For Your Consideration

NBC Universal

NBC Universal hosted an Emmy lunch featuring their top players in the 2017 Emmy season. AwardsDaily TV’s Jazz Tangcay covered the event.

NBC Universal made a start with their Emmy campaign this week with a luncheon at Ysabel’s in Hollywood. In attendance was a who’s who of TV, Jennifer Lopez sat in on corner representing her NBC show, Shades of Blue. Ben Feldman and America Ferrera sat in another talking about their comedy Superstore. Derek Hough dazzled talking about Hairspray Live. Milo Ventimiglia, Justin Hartley, Chris Sullivan and Ron Cephas Jones from This is Us also attended.

This is Us emerged as the surprise breakout hit of the season and the number one show at NBC. It’s an emotional and compelling drama and a huge hit with viewers as well as critics. Sullivan and Ventimiglia didn’t divulge any spoilers about the show. Both praised fans on social media for keeping silent on the show when it airs, only expressing surprise or grief as reactions to what happens in an episode. Both actors also said they were enjoying their break during filming, joking about how they were looking forward to having tacos and discussed their favorite local taco spots. Ventimiglia’s arm was in a cast and will be back in action when the show starts filming Season 2 later this year.

I caught up with Tituss Burgess from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a favorite of the AwardsDaily TV gang. I also had a chat with Carol Kane who revealed her character will have a new boyfriend when Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns on May 19. She didn’t divulge much more than that, so we’ll just have to wait until the new season premieres.

Writer Michael Schur was at another table with the cast of The Good Place, Ted Danson and Kristen Bell. Schur and all were thrilled that the viewer never quite knows what’s going to happen from one episode to the next. That’s just how he likes it. If you haven’t seen the Season 1 finale, you’re in for quite the surprise with what happens. He is already back writing the next season, due to start shooting in April.

I sat down with Jennifer Lopez, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Jack Orman who were there representing Shades of Blue which premiered Season 2 on Sunday night. It won the time slot for NBC, and that was something everyone was delighted about. Goldsmith-Thomas discussed the tweet party Lopez held at her house on Sunday night to celebrate the new episode airing inviting cast, crew and friends for a viewing and tweeting party. Thomas pointed out how the crew, “Protects each other. They love each other. They shoot two episodes at once. It’s hard.”

Lopez added, “Everyone’s in it to win it. Me and them (Thomas and Orman) set the tone that we’re doing work that is important to us and that we’re proud of. Everybody takes a great sense of pride in the show that we’re making.”

Thomas mentioned that she came to TV because “the best writing is on TV and we’re making 13 little movies a year.”

The cast of Shades of Blue makes for phenomenal Sunday night viewing and includes Lopez, Ray Liotta, Drea De Matteo as the crooked NYPD cops all working on the anti-corruption Task Force. Warren Kole plays the FBI agent assigned to the task force and challenges their loyalty. I joked that after watching the premiere I wanted to punch him. Lopez replied, “He gets better and better every episode. I loved him from the beginning when he came in to audition and watching him create this character and get so comfortable in it, and really push the envelope, it’s so impressive.” Orman added jokingly, “My son said to me, “You found a new way to make him more creepy.”

Lopez and Thomas both said it’s an exciting time to be at NBC and on TV. “Jennifer is fearless and wanted to dive into it because it’s a great role.” Lopez has already started thinking about Season 3. Aside from Shades of Blue, Lopez is in the second year of her Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood. She’s also developing World of Dance, a dance competition series for NBC, and at the end of the year will star and produce the live TV production of Bye Bye Birdie. I asked if she was up for directing an episode of the show, she said, “We talk about it. Maybe. It might be time. It has to be at a time when I’m not doing anything else.”

I also had a brief sit down with my friends over at Gold Derby, Tom O’Neil and Marcus Dixon, who were with the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt cast, joined by Jane Krakowski. O’Neil was explaining how the Oscar and Emmy voting systems work much to everyone’s fascination. Krakowski and Kane had no shortage of questions for O’ Neil.

As much as Clarence would have liked me to, sadly, I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to Kerry Ehrin who was there talking about Bates Motel. So, I couldn’t find anything out about the new and final season.

And so we move forth with Emmy campaigning.

Mr. Robot
In the first of an on-going series, Robin Write makes the Emmy case for Mr. Robot to win the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy. Over the next week and a half, the writers of AwardsDaily TV will pour out their hearts and minds to try and convince Emmy voters to follow their expert opinions.

USA Network’s Mr. Robot

Metacritic: 79
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Number of Nominations: 6
Nominations: Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor Drama Series (Rami Malek), Outstanding Writing (“eps1.0_hellofriend.mov (Pilot)”), Outstanding Music Composition, Outstanding Casting, Outstanding Sound Mixing

It may well be full on corporate drama, but Mad Men this is not. It’s eerie and dark, but it’s not Twin Peaks either. It’s a psychological thriller, sure, but it’s nothing like Hannibal. TV is a continually revitalizing medium. In fact, this is especially true in relation to how the quality is easily out-weighing that of film. We long for what we like, but we also want evolution. We want originality. We want to be knocked out of our socks. We don’t always get what we want, sure, but every now and then something comes close to fitting the bill. Dark drama. Psychological thriller. Whatever your tastes, TV finds a way. Sam Esmail’s creation Mr. Robot can be categorized as the above, but the 10-parter is much more than that. Bringing computer hacking and national security to the forefront as well as the mental, human torments that come with such a relevant, in-our-face source of communication, USA’s Mr. Robot challenges our own paranoia and fears of the modern world.

