Cherry Jones Front-Runner for 2012 Presidential Election: Emmys 2009

I’d folded this into the Andre-Braugher-Is-Fabulous-And-Will-Be-On-House post, but the more I think about it, the more annoyed I get. I think I’ve figured out my problem with the Emmys–it’s that they have neither rhyme nor reason. (Perhaps that is why they used John Hodgman as an announcer, which was genius.) If we could always say, “Well, the Academy skews old, so of course they’ll take the wonderful Little Dorrit over the equally wonderful but very different Generation Kill,” we could make sense of their world. Or if it were, “Well, they’ll always take a star in another medium over someone who mostly does TV, hence Glenn Close, Toni Collette, and Cherry Jones,” we could impose some order. But when you see Kristin Chenoweth honored–HOORAY–90 seconds before Jon Cryer is also victorious–er, what?–it’s dizzying.

Much, much, much worse, however, were the omissions from the In Memorium segment. I’m sure I’m overlooking important people, too, but I can’t help but be a little miffed that they couldn’t be bothered to include Andy Hallett and Kim Manners. Particulary given that Manners was an Emmy nominee. Four different times.

Equally classy was the use of Bear McCreary’s astounding Battlestar Galactica score over the clip package on how wonderful television dramas were this year. Very few people love the BSG score more than I do, but it stings more than a little bit that this music was good enough for their broadcast but not good enough to win an Emmy. Or, you know, be nominated. I mean, it’s not like the score was written by manatees or anything, so I guess I can see why it wouldn’t be good enough to be considered for an award. 

And yet…Chenoweth. Michael Emerson was a deserving winner. Bryan Cranston’s delight will never get old (although I’m starting to feel uncomfortable for Hugh Laurie). Perhaps the most fun all night (with the exception of Hodgman) was the original song winners noting dryly that the producers probably expected a little more Justin Timberlake for their money, which makes me want them to win every year. Why can’t the Emmys make any sense?

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Is There An Awards Show Tonight? 2009 Emmy Awards Allegedly Given

We’ve been trying to think of something to say about the Emmy awards–we supposely think about TV a lot around here–and we’ve got nothing. Susannah’s a lot better at accepting this than I am, but we’re just not well aligned with the Academy. We realized last year that we agreed with about 25% of the official nominees, and…that was apparently a good year. This year is no different: the lead actress in a drama category, for example, is just embarrassing, and expanding some of the major categories hasn’t expanded my affection for the possible winners (Simon Baker? Really? Really.). I’ve heard people say that the people who make TV don’t have time to watch it, and I’ve wondered if those busy voters just float toward the general zeitgeist. In the end, however, it may just be a difference of taste, and the Emmys don’t reflect mine.

Then again, Mariska Hargitay could win an Emmy tonight. Another one. So I guess the jury is out on that taste thing.

I just can’t get worked up about the Emmys, then, not even with the wondrous Neil Patrick Harris hosting (I’d call it a boycott, but I can’t care enough to work up that kind of umbrage). I hope Harris wins his category, and I hope he kills as host, but as soon as Kristin Chenoweth wins for supporting actress in a comedy–AND SHE HAD BETTER–well, the Giants and Cowboys are on NBC tonight. Who would you have preferred to see nominated?

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).

Start the Wake: ABC Begins Burning Off PUSHING DAISIES Tonight

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As I will never, ever forgive ABC for holding a pillow over Pushing Daisies‘ face, I may still be going through the stages of grief. Please don’t try to console me by telling me they’re in a better place now–they’re in the last primetime slot on a Saturday night going into June. That’s not a better place.

Still, I suppose we should be grateful we’re getting these last three episodes at all. Tonight’s episode, in which we find out exactly why Olive’s into the whole constructed family thing Ned’s got going on, may have been my favorite of the final three episodes screened at the Paley Festival last month. Focusing on the murder of a department store window designer, it’s perhaps even more visually gorgeous than usual. Olive finds a backbone, bless her wee little pea-picking heart. And it’s your last chance to hear Kristin Chenoweth sing on this magical show. Don’t miss it–10pm Eastern and Pacific, 9pm Central and Mountain, on (Spit! Ptooi!) ABC.

SIT DOWN, SHUT UP: That Title Is Just Begging For It

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Remember a couple of years ago when Aaron Sorkin, multiple Emmy winner, created Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and staffed it with Emmy winner Bradley Whitford and Emmy nominee Matthew Perry? And everyone got all excited about it, and then it wasn’t nearly as good as previous Sorkin efforts like Sports Night and The West Wing? And people were so offended by this they handed out pitchforks and torches (or, as Chi McBride would suggest, plastic forks and glowsticks) and called for a UN Commission on Studio 60 atrocities and demanded their money back for TV that they got for free? When, in retrospect, the show swung between a little annoying and sometimes okay (with the occasional terrific Christmas episode) and wasn’t actually an affront to humanity, and in the end it was probably just something a little lesser that Sorkin needed to get out of his system before going on to better projects?

