Posts Tagged ‘ american horror story ’

American Horror Story: Roanoke (Season 6)

American Horror StoryI’m currently tracking 4 for 6 on American Horror Story. I liked seasons 1 (Murder House), 3 (Coven) and 4 (Freak Show), gave up on 2 (Asylum) after a couple of episodes and didn’t even make it 20 minutes into 5 (Hotel) before deciding I didn’t like it. The great thing though is that it doesn’t matter at all. While there are very minor crossovers (practically easter eggs), each season is entirely independent and enjoyable (or not) in isolation.

Roanoke has a very interesting structure that cleverly solves one of the biggest problems the series sometimes has – how do you maintain the tension and pace if you need to stretch the story out over 10 episodes? In effect Roanoke has 3 sections, the first of which was easily the best and most original, which I guess is best as if it had started with the second style then I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it.

The first 5 episodes are presented as a television show – direct to camera interviews with ‘real’ people describing events, and a dramatic reconstruction using actors. I can’t think of something that’s really taken that approach before. It was easy to get lost in the reconstruction, but having the interview sections added even more depth to the events. I thought that knowing which people definitely survived (and who didn’t by implication of who was absent from the interviews) might undermine the drama, but it really didn’t. The gradual build up of the story of Roanoke and the horrific events were nicely delivered and both scary *and* creepy.

The next 4 episodes were a nice idea, but just didn’t work quite so well. The utterly over-the-top producer of the TV series manipulates everyone (real people and their corresponding actors) to return to the house, which is kitted out with cameras. He’s set everyone up for confrontation and faked scares, but of course it doesn’t go entirely to plan. The set up just didn’t feel realistic (why would these people go back there?!) and because it committed to doing everything as found footage you had the ridiculousness of people picking up cameras while running for their lives. The actors ironically lacked the depth that they’d brought to their characters, each coming across as painful stereotypes, hamming it up and lacking any form of subtlety. It was far less creepy and relied too much on gore and jump scares.

The final episode sees yet another set of film makers arriving at the house to “uncover the truth”. It did tie one element of the story up nicely, but it mostly felt like a tacked on epilogue. The mostly new characters had no time to form any kind of personality and were blatantly going to just be fodder, so it was a lot of quite tedious jumpy camera to just get to the juicy bits of the story.

I remain impressed that American Horror Story manages to do something different each season. Taking fairly standard horror tropes and adding enough originality to make it fresh, while also referential. Not all of the choices this season worked for me, but they ere ambitious and well committed to. The ensemble cast moves between roles wonderfully, particularly those that this time played both the actor, and the actor playing a character, a character who was a dramatised version of other onscreen characters – a mind-twisting set up that seemed entirely natural until you think about it too much. As always, I look forward to what comes next.

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American Horror Story: Freak Show

American Horror StoryEach season of American Horror Story is so different at times it’s tempting to treat each like an entirely independent miniseries. It’s such a great structure for the series, each story sees a dramatic shift in plot, characters and style that there’s no fear of carrying baggage from one season to the next. Things I criticise one year are either fixed or completely irrelevant the next. Although the flip side is that often things I like one year are missing the next too.

I don’t think any of the seasons has lived up to the first. None has managed to deliver anything approaching the complexity and depth, or really create anything quite as scary and horrific. Freak Show I think comes the closest and even exceeds the first season in some ways, particularly with the beautiful design work and detailing of the 1950s freak show. But where Freak Show really excelled, particularly in comparison to Asylum and Coven, was in the rich and complex characters.

Freak Show is all about the people, those that are freaks on the outside and those that are freaks on the inside. The message that it’s not the people that look scary that we should be most afraid of is laid on very thick at times, but it’s also supported by some great character studies and gradually developing relationships and interactions. While there’s the ‘core troop’ of familiar faces in the cast, there are also plenty of new faces, some very familiar to television viewers, but also some actors who’s are completely new to mainstream television. With the addition of some impressive visual effects the characters are some of the most interesting and original that I’ve seen in a long time.

