Thursday, July 14, 2011

Emmy Nominations 2011

While the rest of the world has been clamoring over the release of the final Harry Potter film tomorrow, I've been anticipating the announcement of this year's Emmy nominations, the annual award show honoring the best in television*. This year's nominees list features plenty of returning players, as well as some interesting (and welcome) new faces. As I did last year, I'm only covering comedy, drama, and miniseries/TV movie categories here, and not the animated (though damn them for not nominating Archer for anything!), reality, or technical categories. If you're interested, you can find the full list of nominees here.

*As with any award show, this isn't some final declaration. Superlatives such as "best" are always subjective, and of course there are shows and performers in here that I like and don't like, as well as some that you like and don't like. Because of the volume of programs on television, it's impossible to nominate every little thing that's "good," so things, of course, get left out. Of the Big Four awards shows, the Tonys are really the most comprehensive, since only a handful of shows on Broadway are eligible each year relative to the hundreds of television programs (Emmys) and movies (Oscars) and the thousands of songs and albums (Grammys). So, yeah, things like popularity and name-recognition play a big role in the Emmys. They only pretend to be a meritocracy, so why don't we just play along? ;)

BEST COMEDY SERIES
The Big Bang Theory
Glee
Modern Family
The Office
Parks and Recreation
30 Rock



First off, hooray for Parks and Recreation! I've actually been catching the summer reruns of this show lately, and holy crap I'm sorry that I've been missing out on this. Of course, annual mainstays 30 Rock and The Office are nominated again, and these three shows mean that half the category is taken up by NBC. Note to Emmys: thanks for not going with Outsourced. Glee and reigning champ Modern Family are back, though each hit varying degrees of sophomore slump this year (the former much more than the latter). And The Big Bang Theory, the Chuck Lorre comedy that actually is good, finally broke through into this category. Notable snub: Louie. It was easily the best live-action comedy of the year, but perhaps it was just too small to get noticed?

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Louis C.K., Louie
Steve Carell, The Office
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

I'm genuinely surprised that Louis C.K. pulled a nomination here, especially since his show missed out on Best Comedy Series. It's a good surprise, though, as is the inclusion of Matt LeBlanc, who played an exaggerated version of himself on Episodes (sort of an American answer to Extras). Johnny Galecki, too, is an interesting inclusion, and his nomination is evident that the voters really do like The Big Bang Theory. Past winners Jim Parsons and Alec Baldwin also make a return, as does Steve Carell, who's most likely to pick up his first trophy for his final season as Michael Scott. Notable snubs: Rob Lowe's attempt to cast himself as Parks and Recreation's lead didn't pan out. On the plus side: no Charlie Sheen!

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Laura Linney, The Big C
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope
Tina Fey, 30 Rock

Plimpton

Of course Linney got a nomination, as expected. For one thing, she's playing a cancer patient on a Showtime dramedy (I won't get into the whole comedy-vs.-drama on Showtime thing right now), and for another, she's Laura effin' Linney. McCarthy is certainly a surprising nod, probably benefiting from all the buzz surrounding her breakout role in Bridesmaids (if the movie came out around the time ballots were due, of course). I haven't actually seen an episode of Mike & Molly (which is also a Chuck Lorre production), so I don't actually know anything about her performance. I have seen some Raising Hope, however, and bully for the great Plimpton for landing a nomination here. In the returning field, last year's winner Falco will try to pick up another Emmy, while former SNL castmates Fey and Poehler will compete again. Notable snub: Toni Collette got nothing for what ended up being United States of Tara's final season. Also, have you noticed the Glee cast members have been dropping like flies this year? No Lea Michele here, and no Matthew Morrison in Best Actor (*sigh of relief*).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Chris Colfer, Glee
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Ed O'Neill, Modern Family
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men

