Bill Pullman’s No-Miracle Day

I don’t want to bore people by going off on another awards-season rant here, but today I am gritting my teeth with rage over the Hollywood Foreign Press Association‘s announcement of its Golden Globe nominations — specifically, the failure to acknowledge the splendid job Bill Pullman did playing Oswald Danes in the Starz miniseries TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY. When I was watching the 10-part British/American co-production this summer, I was certain that Pullman would vacuum up all the awards for his shattering work. But I was wrong, and I’m pretty upset about it.

It’s gotta be something against genre shows, right? I mean, sure, GAME OF THRONES was thrown a bone, and AMERICAN HORROR STORY snagged a nod for Jessica Lange, but what about FRINGE? Or SyFy’s late, lamented CAPRICA or STARGATE UNIVERSE? Does the HFPA have something against British hybrid shows? DOCTOR WHO and THE HOUR were also blanked in the acting categories. (Have any of the HFPA seen Matt Smith‘s Doctor?) But all of those slights pale in comparison to the insult to Pullman.

Pullman’s role was complex and incredibly challenging; basically the story demanded that the disgusting Oswald — who was in the process of being executed for molesting and murdering children when Death took a holiday — be made relatable if not downright sympathetic. That’s a tall order, but the scripts — and especially Pullman — were up to the task. Pullman did it not by trying to turn Oswald into a victim himself, but by finding the basic human dignity inside the character. Oswald never pretended he was innocent, and remained a leering, self-satisfied creep right up until his final act of murder/suicide/world-saving. All series long, Pullman showed us how Oswald wrestled with the truth that he was monster who not only should be dead, he deserved to die. And all that time he yearned for release from his self-torment, he was denied. Which was probably worse than death.

Pullman the actor made Oswald the character relatable as a human being by demonstrating what Oswald could have been something more had he not taken the dark path. He had the sharp brain and charisma to be a great leader. Pullman’s big speech about angels was a powerhouse performance, and viewers could watch Pullman’s face as Oswald actually managed to convince himself that he might be worth saving after all. Of course that didn’t last long, and Oswald returned to his criminal mindset. In fact, it was Oswald’s embrace of his sins that enabled him to resist the power of the Blessing long enough to do what had to be done. And, although we all know that on TV the bad guy always gets what he deserves, Pullman made me wish for him to hang around with the Torchwood survivors long enough for another adventure before the inevitable.

BTW, I also really really enjoyed Lauren Ambrose‘s performance as grinning PR leech Jilly Kitzinger. I initially hated her, but Ambrose won me over with Jilly’s odd exuberance for her job — or, more precisely, her paycheck — which compelled her to take on the devil as a client. She was smart and sassy and stood up to Capt. Jack (John Barrowman). She also followed her superiors’ orders — no matter where they sent her — no matter how creepy the commands.

Methinks Pullman could have used Jilly’s services making his case with the HFPA. Oh, well, there’s always the Emmys, right?

The lucky winners will be named at the 69th Annual Golden Globes ceremony on Jan. 15, 2012.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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