Thursday, May 31, 2012

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 2, Episode 10 “72 Hours” (B+)

Though she’s not the most appealing actress, it’s hard to deny that Mireille Enos isn’t terrific in this role, especially in this hour. Her behavior in the psych ward didn’t do her any favors since it only made her seem more crazy, but she was definitely in the right as she argued in vain that time was being wasted. She didn’t take well to the psychiatrist’s questioning, recognizing her cigarette tactic ad then going ballistic after she rather impolitely answered all of her questions and then wasn’t met with immediate release. Explaining her last case was rather haunting, and it’s clear that she’s gone off the deep end in pursuit of the truth before. Holder fought valiantly for her on the outside, and bringing in Rick to get her released was a smart move, and her losing Rick altogether has been a long time coming. Holder making the waterfront connection and choosing to trust Carlson is bold, and hopefully it will pay off for him and for the case. Stan was doing much better in this hour than in the previous one, as he reconciled with Terry and tried to do so with an extremely and understandably unwelcoming Bennett before getting his kids a puppy. Darren playing basketball on Election Day was an interesting choice, and I suspect that he’ll ultimately prevail over Mayor Adams. That final shot of the room being scrubbed with the ID still where Sarah found it was a haunting ending, and it’s looking less and less likely that Sarah and Holder are going to be able to ever close this case.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 9 “Blackwater” (A-)

It’s a relief that all the buildup to the kingdoms coming together to fight wasn’t more exciting than the battle itself. Forgetting some of the supporting characters, like all Starks aside from Sansa and Daenerys, was wholly worthwhile for the immersion into war that it allowed as Kings Landing prepared to be invaded by Stannis’ army. Joffrey proved himself even more despicable than before as he was persuaded to go fight on the front lines and then retreated to safety after his mother sent for him to be protected. Tyrion was rather incredible, commanding in the absence of his nephew’s leadership and then unifying the people by declaring, “There are brave men at your gates! Let’s go kill them!” I certainly hope that Tyrion didn’t lose his life in this battle after sleeping through the last one since he deserves immense commendation for his actions, and for his stunt of the wildfire, which was assisted by excellent visual effects. Cersei’s conversation with Sansa was extraordinarily intriguing, and I liked how Cersei immediately saw right through Shae and realized that she was out of place, though it’s a good thing that she doesn’t know just why that is. The Hound offering to spirit Sansa to safety was met with predictably obnoxious results, as she refused the chance to escape unscathed. That ending was formidable, as Cersei seemed ready to end her own life moments before Tywin swooped in and enthusiastically declared that they had won. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for Sunday night’s finale.

What I’m Watching: How to Be a Gentleman

How to Be a Gentleman: Season 1, Episodes 4 & 5 “How To Share a Relationship” & “How to Be Draft Andrew” (B)

This show’s return after its swift cancellation back in October after three episodes comes as a complete but entirely welcome surprise. I was always fond of this show while most were not, and I very much enjoyed seeing two characters I didn’t know I missed back with new adventures. Andrew playing the boyfriend while Bert got all the action was an amusing and logical setup, and I like how terribly Bert failed at doing the boyfriend stuff when he actually tried to put in the effort. The second installment was quite funny, as Bert’s brash solution to Andrew’s confrontation issues was to forward out a legion of draft e-mails written in the heat of the moment and never intended to be sent. Jerry’s demotion was probably the most amusing consequence, though I enjoyed Janet’s attempt to express interest in Andrew’s problems without much success. In many ways, this show is (feels wrong to use the past tense when it’s continuing to air new episodes) an unexceptional comedy, yet it’s a good fit for CBS’ brand, which still incorporates laugh tracks despite a general move away from that on most other networks. The decision to air the remaining episodes, or some of them at least, is a nice treat for a slow transition from spring to summer which doesn’t boast much original television, especially on the broadcast networks. I’ll look forward to seeing more of Andrew and Bert in their half-decent plotlines over the next couple of weeks in the show’s new Saturday night time slot.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Emmy Musings: Best Comedy Series

Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s eligible nominees:
The Big Bang Theory
This show finally broke through last year in its fourth season with a best series bid. Late-breaking CBS series “Two and a Half Men” and “How I Met Your Mother” were nominated for three and one year, respectively, but I think that this show is still popular and well-liked enough to return for another year at least since it shows so signs of slowing down.

This show has been nominated for the past two years, picking up acting trophies each year and losing the top race to “Modern Family.” Both Golden Globe and SAG voters have caught on to that trend as well after crowning “Glee” in the past, and though the show could return as a nominee in this race, its chances are reduced given that few think the show has improved and might be tempted to discard it in favor of something else fresh.

Modern Family
This show is healthily on top, taking home the Golden Globe Award for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical for the first time and its second SAG ensemble trophy. Season three got great reviews, and though it’s hardly a lock for the win, its chances are strong, and it’s definitely going to be nominated again since, by all accounts, it’s just as popular as ever.

The Office
This show, according to pretty much everyone, has been going downhill for a while now, and it can’t be long before Emmy voters catch on, though they do have a history of not letting shows go once they’re past their prime, like “Will & Grace.” It’s hard to imagine this show netting another nomination with series star Steve Carell gone, but it’s still possible.

Parks & Recreation
TV’s best comedy finally got recognized for the first time last year in this race, and it’s all but guaranteed to return as more and more voters wise up to the fact that they’ve been missing out. The show’s fourth season had a full twenty-two episodes, and its political plotline worked marvelously. It would be a tragedy for this show to be snubbed, but, fortunately, I don’t think there’s much of a chance of that happening.

30 Rock
As it’s been announced that this show will end next year, it has the opportunity to be nominated for the sixth time after winning for its first three seasons. The show may not be as good as it used to be, but voters love it, so the chances of it being snubbed aren’t likely, even as Golden Globe voters, who have also lauded it with trophies, left it off the Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical list for the first time this past year.

Past nominees:
Curb Your Enthusiasm
This show, which airs more sporadically than any other series, has been nominated for this award for the past six of its seven total seasons. Its eighth year didn’t get any bites from Golden Globe or SAG voters, but Emmy voters do love Larry David, and it’s likely that the show will return to this race for Larry’s season-long trip to New York City.

New contenders:
This offbeat HBO dramedy received a Golden Globe nomination for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical and a trophy for its lead actress Laura Dern. The show could well prove a hit with Emmy voters, but I suspect that they’ll confine their support for this more dramatic series to a nomination for its star.

Including this show would be an intriguing move on Emmy voters’ part, and an altogether too energetic one for their tastes, in my opinion. A writing nomination and even an acting bid for series creator Lena Dunham are much more likely since this show, though it is reminiscent in some ways of the much-loved “Sex and the City,” isn’t really like anything Emmy voters have endorsed before.

House of Lies
This Showtime comedy about management consultants may be just what Emmy voters ordered, given their recent one-shot nominations of “Weeds” and “Nurse Jackie” in this category. This show is well-written and has a strong cast, and though it’s certainly an underdog, it actually fits in well with what this category has been recognizing in recent years, and it’s my pick for an unexpected breakthrough.

New Girl
This FOX comedy has steadily improved throughout its first season, though Golden Globe voters liked it enough back in January to honor it with a Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical nomination. This would be a fun choice, but its inclusion is hardly guaranteed since it’s not as established as some of the other shows. Freshmen series tend to do fine here, however, so maybe it can make it in.

This hilarious HBO show is a deadpan comedy at its best, featuring Emmy favorite Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Vice President. She’s a lock for a nomination, and it’s up in the air as to whether her show will be along for the ride with her. Series creator Armando Iannucci is new to American television, but he’s had great success with British TV awards, so consider him and the show a serious threat.

Other possibilities:
This show broke through with a surprise acting nomination and writing bid for series creator Louis C.K., and tepid enthusiasm sometimes leads to greater endorsement the following year. No FX comedy has ever broken into this particular race, but there’s a first time for everything, and this may be the show to achieve that feat.

Emmy Musings: Best Drama Series

Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s ineligible nominees: Friday Night Lights

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Boardwalk Empire
This show followed up its strong first season with an equally terrific second season that’s sure to garner it another nomination. SAG voters gave its ensemble and star Steve Buscemi back-to-back awards, and Emmy voters are likely to nominate it again, even though it didn’t actually take home many awards last year. This show’s still hot, and HBO series tend to command respect in this category.

