Friday, July 15, 2011

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: The 2011 Emmy Nominations

Welcome to my new weekly column: IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS!  Each week, I want to share my thoughts and opinions on the things happening in Pop Culture and the Media.

Yesterday morning, the world of Primetime Television held its breath while Melissa McCarthy (of Mike & Molly) and Joshua Jackson (of Fringe) announced the 2011 Primetime Emmy Award Nominations.  There were several surprises, several disappointments and a long list of "the usual suspects."  So for this week's inaugural column, I am fortunate enough that it coincides with this joyous (and nail-biting) time for the TV world.  I want to talk about each of the 10 major categories (the 5 Drama categories and the 5 Comedy categories), what show or performer got the honor of a nomination and what show or performer will have to settle for cheering on colleagues at the Emmy Award ceremony on Sunday, September 18, when it will air on FOX with Glee's Emmy-winner Jane Lynch serving as hostess.

Let us begin with the Drama categories:
Boardwalk EmpireDexterFriday Night LightsGame of ThronesThe Good WifeMad Men
  • Expected: It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Golden Globe winner Boardwalk Empire and 3-time Emmy champ Mad Men would make it's way into the mix.  And even though cable networks tend to dominate the category recently, CBS was not to be denied with its powerhouse legal drama The Good Wife (quite frankly the best show on Television, but I don't wish to sound biased!).  And while those three were most definite locks in the category, Showtime's gory and lauded Dexter was the most likely candidate for the fourth slot.
  • Surprises: In recent years, it has been very rare that a network (Broadcast OR Cable!) can get two of its acclaimed shows into this category.  So HBO was doubly thrilled to see its genre-defying costume epic Game of Thrones alongside Boardwalk Empire among the contenders yesterday morning.  And many were pleasantly surprised to see that the NBC/DirectTV critical delight Friday Night Lights finally get some recognition in this category, albeit for its fifth (and final!) season.
  • Snubs: There are just so many shows vying for six spots!  Apparently AMC could not pull off what HBO was able to as its two critically-acclaimed new shows The Killing and The Walking Dead did not join Mad Men on the list.  And three of the critics' favorite Dramas were not listed as FX's Justified, Showtime's Shameless and NBC's Parenthood were each nudged out of contention by more press-worthy fair (i.e. Good Wife or Bordwalk).  Also, it seems Game of Thrones is the only real genre-specific fan favorite that made its way into the mix as once again Fringe, Sons of Anarchy and True Blood were all denied a spot.  Then there are the categories previous nominees that have now (in one way or another) become virtual "also-rans:" In Treatment, Big Love, Rescue Me, House and Grey's Anatomy.  Plus, let's not forget the high-rated "Police Procedurals" (like NCIS, Criminal Minds, Blue BloodsBones, CSI and The Mentalist), which never really had a chance anyway!
Kathy Bates, Harry’s LawConnie Britton, Friday Night LightsMireille Enos, The KillingMariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVUJulianna Margulies, The Good WifeElisabeth Moss, Mad Men
  • Expected: The Good Wife's Julianna Margulies won every pre-Emmy Award...last year.  At last year's Emmys, she was denied the prize by a sympathy bid for 5-time nominee Kyra Sedgwick (of The Closer).  So, Margulies "stepped up her game," so to speak and was assured a nod for the show's stellar second season.  And Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss was given more to do by the show's writers (therefore bumping her up from Supporting Actress to Lead!) and her powerful work in the episode "The Suitcase" (which is for sure to be her episode submission!) might just make her the one to beat (sorry Julianna!).  And Connie Britton, who was a surprise nominee last year, was a favorite to garner a second nod for FNL's poignant final season.
  • Surprises: Even though she is Kathy Bates, her show was not universally loved.  So her inclusion is mostly a surprise.  And Mireille Enos' work on AMC's The Killing was much lauded, but it was not clear whether the category's tough competition would ace her out of a nod.  And previous winner Mariska Hargitay, while one of the best things about NBC's 12 year-old "procedural," was not on every pundits' short list for yet another nomination.
  • Snubs: It is rare that the category's previous winner is not included among the next year's nominees (usually only when the previous winner was on a show that ended the year before!).  So Kyra Sedgwick's lack of a nomination is pretty much confirmation that her win last year was sympathy for not winning in prior years.  And for some reason, Emmy voters just have not taken to FX's gritty Sons of Anarchy and therefore refuse to reward this year's Golden Globe winner Katey Sagal with a nod.  There were also critical favorites like Emmy Rossum (of Showtime's Shameless) and Lauren Graham (from NBC's Parenthood) left out of the running.  And, not to mention, definite fan favorites (both named Anna, by the way) True Blood's Anna Paquin and Fringe's Anna Torv, both denied a shot.  And I'm not gonna discuss Mad Men's January Jones' almost laughable mistake in submitting herself in this category (it's called LEAD Actress, January!).

Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk EmpireKyle Chandler, Friday Night LightsMichael C. Hall, DexterJon Hamm, Mad MenHugh Laurie, HouseTimothy Olyphant, Justified
  • Expected: With Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston ineligible this year, this award is now John Hamm's to lose.  The Mad Men star faces tough competition from previous nominee Michael C. Hall (who won last year's Golden Globe for his work on Dexter) and category newcomer Steve Buscemi (who won this year's Golden Globe for Boardwalk Empire).  And previous nominees Kyle Chandler and Hugh Laurie were both definite contenders to get in again.
  • Surprise: The critics love Timothy Olyphant's work on FX's Justified, so his inclusion was most welcome.
  • Snubs: Though Game of Thrones got a nod in the top category, Emmy voters failed to recognize the show's main star Sean Bean (maybe they saw the costume and thought it was another Lord of the Rings movie!).  Also, Shameless star (and Awards favorite) William H. Macy was excluded along with critical dynamo Peter Krause (of Parenthood).  Then there are previous nominees like Simon Baker (The Mentalist), Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment), Bill Paxton (Big Love) and Denis Leary (Rescue Me), all of whom were left off the list once again.
Christine Baranski, The Good WifeMichelle Forbes, The KillingChristina Hendricks, Mad MenKelly MacDonald, Boardwalk EmpireMargo Martindale, JustifiedArchie Panjabi, The Good Wife
  • Expected: Previous winner Archie Panjabi and her Good Wife co-star Christine Baranski were definite locks to get nominated again.  And Mad Men's Christina Hendricks is still glowing in her "It Girl" status from last year, so her nod was for sure.  Then there is Kelly MacDonald who is the most critically lauded performer on the HBO ensemble hit (she also scored a Golden Globe nod!) and she is a serious contender to challenge Panjabi's second bid for a win.
  • Surprises: Both The Killing's Michelle Forbes and Justified's Margo Martindale are very respected character actresses (I still remember Forbes' thrilling role on Star Trek: TNG as Ensign Ro!), so their respective nominations are making the critics smile from ear to ear.  Plus, a win for Martindale would probably make them do cartwheels!
  • Snubs: HBO's trio: Debra Winger (In Treatment), Chloe Sevigny (Big Love) and Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) were each on some pundits short list (at one time or another) yet failed to garner nominations.  And critical favorites like Monica Potter (Parenthood), Regina King (Southland) and Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) were edged out of contention.  Plus, there were fan favorites (and long shots) like Lisa Edelstein (for her last season on House) or Sara Ramirez (for the much-hyped musical episode of Grey's Anatomy) or Sharon Gless (who was nominated last year for USA powerhouse Burn Notice), all of whom were overlooked.

Andre Braugher, Men of a Certain AgeJosh Charles, The Good WifeAlan Cumming, The Good WifePeter Dinklage, Game of ThronesWalton Goggins, JustifiedJohn Slattery, Mad Men
  • Expected: Mad Men's John Slattery (who has been nominated 3 times before) has been the clear frontrunner for months now.  Andre Braugher (who has won 2 Emmys and garnered a nod last year for the TNT dramedy) is a definite favorite with critics (and quite possibly voters!).  Plus, The Good Wife has several contenders in this category, so getting two of its actors nominated (Josh Charles & Alan Cumming) was not a shock.
  • Surprises: Justified is beloved by many critics and Walton Goggins could challenge Slattery for a win in the category.  And several fans were pleased to see the very respected character actor (and only American cast member of Game of Thrones!) Peter Dinklage in the mix.
  • Snubs: The most notable omission (to fans and critics alike!) is Fringe's John Noble.  And while Good Wife garnered two nods, both Chris Noth and Matt Czuchry were left out in the cold, so to speak.  Hawaii Five-O's Scott Caan garnered a Golden Globe nomination, but he was considered a long-shot for an Emmy nod.  And it seems all of Boardwalk Empire's male ensemble have cancelled each other out and none of them got a nod (sorry in particular to Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg!)

