2014 Emmy Reactions

The 2014 Emmy season is upon us.  Nominations were broadcasted this morning at 8:30 AM EST/5:30 AM PST.  While most people probably slept through the nominations, I was up with baited breath just hoping this would be the year that some of televisions most talented performances weren’t overlooked.  Unfortunately, every award show comes with a handful of snubs, the academy omitting some of the most outstanding work on television today.  Accordingly, exceptional work by some stellar people was recognized this year.

The Snubs

orphanblackTatiana Maslany (Orphan Black): Hands down one of the most marvelous actresses on television is none other than Tatiana Maslany and her work on the BBC American show Orphan Black.  Tatiana has taken on the role of on not one, not three, not five, but eight different clones throughout the series.  Only in its second season, Maslany has continuously showcased just how unique one person can make eight different characters.

shamelessShamelessEmmy Rossum, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Allen White: Bumping Shameless into the comedy category proved well for the Showtime series as William H. Macy was finally recognized for his work as alcoholic, deadbeat dad Frank Gallagher.  Although Macy’s nomination was a nice surprise, Frank’s shenanigans on the show have taken a backseat to the younger cast of Shameless.  Emmy Rossum (Fiona) hands down carries the series, while Jeremy Allen White (Lip) and Noel Fisher (Mickey) pulled out some amazing performances this year.  It can be argued that Shameless isn’t fit for the comedy category — this past season went to some pretty dark places — but a nomination for Macy may lead to further recognition down the road for this very talented ensemble show.

Dean Norris (Breaking Bad): Perhaps one of the most infuriating snubs of the season as Norris’ eligibility for an Emmy ended this year with the last season of Breaking Bad.  The standout character development of DEA agent Hank Schrader was above and beyond this past year.

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation): No explanations needed.  Offerman’s Ron Swanson has been overlooked for the past six years.  A real travesty for the comedy category as his portrayal is perhaps some of the most excellent comedic work on television to date.

mcbrideMelissa McBride (The Walking Dead): A standalone performance on a continuously overlooked show.  Melissa McBride’s portrayal of Carol on this season of The Walking Dead outshone her fellow cast members.  Carol’s ultimate sacrifice of [spoiler] killing Lizzie, the psychotic child she had sworn to protect, was phenomenal.  It’s no surprise TWD and its acting was once again passed over as series star Andrew Lincoln and once cast member Jon Bernthal have been just as deserving of a nomination in the past.

hannwillHannibalMads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Raul Esparza: NBC’s Hannibal falls into an interesting category.  It’s horror and horror is not something the academy often moves towards.  But with the continuous recognition of American Horror Story, Hannibal is finally in a place to deserve a fair chance at recognition.  Although the show can be gory and over the top, the acting continues to be absolutely stellar.  Titular character Mads Mikkelsen shatters any doubters as Hannibal Lecter, while Hugh Dancy’s struggling Will is harrowing.  Guest actor Raul Esparza (Dr. Chilton) maintains a manipulative yet funny presence on the show.  The direction cinematography are not like any other on TV today.

Arrow stunt work: A random and underrated addition.  But Arrow’s leading man, Stephen Amell, does all of his own parkour-esque stunts.  This comic book inspired show is a hotbed for incredible stunt work.

The Well-Deserved:

The Normal Heart (various nominations): No surprises here.  The HBO movie was absolutely out of this world.  From the story to the acting, The Normal Heart may be this years best few hours of television.  Stars Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomber, Jim Parsons, Joe Mantello, and Alfred Molina all garnered nominations for their performances.  The movie is sure to win best TV movie and will probably dominate in the acting categories as well.

ahscovenAmerican Horror Story: Coven (various nominations): QUEENS.  Is there any other word to describe the handful of women all nominated for their acting in the third installment of American Horror Story? Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy, Angela Bassett, and Kathy Bates all held their own this year on the miniseries.

William H. Macy (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Shameless): As stated above, Shameless‘ move into the comedy category proved worthy.  Macy has continuously given life to patriarch Frank Gallagher.

Amy Poehler (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series – Parks and Recreation): If Parks and Recreation has to continuously face being ignored by the voters then at least leading lady Amy Poehler’s nomination can give some light to the underrated comedy.

oitnbOrange is the New Black (various nominations): The Netflix comedy’s inaugural season was not surprisingly given high praise and high recognition.  As well as the show as a
whole, actresses Taylor Schilling (Piper), Kate Mulgrew (Red), Natasha Lyonne (Nicky), Laverne Cox (Sophia), and Uzo Aduba (Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’), were all bestowed accolades for their work on the show.  And that’s just for season one.

freddyhocReg E. Cathy (Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series – House of Cards): A House of Cards fan favorite.  Freddy and his BBQ joint were highlighted in a devastating way during HOC’s second season.  Cathy’s performance was a gut-wrenching look into the inner city of DC, one that left audiences heartbroken and angry.

Breaking Bad (various nominations): No explanation needed.  The AMC drama’s swan song season was some of the best television ever made.  All the performances (including nominees Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Anna Gunn) were top-notch and the series once again proved that television can be a real piece of art.