The story meanders about a bit, sadly going round in circles occasionally and dragging in places, looking back I’d completely forgotten some of the earlier stories that were possibly wrapped up a bit too easily while others looped around and around themselves or disappeared for a few episodes before being rather jarringly picked up. I think a bit more of an over-arching plot would have helped tie it all together and would have really helped with the last couple of episodes which felt rather like the end of the season surprised the writers room and they realised they didn’t really have a finale.

Season 5 has been confirmed, but there aren’t any real details of what it will be about. I’m hoping that there’ll be a bigger shuffle in the cast. I think particularly some new leading actors need to come in to really keep it fresh. Jessica Lange’s characters are becoming rather indistinct, Elsa Mars was probably the least well written and interesting of all the characters in Freak Show and I’m not sure who’s choice it was to land her and Kathy Bates with such terrible accents, but it really didn’t work. I think there’s a risk the series could start to settle down and lose the variability, and I think that would be a real shame. I think if the writers can look back to season 1 and remind themselves of how different and successful that was, and mix that with what really worked in this season, they could keep the energy up for whatever comes next.

American Horror Story: Coven (Season 3)

American Horror StoryI love the structure of American Horror Story which offers a completely new start each season – new story, new setting, new characters and new horror. It means that I was able to dislike season 2 (Asylum) and give up after a couple of episodes, but still come back for season 3 (Coven).

My issue with Asylum was that I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, and because it was set in the past in an entirely unfamiliar setting, I found it very hard to engage and care about any of it. Moving Coven back to the present and having a couple of more accessible characters made it feel less like an uphill battle.

Mind you, part of what made it easier to watch is also something of a failing – I just didn’t find it particularly scary or unpleasant. Yes, there were moments and ideas that were grim, but as things went on and everything just layered on top of each other it became diluted. While avoiding spoilers as much as possible, there was so much coming and going, that every time a character departed it felt less and less permanent. And eventually you just become numb to the physical tortures, like you’re watching an old Batman where the violence is mitigated with ‘pow’ and ‘bam’ stickers. I wasn’t shocked, horrified, or appalled by anything. I really hope that says more about the show than it does about me!

The core story was a good one though, a modern day school for witches and the politics within their ranks. Jessica Lange once again gets a juicy part to play as the current leader whose power will desert her as her successor is revealed. The various teenage witches meanwhile are varyingly powerful, ambitious, out of control and bitchy, although at time they feel a little too one dimensional. Sarah Paulson’s character sits in the middle and is probably the most interesting and ‘normal’ of the lot of them, which sadly does leave her feeling a little plain in comparison.

I enjoyed the dozen or so episodes, but that was about it. While the first season felt like it was putting a fresh spin on traditional horror tropes and bringing them to a new audience via television, this just felt… disposable. It just didn’t seem to have the depth that the first season had which left me wanting to re-view it to follow through all the connections and implications. But as I said at the beginning, the beauty of the format is that each season is a chance to start again, so we’ll see what comes our way next year.

The 2011-2012 Season

I’ve been dragging my feet on my season round-up post as I’ve been trying to polish off a few more series. But all the new stuff is starting, so the time has come to just get on with it! I’ve watched 39 series this year, last year was 28 so that’s a pretty terrifying increase! A fair number of the series are only a handful of episodes though (for better or worse) so I figure the number of episodes is about the same, somewhere around the 600 mark.

American Horror Story – S1
Awake – S1 (In progress)
The Big Bang Theory – S5
The Big C – S2
Blue Bloods – S2
Bones – S7
Borgen – S1
The Bridge – S1
The Cafe – S1
Castle – S4
Criminal Minds – S7
CSI – S12
CSI:NY – S8
Downton Abbey – S2
Forbrydelsen (The Killing): S2
Fringe – S4 (in progress)
Game of Thrones – S2
Glee – S3 (in progress)
The Good Wife – S3
Grey’s Anatomy – S8
Homeland – S1
House – S8
The Jury
Luck – S1
Luther – S2
Mad Men – S5 (In progress)
Merlin – S4
NCIS – S9
NCIS: LA – S3
The Newsroom – S1
Once Upon a Time – S1 (in progress)
Outnumbered – S4
Sherlock – S2
Smash – S1
Sons of Anarchy – S4
Supernatural – S7
Terra Nova – S1
Veep – S1
The Walking Dead – S2
Warehouse 13 – S3