Modern Family really took over the category this year, leaving little room for anyone else. The big story here is that Ed O'Neill scored the first Emmy nomination of his career, despite years of work on the god-awful Married...With Children (dear entertainment community, that's why he hadn't been nominated). Meanwhile, everyone else is returning to the category, including last year's recipient Stonestreet. And even though he's a perennial nominee (seriously, they practically reserve a spot for him every year), I feel that Cryer's nomination this year is more for putting up with Charlie Sheen's antics than anything else. Notable snub: no room for Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman ("I'm Ron fucking Swanson!"), Aziz Anseri, Chris Pratt, and/or Adam Scott? That's a shame.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Jane Lynch, Glee
Betty White, Hot in Cleveland
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock

This category, out of all the comedy ones, is the weakest. Lynch, who won last year, was nominated again, but her character of Sue Sylvester had an awful year, devolving into a sentient cartoon character. I understand a lot of people love Betty White, but this nomination seems more like, "hey look, it's Betty White!" more so than her performance. Bowen and Vergara both had good years on Modern Family, though the former also saw her character become less layered and more shrill in some episodes. Wiig will probably benefit from Bridesmaids as well, but she can still be borderline-grating on SNL. And one of these days Krakowski should win an Emmy for 30 Rock, but this year she was way too marginalized to earn recognition. Notable snub: Naya Rivera became the MVP of Glee this season, so why not throw her a nod as well?

BEST GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Idris Elba, The Big C
Nathan Lane, Modern Family
Zach Galifinakis, Saturday Night Live
Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live
Matt Damon, 30 Rock
Will Arnett, 30 Rock

Elba

Congratulations to Elba, who's finally broken out this year after years of hard work. Lane was a delight on Modern Family, and I'm glad to see him here. Timberlake won this prize two years ago for hosting, so it will be interesting to see if he can do it again. Galifinakis is an interesting nod as well, and with Damon make up the "movie stars go on TV!" portion of this category. As for Arnett, well, he's the Jon Cryer of this category, getting nominated about every year for showing up as Devon Banks, Jack Donaghy's rival. Notable snubs: all of the guest stars who showed up in the last few episodes of The Office. Perhaps too much internal competition?

BEST GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Kristen Chenoweth, Glee
Dot-Marie Jones, Glee
Gwyneth Paltrow, Glee
Cloris Leachman, Raising Hope
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
Elizabeth Banks, 30 Rock

The women of Glee made a big splash here, especially considering the massive press Paltrow got for her two-episode turn. Of course, the Emmys love K-Chen (don't we all?), and Jones is actually surprising to me since I didn't actually think much of her performance. Fey received another nod for returning to her SNL roots, and Banks really was great this year as the mother of Jack's child. And though I haven't actually seen Leachman's work on Raising Hope, no doubt it is hilarious. Notable snub: no nomination for Sherri Shepard, who hilariously played Tracy Jordan's wife in "Queen of Jordan" on 30 Rock?

BEST DIRECTION FOR A COMEDY
Pamela Fryman, How I Met Your Mother ("Subway Wars")
Michael Alan Spiller, Modern Family ("Halloween")
Gail Mancuso, Modern Family ("Slow Down Your Neighbors")
Steve Levitan, Modern Family ("See You Next Fall")
Beth McCarthy-Miller, 30 Rock ("Live Show")

Modern Family really dominated this category, and it's notable that the three nominated directors were helming episodes that involved a lot of the show's trademark comedic precision (though only one of those, "Halloween," was an instant classic). I haven't seen How I Met Your Mother this year, so I can't say anything about Fryman's work, but McCarthy-Miller (a regular at 30 Rock) did a deft job at handling the live comedy episode, certainly no easy feat. Notable snubs: nobody from Glee was nominated this year. Though the show suffered in quality, there were some very well-directed episodes, including "Duets."

