Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mixed Results for The Rules

Well that was an “interesting” Emmy Awards. There were enough surprises to make the alteration of the voting rules to a single round plurality rather than a ranked ballot majority seem like a “good thing” and yet it is hard not to say that things haven’t changed that much.

Unlike a lot of people I was not in love with Jimmy Kimmel’s comedy stylings. There was some good stuff and then there was something like the intro of Bill Cosby that fell flat on it’s collective ass. The business with the peanut butter sandwiches seemed like it was recycled from the pizza delivery from a previous Oscar telecast. Like all of these things it was pretty hit and miss as far as I’m concerned. I think you have to ask why the comedy went on to the point where they had to eliminate the clips for the nominees in the Outstanding Actress in a Drama category.

But of course what I really want to talk about is how well I did or didn’t do using my rules to predict the results. And the answer is that I was right 50% of the time. Which means I was wrong 50% of the time. That’s glass half empty/half full territory. Watching the show I was in the “glass half empty” camp, disappointed and wondering about the validity of my predictive model. Then I moved to the glass half full side with the realization that 50% is probably better than most people did in their pools. And besides in some cases it was a matter of interpretation.

Let’s break things down.

Outstanding Supporting Actor Comedy
Predicted – Tony Hale, Veep
Winner – Louie Anderson, Baskets

Okay, this is a big surprise. Hale was a two time winner on an HBO show and Anderson was on a show that was unknown to me which I probably wouldn’t watch even if I knew about it. I was at a point where I wasn’t aware that Louie Anderson was playing a woman in the show. Apparently the show, or at least his performance qualifies as a hot new thing though.

Outstanding Supporting Actress Comedy
Predicted – Allison Janney, Mom
Winner – Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

Another surprise, maybe bigger for me than the Tony Hale loss if ‘m being honest. I wasn`t aware of McKinnon because I don’t watch SNL, and I have a bit of a bias on this since she’s on a show that doesn’t compete in the Outstanding Comedy Series but rather in the Variety Sketch Series category where it lost to Key & Peele. But there’s no category for performers in Variety Sketch series so there you go. I have a suspicion that this is a caegory where the change in the voting system came into play a bit.

Outstanding Supporting Actor Drama
Predicted – Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones
Winner – Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
I`m not sure but this may have surprised everyone. Bloodline isn`t one of the Netflix shows I watch, and given that they cancelled it after its upcoming third season apparently other people don`t watch it either (but who can tell with Netflix). Given that a lot of the talk around these Emmys was about how Game Of Thrones was going to dominate every category it was in, and that Peter Dinklage had won the category twice in the past, not to mention that Mendelsohn’s character was killed at the end of the first season and that much of his participation in the second season was through the medium of flashbacks I’m not sure it was outright predictable.
Outstanding Supporting Actress Drama
Predicted – Lena Headey, Game Of Thrones
Winner – Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
I said at the beginning that I considered this one of the most wide open categories of the night and I was proven right. I went with Headey in the anticipation of a Game Of Thrones sweep given that the previous season’s winner Uzo Aduba not receiving a nomination. I also said however that the Academy could very well go with Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey on the grounds that it was the show’s last season. I think that having three women from Game of Thrones in the category probably resulted in vote splitting and that using the plurality versus the majority system may have killed any chance that a Game of Thrones actress could have won. And Kimmel’s bit about Smith not showing up and thus not being getting the Emmy? Not really funny.
Outstanding Lead Actor Comedy
Predicted – Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Winner – Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Got it right. And while Anthony Anderson might have done one of the best episodes of the season on Black-ish I don’t think there was much chance he was going to win.
Outstanding Lead Actress Comedy
Predicted – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Winner – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Was there really any doubt?

Outstanding Lead Actor Drama
Predicted – Rami Malek, Mr Robot
Winner – Rami Malek, Mr Robot

Maybe my best pick of the lot. No past winner (for the same part) in the category and no one from an HBO show. Mr Robot was the recipient of a lot of critical buzz and Malek is a young guy. Wasn’t surprised to see him win, won’t be surprised to see him repeat unless something big shows up next year.

Outstanding Lead Actress Drama
Predicted – Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder
Winner – Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black

Every so often yo go to the track and the longshot comes in and you cheer even though you had your money on one of the favourites because it is just such a great story. So happy to see Tatiana win (and not just because she’s from Saskatchewan) inspite of all the obstacles in her way: going up against a previous winner, being on a science fiction-y show like Orphan Black, being on a show on a small network. The fact that she plays multiple characters (the clones) each very different in speech, character and even appearance is a bravura performance that thankfully wasn’t overlooked.

Outstanding Lead Actress Drama
Predicted – Veep
Winner – Veep
I know that some people complained afterwards that Black-ish was the best comedy on network TV and was robbed of the award, but is anyone really shocked or that unhappy that Veep won? I mean anyone who doesn’t work on the show…or for ABC?

Outstanding Drama Series
Predicted – Game Of Thrones
Winner – Game of Thrones

Anyone really surprised with this result? Spectacle with good writing wins every time.

Extra categories: I didn’t predicted these “officially” but I did nail them. In the Outstanding Variety Talk Show category I mentioned that there’s a big gap left by the departure of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s migration to CBS to host The Late Show in terms of doing political hunour. Of the nominees in the category only Last Week Tonight with John Oliver really filled that niche, so an easy pick. As was Limited Series categories. I predicted “Based on everything I’ve heard, expect a lot of awards for the cast writers and directors of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story before its eventual coronation.” The People v. O.J. Simpson won for Writing, Supporting Actor, Lead Actor and Lead Actress before winning Outstanding Limited Series. The only Limited Series categories it didn’t win were Supporting Actress (where no one from the series was nominated) and Directing.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

