Category Archives: emmy awards

James Gandolfini Dead at 51

Actor James Gandolfini died today in Italy from a massive heart attack, he was 51. The three time Lead Actor in a Drama Emmy winner was best known for playing bipolar modern gangster and family man Tony Soprano in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” He was also a producer, and a star of stage and screen, besides his television work.

I first became aware of the man when he played a very evil piece of work in Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance. His menacing presence made him perfect for the complex character of Tony Soprano in my opinion.

“The Sopranos” first entered my wheelhouse during its second season. I had written a still unpublished novel with hyper-violent overtones. Two beta-readers told me I needed a balance between the violence and the drama of everyday life, and both, separately suggested that I had to see “The Sopranos” so I could see how it’s supposed to be done. I got HBO, and was blown away. I quickly caught up, and was addicted to the show until its end.

Most of the reason the show was so successful was Gandolfini’s talent and presence. If we did not believe Gandolfini as Tony, the show falls apart. He was the show in many ways.

The man was perhaps the best lead in perhaps the best show ever made for TV.   It is so sad to lose such a talent so young. Who knows what might have been in his future. James Gandolfini will be missed.

Advertisements

House of Cards

I’m about a month late to the party on this one, but there’s still time for the rest of us. This fabulous Netflix exclusive TV series starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and Kate Mara, is probably the best thing I’ve seen outside of pay cable in a while. And that’s probably the coolest thing about it – it’s not cable at all – it’s only available on Netflix. Welcome to the future.

“House of Cards” is based on the book(s) by Michael Dobbs, and the BBC miniseries that followed by Andrew Davies. Originally set in British Parliament, show developer and producer Beau Willimon adapted the concept to Washington DC and the US Capitol for American viewers. Spacey is an ambitious Congressman manipulating his way to the top with almost demonic precision and sly fourth wall breaking asides to the viewers at home. There are Emmy caliber performances by all involved, but I wonder if it will be eligible for the Emmys?

Netflix, observing viewing habits and trying to keep ahead or at least abreast of cutting edge technology, has gone into the entertainment business, creating their own shows. Seeing that many folks will watch an entire series at once, sometimes a season at a time – a practice called ‘stripping,’ Netflix created shows meant to adapt to that. In that spirit, the entire first season of “House of Cards” was released all at once on February 1st.

The compelling characters, I tense stories, and terrific performances will keep you coming back episode after episode. It also has the likes of David Fincher, James Foley, and Joel Schumacher in the director’s chair.  This is a series worthy of HBO, Showtime, or AMC, yeah, it’s that good. I highly recommend it. I just don’t know what I’ll be doing until season two comes out…

RIP Bonnie Franklin

The first time I watched “One Day at a Time,” I didn’t get it. Maybe it was because it was a more female focused show, or maybe because its themes were just a little bit above my head. It was a different kind of Norman Lear show.

Bonnie Franklin, former Tony Award winning Broadway star played the divorced mom raising her two teenaged daughters alone with occasional help from her building’s super. It later got and held my attention a couple years later when my hormones refocused on a budding Valerie Bertinelli as one of the daughters.

“One Day at a Time” had a tumultuous nine year run filled with behind the scenes turmoil, but Bonnie Franklin stood tall through it all, winning multiple awards including the Emmy and the Golden Globe. Her portrayal of a single mom was a pioneering role of the time. Since then she has appeared rarely on television, her most recent gig was in an episode of Betty White’s “Hot in Cleveland.”

Bonnie Franklin passed away this afternoon at her home in Los Angeles from complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 69. She will be missed.

RIP Jack Klugman

Award winning star of stage, screen, and television, Jack Klugman, passed away Christmas Eve in his home, surrounded by his family, apparently of natural causes. Born in Philadelphia, he was 90.

Jack Klugman was probably most well known in the role of Oscar Madison, the sloppy sports writer from TV’s “The Odd Couple,” in which he played opposite Tony Randall as the fussy photographer, Felix Unger. The sitcom ran for five years on ABC from 1970 to 1975, based on the movie, and the Broadway play by Neil Simon. While never having spectacular ratings, it found fame in summer reruns and syndication. As a kid growing up in the 1970s, “The Odd Couple” was a fixture in my Friday night TV programming.

Later in the decade, Klugman moved to NBC with the serious police/doctor procedural, “Quincy M.E.” With a coroner as the protagonist, Klugman had said once, it was the best of both dramatic prime time worlds. In the sixties, he also appeared in four episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” including “A Game of Pool” and “A Passage for Trumpet,” two considered classics.

Before, and after his television days, Klugman was in more than a few films, most notably he was Juror #5 in 12 Angry Men. He also performed on stage throughout his career, even more than a few times in The Odd Couple. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1974, and in 1989 lost one of his vocal cords to it, yet he continued to act, albeit in a much quieter huskier voice.

Jack Klugman was a terrific actor, and he will be missed.

Homeland

I’m a latecomer to this show. I tried watching it during its first season and just couldn’t get into it. My mom-in-law was enjoying it, so I gave it another shot, this time, getting through two episodes, and not digging it because I found t too predictable.

Then Emmy time came around just before the start of the second season of “Homeland.” The show was a big winner, and I had friends who were surprised I wasn’t watching, saying it was right in my television wheelhouse. I relented, and watched the whole first season streaming in about a week.

I was wrong. It’s really only predictable for about four episodes, after that I was irrevocably hooked. The second season has been as just as good as the first, something I wasn’t sure it could keep up.