At the core of the techno-noir-TV-business-trip is a multi-layered narrative thrill-ride, both visually and mentally exhausting. And this is nothing if not a plus point. Mr. Robot has plenty of strong, refreshing ideas not just brewing at the surface but over-flowing through the bloodstream. The mind boggles at times as we get lost in online security and the world of computer hot-wiring, a dark world it seems. But there is a real panache about the whole delivery as characters are dropped to the corners of the frames, emphasizing the atmospheric isolation. It’s pretty cinematic in scope too, a sprinkle of Kubrick at times. Director Niels Arden Oplev, who aptly made the Swedish The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo imprints some real David-Fincher-esque tones on proceedings. Composer Mac Quayle, too, gives off a whiff of the Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross collaboration.

Mr. Robot
(Photo: USA Network)

Dug out of a mundane yet well-suited job and swept into a new world of potential anarchy a la Neo in The Matrix (only briefly), young computer whiz Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) falls into the F-Society crowd. F-Society is a bunch of underground hackers apparently lead by the title character deftly played by Christian Slater. His big plan is to banish all debts by launching a cyber attack on the super-corporation E Corp. Cautious, Elliot treads the water carefully but still clearly wants to splash around here, danger or not. In fact the hacking makes him something of a savior as we are introduced to him (uncover child pornography hoarder or discovering another man’s infidelity) but also proves a source of immense trouble. Elliot’s early dilemma is whether to cave to peer pressure and the buzz of the score. I mean, this is what drives Elliot. This is why they chose him, right? His own self-medicated social anxiety and depression don’t make things easier. Fight or flight.

Elsewhere, the slime-ball-come-murderer Tyrell Wellick is a Senior VP at E Corp, doing whatever he can to upgrade his career status. When at home we get to share the extraordinary relationship he has with his pregnant wife, they appear to speak to each other in Danish, and she does not bat an eyelid to his chaotic behavior. Elliot’s real-world allies include his work colleague and friend from childhood Angela (Portia Doubleday) whose own storyline steps into the sympathetic. And then there is his therapist Dr. Gordon (Gloria Reuben). Elliot taps into their lives too through the electronic world, though he will play the protection card much stronger than the ethical one here. Fearless Darlene (Carly Chaikin), one of Mr. Robot’s more prominent hackers, seems to be on the very edge of bother, actually has an incredible loyalty and determination.

In the midst of some truly excellent and very different performances, this is Malek’s game. An actor we no doubt recognized at first (Short Term 12 here), he relishes the big lead role, taking center stage with those big eyes on that sullen face. He never appears to be moping about or dragging his feet. There is still something warm in his gravelly, subdued voice-over. We hear near-enough every thought in his head, building an instant intrigue and impact.

Subconsciously, too, you have your own moments of doubting what Elliot presents us with to be possibly imagined, or at least to what extent. The hoodie implies more the natural concealment Elliot craves than the mere appearance of a street thug. And just when you might mistake him for a whiny super-nerd with a drug problem in the first episode, he sinks to the floor in tears, curling up into a ball. His loneliness is a sucker punch to your own heart and credit goes to Malek for making this wide-earned sociopath a sympathetic character, a kind of anti-hero. Or someone we route for regardless of impulses or integrity.

Claims that the show’s title might mislead viewers into thinking this is about, well, robots, could be a claim for idiocy too, especially if you have seen the trailers, the posters, the word of mouth, opened your eyes, and your mind. Like walking into an advanced I.T. course, it appears complicated and daunting. You could well get lost. But you want to learn. The anticipation is too much. There is still that longing to be on the right track. The show is executed so well. There is no need for a niche or routine to follow. Your attention is held up high enough throughout, given the acting on display, the stirring music (some outstanding songs), the direction, the writing. And although perhaps we crave a detailed or logical explanation from time to time, it is not like we are being cheated here. I was perfectly happy to get swept up in all the technical drama without being distracted by an overuse of computer jargon.

Mr. Robot‘s paltry six nominations at the Emmys might well signify the lack of favorite status (Golden Globe winner Slater was not even honored), but the nods for Writing, Music, Sound Editing, and Casting are justified, and it could well swoop a couple here. Given the shortlist in the Drama Series category, too, Mr. Robot still remains a contender. Lead Actor nominee Malek, without over-analyzing the other actors in the list, must be a real front-runner. Although Emmy voters are creatures of comfort and like what they know, the breakthrough appeal of Malek, representing this brave new show (already hurtling through Season 2 as we speak), on top of what is an obsessive-compulsive, adventurous, emotive turn of alienation and anxiety from the young actor could force him to the front of the queue. That, or the fact his character’s pet goldfish is named Qwerty. Or greater still, get Emmy voters to re-watch episode six, the best of a very good bunch, as Malek shows us a depth of skill, playing Elliot with a fearless swagger, subtle urgency, and then question in that mesmeric, heat-rending final sequence whether or not he loved Shayla.

Paulson

FX hosted an Emmys event last night on the Fox lot for The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. The event was a Q&A featuring Emmy-nominee Sarah Paulson and Marcia Clark with Ryan Murphy directing the episode.

The show was nominated for 22 Emmy Awards, ranking second only to Game of Thrones, and it is favored to take home a number of Emmys. Sarah Paulson, who has been nominated four times before, is the overwhelming favorite to take home an Emmy for her portrayal of lead prosecutor Marcia Clark.

