Thursday, July 06, 2006

Yearly Emmy Nomination Rant

The Emmy Nominations were announced this morning. As expected, outrage soon followed. Like most years, people were furious about shows not being nominated and shocked at shows that were. I’m no exception.

Unlike the Grammy Awards and Oscars (where I’ve often not seen / heard a lot of the nominees, so I don’t have any room to criticize the nominees), with the Emmys, I feel like I am knowledgeable enough about all things on TV to critically evaluate the nominations and determine the most worthy candidate – at least for the “big categories”.

So, without further ado, here are the 2005 Emmy Nominations. I’ll let you know who would win if I was picking the winners (read: who should rightfully win), as well as who got the shaft and should have been nominated (or perhaps even won!)…

Outstanding Drama Series

  • The West Wing
  • 24
  • House
  • The Sopranos
  • Grey's Anatomy

Who Got Shafted? Lost.

Notice something odd about that list? That’s right, a lack of “Lost”! Are you kidding me? The first season of Lost was not only nominated, but WON. In my eyes, the second season was better than the first, with the introduction of the Hanso / Dharma mythology, Tailers, Desmond, and Others – what’s not to like?

Who Doesn’t Belong? The Sopranos.

So who do we kick out to fit Lost in? Well, shocking as it may be – it has to be “The Sopranos”. Now I love “The Sopranos” as much as the next guy, but let’s face it – this past season was a disappointment. It started out promising enough with the symbolism heavy Tony-in-a-coma storyline, but then went nowhere with it and instead focused on an overly-drawn-out Vito is gay storyline. With only eight episodes of the series left (allegedly), this was not the best way to set up the wrap up of such a great series.

(Also – I know there are a lot of “House” fans out there, but isn’t the show pretty much the same story week in and week out? Some random disease, House finds a non-traditional way to cure it, butts head with the man, and walks with a limp? I’m not sure that qualifies as one of the five best dramas on TV. I think this might be more a product of “House” airing on the same night as ratings juggernaut “American Idol” – which made it one of the highest rated dramas on TV…)

Who Should Win? Grey’s Anatomy.

Well, if you read my “Best TV of 2005-2006” column a few weeks back, you know where I’m going with this… “Grey’s Anatomy” topped its freshman season in every way, fleshing out immensely interesting characters, giving us both emotional and humorous storylines, and didn’t have a weak episode all season long.

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • Arrested Development
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • The Office
  • Scrubs
  • Two and a Half Men

Who Got Shafted? My Name is Earl

“Earl” gave us a completely original comedy that didn’t feel like a typical three-set situational comedy. It never tried to be cute or play on the tried and true storylines of any given sitcom on CBS (“a husband and wife who fight? Hilarious!”). Ironically, it became the most “feel good” show on TV even though the storylines were a little racy in the subject matter.

Who Doesn’t Belong? Two and a Half Men

I’ve seen “Two and a Half Men” once in a while – it’s a serviceable enough comedy, but there is nothing special about it. It’s clearly the best comedy that CBS has, but if it was on NBC or Fox, it wouldn’t be in the top three.

Who Should Win? Scrubs

This is probably the hardest category out there. It’s so hard to compare “The Office” (quiet, subtle humor), “Arrested Development” (wacky, smart humor), and “Scrubs” (goofball, heartfelt humor) because each have their strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day, I asked myself which was outstanding this year and “Scrubs” came out on top.

This season was one of its best, running the gamut from hilarious to creative to emotionally wrecking. It needs to be rewarded.

Outstanding Reality Series - Competition

  • The Amazing Race
  • American Idol
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • Project Runway
  • Survivor

Are there any other “Competitive Reality TV Shows”? I guess I could argue for Iron Chef America / Top Chef or Real World / Road Rules challenge, but I actually agree with all the nominations here. Leaving any of these off would be absurd. They are truly the top five.

Who Should Win? The Amazing Race.

Actually, I believe that “The Amazing Race” has won this award for every year that it has been in existence. There’s a reason for that – it’s damn entertaining, well made, and perhaps the most “real” of any of the “reality shows”. Whereas shows like “Idol”, “Dancing”, “Runway” and “Survivor” take people and place them in totally unrealistic situations of dancing, singing, and living on islands with strangers, “Race” puts people who already know each other (i.e. – in real relationships) on a journey around the world, to real places, where they have real conflicts with each other and either triumph or collapse.

