Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2010 Emmy Predictions: The Dramas (Part 2)

Predicted Nominees:
Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)
Michael Emerson (Lost)
Terry O'Quinn (Lost)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Martin Short (Damages)
John Slattery (Mad Men)

Dark Horses:
Naveen Andrews (Lost)
Tate Donovan (Damages)
Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad)
Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men)
Campbell Scott (Damages)

Not Happening:
Josh Holloway (Lost)

Again, I think Men of a Certain Age is a fat fastball in the middle of the voters' strike zone, and they've loved Andre Braugher in the past. There's no reason to think Damages won't make it three years in a row getting at least one Supporting Actor nominee, I just can't for the life of me figure if it's going to be Donovan, Short, or Scott. I'm going with Short for the whole comedian-goes-dramatic thing, but honestly none of them would shock me. Aaron Paul and John Slattery seem safe bets (and wait for my endless stumping for Aaron Paul for the win once that does happen). Emerson and O'Quinn certainly should get one last nod, but the acting nominations for Lost have come so haphazardly. The one thing they've been consistent about is that they aren't that impressed by Josh Holloway. If his stellar work last season couldn't get any love, I can't imagine this year would be any different.

Predicted Nominees:
Rose Byrne (Damages)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy)
Chloe Sevigny (Big Love)
Chandra Wilson (Grey's Anatomy)

Dark Horses:
Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love)
Rachel Griffiths (Brothers & Sisters)
S. Epatha Merkerson (Law & Order)
Amanda Seyfried (Big Love)

There's some wiggle room in this category, with last year's champ Cherry Jones declining to submit herself again. I can't tell whether I'm being too optimistic about Christina Hendricks or if Emmy voters -- who clearly love Mad Men -- will finally warm up to the woman behind its best loved character. She played the accordion for you people, damn it! What is it gonna take? One of these years they're going to stop nominating the Grey's Anatomy women. I have no idea if this is that year. By the way, that's no knock on Sandra Oh or Chandra Wilson; they've been the best part of that show since the beginning. Byrne seems solid to repeat a nomination, and if Elisabeth Moss was good enough to land a Lead Actress nom last year, she should do fine in Supporting this year. Chloe Sevigny is a bit of a reach, and I would not be shocked at all if Baranski got the nod instead, but it seems like this is the year everybody is realizing how award-worthy her work on that show is. As for Miss Epatha, if this were ten years ago and girlfriend was rocking a cancer storyline on Law & Order, I'd say she was a lock. It could still happen now -- it'd be a nice sendoff for Law & Order in its final season, for one thing -- but I'd be a bit surprised.

Predicted Nominees:
Andre Braugher (House)
Alan Cumming (The Good Wife)
Ted Danson (Damages)
James Earl Jones (House)
John Lithgow (Dexter)
Stephen Rea (Law & Order SVU)

Dark Horses
Keith Carradine (Dexter)
Henry Ian Cusick (Lost)
Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights)
Joel Grey (Grey's Anatomy)
Michael O'Neill (Grey's Anatomy)
Richard Thomas (Law & Order)

Not Happening:
Jared Harris (Mad Men)

I have to say, I don't think he's going to make it happen, but the Facebook campaign on behalf of Zach Gilford is so heartfelt and motivated by nothing more than pure affection for the performance that I can't (don't want to?) completely rule it out. Again, it's an inexact science, but: Braugher and Danson are actors they love who got pretty substantial roles on their respective shows. James Earl Jones is a beloved legend who played sick in a medical drama. Rea is my blind shot at the dartboard, but somebody has to get nominated from the Law & Order franchises. Cumming seems to have been well-received on The Good Wife, and I expect they'll looooove The Good Wife. And honestly, I don't even know why we're talking about this since the category has been wrapped up and shipped Priority Mail to John Lithgow (who really should have submitted himself in the Supporting Actor category.

Predicted Nominees:
Ann-Margaret (Law & order SVU)
Tyne Daly (Burn Notice)
Christine Lahti (Law & Order SVU)
Sissy Spacek (Big Love)
Lily Tomlin (Damages)
Debra Winger (Law & Order)

Dark Horses:
Kathy Baker (Law & Order)
Alison Brie (Mad Men)
Sarah Paulson (Law & Order SVU)
Mary Kay Place (Big Love)
Maura Tierney (Rescue Me)

Not Happening
Famke Janssen (Nip/Tuck)
Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost)

The first rule of Fight Club is never underestimate Tyne Daly. She will always wag her Emmy in your face. Tomlin seems an exceedingly safe bet for Damages, given the relative heft of her role, and I am told that Debra Winger's L&O appearance was some serious Emmy-bait. As for the pair from SVU, my rationale is that Emmy loves gues performers from that show, and Lahti and Ann-Margaret are about as high-profile names as you can get from there. Maybe I'm overestimating how much attention voters will pay to Big Love, but Sissy Spacek seems like too high profile a "get" to pass up. Ellen Burstyn, another Oscar-winning film actress, was nominated for Big Love two years ago. (She also, as it happens, won last year for SVU. Thanks for being such an all-purpose example, Ellen!) Truth be told, with the exception of Sarah Paulson, I don't really have a ton of faith in those dark horses. Mary Kay Place, in particular, might as well belong with Famke and my beloved Juliet, a.k.a. women I love who don't stand a chance.

Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 Emmy Predictions: The Dramas (Part 1)

Predicted Nominees:
Breaking Bad
The Good Wife
Mad Men

Dark Horses:
Big Love
The Closer
Rescue Me

Not Happening:
True Blood

The Lost finale didn't go over well with everybody, to grossly understate the case. But I think they'll be recognized for the phenomenon if not for the show. The AMC twosome of Mad Men and Breaking Bad seem awfully secure, as do last year's nominees Dexter and House. And The Good Wife is a well-reviewed new hit show on CBS -- how does it NOT get nominated? Honestly, while I could see a pity nod for 24 or a typically myopic nod for Big Love (lord knows I wanted to like it, but that was a bad season), I have to say I think I've got the six nailed down.

