Public Service Announcement 6 of 2013: Person of Interest, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother

After an unwelcome three month hiatus season 1 of Person of Interest returns to UK screens tonight, in the not-much-sought-after Sunday 9pm slot. The show was really starting to get going, with what was by common consent its best episode to date, when it was taken off the air. We’re now essentially a year behind American transmission again for this show, and Channel 5 is building quite the track record for purchasing good American imports and then not knowing what to do with them. I wonder whether we’ll see season 2 at all, in fact (tonight, 9pm, Channel 5).

On the comedy side this week, 30 Rock is back for the rest of season 6. American viewers are well ahead of us here as well; they’re about to get the final episode of season 7, which will be the series finale as well (Wednesday 30 January, 10.30pm, Comedy Central). Season 8 of How I Met Your Mother is slightly fresher, if you allow for the show being arguably four or five years past its peak. However, it still scores every now and again, and it boasts, in Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel, two of the best sitcom performers of its era. It’s taking over The Big Bang Theory’s slot (Thursday 31, 8.30pm, E4). And season 2 of Charlie Sheen’s look-at-me-Chuck-Lorre vehicle Anger Management kicks off on Wednesday at 10pm on Comedy Central.

Finally, two more drama starts: season 8 of Criminal Minds (Monday 28, 9pm, Sky Living) and season 2 of the Dallas reboot (Tuesday 29, 9pm, Channel 5).

Public Service Announcement 17 of 2012: Mad Men, Justified, Dexter, 30 Rock

The forthcoming week raises the very real possibility that Unpopcult might actually die of TV. The highlight is, of course, the return of Mad Men, although the fact that it’s so often described as the best drama on TV means, oddly enough, that it’s easy to overlook just how good it actually is. Not that season 4 was in any danger of letting us forget – it swaggered onto our screens with as confident a statement of intent as could be imagined, and didn’t let up from there. Perfectionist Matthew Weiner is still showrunning, which bodes well, and although it starts with a double bill – something I generally deprecate – I can’t imagine that there’s such a thing as too much Mad Men. The other good news is that British viewers are only a couple of days behind original broadcast – it starts tonight in America. Reviews here as soon as we can get them up (Tuesday 27 March, 9pm, Sky Atlantic).

The very next day sees the start of season 3 of Justified which, in the continuing absence from British screens of Breaking Bad, is the other best drama on TV. Season 1 contented itself with being very, very good indeed; season 2 headed into greatness. This third season has Neal McDonough as guest villain, but the most important thing is that the Timothy Olyphant/Walton Goggins axis is still intact. Weekly reviews for this one as well (Wednesday 28 March, 9pm, 5USA).

And if that weren’t enough, on Friday UK viewers finally get season 6 of Dexter. Now, I liked season 5, but advance word would suggest that this season might have been one too far for my favourite serial killer. Given that, and how much else we’ve got on, I won’t be doing weekly reviews this time round, at least to start with (Friday 30 March, 9pm, FX).

On top of all that, for comedy fans there’s the start of season 6 of 30 Rock (Friday 30 March, 10.30pm, Comedy Central), and the second parts of the latest seasons of Mike and Molly (Tuesday 27 March, 9pm, Comedy Central) and The Big Bang Theory (Thursday 29 March, 8pm, E4).

Phew. And next week, it’s Once Upon A Time and King Of Thrones…

Public Service Announcement 42 of 2011: How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock

It wouldn’t have happened in the days of Friends and Frasier, but three of the highest-profile American sitcoms return to minority-interest British channels this week to almost no fanfare. Tonight sees the start of season 7 of the woefully-inconsistent How I Met Your Mother, which has dipped rather since season 3, and aimed a colossal fuck-you at its audience with the “Psych!” joke at the end of season 6. Still, one episode in every three or four is worth watching, and in Neil Patrick Harris it has my number one mancrush of the moment. Jason Segel is always good value as well.Will season 7 be any better? Doubt it, but you never know (Thursday 3 November, E4, 10pm).

More consistent, more funny, and just plain better is The Big Bang Theory, back for a fourth season. As conventional laugh-tracked sitcoms go it’s probably as good as you’ll find just now, and in a generally strong ensemble cast it has two standout performers in the justly-Emmy-garlanded Jim Parsons, and the mysteriously underrated Kaley Cuoco. There’s a bit of character development every now and again but it isn’t allowed to get in the way of the jokes, which is as it should be (Thursday 3 November, E4, 8pm).

And having disappeared from the schedules mid-season, 30 Rock is back as Comedy Central burns off the remainder of season 5. At least, let’s assume it will. I can’t begin to explain Comedy Central’s scheduling policy, if indeed it has one; it did much the same with Mike & Molly, thus eliminating any chance of building up decent ratings, I would have thought. As I’ve said on here so many times before, though, what do I know? I’m just a viewer (Friday 4 November, Comedy Central, 10.30pm).

