Emmys with a Side of Bacon: 2011 Edition

The 2011 Emmys take place tonight, and we’re still kind of squinting at them, trying to figure out what’s going on. We were prepared to post in outrage when the nominations came out, but with the exception of the nearly across-the-board snubbing of Community (boo! Boo, I say!) they were…largely adequate. No, seriously, we agreed with 56% of the nominations, which is more than double our norm, so it was hard to get too outraged. Whether this is because the academy is drawing closer to our tastes–or we to theirs–or just because we’re not terribly excited by the dramatic offerings so we shrugged and accepted what we were given, this could have been worse.

Still, we’re always interested in who wins, and are often astonished. And just as often, that astonishment is not the good kind. This leads to all kinds of curiosity about what people vote for and how they come to vote that way. We also wonder how outcomes might be different if different voting systems were used. So this year, we solicited our own Bacon voters and asked them to rank the nominees, just like the real voters do. Let me note for the record that our sample is small compared to the actual voting pool, and that it was certainly non-random (although the real Academy membership is, too). There’s another key difference between our voters and the real ones we’ll get to in a minute, but I can vouch for the fact that the Bacon pool is made up of serious TV watchers and thoughtful voters (even if the winners listed below sometimes ended up different than our personal choices!). Thanks again to all who participated!

So what did we learn? Different ways of counting up votes often led to nominees swapping places, but that was usually something like swapping third and fourth places–it typically didn’t change winners. When it did make a difference, however, it made a pretty big difference, as you’ll see below. We were also interested to find that, generally speaking, people rank things they’re unfamiliar with last. “Buzz” or critical acclaim just didn’t seem to matter much, at least to our group of voters–if they hadn’t seen it, it came in last on their ballots. The one exception to this was when there was something they genuinely loathed in the category–they were happy to rank that behind something they’d never laid eyes on. We can’t prove it with these data, but we wouldn’t be surprised if that’s human nature and the real voters work this way, too. Similarly, some voters reported ranking people higher simply because they like them from other projects, not because of their work this year. Again, it wouldn’t surprise us to learn that the Emmy voters think that way, too.

One key difference that might affect things like the above, however, is that we didn’t ask our voters to actually watch the episodes the nominated shows or actors submitted. Real Emmy voters are divided into panels and sent DVDs containing the submitted episodes, which the producers or performers select as their best work. Voters sign an affidavit saying they’ve viewed the submissions before making their selections, although of course no one’s watching them do the watching. This seems to be the key–an actor from a less popular or established show might come from behind with a canny or stunning episode submission. Our voters didn’t have that luxury (maybe next year!), but at the same time we can only hope the real voters take advantage of it. We may never know for sure, but we have two data points from our little game that are interesting: Two of our voters’ least favorite candidates, Paul McCrane from Harry’s Law and Gwyneth Paltrow from Glee, have already won Emmys this year, as the guest categories were awarded at the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony. We can’t entirely separate out all the factors that might have contributed to that–Paltrow’s a movie star “slumming” on TV; McCrane had the type of David E. Kelley bombast we’re just tired of–but maybe their episodes were persuasive.

The finding that might have surprised me the most, however, was that everything’s loved by someone: Almost every nominee got at least one first place vote. Pretty much everything, no matter how little viewed by the public or how disrespected by the critics, has someone who loves it. The only exceptions? Harry’s Law‘s Kathy Bates and Paul McCrane (an actual Emmy winner, I remind you) and Two and Half Men‘s Jon Cryer. Yes, even Gwyneth got a first place vote–everything’s got someone who loves it. Perhaps even more surprising, there wasn’t a single case where two ballots were identical. Let me reiterate that: there was not a single case where two people completely agreed who or what deserved an Emmy. Not one. That’s something to put in your pipe and smoke as we think about how the voting happens and why voters make the choices they do–even in a relatively small, relatively homogenous group such as our voting pool, there was no agreement on what’s good, bad, enjoyable, annoying. Maybe we’ll never figure out the patterns at all–maybe there aren’t any.

Or maybe we’ll try having voters actually watch the submissions next year, and we definitely want to see if a different pool/different voting systems make a difference at the key nomination stage. Never say die! So plan now to be a Bacon voter next year!

Drama Series: Friday Night Lights (FNL–and pretty much everything associated with it–were the clearest winners in any category.)

Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights

Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights (Britton had the most #1 votes of any nominee in any category, making her, I guess, the Pork Queen Extreme.)

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones (An interesting case–Dinklage was much loved even by people who ranked GoT very low in the series category.)

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Christina Hendricks, Mad Men (Mad Men‘s only win, and nothing else came terribly close. We’re unsure whether that’s because our pool doesn’t watch it as much as real Emmy voters, if they felt it had been recognized enough in previous years, or if there was a push to reward FNL‘s last chance.)

Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife (We note he has actually already lost to the aforementioned McCrane.)

Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Joan Cusack, Shameless (Cusack is perhaps the best example of residual affection from other projects, as many of our voters reported never having heard of Shameless, let alone having watched her in it. Cusack lost to Loretta Devine of Grey’s Anatomy.)

Comedy Series: Modern Family (An easy win over a 2nd place Parks and Recreation, which people either loved or hated.)

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Ah, and here we hit trouble. Using the Emmys’ preferential ranking system, the top three choices are Steve Carell from The Office as the winner, Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory in second, and 30 Rock‘s Alec Baldwin in third. Other voting systems, however, flop that all around, with the most common outcome being Baldwin winning ahead of Carell and Parsons. Since the preferential ranking has benefited both Baldwin and Parsons in the past but never Carell, we’re content giving him the win, but it’s interesting.

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope (A winner by a comfortable margin; it will be interesting to see the actual Emmys and whether this is an artifact of our specific pool or if everyone has such excellent taste. As she is awesome.)

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: A tie, between Ty Burrell of Modern Family and Chris Colfer of Glee. Alternate voting systems pretty invariably had Burrell in front. (Colfer was remarkably polarizing even among our voters, whom I happen to know lean toward people who actually like him even when they were ranking him low, so it’s hard to imagine that real voters wouldn’t have the same polarization for about a hundred reasons, including his episode submission positioning him as the genuine contrast candidate.) (I should probably also note the opportunity for a new CBS mulit-camera, laugh-track sitcom called Everybody Hates Jon Cryer, because wow, most voters really, really did.)

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Ooh, fun, more trouble. The preferential voting system actually used by the Emmys gave us a pretty clear win for Glee‘s Jane Lynch. Other approaches, however, bumped her all the way down to third, behind Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen (in that order). (Glee is an interesting case–it did poorly in series, but some voters seemed to carry that over to the actors, while many were willing to “forgive” the actors the show’s sins.)

Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: Will Arnett, 30 Rock (He actually lost the Emmy to Justin Timberlake’s SNL hosting gig, which finished fifth in our pool. Screeners? Star…whoring? Our voters being uninteresting in bringing sexy back?)

Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: A tie, between Raising Hope‘s Cloris Leachman and Glee‘s Dot-Marie Jones. Alternate voting systems put Jones on top. (Gwyneth Paltrow actually won. I’m sure she’ll be posting instructions on how to turn your own Emmy into a fashionable paper towel holder for your guest house kitchen on GOOP soon.)

I have a sneaking suspicion the actual winners will look quite different–that’s the pattern so far–but it will be interesting to see where and speculate as to why. Please join us in untangling it all!

For Whom the (Cloister) Bell Tolls, or Why We Hope Steven Moffat’s DOCTOR WHO Is an Island

For people who were so enjoying Doctor Who, we’ve been pretty silent on all things Whovian around here lately. The Steven Moffat era of Who returns to Auntie Beeb and BBC America tonight, and…well, we’re not sure we’re returning along with it. We just aren’t loving The Amazing Cold-Hearted and Illogical Adventures of the Eleventh Doctor and His Companion, The Skirt. And not loving something we were so enamored with makes watching the new stuff all the more difficult.

So what’s the problem? There are certainly things to applaud in Moffat’s Who. While we’re not sure it always works, the decision to explicitly stretch story arcs across the entire season is both ambitious and a wink back at Old School Who. Trusting established “outsiders” like Richard Curtis and Neil Gaiman has resulted in stand-out episodes. The child characters Moffat creates tend to be very successful, perhaps revealing how much he adores his own kids and how much his version of Doctor Who is directed toward kids. There’s been some brilliant set-up (those Silence-sighting hash marks are creeeeeepy).

And if some of that set-up hasn’t paid off, well, how different is that from the Russell T Davies-era Who we so loved? It’s not like we didn’t forgive RTD for sins against storytelling similar to what Moffat is committing. For every example of Moffat ruining something wonderful he’d done before, like taking the Weeping Angels out of the Wester Drumlins basement, you can find an example of Davies doing the same thing. I still refuse to acknowledge that ridiculous “Doctor 10.5 riding off into the sunset with alternate universe Rose disaster that undid the beautiful ‘Doomsday’” thing ever happened. While Moffat sometimes seems to fall in love with an idea and pursues it down a bad, bad road regardless of what it does to the story (no one tell the Doctor someone will kill him in the future, or he’d have to take sensible action!), Davies did that, too (Yoda Doctor of “Last of the Time Lords” is nigh unforgivable.)