And now, on with the Comedy: 

The Big Bang Theory, Glee, Modern Family, The Office, Parks and Recreation30 Rock
  • Expected: As I said in a previous post, Glee, Modern Family and 30 Rock were each almost assured a nomination in this extremely competitive (and wide-ranging!) category (despite the first two had "Sophomore Slump" seasons and the latter is beginning to show its age!).  While I didn't include it in "the locks," The Office was a definite contender (particularly since it was Steve Carell's departing season!).  And out of all the other Comedy choices, CBS' The Big Bang Theory, was the definite front-runner for that fifth slot.
  • Surprises: NBC pulled off a rare hat-trick and got a third nomination in the category for the very much liked Parks and Recreation.  Also, with NBC garnering 3 spots and ABC, FOX and CBS each getting one of their lauded shows in the mix, cable networks (i.e. Showtime) were knocked out of contention (more on that below!).
  • Snubs: Showtime faves Nurse Jackie (nominated last year) and The Big C (which garnered a Golden Globe nod) were knocked out of contention in this seemingly anti-cable/pro-network Comedy category.  Another cable contender (that put on an aggressive Emmy campaign!) was TV Land's Hot In Cleveland (but maybe the campaign was too aggressive!).  FOX newcomer Raising Hope was also denied a spot (the spot that probably went to its powerhouse lead-in, Glee!).  And once again, NBC's Community and ABC's Cougar Town were not nominated and the critics (and fans!) are left scratching their heads.

Edie Falco, Nurse JackieTina Fey, 30 RockLaura Linney, The Big CMelissa McCarthy, Mike & MollyMartha Plimpton, Raising HopeAmy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
  • Expected: It was most assured that Edie Falco (last year's winner) and Laura Linney (the Golden Globe champ) would get nominations for their respective Showtime dramedies.  And former SNL-turned-sitcom stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are beloved by many, so their nominations were pretty much locks.
  • Surprises: Newcomers Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) and Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope) are favorites of the critics and the fans.  Plus, McCarthy is enjoying many laurels for her scene-stealing role in the sleeper Summer Comedy hit Bridesmaids.  And Plimpton is a much respected actress dating back to her child/teen acting days in films like The Goonies and Parenthood.
  • Snubs: Toni Collette won this category back in 2009 (for her stellar work on Showtime's United States of Tara), but the news of her show's cancellation must have aced her out of a nod this time around.  And Glee's Lea Michele (probably the most talented performer on Television!) was denied a second nomination despite being on the year's most popular show.  The Middle's Patricia Heaton (who won twice in the past for Everybody Loves Raymond) and The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco were edged out of contention.  And what does Courtney Cox have to do to get an Emmy nomination?  She NEVER got nominated during 10 years of Friends and was denied a nomination last year for Cougar Town.  Looks like history is destined to keep repeating itself.  Plus, previous nominees Mary-Louise Parker (of Weeds) and ALL of the Desperate Housewives (Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria and past winner Felicity Huffman) are once again off the list of nominees.

Alec Baldwin, 30 RockLouis C.K., LouieSteve Carell, The OfficeJohnny Galecki, The Big Bang TheoryMatt LeBlanc, EpisodesJim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
  • Expected: Last year's winner Jim Parsons and previous winner Alec Baldwin were definite locks in this category, as was Steve Carell, who is the one to beat for his final season on The Office (considering he has never won!).
  • Surprises: Johnny Galecki is used to playing "the straight man" to Parsons and was finally rewarded with a nomination. Matt LeBlanc, who pretty much plays himself on Episodes, is a veteran of the category (having been nominated previously for HIS work on Friends!).  And stand-up Louis C.K. is a favorite with many critics and is considered very deserving of this recognition.
  • Snubs: Glee's Matthew Morrison got nominated last year, but its possible that the scaling down of his character (there were some episodes where he pretty much only had one scene!) hurt his chances for a Lead nomination.  Critical Cable favorites Thomas Jane (of HBO's Hung) and David Duchovny (of Showtime's Californication) were once again denied a chance for the trophy.  And there is a long list of fan favorites that were left off the list this year: Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down), Joel McHale (Community), Zachary Levi (Chuck), Lucas Neff (Raising Hope), Jason Schwartzman (Bored to Death) and Rob Lowe (who might have submitted himself in the wrong category for his work on Parks and Recreation).

