Dream Emmy Ballot: Supporting Actress (Drama)

Geez, ladies!  What’s with all the drama?  See what I did there?  #TVpuns

Listed below you’ll find a list of exceptional actresses whose performances absolutely enthralled.  Paring the field down to just six presented a (hyperbole warning) Herculean task, forcing me to trim great performances from the likes of Game of Thrones just to make way for some of the women you’ll see here.  And when Game of Thrones winds up on the cutting room floor, you know the competition is fierce.  For me, determining my dream ballot for this category was easy: which performances stuck with me after having moved me profoundly or shaking me to my core or, as is often the case, both at the same time?

Fun game: contrast the thumbnails below to those just recently posted to accommodate my picks for comedy categories.  From steely eyes to ugly cries, here we go!


good wife                                           bb

Christine Baranski,                                                           Anna Gunn,

       The Good Wife                                                              Breaking Bad


carter                                             americans

Taraji P. Henson,                                                         Annet Mahendru,

 Person of Interest                                                             The Americans


carol                                            Parenthood - Season 5

Melissa McBride,                                                            Mae Whitman,

The Walking Dead                                                                 Parenthood


Honorable Mention: Lena Headey, Game of Thrones; Ivana Milicevic, Banshee; Sophie Turner, Game of Thrones; Erika Christenson, Parenthood


“Show your work…”

If you scoffed at my selection of The Walking Dead‘s Melissa McBride, then allow me to provide my five-word retort: “Look at the flowers, Lizzy.”  I mean, right?  McBride absolutely killed it (too soon?) in portraying the weight of the soul-crushing decision to euthanize Lizzy before she transformed into a full-blown psychopath.  I watched this scene, hands clapped to my slack-jawed mouth, in awe of her spellbinding performance: McBride wore Carol’s moral conflict on her face like a grotesque Halloween mask.  As a show, The Walking Dead can be frustratingly inconsistent, but that in no way diminishes the wallop Melissa McBride packs in the all-time great episode “The Grove.”  A stunner.

A thousand times da, Nina Sergeevna!  I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen any performer–actor or actress–pull off the kind of high-wire balancing act required of Annet Mahendru on FX’s brilliant series The Americans.  Mahendru manages a mind-boggling paradox: Nina is both one hundred percent sympathetic and one hundred percent untrustworthy.  Perhaps it has to do with the woman’s gorgeous face, which emotes so completely that we feel her feeling the burden of her betrayal as a double agent.  I hope with every fiber of my being that Nina’s walk down the stairs at the end of season two did not serve as her permanent exit from the show because The Americans–for all its strengths, which are myriad–must credit this outstanding actress as a major contributor to its overall success.

Look, Mae Whitman.  We need to talk.  Can you do me a huge favor and not rip my still-beating heart out of my chest every time you’re on screen?  Thanks, Mae!  That would be just darling of you.  Seriously, a mere quiver of the lip is enough to send me into paroxysms of despair.  If you’ve read this blog before, then you know I hold a very soft spot in my heart for NBC’s Parenthood; the cast is excellent, the writing spot-on.  I could single out any one of the talented performers from this showcase of a series, but Amber’s doomed relationship with Ryan was one of the best things this show has done, and that has a great deal to do with Mae Whitman (and Matt Lauria, but he ain’t no lady, so back off!).  Even better?  This arc forced Amber to reconnect with her deadbeat dad Seth, which always forces me to feel every single feel.  #MaeMayWin Let’s get that trending!

Speaking of the ugly cry, was there anything more gut-wrenching than Skyler White’s mid-street collapse in Breaking Bad‘s best episode, “Ozymandias?”  Truly intense stuff, and that’s to say nothing of the minutes preceding her futile sprint down the street.  Geesh, Anna Gunn, you’ve already won an Emmy for your excellent portrayal of Mrs. Walter White.  Can you leave some for the rest of us?  I know fans loved to hate on Skyler throughout the course of the show’s run, but I found Gunn consistently compelling in the role and never more affecting than in the series’ final stretch of episodes.

Person of Interest very confidently strode to the head of the network drama class this season, and Ms. Taraji P. Henson helped it get there.  Jos Carter’s multi-season struggle with the nefarious HR reached its brutal climax halfway through the third season, though Carter’s  victory came at a steep cost.  Along the way, Henson elevated what could have amounted to little more than a stock character into a multi-faceted, complex woman whose belief in justice motivated many of her decisions and actions.  Embodying the show’s heart, Henson proved Person of Interest anything but a flash-in-the-pan science fiction show.  For that alone, her nomination would be very well-deserved–unfortunately, I’m not counting on the Emmy machine picking Henson’s number this time around.

