Sunday, July 28, 2013

GoT Review: 1x06

Season 1, Episode 06: “A Golden Crown”

I: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this was the first GoT episode without a brothel scene! Doris, I definitely agree that the sex/violence on this show can be excessive. However, it doesn’t bother me as long as it serves a purpose. Daenerys’s sex scene with Khal Drogo after her first love-making lesson a couple episodes back? I think that helped move the narrative forward, as it showed how Daenerys could gain some power in her marriage. Fully clothed dudes chilling with topless prostitutes for a whole scene? I’d be hard-pressed to write a thesis statement about that.

With most large-scale dramas, I find myself anticipating certain characters/settings more than others. This is certainly the case with Game of Thrones: I always look forward to the scenes in Dothraki-land.There was the incredible visual of Daenerys eating that heart and somehow managing not to throw it up. If anyone can convince the Dothraki to cross the Narrow Sea, it will be her. It certainly won’t be SuperBlonde, who was not doing so well even before his death. As graphic as the “crowning” of SuperBlonde was, it was pretty clever on Khal Drogo’s part: No blood was spilled. We also see how Daenerys’s loyalties have shifted. She and Khal Drogo now have a decent partnership going on since they know enough of each other’s languages to converse. Daenerys’s decision to let her brother die may be morally questionable, but he did try to kill her and steal her dragon eggs. If nothing else, it was a good political move on her part.

Finally, there are the Lannisters. A couple weeks ago, I wondered if the king was Joffrey’s father. It’s not looking like he is, since Joffrey is the first blonde Baratheon in generations. The only blonde families in this show are the Targaryens (unlikely) and the Lannisters (sadly likely). I might be more sympathetic to Joffrey considering this, but I don’t believe he gave Sansa that necklace out of the pure goodness of his heart. I’m still glad he did, as this led to Sansa hilariously whining “I don’t want someone brave and gentle and strong.” The revoking of the betrothal is not good for the Stark-Lannister relations, which are putting the kingdom on the brink of war. The Tyrion kidnapping is not helping matters, as Catelyn completely lost control of the situation. It was pretty fun to see Tyrion use a combination of his family name, savvy, and luck to get out of that trap. The only thing the Starks have going for them is the king’s regard for Ned. Unfortunately for the Starks, the king owes the Lannisters a ton of money. If a Lannister always pays his debts, it follows that a Lannister expects to be repaid in kind. I think things are going to get even uglier when Jaime comes back.

To close out, some choice quotes from Tyrion’s jail cell negotiations:
“No gold.” “Well, I don’t have it here.” Dinklage’s delivery was pretty perfect.
“Sometimes possession is an abstract concept!”

D: While I admit I’m liking the show more with its centralized focus, WHERE IS JON SNOW? We demand Jon Snow! Okay, maybe it’s just me. I too loved Superblonde’s gory end, especially the final image of his “crowned” head on the ground (Sleigh Bells, anyone? 2009?). I’ve got to say, Harry Lloyd did a great job playing a character that I loved to hate. Yes, he’s a villainous maniac, but he’s also a ridiculous brat who just wants to be king. Also, because it’s super relevant and more people need to realize this, SuperBlonde really resembled Sir Isaac Newton. 
I think it's the hair. And brow. And nose, partially.
One theme from this episode seems to be that playing dirty gets you ahead, while being honorable makes you dead. This is most obvious in the trial by combat, in which Tyrion’s champion Bronn defeats Lysa Arryn’s champion, Ser Vardis Egen, largely by playing dirty tricks such as throwing things at him. Last time, when Jaime 'n crew ambushed Ned 'n crew, one of the Lannister guards snuck up on Ned and speared his leg. It's dishonorable combat, but I guess anything goes when you’re fighting for your life. Then again, everyone on this show seems to put little value on their lives, given the many stupid risks that these sword-happy people take all the time. Forget the jousting; play checkers!