But it turns out that nigh unforgivable isn’t the same thing as unforgivable. While our purpose here isn’t to pit Davies against Moffat—they both have strengths and weaknesses—their consecutive eras make for a sad comparison: why were we so willing not just to forgive but to embrace Davies’ sometimes lumpy Who, but we’re about to change the channel on Moffat’s?

  1. Puzzle Problems

It’s not like previous eras of Who locked down excellent science fiction logic. Why, for example, does Meglos need a human to fabricate a Doctor disguise…you know what, don’t even bother trying to answer that. Davies, in particular, made up egregious Point B nonsense to wrest the story from Point A to Point C (“It’s a magic diamond! That the Time Lords threw from inside the Time War! Wheeee!”). Moffat’s stories, however, tend not to bother with things like connective tissue at all. Instead, he merrily hops from Point A to Point C without worrying about whether that shreds the story beyond recognition. How does Rory go from being dead to having his consciousness in a plastic body that’s supposed to behave like a Roman? “Don’t know—he feels himself dying and then feels fuzzy and then feels Roman.” But…how? “Don’t know—doesn’t matter. Got to blow something up now.” But that doesn’t make any sense. “Eh. Call it a miracle.” Moffat doesn’t try to connect Thing A to Thing C at all—he just declares it to be so.

Perhaps the worst offense is the use of the TARDIS as a magic wand. There’s a reason stories about time travel employ rules preventing the characters from going back in time and removing the dramatic catalyst: without the dramatic catalyst, there’s no drama. Moffat’s blatant disregard for general sci-fi tropes about time travel and paradoxes—let alone rules actually established over decades of Whovian lore–remove any sense of tension or consequences from the story. Need a way out of trouble? The Doctor will pop in in a bubble of time and provide the solution. You know what that is? The last 20 minutes of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, where they think to go back and provide themselves with conveniently placed garbage cans and key chains.

But what bothers me most, and this has its roots in the puzzles themselves being a failure, is that the reason puzzles work in stories is because the way they slam together in the end provides emotional catharsis (which, as you’ll see, will lead to our #1 complaint about Moffat’s Who). Sometimes that catharsis is joy, sometimes it’s relief, sometimes it’s a chill down the spine, but it’s emotion. Moffat’s puzzles aren’t providing that emotion, at least in part because their construction is shoddy.

The thing that’s so frustrating is that Moffat has shown he can make the puzzles work to provide emotion. I know I’m in the minority, but I love, love, love “The Girl in the Fireplace,” and it’s got nothing to do with Reinette. I love it because the reveal of the puzzle at the end—the audience learning something that the Doctor will always be haunted by but will never know—makes me cry every time I see it. The puzzle resolution itself has an emotional power that seeing a coffin being carried away doesn’t. Sally Sparrow’s delight and relief at figuring out that she’s the Doctor’s key is actually a big fat cheat, but it’s not as much of a cheat as what Moffat’s trying these days, and it’s an emotional catharsis that completes the entire episode. To paraphrase the great CJ Cregg, “The puzzles are bad. If the puzzles were unknown, I could help you, but they aren’t. They’re just bad.”

  1. Gender Issues

I’ve been trying to be patient with Moffat’s gender problems, but I finally reached my boiling point around the time they started making a game of Amy’s reproductive system. Kay Reindl’s tough but accurate piece on this development outlines very nicely why using Amy’s uterus as a plot point is misogynistic rather than cute, and Moffat’s problems with women hardly begin and end there.

Who are the women in Moffat’s vision of Doctor Who? Alien queens, nurses, soldiers. The problem is the pattern that emerges when looking at them all together: virgin/love interest, wife, mother. The whores or the wombs, the pretty or the evil. Over and over and over. It’s fine that Nancy’s a mother, both to the empty child and to her little band of WWII misfits. After all, the manager of the Flesh plant is a woman. It’s not a big deal that Reinette is, to be delicate, a courtesan—after all, the cool Sirulian Sherlock Holmes and her sidekick are women. But line them up. All four of Moffat’s Davies-era female characters fall straight into the major feminine archetypes: mother, whore, virgin (as far as Larry’s interests are concerned), wife. Now Amy’s a supplicant and a womb. Yay. Is Liz 10 a virgin queen? The “Vampires of Venice” baddie is just trying to protect her offspring—mommy. There are women in “Victory of the Daleks” and “The Lodger,” but they exist to be in love. And so on and so on, ad infinitum. Which is a long damn time when there’s a TARDIS involved.

What of Moffat’s most prominent women, Amy and River? The Amy we know has mostly been rendered non-existent—literally, what we thought was her was not, more than once—and the real Amy gets to be wife and womb. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a woman being married or having kids—in fact, those things are great. But when Moffat got a chance to create a Doctor Who companion, he made one who is nothing but those roles instead an actual human woman with thoughts and feelings of her own that include but are not limited to her family connections and responsibilities. Luckily, Amy’s been available to wear short skirts.

And River? At least she’s fun. But she’s fun because she’s just Captain Jack all over again, minus the Y chromosome. River is Moffat’s replacement Mary Sue, which is why she’s kind of awesome, yet oddly lacking any real depth.

It’s not terribly hard to see the gender issues playing out in Moffat’s overall handling of female characters, but he has trouble with his male characters, too. Looking over his body of work, he seems only to write immature men. And his immature men can be lots of fun when that’s what the story’s supposed to be about: Sherlock and Watson (whom we are loving—there’s the Who we wish Moffat had made), or Captain Jack, or Jeff and Steve and Patrick. But when he forces the Doctor into that box we get a Time Lord who becomes something heartless and twisted, with the brutally self-centered attention deficit of a child. Matt Smith is trying hard, but he’s being asked to play a Doctor who’s coming up on a thousand years old but who could show up on an American sitcom with a wife who is way out of his league. Part of the fun of the Doctor is that he sometimes bursts his seams and shows us an intelligence and perspective beyond human experience. Moffat’s immature Doctor is an all-too familiar brand of fake humanity.

  1. Moral Dilemmas

Again, we don’t mean to pit Davies against Moffat, or to imply that Davies-era Who has no flaws. But in thinking about what we’re missing from Who these days, we fell into discussing “The Waters of Mars,” a story we’ve not yet reviewed at TV Bacon. While we’re split on the end—Susannah doesn’t enjoy watching the dark turn it takes, while I dance around in a little circle singing, “Valeyard! Valeyard!”—we are both staggered by the difference between that episode and Moffat’s stuff. The Doctor’s dilemma in that episode, as in so many of the best of Davies’ episodes, was a moral one. It wasn’t a problem that could be solved by being clever or using the sonic or the TARDIS to fix everything. There was no winning scenario—the Doctor had to choose the best of two bad outcomes and it hurt to watch him do it. It made us hurt for him, which made us love him all the more. The Doctor knows what fixed points in time are, so can he refuse to save Pompeii? Should he have prevented the Dalek race from ever being born? Was it wrong to destroy the Racnoss, or was it just wrong to take steely pleasure in it? Was it wrong to depose Harriet Jones? There’s a moral question like that underpinning all the best of Who.

There’s very little of this exploration in Moffat’s Who, which creates an Eleven who is that arrogant, dangerous Time Lord Victorious from the end of “Waters of Mars.” He doesn’t have moral dilemmas, he’s not bothered about the consequences of his actions, he doesn’t even pause long enough to worry about the people who might get trampled under his feet or feel bad when innocent bystanders end up as collateral damage. Consider the particularly nauseating example of the solution to the Silence infestation of Earth in “Day of the Moon”: humans being hypnotoaded into being weapons of niche destruction. Perhaps it’s a testament to the vividness of his storytelling, but think about what Moffat has created here: in that world, thanks to the Doctor, every time you or I turn around we might feel a compulsion to splatter open a skull. There’s very little to love about a character with so much power who wields it so carelessly.

Part of what’s so maddening is that Moffat often has the opportunity to explore the moral dilemmas right in front of him and refuses to do anything with it. “The Beast Below” was more interested in playing with pointless clown police than in grappling with the moral issues the story set up. Matthew Graham’s Flesh two-parter had all kinds of moral shades available to play with, but right after showing that Flesh and Human should get along the Doctor dispatches Flesh!Amy for a shock reveal. “The Waters of Mars” slaps the Doctor with consequences almost immediately after his bad choices. If there’s a consequence to the Eleventh Doctor’s behavior, Moffat’s hiding it inside a strangely constructed Rubik’s Cube, and we’re no longer convinced he isn’t more interested in playing with the puzzle than finding what’s inside.

  1. Emotional Connections

While we (obviously) have some issues with the details of Moffat’s sci-fi, our biggest complaint is that we feel nothing. We were willing to critique but ultimately overlook hot plot messes in RTD’s work when we got big emotional payoffs, and the same is true for Moffat—as much as crossing the timelines drives us batty, we’d likely get over it if a huge emotional payoff was attached.

There’s no love anymore. No heart. No joy. No sincere affection or emotion of any kind, far too much of the time. (We suspect this is why Rory is so popular, and our favorite Moffat-era character: he’s the only one who consistently displays any genuine feelings for anything or anyone. Everyone else is too busy being glib and clever and showing off.)

And yes, the Doctor has always been glib and clever with a predilection for showing off. But he’s also been a man with two hearts overflowing with affection for the people who cross his path (until/unless they prove themselves unworthy of that affection, and then they better watch out). He used to look at the whole of the universe with a childlike joy and sense of wonder. Now we’re too busy twisting into pretzels to experience wonder or attachment or loss.

