Dear Academy of Television Arts & Sciences members,
I noticed that you've received your Emmy ballot and that, over the next few weeks, you'll be charged with selecting the nominees for this year's Primetime Emmy Awards. First off, let me say that I've looked at the ballot and I owe you all an apology. I'm always ranting and raving about how you nominate the same people year after year and omit a lot of worthy candidates. But now that I've seen the ballot, I see the difficult job you face. Nearly every actor and show on TV is eligible for nomination. I mean, you could nominate pretty much the entire cast of "Rules of Engagement" if you wanted to (by the way, thanks for never doing that). With so much information, I can see how you'd get overwhelmed.
So, I thought I'd help you out.
Below is a list of worthy candidates in each category. Most would be first-time nominees and all have done excellent, award-worthy work. All I ask is that you take a look and at least CONSIDER nominating them. OK? Let's get started.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Until a few months ago, I barely knew who Danny McBride was. I was aware he was a protegee of Will Farrell, and that he'd made a well-received low-budget movie called "The Foot Fist Way" (which I'd never seen), but that was about it. Then HBO debuted the new comedy "Eastbound and Down," on which McBride played angry, foul-mouthed ex-pitcher Kenny Powers. Though it took me a few episodes to figure it out, I eventually realized that McBride is the real deal. Funny, fearless and a good actor, McBride is a talent worth watching...and worth nominating.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Let's be honest -- this is a category that rewards flash. Yes, Hugh Laurie, James Gandolfini, Bryan Cranston and other past nominees and winners are talented. But I imagine most actors could do good things with complicated, juicy characters like Dr. House, Tony Soprano and Walter White. It's much harder to be memorable when playing the calm, reasonable center of a series. And that's just what Kyle Chandler does every week on "Friday Night Lights." With just a twitch of his jaw, or a cloud of thought floating over his eyes, Chandler reaches deep into the soul of high school football coach Eric Taylor. It's a rich, lived-in performance and it's crazy that, three seasons into this show, Chandler has yet to score a nomination.
Also worth nominating: Jeffrey Donovan, who, in the most recent season of "Burn Notice," found some rich emotional layers in slick ex-spy Michael Westen.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: I only saw half of the first season of Showtime's new sitcom "The United States of Tara," but I did like Toni Collette's warm, brave, funny performance as a mom juggling work, family and multiple personalities.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: OK, I won't waste much time pushing this one, because I know there's almost zero chance this will ever happen, but I must say that Leighton Meester is a revelation as Blair Waldorf on "Gossip Girl." Don't laugh! She's funny, vulnerable and gives unexpected depth to this pampered princess. The show lives or dies on Meester, and that's what makes her Emmy-worthy. OK, speech over. Let's discuss some other worthy candidates for this category. Regina King is in her first season over on NBC's promising cop drama "Southland," and she's already created a three-dimensional character out of tough but sensitive police Detective Lydia Adams. Plus, she's always been one of my favorite actresses (it's hard to steal a scene from Tom Cruise, Renee Zelleweger and Cuba Gooding, Jr., but she did just that in "Jerry Maguire"). And, no discussion of this category would be complete without a healthy push for Elisabeth Moss, who is nothing short of spectacular as Peggy Olson on "Mad Men." I wish that character was my best friend, that's how vibrant and convincing Moss is.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in Comedy Series: Look, I love Bret and Jemaine, the wacky tunesmiths at the heart of HBO's "Flight of the Conchords," but without Rhys Darby as their sensible yet dense manager Murray, it would definitely lose something. Darby's dry delivery and great, deadpan reaction shots are as essential to this show as the songs and shtick. The guys wouldn't be as funny without him.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: OK, you can ignore ALL my other suggestions as long as you heed this one -- you absolutely MUST nominate Walton Goggins for his uniformly exceptional work as troubled, doomed Detective Shane Vendrell on "The Shield." Goggins' is one of the best supporting performances of the best decade and he's a huge part of the reason why Shane was one of the show's best characters. Check out the series finale, in which Shane makes a terrible, terrible choice and struggles with every minute of it. Phenomenal.
Also worth mentioning: Dean Norris and Aaron Paul of "Breaking Bad," Ken Leung and Jeremy Davies of "Lost" and John Scurti of "Rescue Me" would all be solid additions to this category. But putting Goggins in the running should be your priority.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: This was a good year for funny ladies. "SNL" mainstay Amy Poehler got her own series. Tina Fey was a smash on both "30 Rock" and "SNL." But I can think of at least two hilarious women who are constantly ignored by award-granting institutions: Kristen Schaal of "Flight of the Conchords" and Kaitlin Olson of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." Both women hold their own on male-dominated shows. Both add dimension to truly weird, fairly unsympathetic characters. And both are pee-your-pants hysterical. Recognize!
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Remember what I said about Walton Goggins? I feel the same way about Chloe Sevigny on "Big Love." She's always been great as mercurial, damaged polygamist Nikki Grant, but this was her strongest season yet. In nearly every single episode, she had at least one amazing, scene-stealing moment. In the season finale, she had two: the scene where she met her abandoned daughter, and her breakdown in the car with Jeanne Tripplehorn's Barb. All the actresses on this show are outstanding, but Sevigny was this season's gem.
Also worth mentioning: I don't know if anyone else is going to plug Michele Hicks' work as Shane's wife Mara on "The Shield," but let me put in my two cents. Hicks was so raw and vulnerable, she made us feel bad for a character that was nearly impossible to like. Well done.
Outstanding Comedy Series: This could very well be the last season for HBO's "Flight of the Conchords." While it wasn't as good as last season, this is still one of the funniest shows on TV. How about a little love?
Outstanding Drama Series: Yes, "The Shield" won a Golden Globe for best drama years ago, and has been nominated in the past. But this is its last season. Please show this fantastic series the appreciation that its devastating final season deserved.
So, those are more thoughts. Again, these are only suggestions, and I hope you'll at least consider them. Except Goggins and Sevigny. Their nominations are non-negotiable. I mean it.
I Screen You Screen