Breaking Bad
After nominations for season two and three, this show took a year off and came back with an incredible fourth season that’s sure to net it another nomination. I thought that this show might eclipse “Mad Men” in season two, which it didn’t, but now it has an even better chance considering how much it’s continued to improve with age.

This Showtime drama has been nominated for the past four years in this category. I personally thought its sixth season was just as strong, but it seems that many viewers have grown tired of the show. Golden Globe voters discarded the show this past year, but SAG voters were just as enthusiastic as ever. I think that Emmy voters might be inclined to let it go, but they do tend to support shows even after public opinion has turned against them.

Game of Thrones
This show was brand new at last year’s Emmys and still managed a strong showing. Season two has been just as good, if not better than, season one, and the enthusiasm voters showed last years indicates that it will surely be back in this category, if not a few new ones as well. If it didn’t win last year, I’m not sure it would this year either, but it’s a possibility.

The Good Wife
This show has been nominated for the past two years in this category, and earned a whole handful of acting nominations to go with it last year too. Season three has proved to be equally entertaining, and unless voters aren’t as taken with the show, it’s pretty likely to be back. It shows no signs of slowing down, so a snub would be truly surprising.

Mad Men
This show has taken home this award for the past four years. There’s absolutely no way that it won’t be back again, and it’s probable that it could take home the trophy again too. AMC’s hit period drama is still on top, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. This show stands to break the record in this category if it wins a fifth award.

New contenders:
Golden Globe voters were enthusiastic about the Kelsey Grammer-led Starz series, nominating it for Best TV Series – Drama. I doubt that Emmy voters will like the show nearly as much, and the network has yet to break into the regular series categories. Grammer will likely be the show’s sole representative. It’s always a possibility, however, since it came from out of nowhere to earn a top Globe nod.

This Showtime thriller was a smash last fall and took home the Golden Globe for Best TV Series – Drama. It’s rare that such a win doesn’t translate into a corresponding Emmy nomination, and given how much Emmy voters loved “24,” it’s a good bet that they’ll like this one too. Its only weakness is the fact that it hasn’t aired in months, but that’s not usually a deterrent.

Other possibilities:
Downton Abbey
This PBS miniseries swept the miniseries and TV movie categories last year, and its second season is eligible in the drama series race. The show is an enormous hit, and the only question is whether it will fit in well with the other nominees in this category or if its sweep last year was a one-time thing.

This FX drama was almost entirely ignored in its first season, and then received a whopping four acting nods (and one win) last year. Sometimes, shows are rewarded inch by inch, and a Best Drama Series nod for this increasingly excellent show wouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The only FX show that’s ever made the cut in this category has been “Damages,” but hopefully that will change this year.

Emmy Musings: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
This actress won this award last year on her second try, and year three of the hit comedy has been just as strong, guaranteeing that she’ll be back again. While this award has gone to eight different women each of the past eight years, it hasn’t always been that way, so in the absence of someone more buzzworthy, Bowen may in fact repeat.

Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
After being snubbed for the first two seasons, this actress has been nominated for the past three years for her zany performance as attention hog and sketch comedy star Jenna Maroney. She’s the most likely to be left off the list since voters aren’t quite as enthusiastic about the show as they have been in past years, and Krakowski hasn’t been given as much material this past year.

Jane Lynch (Glee)
This actress won this award two years ago and was nominated again last year. After being nominated for a SAG Award and winning a Golden Globe in 2011, Lynch was snubbed by both organizations this past year, indicating that her show has lost steam. Voters do seem to love her, but given that she hasn’t appeared all that frequently on the show this past year, this could be the first time she finds herself omitted.

Sofia Vergara (Hot in Cleveland)
This gorgeous actress has kept voters laughing for the past two years, with two Emmy nods, two Golden Globe nods, and two SAG nods under her belt. She’ll be back again, and the question is whether she can finally win one of these things. She had a handful of great episodes this year, and it’s more of a matter of whether she can unseat last year’s champion: her costar Julie Bowen.

Betty White (Hot in Cleveland)
White has over a dozen Emmy nominations under her belt, and after winning for her SNL hosting gig two years ago, she was nominated for her standout performance on TV Land’s popular new show. She’s won back-to-back SAG Awards for the role, indicating that one organization loves her, and it’s probable that Emmy voters, who have nominated her five times in the past decade, will welcome her back once again.

Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
This comedienne has been nominated for her variety performance in this category for the past three years. This past year was her final season on the show, so it’s likely that she’ll be back one last time. It’s doubtful she’ll pick up enough momentum to win if she couldn’t triumph last year when “Bridesmaids” was hot, but it’s always a possibility as a parting gift.

New contenders:
Kristen Bell (House of Lies)
Call this wishful thinking: the star of cult hit “Veronica Mars” was excellent on the first season of Showtime’s management consulting comedy. It may be too much to hope for that she’ll finally get some major recognition – the only awards she’s won thus far are Saturn and Satellite Awards – but if this show proves popular with Emmy voters, she could well earn herself a spot.

Maya Rudolph (Up All Night)
This former SNL cast member could become the latest “Bridesmaids” star to earn an Emmy nomination for her scene-stealing performance on NBC’s freshman comedy. This category likes loud and showy supporting players, and so it will be just be a matter of whether the show gets noticed, which isn’t always a given for NBC comedies, which tend to go unrewarded for their first year or two.

Other possibilities:
Cloris Leachman (Raising Hope) It’s never a good idea to count out this 86-year-old actress, who has earned over twenty Emmy nominations and eight awards over the past forty years. She earned a guest acting nomination for this show last year, and it’s been over three decades since she’s been honored for regular series work. Statistics aside, she’s a good bet to make an appearance since Emmy voters absolutely adore her.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Emmy Musings: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s ineligible nominees: Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men) – now in lead

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
This actor won this award last year on his second try, and he’s been just as entertaining and hilarious this past year. A number of actors have won this category multiple times, so Burrell has a good shot at repeating, and he’s a lock for another nomination since this show is still very much on top.

Chris Colfer (Glee)
This young actor continues to be one of the standout players on his show in its third season. After being nominated for a SAG Award and winning a Golden Globe in 2011, Colfer was snubbed by both organizations this past year, indicating that his show has lost steam. He might still be back since Emmy voters often hold on to old fads for a long time even after they’re no longer delivering top-notch performances.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
This actor has managed to get nominated for the past two years despite no one thinking that he will, and, like the past two years, most are predicting that he won’t be nominated again. Kevin Dillon managed to score three consecutive nominations, even after showier costar Jeremy Piven got snubbed, so I suspect that Ferguson will be back again for a third time.

Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)
After being the only adult cast member snubbed for the show’s first season, O’Neill earned his first-ever Emmy nomination last year for playing the patriarch of this particular modern family. The show continues to be a hit, and his role is very central to the show, so it’s a good bet that he’ll be back to contend again, and, if this show goes the way of “The West Wing,” he might be the cast member to win this year.

Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
This actor won this award two years ago for the freshman season of this comedy series, and he continues to be the showiest male member of the ensemble, which all but guarantees his inclusion once again. The show is still popular enough that it will almost certainly continue to have its players nominated for the forseeable future, and definitely this year.

Past nominees:
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
After four consecutive nominations, this extremely popular actor was unceremoniously left off the list last year. He won an Emmy in 2010 for guest-starring on “Glee,” which means that he’s not overdue for a win. Voters don’t tend to welcome back past nominees except during final seasons in this category, so I wouldn’t count on Harris returning.

New contenders:
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
This actor has been praised as the funniest part of FOX’s new hit show, and he would be a truly fun inclusion in this race. He would fit in well with the other men previously recognized in this category, so he’s definitely a possibility. He’ll just have to break into an already crowded lineup and represent his show.

James Spader (The Office)
For his recurring role this past season, Spader will likely be considered a supporting player. Though he doesn’t necessarily deserve it, he may break into this category since he has a history of being nominated, winning three times out of four between 2004 and 2008 for “The Practice.” The show isn’t at its peak anymore, so the question is whether he’ll be the outlier or if he’ll be included as the best part of the show.

Other possibilities:
Nick Offerman (Parks & Recreation)
It’s a crime that this actor has been snubbed for the past two years, especially since voters recognized the show in the Best Comedy Series category last year. Cryer being ineligible should hopefully pave the way for him to finally be nominated, though John Krasinski never managed to get in for his deadpan even in less crowded years. Here’s hoping!!