There are a few other bits and pieces that didn’t make the list, mostly documentaries, many of them really rather excellent – Inside Nature’s Giants, David Attenborough’s Kingdom of Plants filmed at Kew Gardens, Frozen Planet, Wonders of the Universe to name a few.

BEST SHOWS
Borgen. “The Danish West Wing” is an overused label, but it’s so accurate it’s hard to resist. It’s not just the subject matter that draws the comparison, but the quality of writing and production and, sadly, the ability for it to break your heart as characters realistically, but depressingly make the wrong decisions.

Fringe. For complicated housemate related reasons I still haven’t seen the final two episodes of this series, but I can’t see how they would do anything that would mean the series drops from this list. Fringe continues to evolve into a spectacularly complex, yet completely followable series while never forgeting to actually entertain its audience with self-aware nods to the ridiculousness of the situations.

The Good Wife. A brilliant cast, fascinating storylines, sure and steady character development all polished off with sparkling dialogue makes a package that’s just a complete and utter joy to watch. In a world of mediocre network procedurals, this one is so far ahead it’s clearly in a different league.

Homeland. Another show that’s complex yet accessible. The gradual reveal and development of characters is fascinating and I was on the edge of my seat all season not knowing which way anything was going to go.

Mad Men and Awake could potentially be added to this list, but I am less than half way through each.

FAVOURITE SHOWS
The Newsroom. This show was the one I’d been most looking forward to, and I’m slightly devastated that I can’t include it in the ‘best’ category. But despite massive flaws with the characters and a preachiness that even I find rather troublesome, it’s still one of my favourite shows of the year. That may be blind Aaron Sorkin obsession, but I don’t care.

American Horror Story. A huge collection of characters and stories intricately interwoven and elegantly revealed over the span of a carefully structured series. It felt both innovative and yet thoroughly grounded in the history of the genre. I’m especially happy that each season is completely self contained, so nothing is dragged out or has the chance to get dull.

Smash. It’s original and fun, balancing cheesiness and melodrama with engaging characters and a surprisingly real feeling storyline. I’m really looking forward to next season, particularly given they’re getting rid of all the annoying characters.

Once Upon a Time. Another new show that’s original and fun. The storyline is incredibly complex yet revealed so elegantly that there’s never any difficulty keeping up. It’s beautifully designed and just a lovely series to watch.

ACTORS
I sort of covered my thoughts on actors in my Emmy post, so here are some broader thoughts.

House . Hugh Laurie gets the most praise publicly, but the whole cast of the series are absolutely superb. Robert Sean Leonard as Wilson completely and utterly broke my heart, Peter Jacobson (Taub) cracked me up, Olivia Wilde (Thirteen) stole the very few scenes she was in, and Jesse Spencer (Chase) produced one of the most satisfying character developments I’ve seen in a long time.

Homeland . One of the few things that myself and those that vote for awards actually agree on, the superbness that are Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. I however would go a lot further and also heap praise on the supporting performances by Morena Baccarin and Mandy Patinkin.

Sons of Anarchy. Award voters clearly have some kind of blind spot when it comes to Sons of Anarchy, because year after year they completely fail to register the incredible performances throughout the cast, but in particular from the female leads Katey Sagal and Maggie Siff

Katharine McPhee (Karen) and Megan Hilty (Ivy), Smash – I loved the dance the characters went on, competing with each other but respecting each other’s talents; sometimes gracious, sometimes bitchy. And boy can they belt out tunes! Also Jack Davenport (Derek) had some of the funniest lines of the year!

