The 2014 Emmys: winners and losers

The good news first of all: Juli and Juli did indeed win, even if the failure to nominate The Good Wife for Best Drama still hangs heavily over the whole thing. In the Drama category Breaking Bad saw off the challenge of True Detective, although the latter’s (merited) win in the Direction category provides further fuel for my argument that it looks like a great drama, even if, perhaps, it isn’t. (And in the absence of True Detective from the category it should have been in, Fargo picked up Miniseries. Excellent.) The voters also rewarded the Breaking Bad actors and writing, with Cranston, Gunn, Paul, and Moira Walley-Beckett coming out on top. Big love, too, for Allison Janney, picking up Best Supporting in a Comedy (Mom) to add to the Guest award she got just over a week ago for Masters of Sex; and for Louis C.K., deservedly winning best comedy writer for the astonishing ‘So Did The Fat Lady’ episode of Louie.

I didn’t watch American Horror Story: Coven, so I don’t know whether Kathy Bates deserved to beat Allison Tolman for Fargo, although I feel very sorry for Tolman, who was fantastic. I feel sorrier, though, for the other nominees in the categories where Sherlock, inexplicably, cleaned up: admittedly Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Stephen Moffat all submitted the best episode for consideration, but really. And in the Comedy categories, rather as with Breaking Bad the voters went back to what they know and like: Mod Fam, Parsons, Burrell.

Big losers were Orange Is The New Black – insert thing I promised never to say again – although of course Uzo Aduba scored last week in the Guest category; and Game of Thrones, which failed to add to its haul of Creative Arts awards, and didn’t even win Best Dragon, or whatever’s in Game of Thrones. Perhaps I should watch it before making snarky comments.

After last year’s completely off-the-wall Emmys, this one maybe went to the other extreme, with lots of previous winners being rewarded again. Perhaps next year, with Breaking Bad out of the picture – not that it isn’t deserving – there might be room to shake things up a bit.

Unpopcult at the Emmys part 6: Best Comedy

The Big Bang Theory

Louie

Modern Family

Orange Is The New Black

Silicon Valley

Veep

This isn’t necessarily the most difficult category in which to guess at a winner, but as ever in Best Comedy there are hardly any like-with-like comparisons. One classic multi-camera laugh-tracked network comedy (Big Bang), one single-camera network comedy (Mod Fam), two single-camera cable comedies (Silicon Valley and Veep), one hour-long Netflix drama calling itself a comedy (OITNB), and the uncategorisable Louie. Does it matter? Well, perhaps, because OITNB and Louie are better shows than (say) The Big Bang Theory, but the latter is funnier. To many more people. And it isn’t just about being amusing: as we’ve noted on here more than once, The Good Wife is capable of being laugh-out-loud funny, but no-one ever calls it a comedy, or even a dramedy. So I dunno. Anyway, Modern Family has won this category four years on the bounce, and for my money its fifth season was a little better than the third and fourth. But Orange Is The New Black is going to win, I reckon, even though (and this is the last time I’ll say this, I promise) it isn’t a comedy. Which won’t be fair on the actual comedies.

Unpopcult at the Emmys part 5: the Best Supporting Actor awards

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series:

Fred Armisen, Portlandia

Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Ty Burrell, Modern Family

Adam Driver, Girls

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family

Tony Hale, Veep

I’ve had lots to say about Andre Braugher already: we’re living in a TV world he helped to create. He’s up against last year’s winner, Tony Hale, and the 2011 winner and five-time nominee Ty Burrell, among others. Much as I’d like to see Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s subtle performance rewarded, I think it’ll be one of those three, and I think it’ll be Braugher. I’m somewhat surprised that Ed O’Neill isn’t in there.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series:

Jim Carter, Downton Abbey

Josh Charles, The Good Wife

Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Mandy Patinkin, Homeland

Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad

Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

Admittedly I don’t watch Downton Abbey, but is there any chance that it might piss off? If Aaron Paul isn’t rewarded for his Breaking Bad work, my guess is that this one is simple: The Good Wife had a stellar year; bad things happened to Josh Charles in it; it’s his time.

The Miniseries category might be the most distinguished of all, with The Normal Heart represented by four heavyweights (Parsons, Bomer, Molina, Mantello), up against Martin Freeman for Sherlock and Colin Hanks for Fargo. The law of averages suggests a Normal Heart winner.

