The Emmy Nominations and My Solution to the Award's Glaring Problem

posted Jul 27, 2012, 9:57 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Oct 17, 2012, 4:02 PM ]

Last week, the Emmy nominations were announced by Scandal star Kerry Washington and a pajama-clad Jimmy Kimmel, whose late night show became a first-time nominee for Outstanding Variety Series.

Every year, there is always something or a lot of somethings that irks me about what was nominated and what was overlooked. This year, however, Gold Derby Dot Com was pretty on point with their nominee predictions so I was neither surprised nor upset, but I was not particularly pleased.

My blasé reaction stems from two things:

1) Despite their ever-evolving attempts to truly reflect the best of television over the previous year, there is too much great television being collectively done on broadcast and cable for the Emmys to not get a lot of things wrong. They’re going to stick with their favorites. A lot of newbies are going to get overlooked and a lot of former newbies are going to once again get overlooked.

2) Because there is so much great television being done, recognizing all of the best from it is becoming an evermore arduously impossible task given the confines of categories, eligibility rules and the Academy’s inability to keep up with current trends and/or predict trends for the near future.

While the Emmys have a history of overlooking the likes of Jackie Gleason, Andy Griffith and Roseanne, the challenge facing the Academy to truly reflect the best of television has never been greater. And that challenge wasn’t really met this year.

 

COMEDY SERIES

The Big Bang Theory, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Modern Family (winner of the last two years) and 30 Rock (winner from 2007-2009) are no surprises. But the inclusion of Girls and Veep are because the first four draw far more universal acclaim. 

I’ve not seen either series so I can’t say they don’t belong here. However, people either love Girls and think it is the funniest thing on television or they don’t get it. People either think Veep is screamingly hilarious or is trying too hard to be so. From my vantage point, the inclusion of the former screams “we’re trying to be hip!” while inclusion of the latter is an extension of the longtime Emmy love for thirteen-time nominee and two-time winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus (1996 as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Seinfeld and 2006 as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for The New Adventures of Old Christine)

Interestingly, Parks and Recreation, which finally broke through last year and had what I’ve read was another stellar season, was not nominated. Neither was the downright funny but never nominated The Middle, which came off its best season.

 

LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Jim Parsons (winner for the last two years) for The Big Bang Theory. Alec Baldwin (winner for the two years before that) for 30 Rock. Jon Cryer (2009 Supporting Actor winner, bumped up to Lead where he should have always been) for Two and a Half Men.

Larry David for Curb Your Enthusiasm and Louis C.K. for Louie return to the fold.

No surprises there.

Don Cheadle for House of Lies is the only surprise for me even though his name was tossed around by Gold Derby Dot Com. Cheadle is the first black nominee in this category since Bernie Mac in 2003. A win for him, however unlikely, would make him the first such winner since Robert Guillaume in 1985 (for Benson).

Missing from this list is last year’s surprise nominee Johnny Galecki for The Big Bang Theory, Jason Gann for Wilfred (he submitted as Supporting so as to not have to compete with co-star Elijah Wood even though his is the title character -- but he wasn’t nominated in that category either), Will Arnett of Up All Night and James Roday and Dule Hill for Psych (the latter also submitted as Supporting even though his is a co-lead role – but he wasn’t nominated in that category either).

Neil Flynn of The Middle and Garret Dillahunt of Raising Hope submitted themselves in this category. Though both equally deserving, they may have had a better a shot in Supporting despite the Modern Family stranglehold (four of six nominations in that category are from that series).

 

LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

This category is full of favorites – 2008 winner Tina Fey for 30 Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep, 2010 winner Edie Falco for Nurse Jackie, Amy Poehler (also a nominee for writing) for Parks and Recreation and last year’s winner Melissa McCarthy for Mike & Molly (also a Guest Actress nominee for hosting Saturday Night Live).

New to the fold are Lena Dunham for Girls and Zooey Deschanel for New Girl. (“We’re hip and current!” screams the Academy.)

