So, the Primetime Emmys are tonight. Unlike last year, when the awards ran against the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, this year, the awards show is on a Monday, in August, because, football.

And so, here briefly, are some of my picks. These are not predictions of who will win (which I leave to the experts at Kremlinology Acadameyology, but who I would vote for if I had a ballot.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Andre Braugher, Brooklyn 9-9. Two words: “Kwazy Cupcakes.” That is all. Tony Hale had some brilliant moments in Veep and Adam Driver’s performance as Adam on Girls is brilliantly sympathetic and weird at the same time. But Braugher’s deadpan timing as Holt was a true comedy supporting masterpiece, as he was the straight man (jn the comedic sense) that allowed the rest of the characters to be more funny.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Kate Mulgrew, Orange is the New Black. How long did it take you to realize that’s Captain Janeway as Red, Lichtfield Federal’s Russian cook? Exactly.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones. Dean Norris should have been nominated for his work as Hank in the last season of Breaking Bad. But he wasn’t, which is a shame, because he developed the character from a brash foil for Walt to being the true hero of the show. Aaron Paul, as always, was great in the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad. But he may not have had anything as good to play Dinklage had with Tyrion’s trial. Like with Ralph Wiggum in the audience at the Krusty Anniversary special, you can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half.

Supporting Actress in a Drama Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad. You’ve seen her submission episode, Ozymandias, right?

Writing for a Drama Moira Walley-Beckett, “Ozymandias”, Breaking Bad. Behold Ye Might and Despair. The best hour of television this year? Or at least the best hour of television this year without awkward table-side guacamole.

Writing for a Comedy Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan, “I Wasn’t Ready (Pilot)” Orange is the New Black. The Veep and Silicon Valley episodes nominated were funnier, but Orange’s pilot introduced this world and these characters and made me need to watch more.

Directing for a Comedy Jodie Foster, Orange is the New Black. A very good episode, with a famous director. (And the best of the two nominated episodes that I’ve seen.)

Directing for a Drama Cary Fukunaga, True Detective. Given all of the eligible episodes, my pick would probably be Rian Johnson’s direction of Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias” (the single most intense episode of television all year) or possibly Alex Graves for Game of Thrones’ “The Lion and the Rose” (which, like the nominated “Watchers on the Wall”, shows how much better GOT is when it’s allowed to linger in one place for more than a single scene at a time.) But even if those two episodes were on the ballot, I still might vote for Fukunaga, not just because it was a great episode, but solely on the power of that one amazing single-take tracking shot in the last act.

Writing for a Miniseries David Simon & Eric Overmeyer, Treme. This is probably deservedly going to Noah Hawley for Fargo, but wouldn’t it be nice to see Simon and Overmeyer win an Emmy for Treme?

Actor in a Miniseries Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo. Big movie star, showy TV role? A midwestern Woland from the Master and Margarita? As good as this category is, Thornton is the standout.

Actress in a Miniseries Allison Tolman, Fargo. Wait, Allison Tolman, the lead actress in Fargo was submitted as supporting? Oh. Hmm. I haven’t seen any of the other nominees in this category, so let’s say, Kristen Wiig? Why? Because, Kristen Wiig?

Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Allison Tolman, Fargo. See above.

Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (I still haven’t watched The Normal Heart, so I can’t really make an educated pick here. My prediction? Someone from The Normal Heart, maybe?)

Miniseries Fargo. Since the final season of Treme became classified as a miniseries due to rules, I’d be happy to give it a vote for the short and sweet coda to a wonderful low-key series. But Fargo was so much better than it had any right to be. And like Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, Martin Freeman plays so well against type as the genial, sweet, and spinelessly evil Lester Nygaard. And Freeman’s may not even be the best performance in the cast. From start to finish, this was such a great series, ya know.

Variety Series The Colbert Report. We will miss you when you’re gone, “Stephen Colbert”. After breaking through last year to finally defeat the TDS mothership, have another Emmy to hang above the fireplace.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Louis C.K., Louie. Without 30 Rock and The Office reliably delivering Alec Baldwin and Steve Carrell as nominees, this is a surprisingly weak category. Shameless isn’t really a comedy, and William H. Macy isn’t really the lead. Louis C.K. delivers wonderfully subtle reactions in Louie, and with this ballot, he runs away with it. That said, does anyone doubt that Jim Parsons will actually win?