As Irene pointed out in last week’s review, Ned really lacks political savvy. You don’t just sit on the throne for a few hours and then order a summons for the guy who’s essentially bankrolling the kingdom and the arrest of his #1 henchman- that’s Tywin and Gregor, respectively. Come on, Ned, use your head! (I swear that rhyme was unintentional.) Even the bumbling King Robert doesn’t try to assert that kind of power over the richest man in the kingdom. Again, we can credit/blame Ned’s overly righteous morality and sense of justice for this. Oh, Ned, what are you getting yourself into?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

GoT Review: 1x05

Season 1, Episode 05: “The Wolf and the Lion”

I: Well, we’re at Season 1’s halfway point, and it looks like we’ve been set up for a pretty eventful back half. Last semester, all that some of my friends could talk about was how excited they were to watch the latest Game of Thrones episode. I’m starting to understand why. If that ending wasn’t a cliffhanger, I don’t know what was. There’s a pretty grim outlook for anyone whose name contains “Stark” or “Tyrion.” I did say that I was proud of Catelyn last week, but now all I want to do is go into the GoT universe and talk some sense into her. As brave as her actions were, she’s being pretty foolhardy. We know the Lannisters are savvy, and as Tyrion points out, savvy people do not use their own weapons to attempt murder. Plus, her actions led to something I can never unsee: a kid about six or seven breastfeeding. Thanks a lot, Catelyn. On the plus side, this led to one of my favorite little acting moments of the episode: Catelyn and Tyrion giving each other the “she’s crazy” side-eye as they watch Catelyn’s sister. Also, we got to see Tyrion’s “first.” Now that he’s been exposed to battle, I’m excited to see what he’ll be up to next. I think he’s definitely earning that Emmy - do you agree, Doris?
Although Ned is proving to be noble, he’s definitely lacking in political savvy. I spent the whole episode wanting to remind him “Loud voice, open window.” (This is what my brother and I say to remind my mother that yes, the man with the bad combover can hear what she’s saying if the car windows are down.) We’ve learned that everybody is spying on Ned, and most of these spies aren’t looking out for his best interests. I was particularly worried during the scene where Arya tells him about the threat on his life. As great as it was to see her being heroic, I just wanted Ned to go and shut the window already. Arya’s resourcefulness and bravery have given her the status of the greatest character on the show. She looks even more impressive when compared to Sansa, who continues to have the world’s worst taste in men. In fairness to Sansa, 13 year-old Irene’s judgement wasn’t much better.

Although I enjoyed this episode a lot, the show has a few too many characters. I appreciate that the writers aren’t dumbing things down, but the myriads of plotlines are becoming problematic. When that guy got stabbed in the eye in the end, I had no idea who he was. I’m pretty sure he meant something to Ned, but I can’t tell you how important he was, or how strong their relationship was. I’m planning to read the books too, so hopefully I’ll get a better sense of what’s going on. Doris, did this episode convert you, or am I alone in my renewed GoT love?

D: Haha, Irene, that’s what I’ve been saying all along! According to the Game of Thrones Wiki that I’m constantly checking, that guy was Jory Cassel, captain of the guards of House Stark, whom Arya asked to protect her father. So yeah, he was pretty important to Ned. I think this has been the best episode yet, much in thanks to the increased action and conflict. While I did miss Daenerys and Jon Snow, the omission of their storylines made the episode far more focused than its usual hodgepodge of disconnected plots (sorry, that was harsh, I know). One enduring complaint that I have to bring up is that I feel rather uneasy about all the gratuitous boobs and bloodshed, the former especially. Like, why was that one prostitute at Littlefinger’s brothel staring at Jory and essentially rubbing her breasts at him? Was that really necessary, producers? I don’t think it’s the prude in me so much as the feminist that makes this criticism, as the overt sexualization of women feels tasteless and pointless. In most cases, it’s not even “necessary” nudity, which I suppose you could make an argument for in regards to Daenerys’s plotline. It’s hard to see the faint flickers of female empowerment through all this sexual objectification.