As I’ve said before, seeing the different corners of the world helps – it’s a show that helps your inner world-traveler experience foreign lands vicariously through others. But it’s the people – the real people – that make it outstanding.

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series

  • The Colbert Report
  • The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
  • Late Night With Conan O’Brien
  • Late Show With David Letterman
  • Real Time With Bill Maher

Another tough category. It does make me happy to see “Leno” noticeably absent from the list – and I wouldn’t mind “Letterman” being dropped off either. Both shows just seem so contrived these days. They’re full of flat monologue jokes and tired skits that anymore they just feel like vehicles to parade celebrities out who pimp their most recent projects. I anxiously await 2009 when “Conan” steps into the 11:30 timeslot.

On the other hand, “Colbert”, “Daily Show”, and “Conan” are all well-deserving.

Who Should Win? Late Night with Conan O’Brien

“Daily Show” can sometimes shift a little too political for my liking, and really was at its best when it has election year material to play with. Still a great show, but after setting its bar so high since Stewart joined, this year was simply par for the course.

“Colbert” came out of nowhere to serve as the “anti-Jon Stewart”, taking a unique Republican, Red State angle on the news stories of the day. The interesting thing is that unlike any of the other hosts in the category, Colbert is actually acting, rather than just being himself – which is commendable.

However, “Conan” takes the prize, if for no other reason than for his special “Conan Goes to Finland” episode that was the funniest hour of TV I’ve seen in years. (“I know you’re in there Faggerstrom!”) It’s random departures like this that helps keep Conan fresh, different, and fun. Rather than feeling like Conan is coasting with his success, you really get the feeling that his show is getting better each year. By the time 2009 comes, look for his popularity to explode, as a whole new generation (the “I can’t stay up until 12:30 am” generation) gets to know him.

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Outstanding Actor, Drama Series

  • Denis Leary, “Rescue Me,”
  • Peter Krause, “Six Feet Under,”
  • Kiefer Sutherland, “24,”
  • Martin Sheen, “The West Wing,”

Who Got Shafted? Wentworth Miller, “Prison Break”

First of all, what’s up with having only four nominations? Why not just nominate a fifth for the fun of it? In this case, the glaring omission is Wentworth “Blueprint Back” Miller from “Prison Break”. He gave a subtle, powerful performance as Michael Scofield, a white collar man surviving the rough and tumble world of maximum security prison while working out a genius master escape plan in his mind… plus, he was dreamy! Definitely the breakout performance of the year.

Who Should Win? Kiefer Sutherland, “24”

Kiefer Sutherland is “24”. Unlike any of the other nominations, the show could not exist without him. I love Denis Leary on “Rescue Me”, but the supporting cast around him is incredibly strong and helps make the show what it is. On “24”, we were given a complete cast-overhaul during the season premiere as all our old fan favorites from the first four seasons were offed in a matter of minutes. All the sudden, it was Kiefer on his own to carry the show – and he delivered the best season in years. His character has re-defined action heroes and made the “action heroes” we see in movies seem lame and girlie.

Outstanding Actress, Drama Series

  • Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer,”
  • Geena Davis, “Commander in Chief,”
  • Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,”
  • Frances Conroy, “Six Feet Under,”
  • Allison Janney, “The West Wing,”

Who Should Win? No idea.

Seeing as I’ve never actually seen any of these shows (and one of them is already cancelled), I can’t really speak to this category. I’ll go out on a limb and go with
Allison Janney, since she’s won three Emmys in the past for this role.

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Drama Series

  • William Shatner, “Boston Legal,”
  • Oliver Platt, “Huff,”
  • Michael Imperioli, “The Sopranos,”
  • Gregory Itzin, “24,”
  • Alan Alda, “The West Wing,”

Who Got Shafted? Michael Emerson, “Lost”

Gregory Itzin was fantastic as an evil president on “24”, but before we praise the nuances he brought to the role leading up to his turn to evil, the following should be pointed out – he had no idea that he was going to be “evil” until the episode it happened. What that means is that he was playing an entirely different role from the first half of the season to the second. While they may have remained somewhat similar (a credit to his interpretation of the “evil” shift), any intentional character traits were somewhat accidental.