Here are some highlights from the event:

  • Murphy broke the ice by asking Clark and Paulson what their favorite words were. Paulson answered, “Motherf*****.” Clark replied, “C**T.” Cue audience laughter.
  • Talking about her hair during the trial, Clark said, “I never did understand the obsession with the hair.”
  • On her reaction to finding out that this was being made, Clark said her first reaction was, “Oh God. Horrible and misery, because the trial was misery.” She added that when she found out that Ryan Murphy was behind the project, she thought that it was going to be great but painful.
  • Clark said she thinks about Nicole and Ron every day. “I think about the life and the children that Ron didn’t get to parent.” She added that she thinks about Nicole’s children and their life without their mother, and father.
  • Paulson said, to help get into character, not only did she meet with Clark after Episode 6, as Murphy had instilled the rule that the actors couldn’t meet their characters until after that episode. She also read her book and went so far as to seek out the perfume Clark wore during the trial. She ordered a bottle of Magic Noire by Lancome online.
  • Asked about the toughest scene to shoot, Paulson said the toughest scene to shoot was the closing argument.
  • Paulson said she had named the wigs she wore during shooting the series. She had the “Rick James,” “Winston,” and “Miss Perfect,” for the various styles Clark sported during the trial.
  • Clark on whether she sees herself as a feminist icon,”I don’t feel like an icon, I don’t think of myself as an icon. This is hopefully a benefit to all of us.” She did thank Murphy for sexism that was highlighted during the show.
  • Paulson and Clark were asked what shows they binge. Paulson said she binges, “Game of Thrones.” She’s also started watching Stranger Things, and added, “Long live Winona.”

Check out photos from the event below. AwardsDaily TV was there to cover the event.

The Affair

Showtime’s The Affair has been ignored by the Television Academy. Let season two’s brilliant turns change that.

In the autumn of 2014, Showtime unveiled The Affair, an ingenious show that rewrote rules for storytelling. During a time when viewers were surrounded by excellent and challenging television, The Affair stood out as original and profound. It was met with high critical reception, many branding it as the best new show of the 2014 fall season. The Hollywood Foreign Press doused it with Golden Globe nominations and and awarded the program two wins, Drama Series and Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Judging from how well it was received until the point of Emmy nominations last year, The Affair was poised to be a big player for primetime television accolades. But it was shut out and did not receive a single nomination from voting members of Television Academy. This was cause for devastation for fans of this superb show.

The Affair returned for a second season, one that was reached higher and farther in its ambition than did the concise and compact first season. The twelve episodes produced in The Affair’s second year represent the uncompromising tenacity and of the artistic team that works on the show. Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi’s series has only grown stronger and more resonant with maturity. The current Emmy cycle is the time to salute The Affair for what it has accomplished and brought to television in the past two years. If the Television Academy does not honor The Affair this year, it’s quite possible they never will. The show would then join the ranks of The Americans and The Good Wife as an Emmy-snubbed artistic masterpiece that is innovative and much smarter than the social climate it was created in.

When we talk about achievements in the arts, it’s quite possible none match what The Affair has done with its premise. Over the course of an hour, the series tells the same story from the perspective of two characters. Something that is easy to forget when one is watching the show is that the viewer is being exposed to two subjective narratives, and the truth, essentially, is being withheld. It’s a dazzling and novel method of telling a story, one that’s intricately drawn by the writers, directors, actors, and everyone who works on the show. The Affair is not an easy production to construct, but the crew  makes their elaborate effort appear natural and easy, which benefits the show on a greater scale, allowing for the emotional lives of the characters to densely breathe.

The reason the second season of The Affair was so impressive is because of the intrepid narrative expansion. The writers not only allowed us to see the story being told from the perspectives of the show’s two main characters, but we were granted permission to witness the story from the point-of-views of spouses of the leading characters who were damaged by the events from the first season. Allowing for not only Noah and Allison but Helen and Cole to headline their own stories was such an effective move by the creators that I distinctly remember the visceral emotional reactions I had after watching most of the episodes months ago. And to keep challenging themselves, the show’s writers dropped the premise for one episode and allowed for a more objective tale be told in the most historic episode of in the story of The Affair thus far, episode 209.

There is so much power in the pain and passion The Affair showed this season. Aside from the new formula the show as using, The Affair dug deeper and wider with the plot it put forward. The second season was more epic and told a longer story chronologically than season one. In covering so much ground in such a short span of episodes, things changed rapidly and in big ways, and characters were moved in unpredictable directions. The second season was always grinding out new ideas and never grew stale.

The area of The Affair that shines through any missteps it might take is the acting. Assembled is a group of actors with sharp capabilities, in particular with those who play the four central characters. Ruth Wilson followed her sublime work in season one with another lofty punch, unveiling Allison’s more independent side and hammering in dramatic emotion like few other actresses are able to. Dominic West was given a darker narrative to run with as Noah in the second season and it provided him an opportunity to develop the character in an optimal way that showcased his acting abilities. Joshua Jackson is also memorable and leaves a greater impact than he did in the previous season.

These actors deserve consideration in their respective categories, but the real star of The Affair in this past season was Maura Tierney, who won a Golden Globe for her work this year. Helen instantly became the most interesting character on the show, and Tierney delivered raw and soulful portrait of a woman who is self-destructing under personal suffering. If nominated, Tierney could walk away from the Emmy ceremony with a trophy in hand from her work in “204” alone.

