Tag Archives: The Shield

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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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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Get LOST, Again

The Lost Supper

It’s about time. 

It’s time for LOST to put up or shut up, and hopefully it will be the former not the latter. The creators have insisted that they have had the endgame in place since the very first season, and with a negotiated timeline for these past couple of seasons, they have had the opportunity to structure the final path with great precision. Rarely has an episodic show been given that kind of leverage, but I will be the first to admit that they have earned the shot. 

I’m a bit skeptical that the endgame was that specificBen Linus, after all, was initially written as a marginal character. But Michael Emerson’s dynamic performance led to Ben not only getting more screen time but ultimately becoming arguably the central character on the show. So unless the creators simply transferred another character’s storyline onto Ben’s shoulders, an audible was clearly called somewhere in process. 

And I’m fine with that. After suffering through what happened on The X-Files, I’ve been far more skeptical when labyrinthine plots and conspiracy theories are at the center of a program, but it appears that Lost has weaved a pretty airtight mosaic of people and events. It’s amazing to watch early episodes and notice something in the background that resurfaces several episodes (or years later). The X-Files once had a brilliant alien conspiracy theory in place but didn’t invest in the continuity with the same diligence as the fans did, and eventually the logic contradicted itself. The show ultimately backed itself into a corner by presenting two scenarios that could not co-exist, and a loyal fan base was justifiably frustrated and disappointed when no resolution or explanation was delivered. You don’t want to invest that kind of time into anything and be left hanging. 

(Chicago Tribune’s three-part interview with the creators; Maureen Ryan was kind enough to also include a summary of information for those of you with short attention spans.)

And that’s what’s so fascinating about this show. There are people (like me) who have been in deep since the first episode, and others who bailed during the show’s mid-life who have comeback into the fold when the announcement was made that the full story would get to be aired to its conclusion. The excitement for the last season is palpable, from the fan blogs with simple theory posts to incredible websites dedicated to in-depth psychological character evaluations and doctorate-level theses on the symbolism and meaning of the show. The writers and creators of LOST have had the gauntlet thrown down, and they have eighteen hours to pull it off. 

Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have gleefully dispensed tiny clues and hints over the years but are already throwing the caveat out there for the endgame.  Lindelof suggests that “Some people will think it’s enormously satisfying. Other people will think it’s not satisfying enough. It all depends on the way that you watch the show”. Hmmm… 

Will it be frustrating like The Sopranos, or perfect like The Shield? We’ll find out soon enough, but first things first. And don’t forget to tune in tomorrow as the final season starts. 

Wikipedia of Lost episodes. 

Lostpedia  

The Season Premiere is certain to cook up some Big Numbers

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I Like To Watch

"Is there a TV upstairs? I like to watch."

So do a lot of people, apparently. Guess there is a bright side to an economic recession after all.

FOX is claiming its first-ever win in the Nielsen’s for the 4th quarter, as their viewership rose while CBS, NBC and ABC took a slight dip. Of course, FOX has a tendency to lie through their teeth stretch the truth on occasion, but with a lineup including heavyweights House and Bones plus the incredible success of Glee, I tend to believe this. (Plus the numbers came from the Nielsen Ratings…not that those or any other survey are any more accurate than an extrapolated small sample could be.)

And that’s before 24 starts revving its engine next month.

But almost as amazing is the rise in cable viewership and the number of channels setting all-time highs for ratings. FX lost The Shield and Nip/Tuck this year but has two big hits with Damages and Sons of AnarchyThe League also did very well, while It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia had its strongest season to date. AMC killed with Mad Men, of course, and has Breaking Bad coming back.

 USA in particular struck gold with The Closer and the final season of Monk, whose last episode now holds the record for the largest rating ever on basic cable. White Collar, the new series that rode Monk as a lead-in, seems to have charmed viewers as well.

But some disturbing news about one of my favorites, Better Off Ted, where ABC is burning off the remaining new episodes starting this Friday (a/k/a Television’s Graveyard) and then running double episodes on January 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th. Hopefully that’s just to clear the decks for Lost, which starts its final season February 2nd, and will occupy the same night and time slot. Glass half full over here.

Much more information at The Futon Critic.

