by Alan Yudman
This blog is mostly movie reviews, but occasionally we dip our toes into TV. Today’s Primtime Emmy Nominations announcement seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about TV. So here goes.
Let’s start with the Drama series category. How do you choose between GAME OF THRONES, THE AMERICANS, BETTER CALL SAUL, DOWNTON ABBEY, HOMELAND, HOUSE OF CARDS and MR. ROBOT. Not that any voter is asking me, but allow me to help. First eliminate DOWNTON ABBEY. This feels like a lifetime achievement nomination. This season was nice, but by far not the best. I’m a fan and I enjoyed it, but at times it was too much like a daytime soap set in post WW1 England. HOUSE OF CARDS also has been just ok. I still have not gotten through the new season. I think that’s an indication. HOMELAND and THE AMERICANS I have no take on since I have not watched them in years. My bad. So, what’s left. GAME OF THRONES, MR. ROBOT and BETTER CALL SAUL. THRONES was good this year, some outstanding episodes but on the whole not the best season. So I have narrowed the crowded field to two. And that is a tough choice. Both are excellent with great writing and outstanding acting. Forced to make a choice, because that’s what this is all about, I would have to pick MR. ROBOT. Months after season one ended I was still thinking about it. What it meant, what it still means especially since season 2 just debuted this week. BETTER CALL SAUL is excellent in the same vein as BREAKING BAD. Saul’s struggles with ethics and conscience are brought to life by Bob Odenkirk. But, it is just slightly less thought provoking and genre pushing than MR. ROBOT. Sam Esmail’s odd yet powerful story of the way a mentally ill hacker tries to deal with life touches you on several levels. It’s also an on point commentary on computers and our vulnerability in this connected era. It is fast becoming a classic.
Now Comedy series. MASTER OF NONE, MODERN FAMILY, black-ish, SILICON VALLEY, TRANSPARENT, UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT and VEEP. I will confess that the genre of sitcom has passed me by. I watch a select few because most of what is on network TV is well, garbage. I have never seen one episode of black-ish, though I have read that it does address some societal race relation issues, so props to the producers for that. MODERN FAMILY is a show I used to watch. Used to. It has become insufferably unfunny for me. Same jokes over and over and over. I’m done and so should Emmy voters. I watch some of season 1 of TRANSPARENT and thought it was incredibly well done. Jeffrey Tambor went full trans (hat tip to TROPIC THUNDER). That said, it is not my favorite. Not enough funny for a comedy. So, checking in that leaves us with VEEP, UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, SILICON VALLEY and MASTER OF NONE. Wow. That’s tougher than the drama category. This may have been VEEP’s best season yet. Great storyline and each episode was packed with laughs. High joke count. Couldn’t ask for more. I have not watched season 2 of UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT yet. I have to be in the right mindset for that show’s particular brand of insanity. I’ll get there. But in in a similar wacko vein I prefer Maria Bamford’s LADY DYNAMITE. SILICON VALLEY, like VEEP is consistently hysterical. Plus the characters are infinitely more likeable than VEEP. You find yourself rooting for them even as they consistently prove they are the gang who couldn’t code straight. But my pick here is MASTER OF NONE. Aziz Ansari’s Netflix comedy is brilliantly conceived and executed. The entire cast is wonderful. And the show makes points about profiling and discrimination and interracial dating without bludgeoning you over the head and without missing a joke. Props to Ansari.
As I said, sitcom isn’t my preferred thing but there are three omissions I have to point out. The Golden Globe nominated CASUAL on Hulu, BOJACK HORSEMAN on Netflix and MARON on IFC (and maybe the aforementioned LADY DYNAMITE).
Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s animated BOJACK HORSEMAN makes me laugh for 30 minutes, non-stop. The show populated by humans and animals acting like humans (except when they act like animals) could be just a goof. A bizarre concept done well, and that would be enough. But there is an emotional depth to the characters that really takes it to the next level. Bojack’s struggle with failure, success and a fucked up childhood touch your heart more than a lot of live action comedies ever come close to.
CASUAL is weird and funny. It is a more real family comedy than MODERN FAMILY could ever be. The characters struggle with love, divorce, dating and family are brilliantly executed by creator Zander Lehmann and his staff of writers. And the dynamic between the three main characters (Michaela Watkins, Tommy Dewey and Tara Lynn Barr) feels authentic. The real issues are dealt with deftly and even when things get tense, the comedy is never far away.
Finally MARON is over. And that is a real shame because this final season has been the best of the show’s four year run. The first three seasons pretty much followed Marc Maron’s life note for note. Podcaster, divorcee, comedian. Ticked all those boxes. But this season dealt with Marc’s fictional recovery from a relapse into the world of alcohol and prescription drugs. His journey felt real and was at times uncomfortably funny. There was always something bubbling underneath as Marc struggled to find his life after comedy. It was a long and totally satisfying journey.
There you have it. My takes on the Primetime Emmys. Here’s hoping the Television Academy can continue to nominate shows that push the envelope and that the four networks don’t shy away from putting those shows on the air as they have in the past.
Sent from my iPad