Amazon has been making strides the past two years at the Emmy Awards, mostly on the comedy side. “Transparent” is currently their premiere show, amassing 21 nominations and eight wins including Best Comedy Actor for Jeffrey Tambor (2015-2016) and Best Comedy Directing for Jill Soloway (2015-2016). Now enter Amazon’s newest original series “Z: The Beginning of Everything” starring Christina Ricci as Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, which hopes to join “Transparent” at the Emmys.
The half-hour series details how Zelda met and then married F. Scott Fitzgerald (played by David Hoflin) who would later write “The Great Gatsby.” The story takes place first in the south before moving to New York and focusing on the Jazz Age. The first season details their jealous alcoholic lifestyle as well as their money troubles as Fitzgerald struggles to write his next novel.
The Emmys changed their rules two years ago to classify any 30-minute show as a comedy series, which could give “Z: The Beginning of Everything” an advantage in many of the below-the-line Emmy races because of its period setting. And Ricci’s star power could help her break into the Best Comedy Actress race, even though her performance is not funny. However, the producers are allowed to petition the TV academy to let them into the drama races, if they so wish.
Critical response to the show has been fair, receiving a 70% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 61 score on Metacritic. Most of their criticism is that this season sets up future ones, as it largely focuses on their courtship and her home life. But critics praise the look of the show and Ricci. Here are a trio of raves:
Liz Shannon Miller (Indewire): “Like many Amazon series, ‘Z’ episodes run about half an hour but hit both comedy and drama notes, and it’s enjoyable enough, watching the duo get audacious. Plus, the period elements are executed with charm and aplomb, a testament to Amazon’s financial commitment to the series — seemingly no detail was spared.”
Robert Rorke (New York Post): “As Zelda, Ricci, 36, has her best role in years. She may be a tad too old for the character’s cotillion years, but she fully conveys Zelda’s wanton side as well as her romantic yearning.”
Gwen Ihnat (A.V. Club): “But for Fitzgerald fans, wannabe Fitzgerald fans, or even people who can appreciate a well-done period drama, ‘Z’ has a lot to offer, even as it gives us lots to think about.”
Its best chances heading into the Emmys will be in the below-the-line categories, particularly in Costume Design and Production Design. However, in those two categories it will compete against other period/fantasy programs, which will put it in competition with hour-long dramas like “Outlander” and “The Crown,” only with 30 minutes less to impress.
Like “Transparent,” “Z” could also be formidable in the Best Comedy Directing category. Last year’s winning episode “Man on the Land,” with its intricate flashbacks set during WWII Germany, was hard for any traditional comedy to compete against even though it was not the funniest episode of the nominees.
Even if “Z: The Beginning of Everything” should fail to make its mark at the Emmys there is a silver lining on the horizon: the Golden Globes. The Globes love Amazon, with two of its series winning TV Comedy/Musical and TV Comedy/Musical Actor: “Transparent” and Tambor in 2015 and “Mozart in the Jungle” and Gael Garcia Bernal in 2016. So the show and Ricci might have to wait till next January to get some recognition.
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