Ah, the Emmys. As a TV fanatic, there’s no greater high than seeing your favorite show’s name among the elite list of programs recognized each year by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences voters.
Those gold statuettes have long served as industry benchmarks indicating that the countless time spent by talented writers, producers, cast and crew to craft hours of television programming for viewer enjoyment did indeed get noticed. For the more than 350 scripted shows currently airing on television and streaming and the fans who wave the flag for them, the Emmys are everything…but are they?
The Emmys make you feel somehow validated that your emotional investment, energy and – let’s be beyond truthful – insatiable obsession have been well placed. I know I’ve used that rationale to my husband a time or two to justify the TV watching habits in our household. I digress.
…until your favorite show is snubbed. And then they mean nothing. Nada. Jack squat.
- The superhero team of Ronald D. Moore and Diana Gabaldon.
You can’t start a “best of” list about Outlander without first acknowledging the brain-child(ren) behind it. Without Diana, there would be no Outlander, and without Ron, there would be no Outlander. See what I did there? As Diana has aptly pointed out, there are elements of storytelling you can only achieve in print AND those that can only be brought to life in new ways via the lens of a camera. We’ve all experienced hokey book-to-screen adaptations. But thanks to Diana’s rich literary world (can we go ahead and put her brain on our list of national treasures?) and Ron’s talent and commitment to envisioning Outlander for the screen with complete respect and authenticity, we’re rewarded with 16 hours of some of the best scripted programming that has aired in years. This dynamic duo sets the bar high for how producers should consult with and include authors in the development process when adapting material. Let’s get Terry Dresbach to fashion them some capes.
- The unprecedented chemistry of Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe.
Let me admit that I was late to the Outlander craze by the standards of most. At the urging of a friend, I binge watched the first half of the season the week before the second half premiered and also delved head-first into the books. All this to say, when I watched the first episode I had no idea where the story was headed or what character I was supposed to invest in… and then the camera stopped on Claire and Jamie. Message received. Holy spark, Batman. In that first episode, we only get about 10 minutes of shared screen time between Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, and that’s all I needed.
I’ve never seen two actors exude more on-screen chemistry, and I’ve watched a lot of TV. They blur the lines between reality and scripted, and I’m fairly certain it’s not on purpose – it’s that genuine. To the point where you almost feel like you’re invading their privacy by watching, yet refuse to look away. No matter if it’s flirting, fighting, making up (ahem, looking at you “The Reckoning”), suffering or just knowingly glaring in silence – they’re that good. And that cool (please see photo above). And you want to be friends with them. I know I do!
- The magical thespian unicorn that is Tobias Menzies.
For a man that spent a year and a half battling split personality disorder to achieve the brilliant portrayal of two very different characters, the man absolutely gets his own section. I’ve never before been so petrified and, at the same time, intrigued by a fictional character, and I know many can say the same. “Wentworth Prison” and “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” went ahead and locked up that distinction. But his scenes with Caitriona in “The Garrison Commander” are what sold me on Tobias Menzies’ unreal talent as a performer. Go back and watch him retelling with twisted endearment his flogging of Jamie, and then best of luck sleeping. And yet I’m somehow able to be taken in by the intellectual charm and subdued arrogance of Frank Randall and separate that from images of Black Jack Randall. To be clear, all three lead actors warrant gold statues, but – and let me duck your pelting of things at my head when I say this – Tobias Menzies’ snub of a nomination was the real shocker.
- The little band of merry (wo)men that could.
When you have leads as dynamic as Caitriona, Sam and Tobias, it’s hard to imagine running the blessed risk of your supporting cast stealing the show. And yet in more than one instance, the ridiculously talented Duncan Lacroix (Murtaugh), Graham McTavish (Dougal), Grant O’Rourke (Rupert), Stephen Walters (Angus) and Laura Donnelly (Jenny) do. And there are so many more (Willie, you’re precious!). Remember earlier when I mentioned the liberties screen adaptions can take? Thankfully for us, this is one. The supporting characters – who weren’t as prominent in the books – are given more opportunity to show just how loyal, integral and funny (grinding your corn?! Seriously funny!) Jamie and Claire’s band of merry men (and woman!) are when brought along for the ride.
- I believe everything I see on TV, especially when it’s Outlander.
Marriage can be rainbows and puppies and confetti and Skittles. It can also be pointless power struggles, misunderstandings, suffering and mundane everyday life. And Outlander’s Jamie and Claire capture that all for us in utterly convincing ways. It would have been so easy to lock us in with the usual typecasts – damsel in distress, strapping hero saves the day from the menacing villain and they ride off into the sunset on a white horse. Sure, we saw a few variations of that. But mostly we saw two people working damn hard to carve out a relationship – a marriage – from nothing and the trials and tribulations that come with that.
Because in between every gazed-upon-in-replay moment of “The Wedding” (don’t worry, that warrants its OWN blog post), we’re reminded that marriage also comes with knock-down, drag-out fights like those by the river in “The Reckoning.” (note: one of Sam Heughan’s best scenes: “I went in with nothing but my two bare hands… you’re tearing my heart out, Claire!”). It’s how you both acknowledge fault, learn from mistakes and compromise toward forgiveness that show the real grit and balance of marriage. Thanks for the timeless reminders, Claire and Jamie. We ALL need them.