Public Service Announcement 32 of 2010: Chuck, The Mentalist, Desperate Housewives, Hung

Unpopcult should be careful what it wishes for. Ignoring some of the less-important issues of the day – Afghanistan, the deficit, the Middle East, that sort of thing – we’ve hung our hats on an unshakeable belief that UK viewers should get American TV imports as soon as possible after original transmission, which makes sense both for broadcasters and viewers. Now we’re getting what we wanted. And it’s rather a lot, isn’t it?

Already mentioned is the immediate return of Chuck for its fourth season, now on Living at 10pm and starting tonight (Thursday 14th October). Chuck has had a precarious existence for most of its life, and it feels odd now to be thinking of it as an established part of the TV landscape. The current season is, like last time, scheduled to run for 13 episodes, but I wouldn’t be amazed by an extension this season as well; while new shows get launched on a wave of hype, then slump towards cancellation, Chuck seems to have found its niche.

Also this week, American ratings heavyweight The Mentalist (Five, 9pm, Friday 15th October) is back for a third season. The Mentalist is predictable fun for the most part, with occasional Red John episodes giving it a bit of heft from time to time. The chances of Jane and Lisbon just doing it already seem slight, at least until Jane can bring RJ down, but that won’t stop CJ from hoping or reviewing.

Then on Sunday 17th October we get the start of season 7 of Desperate Housewives (Channel 4, 10pm). The last two seasons have been patchy, but I’m still watching. And on the face of it the showrunners have already made potentially the casting decision of the year by bringing Vanessa Williams in: she strikes me as having the mixture of comic smarts, high camp, and occasional vulnerability that Housewives needs at this stage in the game. Reviews here when I find the time.

Also on Sunday, and possibly getting lost in all of this, is the return of Hung for its second season (More 4, 11.05pm). I reviewed season 1; I’m not sure that I liked it enough to keep going, though, particularly when there’s so much else on. But presumably Ray’s wanger will still be enormous, so if that’s your sort of, um, thing, you know where to find it.

And coming very soon: The Event, Lie To Me, and Bones.

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Unpopcult at the Emmys part 2: Best Supporting Actress and Best Guest Actress

As I think I’ve said before, I don’t quite know the point at which a recurring “guest” actor becomes a “supporting” one.  (Yes, I know it’s something to do with how they’re designed in the credits, and in what category they submit themselves for consideration.)  So I’ve lumped these categories together.

Starting, then, with the nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy:

Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester, ‘Glee’

Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy, ‘Modern Family’

Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, ‘Modern Family’ 

Kristen Wiig as Various Characters, ‘Saturday Night Live’

Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney, ’30 Rock’

Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper, ‘Two And A Half Men’

‘Modern Family’ is one of the big winners in the 2010 noms, and either Julie Bowen or Sofia Vergara would be worthy winners, but this time round I reckon it’s Jane Lynch’s to lose.  I would like to have seen the sublime Merritt Wever in here, but there we go.  Jane Adams of more-of-a-drama-if-you-ask-me ‘Hung’ might have sneaked in too.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama:

Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen, ‘Burn Notice’

Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons, ‘Damages’

Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma, ‘The Good Wife’

Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart, ‘The Good Wife’

Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris, ‘Mad Men’

Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson, ‘Mad Men’

A very strong category, this one:  five potential worthy winners and Rose Byrne.  I’m sorry, but I just don’t see what Byrne does as “acting”, in any meaningful sense of the word.  As for the others:  the noms give me yet another opportunity to bore on about my love for ‘The Good Wife’.  In my review of the season-ender I hoped for a bit of Emmy love for the supporting cast, and I’m delighted to see two of them get a shout here.  Archie Panjabi and Christine Baranski turned in two very good performances in their own ways: personally I thought Panjabi was better, but Baranski’s ability to steal scenes might count in her favour. 

I wonder whether ‘Mad Men”s third season was so long ago in America, and so routinely brilliant, that voters might lose sight of just how good it remains.  I’d be cool with the terrific Elisabeth Moss winning, although it might be argued that Christina Hendricks actually did her chances more good by dropping in and out of the last few episodes, thus heightening her impact.  And, of course, she was in the hospital waiting room scene with Jon Hamm, which justified the existence of TV all by itself.  As for Sharon Gless – why not?  And it’s good just to see ‘Burn Notice’ edge its way onto the slate.

Notable omissions: no-one from ’24’ (Cherry Jones apparently declined to put her name forward), no-one from ‘Grey’s’, no Lisa Edelstein. But it is a very stong category.

