Every year I loathe Emmy Nomination Day.
Every year, I get my hopes up that the best work in this golden age of TV will be recognized. I wake up hopeful, charged-up and with my fingers crossed.
Every year, those hopes are dashed when the likes of Boston Legal and Two and a Half Men get nominated over far better shows. Like, from here to the moon far.
This year, however, is the first time in the four years I’ve been writing this blog that I’m actually happy with the nominations. Sure, I’ve got problems with them, but for the first time in about six or seven years, I’m going to reach out and give the Emmy voters a pat on the back for coming up with one of the best lists of nominations I can remember. The long and the short of it is that it’s a good year to like good TV.
In fact, I’m giving the Emmys a reprieve. Normally I’d rock a “good, bad, ugly” gimmick for the blog, but there’s nothing that’s terribly ugly. So this year, it’s “the good, the meh and the bad”:
Hoo-freakin’-ray for Friday Night Lights! Honestly, I feel like lighting off fireworks. I feel like having sex. It’s about gosh-dang time Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton got some mention for being the two of the five or six best actors in the best roles on TV. The only downside is it’s about two years too late — this season so far hasn’t been their best. That would have been last year. But Tami Taylor’s almost-too-real play of a broken-hearted mom trying to console her daughter while at the same time trying to get her back into the real world, and the breaking down of Coach Eric Taylor and his rebuilding process have both been meaty, well-crafted stories that both have brought their A-games to. Problem is, it’s just not their best work. Either way, I can’t even tell you what a joy it was to look at the nominations and see them both there after years of scratching my head wondering why they weren’t included. Sucks that no one else was nominated — Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen should have been nominated for his farewell episode — but I feel like Sisyphus finally getting that effing rock up the hill. At least it’s a start.
The Emmys is often an old boys/girls club. Once you get in, it’s hard to get kicked out, and until you get in it’s really hard to break down that door. So good for the Emmys to recognize the remarkable work that’s been done this year on Glee. Best comedy and best supporting actress for Jane Lynch were givens — but seeing Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele and Chris Colfer (especially Colfer) were huge bonuses and well-deserved, if not surprising. Colfer is an interesting one because he truly fits the definition of supporting actor. As Kurt, every interesting, juicy scene he had was played off another actor. When he came out to his dad, when he was begging for his dad’s attention by dressing like a trucker, when he fought with Finn over room decor — nothing was really built by himself. That’s what supporting actors do, and there are few who did it as well as Colfer this year. It’s just that usually you need to chew up more of the scenery to get noticed in that category. Right, Neil Patrick Harris? I was worried Mike O’Malley as Kurt’s dad would get shut out because he’s not a true member of the cast even though he played an important role in the show, but he snagged a guest Emmy nod.
O’Malley wasn’t the only one. The Emmys cleared up a lot of hairy areas by nominating part-time cast members in the guest categories, like the worthy performances of Alan Cumming on The Good Wife, John Lithgow on Dexter and Robert Morse on Mad Men. Two of the actors in the guest drama category — Ted Danson as Arthur Frobeshere on Damages and Gregory Itzin as President Logan on 24 — were actually nominated for those characters in the supporting categories in prior years. The guest actor drama actually is one of the coolest categories of the year. The guest actress categories only had one such nominee, Lily Tomlin on Damages.
As long as we’re on the topic of Damages, Martin Short getting his nomination is a load off my mind. Of all the potential iffy nominations, I thought his was the most iffy because it was such a different role for him. We’re talking about someone with one of the most recognizable, long-standing SNL characters ever — Ed Grimley. Then there’s Jiminy Glick and Clifford. In 13 episodes of Damages this year, at no point did I even consider making a derogatory “don’t you know” joke at the TV. There wasn’t a more remarkable re-imaging of an actor this year than Short on Damages. It would have been very disappointing if he didn’t get a nomination.
Modern Family was in the same boat as Glee, trying to break into the old boys network. It had less to overcome than Glee did since it was touted as an Emmy contender before it even premiered. It was even overhyped to the point that it was being considered the savior of comedy despite being a rip-off of The Office and the shot-lived Sons and Daughters. (That’s ground we’ve already covered here.) Modern Family didn’t invent comedy as some would have us believe, but it was consistently funny and deserved most of the accolades it received. Smart move by the show too to make sure all of its actors were entered in the supporting categories. Maybe you can say that Ty Burrell (Phil) and Julie Bowen (Claire) actually were leads, but the reason the show worked so well is because every actor on the show seemed to have an equal stake in the action and in the script.