Consider our favorite episodes of Moffat’s reign—both “Vincent and the Doctor” (Richard Curtis’ work) and “The Doctor’s Wife” (hello, Mr. Gaiman) tie the Doctor to love. One person he loves is a new friend; one is his oldest friend of all. Both tether him to something outside of himself, stretching the Doctor so that he’s bigger on the inside. The Master once mocked the Doctor’s choice of moniker: “the man who makes people better.” But watching Vincent have a moment away from the ache of his mental illness to hear a museum curator discuss his work as timeless is so moving that it makes the Doctor’s rule-breaking worth overlooking. Seeing the one being who always makes the Doctor better finally get to say hello to him is nearly 50 years’ worth of emotional payoff. Compare that to the revelation of River’s identity, which should be a huge moment and instead feels like a magician shouting “ta da!” and pulling nothing out of his hat.

One of our greatest frustrations is that Moffat has shown in previous work that he can bring the emotion. The Doctor’s pure joy in “The Doctor Dances” is a sure tearjerker. Donna asking if “I’m all right” is Time Lord for “really, really not all right” in “Forest of the Dead” is one of the most piercing moments of Season 4 of New!Who. So why doesn’t he want to make us cry now?

We wonder if weak characterization is part of the emotion problem, not just with the main characters but compared to RTD’s ability to draw colorful, memorable one-off characters we immediately cared about. It’s a good part of why Gaiman was successful—every new person on screen was interesting and, to some extent, deeply sad. Fake and imaginary Amys make it impossible to create deep characterization, and the Doctor doesn’t seem interested in anyone else. That leaves a lot of emotional weight for Rory to carry, with very little help from either side characters or plot to get there. If the theft of a baby can’t make us cry, we’re having a hard time connecting with your world.

While we’d stand by the argument that some parts of Moffat’s Who are simply not well-executed, it’s also true that there’s nothing inherently wrong with flattening out the moral aspects of the show or going for sprung traps over emotion. We suspect that Moffat thinks he’s making a return to Old School Who, and maybe he is. I do think he takes his kids into account when writing this stuff. And the Davies era really was a major update to modern television expectations in terms of infusing emotion into the show. So yay for Moffat if a retrofit is what he wants. We’re just not enjoying watching it with him.

Summer Rewatch–MAD MEN, Season 1: Drinking the Cream, Eating the Butter

It makes me cranky, but I’ve been out of step for a while now–with the Emmys, the critics,  the cultural zeitgesit, and even my fellow Baconeer:

I don’t like Mad Men. At all.

I tried, I really did. I made it three episodes into the first season and quit in disgust. Since then, I’ve checked in here and there but haven’t been able to see the appeal. Some of the latter is surely that this is not the kind of show you can just drop in on–without the slow build-up across seasons, you can’t experience the payoff. But I don’t want to invest in the slow build-up, because these characters are terrible people. You wouldn’t know if from reading TV Bacon, since I clearly watch way too much TV and then spend time writing about it, but I actually do have a life, and that life is too short to spend time with terrible people.

And yet…the Emmys. The critics. The zeitgeist. Susannah swears up and down that by Season 4 viewers get the payoff of investing in these terrible people when sweeping cultural change kicks them in the teeth. Wouldn’t I like to see these terrible people kicked in the teeth? Yes. Yes, I would.  So here I am, spending some of the summer TV doldrums (what, I’m going to watch Franklin and Bash? Please.) giving Mad Men a second chance.

Turns out maybe I was wrong. Well, sort of. Some of the time. Except when I wasn’t.

Three-quarters of Mad Men (the first season, anyway) is a pretty great show. The excellent craftsmanship has always been obvious–it’s beautifully designed, brilliantly costumed, tightly written, and, for the most part, competently acted. The closing shot of the pilot, framed like a period ad, is genius. That’s contributed to my previous irritation, actually–that something so lovingly and brilliantly made could at the same time be so offputting. There’s just so much reveling in white male privilege, to the point where the show almost seems to enjoy it. (And when you consider Sal and Carol, it’s really about reveling in straight white male privilege.)  “Almost” is key, though. In this better chunk of Mad Men, the show is actually gently puncturing the privilege. There’s almost always someone higher up the food chain who undercuts the male characters’ choices, and even the most privileged characters often don’t get what they want. The first time I tried to watch, I was so uncomfortable that I missed most of the humor. But as long as the show is employing a biting (if often subtle) wit, it’s an exploration of (straight) white male privilege that’s aware of the privilege itself. That doesn’t always make Mad Men fun, but it definitely makes it chewy.

The problem, of course, is that almost every show ever has in one way or another been an exploration of straight white male privilege, and who needs to see that again? The inferior quarter of the season is devoted to tenderly caressing the brows of the point-of-view characters who have everything but are still empty inside. They’re a weird amalgam of Marx and Rand, alienated from their labors by the fact that they make nothing and sell nothing but desire, yet somehow burdened by their gallons of expensive alcohol and fine suits and large suburban homes. They drink all the cream and eat all the butter (literally, in artery-clogged Roger’s case), and yet they’re giant open wounds of want. To which I can only reply: You may go directly to Hell. You may not pass Go, you may not collect $200.

Wah! I have a high-paying job and a beautiful wife and children and a huge house and dinner on the range, but that other woman won’t make out with me! Wah! Shut up and eat your bacon and egg sandwich already. The idea that these men who are crushing everyone around them under the weight of their privilege should be pitied because while they’ve been everywhere they haven’t been to them is just excruciating, and when it’s not undercut by knowing humor it’s next to impossible to watch. As I sat gritting my teeth through that grueling third episode, “The Marriage of Figaro,” it all started coming back to me–I quit the first time around for a reason. Luckily, the summer rewind structure allowed me to zip right along, because the next episode, “New Amsterdam,” is one of the best of the season at using sly wit to puncture the oppressive privilege saturating the story. But with such short seasons, a quarter of the episodes being weighed down with asking us to dredge up such distasteful sympathies feels like a lot.

Interestingly, the tribulations of these swingingest of Dicks are linked to a wail that typically comes from mean girls: they’re unhappy because they’re not real. They can succeed at the advertising game because being empty allows them to make empty things, but nothing can satisfy the big empty inside because they aren’t being true to their real desires. But unlike the female and minority characters, the structure of the male characters’ privilege is such that their emptiness is entirely of their own making. Since they chose it, why is this lack of authenticity so crippling? Why is sleeping with a downtown artist more real than sleeping with a suburban housewife? Drink some cream and get over yourselves, gentlemen. And why is this lack of authenticity constructed as a bad thing for everyone? Dick Whitman had a terrible life–why shouldn’t Don Draper enjoy the life he created instead? Why am I being asked to sympathize with people who are black holes of want even when they have everything and seem entirely unconcerned with the fact that others have little?

And yet…that’s only one quarter of the episodes. The majority of the season really does peel back and expose the privilege, and it is so much funnier than I remembered to boot. The distasteful stuff is just so distasteful. Still, I embarked on this experiment assured that if I invested the time, I’d get the payoff, even if that payoff takes four seasons to come. I’m interested in seeing more of the parts of Mad Men I’m liking, and I’m interested in seeing the 1960s roll right over the parts I don’t. I’ll never–never–understand Peggy and Pete, but are lawnmowers and floor wax enough to get all this dairy out of my system?

To be continued…

Who’s Your Daddy: Television’s Best Dads

Good fathers are a common trope on television, possibly because there are so few of them in the real world. Which makes it a challenge to narrow them down to just a few of our favorites. What follows is our top twelve, and we salute them, as well as the also-rans like Eric Taylor, Tony Micelli, Michael Bluth, Howard Cunningham, Mike Brady, Stephen Keaton, Henry Spencer, and James Evans. Happy Father’s Day, and thanks for making our real dads seem so inferior!

1. Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby), The Cosby Show
Let’s be honest: Bill Cosby was everyone’s dream dad in the ’80s. When he wasn’t making us laugh with his wholesome comedy routines, telling stories of Fat Albert and the gang, or extolling the virtues of pudding pops, he was delighting us all as Heathcliff Huxtable: obstetrician, jazz aficionado, husband, and father of five. Cliff was silly, kind-hearted, competitive, embarrassing, available to help whenever one of his kids had a problem, and usually clad in a fluffy sweater that just begged to be hugged. He was even chosen as America’s top TV dad in a Harris Interactive poll, the favorite among respondents of all races, ages, and political affiliations. Take that, Ward Cleaver.

2. Dan Conner (John Goodman), Roseanne
If Cliff Huxtable was the dream dad of the ’80s, Dan Conner was the reality. This beer-drinking, blue-collar everyman worried about money, fought with his wife, yelled at his kids and suffered through the recession along with the rest of us. But through it all he was the emotional center of a ground-breaking show that wasn’t afraid to give us an imperfect, realistic take on the American family. You never for a second doubted that Dan would do anything for his kids, and his triumphs were all the more meaningful because he had to work so hard for them. It’s possible he even helped us understand and appreciate our own over-worked, imperfect dads a little better.

3. Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), Castle
Best-selling novelist Richard Castle is something of a playboy, a bit irresponsible, and frankly kind of self-centered. Except when it comes to his teenage daughter Alexis, whom he’s raised without any help from Alexis’ even-more irresponsible mother. He’s pretty much the ideal dad, to be honest. He has fun hanging out with Alexis (they have laser tag tournaments in their tony Manhattan apartment!), but he’s not afraid to set limits when he needs to. He trusts her, because he’s raised her to be trustworthy. He values her opinions and takes her advice as often as he offers his own fatherly guidance. In fact, the wonderfully heartfelt interactions between this father and daughter are one of the things that sets Castle apart from the other crime procedurals crowding the TV landscape.

4. Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen), The West Wing
As we learned in the fifth season episode, “Abu el Banat,” to be a father of daughters is to be a man deserving of sympathy, and Jed Bartlet is the father of three very headstrong women. He may not always know how to relate to them, and he may not always approve of the choices they make or the men they marry, but he makes damn sure they know he’s always in their corner, like when he tells his middle daughter, Ellie: “The only thing you ever had to do to make me happy was come home at the end of the day.” *wibble* And on top of that he somehow manages to run the country AND co-parent his loyal inner circle of staffers (with a little help from Leo, of course).

5. Mitchell Pritchett & Cameron Tucker (Jesse Tyler Ferguson & Eric Stonestreet), Modern Family
Like any first time parents, Mitch and Cam have suffered their share of mishaps, like the time they accidentally locked baby Lily in the car (pshaw! Let me tell you about the time my two-year-old locked her babysitter out of the house). But on a show that’s all about the push and pull of family, these two dads are the perfect yin and yang. Between the two of them they’ve got all the bases covered—they’re smart, affectionate, serious, fun-loving, responsible, spontaneous, athletic, and artistic—ensuring that Lily (and any other children they might adopt in the future) will never want for anything.

6. Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), Veronica Mars
While we sometimes wished that Keith had kept a shorter leash on Veronica, you can’t deny that his example is the reason she grew up to be the clever, strong, fiercely independent champion of the underdog that we know and love. And the fact that the touching bond between this father and daughter was able to transcend the skeletons they each kept tucked in their respective closets is nothing short of miraculous. Even when it seems like the rest of the world is against them, Keith and Veronica always have each others’ backs. And dessert for dinner to ease some of the pain.

7. Howard “Bunny” Colvin (Robert Wisdom), The Wire
On a show with nary a good parent to be found (even the so-called good guys weren’t exactly model parents), Maj. Colvin stands out, not only as a father-figure to the officers who served under him and the neighborhood he wanted to protect with his Hamsterdam experiment, but to the corner kids he tried to help after he was pushed off the force. Even when his middle-school program was terminated, he did the one thing he could do—he pulled Namond out the thug life his mother was pushing him towards by convincing the incarcerated Wee-Bey to let the Colvins take in Namond and raise him away from the streets of West Baltimore. Namond’s out there somewhere right now, getting ready to go off to college thanks to his foster-father, Bunny Colvin.

8. Charles “Pa” Ingalls (Michael Landon), Little House on the Prairie
Charles Ingalls did all the things you’d expect of a frontier-based SuperDad–protecting his offspring from wolves and rogues, carrying them across frozen rivers, keeping the fires stoked during bouts of fever and ague. He even welcomed prairie orphans into the family and put his own dreams of farm life on hold to work in the city during drought so no one would starve to death. But what makes Charles most memorable is his ability to put the 1800s behind him and rock the 1970s sensitive man fathering. Whether gently chastising his Half-Pint to set aside her selfishness or mourning the loss of his son, Charles Ingalls’ mix of stoicism, emotion, and gentleness makes him a pioneer in masculinity as well as the wide prairie.

9. Julius (Terry Crews), Everybody Hates Chris
Julius might be best remembered for his penny-pinching–heaven help you if you try to use an eletrical appliance–but he comes by it honestly. He works himself to the bone at multiple jobs to try to provide for his family in the big city. Julius is a lovable combination of big softy and unwilling disciplinarian (with a belt for every crime) who is a good example of making the best out of the little he has. He labors to make Thanksgiving and Christmas memorable for his kids, but his idea of the perfect Father’s Day is spending the day alone (or having the kids paying the bills). And as one of the hardest working dads on our list, he’s earned it.

10. Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Buffy the Vampire Slayer
No, technically Giles wasn’t a father. But Joss Whedon’s shows are all about constructed families and there’s no denying that Giles was a father to not only Buffy (filling the gap left by her deadbeat dad), but also to the rest of the Scoobies, most of whom didn’t fare very well in the parental lottery. Teaching Buffy to kill vampires was the easy part–it was teaching her to survive the rest of the world that turned out to be hard. Without the benefit of biology or the even the advantage of similar temperaments, Giles forged a bond with his Slayer that was far stronger than most “real” dads ever manage to achieve, and was the glue that held the rest of Buffy’s “family” together to boot.

11. Burt Hummel (Mike O’Malley), Glee
As soon as you see that Burt’s only reaction to his son’s football-by-way-of-Beyonce exploits is to worry that Kurt is too little for the game, you know the truth: this baseball cap-wearing, Deadliest Catch-watching dad adores his kid, regardless of his sexuality or skin care routines. It’s pretty clear that Burt often doesn’t have the foggiest idea of what’s going on in Kurt’s head, but that doesn’t stop him from being by turns insistent on better behavior, a safe place to land during scary times, and fiercely protective (bullies beware: we hear he’s got a flamethrower). Contrary to his reputation, Burt’s not perfect–he’s a man of his generation and is still more likely to wish his kid would tone it down than demand that the world deal with Kurt dialed to 11–but this widower works hard at parenting and has good results to show for it, both with Kurt and with his new stepson Finn. Even with some gender fail, Burt’s version of The Sex Talk will likely be a great model for real-life parents for years to come.

12. Walter Bishop (John Noble), Fringe
While it seems unlikely that Walter’s own son, Peter, would nominate him for this list, our affection for this shattered genius is such that we can’t help including him. Okay, yeah, he’s got all of the ego and bad temper you’d expect from a mad savant, his childlike (and childish) mentality is often a trial for poor Peter, and, okay, he did sort of conduct unethical experiments on children and steal Peter from his real dad. But STILL. His love for his son was strong enough to literally tear a hole in the universe. And his intentions in doing so were unselfish and pure, even if he might have inadvertently destroyed two worlds in the process. And can you really blame Walter for loving his wife too much to watch her lose Peter twice? I know I can’t, and neither could Peter, even if he’s the one who has to go on all the two a.m. strawberry milkshake runs.

Emmy Nomination Ballots Out: Hello, Rob Lowe; Goodbye, Charlie Sheen

Emmy ballots are being posted! (Performers, directors, and writers; note that they are .pdf files. ETA: Here’s a gateway to all categories–the hairstyling/makeup submissions are really fun to read!) We haven’t had much time to look over them, but there are always a few standout crazy moments:

  • Always fun to see the different writing submission strategies (which are also, of course, dependent on the makeup of writing teams)–The Middle submits one, Modern Family submits nine. Nine. Glee submits one per writer, Cougar Town submits eight. Friday Night Lights submits only the series finale; Covert Affairs submits eight and Burn Notice nine. I don’t know that one strategy is superior to another (hard to imagine Burn Notice, which I like very much, getting a nom, while Modern Family will likely get a few), but it’s fun to play with.
  • No America Ferrera for Guest Actress for The Good Wife? Boooooo.
  • No Jennifer Aniston in Guest Actress for Cougar Town? Odd.
  • As suspected, Rob Lowe–God love him–thinks he’s a lead actor on Parks and Recreation. Maybe Charlie Sheen’s absence will open up a slot for Lowe (is there a back door through which Sheen can still make it in? That…is probably not a good way to ask that question).
  • Oh, y’all, Community submitted the Christmas episode in the animated category. Love it!
  • The headshots are golden. Nice knit hat, Alan Cumming. Jennifer Love Hewitt managed to find three different headshots for her three different submission. Bless.

What interesting tidbits are you finding?

Where the heck did the Critics Choice Television Awards come from and why are they so much better than the Emmys?

Pretty much the last thing the world needs is another entertainment awards show, right? That’s not what the Broadcast Film Critics Association, which presents the Critics Choice Movie Awards, thinks. They’ve created a parallel organization, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, with its own Critics Choice Television Awards, and announced their very first batch of nominations today.

Obviously such a move is an attempt to exert some influence over notoriously fickle Emmy voters. “[C]ritics and entertainment journalists provide an important service when we precede the Emmy or Oscar voting with our picks,” the BFCA wrote in an email to members. “After all… we are the ones who monitor the works all year long and are best situated to consider their relative merits during ‘awards season.’” And it’s a strategy that seems to work: since the Critics Choice Movie Awards started in 1995 they’ve been one of the most consistently reliable predictors of the Oscar race. It’s not a stretch to imagine that undecided Oscar voters, hoping to appear in tune with critical opinion, might look to the CCAs as a clear, easy-to-follow guide to what “the critics” think should win.

Of course, BTJA members aren’t exactly what you’d call a broad sample, given that there’s only about 50 of them (it’s possible their list of nominees is actually whiter than the typical Emmy field, if you can believe it). And this list of charter members is frankly a bit of a head scratcher. On the other hand, TV critics are far more likely to have watched all the shows they’re voting on than members of the Television Academy, who are often too busy actually making television to watch much of it.

