Friday, July 17, 2009

Emmy Nominations 2009

The Emmy nominations are out and I'm suddenly left to wonder where the summer has gone. Oh sure, we've still got half of July and all of August and the first couple of weeks in September before the new TV season starts but all the things I wanted to do that haven't been done. I was (and still may) recap the one and only season of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, a show I still feel was unfairly abused by the critics, mishandled by the network, and sadly ignored by the mass of the public, in the latter case for apparently treating the audience as if it was smarter – and less sheep-like – than it apparently was. But no, the Emmy nominations are out and that means the Emmy polls and the analysis of the categories and the comments that go with it and even now it is putting me to sleep just thinking of it. Or maybe that's the allergy tablet I took a couple of hours ago. And yes, for anyone who thinks that this stuff is unimportant, I do realise that in the context of worldwide recession, international crises and yet another Canadian soldier dying in Afghanistan this morning writing about the Emmy Awards is a frivolous use of time, but writing about TV is what I like to do.

Before I get on to a quick glance at the "major categories" in this year's Emmy Awards, I would like to show you part of what is wrong with the Emmy Awards by showing you the nominees in the two writing categories:

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy
Flight Of The Conchords – "Prime Minister" (HBO) - James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie,
30 Rock – "Reunion" (NBC) - Matt Hubbard
30 Rock – "Apollo, Apollo" (NBC) - Robert Carlock
30 Rock – "Mamma Mia" (NBC) - Ron Weiner
30 Rock – "Kidney Now!" (NBC) - Jack Burditt, Robert Carlock

Outstanding Writing For A Drama
Lost – "The Incident" - (ABC) - Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Mad Men – "A Night To Remember" - (AMC) - Robin Veith, Matthew Weiner
Mad Men – "Six Month Leave" - (AMC) - Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Matthew Weiner
Mad Men – "The Jet Set" - (AMC) - Matthew Weiner
Mad Men – "Meditations In An Emergency" - (AMC) - Kater Gordon, Matthew Weiner

And there you have part of the problem with the Emmys summed up in a proverbial nutshell. Apparently only two comedies and two dramas were considered "worthy" of a nomination in their respective categories. And presumably if Mad Men and 30 Rock could have come up with a fifth writing team they could have gone without competition from any other show. This business of multiple nominations for a given show – even if the categories are for writing teams rather than shows – indicates a certain clsed mindedness amongst the academy. I'm certainly not convinced that there wasn't at least one episode of Battlestar Galactica that was better than the worst of the for four episodes of Mad Men that were nominated, and the same goes for the comedy category – surely there was an episode of The Office that could or should – have been nominated instead.

Several of the major categories have more than five nominees. This apparently is a result of a quirk in the Emmy rules which allows shows to be nominated if the number of votes they receive in the nomination process falls within a certain percentage of the nominee with the fifth highest total. Even so, as always there were a lot of snubs and a lot of "questionable" inclusions. Is Tony Shaloub really worthy of yet another Actor in a Comedy nomination for the tired and soon to be departing Monk? Anyway here are the major categories and a few more which caught my attention.

Outstanding Comedy Series
Entourage - (HBO)
Family Guy - (Fox)
Flight of the Conchords - (HBO)
How I Met Your Mother - (CBS)
The Office - (NBC)
30 Rock - (NBC)
Weeds - (Showtime)

Entourage is nominated yet again even though a lot of critics that I respect feel that the latest season of the show has been the worst yet. One interesting entries in this seven-way race is Family Guy. Family Guy is the first animated show to be nominated for Outstanding Comedy since 1960 and The Flintstones. Of course back then the category was called "Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Humor," but it was up against The Jack Benny Program (which won), Candid Camera and The Andy Griffith Show so that counts.

Outstanding Drama Series
Big Love - (HBO)
Breaking Bad - (AMC)
Damages - (FX)
Dexter - (Showtime)
House - (Fox)
Lost - (ABC)
Mad Men - (AMC)

More proof – if any is needed – of the depths that network drama has fallen. Of seven shows nominated, only two – House and Lost – are from a broadcast network. Beyond that there are no shows from the most watched network CBS. Of course there are no shows nominated from NBC or The CW but really, have either of them produced any show that is worthy of a nomination? A bigger travesty is that two departing shows Battlestar Galactica and The Shield weren't nominated (something that we shall see carried on through most of the categories. The snub for Battlestar Galactica can probably be explained by the collective prejudice that the Emmys have against science fiction and fantasy, regardless of how good those shows are, but what explains the refusal to honour The Shield? And what explains Friday Night Lights?

