Happy 4th of July to all of you from all of us at Awards Daily TV. Hope you have a safe and happy holiday weekend!
On Monday’s Awards Daily TV Water Cooler podcast, we tackle the trend of translating films into television series. Some are smash audience and critical hits (Fargo, Hannibal). Some are total duds (MTVs Scream, in our humble opinion). Joey, Megan, and I discuss what makes a good film-to-TV translation. What qualities exist in a film’s DNA that spawn successful television?
Then, we each wear our studio exec hats and greenlight TV series of our own. Some of our choices dazzle. Some… Well… Some we just politely nod and move on. Join in the discussion by posting your own personal favorite films that you think would make great TV series. We’d love to hear what you think.
In a little bit of casting news today, two high profile projects announced the additions of Oscar-winning actresses to their cast roster. In HBO’s adaption of the Tony award-winning play All the Way, Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Wayward Pines) will join Emmy and Tony winner Bryan Cranston’s LBJ as Lady Bird Johnson. On a purely physical basis, this is note-perfect casting, and no doubt Leo is well up to the challenge of meeting the sure-to-be-Emmy-nominated work from Cranston.
FOX’s Empire will add Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny) in a recurring role for Season Two. Her character will be Mimi Whiteman (oh-so-subtle, Empire), a venture capitalist entangled with the Lyon family. She is described by Deadline as “a lover of hip hop music, social trends, high-end fashion and beautiful women.” I’m on board with everything but the name. That has to be a joke, right?
All the Way doesn’t have a specific air date but will likely air in Spring 2016. Empire Season Two kicks off September 23, three days after the 2015 Emmy Awards.
Netflix has released the first full trailer for their upcoming Wet Hot American Summer series based on the cult-classic film.
Let’s be honest. You didn’t think CBS’s Extant was going to come back for a second season, did you? When it was renewed for a sophomore go around, I was left scratching my head. What started as a space paranoia tale full of alien offspring and government cover-ups, Extant descended into an overly stuffed melodrama that couldn’t keep its head above water. The star power of Halle Berry made it watchable, and the retooled second season showcases the obvious changes.
It’s been six months since Ethan sacrificed himself for the good of humanity, but his mother, Molly Woods, isn’t doing so great. She’s lounging in a mental institution engrossing herself in virtual realities of spending time with her son and having shower sex with men that aren’t her husband, John (Goran Visnjic). I would endorse her having sex with anyone else other than John, because he’s probably one of the worst characters ever written, and Berry had more chemistry with Bruce Willis in that horrendous thriller, Perfect Stranger.
Molly has been told her offspring/child/alien lovebaby has been killed, and John manages to rebuild Ethan to a noble state. May I say thank goodness, because Pierce Gagnon is easily one of the best things about the show. Ethan is always a leering, creepy presence, and Gagnon is an actor far beyond his years. His return is unceremonious, however, because he is quickly kidnapped by some men in uniforms spouting off matters of national security. Not all is good at home, though, because Molly discovers that John and his lab assistant, Julie (Mamie Gummer), have indeed been having an affair.
The strongest thing about the second season opener is the notion that Berry embraces the idea of how absurd this all could be. There’s a scene where she mouths off to the sanitarium’s officials over her mental state (Molly refers to it as a “rest facility”), and we are reminded that her alien baby ages rapidly. The episode finishes with a college aged kid picking up a babe in a bar before his eyes turn a vicious yellow. Sheesh, I’m glad I’m not on Tinder.
The entire show has been completely retooled. Fingers crossed that CBS will just let Berry run wild like a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown and struggling to find the truth! Molly teams up with a hit man played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, looking particularly scruffy and bored. My wish to see John get the boot is granted when he is hit by a train midway through the premiere, but something really bugged me about the treatment of the character of Julie. They allow her to fall into the trap of a clichéd scorned woman. She insists to John that they can start their “family” over again even though he clearly ended things. There is a scene where she has Ethan in her house, and I hope that they aren’t going to try and pit Berry and Gummer against each other for too long.
The show is trying to takeoff again, and it doesn’t need weighted down by such obvious plotlines. It’s going to struggle to keep my attention as is, so just let Berry run amok!
