Give ‘Em Some Emmy Love

Back with links tomorrow, but this is your weekly, extended look at the PopRox Sunday column:

The Emmys had a hard job narrowing down the nominees back in the 80s when there were only three networks and scant original programming on any of the 10 or so other channels.

Now? There are two new over-the-air networks, three pay-cable networks and at least two dozen basic cable channels all airing original programming eligible for Emmy consideration. It’s darn near impossible to come up with a perfect list of nominees from the hundreds of shows that premiere every year. We should all get used to the idea that the Emmy voters are going to eff this up.

The only thing we can do is nudge them in the direction of some smaller shows and actors that may escape Emmy consideration — but need to be on that list when the nominees are announced Thursday morning.

just give it to them already.

just give it to them already.

Friday Night Lights (Outstanding Drama Series). C’mon. Seriously. For four of the best years any family TV show has ever given us, this show has somehow escaped a nomination. But two of last year’s drama series nominees won’t be around this year, and one of those emptied spots is just calling out for Friday Night Lights. There was progress last year, with Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton finally getting well-deserved and long-overdue nominations in the acting categories. Maybe for its final year — the series finale airs on July 15 on NBC seven months after airing on DirecTV — the Emmy voters will break down and throw this show a bone. I’m not even asking for a win. I’m just asking for a nomination so that those of us that have lived and died with the Dillon Panthers and East Dillon Lions for the last five years can stop asking ourselves, “Wait, am I crazy? This is one of the 10 best shows of my lifetime, but it can’t get an Emmy nomination? What’s wrong here?” Then I just mouth “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” to myself and everything is OK again.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series). You know how you know when someone is a good actor? When he’s surrounded by bad actors only you don’t really notice how horrible those bad actors are unless you really, really study the show. Let’s go ahead and call it the Dexter Corollary. It’s actually much, much worse on Dexter, to the point where the show would be extremely unwatchable without Michael C. Hall. The Walking Dead is the latest show to enter this territory, with Lincoln the only actor on the show even approaching “solid,” and he raises the level of every other actor on the show to entirely passable levels. He made Michael T. Rooker look good. If you want to know how hard that is to do, go back and watch Mallrats.

Joel McHale as Jeff Winger on Community (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series). Community is in danger of being the next Drew Carey Show. It’s going to be on the air for about five years and never, ever get a major Emmy nomination. This will occur despite it being the one of the funniest shows on TV. The Drew Carey Show did an ill-conceived episode making fun of this oversight, but Community never will because it won’t care. It will be more than happy just being really, really funny. But if any of the cast ever does get nominated, it better be McHale. He’s the glue that holds TV’s wildest comedy ensemble together and is also the most consistently terrific.

Will Arnett as Steven Wilde on Running Wilde (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series). The chances of Arnett scoring a nomination are about as good as the Arrested Development movie coming to theaters by Christmas. But in a pretty weak category this year — one that could be one big, sloppy, going-away present for Steve Carell — why not go off the board a little bit? Most importantly, Arnett was funny — reallyfunny — in the uneven, short-lived sitcom that never got the audience it probably deserved. The only problem is he was pretty much playing Gob Bluth with a couple extra bucks in his pocket. So it wasn’t exactly a stretch.

Patricia Heaton as Frankie Heck on The Middle (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series). TV’s most under-appreciated comedy deserves some kind of recognition on Emmy night. So why not go with the show’s leader? She’s an Emmy veteran from Everybody Loves Raymond, but more importantly, she’s the best combination of funny and realistic on TV. Consider Frankie Heck the anti-Lucy Ricardo. She makes real life funny, whereas Lucy made funny situations funnier. I’ll argue that it’s much harder to make a meeting a with your kid’s second-grade teacher funny than it is a broken conveyor belt at a chocolate factory.

pick an actor, pick any actor

pick an actor, pick any actor

Any of the secondary cast of Parks and Recreation for Outstanding Supporting Actor/Actress in a Comedy Series. Put all their faces up on a dart board — Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott and especially Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson — and just start flinging. There’s no chance all of them all of them can make the cut, but you could fill out the entire supporting actor categories with the cast of this show and no one would think it’s even remotely weird or undeserving.

Alan Cumming as Eli Gold on The Good Wife (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series). You’re CBS. You have a specific formula for churning out hit dramas that’s kept you on top of the ratings for more than a decade. But at the same time, you can’t get anyone under 40 to watch and you’re continually trashed by the critics for making the same show 20 times over. The worst part is, you know it’s all 100 percent true, because that’s how you designed it. So the network needed a show that wasn’t all-procedural, all the time. That’s The Good Wife. But don’t be fooled — it’s still 80 percent procedural, so the network isn’t completely abandoning its formula. It’s just tweaking it a little bit — and that’s where Cumming comes in. He’s the guy who is in charge of about 15 percent of the non-procedural format, the political mastermind behind the Roger Florrick campaign run who will do anything and say anything to get his candidate elected. Sounds corny, right? But Cumming somehow brings a quiet charm and intelligent logic to the part that makes you sympathize with the guy even as he’s being blatantly racist. That ain’t easy. Incidentally, has anyone ever asked if Eli Gold is in any way related to Ari Gold in the TV world? When Entourage is over this year, will Jeremy Piven bring Ari Gold to Chicago to work his long-lost brother?

Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett in Justified (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series). Not only should she be nominated, but she needs to win. When they’re announcing the nominees Thursday, they should just say, “Margo Martindale … and that’s it. She wins!” Yeah, she was that good this year on the most improved show of 2011 (so far).

Matt Damon as Carol in 30 Rock (Outstanding Guest Comedy Actor): (Sniff, sniff) Smell that? It’s the stank of a 5-year-old comedy that’s in a rut. I can smell it from here. But for as tired as 30 Rock felt this year, the freshest parts of the season were provided by Damon as Liz Lemon’s pilot boyfriend Carol, culminating with the best episode of the season, the couple’s inevitable break-up during a flight delay. Just picturing Damon mouthing the lines to The Owls of Ga’hoole makes me laugh.

Kyle MacLachlan as the Mayor of Portland in Portlandia (Outstanding Guest Comedy Actor): It’s pretty far out there, yeah. But in a hit-and-miss sketch show with a recurring theme, MacLachlan was scene-stealing brilliance every time he showed up on screen, whether it was requesting musicians to write a song about Portland, or whether it was asking the same musicians to bring a Major League Baseball team to Portland. If you’re saying, “Huh?” that is the brilliance of the character. You believe he’d do either one.

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