The inaugural nominations were announced this morning—not-so-coincidentally on the same day Emmy ballots are being released—and I have to say, it looks like they kind of got it right. Oh sure, there are a few inclusions that make me roll my eyes a bit, but there aren’t many egregious omissions. And they’ve managed to spread the love around, recognizing a lot of Emmy underdogs like Friday Night Lights, Justified, Community and Parks and Recreation. By opening up the big categories to more nominees and cutting back on the number of overall categories (eliminating awards for things like writing, directing, mini-series, variety, etc.), they’ve managed to shine a brighter light on a greater number of deserving shows.

Let’s take a look at the nominees:

Best Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire – HBO
Dexter – Showtime
Friday Night Lights – DirecTV
Fringe – FOX
Game of Thrones – HBO
The Good Wife – CBS
Justified – FX
The Killing – AMC
Mad Men – AMC
The Walking Dead – AMC

It’s hard to get upset about this category because it’s got a little something for everyone. I mean, just look at all those genre shows! And Friday Night Lights! You could argue that Treme ought to be on here, but I’m not inclined to make a huge fuss over it.

Best Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi – Boardwalk Empire – HBO
Kyle Chandler – Friday Night Lights – DirecTV
Michael C. Hall – Dexter – Showtime
Jon Hamm – Mad Men – AMC
William H. Macy – Shameless – Showtime
Timothy Olyphant – Justified – FX

Maybe Bryan Cranston should be on there, but he’s already got his Emmy; he’s going to be just fine. And maybe in almost any other year I’d argue that Hugh Laurie should be there, too. But this year? It’s hard to make a serious case that House deserves any awards anymore.

Best Actress in a Drama Series
Connie Britton – Friday Night Lights – DirecTV
Mireille Enos – The Killing – AMC
Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife – CBS
Elisabeth Moss – Mad Men – AMC
Katey Sagal – Sons of Anarchy – FX
Anna Torv – Fringe – FOX

Connie Britton! Elisabeth Moss! Anna Torv! These are all good things. And the most obvious snubs in this category tend towards people I’m tired of seeing on Emmy night anyway, like Kyra Sedgwick and Mariska Hargitay, or people I consider deservedly ignored, like January Jones.

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Alan Cumming – The Good Wife – CBS
Walton Goggins – Justified – FX
Shawn Hatosy – Southland – TNT
John Noble – Fringe – FOX
Michael Pitt – Boardwalk Empire – HBO
John Slattery – Mad Men – AMC

John Noble deserves all the awards ever, so this is a good start. And Walton Goggins is a worthy (and pleasantly surprising) choice. I’d love to have seen Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) or Michael B. Jordan (Friday Night Lights) on here, but I’m still pretty happy.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Michelle Forbes – The Killing – AMC
Christina Hendricks – Mad Men – AMC
Margo Martindale – Justified – FX
Kelly Macdonald – Boardwalk Empire – HBO
Archie Panjabi – The Good Wife – CBS
Chloe Sevigny – Big Love – HBO

Maybe Southland’s Regina King deserves to be up there? Or The Good Wife’s Christine Baranski? But overall it’s not a bad list, right?

Best Comedy Series
Archer – FX
The Big Bang Theory – CBS
Community – NBC
Glee – FOX
Louie – FX
The Middle – ABC
Modern Family – ABC
The Office – NBC
Parks and Recreation – NBC
30 Rock – NBC

The inclusion of Archer is simply inspired. It’s also great (though hardly surprising) to see critical darling Community on here, as well as Parks and Recreation, which is coming off a terrific season. I’m missing Raising Hope and Cougar Town something awful, though, and it’d be nice to see some of the more mundane fare (The Big Bang Theory, The Middle) ousted in favor of some of the sharper, darker comedies on Showtime (Nurse Jackie, The Big C, or even Episodes). Overall, I think this one of the weakest categories.

Best Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock – NBC
Steve Carell – The Office – NBC
Louis C.K. – Louie – FX
Charlie Day – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – FX
Joel McHale – Community – NBC
Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory – CBS

As far as I’m concerned, this category is a bit of a yawner because so much of the really great comedy talent (with a few exceptions) ends up duking it out in the supporting categories. Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell are no-brainers, but it’s great to see Louis C.K., Charlie Day and Joel McHale included for once. I know the Glee people are going to bitch and moan about Matthew Morrison, but I don’t think his butt chin belongs anywhere near this list.

Best Actress in a Comedy Series
Courteney Cox – Cougar Town – ABC
Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie – Showtime
Tina Fey – 30 Rock – NBC
Patricia Heaton – The Middle – ABC
Martha Plimpton – Raising Hope – FOX
Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation – NBC

With the exception of Patricia Heaton (who should obviously be replaced by The Big C’s Laura Linney) this is an outstanding representation of the field. And it manages to show a little love to some shows that were left off the best comedy slate (Nurse Jackie, Cougar Town, Raising Hope). Which, in turn, highlights just how many female-driven comedies were snubbed in the best comedy category. What’s the matter, women can’t anchor a funny show?

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Ty Burrell – Modern Family – ABC
Neil Patrick Harris – How I Met Your Mother – CBS
Nick Offerman – Parks and Recreation – NBC
Ed O’Neill – Modern Family – ABC
Danny Pudi – Community – NBC
Eric Stonestreet – Modern Family – ABC

The fantastic-in-everything-he-does Garrett Dillahunt (Raising Hope) is definitely an oversight, as is Community’s Donald Glover, who may actually be the funniest man on television right now. On the other hand, they did see fit to recognize the amazing Danny Pudi and Nick Offerman, so who am I to complain?

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Julie Bowen – Modern Family – ABC
Jane Krakowski – 30 Rock – NBC
Jane Lynch – Glee – FOX
Busy Philipps – Cougar Town – ABC
Eden Sher – The Middle – ABC
Sofia Vergara – Modern Family – ABC

Why Jane Krakowski is on this list boggles the mind. If you replaced her with Community’s Allison Brie I think you’d have a pretty good field. Honestly, though, we need more great roles for funny women on television.

The rest of the categories are all about reality TV, and since I don’t tend to watch much reality TV I’m just going to present them without comment:

Best Reality Series
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition – ABC
Hoarders – A&E
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills – Bravo
Sister Wives – TLC
Undercover Boss – CBS

Best Reality Series – Competition
The Amazing Race – CBS
American Idol – FOX
Dancing with the Stars – ABC
Project Runway – Lifetime
RuPaul’s Drag Race – Logo
Top Chef – Bravo

Best Reality Show Host
Tom Bergeron – Dancing with the Stars – ABC
Cat Deeley – So You Think You Can Dance – FOX
Ty Pennington – Extreme Makeover: Home Edition – ABC
Mike Rowe – Dirty Jobs – Discovery
Ryan Seacrest – American Idol – FOX

Best Talk Show
Chelsea Lately – E!
The Daily Show – Comedy Central
The Ellen DeGeneres Show – Warner Bros.
Jimmy Kimmel Live! – ABC
The Oprah Winfrey Show – Harpo

The Critics Choice Television Awards will be presented on June 20 in a ceremony that will be streamed live on VH1.com and will air two days later on ReelzChannel at 8/7c. Funnily enough, the Emmy ballots are due on June 24. Well played, BTJA. Well played.

One and Done–Are There Any Solutions to Emmy Love Affairs? (And Should There Be?)

Over the past few days, we’ve been examining how often Emmy voters go for the tried and true and to what degree this prevents other deserving shows or performers from winning. The numbers suggest there’s a lot of clumping–in many categories, we’ve gotten nearly 2/3 recycled winners over the last two decades.

The first question, I suppose, is whether this is a problem. If there are obviously superior shows or actors, why should they be punished for being superior–why shouldn’t they get an Emmy every year? We tend to be okay with that in other competitions, like sports–if someone is clearly fastest or strongest, they win, regardless of whether this blocks other athletes from victory. Judging something as subjective as art makes that comparison suspect, but multiple winners might fairly claim they’re simply better.

Feelings on that likely lie with whether you’re in the winners’ camp or the losers’. Die-hard fans of The West Wing are probably less troubled by that show’s four straight wins than fans of The Sopranos are. Fans of CSI: Original Flavor (should they exist) are probably frustrated by the six awards the West Wing and Sopranos crews soaked up. When the Baconeers have picked our potential nomnees, we tend to find we agree with the Academy about 25% of the time. To some extent, people who aren’t crazy about repeat winners just have to accept that Emmy voters’ taste doesn’t match their own.

What’s a little more unsettling, and less just an issue of subjectivity in judging art, perhaps, is the way repeat winners might reveal just what makes up that taste. In terms of shows, patterns appear to reveal a taste for upper-class, well-polished, professionals. Lawyers, politicians, lawyers, doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists, lawyers, TV producers, lawyers, real estate agents/contractors, lawyers, fashionistas, lawyers, admen, and lawyers tend to dominate. Looking at this, it’s amazing shows like The Sopranos, The Office, or Everybody Loves Raymond ever won. As we’ve pointed out in previous pieces, anything labeled as “genre”–science fiction, mystery, romance–stands little chance of being nominated, let alone winning. While it’s true there are few shows about the experiences of people of color on TV, such shows are even less likely to be nominated for or win Emmys. Yes, I’m still bitter about The Wire. As the television universe continues to both expand and splinter, more and more quality–and niche–programming is being made. With so much more good stuff to choose from, repeat winners seem less and less justifiable.

Could making changes to the Emmy procedures help break these logjams and spread the wealth to repeat nominees like Hugh Laurie or Steve Carell? Could changes break up the class-taste nexus and bring recognition to other parts of the television spectrum? If so, what should those changes be?

