2020 SAG Awards Viewing Guide: Part 2 – Television Drama Awards

PART 2: TELEVISION DRAMA

Not that you shouldn’t watch all the performances, but it’s difficult, at best, to find the time. As a rule, I don’t sleep, so…here are my observations of the nominated performances.

Here’s the biggest problem: we don’t give out Supporting awards…only Lead. What’s the big deal, you say? Well, in drama alone it means we get no:

  • Meryl Streep or Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies),
  • J.K. Simmons (Counterpart)
  • Josh O’Connor, Tobias Menzies or Jason Watkins (The Crown),
  • Maisie Williams, Gwendoline Christie or Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones),
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Reese Witherspoon or Mark Duplass (The Morning Show),
  • Rami Malek, Cristian Slater, Carly Chaikin or BD Wong  (Mr. Robot),
  • Cillian Murphy, Paul Anderson or Helen McRory (Peaky Blinders),
  • Billy Porter (Pose),
  • A stretch, but how about Douglas Henshall or Alison O’Donnell (Shetland)?
  • Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin or Jeremy Strong (Succession).

Would it be so terrible to combine Drama, Comedy and Limited Series in to two Supporting awards, like the Golden Globes do? But whatever…it is what it is.


Women

Some day we’ll recognize the amazing work of “Peaky Blinders”, Helen McRory. Ah well…


Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show”)

The show is really quite good. Incredibly over-the-top in its heightened emotional scene-work…none more so than pretty much every scene Ms. Ansiton is in. But her work  – along with Carrell and Crudup – prevents you from looking away at the car crash that is this group of characters. However, more than the other shows represented, she shares almost all her bluster and emotion with Witherspoon or Carrell’s characters…so she is ever-so-slightly penalized for it…coming in a close second in my vote.


Helena Bonham Carter (“The Crown”)

Ms. Carter is fantastic as Princess Margaret, especially in the two episodes that revolve around her. I’ve heard many complain that she chews a little too much scenery, but I never found any of it to occur without a firm grip on the realities of the script and the history. That said, it IS a supporting performance.


Olivia Colman (“The Crown”)

As I wrote in my review…this was an odd season for QEII. Only one or two episodes actually revolve around the Queen in this third season. On top of that, there simply isn’t as much of emotional heavy-lifting required by this Queen (as opposed to Ms. Foy’s). Bizarre, I know. But true. As a result, it’s hard to see her as the best of the best…even if she is brilliant at what IS asked of her. All that said, when working opposite Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles, she is extraordinary. Easily the best moments of the season.


Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”) (…she gets my vote)

I love, love, love Ms. Comer in this show. And the second season had a very hard time recapturing the excitement and burning sensuality of the first. Instead it became a more typical season-long procedural. And, in the not-quite-as-good second season, she is absolutely the star – and the reason its new direction is at all watchable. Her swings from boredom, to rage, to blood-lust are simply brilliant, as are her many assassin personas (I don’t think I’ll forget the pig scene ever). For these reasons, I’m voting for her. It’s close, but it’s hers.


Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)

The show sort of lost me at Fenway Park at the start of the second season. That said, if this bleakest of all bleak shows is still watchable, it is mostly due to Ms. Moss. I just don’t think it is. Still watchable, that is.


Men

Two words. “Peaky Blinders”. Two more words. Billy Porter. But here are the actual nominees…


Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”)

Here’s what I wrote last year…and the year before:
“Well, you’ve all seen it. He’s going to win. What can I add? He’s always great, and especially so here in one of the more difficult series to watch. I have avoided it for as long as possible, since the promos for the show DRIVE ME NUTS! Let ME decide if it’s the “most important episode yet”! Oy vey.”  The only difference is that I DON’T think he’s a lock to win. Mr. Carrell, Mr. Crudup, or, especially, Mr. Harbour could all beat him.


Steve Carell (“The Morning Show”)

I don’t think he gives the best male performance in the show. I’d give that to Mr. Duplass. If we had a supporting category, I would put him there (as I would Crudup). However, he really is sensational in it. His opening scene alone is worthy of an award. Also, of the nominees, his emotional journey is perhaps the most fraught with danger.


Billy Crudup (“The Morning Show”)

Even more of a supporting role than Carrell, Crudup may give the most delicious (and my favorite) performance of the year. Every time he is on screen, you get very excited. But the role engenders almost no emotional exploration…only that of a mad scientist wielding puppet strings (how’s that for mixing your metaphors?).


Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”)

OMG, “Thrones” is SO last decade! But seriously, this was not Dinklage’s best season. No, it belonged to Coster-Waldau on the men’s side.


David Harbour (“Stranger Things”) (he gets my vote – but barely)

So…I was never a huge fan of Harbour in the first two seasons. But in this MUCH improved season, we get an actual three-dimensional character…concerned, fallible, hilarious and oh, so real…all while never slipping out of the 1980’s world that was brutally missing from season two. Yeah…based on these choices, I’m giving him my vote, even if I secretly hope Crudup wins.


Ensemble

Well, hallelujah…no “This Is Us” this year. But, alas, no “Peaky Blinders” or ensemble nod for “The Morning Show”.


“Big Little Lies” (HBO)

Well…it has a lot of great actors and some terrific acting. So there’s that. But, like “Killing Eve”, the second season just wasn’t as strong or captivating in its writing or overall direction. As a result it just felt less than.


“The Crown” (Netflix) (this gets my vote)

Not as much of a slam dunk as in the past, yet very much deserving of a nomination (and the win), season three of “The Crown” is filled with all kinds of brilliant performances. In addition to the main players, there is brilliant work from Jason Watkins (P.M. Harold Wilson), Marion Bailey (the Queen Mother), Erin Doherty (the bizarre, but amazing Princess Anne), Ben Daniels (Lord Snowdon), Charles Dance (Lord Mountbatten) and single episode magic from Harry Treadaway (Roddy Llewellyn), Mark Lewis Jones (Welsh professor, Edward Millward), and Emerald Fennell (Camilla Shand).


“Game of Thrones” (HBO)

See my summation of Mr. Dinklage above. It would be quite fitting to give them the statuette as a thank you for a decade of fine work (and finally recognizing Vladimir “Night King” Furdik). I just think we’ve moved on.


“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)

So, just because I have lost interest in the show doesn’t mean the performers aren’t universally sensational. Ann Dowd, Yvonne Strahovski, Joseph Fiennes, Bradley Whitford and, especially, Samira Wiley and Alexis Bledel – among many – return with total commitment. But new cast members Christopher Meloni and Elizabeth Reaser bring new unease to the third season.


“Stranger Things” (Netflix)

Again, the third season is SO much better than the second and that’s mostly down to much better writing. All the usual suspects return, and all are better. But the best new addition is Ethan and Uma’s daughter, the terrific Maya Hawke. Irreverent, intelligent and magnetic, I’d watch a series based on her character alone. But as much as I appreciate the growth of the writing and the cast, ‘The Crown” just has too many good actors to ignore.


Next up: Comedy Awards…

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