Opinion

Man Seeking Woman

Both FXX’s Man Seeking Woman and the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend deal with mental illness. But one does it better.

Early on in the pilot of CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) is shown dumping her prescriptions down the sink of her West Covina house with a smug smile on her face. I remember watching this moment with hope the show would explore more character complexity like this and not be reduced to a one-note musical.

Instead, after watching more than half a dozen episodes, I discovered the show to be the overly-attached-girlfriend meme come to life.

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While the show does make great strides when it comes to diversity (Filipino love interests, bisexuality), the show does little for the “crazy” behind its female lead. It’s mostly hard-to-watch episodes of Rebecca humiliating herself, supporting a stereotype without much depth (although Clarence lauded her “You Stupid Bitch” scene as a watershed moment).

Just around the time I bought my ticket out of West Covina and Rebecca Bloom’s story,  I started watching FXX’s Man Seeking Woman. Starring Jay Baruchel, Eric Andre, and the fantastic Britt Lower, MSW follows your run-of-the-mill dating and 20-something Millennial storylines, but through funny goggles. For example, in the first episode of the series, Josh’s sister Liz sets him up with a troll. For real. What I love about this show is that despite its highly absurd moments, it feels like a more accurate depiction of modern dating and, compared to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, mental illness.

Granted, none of the characters in MSW claim to be crazy or suffer from anxiety or depression, but so much of the show feels like it’s shot through that lense. When you have anxiety, everything feels heightened as do-or-die. You immediately think the worst, and each week holds a Soup-Du-Jour worry of the moment. That’s a little bit like MSW. Each week is a new episode with a new, outlandish, ultimately insane situation. In the past, Josh has been surgically conjoined to a girlfriend, been bullied to couple up, and attended a wedding, literally, in hell.

fxx man seeking woman

In February 10’s MSW episode titled “Honey,” Josh discovers that his office crush is dating none other than Jesus Christ himself (played affably by Fred Armisen). Non-anxious people would feel pretty crappy about their crush seeing someone else, but through ultra-uptight spectacles, the stakes are even higher. Your crush isn’t just dating a great guy, she’s dating the best great guy of all time. In this case, there’s no way Josh can match Christ (on the reverse, one of his exes also dated Hitler, who he, too, could never live up to).

While it’s doubtful creator Simon Rich designed this show as a spot-on, comedic representation of mental illness, I suspect that he based it on another idea: That dating can make people nutty, and with 50 percent of the population being single, that makes most people fit to be medicated.

fuller house cast

Megan provides a defense for Netflix’s Fuller House revival

The first minutes of Fuller House are the most painful moments of television all season, worse than the Republican Debate where no one knew whether to come out when their names were called.

During the first episode titled “Our Very First Show, Again,” my mouth gaped open like the perpetually-accessible Tanner kitchen door, as Fuller House cast member after cast member entered. The formula: Actor/actress appears, says memorable catchphrase, audience applauds for 10 seconds. It was very reminiscent of The Simpsons episode when Bart exhausted his “I didn’t do it” tag.

Full House was never a great show. Let’s get that out of the way first. So the expectations were low for this reboot. The whole first episode of the Netflix series is complete fan service to those who were disappointed by the original Full House ending (Michelle gets amnesia after falling off a horse—yes, really) and relies solely on the nostalgia of seeing the entire cast (sans the Olsen twins) together again. Even Uncle Jesse says, “Damn, we look good”—after saying “Have mercy,” natch. 

But once you get past the first episode and the plot develops (DJ is a widow and receives help raising her three boys courtesy of Stephanie and Kimmy Gibbler), you’ll realize that Fuller House has the exact cheesy tone and digestible storylines that made the original TGIF series a mainstay on Friday nights. Jeff Franklin is a genius because he knew what worked and created a pitch-perfect knock-off of the original. The plot allows for returning favorites (Steve!), references to the first series (remember when DJ ran away from home?), and the opportunity for guest stars/babysitters (like Dave Coulier who reprises his role as Joey).

But of course, not everyone feels this way. Despite getting picked up for a second season, Fuller House has been called everything but a nerdbomber by reviewers.

The AV Club said: “There’s no better argument against Fuller House than its own pilot, which acts as the indulgent, diehards-only series finale never granted to Full House when it was abruptly canceled in its eighth season.”

Vulture’s Margaret Lyons wrote: “As far as revivals go, Fuller House achieves the dream of being very much like its original but a little bit better overall, while cycling in familiar faces and including those ‘remember the old days?’ moments.”

Jeff Jensen at Entertainment Weekly described the show having “Winks at genre conventions and celeb cameos, some of which are shockingly sad.”

