Nothing But Memory

I’m a Better Host Than Jimmy Kimmel, Too

Being a sucker for awards shows, naturally I watched the Emmys on Sunday night. The Emmys, I have to say, are one of my least favourite awards shows. It’s hard to take a group that claims to honour the best in television seriously when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was never nominated in a major category except one time for writing, and that writing nomination came for an episode with almost no dialogue (an excellent episode, to be sure, but still). Also, it did not win.

This year’s Emmy telecast was particularly unsatisfying for me as the one show I do love that I can usually count on to make me feel better about these things, Mad Men, didn’t even win. For once, Bryan Cranston didn’t win, yet somehow, neither did Jon Hamm. I was annoyed. As soon as I went to bed, I started plotting out my own version of the Emmy awards, which I am calling the Memmy Awards, to recognize the best in television as perceived by me. Here are my nominees.

Note: Community is the only sitcom I watch, so I’m not bothering with a separate category for comedy because it would just win everything. I bet that would be super, super annoying and predictable.

Best Supporting Actor

Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones. I wasn’t that impressed with season two of Game of Thrones, but one thing I did love about it was Charles Dance’s outstanding performance. The scenes between Arya and the Lannister patriarch were certainly the highlight of the season for me. Dance plays Lord Tywin with great strength and menace, ably showing viewers the forceful paternal influence that made Tyrion, Cersei, and Jaime who they are.

Jared Harris as Lane Pryce on Mad Men. Frankly, he deserves this nomination just for that time Lane punched Pete Campbell in the face. I also loved the crazy scene where he gave Joan some, er, business advice. But as amazing as those moments were, there was much more weighty stuff to Lane’s arc and Jared Harris’ performance this season. So very English, suffering in silence as everyone else went on with their lives, never suspecting the depth of his problems.

John Noble as Walter Bishop on Fringe. John Noble’s omission is one of the things that bothers me the most when I see the Emmy nominations every year. He plays Walter’s messed up mental state with a mix of flat-out weirdness and fragility that can go from hilarious to incredibly moving in just a few short words. He also shows his vast range in his scenes as Walternate, where we see the cold and calculating person the lovable Walter we know might have become.

And the Memmy goes to … John Noble, because for heaven’s sake, someone’s got to give this man an award!

Best Supporting Actress

Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris on Mad Men. Season five was a very big year for Joan: she finally dumped Dr. Rapist, she came back to work after her maternity leave … oh yeah, and she whored herself out for the good of the company and was made partner in return. The moment when she told her awful husband he’s not a good man actually made me cheer. It was a satisfying, if uncomfortable, season for Joan’s character development, and Hendricks played it all beautifully.

Jessica Paré as Megan Draper on Mad Men. Whatever you think of Megan (personally, I like her), Jessica Paré was a force on Mad Men this season. Her youthful exuberance challenged Don to contemplate moving with the times, Peggy to re-evaluate her career, and Betty to take a long look at her own maturity level. (Possibly.) Paré started the season off with a bang (Zou Bisou Bisou!) and went toe-to-toe with Jon Hamm in some very intense scenes.

Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham on Downton Abbey. Maggie Smith’s wonderful readings of Julian Fellowes’ funny and sometimes outlandish dialogue are very probably the best thing about Downton Abbey. This is simply a case of a brilliant actress doing a brilliant job in a brilliantly-written role. I watch her every moment she’s on screen: every gesture and facial expression is unmissable.

And the Memmy goes to … Christina Hendricks. In most years I would be more than happy to see Maggie Smith take home the trophy, but man, Christina Hendricks killed it this year.

Best Actor

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men. Don tried hard to evolve this season and Jon Hamm portrayed his transformation with typical smoothness. It’s amazing to me that he has so far failed to win an Emmy. Don Draper is without doubt the most iconic character currently on television and a big part of that is due to Hamm’s personal charisma. If you think Mad Men will stand up in 25 years as an example of great TV, which I do, it will seem ridiculous that he never won.

