September 16, 2011 6 comments
When I look at this year’s film of Emmy nominees, I can’t help but scratch my balls through my patriotic boxers and mutter my own pissed-off preamble: fuck you, America.
In what is supposed to be the cultural epicenter of celluloid creativity, we’re reduced to the same recycled network scraps year in and year out. Sure, there is hope on the horizon, however distant and masked by the wasteland’s white heat. AMC routinely delivers the best programming on television. Showtime and HBO have their share of quality series. Starz has even chipped in with a winning formula or two. But they largely exist in the peripheral of the mainstream, because instead of embracing anything of any value, we would rather collectively watch Jersey Shore. Ironically.
(Except you can’t watch Jersey Shore ironically, and if you honestly claim you are doing so, I encourage you swallow a shotgun shell. Ironically.)
It bothers me that people are stupid and justify their stupidity through supposed re-appropriation of cultural turds. Fuck that. You can’t artificially inject value into something that actively makes this planet a worse place to live in some misguided hope of re-declaring cultural worth. If that’s the case, then shit, I guess you can like the Holocaust ironically. You can watch snuff films ironically. You can listen to the Black Eyed Peas ironically.
(Oh shit, did I really just compare Jersey Shore and Black Eyed Peas to the Holocaust?!)
When we’re not busy trying to justify selling in to shitty things, we’re still — speaking for an entire nation, as any 23-year-old who has been to approximately six states in his lifetime is apt to do — watching shitty TV. Stale network scraps that look and smell a lot like the same thing we saw three years ago, packaged with an actor they couldn’t afford to pay any longer. Probably Jimmy Smits.
Watching shitty TV has become somewhat of an American specialty. Confronted with a choice of Breaking Bad, Mad Men or Glee…what the fuck do you think the average American is going to choose? Sorry Walt, sorry Don, you lose out to a retarded Old Navy commercial with characters cut from cardboard and sold to viewing audiences with pretty smiles and the promise of a few Maxim photo leaks. And suddenly, a formula! Music! Dancing! Complete lack of plot or character depth! One redeeming star (Jane Lynch) to sell to critics! Resounding success!
From what I can figure, the American viewing public isn’t interested in story or characters or plot arcs or thematic elements or continuity or programming that treats them like intelligent audience members, forcing them to engage with material beyond eye-glaze level. The American viewing public is only interested in singing, dancing and pretty people. The modern grotesquerie is a variety hour of Ryan Murphy’s pop-vomit brought to you by GAP.
Holy shit, America! The only thing we’ve added since the nickelodeon days is a soundtrack to go with the spectacle.
The best series on television right now is AMC’s Breaking Bad, but poll the average American and they’re apt to circumvent that conclusion by way of the latest contestant voted off American’s Next Top Never-Was. Everyone should have added The Wire and Deadwood to their cultural library, but they haven’t. Their bookshelves are empty.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s just the general public’s inability to embrace items of high cultural value, or just lack of quality items to embrace. Looking at this year’s list of Emmy noms, the answer is clear:
We are a cultural wasteland.
I’ll go category-by-category here, just for sake of shaming a nation that invests overmuch in an industry it actually manages to underproduce from in terms of valuable product.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Laura Linney and Edie Falco headline in this category that features two Showtime series about women with stunning secrets, but what pisses me off most about this category is the inclusion of Melissa McCarthy from CBS’ Mike and Molly.
Mike and Molly, if you don’t know, is a sitcom whose entire hook revolves around the fact that the two bland, boring titular married couple are goddamn orca whales. It’s a sitcom about two fat fucks who do things healthy people do, only they do them with twice the tit-jiggling. These characters actually do nothing different from any other sitcom about married characters, but because they’re fat when they do them, it’s supposed to be funnier.
Like, if this series was called Spike and Holly and centered around two married characters of average weight-height, and then went to the movies and saw whatever Lars von Trier blood-jizz flick was showing at the local art theater, viewers would be bored. But if MIKE and MOLLY do the same thing by TRYING TO GET THEIR FAT ASSES and a motherfucking GALLON OF BUTTERED POPCORN down the same aisle as ANOTHER OBESE ASSHOLE, it’s fucking HILARIOUS!
Give her the Emmy now! She is so good at being fat! Being fat is hilarious! Have you ever seen fat people do things? Fucking funny! And of course this couldn’t be portrayed as a completely goddamn ridiculous response to an American health epidemic in widespread obesity. Because in the same sense people can re-appropriate Jersey Shore as ironically-enjoyable, folks can claim Mike and Molley is a case of FAT PEOPLE re-claiming the meaning of FAT! Making it acceptable, sexy, in-your-face, whatever. When at the end of the day, it’s just fat. And not the basis for a look-at-us-doing-shit sitcom.