Emmy Musings: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s ineligible nominees: Margo Martindale (Justified)

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
This actress has amassed nine Emmy nominations, including two for her current role, and a win on her first try back in 1995 for “Cybill.” She continues to be a strong, scene-stealing presence on the increasingly popular CBS law drama, so I see no reason why she wouldn’t be back for another shot for the show’s third season.

Michelle Forbes (The Killing)
After years of playing memorable supporting characters, Forbes finally got her first Emmy nomination last year for her performance as a grieving mother. She’s been off on her own plotline for this entire season, so voters are likely to forget her since her material hasn’t been nearly as consistent or central.

Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
She was ignored for seasons one and two, but after two consecutive nominations, Hendricks is almost certain to be back for her excellent work in the AMC period drama’s fifth season. She’s the standout supporting female, and she’s not likely to be displaced by anyone else on her show.

Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire)
This charming Scottish actress – who won an Emmy for her work on the TV movie “The Girl in the Café” in 2006 – was nominated last year for her performance as a mother in 1920s Atlantic City. In season two, her material has only been stronger, and it’s a sure bet that she’ll be back again considering the show hasn’t lost any steam.

Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
After a surprise victory for season two, this actress was nominated again last year, and her material, incredibly, continues to be extremely compelling. The show’s still hot, and so is Panjabi, and her getting snubbed this year just wouldn’t make any sense. She’ll be back.

Past nominees:
Rose Byrne (Damages)
This actress was a lock for season one and then got snubbed, but she did manage to get nominated for seasons two and three, as her role shifted from lead to supporting, finally putting her in the correct category. After a year off, it’s difficult to say how the show will do, but Byrne could well earn another nomination in this category.

January Jones (Mad Men)
This actress earned one nomination in the lead actress category for the show’s third season, and then got left off when she was demoted to the supporting race last year. In season five, she’s been given more material and stands a decent chance of returning to the lineup for her portrayal of a 1960s divorcée struggling to find happiness.

New contenders:
Angelica Huston (Smash)
Huston has been nominated for six Emmys over the past twenty-five years, most recently in 2008 for guest-starring on “Medium.” Now, she’s the only veteran actress in the cast of NBC’s Broadway-centered musical drama, and that means she could be recognized for her scene-stealing role. It will all depend on whether voters are enthusiastic about the show.

Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
This two-time Oscar winner easily won the Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie race last year for her performance as the Dowager Countess of Grantham in PBS’ hit miniseries. In season two, the show is switching over to the drama series categories, which means that Smith is all but guaranteed to earn a second nomination against very different competition which she’ll likely trounce.

Other possibilities:
Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) I cited this actress as one of the best leads in 2010, and her role has only gotten meatier as her character’s involvement in her husband’s drug business has increased. Emmy voters have recognized Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, and as Giancarlo Esposito likely becomes a nominee this year, perhaps they’ll expand their horizons and include another key player like Gunn.

Emmy Musings: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)
This actor has a tendency to get nominated for subpar projects, no matter what they are. This show got cancelled last summer, but half of its second season aired during the eligibility period. He got nominated based on only six episodes last year and ten the year before, so it stands to reason that he could once again displace a more deserving candidate even though his show’s been dead for some time.

Josh Charles (The Good Wife)
This actor got his first nomination last year for playing one of the firm partners on CBS’ hit legal show, and his character had an even better arc this past year as he found himself indicted and then suspended. Unfortunately, his role is the least showy, and therefore he’s likely to be the first left off the list in a more competitive year than the last.

Alan Cumming (The Good Wife)
After getting a promotion from guest actor to lead actor last year, Cumming is in the running for his third nomination as he moved over from running a campaign to trying to exert himself in a law office. He was just as good this time, but his material wasn’t nearly as juicy, and as a result he might find himself snubbed in the face of new competition.

Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
Last year’s winner is a sure thing to return, as his second season role has gotten even meatier. As the lone acting representative of the well-reviewed epic HBO series, he’s got an even better shot since the show should be rewarded somewhere. The excellent Dinklage has found the role of a lifetime in Tyrion Lannister, and I imagine he’ll continue to be rewarded for it.

Walton Goggins (Justified)
After being snubbed both for the final season of “The Shield” and the freshman season of “Justified,” Goggins achieved a shocking nomination last year. His role only intensified in season three, and the question is whether he’ll be the only nominee from his show in this category since there are at least two other worthy candidates. Hopefully they won’t all cancel each other out since this show’s exceptional cast deserves recognition.

John Slattery (Mad Men)
This actor has been nominated for every season of the show thus far, and it’s all but guaranteed that he’ll be back for season five, in which his rivalry with a junior partner has paved the way for plenty of winning comic moments. Given the history of his inclusion with lesser material, Slattery is the surest thing aside from Dinklage in this category.

Past nominees:
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
This actor was nominated twice and won for the third season of this dark AMC series. The show wasn’t eligible last year, so Paul will have to fight his way back into the lineup after a year off. Voters seem to love the show, and the fact that he won should permit him to return, especially since he has several impactful episodes that should prove equal to the material he had in the past.

New contenders:
Dylan Baker (Damages)
This show managed to net two supporting actor nods in its first season, and Baker, a guest acting nominee in 2010 for “The Good Wife,” was one of the standouts of season four, delivering a fine-tuned performance as a cold-blooded fixer manipulating events to his advantage. It’s hard to know how the show will fare now that it’s on DirecTV, but it’s not likely that Baker will be recognized for his strong work.

John Goodman (Damages)
This actor was unforgivably snubbed for his magnificent turn in “Treme” last year, and he moved on immediately to be the major villain of this once-loved show. Goodman has collected eleven nominations over the past twenty-five years, winning in 2007 for his guest spot on “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” There’s a lot of competition, but Goodman is a juggernaut who might just be able to break in to the lineup.

Neal McDonough (Justified)
This actor was criminally ignored for his supporting role in NBC’s “Boomtown” a decade ago, and after that show’s swift cancellation, he finally found another perfect role on FX’s hit show. It would be awful for him to be snubbed, but unless voters are watching faithfully, he may have a tough time displacing more familiar faces. This is my personal plug – the most deserving actor of the 2012-2013 season.

Nick Nolte (Luck)
This veteran actor managed to get an Oscar nomination for the otherwise ignored “Warrior” this past year, so it’s not wise to discard him entirely even though his show was swiftly cancelled due to horse deaths during filming. He was probably the most recognizable face of the supporting ensemble, which means that he could pop up if voters still remember the show.

Mandy Patinkin (Homeland) This actor won an Emmy for the first season of “Chicago Hope” before departing the series in season two, and earned another nod for guest-starring on the show four years later. Now, he plays a veteran CIA analyst on the hit Showtime series “Homeland,” for which he’ll likely contend. He’s an Emmy favorite, and it’s hard not to like him in the role.

Mykelti Williamson (Justified)
This actor has two major obstacles to getting a nomination: costars Walton Goggins and Neal McDonough. After playing the affable Bubba almost twenty years ago in “Forrest Gump,” Williamson proved himself just as capable at playing a quiet, polite villain as Margo Martindale, who won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress last year. Though he deserves it, his inclusion is not likely.

Other possibilities:
Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad)
Completely ignored for his recurring roles in season two and three of AMC’s dark drama, Esposito was front and central and better than ever before in his most villainous arc yet. The show is clearly popular with voters, and it’s just a matter of whether they’re actually paying attention and remember one of the most astounding performances of the season.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Emmy Musings: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
This three-time Emmy winner for “The Sopranos” won another trophy two years ago for her role as a pill-popping nurse on Showtime’s dark comedy, and got nominated again last year. The show failed to get nominated for Best Comedy Series last year after doing so the year before, and Golden Globe voters discarded Falco this past year. She’s a powerhouse actress, and therefore her show’s quality doesn’t factor too much into her chances, which remain fairly good if not guaranteed.

Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Fey has been nominated for every year of the hit comedy she created, winning for its second season, and it’s hard to imagine that she wouldn’t be back again. In an extremely crowded year, Fey still stands out as one of the most consistent parts of her show, and her behind-the-scenes involvement gives her added credit. It’s likely that she’ll make the cut.

Laura Linney (The Big C)
After earning her first mention for the show last year, Linney is now competing with two seasons behind her, since season two and three have both aired in the past year. Showtime’s comedy remains popular, and so it stands to reason that she would be included again, but such things are never certain. SAG voters didn’t embrace her, but Golden Globe voters gave her a second nod, so it’s anyone’s guess how she’ll fare with Emmy voters.

Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
This actress somehow managed to win this category last year, mainly because of her scene-stealing performance in “Bridesmaids.” Since her win, she got nominated for an Oscar for that performance, which suggests she’ll be back again. However, she was nowhere to be found on Golden Globe or SAG lists, though both groups tend to be less enthusiastic about CBS comedies. It’s rare but not unheard of for a winner to not return the next year, and I think that’s how it will go down this year.

Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope)
This character actress got a leading role and an Emmy nod to go with it last year as the nutty matriarch of an untraditional family on the FOX sitcom. The show continues to perform well as FOX builds up its comedy lineup. Series creator Greg Garcia’s previous show, “My Name is Earl,” fell out of favor with Emmy voters midway through its run, so it’s hard to tell whether this show will suffer a similar fate.

Amy Poehler (Parks & Recreation)
This show is hot as can be now. Poehler has been nominated twice, and last year, the show was welcomed into the Best Comedy Series category. There’s nothing to suggest that Poehler isn’t at the head of the pack this year – she still hasn’t won, and therefore she’s not at risk of being displaced by the newbies this year. In fact, she could even win!

New contenders:
Laura Dern (Enlightened)
Over the past twenty years, Dern has received four Emmy nominations, and she now has the chance to net her first regular series nod after her Golden Globe win for her starring role on HBO’s new comedy. This category has rewarded cable series contenders from more dramatic shows in the past, so Dern should have a decent shot.

Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
The star of FOX’s hit new show is hard not to like; the question will just be how much they like her. She lost the Golden Globe when her show was really hot to veteran actress Dern, and now her nomination isn’t guaranteed. It’s likely that she’ll be able to break in given that her show is well-liked and has maintained, and even improved, its quality since its debut.

Lena Dunham (Girls)
This is just the kind of curveball inclusion that Emmy voters might throw. Like Louis C.K., Dunham is the creative force behind the show, and it’s just offbeat enough that voters might love it. Her performance isn’t the typical fare that this category would reward, but sometimes something different is just what’s needed to make a splash.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
If the seven-time “Seinfeld” nominee could earn nominations for every season of the awful “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” then she’s definitely getting in for her brilliant performance as the foul-mouthed, dim-witted Vice President on HBO’s new hit series. If she hadn’t won once for each of her past shows, she’d be a lock for the win; at this point, she’s a frontrunner.

Emmy Musings: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s ineligible nominees: Steve Carrell (The Office), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Baldwin has been nominated five times and won twice for his role as TV executive Jack Donaghy, and with the announcement that next year will be the show’s last, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be back this year too for another shot at winning again. The show’s popularity may have declined, but some consider it to be as good as ever, and there’s no stopping Baldwin either way.

Louis C.K. (Louie)
This comedian surprised with a nomination for his standup-centric FX show, and though he didn’t receive a Golden Globe or SAG mention this year, he’s likely to return since Emmy voters clearly find his brand of humor funny. It would be easy for him to get left off the list in favor of new contenders, but this year isn’t all that crowded, so he should be safe.

Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
This actor joined his Emmy-winning costar Jim Parsons last year with an Emmy nod and followed it up with a Globe nomination, replacing Parsons altogether in that lineup. The show continues to be popular, and therefore Galecki will be back if his nomination wasn’t simply a sign of momentary enthusiasm for the show.

Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
This actor has won this award for the past two years, and the only warning sign about his chances was his snub from the Golden Globes this past year after that winning that award the year beforehand. The show is still a hit, and its inclusion in the Best Comedy Series category for the first time last year suggests that the show is on its way up rather than down, and it’s hard to imagine that happening without its standout star.

Past nominees:
Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
This comedian has earned four nominations in this category – in 2010, 2006, 2004, and 2003. That’s hardly consistent, but the fact of the matter is that Emmy voters do love David and his infrequently-airing HBO comedy, and they honored him last time he was eligible. With two slots open, it seems likely that David would be able to grab one of them.

New contenders:
Don Cheadle (House of Lies)
Cheadle has four Emmy nominations, and he’s likely to earn his fifth for his staring role in Showtime’s comedy about consultants. Emmy voters have embraced Showtime series in the past, and as long as it doesn’t go the way of “Shameless,” which was ignored in the drama race last year, Cheadle should find himself with a well-deserved Emmy nod for his fantastic performance.

Other possibilities:
Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Why people continue to award this show is beyond me, but SAG voters recognized Cryer for the first time ever with a nomination this past year. Cryer was nominated six times in a row in the Best Supporting Actor category, winning in 2009, and now he’s been promoted to lead actor. Ashton Kutcher’s entrance only means more press, so Cryer, inexplicably, has a shot.

Adam Scott (Parks & Recreation)
Last year, Rob Lowe failed to get nominated in this category likely because he’s not the show’s star. Scott, however, deserves the promotion he got this year because he was central to the show along with Amy Poehler, and if voters show their enthusiasm for this excellent comedy, Scott may finally get the recognition that has so far eluded him and, for the most part, the show too.

Pilot Review: Men at Work

Men at Work (TBS)
Premiered May 24 at 10pm

Watching a handful of “Friends” reruns last week on TBS didn’t do this show any favors, since it was advertised nonstop every single commercial, and, as tends to be the case, pretty much all of the funny parts are in the previews. That’s not to suggest, of course, that there are many laughs to be found in either of this show’s first two episodes, since that’s just not the case. Up until now, TBS has mostly only into reruns and original shows featuring Tyler Perry, and therefore programming primetime for the audience that loves to watch “Family Guy” or “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” during the day requires some finesse and some creativity. This show represents neither of those skills, and doesn’t have the themed appeal of something like “My Boys.” Instead, the show features a star most recognizable for a series that used to rerun nonstop on FX, “That 70s Show,” who hasn’t done much since that series and boasts a similarly energy-free role here. The show brings together several other recognizable TV faces: Michael Cassidy from “The O.C.” and “Privileged,” James Lesure from “Las Vegas” and “Mr. Sunshine,” and Adam Busch, from short-lived stuff like “Point Pleasant” and “The Jury.” Unfortunately, none of them are terribly funny, especially considering the way their characters are painted. The show is created by Breckin Meyer, who delivers more laughs and bearable entertainment as the star of sister network TNT’s “Franklin & Bash,” which returns for its second next week. When a character swallows balloons of flour to write a story about drug trafficking in a show’s second episode, things have already gone too far. I have no desire to continue with this show.

How will it work as a series? There are four guys with radically different lives, and aside from the fact that their careers aren’t too diverse, there is plenty of material to be milked, as evidenced by the attempt at dirty talk, relationship problems, and reporting jokes rampant in the show’s first two episodes. A double dose each night should ensure that much laugh track-assisted nonsense can be achieved on a regular basis.
How long will it last? The first two installments were a hit, besting repeats in the same time slot and other original programming debuts. I suspect that this show is exactly what TBS wants to be cranking out, and given that “My Boys” managed to last four seasons, I think they’ll want to jump on the bandwagon with this one right away.

Pilot grade: D

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What I’m Watching: Awake (Series Finale)

Awake: Season 1, Episode 13 “Turtles All the Way Down” (B)

I’m not sure how this show could have ended in a both satisfying and coherent way. I am pleased that the final moments of this season do provide some fitting closure since a second season, not unsurprisingly, will never see the light of day. Though it was strange to see Efrem dressed in a penguin suit pointing out the specifics of the event at which Michael was not present, it did help to sew up the case and allow him the satisfaction of getting Harper to be held accountable for her actions in one universe after she got the upper hand on him on the other. Transferring knowledge between worlds was always the best part of this show, an underdeveloped concept that could have been used more productively. It was effective to watch Michael walk down a hall towards an unknown door, with his two therapists bickering behind him about what it meant, and then to have him open it to enter his home, only to see his son, and then his wife come out to greet him. The problem with all this is that it doesn’t make any sense, and just delivering a happy ending without any sort of justification is a bit of a letdown. I think that this show, which was initially plugged as an “Inception”-style drama, could have been improved by taking advantage of its format more and providing a more exciting story, not simply a cop drama split in two. Ultimately, it did prove interesting, but hardly as invigorating and exciting as I and most others might have hoped.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Jason Isaacs as Michael

Emmy Musings: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is just about over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s ineligible nominees: Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law)
Emmy voters love David E. Kelley, and they made room for Bates last year to give her a ninth career nomination (she’s never won). Bates also picked up a SAG mention this past year, but since then, the show has been unceremoniously cancelled. It did air a full season, so she could be back again, but this is a crowded category, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if she was left off.