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan on Dexter. This is more of a lifetime achievement Memmy nomination than anything else because I think Dexter’s best days are definitely behind it. But MCH’s awesomness hasn’t faded, and by my count he should have about nine Emmys by now (five for the five seasons of Six Feet Under and one each for the first four seasons of Dexter). Strangely, he doesn’t have a single one.

Michael Pitt as Jimmy Darmody on Boardwalk Empire. I came across this article about shows that have the wrong lead character the other day and was happy because I have always thought Nucky was one of the least interesting people on Boardwalk Empire. Jimmy was far more interesting, especially in season two: his attempts to unseat Nucky, his grief at Angela’s death, his disturbing backstory. Michael Pitt’s deep, quiet, intense, sad performance was outstanding.

And the Memmy goes to … Sorry, Jon Hamm, but: Michael Pitt, for a performance that stayed with me long after the show ended. It’s shocking that the actual Emmys overlooked him.

Best Actress

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones. I find Cersei to be one of the more interesting characters in the series. She’s a woman trying not just to survive in but actually dominate a man’s world. This has made her ruthless, cunning, and just a little bit crazy. Lena Headey has captured Cersei’s rage and the fear underneath it in a way I really enjoy. Her scenes with Sansa throughout the season and especially during the battle were marvellous.

Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife. Alicia has really grown since we first met her in season one, developing more and more moral ambiguity. She’s still a good person at heart, but she has her moments of slipperiness. Julianna Margulies shows Alicia’s conflicted feelings about her job very well. Plus, I love it when she lays out Jackie with a good rant. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham on Fringe. I think what impressed me most about season four was the way she actually made Walter (and me) like Altlivia, who had until then been pretty much a villain. But, like Michael C. Hall’s Best Actor nomination, this one is a kind of overall achievement award, rather than related to anything specific Anna Torv did this season. Her performance has been amazing since Fringe started and she’s only getting better.

And the Memmy goes to … Anna Torv. Why do you hate Fringe, Emmy voters?

Best Series

Boardwalk Empire. I liked season one but wasn’t totally convinced it was going to turn out to be a great show. The excellent second season paid off a lot of what was set up in season one and made me very eager to see season three. This series also has stunning HBO-financed production values and is just plain nice to look at.

The Good Wife. An exceptionally well-written legal drama/nighttime soap populated with a large cast of excellent characters, played by great actors, including a series of really notable guest stars.

Mad Men. Somehow, this show has managed to get better every season so far. Season five was possibly the most difficult yet, featuring a lot of developments that made me squirm as the characters went through some major changes. As uncomfortable as I might have been, though, I couldn’t look away.

And the Memmy goes to … Mad Men. I can only imagine Homeland must be the greatest show since Buffy in order to have beaten it for the Emmy.

A final award: instead of doing a bunch of awards for writing and directing, the Memmys just go whole hog and give you …

Best Single Episode of Any Show

Community 3.04 – “Remedial Chaos Theory.” Jeff tosses a die to determine which of the gang must go downstairs and pick up the pizza they’ve ordered, in the process creating six different timelines, each of which is played out in the course of the episode. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed as hard at anything I’ve seen on TV as I did at The Darkest Timeline.

Community 3.14 – “Pillows and Blankets.” The battle between Troy’s blanket fort and Abed’s pillow fort turns serious and all of Greendale is drawn into the conflict. A dead-on parody of a Ken Burns documentary, showing how social media posts and text messages would become the archival sources for historians of tomorrow. I enjoyed this episode so much that I watched it twice in a row.

Mad Men 5.04 – “Mystery Date.” Set against the backdrop of the Chicago nurse murders, the episode explores humans’ potential for violence and distrust of each other, mainly in the context of men’s sexual violence against women. Particularly disturbing are Don’s dream sequence and Sally’s fear after watching the news with her grandmother. This was chilling stuff. Plus, Joan dumps her stupid husband and not-so-subtly reminds him of that time he raped her. Awesome!

And the Memmy goes to … “Remedial Chaos Theory,” because I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe.

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