 

Unpopcult at the Emmys 2014 part 4: the Best Supporting Actress awards

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series:

Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory

Julie Bowen, Modern Family

Anna Chlumsky, Veep

Allison Janney, Mom

Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

Kate Mulgrew, Orange Is The New Black

Defending champ Merritt Wever doesn’t even get a nomination this time round. Boo. Two-time winner Julie Bowen, does, though, and given that Modern Family was on a creative upswing last season she looks something like the favourite. Mayim Bialik should win. Allison Janney probably won’t, but stands a good chance in the Guest Actress category. Kate Mulgrew is fantastic in OITNB, but it still isn’t a comedy. And Kaley Cuoco should be nominated. I say that every year.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Christine Baranski, The Good Wife

Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey

Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad

Lena Headey, Game Of Thrones

Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

The last two winners – the Dame and the Gunn – are both back, and going head-to-head for the third year in a row. Anna Gunn’s the unbackable favourite in Breaking Bad’s final year, but might Christine Baranski sneak in? Her submission episode, ‘The Last Call‘, is pretty much as good as TV gets, and this is her fifth consecutive nomination. (On the subject of The Good Wife, this makes the second year in a row that one-time winner Archie Panjabi doesn’t even get a nom, which suggests that Emmy voters are getting as fed up as the rest of us with what’s been done to her character.) And I said last year that if Christina Hendricks hadn’t won by now, she was unlikely to. It remains extraordinary that Mad Men hasn’t won a single acting Emmy.

For the fourth time I’m going to get annoyed on behalf of The Americans: Annet Mahendru would be a deserving winner, never mind nominee. Hayden Panettiere deserves a nod, too, as does Bellamy Young for Scandal.

Finally, if Allison Tolman doesn’t win Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her performance in Fargo, the voters are IDIOTS.

Unpopcult at the Emmys 2014 Part 3: Leading Ladies

Time to look at the Outstanding Lead Actress categories, but let’s get the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” out of the way first: yes, Tatiana Maslany’s work in Orphan Black was stunning and she absolutely deserved to be nominated. But if the Emmys have taught us anything over the years, it’s that deserving and getting are two very different things (HOLLER to BSG, The Wire and Jon Hamm!) especially as the sheer avalanche of tv available (via the multiple methods we can now watch it on) continues to overwhelm both viewers and critics. Orphan Black may have a huge following online but, in the non-virtual world, its viewer numbers are microscopic and, as I’ve said before, it’s a (very) niche tv series on a niche channel with such a bold, progressive attitude that both its flaws and its good points mean it won’t appeal to everybody. I wasn’t all that surprised to hear that Tatiana Maslany wasn’t nominated for Orphan Black; I would be flabbergasted to hear that more than a handful of the voters had ever watched it.

On to the Lead Actress in a Drama nominees, then. I feel a little bit of a fraud commenting on this category but at least the fact that only one of these shows is on my current watching list means my focus is pure when deciding who I’d like to win: Julianna, Julianna, JULIANNA.

She’s one of my favourite actresses, she and The Good Wife had an incredible season this year and she rules. So there you go. But, I say again, deserving and getting are two different things so whether she’ll win (again – she did win for TGW in 2011) or not is another matter.

La Margulies’ understated style of acting is, of course, the opposite of that favoured by Claire Danes, who took home the Emmy the past two years for Homeland, a programme which has long confounded me with its success. I hate, hate, HATE it but so many people love, love, LOVE it. Or love, love, LOVED it: three seasons in and the shine finally seems to have come off Homeland for a lot of people, which may well irreparably harm Ms Danes’ chances of a three-peat.

Looking at the other nominees, I’m sure Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey is a lovely woman but she has about the same chance of winning as I do, and I’m not actually nominated. Jed is a big fan of Lizzy Caplan in Masters of Sex and he’s far from alone, but that’s also a somewhat niche show with a bold, progressive attitude and I don’t see that translating into a win with this crowd. House of Cards may be more in the Emmy wheelhouse, but if Robin Wright didn’t win last year, I don’t think she’ll manage it this time around. Which leaves us with Kerry Washington from ratings juggernaut Scandal, who didn’t win last year either. Hm. On one view, Julianna Margulies could be the front-runner – she wasn’t nominated last year, and this year her show was completely rejuvenated but missed out on a Drama Series nom, so there might well be an impetus to mark TGW’s achievements through her instead. Oh yeah, and I really want her to win. We shall see.

