2015 Emmys Reactions: Hamm finally won!

The 2015 Emmys award show was broadcast last night, one of the biggest award shows in show business cataloguing excellence in television. It was a night of a few very notable moments, and mostly satisfying picks. Let’s just dive right in and talk about what went well, what didn’t, and what else was worth noting.

Speeches

There were a couple of terrific acceptance speeches last night. Viola Davis delivered the speech of the night, seen below via YouTube, reflecting upon the weight of her accomplishment as the first black woman to win Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Jeffey Tambor also had a lovely speech, thanking the transgender community for their support and their courage. Overall it was clear that the tone of the night’s speeches was one of encouraging the righting of social wrongs.

TRACY!!!

Tracy Morgan, still recovering from his accident last year, made an inspiring appearance. He looked good, although very somber, and spoke earnestly about the support he’s received. He stumbled a couple of times, and it’s clear that he’s still recovering, but he did show flashes of the old Tracy. For example, he assured the women in the audience that some of them would be getting pregnant after the show.

Hamm wins, but snubs elsewhere

Jon Hamm finally won Best Actor, in his last year portraying Don Draper on “Mad Men”. Many speculated, apparently correctly, that there was no way they could snub Hamm this year after years of waiting.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t snubs, though. Jonathan Banks did not win for his excellent performance in “Better Call Saul”, and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was snubbed across the board. Amy Poehler did not win for her last year as Leslie Knope on “Parks & Recreation”. Quite frankly, there should be as much outrage over this as there would have been if Hamm hadn’t won, but it seems to be a footnote to most.

Other Winners

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” got to collect one last round of Emmys on its way out, “Transparent” brought home Amazon’s first five Emmys, and then I think “Game of Thrones” won everything else. The show is great, yes, but how frustrating must it be to have to go up against it in any given category?

Overall it seems like, despite a few notable snubs, this year’s Emmys awards seem to have gone to their rightful owners. Next year should be interesting, with the end “Mad Men” creating a nice opportunity for other drama shows to step up. Early prediction: still mostly “Game of Thrones”.

Sitcoms TV News

Uninspired Casting/Acting Holding Back “Fear the Walking Dead”?

There’s a moment in the third episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” that really sums up the key problem with the show. A man shoots a walker and blows his head off. This represents the first time anyone in the room has seen such a gratuitous display of gore and violence, so naturally when we pan out to the character reaction shots, they look… bored?

The main story in “Fear the Walking Dead” is compelling, generally speaking. It’s the beginning of the zombie outbreak; people are just now being introduced to this new, terrifying reality. It’s like everyone is acting as Rick in the original series’ pilot episode.

There are some problems with the execution though. The show is exciting and interesting, but it suffers due to the focuses of the story seeming to drag everything else down. Part of it is the writing — the show focuses on a family that, other than kind of being a mess, is so far not particularly worth focusing on. With any work of fiction, you must ask why the writer is telling the story through the characters they choose. In the case of “Fear the Walking Dead”, there seems to be a lack of clarity as to why this family is our focus.

The key issue, though, is the acting of the leads. The show took a risk in casting small-name actors, as opposed to the original having both Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus with previous film success to anchor the cast. No disrespect to Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis, but they certainly aren’t big names, and they don’t seem to work well here thus far.

That being said, the show is still young. We’re three episodes in. The original series took some time to figure itself out too, and the acting has always been inconsistent there as well. Perhaps time and patience will vindicate the casting decisions of “Fear the Walking Dead”.

Discussion Drama

The League / “The Draft of Innocence”: What the hell just happened?

review-bMINUS

This week’s episode of The League, “The Draft of Innocence”, proceeds as a normal episode until suddenly shit gets weird. The grade is relatively arbitrary; I genuinely can’t decide if it was a good episode or not. But nonetheless… Let’s go ahead and dive right in.

The Good

Russell (Rob Huebel) is back! He supposedly has reigned in the sex addiction once again, but it seems that cheese is his newest vice; he has plans to vacation in Wisconsin suspiciously close to a giant cheese festival.

Andre and Meegan are brilliant as a couple, as they are both the worst. Meegan is almost more perfect than Trixie was at matching Andre’s obnoxious energy and taste. They come up with the idea of a Gilded Age theme for the draft, and everyone has to just go along with it.

Pete brings Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas) as his plus-one, and Rafi is always a welcomed presence in any episode. Mantzoukas has a few gems tonight, from treating a watermelon like his girlfriend to shouting in favor of homicide in a street fight because he “wants to see a ghost.”