On a television show full of bad-ass women, Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart still manages to stand out from the pack.  The Good Wife reinvented itself this season, and Diane found herself at the epicenter of these narrative shifts.  Baranski’s refusal to rely on obvious histrionics as Diane leaned over the body of her fallen friend is indicative of the subtlety and restraint she brings to the role without sacrificing palpable pathos.  Yet somehow, Baranski’s best work came after her partner’s death, whether grappling with her grief or butting heads with the circling sharks of fellow partners.  But, for me, Diane’s reconnection with Alicia and her gradual separation from the firm she helped build really carried this performance.  Where this character ended up–knocking on the door of Alicia’s firm–might have been inevitable, but the journey Baranski took us on with her her character to arrive there felt like an acting masterclass.


That’s the end!  Next time, let’s see what the supporting gentlemen are doing in their respective dramatic roles, shall we?  Looking forward to it!

Dream Emmy Ballot: Best Series (Comedy)

Look, comedy is incredibly subjective.  What I find gut-bustingly hilarious might elicit little more than the wryest of smiles from you, so–of all the categories so far–this one seems the most subjective.  Even if you don’t find, say, Louie to be your proverbial cup of tea, I doubt very much you could deny the craftsmanship of the performances and writing, but when it comes to the selection of the Best Comedy Series, such a title seems synonymous with Funniest Comedy Series.  And so this crazy little wheel of subjectivity keeps spinning ’round.  Like a record, baby.  Right round round round. #MixingMetaphors #80s

Taking all of that into account, here they are, the comedy series that I consider most worthy of nominations.  Let the debate over the true nature of comedy commence!


enlisted                                           Louie

                  Enlisted                                                                                Louie


Spoiler Entitlement                                          Parks and Recreation

     Orange is the New Black                                          Parks and Recreation


Silicon Valley                                          veep

              Silicon Valley                                                                          Veep

Honorable MentionsShameless; The Mindy ProjectFamily Tree; DerekHello Ladies; Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Nurse Jackie


“Show your work…”

Enlisted, likely, caused you to furrow your brow when you spotted it on my list, so let’s start there.  It’s a ridiculous show, one that can feature a loving homage to Donkey Kong or a heart-stopping escape from a field of porta potties, an ever-escalating prank war or an obsession with Lori Loughlin.  But reveling in the ludicrousness of life at Fort McGee becomes the point of the series: it tackles Army-related drama, such as Sgt. Pete Hill’s PTSD and palpable survivor’s guilt, without sacrificing its own brand of humor.  Very assuredly and slyly, this became a comedy series about the process of overcoming trauma and the need to reinvent oneself in the wake of it, but it’s also a show about the bond of brotherhood in its myriad forms.  The principle cast (Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell, Keith David, Angelique Cabral, and Parker Young) clicks perfectly and gets great back up from those making up the ragtag squad Pete leads.  Unfortunately, Fox mishandled the scheduling of this excellent show, leading to its cancellation, so a surprise nod for Best Comedy Series might assuage the sting a bit and give those Fox execs a moment of pause.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

I’ve written about Louie on here before, so I’ll keep it brief.  There’s never been a show like this before; I doubt we’ll see one as good as it for a very long time.  No other series imbues its consistently disarming comedy with such insight, wit, heart, and sadness; even more miraculous, sometimes the show dispenses with comedy altogether and aims to present a dramatic story instead.  Simply put, this is wondrous television at its most surprising and satisfying.

Netflix’s Orange is the New Black seems poised to claim the title of awards darling this year–and for good reason.  The predominantly female cast reveals its talent piece at a time as the season’s overall narrative structure zeroes in on a specific inmate (providing backstory and context) while also depicting Piper’s gradual unraveling.  Amidst so much quality storytelling, a few threads stand out: the show’s frank and moving depiction of how an inmate’s gender identity affects her family truly impresses, as does Larry (Jason Biggs) struggling to accept the way Piper’s choices have impacted his own sense of self.   If this doesn’t sound gut-bustingly hilarious, that’s because it isn’t, but that’s not to say moments of levity do not emerge.  So, while Orange certainly stands as the least laugh-out-loud comedy on this list, its achievement remains nonetheless staggering.