The short answer: heck if we know. We’ve played with lots of possibilities–more categories? Recognizing ensembles? Recognizing the rise of the dramedy?–and have found them all to be largely as arbitrary as the current system. How do you decide who’s a lead actor, a supporting actor, or an ensemble actor? How funny does a show have to be before it gets moved from a drama to a comedy? We don’t know, and we suspect the industry doesn’t know either. We’d love to hear your suggestions, and provide a few possibilities to kick off the chat:

  • Getting rid of categories altogether for nominations. We tried this as an experiment and were astonished how quickly things came together and how easily we were able to find victors in the traditional four acting categories from our list of nominees. Granted, our experiment was very much a pilot study, as the Baconeers tend to be on the same page on TV–how would a broader application work? We kept the nominees segregated by sex–should even that be done away with?
  • Viewing panels. The Academy has tried several variations on this over the past few years, including general voting that created a 10-candidate list from which a “blue ribbon panel” chose the final nominees as well as screening panels for final voting that ensured that–unless they fell asleep in the screening–panelists were voting based on the actual work instead of buzz or social networks. Some argue (and I might agree) that both of these systems shook up the repeat/multiple patterns, but both systems were probably more expensive than the current system and may have further diluted the pool of willing voters (not a great thing if you want to broaden the taste profile of voters). 
  • Forcing winners to sit out a year. Sure, maybe winners tend to be of very high quality (maybe). But are repeat winners really that much better than their competition? If we just said “one and done,” the last five years would look like this:

Drama: 24, The Sopranos, Mad Men, ???, ???

Comedy: The Office, 30 Rock, ???, ???, Modern Family

Actor, Drama: Keifer Sutherland, James Spader, Bryan Cranston, ???, ???

Actress, Drama: Mariska Hargitay, Sally Field, Glenn Close, ???, Kyra Sedgwick

Actor, Comedy: Tony Shalhoub, Ricky Gervais, Alec Baldwin, ???, Jim Parsons

Actress, Comedy: No change

Supporting Actor, Drama: No change

Supporting Actresss, Drama: ??? (Blythe Danner clipped from the year before), Katherine Heigl, Dianne Weist, Cherry Jones, Archie Panjabi

Supporting Actor, Comedy: Jeremy Piven, ???, ???, Jon Cryer, Eric Stonestreet

Supporting Actress, Comedy: No change

Going back only five does lose some of the pattern in some categories–which may be a good sign–and obviously new winners would depend on which years you remove from multiple winners. But there would be more variety. Is that a good thing, or is this merely a Hugh Laurie problem that doesn’t really need fixing? Would opening up just one slot–the repeat or multiple winner–per year open enough room for genre candidates? The first basic cable shows have been nominated in the last few years–is this a sign the Academy tastes are shifting? Is the issue fixing itself? Since our tastes don’t always match the actual nominees very well, we’d hope so–what do you think?

Monday: Ballots are out! We’re hoping for nonsense and weirdness. Rob Lowe, I’m looking at you.

Parallel Universes: Repeat Emmy Winners among Supporting Acting Nominees

Over the past couple of days, we’ve been exploring the question of how Emmy voters’ love affairs with a handful of shows or actors might create a sort of Emmy carousel, with the same few favorites winning over and over while others are forever kept off the ride. While there have been a lot of repeat winners over the past two decades, nine different women have won the Emmy for Lead Actress in a Comedy in the last nine years. Does this signal a new dawn of diversity for the Emmys?

We’re especially curious about how these patterns work for supporting categories. Not only are ensemble shows where all of the actors submit in supporting categories common (think Modern Family, for example, where everyone from Ed O’Neill to Nolan Gould submitted in the supporting category last year), but shows that center around a lead character, such as House or The Closer or The Office, are often successful because of the strength of their supporting casts. There are so many supporting roles and so many excellent performances in them that we often have great difficulty narrowing down these categories to just a few nominees. With so many possible nominees, repeat winners might be an even bigger problem in supporting categories. So–are they?

Supporting Actor in a Drama: 5% repeat winners, 5% multiple winners

I would have sworn on my grandmother’s grave that William Shatner had won multiple times, but nope–only Ray Walston for Picket Fences all the way back in 1995 and 1996. We have tons of complaints about who doesn’t get nominated, but the wealth certainly gets spread in this category, at least in terms of wins. And last year’s winner, Aaron Paul, can’t repeat this year because of Breaking Bad‘s broadcast schedule. So much variety might point to the popularity and quality of ensemble shows, with many deserving performances from which to choose. But since the Academy shows here that they can be eclectic, why aren’t they in other categories?

Supporting Actress in a Drama: 10% repeats, 15% multiple winners

In fairness, this is probably less balanced than it seems, as Allison Janney might have dominated for years if she hadn’t started entering in the lead category after winning here twice. Still, it’s much more balanced than the lead category, where 65% were multiple winners. I blame Blythe Danner, who won in 2005 and 2006, for blocking CCH Pounder, Chandra Wilson, and Sandra Oh, but mostly I blame her for foisting Gwyneth Paltrow on the world.

So far, it seems like things are looking up–there are many more winners in the supporting categories as compared to the lead categories, where more than three times out of five we’re getting repeats. Rather than greater numbers of terrific performances leading to greater numbers of actors left in the cold, the ensemble shows are producing a greater variety of winners. This might be plain old common sense, since there should be many more supporting performances to choose from than there are lead performances. That doesn’t mean the Academy would have to use common sense, though, so hooray for them. It’s all good from Diego to the Bay, right? Right?

Supporting Actor in a Comedy: 25% repeats, 65% multiple winners

Really? Really. Puzzling. This category is regularly at least as difficult to narrow down as the supporting actor in a drama category–let’s examine the possibilities this year. Aziz Ansari. Ty Burrell. Chris Colfer. Ted Danson. Charlie Day. Garrett Dillahunt. Peter Facinelli. Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Zach Galifianakis. Donald Glover. Ian Gomez. Neil Patrick Harris. Ed Helms. John Benjamin Hickey. Josh Hopkins. Ken Jeong. Nick Kroll. Stephen Mangan. Rob McElhenney. Nick Offerman. Ed O’Neill. Oliver Platt. Danny Pudi. Stephen Rannazzisi. Paul Scheer. Adam Scott. Atticus Shaffer. Eric Stonestreet. Brian Van Holt. Rainn Wilson. I know I watch too much TV, but that’s 30 excellent actors in excellent performances of excellent roles just this year–just off the top of my head. That doesn’t count previous winners who just aren’t to my taste (Jon Cryer and Jeremy Piven, for example), or probably good performances on shows I just don’t like (the Big Bang guys or the great Weeds ensemble), or good actors I just don’t think are getting good enough material (former nominees Tracy Morgan and Jack McBrayer, or Cory Monteith), or the fourth person from the same show who is great but doesn’t rank quite as highly as his brethren (Chevy Chase or Mark Duplass), or actors and performances I like that I’ve just never thought of in terms of Emmy quality (the guys from Chuck and Psych, for example). Add those in, and you’re up to around 50 actors off the top of my head who could have a justifiable claim on a nomination this year…and yet a handful of winners take home the hardware over and over (and over).

David Hyde Pierce won four times for his role as Niles Crane on Frasier, and Michael Richards, Brad Garret, and Jeremy Piven won three Emmys each. During those same years, actors who didn’t win included Jeffrey Tambor, Phil Hartman, Peter Boyle, John Mahoney, Bryan Cranston, Will Arnett, Rainn Wilson, and Neil Patrick Harris. Shoot, I can’t stand Seinfeld and I still feel sorry for Jason Alexander. And that’s just among the actual nominations, which also tend to circle around the same people over and over. With so many worthy performances to choose from, why is this category so stuck on the same winners over and over?

Supporting Actress in a Comedy: 25% repeats, 65% multiple winners

The same as their funny brethren. Double winners include Bebe Neuwirth, Kristen Johnson, and Megan Mullaly, while Laurie Metcalf and Doris Roberts won three apiece. While there has been more variety recently, nominees who never won in those repeat years include Faith Ford, Estelle Getty, Rhea Perlman, Janeane Garofalo, Jennifer Aniston (who finally won in lead), Kim Catrell, Wendie Malick, Cheryl Hines, Vanessa Williams, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Perkins, and Jessica Walter. (And, again, that’s just among the nominees, most of whom were nominated multiple times.)

So…what the what? The idea that Emmy voters just get stuck on the same few winners, whether that’s because of buzz, comfort, or plain old love, makes sense, as the supporting comedy numbers are similar to those in all four lead categories. But then why are the supporting drama categories so different? The theory that the wealth will be better spread in supporting categories makes sense, too–the numbers for the drama categories suggest that when there are lots and lots of great possibilities, Emmy voters are capable of enjoying a large variety of performances. But then why are the comedy supporting categories so much different than the dramatic categories? Friend O’ Bacon Bgirl suggests that people who make TV have little time to watch TV and tend to vote based on buzz and social networks. Even though voting panels change annually, there’s probably not a huge shift in the overall population of Academy members from whom those panels are drawn from year to year, so that explanation makes a lot of sense for the categories that are stagnant–people vote for their friends or what they hear is good year after year without seeing other notable performances. But if that’s the case, why doesn’t it hold true for the supporting dramatic categories? We’d love to hear your explanations.