Predicted Nominees:
Simon Baker (The Mentalist)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Hugh Laurie (House)
Kiefer Sutherland (24)

Dark Horses:
Matthew Fox (Lost)
Denis Leary (Rescue Me)
Timothy Olyphant (Justified)
Bill Paxton (Big Love)
Ray Romano (Men of a Certain Age)

Not Happening:
Matt Bomer (White Collar)

I'm going for a near repeat of last year's slate, with Kiefer returning to the fold to replace the ineligible Gabriel Byrne. Not just because the Emmys often get really lazy like that but because there really isn't a whole lot of credible competition. Sure, they could finally give Matthew Fox some recognition (I've never cared for the guy, but even an ardent Jack-hater like me can admit he stepped up his game some in the final season); and sure, Paxton could benefit from whatever HBO-loyalist contingent is voting; and sure, we'd all like to think Timothy Olyphant will sexy up at red carpet as a Justified nominee. I don't see it happening, though. I would watch out for Ray Romano, a past Emmy fave whose show seems gift-wrapped for the Emmy-voting demographic. That said, I'm going for Kiefer, who was snubbed in Lead Actor last year but ended up in the miniseries category anyway. They like him.

Predicted Nominees:
Glenn Close (Damages)
Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order SVU)
Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
January Jones (Mad Men)
Julianna Marguiles (The Good Wife)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Dark Horses:
Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad)
Melissa Leo (Treme)
Anna Paquin (True Blood)
Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy)

Not Happening:
Lauren Graham (Parenthood)

Anna Gunn and Katey Sagal are the two actresses whom critics are clamoring for. And rightly so. But I'm reminded of when critics were clamoring for Mary McDonnell and Connie Britton too, and look how that turned out. Gunn has a better chance, I think, because Breaking Bad will be present in other categories. Sagal has a tougher road to climb. Particularly when five of last year's six nominees are eligible again. Julianna Marguiles is a mortal lock to join the field, but I feel like I'm going out on too much of a limb picking January Jones to unseat Sally Field. Still, it'll be Jones before it's Lauren Graham. I love her to pieces too, but the Emmys never gave a damn when she was kicking ass on Gilmore Girls, and I don't expect them to now.

Friday, June 25, 2010

2010 Emmy Predictions: The Comedies (Part 2)

Predicted Nominees:
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
Tracy Morgan (30 Rock)
Ed O'Neill (Modern Family)
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)

Dark Horses:
Ted Danson (Bored to Death)
Kevin Dillon (Entourage)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
Justin Kirk (Weeds)
Jeremy Piven (Entourage)
Rico Rodriguez (Modern Family)
Rainn Wilson (The Office)

Not Happening:

Chris Colfer (Glee)

This category is a clusterfuck in kind of a really exciting way. All of last year's nominees are eligible again, plus the show I expect to be the nomination leader among comedies has five eligible entries in the field. I couldn't be more torn. On the one hand, it took all I had not to pick four Modern Family actors to be nominated -- Burrell, O'Neill, Stonestreet, and Rodriguez (which isn't a knock on Ferguson, just thinking he's the least shiny of the four) -- but on the other hand, even with predicting only three, I'm somewhat waffling on Stonestreet. Particularly while leaving both the Entourage guys on the bench -- no way am I that lucky. It's also pretty extreme to call the Rainn Wilson snub, but A) somebody from Modern Family is getting nominated, so somebody has to go, and B) perhaps this is where The Office feels the hurt of a down season. In a weaker year, Justin Kirk (giving his best work on Weeds to date) and Ted Danson (a historical Emmy fave) would be pretty easy gets, but probably not this year. As for Colfer, even if Glee has a far stronger showing in the nomination tally than I think they will, I don't see anything coming his way. Teens do terribly with Emmy, historically, and the pleasing complexity of his character will, sadly, probably work against him.

Predicted Nominees:
Jenna Fischer (The Office)
Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty)

Dark Horses:

Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Rosemarie DeWitt (United States of Tara)
Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds)
Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men)

Not Happening:
Eve Best (Nurse Jackie)
Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie)

Okay, so I know it seems like Jane Lynch is just going to steamroll over everybody on her way to the trophy, and maybe she will. But if and when Sofia Vergara pulls off the upset and wins this Emmy and the next two, you heard it here first. I think she does more with the role, but I do think Emmy voters will latch onto her Funny-Talking Sassy Latina. In other news, Amy Poehler and last year's champ Kristin Chenoweth aren't eligible, and I think Elizabeth Perkins drops out after Weeds didn't know what to do with her (some more). It's actually rare for an actor to stop getting nominated and then get nominated again (ironically, it happened to Perkins last year), but I think Jenna Fischer does just that this year. Every so often I have a wildly optimistic thought that Eve Best or Merritt Wever will be recognized for their stellar work, but they won't. Hell, Rosemarie DeWitt is a pipe dream too, if I'm being honest. I'd say Bowen and Hines are the likely candidates to unseat Fischer and Wiig, if it happens.

Predicted Nominees:
Matt Damon (30 Rock)
James Franco (30 Rock)
Victor Garber (Nurse Jackie)
Neil Patrick Harris (Glee)
Jerry Seinfeld (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Fred Willard (Modern Family)

Dark Horses:

Will Arnett (30 Rock)
Harvey Fierstein (Nurse Jackie)
Jon Hamm (30 Rock)
Oliver Platt (Bored to Death)
Carl Reiner (Two and a Half Men)

Not Happening:
Mike O'Malley (Glee)

Okay, here's where I enter the realm of almost pure folly, as who the hell really knows what's going to happen here? But we know the Emmys love two things in this category especially: big stars and old favorites. Which means I'm maybe being silly by not predicting an institution like Carl Reiner. It's also fairly impossible to guess the 30 Rock contingent, except to say Jon Hamm had more to do last season. (Of course, quality has almost nothing to do with this category, so maybe he'll be back again.) I feel pretty good about Seinfeld (old favorite taking a victory lap), Willard (impeccably cast and memorable as Phil's dad), and NPH (who doesn't love him?). I'm calling Garber over Fierstein for Nurse Jackie based on star power rather than performance impact. Though if any actor is to muscle into this category on performance alone, it'll be Harvey. Unfortunately, I don't think that applies to O"Malley, much as I'd love to see that performance (and storyline) get rewarded.