Thanks, Emmys. Way to keep dangling the carrot for this show to exist. And by carrot, I mean donut bacon cheeseburger.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
First, foremost, ultimately and if there is any deity above, this award should go to Louis C.K. for Louie. If it does not go to Louis C.K., then we might as well dip every award in melted cheddar cheese and feed them to Mike and Molly, then promptly stop bothering to air this stupid goddamn charade anyway.
Louis C.K.’s biggest competition will be the two actors nominated from The Big Bang Theory (Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki). Never seen Big Bang Theory? It’s a sitcom that features nerds instead of fat people. Nerds are funny, you see. Nerds all wear ridiculous glasses, program robots and masturbate to mathematical equations. Chicks on this show will straight up offer them blowies, and they’ll respond with something adorably nerdy like “does not compute.”
Big Bang Theory is just the nerd extension to Mike and Molly, which makes it about as funny as pleasuring yourself with sandpaper and wrapping barbed-wire around your johnson in advance of a good ol’fashioned ass-rape (see also: Human Centipede Full Sequence). Like Mike and Molly, it also has a laugh track, which guarantees the general audience is composed of goddamn morons who are actually too stupid to realize that the show’s producers think they are goddamn morons and actually go to the trouble of spoonfeeding them laughs for fear they may forget to find something funny.
You want a funny series about nerds? Check out Freaks and Geeks. You want to give the Mayans’ predictions cause to come to fruition? By all means, keep watching shitty sitcoms.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Alright, so Modern Family isn’t all that bad. But we’re nominating Sofia Vergara. Really? REALLY?!
Vergara plays Gloria, whose main schtick is that she’s Colombian so she can’t possibly do normal American things like not make repeatedly deliberate double entendres to her in-laws. Because in Colombia, naturally, it’s totally normal to invite your son-in-law to pork you…WHEN YOU REALLY WERE JUST ASKING FOR HIS THOUGHTS ON THE MAGNA CARTA!
Modern Family doesn’t degrade us with a laugh track, but also loses major points for overplaying the accent card. Ask Rob Schneider where that career path takes you. Answer: to whatever in the Austin City Limits of fuck this movie is supposed to be about, and to a strict contract clause that demands your face must literally be covered in human shit in every other role (the off roles require you being a carrot or a stapler).
If accents were supposed to be funny, I would have actually enjoyed my freshman year finite math lecture with Dr. Doak. That wasn’t his real name, but that’s the name of the scientist who gives you the keycard in the second level of Goldeneye 64, so I’m just going with that. As it turns out, I didn’t attend Dr. Doak’s lectures to be baffled by his math lessons from the motherland, but rather to eye-creep on the chick three rows in front of me and convince myself that attendance was learning by atmospheric osmosis.
Doak or Vergara, the point remains: having a foreign accent doesn’t make you funny. It makes you foreign. And unless this category is renamed Outstanding Foreign Tits in a Comedy Series, I really don’t understand why Vergara was nominated.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Of the six actors nominated for this award, three play gay characters. And Jon Cryer is also nominated, so really, we’re talking four.
Look, I have no problem with gay characters. Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson getting nominated for Modern Family makes sense because they’re actually real, fleshed-out, funny, interesting characters that deserve screen time. They make the series better. They make the series enjoyable.
Glee’s Chris Colfer parts his hair and sings. Occasionally, he’s bothered with a sub-plot. Fucking sub-plots.
Somewhere on my list of 10 million reasons why Glee fucking blows is the fact that Colfer’s character is gay for the sake of being gay. There is no real value added by his character being gay. His character is just gay. No conversation about homosexuality is advanced. No insight is given. No modern interpretations of sexuality, plays on tropes, insightful jokes or character traits. None of that. Just a generic gay barcode.
I don’t know that this is a problem with Colfer so much as it is a problem with everything on Glee. Characters are generic as shit. Cardboard cut-outs with secondhand storylines. Murphy doesn’t really require them to do much but sing, which is a good thing, because none of them could act their way out of the makeup room.
I’m still not sure why critics are constantly all over Glee’s nuts. Glee is atrocious television. It’s the exact bland commercial bullshit critics should attack, but for some reason, they love this shit. It’s a fucking 30-minute Old Navy commercial without the chimp (Murphy didn’t want him upstaging the other actors), but I’ll be damned if you’ll read a negative review. I don’t get this at all. I also still haven’t forgiven Murphy for slowly killing Nip/Tuck over the course of its existence, to the point where the final season was more of a mercy kill than a sendoff.
Outstanding Comedy Series
GLEE ISN’T A GODDAMN COMEDY! IT IS A FUCKING TRITE MUSICAL! CHRIST ON A BIKE!