Fast forward to 2012, when we’ll think back to multiple Emmy winner Mitchell Hurwitz (creator of the brilliant Arrested Development) adapting a popular Australian comedy into a new animated show about a hapless high school called Sit Down, Shut Up, partnering with multiple Emmy winner Josh Weinstein, who wrote episodes of The Simpsons like “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” and “Lisa versus Malibu Stacey”. We’ll remember them staffing it with genius Emmy nominees with AD connections like Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Henry Winkler. We’ll recall their adding the Emmy-nominated wonder that is Kristin Chenoweth. And we’ll remember coming to the conclusion that maybe Hurwitz and company just needed to get this out of their systems before they could move on to better projects. In the future, when this happens, we won’t look back on the show and say, “Eh, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was at the time.” No, we’ll look back and remember that Sit Down, Shut Up was so bad it made us wish Fox had kept Do Not Disturb on the air instead. When we saw–and were appalled by–the pilot, we wanted to give it another week before passing judgment, just out of loyalty to the many talented people involved. But it’s…it’s really bad, full of grotesque and dirty jokes that just aren’t funny and are set to flat, unattractive animation. We love so many of the people involved with Sit Down, Shut Up so much that we’re going to resist the urge to tell them to sit down and shut up, but…we’ll catch them in their next outings, thanks.

Chenoweth Signs on for New David E. Kelley Drama

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Pushing Daisies may be going gentle into that good night, but we needn’t worry that Kristin Chenoweth will be out of work for long. In fact, she’s already lined up a new job–on NBC’s Legally Mad, a new legal drama from David E. Kelley.

According to Variety, she’ll be playing a character named Skippy Pylon, a “cheerful and brilliant attorney who nonetheless exhibits flashes of psychosis–and enjoys being mistaken for a teenager.” Um, okay, then. You go, David E. Kelley.

Choose Your Chenoweth

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I guess there really can be too much of a good thing. At 8pm Eastern and Pacific tonight, you can catch the incandescent Kristin Chenoweth as Olive Snook, the best thing about the brilliant Pushing Daisies. This may be the last episode of Pushing Daisies we ever get on broadcast TV (an additional couple of eps have been filmed and would show up on an eventual DVD release), so of course you’ll want to tune in…

…unless, of couse, you need a little Christmas right this very minute. If that’s your circumstance, you may want to catch dazzling Broadway and recording star Kristin Chenoweth on TNT’s Christmas in Washington. Which is, of course, also on at 8pm Eastern and Pacific. I’d go into an extended rant here about how this is a perfect example of networks not understanding their own schedules, but TNT is wisely rebroadcasting Christmas in Washington several more times, including multiple showings tonight. (And, frankly, if you’re in flyover country, it’s all going to work out for you anyway–check local listings.)  Our recommendation, then, is to catch Chenoweth dealing with rival Norwegian detectives (led by Orlando Jones!) on Daisies at 8 and then to switch over to TNT, careful to avoid host Dr. Phil, to catch Chenoweth perfoming the geeeeoooooorgeeeeeeous, Eastern-tinged version of “What Child Is This?” from her new Christmas album. Apparently other people will be performing (Julianne Hough and Darius Rucker, for example, in case you want oddly country-fried Christmases), but it’s hard to believe they’ll be able to hold a candle to Chenoweth.

Of course, none of this provides a solution as to how to see A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa (Jesse L. Martin! In a letter carrier outfit! Probably singing!), which airs at exactly the same time–insert that above-mentioned rant about scheduling here and try to think of Kristin Chenoweth rather than Jay Leno.

PUSHING DAISIES “Comfort Food”: It’s Justice O’Clock

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I almost wish Pushing Daisies weren’t so brilliant this week. In the face of an episode where Chuck makes a huge mistake Ned might not be able to forgive at the same time he’s reviving Olive’s eternal flame (oh, Olive), we have to wonder where they would have taken this storyline before circling back to plastic hugging contraptions. Bitter tang, bitter viewer–it’s a story. Because, much as was the case with the boarding school pie-speakeasy in the teaser, Ned’s party with forkfuls of immediate gratification has stopped, and I worry they don’t have enough time left to fully explore that.

