Fall 2014 Network TV

There’s quite possibly too much television to talk about nowadays and sorting through it can be quite a daunting task. But, alas, I’ll try my darnedest.

CBS has never interested me as a network, probably because I’m not in their target demographic, so there’s not much for me to discuss here.

ABC has launched a campaign to diversify their lineup. SelfieBlack-ishHow to Get Away with Murder, Cristela, and mid-season replacement Fresh Off the Boat, all feature minority leads, countering the network’s Caucasian-dominated programming.

NBC, on the other hand, seems to be adding more of the same “white-centric” sitcoms, with shows like A to Z, Bad Judge, and The Mysteries of Laura. The latter two sitcoms might have too specific of a premise to survive the year (think back to other NBC flops like Save Me and The Michael J. Fox Show). Once the kings of comedy, NBC is putting all the eggs in their Saturday Night Live basket, where they are still in a sort of generational transition. With a set of powerfully comedic women, lead by Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, as well as strong newcomers Michael Che and 20-year-old Pete Davidson (yes, 20…like, my age), the show premiered last weekend to mixed reviews, as Guardians of the Galaxy star and NBC family member Chris Pratt hosted alongside musical guest Ariana Grande. The best bit of the night came as Pratt poked fun at the obscurity surrounding Marvel’s blockbuster hit, and the gang mocked a some of their upcoming flicks, including Marvel’s Pam 2: Winter Pam (a play on Captain America 2: Winter Soldier). Click the picture below to see the full sketch on Hulu!

AidyBryant_Marvel_Pam-690x262Last, but not least, is Fox. And I like Fox this year. Their solid Tuesday line-up of The Mindy Project and New Girl is sure to cure your mid-week blues, not to mention the sigh of relief that came with the solidification of both of their casts. Brooklyn Nine-Nine took a move to Sunday nights, along with the network’s famed Animation Domination, which includes newly-crowned Emmy winner Bob’s Burgers. While Fox seems to know their comedy, they’ve also taken a dark turn to fill the gaps in the drama department, once championed by House, M.D. and 24 (might we see yet another return of Jack Bauer??). Gotham takes a look at the world of the Batman before the Bat-Call. The heroes and villains we have come to know and love all have their own backstories, from the Riddler to Poison Ivy, Commissioner Gordon to the Penguin. Rumor has it that the Joker will be revealed at the end of the first season, so let’s hope they make it past the mid-year cuts.

In the coming weeks, the cable networks will take control of the airwaves. This Sunday, Showtime revamps Homeland sans Damien Lewis. On Wednesday, FX takes us under the tent with American Horror Story: Freak Show. And the following Sunday, AMC hunts the hunted with the Season Five Premiere of The Walking Dead. 

FLASHBACK: STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP

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During my screenwriting class last semester, our professor showed us the teaser to Aaron Sorkin’s pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and I was in awe. First of all, they introduce us to flustered production assistant, scurrying around the studio moments before the broadcast of a fictional variety show – think SNL on the West Coast…and on Fridays…and on a fictional network, NBS. Anyways, this PA turns out to be none other than my favorite actress at the moment, Merritt Wever! But back in 2006, she didn’t have her Emmy.

Anyway, the show follows veteran comedy duo Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) as they are called back to the variety show that helped define their careers. Matt is somewhat hesitant to return to Studio 60 because his ex, Harriett Hayes (Sarah Paulson) is now the show’s star, alongside Simon Stiles (D.L. Hughley) and Tom Jeter (Nate Corddrey).

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

To complicate matters, NBS has just hired a new president, Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet), an attractive, young, sensible woman who doesn’t have the social wits about her. Sound like another Aaron Sorkin character to you? Sloan Sabbith, anyone? And that’s not the only Sorkin staple he throws into this show. The power outage right before airtime? The same problem plagues The Newsroom staff before News Night with Will McAvoy. The show also executes Sorkin’s famous “walk and talk” scenes, as made famous in The West Wing.

The combination of writing in acting in this show is surprisingly succinct for an NBC drama, but the lack of ratings and the promising comedy 30 Rock kept Studio 60 from being renewed for a second season. In its one season, however, Sarah Paulson was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, a well-deserved nod that put the show on the map too late in the game.

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If you’re interested in watching, you’ll have a tough time finding it online. I found the complete series at Newbury Comics for nine bucks – quite the bargain compared to my subsequent Chipotle lunch.

