Thursday, July 06, 2006

Emmy Reactions [Beyond Merely Barfing]

I'm going to go to sleep in a few minutes, since I'm off to New York City bright and obscenely early tomorrow morning to catch junkets for "Lady in the Water" and "Scoop," but I'd feel bad if the Emmy nominations were announced and I didn't take a few minutes to rant about the nominees.

Much was made in recent weeks about the changes made to the Emmy voting procedure and how those changes would force the Academy to finally recognize shows and actors of genuine quality. Some folks took to calling the changes the Lauren Graham Rule, as if getting the "Gilmore Girls" star a nomination would be as simple as getting a slightly less out-of-touch cadre of voters to look at select finalists. Apparently, some tweaking to the formula is still necessary. Not only did Lauren Graham fail to get a nomination, but the other results of the new rules were just as blurry. If this year's assortment of Emmy nominees wasn't worse than in previous years, it was certainly every bit as bad.

But here's the thing I want to acknowledge: Maybe I just don't watch the good shows on TV. That's what the TV Academy wants to suggest.

A long string of thoughts about the things I did and didn't like about the nominations:

1) What's New Is Old and What's Old Is Gone: As my Zap2it colleague Rick (and several other people) noted, the biggest confession on the Emmy voters' part is that everything they did last year was moronic. How else can you explain the number of winners from last year who weren't worthy this year. Yeah, "Lost" wasn't as good as it was last season, but did is cease to be one of TV's best dramas so quickly? Yeah, "Desperate Housewives" was so bad that I quit watching this season, but if anybody thinks that Felicity Huffman has ceased to be one of the five best actresses in a comedy series currently on television, they're insane. Did the TV voters think that Felicity got uppity after her Oscar nomination and attempt to knock her down a peg? And after two consecutive seasons as the Emmy choice for best actor in a drama series, how did James Spader fall so quickly? Count in the number of awards that "Everybody Loves Raymond" stole last year and the only winners from last year in "major" categories to be renominated this year are Blythe Danner, William Shatner (seriously, folks?) and Tony Shalhoub. Weird.

2) "House" Arrest: Television's best actor may be Ian McShane. But if it isn't Ian McShane (and "Deadwood" wasn't eligible this year), it's Hugh Laurie (James Gandolfini is close behind and similarly without a nomination this year). Week in and week out, Laurie humanizes the most prickly character on television, pulling off wordy medical dialogue and creating a character we love on television even if we'd hate him in real life. He's brilliant. Instead of Laurie, the Emmy voters nominated Martin Sheen for best actor in a drama series, despite the fact that Sheen was rarely, if ever, the lead actor on "The West Wing" this year, making his nomination an utter joke. While I talking about "House," Omar Epps had a two-episode arc that was as good as any turned in by a supporting actor this season, certainly more original and powerful than anything Michael Imperioli did on "The Sopranos" and putting to shame Shatner's effective "Boston Legal" mugging. But to no avail.

3) Worst Thing For Falco Since 'Rock Me Amadeus': What Edie Falco did in the season's first three or four episodes of "The Sopranos" toured over any other performance by a lead actress I saw this year. I don't care which of the other nominees would have had to get booted for her to be on the list, but this is ridiculous. Here's the concern: Television is at a place where the best actors are suddenly starting to realize that they get better material here than in film. When the TV Academy fails to recognize the very very very best performers in the medium, it makes the entire medium look bad, suggesting that TV may be a place for quality people, but that TV people don't recognize quality. And speaking of...

4) Have You Heard the Joke About Outstanding Lead Actress In a Comedy Series: Jane Kaczmarek is always worthy of attention. While "The Comeback" was a seriously flawed show, I admired what Lisa Kudrow did in it. No arguments there. But I wouldn't hesitate for a second to magically erase Debra Messing (again?!?!?), Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (in a show I find unwatchable) and Stockard Channing (bellowing for 22 minutes at a time) and replace them with Lauren Graham, Mary Louise Parker for "Weeds" (but a well-deserved nod for Elizabeth Perkins) and probably Huffman.

5) What Being A Guest Star REALLY Means: Here's how you know the Emmy voters are using PCP: Kyle Chandler gets a nomination for looking concerned in two episodes of "Grey's Anatomy", blowing up and never getting mentioned again. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the season's lynchpin, with Denny Douquette serving as a pivotal character in multiple episodes that shaped the entire arc of the season. Was he in too many episodes, perhaps? Dunno. In addition to traditional "ER" disease-of-the-week nominees like James Woods, there's also the surprising and welcome inclusion of Henry Ian Cusick of "Lost," whose Desmond was a good addition to every episode in which he appeared.

6) Other Comedy Musings: Where did Zach Braff's nomination go? Why will John C. McGinley NEVER get nominated? Can anybody really tell me that Sean Hayes was better this season than Neil Patrick Harris? Where is Jason Lee for "Earl"? And what happened to all of that support for "Everybody Hates Chris"? Not that he necessarily deserved it, but how was Eric McCormack the only "Will & Grace" cast member not worthy of a farewell nomination? Kevin James instead of Jason Bateman? Really? Did anybody else expect Doris Roberts to get nominated this year even though "Raymond" was gone? "Entourage" has been so mediocre this season that smart Emmy voters should have recognized the superlative second season with a series nomination in hopes that things might improve... And on the positive side, glade to see nods for Jamie Pressly, Will Arnett and, just for old times' sake, "Arrested Development." Also pleased with the slew of nominations for Stephen Colbert and "The Colbert Report."

7) Other Drama Musings: Chandra Wilson and Jean Smart are particularly deserving. But where are the nominations for the ladies of "Big Love"? Where's Donald Sutherland for "Commander in Chief" (he was the only guy who ever looked like he was having fun on that hyper-serious show)? Kristen Bell? Terry O'Quinn? Anybody from "Rome"? If those "Will & Grace" folks are going to get illegitimate nostalgia nominations why not "Alias" stars Jennifer Garner and Victor Garber? And what of the "Grey's Anatomy" leading men including P-Demps, TR Knight and Isaiah Washington? And only one nod of any kind for "Prison Break"? Talk about not believing the hype. And while I don't watch it, I'm told that "The Shield" was as good this year as ever, so where are The Thing and Forrest Whitaker at?

OK. I've run out of energy here.

Chime in with your own thoughts while I sleep...


  1. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Are there critics awards for television like there are for cinema?

  2. Anonymous12:29 PM

    There are, and you can see who we (I'm a critic) nominated this year here:

    All in all it's a pretty mainstream group of nominees, but I daresay we did a little better than the academy. Hey, at least we nominated "Earl."

  3. Anonymous1:26 PM

    I agree with you that many of the nominations are a travesty, but the Academy totally set themselves up for this by announcing their "new" "inclusive" "system" and basically saying it will fix all of Emmy's problems. (Or was that the media saying that? I honestly cannot rememeber.) Next year they should change the system again but somehow keep the changes under wraps, and see what happens. I have a strange feeling that people will complain no matter what. Including me. All I keep telling myself is "at least Will Arnett got nominated."

    (Man, I forgot that NPH didn't get nominated until you pointed it out. The Barney character MAKES that show. Sigh.)

  4. Anonymous7:53 PM

    Dan, I haven't had a chance to scrutinize the nominations this year for myself, yet, but OMG you are in fine form on this post. Your trademark vitriol genuinely appreciated and cathartic for me this evening. Give my regards to Broadway, &c.

  5. Anonymous11:30 AM

    You aren't nearly angry enough about House.