‘House Of Cards’ And ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Progress To Differing Second Seasons

Orange Is The New Black

Fundamentally, House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black don’t have much in common. Besides the fact that they’re both the stalwart first drama series for Netflix and have gained some critical notoriety in some aspects, although one more so and deserving of the other. The first seasons of both shows left me pretty neutral, I wrote before on House Of Cards and how it didn’t really provide anything we haven’t seen done expertly better in other dramas. With Orange Is The New Black I enjoyed it much more than “Cards” because it offered something new and provided a new perspective on what we expect from these sorts of dramas.

For me House Of Cards was really just a continuation one everything the first season did so mediocrely. Just a continuation of Frank Underwood getting his way, and slowly but surely seeing all his plans come together until he’s to become president. It’s comfort food drama at it’s best, hitting all the same beats you would expect. A surprise death or two, the lead character in a seemingly unescapable predicament that he finds his way out of, last minute twists, betrayals and all that. Which is all fine and good, but it just doesn’t seem to care about trying something new, knowing full well that staying in this path is just fine for what they want to accomplish. The performances are good and help cover up the lacking other parts of the show.

Orange Is The New Black on the other hand operates on a multitude of levels that help develop and push the show in different directions. The show is mainly quarantined just within the prison, but it really causes no problems in thinking of inventive storylines and happenings. Along with this they expertly focus on one character an episode and flashing back to how they found themselves in prison, allowing a break from the prison locals and letting us out into the world. The strength of the show is no doubt in the colourful character of all different shapes, sizes, backgrounds and motives, creating odd relationships and different combinations to play off of.

House Of Cards was the perfect launch show for Netflix, had a bankable star, an engaging enough premise and a broad reach for who’d enjoy it, guaranteeing it at least moderate success at the commercial level. Orange Is The New Black came along and pushed things a little further, being a bit of an unsafe choice, one that doesn’t follow all the rules and allows for some freedom coming on the tails of the brand maker of House Of Cards. The second seasons of both shows cemented these differing statuses for each, and for good or bad, we get a look at what’s to come for the foreseeable few years as these show top a new era in TV popularity.

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65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Wrap-Up

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Welp, the Emmys were something that happened last night, and oh, boy, were they terrible. I’m talking like worst I’ve ever seen. Bit after bit fell dead, and even while NPH was his usual charming, affable self, he didn’t do much to elevate the dead material. I usually quite enjoy the opening video or whatever excuse they use to plod out a bunch of celebs and lampoon the hit shows, but that was not to be seen. Instead, we watch NPH binge-watch a bunch of TV, and then the ghosts of Emmy hosting past came out, with Conan O’Brien literally looking like a ghost. We got some NPH dancing finally late, but then they gave over way too much time to the choreography category to give them a bit. Which is fine, I guess, but in the grand scheme of things it echoed a larger problem with the show in time management and allocation of things that ran too long, and stuff that could’ve been easily cut. I thought it was an alright idea to single out some of the bigger deaths of the year and have a close friend talk about them, but then some seemed so disconnected from the show and following a weird ‘60s theme that nobody was aware they were doing. A tribute to the 1960s by Carrie Underwood? Alright. Elton John singing one of his own songs (I think) as a tribute to Liberace, just because his bio-pic was nominated? Alright. There was just some weird, weird decisions that never worked individually or even in any sort of whole. Hey, now, on to the actual awards…

Man, what the hell happened here? There were surprises galore, and people I had written of to having no chance of winning, were walking out of the building with a new trophy. I’m terrible at predicting the Emmys, but even this year was an extra special disaster zone for me. Merritt Wever won, which was like whoa, I love her and all, she’s so, so great, but I never thought anybody would win something for last season of Nurse Jackie. Tony Hale and JLD won for Veep, which is awesome because that show is great, but I didn’t think JLD would actually win her fourth and Tony Hale like whoa. Jim Parsons won and well, yeah, even that wasn’t gonna change this year. Jeff Daniels now has a Emmy for best lead actor in a drama and hahaha, but what exactly is happening here? Now, Daniels is alright in The Newsroom, he’s good for what it is, but doesn’t hold a candle to the mainstays of Cranston, Lewis, Hamm and even Spacey. This pretty much assures that Jon Hamm will be the Steve Carell of the best actor drama category, never winning the awards for something he deserved so many times over. Bobby Cannavale now has an Emmy as well, and I did quite enjoy him on “Boardwalk,” but didn’t think he’d actually win. A well-deserved and yet again surprising win. Anna Gunn won, which I happily called, and now all the top three leads have at least one Emmy, with a fantastic chance to win another one next year. Claire Danes won, and water is also wet. Modern Family of course wasn’t going to get shut out all the way, Steve Levitan sauntered up the stage to deliver his annual acceptance speech for best comedy, and yeah. Best drama, running high off it being the most buzzworthy show now, Breaking Bad took home the title, and I of course thought there was a good chance, but thought a House Of Cards, Mad Men, or even the shaky season of Homeland would still beat it out. It’s going to be very hard to beat Breaking Bad next year, in basically all the dramatic categories, but there’s still a year left, let’s see what shakes out and hopefully we’re left with a better overall show next year. I can dream.