BEST WRITING FOR A COMEDY
David Crane & Jeffrey Klarik, Episodes ("Episode 107")
Louis C.K., Louie ("Poker/Divorce")
Steve Levitan & Jeffrey Richman, Modern Family ("Caught in the Act")
Greg Daniels, The Office ("Good-Bye Michael")
Matt Hubbard, 30 Rock ("Reaganing")

There's a great variety of work here this year. I haven't seen Episodes, so I'll pass on judging it. Louie is tightly-written show, all the more impressive considering C.K. writes every episode himself, and "Poker/Divorce" is a terrific episode. "Caught in the Act" was on in reruns last night, and it's a well-written episode of Modern Family if not the best of the year. Of course, "Good-Bye Michael" is fondly remembered, and The Office always scores a writing nod. "Reaganing," though, was one of 30 Rock's best episodes this year, based on a strong, hilarious script that never overdoes its story. Notable snub: it may not have been eligible since it's animated, but Archer's "El Secuestro" was the single best half-hour of comedy I saw all year. Surely it could have earned a nomination.

BEST DRAMA SERIES
Boardwalk Empire
Dexter
Friday Night Lights
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
Mad Men




Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose! After years of being ignored, Friday Night Lights finally landed a Drama Series nod for its final season, something that many critically beloved series couldn't pull off (see: The Wire). However, here's an interesting statistic: The Sopranos is the only show to ever win this prize for it's final season. HBO made a huge comeback this year, scoring nods for both Boardwalk Empire and, perhaps somewhat more surprisingly (not really), Game of Thrones. The Good Wife, which fell in buzz this season, returned based on quality. And perennials Dexter and three-time reigning champion Mad Men made their returns. The big question this year is: can Mad Men join Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and The West Wing with four consecutive wins? Notable snub: Breaking Bad didn't air in the eligibility period, so that's why it's not there. But not nominating Justified, television's best show? That ain't right.

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Hugh Laurie, House
Timothy Olyphant, Justified
Jon Hamm, Mad Men


Olyphant

With three-time winner Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) ineligible, someone else finally has a chance to claim this trophy. Buscemi won the Golden Globe, and it's great to see the long-time character actor getting recognition as a (highly improbable) leading man. I can't tell you how glad I am to see the incredible Olyphant nominated for playing Raylan Givens; he's so good in the show. Annual nominees Hall, Laurie, and Hamm all return, hoping to grab their first win. And Chandler is back for his final turn as Coach Eric Taylor, the football coach/father that every football coach and father should aspire to be. Good for him. Notable snub: the show didn't last long, and didn't pick up a single nomination, but Lights Out's Holt McCallany was a joy to watch every week.

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Kathy Bates, Harry's Law
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Perennial nominees Glenn Close and Kyra Sedgwick (last year's champ) missed their return this year, the former due to ineligibility and the latter rather surprisingly, which opened up several new spots. Those were taken by Bates, who's show was critically reviled so I'm surprised she was nominated, and Enos, who received good reviews even when her show didn't. Britton and Moss make triumphant returns, as does Margulies, who was favored to win last year. And with Hargitay supposedly leaving L&O after next year, this could be one of her last nominations. Notable snub: well, Sedgwick, for one, but they also ignored Golden Globe winner Katey Sagal's work on Sons of Anarchy again. What's it going to take to get her a nomination?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Walton Goggins, Justified
John Slattery, Mad Men
Andre Braugher, Men of a Certain Age

There's a lot of turnover in this category compared to last year, considering that both Breaking Bad and Lost (RIP) were off the air. Slattery returned once again, and with last year's winner Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) out, he stands a good chance to be Mad Men's first acting winner. Cumming returns as well, as does Braugher, whose show is verging on cancellation. Dinklage is a terrific inclusion; though I haven't seen any Game of Thrones (damn you lack of HBO), he's a wonderful actor who's been receiving great notices for his role on the show. I'm surprised to see Charles here, though I don't watch much of The Good Wife so maybe he is worthy? And how great is it to see Goggins here again (he was previously nominated for The Shield), this time as the supposedly-reformed-criminal Boyd Crowder? Very. Notable snub: yes, it's campy, but there wasn't any room to include True Blood's Denis O'Hare? Just watch his infamous spine-ripping scene and tell me he doesn't deserve something.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Margo Martindale, Justified
Michelle Forbes, The Killing
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men


Martindale

First of all, let's get a hearty round of applause that Martindale was nominated for her seriously sinister matriarch Mags Bennett, the best part of this past season of Justified. Panjabi will attempt to defend her title again, and co-star Baranski picked up another nomination as well. Hendricks also picked up another well-deserved nomination for her underrated work on Mad Men. MacDonald and Forbes are the newcomers, and both are somewhat surprising to see here, given the nature of the shows (Boardwalk Empire isn't known for it's strong female roles, and The Killing suffered some major backlash as the season dragged on). Notable snub: Khandi Alexander of Treme; surely someone from the Treme cast will be nominated one day, right? Also, none of the Big Love ladies, as the show wrapped it's final season?

