Tag Archives: 30 Rock

Emmy Time!

And you thought Justice was blind?

Wow – looks like Emmy might have gotten a few things right for a change.

With Breaking Bad being out of the mix this year, does that open Best Actor? Will the old guard hold court or will the new shows start knocking off the dinosaurs? Will long running but Emmy-less favorites who are leaving shows get the sentimental vote as recognition for previous oversights?

HBO pulled in a whopping 104 nominations. The next most was CBS with 50.

Basic cable is in the house! Do they have a chance?

Here is the list of nominees. Tomorrow’s TGIF will look at the worthy nominees and the glaring omissions.

Snark attack!

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NBC Spikes The Ball

Back in the 80’s, Thursday Night was “must see TV” on NBC with the comedy block of The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers and Night Court  leading into Hill Street Blues. Later on, Seinfeld and Friends were anchors that bookended a myriad of other followers – some successful (Will and Grace, Frasier), some not (Joey, The Naked Truth). Eventually it seemed like the concept had run its course.

But it’s clear – at least in my house – that the comedy block of 30 Rock, Community, Parks and Recreation and The Office is and has been worthy of the “must see TV” crown. While it’s unclear how The Office will survive the loss of Steve Carrell, the final episodes provided many great options (including a genuine cliffhanger!) and it certainly has more gas in the tank. Ditto 30 Rock, which continues to be consistently well-written, although it’s becoming clear that some storylines are more dependable than others. But with a gaggle of recurring guest stars like Jon Hamm, Matt Damon and Dean Winters dropping by, brilliance is constantly right around the corner.

But this season proved that Community and Parks and Recreation can hang with the big boys. Community’s pop culture parodies are so clever and so deep that it takes multiple viewings to pick up every double-entendre, sight gag and trivial reference they’re layering into each script. And the cast on Parks and Recreation might just be the best comedy ensemble of them all; the show has skyrocketed after the growing pains of their inaugural season. Now we’re adding Whitney Cummings to the mix? Yowsa!

I’m going to have a lot more spare time now that these shows have completed their seasons, but it’s nice to know that among the annoying celebretard reality programs and the absurd elimination contest shows, there’s still room for well-scripted, well-acted prime time comedy. Kudos, NBC.

That's what HE said.

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Ricky Gervais: Golden Balls

Thank God for Ricky Gervais, even if Ricky is an athiest.

Gervais, as he did last year, relentlessly skewered any pretense of dignity that some think the event has. Although it has been elevated to major award status, the fact remains that it’s just one more opportunity for Hollywood to pat itself on the back and ensure global domination of its main export, the American film. So widespread is its reputation for bribery, favoritism and hero-worship that even Robert DeNiro took several shots at the HFPA when receiving its highest honor.

I had to laugh when reading reports this morning chastising Gervais for being irreverent and mean-spirited, and I was astounded to see that some didn’t even find him funny. Are you kidding me? Aside from a couple of good podium moments (David Fincher, Jane Lynch) and two good introductory bits (Robert Downey Jr. and the always-gold Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin combination) the show was an insufferable snore-fest. When he was off-screen for close to an hour, the show dragged. There were no huge upsets in the film categories (Paul Giamatti and Melissa Leo being the closest thing to surprises) and as usual the attendees were more interested in socializing between announcements than paying attention to the proceedings. If they’re not focused, why should I be?

Ah, but when Gervais was at the podium, they had to focus, because he’s fearless; you never know what he’s going to say and when. Are people really upset that he inferred that Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. have had personal issues? Was poking fun at some of the turkeys in a film resume really that insulting to a famous actor? And the joke about the omission of Jim Carrey’s performance in I Love You Philip Morris was brilliant; a one-two punch that savaged the voting board for its inconsistent temerity regarding homosexuality and launched a dig at pushy Scientology salesmen Tom Cruise and John Travolta

Also not nominated: I Love You, Philip Morris. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. Two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. Sort of the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists then…My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke.”

Most of the celebrities seemed to get it; Downey countered with a great quote (“Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn’t you?“) and even long-suffering Office doppelgänger Steve Carell dutifully played the fall guy for what must be the hundredth time. Only the HFPA President seemed truly miffed – or maybe his comic delivery just sucks – but I think he has bigger problems than a temporary insult most people will forget faster than they forgot his name. Perhaps those who didn’t laugh prove the old adage that “the truth hurts“, because the Sex In The City actresses are long in the tooth, Cher is not a hot commodity in 2011, and Tim Allen, nice guy that he is, doesn’t have a resume like that of Tom Hanks.

