Sunday, September 17, 2017

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2017: The Players

It’s that time of year again – the “end of summer” in my TV watching world. Tonight the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will air on CBS. Stephen Colbert is hosting, which I’m hoping will mean we’re in for a good time. Colbert is certainly a capable host, and I find him to be an intelligent and funny comedian. I’m not usually a fan of CBS for much of anything (although Sunday Morning is cool to watch sometimes – I always learn something), but they do tend to put on decent quality Emmy telecasts. Perhaps that’s because, much like CBS itself, awards telecasts in general are kind of retro. With Colbert at host, I would expect that politics could play something of a role in the telecast, which I think could be interesting. All that being said, it’s time for my usual disclaimer. What I do in this blog post is basically just highlight a few categories where I have an opinion about who I would like to see win. This isn’t meant to be any sort of prognostication (there are lots of people who get paid to do that) about the awards – I’m just a TV fan letting you know who/what she’ll be rooting for. I’ve been a hardcore Emmy fan for quite a while, so I do come at this with some knowledge, but this is basically just stuff I like.

Outstanding Drama Series

The Nominees:

Better Call Saul
The Crown
The Handmaid’s Tale
House of Cards
This is Us
Stranger Things

My Pick: Stranger Things

I’ll admit, I was torn between “The Crown” and “Stranger Things.” Both were excellent, high quality shows that I enjoyed watching this year and that really held my attention. In the end, though, “Stranger Things” just has my Dungeons and Dragon’s-playing, early-80’s-baby heart. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a show that incorporated so many child actors so well. The kids really are the show. Their sense of adventure and innocence about the world creates both excitement and tension throughout the show’s first season. I also think there was some pretty fantastic world building in the first season. Hawkins, Indiana and its “Upside Down” counterpart feel like a real, lived-in, kinda creepy place, and I love it. I also won’t cry if “The Crown” or “The Handmaid’s Tale” win (haven’t seen the show, but I have read the book), but “Stranger Things” was just plain fun to watch, so it gets my vote.

Outstanding Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Master of None
Modern Family
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

My Pick: Atlanta

As much as I always love the zainyness (with occasional real moments) of “Kimmy Schmidt” and the all too real these days political humor of “Veep,” “Atlanta” is the comedy that really stuck in my brain this year, for lack of a better way of putting it. “Atlanta” is the brainchild of the very talented Donald Glover, who you’ll read more about in just a bit. The show follows Earn and his cousin Paper Boi as Paper Boi has a hit as a rapper. There’s a lot of very insightful commentary. An episode where Earn is in jail and an episode where Earn goes to a Juneteeth party with his baby mama/on-agan-off-again girlfriend especially stand out to me. The show is also not afraid to get experimental. The episode “B.A.N.” is entirely Paper Boi giving an interview to a BET-like network, complete with parody commercials. I’ll admit, I didn’t get most of the cultural references in that particular episode, but I could appreciate what the creative team was trying to do. The creative team in general is unafraid to take risks, and they succeed in showing us a slice of life that doesn’t always make it into popular culture.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Anthony Anderson (Black-ish)
Aziz Ansari (Master of None)
Zach Galifianakis (Baskets)
Donald Glover (Atlanta)
William H. Macy (Shameless)
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

My Pick: Donald Glover

I’ve been a fan of Donald Glover since his “Community” days. I always appreciated how he was able to humanize school jock Troy. I also enjoyed his turn as disheveled aerospace engineer Rich Purnell in “The Martian.” ‘Atlanta” is truly Glover’s baby. He wanted to create a show about what it was like to be Black and living in Atlanta, and by all accounts, he succeeded. Glover stars as Earnest “Earn” Marks, a college drop-out who sees an opportunity to finally help support his daughter when his cousin, Paper Boi, makes it big as a rapper. Earn, Paper Boi, and their crew go through all sorts of wacky hijinks, always grounded in a sense of place. Glover brings a (pun not intended) earnestness to the character of Earn, while at the same time we can see that he is also worn down by striving so much and never succeeding.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

The Nominees:

Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul)
David Harbour (Stranger Things)
Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us)
Michael Kelly (House of Cards)
John Lithgow (The Crown)
Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)
Jeffrey Wright (Westworld)

My Pick: John Lithgow

This one was another tough call for me. David Harbour was memorable in his role as Chief Jim Hopper on “Stranger Things.” I like that, even up until the end of the season, I couldn’t figure out what side he was truly on. I’ve got to give this one, however, to John Lithgow for his turn as Winston Churchill on “The Crown.” I primarily know Lithgow from his comedic roles, like the iconic professor/alien Dick Solomon on “3rd Rock from the Son,” so I enjoyed getting to see him take a dramatic turn in this role. I’ve heard it said that comedic actors often have an easier time switching to dramatic roles than vice versa, and I think Lithgow would be a point in favor of that theory. He had a very commanding presence as Churchill, and it was plain to see how conflicted he was. He wanted to continue his career in spite of his health issues. He wanted to guide Elizabeth on the ways of British politics even if he found her a little annoying at first. He always liked a good publicity opportunity. Lithgow made all of this apparent and more.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live)
Anna Chulmsky (Veep)
Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live)
Judith Light (Transparent)
Kathryn Hahn (Transparent)
Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)

My Pick: Kate McKinnon

I tend to like to spread Emmy love around a bit, and I enjoy seeing new people win. But last year’s winner in this category, Kate McKinnon, is my pick this year. As Hillary Clinton, she was the MVP of this season of Saturday Night Live, a season that was more relevant than it has been in decades. SNL thrives in times of political turmoil, and the past year has had political turmoil in spades. As the actress tapped to play Hillary Clinton, McKinnon was in the center of it all, playing gamely opposite Alec Baldwin’s all-too-accurate Donald Trump. And who can forget her turn as the overworked Kellyanne Conway in the Lin-Manuel Miranda hosted episode from last fall. I’m still laughing over that one. (Or I would laugh, if the whole state of our country didn’t make me want to cry right now).

And that’s it from me, fellow TV Junkies. See you again after the telecast!

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