Sunday, September 28, 2008

What I'm Watching: The Office (Season Premiere)

The Office: Season 5, Episode 1 "Weight Loss" (B+)

Alas, the return of one of my favorite shows! After a tragically short and often underwhelming fourth season, the fifth season should be a great return to quality though I have very little idea of where it's going (which is not a bad thing). I'm enjoying seeing the less-used characters like Kelly and Creed take some of the spotlight, especially when they're interacting. Stanley too with his own personal drive to lose weight. The return of Ryan is perfect, especially with the multiple goatees that keep appearing and disappearing. I'm glad they found a way to keep him in the show. Angela and Dwight's romance is amusing to watch, though I really do feel bad for Andy. My favorite part of the episode, of course, is Jim's proposal to Pam. After it seemed like they might be growing apart because of the art school thing, now they're officially engaged. It was a truly surprising moment and I really enjoyed it. If only Michael could take a hint and go out with Holly. They really do interact so hilariously (the beat-boxing), and watching him tear up those tickets was painful.

What I'm Watching: Ugly Betty (Season Premiere)

Ugly Betty: Season 3, Episode 1 "The Manhattan Project" (B-)

This summer I watched a few episodes of "Ugly Betty" to prep for the Emmys and realized that I really liked all the supporting characters (Michael Urie, Becki Newton, Ashley Jensen, Ana Ortiz, and Judith Light especially). I opted to go back to the beginning and give this show another chance. This marks my first live episode, and I've yet to decide exactly how I feel about this show. It's by no means a great show that I truly love, but it's a fine guilty pleasure that's far better than a guilty pleasure should really be. I'm saddened by the absence of both Henry and Geo, especially since neighborly musician is no replacement for either one of them. I'm hoping to see more of Amanda in coming episodes since she really is my favorite character. Betty's move to the city is a nice step for her, though of course she would run into a horrible obstacle just trying to find a place. Lindsey Lohan's guest appearance was actually decent, although I'm surprised if that's the last we'll see of her. It seems like a small role to bring her in on, even if the point of it was that fight in the fast food place. In any case, I'll be adding this show to my weekly television lineup.

What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 8, Episode 2 "Plastique" (B-)

There are a lot of things I actually like about this episode. All the "Daily Planet" politics aside, I like Clark's quick turn to reporter, and his bantering with Lois is turning into something more like teamwork. The show is drowning in Superman references, like the phone booth, but it's not altogether devastating. That was one of the things that made it great to begin with in season one. Tess Mercer is a decent character, though I would have liked to see her get along with Clark just like Lex once did. I really like the new character played by BSG's Sam Witwer, and his relationship with Chloe should be interesting to watch, though he's clearly got some issues to resolve. I'm not really feeling Lex and Lana's absence, which I guess is a great thing. This show could actually be headed for redemption!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Checking In: Lipstick Jungle (Season Premiere)

Lipstick Jungle: Season 2, Episode 1 "Chapter Eight: Pandora's Box" (F-)

Rest assured that I would never watch this show of my own volition after the dreadful pilot last year. I saw this year's premiere as part of a Fall Preview Party NBC put on, which initially was supposed to showcase previews of "Knight Rider," "Kath & Kim," "My Own Worst Enemy," and "Crusoe" but at the last minute was changed to the season premieres of "Chuck" (which I love!), "Life," and "Lipstick Jungle." I figured I may as well stick around. This show has gotten even worse. All three leads are uniformly terrible, and their characters are completely uninteresting. The show has the most uneven pacing I've ever seen, going from attempted comedy to poorly played-out drama in seconds without the slightest acknowledgment of a transition. The show now appears to be relying on a feisty Rosie Perez and a botoxed Mary Tyler Moore to carry the show, and it's terrible. Do NOT tune in, whatever you do.

Pilot Review: Gary Unmarried

I'm covering this show on a weekly basis for a reviewing course I'm taking. I'll copy my thoughts onto this blog every week as well. All the usual pilot stuff I write should be embedded in this longform post.

Gary Unmarried (CBS)
Premiered September 24 at 8:30pm

Gary Unmarried aired its pilot episode this Wednesday, September 24th. The episode contained numerous moments that had been aired many times during promotional advertisements. Lead actor Jay Mohr is, as expected, not as thoroughly obnoxious or sleazy as usual, but with his toned-down demeanor, he actually comes off as rather bland. At times, his effort to be a regular guy results in his overdoing it (like when he attempts to mock his ex-wife). He also shouts all the time for some reason. The series positions Gary’s children as fairly major characters, and as other shows often do, the kids are made out to be far more mature and knowledgeable than they should be at their age – Gary’s daughter, for instance, has pictures of Mahatma Gandhi and Al Gore which adorn her wall, and Gary teases her for it. The show does contain some hilarious lines, such as Gary’s son telling his dad he’s worried that a girl might want him to “tap it,” after which he admits to his dad that he has no idea what it means. The show clings to such one-liners, and it’s usually effective. The laugh track is used well, highlighting the funny bits and making the rest seem funnier that it is. It’s a generally pleasant experience, with decent enough performances form the lead players. Jaime King (Gary’s new girlfriend Vanessa) and Ed Begley Jr. (Gary’s former marriage counselor Dr. Krandall, who’s now engaged to his ex-wife) are the standouts among the cast. The show does contain an unfortunate amount of situations that would never actually happen, like the spontaneous therapy session between Gary and Vanessa mediated by Dr. Krandall. It’s a situational comedy that’s trying to overcompensate for a thin premise, and it’s doing a somewhat impressive job. Having Gary find a girlfriend so immediately limits his potential in the sense that he’ll only have that one shot of introducing his family to the woman he’s dating. Perhaps the elimination of that potentially predictable gimmick will strengthen the show, but I fear that this series will quickly becoming tiring after a few weeks.

Pilot grade: C+

Pilot Review: Knight Rider

Knight Rider (NBC)
Premiered September 24 at 8pm

This show is BAD. I mean that. It's entirely preposterous, and I can't imagine anyone really plans to take it seriously. The car is cool, sure, but the dialogue spoken by it, and everyone else, is horrendous. Embarrassing in its badness. The actors look like they're barely out of high school and act like it too. Lead guy Mike is supposed to have been in Iraq when he doesn't seem like he's even hit puberty yet? Getting naked in the car = not necessary. Really. The missions are dumb and the situations that arise are even worse. Can they open the door in time? Oh dear! It's laughable. There's a character named Billy who looked very familiar to me because it's the same guy who played Billy, assistant to President Roslin, on "Battlestar Galactica." Here they try to make him out to be some horny, flirtatious tech expert and it really doesn't worse. Just like everything else on this show. Bruce Davison looking worried with his hair flapping around him can only go so far.

How will it work as a series? If you can take it seriously, it might be a fun sort of spy ride, but I imagine that attempts at making the car humorous will derail it almost immediately and this show will never really make any sense.
How long will it last? It did okay with the ratings as far as I know but got destroyed by critics, as well it should be. I think we're looking here at the sequel to "Bionic Woman" - an attempt by NBC to boot up an old franchise and failing miserably. Canceled by midseason.

Pilot grade: F

Pilot Review: The Mentalist

The Mentalist (CBS)
Premiered September 23 at 9pm

If you've ever wondered what "Psych" would be like as a drama, here's your answer. Unfortunately, Simon Baker, for all his subdued weirdness, can't compare to James Roday. And this show can't compare to "Psych." It's a blatant rip-off of the "Profiler" setup - a semi-psychic who's not really a psychic but is still really perceptive hunts a serial killer, only to have his beloved ones murdered by that same serial killer for no real reason at all. Now, just like "Psych," he's an occasional consultant to the police force who more often than not is a nuisance to them and solves the case on his own anyway. This pilot had a pretty fast-moving opening with guest turns by Gail O'Grady and Steven Culp, contrasted deeply by a slow-talking, sandwich-eating Simon Baker, who's just bizarre. His methods seem strange, and I find him off-putting most of the time. The rest of the cast is unfortunate as well. I've never liked Robin Tunney from her "Prison Break" days, and she makes a poor team leader. Amanda Righetti is not actually a good actress, but she's had more fun roles in shows like "The O.C." and the abysmal "North Shore." Owain Yeoman had a good role on "The Nine" and I'm not sure why they stuck him with such a pathetic part here. Recently minted Emmy winner Zeljko Ivanek is a decent enough guest star for the pilot. It's just not a terrific show, and I don't think Baker's peculiar air will be enough for it to stand apart from other series.

How will it work as a series? Well, I imagine that the serial killer won't be the focus of every episode, but that could actually be its strongest point. Otherwise, it's a case-by-case basis that could vary by episode, but with Baker and Tunney at the helm, I wouldn't expect much.
How long will it last? I assume that Baker has a contract with CBS, but it should be noted that he has had two series failures in the past. "The Guardian" lasted a few years but petered out quickly, and "Smith" (which I liked a lot) made it only three episodes. It's not quite in the death time slot (10pm on the same night), but I think this may be a one-season wonder.

Pilot grade: C

What I'm Watching: The Shield

The Shield: Season 7, Episode 4 "Genocide" (B+)

I'm really liking all the tension building between all the characters, especially Vic, Ronnie, and Claudette - because I know that it's going somewhere intense. Aceveda's friend getting shot was pretty intense, and this is another reminder, like Shane turning in Vic for the money train robbery, that there's really no escaping some people and debts. By far the most memorable point of tonight's episode was the shocking finish, where Aceveda revealed that Agent Olivia Murray is in fact in Cruz' pocket, and that they've told her enough to get them both killed. Whoa.

What I'm Watching: NCIS (Season Premiere)

NCIS: Season 6, Episode 1 "Last Man Standing" (B-)

I'm glad the NCIS gang is in fact intact, since this episode is a good preview of what could have been in store in terms of a rather boring new team of unexciting agents. I'm surprised by the casting of Michael Nouri (who's quickly becoming the new Alan Dale, jumping from "The O.C." to "Damages" to here, and many more) as Ziva's father, partially because he's most certainly American and just seems an odd person to play him. I'm not sure I love the many suspicious characters crawling around the show. For Gibbs to be operating with potential spies for months seems a poor decision on the part of new director Vance, who has his own demons to hide from the end of last season. And super-nerd Michelle as the ultimate spy? Doesn't seem like her. She's not that good of a faker. We'll see what comes of that. I'm excited to get back to the fun spirit of this show.

What I'm Watching: 90210

90210: Season 1, Episode 5 "Wide Awake and Dreaming" (F)

I'm not sure I can review this show week-to-week. There's so little to this show and as a result so little to say. Annie's ascension to lead of the play was evident from the start, and that whole fake-shower deal is not going to lead to anything good. She should have seen right through that, in my mind. Never believe the crazy ones! Their rendition of "Spring Awakening" sadly is not nearly as good as the show, which I recently saw. The whole condom thing was pretty ridiculous too. What an unfortunate show. More thoughts next week...or maybe not.

On an unrelated note, I turned off "Fringe" after about ten minutes. It's just not interesting. I'm done.

Pilot Review: Worst Week

Worst Week (CBS)
Premiered September 22 at 9:30pm

There's nothing good about this show. I'll just put it out there at the very start of my rant. I'll admit I laughed a few times, but precious few - and it was nervous, awkward laughter because I knew that something had to fill the silence. The premise is paper-thin and got old ten minutes into the pilot - that this poor schmuck named Sam constantly embarrasses himself in front of his (pregnant) girlfriend's parents. Now, Sam isn't actually likable in any way. He's an obnoxious, lazy man who more often than not deserves the trouble he causes for himself. The one occasionally bright spot of the show is Kurtwood Smith as Sam's father-or-whatever-in-law, doing his best Red Forman routine, but it was much funnier the first time around on "That 70s Show," and Sam is no Kelso or Fez. To top all of this unfunniness, there's not even a laugh track for the show. That fact seems especially strange considering this show is packed in on Monday nights with pretty much the only surviving comedies with laugh tracks ("The Big Bang Theory," "How I Met Your Mother," and "Two and a Half Men"). This one could really benefit from a laugh track to cue viewers in on what was supposed to be funny. Or maybe there was just nothing that was ever supposed to be funny.

How will it work as a series? I feel like they're can't possibly be anything left. They've done it all already, and I've had enough.
How long will it last? I'd say it would be gone within a week or two, but CBS renewed "Rules of Engagement" for a second season. Mondays at 9:30pm is a prime spot for viewership, and anything that follows "Two and a Half Men" seems to do well. CBS, despite having those aforementioned three successful comedies (as well as "Old Christine" and the former long-running "King of Queens"), doesn't actually do as well with new comedies as perhaps it should. Remember "Courting Alex"? Yeah. I think one season and out for this new show, hopefully less.

Pilot grade: F

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What I'm Watching: Heroes (Season Premiere)

Heroes: Season 3, Episodes 1 & 2 "The Second Coming" & "The Butterfly Effect" (C)

Alright, first off: "Heroes" isn't quite as bad as it was last year but there are numerous grave problems the show has to deal with before it even approaches the mediocre quality of season one or the legendary greatness of episodes like "Company Man." Certain elements have been improved, like Hiro now being able to time travel back to pretty much the same moment he left (though time basically did elapse while he was gone), but he's still able to go to the exact moment he says Ando betraying him? And Niki really should be dead. Is it just that she doesn't remember being Niki or is she really a whole new person with a far more sensible power than the messed-up whatever-that-was she used to have?

I like the implication that both Claire and Elle are majestically powerful and in some way immune to Sylar. I'd like to think there's some connection between the two of them, though I'm worried because Kristen Bell was credited as a special guest star rather than a regular cast member. She's by far the best actress on the show, and they're giving her up? Malcolm McDowell looks like he might be sticking around for a bit, but I'm never a fan of having dead hallucinations talk to individual characters for long periods of time (like in the "X-Files" series finale).

Future Peter has gotten Present-Day Peter into quite a pickle, which could prove interesting, especially if Peter remembers that he's super-powered and awesome and can totally beat all those other villains by absorbing their powers. I'm happy to see the underrated Blake Shields as one of the villains after loving his work on the first season of "Sleeper Cell." I'm hopeful that his role can live up to his talent. I do like the new character of this speedster Daphne, who looks to be a great friendly nemesis for Hiro. Speaking of Hiro, he should be fine as long as he stays in the present and just uses his powers for super-fast movement.

I've never been a fan of Suresh, and I think that his new powers could actually make him a better character. He does act (and look) a lot like a girl bouncing all over the place and showing off his abilities, but his cockiness and unexpected skin bubbles (or whatever they are) should hopefully pave the way for an exciting new villain. I'm not sure that actor Sendhil Ramamurthy is up for the challenge. If anything, super-annoying Maya doesn't seem as bad anymore, and her impending conflict of interest with Suresh should be cool.

Most significantly, "Heroes" is still missing that extra something which I never really thought it had (save for a few episodes in the first season). All the things they throw at the audience all at once - Sylar suddenly being at Claire's house and then invincible, all the Level 5 prisoners being gone, Peter trapped in someone's body, and Angela Petrelli being able to see the future, just to name a few - are somewhat interesting, but they all need a lot of fine-tuning that I don't think the series will give them. Necessitating certain characters to be on lonely quests (Parkman now after Hiro last season) is a misguided notion that only serves to distract. If the series choose instead to focus on how ridiculously powerful everyone can be, that would be a whole lot better.

Update: After reading a TV Guide article about the premiere, I realized that Sylar is actually supposed to be Angela Petrelli's son. I thought that she was going to try to do some weird mind-trick thing on him, but I guess he's actually the third Petrelli brother. Interesting, I suppose. Perhaps I should have picked up on that. I'll have more reactions next week.

What I'm Watching: Prison Break

Prison Break: Season 4, Episode 5 "Safe and Sound" (F)

Michael Rapaport makes a really bad spy. He also makes a really bad actor, so I guess there's no surprise there. It's slightly amusing to see the whole crew working together on a secret mission (think season two tunneling for Westmoreland's money), but everything always needs to be cut so damn close. What's the likelihood that the head of the Company would happen to be meeting with the boss man at the exact same moment that the guys were drilling in from the other side - and that he would ask him to get the card right then? I can understand the desire to make each commercial break a compelling point of suspense, but this is going too far. Did I mention that they're not in prison any more?

It's somewhat refreshing to see Mahone back on the investigative trail that made him such a great character in season two. You'd think that uncatchable super-assassin Wyatt would be a bit subtler than to run around waving his gun and hide by ducking behind a car. It's unintentional comedy. Speaking of Wyatt's foolishness, there's the subject of Gretchen. I'm unconvinced with the assertion that she's some kind of Terminator-like superhuman who's completely impervious to any form of torture (and that's she stronger and smarter than anyone else). You'd think that an accomplished expert interrogator like Wyatt would focus more on making sure her handcuffs were secure and unbroken rather than insisting on putting tape over her mouth when she's already in a secluded area where no one would possibly be able to hear her. After her cliche move of strangling the guy with her legs, that shot of her ripping the tape off her mouth with a fierce look on her face is just ridiculous. I wish she had just been killed off, and she better ultimately get her revenge served to her by Michael.