Anyway, back to Ned. This very Ned-heavy episode has really cemented his status as the traditional “hero” figure of the show. His refusal to assassinate Daenerys and her unborn child highlights his moral code and sense of honor in contrast to the shadier members of the council. Considering how politics seems to work in Westeros (heavy on the treachery and deceit, that is), I get the feeling that the Lannisters and other would-be enemies will find him easy to take advantage of, because of these very qualities. Speaking of which, one thing that surprised me was Jaime Lannister’s apparent concern about his captured brother, Tyrion. Well, maybe “concern” is too strong a word, but he did display some sort of possessive interest in getting his brother back from the Starks, much as a little kid would screech at a peer to give back some stolen toy. I didn’t get the impression that Jaime and Tyrion cared much for each other, but this ambush incident just demonstrates how seriously everyone takes putting “family first.” Hey, would you look at that: family values on Game of Thrones! What an unexpected note to end on.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

GoT Review: 1x04

Season 1, Episode 04: “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” 

I: The two themes I want to focus on this week are completely at odds with each other: unhappy bastards and kick-ass women. The “cripples, bastards, and broken things” are all defined by their limitations. We’ve got Bran Muffin’s heart-wrenching dream at the begin of the episode. (I totally fell for that fake-out.) It was nice to see Tyrion’s empathy towards Bran’s plight. He has his faults, but I’d argue that he’s one of the kindest characters on the show. Of course, Tyrion also suffers from major daddy issues. I think I counted three complaints about his dad in a minute. Not to belittle his disability (no pun intended, seriously), but he is a male Lannister. As he pointed out last episode, he is lucky enough to be a rich cripple. I think Tyrion could accomplish a few things if he cut down a bit on his carousing and used his wit to his advantage. 

We meet another not-really-bastard this week: Human Samwise Gamgee! Harsh treatment by his father, but I’m wondering if there’s more to that story. He might not have been the bravest of sons, but could he really have been that much of a failure? I’d read up on him, but I’m afraid of running into spoilers. Regardless, it’s nice to see Jon find a friend. Even though Ned treated Jon pretty decently, he certainly wasn’t viewed as a real Stark. I wouldn’t blame Jon for feeling screwed over, and it’s obvious that he empathizes with Sam on that account. Still, I’m worried about Samwise. It is a harsh world beyond the wall, especially with those snow-zombies. 

Finally, let’s talk about the actual bastards. We met the king’s bastard son working in a forge. Even though Jon Snow was raised with the Starks, it’s easy to draw parallels between him and blacksmith boy. As the sons of rulers, they should have their pick of powerful positions. Instead, they’re semi-banished into learning trades. Harsh, right? Until you compare them to every woman on this show. For starters, there was that heartbreaking scene with Arya. Doris, I definitely agree with your praise of Maisie Williams. It’s one thing to find an adorable and spunky child actress. It’s another to find one who can sell a scene like that one. The only grown women we’ve seen this show are married to powerful men or servicing powerful men. Arya may want to become a warrior, but that seems pretty unlikely. However, as Catelyn Stark showed this week, there are many types of war. Even though we know Tyrion didn’t push Bran out of a window, it was great to see her take charge and use her intricate knowledge of the kingdom to cash in on her loyalties. I kind of wish she was right, if only so I could see her be a complete badass. 

Speaking of badassery, let’s not forget Daenerys. We finally saw her stand up to Superblonde without an army behind her. She’s starting to realize that she’s the one with the power, not Superblonde. They’re both the children of a dead, mad king, but only she is a Khaleesi. I don’t know how much these women will be able to use their newfound assertiveness, but it was nice to see them being generally awesome for an episode. 

D: I too was impressed and proud of Dany, Catelyn, and Arya, all of whom tackled their problems- Superblonde, the attempted murder mystery, and gender inequality, respectively- with unflinching resolve. ( I guess we shouldn’t leave Cersei out since she’s a pretty formidable lady, too, even though she uses her powers for evil.) To add a third theme to our review, I think that the importance of history to these characters cannot be understated: everyone is obsessed with the past. Half of the time, they’re reminiscing or taunting each other about past conflicts or the since-deceased victims of said conflicts. Ned Stark plays Nate the Great in a key plot throughout this episode as he attempts to uncover the circumstances of the prior Hand’s death, while Catelyn draws from historical allegiances to call upon the House of Tully’s political allies. Less subtly, we also heard plenty of in-your-face stories ranging from cannibalism during the long winter to the Targaryen dragons to burning your six year-old brother’s face because he was playing with your toy- for once, NOT Joffrey! 