Also coming to their own PSAs soon: American Horror Story, The Jury, Covert Affairs, The Mentalist, Forbrydelsen II, Pan Am. It’s getting colder and darker. Outside’s overrated. Stay in and watch some box.

Public Service Announcement 9 of 2011: 30 Rock, House

Tonight (Thursday) sees the start of season 5 of Unpopcult Best Comedy Award-winning 30 Rock at 10.30pm on Comedy Central; possibly past its peak, but still capable of moments of genius, and the main cast is intact. And Thursday is the new night for House, with the second part of season 7 commencing tonight (10pm, Sky 1). Candice Bergen’s in tonight’s episode as Cuddy’s mother.

Just before that, at 9pm, Sky 1 has the first of a four-part guys-in-trouble drama, Mad Dogs, featuring British TV royalty (Philip Glenister, John Simm, Max Beesley, Marc Warren, Ben Chaplin) as the guys in trouble. Not sure I fancy this.

Also this week – FX started a rerun of Arrested Development on Tuesday at 9pm, which is good news for those of us who got fed up with trying to chase it around the BBC schedules, although I should probably have mentioned it before now.

Unpopcult at the Emmys part 6: Best Comedy

The nominations are:

30 Rock

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Glee

Modern Family

Nurse Jackie

The Office

This category is perhaps the most interesting it’s been for years, with the appearance of ‘Glee’ and ‘Modern Family’, both of which look like being Emmy heavyweights.  I haven’t seen the most recent season of ‘The Office’, although the word seems to be that there’s been a dip in quality, which might count against it.  The same has been said of ’30 Rock’, of course.  I seem to be in a bit of a minority here, but I didn’t think that season 4 was measurably worse than seasons 1-3.  Or perhaps the critical reputation of the first three seasons was a bit over-inflated.  Anyway, it’s still full of insider-y TV biz jokes which will play to the key constituency, so while it’s less likely to win than in past years I don’t rule it out.

We haven’t yet had the second season of ‘Nurse Jackie’ in the UK, but if it’s anything like as good as season 1 it has to be a contender, although I wonder whether not actually being a comedy might ultimately deny it a vote or two here.  And ‘Curb’ is ‘Curb’ – I love it, but unless the voters feel like rewarding it for the ‘Seinfeld’ revival I can’t see that the most recent season did anything which would turn it into a winner.

Which brings us back to the new guys.  If the vote’s for a cultural phenomenon then ‘Glee’ will get it.  If it’s for a comedy ‘Modern Family’ will win.  My guess is the latter. 

A couple of Emmy footnotes: surely the biggest nailed-on certainty of the whole thing has to be composer Michael Giacchino’s nomination for his soundtracking of ‘Lost’ finale ‘The End’.  Also in the musical categories, it would be nice to see ‘Long Hard Times To Come’ winning Best Titles Music for the otherwise-deprived-of-Emmy-love ‘Justified’.

Unpopcult at the Emmys part 4: Best Supporting Actor and Best Guest Actor

As with the women, some top-notch performances are recognised in the second-banana categories.  There are also plenty of notable omissions, but there’s now so much good TV around that not everyone can be rewarded. 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy:

Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel, ‘Glee’

Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson, ‘How I Met Your Mother’

Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell, ‘Modern Family’

Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker, ‘Modern Family’

Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy, ‘Modern Family’

Jon Cryer as Alan Harper, ‘Two And A Half Men’

Any one of the ‘Modern Family’ nominees would be a worthy winner here, and while Ed O’Neill might be regarded as unlucky to miss out I’m particularly pleased that the sometimes overlooked Jesse Tyler Ferguson gets a shout.  So with half of the nominees, the wisdom of the ‘Modern Family’ strategy becomes clear here.  Or does it?  What happens if the ‘Modern Family’ vote gets split?  Neil Patrick Harris should, of course, have won last year, and dude who did, Jon Cryer, surely won’t win twice in a row.  (Incidentally, does anyone else remember ‘Partners’?  In the UK it was shown at about midnight.  I liked it a lot.)  Personally I would give it to Harris or Eric Stonestreet, but with all of that going on I just wonder whether Chris Colfer might sneak through the middle.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama:

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, ‘Breaking Bad’

Martin Short as Leonard Winstone, ‘Damages’

Terry O’Quinn as John Locke, ‘Lost’

Michael Emerson as Ben Linus, ‘Lost’

John Slattery as Roger Sterling, ‘Mad Men’

Andre Braugher as Owen, ‘Men Of A Certain Age’

Another enormously strong category.  We haven’t seen ‘Certain Age’ in the UK yet but Andre Braugher is always value, and anything connected with ‘Breaking Bad’ is award-bait.  Last year’s winner, Michael Emerson, was if anything even better this season, but I wonder if the Losties in the Academy might decide it’s Terry O’Quinn’s turn this time?  If so he’ll be doing well to hold off the stellar John Slattery, scene-stealing as ever in ‘Mad Men’, where it must be pretty hard to steal a scene.  (And hard luck on Bryan Batt and Vincent Kartheiser, both of whom deserve to be here.  Possibly also half the cast of ‘Lost’.  And Robert Sean Leonard.)  I wouldn’t be at all surprised, though, if Martin Short’s playing against type as sleek, amoral Leonard Winstone in ‘Damages’ could just get there – the Academy’s love for Bryan Cranston demonstrates just how much the voters like comic turns going straight.