65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Predictions

NPH 2013 Emmys

Alright, so the Emmys are tonight, and I’ve been pretty sparse on this here blog, which I’m trying to change, so let’s predict some Emmy winners! I’ll pick two, the one who I THINK is going to win, and the one who DESERVES to win.

Also, I should say that I’m uniformly pretty terrible at predicting awards show winners, and this year is especially tricky where I could see things going either way and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least with whoever wins. This is also a clever little fallback disclaimer that I can rely on when come Sunday night all my picks are wrong. Let’s do this.

Outstanding Drama Series:

This is a prime example where I could see it going multiple ways and not being surprised. Mad Men was a king crusher until Homeland came along and won last year. Mad Men’s as good as its ever been and I wouldn’t be surprised if it won. Homeland won last year for a terrific season of TV, but season 2 was pretty lackluster in spots and a definite step down, but, hey, sometimes the academy is dumb and just votes on name. Breaking Bad is what everybody’s obsessing over now, its never won one of these, but its got that acting category on lock. It’s good as well, and deserving, so, maybe. The new kid on the block, House Of Cards was pretty much tailored to win Emmys, and it’s alright, but not deserving, but again, it’s the type of show that the academy LOVES. Game Of Thrones was good too, but still a little too out of the Emmy wheelhouse to actually win. So, yeah, I’m gonna say House Of Cards wins, while I personally would give it to Mad Men to win. It could go so many ways, though.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series:

I’ll come right out and say that Kevin Spacey wins this, and I feel semi-pretty good in that. He’s got the name recognition, everybody loves him and he was pretty good. Most deserving? I’d say Damian Lewis, a lot was demanded out of him in season 2 of Homeland and how he was able to flip the script and shift into different modes and sides of Brody was some awe-inspiring work.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series:

Claire Danes deserves it and wins it on Sunday. No real competition here, she was fantastic yet again. Robin Wright was good, if never given much to do, and I guess Elisabeth Moss is the next threat, but, nah, Danes got this thing. If I had my way though, Connie Britton would win, because I love her more than most of my family members, and she’s awesome and everything positive should go her way. Connie 4 lyfe.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series:

I think Peter Dinklage wins this thing again, but Mandy Patinkin is the most deserving. Dinklage is great, and although not as good in this last season of GoT, I still think he gets it again. Patinkin is arguably the best part of Homeland and he’s just fantastic. Plus, that fedora and beard. The man knows old man chic.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series:

I’m going to say Anna Gunn wins this, but I’m not really that confident in it. Nobody else really jumps out at me, even while I enjoy every single nominees work on their show. I don’t even know who’s most deserving, so, hey, Emmys, just make it a six-way tie. Emmys for everybody.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

We all know Louie should and deserves to win this thang, but that just ain’t gonna happen, because we live in a cruel and unjust world. So, say hello to The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family winning. Modern Family is not a good show, but it was slightly better this year. I’ve stopped watching The Big Bang Theory for awhile now, but people tell me it’s on kind of an uptick and doing good things, so it wins tomorrow. You guys can all wear your totally awesome BAZINGA! shirts in celebration. You know you want to.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series:

Do you think Alec Baldwin is gonna win this thing for the 395th time? I don’t know, but I think there’s something in his contract that even now with 30 Rock off the air, he’ll continue to be nominated into eternity, a forever reminding cloud that makes you question your life just so, because what kind of world would it be if Alec Baldwin had to cease being nominated in this category. What kind of world I ask of you. Anyways, Jim Parsons wins, but Louis C.K. is most deserving.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series:

Strong candidates abound and I love them all, except one. I’ll let you figure out which one that is. JLD ain’t gonna win this again, though I love her so. I don’t think they give it to Tina Fey even though it’s her swan song. No on Dunham and Falco. So, Amy Poehler wins and Laura Dern is so, so deserving of it. Writing this just reminded that Enlightened is gone, and I’m so sad now, guyz. You should watch it if you haven’t, it’s such a beautifully poignant, sad, funny and uplifting show. Please, someone give Mike White another show.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series:

Ty Burell wins this, and yeah, I think he deserves it. I absolutely loved Burell in the first seaon of MF, but just got tired of his schtick. I’ve come around, it is what it is, I love Ty Burell, he’s funny, so give him the Emmy.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series:

Sadly, I think Sofia Vergara wins this. I can’t stand her because the show only derives two outlets of comedy from her, her nationality, and how hot she is (I’d argue against her perceived attractiveness, but, hey, that’s just me a sane straight male). Jane Krakowski deserves this to the world’s end, because she’s been my favourite thing about 30 Rock since it began. She is so great, I can’t even function how good she was on that show and never gets any recognition for it. Krakowski 4 lyfe.

