The Emmys have that same mix of minor emotional satisfaction and consistent frustration as the Academy Awards. The tendency to nominate the same or ‘prestige’ shows and ignore progressive and emerging talent, which would benefit from the exposure is particularly painful as the television landscape of recent years has become home to a number of wonderful actors (many female) who are struggling to find work in a film industry dominated by franchises and Comic Book Films. The ‘middle ground’ film that used to live somewhere between truly independent films and the blockbuster or Oscar Tent pole film, has packed up and moved to television.
This year’s Emmy nomination may be ripe for change as the academy have made several category and voting changes aimed to increase diversity of voting (online voting will finally occur) and one hour dramas that submit themselves in the comedy race, have to get approval from a panel just to name a few. For my predictions I’ve decided to embrace the (misguided) hope that we will have a lot of fresh blood nominees.
Television is a big deal to me, I’m reminded of a scene from The Simpsons, when Bart and Lisa are trying to coax Maggie to come to the one she loves the most, she sits sucking her pacifier between her two siblings and rather than move to either side, she stumbles forward and hugs the television. It’s not a secret that I have struggled with mental health issues in my life and one of the things I find strangely ‘comforting’ particularly when I’m feeling very anxious is to re-watch my favourite shows, so as you can imagine, I’m ALWAYS on the hunt for something new to watch, a cartoon band aid for the troubles that ail me. So before I link you to my predictions, I thought I’d give a well-deserved shout out to some of the MVP shows and actors from this eligible year. Perhaps you will agree, think I’ve no taste at all or hopefully find something new to add to your own TV roster.
**Sidenote: Hannibal did not air new episodes during the eligibility period so I won’t be mentioning it but if it were eligible this would just be one big Hannibal fest and I would demand that all the awards be brought in a wheel borrow to Mads Mikkelsen’s home in Denmark and then I’d jump out and he’d be pleased to see me.
MASTERS OF SEX SEASON TWO
The synopsis reads:
William Masters and Virginia Johnson were pioneers of the science of human sexuality. Their research shoots them to fame on a trajectory that takes them from humble beginnings in the Midwest to the cover of Time magazine. Masters is a brilliant scientist who is out of touch with his own feelings. Johnson is a divorced mother who is ahead of her time on many fronts, including her determination to have a meaningful career.
Masters of Sex is a show that is fascinating on so many levels I find it hard to fathom that it doesn’t seem to get much buzz or have the ‘fandom’ it rightfully deserves. Some critics have labelled it ‘cold’ and while I can see where they are coming from, for me it adds to the shades of the characters as they progress, thaw out I suppose. As Bill Masters, Michael Sheen is simultaneously, brilliant, stubborn, mean and emotionally immature. Lizzy Caplan mostly known for comedy is also a standout, the many levels of her relationship with her female mentor Dr Lillian DePaul and then her ‘success’ of sorts as Bill’s research assistant is engrossing to watch unfold over the first few seasons. The mark of truly brilliant drama is one where the supporting and minor characters also draw your attention and contribute meaningfully to the main conflict while also having their own stories that progress over the course of time and Masters of Sex has this in spades. If you are drawn to the idea of witnessing the burgeoning research into human sexuality, the study of a troubled but brilliant man or a headstrong woman trying to break into a man’s world, set in a time period that allows the show to tackle themes such as class, race, mental health and patriarchy, then I dare say Masters of Sex is the show for you. I won’t deny it can be a hard slog at times but as a viewer you will always reap the reward.
BEN MENDELSOHN IN BLOODLINE SEASON ONE
A family drama with a thriller element that explores the demons lurking beneath the surface of a contemporary American family. The Rayburns are hard-working pillars of their Florida Keys community. But when Danny, the black sheep son comes home for the 45th anniversary of his parents’ hotel, he threatens to expose the Rayburns’ dark secrets and shameful past, pushing his siblings to the limits of family loyalty.
I haven’t gone so far as to outright recommend Bloodline as a series because I’ve only just watched it and I’m wavering between thinking it is indeed brilliant to it’s really just a good drama compounded by an outstanding performance by Ben Mendelsohn as Danny. If you click on the link to see my predictions you will see I have Mendelsohn low on the rankings but getting a nomination for best supporting actor, if I doesn’t happen I say all Australians revolt. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that despite his ‘tendencies’ – no spoilers and boy do those tendencies grow as the season progresses, Danny Rayburn was still the Rayburn I cared the most amount. I’m reminded a bit of the wonderful Patty Hewes (Glen Close) from Damages which has the same creators as Bloodline. In fact if you enjoyed the first few seasons of Damages then I would recommend Bloodline, it has unfortunately been marketed as a ‘thriller’ when it really is slow burn family drama with a thriller element. I can tell you nobody does a slow burn better then Ben Mendelsohn.
EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE AMERICANS SEASON THREE
Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are two KGB spies in an arranged marriage who are posing as Americans in suburban Washington, D.C., shortly after Ronald Reagan is elected president. The couple have two children, teenager Paige and preteen Henry, who are unaware of their parents’ true identities. The complex marriage becomes more passionate and genuine each day but is continually tested as the Cold War escalates. As Philip begins to warm up to America’s values and way of life, his relationship with Elizabeth becomes more complicated. Further complicating things is the arrival of the Jennings’ new neighbor, FBI agent Stan Beeman, who is part of a new division of the agency tasked with fighting foreign agents on U.S. soil.
When I say everyone involved in The Americans I really mean everyone from the amazing opening credit sequence, the costumes, THE WIG DEPARTMENT, the acting, directing, cinematography and of course the FBI Mail Robot (Poor Martha). The Americans is one of those rare shows that had an excellent first season, to the point where you start to fear that ‘sophomore slump’ but instead over three seasons it has continued to grow in quality, complexity and astoundingly- tension. The third season is in my opinion the best season of television I have seen in the 2014-2015 period. I adore Kerri Russell and think she is amazing in her role but this season belonged to Matthew Rhys and Holly Taylor. Rhys is pushed to his breaking point this season and because of that his performance had a simmering rage that was almost frightening, what was he going to do next? Taylor proved herself to be a truly fine young actress as she is at the centre of a huge reveal mid-season and while other shows would MILK THAT for all its worth, I felt like her reaction and questions were painfully realistic and that says a lot considering what she learned. Kudos to FX for sticking with The Americans even though it rates about as well as a rerun of ALF, the fact that they’ve let the quality conquer the finances for a change should be enough to convince you to watch if you haven’t already.
AIDEN YOUNG IN RECTIFY SEASON TWO
Aden Young stars as Daniel Holden, who spends nearly 20 years on death row for the rape and murder of a teenage girl, before new DNA evidence nullifies his conviction. He returns home, but he’s far from welcomed. He’s an outsider now in a town that remains divided by his alleged crime, and contributing to his uncertain future is the man who prosecuted him — riding that notoriety to become a state senator — is plotting to reopen the case.
Rectify is the first owned and scripted series to come from the Sundance Channel U.S, so that should give you a hint into what the show is like, it’s a bit like watching a beautifully acted and shot 6-10 hour independent film. It embraces that style and takes time to set up each character, unravel their motivations and make the viewer feel like they are in Georgia. Regardless of whether that sounds like something you would be interested in watching, I doubt anyone who saw Aiden Young’s performance could deny its brilliance. It’s the type of role an actor dreams of, wrongfully convicted man, set free 20 years later, to a family he barely recognises, a freedom he finds terribly confronting, uncomfortable and threatening given the town folks reaction to his release. As the seasons have progressed watching Young’s Daniel slowly re-enter and become more comfortable with his environment, even forming some bonds has been so emotionally rewarding. The other interesting thing about Rectify is we are never 100% sure if Daniel really is innocent, there is still some evidence that suggests he may have had something to do with it but not enough for any sort of conviction and in the pilot we discover his DNA was not present. I read an interview where Young stated that he asked the show’s creator if Daniel was innocent or not and the creator wouldn’t answer the question. Regardless as the victim was his girlfriend at the time, there is a shadow of guilt and responsibility that hands heavily over Young’s performance, making it something to behold.
EMPIRE SEASON ONE
Hip-hop artist and CEO of Empire Entertainment, Lucious Lyon, has always ruled unchallenged, but a medical diagnosis predicts he will be incapacitated in three years, which prompts the sharks to circle. Without further damaging his family, he must decide which of his three sons will take over. His favorite, young Hakeem, is a gifted musician but values fame over hard work. Middle son, Jamal, is talented and shy but gay — embarrassing to Lyon. The oldest, Andre, is business-minded but is suffering from Bi Polar Disorder. The reappearance of Cookie, his ex-wife, complicates things; she says he owes her for taking the fall for the drug-running that financed his early career.
Considering some of my other choices this may seem like an odd inclusion but I damn near exploded after watching the first few episodes of EMPIRE. I’d watch it late at night and hoot and holler causing my husband to get up and ask what the hell was going on? The show brought me back to the days when I watched shows like Melrose Place, Models Inc and Central Park West, revelling in the soapy melodrama, witty quips and backstabbing. EMPIRE has all of this in spades, along with excellent acting and some great music. Seriously it may be one of the less enthralling songs from the series but every now and then I hear DRIP…DROP…DRIPDRPIDY…DROP. While most of the plot is betrayal and melodrama, Lee Butler and Danny strong also look at some important issues such as homosexuality in the African American community, interracial couples and mental illness to varying degrees of success. What was perhaps most interesting about the release of EMPIRE is that it’s being hailed, rightfully so as the saviour of mainstream network television, its audience, grew and grew each week. So with that in mind, I ponder, will it get Emmy Award recognition? Most experts are saying yes, it is a shoe in for Taraji P Henson and a strong contender for Drama Series and Terrance Howard. I have predicted Taraji, but I am worried even about that, the pitchforks will be out if Empire is shut out, it will be #whiteoscars all over again, so I hope it gets the recognition it deserves.