When reading these reviews, I couldn’t help but notice how what these critics were saying about Fuller House was just what they had deemed commendable for another monster reboot—Star Wars: The Force Awakens. TFA introduced new characters before retiring old ones, included random celebrity cameos, and was described as being a Band-Aid for a previous lackluster finale—all in an effort to pivot the franchise into a new future. Plus, it also has almost the exact plot of the original

I actually didn’t care for the new Star Wars film because of these reasons. I had seen Star Wars: A New Hope and already loved it. I didn’t need to see it again with new characters. Granted, my expectations were a little higher for The Force Awakens, but after watching Fuller House, I realized why audiences were so taken with J.J. Abrams’ reboot. He and Jeff Franklin are both geniuses because they gave their audiences exactly what they wanted. So many people described feeling like a kid again while watching TFA, and that’s how I (and I believe many people) felt about Fuller House.

Maybe Fuller House isn’t as influential on the pop culture spectrum as Star Wars, but let’s lay off all the hate for a show that was already terrible (in a fun way!). It’s giving fans what they want. I’ll lay down my light saber if you lay down yours.

After weeks of controversy, Donald Trump finally hosted Saturday Night Live. This wasn’t his first hosting gig; he hosted once before back in 2004 when he wasn’t running for the highest political office in the country. Yet, he seemed to have learned nothing from that prior experience. His performance last night was uncomfortable to watch, ill-fitting his skill set and certainly not funny.

That’s not just my opinion either. A cursory look across the Internet shows even Trump supporters blamed SNL’s writers for his bad performance (although there are certainly those deluded hundreds lost in a Trump-induced fantasia who think his performance was great). And perhaps there’s truth to the “blame the writers” theory – SNL hasn’t bad particularly good this year despite several capable hosts. It certainly wasn’t going to excel with one who has no business hosting a comedy show.

The great concern over “equal time” for a presidential candidate apparently whittled down his on-screen time to just under 12 minutes, although it certainly felt like a great deal more. By comparison, season opener host Miley Cyrus had over 21 minutes of screen time. In the end, having Donald Trump as a host seemed to be nothing more than a shameless grab for ratings and attention. He clearly didn’t belong and clearly has no comedy chops on which to rest. The studio audience didn’t help matters either as they were largely silent through the tortured evening, especially when Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, made a cameo. Crickets.

The funniest moment of the evening came from Larry David, twice actually. First, his brilliant turn as Bernie Sanders was, yet again, another highlight of the episode. Given the right amount of screen time through the upcoming year, his impersonation could approach the same legendary status as Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin. I do smell a Guest Actor Comedy Emmy nomination in the works for David. Second, he yelled “Trump is a racist” during Trump’s opening monologue, a direct reference to a group offering $5,000 to anyone who would yell it on the air. It was most likely a scripted moment – SNL isn’t about spontaneity these days – but it felt daring and subversive given the look of glee on Larry David’s face. Reportedly, he’ll receive that $5,000.

After all is said and done, SNL emerged as the big loser last night. It was a no-win situation for them anyway. There was no way to make Trump funny, but the talented cast seemed ill-at-ease and tentative in their comedy. Trump’s supporters and detractors would likely come away with their pre-disposed notions of him firmly in tact, and, while the ratings may be higher than normal, Trump’s appearance was unlikely to win the long-running comedy series any new fans. It’s fine to feature political candidates on the show as guest stars, but dedicating an entire show to a single active candidate (no matter your political persuasion) is ultimately a bad decision to make.

No matter how Trump performed, all of this attention (even from yours truly) is free publicity for a presidential candidate – a presidential candidate who excels at spinning his every move into self-perceived excellence. Although, honestly, I’m not even sure Donald Trump himself could spin last night’s weak performance into anything more than what it was – shameless self-promotion aided by a toothless comedy institution.

It was an ugly moment. It was the kind of moment that, however quickly it passed by, you knew instantly that it would stir controversy thanks to the unfortunate truth it uncovered. And it has, deservedly so.

On last night’s Season Four premiere of HBO’s Project Greenlight, the judging panel tasked with selecting the right person to direct their broad romantic comedy script – Not Another Pretty Woman – started to discuss their favorites within the top ten directors. The conversation was genial and professional. They discussed the screenplay and their desire to select someone who would bring out the best in the clearly underdeveloped work. Hopefully they were also looking for someone to rework that awful title.

And then it happened.

Here’s the situation. Line producer Effie Brown advocated for Leo and Kristen, a white woman and a Vietnamese man, anticipating they would bring sensitivity and the delicate handling required for one of the script’s female characters – Harmony, a black prostitute. She very eloquently urged her producing partners to think about selecting a more diverse director who would consider such issues in their interpretation of the script. Matt Damon interrupted her, reminding Brown that Leo and Kristen were the only two who fully embraced the script as is. And then he said this…

“And when we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show… Do you want the best director?”

Yeah… Effie Brown reacted professionally, but even she was taken aback by the display.

I did not include the scene in my immediate review of the episode, and that bothered me all day. I had a few very specific reasons for excluding it. I didn’t have an advanced copy of the episode, so it was late last night when I finished watching it. I was lucky to bang out my review as quickly as I did. The scene wasn’t the kind of water cooler moment you want to react to quickly. Thanks to the “now-ness” of the Internet, reactions all have to be instantaneous these days, leaving little time for contemplation or reflection. Given the powder keg nature of the scene, reflection and thoughtfulness would only contribute positively to the overall conversation.