Fringe . The cast are good as their primary characters, but what’s impressive is that most of them then go on to play the same person in the alternate universe, each of them the same person but with slight variations. It’s astonishing, they are the same person yet completely different, it’s mind twisting and fascinating. I can’t imagine a greater challenge as an actor. While Anna Torv and John Noble rightly get a lot of praise, the performances of Jasika Nicole (Astrid) and Seth Gabel (Lincoln Lee) are just as subtle. Poor Joshua Jackson must feel rather hard-done-by without an alternate version to play with. He is pretty though.

The Good Wife – so many great performances and characters that I love from both stars, supporting characters (I could watch Josh Charles and Christine Baranski do the Will and Diane show all day long) and a dream list of guest stars (Michael J. Fox, Martha Plimpton, Matthew Perry – all playing deliciously slimy characters).

GOOD THINGS
Booth and Bones getting together on Bones. I was completely against it, but cheerfully admit I was wrong. Having them jump from no relationship at all to living together and having a baby brought a breath of fresh air to the series. It was handled with such lightness and charm, with both characters bending to accommodate the other, but not making any fundamental changes… beautifully written and acted. Here’s hoping Castle can do the same.

The end of House. A series going out gracefully and winding everything up with a collection of satisfying resolutions for all the characters. House has never been about the medicine, but about the puzzles and about the people, while I may personally wish that Wilson had a different conclusion, it all fed in so perfectly and everyone ended up where they were supposed to be.

Creativity! It felt like there was some variation with what’s on TV, not just an endless stream of interchangeable procedurals. Shows like American Horror Story, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and Walking Dead (finally) are investigating what it’s like to bring non-traditional genres to television, and shows like Smash, Luck and The Newsroom brought different subjects to the screen.

Female Characters! There are plenty of people out there who have and will write far more eloquently on the plight of women in television, but this year has felt like a relatively good year. Shows are full of strong women doing their jobs, raising their families and doing so as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Shows like The Good Wife, Smash, Once Upon a Time and Grey’s Anatomy have dominantly female casts, and almost everything else has a nice balance. Even something like Downton Abbey with its period constraints provides some wonderful roles for female actors.

BAD THINGS
Lighten up! Supernatural is superb, but it really really needs to lighten up a bit! It’s turned into something I have to force myself to watch, rather than something I really look forward to. The same argument could be made for Sons of Anarchy. Relentless depression is just not entertaining to watch, I’m not saying they suddenly need to be all sunshine and puppies, but just every now and then, let them catch a break.

NCIS . After 9 seasons, I realised there’s no point in watching this any more. The plots are utterly disposable and the characters are disastrously erratic. The last two seasons I’ve relegated it to ‘ironing watching’, but I’m even giving up on that (the show, not the ironing sadly).

Glee. I still haven’t managed to get to the end of the season having realised that I’m increasingly just fast-fowarding episodes. I just got sick to death with the terrible writing which completely undermined the charm of the characters and the talents of the actors. It just stopped being fun.

Still no spaceships. Can no one make this work?

Too short! Sherlock and Luther both had only 3 episodes, each ‘double’ length. It’s not enough. There’s the obvious problem that like a small child if I like something I want more of it, but it also really hampers the ability to get invested in characters and stories, just as you’re settling in, it’s all over and the voice over man is saying “will return in 2014”.

PS
In preparing this article, I went back and looked at my summaries of last years shows and I have to highlight the following phrase in my summary of 2010-2011’s new shows:

Superheroes are out – there was a flurry of superhero shows and none of them were any good. People keep trying to find the magic of the early season of Heroes and the massive success that’s being found by Marvel and DC Comics at the cinema, but no one’s managed it yet. Here’s an idea, stop pissing off Joss Whedon and get him to do one, after he’s done making millions with The Avengers that is.

I rejoice in my ability to predict the future and can’t wait to see what Joss does with S.H.I.E.L.D.

2011-2012 – New Shows

36 pilots this year. As usual the vast majority of them are American series, but there’s a couple of British ones in there and almost as many Scandinavian ones!