Missing from this list is Martha Plimpton, one of last year’s nominees for Raising Hope, who was instead deservedly nominated as Guest Actress for The Good Wife.

I guess the Academy’s love affair with Laura Linney, undefeated after three wins until last year, is now a mere like since she wasn’t nominated for The Big C.

And don’t get me started on Patricia Heaton, a perennial nominee from 1999-2005 for Everybody Loves Raymond (and two-time winner in 2000 and 2001), who has never been nominated for her even better work on The Middle.

And why wasn’t there a nod for Christina Applegate (a four-time nominee and a 2003 Guest Actress winner for Friends) for Up All Night?

 

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Ed O’Neill, last year’s winner Ty Burrell, 2010’s winner Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson (all of Modern Family) are the only returnees from last year.

New Girl standout Max Greenfield and Bill Hader, long a solid utility player on Saturday Night Live, round out the category with their first nominations. 

Dominic Fumusa of Nurse Jackie and the long overlooked Doug Savant of Desperate Housewives should have been recognized for their great work as well.

 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Last year’s winner Julie Bowen (for Modern Family) as well as perennial nominees Sofia Vergara (also for Modern Family) and Kristen Wiig (for her final season on Saturday Night Live) were nominated as expected.

Merritt Wever (for Nurse Jackie) and Mayim Bialik (for The Big Bang Theory) were welcome surprises.

The late Kathryn Joosten had been nominated for and won twice in the Guest Actress category for Desperate Housewives (in 2005 and 2008). Her upgrade to Supporting was a rather curious decision considering those prior successes but her storylines this season apparently made the gamble worthwhile.

It would have been nice for Anna Deveare Smith (also of Nurse Jackie) to have made the cut. Also missing are Up All Night standout Maya Rudolph (who was nominated as Guest Actress for her hilarious hosting turn on Saturday Night Live), Cheryl Hines for Suburgatory, the ever-present darling of the world Betty White for Hot in Cleveland (she was a nominee here last year but not completely overlooked this year as she was nominated as Outstanding Reality Host for her delightful silly prank show Off Their Rockers), Eden Sher for The Middle and Cloris Leachman for Raising Hope (similarly upgraded from a Guest Actress nomination last year).

Longtime nominee Jane Krakowski was oddly forgotten for her best season on 30 Rock.

 

DRAMA SERIES

If covering all the comedy bases is hard, then doing the same for the thriving drama is even harder.

Last year’s Outstanding Miniseries Downton Abbey threw a wrench into this year’s race when Emmy rules dictated they competed in the regular drama categories based on the fact that they had a second season.

Abbey essentially knocked out The Good Wife, the lone broadcast competitor for the last two years. Now for the first time in Emmy history, there is no broadcast representation in this category. Although most people provincially point to the fact that cable can get away with more than broadcast, this milestone speaks more to broadcast’s general weakness in developing compelling programs for the genre as it does to cable’s strength in doing the same thing.

Mad Men, the reigning Grand Poobah of Drama with four consecutive wins, goes for five. Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, both nominees last year, are also back. Breaking Bad, which sat out of last year’s race due to scheduling and eligibility, also returns.

Homeland is the only new drama series in the category.

With such a strong showing last year, Justified was strangely overlooked but the perennial ignoring of Sons of Anarchy and Southland continues.

 

LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

This category has been the most competitive of all Emmy categories for the last several years. Still, Cranston is undefeated for Breaking Bad with three wins out of three nominations while Michael C. Hall (for Dexter) and Jon Hamm (for Mad Men) are both back for a fifth go-round without a win (a sixth for Hall if you count his 2002 nomination in this category for Six Feet Under).

Steve Buscemi, a nominee last year for Boardwalk Empire, tries again this year.

New to the category are Hugh Bonneville for Downton Abbey and Damian Lewis for Homeland.

Missing from the hotly competitive list are Kelsey Grammer for Boss, Timothy Olyphant for Justified, Charlie Hunnam for Sons of Anarchy and six-time nominee Hugh Laurie – denied a last chance to win for his fantastic work throughout the final season of House.