Mireille Enos (The Killing)
It’s hard to tell how voters will feel about this show, which, since not resolving its central mystery at the season one, to the anger of many viewers, has improved considerably in season two. She may be immune to the backlash against the show, as her Golden Globe nod last year suggests, and it’s difficult to predict whether or not she’ll be included again.

Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU)
Though her Golden Globe and SAG mentions have been intermittent, Hargitay has never missed a beat with Emmy voters since first being included in 2004, winning once, in 2006. The show is now in its thirteenth year, and with costar Christopher Meloni gone, voters may finally decide that Hargitay has been rewarded enough and that it’s time for fresh blood. I wouldn’t count on it, though, since she seems to come back again every year.

Julianna Marguiles (The Good Wife)
This is the surest lock of the whole awards process, as the CBS law drama keeps getting better and better. Its star, who won last year with previous competitors Kyra Sedgwick and Glenn Close out of the running, is hotter than ever, and could even trounce this year’s newest sensation, Claire Danes. Look for her show to perform well once again on nominations day.

Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
This actress has been nominated for the past three years and even survived a category switch, so she’s definitely going to be back for the show’s fifth year, in which she’s had plenty to do and a handful of episodes that could finally give her the win after likely coming quite close each of the past few years. Count her in again.

Past nominees:
Glenn Close (Damages):
Her show switched networks and took a year off, and for some inexplicable reason, as the show delivered its finest season yet, people seem to have lost interest. Close won for the show’s first two seasons, and received a SAG nod this past year. She’s an awards juggernaut, so she could well burst back into the lineup, though it’s not a given.

Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
This actress got nominated for the first five years of her show, won, and then found herself snubbed last year. The show, which continues to be extremely entertaining, is ending this summer, though it probably won’t air enough episodes to make her eligible for next year, so this is probably her last shot. Since she took home her trophy in 2010, however, I see no reason why she’d be brought back.

New contenders:
Claire Danes (Homeland)
This actress, who won an Emmy for the TV movie “Temple Grandin” two years ago and was nominated in this category seventeen years ago for “My So-Called Life,” won a Golden Globe for her incredible performance as an unstable CIA agent on Showtime’s hit series. It would be a shock if she didn’t get an Emmy nomination for her work, and unless the momentum fails to pick back up, she’s probably a frontrunner for the win too.

Madeleine Stowe (Revenge)
It would be foolish not to mention this veteran actress, who came from nowhere to earn a Golden Globe nod for ABC’s primetime soap opera. Seeing Stowe on a popular series seems to have excited Globe voters, so if Emmy voters think the same, she could be honored, but I highly doubt it. She also faces internal competition from costar Emily Van Camp.

Callie Thorne (Necessary Roughness)
Call this a long shot if ever there was one. After stealing scenes for eight years as the nutty Sheila on “Rescue Me,” Thorne got her own show as a sports psychiatrist on USA. That’s a network not usually beloved by Emmy voters, and her Golden Globe nomination merely puts her on the map as a contender.

Other possibilities:
Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey)
PBS’ extremely popular series is switching from the miniseries category, which it swept last year, to the drama series race. That means that one of last year’s miniseries or TV movie actress nominees could end up in this category. McGovern also netted a Golden Globe nomination for her performance this past year. How the show will fare in its new categories is a mystery, but watch out for McGovern to show up.

Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy)
Sagal won a Golden Globe for her fiery performance as a motorcycle club matriarch on FX’s series in 2011, and then failed to follow up on that win last year with an Emmy nomination. Now is a good a time as any for her to be included due to her continually strong work, but she still has the same chances, which aren’t great.

Emmy Musings: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s ineligible nominees: Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)
Coming off back-to-back SAG wins, there’s no reason Buscemi shouldn’t be back for the second season of the critically-acclaimed Prohibition-era gangster drama. The show is still hot, and Buscemi did plenty of fine work that makes him a strong contender for the win.

Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Hall was on fire two years ago when he picked up a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for the fourth season of the serial killer drama. Though I don’t agree, many have tired of the show in its sixth season, including Golden Globe voters, who snubbed him for the first time this past year. He might still make it, but I assume that voters will cast him aside for newer fare after four consecutive nominations.

Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
In its fifth year, this show is still doing exceptionally well. Hamm has never won because of fellow AMC star Bryan Cranston, and he missed his chance last year when Cranston was out of the running. That makes him even more overdue than ever before, and he’s all but guaranteed to get another nomination and might even win one of these days.

Hugh Laurie (House)
He has two Golden Globes and two SAG Awards, but, though he’s gone six for seven in terms of nominations, he has yet to win an Emmy. This is his final shot, and things don’t bode for him given that he was snubbed by both of the other organizations for the first time this past year. Whether he gets in or not is a toss-up, since it could finally earn him the recognition that most agreed he deserved a couple of years ago.

Timothy Olyphant (Justified)
This FX show continues to get better and better each year, and it’s fairly likely that Olyphant will return with another nomination, though he’s not the showiest part of the show, which could hurt him in this crowded category. His Emmy nod last year wasn’t followed up with Globe or SAG attention, so he’s a good bet but not guaranteed.

Past nominees:
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
This actor won this award three times in a row for the first three seasons of AMC’s dark drama, and, after the show didn’t air during the previous eligibility period, Cranston has a shot at going four for four. The show has only improved with age, and there’s no way that he won’t get nominated again, and he’s even a strong bet to win.

New contenders:
Patrick J. Adams (Suits)
This young actor shocked with a SAG nod for his performance as a brilliant fake lawyer on USA’s new series. I don’t see it transforming into an Emmy mention since voters have been traditionally unenthusiastic about the network, and the showier Gabriel Macht likely has the better shot if they change their minds. Crazier things have happened, though.

Kelsey Grammer (Boss)
The former “Frasier” star took home four Emmys in the comedy category and picked up a handful of additional nominations for the role. His evil dramatic turn on Starz’s new series earned him a Golden Globe, and unless voters decide it’s not their cup of tea, he’ll be nominated here as well and could well win.

Dustin Hoffman (Luck)
This veteran film actor – who won an Emmy for the “Death of a Salesman” TV movie back in 1986 – could have been a frontrunner in this category for HBO’s new horse racing series. The show’s swift cancellation due to horse deaths all but killed his chances, and I doubt anyone is remembering the show fondly at this point, so Hoffman’s inclusion would be real surprise.

Damian Lewis (Homeland)
This British actor’s role as a U.S. Marine held hostage in Iraq for eight years suspected by a CIA agent of being a turncoat earned him a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination, and if Emmy voters embrace the show the same way that the HFPA did, he’ll earn his first Emmy nomination as well. His show was hot back in the fall, and hopefully voters will remember it this summer.

Other possibilities:
Hugh Boneville (Downton Abbey) PBS’ extremely popular series is switching from the miniseries category, which it swept last year, to the drama series race. Though he didn’t get nominated for an Emmy last year, Boneville was honored with a Golden Globe nod this past year and may contend if the transition to the primetime race serves the insanely lauded show well.