While I admit exposition is more tolerable in a British accent (thank you, Aidan Gillen, for a very charming Littlefinger), the writers of GoT have thus far failed to understand the technique of “show, don’t tell.” I think this one of the reasons why I’m not (yet) enjoying this show as much as other people seem to be. For me, what makes a television show great is an interesting ensemble of characters who have consistent personalities (ahem, Glee) but demonstrate personal growth (ahem, Big Bang Theory); most importantly, these characters need to act and react to one another so that their respective storylines are interwoven into a unified whole (again, Glee). Unfortunately, this is not something we’ve seen on GoT thus far: The Night’s Watch and the Dothraki both keep to themselves, far away from the Starks and the Lannisters, such that the three narratives feel very disconnected. Were it not for those convoluted histories of war we keep hearing about, the stories would be completely disparate. Since we’re only four episodes in, I’ll try to be patient and sit tight, but I would like to see more interactions occurring between distant characters and especially across warring Houses.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

GoT Review: 1x03

Season 1, Episode 03: “Lord Snow”

I: I’m getting way too confused by all of these characters. I just figured out that Joffrey is not Cersei’s brother, but actually her son. This raises a whole host of questions I wish I hadn’t thought of, like whether or not the king is actually Joffrey’s father. I’m also trying to figure out how the Lannisters haven’t completely screwed up their lives yet. They’re a powerful family and everything but no one seems to have any management potential. Jaime has no sense of fiscal responsibility. Joffrey’s “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” speech sounds like it’s coming from a vindictive five year-old who’s been promised way too much power. Cersei seems to be the only one with anything resembling common sense, reminding her son that “the occasional kindness will spare us all sorts of trouble down the road.” I’m seeing a lot of Lady Macbeth here. She happens to be my favorite Shakespeare character, so as far as I’m concerned this is a pretty good thing for the series. I just hope the Lannisters don’t become boringly one-dimensional. After all, a fantasy epic is only as good as its villains.

Doris, it looks like your prediction was right - we finally saw SuperBlonde get his comeuppance! I can’t decide if his torture or Arya’s fencing lessons was my favorite scene from this episode. I loved watching Ned’s face while she practiced. There’s pride there for sure, but that changes to worry and fear in the closing seconds. What could Ned be worrying about? Oh, right: WINTER IS COMING. NO MORE SUMMER. WINTER = WHAT IS COMING. Apparently this show takes place in an alternate universe, where seasons last for years and motifs are repeated a little too frequently. However, I am excited to see this winter if it means more of those weird snow-zombies from the pilot.

I don’t have much else to say, so I’ll close with my favorite Tyrion quote of the episode: “If you’re going to be a cripple, it’s better to be a rich cripple.”

D: Agreed, it did feel good to see Superblonde writhing around on the ground like the snake he is. As glad as I am that the Dothraki are loyal to Dany and are prompt about coming to her aid, I think it’s high time she stood up for herself against him. Within just two episodes she’s demonstrated remarkable growth as a Khaleesi, a lover, and a speaker of the Dothraki language, but her brother is the one person who can make her cower due to a lifetime of intimidation. He’s the last obstacle in her path towards becoming a kick-ass Khaleesi but I’m sure she can and will overcome it soon.

I really enjoyed all of Arya’s scenes too, especially the sword-fighting lesson! I was getting a sort of Inigo Montoya/Yoda vibe from her instructor, which I like. I think Arya Stark is my new favorite character (much in thanks to the actress playing her, Maisie Williams). She’s fearless, determined, and fiercely loyal to her family: even when she’s angry with Sansa for lying about the Joffrey/Nymeria/Mycah incident from the previous episode, she rightfully questions her father about how he can marry her off to that psychopath Joffrey. And speaking of whom, I love your description of his speech, Irene! I get the sense that this scene foreshadows the chaos that will arise if/when young Joffrey ascends to the throne. That will not be a fun day in the kingdom.

