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House, M.D. and Hugh Laurie: The Emmy Submissions Game

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Well, the Emmy award nominations were announced last week. Hugh Laurie and his drama series House, M.D. have again been nominated in their respective categories (Best Dramatic Actor and Drama Series). Other than that, House came up dry, scoring only a sound mixing nomination for "House Divided" (which was totally deserved). No writing or acting nominations, and no nominations for any of the supporting or guest cast, which is unfortunate. I would have thought that "Simple Explanation," "Locked In" or one of the finale episodes had a chance. But I was wrong. Again.

Thanks to all 420-something of you who voted in last week's poll to suggest the six episodes David Shore and company should submit for the final Emmy voting. (Readers selected up to six episodes, which is why the numbers don't add up to 100%.)

You selected great episodes: "Birthmarks" (56%), "Joy" (48%), "Unfaithful" (32%), "Social Contract" (36%), "Locked In" (39%), "Simple Explanation" (30%), "House Divided" (36%), "Under My Skin" (58%), and "Both Sides Now" (61%).  Other episodes also go votes, but there was a steep dropoff after "Simple Explanation." They all showcase what makes House unique among network offerings: great, snappy writing, a compelling story to tell, and wonderful performances, especially that of the brilliant Hugh Laurie. (But more about him later.)

Now think good thoughts, and hope that David Shore and company happen upon this humble space to read your intelligent suggestions. The series is overdue, but the competition is very… well, competitive. House and Lost (on ABC) are the only two network nominees in a sea of cable dramas, including Mad Men (AMC), Dexter (Showtime), Damages (FX), Breaking Bad (AMC), and HBO's Big Love.

The House "powers that be" (TPTB) cannot submit a whole season of episodes for the Emmy panel to judge, and although nearly everyone (at least in the Emmy community) would have at least heard of the show, not all would have necessarily seen more than an episode or two. They would have heard the standard hype: it's a medical CSI, featuring a crabby, sarcastic doctor who says and does outrageous things and gets away with it because he's a genius. But you all know that's not the whole story, or even half of it. So, the series producers will have to select their best and most representative episodes carefully. They can submit six. The six episodes are submitted in three pairings; the episode pairs are then randomly distributed to the Emmy panels for consideration.

So. Which six to choose, and how to pair them? If TPTB submit "Under My Skin" and "Both Sides Now" so they are seen together that could be an effective combination. Or how about "House Divided" with "Both Sides Now," if I wanted to give voters the "whole effect" of House's emotional collapse. On the other hand, maybe pairing two different types of episodes would work better, say, "Birthmarks" (which is a "road trip" with some nice comedy, good character development, and some serious exploration of House's psyche) with "House Divided," which had some hysterically funny bits, but was very, very dark, atmospheric—much darker than "Birthmarks." Neither of them are straight-up formula episodes.

I might also pair "Locked In" with "Both Sides Now." "Locked In" is really the start of House's decline, and would lead nicely into "Both Sides Now." Both follow the formula, but are not trapped by it, and have a lot of good character drama, fantastic writing and performances.

"Joy" and "Under My Skin" would work well together, because they, too are bookends of a sort, playing on the dynamic between House, Cuddy, and Wilson. What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below!

Now to the genius of Hugh Laurie. Why that man has yet to win an Emmy is simply beyond comprehension. He's received nominations in all years the series has been on except one (a highly criticized oversight). Unlike the series, Laurie can only pick one episode. But which one? It's not a formal poll, but write your choice in the comments section — and why. I'll tabulate in a week or so. It's a nearly impossible task. But I have faith.

My pick? I wouldn't want to bias you, now would I?  Okay. Fine. Toss up: "House Divided" or "Under My Skin." Brilliant, subtle acting at its absolute finest. "House Divided" had much more humor and the definite advantage of House doing some cool stunt juggling. It was one of those episodes where Laurie could make you laugh and cry in the same scene. But either episode would do nicely.

Special Announcement: Coming soon (in about two weeks, or so):  the "Welcome to the End of the Thought Process" Trivia Contest. Yes, you read it right, folks. Contest. With prizes—several of them. (And maybe even a grand prize, but I'm still working on that one.) So stay tuned, tell your friends, and stop back frequently.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her debut novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse comes out October 11 from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Anon

    Hugh Laurie is a great actor. Deserved an Emmy a long time ago.

  • Barbara S Barnett

    could not agree more!

  • sdemar

    Fingers crossed again for Hugh and House.

    For Hugh’s choice, I think I would go with UMS. I also think Birthmarks would be another one I would pick for him.

    As far as the show, I like your combination picks: Birthmarks and House Divided or Joy with UMS.