BEST GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Bruce Dern, Big Love
Beau Bridges, Brothers & Sisters
Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
Paul McCrane, Harry's Law
Jeremy Davies, Justified
Robert Morse, Mad Men

Fox

The most striking thing about these nominations is Bridges, who reminded me that Brothers & Sisters is still on the air (really?). It's great to see the excellent Davies nominated for Justified; he really was a fascinating character. Fox received a lot of kudos for his role on The Good Wife, and as for Morse, well, it's Cooper! I don't really have anything to say about Dern or McCrane, since I've seen neither show. Notable snub: there are others, but The Walking Dead had a great pair of guest turns from reliable actors Lennie James and Noah Emmerich. How about showing them some love?

BEST GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Mary McDonnell, The Closer
Julia Stiles, Dexter
Loretta Devine, Grey's Anatomy
Randee Heller, Mad Men
Cara Buono, Mad Men
Joan Cusack, Shameless
Alfre Woodward, True Blood

I'm not incredibly familiar with any of these performances, so pardon me if I don't have much to say here. It's great to see Devine included here, and I'm excited to see Stiles whenever I can get my hands on season five of Dexter. Cusack and Woodward are obviously big names, though, and the latter was on True Blood, it's only acting nomination this year. Notable snub: any of the Law & Order: SVU guests, who almost always dominate this category but didn't land a single one this year.

BEST DIRECTION OF A DRAMA
Martin Scorsese, Boardwalk Empire ("Pilot")
Jeremy Podeswa, Boardwalk Empire ("Anastasia")
Neil Jordan, The Borgias ("The Poisoned Chalice/The Assassin")
Tim Van Patten, Game of Thrones ("Winter is Coming (Pilot)")
Patty Jenkins, The Killing ("Pilot")

The biggest name in this group, of course, is Scorsese, who directed the pilot of Boardwalk Empire and exec-produced the show. However, don't forget Jordan, who is most famous for writing/directing The Crying Game and helped create The Borgias. Otherwise, these are all shows that received high praise for their direction (well, The Killing did in the beginning of the season, at least), so it should be interesting to see how this one works out. Notable snub: no Mad Men? Egads!

BEST WRITING OF A DRAMA
Jason Katims, Friday Night Lights ("Always")
David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, Game of Thrones ("Baelor")
Veena Sud, The Killing ("Pilot")
Matthew Weiner, Mad Men ("The Suitcase")
Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton, Mad Men ("Blowing Smoke")

I'll be very surprised if Weiner doesn't take this one home for his tight, layered hour, considered by many to be one of Mad Men's finest. Otherwise, this is a who's who of well-written shows, from Friday Night Lights (always underrated in writing) to Game of Thrones (I haven't seen it, but I've heard the writing is incredible). Sud's nomination is probably the most unusual, since the lugubrious pacing of The Killing was mostly blamed on her (she's the showrunner as well), but this is just for the pilot, back when the show was praised ecstatically. Notable snub: no Lost this year, unfortunately, but after all that I've read about The Good Wife's writing staff, they didn't get anything this year?

BEST MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Cinema Verite
Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
The Kennedys
Mildred Pierce
Pillars of the Earth
Too Big to Fail




At what point does a miniseries stop being a miniseries? Downton Abbey recently received a second season, so doesn't that mean it's not a miniseries? Whatever. Notably, The Kennedys, which was blasted by critics, pulled a nomination, perhaps out of hype and perhaps out of a need to fill out the category. Otherwise, it's exactly what you'd expect, with plenty of HBO movies and miniseries filling out the category. Notable snub: After all the hullaballo, no Carlos?

