Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Alterna-Emmys

So after listing my top 45 shows of the last year, it’s onto my acting awards.  As you may note, I’m not adhering to the Academy’s list of what exactly counts as guest role or supporting role, or what qualifies as a comedy, drama, or miniseries because….well, they’re my awards.  Deal with itttttttt!

Vanessa Bayer/Saturday Night Live, Stephanie Beatriz/Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Donna Lynne Champlin/Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Tina Fey/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kate McKinnon/Saturday Night Live, Noel Wells/Master Of None
WINNER: Kate McKinnon

So, first taste of my personal rules, Tina Fey is technically a ‘guest actress’ on UKS but she was in something like five of the 13 episodes.  That counts.  Am I also nominating her as a backdoor way of celebrating “Meet Your Second Wife,” a.k.a. the best Saturday Night Live sketch of the last year?  Sure!  As it happens, this category features four (!) past or current SNL alumni, and good on Noel Wells for actually proving she has talent after doing virtually nothing on her lone SNL season.  This is a very tight vote between Champlin and McKinnon and I’m tempted to vote for DLC just because she’s fresh blood, but I’m again awarding McKinnon.  She’s just the best.  I mean, she reduced poor Ryan Gosling to a giggling mess with zero effort.  THE BEST.

Andre Braugher/Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Tituss Burgess/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Ty Burrell/Modern Family, Walton Goggins/Vice Principals, TJ Miller/Silicon Valley, Lamorne Morris/New Girl, Timothy Simons/Veep
WINNER: Tituss Burgess

Another wholly fantastic category.  Simons had the incredible storyline of Jonah’s congressional run (I am 100% convinced this series ends with Jonah as the new vice-president).  Goggins is so hilariously evil that I wish the show was built fully around him rather than Danny McBride’s warmed-over Kenny Powers.  If they want to reboot ‘Angie Tribeca’ with Braugher and Steph Beatriz just deadpanning absurd lines to each for 22 minutes, I am all in.  But, amidst all of this wonderful talent, Burgess is the best of them all.  While I enjoyed this season of UKS, it became quite clearly apparent that Jane Krakowski and Carol Kane are wholly unnecessary.  I mean, they literally had an ep where it was just Kimmy and Tituss having adventures, and it was outstanding.  Ellie Kemper has a very tough balancing act with Kimmy’s character while Burgess gets to more or less just be zany, though it’s no less a difficult job since he has to be a one-man supporting cast. 

Anthony Anderson/Black-ish, Fred Armisen/Portlandia, Nathan Fielder/Nathan For You, Rob Lowe/The Grinder, Fred Savage/The Grinder
WINNER: Nathan Fielder

“The Grinder” is a one-joke premise but man, the writers literally got every drop of hilarity from that one very funny joke.  Lowe and Savage were both great but they cancel each other out for Nathan Fielder.  Now, some might argue that Fielder isn’t *acting* but I disagree.  The Nathan character on the show is developing quite the arc through three seasons now, and you can see Fielder’s actual acting talent when he is “in character” for one scheme or another.  Also, anyone who can keep a deadpan going during all of these ridiculous scenarios deserves some type of award.  Add Fielder with Braugher and Beatriz to my Angie Tribeca remake. 

Rachel Bloom/Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Carrie Brownstein/Portlandia, Zooey Deschanel/New Girl, Ellie Kemper/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus/Veep, Tracee Ellis Ross/Black-ish
WINNER: Rachel Bloom

So your character has to be likeable yet clearly unhinged, relatable yet cringe-worthy, smart yet delusional, and you’re both hoping she succeeds yet also kinda rooting against it since it may ultimately destroy her.  Oh, and she has to be able to sing.  Oh, and you’re co-creating the entire show and building it around your entire comic sensibility.  (I think she’s also co-writing all the songs as well, but it’s surprisingly hard to find the soundtrack credits online.)  In short, Rachel Bloom has everyone beat.  Holy crap did “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” explode like a grenade in the pleasure centres of my brain.  I somehow didn’t even know this show was a musical before I started watching it!  When she just broke into the ‘West Covina’ song in the first episode I was like whaaaaaaat and then broke into a gigantic smile.  Everything about this show was awesome so Bloom gets my Emmy both because she herself deserves it and because she’s the engine that got this entire show running.

