Emmys 2014: Déjà vu all over again

The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards hosted by Seth Meyers took place this past Monday night, but you wouldn’t be blamed for having a strange feeling that the only difference from past ceremonies was not airing on its usual Sunday.

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Can’t shake off that feeling of déjà vu? Don’t worry, it’s not you; it’s just the Emmys. Here are the staggering stats for this year’s acting winners:

  • Ty Burrell – Supporting Actor in a Comedy, Modern Family
    • 2nd win, 5th consecutive nomination
  • Allison Janney – Supporting Actress in a Comedy, Mom
    • 6th win, 2 wins this year, 8th nomination
  • Jim Parsons – Lead Actor in a Comedy, Big Bang Theory
    • 4th win, 7th nomination (2 noms this year)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Lead Actress in a Comedy, Veep
    • 3rd consecutive win, 5th career Emmy, 18th nomination
  • Kathy Bates – Supporting Actress in Miniseries/Movie, American Horror Story: Coven
    • 2nd win, 11th nomination
  • Martin Freeman – Supporting Actor in Miniseries/Movie, Sherlock: His Last Vow
    • 1st win, 3rd nomination (2 noms this year)
  • Jessica Lange – Lead Actress in Miniseries/Movie, American Horror Story: Coven
    • 3rd win, 6th nomination
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – Lead Actor in Miniseries/Movie, Sherlock: His Last Vow
    • 1st win, 3rd nomination
  • Aaron Paul – Supporting Actor in a Drama, Breaking Bad
    • 3rd win, 5th nomination
  • Anna Gunn – Supporting Actress in a Drama, Breaking Bad
    • 2nd consecutive win, 3rd nomination
  • Julianna Margulies – Lead Actress in a Drama, The Good Wife
    • 3rd win, 10th nomination
  • Bryan Cranston – Lead Actor in a Drama, Breaking Bad
    • 5th win, 12th nomination
Emmys_2014_Bryan_Cranston

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Did you catch that? In series acting, every single winner had won an Emmy before. There were only two first-time Emmy winners in Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

Now let’s look at the series winners:

  • The Amazing Race – Outstanding Reality-Competition Series
    • 10th win, 11th nomination [UGHHHHHHHHHH]
  • Fargo – Outstanding Miniseries
    • 1st win, 1st nomination [YAY!]
  • The Colbert Report – Outstanding Variety Series
    • 2nd consecutive and last win, 9th nomination
  • Modern Family – Outstanding Comedy Series
    • 5th consecutive win, 5th nomination [UGHHHHHHHHHH]
  • Breaking Bad – Outstanding Drama Series
    • 2nd consecutive win, 5th nomination [YAY!]

This is not to put down any of the impressive talents of this year’s winners, as there are certainly well-deserved winners in this bunch (well, not you, The Amazing Race). The Emmy voters are broken, sticking with familiar nominees in a brazenly predictable fashion. This voting pattern becomes increasingly frustrating year after year, especially when there are dynamic fresh faces nominated or overlooked perennial nominees. But why do we collectively groan at Jim Parson’s or Ty Burrell and Modern Family‘s wins, but cheer wildly for the wins of Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Bryan Cranston, and Breaking Bad? There’s a perceived difference here between voting complacency and voting for excellence.

In its first season, Modern Family was an excellent series, but five years later, it is simply an OK one. Its wins are simply passé and uninspired, surpassed by Veep‘s sharpness and Orange is the New Black‘s audacity. There are clearly more vibrantand funnyseries elsewhere. Breaking Bad, however, is in the pantheon of all-time greatest television shows. As the show progressed, it just kept getting better. Last season’s gut-wrenching “Ozymandias” was one of Breaking Bad‘s, if not television’s, finest hours. It rightfully won Moira Walley-Beckett an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and was the submission episode for both Anna Gunn and Bryan Cranston. No one will argue that the Breaking Bad actors were undeserving of an Emmy trophy.

