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My picks, favourites and dark horses for the Emmy Awards

- September 22nd, 2013

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It’s tough to remember just what the heck I was watching on TV a year ago.

As you view the 65th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, which air live Sunday, Sept. 22 on CBS and CTV from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, keeping the eligibility window in mind will be a helpful thing.

Hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, these particular Emmys cover the period between June 1, 2012 and May 31, 2013. So that means, for example, the current final half-season of Breaking Bad is not eligible. You have to ponder the eight episodes that aired last summer.

Final season of The Killing, not eligible. Most recent season of True Blood, not eligible. Final season of Dexter, not eligible. Second season of The Newsroom, not eligible. No Devious Maids. No Ray Donovan. No The Bridge. No Orange is the New Black. No Under the Dome.

I’m not saying those shows necessarily would have received nominations. But with TV scheduling not tied to September and January debuts any more, watching the Emmys can be a bit of a time-warp experience.

Nonetheless, here’s a look at the major award categories. Just remember to set your internal body clock back a year.

DRAMA SERIES

Breaking Bad

Downton Abbey

Game of Thrones

Homeland

House of Cards

Mad Men

THE ODDS FAVOUR: Breaking Bad seems like something of a slam dunk here.

UP TO ME? Can’t really argue with Breaking Bad.

DARK HORSE: Voters might want to seem cool and go for House of Cards, from online provider Netflix.

DRAMA LEAD ACTOR

Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom

Jon Hamm, Mad Men

Damian Lewis, Homeland

Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

THE ODDS FAVOUR: Cranston as Walter White.

UP TO ME? You know who never has won this? Jon Hamm. Just sayin’. And Cranston can win it again next year, based on the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad.

DARK HORSE: Spacey has received some buzz, and voters might want to pretend they’re hip with the online kids.

DRAMA LEAD ACTRESS

Connie Britton, Nashville

Claire Danes, Homeland

Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey

Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel

Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Kerry Washington, Scandal

Robin Wright, House of Cards

THE ODDS FAVOUR: Danes as Carrie Mathison.

UP TO ME? I thought Moss was great in the most recent season of Mad Men.

DARK HORSE: A lot of people are talking up Washington’s Olivia Pope in the frantic Scandal.

COMEDY SERIES

The Big Bang Theory

Girls

Louie

Modern Family

30 Rock

Veep

THE ODDS FAVOUR: Modern Family is a safe pick for voters, even though its best days might be behind it.

UP TO ME? Veep is the funniest show on television.

DARK HORSE: If voters are feeling nostalgic, they might tip their hats to the departed 30 Rock.

COMEDY LEAD ACTOR

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

Jason Bateman, Arrested Development

Don Cheadle, House of Lies

Louis C.K., Louie

Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

THE ODDS FAVOUR: Baldwin usually is the front-runner whenever he’s nominated for anything.

UP TO ME? Parsons deserves a lot of credit for holding together The Big Bang Theory this long.

DARK HORSE: Everyone seems to love Louis C.K., the only question is whether Emmy voters are willing to be that edgy.

COMEDY LEAD ACTRESS

Laura Dern, Enlightened

Lena Dunham, Girls

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie

Tina Fey, 30 Rock

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

THE ODDS FAVOUR: Louis-Dreyfus as Vice-President Selina Meyer.

UP TO ME? Louis-Dreyfus, hands down.

DARK HORSE: Poehler has been consistently funny in Parks & Rec for a long time, and Louis-Dreyfus did win this last year.

MOVIE/MINI-SERIES

American Horror Story: Asylum

Behind the Candelabra

The Bible

Phil Spector

Political Animals

Top of the Lake

THE ODDS FAVOUR: Behind the Candelabra, with Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as boy-toy Scott Thorson.

UP TO ME? I love American Horror Story, but I’m just funny that way.

DARK HORSE: Top of the Lake, starring Elisabeth Moss, was a real critical darling.

MOVIE/MINI-SERIES LEAD ACTOR

Benedict Cumberbatch, Parade’s End

Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra

Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra

Toby Jones, Alfred Hitchcock

Al Pacino, Phil Spector

THE ODDS FAVOUR: Douglas as Liberace.

UP TO ME? From a pure acting perspective, I actually thought Damon had a tougher role than Douglas in Behind the Candelabra.