Lead Actress in a Comedy Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation. Unlike the Lead Actor in a Comedy category, I would strongly consider at least four of these performers as viable winners (Dunham, Louis-Dreyfus, Poehler, and Schilling). But Poehler carries Parks & Rec and, unlike JL-D, doesn’t already have two of statues for this role.

Lead Actor in a Drama. Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad. In a category that prognosticators seem to think comes down to two leading nominees — Bryan Cranston and Matthew McConaughey, it is a difficult choice to pick. Cranston’s increasingly frantic and evil Walter White or McConaughey’s unnervingly calm Rust Cohle? I would be shocked if McConaughey doesn’t win, but Walter White is one of the most inedible performances in television. Behold ye mighty and despair. And it’s yet another year where Jon Hamm will be overlooked despite carrying one of the most iconic roles in the medium.

Lead Actress in a Drama. Emmy Rossum, Shameless. Oh wait, she isn’t nominated? Shameless is now a comedy? Feh. Then, I’ll vote for Lizzy Caplan, because I watched more of Masters of Sex than of any of the other nominees’ shows.

Comedy Series Do I really have to choose between Orange is the New Black and Veep? Yes? OK, then, Orange is the New Black. Veep is a funnier show, but Orange is a richer world with more fully realized characters and had the opportunity to use a Lost-like flashback structure to show who the characters were before they became the characters we’ve met. Dark comedy is certainly comedy, and the best comedy has depth and drama.

rama Series Breaking Bad. Things wrapped up very neatly — almost too neatly for Walt. But it’s hard to argue with the intensity and quality of the final season. True Detective and Game of Thrones were both very good, but not in the same league as Breaking Bad.

On this week’s Extra Hot Great, Tara claimed not to be a crackpot for wanting fewer streaming services. Now that Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO GO and more are offering new original programming, much of that original programming gets lost in the noise of the volume of programming. And with OTT streaming services, it is a valid complaint.

Personally, besides cable TV, I subscribe to HBO, Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime. Amazon is mostly for the 2 day shipping, but the streaming and the Kindle lending library help to make it a good value. But Hulu Plus for yet another few dollars per month? Come on, that’s excessive.

Complaints about cable bundling have existed for a long time. Consumer advocacy groups have been demanding ala carte cable for more than 20 years. But would the golden age of television exist without bundling?

AMC became a major player in the prestige television market seemingly overnight by picking up and airing Mad Men and Breaking Bad. But if AMC wasn’t bundled into most basic cable packages, would enough people have been able to sample Mad Men to encourage others to want to watch it? If you had to pay an extra few dollars per month in order to watch a new show that you hadn’t heard of, how compelling would that show have to be in order to pay to sample it?

Without bundling would AMC, FX, Comedy Central, or any other non-ESPN basic cable outlet ever be able to draw enough eyeballs to develop and maintain quality programming? Or would non-bundled cable channels never reach more than small niche audiences?

In a world where most viewers pay for a cable bundle and also have access to programming on channels that they may not pay for ala carte, it does actually end up being better for omnivorous television viewers. Perhaps ala carte might save customers money, but it might lead to less choice or less adventurous viewing. By paying series by series on iTunes or Amazon instead of paying to subscribe to cable TV, I personally would be much less likely to sample new shows.

Of course, an ala carte world might create more intense brand loyalty. In such a world, I would be subscribing to Comedy Central and FX and sampling everything on those channels. But Bravo, the Top Chef and assorted crap network? Sorry Tom and Padma. From a creative perspective, perhaps bundling isn’t so bad. In the ala carte world, where choosing to watch a program requires paying a fee, television feels more expensive and discourages sampling.

So in the OTT video era, which ISP or device maker will be the first to bundle subscription services into the price?

