I stopped hoping/predicting Emmy nominations a long time ago because going down that road inevitably leads to disappointment. But foregoing your hopes and dreams allows for another thing: pleasant surprise. Yes, most of the nominations were easily predicable but more so than usual, this year is shaping up to showcase some very deserving ensembles and individuals. One thing I won’t discuss: the snubs. I fear making that list will result in insanity and depression. Forewarning: since my thoughts range from actual having an observation to just “yay!” this is a mishmash of ideas more so than an actual post. For a better breakdown of exactly how this year is surprisingly positive, check out Tim Goodman’s analysis at The Hollywood Reporter.
Downton Abbey: Having returned for a second season to PBS, it was necessary for DA to move from the miniseries category to the drama series category. It took America a year to catch Downton fever, and I am just a little bummed that it happened on a less than stellar season. Nevertheless, I am happy for it to be included. The show even garnered far more acting noms than expected: Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, and Jim Carter were all nominated. The Brits are already laughing at our outdated obsession.
Mad Men: What do I love about the Mad Men noms this year? Well, Jared Harris for one (who replaced John Slattery in this category). I was a huge fan of Lane this season and while I could sit here and work myself into a fit over how much I think Weiner blundered his storyline, Jared Harris was awesome throughout. He devastated me for well over a week. I was happily surprised by the nomination for Ben Feldman as Michael Ginsberg in the Guest Actor category. His scene where he describes himself as a martian to Peggy is one of the standout moments of the season. And semi-related: Jon Hamm was nominated for Don Draper but he was also nominated for Guest Actor in 30 Rock. I know he doesn’t consider himself a comedian but he never ceases to be hilarious in comedies and on SNL. He may not be able to win for Mad Men, but he was definitely a standout on the 30 Rock live episode.
American Horror Story: Due to what can be deemed downright mischievous, FX submitted AHS as a miniseries, arguing that each season is a self-contained anthology (never mind the fact this was decided after it aired). Due to a sparse field of competition, this has allowed AHS to CLEAN UP. I am very excited to see Denis O’Hare recognized in the Supporting Actor category because he’s awesome.
Sherlock: And speaking of strategies, PBS entered “A Scandal in Belgravia” into contention as an TV movie. Huh? It is a single episode in a continuous series that involves the same principal characters but okay. I can’t really complain too much because I may in fact be rooting for Benedict Cumberbatch in the Lead Actor category far more than anyone else at the ceremony. Martin Freeman also got some love in the Supporting Actor category so I can’t argue with the results of this subterfuge.
The Year of the Creator/Actor?
Girls: Not only was it nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, but Lena Dunham got nominations for writing, directing, producing and Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Louie: Louis CK may have missed out on getting his actual show nominated but he successfully got nods for writing, directing and as Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Even more impressive? He now holds the record for most nominations for an individual in a single year (7).
Max Greenfield: I know that Zooey Deschanel also got the nomination, but I have to give it up to Max Greenfield for making New Girl one of the funniest new shows on television this year. The evolution of Schmidt was a great thing to watch throughout the season and I am very glad that it was noticed.
Writing in a Comedy Series: Talk about a category that got it completely right. Girls, Parks and Recreation, Louie, and Community (The “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode!!!) all represented. I can’t wait to see what episode picks up the award but they are all so deserving.
The Hour: I just recently devoured the first season of The Hour and adored it so I am sad to see that the series was ignored (or “miniseries” I should say…er) as well as Dominic West and Ben Whishaw. However, Abi Morgan did get a nomination for Outstanding Writing.
Modern Family: I…don’t get it anymore. I watch it and it often makes me laugh but not everyone on the show needs to be nominated particularly since it wasn’t a very strong season. I would nominate Ty Burrell, that’s all folks. Instead of some of the other adults I would also nominate the kid that plays Luke, Nolan Gould, because he makes me laugh more than most of the cast combined.
I am content to sit and write about my favorite sitcom quotes from this week, what Ewan McGregor movie I have seen 500 times, and even what show decided to annoy me for the last time. But in real life, I am very interested in the role that pop culture can play in changing perceptions and informing the general public. The use of popular culture in this way is not surprising and two news items from this week help illustrate my point (and after I get sad about the world, I attempt to identify some positive utilities): North Carolina and Maurice Sendak’s Brundibár. And I shoehorn The Whistleblower in at the end.
The majority of North Carolinian voters have agreed on an amendment to their constitution that bans same-sex marriage. Sigh. I only heard about this amendment a few days leading up to it (when various tweeters got to work to motivate voters) but I wish it had been more nationally newsworthy months ago. North Carolina needed help, clearly. But no, I am not surprised about the results, which in itself speaks to one of the many problems with U.S. regional politics. Winner for most frustrating remark, Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman for a pro-amendment group: “…you don’t rewrite the nature of God’s design for marriage based on the demands of a group of adults.”
One thing that is bothering me is the rampant disparaging remarks against “North Carolina” as if it is monolithic. It may be in part due to the fact I grew up in geographical proximity to the state, but obviously not everyone voted “Yes” to the amendment. Just think how horrible it is to love your state and yet, see that you are surrounded by people that disagree with your views on such a fundamental level. I am Virginian, I know a thing or two about this feeling.
Pop culture bright spot #1: Twitter really is a social media monster; it allows for loud, instantaneous reaction to any bit of news. Naturally, my feed was engulfed by outrage and disappointment over the results in North Carolina. Hopefully many apathetic individuals are slowly coming around to formulating their own opinions, based on outcry.