DARK HORSE: Pacino as the latter-day Spector, inadvertently thwarting his own defence team while on trial for murder.

MOVIE/MINI-SERIES LEAD ACTRESS

Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum

Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter

Helen Mirren, Phil Spector

Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

Sigourney Weaver, Political Animals

THE ODDS FAVOUR: Lange as Sister Jude, who went from evil to crazy to sweet.

UP TO ME? I’m in the Lange gang.

DARK HORSE: Wouldn’t it be something if Moss won this category, and also won for her role on Mad Men? She’s deserving of both.

VARIETY SERIES

The Colbert Report

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Real Time with Bill Maher

Saturday Night Live

THE ODDS FAVOUR: The Daily Show, as usual.

UP TO ME? Kimmel arguably has the most innovative and topical show on TV right now.

DARK HORSE: Might it be time for Colbert to emerge fully from Stewart’s shadow?

REALITY-COMPETITION SERIES

The Amazing Race

Dancing with the Stars

Project Runway

So You Think You Can Dance

Top Chef

The Voice

THE ODDS FAVOUR: The Amazing Race always is the favourite, and I’m not even really sure why.

UP TO ME? The Voice is the only one of these shows that anyone even talks about any more.

DARK HORSE: Top Chef, I guess.

REALITY HOST

Tom Bergeron, Dancing with the Stars

Anthony Bourdain, The Taste

Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance

Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, Project Runway

Ryan Seacrest, American Idol

Betty White, Betty White’s Off Their Rockers

THE ODDS FAVOUR: Bergeron.

UP TO ME? Eliminate this category.

DARK HORSE: Maybe America feels badly for booing Seacrest at a recent NFL game.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Boobs really ARE the answer; a look back at TV trends in 2012

- December 23rd, 2012

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In his opening monologue at the Emmy Awards in September, host Jimmy Kimmel noted that cable networks accounted for all the shows in the outstanding drama category in 2012.

“The Academy is sending a clear message,” Kimmel said. “And that message is, ‘Show us your boobs.’ ”

That’s Lena Dunham of Girls in the above picture, by the way, taking Kimmel’s advice to heart – or is it having her cake and eating it, too? – in the opening bit that kicked off the Emmys.

True enough, boobs are the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems, to paraphrase Homer Simpson (he was talking about alcohol). But it actually is more complicated when it comes to TV.

The calendar year 2012 continued the trend of viewers peeling off to specialty programming and specialty channels, as the big broadcast networks try to figure out where they fit in the future of television.

The past year also saw a significant increase in the amount of internet-first “TV” programming, through services such as Netflix and the like.

Genre-wise, there has been a notable push in the past year toward fantasy, at least when it comes to drama. Shows such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Once Upon a Time and American Horror Story remind us that when real life gets boring, we always can make something up.

Isn’t it strange that in some ways we now expect our comedies to be more grounded than our dramas? When an alien-based sitcom like The Neighbors comes along, many people turn up their noses because it’s too “ridiculous.” But some of those same people happily will watch Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead and think, “Wow, great art.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just amusing when you think of it that way.

So looking back at TV in 2012, we’ll remember zombies and dwarves, good wives and mad men, drug dealers and high-class schemers, butlers and bootleggers.

And boobs. Lots and lots of boobs.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Dennings, Hendricks compete for “breast dressed” title on Emmys red carpet

- September 24th, 2012

Kat Dennings Emmys 2

The first star to make a buxom splash on the red carpet at the 64th annual primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday was Kat Dennings of 2 Broke Girls.

Dennings (pictured above) was one of the first celebrities interviewed during red-carpet coverage on E!, outside the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.

And when the well-endowed Dennings, wearing a low-cut red dress, mounted some steps to the interview area, interviewer Giuliana Rancic’s eyes just about jumped out of her head.

Rancic: “OK, when you walked up here, I was like, ‘Wow, you look gorgeous.’ ”

Dennings: “Well, no matter what I do, they’re there, so, what are you doing to do?”

Rancic: “You knew what I was getting at?”

Dennings: “Yeah.”

Rancic: “Could you tell I was staring at them?”

Dennings: “Well, you know what I mean? I looked in the mirror and I was like, ‘Uh, God.’ But what am I going to do? They’re always the same size.”

Rancic: “Honey, don’t even say it like it’s a problem. It is a good thing.”