The Bad

Why is the draft suddenly auction-based after all these years? It seemed like a strange change to make, with the only noticeable effect being Rafi’s kidnapping fiasco.

The episode ends on a very bizarre note, with Andre heroically fighting off the gang of Asian chefs(?) who were threatening the gang. Where the hell did that come from? Has winning the Shiva given Andre some sort of invincibility? I’m not even sure this is a bad thing, it was just jarring.

Other Observations

  • Ruxin has trouble getting along with anyone in public settings, doesn’t he?
  • Meegan and Andre are “sapiosexuals”, meaning they are attracted to each other’s intelligence. It is amazing how this show manages to make Andre more pretentious, even when it seems impossible to go any further.
  • Taco’s “napkin glove” isn’t a terrible idea.
  • Chuck (Will Forte) returned! But he has “gum” cancer, so that’s a bummer.
  • I wonder how Stephen Rannazzisi’s 9/11 lie revelation will effect the show’s ratings? He screwed up big time, and the show is already pretty low in the ratings… probably a good thing this is the final season.
Sitcoms

“With Bob & David” Has a Premiere Date!

The anticipation is building around the reunion project of Mr. Show masterminds David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, and now the wait is almost over. With Bob & David, a new sketch series featuring many familiar faces from Mr. Show, will debut on Netflix on November 13 this year. Netflix has quietly added a 20 second trailer for the show.

I’ll also throw in my favorite Mr. Show sketch, “Lie Detector”.

TV News

Fall 2015 Sitcom Preview

It’s that time of year again, time for network television to debut its latest offerings in the sitcom category. Let’s review what’s coming up, and see if it sounds like it’s worth watching.

ABC

The Muppets

ABC’s most anticipated sitcom offering comes in the form of a revival of The Muppets, framed as a workplace mockumentary sitcom. It revolves around the action behind the scenes of Miss Piggy’s fictional late-night talk show, making it sound like a Muppet-ized The Larry Sanders Show. I’m not at all against that. The showrunner, Bob Kushell, has an impressive resume, and co-creator Bill Prady also co-created The Big Bang Theory, which is… good? I’m giving this one a thumbs up; I may even review the first episode.

The Real O’Neals

This one apparently caused a controversy with conservative groups due to Dan Savage’s involvement. Directed by Todd Holland (Larry Sanders, Malcolm in the Middle). Not much else of note.

Uncle Buck

A remake of Uncle Buck, but the twist is that everyone is black now. The cast (Mike Epps, Nia Long) is encouraging, but probably not enough to overcome a lazy remake-driven premise.

Dr. Ken

Apparently this one has been getting some ugly reviews, which is really unfortunate because I had high hopes for a series starring Ken Jeong. I watched some promos available on YouTube, and… well, unfortunately this one may not work out. There’s always next time, Dr. Jeong!

CBS

Life in Pieces

This one is quite the anomaly. Scheduled to follow up The Big Bang Theory, this show offers a single-camera, toned-down experience that, if the sneak peeks available on YouTube are any indication, is actually pretty decent. The cast is impressive: Colin Hanks, Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad, that Michael J. Fox show), and various other solid supporting members. I think I’ll have to give this one a chance.

Angel from Hell

Weird, and high-concept. Jane Lynch is an angel guiding a dermatologist. I’m not saying this one is getting cancelled after the first 13, but…

FOX

The Grinder

This one shows a lot of promise. It’s a courtroom comedy starring the always-charming Rob Lowe, with Fred Savage (The Wonder Years) and Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Always Sunny) also starring. FOX is notoriously pretty bad at keeping sitcoms alive, but this one could work, especially if paired with Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Grandfathered

Another somewhat promising one, Grandfathered, offers John Stamos (Full[er] House, ER) as a bachelor forced to deal with his son (Josh Peck, Drake & Josh) and a grandbaby as well. The premise seems a little lazy (and maybe a little like a re-worked Raising Hope) but the talent involved inspires at least a tiny bit of confidence. Will I watch it? Probably not, but I could see it carving a niche on FOX, where sitcom ratings standards are pretty low to begin with.