William H. Macy (Shameless)
It’s peculiar that Showtime’s comedic drama earned a measly one nomination last year for recurring guest star Joan Cusack, but there’s no reason that it should be any more recognized in season two since the quality and tone of the show haven’t changed. Macy, an eight-time Emmy nominee, is the show’s most recognizable actor and also its best bet aside from a repeat nod from Cusack.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What I’m Watching: Apartment 23 (Season Finale)

Apartment 23: Season 1, Episode 7 “Shitagi Nashi” (B+)

Leave it to Chloe to have her own Japanese comic book series. This episode broke down June and Chloe’s relationship, as June clung to the notion of finally being friends with the cool girl and saw that slowly being taken away as her liver proved entirely unable to keep up with her roommate’s. June’s excitement at going bowling was met with predictable trickery on Chloe’s part, but June turned the tables by actually getting to know the man behind the comic book, who immediately started writing about her instead of Chloe. I enjoyed the end of the episode, told in graphic novel format with a play-by-play of what, unsurprisingly, happened when they went out to celebrate their reconciliation. I was glad to finally see Dean Cain show up to defend his honor, though all he really did was brag to James about how he knew that his dressing room was six inches larger. Luther’s near dismissal was a good scare, but clearly James values him enough to take Fred Savage’s dressing room and make it a closet for Luther to work in and get yelled at by James when he’s feeling a lot of pressure. I liked the tie-in between June’s former life and James’, as James remembers that June sent him a script involving being forced to teach algebra, which he gave to the FBI since it was creepy. This show has proven to be quite entertaining in one short season, and it’s nice that it will get another chance to prove itself with a second season, set to air this fall on Tuesday nights at 9:30pm.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Krysten Ritter as Chloe

Friday, May 25, 2012

What I’m Watching: Modern Family (Season Finale)

Modern Family: Season 3, Episode 24 “Baby on Board” (B+)

Without a family portrait or a big birthday to anchor the season finale, prom and the arrival of a new baby were its central themes, and what an entertaining installment it was. Haley telling her parents that she was planning to move in with Dylan went predictably terribly, and I liked their scare tactics, the most effective of which seems to have been telling her that she’d have to wear hand-me-downs from Alex after getting pregnant. It was fantastic that Luke was the one to resolve the situation by revealing her hidden college acceptance, and that final scene in which he showed his parents all the mail he had been hoarding was hilarious. Phil and Claire not being worried about Alex behaving badly was amusing, as was her matter-of-fact explanation of her date’s sexual orientation. Dylan’s response to Phil after being offered his tux that he too was double-breasted was terrific, and a great line to remember him by. Jay giving Lily a pep talk in the absence of her dads at her recital was sweet, and it’s not often that he gets to bond with that particular grandchild. Mitchell and Cameron going to get a new baby with Gloria along as translator turned into a legitimate Spanish soap opera, which unfortunately resulted in them not getting the baby. Gloria, however, dropped quite the bombshell: she’s pregnant! That’s sure to change how things work next season, and I’m hopeful that it will be a positive development. I eagerly look forward to this show’s return this fall.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Ty Burrell as Phil

What I’m Watching: Glee (Season Finale)

Glee: Season 3, Episode 22 “Goodbye” (B-)

This finale tried hard to deliver the perfect sendoff for a handful of its characters, but, after last week’s spectacle of a victory, it felt kind of underwhelming. That may be due to the fact that the show isn’t eager to let its graduating characters go, and creator Ryan Murphy has even said that he plans to continue following some of the graduates in New York next year. That explains why Rachel has to take a midday train to New York instead of going to graduation parties so that she can burst out of Grand Central (not sure what train from Ohio got her to that particular station) and take in being in the big city. It does a disservice to the rest of the show’s ensemble that has eclipsed Rachel over the last two seasons. Brittany deciding that she won’t graduate because she has a 0.0 GPA is tossed aside as a comedic moment, and Kurt not getting into NYADA puts his future in extreme jeopardy, especially after his father danced to “All the Single Ladies” for him as a parting graduation present. Puck passing his test is really the only silver lining of the hour, since Rachel’s departure for New York means her separation from Finn as he prepares to go join the army. After an inconsistent season, this show feels more disjointed than ever before, and it’s hard to imagine that having a whole separate plotline in New York is going to improve the show, which will air on Thursday nights this fall.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Naya Rivera as Santana

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Return” (B+)

It’s intriguing that this show decided to drop off a letter off the end of its title and focus on just one and follow its primary protagonist as she left the city, showing New York in only two scenes, through Marnie in the opening moments and Adam in the closing moments. Hannah’s trip back to Michigan revealed just how detached she has become from the life she grew up with, preferring the fast pace and diversity of the city to the more mundane happenings of the suburbs. Lying to her parents and telling them that her job was going well and that she didn’t need any financial help is part of her growth into an independent adult, but it’s not going to make things any easier once she returns to real life. Heather is the perfect representative of why Hannah isn’t fit for the suburbs, and meeting Eric at the pharmacy was an interesting development. After telling her parents that she needed to find out what it was like to be treated well, Hannah sabotaged her own date by being too aggressive and impatient with Eric, forgetting that he wasn’t the same type of guy as Adam. Hannah’s parents managed to have some fun while she was out, and though the shower drama was entertaining, I most enjoyed hearing them defend their decision to cut Hannah off, with her mother’s explanation that she needs something to write about being the most strangely compelling. The ending phone call with Adam seemed quite comforting for Hannah, and while it doesn’t change anything, at least Adam has an inkling of what she needs from him.

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 1, Episode 5 “Nicknames” (B+)

It’s just like Selina to fall asleep during a senate hearing, though that seems to be the least of her worries since she found out about all of her nicknames when she went to go Google herself. Her devastated reaction to many of them was the funniest part of the rattled-off revelations, and both Amy and Gary had excellent delivery for each and ever one of them. Sue telling Mike that she was actually dressing him further instead of undressing him with her eyes was entertaining, and I loved her deadpan response to Selina’s request to scroll up to see if she had more planned for that day: “That’s the past, Ma’am.” Mike talking to Selina about firefighter jokes after she left the room and not noticing that she had gotten up made me laugh out loud. Dan’s wooing efforts got him a stern talking-to from Selina, and his next target didn’t go so well, as Jonah’s excessive rants about the plentiful amount of bread and his rock concert didn’t actually lead to any real intelligence. Apparently, fructose intolerance is a real thing, and that doesn’t make Jonah having it any less funny. Dan was extremely harsh in his devil’s advocate argument against the clean jobs bill, likening Selina to Hitler, but none of it mattered anyway since the POTUS killed it to focus on other things, and then Selina had to vote down her own program. It’s sort of better not ever seeing this passive-aggressive president, but I’d be interested to see who would play that part, and I’m just it would be furiously entertaining.

What I’m Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 10 “Christmas Waltz” (B+)

Christmas episodes at summertime always feel strange to me, yet this one was so layered and moody that it wasn’t a problem at all. Starting with Lane getting a call about the massive amount of money he owes set a melodramatic tone for the episode, as he fought hard to get Christmas bonuses given out and then saw them taken away after he had forged Don’s signature and cut himself a check to cover his costs. It’s sad to be the odd man out when everyone is sitting so comfortably that giving up a bonus is an easy decision, and I hope that it doesn’t end up backfiring for the kind-hearted and hard-working Lane. Pete’s frustration with the lack of excitement from the partners about his Jaguar prospect was superseded by the energy around trying to land the account, which was well-timed with the announcement of bonuses since it seemed to distract from the fact that all of the employees would have to give up their holidays to work day and night to land the account. Joan did a terrific job flipping out at the secretary for allowing her to get served divorce papers, and Don was extremely smooth in his handling of the situation, slipping her out of the building and then going with Don to look at Jaguars. That particular act of friendship didn’t pan out well for Don since, rightfully so, Megan is refusing to accept his lifestyle and instead makes a stink about him not being home. The return of Paul was odd at best, and I’m not sure it was a productive use of either Harry or Paul. I guess it’s more effective as a melancholic commentary on what happens to those that weren’t lucky enough to be successful.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What I’m Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 3, Episode 7 “How Bazaar” (B+)

It’s difficult to decide where to begin with this layered and eventful episode. Perhaps with, all things considered, the least surprising development, which is Joy’s attempt to break up Paul’s marriage with Cathy. Her desire for casual sex with Paul fits with what we know already about her character, and it’s not a shock that he’d be attracted to her both given the way that she presents herself and how he reacts to praise. Andrea looking out for him and barging into Joy’s room was great, though she couldn’t have known that the video of Joy would actually do more damage than good, giving Paul something to fantasize about in place of actual infidelity, arguably the more dangerous of the two. Only Sean could enjoy a threesome relationship without giving it a second thought, and I enjoyed Cathy’s refusal to put out her hand after Giselle fed each of her better two thirds some cotton candy with her own. Adam donating the car to the bazaar was typically obnoxious, and Cathy driving it away in the middle of the event was just the kind of bold and brazen move for which she’s become famous. Taking ownership of her generosity and deciding to give the car to Maxine and Dave was a nice thought, and that makes what she saw at the motel all the more devastating. I knew that this adoption wouldn’t work out for some reason or another, but revealing that Maxine and Dave are con artists is more devastating than I could have imagined, and it’s causing to cause Cathy a whole lot of misery.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 2, Episode 9 “Sayonara Hiawatha” (B+)

