The Power of TK

Write to Me:

See Also

100 Things About Me
The Bull's Testicles Project
Russia Trip: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
Best of 2002: Movies, Books, Music.
Best of 2003: Movies.
Best of 2004: Movies, Books.
Best of 2005: Theater, Books.
Best of 2006: Theater, Books, Television.


Other Sites

My Slate archive
Day job podcasts
YST Movie Madness
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Emmy Predictions
Even though my favorite TV show, The Wire, returns for a new series tomorrow night, I won’t be watching. (Of course, that might not be so if HBO didn’t have such a generous rerun policy.) Instead, I’ll be watching the 56th annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The Oscars they aren’t, but since I’ve watched more network television since getting TiVo last summer, I’m more interested than usual. My feelings about some shows are stronger than my desire to make accurate predictions (I don’t care if Everybody Loves Raymond is likely to win awards, it’s junk, and I can’t bring myself to suggest it’s going to come out on top), but here are my guesses for the big awards.

Drama Series
Nominees: CSI, Joan of Arcadia, The Sopranos, 24, The West Wing

I haven’t seen Joan of Arcadia, but I think I saw all the episodes in the last series of the other shows. The West Wing was pretty blah last season—a viewer who’d never seen it in the Aaron Sorkin years must’ve wondered what all the fuss was about. The West Wing did more to establish the writer as the most important ingredient in a great show by having the same outstanding cast but leaving them with nothing to say and very little to do. Whereas before they’d soared with great speeches and slightly crazy but brilliant plot twists, this time around it was just a bunch of great actors saying and doing uninteresting things. Even when they ratcheted up the drama and killed off beloved characters, it felt like empty manipulation rather than inspired and inspiring puppetry. This year’s 24 was OK, but it’s a case of diminishing returns—it’s like an NBA game: You know the only reason to watch the first 95 percent is to see if anyone gets injured and who fouls out. There’s no reason to get invested in the characters, because you know most of them will be out of the picture before we reach the end. I like CSI, and the show has done a great job of maintaining its standards. We had a little bit of wobbling this season—it’s hard to figure out what’s going on with Greg; Catherine’s character got a little lost with all the business with her father (and it’s time to stop messing with that woman’s family—she’s now lost her ex-husband, had her daughter almost drown, and found out who her real father is); and the business of Grissom’s hearing loss was wrapped up very unsatisfactorily. Overall it was as if the show’s writers just couldn’t be bothered to deal with the traits and flaws the characters had been given over the years (as well as Grissom’s hearing, we also lost the thread of Warwick’s gambling and the odd attraction between Grissom and Sara). Still, I wouldn’t be disappointed if it won. I’d be a little surprised, though. This definitely wasn’t the best Sopranos series—an awful lot of the episodes felt like slow build-up to a climax that never came (and I hated that nonsensical dream sequence—if you’re going to do one, at least allow it to stand up to interpretation), but there were still moments that are more exquisite than just about any other show on television (The Wire is the only show I can think of that’s consistently better-written). So, my prediction: The Sopranos.

Comedy Series
Nominees: Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Everybody Loves Raymond, Sex and the City, Will & Grace

Comedy is more polarizing than any other TV genre. A couple of the shows on this list are undoubtedly high-quality, they’re just not my cup of tea. I’ve tried to watch Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm, but they’re not for me—I find AD frustrating and CYE too annoying to permit the possibility of pleasure. Everybody Loves Raymond I cannot stand, nor can I understand why anyone would think it has any merit whatsoever. I find it both resolutely unfunny and shockingly mean-spirited. Will & Grace isn’t part of my TV diet, but when I do see it, it strikes me as smart and funny. But Sex and the City was smart, funny, and convincing—although the characters and the situations were nothing like people and places that I know or particularly want to know, I believe they exist. Sure, there were some missteps last season—starting with Samantha’s cancer and moving through Charlotte’s infertility, Miranda’s exile to Brooklyn, and Carrie’s treatment by the Russian (Matt Haber wrote a great piece about the producers’ sadism for Slate)—but it still made me laugh a lot (and, I’m pretty sure, cry a little bit), so Sex and the City gets my nod for the Emmy.