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Other Emmys thoughts:

  • Allison Tolman was ROBBED! Seriously and utterly robbed. Tolman was the beating heart within the dark, twisted soul of FX’s Fargo. While not as showy as her fellow scenery-chewing nominees or even Fargo costars, her steadfast and star-making turn as the cool and collected Molly Solverson was such a joy to watch. Damn you, Kathy Bates’ racist severed head!
  • Thank GOD Fargo won Outstanding Miniseries. It was one of my favorite scripted series of the year. Intriguingly off-kilter characters amidst a fantastically rich landscape. It’s a darned shame that series creator Noah Hawley didn’t win for Outstanding Writing.
  • Kudos to Louis C.K. for winning for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for the Louie episode, “So Did the Fat Lady.” Even more kudos to Louis C.K. for immediately thanking actress Sarah Baker for owning those words.
  • Seth Meyers was a fine, if not memorable, host. I am a huge Seth Meyers fan, but this material wasn’t the sharpest. However, he did excel when riffing off his SNL friend or celebrity audience members who were game for participation.

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  • Sorry HBO, looks like your decision to move True Detective out of Movie/Miniseries and into Drama Series backfired spectacularly. HBO logic followed that by submitting True Detective as a Drama series, The Normal Heart would be able to reap all the Emmy bounty in the Movie/Miniseries category. Unfortunately for HBO, not only did Matthew McConaughey lose the Emmy, but so did every single nominated actor from The Normal Heart: Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Joe Mantello, Alfred Molina, Mark Ruffalo, and Julia Roberts. Whoops!
  • No to Weird Al parodies.
  • No to Sofia Vergara objectification.
  • Yes to Billy Crystal tributes: “Robin Williams: What a concept.”
  • Jon Hamm will probably never win an Emmy for Mad Men.
  • Amy Poehler will probably never win an Emmy for Parks and Recreation.
  • If the groundbreaking Orange is the New Black couldn’t stop the Modern Family juggernaut, what can?
  • Billy Eichner and Billy on the Street will always be a goddamned delight.

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2014 Golden Globes starring the ***Flawless Fey & Poehler

Compared to the over-indulgent and overly-long Oscar telecast, the Golden Globes are a silly breeze. The awards mean next to nothing and the alcohol is flowing. This year, the Golden Globes were just as ludicrous as ever, marred with technical difficulties, often baffling winners, and ill-prepared speeches.

Luckily, there was a shining beacon to light the way. Simply put, hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were ***Flawless. This dynamic duo knew exactly how to work both the celebrities in attendance at The Beverly Hotel and the audience at home. Their comedic bits were hilariously to the point and their quick-witted zingers were biting, without ever being mean. My two favorite lines of the night:

  • Gravity is nominated for Best Film. It’s the story about how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.”
  • “And now, like a supermodel’s vagina, let’s all give a warm welcome to Leonardo DiCaprio.”

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The absolute highlight of the evening for me was Amy Poehler FINALLY being recognized for her dynamite portrayal of Parks and Recreation‘s Leslie Knope. When her name was read, I literally screamed out loud with joy and shock. It’s hard to believe that Poehler has never won a single award for playing Knope. Harder still to believe: Brooklyn Nine-Nine has won more major awards (one) than Parks and Recreation has (ZERO). Simply ridiculous. But these are the Golden Globes after all, and boy, does the Hollywood Foreign Press Association like its shiny, new shows (see past TV winners Girls, Homeland). Still, the Andy Samberg and Brooklyn Nine-Nine wins were head-scratchers.

My only real gripe about the ceremony was that there wasn’t enough Fey and Poehler to go around. Two-thirds of the way through the evening, it seems as though the two were missing in action. What could we blame for this mismanaged screen time? Look no further than American Horror Story: Path to the Golden Globes Stage. (Spoiler alert: Jessica Lange doesn’t make it out alive. Wah wah. You’ll get ’em next year, J.Lange!)

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Seemingly every winner was seated miles from the stage, so we spent more precious moments watching celebrities awkwardly navigate a labyrinth of tables than we actually did on their speeches. While the censor bleeping out curse words was asleep at the wheel (we most definitely heard Jacqueline Bisset say “shit”), the orchestra was on the ready to cut off any and all nervous and rambly winners (but not U2, frustratingly).

But what was most peculiar, was that while some speeches feel rushed (Amy Adams will not let you play off her talking about her daughter, dammit!), others were excruciatingly long and endless. So thanks for making the entire evening behind schedule, Jacqueline Bisset. There’s fun celeb loopy, and then there’s “oh God… This is really happening” loopy. Her incoherent acceptance speech was not the former.

On the TV side, kudos to Behind the Candelabra, an opulent and bitter kaleidoscope of a film, anchored by a mesmerizing performance from Michael Douglas as Liberace. A huge WTF goes to Jon Voigt for Best Supporting Actor over the heartbreaking Aaron Paul for Breaking Bad and the transformative Rob Lowe for Behind the Candelabra. The HFPA loves its movie stars… ugh. I was also rooting for Tatiana Maslany as Best Actress in a Drama, even though I don’t watch Orphan Black. And real talk, Hayden Panettiere deserved the award for Best Supporting Actress for her stunningly multi-faceted work on Nashville. She’s the heart of that show. It’s not easy to play someone who fails so spectacularly, while shrouding a lonely soul with catty glitz and glamour.

As for the film awards, I was most thrilled about Spike Jonze for Best Screenplay for Her, who crafted a magnificent film that made my whole body feel. His dizzying musings on the nature of love threw me for a loop in the best ways possible. And I’m bracing myself for the eventual Jennifer Lawrence backlash. Fingers crossed that we as a nation will never reach that point. Just keep on charmin’ your way through the hearts of everyone, J.Lawr!

As Tina Fey joked in the opening monologue: “This is Hollywood, and if something kinda works, they’ll just keep doing it until everybody hates it!” Luckily, we still have the 2015 Golden Globes to look forward to, and with Fey and Poehler at the helm, it’s a guarantee that no one will hate it.

Finally, a special shout-out goes to my favorite pop culture maven, Billy Eichner (@billyeichner), who had my favorite live-tweets from the evening. Here are just two of his winners:

My thank you to 100 episodes of Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation celebrates its 100th episode tonight, and I would like to take this opportunity to give my thanks.

Dear Parks and Rec:

Thank you for the new year’s resolution.

Parks_Ron_Halfass

Thank you for the new life’s resolution.

Parks_Treat_Yo_Self

Thank you for allowing me to feel unabashed joy.

Parks_Andy_Joy

Thank you for allowing me to feel unabashed joy for others’ unabashed hate (which really just masks unabashed joy).

Parks_April_Hate

Thank you for the beautifully tender moments.

Parks_Proposal

Thank you for the beautifully ugly moments.

Parks_Ben_Face

Thank you for the beautifully drunk moments.

Parks_Ron_Dance

Thank you for Donna and her social media skillz.

Parks_Retta_Tweet

Thank you for Retta and her social media skillz. (read that blog post here.)

Parks_Retta_Social

Thank you, Parks and Recreation.

Here’s to 100 more (highly unlikely) episodes!

Parks_100

Treat Yo Self to Community & Parks and Recreation

“Treat Yo Self” doesn’t come just one day a year, as it does for Parks and Recreation’s Tom and Donna. No, for the entertainment-starved masses, quality rest and relaxation can be found on NBC, Thursdays 8/7c.

The one-two punch of Community and Parks and Recreation proves to be a potent one. These two strong ensemble-driven comedies work well in tandem, while situated on seemingly opposite sides of the comedic spectrum, from quick and clever meta pop-culture snark to sunny, heartwarming, go-getter optimism.

This week’s episodes, Community’s “Remedial Chaos Theory” and Parks and Recreation’s “Pawnee Rangers,” were the series strongest outings of the season, if not among the best of their series.

The cast of "Community"

The conceit of “Remedial Chaos Theory,” the playing out of seven timelines stemming from the roll of a Yahtzee! die, may appear gimmicky on paper, but Community elevates the concept with mind-blowing creativity and unabashed love for its study group. The episode shines brightly with other Community gems as “Cooperative Calligraphy” and “Mixology,” putting the characters front and center and even exposing a warmth at the center of its snarky core. The structure of this episode allows the characters to play off each other in dynamic ways, revealing insight to their relationships that would have otherwise gone unexplored.

