For Your Consideration

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. 

Underground

Ignore the placement on a non-HBO or AMC network, WGN America’s Underground is as worthy of Emmy attention as any other network dramatic series.

Near the end of the second episode of WGN’s drama Underground, the demure house slave Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) says to the blacksmith Noah (Aldis Hodge) that she has realized why he chooses to get tattoos over the whip scars on his back, adding pain on top of pain.

“It’s about not lettin’ the white folks define your story… it’s about making it your own.”

This line is, in many ways, the thesis of Underground, which takes the form of a story about slavery but refuses to be constrained by the clichés of the setting. With energy and style, showrunners Misha Green and Joe Pokaski structure their story of a group of runaway slaves as something like a heist narrative with twists and secrets that turn what could have been a depressing story of suffering into an electrifying tale of adventure and survival. Like Noah’s tattoos, Underground doesn’t tone down or disguise the pain of slavery but reclaims and reinvents it into something new and powerful.

The series follows the exploits of the “Macon 7,” a group of slaves who plan an escape from a Southern cotton plantation owned by Tom Macon, a carpetbagger with political ambitions. Noah, played by Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, TNT’s Leverage), is the charismatic leader of the group, but Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s (Parenthood, True Blood) Rosalee is the true heart of the series. Having lived her entire life in the Big House as a house slave, she has seen a different side of slavery than the ones who work the fields (One of several brilliant touches by Green and Pokaski is how they’re able to illustrate and dramatize the class conflicts on the plantation… not just between black and white, but male and female, house slave vs field slave, etc.), She is still acutely aware of her constant peril. Being raised to be demure doesn’t mean you’re weak, and once she is drawn into Noah’s plan to escape she proves herself as steely and capable of fighting as any of the male members of their party. Both leads deserve Emmy consideration, but Jurnee Smollett-Bell is exceptional.

Among the supporting cast, the most prominent name belongs to Christopher Meloni (Law & Order:  SVU), who plays an expert slave tracker. He doesn’t particularly enjoy his job but does it because he needs a way to support his young son. Another character stuck in the grey area between good and evil is Cato (Alano Miller, Jane the Virgin), a prominent house slave who forces himself into Noah’s party and whose cutthroat pragmatism in his own quest for freedom leads him to constantly waver between Antihero, Hero and even outright villain, infusing in his character an unpredictability that is irresistible. Another standout is Amirah Vann (And So it Goes, Tracers) who plays Rosalee’s mother Ernestine, who is willing to go to incredible lengths in order to protect her children from Tom Macon’s brutality. The only stumbling block in the show is (appropriately enough) the subplot following a white abolitionist couple who decide to use their home as a holding ground for the Underground Railroad. They soon discover that doing so is a lot more difficult than they expected. The problems of these rich white people are so much less compelling than those of the Macon 7 that they deflate the tension of the rest of the show in spite of the good performances from Marc Blucas and Jessica De Gouw.

Technically, the show is also first-rate. The sets and costumes are always authentic, and the soundtrack (supervised by John Legend, who is also one of the show’s executive producers) uses a combination of period music and contemporary songs to set and underscore the mood. Anthony Hemmingway (who also directed several episodes of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) directed the extended pilot and several other episodes. He gives the series a dynamic look, stylish but never sanitized, and treats the violence in a manner that is unflinching but not gratuitous. Subsequent episodes directed by Kate Woods and Tim Hunter also contain standout sequences of action and acting that, were the show airing on HBO or AMC, would have set Twitter ablaze.

Underground’s biggest obstacle on the way to the Emmys could well be the fact that it airs on WGN America, which has had a number of acclaimed dramas (Manhattan, Salem) that never quite seem to get the respect they deserve, possibly due to the “common knowledge” that only shows that air on basic or pay cable are worth watching. Make no mistake-Underground is as good as anything on TV right now, regardless of network. Due to its accessible subject matter and several big names among the cast, Underground might be WGN America’s best shot yet at the Emmy race yet.

It most certainly deserves it.

Possible Nominations

Drama Series
Aldis Hodge, Lead Actor
Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Lead Actress
Alano Miller, Supporting Actor
Christoper Meloni, Supporting Actor
Amirah Vann, Supporting Actress
Jussie Smollett, Guest Actor
Christopher Backus, Guest Actor
Anthony Hemmingway, Best Directing (“The Macon 7”)
Kate Woods, Best Directing (“Cradle”, “Graves”)
Tim Hunter, Best Directing (“Black and Blue”, “The White Whale”)

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None is an Emmy-worthy modern classic of elegant suspense layered with subtle explorations of the nature of evil. It should be considered for the Primetime Emmys Awards, but it’s not…

We must be strong… In these times. We must be valiant and virtuous. We must be English women. – Emily Brent (Miranda Richardson)

It happens on occasion, although extremely rare, that a television event will strike you in unexpected ways. It’s always a good thing, of course, to be so pleasantly surprised. It’s not as if television were completely devoid of quality, but quite a bit of what I come across manages to meet my already high expectations. Maybe I’m an easy lay, but it’s far more likely to be crushingly disappointed (see: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, or don’t and take my word for it). Consider me, then, to have been blown away by the quiet brilliance of Lifetime/BBC’s sterling production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. For some arcane reason, the series will only be considered for International Emmys, which is a terrible shame (and bizarre given War & Peace‘s placement in this year’s US-based Emmy race). It’s one of the best Limited Series of the Emmy year and deserves recognition and to compete as such.