NBC

Truth Be Told

Yikes. NBC really is done with sitcoms, at least for the fall season. Only one new offering starting off in the fall, while Miranda Cosgrove’s Crowded will act as a midseason replacement. Truth Be Told seems pretty bland; an unknown cast, a relatively unknown creator, and a premise (two couples interacting, basically) that inspires little confidence. I guess NBC felt the need to at least throw one new sitcom onto the fall schedule.

Honorable Mention: Crowded

Crowded, of course, is planned as a midseason replacement. It stars Miranda Cosgrove, and will apparently be a multi-camera offering. I can’t say that I’ll be watching, but Cosgrove has a fanbase from iCarly that could make an impact, if they tune in.

The Verdict

In my not-so-professional opinion, it seems like The Muppets, Life in Pieces, and The Grinder are the new sitcoms most worth tuning in for. I’ll probably try to review the pilot episodes for each of them. Only time will tell which will survive, or more importantly which will be worth watching.

Sitcoms

Shows “The Splat” Should Bring Back

It was  recently announced that Nickelodeon is in the process of preparing a new television network, to be known as “The Splat”, which will host various classic 90s hits from its parent network. Details have yet to emerge; a rumored launch date is set for October, but still no news just yet about potential programming. I decided to go ahead and take a look at some shows they should definitely put back on the air.

Cartoons

Rugrats

Before SpongeBob came along, Rugrats was Nickelodeon’s cash cow. The show debuted in 1991 and eventually spanned 13 years, 3 movies, and a spin-off series. It is a classic Nickelodeon cartoon series, and any omission of the show from The Splat’s lineup would be quite suspicious.

Hey Arnold

This cartoon about a lovable football-headed kid living in the big city provided the definitive account of growing up as a kid in the 1990s. Hey Arnold taught us the value of being true to ourselves, that it’s okay to be a little different, and that even the worst situations can be made into positives. Despite having run well into the 2000s, Arnold and the gang certainly deserve a spot on the schedule.

Rocko’s Modern Life

Another progressive 90s cartoon, Rocko’s Modern Life taught us kids a bit about the grown-up world, through the adventures of the titular wallaby. The show was popular among both kids and adults, and also helped launch the career of SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg. This show would even make a nice candidate for the rumored upcoming round of revivals in the works over at Nickelodeon as well.

(HONORABLE MENTION: Ren & Stimpy, it was simply too controversial to imagine them bringing it back)

Live Action

The Games (Legends of the Hidden Temple, Double Dare, GUTS)

Once upon a time, there was an entire cable network (Nickelodeon Games-And-Sports [GAS]) dedicated to airing re-runs of old 90s Nickelodeon game shows. Unfortunately, the channel was not popular enough and was needed to launch what is now the TEENick channel, so it was retired to little fanfare. However, this new channel gives the opportunity to start airing classics like Legends of the Hidden Temple, Double Dare, and GUTS. Nickelodeon has shown a willingness to return to game shows recently, having given Figure It Out! a brief chance at a revival a year or so ago, so adding the classic games to their classic channel’s lineup doesn’t seem like a stretch.

All That

Kenan Thompson. Kel Mitchell. Nick Cannon. Gabriel Iglesias. Amanda Bynes (for better or worse). That’s just a sampling of the talents that got their first exposure on SNICK’s All That. The show provided a kids’ answer to Saturday Night Live, often even matching it in hilarity. Given that All That episodes have occasionally snuck into TEENick lineup slots, it seems likely that The Splat will include the popular sketch show amongst its programming.


Regardless of which shows end up being selected, The Splat promises a fantastic opportunity for nostalgic 90s kids such as myself to re-live some of the best moments from Nickelodeon back in the day.

Discussion TV News

Why We All Love “Meta” Humor

Whenever a show makes a joke referencing itself, fans go crazy. Shows like Community formed their entire reputation off of self-referential humor. But what is it about being “meta” that viewers love so much?

Breaking the Wall

One reason we love “meta” moments is that it breaks the inherent artifice of the medium. We know we are watching television, the people making the show know we are watching, so why not make that connection? With the introduction of single-camera shows, there is more than ever a sense of connection with the characters; the absence of a studio audience (or, dare I say, laugh track) creates a more intimate viewing experience, as does the less-homogenized filming format.

Makes Us Feel Smart

When a viewer encounters a self-referential joke, there tends to be a certain pride in having “got the joke”. Not everyone can grasp “meta” humor, and not many people even look for it. It lets us run off to Reddit to chat with others who are in-the-know, and gives us something to explain to our friends when we watch it with them while they look at us like we’re freaks. We like to feel smart and like we understand an inside joke, so “meta” humor serves us well.

