Who should Variety magazine honor as best TV performers of the new millennium?
So it makes a certain kind of sense that the trade magazine Variety would be asking critics like me to help them figure out who should get their Emmys of the '00s -- tribute as the best TV performers at the turn of the new century.
Earlier this year, we voted on finalists, listed below. I've already pulled out my picks, but I don't have to deliver a final vote until July 21. So if you disagree, now's your chance to make an argument.
Who gets your vote as best TV performer of the new millennium?
DRAMA SERIES Nominees
My pick: “The Sopranos” -- For combining creative storytelling and compelling characters with the most popular series in premium cable TV history.
The rest: “Friday Night Lights”, “Lost”, “Mad Men”, “The West Wing”, “The Wire”
COMEDY SERIES - Nominees
My pick: “The Daily Show” I wanted Raymond, because it is the last, best conventional sitcom in the group. But Jon Stewart and Co. meld side-splitting humor with satire so powerful it has actually made a difference in the real world.
The rest: “Everybody Loves Raymond”, “30 Rock”, “Arrested Development”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “The Office”
DRAMA ACTOR - Nominees
My pick: James Gandolfini, “The Sopranos” - Another amazing field. But Gandolfini brought the quality year after year for eight seasons, creating a character so complex we were attracted and repulsed by him in the same breath. Other than Chiklis' Sheild run, no one else here has quite that tenure at the top.
The rest: Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”, Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”, Hugh Laurie, “House”, Michael Chiklis, “The Shield”, Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
DRAMA ACTRESS - Nominees
My pick: Edie Falco, “The Sopranos” - Can you tell I loved The Sopranos? Still, Falco was mesmerizing as the pragmatic mob wife who could give as good as she got. Their wall-shattering argument at the end of the 6th season was so close to reality, I felt like I was listening in on the neighbors.
The rest: Connie Britton, “Friday Night Lights”, Glenn Close, “Damages”, Allison Janney, “The West Wing", Mary McDonnell, “Battlestar Galactica”, Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer”
COMEDY ACTOR - Nominees
My pick: Kelsey Grammer, “Frasier” - it's not as flashy a role as some of these characters, but Grammer deserves the title for creating a character which anchored two hit TV comedies, Frasier and Cheers.
The rest: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”, Jason Bateman, “Arrested Development”, Steve Carell, “The Office”, Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, Ricky Gervais, “The Office”
COMEDY ACTRESS - Nominees
My pick: Sarah Jessica Parker, “Sex and the City” - Parker wins by a hair; only because this tart, explicit, naughty HBO series let Parker do so much -- from playing the committment-phobe against John Corbett's marriage ready furniture designer to pining for Chris Noth's Manhattan business mogul Mr. Big.
The rest: Tina Fey, “30 Rock”, Lauren Graham, “Gilmore Girls”, Patricia Heaton, “Everybody Loves Raymond”, Jane Kaczmarek, “Malcolm in the Middle”, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”, Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds”