Sunday, September 21, 2008

Flaming Nose Exclusive: Vetting the 2008 Emmy Awards!

With the Emmy Awards just a few hours away, it's time for The Flaming Nose to chime in with our take on this year's field. We think it's safe to say that we've never had so many favorites nominated, directly due to the fact that seldom has there been so much terrific television out there. The nominations reflect an astounding array of entertainment and achievement, and we're going to dig right in. This is the line-up as they will be presented on TV, so follow along during the ceremony.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series:
Jeremy Piven, Entourage, HBO
Kevin Dillon, Entourage, HBO
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother, CBS
Rainn Wilson, The Office, NBC
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men, CBS

The Flaming Nose
Pick: Great bunch of guys, all of them, same contenders as last year. Will they give it to Piven again? Not the best year of Entourage, probably not. Kevin Dillon is consistently a delight in the series, too. Rainn Wilson seems to be everywhere lately, always great in The Office. Jon Cryer, well, what can I say, I think Two and a Half Men isn't terrific, but Cryer is good. I'm going to throw our hat into the ring for Neil Patrick Harris. He really makes the show, IMHO, and would be a wonderful winner.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series:
Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies, ABC
Jean Smart, Samantha Who?, ABC
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Life, NBC
Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men, CBS
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty, ABC

The Flaming Nose Pick: Kristin Chenoweth. The multi-talented actress/singer is perfectly cast in ABC's vivid and unusual Pushing Daisies, and she's quite unlike anyone else in the running, all of whom are very talented ladies giving wonderful performances.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series:
William Shatner, Boston Legal, ABC
Ted Danson, Damages, FX
Zelijo Ivanek, Damages, FX
Michael Emerson, Lost, ABC
John Slattery, Mad Men, AMC

The Flaming Nose Pick: John Slattery in Mad Men. Excellent contenders all of the fellows in this category, and nobody loves Shatner more than we do, but Slattery as Roger Sterling managed to perfectly show us the vulnerabilities behind the nifty suits and the noontime martinis. Is he a bastard? Yeah. Is he a total prick? Sometimes. Do we like him? Yes, I think we do, when we're not shaking our heads. A cool performance like most everything else cool about Mad Men, but so smart and watchable.

Outstanding Directing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program:
80th Annual Academy Awards, ABC
Company (Great Performances), PBS
Saturday Night Live, Host Tina Fey, NBC
The Colbert Report, #4051, Comedy Central
The Daily Show, #13050, Comedy Central

The Flaming Nose Pick: Any choice is fine with us, though of course anything live gets a boost because of the unpredictable quality, so Oscars or SNL get extra points for hazard duty.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:
Candice Bergen, Boston Legal, ABC
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters, ABC
Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy, ABC
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy, ABC
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment, HBO

The Flaming Nose Pick: Rachel Griffiths. This is a tough category with excellent contenders. Griffiths is a fearless actress constantly charting new waters with her performances, and her work in Brothers & Sisters is no exception.

Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program:
Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC
Late Show with David Letterman, NBC
Saturday Night Live, NBC
The Colbert Report, Comedy Central
The Daily Show, Comedy Central

The Flaming Nose Pick: Anything but David Letterman is okay with us.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie:
Dame Judi Dench, Cranford (Masterpiece Theatre), PBS
Catherine Keener, An American Crime, Showtime
Laura Linney, John Adams, HBO
Phylicia Rashad, A Raisin in the Sun, ABC
Susan Sarandon, Bernard and Doris, HBO

The Flaming Nose Pick: Another tough category with five amazing actresses, but one clear choice for us -- Laura Linney as Abigail Adams in HBO's John Adams. Whether in her humble farm garb or dressed up like a veritable queen, Laura Linney never failed to show us the real woman beneath the historical image of Abigail Adams. The strength of her character, her fortitude during dismal times, the passionate love she felt for her husband, her fascination with their urbane friend Thomas Jefferson, the guidance and support for her children -- all facets were brought to keen life in Laura Linney's strong and humane performance.
Dame Judi was wonderful, of course, Phylicia Rashad similarly so, Susan Sarandon magnificently eccentric as Doris Duke, and Catherine Keener raw and shocking in probably the other performance we'd favor, but in terms of an achievement that made us love Abigail Adams and mourn her passing as much as her family did, we think Laura Linney takes the teacake.

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series:
Late Show with David Letterman, CBS
Real Time with Bill Maher, HBO
Saturday Night Live, NBC
The Colbert Report, Comedy Central
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central

The Flaming Nose Pick: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart continues to consisently create credible entertainment and commentary. This award isn't for societal influence, but The Daily Show's excellence enables it to reach people's minds, too.

