Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Was this year’s Dundies a success? Well, I made Pam laugh so hard, she fell out of her chair and almost broke her neck. So I killed, almost..."

Emmy Awards Preview - Part Two: The Comedies

My Four Biggest Problems With the Emmy Process:
4. The Voters Are Old. I'm don't necessarily mean geriatric, just generally old. First example: The Golden Girls won Outstanding Comedy Series in 1985 and 1986. Was Family Ties not on the air? Cheers on hiatus?? If there was a voter under 40 on the panel, he or she would have quit on the spot. Second example: the following category...
Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour)
Avatar: The Last Airbender • City Of Walls And Secrets • Nickelodeon
Robot Chicken • Lust For Puppets • Cartoon Network
The Simpsons • The Haw-Hawed Couple
South Park • Make Love, Not Warcraft • Comedy Central
SpongeBob SquarePants • Bummer Vacation / Wig Struck • Nickelodeon

Should Have Been Nominated: Sigh...what a profoundly misguided category. I've never even heard of Avatar (and I refuse to look it up). Robot Chicken, while disturbing and funny (usually: in that order), is, if I'm not mistaken, a 15 minute show, and doesn't really belong here. And, as for SpongeBob: look, I like it as much as any guy who isn't a nine-year old girl, but does it really hold up against The Simpsons, or South Park...or American Dad? Speaking of: where the hell is American Dad? I find it hard to believe that they couldn't have found room for either "Lincoln Lover" (where Stan tries being gay), "Of Ice and Men" (where Stan's secret fascination with figure skating is revealed), or "Four Little Words" (where Stan's boss "accidentally" stabs to death Francine's friend, forcing Stan to cover up her death so that he won't have to say "I told you so"--hence the title). AD has more hard laughs per minute that any animated show not called South Park. Additionally, I truly believe "Go God Go!" (the two-part episode where Cartman can't wait for the release of the Wii, freezes himself, and wakes up in an athiest-run war torn future) to be much funnier than "Make Love Not Warcraft," but so it goes.
Should Win out of Those Nominated: South Park, though, again, it should be for a different episode. No matter.
Will Win: The Simpsons. Just because.

30 Rock • "Tracy Does Conan" written by Tina Fey
30 Rock • "Jack-Tor" written by Robert Carlock
Extras • "Daniel Radcliffe" written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
The Office • "Gay Witch Hunt" written by Greg Daniels
The Office • "The Negotiation" written by Michael Schur

Should Have Been Nominated:
Let the How I Met Your Mother campaign begin! "Slap Bet," (written by Kourtney Kang) by virtue of being the funniest 22 minutes I've seen on TV this year, absolutely, positively needs to be here. From the premise (Marshall and Barney have a bet on whether Robyn is afraid to go to the mall because she's been married before or because she's done porn in the past, with the winner getting to slap the loser 10 times consecutively or dole out 5 surprise slaps over the rest of their lives--admittedly, it loses a bit of its lustre in translation), to the twist (they're both wrong--she's afraid to go to the mall because she once was a Canadian pop idol whose hit song was "Let's Go to the Mall") to the selling of said twist (an absolutely tree-mendous cheesy 80s video) to the payoff (Marshall's first slap), this epsiode makes virtually everything else pale in comparison. As far as I'm concerned, Kang should win for this one. Alas...

I'm also at a loss as to why the extremely average "The Negotation" (with the only, as far as I can recall, stand out scenes there being Darryl making fun of how little Michael makes and Darryl teaching Michael phony black slang--the latter being much better done in the NewsRadio ep where Phil Hartman was shilling for Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor), made the cut but the vastly superior one-hour finale ("The Job") did not. My one complaint about hour-long Office episodes (or, really, hour-long episodes for any sitcom that isn't the British Office) is that there's a wholllle lot of filler. But with the finale, there was nary a wasted moment, to the point where I actually wished it were longer.
Should Win out of Those Nominated: well, aside from Schur's episode, this is a very strong category, with all four remaining nominees legitimate threats to win it. For 30 Rock, "Tracy Does Conan," where, I believe, we meet Dr. Spaceman for the first time, is probably funnier from start to finish than "Jack Tor," but "Jack Tor" clearly has the better scene (where Baldwin, as Jack Donaghy, goes through some 120 takes--edited down to about a minute and a half for the viewers--to film his GE promo, which was just riotously funny). The Radcliffe Extras episode is great, but not as strong as the McKellen episode, so I feel like I need to knock it down for that. (Of course, if I'm being fair, I really should criticize "Gay Witch Hunt"--the awkwardness rating was through the roof on that one--for the same thing.) I guess I'll go with "Tracy Does Conan," but this is a tough one.
Will Win: "Tracy Does Conan"--as they'll want to give something to Fey tonight.

Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Rainn Wilson, The Office

Should Have Been Nominated:
Aside from the truly unfortunate inclusion of Cryer (fine, I’ll say it: Nielsen families, I’m officially befuddled, why is this program so popular?) this category is truly first rate. Wilson and Harris (see below) are both tremendous. Piven always brings the funny, though, of late, it’s more or less the same thing every time. Try this one next season, take a shot every time Ari: talks to Lloyd without making some sort of derogatory gay remark; talks to Dana Gold without mentioning that he defiled her in the past; talks to his wife without being a sexist prick (post-prickish remark apologies do not apply); or talks to anyone other than Lloyd (or a client) in his office without screaming at them. This is a drinking game even a Mormon could love. The same goes for Dillon as Johnny Drama. He is pretty funny, but it’s gotten to the point where Drama is so predictably pathetic week in and week out that I’ve lost virtually all interest in his storylines. To that end, I’d dump Dillon and Cryer and replace them with Stephen Merchant (Agent) from Extras and one of the following: Jack McBrayer (Kenneth the NBC Page) from 30 Rock, John C. McGinley (Dr. Cox) from Scrubs, John Krasinski from The Office, and, most improbably (as it will never, ever, ever happen), Jason Segel from HIMYM.
Should Win out of Those Nominated: This one, for me, comes down to Wilson and Harris. It warms my heart that Wilson decided to actually submit his strongest episode of the year—more on people and shows opting not to do this in a sec—going with “The Coup” (where Dwight, at Angela’s behest, goes behind Michael’s back to Jan to get his job). But NPH manages to trump him with his absolutely hilarious performance in “Showdown” (aka, the one where Barney is absolutely unstoppable on The Price is Right). I’m genuinely torn here. Both performances are pitch-perfect and both episodes are top-notch. I think the slight edge has to go to NPH because there should be a degree of difficulty component for what he did on TPIR—his asides during the Big Money spins (“the wheel really isn’t my strong suit, Bob”) and the Showcase Showdown (after seeing the first—unimpressive—“no trip and no car? I’ll pass”; after his opponent bids: [stage whispers] “overbid”) were almost like easter eggs for longtime TPIR viewers. This, along with the show’s always stellar editing, really sealed it for me. NPH is the pick.
Will Win: Brad Garrett! Whoops, sorry. Force of habit. I must have been thinking of last year. Or the year before that. Or the ten prior to that. It’ll be Piven or Wilson, but I’ll pick Wilson.

3. I'm Pretty Sure The Voters Don't Even Like Television.
Don't believe me? Here's a fun game...put the following comedies in order of most outstanding series Emmys to least:
Ally McBeal, The Larry Sanders Show, Everbody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld, and Will & Grace.
1. Raymond (2)
T2. Ally McBeal, Seinfeld, Will & Grace (1 each)
T5. The Larry Sanders Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm (zero).

Wanna play again? Which program is on the odd one out of the following: Cagney & Lacey; Picket Fences, L.A. Law, The Sopranos, Mission: Impossible, and The Practice?
Answer: The Sopranos. Every other show on the list has won at least two consecutive outstanding drama awards (The Sopranos has won once, in 2004). More on this in a minute.

Conchata Ferrell, Two and a Half Men
Jenna Fischer, The Office
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds
Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl
Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty

Should Have Been Nominated:
Lots of omissions here. Ashley Jensen on Extras (though, in fairness, Maggie’s role is essentially a leading one), the always-underrated Sarah Chalke on Scrubs (this show never gets anywhere close to enough respect and now it’s about to end. So it goes…), and Colbie Smulders (Robin) on How I Met Your Mother. Of those three, I’d have to pick Smulders as the overall winner. Scoff if you will (I hear you scoffing!), but pulling off the mannerisms of an 80s Canadian pop star (as Smulders—who happens to be Canadian but not, so far as I can tell, a pop star—so adeptly did) is probably more impressive than anything anybody else did this past year.
Should Win out of Those Nominated: Comes down to Pressly or Fischer. For as great a character as Joy is on MNIE, she's fairly one-dimensional. Fischer's Pam also has a tendency towards that (that dimension: sad-sacky), but I thought she really came out of her shell this year--in particular with her shocking, but hearfelt harangue on the beach in the season's penultimate episode). Fischer's the pick for me.
Will Win: Sigh…Williams.

Beau Bridges, My Name Is Earl
Martin Landau, Entourage
Sir Ian McKellen, Extras
Giovanni Ribisi, My Name Is Earl
Stanley Tucci, Monk

Should Have Been Nominated:
I love Landau, but his turn on Entourage wasn’t anything special and I’d of preferred Adam Goldberg (the money man) here. Chris Parnell (Dr. Spaceman!) on 30 Rock, a positively filthy Radcliffe on Extras, and Norm MacDonald on MNIE could all be here as well. Nothing would please me more than to include Will Arnett on 30 Rock here, but I was rather disappointed with guest spot. Hopefully when he's on this season, he'll be a bit more, um, GOBy.
Should Win out of Those Nominated: hey hey! Some love for Extras! Nice. McKellen is brilliant as…well, himself (or, more accurately, an exaggerated version of himself) and should win solely on the basis of the scene where Andy (Ricky Gervais) auditions for a part in his play. Beau Bridges is very good as Earl’s dad, but was better last year. And Ribisi, perpetually in danger, it seems, of being typecast as a dirtbag, was quite funny in the ep where Earl drunkenly slept with his (Ribisi's, that is) mom. But nothing tops McKellen.
Will Win: Landau or McKellen. Let’s go with McKellen.

Dixie Carter, Desperate Housewives
Salma Hayek, Ugly Betty
Judith Light, Ugly Betty
Laurie Metcalf, Desperate Housewives
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock

Should Win (or Should be Nominated):
Jesus God, this is a lean year for guest actresses, no? That is the same Dixie Carter from Designing Women, right? I don’t even have a joke here. Let’s throw everyone out here and go with: Marlee Matlin on My Name is Earl, Keri Russell on Scrubs, a much-more- memorable/deserving-than-Stritch Isabella Rossellini on 30 Rock, Carla Gugino on Entourage, and…the “I’m not even quite sure how she’s eligible but somehow is” Rashida Jones (Karen) on The Office. Even with those picks, this one is fairly forgettable. Matlin was funny as Joy’s lawyer, but I’d have to give this to Rossellini, if only for the scene where she throws down with Tina Fey.
Should Win out of Those Nominated: Good Lord, this one is a disaster!! I heard Metcalf was great on DH, so let's go with her and move on swiftly to the next category.
Will Win: Hayek. Just because.

The Amazing Race
American Idol
Dancing With The Stars
Project Runway
Top Chef

Should Have Been Nominated: I’ve got nothing. I’d lobby for The Apprentice, but I’m pretty sure that Shuk, Carrie (captive audience and all), and I are the only ones watching at this stage, so what’s the point?
Should Win out of Those Nominated: Top Chef, baby! This show is surprisingly addictive. Great food, interesting characters, reasonable boardrooms, and (generally) sound judges decisions (I’m looking at you, Trump re: those last two points).
Will Win: The Amazing Race. I’ll bet my non-existent house on this one.

2. The Neil Patrick Harris Rule. Here's NPH in a New York Post interview:
NPH: We went through and the other one was when Barney revealed his apartment for the first time, but the nomination specifics dictate that you have to edit together every scene that you're in in the show. They have to be edited together and that's presented to this committee. So we did that with a few shows and sort of looked at the run of scenes in a row. That's a different dynamic because our show is an ensemble show, so it's like the funny scenes take place in between other funny scenes, so when they're all smashed together it's a different vibe. We just thought that "Showdown" worked well, Bob Barker's got some buzz right now and I had a ball improving with him.

So....let me get this straight: watching a full 22-minute episode is too physically taxing for the voters? How much time are they actually saving here, like 9 minutes? Why in the world would they do this? Don't you lose the entire feel of a show if you only watch a bastardized version of it? Is that how they determine Pulitizers now, too? ("500 pages! But I've got a squash game in 30 minutes and these nominations are due tonight! Just read me every 75th page.") This. makes. no. sense.

