There Are No Television Comedies Other Than ‘Modern Family,’ Apparently

So, the 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards were last night, and considering we still have a bad taste in our mouths from our inappropriate drunk uncle Billy Crystal hosting the Oscars, for the most part, they were actually pretty fun to watch. Jimmy Kimmel had some funny bits, Giancarlo Esposito and Aaron Paul hugged it out and made us all verklempt, Lena Dunham ate cake naked and Julia-Louis Dreyfuss and Amy Poehler stole the show with their acceptance speech switcheroo.

In terms of the awards themselves, the recipients were almost painfully predictable, especially in the comedy category. The drama awards were mostly bang-on, as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for the most part avoided the soapy pleasure of Downton Abbey and Don Draper’s steely gaze to actually reward what probably are the two best dramas on TV right now, Homeland and Breaking Bad (Aaron Paul’s Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series award made our hearts happy). And Louis C.K. took home two awards — one the writing on Louie and one for his standup special at the Beacon Theatre.

But in terms of comedy, once again, the Academy chose to throw Louie its one bone—the equivalent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences giving the most envelope-pushing film of the year Best Original Screenplay and then kind of ignoring it the rest of the night—and then choosing to celebrate thoroughly mediocre stuff. In a run similar to the one Frasier made in the mid-‘90s, for the past three Emmy cycles now, Modern Family has dominated the comedy categories to the point where even better stuff from the banal, laugh track-y, Chuck Lorre school of TV comedy was ignored (come on, as eye-roll-worthy as The Big Bang Theory can be sometimes, seeing Mayim Bialik win an Emmy, especially as the show’s saving grace that is Amy Farrah Fowler, åwould have been golden). All four of Modern Family’s big winners—Outstanding Supporting Actress Julie Bowen, Outstanding Supporting Actor Eric Stonestreet (convinced that there is one dude voting in the Academy who is just still totally super shocked that a straight dude can play a preening gay man even though this is 2012, y’all), Director Steven Levitan and the show for Outstanding Comedy Series — are repeat wins, with the show itself and Levitan earning them back-to-back-to-back. This year, the rest of the show’s adult cast members were nominated for acting awards.

I like Modern Family. It’s cute. Ty Burrell and Sofia Vergara are eternally fun to watch. I usually walk away from it not hating myself. My whole family watches it (cross-demographic appeal!). And granted, the Outstanding Comedy Series pool was a little thin this year—the token Lorre (The Big Bang Theory), two former comedy powerhouses that are still very funny but mostly over-the-hill (30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm), and the two other HBO shows, Girls and Veep, which were long shots anyway. But at a time and place where so many awesome things are happening with television comedy, at a time when a fart and smunny show like Parks & Recreation or something that, love it or hate it, can spark an international conversation like Girls or a show that is so funny and so human like Louie or a show that celebrates its dweebiness so joyfully like Community or a great traditional thirtysomethings-in-the-city sitcom like Happy Endings can all exist, it seems a disservice to let more of the same rack up statue after statue. It seems kind of silly to rant—the Emmys will probably never change and TV comedy is full of niches and Modern Family certainly isn’t the worst thing to happen to television ever. But when the whole run of programming is so totally awesome, it would just kind of be nice seeing the celebration of the awesomeness spread around a bit. At least Leslie Knope won her city council election. Better luck next time, Team Dunphy.

So, to make ourselves feel better about everything, here’s Aaron Paul’s acceptance speech again. 

‘Breaking Bad’’s Giancarlo Esposito Joins ‘Community,’ Internet Explodes

By my extremely specific scientific calculations, "The Internet" as a collective entity has two favorite television shows: Community and Breaking Bad, which it loves to discuss in comment threads from the AV Club to Something Awful and back. You might want to stay away from all of those websites today, as Vulture has just learned that Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito, who played the fearsome Gustavo Fring, will be visiting Greendale for at least one episode. He’ll appear as a business associate of Pierce’s late father, though the exact details are being kept under wraps. For now, commenters must be content with speculating over whether Community show runner Dan Harmon will throw some meta-commentary wrench into the works, as he always does.

