Sunday, September 19, 2004

Flipping Coins and Throwing Darts

Trying to get inside the minds of Emmy voters is like trying to figure out the rules to Forever Eden, The Benefactor or Mao – it just can’t be done. But that didn’t stop me from becoming the world’s only Forever Eden junkie, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let that stop me from making some Emmy predictions.

Before that, a few thoughts about the winners already announced at the Creative Arts Emmys:

I didn’t catch enough of the nominees for Guest Actor and Actress in a Drama Series to comment one way or the other, but in the Comedy Series categories, I guess they got it right. I liked John Turturro on Monk (much more than I liked any of his competition). I already gave my opinion of Laura Linney on Frasier, but compared to the rest of the nominees in this category, I’d begrudgingly give the Emmy to her.

The Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series win by Arrested Development is very well deserved.

I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing “Because You are Beautiful” from the Lifetime Original Movie Until the Violence Stops, but I seriously doubt it’s as entertaining as the song from Futurama.

Speaking of which… I should know better than to disparage shows I’ve never seen, and I really have been meaning to catch Samurai Jack, but how could it possibly deserve the Emmy more than the final season of Futurama?

Interesting that the Outstanding Reality Program category is part of the Creative Arts Emmys (the Special Olympics of Emmys), while Outstanding Reality Competition Program is in the big leagues.

Finally, Frasier adds four wins to its already record tally, bringing it up to 35. We’ll have to see Sunday night where the final gauntlet is set for the next generation.

Now, on to the predictions:

The thing is, I’m not sure I fully understand how the voting at this stage works. I think it’s a panel of chosen judges who watch the submitted tapes (1 for Lead Actors, 2 for Supporting Actors and 8 for Series). I have no idea who these voters are or how many they are or what their demographics are. I don’t know if they have watched each series equally throughout the year and whether or not they bring that outside familiarity into their deliberations beyond the individual episodes submitted for consideration. I’m not sure how influenced they are by things like sentimentality, gossip and previous Emmy wins. I’m not nearly as familiar with the history of The Emmys as I am with that of The Oscars, so I can't gauge these things, and I don’t really care enough to research it fully. But I think there are a few key match-ups this year, of which the winner may provide hints.

Here goes nothing…

Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series:
Will Win: Joe Russo & Anthony Russo, Arrested Development, “Pilot”
Should Win: Joe Russo & Anthony Russo, Arrested Development, “Pilot”
Potential Upset: Robert B. Weide, Curb Your Enthusiasm, “The Car Pool Lane”

The three Curb Your Enthusiasm nominationss will most likely split the vote, leaving a battle between a pilot and a series finale. Pilots tend to have a much better track record in the writing and directing categories, but that may just be because so many finales are such disappointments. Still, I think Emmy voters recognize the more daunting task of establishing the tone of a series from scratch as opposed to guiding it to home.

Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series:
Will Win: Tim Van Patten, The Sopranos, “Long Term Parking”
Should Win: Tim Van Patten, The Sopranos, “Long Term Parking”
Potential Upset: Walter Hill, Deadwood, “Pilot”

I know, I’m going against pretty much everything I said in the Comedy version of this category, but The Sopranos has frequently survived multiple noms in the writing category to emerge victorious, especially when one episode (such as “Long Term Parking”) had so much buzz surrounding it (“College,” “Employee of the Month,” “Whitecaps”). Surprisingly, along with its shutout in the Best Series competition, The Sopranos has never won an Emmy for direction (as with the Series rebuffs, it’s been mostly because of The West Wing, which isn’t represented here at all this year).

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:
Will Win: Kelsey Grammar, Frasier
Should Win: Kelsey Grammar, Frasier
Potential Upset: John Ritter, 8 Simple Rules

I know it’s never a good idea to put my personal favorites in the “Will Win” slot, and Tony Shalhoub will probably prevail, but Ted Danson won for Cheers’ last season, so why shouldn’t Emmy’s prodigal son Kelsey?

