The good, the bad, and the snubbed

For enthusiasts of any kind, there is usually a night where one year’s worth of hard work culminates into one moment of glory. The Super Bowl is this night for football fans, the last game of the NBA Finals for basketball followers, but for people like myself, die-hard television watchers, it’s the Primetime Emmy Awards, which aired live last week.

Throughout the Emmy’s 60-year run, almost all of the shows that have appeared on their lists of nominees have been from network television, but within the past five to eight years, more and more cable shows have been making their mark. Let’s take a look at this year’s list of honorees:

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Comedy
Jeremy Piven, Entourage (Winner)
Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris, How I met Your Mother
Rainn Wilson, The Office
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men

Anyone who has seen Jeremy Piven’s foul-mouthed Ari Gold either loves to hate or hates to love him. There’s no doubt that Piven dishes out Emmy-worthy performances, but this year marked his 3rd win and 4th nomination — enough is enough. I’m not saying he’s not talented, Piven is tremendously good on Entourage, but year after year and season after season, it’s the same thing: Jeremy Piven doing his Ari Gold thing. Academy, he’s got his glory, so let’s move on to other Emmy-worthy performances.

The Academy needs to take a serious look at some of the new faces, like Ugly Betty‘s Michael Urie, Pushing Daisies’ Chi McBride, or 30 Rock‘s Jack McBrayer.

Outstanding Supporting Actress, Comedy
Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies’
Jean Smart, Samantha Who? (Winner)
Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty

Though I have never seen an episode of Samantha Who?, and was rooting for Kristin Chenoweth, Amy Poehler, or Vanessa Williams, I’m still okay with the Academy’s choice of Jean Smart. I have seen her in several roles including her stint on 24 as President Logan’s loopy wife, Martha, which got her an Emmy nomination in 2006. On another note, this year marked the first time that anyone from SNL has been nominated for his or her role on that show. It’s a shame she had to leave empty-handed. Other performances worthy of laud are Judith Light (of Who’s the Boss fame) on Ugly Betty, and Phyllis Smith from The Office.

Outstanding Lead Actor, Comedy
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Steve Carell, The Office
Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies’
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock (Winner)
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

I love 30 Rock, so it was good to see that my man Mr. Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) won it big. But at the same time, Steve Carrell and Lee Pace’s performances last year were just as solid, if not more than as solid, as Baldwin’s. As far as Tony Shaloub and Charlie Sheen go, I hope I never see their names on this list again. What ever happened to Zach Braff’s Dr. J.D. Dorian from Scrubs?

Outstanding Lead Actress, Comedy
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
Tina Fey, 30 Rock (Winner)
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

First Alec Baldwin, and now Tina Fey (who had won a statue earlier in the night for Writing on 30 Rock). Fey has been nominated twice, but lost last year to Ugly Betty‘s America Ferrera. There is no question as to whether or not Fey’s portrayal of Liz Lemon deserved the win, especially in a world where Lead Comediennes are fewer and further between than their male counterparts.

Outstanding Series, Comedy
30 Rock (Winner)
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Office
Two and a Half Men

Despite not ever being able to get into Curb Your Enthusiasm, I respect people’s esteem for it and am okay with it being nominated. Others on this list, however, should have been given a second or third thought. Entourage is a solid show that gives an eye-opening look into the workings of Hollywood, but as a comedy, it falls a bit short. The Office is another one of my favorites, but Season 4 left very much to be desired with a run of several episodes that just weren’t funny. Speaking of not funny, Two and a Half Men shouldn’t be anywhere near this list.

Instead I would liked to have seen baby shows Chuck and Pushing Daisies’ here — both unique in their meshing of comedy, action, and romance. Maybe we’ll see them next year?

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Drama
William Shatner, Boston Legal
Ted Danson, Damages
Zeljko Ivanek, Damages (Winner)
Michael Emerson, Lost
John Slattery, Mad Men

The Dramas are where the up and coming Cable shows have really left their mark, and as high the acclaim that some of them have been receiving, I haven’t been able to get into many of them. I have not seen Damages, so I can’t vouch for Zeljko Ivanek’s performance, but Michael Emerson’s work as the eerie Benjamin Linus on Lost definitely deserves some sort of award.

Outstanding Supporting Actress, Drama
Candice Bergen, Boston Legal
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers and Sisters
Chandra Wilson, Grey’s Anatomy
Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment (Winner)

I have also not seen Dianne Wiest’s work on In Treatment. But I have seen Rachel Griffiths’ on Brothers and Sisters, whose name definitely deserves to be on this list. But if you’ve ever seen Friday Night Lights (and if you haven’t you need to), you have probably noticed the fiery performance of Liz Mikel, who plays Smash’s mother Loretta Williams. Not only does she deserve to be recognized, had I been calling the shots, she would have won.

Outstanding Lead Actress, Drama
Sally Field, Brothers and Sisters
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Glenn Close, Damages (Winner)
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace

The Closer, Damages, or Saving Grace are other Cable shows that I haven’t been able to watch, so I can’t speak to Kyra Sedgwick, Glenn Close, or Holly Hunter. But two performances that were completely snubbed in this category were Connie Britton’s consistently brilliant work on Friday Night Lights and January Jones’ stellar role on critic favorite Mad Men.

Outstanding Lead Actor, Drama
James Spader, Boston Legal
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad (Winner)
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Hugh Laurie, House
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Jon Hamm, Mad Men

I know how great of an actor Bryan Cranston is, despite never having seen Breaking Bad. Seeing him on the defunct Malcolm in the Middle for years, it was hard not to recognize his underappreciated talent, so it came as no surprise when he was named Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama. It was no doubt a tough choice, especially between Michael C. Hall and Jon Hamm.

I’m not sure if the Academy is blind, or just stupid, but another grade-A performance has been completely overlooked in this category and it comes again from Friday Night Lights. Kyle Chandler’s portrayal of Coach Eric Taylor is quite possibly the most authentic and true-to-life performance on television last season.

Outstanding Series, Drama
Boston Legal
Mad Men (Winner)

I have watched the whole first season of Mad Men and am in the process of catching up on season two, so I know a thing or two about this critically acclaimed show. I am able to recognize that the writing is sharp and the acting is phenomenal, but am not sure it deserves a win, especially over Lost‘s amazingly solid fourth season, or even the seemingly non-existent Friday Night Lights (which somehow was completely overlooked in this category as well).

A problem with the way these performances are gauged is that each nomination is based on a single submission of only one episode of the season. For example, let’s say that Friday Night Lights‘ Kyle Chandler delivers a consistently compelling performance throughout the season, one truly worthy of an Emmy, while Boston Legal‘s James Spader offers one that is mostly lukewarm with the exception of one episode where it was notable. Spader then submits that one episode, and Chandler enters an episode of his consistently solid performance. It is these two individual performances that are judged against each other, and not their season-long work, which could result in Spader winning the Emmy, while Chandler fails to even be nominated.

All flaws aside, Emmy night is truly an exciting night for television enthusiasts — much like the excitement that comes along with Super Bowl Sunday.

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