Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2012 Emmy nominations post-mortem: The surprises, the snubs, and the shameful

     Kerry Washington of ABC's "Scandal" and late night host
     Jimmy Kimmel present the nominations for the 64th Primetime
     Emmy Awards.

The Primetime Emmys sting of disappointment every year, and this year they stung even earlier. Not long before the nomination announcements, Nick Offerman from Parks and Recreation Reads Tweets From Young Female Celebrities had to bail on announcing because of a travel delay. In the end, though, I was glad that the actor giving the funniest performance on television did not have to get up so early in the morning to announce to the world that his own show, the best comedy on TV, was being ignored in favour of shows that move at a glacial level in terms of character development and humour, like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family.

I could write long, generic paragraphs about what I liked and didn't like, but I'd better go through the major awards category by category, so as to keep my thoughts under control and in their proper places. I'll also make note of who I think should win (as in who I feel is most deserving and who I want to win) and who I think will win. I have nothing to say about the miniseries and movie categories, so why waste time trying to write about them? A combination of joy and disgust after the break.

Outstanding Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory, CBS
Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO
Girls, HBO
Modern Family, ABC
30 Rock, NBC
Veep, HBO

As you might gather from the opener, it was displeasing to see overhyped glaciers The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family nominated in this category, even though it was pretty much inevitable. I'm not a fan of rewarding stale writing that has worsened over the years, which is why it's so very sad that pigs will fly in a frozen Hell before the PMS-ing women of Modern Family fail to collect this trophy for a third year in a row. The omission of Parks and Recreation in this category is legitimately shameful, considering the quality of the show didn't waver from its excellent and, more importantly, nominated third season last spring and that Emmy voters do acknowledge the outstanding Amy Poehler. Curb is a perennial favourite whenever it happens to air, so it's no surprise to see it here. Girls and Veep are shiny, talked-about HBO newcomers, though Girls genuinely deserved a nomination here so I'm happy to see it recognized. And six seasons in, 30 Rock only needs one last nomination next year for its final season to make it a lifer.

Should Win: 30 Rock
Will Win: Modern Family

Outstanding Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire, HBO
Breaking Bad, AMC
Downton Abbey, PBS
Game of Thrones, HBO
Homeland, Showtime
Mad Men, AMC

This is a category that induces no rage - all six are finely crafted works deserving of nomination. Even though the Emmy rules are so convoluted that they can pretty much get away with anything (how in the hell is American Horror Story really a miniseries, let alone worthy of Emmy nominations in any category?), they apparently decided Downton Abbey couldn't spend another year in the miniseries category, and in switching actually managed to pick up a lot more nominations in more competitive categories. Mad Men is locked in for life - the old voters love the nostalgia, and it's the hippest thing around for young voters - and I'd say Breaking Bad has also reached the point where its excellence will not fail to be recognized going forward. Game of Thrones while still a very good show seemed like it would fall out of the category the easiest, which is why it's somewhat surprising that multiple-nominee The Good Wife was what was bumped to make way for Homeland, whose extraordinary first season is well worthy to fight in this category. Look for Mad Men to become the first drama series to go 5 for 5. Also of note: as has been discussed around these series of tubes, this is the first year that network series were completely shut out of the drama category.

Should Win: Mad Men
Will Win: Mad Men

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock, NBC
Louis C.K. as Himself on Louie, FX
Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan on House of Lies, Showtime
Jon Cryer as Alan Harper on Two and a Half Men, CBS
Larry David as Himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, CBS

Emmy voters have demonstrated their love of Curb, so like the show itself, Larry David will be nominated whenever available. After a great season for 30 Rock, Baldwin is more deserving of a nomination than ever. With Michael Scott, and thus Steve Carell, out of the category, movie star Don Cheadle unsurprisingly slides in to the field (as the Bluths would say, "That was a freebie"). Jim Parsons probably deserved a nomination or two, and maybe a win, but Sheldon is such a one-note character that it's disappointing that voters have become entranced into voting for him the last couple years. And it will probably happen again. The nomination of Louis C.K. represents everything that is right and just about the Emmys. On the other hand? Jon Cryer. Sigh.