It’s poetic. It drips of class and refinement. No other show has displayed the drive and audacity that it has. The Affair has earned a right to be considered fully and seriously for Primetime Emmy nominations. Members of the Television Academy, please look to Showtime’s series for merits and vote it into the club this year.

Potential Nominations
Drama Series
Ruth Wilson, Lead Actress
Dominic West, Lead Actor
Maura Tierney, Supporting Actress
Cynthia Nixon, Guest Actress Drama
Kathleen Chalfant, Guest Actress Drama

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin

Jazz Tangcay makes a plea for Emmy to consider both Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin for their superb comedy work in Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.

Last year, Emmy recognized Netflix’s Grace and Frankie with one nomination for Lily Tomlin in Lead Comedy Actress. However, this season the Television Academy should be honoring it with far more. Comedy is quite a cramped category with Veep, Transparent, Silicon Valley and Modern Family predicted to receive multiple nominations.  In the Lead Comedy Actress category, it’s equally as crowded. However, the Television Academy should make room for veterans and Hollywood royalty, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

Tomlin is almost certain to be nominated, but what about Fonda? Both were stellar this season. Let’s be honest, we’d love to see both actresses receive a nod because can you imagine Grace without Frankie or vice versa? There’s an episode this season where Grace gets to meet some friends from days gone by, and by the end, she realizes how much her friendship with Frankie means.

Estelle Parsons, another veteran made an appearance this season. Her character plays Babe, Grace and Frankie’s neighbor who confesses she has terminal cancer and wants Grace and Frankie to throw the mother of all parties. Despite the subject matter, Parsons gave an outstanding performance, standing toe to toe with Fonda and Tomlin in delivering sassy one-liners and excelled in her episodes.  If anything, the Television Academy should reward her with a nomination for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy.

Comedy featuring female duos is at a high this season with plenty to offer from shows such as Broad City and Playing House. Then there’s Grace and Frankie, now in its second season and currently shooting its third season. In case you’ve not seen it, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are back on the small screen together in Grace and Frankie. Brought to you by Marta Kauffman (Friends), the show follows two 70-year-old divorcees whose gay ex-husbands leave them for each other.

Season one spent much of the time developing this complex relationship between Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) as they dealt with the post-divorce fallout. Season two gives us more of the friendship between the superior actresses. They’re together. They’re besties.

Frankly, there’s nothing more rewarding than watching both Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin interact both on and off-screen. Watch this moment at a recent NY Times Look West Event. Watch as they bounce off each other, support each other, and how Fonda helps Tomlin with her necklace. Will this moment make it into season three?

An Interview with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin

I recently paid a visit to Stage 24 on the Paramount lot where cast and crew are filming the third season and was able to speak to both Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in their beach house.

AwardsDaily TV: What’s a typical working day like for both of you?

Lily Tomlin: A lot of it is busy work. We have to get our hair done. We have to do our make-up.

Jane Fonda: We run lines a lot.

LT: We run lines.

JF: Endlessly.

LT: She’s looking at dailies on her iPad. What am I doing? I’m not doing anything. I’m staring at the wall.

JF: I tell you what, neither one of us is reading a heavy book. Sam’s the only one that brings a book.

LT: Sam’s addicted to that Montaigne or whoever.

JF: I have a book with me at all times, but I’ve never read a book since we started.

LT: I have a book with me at all times, and I’ve never read it.

JF: [laughs]

ADTV: I think we all have that book just in case.

JF: Just in case.

ADTV: Was it as if no time had passed since 1980 when you did 9 to 5?

JF: I feel like it was a different lifetime. I feel like a different person.

LT: I feel like no time has passed. In terms of the real concept of time, there is no time.

JF: Cosmically.

LT: I was in my costume room the other day, and I saw several objects. It was silly things like a doll or a lamb that a friend had given me years ago. I quickly put two stuffed animals together so they could be friendly. [laughs].

JF: [Laughs] Did you really?

LT: Yes. I feel so goofy. I said, “Oh Lambie.” There was a little bear, and I put him next to the shelf so they could sit next to each other.

JF: You know what I found in storage the other day?

LT: What?

JF: A box of the rat poison. It’s the prop of the poison that she accidentally puts into the coffee.

LT: Oh, that’s going to be worth a fortune.

JF: My favorite line in the film is her line, “I killed the boss, you think they’re not going to fire me for that?”

LT: The boss was pretty great. We loved our boss. That Dabney Coleman.

JF: It does seem like a long time ago, that we did 9 to 5.

LT: It does. If you only had complete recall like Marilu Henner. You had to remember all those days, one after another. What you were wearing. Who you ate with. What you ate. It would just be mind-boggling.

JF: What does she have to do with it?

LT: She’s got that memory that she remembers the day she met you. She remembers every day isolated in her whole history. It would be great. Important days you do remember. I remember when you came backstage at the Ahmanson Theatre. You had a cape on. You were very glamorous and down to earth.

JF: Oh my gosh, I remember epiphanies. I have a good memory for those. So much has happened since 9 to 5. Wonderful and important things for me. Like On Golden Pond, and other life altering things.

ADTV: What’s it like being one of the few shows that represents women of your age on TV?

JF: It feels very good because older women are the fastest growing demographic globally. We live longer. There’s more of us in the world. It’s great to be doing a show that speaks to older women. But, it also speaks to young girls and that’s what’s so interesting. We didn’t expect that.

LT: It seems like so many young people really love the show. They stop me everywhere. They write on her blog.