What I'm Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 5, Episode 3 "The All Out Fall Out" (B+)

Vince's storyline here is somewhat predictable, but as I mentioned in weeks past, I've gotten used to that. He'll be unenthusiastic about his latest less-than-stellar job offer, eventually get on board with some revised version of it, and then have things messed up by a never-happy Drama, with no ultimate consequences whatsoever same for an amusing finish for the episode. Former fans have, I think, grown tired of that, but I'm okay with it just as far as the cast stays fresh and the stories are mildly enjoyable. What I do love about this episode is the still somewhat circular but nonetheless awesome plotline for Ari. Adam Davies has always been somewhat of a sneaky, pathetic nemesis for Ari. At the beginning of the episode, it seems like Adam has the upper hand. I was wonderfully impressed with Ari's ultimate comeback, where he completely embarrasses Adam by forcing him to apologize in front of his entire staff under the threat of physical pain. Ari is awesome, and so is Jeremy Piven. Piven just picked up his third consecutive Emmy award Sunday night - could this episode make for another winning submission for a year from now? I think it very well could.

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 1, Episode 3 "Mine" (B-)

This show is in danger of heading in a very bizarre direction towards a world with extremely undesirable characters who are depraved and difficult to watch for an uncomfortable hour. I'm speaking specifically to Bill's vampire friends, and I do understand that vampires are supposed to be unlikeable, especially on this show, but they're far too creepy and detestable in my mind. I like the relationship between Bill and Sookie because it's far more original and pure than any of the others. Jason's affairs are always interesting, especially the way in which he interacts with his various lovers. There's definitely someone out to get him who keeps following him and killing off his most recent conquests. The newfound "friends with benefits" exchange between Sam and Tara is very intriguing, and their characters becoming far more interesting than they should be could be a saving grace for this potentially troubled show.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Morning After: The Emmy Awards

Last night's Emmy Awards were decently fun, and certainly better than last year's, but they still weren't completely terrific. I'm proud to announce that my prediction total more than doubled from last year, rising from 22.6% to 53.1% (or 17/32) - I even won the pool at my Emmy party. I'm also happy that I successfully predicted all six top categories (drama series, comedy series, miniseries, TV movie, variety series, and reality-competition program). I did, sadly, underestimate the upset potential of Bryan Cranston, Zeljko Ivanek, and Dianne Wiest. I, much like everyone else, was rather shocked by Jean Smart's surprise victory for "Samantha Who." There isn't too much to say about the show, because there really wasn't much to it. Share your thoughts in the comments! Some of my brief thoughts below:

The good:
"Mad Men" and "30 Rock" take home deserved trophies with touching acceptance speeches.
Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey give great, extremely happy acceptance speeches.
Pretty much all of the winners seem genuinely excited, even three-time champ Jeremy Piven.
Ricky Gervais - absolutely hilarious. After missing out last year when he won (though I don't think he deserved it), he totally made up for it this year.
Martin Sheen acting as president once again.
Don Rickles - so much fun.
The Smothers brother - though I'm unfamiliar with him and his award seemed awfully random, he gave a great speech.

The bad:
The reality hosts. They tried their best, but it just didn't work out too well. It was never really a good idea to begin with.
Dianne Wiest isn't there to accept her trophy, and as a result, still no one has heard of "In Treatment."
The "TV's greatest moments" bit - didn't really work, and nothing seemed all that interesting with those fake set pieces.
No truly incredible surprises, and no love for "Dexter" at all.

The ugly:
The last winning speech of the night ("Mad Men") being cut short.
Kirk Ellis getting his speech cut short not by music but by a complete cut-away after he started talking about days when politicians used big words.
The reality hosts (I'm thinking they belong here a bit more than in the bad).

I may have more thoughts soon, but the three-hour premiere of "Heroes" will be taking up much of my time tonight.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Emmy Winner Predictions: Final Predictions

These are my final predictions for the winners for the 2008 Emmy Awards. I’ve gone over the series categories extensively, so look to the sidebar on the left of the page to click to individual races. I have no real expertise in the mini-series or movies categories, so my best guesses are listed below, as well as for the variety categories. As with last year, I won’t be live-blogging the awards because I’m hosting an Emmy party of my own, but you can find up-to-the-minute results at the Goldderby forums and probably over at the Emmys official website. I’ll respond after the Emmys with my thoughts
(and my prediction score!). The Emmys air Sunday night at 8pm on ABC. Enjoy the awards! Post any comments before or during below!

No guts, no glory: DEXTER for Best Drama Series, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA for Best Writing

Drama Series: Mad Men
Comedy Series: 30 Rock
TV Movie: Recount
Mini-Series: John Adams
Reality Competition Program: The Amazing Race
Variety Series: The Daily Show
Reality Host: Tom Bergeron
Individual Performance, Variety: Don Rickles
Drama Lead Actor: Jon Hamm
Drama Lead Actress: Glenn Close
Drama Supporting Actor: Michael Emerson
Drama Supporting Actress: Chandra Wilson
Drama Directing: Mad Men – “Pilot”
Drama Writing: Mad Men – “Pilot”
Comedy Lead Actor: Alec Baldwin
Comedy Lead Actress: Tina Fey
Comedy Supporting Actor: Jeremy Piven
Comedy Supporting Actress: Kristen Chenoweth
Comedy Directing: Pushing Daisies – “Pie-lette”
Comedy Writing: The Office – “Dinner Party”
TVM/MS Lead Actor: Paul Giammati
TVM/MS Lead Actress: Phylicia Rashad
TVM/MS Supporting Actor: Tom Wilkinson
TVM/MS Supporting Actress: Laura Dern
TVM/MS Directing: John Adams
TVM/MS Writing: Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
Variety Directing: 80th Annual Academy Awards
Variety Writing: Saturday Night Live

Friday, September 19, 2008

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Drama Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

The series category are a bit more refreshing and reassuring to predict than the others because voters actually see a nice sample of six episodes rather than just one telling installment. This formula also allows voters to get an idea of the shows. Anyone is sure to think that Boston Legal is positively ridiculous, however, they may find it relatively funny and occasionally dramatic in its ultimate political message. The selections of House, which include the season premiere and two-part season finale, create a nice story arc for an otherwise standalone show. Dexter gives non-fans a taste of its brilliance but also a potential overdose of its violent tendencies. Those three, in my mind, have a very low chance of winning and should find themselves better off in the still far more competitive Best Actor category with their leading men. The race is between one past winner and two new shows. Lost won for season one and then missed out on a nomination the next two years. This year, the selection of episodes isn’t as brilliant as it could be, still assailing non-watchers with heavy mythology that won’t be relevant or meaningful to them. The show does have a monstrous fan following, so it could manage what I would consider a surprise win. Both Damages and Mad Men have wisely chosen the first few and last few episodes of their respective freshmen seasons so as to extensively introduce all the characters and storylines, and then revisit them a few weeks later, with enough time left for everything to get refreshed. Between those two, it comes down to the simple fact that “Mad Men” is a far better show. “Damages” just doesn’t compare in terms of brilliance and quality, and that’s not just my personal opinion talking. History urges me to be cautious, however, looking at how legal drama “The Practice” beat out the freshman season of “The Sopranos.” Critically speaking, “Damages” is a far more inventive show than “The Practice” so watch out for a possible repeat of that line of thinking.

Who should win (based on entire season): “Lost”
Who should win (based on individual episodes): “Mad Men”
Who will win: “Mad Men” (alternate: “Damages”)

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

My logic, summarily, remains the same as it was when I correctly predicted last year’s triumph: any six episodes of 30 Rock are likely to be better than any six episodes of any of the other nominees. “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Greenzo,” and “Cooter” are terrific episodes and the other three have more than their share of excellent moments. For the sake of analysis, let’s take a look at the other contenders. Curb Your Enthusiasm has a fine sample of episodes, just like any year – but along that line of thinking, it’s never been able to win, and has fewer nominations than ever this year. Same goes for Entourage, which despite surprise nominations for directing and supporting star Kevin Dillon, seems to be fending off many attacks from critics and fans alike that this season sucked (I’m not of that opinion, but I don’t get a vote). If Two and a Half Men ever won, people would go crazy, but I’ve heard that the episodes go over incredibly well at the voting panels because every once in a while they are in fact funny. And then there’s The Office, the only past winner besides “30 Rock” here and the only one with a shot in hell to take Tina Fey and company down. The season as a whole was unfulfilling, but the sampling is somewhat impressive: “Local Ad,” “Dinner Party”, and the two-part season finale “Goodbye Toby” are great while “Chair Model” is debatable and “Did I Stutter?” leaves something to be desired. It’s possible that the less subtle but still hilarious comedy of “The Office” could propel it to a win, but everything seems to add up to “30 Rock.” Important note to end on: if “Pushing Daisies” had in fact been nominated, this conversation would have a whole different spin.

