Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: Emmy nominations

The Emmy nominations are out, and I'm torn between outrage ("Entourage"? "Boston Legal"? Almost nothing for "The Wire" or "Battlestar" or "HIMYM"?) and contentment (lots of love for "Mad Men," plus a surprise Bryan Cranston nomination). The lead of my column:
It's nice to know that the Emmy voters all upgraded their cable package.

The nominations of years past would have you believe that every member of the television Academy subscribed only to the broadcast networks and HBO. If a performer or show from a non-HBO cable channel slipped into the major nominations, it was almost a shock.

But the 2007-8 Emmy nominations feature three cable shows - FX's "Damages," Showtime's "Dexter" and AMC's "Mad Men" - duking it out for Outstanding Drama Series, the first time any non-broadcast, non-HBO show has cracked this category, let alone three of them.
To read the full thing, click here. For a complete list of nominees, click here. (For a slightly shorter list, in order of importance, click here.) And after the jump, some other Emmy thoughts I didn't have room for in the column:

-Despite the gag-inducing self-congratulatory repeat nods for “Entourage” and some other Emmy faves, I have to applaud the voters for controlling their kneejerk reflexes with some other series that had terrible seasons. Only two minor nominations (including a very deserving one for Charles Durning) for “Rescue Me,” and only a handful of nods (notably for Chandra Wilson, Sandra Oh, and not for best drama) for “Grey’s Anatomy.”

-On the flipside, despite what was considered by many to be a bounce-back year, none of the “Desperate Housewives” stars got a nomination.

-Though HBO didn’t crack the best drama category for the first time since ’98, it was nice to see “In Treatment” get four nominations – in particular, to see Glynn Turman get recognized for his extraordinary guest star turn as Blair Underwood’s dad. The guest star categories are usually dominated by movie stars, so it’s nice to see a character actor get a nod for something so great.

-“Family Guy” made the top 10 for Outstanding Comedy Series but couldn’t crack the final list, meaning (according to Tom O’Neil) no animated series has been nominated here since “The Flintstones” in 1961.

-Only one nomination, for casting, for “Friday Night Lights” season two.

-I figured my beloved “Flight of the Conchords” would be too weird for the Emmy voters, but at least it got writing and directing nominations, plus two song nominations, for “Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)” and “Inner-City Pressure.” They’ll have a tough road ahead of them, as Sarah Silverman’s “I’m (Being Intimate With) Matt Damon” is also in the category.

-Only two nods – one of them the deserving but predictable one for Neil Patrick Harris – for “How I Met Your Mother.” Sigh...

-Given that Michael Angeli is widely-reviled by “Battlestar Galactica” fandom, I wonder how the fans are going to react to an Angeli script (“Six of One”) being the one to crack the drama writing list. As “Mad Men” (either the pilot or the season finale) will almost certainly win this category, I guess it’s a moot point.

-The “Extras” finale, which I loved, got submitted as a movie and wound up getting nominations in all the right categories: best movie, writing, directing, plus acting nods for Ricky Gervais and (especially) Ashley Jensen.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Sixteen nods for Mad Men? I'm a very happy lady this morning!

Mrglass said...

Bleh for The Wire and Galactica; sadly not a surprise anymore. Will James Spader get another Emmy too?

Apart from that, I am surprised that '30 Rock' monopolizes the nominations for Guest Actor, yet David Schwimmer didn't make the cut. Greenzo was by far the most memorable character this season.

Nicole said...

Argh. Of course stupid Boston Legal and Two and a Half Men make the final list. But the Mad Men nominations do help. However, seeing as the ones who do the nominating were in their prime in the 60s, I bet the nostalgia factor was the incentive more than the actual quality of the show. If James Spader wins the best actor category over anyone else it will be a travesty. Of course I'm rooting for Jon Hamm, but could live with Michael C. Hall too.

Not shocked at the lack of acting noms for BSG. I was surprised that it was Angeli who got the writing nomination, but that particular episode was very good, and I think his offerings this past season were miles above last season.