But there were some painful moments, too. I love Robert DeNiro, and few actors have had the kind of career he has assembled (even discounting most of the past decade). But anyone who has seen him on Saturday Night Live knows that he is abysmal when reading cue cards, especially when it is comic lines obviously written by someone else. It started awkwardly enough, dove into some racist territory and ended with a fairly creepy reference to Megan Fox. Within the speech there were some pretty great barbs deflating the HFPA, but it was as painful to watch as…well…Little Fockers, for one.

The biggest surprises of the evening were on the TV side of the fence; 30 Rock going home empty-handed, Modern Family losing to Glee (when their sophomore seasons have been such polar opposites, quality wise) and the lovely but absent Laura Linney grabbing the honor for The Big C. I was thrilled that Chris Colfer won for Glee; they handed him the ball this year and he really ran with it. Ditto Katey Sagal – not only finally getting noticed for her amazing work on Sons of Anarchy, but getting to take home the award.

The Observer from Fringe alongside Edgar Winter

So how did I do? Seven out of ten, but missing on three biggies. I guess the best movie can’t direct itself, but I think Nolan’s film was a superior effort. Loved seeing humble Colin Firth win, although if he stuttered during his speech that would have been much funnier. And I’m thankful that Natalie Portman won but was surprised by Paul Giamatti’s win, although he’s always good for a great speech, even when they censor the first ten seconds of it. The censors were uneven with their cut-offs and their music cues, but what the hell, I’ll be back next year to watch.

If the HFPA has even one-tenth the balls that Gervais does, so will Ricky.

The list of nominees and winners is here.

Here’s a link to a great page that lists the major category winners for the Critic Associations and provides a schedule for (and links to) all of the award ceremonies. Next up are the BAFTA nominations on Tuesday, with the Academy Award nominations the week after.

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Post-Emmy Thoughts

Visit the official Emmy website for a list of the winners.

  • Jimmy Fallon, you did great. That opening number will go down as one of the funniest and best kickoffs in the history of the telecast. You were funny throughout the night without being overbearing and milked that child-like innocence for all it was worth. And the musical impressions were pure gold.
  • Although I was pulling for Terry O’Quinn to be recognized for his incredible work on Lost, I can’t argue with the award to Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad. I felt he should have won before, and it’s great to see that his peers recognized his efforts; so many other actors would have made Jesse Pinkman a caricature.
  • Now that Bryan Cranston’s incredibly dramatic chops aren’t catching anyone off guard, I wonder how many will look back and realize just how much he deserved the award for his work on Malcolm In The Middle?
  • It looks like 30 Rock hit the wall across the board – the show and leads Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin were collecting statues like clockwork but all three got shut out last night. I wonder if people are taking that show for granted already?
  • Ricky Gervais proved again that every awards show needs to have him on stage for at least five minutes. Again, the funniest man in the room.
  • If you told me that two people would stand up in the audience and take bows, I never would have come up with Temple Grandin and Jack Kevorkian. Never.
  • Jorge Garcia and Jon Hamm during the “Born To Run” clip – priceless. (Hurley and Hamm does have a ring to it…)
  • Claire Danes is starting to resemble Lauren Bacall.
  • The Tweets sucked the life out of the moment anytime they were read. Dump the idea.
  • Mad Men is an unstoppable force. Ensembles do rule.
  • Tom Selleck looked like Gregory Peck in The Boys From Brazil.
  • Usually those songs played during the Memorium sequence can be pretty lame, but I thought Jewel did a nice job. Might actually be the best song I’ve heard from her in years (not that I’m actively listening…)
  • Some of the “we asked them this question” film clips were beyond painful, but the one with Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd mocking the Old Spice man on a horse commercial was genius.
  • Bucky Gunts!!
  • January Jones looked like a Christmas ornament. And I’ll bet any hetero man in the first three rows – assuming there were any – appreciated the view.
  • Archie Panjabi as Best Supporting Actress over Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks?. Are you kidding me?
  • But the absolute MVP of the night has to go to John Hodgman, who did the hilarious voice-overs again this year. They were hysterical in their own right and make you realize just how stodgy and lame and unimaginative most award shows are. Too bad he couldn’t have scripted everything the presenters were told to say.

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Emmy Time

Jimmy Fallon proves he is *not* a Vulcan.

I’ve really turned the corner on Jimmy Fallon. 

Truthfully, he used to annoy the hell out of me on SNL, but then most of that regime usually did. Jimmy always seemed sloppy and amateurish, laughing at this own jokes, but then again I hated Tina Fey always repeating the punch lines to her jokes when doing the news. Time heals

It’s refreshing to see someone who knows he has a long road to the top be willing to take some chances and be genuinely thrilled to be in the late night hunt. I got that from Conan O’Brien when he first started under duress, and it’s one of the characteristics that has made Craig Ferguson so endearing. 

