SAG Awards Viewing Guide: Part 2 – Television Drama

Not that you shouldn’t watch all the performances, but it’s difficult, at best, to find the time. As a rule, I don’t sleep, so…here are my observations of the nominated performances.

PART 2: TELEVISION DRAMA

Women

Claire Danes – “Homeland”

Every year I watch a little of this show, and every year she makes the same damn faces. I know, I know, greatest show ever…blah blah blah. It’s not that I don’t believe you, I’ve just never been remotely hooked by it. But I have watched enough to know that, while Danes character may be an icocnic one, the performance is often not. Fifth out of five.
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Viola Davis – “How To Get Away With Murder” (SHE HAS MY VOTE)

So, another show I’m not hooked on, but have watched several episodes of. Yet, unlike “Homeland”, I have watched enough to know that Viola Davis’s performance is amongst the best television has to offer. She is a masterful actress…on both the big and little screens, and we’d be idiots not to reward such investment with the statue-thingee,
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Juliana Margulies – “The Good Wife”

Say what you will about this show, but even when the season arcs go off the rails, Margulies gets more and more courageous with her choices. She remains strong, vulnerable, sexy and funny. She won’t win, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t deserving.
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Maggie Smith – “Downton Abbey”

Not sure I’d call this a lead role, but let’s be honest, half the reason we watch so religiously is to see her brilliantly deliver her brilliant dialogue. Since it’s the final season, she’ll get some votes. But there are at least five performers with bigger roles on the show.
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Robin Wright – “House of Cards”

Loved her in the first season. Loved her a little less in Season 2. And in Season 3 she was just plain bizarre. But on the strength of the first episode alone, confronted as she was by a predator from her past, she garnered the nomination. She’s creepily calm, seething inside and still very vulnerable. Fantastic week to week. Would be my second choice after Davis.

Men

Peter Dinklage – “Game of Thrones”

He’s largely nominated this year on reputation, since this past season featured WAY too little of his character. Nonetheless, when he is on screen, there is nothing I’d rather be watching. Nothing.
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Jon Hamm – “Mad Men” (HE GETS MY VOTE)

Don Draper. I listened to someone try and tell me that “Breaking Bad’ was the most groundbreaking show in history. It was not. “Mad Men”, however, is at least in the conversation. And that’s mostly because of the misadventures of one character. It’s incredible to think he’s never won the Actor (only as part of the ensemble). I think he’s due, no? Interestingly, just as we say good bye to one old and iconic friend…
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Rami Malek – “Mr. Robot”

…we say hello to a new one. If you didn’t watch “Mr. Robot,” you missed one of the strangest, most hypnotic and uber exciting first seasons of the decade. And, like “Mad Men”, while the ensemble is excellent, Malek is why you watch. He often presents as deadpan, but you can always see the mind churning, confusion reigning, and confidence brimming. If it weren’t Hamm’s final shot, Malek would be my choice, without question.
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Bob Odenkirk – “Better Call Saul”

Who doesn’t love Odenkirk? The guy is always good, and real, and hilariously human. But, no shot this year. The show just isn’t at the same level as the competition, and when you’re talking about Dinklage, Hamm, Malek and Spacey…that’s trouble.
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Kevin Spacey – “House of Cards”

Spacey’s sky high level of performance took a hit this season. His character in Season 3 was written a bit whiny, and that is not what we’ve come to expect from this creepy President. He was overshadowed by at least two other performances on the show this past season (Wright and Michael Kelly)…three if you include Molly Parker. Which makes the choice of Hamm that much easier.

 

Ensemble

“Downton Abbey”

“Abbey” is one of only three true ensemble shows nominated. And the strength of that ensemble is proven by our connection with each of its characters. We all want Mrs. Padmore to cook for us, Carson to raise his eyebrows at something we’ve said, and Barrow to…well…as I’ve already seen this whole season, I’ll keep my mouth shut. But I can say I’ve always been in love with Lady Mary, infatuated with Mrs. Bates, and still mourn the loss of Lady Sybil. We say farewell to two of these five nominated shows, and, alas, I don’t think “Downton” will win the day, nor should it, probably. But I’ll be watching and rewatching this ensemble for years.
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“Game of Thrones”

While “Thrones” may be the most unmissable show on television, the best of it’s ensemble was vastly underutilized last season. Not enough Tyrion or Jaime or Brienne or Varis. And we lost so many great characters to horrible deaths in the previous season. In fact, I actually became a little bored(!) with Cersei and Daenerys this season. All of which is to say, it doesn’t deserve THIS year’s award. However, I’m betting it’ll come back quite strong.
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“Homeland”

This has never felt like an ensemble piece to me. Great cast, to be sure…but the show belongs to its three leads. Not good enough for the competition it faces.
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“House of Cards”

Man, this cast is great. And as stated earlier, Wright, Kelly and Parker would be enough, but everyone on the show feels authentic. Find me a weak ling amongst Reg E. Cathey, Jimmi Simpson, Elizabeth Dunbar, and Mahershala Ali…all fantastic! All of them nominated in the wrong year.
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“Mad Men” (THIS GETS MY VOTE)

So, this is the one. I can’t think of another large cast drama in which EVERY character has made such an impression on me. Roger Stirling, Don Draper, Peggy Olsen, Joan Harris, Pete Campbell, Salvatore Romano, Harry Crane, Betty Francis nee Draper, Ken Cosgrove, Lane Price, Duck Philips, Sally Draper…and on and on and on. Will be sorely missed, and should go out with all of them onstage holding a statue.

Written 1/16/2016

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