I suspect John Adams will win everything it is in, because the rest of the competition looks weak in most categories. Giamatti and Linney are well deserving and hopefully David Morse can win for his portrayal of Washington.

Entourage was a horrendously weak year, but if Two and Half Men can sneak in, then why not a bad cable show.

Tim said...

What a joke the Emmy awards are. The fact that The Wire got only two nominations over five seasons is pathetic. This is the best drama that's ever been on television. It might be the most rewarding piece of American pop culture ever produced.

Just about every actor in the show deserved to be nominated at least once. Andre Royo as Bubbles was brilliant. He was funny, warm, heartbreaking, sad and ultimately triumphant. Michael K. Williams as Omar was just terrific. Lance Reddick as Daniels, Wendell Pierce as the GREAT Bunk Moreland. I could go on an on. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

I'm psyched about Cranston's nomination. I was pulling for it (even though he isn't going to win) and I'm still surprised about how happy I was when I read the list and saw him there. I hope that Hugh Laurie finally wins this year. The Emmys are so delayed in that category that I would think he'd be the given this year with John Hamm getting his shot starting next year. But, who knows...they're a weird bunch, those voters. I'd really rather not see them honor Spader again not only because it's time to move on but because I like the guy and I'd really rather not see the whining outrage the following morning.

There are a lot of good noms this year. Unless "Two and a Half Men" somehow manages to sweep, I think I'll be okay with whichever way it goes in most of the categories.

Anonymous said...

Upon taking a closer look, I broke out in a big smile when I saw that Shelley Berman was acknowledged in the Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series category. I just love him as Nat David!

Eric Fingerhut said...

Other than the inexplicable Shatner nod, you got to love how strong that supporting actor for drama category is. While the show was up and down, both Danson and Ivanek were fantastic on Damages; Slattery is excellent on Mad Men and you can't say enough about the creepiness that is Michael Emerson on Lost.

kat said...

I'm mostly okay with the nominations although I share your dislike of "Two and a Half" men. Would have loved to see "Californication" and/or David Duchovny sneak into the comedy category where the weak "Entourage" is holding court.

I'm so pleased that "Mad Men" and "John Adams" got so many nominations this year--both were excellent and deserve every scrap of attention they can get.

Best actor in drama category is a doozy. I'd love for Hugh Laurie to finally get his due even though "House" season as a whole was very uneven compared to previous years and the show itself should probably not be rewarded. But I'm very okay with either Jon Hamm or Michael C. Hall in this category as well. I haven't seen "In Treatment" or "Breaking Bad" yet (despite my love for Vince Gilligan, one of the best X-Files writers) so I don't have too many thoughts about either Gabriel Byrne or Bryan Cranston. I do need to check those out.

And "Flight of the Conchords." Yeah, I think Emmy dropped the ball on that nomination, too.

Anonymous said...

"Damages" is insanely over-rated. I watched 2 or 3 episodes and found it trite and boring. To have a piece of crap like that get nominated over "The Wire" is pathetic.

The list of baffling choices is far too long to detail (Charlie Sheen nominated over Larry David as Best Acor in A Comedy for Chrissakes - how do these nominating people expect anyone to take them seriously with nonsense like that?) so I'll mention a few of my favorite unexpected choices:

- Glynn Turman on "In Treatment".
- Ricky Gervais and Ashley Jensen for "Extras" (in the Miniseries category...wasn't it a series?)
- "Intervention" for best reality show

Alan Sepinwall said...

Ricky Gervais and Ashley Jensen for "Extras" (in the Miniseries category...wasn't it a series?)

They're nominated for the Christmas movie, which aired and was produced separately from the second season and therefore qualifies as a stand-alone movie.

Anonymous said...

It's nice that the reality hosts have a category now, but what about all of the non-host participants? I'd much rather see Tim Gunn or Simon Cowell get an Emmy than Heidi Klum or Ryan Seacrest.

SJ said...

One thing which really irks me is how The Wire's cast gets no love from The Emmys. It is absolutely wonderful. It doesn't feel like acting. It feels like you are watching real people.

Anonymous said...

