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October 23, 2014

Emmy Gets Daring ... But Not Daring Enough

by Joel Keller, posted Jul 8th 2010 9:45AM
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony ShalhoubTony Shalhoub again? Really?

Leave it to the folks at the Television Academy to always look for a safe port in the storm when it comes to the Emmy nominations.

In a year that saw an almost record number of quality new shows debut, established shows have fantastic seasons, fan favorites like 'Lost' and '24' bow out and network comedy making a comeback, you would think that the Academy's voters would have plenty of opportunities to throw caution to the wind and nominate a bunch of deserving shows that were either new or never got much Emmy recognition before.

And they did ... to an extent. There are spots where the voters did think outside their usual boxes, especially in the supporting categories. But they only dipped their toes in the deep end; in many cases, the nominations were infuriatingly the same as they've been for the last few years. [Check out the full Emmy nominees list here]

The comedy categories are the most blatant example of this trend. Sure, 'Glee' and 'Modern Family' were nominated, and even though those nods were expected, it was still good to see two new shows get recognized. The Academy often waits a few years to recognize a show, even if it starts off with critical praise.

But the inclusion of both 'The Office' and '30 Rock,' both of which had mediocre seasons, was inexcusable. It was as if the voters couldn't think of what other comedies were on TV this past season and just picked shows they knew were good in the past. In their place, any number of shows, from 'Party Down' to 'Community' to even 'Better Off Ted' could have been nominated (the Academy loves nominating shows after they've been canceled, as would be the case with 'Party' and 'Ted'). Tthe voters didn't even need to go outside the Greg Daniels family to find a good substitute for 'The Office' -- 'Parks and Recreation' had a much better year than its cousin and was the most improved show of the season.

As far as the acting categories were concerned, it was good to see Jim Parsons of 'The Big Bang Theory' in there again, and it's always fun to see Larry David get nominated for playing a slightly more eccentric version of himself. Amy Poehler also received well-earned recognition for the transformation of her 'Parks and Rec' character from earnest dope to one that manages to be funny and have dignity at the same time.

Not sure about the choice of 'Glee's' Matthew Morrison; his over-earnestness as the Gleesters' mentor Mr. Schu often led to bland performances, but at least he's a new face. It was also great to see the supporting categories dominated by members of the 'Modern Family' cast, who all entered themselves in the supporting categories (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Ty Burrell, Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen were all nominated).

But Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jon Cryer, Holland Taylor, Tony Shalhoub and even Tina Fey, all of whom might be worthy in other seasons, just should not have been nominated in such a crowded field this year. All the buzz around Nick Offerman and his mustache should have given him a supporting nod over Cryer, and Adam Scott's nuanced but funny performance on 'Party Down' really needed to be recognized, along with Patricia Heaton's performance as the earnest but defeated Frankie Heck in 'The Middle.' And if the Academy saw fit to nominate Edie Falco of 'Nurse Jackie' again, why didn't they nominate the wonderful Merritt Wever, who played Jackie's lovable but maturing young sidekick Zoey?

The drama categories were a little more predictable; 'Lost' needed to be recognized for its last year, and 'Breaking Bad' and 'Mad Men' had fantastic seasons. But I'm surprised the voters fell back on the tried-and-true 'Law and Order: SVU' instead of a new drama like 'Justified' or 'Treme.' Heck, 'Sons of Anarchy' got so much buzz this year that I was surprised that it wasn't included in the nomination party, either. The most daring choice here was to nominate the leads from 'Friday Night Lights,' a show that should have been recognized two years ago, but at least now is better than never.

It was also good to see 'Men of a Certain Age' recognized in at least one dramatic category, with Andre Braugher getting a supporting nod. It was a hard show to classify, especially because Ray Romano is its lead and driving creative force. But Romano, Braugher, and Scott Bakula all deserved nominations; hopefully they'll come next season.

So, as you can see, the folks at the Academy only stuck their necks out so far. I guess TV fans should be grateful that they decided to be a little daring this time around instead of not at all; I'm surprised they're stil not nominating John Larroquette for 'Night Court.'

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter)

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