The Week In TV: Emmy Nominations, Good and Bad
The Cup is over, the king has moved, and I replaced the C in "circle" with the Z from "zucchini." This was the week in TV Land:
• Nominations for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced last week, and befitting an industry built on low standards and an organization dedicated to filling a room with stars to generate higher ad buys, the nominations themselves were a typical mix of the awful and the absurd. The outstanding comedy series category overlooked Community (which cruelly missed out but once again gave noms to 30 Rock and The Office, despite the former's generally weak season and the latter's complete inability to generate laughs. Glee was also recognized in the category (the show led all series comers with 19 noms, though HBO's The Pacific received a staggering and maybe not merited 24), but its unevenness and decreasing watchability make that a hard pill to swallow. Similarly, Justified and Friday Night Lights were shut out of the drama series category, though Lost got an attaboy nom for wrapping up its series with a wildly divisive finale that's only gotten worse in retrospect. And is it even worth giving an award for best reality competition show? Isn't that just saying, "This was the least grating reality series we could find"?
That said, there were some pleasant inclusions. The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien was nominated for outstanding variety, music, or comedy series, while Jay Leno's version of the show was shut out. It was also nice to see Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, who've been doing award-worthy work on Friday Night Lights since 2006, finally get nominated for their performances. And though Parks and Recreation unfortunately didn't get many noms, at least Amy Poehler is up for best actress in a comedy series. Small victories, folks.
• I mentioned last week that Party Down was cancelled by Starz, and a helpful reader pointed out that the critically loved but popularly ignored series was available via Netflix's Watch Instantly. Well, I hope those of you who wanted to take advantage of that and stream the show did it already, because it's now been pulled from Netflix. Apparently, Starz does not at all want you to remember that they once had a really interesting bit of original programming to their name. They'd much rather you turn to them after you've decided that there's nothing worth watching on HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX or on your DVR's archive.
• Have you been keeping up with Zach Anner? He's a twentysomething from Austin who submitted an audition video on YouTube for an Oprah-sponsored competition in which real people vied for their own show on the forthcoming Oprah Winfrey Network. The gimmick is that visitors to the competition site vote for their favorite potential host, and the winners will then be cast on a reality show on OWN in which they will continue to fight for the chance to host their own series. Anner's also got cerebral palsy (which is, in his words, "the sexiest of the palsies"), and his video was filled with silly, honest humor. He earned plaudits from John Mayer and became a viral smash, which is when weird things started to happen: namely, he started losing votes while other contestants surged. Despite the appearance of what appeared to be some very legit shenanigans designed to tank Anner's chances, he kept winning, racking up more than 9 million votes online. (Readers were allowed to vote multiple times, and I clicked in support of Anner more than once.) However, when the contest ended, there was some more crazy gorilla math behind the scenes that knocked Anner down to what amounts to runner-up status. Basically, he'll still get to compete, though he's now included as one of the three "favorites" allowed to compete with five "verified online winners." Is the "verified" thing OWN's way of saying they don't agree with Anner's winning through viral popularity? If so, how else did they expect a winner to be chosen? Wouldn't it be easier to declare him the winner of the contest and then rig the reality show to keep him from taking the ultimate prize? That at least would feel understandable; that stuff's scripted to the gills. But this just feels sleazy. The Daily What has handy links to images showing how Anner's vote count was rounded down. Whatever happens, I hope the kid gets some writing or hosting deals out of it for other outlets. He's too funny to ignore.
• ESPN's The Decision -- their hourlong meditation on masturbation to the visage of Lebron James -- drew impressive ratings Thursday night. I can't think of a single thing to add. I don't care about how much he's making any more than I care about what kind of holding deal some new shmuck just signed with NBC. Talent is talent, and it follows the money.
• Brian Austin Green is apparently joining the cast of Desperate Housewives this fall. In related news, Ian Ziering was just promoted to assistant manager of the Bennigan's in San Diego.
• You look like you could use some free television. This week: Dead Like Me, which ran for two seasons on Showtime between 2003 and 2004. It stars Ellen Muth as George, a college dropout who dies in a freak accident (a toilet seat from the Mir space station crashes on her) and is then recruited to work as a grim reaper before she can move on to the ultimate afterlife. It was created by Bryan Fuller, who also created Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies, which should give you an idea of DLM's ability to mix whimsy with bittersweet. It's not a perfect show -- sequences involving the family George left behind are often dull and taxing -- but when it cooks, it can really burn. It manages to be a workplace comedy and supernatural drama at once, as well as a sturdy coming-of-age story. Co-starring Mandy Patinkin, it's well worth your time:
• It's another light week for the schedule: MLB All-Star Game Tuesday night on Fox, the same night as the series premiere of Covert Affairs over on USA. (The formula for which, going by the ads, is Alias - twists + sexual puns.) On Wednesday, Psych returns to USA, and if you don't have a summer show to get you through to the fall, I'd recommend that one. There's no Friday Night Lights this week; on Friday, NBC is premiering The Jensen Project, a sci-fi movie that's part of their attempt to revive family movie night. It's part of the Vote With Your Remote program, and it stars poor old LeVar Burton and Patricia Richardson and looks very bad. As for the irony of pre-empting a show featuring some of the most authentic teen relationships on television, not to mention one of the most enduring and sturdy marriages, in order to air a badly written and produced film that appears to have less than a fraction of the booted series' heart and nuance, I can only say: It's a tough world out there.