2016 Emmy Awards – By The Rules

emmysOr as it should probably be known: the night that a broadcast network gives up three hours at the start of the season to honour cable and streaming TV – particularly HBO. It’s true. Cable and streaming TV will take away most of the awards on Sunday night. Of the 63 nominees in the ten categories I look at here, twelve are on broadcast TV and of those twelve, four of the nominees are dramas only two of those are from a commercial network (as opposed to PBS). But debating the merits of having commercial network TV running a party for cable isn’t up for debate here. Picking winners is.
I’m going to try to predict this year’s Emmy awards “scientifically” using four basic rules. Two of the rules are Positive, one is Negative, and one is what I guess you could call Neutral or Preferential. There’s also a fifth rule that’s not yet proven. These predictions are based on things I’ve observed about the Emmys from long before I started this Blog and even before I had the Internet.
There is one thing that could disrupt “The Rules” and that is that the Emmy have adopted a new voting system. In the past they have used a “preferential ballot” in which the voters ranked the nominees from your favourite to your least favourite of the nominees. In tabulating the results the votes were counted and the show with the least number of first choice ballots was eliminated. The votes from that show were redistributed to the voters‘  second choices, and so on until one show had 50% of the vote. The Academy has switched to a plurality system (or “first past the post” as we call it in Canada) where voters pick the show they want to see win in the category and vote for it. The show with the most votes wins outright even if, in a six-way race they have 17% of the vote and the other five shows have a total 16.6% each. What this will mean to the Emmys is yet to be proven, but I’m predicting (hoping for actually) limited change.
So what are these rules? They’re actually pretty simple:
Rule 1: Winners win….until you know, they don’t.
The Emmys are unique among entertainment awards shows in that the same show or people can win year after year. The equivalent at the Oscars would be for last year’s Best Picture winner to win again this year. It doesn’t happen at the Tonys, the Grammys or the Oscars, just the Emmys and any other awards show that touches on TV. And the Emmys tend to give awards to previous season’s winners.
Rule 2: The “Hot New Thing” can overturn previous season’s winners, but it’s the academy that decide what the hot new thing is.
Funny thing about the TV awards. The people who choose the nominees and who vote for the winners don’t actually watch a hell of a lot of TV. TV critics (the pros) watch a lot of TV but the people at the TV academy are too busy working making TV shows to actually watch TV shows on a regular basis. What they know about what’s hot and what’s not is generally based on ratings and buzz and whatever  they decide is “quality” TV this year.
Rule 3: Premium cable trumps basic cable which trumps broadcast TV.
And by premium cable I mean HBO. This year HBO had 40 nominations, while Showtime had nine and Cinemax (!) had one. Those 40 nominations for HBO were greater than ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC combined although when you factor PBS into the mix it is greater. We don’t know yet were streaming video factors into this except to say that while they get more nominations than The CW, Amazon and Netflix have had very limited success.
Rule 4: Fantasy and Science Fiction don’t win… unless they come from HBO.
In fact Fantasy and Science Fiction shows almost never get nominations unless they’re on HBO. Battlestar Galactica may have been one of the best shows on all of TV during its run but never earned a Primetime Emmy nomination. Creative Arts Emmys sure, but not Emmy’s from Writing, Directing or Acting, let alone Outstanding Drama Series which are the categories being awarded on Sunday.
Let’s take a look at the series and acting categories and apply the rules. I’ll put the rule number that applies to the person or show beside their name. Previously nominated shows are marked with a *. As an added bonus I’ve found the odds that are being offered on the various nominees in the major categories (which is to say not the supporting categories) from a number of online sites that are offering Emmy bets. They are BetFred, 888Sports, William Hill, Unibet, and 32Red. I’l try to give an average of what they say with odds of the favourite in italics.
So who is going to get the chance to pay $400 to buy the trophy that they “won” (that’s right, the Emmys charge the winners the cost of manufacturing the Emmys if they actually want to take it home with them – cheap bastards)?
Outstanding Supporting Actor Comedy
  • Louis Anderson, Baskets, FX
  • Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, FOX *
  • Titus Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix *
  • Ty Burrell, Modern Family, ABC * (1a)
  • Tony Hale, Veep, HBO * (1,3) 
  • Keegan-Michael Key, Key and Peele, Comedy Central *
  • Matt Walsh, Veep, HBO (3)
So here we have a category with two “new” faces (I really can’t think of Louie Anderson as “new”) two broadcast shows, and no “hot new thing.” Last season’s winner Tony Hale is here as is previous winner in this category Ty Burrell. As much as I like Titus Burgess, he’s out of the “hot new thing” group. As much as I like Andre Braugher, a win on his part would be a huge upset. Ty Burrell is the only cast member from Modern Family to be nominated this year in a category that once was almost entirely made up of people from that show. At this stage I see a win by him as an incredible long-shot. Give it to Tony Hale again.

Outstanding Supporting Actress Comedy
  • Anna Chlumsky, Veep, HBO (3) *
  • Gaby Hoffman, Transparent, Amazon *
  • Allison Janney, Mom, CBS * (1)
  • Judith Light, Transparent, Amazon
  • Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live, NBC *
  • Niecy Nash, Getting On, HBO (3)*
Saying that Allison Janney will win in this category goes against every principle of The Rules, but it may prompt a special “supporting categories rule” namely that if an actress is nominated in a “Supporting” category for playing a role that is essentially a lead role they have a leg up on anyone else in the category. Except for Judith Light, everyone nominated here has been beaten by Janney – twice in the case of McKinnon and Chlumsky. There’s no hot new thing in this category so just give it to Janney again.

 Outstanding Supporting Actor Drama
  • Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul, AMC *
  • Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones, HBO * (1, 3)
  • Kit Harrington, Game of Thrones, HBO (3)
  • Michael Kelly, House of Cards, Netflix *
  • Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline, Netflix *
  • Jon Voigt, Ray Donovan, Showtime
For the most part this is the same group that Peter Dinklage beat last year. The only additions are Jon Voigt and Kit Harrington. Voigt is a good actor, but the Emmys tend to ignore movie stars in most cases – see Kevin Spacey and Matthew McConaughey as examples of actors who were supposed to set the Emmys on fire and ended up taking home nothing. And speaking of Spacey, I fear that if House of Cards hasn’t won an Emmy by now the chances are pretty slim for anyone on that series. As for Harrington, the past season of Game of Thrones has been pretty heavy on Jon Snow, but the fact is that I’ve always found Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister a more fascinating character. Dinklage for the win unless of course having two actors from the series leads to vote splitting under the new rules. But I honestly don’t think it’s likely.

