Wednesday, July 02, 2008

It's a beauty way to go

So I'm back from four days in Montreal and trying to figure out what was the most quintessentially Canadian moment of the trip: 1)Getting into an argument with a native about the merits of the Montreal bagel, which ended with me saying I'd never been a fan and the native saying, "Well, it was nice talking to you"; 2)Attending a family gathering where the word "Cheesebagel" was uttered at least 41 times in 10 minutes (my wife lost interest in counting after that); 3)Going to a Canadian mall, where I spent half the visit scouting potential locations for a Robin Sparkles concert; or 4)Idly channel-surfing and coming across a CBC documentary about Bob and Doug McKenzie, of "Great White North" (via "SCTV") fame.

So, while I resist the urge to put on a toque and call everybody a hosehead, here's some of what I missed while I was away:
  • The Screen Actors Guild contract elapsed at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday without a SAG strike, or even a strike authorization vote. The public version of the SAG/AMPTP negotiations in some ways sounds just as ugly and childish as the WGA/AMPTP negotiations (mainly from the studio side, both times), but another strike would have been devastating for the TV business (as it is, I don't think it'll ever totally recover from the effects of the WGA/AMPTP impasse), so I'm somewhat relieved.
  • The lack of a strike also means that the Television Critics Association press tour is definitely on, so I'll be heading out to LA on Monday and will be blogging round the clock for a couple of weeks.
  • Tom O'Neil remains on top of all things Emmy, and for the most part, the news out of the nomination screenings has dashed whatever optimism I had when the comedy and drama series semi-finalists were announced. Two spies on the drama series nominating panels said that the panelists (most over 50, as per usual) hated "The Wire" and "Dexter" and ate up "Boston Legal" and "Damages." Nobody from "The Wire" made any acting semi-finalist list, and most of the "Lost" cast was shut out, with the exception of Naveen Andrews and Michael Emerson (but not Henry Ian Cusick or Jorge Garcia) in drama supporting actor. No Connie Britton, even though she submitted herself as a drama supporting actress this time; no January Jones, either (though Christina Hendricks and John Slattery both made the first cut). The news is a little better elsewhere, as Elisabeth Moss and Mary McDonnell (who chose a relatively skiffy-low episode in "Faith") allegedly made the lead drama actress top 10 list, along with another favorite of mine, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and I'd be happy with almost any combination of the lead drama actor semi-finalists (with the exceptions of Denis Leary, Patrick Dempsey and, just because I know he'll win if nominated, James Spader). I still figure the actual nominations will largely consist of the usual suspects.
  • With AMC doing relatively well (so far) in the Emmy process (Bryan Cranston even made the top 10), the channel is expanding its original drama series output with a remake of "The Prisoner." At the risk of having my TCA membership revoked, I have to admit that "The Prisoner" is one of the few shows from the cult classic canon (say that five times fast) I've never seen even a second of, so I don't have much to offer on the casting of Jim Caviezel in the Patrick McGoohan role, or Ian McKellen as Number Two. Instead, I'll just point to my friend Phil's column suggesting other shows that might be appropriate to remake, given our shaky times.
I have a whole lot of advance TV to watch between now and when I head out for press tour -- most of it pilots for shows that will be paneled at the tour but won't be premiering for a while (like HBO's "True Blood") -- so I don't know if/when I'll be able to catch up on the handful of shows I missed while I was in the mother country. I'll do what I can.

37 comments:

Michael said...

1) if you don't like Montreal bagels, you had *better* be partial to the New York kind. Nothing else even comes close to a good St-Viateur Bagel.
2) Have you actually HAD a Chesebagel? They're one of the best things about my trips back to Montreal.

Alan Sepinwall said...

1)I *love* the New York bagel, and in fact just ate one for breakfast. But it's impressive how passionate Montreal'ers are about their own version. I once got into an argument with Jay Baruchel from "Undeclared" about it, and he was practically yelling at me about the superiority of the Montreal bagel to the New York one.

2)My sister claims I used to eat them all the time when we would visit Montreal in our youths, but knowing that the ingredients include both ricotta and cottage cheese (which I hate so much that I can't eat any food made with them, even as a minor ingredient), I'm doubtful about that.

Siddhartha said...