Michael Imperioli was great as always, but didn’t have much to work with this season as “The Sopranos” foolishly focused on other storylines. Nothing against Shatner, but his role on “Boston Legal” has been the same for the past three seasons – there was nothing special this year.

Which brings us to our boy, HGI…

Who Should Win? Michael Emerson, “Lost”

Absolutely. Did you know that his character was only originally intended to be in three episodes or so? But then Emerson turned in such a powerful performance that the writers kept him around for another five. It’s a testament to his acting that a simple smile had me (and most of the Internet) convinced he was pure evil. He could deliver lines that made you question the true meaning behind them, only to doubt yourself upon repeated viewings. At the end of the day, out of all the nominees, this is the performance that you are going to remember.

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Outstanding Supporting Actress, Drama Series

  • Candice Bergen, “Boston Legal,”
  • Sandra Oh, “Grey’s Anatomy,”
  • Chandra Wilson, “Grey’s Anatomy,”
  • Blythe Danner, “Huff,”
  • Jean Smart, “24,”

Who Got Shafted? Katherine Heigl

The classification here puzzles me. In my eyes, Heigl, Oh, and Pompeo on “Grey’s” are all the Leading Actresses on the show. Wilson is correctly classified as “Supporting”. But I digress – if they’re going to classify Oh as “Supporting”, then Heigl must be as well – and she turned in the best performance of the three ladies on “Grey’s” this past year. Partly due to getting the meatiest, most emotional storyline of the season with her love affair with dying patient Denny, she was able to give one of those performances that absolutely tears you apart to watch. Unlike Oh or Pompeo, she never drifted into “annoying girlfriend stereotype” territory.

Who Should Win? Jean Smart, “24”

When this season of “24” started, we all assumed Jean Smart’s character would be one dimensional – that of a wacky First Lady hopped up on drugs. But as the season progressed her character got more and more interesting – showing us that she wasn’t entirely crazy and was far craftier in her motives. She dove into the character headfirst and embraced all aspects of it. I honestly think that Jean Smart is crazy now. Whenever an actor “becomes” the part they’re playing, they’re doing something right.

Outstanding Actor, Comedy Series

  • Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,”
  • Kevin James, “The King of Queens,”
  • Tony Shalhoub, “Monk,”
  • Steve Carell, “The Office,”
  • Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men,”

Who Got Shafted? Jason Lee, “My Name is Earl”

I can think of a few actually. Zach Braff for “Scrubs” and Jason Bateman for “Arrested Development” immediately come to mind. But Jason Lee created one of the most iconic characters on TV this past year with his portrayal of Earl, a former lowlife who found karma and is working to turn his life around. Want dedication? He grew the scraggly hair and mustache for the part and kept it. Finally in the breakout role he deserves, the character is smart, down-to-earth, and earnest… and damn funny.

Who Should Win? Steve Carell, “The Office”

It is the year of Steve Carell. Between this and “40 Year Old Virgin”, he became a household face over the past year. With “The Office” he delivers an eccentric, over the top, sometimes painful to watch performance of Michael Scott – single handedly representing some aspect of every boss anyone has ever encountered in the business world. Yet he isn’t just some “evil boss” – which would have been an easy stereotype to fall in to. Instead we see the other side of him, the lonely guy who didn’t have any friends growing up, the boss who wants to be everyone’s friend, and the guy who loves to celebrate all holidays and enjoys the smell of bacon when he wakes up in the morning.

