The 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations were announced in the wee hours (of PDT, anyway) this morning, and there were actually some surprises reflecting the ascendancy of new “prestige” television, where cable reigns fully supreme. That is a rare occurrence for an awards ceremony that tends to recognize the same people over and over and over again.
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With a speedy apology following a half-day bloguproar, you can bet that the folks running HBO’s of Game of Thrones totally regret impaling the 43rd president’s head on a spike. Or at least, regret saying it was him on a DVD commentary track. ”We use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can’t afford to have these all made from scratch… so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush,” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said in an apology statement picked up by The Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Goldberg. “We meant no disrespect to the former President and apologize if anything we said or did suggested otherwise.”
Read more at The Atlantic Wire. [Image: HBO]
HBO has a message for the thousands of fans begging to pay for its online streaming service, HBO Go, exclusively. Thanks, but no thanks. We don’t want your money. Even if you’ll just pirate our expensive stuff, otherwise.
Why is HBO turning away hoards of people practically begging the company to take their money … evenmore money than they currently make per subscriber right now? TV is complicated, but let’s make this simple. I’ve got three big reasons why HBO Go won’t go it alone: the price reason, the political reason, and the demographic reason.
Two weeks into the new HBO series Girls, one character has emerged as the most divisive: Marnie, the gorgeous, uptight roommate of the show’s heroine, Hannah. In a discussion about the most recent episode, Slate's L.V. Anderson asked, “Does she have any redeeming qualities?”Vanity Fair's Julie Weiner echoed the sentiment, calling Marnie “a gallerina with overbearing mothering tendencies.”
Marnie is not TV’s first beautiful control freak: She fits squarely into a character type formed by Mad Men's Betty and Sex and the City's Charlotte, two stunning women with deep neuroses. Marnie, Betty, and Charlotte highlight a strange trend in highbrow television: With beauty comes a desire for control—which the character ultimately must lose in humiliating fashion.
Most television characters are physically attractive, of course, andGirls is no exception. But the other women on Girls have qualities that blunt their beauty in some way and make them seem “realer.” Jessa has her ridiculously bohemian outfits and tough attitude; Shoshanna her laughably dated Juicy jumpsuits and tense, eager-to-please smile; and Hannah her well-documented arm and tummy fat. Marnie, however, is basically physically flawless. She has beautiful hair, clear skin, and a long lean frame, and she wears classically fashionable clothes that fit her well. She has no obvious outward flaw to signal to the audience that she’s “just like us.” […]
This combination of beauty and obsessive self-control is toxic. Countless articles and video montages decry Betty’s poor parenting skills,self-pity, and all-around annoyingness. Charlotte didn’t inspire the same amount of vitriol as Betty, but still had her detractors. Over the course of the Sex and the City's six-year run she was dismissed as “dopey,” “prudish,” and “conventional.” After just two episodes, Marnie is getting the same treatment: Good magazine wonders why Hannah would ever be friends with her; Vanity Fair calls her the show’s “most polarizing character.” Even her defenders couch their approval in apology: A male reviewer at Mother Jones says, “I fully understand the kind of guff I’m inviting by reserving praise exclusively for the hot one.”
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It’s weird that the emerging consensus on HBO’s Veep is that it’s unenjoyable because it’s not realistic, and it’s not realistic because it’s too cynical, given that the meme for the last two or 20 years has been that Washington is broken.
The show, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as an unprincipled and powerless vice president was endorsed as quite accurate by Jeff Nussbaum, who served as a speech writer for two vice presidents. Nussbaum told GQ’s Reid Cherlin that Veep hits the mark with its wall-to-wall cussing (including “pencil f—king”), the portrayal of patronizing presidential staff, the terrible advice offered by civilians, the codependency of some aides, and even the sets. And yet, it is wrong, all wrong—at least according to political reporters.
"If the aim of this show is to get viewers to disrespect everybody in elected office, mission accomplished," The Daily Beast’s Eleanor Clift writes. On Slate’s Political Gabfest, David Plotz said, “The West Wing was inaccurate in that it left out all the incompetence, hilarity, vanity, self-obsession, narcissism of American politics, and this show left out all the idealism and attempt to accomplish things in American politics… But as it happens, this is a moment when there isn’t a lot being accomplished in American politics, so maybe it rings more true.” Plotz’s colleague, John Dickerson, reported that, no, it’s worse: “A show that’s so soaked in cynicism about politics as a work of art smacks as lazy.” […]
The West Wing's idealism was more accurate than Veep's cynicism, Macleans' Jaime Weinman says, because “if you look at political gridlock today, and the causes of it, you’ll often find that it’s caused by anincrease in idealism, and more idealistic people working in government. In the U.S., there’s a lot of hand-wringing about gridlock and the inability of government to get anything done, but the reason for that is that ideology is more important than it ever was before.”