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy:

Christine Baranski as Beverly Hofstadter,’The Big Bang Theory’

Kathryn Joosten as Karen McCluskey, ‘Desperate Housewives’

Kristin Chenoweth as April Rhodes, ‘Glee’

Tina Fey as Host, ‘Saturday Night Live’

Betty White as Host, ‘Saturday Night Live’

Elaine Stritch as Colleen Donaghy, ’30 Rock’

Jane Lynch as Dr. Linda Freeman ‘Two And A Half Men’

I haven’t seen half of these, but based on buzz it looks like Betty White’s year: apparently she was terrific, and she’s the only one left…

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama:

Mary Kay Place as Adaleen Grant, ‘Big Love’

Sissy Spacek as Marilyn Densham, ‘Big Love’

Shirley Jones as Lola Zellman, ‘The Cleaner’

Lily Tomlin as Marilyn Tobin, ‘Damages’

Ann-Margret as Rita Wills, ‘Law And Order: SVU’

Elizabeth Mitchell as Juliet Burke, ‘Lost’

I haven’t seen half of these either, and I’m not over-enthusiastic about the ones I have seen.  So, y’know, whoever.  Maybe Elizabeth Mitchell.

Hung s1 ep 10

A suitably understated end to a strange little season. ‘Hung’ was rarely amusing enough to be the dark comedy it clearly wanted to be, although this week’s scene with Lenore and Tanya arguing about who would be the better pimp raised a smile.  At the same time, though, it fell short of being the definitive credit-crunch era drama it could have been, with its decaying Detroit backdrop. 

The big success in ‘Hung’ has been Jane Adams’s generally finely-calibrated performance as hapless Tanya, although this week she decided that a bit of overacting was what was called for.  Never mind – she’s been the main reason to watch for some weeks now, so perhaps she can be forgiven.  Meantime ‘Hung’ has been renewed for a second season in the States, but whether a UK broadcaster will pick it up – and whether I would watch it if they do – remains to be seen.

Hung s1 ep 9

A bit better than last week but not much; there would be thematic consistency in observing that ‘Hung’ is rather limp at the moment.  Not only that, but Tanya (a well deserved Golden Globe nomination for Jane Adams) is now behaving with the same charmlessless and lack of scruple as everyone else; she’s just not quite as good at it as the repellant Lenore, who at least goes about her business with a certain degree of lip-smacking relish.  (I wrote that before realising its particular applicability to this week’s big sex scene.  Heh.)  And if ‘Hung”s charm evaporates, there isn’t a great deal left; whatever the Globe judges might think, it really is pushing it a bit to categorise it as a comedy.

Hung s1 ep 8

Another bleak one.  ‘Hung’ isn’t so good that it can afford to have too oppressive a world-view, and the better episodes have been those in which the sadness and loneliness of sad and lonely people have been redeemed, even if only a little.  This week, however, was heavy going.  Moreover, the ‘Hung’ USP – Ray’s wanger – seems to be featuring less and less.  So, predictably, Ray’s client walked away from him,   Tanya’s new man seemed to be drifting away as well, and there was a somewhat pointless argument between Ronnie and Ray.  It all left the viewer feeling rather sour, and there was nothing much to lift the gloom.  Unless you count coming “just right”, and I’m not sure I would.

Hung s1 ep 7

After a few weeks of steady if unspectacular performance, this episode, for me, fell rather flat.  Ray’s boning Jemma, getting paid for it, and he gets to introduce “Little Ray” to his sexy neighbour.  But he wants a proper relationship with Jemma; I reckon he’s delusional.  He’s also treating Tanya pretty badly, and as we see he’s not much good at drumming up business for himself.  I don’t know if the scene in which he touted himself around the market was supposed to be funny, but I found it just unpleasant.  Meantime, and despite finding a love interest for herself, Tanya’s still looking desperately unhappy, although we get a bit of an insight into the reasons for than when we meet her mother (our old friend Rhea Perlman, who was, of course, Carla Tortelli in ‘Cheers’).  No more or less cheerful than other episodes, then, but this week it was the feeling of being underwhelmed which won out.

Hung s1 ep 6

Another downbeat episode in which the sadness and loneliness of the characters were to the fore.  I really do like this show, more than I thought I would, but I never come away from ‘Hung’ feeling good, even after this week’s unusually feelgood ending.  And it’s probably as well if I don’t think too much about the morality of Ray falling for Jemma – which, when all’s said and done, is nothing more than a noughties spin on the ‘Pretty Woman’ fantasy of hooker and client romance.  It did, though, give the excellent Jane Adams yet another opportunity to portray the vulnerability of Tanya.

Im my review last week, incidentally, I suggested that Jemma was sufficiently attractive to make it surprising that she had to pay for Ray’s attentions, observing further that I would gladly undertake the act of love with her for no charge.  (At least, I think that’s how I put it.)  One of our regular commenters seemed surprised by this.  Having reviewed my position at leisure this week, I remain of that view.  If anything, I would pay her.  Admittedly she’s clearly demented, but if guys were to regard that as a dealbreaker…