Things I watched
American Horror Story – something very different for television, not always brilliant quality, but addictive
Awake (cancelled) – (not yet finished), clever and challenging.
Borgen – superb. The plots and characters didn’t go the way I wanted them to, but it was extremely well written, acted and produced.
The Bridge – great premise, not particularly well realised. Some fun and interesting characters let down by a disappointing plot.
The Cafe – utterly charming, although maybe only because it’s set in the town that I spent all my summer holidays and it re-creates it to a tea.
Homeland – fascinating (although occasionally frustrating) twisty plot and superb acting.
The Jury – properly awful ITV drama, but my excuse for actually watching it is that it was only 5 episodes and I had a cold.
Luck (cancelled) – incredible footage of horse racing surrounded by a too complicated plot and utterly incomprehensible characters.
The Newsroom – (not finished yet), swerving wildly from breathtakingly good, to really rather rubbish.
Once Upon a Time (not finished yet) – a nice idea, charmingly done. It’s not going to set the world alight, but it’s really rather lovely for Sunday evening relaxed viewing.
Smash – something different! Hugely entertaining with the exception of a couple of terrible characters who have sensibly been cut for next season.
Terra Nova (cancelled) – it had problems, but as Saturday evening ‘fun for all the family’ it was pretty good.
Veep – Some good dialogue, but I don’t like comedies about stupid people. I only really watched it because it was a short season.

Last year I only picked up eight new series, this year it’s thirteen so it’s been a better year on numbers, and actually the more I think about it, the more positively I think about the new season. It doesn’t feel like a spectacular year, but it’s got a few quiet stars, but once again they’re all on cable channels in the US (Homeland, American Horror Story, even The Newsroom), network channels are really struggling to find anything remarkable.

Things I might watch
House of Lies – quirky and entertaining pilot, with some charismatic performances and no problems with being unlikeable.
Scandal – show about legal ‘fixers’ working in Washington DC from the people that brought you Grey’s Anatomy. For some reason I failed to review the pilot, but it had potential. Yes, it was cheesy and predictable but the fast paced dialogue was entertaining and the characters and storyline had potential. Doesn’t seem to be airing in the UK though.

Things I might have watched if they weren’t cancelled
Alcatraz (cancelled) – a sparkles pilot just didn’t inspire me but I could see some potential, I was going to give it a chance, but then it was cancelled
Prime Suspect (cancelled) – fascinating central character and good line up of actors, with an interesting directorial style to it all.
The Playboy Club (cancelled) – Surprisingly entertaining and interesting, but pretty much doomed
The Secret Circle (cancelled) – Teenage witches in a small town with plenty of mysteries. It was pretty cheesy but I found myself somewhat charmed (pun intended!).

Things that weren’t bad, but I just didn’t like
GCB (cancelled) – I did laugh and enjoy pilot, but I hated myself for it a bit so didn’t really want to watch any more, then it was cancelled so I didn’t have to decide.
A Gifted Man (cancelled) – a well put together pilot, interesting concept, well written directed and acted. But I couldn’t see any way the story wouldn’t end badly for the characters and I just didn’t want to watch that happen.
Grimm – it reminded me of lots of other things, all of which had been done better than this. It felt small and boring.
New Girl – As comedies go, I didn’t hate it, but I just didn’t really feel like watching any more.
Touch – too manufactured and artificial and not very well written.

Things that were rubbish
The Body Farm – badly written, badly acted and less scientifically sound than CSI Miami.
Charlie’s Angels (cancelled) – awful. Just awful.
The Finder (cancelled) – I only watched the backdoor pilot in Bones, but it was packed with irritating tropes (bloody awful accents, know it all characters, intellectual tough guy)
Hart of Dixie – cliché ridden awfulness.
Hell on Wheels – utterly un-engaging.
Pan Am (cancelled) – a bit boring and too plastic and artificial feeling
Person of Interest – charisma vacuum characters making ridiculous decisions and delivering cliché ridden dialogue
Revenge – utterly unsympathetic, hateful characters
Ringer (cancelled) – Terrible pilot with crappy production and a daft premise.
The River (cancelled) – Fun concept, delivery was painfully awful. The pilot was a double episode and it was so bad I couldn’t bring myself to watch the second half and never got round to reviewing it.
Titanic – I was rooting for the iceberg.
Unforgettable – An ironic title given it was pretty unremarkable, it’s a good cast but cheesy dialogue and cliché premise and plot left it not making any impression.