So, the Primetime Emmys are tonight. Which means that the big question for the home audience is: how to you watch both the Emmys and the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad? My plan: watch the Emmys live until the first commercial break after 9:25 to allow Breaking Bad sufficient time to buffer for commercials, then watch Breaking Bad, and then, reduced to a pile of mush, have a drink and then either watch the rest of the Emmys on DVR or, with mind blown, look up the results later.

And so, here briefly, are some of my picks. These are not predictions of who will win (which I leave to the experts at Kremlinology Acadameyology, but who I would vote for if I had a hammer ballot.

The Acadamey’s complete list of nominees.

Lead Actress in a Drama. Claire Danes, Homeland. However ridiculous the plot of the tail end of the second season became, Danes still gives one of the strongest, craziest performances on screen. Elisabeth Moss is a solid choice, too, for a season where she got to play Peggy as confident and independent, making some bad late night choices, and then having a major relationship forced on her again. Did I just talk myself into making a better case for Moss? Perhaps.

Lead Actor in a Drama. Jon Hamm, Mad Men. In six years of nominations, Jon Hamm has never won an Emmy for playing Don Draper, and that doesn’t seem right. This year, he got to play a Don Draper falling apart in various ways. Perhaps Hamm’s increased visibility as a comic actor in contemporary films shows that he is giving a very carefully crafted performance as Draper, and he’s not just a stoic handsome man. Of course, Bryan Cranston is giving one of television’s great all-time performance as Walter White, and he had a terrific submission episode in “Say My Name.”

Supporting Actress in a Drama. Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad. In Breaking Bad’s season 5, Gunn delivered a great performance through subtle reactions as well as major breakdowns. Emilia Clarke also had some huge moments in the third season of Game of Thrones, but Breaking Bad is a far more focused show than Game of Thrones, and Gunn has the opportunity to do more nuance.

Supporting Actor in a Drama. Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad. Given all of the options, I might go with Nikolai Coster-Waldau for Game of Thrones, where he had the opportunity to develop Jaime Lannister into a sympathetic character. But the world-weary, competent, tough, and devoted Mike Ehrmentraut came to life as a character. Aaron Paul, Mandy Patinkin, and Peter Dinklage are all fine choices, too.

Writing for a Drama Series George Mastras, Breaking Bad. Dead Freight, The Rains of Castamere, Q&A, and Say My Name were all tremendous episodes. But I think the most surprising and shocking twist to happen in any of these was in Dead Freight. And leading up to that, it was just a great heist caper, and who doesn’t love a caper?

Directing for a Drama Series Michelle MacLaren, Breaking Bad. Three words: Crystal Blue Persuasion.

Drama Series Game of Thrones. If the entire fifth season of Breaking Bad was Emmy-eligible this year, I would no doubt pic it. But Game of Thrones this season pulled together to not only just put some of the most compelling moments from A Song of Ice and Fire on screen, but do it in a way that made the sprawling story coherent and engaging. Aside from Dead Freight, did any other show on television have bigger episode outs than season 3 of Game of Thrones? The episode that ended with the Hold Steady singing “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” over the credits was nothing compared to the episode that ended with silence. The penultimate episode of the season went even farther with that big event than the book’s craziness. Sure, I still think that Breaking Bad is the overall best show on television, but season 3 of Game of Thrones is not only huge with story and character, but executed nearly flawlessly.

Lead Actress in a Comedy. Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation. Sure, I think that season two of Enlightened was one of the best shows on television in this past year, and that Laura Dern made the show work. But Poehler has been consistently great on Parks and Rec and the stuff with Leslie and Ben was perfect.

Lead Actor in a Comedy. Louis C.K., Louie. I just wrote and deleted Alec Baldwin’s name. Jack Donaghy is one of the most compelling comedic characters in television history, and in this last season he had great things to do. But thinking about what Louis C.K. does throughout the third season of Louie, particularly int he Late Show arc, who is better at reacting on camera? Because he’s effectively playing himself, C.K. might not be as recognized for doing so much interesting work in front of the camera, but what he’s doing is powerful and effective. if subtle.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Anna Chlumsky, Veep. Not much to say about this, because I’ve given up on Modern Family and Glee and never seen Nurse Jackie. So between, Jane Krakowski and Chlumsky, I’d go with Chlumsky.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Adam Driver, Girls. I could give this to Bill Hader for Stefon playing Donald Duck having night terrors, but Adam Driver brings so much nuance and depth to the fictional Adam. Fictional Adam is creepy, but rarely unrelatable. Few other actors may not have been able to find the humanity in the character.