For example — In Breaking Bad, Gus ran the Los Pollos Hermanos chicken chain as a front for his meth ring, which has led to this amateur theory from Vulture commenter BIGBERM: "Any chance Gus was the kingpin behind the Chicken Fingers scheme pulled off by the study group? Greendale can’t be too far from a Los Pollos Hermanos franchise, right?" to which NYMAG_FAN responds, "My head just exploded." So yes, this is where we’re going with this, though it really couldn’t happen any other way. Community is currently on indefinite hiatus, but it’s supposed to return sometime this year.

‘Breaking Bad’ 4.01 Recap: The Unkindest Cut

The essence of TV recapping is the worst of movie reviewing: plot summary. This is made even more egregious in the case of TV recaps because the vast majority of people reading recaps have already seen the show. So they don’t actually need the summary (unlike, presumably, people evaluating a reviewed movie for potential personal enjoyment). But summary is the skeleton on which the meat hangs, that being the commentary.

You know one of the best things about the return of Breaking Bad? This season picks up right where the last one left off, to the second. Not Six Months or Six Weeks or Six Minutes Later. Sure, there’s a flashback to the pre-death life of hapless assistant meth chemist Gale, but that just makes his trans-season murder all the more poignant. He was undermining himself from the very beginning, even as he dabbled in Crime Scheming 101 to supplant Walt as the best meth cook. Unfortunately for Gale, Walt has a bit more experience with desperate measures, and he’s vastly more desperate.

You know one of the other best things about the return of Breaking Bad? Giancarlo Esposito as perennially “together” drug kingpin Gus Fring. Esposito’s been stuck in mediocre second-banana roles for so long I’d forgotten what a good actor he can be. Now he’s still a character actor — not that there’s anything wrong with that — but he’s got a great character here. His long, silent scene of meticulously prepping for vengeful mayhem in the lab, while Walt yammers away unanswered, is one of the great recent moments of TV menace. Esposito somehow both underplays and overplays the whole bit. And you pretty much know he’s going to kill the unsuspecting Victor rather than Walt or Jesse, after that tiny red herring from Mike asking repeatedly if Victor was observed at the scene of Gale’s murder. Still a savage, prolonged, and generally gross killing via box cutter, given more depth by Walt’s repulsion and Jesse’s surprising fascination with the act. Gus made his point, feels like.

I surely hope Denny’s paid for some product placement in that post-corpse-cleanup scene. I doubt Kenny Rogers’ estate paid for his likeness to be on Jesse & Walt’s truck-stop t-shirts, but it was a flattering inclusion nonetheless. So, on to this week’s photo finish.

image MOST EVIL: Main man Gus, right? The man takes no chances — none — so you can tell what he hates most about dealing with Walt is the exposure. If and when he can get rid of Walt without destroying his meth operation, one assumes he will “cut loose” even more.

image GETTING EVIL: Jesse Pinkman, formerly so distraught about being forced to murder the innocent Gale, seems quite taken with Gus butchering Victor before his eyes. So much so that he’s able to chow down at Denny’s with nary a grimace. Nihilism’s good for the appetite.

image SECOND THOUGHTS: Mike is a practical henchman, and Breaking Bad found another traditionally typecast thug-actor (Jonathan Banks) to play him. Not much seems to faze ol’ Mike, as he’s seen it all and done most of it himself. But even though he had to know Victor was doomed (he would have been the one to tell Gus about Victor getting spotted at the crime scene), Mike was still taken aback by the Box Cutter Incident. He even instinctively pulled his gun, which one hopes he could argue was done as backup for the boss, rather than a negative comment on the disciplinary procedure at hand. One still can’t imagine him ever taking Walt’s side versus Gus, but who knows which side will end up looking most reasonable by season’s end.

image BEST ANGLE: I admit to LOLing at the bloody mop/ketchup fries transition, but let’s keep it classy. Tracking Gus from below as his stride rings out on the catwalk in the lab? The dude even walks scary.
‘Breaking Bad’ 4.02 Recap: House Party ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.03 Recap: There Is No Spoon ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.04 Recap: Ear Apparent ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.05 Recap: Oh My God Shut Up Walt ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.06 Recap: A Challenger Appears ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.07 Recap: The 13th Step ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.08 Recap: The Brothers McMeth ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.09 Recap: Ultimate Meth Chemist Fighting Championship ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.10 Recap: Shots by the Pool ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.11 Recap: Bad Trip ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.12 Recap: Do It ‘Breaking Bad’ 4.13 Recap: Doing Quite Well