Outstanding Supporting Actress Drama
  • Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones, HBO * (3)
  • Lena Headey, Game of Thrones, HBO * (3)
  • Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey, PBS (1a)
  • Maura Tierney, The Affair, Showtime
  • Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones, HBO (3)
  • Constance Zimmer, Unreal, Lifetime (2)
Maybe the hardest category in this whole thing to pick based on The Rules…or even picked on merit. Last year’s winner, Uzo Aduba (Orange Is The New Black), wasn’t nominated. Only two of the actresses who were nominated last year were nominated again this year (Emilia Clark, and Lena Headey) because Mad Men and The Good Wife have gone off the air and last year’s Downton Abbey actress was replaced by the only previous winner in this category, Dame Maggie Smith. You have three newcomers in this category. Oh yeah and half of the nominees are from HBO’s Game of Thrones. The closest thing to a “hot new thing” is Unreal, and if pushed I suppose you could make a case for Constance Zimmerman because it’s an inside TV series and it skewers Reality TV and most of the creative types – in particular actors – are down with that. I could very easily see Magge Smith getting the Emmy because it was the last season of Downton Abbey. However, I’d put the bulk of my money on any of the women of Game of Thrones, and because I have to say something here, I’m picking Lena Headey over Emilia Clarke and Maisie Williams. Cersei Lannister is just such a deliciously evil character that I find it hard to bet against the actress who plays her, if only out of fear that the Emmy venue might be swallowed up in wildfire if she doesn’t win. (joking)

Outstanding Lead Actor Comedy
  • Anthony Anderson, Black-ish, ABC 5/1 odds *
  • Aziz Ansari, Master of None, Netflix 3/1 odds (2)
  • Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth, FOX 20/1 odds *
  • William H. Macy, Shameless, Showtime 14/1 *
  • Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley, HBO, 12/1 odds (3)
  • Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent, Amazon, 1/2 odds * (1)
One of the categories where there might possibly be an upset. The HBO factor isn’t as great in comedy as it is in drama, and Black-ish had some much talked about episodes that might be persuasive to some members of the academy. However I think it really comes down to the two streaming series, Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent and Aziz Ansari in Master of None. As I’ve mentioned here, I’ve seen about five minutes of Masters of None before I stopped watching and despite the huge critical buzz, including some from some professional critics that I really like, I haven’t gone back. The rules – and the oddsmakers – say Tambor, but I think I’ll out on a limb here and predict Aziz Ansari will get the upset win.

Outstanding Lead Actress Comedy
  • Ellie Kemper, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Neflix 3/1 odds 
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep, HBO * 1/2 odds (1)
  • Laurie Metcalfe, Getting On, HBO 20/1 odds (3)
  • Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish, ABC 14/1 odds
  • Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central 13/2 odds *
  • Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie, Netflix 13/2 odds *
I’m just going to say it – give Julia Louis-Dreyfus the Emmy as she walks down the red carpet. You don’t need to open the envelope except as a formality. It’s not that I don’t think the others are unworthy. I watch Grace and Frankie and I think that Lily Tomlin is brilliant on that show (although I have to give credit her chemisty with Jane Fonda as part of it). It’s just that Julia Louis-Dreyfus nails it on Veep and it’s difficult to beat the incumbent when she’s also quite good. I don’t see anyone on this list who can challenge her.

Outstanding Lead Actor Drama
  • Kyle Chandler, Bloodline, Netflix 10/1 to 12/1 odds *
  • Rami Malek, Mr Robot, USA 13/8 to 5/4 odds (2)
  • Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul, AMC 9/2 to 8/1 odds *
  • Matthew Riis, The Americans, FX 2/1 to 8/1 odds FX
  • Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan, Showtime 30/1 to 33/1 odds *
  • Kevin Spacey, House of Cards, Netflix 13/8 to 7/4 odds*
You may have noticed that I recorded the odds differently. That’s because the oddsmakers were all over the place here. Last year’s winner and the winner from several years before were both on shows that ended their runs. There’s no one from an HBO show in the category. The result is that the odds makers can’t agree on a likely winner in this category. They seem to agree that Schreiber and Chandler are outside shots, but Odenkirk ranges from 4.5/1 to 8/1 while Matthew Riis is anywhere from 2/1 to 8/1. For a while some of the oddsmakers were considering Kevin Spacey a lock, but then the odds on Rami Malek kept getting better and better to the point where it was either favourite or co-favourite with Spacey. Given that Mr. Robot is “the hot new thing” and has received a lot of buzz from the critics, I’m giving the edge to Rami Malek.

Outstanding Lead Actress Drama
  • Claire Danes, Homeland, Showtime * 5/1 odds (1a)
  • Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder, ABC 3/2 odds * (1)
  • Taraji P. Henson, Empire, FOX 12/1 odds *
  • Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black, BBC America 20/1 odds * (4)
  • Kerry Russell, The Americans, FX 4/1 odds 
  • Robin Wright, House of Cards, Netflix 7/4 odds *
This is a category that the oddsmakers are getting wrong. They have made Robin Wright the odds on favourite to win this category while almost totally ignoring last season’s winner Viola Davis. The Rules seem to put Davis in a strong position. There is no HBO series in the mix here, and while there are two basic cable series and a Showtime series represented – and the star of the Showtime series, Claire Danes has won in the past – none of them qualify in the “hot new thing” category. Worst of all for Tatiana Maslany (for whom I have a sentimental rooting interest in; she’s from Saskatchewan originally – even if it is Regina) she triggers the dreaded Rule 4 by being in a science fiction series. She has no more chance of winning than an actor from a CW show has of getting nominated. As strong as Robin Wright’s performance apparently is (I don’t watch the show), she’s been nominated twice before and hasn’t delivered. Unless the voting changes alter things significantly I don’t see her getting it this time either.

Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Black-ish, ABC 14/1 odds
  • Master of None, Netflix 6/1 odds (2)
  • Modern Family, ABC 20/1 odds* (1a)
  • Silicon Valley, HBO 30/1 odds * (3)
  • Transparent, Amazon 10/1 odds *
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix 10/1 odds *
  • Veep, HBO 1/3 odds * (1)
I’ve seen a certain amount of speculation that Black-ish could be a contender based on the episode they submitted, but looking at things realistically the most likely outcome is yet another win for Veep. And while many may consider Black-ish to be a challenger, my longshot in this category is this season’s “hot new thing” Master of None. I don’t think it will win, but I do think it is the show most likely to win if Veep doesn’t.

Outstanding Drama Series
  • The Americans, FX 10/1 odds
  • Better Call Saul, AMC 40/1 odds *
  • Downton Abbey, PBS 30/1 odds* (1a)
  • Game of Thrones, HBO 1/3 odds * (1, 3)
  • Homeland, Showtime 14/1 odds * (1a)
  • House of Cards, Netflix 20/1 odds *
  • Mr. Robot, AMC 3/1 odds (2)
There are three recent winners in this category, one of which is a sentimental favourite because it’s the show’s last season. Sometimes that’s enough to get a show like Downton Abbey a win just as a recognition of how good and beloved the show was. It doesn’t always work out that way of course. Some shows that are acknowledged as being truly great have gone their entire runs with plenty of nominations but no wins. And let’s not even talk about shows like Battlestar Galactica that don’t even get a nomination for anything. I don’t think Downton Abbey will pull it out this time around simely because I can’t see it beating Game of Thrones, which has intrigue, blood, beautiful naked people, and dragons (and also a superlative cast, high production values and a great story of course). I at least think better of Downton Abbey’s chances than the odds makers who made it at 30/1 longshot. Mr. Robot get’s my nod for having a distinct chance of breaking through as a “hot new thing” but that would have been more likely to pay off in a year without Game of Thrones.

A couple of final parting shots on categories that I don’t cover largely because The Rules don’t apply. Outstanding Variety Talk Show is going to be interesting for the first time in years because The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart aren’t around to be nominated any more. Interestingly The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was the only one of the three 11:30 p.m. talk shows not to be nominated. Given America’s taste for political humour in this category I expect the Emmy to go to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

As to the Outstanding Limited Series, it and the Television Movie category are the one area where the Emmys are most similar to the Oscars. In most cases a limited series is just that; it plays out over a number of episodes in a single season and generally doesn’t reappear over and over again, although shows like Fargo and American Crime contradict this notion. In this category if you don’t see the nominated shows, you really have to look for the show that has the most buzz. If/when you find it you will also find that it tends to monopolize the awards in all of the subsidiary categories for Limited Series and Television Movies. Based on everything I’ve heard, expect a lot of awards for the cast writers and directors of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story before its eventual coronation.

The cheap bastards Television Academy awards the Emmys Sunday night on ABC (charging people to keep an award they’ve “won” – it sounds like something Donald Trump would think up).

Monday, August 01, 2016

I’m A Republican (And I Didn’t Even Know It)

I’m a pretty liberal kind of guy. I vote for the NDP (I’m Canadian) and I take for granted things like single payer government health care, gun control and allowing Syrian refugees to immigrate into Canada. However, according to a survey done by E-Poll market research, my TV viewing shows that I am a raging Republican who should be wearing a Trump-Pence T-shirt and be denouncing Ted Cruz for not endorsing the party’s nominee at the convention. Well at least I can get that part right, although probably not for the same reasons as a “real” Republican.

The E-Poll Market Research Poll listed the Top Ten shows preferred by people self-identifying as Democrats and Republicans. According to the methodology section of the survey’s report:

E-Score analyzed more than 750 prime time broadcast, cable and streaming programs among Americans of voting age whose political affiliation is either Republican or Democrat and ranked the results for shows described as "One of My Favorites" by each group.
E-Score Programs is a monthly tracking survey that measures awareness, viewing and perceptions of more than 3,000 US television programs. Surveys are conducted monthly among a representative sample of US viewers with 1,200 respondents per show.
I’m not entirely sure how this particular survey was conducted but I suspect it wasn’t under the most rigourous conditions. Nevertheless it did come up with some interesting results.
Here is a table of the shows preferred by Republicans (in Red) and Democrats (in Blue). Shows in Purple are in the top ten lists of both parties. The shows that I watch regularly are in italics.

Democrats                                          Republicans
Rank Show Network Show Network
1 Game Of Thrones HBO Supernatural CW
2 The Haves and the Have Nots OWN The Walking Dead AMC
3 Supernatural CW Scorpion CBS
4 The Big Bang Theory CBS Arrow CW
5 Suits USA The Flash CW
6 The Walking Dead AMC The Big Bang Theory CBS
7 How To Get Away With Murder ABC NCIS CBS
8 Doctor Who BBCA Blue Bloods CBS
9 Empire FOX Grimm NBC
10 Nashville ABC Last Man Standing ABC

Fifty percent of the shows that I watch are exclusively on the Republican list, while the only Democratic show that I watch is actually bipartisan. Ergo, I am a Republican. Heaven help me. There’s probably a reason for this which I’ll get into later.
The poll offers some findings, the validity of which I’m not sure I can get behind but here they are.
Democrats prefer programs that are:
  • Sexy: The top three shows described by Democrats as “sexy” were Game Of Thrones, The Haves and the Have Nots, Suits
  • Edgy
  • Emotionally involving
  • Ethnically diverse or have strong characters: 3 of the top 10 shows: The Haves and the Have Nots, How to Get Away with Murder, and Empire all have a racially diverse cast and have powerful lead roles for women. This reflects the Democratic viewer who is also typically more diverse, with higher concentration of black and female supporters.
Republicans prefer programs that are:
  • Family-friendly: Half of the top ten shows on the Rebuplican list had more than 25% of respondents describing the shows as "Family Friendly" and air on broadcast television.
  • Funny: Although there are only two outright comedies on the Republican list and one of those is also on the Democratic list.
  • Plot driven or have storylines that involve "good vs. evil": Republicans enjoy clearer "good vs. evil" characters and storylines. They prefer shows featuring superheroes like The Flash, Arrow and the super intelligent team on Scorpion. Two procedural programs – NCIS and Blue Bloods – also have the "good vs. evil" component, as well as skewing slightly older than some other programs in the list.