We concur.

There was a similar moment when E!’s Ryan Seacrest was interviewing the similarly curvy Christina Hendricks of Mad Men, who was wearing a low-cut silver dress. Seacrest asked Hendricks (pictured below) how Mad Men’s fans would react if her character, Joan Harris, and Jon Hamm’s character, Don Draper, ever got together.

“Um … I don’t know how the fans would react … it would be a very combustive situation, I would think,” Hendricks stammered.

“Combustive is the right word for this moment,” Seacrest said.

Touche.

E! always brings a sense of fun to red-carpet coverage, as opposed to ABC’s approach, which tends to be a bit more stiff.

But E! went the extra mile at the Emmys Sunday with three deliberately ridiculous innovations:

* The Mani-Cam (celebrities stuck their hands close to a little camera so their fingers could walk a tiny red carpet and their manicures could be examined).

* The Stiletto-Cam (same idea, with shoes).

* And the Glam-Cam 360, in which stars were photographed “in the round” to be more intricately examined by Fashion Police.

Speaking of Fashion Police, Joan Rivers kicked off E!’s red-carpet coverage with the following speech:

“It does take a village to produce a great show,” Rivers said. “Fashion Police would not be a big hit without the help of many of you wonderful celebrities, so I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to some of them.

“Tara Reid, thank you for being a skank. Christina Aguilera, thank you for being a chubbo. Courtney Love, thank you for not even knowing that you are Courtney Love. And thank you Lindsay Lohan, for just being you … hic!”

Former Emmys host Jimmy Fallon also dipped into the deep well of celebrity rap sheets for humour when he was speaking with Seacrest.

As the interview began, Fallon was pretending to be out of breath and panicked, as if he had just had a narrow escape from a dangerous situation.

“I’m just glad to be alive,” Fallon said. “Amanda Bynes gave me a ride over.”

Fallon also quipped that he didn’t actually have a ticket for the Emmys, but that “Clint Eastwood is saving me a chair.”

The really funny thing was, when ABC opened its red-carpet coverage with Fallon, he told the exact same jokes to Chris Harrison!

Great lines, Jimmy Fallon, but remember, people have clickers and they aren’t afraid to use them.

Then again, jokes about Bynes aside, it’s possible that Fallon really was frazzled. Maybe he caught a glimpse of the four-part attack provided by Kat Dennings and Christina Hendricks.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

(For full coverage of the actual Emmy Awards ceremony, which aired on ABC and CTV, you can check out the story I filed for Sun Media here.)

Christina Hendricks

Is the caller there? Kelsey Grammer dialed in at the Television Critics Association tour, day 13

- August 2nd, 2012

kelsey on the phone

Television Critics Association tour, day 13.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Kelsey Grammer may be perplexed by the lack of Emmy love for his performance in Boss, but he has won the unofficial award for longest personal phone call ever taken on stage at the Television Critics Association tour.

It occurred during the TCA panel for Boss, a dark drama that originates on Starz in the United States and airs on Super Channel in Canada. The second season debuts on Aug. 17.

During the panel Grammer’s phone went off. This happens from time to time to panelists, but they usually either don’t answer it, or they quickly say, “Have to call you back,” and hang up.

But it became apparent Grammer was talking to his wife, and the conversation went on for 90 seconds or so – it felt longer, with an entire boardroom full of journalists stopped dead, waiting for him to finish. It did not sound like an emergency in any way, as Grammer had a grin on his face throughout the call (photo above).

Afterward, there were differences of opinion among reporters about what had occurred.

Some thought Grammer was just rude, or that it was an ego move in a “my time is more valuable than your time” kind of way.

Others (I’m more in this camp) thought Grammer just got caught on the phone with someone who kind of wouldn’t stop talking. He might not even have realized right away that the proceedings had come to a halt. Yes, it was inconsiderate to the group. But it’s not as if he began his day plotting to be inconsiderate to the group, unless I’m really misreading it.

Anyway, near the end of the panel, Grammer got asked specifically about the phone call.

“Well, there are some things that are more important than others, and the well-being of my wife sits atop the charts,” Grammer said.

Starz later felt the need to issue a press release about it, trying to spin it into a story about family values.

On a side note, if you’re Kelsey Grammer’s cell-phone service provider, there’s a built-in commercial in this, get on it.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv