Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Alterna-Emmys

Pretty good regular Emmys this year, with a solid slate of winning shows and performance, plus some long-overlooked actors (Elisabeth Moss, Ann Dowd, Donald Glover) finally getting some Emmy glory.  But still, no matter how good the actual show did, it wasn’t quite up to my sky-high standards!  Behold the alterna-Emmys! 

I realize that my list of the year’s best shows may have spoiled by Best Drama and Best Comedy picks, but whatever.  The Leftovers was just an astonishing season of television, one that will be talked about for years to come, or at least whenever anyone discusses series that were hidden gems.  New Girl just continues to click away on all cylinders year after year in a post-hype classic kind of way.  It may have been responsible for my single-biggest laugh of the entire year, with the revelation of Schmidt’s real name.  It was a joke six years in the making and yet it was both absolutely clever and a semi-twist that nobody saw coming. 

The performances!  You’ll noticed I’ve just gone and mushed the regular series and the limited series together in some lovely melange — it’s all a level playing field here at the alterna-Emmys.

Andre Braugher/Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Tituss Burgess/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Ty Burrell/Modern Family, Ted Danson/The Good Place, Ken Hall/People Of Earth, Lamorne Morris/New Girl
WINNER: Tituss Burgess

I should point out the nonsensical actual Emmy given to Alec Baldwin in this category, since a) it was based on a single impression and b) he’s not actually in the SNL cast.  I realize that Baldwin is more associated with Saturday Night Live than most full-time cast members in the show’s history, yet it’s still pretty weird that he has an Emmy for his SNL work and nobody else on the show save Kate McKinnon has won.  (Though the concept of SNL players being nominated in the supporting category is still a fairly new one for the Emmys, admittedly.)  That being said, if you can win Emmys for a single SNL character, then Tom Hanks as David S. Pumpkins was completely s. robbed! 

Anyway, whatever, Baldwin’s win was pretty absurd given the much better work done by literally everyone else nominated, not to mention my alterna-picks.  Tituss gets the nod in a close call since, as I said last year, he and Ellie Kemper do such incredibly great work in carrying this show that I feel he has the highest WAR of anyone in the category.  Like, as great as, say, Braugher or Danson are, there are probably a few other actors that could play those roles just as well.  Admittedly this is kind of an unfair standard given that the role of Titus was literally written for Tituss himself, but still, he’s one of a kind.

Donna Lynne Champlin/Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Ana Gasteyer/People Of Earth, Carol Kane/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kate McKinnon/Saturday Night Live, Alice Wetterlund/People Of Earth
WINNER: Donna Lynne Champlin

Aside from Darryl and White Josh, there is no relationship on CExG that I’m remotely as invested in as Rebecca and Paula.  It broke my heart to see them at odds even for a few episodes this past season, and between that sorta-feud and Paula’s separation from her husband, DLC had a lot of dramatic beats to work with on top of being hilarious.  As for the other nominees, shoutout to the Kimmy Schmidt writers for finally giving Kane an interesting story to work with!  The show wasn’t entirely an Ellie-and-Tituss two-hander this year! 

Anthony Anderson/Black-ish, Aziz Ansari/Master Of None, Hank Azaria/Brockmire
WINNER: Hank Azaria

Azure has an admittedly large advantage in the category since he has the benefit of “the Brockmire Voice,” which automatically makes anything he says hilarious.  He’s been using this voice dating back to his Simpsons days and the legendary “whitey whackers” scene that is notable in my personal circles for being my friend Sarah’s favourite Simpsons scene ever.  It literally reduces her to laughing tears no matter how many times she sees it.  Black day for baseball!

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

Another loaded category, though not one loaded enough that I feel obligated to omit JLD even though I don’t watch Veep anymore.  That’s right — she’s THAT good that I can still nominate her since I just assume she’s still great.  Legend.  Anyway, Bloom repeats as champion in sort of another Tituss Burgess situation where this is a role specifically tailored for her (by herself!) so it’s a bit unfair, but damn, it’s just too great to overlook.  The fact that CEG also seems to be slowly morphing into a drama gives Bloom even more to work with.  I mean, can Amanda Peet compete with someone who sang a song called “Period Sex”?  I rest my case.