This episode is sort of hard to review because in spite of all the character development that took place, it feels like very little actually happened to the characters in terms of plot. Jon Snow tries to fit in at the Night’s Watch; Dany finds out she’s pregnant when her handmaiden grabs her boob (awkward); Tyrion finally gets to urinate off the Wall (which is apparently the only reason he made the journey to visit); and the Starks and the Lannisters each do a lot of talking about the other (but not with one another). We did, however, meet many new individuals such as Littlefinger, the king’s Master of Coin, whom I realized was the bad guy from Shanghai Knights after recognizing the actor’s rather distinctive voice. Catelyn Stark seems to trust him, but I think that’s a bad move, considering A) he’s probably in love with her even though she’s married and sees him as a “little brother,” B) he’s a creep who owns brothels, and C) he thinks Starks are hot-tempered and stupid. The combination of A and C does not bode well for his future relationship with Ned, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

If I Ran the Emmy's... (Part Three)

Best Lead Actress

Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope on Parks and Rec
Consider this: Amy Poehler began her SNL stint in 2001. That means she’s been featured on our TV screens for 12 years. She has never won an Emmy. Not for her incredible writing, acting, or directing on SNL and Parks and Rec. I could go on and on about how Leslie Knope is an inspiration and how Amy Poehler’s great acting has prevented the character from being that annoying high school overachiever. But I don’t need to. Come on, Emmy voters. It’s Amy Poehler’s time.

Tina Fey as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock
30 Rock could have been a vanity project. Instead, Tina Fey was smart enough to populate the show with some great actors and let herself be the straight woman. This hasn’t prevented Liz Lemon from being absolutely hilarious. The show’s final season gave Fey the opportunity to handle a huge range of stories, from her perfectly Lemon wedding to completely upending the Stone Age notion that “women aren’t funny.” Leslie Knope is a great inspiration, but let’s be honest: We’re all really Liz Lemon at heart.

Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day on New Girl
Jess Day could easily be a ball of adorable quirks. However, Zooey Deschanel has made Jess someone a lot like the many confused 30 year olds we all love and know. Jess’s unemployment gave Deschanel a base to build a more realistic performance, and she ran with it. She’s also a great comedic actress, but we already knew that. Season 3 wish: Every episode should feature her speaking in a 1940’s newsman voice.

Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project
The first season of The Mindy Project was less than the sum of its parts. By this, I mean that the many hilarious people working on the show haven’t quite figured out how to mesh the workplace and personal stories. The one thing that has been consistently right: Mindy Kaling’s performance. Mindy Lahiri is a little whiny and spoiled, but Kaling is so likable that you can’t help but laugh with her. Mindy gets extra points for some great physical comedy, especially the shower scene with the preacher boyfriend!

Best Supporting Actress

Eden Sher as Sue Heck on The Middle
Eden Sher is the most underrated actress on the most underrated show on TV. She’s one of the best physical comedians working right now, and she actually does a lot of painful looking stunts. Her earnestness is what makes us root for Sue, rather than pitying her. I could easily be annoyed by Sue Heck if she was played by any other actress. Sher makes her one of my favorite characters on TV.

Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock
Only Jane Krakowski could make me simultaneously laugh and cry by singing a song about a rural juror. Jenna may be loathsome, but I’ve been so busy laughing at Krakowski that I’ve never really cared. Her character is a cartoon, and I mean that as a compliment. Her wonderfully bonkers performance rivals some of the The Simpsons’s greatest creations. That’s about as big a compliment as I can give.

Kate McKinnon as various characters on Saturday Night Live
After seeing an explosion of female comedians in the mid-2000’s, SNL has been more male-dominated in recent years. (I’m not accusing the show of being sexist, sometimes things just work out that way.) With that trend in mind, I was very worried when I heard Kristen Wiig would be leaving the show. Luckily, McKinnon has proved to be an amazing impressionist with her Ellen DeGeneres and Ann Romney. She was featured more in her first full year on the show than many seasoned cast members, so it’s only a matter of time before she takes over Wiig-style.

Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy on Modern Family
Julie Bowen has a hard job. She has to play an occasionally unlikable character across from Ty Burrell, one of the funniest actors on Modern Family. However, Bowen is more than able to hold her own and minimize the writers’ seeming attempts to make Claire a complete shrew. I don’t think she deserves to win for a third year in a row, but another nomination doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Jessica Walter as Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development
On paper, Lucille Bluth sounds like the type of character I’d normally loathe: spoiled, privileged, oblivious. However, she might be my favorite character on AD and that’s all thanks to Jessica Walter’s performance. Walter makes Lucille a brilliant satire of the 1% run amok. Even more impressively, she’s able to locate some genuine emotion buried deep in Lucille’s core. Hard to do with a woman so cold her son doesn’t even know what a hug is.