The Colbert Report
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Late Night With Conan O’Brien
Late Show With David Letterman
Real Time With Bill Maher

Should Win (or Should Have Been Nominated): Truth be told, I only watch TDS and TCR. I’m also way happier than I should be that Leno wasn’t nominated. Letterman, I’ve never really gotten. Conan, I used to watch but gave up a few years back, and I’ve only downloaded Maher a couple of times. Include me among the people—I’m not alone here, am I?—that think that TDS, while still amusing, has dropped off considerably of late. Stewart et al., for whatever reason, have fallen in love with JS doing (an admittedly fairly funny, but by no means earth-shattering) impression of Bush, which has become quite tedious of late. Also, sending Riggle to Iraq for a week (like, for real) was significantly more disturbing than it was amusing. Seriously, was that necessary? Of the correspondents, I absolutely love three of them (John Oliver, Dmitri Martin, and John Hodgman—but the latter two are only on once a month, if that), moderately like two (Asif Mamvi and Rob Riggle, both of whom don’t seem to possess much in the way of range), and detest one of them (Samantha Bee; whom I swear used to be funny, but is now just painful to watch). On the other hand, Colbert continues to slay me on a nightly basis. True, his interviews are brutal (Stephen, I love you, but, for Science’s shake, shut the hell up and let people talk), but he nails absolutely everything else. I’ll be honest, when I heard Colbert was leaving TDS, I was disappointed, and when I heard he was going to do an O’Reilly Factor send up, I thought it wouldn’t last six months. Let me now go on the record: I was dead wrong. Should Win out of Those Nominated: Colbert.
Will Win: Colbert, if for no other reason than: he fucking lost to Barry Manilow last year! Come on!!

America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Felicity Huffman,
Desperate Housewives
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Mary-Louise Parker,
Should Have Been Nominated:
Wait, wait, wait...only one DH lead? They do realize that they're are still four leading ladies living on Wisteria Lane, don't they? I feel like I should notify someone. It's not too late! Looking over the (admittedly weak) list of official submissions, I can't really complain about any omission. Couldn't they have included Leah Remini for her riveting work as Stacy Karosi on Saved By The Bell: Summer Season at the Beach as kind of a lifetime achievement sorta thing? Any takers? Also, am I correct in assuming that SBTB was altogether ineligible for the Emmys in its heyday? If so, that seems kind of unfair. It wasn't a soap opera, so it couldn't have competed in the Daytime Emmys, which, I guess, only leaves the Teen Choice Awards (and, let's be honest, there's only room for so many decorative surfboards in Mark-Paul Gosselar's trophy room...).
Should Win out of Those Nominated: Tina Fey. By quite a wide margin. But, hey, why should that matter?
Will Win: Ferrara. Meh. Much to my disappointment, it appears to Ugly Betty's world, and we're just living in it. Wake me up when they decide to seriously contest categories like this one. My best guess? 2010 or so.

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Steve Carell, The Office
Ricky Gervais, Extras
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

Should Have Been Nominated:
Zach Braff, Scrubs; Jason Lee, My Name is Earl--is this because they're Scientologists? Braff isn't, you say? My bad.
Should Win Out of Those Nominated: Monk's still on the air? Wow. Who knew that a near-crippling case of OCD could be mined for so much comedy? My thoughts on > 2 Men are well documented, so I'll leave it alone here. So, again, the field can be immediately narrowed to three. If my source (link) is to be believed, Baldwin--somehow--did not submit his sensational turn in "Jack-Tor" (This scene is just too good), instead opting for a fairly forgettable performance in "Hiatus," one of the weaker episodes of the year. Disconcerting. First, Baldwin is given back his cell privileges leading to the whole "rude pig" incident (People, if I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times, he's not to be let near the phone--he's got no impulse control!), then he tries to get out of his 30 Rock contract, and now this. Sounds to me like it's time for a Team Baldwin shake-up. Carell also managed to undersell himself this year, submitting the good-but-not-great "Business School," instead of, say, "Gay Witch Hunt" or "The Job." Only Gervais--one of those clever Brits--managed to submit the right episode (the aforementioned "Sir Ian McKellen"). Based on the ridiculous "one episode rule," this would have to go to Gervais, but who should win? Even though I think his character kind of tapered off as the season wound down (which isn't his fault so much as the writers'), Baldwin as Jack Donaghy gets my vote this year.
Will Win: Because they'll want 30 Rock to have something to show for this night (face facts: it's going to get clobbered by Ugly Betty everywhere else), Baldwin might get it here, but I get the feeling that they'll throw this one Carell's way. For some reason, I thought he won last year (he didn't--must have been the Globes--it went to Shaloub for the second consecutive year), so this can serve as a make up.