Nominees: American Family—Journey of Dreams, Angels in America, Horatio Hornblower, Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness, Traffic: The Miniseries

I didn’t see American Family or Horatio Hornblower, so I’ll have to exclude them from consideration. I didn’t like Angels in America—I didn’t like it when I saw it on stage years ago, either, so that’s no hard knock on HBO. Jeffrey Wright was awesome; Meryl Streep was fabulous as Ethel Rosenberg, not so good as the rabbi; Justin Kirk was great as Prior Walter (he’d better be by now); Emma Thompson was great as the angel, not so good as the nurse; but I can’t stand any of the Pitts, so the actors who played them left me cold. The whole play (I guess technically plays) strikes me as an overlong statement of the obvious, with a lot of business thrown in to distract the audience. I’m not a fan of Mike Nichols, either, so HBO had a hell of a task on their hands to win me over, so it’s no surprise that they failed. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Traffic (though it wasn’t as good as the original or the Canadian miniseries Human Cargo that explored very similar material). Prime Suspect 6 certainly wasn’t the best Prime Suspect—I’d’ve liked a lot more of Tennyson’s private life; that strand has often been the juiciest material—but it was so much better than most shows on television that it deserves the Emmy. I don’t think it’ll win, though. Miniseries are over-rewarded at Emmy time (look how many statues the OK but nothing spectacular Door to Door won last year), and this year that’ll be even more true. My prediction: Angels in America.

Variety, Music, or Comedy Series
Nominees: Chapelle’s Show, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Late Show With David Letterman, Saturday Night Live

I should sit this one out since I’ve never been a late-night viewer. My guess, though, is that although The Daily Show’s political tendency could affect the voting (possibly positively if it’s really true what they say about Hollywood being liberal—though I never quite believe that since so many of them are rich) and the topical nature of the show limits the shelf life of the humor, Chapelle’s Show is too contentious/edgy to win an award. Prediction: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

Reality-Competition Program
Nominees: The Amazing Race, American Idol, The Apprentice, Last Comic Standing, Survivor

Here’s another one I should abstain from. I’m not a regular viewer of any of the reality shows (one series of Big Brother was enough for me), but it’s a genre that permeates the Zeitgeist more than most. Amazing Race may well be the best, but it’s between American Idol and The Apprentice for which has had most effect on people who didn’t watch a minute of the thing. I’m going to guess: American Idol.

Actor, Drama Series
Nominees: James Spader, The Practice; James Gandolfini, The Sopranos; Kiefer Sutherland, 24; Martin Sheen, The West Wing; Anthony LaPaglia, Without a Trace

I don’t watch The Practice, but I did read and hear from several people that James Spader single-handedly saved the show. Despite all that screen time and all those heroics, Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t really get to display a lot of range in 24—he’s always under pressure, always running, always aggressive. The whole business with his heroin addiction proved to be a silly Maguffin this season. Martin Sheen is just as good an actor as he always was, but his material was about half as good as it used to be—and besides, he’s playing a lame duck president now. Anthony LaPaglia is a good actor, but the Without a Trace role is one where he’s constantly having to swallow his personality or his desires, so it often feels like his performance is being muted. Tony Soprano certainly wasn’t muted this season—he gave free rein to his inner asshole—but he was always convincing. So, my prediction is: another Emmy for James Gandolfini.

Actress, Drama Series
Nominees: Jennifer Garner, Alias; Amber Tamblyn, Joan of Arcadia; Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; Edie Falco, The Sopranos; Allison Janney, The West Wing

I can’t speak to Garner and Tamblyn’s performances, since I don’t watch their shows. I’m not a regular viewer of L&O: SVU, but I’ve seen it enough to know that although Hargitay does the role very well, it’s another of those muted performances that doesn’t spotlight the kind of acting that wins awards. Allison Janney is a great actress, but she had nothing to do this season. The relationship with Ranger Rick was a nonevent, and although I don’t think she wanted to, Janney got to mail in her performance. Carmela is my favorite Soprano, but she was absent a lot this year, so she’s certainly not the lock she might’ve been in seasons past. Still, for the dinner party racism, the post-coital attempt to get help for college-placement help for AJ, and her not-so-subtle blackmailing of Tony, Edie Falco gets my bet.