Members of the Television Academy who participated in voting for this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards nominations selected their preferences last week and turned in final ballots before last Friday. While most of the emphasis falls on the series and acting races before nominations are announced, predicting what will be voted into Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series and Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series is more difficult. When voting in these races, Academy members nominate specific episodes on the ballot, unlike in the acting and series races where the work/artist must first accomplish the nomination, then an episode is choose by the panel of judges to evaluate for the win.
Since the episodes being considered are already selected and many shows submitted multiple episodes (shows are ultimately competing against themselves), securing a nomination is a more strenuous task than winning in these categories.
For example, when someone voted for Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, they simply marked off Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, no episode included. (Cranston, after being nominated, picked an episode to contend for the win.) But for Vince Gilligan to have been nominated in the writing category, a voter had to mark off an episode title, like “Felina,” on the ballot, not “Vince Gilligan.”
One of the more fruitful paths of the writing and directing races is for a show to simply present only one knockout episode on the ballot. Doing that eliminates the possibility that Academy members will split votes among various episodes from a single show. This year, Downton Abbey decided on single submissions for each category: “Episode 8” for writing and “Episode 9” for directing. It’s likely the show will conquer slots in both categories (even in the less likely directing group), because Academy members often use a show they personally admire as a filler nominee (we all understand Downton Abbey is an Emmy-voter favorite), and having only one option from that personally admired show with which to fill the ballot increases the show’s odds of being nominated.
Masters of Sex frugally submitted episodes this year as well. The much-acclaimed episode “Fight” was submitted for both writing and directing, and the season two premiere, “Parallax” was subsequently placed on the writing ballot. While their scarcity looks to be profitable, Masters of Sex has an uphill battle to climb with the Academy this year. The topic of sex does not exactly leap off the screen as bait for older voters, and the fact that Masters of Sex was overlooked in most of the major categories last year is very telling of the lack of interest in the show. The second season did not hit any new highs in terms of buzz either, so even with strong submissions, it’s not easy to justify newfound faith in the show after such a noiseless first run at the Emmys.
The Americans chose wisely out of its thirteen superb episodes, picking showcases that emphasize the strengths voters look for in each category: “Stingers” and “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” for writing, and “Walter Taffet” and “March 8, 1983” for directing. The Americans has been overlooked by the Emmys twice, so the hope for the show seems to be dimming, even after its most celebrated season yet. Boardwalk Empire has been falling off the Emmy radar for the past two years, but the directors’ branch of the Academy is known to have a soft spot for the show. The series’ submissions included “Cuanto,” “Friendless Child” and “Eldorado” for directing, in addition to the less-likely “What Jesus Said,” “King of Norway,” “Devil You Know,” and “Eldorado” in writing. Of its three submissions, Boardwalk Empire’s most promising directing bet is the series finale, “Eldorado.”
Game of Thrones is smarter than most shows with its selections, particularly in the writing category where it usually lists one episode. The season finale “Mother’s Mercy” is the sole option for the writing branch to nominate or snub. With its strong position enshrined in the drama series race, it’s a show most voters will fall back on to fill empty spaces on the ballot when selecting their nominees, which considerably extends the show’s chances here. The Academy members who do watch the show should be able to recall some of the memorable moments from “Mother’s Mercy,” like Cersei’s Walk of Shame and Jon Snow’s shocking death, which will help it get voted in as a finalist. On the directing side, the fan-favorite epic submitted “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” “Hardhome,” and “Mother’s Mercy.” “Hardhome” looks to be the closest thing one could call a lock in this category due to its buzzing fifteen-minute zombie attack. But “Mother’s Mercy,” as good as the writing is, relies heavily on the directing to give it the impact we felt while watching it. If a show gets double nominations in either of these categories this year, it will most likely be Game of Thrones in directing for “Hardhome” and “Mother’s Mercy.” There are usually one or two shows that get multiple notices in the same category: Breaking Bad got two writing nominations for the past two years; Mad Men got two, sometimes three and four, writing nominations while reigning over Outstanding Drama Series.