Connects Us to Characters

Meta humor that breaks the fourth wall can allow the characters to connect directly with the audience. It can be taken to such extremes as It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, the king of meta, where Shandling would directly address the audience (both in the studio and at home) for most of the episode. This allows us to feel like we’re interacting with the characters on the screen in front of us. It’s kind of like Dora the Explorer for adults.

Ultimately, meta humor has a certain appeal, especially among TV nerds like myself. And shows willing to experiment with it always seem to be rewarded.

Discussion Sitcoms

“The League” Opens Its Final Season on a Strong Note

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Long-running sitcoms can be hard to judge accurately. On one hand, any show that can survive six or seven seasons is worthy of some sort of praise for doing so. Most shows, especially sitcoms, tend to fizzle out after just three or four years unless they manage to capture a vast audience. On the other, most shows (again, especially sitcoms) tend to enter their decline after 4 or 5 seasons.

“The League”, now entering its seventh and final season, has certainly shown its age at times over the past season or two. However, with any aging show given the chance to end things on its own terms, there is the hope that the creative team behind it will rally around the show’s impending exit, leading to a sudden resurgence in quality. The recently ended Parks and Recreation, for example, made up for dull points in its last few seasons by delivering a creative, powerful final installment. This begs the question of whether the talented folks behind “The League” will be able to do the same.

For its seventh season, the show begins by switching things up a bit: rather than opening with the league’s fantasy draft, they open with the actual NFL Draft (which occurred this year in their hometown of Chicago) as the center of the story. Jenny wins a trip to the draft to announce Chicago’s pick, while the league determines how to go about hazing Taco for winning the Sacko/Ruxin.

The good

As mentioned earlier, long running shows can often drop in quality. For sitcoms this usually means weak and/or recycled jokes. Last season was rather hit or miss for The League, but at least through one episode the jokes seem to be working.

Taco as the Sacko was a brilliant move for the show, as it creates a unique problem for the gang: how do you humiliate and punish someone who has no shame and kind of likes being punished? Taco’s backwards ways lead him to eagerly attempt to humiliate himself in anticipation, and the others bristle at the realization that this whole Sacko punishment thing really means nothing to Taco.

Of course, this ultimately leads to the return of Mr. McGibblets, Taco’s oversized costume of a popular in-universe kids’ toy. It was a welcomed callback from a show that struggled last season at times to make callbacks seem organic rather than forced.

And let’s not forget the new plot point of Andre becoming an item with Pete’s generally-awful ex-wife Meegan. That promises to be entertaining.

The bad

I didn’t quite gather why Kevin (and the rest of the guys) felt that Jenny owed it to Kevin to give him the whole “announce a draft pick” experience. She won it, and wanted to do it, so why expect her to give it up?

Similarly, the guys seem satisfied with the end result of Taco and Jenny skirmishing on stage and we close on that, even though it resolves neither issue at hand.

The otherwise notable

Marshawn Lynch appears briefly in a scene mocking the Seahawks’ decision to pass on the final play of last season’s Super Bowl rather than to just run it in, a decision which quite literally cost them the game. I wonder how pleased his coach and teammates were to see that…

Conclusion

Overall this felt like an average episode of The League, which is really what was needed after last season’s premiere attempted to take on a bit too much. Here’s to hoping the season goes well and leaves us with fond memories of the show once it’s gone.

Sitcoms

Colbert Bits Evoking Memories of Late-Night Past

As I watched The Late Show‘s second episode last night, I was most impressed by how quickly the show got comfortable. Specifically, they introduced what seems poised to be a recurring bit, “The Hat Has Spoken”.

The bit’s construction is simple: a big fuzzy dictator hat is lowered from the ceiling, descending onto Stephen and allowing him to make decrees that shall be considered law. Colbert sternly outlines his list of demands, including gems such as “From this day forward, no one is required to say goodbye to every single acquaintance before leaving a party” (this one drew the first big applause of the evening). The bit is certainly random and absurd, which is an encouraging development. Once the audience understood the conceit, they seemed to jump on board instantly, and it was definitely a success.

The bit stuck out to me further due to what it reminded me of. Fans of Late Night with Conan O’Brien will remember his recurring bit, “In the Year 3000”. Colbert’s “The Hat Has Spoken” bares many resemblances to Conan’s “3000” bit, right down to the “object being lowered from the ceiling” aspect of it. It’s quite possible that the Colbert bit was, in fact, written by longtime Conan writer Brian Stack.