Who should win (based on entire season): “30 Rock”
Who should win (based on individual episodes): “30 Rock”
Who will win: “30 Rock” (alternate: “The Office”)

What I'm Watching: Burn Notice (Season Finale)

Burn Notice: Season 2, Episode 9 "Good Soldier" (B-)

I do hate being left hanging. There's something to be said about a good cliffhanger, but it's just so darn frustrating. At least this show returns in a few months rather than in half a year. This was a decent episode overall, with a fairly everyday case bogging down the wondrous but underdone return of Carla. Like Michael, I'm completely unaware of what's going on now, and I think that when the show returns, it will have a nice different feel and should hopefully be pretty good. After everything, they tried to kill Michael, without even informing him of anything? Too bad. This has been an enjoyable ride, even if it's not a terrific show. It's definitely a whole lot of fun.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Tricia Helfer/Jeffrey Donovan

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What I'm Watching: Smallville (Season Premiere)

Smallville: Season 8, Episode 1 "Odyssey" (C)

I was thrilled watching promos which seemed to indicate that this season might be about the young Justice League's search for Clark Kent. I had hoped that would mean that Clark might be absent for a good portion of the season, but alas, less than halfway through, he's back, and in a foreign country no less. This is an improved start to this season, and I'm excited somewhat by the new direction of the show. Lana and Lex are both completely out of the picture, as is Kara. Three new additions to the credicted cast: Cassidy Freeman as Tess Mercer, the as-yet-unseen Sam Witwer from "Battlestar Galactica," and my favorite one - the series-saving Justin Hartley as Green Arrow. I'm not so sure about Freeman's character yet, but I think Witwer is a good actor from his Crashdown days on BSG, and as I said before, Hartley was the only bright light in season six. This season seems intent on fulfilling the traditional storyline of Superman - Clark at the Daily Planet, falling in love with Lois, and wearing a costume. This first episode isn't great, still determined to play out the same way as recent "Smallville" episodes, but I like Chloe's enhanced powers and the hopeful continued presence of the JLA. This is an improvement - we'll see if it lasts.

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Directing & Writing for a Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

Entourage seems least likely to take home this trophy after losing it three years in a row for far better episodes like the pilot, “Sundance Kids,” and “One Day in the Valley.” “No Cannes Do” is a good episode, but won’t be able to score “Entourage” its first non-Jeremy Piven Emmy win. The Office won a writing award last year but has yet to manage a directing win. “Money” and “Goodbye Toby” are impressive installments that could up the show’s chances a notch. 30 Rock’s wild and brilliant “Rosemary’s Baby” may stand a good shot, but I’m looking to history for my prediction. The past four years have rewarded hot freshman shows, “Arrested Development,” “Desperate Housewives,” “My Name is Earl,” and “Ugly Betty.” I don’t think Flight of the Conchords is quite beloved enough for Emmy’s taste, and the heavily nominated Pushing Daisies should score Emmy gold for its imaginative pilot.

Who should win: “30 Rock” – “Rosemary’s Baby”
Who will win: “Pushing Daisies” – “Pie-lette” (alternate: “Flight of the Conchords” – “Sally Returns”)

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

Flight of the Conchords was a bit of a shock here, and I think its reward is its nomination. “Yoko,” while an amusing episode, isn’t the show’s best. Pushing Daisies has a better chance in the directing category. 30 Rock has two terrific episodes up its sleeve that are both excellently written – “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Cooter” – and the show is so successful that a writing win wouldn’t be the least bit surprising. My money is on The Office, which came back from the writers’ strike with style with its “Dinner Party” episode. It’s a hundred times better than last year’s winning episode “Gay Witch Hunt,” in part because all of the submitted episodes of “The Office” were far better this year than last. I think it has a terrific shot at winning.

Who should win: “The Office” – “Dinner Party”
Who will win: “The Office” – “Dinner Party” (alternate: “30 Rock” – “Rosemary’s Baby”)

What I'm Watching: The Shield

The Shield: Season 7, Episode 3 "Money Shot" (B+)

Michael Chiklis is a terrific actor. This episode is a particularly strong showcase for him, with his surprising frankness with Rezian and accidentally grabbing his daughter too hard. His relationship with Corinne and especially Cassidy is rapidly deteriorating, and it doesn't help that things are not going well at the Barn. Dutch's case is a strong point of the episode, and his relationship with Danny is always interesting to watch. I really want to see more from the lesser seen members of the strike team - Ronnie and Julien - who seem to be shouldering more than their share of the weight recently. Ronnie always does seem to get attacked when someone else should, first by Armadillo and now by that damn dog.

What I'm Watching: Fringe

Fringe: Season 1, Episode 2 "The Same Old Story" (C)

I really want to like this show, especially after my phone conversation with J.J. Abrams and Joshua Jackson a few weeks ago. But there's a lot missing. It does play look a poorer version of "The X-Files," with the same episodic nature and vague mythology (something which I'm not sure will ever properly develop here), and a less exciting cast. One of the major strengths of "The X-Files" was its ability to coast on just two lead actors rather than a whole ensemble. As I've mentioned before, Anna Torv doesn't seem strong enough to carry this show and on a side note, she really is not able to keep her accent in check. John Noble is too much of a crazy old man whose delusional nature doesn't work as well as it should. If Lance Reddick was the only star of this show, it might work well, but rapidly-aging babies aren't going to cut it with this crew.

What I'm Watching: 90210

90210: Season 1, Episode 4 "The Bubble" (F)

Just as I thought that this show could be my definitive "O.C." replacement, I'm starting to grow disinterested. There's nothing terribly exciting or even memorably awful about this show. The forced relationship between Dixon and Silver is starting to make some sense, but it's still just as pulled-out-of-thin-air as Luke's starting to be nice on "The O.C." I don't mean to be constantly comparing this show to "The O.C." - especially since I should be comparing it to the original "Beverly Hills, 90210." I'm not impressed that apparently the name of Kelly's child's father is the name of the character on the original show played by Luke Perry, a revelation which has sparked infinite rumors and denial from Perry's reps that he will be guest-starring on the new series. This show should have a leg of its own to stand on - not just counting on the funny, painful singing of "Spring Awakening" songs by Jessica Walter.

As Tuesday nights get more crowded, perhaps this show will be dropped from my lineup.

What I'm Watching: Weeds (Season Finale)

Weeds: Season 4, Episode 13 "If You Work for a Living, Why Do You Kill Yourself Working?" (B)

I've come to expect a lot from "Weeds" season finales. Season one boasts one of the best surprise finishes ever, with Nancy discovering that her boyfriend is in fact a DEA agent. Had I not had the end of season two spoiled for me, I might have been shocked to see Peter get killed and things end right in the middle of a three-way holdup. And season three completely reinvented the show by literally burning down the opening credits.

Now, season four does include a massive revelation - Nancy is pregnant with Esteban's child (unless of course she is lying), but the rest of the episode, for the other 26 or 27 minutes, is just things coming to a head rather than introducing new stuff. The one possible exception - Celia's estranged other daughter, last seen in August 2005 in the pilot episode, having changed and being nice to her mother - is revealed as a ruse. That is a funny scene, especially with Kevin Alejandro's "Viva la revolution!" spirit (he's a great actor who's been appearing on every show under the sun lately, and should really be allowed to stick around somewhere). Silas' relationship with Lisa was bound to tank, and it feels like he's really been treading water just as he does every season with a different girl (Megan and Tara, for instance). Shane's threesome tryst continues, and hopefully that will pick back up next year. I did really like the scene where Till goes ballistic on Nancy and threatens her, warning her that she better not be lying to him.

The problem I have with this finale is that my expectations have been set too high. There's no real change for any of the characters except a somewhat minor one for Nancy. Not to suggest that having a third child is a minor task, but it doesn't really change things. It's almost a repeat of season two, where Peter was secretly covering for drug dealer Nancy because he knew that he would have had to take her down otherwise. I'm sure season five will be good, but I thought this year was going somewhere, and it just seems to be left in the middle of the action. I've always theorized that cable shows usually end on a big event which is somewhat self-encompassing rather than a direct cliffhanger like most network shows. This is still a decent episode, but some time away may be a good thing.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Justin Kirk/Mary-Louise Parker

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Directing & Writing for a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

I don’t think there’s any way that this will go to the Boston Legal episode “The Mighty Rogues.” The show may do well elsewhere (hopefully not), but that wasn’t the episode that could win this (I’m thinking “The Court Supreme” or “Tabloid Nation” might have had a shot). The Breaking Bad pilot is also unlikely, since previous big-name pilots like “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck” have missed out on the win in this category and “Breaking Bad” is an underdog’s underdog. House could take this one home for part one of the season finale, “House’s Head,” but I think this is a battle to the death between the pilots of this year’s major new shows: Damages and Mad Men. Either one has a decent shot, but my money is on “Mad Men,” which required much more careful and skilled direction than the woefully overrated “Damages.”