So I chose to wait it out. To let it marinate. My opinion on the scene hasn’t changed, but hopefully my words are more thoughtful than my knee-jerk reaction last night would have been. I’ve gotten in trouble before for quick takes. I didn’t want that to happen this time.

Do I think Matt Damon is a bad person? Absolutely not. Do I think he’s a product of the omnipresent Hollywood culture? Yes I do. Most likely realizing the impact of what he said and how a team of reality TV producers would edit it (they didn’t), he filmed a separate segment to clarify the intent of his statement. Basically, he uses the old (white) Hollywood adage that the best person should get the job, and it would corrupt the integrity of Project Greenlight to make their ultimate selection based on any other criteria.

But that’s the problem. In my opinion, it wouldn’t corrupt the integrity of Project Greenlight at all. In fact, it would enhance the show’s reputation by potentially giving young, diverse filmmakers a leg up in an industry dominated by white men. Those who pay attention have all see the statistics of the members who make up the Academy. But just think how revolutionary it would have been for Project Greenlight to flip the script and cast someone different behind the camera. Damon mentions diversity comes in casting, not behind the camera, which comes dangerously close to mirroring an old phrase I’d heard many times growing up in the South – effectively “black folks are good for entertaining.” Damon wasn’t trying to be outwardly racist, but he clearly did not see the value in looking for a different perspective behind the camera.

Just imagine if a non-white, non-male teenager had seen a Project Greenlight Season Four that featured someone more like them and less like the standard Hollywood power types. Just imagine someone growing up inspired by the next Ava DuVernay or Carl Franklin. In twenty years, think of the wonderfully diverse films that would produce. If only we could inspire those who are too often ignored. Think what a cinematic world that would create.

Instead, we get Matt Damon mansplaining diversity to a black filmmaker, and an angry white male winning the directing slot in Project Greenlight. That’s not shocking or surprising in the least. It’s kind of what I’ve come to expect from Hollywood today. What was shocking (and disappointing) was the brutal efficiency Matt Damon used to so quickly dismiss the idea of selecting a contest winner based on their ability to bring a broad perspective – diversity – to the project.

Project Greenlight remains a class act when compared to the broad field of reality television programming. In fact, I give it props for pulling actual truth within the confines of the reality TV genre. Matt Damon, however, is less so, and I hope this incident causes him to reconsider his position of privilege  in Hollywood and support someone from a broader and more diverse background. It’s not simply affirmative action.

It’s simply in support of a more colorful canvas of cinema.

UnREAL is the sudsy guilty-pleasure of the summer.

It follows the cast and crew behind the scenes of a reality dating show called Everlasting, so it’s supposed to be the reality behind the “reality,” when really it’s pure fiction. Yet, it plays out more realistically than anything you’ll see on Bravo this season.  While UnREAL premiered to low ratings, it’s maintained buzz over the summer, especially with ABC airing its latest season of The Bachelorette on the same night. Bachelorette fans will switch over to the Lifetime show directly following the dating drama.

But while some fans like to consume The Bachelorette and UnREAL together like cheese and wine, I prefer to drink the latter with another show: LOST.

Granted, I will never watch LOST again after its lackluster finale (and final two seasons), but when I watch UnREAL, I think fondly of the early mystique of the island and wondering why these characters are here.

It’s kind of a stretch, but if you think about it, the two shows share strange resemblances to each other. Each show consists of people who’ve done bad things to get where they are. They’re both stuck in a confined location that they all want to get out of. And strange things happen like frolicking polar bears and white ladies dangling from the roof.

I like to watch UnREAL with the idea that everyone is in purgatory and that they are all trying to find their way out, which is essentially the plot of LOST (although they were in emotional purgatory for seasons 1 through 5 and literal purgatory in season 6).

From the very beginning, there’s something eerie and disturbing about UnREAL. We meet Constance Zimmer’s Quinn, who may as well be Christof from The Truman Show, calling the shots and anticipating America’s every racist move (you can’t have a black girl come out of the limo first!). She goes through the motions like she’s done this a million times. She’s like Desmond hitting the button every 108 minutes.

Then, there’s the producer Rachel (Shiri Appleby). She made a drunken scene at the end of last season, alienating everyone (including her boyfriend) and putting her on probation. But she’s back. . .because. .there’s no place else for her to go. She’s Jack Shephard. She desperately wants to go back to the island she couldn’t wait to get away from. And like Jack, she makes questionable decisions, like inviting one of the contestant’s abusive husbands for a confrontation on the show.