So here’s what I take from the data as presented:
  • Republicans prefer the broadcast networks almost exclusively – nine of the ten shows on the Republican list are on broadcast networks. The exception is The Walking Dead which is on AMC. By contrast half of the shows on the Democratic list are on broadcast, and one show Game Of Thrones is on premium cable.
  • Republicans prefer shows that are “one and done”; in other words shows where the primary focus is not on a continuing arc, although such an arc may exist in a secondary or tertiary focus. Only one show that the Republican list has an ongoing story arc. At least half of the shows on the Democratic list have ongoing story arcs as a primary focus (Game Of Thrones, The Haves and the Have Nots, Walking Dead, How To Get Away With Murder, Doctor Who, Empire, and Nashville).
  • The question of diversity is an interesting one. The Democratic list has probably the more diverse group, with The Haves and the Have Nots, How To Get Away With Murder and Empire either having a predominantly African-American cast or African-American leads, while How To Get Away With Murder and Nashville have female leads. None of the shows on the Republican list have African-Americans in leading roles, and of the shows that I watch on the Republican list, Scorpion, The Big Bang Theory, and Blue Bloods don’t have any African-Americans in their regular cast (I can’t speak to the shows I don’t watch). But is that an indictment of the taste of Republicans or is it a problem with the casting of these shows.
  • The “law and order” shows. This is a bit of a stretch, but there’s a high percentage of shows that deal with “law and order” in the Republican list. NCIS and Blue Bloods are both overtly about law enforcement; NCIS is about a law enforcement agency while Blue Bloods is about a family of New York cops, including the police commissioner. Scorpion is about what are essentially private contractors working for the Department of Homeland Security. The lead characters in Grimm are cops dealing with supernatural threats, while the leads in The Flash and Arrow are costumed vigilantes working with the police. I think you could even argue that the characters in Supernatural are involved in some sort of protective operation, while The Walking Dead shows what happens after order breaks down.

So that explains, or at least investigates some aspects of the lists. So why do I watch the “Republican” shows that I do? Well Arrow and The Flash are easy. I’ve been a DC Comics fanboy since I was old enough to connect the words and the pictures together. DC, not Marvel. For some reason Spiderman and the Fantastic Four never did it for me. As for Blue Bloods and NCIS, that’s a bit more complicated. I’ve been a fan of both Mark Harmon and Tom Selleck since Selleck did Magnum and Harmon did, well probably Centennial (so not his earliest work in other words; I’m sure I never saw Sam and probably missed 240-Robert and I know I avaoided Flamingo Road on general principle). They were my gateways into their current shows but I’ve stayed because I really like the shows. I like the ensemble cast in NCIS and the way they’ve expanded the Gibbs character to give him a reason for being how he is. I like the ensemble cast in Blue Bloods as well and the fact that the show makes the personal, family lives of the characters not only visible but vital to the show, in repudiation of the Dick Wolf/Law & Order formula in which the characters have no lives outside of work – or at least no lives that we are permitted to know much about. In a way Blue Bloods is a family drama that just happens to be about a family of cops.

The reasons why I don’t watch more “Democratic” shows are a bit more complicated. Game of Thrones is of course on a premium channel although this summer, to coincide with the Olympics, CTV will air the complete first season – uncut – on broadcast TV. The Haves and the Have Nots doesn’t air up here, even though we have our own Oprah Winfrey Network here in Canada. Suits is another basic cable show in the US that I might like if I saw it, but the ways shows like that air in Canada it’s very difficult for me to find where and when it is on. I gave up on How To Get Away With Murder early in the second season when I came to the conclusion that there was absolutely no one on that show that I had any sympathy or empathy for. The subject matter of Nashville simply doesn’t interest me, Pretty much the same thing is true about Empire, and while I tried the first episode of Supernatural (and it has featured one of my favourite character actors, Jim Beaver, who is a scholar and a gentleman in so many ways) I had no desire to stick with it. (By the way, is it just me or are Supernatural and Grimm basically the same show?) As for Doctor Who, I love the series but I share my TV with someone who loathes it, and as most politicians eventually learn – though I’m not sure about some Replublicans in recent years – you’ve got to go along to git along, so I don’t get to see Doctor Who.

So there you have it. My viewing habits say that I’m a Republican, even though I’m just Canadian.

Friday, May 20, 2016

CBS Upfronts 2016-17

cbslogo200Well hopefully this will post properly without devestating the FOX upfronts post or destroying the multiverse.

CBS is the most viewed TV network in the United States, although there are those who say that that doesn’t matter since their appeal to the lower part of the 18-49 demographic isn’t great. Unlike last year, when CBS introduced Supergirl to appeal to that part of the demographic (since superheroes and comic book based shows are doing well on The CW), the network doesn’t really seem to be making a huge effort to latch on to the Millennials. In fact they’ve even exiled last year’s “great young hope” to The CW. Yes, Supergirl, which did decent but not spectacular ratings number has gone to play with The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow at The CW (and in Vancouver). Also missing but not yet dead is Limitless which CBS is hoping to relocate to some other network. Coincidentally I liked both of these shows. Oh well.