So I’m excited to see what Jimmy will bring to the big stage at the Emmy Awards  tonight. I’m hoping a good dose of irreverence, since this is such a self-congratulatory event. But there has been a pretty big paradigm shift in television, from the power struggles in late night to who is behind the successful money-making comedies. The dynamic is younger and hipper, and that’s his audience and his peer base. 

In the meantime, some wishes for some of the major categories – my ballot for whom I’d like to win, not who I think will win. 

It’s going to be interactive tonight – tweets, emails, IMs, live blogs. Since I have a life, I’ll defer my reactions to it all until tomorrow

 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper
Larry David as Himself
Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester
Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk
Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy  

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Bryan Cranston as Walter White

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan
Kyle Chandler as Eric Taylor
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House
Matthew Fox as Jack Shephard
Jon Hamm as Don Draper  

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Lea Michele as Rachel Berry
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell
Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon
Toni Collette as Tara Gregson  

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson
Glenn Close as Patty Hewes
Connie Britton as Tami Taylor
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick
Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson
January Jones as Betty Draper  

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel
Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker
Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy
Jon Cryer as Alan Harper  

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman
Martin Short as Leonard Winstone
Terry O’Quinn as John Locke
Michael Emerson as Ben Linus
John Slattery as Roger Sterling
Andre Braugher as Owen  

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy
Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett
Kristen Wiig as Various Characters
Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney
Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper  

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen
Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons
Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma
Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart
Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson  

Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm • HBO
Glee • FOX
Modern Family • ABC
Nurse Jackie • Showtime
The Office • NBC
30 Rock • NBC  

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad • AMC
Dexter • Showtime
The Good Wife • CBS
Lost • ABC
Mad Men • AMC
True Blood • HBO 

Remembering Katrina, five years ago. People *still* need help.

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Second City, Twice

It’s probably just a coincidence that Eli and I were talking about SCTV the other day, because she had no way of knowing I had just picked up a couple of books about The Second City (one about the history of the theatre; the other about the television show).

I hadn’t planned on reporting for Jury Duty on the first day of Summer, but having been through the drill before I knew that I’d probably have to kill a little bit of time. As it turned out, it was a good thing I brought both books.

The first was one I had read before, an insider’s recollection by Dave Thomas about the show, the cast, and how it all came together called SCTV Behind The Scenes. Thomas weaves personal observations with interviews with others into an engaging narrative about the origins of the program as well as the camaraderie – and sometimes rivalries – between the cast members. In doing so he is unflinchingly honest about his own myopia and drive which sometimes placed him at odds with fellow actors and staff while trying to put the show first.

There’s a lot of inside peeks at the process of turning writing sessions into post-produced pieces for air; how despite comparisons to Saturday Night Live the shows were really apples and oranges; how dedicated behind-the-scenes people from makeup artists to producers were usually in way over their head but delivered anyway. Despite the incredible difficulties involved in staging and (mostly) selling the show, their ability to self-create in a vacuum without regard for ratings or network input led to what most of them consider the artistic peak of their careers.

Behind The Scenes is already fifteen years old but still a wonderful read and a must for any SCTV fan. It’s a vivid reminder of how blessed we were to have a company with such creative minds cranking out truly original material. There’s a great essay from Conan O’Brien where he describes the impact the show had upon him. He felt for the first time that a comedy program was speaking directly to him while refusing to dumb it down for the masses; it was a logic that he would carry forward and use in his own career. (And his story about first meeting John Candy is both funny and a heart-warming tribute to both men.)

Unscripted, written by Mike Thomas (A Chicago journalist, no apparent relation to Dave) is a 2009 book that presents a fascinating history of the Second City theatre framed within quotes from its creators and participants. Although the Chicago side of the story dominates – as it should – Thomas pays great tribute to the Toronto establishment and sheds light on the many road shows and other city-based affiliates.

If you’ve read Live From New York by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller – among the best tomes on Saturday Night Live – you’ll be familiar with the structure that Unscripted utilizes. Both authors conducted a bevy of interviews and weave quotes and anecdotes from the insiders to tell a chronological story. It’s an effective technique – as if a group of famous people are gathered in one room and they decided to tell you the history of their theatre in a round-robin format.

