Sunday, July 22, 2012

What Show Is This?

The Primetime Emmy Awards were announced, and as I looked at the list, I had but one thought:

What's that?

It isn't to say that the various dramas & comedies aren't worthy of nominations.  It's just that I have never seen almost all of them. 

I would say it has to do more with me.  I realize that I just don't watch that much television.  Even the shows I do watch (Teen Wolf, Franklin & Bash, Doctor Who) I tend to watch when they start filling up my DVR.  Almost all of those recordings are from Turner Classic Movies, so that should give you some indication of my viewing habits. 

Of course, there is another issue: cable/satellite.  I find that a good number of the nominated shows are non-network programs, and I don't mean just regular cable/satellite.  I mean PREMIUM channels.

Let's look at the six Best Comedy nominees (yes, I know they call it Outstanding, but I'm not going to get hung up on trivialities).

The Big Bang Theory
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Modern Family
30 Rock

Of those three, the highlighted ones are on HBO.  Now, if you don't pay for HBO (like me), you will simply have very little to no idea what these shows are about or why they are "Outstanding".  Truth be told, I wasn't even aware Curb Your Enthusiasm was even STILL ON.  Despite all the praise it has received, 30 Rock is not a popular show (it has remarkably low ratings for such an esteemed program).  Out of all of those, only The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family are both wildly popular and highly respected (in the case of the latter, both President Obama and Governor Romney say they are fans, thus Modern Family can bring America together). 

Speculating on this category, Girls gives me the impression that it thinks highly of its own wit (but any show that mocks Millennials' sense of entitlement would work for me) and Veep appears to be nothing more than HBO taking yet another swipe at Governor Sarah Palin.

Before I continue, I really won't make predictions on the whole.  On one or two categories perhaps, but I cannot make a fair assessment when I don't know the product.

Moving on to the Drama category...

Boardwalk Empire
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
Mad Men

Again, the bold are HBO programs, while the indented ones are AMC (what was once called American Movie Classics.  I understand they do show movies every so often on AMC, if only to keep the name).   I think I can give a good analogy between AMC and TCM while making a connection to the only network nominee: TCM is the Lady Mary Crawley of film-based networks, while AMC used to be the Edith Crawley of film channels. 

Even if I loved Breaking Bad or Mad Men (again, haven't seen them but the possibility open via DVDs), at the moment I couldn't see them even if I wanted to.  The dispute between AMC and DISH prevents such programs to be watched by many people. Of the nominees, the only one I've seen is Downton Abbey

I do like Downton Abbey (although this season/series I thought it took some bizarre leaps), but what I find curious is that last year Downton Abbey won Best MINISERIES. 

It is now a full series, and while I have enough difficulty wrapping my head around that, the miniseries categories are to me completely mind-boggling.

In the Best Miniseries or Television Movie category (which really should be split into two separate categories), we have

American Horror Story
Game Change
Hatfields & McCoys
Hemingway and Gellhorn
Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia

Note that of the six nominees, only TWO (Game Change and Hemingway and Gellhorn, both HBO) would count as television movies.  Of the others, only Hatfields & McCoys would fit into the traditional definition of a miniseries (a short-run television program). 

My beef with the nominees is that, as far as I understood, American Horror Story, Luther, and Sherlock are NOT miniseries but full-on television series running on a continuing basis.  A miniseries once meant that: a short-run television series like Eleanor & Franklin, The Jewel In the Crown, A Woman Named Jackie, Upstairs, Downstairs, John AdamsRoots or I, Claudius (the last two being neck-and-neck in being the Citizen Kane of television miniseries).  There was no Season Two to I, Claudius and Roots: The Next Generations was a sequel to Roots but not a hoped-for twelve to twenty-four television series.

Now, in this category of 'miniseries', we have not one but TWO television programs that are going on to their THIRD year (Luther and Sherlock), and another that will be going on to a second season (American Horror Story).  How is it possible that a program with various episodes such as Sherlock (which had three episodes in what its creators say is Series Two: A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of Baskerville, and The Reichenbach Fall) could possibly be considered a "miniseries"? 