30 years old this month; still prescient.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten for Adrian Monk

Bye, Monk...and thanks.

After eight seasons, we bid farewell to Adrian Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective created by Andy Breckman and brilliantly portrayed by Tony Shaloub. Clever plots, great writing, humor and pathos and a strong ensemble cast (especially the great Ted Levine as his captain). The San Francisco locales and wonderful Randy Newman theme were a plus to a show that always entertained and managed the rare feat of going out on top.

I’m sure all those reruns will be welcome channel-surfing accidents many times in the future, though a quality show like this certainly merits a buy. It made me recall a few other television sleuths and cops that I enjoyed for so long that now only live on in reruns and DVDs as well.

TV will always churn out a good cop show, and I’m enjoying a few of them this year. Many of them feature strong ensemble casts with many good characters, as do some of the old favorites below. (Really, was there anyone on Homicide or The Shield that wasn’t great?) But today’s ten-spot pays tribute to Monk and these nine other favorites that I used to set the recorder for, great characters no longer on active duty…

Fox Mulder, The X-Files…unfortunately the series choked on its own logic loopholes, but that was must-watch TV for years and I will still stay up to watch a random rerun.

Frank Pembleton, HomicideAndre Braugher‘s cerebral cop suffered a crisis or conscience as well as a physical disability. No slight to several of the other detectives in that room on one of the best shows television ever aired.

Lenny Briscoe, Law and Order…the quintessential NYC cop on the original version of the franchise. The late great Jerry Orbach was a giant.

Andy Sipowicz, NYPD Blue…originally a second banana to David Caruso‘s John Kelly (and Caruso was good on this show), he became the heart and soul of the program. Dennis Franz was every real life cop’s favorite fictional one.

Mike Torello, Crime StoryDennis Farina was a cop in real life, and although this glossy show only lasted two seasons it boasted an amazing cast and an exciting storyline. Tons of guest stars and ensemble players including a very credible turn from Andrew Dice Clay.

John LaRue, Hill Street BluesKiel Martin’s character always had some get-rich-quick scheme going and often fell prey to his weaknesses, but redemption is always a good theme in a police drama and he nailed it… twice.

Arthur Dietrich, Barney Miller…sure, the show was primarily a comedy and Steve Landesberg did more riffing of one liners than actual detective work. But anyone whose dry wit and droll delivery is that perfect is OK by me.

Vinnie Terranova, Wiseguy…Undercover cop, mobster, record label mogul, gun runner; didn’t matter. Ken Wahl brought a strong series to life and was blessed by breakout performances by guest villains Ray Sharkey and Kevin Spacey, among others.

Holland Wagenbach, The Shield…in a precinct full of corrupt cops (most of whom you rooted for), The Dutchman was often the butt of the joke and the target of abuse. But he was the moral center of the unit and a brilliant detective, and once he started to assert himself the character arc got that much more fascinating. Great work by Jay Karnes.

Two reasons I watch The Closer.

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Emmys: Feast or Famine

And you thought Justice was blind?

And you thought Justice was blind?

Trust me, I’m long past letting my blood boil over award show nominations, let alone winners. Whether it’s Al Pacino in Scent of A Woman, or handing over the Best Actor Emmy to possibly the worst lead performance on television for what – three times in four years? – I realize that my tastes do not coincide with the powers that be (especially #2). If they did, the only reality television would be the nightly news.

But since I have to wallow through Rock of Love and According To Jim and Project Runway and Jon and Kate plus Her Bodyguard and His Weekend Affair just to select a channel from the cable menu, I figured I’d let whatever bubble of bile I was able to generate subside and then pick out the biggest miss from the major categories.

Not that there weren’t some astute choices among the nominees Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad, for example – but it seemed like either feast of famine. I love 30 Rock; I think it’s a brilliantly written show and the ensemble cast is excellent. But twenty-two Emmy nominations? And not one single nomination for The Shield?

I’ve been watching television since I was a child, a longer time than I want to admit. And I can tell you without hesitation that Walton Goggins delivered one of the most searing performances I have ever seen – ever – on The Shield as doomed Detective Shane Vendrell. As great as he was for the first five seasons of the show, he raised the bar in the sixth as a man racked by guilt and pain. Then – amazingly – he raised it again for the final season as we watched him slowly disintegrate and implode before our eyes. It was a harrowing, frightening portayal that burned into your head week by week, yet addictively impossible to turn away from.