Fall Television So Far…

Now that the first few weeks of fall television are under our belts and we’ve bid adieu to Breaking Bad and Dexter (on gravely different terms…spoiler pun intended) it’s time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working with my line up.

What’s working:

New Girl

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I’ve gone “all in” with the third season of New Girl, and the cast has never been stronger. Between Jess and Nick’s honeymoon phase, Schmidt’s juggling of CeCe and Elizabeth (played by the hilarious Emmy winner Merritt Wever), and Winston’s obscenities, the laughs keep coming. The latest episode hit home with a broad range of emotions, when Schmidt is finally caught in his double life. Both Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone change the tone of the quirky show in a tear-inducing break-up, but Merritt Wever perks us up again with her devil-may-care attitude, giving Schmidt a pie to the face. Now, he vows to split up the seemingly innocent couple, Jess and Nick. Will he succeed? Will Winston be able to take care of Ferguson the cat? So many questions!

The Mindy Project

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The OB/GYNs are back for a take two, after Fox barely renewed the show for its second season. Mindy is back with a host of guest stars like James Franco and Beth Grant. So far, the season is fast paced, well-written, and generally funny. However, the plot line of Dr. Reed being fat just isn’t working out and Mindy Kaling needs to pen in some more lines for Betsy Putch, the more naïve version of Pam Beasley.

Modern Family

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What’s there to say about Modern Family? As much as I ragged on them for winning their fourth consecutive Emmy just last month, the first few episodes of this season have reminded me why it is one of the greatest shows on television. It’s managed to stay topical, tackling the legalization of gay marriage by having Mitch and Cam get engaged – but not before a comedy of errors. Elsewhere, Gloria is convinced that Fulgencio is possessed by the Devil and Phil has found a new niche of real estate customers – divorced wives.

Parks and Recreation

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Pawnee’s Parks Department crossed the pond in the season opener of Parks and Recreation to accept Leslie’s award for women’s achievement in government. With the town still against her, Leslie learns to come to terms with her constituent’s ignorance with the help of April. Meanwhile, Tom has a new competitor in the clothing rental business: Jean-Ralphio’s father. Retta is still doing her thing (thang?) in the office, as Chris and Ann Perkins break the news to their co-workers about their pregnancy. I’m expecting big things from this season of Parks and Rec, even though Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones are slated to bow out halfway through the season.

Downton Abbey

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Over in the UK, the upstairs/downstairs drama Downton Abbey is back in full swing, but the mourning of Mister Matthew has put a damper on their lives in the past six months. Also, O’Brien skipped town in the middle of the night (little explanation here), making Anna the head Lady’s Maid for Cora. Edith is off gallivanting in London with the publisher, while Mary mourns in her room, until Carson and the Dowager pushes her to her brink and she choses life – for her and her child. I’m loving the introduction of the electric mixer in the kitchen, finally giving Daisy something she’s good at. However, when Valentine’s Day rolls around, she’s left with a fake letter from Mrs. Patmore, while Olive gets one from Alfred, but she thinks it’s from Jimmy. It’s so middle school and I love it. All the while, Thomas has had a slight change of heart, and wants to be more of a part of baby George’s and baby Sybil’s life – much like Carson was a part of Sybil, Mary, and Edith’s life. I have a feeling the first two episodes were catch-up/set-up episodes, and hopefully they keep the drama coming.

What’s not working:

Homeland

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What was going on with the Homeland premiere? I understand that Brody’s confession must have destroyed his household, but by seeing the season three premiere, you’d think Dana is our main character. And don’t get me wrong, I think Dana is a very interesting, dynamic character, played by the very talented, Morgan Saylor. We saw very little of Claire Danes freaking out, which upset me, and too much of her having sex, which also upset me. Also, I know Brody is supposed to be MIA, but at least let us know what he’s up to, right? And Saul’s wife is back? Why? That part didn’t make sense. Let’s pray that this was just a bad set-up episode and that Carrie Mathison will go ham on some terrorists.

The Middle

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Just make a Sue Heck spin-off and I’ll be happy.

My Favorite Moments from The 2013 Emmys

There’s a 60% chance you watched the Emmys last night, a 40% chance that you watched Breaking Bad and a 6% chance you watched Dexter. Regardless of these irrelevant statistics, television was packed with groundbreaking water cooler moments.

