fail” is still stuck in my head.

Next up: Best Directing for a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the eleventh category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Peter Gallagher, Jake Lacy, Dermot Mulroney, Stephen Tobolowsky, Steven Weber

Emmy nominees: Riz Ahmed, Dave Chappelle, Tom Hanks, Hugh Laurie, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Matthew Rhys

Semi-finalists: Andrew Leeds (The Great Indoors), Billy Magnussen (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Bobby Cannavale (Master of None), Brett Dier (Jane the Virgin), Brett Gelman (Making History), Chris Williams (Silicon Valley), Erik King (The Detour), Fred Melamed (Casual), Graham Rogers (Silicon Valley), Haley Joel Osment (Silicon Valley), James Cromwell (The Detour), Jason Dohring (iZombie), Julian McMahon (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency), Matt Oberg (Veep), Michael Torpey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Michal Hogan (You, Me, Her), Ricardo Chavira (Santa Clarita Diet), Scott Adsit (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Thomas Lennon (Santa Clarita Diet)

Finalists: Adam Scott (The Good Place) definitely had a great time playing the embodiment of hellish obnoxiousness. Brad William Henke (Orange is the New Black) committed strongly to being a vigilant enforcer with no sympathy for anyone who got in his way. Mamoudou Athie (The Detour) was the quieter of two investigating agents, always at the ready to take the next leap. Riz Ahmed (Girls) was at ease and very peaceful in his affable portrayal of a surfing instructor. Josh Charles (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) got to be as immature and revolting as he could be, taking his place in his absurdist universe.

The nominees:

Peter Gallagher (Grace and Frankie) was suave and charming in the most aggressive way, making him a fantastic fit for Grace. Jemaine Clement (Divorce) was very hilariously not French, a somewhat dim-witted player in a game he didn’t know all that much about. Allan McLeod (You're the Worst) and Todd Robert Anderson (You're the Worst) have spent most of their time on their show in the background and had a great chance to shine when the hapless husbands were featured.

The winner:

Tim Robinson (Making History) was a superb Al Capone, a mobster who was very into his jokes and being included in plans, probably the most definitive aspect of how his short-lived show worked well.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Monday, September 18, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

This is the tenth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Lauren Ambrose, Kerry Bishe, Judy Greer, Merritt Wever, Alicia Witt

Emmy nominees: Alexis Bledel, Laverne Cox, Ann Dowd, Shannon Purser, Cicely Tyson, Alison Wright

Semi-finalists: Lisa Bonet (Ray Donovan), Sarah Baker (Goliath)

Finalists: Judy Greer (Masters of Sex) left an impression as a previously scorned wife who found just the right way to gloat about the ultimate state of her marriage. Jacqueline Byers (Timeless) infused Bonnie Parker with a sense of authenticity and youthful passion. Christina Brucato (Legends of Tomorrow) made a great case for existence, not to blame for the circumstances of her creation. Anne Dudek (The Flash) was a wonderful fit for her show’s universe, a woman of such consequence without any notion that she would ever be recognized. Calista Flockhart (Supergirl) made a magnificent return to her show that was better than her entire first season gig, swooping in to save the day at exactly the right moment.

The nominees:

Jennifer Esposito (The Affair) wasn’t seen nearly enough, but in every one of her scenes she was loyal, passionate, and relentless. Caitlin FitzGerald (Rectify) felt like she was created just for Daniel, ready to see the world through an entirely different lens without the traditional confines of society keeping her down. Catalina Sandino Moreno (The Affair) moved into a new role and wasn’t about to give it up when it looked like her dominance might be threatened. Ann Dowd (The Leftovers) was back for one final time playing a different character, seamlessly moving with the tone and pace of her memorable episode.

The winner:

Alexis Bledel (The Handmaid's Tale) wasn’t the title character of her show, but her rebellious spirit was emblematic of any semblance of resistance in her dark world, shown both in unbridled joy and in utter devastation.

