Unpopcult Awards 2014: The Results

poll picHappy new year, everybody!

Thank you once again for voting in the Unpopcult Awards 2014! The time for waiting is finally over, though, so here are your winners:

Best US Drama: The Good Wife

The all-conquering Good Wife caps an astonishing year with a well-deserved return to the top of the unpopcult chart. Hold tight for season 6, making its way onto UK screens later this month. Commiserations, however, to the majestic Game of Thrones, only just beaten into second place after another thrilling season, with season 5 also not too far away.

(Previous winners: 2008 – Lost; 2009 – Mad Men; 2010 – Lost; 2011 -The Good Wife; 2012 – The Good Wife; 2013 – Scandal)

Best UK/International Drama: Sherlock

After (yet) another couple of years off, Sherlock returned, sparking mixed reviews, heated debate and more than a spot of squabbling. Event television is event television, however, so Holmes and Watson once again carry off the UK/International Drama crown, with newcomer to the tv crimefighting game Babylon a worthy runner-up.

(Previous winners: 2010 – Spooks; 2011 – Being Human; 2012 – Sherlock; 2013 – The Almighty Johnsons)

Best Comedy: Parks and Recreation

Despite BBC4’s best efforts to repel viewers – late night double bills, several years behind the US, seasons on DVD before they ever make it to tv etc etc – the irresistible Leslie Knope and the people of Pawnee pipped the Big Bang nerds to the post, with the glorious Parks and Rec taking the trophy for Best Comedy for the second year in a row. Literally.

(Previous winners: 2008, 2009 and 2010 – 30 Rock; 2011 – Modern Family; 2012 – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; 2013 – Parks and Recreation)

Best New Show: True Detective

The rest of the unpopcult collective obviously liked True Detective a whole lot more than I did, beating as it did fellow prestige drama newcomer Fargo into second place by some distance. Since time is a flat circle, season 2 will have a different cast, a different location and a brand new, different story. Will it have the same success? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

(Previous winners: 2011 – Game of Thrones; 2013 – The Blacklist)


Best Actor: Josh Charles, The Good Wife

*wipes away tear*

In a category bursting with brilliant performances, Josh Charles takes the top prize for his part in the biggest tv secret of the year. Matthew McConaughey was a close second but, in the end, Rust Cohle’s nihilism couldn’t quite trump Will Gardner’s broken heart.

(Previous winners: 2008 – Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall, Zeljko Ivanek; 2009 – Hugh Laurie; 2010 – Michael Emerson; 2011 – Timothy Olyphant; 2012 – Damian Lewis; 2013 – James Spader)

Best Actress: Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

Another year, another magnificent performance from three-peat winner and unpopcult favourite Julianna Margulies, with TGW carrying off yet another unpopcult honour. Just thinking about The Last Call makes me cry. And crawl into a ball, rocking and moaning. Why did it have to happen?! WHY?!

Er, yes, again this was an exceptional category stuffed with incredible performances so well done Julianna and kudos too to the astonishing Tatiana Maslany in second place, who came very, very close to stealing home herself.

(Previous winners: 2008 – January Jones, Kristin Chenoweth, Glenn Close; 2009: Hermione Norris; 2010 – Jane Lynch; 2011 – Margo Martindale; 2012 – Julianna Margulies; 2013 – Julianna Margulies)

Best Ensemble: Game of Thrones

GOT’s second Ensemble win in a row is no more than its due: this sprawling tapestry of stories is brought to thrilling, compelling life by a cast as bewilderingly talented as it is absolutely huge. Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Charles Dance, Diana Rigg, Natalie Dormer, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau…. the list goes on and on and it is amazing.

(Previous winners: 2008 – Lost, Mad Men and Battlestar Galactica; 2009 – Mad Men; 2009 – Lost; 2010 – Lost; 2011 – Southland; 2012 – The Good Wife; 2013 – Game of Thrones)

I Would (Male): Michiel Huisman, Nashville / Game of Thrones / Orphan Black 

Leapfrogging all the other incredibly handsome fellows in this usually hotly-fought category, 2014’s favourite love interest Michiel Huisman took a very early lead in the voting this year and never let go. Whether you knew him as bad boy Liam from Nashville, bad boy Daario from Game of Thrones or, er, dad boy Cal from Orphan Black, you (and I) loved him a whole lot, so congratulations to Michiel and happy handsomeness to everyone else.

(Previous winners: 2009 – Richard Armitage; 2010 – Richard Armitage; 2011 – Shane West; 2012 – Simon Baker; 2013 – Gregory Fitoussi) 

I Would (Female): Connie Britton, Nashville

Tami Taylor triumphs again! A second win in a row for the gorgeous Connie Britton (and her amazing hair, my goodness I want that hair) and a fifth redhead winner in a row for this category. No word on a UK air date yet for Nashville season 3, but seasons 1 and 2 both ran in February so that’s as good a guess as any.