Should Win: Louis C.K.
Will Win: Jim Parsons

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day on New Girl, Fox
Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath on Girls, HBO
Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton on Nurse Jackie, Showtime
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, NBC
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer on Veep, HBO
Melissa McCarthy as Molly Flynn on Mike and Molly, CBS
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation, NBC

First off, it has to be noted that this category is weird because as the result of a tie, it's the only one with seven nominees instead of six. Was Zooey Deschanel worthy of an Emmy nomination for this role? Surely she could have been left out and we could have just had six. Lena Dunham is well deserving, and might have a shot at winning depending on the episode she submits. Not sure what Edie Falco and Melissa McCarthy are still doing here, but I guess there's still a bit of love from Emmy voters. Fey is never not great on 30 Rock. And Amy Poehler? I challenge all the voters to watch "Win, Lose, or Draw" and have the audacity to vote for somebody else.

Should Win: Amy Poehler
Will Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy on Modern Family, ABC
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family, ABC
Max Greenfield as Schmidt on New Girl, Fox
Bill Hader as Various Characters on Saturday Night Live, NBC
Ed O'Neill as Jay Pritchett on Modern Family, ABC
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker on Modern Family, ABC

Boy, if there was ever a category that could have really used that seventh slot, it was this one, clogged by Modern Family actors that I spend entire seasons not laughing at. What exactly do Ferguson or O'Neill do that's worthy of an Emmy nomination, besides being part of the ensemble so the voters like to check off their names on the ballot? Cameron was the best part of the show in its first season and was annoyingly driven in to the ground the last couple years by playing the same irritating note over and over and over and over. The only Modern Family cast member really worthy of their nomination is Ty Burrell, who will probably win again even if he doesn't submit "Virgin Territory". Few characters on TV are funnier than Stefon, so good for Hader on scoring his first nod, and Schmidt is the funniest part of New Girl so I'm glad to see Greenfield getting some love. But seriously, Emmys: if you're going to insist on wasting up to three slots on so-so performances because they're part of a just-okay show you're obsessed with, please add a seventh slot next year so we can throw an Offerman or a Pratt or a Glover or a Pudi into the mix. Or, seriously, Modern Family: please graduate Burrell and Stonestreet, who have won this award, into the lead actor category next year.

Should Win: Bill Hader
Will Win: Ty Burrell

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, CBS
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy on Modern Family, ABC
Kathryn Joosten as Karen McCluskey on Desperate Housewives, ABC
Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on Modern Family, ABC
Merritt Wever as Zoey Barkow on Nurse Jackie, Showtime
Kristen Wiig as Various Characters on Saturday Night Live, NBC

On that note about Modern Family, Julie Bowen could be graduated into comedy lead actress, provided that next year we remove the Deschanels and the Falcos and possibly the McCarthys. But Claire Dunphy is such a miserable hag that seeing Bowen nominated for one of Modern Family's famous, one-note grating performances is frustrating. Of that entire ensemble, Sofia Vergara is probably the most deserving of a nomination, and it's very possible that this is her year. Kathryn Joosten passed away about a month ago, and the award could go to her as a final tribute and no one would complain. Mayim Bialik's performance used to be absolutely dreadful, but even now it's only been upgraded to "okay, we get it, awkward sexual references" so her nomination is still puzzling other than Emmy voters loving The Big Bang Theory, which judging by last year's shameful nomination of Johnny Galecki, they do, blindly even. Kristen Wiig was given a nice sendoff by SNL, and perhaps Emmy might do the same and give her the award for lifetime achievement (although as mentioned, if this award is going to anyone for lifetime achievement, it's probably Joosten) (Something to ponder: if SNL  is a variety series, why are its performers eligible at all for these categories?). And Merritt Wever...well, she was pretty good as Matt Albie's assistant. Right?