ADTV: Lily, you talked about costumes earlier. Where does Frankie get her clothes from?

LT: There is a place by my house called Layers, and you really just find different items. Someone actually wrote to me telling me they had dressed up as Frankie for Halloween.

JF: [laughs]

LT: People like the look of Frankie… that’s part of her character.

JF: People write to me all the time asking where does she get her clothes and jewelry.

LT: People send us jewelry and contribute it.

ADTV: How has season two compared to season one?

LT: Season two starts out in that first episode where we’re plucking the hair out of each other. I say, “I’m going to be a new Frankie.I’m going to see what my life is like without Sol.” I think we were seeing what’s going to become of us. After we got over the shock of the separation, the second season dealt with us coming to terms with the fact that we were separate and alone.

JF : I think at the very end of season one, Grace began to realize that with all her oddities that Frankie has a gift that Grace needs. It’s a gift of openness, forgiveness, and flexibility. We come into season two ready to become friends, and we do. We end up in business together.

LT: [laughs] We could have done that in one episode.

ADTV: What lies ahead?

JF: Marta Kaufman sees the arc of season three as exploring their vulnerability.

LT: For everybody in the show really. They’re all coming to terms with their vulnerability, their weaknesses. Everyone is calling everyone on what they’ve put up with for years and how that needs to maybe looked at.

ADTV: How does the show continue to challenge you both as actresses?

JF: I just find it challenging to find the right line between comedy and drama. It’s challenging. I don’t want ot phone it in.

LT: We have to work at it every day. We’re doing it in thirty minutes, and we cover alot of ground. As Jane said, you have to bring a reality to it, and yet you have to have a light enough touch in that the comedy isn’t overwhelmed.

Grace and Frankie is now streaming on Netflix

Joey Moser recommends the Television Academy consider Andrew Rannells for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

I mean no disrespect towards Adam Driver, but he needs to step aside. He’s been Emmy nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for the last three consecutive years even when the show’s Emmy luster has waned. Of course, Driver is not responsible for his continued nomination success, and he’s such a great performer on the show. I only ask him to take a step back and let Girls‘ fifth season supporting actor standout have a real chance to be recognized for his work. Andrew Rannells deserves serious Emmy consideration for his brilliant season five character arc as Elijah.

Elijah has always been more of a funny supporting character on Lena Dunham’s comedy. He would pal around with Hannah as much as he would bring her back to reality. Rannells’ presence on the show has always been welcome, but I’ve personally felt that we never got enough of his Elijah. With his winning wit and willingness to tell anyone the truth, Elijah was always one of the more reliably fun characters in HBO’s lineup. What was missing was a more dramatic storyline, and he received one in this last batch of episodes.

Rannells’ Elijah was given a true love interest for the first time in Girls’ entire five seasons. We’ve seen him with boys or make comments about other men, but he fell head over cautious heels for a prominent news anchor, played by Corey Stoll. Stoll’s Dill Harcourt (what an awesome name, by the way) surprises Elijah as they casually begin dating. It’s a sort of a Manhattan fairytale, feeling like something Carrie Bradshaw would romanticize over. We’ve never seen Elijah’s defenses so down, and the feeling radiates from Rannells’ smile. They even kiss in the middle of Times Square as the camera swirls around them. If this isn’t a romantic comedy dream, I don’t know what is!

Andrew Rannells
Photo courtesy of HBO.

Rannells’ best moments come in the next to last episode, “Love Stories.” Elijah goes to Dill’s station to apologize to him for how they left an argument, but he ultimately wants to put everything on the table. He explains that all the other boys will want to just be in Dill’s life for his fame and what he could give them. Elijah insists that Dill won’t get that from him, and, at that moment, Elijah is smiling broader than he’s ever allowed us to witness (and that’s saying something considering Rannells’ big, adorable grin).

A breakup is always great acting fodder, but Rannells’ breaks our hearts with one simple widening of his eyes. As Dill explains that he is looking “for someone special,” Elijah realizes that his plea to mend their problems is being met with a premature end. As they meet for a tearful goodbye, we are left to wonder if this will make Elijah more guarded towards love. His openness and interest in building a relationship is one of the most interesting things that Dunham has ever allowed his character do on Girls. Elijah’s experience with Dill will change him.

Here’s hoping that Girls makes a strong showing at this year’s Emmy Awards. Everything from the performances to the writing to the direction excelled in season five. I’m in Andrew Rannells’ corner because we’ve all had our heart broken. His face registers the blistering pain of your world crashing around you in a single instant.

Nominate him.

Denis O'Hare

The bleeding heart of American Horror Story: Hotel lies within the acting power of Sarah Paulson and Denis O’Hare. Don’t ignore these performances Television Academy!

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that American Horror Story‘s acting company have been showered with nominations. They are, after all, some of the best actors working in film or television today. Out of 7o nominations over four seasons, 19 nominations have gone to its cast, winning four times. The Television Academy’s love for the series – with its graphic gore and sexual content – has always been something of a surprise, and not all nominations have felt completely deserved. Putting all of that aside, the 2016 Emmy Limited Series categories are where AHS will compete against its Ryan Murphy-bred cousin The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story for attention. There simply aren’t enough slots to recognize all of the brilliance on display. Still, Emmy must make room for two AHS: Hotel performances – Sarah Paulson and Denis O’Hare – as their work is some of the best seen in the anthology series’s entire run.

