The Weekend Playlist: Emmys, Shakespeare, Showtime Finales
Michael Douglas | Photo Credits: Claudette Barius/HBO
Who'll win at this year's Emmys? Who knows? It's the only major awards show where the old guard and new blood clash on an annual basis, and among the few things you can bet on in this unpredictable process are that Michael Douglas will win for his Liberace impersonation (ditto his HBO movie Behind the Candelabra) and that host Neil Patrick Harris will do his damnedest to make CBS's live Emmys telecast (8/7c, 5 Pacific) as enjoyable as the Tonys.
The celebration of all things TV will include an expanded "In Memorium" tribute with celebrity testimonials, an homage to Liberace featuring an Elton John performance, and 50th-year remembrances of TV's coverage of the JFK assassination and, on a happier cultural-milestone note, the Beatles' breakthrough on The Ed Sullivan Show (with Carrie Underwood performing songs of the era).
The main event, though, is the awards, and while I am duty bound to make my own predictions (a full list of my and other experts' picks, including those of TV Guide Magazine President/Editor-in-Chief Debra Birnbaum, can be found on goldderby.com), here's a quick take on some of my preferences:
Drama: It's Breaking Bad's time (though Game of Thrones had quite a year).
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THE FRIDAY GUIDE: The play's the thing, even if the timing (in the teeth of the new fall season) leaves much to be desired. For the next four Fridays, PBS's Great Performances lives up to its billing with a spectacular and dazzlingly acted mega-miniseries titled The Hollow Crown (check tvguide.com listings), comprising four of Shakespeare's history plays that form a progression from this week's Richard II (starring Ben Whishaw as the foppish, doomed monarch) through the two parts of Henry IV and culminating with the epic Henry V on Oct. 11, with Tom Hiddleston maturing from the callow Prince Hal to the warrior king in the final three movies. Sounds dry? It's anything but, enlivening the classic texts with rich cinematic production values and starry casting, including in the first play alone Patrick Stewart, David Morrissey, David Suchet, The Following's James Purefoy and rising star Rory Kinnear as the banished Bolingbroke — who will become Henry IV (played in later years and installments by Jeremy Irons).
A rare Hallmark Channel movie that merits comparison with the good old Hall of Fame days, The Watsons Go to Birmingham (8/7c), based on an award-winning children's book, is an earnest but effective family drama set against the tumultuous backdrop of the civil rights movement. The versatile Anika Noni Rose and The Wire's Wood Harris are Michigan parents who take their kids — including a teenage delinquent and the wide-eyed brother, who acts as narrator — on a road trip in the volatile summer of 1963 south to Alabama, where they experience a changing world first-hand.