1. They Make Remarkably Poor Decisions on a Yearly Basis. This isn't so much a beef with the process as a statement of fact. When I thought that voters looked at a single episode of each series before making their picks, I had a whole rant prepared to the effect there's absolutely no way that any sane/remotely humour-inclined person would put five sitcom episodes ahead of HIMYM's "Slap Bet," that the whole nomination process was just an elaborate sham before the usual suspects were trotted out as the actual nominees. Now that I've done some research (turns out that you need to submit
six episodes for the first round of voting. Then the ten shows that are shortlisted submit one episode for the second round, where the five nominees are selected) I...still think it's a sham. If anything, the six episode rule should weed out inferior shows that got lucky with a single gem. (Case in point, I once caught an episode of "The Shield" about a captured serial killer--it was called "Strays," I think--that was absolutely mesmirizing. I couldn't believe how good the writing was. But, any other episodes I've watched since then--a handful at most--have been fairly ordinary. How can that be? Well, it turns out that the episode was a once-off guest written by the one and only David Mamet, thus accounting for the cerebral quality of the script.) And yet HIMYM didn't even fucking make the first cut! I'm not even sure what to say about that egregious error--it's just bad judgment.

The Office
30 Rock
Two and a Half Men
Ugly Betty

Should Win (or Should Have Been Nominated): For once, I'll be diplomatic: they got it 40% right here. 30 Rock and The Office definitely belong; good riddance to the rest as far as I'm concerned. In their place: HIMYM (which deserves to win), Extras, and Scrubs or My Name is Earl. Inexplicably, MNIE submitted one of the few outright clunkers of the year ("Robbed A Stoner Blind"--featuring Christian Slater in full "you are actually paying me for this, right?" mode), instead of a more charming episode (like the Norm MacDonalrd ep) or the brilliant COPS! ep. I'm going to have to crib Bill Simmons' VP of Common Sense idea here--couldn't these shows, like, hire a consultant to tell them what might give them an edge? This seems like a no-brainer.
Should Win out of Those Nominated: Again, I don't watch Betty--but, not to worry, I find the idea positively adorable (isn't she just the sweetest thing? Awwww.). Entourage is seriously stumbling and I'm not the only one to notice. So far as I can tell, each episode follows this exact formula:

[Minute 1 - 20] Crisis situation introduced, potential disaster looms
[Minute 21] Everything is miraculously resolved by Ari/E/Dennis Hopper's Assisant Failing to Place a Bet, everything seems fine
[Minute 22] The But what if everything ISN'T FINE??? moment
[Minute 23] Credits.

The only episode that I can recall that does follow this convention was the exceedingly shitty season finale, which introduced the following wrinkle:

[Minute 22.5] Everything is not, in fact, fine.
[Minute 22.75] Ahaha, that's hilarious. Let's go watch Drama make awkward love to his new girlfriend on the beach--can you believe this guy? He's a machine.
[Minute 23] Credits.

Needless to say, this was unsatisfying. The Office and 30 Rock, on the other hand, delivered the goods week in and week out. Of the two, I'd say that 30 Rock was a bit more consistently funny (though the last third of the season definitely did not match the A+ rating the first two-thirds of the season got). Because of that, it gets the nod from me (although both are clearly deserving ).
Will Win: come on, you know just as well as I do that it'll be...Ugly Betty.

Wow...I actually thought that would be way more fun.


RT Murphy said...

I posted my comment as an entry on my blog, as it ran long.

Is there a part 3 in the works?

Mark P said...

1. Even I gave up on Apprentice during series five. Did the British guy win?

2. One of the strong points of the Emmys is that unlike the Oscars, it can reward lots of talent, just not always immediately. For example, the Oscars had only one chance to give best picture to Brokeback Mountain. The Emmys, however, have several chances to give awards to shows and actors they miss the first time around. So yeah, it sucks that weak series have won multiple awards while the likes of Sopranos and Seinfeld only got one award each, but at least they got on the board. Better that than suffer the fate of Veronica Mars, Buffy, or a hundred other qualify shows that never got so much as a nomination.

3. Golden Girls was a hilarious show. I have no problem with those Emmy wins. I think the Cheers producers can sleep at night, given how they won four other Best Comedy Emmys. I was never too high on Family Ties --- it wasn't as solid a show from top to bottom as it was Michael J. Fox hoisting the thing on his back like a pack mule.

4. Most jaw-dropping Emmy snub? I think it has to be Jason Alexander never winning for Seinfeld.

RT Murphy said...

A somewhat briefer take on the Emmys, largely coincidental with yours. I am reminded that Deadwood has been almost completely panned (and effectively was), which to me is completely inexcusable.

theavantridiculous said...

Great review. Here's a brief analysis of TV's newest aesthetic, beginning, I believe, with "The Larry Sanders Show": The Doc-Com Era

janes said...

I first heard about American Dad back when the pilot was first aired during the super bowl half time. I heard it was great and when I finally saw the cartoon I instantly fell in love with the show. I have heard a few people say that this is a straight up rip off of Family Guy.Catch it Download American Dad here..