    I wonder who Hugh uses to help him make his choice? Would be interesting to know.

    I thought last year Hugh and the show had a wonderful opportunity to win and was sadly disappointed. Let’s hope this is their year.

    On a side note, I am disappointed that RSL or LE didn’t get a nod along with any of the writers.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Pedantic

    The episode Hugh Laurie should submit is “Under My Skin” because it best shows House’s decline and desperation. If he wins, it will be because of the detox scenes.

    The tougher call is which episodes for the show to submit. Any of several episodes could be paired with “Under My Skin” and work. Though it didn’t make your poll, I’d consider “The Softer Side”, to demonstrate the extent (and limit) of House’s desire to change. “Both Sides Now” MUST be included, but it works best with “Under My Skin” for both of them to make story sense. “House Divided” MUST also be included, and it would work with “Under My Skin” or “Both Sides Now”, but better with “Under My Skin”. “Birthmarks” and “The Social Contract” make the most sense together for the House/Wilson dynamic.

    It’s unfortunate that the show is limited to submitting three sets of two episodes each. I guess some shows may even take that into consideration with the writing and order of episodes. Thinking outside that box for this season, a trio of “House Divided”, “Under My Skin” and “Both Sides Now” would give Emmy voters what they need. Similarly, a trio of “Birthmarks”, “The Softer Side” and “The Social Contract” would highlight the talents of both Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard.

  • Kate

    I definitely think “Under My Skin” should be Hugh’s choice. He encompassed so may emotions in that one to a point where you really felt his fear, pain and pleasure.

    I think “House” may have a tough time, so it will detrimental to select only the best, most outstanding episodes that show creativity and range. I need to think more on my pairings, but I do know what episodes had an impact on me this season as a viewer.

    As far as the Emmys are concerned, I was disappointed but not surprised that Lisa E. did not get a nod. I thought she had a remarkable season and was really hoping that she’d at least earn a nomination.

  • Barbara S Barnett

    Thanks for your comments. The only problem I would see is pairing Two House/wilson episodes together. Whoever gets those will only see that dynamic. Birthmarks is really backstory about them, and Social Contract, while a fantastic episode (and shows us a glimpse into House’s feelings about things), I think that the pairings need to show more variation. UMS and BSN work well together not only because they are intended to be together, but they have a lot of variety. So many good choices!

  • Barbara S Barnett

    As far as HL’s submission. Under my Skin was sensational. A whole range of emotion–and that detox scene. I liked House divided because of his interaction with the delusions and his complete change of heart at the end. It was an amazing transformation.

  • Orange450

    To your statement: “They would have heard the standard hype: it’s a medical CSI, featuring a crabby, sarcastic doctor who says and does outrageous things and gets away with it because he’s a genius.”

    It occured to me that so much of what blows all of us in the House fandom away is about the depths of emotion and humanity that HL can convey without saying a word, using only his remarkably expressive body language and facial expressions. Forget “the outrageous things he says and does” – he can act rings around most actors by just standing still with a specific expression on his face.

    Maybe the submitted episodes should be those which showcase this uncommon ability of his. Because I feel certain that he stands alone in this category. And it would take the focus off the “crabby, sarcastic” aspects.

    There’s no question in my mind that if there were an Emmy for “Best Eyes”, HL would win it.

  • Barbara S Barnett

    Orange–totally agree with you. What I liked especially in “House Divided” was the swings between almost euphoric that he can tap into his subconsious and the planning of Chase’s party. And his terror at her presence, especially at the end of the episode. And his admission to Cuddy at the end about not sleeping. He was already beginning to crumble. By Under My Skin, Hosue was already having so much going on internally, that the humor wasn’t as much there. HL’s physical comedy was so great in HD, so the voters get to see both sides (so to speak) of his performance. the light and the dark. In BSN, despite the crash, he was pretty obnoxious to Cuddy. If this is the one shot voters get to judge his performance, it’s not the best.

    That’s why I said it was a toss up between HD and BSN. I think HD has a slight (very) edge.

  • GMF

    I think I also have to go with “Under my Skin”. Hugh was just amazing in that episode. The sheer look of horror in the restaurant when Amber appeared, still gives me the chills. Another episode I thought he was amazing in was “The Softer Side”, again we saw a different side of House, and again so many ranges of emotion.
    For the show as a whole, I would go with, Under my Skin, Both Sides Now, Locked In, Birthmarks, Joy, and Simple Explanation.

