Tag Archives: Sons of Anarchy

T.G.I.F. – Ten Emmy Thumbs

That’s thumbs both up and down, as it looks like the voting academy finally started to recognize that basic cable programs are pretty much kicking TV’s ass right now. Yes, Mad Men had gotten tons of accolades (and deservedly so), but TNT, FX and USA have been pumping out quality programming with interesting characters and solid casts without getting their due. I’m still burning over the fact that The Shield got their attention in the first season but then fell off their radar after that despite six seasons that raised the bar every year. But we shouldn’t cry over spilt blood.

This year’s list of nominees did provide some surprising nods that put a big smile on my face. But as always, there were some jaw-dropping announcements that just made me shake my head. So for this week’s TGIF, how about Ten Emmy Thumbsfive up and five down?

(01)Justified: Walton Goggins got screwed over so many times on The Shield that I lost count, and I was afraid that his dynamic performance on Justified was going to be overlooked as well. But thankfully voters woke up and nominated him along with series lead Timothy Olyphant and the amazing Margo Martindale (who might have given the single best performance on television this year).

(02)Louis CK: Not only did he grab nods for his show and his acting, but his comedy special picked up two nods as well. Denis Leary had to watch The Job get ignored before hitting it big with Rescue Me; let’s hope Lucky Louie opened the door for a long ride with Louie.

(03)The Good Wife: a strong show that appeals to men and women, and Alan Cumming got a well-deserved nomination along with star Julianne Margulies.

(04)Robot Chicken: Some of the absolutely gut-bustingly funniest shows on TV are buried in the Adult Swim section of the Cartoon Network. Seth Green continues to amaze.

(05)Parks And Recreation: The pendulum on Thursday’s NBC comedy block has clearly swung to the newer half of the evening, with Community and P&R really stepping up their game. Amy Poehler is great but Nick Offerman should have been a no-brainer nominee.

(06) – Um…where are the nominations for The Closer, Castle, The Walking Dead, Treme, Fringe and just about anything sci-fi related?

(07)Modern Family – great show with a great cast. But did every single adult cast member deserve a nod? You couldn’t slide in anyone from Community or Parks and Recreation? Have you not seen Children’s Hospital?

(08) – Category Blunders! Since when is SNL a comedy series and not a variety show? Kristin Wiig gets a supporting comedy actress nod? Hosts of the show are guest actors? How about people like Mary McConnell and Cloris Leachman, who are cast members in the shows they were nominated for as guests?

(09)The Good Wife – like Modern Family, a good show, but let’s get real. Christine Baranski and Josh Charles are good actors, but…the best? There are at least ten people on Sons of Anarchy alone that blew them out of the water, and that show was completely overlooked again this year

(10)Mariska Hartigay. Really? Really?

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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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Lights Out!

It appears that FX has done it again.

Lights Out is a 13-episode story about Patrick “Lights Out” Leary, a former heavyweight champ who retired five years before but still has the itch. Not the itch an Evander Holyfield feels, a twitch in a man who doesn’t know when to quit, but a guy who walked away from it all after a controversial split decision stalled his career. His corner, including his trainer father, urged him to back off in the final round and win on points instead of going for the knockout. His med student wife, stitching him up in the dressing room after one too many beatings, tells him to make a choice between the ring and the family.  

He followed his family’s advice on both counts, but the decisions haunt him daily. Outwardly he tries to play the happily retired guy, cooking breakfast for his daughters and helping out at the gym, and you can see that he has talked himself into accepting this. But his world starts to crash – finances are not what they seem, his family lives far beyond their means, and by the time he realizes that the slope is slippery, it’s too late. No longer the champ, suffering the slight but initial effects of brain damage, he’s a square peg outside the ring. And the offers he’s getting to generate a little cash are anything but above-board. (Yes, he lives in Bayonne, New Jersey…)

Lights is played by Holt McCallany, whose very name infers toughness. One article compared his performance to the first time you saw James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano or Jon Hamm as Don Draper. A bit early for canonization, but I don’t think even the most ebullient is trying to place this show on a mantle alongside The Sopranos or Mad Men. Rather they are correctly noting that the lead actor has that instant charisma and natural charm; a presence that exudes mystery, power and secrets. Even if he might not literally be a good guy, you are (ahem) in his corner from the first scene. Like the aforementioned famous actors, McCallany has been banging around for a while, but seemingly has stumbled into the role of a lifetime. He is pitch-perfect as the man lost outside his comfort zone; juggling debt, health issues, self-doubt and the undesirable elements that circle that world.