Meh. I'm glad the Emmy voters are expanding their horizons a bit, but tonnes of these nods go to shows I either don't watch or can't watch (due to geographical/monetary constraints).

I'm pleased for Lee Pace and for Stewart and Colbert. I'm pleased for Kristin Chenoweth, too, although I figured her nomination was a lock, and I'm really glad that "Dummy" from Pushing Daisies got a mention. No love for poor Chuck aside from a nod for the title sequence, which will lose to Mad Men even though it's better.

And, seriously, do Mad Men and Dexter get better? I've seen the first two and three episodes, respectively, and just about died of boredom in both cases.

Antid Oto said...

And, seriously, do Mad Men and Dexter get better? I've seen the first two and three episodes, respectively, and just about died of boredom in both cases.

The only thing saving Dexter is Michael C. Hall. The writing is clunky and not a single other person in the entire series can act worth a damn. And I feel the same way as you about Mad Men. I just tried to watch the first season because all my friends are raving about it, and after four episodes I gave up. Boring is too kind for it. Every character other than the lead is annoying, and I can't figure out why I'm supposed to be invested in the problems and concerns of 1960. It feels like the show is fighting old battles for reasons that have nothing to do with today, and somehow it manages to come off as both smug and nostalgic at the same time, a rare trick.

As for The Wire, I'm convinced that part of the reason it could never catch on with older viewers such as those who dominate the Emmys is that they literally could never understand it. I tried to get my mother into it, and all she had to say about it was, "I never understood what anybody was saying." I wonder whether the combination of unfamiliar Baltimore accents and slang, along with the fact that you really have to pay attention to pick up the many threads of the complicated plot, might have doomed it with older people. That and the fact that the cast was mostly black. How many non-white actors ever get nominations, exactly?

Anonymous said...

I'm thrilled to see that 4 of the 5 shows I voted for in the drama panel made the cut. (On my ballot, The Wire took Boston Legal's spot, naturally.)

Dexter especially is a nice surprise, as I really feared that Grey's Anatomy was going to squeak in.

Anonymous said...

So how does John Cryer get a supporting actor nomination? Nothing to do with his performance, but isn't he a lead actor along with Charlie Sheen? Confusing.

Same with Robert Morse (Bert Cooper on Mad Men) getting a Guest Actor Nomination? He's not in every episode but he sure is in lots of them. And he's great!

I would've loved to see Vincent Kartheiser get a nod for playing Pete Campbell on Mad Men, as he plays such a great weasel. And same for Elisabeth Moss as Peggy. Really surprised they gave it to Christina Hendricks, although she's wonderful too.

And while its true Entourage had its worst year, I am glad Kevin Dillon got recognized.

Just with Flight of the Conchords had gotten the nod for best comedy, but I can see how it's too quirky for most voters.

Anonymous said...

It's nice that the reality hosts have a category now, but what about all of the non-host participants?

I want to know how "Deal or No Deal" counts as a "reality-show competition" and not a plain old game show. How could they overlook Phil Keoghan of "The Amazing Race"?? And if effin' Ryan Seacrest or Howie Mandel wins that category, I'm puking into a bag and mailing it to the Emmys org. BLEAH.

Anyway...hooray for Ralph Fiennes for getting nom'd for "Bernard and Doris." He was wonderful in that! And hooray for Bryan Cranston, too!

BTW, Shatner keeps getting nominated because he's good in his role (and funny, too). As is James Spader. Can't say that I want them to win, given the competition, but I understand why they keep getting nominated.

Anonymous said...


No one should show up until the Emmys decide to at least honor The Wire. Hell, at least HBO should boycot.

And Mad Men is quickly becoming the most overrated show on tv. I enjoyed the series, but the 1st season does not compare to any season of The Wire/The Sopranos/Deadwood. And it seems people are more in love with the setting than the actual show.

Good to see Dexter get some love.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't get all the love for Mad Men. I watched it for a while last summer. It's well made, but I found it boring and kind of pretentious and finally gave up when I realized I really didn't care about any of the characters.

Damages is also totally overrated. Most of the storylines were totally ridiculous and a lot of the acting by the less famous actors was pretty terrible. Even Glenn Close came off as pretty one note most of the time.