The women of Mad Men finally got their full due — January Jones (Betty) snagged a lead actress nomination, and Elisabeth Moss (Peggy) and Christina Hendicks (Joan) both nailed supporting nominations. It’s the first time in the show’s three years all of them got nominated, even though all of them deserved it the previous two years.
In one of the most egregious Emmy missteps of my lifetime, Andre Braugher only got two nominations and one win for his five years on Homicide: Life on the Street. Ever since then, The Emmys have been trying to make it up to him, and rightfully so. That continued this year when he got pegged for his so-so supporting work on Men of a Certain Age on TNT. I never really bought into Braugher on the show, but I’m glad Emmy voters are still honoring that unwritten rule that Braugher needs to be nominated whenever he’s on a show in reparations for the years of excluding Pembleton from the best actor race. Think I’m kidding? He was not nominated in this particular season:
Others nominees I’m pleasantly surprised at: Sharon Gless for Burn Notice, Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien (but not with Jay Leno) for best variety program, Eric Stonestreet at Cam on Modern Family (probably my favorite new character of the year) and the Jon Hamm double shot for Mad Men and guest starring on 30 Rock.
In this year when people said comedy is finally back, the nomination list for best comedy series seems a little dusty and out of place. Nurse Jackie doesn’t seem like a comedy. 30 Rock was way, way, way off this year, though The Office was only way off. Where’s the new blood of shows that really infused comedy? Community gave us two of the funniest half-hours of TV this year, and Parks and Recreation might have been the most consistently funny show on TV this year. Amy Poehler got her well-deserved nomination, but the rest of the ensemble got nothing and the show got shut out. Emmy voters better watch their backs for Ron-effing-Swanson.
The drama category isn’t as stale as the comedy category — just a little, umm, off. I like The Good Wife. It’s the one procedural I’m fine watching, and I even agree with Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi all getting acting nominations. But I wouldn’t go nuts if it disappeared from the schedule. I’d probably barely even notice. But if you take away engrossing, engaging, well-crafted shows like Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me, Friday Night Lights, I’d sure notice.
We should have seen it coming that Tony Shaloub would be nominated for best comedy actor, but it was still a shock since the show has been gone since, what, October? November? I can’t even remember. Emmy loves nominating its favorite sons in their farewell years, which makes it somewhat surprising Kiefer Sutherland didn’t get nominated for the final season of 24. Surprising, yeah, but completely understandable since the show was such a mess this year. Doesn’t mean Sutherland didn’t bring the Jack Bauer awesomeness, though.
No Ed O’Neill for Modern Family? Talk about an old boy’s club! He never got a nomination for nine years of Married with Children, now he’s watching all of his other co-stars get nominated before him. If anyone was the lifeblood of Modern Family, it was O’Neill as the nurturing but annoyed patriarch of the dysfunctional clan he created. It’s like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Brett Gardner getting nominated for MVP without Derek Jeter getting a look. Maybe his stats aren’t the best, but there’s no doubt who the heart and soul of the Yankees is. Ed O’Neill is the Derek Jeter of Modern Family. Maybe it’s just a whole thing with hating Married with Children since Katey Sagal didn’t get nominated for Sons of Anarchy either.
After years of FX being an Emmy darling, it got almost completely shut out. The only show that got recognized is the show that’s about to be canceled — Damages. That means the awesome year of Sons of Anarchy, a very good season of Rescue Me, the best season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, an always improving season of Justified and the farwell season of Nip/Tuck all got shut out in nearly every category. Not fair. I’m fully aware Sunny will never get a nomination — that doesn’t mean it hurts any less when what was easily the funniest season of this TV year goes unnoticed. Let’s just hope they’re not frustrated enough to go all Drew Carey and make a mock episode designed to get an Emmy nod.
Emmys are notoriously stingy to sci-fi, so having John Noble (Walter on Fringe) shut out wouldn’t be so surprising if ti weren’t for the fact that he was so amazingly good this year. The episode where they recount how Walter went into the alternate universe to save Peter was easily one of the five best acting jobs of the year regardless of category. If Fringe, Noble or even Joshua Jackson isn’t making the cut this year, it probably won’t ever be making it. Family comedies also are routinely excluded, which explains why The Middle got zilch.