Positioned as a Downton Abbey meets Friday the 13thAnd Then There Were None is a delicate, fine-tuned handling of the well-trodden material. The central story – that of the systematic butchering of an assembled group of party goers at a remote island mansion – has a resonance and popularity  that has permeated our culture since original publication (as, I swear, Ten Little N****** before it settled into its slightly more socially acceptable name of Ten Little Indians) back in 1939. That’s part of the reason this modern interpretation knocked me for a loop. This is hardly a new story, yet the highest compliment that can be paid to it is how fresh and unique the production felt.

And Then There Were None

Directed by with an assured hand by Craig Viveiros from a screenplay by Sarah Phelps (EastEnders), And Then There Were None gradually unfolds in two styles. It weaves a dreamlike narrative to gradually construct each character’s past while pushing forward with clinical precision to detail their ultimate fates. Despite having an ensemble cast at her disposal, Phelps brilliantly centers the revelations around the character of Vera Claythorne (Maeve Dermody), a former nanny seeking new employment. Vera appears the most relatable character in And Then There Were None. As each guest is presumably guilty, the audience pushes back against the belief that Vera committed such a terrible crime. The most brilliant aspect of this gradual unveiling of her character is ***slight spoiler*** that she may be the most deranged criminal of them all.

And Then There Were None weaves an intensely foreboding atmosphere. I’m not just talking about storms, flickering lights, and ghostly shadows. It uses a carefully constructed system of death imagery to set the tone. Window tassels drawn like nooses. Lobsters boiled alive and subsequently, brutally eviscerated. A foyer clock containing four horses, no doubt a nod to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Like most great directorial strokes, these touches aren’t immediately noticed on first viewing (save the lobster scene), but they accentuate the mystery and eventual terror that permeates the isolated mansion.

Same set of rules whether you’re posh or not. – Detective Sergeant William Blore (Burn Gorman)

Aside from the technical expertise, the cast appears under the Agatha Christie spell. Veteran actors mingle with younger faces to reflect the mix of socio-political statures in the film. While the cast is uniformly excellent, my attention was squarely focused on Miranda Richardson’s brilliant supporting role as the nauseatingly proper Christian Emily Brent. Richardson has two awards-worthy scenes that, in the hands of a lesser actress, would have been throw-away material. First, as maid Mrs. Rogers attends Brent, Richardson snidely (but always with the blood-curdling smile of a Proper English Woman) eviscerates her by effectively telling her it must be hot in the kitchen because she smells. Second, in Brent’s flashback, she is revealed to have an “unnatural affection” for a young girl she is mentoring. As the girl pricks her finger on a needlepoint, Richardson takes the finger and almost seductively licks the blood. It’s an insane, way out of left field moment that tells you volumes about the character and her inner struggle.

And Then There Were None

Ultimately, viewers may appreciate the creative merits of And Then There Were None but stop just shy of fully embracing because it masquerades as a classic slasher film. I encourage everyone – Emmy voters included – to look closer. Aside from its obvious class struggle theme, the film becomes a thought-provoking exploration of the nature of evil. Who really deserves to die? Who deserves to judge? What causes a person to break? These are questions that And Then There Were None raises without directly addressing the issues, leaving the audience to ponder the answers long after the final credits have rolled.

The Television Academy has a staggering amount of high-profile quality films to consider in this year’s Emmy race. Despite the troubling International Emmy placement, I would urge them, however, to look beyond the trappings of what people assume tony BBC productions to be and lose themselves in the morally complex And Then There Were None. Because a story has been told before doesn’t mean it’s always been told right. This creative team captured the original spirit of Agatha Christie’s novel and evolved it for a modern audience.

They struck creative gold in the process.

One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

And Then There Were None

 

The International Emmy eligibility window runs until September 30, 2016. The ceremony will be held in New York on November 21, 2016.

Norman Lear and Chuck Lorre

Hollywood. Thursday night, Norman Lear and Chuck Lorre sat down at the Writers Guild in conversation. Sitting down in front of WGA members, the kings of comedy who wrote and produced hits such as All In The Family (Lear), The Jeffersons (Lear) , Good Times (Lear) , Maude (Lear), Grace Under Fire (Lorre), Two and a Half Men (Lorre), and The Big Bang Theory (Lorre) talked about working in comedy.

