2018 Emmy Voting

Another year has passed, and the voting has ended again. As a member of the Public Relations Peer Group of the Television Academy, I was once again honored to be able to vote in certain categories for the 2018 Emmy Awards for outstanding television programming. The online viewing site for the nominated programs opened up at the beginning of August, and online voting opened up during the last two full weeks of August, closing down on the final Monday of August. The rules for voting remained the same as last year. Academy members were required to view all nominees in a category before voting, but for series or limited series nominees, members only needed to view one episode of the six provided of each nominee in order to vote. Unfortunately, unexpected activity in my homeowners association and a couple of other projects in which I was involved kept me from being able to view nominees in as many categories as I did last year. I was restricted to voting in only four categories this year.

For the Outstanding Reality Competition category, the six nominees were the exact same nominees as last year, CBS’s The Amazing Race, NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, Lifetime’s Project Runway, VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, Bravo’s Top Chef, and NBC’s The Voice. Some of the nominees had some adjustments that demonstrated considered improvements. In Project Runway, the variation in the models’ sizes may have been a greater challenge to the aspiring designers, but it also showed a broader sense of diversity to the audience. In The Voice, the celebrity judges who compete with each other to get good aspiring singers to take them on as mentors in the competition were given an added button to block a fellow celebrity judge. In Top Chef, the competition took place in Colorado, my current home, and, in one episode, tested the aspiring chefs to create a tasty meal with a campfire on an overnight rugged camp-out. However, the basic concept of these reality competitions as well as RuPaul’s Drag Race focused on a specific skill, while American Ninja Warrior is a straight physical competition of speed, agility, and strength over an elevated obstacle course, but The Amazing Race, still an admitted favorite of mine, provides a global cultural lesson and perspective to the viewing audience, as they watch teams of two race around the world. My vote again went to The Amazing Race.

For Outstanding Television Movie, there were only five nominees, and like last year, one nominee still challenged my definition of a television movie. It was a new episode from the Netflix anthology series, Black Mirror, which focuses on futuristic stories centered within the digital universe. The nominated episode, USS Callister, about an inhibited corporate tech partner who generates digital genetic clones of his co-workers in a “Star Trek” like digital universe to gain superiority over them, was only a few minutes over an hour long, which does not meet my expectation for the length of a television movie. In fact, some of the Outstanding Drama Series episodes were longer than this movie nominee. In addition, unlike the uplifting twist of last year’s nominated Black Mirror episode, USS Callister was a basic good versus evil plot. Fellow HBO nominee, Fahrenheit 451, shares the sci-fi stage as an updated adaptation of the Ray Bradbury literary classic with a genetically digital climactic ending. The other three nominees find their basis connected to actual events. HBO’s The Tale, about a woman documentarian whose short story she wrote as a teenager is found by her mother and sent to her bringing up repressed memories of a sexual encounter with a mentor, begins with a disclaimer that the story is based on actual events experienced by the executive producer and creator of the film. HBO’s Paterno has Al Pacino portraying the famous Penn State head coach during the time when the sexual molestation scandal of his assistant coach reaches its zenith. Flint examines the Michigan city’s water crisis and the women advocates who uncovered the scandal and forced the city and state to take action. It was the positive story of advocacy that encouraged me to vote for Flint.

The Outstanding Comedy Series had eight nominees to view, but only four of the nominees were repeat nominees from last year. ABC’s Modern Family, the series I voted for last year, was not one of those four. The returning nominees were FX’s Atlanta, ABC’s black-ish, HBO’s Silicon Valley, and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Just like last year, Atlanta appeared to me to be more dramatic that comedic, despite its solid themes. The remaining four nominees all have a connection to the entertainment culture. HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David’s satirical series of Hollywood culture, may not have been nominated last year, but it has been nominated in previous years. HBO’s Barry, Netflix’s GLOW, and Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are new series, so it is an honor for them to be nominated in their premiere season. Barry, a series about a hitman who decides to join an acting class and change his career, and GLOW, a series on hopeful actresses who audition and become female wrestlers, also are based in the Hollywood culture. However, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, set in New York City in the late 50s, enthralled me with the hyper-active, take-care-of-everything young wife and mother out to help her husband become a star comic while raising their young children, who suddenly finds out that her husband was cheating on her when he walks out on them, which leads to her finding herself on a journey that shows she is the better comic talent than he ever was. I voted for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

In the Outstanding Drama Series category, five of the seven nominated series were repeat nominees from last year. However, the two nominees not on last year’s list were not new to Emmy nominations. In fact, one of these two nominees, HBO’s Game of Thrones, has been a constant nominee in past years and has the most nominations in all categories for this year. It was not nominated last year because it did not have a season last year, keeping fans guessing on which characters would survive for some time. Yet, the series hyper-power competition of fantasy medieval kingdoms is a bit too strong for me. FX’s The Americans, a series of a family of Russian spies living undercover in a Washington, DC suburb, had also been nominated in previous seasons and earned its nomination for its final season. The category’s repeat nominees were Netflix’s The Crown, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Netflix’s Stranger Things, NBC’s This Is Us, and HBO’s Westworld. This Is Us continued its strong path of wrapping audiences within its emotional family drama twists, even if it pulled at reality in its way. The Crown still appealed with its historical foundation of the life of Queen Elizabeth. Both The Handmaid’s Tale and Westworld had turned darker in their second season, while Stranger Things still maintained its sci-fi fantasy balance in the retro 80s in its second season. I voted for the balance in Stranger Things.