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie:

I’ve only seen a couple of these, but knowing things I’d say Behind The Candelabra wins and deserves it.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or Movie:

Emmys just can’t wait to give Michael Douglas an Emmy. Wins and deserves.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or Movie:

Again, the Emmys love their old, distinguished and creditable thespians (am I using that word right?). Jessica Lange wins, and deserves because the only other one in the category I’ve seen was Laura Linney in The Big C, and no, just no.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or Movie:

I’m gonna say the American Horror Story love doesn’t leave Lange, so Scott Bakula continues the “Candelabra” love. I don’t know, maybe the Emmys might really love Zachary Quinto. Who knows.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Miniseries Or Movie:

Man, I have no clue. I think Political Animals was bad, I don’t know, I didn’t watch it. So, lets say Ellen Burstyn wins because she’s an OG and just great and kinda looks like all of our grandmothers. Sarah Paulson was cool and had commitment for days in AHS, so maybe she pulls the rug out.

Outstanding Variety Series:

The Daily Show, are you even kidding with other nominees? It’s the don mega of variety series. Which is, like, the most broad category ever.

Outstanding Reality – Competition Program:

Where’s Big Brother? Hahaha, I’m a jokester, but seriously I don’t watch any of this. The Amazing Race had the crown for awhile, until Top Chef screwed it up a few years back. I don’t really care, but we’ll say Phil Keoghan and company retain the award. I haven’t watched it since, like, Reichen and Chip just totally Jordan/Pippen’ed the entire show.

Let’s keep going, because why not, I have nothing better to do on a Saturday night

Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series:

You’ve gotta be dreaming if you think David Fincher doesn’t win this. An A-list director directs one of the most anticipated and Emmy bait shows of the past year? Get outta here. I think my girl Michelle MacLaren deserves this, though.

Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series:

“New Year’s Eve” is such a beautiful piece of television that C.K.’s gotta win. I’d like to think that the academy has started to turn even more towards C.K. after last year, and less towards the perennials of Modern Family and Glee and such. They probably haven’t, but I’m gonna stick with C.K. winning.

Outstanding Directing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special:

Steven Soderbergh is the boss and he wins this. Hahaha, you actually thought dude was retiring to paint?

Outstanding Directing For A Variety Series:

Man, I don’t know. None of these have real unique directing styles except for Portlandia. Maybe, it wins because of this. But, lets just give it to The Daily Show because they haven’t won enough. I don’t know.

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series:

I was going to say that one of those Breaking Bad episodes was gonna win, but I completely forgot about “Q&A,” because I’m an idiot, with it being a jaw agape hour of television written by the late and forever great Henry Bromell. He’s gotta win.

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series:

Louie, Louie, Louieeeee. And Pamela Adlon. They’ve got this in the bag, with a decidedly weird and inventive episode.

Outstanding Writing For A Miniseries, Movie, Or A Dramatic Special:

Behind The Candelabra, please come and accept another award.

Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series:

The Daily Show, please come and accept another award.

Outstanding Choreography:

What? You think we’re not gonna talk about choreography? Of course we are. Some would argue that it is the most important category, and I cast myself as chief among them. Some would also say that I always forget how many goddamn Emmys categories there are, and I’m just reading these off the Wikipedia page. That could also be true. Good thing I also always forget that the Creative Arts Emmys are a thing, as well. Anyways, my girl cousins like that So You Think You Can Dance show, so one of its four nominees wins. Let’s say the “Sonya Tayeh” one wins, sounds like a cool enough name.

So, I hope this was all informative. No real need to watch the Emmys now I guess, sorry for the spoilers, but whatever, watch Breaking Bad instead or the sure to be cracking Dexter series finale. All the props to you if you read this far, but I think my own eyes glossed over this thing about halfway through. Happy Emmys watching, I’m gonna go watch some hockey.

