Posts Tagged ‘ downton abbey ’

The Halcyon: Season 1

I’m going to do what every other reviewer out there has done and connect this series with Downton Abbey. I wanted to find an original approach, but I guess I’m just not that creative. The only reason I don’t feel too bad about it, is that comparing The Halcyon to Downton Abbey is I think going to end well for The Halcyon. Drawing attention to the way a series surpasses something that was a huge success doesn’t feel like quite such a cheap reviewing strategy.

The similarities between The Halcyon and Downton Abbey are quite clear. Both period dramas from ITV, both the kind of thing that is very safe to watch with your Gran. The plots are notionally based around issues of the time (in this case World War 2 and the blitz) but are really about the range of people sharing the same physical space but being worlds apart in background and social location. The tones of the series are similar, both towards the easy watching end of the drama spectrum, but it’s in the nuances of the tone that the series actually differ.

Downton seemed to try to hover on the very edge between drama and melodrama, generally drifting towards the farcical end of the spectrum with the occasional swerve back towards thoughtful drama when it felt it had got a bit too silly. Some characters were played mostly straight, while others were played as mostly caricatures. Plot lines were more likely to make you laugh, although there were a few that would make you cry as well, and a non-negligible number that made you do both at the same times. It was a guilty pleasure, a silly series for a Sunday evening to watch with a biscuit before the proper drama of the week got started (both televisual and in real life) .

The Halcyon is a Monday night drama, not a Sunday night one. It’s played straighter, it’s not without moments of levity and happiness, there’s plenty of romantic threads running through to make it still entertaining to watch, rather than the occasional slog that ‘proper’ dramas can become. But it’s a just a little less silly than Downton – people die, people suffer and some problems just aren’t solvable. I think part of that comes from the fact that time seems to pass more slowly, people remember what happened last week without awkwardly pointing it out.

The characters also feel a bit richer, no one is just one thing, they’re not just their job or their title even if that is the pretense they put on. On Downton the characters rarely felt fleshed out or complex, just very simplistic descriptions of “this is the X, they believe Y”. Not all of the characters on The Halcyon progress beyond that, but most of them get at least a few different aspects – changing their minds, presenting different fronts to different people. The interactions are more interesting.

There are still some dafter, and more cliche plots that I could have lived without. The cheesy “he has a secret past” stuff I could happily have lived without, and some of the ‘issues’ are dealt with in a slightly off-hand way, possibly rushing through too many ideas in the first season. But I found myself looking forward to it each episode. Downton always felt disposable, very enjoyable while you’re watching it, but rarely lingering in your thoughts once Monday comes around. There’s a place for that (Sunday evening) and I do miss having that sort of easy watch, but The Halcyon filled a very specific niche too, and I’ll miss that too.

Emmy Awards 2015

Emmy AwardEmmy time is here again. Ordinarily I talk on and on about all the categories, but this year I can’t be bothered. So rather than waffle on and on about series that I haven’t seen, I’m just going to cover the drama categories, and then just a couple of other random comments

Mad MenOutstanding Drama Series

  • Better Call Saul: Haven’t seen
  • Downton Abbey: Downton Abbey is at least entertaining, but there are more entertaining shows out there that would never dream of being on the Emmy ballot.
  • Game of Thrones: I only made it a few episodes into the season before acknowledging that I was neither entertained nor challenged, the story was just too poor and meandering.
  • Homeland: Homeland had a great first season and then got disappointing fast, but I’ve heard it had a bit of a turnaround.
  • House of Cards: I haven’t seen the latest season and found season 2 a bit disappointing
  • Mad Men: Splitting Mad Men’s final season in two was manipulative and rude and to me just reinforced how poor the whole thing turned out to be.
  • Orange is the New Black: I’m only half way through season 2 at the moment, but it is absolutely brilliant. I’m also happy to see it in the drama list rather than the comedy where it has been nominated for other awards. I’ve no idea how anyone can consider it to be a comedy. I mean what was the funny bit, the suicide, the violence, the harassment or the rape?

By dropping Mad Men, Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey there’s easily enough space to add in Justified and The Americans, both are series chronically overlooked by the Emmys but ignoring Justified’s final masterclass of a season was particularly cruel. I’d also put in The Walking Dead and The Good Wife, both had seasons which were not their best (particularly The Good Wife which was downright disappointing) but are still a long way better than a lot out there. I didn’t see the seasons of Orphan Black or Sons of Anarchy but they’ve been consistently worthy of nomination in the past. I didn’t watch, but it’s a bit surprising Empire isn’t on the list.

americansLead Actor, Drama

  • Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) – not seen, no idea
  • Kyle Chandler (Bloodline) – I’ve not seen the show, but I will always love Kyle Chandler for Friday Night Lights
  • Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) – Not seen this season but he’s usually great
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men) – I really don’t know. I can’t stand the character, the show was pretty poor and the writing mediocre, so how can I really tell what the acting was like?
  • Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) – no, sorry, but his performance was mostly just shouting Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, the acting required was minimal.
  • Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) – I watched the first episode and wasn’t inspired, but Live Schreiber was pretty good.

