Saturday, July 21, 2007

Annual Emmy Rant

Another year, another fairly puzzling round of nominations from the Emmy voters. Sigh.

It just really makes me ask the question, "Who is really off-base here? Me or them?" Because clearly we have very different views on what the definition of the word "Outstanding" means. To me, it means something that stands out for being excellent, not something that stands out for having high ratings or being simple to understand. I guess part of the problem is with the whole nomination process, which just shows that Emmy Voters don’t actually watch TV. Instead, each show must submit one episode that the voters (allegedly) watch, and base their voting off of that. Clearly, this skews votes to favor simpler shows with “standalone” episodes over more complex shows with season-long story arcs. I suppose it’s impossible for someone to watch every episode of every show (which would be the most fair way to determine the nominees – can’t we train robots to do this?), but it just seems like there is something fundamentally wrong with the whole process.

But I digress. Looking at the nominees, there are a number in each category that I can get behind, as well as some that leave me scratching my head. Without further ado, here is my annual Emmy rant...

Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Entourage
  • The Office
  • 30 Rock
  • Two And A Half Men
  • Ugly Betty

Rant: Truth be told, television comedies are in a sad state. Entourage has its moments, but is also starting to feel a little stale. Ugly Betty is more of a “dramedy”, which makes it feel out of place here the same way that Desperate Housewives always felt out of place in this category.

Thank God for NBC’s Thursday night lineup, which in my mind contains the only comedies worth watching on major network TV. It’s good to see The Office and 30 Rock nominated, but disappointing to not see My Name is Earl, which had an outstanding season that delivered more consistent laughs than any other comedy this year. I probably would have also thrown in The Sarah Silverman Program, which was undeniably different, and at times absolutely hilarious.

Pick: The Office. While 30 Rock had some great episodes later in the season, it also started out very slow – and to me, this should award overall greatness for a season. The Office is the gold standard for comedy right now – a critical darling with a cult following that provides numerous quote-worthy scenes each episode.

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Outstanding Drama Series

  • Boston Legal
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Heroes
  • House
  • The Sopranos

Rant: Here’s the category I have the biggest problem with, and not just because of my obvious Lost-bias. Is it a coincidence that the highest rated dramas on NBC, ABC, and Fox are all nominated? Seems a little fishy to me, especially when the two best dramas of the past year – Lost and Friday Night Lights – were not nominated. Instead, we get Grey’s Anatomy, which took a major step backwards from its second season, and House, which is nothing more than a vehicle for Hugh Laurie to deliver his one-dimensional Dr. Cox impression.

As for Heroes, I truly enjoyed this show this season and anxiously await its return to TV. Having said that, there is no way I would have even dreamt of nominating it for Outstanding Drama. It’s an entertaining show, but I don’t think anything about it stretches any of the actors. Heroes is a real-life comic book, with accompanying cheesy dialogue and cliffhanger endings each week – but it’s a little like nominating a summer box-office action movie for Best Picture… it just doesn’t feel right.

Pick: The Sopranos. Simply because no other show has any chance. Hollywood is still enamored with this show (Brian’s opinion? Fantastic acting and great directing, but David Chase is a terrible storyteller), and with a field of competitors like these, it’s the only one worthy of a statue.

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Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

  • Ricky Gervais as Andy Millman, “Extras”
  • Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, “Monk”
  • Steve Carell as Michael Scott, “The Office”
  • Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, “30 Rock”
  • Charlie Sheen as Charlie Harper, “Two And A Half Men”

Rant: Surprisingly none, other than this – if Tony Shalhoub wins again over fantastic comedians like Gervais, Carell, and Baldwin, I’m going to go crazy.

Pick: Alec Baldwin is awfully tempting, but I have to come down on the side of Carell for this simple point. Baldwin overacts, Carell underacts. Both achieve great results, but I think the latter is much more difficult to pull off, and deserves more credit.

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Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

  • James Spader as Alan Shore, “Boston Legal”
  • Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House, “House”
  • Denis Leary as Tommy Gavin, “Rescue Me”
  • James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, “The Sopranos”
  • Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, “24”

Rant: My feelings about Laurie have been made abundantly clear over the years, so I’ll spare you a re-hash. I’d also question Kiefer Sutherland being nominated for 24. To me, if you’re someone who just got back from months of torture in China – and you go back to being normal action-hero Jack Bauer within four episodes (hours) – it’s either a product of bad writing or bad acting. As embarrassing as this season of 24 was, it doesn’t deserve any nominations.

Also – I would like to see ANY of these actors exhibit the range of emotions that Matthew Fox showed during “Through the Looking Glass”. Apparently the Emmy Voters are only looking for one-trick ponies. Go back and look through the nominees and tell me if any other than Leary ever deliver anything more than their standard “shtick” for their characters. Spader is a smart ass, Laurie is a cocky bastard, Sutherland is a tough guy. They all do it well, but once you’ve got it down – how hard is it to keep doing it each episode?