Hayley Atwell/Agent Carter, Olivia Colman/Broadchurch, Kirsten Dunst/Fargo, Sarah Lancashire/Happy Valley, Keri Russell/The Americans
WINNER: Kirsten Dunst

Dunst is one of those actors you continually forget is good, so you’re always vaguely surprised whenever they deliver a strong performance when you really should be expecting it.  I’m hard-pressed to think of even one bad acting job on ‘Fargo’ but Dunst was quite possibly the best of the bunch.  The show only kind of (kinda) vaguely resembles the original Coens movie at this point so it’s probably not really accurate to a draw a line between the two, but Dunst gives one of the weirdest and best possible variations on “the William H. Macy role” that you could imagine.  Since Russell is a multi-time alterna-Emmy winner, I don’t necessarily feel the need to reward her again, but I’m ever so hoping she wins the actual Emmy on Sunday night.  “The Americans” suddenly finally getting nominated in its fourth season was as inexplicable as it was delightful, so maybe Hollywood just clued-in en masse and Russell (and Matthew Rhys) will pick up the statues they should’ve gotten three years ago.   

Riz Ahmed/The Night Of, Charlie Cox/Daredevil, Bob Odenkirk/Better Call Saul, Matthew Rhys/The Americans, Justin Theroux/The Leftovers, Patrick Wilson/Fargo
WINNER: Justin Theroux

I’ve spoken about “degree of difficulty” a few times as an influence on my picks, which may seem unfair but it could be the best way of picking between apples and oranges’ worth of tremendous performances.  For instance, Ahmed, Wilson and Odenkirk did great work on their shows but I feel other actors could be just as good or maybe better.  Cox has to carry any number of goofy stories and live up to 50 years of comic book lore, and he carries it off.  Nobody remotely compares to all of the plates that Rhys has kept spinning over four seasons but, well, I’ve awarded him in the past.  That leaves Theroux as the winner for having to act as the audience surrogate and/or crazy straight man within the Leftovers’ bizarre world.  To use another Damon Lindelof show as an example, imagine the Jack character on LOST if Jack was actually interesting. 

Jon Bernthal/Daredevil, Bill Camp/The Night Of, Ted Danson/Fargo, Iain De Caestecker/Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Peter Dinklage/Game Of Thrones, Frank Langella/The Americans, David Tennant/Jessica Jones, Bokeem Woodbine/Fargo
WINNER: Jon Bernthal

How deep is a category when Dinklage might actually be the least of the nominees?!  How can you even pick between such a wide range of performances?  You have Langella, Danson and Camp all underplaying the hell out of their scenes, Woodbine and Dinklage stealing scenes, the IDC/Elizabeth Henstridge pairing charming the hundreds of people still hanging in there with AoS, Tennant hamming it up as the worst human being alive and Bernthal completely bringing new life to an age-old Marvel character.  Who would’ve thought that Bernthal could do that Dolph Lundgren, Tom Janes and Ray Stevenson couldn’t?….wait, I guess I thought he could do it, since Daredevil actually took the Punisher seriously as a character.  That whole “penny and dime” monologue in the cemetery had Emmy bait scene written all over it, but man did Bernthal ever sell the the hell out of it. 