Who should win: “Mad Men” – “Pilot”
Who will win: “Mad Men” – “Pilot” (alternate: “Damages” – “Pilot”)

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

Sad to say, but Battlestar Galactica’s episode “Six of One” doesn’t stand much of a chance. I sort of agree, since I think a stronger episode (“Guess What’s Coming to Dinner” or “The Hub”) would have had a better shot. BSG seems like a default nominee now, so maybe next year for its final season it can finally win this. Out of the other four, I’m not sure who will take home this prize. I’m tempted to discount The Wire, but years of universal acclaim could make this a consolation prize. I’d assume that the season finale of Mad Men would pale in comparison to the pilot, but I look to two historical moments for guidance: “The West Wing” and “The Sopranos,” where the episodes “In Excelsis Deo” and “College” beat out the pilots of the respective shows in this category. Still, I think this is down to the two pilots that should also fight for directing: Damages and Mad Men. As with directing, I give the edge to the better, more fully-respected show, “Mad Men.”

Who should win: “Mad Men” – “Pilot”
Who will win: “Mad Men” – “Pilot” (alternate: “Damages” – “Pilot”)

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

With many expected past nominees out of the running this year, like Jaime Pressly, Jenna Fischer, Conchata Ferrell, and Elizabeth Perkins, as well as presumed nominee Dana Delany, this race is fairly unpredictable. Holland Taylor is the only “Two and a Half Men” nominee I think could ever really win an Emmy, given her past win for a similarly recurring role on “The Practice”, but not this year. Jean Smart is great on “Samantha Who”, but I don’t see her getting rewarded this year, given the relatively low impact of the show awards-wise. Amy Poehler is a major wild card, since variety performers aren’t usually eligible in this category. Her performance throughout the episode is far too scattered, and doesn’t really compare to the other actresses here. Vanessa Williams makes for a great villain on “Ugly Betty”, and could easily prevail with a semi-amusing episode where she throws Betty White out of a cab. I think this race belongs to the wonderful Kristin Chenoweth of “Pushing Daisies”, who is positively charming in her episode. This is a perfect role for her, and I think she’ll be rewarded as such.

Who should win (based on entire season): Kristin Chenoweth
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Kristin Chenoweth
Who will win: Kristin Chenoweth (alternate: Vanessa Williams)

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Directing for a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

I don’t think there’s any way that this will go to the Boston Legal episode “The Mighty Rogues.” The show may do well elsewhere (hopefully not), but that wasn’t the episode that could win this (I’m thinking “The Court Supreme” or “Tabloid Nation” might have had a shot). The Breaking Bad pilot is also unlikely, since previous big-name pilots like “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck” have missed out on the win in this category and “Breaking Bad” is an underdog’s underdog. House could take this one home for part one of the season finale, “House’s Head,” but I think this is a battle to the death between the pilots of this year’s major new shows: Damages and Mad Men. Either one has a decent shot, but my money is on “Mad Men,” which required much more careful and skilled direction than the woefully overrated “Damages.”

Who should win: “Mad Men” – “Pilot”
Who will win: “Mad Men” – “Pilot” (alternate: “Damages” – “Pilot”)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

It’s fairly likely that last year’s exact lineup will result in the same winner. Kevin Dillon is out of this race, his nomination being a major surprise and his reward. Jon Cryer is probably out, since I never really picture “Two and a Half Men” being rewarded in any case, and he’s thoroughly annoying in his submitted episode (“Meander to Your Dander”). Rainn Wilson is pretty terrific in the “Money” episode of “The Office”, but I don’t think the show will do too well with Emmy voters this year. Neil Patrick Harris could benefit from his coming out last year and positive feelings about “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”, but only true “How I Met Your Mother” fans really appreciate his relationship with Ted and Robin in his submitted episode, “The Goat”. I still think that two-time winner Jeremy Piven is set to repeat again, especially since he’s the only thing about “Entourage” that didn’t get assailed by critics and fans along with the rest of the show. His submitted episode, “The Day Fuckers”, shows him in prime hard-working mode and I’m fully expecting him to give another acceptance speech on Emmy night.

Who should win (based on entire season): Rainn Wilson
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Jeremy Piven
Who will win: Jeremy Piven (alternate: Neil Patrick Harris)

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

I really can’t see any of these people winning. With Rose Byrne, January Jones, Connie Britton, and Yunjin Kim out of the running, I hardly think any of these actresses are deserving – and more importantly, could pull off a victory. Dianne Wiest is a respected actress and could manage a win like Blythe Danner a few years ago for “Huff” – an older actress on a show no one’s ever heard of in a small supporting role. Wiest does do great work on “In Treatment”, and her submitted episode could make voters believe she is on her show just as much as other nominees in this category, rather than only nine times during the season. Sandra Oh, nominated since year one of “Grey’s Anatomy”, chose a rather poor episode to submit in which she’s barely a player and not a good one at that. She had a better chance the past few years. Candice Bergen, a multiple Emmy award winner for previous work on other shows, is nominated this year for “Boston Legal” with an impressive episode submission but a devastatingly overrated performance. She may win simply because of the respect she’s accrued over the past. I think it’s down to two actresses, but I can’t get over the fact that neither of them are terribly impressive. Rachel Griffiths is far and away the best actor on “Brothers and Sisters”, and her plotline is a moving one. If she couldn’t win for her stunning work on “Six Feet Under”, I can’t imagine she’d be able to for this lesser role, but I know that awards don’t work that way. There’s no set precedent, but rather a case-by-case basis. If there’s no one better, there’s no reason she can’t prevail. Her only real obstacle is Chandra Wilson, whose performance on “Grey’s Anatomy” has never really impressed me, but whose storyline in her episode rivals Griffiths’ for dramatic impact. And her performance was enough to win her a SAG two years ago, and this year she has no real internal competition, with Oh effectively out of the race with a poor submission and Heigl ineligible because she didn’t submit herself. I really don’t know what will happen here; I think this is the most unpredictable race.

Who should win (based on entire season): No one
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Dianne Wiest, I suppose
Who will win: Chandra Wilson (alternate: Rachel Griffiths)

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

John Slattery and Ted Danson shouldn’t factor into this race too prominently, despite playing important roles on monstrously popular new shows. Slattery’s “Mad Men” episode is a heartbreaking one, but his performance overall has the least impact. Danson was good on “Damages” but he won’t win this, especially due to internal competition (keep reading). William Shatner has already won, so I think he won’t repeat, but his episode submission from “Boston Legal” does demonstrate why voters nominated him in the first place, and it’s a compelling argument for another win. Michael Emerson has been playing ambiguous evil on “Lost” for two years, and now that his “Lost” competition Terry O’Quinn is out of the way, victory should be pretty easy, especially with a killer submission (“The Shape of Things to Come”). But watch out for Zeljko Ivanek, whose surprise nomination for “Damages” shows just how popular that show is and that this could finally be a chance to reward the hard-working Ivanek. His episode submission is spot-on, but as I’ve mentioned before, his accent isn’t, and voters might not feel comfortable jumping from Danson’s episode, where Ivanek barely plays a part, to Ivanek’s, where he suddenly takes the spotlight. If Blair Underwood was here, I’d think he could beat Emerson, but I’m not confident Ivanek will upset.

Who should win (based on entire season): Michael Emerson
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Michael Emerson
Who will win: Michael Emerson (alternate: Zeljko Ivanek)

What I'm Watching: Prison Break

Prison Break: Season 4, Episode 4 "Eagles and Angels" (F)

I'll admit that there was one really good part of this episode which I loved. When all the guys spot T-Bag and start chasing after him, the fast, action-packed pace of this show kicked in for me in a major way. Unfortunately, he escapes in time as usual, off to his new life with the secretary, who I've finally figured out is Lindsay from "The O.C." in a more mature role. 6'4" assassin continues to leave dead bodies everywhere, and man does he travel quickly to find Sara. I'm not impressed with Gretchen's resistance and act under torture, because she's done it before, and it wasn't any good then either. Those police uniforms seem to have been a bit too easy to come by, but hey, suspension of disbelief is what this show relies on.

What I'm Watching: The Closer (Season Finale)

The Closer: Season 4, Episode 10 "Time Bomb" (B+)

This was a bit of a frantic episode, but still works well as a season ender. This episode did use a lot of slow-motion, which seems to happen anytime a gun goes off near Provenza. Sanchez's taking a bullet for Provenza was intense and rather unexpected. I'm always impressed when seasons end right in the middle of the action, however suspenseful it might be, and however much it might bother me that I won't know what happened until January 5, 2009, when the next new episode airs. Overall, a great year, not quite as good as season two or three, but still good.