This is particularly painful when considering the best episode since Season 1’s “Sweet Smell of Success.” Chuck has admittedly been getting on my nerves with her self-centered insistence that everyone else in her tiny circle should feel about family and life the way she does, but her selfish choice to keep her father alive in this episode is presented in such a way that, in the middle of a terrible decision, it makes her sympathetic again. Her chat with Daddy Deadest about what death feels like and how much more vibrant revivified life feels reminds us that there are some things about her no one else can possibly understand, adding to her isolation even from the person she loves the most. It’s hard to imagine, though, that Ned will be able to let her betrayal go lightly, so the clock is striking justice o’clock for Lonely Tourist Charlotte Charles.

All of this heavy stuff (and heavy stiff) is perfectly counterbalanced, however, with the Best in Belly Comfort Food Cook-Off. Seeing Beth Grant reprise her role as WonderfallsMuffin Buffalo proprietess is delightful enough, but seeing her hip-check Olive in slow motion with muffins flying is almost too much goodness to ingest. (It’s even more fun that episode writer Doug Petrie, previously a writer and executive producer on Buffy, labels her The Pastry Slayer.) There is a character called the Waffle Nazi (who speaks not German, but “English mit a German accent”), sweetly delivered threats to strangle people with blue ribbons, and promises of hobbits on jetpacks. Kristin Chenoweth remains the best thing on TV, rollicking back and forth between declaring that the thing no one ever tells you about cooking with the dark side is that the food is reeeeaaallllly good to radiating with one look that her feelings for Ned have been percolating under the surface with as much force as Emerson’s Bolivia Jura coffee grounds. She has a knack for just the right touch to elevate a scene from fun to delightful, like balancing a pie on her shoulder while racing it to the judges’ table on a scooter or biting her lip when Ned notes that she could be his investigative assistant. (The costume department also has a knack for dressing her to show off her, er, assets.)

And maybe that’s why, even in an episode that does so much to rehabilitate Chuck and reshape her relationship with Ned, I’m starting to believe that Pushing Daisies is really Olive Snook’s story. I would never, ever have believed that capping a television show with a (beautifully orchestrated) Bangles song would make me weepy, but getting to see Olive finally win one, only to have Ned offer the hand that will pull her back into the depths of unrequited love, rips my heart out. We saw a few episodes ago that, when faced with potential death, Olive found forgiveness in her heart and wished love, success, and pie on everyone. While Charles Charles found death to be like gliding, and Chuck didn’t feel much of anything at all, I hope when Olive actually goes, death will feel like winning the Best in Belly Comfort Food Cook-Off, taking Ned’s hand, having sparkles explode all around her, and having a heart so full it breaks open and music spills out into the world.

PUSHING DAISIES “Bad Habits”: We’re Motoring

Oh, show. I suppose hearing “what got thee to a nunnery?” shortly after seeing a great version of Hamlet primed the pump, but I’m trying to remember the last time I laughed harder at anything than at Father Dowling (Emerson), Father Mulcahy (Ned), and Sister Christian (Chuck) being called out by a nun claiming that “Sister Christian” is nothing but a heavy-petting power ballad.

I further suppose that a show so soaked in death focusing on digging things up should be a little more unsettling than it is, but one of the things that sets Pushing Daisies apart is the focus on growth and the idea that growing can’t happen without digging. If you’re willing to root around in your heart a little bit, you’ll find humility (Emerson’s acceptance of Olive paying in prayer), forgiveness and generosity (Olive’s plummet), and possibly your place in the human family (Chuck’s contemplation of who she is now and where she came from). You may even find you can move forward in love if you’re brave enough to dig up the weeds that have bound up your heart and choked off your ability to reach out to people (Ned’s realization that the abandoned boy inside of him is the same person who abandons everyone else). Those gifts are more valuable than any white truffle. Refuse to do that hard but rewarding work, focusing instead on external treasures? You’ll calcify into a hardened liar who takes advantage of everyone around you and lose everything you thought was valuable when a pig shoves you off a bell tower. Although that last part will be purely symbolic. For most of us. I think.

Mother Superior Mary Mary’s (ha!) observation about Chuck’s lack of faith is correct and yet misplaced. Part of the reason Chuck’s wondering about whether she should be alive at all is so hurtful is because she loses faith for a moment in the idea that the new life she gained after being dug up is beautiful. But this show always, always insists that the digging is worth it in the end.

While the episode is one of the best recent examples of the themes underlying the show, it is no less devoted to the perfect little details and references than other episodes. Hitchcock returns, this time in the form of Vertigo‘s bell tower. The use of “Ave Maria” in the soundtrack manages to be, at different points, both hilarious and poignant. Olive’s mother continuing to use her tanning mirror in every scene in which she appears is a tiny detail I didn’t even notice on first viewing, but they take the trouble to put it in anyway.