When asked what Chuck Lorre show he watched, Lear admitted the only show he’d really seen a lot of was The Big Bang Theory. Talking about how working in comedy has changed over the years, Lear said, “There were only three networks,” when he was working on TV almost 45 years ago.

Lorre was asked what about Lear made him want to enter into the sitcom world said, “He (Lear) clearly made it obvious to everyone that comedy wasn’t predicated on contrived situations. Even the word sitcom fell apart when he began to work, because prior to that time, it was very appropriate, because the guy was married to witch. That’s a situation. An astronaut comes home with a genie. It’s a situation. It could be called a sitcom, but beginning with All in the Family, that was just life.” He added, “Good comedy was just life, people in relationships, in families dealing with one another. There was no more sit in the com. It was just comedy of life. That’s something that I got a taste of when I was on Roseanne 26 years ago. She was very adamant about pursuing that and she raised the bar. She really did.”

Lorre who also wrote and produced Mom (CBS) was asked if whether we’re in the Golden age of TV answered, “There’s a pendulum swing that’s really clearly . It became very conservative again in the 80s. Then it went through a great decade of sarcasm in the 90s. Frankly, I’m looking back at my own career now. The things I learn to do when I was on Roseanne, I applied them to a show I did called Grace Under Fire. I only did it for one year, but I applied the same rules to that and then I moved away from it. I can’t honestly tell you why I moved away from it.” He went on to say, “The big picture is to why it swings. Human nature would be the only answer I could have. It seems the country always finds the middle, but the swings can be terrifying.”

The two spent 95 minutes in conversation, even discussing everything from Lear comparing Donald Trump to Archie Bunker, to praising South Park. The evening ended with Lear revealing that he was working with Netflix on a modern One Day At a Time reboot. He said, “We’re doing a Latino version, a Cuban American version of One Day at a Time. With Rita Moreno and there are a few people who know Rita Moreno well and Justina Machado. I’m having a great time. They are wonderful.”

Check out photos from the event below.

 

Pee-wee's Big Holiday

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday has a big heart and even bigger laughs but that shouldn’t block Emmy consideration

The Emmy television movie category is always crammed with serious subject matter. Looking back throughout the list of past winners, the award features true tales of historical figures and sweeping emotional dramas. The word “prestige” is often attached to these projects. Maybe it’s time for the Television Academy to embrace something looser, sillier, and absolutely from left field. Maybe it’s time for the Emmys to consider a comedic movie to shake up their streak of seriousness. Maybe it’s time for the Emmys to nominate Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.

This year’s major contenders include All the Way and Confirmation—two titles (both from HBO) that deal with real life events and real people. It’s the epitome of a film in the Emmy wheelhouse. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is about a quirky guy breaking out of his boring life to form a bromance with Joe Manganiello. Seriously. Wouldn’t you rather watch something a bit cheerier Bryan Cranston glowering at the screen as he struggles with passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964? None of the comedic offerings eligible this season — Pee-wee, HBO’s hilarious tennis mockumentary 7 Days in Hell, or Sofia Coppola’s gentle A Very Murray Christmas — seem to be locked for a nomination.

Currently, television is sinking into the comfort of nostalgic programming with Gilmore Girls, Fuller House, The X-Files, and future reboots of MacGuyver and Twin Peaks. The new movie from Netflix is true to the original Paul Reubens character, and fans of the Playhouse or of his Christmas Special (diehard fans like myself) love this new outing. It’s packed with everything we love from a Pee-wee movie: quirky characters, a long road trip, and the boyish glee of our titular hero.

One of the reasons to go to bat for such a strange choice is how simple it is. This isn’t an overly complicated setup, but the payoff is incredibly satisfying. It’s straightforward and painless in its delivery. Pee-wee is trying to get to New York for a birthday party of a muscled True Blood star, and he has to weave around a trio of bank robbers, escape a nonet of amorous sisters vying for his hand in marriage, and be a passenger in a flying car. Paul Reubens does all this with Saturday morning charm. It’s not forced, and it’s not crude. It’s not too polite, though—it’s clever and harmless while winking at the audience. Emmy should consider Pee-wee’s Big Holiday just for the 2-minute sustained shot of him letting the air out of a balloon in front of a crowd of confused Amish people.

Pee-wee's Big Holiday

The movie also features one of the most innocent male friendships I’ve ever seen. Pee-wee and Joe just want to hang out together and eat some birthday cake, but there’s no macho mentality or offensive banter. It’s just two guys that want to enjoy each other’s company without requiring insulting hijinks and immature conversation. This movie proves that when guys hang out with one another it doesn’t have to be The Hangover. God forbid we show two men actually being…friends.