Parks and Recreation, network television’s best comedy by a considerable margin, stands alone, a true anomaly.  Often times, the shows that strike a chord with audiences come with a twinge of cynicism, as if–underneath the jokes–lives condescension; most times, these shows ask us to laugh at their characters, to judge them for their stupidity or closed-mindedness, their religiosity or social awkwardness.  But not Parks and Recreation.  If anything, this is a show about idealism and positivity in a world hellbent on squashing both.  Somehow, this show feels like a celebration of life, and it also happens to be hysterical.  See Ben Wyatt getting drunk on blueberry wine, Donna scolding her cousin Ginuwine, Andy (and Mouse Rat!) leading a Li’l Sebastian tribute song, Ron destroying a homemade chair for looking “too perfect,” Chris Tragger enacting a one-man dance party to the sultry sounds of “One Headlight,” and Michelle Obama stunning Leslie into silence.  And beneath the effervescent comedy lies a beating heart imbuing it all with a true warmth that’s as infectious as the characters and jokes.  Because as memorable as the comedy is on Parks and Recreation, those moments of friendship–pure, true friendship–ring truest, such as Ron’s pilgrimage to a whiskey distillery in “London.”  Long-lasting network comedies shouldn’t be this good, but Parks and Recreation certainly defies convention.

Silicon Valley‘s inaugural season might stand as a collection of the funniest  episodes HBO has ever aired.  Vacillating between sharp parody of the tech industry in desperate need of lampooning and bawdy humor (the epic dick joke that accounted for a considerable amount of the finale’s run time still has me laughing), Mike Judge’s show emerged as confident in itself as Richard is unconfident.  Anchored by a breakout turn from Thomas Middleditch and buoyed by the likes of TJ Miller, Christopher Evan Welch, Zach Woods, and Kumail Nanjiani, Silicon Valley proves what we already know: the best comedy is concentrated, playing to its strengths while also finding news ways to surprise its audience.  For eight brilliant episodes, Silicon Valley did just that and more.  Bring on season two, and remember: never trust coders in muscle tees.

No show on television (since perhaps another HBO staple, Deadwood) has relished in the poetic nature of profanity to such masterful effect as Veep.  From the outset, this series means to satirize American politics–and it does–but, really, it goes deeper, so what we have here is a show about the corrupting influence of power and the buffoons foolish enough to attempt to wield it.  And what’s more, in allowing the charade of politics to continue in the way Veep depicts them, we–the audience–become the butt of the grandest joke of all.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus kills it as Selina Meyer, but her staff of knuckleheaded idiots are suitable counterparts, from Matt Walsh’s Mike to Tony Hale’s Gary, from Anna Chlumsky’s Amy to Reid Scott’s Dan.  And let’s not forget–how could we?–Sufe Bradshaw’s stoic Sue, Gary Cole’s pandering Kent, Kevin Dunn’s curmudgeonly Ben, and founder of Ryantology himself: Timothy Simon’s Jonah.  Excellent cast, excellent writing, biting satire, and Shakespearean bawdiness coalesce to create truly original comedy.


That’s it on my end!  Feel free now to decry my limited comprehension of what does and does not qualify as funny.  Don’t worry, I won’t cry too much.  Until next time, when we dive into the swirling miasma of misery that is drama!  Bring some tissues, ‘cuz it’s ’bout to get…dramafied.  Had nothing.  Sorry.

Dream Emmy Ballot: Lead Actor (Comedy)

So many hilarious performances on television, so little time!  I’m dubbing this category #YearoftheChris because two of my hopefuls are blessed with said first name, and that can’t just be happenstance, can it?  I didn’t think so either.

From a doctor to a single dad, from a would-be womanizer to an amateur genealogist, from a start-up’s CEO  to a nerdy city planner, below are–in my mind–the cream of the crop of television’s comedy actors.

Without further delay, here we go: my dream Emmy Ballot for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series!


ck                                   dr c

Louis CK, Louie                                 Chris Messina, The Mindy Project


richard                                hello ladies

Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley      Stephen Merchant, Hello, Ladies


family tree                               Parks and Recreation

Chris O’Dowd, Family Tree              Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation


Honorable Mentions: H. Jon Benjamin, Archer; William H. Macy, Shameless; Ricky Gervais, Derek; Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Elijah Wood, Wilfred


“Show your work…”

The criminally underappreciated Family Tree was–pardon the impending pun–rooted firmly in the excellent performance by Chris O’Dowd.  Thanks to O’Dowd’s one-of-a-kind charm, Tom Chadwick became a man whose multi-continental journey became a symbol for his own self-discovery following a divorce.  O’Dowd tempered the show’s moments of outrageous quirkiness with ace reaction shots but could also deliver the funny himself: see his diatribe against an angry motorist for spouting off “mythical racism.”  I’ve resigned myself to the reality that O’Dowd will not receive the gift of a nomination, and that’s a true shame.