I haven’t seen this season’s Sons of Anarchy, but Charlie Hunnam is usually incredible and given the material I know the story was made up of, I’m sure he should be here. Dominic West in The Affair gave a very nuanced performance of the same character from two different points of view. Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead continues to do amazing work with material that other actors can only dream of, while Timothy Olyphant had dialogue to die for delivered with such originality that every second was enthralling. Matthew Rhys continues to be shamefully ignored for his performance on The Americans where he plays someone who’s playing so many different roles to different people that they’re all blurring. I didn’t watch much of the season but James Spader is never anything other than excellent in The Blacklist.

orphanblackLead Actress, Drama

  • Taraji P. Henson (Empire) – Haven’t seen
  • Claire Danes (Homeland) – a talented actress, but her character can rely too much on whining and mania rather than subtlety and talent
  • Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder) – weirdly, I haven’t seen this Shonda Rhimes series
  • Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) – The fact that Tatiana Maslany finally made it onto this list is about the only thing that The Emmy’s actually did right this year. I haven’t seen the eligible season of Orphan Black, but unless she had some kind of stroke in the time since last season, she surely played all her many characters with depth and charisma.
  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) – a strong season on Mad Men, and while I’m not sure she got enough material to justify a Lead actress credit, her talent is in no doubt.
  • Robin Wright (House of Cards) – probably pretty good on House of Cards, although I have in the past found her character a bit flat, so it depends on the material she got.

This is a phenomenally good year for women on television because I can think of loads of other people who deserve nominations. Ellen Pompeo had an absolutely superb year on Grey’s Anatomy as Meredith found herself and lost her love. It’s a cheesy show, but Pompeo excels. Kerry Washington from Scandal could easily make the cut too. I was utterly blindsided by Hayley Atwell as the titular Agent Carter. The series could have been Agents of SHIELD-lite (even liter), instead it had this amazing woman at its heart, with strength, vulnerability, wit, and uncertainty. She totally blew me away. Similarly in a show that’s notionally about the relationship between two men, the lawman and the criminal, it turned out to be the woman in the middle that was the true heart of the series and Joelle Carter played that power and terror to perfection, while also delivering a lot of the laughs.

Then there’s Ruth Wilson from The Affair who played a conflicted and complicated woman and then played her from two points of view. Eva Green on Penny Dreadful threw herself so much into the role I was genuinely scared she’d hurt herself. Oh and the always superb Julianna Margulies from The Good Wife, not the best writing they’ve ever had, but she was amazing as usual. Oh, oh and I can’t imagine Katey Sagel in Sons of Anarchy suddenly became rubbish either. Oh and Taylor Schilling for Orange is the New Black

Game of ThronesSupporting Actor, Drama

  • Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul) – no idea
  • Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline) – no idea
  • Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) – actually this may be the first nomination for Downton that I actually agree with, his storyline with Mrs Hughes was absolutely spot on.
  • Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones) – I only made it half way through Game of Thrones, but compared to last year Dinklage’s material wasn’t that incredible, it probably got better after I gave up.
  • Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) – I didn’t hink Alan Cumming had any particularly outstanding material this year, he was great as always, but there didn’t seem anything outstanding, in fact I think Matt Czuchry as Cary had a far more interesting and should’ve had this spot.
  • Michael Kelly (House Of Cards) – interesting. I’m not sure what he was like this year, but I’ve generally found his role focussed too much on creepiness and lacked any real subtelty.

People that are missing, Joshua Jackson was pretty good in the Affair, like the other cast getting to play two different takes on the same character, which is even more interesting when he isn’t one of the ‘narrators’ and hence both versions are in fact opinion and the self-view is never shown. Walton Goggins for Justified (although he could make an argument for joint lead). I heard good things about Mandy Patinkin finally getting some decent material to work with on Homeland

goodwifeSupporting Actress, Drama

  • Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) – her storyline wasn’t as good this year as it was last and she was just too irrititaing.
  • Lena Headey (Game Of Thrones) – I didn’t get far enough into the season of Game of Thrones to see Lena Headey’s big storyline develop, but by all accounts she was phenonmenal,
  • Emilia Clarke (Game Of Thrones) – she’s always good, but I don’t think she’s especially outstanding and I think of the two Headey’s got the edge.
  • Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) – excellent as always, but she was a bit in the background this year
  • Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) – great as always, a good case could be made that it’s her and Elizabeth Olson that are the only redeeming things in Mad Men’s final years.
  • Uzo Aduba (Orange Is The New Black) – I’m not sure that playing crazy like this is necessarily the most impressive achievement. There are so many great performances in that cast I think I’d probably go for Kate Mulgrew but I haven’t quite seen the full season.

I’m a bit less overloaded with other candidates for this list. Bellamy Young on Scandal continues to play every facet of the ridiculous Mellie with originality. . Melissa McBride on The Walking Dead had a great year with some wide ranging material.

transparentComedy

  • Outstanding Comedy Series. The only comedy I actually watched was Jane the Virgin and that was absolutely ridiculously ovrerlooked in the nominations, although even if it was nominated the winner should still be the beautiful and surprisingly funny Transparent.
  • Lead Actress: Seriously Gina Rodriguez was incredible, she won the Golden Globe and she’s not even nominated? This year’s evidence that the Emmy nominators are dumb.
  • Lead Actor: Jeffrey Tambor is surely a safe bet for this. I wasn’t expecting how hilarious he was going to be, both with dialogue and the physical comedy.

Oh, hilariously there’s a nomination for Jane the Virgin under Narration, which is wonderful because Anthony Mendez absolutely makes the show with his sarcastic voiceover.

honourablewomanLimited Series or Movie:
I bet Olive Kitteridge wins I couldn’t make it through the first ten minutes it was so painful. The only thing worse would be American Horror Story winning for its entertaining, but far from incredible Freak Show season. I’d be pretty happy with the great Honourable Woman winning, or with Wolf Hall winning even though I didn’t make it more than 10 minutes into that either.
Maggie Gyllenhaal played such an interesting character in The Honourable Woman, completely selling the cold, calm exterior being just a presentation to the world. Extraordinarily good acting. I guess the point of American Horror is for over the top performances and Jessica Lange (lead) and Kathy Bates (supporting) chewed their way through some terrible material with some terrible accents. Sarah Paulson (supportin) however was really rather good playing the conjoined twins.
Television Movie: I’m sorry but Grace of Monaco is nominated here? How bad was the rest of the list because Grace of Monaco is a terrible terrible film!