Pick: I would love to see Denis Leary pull this one out, but he’s competing against the juggernaut of James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, one of the iconic characters of this generation. I would be shocked to see anyone other than Gandolfini walk away with this one – but I’m okay with that. He delivers a nuanced, powerful performance each episode and carries the show.

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Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

  • Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo, “Desperate Housewives”
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell, “The New Adventures Of Old Christine”
  • Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, “30 Rock”
  • America Ferrera as Betty Suarez, “Ugly Betty”
  • Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin, “Weeds”

Rant: Want proof of the sad state of comedy on TV today? Look at these nominees. Does anyone actually laugh at Desperate Housewives? Huffman’s a great actress and all, but is she comedic? I don’t think so.

Pick: There are really only two choices here – Tina Fey and America Ferrera. If you vote based off of generating the most laughs (which would seem logical, given it’s a comedy category), Fey gets the win. If you vote based off of which makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, Ferrera gets the win for her ugly-duck, fish-out-of-water performance on Ugly Betty. Not surprisingly, I go with Fey.

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Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

  • Sally Field as Nora Walker, “Brothers & Sisters”
  • Kyra Sedgwick as Dep. Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson “The Closer"
  • Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
  • Patricia Arquette as Allison Dubois, “Medium”
  • Minnie Driver as Dahlia Malloy, “The Riches”
  • Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano, “The Sopranos”

Rant: The only show I’ve actually seen here is The Sopranos, so I suppose any rants on my part would be out of place.

Pick: Edie Falco. It’s true – the Sopranos are going to absolutely dominate the Emmys this year.

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Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

  • Kevin Dillon as Johnny Drama, “Entourage”
  • Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold, “Entourage”
  • Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson, “How I Met Your Mother”
  • Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, “The Office”
  • Jon Cryer as Alan Harper, “Two and a Half Men"

Rant: I totally support these nominees. Good job, voters!

Pick: This is a tough one. Piven and Wilson are the fan favorites – but Patrick Harris is equally fantastic. Since the Office is the funniest of all these shows, I suppose I’ll go with Dwight Schrute – if for nothing else, than for his performance when impersonating Jim this season. That was the funniest scene on television this past season.

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Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

  • William Shatner as Denny Crane, “Boston Legal”
  • T.R. Knight as George, “Grey’s Anatomy”
  • Masi Oka as Hiro Nakamura, “Heroes”
  • Michael Emerson as Ben, “Lost”
  • Terry O’Quinn as John Locke, “Lost”
  • Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti, “The Sopranos”

Rant: T.R. Knight, you don’t belong. Did the voters pity you because of the whole Isaiah Washington feud? Masi Oka, you’re damn likeable, but the “Ya-sa!” was getting a little tired by the end of the season. Shatner, I feel like you win this every year, and every year I am shocked (also, you seem drunk during your acceptance speeches).

On the other hand, I love the nomination of Michael Emerson – if you remember, this is something I was pitching pretty hard last season, and this year’s nomination is a welcome sight.

Pick: Emerson. He’s one of the most complex characters on television, elevates the scenes of any other actors he’s with, and can scare the hell out of you with one simple look into the camera. O’Quinn and Imperioli are both great – but neither quite matches the powerhouse of Benjamin Linus.

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Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

  • Jaime Pressly as Joy Turner, “My Name Is Earl”
  • Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly, “The Office”
  • Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper, “Two and a Half Men”
  • Conchata Ferrell as Berta, “Two and a Half Men”
  • Vanessa Williams as Wilhelmina Slater, “Ugly Betty”
  • Elizabeth Perkins as Celia Hodes, “Weeds”

Rant: Some pretty predictable nominations here – but are there really two “supporting actresses” on Two and a Half Men? I feel like Sheen / Cryer / Fat Little Kid are the only characters in 75% of the scenes.

Pick: Jenna Fischer. It’s long overdue. I remember reading in Entertainment Weekly about her audition for the show. She was supposed to deliver some sort of dialogue, but instead just gave one of her signature “stare at the camera and convey more of a message than a five minute monologue could” moves, and won the producers over. This is why she deserves the Emmy. I don’t know how you learn to do these looks – but she and Krasinski have it down to an art form.

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Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

  • Rachel Griffiths as Sarah Whedon, “Brothers & Sisters”
  • Katherine Heigl as Isobel “Izzie” Stevens, “Grey’s Anatomy”
  • Chandra Wilson as Dr. Bailey, “Grey’s Anatomy”
  • Sandra Oh as Cristina Yang, “Grey’s Anatomy"
  • Aida Turturro as Janice Soprano, “The Sopranos”
  • Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Jennifer Melfi, “The Sopranos”

Rant: Yuck. Three Grey’s Anatomy nominations for what was the worst season of the show’s three year run? It’s nutrageous. Aida Turturro is one of the characters on TV that I hate the most – but I don’t know if that means she’s doing a great job or a terrible job. She gets me to react, so I suppose that’s a good thing. Bracco is nominated as part of the Sopranos love-fest this year, but hasn’t really had anything interesting performances since the rape storyline a few seasons back (which was conveniently never resolved, thank you David Chase).