Hell, the entire cast was superb, led by Michael Chiklis as Vic Mackey (another oversight, and more deserving than Gandolfini in the Sopranos’ last season); several like  CCH Pounder and Jay Karnes got chances to shine and did. Bad enough that the actors got screwed over, but overlooking the writing? That might have been a more egregious omission. And I’m equally floored that not one actor from Friday Night Lights was named – are they that good at their job that you don’t think they’re acting?

Ah, crap…I feel the bile coming back.

Here are the nominations for the major categories, along with one I’d swap out in a heartbeat. (I’ll get to my picks for “will win” and “should win” prior to the actual awards.) You’ll probably recognize a lot of the names, since an Emmy nomination is like winning a Gold Glove in baseball; odds are you keep chugging along unless you really blow it.

Drama Series: “Big Love,” HBO; “Breaking Bad,” AMC; “Damages,” FX Networks; “Dexter,” Showtime; “House,” Fox; “Lost,” ABC; “Mad Men,” AMC. // Out: House. (no, that’s not a pun). Getting silly in its old age. At least I don’t have to choke on Boston Legal anymore…In: The Shield. See bulk of this essay.

Comedy Series: “Entourage,” HBO; “Family Guy,” Fox; “Flight of the Conchords,” HBO; “How I Met Your Mother,” CBS; “The Office,” NBC; “30 Rock,” NBC; “Weeds,” Showtime. // Out: Entourage. Past its shelf life…In: Better Off Ted. After an over-hyped and only-average first episode, it’s been about the funniest thing on television.

Actor, Drama Series: Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad,” AMC; Michael C. Hall, “Dexter,” Showtime; Hugh Laurie, “House,” Fox; Gabriel Byrne, “In Treatment,” HBO; Jon Hamm, “Mad Men,” AMC; Simon Baker, “The Mentalist,” CBS. // Out: Hugh Laurie. Like the show, beating a dead horse. In: Michael Chiklis, The Shield. Maybe his strongest season, and that’s saying something.

Actress, Drama Series: Sally Field, “Brothers & Sisters,” ABC; Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer,” TNT; Glenn Close, “Damages,” FX Networks; Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” NBC; Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men,” AMC; Holly Hunter, “Saving Grace,” TNT. // Out: Mariska Hartigay. Good, but nothing special…In: Katey Sagal, Sons of Anarchy. In as impressive of an about-face as Bryan Cranston on Breaking Bad, this is a bravura performance getting overlooked.

Supporting Actor, Drama Series: William Shatner, “Boston Legal,” ABC; Christian Clemenson, “Boston Legal,” ABC; Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad,” AMC; William Hurt, “Damages,” FX Networks; Michael Emerson, “Lost,” ABC; John Slattery, “Mad Men,” AMC. // Out: William Shatner. Caricature, not character. In: Walton Goggins, The Shield – should not only have been nominated but should have won in a landslide. Am I the only person who gets the FX channel?

Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Rose Byrne, “Damages,” FX Networks; Sandra Oh, “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC; Chandra Wilson, “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC; Dianne Wiest, “In Treatment,” HBO; Hope Davis, “In Treatment,” HBO; Cherry Jones, “24,” Fox. //  Out: Chandra Wilson. Yawn, ywner, yawnest…In: Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost. Nuance on network television? I guess I should have known better.

Actor, Comedy Series: Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS; Jemaine Clement, “Flight of the Conchords,” HBO; Tony Shalhoub, “Monk,” USA; Steve Carell, “The Office,” NBC; Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock,” NBC; Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men,” CBS. // Out: Tony Shaloub. How many do you need, anyway? I love the guy, and the character is great, but it’s a comfy shoe by now…In: Jay Harrington, Better Off Ted. Smooth and graceful with impeccable comic timing, including the asides to the camera. He makes it look so easy, but it’s an art.

