Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Emmy Episodes: Getting On

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Getting On: Season 3, Episode 2 “Don’t Let It Get in You or on You” (C+)
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Niecy Nash)

I don’t understand this show, and I was perplexed beyond belief that it got Niecy Nash nominated for an Emmy last year. Unfortunately, this year the show expanded to two nominations. This is the first chronological episode cited, one that focuses on a number of weird, depressing plotlines that are very, very occasionally funny and otherwise just off-putting. It’s hard to know when to laugh on this show, and that’s even truer of Nash’s scenes, since she’s so quiet and unenergetic in her delivery. In this installment, DiDi has to contend with her sister-in-law stopping by the hospital to confront her about things going on in her personal life, namely the deteriorating health of her mother-in-law, which is still a major plotline in Laurie Metcalf’s submitted episode. She gets the chance to assert herself a bit when she talks to her sister-in-law, but I still don’t quite understand the appeal of her performance. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s not particularly dramatic or particularly funny, and I can’t comprehend why she’s nominated with the likes of comediennes like Allison Janney and Kate McKinnon and strong dramatic performers like Judith Light and Gaby Hoffman. This is Nash’s second consecutive nomination, and being joined by Metcalf this year bodes well for her, but she also managed to achieve three separate nods for different projects this year, indicating that when it comes to her it’s all about the actress. If Nash won, I’d be floored, but the fact that she made it in twice a row is still making my head spin.

Emmy Episodes: The Last Man on Earth

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

The Last Man on Earth: Season 2, Episode 18 “30 Years of Science Down the Tubes” (D)
Nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy Series (Will Forte)

Color me very confused. When I last watched this show – the Emmy-nominated pilot “Alive in Tucson” – there was one man left on Earth, and he met and couldn’t stand the last woman left. Now, suddenly, he has a family, they drink together, and there’s plenty of people around for him to talk to. I don’t know what happened over the course of the first two seasons to change everything, but clearly a lot has happened. I gave the pilot a C+ and decided that it wasn’t for me, though I do sometimes like Forte, who earned a deserved Emmy nod for guest-starring on “30 Rock” three years ago. He’s got a certain way of speaking that makes him very entertaining, but I don’t think that needs to translate to an Emmy nomination. The title of this episode references Will’s character Phil’s frustration that the fart that he tried to bottle up for his brother to experience didn’t last. It’s highly unsophisticated and I get that it’s why it’s supposed to be funny, but it didn’t do it for me. This is a weird show and Forte’s chances are considerably lower this year since his show didn’t earn directing and writing bids like it did last year. I was intrigued by the always great Mary Steenburgen, though, and I spent a while trying to figure out if that really was January Jones as one of those inexplicably alive people. It turns out it was – who would have thought? Let’s hope I don’t have to watch this show next year.

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 41, Episode 15 “Ariana Grande” (B)
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Kate McKinnon)

There are five nominees from “Saturday Night Live” for hosting gigs and just one this year for a regular performer on the series. For the third year in a row, that honor goes to Kate McKinnon, an actress who, like Kristen Wiig before her, is fully committed to the comedic craft and especially to physical comedy. There’s one scene in this episode that casts McKinnon as a blobfish who torments one poor guy who doesn’t have the fortune of being seduced by mermaids, who spend their time flirting with the other two guys. McKinnon is totally into the scene, and it’s clear that she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her – she’s going to give it her all. Her biggest role this entire season has been playing Hillary Clinton. She appeared in all five other episodes as the Democratic presidential frontrunner, and in this episode she gets to star in an ad in which she tries to be much more like Bernie Sanders to attract the votes of the young people who seem to hate her. She does a great job with it, and though it’s very much the same thing over and over again, she’s all about it and doesn’t let up. This is her third consecutive nomination, and she’s the fourth cast member, after Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, and Bill Hader, to earn an Emmy nomination in the comedy races. None of them won, and I don’t see this year being the year that McKinnon triumphs. Maybe if Hillary wins and she gets to play the president next year!