Downton Abbey: Season 5

Downton_AbbeyI’m not sure whether I’m mellowing in my old age or if Downton has actually got better. Both options seem pretty unlikely, but while I wound myself up into a pretty enthusiastic rant about last season, this year I find myself leaning more in favour of enthusiastic gushing.

I think there’s certainly something in settling in to Downton for what it is, not what the papers or award voters try to turn it into. Downton is an autumnal Sunday evening drama. You curl up under a blanket on the sofa with a nice cup of tea and a packet of biscuits and relax. It’s not gritty or challenging, you’re not expected to think or relate it to the reality of life, it’s a last vestige of calm before the crashing arrival of Monday morning.

Looking over last season’s review I could mount all the same criticisms at this year. Ridiculously little happened, and the few things that did were drawn out so thin that any resolution was more like the story being put out of its misery than any sort of glorious conclusion. We still have an array of indistinguishable suitors flocking after the quite horrible Mary, Edith wallowing about, Bates in trouble with the law, Thomas plotting and Rose flitting. Even stories that should have injected some challenge to the status quo were so over-done that you lost all sympathy. Rather than cheering for the schoolteacher to come in, stir everything up and remind Tom of who he used to be, she was so nasty that we just wanted her to go away.

I guess then it must be me that’s mellowing, because despite all that, Downton really has been one of the highlights of my week. It’s just nice to watch. The longer episodes allow you to really settle into the comfortable easiness of it. The distribution of stories amongst the characters meant that even if one was slumping, it was never on screen for very long and each story did at least have a beginning, (overly long) middle and a conclusion, they never just disappearing without resolution. I even found myself caring on occasion… am I crazy or should Tom pair up with one of the sisters? I’m not sure I even mind which one, but he makes each of them more likeable and more progressive and they in turn give him confidence and connections. Sorry. See, I care!

Should Downton be getting Emmy nominations? God no. It’s cheesy, obvious and nothing particularly special. But it is a blend of entertainment and comfort that I for one, found I desperately needed as the evenings got darker and Monday morning loomed.

Bits and Bobs

I think I’m going to start a new type of blog post (although I also reserve the right for this to be the only time I use this structure). Often I’ll find myself watching things during the week that aren’t quite worthy of a whole post by themselves, but that it seems a shame to ignore completely. This will also give me the opportunity to point things out on iplayer or various other catch-up services in time for you to watch them. I may even occasionally link to bits of news that interest me. Basically, it’s a random collection of bits and pieces!

The Driver
driverI’ve watched two out of the three episodes of BBC’s drama The Driver, starring David Morrisey. It’s a good story and David Morrisey is always a very watchable actor. It’s the sort of thing that’s perfectly suited to this sort of very short burst, I don’t think I could take the intensity or sense of doom that fills it for any longer. I’m not expecting a happy ending!
Available until 6th November on iplayer

The Detectorists
detectoristsAbout as far from the Driver as you can imagine is this nice little easy going half hour show on BBC4. It stars the wonderful pairing of Toby Jones (Marvellous, The Girl, Infamous, Harry Potter…) and Mackenzie Crook (Almost Human, Pirates of the Carribean) as some very ordinary metal detectors who may be on the verge of a huge find. It’s somewhere between comedy and drama and is just wonderfully easy to watch.
Episodes 1 and 2 are on iplayer and new episodes air on Thursdays.

The Code
An Australian drama sucked me straight in with its first episode blending together politics, journalism, hacking and a small town mystery about two missing teenagers. It reminded me a lot of State of Play with the interweaving of small and large plots linked together by a journalist. I’ve no idea how it’s all going to come together, but it’s a great set up.
Episodes 1 and 2 are on iplayer and new episodes air on BBC4 on Saturdays.

Downton Abbey
Downton_AbbeyThree episodes in and Downton seems a little more energetic this series. I can actually think of things that have happened, which is a lot more than I could say of previous years. Mary is irritating me less, she seems to have started moving with the times a bit more and her occasional flashes of feeling and connection to the people around her (I liked the bit with Tom last week) makes her more interesting. I hope they move Edith’s character on and give her something positive soon though.
Episodes are available on itv player

Great British Bake Off
8077683536_38efd98443_mI can’t really not mention what seems to be the television event of the year, particularly given that I’m a bit of a baker and am a big fan of the show. It’s clearly more popular than ever, with ratings of the final topping those of the World Cup Final but for me, I don’t think it was the best series. I found the recipes far less inspiring than usual, particularly the technical challenges, and I got increasingly frustrated with the artificial time pressures (you can’t ice a hot cake!). The contestants, hosts and judges however were all lovely as usual, and in the end I think the right person won. (Ps, that’s a picture of my own version of the GBBO title cake)
Most of the episodes are still on iplayer but they’re disappearing soonish.

Cat Watch 2014: The New Horizon Experiment
5347376050_4707fb35ac_zI’m slowly catching up on this three part update to last year’s amazing cat-stalking documentary and it’s every bit as interesting, original and cute as the previous show. It’s a good job my housemate is allergic to cats because frankly within just 10 minutes of gorgeous close ups and slow motion shots I was overwhelmed with a desire to fill the house with moggies. (That’s my dad’s cat in the photo).
All three episodes are available on iplayer until 9th October.

Coming up next week
I’m incredibly excited about the start of season 5 of The Walking Dead, 9pm Monday night on FX. There are three interesting looking new shows starting this week. On Monday at 9pm on Channel 5 is Gotham, following young detective James Gordon as he investigates the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. It’s one of the top picks for the year’s crop of new shows in the US and my expectations are pretty high. The Knick starts on Sky Atlantic on Thursday at 9pm, set in a New York hospital in 1900 which sounds like a fascinating idea and as it stars Clive Owen and is directed by Steven Soderbergh I’m quite optimistic for the delivery. I’m less optimistic about The Great Fire on ITV, 9pm Thursday. I’ve also spotted that Justified is available on Sky Box Sets on Demand, a series that I’ve wanted to catch up on for a while.