No one on UnREAL is likable. Everyone has their sins, and they run deep. The Bachelor himself Adam Cromwell (Freddie Stroma) whores himself out in an effort to get investors for his vineyard. Shia (Aline Elasmar) messes with one of the contestant’s bipolar medication to get bitch-tastic moments for the camera. Even the measly production assistant intern Madison (Genevieve Buechner) gives her married boss Chet (Craig Bierko) a BJ just because she feels like she has to.

Yet, unlike LOST, we don’t get flashbacks of these characters. We don’t learn the drive behind their actions. In fact, we don’t even see what these characters’ home lives are like, which actually makes for more effectively grim storytelling. These people are just… here. They don’t have a life outside of the show, so it makes it seem like they are all minions to the cause with Quinn leading with a pitchfork.

I doubt that UnREAL will end with everyone meeting at a church and going to Heaven together, and I prefer it that way. UnREAL is darker and more twisted. And if Quinn has her way, no one will ever escape.

For the record I have never (regrettably) lived on the shores of America, nor am I an expert in its realm of television. I am, however, invested enough to have the passion for, and a fairly good knowledge of, the medium. With the Emmy nominations just a couple of days away, rather than make myself look a TV novice, I took to the streets to ask the regular people their views on the potential omissions from the nominations and who might surprise us by showing their face.

LIMITED SERIES / TELEVISION MOVIE 

SNUB?   American Horror Story: Freak Show   “It was just too much for me. I didn’t mind the haunted house one, the prison one, or even the one with the witches and Kathy Bates’ talking head, but this is just a freak show now. Plus, ain’t nobody even asked me to be in it, and I got a third nipple.”

SNUB?   Killing Jesus   “The title alone I would say, very controversial. Good thing he came back for a sequel.”

SPOILER?   Gracepoint   “Really loved the first season of Broadchurch, so powerful, so emotional. But this is the American version, and I want to be patriotic. Though in truth, Gracepoint was piss poor.”

SNUB?   David Oyelowo (Nightingale)   “If the film academy can do it then so can the television academy.”

SPOILER?   Stephen Merchant (Hello Ladies The Movie)   “If Ricky Gervais can do it then so can his comedy writing partner.”

SNUB?   Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freak Show)   “Because enough is enough now. I hear in American Horror Story: Sexy Ghost, Lange will be playing a bed-side lamp and will still be nominated.”

SPOILER?   Yaya Dacosta (Whitney)   “Woman director for one. Black director for two. Plus, if you can’t appreciate the life of Whitney Houston, we have a problem. Because I will always love her. Yes, I. I will. I will always love her.”

SNUB?   Damian Lewis (Wolf Hall)   “With the High Sparrow also in this show and hotly tipped, they could split votes. One big drawback, no wolves.”

SNUB?   Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Freak Show)   “Two heads is not always better than one.”

SPOILER?   Abigail Lawrie (The Casual Vacancy)   “In all seriousness, not as well known as Michael Gambon for sure, but bottom line she is the best thing in this.”

DRAMA SERIES

SNUB?   Downton Abbey   “Aren’t we a little tired of seeing that opening of the dog being walked. Though the poor dog did pass away, it was a rather sudden decision by the production team given the association with the name Isis. I can’t wait until next year when Lord Grantham drags her corpse along the green on a leash.”

SPOILER?   Bloodline   “Emmy liked Kyle Chandler in Friday Night Lights. They liked Linda Cardellini in Mad Men. They liked Sam Shepard in Dash and Lilly. They liked Sissy Spacek in The Good Old Boys. Plus, it is Netflix. Very tasty ingredients. Wait, what was the question?”

SNUB?   Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)   “He is just too funny in this. Surely they will forget it’s a drama. Though that scene when he kicks the door closed and almost breaks down. Nice. I’m not sure now, it’s confusing. Was he on meth?”

SPOILER?   Jamie Dornan (The Fall)   “He may have weird sexual methodology, his American acting might suck, but he is rather captivating as a killer in Northern Ireland. No, really.”

SNUB?   Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)   “She makes me want to watch classic old episodes of E.R. but she has no room on her shelves at home for another Emmy. Take a year off Julianna, you’ve earned it. Plus, she gave me crabs.”

SNUB?   Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul)   “It would be upsetting if the incredible Mike was not nominated, given a fleshed out narrative and screen time – which he fills expertly. If Emmy does not simply go for Saul then he could be out too.”

SPOILER?   Michael McKean (Better Call Saul)   “Is it unthinkable that Chuck could get in? There is no doubt he was great in the show. But can Emmy forgive him for what he did to Saul? His own brother! Worse things have happened.”

SNUB?   Lena Headley (Game of Thrones)   “So that was a body double the whole time? Why would she deserve an Emmy nomination for that? Sure, sure, she was pretty much flawless and had a great range to work with the entire season. Oh what, so Emmys are about good work now? If you want a nomination, then show me your boobs. Real boobs.”

SPOILER?   Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)   “There’s nothing like a supporting cast member of a snubbed regular to shake things up a bit. Plus, Archie is very decent in this and is in the mix of some of the juicy story-lines.”

COMEDY SERIES

SNUB?   Veep   “Politics? Boo!”