Moving on to Lead Actress in a Comedy, the wonderful Amy Poehler should win it but probably won’t since one of the great Emmy mysteries is its lack of love for Parks and Rec. Veep however has no such problem; Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won twice for her performance and the show itself has just walked away with the Comedy Award at the TCA. Which suggests both the Emmys and the critics love her and her show, so I wouldn’t bet against three-in-a-row. After all, who’s to stop it from happening? 2010 winner Edie Falco is also beloved but reports suggest Nurse Jackie itself is not ageing all that well, and 2011 winner Melissa McCarthy is very popular too but much more so than Mike and Molly itself so I don’t think either of them are going to take home the statuette this time around. Newcomer on the Emmy block Taylor Schilling might in theory therefore have an opening with the very zeitgeisty Orange is the New Black, but I think – to be blunt – she’s too young and too new for the Emmy crowd: they like their winners with a nice, long, showbizzy history. Lena Dunham might have a lot of showbizzy connections, meanwhile, but she has the same problem – she doesn’t have history. Not yet, anyway. But Julia Louis-Dreyfus is steeped in it: she won for Veep, she won for The New Adventures of Old Christine and she won for Seinfeld which just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Which makes this year’s Veep voting conditions a perfect storm of nostalgia, goodwill and an actress/show combo the Emmy people adore: I think JLD will triumph once again.

Unpopcult at the Emmys 2014 Part 2: Leading Men

Yawn.

I know, I know. You’d think I’d be bouncing up and down with excitement (or at the very least fanning myself with a large palm leaf) over the “Men in Tuxedos” category but since the nominees for this year’s Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy can be summarised as “Men Who Were Nominated Last Year Plus the Movie Stars from True Detective,” I’m finding it hard to muster up much more than a shrug.

On the snubs front, I’d have liked to see James Spader nominated for his genuinely brilliant turn in The Blacklist and the wonderful Timothy Olyphant for Justified but I’m all out of fury since my last Emmy rant, so let’s just move on to the nominees.

First up, we have Jeff Daniels from The Newsroom who shocked everyone last year by actually winning the thing. In fairness, he was excellent and season 2 of The Newsroom this year, though still flawed, was significantly better than season 1 – I love it and continue to watch it, unlike the rest of the shows on this list – but he’s not going to win this time. Sorry, dude.

At least Jeff can take comfort in the fact he has actually won it once, though, unlike perennial Lead Actor Emmy bridesmaid Jon Hamm. Could it be seventh time lucky for poor old Jon? Nah. Maybe he’ll finally win next year for Mad Men’s final, final season, maybe he won’t, but this year? Not going to happen. Again. Sorry, Jon. You’re amazing but Mad Men has gone right off the boil and there are Oscar-winning movie stars and Breaking Bad to contend with.

Speaking of which, it’s Breaking Bad’s final, final season (this “splitting single seasons into two and competing in two different years” thing is annoying me greatly) so ordinarily it would be Bryan Cranston’s to lose. This is his sixth nomination for playing Walter White and he’s already won it three (Three! If I were Jon Hamm, I would weep!) times. People LOVE Cranston and – unlike Mad Men – the longer Breaking Bad was on, the more they LOVED it. And since the buzz around House of Cards has been significantly quieter than it was last year, I don’t see Kevin Spacey beating him.

But the buzz around True Detective and this year’s Oscar-winner, the all-conquering – and, in fairness, magnificent – Matthew McConaughey has been deafening. Even his fellow nominee Woody Harrelson, despite giving an equally fantastic performance, has essentially already surrendered the award to him; I don’t see the voters disagreeing and an Emmy will round off the Year of the McConaissance very nicely, so he’s my (and just about everybody else’s) prediction for the win. All right, all right, all right.

Unpopcult convention demands I also mention the nominees for Lead Actor in a Comedy although I’m even less enthusiastic about them; as regular readers will know, comedy tends not to be my thing. Full disclosure: the only one of the shows mentioned in this particular category which I’ve sat through more than a few minutes of is The Big Bang Theory. I found it about as funny as being slapped around the head with a stapler, but – given its massive and global popularity – I’m very much in the minority and your mileage may well vary. The Emmys’ certainly does, since (just like Bryan Cranston, coincidentally) Jim Parsons has been nominated six times for the role of Sheldon Cooper and won three, including last year’s. (FYI: He’s also nominated this year for a supporting role in TV movie The Normal Heart.)

Will he win again? No idea. Louis CK, Matt Le Blanc and Don Cheadle are all in what seem like far more challenging, innovative shows – Louie, Episodes and House of Lies, respectively – but since Jon Cryer (not nominated this year) has previously won both Lead and Supporting Actor Emmys for the execrable Two and a Half Men, it doesn’t seem to me like these voters are looking to think too hard. Give it another couple of years and Louis, Matt and Don may well be challenging Jon Hamm for the ultimate “Always a Bridesmaid” crown.