Hey Alan -

We might have been in Montreal at the same time!

It was my first time and I had the same thoughts on the bagel. I went to Fairmount on the recommendation of my friend and they are way too small and not doughy enough.

Poutine from La Banquise and smoked meat from Scwartz's on the other hand were all they were cracked up to be.

Siddhartha said...

Also - did you happen to catch the fireworks on Saturday night?

John said...

I find it hard to believe anyone could not thoroughly enjoy Montreal-style bagels.

Any other type of bagel is simply a kaiser bun with a hole in the middle.

Devin McCullen said...

Never watched The Prisoner? I think we have a nominee for our next old series to review!

Anonymous said...

So Ian McKellan is doing TV. Just a few years ago it would've been unthinkable that someone of McKellan's fame and caliber would do a TV series, right? But now it seems like TV is where all the most interesting stuff is getting made. Is it because writers and producers have finally figured out how to take advantage of its ability to tell a longer, more open-ended story?

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe you haven't seen "The Prisoner". You really should make it a priority.

Anonymous said...

Ian McKellan has done TV before.

From Wikipedia: "In April and May 2005, he played the role of Mel Hutchwright in Granada Television's long running soap opera, Coronation Street, fulfilling a lifelong ambition."

"Corrie" is a UK soap set in the north of England and was first broadcast in 1960.

Anonymous said...

The Prisoner is going to be a mini-series, not a regular series. Lots of big actors do mini-series and tv-movies.

And it's Jorge Garcia (not Reyes.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

And it's Jorge Garcia (not Reyes.)

Fixed. It's like I'm congenitally required to mix up the actor and character's name in this one case.

dez said...

Completely disheartened to hear about the forthcoming Wire snubs. Stupid old men!! :-P

Anonymous said...

Not sure what's your point about the majority of Emmy panelists being over 50. My friends and I are all over 50, and for several of us, Mad Men, The Wire and Lost are our favorite shows. You know, right after Texaco Star Theater and Your Show of Shows.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Not sure what's your point about the majority of Emmy panelists being over 50. My friends and I are all over 50, and for several of us, Mad Men, The Wire and Lost are our favorite shows.

My point is that you and your friends are exceptions to the rule, or at least in stark contrast to the membership of the TV Academy, where the voters tend to be older, often semi-retired or retired, out of the loop with current trends, and the type to gravitate towards safe, traditional programming. The list of repeat Emmy nominees and winners that exemplify that trend is far too long to include here, so I'll just say this: When I heard from someone who attended one of the drama series screenings that the panelists loved the Boston Legal episode, he didn't even need to add that virtually everyone in the room was over 50 and only one guy was under 30.

Jon Delfin said...

Speaking of Jorge Garcia, I happened to record an episode of "Russian Roulette" on GSN yesterday (just to remind myself how the game worked), and JG was one of the contestants. He ... oh, what's that word that means "didn't win"?

Anonymous said...

By the way, did you see the story in Variety this morning reporting that the median age of TV viewers is now over 50?

Alan Sepinwall said...

By the way, did you see the story in Variety this morning reporting that the median age of TV viewers is now over 50?

Yes, but the study explicitly only covered viewing of live TV. No DVRs, no On Demand, no streaming video or time-shifting or all the other ways that people experience TV these days.

I don't doubt that younger people now go to their computer screen before (or instead of) their TV screen, but there are lots of ways to consume television that weren't part of the survey.

SR said...

re: the age of the panelists

Any TV Academy member who wants to be on a panel can be, just like any non-felon US citizen who wants to vote in November can vote. It's unfortunate for those of us on this side of the AARP line that, in both cases, older voters turn out in a much higher proportion than younger ones.

On a related note, the Emmy panels only count for 50% of the vote; the initial, member-wide voting that generated the top 10 list in the first place counts for the other 50%.

Any show that was initially in 8th-10th place would need to get a LOT of panel support to make the top 5, while any show that was in 1st-3rd place would likewise need a lot of panel loathing to drop down. The shows on either side of the bubble (4th-7th) have the most to gain or lose by a good response from the panelists.

I don't know if that's the best way to determine nominees, but I think it favors high-viewership shows, which by definition helps broadcast network shows. Given all that, I'd be surprised if Lost doesn't get a nomination.