Finally some creativity!
I was critical last year that it didn’t feel like there was any creativity in the line up, everything was either a thinly veiled recreation of another successful show, or at best a ‘bog standard’ example of a genre that wasn’t represented on TV (Walking Dead, Game of Thrones). Someone seems to have listened to me, because this year did offer up some refreshing originality.

Shows like Smash, Once Upon a Time and Awake all had novel ideas or settings at their hearts and even though they weren’t always successful, I did at least want to cheer them on for giving it a try! American Horror Story set about bringing the horror genre to TV in the same way Walking Dead brought the zombie genre, but did a lot better job of merging the genre and the platform and made something really fascinating. Mind you, there were still some unremarkable procedurals and ‘rehash’ shows out there, Pan Am (and to a lesser extent The Playboy Club) tried to capture the period appeal of Mad Men and fell on their faces.

I’m right, everyone else is wrong
One thing that I find interesting is looking at the shows that I liked that got cancelled (annoyingly) and the shows I hated that stuck around (unfathomably). One show I was disappointed to see cancelled was Terra Nova which I suspect was rather miss-pitched as a primetime weekday evening show, when really it fits best in the early Saturday evening family slot (which the American’s don’t really seem to get like the UK does with Doctor Who and Merlin and the like). The other was Awake, which was an intriguing concept well played by Jason Isaacs (hello!) but was maybe a little slow for mass audiences. Mind you, I can’t really judge that harshly those that didn’t watch it, as I haven’t actually finished the series yet.

On the flip side I guess I’m saddened, but not surprised that some of the horrifically cheesy, cliché ridden shows found an audience (Hart of Dixie, Revenge). Why anyone wanted to watch Jim Caviezel suck all the life out of the room in Person of Interest is a mystery to me though.

Don’t believe the hype
Looking back at the upfront coverage, it seems that the big shows had the odds stacked against them. “Eagerly anticipated” programmes with big budgets and big names attached struggled to find the ratings to match their budgets – Steven Spielberg’s Terra Nova, JJ Abrahms’ Alcatraz, DeNiro’s NYC 22 (such a failure I didn’t even notice it go by), Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return in Ringer, the spin off for Bones, all fell flat. Only slightly more successful were the new Shonda Rhimes show Scandal and while Smash lived out the season it was far from the eponymous hit that was expected, and I’ve never seen a show create a more confused critical reaction of loving and loathing it than Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom.

Meanwhile, the darlings of season are based on an Israeli show and from the critically hounded creator of Glee. Homeland dared to be smart and used extraordinary actors to keep audiences on the edge of the seat, while American Horror Story did exactly what it said on the tin and wrapped its story up miniseries style.

Oh UK
I’ve really tried to find more UK shows to watch this year, but there’s been precious little of interest on UK channels. In addition to the stuff I’ve mentioned above which was at least bad enough to bother reviewing (Titanic – why and how are you so rubbish?!) I tried out probably half a dozen others and didn’t even get as far reviewing, often not even as far as the end of the first episode. Recent examples include ITV’s Last Weekend which was so full of foreboding it was laughable, and BBC’s Parade’s End which was mumbly and dull. As a rule I found the UK shows I watched either too impenetrably complicated for my little brain or killed by terrible production values.

It’s quite telling that I watch more Scandinavian shows than I do British ones. Well done to BBC for airing them at least, but I’m not sure what it is that’s stopping the UK channels making stuff this good. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places. If anyone has any recommendations I’d be very grateful!