Sarah Paulson is already tipped to win Best Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie for her stunning, redefining work as Marcia Clark in People v. O.J. Simpson. That, however, should not preclude the Television Academy from recognizing her tremendous, and tremendously emotional, work as Hypodermic Sally in Hotel. At the onset, Sally is Hotel‘s vengeful and tortured marquee spirit, murdered at the Hotel Cortez by Kathy Bates (and, if you have to go, then that’s a pretty awesome way to go). She’s doomed to relive the pain experienced in life through each day of her death, and nothing save the taking of lives seems to assuage that pain. Tellingly, her face is constantly streaked with mascara spread by her ever-falling tears.

Denis O'Hare

Paulson has been outstanding each and every time she’s had a meaty role in AHS, but she’s literally never been better than this season. Pain is a tricky thing to convey as an actor. Overstepping will push the character into soapy melodrama. Under-committing risks making the character unsympathetic and, ironically, unnecessarily cruel. Yet, Paulson strikes the perfect balances amidst the sumptuously art directed gore of the Hotel Cortez. Hypodermic Sally longs for something to dull the pain. She looks for it in drugs. She looks for it in love and companionship. She looks for it in random acts of violence. Nothing works, and Paulson conveys the death-long bitter disappointments and sorrow with each motion of her body and each drag of a cigarette. Hers is a remarkably physical performance, pain and contempt oozing from every pore like so much toxic sweat. In the season finale, she finally finds solace in ways to express her pain through writing and blogging on the internet, where all miserable people ultimately coalesce.

This is as committed and consistent performance as I’ve ever seen Paulson give, and I thought nothing could top Freak Show‘s Tattler Sisters. For the actress to receive two iconic, career-defining roles in the same year is an astounding feat. Let the Television Academy reward her for both with nominations and wins. God knows she deserves it.

Denis O’Hare’s Hotel performance as Liz Taylor seems gimmicky at first. Little is mentioned of O’Hare’s appearance as a transgendered woman in the first few episodes. Liz Taylor largely stayed on the sidelines, serving up drinks and making witty conversation in that wry, nearly sarcastic voice of hers. It wasn’t until AHS began to explore her background that I realized Hotel has a broken heart, its two halves assembled in the performances of Sarah Paulson and Denis O’Hare. Liz Taylor’s life as a man ended when a night at the Cortez and an encounter with The Countess (Lady Gaga) resulted in permanent residence. No, Denis O’Hare did not die on property (not yet). Instead, he achieved voluntary permanent residence as Liz Taylor once The Countess helped him embrace his true nature.

After episodes of providing bitchy commentary, we’re eventually treated to the meat of Denis O’Hare’s amazing performance as she reconnects with her son toward the end of the season. Recent transgender controversies only accentuating the performance’s impact, O’Hare dives into the reality of the situation – not an easy task given everything we’ve been presented with up to this point. She’s afraid of opening up to her son, of revealing who she really is. Surrounded by vampires, ghosts, and faceless sex monsters, Liz Taylor’s only real fear is her son’s rejection. That her son acknowledges and accepts her provides the biggest and most heartwarming moments of the season.

Denis O'Hare
Photo courtesy of FX.

It’s a good thing, too, because the rest of Liz Taylor’s stay at the Hotel Cortez is fraught with misery thanks to her tortured love affair with Finn Wittrock’s bisexual model Tristan. Taylor / O’Hare comes alive seems to discover love for the very first time in Tristan. Initially, it’s a seemingly ridiculous relationship – a transgender spin on the traditional May / December conceit. Yet, O’Hare makes the moments sing, and, when The Countess kills Tristan out of jealousy, the pain emanating from O’Hare is, sadly, exquisite. At the end of the season, O’Hare’s Taylor makes a happy, peaceful life for herself in the Hotel Cortez with a grandchild to boot. When a cancer diagnosis causes Taylor to choose death, O’Hare brings forth his finest moment and, probably, the defining moment of the series. He asks the hotel’s ghosts, Sally included, to kill him so that he can live with them forever, “be reborn.”

“You’re my family,” O’Hare emotionally explains. “I want to be with you forever.”

It’s that morbid declaration and the subsequent transitioning (throat slitting) by The Countess that gives American Horror Story: Hotel its tangled, tortured, and morbidly beautiful soul. That Denis O’Hare and Sarah Paulson accentuate it with their delicate and deeply felt performances makes it even sweeter. Emmy voters cannot ignore their immense talents as they are the pillars of the season, supported by the robust and eclectic ensemble cast.

That they’re able to convey such honest, human feelings as pain, fear, and love is a testament to their talents as actors. Television Academy, I submit to you Sarah Paulson and Denis O’Hare for their roles in American Horror Story: Hotel, roles that echo in my heart months after the season ended.

Shades of Blue

Last night, the new Saban Theatre in North Hollywood opened its doors to Emmy. NBC Universal hosted an FYC event for Shades Of Blue featuring cast and crew.

IMG_5873
Photo courtesy of Jazz Tangcay/AwardsDaily TV.

Ray Liotta, Jennifer Lopez, Drea de Mateo, Dayo Okeniyi, Sarah Jeffery and Jack Orman attended the packed event. The straight to series show premiered on NBC earlier this year stars Lopez as Harlee Santos, an NYPD detective, and single mother who is in with dirty cops and uses protection money to provide the best for her daughter.

The audience filled with Emmy judges, SAG/Aftra and press were treated to the season finale where Santos’ past came back to haunt her, and the shady dealings caught up with some of “her crew.”