This will be one of the contests that reveals something about the hearts and minds of Emmy voters. There is no artistic reason for Ritter to win, so if he does, it will be purely out of sentiment. If Grammar wins, it’ll be for a combination of artistic merit and sentimentality. If Shalhoub wins, they’re either judging it solely based on the work or they’re rubber-stamping last year’s winners through.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:
Will Win: Anthony LaPaglia, Without a Trace
Should Win: James Gandolfini, The Sopranos
Potential Upset: James Spader, The Practice

Since I’ve only seen two episodes each of Without a Trace and the James Spader Practice, I’m at a bit of a loss to analyze these performances on my own. So I’ll take Gold Derby’s word for it, and also recognize that based on their repeated recognition of LaPaglia’s work on Frasier, they obviously like the guy. Though I still think Gandolfini could very well win his fourth Emmy.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:
Will Win: Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City
Should Win: Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City
Potential Upset: Jennifer Aniston, Friends

The Emmys seem to be more comfortable honoring performers for their final seasons than they do honoring the series themselves. Most recently, Helen Hunt picked up a win for coasting through her final season of Mad About You. Parker’s never won – but I have no idea if in the world of The Emmys, that’s a help or a hindrance. She has by far the most dramatic, emotional performance out of these five women, but it may not be comedic enough to win. Aniston has a good mix of emotion and comedy in the episode she submitted, but it’s not her strongest work of the last few years by a long shot. Another win for Patricia Heaton will probably be the “Throw my TV out the Window” moment of this awards show (there’s at least one in every awards show).

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:
Will Win: Jennifer Garner, Alias
Should Win: Jennifer Garner, Alias
Potential Upset: Amber Tamblyn, Joan of Arcadia

Most people are predicting yet another win for Edie Falco, and that is the safe bet. Not to sound callous, but her announcing (right around the time the Emmy nominations were announced) that she’d just triumphed over cancer is a lot more sympathetic than dumping your husband for your co-star, and then dumping him for Ben Affleck – if these things influence voting at all. But Falco was essentially relegated to a supporting role all season (I can’t remember how big her part was in the episode she submitted, but I don’t recall her ever owning an episode like she did in “Whitecaps”), and she has won three times already (again, not sure if this is a help or a hindrance). Garner on the other hand is movie-star-hot right now, but remains loyal to her TV gig. And the emotional scene she gets in the episode she submitted is killer. If she can’t win with that performance, she’ll never win.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series:
Will Win: Peter Boyle, Everybody Loves Raymond
Should Win: Jeffrey Tambor, Arrested Development
Potential Upset: David Hyde Pierce, Frasier

I’ve been predicting a win for Boyle for the last several seasons, yet he remains the only Raymond cast member without a statue (at least for his work on the show). But this season, he at least got two episodes that were centered somewhat around him where he had more to do than just sit in a chair cracking wise. He even got a little bit of emotion to play. So what the hell, I’ll predict a win for him again and watch it go to Brad Garrett.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series:
Will Win: Steve Buscemi, The Sopranos
Should Win: Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos
Potential Upset: Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos

A movie star slumming it for a season wins every time (except with Robert Downey, Jr., who somehow actually helped Peter MacNicol finally win).

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series:
Will Win: Kim Cattrall, Sex and the City
Should Win: Kim Cattrall, Sex and the City
Potential Upset: Doris Roberts, Everybody Loves Raymond

Here’s another slot where outside events could very well dictate which way this Emmy swings.

A lot of predictors are claiming the three Sex girls will cancel each other out, but The Emmys aren’t like that nearly as much as The Academy Awards. Michael Richards and Laurie Metcalf repeatedly beat out Jason Alexander and Sara Gilbert respectively, as has Brad Garrett done to Peter Boyle for the past two years. And David Hyde Pierce, Rip Torn and Peter MacNicol each did it to their co-stars once. I believe (though I’m too lazy to fully research) the last time three Comedy (it happens much more frequently with Dramas) actors were nominated for the same show in the same category was in 1989 when Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White went head to head (and indeed, none of them won). However, in each of the three preceding years, one of the Girls triumphed over the other two, so while a win for Cattrall may be akin to a seven-ten split, it’s not impossible to pick up.

