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!

His Voice Was Filled With Evangelical GLEE: Pilot Rebroadcast Tonight

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Well, the summer heat has clearly fried some Bacon. I have piles of unwatched pineapples ripening on my TiVo since several last-minute summer dashes have taken me places that neglected to provide the USA Network and, therefore, Psych (seriously, national forest, who do you think you are?). It probably didn’t help that both Baconeers bought houses within a couple of months of each other (we shall pause here to allow me to envy Susannah for all of the packing and unpacking she’s already done). I’m just hoping we’ll survive the end of summer and limp across the finish line to the new TV season (whee–Bear McCreary is scoring two new shows!).

We’d be remiss, however, if we didn’t alert you to Fox’s re-airing of the Glee pilot tonight. This warm-hearted, tune-packed vision has gobbled up most of the pre-season buzz, and with good reason. It’s funny, rocking, tender, and ambitious all at once, and it wisely cast the delightful Jane Lynch to snark, just so you won’t go into sugar shock. We’ve already gone into more detail on the pilot, but you can imagine that the news that Kristin Chenoweth (and her four-octave range American Idol keeps touting) has already filmed a guest appearance has us singing, too. Don’t pass up Glee because it sounds too sweet or because you want to rebel against what all the cool kids are doing–you’d be missing out on a show that’s sure to be in contention for the most complete and joyful TV-watching experience of the new fall season. Tonight on Fox at 8:58pm Eastern and Pacific (so I guess not enough people Think They Can Dance to fill a full hour).

PARTY DOWN “Willow Canyon Homeowners Association Annual Party”: Now We’re All Privy To The Fact That Limes Have A Grain

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Folks should probably be relieved that TV Bacon wasn’t around during the heyday of Veronica Mars. I still have the reams of e-mails where Susannah served as impromptu therapist to get me past the second season finale, and that responsibility probably would have fallen to all of you (imagine the reaction to Battlestar Galactica‘s recent mutiny arc, but about tragically underparented teenagers). We had some serious love for that show.

Little surprise, then, that we’d be the target audience for Starz’s new comedy about a mediocre catering business, Party Down. Take a lot of the talent behind Veronica Mars (Rob Thomas, John Enbom, and Dan Etheridge) and a lot of the talent that appeared on that show (the wonderful Ken Marino, Adam Scott, Ryan Hansen, and comedy genius Jane Lynch). Already gold. Add Paul Rudd as a writer/producer and guest spots from additional Veronica alums Alona Tal, Jason Dohring, and a naked Enrico Colantoni, and you’ve got a pretty powerhouse talent pool.

Can the premise and writing give them enough to do? This pilot goes over some pretty well-trodden ground, including too-serious absorption of a racial sensitivity seminar and masturbatory misunderstandings. However, it also has Ryan Hansen singing along to a beat provided by his cell phone, eyebrow shaving, lots of cheese, and a naked Enrico Colantoni. It can be tough to sell a show about failure (especially in these dire times), and it can be even tougher to sell something as inside-baseball as wanna-be writers’ and actors’ failues. But there is a ton of potential here (next week’s preview looks like they’re going deeper, darker, and funnier already), and Party Down‘s first gig was funny enough to have us ordering more shrimp cocktail.

Impressive Cast Set for Thomas’ PARTY DOWN

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Starz has lined up some serious talent for its new  half-hour comedy Party Down. First of all, the series is created and exec produced by Rob Thomas, along with Paul Rudd and Veronica Mars vets John Enbom and Dan Etheridge.

And then there’s the cast, a veritable who’s who of Thomas’ and Rudd’s buddies, including Ken Marino (Veronica Mars, Reaper), Jane Lynch (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Role Models), Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up), Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars), Adam Scott (Tell Me You Love Me) and Lizzy Caplan (True Blood, Cloverfield).

Tell me you’re not a little bit interested now.

So what’s it about? An L.A. catering business staffed by Hollywood wannabes. Each week finds the hapless crew working a new event and getting tangled up with the guests and their absurd lives. The network has ordered ten episodes of the comedy, which is scheduled to air starting in March. I think I’m more excited about this than about Thomas’ Cupid remake.

PSYCH Pineapple Watch: “There Might Be Blood”

Wow, you can tell we are way too wrapped up in the Olympics when we managed to miss the fact that Jane Lynch was going to appear on Psych. What could possibly be better than that? Jane Lynch appearing on Psych as Chief Vick’s (the wonderful Kirsten Nelson‘s) seafaring sister and the object of Lassiter’s affection. After last week’s outing showed us how Shawn has taken his father’s skills one step farther, this week we get to see those social skills in action as our detective talks a murderer out of killing again. The season’s arc is so much about Shawn’s growth as a hum…oh, who can concentrate on any of that when Jane Lynch and a harbor seal are riding the waves?

Nearly lost among such myriad comic pleasures was this week’s pineapple, sneaking in on the Hawaiian pizza slowly rotting in the murder victim’s house as Shawn and Gus break in. Since the boys got all that grub out on the oil derrick, they walked right by the pizza, and the camera went with thiem. Tricksy psychics.