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series:
30 Rock, Rosemary's Baby, NBC
Entourage, No Cannes Do, HBO
Flight of the Conchords, Sally Returns, HBO
Pushing Daisies, ABC
The Office, Money (Parts 1 & 2), NBC
The Office, Goodbye, Toby, NBC

The Flaming Nose Pick: 30 Rock, Rosemary's Baby, though all are terrific choices.

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series:
30 Rock, Rosemary's Baby, NBC
30 Rock, Cooter, NBC
Flight of the Conchords, Yoko, HBO
Pushing Daisies, Pie-Lette, ABC
The Office, Dinner Party, NBC

The Flaming Nose Pick: Let's give a little love to HBO's Flight of the Conchords. Oblique, and unique, Flight of the Conchords is a delight. Since we're rooting for 30 Rock for Best Comedy, they can let this category go by. What a great group of five contenders here. Every one is outstanding.

Outstanding Made For Television Movie:
Bernard and Doris, HBO
Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale, HBO
The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Lifetime
A Raisin in the Sun, ABC
Recount, HBO

The Flaming Nose Pick: Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale, HBO. Yes, it was perhaps technically more of an enlongated TV episode than a movie, but nothwithstanding its unconventional form, this was so much more than the sum of its parts. Hilarious, brutal, heartbreaking, emotional, scandalous...this was Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's vision at its most mature. A scathing examination of show business, of friendship, of loss, of gain, of artistic goals vs. commercial selling out, Extra: The Extra Special Series Finale was gut-wrenching and one of the most affecting things I saw on TV all last year. I've never seen a better example of something that combined laughter and tears. Simply brilliant.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie:
David Morse, John Adams, HBO
Stephen Dillane, John Adams, HBO
Tom Wilkinson, John Adams, HBO
Denis Leary, Recount, HBO
Bob Balaban, Recount, HBO

The Flaming Nose Pick: In a year when everybody up for the award was playing real people, for us, nobody did it quite like the marvelous British actor Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson in John Adams. David Morse was touching as Washington, bringing to life our image of the Prez #1, Tom Wilkinson was a cantankerous, excellent, yet more predictable Benjamin Franklin, but Dillane led us deep into the serene brilliance of Jefferson.

Contemplative, often still and quiet, Dillane created a Founding Father with an intriguing unknowability, a man with a mind of his own and finely attuned to the strains of liberty. Not even close to a caricature or impersonation, Dillane's Jefferson was a unique creation out of the whole cloth of acting, a virtuoso example of a performance so sublime that we really felt that we were seeing the real man before us as we never had before. Superb.

Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special:
Bernard and Doris, HBO
Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale, HBO
John Adams, HBO
Recount, HBO
The Company, TNT

The Flaming Nose
Pick: John Adams, HBO. An amazing achievement, an intricate tapestry of characters, places, and issues made real.

Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special:
Bernard and Doris, HBO
Cranford (Masterpiece Theatre), PBS
Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale, HBO
John Adams, Independence, HBO
Recount, HBO

The Flaming Nose Pick: Reflecting on all the categories, extra specially amazing achievement clearly stands out. Although we love John Adams beyond all reasoning, we will have to go with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's gut-wrenching, mature, silly, exquisite script for Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale. You may have thought it was going to be merely a hoot, but this production took you by the lump in your throat and dragged you through intense and intensely personal human emotions in a way that basically never happens on television, at least on U.S. TV. In a scathingly brutal and yet ultimately accepting way, Gervais and Merchant managed to delineate those complex human interactions that so often end up merely sentimental in lesser hands, but they found the true essence. Amazing.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie:
Audra McDonald, A Raisin in the Sun, ABC
Dame Eileen Atkins, Cranford (Masterpiece Theatre), PBS
Ashley Jensen, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale, HBO
Alfre Woodward, Pictures of Hollis Woods (Hallmark Hall of Fame), CBS
Laura Dern, Recount, HBO

The Flaming Nose Pick: In a field filled with tremendous performances, we unhesitatingly go with Ashley Jensen's stunning work in Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale. I've never before seen such an honest, unveiled portrayal of a vulnerable yet absolutely inviolate female character. In plumbing the exquisite depths of pain and pleasure found in everyday existence, Jensen went far beyond the cliches and typical choices. She clothed her character in genuine pathos, but of such a high and sublime quality that she truly and genuinely broke your heart. An unbelievable performance -- kudos to the Academy for seeing the brilliance of the Extras finale and nominating it in several categories -- and Ashley Jensen should get the award.
Notwithstanding Laura Dern's brittle malevolence as Florida's electoral wicked witch, the lushly talented Audra McDonald, the always impeccable Dame Eileen Atkins, or Alfre Woodward's undeniable skill, Ashley Jensen achieved transcendence.

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program:
American Idol, Fox
Dancing With The Stars, ABC
Project Runway, Bravo
The Amazing Race, CBS
Top Chef, Bravo

The Flaming Nose Pick: Because it's the least bitchy, the most hopeful, and the one that truly captures hearts as well as gets the adrenaline going, American Idol.