Speaking of requisite straight-men in the face of absurdity, is there a character better suited to the role than Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt?  Mr. Leslie Knope has the difficult job of grounding some of the more ludicrous situations and characters (see Andy Dwyer), but he does so with such deadpan aplomb, he manages to elevate this standard role to something truly funny.  Scott knows just when to ramp up Ben’s childlike glee (or outrage) when it comes to his nerdy wheelhouse, whether that’s his reaction shot to Letters of Cleo reuniting for the Unity Concert or showing the boys how a real man plays Cones of Dunshire.  For me, Leslie Knope is the heart of Parks and Recreation, but thanks to Adam Scott, Ben Wyatt is its lungs, finding new ways to breathe new life into otherwise standard comedy tropes.

In years to come, doctoral candidates will be analyzing the unadulterated brilliance of FX’s Louie and the way it quietly and single-handedly altered our expectations of what a comedy series can accomplish, and none of that would be possible without CK’s titular performance.  Whether struggling with the modern realities of life as a single-father or delivering gut-busting stand up, Louis CK’s fearless performance can match the dauntless writing step for step.  It’s an incredible performance brimming with pathos, humor, and more than a pinch of sadness.

Thomas Middleditch is spectacular as the socially awkward but technologically brilliant Richard in HBO’s Silicon Valley.  His mannerisms and speech patterns give his character a fullness because Middleditch clearly has no interest in poking fun at Richard; rather, he wants to expose his quirks and idiosyncrasies as well as his genius. Great stuff.  Stephen Merchant, on the other hand, walks a fine line with Stuart Pritchard in Hello, Ladies.  At times, we need to fume at Stuart; other times, we pity him.  We laugh at him (how hilariously awkward was the scene of him trying to get out of the sports car in front of the club in the pilot episode?); we laugh with him.  That’s quite a bit to ask of an audience, but Merchant manages handily, creating a full portrait of a man trying too hard to find a connection when there’s one right under his nose.

Chris Messina has been great for what feels like forever, so it’s about time to laud this guy with the props he so richly deserves.  His Dr. Castellano is the most charming curmudgeon to grace our small screens in quite some time, and Messina did an excellent job dismantling Dr. C’s bravado a piece at a time over the course of the excellent second season to reveal the beating heart of a true romantic.  The Mindy Project enjoyed such phenomenal success this year in no small part due to Messina, whose electric chemistry with fellow dream-nominee Mindy Kaling virtually set our televisions on fire.  Oh, and the dude can dance apparently.


There we have it, ladies and gentlemen.  Tomorrow, stay tuned for the culmination of this first half of my Dream Emmy Ballot experiment: Best Comedy Series!  Until then, don’t forget to keep that mythical racism in check.  Leprechauns are people too!  #TheMoreYouKnow

Dream Emmy Ballot: Lead Actress (Comedy)

If I had my druthers (and don’t we all wish to hold our druthers firmly in our grasps?), then this year would feature an unprecedented victory the likes of which the Emmys have never seen: a six-way tie!  Hurray!  Wouldn’t that be grand?  #WereAllWinners

Seriously, this is one tough category to judge with shows like Shameless and Orange is the New Black straddling the the line arbitrarily dividing drama and comedy.  But whichever way you slice it, the six women below deliver some of the best comedic performances on television–male or female.

Without further adieu, here we go!


Episode 507                                    mindy

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie                       Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project


"Veep"                               leslie

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep                       Amy Poehler, Parks and Rec


fiona                                  piper

Emmy Rossum, Shameless           Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black


Honorable Mentions: Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope; Kerry Godliman, Derek; Aisha Tyler, Archer


Show your work…”

I’m going to flout convention on this one and toss the names of two repeat nominees/winners into the ring, though I usually detest the Emmys for doing just that.  Edie Falco should hear her name called for her turn as Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus needs a nod for hers as VP/POTUS(!) Selina Meyer in HBO’s hilarious Veep.  Both deserve to keep their streaks of nominations alive, though for markedly different reasons: Falco has taken Jackie to some dark, manipulative places this year while Selina has soared to new heights of neurotic self-aggrandizement.  I’d be flummoxed if both of these exceptionally talented women don’t find their names on the ballot come July.