House of Cards received both writing and directing nominations last year, but unlike this year, the same episode was its only submission for both categories. Only having one option increased its chances last year because the show was not competing against itself for a position on the shortlist. This year, Netflix appears more indecisive about its chances for the Outstanding Drama Series frontrunner in these two critical categories, submitting three episodes in writing (“Chapter 32,” “Chapter 35,” “Chapter 39”), and four in directing (“Chapter 28,” “Chapter 35,” “Chapter 37,” “Chapter 39”). Having once won the directing category two years ago and factoring in the heavily directed nature of the show, House of Cards was most likely voted in for a directing nomination last week. But for which episode? “Chapter 37” and “Chapter 39” were among the show’s more significant directing achievements this year, flaunting tricky camera moves and weighty plot developments. I say the spot is between those two while leaning towards the former. On the writing side, the Academy could want to nominate Beau Willimon personally and opt for “Chapter 39,” otherwise the greatest chance for writing (albeit voters are actually watching the episodes) is “Chapter 32,” which is hailed by most binge-watchers as being a series highlight in the writing department. It dared to cover a topical subject matter in gay rights and contained notable moments in the season’s arc.
The Good Wife has an advantage this year over shows that tend to be more popular with the Emmys: it won the Writers Guild Award award for best episodic writing in February. Assuming the WGA holds as much precedent as the other guilds (like SAG, where winners Uzo Aduba, Viola Davis, and Kevin Spacey are all considered locks in their respective categories), The Good Wife looks to be in an optimal position for a nomination in the writing category. And besides having one leg up in having been nominated in this category before, CBS submitted the perfect Emmy-writer-bait episode in “Oppo Research,” penned by Robert and Michelle King, the creators and driving forces behind the critic-favorite series. The Good Wife also has the most mechanically impressive episode of the 2014-15 in the ingenious “Mind’s Eye,” which was on the longlist for directing. Success in a directing nomination is less likely than winning a spot in the writing category, for no other reason than The Good Wife is not as dependent on flashy directing as shows like Game of Thrones and House of Cards. The directing branch may not have been paying as much attention to the series as the writing branch.
But there’s a problem that faces The Good Wife: it didn’t submit only those killer episodes. In addition to “Oppo Research,” “The Deconstruction” was a second writing submission, and the three episodes placed on the directing ballot were “Mind’s Eye” (directed by Robert King), “Loser Edit” (directed by Brooke Kennedy), and “The Deconstruction” (written and directed by Ted Humphrey). Instead of submitting two straight shots that could have guaranteed nominations, they offered work from each of the series’ longtime contributors, Kennedy and Humphrey, in addition to the showrunners, the Kings. Writing is less of an issue than directing though, because the consensus says “Oppo Research” is the season’s best episode and “The Deconstruction” among the season’s worst.
Like The Good Wife, Homeland won the television honor at the Directors Guild Awards, which should make it a frontrunner in the directing category. Homeland received two nominations in Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for its first two seasons and won the writing category consecutively. But sadly, this is where superfluous submissions wound strong shows. The team behind Homeland submitted half of their twelve episodes this year, and that’s something that could really hinder its chances. Homeland is not the only show that failed to be circumspect in its Emmy strategy: Orange is the New Black submitted six in writing and four in directing, while Mad Men and Better Call Saul practically offered their entire seasons to the Academy for the first round of voting:
Better Call Saul
Writing (6 submissions): Uno, Five-O, Alpine Shepherd Boy, Bingo, Pimento, Marco
Directing (9 submissions): Uno, Mijo, Five-O, Alpine Shepherd Boy, Bingo, Pimento, Nacho, Rico, Marco
Writing (6 submissions): The Drone Queen, About a Boy, Redux, Halfway to a Donut, There’s Something Else Going On, 13 Hours in Islamabad
Directing (5 submissions): From A to B and Back Again, Redux, Halfway to a Donut, There’s Something Else Going On, 13 Hours in Islamabad
Writing (6 submissions): New Business, The Forecast, Time & Life, Lost Horizon, The Milk and Honey Route, Person-to-Person
Directing (5 submissions): Severance, The Forecast, Time & Life, Lost Horizon, Person-to-Person
Orange is the New Black
Writing (6 submissions): Thirsty Bird, It Was The Change, You Also Have a Pizza, Low Self Esteem City, 40 Oz. of Furlough, We Have Manners. We’re Polite.