Pick: I would be okay with Wilson or Turturro, but I’m not in love with either performance. Since I’ve never seen Brothers and Sisters (since I’m a heterosexual male), I can’t comment on Griffiths either way. Can I pick Connie Britton for Friday Night Lights instead? Or would she be considered a "lead actress"? Either way, can we just give one to her?

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Outstanding Individual Performance In A Variety Or Music Program

  • 79th Annual Academy Awards, Ellen Degeneres, Host
  • The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert, Host
  • The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, Host
  • Late Show With David Letterman, David Letterman, Host
  • Tony Bennett: An American Classic, Tony Bennett, Performer

Rant: If Stephen Colbert loses this year to Bennett (like he lost to Barry Manilow last year), there will be riots across the Colbert Nation.

Pick: Stephen Colbert really deserves some sort of acting nomination (Outstanding Actor in a Comedy?) because unlike all the other nominees, he’s not just being himself. He’s playing a character – an absolutely hilarious character – that makes me laugh as much as any traditional comedy on TV. If he wins, expect his acceptance speech to go down as one of the all-time greats.

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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

Rant: None. For the question, “What are the five best variety, musical, or comedy series on TV?”, these are the answers.

Pick: Liberal Hollywood will probably pick The Daily Show again, while the rest of America would probably prefer Conan or Colbert. Like any true American, I side with Colbert.

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

  • The Amazing Race
  • American Idol
  • Dancing With The Stars
  • Project Runway
  • Top Chef

Rant: No rant here. I only included this category to serve as an excuse for me to write about how much I love Top Chef… which I’ll now do.

Pick: Top Chef. It’s honestly one of my favorite shows on TV, and seems to only be getting better with each successive season. It lacks all the awful things about most reality shows (unnecessarily mean judges, unnecessarily mean competitors, unnecessarily long “results shows”) and instead packs each hour-long episode with pure cooking entertainment. Compared to other cooking shows on TV, it clearly attracts the best chef talent, and I am continually impressed with the amazing dishes they put forth with little to no preparation time.

I wish that Tom Colicchio was my boss at work. Unlike most reality show judges, he is more like a coach, honestly pulling for each contesting and wanting them to improve. He’s fair, funny, and I someday hope to eat inside one of his restaurants.

Top Chef is fun, entertaining, and educational (to some degree – although most dishes are about two miles over my head). It’s the best reason for anyone to watch Bravo.

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…and there you have it. It feels good to get all that anger out of my system! Hopefully now I can return to my normal level of easy-going happiness… that is, until Emmy Night, when I’ll probably again be cursing, throwing things, and vowing to never watch the Emmys again… until next year.


Anonymous said...

Good calls all around.

I suppose it goes without saying that Through the Looking glass should be winning best writing?

Brian said...

Clearly. It was the single best episode of television of the past year, and one of the greatest of all time.

Kristen said...

I feel like Josh Holloway was robbed. I am not sure what episode he submitted for consideration, but no other actor has made me feel for their character as much as he did in The Brig. Keeping him out of the running is a travesty.

dru said...

"Does anyone actually laugh at Desperate Housewives? Huffman’s a great actress and all, but is she comedic?"

Me and yes. :)
And I'm serious, I actually think that Lynnete is the most funny character on the show.

Laura said...

That was great, Brian!
You must be excited that you buddy Michael Emerson is nominated!

Stef said...

Great rant, thanks for sharing. My comments:

1. I do not get all the "Boston Legal" love. I've seen parts of an episode here or there, and Spader and Shatner and Candice Bergen all just seem to be big caricatures and the stories don't matter at all.

2. "Two and A Half Men" is a pretty terrible show, yet all 4 of the adult actors get noms???

3. I love that you love Denis Leary. I worship "Rescue Me" and wish there was a whole lot more recognition of it.

4. Do we know which episode of "Lost" was submitted for the best drama? I hope it was "Through the Looking Glass," or maybe "Greatest Hits," but I still don't see how Emmy voters could pick "Boston Public" or "24" - again - over it.

5. I have been rooting for Terry O'Quinn to get a nomination for a while -- but, up against Michael Emerson, that is a very tough call. I think you're right, Henry Gale / Benjamin Linus is one of the most arresting, compelling, unforgettable charcters on tv. I hope Michael gets it.

Brian said...

