The Emmy Awards, which took place early last week, are television’s answer to the Oscars. Traditionally, television has been an ugly sister to the glamour of “true Hollywood”; the small screen populated by those who failed at life’s bigger dreams. Over the last decade, though, this hierarchy has chipped away. Anyone that needed proof that television is the reigning queen of recession-era Hollywood only had to watch last week’s awards.
One of the biggest honours of the night went to Kate Winslet for her portrayal of Mildred Pierce. Maggie Smith received one for Downton Abbey and Martin Scorsese won for his direction of an episode of Broadwalk Empire. Also up for awards: Tina Fey, Laura Linney (both lost to a dark horse, Mike & Molly’s Melissa McCarthy), Steve Buscemi, Hugh Laurie… the list of matinee idols is practically limitless. No one in movies these past years has captured this thinking woman’s imagination quite like Mad Men‘s Don Draper or her ambition quite like Patty Hewes in Damages.
I mourned, similarly, when they cancelled The Chicago Code in its prime back in May. My misery was only compounded by another telly geek’s solace: at least it wasn’t as good as Firefly! Which is, sadly, all too true. Firefly, Joss Whedon’s masterpiece, was cruelly canned just as it was graduating from quirky to brilliant. It was a fate his next show, Dollhouse, would share, though even Whedon himself could never match the lost stardust of Firefly. Yes, it really was that good. I have, I concede, a tendency to make things all about Whedon, so let’s steer this post back to the Emmys, shall we? My point was that they mark the onset of the fall season on American television, and this last week has seen new shows and new episodes of old favourites trickle back after a wretchedly dreary summer season. After months of reruns, there is finally new television worth watching. Or, well, not so much.
As someone starved for new entertainment (despite my vampire-love, True Blood leaves me cold) I took to the early premieres with great enthusiasm. I watched new episodes of Glee (turgid as ever) and Grey’s Anatomy (hysterical as ever, except, an abortion! On primetime! Cristina is the last feminist standing on the show, ever since they made Calliope a mommy). I watched my beloved Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar, transformed into a soap star worthy of a K-serial. It was not, shall we say, a happy week. As I write this post, I am contemplating the desperation of revisiting Gossip Girl. The only bright spot of the entire week was the new season of The Good Wife, for which Julianna Marguiles won the Emmy for best actress in a drama series, beating out the likes of Kathy Bates and Elisabeth Moss.
For those of you who live under rocks, or think television is mostly for depressed slobs, I wrote ‘Carrie’s Real Life‘ around this time last year. In it, I extol the wonders of The Good Wife, especially for the post Ally McBeal generation of women lawyers. The show is about a politician’s wife in Chicago, Alicia Florrick, a super-mom turned super-lawyer. It also features the glorious Kalinda Sharma, a cipher whose only function is to be mysterious, kinky, and all around awesome. As I wrote last year, it was worth all the (frankly terrible) legal drama to watch an independent, confident, ambiguous woman in spiky boots share my heritage, however tangentially and plot-tastically.
Last season, sadly, The Good Wife downsized Kalinda, who is now teetering on the precipice of Nearly Normal, from which hell a telly character was never revived. She cried, she had epiphanies, she even acquired a love interest. It was all most disturbing, and almost as bad as the plot. Facing off against a steadily better Alicia, Kalinda looks increasingly pitiful, and we can only hope this season will restore her enigma instead of stripping away more of it. If so, the first episode gave no hint of it, leaving Kalinda to the unholy fate of becoming a caricature of herself. The best moment, as with the last episode of the second season, was the fleeting sex scene between Alicia and her boss. This is a dangerous sign: remember, if you will, how pathetic Ally McBeal got once Robert Downey Jr left the show. When in doubt, the TV trope goes, make someone a mommy. At least with The Good Wife, the writers will have to find a more novel way to beat the trite, which is why I’ll continue to watch it. But then I have the patience of an inept walrus. I can no longer recommend others suffer through it, especially if they truly value their time.
There remain shows that haven’t aired yet, so there is some hope. There is the female version of the Count of Monte Cristo (Revenge); the aviation Mad Men (Pan Am, starring Christina Ricci); the Avatar rip-off (Terra Nova); a whole slew of supernatural dramas. I’m especially looking forward to Once Upon A Time, which brings together House’s Cameron, Big Love’s Margie, and the writers of Lost. I wish you a good season, fellow television nerds, but there was only one Firefly. Alas.