American Emmy Story

18 Jul

Where to begin with this year’s Primtime Emmys? Don’t worry. I’ll try to keep this brief because this blog is actually about movies, not television, though TV is seemingly much more hospitable to actresses than is often the case with feature films. Also, the Emmys have so many categories that I can barely keep up with all of them, especially since I don’t get HBO, Showtime, or any of the other premium channels that offer such shows as Homeland. Plus, I barely have time to watch even a small handful of series with any regularity. Full confession: I love Amy Poehler, but I’ve never seen an episode of Parks and Recreation though I hear it’s wonderful, and I congratulate Poehler on her nod. I think I’ve barely seen more than snippets of such top contenders as The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family though I am happy for the people associated with both shows. I’ve seen multiple Emmy winner Jim Parsons. a proud Houston native, on a few talk shows, and I’ve been a fan of Ty Burrell (Modern Family) for awhile based on his work on other shows. I’ve yet to watch a single episode of Scandal, but I know it’s generated plenty of buzz and has tons of fans. I know several people who love it. I’ve seen Scandal’s Emmy nominated star of plenty of talk shows and magazine covers, so I’m happy for all of her success.

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Emmy nominee Linda Cardellini (Mad Men). Of course, I love Jessica Lange in almost anything, and I’m thrilled that she earned an Emmy nomination for American Horror Story: Asylum. I’m even more thrilled for Sarah Paulson per her searing portrayal of a railroaded reporter in the same series; however, I am damn near ecstatic at the inclusion of the great Linda Cardellini, who has earned her first Emmy nomination, in the “guest” role category, for her performance as Sylvia Rosen in Mad Men. Of all the women with whom that manipulative adulterer Don Draper has dallied, none of them has ever gotten under Don’s skin the way Sylvia did. Cardellini was simply breathtaking, in scene after impossible scene, as a seemingly neglected doctor’s wife who simply could not get enough of Don’s shennanigans even when he treated Sylvia like shit–until, of course, she had enough though enough was never enough for Don, and just when we all thought it was over, Sylvia’s vulnerability–as a mom with a son on the verge of being sent off to Vietnam–got the best of her, of Don, and of everybody else. If you only know Cardellini as the spoiled Chutney–she of the gargantuan perm–in Legally Blonde, or as nerdy Velma in the Scooby Doo movies, then you need to take a second look at this incredibly versatile actress as soon as possible. Of course, the nominations for Cardellini, Paulson, Lange, Elisabeth Moss, Robin Wright, Kerry Washington, and all the rest provide compelling evidence that television often offers much more challenging roles for actresses than do feature films. This year, the heat was so intense that there was no room in the drama series category for previous winners Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), and Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) while there was no room in the comedy category for perennial fave Betty White (Hot in Cleavland) though White earned the 20th nod of her career for hosting Betty White’s Off Their Rockers.

This is the year that a show produced through digital movies and shows-on-demand service Netflix makes Emmy history, and that show is the political drama House of Cards, starring two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, who also serves as an executive producer. The show reeled in a total of nine nominations, including Outstanding Dramatic Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, and Outstanding Lead Actress in Drama Series–the wonderful and oft under-appreciate Robin Wright, a onetime Dallas gal. Congratulations, y’all!

Also, the Netflix rejuvenated comedy series Arrested Development generated a few nods, including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy (Jason Bateman). I haven’t see any of the new episodes, but I used to tune-in sporadically  when the show originally aired on Fox.  Oh, and I’ve been a fan of Bateman’s since just about forever.  Meanwhile, the big broadcast networks (ABC,  CBS, NBC, and Fox) were shut out of the Best Drama series category though PBS’s Downton Abbey secured a place on the finalist’s roster, and I only watch that show intermittently as well.

On the other hand, I was completely caught up in this year’s most nominated series American Horror Story: Asylum, which scored 17 nods. To clarify: this show is in the mini-series or made-for-TV movie category since each season is a self-contained story with a rep company of actors on board portraying different characters from the ones they played in the previous installment, so kudos to the fine cast members who snagged nominations starting with the one and only Jessica Lange, who won an Emmy as a supporting player for her work in the previous season. This go-round she played stern Sister Jude, the head nun at a dangerously unstable mental home. Well, it’s complicated. If you think  Lange was just doing a rehash of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s villainous Nurse Ratched (portrayed onscreen by Oscar winner Louise Fletcher),  you’d be wrong. Lange’s character has a huge arc, and the actress provides layers and layers of feelings, that is, conflicted emotions. If you catch the show in reruns, be prepared to hate her, and then sit back and watch what happens. Also nominated from the same show are Sarah Paulson (Lana, the railroaded lesbian reporter), James Cromwell (the doctor with the Nazi past), and Zachary Quinto (a seemingly soft spoken…psycho). I have to say that Paulson, promoted as a supporting player, perhaps impressed me even more than Lange. Lana is a reporter whose life is all but destroyed after she tries to write an expose of the creepy mental facility.  Again, in a saga that takes place over several, several years, Paulson gets a chance to really hone her acting chops,  playing a character who experiences a flurry of ever-escalating emotional changes. Good job! That noted, I thought Lange and Paulson were more evenly matched not by Cromwell and Quinto, though they are both swell actors, but by un-nominated Evan Peters as morose Kit, a man who seemingly lives two lives. How’s that? Well, you’d have to watch, but, trust me. Peters did amazing work as a man who can scarcely believe his own fortune. Of course, the Emmys are just super, super competitive.

To the surprise of no one, I’m sure, the mighty, mighty Jon Hamm is back in the race for his magnificent portrayal of  TV’s most handsome cipher, Mad Men‘s Don Draper. Hamm is so good, so absolutely invested in Draper, that it’s often easy to forget that he’s really acting–it almost seems as though he really is Draper, but, of course, he’s not. That’s why it’s sometimes shocking to see Hamm on SNL, a movie, or some other show being so completely different. Ad-whizman Draper has been spiraling out of control for awhile now, but this season he crashed hard, and Hamm skillfully managed the next-to-impossible: he made audiences care about what happens next, and that’s a feat considering the number of bridges this master manipulator can burn in a single episode. Mad Men has won Outstanding Drama Series in four of its previous five seasons, but Hamm, consistently nominated as well, has never won. His closest competition always seems to be Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston. Maybe this year will be different though I’m not hopeful since Breaking Bad has generated tons of interest in its final season. I’d also love to see Elisabeth Moss take home a trophy for playing Mad Men‘s Peggy Olson, Don’s protégé. Not only does Olson serve as a stand-in for the emerging women’s movement as the show moves out of the 1960s and into the 1970s, she also has a most unique relationship with Don. She’s never slept with him, thank god, but she perhaps knows him better than almost anyone including his current wife and ex-wife, yet she does not know as much as she thinks she does.  At the same time, as an ad exec, Olson is becoming more and more like Don, a development crystalized in the last look at the character in the most recent season finale. Moss is a double nominee this year thanks to her work on Top of the Lake (courtesy of New Zealand’s Jane Campion).  On the other hand, despite a smattering of Mad Men acting nods, I’m still a little irked that the wonderful Vincent Karthiser, who consistently excels as weasley Pete Campbell has yet again been overlooked. Everybody hates Pete. Exactly.

Thanks for your consideration…and my apologies to Jason Bateman, whose name I originally bungled in a previously and prematurely published draft of this article.

Here is a link to the official Emmy website: http://www.emmys.com/

Emmy coverage at Variety.com: http://variety.com/2013/tv/news/emmy-nominees-2013-emmys-awards-nominations-full-list-1200564301/

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