Directing (4 submissions): Thirsty Bird, Low Self Esteem City, 40 Oz. Of Furlough, We Have Manners. We’re Polite.
Whenever shows put mass amounts of episodes on the nomination ballot, making it to the next round can become a matter of name recognition of the writer/director, or individual episodes whose buzz universally stands out from of all other available options. So, Better Call Saul’s best bet for a nomination in either category is for the pilot episode, “Uno,” because Emmy King Vince Gilligan, the man responsible for the incumbent drama series winner, directed it. Submitting so many examples really shoots itself in the foot for something like “Five-O,” which has the acclaim to make it in to writing had there been fewer Better Call Saul episodes on the ballot. Orange is the New Black is similar in that it has an episode directed by industry mogul Jodie Foster, “Thirsty Bird.” It’s also a safe bet because Foster was nominated last year for her work on the show. Regrettably for Orange is the New Black, its salty writing could be passed over this year since it’s now in the more competitive drama writing field (not the lighter comedy it was up against last year) and doesn’t have a clear season two masterpiece every voter will be marking down. If a writing nomination does surface, it will likely be “Thirsty Bird,” duplicating its directing hopes, or “We Have Manners. We’re Polite,” a distant possibility.
Homeland does not have the jeweled name recognition of Gilligan or Foster to secure a nomination, but it did have three episodes that reinvigorated the series after season three’s enormous quality drop: “Halfway to a Donut,” “There’s Something Else Going On,” and “13 Hours in Islamabad.” Of those three, I could see voters drawn to “There’s Something Else Going On” for the sheer size and epic feel, but also there’s no denying the seismic audience reaction to “13 Hours in Islamabad.” “From A to B and Back Again,” which was the episode to win DGA, is a strong possibility too. Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series is wide open yet severely competitive this year, and since the writing is not necessarily what drew fans back to Homeland in its fourth season, a writing nomination is a longer shot than its guild-winning directing.
Mad Men was once the toast of the Emmy ceremony, and reflecting the boldness it acquired over the years, AMC put forth 85% of its final season on the ballot. There were some excellent — some of the best ever — episodes in this second half of the final season, but this is a different time we live in compared to when Mad Men was in full power at the Emmys. No show is going to occupy three or four of the five nominees like it used to. Heck, the more-than-worthy “Waterloo” could not even get into the writing category last year for the first half of the seventh season. But, Mad Men has the episode everyone will be eyeing up in its finale “Person-to-Person.” It’s a lock for writing and stands a good chance in directing, if not for anything else but for being “the Mad Men finale.” If another Mad Men episode stretches into writing, it may come down to either the iconic-moment-filled “Lost Horizon,” the fresh “Time & Life,” or the penultimate episode “The Milk and Honey Route.”
Lastly are three freshman shows that have Emmy potential: The Affair, Bloodline, and Empire. The big question mark of this pre-nominations phase of the Emmys is whether or not The Affair will stick with voters, because some argue it’s not exactly the Emmy’s taste. But if they fall for it, expect the pilot to be nominated for writing. The Emmys love to nominate pilot episodes and The Affair’s pilot shows the inventive narrative at its most welcoming. Showtime has submitted the pilot for both categories, the heavily emotional ninth episode in both categories, and seventh episode for directing. Bloodline is going to be a hit or miss show with the Emmys. I’m expecting it to have, at best, a modest success with nominations (being merely good doesn’t get you a spot at the table with the big kids anymore), but they chose carefully in the submissions, only submitting “Part 12” for writing and parts 1, 4, and 13 for directing. The freshman show that is the safest to leave its mark on Emmy territory is Empire. The odds of it being nominated in directing for the pilot, which was orchestrated by Oscar-nominee Lee Daniels, are favorable. Outside of the pilot being submitted in writing and directing, Empire also will be competing with “The Lyon’s Roar” and “Dangerous Bonds” in directing, and “False Imposition,” “Die But Once,” “The Lyon’s Roar,” “Unto to Breach” in writing. However, it’s doubtful the show will likely attract the writers’ attention with its soapy tone and execution.
After taking all of the submissions from the Emmy’s top shows into extensive consideration, the following lists are my predictions of the frontrunners and possibilities for the nominations in the writing and directing categories.
Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series
- Person-to-Person, Mad Men**
- Mother’s Mercy, Game of Thrones**
- Episode 8, Downton Abbey**
- Oppo Research, The Good Wife**
- Chapter 32, House of Cards**
- Pilot, The Affair
- Fight, Masters of Sex
- Thirsty Bird, Orange is the New Black
- Uno, Better Call Saul
- Lost Horizon, Mad Men
- The Milk and Honey Route, Mad Men
- Chapter 39, House of Cards
- Time & Life, Mad Men
- Stingers, The Americans
- Five-O, Better Call Saul
- Halfway to a Donut/There’s Something Else Going On/13 Hours, Homeland
- Part 12, Bloodline
- We Have Manners. We’re Polite, Orange is the New Black
Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series
- Hardhome, Game of Thrones**
- Uno, Better Call Saul**
- Thirsty Bird, Orange is the New Black**
- Eldorado, Boardwalk Empire**
- Chapter 37, House of Cards**
- Pilot, Empire
- Person-to-Person, Mad Men
- Mother’s Mercy, Game of Thrones
- 13 Hours in Islamabad, Homeland
- Episode 9, Downton Abbey
- Chapter 39, House of Cards
- There’s Something Else Going On, Homeland
- From A to B and Back Again, Homeland
- Mind’s Eye, The Good Wife
- Fight, Masters of Sex
The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be unveiled July 16.
We’ve all heard that Hollywood just recycles old ideas over and over, mass producing entertainment for the masses. Twin Peaks. The X-Files. Minority Report. Coach. The 10,000th take on Frankenstein. Call it the McDonald’s Effect on television, comfort food for the mind. Still, even I was a bit taken aback by the sheer volume of remakes and revisits announced today by multiple networks.
I know that favorites House of Cards and Game of Thrones were famously based on other material, but is this what we really expect from the “Golden Age of Television?”
Most high profile among the announcements today was FOX’s revelation that they are developing a short event series based on the smash 1987 thrilled Fatal Attraction which famously starred Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. Before rolling your eyes too quickly, the project will be penned by Mad Men writers Marie and Andrew Jacquemetton for Paramount Television. The series, detailing a married man’s affair and the subsequent fallout, has the potential to continue into a second season should the project prove successful.
Following closely in the prestige project list is A&E’s remake of the classic 70s mini-series Roots which has attracted Laurence Fishburne, according to today’s Variety. The new project has been described as incorporating elements of the original mini-series while adding new content pulled from historical research. The big question in my mind is how critics will react to the project after the minor push-back the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave received for its similarity to the original Roots mini in certain quarters.
Lifetime TV made two additional fairly large announcements today. One included the announcement of an original film about the life of Charlie Manson. While technically not a remake, the story of Charlie Manson has been oft-told, most recently in NBC’s Aquarius. This new production, tentatively titled Manson’s Lost Girls, centers around the girls who fell under Manson’s influence and carried out a series of brutal murders in the late 60s. The announced cast includes Jeff Ward (The Mentalist) as Manson and MacKenzie Mauzy (Into the Woods), Eden Brolin (I Dream Too Much), and Greer Grammer (Awkward) as the influenced girls.
Also from Lifetime is yet another “Unauthorized” telepic of behind the scenes shenanigans of famous television shows. Following in the footsteps of Lifetime’s Saved By the Bell and the yet-to-air Beverly Hills, 90210, and Full House pics is the Unauthorized Melrose Place Story. This outing will reportedly center on the recruitment of Heather Locklear to save the once-flagging drama. No word on whether or not Marcia Cross’s storyline as psycho Kimberly will be incorporated.
Finally, ABC announced today that Black-ish star Anthony Anderson will host a 6-episode reboot of the classic game show To Tell The Truth. Betty White and NeNe Leakes have been announced as panelists for the truth-telling show. The addition of the new game show is in direct reaction to the recent success of Celebrity Family Feud on Sunday nights.
Scream was my obsession in high school. Anyone that went to Lincoln High knows that Sidney Prescott was my favorite final girl, so it’s only natural that I went into MTV’s Scream series with jagged trepidation. I can say with confidence that I am a Scream afficianado. Could something like a slasher flick work as a series? Let the meta discussions begin. The biggest tragedy about this concept, though, is that MTV is using the Scream name when it doesn’t really bear any resemblance to the innovative horror series.