The Originals (Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series): Because of reasons.

originals

What Can Be Done:

Implementing a separate sci-fi/horror/genre category: Shows like Orphan Black, The Walking Dead, and Hannibal continuously fall onto the short list.  Over the years, television has jumped leaps and bounds, making way for groundbreaking shows that don’t exactly fit into a drama or comedy category.  Shows that implement a horror, sci-fi, or otherworldly story house some of the best talent on television today.  The Emmy voters have slowly taken note, continuously commending the work on Game of Thrones and American Horror Story, but there are so many more deserving pieces of work out there.  An additional category to single out these series and performances would make way for some new faces.  Television is ever evolving and the Emmy’s should follow suit.

The Importance of ‘The Normal Heart’

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Once in a while a show comes along that defines a generation, that pushes the boundaries, and changes the minds and even the lives of people. Every so often I see a show that not only I enjoy but that I feel changed by; The Normal Heart did that for me.

Set in the early 1980’s, The Normal Heart follows the life of Ned Weeks, a gay writer and activist who has been investigating a new disease (HIV/AIDS) infecting gay men in New York City. Ned is introduced to a doctor, Emma Brookner, who has had an astounding number of gay patients present with this unknown virus. The play follows Ned as he becomes an activist for this unidentified virus, as he deals with the virus in his personal life, and as he and his friends struggle to educate the public and government, who refuse to listen, who refuse to help, and have turned a blind eye.

I first heard about this show when it began its run on Broadway in April 2011.  I wasn’t 100% sure what the show fully entailed, but I knew it dealt with the AIDS crisis and the cast looked fabulous. After the big wins at the Tony Awards that year I knew I had to see the show before it closed.

Without giving anything away I can say I was not disappointed, in fact, my mind was blown away. By the end of the first act I was already feeling chills. The acting was phenomenal and the story was completely fascinating. Before the second act began I overheard a fellow audience member say “The usher said get ready for the 2nd act, it gets heavy,” and let me tell you, it does. I think for the last 30 minutes tears were streaming down my face. I can honestly say I have never cried during live theatre. That’s not to say that I haven’t felt emotion towards a show, but because I am usually good at separating myself from the show and the characters. This show I was not prepared. I wasn’t the only one as the muffled sounds of cries and sniffles were audible through out the entire theatre.

tnh1By the end of the show I was an emotional wreck. At the beginning of the play forty names are showcased on the back wall of the stage signifying the first to perish from the virus and by the end thousands and thousands of names were projected onto all the theatre walls, showing a small percentage of those who have died since 1981. I knew a good amount about HIV/AIDS from past research, but nothing prepared me for what was in this show.

I got the lucky chance to be able to see the staged production one more time when it toured through Washington, DC.  The cast was different, the venue was different, but the show still held that powerful punch it presented on Broadway.  Knowing the story and the characters didn’t matter, my emotions were running as high as the first time I had seen it.  I was blown away again, unable to hold in my fervid emotions.  I had been changed for the better because of this show and had wished everyone had the opportunity to see this once in their lifetime.

When HBO announced that Ryan Murphy would be adapting Larry Kramer’s play to the small screen I was overwrought with a mix of excitement, apprehension, and nerves.  I hoped they could recreate the passion the stage produced and the raw scenes that tore into its viewers.  Either way, I couldn’t wait.  I had been waiting to share with people what I had been gushing about for several years.

The movie didn’t disappoint.  Being so attached to the staged version I found the opening a little jarring.  But this was a movie and not a minimalist show taking place live.  I opened my mind up to the changes and watched as the work I had raved about transpired on my television screen.  The most important aspects of the show were kept in tact;  my heart broke as Felix revealed his positive status, I gripped my blanket tight as Bruce recounted his journey to return the body of his sick and dying boyfriend to his mother and his battle with hospitals, and as Emma fought so hard to gain recognition for her work and research.

tnhThe performances were top notch.  Mark Ruffalo portrayed Ned’s egotism and selfishness with a hint of awkwardness in a way that made you empathize easily with his cause.  Matt Bomer’s Felix was tragic, his astounding weight loss added to the distressing journey  his character takes from start to finish.  Taylor Kitsch strayed from his known role as Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights as he gave Bruce that sympathy and fear of someone who was so scared to step out of the closet and publicly out himself as a leader.  Julia Robert’s nailed her monologue as a stressed and tired doctor who had fought for years for funding and for the acknowledgement she deserved.  All the performances had their shining moments, especially Joe Mantello, who played Ned Weeks in the 2011 Broadway revival, as he took on the role of Mickey.  His part was smaller yet packed a punch as he recounted his suicidal thoughts and fears.

tnh2The last moments of the movie were as powerful as ever as Ned and Felix pledged their everlasting love to each other, a love that would survive death.  Ned’s older and sometimes close-minded brother looked on with a new view of the world and Emma watched as she knew her work truly did mean everything to the people closest to her.  The culmination of the events of the movie were wrapped up into a last few minutes that would stay with you for a long time.

Though the changes between the stage version and the movie were evident, such as the names displayed through the theater (replaced by Tommy Boatwright’s (Jim Parsons) saving of his rolodex cards), the impact of the show stayed, presenting an audience with a gritty early 80s in the gay community as men and women fought to discover what the “gay cancer” was that was killing off more and more by the day.

To say that The Normal Heart is an important piece of work is an understatement.  To say that many predjudices within the play and movie still ring true today is a travesty, but true.  The world is still fighting to discover the origins of HIV/AIDS.  The world is still fighting to find a cure, a vaccine, an eradication. People in this world still refuse to accept and refuse to help.  The brutal truth is that we are still struggling as a nation in 2014 and to win a war, you have to start one.