Monday, December 14, 2009

Students Live


[This post was required by Students Live to signify that I am a member of the blogging team.]

Friday, September 11, 2009

Predicting the Winners: Drama Writing 2009

[This blog was originally going to review television, with focuses on the Emmys and Nielsen ratings.]

Five episodes have been nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. Lost's fifth season finale is up against four episodes from Mad Men's second season, all from the second half and all (co-)written by last year's winner for the pilot: showrunner Matthew Weiner. They are "A Night to Remember", "Six Month Leave", "The Jet Set" and the season finale "Meditations in an Emergency". With five nominations, Weiner is the Emmys' most nominated individual this year. In addition to his win, Weiner has been nominated three other times in this category and has four total wins in various categories.

The double-length "The Incident (Parts 1 & 2)" comprises the sixteenth and seventeenth episodes of Lost's fifth season and 102nd and 103rd episodes of the series overall. It aired on May 13, 2009 and was written by showrunning team Damon Lindelof, who is also co-creator and executive producer, and Carlton Cuse, who is also an executive producer. "The Incident" is also nominated for editing and sound mixing and is included as one of the three series tape submission. In addition to nine mythology-alluding flashbacks following a new yet important figure, "The Incident" sees the culmination of two major storylines that demonstates the show's inspired plotting and readiness to take risks, while juggling time travel, nearly two dozen relevant characters and a few substantial twists. The two-part episode deal heavily with Lost's prominent themes of destiny, interconnectedness and figurative and literal reincarnation. Certainly an outstanding achievement in those aspects, the dialogue in "The Incident" and the character motivations are somewhat lacking. Whether or not the characters should detonate a hydrogen bomb in order to reset the past in order to save some four hundred people from future death and whether or not this is even possible are intriguing questions to be asking, but they are diminished by plot-driven character motivations, a strong example being when lead Jack reveals in a pivotal scene that his personal investment in detonating the bomb is a fresh start at a love life with captured fugitive Kate. Probably the most serialized series to ever air on television, "The Incident" requires much background knowledge and might be confusing for new viewers; however, Lost did have enough support from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to win the best drama series prize for its first season four years ago and it is only one of two drama series this year nominated for both series and writing. Lost has also previously been nominated three times in this category, so a win finally is not out of the question, but it is quite unlikely, as the winner will not be chosen by straight voting, but by ranking nominees and it seems more likely that voters will rank multiple Mad Men episodes at the top of their ballots, instead of the potential fluke that voters evenly rank the four episodes first with Lost winning by placing second on everyone's ballot, making "The Incident" the spoiler in this category. And you can bet that a Mad Men episode will rank first on most ballots, as Mad Men won in this category and in the general series race last year and has to have some very strong academy support in order to receive a nomination each for series and directing, four out of five nominations for writing (evidence that vote-splitting is not much of a factor here), three acting nominations and sixteen nominations overall, making it this year's most recognized drama.

"A Night to Remember" is the eighth episode of Mad Men's second season and twenty-first episode of the series overall. It aired on September 14, 2008 and was written by Robin Veith and showrunner/co-creator/executive producer Matthew Weiner, who insists that it is pronounced "wine-ar". "A Night to Remember" is one one of the show's six series submissions, paired with "Six Month Leave". The episode is well paced and focuses on the three women of the show. The main story that provides a welcome and well executed climax for lead Don and Betty's fractured marriage that the show has been inching toward since its pilot, having gained significant ground in the episode prior. This is the primary factor in favour of its chances on ceremony night. The subplots include one about the boundaries of women in the time period (don't they all?) and another about being haunted by difficult choices. The dialogue and interactions here are quite good with Betty overcoming her insecurites and ignorance, which has been a long time coming, in order to confront Don, who acts not in the most obvious way, but in the way that viewers should expect from his character.

"Six Month Leave" is the ninth episode of Mad Men's second season and twenty-second episode of the series overall. It aired on September 28, 2008 and was written by supervising producers Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton with Matthew Weiner. "Six Month Leave" is paired with "A Night to Remember" in the series submissions and is also John Slattery's submission for his supporting actor nomination. This is a very solid episode of Mad Men, continuing the storyline of Betty confronting Don's infidelity. The episode makes great use of the time period, working in the death of Marilyn Monroe in a way that reveals character and sets the mood and theme.

"The Jet Set" is the eleventh episode of Mad Men's second season and twenty-fourth episode of the series overall. It aired on October 12, 2008 and was written by just Matthew Weiner. Like the other Mad Men episodes, this one is included on the series reel with "Meditations in an Emergency"; it is also nominated for directing, art direction and makeup. "The Jet Set" is a leisurely episode in which Don goes travelling and ends up spending his time in the sun by a pool with a bunch of carefree nomads. There are some interesting developments back at the office, but this is a slow transition episode, somewhat lacking in story and probably undeserving of representation in this category with shows like Breaking Bad being snubbed entirely, which I believe to be a better series with a better eligible season. Working in favour of "The Jet Set" is that it is tied with 30 Rock's "Apollo, Apollo" as the most nominated episode of the year with five nominations. It is the dark horse in this category.

"Meditations in an Emergency" is the thirteenth episode of the second season--the season finale--and twenty-sixth episode overall of Mad Men. It aired on October 26, 2008 and was written by writing assistant Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner. It is also nominated for costumes and was submitted by Elisabeth Moss for her lead acting and is paired with "The Jet Set" in the series reel. Like "Six Month Leave", Mad Men once again utilizes contemporary events in "Meditations in an Emergency" to develop character and set the tone. With this stage in Don and Betty's relationship coming to a melancholy and twisted resolution, Peggy finally revealing to Pete what happened to her at the end of last season and what he meant to her and the power play in the office also coming to a close, this episode has it all and each storyline is written interestingly and in a way that is completely truthful to the characters, all as the Cuban Missile Crisis serves as a backdrop. This is the Mad Men episode that should and will stand out. "The Incident" was an extraordinary achievement in plotting and the potential of television; "Meditiations in an Emergency" is a great accomplishment in dramatic storytelling and is the clear frontrunner in the race and my prediction to take home the prize.