There are so many things to love about Parks and Recreation – whip-smart writing, making mundane local politics hilarious, opening the second season with earnest (and super-square) heroine Leslie Knope giving a passionate rendition of the classic Fresh Prince song “Parents Just Don’t Understand” – but the crown jewels of the show are its each-one-more-hilarious-than-the-next cast of characters. I credit the writers and producers with taking such care to respect and flesh out all the players, each one contributing their own little piece to the ensemble’s whole: Amy Poehler‘s Leslie is the heart, Aziz Ansari‘s Tom Haverford the creative energy, Chris Pratt‘s sweet but dim Andy Dwyer the childlike enthusiasm. Throughout its three seasons all have had moments to shine, but none has done so more brightly than my current character crush Ron Swanson, the stomach of the show.
Case in point, I give you his journal dedicated to meat. Inspired.
Brilliantly played by Nick Offerman, on the surface Ron is a man of simple pleasures: breakfast foods, pretty brunettes, facial hair, woodworking, no BS. He’s a man who just wants a hearty meal and for the government to stay out of his business, and here’s where the beauty in the depth of this character begins: government is his business as he’s Director of the Parks Department. But that doesn’t stop this city servant from making sure no parks are ever built during his tenure and imparting a strong opinion on how existing ones should all be sold to corporations with impressive business models, a la Chuck E Cheese. He’ll even go so far as to influence future generations with his staunch libertarian outlook. This overall brusque demeanor shouldn’t make him so endearing, and yet he is the most cuddly curmudgeon on television.
Even his self-proclaimed Pyramid of Greatness makes me want to hug him closer. How could someone who emulates volatile college basketball coach Bobby Knight bring out the smit in me?
Perhaps he’s so easy to love because underneath that burly gruffness beats the heart of a romantic. He looks out for those he cares for (although he would never admit it outright), so noticeable when he patched up the relationship between his sullen assistant April and the lovelorn Andy and defended Leslie to a board of review threatening to fire her. It could also be the way he handles a saxophone moonlighting as Duke Silver.
Then again, it’s mostly his love of keeping meat real.
As the July 14th announcement of Emmy nominations approaches, I can only hope the protein gods will smile down and ensure that Nick Offerman’s name is on the list of Best Supporting Actors in a Comedy. For how can I live in a world where the man who brought us this is not recognized for his own piece of greatness?
After the announcement that Jane Lynch will pull hosting duties on Saturday Night Live this fall, it’s now been disclosed that current Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston will also be among the honored guest hosts in the sketch comedy show’s 36th season.
This bit of news is filed in the “It’s About Time!” category as anyone who was there during Cranston’s days on Malcolm in the Middle will attest to his phenomenol prowess in the comedy department. It finally seems he’s getting the lion’s share of recognition that’s always been deserved coming off a third straight Best Actor Emmy win, albeit in the drama category where he’s proven his amazing acting range. The seven seasons on Malcolm he did prior to his current series had some of the best moments in sitcom history – witness such a moment here from its first year:
As stated in a post regarding last year’s Emmys, me and awards show have a love/hate relationship – I love them and they seem to hate me, or rather me and the collective viewing audience. Uninspired would best describe them of late, but Academy of Television you actually kept my rapt attention this year. It might be because I didn’t watch them live, but the pace overall for the Emmys telecast was brisk, peppered with many worthy laughs and filler moments that weren’t completely eyeroll-inducing. I credit a lot of this to the stellar hosting job executed by current Late Night helmer Jimmy Fallon. From the amazing Glee-ful opening with four of the hot show’s stars, Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, Joel McHale and more joining him in belting out a Springsteen classic, through his moments introducing the various genres with the help of nominees Amy Poehler, Stephen Colbert and Julianna Margulies in the audience and even the “Shows We Lost” montage he never failed to entertain.
Naysayers can say nay about his time on Saturday Night Live – his were never peek performances like Will Ferrell, usually breaking character first and unable to deliver most of his lines laugh-free – but I was always a fan and thought he had his best years behind the Weekend Update desk. It also didn’t hurt he pulled duty next to my Fey-vorite.
He’s also no slouch when it comes to the melding of music and comedy, which seems to be all the rage these days thanks to belle of the TV ball Glee. My first memory of Fallon was his dead-on impersonation of Adam Sandler, another SNL alum known for wacky comedic songs, and a couple of years into his stint on the seminal sketch show he released an album with a track I still frequently revisit, “Idiot Boyfriend.” Just try not to smile at the hilarious video below co-starring then-up-and-coming-now-It New Girl Zooey Deschanel.
Knowing Jimmy had the ability to MC as shown by the success of his talk show’s first year it wasn’t a surprise when he was tapped to take the reins of the Emmys hosting gig, but I had further confidence he would deftly lead the telecast by the sheer merit of his work back in 2002 at the MTV Video Music Awards. That opener still sticks out as one of the most memorable beginnings to an awards show of all time and had yet to be topped on my list of favorites until Fallon, Fey & the Glee gang’s “Born to Run” performance.