Yes, I understand that Stephen Moffat created Sherlock Holmes completely out of his own imagination, it is completely his creation and his creation alone, all the Sherlock Holmes stories emerged from his mind and his mind alone, just like he created the science-fiction program River Song (formerly known as Doctor Who), but it strikes me as disingenuous to call one episode of the second series of a television program a "miniseries."

Luther, Sherlock, and American Horror Story should not be considered miniseries but full-fledged regular dramas.  They were submitted in these categories because they were almost certainly not going to get nominated for Best Drama.  I remember when Rumpole of the Bailey was switched from Miniseries to Drama because it had too many episodes or ran too long (with The Bourne Identity replacing it).  Now, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has decided that a program in its second year with multiple episodes is a miniseries.

Damn nonsense.

This isn't to say that I'm not happy that Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman received nominations for playing Holmes and Watson respectively (although I haven't seen Sherlock and can't bring myself to watch it yet for various reasons).  Still, the acting nominees are even more perplexing.

Take Ashley Judd for example.  She received a Best Actress in a Miniseries nomination for Missing.  I think Judd is a good (but not great) actress, but Missing was never a miniseries.  Missing was a series, a complete season-long series..and a cancelled one at that.   How is it conceivable that Missing could be called a miniseries when it was never intended to be a miniseries in the first place?  I think Missing would have worked great as an actual miniseries, but it is and was never a miniseries no matter how generous the term. 

I could argue the same with Cumberbatch and Freeman.  They've had two years to perform their characters, so they are up against people like Clive Owen, who performed as Ernest Hemingway once.  Is this something close to cheating?

Finally, I want to touch on Game Change.  This is the only HBO program waiting for me on my DVR, recorded when I had a free preview weekend.  As with Veep, I can't shake the feeling that Game Change is one last jab at Governor Palin.  Just as Veep is about a rather stupid female Vice-President (scenario sound familiar?), Game Change focuses on one aspect of the extensive tome: that of Sarah Palin's effect on the 2008 presidential campaign.

Digression: yes, the people behind Veep may insist it's not based or inspired on Palin, but you can't blame the casual viewer from thinking this duck doth quack too much. 

Game Change might be remarkably balanced (not having seen it yet, I cannot say one way or another).  However, given that Tom Hanks (cheerleader for then-Senator, now President Obama) produced it, and the film's stars Julianne Moore (Sarah Palin), Ed Harris (John McCain) and Woody Harrelson (Ed Schmidt) are all passionately liberal, the creative forces behind Game Change are foolish if they didn't think they'd give their enemies a weapon to use against them.

Still, on the whole I see that I really don't watch much television today, but that isn't to say I don't appreciate Emmy-winning programs.  In fact, I do watch one Best Comedy Series on a regular basis...


1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised you've got no comments on this... the utter weirdness of where Sherlock and American Horror Story were stuck was chosen by the Emmy folks. They had some rule about how many episodes the show broadcast to equal a season. I thought the categories were all messed up personally. (And Kevin Costner won over Benedict Cumberbatch? Whatever.) I am curious if you have seen Sherlock yet and what your opinion is. You said you planned to watch it, but didn't mention if you liked it.

    If you haven't read about the genesis of the show, Moffat and Gatiss are long time Sherlock Holmes fanatics. They've explained that in the books Sherlock Holmes was a contemporary man who used all the tools available to him. They felt much of the dramatization of the SH stories focused more on the trappings--Hansom cabs, fog, and Victoriana, than on the stories and Sherlock Holmes' brilliance and the friendship with John Watson.

    I started watching convinced I'd hate it. After the first episode I loved it. (I did try the CBS knock-off and this conversion to "love it" hasn't happened. It's ok for a CBS police procedural, but other than the names it has little to do with Sherlock Holmes. They aren't even really friends, and in an early episode the genius detective is fooled by a child psychopath... yeah whatever.)

    Anyway, am curious what you think. If nothing else, the show has created a great deal of interest again in the original stories. I work in a library and regularly recommend the series. I've had no one report back yet that they did not like it, and many people have then desired to read the original books. So, to me this is a very good thing. Take care...


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