‘House Of Cards’: Season 1 Review

'House Of Cards' Banner

We’re only talking about House Of Cards because of its method of delivery. It’s a slightly below average show that is only getting large press because of it’s revolutionary mode of having the entire first season available at one time on the streaming service Netflix. Well, there’s the Kevin Spacey and David Fincher draw as well, but even big stars like that get washed over after awhile. That’s the thing though, Netflix knew they needed to play it safe, having a show with equal draw to all demographic as their first foray into original television. House Of Cards is a straight-down the middle show, not too controversial to appeal to all, but with some racy elements to satisfy the “cable” drama type viewers, everybody likes political intrigue and behind-the-door dealings, and like I said earlier, has the draw of Spacey and Fincher with a great actor and an auteur with his own stylistic flourishes. Hemlock Grove is too niche and genre to start out with and altough Arrested Development has devoted fans, it’s too segregated to start out of the gate with it. House Of Cards is perfect because it’s just so average, not terrible, but no “Sopranos,” ‘Breaking Bad,’ or ‘The Shield.’ either, it’s just there.

On a more base content level, ‘House Of Cards’ is like ‘Entourage.’ Yes, that HBO “comedy” series of a few months back with a couple good seasons at the start, and some godawful ones that killed its early success. More specifically, Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood is exactly like Adrian Grenier’s Vinny Chase in that aforementioned show. At the start of any given episode or season of ‘Entourage’ Vinny and his crew might be faced with getting fired from a movie, or getting into money troubles or with the law, but rest assured these problems or obstacles agains the main character aren’t faced for long, by the end of the episode or season, everything is neatly and easily tied up, and Vinny remains on top of the world with no problems. This is how House Of Cards treats Frank Underwood, he might get down for the better part of an episode, but always comes out on top, unscathed and better than everybody else. Nothing drags him down for an extended period of time. Whether it’s troubles with an eduction bill and its opponents, his handling of Peter Russo or his maneuvering into a possible Vice-Presidency slot, he never faces obstacles that have everlasting repercussions. It’s hard to get behind or invest yourself in a character or show when the dramatic tension and events are always skewed towards the main characters’ victories, and by sticking to this plan it ruins surprises or twists, or in actuality makes them non-existent as the end result can be clearly seen as choreographed to Underwood’s end.

Whereas it was hard for me to fully understand the characertization of Underwood and how he was being manipulated to an easy end by the writers, Corey Stoll’s character Peter Russo who was running for Governor of Pennsylvania became  my favourite character and best storyline of the entire show. Russo was a flawed as a drug addict and alcoholic, but who at his heart was a good man who wanted change for his constituents, and after getting clean was well on the way towards his goals. Of course, Underwood was behind the scenes pulling the strings and ultimately led to his death, both physically and strategically. Russo worked as a character and storyline because there was always a tinge of uncertainty, whether it be with his addictions, his family and significant other relationships, his dealing as a political leader and connections to the larger world of politics. Nothing was set in stone with Russo, and unlike Underwood who you could always see the directions of his moves, Russo could go either way, and it was understandable within the show and believable for him either way to fall back or spring forward. Corey Stoll did fantastic work in his limited run, and I’m concerned for the show going forward that its best element of the season and one which was the most consistent is by and large gone.

I enjoy Robin Wright as an actor, and she was largely good in this, but was hardly  given anything of great heft to do, and was subsequently left hanging around the sidelines. I’d love for her to take a step forward in the next season and get an actual, you know, storyline where she can stretch her legs (figuratively and literally would be nice……) and maybe become an antagonistic force to her husband or others, as it seemed the way they pushed her slightly in the first season. Her relationship with her husband is interesting in their love for each other running alongside a equal parallel of distance and separation between the two. Broadening this out into a storyline or a catalyst for a motivation on her end towards her husband, with lasting ramifications would do wonders to separate herself and give her some room to operate. I’m a fan of Kate Mara as well, she’s a decent actor and fine to look at, and although that’s what we got to start the show, she became more and more a problem and nuisance as the season went on. At first she was a main component of the show, forcing her way up the newspaper ranks, beginning a sexual relationship with Underwood in exchange for scoops that she used to further herself. Unfortuantely, this fizzled into nothing, and her character had little to no bearing on the events of the close of the season. Usually these storylines would dovetail with the larger goings-on, but nothing fell from it that was worth any weigh at all. She just remained on the fringes and further drifting away from the centre of the show. It seems like she’s being set up to further dig into Underwood’s administration now that they are at odds, it could be fun, who knows, all I do is that they should’ve killed her off instead of Russo.

House Of Cards is just there, it doesn’t really push anything forwards too much and is nothing we haven’t seen in a thousand other shows. It just has an inside edge and advantage, not because of its content, but because how we were exposed to it and supposed to view it. These outside factors shouldn’t affect how we understand the show, view and criticize it, but unfortunately in some circles it seems like it has. It has the potential to be a great show as long it doesn’t wallow in the storylines and easy decisions that will guarantee viewers, but never pushing into anything worthy of thinking about or reading into beyond entertainment and escape. I think they could do it, but I really doubt they want to.