And, finally, while he was wrong to apply it to the secret Olive was keeping and the 29-year-old photograph of the nuns, Ned’s absolutely right that all of this has something to do with the sacred feminine, and that sacred feminine is Kristin Chenoweth, who could not be more divine in this role. I’m trying to prepare myself for the fact that this show is going to die and no one with a magic, life-giving finger to resurrect it (like Lazarus!) will come along. But if we don’t get a full season, I hope Emmy voters don’t forget Olive Snook weeping for Sister Larue’s soul, being unable to put too fine a point on it while threatening Emerson’s desk with the point of a pencil, absconding with top-shelf fem care products, dismissing Fathers Dowling and Mulcahy with a perfectly timed “peace be with you,” finding forgiveness in her heart while praying about peach pie and cinnamon ice cream, and tearing up while accepting Ned’s apology. Chenoweth’s isn’t just the funniest performance on TV–it’s the one with the most heart. Which is why she’s the perfect fit with the similarly situated Pushing Daisies–catch it while you can.

PUSHING DAISIES “Bzzzzzzzzz!”: Flibbertigibbit Is a Title of Respect

While Pushing Daisies may have garnered 12 Emmy nominations, it may also have been one of the shows most hurt by last year’s writer’s strike. A story that is not only quirky but that is built on a dense and complicated–if entirely charming–mythology, Daisies didn’t really have the luxury of disappearing from our screens for an extended period and emerging unscathed. Built around a murder committed by bees, the season premiere sagged for the first third as the convoluted set-up–piemaker gifted with the touch of life; nature’s balance requires life for life; piemaker’s mom/Chuck’s dad/Chuck’s mom/homeopathic mood enhancers…you get the idea–was spelled out for viewers who might have forgotten it over the 10 months since we had a new episode.

Luckily, both the basics of the show (the glorious visuals; the warmth and connections between lonely people) and the new twists (moving Olive to a new setting; moving Chuck out of Ned’s apartment) are strong, and the rest of the episode shone. There might always be a corpse, but this isn’t CSI–this show is about both overcoming and incorporating grief to build yourself into something new. The identity of the killer hiding in a whacked-out version of Bert’s Bees isn’t the real story here–the point is Ned realizing how his home expanding is about making something new; it’s Aunt Vivian being able to get on a bus for the first time (having gotten over her feeling that public transportation is too intimate). The disconcerting thing about procedurals is that their obsession with death makes life seem so disposable. Pushing Daisies reminds us over and over through its obsession with death that life is glorious. While the mystery wasn’t terribly difficult to figure out, the way Ned and Chuck’s relationship is growing and maturing reflects what the show is really about.

As charming as Ned and Chuck might be, Kristin Chenoweth and Chi McBride are really the stars of this show. Chuck and Ned’s sweet romance might become entirely too sticky if not cut with the lemony comedic bite Olive and Emerson bring to the pie. We’re eaten up with curiosity wondering what secret tragedy has severed Emerson’s daughter from his life and where the story will take Olive and her new animal friend, Pigby. Pigby. If Chenoweth and Swoosie Kurtz in teal nun’s habits don’t make you laugh, I don’t think we’ll find anything that will.

Last year, we started keeping track of all the Hitchcock references Daisies was throwing at us. While I’m not sure I caught any of those tonight, having Chenoweth spin and sing in the Alps and make direct references to Sound of Music lyrics is almost as funny as having Ned pop up at Betty’s Bees as a temp from Happy Time, the temp agency in creator Bryan Fuller‘s previous brilliant and underappreciated medidtation on death, Dead Like Me. None of those, however, can top the prettiest, most color-saturated show on television stashing the incandescent Chenoweth in a nunnery straight out of Black Narcissus–I nearly fell off the couch when they revealed that long shot of the abbey, the well, and the gates.

There’s no other show on television that’s so gorgeous (hexagon-tiled floors at a honey-products company), so well thought-out to every last detail (bee-magnet Chuck dressed in florals), or so clever (Black Narcissus! Are you kidding me?), but there are a lot of shows getting better ratings. Susannah begged you the other day to tune into Life, reminding you of the tragic fates of other quality shows that reward attention and devotion. After seeing Wednesday’s ratings, I’m coming on bended knee to beg you to give Pushing Daisies a chance. Give yourself a chance to fall in love with a lonely piemaker and a dead girl and a knitting PI and a waitress who is a gun loaded with truth buckshot–and with the idea that love really can conquer death. You won’t be disappointed.