Should Win: Sofia Vergara
Will Win: Sofia Vergara, if only for this:

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Jim Carter as Charles Carson on Downton Abbey, PBS
Brendan Coyle as John Bates on Downton Abbey, PBS
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones, HBO
Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring on Breaking Bad, AMC
Jared Harris as Lane Pryce on Mad Men, AMC
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad, AMC

An interesting category with a lot of great performances. With a great deal of broad, all-encompassing support for Downton Abbey Carter and Coyle will likely split a lot of votes from Downton supporters and are unlikely to sneak in, deserving or not. Jared Harris was a surprise addition to the field, although (spoiler alert) his character died tragically on a show that Emmy voters are clearly watching. Still seems odd, though, that he got in over perennial nominee John Slattery, who got to play Roger Sterling on LSD this past season. Dinklage and Esposito are both fantastic in their respective roles and are worthy of this trophy, but after a tremendous performance in the fourth season of Breaking Bad, Emmy voters will almost certainly welcome back 2010 winner Aaron Paul with open arms.

Should Win: Aaron Paul
Will Win: Aaron Paul

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart on The Good Wife, CBS
Joanne Froggatt as Anna Bates on Downton Abbey, PBS
Anna Gunn as Skyler White on Breaking Bad, AMC
Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway on Mad Men, AMC
Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife, CBS
Maggie Smith as Violet, Countess of Grantham on Downton Abbey, PBS

Baranski continues to be nominated here despite having the least to do out of probably anyone eligible in this category. But voters love The Good Wife, or at least the people on it as Archie Panjabi picks up a third nomination, so network television ho. Froggatt is a puzzling nomination and probably gets in due to the "Temple Grandin effect" (a year or two ago, Emmy voters loved Temple Grandin and its star Claire Danes so much that a halo effect was created and got the movie nominations in other categories that it really didn't deserve) that Downton Abbey seems to have had on the voters. In her first year of really deserving a nomination, Anna Gunn collects one, and Maggie Smith is probably going to be a lifer here. But after a very strong season for Mad Men, I think Christina Hendricks could finally sew up a win here by submitting "The Other Woman".

Should Win: Christina Hendricks
Will Win: Christina Hendricks

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Kathy Bates as Harry Korn on Harry's Law, NBC
Glenn Closes as Patty Hewes on Damages, Audience Network
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison on Homeland, Showtime
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley on Downton Abbey, PBS
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife, CBS
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson on Mad Men, AMC

Aside from noting the ridiculousness of another nomination for Kathy Bates (she didn't become any less of a movie star since last year, so it's still understandable why she's there), not much to say here, because the five nominees in this category who aren't Claire Danes can probably just stay home.

Should Win: Claire Danes
Will Win: Claire Danes

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, Lord of Grantham on Downton Abbey, PBS
Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson on Boardwalk Empire, HBO
Bryan Cranston as Walter White on Breaking Bad, AMC
Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan on Dexter, Showtime
Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men, AMC
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody on Homeland, Showtime

Not much to say here really, either. Six great actors who at some point in the life of their shows all deserved to win (for example, Jon Hamm for "The Suitcase" in a year where Cranston was ineligible, or Michael C. Hall for not this year; even newcomer Damian Lewis is fantastic). But if the clip below doesn't show you that Bryan Cranston is unbeatable for life no matter how great the competition is, nothing will.

Should Win: Bryan Cranston
Will Win: Bryan Cranston

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Louis C.K. for the "Duckling" episode of Louie, FX
Lena Dunham for the "She Did" episode Girls, HBO
Jake Kasdan for the "Pilot" episode of New Girl, Fox
Steven Levitan for the "Baby on Board" episode of Modern Family, ABC
Robert B. Weide for the "Palestinian Chicken" episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO
Jason Winer for the "Virgin Territory" episode of Modern Family, ABC

A bit of an odd category: there doesn't feel to be anything spectacular about those latter four nominees, but those first two - phew, that's some fantastic television direction. Though I didn't put these writing and directing categories on my hypothetical ballot, Louie's "Ducking" would have definitely been on it, and I probably would have picked it to win. And the finale of Girls, particularly the final sequence where Hannah rides the subway home, has her purse stolen, and walks to Coney Island to eat cake, is such an interesting and well directed episode of television that it would be well deserving of a win.