Predicted Nominees:
Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory)
Kristin Chenoweth (Glee)
Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live)
Judith Ivey (Nurse Jackie)
Elaine Stritch (30 Rock)
Betty White (Saturday Night Live)

Dark Horses:
Elizabeth Banks (30 Rock)
Kathy Bates (The Office)
Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Julianne Moore (30 Rock)
Megan Mullally (Parks and Recreation)

Not Happening:
Kathleen Turner - Californication

This category is a smidge more predictable than the guest actors, in that Fey (last year's winner), Stritch (nominated for every 30 Rock season thus far), and Betty White (this being The Year of Our Lord Betty White) being kind of slam dunks. And Judith Ivey's performance screamed "EMMY" from the moment I saw it. Baranski seems like a good choice from a show I don't watch. And I am still waffling back and forth on Bates vs. Chenoweth, giving Cheno the edge because she won last year for Pushing Daisies.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Emmy Predictions: The Comedies (Part 1)

The Primetime Emmy nominations don't come out for another two weeks (working in Daytime, I have to differentiate between Primetime and Daytime Emmys; the rest of you are at liberty to find this practice laughably quaint), but I figured I'd get to the process of trying to guess at their annual mercurial voting practices. I'm breaking these up into a few posts over the next few days.

It's important to remember, these are who I think WILL be nominated, not who SHOULD. That's for a later post.

Predicted Nominees:
30 Rock
The Big Bang Theory
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Modern Family
The Office

Dark Horses:

How I Met Your Mother
Nurse Jackie
Two and a Half Men

Not Happening:


The traditional inertia of the Emmy nominating committee means the relatively down seasons for 30 Rock and The Office won't knock them off their perches. But this being The Year Comedy Was Discovered Again, there will definitely be room for the new. Glee will surely ride its waves of hype to a nomination, but I'm not sure it's going to dominate the way people think. Modern Family, however, is poised to be the West Wing of the comedy categories. And while we could possible see even more of the newbie comedies show up, I'm betting on Curb to show up for its Seinfeld season, and for Big Bang to get the CBS slot. As for Community, I suppose you could look to Arrested Development as proof that winky, critically-adored comedies can succeed, but the competition is way tougher this year.

Predicted Nominees:
Alec Baldwin ( 30 Rock)
Steve Carell (The Office)
Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Tony Shalhoub (Monk)
Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)

Dark Horses:

Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
Joel McHale (Community)
Matthew Morrison (Glee)
Jason Schwartzman (Bored to Death)
David Duchovny (Californication)

Not Happening:

Zachary Levi (Chuck)

Yes, it may well be foolish not to predict Matthew Morrison's nomination, but see above re: my prediction of Glee getting merely moderate Emmy love. But it is an awfully weak category. Baldwin, Carell, and Parsons are no-brainers to repeat. Shalhoub is repping a dead show, but the Emmys haven't shown any signs of not loving him thus far. I'm also predicting they'll rally around Sheen after all his problems. And I think Curb was enough of a buzzy favorite this past season that the questionable acting of Larry David will once again be rewarded.

Predicted Nominees:
Toni Collette (United States of Tara)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Patricia Heaton (The Middle)
Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds)
Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

Dark Horses:

Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory)
America Ferrera (Ugly Betty)
Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine)
Lea Michele (Glee)

Not Happening:

Courteney Cox (Cougar Town)

You can never tell for 100% sure how a new show will be received by Emmy voters, but I think we can be pretty sure that they already like Edie Falco. I'd be very surprised if she doesn't win her fourth Emmy. I'm picking her Showtime cohorts, Collette and MLP, but to be honest I'm not 100% about either of them, even if Toni did win last year (and even though Tara had an even better season this year). Tina Fey isn't going anywhere. It's conceivable that Ferrera and/or Julia Louis-Dreyfus could get bon-voyage nods for their cancelled shows, but the Emmys don't do that as often as you'd think. Instead, I'm picking half-cynically (Emmy loves Patricia Heaton and they seem to love hit sitcoms that appeal to the un-hip masses) and half-optimistically (even if I don't see Parks and Rec getting all the love it deserves, Poehler stands a good shot anyway, right?).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Best of Buffy: Readers' Choice (Part 2)

It's your top 15 episodes, y'all. And may I say? Nice job.

#15. The Prom

#14. Earshot
Season 3, Episode 18
Written by: Jane Espenson
A really excellent episode, and one that I'm sad couldn't make my own list. Beyond all that Columbine controversy (controversy that, not shockingly, doesn't hold up to even light scrutiny), it might be the one Espenson ep where the comedy (which is great, as Buffy hears throughts she'd rather she didn't -- Giles had sex with her mom!) is outshone by the drama (the scene with Buffy and Jonathan in the bell tower is really affecting).

#13. Band Candy
Season 3, Episode 6
Written by: Jane Espenson
I think the lesson of this Readers' Choice thing is that y'all looooove Jane Espenson. And with good reason! This episode really feels like a Season 2 story, for some reason. Ethan Rayne's back again, this time enchanting the candy being sold to raise funds for the band so the adults in Sunnydale start behaving like teenagers. Which means Giles reverts to his street punk days, Joyce is kind of a willful ditz, and Principal Snyder is deeply awesome.

#12. Prophecy Girl

#11. The Wish

#10. Restless

#9. Passion

#8. Doppelgangland

#7. Innocence

#6. The Gift

#5. Graduation Day, Part 2

#4. Becoming, Part 2

#3. The Body

#2. Once More, With Feeling

#1. Hush

The Best of Buffy: Readers' Choice (Part 1)

I tallied up your rankings for the best Buffy episodes from this post, assigned them point values based on your rankings, did more than a little long division, and came up with the Low Res Readers List for the best of Buffy. I'll comment on episodes that didn't appear in my own countdown, and you guys will hopefully comment on the list as a whole.