It’s nice to see Colbert already experimenting with bringing back the exciting absurdity of the days of Late Night. Already, it’s clear that the show is aiming for something between Conan and Fallon as far as tone is concerned. They’re combining the wackiness and absurdity of Conan with the jovial and inviting nature of Fallon’s Tonight Show. The results, so far, have been worth tuning in for.

Here’s a clip of the Colbert bit:

Late Night

Stephen Belongs Here: Recap/Review of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Debut

The highly anticipated debut of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert just wrapped up. After all the anticipation and curiosity as to what Colbert would bring to the network late night landscape, the moment was finally here. Here is a recap of the night, along with my thoughts on how it went.

Cold Open/Monologue

The cold open featured Colbert singing the national anthem in various locations. Eventually it concludes on a baseball field, with an umpire (Jon Stewart, of course) encouraging us to “Play ball!”

We then cut to Stephen emerging to the crowd, who greeted him with the usual chants of “Stephen!” (Poor James Corden, there was never a chance they wouldn’t run late tonight) Stephen opens with “Hello nation!”, a nice little shoutout to the Report days. Jean Baptiste and Stay Human sound great, and bring a softer jazzy counterpart to the legendary Roots crew on NBC. Colbert has no sidekick, a wise decision given his own stage presence.

The set looks terrific, both traditional and modern. Colbert delivers a solid monologue, then cuts to the new theme song for the show, a nice friendly tune that fits well with Stay Human’s style.

To the desk!

Stephen instructs his director (Jimmy, a name diehard Colbert Report viewers will recognize) to get a better look at his new desk. It’s very sleek, and obviously not nearly as ostentatious or “C”-shaped as his previous desk. He shows off the rest of the set, up to the stained glass dome at the top now adorned with Stephen’s face. We can tell right off the bat that the real Stephen is every bit as good as the character, and that really the two aren’t so different at all when you strip out the politics angle. Colbert then closes with a bizarre ad placement sequence about selling his soul to the devil, brought to you by Sabre.

We return from commercial to discuss the election, and of course Stephen can’t resist jumping right on board the Trump bandwagon. Stephen’s jokes on Trump are great and prove that he’ll still delve into political territory, albeit with a different angle.

Interview #1: Clooney

George Clooney comes out for what ends up being quite a fun first interview. Gone are the days of Stephen running around hyping up the audience about himself when an interviewee appears — when the crowd begins chanting again, Colbert insists, “He’s the guest, not me!” Colbert and Clooney share some laughs over the fact that they don’t really know each other, but of course celebrity power has brought them together tonight. They close with a joking trailer for Clooney’s fake movie “Decision Strike”, which you know you totally would watch.

Interview #2: Jeb Bush

This one was less fun. Jeb Bush comes out, and the energy is rather awkward. Jeb seems friendly enough, but it’s clear he’s not comfortable. It doesn’t help that Stephen is not about to go lightly just because it’s his first show; he plainly states to Bush that he will not vote for him at all. Stephen takes a no-nonsense approach to the interview as a whole. He cuts to his family in the audience, and then uses this as a lead-in to ask Jeb about his brother. (Jeb, for his part, kind of steps around answering the question)

Music Finale

To close out the show, Jean Baptiste and Stay Human perform “Everyday People” with several musical guests, none of whom I initially was able to recognize. Nonetheless, it was a nice ending to the night.

Summary and final thoughts

It’s clear that Stephen belongs here. The show had its rough patches that figure to be worked out over the coming weeks, but Stephen just seems like a natural on network television. The tone of the show is that of a less political, less egotistical Colbert Report, bringing over the best elements from that era while creating a unique new voice for late night television. Colbert figures to challenge Fallon’s current late-night monopoly, assuming viewers react as positively as I think they will. It will be fun to watch the show develop over the next month or so, but it seems as though Colbert hasn’t lost a step in switching over to CBS.

A few stray observations

  • The graphics as they cut to commercial could definitely be improved. Kinda gives off a morning show vibe.
  • Stephen offered a nice tribute to his predecessor, David Letterman, without whom this show wouldn’t even exist.
  • Looks like Jon Stewart is on board as a co-executive producer, via the credits.
  • Maybe it was the lighting, but Clooney looked more orange than Trump.
Late Night