Outstanding Miniseries:
The Andromeda Strain, A&E
Cranford ( Masterpiece Theatre), PBS
John Adams, HBO
Tin Man, Sci Fi Channel

The Flaming Nose Pick: If you're a regular here at The Flaming Nose, you'll know that we were regular patriots about HBO's magnificent John Adams mini. This saga of the courageous and brilliant colonists who forged the United States of America was never less than riveting, whether showing us the contentious machinations of the Continental Congress or taking time to give us a bracing taste of life on the homefront for the family of John Adams. Beautifully realized, with a genuine sense of time and place that brought you completely into the production, John Adams was a magnificent piece of television. No competition here at all. Andromeda Strain was a dull dud, Tin Man quite imaginative at least, and Cranford typically terrific Brit TV, but John Adams stands far above them. John Adams it is for us, then!

Outstanding Individual Performance In a Variety or Music Program:
Jon Stewart, 80th Annual Academy Awards, ABC
David Letterman, Late Show with David Letterman, CBS
Don Rickles, Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, HBO
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live, NBC
Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, Comedy Central

The Flaming Nose Pick: We're going for the veteran now, the incredible Don Rickles in the satisfying story of his own life. He's still got it.

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series:
Boston Legal, The Mighty Rogues, ABC
Breaking Bad, Pilot, AMC
Damages, Pilot, FX
House, House's Head, FOX
Mad Men, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Pilot), AMC
The Flaming Nose Pick: Breaking Bad, Pilot. Dazzling, unexpected, idiosyncratic.

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series:
Battlestar Galactica, Six of One, Sci Fi Channel
Damages, Pilot, FX
Mad Men, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Pilot), AMC
Mad Men, The Wheel, AMC
The Wire, 30, HBO

The Flaming Nose Pick: Great to see Battlestar Galactica nominated, kudos to Damages, and honestly The Wire should have gotten an Emmy long before this -- horrible oversight -- but we've got to go with Mad Men's pilot episode. Skillfully setting up the intellectually exotic world of Madison Avenue circa 1960, Mad Men's impeccable vision is unbeatable.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock, NBC
Steve Carrell, The Office, NBC
Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies, ABC
Tony Shaloub, Monk, USA
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men, CBS

The Flaming Nose Pick: Alec Baldwin. Baldwin as network head Jack Donaghy is a wonder, a maddening, eccentric, hilariously dead-pan corporate climber who also manages to be endearing and the perfect foil for Tina Fey's Liz Lemon. At the same time both subtle and madcap, Baldwin gives it everything he's got and it's perfect.

Steve Carrell is awkwardly wonderful, Tony Shaloub has already won three times so enough already, Charlie it's nice to see Lee Pace in there for the underwatched Pushing Daisies which let's hope becomes a real audience favorite this year.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie:
Ralph Fiennes, Bernard and Doris, HBO
Ricky Gervais, Extras: the Extra Special Series Finale, HBO
Paul Giamatti, John Adams, HBO
Kevin Spacey, Recount, HBO
Tom Wilkinson, Recount, HBO

The Flaming Nose Pick: Paul Giamatti, the Mr. Adams to Laura Linney's Mrs. Adams. He managed to turn a prickly, sometimes pompous, immensely intelligent, dutiful and patriotic Founding Father into a real person. From his days as a young lawyer, to the burdens of forming a new government, to his Presidency, to his days as an aging farmer back on the land he loved so well, Giamatti as John Adams took this less-emblematic figure from our history books and made us care for him. Just as compelling whether orating to save the lives of accused British soldiers, or standing up for what he felt at the time of the coming split with England, or merely spending time with his beloved wife, or as a frequently absentee father bestowing whatever wisdom he could on his equally beloved children, Giamatti made John Adams live again for us all.

Kevin Spacey and Tom Wilkinson were wonderful in the maddeningly true Recount, Ralph Fiennes terrific as Doris Duke's intriguing butler, and Ricky Gervais gave a stunning performance -- far from a mere comic turn, he was absolutely brilliant -- in the Extras movie, but for overall achievement, for getting at the man beneath all the period trappings, Paul Giamatti triumphed over all.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:
Glenn Close, Damages, FX
Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters, ABC
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, NBC
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace, TNT
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer, TNT

The Flaming Nose Pick: Glenn Close in Damages. This incisive and intelligent actress is always superb and a keen thrill to watch especially when she lets loose. Forget the cops and the moms -- go with Glenn.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment, HBO
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad, AMC
Michael C. Hall, Dexter, Showtime
Jon Hamm, Mad Men, AMC
Hugh Laurie, House, Fox
James Spader, Boston Legal, ABC

The Flaming Nose Pick: Wow. This is a real tough one. The Nose itself is split on this one.
First off, enough of James Spader. Terrific but he's got three. Gabriel Byrne...well, it was primarily a reactive acting assignment and though we know that's completely just as difficult as playing a more proactive character and he was great, let's leave him out, too. Hugh Laurie...also great but he just got a big raise -- he should maybe just go buy something expensive for himself this year instead of bringing home an Emmy. He'll win one some day, for sure. And if the next three guys weren't as amazing as they are, we'd be so for him. To wit...