#30. (tie) Pangs
Season 4, Episode 8
Written by: Jane Espenson
This is the Thanksgiving episode, where a Native American vengeance spirit besieges the gang, Xander gets the funny syphilis, Willow gets all anti-imperialist on Giles, and Angel skulks around the periphery. Great Espenson comedy, and hugely relatable, with Buffy trying to have the no-parents first-year-at-college Thanksgiving of her dreams.

#30. (tie) Grave
Season 6, Episode 22
Written by: David Fury
Trivia alert: this is the only season finale not to have been written by Joss Whedon. Fury's as dependable as they come, though, and we get a good (but not transcendent) capper to the Dark Willow storyline. Nice seeing Xander save the day with his utter humanness, and I remember being really into Anya and Giles as a non-romantic pair at the time, so I was happy to see them sharing scenes. Still, Buffy feels cast aside, and if you thought the magic-as-drugs stuff was a smidge heavy-handed, this episode probably didn't help.

#29. Superstar

#28. Welcome to the Hellmouth
Season 1, Episode 1
Written by: Joss Whedon
The pilot! The real one, not the one with Creepy Fake Willow. I'm not sure what I can say about this, in that pilots are judges by how much it hooked you on the show, and by the time I saw this, I was already hooked. But I liked the misdirection re: Jesse (Eric Balfour!), which showed that anybody could go. And unlike many shows that took a long time finding legs, this show really hit the ground running.

#27. I Only Have Eyes for You
Season 2, Episode 19
Written by: Marti Noxon
I always get this one confused with the My So-Called Life episode where Rayanne and Krakow get locked in the basement and Angela sees the ghost of a boy who died at the Halloween dance. (Side note: people HATE that episode for the dopey ghost plot, but as a Rayanne fan, I had to love it as she baited Krakow and high-fived janitor George.) Anyway, this has pretty much the same plot, only it's a Sadie Hawkins Dance, and the ghost causing people to murder-suicide one another. Buffy and Angelus get possessed by the doomed lovers, which was pretty heart-wrenching.

#26. Becoming, Part 1
Season 2, Episode 21
Written by: Joss Whedon
All the great payoffs are in Part 2, but Part 1 does see Drusilla off Kendra and her Terrible Caribbean Accent of Pain.

#25. Tabula Rasa
Season 6, Episode 8
Written by: Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Willow's magic gets out of hand and causes the whole gang to forget who they are. Lots of really clever comic beats, including Joan the Vampire Slayer, a troubled romance between Anya and Giles, Spike as Giles' son, and Willow thinking she's kinda gay. Willow and Tara break up to the strains of Michelle Branch.

#24. Storyteller
Season 7, Episode 16
Written by: Jane Espenson
This one juuuuuust missed my own countdown. Basically, this is Andrew having to run his own personal gauntlet and prove himself as a Scooby, ultimately by owning up to the evil he's done. But all around that is the conceit that he keeps trying to make a movie out of what's happening, and Espenson and Tom Lenk put on a damn clinic of clever, insane comic moments. Especially "We are as gods."

#23. Halloween
Season 2, Episode 6
Written by: Carl Ellsworth
This would be the first appearance by recidivist baddie Ethan Rayne. This time, his enchanted costumes turn people into what they're dressed up as, with results as scary as little werewolves and as humorous as Ghost Willow, Soldier Xander, and Damsel Buffy. Good showcase for Cordelia (who bought her costume elsewhere), who gets to comment on the insanity AND try to save everybody for once.

#22. Fool For Love
Season 5, Episode 7
Written by: Douglas Petrie
Eh. I can't hate on an episode that reunites Angel, Darla, Drusilla, and Spike. And it really was a quietly sweet moment, at the time, when Spike comforted Buffy re: her mom's diagnosis. But the subsequent Spuffy craze really soured me on this one.

#21. Selfless

#20. Normal Again
Season 6, Episode 17
Written by: Diego Guitierrez
Buffy is made to believe she's really in an asylum in L.A., and her whole life as the Slayer -- Sunnydale, Dawn, all of it -- has been a fantasyland and symptom of her disease. Yada yada, Buffy tries to kill her friends but is ultimately made to realize the truth. And then an utterly stupid tag at the end of the episode made everybody think the entire series was indeed a figment of Buffy's imagination. Bleh.

#19. Graduation Day, Part 1

#18. Who Are You?

#17. Conversations with Dead People
Season 7, Episode 7
Written by: Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard
Interesting structural experiment as Buffy, Willow, and Dawn are each in their own chamber piece, each one dealing with an entity from Beyond. Buffy's moments with chatty vamp Holden are written well enough to be compelling (and we learn Scott Hope came out in college -- KNEW IT!), but Willow and "Tara" (i.e. The First pretending to be Cassie pretending to be Tara) felt limper than it should have been, and Dawn's encounter with The Angry Ghost of Joyce Summers never really went anywhere at all.

#16. Chosen

(#s 1-15 coming up later today!)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Big Bad Buffy Countdown: #5-1

Here's why we're doing this.

And here are #s 30-26. And #s 25-21. And #s 20-16. And #s 15-11. And #s 10-6.