2012 Emmy Thoughts

I’d originally decided not to bother commenting on the Emmy nominations, but I’ve been so addicted watching the Olympics that I’ve barely seen anything else and hence have nothing to actually write about! So here are my thoughts on some of the major categories.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Boardwalk Empire – The pilot was gorgeous but dull, so I didn’t watch any more
  • Breaking Bad – I still haven’t got round to catching up on this
  • Downton Abbey – I enjoyed the series, but ‘Outstanding’? No.
  • Mad Men – I’m only half way through the season, and it’s fine, but not as good as it has been.
  • Homeland – had some stumbles, but overall, superb!
  • Game of Thrones – all over the place, just too much packed in meaning a lack of depth

I think Homeland will walk it, they did overlook Fringe and The Good Wife for nominations, but I think Homeland still deserves the win.

Lead Actress in a Drama

  • Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florick, The Good Wife – Yes. Just yes.
  • Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, Downton Abbey – she did admirably with terrible material
  • Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson, Mad Men – she’s always superb, but she hasn’t had much to do in the first half of the season.
  • Kathy Bates as Harriet Korn, Harry’s Law – no idea, but it’s Kathy Bates so I suspect she’s pretty good
  • Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, Homeland – She was given some amazing material and absolutely sold it.
  • Glenn Close as Patty Hewes, Damages – Never seen it.

Of those nominees I think it will probably come down to Marguilies or Danes and I think it should and will go to Danes. Overlooked I think was Anna Torv for Fringe who played multiple versions of her character with great subtlety. Also, although I’ve only watched a couple of episodes of the season, I’d be astonished if Katey Sagal and Maggie Siff didn’t produce their usual superb performances in Sons of Anarchy.

Lead Actor in a Drama

  • Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, Boardwalk Empire – Haven’t seen it, but I expect he’s very good.
  • Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, Dexter – haven’t seen this season, but he’s always great
  • Bryan Cranston as Walter White, Breaking Bad – I haven’t seen any of the series, but he’s won a bazillion times already
  • Hugh Bonneville as Earl Grantham, Downton Abbey – I love him, but he shouldn’t be on this list.
  • John Hamm as Don Draper, Mad Men – I don’t think this season has been his strongest
  • Damian Lewis as Nick Brody for Homeland – stunning performance, he really kept me guessing all season

I hope Lewis wins and suspect he has a good chance. Other than Lewis my list would have been completely different – Hugh Laurie for a solid final season as House, Charlie Hunnam as Jax Tellar from Sons of Anarchy, and the impressive Jason Isaacs for Awake. I would also be very happy to see Matt Smith on the list for Doctor Who.

Supporting actress in a drama

  • Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma, The Good Wife – I like her a lot, but I’ve never thought her quiet mystery really gave her enough of a range to show her talents
  • Anna Gunn as Skyler White, Breaking Bad – no idea
  • Maggie Smith as Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey – hilarious, but I’m not sure a well placed one liner per episode is noteworthy enough for an Emmy
  • Joanne Froggatt as Anna, Downton Abbey – suffering from mediocre writing making her character a bit unremarkable
  • Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway Harris, Mad Men – I haven’t got as far as Joan’s story in the season of Mad Men, but I’m eagerly anticipating it as she’s always wonderful
  • Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart, The Good Wife – I want to be her when I grow up, she’s fantastic, landing both the drama and the comedy, often in the same sentence

I think Hendricks will walk away with this, and although I’d like Baranski to win, I won’t be that upset if it goes that way. Overlooked – I think Megan Hilty (Ivy) from Smash was rather impressive and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones did some great work too.

Supporting Actor in a drama series

  • Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad – no idea
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring, Breaking Bad – ditto
  • Brendan Coyle as John Bates, Downton Abbey – as with Anna above, I felt the writing for this character didn’t give enough to do to be nominated for an Emmy.
  • Jim Carter as Mr Carson, Downton Abbey – ditto. I just don’t feel any of them were “outstanding”
  • Jared Harris as Lane Pryce, Mad Men – as for Hendricks, I’ve not seen the biggest moments for Lane, but I have loved Harris’ work over the last couple of seasons of Mad Men.
  • Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones – the best thing about the series, hitting the drama and the humour throughout, without him the show was nowhere.