Directing in a Comedy. Louis C.K., Louie. I find it difficult to decide between the two “auteurs” here, but would give a slight edge to Louis over Lena.

Writing in a Comedy “Last Lunch”, 30 Rock. I find it difficult to have particularly strong feelings about picking a winner in this category, because although two 30 Rock scripts were nominated, I think that the preceding episode, “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World” had a better script. I don’t think that this was the best episode of Louis, and no script from Parks and Rec, Veep or Enlightened was among the year’s best?

Comedy Series 30 Rock. I know that Girls and Louie are artier and have a wider range of emotion, but nothing on television was consistently funnier than 30 Rock in its final season. And what’s the point of a best comedy if not to be funny?

Reality Competition Program The Amazing Race. It’s not that TAR has gotten out of the rut it;s been in for a while, it’s that all the other series are falling into similar ruts (hello Top Chef) or just unwatchably boring (The Voice). Finally being shot in HD, TAR at least looks great, even if the structure of the race itself has become stale.

Writing for a Variety Series The Daily Show. (See below)

Variety Series. The Colbert Report. Which is better written and which is the best variety series? It’s a toss-up. Having John Oliver sit in for Jon Stewart might highlight the strength of the writing of TDS, while Colbert should at some point beat the mothership for best series. Both shows are putting together great material four nights a week, many weeks of the year.

In the thrilling conclusion to our pop culture panel discussion on this new(ish) TV season, I chat with Amy Watts and Dan Suitor about the shows that we’re most excited to see return. And they’re all on Sunday night.

Wall Street Journal: The Making of TV’s Hottest Drama

Here’s a quick list of organizations that are helping out in communities hit by Hurricane Sandy here in the New York/New Jersey area.


New York City:


Staten Island

And here are some more comprehensive lists of resources and especially opportunities to volunteer, from Brooklyn Heights Blog and Manhattan Users Guide.


HBO may be the only network that had three members of the pantheon of great television dramas of the 21st Century running concurrently at the same time, namely The Sopranos, Deadwood and The Wire.

The Sopranos was a massive breakout hit. I caught up with the first few seasons on DVD (rented from a video store) and then subscribed to HBO to watch the final few. It was hard to avoid hearing about who got whacked (at least engaged in pop culture in the New York area, at least). With Deadwood, I caught an episode here and there on HBO and loved the rhythms of the dialogue. Being somewhere in the middle of the story, I had no idea what was going on, but Al Swearengen is one of the most indelible characters to hit the small screen, and David Milch’s language takes a little bit to adjust to, but it draws you into a very different world. In 2007, I put Deadwood Season 1 Disc 1 into my Netflix cue and watched the first few episodes.

The next disc I had in my queue was The Wire, Season 1 Disc 1. I had not heard about the Wire at all in its first few seasons, but at the time had been starting to hear that The Wire was the best show of all time. After watching the opening scene of the first episode, I was hooked. I forgot about Deadwood and watched the four seasons on DVD as quickly as I could — breaking down and buying the seasons 3 and 4 sets, because waiting for Netflix to deliver the discs was too slow. Deadwood fell by the wayside.

Last year, Alan Sepinwall started blogging season 1 as his summer blog rematch project. I started in weekly, but quickly fell behind and eventually gave up.

When I was in elementary school, I kept starting to read the Chronicles of Narnia a few times, which resulted in me reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a few times and never finishing the series. I don’t think that going on in Deadwood is going to be nearly as frustrating. After all, the first episode uses “cocksucker” a lot more than C.S. Lewis used in his entire life.

So here is take three of watching Deadwood. Please join us for the journey.