Julie Bowen, Modern FamilyJane Krakowski, 30 RockJane Lynch, GleeSofia Vergara, Modern FamilyBetty White, Hot In ClevelandKristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
  • Expected: All the nominees in this category are EXACTLY what was EXPECTED!  Last year's winner (and this year's hostess!) Jane Lynch of Glee was guaranteed a return to the list.  Modern Family's Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara were also each assured a second nod.  Both Jane Krakowski and Kristen Wiig (each previous nominees) are beloved in this category.  And to talk about beloved, there's Betty White!
  • Snubs: Previous nominees Holland Taylor (of Two and a Half Men, don't get me started!) and Jenna Fischer (of The Office) are left off the list.  Hot In Cleveland's other top contender Wendie Malick (who could have easily submitted in Lead) lost her spot to co-star Betty White.  Critical favorites like Jane Adams (of Hung) and Busy Phillips (of Cougar Town) are once again denied their chances.  Both Merritt Weaver (Nurse Jackie) and Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory) were also considered strong contenders, but alas its not to be.  And with Jane Lynch getting a nod, it was unlikely that either Heather Morris or Naya Rivera would enjoy a nomination for their work on FOX's musical hit.  And let's not forget the three hilarious ladies (Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown) from NBC's Community.  Surely, one of them deserved a nomination!

Ty Burrell, Modern Family; Chris Colfer, Glee; Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men; Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family; Ed O'Neill, Modern Family; Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
  • Expected: Chris Colfer, whose work on Glee this year was considered by many fans to be Leading work, was assuredly going to enjoy his second Emmy nod (to go with his Golden Globe win!).  And it was a foregone conclusion that at least two of the worthy Modern Family actors (Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O'Neill and last year's winner Eric Stonestreet) would get nominations.
  • Surprises: Though he won in 2009, Jon Cryer's chances to get nominated again have been dwindling (and the publicity his former co-star garnered the show this year was not helping), yet here he is nominated again (Maybe the voters are feeling sorry for him!).  And, seriously, ALL the Modern Family actors.  I mean, I like them all for different reasons and any two of them would have been welcomed, but all four is just too much.  It squeezes out anyone else who was very deserving (see below!).
  • Snubs: There are two big ones: How I Met Your Mother's Neil Patrick Harris (who had been nominated several times before!) and Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman (who is absolutely beloved by the critics and fans...seriously, they are crying "FOUL!").  The Modern Family domination certainly has robbed these two comedic talents of gaining recognition in the category.  Also, Community's Danny Pudi is a fan favorite who would have been extremely welcomed by many (myself included!).  With Chris Colfer's nod, Mike O'Malley (who does awesome work as his father) was aced out.  Garrett Dillahunt (of Raising Hope) and Oliver Platt (of The Big C) are both very respected by their fellow actors, but apparently not enough.  And both The Office and 30 Rock each had at least two possible contenders that were edged out by Modern Family (Rainn Wilson and Ed Helms of The Office and Jack McBrayer and Tracy Morgan of 30 Rock).

What does this all mean?
Well, to put it bluntly, Awards are completely subjective.  Half the time, the voters are very predictable (Mad Men!).  And the other half, they throw the pundits a most surprising curve ball (ALL the Modern Family men, really?!?).  And when you have to whittle down a large list of acclaimed contenders for each category down to just six spots, you are bound to make some enemies (fans of Nick Offerman, for sure!).  In a few weeks (as we get closer to ceremony time!), I will give you my predictions as to who will win come September 18.  And who knows?  I may be right OR I may get it ALL wrong.  But either way, I'm gonna enjoy doing it because, let's face it, it's the little things like this that keep our Culture spinning.  And I couldn't be happier!

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