#5: "Who Are You?"
Season 4, Episode 16
Written by: Joss Whedon
This would be the second half of the two-part Faith Returns (!) arc that stood as a bright, shining beacon in the middle of Season 4. By this point, Faith and Buffy have switched bodies, via some doohickey the Mayor pothumously bequeathed to Faith. So she's running around town, enjoying the hell out of being Pure Hero Buffy, while Buffy (as Faith) is being herded by the Watcher's Council and generally treated like garbage. The great thing about Joss Whedon is that he is almost never content to rest on a good gimmick. While there's no shortage of high-concept moments -- Faith-as-Buffy outs Willow and Tara and rubs up on Spike (which likely kicked off the Spuffy concept but whatever it was awesome); Buffy-as-Faith getting Giles to know it's her by referencing him sleeping with her mom ("what's a stevedore?") -- Joss uses the body switch as a way to really dig into Buffy and Faith and how the sometimes blurry lines between "good" and "bad" help inform who they are (hence that title). Bonus points for two great bits of dialogue: Tara's "I am, you know? Yours." and Giles's exagerrated "Damn it, man! Our families are in there. Our mothers and tiny, tiny babies!"

#4: "The Body"
Season 5, Episode 16
Written by: Joss Whedon
We're now getting into serious "what can I say?" territory, as anything that can be said about the episodes at the top of my list have already been said. Here's what's still fresh in my mind about "The Body": the silence of it, with no score and long wordless stretches; the excruciating ineffectuality of Buffy's friends, exemplified by Anya's heartbreaking monologue; Dawn looking utterly adrift (does Michelle Trachtenberg get enough credit for her work here? I don't think she does). Best of all, it never felt like it was trying to prove a point -- "See? Buffy can be regular family drama too! Give us those Emmys now!" -- just dealing with the worst moment in its protagonist's life in the most appropriate way.

#3: "Graduation Day, Part 2"
Season 3, Episode 22
Written by: Joss Whedon
I talked a bit in this post about how this episode got pulled and delayed until summer due to Columbine. (Oddly enough, in that post I express my preference for Part 1; I've changed my mind since, but that Buffy/Faith fight really is the bomb.) This episode contains the single most rousing moment in the entire series, one that the series had been building toward for three seasons. When Buffy stands up shoulder-to-shoulder with her classmates, at long last, and face down the Mayor, I get chills upon chills. And then Angel and Wesley show up as backup? And then Harmony gets bit? And Cordelia stakes a vampire? And then Buffy uses the Mayor's fatherly feelings towards Faith to bait him into his own destruction? The show fired on all cyllinders that night, guys.

#2: "The Gift"
Season 5, Episode 22
Written by: Joss Whedon
So. Confession time. I bawled like a baby at the end of "The Gift." The whole thing was presented like a series finale, from the super-cut "Previously on" segment that traced the history of the show, to the thank-you message from the network at the end, to ... well, you know, what actually happened in the episode. Yes, the series would make the jump to UPN, but somehow, I got caught up enough in the reality of the episode that I still reacted like it was the last we'd see of Buffy. It's no wonder I got enveloped so completely. The Gift was the culmination of a breathless six-episode ramp-up to the finale, immediately following The Body; stakes got raised, pieces got put into place. Buffy's great swan dive into the abyss was well prepared for.

#1: "Becoming, Part 2"
Season 2, Episode 22
Written by: Joss Whedon
The whole series of Buffy is about growing up. How hard that is. How dangerous. How goofy. Nowhere was that better accomplished than with the Buffy/Angel arc, and watching her have to permanently cut ties with her first love so that she wouldn't lose everything else could not have been more heartbreaking. So many indelible moments, in fact, from Buffy "coming out" as Slayer to her mom, to Drusilla's cruel manipulation of Giles (making him see her as Jenny), to Xander's callous/pragmatic refusal to tell Buffy that Willow still might restore Angel's soul. But the whole is even bigger than the sum of its parts here. Buffy has to do the hardest thing, and it almost breaks her, but she's the Slayer, so she pushed that sword through. Bonus: easily the best acting of David Boreanaz's Buffy tenure (that "...Buffy?" after he's been re-ensouled).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Programming Note

Actually, no technical difficulties, I just really love this image.

I just want to give you guys a heads up on some pretty cool things coming to Low Res in the next week or so:

Later today, I'm going to put up the final installment of the Buffy countdown, with my top 5 episodes.

Then tomorrow, look for YOUR choices for the best of Buffy. I read your comments and tallied them up -- very scientific-like -- and I have to say, the list we all came up with is something we can all be proud of. Eat it, LOGO!

And then next week, look for a very special feature -- a first of its kind of Low Resolution. This one's Buffy-related too, and if you're a fan of the show at all, you're going to want to check it out. Intrigued?? I hope so.

Also, because balance is healthy, I'll have some non-Buffy content at the end of the week, as we ramp up to the Emmy nominations.

Meanwhile, for no reason other than that it brings me joy, please enjoy this clip from RuPaul's Drag Race:


My Big Bad Buffy Countdown: #10-6

Here's why we're doing this.

And here are #s 30-26. And #s 25-21. And #s 20-16. And #s 15-11.

#10: "Homecoming"
Season 3, Episode 5
Written by: David Greenwalt
I feel like this list hasn't properly represented the strength of David Greenwalt or Cordelia Chase, a writer and character who would both come into their own on Angel. But they sure had their fun in "Homecoming." Greenwalt builds a strong skeleton for the story, which first takes place on Cordy's turf, as she tries to fend off a Homecoming Queen challenge from a suddenly jealous Buffy, and then moves on to Buffy's turf, as Cordy is mistaken for Faith and ends up side-by-side with Buffy as they endure "Slayerfest '98." This episode also featured the first forbidden Xander/Willow kiss (a story development that both made sense AND felt a bit contrived, to be honest) and the debut of the Mayor, but for my money, this was all Buffy and Cordelia being hilarious and bitchy and resourceful and awesome.

#9: "Checkpoint"
Season 5, Episode 12
Written by: Doug Petrie & Jane Espenson
So the Watcher's Council is back, and Buffy needs to be tested (...again) if they're to give her the intel on Glory. I guess I really get into the episodes where Buffy has to prove herself. (In fact, I've got a half-formed thesis about how after the end of Season 5, Buffy stopped having to prove herself, leaving herself adrift in Season 6 and self-satisfied in Season 7, neither of which were as compelling as Buffy with something to prove.) Anyway, great blend of comedy (Anya babbling about her apocryphal all-American upbringing; Spike and Joyce bonding over "Passions") and rousing drama. Seriously, that speech/smackdown Buffy delivers to the Council always makes me want to stand up and cheer.