Nicole said...

Why must the voters attend a panel? Can't they just vote from home? All these episodes have aired anyway, so it's not like sending screeners would be a leak.

This way those with full time jobs would have time to watch and vote for the relevant shows.

As for the bagel debate, I am just glad you didn't start bashing the Habs, then the debate might have ended in fisticuffs.

SJ said...

Seriously, what's with The Wire hate?

And they really showed the finale of a series none of these people have ever watched at the end? This whole process is just crazy and for the most part unfair.

And HBO did choose the wrong episode as a submission. The one before that was not just the best episode of the season but one of the best episodes ever.

Kyle Wasko said...

Prisoner remake! Very exciting!

Not quite sure how they're going to condense 17 (admittedly: not all amazing) episodes down to six, but I trust that, in a nod to the original series, McKellan won't be in every ep, as Number Twos were always changing.

LA said...

I'll probably get grief for this, but here goes. As much as I love everything Mad Men, I'm actually okay with January Jones being overlooked for an Emmy nod. I won't go so far as to call her the weak link, but I do think her performance isn't up the superior level as her castmates.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Why must the voters attend a panel? Can't they just vote from home? All these episodes have aired anyway, so it's not like sending screeners would be a leak.

This way those with full time jobs would have time to watch and vote for the relevant shows.


In an ideal world, that's the way this should work. The problem is, the people who work in television have very little time to actually watch television, and so what used to happen when the nominating process was done entirely by ballots mailed to member homes is that people would choose names blindly from the list of submissions, based on either name recognition, or a voters' fondness for a particular actor, or what they remember their dog walker telling them about a show, or whatever.

In theory, the idea of making at least some of the process dependent on people who are guaranteed to watch the submitted shows and performances should lead to better-informed nominations. The problem in practice is that, for the most part, the people who have the time or interest in attending the panels are the same bunch who used to vote on the actual awards: post-50 types who don't work much anymore and have the aforementioned safer tastes.

Plus, there's the larger issue of people having to decide based on a single episode of a show. Not only does that put serialized shows like Lost and The Wire at a severe disadvantage, but it doesn't remotely reflect the way that real people watch television. Sure, Actor A might have one great spotlight episode where he's arguably better than a single episode of Actors B or C, but Actors B and C are giving performances that are better and more interesting over the long haul. (Nancy Marchand suffered this problem with Sopranos; there was never one single Livia episode that made you go, "Wow, that's an amazing performance," but when you watched her for a full season, you got it.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'll probably get grief for this, but here goes. As much as I love everything Mad Men, I'm actually okay with January Jones being overlooked for an Emmy nod. I won't go so far as to call her the weak link, but I do think her performance isn't up the superior level as her castmates.

I can see that, though I had a much bigger issue with Elisabeth Moss (who did make the top 10 for lead drama actress, according to Tom O'Neil's sources). Betty was also a very underwritten character for at least half the season, but I liked several of her episodes, notably "Shoot," quite a bit.

LA said...

Agree that the final shot of "Shoot" was nothing short of epic.

I just saw that T.R. Knight made the top ten in his category. That's just plain wrong. So is Dempsey's inclusion. Wow.

Alanna said...

I crossed the border for the first time in June and spent an hour at a Vancouver mall. You're right - the Robin Sparkles jokes just write themselves.

Emmys: I'm still a bit surprised to see so much love for Damages, just because the ratings were iffy and I don't remember very much buzz while it was on. I can't really fault most of the acting finalists from the show, but I wasn't all that fond of Byrne's performance.

And best of luck surviving the Press Tour this year!

Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

At the risk of having my TCA membership revoked, I have to admit that "The Prisoner" is one of the few shows from the cult classic canon (say that five times fast) I've never seen even a second of, so I don't have much to offer on the casting of Jim Caviezel in the Patrick McGoohan role, or Ian McKellen as Number Two.

OK, first: I'm SPEECHLESS that you've never seen The Prisoner. SPEECHLESS.

But having said that, I can tell you that no one can take a place held by the great, intense, handsome, utterly spy-tastic Patrick MacGoohan. AND that there isn't supposed to BE only one Number Two. Number Two changed every week. That was kind of the point. One week's Number Two would not be able to break Number Six, and next week he would be GONE. So having Ian McKellan for the whole stretch is just stupid.

