Monday, May 21, 2018
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Sorting through TV award categories creates its own drama


The biggest surprise at Wednesday’s unveiling of the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees? No question: the nomination of Jessica Lange, of American Horror Story, for best performance by a female actor in a drama series.


The biggest surprise at Wednesday’s unveiling of the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees?

No question: the nomination of Jessica Lange, of American Horror Story, for best performance by a female actor in a drama series.

It’s no surprise that Lange got nominated for her turn as sadistic Sister Jude in AHS; scenery chewing on that scale is highly prized in Hollywood.

What’s surprising is that she’s nominated in a drama-series category: The show’s creators and the FX network have been drilling it into our heads that American Horror Story isn’t a drama series — it’s a miniseries.

At least, it is since the producers and network decided so, around Emmy nominations time in the summer. Before that, the show competed as a drama series at the previous SAG Awards, and at January’s Golden Globe Awards. (Golden Globe nominees will be announced Thursday morning — keep an eye out for whether Lange gets a nom as a drama-series or miniseries actress).

Switching categories in the middle of trophy show season resulted in Lange winning an Emmy for best supporting actress in a miniseries — the only glam-category Emmy win of AHS in September. Ever since, the producers and FX have continued to refer to AHS as a miniseries. Apparently, they did not impress SAG.

“They submitted in drama series [competition] last year,” SAG Awards producer Kathy Connell said. “We weren’t going to turn around and move them to miniseries.” She noted that Lange won the SAG Award in January for best performance by a female actor in a drama series. SAG said it’s delighted that Lange is nominated there again.

That excitement aside, Showtime’s Homeland, ignored by SAG last year, got nods for leads Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, plus a nom for best drama series ensemble. Those three noms put Homeland in company with PBS’s Downton Abbey, HBO’s Game Change and Boardwalk Empire, AMC’s Breaking Bad and NBC’s 30 Rock.

The ABC comedy Modern Family led the TV field with four nominations, including for actors Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet, and Sofia Vergara, as well as an ensemble comedy nomination.

HBO scored the most nominations of any network with 10, including acting nods to Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, and Woody Harrelson for the John McCain-and-Sarah Palin chronicle of the 2008 presidential election, Game Change, which only seems as though it aired three years ago; it actually aired in 2012 — which is the period of eligibility for the upcoming SAG Awards.

Also in HBO’s tally: Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen were each nominated for the network’s Hemingway & Gellhorn movie, which received less-than-favorable reviews from many critics. Steve Buscemi scored another nom for his role as a mobster on Boardwalk Empire, and Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom sneaked in just one nod, for star Jeff Daniels.

Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith received the most SAG nominations, with four. SAG singled her out for her performances in both Downton and the feature film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; she’s also listed in Downton and Marigold’s ensemble-cast nominations.

Right behind Smith was Bryan Cranston with three nods, including actor and ensemble noms for Breaking Bad, and one as a member of the cast of the feature film Argo.

The SAG Awards air Jan. 27 on TBS and TNT.

AMC has finally found its Hell on Wheels show runner, and the mid-19th-century drama about building the country’s first transcontinental railroad will get a third-season order, after all.

Throw your mind back to late October, back when AMC announced that it had picked up Hell on Wheels for a third, 10-episode season.

The network may have omitted mention of the show’s creators/exec producers, Joe and Tony Gayton, whose contracts were not renewed (although they would continue to get “consultant” credit). But, as they say in the biz, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs. And, anyway, show exec producer/show runner John Shiban, who’d been with HoW since its start, was on board to keep the show humming along.

Until, that is, three days later, when Shiban announced that he would not return to the show.

Shiban had informed the network and show producers that he was “fully on board”and admitted he’d been “thrilled” with the pickup but had “since made the difficult decision that the time has come for me to leave.” AMC also said, “like all of our shows, network pickups are always conditioned on an approved show runner,” as if it meant it to sting.

And there we were, until Wednesday, when AMC announced that John Wirth (V, Fallen Skies, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) had been crowned Hell show runner and that the 10-episode third season order had been un-derailed.

Many nice things were said about Wirth on Wednesday. AMC said it was “pleased to have such an accomplished show runner”; one of the production companies behind the show went even further, describing Wirth as “an incredible talent who will drive our roaring series.” And they all lived happily ever after.

Or did they?


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