Roll out the red carpets, the Emmys are this Sunday. Ho hum. Two months have passed since the nominations were announced and the pain of hearing Outlander *crickets* still feels fresh. For those who missed my first offering on how to cure that Emmy expectation hangover, read here.
Let’s be honest – I talk a big game about how to curb the need for Emmy validation, but found myself right back in the trenches of disappointment after this past weekend’s Creative Arts Emmys saw our beloved Bear McCreary and his songbird wife Raya Yarbrough defeated by House of Cards for Outstanding Original Score. Sixteen intros later and I still get chills when her voice pipes in and the score starts up. How could that not merit an Emmy?
Thanks, Bear – I’ll follow your lead and focus on the positive… which today involves reiterating that that we don’t need no stinkin’ statue to remind us how “outstanding” our little-show-that-could is.
And with that, let’s continue down the path of remedying our Emmy expectation hangover by re-hydrating with a few more reasons why Outlander’s first season was undeniably incredible – gold statue be damned.
The art of becoming Outlander
Historical dramas are a beast to tackle. They’re different than those set in current day because audiences are often more drawn to the costumes and staging than the content itself, so the devil is in the details to strike the right tone of authenticity. In the case of Outlander, the production team has the challenge of transporting viewers to not one, but two very different time periods – sometimes all within the same hour of television.
It’s a tall order and Outlander more than succeeds. I’ll let the work speak for itself. Thanks to Terry Dresbach, Wendy Forbes, Kristyan Mallett and so many others…
Not once does Claire or any other female character don a hairstyle that clearly resembles a 21st century Drybar blowout.
Not once do you doubt that these 18th century Highlanders ever resembled the guy sitting next to you at Starbucks working on his Mac with a grande Americano (I’m thinking herbal tea for Graham).
Not once does this scene come on that your stomach doesn’t churn and you don’t immediately wish for it to be over knowing that we can bear pain ourselves, Jamie, but we canna bear yours. That would take more strength than we have.
I rest my case.
Welcome to Scotland, the land that inspired Outlander
That’s the tagline Scotland’s National Tourism Organization is using to leverage popularity of the show to entice visitors. There’s truth in advertising here, absolutely. Diana Gabaldon drew inspiration from this gorgeous country when she penned Outlander and Ron Moore and team had their own “we’re home” moment when they decided to shoot season one in its entirety in Scotland.
But flip the tagline on its head and I think you get an equally fitting sentiment – “Welcome to Outlander, the show that’s inspiring Scotland.”
We have Outlander’s incredible cinematic eye to thank for that. Sure, the scenery sells itself. But short of hopping a plane to Scotland (it’s on my near-term bucket list), for the reasonable cost of premium or streaming cable access, Outlander is giving millions of viewers – who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity – a ticket to experience a spectacular country and rich culture that hasn’t been this thoroughly explored in popular culture. Every episode feels like a postcard from a dear friend on holiday, and I love that.
Spared No Expense
Remember that signature motto from billionaire visionary John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough) in Jurassic Park? I imagine that might also – the muckety mucks permitting – be Ron D. Moore’s production motto as well, given his notable and successful history of envisioning and bringing to life other worlds from script to screen (Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Carnivàle).
“Wow, spared no expense on that!” is what goes through my mind when certain scenes play out on Outlander. Each episode has the epic, cinematic feel of a full length feature film that’s been condensed into an hour, and that’s no small feat.
Or small budget. The production of season one was reported to hover around $75 million, given its months of on-location filming in Scotland (so worth it, see previous section). That comes out to an average of just over $4.5 million per episode, which in my book is a bargain when you consider Game of Thrones and similar shows with that big budget feel generally run no less than $6 million an episode.
Regardless, it makes ALL the difference – from sweeping views and set designs to costumes to special effects and the quality of post production editing, what we’re left with is a stunningly rich piece of work that, in my opinion, has never been realized for the small screen until now.
Let’s hope the muckety mucks believe the investment is paying off so we can continue to reap the benefits of this visual feast for many seasons to come.
Yes, our heroine gets her own entry on my watch and here’s why…
I’ve a long love affair with television and, on occasion, with the talent who jump through the screen each week endearing me to them and making me invest in their character’s development and story. Based on that, only three actresses in the past 15 years have left me wishing they were my spirit animal. The first, Jennifer Garner’s Sydney Bristow on Alias. The second, Connie Britton’s Tammy Taylor on Friday Night Lights. And then came Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall Fraser.
She is, simply put, sublime.
The casting of Claire had almost unattainable expectations for fans worldwide, and yet Caitriona has surpassed them all with her fierce, unique portrayal of a Claire she’s made her very own. As Claire (and I’ll venture to say, Cait herself!) she’s strong, independent, intelligent and passionate without apology.
The fact that she visually exudes the grace and beauty of an old Hollywood starlet helps – think Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman. But really the fact that Caitriona looks like a real human woman and not a cookie-cutter Barbie adds to her refreshing appeal and the utter authenticity in which she pulls off Claire in both the twentieth and eighteenth centuries.
It’ll be hard for the millions of adoring Outlander fans to ever see Caitriona as any character but Claire, but here’s hoping we have a few years left before we have to brace for that day.
Do you plan to watch Sunday’s telecast or will you cure your Emmy expectation hangover by re-watching Season 1 instead?