Over the next few weeks, Awards Daily TV will be analyzing the year-end and Emmy awards chances of shows we missed earlier this year. First up is Showtime’s limited series The Loudest Voice.
We exist in a country currently living through some very important social issues. There is the Me Too movement, shining a light on men in power using their positions to terrorize woman. And a huge amount of propaganda and “fake news” that is taking over how we process information. So a mini-series on Roger Ailes, who was well known for contributing to the worse side of both these issues, would appear to be a very personal way to explore these phenomenons. Yet The Loudest Voice didn’t go over well with critics, which in retrospect is a bit of a shame.
The first episode I admit did leave me more confused than anything else. We are given no real details on who Roger Ailes is. He simply is fired from CNBC and then we see him trying to get Fox News off the ground. It feels like we entered the story somewhere in the middle as we see Ailes gather people he has known in media and politics and bring them into his empire. We are given no details about who these people are beyond a name and title or why they would choose to work with Roger Ailes beyond a sense of the history that he has with this crew of people he has assembled. As for Ailes himself, we are only given a taste of his personality; his ruthlessness and lack of respect for any beliefs that aren’t his own conservative, misogynistic, racist beliefs that will permeate the culture of Fox News.
Yet as episodes go on it becomes clearer that this mini series isn’t really interested in attempting to try to understand or really examine what motivates this bigoted manipulative rapist. It is instead a detailed look about how a man who acts this way reacts to a world changing around him and how he attempts to create the world to fit his viewpoint. From 9/11 to Obama to finally Ailes’ abuses of women coming to light, the series shows Ailes. This is a political thriller that will not let us know all the answers but instead opens us to more questions to grapple with: not just how did Ailes get away with all this, but why did so many stand by him while he did?
The series lives and dies by Russell Crowe’s performance, which is one of his best in years. He makes Roger Ailes a villain we hate from the start but one we have to admit is really, really good at his job. We see how he wields his power in everything he does: the mind games he plays over time on people he claims to care about, his belief in his own righteousness in everything that allows him to justify things in seconds that would make many people stop and think about the ethics, and to straight up yelling and cowing people into complacency. Even if we cannot fathom how anyone could act this way, we see how it can be done.
As such, Crowe is probably the series’ best bet for any Emmy or Golden Globe acting awards. The supporting cast is very good and includes some big names with like Naomi Watts playing Gretchen Carlson, who is the one to take down Ailes. Crowe is the series and, with the lack of real critic love, it seems unlikely to do much beyond Crowe. Especially with Bombshell coming out. Early buzz of that film, this time focusing on the women who have been wronged by Ailes, could definitely take the wind out of this series’ sails. Bombshell focuses on the heroic women fighting this monster, which is an easier sell over a series that is almost entirely centered around Ailes. I will add my own two cents that if I had an Emmy ballot I would include Annabelle Wallis as Laurie Luhn. She is a long-term victim of Ailes, and we see what the psychological damage of his abuse and his control over her did in the long term. The pain and paranoia permeates her face, her voice, and even the way she walks.
If anything outside acting has a chance it would be the makeup and wardrobe, especially the fat suit that Crowe wears. In the first episode it felt distracting in how different it makes Crowe look, but as the series goes on it becomes less pronounced. It is amazing how well Crowe is able to make the outfit work with him in his movements and physical stances. He looks like a bully as well as acting like one.
The series itself might be too opaque in how it looks at its subject matter for it to get much notice at this point, especially since it seems to have come and gone without much fanfare. With a potential Oscar movie on the same subject coming out and so much of the TV year’s potential mini-series competitors yet to come out, it would take a lot of them bombing for The Loudest Voice to break into many categories at any award’s show. Still, it’s a series worth seeing for its subject matter and Crowe’s great performance.