Season grade: B+/A-
Season MVP: Kyra Sedgwick

What I'm Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 5, Episode 2 "Unlike a Virgin" (B+)

It's really probably a bad thing that I keep reading Myles' blog before I post my own thoughts, since I more than often agree with him wholeheartedly. He's absolutely correct when he says that Vince is never really anyone's favorite character, but he really comes through in this episode. I'm also excited by the wholly unexpected return of Carla Gugino as Vince's former replacement agent Amanda, who now may be working with E rather than Vince. I hope Vince doesn't sit around too long not doing any projects, but his talk with Ari does make for some good dramatic television.

What I'm Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 2, Episode 8 "A Night to Remember" (B+)

Peggy's really getting something to do now that she's using a good deal of her time helping out her priest friend. It's nice to see her standing up for herself, even if it proves ineffective. I'm pleased that Harry gets more of the spotlight here, and we see Joan in her home life get really excited about something and then have it all taken away because she's so good at her job that it's worthwhile to hire a full-time employee to do her job. I'm most impressed by the scenes between Betty and Don, and I'm continually reminded of how ridiculous it is that January Jones wasn't even nominated for an Emmy this year. I'm truly hopeful that will change after this season. A great ending to a great episode. It sounds like next week there won't be a new episode due to the simultaneous broadcast of the Emmys, so "Mad Men" will return in two weeks.

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 1, Episode 2 "The First Taste" (B)

I really do like this show, and while episode two isn't quite as good as number one, I'm committed to seeing this show through for at least the next few episodes. Anna Paquin is an incredible lead, and I love learning more about her telepathic childhood and past. Her brother's outright rejection of her vampire buddy is perfectly contrasted by their grandmother's warm enthusiasm after hearing him talk about his Civil War times. I realize there's the current of the vampire murders in the background, but I'm much more interested in what's at the forefront of the show. The scene with Paquin's character sucking on the vampire's arm was a bit tough to take. I haven't been that uncomfortable watching TV in a long time. Ah well, I guess disturbing can make for good television.

What I'm Watching: Monk & Psych (Season Finales)

Monk: Season 7, Episode 8 "Mr. Monk Gets Hypnotized" (B+)
Psych: Season 3, Episode 8 "Gus Walks into a Bank" (B+)

Great finishes to both these seasons. Seeing "Monk" get hypnotized is a lot of fun, though it actually took me a minute to realize that he was acting like a young kid since he just seemed far less stressed out. Great to see Harold Crenshaw again, and I'm especially impressed at how Monk is able to solve crimes even without the help of his maturity. I can't say that "Monk" actually progressed terribly far this season, but it's nice to see Monk actually trying to look for the pleasant things in life.

As far as "Psych" goes, Shawn is just such a terrific character. His inability to take any situation, no matter how grave, seriously is impossibly amazing. Gus' telling him he loves him was great. Both Alan Ruck (Cameron from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") and Gary Cole (Lumbergh from "Office Space") were fun to see as guest stars, but I wish their talents had been more extensively utilized. I love Shawn's flirtation with Juliet, and I hope to see more of the two of them in the future.

Looking forward to seeing these shows return in January!

Season grade (Monk): B+
Season grade (Psych): B+
Season MVP (Monk): Tony Shalhoub
Season MVP (Psych): James Roday

Monday, September 15, 2008

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

My personal favorite of the season, Mary-Louise Parker, probably has the least chance of winning. Her episode choice wasn’t terrific, and it’s unlikely she’ll ever win since she would have won for the first season if anything. America Ferrera is unlikely to repeat after last year, since her buzz is down, though her episode presents her in a very funny way, even if it’s not quite as charming as last year’s winning pilot submission. Julia-Louis Dreyfus could be seen as hilarious, to some, in her submitted episode (“One and a Half Men”), but it’s devastatingly over-the-top, and hardly funny, in my opinion. More importantly, she won already. Christina Applegate failed to win the Golden Globe or the SAG for “Samantha Who”, and her non-pilot submission choice may cost her the win. Sympathy for her recent cancer news might propel her to victory, however. Tina Fey had an incredible year, winning both the Golden Globe and the SAG, and her episode choice is perfect, showcasing her neuroses and, as pointed out elsewhere, her ability to eat on camera. I think it’s an unbeatable combination, and “30 Rock” should soar to unbelievable heights at this year’s Emmy awards.

Who should win (based on entire season): Mary-Louise Parker
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Tina Fey
Who will win: Tina Fey (alternate: Christina Applegate)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

Charlie Sheen is commonly written about as the worst actor on television. Any awards recognition for his work on “Two and a Half Men” would bring shame upon the entire world of television. His episode submission does showcase him as a funny character, but the acting is dreadful. Lee Pace could pull off a surprise victory for “Pushing Daisies”, but the snubbing of his show in the Best Comedy Series category seems to indicate that Emmy voters aren’t completely in love with his show’s brand of humor. Tony Shalhoub is a force to be reckoned with, winning this trophy three times in the past five years, losing only to one-time entrants Kelsey Grammer and Ricky Gervais. His episode submission, as pointed out by Tom O’Neil, includes an amusing scene where he recalls his own birth. He could repeat, but I think this category is down to two men who somehow haven’t won Emmys for their respective shows: Steve Carrell and Alec Baldwin. Carrell chose a brilliant episode to submit (“Goodbye Toby”), in which he’s terrific and goes from disgusting to likeable over the course of forty minutes. He’s chosen well before (“The Injury”) and that hasn’t worked. He’ll win eventually, I hope, but this year should be Baldwin’s turn. Baldwin lost last year because of a poor episode submission (I didn’t expect Gervais, but I knew Baldwin wouldn’t win). This year, he’s armed with a good submission made unbeatable by a hilarious scene where he imitates every member of Tracy Morgan’s family. How can he lose?

Who should win (based on entire season): Steve Carrell
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Alec Baldwin
Who will win: Alec Baldwin (alternate: Steve Carrell)

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

I imagine, and hope, that the buzz for Sally Field is all gone after her surprising (in my mind) victory last year. Her episode this year is even more embarrassing, and she’s barely in it. Mariska Hargitay’s time has passed, after she won two years ago. Her episode submission, in my opinion at least, is also rather weak, but she’s won before and is least likely of anyone to win this category. Holly Hunter could have a shot, and her episode submission of the “Saving Grace” finale was a wise choice. But she’s third wheel to a two-person race: Kyra Sedgwick and Glenn Close. Sedgwick lost the past two years to Hargitay and Field, and would be the frontrunner this year if not for a widely-praised Close. I think Close deserved the win in this category three years ago for “The Shield” (let’s not even talk about Patricia Arquette), but she’s heavily overrated on “Damages”. Regardless, her episode, the series’ pilot, got everyone talking, and I’d be surprised if she didn’t win.

Who should win (based on entire season): Kyra Sedgwick
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Kyra Sedgwick
Who will win: Glenn Close (alternate: Kyra Sedgwick)

Creative Arts Emmys: Report

So for some obnoxious reason they don't broadcast the Creative Arts Emmy Awards for a whole week, so my rundown comes secondhand from Tom O'Neil at Goldderby. A good summary of the winners by series can be found here. I'm sad to report that my batting average so far stands at 1/4. Cynthia Nixon claimed the Best Drama Guest Actress trophy for her work on "Law & Order: SVU", while my predicted runner-up Glynn Turman was so very deservedly rewarded for his incredible work on "In Treatment." It's really too bad that Blair Underwood wasn't even nominated, because I'm confident he could easily have won for his role of a lifetime on the show. The comedy winners are far more regrettable, two very undeserving performers. Tim Conway was unfunny and was hardly trying on "30 Rock" - it looks like name recognition carried him not only to a nomination, but a win. My heart goes out to Will Arnett. On the comedy guest actress side, all the "30 Rock" actresses were eclipsed by previous winner Kathryn Joosten of "Desperate Housewives" which I guess wasn't terrible, but it's not a comedic performance. As far as the other categories go, it's worth pointing that while Sarah Silverman lost her Emmy for Best Comedy Guest Actress, she did win the Best Music & Lyrics category for "I'm Fucking Matt Damon." Also, "Mad Men" took home the Best Main Title Design award and "Pushing Daisies" won both Best Main Title Theme Music and Best Dramatic Underscore. Great wins by those shows. More Emmy predix coming this week, followed by the big night Sunday, September 21st. Check back frequently!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

This is probably the toughest category to predict. I think any of these six men could win here, with the exception of Gabriel Byrne, whose role on “In Treatment” is neither popular nor showy enough. Bryan Cranston could pull off the same kind of victory as Michael Chiklis did six years ago for “The Shield” but, as I’ve said before, it took me a few episodes to really admire his performance and his submission of the pilot is sort of more about the show than him. Michael C. Hall faces the obstacle of portraying a serial killer, and not a terribly sympathetic one at that (in the episode he chose – “There’s Something About Harry”), but “Dexter” did manage to get nominated for Best Drama Series, and I’d rejoice if he somehow managed to win. Hugh Laurie has somehow never won an Emmy, and I think his episode submission (“House’s Head”) may finally get him there. I was even impressed, and I often find him too over-the-top. The unfortunate possibility of James Spader winning another Emmy, this time for yelling at the Supreme Court, seems all too likely. I’d like to go out on a limb and predict that voters will go for the subdued, respectable type with Jon Hamm of “Mad Men”, who nails his episode submission with a heartbreaking sales pitch. Once again, this could go any way.