The Emmys are continually criticized for their lack of variety in their nominees. The same people are nominated every year, and some voters seem to just check their ballots for things they are familiar with. If you want to vote for standard TV Movie fare (looking at you, Sherlock and Luther!), be my guest, but that choice will only be remembered for being one thing—boring! Vote for Pee-wee’s Big Holiday because everyone deserves a big holiday from predictable awards nominees.

Cast and crew of NBC’s The Wiz Live gathered in Hollywood courting Emmy. The evening was hosted by Holly Robinson Pete and included two special live performances.

Executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron joined cast members including Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, David Alan Grier, NE-YO, Shanice Williams, Elijah Kelley, and Amber Riley. Director Kenny Leon, choreographer Fatima Robinson and music producer Harvey Mason, Jr also joined in

The panel was introduced by NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt. Zadan credited Greenblatt with ushering in the current resurgence of live musicals on Television. “The idea of doing a live TV musical on network television for three hours was unheard of. It hadn’t been done since the ‘50s. When we went to Bob with this, he just said let’s do it,” referring to 2013’s The Sound of Music.

Director Kenny Leon discussed the difficulty of pulling off a live musical on TV. “I’ve done 11 Broadway musicals and David (Alan Grier) has done five. Combined, it’s not as difficult as pulling off one live TV musical,” said Leon.

Each cast member discussed the process of coming on board. Queen Latifah, who was the first cast, credited Zadan and Meron for their visionary casting by slotting her as The Wiz, a character historically portrayed by male actors.

The crowd was treated to two live performances, the first was the original song “We Got it,” performed by Ne-Yo, David Alan Grier, Elijah Kelley, and Shanice Williams. The panel was closed out by of the classic song “Home” performed by Shanice Williams, who received a Critic’s Choice nomination this year for her portrayal of Dorothy. Both of the performances received standing ovations from the capacity crowd.

Check out photos from the evening. Performance and panel excerpts are included below.

 

The Wiz: We Got It PERFORMANCE

Why The Wiz Live?

Passing the Torch: The Wiz Live!

Playing House

ADTV’s Jalal Haddad asks the Television Academy to strongly consider Playing House in all categories.

Female comedy duos are incredibly popular on television right now. Broad City. Grace & Frankie. Garfunkel & Oates. Even Girls. Given that, why is no one, especially Emmy voters, paying attention to Playing House? The show stars Lennon Parham as Maggie and Jessica St. Clair as Emma. They are lifelong best friends who move in together after a pregnant Maggie leaves her cheating and useless husband. Together they raise Maggie’s baby in the small Connecticut town they grew up in.

As best friends they seamlessly weave in and out of broad comedy and endearing sentimentality in moments where they pretend to be lesbian partners to befriend Maggie’s cool new doctor to the birth of baby Charlotte. They support each other no matter what, and the writers never rely on creating catty drama between the lifelong best friends to add conflict. Emma supports Maggie through her divorce and Emma supports Maggie while she fights with her mom “Nell Carter” who is writing an autobiographical play “Cashmere Burka.”

Parham and St. Clair’s flawless chemistry is undeniable. The duo is able to riff off of each other in a variety of scenarios from making Tinder profiles to brainstorming how to sneak into a Kenny Loggins concert. Their chemistry comes as no surprise since they have been collaborating creatively for years. They’ve performed together everywhere from the Upright Citizens Brigade to NBC’s Best Friends Forever and Comedy Bang Bang. They’ve both also had individual significant guest roles on Emmy favorite Veep. This chemistry allows them to create probably the most honest portrayal of best friendship (and in a way soul mates) on television. TPlaying Househey’re able to easily switch from a scene where they are breaking into Bird Bones’ house to save a puppet to a scene where they are both crying as Emma promises to help Maggie raise her baby as she achieves her dream of becoming a nurse.

Parham and St. Claire clearly have a passion for home improvement/self-help TV shows and it is apparent in the entire aesthetic of Playing House. Every sterile, pastel painted room looks like its straight out of HGTV and while at first I couldn’t relate to the aesthetic references I embraced them fully when the writers started to utilize it. Characters will randomly reference Say Yes to The Dress and even storylines regarding The Property Brothers. In one scene Maggie describes her dream about the brothers: “They took off my tarp and there was no carpet, even though there is carpet in real life!” The Scott brothers even showed up for a cameo later in the episode. Any show that embraces The Property Brothers is perfect in my book (and Margo Martindale’s too!).

The supporting cast is also filled with countless Emmy favorites. Keegan-Michael Key (Emmy nominee for Key and Peele) plays a local cop and Emma’s high school boyfriend. He also received a Critics Choice nomination for his performance on Playing House last winter. Jane Kaczamerek (Emmy nominee for Malcolm in the Middle) has a reoccurring role as Emma’s estranged mother who writes slam poetry under the pseudonym Phylicia Rashad. Zach Woods (from playinghouse6Emmy nominated shows The Office, Silicon Valley, and Veep) is the standout of the supporting cast as Maggie’s younger brother/doula. How many critically acclaimed shows does oods need to be a scene stealer on before he is finally recognized by the Emmys?