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
The Amazing Race - (CBS)
American Idol - (Fox)
Dancing with the Stars - (ABC)
Project Runway - (Bravo)
Top Chef - (Bravo)

I confess that this is one of my favourite categories because it includes my favourite show. Of course it has edged towards a "usual suspects" line-up of nominees. In fact this is the exact same list of shows that were nominated in 2008... and 2007. Obviously the Emmys decided not to reward the "sturm und drang" that was on display in this year's edition of Celebrity Apprentice. I have no expectation (or wish) that the winner will be different this year than it was last... or the year before... or the year before that.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock (NBC)
Steve Carell - The Office (NBC)
Jemaine Clement - The Flight of the Conchords (HBO)
Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Tony Shalhoub - Monk (HBO)
Charlie Sheen - Two and a Half Men (CBS)

It must be very frustrating to be Charlie Sheen, to star on the top rated situation comedy on network TV, and to be nominated repeatedly for an Emmy and not only never win but have people complain about you being nominated more than they complain about Tony Shaloub being nominated for the increasingly unfunny Monk. Charlie will never be the hip new thing. That role is filled this year by Jermaine Clement from The Flight of the Conchords and even more by Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory. Nor will he ever have the critical acclaim that Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell receive for their shows (and how awesome would it be to have Baldwin and Carell present an award and actually hav time to work off of each other – make it happen please). Yeah, I'm sure that Charlie Sheen is crying about this... all the way to the bank.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Christina Applegate - Samantha Who? (ABC)
Toni Collette - The United States of Tara (Showtime)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS)
Tina Fey - 30 Rock (NBC)
Mary-Louis Parker - Weeds (Showtime)
Sarah Silverman - The Sarah Silverman Program (Comedy Central)

What I know about this category is this: Tina Fey - very funny; Christina Applegate - cancelled (and had a mastectomy); Mary Louise Parker - nude scene in the bath. In other words I know nothing about the performances nominated in this category.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Simon Baker - The Mentalist (CBS)
Gabriel Byrne - In Treatment (HBO)
Bryan Cranston - Breaking Bad (AMC)
Michael C. Hall - Dexter (Showtime)
Jon Hamm - Mad Men (AMC)
Hugh Laurie - House (Fox)

The only change in the list of nominees this year from last year – which also had six nominations – to this year is that they've quite rightly dumped James Spader and in his place inserted Simon Baker from The Mentalist. Now don't get me wrong, I like Simon Baker. He mixes an impish charm and inquisitiveness with a sense of tragedy and sadness that totally makes his character. He's just not going to win. Edward James Olmos or maybe Michael Chiklis would be contenders in this category if it weren't for that whole not being nominated thing. Kyle Chandler should have been nominated too for Friday Night Lights. Bryan Cranston pulled out a surprise win last year, and I think it's between him and John Hamm again this time around.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Glenn Close - Damages (FX)
Sally Field - Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
Mariska Hargitay - Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Holly Hunter - Saving Grace (TNT)
Elisabeth Moss - Mad Men (AMC)
Kyra Sedgwick - The Closer (TNT)

Just about everything I said about the Lead Actor Drama category can be said about this one. Okay, so there were only five nominees in the category last year, but all five are nominated again. This time they're joined by Elizabeth Moss for her work as the ambitious Peggy Olson in Mad Men but good as she was she probably won't win the Emmy. In terms of snubs in ths category, I'm not familiar enough with The Shield to know if there was a strong enough female role to to qualify for lead actress (maybe CCH Pounder?), but I do think it was incredible that Mary McDonnell as President Laura Roslin deserves not only to be nominated but also to win. No mention of Friday Night Lights star Connie Britton either. And I don't even want to start on the Katherine Heigl thing except to say that she was right to take herself out of contention in 2008 – given the Emmy's obvious propensity to repeat nominations as if by rote as seen in these two categories – because her part wasn't nomination worthy last season.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Jon Cryer - Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Kevin Dillon - Entourage (HBO)
Jack McBrayer - 30 Rock (HBO)
Tracy Morgan - 30 Rock (HBO)
Neil Patrick Harris - How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
Jeremy Piven - Entourage (HBO)
Rainn Wilson - The Office (HBO)

Why does Jon Cryer always get sent to the Supporting Actor category from Two and a Half Men? It strikes me that he carries at least as much of the acting load as Charlie Sheen does and does so with far less credit. Not that he's going to win in either category of course. Jeremy Piven has totally owned this category for the past three years, and even though the show has increasingly gone down hill he can't be counted out. There's a lot of talent in this category, and a lot of great characters as well. The hope is that Neil Patrick Harris will finally win some recognition for playing the legen – wait for it – dary Barney Stinson, but I can't help but worry that he'll lose to the showier roles played by Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer and Rainn Wilson. As long as he doesn't lose to Jermey Piven, I'll be happy.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Kristin Chenoweth - Pushing Daisies (ABC)
Jane Krakowski - 30 Rock (NBC)
Elizabeth Perkins - Weeds (HBO)
Amy Poehler - Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Kristin Wiig - Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Vanessa Williams - Ugly Betty (ABC)

The nominees are all worthy – which is to say that none came from According To Jim, Kath & Kim or Do Not Disturb, but I would love to see Kristin Chenoweth win just because. I don't expect her to, but I love for her to.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Christian Clemenson - Boston Legal (ABC)
Michael Emerson - Lost (ABC)
William Hurt - Damages (FX)
Aaron Paul - Breaking Bad (AMC)
William Shatner - Boston Legal (ABC)
John Slattery - Mad Men (AMC)

Shatner? Shatner?! Hasn't he been nominated enough for this award? Otherwise this is a category stocked with strong actors and and amazing performances. But again, four out of the six actors in this categories were nominated last year and there are only one new shows represented on this list at all, the nomination for Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Rose Byrne - Damages (FX)
Hope Davis - In Treatment (HBO)
Rachel Griffiths - Brothers & Sisters (HBO)
Cherry Jones - 24 (Fox)
Sandra Oh - Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Dianne Wiest - In Treatment (HBO)

The Supporting Actress in a Drama category is another one with strong performances. Only three of the nominees form last year are back – Rachel Griffiths, Sandra Oh and last year's winner Dianne Wiest – which is a pleasant change from the other acting categories. I've seen Cherry Jones's performance as the tough but loving (at times to the point where her love for someone overrides her good judgement) President of the United States in 24 and Sandra Oh's work in Grey's Anatomy which first rate. Naturally I don't expect either of them to win.

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series

Alan Alda - 30 Rock (NBC)
Beau Bridges - Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Jon Hamm - 30 Rock (NBC)
Steve Martin - 30 Rock (NBC)
Justin Timberlake - Saturday Night Live (NBC)

I'll be honest with you; of the nominees I only saw Beau Bridge's performance on Desperate Housewives and while I liked the character and his story, quite frankly it totally failed to blow me away. One of the others has to be better, right?

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series
Edward Asner - CSI: NY (CBS)
Ernest Borgnine - ER (NBC)
Ted Danson - Damages (FX)
Michael J. Fox - Rescue Me (FX)
Jimmy Smits - Dexter (Showtime)

I wanted to comment on this category to to mention how blown away I was by Ed Asner's work in this particular episode of CSI: New York. The show doesn't get that much attention but his performance as an elderly man whose whole life since World War II has been an elaborate lie absolutely blew me away. He won't win – it will probably go to Michael J. Fox for playing against type in Rescue Me because the Emmy voters love him and his fight against Parkinsons Diseas – but I thought it was a great performance.

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series
Jennifer Aniston - 30 Rock (NBC)
Christine Baranski - The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Tina Fey - Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Gena Rowlands - Monk (USA)
Elaine Stritch - 30 Rock (NBC)
Betty White - My Name is Earl (NBC)

Tell me that we don't know that Tina Fey is going to win this one. She had the perfect character served up to her on a silver platter and she knocked it right out of the ballpark, sometimes just by using Sarah Palin's own words.. Which in a way is a shame, if only because it cuts out Christine Baranski's inspired performance as Sheldon's mother.

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series
Brenda Blethyn - Law & Order; SVU (NBC)
Carol Burnett - Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Ellen Burstyn - Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Sharon Lawrence - Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
CCH Pounder - The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (HBO)

I've only seen all of Sharon Lawrence's performance in this category and just the tail end of Carol Burnett's part so it's not fair of me to comment. Still, the little bit I saw of Carol's role in this episode absolutely blew me away and reminded me once again of just how much range this lady has.

Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program
Tom Bergeron - Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
Phil Keoghan - The Amazing Race (CBS)
Heidi Klum - Project Runway (Bravo)
Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio - Top Chef (Bravo)
Jeff Probst - Survivor (CBS)
Ryan Seacrest - American Idol (Fox)

How do you get seven nominees in six nominations? Are Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio somehow joined bodily to each other? (I mean I'd like to be joined bodily with but that has nothing to do with hosting unless it was on Cinemax.) The only notable thing in this category this year is that the Emmys corrected last year's snub and nominated Phil Keoghan for his work on The Amazing Race. I for one am glad that he wasn't nominated last year so that he didn't have to participate in that hosting travesty last year.

The Primetime Emmy Awards will be held on September 20th – I think, since they were moved at least once due to conflicts with something else on TV. Sadly this, together with the absolute determination to end the show on time at the expense of prepared material and even acceptance speeches in major categories, shows the regard with which the awards are held in the very medium they honour. At least this year they have one host, and an awesome one at that: Neil Patrick Harris who did such a spectacular job at the Tony Awards that people were actually talking about the Tony Awards after they ended.

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