Emmy Awards 2013-14

Emmy AwardIt’s the Emmy Awards next week and I figured in advance of my own assessment of the 2013-14 season (I’m still trying to finish a couple of shows off!) I’d quickly run through some of the Emmy categories. I’m only looking at the drama and mini-series categories as I’ve watched hardly anything that would qualify in the comedy, variety or reality categories.

goodwifeOutstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Lizzy Caplan (Virginia Johnson), Masters of Sex – I only watched one episode and don’t remember much about her performance I’m afraid.
  • Claire Danes (Carrie Mathison), Homeland – I gave up on the series due to the terrible writing, but that was certainly no fault of Danes who always delivered impressive performances.
  • Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley), Downton Abbey – Sigh. No. Dockery does an ok job with what she’s given, but this is not an Emmy worthy role or performance.
  • Julianna Margulies (Alicia Florrick), The Good Wife – Another powerful but human woman again beautifully performed. Margulies was given some great material this year and she delivered accordingly.
  • Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope), Scandal – The series itself is bonkers and Washington plays the powerful but human Olivia Pope superbly.
  • Robin Wright (Claire Underwood), House of Cards – She’s superb as this very complex and unusual character. A really mesmerising performance
  • Who’s missing: Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black is such a gaping absence in this list you could almost believe that someone screwed up reading the nominations out. It’s possible that she could almost be viewed as cheating as she’s playing half a dozen characters, but that doesn’t change the fact that she should certainly be in Dockery’s slot and should quite probably have won. Keri Russell of The Americans, Ellen Pompeo of Grey’s Anatomy would also be worthy nominees if more slots were available.
    Who’ll win: This is a phenomenally strong year for women on television and choosing one winner is hard. I’d be pretty happy with either Wright, Margulies or Washington winning, but the general consensus seems to be that Caplan will win.

    House of CardsOutstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • Bryan Cranston (Walter White), Breaking Bad – I haven’t seen it, I’m sure he’s great, but I do get a bit frustrated when show’s drag out a minimal number of episodes to extend across multiple years.
  • Jeff Daniels (Will McAvoy), The Newsroom – a good performance through some very uneven writing, I think some of the people I mention below are more deserving of his slot, but his nomination isn’t as ridiculous as some have suggested.
  • Jon Hamm (Don Draper), Mad Men – I think Hamm is managing to deliver a strong performance of a very poorly written character. Maybe that’s even more deserving than an actor who’s given a great character from the start, but it’s a bit tricky.
  • Woody Harrelson (Martin Hart) and Matthew McConaughey (Rust Cohle) True Detective – Bundling both nominations together, I didn’t watch beyond the first episode of the series and know McConaughey has got a lot of praise for his performance, but I found Harrelson the more interesting and delicate role.
  • Kevin Spacey (Francis Underwood), House of Cards – superbly chilling, it’s a very restrained performance for the most part, but the moments of emotion that the character allows through are startling.
  • Who’s Missing: If we put the two True Detectives into the miniseries category where they belong and bump off Daniels and Hamm, that leaves plenty of space for some under-appreciated performers. Matthew Rhys in The Americans gave a stunning performance of the conflicted spy, James Spader is wonderfully unpredictable on The Blacklist, Andrew Lincoln continues to be amazing on The Walking Dead and I haven’t seen this season, but I bet you anything you like Charlie Hunnam was incredible on Sons of Anarchy. I didn’t watch them, but I know a lot of people who did are frustrated by the lack of love for Michael Sheen in Masters of Sex and Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen of Hannibal. I’m also a bit surprised that Damian Lewis isn’t here for Homeland.

    Who’ll win: I’m actually pretty ambivalent about this category, it’s nowhere near as strong as the Actress category. I’d like Spacey to win I think, but I don’t know enough about Cranston and the True Detective roles to really make it a particularly educated choice. I suspect McConaughey will win on the night though. I think it’s just been a little too long since Breaking Bad and I think the academy will be smitten with the idea of McConaughey winning the Emmy and Oscar in the same year.

    Downton AbbeyOutstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

  • Christine Baranski (Diane Lockhart), The Good Wife – Amazing. She had some of the best scenes of the series and she utterly broken my heart.
  • Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), Downton Abbey – a meatier storyline, but still the roles on Downton do not give the actors enough subtlety to really deserve these nominations.
  • Anna Gunn (Skyler White), Breaking Bad – no idea
  • Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Game of Thrones – slightly surprising to see her here. Like with the Downton roles, I’m not sure this one really had the subtlety to show off Headey’s talents to the full, but it was certainly interesting. I think I may have voted for Maisie Williams (Aria), Sophie Turner (Sansa) or Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) who got more range in their characters.
  • Christina Hendricks (Joan Harris), Mad Men – I like the character and performance a great deal, Joan is such a strong period character, fully belonging in the period, but also pushing the boundaries.
  • Maggie Smith (Violet Grantham), Downton Abbey – she didn’t have anywhere near enough material to be here.
  • Who’s Missing: Sandra Oh had a great final season on Grey’s Anatomy. I can’t imagine Katey Sagal and Maggie Siff on Sons of Anarchy were anything less than incredible. I didn’t watch season 2 of Nashville, but given her performance in season 1 and the material she had, I’d guess Hayden Panettiere was pretty impressive. Belamy Young (Mellie) manages to make her character both a bitch and a hero all at once on Scandal and Annet Mahendru (Nina) from The Americans quietly turned her character into an absolute star as well.