Shades of Blue is contentding for Best Actress in a Drama and Best Drama Series. For those who have yet to catch up on the season finale, let’s just say there was plenty of drama and an unexpected twist that led to the audience gasping and applauding the final moment.

When asked about how they managed to be so convincing, Oyeniki joked that he watched cop videos on YouTube. Liotta who plays Lieutenant Matt Wozniak, the corrupt leader of the 64th Precinct said he would go on ridealongs with real cops as part of his research. Lopez added, “You have to watch real cops, not TV cops.”

The physical and emotion intensity of the show were so exhausting that Lopez said, after a day on set, she would go home and “Wash off Harlee because she’s so not me.”

Part of what made Shades of Blue unique for Orman and the cast was that as it went straight to series. There were no note, no audience feedback, and no pilot. Orman said, “It was a laboratory experiement as the only people involved in feedback were the people involved in the show.” He added the nework told him to go for it. Director Barry Levinson directed the first two epsiodes of the show, cross-boarding the episodes.

“He set a tone for us right off the bat,” Lopez said on the experience of working with Levinson. “He saw that I was trying to seek the truth in everything. He was with me in that, and that put me at ease.”

Reflecting on the season highlights, Liotta said he learned and understood his character’s motives. His daughter had committed suicide just as Santos came into his life and that love was transferred to her and her daughter, Christina. The confessional scene was that pivotal moment for him.

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Photo courtesy of Jazz Tangcay/AwardsDaily TV.

Given the intensity and drama of the show, Orman said there was one scene early on in the season that the network didn’t allow to pass. The controversial scene occurred when Wozniak was in an alley pointing a gun at a dog. However, they were lenient with other scenes. Liotta joked about a scene being passed that allowed him to grab a character by the balls.

The Q&A was passed over to the audience who mainly praised Lopez on being an inspiration and juggling many hats from Executive Producer and acting on the show while conceiving her Vegas show and being a judge on American Idol.

Shades Of Blue starts filming its second season this month. Season one can be streamed in full on NBC.COM.

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson

ADTV’s Robin Write advocates for the comedy duo of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson as Best Actresses in a Comedy Series for Comedy Central’s Broad City

Even with a strong respectful whiff paid to, say, Seinfeld or Woody Allen, Comedy Central hot property duo Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson are still somehow unique in their comic entertainment endeavors with Broad City. Twentysomething women, Jewesses if you will, still trying to figure out where they ought to be or what they are doing under the social labels of professionalism and personal life is compelling enough as a notion. It’s also essential viewing when it is executed this well.

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson
Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

Like endless American TV shows gone by, the flamboyantly talented actresses and creators of Broad City keep their first names in character: Ilana, an openly off the wall, sexual young woman, seemingly unfiltered in her full throttle approach to life and constant use of air quotations; and Abbi, endearingly goofy, sensitive, a well-meaning bag of nerves, whose hesitations can say more than words. Ilana and Abbi are indeed a match made in a funny New York City heaven. Barring an understandable split in the voting, Emmy ought to be all over this.

Although exaggerated to perfection in places (many places actually), the performances of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson ooze a kind of natural comic ability as well as portray a sharp look at the changing world around us. An absurd world, sure, but the everyday situations and human behavior they indulge in are familiar to you and I. Even their respective job roles offer unforgivingly droll circumstances: Ilana is more circle-peg-in-square-hole than out and out lazy bones at a small sales company but warrants her eventual dismissal. Abbi wears her “cleaner” fitness center vest with less pride than she would the “trainer” one she strives for – though becoming an illustrator is her true forte.

The oddball, sometimes slapstick, comedy and physical allure are created and delivered in season three pretty much as they were the prior two seasons (you know, Ilana has the tits, Abbi has the ass) – which will suit fans and newcomers alike right down to the ground. Glazer and Jacobson throw out there some of the more cynical ways of living in the modern world like having to wait for a table in a fancy restaurant or the new wave of clean modern living. The slices of life humor are keenly observed, depicting a casual but relevant set of narrative themes from your basic clashes in culture and lifestyle to current world events affecting Americans and assumptions about race or class.

The girls are not here to teach us a lesson about the world or have the intention to rub people the wrong way. Neither do they lash out blame to anyone else for their downfalls or high points. They tend to just shrug it off and leap onto the next wobbly stepping stone. In fact, their primary piss-take is with the characters Ilana and Abbi themselves – none more obviously (and hilariously) so when they get to literally mimic each other in one episode.

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson
Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

What season three does allow the actresses to embrace is a deeper sense of humanity, pulling us ever-so-closer to the heart and soul of Ilana and Abbi. This is something we can be forgiven for misinterpreting as stupidity. There is snippet of an emotive warm glow and a small dose of melancholy, which both puts us in their shoes and compliments the humor. As well successfully demonstrating the acting chops of both actresses without making their writing anywhere near rusty. Ilana’s crisis of conscience (when Abbi hides the date with Trey to instead pretend she makes a surprise appearance to Ilana’s parents anniversary dinner) turns out to be really about Lincoln with whom Ilana shared a sexual relationship. He apparently rejected her for a girl who can offer him commitment. Bringing on the tears, it is a splendid, poignant moment for Glazer. Equally affecting is Jacobson, adding true remorse to her usual intense, mouse-like-timidness.