So Emmy voters, I beg of you, please remember St. Clair, Parham, and Playing House as a whole when you fill out your ballots next month. Take a break from all of the male driven comedies that you usually devote time to and watch “Hello, Old Friend” (Ep. 1), “Sleepless in Pinebrook” (Ep. 2), and “Celebrate Me Scones” (Ep. 8). You won’t be disappointed.

Playing House is available for streaming online.

Emmy nominations

It’s that time of year again! The 2016 Emmy voting window starts Monday, June 13, and runs until Monday, June 27 (you can track who’s most likely to secure Emmy nominations on our Awards Daily TV Emmy Tracker). You won’t see any updates to this week’s Emmy Tracker, but here are seven long-shot contenders we hope to see when the Emmy nominations are announced on Thursday, July 14.

Because everybody loves an underdog, right?

1. Tommy Dewey, Casual on Hulu – Outstanding Supporting Actor Comedy

Casual received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, so maybe Dewey can get in for playing the wise-cracking brother who steals every scene. Of all the characters on the show, he had the biggest character arc. It would be great to see him, and this underrated show, get rewarded.

2. Britt Lower, Man Seeking Woman on FXX – Outstanding Supporting Actress Comedy

Many MSW fans argue whether Jay Baruchel’s on-screen sister Liz (Lower) is more interesting than Josh and his adventures on the FXX series. Case in point: the episode “Tinsel,” where Liz has an affair with Santa Claus. It’s one of the funniest, most heartfelt 20 minutes of the year (and you’ll never look at holiday trains the same way). As much as Baruchel is the singleton poster boy of the series, Lower is right up there next to him, representing the ladies.

3. Martha Kelly, Baskets on FX – Outstanding Supporting Actress Comedy

The most talked-about role on Baskets is Louie Anderson, who plays Chip’s (Zach Galifianakis) mother on the series. But Martha Kelly, as Chip’s love interest, is superb with her dry delivery. Watch “Strays,” when Martha takes in a stray coyote thinking it’s a dog. She’s both heartbreaking and hilarious.

4. 7 Days in Hell on HBO – Outstanding Television Movie

HBO rolled out two big political TV movies in 2016, with All the Way and Confirmation, in hopes of striking Emmy gold, but truly the most entertaining HBO movie of the Emmy year has been 7 Days in Hell, starring Andy Samberg and Kit Harington as two tennis phenoms stuck in a week-long match, shot documentary-style. It’s inspired comic lunacy accentuated with a surprisingly committed comic performance from Harington.

5. Unreal on Lifetime – Outstanding Drama Series

By far, Unreal was summer 2015’s buzziest show, following the behind-the-scenes making of a Bachelor-type show called Everlasting. It surprised and captivated, and even for its second season, it’s already ahead of its inspiration by hiring an African-American bachelor. Win!

6. Wayward Pines on Fox – Outstanding Limited Series 

Outstanding Limited Series is a crowded category, but we’d love to see Wayward Pines get in for spinning such a taut mystery with a pitch-perfect end. (Although season two, which premiered May 25, proves there are more questions to be answered – and that Wayward Pines couldn’t be eligible for the Limited Series Emmy so this is really more of a protest wish than anything else).

7. RuPaul for RuPaul’s Drag Race on Logo – Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again. It’s time for Emmy to serve some Realness and include RuPaul on its list of Emmy nominated hosts.

Rachel Bloom

Emmy attention must be paid to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Rachel Bloom.

Even if Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s star Rachel Bloom hadn’t won a Golden Globe or a Critics’ Choice award, she would have simply won all of our hearts by dropping these fantastically true and funny lyrics into the canon of self-loathing, parodic songs. Wait… is there a canon of self-loathing, parodic songs?

There should be.

Writes note to self, “Create canon of self-loathing parodic songs. Call it ‘Bloomology.’ “

You ruined everything
You stupid bitch
You ruined everything
You stupid, stupid bitch
You’re just a lying little bitch who ruins things
And wants the world to burn
Bitch
You’re a stupid bitch
And lose some weight…

Those are the lyrics from Rachel Bloom’s “You Stupid Bitch” which closes the musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s, in my opinion, season-high episode “That Text Was Not Meant for Josh!” It’s a perfect song when taken into context of the perfect episode (previously dissected here). It’s also perfectly performed by star Rachel Bloom, an amazingly talented comic actress with enough dramatic and musical chops to pull off one of the trickiest roles – male or female – on television today. It’s a role that has already won Bloom the Golden Globe for Comedy/Musical Actress and the Critics’ Choice for Comedy Actress.

So, you may ask, how can we consider Rachel Bloom an underdog for an Emmy nomination?