    Who’ll win: Baranski would most definitely be my choice, but Anna Gunn may steal it.

    Game of ThronesOutstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

  • Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman), Breaking Bad – the number of times I have to write “I haven’t watched Breaking Bad” really should have motivated me to watch it by now.
  • Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), Downton Abbey – Oh for pities sake. I actually thought Allen Leech as Branson gave a more interesting performance.
  • Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) Game of Thrones – yes indeed. Very much so. In fact, I’d almost say he should be in the Lead Actor category and winning that one.
  • Mandy Patinkin (Saul Berenson), Homeland – it was actually the shift in Patinkin’s character that made me stop watching as his character gave up the moral highground. It was a good performance though.
  • Jon Voight (Mickey Donovan), Ray Donovan – I didn’t watch more than the pilot and don’t remember the character or performance.
  • Josh Charles (Will Gardner), The Good Wife – I didn’t actually like where the character went this year, falling into old patterns in his anger and betrayal. But another great performance.
  • Who’s Missing: Guillermo Diaz as the terrifying Huck on Scandal, Matt Czuchry as Cary on The Good Wife and both Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Chandler Riggs (Carl) had great seasons on The Walking Dead.

    Who’ll win: I suspect it will be between Paul, Dinklage and Voight. Personally I’d probably have given it to Dinklage as he really does carry the show.

    Breaking BadOutstanding Drama Series

  • Breaking Bad – at just 8 episodes long, this almost feels like cheating.
  • Downton Abbey – sigh. It’s hugely entertaining, but no other series is ever allowed a drama nomination just because it’s entertaining and/or popular.
  • Game of Thrones – this season was better than previous and the series is certainly spectacularly well produced, but it’s still got problems that it inherits from the books.
  • House of Cards – Such a fascinating series, whether despite of or because of the way that it’s produced it’s a fascinating and original new tone for American television.
  • Mad Men – I’m calling time on Mad Men, it’s just going round and round in circles, foregoing linear character development in favour of dragging things out.
  • True Detective – I didn’t make it past the first episode because although I could see that it was very good, I just didn’t want to watch it and none of the characters or stories grabbed me enough to make me want to stay.
  • What’s missing: There are two big problems with this list, the first is the absence of The Good Wife which is an oversight so huge that if I had any faith in awards it would be completely destroyed. The Good Wife should not only be nominated, but should be winning this category easily, if for no other reason than it produced 22 stunning episodes this year, rather than just a dozen like most of these nominees. The second problem is the presence of True Detective which may well be superb, but should appear in the mini-series category. If it’s going to have a new cast and storyline next year, then it should be competing alongside Fargo and American Horror Story. Beyond that, I think Orphan Black and The Walking Dead should certainly be there and The Americans if we could find space.
    What will win:: Of this choice, the only one I’ve seen and think is worthy is House of Cards, I suspect True Detective will win though.

    Outstanding Miniseries
    truedetective

  • American Horror Story: Coven – it was fine, but I don’t think it was necessarily outstanding.
  • Bonnie & Clyde – didn’t see it
  • Fargo – I wasn’t sold on it at first, feeling it was just an extended version of the film, but the subtlety grew on me and eventually completely sucked me in.
  • Luther – excellent performance from Idris Elba in an otherwise very mediocre show.
  • The White Queen – didn’t see it
  • Treme – I never made it past the first episode several years ago.
  • What’s missing – I strongly believe True Detective should be in here instead of competing in the drama category. Yes, it would probably sweep the awards to the detriment of others, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles. It would seem that Sherlock was submitted as a ‘Made for TV Movie’ which is a mistake because a) it’s not and b) it’s not going to beat the phenomenal Normal Heart. Penny Dreadful by the way aired after the eligibility period, so saves me thinking too hard about whether it should be here or not.
    What will win: Fargo. I don’t think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it’s certainly the best of this pretty poor list.

    American Horror StoryLead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie

  • Jessica Lange (Fiona Goode) and Sarah Paulson (Cordelia Goode Foxx) both of American Horror Story: Coven – good performances from both actresses, I think Paulson’s was actually the more interesting and varied character though.
  • Helena Bonham Carter (Burton and Taylor), Minnie Driver (Return to Zero), Kristen Wiig (The Spoils of Babylon), Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful). – I haven’t seen any of these, in fact the only one I’ve even heard of was Burton and Taylor.
  • Who will win – Dunno, don’t care. Clearly while women are doing well in Drama series, they’re not getting anything particularly interesting in miniseries. Incidentally, I rather think that Allison Tolman from Fargo should be in here instead of in the supporting actress category, and she should be winning.

    lutherOutstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (Louis Lester), Dancing on the Edge – solid but unremarkable performance. Ejiofor is clearly capable of far greater than this role allows him to show off.
  • Martin Freeman (Lester Nygaard), Fargo – it’s a very engaging performance, playing to Freeman’s speciality as the seeming bumbling everyman with a strong/dark core.
  • Billy Bob Thornton (Lorne Malvo), Fargo – initially this seemed the more interseting role than Freeman’s, but actually, it was all a bit monotone. Admittedly an interesting tone, but the relentless creepy coolness became a bit old..
  • Idris Elba (John Luther), Luther – a wonderful performance bringing life and originality to an otherwise unremarkable series. Like James Spader, his characters are always utterly unpredictable, while still being coherent.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes), Sherlock: His Last Vow – Always excellent and this season gave his character some depth and conflict which was delivered expertly.
  • Mark Ruffalo (Ned Weeks), The Normal Heart – A devastatingly powerful TV Movie and stunning performances from the whole cast. Ruffalo plays to type as the slightly bumbling academic with a fiery temper, but he does it exceptionally.
  • Who’s missing – I can’t actually think of anyone who’s missing, although I think I would argue that Freeman is as much a lead in Sherlock as Cumberbatch is, but I fully understand why he wouldn’t enter this category to compete against both himself and his co-star!
    Who will win – men in miniseries are fairing far better than the women are, particularly British men, it says a lot when I think that the Oscar nominated Ejiofor is the weakest of them all. I suspect Mark Ruffalo will win, not undeservingly but strongly helped by the subject matter of The Normal Heart. I wouldn’t be disappointed if Elba, Cumberbatch or Freeman was announced though.

    Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
    fargo

  • Frances Conroy (Myrtle), Kathy Bates (Delphine) and Angela Bassett (Marie), all from American Horror Story: Coven – all of these were single note performances, and frankly hammy over-the-top ones. That’s what the show demanded, but I don’t think it gave any of these wonderful actresses a chance to shine.
  • Allison Tolman (Molly Solverson), Fargo – she started off a little basic but gradually revealed more depth until she really became the star of this series.
  • Ellen Burstyn (Olivia), Flowers in the Attic – didn’t see it.
  • Julia Roberts (Dr Emma Brookner), The Normal Heart – her character was a bit of a macguffin in the movie and didn’t have the subtlest of material so I thought her performance came across a bit heavy handed.
  • Who will win: I think and hope Tolman wins, she gives a far more nuanced performance than anyone else in this category.

    SherlockSupporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie

  • Colin Hanks (Deputy Gus Grimly), Fargo – like Freeman, Hanks is playing to type here and he does it very well, but it’s not a role with a huge amount of variety in it.
  • Martin Freeman (John Watson), Sherlock: His Last Vow – Watson is almost the opposite side of the coin to Lester Nygaard, starting from strength and adding uncertainty. He’s such a restrained character opposite Sherlock’s extravagance and this episode certainly gave Freeman the opportunity to shine.
  • Matt Bomer (Felix), Jim Parsons (Tommy), Joe Mantello (Mickey) and Alfred Molina (Ben) all from The Normal Heart – Everyone in this cast deserves an award, all very different, utterly superb and devastating performances. I would definitely have put Taylor Kitsch in instead of Molina.
  • Who will win – I would like to see Freeman win, his co-star gets all the glory for Sherlock, but for me, Watson is by far the more interesting character and the straight man is the harder role. That said, anyone from The Normal Heart would also be thoroughly deserving and if I had to pick just one of them, I think the heartbreaking Matt Bomer would just edge ahead of the beautifully restrained Jim Parsons and the explosive Joe Mantello.

    Downton Abbey: Season 4

    Downton AbbeyI’m really behind on my reviewing. So behind that I gave serious consideration to leaving my review of Downton until I’d also seen the Christmas Special. But I realised if I did that there was a chance that I wouldn’t be able to go off on my planned rant, because there’s the possibility that the writers may actually use the Christmas episode to develop some plot, because god knows, they didn’t bother with anything so petty for the rest of the season!

    The early seasons packed massive amounts of content in, taking huge chronological jumps and dispensing with weddings, deaths, scandals, traumas and joy at breakneck speed. Between the hurtling pace and the Sunday night scheduling you never really get a chance to stop and think about the insanity until you’re heading to bed and already thinking about opening your inbox at work the next morning. Season 3 was the first indication of decline, because they somehow managed to combine both the hail storm of events with a general sense of wallowing which was impressively contradictory. But season 4 has dispensed with the plots and firmly settled in for a long extended wallow. When the announcer interrupted the end titles to tell us that we’d just watched the last episode of the season, I gave an audible, and impolite indication of my disbelief. How can it possibly be the end of the season when NOTHING HAS HAPPENED!?

    The only thing that really happened all season felt less like a plot and more like a combination of an extended award submission clip reel and a massive PR engine. The rape of the ever-saccharine Anna was a moment of brutality that, like Sybil’s death last year, seemed completely incongruous with the rest of the series. While I’m in no doubt that this kind of horrible attack was uncommon at the time, I just felt that in the less-than-subtle hands of the Downton writers it was more about generating press for an otherwise pedestrian show than it was about highlighting elements of history that go uncommented on. Particularly by the time it got turned into being more about Bates’ anger than it was about Anna’s strength (just like last year they made Mrs Hughes cancer all-clear more about Carson than about her).

    What else happened? Edith finally found a man that would marry her, then rather carelessly misplaced him in Nazi Germany, but not before falling predictably pregnant. Mary on the other hand was besieged with indistinguishable suitors like she was some combination of Helen of Troy from the Iliad and Penelope from the Odyssey (I have a proper classical education don’t’cha know). Which is frankly befuddling because she is neither a great beauty, she has absolutely no money of her own and is a “frightful bore”. Her only redeeming features this year appeared to be that she was able to scramble an egg and was willing to get a bit muddy.

    There were plenty of minor twittery stories floating around, but nothing actually significant or unifying. New girl Rose came, fluttered about, fell in love with a black man, and then got her heart broken – and no one cared. O’Brien departed mysteriously – and no one cared. Kitchen maids got all in a fluster for various gangly footmen, Thomas schemed with the new lady’s maid whose name I never even registered, Tom sat next to a woman at a political meeting, Carson’s old friend came by, the dowager countess got sick then got better, Mrs Crowley got a gardener a job… it was all so tedious even Lord Grantham got sick of it and swanned off to America to avoid a couple of episodes.

    I mean, it’s all still entertaining I guess. Settle in with a mug of something, a blanket to snuggle under and a crossword puzzle and you’ll be sufficiently entertained to transition you from your weekend towards an early night before going back to work, but that’s hardly the pinnacle of entertainment is it? It’s got the budget, it’s got the cast, it’s got the support… I just wish they’d do something with that!