There is a definite enticing lunacy to behold here. As contentious or outlandish Ilana and Abbi may seem, they are surrounded by a whole host of players one might consider far less interesting regardless of scruples. This is not a criticism on the writing or set-up at all. It is rather an observation that the contrast between Ilana and Abbi and the other normal, sensible, every-day (all life-affirming traits) folk by default of execution makes the lead misfits all that more interesting and enlightening. Comparing them to the “normal” people in the world makes you realize Ilana and Abbi are actually not so weird after all.

The magic constant here is the enduring friendship. No matter how bonkers or unrealistic the antics of Ilana and Abbi may appear to be at any given time, you know their friendship is cemented and true. Their hapless behaviour and ensuing bedlam does not deter from their clearly solid, heart-felt bond. Even with an array of what you might call guest appearances (including Hilary Clinton), Abbi and Ilana are still the stars of the show. A mere ten episodes per season is nowhere near enough for me. I could watch these girls and their misadventures all day long (which means I will be re-watching again), but as far as Emmy voters are concerned it is more than ample comic material to earn both actresses (and writers) huge recognition.

Eva Green

Emmy-worthy Eva Green possesses viewers’ minds, hearts, and souls in Showtime’s gothic horror series Penny Dreadful

Eva Green’s season one Penny Dreadful performance was the stuff of legends. For such a beautiful woman with that china doll’s face, Green demonstrated a proficiency for contorting her entire physique to render the tortured character of Vanessa Ives. Green astonished with an impossibly nimble interpretation that, during one early season seance, seemed to suggest that Ives was a marionette’s doll, fighting against her master’s strings. It wasn’t simply a well spoken performance. To coin a phrase, Green acted the shit out of that character. Emmy sadly failed to notice though.

To be fair, Penny Dreadful premiered late in the Emmy cycle and chose to defer its eligibility into the next Emmy year. While Emmy watchers certainly understood it, it’s possible Emmy voters were simply confused after the faded a bit by the time it was eligible. Most likely, though, is the series’ status as the textbook definition of an acquired taste. In a recent interview with AwardsDaily TV, Bates Motel writer/producer Kerry Ehrin lamented the fact that someone referred to her acclaimed series as one where “they just kill people in the motel every week?” Penny Dreadful likely suffers from the same preconceived notions. Looking from the outside in, casual viewers unfamiliar with the material may simply consider it extremely well art directed gore.

And they’d be half right, of course. Yet, what sets it apart from such a close-minded reputation is the passion star Eva Green pours into the material. While season two does not give her as many stand-out, buzzy moments as season one, Green is allowed to portray a much broader experience, a challenge that she clearly accepts and exceeds.

Eva Green
Photo courtesy of Showtime.

The first half of the season throws many obstacles at Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives. The assailants – Satanic female monsters led by witch Evelyn Poole (a brilliant Helen McCrory) – hardly matter. In fact, the less you know about them and their backstory, the better off you’ll be as an Emmy voter. The focus here is Vanessa Ives’ increasingly unstable and beleaguered persona, culminating in a near-mental breakdown in the middle of the season. Ives retreats with Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) to a cabin owned by a former mentor, the Cut-wife (Patti LuPone).

This episode, “Little Scorpion,” gives Eva Green her finest moments of the season. I would argue she excels here because she’s allowed to play something of a normal, well adjusted human being. Arriving at the cottage, Ives is a mass of jittery, unsettled nerves. She is constantly looking over her shoulder at the potential evil mere steps behind. It’s not until she and Ethan begin setting about the average, everyday tasks of setting up a house – finding a bedroom, clearing up the cobwebs, finding food, and lighting candles. There must always be candles. At least 42 of them.

Green’s performance completely amazes here thanks to the effortless joy she employs when relaxed and entranced by Ethan Chandler. Green even smiles and laughs broadly. Those of you who know Penny Dreadful are well aware what a unique event that is, and Green wears it exceedingly well. Her conversations with Hartnett may appear to be throw-away material, but this is Green spreading her acting wings and showing how brilliantly she can perform the easier acting notes provided in the series. She clearly loves a challenge, but there must be valleys to accompany the peaks. A true sign of acting genius is how confidently you play the valleys while waiting for the peaks. These quiet, comtemplative, and dialogue-heavy scenes are perfection thanks to Eva Green’s confidence as an actress.

That’s not to say she doesn’t have peaks in the episode. Season two liked to give her extended sequences in which she launches into nearly possessed states as she rattles off Satanic spells in an ancient tongue. She has one near the end of “Little Scorpion” where she exacts revenge against a local who recently insulted her but was directly responsible for the death of her beloved mentor. Green again contorts and constricts her body into near-impossible states as she flies through what could be pages of otherworldly dialogue.

Eva Green
Photo courtesy of Showtime.

She has a similar moment in the season two finale where she summons the rage and aggression collected over the course of the season and unleashes it against Poole and her creepy collection of possessed dolls. An amazing sequence, it perfectly completes the high-tension Penny Dreadful season two.

Whether or not Emmy voters love these scenes is up for debate. I, however, remain a committed fan of Eva Green’s work here. She has mastered the brilliant interpretation of the complex and damaged character that Vanessa Ives has become. Green has ignored the season breaks and uses all material at her disposal from season one to build an extremely convincing air of despair and anguish from year to year. When Green/Ives finally breaks at the end of the season, it is a staggering achievement of acting brilliance.

Or, to coin a phrase, Eva Green just acted the shit out of Penny Dreadful season two.

Penny Dreadful season three continues to air Sunday nights on Showtime at 10pm ET. 

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