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Neil Patrick Harris hosted the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, honoring the best in television over the past year. Coming into the night, American Horror Story: Asylum led the night with 17 nods and Netflix made history by becoming the first non-television network to be nominated for an Emmy with their shows Arrested Development and House of Cards.
Here were my highlights:

-Amy Poehler and Tina Fey heckled Neil from the audience and proceed to crawl up the stage to present the award for Best Supporting Actress.

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-Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie – but you know her as Caroline from New Girl) won Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and delivered the shortest – and probably best – acceptance speech ever. “Thanks so much, thanks so much,” the actress said. “Umm…I gotta go.”

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-Tony Hale joined co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus as she collected her second award for Veep. Hale, who won for Best Supporting Actor earlier in the night, acted as the bumbling bagman for Louis-Drefyus’ character, Selina, the Vice President of the United States.

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-Claire Danes won again for her work on Homeland and honored the late writer Henry Bromell, whose wife later accepted the award for Best Writing for a Drama Series for the episode “Q&A.” While it was no “Rains of Castamere,” it was an honorable mention to one of the industry’s greatest talents. On the red carpet, Danes caught up with her unlikely BFF Lena Dunham. And it was pretty great.

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-Kevin Spacy turned into Congressman Underwood.

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-Will Ferrell brought his kids with him on stage to present because Dame Maggie Smith cancelled her babysitting gig.
-James Cromwell took the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series over co-star Zachary Quinto. Sarah Paulson was snubbed for Supporting Actress and Twitter had this to say.

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-Modern Family won its fourth Emmy, which peeved me, but Breaking Bad finally won the award for Outstanding Drama Series.

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September: The Television Enthusiasts Purgatory

Now that September’s here and I’m back at school “studying,” I face a sort of “atheist’s dilemma,” only you have to replace “atheist” with “television enthusiast” and it kind of makes sense. While I am super grateful that Breaking Bad has been delivering Sunday after Sunday (and while Dexter has become a chore to watch), I am not fulling satisfied. I need everything back.

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I need Homeland and Modern Family.

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I need Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead.

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If I pray hard enough, maybe this fall will see new seasons of Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Or maybe that would be pushing the envelope a tad.

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Be on the look out for posts on these shows and more (including, but not limited to, Parks and Recreation, The MiddleCommunityNew GirlThe Mindy Project, American Horror Story: Coven, and Girls. I might try to get into some new shows, but they all just look so bad this season. The ones I’ll test are The Masters of SexSleepy HollowAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Dads. If you have any suggestions, let me know ASAP. Well, not, like, super ASAP, just whenever you feel like it. Cool. Good talk.

And shout out to tumblr for having these TV cross-over images. I’m glad to know my Internet folk are keeping busy and paying their bills.

Flashback: Three Shows Gone Too Soon

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Eli Stone

Network: ABC

Duration: 2008-2009

In Eli Stone, the title character, played brilliantly by Jonny Lee Miller, is a San Francisco lawyer who develops a brain aneurysm, which gives him visions of God, who speaks through the one and only George Michael. Like an adult version of That’s So Raven, Eli’s visions act as his moral compass in working his various cases.

Eli confides in his acupuncturist Dr. Chen (James Saito), who is able to facilitate Eli’s darkest memories – particularly those of his abusive father.

His once secure job under supervision of his fiancé’s father becomes compromised when the couple calls off their marriage. The tension in the office only grows with Eli’s newfound gift.

The show is in the ever-evolving comedy-drama genre, with quirky musical/fantasy sequences to the tune of George Michael songs, making Eli Stone one of a kind. The cast is supported by veteran film actors Loretta Devine (Crash) and Victor Garber (Titanic), which gives the show’s side stories real depth, without ever lagging.

In the final moments of the second season (right before it’s cancellation) Eli’s nose begins to bleed a dark red, hinting that his aneurysm had ruptured, but did God have other plans for him? Did the writers? All I know is that ABC, for sure, killed him off too soon.

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FlashForward

Network: ABC

Duration: 2009-2010

Riding off the coattails of Lost (and borrowing some of its actors, too) comes the second show gone too soon: FlashForward. The show follows the FBI investigation of a worldwide human blackout, which gives people a brief vision six months into the future. While many try to make their lives fit the ominous prediction, others strive to change their fate. But those who see nothing, like Agent Mark Benford, played by Joseph Fiennes (American Horror Story: Asylum), worry that they will meet their demise before the fated day.