Inform your dealers and whores of my credit and pour me a goddamn drink. Let’s dive into episode one after the jump…Continue reading

I started to do a post on who I’d nominate for Emmy awards back in the spring, but never completed it before the Emmys released the actual nominations. So, here are my picks for who I think should win (rather than will win) the awards as well as who I would have nominated for the category.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama

Nominees Ideal nominations
  • Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)
  • Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Timothy Olyphant (Justified)
  • Sean Bean (Game of Thrones)
  • Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)
  • Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Donal Logue (Terriers)
  • Timothy Olyphant (Justified)
  • Should win: Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
    You know that Jon Hamm doesn’t have an Emmy for Mad Men, right? (He’s lost 3 years consecutively to Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad.) He should. And in this season of Mad Men, Hamm got to play Don Draper as he’s struggling through a difficult period after his divorce. The Suitcase is perhaps the best highlight reel of an episode possible for the show’s lead actors.
    The world has forgotten about Terriers, so Donal Logue was not nominated for an Emmy for Terriers, but his was one of the standout performances on TV of the year. Kyle Chandler as Coach Taylor is one of the iconic performances of the last decade, but Don Draper is the iconic performance. Buscemi plays intimidating and powerful control without having the physical presence of the real-life Nucky Johnson.

    Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama

    Nominees Ideal nominations
  • Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law)
  • Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)
  • Mireille Enos (The Killing)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit)
  • Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
  • Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)
  • Melissa Leo (Treme)
  • Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
  • Katey Sagal (Sons Of Anarchy)
  • Should win: Connie Britton
    This is a toss-up between Britton’s cumulative excellence and Moss’s emergence as lead with a brilliant period of self-discovery for her character culminating in a confrontation with her mentor. The Suitcase was Moss’s best moment so far on the show, and not yet having finished season 5 of Friday Night Lights, I don’t know if this season provided Britton with anything comparable, like the first four seasons.

    Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy

    Nominees Ideal nominations
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
  • Steve Carell (The Office)
  • Louis C.K. (Louie)
  • Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
  • Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)
  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
  • Louis C.K. (Louie)
  • Steve Carell (The Office)
  • Rob Lowe (Parks And Recreation)
  • Joel McHale (Community)
  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
  • Should win: Steve Carrell
    Steve Carrell has never won an Emmy for his work on The Office. Let me repeat: Steve Carrell has never won an Emmy for The Office. He brings a mix of egocentrism, weirdness and humanity to the character. He’s not nearly as mean as Ricky Gervais’s David Brent, but manages to create awkwardness through generosity and self-delusion.

    Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy

    Nominees Ideal nominations
  • Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
  • Tina Fey (30 Rock)
  • Laura Linney (The Big C)
  • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
  • Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope)
  • Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
  • Tina Fey (30 Rock)
  • Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
  • Should win: Amy Poehler Poehler plays the right mix of grounded and crazy, optimism and cynicism as Leslie Knope on Parks & Rec. She is the catalyst for the action, gets some of the biggest laughs, but also gives the supporting cast the ability to out-weird and out-funny her. As a result, Parks has not only one of the strongest ensembles in comedy, but a true female lead in a comedy (rather than a half-hour dramedy.)

    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

    Nominees Ideal nominations
  • Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)
  • Josh Charles (The Good Wife)
  • Alan Cumming (The Good Wife)
  • Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
  • Walton Goggins (Justified)
  • John Slattery (Mad Men)
  • Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones)
  • Walton Goggins (Justified)
  • Wendell Pierce (Treme)
  • Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire)
  • Michael Raymond-James (Terriers)
  • John Slattery (Mad Men)
  • Should win: Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
    In the thousands of pages of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Tyrion Lannister stands out as the most interesting character. He is smart, underestimated, ostracized, drunk, cynical and horny. Dinklage captures all of those elements and manages to let the character be as interesting as possible. His portrayal of the character is as fun, layered and complex as the character himself. Walton Goggins is electrifying and captivating in every moment on screen. He makes Justified more engaging and dynamic whenever he’s on screen and elevates the show as a supporting character. This is one of the most competitive categories, with many good options.