And we’re talking famous people.  A fifty year history, from early stars like Alan Arkin,  David Steinberg and Robert Klein to the recent TV pipeline of comedians Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. Most of the better cast members from Saturday Night Live. Ensembles from classic sitcoms from Cheers to 30 Rock. Actors like Peter Boyle. Stand-up comics like Joan Rivers. Of course, many will gravitate towards the bittersweet stories of the departed legends John Belushi, Chris Farley, and John Candy as well as famous stars like Bill Murray and Mike Myers who parlayed their improv training into huge careers. The list of Second City alumni is daunting.

But Thomas also lets us get to know about important innovators like Del Close, Bernard Salkins, Andrew Alexander and Joyce Sloan, whose work behind the scenes saved the company many times over. It’s great storytelling, albeit using the words of others. I laughed out loud several times, caught up in everything from great backstage anecdotes to quotes that just killed me. (My favorite – one performer recalling that a sketch bombed so badly “you could hear a mouse shit!”)

It’s fun to read about Second City and its history, but it’s great to know we can take in a live performance and revisit the brilliant television show on DVD.

Info about Unscripted at the Mike Thomas webpage.

Dave Thomas Wiki page

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TV or not TV?

Get back here and WATCH ME, dammit!!

It’s been an interesting year for television.

With ratings sinking, cheap reality programming gaining traction and a couple of long-running landmark programs coming to an end, the landscape for the next year or two might be a complete crapshoot. 

Although I don’t spend my time wallowing in celebrity gossip, I do find the machinations of the television industry fascinating. And this year has been particularly bizarre, with the whole Leno/Conan debacle the biggest story of the year – unless you want to separate Leno’s return to The Tonight Show from the single greatest disaster in prime time history. Ironic that Jay would make Headlines wither way. 

"Man single-handedly kills 15 hours of broadcasting"

Somehow The Simpsons keeps rolling along, South Park remains controversial and long running franchises Law And Order and CSI Wherever multiply like rabbits. Networks try to feed us more copycat cop crap, lame lawyer shows and miserable medical dramas. When they come up with something original (FlashForward) or even a reinvention of a past success (V) they forget that a complex serialized drama can’t have a huge gap in its schedule or momentum will be lost. (And speaking of Lost, someone at ABC couldn’t even understand the concept of  the phrase “uniterrupted schedule”, choosing to air a repeat episode April 25th). 

Fox has announced that 24 is ending this season, no doubt largely in part to the high cost of the program. But they hit the jackpot with Glee, and hopefully will pour some American Idol profit into keeping the wonderful Fringe alive. NBC looks like it might finally have a Thursday night comedy block again (Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock) but is scrambling to replace the third of their schedule that The Jay Leno Show wiped out. If ABC drops it’s two high-priced sci-fi shows and cancels Heroes, they virtually  concede Monday and Tuesday nights; only Castle and Modern Family have broken the mold of celebretard programming. CBS might have found a winner in The Good Wife but the network is still more likely to clone a show than create one. 

 It’s not all hopeless. USA came up with a winner in White Collar which should help ease the loss of Monk.  Friday Night Lights returns this week thanks to the cost-sharing deal between NBC and DirecTV, whereby DirecTV gets to air the series on pay TV in the Fall, then NBC gets to air it on broadcast TV in the Spring. (Maybe that strategy can save shows like Damages and Southland; adult oriented drama that doesn’t pull vampire numbers in the ratings.) 

And the summer brings us basic cable winners like The Closer and Rescue Me and Mad Men as the more nimble basic cable channels like TNT, AMC and FX counter-program the dead season. Elmore Leonard on television is a good thing.  Louis C.K. on television is a good thing. 

If the smaller channels can get it right…why can’t the major networks? Pretty soon it’s all going to be internet television anyway, so the smart and savvy will survive. There is still a large audience that wants great storytelling and well-written comedy

But every year I still cringe when brilliant shows get cancelled. Watching the slow death of Better Off Ted was reminiscent of Arrested Development’s demise, only accelerated. And why would you have a show called The Unusuals and not let it be…unusual? But I could just be bitter. Hell, I still haven’t forgiven CBS for cancelling EZ Streets. 

There are a few excellent resources for those of you looking into that crystal ball wondering what’s happening with your favorite shows…or with the schedule in general. You’ll probably want to bookmark them. The week of May 17th might be D-Day for many of these programs as the networks finish Sweeps and sharpen the axes.

 

The Futon Critic is an excellent resource for TV news and even includes this handy guide to how many episodes are left for each program. Shows are listed by network in a cancel/renewal status grid  (note that a lot of them are TBD). 

The aptly named Is My Show Cancelled site focuses on just that very thing. 

TV By The Numbers takes a more statistical approach to the situation, tracking ratings on a daily basis and making some predictions based upon trends and historical decision points.

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