SPOILER?   Shameless   “Shagging? Yeah!”

SNUB?   Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)   “Is he not too humanized now Amy has her claws in him? We want robot Sheldon back. And he is not getting an Emmy nod until we do.”

SPOILER?   Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)   “Honestly, one of my favorite comedy shows around. I, too, was one of the few who was not surprised when he and the show scooped Golden Globe wins last year. Could it repeat here? Did I mention Saturday Night Live?”

SNUB?   Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer)   “Too funny. Too talented. Too empowering. Too current. Too fat.”

SPOILER?   Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project)   “It’s now or never, Kelly Kapoor.”

SPOILER?   Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation)   “What’s not to like? A very busy twelve months with the Lego, the talking tree, and the velociraptors. How does he even have a sense of humor after all of that? Plus, dreamy.”

SNUB?   Allison Janney (Mom)   “Not that funny, and who would want a mother like that?”

SPOILER?   Wendi McLendon-Covery (The Goldbergs)   “Very funny, and who would not want a mother like that?”

Author’s Note: Regarding the speaking to real people, I did nothing of the sort. This is mere fiction, an attempt at tongue-in-cheek humor disguising some possible snubs and spoilers come Thursday. Not all, I might add, my own opinion.

Rush Hour. Uncle Buck. It seems like each day brings new reports of a movie being turned into a TV show with most upcoming projects like Fatal Attraction appearing unfit for TV (given that, well, we all know how THAT story ends—hide your bunnies!). Also, you can have your Scream TV series – it bears next-to-no resemblance to the films we love.

But what movies would make good TV shows? Here are ten that might be able to successfully make the leap from big screen to small screen.

  1. Chinatown. Bear with us. Imagine HBO doing their own take on this classic, a look at the seedy underbelly of LA through the eyes of a private investigator. Think True Detective only with a film noir quality. Could Jon Hamm fill Nicholson’s shoes?
  2. Groundhog Day. It already has a comforting, sitcom-like premise (each episode will bring the same routine the same way Kramer enters Jerry’s apartment without knocking), but imagine getting to learn more about the characters within the quirky town of Punxsutawney (especially since Bill Murray was trapped in the town for 34 years). Of course you’ll need a replacement for Phil Connors. Our suggestions: Hugh Laurie or John Cho.
  3. To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. A group of drag queens accidentally ends up in a small Midwestern town and change the lives of the residents for the better (does this already just scream Logo?). Now, who to cast? Hugh Dancy is pretty enough to be a woman—plus, Hannibal was canceled, so he’s looking for work. Also, Michael Pena could attempt the fill the heels of John Leguizamo.
  4. Pleasantville. Two teens end up sucked into their favorite ‘50s TV show. This concept is ripe for episodes and character arcs. Jennette McCurdy could play the Reese Witherspoon role, Michael Cera the Tobey Maguire, and other townspeople could include Anna Friel (who rocked vintage garb on Pushing Daisies) and Octavia Spencer, who could be a character that starts a Civil Rights movement inspired by these transients from the future.
  5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In the movie, we only got 2.5 hours’ worth of grandpa-to-baby, but what about all of the stuff in between? Who doesn’t want to see an 80-year-old in kindergarten? The plot has so many possibilities when it comes to episodes. Cast Rob Lowe in this role, since he’s already like a reallife Benjamin.
  6. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Twenty-five years ago, ABC tried to do the The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, starring Sean Patrick Flanery, but what about doing a show about adult Indiana Jones and the adventures he goes on? Shut everyone up and cast Chris Pratt and put it on AMC.
  7. Peter Pan. Networks like Fox and CW are doing origin stories for characters like Batman and the Flash, but what about another beloved character who flies? And it wouldn’t even have to be an origin story. It could just be a look at the boy who never grows old and the adventures he finds himself in without Wendy.
  8. Basic Instinct. There are many male anti-heroes on TV, but not enough female ones. This show would fix that, following Catherine Tramell and her series of misdeeds. Think Dexteress. Starring Eva Longoria in Sharon Stone’s role.
  9. August Osage County. The days of The Cosby Show are gone. Dysfunctional families are hot right now (think: The Americans, Shameless), and there’s nothing more dysfunctional than this play-turned-movie. This family could get into A LOT of trouble, and while you won’t get Meryl to reprise her role, you could get Margo Martindale (The Millers was canceled) and maybe some new blood in the form of Hope Davis, Courteney Cox, Steve Buscemi, Anna Gunn, and Jessica Lange in the Meryl role.
  10. The Player. Hollywood loves movies about itself, so why wouldn’t it like a TV series about the inner workings of the business? Robert Altman’s 1992 film was about an executive receiving death threats from a screenwriter, but this is probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what people will do to make it in Hollywood. Let’s hear more. Timothy Olyphant could play the Tim Robbins role.

 

What movie do you think would make a good TV show? Sound off in the comments.