But then the whole idea is stupid. Especially if they think they can parse that trippy mind-blowing final episode, which raised more questions than it answered.

This is the sort of project that makes me walk around with my fists clenched. Like Hollywood re-making the classic film The Women, with Eva Mendes in the Joan Crawford role. Spitting nails, I am.

But I digress. Seriously, get yourself the DVDs of the original The Prisoner. If you don't like it, I'll reimburse you for them myself. But I can't believe you wouldn't appreciate it--if only for its pervasive influence.

SR said...

This way those with full time jobs would have time to watch and vote for the relevant shows.

The marathon panels are held on Saturday and Sunday, so theoretically even people with full-time jobs can forgo one weekend day to screen and vote if they care to do so.

For lesser categories, like best variety special or best children's program, they do mail the screeners to panelists who then have about a week to view the DVDs. They have to sign affidavits saying they've screened all 10 DVDs, but it's not hard to imaging that they've screened some more attentively than others.

At least for the dramas and comedies, the panelists are forced to sit in a room and act like they're paying attention.

Plus, there's the larger issue of people having to decide based on a single episode of a show.

Supposedly, that gets mitigated slightly once you get down to the 5 nominees. The final decision is then based on six episodes, two episodes each for three different panels, if I have my facts straight.

Also, Alan, count me among those who are shocked that you haven't seen The Prisoner and who would be thrilled to see it get the full treatment here on the blog should you decide to take it on.

Anthony Foglia said...

The Emmys either need to come up with a different procedure, or create Best New Comedy/Drama categories. Or both. The major problem is once a show is nominated, they're practically guaranteed to be nominated every year. Harder to do that with a Best New... category.

And you're not missing much with "The Prisoner." There were some good episodes, but most were empty.

arrabbiata said...

Alan,

Add me to the list of people who are shocked that you've never seen a minute of "The Prisoner". (On the other hand, the Emmy nominations snubs are all too believable) The show was certainly a significant influence on "Lost", especially the early seasons when we knew a lot less about the island. A series review here would be great- and Prisoner fans could help you cut it down to 7 to 10 key episodes.

Anonymous said...

Another request that you not tar all of us who are over 50 (and then some) with the same brush. My husband and I were fanatically in love with The Wire (as well as Deadwood and The Sopranos), and mourned its end. We're anxiously awaiting the return of Mad Men. And one shot at Boston Legal was more than enough. It's painful to be lumped into a category and dismissed that way. You just wait until it happens to you!

And another request that you immediately rent and watch The Prisoner. Patrick McGoohan's eccentric line readings are a delirious treat.

dez said...

For the record, my own comment was directed solely at the described male Emmy voters who don't like The Wire, not all men 50 or older :-)

Mark P said...

I'm shocked they're even trying to remake Prisoner. An earlier commenter mentioned how the show was an influence on Lost, and to put it in perspective, imagine if someone in 30 years announced they were doing a one-season remake of Lost. It just doesn't seem feasible and there are a lot more things that could go wrong than could go right.

j said...

Forget the bagels. (Even though they are clearly *real* bagels and the poor imitations that New Yorkers call bagels are actually just lumps of under-cooked dough). Did you eat POUTINE!?

Anonymous said...

How could you not be a regular viewer of Lost and The Wire and vote for best drama series??

Ridiculous.

WhidbeyIslander said...

arrabbiata said:

A series review here would be great- and Prisoner fans could help you cut it down to 7 to 10 key episodes.

Mark P said:

...imagine if someone in 30 years announced they were doing a one-season remake of Lost. It just doesn't seem feasible and there are a lot more things that could go wrong than could go right.

I say:

Well, Patrick McGoohan originally wanted to make only seven episodes of the original series:

"I thought the concept of the thing would sustain for only seven, but then Lew Grade wanted to make his sale to CBS, I believe (first ran it in the States) and he said he couldn't make a deal unless he had more, and he wanted 26, and I couldn't conceive of 26 stories, because it would be spreading it very thin, but we did manage, over a week-end, with my writers, to cook up ten more outlines, and eventually we did 17, but it should be seven…