Jonathan Banks/Better Call Saul, Liam Cunningham/Game Of Thrones, Frank Langella/The Americans, Michael McKean/Better Call Saul, Michael Stuhlbarg/Fargo
WINNER: Michael McKean

Better Call Saul saw its share of Emmy recognition in high-profile categories, with the inexplicable exception of McKean not even being nominated.  Do voters still resent him for Laverne & Shirley or what?  It blows my mind that a performance as nuanced as this (a sympathetic character you can’t help but hate or a villain who you can’t help but relate to) didn’t even make the cut.

Danielle Brooks/Orange Is The New Black, Julia Garner/Ozark, Mallory Jansen/Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Selenis Leyva/Orange Is The New Black, Thandie Newton/Westworld, Mary Elizabeth Winstead/Fargo, Alfre Woodard/Luke Cage
WINNER: Danielle Brooks

Last year’s alterna-Emmys featured a whopping 15 nominees in this category, so this year’s slate of seven is modest by comparison but still, wow, what a field.  You have Newton and MEW in the “doing their best to carry an annoyingly flawed show” category, Jansen wowing while (essentially) playing four or five different roles as the season’s AoS big bad, and Woodard creating an interesting twist on the “big bad” trope by having the first season be essentially her origin story as Luke Cage’s biggest nemesis.  Julia Garner has one foot in the ‘carry a flawed show’ camp as well, though I was somewhat let down that she didn’t steal the entire series, as I fully expected after Ozark’s mind-boggling second episode.

Picking between all of the OITNB cast is such a tough call, and I went with Leyva and Brooks since their storylines underscored the more dramatic aspects of the season’s prison riot storyline.  Leyva’s character was in such an impossible position where we’re rooting against her for more or less selling out her fellow prisoners but for a justifiable reason.  Brooks is ultimately my winner since, in a season that weirdly undercut the prison riot with a bit too much comic relief (even if the show is a dramedy), you had Brooks turning that idea on its head by making laugh-a-minute Taystee into the voice of reason and change.  Taystee is the one that never stops trying to make the riot mean something, both for Poussey and the rest of the prisoners writ large.  I love that this show’s acting bench is so deep that when these established characters are given a new element, Brooks and Leyva are more than capable of hitting it out of the park.

Jason Bateman/Ozark, Bob Odenkirk/Better Call Saul, Matthew Rhys/The Americans, Justin Theroux/The Leftovers
WINNER: Bob Odenkirk

It’s interesting that three of the four nominees are mostly comic actors doing dramatic roles.  Bateman can’t help but be kind of Michael Bluth-ish which gives Ozark kind of a dark comedy vibe at times, yet he does a great job at creating an actual non-Bluth character as a man capable of being incredibly resourceful despite being, essentially, trapped in an unwinnable situation.  Theroux is, ironically, actually kind of terrible whenever I see him try to be funny, and his true calling is clearly drama.  I’ve spoken before of how absolutely crucial his performance is to Leftovers as a whole, since anything less than total believability causes the whole house of cards to collapse.  While it’s true that the show’s focus shifted onto Nora in the final season, that was more due to Carrie Coon having a pantheon year than it was any reflection on Theroux’s ability to carry the show, since he was more than capable.  No shame in “only” being the Lou Gehrig when you have Babe Ruth in the lineup.

But it’s Odenkirk who wins due to his increasingly fascinating slow transition from Jimmy into Saul.  I should say Saul 2.0, since as much as Better Call Saul adheres (or has to adhere) to Breaking Bad’s chronology, it’s pretty clear that the Saul we’ll get by the end of this series will be developed well beyond the entertaining but somewhat one-dimensional huckster we see dealing with Walt and Jesse.  Looking at the arc of Jimmy McGill over both series, maybe all of Breaking Bad could just be his “dark night of the soul,” with his final redemption coming whenever we fully enter his black-and-white Cinnabon-managing post-BB life.

WINNER: Carrie Coon/The Leftovers

“Hey Mark, where are the other nominees?”  Well, frankly, why bother?  Apologies to Keri Russell, I guess, but Coon was so far beyond the stratosphere that every other performance really just paled in comparison.  Like I said, she’s Babe Ruth — she’s the one outhomering entire teams and changing the game.  You talk about pantheon episodes, how many actors have three all-timers within a seven-episode span?  “Don’t Be Ridiculous” or “The Book Of Nora” alone would’ve clinched her this award, but tossing “G’Day Melbourne” and that insane breakup scene with Kevin in the hotel room?  In the words of Jim Ross, someone stop the damn match!  I’m going to remember quite a few things from this crazy, fantastic show, but tops on that list will be my introduction to one of the best actresses in the world.  What a showcase.  And, not to brag, but…

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