Meanwhile, Emmy Rossum and Taylor Schilling of the “comedies” Shameless and Orange is the New Black deserve to hear their names called.  Schilling transformed Piper from a cloyingly obnoxious and privileged women to a one beaten down by a system, stripped of her identity.  It’s a powerful performance; in the closing minutes of season one, you can feel the impotence and rage radiating off her as she unleashes her aggression on her erstwhile aggressor.  Great stuff.  Rossum’s Fiona Gallagher faced a similar downward trajectory this year, a path paved with infidelity, drug use, and negligence that ultimately landed her in prison.  But what made Rossum so compelling this year was that, for each frustrating misstep Fiona took (and they were myriad), she still managed to retain her character’s pathos.  We couldn’t help but feel that Fiona, like Piper, has been crushed by her circumstances and therefore overwhelmed and out of her depth in the face of even marginal success.  Sounds hilarious, doesn’t it?  Oh wait a minute, it’s actually a soul-crushing performance beautifully depicted!  I always get those two confused. #EmmyforEmmy Yup, that happened.

Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler might serve as the centerpieces to the two most “traditional” sitcoms on this list–not that there’s anything remotely pedestrian about these two fantastic, original network comedies–but that in no way diminishes the quality of their performances on The Mindy Project and Parks and Recreation.  Both actresses are considerably adroit at jumping from drama to comedy. Kaling mastered it over the duration of season two’s arc that ultimately landed Dr. L in the arms of Dr. C.  The scene where she breaks up with Dr. C (the first time) could have been welcomed on the screen of any major drama, but Kaling can also crack us up as we watch her collapse into an exhausted heap at the top of the Empire State Building after running up the stairs to the man of her dreams.  Amy Poehler captures every glimmer of Leslie Knope’s optimism and every note of idealistic resolve, but Leslie had some trying times this season: first, the departure of new mom/beautiful land mermaid/best friend Anne Perkins, next the bitter disappointment of her removal from office, and finally, the ongoing decision whether or not to take a federal dream job that will force her to leave Pawnee in her rearview.  What’s most impressive about these two performances is that they leave us longing for more.  What’s next for Leslie after that unexpected time jump?  Will Dr. L maneuver a romantic life with Dr. C?  Stellar performances both in dire need of some recognition.


Well that about does it!  Until next time, friends, when I’ll present my dream ballot for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series!

Dream Emmy Ballot: Supporting Actor (Comedy)

Let’s keep this gravy train a-rolling, shall we?  Last week, I posted my Emmy hopefuls in the category of Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, with my selections ranging from “strong possibility” to “not a snowball’s chance in hell.”  What do you say we keep that tradition alive by crossing the gender line hand-in-hand and turning our sights on Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series?

Sound good to you?  Perfect.  Here they are: the funny men that Emmy voters should nominate if they know what’s good for them! #Emptythreat

mindy                                           braugher

Ike Barinholtz, The Mindy Project             Andre Braugher, Brooklyn 99


ron                                          peter

Nick Offerman, Parks & Rec        Christopher Evan Welch, Silicon Valley 


lip                                          enlisted

Jeremy Allen White, Shameless                      Parker Young, Enlisted


Honorable Mentions: Noel Fisher, Shameless; Tony Hale, Veep; Matt Walsh, Veep; Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation; Danny Pudi, Community


“Show your work…”

I would be ecstatic if Christopher Evan Welch earns a posthumous nomination for his turn as the hilariously awkward Peter Gregory in HBO’s ingenious Silicon Valley.  The only proof you need: his free-style brainstorming about Burger King’s sesame seed rolls evolves into an analysis of cicada patterns and, ultimately, forms the backbone of a multi-million dollar investment.  One of my favorite comedy sequences of the year handled with comedic precision by Welch, who seemed poised to break out in a big way with this role.  His loss hurts, but a nod (and win?!) would assuage the sting a bit.

Meanwhile, Ike Barinholtz continues to delight as Morgan, the male nurse on Fox’s underappreciated gem The Mindy Project.  Amidst an already impressive cast, Barinholtz steals the show with his playful awkwardness.  I can just hear his “in character” acceptance speech now: “Dr. L” this and “Dr. C” that.  I would be very okay with that.