I think the biggest obstacle for her isn’t people voting for Kristin Davis, but her behavior off-screen (if that’s an issue). She’s rumored to not be a team player, and she blew an opportunity for redemption during her Emmy morning interview on E! by saying nothing about her co-stars’ nominations (as opposed to the very gracious Cynthia Nixon). But if the voters are judging based solely on acting, I don’t see how they can reward anyone else (if Roberts wins, my TV may not make it to the announcement of Best Actress).

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:
Will Win: Drea de Matteo, The Sopranos
Should Win: Drea de Matteo, The Sopranos
Potential Upset: Janel Moloney, The West Wing

The closest thing to a sure bet this year (aside from Garry Shandling making a snide joke about Joan Rivers’ absence on the red carpet and Isabel Sanford doing very well in the annual death-applause-meter competition).

Outstanding Comedy Series:
Will Win: Sex and the City
Should Win: Arrested Development
Potential Upset: Arrested Development

Back in the 80s, rewarding freshman comedies was all the rage (Taxi, Cheers, The Cosby Show, The Golden Girls, The Wonder Years), but not since Frasier have The Emmys bestowed this prize on a first year comedy series. In fact, Arrested is only the fourth series since Frasier to even be nominated in this category for its first at-bat (Friends, Ally McBeal and Sex and the City being the others). So will Emmy embrace its past by rewarding its future (Arrested), or will it just reward the past (Sex) or the past its prime (Everybody Loves Raymond)? I feel it’s a legitimate toss-up between Arrested and Sex (I think that both serialized shows will benefit from having a captive audience for eight whole episodes – especially since their competition will be hard-pressed to find eight decent episodes from their most recent seasons), so Raymond will probably win again just to spite me, but I’m still predicting (barely) Sex to be the first comedy since Barney Miller to win the Emmy for its farewell season.

Outstanding Drama Series:
Will Win: The Sopranos
Should Win: The Sopranos
Potential Upset: C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation

Last year people said that there would be rioting if The West Wing won again, however, when it came to fruition, there was little more than quiet grumbling. This year, though, there might actually be some overturned cars if Wing wins its fifth consecutive Best Series award. But the only way I see that happening is if the election year’s political climate overshadows the declining (though not nearly as horrible as critics exaggerate) quality of the Sorkin-less show. Yet whereas last year, The Sopranos had an equally disappointing season preventing it from finally winning, this year they should have no such problem.

Outstanding Reality Competition Program:
Will Win: The Apprentice
Should Win: Survivor
Potential Upset: The Amazing Race

The Apprentice was this year’s hot buzz reality show, and even though Donald Trump’s about as classy as a gold-plated apartment, the show itself is often described as classy (relative to dreck like Trading Spouses, sure, but classy nonetheless). Maybe Trump can melt his Emmy down and do some painting.

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series:
Will Win: Mitchell Hurwitz, Arrested Development, “Pilot”
Should Win: Neil Goldman, Scrubs, “My Screwup”
Potential Upset: Christopher Lloyd and Joe Keenan, Frasier, “Goodnight, Seattle”

As with the directing category, pilots tend to do well, though I should mention that Larry Sanders finally pulled off wins for its sign-off episode. The writers may wish to memorialize a series that was at one time a juggernaut in this category (four wins plus four nominations in Frasier’s first seven seasons vs. one win plus five nominations in Sex’ first five seasons gives Frasier a slight edge). Then again, “My Screwup” is a bit of a “trick episode” like Malcolm in the Middle’s winning “Bowling” episode, so it could go anywhere. But I’ll stand by Arrested.

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series:
Will Win: Terence Winter, The Sopranos, “Long Term Parking”
Should Win: Terence Winter, The Sopranos, “Long Term Parking”
Potential Upset: David Milch, Deadwood, “Pilot”

The Sopranos has always cleaned up in this category, no matter how many of its scripts are competing amongst themselves, and “Long Term Parking” is the clear standout this season.

We'll see how I did Monday morning. And we'll see if I still have a TV.


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