Allow me to redirect you to the line where I mentioned Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a musical comedy. One that airs on The CW. One that, to the detriment of Americans (both middle and coastal) everywhere, reached a series high one million viewers with said episode.

Now you’re with me, right?

Rachel Bloom’s comedic performance reminds me of the age-old adage about women doing everything men do but backwards and in heels. Well, Bloom does everything more famous and higher rated comediennes do but singing and wearing spanx. Take that, OfficialJLD.

Through the arc of the series, Bloom runs through literally all of the emotions and perhaps invents a few new ones that, in fifty-eight years, we will all experience once we’ve raptured.

While Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s pathologically likable cast deserves attention for their robust and carefully constructed roles (particularly sidekick Donna Lynne Champlin and part-time lover Santino Fontana), the series awards attention has largely focused on Rachel Bloom. It’s hard to argue with that. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is fashioned in a highly collaborative creative environment, but the driving passion behind it seems to be Bloom who carries an air of classic Hollywood song-and-dance talent. Even while singing her “Sexy Getting Ready Song.”

To say Bloom’s comedic performance is kind of great is like saying puppies are kind of awesome. It’s a massive, colossal, mind-blowing understatement. Bloom is flat-out brilliant in the role. She tinges each line with a hopeful self-delusion that demands the viewer look twice at nearly everything she says. Not only is she pratfall funny, but she also manages to find the bittersweet moments and nurture those as much as she does her hilariously inventive songs. Through the arc of the series, Bloom runs through literally all of the emotions and perhaps invents a few new ones that, in fifty-eight years, we will all experience once we’ve raptured. It’s the kind of heart-on-your-sleeve performance that recalls the self-effacing work of the great Lisa Kudrow in The Comeback (twice Emmy nominated). You don’t know whether to laugh or look away. Maybe you’re doing both. I suspect that would make Rachel Bloom smile intensively.

Bloom’s early-year awards attention is by no means a guarantee for an Emmy nomination. Emmy watchers remember last year’s Gina Rodriguez issue right? The Television Academy needs to overcome its hesitancy around new talent and openly embrace Rachel Bloom as a comedic actress with intense dramatic chops. She’s created a fully real, three-dimensional woman with deep-seeded insecurities and an overwhelming need to be liked and loved.

An Emmy nomination for Rachel Bloom would be a great and most welcome achievement. It would be a shot of adrenaline to a show that deserves ten times the audience it pulls in now. It would be a celebration of the underdog. It would be something of a Rocky story – that is, if Rocky had boobs and wore Louboutins. It would recognize a series that tries very hard to entertain in an unique and thoughtful way. It would reward a show that dances and sings all on its own.

Even as I write this, the echoes of “West Covinaaaaaaa, Californiaaaaaaa” ring in my ears. Let Rachel Bloom’s name ring on Emmy nomination morning.

Because, if not, then she may slash all your tires, Emmy voters.*

*Rachel Bloom will not be slashing any Emmy voters’ tires, although she may look askew at you at next year’s Golden Globes.

Rachel Bloom

The Night Manager

Producer Stephen Garrett discusses the hot miniseries The Night Manager and its path from novel to film

If you’re not watching the critically acclaimed miniseries The Night Manager, then AMC is where you need to be spending your Tuesday nights. Starring Tom Hiddleston (I Saw the Light) and Hugh Laurie (House), The Night Manager is based on the John Le Carré novel. It deals with an undercover agent’s (Hiddleston) attempts to bring down an arms dealer (Laurie). Directed by Susanne Bier (In a Better World), the 6-part miniseries has received widespread praise for its direction, timely adaptation of the source material, and memorable lead performance by Hiddleston.

I recently caught up with executive producer Stephen Garrett to discuss casting and the challenges of modernizing The Night Manager.

The Night Manager

ADTV:  It’s a pleasure speaking to you! A fellow Brit is always fun. I want to congratulate you on a great miniseries. I saw the billboard a few months ago on Fairfax and I was so excited. Were you always a fan of [John] Le Carré and his work?

SG: I don’t know how much you know, if anything, about my career. There’s no reason why you should know anything [laughs], but back in the UK, I founded a company called Kudos and the first series with which we had a huge hit was with a show that played in the UK called Spooks but played here as MI-5. That show was my idea and it was inspired, absolutely, by my love of Le Carré novels. That idea I had goes back to 1970 and since I was a teenager I’ve been a fan of Le Carré. When I got a call from The Ink Factory, which is the company founded by Le Carré’s son, telling me they’d read I was leaving the company I’d founded and was in the process of reinventing myself, they told me they were in the very early stages of developing The Night Manager with the BBC. They had the first draft of the first two episodes and they had Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston attached and they asked if I would like to join the project and sort of take the lead executive role on it. It was like I’d died and gone to heaven, quite frankly. Yes, is the long answer to that question, I have always been a fan of Le Carré.

