Posts Tagged ‘ homeland ’

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.

    Advertisements

    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.

    Homeland: Season 2

    homelandThere’s a phrase that’s often applied to television shows – “sophomore slump”. It’s thrown at shows that have a promising, even brilliant first season and then in their second rather fall apart. Sometimes that’s because the series creators have put loads of thought, years in some cases, into the first season – forced to pitch it to endless executives and agents to get their baby onto the screen. Then for the second season they have just a few months over the summer to come up with something and the people that previously poured over every little detail of the show, presumably are rather more prone to say “just do what you did before, we trust you”. Some of those creators may never have dared hope they’d get beyond a first season and suddenly realise that if they want to sustain their show they’re going to have to stretch the plot out further and expand the number of characters. While I don’t think Homeland slumps quite so far as something like Lost, the slump was pretty bloody impressive.

    Of course part of the reason for a large slump is that your first season is so very good that you’ve got a lot of space to fall in to. I named Homeland one of the best shows of the year last, praising it for being “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.” Unfortunately for season 2 the reason that I never knew which direction stories would take was because the characters and stories were so incoherent they couldn’t be predicted.

    The plot of season 2 was just plain all over the place. Each episode lurched from one unlikely event to the next, storylines bodged together with string and blu-tac. Every episode had moments which induced out loud proclamations of “really?!” and eye rolling frustration at the shortcuts and bodges necessary to drag the story out. What was even more insidious about season 2 is that it made me doubt my previous opinion of the show. Was the plot of season 1 actually intricate, or was it really just a mess of knots and tangles?

    On the plus side, the acting is still superb – only the very best of actors could negotiate their way through the terrible dialogue and stupid decisions to make their characters seem only slightly ridiculous. The beautifully nuanced performances by Damien Lewis and Claire Danes managed to negotiate their way through the ambiguity of Brody’s brainwashed fundamentalist/political high flyer and Carrie’s obsessive insanity/genius intelligence operative. The quality of their performances meant that the question of how much of their trust and love was faked on each side was interesting, rather than just drawn out indecision on the part of the writers. Their characters at least had reasons for their insanity, it was the friends, family and colleagues around them that came across as insane for continuing to follow them.

    I think my frustrations with Homeland season 2 really were due to the relatively high quality (or mis-direction) of season 1, which seemed like a complex psychological thriller in comparison with season 2’s more mindless action style. Elements of the plot such as Dana’s relationship with the Vice President’s son and the bored old chestnut of having an important political figure involved and covering up a car accident were what really lowered the tone of the series, making it feel cliché and tired.

    While Homeland won’t be appearing in my best shows of the year list again, I will still be tuning in to the next season. Once you rejig your expectations, the cheesy over-the-top nature of the whole thing is quite entertaining. It’s not the same show, and it’s not necessarily a good show, but it still has merit.

    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).

    Homeland: Season 1

    Season 1 of Homeland has been a real roller-coaster, I fell in and out of love with it pretty much every couple of episodes, swinging wildly between nearly giving up on it in frustration, and counting the hours until the next episode was on.

    My attitude towards the series moved pretty much in time with the central question of whether Carrie was paranoid in her obsession with Brody and Abu Nazir or whether she was brilliantly perceptive. Of course the answer all along is really that she’s both – just because you’re paranoid doesn’t actually mean they’re not out to get you and just because you’re brilliant doesn’t mean you’re always right. The frustration is that in almost every situation she makes the wrong decision and takes the wrong action – she doesn’t follow protocol, and the further she strays from accepted behaviour (which is already a pretty long way from ‘normal’ for the CIA anyway) the harder it is for her to return. That’s where most of my frustration came, watching her make increasingly stupid and desperate mistakes that endanger the very things that she’s so desperate to protect – her job and her country.

    The CIA doesn’t come across particularly well here and I can understand Carrie’s frustrations, she has a mental illness to excuse her eccentricities, but her superiors’ attitudes towards her blow hot and cold without apparent reason. You wouldn’t have thought there was much point in having a highly trained intelligence officer with ridiculous security clearance and then telling her off for being too suspicious! Or is that all part of someone’s plan? There are so many levels of subterfuge and pretence going on it’s hard to not be paranoid!

    Meanwhile, round and round throughout the season, is the big question – is Brody a good guy or a bad guy? As I said in my pilot review, the genius of the show is that it doesn’t actually matter whether the answer is yes or no because he’s such a fascinating character. His interactions with his family and the difficult process of settling back into a life he’d been so far away from is fascinating. I was a bit dubious after the pilot whether the story was sustainable, half the fun of the pilot was the question of whether Brody had turned and I thought that had been answered, then a few episodes later I thought it had been answered again, the opposite way, and so it proceeded for the whole run. Even now I’m not entirely certain. The zigging and zagging of the story, and Carrie’s increasingly desperate attempts to keep up were engrossing. The complexity of the characters and the quality of the acting, particularly Clare Danes and Damian Lewis are absolutely astonishing, I’d been impressed throughout, but the final couple of episodes were incredible.

    As the story developed it got bigger, reaching out beyond the key characters until it becomes entwined with the highest levels of politics and the military. That makes me a little nervous for season 2, I’m far more interested in watching the characters than I am in following the complex issues of terrorism and politics and I hope that the series doesn’t get too big in that sense. Season 1 was completely engrossing because it never lost sight of the individuals and how they were feeling and understanding their motivations.

    While there was a little bit of a lull in the middle of the season, the last few episodes ratcheted the tension and the action up to proper edge-of-your-seat levels. The way they managed to pull everything together for the finale was artful, answering questions in a way that felt satisfying and yet also opened up plenty of new questions. A show this smart and compelling is rare and I’m very glad I stuck with it.

    Homeland season 1 is available on dvd