Linda said...

Another vote for the complete absurdity of shutting Phil Keoghan out of the Reality Host category. Unbelievable. Dude's show wins five Emmys in a row, and they give the nomination to Howie freaking Mandel. It may not have the gravity of the fact that they overlooked The Wire and all of its actors, but it's just an amazing sellout to the ratings champion over the year-in, year-out quality champion. I'll give them Bergeron, who's wonderful, and even Seacrest, who I think has some underrated skills. And Probst is an institution, so: fine. But Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel are both absurd choices to supplant Phil, and AH AM OUTRAGED.

Anonymous said...

the emmy's are slightly less worthless than the pitiful grammy's.

Nicole said...

I can live with Spader and Shatner nominations because they have great chemistry together, but one for the show itself isn't called for. I am however even more annoyed with Two and a Half Men, and any acting nomination, especially in the male category. That show is just not that funny.

As for reality hosts, I have to root for Tom Bergeron. Sure DWTS is a silly show, but he keeps the live show running smoothly and can ad lib most hilariously, unlike that piece of wood of a co-host.
I love Phil as much as the next girl, but he really doesn't get to do that much outside the script and I don't think they give Emmys for a raised eyebrow. Deal or No Deal is obviously a game show and NBC probably greased a few palms to get the Howie Mandel nomination in there.

I am also happy that Grey's didn't get anything except for Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson, because they have been consistently good despite the bad writing and have been the only good actors on that show from the beginning. (except for Isiah Washington)

I am not surprised that the Wire was ignored. The panel seems to be made up of 70 year old white guys so the Wire is definitely too "urban" for them to bother watching. The only cop shows that get any noms are the CSIs and the Law and Orders. Even the Shield has been routinely snubbed in years where they were eligible.

Alan Sepinwall said...

But Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel are both absurd choices to supplant Phil, and AH AM OUTRAGED.

Linda, don't think less of me for saying this, but I'm not exactly shocked Phil got snubbed, even though he should easily be there ahead of the more famous Heidi. I love Phil and love the Race, but I don't feel like they use him nearly as much as the other shows use Probst or Seacrest or even Howie Mandel. As Nicole said, he does his scripted intros of the locales and the challenges, and he interacts with the contestants a bit at the pit stops, but when I resumed watching the show after a several year absence (around the first Boston Rob season, I think), I was surprised how little the beloved Phil was in it.

Anonymous said...

I bet Ricky Gervais is "having a laugh" over being in the same nominee pool as Ralph Fiennes, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti, and Kevin Spacey. Andy Millman has finally made it big.

Linda said...

My pro-Phil argument is essentially that he exactly does scripted intros and explanations, but he brings verve and flair and represents the one constant element that the show has.

I think Phil's ability to pull off an explanation of a scary task so that it sounds scary but doesn't sound self-serious the way Probst always does is part of what makes him a great host.

It's the kind of job I just think is much, much harder than it looks, and I firmly believe that with a different, cornier host who wasn't able to bring a genuine love of travel and adventure, you just would not have the same show. I consider that a job that everybody thinks is easy, where if they replaced him, you'd instantly realize it wasn't the case.

Anonymous said...

The only thing saving Dexter is Michael C. Hall. The writing is clunky and not a single other person in the entire series can act worth a damn.

Julie Benz's portrayal of Rita was pretty amazing in the first season. The character (not necessarily her acting) has gotten a little more normal since then. Otherwise, the comment is spot-on about the writing.

The one nomination for The Wire is just breathtaking. I thought surely it would get some recognition from the Emmys this year if nothing more than the equivalent of a gold watch. Maybe that one writing nomination was it. Yet, in some strange update of the Sesame Street which-one-doesn't-belong puzzle, Boston Legal is nominated. It makes me wonder what Emmy voters value in a drama. (Mad Men is pretty good, but it isn't The Wire and is not even Deadwood.) Is there a description of criteria or attributes that voters are supposed to look for in dramas?

Anonymous said...