As the U.S. version of The Office leaked a bit of gusto in it’s final seasons (Michael Scott’s departure left a gaping hole), there was a bright light still shining from a corner of the room in the form of Erin Hannon. By no means a main character, and was never intended to fill Michael’s shoes, nor that of Dwight Schrute or Pam Halpert. However, Erin was cute and cheerful, with a childlike innocence. Although certainly not the sharpest tool in the box, her naive look on the world may have been her redeeming feature. One of the most likable workers at Dunder Mifflin. And one of the most loved characters of The Office.

I was personally intrigued about whether someone like Ellie Kemper (who played Erin) would go onto other equally good or better shows or roles. My interest in her potential to become something of a leading lady was quenched when Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (both writers on 30 Rock) created Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. An American comedy in the same slightly screwball, alluringly amusing ballpark as 30 Rock, while allowing Ellie Kemper to bring a little bit of Erin Hannon’s clueless charm.

Kimmy Schmidt (Kemper) is rescued from an underground bunker (and end-of-the-world cult Reverend) with three other women. Kimmy, like the others, has for fifteen years been locked away from the world, brainwashed to believe it pretty much no longer existed. And so now she has to adjust to the big bad world, in New York City. Except it is not that bad, but her acclimatization will take some time. What stands out here (in a blissfully watchable show) is that it is far less George of the Jungle or Crocodile Dundee, and much more a reassuringly joyful and somewhat feminine-driven comedy of self rediscovery. Kimmy wants to shake off her victim stigma (don’t call her one of “The Mole Women”), and is desperately eager to adapt to life as we know it. Or rather to life as she does not know it. A lot can happen, and has happened, in fifteen years, and the excellent writing dab dabs us in and out of how things have, can we say, evolved. And Kimmy is the sponge absorbing it all one day at a time.

Kimmy is soon surrounded by a kaleidoscope of characters that, to be frank, all may have more social issues than the woman who spent half her life in an underground bunker. And this is clear to the audience. That said, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt not once glorifies or dramatizes the trauma of such events, the same way it’s clever humor and redeeming tone never trivializes it.

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Those characters back above ground include wannabe drama queen of musical Broadway Titus, whose support of Kimmy is ever so slightly touching in parts. But this is a guy who at one point seriously considers living as a werewolf because he is treated with more respect than a black man in New York. Kimmy’s employer Jacqueline is still a headless chicken as a wife and keeper of her own home, and her own well-being. Her step-daughter Xanthippe paints a bitchy picture of teenhood, but is really a pot of gold underneath. Although it does not tarnish the excellence of the show, or disregard John Hamm’s wacky contribution as Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (yep), the one-track journey to the conclusion of the court case (and the season) is not quite as strong (AKA funny) as the rest. But that is hardly a flaw at all.

Kimmy’s love interests, too, are auto-fails it seems. Initially, Charles seems ideal boyfriend material – though even I wondered while I was watching it why he was such a strong romantic candidate so early on. The daddy’s boy Logan is enticed by Kimmy because of his initial charisma rather than the silver spoon up his bottom. He soon shows his true moronic colors. Only Dong seems to fit the bill so far (remember this season is a mere thirteen episodes), though he has his own America-status issues. Dong and Kim’s actual educational conversing is paralleled with how they emotionally learn from each other – which is sweet enough for you to cheer them on as lovebirds. Saying that, if you are anything like me you will route for whatever makes Kimmy happy.

Comedy-wise, Ellie Kemper nails every line, action and gesture. At times she is borderline Jim Carrey with that toothy smile and goofy facial language. The sliding door back and forth, revealing different facial moods may be the most direct homage. Kemper brings a cluster of faces to the show. All of them, whether temporarily angry, scrunched mouth pride, the determined glint, are all endearing and magnetic. The affirmative nod is a classic regular, when we just know Kimmy has no or little idea what is going on or what has just been said. Remember Joey from Friends?

One such head-shaking moment that had me laughing out loud was when (in a bunker flashback scene) Kimmy is pretending to drive a car, and the clutch appears to be in mid-air. You may have to see it to appreciate it. That and one hundred other moments. There are also harmless impersonations of cultural and social stereotypes, of which as circumstances go Kimmy has little clue about until recently – and that’s why its funny. The world is a different place. In one early scene Jacqueline mistakenly tells her that is strike three regarding her job, “Has baseball changed?!” Kimmy yells in sheer panic.

Ellie Kemper bosses this show, her Kimmy is so reminiscent of The Office‘s Erin, and yet many, many miles apart. Both elements are complimentary to a performance of such grace and encouragement. That face of freedom as Kimmy lands her feet in New York City and embraces the view she has with a huge smile, is not only plastered all over the internet, but might hold a firm place in your memory if your heart is big enough. I wonder how many doubted Ellie Kemper’s transition to leading lady, then. “I will break you Kimmy Schmidt” the Reverend threatens her when she might be onto him in the bunker, Kimmy is defiant in her response: “No you won’t!”.

