Emmy Voters Putting Me Out of Work: What's a Critic to Do When They Mostly Get It Right?
I'm convinced the Emmy academy is trying to put me out of work.
How else to explain the announcements made today for nominees in the 59th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, which rewarded all the right shows, punished the ones which deserved a shot in the chops and recognized newcomers with a speed usually reserved for the super-hip Golden Globes.
First observation: shows which have seen their share of offscreen controversy were not unfairly knocked for their misfortune. Isaiah Washington's homophobic antics may have made gay activists simmer, but his former show Grey's Anatomy didn't suffer, racking up 10 nominations total -- among the highest for a regular scripted series.
(It is worth noting, however, that Washington wasn't personally nominated, though the gay cast member he inadvertently outed in the incident that got him fired from Grey's, T.R. Knight, was nominated as best supporting actor in a drama).
Alec Baldwin, whose infamous, profanity-filled voice mail message to his daughter almost pushed him to quit the NBC comedy 30 Rock, was also nominated as best lead actor in a comedy, among 10 total nominations for the show. Even the controversy over the ending of HBO's mafia drama The Sopranos didn't keep the Emmy academy from handing out 15 nominations to the series -- the most for any regular series -- including acting nominations for stars James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and Michael Imperioli.
The other cool trend here: new, creatively successful series didn't have to wait years for recognition. Heroes, Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, Brothers and Sisters, The Riches and Dexter all got significant nominations in their first season, with Betty emerging as the second most-nominated regular series with 11 nods. The scattering of acting nominations which usually go to black actors have now been spread around a bit to other actors of color, with nods for Grey's Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh; Heroes' Masi Oka; Betty's Ferrera, Conchata Ferrell and Vanessa Williams; Latifah and a guest shot on ER by Forest Whitaker.
Betty star America Ferrera scored her first Emmy nomination, along with Riches star Minnie Driver and Queen Latifah for the HBO movie Life Support. With so many important nominations handed to newcomers, this may be the best time for new blood in recent Emmy history.
But with this many new winners, somebody had to lose. Fortunately, the series mostly missing from major nominations this year racked up lackluster seasons which earned their fall from grace, including 24 missing from the outstanding drama category and Desperate Housewives shut out of the best comedy list (co-star Felicity Huffman was the only one of Housewives' four leads to snag a nomination, either).
Overall, HBO scored the most nominations with 86, ABC got the most for any network with 70 (just one nomination ahead of fourth-place NBC, which has always touted its series quality amid low viewership)
I'm a critic, so I can nitpick: the biggest oversight in major categories so far seems to be Friday Night Lights -- a low-rated, critically loved drama which really needed some Emmy buzz to rescue what is quickly becoming The Best Series You're Not Watching (I'm just wondering; how do you get a nomination for best casting, which FNL scored today, and not get nominated in an acting category?).
Unfortunately, the best show to continue its lack of Emmy nods is HBO's The Wire. I'm wondering if the show's producers even bother submitting entries for awards anymore, given how completely the Emmy academy ignored this show, which continues to be among TV's most compelling and creatively assembled.
Oddest nomination this year: Justin Timberlake for outstanding original music and lyrics over his Dick in a Box Saturday Night Live segment.
A sense of humor, too? These Emmy people are really starting to make me worry. Because a slate of nominees this savvy doesn't give critics like me a whole lot left to do.