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Friday, July 17, 2009

A bigger Emmy breakdown

Though I already posted a few thoughts on yesterday's Emmy nominations, I wanted to take the time to write a longer, more involved post on the subject. This year's nominations were fairly unique, as there were seven nominees in the comedy and drama series categories, as opposed to the traditional five. That's due to a new rule allowing six nominees in these categories (a tie can lead to more, which seems to be what happened here).
At any rate, there were some odd picks this year ("The Family Guy" for best comedy series? Really?) as well as some refreshing ones (finally, a series nod for "Big Love" and for "Flight of the Conchords") and the usual horrifying oversights (I can't say it enough -- NO NOMINATION FOR "The Shield"?????).
Here's my rundown of the best and worst of the Emmy nominations. The entire list of nominees can be viewed here. And feel free to post your own thoughts/feelings/wails of anguish over the omission of "The Shield."
The Good: Let's start on a positive note, shall we? It was nice to see at least some fresh faces among the nominees this year, particularly Aaron Paul of "Breaking Bad" and Elisabeth Moss of "Mad Men." While both work with leading men -- Bryan Cranston and Jon Hamm -- who often get all the praise (and award nominations), Paul and Moss more than held their own this season, delivering sad, searing performance. Also nice to see was a nod for Jemaine Clement, of HBO's whimsical musical comedy "Flight of the Conchords." I agree that, of the show's two stars (Bret McKenzie is the other), Clement is a bit funnier, often selling a whole scene with one shrewd reaction shot or disarmingly dry line delivery. I also liked seeing the show get nominated for best comedy.
While we're on the subject of comedy, I was thrilled to see some "30 Rock" supporting players get some love. Yes, stars Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey are great, but this show has a deep bench, so I was thrilled that Tracy Morgan (maybe having his best season yet) and Jack McBrayer (always a daffy delight as Kenneth the page) got nods for their work.
Also, I don't watch Comedy Central's "The Sarah Silverman Program," but I enjoyed seeing the show's star, Sarah Silverman, get an out-of-the-box nod as best actress.
Other positive thoughts: liked that Emmy finally decided to start paying attention to "Lost" again. The show, which had its best season to date, deserved its best drama series nomination. And it's good to see Michael Emerson, whose work as the increasingly complex Benjamin Linus is never less than awesome, back in the supporting actor category. Despite strong competition from Paul and William Hurt ("Damages"), I'm going to go out on a limb and say this award is his to lose.
The Bad: Even with an increased number of nominees and an open-minded approach, there were still MANY glaring oversights. First, why does Emmy refuse to acknowledge the wonderful small town drama "Friday Night Lights" and its stars? Kyle Chandler's sweet, subtle work as Coach Eric Taylor is some of the best acting on TV; ditto for the performance of Connie Britton as his wife, Tami. But Emmy never looks at them twice. Why? I think Britton was far more deserving of a supporting actress nod than, say, Rose Byrne of "Damages" (good, but constantly outclassed by her co-stars) or Cherry Jones of "24" (good, but saddled with a somewhat thankless role). Granted, most of the guys who got nominated in the leading actor category are tough to argue with (except possibly Simon Baker of "The Mentalist," whose success in his role has more to do with charm and presence than acting chops), but I hope against hope they could find a spot for Chandler. He's too good to ignore. I'm also upset by the fresh choices who were overlooked in favor of stale old stand-bys. Did the Academy really need to nominate Charlie Sheen AGAIN for "Two and a Half Men?" I know the show is popular, but I would have much rather seen his spot in the leading comedy actor category go to a fresh face, like Danny McBride of HBO's new series "Eastbound and Down." The comedy category itself was a bit stale, save for the odd nomination of "Family Guy" and the encouraging nod for "Flight of the Conchords." I feel the Emmys are now just nominating "Weeds" and "Entourage" because they've managed to stay on the air for five seasons, not because the shows are so good. In fact, both shows are fading a bit, and I feel it's time to pass them by for some fresh blood.
And let's take a second to discuss that "Family Guy" nomination, shall we? Of all the animated shows on TV over the years, THIS is the one that the academy felt was worthy of recognizing in the comedy category, instead of just the animation category?
Think about it. "The Simpsons." "South Park." "King of the Hill." None nominated for best comedy. Look, I sometimes enjoy "Family Guy," but it can't compete with "The Simpsons" at its peak, or with any season of "King of the Hill." And while I admire "South Park" more than I enjoy it, it's hard to argue that it presents some of the most scathing satire on TV. So why "Family Guy?" Well, I guess we can be thankful they didn't nominate "American Dad" for best comedy. Yet.
The Downright Insane: You might have noticed that I haven't said much about the lack of major nominations for FX's drama "The Shield." That's because I feel this oversight deserves its own category. The last season of "The Shield" was possibly one of the greatest seasons of TV in the past 10 years. I don't even think I'm exaggerating. It was devastating, realistic and impossible to look away from. Nearly every performance was perfect, from Michael Chiklis's mesmerizing work in the lead role of corrupt cop Vic Mackey to Walton Goggins's lacerating performance as Mackey's shunned underling Shane Vendrell, to CCH Pounder's wonderful work as decent, doomed police captain Claudette Wyms. Yet it failed to get a single major nomination. And it will never have another shot. Why? Why didn't the academy recognize this show? Was it even a blip on their radar? Were they really able to convince themselves that there were SEVEN better shows on TV this season? Yes, "Lost," "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad" and "Big Love" all had great seasons worthy of nomination. But "Dexter" got a nod for its third season, its weakest yet. And "Damages," while entertaining, isn't nearly as smart or penetrating as "The Shield." Why couldn't "The Shield" sneak in? And why didn't Chiklis, Pounder and especially Goggins make the cut for their work? We'll never know. It hurts to think about. I guess everyone involved with "The Shield" should view the show's excellence as its own reward. But they shouldn't have to.