Some thoughts on drama: 
I’m not familiar with most Emmy-friendly dramas except for Mad Men. I just started watching Game of Thrones, and I’m about a season behind on Downton Abbey. I’m sure Maggie Smith will get another nomination, but she can never be nominated for too many awards. Mad Men will get a best series nod, along with well-deserved albeit predictable nominations for Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss. I’m hoping Hamm finally wins an Emmy this year. However, this is the same voting group that never gave Steve Carell an Emmy for The Office so I’m not holding my breath. I also think Vincent Kartheiser is well overdue for an Emmy nomination, especially considering the great work he did this season. Need proof?

That’s all until July 18! You’ll know the announcements have been released when you hear someone wailing uncontrollably somewhere in the pacific northwest…

Monday, July 1, 2013

If I Ran The Emmy's... (Part Two)

Best Lead Actor

Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock
In the alternate universe where I give out the Emmy’s, Alec Baldwin is not on Twitter. This is so the world can focus on how great he was on 30 Rock. In the hands of a lesser actor 30 Rock would be an unmoored cartoon. Baldwin has the dramatic skills to ground the wonderfully ridiculous dialogue, making the show its own environment. Plus, his perfect delivery makes some pretty great jokes even better.

Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt on Parks and Rec
For a while, I thought I was in love with Adam Scott. Then I realized I was just in love with the wonderfully nerdy Ben Wyatt. Even though Ben is less outlandish than many of his Pawnee counterparts, he is just as funny thanks to Scott’s great reactions. This season, Ben went from making the perfect proposal to feeding a stuffed owl. Somehow, Scott was able to do all of this while making Ben one of the show’s most relatable characters.

Jake Johnson as Nick Miller on New Girl
This year, Nick Miller went from “Jess’s grumpy foil” to a fully realized character. Much of that growth can be attributed to Johnson, who perfectly showcased Nick’s insecurities and confusion over his feelings for Jess. With the [SPOILER ALERT] death of his father, Johnson also proved that he could handle a more serious plotline. Season 3 wish: Nick stars in the movie adaptation of Z is for Zombie.

Louie C.K. as Louie on Louie
I’m not exactly caught up on the most reason season of Louie, but I’ve seen enough of the show to get a taste of its aesthetic. I love how FX gave one of the best working standups a ton of money to make whatever kind of show he wanted. I don’t always love the results, but I appreciate this show enough to wonder what would happen if the rest of TV followed this model.

Best Supporting Actor

This was definitely the hardest field for me to narrow down to five. I decided to leave out the deserving Danny Pudi and Donald Glover since they didn’t have great material to work with on this season of Community. Every nominee has an alternate from the same show who would have definitely made the cut in a less crowded year. For 2013, it actually will be an honor to be nominated for this category.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family
As I said before, I really do like the cast on Modern Family. I think Jesse Tyler Ferguson is its most undervalued member. Eric Stonestreet is great, but Cam wouldn’t be nearly as funny without Mitchell as his relatively sane foil. Ferguson is also stellar when he has a more ridiculous plotline: his courtroom scenes in the finale were hilarious. Alternate nominee: Any of the actors on this show are deserving, but I’ll go with Ty Burrell.

Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother
NPH can handle everything HIMYM throws at him. Amazing pratfalls? Yes. A song and dance number? No problem. Hilarious one liners? Check. A touching story about reuniting with his father? Done. I’m a couple seasons behind on this show, but I’ve heard that he got some good dramatic plotlines this past season. Alternate nominee: Jason Segel for not checking out even after his movie career took off.

Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson on Parks and Rec
I have trouble believing that Nick Offerman has never been nominated for an Emmy, but it's true. Ron Swanson could easily be a caricature of “Amurrica,” but Offerman imbues the character with formidable amounts of masculinity and knowledge. I loved seeing his growth in his relationship with Diane, and [SPOILER ALERT] I can’t wait to see how fatherhood changes him. Alternate nominee: Chris Pratt. Great improviser, and he's definitely grown as an actor over the course of the show.  