Sunday: Is this a problem? I mean, it’s not like According to Jim ever won for Outstanding Comedy. Maybe Academy voters just recognize the best quality, and quality doesn’t go away from year to year. But if stagnation is an issue, or if there are lots of high-quality programs and performances that could be equally honored, are there solutions to break away from repeat winners and spread the wealth?

You Just Keep Me Hanging On: Repeat Emmy Winners among Lead Acting Nominees

All hopped up on the excitement of Emmy ballots coming out on Monday, we posed the question yesterday of whether Emmy voters’ love affairs with certain shows might be blocking other deserving winners. 30 Rock and Mad Men are great, but does rewarding them over and over “cheat” other great shows out of the prize? It’s a tricky question–maybe these shows (or their submissions) really are the best, or really do best match voters’ tastes. While voting panels change from year to year, it’s not like there are sweeping changes to the overall Academy membership across short periods of time.

Still, the numbers suggest that there’s a pretty good case to be made that logjams among series winners are creating a few victors and a block of losers. We wondered, however, whether the pattern of repeat winners would be the same for performers. There are obviously many more actors to choose from than series, and since actors submit a single episode to be judged, an especially striking performance or storyline might propel a seeming underdog to victory. At the same time, everyone can think of anecdotal evidence suggesting that some lauded actors just aren’t able to break through. Hugh Laurie and Steve Carell, for example, have both done seven seasons of their signature roles, they’ve both been nominated for performance Emmys five times for those roles…and they’ve both won exactly zero times. Could repeat wins for other actors be the explanation? Today we look at 20 years of actors in lead categories.

Lead Actor in a Drama: 25% repeat winners, 60% multiple winners

Dennis Franz, who was terrific on NYPD Blue, won four times; during those years George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Jimmy Smits, Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston, and David Duchovny were nominated multiple times and never attained the prize. (You thought Jimmy Smits won one of those years, didn’t you? Me too. Like Laurie and Carell, he was nominated five times without a win.) James Gandolfini’s three wins kept Orbach, Peter Krause, and–hold me closer, tiny dancers–Martin Sheen off the podium, while James Spader’s and Bryan Cranston’s three wins apiece have pretty effectively blocked Laurie, Michael C. Hall, Gabriel Byrne, Denis Leary, and Jon Hamm.

Lead Actress in a Drama: 15% repeats, 65% multiple winners

To be fair, the annual nominations of the usual suspects in this category probably reveals a dearth of quality roles for women. But from year to year, this tends to be the same small number of women trading off the trophy. With a historic lack of good leading roles for women, is rewarding the same good stuff over and over a problem? As much as I like Angela Lansbury, for example, I can’t get that worked up over Kathy Baker’s three victories keeping Murder, She Wrote out of the winner’s circle. Still, The Edie Falco and Allison Janney Hootenanny Variety Hour (I would totally watch that) that soaked up five Emmys effectively blocked Jennifer Garner and Frances Conroy from winning for notable performances, and a second win for Glenn Close for a lesser season of Damages could have gone to someone like Holly Hunter.

Lead Actor in a Comedy: 20% repeats, a staggering 70% multiple winners

The six-year Kelsey Grammar/John Lithgow stranglehold shut out John Goodman, Gary Shandling, and even Michael J. Fox’s Spin City performance until he was forced to leave his show. (It also shut out Paul Reiser while Helen Hunt won four Emmys in a row for the same show and Jerry Seinfeld while his show was the biggest phenomenon on TV, but, like Sue Sylvester, I don’t care so much about that.) While Tony Shaloub’s Monk was certainly a great performance, his three wins came at the expense of  Matt LeBlanc, Bernie Mac, and Steve Carell, who I note again has never won for playing Michael Scott. (Alec Baldwin’s repeat win in 2009 helped with that little blockade.)

Lead Actress in a Comedy: 25% repeats, 50% multiple winners

While the 50% multiples number is a lot, there hasn’t been a repeat winner in almost a decade. The Candice Bergen/Helen Hunt (four in a row)/Patricia Heaton era, during which five women won in 12 years, meant no awards for Betty White, Delta Burke, Marion Ross, Cybill Shepherd, Ellen DeGeneres, Calista Flockhart, and Jane Kaczmarek. Since Heaton’s repeat win in 2001, however, nine different women have taken home the Emmy in this category. A sign of a sea change?

All of this is only mentioning the repeat nominees who were blocked–second, third, and fourth wins also beat out solo nominations for the likes of Ian McShane, Dylan McDermott, Matthew Fox, Kyle Chandler, Amber Tamblyn, Minnie Driver, Zach Braff, Jason Bateman, Bonnie Hunt, Marcia Cross, and Connie Britton (although we’re still hoping Chandler and Britton will become two-time nominees this year). And of course, repeats mean leaving out a laundry list of never-nominated actors too long to list here. As was true of serial series nominations and wins, there is little representation for genre stories (where is Mary McDonnell’s Emmy? Where is Nathan Fillion’s? Where is Kristen Bell’s? Where is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s?)–would requiring a winner to sit out, even a year, open up the field for unexpected nominees and maybe even winners? Would instituting such a rule have solved your favorite example of a great performance that missed out on a nomination or win?

Saturday: Ensemble shows probably make up the bulk of TV–quality and otherwise–today, and we tend to find the supporting categories the toughest to winnow down as we try to pick nominees. With so many actors to choose from, is the winners carousel even more problematic in supporting categories?

Complete Guide to 2011 Summer TV Premieres

There was a time, not so very long ago, when summer TV was nothing but a wasteland of stale reruns that basically forced you to find something else to do with your leisure time for three months. But no more! Now, thanks largely to cable, summer TV is a wasteland of programming deemed too mediocre to compete in the big leagues of fall and the somewhat-lesser leagues of spring.

I kid! I kid! There’s actually some pretty good stuff on in the summertime, even if a lot of it is the equivalent of beach reading: light and pretty with an emphasis on fluffy fun. And maybe that’s just as it should be. I can’t say I’m generally much in the mood for dark, gritty, intellectual dramas when the sun’s shining brightly overhead and the mercury’s edging towards triple digits. (Perhaps that’s to blame for my increasing disenchantment with The Killing? Or maybe it’s that the show has actually managed to get duller as it’s gotten closer to its denouement.)

And, yes, there are usually a few shows that get burned off in the summer because some network belatedly realized they’d Made a Huge Mistake. But there are also a few genuine treasures to look forward to in between all those cookouts and lazy afternoons by the pool. We therefore present you with a round-up of the upcoming scripted television premieres and returns, for your DVR-programming convenience.

Wednesday, June 1


MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE (TNT)
In case you were worried the male experience was being underserved by the predominantly-male writing staffs that dominate the television landscape, this show about three men struggling through their mid-life crises in three separate, yet equally juvenile ways is back for a six-episode half-season.

FRANKLIN & BASH (TNT)
Riding the wave of shows about men who act like children and the cardboard women who decorate the scenery around them, TNT brings us this show about a couple of trickster lawyers (did we learn nothing from The Defenders?), played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar (doomed to languish on the worst of TNT’s offerings) and Breckin Meyer, and their boss, the never not creepy Malcolm McDowell. Think of it as the prequel to Men of a Certain Age.

Thursday, June 2

LOVE BITES (NBC)
When a comedy’s premiere date gets pushed back so many times that it ends up getting burned off over the summer, you just know it has be great, right? How bad does a show have to be to be considered worse than Outsourced and Perfect Couples anyway? Pretty damn bad, I’m guessing.

CHILDRENS HOSPITAL (Adult Swim)
Rob Corddry’s biting hospital-drama satire is back for its delightfully wicked third season, with an impressive pedigree of comedy talent that includes Rob Huebel, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally and Henry Winkler.

Sunday, June 5


The Glades (A&E)
You either love Matt Passmore as a cocky Chicago homicide detective transplanted to Florida or you hate him. But if you’re missing your weekly dose of The Mentalist/Castle/Bones, this procedural, which was A&E’s most-watched drama series ever in its first season, helps pass the time until your regular favorite crime-busters are back on the air.

TEEN WOLF (MTV)
I really have nothing to say about this reboot of the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie. Nothing. At all.

Tuesday, June 7

WHITE COLLAR (USA)
There’s almost nothing prettier on television than the sight of White Collar’s Matt Bomer in a suit. The bromantic chemistry between Bomer and co-star Tim DeKay is also enjoyable, and Willie Garson’s Mozzie always manages to liven things up, making this show about a con-man helping the FBI a diverting summer offer.

COVERT AFFAIRS (USA)
As far as I’m concerned, this show is just Alias all over again, with none of the Rimbaldi nonsense and 50% less excitement and charm. (Seriously, I never realized how much Piper Perabo was a dead ringer for Jennifer Garner before this show debuted.) The likeable supporting cast, which includes Christopher Gorham, Kari Matchett, Anne Dudek and Peter Gallagher, manages to elevate the unoriginal material somewhat, however.

Sunday, June 12

THE PROTECTOR (Lifetime)
Anyone besides me remember that show The Profiler? So ahead of its time. Anyway, Ally Walker is back in this series about an LAPD homicide detective and single mother. If it weren’t on Lifetime I might even watch it.

Tuesday, June 14

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS (ABC Family)
If this teen mystery drama based on the popular book series by Sara Shepard is your cup of tea, you’ll be happy to know it’s back for a second season.

THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING (ABC Family)
And this spooky drama based on the books by Celia Thompson about a teenage girl with supernatural powers sounds like the perfect accompaniment to Pretty Little Liars.

