Sigh. PUSHING DAISIES, ELI STONE, and DIRTY SEXY MONEY Go the Way of All Flesh

Pushing Daisies

Boo. This really isn’t a surprise, and as ABC is a for-profit business, they can make a decent argument for this decision. Still, leaving aside the demise of one of television’s most innovative and enchanting shows, we’re going to make a counter-argument that it’s a bad idea financially, too. The end of Pushing Daisies (as well as decent entertainment such as Eli Stone and DSM) means that I literally don’t watch a single thing on ABC. Nothing. I’ll probably see some football during bowl season, but that’s it. Want to launch a new show, Alphabet Network? I won’t hear much about it unless ABC advertises on one of its competitors, because I don’t watch any of their current programming. Want to build a brand? For me, that brand is now “Nothing Worth Watching.” How much is a viewer who wouldn’t otherwise ever turn you on worth?

So fare thee well, piemaker–and fare thee well, ABC. We seem to have grown apart.

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Emmys with a Side of Bacon

Susannah and I have been kicking back at the Emmys for a good long time now. We’ve wept. We’ve wailed. We’ve gnashed our teeth. Personally, I’ve worn sackcloth and ashes, but that’s just my general fashion aesthetic.

Part of the issue is that we can’t put our finger on what the problem is–something’s wrong (really, Academy–Entourage? Really?), but what is it? We’re inclined to blame the Emmy categories–is Pushing Daisies really the same kind of beast as Two and a Half Men? Should Dirty Sexy Money–or Boston Legal, for that matter–really be considered a drama? We’re embarrassed to admit, however, that every new categorization scheme we tried went exactly nowhere.

We considered doing away with “Drama” and “Comedy” and going instead with “Half-hour”/”Hour” or “Single-camera”/”Multi-camera”, both of which are already used in the technical and animated categories. In today’s television landscape, however, that left us with a couple of strong contenders and a couple we could argue about in the half-hour or mutli-camera categories while overloading the hour/single-camera even more than the current drama category already is. We toyed with the idea of honoring more actors by creating lead, supporting, and ensemble categories. These might allow for, say, Hugh Laurie (lead), Robert Sean Leonard (supporting), and Omar Epps (ensemble) or Steve Carell (lead), Rainn Wilson (supporting), and Ed Helms (ensemble) to be nominated for the same show, or for the large ensemble casts of, say, Lost or Friday Night Lights to be considered separately from shows that focus on true leads, like House or Life. The details necessary to make that work, however (“if the character appears on-screen for less than 30% of the broadcast…”), both felt arbitrary and were, frankly, nearly impossible to hammer out. We played with the possibility that there just aren’t enough slots available to honor all of the great performances out there, so we tried adding and dividing up categories differently–“Classic Sitcom”! “Workplace Drama”! “Speculative Fiction”! “Human Interest (read: Soap Opera”)! Each of those seemed just as arbitrary as “Comedy” and “Drama,” though–is Grey’s Anatomy a workplace drama or a human interest show? You could argue either category for Mad Men. We were stumped.

And then it occurred to us: maybe the categories are the problem–and maybe that means there shouldn’t be any categories at all. This was a strangely liberating idea. We kept the sex split, both because it seems less arbitrary than the above and because we feared our lists would be swamped with male roles otherwise (try filling out the female comedy roles under the traditional categories–brutal). We limited ourselves to people on the official Emmy ballot, which meant excluding favorites because of production-based eligibility problems (goodbye, British-based Doctor Who crew), because of genre (sorry, Venture Brothers–we’ll catch you next time), and because they simply didn’t appear on the ballot for reasons beyond our understanding (who dropped the ball on submitting Dan Byrd from Aliens in America?). We began with a list of 40 actors of each sex, then narrowed the list to 30 and ranked them. By assigning points to those rankings, we were able to compare and combine our lists to create a category-less Bacon Emmys. After complaining that there just weren’t enough spots to honor all of the excellent performances out there, we were pretty surprised to find that in the end we shared 21 ranked male actors and 21 ranked female actors–with one tie in the Lead Actor in a Drama category leading to 21 official male Emmy nominees in the “major” acting categories this year, that means our numbers are pretty much right on the real numbers. Some other patterns surprised us, too:

Male actors (in alphabetical order):

  • Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
  • Steve Carell, The Office
  • Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
  • Gaius Charles, Friday Night Lights
  • Henry Ian Cusick, Lost
  • Glenn Fitzgerald, Dirty Sexy Money
  • Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
  • Ed Helms, The Office
  • Michael Hogan, Battlestar Galactica
  • Hugh Laurie, House
  • Robert Sean Leonard, House
  • Zachary Levi, Chuck
  • Damian Lewis, Life
  • Zeljko Ivanek, Damages
  • Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock
  • Chi McBride, Pushing Daisies
  • Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies
  • Wendell Pierce, The Wire
  • Andre Royo, The Wire
  • Michael K. Williams, The Wire
  • Ray Wise, Reaper

Female actors (in alphabetical order):

  • Julie Benz, Dexter
  • Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
  • Rose Byrne, Damages
  • Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
  • Glenn Close, Damages
  • Tina Fey, 30 Rock
  • Anna Friel, Pushing Daisies
  • Ellen Greene, Pushing Daisies
  • Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
  • Holly Hunter, Saving Grace
  • January Jones, Mad Men
  • Angela Kinsey, The Office
  • Swoosie Kurtz, Pushing Daisies
  • Mary McDonnell, Battlestar Galactica
  • Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost
  • Adrianne Palicki, Friday Night Lights
  • Amy Pietz, Aliens in America
  • Jamie Pressley, My Name Is Earl
  • Sarah Shahi, Life
  • Sonja Sohn, The Wire
  • Natalie Zea, Dirty Sexy Money

For the record, Susannah’s top two ranked actors I didn’t list were Lost‘s Michael Emerson and FNL‘s Jesse Plemmons, while my top ranked she didn’t list were Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Charlie Day. For the women, her top two ranked picks I didn’t list were The Riches‘ Minnie Driver and Lost‘s Evangeline Lily, while my top picks she didn’t list were Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica and Sunny‘s Kaitlin Olson.

These 42 actors represent 17 shows, which isn’t as many as the real nominees (24 shows). So maybe the Emmys do a better job of spreading the wealth than we would. On the other hand, they spread that wealth by nominating Charlie Sheen and Mariska Hargitay, and…yeah, we’re not going to apologize for not spreading the wealth quite that far. In fact, TV Bacon and the Academy agree on slightly fewer than 25% of the nominees (ten out of 41/42). It’s a supporting-heavy list, although that’s slightly skewed by self-submissions we’d place elsewhere (in what universe is Connie Britton supporting?)–that may reflect the current popularity of the ensemble shows we had such a hard time categorizing. It’s a very, very white list, especially for the women. Thank goodness for The Wire–if we remove their four candidates, 35 out of 38 of the remaining nominees are white. We’re still doing a little better than the real Emmys, who, including The Wire (from which they chose zero nominees), had four minority nominees out of 41 total. While we’ve both had America Ferrera and Edward James Olmos on our lists in the past, even including them wouldn’t hide the whitewash that is American television in 2008.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is that after all our complaining about the traditional categories–and we’re still plenty irked about several exclusions among the real nominees–it wouldn’t take us long to declare winners in each of those. Adding together our rankings to create a “winner,” we’d have to go exactly four names down our list of female actors to fill the four traditional categories, as our top four were Connie Britton (supporting actress in a drama), Glenn Close (lead actress in a drama), Kristin Chenoweth (supporting actress in a comedy), and Anna Friel (lead actress in a comedy). The pattern for the men isn’t nearly so clear, since we’d have to go five whole places down our list to declare winners in the four traditional categories: Andre Royo (supporting actor in a drama), Lee Pace (lead actor in a comedy), Alec Baldwin (lead actor in a comedy), Kyle Chandler (lead actor in a drama), and Jack McBrayer (supporting actor in a comedy). If we’d hewn even more strictly to the Emmy rules and judged a single episode the actors submitted, Baldwin’s tour de force journey through 70s sitcoms might well have pushed him over the top. So after all our complaining and rearranging–are the categories really the problem after all?

What do you think? How would you have rearranged the Emmy categories? Who do you think was robbed? Are you coming after me with pitchforks because it was my list that kept John Krasinski out? Will the Emmys ever get it right?

Bacon Bits: GOSSIP GIRL, PUSHING DAISIES and More

– Can’t wait for the Gossip Girl premiere? The CW has posted the first five minutes on YouTube.

– ABC is sexing up Dirty Sexy Money and dumbing down Pushing Daisies. And NBC is upping the romance quotient on Chuck. This right here, this is how good television shows jump the shark.