Angel From Hell, CSI: Cyber, The Good Wife, Mike & Molly, Person Of Interest, Rush Hour

2 Broke Girls, 48 Hours, 60 Minutes, The Amazing Race, The Big Bang Theory, Blue Bloods, Code Black, Criminal Minds, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Elementary, Hawaii Five-0, Life In Pieces, Madam Secretary, Mom, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, The Odd Couple, Scorpion, Survivor, Thursday Night Football, Undercover Boss

New Shows
Bull, Doubt, The Great Indoors, Kevin Can Wait, MacGyver, Man With A Plan, Pure Genius, Training Day

Fall Schedule By Day (New Series in Caps)

8-8:30 p.m. The Big Bang Theory (until mid-October) KEVIN CAN WAIT
8:30-9 p.m. KEVIN CAN WAIT (until mid-October) MAN WITH A PLAN
9-9:30 p.m. 2 Broke Girls (new day and time)
9:30-10 p.m. The Odd Couple (new day and time)
10-11 p.m. Scorpion (new time)

8-9 p.m. NCIS
9-10 p.m. BULL
10-11 p.m. NCIS: New Orleans

8-9 p.m. Survivor
9-10 p.m. Criminal Minds
10-11 p.m. Code Black

Thursday (Starting October 27)
8-8:30 p.m. The Big Bang Theory
9-9:30 p.m. Mom
9:30-10 p.m. Life In Pieces
10-11 p.m. PURE GENIUS

8-9 p.m. MACGYVER
9-10 p.m. Hawaii Five 0
10-11 p.m. Blue Bloods

7-8 p.m. 60 Minutes
8-9 p.m. NCIS: Los Angeles (new day and time)
9-10 p.m. Madam Secretary (new time)
10-11 p.m. Elementary

Kevin Can Wait stars Kevin James as a newly retired NYPD Sergeant (named Kevin)who has big plans for his retirement including chilling with his family and having epic adventures with his friends and fellow retirees (like combining go karts and paintball). The problem is that Kevin’s wife Donna (Erinn Hayes) has withheld certain key information from him, meaning that the challenges he’s going to have to face at home are going to be greater than those he faced on the job (like keeping himself from killing his eldest daughter’s fiance).

Man With A Plan marks Matt LeBlanc’s return to American broadcast network TV. He plays Adam, a contractor who decides to become a stay at home dad while his wife Andi (Jessica Chaffin) goes back to work. He doesn’t know what he’s in for. He – and his kids – expects that he can get away with being “daddy fun times” but he soon discovers that in their own ways his kids are maniacs. He needs to learn the tricks of getting control of his brood from other parents who’ve been there.

Bull is Dr. Jason Bull (Michael Weatherly) is one of the top jury consultants in the country. He and his team use psychological analysis, intuition and high tech data to learn what makes lawyers, witnesses, and especially jurors tick. Weatherly’s character is based on Dr. Phil McGraw who, before he became a TV psychologist, was the founder of one of the top trial consulting firms ever. McGraw is one of the show’s executive producers, along with Steven Spielberg.

In The Great Indoors, Kevin McHale plays Jack a renowned outdoor adventure writer who suddenly finds himself supervising a collection of millennial online journalists when Roland (Stephen Fry), the founder of the magazine he works for, decides to take the magazine “all-digital.”  Complicating matters even more is the fact that he report has to report to Roland’s daughter Brooke (Susannah Fielding). If Jack can manage to decipher his co-workers he might be able to get them to realize that the outside world something more that an image on the screen.

Pure Genius is a medical drama with a focus on the marriage of high technology and medicine. Young Silicon Valley tech billionaire James Bell (Augustus Pew) has built Bunker Hill Hospital to revolutionize health care and take on the rarest and most challenging medical mysteries, all free of charge. Bell persuade Dr. Walter Wallace (Dermot Mulroney), a maverick neurosurgeon who believes medicine is a human rather than a technological endeavour, to be the hospital’s chief of staff. Bell has assembled a group of trailblazing young doctors to pursue his goals.

MacGyver is a re-imagining of the 1980’s series starring Lucas Till as Angus “Mac” MacGyver who uses his vast scientific knowledge and talent for improvisational problem solving to save lives while on missions for a clandestine organization that he created within the US government. Among those working with him is Lincoln (George Eads) a maverick former CIA agent.

Debuting at mid-season, Training Day is a sequel to the movie of the same name. Bill Paxton plays morally ambiguous Detective Frank Rourke who heads up the LAPD’s Special Investigation Section. Frank has built a team that is devoted to him, but his tendency to operate in the grey areas has led Deputy Chief Joy Lockhart (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) to assign untarnished rookie Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell) as Frank’s new trainee so that he can report on Frank and the SIS’s methods. However as Frank introduces Justin to the ways of the streets they form an uneasy alliance that could change both of them.

Doubt is another series debuting at mid-season. Sadie Ellis (Katherine Heigl) is a brilliant attorney with a boutique law firm who falls in love with her client Bill Brennan (Steven Pasquale), an altruistic pediatric surgeon accused of the murder of his girlfriend 24 years before. Sadie conceals her feelings towards Bill from everyone including her best friend and colleague Albert Cobb (Dule Hill) who thingks he knows everything about her. Among the other lawyers at the firm are its revered founder Isaiah Roth (Elliott Gould) and Cameron Wirth, a transgender Ivy League graduate who fights passionately for her clients (Lavern Cox, who plays Cameron, is the frst transgender performer to play a transgender character as a series regular in a broadcast network series).

I am not very enthusiastic about most of the new CBS lineup. And it’s not just because my favourite show, The Amazing Race, is being held for mid-season (although that’s part of it). The new comedy series really don’t inspire much confidence from me. Certainly Kevin Can Wait and Man With A Plan seem like rehashes of concepts we have seen so many times before just with “big names.” The don’t inspire me and I can’t help but feeling that by the end of the 2016-17 season (if not before) CBS will regret sending Supergirl off to The CW (and keeping Limitless in limbo). The Great Indoors might be okay; on the other hand it might turn into just another workplace comedy, a type that CBS frankly doesn’t do well. I’m betting (metaphorically speaking) on the latter.

MacGyver follows a trend that I mentioned in the FOX post, reviving a show that had a perfectly good send-off for no other reason than name recognition. I haven’t seen the trailer for the series (CBS has region-blocked their trailers this year, and while I was able to track down trailers for some of he network’s shows, I didn’try to get them all) so I can’t comment on what they’re putting on the screen, but somehow it just doesn’t feel like a good idea.