The multiple timelines shed new light on these study group characters and the roles they play within their makeshift family. Could it be that perhaps Jeff is the “villain” of the group? After all, the joyous dance party to “Roxanne” only happened when Jeff’s cooler-than-thou attitude was removed from the atmosphere. It was telling that the two not participating in the celebration were Jeff and Pierce. But even so, one cannot deny the smile that came across Jeff’s face as he ate his pizza slice. If this season focuses on the growth and maturity of the study group, with Annie and Troy coming into their own into adulthood, Jeff is maturing into his acceptance of this ragtag team as family.

The MVP for me was Gillian Jacobs’ Britta, whose self-righteousness has become the bane of the study group’s existence. But her delightful goofiness broke through, as always, with her “Pizza! Pizza! In my tummy! Me so hungee! Me so hungee!” dance and her interruption of Abed’s finale speech. Indeed, the multiple-timeline structure of the episode allowed all the characters to play absurd, over-the-top comedic moments in fine contrast with down-to-earth realistic interactions. Witness in one timeline , the lack of the pizza chant after sharing a heart-to-heart with Troy.

What is most impressive of the episode, is how a story of this scope and magnitude (pop POP!) was able to breathe within the span of only 21 minutes. Kudos to Dan Harmon and his writing staff for crafting a script so full of Chekhovian setups and nuanced character study. The devil is certainly in the details of this episode, and for more insight into its creation, check out these two Tumblr posts (Tumblr?! So hip and with it!), straight from the creator himself.

Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler)

While “Remedial Chaos Theory” explores the dynamics when one person is removed from a group, Parks and Recreation’s “Pawnee Rangers” deftly deals with one character’s struggle to stay within a community. The emotional fallout of Leslie and Ben’s breakup is explored in this week’s massively entertaining B-story. Early in the episode, Ben Wyatt asks himself what is keeping him in Pawnee, but by the time the credits roll, his roots are dug deeper, thanks to his heroic sidekicks, T-Mobile and Donatella. Parks and Recreation has found a perfect straight man in Adam Scott. When first introduced at the end of season two, Ben served as the entry point for the viewers into the crazy world of Pawnee, and we exchanged our exasperated looks with the former teen mayor. Now well into season four, Ben’s nerd quirks are lovingly and fully fleshed out (“And they would never cancel Game of Thrones. It’s a crossover hit!”). Ben’s straight man persona allows his pairings with Donna & Tom and April & Andy to be hilariously dynamic and refreshing. This “Treat Yo Self” outing has been Donna’s strongest to date (“Needles in yo face, pleasure in yo base!”) and is a perfect example of how Parks and Recreation blends its optimism with hints of raw emotion. Of course Ben’s swell of emotion is showcased in a Batman costume. Of course.

In spite of all the romantic pairings on this show (Remember when Ann and Andy were a thing? Remember Louis C.K.?), it goes without saying that the true emotional core of the show is the relationship between Ron Effing Swanson and Leslie Knope. The rivalry between the Pawnee Rangers and Pawnee Goddesses is the epitome of their disparate lifestyles. Whereas other comedy series may go to great lengths in lampooning a character’s quirks and enthusiasms, the smart writing of this series positions Ron and Leslie’s stubborn viewpoints squarely with character strengths. Their loves of wilderness survival and puppy parties are wholly embraced and celebrated. This open-armed acceptance sets Parks and Recreation head and shoulders above all other series.

Plus, how refreshing was it to see the otherwise sweet, lovely, and beautiful Ann Perkins fail to measure up to the standards of Leslie’s Pawnee Goddesses? A great showcase of Rashida Jones’ sometimes under-utilized comedic chops.

I am a Goddess. A glorious female warrior. Queen of all that I survey. Enemies of fairness and equality, hear my womanly roar: NYYYAAAAAAA!!