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 41, Episode 13 “Melissa McCarthy / Kanye West” (B)
Nominated for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Melissa McCarthy)

McCarthy’s episode begins with her doing a celebration in honor of her fifth time hosting and her joining the five-timers club, only to realize that she’s only hosted four times since her fifth appearance was part of the fortieth anniversary special and doesn’t actually count. What I didn’t know offhand is that McCarthy has been nominated for an Emmy each and every time that she has hosted, making this her seventh bid in six years. She has been nominated three times for “Mike and Molly,” winning on her first try in 2011. She’s also a recent Oscar nominee for “Bridesmaids,” and she’s definitely one of America’s leading ladies of comedy at the moment. I’d say that the fact that she’s been nominated for every hosting gig and never won actually reduces her chances of winning this year since there’s nothing especially funny about this hour that finds McCarthy going outside her comfort zone. In nearly every sketch, she’s a loud, obnoxious person, overreacting and vomiting on people during a test screening or saying ignorant things about black people on a bus that turns into a “Speed” situation. I do like McCarthy and think that she can be funny, but this isn’t the best showcase for her. I think people just like her and that’s why they vote for her. This and Tracy Morgan’s hosting jobs are the least impressive of the five nominees this year. They’re both obviously respected comedians who enjoy playing the same kind of role over and over again, but I don’t think that needs to merit Emmy attention.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 41, Episode 12 “Larry David / The 1975” (B+)
Nominated for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Larry David)

When I started watching Tracy Morgan’s episode, it opened with Larry David doing a spot-on impression of Bernie Sanders to thunderous applause, and I thought that it was his episode. Instead, he returned a few weeks later to host, and his opening speech is really pretty hilarious. He’s so fantastically dry, talking about how he’s not a host but more of a guest, living in a dipless house and not wanting to raise expectations. One of the greatest pleasures in life, he says, is leaving wherever he is. That ability to be disliked has worked well for him in the past, and it’s what makes his “Bern Your Enthusiasm” bit superb. The real Bernie appearing with David and doing a great impression of his “pretty, pretty, pretty” shtick was amazing, and it’s exactly that kind of thing that won Tina Fey an Emmy when she played Sarah Palin back in 2008. He doesn’t do much the rest of the episode but does end strong in a humorous over-the-top physical scene with Kate McKinnon. David has contended for over twenty Emmys since earning his first bids for writing “Seinfeld” twenty-five years ago. He has been nominated five times for acting, all for “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” so it’s a new thing for him to be contending for a guest gig like this. I think election season and his impeccable resemblance to Bernie gives him an edge, and he has a really great shot at winning an Emmy for the first time since his big year in 1993 when he wrote the episode “The Contest” and shared the Best Comedy Series trophy for producing “Seinfeld.”

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 41, Episode 9 “Tina Fey and Amy Poehler / Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band” (B+)
Nominated for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler)

It’s hard to find a comedy duo as cool as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Both comediennes got their start as regular players on this show and then anchored their own comedy series on NBC for many years. They’ve both been nominated for Emmys every year since 2008 and their careers are only heating up. They hosted the Golden Globes together for three years in a row and now they’re contending for an Emmy together for a joint stint hosting SNL. This is the first time that two actresses have been nominated together in this category, though it has happened in the reality host race before. Both actresses are hot right now, and they’re so comfortable back on their old show that it’s hard not to love them. They start out singing a duet and then get to revisit the characters they’re best known for: Sarah Pain and Hillary Clinton. That scene with Kate McKinnon as a present-day Hillary could well win them this trophy. The chance to tell the final “Weekend Update” jokes of the year shows how respected they are, and their “Squad” segment with Amy Schumer is pretty funny too. Doing a sketch with another fan favorite and past Emmy nominee for hosting, Maya Rudolph, helps too. I’m not sure it was as funny as I was hoping it would be, but they’re having such a blast being back home, and their closing number with Bruce Springsteen demonstrates how beloved they are. I’ll look at the category as a whole soon, but I think they have a pretty great shot at winning just on their own joint merit.