Outstanding Actress, Comedy Series

  • Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback,”
  • Jane Kaczmarek, “Malcolm in the Middle,”
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The New Adventures of Old Christine,”
  • Stockard Channing, “Out of Practice,”
  • Debra Messing, “Will & Grace,”

This is the worst set of nominations I’ve ever seen. Yet sitting here and thinking about it, I can’t come up with any better nominations off the top of my head (except perhaps Jenna Fischer for “The Office”, but she’s far more of a “straight character” on a comedy than comedic actress). Is this really how poor the state of comedic roles for females in Hollywood is today? For shame…

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Comedy Series

  • Will Arnett, “Arrested Development,”
  • Jeremy Piven, “Entourage,”
  • Bryan Cranston, “Malcolm in the Middle,”
  • Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men,”
  • Sean Hayes, “Will & Grace,”

Another question – how is Jon Cryer a “Supporting Actor” for “Two and a Half Men” whereas Charlie Sheen is a “Lead Actor”, when the two share equal screen time? Boggles the mind…

Who Got Shafted? Jon C. McGinley, “Scrubs”

If you want to see the most powerful acting performance of the past year, check out the “Scrubs” two-parter where Dr. Cox loses a patient after a failed transplant and tailspins into a bender that threatens his career. It’s incredible to see an actor such as McGinley, known for his rapid fire sarcasm-filled tirades do such a 180 and deliver a quiet emotional breakdown. In a season where “Scrubs” was back to top-form, Dr. Cox was back to his best.

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Who Should Win? Will Arnett, “Arrested Development”

It’s hard to pick out a single “Supporting Actor” from such an ensemble cast like “Arrested Development”, but if I was forced to pick, I would also go with Will Arnett’s George “Gob” Bluth II, the ventriloquist-magician with the son he doesn’t know he has, desperately wanting the affection of his father. Why Arnett? Simple – he’s the funniest. Each character has their moments, but Gob gave us the most laugh out loud moments per episode of any character on the show.

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Outstanding Supporting Actress, Comedy Series

  • Cheryl Hines, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,”
  • Alfre Woodard, “Desperate Housewives,”
  • Jaime Pressly, “My Name Is Earl,”
  • Elizabeth Perkins, “Weeds,”
  • Megan Mullally, “Will & Grace,”

Who Doesn’t Belong? Alfre Woodard, “Desperate Housewives”

Seriously? I can grudgingly allow you to classify some characters on “Housewives” as “comedic” – Terry Hatcher, Eva Longoria, and Nicollette Sheridan all deliver humorous scenes. Alfre Woodard played the dark (racial pun not intended), scary neighbor who kept her killer son locked up in the basement. What’s funny about that? This is one of the most outrageous nominations I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to see what clip they show on the ceremony to show her “humorous” side – perhaps a blooper?

Who Should Win? Jaime Pressly, “My Name is Earl”

Truth be told, I’m not familiar with “Curb” or “Weeds”, and absolutely hate Mullally’s role on “Will and Grace”, so it’s kinda a process of elimination here. Don’t you get the feeling that the white trash alcoholic isn’t so much of a “role” for Pressly, but rather who she really is? I know I do. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk that up to good acting, what do you say?

Outstanding Guest Actor, Drama Series

  • Michael J. Fox, "Boston Legal,"
  • Christian Clemenson, "Boston Legal,"
  • James Woods, "ER,"
  • Kyle Chandler, "Grey's Anatomy,"
  • Henry Ian Cusick, "Lost,"

Who Should Win? Henry Ian Cusick, “Lost”

No surprise here. If you’ve read the Blog this year, you know about my unnatural love of everything Cusick touches (“Lost”, “24”). His roles on both shows were somewhat minor, but had such resonance that there was an instant connection with the viewer, making him a fan favorite. The writers of “Lost” put the two hour finale (an episode they called “the most important episode we’ve done”) on his back and he carried it better than I could imagine any other character on the show doing. My best analysis tells me that Desmond will be back next season. Lucky us.

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Outstanding Guest Actress, Drama Series

  • Kate Burton, "Grey's Anatomy,"
  • Christina Ricci, "Grey's Anatomy,"
  • Swoosie Kurtz, "Huff,"
  • Patricia Clarkson, "Six Feet Under,"
  • Joanna Cassidy, "Six Feet Under,"

I’m out of my element here. Neither of the ladies from “Grey’s” were that powerful this season, and I don’t watch “Huff” or “Six Feet Under” due to my lack of HBO / Showtime.