I remember being a lot more upset last year when The Wire received no emmy nominations. I'm still upset this year, but not shocked - just used to it.
I agree that the most disappointing thing with the Wire snubs is the lack of recognition for the actors. It's so shameful. Us Wire watchers know that we were lucky enough to see some of the most remarkable acting ever on this show.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I agree that the most disappointing thing with the Wire snubs is the lack of recognition for the actors. It's so shameful. Us Wire watchers know that we were lucky enough to see some of the most remarkable acting ever on this show.

I told y'all when the submissions lists came out that Clarke Peters knew what he was doing when he didn't even bother to submit his name.

Anonymous said...

That Lester Freamon is a smart man...
PS- I've read in some venues the opinion that the Academy should honour the Wire in some way on its program. Similar to how it honoured the Sopranos last year. I hate that idea. What do others think of it?

Alan Sepinwall said...

What do others think of it?

I think it's a moot point. Situations aren't comparable. "Sopranos" was a popular hit and pop culture touchstone that had been nominated for and won many Emmys over the years. That victory lap moment where they brought everybody onto stage was unprecedented for the Emmys (and pissed off a lot of non-Sopranos TV people, I understand), but it was a celebration of an Emmy-endorsed show.

Bringing out the cast of "The Wire" -- a much more obscure (doesn't matter if it was arguably better) show, whose failure to get nominations turns the Emmys into a TV critic punching bag once a year -- would be a mea culpa on a night when the Emmys are trying to brag.

Not gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

Not surprised to see the usual suspects, but jeez, can it be any more boring than to watch James Spader win again??

A few surprises I guess. I was thrilled to see the Glynn Turman nomination for "In Treatment" I raved about that performance and I hope he wins.

Glad to see the 'Dexter' noms and a few others. I guess that means at least some of the emmy voters aren't all well into old-timer(but barely). It would be nice to see them take a chance on something new now and then, but that is asking too much, I guess.

Matt said...

Spader has a decent shot at winning because the episode he submitted, "The Court Supreme," features a lengthy (nearly 5-minute, IIRC) monologue from him that is:

1. Perfectly performed.
2. Politically in-tune with many Emmy voters.

IMHO, the character and Spader's performance got a lot less interesting when it transformed from amoral do-anything-to-win litigator as it was on the last season of "The Practice," into the equivalent of a weekly Keith Olbermann "Special Comment." Kelley's done that with two characters on Boston Legal alone, turning Jerry Espenson from an interesting case study in his first appearance (where Clemenson deservedly won a guest acting Emmy) into the second coming of "The Biscuit."

Anonymous said...

alan have the actors on the wire won any type of awards for their work?

Anonymous said...

As much as I loved the pilot of Mad Men, I feel that the GOTCHA! Peggy pregnancy plot landed this series in soap opera territory, making it far less deserving of its many nominations and praise. Saying that, I'd MUCh rather see it win over the unwatchable Boston Legal, and the almost unwatchable House.

In terms of acting noms, I think plenty of their choices are ridiculous. Grey's Anatomy ladies? Please, no. Jenna Fischer deserved a nom in supporting. Elizabeth Moss certainly deserved a lead drama actress nom. TS from Monk?! I have no words. Just don't give it to Spader AGAIN. Not giving the Lost cast more credit is also a head scratcher, whether the audience enjoys Jack or not, Matthew Fox did an impressive job with an unlikable character this year and I think he deserved a nomination. And I really would have liked to see Naveen Andrews recognized.

Probably a big unpopular opinion, but I hated Cranford, and I'm one of those people who love British period dramas.

Anonymous said...

While it is a sad comment that the Wire only generated two Emmy nominations in its five years, I keep on wondering if it wouldn't have done better in the mini-series category. You really need to watch it all season by season to understand the power of the show. Even I can understand (I think) how it wouldn't be nominated for best drama if the only episode watched was -30-.

Am I correct with this Alan (that the award is based on only one episode)?

But that still doesn't excuse the lack of nominations. And even though I am happy that Mad Men is recognized, it is sorta like throwing salt in my wounds. Here we have two critically acclaimed dramas - both with low ratings. One gets two nominations in five years. The other gets 16 in its first year. Huh?