Bull has a potentially interesting concept, a popular lead actor in Michael Weatherly and gives it an excellent time slot between two big CBS powerhouses (with ties to Weatherly) in NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans I can see this show doing well in the ratings while being totally ignored by the critics because it isn’t exciting or controversial. As for Pure Genius, the concept sounds a bit out there; a gimmicky medical show that isn’t the background for romantic entanglements like Grey’s Anatomy, never know what happens next cases like Code Black, and whatever it was they’re doing on Chicago Medical (a show I confess I don’t watch). Of course, since it was one of the trailers that I wasn’t able to see, it could be the greatest medical show ever, but I’m getting more of a feel of Chicago Hope than ER. Mid-season series Doubt leaves me cold. There are elements like the presence of Lavern Cox, and the description of her character’s passion that could be interesting, but given that the description gives so much attention to the relationship between the characters played by Katherine Heigl and Stephen Pasquale sends up red flags for me. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be the next Good Wife and I’m worried that the main plot line could be the least interesting thing in this show.

The show that sounds like it could be the next big thing for CBS could be the Training Day. If the network makes this show as harsh and gritty as the movie that it was based on I think there are intriguing directions that it could go in. It could very well be something of a critical darling if it’s done right, and if it can capture an audience. The midseason start doesn’t necessarily bode well for the latter.

Looking at the completed CBS lineup I can’t help feeling disappointed. CBS has tended to produce a workman-like if not necessarily spectacularly good or noteworthy list of shows that mesh together well and leave the network with hard choices when the end of the season comes around. This lineup doesn’t feel like that; it feels like there are more big problems lying in wait than lasting successes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Well That Was Embarassing

So last night I posted my evaluation of the new FOX network shows to go along with my NBC evaluation. I THOUGHT! What actually happened was that my NBC evaluation vanished.
I think I know what happened. When I started writing the FOX material I decided to use the NBC post as a template. Using Open Writer I opened the posted NBC material, changed the title, removed all of the text that I didn’t want and then wrote in the new material. Simple. I’ve done it before although maybe not with Live Writer, the Microsoft product that Open Writer is a continuation of.

What I think happened is that when I posted the draft FOX article to Blogger to do a final edit, either OpenWriter or Blogger thought I was posting a revision of the NBC post rather than a new post. And since I was kind of tired last night I didn’t pick up on the warning signs that I wasn’t posting something new, like the little orange box saying "Update" instead of "Publish".

I’ll rewrite the NBC article later in the week and make sure it goes up as a new post. Now you’ll excuse me, I have to go spread some sheep manure.

Monday, May 16, 2016

FOX Upfronts 2016-17

FOX logo(Writer’s Note: I’m falling behind on doing these upfront reports. A big part of it is that I seem to have limited time to do the actual writing during the daytime – it’s may and among other things I garden – which means that I write when I’m able to find time. To catch up I’m probably going to hold off on the ABC shows until CBS and The CW do their announcements. Which in some ways is a bit of a pity because ABC actually has some shows I’m quite interested in this year.)

Fox is traditionally the second network to present its line-up for the new season. They also have a different programming philosophy. Unlike NBC they have carefully laid out plans of when midseason shows will appear and plan to use hiatuses to air all of the shows that they pick up for the year. Thus, FOX will have the same number of new series debuting in the Fall as NBC (but because they don’t offer nighttime football they have one extra night to play with) but probably more new series overall.

FOX really seems to be pushing two things with their new shows: remakes of older shows (24 Legacy, Prison Break) and movies (Lethal Weapon, The Exorcist), and big name stars (Oscar winners Geena Davis, Richard Dreyfuss and Helen Hunt, and Oscar nominee Queen Latifah

American Idol, Bordertown, Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life, Grandfathered, The Grinder, Minority Report, Second Chance

Bob’s Burgers, Bones, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Empire, Family Guy, Gotham, Hell’s Kitchen, The Last Man On Earth, Lucifer, New Girl, Rosewood, Scream Queens, Sleepy Hollow, The Simpsons 

New Shows
24: Legacy, A.P.B., The Exorcist, Lethal Weapon, Making History, The Mick, Pitch, Shots Fired, Son of Zorn, Star, Prison Break

Fall Schedule By Day (New Series in Caps)

8-9 p.m. Gotham / 24 LEGACY / Gotham
9-10 p.m. Lucifer / A.P.B. / Lucifer

8-8:30 p.m. Brooklyn Nine-Nine / New Girl/ Brooklyn Nine-Nine
8:30-9 p.m. New Girl / THE MICK
9-10 p.m. Scream Queens / KICKING AND SCREAMING / PITCH

9-10 p.m. Empire / STAR / Empire

8-9 p.m. Rosewood (new day and time)
9-10 p.m. Bones (new time) / PRISON BREAK

8-9 p.m. Hell’s Kitchen / Master Chef Junior
9-10 p.m. THE EXORCIST / Sleepy Hollow

7-7:30 p.m. NFL On Fox
7:30-8 p.m. The OT / Bob’s Burgers
8-8:30 p.m. The Simpsons
9-9:30 p.m. Family Guy
9:30-10 p.m. Last Man on Earth

24: Legacy is 24 without Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland has a show on ABC but is serving as an Executive Producer on this version of the show). Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins) is an ex-Army Ranger who has returned to America from a mission for a revived CTU. Trouble follows him and he has to reach out to former CTU head Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto) to help him prevent what might be the biggest terrorist attack on US soil.

A.P.B.: When a the mentor and best friend of tech billionaire Gideon Reeves (Justin Kirk) is murdered and the precinct where the killing happened is too hit by budget cuts to investigate the crime, he effectively buys the precinct. Equipping the precinct with the latest in high-tech gadgetry, including a phone app called A.P.B., Reeves sets out to show what can be done with a privatized police force.