Forgive me for sounding like an old man shaking his cane, but this isn’t Scream. Sure, there are teenagers aware of their surroundings and about pop culture, but they are also sniveling brats. Most of the teenage boys look exactly alike (I only can tell them apart by their random physical attributes), and they come off rather disposable from the premiere episode.
The opening kill centers on a bitchy girl named Nina (played by Bella Thorne) who comes home late to lounge in her hot tub as she flirts with her boyfriend via text even though she’s receive creepy Snapchats from someone who is watching her. She barks commands into her phone and then settles in for a dip to only be disturbed by her boyfriend’s decapitated head in the hot tub. Her throat is slashed and she’s tossed into the pool. Bye girl bye. Drew Barrymore, you are not.
The aftermath of Nina’s death leads us to meeting everyone in her social circle. The Sidney Prescott of this season is obviously Emma (Willa Fitzgerald), and she’s dating a shiny-lipped jock named Will (Connor Weil). There’s a bitchy friend…there’s a nerdy, awkward outcast who has a hard time talking with girls…there’s the beautifully coiffed mystery studs. The horror archetypes are all accounted for. The problem is that I don’t give a flying Ghostface about any of them. There are only two redeemable characters.
Emma’s mother, Maggie, has a secret to hide. In flashbacks, we find out that she was the subject of obsession of a disfigured boy in high school. He went on a killing rampage, and then she helped lure him into a trap with police, resulting in him getting shot and falling into Lakewood’s forever-whispering lake. Maggie receives a heart wrapped in an adorable box on her doorstep (seriously, that packaging would go over so well at your local county fair). The town is called Lakewood, by the way. And boy does Scream have wood for that lake. It’s always covered in fog and it quite literally hisses and whispers every time it’s shown. The other good character is Audrey, the Randy Meeks-like film fan who becomes the target of a cruel joke when a video of her making out with another girl goes viral. She might be able to lure teenagers into this show, and she holds her own against all the idiots she surrounded by.
Listen, a lot has changed since 1996. While I didn’t like the girl in the opening scene, I did appreciate the homages to the original film throughout the episode (the big windows in the house, the garage scene that had me begging for a kitty door). Technology has changed so drastically with how we use phones that the original Scream feels almost like a period piece to an extent. The characters in the original series were smarter than this. Can they capture some essence from the original entry?
Horror television series are mentioned in an earlier scene. American Horror Story and Hannibal are brought up, and one character asks if horror can be translated into a series. It can, but it doesn’t need the Scream name. As Sidney Prescott said in Scream 4 right when she took down the killer in the overwrought finale…
“Don’t fuck with the original.”
As the U.S. version of The Office leaked a bit of gusto in it’s final seasons (Michael Scott’s departure left a gaping hole), there was a bright light still shining from a corner of the room in the form of Erin Hannon. By no means a main character, and was never intended to fill Michael’s shoes, nor that of Dwight Schrute or Pam Halpert. However, Erin was cute and cheerful, with a childlike innocence. Although certainly not the sharpest tool in the box, her naive look on the world may have been her redeeming feature. One of the most likable workers at Dunder Mifflin. And one of the most loved characters of The Office.
I was personally intrigued about whether someone like Ellie Kemper (who played Erin) would go onto other equally good or better shows or roles. My interest in her potential to become something of a leading lady was quenched when Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (both writers on 30 Rock) created Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. An American comedy in the same slightly screwball, alluringly amusing ballpark as 30 Rock, while allowing Ellie Kemper to bring a little bit of Erin Hannon’s clueless charm.
Kimmy Schmidt (Kemper) is rescued from an underground bunker (and end-of-the-world cult Reverend) with three other women. Kimmy, like the others, has for fifteen years been locked away from the world, brainwashed to believe it pretty much no longer existed. And so now she has to adjust to the big bad world, in New York City. Except it is not that bad, but her acclimatization will take some time. What stands out here (in a blissfully watchable show) is that it is far less George of the Jungle or Crocodile Dundee, and much more a reassuringly joyful and somewhat feminine-driven comedy of self rediscovery. Kimmy wants to shake off her victim stigma (don’t call her one of “The Mole Women”), and is desperately eager to adapt to life as we know it. Or rather to life as she does not know it. A lot can happen, and has happened, in fifteen years, and the excellent writing dab dabs us in and out of how things have, can we say, evolved. And Kimmy is the sponge absorbing it all one day at a time.