UKS1

Is this going to be the year that ABC’s awards juggernaut loses Best Comedy Series? In case you live under a rock, Modern Family has won the last 5 consecutive years (the only other show to pull this off is Frasier from 94-98). If it wins again this year, it will be the most honored comedy in Emmy history. What other shows are cracking their knuckles to take it down?

The question of whether the Dunphys and Pritchetts will be nominated again is a no brainer. The Family clan will be back to defend their title (whether they win or not is very much up for debate), but are they one of the very few major network comedies that will get in? It seems that the majority of the Family opponents come from HBO and other carriers. At this point in the game, we have to look at shows that might be able to win the category, but I’m not sure what is making a big enough impact to do so.

Modern

The Big Bang Theory has been a recurring show for the last four year in this category, but the show has yet to win. Even though it remains the top-rated comedy in America, it’s not entirely impossible for it to fall out this year. It does feel like the kind of comedy that would win in its final year, and maybe the Emmys are content with giving star Jim Parsons the trophy year after year. While Big Bang is around, Mom (the other Chuck Lorre show) doesn’t seem like it will ever get a nomination—no matter how many surprise Critics’ Choice Television Award nominations it receives.

Parks & Recreation feels like a distant memory for me (I admit that I am someone who hasn’t watched it yet), so will a nomination be too difficult to pull out? It seems that fans would be more satisfied if star Amy Poehler finally walked away with an Emmy and that getting in for Comedy Series is an afterthought. Those fans are D-E-V-O-U-T, though. Never say never. Of the other major networks, the only candidates are freshman sitcoms. Like Modern Family, Fresh Off the Boat plays with the familial dynamic, but are enough people watching the show and loving it? Most of the preliminary awards attention has been going towards the star-making turn from Constance Wu and rightfully so. I’ve said it many times that she is the best thing about Fresh, so I don’t think the show will stand a chance in this year’s race. It has the opportunity to become a beloved show later, but it doesn’t seem to have made a lasting impression.

blackish

The other “family” show that debuted this year is ABC’s Black-ish, and it deserves to be in the race. It’s smart and better than a lot of other comedies out there right now, but it feels as if no one has been talking about it. It hasn’t managed a Critics’ Choice or TCA nomination, and both stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross are mysteriously absent when it comes to nomination time so far this year. If Modern Family gets a nomination, Black-ish deserves to be there right alongside it. Speaking of shows that no one is talking about, Fox’s Last Man on Earth seemed like a big topic of conversation when it debuted in back in March (Megan is definitely a fan), but good reviews haven’t propelled it anywhere near the awards stratosphere.

On the cable networks, Veep is almost guaranteed to return to the Comedy Series race. The third season was the best received so far, and it (along with star Julia Louis-Dreyfus) should be rather joyous on nomination morning. HBO has another surging comedy in Silicon Valley. It was nominated last year in this category (to a lot of scratching heads), and it just won the Critics’ Choice. Remember: Critics’ Choice does not translate to Emmy glory. It’s simply the only awards body that has announced winners so far this year, and Family wasn’t even nominated at that ceremony. But the question lingers: could this show be the one to steal the crown from the Dunphys and Pritchetts? I bet a lot of Veep fans would be pissed if Silicon snatched the title away from them. The show on HBO that might fall out is Lena Dunham’s Girls. It managed nominations for the first two seasons, but missed out last year. Is it done? I think so.

Veep

The freshman contenders come from different networks. Even though Orange is the New Black got relegated to Drama Series this year (a better place for it this year since the dark tone of the second season looms like a dark cloud), Netflix has two female-driven hopefuls. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt recalls the Emmy-beloved 30 Rock era with its zany tone and Tina Fey rhythms. The show really gets into its groove around 3 or four episodes in, presumably the time when NBC dropped it and Netflix picked it up. Fans love the show, but, as we all know, fandom doesn’t always translate to nominations. The other is the delightful Grace and Frankie. Like Unbreakable, it took a few episodes to get into its own headspace, but it settles around episode 5. Some people might object to the alternating tone of the show (does it want to be a touching drama-comedy or character-driven comedy?), but the lead actresses make it so thoroughly enjoyable that you only want to spend more time with them. Of the two, I think Unbreakable has a better shot at getting into this major race, but voters might respond to the more traditional sitcom style of Grace and Frankie.

Grace and Frankie

Over at FX, The Comedians is the new show on the block. The show stars Billy Crystal and Josh Gad, and it’s received mixed reviews from critics. Can the love of Crystal propel the show to the Comedy Series? Nah, Louie is going to take that spot! The Louis CK series has been nominated for the last two years, and he will more than likely be nominated in the writing and acting categories. Consider that slot taken.