Yes, Lost nominated "Through the Looking Glass" for the Outstanding Drama category. I also know the Sopranos nominated their Series Finale, but otherwise I'm not sure what episodes were put through.

Stef said...

Thanks for the answer. And, oops, I clearly meant "Boston Legal" not "Boston Public." But that's just proof of how all these David E. Kelley shows have run together over time....

Di said...

Great post! Go Colbert Report!

I can’t believe that Lost got only two lousy nominations for Best Supporting Actor! What, if it’s an ensemble cast, they won’t call someone a best actor? Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson certainly deserve their nominations, and it would be hard for me to choose between them, but I think you’re right, Brian, Emerson gets the edge.

I agree with Kristen--Josh Holloway does an excellent job. We see both the tough guy and jerky side as well as an occasional glimpse of vulnerability that keeps him very human. I would like to see him nominated.

I must confess, I don’t watch a lot of the shows that got nominated. I have watched House. Brian’s point that House is a jerk every week with little nuance is well taken, and the show is starting to wear thin. You can only watch a doctor abuse his patients and coworkers every week for just so long. As for 24—ugh. I don’t know why I keep watching. Somebody thump me. I guess I keep hoping it’ll get better, and it never does.

I also watch Boston Legal. The characters are all highly caricatured—it’s the closest thing I’ve seen in quite awhile to WKRP, which I used to love--with its suite of crazy co-workers. It’s unpredictable enough to actually be interesting. Most of the time the looniness doesn’t go too far outside its very wide parameters, and I tend to agree with the political points made. For some reason I have always liked James Spader. It’s funny to watch how he always keeps his nose up at just the right snooty angle. But that’s not really great acting, is it?

Anonymous said...

How LOST can get snubbed is beyond logic. Of any series nominated for "Best Drama", LOST is easily the most ambitious and most original. What a shame. I agree that Holloway should have gotten a best supporting actor nod and would be great to see Emerson win IMO.

Anonymous said...

Hated to see Lost and Holloway snubbed, but no tears from me for the Fox snub. Can't stand the actor, he all but ruins the show for me. Just dull, grinding repetition - cry/yell/rinse/repeat. He's the only sour note in an otherwise beautiful show.

Anonymous said...

I would not necessarily suggest Fox get best actor nomination but clearly and certainly feel the show more than earned to have been nominated. For those nominated for best supporting actor, Emerson's performances should get the vote without fail.

Madeline's Mom said...

I have to say that I don't know why Two and a Half Men is even still on tv, much less being nominated for awards. It's right next to Becker on my list of "Who Even Watches This?!" shows.

Jennifer said...

I completely don't understand how Lost could have been overlooked in the Best Drama category. Makes no sense. Compelling plots, excellent writing, complex characters, great acting, intense twists and turns in the storyline -- what more is a great drama supposed to have? And, what's with "Heroes" making the cut? I don't necessarily dislike it either, but it's too cheeseball to qualify as one of TV's 5 best dramas.

My fear is that O'Quinn and Emerson being nominated in the same category could mean a split vote among those who do appreciate Lost, with the result being that neither of them win. That would be a huge injustice!

heather's brain said...

I only have one me, the emmys are a waste of energy. People's Choice, that is where I feel what I watch matters and my opinion counts. I would prefer to see what THOSE nominations are, and then be pissed if LOST is snubbed!

and one last thing...

Emmerson wins this or there will be a revolt. I would have chosen Terry, but he is in Emmerson's category! Tough, thank God I am not a judge.

Pat Gaughan said...

I am super pissed. For those of you that are super anti-spoiler like myself, avoid for a few days, and probably other sites. They mention Lost in a certain headline and it totally blew a cool twist to the show. It wasn't so much the Headline, but the tiny little picture next to it.

laur said...

i'm not sure if you've seen this yet brian... it's on IMDB's movie/tv news

Perrineau Is No Longer 'Lost'

Actor Harold Perrineau is returning to Lost as desperate dad Michael after a season absence. Perrineau's character was last seen at the end of season two, sailing away from the island with his son Walt. ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson has confirmed Perrineau will be returning to the desert island drama's fourth season, which hits screens in January.

i hope im the first one to tell you this...but i'm sure you've known for like weeks..or years.

dru said...

Lost Comic-Con Conference.
They reveal little things that are obviously considered minor spoilers.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5 (the new orientation video):

andi said...

I don't watch much TV. In fact, I have disconnected my cable (until Lost starts again, obviously). So I don't know half of the shows.

But even for me that was an entertaining read. I know you were missing some comment lovin' Brian, so big up yourself!

Anonymous said...

You reckon Mathew Fox shows such range against the 'one-dimensional' Hugh Laurie? Of all the blogs I've read about the Emmy's your's is clearly the most ridiculous I come across.

Seriously hope you don't get paid for doing this - Don't give up the day job.