Anonymous said...

I love Phil and love the Race, but I don't feel like they use him nearly as much as the other shows use Probst or Seacrest or even Howie Mandel.

Howie's not a reality or reality-competition show host and shouldn't be there, period. Add that to the Wire snubs and you get yet another lame-ass Emmys :(

Anonymous said...

I am very pleased that John Adams was duly recognized for the masterpiece that it was, even if the multitude of nominations wasn't much of a surprise in this otherwise weak category.

I'd be particularly gratified if Stephen Dillane, the Englishman who portrayed Thomas Jefferson, came out on top as best supporting actor in a mini-series. (Morse as Washington would be acceptable as well, though)

Other thoughts:
-- The snubbing of The Wire is inexplicable;
-- Glad to see Laura Dern recognized for her hilarious turn as Katherine Harris in Recount;
-- Where was Jenna Fischer?;
-- Where was Friday Night Lights, particularly Connie Britton?

Also, I'd like to ask Alan this question, which has vexed me for years: Why is there no love for Vincent D'Onofrio? I know L&0 C.I. can be hackneyed at times, but the guy, IMHO, is a startlingly brilliant actor. Yet, his work is NEVER mentioned. I don't think he was even included in the leaked top 10 list? What gives? Am I totally alone in this opinion?

Jackie said...

Honestly, I cackled when I saw Michael Angelli got a nod for writing. I have to say that the episode he was nominated for was one of his less annoying efforts. I have to give him some credit for that. I can't really imagine what kind of mixed reaction would go through the BSG fandom if he were to win. Heh.

Bix said...

Glynn Turman getting a nomination almost makes up for Mia Wasikowska not getting one.

Anonymous said...

I don't love what Howie does, but you have to give the man credit for basically riffing for an entire hour. Just watch Penn Jillette struggle to keep it moving on 1 vs. 100 to see how much hard work Howie is really doing.

The Academy decides what qualifies as a reality competition show, and since they allow prime time game shows, I think Howie is as deserving as any of the others (and more than Heidi Klum).

Alan, do you know who voted on this category? I know actors vote on actors, directors on directors, etc., but was this category voted on by all other actors, or just a subset of them that have hosted...? I don't believe the vote went to the full membership.

Anonymous said...

I love the Wire, but I'm not at all surprised by the lack of acting nominations.

The actors vote on who gets nominated, and it's a very incestuous community. The cast of The Wire has always been on the outside - mostly African American and European, all of them far away in Baltimore.

Anonymous said...

Not that this explains the lack of actor nominations for The Wire, but have you ever tried to decide who should be nominated after a season. I've had this discussion with friends and we can rarely narrow it down to five. Season four was particularly tough, with a couple of the kids worthy of nominations.

Who would you feel were worthy in Season 5?

Anonymous said...

The Academy decides what qualifies as a reality competition show, and since they allow prime time game shows, I think Howie is as deserving as any of the others (and more than Heidi Klum).

I remain unconvinced.

Anonymous said...

For Season 5 of The Wire acting nods could have gone to Jamie Hector, Dominic West, Michael K (supporting I guess he was only in 5 or 6 episodes this season), Clark Johnson, and of course, Andre Royo - these were maybe the most deserving this season, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

As disappointed as I am about the lack of Wire recognition, I am THRILLED for Zeljko Ivanek in the supporting actor category. I only saw a bit of Damages, but that guy has been criminally under-appreciated for too long.

Anonymous said...

Rereading the nominations, I do have one gripe I haven't seen anyone bring up: Oliver Platt and John Turturro were OUTSTANDING as George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin in ESPN's miniseries "The Bronx Is Burning."

But I can see how hard it would be for ESPN to break HBO's lock on the movie/mini acting category.

(You can get to clips on the ESPN site via the video link here:

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain to me how Two and a Half Men gets nominated seemingly every year? And not only that but Charlie Sheen too? Last time I saw that show he was sleepwalking through every episode. At least make Jon Cryer get the nod. Geez.