Outstanding Writing, Comedy Series

  • "Arrested Development,"
  • "Entourage: Exodus,"
  • “Extras: Kate Winslet,"
  • "My Name is Earl: Pilot,"
  • "The Office: Christmas Party,"

Who Should Win? Arrested Development

Although the “Earl” pilot was one of the best series setups I can remember, there was no smarter writing on TV last year than on “Arrested Development”. It really was one of those shows that would require multiple viewings to catch all the hidden jokes and references to older episodes. Stupid Americans! Get smarter! The blood of “Development” is on your hands…

Outstanding Writing, Drama Series

  • "Grey's Anatomy: It's the End of the World, As We Know It (Parts 1 & 2),"
  • "Grey's Anatomy: Into You Like A Train,"
  • “Lost: The 23rd Psalm,"
  • "Six Feet Under: Everyone's Waiting,"
  • "The Sopranos: Members Only,"

Who Should Win? “Grey’s Anatomy: Into You Like a Train”

“The 23rd Pslam” was the most “traditional” and arguably best Lost episode of Season Two, revealing the mysterious background of the Eko character and giving us our best glimpse yet of Smokey. However, “Into You Like a Train” was the episode that made me sit up and take note of “Grey’s Anatomy”, thus starting my year long infatuation with the show. For those of you who don’t remember, this is the episode with the massive train wreck where the two people are impaled by the same pole. It was intense, emotional, and extremely well done. I’ll give it the edge.

Outstanding Writing, Variety, Music Or Comedy Program

  • "The Colbert Report,"
  • "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,"
  • "Late Night with Conan O'Brien,"
  • "Late Show with David Letterman,"
  • "Real Time with Bill Maher,"

Who Should Win? The Colbert Report

On these “talk-show” type shows, it’s hard to differentiate the show itself from the writing because the two are so intertwined for all portions of the show besides the guest interviews. But with a show like Colbert, there seems to be much more “scripted” parts – from “The Word” to “The Threatdown”, a lot more is riding on the writing of the show than on the host’s ability to adlib through bad jokes or give a good interview with a guest. Without the writing of “The Colbert Report”, we’d all be happily walking around, oblivious to the bear threat all around us.

So there you have it. Enough ranting and raving from me. This post was prompted by an angry tirade from The Reverend “Rabble Rabble” DeMange, who immediately sent me an Email when they were announced expressing his disgust at the lack of nominations for certain shows (I told you people get fired up over the nominations!).

At any rate, I told him I’d give him a chance to use my Blog as a soap box to get the rage out of his system, so here it is. The first guest post on Lost and Gone Forever Ever!

As a fan of Arrested Development, I was excited last year when the show finally got the praise it deserved. Yes, it is true that Season 3, it's final season, was not as good as the first 2, but I blame that on the fact that the actors/actresses knew that the series was going to be canceled. What makes Arrested Development so great is that you can actually compare your own family with the Bluth clan. Brian has mentioned it before and I will state it again. One of the reasons AD is so funny, along with NBC's The Office, is because it does not have a laugh track. Awkward pauses and facial expressions make you laugh even harder than if some stupid laugh track was telling when you it was ok to laugh.

So why am I babbling on like this? Well, when I heard that AD was not given rightful Emmy nominations to it's lead actors/actresses (Justin Bateman and Jessica Walters), I was furious. The "academy" if you choose to call it that, has a tendency to reward shows that are ending. Take a look at Friends. That show hit it's peak in season 7, but continued to get Emmy nods. The same goes with Everyone Loves Raymond. But in reality...did anyone REALLY love Raymond? I for one didn't.

The Bluth family will be missed. It is a damn shame that people watch crap like Paradise Island and don't watch a good show like AD. I guess what Brian said is true, maybe the show is just too smart for America. Actually, Brian should have said America is too dumb for Arrested.

Preach on Reverend, preach on!


MKinMotion said...

I agree with a lot of what you said, but I also realized how many TV shows I don't watch. Lost got shafted, Earl probably got shafted, definately Dr. Cox and Jason Lee.

Anonymous said...

You are an absolutely awesome writer! You really should pursue a career as an entertainment editor in a major newspaper. Your blogs are much more interesting and informative than most "professional" articles that I read in national magazines. Thanks for the great blogs.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Brian, I agree with the 2nd poster here, I believe you definately should have a job at some newspaper or whatever. Excellent articles and critics. I cant get enough. Cant believe LOST got shafted so badly.