Actress, Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” CBS; Christina Applegate, “Samantha Who?” ABC; Sarah Silverman, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” Comedy Central; Tina Fey, “30 Rock,” NBC; Toni Collette, “United States of Tara,” Showtime; Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds,” Showtime. // Out: Sarah Silverman, and that’s without even seeing Toni Collette’s show. And I *like* Silverman!…In: Portia deRossi, Better Off Ted. Perfectly acidic opposite Harrington’s Cary Grant character.

Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Kevin Dillon, “Entourage,” HBO; Neil Patrick Harris, “How I Met Your Mother,” CBS; Rainn Wilson, “The Office,” NBC; Tracy Morgan, “30 Rock,” NBC; Jack McBrayer, “30 Rock,” NBC; Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men,” CBS. // Out: Cryer, as much for the show being tired than his small arc of a character…In: John Scurti, Rescue Me. Yes, it’s drama, but it has enough structured comedy scenes to qualify, and Scurti is the perfect foil that all the other actors use as a springboard.

Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Kristin Chenoweth, “Pushing Daisies,” ABC; Amy Poehler, “Saturday Night Live,” NBC; Kristin Wiig, “Saturday Night Live,” NBC; Jane Krakowski, “30 Rock,” NBC; Vanessa Williams, “Ugly Betty,” ABC; Elizabeth Perkins, “Weeds,” Showtime. // Out: Williams – even though Poehler and Wiig shouldn’t even be in this category – she and the show have flatlined…In: Kate Flannery, The Office. A fearless and hysterical performance; on a show that crosses the line she punts it from there.

I shouldn’t complain. Thanks to DVR and DVD I can ignore the glut of dross on television and savor It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia or Jackie Woodman rather than be subjected to most of what passes for entertainment. Hell, I’m no snob – I think Castle has taken over where Bones has slipped, and although I lament the loss of Life On Mars I am glad that we still have Fringe and Lost and 24 and other network shows to go along with the exceptional programs the smaller cable networks are churning out.

Ahh, but bitching about television is fun…and Jeremy Piven can’t win.

Keep track on Emmy site or the Awards Daily site.

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TV or not TV? Summertime…

Years ago I ran a nightclub, and like in most bars, Sunday night was death. Many places closed or suffered the losses. Me? I started Die Hard Happy Hour! Sure, the potential audience might have been smaller than a madhouse Friday or Saturday night, but since I was competing with no one else on Sundays I figured I’d nail my target demographic – music lovers who drank

Success? Let’s just say I underestimated the size of that fraternity.  By the second week there was a line out the door and a list of bands begging to play the new hot night in town. I reinvented the three day weekend. (You’re welcome!)

Well, it looks like some television executives learned this same lesson over the last few years, as the smaller cable networks now take advantage of the major network hiatus to air their programming to attract that hot new demographic – those of us too mature for Celebretard Programming who want something better. As in not reality television.

(Reality television?  Really? Don’t you encounter enough a-holes every day on your own? Why tune in to see more?)

Formerly known as Vast Wasteland, I now present TGIS  (Thank God It’s Summer). Three simple words: grill, beverage, DVR.

Bryan Cranston is awesome. Actually started late Spring but will re-run this Summer.

 

 Breaking Bad actually started late Spring but will re-run this Summer. Bryan Cranston is phenomenal.

 

 

rescue me

 

  I still like Denis Leary‘s earlier series  The Job better, but Rescue Me has yet to disappoint me.

 

 

the closer

 

  The Closer is not only one of the best shows on television, but the ensemble cast is loaded with wall-to-wall talent. G.W. Bailey and Anthony Denison could take their shtick on the road.

 

saving grace

 

  Saving Grace is also coming back to complete another round of episodes. Holly Hunter could kick my ass with one ripped bicep tied behind her back…or more likely one arm holding a beer.

 

 

 mad men

  I know AMC is supposed to be American Movie Classics – not new television dramas – but with Breaking Bad and Mad Men they are doing the job the majors are supposed to do. Kudos! 

 

 

sons of anarchy

  

Sons of Anarchy – FX deals an adult drama and helps fill the void of The Shield and The Wire.  The whole cast is great but Katey Sagal is fierce.

 

 

it's always sunny

 

 I pine for the return of the most irreverent show on television. FX strikes gold again!

 

 

jackie woodman

 

  But wherefore art thou, Jackie Woodman? Laura Kightlinger, you rule!

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