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

    Nominees Ideal nominations
  • Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
  • Michelle Forbes (The Killing)
  • Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
  • Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire)
  • Margo Martindale (Justified)
  • Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
  • Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones)
  • Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
  • Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire)
  • Margo Martindale (Justified)
  • Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
  • Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men)
  • Should win: Margo Martindale (Justified). As the tragic villian of Justified, Martindale’s Mags Bennett got to play maternal, mean, sweet, controlling and lost all within the span of a season. A brilliant performance of a unique character.

    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

    Nominees Ideal nominations
  • Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
  • Chris Colfer (Glee)
  • Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
  • Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)
  • Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
  • Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
  • Ted Danson (Bored to Death)
  • Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia)
  • Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
  • Nick Offerman (Parks And Recreation)
  • Danny Pudi (Community)
  • Should win: Ty Burrell (Modern Family). My choice to run away with the category would be Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson. He makes this ridiculous libertarian character working in local government human and completely insane at the same time. But then this category could justifiably be made up of the entire supporting cast of Modern Family. Replacing Colfer and Cryer with Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez would make it a stronger category. Even though I think that Offerman, Day and Pudi are the class of this field, the Modern Family ensemble works so perfectly and Burrell’s character was dialed in to the right balance of buffoonery and believability. But the Academy can’t go wrong with any of the Modern Family cast.

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

    Nominees Ideal nominations
  • Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
  • Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
  • Jane Lynch (Glee)
  • Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
  • Betty White (Hot in Cleveland)
  • Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
  • Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
  • Alison Brie (Community)
  • Jane Lynch (Glee)
  • Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation)
  • Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck)
  • Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
  • Should win: Sofia Vergara (Modern Family). Sure, she’s beautiful and has an exaggerated accent. But Vergara’s timing is perfect. She takes what could be a terrible hackneyed character and manages to be consistently hilarious.

    Outstanding Comedy Series

    Nominees Ideal nominations
  • 30 Rock
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Glee
  • Modern Family
  • The Office
  • Parks and Recreation
  • 30 Rock
  • Community
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Louie
  • Modern Family
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Should win: Parks and Recreation
    It isn’t as inventive as Community, as relatable as Modern Family, as introspective as Louie, or as fully committed as Always Sunny, but Parks and Recreation put together a tremendous string of funny episodes that have biting criticism of society and still managed to be warm and engaging. A brilliant series of episodes and performances, including Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, Rob Lowe, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott and Li’l Sebastian.
    Outstanding Drama Series

    Nominees Ideal nominations
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Dexter
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Good Wife
  • Mad Men
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Game of Thrones
  • Justified
  • Mad Men
  • Terriers
  • Who should win? Mad Men
    There are some very solid choices for best drama this year, even while television’s current best drama, Breaking Bad, fell through the cracks to not air any episodes during the eligibility year. Friday Night Lights is a unique, special show in its last season. Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire came out of the gates with solid seasons — the last stretch of Game of Thrones was epic. But Mad Men had one of its best seasons to date, with Don Draper experiencing a trying time and falling to a personal low. Looking back just at the episode titles and summaries, more of the Mad Men episodes worked well and distinctly compared with the two HBO shows.