Should Win: "Ducking", Louie
Will Win: "Baby on Board", Modern Family

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Phil Abraham for "The Other Woman" episode of Mad Men, AMC
Michael Cuesta for the "Pilot" episode of Homeland, Showtime
Vince Gilligan for the "Face Off" episode of Breaking Bad, AMC
Brian Percival for "Episode 7" of Downton Abbey, PBS
Tim Van Patten for the "To the Lost" episode of Boardwalk Empire, HBO

Lots of great direction here and kind of a toss-up category. Mad Men has a good shot at anything, and the Homeland pilot could sneak in here and win (not to mention that the Emmys have a thing for pilots). But Vince Gilligan is such a crazy perfectionist, and it really shows in the season 4 finale of Breaking Bad. It will definitely be interesting to see who takes this one home.

Should Win: "Face Off", Breaking Bad
Will Win: "Pilot", Homeland

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner for the "Far Away Places" episode of Mad Men, AMC
Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner for "The Other Woman" episode of Mad Men, AMC
Julian Fellowes for "Episode 7" of Downton Abbey, PBS
Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, and Gideon Raff for the "Pilot" episode of Homeland, Showtime
Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton for the "Commissions and Fees" episode of Mad Men, AMC

Probably also an up-in-the-air category because there's broad support for all these very good submissions. Even though Claire Danes is a lock to win her category, there could still be a desire to throw some random support at Homeland so this and the directing category are far more likely than the show winning for Drama Series or Damian Lewis beating Bryan Cranston. Multiple nominees in this category has never seemed to hurt Mad Men's chances and they certainly have a great submission episode in "Far Away Places", one of the show's most oddly fascinating episodes due to its unusual narrative structure. Then again, Mad Men wasn't able to win last year for "The Suitcase" (or any wins for that episode), probably the best episode that show has ever done. Again, it will be interesting to see who wins this one.

Should Win: "Far Away Places", Mad Men
Will Win: "Far Away Places", Mad Men

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Louis C.K. for the "Pregnant" episode of Louie, FX
Lena Dunham for the "Pilot" episode of Girls, HBO
Chris McKenna for the "Remedial Chaos Theory" episode of Community, NBC
Amy Poehler for "The Debate" episode of Parks and Recreation, NBC
Michael Schur for the "Win, Lose, or Draw" episode of Parks and Recreation, NBC

Let's end on a high note! What a fantastic category this is. The four best comedies on television are represented here, so let's all pretend this is actually the Comedy Series category, deal? Deal. First off, how bizarre and frankly wrong that of the four series nominated in this category, only Girls is nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series (don't forget, Parks and Recreation was shamefully snubbed in that category, along with the very deserving Community and Louie - just wanted to make sure no one forgets that). One would think that writing plays a significant role in whether a series, and particularly a *comedy* series, is outstanding or not. While I really like Louie and Girls, I really wish different episodes of those series were nominated because those aren't the best episodes of their respective seasons (the pilot might be the worst episode of Girls, so I would have preferred something like "All Adventurous Women Do", "The Return", or "Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too"; for Louie, I would have preferred "Oh, Louie/Tickets" or "Eddie"). Community finally gets a long overdue nomination, and well deserved for what is probably the most interesting episode they've ever done. Both submissions for Parks and Recreation are fantastic episodes and both have a shot at winning, but the edge probably goes to Poehler to make up for the fact that she will probably not win for Lead Actress in a Comedy. Even with all that said, the Girls pilot probably ends up winning.

Should Win: "Win, Lose, or Draw", Parks and Recreation
Will Win: "Pilot", Girls

And that's it! The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards will prove me very, very wrong in a live ABC telecast on September 23.