Speaking of small screen delights, is there a more iconic sitcom character on the air right now than Parks and Recreation‘s Ron Swanson?  Seriously, Nick Offerman did great work this year, from his heart-warming pilgrimage to a whiskey distillery in the “London” two-parter to his evolution into an honest-to-goodness family man over the course of the season.  Few comedic actors can vacillate between drama and comedy with the aplomb of Offerman; it’s high time Ron F****** Swanson won the props he deserves.

We’ve already discussed how Shameless has no business being in the comedy category; still, it is, and White did impressive work as Lip Gallagher this year.  Lip’s attempt to balance his academic and work study duties with his newfound responsibilities as surrogate father (while Fiona flushed her life down the toilet) formed the backbone of one of Shameless‘s strongest seasons to date, and White should take more than just a little credit for that.

Andre Braugher has already won an Emmy for his brilliant (dramatic) turn as Detective Frank Pembleton on the Hall of Fame-great series Homicide: Life on the Streets, but dammit if Braugher doesn’t deserve another win for playing a cop again, though this time in a comedy series on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  His Captain Holt is the perfect straight man, eliminating histrionics altogether–the fact that he could deliver the line, “I’m in agonizing pain right now,” with a straight face and robot’s monotone is, in my estimation, Emmy-worthy.  But let’s also note that Braugher has been, very unobtrusively, doing some groundbreaking work with Holt; his character’s homosexuality is neither a defining trait nor a caricature.  Holt is a cop who just happens to be gay, and Braugher pulls it off brilliantly.

Last but not least, that leaves Parker Young in Fox’s recently cancelled Enlisted.  This is my long shot, but Young is just hysterical in depicting Randy Hill’s charming stupidity and unabashed adoration of his older brothers.  Dude’s got killer comic timing and deserves a spot right alongside the aforementioned performers, even if you never watched his show.  Take my word for it, okay?  The guy has an emotional breakdown at the mere thought of the plight of the Pixar lamp–yeah, the one in the logo.  What else can an Emmy hopeful do?


Until next time, my television-obsessed friends!  We’ll be moving onto Lead Actress in a Comedy Series!

Dream Emmy Ballot: Supporting Actress (Comedy)

As we gear up for the Emmys, that most frustrating of television awards, I’d like to take the next couple of weeks to present to you my dream ballots in several categories before then defending several of my choices to the death in a trial by combat versus The Mountain.

Our first category up: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series!


Veep                                      shameless

Anna Chlumsky, Veep                                   Emma Kenney, Shameless


OitNB                                        Brooklyn Nine Nine

Kate Mulgrew, Orange is the New Black       Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn 99


NURSE JACKIE (Season 2)                                        Ladies 

Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie                 Christine Woods, Hello, Ladies


Honorable Mentions: Beth Grant, The Mindy Project; Stephanie Beatriz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation


“Show your work…”

In a fair and just world, all six of these ladies will hear their names called come time for the Emmy nominations in July.  However, I’ll concede that several of them are long shots, mostly notably youngster Emma Kenney, who masterfully handled Debbie Gallagher’s burgeoning young adulthood with aplomb in season four.  Now, let me say this: I fundamentally disagree with Shameless being classified as a comedy, but since it is, Kenney’s name appears on my hopeful ballot.  While we’re on the subject of long shots, I’d love to see Christine Woods scoop up a nod for her turn as Jessica in HBO’s brilliantly cringeworthy Hello, Ladies; I found myself consistently impressed by how Woods tempered Jessica’s neuroses, never allowing them to reduce her character to cliche but instead using them to highlight what a pitch-perfect mate she would be for Stuart, her unsuccessful philanderer of a roommate.  She just strikes the perfect balance between pathos and comedy.

In terms of the remote realm of possibility, my other four choices seem grounded at least tenuously in reality.  Merritt Wever’s Zoey Barkow is not just the best character on Showtime’s underappreciated Nurse Jackie but one of my favorite characters on television right now; I know she won last year, and–given the Emmy’s predilection for repeat winners–I wouldn’t at all mind to see her at the podium again this year.  Meanwhile, Anna Chlumsky continues to do excellent work on HBO’s Veep; Amy snatching the coveted spot of campaign manager this season was great, and she can spout out the poetically profane dialogue of this series with the best of them.  Love her.