The investigation gets heated when the FBI discovers footage of a hooded man walking out of a baseball stadium during the two minute and seven second blackout.

With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean), Dominic Monaghan (Lost), and Sonya Walger (Lost), the show surely should have lasted for a second season.

Like Eli Stone’s ambiguous cliffhanger, FlashForward ends with the world blacking out yet again. The vision we see is that of the Agent Benford’s daughter, Charlie, who receives a phone call saying that “he” has been found. The “he”? Possibly her presumed-dead father. And possibly not.

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Person’s Unknown

Network: NBC

Duration: 2010

While the first two shows actually received some buzz in their short-lived runs, NBC’s summer flop Persons Unknown was kind of my guilty pleasure show, full of countless plot holes and terrible acting. Regardless, I would have liked to see it renewed for another summer slot.

The show follows a group of strangers who wake up in a ghost town with no communication to the outside world. They receive a series of tasks from the many monitors planted across the town. Soon, the castaways become restless and a mole is revealed.

After the strangers unite and rebel against the system, they are all placed in a new setting, called Stage Two. The show closes on the castaways opening the door of their new hotel to discover they are now on a freighter in the middle of the ocean. I want to watch Stage Two, please.

My Take on the 65th Emmy Award Nominations

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Earlier today, Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) announced the nominations for the 65th Emmy Awards. Like I tweeted earlier, nothing irks me more than Emmy snubs. Below is my reaction to the various categories from this year’s nomination list. Enjoy and argue with me. I dare you.

Outstanding Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory

Girls

Louie

Modern Family

30 Rock

Veep

The nominations this year are exactly what I pictured. While I’m pulling for a Veep sweep, the voters made a huge mistake in passing on the three most talked about comedies of the year: New Girl, Parks and Recreation, and the Netflix Semi-Original Series, Arrested Development. All of these shows are CONSISTENTLY funny, where as the sloe of nominees have been spotty in their respective past seasons.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Laura Dern, Enlightened

Lena Dunham, Girls

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie

Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Tina Fey, 30 Rock

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

While Lena Dunham is coming off her Golden Globe win, I think the prize will once again be rewarded to last year’s winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as a part of the Veep sweep. Dreyfus made history this morning by scoring her thirteenth nod, surpassing Lucielle Ball’s record of twelve, making her the most-nominated comedic actress at the Emmys. Although I’m content with this year’s crop of nominees, I would have liked to see a little loving for the FOX Tuesday girls, Mindy Kaling and Zooey Deschenel. Both of their shows WEREN’T canceled *cough* Laura Dern *cough* and they were both hysterical.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Jason Bateman, Arrested Development

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Don Cheadle, House of Lies

Louis C.K., Louie

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

With the many snubs Arrested Development suffered this year, I’m pulling for Jason Bateman. Other than that, no real surprises or snubs here.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory

Jane Lynch, Glee

Sofia Vergara, Modern Family

Julie Bowen, Modern Family

Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie

Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock

Anna Chlumsky, Veep

My jaw literally dropped when I saw that both Jane Krawkowski and Anna Chlumsky were nominated, but, once again, I’m pulling for the Veep sweep. But where is The Office star Jenna Fischer? She did some of her greatest acting and really held the show together in its final season. And that monologue she had that closed the series? Beautiful, and nominated in the writing category. Also, what happened to everyone’s thought that Jessica Walter would for sure take the prize for Arrested Development?

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Adam Driver, Girls

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family

Ed O’Neill, Modern Family

Ty Burrell, Modern Family

Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live

Tony Hale, Veep

Is it really necessary to have all these Modern Family guys here? I think not. Again, I’m loving Tony Hale and I’m pulling for the Veep sweep. But it would be shocking and painfully awkward if the award went to Adam Driver, whose controversial sex scenes caused many to question the validity of Girls as a television comedy. The guys from New Girl, Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield, deserve some recognition for their roles, especially after the “TinFinity” episode. Also, where’s Will Arnett from Arrested Development?