This show is getting increasingly dark as its two protagonists continue to be cast aside from society, finding that they have no one but each other on whom to rely. In that process, however, they’re becoming much closer, as Holder learned that Sarah was institutionalized and didn’t ask her about it, instead telling her that she could talk to him about anything. That close trust is serving them well, as they’re able to watch each other’s backs and execute highly illegal and somewhat ill-advised missions. Holder letting himself into Gil’s house and eating his pasta arrabbiata while Sarah stole the GPS out of his car was extremely clever, and I loved the reference to the meaning of the Italian word, which is angry. Holder making a scene and drawing all the attention to himself at the casino was fortunate since Sarah would surely have been apprehended immediately otherwise. Discovering a badge is going to be extremely provocative, but I’m sure that she’ll have a tough time getting anyone aside from Holder to listen to her. Gwen’s attempt to intimidate Mayor Adams into backing down failed miserably, and things are not looking good for Darren’s campaign. Tommy killing animals is not what his father needs right now, and despite that unfortunate slap across the face, Stan is doing a decent job finally trying to connect with his kids. Mitch’s call came at just the right moment, but Stan did not want to speak to her after she abandoned them. In her first real confrontation with Rosie’s death since leaving her family, having Jonathan Cake’s David speak about Rosie in the present tense definitely didn’t help matters at all.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 8 “The Prince of Winterfell” (B+)

Everyone is gearing up for battle, and there are plenty of developments that will shake things up in terms of the warring leadership. Lady Stark sending Brianne to trade Jamie for her children was a bold move, and one to which Robb responded with appropriate fury. Talisa’s story seems to have truly moved Robb, and hopefully it will guide him well into battle, as he is prepared to punish Theon for his treachery with all his might. Upon discovering that Tywin was riding out immediately, Arya’s initial instinct to name him as her third kill was followed up by a much better choice, which was Jaquen himself. His reaction was amusing, and fortunately he killed all the guards so that she and her friends could escape. It won’t be long before Jon makes a move or Ygritte decides to just up and let him go, since she was singlehandedly responsible for saving his life. Tyrion’s conversations continue to be brilliant, and I enjoyed Bronn’s response that thievery is down because they arrested all the thieves. Cersei declaring that she found Tyrion’s whore was worrisome, and his panic when he ran to find his true love was intense. Daenerys’ refusal to leave without first rescuing her dragons may not end up being a good thing for her, as she becomes the topic of conversation in faraway lands. Ending the episode with a confirmation that Bran and Rickon are still alive signals that the season’s final two episodes are likely to be full of surprises and unexpected victories on multiple fronts.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Round Two: Common Law

Common Law: Season 1, Episode 2 “Ride-Along” (B)

This show is definitely the kind of fare made for the summer, since it’s considerably lighter even than most of USA’s series, and hasn’t yet found ways to best incorporate ensemble players like Gary Grubbs to make the entire ensemble worth watching. Captain Sutton sharing too much information about his sex life wasn’t entirely necessary, and I feel like this show can do better. I am pleased that Dr. Ryan chose not to let Travis wonder about whether or not her relationship with her boyfriend was serious, instead answering his question so that it wouldn’t linger and keep him thinking about it. Her presence on the ride-along proved to be entertaining, as both Travis and Wes felt the need to constantly bring her into the conversation in an effort to get her to side with each of them in the argument of the moment. The case ended up being layered and full of twists, resulting in the rescue of the hostage wife who was also the killer they were looking to arrest. I heartily enjoyed Travis’ vested interest in helping to pick out a new car for Wes, emphasizing cup holders and speakers above all else. Wes’ marriage is sure to be a constant subject of conversation, and I liked finding out more about his romantic tendencies from the chatty hotel employee who gave Travis altogether too much ammunition to use to make fun of his partner. At least Travis didn’t get a date out of the encounter, which seems to be an unusual turn of events for him.

What I’m Watching: Nikita (Season Finale)

Nikita: Season 2, Episode 23 “Homecoming” (B+)

Talk about a season ender. If things were changed dramatically in last year’s finale, that’s doubly true here as the whole structure is transformed with a monumental takedown of Division and the way it operates. Michael and Nikita communicating over Division’s walkie-talkies knowing that they were listening were just the first sign that they had the upper hand, and things looked iffy when Percy told all of Division that they had been lied to, inviting them to his office to kill him and forcing Nikita to be his bodyguard. Upon their exit from the facility, I did not expect her to let go of his arm and let him fall to his death. It was a grand death for a grand villain, and easily the show’s best character. Roan getting electrocuted after breaking Alex’s arm and nearly beheading Sean was a fitting goodbye for another intimidating and formidable bad guy. Building a nuclear generator under the White House is just as stupid an idea as having tunnels for the Chinese to go into on “24,” and these fictional governments really need to rethink how they prepare themselves for attack. Rebooting Division with Ryan in command and Nikita as an ally should prove extremely interesting, and I like how the almost forgotten Amanda was immediately referenced in Estonia as she plots her way back to power. This feels very much like an “Alias” twist, and I’m hopeful that it will prove positive for the show. Alex’s reactions to Sean asking her out were hilarious, and Birkhoff was bold to plant a big kiss on Sonya, declaring “Division’s dead, baby!” This season was hardly consistent but usually exciting, and I’m hopeful that the surprise season three renewal will allow this show to really turn itself around when it returns on Friday nights at 9pm in the fall.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Xander Berkeley as Percy

What I’m Watching: Scandal (Season Finale)

Scandal: Season 1, Episode 7 “Grant: For the People” (B)

Things were happening fast in this eventful finale, tying up the whole President Grant plotline so that season two can focus on other things (hopefully). Quinn managed to freeze up quite well upon discovering Gideon’s body, but she did do one thing right, and that was calling Olivia. Watching everyone spring into action was impressive, though they all seemed quite annoyed by the fact that Quinn had some mystery identity that required this excessive protection. David really managed to prove himself valuable in this hour, refusing to help Olivia after she broke the law and then figuring out a way to get Quinn’s fingerprints without her knowing it. Bringing Quinn back to Olivia’s office and preparing for her to tell everyone who she really is sets the stage for a major revelation at the beginning of next season, but I suspect that it’s hardly as exciting or shocking as it’s being made out to be. Billy swiftly moved into crisis management mode, telling the world about the President’s affair while making himself seem like a hero. Grant’s useful information on the Vice President helped her to throw Billy under the bus, discrediting him and securing Grant’s presidency with the help of Olivia and Grant’s vindictive wife. Huck is going to get in trouble next season with Olivia for having Charlie take care of Billy, and the biggest supposed revelation – that it was Cyrus and not Billy who had Amanda killed – didn’t need to be so explicitly spelled out since it was obvious anyway. This show is definitely fast-paced and intriguing, and I imagine I’ll return to watching it when it comes back for season two in the fall.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Joshua Malina as David

Monday, May 21, 2012

What I’m Watching: Awake

Awake: Season 1, Episode 12 “Two Birds” (B+)

After last week’s big realization, Michael was back at square one at the start of this episode when he was forced to explain to both of his therapists his theories only to have them tell him that he’s making it up. His universe-traveling proved more useful than ever as he managed to follow up with two dead people since they were only alive in one of the universes. Killing Hawkins didn’t do him any favors with Bird, and it’s fortunate that his partner trusts him enough to allow him to investigate, even if he did deliver him straight into the hands of the person behind everything, who asked all the right questions that people tend to before killing the only people that know their secrets. In the other universe, Hawkins managed to kill Bird instead, and Michael’s joy at waking up to see his partner still alive was palpable. Michael being on the run with Hawkins on his tail is not a good thing, and he’s probably going to go straight to Captain Harper with his suspicions, though she at least seems to have a soft spot for him, expressing anguish at the thought of having him killed. Efrem will likely turn out to be Michael’s saving grace since he can’t believe the news and seems to respond more supportively than Bird, ready to give Michael the chance to explain himself and find out just what’s going on. Hopefully the upcoming season finale will provide fitting closure since it’s also going to double as the series finale.