    Britain and the US are often called two nations divided by a common language. British culture, particularly television doesn’t always click with American audiences and adaptations of British series for US television often lose much of the charm of the original in attempting to broaden appeal for us Yanks. (The Office is one of the rare exceptions where the adaptation is worth watching.)
    Top Gear has a huge following worldwide because it completely reinvented the way of making a show about cars. Instead of simply reviewing cars, like PBS’s Motorweek, the BBC’s Top Gear aims to make an entertaining show that involves cars and occasionally actually reviews cars.
    The strong personality of lead presenter Jeremy Clarkson dominates Top Gear. He’s big, loud, brash and has his own iconoclastic point of view. Any adapatation of Top Gear is going to come up short in finding a host as fitting for the role as Clarkson and also in replicating the chemistry between Clarkson and his co-presenters. The curmudgeonly and vaguely artsy James May represents the opposite brained approach to Clarkson’s while Richard Hammond is the affable everyman, usually standing in as the voice of reason.
    Because Top Gear is on public broadcaster, it is not beholden to advertisers and the show isn’t afraid to review cars poorly. In fact, the show relishes in trashing cars (both critically and literally.) Top Gear is so far off-brand (and expensive) for American PBS, it might have to be watered down for broadcast or basic cable to appease advertisers.
    But as great and as British Top Gear is, an American Top Gear could be even better. Clarkson, Hammond, May and The Stig revel in speed, power and destruction — all things that we do better in America. America has a rich car culture to draw on. While Britain’s nanny state mentality towards auto regulation and congestion pricing provide targets for Clarkson to demonize and rail against, there’s enough of that in America to use as a scapegoat, but there’s also a freer spirit of American motoring.
    From the sizzle reel showed at the top of the show, it looks like the History Channel’s Top Gear is going to be borrowing liberally from the BBC’s archive of challenges. The big film of the first episode pitted a Dodge Viper against a Cobra attack helicopter, in a film inspired by Clarkson’s review of the Lotus Exige pitted against a Apache helicopter gunship. Top Gear USA will subject some of Detroit’s finest creations to the British Leyland water challenge. And that could be a good thing, because the American iteration of the challenges may well be bigger than the British originals. But although this one was nicely filmed, it didn’t really bring anything new to the table. And while the British version highlighted how nimble the Exige is, the US take showed that the Dodge Viper is powerful and clumsy. It might be that the US version may be trying to force square pegs into round holes in order to fit into the Top Gear template rather than create films and challenges that are truly American.
    But that’s the nature of the adaptation process. The pilot episode of the US Office was a near line for line rehash of the UK Office’s pilot. And the reason that the US version is a success is because of how quickly it stepped away from that. Steve Carrell plays with Michael Scott a naivete that runs counter to David Brent’s malicious streak. Top Gear US will have to find its own identity. It will retain the lavish cinematography that makes it identifiably Top Gear, but hopefully find a viewpoint that reflects its place in American car culture.
    A big part of that is developing the hosts’ on-screen personas. It took some time for Top Gear to develop the chemistry between its three presenters; James May didn’t even come in to the show until the second season. Fortunately, the US hosts aren’t simply aping the personalities of the British hosts. In fact, they’re going for a completely different paradigm, which gives me hope that Top Gear USA can find its way.
    But what does Top Gear have to do with history? Given that one of the other History Channel shows advertised during Top Gear was Ice Road Truckers, does the History Channel show any programming that’s related to history in any way whatsoever? If Top Gear is a breakout success, how long will it be before the History Channel goes through some kind of SyFy-like rebranding?
    To adapt a beloved, original show is always a challenge between maintaining the elements that work and not simply copying for the sake of copying. There has to be a reason for making the adaptation. The US version can in fact have a reason for existing and after the first episode is not a complete embarassment. Which is probably a passing grade.
    Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter, Top Gear — TV Review “The two most important things to know about History Channel’s American import of the British sensation ‘Top Gear’: First, no, it’s not as good as the original. Second, the new version does not — in the parlance of those worried souls who keep asking — suck.”
    Jalopnik, First Drive: Top Gear USA “It’s stretching the capabilities of understatement to say that the domestic edition of Top Gear has a great deal of work cut out for it. The original BBC production is a bona-fide sensation, a hit with people who don’t even like cars. At its best, it’s pitch-perfect, with the casual banter between the hosts, the high production values, and the obvious love of everything automotive combining into something really magic. It’s lightning in a bottle, and there’s really nothing else like it. Except now, of course, the History Channel is trying to make something just like it. And judging from the three episodes we saw, they certainly have their work cut out for them.”