The buzz and ratings after Sunday both suggest that Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman aren’t the only song-and-dance men to call on if you want to have a successful live show telecast.
Not to forget about the awards part of the show, Glee took home a couple of high-profile wins with Jane Lynch nabbing Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy and Ryan Murphy getting Best Director for the top-notch pilot episode. Mad Men continued its drama domination with their third-straight year of trophies for both series and writing, and freshman favorite Modern Family went away a big winner with Best Comedy and Writing for its pilot as well as a pleasant surprise with Eric Stonestreet taking home a Supporting Actor in a Comedy trophy for his phenomenal work as Cam in the ensemble sitcom. An additional surprise win in an acting category went to Aaron Paul getting a much-deserved statue for his supporting role along-side fellow winner and co-star Bryan Cranston for AMC’s needs-to-get-more-recognition drama Breaking Bad.
Major category winners:
OUTSTANDING COMEDY Modern Family
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Jane Lynch (Glee)
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Betty White (SNL)
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Neil Patrick Harris (Glee)
OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A COMEDY
Ryan Murphy (Glee)
OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A COMEDY
Christopher Lloyd and Stephen Levitan (Modern Family)
OUTSTANDING DRAMA Mad Men
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A DRAMA
Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner (Mad Men – “Shut the Door, Have a Seat”)
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
John Lithgow (Dexter)
OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Ann Margaret (Law & Order: SVU)
OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A DRAMA
Steve Shill (Dexter)
Variety, Music or Comedy
OUTSTANDING VARIETY, MUSIC, OR COMEDY SERIES The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SPECIAL
Bucky Gunts (The Winter Olympics)
OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A VARIETY SHOW
Dave Boone and Paul Greenberg (The 2010 Tony Awards)
TV Movie, Miniseries or Dramatic Special
TV MOVIE Temple Grandin (HBO)
MINISERIES The Pacific (HBO)
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Al Pacino (You Don’t Know Jack)
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Claire Danes (Temple Gradin)
OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Mick Jackson (Temple Grandin)
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
David Strathairn (Temple Grandin)
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Julia Ormand (Temple Grandin)
OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Adam Mazer (You Don’t Know Jack)
With today’s announcement of the 2010 Emmy nominations, I’ve realized that this review has been in the making for far too long and with more than enough time to mull since the final new frame of Lost graced the small screen in May. Almost two months and the thought that remains at the forefront of my mind is, “It’s like I’ve lost a friend.” Sorry, unavoidable pun. Truly though, there has been a sad passing of a different era in television, both in how shows are viewed and made, with the end of this monumental series. No matter where Losties’ loyalty fell after the finale – and boy was it a divisive split – one thing that everyone can agree on is that we won’t soon be seeing another show like Lost produced for television.
It’s strange to say that in just six years the landscape of television has changed dramatically. When Lost premiered in 2004 TiVo and DVR had yet to be fully integrated into the majority of homes – this TV-holic was still setting her VCR to record what might be missed on a night out – and iTunes episode downloading was only a twinkle in Apple’s eye (trivia sidenote: Lost was one of only 5 shows initially offered by the insta-entertainment-offering giant when their video service premiered in October of 2005). Gone are the days of appointment television – a time when missing something upon first broadcast airing meant catching it again only when a network saw fit to repeat, usually months later – and while we’ll always have those water cooler shows that must be watched immediately or perish at work during the next day’s hot topics discussion (Glee comes to mind) the plethora of other media outlets (hulu and even IMDb) now allow us to watch things on our own terms rather than living by a programming grid.
While it was the quiet, introspective character-driven moments that made me embrace this series like a close friend, I was consistently blown away at how almost every episode had a grand-looking moment. From direction to production value (who knew Honolulu could plausibly stand in for the snowy streets of Berlin?) these areas of Lost were 100% top-notch and astounding for the small-screen. Setting the bar with the amazing pilot, I’ve since lost (stop that!) count of the number of scenes and sequences throughout its six years that have looked like they belonged on a movie screen – the season 1 finale with the breathtaking raft launch, complete with sweeping score from composer Michael Giacchino; season 3 opener with the aerial pull-back shot unveiling a fully-operational Others village inhabiting the island pre-Oceanic 815 crash; the island disappearing!
The finale itself delivered in the epic particularly with a visual tour-de-force scene that made me wonder if producers were making up for the fact that there will never be a Lost movie – the highly-anticipated showdown between central characters Jack and Locke (or rather the embodiment of evil in Locke-form). Kudos to long-time show director, and co-executive producer, Jack Bender who received a well-deserved Emmy nod for his spectacular direction work on this episode.