A.J, Costa Rica.

Rachel said...

1. So glad you picked Conan. I LOVE him. He's one of the most wonderful people in the world. The show is amazing, and I have probably never laughed harder at a tv show than I did during the Finland episode.
2. As for who qualifies as a "leading" versus "supporting" actor: I have never understood this. I was pretty pissed off about the Oscars this year: Jake Gyllenhaal was supporting, but Heath Ledger was a lead in Brokeback Mountain... what? William Hurt was in A History of Violence for about 5 minutes and got the same nomination as Jake. Don't get it, think it's stupid.
3. Why are all three of the super annoying, over-the-top people from Will & Grace nominated, yet Eric McCormack, the only even remotely likeable character from that show, is not? (I don't think he should be either, but he certainly deserves it more than the other three.)
4. I have never really understood the characterization of DH as a comedy, with the exception of Eva Longoria. She's pretty funny.
5. When I've seen Jaime Pressly on interviews, she actually seems really prim and proper and mild-mannered.
Umm, yeah, long comment.

Ellen said...

Kyra should win for The Closer. She is amazing in it. (If you give it a chance, I guarantee you'll be addicted in one episode.)

Heather's Brain said...

this is exactly why I refuse to devote ANY time to these awards shows. Someone somewhere desides this is who should get a statue and the who's who show up in WAY TOO EXPENSIVE garb to pat eachother onthe back and losers pretend to be happy for the winners, winners fake nods to the losers while screaming inside, "YAH! I WON!" Meanwhile us poor shmucks sit in our lazy boys ooohing and awing over them....nope, not me! Especially when they do not acknowledge the shows I KNOW everyone IS watching!

Just had to say my piece. I just love that you give us the full scoop on everything Brain. Honestly I haven't even watched half of the nominees and as for Desperate Housewives, I could only watch the first four episodes before I realized how predictable it was. MY NAME IS EARL...Man, what a disappointment it was to see them slighted! That is how I know it isn't real! I couldn't even get people to book parties that night because it was on!!!

take care and I can't waitt o see what else you share with us!!!

Stef said...

Hey - Great post, all around. I agree whole-heartedly that Michael Emerson gave the single best performance on television all year, and it's a crime that he wasn't nominated. But I hope to see Grey's Anatomy pick up lots of statues, plus Jeremy Piven for Entourage and as many technical and writing/directing awards as possible for LOST. Here's hoping.

Laurie said... really should rent the 5 seasons of Six Feet Under. It's probably my favorite show after Lost. You feel like the characters are part of your family, and the story lines are real and very relatable. I think you'd asolutely love that show.

Anonymous said...

I'd have left the sopranos as a nominee and ditched West Wing for Lost. That show really has been crap for some time now.

My dissapointment in the lack of recognition for how good season 2 of Lost was is balanced by how happy I am to see 24 leading the pack. I hated the last few episodes of season five (Julian Sands' character coming back AGAIN was just kinda out there, not to mentioned handled in a rushed manner) but it was great for most of the season, and the show hasn't gotten as much recognition as it deserves up to this point.

I'm gonna hope that the new format ABC has taken to cut down on repeats of Lost gets the show back on track for nominations next year. I loved season 2, but the episodes were spread far too thin. I expect next to nothing in March due to NCAA and whatnot, but two episodes during February sweeps month... yech.

Mike said...

I'd have left the sopranos as a nominee and ditched West Wing for Lost. That show really has been crap for some time now.

My dissapointment in the lack of recognition for how good season 2 of Lost was is balanced by how happy I am to see 24 leading the pack. I hated the last few episodes of season five (Julian Sands' character coming back AGAIN was just kinda out there, not to mentioned handled in a rushed manner) but it was great for most of the season, and the show hasn't gotten as much recognition as it deserves up to this point.

I'm gonna hope that the new format ABC has taken to cut down on repeats of Lost gets the show back on track for nominations next year. I loved season 2, but the episodes were spread far too thin. I expect next to nothing in March due to NCAA and whatnot, but two episodes during February sweeps month... yech.

Robin L. said...

And once again Lauren Graham gets *completely* shafted. Ugh.

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