#8: "Selfless"
Season 7, Episode 5
Written by: Drew Goddard
Goddard was rightfully celebrated as a shining bright spot in Season 7, and it was largely because of this, the shining bright episode of Season 7. By this point, Anya was beloved by the fanbase; an episode dedicated to her would've been well-received anyway. Credit to Goddard, then, for throwing everything into this one episode, from flashbacks to an epic showdown with Buffy, even to a lost musical number from "Once More, With Feeling." In the process, the series' silliest character becomes its most tragic. The abrupt cut from the end of "I'll Be Mrs." to Anya at the business end of Buffy's sword is one of the all-time best moments of the whole series. Bonus point: after nearly five seasons, the truth comes out about Xander not telling Buffy that Willow was planning to re-ensoul Angel in "Becoming." That is one slow burn.

#7: "Once More, With Feeling"
Season 6, Episode 7
Written by: Joss Whedon
For all the obvious reasons -- catchy-as-hell songs, brilliant comedy, devastating revelations. The best thing about this episode is how essential it is. I remain thoroughly impressed that Joss took the already daunting task of a musical episode (it wasn't the first of its kind, but this was well before every other show decided on musicals as the sweeps stunt du jour) and actually tied it to the three biggest revelations of the first half of the season (Buffy was in heaven! Willow maniplulated Tara! Spike kisses Buffy!). I am now and forever will be singing its praises. Hopefully better than Alyson Hannigan.

#6: "Hush"
Season, 4, Episode 10
Written by: Joss Whedon
At this point, I feel like I should be explaining why episodes like "Hush" and OMWF didn't rank as #1. In the case of "Hush," it's certainly not that the monsters weren't unspeakably (heh) terrifying. Or that the wordless gimmick wasn't handled incredibly cleverly. Or that the comedy wasn't razor sharp. All true. But it's a smidge too removed from the greater story (and when it's not, the story it ties to is Riley/The Initiative). Yes, Willow and Tara first felt The Magic in this episode. I'm not saying this is anything less than an astounding episode. I just like five better.

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Big Bad Buffy Countdown: #15-11

Here's why we're doing this.

And here are #s 30-26. And #s 25-21. And #s 20-16.

#15: "Helpless"
Season 3, Episode 12
Written by: David Fury
An underrated classic, particularly if you value the Buffy/Giles relationship like I did. Buffy is unwittingly subjected to a test by the Watcher's Council (first appearance by the delightfully brusque Quentin Travers) in which her powers are sapped and she's forced to defend herself by her wits and girlish flailing. (I'm guessing this had historically helped...promote a higher turnover rate among Slayers?) Giles's faith in the system comes crashing into his loyalty for Buffy, though not before Buffy feels the sting of his betrayal. It's utterly heartbreaking, though Giles does redeem himself a bit. And watching Buffy try to survive while powerless is both harrowing and genuinely thrilling.

#14: "Graduation Day, Part 1"
Season 3, Episode 21
Written by: Joss Whedon
Part 2 gets all the love, and rightfully so, but Part 1 shouldn't get too overshadowed. This wasn't just an hour of running in place before the big battle. An ailing Angel feeding on Buffy to survive got all the publicity, and it's a powerful moment, but when I think of the episode, I think of Buffy quitting the Watcher's Council, Anya inching her way into the gang, and especially the hellacious Buffy/Faith fight, which was the best action sequence in the entire series, and I will not argue this point.

#13: "Doppelgangland"
Season 3, Episode 16
Written by: Joss Whedon
For all the obvious reasons. Vampire Willow is delicious, but regular Willow reacting to Vampire Willow is even better. For as high concept as this episode is, it's all the tiny moments of hilarity that make it. The Scoobies mourning Willow's death, only to have her walk in; Cordelia subjecting Vamp Willow to a lecture on the ethics of boyfriend-stealing; Anya trying to order a beer. But nothing beats Vamp Willow hitting on regular Willow. "This couldn't be more disturbing."

#12: "Enemies"
Season 3, Episode 17
Written by: Doug Petrie
Another episode from the stellar Season 3, and another killer Faith episode written by Doug Petrie. This is the one where Buffy finally realizes Faith has gone all the way to the dark side, as she attempts to turn Angel evil and then lure Buffy into a trap. But it's Faith who gets trapped -- once again proving that intellect is not her strong suit -- and Buffy gets a rare mid-season "win" over the raven-haired slayer. Bonus points for the first shades of Angel's rehabilitation project on Faith, one which would pay off in some of Angel's best episodes.

#11: "Restless"
Season 4, Episode 22
Written by: Joss Whedon
There is just so much to enjoy here, from the gratuitous weirdness to the myriad foreshadowings, to the singing, to the First Slayer. Unlike any other episode in the entire Buffy catalog, making it an easy standout for a list like this. It's an episode that puts all the boilerplate "dream episode"s of other shows to shame, going beyond easy Freudian line-drawing into really abstract situations that nonetheless comment on each of the dreaming Scoobies. I also thought that, strangely enough, this was the one episode that took Tara as seriously as she deserved to be. Amber Benson has never looked as beautiful or seemed as integral to the plot as when she was standing in the desert, wearing that sari, asking Buffy if she thinks she knows what's to come.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Big Bad Buffy Countdown: #20-16

Here's why we're doing this.

And here are #s 30-26. And #s 25-21.

#20: "Triangle"
Season 5, Episode 11
Written by: Jane Espenson
Oh, my beloved "Triangle." It's been a pet favorite for a long time. Partly because it came on the heels of "Into the Woods," my least favorite episode of Season 5 and a Top 5 least favorite of the series (Buffy chasing down Riley's helicopter ... no). "Triangle" was like a palette cleanser: heavily comedic (Jane Espenson at her best), focused on the supporting characters (Anya and Willow go toe to toe with Xander stuck in the middle), and a great performance by Abraham Benrubi as Olaf the Troll god.