Once again, my votes last year were not the eventual winners, but I still remain truthful and fair in my considerations. Maybe this year, one of my selections will wind up receiving the Emmy this year during the Primetime Emmy Awards telecast on September 17 at 8pm ET on NBC.

Update: As announced during the Emmy Awards that aired on NBC on Monday, September 17, one of the shows I voted for, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for Outstanding Comedy Series, did wind up receiving the Emmy. The other three shows I voted for did not wind up receiving the Emmy. RuPaul’s Drag Race received the Emmy for Outstanding Reality Competition Series, Black Mirror: USS Callister received the Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie, and Game of Thrones received the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. I applaud all of the recipients of this year’s Emmys.

 

Tis the Season for Christmas Movies

A couple of holiday seasons ago, shortly after I created my website, I wrote a blog post about one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Gathering. I started out the post by writing that I set aside time for all of the new holiday movies that run on a few cable channels. Since then, the number of holiday movies have expanded tremendously over a number of channels, as LMN, UP, ION and AMC has joined Lifetime, Hallmark and ABC Family in presenting a new Christmas treat once a week. In fact, Hallmark really gets into the spirit as it has been running holiday movies from previous years 24 hours a day with two new movies every weekend since the beginning of November. It is almost impossible to take them all in. After bingeing a few days over the Thanksgiving weekend, I began to start categorizing the holiday films in order to determine what makes a good Christmas film and which ones were missing the cut.

Holiday movies basically end well with a positive message and a good feeling. The biggest group of Christmas movies find this message through myth and fantasy magic. Many of this group works with the myth of Santa Claus, the jolly old saint who brings gifts to all of the good boys and girls on Christmas Eve. Kids are told the basics – Santa lives at the North Pole with Mrs. Claus and elves making toys leading up to Christmas. However, do not let those true believers watch too many of these Santa movies as it will only confuse them. After all, is Santa really hundreds of years old or is the job passed from father to son – or even daughter? Is the North Pole really at the top of the world in a rustic village or is it in Canada or Alaska with a modern day factory ramping up production? The best idea is to choose one good Santa movie to share with the children and enjoy the various other creative incarnations amongst the positive older fantasy lovers.

The next group of fantasy holiday films are the “angel” films. In this case, an angelic figure appears to help a main character find redemption or two worthy individuals to find true love with each other. Sometimes, this guiding figure could be Santa or one of his elves, but since the focus is on helping another individual during the season, I do not count these movies in the Santa group. Santa is only a supporting role in the story. Often the magic is gentle, giving a comic tone to the movie, but there are a few that are more dramatic and sometimes darker until the redemption comes. Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is probably the first and best of this dramatic type, which is why the original story has been filmed several times for movies and TV, and then re-imagined, modernized, and sometimes twisted with several versions with Scrooges of different cultures, careers and genders. A key component in A Christmas Carol is the element of time travel, which has become a common element in many other current Christmas films. Sometimes the character needing redemption is magically sent back in time and given a chance to correct a regret, and sometimes the character is placed into a possible future to prepare him or her for an upcoming defining decision, but the newest time twist is having the character relive the same day over and over, ala Groundhog Day, until he or she learns the right way to live the day and the rest of his or her life. It is only in these films where we see the appearance of snowfall as a moment of joyous redemption and not a dreaded moment of foul weather.

The next group of Christmas movies are the non-magical set, a more realistic storytelling that still embodies the redemptive and giving ideal of the holiday. As with all movies, these range from the dramatic to the comedic. The dramatic tales usually centers on a character or set of characters who must face a challenge to reconnect and redeem themselves, like my favorite, The Gathering, or on a character or family facing hardship who becomes the object of a community coming together to help them. The comedic movies generally are a nostalgic slapstick view of a family gathering or a light romantic comedy which makes Christmas into the second most romantic holiday after Valentine’s Day. A comedy with the interactive blending of multiple stories, like the modern classic Love Actually, is able to touch the Christmas spirit in many enjoyable ways.

Finally, I have a small set of films where Christmas is merely a backdrop or prop for a basic story. Many are romantic comedies like The Sure Thing, While You Were Sleeping, or even the best picture classic, The Apartment; however, even an action adventure film can find a little Christmas mojo. My prime example is Die Hard, which takes place during a Christmas party in a near empty skyscraper. In the end, a little Christmas tape saves the day.