I have rarely seen as many online ads for a new TV show as I have for Lights Out this week; perhaps FX is trying to make up for the disastrous campaign for Terriers. That show – almost universally recognized as excellent – had to build from almost nothing thanks to the symbolic but misleading promos.

I’ve only seen the pilot episode – I’m not the “A-list” guy who gets an advance 5-pack from the network – but it’s clearly way deeper than “a boxing series”. If it stays this good, you can file it alongside Justified, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy as another edgy, daring television show made for adults. Adults who are approached as intelligent viewers who can follow the threads and nuances of the characters and the plot. I hope enough viewers return the favor and step up to the challenge.

Or you can always Live To Dance.

Episode Guide at TV.COM

Official website at FX watch the excellent backstory video

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Golden Globe and BCFA Nominations

Who knew The Tourist was a comedy?

That’s right, it isn’t – it’s a thriller. But that didn’t stop the Hollywood Foreign Press Association from nominating their man-crush, Johnny Depp, as Best Actor in a Comedy for his role in the film.

(Maybe the movie is so bad it was laughable?)

At least they got some things right, like finally nominating Katey Sagal for her career-best performance in Sons Of Anarchy (although the show itself and the rest of the cast got blanked) and remembering to include Mark Wahlberg as a nominee for The Fighter. The Broadcast Film Critics didn’t, even when nominating the film, screenplay and the rest of the principal cast (individually and as Best Ensemble!) and despite many of the categories being expanded to six nominees. Really? Were there that many ties?

The 16th annual Broadcast Film Critics awards, announced yesterday, will be presented on January 14th. Two of the toughest categories will be Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Renner and Christain Bale likely battling it out) and Best Documentary, where excellent entries range from the overdue and  heartfelt Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work to the somber subjects of Restrepo and The Tillman Story.

The 68th annual Golden Globe awards, announced this morning, will be presented on January 16th. Glad to see that Laura Linney got some props for The Big C as well as Kevin Spacey for his work in Casino Jack. But way, way too many oversights and mistakes for my tastes.

The Screen Actors Guild nominees will be announced Thursday.

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Prodigal Sons Return

Come along for the ride

I”m sad to see summer end, and with it a few very enjoyable shows, none more than the off-the-charts comedy Louie. But the sounding of September’s bells also brings the return of the “regular season” shows, those that arc in the familiar Fall time frame. Near the top of my list is the biker drama Sons of Anarchy, which I previously wrote about as the perfect hybrid of a Shakespeare play and a Western.

Last season’s plot featured the dynamic performances of Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins playing against the main cast (strong in its own right with a mix of seasoned veterans and intriguing lesser known actors); frankly it will be hard to top. Creator Kurt Sutter hints that there will be some time spent in Belfast as the Sons pursue the fleeing IRA gun runner, which hopefully means more appearances by his boss, played by the wonderful Titus Welliver. Tonight’s opening salvo also indicated we might get to see more of Jeff Kober (China Beach) whose career has shown he can play twisted as well as anyone.

Even the small subtle parts of this show are top-notch. What other show could sell a version of a Herman’s Hermits hit (“No Milk Today”) as the score for a dramatic montage? But like the best shows (Homicide, The Shield) the use of music has always been a strong suit for SOA; hearing Richard Thompson during the closing scene was icing on the cake.

During tonight’s episode I had a fleeting thought that this was going to be a season where damaged, weepy Jax became a neutered man (hinted at even in the scene where he hesitates when the Sons are headed to the boat launch; Clay asks “Are you with us?”). That chance was crushed like a skull at the end of the show in a shocking and violent scene.

Revenge is a powerful dramatic motivator, as is desperation. When a man feels he has nothing left to lose, who is he? Does he become his purest essence, good or bad? Or does he become merely a vessel for his dominant emotion?

Sutter has just dealt the cards, and once again I’m all in.

Sons of Anarchy official website

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Emmy Nominations – Not Bad!

Shiny objects distract me.

 

The 62nd Annual Emmy Awards take place at the end of August but the announcements were made this week. Normally that’s great timing for television networks because their seasons are done and they need to attract attention to themselves and away from the summer blockbuster movies. 

But things have changed – basic cable has flexed its muscles in recent years, and proven powerhouses like The Closer, Mad Men and Rescue Me have just started their seasons. More shows have followed suit, and frankly White Collar and Louie are as entertaining as anything the networks have launched during the traditional season. And now that DVRs and TiVo are commonplace, there’s no longer a concern about weak numbers from failing to lure viewers inside on a nice summer night. 