Jane the Virgin’s huge breakout this entire year means it has a shot at being nominated. Can The CW finally break into the Emmy game? Will it just be for Gina Rodriguez’s huge starring turn? I don’t think you can count it out, but it might just be right under the top 6 slots. It might be resting at number  8 or 9. It would certainly be a nice surprise when the nominations come out if this small show breaks into the big race. The other comedy that you might not be able to deny is Inside Amy Schumer. I am holding onto my prediction that she will be nominated in Leading Actress, and, like Louie CK, she will probably be nominated in the writing category. She’s a huge fan favorite, and she might be getting too big to ignore.

The freshman comedy that has the most assured chance at a nomination is Amazon’s Transparent. Amid the outcries that this belongs in the Drama Series category, the show has earned raves everywhere it goes. Jeffrey Tambor is the favorite in the Comedy Actor category, but, and most importantly, it’s a touching show that allows its characters walk a very fine line between comedy and drama. The comedy can hurt, and you laugh sometimes because you have too in the most dramatic moments. It has a real chance to dethrone Modern Family.

So who gets in?

Predictions:
The Big Bang Theory
Louie
Modern Family
Silicon Valley
Transparent
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Veep

Right Behind Them:
Grace and Frankie
Inside Amy Schumer
Jane the Virgin
Parks & Recreation

Other Possibilities:
Black-ish
The Comedians
Girls

Last Man on Earth

Silicon

The Critic’s Choice Awards are kind of like the drunken cousin of the Emmys to me. Well, wait, that’s also the Golden Globes. Perhaps all television awards shows push me to drinking? Maybe I have some personal problems and I need to step away from the remote control…

Anyway, here is my snarky commentary on the winners of the television Critic’s Choice Awards!

Best Animated Series goes to Archer, and I don’t really have any complaints. Any one of these shows could have taken it, and I would’ve been fine with it. Wait, except Star Wars: Rebels. Kind of odd that Seth McFarlane is being awarded the Genius Award and his show isn’t nominated this year.

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Allison Janney takes Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and America collectively re-adds Mom to their DVR to see if they missed something.

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It’s a good thing Sarah Paulson was playing conjoined twins in American Horror Story: Freak Show. It enhanced her chance to shine in the worst season of the series. She’s always been stellar and underappreciated on AHS, so this win for Best Supporting Actress in a Movie or Limited Series is very well-deserved. Plus, this is the only backstage picture you need!

Did anyone else have a chance to win for Best Talk Show? It’s going to be bleak next year when Jimmy Fallon’s Dumb Celebrity Tricks inches closer to winning in years to come…

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I’ve heard he’s fantastic on the show, but I would’ve given him the award for being so utterly terrifying in the clip.

Bill Murray for Supporting Actor? Yes.

David Oyelowo for Best Actor in a Movie or Limited Series for Nightingale? Yes.

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Would anyone really deny Vee from Litchfield? This felt in the bag. Also, like her Supporting Actor counterpart, I’d be afraid she’d shank me in the parking lot.

I want to start watching Silicon Valley just because T.J. Miller went up to the podium with food in his mouth. I might have a crush on him now. Attention everyone who thinks they might win an away in their lifetime: take notice.

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His performance in Transparent is pretty sad and warm. No snark here.

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What the holy name of Viola Davis does Cecily Tyson have to do to win an award in this godforsaken town?! She’s shown up by Jessica Lange at last year’s Emmy’s, and now Sam Elliot takes Guest Actor in a Drama?! Why is this category mixed?! I’m going to make a trophy of my own and have Cecily over. Don’t worry, Ms. Tyson, I have your back.

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Oh, now people watch this show? It starts winning stuff after I give up on it. Story of my life.

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I quite seriously have no opinion about Shark Tank winning Best Reality Series.

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I want to see the security footage of Cat Deeley sneaking in ballots to win Best Reality Show Host. I kid, I kid. She’s charming and British and I am just bitter and an ignorant American. I’m currently seeing a therapist about RuPaul not being nominated.

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What a strong category! I wish McDormand would have been there to actually speak, because she’s always such a relaxed delight.

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This reminds me that I need to sit down and watch Bessie. Did anyone else think the music during the Killing Jesus clip was a little too jaunty? What a spirited musical interlude when the crown of thorns is placed on Jesus’ head! Just what those Biblical times needed!

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What’s better than Olive Kitteridge winning Best Limited Series? The adorable Tracee Ellis Ross mispronouncing the title and then sweetly apologizing. Give her an Emmy nomination.

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I CALLED IT!!! I only wish she were there to make a dildo joke in front of us all…

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We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: Category Fraud. Seeing Tambor winning is rewarding, though.

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Remember when we didn’t think Taraji P. Henson might not be able to crack into the Emmy race? Well, we look like fools, and Taraji was gracious and genuinely surprised. Fingers crossed that she gets nominated!

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Cue the fanboy circle jerk for Better Call Saul.

All right! All right! I’ll watch and see what all the hubbub is about. Didn’t really expect Silicon Valley to take Best Comedy, but Orange is the New Black‘s move to Drama had to hurt it.

"The Americans"

So, The Americans wins Best Drama Series? Didn’t see that coming! I’m officially out of snark.

 

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