Which leaves us with Ricky Gervais for Derek and William H Macy for the US version of Shameless which used to be a Drama for Emmy purposes but is now a Comedy for Really Want an Award purposes. Rules, shmules. Anyway, if anyone can prise the statuette out of Sheldon’s hands, I’d say William H has the best chance, given his lifetime body of work, but Shameless itself doesn’t seem like it floats the Emmy boat, no matter which category it goes for (Why not try Mini-series? Or hey – stick a few songs in and call it a Musical/Variety Series!) so I think Parsons will probably win again.

Unpopcult at the Emmys 2014 Part 1: Outstanding Drama Series

Ordinarily, we’d kick off our Emmy coverage with posts about the acting categories first, but I can’t really sit on my rage for 4 posts, so I’m calling shenanigans on the Outstanding Drama Series category before I burst. What do you MEAN The Good Wife is not nominated?!?!

One of the two best programmes on tv (and the other one, Parks and Recreation, isn’t eligible for an Outstanding Drama nom yet didn’t score an Outstanding Comedy nom either – ARGH) TGW had a revolutionary season, burning its own house down with plotting as brave and risky as it was intelligent and devastating, and still managed to be both insanely entertaining and funny as all get-out. And yet DOWNTON ABBEY gets the nod again instead?! What is WRONG with the people nominating for this thing?

It’s not as if they aren’t watching TGW – they must be, since it scored big in the acting categories but that’s a post for another day – so the Orphan Black explanation (niche programme on a niche channel with miniscule ratings where the acting and tech work are much better than the show itself – it was never going to be nominated) doesn’t apply. But one thing OB and TGW have in common, besides not being nominated for a Drama Series Emmy this year, is that they’re both fronted by complex and powerful female characters.

TGW is about a woman striking out on her own and refusing to be defined by her marriage. OB is about a group of women coming together and refusing to be defined by the circumstances of their birth. There are important male characters – more crucially in TGW where Will was a massive part of the story and Peter, Cary and plenty of others are hugely significant – but, for the most part, Alicia and the clones are the ones driving the main plots along. The shows revolve around these women, the challenges they face and the choices they make, often exploring and subverting stereotypes and sexism along the way. (And that’s without even mentioning characters like the magnificent Diane). How many of the shows which were nominated this year can you say that about?

I suppose, on one view, Downton Abbey is all about Lady Mary, the Dowager Countess and their corseted chums, but ITV’s cosy chocolate-box period drama subverting stereotypes and sexism? If you watch it and I’m wrong, tell me, but till then I reserve the right to spit chips.

Especially when I look at some of its fellow nominees. At least Downton Abbey actually has central female characters. The nomination of the misogynist True Detective, a modern show with a defiantly period attitude to women, is hardly a surprise given the praise lavished on it, the undoubted talent (behind and in front of the camera) involved in it and HBO behind it. And in fairness, it looked beautiful and packed an almighty punch. But it also relegated women to entirely agency-free roles: they existed as wives for the men to wrong, mistresses for the men to wrong, prostitutes for the men to wrong, murder victims for the men to…. and so it goes on. Sex objects and victims, whose sole purpose is to suffer at the hands of the male anti-heroes. So, yes, True Detective’s many nominations are not surprising and, on one view (not mine, I hated it) entirely deserved, but they are also utterly depressing.

The domination of the male anti-hero doesn’t stop there, either. Mad Men (long past its best) and last year’s winner Breaking Bad both, in fairness, include (I’m told – I don’t watch the latter) fascinating female characters but they play supporting roles to the central focus: a man who’s bad, often mad, but very exciting to know. Which isn’t a bad thing at all; it can often make for fantastic drama. It’s just a very obvious contrast when set against TGW.

The last two nominees, House of Cards and Game of Thrones, are a bit trickier to pigeonhole, however. I don’t watch House of Cards but opinions on the role of the main character’s wife, Claire Underwood, are both interesting and divided. I do watch Game of Thrones though. Its gender politics can be deeply suspect – the copious amounts of gratuitous female nudity, the disturbing rape-scene-that-wasn’t-meant-to-be-a-rape-scene etc – but its sprawling cast includes anti-heroes, anti-heroines and juicy, complicated roles for everybody. And I love it. But it’s not going to win, is it? Sigh. At least it was nominated. I don’t know who’s going to win this category, but I’m all ranted out, so I’ll take a guess at Breaking Bad since it’s the final, final season and leave it there.