– Speaking of jumping the shark, Dancing with the Stars laughs in the face of the TV Gods by signing Original Show Killer Ted McGingley! Also, Cloris Leachman, Susan Lucci, Lance Bass, Toni Braxton, Rocco DiSpirito, Brooke Burke, some kid from Hannah Montana, Kim Kardashian, Jeffrey Ross, Warren Sapp and Olympians Maurice Greene and Misty May-Treanor.

– Remember when we actually wanted our MTV? Defamer lists “7 MTV-Defining Stars Who Wouldn’t Be Allowed on MTV Anymore.”

– Fox says you can watch the premieres of Fringe and Sarah Connor Chronicles online! But only if you live in a dorm.

Lost is resurrecting Michelle Rodriguez for an episode. Oy, does this mean Nikki and Paulo are next?

ABC Announces Fall Premiere Dates

This morning at the Television Critics Assn.’s press tour ABC unveiled the premiere dates for its fall schedule:

Friday, Sept. 19
10-11 p.m. “20/20”

Monday, Sept. 22
8-10 p.m. “Dancing With the Stars” (special two-hour performance show premiere)
10-11 p.m. “Boston Legal”

Tuesday, Sept. 23
8-9 p.m. “Opportunity Knocks” (new series debut)
9-11 p.m. “Dancing With the Stars” (special performance show)

Wednesday, Sept. 24
8-9 p.m. “Dancing With the Stars Results Show Special” (special day and time)
9-11 p.m. “David Blaine Special”

Thursday, Sept. 25
8-9 p.m. “Ugly Betty”
9-11 p.m. “Grey’s Anatomy” (special two-hour season premiere)

Sunday, Sept. 28
7-9 p.m. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (two-hour season premiere)
9-10 p.m. “Desperate Housewives”
10-11 p.m. “Brothers & Sisters”

Tuesday, Sept. 30
9:10 p.m. “Dancing With the Stars Result Show” (regular day and time period premiere)

Wednesday, Oct. 1
8-9 p.m. “Pushing Daisies”
9-10 p.m. “Private Practice”
10-11 p.m. “Dirty Sexy Money”

Friday, Oct. 3
8-9 p.m. “Wife Swap”
9-10 p.m. “Supernanny”

Sunday, Oct. 5
7-8 p.m. “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
8-9 p.m. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (regular time period premiere)

Monday, Oct. 6
9:30-10 p.m. “Samantha Who?”

Thursday, Oct. 9
9:10 p.m. “Grey’s Anatomy” (regular time period premiere)
10-11 p.m. “Life on Mars” (new series debut)

Tuesday, Oct. 14
10-11 p.m. “Eli Stone”

PaleyFest08 to Feature BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

buffycast.jpg

The upcoming William S. Paley Television Festival in Los Angeles has announced several new panels, including one focusing on cult fave Buffy the Vampire Slayer. No definite word yet on exactly who will be appearing on the panel, but odds are good that creator Joss Whedon will be there, along with at least a few former castmembers. Other series to be featured at the annual TV lovefest include Mad Men, Dirty Sexy Money, Chuck, and Dancing with the Stars.

The Paley Center for Media previously announced that the fest, scheduled to take place March 14-27, would include panels dedicated to Gossip Girl, Pushing Daisies, and Judd Apatow. The rest of the lineup will be announced Feb. 4, with tickets going on sale to museum members on Feb. 7 and to the general public Feb. 10.

DIRTY SEXY MONEY: Chocolate Aristocrats

Dirty Sexy Money

It shouldn’t be very hard to laugh at a family of obtuse celebutants so wealthy they find the idea of throwing a party on only $500,000 unthinkable–but it might be hard to like them. And in fact, it is easy to laugh at the Darlings, the family at the middle of the nutty, chewy Dirty Sexy Money. While not as intricately woven together as the Bluth family fortunes (who could be?), the Darlings are far enough removed from normal social mores that passing off an illegitmate child as a Swedish orphan or mistaking a sex tape for a lovestruck teenager’s mix tape doesn’t seem impossible.

What elevates the Darlings to being likable as well as laughable, however, is that they are like youngest daughter Juliet’s expensive, polished party favors: they’re chocolate aristocrats. The only important difference between the family and cheap candy Easter bunnies is that the Darlings know they’re empty inside. It’s the characters’ regret over missed opportunities and tender care of each other’s wounds–no matter how ridiculously acquired–that creates the show’s sweet, creamy center. Is Dirty Sexy Money empty calories? Well…yes. But it’s the kind of tasty treat you can allow yourself once a week, and the balance of sugar and pepper makes this treat better balanced than many others on TV today.