Jon Hamm -- his suave, unreadable, cool grace as Don Draper is like a dry martini. Soooo good, so close to the vest, such easy duplicity. Mad Men truly is an ensemble piece, perhaps that's a bit of a handicap for Hamm here. It's his first year, though, and he'll have more chances.

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, the conflicted serial killer -- boy, he was tremendous this year, caught on all sides with the walls coming in on him, in the form of one crazy girlfriend, one other merely neurotic one, one dogged FBI agent, one crazed colleague on his tail, and all of Miami looking to blow his cover. Hall skillfully and unerringly delineated his character by showing us both the humanity and horror that coexist inside Dexter. A wonderfully entertaining, incredibly vivid performance.

Bryan Cranston -- what a heartbreaking character he created as he showed us the deep wells of frustration, anger, sadness, desperation and fortitude that his cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher was forced to drink from. Utterly convincing, completely right, often unexpected and breathtakingly poignant, I have to go with Cranston's brilliant portrayal of Walter White. I don't think anybody came close, not really. I believe we'd officially say that Jon Hamm or Michael C. Hall will get it, but I'm rooting for Cranston all the way.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?, ABC
America Ferrara, Ugly Betty, ABC
Tina Fey, 30 Rock, NBC
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine, CBS
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds, Showtime

The Flaming Nose Pick: A tough choice. Christina Applegate is fresh and charming in Samantha Who?; America Ferrera certainly burst winningly upon the scene last year and snatched the Emmy, deservedly so; Tina Fey is bright, unique and delightful in 30 Rock; Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a pure classic, as good as Lucille Ball with physical comedy and so much more; and Mary-Louise Parker pushes the envelope with her sly, sexy and scandalous role in Weeds.
Our pick -- or should I say my personal pick -- because she's the most out there and the least like a conventional comic presence, would be Mary-Louise Parker. Not that I like Weeds the best as a series, and I think Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are genuine comic icons, but for fearlessly teetering between comedy and the most scathing and acidic satire out there, Miss Parker deserves a win. But if either Tina or Julia get the awards, that's dandy, too.

Outstanding Host For a Reality or Reality-Competition Program:
Ryan Seacrest, American Idol, Fox
Tom Bergeron, Dancing With The Stars, ABC
Howie Mandel, Deal or No Deal, NBC
Heidi Klum, Project Runway, Bravo
Jeff Probst, Survivor, CBS

The Flaming Nose Pick: Is this a real category? Well, let's go with Ryan Seacrest. You will have had the chance to watch them as the hosts of the Emmys, at least.

Outstanding Comedy Series:
Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO
Entourage, HBO
The Office, NBC
30 Rock, NBC
Two and a Half Men, CBS

The Flaming Nose Pick: 30 Rock, for sure, like last year. It's everything you want in a comedy -- intelligent, hilarious, absurd, liberating, urbane, homespun, sweet, nasty, acidic, slapstick, witty -- with a dream cast and oodles of charm.

Curb Your Enthusiasm continues to amuse, Entourage is maybe as much soap as comedy now but still great, The Office of course keeps on going strong, and Two and a Half Worthy contenders all (except maybe for Two and a Half Men, I'd say). We've going to be rooting for 30 Rock to do it again!

Outstanding Drama Series:
Boston Legal, ABC
Damages, FX
Dexter, Showtime
House, Fox
Lost, ABC
Mad Men, AMC

The Flaming Nose Pick: Tie for us -- either Dexter or Mad Men. If the Academy goes for serious, contemplative and intellectual drama, it's got to be Mad Men in its first season. This incredibly layered and nuanced saga, an exquisite look at the men and women who work in a 1960s-era Manhattan ad agency, is perfection. On the other hand, Dexter's second season was thrilling, exciting, gut-wrenching, edge-of-your-seat intelligent television with verve, humor, chills, and a unique POV combining the monstrous with the moral. Do the voters like a slow burn or a spectacular conflagration? Of course, Mad Men was this year's Emmy breakout, with 16 nominations and a Sopranos provenance in the form of creator Matthew Weiner. It would be a brilliant winner. On the other hand, we sure love Dexter. I think we'd predict Mad Men, though.

Good luck to all the nominees and join us for here for live blogging during the Emmy Awards tonight! We will be watching the pre-ceremony shows as well so check us out early for all the news straight from The Flaming Nose!