Watching an award show is the closest I’ll ever come to experiencing the kind of thrill that sports fans feel when they’re watching the Super Bowl or the World Series. When Peter Dinklage won his Emmy last year, I cheered audibly as if that award had some kind of impact on my life. It’s a strange reaction to have but you watch these shows and these actors every week, you buy the DVDs, you grow attached, and you want to see this thing or person that you adore honored. It’s fandom and we’re helpless to resist its hold on us. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy nominations were announced Thursday morning and there really weren’t any surprises or huge controversies both because many of these actors and shows are nominated every year (30 Rock, Modern Family, Mad Men, Jim Parsons, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin) and also because most of the nominees are deserving of the recognition (Breaking Bad, Homeland, Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, Bryan Cranston). As usual, the snubs, omissions, the inability of the members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to acknowledge something that isn’t widely celebrated by critics – whatever you want to call it – were the most interesting parts of yesterday morning’s announcement.
The Strange Case of Louie
Louis C.K. is my favorite and I’m not going to qualify the word “favorite” with “comedian,” “writer,” or “freckled-faced man” – in direct defiance of the tenets of my Judeo-Christian upbringing, I worship the guy. This year, his amazing FX series Louie, now in its third season, has unsurprisingly been nominated in three different comedy categories: directing, writing, and lead actor. (His comedy special Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theatre also racked up three nominations.) But remarkably, Outstanding Comedy Series isn’t among the list, which is odd. The comedian clearly hasn’t been given the shaft here – his work has been nominated this year alone more than most shows or actors could ever hope for – but from its unique, vignette, sometimes surreal structure, to the depth and complexity of the Louie character, to its brazen subject matter and unapologetic humor (who can forget the episode where he flipped off his daughter? Or when that homeless dude’s head popped off?), Louie is groundbreaking and more deserving of a nomination and subsequent win in that category than any of the shows that were recognized. That’s not to say that The Big Bang Theory, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, Modern Family, 30 Rock, and Veep aren’t great, hilarious shows but with the possible exception of Girls, they just aren’t operating at the same level as Louie and aren’t as consistently funny, which should be the defining characteristic of an “outstanding comedy series.”
Is it Time for Some New Blood in the Comedy Categories?
The same exceptional shows and actors will understandably and I guess justifiably continue to be nominated year after year but I do feel that there’s a kind of tunnel vision with the Emmys and wonderful work – comedic work in particular – is being overlooked because there’s some need to make sure that every single person on Modern Family is acknowledged. But other shows exist, namely, Awkward. The riveting, very witty MTV series not only rises above all the muck on that network, but it’s just a legitimately good show, carrying on in the tradition of relatable teen series like My S0-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks. Every episode is an engaging mix of humor and subtle human drama. The comedy could have been nominated in the writing category, for sure, but Ashley Rickards, who plays outcast Jenna Hamilton on the show, is an actress that I hope receives some attention from voters soon.
It also would have been nice to see Kaitlin Olson nominated for her performance on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – even when that show isn’t as tight as it could be, Olson’s screechy, gangly Dee is always good for a laugh. The Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category is predictably dominated by Modern Family (with Ed O’Neill, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet all receiving nominations) but you can’t tell me that Community’s Jim Rash and Danny Pudi, Wilfred’s Jason Gann, Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman and Chris Pratt, or Enlightened’s Luke Wilson weren’t deserving of at least one of those Modern Family actors’ slots.
Robert Carlyle and John Noble – Better Luck Next Year
John Noble has been breaking my heart for four seasons on Fox’s Fringe as Walter Bishop – the character is this fascinating jumble of innocence, playfulness, and anguish and Noble’s performance over the years has been nothing short of masterful. Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin on ABC’s new fantasy drama Once Upon a Time is bonkers – with his “dearies” and unsettling giggle, he’s creepy and intriguing in equal measure. Both Noble and Carlyle are Emmy-award worthy actors but this wasn’t their year – it couldn’t be their year. Even if Downton Abbey weren’t gorgeous and as superbly written as it is, Brendan Coyle’s understated performance on its own would be enough to make the PBS series worth watching; Jared Harris’ incredible, tragic journey on Mad Men made last season memorable; Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion continues to stand out amongst a cast of exceptional characters; and then we have Aaron Paul and Giancarlo Esposito from Breaking Bad, one of the best shows on TV right now. There’s just no room for sentimental favorites this year. But I do hope that Noble ends up getting a nomination – at the very least – for Fringe’s upcoming final season.
In the animated series category, the nominees include The Simpsons, American Dad, Futurama, and Bob’s Burgers – no argument there. But where’s FX’s spy spoof Archer? I’ve never seen Nickelodeon’s The Penguins of Madagascar: The Return of the Revenge of Dr. Blowhole (though, I have to admit that the title has piqued my interest), so I’m not and really can’t hate on it, but Archer is so smart and the animation is so detailed (I’m obsessed with the watercolor paintings that hang in Mallory’s office), that it’s sad to see it overlooked. Perhaps only one H. Jon Benjamin series is allowed to be nominated every year.
It’s Not a Snub if the Show Isn’t Any Good
Immediately after the nominations were announced, there was some talk of a Glee snub. But the musical comedy series hasn’t been entertaining since its first season, so how could it’ve been snubbed? Last season, the showrunners paraded out all of these guest stars (Ricky Martin, Matt Bomer, Whoopie Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum, Lindsay Lohan) and inundated us with theme episodes (Michael Jackson, Whitney Huston, Saturday Night Fever) in an effort to drum up interest in its floundering storylines. While there’s no questioning the cast’s talent, the show really isn’t much fun anymore. Actually, The Glee Project – a reality show where young people compete for a role on Glee – is way more engaging. I think it would probably be more understandable to be upset or confused about that show’s absence from the reality competition category.
What About the Kids?
Young actors have delivered many of 2011–12’s best performances. Maisie Williams who plays Arya Stark on Game of Thrones is able to convey so much with just her eyes. And Kiernan Shipka, well, Sally Draper is my favorite Mad Men character because of Shipka’s steely portrayal of the complex girl. Either of these two would have been acceptable entries into the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series race and including them in the mix would have made this year’s ceremony exciting instead of the predictable affair that it seems like it’s going to be.
Were your favorite shows or actors snubbed or do you think that the members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences came correct with this year’s nominations? Do you even care about the Emmys?
Read More: Channel Guide