Pop culture bright spot #2: On the same day the New York Times discussed the North Carolina issue, it was also analyzing how vastly the entertainment industry has changed, in a mere decade, over portraying LGBT characters and storylines. Edward Schiappa, a professor at the University of Minnesota believes that “TV and movie representation matters.” He has found that gay characters on TV have decreased prejudice among viewers.
Pop culture bright spot #3: People like Jack Antonoff and his band fun. get to utilize success as a platform to discuss LGBT issues and highlight the optimistic romanticism of their lyrics. Seriously, seeing them live was a celebration of equal rights and diversity. They have deservingly won many fans not only in the LGBT community but from all walks of life. If their fans (and particularly the high schooler set) truly believe in the lyrics that they scream back to Nate Ruess, then we can chalk up another positive influence to kids these days.
UPDATED Overall life bright spot: President Obama has gone on record promoting marriage equality. I am impressed. It is almost Newtonian (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction…) when viewing it with North Carolina’s vote. Never would I have dreamed this would come up before the election. So glad Obama got to finally back something he has likely been in favor of for decades. Politics.
In the wake of so many tributes to Maurice Sendak, his work with Tony Kushner on Brundibár (as a book and opera) has been mentioned a few times. Brundibár is a children’s opera originally conceived by Hans Krása at the onset of World War II. The show had begun initial performances at an orphanage in Prague before the Nazis came knocking. Being a Czech Jew, Krása was sent to the Theresienstadt (Czech: Terezín) concentration camp in1943 along with many of the children who had rehearsed for the opera. Brundibár was performed 55 times at Theresienstadt before Krása and most of the children were deported to Auschwitz; upon arrival, most of these prisoners were immediately killed.
I toured Terezín in summer 2009. It is a powerful, transformative place and it remains hard to pin down my emotions on the visit. I got to see what it meant to be a “model” concentration camp, if you pretend not to see the execution wall. The model was meant for the Red Cross, sent into the camp to investigate the treatment of the prisoners. There they found pristine looking bathrooms, a swimming pool and a cinema (with the pool and cinema being for German officers). An oasis in Central Europe during the height of World War II? Of course not, these things were for show. In fact, the bathroom was so pristine because it was never used. To avoid the look of overcrowding, many Jews were deported to Auschwitz before the tour. The Red Cross was also treated to a performance of Brundibár. In the ghetto I took a peek into the schoolhouse where the children spent their time and saw their drawings. The adults in the ghetto were dedicated to the children’s continued education despite their conditions. That night, I was a little more reckless, and embraced carpe diem as an escape. It is really difficult to wrestle with the terrors of a mere 60 years ago.
Pop culture bright spot: The opera contains many anti-Nazi sentiments and the Brundibár in the play is a stand-in for Hitler. While the opera was a vital tool in giving the Terezín children something to preoccupy their time, it also gave the adults a platform to remain resistant to their circumstances. Performances of Brundibár increasingly provide an opportunity to remember what happened at Terezín and to celebrate the lives that were lost.
A brief discussion on The Whistleblower:
This is one of the most depressing films I have seen this year. I only want to quickly mention it because I struggled with finding the bright spot here. The film is informative about human trafficking and the fallibility of organizations we put our trust in to defend universal human rights. A scant pop culture bright spot could simply be that this film exists; it is a gateway to discussion and enlightenment about injustice. But seriously, it wasn’t marketed to be a major film. It has been propelled via word of mouth, the Rachel Weisz fandom and possibly, the discount I got on renting it from Amazon Instant Video. I hope it makes the rounds because it is especially disturbing if you are committed to peacebuilding. Mismanagement and misconduct in missions is a problem facilitated by the “aid chain” and no one is close to finding a solution.
And just to lighten the mood, no, I will not neglect to mention that Benedict Cumberbatch is also in the film (the whole cast is basically Brits playing Americans, hello Liam Cunningham!). Benedict is literally in two scenes and effectively plays a douche. I got the feeling he was involved in the cover-up but the film provides no reason as to why he even exists. Maybe there are scenes on the cutting room floor? This is another issue – I have to applaud a first time female director, but the film needed polishing.
I love your ‘I love you,’ but I’m getting tired of your ‘but.’ Yeah I heard it.
–Phil, “Punkin Chunkin”
In my distress over realizing that Thanksgiving has never quite been the same since new episodes of Friends aired on the actual holiday, I got to thinking about what I remember watching last year: Man v. Food (I mean what better way to get psyched about food?) and Modern Family’s “Fizbo” episode. It is not a Thanksgiving episode but still runs with a theme I completely identify with: it is Luke’s birthday (one of my favorite Dunphys) and because his birthday always lands around Thanksgiving he never has a proper party (like this girl). So this year they decide to concentrate on Luke and stage an elaborate party replete with a bouncy house, a zip line, and a craft station for comb sheaths. For his contribution Cam wants to come as “Fizbo” his clown (classically trained Auguste) alter ego: “If I wasn’t in school or fishing,…I was clownin’”.
We soon learn that Phil is very afraid of clowns and the appearance of Fizbo creates chaos at the party by setting of a chain reaction of events leading to Luke breaking his arm. In what is perhaps my favorite line in Modern Family history, Phil explains: “I am not really sure where the fear comes from. My mother says it’s because as a kid I found a dead clown in the woods but, who knows?” And that is when (even though I had seen the episode before) I went into a laughter fit last Thanksgiving, making my family in the other room think I had utterly lost my marbles.