#19: "Superstar"
Season 4, Episode 17
Written by: Jane Espenson
This is a more celebrated Espenson effort, and with good reason. Buffy always did well with alternate realities (Normal Again excepted), and much like the way the musical aspects were introduced in "Once More With Feeling," I liked how this episode jumped right into its new world order, funky new credits and all. The episode gave us a meek, unsure Buffy, which served as a great commentary -- as obnoxious as this sounds -- on the crisis of confidence young girls endure under a patriarchy. (...Told you.) Great performance by Danny Strong, too.

#18: "Innocence"
Season 2, Episode 14
Written by: Joss Whedon
I'm pretty sure this was the first episode I ever saw. Quite the turning point to enter on, yes, but man was it a swell springboard into the rest of the series. Watching Buffy's heart break over Angel's rejection -- and his abrupt transition into soulless tormetor -- was palpable. But this episode isn't all angst. The showdown at the mall with Angel, Drusilla, and the Judge is pretty epic.

#17: "Revelations"
Season 3, Episode 7
Written by: Doug Petrie
If you know me, you know I loved Faith something serious. And yet I also loved this episode, in which the most meorable line (spit by sinister watcher Gwendolyn Post) was "Faith, a word of advice: you're an idiot." Petrie did a great parallel story in which Faith and Giles allow their inferiority complexes (to Buffy and Gwendolyn, respectively) lead them to some foolish actions. Especially Faith, who allowed herself to be goaded into attacking Buffy, some nice foreshadowing of the season to come. Any episode in which the Scoobies finding out Angel's alive and Buffy's been hiding him is the third most compelling plot is doing something right.

#16: "Prophecy Girl"
Season 1, Episode 12
Written by: Joss Whedon
"So that's it, huh? I remember the drill. One slayer dies, the next one's called. I wonder who she is. Will you train her? Or will they send someone else? ... Does it say how he's gonna kill me? Do you think it'll hurt? Don't touch me! Were you even gonna tell me? ... I've got a way around it. I quit. I resign! I'm fired! You can find somebody else to stop the Master from taking over. ... Read me the signs! Tell me my fortune! You're so useful sitting here with all of your books! You're really a lot of help. ... Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't wanna die.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Big Bad Buffy Countdown, #25-21

Here's why we're doing this.

And here are #s 30-26.

#25: "Him"
Season 7, Episode 6
Written by: Drew Z. Greenberg
Something about Season 7 seemed seperate from the other six right from the start. Maybe it was the expectation of the end hanging in the air. Or the absence of Giles. Or the presence of the potentials. Perhaps after the meanderings of Season 6, which seemed to lurch ahead in four-episode binges, each separated from the other, there was a more concerted effort to make everything in S7 about the mega arc, aka the First and the potentials. Whatever the case, my favorite episodes in Season 7 were the ones that took a break from that arc and told what felt like throwback stories. "Him," written by the super-talented Drew Greenberg, who was really coming into his own just as the series was ending, feels very much like a Season 2 episode. It's not hard to see why, given the episode's allegorical high school plot: Dawn falls in love with a dreamboat football player whose allure lies entirely within his varsity jacket. It's enchanted, of course, and soon all the women in Sunnydale -- even lezzie Willow -- are all over the guy. Great comedy at work here as Buffy, Willow, and Anya all scheme against each other; plus a rare moment for Xander to be the hero. Also some genuine irony: take a look at Thad Luckinbill and tell me that kid needs a magic anything to get panties to drop.

#24: "Passion"
Season 2, Episode 17
Written by: Ty King
The Angel-loses-his-soul arc was the one that drew me into watching the show in the first place, and I distinctly remember watching this episode and realizing "Yep! I'm hooked." Angel passes the point of no return by snapping Jenny Calendar's neck with relish, then setting the body up for Giles to find. Totally chilling and upped the season-long stakes in a way few mid-season episodes ever did.

#23: "The Prom"
Season 3, Episode 20
Written by: Marti Noxon
This one's here pretty much solely on the basis of Buffy getting the "Class Protector" award at the end. It's schmaltzy and sentimental, and at the time it felt like a conscious stepping outside the world of the show (it's Sunnydale! Nobody's supposed to notice anything!), though that complaint was seriously mitigated by the climax in "Graduation Day, Part 2," so I let it slide. Anyway, schmaltzy or not, it sure as hell got me.

#22: "Bad Girls"
Season 3, Episode 14
Written by: Doug Petrie
Of all the non-Joss writers (and maybe of all the writers period), Doug Petrie got Faith the best, so I'm glad he got to be the one to let Faith's free-slaying lifestyle tempt Buffy into a world of class-cutting and sexy faux-lesbian dancing ... before pulling the rug out from Faith and having her kill a man. That poor nerdy Mayor's aide was kinda cute too.

#21: "Lie to Me"
Season 2, Episode 7
Written by: Joss Whedon
The episode that convinced The WB to let Jason Behr star in his own show! History right before your eyes! Seriously, though, Behr's actually pretty good here (and cute as ever) as Ford, Buffy's old friend from L.A. who's going to Sunnydale now. Cue the Xander-is-jealous beats we'd come to know so well! Of course, it turns out Ford and his tragic goth friends all want to become vampires -- Ford for reasons more complicated than mere lameness -- and are willing to bargain with Spike, of all people, to make it happen. Terriffic balancing act where the Anne Rice romantic-vamp crowd gets skewered nicely, but we also get some of the more heart-wrenching scenes ever involving non-central characters. Seriously, though, this episode plays even better in light of the current Twilight fad.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trailer Trash: Never Let Me Go

Who'd make up stories as horrible as that?