That leaves us with Kate Mulgrew, whose character Red manages to stand out so vividly amongst the already vivid and vibrant cast of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.  I suppose it bears repeating that OitNB ain’t really a comedy, but that was its submission category, so here we are.  Regardless, Mulgrew’s understanding of this character is simply breathtaking; she knows how to balance her intimidating nature with the softer sides to her (often revealed in those heartbreaking flashbacks).  I’m pulling for you big time on this, Red!  Finally, that leaves Chelsea Peretti, the one actress on this list that without fail had me in stitches at least two or three times an episode.  Her Gina Linetti is an unapologetically unique creation; I mean, her dance in the briefing room?  Man, I’m still laughing about that.  The fact that Peretti managed to steal scenes left and right from the cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a feat in and of itself, but as the season progressed, so did her character, and Peretti matched the evolution step for step.  I’ll do a dance of my own if her name winds up on the final ballot.

Well there it is, my first Dream Emmy ballot!  Stay tuned for my next one later in the week: Supporting Actor in Comedy Series!

Top 5 TV Shows of 2014 (so far)

I know, I know.  You’re thinking, “This dude sure loves his lists!”  Hey, it’s what we critics in the television and film biz–or, as in my case, those of us desperately clawing at the door in the hopes of one day being invited into the party of said biz–do.  I mean, yeah, lists are plenty arbitrary as I’ve discussed on here previously, but TV critics the Internet over seem smitten by this idea, so like a good lemming, I’ll jump on board!

Plus, I love lists.  Deal with it.

The following are shows that have left an indelible mark on my television psyche already this year.  For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to put them in alphabetical order because I’m not really in the mood to stir up a whirlwind of controversy, okay?  For the purposes of clarity, let me also say that the shows I included here began their seasons in 2014, so beloved series like The Good Wife, Person of Interest, and Parks and Rec didn’t make this list simply because of my revised criteria….You don’t care about any of that, but I told you anyway.

Here they are!

The Americans, FX

And you think your family is tough to handle?  The Jennings household battled unrest on all fronts this season, both personally and professionally.  Few shows can replicate the greatness of their inaugural season, but even fewer can find that elusive second gear and launch into a stratosphere of uncompromising excellence.  Yet somehow, The Americans–buoyed by incredible performances and sharp writing–managed just that.  Two overarching narratives (the clandestine operation to pilfer American stealth technology and the ongoing operation to track down the murderer of fellow operatives) lead us down roads with few easy answers** and, by season’s end, forced Philip and Elizabeth to consider what the future holds not just for themselves but their children.  It’s a parable, a cautionary tale, an allegory–oh, and just about the smartest, most cooly confident series on television.

**Seriously, the reveal of who killed Elizabeth and Philips’s friends and fellow operatives?  Absolutely chilling.

Fargo, FX

The season isn’t yet over, but this show has already been teaching us a masterclass in how to tell a short form narrative.  Seriously, each episode feels like you’re binge-watching an entire season; there’s not a scrap of filler but, miraculously, nor is there a dearth of characterization.  In managing that perfect balance between propulsive plot and attention to character, Fargo has managed to create a television event that isn’t a revisiting of the Coen Brothers’ outstanding film so much as an extended jazz cover of it.

Martin Freeman, currently giving Walter White a run for his money, has turned Lester Nygaard into television’s most dramatically transformed character–all in a span of eight episode–as Fargo uses Lester’s dark tale to explore the nature of evil and its seductive allure.  Will critics be talking about this one when it comes time for their Best of the Year lists?  Ya, you betcha!

Game of Thrones, HBO

Westeros, am I right?  If Thrones‘s fourth season has accomplished anything (and, in truth, it’s accomplished a great deal), it’s this: Westeros is a place where zeal, passion, honor, and integrity have no foothold and can, in fact, bring about one’s ruin.  Sound familiar?  When a work of fantasy has become the most damning allegory of our current times, you know you’re in the presence of great art.  

Plus, this continues to be the most shocking series on television.  From nuptial poisonings to deflating trials-by-combat, no other show can disarm its audience so completely while still remaining true to its central conceit.  Swirling around this narrative tapestry is an enormous menagerie of characters, each so distinctive, so expertly drawn, that the ever-expanding cast manages to deepen this world without confounding its audience.  In virtually every facet of its story, Game of Thrones remains simply brilliant.

Also, hurray, Joffrey’s dead!  Best TV gift of the season so far!

Louie, FX

Unlike anything else on television, Louie manages to ground its narrative predictability–paradoxically–in its consistent unpredictability.  Without missing a beat, this show can oscillate from the insanely hilarious (the garbage man bit in the beginning of the season) to the awkwardly funny (everything in episode two, “Model”) and veer three-sixty to the movingly dramatic (the brilliant speech about what it means to be a single fat woman in New York).