I’d be happy if either Harris or Dinklage won, I suspect it will go to Dinklage. John Noble from Fringe, Robert Sean Leonard of House and Josh Charles of The Good Wife would all have been extremely worthy nominees.

Outstanding Miniseries

  • Hemingway & Gellhorn which I’ve neither seen, nor actually heard of
  • Game Change – which I’ve at least heard of but not seen
  • American Horror Story – which was rather fun and original
  • Sherlock – which was superb
  • Luther – I missed this season, but enjoyed the previous one

I think American Horror Story will win, although my vote would go to Sherlock. I don’t think I’ve seen anything else that would count as a miniseries.

Acting in a Miniseries

Having seen so few miniseries, I can’t really comment much other than to say that the ones I’ve actually seen would all be tough to beat. Connie Britton as Vivien Harmon in American Horror Story for lead actress, the wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock for lead actor and his costar Martin Freeman for supporting actress. Jessica Lange as Constance in American Horror Story is a sure bet for supporting actress, edging out her co-star Frances Conroy (Moira).

American Horror Story: Season 1

After the pilot I wasn’t really planning to watch this series, but I did keep track via various online reviewers that I have some respect for and after reading about how the story developed and came to a close, I decided to catch up. This did however mean that I was completely and utterly spoiled which in hindsight I regret. It’s tricky because without reading the spoilers I probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch, but watching it knowing the answers to the mystery greatly reduced the impact. As always, I’ll keep this review as spoiler free as possible, although in this case that will lead to more crypticness (crypnicity?) than usual.

The first thing I want to say is that although I stand by everything I wrote about the pilot, many of the criticisms are not valid for the rest of the series. The writers and directors greatly toned down much of the manicness (manicnity?) of the pilot, particularly the disjointed snap cuts and flashing images. That was replaced with a much more carefully crafted series of flashbacks woven throughout the episodes to provide the history. I really enjoyed that structure, it filled in gaps without clumsy exposition (although it did become difficult to keep track of how much of what the audience saw in flashbacks each of the characters knew).

The pilot failed to really give any idea of the depth of the show, there are about two dozen characters from half a dozen different time periods that are introduced over the span of just 12 episodes. Each character has a fully developed personality and backstory and has relationships with other characters. By about half way through I desperately wanted to start over again and take notes, creating elaborate timelines and network diagrams of the interactions. The one thing that does remain from the pilot is that none of the characters are necessarily likeable, but they’re all so fascinating that it doesn’t matter and to be honest it makes some of the horrible things that happen to them slightly less depressing to watch.

This is one of those shows that actually gets more interesting the more you think about it . You could probably write an entire essay on the subject of the title alone – in many ways the true horror of the title isn’t so much the idea of things that go bump in the night as it is the fact that the Harmon family are completely disconnected and don’t listen or trust each other any more. You could even argue that the horror is that due to the economy they find themselves trapped in this house unable to do what they really want and need to do just because all their money is tied up in an unsellable property.

Talking about the story without spoilers is pretty much impossible, but I will say that there’s an impressive collection of plots intertwined, with spins on urban legends and traditional feeling horror constructs playing out episode by episode. I did watch multiple episodes at a time (in fact I think I watched 6 episodes back to back) which I think may have helped cover up the fact that the middle of the series might have suffered from a bit of a lack of progress. Also because I was spoiled, I’m not sure how easy or complicated it was to follow what was being gradually revealed, it’s definitely a show you’ll need to pay attention to, but I think it all hangs together.

In the end, despite what the pilot may have indicated, this turned out to be a really interesting psychological thriller far more than a gory, jump-inducing slasher film, and for that I’m very grateful. Season 2 will apparently be an entirely new story with new characters, I’m really looking forward to learning from my mistake and watching that season properly and not being spoiled.