    Emmy Awards 2012-13

    Emmy AwardAh the Emmys. Every year the nominations come out and television fans and critics alike look at the list and go “you what now?”. It’s full of the same old stuff, some of it deserving, but a lot of it just old, tired and not as great as people remember it was. The nominators seem to have massive blind spots for certain shows, often it’s a straightforward “genre shows aren’t good” (The Walking Dead), or “police procedurals may be popular but we shouldn’t reward that” (Southland), or “motorcycle gangs are bad” (Sons of Anarchy) or even just a blanket “there’s nothing good on network, quality is only on cable” (The Good Wife). But this year for some reason the Emmys have also taken against The Americans and when you start wondering if that’s because they still don’t like Russians, you have to wonder what the hell is going on over there.

    So here are my thoughts on who I would give awards to and who I think will win the Emmys. I’ve only really covered the major drama categories. I don’t watch enough comedy, reality or factual to comment on those, I don’t have enough technical knowledge to comment on sound design or camera work and I can’t be bothered to look at the directing and writing categories because those frankly seem like they’re just used as an extension of the outstanding drama/comedy/whatever award and not looking at whether the direction or writing is actually creative or innovative.

    OUTSTANDING DRAMA
    Breaking Bad – I’ve only watched the first season which was brilliant, and I can’t imagine the final season is anything else, although stretching it out for nearly 2 years does feel a little like an awards show grab.
    Downton Abbey – Ah, the Americans’ love of Downton Abbey. It’s a fun series, with a very specific genre. Does it deserve to be here? Hell no.
    Game of Thrones – Another very specific type of show that just does not belong on this list.
    Homeland (2012 winner) – I think the second season is probably best described as ‘troubled’. Season 1 was very good, I think season 3 could be very good, but season 2 was not.
    House of Cards – It’s already a huge deal that a Netflix original programme is on this list at all. The fact that it’s also absolutely superb should terrify the other channels.
    Mad Men – Far from the best season of the show. I’ve lost interest completely.

    The Walking DeadWith the exception of Breaking Bad and House of Cards I think this is a really very poor selection from the vast number of outstanding shows that are out there. The Walking Dead is far more deserving than Game of Thrones (if we’re going to allow one spot for genre). The Americans is better than Homeland, Nashville is a better cheesy soap than Downton Abbey (not that this category is necessarily the place for a cheesy soap) and The Good Wife (while not such a tidy genre comparison) is so far beyond Mad Men it’s not funny. I would also not be appalled to see Scandal, or Sons of Anarchy (even though I haven’t seen it) on the list, and I know a lot of people would grumble at the absence of Southland and Justified.

    My outstanding drama – The Walking Dead
    My Emmy Choice – from that list, I think House of Cards (Breaking Bad can have it next year)
    What will win – I recon House of Cards might just do it

    OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
    Connie Britton, Nashville – Excellent choice, she’s wonderful. And lovely.
    Claire Danes, Homeland (2012 winner) – manages to ride the roller coaster the writers put her character on, always knocking it out of the park
    Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey – she’s doing the best with some pretty miserable writing, but no way she deserves to be on this list (not least because it’s an ensemble, she is not the star)
    Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel – Haven’t seen it yet so I don’t know, but I’ve heard good things.
    Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men – She’s a great actress, but I don’t think she’s a lead in Mad Men, she just didn’t get enough material.
    Kerry Washington, Scandal – Another excellent choice, she’s incredible on the show.
    Robin Wright, House of Cards – A difficult character, but played very well to make her both unsettling and sympathetic.

    scandalThere are some amazing roles out there for women at the moment, and some amazing actresses filling them. The presence of Connie Britton brings into notice the absence of her co-star Hayden Pannetier. She submitted in the supporting actress instead, I guess for fear of splitting votes, but then didn’t get nominated). I would say she was as much a lead as Britton and did just as good a job and actually with a greater range of material. Keri Russell of The Americans is overlooked, Ellen Pompeo continues to quietly do good work on Grey’s Anatomy, Anna Torv for Fringe didn’t even bother submitting herself apparently, Katey Sagal and Maggie Siff of Sons of Anarchy might as well not have bothered because the Emmy’s fails to acknowledge their shows existence. I’m also only a couple of episodes in but Tatiana Maslany is incredible in Orphan Black and pretty much cleared up at any award show voted for by critics. But that all pails into insignificance with the absence of Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife which is just beyond belief.

    My Outstanding Actress – Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife (although I might change that to Tatiana Maslany when I finish Orphan Black)
    My Emmy Choice – I think Kerry Washington, she makes the show work, which is a true mark of a leading role.
    Who will win – Robin Wright, and it would be well deserved.

    OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
    Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey – He did have some amazing moments this season, but they were only moments. I think he belongs in the supporting actor category.
    Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad – I’m sure he’s amazing
    Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom – Interesting. The writing for the character was all over the place, but he did convincingly sell it all.
    Jon Hamm, Mad Men – I hate the character and think the continual yo-yoing is beyond a joke, but even when I try to ignore that and just look at Hamm’s performance, I find it a bit… flat.
    Damian Lewis, Homeland (2012 winner) – As with his co-star, ropey writing salvaged by superb performances.
    Kevin Spacey, House of Cards – It’s Kevin Spacey, of course he’s amazing.

    House of CardsTo my mind, Matthew Rhys in The Americans gave just as good a performance as Damian Lewis and the show around him was immeasurably better material. The fact that Andrew Lincoln’s breathtaking work on The Walking Dead was ignored isn’t surprising but is endlessly frustrating. I think the show is rubbish, but Hugh Dancy gives an amazing performance in Hannibal. I wouldn’t have been displeased to see Matt Smith for Doctor Who, or even Kevin Bacon for The Following on that list either. The surprise absence is Michael C. Hall for Dexter who must have really pissed someone off to not get his sixth consecutive nomination.