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy:

Mike O’Malley as Burt Hummel, ‘Glee’

Neil Patrick Harris as Bryan Ryan, ‘Glee’

Fred Willard as Frank Dunphy, ‘Modern Family’

Eli Wallach as Bernard Zimberg, ‘Nurse Jackie’

Jon Hamm as Dr. Drew Baird, ’30 Rock’

Will Arnett as Devin Banks, ’30 Rock’

If Jon Hamm gets this one while missing out on the big prize yet again, I will not be pleased.  I’d like to think, though, that it’s a Mike O’Malley/NPH showdown, with O’Malley probably getting it for making the very most of what could have been a relatively insignificant part.

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama:

Beau Bridges as Detective George Andrews, ‘The Closer’

Ted Danson as Arthur Frobisher, ‘Damages’

John Lithgow as Arthur Mitchell, ‘Dexter’

Alan Cumming as Eli Gold, ‘The Good Wife’

Dylan Baker as Colin Sweeney, ‘The Good Wife’

Robert Morse as Bertram Cooper, ‘Mad Men’

Gregory Itzin as President Charles Logan, ’24’

Now, here’s where I don’t get the whole “guest”/”supporting” thing.  Alan Cumming was in 7 episodes of ‘The Good Wife’,  Gregory Itzin was in 8 of the last season of ‘24’, and if someone told me that Robert Morse was in every episode of ‘Mad Men’ I wouldn’t be astonished; ditto John Lithgow and ‘Dexter’.  Cumming, of course was great; there perhaps isn’t more fun to be had among all the nominated acting performances than Itzin’s big, broad, President Logan; and Morse’s playing of eccentric shrewdness was absolutely precise.  Ted Danson was as good as ever in ‘Damages’, but this time round the character seemed oddly out-of-place.  I’d love Dylan Baker to get it for his ironic ‘The Good Wife’ psychopath, but although we haven’t yet seen season 4 of ‘Dexter’ I’ve heard enough about Lithgow’s performance to suggest that he’s the favourite here.  And Andre Braugher should have been nominated for ‘House’, of course.

Unpopcult at the Emmys part 3: Leading Ladies

Much like the Leading Men categories, there are certain people who always seem to be nominated for the Oustanding Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy, and that tradition continues this year with 2008 and 2009 winner Glenn Close nominated again for Damages, Kyra Sedgwick nominated again (fifth time in a row) for The Closer and Mariska Hargitay nominated yet again (seventh time in a row) for Law & Order: SVU.  I’m not sure how much these women’s performances actually matter; maybe they’re brilliant, maybe they’re not, but I always expect to see them nominated, regardless.  As does everybody else. 

However, I usually expect to see Holly Hunter and Sally Field in there too, and this year they’re not.  Instead, Connie Britton and Julianna Marguiles have made the list for their astonishing work on Friday Night Lights and The Good Wife, respectively, and I’m delighted for both of them.

Ok, Margulies’ nomination was a pretty sure thing, and Mad Men’s January Jones rounding out the six wasn’t unexpected either, especially as co-star and 2009 nominee Elisabeth Moss dropped to the supporting category this year (to make room?). But Britton’s inclusion has been such a long time coming that most of us had stopped believing it could ever happen, so it’s a shock, if a lovely one.  I’d love to see it happen, but a Connie win seems too much to hope for, though.  I think it’ll be Julianna’s year and, if so, it’ll still be richly deserved.

Meantime, the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy category also has its usual suspects, with last year’s winner Toni Collette, the oft-nominated Julia-Louis Dreyfus (five times in a row for The New Adventures of Old Christine, seven times for Seinfeld) and, of course, unpopcult fave Tina Fey making repeat appearances this year.  As for the newbies – Edie Falco was always going to join them this year for Nurse Jackie, and a lot of people seem very pleased about Amy Poehler being nominated for Parks and Recreation. 

The only one of the nominees I’ve seen in action this season, however, is Lea Michele in Glee, and, perversely, her nomination is the only one in this category that’s surprised me.  Not that I don’t think she’s good – I love her to bits – but unless they actually do adopt my Matt Morrison scoring system and give extra points for her musical performances, I don’t think she’ll come out on top of this particular group. I reckon Edie Falco will.