Supporting Actor, Drama Series
Nominees: Victor Garber, Alias; Brad Dourif, Deadwood; Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos; Steve Buscemi, The Sopranos; John Spencer, The West Wing

Sorry Victor and Brad, I don’t watch Alias or Deadwood. John Spencer had some decent scenes this season, but like all the other West Wing actors, he just didn’t get a chance to strut his stuff. Steve Buscemi was the key character in the Sopranos series that ended in June, but he was too much of a cipher—his sudden snap that took him from the one righteous member of the family to a guy who cold-cocks the guy putting up the money for his massage therapy office wasn’t altogether convincing. Michael Imperioli has the advantage of a character who goes to extremes—from a sober 12-step evangelist to a guy who downs a bottle of vodka and injects himself with smack, from a loving fiancé to the guy who sends his intended to the Pine Barrens. My prediction: Even though we’ll never again hear Adriana yell, “Kristopha!” Michael Imperioli will go home with an Emmy.

Supporting Actress, Drama Series
Nominees: Robin Weigert, Deadwood; Tyne Daly, Judging Amy; Drea de Matteo, The Sopranos; Janel Moloney, The West Wing; Stockard Channing, The West Wing

I’m only familiar with the work of the last three nominees, and although Donna and Abigail were probably the only West Wing characters to have good years, this was an awesome season for Adriana, so I reckon Drea de Matteo will get the nod, despite the embarrassment of Joey.

Actor, Comedy Series
Nominees: Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm; John Ritter, 8 Simple Rules; Kelsey Grammer, Frasier; Matt LeBlanc, Friends; Tony Shalhoub, Monk

It’s always hard to beat a dead man, especially a popular one who died young and unexpectedly. I know he’s hugely popular, but I don’t like Larry David’s schtick, so I can’t tip him. Matt LeBlanc was the worst actor in Friends (and God knows, he had some competition from the other guys in the cast—by the end of the final series, David Schwimmer had turned into one long series of facial and vocal tics). I’ve always had a soft spot for Tony Shalhoub—I was shocked when, after years of watching Wings, I discovered he wasn’t really Italian—but Monk’s just not a very good show (though it’s good at being what it is—the 21st century version of Matlock). I wasn’t always a Frasier viewer, but the episodes of the last season that I saw were very good and very funny (the episode with Patrick Stewart as the opera director who fell for Frasier made me laugh even the second time around), and it seems likely that the voters will want to give a final statue to the longest-running character in TV comedy. My prediction: Kelsey Grammer.

Actress, Comedy Series
Nominees: Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond; Jennifer Aniston, Friends; Bonnie Hunt, Life With Bonnie; Jane Kaczmarek, Malcolm in the Middle; Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City

I can’t stand Everybody Loves Raymond, so I can’t even consider Patricia Heaton, and although I like Bonnie Hunt and Jane Kaczmarek, I don’t watch their shows. I don’t know when the Emmy votes were cast (the nominees were announced way back in July, so it’s hard to guess), so I don’t know if the long Friends farewell fest would’ve helped Jennifer Aniston’s vote total. Sarah Jessica Parker would’ve been subject to the same emotional assistance, though, and her work in her show’s final series was way more impressive than Aniston’s. So, I’ll go for Sarah Jessica Parker.

Supporting Actor, Comedy Series
Nominees: Jeffrey Tambor, Arrested Development; Brad Garrett, Everybody Loves Raymond; Peter Boyle, Everybody Loves Raymond; David Hyde Pierce, Frasier; Sean Hayes, Will & Grace

Brad Garrett and Peter Boyle, don’t think I’m even contemplating picking you out of the lineup. I liked Jeffrey Tambor much better in The Larry Sanders Show. Sean Hayes’ character goes through too many switcheroos to get a sense of what he’s capable of, and although Niles underwent his share of incredible plot twists in the final season of Frasier, my money’s on David Hyde Pierce to take home the Emmy.

Supporting Actress, Comedy Series
Nominees: Doris Roberts, Everybody Loves Raymond; Kim Cattrall, Sex and the City; Kristin Davis, Sex and the City; Cynthia Nixon, Sex and the City; Megan Mullally, Will & Grace

The conventional wisdom seems to be that the three Sex and the City nominees will split the HBO vote, leaving the door open for Doris Roberts. My hatred of Everybody Loves Raymond is stronger than my desire to predict accurately, so I’m giving it to Megan Mullally. It’s not just a process of elimination, however. With Debra Messing’s pregnancy limiting her involvement in the last series of Will & Grace, Karen’s character became even more central, so she deserves it. (She’s always been the element that makes the show special, but it was especially obvious last season.)