  • Jaim

    I think Hugh should pick either Last Resort or Birthmarks. Each showcases his character’s underlying motivations/issues as well as his relationships with his friends and team. Although Last Resort wasn’t a favorite episode of mine, Hugh did do a great job of capturing a wide range of emotions for House to experience.Birthmarks really showcased Hugh’s ability at comedy and drama fueled performances. His interactions with RSL were some of the best of the season.

  • Magda

    My favourite is Birthmarks. It’s just so… so… House!

  • Lucy

    I also think Hugh should pick Under my skin. I agree with Barbara that probably Hugh shows more range in House Divided, but perhaps his performance in UMS (especially the detoxing scene) could have a bigger impact on the voting panel.
    But I wonder why nobody includes Both Sides Now in their list? I though Hugh’s performance was really breathtaking in the final scenes. 🙂

  • Barbara S Barnett

    There were so many “wow” episodes this season. Lots and lots of drama and lots of great acting. Any of those episodes would be good choices.

    It’s not nec. a matter of what the episode tells us about the character; it’s about the sheer acting of the thing. Birhtmarks was great, but didn’t have as much “wow” to the acting as any of the final episodes.

    Even in Simple Explanation, with House really suffering (and silently), was a great performance. but was less “wow.” I thought Hugh portrayed House’s under-the surface agony perfect. It was gut-wrenching. Under My Skin was a “wow” episode; the final scenes of “Both Sides Now” were also “wow” moments. HD and UMS were the most bravura of this year’s crop of HL performances. Either will do. I just liked that HD showed the comedy and physical comedy sides to Hugh’s acting tool box. UMS was a bravura performace. Lots of drama and lots of range. HD was just more in the range game–if that’s what the Emmy people look for (which I’ve given up trying to understand!)

  • Visitkarte

    I think Hugh will be best advised to choose “Under My Skin”. His acting skills couldn’t be better, the emotional range between happiness and utter horror (Amber singing in the bar) was just fantastic, and his detox-scene was almost a teaching place for junior high school. It couldn’t have been better if they showed a real detox from Mr. XY. The scene, where he apologises for prescribing the antibiotics… He touched my heart with it, too.

    I know, his funny and all-round abilities are better showed in “House Divided”. BUT: He never won EMMY before, and they must have seen more than enough from his all-round-genius there. So, he should go for it and choose “Under My Skin”.

    He’d better win this time!

  • blacktop

    In my judgment, Hugh Laurie would do fine with a submission of either “Under My Skin,” “Joy,” or “Unfaithful.” In each of these excellent episodes, House is shown in a broad variety of moods and temperaments. He wields his fierce sarcasm to wound and deflect. But we also get more than a glimpse of the tremendous depths of House’s confused feelings and hopes for a “normal” life free of pain and comforted by love.

    My hope is that some day we will get the dynamite extended speech that bares House’s true soul to another human being, an explosion of words unencumbered by the usual layers of witty armor and humorous deflection.

    House unleashed, raw, and pushed to articulate rather than pantomime his emotions will be the “wow” scene I am looking for. I think that this yet-to-be-delivered scene will be the one that finally wins Hugh the Emmy.

  • Flo

    I already said it on my last comment of the last topic but I say it again the system of vote sucks big time!
    (Two actresses of “Grey’s Anatomy” in the same category but nothing for Edelstein, no writing or directing nominations, are you kidding me????) Again, outrageous!

    A nomination should not be based on a PR campaign or on just one viewing of one or two episodes. Talent and quality should prevail. The voters should be well briefed on the shows. They should be explained what each show is about and then watch episodes.

    I personally think that “A House Divided” is a great episode to show the extent of Laurie’s talent. There’s comedy and drama. The bathroom scene is great. You really can see all the many-sided, extraordinary talent of Hugh Laurie in this one.

    For the Emmys though, “Under My Skin” is a better choice because of the detox scene. It is a more impressive scene (not in term of talent but in the drama, it’s a climax). So I think to win a prize it is a more judicious choice.

    Anyway he better win this time!

  • Barbara S Barnett

    Blacktop–it would be fabulous to get that emotional payoff for us (and the catharsis for House). We get only bits of it when it simply becomes too much for him to continue arguing (Detox — the “of course I’ve changed” speech). The despair underlying his initial speech to Rebecca Adler in the Pilot. Bits and pieces, but he always regains his control in time to deflect.

    Under intense psychiatric care early next season, we just might get that explosive scene.

  • Val

    Everyone seems to be in agreement that “Under My Skin” would be the best submission, and I will just jump on that wagon! House was in midst of his collapse and what Laurie managed to show with all his chops was amazing. I feel like we saw a man at a very vulnurable, yet strong and hopeful moment and Laurie portrayed it brilliantly. Now it just has to not be a delusion.

    I though I read