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

This is the ninth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Josh Charles, John Carroll Lynch, Ian McShane, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jonathan Pryce

Emmy nominees: Hank Azaria, Gerald McRaney, Brian Tyree Henry, Ben Mendelsohn, Denis O’Hare, BD Wong

Semi-finalists: Brett Cullen (Narcos), Bruno Bichir (Narcos), Eric Lange (Narcos), Gregg Henry (Supergirl), Hank Azaria (Ray Donovan), Jeff Kober (Timeless), Lonnie Chavis (Supergirl), Michael Gaston (The Leftovers), Stacy Keach (Ray Donovan), Ted Levine (Ray Donovan)

Finalists: Sam Strike (Timeless) and Colman Domingo (Timeless) made two historical figures on opposite sides of the law - Clyde Barrow and Bass Reeves - memorable and endearing. Dylan Walsh (Longmire) struck a villainous chord as an enemy without any fear of the stoic sheriff. Rich Sommer (Masters of Sex) wore his discomfort with the public nature of his condition on his face, making one patient very relatable. Danny Strong (Billions) showed what it looks like to celebrate excessively and prematurely and then be completely crushed by defeat only seconds later.

The nominees:

Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) made a welcome return as a far purer version of the man he once was, an eager hero without an ounce of evil in him. Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Sneaky Pete) was a formidable element of the law who wasn’t about to messed with, and a fierce match for the title character. Sean Maguire (Timeless) made Ian Fleming into a real-life James Bond. Hamish Linklater (Legion) was a mysterious figure throughout his appearances with an intense determination to understand the incomprehensible.

The winner:

James Callis (12 Monkeys) was born to play the man who may have witnessed it all but was also quite bored with the mundane and repetitive nature of time travel, something that only the charismatic Callis could convey.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy Awards: The Morning After

It’s come and gone – the big night that represents the best of TV as honored by the members of its academy. I had a blast making some themed food with my wife, my parents, and some friends, which helped add to the general celebratory feel of the night. Enjoy a few pictures below!

I remember previous Emmy ceremonies where the awards were split up into different sections based on genres, which to me makes at least some sense since there’s no real logic to the way things go. That said, there are some stretches with just reality shows that don’t appeal at all, and so maybe mixing it up is the smarter move. The only thing you can count on is that supporting actor will be the first category to be announced. There weren’t a lot of montages, which was a shame, but overall the ceremony was pretty entertaining, starting with a jovial number featuring host Stephen Colbert and nominees Anthony Anderson and Allison Janney.

In a way, this wasn’t a very exciting show since there were few surprises. I made the wrong call on Best Drama Series, betting that “Stranger Things,” which went unrewarded in this primetime ceremony, would eclipse “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which picked up a very impressive five trophies. I hedged my bets on Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow while my second-place picks, which most people went with, Donald Glover and Ron Cephas Jones, ended up winning. “Veep” scored its third straight win for Best Comedy Series, and star Julia Louis-Dreyfus picked up her sixth consecutive award. And no one was surprised to see Kate McKinnon pick up a second award, joined by costar Alec Baldwin for his skewering of Donald Trump. I got 100% on my limited series and TV movie predictions, but that’s because only three programs – “Big Little Lies,” “The Night Of,” and “Black Mirror: San Junipero” – won anything. I watched the first two shows and really need to check out the last one. Overall, I got 21/27, also missing Best Reality-Competition Program, which ranks least on the list of anything on this show that interests me.

And then we have the one win that counts as a substantial surprise. Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series was an extremely competitive category, with Thandie Newton, Chrissy Metz, and Millie Bobby Brown all contending for a win for three very hot new shows. Yet when the category was announced, it was actress Ann Dowd who scored the win. I was really rooting for Newton since I thought her performance was exceptional, but Dowd is a fantastic actress who was really terrific – and terrifying – in her show. She was superb in “The Leftovers” in its first season (my runner-up for the AFT Award) and should have been Oscar-nominated for her performance in the film “Compliance” a few years ago (she won the AFT Award), so it’s great to see her rewarded, especially considering the humble nature of her speech.

I’m sad that “Westworld,” which was one of the best new shows of the season, second only to “The Handmaid’s Tale” in terms of those series heaped with Emmy love this year, earned the most nominations but not a single major award. There wasn’t anyone aside from Newton I was really rooting for this year who had any shot at winning, and I do think that, of the choices, “The Handmaid’s Tale” was the best one. Though I would have preferred “Silicon Valley” to be honored for Best Comedy Series, I’m fine with a win for “Veep” since this was a good season and I don’t think it’s reached a point where it’s way beyond any initial concept of quality, especially with the announcement of one more season to wrap it up.

As for the show itself, I think what most people are talking about is the entirely unexpected appearance of Sean Spicer. You certainly can’t say that it wasn’t completely shocking, and the look on Anna Chlumsky’s face said it all. It’s true that bringing him in there after his appalling term in Trump’s administration simply because he’s no longer a part of it feels odd, and, unlike past subjects of mockery like Sarah Palin and Bernie Sanders, the members of his White House attack those involved with the variety series rather than join in on the fun. It was undeniably entertainment, and I’m not sure how I feel beyond that. The in memoriam montage with the picture frames was effective, and sad, and I’d say overall this show ran pretty well and featured some fun presenters, including Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda together, the cast of “Big Little Lies,” and last year’s winner Tatiana Maslany.

What’s next? The AFT Awards continue and should wrap up within the next week and a half, representing my choices for the best in TV from the 2016-2017 season. And check out reviews aplenty coming soon for all the new pilots from the 2017-2018 season as well as a number of returning shows. Over at Movies with Abe, I’ll be covering the New York Film Festival soon and then moving on to Oscar season. Stick around – it’s a great time!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Emmy Winner Predictions

Okay, so the Emmys are tonight. I didn’t do all that well in my predictions for the categories that have been announced thus far, getting just 1/4 in the guest acting races. As expected, Alexis Bledel triumphed for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” while Gerald McRaney won for “This Is Us.” And both Dave Chappelle, who I had in second place, and Melissa McCarthy, who I should have predicted, took home comedy honors for “Saturday Night Live,” indicating strong support for the late-night sketch series. These categories don’t usually honor the fan favorite or the best performance, and I think overall that worked out better this year.

This is a big year for the Emmys, with five new shows contending for Best Drama Series and last year’s winner out of the running, and a hip new comedy threatening to take down the two-time champ for Best Comedy Series. Having just caught up on two of the most buzzed-about series, “Stranger Things” and “The Crown,” I can say that, while I think that “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Westworld” are two of the top five dramas of the year, I’d be okay with “Stranger Things” winning because I understand the appeal. I would, not however, be pleased if “This Is Us” takes it since I don’t feel it’s anywhere near the caliber of the other nominees. It also saddens me that “Westworld” apparently has no shot even though it’s the most-nominated series and also one of the best. The real question is whether Ron Cephas Jones can beat John Lithgow and if Thandie Newton can beat Chrissy Metz and Millie Bobby Brown. I’m saying yes on both with the expectation that I might be wrong. I’m not pulling especially for any of the nominees aside from Newton since I think she’s so deserving, and I’d also prefer Elisabeth Moss over Claire Foy. On the comedy side of things, I am strongly of the belief that “Atlanta” won’t win the top two prizes. I’m sticking with Jeffrey Tambor for Best Actor even though I have a sneaking suspicion that Anthony Anderson will upset due to his episode submission. I think that Baldwin and McKinnon are solidly ahead of their competition, and the directing and writing prizes seem somewhat sewn up as well.

I didn’t offer official predictions in the limited series and TV movie categories, but since I did watch “Big Little Lies,” “Fargo,” and “The Night Of,” as well as the pilot episodes of “Feud: Bette and Joan” and “Genius,” I have more knowledge in those races than I’ve had in years. It would be nice to see Riz Ahmed rewarded for his performance in “The Night Of,” though I’m actually pulling for Bill Camp, who I noted as the MVP of the show, to win in the supporting actor race, where Alexander Skarsgard, also a solid performer, is expected to prevail for “Big Little Lies.” If I had to choose between Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, I’d pick Witherspoon, and between Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley, I’d pick Woodley, though most prognosticators are going with the opposite. I didn’t love any of the three miniseries seasons mentioned above, and I can’t believe that Mary Elizabeth Winstead isn’t nominated for her work on “Fargo.” I’ll be paying attention to these categories more than I do usually, but I’m still in this for the drama and comedy series.

As always, I’m excited for the show, and will post some brief reactions either immediately afterwards or the next morning. Enjoy the show, and leave your thoughts in the comments! For detailed predictions in all applicable categories, click on the hyperlinked category name.

No guts, no glory:
Ann Dowd wins for “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Stranger Things

Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)

Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us)

Thandie Newton (Westworld)

Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers (Stranger Things)

Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale)


Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live)

Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)

B.A.N. (Atlanta)

Thanksgiving (Master of None)