Who should win (based on entire season): Michael C. Hall
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Jon Hamm
Who will win: Jon Hamm (alternate: Hugh Laurie)

What I'm Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 2, Episode 8 "Double Booked" (B)

This is one of those fun episodes that's thoroughly enjoyable throughout but its whole plot setup gets more than a bit confused by episode's end. Michael's very amusing in his mannerisms and the way he approaches the woman he's supposed to kill, and this installment drives home the central characteristic of Michael: he's tirelessly sarcastic, but ultimately isn't a bad guy. He doesn't want an innocent person to get offed just because her boyfriend hires three guys to kill her. I am hopeful that next week's season finale brings us at least one scene with Tricia Helfer's Carla, and that Michael starts really piecing everything together. I am proud to have gotten into this show this season after dismissing it swiftly last year, but I think it's good that it's ending now since it really does feel a whole lot like a summer show.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Going out of order with my predictions because the guest categories are awarded this Saturday. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

This is a really tough category to predict especially since only one actor is actually deserving of any accolades at all. I’d count out Shelley Berman, whose nomination for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” came out of left field and was in no way merited this season. That leaves four “30 Rock” guest stars. Tim Conway is a past Emmy favorite, but his role is one-note and I imagine he got nominated based solely on name recognition. Steve Buscemi wasn’t on “30 Rock” for more than a few minutes, but voters may be itching to reward him after he was passed over for his work on the fifth season of “The Sopranos” in favor of costar Michael Imperioli. Rip Torn has an amusing role, but doesn’t really flesh it out as well as he could. His work over the years could garner him the award. I think the winner will be the deserving champ among this bunch - Will Arnett, whose Devon Banks is a hilarious adversary for Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy.

Who should win: Will Arnett
Who will win: Will Arnett (alternate: Rip Torn)

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Going out of order with my predictions because the guest categories are awarded this Saturday. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

This category could go any way. Kathryn Joosten seems unlikely because her comedic material on “Desperate Housewives” was practically nonexistent this year, but she’s won before in this category, so she could stand a shot. Polly Bergen will probably go the route of past “Desperate Housewives” mothers Dixie Carter, Shirley Knight, and Lupe Ontiveros and lose the award due to the recurring nature of her role. Sarah Silverman seems too unaccomplished to win this award, but her top 10 placement for Best Comedy Actress shows that someone clearly likes her, and she was good on “Monk.” Carrie Fisher was funny on “30 Rock,” but I doubt that the former Princess Leia will be taken too seriously for her self-parodying guest spot. Leave it to the other two “30 Rock” guest stars - Elaine Stritch, last year’s winner who has another great episode this year, and past “Sopranos” Emmy champ Edie Falco, who, despite a deadpan role, should manage to win an accolade for playing to her comedic side.

Who should win: Elaine Stritch
Who will win: Edie Falco

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Going out of order with my predictions because the guest categories are awarded this Saturday. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

If there’s anyone who can’t win here, I think it’s Sharon Gless. She shows up her weekly work on “Burn Notice” with an uber-creepy, extremely disturbing guest spot as a psychotic, murderous nut on “Nip/Tuck.” Good acting, I suppose, but I believe that voters, like me, will be extremely turned off by the show’s content. Diahann Carroll’s role is essentially just fluff on “Grey’s Anatomy,” and anyone taking this category seriously should easily dismiss her. Ellen Burstyn, who I’m sure is fantastic on “Big Love,” may miss out to the nature of the show and the need to regularly watch it to appreciate her performance (I haven’t seen it since I don’t watch the show). Angelica Huston is a big-name actress with an extremely dramatic role on a hit, Emmy-rewarded series, so she definitely stands a good chance to win for “Medium.” My bet, however, is recent Emmy winner Cynthia Nixon, who tackles multiple personalities during her guest stint on “Law & Order: SVU.”

Who should win: Cynthia Nixon
Who will win: Cynthia Nixon (alternate: Anjelica Huston)

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Going out of order with my predictions because the guest categories are awarded this Saturday. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order.

I don’t imagine Oliver Platt figuring into the race much for this one. His guest-starring role on “Nip/Tuck” was amusing, but hardly a role deserving of accolades. Ditto Stanley Tucci, who won last year in the corresponding comedy category for “Monk.” I think his recurring arc on “ER” was probably terrific (it’s the only one I haven’t seen), but it’s probably a less showy performance than others here. Charles Durning has been asking for awards attention since season one of “Rescue Me,” and this year he finally gets it. He could win based on his impressive filmography and great work on the show. The same goes for Robert Morse, especially since “Mad Men” could sweep all the categories. I think the race is down to two people: Glynn Turman and Robin Williams. Turman was incredible on “In Treatment,” and if voters actually watch the episode, he has a decent shot, and it would be nice to see him rewarded after Blair Underwood was altogether snubbed. Williams, in a highly promoted guest spot, seems the likely winner for his impressive turn on “Law & Order: SVU” due in part to the rareness of his TV guest appearances.

Who should win: Glynn Turman
Who will win: Robin Williams (alternate: Glynn Turman)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

AFT Awards: Best Comedy Series

This is the twentieth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Television Awards to be announced, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Comedy Series

Runners-up: Entourage continues to be a great show; I just didn’t have room for it in my top five. The Office had some great episodes, but overall an uneven shortened season. Pushing Daisies was invigorating and inventive, and should only improve when it gets more time to develop. Both Psych and Monk are wonderful Friday night shows with just the right mix of comedy and drama.

The nominees:

Flight of the Conchords is the wackiest, most original and hilarious show I’ve seen in a long time. 30 Rock is just as wacky and supremely clever, and continues to improve with age. Californication is a fantastic comedy with an intelligent storyline and superb characters. Curb Your Enthusiasm is just as offensive and funny as ever. Weeds is staying strong as its storylines continue to warp and Nancy’s life becomes even crazier.

AFT Awards: Best Drama Series

This is the nineteenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Television Awards to be announced, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Drama Series

Runners-up: Dexter went a bit downhill in the latter half of its otherwise terrific sophomore season, and if the Emmys can place it as their sixth nominee, so can I. Battlestar Galactica had its up-and-downs, but a few of the episodes were truly terrific. The L Word benefited tremendously from a complete makeover. In Treatment presented an engaging format with some occasional truly stunning and shocking personal interactions. Dirty Sexy Money didn’t really have a chance to develop, but it was wildly entertaining so far.

The nominees:

The Closer had its best season yet, spotlighting each member of the cast and establishing an effective continuing narrative. Mad Men captured the 1960s with style and a tone and feel reminiscent of “The Sopranos”. Brotherhood continues to be a terrific underseen mob drama. Jericho gave it its all in a sadly limited seven episodes, and went out with a bang. Lost came back in a major way with a dazzling, game-changing season with some excellently memorable moments.

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

This is the eighteenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Television Awards to be announced. My ensemble awards (a category not rewarded by the Emmy Awards) represent the best cast working together. Shows with smaller casts are left off the list simply due to the fact that there is not as much potential to create a stellar ensemble with only a few cast members.

The nominees:

And the winner is...

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

This is the seventeenth category of the 2nd Annual AFT Television Awards to be announced. My ensemble awards (a category not rewarded by the Emmy Awards) represent the best cast working together. Shows with smaller casts are left off the list simply due to the fact that there is not as much potential to create a stellar ensemble with only a few cast members.

The nominees:

And the winner is...

What I'm Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 1, Episode 2 "Seeds" (C+)

This show isn't bad, it's just not for me. I don't find it nearly engaging enough, and everything seems to occur far too easily. The cop in the club's pocket just exerts his desire to remain on the force, and the body count keeps rising at every possible turn. This spirit of lawlessness doesn't work terribly well, and the show attempts to maintain far too many characters without fleshing out enough backstories to sustain them all. Charlie Hunnam and the rest of the cast do their very best, but this is it for me right now. If I'm really feeling bored on Wednesday nights (the ABC lineup doesn't start for three weeks), I might check back in, especially to see Jay Karnes' guest turn, but for now, I'm out.