Beyond my obvious frustrations with Glee being nominated over, oh, Curb Your Enthusiasm or Party Down or Eastbound & Down or The League or Childrens Hospital (if we consider that a series) or Community or, oh, you know, any general comedy series that is ACTUALLY A COMEDY SERIES WITH REAL GODDAMN COMEDY, it’s also a bit ridiculous that we’re purporting Big Bang Theory and The Office to be better series as well.
Big Bang Theory we covered. The Office is limping toward the finish line like Usain Bolt hit a stretch of molten lava in the last 100 meters. How the hell could either be considered funnier than any of the series I mentioned? This is just getting embarrassing. Maybe they just figure 30 Rock will win so it doesn’t even matter whatever the hell else they nominate. I don’t know.
I just know that Glee needs to die in a fire. That’s more or less one of the main points of this rant.
Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
Okay, so this is actually a really strong category (thanks, Mad Men and Friday Night Lights!) and I don’t mean to bag on AMC. The Killing was alright. Nothing special, but hardly the death of television a la shitty sitcoms.
But Mirielle Einos, star of the series, was nominated. This is a problem, because Einos is not a good actress. She is pretty much the female equivalent of Keanu Reeves.
Think that’s a bit harsh? I have photographic evidence.
Einos spends this series doing two things: looking nonplused and completely not giving a shit about her 13-year-old son Jack, who smokes cigarettes with his friends which makes him a hoodrat. One episode, she decides to suddenly care about her son so the show-runners let us no she’s not such a cold bitch of a mother after all. I think she actually made a facial expression in that episode, which was kind of neat.
I like AMC and I guess I’ll watch season two of The Killing even if I know damn well it’s just going to be 11 episodes of red herrings and then a finale which shits on everything that preceded it, but damn, Einos does not deserve this nomination.
Okay, so the Emmys aren’t all bad. A few good actors, actresses and series are still nominated, and we should support their effort sin turn.
Without a doubt, Breaking Bad should win all the things. It’s pretty much that simple. It’s also a fucking travesty that Giancarlo Esposito (Gus) was not nominated for his role on the show, especially this season. Gus Fring is the most interesting television character in recent memory. His nomination shouldn’t be up for debate. Bryan Cranston (Walt) and Aaron Paul (Jesse) deserve their annual nominations as well, though Cranston is going to start suffering from the “Jon Hamm Rule” sometime soon.
It would also be pretty neat to see Game of Thrones and/or Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) win, but that’s probably just my George R.R. Martin-loving inner nerd talking. HBO did amazing work adapting the first book of a series many thought could never really be adapted given the volume of material within. Somehow — and having GRRM on board helped — HBO was able to cast the series perfectly, though, and really bring locales like Kings Landing, Winterfell and The Wall to life. Tyrion is obviously the character most written for TV, and Dinklage hits a homer with the role.
Friday Night Lights never enjoyed the audience it deserved, but at least got some love from critics. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton both strongly deserve their lead actor/actress nominations for playing Eric and Tami Taylor, respectively, and I would be thrilled to see either win, if anything else as acknowledgment for their overall achievements with the series.
Though the Emmys missed an obvious mini-series nom, it was great to see Idris Elba get the nod for Luther, which was one of the better British series I’d seen in a while, albeit served in awkward intervals and paced to reflect two movies as opposed to two series. Elba’s John Luther was one of my favorite TV characters of 2010-11.
Finally, would be remiss if I didn’t express how much Margo Martindale (Mags Bennett) deserved her Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series nom for season two of Justified. Holy shit, she was good! Like, the rest of the field for that award, even with some strong entries in Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), shouldn’t stand a chance against Martindale. I wasn’t a huge fan of the direction of Justified’s overarching plot arc in season two, but Martindale/Mags absolutely kept it afloat. She should be an absolute lock.
Overall, I think we can see that we’re geared toward watching shitty TV because there’s either nothing else on or because even our supposed gatekeepers of cultural taste push us toward the Glees of the world. But do yourself a favor if you don’t get outside of network sitcoms much: watch Breaking Bad. Watch Mad Men, watch The Walking Dead, watch Game of Thrones. Go back and watch The Wire and Deadwood. Appreciate good television. Don’t fucking settle for The Big Bang Theory. Watch something writers, actors and directors actually put some time into. TV doesn’t have to suck! We don’t have to flip through channel guides aimlessly looking for something worth watching! We just have to increase demand for cultural products that have tangible value, and decrease demand for shitty ass sitcoms that do nothing but perpetuate laugh tracks and stale ideas. Because that’s our status quo, as a collective Jersey Shore society.
And that’s just not cool with me, America.