MEMPHIS BEAT (TNT)
Wow, is this unexceptional cop show a complete waste of Jason Lee’s infectious charms. Even the amazing Alfre Woodard can’t make this mess worth watching. Let’s just hope they’ve given up on all the embarrassingly bad lip-synching they forced Lee to do last season.

HAWTHORNE (TNT)
It’s actually incredibly considerate of TNT to schedule all their worst shows into blocks so I know which nights not to bother tuning in. So thanks, TNT. Sincerely.

Wednesday, June 15


HOT IN CLEVELAND (TV Land)
Think of this series, which stars Betty White, Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli and Wendie Malick, as The Golden Girls for a a new millennium. Or the female counterpart to Men of a Certain Age, except that Hot in Cleveland is actually funny on occasion, despite the often tired dialogue.

HAPPILY DIVORCED (TV Land)
It’s difficult to imagine a TV show that sounds more painful than this one about a woman (played by Fran Drescher) re-entering the dating world while still living with her gay ex-husband (John Michael Higgins). Now allow me to tell you that it’s based on the real-life experiences of Drescher and her ex-husband, producer Peter Marc Jacobson. I think the word you’re looking for is yikes.

Saturday, June 18

OUTCASTS (BBC America)
BBC America seems to have dedicated itself to ensuring that us Americans have enough Jamie Bamber in our lives. In addition to their rebroadcasts of Law & Order: UK and repeats of Battlestar Galactica, they’re giving us this sci-fi drama, about a group of people forced to flee an uninhabitable Earth and colonize another planet. Oh, and it also stars Ugly Betty’s Eric Mabius. Yes, please.

THE INBETWEENERS (BBC America)
This unvarnished and comedic look at a quartet of awkward British teens presents a sharp contrast to the glam portrayal of high school offered by the decidedly sexier Brit series Skins. I’ll take the funny one any day.

COME FLY WITH ME (BBC America)
The second half of BBC America’s comedy block features Little Britain’s Matt Lucas (most recently seen on the big screen in Bridesmaids) and David Walliams playing dozens of characters in this mockumentary about an English airport.

Sunday, June 19

DROP DEAD DIVA (Lifetime)
If Lifetime thinks adding Paula Abdul to the cast of this comedy-drama about an undead wannabe model (no, seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up) will entice me to tune in, they are tragically mistaken.


FALLING SKIES (TNT)
Noah Wyle leads a ragtag band of rebels fighting against an alien invasion in what’s probably the summer’s most ambitious series. Hey, it’s got to be better than that V remake, right?

Tuesday, June 21

COMBAT HOSPITAL (ABC)
I guess we were probably overdue for another M*A*S*H imitation, and this Canadian series about a medical unit at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan aims to fill the gap.

Thursday, June 23

ROOKIE BLUE (ABC)
ABC is giving us a double-helping of Canadian co-productions this summer as this series about young cops in L.A. returns for its second season.

BURN NOTICE (USA)
Pretty and fluffy perfectly sums up this fun spy drama, which is back for its fourth season. If the sight of handsome star Jeffrey Donovan’s stylish shades and the always hilarious Bruce Campbell’s Hawaiian shirts don’t put you in the mood for summer, nothing will.

SUITS (USA)
Yes, it’s another show about a couple of hot-shot lawyers, but given USA’s extremely decent track record, I’m willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt, despite the ridiculous premise (one of the lawyers never went to law school).


WILFRED (FX)
Of all the new summer offerings, this is the one I’ve got the highest hopes for. Sure, this series (based on a hit Australian show) about a man (Elijah Wood) who sees his neighbor’s dog as an obnoxious human in a dog suit (Aussie Jason Gann, reprising his role from the original) sounds deeply weird, but that could just be what makes it great. Or really, really annoying.

LOUIE (FX)
When practically every comedian and comedy writer working today raves about a show, you have to assume it’s worth watching. Find out for yourself when this vehicle for comedian Louis C.K. returns for its second season.

Sunday, June 26

LEVERAGE (TNT)
This delightfully snappy series about a five-man band of altruistic grifters is, hands down, my favorite of all the returning summer series. If Aldis Hodge’s adorable hacker, Christian Kane’s noble thug and Beth Riesgraf’s wacky thief don’t charm your socks off, I can only assume you just don’t like to have fun (or possibly you’re wearing flip-flops).

TRUE BLOOD (HBO)
I know lots of people love True Blood, but as far as I’m concerned, the only thing worse than the writing on this atrocious vampire show (based on the equally atrocious books by Charlaine Harris) are the Louisiana accents. Regardless, consider this your notice (or warning) that it’s back for a fourth season.

Monday, June 27

WEEDS (Showtime)
Hey, look, one our worst moms on television is back for a seventh season! And apparently she’s coming off a well-deserved stint in jail. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she hasn’t learned her lesson, though.

THE BIG C (Showtime)
I hear this series starring Laura Linney is really quite good, but I’m still not going to watch a show about cancer. Sorry.

Wednesday, June 29

ROYAL PAINS (USA)
This series about a concierge doctor (Mark Feurerstein) treating the rich and privileged in the Hamptons practically screams summer. And that’s about all it’s got going for it, unfortunately.

NECESSARY ROUGHNESS (USA)
Rescue Me’s Callie Thorne stars in this series about a therapist who works with pro athletes and celebrities, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the 1991 Scott Bakula movie.

Friday, July 8


TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY (Starz)
Look, I can’t deny that that the trailers for this look pretty awesome. But if this American continuation is anything like the British sci-fi drama’s previous offerings, what starts out as a jolly good time is destined to degenerate into a disappointing mess by the end. Nevertheless, we’ll be glued to our seats, hopeful that the influence of some of our favorite American writers (Doris Egan, Jane Espenson and John Shiban) will inspire Russell T Davies to finally give us a Torchwood that delivers on all that potential.

Sunday, July 10

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (HBO)
In the “That’s Still On?” Department, Larry David’s uncomfortable comedy is back for another season. Okey dokey.

Monday, July 11

EUREKA (Syfy)
I really wish cable networks would stop chopping up their seasons. Case in point: it feels like it’s been a hundred years since the first half of Eureka’s fourth season aired. It’s hard enough to get invested in this pleasant but annoyingly formulaic show without trying to keep track of a storyline involving altered timelines over a ridiculously long hiatus.

THE CLOSER (TNT)
It’s Kyra Sedgwick’s last season on this cop drama that basically ushered in the renaissance of summer cable programming we’re enjoying right now. I won’t miss her terrible attempt at Georgia accent, but I will miss the smart story lines and amusing ensemble cast. Fortunately, we’ve got the forthcoming spin-off starring Mary McDonnell to look forward to after Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson has interrogated her last suspect.

WAREHOUSE 13 (Syfy)
I suspect most of my affection for this goofy steampunk-influenced series is due to the high likeability quotient of star Eddie McClintock. It also might have something to do with the way it switches gender tropes around by making McClintock’s Secret Service agent the intuitive one and his female partner the one with the superior physical skills. I’m not thrilled about the prospect of Pete getting a new partner in the form of Aaron Ashmore, though, so let’s hope they get Myka back where she belongs quickly.

ALPHAS (Syfy)
This sci-fi drama about a team of people with supernatural abilities solving cases for the CIA and the FBI sounds a bit more promising when you know that David Strathairn plays the team’s leader.


RIZZOLI & ISLES (TNT)
Hooray! Everyone’s favorite lesbian crime-solving duo are back for a second season. Wait, what do you mean they aren’t lesbians? Do they know that? Because all my lesbian friends assure me that this is the best lesbian show on TV.

Wednesday, July 13

RESCUE ME (FX)
Denis Leary’s gritty drama about New York firemen returns for its seventh and final season. Is it wrong of me to hope that Leary’s next project is something with a few more laughs?

DAMAGES (DirecTV)
Do not look for the fourth season of this dark legal drama on FX, because it’s following in the footsteps of Friday Night Lights and moving to DirecTV’s 101 Network. Which means if you don’t have DirecTV you’ll have to wait for the DVDs to find out how Patty Hewes plans to manipulate the impressive new roster of guest stars, including John Goodman, Judd Hirsch, Fisher Stevens, Griffin Dunn, Bailey Chase and Derek Webster.

Friday, July 15

HAVEN (Syfy)
An FBI agent continues to investigate the strange happenings in a mysterious Maine town in the second season of this utterly forgettable series based on Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid. How forgettable is it? I’ve already forgotten about it.

Sunday, July 17

BREAKING BAD (AMC)
This critically-acclaimed drama starring Bryan Cranston as a meth-cooking chemistry teacher is finally back for its fourth season after an extended hiatus, and if you haven’t seen the first three seasons, AMC is making it extra-easy for you to catch up by rerunning them starting July 5. So you have no excuse.

Tuesday, July 19

WEB THERAPY (Showtime)
For some reason the phrases “part-improvised” and “Lisa Kudrow” used in conjunction give me the vapors, but your mileage may vary. If nothing else, the list of guest stars—which includes Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bob Balaban, Rashida Jones, Selma Blair, Jane Lynch, Molly Shannon and Courteney Cox—certainly sounds enticing.

Sunday, July 24

ENTOURAGE (HBO)
And here’s our second entry in the Department of “That’s Still On?” Don’t worry, though, it’s the last season of this blithely sexist show. Finally.