    My Outstanding Actor and Emmy Choice – Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
    Who will win – Bryan Cranston.

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
    Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad – probably excellent
    Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (2012 winner) – I was initially frustrated at this nomination, but then I remembered the scenes after Sybil’s death and actually, I think she deserves this nomination far more than her win last year.
    Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones – She’s one of the best things in the disappointing series, but I’m just not sure there was that much complexity to her character.
    Christine Baranski, The Good Wife – yay!
    Morena Baccarin, Homeland – Also yay!
    Christina Hendricks, Mad Men – I love her, but I’m not sure her character got enough to do to warrant this nomination. I’d almost rather see January Jones in this space. (Oh, but two actresses from Firefly in the list, how cool is that?!)

    NashvilleGiven I think Hayden Pannetier could have been nominated for lead, the fact she didn’t make the cut here is surprising and sad. I’d happily see Chandra Wilson or Sandra Oh for Grey’s Anatomy on the list. Kate Mara gives just as good as she gets from Kevin Spacey on House of Cards (and could be argued is more the lead than Robin Wright is).

    My Outstanding Supporting Actress – Hayden Pannetier for Nashville, and I’m as surprised as anyone by that.
    My Emmy Choice – Christine Baranski (Maggie Smith can just consider she won a year early and it averages out).
    Who Will Win – Maggie Smith

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
    Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire – Don’t watch, dunno.
    Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad – Dunno, haven’t seen any episodes with him in.
    Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad (2012 winner) – I’m sure he’s great.
    Jim Carter, Downton Abbey – Sigh. No. Just no.
    Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones – The best thing in the show and almost the only reason I keep watching. Absolutely wonderful.
    Mandy Patinkin, Homeland – A worthy nominee.

    Game of ThronesI’m pretty unexcited by this list, but then can’t really comment on three out of the six. John Nobel for Fringe is unsurprisingly overlooked. Josh Charles is always wonderful in The Good Wife, Sam Waterstone is powerful and hilarious as Charlie in The Newsroom, Guillermo Diaz and Jeff Perry were both superb on Scandal, and for all Smash’s woes I rather adore Jack Davenport.

    My Outstanding Supporting Actor and Emmy Choice – Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones. Every scene he’s not in is just counting the minutes until he returns.
    Who Will Win – I recon Peter Dinklage might win again, but the Breaking Bad people could snatch it.

    OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
    Margo Martindale, The Americans – oh apparently the nominators *are* watching The Americans, or is it just that they loved Margo Martindale in Justified so much they keep nominating her. She’s good, but not spectacular.
    Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones – I think this is more about the name than the performance, which while good, I’m not sure was one of the best of teh year out of the thousands available.
    Carrie Preston, The Good Wife – Yay Elsbeth! I adore her, she’s so quirky and offbeat, but somehow incredibly real.
    Linda Cardellini, Mad Men – I had to look up who this was. Unenthused.
    Jane Fonda, The Newsroom – I just remember her shouting a lot, not really anything phenomenal
    Joan Cusack, Shameless – No idea.

    goodwifeThis list could easily be made up with just The Good Wife – Maura Tierney, Martha Plimpton, Mamie Gummer, Stockard Channing, Amanda Peet… all wonderful. Shirley McLain was hilarious in Downton Abbey. I’m sure Grey’s Anatomy had some good guests too, but the one I remember most was Sarah Chalke.

    My choice and the Emmy’s choice, was Carrie Preston for The Good Wife (awarded at the Creative Arts Emmys last week)

    OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
    Nathan Lane, The Good Wife – it’s always odd to see Nathan Lane doing something low key and he was heartbreaking as a drab little accountant in a suit inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography
    Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife – gloriously manipulative, skirts the edges of comedy villain beautifully
    Rupert Friend, Homeland – I had to look him up, but as soon as the photo loaded I recognised him as the creepy and mysterious Quinn, an excellent addition to the amazing Homeland cast, but he was in 9 out of 12 episodes… doesn’t sound like a ‘guest’ role.
    Robert Morse, Mad Men – Bert Cooper (I had to look him up and check) just doesn’t really do that much, more a reliable piece of furniture than anything outstanding imho.
    Harry Hamlin, Mad Men – I have no memory of him in the series. Not a great indicator.
    Dan Bucatinsky, Scandal – I was surprised to see this name here, he was a little umm… melodramatic I thought, but I don’t begrudge him this space on the list.

    Another list that could just be made up of guests on The Good Wife – Matthew Perry, Gary Cole, Dallas Roberts, T.R. Knight – all my favourite actors show up here sooner or later. Guest stars are always the hardest to remember though and I’m struggling for other shows.

    My choice – I can’t bring myself to pick between Nathan Lane and Michael J. Fox.
    Emmy’s choice – Dan Bucatinsky, which really surprises me.

    OUTSTANDING TV MINISERIES OR MOVIE
    behindthecandelabraAmerican Horror Story: Asylum – I just didn’t get on with the series this year. I found it much harder to engage with the characters and stories
    Behind the Candelabra – not being in the idiotic US, I was able to see this in its true home on the big screen and it will probably feature as one of my top films of the year. Telling a fascintating story about complex characters in a hugely enjoyable way – a joy to watch.
    Top of the Lake – I made it through 2 and a half episodes before calling it quits due to extreme boredom and disbelief at every single one of the characters.
    The Bible, Phil Spector, Political Animals – haven’t seen ’em

    My outstanding miniseries/movie – Behind the Candelabra and I think the Emmy voters will agree. I think Michael Douglas will also win the lead actor award, although Matt Damon is equally worthy.