Bill Hader as various characters on Saturday Night Live
As always, Hader killed it this season. Stefon’s wedding was one of the most touching things I’ve seen on TV this year. Hader is the only reason SNL gets away with so many game-show sketches: his host character is that good. Somehow, he just makes everything funnier by being there. Alternate nominee: Taren Killam. He was as great as ever this year, but he didn’t get a ton to do. Besides, I’m sure he’ll get ample recognition once Hader leaves.

Max Greenfield as Schmidt on New Girl
Schmidt could easily be a mere one-liner dispenser or a Barney Stinson rip-off. However, Greenfield found this character’s heart early on in the show’s run and prevented Schmidt from becoming unfunny or loathsome. It’s been great to see him grow, but hopefully he’ll never change the way he pronounces “chutney.” Alternate nominee: Lamorne Morris, by default.

Coming soon-ish: Best Lead and Supporting Actress, plus some thoughts on the drama race.  

If I Ran the Emmy's... (Part One)

My most rage-filled day of the year is when Emmy nominations are announced. Although there are usually a few pleasant surprises, I’m always left rambling incoherently about some omission. Last year it was the failure to nominate Parks and Recreation and Community for the best comedy series. This year I’m sure they’ll leave out Amy Poehler and Tina Fey or commit some equally horrible offense. Rather than fixate on these wrongs, I’ve decided to live in an alternate universe where I decide comedy Emmy nominees. With a little further ado…

Best Comedy Series

There are some quality comedies I simply don’t have time to watch. I’ve only seen the pilots of Girls and Veep. I’ve also completely missed out on some Emmy-friendly shows, like The Big Bang Theory. So those aren’t here. I was also pretty conflicted about Community. I love the show, but Dan Harmon was such a huge presence that there was no way that this season could measure up. Hopefully it will bounce back to my Emmy dream team next year. Considering this, here are my nominations…

30 Rock 
Even in its worst years (looking at you, Season 4), 30 Rock was one of the best shows on television. Its last season was about as perfect of a goodbye as I could have hoped for. From Liz Lemon getting married in the Princess Leia dress to the crew tanking the show so Liz could meet her twins, this season had some wonderful emotions to ground its never-ending assault of jokes. Its last two episodes mocked the notion of a sentimental finale while still bringing a couple tears to my eyes. NBC, please give Tina Fey a new sitcom ASAP.

Parks and Recreation 
The show deserves a nomination for that wedding episode alone. The unquestioned love between Leslie and Ben, Ron Swanson DIY-ing the wedding rings, and Ann’s makeshift dress all combined to make a wedding too perfect for real life. The rest of the season was also pretty great, nailing Leslie’s ethical dilemmas as she struggles to adjust to what she thought was a lifelong dream. And of course, there was Ben’s perfect proposal. Parks and Rec, I love you and I like you.

The Middle 
When a friend tells me they’re looking for a new sitcom, I order them to watch The Middle. They do not always listen, and this makes me sad. The Middle is the most underappreciated comedy on TV right now. It has an incredible cast, and they’re only getting better. Every episode has at least one plotline that makes me suspect that the writers are spying on my family. The Middle is much more realistic than Modern Family, and it’s all the better for it.

New Girl  
The first ten episodes of New Girl were pleasantly amusing. The rest of the first season solidified the ensemble. During the second season, the writers have really figured out who these characters are. (Except Winston. “Likes pranks” is not an adequate personality trait.) The Schmidt-Cece arc has had some great emotional beats that parallel Jess and Nick’s struggle to figure out their relationship. Although the Schmidt-isms alone would give this show a spot on my list, New Girl tops off its more dramatic plotlines with some incredible zingers and superb physical comedy.

Arrested Development 
I considered giving this last spot to Modern Family. It’s not as good as it once was, but it still has a very good cast and some pretty good writers. Then I watched Season 4 of Arrested Development. It’s not perfect, but Mitch Hurwitz has mostly succeeded in making the world’s most complex comedic layer cake. Although the first few episodes were a little confusing, the setups paid off in some pretty great ways. This additional season could have easily just been some callbacks to the old seasons, but they did a pretty good job of creating some innovative comedy. It also doesn’t hurt that one of the best sitcom casts of all time was just as good as it ever was.

Coming whenever I feel like posting: Best Lead and Supporting Actors!