BEST ACTOR IN A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Edgar Ramirez, Carlos
Greg Kinnear, The Kennedys
Barry Pepper, The Kennedys
Idris Elba, Luther
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood
William Hurt, Too Big to Fail

I'm still confused about Carlos, since it's apparently eligible for last year's Oscars and this year's Emmys? Someone help, please. The category is stacked with famous names, including two from The Kennedys and no-longer-tied-to-CSI Fishburne. There's been a lot of buzz about Luther, so again congratulations to Elba for breaking out this year. Notable snub: Tommy Lee Jones or Samuel L. Jackson for The Sunset Limited. Were they just not the voters cup of tea this year?

BEST ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Diane Lane, Cinema Verite
Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce
Taraji P. Henson, Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story
Jean Marsh, Upstairs Downstairs (Masterpiece)


Henson

Plenty of famous names here as well, mixed in with some not-as-well-known actresses. Lane, Winslet, and Henson are the marquees, and I've heard nothing but raves about Winslet's performance as the titular role of Mildred Pierce; perhaps she'll have an Emmy to go with her Oscar? I haven't seen any of these (I hardly ever do, since they're on pay cable, which I don't have), so I can't judge fairly. Notable snub: for all of their love for The Kennedys, they ignored Katie Holmes. Interesting.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Tom Wilkinson, The Kennedys
Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce
Brian F. O'Byrne, Mildred Pierce
Paul Giamatti, Too Big to Fail
James Woods, Too Big to Fail

Again, plenty of movie stars here. All of these actors are reliable for a great performance, especially Broadway vet O'Byrne, who, you may or may not remember, was the only one bringing any real gravitas to FlashForward two years ago (anyone else miss the batshit lunacy of that show?). Notable snub: previous Emmy favorites James Gandolfini and Terry O'Quinn were eligible, but missed out on yet another nomination.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Evan Rachel Wood, Mildred Pierce
Melissa Leo, Mildred Pierce
Mare Winningham, Mildred Pierce
Eileen Atkins, Upstairs Downstairs (Masterpiece)

Smith

Fun fact: I'm a distant relative of Wood's through marriage, so like third cousins or something like that. Barely related, but still, and Evan, if you read this, congratulations! Many of these women are Oscar nominees and winners, most notably Leo and Smith, as well as Winningham (remember Georgia?). And Atkins has a long career of great small roles, so it's nice to see her recognized here. Notable snub: here, they actually did ignore Betty White, who appeared in Hallmark's The Lost Valentine.

BEST DIRECTION OF A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Olivier Assayas, Carlos
Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini, Cinema Verite
Brian Percival, Downton Abbey ("Part One")
Todd Haynes, Mildred Pierce
Curtis Hanson, Too Big to Fail

Look at all of those flashy names! Well, ok, maybe not to everyone, but cinephiles recognize the great Haynes, the wonderful Assayas, and the marvelous Berman & Pulcini. Of course, there's also Hanson, who continues to make interesting choices in his career. Percival's been working on miniseries in Britain for a while now, so it's good to see him here. Notable snub: no nominations for The Kennedys here either?

BEST WRITING FOR A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Julian Fellowes, Downton Abby (Masterpiece)
Todd Haynes & Jon Raymond, Mildred Pierce
Steven Moffat, Sherlock: A Study in Pink (Masterpiece)
Peter Gould, Too Big to Fail
Heidi Thomas, Upstairs Downstairs (Masterpiece)

Fellowes is a very high-profile name here, and it's not surprising that the man who wrote Gosford Park would return to the world of the wealthy and their servants. I also want to point out that, yes, that is the same Moffat who is currently the showrunner of Doctor Who and wrote my favorite episode of that show, "Blink." Notable snub: nothing for Cinema Verite?

Whew. That was long. So what do you think? Who do you think got snubbed/is the most deserving of their nomination?

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