Jeannie Berlin/The Night Of, Carrie Coon/The Leftovers, Wynn Everett/Agent Carter, Elizabeth Henstridge/Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marianne Jean-Baptiste/Broadchurch, Regina King/The Leftovers, Cristin Milioti/Fargo, Kate Mulgrew/Orange Is The New Black, Lori Petty/Orange Is The New Black, Taylor Schilling/Orange Is The New Black, Rhea Seehorn/Better Call Saul, Rachael Taylor/Jessica Jones, Samira Wiley/Orange Is The New Black, Deborah Ann Woll/Daredevil, Alison Wright/The Americans
WINNER: Alison Wright

Okay, so, yeah, 15 nominees.  I realize this is a comically gigantic number, and obviously my view of OITNB as a pure ensemble show with no true lead skews the numbers, but I’m honestly at a loss here about who to cut.  Hell, I could’ve really added more; Charlotte Rampling was a close omission, maybe missing out just because I’m still angry at that horrible last season of Dexter.  It may be best to just count them down individually…

15. Henstridge.  The episode where it’s (sort of) just her on the deserted alien planet is a series high point for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
14. Berlin.  I’m actually basing this nomination on one single scene…Berlin pausing her closing argument to tap her pencil on the crime scene photos.  That was inspired.
13. Mulgrew.  It’s a testament to OITNB’s cast that you could take almost any handful of characters in a “let’s cover up a murder” storyline and it would work, but I think Red would almost have to be involved.
12. Everett.  I tip my cap to the writer who came up with the thematically perfect idea of having an evil version of Hedy Lamarr as the big bad for an Agent Carter season.
11. Taylor.  It’s Patsy, just falling out of the top ten!  Forget Luke Cage, did anyone expect “Jessica Jones” to be a backdoor pilot for an eventual Hellcat show? 
10. Miloti.  If only we could see her in a show where she isn’t instantly lovable and dying before her time.  “Well, Mark, you could’ve watched her in that show where she was co-starring with Ginsberg from Mad Men…” IF ONLY 
9. Woll.  Wonderful chemistry with Cox, wonderful chemistry with Bernthal, and she elevates every Murdoch & Nelson scene by helping obscure the fact that the guy from Mighty Ducks can’t act.  As a journalist, I should probably be more offended by the “wait, she just shows up at a major New York paper and instantly gets a job?” storyline but it’s not like I went to J-school or anything.
8. Schilling.  Piper as the lead character burned out after two seasons.  Piper as one part of an ensemble, getting loads of interesting material as a drunk-with-power underwear baron and then an accidental Nazi sympathizer is a much better fit within the OITNB world.
t6. Jean-Baptiste and Petty.  I’m placing these two together because whoa, remember the 90’s?  MJB got an Oscar nomination in 1996 and then seemingly disappeared from decent parts, though apparently she was on Without A Trace for seven years.  (Who knew?  Without a trace indeed.)  As for Petty, it seemed like she also more or less fell off the face of the earth since….what, Tank Girl?  Anyway, they both deserve long overdue kudos for making the most of these rather rare meaty roles.  I also kinda want to give a semi-nomination to the actress who played the younger Lolly in her OITNB flashback episode for doing such a dead-on Lori Petty impression.
t3. Coon and King.  These two also get placed together due to what may have been the single best scene in any show this year, when Nora and Erika go through the Departure fraud questionnaire.
2. Seehorn.  She didn’t have much to do in the first season other than just be Jimmy’s friend, but Seehorn got to paint with a much wider array of colours in S2.  In making her such a likeable character, her fate is now the big lingering question hanging over “Better Call Saul.”  We know what happens to Jimmy, we know what happens to Mike…everyone else is up in the air, including poor Kim.
1. Wright.  But really, if any character on television deserved our pity, it was poor Martha.  One more time….man, poor Martha.  Her four-season arc reached its logical conclusion with a few episodes that were about as gripping as television gets.  What happened to Martha impacted every single character on the show and I think it’ll set the series’ final endgame in motion.  “The Americans” has been the best show on TV for a few years now in large part because it is so calm about setting up these enormous plot dominoes and we’re finally starting to see them all fall.

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