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 41, Episode 3 “Tracy Morgan/Demi Lovato” (B)
Nominated for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Tracy Morgan)

This can be explained as one type of nomination, one that shouldn’t be underestimated: a hearty welcome back for an actor who many thought wouldn’t make it back to such a functional state. Tracy Morgan was injured in a very serious car accident in June 2014, and this nomination represents a recovery story more than anything. Prior to his accident, Morgan wasn’t a terribly reliable or consistent player, usually portraying wild and untethered characters. It’s worth noting that both of his past Emmy nominations were for “30 Rock,” a show that ran on NBC and which gets its own little reunion as his costars, in character, celebrate his unlikely return. As usual, he’s pretty crazy in just about every scene, always portraying an over-the-top caricature who’s hard to reign in. I would say that Morgan embodies the irreverence of this show that many often cite as a negative, and it’s on full display in each of his sketches, as he brings in animals for his childish show, spews inappropriate things during a historical reenactment, and wants to tango instead of fight with a man who has insulted him. I enjoyed the absurd “Where’s Jackie Chan” bit towards the end, but I think that if Morgan were to win, it would be simply be because people are happy that he’s okay. In this episode, both Larry David and Tina Fey, nominated for their own hosting gigs this year, appear, and they do a far better job of offer more sophisticated parody in just a scene or two. I’m happy that Morgan is okay too, but I wouldn’t give him an Emmy for this.

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 41, Episode 2 “Amy Schumer / The Weeknd” (B+)
Nominated for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Amy Schumer)

Amy Schumer is on a roll. The comedienne is experiencing a great period of success, starting with her variety sketch series on Comedy Central, now in its fourth year, and expanding over to the world of film with the Golden Globe-nominated “Trainwreck.” Last year, she contended in four different categories for “Inside Amy Schumer” and accepted the award for Best Variety Sketch Series. This year, Schumer is again nominated in four categories, but she adds to the list a bid for hosting “Saturday Night Live.” This is Schumer’s first time hosting the forty-year-old NBC variety series, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that she earned an Emmy nomination. Her introductory monologue is great, showing her ease with telling jokes in front of a crowd and emphasizing that she excels at stand-up comedy. The humor is sophisticated and as raunchy as it can be on broadcast television, and she’s very comfortable with her audience. As the show progresses, it gets more into the physical comedy that she’s known for on her own show, which I’ll watch and review soon. She’s fully committed to the absurdity of a Delta flight attendant dance sketch and a hot teacher sketch, and she has a lot of fun continually ruining what’s supposed to be a dramatic reenactment of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Inserting a feminine perspective into everything isn’t meant to be totally serious, but she does a superb job of sticking with the joke throughout the episode. She has stiff competition from other SNL hosts, but this is a pretty ideal submission.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Emmy Episodes: The Americans

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

The Americans: Season 4, Episode 4 “Chloramphenicol” (C+)
The Americans: Season 4, Episode 7 “Travel Agents” (B)
The Americans: Season 4, Episode 8 “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears” (B)
The Americans: Season 4, Episode 9 “The Day After” (B-)
The Americans: Season 4, Episode 12 “A Roy Rogers in Franconia” (B-)
The Americans: Season 4, Episode 13 “Persona Non Grata” (B-)

All six episodes submitted for consideration for Best Drama Series
Episode 8 nominated for Best Actor (Matthew Rhys), Best Actress (Keri Russell), and Best Guest Actress (Margo Martindale) in a Drama Series
Episode 13 nominated for Best Writing for a Drama Series

I know that there are many people celebrating that this show finally hit it big and earned major Emmy nominations, and I wish that I felt the same way. It’s similar in a lot of ways to “Friday Night Lights,” which earned only minor nominations up until its fourth season, when it finally broke through with a Best Drama Series bid as well as citations for both its lead performers. I’ve read lots of praise for Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, and they’ve finally been nominated, along with Margo Martindale, who contends for the fourth time in the guest actress category after winning last year. Since the show is nominated for Best Drama Series, six episodes were submitted, which led to me watching more of this series this year than I have in the past three years combined. I don’t hate it, but it still hasn’t won me over. As a result, the grades for each episode don’t mean much. I’ve decided to tackle all the episodes, which I watched in succession, in one post.

Episode four is the only standalone episode of this bunch, introducing the season with Frank Langella’s handler Gabriel recuperating from an attack and Elizabeth and Philip away with him since things were going south. The season-long thread of Paige knowing what’s going on and having trouble reporting on the priest to her parents was kicking off here, and it’s clear that it was wearing on her parents. This is definitely the weakest of all the submitted episodes, only because it required a lot of familiarity with the show, especially for any of the Russian-speaking moments to seem relevant, which they didn’t. I’m not sure this will win over a lot of voters if they see this and don’t watch the show on a weekly basis.

Episode seven, on the other hand, is a much stronger showcase of what this show is about in an episode that is focused solely on one thing: Martha. In episode three she talked about how she was seeing a married man but it wasn’t a bad thing, and here we got to the astounding realization from the head of FBI counterintillegence that a KGB operative married his secretary. That truth weighed on the whole episode, which was framed with slow-burn suspense and, fortunately for those sympathetic to the protagonists, Elizabeth being one step ahead of the FBI in finding Martha and bringing her in. Martha taking in the fact that Philip is never going to come to Russia was a dramatic moment, compounded even more by Elizabeth telling Philip that she’d understand if he wanted to leave with her. As a one-off episode, this works very well since there are virtually no subplots.

Episode eight is notable because it’s the submission for all three acting nominees, and I’ll admit that it’s a very good one for the two leads. Screaming matches are certainly helpful, and this gives Keri Russell an enormous boost in a very competitive lead actress category that I’ll analyze in detail soon – every time I watch another nominee’s submission I think she’s going to win. Not only did Elizabeth get to chastise Philip, she also yelled at her daughter for thinking that she could decide how she wanted to do things. Philip coping with having Martha leave provides a positive showcase for Rhys, but I also think he’s not nearly as revered as Russell and not nearly as good an actor. I’m perplexed once again by Martindale, who appeared in just one scene with Langella, but she won last year based on that, so I feel like she could easily repeat given that Emmy voters love her in general. As an episode, the David Copperfield trick frames it in a nice and effective way.

Episode nine was a dark installment whose two main plot points were contrasted sharply by Philip teaching Paige how to drive, which was by far the most pleasant interaction between father and daughter in any of these six episodes. Each family unit and individual watching the TV program about the aftermath of nuclear bombs was haunting and horribly depressing, and that kept the mood of the episode down. The rare occurrence in this hour was Elizabeth having doubts about going through with her latest operation, harming the reputation of a man she knew to be good and making it seem like they had slept together.

Episode twelve picked up a while later with the aftermath of Elizabeth and Paige getting mugged and Paige witnessing her mother kill the man who tried to rob them. That was helpful since it got Elizabeth to open up for the first time about her past in Russia, in a way that even seemed to surprise Philip. Paige asking both Elizabeth and Stan’s son Matthew about the nature of dangerous work was interesting, and it all got to an explosive point when Paige essentially told her parents that she was going to date Matthew to spy on him. When she’s just as involved in malicious deception as them, their operation has turned into a true family problem.

Episode thirteen, the season finale, picked up a nomination for writing, the show’s second in a row in that race. William getting cornered in the park seemed like it was going to expose everything, but then he went ahead and poisoned himself, keeping him alive long enough to share a few thought-provoking words of wisdom about actions and regrets to a seemingly sympathetic Stan and his partner. That Stan came home from watching William die and his first instinct was to tell Philip that their kids might start dating is extremely intriguing since it represents just how close he is to everything without having any clue. Philip speaking up at Est about not liking being a travel agent and being told that he should quit led to the surprising news from Gabriel that Elizabeth and Philip are indeed in imminent danger and need to pack up and leave right away. If I was a regular viewer of this show, I would be crazed that I had to wait until next season to find out what happens with them.

It wasn’t as miserable or boring an experience as I had expected watching six episodes of this show, and I can see why some people like it. I’ve started singing along to the music of the opening credits, but maybe that’s because I’m just watching too much TV straight for many hours. I don’t see this show winning since it broke into the race but didn’t earn any nominations aside from the five mentioned above, hardly a serious competitor to the likes of “Game of Thrones.” But it’s in the race now, and I think that’s a solid achievement. It’s not my choice, but I might put it ahead of “Homeland” at this point, which says something.

Emmy Episodes: Horace and Pete

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Horace and Pete: Season 1, Episode 3 (B-)
Nominated for Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Laurie Metcalf)

I’ll be honest – I think we have our Emmy winner right here. I cited Metcalf’s record in my post reviewing her comedy guest actress nomination – three trophies for “Roseanne” and a total of ten nominations, including three separate bids this year. I think her chances here are best, and with this submission, she should garner plenty of votes. She just starts talking at the beginning and I checked how long she went without any interruption – a full nine minutes. After we saw Horace and he interjected for a moment, she just kept going. That’s the most prominent showcase I think I’ve ever seen for a guest performer, given the platform of an entire episode to tell one long story to the series star. As with the first two episodes of this show, much of what Metcalf’s Sarah talks about has to do with sex, and it’s quite explicit. I’m glad that I didn’t just watch this episode since I might have thought that every hour is like this, with no context as to who Alan Alda’s character was in the final frame and some confusion about the existence of a very absent second-generation Pete. As usual, the content is pretty disturbing, with Horace suggesting that he secretly hoped that he would die on September 11th rather than have his infidelity revealed. His sage advice of “That doesn’t make you a bad person, just don’t be married” was relatively decent, and that was about the most normal and absorbing part of the whole conversation. Metcalf can certainly talk, and there’s a refreshing rawness to her performance, but the content of this episode had me less engaged than either of the first two episodes and more than content not to revisit this show again. As an Emmy showcase, it’s a knockout, but that’s enough for me.

Emmy Episodes: Horace and Pete

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Horace and Pete: Season 1, Episode 2 (C+)
Episode 3 is Emmy-nominated – I’m watching up until then

This show is quite the trip. It’s not like anything else I’ve seen but it’s also not the resounding dramatic tragedy that I think it’s supposed to be. Instead, it’s indefensibly depressing, with moments of humor throughout that don’t always feel like they fit. There was plenty of existential wisdom at the start of the episode, with Pete talking about how he’s planning to sleep less in the second half of his life and then suggesting napping at every chance that he got. Horace being described by his sister as a reliable pair of ears was hardly a compliment, and her casual revelation of her breast cancer seemed hurled like a weapon more than anything. Horace blaming his break-up with his girlfriend on wanting to give his daughter freer access to his life was forced at best ,and she wasn’t buying it at all. Horace’s sex fantasy involving Jessica Lange’s Marsha was odd at best, and it certainly does seem that C.K. just writes whatever he thinks and then shoots it as a scene on this show. The conversation about the Holocaust and Bambi was pretty sick and twisted, and I wasn’t at all impressed with the date between the overeager, talkative woman and the unenthusiastic, unfriendly guy. Alan Alda’s Uncle Pete is so hateful and detestable, and of course he would only like someone interested in Pete because her Tourette’s syndrome caused her to say terrible things. I recognized Tricia from Maria Dizzia’s role as Polly on “Orange is the New Black,” and she definitely added a dimension of weird decency to the show. Let’s hope Laurie Metcalf’s guest spot in episode three is worth it – this show is not what I was hoping it would be.

Emmy Episodes: Empire

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Empire: Season 2, Episode 17 “Rise by Sin” (C+)
Nominated for Best Actress in a Drama Series (Taraji P. Henson)

Now this is an Emmy episode. I’m not a fan of this show, and clearly Emmy voters aren’t all that much either since they only nominated Henson this year. That may actually work in her favor since she stands out as the true star of this soap-filled show. She took home the Golden Globe on her first try earlier this year since the show premiered in January 2015, and now I think she’s headed on the path towards a very possible Emmy win. The fact that this episode centers around an awards show doesn’t hurt, though let’s hope that the event won’t be nearly as dramatic. It’s clear from everything that happened in this episode that Lucious is a terrible human being, lying about his mother having killed herself, cruelly telling Jamal that he’ll celebrate the day he dies from AIDS, and that’s only the stuff we witnessed in this hour. You’d think that Oscar nominee Terrence Howard might be the one worth watching, but the look that Henson shoots at him when they lose the award encapsulated the fantastic nature of her performance. She walks all over this show and everyone on it, yelling at her friend that she doesn’t care about her and boldly declaring “We ain’t the Partridges! We ain’t the Brady Bunch!” She also demonstrates a range of emotions, confessing about snitching to get out of prison and then going into full-on motherly mode when Jamal got shot. It’s great to see that Henson found a role worthy of her talents after being the blandest part of a show I enjoyed much more, “Person of Interest.” I’d be more than happy if she won given her level of commitment to this performance even though I’m obviously rooting for some of her competition.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Emmy Episodes: How to Get Away with Murder

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

How to Get Away with Murder: Season 2, Episode 14 “There’s My Baby” (D+)
Nominated for Best Actress in a Drama Series (Viola Davis)