There are problems however. The first was something I thought only I was seeing, but as a recent “Saturday Night Live” sketch brought to light, Claire Danes’ overacting and crazy unblinking eyes when having an anxiety attack skate the thin line between reality and over the top almost to the point of laughing out loud. Her crazy face jumps the shark every time she makes it.

Brody’s daughter is the current equivalent of the daughter in “24,” where you have to ask, why do we care? It’s subplot just for the sake of subplot, rather than efficient storytelling. These last two points make me wonder if we’ll get a third season despite how amazing everything else on the show is.

Time will tell. Despite what I’ve said, I’m glued to my TV every Sunday night.

Marvin Hamlisch 1944-2012

Celebrated composer Marvin Hamlisch passed away yesterday after a brief but undisclosed illness. He was a star of stage and screen, and won multiple awards, among them – Grammys, Emmys, Oscars, a Tony and a Pulitzer. He was 68.

Hamlisch was perhaps one of the most famous American composers, having created scores for many movies, TV specials and Broadway shows. He was conductor of multiple orchestras across the nation.

His most famous works include A Chorus Line, The Goodbye Girl, The Sting, Take the Money and Run, The Spy Who Loved Me, Ice Castles, Sophie’s Choice, and The Way We Were.

Ernest Borgnine 1917-2012

Ernest Borgnine passed away yesterday at the ripe old age of 95, from kidney failure.

I grew up with him in “McHale’s Navy,” but some of the younger folks might know him from “Airwolf” or surprisingly (at least to me) “Spongebob Squarepants.” Besides those roles, Borgnine also acted in dozens of television shows in his six decade career, including an Emmy nomination for his role in the last couple episodes of “ER” when he was 92.

Borgnine was also a stage star, and because his television credits are so dominant, many folks forget what a legendary screen actor he was. He won the Oscar for his role in 1955’s Marty, and was outstanding in many other films like From Here to Eternity, The Dirty Dozen, Willard, The Devil’s Rain, The Poseidon Adventure and even Harlan Ellison’s infamous The Oscar.

I recently saw the man interviewed on TCM. He was as boisterous and lively as he had ever been, happy to tell tales of the old days and more recent times, a happy library of the industry. We have lost one of the great actors of Hollywood.

RIP Richard Dawson

Television and film actor, singer and Emmy-winning game show host Richard Dawson passed away last night due to complications of esophageal cancer. He was 79.

Besides appearing in numerous television shows, including a six-year run on “Hogan’s Heroes,” Dawson is probably best known as the host of “Family Feud,” where his friendly attitude toward the ladies resulted in what is estimated 20,000 kisses. Dawson eventually even married one of the female contestants.

Besides “Feud,” he was also a frequent panelist on “Match Game,” and his most infamous film role was his last in 1987 as the evil game show host Killian in The Running Man. We have lost one of television’s most beloved entertainers.

Mike Wallace Dead at 93

Over the weekend one of television’s pioneers passed away. Multiple award-winning journalist, TV host, and media personality Mike Wallace is dead at the age of 93 from natural causes.

While best known as a correspondent on the long-running news program “60 Minutes,” Mike Wallace has worn numerous and varied other hats such as narrator on the “Green Hornet” and “Sky King” radio series, game show host, actor (under the name name Myron Wallace, although he played himself in one of my favorite films, A Face in the Crowd), and he also hosted several other news shows before landing “60 Minutes.”

Wallace had semi-retired in 2006, but appeared throughout 2008. He garnered at least twenty Emmy Awards, had written two autobiographies, and was perhaps the last of the real television journalists (just my opinion). We have lost one of the greats.

Bookmark and Share

The Death of the Soap Opera?

“One Life to Live,” after an over forty-year run on ABC-TV, ended last week. That leaves only four traditional daytime soap operas still on the air in 2012. Among the survivors is “General Hospital,” the only one of its ilk that I followed regularly for a time. I discount “Dark Shadows” as I only vaguely remember it when it was on, and mostly watched it in rerun on local Channel 48 and SyFy when it was just starting out.

The award-winning “One Life to Live” was part of the ABC daytime soap opera programming shared universe of Agnes Nixon, of which “General Hospital” is currently the only survivor. “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless” on CBS and “Days of our Lives” on NBC are the other three. On a sidenote, I gotta ask – am I the only one who thought “The Doctors” was still the soap opera of the same name? Weird. “OLTL” had some highlights in its run, Emmys aplenty, groundbreaking storylines dealing with rape and drugs, and even some time traveling a la “Dark Shadows,” exciting stuff.

“One Life to Live” also actually had some fun with its last days. Residents of the fictional city of Llanview watched on their sets the final episode of an equally fictional TV soap created by Agnes Nixon, who was interviewed. Angels abounded, played by cast members whose characters who had died. There’s even a cliffhanger, and a broken fourth wall, good stuff. But now it’s over, with some characters moving on to “General Hospital,” and the time slot filled by “The Revolution,” another boring health and lifestyle show.

Anyway it seems the soap opera is dead as a television genre, but is it? It may be well on its way out as a genre unto itself, but let’s face it, everything is soap opera now. I have always said that soap opera is at the core of comic books (any serial fiction really) and that as wrestling is the bastard stepchild of comics, soap opera and comics are the bastard stepchildren of mythology – but that’s another story.

Soap opera as storytelling is everywhere, and I’m not just talking about prime time dramas either. The concept of main story with several subplots underlying that soon become the new main story in an unending cycle is how television works now. There’s no more status quo, where the whole world resets when the credits of a given TV show roll. The characters evolve and change as time goes by.

That’s soap opera, and even if the TV series we normally think of when we think of the term are gone, soap opera still lives, in every other television series.

Bookmark and Share