(Previous winners: 2009 – Tina Fey; 2010 – Christina Hendricks; 2011 – Audrey Fleurot; 2012 – Christina Hendricks; 2013 – Connie Britton)

Most Annoying Storyline: Jack being a “good” Stalker, Stalker

Scarlett on Drugs and Kono’s endless, from-the-neck-up search for Adam were only a few votes behind but ultimately, Good Stalker Jack’s combination of stupidity, sexism and silliness “won” the day. Um… congratulations?

(Previous winners: 2012 – Dana’s Hit-and-Run, Homeland; 2013 – Kalinda’s Ex, The Good Wife)

Most Annoying Character: Damian, The Good Wife

Competition is always super-fierce in this category, but ultimately the bafflingly bad Damian – sticking out like a sore thumb in an otherwise almost flawless show – climbed to the top of the turnip pile, with Jack from Stalker in second place. Sadly, this means that Maggie and Useless Jim from The Newsroom will never win a category that could have been created for them, but I’m confident they’ll get over it. Well done, Damian. Don’t ever come back.

(Previous winners: 2008 – Mohinder Suresh, Heroes; 2009 – President Allison Taylor, 24; 2010 – Susan Delfino, Desperate Housewives; 2011 – Will Schuester, Glee; 2012 – Ellis Boyd, Smash; 2013 – Van Pelt, The Mentalist)

And that, unpopculters, means our business with 2014 is almost finished. I know I say it every year but thank you so much to everybody for watching with us and for voting – Jed and I can’t wait to talk more tv with you all in 2015. We have just one more gong to give out before we go, though, and it’s a heartbreaker….

Ship of the Year: Will and Alicia (In Memoriam)

Sigh. There could be no voting this year, because there could only be one winner. Goodbye Will, goodbye Walicia and goodbye 2014.

(Previous winners: 2011 – Lund and Hartman; 2012 – Will and Alicia; 2013 – Jane and Lisbon)

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.

True Detective s1 ep 1

In 2012, two former detectives are being interviewed about a murder in Louisiana in 1995: Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) is trim, suited, prosperous, working in private security; his then partner, Rustin ‘Rust’ Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) is dishevelled, drinking, smoking, apparently down on his luck.

Back to 1995, then, and Hart and Cohle are called to the scene of what looks like a ritualistic murder, the victim a woman (obvs), naked (obvs), with antlers attached to her head, and strange symbols scrawled on her body. She is subsequently identified as Dora Lange, part-time prostitute, meth-head, etc.

There isn’t a whole heck of a lot of investigating this week, truth be told. It’s a slow-burner, with a portentous soundtrack by T Bone Burnett, and no before-the-credits Mentalist/Blacklist-style economical storytelling. And, thus far, it’s at least as much about the relationship between Hart and Cohle.

Hart’s ostensibly uncomplicated: married, kids, straight-talking. Cohle, on the other hand, is an alcoholic, with a Secret Pain (obvs), given to reading books about serial killers, and to coming out with some fabulous cod-profound bullshit: referring to the killer as “metapsychotic”, and musing at one point that he can “smell the psycho-sphere” (aluminium and ash, apparently). Much of this is the sort of dialogue that sounds like Great Dialogue, and therefore isn’t, although given the title of the show it’s possible that it’s a kind of self-conscious hommage to pulp crime fiction. Hart is less than tolerant of it: “You got a chapter in one of those books about jumping to conclusions?” he demands at one point.

As we move backwards and forwards between timelines, it starts to become clear that, as Cohle suspects, this isn’t their killer’s first time out: there are possible links to the disappearance of a girl five years before, and the detectives interviewing Hart and Cohle in 2012 seem to be exploring a similar killing which took place after 1995 when, we learn, the killer was supposedly caught.

True Detective looks great, of course. “This place”, observes Cohle, “is like someone’s memory of a town, and the memory is fading”, for which he gets called “unprofessional” by Hart; it’s a flourish I’m prepared to forgive him, though, as it’s said against a rapturously beautiful pastel backdrop of disused buildings, and feels peculiarly right. And the acting is every bit as good as you might expect. Harrelson is excellent, hinting at Hart’s hidden depths; McConaughey, hollow-cheeked and tortured, is nothing short of astounding. It now seems remarkable that only a few years ago he was Hollywood’s king of medium-rent rom-com.

On the other hand, for now it’s very, very male: the only women of significance are Hart’s wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan); a couple of prostitutes; the victim, herself a prostitute, of course; and some woman at the office with whom, it is insinuated, Hart is having an affair. Now, I might not have a problem with that: it’s artistically defensible to make a show about a male world and populate it with lots of men. But it does leave you open to the criticism that you’re making a show about – and for – boys. It’s also very white, at least in the 1995 sequences, although it’s notable that both of the cops interviewing Cohle in 2012 are African-American, suggesting perhaps that some things have changed in the interim.But they’re both still men, of course.

It could all yet miss the mark: a fraction too far with Cohle’s anguished speeches, for example, and you’re looking at overwritten parody rather than tribute. I’m also encouraged by the producers’ plan to make subsequent seasons with, each time, a different cast telling a different story, because otherwise this plot has the feel of something which could, in the wrong hands, drag on for years. But I have to say that I liked this a lot: I was intrigued and captivated and I’m prepared to allow for the possibility that, after a few more episodes of True Detective, I might yet love it.