    For someone who watches way too much television, a full week of having a vague semblance of a life results in using a lazy Friday night in for a major TV catchup day/weekend. And I might as well blog the binge watching.
    How major is this undertaking? Pretty much the only show I’ve kept up on is The Daily Show and Colbert Report. A quick look through what’s sitting unwatched on my TiVo:
    30 Rock
    30 for 30 (x3)
    Boardwalk Empire (x7)
    Bored to Death
    Burn Notice (x2)
    How I Met Your Mother (x2)
    It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
    Modern Family
    Sherlock (x3)
    Rubicon (x9)
    Sons of Anarchy (x23 yes, 23: some of those aren’t on the TiVo itself, but I just finished season 1 and started season 2 on Blu-Ray and recorded so far all of this season)
    South Park (x3)
    Terriers (x2)
    The Amazing Race
    The Office (x3)
    The Walking Dead (x3)
    Community – “Conspiracy Theories and Soft Defenses”
    Community continues its run as one of the strongest comedies of the year. And while not quite as epic as Epidemiology 206 or Modern Warfare, it was as effective of a parody of the conspiracy thriller genre while also managing to focus on the characters and be hilariously funny. By making some things small scale, such as with the miniature car bomb, setting the big chase scene in a blanket fortress, and making the conspiracy about a single credit, Community manages to poke fun at the tropes of the conspiracy genre without losing focus on the characters and, in this episode, the relationship between Jeff and Annie and how they relate to rules. In the absence of Parks and Recreation, Community has effectively become the overall best comedy on television right now.
    30 Rock – “College”
    In part, having the hilarious Community as a lead-in really does help putting 30 Rock in a more positive light, just like a stand-up comic is always funnier after a great warm-up act. But this season has been a return to form. This season has focused more on Liz and Jack and used Jenna and Kenneth sparingly.
    Terriers – “Asunder”
    Wow, this show is simply great. Hank and Britt are two very human characters, well acted by Donal Logue and Michael Raymond James. Theirs is the epic bromance of this TV season. But the show is also wonderfully Lebowski-esque, with Hank and Britt out of their depth in noir-ish plots. But what makes the show effective is that Hank is not The Dude. He’s actually competent at being a detective. He wants to be a better person, despite realize the shortcomings that led him to where he is. Having Britt and Katie’s most important conversation happen off camera was an especially effective way to making the moment more powerful than even the best dialogue and acting could have been. This is not only the best new show of the season, but may be the top show of the season to date.
    Bored to Death – “Super Ray is Mortal”
    Does enjoyment of Bored to Death decrease the further you are from Grand Army Plaza? There’s no show that’s more Brooklyn than Bored to Death. The trio of Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifinakis are perfect as the leads and John Hodgman is always enjoyable as Jonathan’s nemesis. It’s a shame that the season is so short.
    Modern Family – “Manny Get Your Gun”
    This is the first Modern Family episode of the season that really clicked for me, probably because it centered around Manny acting like a ten year old going into a midlife crisis.
    South Park – “Creme Fraiche”
    South Park taking on America’s obsession with food television and the shake weight may not have been their most effective episode ever, but it was decently funny.
    How I Met Your Mother – “Natural History”
    Bob Odenkirk is always enjoyable whenever he shows up on TV. And while Marshall’s boss at GNB isn’t quite as complete of a character as Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman, his HIMYM character is fine in small doses. More effective was the Barney story and revelation. It nicely subverted the expectation that the whale story was something that Barney simply made up and paid the guard to find in the files, but completely subverted the levity of that storyline. While the show is obviously best when it is succeeds at being funny, like The Office, I’m fine with an episode of HIMYM that advances the story and connects emotionally with the characters without being all that funny.
    And that’s it for the night. Wow, was that a big concentrated dose of television, without even delving too deeply into the heavier material in Boardwalk Empire or Sons of Anarchy. Or even accounting for the second half of Justified’s first season that’s been sitting around for months. To be continued….

    Lost’s sixth season felt more aimless than previous ones. in large part, this was probably because the show is far better at raising questions than doing anything else. But the need to preserve a sense of mystery made the pacing of the whole season feel off. Parts of the plot felt completely stagnant, while other elements felt rushed and glossed over. And even though the season contained many good story elements, another pass might have made everything fit together better so that all of the pieces mattered.
    And before we get into the details, I’ll reiterate that Lost remains one of my favorite shows of all time. So here are a few thoughts about the overall structure of the sixth season and questions the series left unanswered, slapped together after the jump…

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