Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dream Emmy Ballot: Outstanding Directing, Guest Acting, and Writing in a Comedy Series

A strong comedy needs support from their guest actors just like a drama does, but within the comedy world these guest actors also need to be more than just superstar cameos.  Within the last decade many comedies have used guest stars to lure people into watching their shows, and have not done a good job of fitting guests into the fabric of the show.  Shows that were bad offenders with this in the past were Will & Grace, and Friends, and some current offenders are Glee, and 30 Rock.  Three of the these four shows are my favorite shows (except for Glee), but they have abused the guest acting privilege like no other. If I listed their misuse of guest stars within each of these shows the list could be longer than this entire blog post.

This year Parks and Recreation did an excellent job using their guest stars like Kathryn Hahn and Paul Rudd who fit in perfectly with Leslie's election story line.  Hahn was the bigger standout to me.  Modern Family has been a major offender at times of not knowing how to use their guest stars properly but this season using Bobby Cannavale as Cam's clown friend was genius, and Ellen Barkin as Phill's rival in real estate was side splitting.  Within the last couple of year's there have also been many nominees who played themselve in television shows like Kate Winslet and Ian McKellan in Extras.  This year Michael J. Fox and Joan Rivers got major laughs with their perspective guest starring roles on Curb, and Louie.  Fox was funny in playing against type or how we perceive him, while Joan was true to form, in coaching Louie in his career.

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Bobby Cannavale-Modern Family
Michael J. Fox-Curb Your Enthusiasm
John Goodman-Community
Justin Long-New Girl
Paul Rudd-Parks and Recreation
Louis C.K.-Parks and Recreation

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Becky Anny Baker-Girls
Ellen Barkin-Modern Family
Patricia Clarkson-Parks and Recreation
Kathryn Hahn-Parks and Recreation
Megan Mullally-Happy Endings
Joan Rivers-Louie

Direction in a comedy series helps the performers guide them on the way to making the audience laugh.  Brilliant directors build on the shows writing, and actors to help put together moments we will never forget.  Iconic television director James Burrows who has directed for Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Cheers, Frasier, Friends, and Will & Grace is the best comedic director in television of all time.  Burrows brought the cast of Friends together prior to their first episode to get the group to build a comradery, that was apparent on screen.  Burrows did the same with all of his other shows, and helped define many sitcoms as massive hits, and classic television.

Today direction in a comedy has evolved because television comedies have evolved from the traditional sitcom.  Shows like Curb, Louie, Veep, and Happy Endings prove television comedies are more sophisticated than they ever have been.  Watching Brad's dance to the dentist chair in
"The St Valentine's Day Maxssacre" or the random way the dice can change events in Community's "Remedial Chaos Theory" prove that even more traditional shows have mastered a new art of bringing comedy into our living rooms.  Welcome to the new age of comedic direction, and sample on this great list of brilliantly directed episodes.

Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm-The Palestinian Chicken-Robert B. Weide
Community-Remedial Chaos Theory-Jeff Melman
Girls-Welcome to Bushwick aka the Crackcident-Jody Lee Lipes
Happy Endings-The St Valentine's Day Maxssacre-Joe Russo
Louie-Duckling-Louis C.K.
Veep-Chung-Armando Iannucci

Writing is the key to comedic television, shows whose writing becomes sloppy, or forgets character and becomes too slapstick is much more apparent in comedy.  Even in it's third year Community had some weak moments, but also had two of the funniest episodes of television with both "Remedial Chaos Theory" and the Law & Order spoof "Basic Lupine Urology."  Community knows how to weave character development with witty/snarky humor that resonates throughout the shows episode, and all season long.  This show is brilliantly written.

Two new HBO series hit it out of the park in their first year, Veep and Girls, two shows with female leads.  Recently Adam Carolla stated that women are not funny, but these two shows prove he is mistaken.  Dunham is the creator, writer, director, and star of her show.  While the shows humor can be off-putting to many, Dunham's self-efficacy is on point in her writing.  While Veep is written by men the show is about the first female Vice President, and the awkward moments contribute to one of the funniest political satires on office ever.  4 of the nominees in this category happen to be women as well, proving that throughout the evolution of television of comedy women are getting more opportunities to show how funny they truly can be.

Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series
Community-Remedial Chaos Theory-Chris McKenna 
Community-Basic Lupine Urology-Megan Ganz
Girls-Pilot-Lena Dunham
Modern Family-Little Bo Bleep-Cindy Chupack
Parks and Recreation-The Debate-Amy Poehler 
Veep-Chung-Sean Gray & Armando Iannucci & Will Smith

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