ADTV: I remember Spooks. I used to love watching it. It’s crazy that that was actually inspired by him. I learn something new every day.

SG: Completely! What’s interesting is, as you know, TV and movies are full of spy stories, but at that time when we started Spooks, television on both sides of the Atlantic was full of cop shows and doc shows, essentially. That time, to go into a spy show was really quite rare in TV. Now, you can’t turn on a channel without bumping into a spy so it’s harder to make a great spy story sing. But, Le Carré is the granddaddy of them all. He invented the modern spy story and, in a way, also invented the sort of anti-hero lead. If you go back to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold he has these fabulously morally ambiguous central characters. He was way ahead of his time with a slightly bleaker, cynical, realistic view of what it meant to be a hero. He’s responsible for what we take for granted in 21st century storytelling, but he was way ahead of the game.

ADTV: Speaking of the antihero, Hugh Laurie was absolutely perfect in the casting, and he’s also obsessed with Le Carré, which is perfect. He had a history with this, didn’t he?

SG: That’s right. By his own admission, he is an obsessive Le Carré fan. When the book came out, he tried to buy the rights and somebody, Sydney Pollack in fact, got there ahead of him. He wanted to play the part that Tom Hiddleston played, but 25 or so years later he had no option but to be Roper. In a way, you sort of thank God for that because I can’t imagine anyone better than Hugh playing Roper and I can’t imagine anyone better than Tom playing Pine. Sometimes, failure and rejection can work to your advantage, and it did in that case.

ADTV: Tom was perfect for his role as Jonathan Pine.

SG: He’s had, rightly, a lot of praise for, I think, what is so hard to do proper justice to in terms of the quality of his performance. There’s so much silence and so much space between words and, with a lesser actor, that would just feel blank and dead and dull, but there’s so much going on inside his head, behind his eyes that you really can watch him, for huge periods of time, seemingly without him doing anything. That’s why what he’s doing is so extraordinary.

ADTV: I can’t say it enough how perfectly they worked together. You struck gold with this one.

SG: It was thrilling. Again, I think one can’t underestimate the role our director Susanne Bier played. If you’re familiar with her work, you know she’s won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and was nominated another time. She is just a masterful magician with human alchemy. She does her best work in the space between words and the way in which bodies react to one another so that heady mix of Susanne, Tom, and Hugh just created something special that you can only dream of really and then stand back and admire when it happens in front of your eyes.

ADTV: What were the challenges in basically recalibrating the novel? The book came out in 1993. The series was modernized and you changed the end of the book, which worked out incredibly. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but in this case, it really did.

SG: I think the three big changes were, as you said, modernizing it, and that’s where the credit should go in large part to David Farr, our adapter, who had the idea because Le Carré’s original story starts in Cairo. If you do bring it up to date and you’ve got the Cairo story happening four or five years before you get to finding Pine in the Zermatt hotel actually coinciding perfectly with Arab Spring so it all fit. It also combined with the feelings that when Le Carré was writing in the early nineties the whole thing about Mexican drug cartels felt very fresh and, yet, now TV and movies are full of that. It felt more contemporary and resonant to be talking about illicit arms dealings in the Middle Eastern context. All that fit it beautifully and that was a stroke of genius on David Barr’s part.

Photo Credit: Mitch Jenkins/AMC
Photo Credit: Mitch Jenkins/AMC

Then, I think, what happened with the other big change up of turning the character of Burr, who is a man in the book, into a woman, was something I, when I came on board, had in conversations with my partners and Susanne Bier. It was clear that Le Carré had created, which was true to the time, a very male world, but suddenly in a 21st century context, that didn’t feel right. The obvious person to have go through a sex change was Burr. Susanne said there’s only one actor that [she] wanted to work with and that was Olivia Colman. In their first conversation, there was good news and bad news when Olivia said, “Yes, I’d love to do it, but by the way, I’m pregnant.” We then had to navigate our way through the insurance and, needless to say, we weren’t terribly excited to send, by then, a very heavily pregnant woman to Morocco with quite intense filming of running down corridors and guns to her head or whatever. Anyway, we were so excited by the possibility, from a story and character point of view, of not just having a woman in that role, but a pregnant woman that even if the insurance had vetoed Olivia, which they came close to doing, we wrote the part to be pregnant. It seemed, to us, to add so much value and vulnerability and tension to the story as it unfolded.

With the ending, there are some endings that are very satisfying in a novel, but they just don’t work as well on screen. It’s quite hard to articulate, but it’s partly because you can get inside the heads of characters very easily in a novel. In terms of, externalizing satisfying endings, there are some things you have to reinvent. I think we were true to the spirit of the ending of the book but just handled it in a different way. At the end, as you’ve probably read or heard, Le Carré, himself, is really thrilled with how this one’s turned out. We all are such fans of Le Carré so if we made him unhappy, however successful the show had been, that would have been pretty devastating. The fact that it worked as well as it did and he’s delighted is as thrilling as it gets.