Now enough with these even-toned, middle-of-the-road observations which don’t really incite the kind of dialogue that has always been the cornerstone of Lost viewership, it’s time to get down to my personal stance on how one of my favorite series of all time wrapped up and why I think it couldn’t have been done any better.
IT’S THE CHARACTERS, STUPID
A statement initially expressed by Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ronald D. Moore upon explaining how he approached his own cult show’s end, I find it perfect that Damon and Carlton chose to follow in the same narrative footsteps as this similarly-beloved, genre-breaking drama with sprawling stories and a deep mythology. However muddled, and maddening, that final hour of BSG was for fans, putting a strong focus on the characters’ personal journeys and giving them closure is the greatest respect a show can give to their viewers, and the same can be said of Lost. For all its time-twisty and theology-spouting adventures, some I was overjoyed to go on, what it all boiled down to was the central theme they started out with – redemption.
We were introduced to a band of castaways that had massive amounts of baggage (seriously, are there anymore lame travel metaphors left for me to abuse). Daddy and general relationship issues abounded. Some were criminals. Some were sick. There was a junkie and another who just had bad luck, but all seemed set on personal paths that looked pretty grim if they hadn’t crashed on the island. At the outset of their journey all were forced to set aside issues and rely on others (“live together, die alone”), strangers at that, in order to survive. As the seasons went by all of our main characters had moments where they were able to come to terms with who they were and took long strides to redeem the missteps they’d made in the past, sometimes in the face of death and other times with the outlook of a better life ahead. It’s the choices made by Lost‘s creative team in this respect that the finale has my whole-hearted stamp of approval.
Focusing on the central hero of our story, Jack, down to the beautiful ending mirroring the pilot was perfection. Beginning as a logically-minded man of science, which up until the Oceanic 815 crash had only brought him heartbreak and disappointment, in the end he accepted the things that couldn’t be explained and his bittersweet decision to play last line of defense keeping darkness at bay from his loved ones and the rest of the world, ultimately giving his life for an idea rooted purely in faith, embodied the very essence of the show.
FLASHSIDEWAYS EXPLAINED AND IT’S…PURGATORY? AT LEAST IT WASN’T ALL WALT’S DREAM
While I’ll defend to my last breath how the wrap up of the island storyline was almost sheer perfection – some characters died a hero’s death, some characters lived to see another day on or off the island (and there was still open-endedness for me to imagine how those days would play out) and good literally triumphed over evil – there is a part of me left disgruntled regarding the conclusion of the other half of this final season. In a move that allowed the writers to completely indulge an idea that had been mocked years before as being the “real” answer to all of Lost‘s mysteries, we were told that the seemingly “what could have been” universe was actually a plane of existence that our characters created in order to have moments of clarity about their life and death which would then lead them all to meet up in a big church hugfest before moving on to the great beyond together. Insert eye roll here. Snark aside, I understand and enjoyed that Lost contained serious under (and over) tones of religious themes from the show’s onset and the creators wanted to give a proper nod to these themes, but the purgatory explanation felt too heavy-handed, especially Christian Shephard’s exposition on the afterlife.
What started as an intriguing twist on the flash device, a tactic that kept viewers guessing whether the characters had indeed reset their pasts with the fifth season’s explosive finale, culminated with a treacle-y montage of fuzzy memories from the series’ greatest “aww” moments. I will not deny there are certain characters that always get me teary-eyed (count me a sucker for anything involving the Charlie/Claire or Sun/Jin ‘ships) but in those final moments more often I was checking the time rather than basking in the reunion love.
Although upon some reflection, after the reveal that we were seeing their after-life I was happy that it hadn’t been a do-over life. There was no question that what we had seen the previous five years on the island was real – what happened, happened. Any other approach and I would have felt betrayed as a viewer after investing so much emotion into these characters, especially if they had all been dead the whole time or just Walt’s or Hurley’s fevered dreams.
SERIES FINALE, NOT SEASON FINALE
As a single season I found the sixth to be Lost‘s weakest. At times the story meandered into territory that had no relevance or presented unnecessary new MacGuffins to keep viewers continually on their toes. There had already been amazing plot possibilities peppered throughout the previous years that dedicated fans would’ve been overjoyed to see return instead of being introduced to such misguided mysteries like Jacob’s temple and his followers. But “The End” was ultimately not the season six finale, it was a series finale. It captured the heart of the show which was the journey of the characters – the characters facing their fears, coming to terms with their failures and most of all embracing the faith it takes to move on.
Another fantastic hosting job last night on SNL from my Fey-vorite. Leaving such a funny taste in my mouth (in the best way) I spent time revisiting landmark hilarity from the seminal sketch show’s past few years. The one skit I’ve found near-impossible to track down in decent condition has finally been unearthed! A five-minute beauty airing well before the slew of parodies that followed Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video. Excellence all around from B-rilliant Beyonce, host Paul Rudd and surprise guest Justin Timberlake in his Emmy-winning year.