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, Episodes

Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon, Louie

Greg Daniels, The Office

Jack Burditt and Robert Carlock, 30 Rock

Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield, 30 Rock

I was shocked to see that Lena Dunham did not get the trifecta of nominations here, as she scored acting and directing nods as well. I’m pulling for The Office here – specifically for the final testimonials of the show. Grab a few tissues and watch the ending.

Outstanding Drama Series

Breaking Bad

Downton Abbey

Game of Thrones

Homeland

House of Cards

Mad Men

This is the first time I have seen all the nominated dramas in their entirety. I’m not sure if I’m proud of that or not, but, alas, I would have to say that Homeland will have a very tough time reclaiming their title. I’m thinking Game of Thrones may steal the crown. But what about The Newsroom and The Americans? There’s just too much good television, I guess.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel

Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey

Claire Danes, Homeland

Robin Wright, House of Cards

Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Connie Britton, Nashville

Kerry Washington, Scandal

Why did I just read Vera Farmiga’s and Connie Britton’s names on this list? Pissed. Anyway, it’s looking like another victory for Danes is slim and Robin Wright just might be the one to snag it from her. Regardless, I’m still rooting for Danes here.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

Hugh Bonneville, Downtown Abbey

Damian Lewis, Homeland

Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Jon Hamm, Mad Men

Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom

Jon Hamm FINALLY deserves a turn to take the prize, and if you don’t believe me just watch this clip.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad

Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Emilia Clarke, Game of Throne
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Christine Baranski, The Good Wife

Morena Baccarin, Homeland

Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

I am ecstatic about Anna Gunn, Maggie Smith, and Emilia Clarke, but the other three need some replacing. The talented Michelle Fairley led the water cooler episode of the year, Game of Thrones’ “Rains of Castamere,” and her snub was just not “fair.” Also, Kate Mara’s eye-opening performance as a corrupt reporter in House of Cards definitely deserves some recognition.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire

Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad

Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad

Jim Carter, Downtown Abbey

Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Mandy Patinkin, Homeland

Last year, Downton Abbey dominated this category and I am kind of upset that they didn’t do it again, given the amazing performances by Rob-James Collier and Alan Leech. Also, where are the Mad Men? John Slattery deserves better than this.

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

George Mastras, Breaking Bad

Thomas Schnauz, Breaking Bad

Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Game of Thrones

Henry Bromell, Homeland

Much like The Office writing nod redeemed Jenna Fischer’s snub, the Game of Thrones writing nod redeemed Michelle Fairley’s snub. If the words “Rains of Castamere” or “Red Wedding” mean nothing to you, you should reevaluate your life by starting here. But Julian Fellows may take the prize for also killing off an important character… No spoilers, of course.

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie

American Horror Story: Asylum

Behind The Candelabra

The Bible

Phil Spector

Political Animals

Top of the Lake

Holler at AHS for collecting seventeen nominations, topping the list of nominated shows this year. Kind of upset that Parade’s End didn’t make the cut, but it is well represented elsewhere.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie

Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum

Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter

Helen Mirren, Phil Spector

Sigourney Weaver, Political Animals

Elisabeth Moss, Top Of The Lake

This nomination should read, “Jessica Lange for The Jessica Lange Show,” because she truly stole the small screen as Sister Jude in American Horror Story: Asylum. Elisabeth Moss, a double nominee, took the prize from her at the Critics’ Choice Awards, so anything is possible.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie

Michael Douglas, Behind The Candelabra

Matt Damon, Behind The Candelabra

Toby Jones, The Girl

Benedict Cumberbatch, Parade’s End

Al Pacino, Phil Spector

The Internet’s Favorite Son, Benedict Cumberbatch is nominated once again, but has traded his get-up as a modern Sherlock Holmes for a World War I uniform in Parade’s End. He won’t win, but he should.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie

Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Asylum

Imelda Staunton, The Girl

Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals

Charlotte Rampling, Restless

Alfre Woodard, Steel Magnolias

Sarah Paulson must win.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie

James Cromwell, American Horror Story: Asylum

Zachary Quinto, American Horror Story: Asylum

Scott Bakula, Behind The Candelabra

John Benjamin Hickey, The Big C: Hereafter

Peter Mullan, Top of the Lake

Likewise, Zachary Quinto must win. Also the men of Top of the Lake took over the Critics’ Choice nominations, but only the Emmy voters only invited Peter Mullan to their show.