ADTV: This is a TV production, but if you were to make a movie of it, you’d have probably two hours. However, TV gives you more hours to get your adaptation across. How did that work for you?

SG: Here’s the thing, and this goes back to why it took so long for the story to come to screen, Hollywood generally has this slightly knee-jerk response when a book, particularly a thriller, appears to just get bought from the assumption that if it’s a good thriller you can turn it into a movie. The truth is, particularly with Le Carré, you can’t condense the story into two hours because if you reduce The Night Manager just to the plot, then you actually lose everything that makes your skin tingle about it, which is that slow burn of the cat and mouse game played out between Pine and Roper. There are some stories that just need more space. Some novels are great at 200 pages and some are great at 600 pages and this happens to be one that works at 600 pages.

The truth is, also, having one director and one writer tell that story over six hours essentially makes it a six hour movie. It just so happens that movie theaters can’t cope with six hour stories [laughs] so it’s perfectly suited for this new golden age of television. You’ve got audiences who want cinematic quality and cinematic complexity and cinematic ambition, but they want to watch it at home with their increasingly growing screens. As multiplex screens get smaller, home screens get bigger so the fusion between the two worlds is actually creating exciting possibilities. I think that there’s no better place for this story to be told than in ways that allow people to consume it at home.

ADTV: When you watch it, it is like a movie. The production values are so incredible and you’re filming in all these great locations. Did you have any challenges when filming in Morocco or wherever?

SG: It’s always a challenge, particularly because of the Roper character being clearly a kind of oligarch, you obviously have to find locations, in particular a villa kind of fortress that reflects his status in the world. When briefing our location scout, someone had done a bit of research and pulled out pictures of houses that were the sort of thing that would work, and someone had actually found a picture of the very house we used. We needed to find the perfect house and base everything around that and our location scout found the very house that we’d used as a comp saying to find something like that and he found that! That house in Majorca, which is owned by a British hedge-fund guy, just couldn’t have been better. Historically, it had been a fortress. It’s exactly the place that someone like Roper would hang out. We sort of extrapolated from that and used Majorca to provide locations, so, when you saw captions that said Morocco or Istanbul or Madrid, that was all in Majorca. We had a second unit camera man go to Cairo and Istanbul and create those scene-setting shots, but the details of it was all in Majorca.

In terms of challenges, we had a great Moroccan crew in Morocco and Spanish crew in Spain and our physical production team did an amazing job navigating their way through different cultures. This is sort of a long winded answer to your question about some of the challenges, but you see in the credits on movies things like ‘best boy’ and ‘grip’ and all those terms the public aren’t familiar with, but the Moroccans had this standard member of their crew who turned up every day when we were filming on location who was a snake charmer. He was there to make sure that we were not invaded by snakes. Susanne adopted him and he stood by Susanne for every waking second of every day and night that we were shooting outside in Marrakech. We had no snakes so either he did a brilliant job or there were no snakes, but I loved the idea that we had our own snake charmer.The Night Manager

The Night Manager
Photo Credit: Des Willie /The Ink Factory/AMC

ADTV:When you’re watching it, and I can’t remember it from the book but, there’s almost a homoerotic connection between Pine and Roper. What do you think draws them to each other?

SG: I think it is in the book and it’s something that happens quite a lot in Le Carré. I think he is very drawn to the idea of good looking men being drawn to one another, and I think that underpins a lot of the key relationships in his storytelling. That’s very much there. They are, in a way, diametrically opposed but sort of two sides of the same coin. That’s a very important part of their relationship and, in terms of the storytelling, it really only works if you’re constantly uncertain as to whether Pine might be seduced by Roper in a way; not sexually seduced, but seduced into his world. That attraction and a kind of admiration of one another’s minds and approaches to the world is part of the appeal and, I think, what also elevates this from being a conventional thriller into something that has great emotion and psychological depth, which is what makes it so satisfying. It’s never overstated, but I think there’s always just so much going on. That homoerotic attraction between those two men is a very important part of it.

ADTV: So, what’s next for you?

SG: As usual, [laughs] one always has three or four things at various stages of development so you never quite know what’s going to pop up next. There’s a project I’ve been developing with Lionsgate and Stephenie Meyer’s company Fickle Fish. Stephenie has optioned a novel called The Rook, which is a supernatural spy story set in London. We’re developing that for Hulu. It’s developed, but that doesn’t mean it’ll happen first but that could be next. At the moment, it’s just incredibly enjoyable and satisfying basking in the glow of The Night Manager going out and that will disappear soon and once it becomes last year’s news then we move on.

The Night Manager airs Tuesday nights on AMC at 10pm ET. The series wraps May 24.

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