Kimmy is soon surrounded by a kaleidoscope of characters that, to be frank, all may have more social issues than the woman who spent half her life in an underground bunker. And this is clear to the audience. That said, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt not once glorifies or dramatizes the trauma of such events, the same way it’s clever humor and redeeming tone never trivializes it.
Those characters back above ground include wannabe drama queen of musical Broadway Titus, whose support of Kimmy is ever so slightly touching in parts. But this is a guy who at one point seriously considers living as a werewolf because he is treated with more respect than a black man in New York. Kimmy’s employer Jacqueline is still a headless chicken as a wife and keeper of her own home, and her own well-being. Her step-daughter Xanthippe paints a bitchy picture of teenhood, but is really a pot of gold underneath. Although it does not tarnish the excellence of the show, or disregard John Hamm’s wacky contribution as Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (yep), the one-track journey to the conclusion of the court case (and the season) is not quite as strong (AKA funny) as the rest. But that is hardly a flaw at all.
Kimmy’s love interests, too, are auto-fails it seems. Initially, Charles seems ideal boyfriend material – though even I wondered while I was watching it why he was such a strong romantic candidate so early on. The daddy’s boy Logan is enticed by Kimmy because of his initial charisma rather than the silver spoon up his bottom. He soon shows his true moronic colors. Only Dong seems to fit the bill so far (remember this season is a mere thirteen episodes), though he has his own America-status issues. Dong and Kim’s actual educational conversing is paralleled with how they emotionally learn from each other – which is sweet enough for you to cheer them on as lovebirds. Saying that, if you are anything like me you will route for whatever makes Kimmy happy.
Comedy-wise, Ellie Kemper nails every line, action and gesture. At times she is borderline Jim Carrey with that toothy smile and goofy facial language. The sliding door back and forth, revealing different facial moods may be the most direct homage. Kemper brings a cluster of faces to the show. All of them, whether temporarily angry, scrunched mouth pride, the determined glint, are all endearing and magnetic. The affirmative nod is a classic regular, when we just know Kimmy has no or little idea what is going on or what has just been said. Remember Joey from Friends?
One such head-shaking moment that had me laughing out loud was when (in a bunker flashback scene) Kimmy is pretending to drive a car, and the clutch appears to be in mid-air. You may have to see it to appreciate it. That and one hundred other moments. There are also harmless impersonations of cultural and social stereotypes, of which as circumstances go Kimmy has little clue about until recently – and that’s why its funny. The world is a different place. In one early scene Jacqueline mistakenly tells her that is strike three regarding her job, “Has baseball changed?!” Kimmy yells in sheer panic.
Ellie Kemper bosses this show, her Kimmy is so reminiscent of The Office‘s Erin, and yet many, many miles apart. Both elements are complimentary to a performance of such grace and encouragement. That face of freedom as Kimmy lands her feet in New York City and embraces the view she has with a huge smile, is not only plastered all over the internet, but might hold a firm place in your memory if your heart is big enough. I wonder how many doubted Ellie Kemper’s transition to leading lady, then. “I will break you Kimmy Schmidt” the Reverend threatens her when she might be onto him in the bunker, Kimmy is defiant in her response: “No you won’t!”.
The Awards Daily TV crew will be celebrating two new premieres tonight in another Awards Daily TV Live Tweet event. Join us for Zoo, an “animals gone wild” (which seems totally redundant) series from CBS based on the 2012 bestseller by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, and Scream, MTV’s foray into the world of TV horror based on Wes Craven’s film series. Zoo has already proven controversial before airing as PETA has weighed in against its use of live animals.
Our last Live Tweet was Lifetime’s A Deadly Adoption and much fun was had by all. If you’re not following us on Twitter, then you can find us at Awards Daily TV, Joey Moser, Clarence Moye, and Megan McLachlan.
We will see all of you online tonight!