Maybe it depends on how you define “before.” The idea that “Washington is broken” is certainly repeated endlessly these days. Take, for example, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake explaining why Sen. Bob Portman’s support among political insiders makes him a bad choice for vice-president. “People really, really dislike politicians,” they write. “They hate Washington. They think politics is broken — maybe irreparably.” Maybe irreparably? Americans sound primed for a cynical show!
Read more at The Atlantic Wire. [Image: HBO]
"If wars were arithmetic, the mathematicians would rule the world."
–Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish
If there’s anything to be learned from the events that led to the country-spanning civil war of Game of Thrones' second season, it's that warfare is not a numbers game. The clash of kings that threatens every life in Westeros came from one fatal hunting trip and one unjustified execution. As Arya Stark says in a Game of Thrones trailer, “anyone can be killed” —and when that “anyone” is a person with power, the consequences are often severe. But if wars aren’t arithmetic, which of the four “kings” stands a chance in the game of thrones?
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Like the first season, this one looks to be a triumph, though (also like the first) it takes a little while to gather velocity. Unlike Martin, who dumps readers in the middle of unfamiliar settings and circumstances and challenges them to keep up, showrunners Benioff and Weiss are more deliberate. Several scenes have been inserted with the apparent intent of reintroducing existing characters—here’s a quick confrontation that tells you what you need to know about Cersei Lannister; here’s another that summarizes the history between Catelyn Stark and Petyr Baelish—presumably on the assumption that there will be a sizable population of new viewers who skipped season one. (If I may pause to offer advice: Don’t be one of them.Start at the beginning like a sensible person.)
Thus far the second season takes greater liberties than the first: some, as above, in the service of clarity; others for the sake of concision (an issue that will loom ever larger); and still others to make explicit an idea that Martin’s books offered only obliquely—the fate of Craster’s sons, for example, or the exact provenance of Melisandre’s shadow assassin. In Martin’s telling, it is unclear whether newcomer Margaery Tyrell is a true innocent or devious schemer; the casting of Natalie Dormer (Anne Boleyn in Showtime’s The Tudors), with her sloe eyes and longitudinal necklines, quickly puts that question to rest, substituting one kind of mystery for another.
However one feels about Benioff and Weiss’s infidelities, though, it is clear that they know what they’re doing. The meticulousness of the show may differ in its particulars from the meticulousness of the novels, but it is unmistakable—in the first-rate dialogue, the sharp segues, the careful sowing of seeds that will bear fruit episodes later. The spirit of Martin’s epic, moreover, is ever in evidence, glinting with malice and irony.
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HBO’s Luck, a drama about the horse racing circuit, has been cancelled in its first season after several horses were hurt and subsequently euthanized on set. According to a statement released by HBO, the third incident occurred when a horse being led back to its stable after filming “reared up, fell backwards and was injured.” The network has denied accusations made by PETA that conditions were unsafe and has asserted that these types of incidents are common when dealing with horses.
Whether or not that’s true, show business remains a dangerous place for animal actors. While poor working and living conditions the most common causes of animal death, an unfortunate few have met their end through brutal police action, self-asphyxiation, and even pre-meditated acts of murder. Here’s a survey of animal stars who lost their lives in remarkable ways:Read more. [Image: National Lampoon]
Cheeseface: The National Lampoon dog
The unlucky dog known as Cheeseface may represent the only case of deliberate assassination in celebrity animal history. Cheeseface became famous when he appeared on the cover of National Lampoon magazine’s 1973 “Death” issue with a gun to his head. Underneath was the caption, “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.” The cover was No. 7 on the American Society of Magazine Editors’ “Top 40 Magazine Covers of the Last 40 Years” list. According to Josh Karp’s National Lampoon biography, A Stupid and Futile Gesture, in 1976 someone tracked down Cheeseface on the farm where he lived and fatally shot him.