In The Exorcist Geena Davis plays Angela Rance, a woman who is convinced that her home is housing a demon since her eldest daughter returned home from college. Alonso Herrera plays Father Tomas, her parish priest to whom she turns for help, and Ben Daniels is Father Marcus, the priest to whom he turns for help.

Lethal Weapon is based on the movies of the same name, starring Damon Wayans as Roger Murtagh and Clayne Crawford as Martin Riggs. I think that’s all that really needs to be said.

The premise of the new comedy Making History is that a nerdy college science professor (Adam Pally) develops a time machine (in a large gym bag) that allows them to travel back in time to 1775. Unfortuntely his presence there (where he’s dating Paul Revere’s daughter) seems to be interfering with the events leading to the American Revolution. In order to set things right, he gets one of the university’s history professors (Yassir Lester) to help set things right. Hilarity – and ham – ensues, (the latter part of that is a sample of what the writers find funny in this).

In The Mick, Kaitlin Olson plays Mackenzie, known as “Mickey.” She’s a two bit hustler who actively avoids responsibility. She suddenly finds herself forced to take responsibility when her estranged sister and billionaire brother-in-law flee the country to avoid going to prison for tax evasion. They leave Mickey with their three kids. Motherhood was never in her plans but she has to transform these spoiled rich kids into  well-adjusted, hard working, decent members of society. Which is hard since she herself has never been any of these things.

In Pitch Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) is suddenly propelled into the spotlight when the San Diego Padres sign her as the first woman to play major league baseball. to make a success of her career she not only has to perform but she has to win over her new team mates, many of whom don’t want to see a woman in professional baseball. She has her supporters, including catcher Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and her agent Amelia Slater (Ali Larter).

Shots Fired takes a look at one of the major issues of our times. When a white college student is shot to death by an apparently racist black police officer, a pair of Justice Department investigators are sent to a small North Carolina town. What Ashe Akino (Sanaa Lathan) and Preston Terry (Stephan James), both of whom are African-American, discover is the neglected murder of a Black teen, and tensions that are on the verge of igniting. They begin to suspect a cover-up that may go as high as the state’s governor played by Helen Hunt.

Son of Zorn may be the ultimate fish-out-of-water comedy. Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudekis) comes from an island in the South Pacific where everyone is an animated character. He comes to Orange County, California to reconnect with his ex-wife Edie and estranged teenage son Alangulon, who are flesh and blood (Cheryl Hines and Johnny Pemberton respectively). Complicating matters is that Zorn is not only an animated character, he’s also a barbarian warrior. Nevertheless, to reconnect with his son he’s willing to settle down rent an apartment and get a job in the “exciting field of industrial soap sales.”

Star is a new series from the creator of Empire, Lee Daniels. Like Empire it is set in the music industry but is about young artists looking for their big break. Star (Jude Demorest), her sister Simone (Brittany O’Grady), and “Instagram bestie” Alexandra (Ryan Destiny) journey to Atlanta to make it in the music industry as a girl group. They are taken under the wing of beauty salon owner Carlotta (Queen Latifah), who had her own dreams of stardom shattered. She doesn’t approve of the girls’ desire to make it in the music industry, but she’ll stand by them.

Prison Break is back again as a limited series with original stars Wentworth Miller and Domenic Purcell (fresh off their time on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash). When Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callis) discovers that Michael Scofield might still be alive she enlists the help of his brother Lincoln Burrows and several of the Fox River Prison escapees to rescue him from a prison break in another country.

In my opinion, based on watching the trailers tht FOX has put online, there seem to be a few good things in the network’s new season line-up along with some shows that I don’t really understand the need for. And then there are some shows that I can’t understand why anyone would want to watch. Those will probably be big hits.

Does anyone really need to see new versions of Lethal Weapon or The Exorcist? At the end of the 2015-16 season we saw CBS try to do a TV version of Rush Hour. It didn’t work and as far as I can see it didn’t work because there was no demand for seeing the concept revived with a TV budget and without the original stars. I really don’t think the Lethal Weapon remake will be successful and I have my doubts about The Exorcist as well. Of the two TV series revivals, I think 24: Legacy at least has some potential without Kiefer Sutherland. On the other hand I simply don’t see the need for the Prison Break sequel. We had closure with the original series; why revisit it.

I’m dubious about two of FOX’s new comedies, Son Of  Zorn and Making History. The former is a colossal gimmick that I found vaguely funny in the trailer while the latter reminds me of the sort of show that the old UPN network would put on in their Homeboys From Outer Space period. Of the two I think Son of Zorn might find a way to succeed in the ratings (so with my track record that mean’s they’ll both be huge hits). I’m also not sure about A.P.B. The concept is interesting but it might be a touch on the futuristic side and more than a little bit hard to believe. That said I thought the little bit I saw was fun. My problem is that the show might garner the sort of reaction that Almost Human did a few years ago. Or Minority Report did this past season.

The shows that I think have promise (besides 24: Legacy) are Pitch, Shots Fired, Star, and surprisingly The Mick. Pitch want’s to be Jackie Robinson’s story with a woman instead of a minority male, but if it’s done right could be involving even if the premise is hard to swallow. Star is a perfect fit to take over Empire’s time slot and I think that the fact that it is a personal drama rather than the sometimes over the top soap opera tendencies of Empire (come on admit that Empire reminds you just a little of Dallas) is a mark in it’s favour as far as I’m concerned. The strength of Shots Fired should be apparent to anyone watching the trailer. FOX is taking on a serious issue and is doing a serious job with it. Finally, the trailer for The Mick was a genuine surprise for me. I liked the lead character and I thought they got the kids right (and the Hispanic maid was a hoot). Of course, when I think about it I am struck by a superficial resemblance to the concept for The Nanny (minus the romantic entanglement in that show) but then I loved The Nanny.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Check Out My New Blog

Check out my new Blog First Against The Wall Come The Revolution. It's a work in progress, which you can tell because there are no ads on it yet. but I'm having a bit of fun with some of the dumb things that people - and Donald Trump - say and do.