Perhaps for that reason the networks seemed to be willing to take some chances last year – the Jay Leno 10pm debacle aside – and the voters seem to have responded. Like the Oscars, voters have tended to lean towards veteran shows, some nominations seemingly for a prior oversight or a body of work rather than the eligible time period. But this year freshman hits Modern Family and Glee dominated the nominations, although the multiple acting nominees might split the votes and give the advantage to the other actors. 

Omissions aplenty, like Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) and even Ed O’Neill on Modern Family. And my hopes of Better Off Ted getting its post-mortem due were crushed. But I was happy to see unexpected nods for unheralded and solid work, especially Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age) and both Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler for Friday Night Lights. And the final season of Lost did not go unnoticed, although it’s a shame that Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn can’t both win a statue. 

Looking at all the categories I was astounded at the level of detail. Awards for best single camera editing on a reality series? Best hair styling in a drama? Best commercial? But I’m glad to see categories like Best Casting, a reward hopefully for a solid ensemble show where everybody just looks right  (even if there are several glaring omissions). 

Here’s some of the major nominees and a link to the official Emmy website listing all the categories. I’ll make my predictions closer to the date. 

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 

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(F)X Marks the Spot

Louis C.K. is back on television and thank God for that!

Lucky Louie, his prior cable show that infused his comedy writing into a lewd and hysterical sitcom, proved to be too much for people. Their loss! The cast (Pamela Adlon, Rick Shapiro and several great fellow comics) was perfect, and his knack for putting himself into extremely awkward situations was both bold and hilarious.

Louie, the new show, merges clips of his stand-up performance with related filmed set-ups, which is not a new idea (think Seinfeld if the clips were used within the show instead of just bumpers). But Louis is an extremely watchable actor who convincingly sells uncomfortable and cringe-worthy. The material is based on his own life;  I sure hope he’s embellishing the bad parts.

Great to see fellow comics like Jim Norton, Nick DiPaolo and Eddie Brill onboard as well (I could watch a “poker scene” every week just to let these guys riff) and Chelsea Peretti was great as the date from hell. But the better part of the show is simply Louis on stage, showing why he might just be the best stand-up comic we have right now. Not to mention prolific – this year should also see the release of yet another CD and DVD of fresh material.

Personally I enjoy the blend of stand-up and filmed segments – Louis C.K. writes, directs, edits and produces the entire thing, so it’s a pretty consistently funny experience. But if you’re the type who enjoys the stand-up routines but hates the vignettes that set them up, Videogum is the site for you – they’ve parsed the stage material.

Bonus: hearing “Brother Louie” as the theme song every week!

***

Rescue Me is also back for its final season, although the decision was made to split the episodes between 2010 and 2011, with the closing of the show set to coincide with the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

 The first episode picks up after the pseudo-cliffhanger from last year (did anyone really think they were going to kill Tommy Gavin?) and uses the hour to re-introduce most of the central and recurring characters, most of whom have finally had their fill of Tommy. Haunted by his personal failures – and still haunted by his dead cousin – Gavin is somehow still on the precipice of a further fall even when seemingly at rock bottom. His wife might be finding solace with one of his crew, his daughter might be following in his footsteps, and his workplace might be closing, the victim of budget cuts and politics.

When the show first aired, there was a solid dose of homage to the fallen heroes from 9/11 and an emphasis on what is was all about to be a firefighter. As seasons progressed it became more about the humor and pathos of the firefighters’ personal lives (much like The Job spent less and less time at the police station), but anyone who knows good television cans ee an arc of redemption on the way. Will Tommy Gavin have to sink lower before rising to the occasion? Do bears shit in the woods?

Leary has always been loyal to his friends and associates, so thankfully that results in a lot of face time for Adam Ferrara and especially the great Lenny Clarke, whose Uncle Teddy character has shown he’s not shy about firing a sidearm. Also great to welcome back the luminous Andrea Roth, note-perfect as his exasperated (and smoking-hot) wife Janet.

I like Denis Leary the stand-up, but I really like Denis Leary the actor/producer/writer a lot more. He’s two-for-two already and I hope he and partner Peter Tolan have more concepts up their sleeves for 2012 and beyond.

Just two more home runs for FX, arguably the best channel on TV the past couple of years. And only a couple of more months before It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Sons of Anarchy return.

Louie

Rescue Me

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