Last year’s winner, Kyle Chandler, was not eligible this year – having won for the final season of Friday Night Lights.

 

LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Last year’s winner, Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife, receives her third nomination for the series (to go with her four in this category for ER). Kathy Bates (for the ridiculously cancelled Harry’s Law) and Elizabeth Moss (for Mad Men) also return to the fold. Glenn Close, who won in 2008 and 2009 for Damages but was not eligible for last year’s race, is also nominated again.

New to the race are Michelle Dockery for Downton Abbey and Claire Danes for Homeland.

Missing from this list is the criminally overlooked Katey Sagal for Sons of Anarchy and 2010’s winner Kyra Sedgwick for The Closer.


SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Peter Dinklage (who won last year for Game of Thrones) and Aaron Paul (who won in 2010 for Breaking Bad but was ineligible last year) are the lone returnees to this category.

Giancarlo Esposito (poised to be the first black man EVER to win in this category) from Breaking Bad, Brendan Coyle and Jim Carter from Downton Abbey and Jared Harris from Mad Men are first-time nominees.

One of them knocked John Slattery, a four-time nominee for Mad Men, out of contention.

Also overlooked are four never-nommeds: Vincent Kartheiser for Mad Men, Michael Cudlitz for Southland, Ron Perlman for Sons of Anarchy and Robert Sean Leonard for the final season of House.

 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Margo Martindale, last year’s winner for Justified, wasn’t eligible this year.

2010’s winner for The Good Wife, Archie Panjabi, is nominated again as are bridesmaids Christine Baranski for The Good Wife and Christina Hendricks for Mad Men.

New to the category are Anna Gunn for Breaking Bad (FINALLY!) and Joanne Froggatt for Downton Abbey. Maggie Smith, who won last year as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie for Downton Abbey, is also nominated here.

Regina King (for Southland) and Maggie Siff (for Sons of Anarchy), however, continue to be egregiously overlooked.

 

VARIETY SERIES

For the second year in a row, there’s a new guy in town. Last year it was Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which is also nominated this year. This year’s newbie is Jimmy Kimmel Live. Perhaps The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson can be next year’s newbie.

They join perennials The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live – which has been on an Emmy hot streak for the last four years.

But it doesn’t matter anyway. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is going to win again for the tenth consecutive time.

 

ANCILLARY THOUGHTS:

1) The Academy needs to eliminate the category of Outstanding Reality Show Host. It’s a ridiculous award. The host, which is synonymous with the program, should be nominated with the program. But do it after Betty White wins this year.

2) That said, the Academy needs to reinstate the award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety Series or Special. But they need to split it between series and specials. This way cast members of Saturday Night Live (or any other such late night show) need not compete in the already competitive comedy categories. Nor will they have to compete with award show hosts and performers in specials. They should all be eligible for an individual award.

3) Why the Academy is reducing categories for the longform genre is beyond me. They THINK they are reflecting the changes in the industry but they’re not. The longform genre may be dead on the broadcast networks but they are alive and well on cable. Eventually the broadcast networks will wise up and produce limited series instead of drama series with premises that can’t sustain a full season. Since those won’t be eligible to compete as regular drama series, there will be a need to be categories for this “new” genre.


Now here’s the glaring problem with Emmy. While a listing of five nominees was enough to recognize the best programs and the best performances from three networks plus a couple of stalwart cables, that number is not enough for four networks and several stalwart cables. While expanding the listing of nominees abates some of the problem, a lingering problem will still remain for the repeat-heavy Academy – having one winner. 

Since there’s no way to recognize all the worthy programs and performances, why not should just eliminate the nominating process altogether? Just announce however many winners there will be in each category during the telecast. This way the winner’s list can truly reflect the best of the previous TV season with far less outcry.

Knowing this will NEVER happen, I’ve just gone ahead and created my own award that I will tell you about as we get closer to the Emmys.