You guys, this one stopped me in my tracks. Never Let Me Go was already on my radar for its cast (Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Kiera Knightley play the central trio, but also Sally Hawkins, Charlotte Rampling, and my new off-Broadway mistress Andrea Riseborough) and director (I ultimately didn't love Mark Romanek's One Hour Photo, but his music videos were some of the best ever created, and he's got a definite creative eye). And I hadn't even read the acclaimed novel on which it's based (Time's choice for best of the decade, as the prestige-seeking trailer reminds us). Which I think helps make this already haunting trailer to be even more effective.

See what I mean? What's going on? Why the hand-scans? What's this talk of donations and souls? It's like an M. Night Shyamalan trailer except you know there's going to be substance behind all the strange goings on. But it's not the pervasive weirdness that's got me most hooked. I feel like I'm already invested in these people after only two and a half minutes. Which is crazy and an illusion, but that's a trailer putting a movie's best foot forward. When I can already tell I'm going to be raving about Andrew Garfield's performance, things are moving in the right direction.

And the music! I had to double back about halfway through because I got distracted trying to place the score. It's Marcelo Zarvos's from The Door in the Floor, of course. One of my favorite and most underrated pieces of movie music ever. I don't think I could be more excited to see a movie this year. Get here soon whatever date this movie opens!

She Should Work More, Vol. XXVI

It's a sad fact of Hollywood that there are dozens upon dozens of wildly talented actresses who are just not being written for or cast in TV and movies. This is not news. But one such example sat up and slapped me in the face over the weekend. I saw Amy Madigan in the HBO movie The Laramie Project, then again when I lingered on Field of Dreams on cable for probably the hundredth time, and finally, in an episode of Grey's Anatomy I caught while flipping through the channels.

In the span of two days, she was struggling to comprehend a brutal murder, calling the PTA president a Nazi cow, and giving Meredith Grey some much-deserved shit. And she was brilliantly compelling in all of it. (She was Oscar-nominated for her 1985 movie Twice in a Lifetime, but I still say she was deserving of a win for Field of Dreams.) And that's not even counting the simmering cauldron she played on HBO's Carnivale. She plays a character type I love, always somewhere on the spectrum from earthy to flinty, intimidating but enthusiastic, an ideal character to set the lead straight. The Chicago has never left her voice, and I love her for that.

So where's she been? The Grey's appearances have been few and far between, and frankly, they're beneath her anyway. As as the ER and Law & Order and Criminal Minds guest spots that have littered her recent resume. The interesting wrinkle to Madigan's case is that even in the prime of her career, she was never ubiquitous. She won a Golden Globe for Roe vs. Wade, she snuggled up to John Candy in Uncle Buck, she was pretty prominent in Places in the Heart, but she was always secondary to someone else. Hollywood never valued her properly.

And then there's this: of the four film projects Madigan's got lined up, three are connected to lead performances by her husband, Ed Harris. Which is fine -- he's a great actor and she's been wonderful opposite him before, but damn it, Hollywood, this woman can bring it. All by herself. Let her loose on something. Suggestions welcomed in the comments.

Ew, Kaylee, No

"Goin' on a year now I ain't had nothin' twixt my nethers weren't run on batteries!"

Thanks to The Rotten Tomatoes Show for reminding me of this godawful line from Serenity. I liked Firefly quite a bit while it lasted, and watching Serenity again a few months ago I was reminded that, while I thought the die-hard fans overrated it, it had some amazing action sequences and a killer last half-hour. But that line is a mess, y'all. The kind that will make you embarrassed for having ever liked a show in the first place.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Big Bad Buffy Countdown, #30-26

#30" "Chosen"
Season 7, Episode 22
Written by: Joss Whedon
I'm no longer sure where "Chosen" sits in the fan consciousness. They obviously liked it on the Logo countdown, likely becase Spike was all "Buffy! I can feel my soul!" Bleh. But otherwise, I thought this was a fine way to cap the series, particularly one that had struggled down the stretch. Making all the potentials into actual Slayers was a great call to ass-kicking (when Felicia Day is like, "These guys are toast," it's all I can do not to stand and cheer) as well as a moment of honest inspiration. And poor Anya! Cut down in the prime of her bunny-hating youth.

#29: "Life Serial"
Season 6, Episode 5
Written by: David Fury and Jane Espenson
I feel bad that (SPOILER) no Jane Espenson episodes made my Top 10. She writes deliciously funny adventures, but they inevitably get overshadowed by the bigger emotional climaxes. Well here I'm taking a stand for Jane (and David Fury) for writing the funniest episode of what ended up being a seriously bleak sixth season. This was when the Nerd Trio seemed to have the most potential -- sending Buffy off into strange culs-de-sac of comedy, best exemplified by her getting stuck in a time loop at the Magic Box. Plus this had Spike and Clem (among others) playing poker for kittens AND that mummy hand that moved on its own. Great farce.

#28: "The Wish"
Season 3, Episode 9
Written by: Marti Noxon
Yeah, don't get too comfortable, Marti Noxon. But I couldn't well deny the pleasures found in this alt-verse episode. Both Anya and Vampire Willow make their debuts here, all the actors really delivered, playing darker versions of themselves, and the way they shot the alt-deaths of Angel, Xander, Willow, and Buffy as both nonchalant (same old same old in such a hellish reality) and momentous (what other episode sees its heroine die? ...Well, okay, quite a few on this show).

#27: "Entropy"
Season 6, Episode 18
Written by: Drew Z. Greenberg
Props to Tom for mentioning this one in the comments. I always gloss over it because it's part of such a downer arc (everything that came after the musical up to and including Tara's death), but it's an excellent showcase for Anya as she gets even with Xander in a delightfully hurtful way.

#26: "Choices"
Season 3, Episode 19
Written by: David Fury
This often gets lost in the shuffle of the mad dash to the Season 3 finale -- best stretch of episode's in the show's history. "Choices" always stands out for me because it focuses on the Willow/Faith rivalry that was ever-present but rarely featured. Here, Willow stands up to Faith and the Mayor and proves her worth to the gang once again when she steals valuable intel for the gang; while Faith turns an opposite corner, throwing her lot ever more fully in with the Mayor.