Pilot Review: Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb (FOX)
Premiered September 10 at 9:30pm

There is nothing redeeming about this show. I didn't laugh once. Its setup in a hotel doesn't even once actually show a guest or even a room. It's poorly planned and even more poorly executed. The writing is dreadful and the plots are uninteresting. The cast is one-note and over-the-top at the same time. I'm especially amused by the fact that Jerry O'Connell has simply transplanted his character from last season's "Carpoolers" without really changing a thing. I wish I had more to say about this show, but it's not worth wasting any more time on. "Back to You" was better than this.

How will it work as a series? Well, maybe if they showed the hotel once or twice it might be okay. Otherwise, they're headed for a void of nothingness in just a few short half-hour installments. There's only so many sex jokes you can make in half an hour.
How long will it last? FOX is a bit kinder to its shows than some of the other networks (save CW), but I don't think this one stands much of a chance. Remember "Free Ride" or "Happy Hour"? Yeah, you won't remember this one either.

Pilot grade: F-

What I'm Watching: The Shield

The Shield: Season 7, Episode 2 "Snitch" (B+)

All of this stuff with Shane and his continuing bad judgment makes me very nervous. I'd be happy to see it resolved soon, but I know that's the drama which is going to drive forward this final season. Cassidy's confession to Billings is pretty surprising, but it looks like Billings isn't prepared to do anything about it. Vic is going to need to figure out what to do about that. I'm enjoying the spotlight on supporting characters this episode, fleshing out the relationship between Tina and Danny as well as some impressive speeches reminiscent of long ago from both Dutch and Claudette. I feel like this season is going to include a lot of tosses and turns which will culminate in some terrific final episodes a la "Six Feet Under," but for now it's business as usual in terms of the quality of the show and that's more than fine by me.

Pilot Review: Privileged

Privileged (CW)
Premiered September 9 at 9pm

Now this is one show that's hopeless from the start. I had imagined it as an exact clone of "90210" without having any idea whatsoever what it was about, but it couldn't even live up to my low expectations. It is hardly about anything, setting a boring character in a relatively unexciting setting set to work with equally uninteresting characters. The celebrity grandmother is talked up as if she's far more intriguing than she really is, and granddaughter number one contributes nothing. Granddaughter number two, played by Lucy Hale (the only good thing about NBC's short-lived "Bionic Woman"), could well save this show from being the most uninteresting thing on Earth, but it's unlikely. Lead actress Joanna Garcia is bubbly and annoying, and her supposed intelligence translates only to over-chatty geekiness. One of my favorite hilarious actors, Michael Cassidy, is sadly underused, and his few scenes couldn't lead me to consider sticking with even another episode of this poor, bland, entirely unoriginal and worthless show.

How will it work as a series? I'm sure there's some equally uninteresting storyline set to occur over the next few episodes, but I doubt anyone will care. There just isn't enough intrigue and all of the characters are tragically one-dimensional.
How long will it last? I'd predict not long. After a theoretically kindred "90210" it doesn't hold up. I don't think anyone will be interested in watching it, and could see it going the way of the extremely short-lived "Runaway" from two years ago. I give it 3-4 episodes.

Pilot grade: F

Side note: I'm giving up on "The Cleaner." Not interested anymore.

Pilot Review: Fringe

Fringe (FOX)
Premiered September 9 at 8pm

J.J. Abrams' newest series is a highly intriguing show with lots of potential that I'm not sure it will live up to. The framing for the pilot episode was interesting, but the whole idea of fringe science is a bit much, and eccentric John Noble certainly makes everything seem quite kooky. It's all good fodder for exciting exploration, but it needs a little more as far as I'm concerned. The "fringe science" they used isn't quite as engaging as it should be. My main problem with the show is lead actress Anna Torv, who I just don't like. She doesn't have what it takes to carry this show, and Joshua Jackson isn't quite up to the task of supporting her effectively. I fear that too much of an open-ended sci-fi exploration here could keep the show from capturing the feel it should have. This is at its heart a procedural with a running theme, akin perhaps to "NCIS," or more appropriately, according to Abrams himself, "ER."

For more info on the show itself, read my article detailing my conference call with creator J.J. Abrams and star Joshua Jackson.

How will it work as a series? Well, Abrams says that you don't need to be part of the club to watch it, so a procedural with this added recurring hook could function remarkably well. Sci-fi fans are sure to eat it up.
How long will it last? Recent sci-fi fare like "Surface," "Invasion," "Threshold," and "Jericho" bit the bullet quite quickly, but this series has showrunner Abrams behind it and one hell of a marketing campaign. I think it should stick around for a while if the plot stays consistent enough.

Pilot grade: C

What I'm Watching: 90210

90210: Season 1, Episode 3 "Lucky Strike" (F)

It probably wasn't smart that I read this fantastic review by Myles over at Cultural Learnings before writing my own post because I actually agree with a lot of the sentiments he expressed. This is a highly entertaining show, a good replacement for the superior "The O.C." even if it's not nearly as fun. I'm especially amused by the baseless insinuation of some attraction between Dixon and Silver - it's sort of like how Luke became nice all of a sudden for no reason at all. Incorporating Silver more into the show is a good move, since things could stay pretty scattered if the characters aren't all united for some common purpose (i.e. all hanging out together while watching the new Bond movie). Naomi's discovery of her father's affair is in my mind just one more season that shows like this ("The O.C." and "One Tree Hill" for example) shouldn't incorporate parents quite as much. This show should be fun while it lasts, but Tuesday nights look to be getting pretty crowded, so I'll see how long my interest stays with this one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What I'm Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 4, Episode 12 "Till We Meet Again" (B+)

Wow, intense episode. This is one of the reasons I believe "Weeds" should this season be classified as a drama rather than a comedy. Sure, we have the comedic subplots with Andy and Maria, Celia not really bonding with her family, and Silas proud of himself for getting weed for his girlfriends, but coupled with the grandmother drama at the beginning of the season, this is shaping up to be a rather dark show. I'm talking about the intense, serious conversations between Nancy and Esteban, and the unexpectedly violent ending to the episode. It's easy to forget that Esteban and his men are actually villains, and the show does a great job of concealing that, and then pulling the rug out from under everything to reveal that Esteban's right-hand man has not only kidnapped a DEA agent but brutally tortured him. Confessing Nancy's involvement and then being killed is not really the way to go it. And it's sure to have dangerous repercussions for Nancy and her family. I can't imagine how this will end, but I can only assume that either Esteban will forgive Nancy and off his right-hand men, or Esteban will bite the dust and all will be forgotten. Next week is the show's season finale - where could next year possibly take us?

What I'm Watching: Prison Break (new show title needed)

Prison Break: Season 4, Episode 3 "Shut Down" (F)

First and foremost, this show needs a new title. There is no prison whatsoever to be broken out of, and after a quick scare that they might all be headed back to the can, it's clear that stubborn bad actor Michael Rappaport is determined to keep his boys out of jail just as long as Michael keeps recording stuff with his cell phone and they delivering those pizza slices. It's ludicrous that they wouldn't keep at least one government agent around the convicts to ensure that they don't escape. It might even give Rappaport more to do than throw temper tantrums at wondrous guest star Michael O'Neill (the higher-up FBI guy - if you don't know why I'm a huge fan, watch the first two episodes of season one of "24"). The Company assassin is getting really tired, making up stories about picnics, and really, the body count on this show is abysmal. The survival rate is worse than on "24," which is really hard to do. I don't know why I put myself through this show week after week, but there's something deep down inside me that hopes that it might eventually return to that rush of excitement I still get from watching the last two episodes of season one, among others. It's possible, if I fully embrace an idea of suspension of belief, perhaps it could one day, but I doubt that.

What I'm Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 4, Episode 9 "Tijuana Brass" (B+)

Color me extremely impressed. I worried that perhaps this show had lost its edge, but it managed to wow me in a major way not once but twice throughout this, the penultimate episode of the summer season. Firstly, the news article which got Priority Homicide shut down. I was shocked that Pope would pull the plug so immediately, but I was floored by Brenda's stunning twisting of the story when she informed the troublesome reporter that she would essentially be heading the exact same division, with more jurisdiction, and on top of that, Commander Taylor reporting to her. It was also a nice treat to see Brenda actually being nice to her team and cooperating with Fritz in the eye of the storm (think Gibbs' behavior after the death of a member of his team in the season three premiere of "NCIS"). Weird to see Silas Weir Mitchell as a priest, but he did a good job and convinced me. The second moment that really threw me for a loop was Brenda arresting the corrupt Mexican cop under Manuel's name so that he would be killed rather than the innocent kid he framed. Especially interesting that the cop didn't confess and instead got killed in prison, leaving the innocent kid free to live his life, unafraid of the bounty on his head. This is one terrific show that could run for years and years if I had my way, and I'm going to miss it when it goes off the air in just a week.