What I’m Watching: Touch

Touch: Season 1, Episode 10 “Tessellations” (C+)

Watching this episode, I was convinced it was the season finale, and its ending seemed like a decent point to end on from which to pick up next season. Afterwards, however, I learned that the show’s two-hour finale airs on May 31st after a week off, meaning that there’s still more time left in which to discover something monumental about Jake’s capabilities and how his mind works. This hour milked the Jewish connection to present an extraordinarily dumbed-down version of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, presenting two people in love and simplifying a situation down to promise rings and kissing out on the street in public. This was the first time that someone explicitly called to explain that the numbers had been changed, as Martin received a call from Avram’s Israeli cousin stating as much. I didn’t realize that Avram is played by Bohdi Elfman, the Scientologist husband of Jenna Elfman. We’ve already been told to accept Kabbalah and the 36 righteous people, and I feel like the way Jake communicates is a secret better kept than explained. It seemed that Abigail was inclined to help Martin ensure that Jake wouldn’t be institutionalized, but Clea’s determined detective work revealed a far more malicious interest in her nephew, one Martin is sure to be furious about. Despite once again having to utter his “This is going to sound crazy…” catchphrase, Martin did an excellent job of rectifying things by helping more than one person and reinstating his new friend’s insurance so that his wife’s cancer treatment would once again be covered.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 1, Episode 23 “Firewall” (B+)

It’s hard to find a guest star quite as good as Amy Acker, and what better way to use her than as the secret evil mastermind behind everything! She was talented enough as a high-end therapist able to diagnose Reese within moments of meeting him, and she played the part perfectly to get him to think that she didn’t have any idea she was in danger. Her swift and shocking execution of Alicia revealed that she put out the hit on herself, and she’s prepared to use Finch to take full advantage of the machine, which moments earlier, Alicia wanted to destroy. The action throughout the hour was intense, as everything converged together and HR was preparing to blow the whole floor. Carter confronting Fusco could have ended badly, but instead they both rallied and teamed up to save the day, guns blazing, and they managed to bring down the top HR mole while Simmons escaped undiscovered. After blowing up the HR car, Reese got the best line of the night, superbly delivered: “We should all grab a drink together sometime. My treat.” The episode’s end was terrific as well, as Reese looked and spoke directly at the machine, vowing his determination to get Finch back from Turing’s clutches. Answering an unknown phone call is the best way this show could have ended its first season, on a completely uncertain but strongly vigilant one. This show will be back in the same timeslot this fall, and I can’t wait to find out what happens and see more of Amy Acker in a major role.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Michael Emerson as Finch

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock (Season Finale)

30 Rock: Season 6, Episode 22 “What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?” (B+)

There’s no better way for this show to go out than with Kim Jong-Il ranting about the idea of Jack and Liz finally getting together and then typing out a script on a typewriter. The vow renewal ceremony was comic in so many ways, with Liz officiating, and three different parties all anxiously awaiting the part where you can object to the union. When Diana, Scott, and Kim all failed to state their objections, Jack and Avery’s simultaneous explosions of frustration were amusing, and their divorce worked out quite nicely. I very much enjoyed watching Jack discover the Morse Code affair that Avery and Scott were having while hosting American News Channel USA. Criss referencing James Van Der Beek was fun because of his regular appearance on “Apartment 23,” and his run-in with Ultra-Orthodox Jews furious about his 100% pork hot dogs was hilarious. It looks like Liz and Criss might just last and go through with their adoption, provided that Liz follows Jack’s hastily invented twenty-five pillars of motherhood. Tracy needing to reform his image was funny, and his best comment was his rejection of Frederick Douglass as a role model because he had two first names. Kenneth and Hazel’s drama wasn’t exactly my favorite part of the hour, but they’ve always been a bit too deranged for their own sake. Despite some less impressive moments, this season has actually been decent overall, and I think that a thirteen-episode final season next year is just what this show deserves.

Season grade: B/B+
Season MVP: Tina Fey

What I’m Watching: Apartment 23

Apartment 23: Season 1, Episode 6 “It’s Just Sex…” (B+)

This show manages continued cleverness by having Chloe try to help June become more detached in relationships just as she’s realizing that she cares too much about James to treat him as casually as she used to in the past. As expected, June doesn’t do too well with her assignment, getting far too close to the incredibly dumb soy latte guy as he got depressed by the loss of his parrot. June’s spring cleaning had predictably negative effects, as she accidentally gave away the sex tape Chloe made with James, which sold for $10,000 and was then slated to be leaked. I love how James’ sole concern was what it would do to his image and to his chances on “Dancing with the Stars.” His efforts to get behind it and promote it, even attempting to reshoot scenes sot that he wouldn’t look like a serial killer when he was licking his lips, were entertaining and highly unproductive, mainly because Prince Harry got his own sex tape released at the same time, reminding James of when Hurricane Katrina stole his thunder, just the kind of off-color this joke show has mastered only six episodes in. Supporting characters Mark and Robin are being used well, with the former offering plenty of commentary to keep June’s frantic mind spinning, and Robin serving as the perfect representative of the American public for James when he wanted to get a sense of just how his sex tape might be perceived by the average American female viewer.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 3, Episode 23 “Tableau Vivant” (B+)

At first, it seemed like this might be a duplication of the family portrait episode that closed the show’s first season. Instead, it’s a funny and fresh take on pent-up frustration that built between all of the different family members for a variety of reasons. Alex upset that her art teacher didn’t know her name resulted in a failed project that got her an “I expected better” coupled with her real name, giving her just the victory she wanted. Luke getting credit for putting out a fire even though he was the one who started it was amusing, especially since Manny was so upset about it. The best quote of the night came from Manny: “I play by the rules; where’s my medal?” Phil and Mitchell both thinking that the other wanted him too much was amusing, and I liked finding out about Phil’s stress blinking and hearing about how he tried to break up with Claire but he was so nice that she didn’t realize it. Cam trying not to use the word “No” with Lily and pissing Claire off with his innovative parenting strategies was a lot of fun since they’re too of the most easily offended characters on the show. Claire’s reaction to being told that she’s a know-it-all by Phil was perfect, and her garbage disposal stunt was quite funny. Gloria’s observation that “They named you after a sandwich” to Jay was the funniest part of that particular plotline, but even if not every joke is a home run, this show is still a winner.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory (Season Finale)

Suburgatory: Season 1, Episode 22 “The Motherload” (B+)

Unlike most of the other episodes in this show, this one felt very consequential, in that several revelations really stuck and are sure to have an effect on how things play out next season. The town’s tradition of honoring Mother’s Day above all else led to entertaining plotlines for single mother Dallas and the more familial Sheila. Dalia going to Israel with her father so that her Mother’s Day wouldn’t be ruined was unfortunate for Dallas, but she still performed admirably in the 5K, even if she got injured midway through, which led to an odd hallucination involving a speaking Yacolt. Fred giving Dallas the water meant for Sheila was not a good move, but he redeemed himself with James Ingram, even if that turned out to be more awkward than anything else. Lisa’s blood-assisted discovery that Ryan, and not her, is adopted is sure to prove transformational if she’s ever able to tell him and he actually believes her. The dead snakes and live guns in Jill’s baby nursery were terrifying, and it’s no surprise that Eden went into false labor because of how stressed that made her. She’s still an oddball, playing sounds from Occupy Wall Street for the baby and such. Tessa not getting the internship throws a wrench into her future plans, but something else just happened along at exactly the moment she needed it: a female family member. I’m interested to see where this show, which has become one of my favorite comedies this season, goes when it returns this fall, fortunate enough to remain in this very same time slot.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Cheryl Hines as Dallas

Friday, May 18, 2012

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 3, Episodes 20 & 21 “Props” & “Nationals” (C+/B-)

This double-decker of episodes came just as nearly every show is ending and this one airs its finale next week. The first episode described itself well by having Rachel tell Tina that her sudden interest in speaking up was awfully randomly-timed, since the genesis for such an episode was truly random. I imagine a whole lot of effort when into Tina’s dream in which each character had someone else’s face, and it was only mildly effective, with more effort clearly put into some body switches than into others. I felt the same way about having Lindsay Lohan and Perez Hilton guest star in the second hour, which must have cost a fortune and added nothing to the show. I’m glad that Sue’s efforts to get Kurt to cross-dress like Unique were unsuccessful, and crowning her MVP while giving New Directions the top trophy was a perfect compromise. Carmen Tibideaux arriving in the middle of Rachel’s performance was more than corny, and Jesse putting in a good word for her just so that she’d remember his failed audition didn’t add up. It was still fun to see New Directions win the trophy and then get to announce Will as Teacher of the Year, and singing “We Are the Champions” only dampened their modesty a little. Bieste finally leaving Cooter and Emma and Will finally having sex were decent subplots on this show that’s headed full force towards graduation, and a fourth season that hopefully won’t suck since the New Directions will look much different after their best and somewhat brightest head off to college.