Comedic genius Louis C.K. took a considerable amount of time off between the third and fourth seasons, but when this is the result, then who would dare complain about such a hiatus?  Although the excellent opening credits are sorely missed, that’s about the only negative I can attribute to this amazing season, which has grown in scope in terms of its storytelling and aggregation of recurring secondary characters.  We’re also seeing Louie revisit and build upon an ever-complicating joke over the span of several episodes (Hurricane Jasmine Forsythe anyone?) much in the vain of Seinfeld.  In short, C.K. continues play to his proven strengths while continuing to challenge himself.  I’m loving everything about this season thus far, and I’m so, so glad it’s back.

True Detective, HBO

What else can we say that hasn’t been said already?  Time is a flat circle, and no matter where you are on that geometric continuum, this is hands down the Best Show of 2014.

Besides, some genius TV blogger already waxed poetic about the glories of this show: http://overstuffeddvr.com/?p=215


Honorable MentionsVeep, Silicon Valley


Keep up the amazing work, HBO and FX!  All other networks can bow down to you now, as your dominance is hereby commemorated and therefore official!

Well, that about wraps it up.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2014 brings to us on the small screen and not just because it means I can make another list.  (But mostly it’s because I can make another list tbh.)  Hurray lists!  #Listology #ListlessWithoutListsofLists

Greetings from “Fargo”

*Disclaimer: Read the following in your best Fargo-inspired Midwestern drawl. OK? Ya, you betcha!*

Well, hiya there! We sure hope you all are enjoyin’ that warm weather because, well heck, it’s colder ‘n a moose’s buttocks in December here in Bemidji. Storm of the century some are callin’ it. And, heck, it ain’t the only storm that’s been clearin’ its throat ’round these parts of late.

There’s this real strange fellah by the name of Lorne Malvo cuttin’ his bloody swath right through the center ‘a town, don’t cha know? Shootouts in the snowbanks, crickets in the produce aisle, duck-taping co-conspirators to firearms, blackmailing, and the like. Something’s fishy with that one…


…but don’t worry because Molly Solverson and Gus Grimly from Deluth are on the case. Sure, Gus accidentally shot Molly in the chaos of that humdinger of a storm, but she’ll get over it. She’s a tough one, that Molly Solverson, a gal of real grit. Plus, she’s got to keep her eye on Lester Nygaard because of that nasty business with the Chief and Lester’s poor wife, Pearl. When she looked in on Lester in his hospital room, nursing his previously infected hand, didn’t ya just feel her grit? She’s got real grit does that Molly. Ya, you betcha she does.

Now, gosh, my ma told me it’s better to say nothin’ rather than say somethin’ rude, but that Lester Nygaard, he’s a real slippery such-and-such. I mean, heck, he’s not only dodgin’ the police but even seems to be enjoyin‘ it, don’t ya know? Now he’s even tryin’ to cast suspicion on his own brother by plantin’ a firearm in his nephew’s backpack! He’s just Bemidji’s own Walter White now if ya want to know the truth. Ya, I know. Ya. It’s bad.

Fargo 2

I hope this is gettin’ you real excited to join us in Fargo, but I can see you might need a little more convincin’ because I can tell you’re not the cold-weather type. Still, this is one of the best shows of the year, you betcha it is, so ya should really drop on by. We’ve got some great locals here, like Stavros Milos the supermarket king (don’t mind his little religious crisis right now as he’s goin’ through a rough patch what with the blackmailing, biblical plagues, his son passin’ and all), interim police chief Bill Oswalt, and diner own Lou Solverson. There’s some real strange things to keep ya on yer toes, too, like fish falling from the sky for one. Sorta strange, wouldn’t ya say? Lucky for us, we got lots of pretty landscape to look at when the goin’ gets tough, and the cameras don’t miss an inch of it. Real cinematic stuff.

Oh geez, would ya look at the time there? That sidewalk ain’t gonna shovel itself. Did I mention they’re calling it the storm of the century? I’m not one for much guess work (I’ll leave that to Molly Solverson and her grit), but somethin’ tells me the storm’s far from over. We here in Bemidji haven’t seen the last of it yet. Not by a long shot.

Fargo airs its final two episodes of the season this and next Tuesday at 10 pm on FX. You betcha it does. Don’t go missin’ it now.