Viola Davis really is a respected actress – it’s hard to imagine anyone else winning an Emmy for a show as terrible as this one. I found myself confused at the start since I didn’t see Joshua Malina, and then I realized I was thinking about the wrong Shonda Rhimes show, “Scandal,” which no longer earns Emmy nominations for its lead actress. Instead, Davis is the defending champ in this category and back again with a pretty terrific submission considering the material she’s given. Playing a younger version of herself who was pregnant and then had a stillbirth after a car accident provides a strong showcase for her, and drinking and yelling at people in the present doesn’t hurt much either. She could easily triumph again. It’s hard to take this show seriously, and I balanced my time between recognizing familiar faces and cringing at the worst lines. I’m a big fan of Benito Martinez from “The Shield” and sad to see him stuck in such a thankless role. I liked Matt McGorry better on “Orange is the New Black” where he wasn’t as whiny, and Liza Weil’s presence only contributes to my “Scandal” confusion. I was trying to peg Famke Janssen’s accent and figure out if she always sounds like that, and was impressed by yet another quietly villainous Adam Arkin role. On the subject of terrible lines, the top two for me were “Don’t tell me you two are boning!” and “My boyfriend’s missing!” / “He’ll turn up” before a very predictable sex scene. The one thing about the show that I’ll praise is its music and its beat, which were fun to listen to during an otherwise unbearable hour.

Emmy Episodes: Bloodline

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Bloodline: Season 2, Episode 10 “Part 23” (C+)
Nominated for Best Actor (Kyle Chandler) and Best Supporting (Ben Mendelsohn) in a Drama Series

I thought I had stuck with this show through its third episode, but a look back at my reviews indicates that I didn’t make it past episode two. I watched the season finale which both nominated actors submitted last year, and now, once again, the two of them are back as the lone representatives of their show. I’ll make the important note that as a non-regular viewer, it’s very hard to get into this episode since Netflix doesn’t include “previously on” segments. I’m not sure if Emmy screeners do, but there’s a lot of the plot that is complicated to decipher. What’s interesting about Mendelsohn’s nomination is that he died in the season one finale, so in this case he appears only as a hallucination tormenting his brother John. This is a good showcase for talented Aussie Mendelsohn, showing him in a sympathetic lens dealing with his father’s viciousness and trying to support his son, with the added plus of his flashback scenes being nostalgic due to his death. We don’t see any of the bad behavior that we hear about from his siblings, and that actually makes John seem like the villain. It’s hard to find any sympathy for John, who comes off as very unlikeable. Chandler managed to win an Emmy back in 2011 for the final season of “Friday Night Lights,” but that was a much more beloved role, so I don’t see him having a good shot at winning this year. I’d argue that this is a stronger showcase for either Norbert Leo Butz, who plays Kevin, or Jamie McShane, an unsung supporting player from “Sons of Anarchy,” as Eric O’Bannon. I suspect I’ll tune in to another episode of this show come Emmy time next year, but it just doesn’t appeal. It’s far too dense and uninviting.

Emmy Episodes: UnREAL

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. This year, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

UnREAL: Season 1, Episode 3 “Mother” (C+)
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Constance Zimmer)

I’m more than happy to be officially done with this show, at least for the season, now that I’ve gotten to Zimmer’s submitted hour. This absolutely is not my kind of show, and usually I’m at least a little bit interested in where the plot is going to go and what’s going to happen, but I really don’t care much here. The title of the episode has a lot more to do with Rachel than it does with Quinn, and what a monster of a mother she has, so determined to control her life that she withholds financial support if her daughter refuses to engage in therapy with her, which is totally unethical in every way. It’s true that Rachel is good at her job because of how twisted her brain is, and that her natural impulse is to stir up the drama in a way that her hapless colleague Shia just doesn’t have. But back to the Emmy nominee at hand – this is definitely a smart submission for Zimmer. Giving Chet another chance seemed like a step backward, but I don’t think she expected him to have a heart attack while they were having sex. Getting talked down to by his wife was a harrowing moment, and one that Zimmer handled very well in her portrayal of Quinn. It’s the meatiest role on a soapy show, and therefore I think Zimmer might have a decent shot at taking home the Emmy for her performance. I’ve enjoyed her better in other projects, but I suspect that she’ll be a returning nominee given the positive reception to season two of the show.