Emmy nominations get announced tomorrow, and before we get into the inevitable crushing disappointment, I figure I'd give you all a vision of a brighter day. A day when I am given a say in one of the entertainment industry's least-respected honors.
You'll note I kind of made up my own mind with regard to lead/supporting designations, and I didn't bother differentiating reality shows at all. But I did adhere to the Emmys' eligibility period, which was roughly last June through this May.
John From Cincinnati
Runners-Up: Friday Night Lights; Damages; Dirty Sexy Money.
Before you start yelling at me, yes, I included Gossip Girl. There is always going to be room in my Top 5 for the most purely enjoyable and entertaining show on TV, and as the season sped to its conclusion, there were few shows that I enjoyed more. Honestly, if Friday Night Lights hadn't stumbled so much in its second season, that would be here instead, but here we are.
I'm pretty sure I've made my case for Battlestar and Lost many times on this blog. Both shows saw significant upswings in quality -- and they were starting from a pretty strong position to begin with. Mad Men made a strong debut and has the advantage of being able to deliver a full season before the strike happened. John From Cincinnati didn't have a problem getting a full season in, seeing as this is a holdover from last summer. It was getting a second season that proved unattainable, which isn't surprising since I'm one of like six people who loved the thing.
BEST ACTOR - DRAMA
Kyle Chandler - Friday Night Lights
Michael C. Hall - Dexter
Jon Hamm - Mad Men
Edward James Olmos - Battlestar Galactica
Brian Van Holt - John From Cincinnati
Runners-Up: Jonny Lee Miller (Eli Stone); Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment).
It's an unexpectedly shallow pool in this category, much as it was last year. And this year I didn't have such easy pencil-ins like Ian McShane and James Gandolfini. As ever, Michael C. Hall, Kyle Chandler, and Edward James Olmos are the class of television. (The subpar seasons of FNL and Dexter were certainly not the fault of their lead performers, and Battlestar's ass-kickery only enhanced Olmos's position.) Jon Hamm made an inscrutable man awfully deep in his first season, and the fact that no one's going to be talking about Brian Van Holt at all this Emmy season makes me indescribably sad.
BEST ACTRESS - DRAMA
Connie Britton - Friday Night Lights
Minnie Driver - The Riches
Ginnifer Goodwin - Big Love
Mary McDonnell - Battlestar Galactica
Jeanne Tripplehorn - Big Love
Runners-Up: Glenn Close (Damages); Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters); Chloe Sevigny (Big Love).
So, yes, last year Connie Britton campaigned as a lead and I put her in supporting; this year she campaigned in supporting and I put her in as a lead. But between me and the actual Emmys, only one of us is actually nominating her, so who would you go with? Besides, she was actually given a lead actress's share of the load this time, and she was still the most compelling thing onscreen.
The mere fact that Glenn Close's performance -- one that fashioned a golden statue of Patty Hewes with the words "tour-de-force" etched on it -- didn't make my Top 5 shows how stacked this category is. Much like Season 1 of Big Love belonged to Nicki, Season 2 belonged to Margene, and Ginnifer Goodwin stepped to the front of the line; trying to measure her performance against Jeanne Tripplehorn's Barb is the best kind of dilemma. The Riches suffered in its second season by scattering the family too far away from each other, but Minnie Driver got to the core of Dahlia's peculiar morality. And what more can I say about Mary McDonnell at this point? Lady can rock a wig.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - DRAMA
James Callis - Battlestar Galactica
Michael Emerson - Lost
Glenn Fitzgerald - Dirty Sexy Money
Michael Hogan - Battlestar Galactica
Donald Sutherland - Dirty Sexy Money
Runners-Up: Victor Garber (Eli Stone); Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters); Zeljko Ivanek (Damages); Ed O'Neill (John From Cincinnati).
I could nominate five men from Battlestar easily, which should give you an indication of just how great Callis and Hogan were this season. Similarly, Sutherland and Fitzgerald rose to the top of a hearty and accomplished ensemble to deliver hilarious and moving performances. And then there's wee little Michael Emerson, all alone without a co-star. With the way he's made Ben the most watchable character on a very watchable show, something tells me he'll do just fine.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - DRAMA
Tricia Helfer - Battlestar Galactica
Christina Hendricks - Mad Men
Yunjin Kim - Lost
Margo Martindale - The Riches
Patricia Wettig - Brothers & Sisters
Runners-Up: Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica); Emily VanCamp (Brothers & Sisters); Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy); Dianne Wiest (In Treatment).
No one on this list was on the list last year, simply because the pool of worthy actresses here is so deep. Nothing against women like Sackhoff and Oh and Chandra Wilson and Elizabeth Mitchell, but with such a crowded field, it doesn't take much to get leapfrogged. Martindale would have been listed last year if I'd have watched Season 1 of The Riches in real time. She was far too scarce during much of Season 2, but she got some great episodes at the end. Helfer had her best season yet as the different iterations of Number Six we finally got to see really allowed her to delve into different aspects of Cylon personality. Hendricks was a sniper from the Mad Men sidelines, and Yunjin Kim upped her already significant game in the all of three episodes in which she was featured. And I've been stumping for Wettig since the first episodes of this season. I don't know how I would have survived that accursed Rebecca/Justin storyline without her.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Runners-Up: Weeds; Flight of the Conchords; How I Met Your Mother.
Not a whole lot of new crowding out the old here, save for Pushing Daisies, which, after an incredibly abbreviated first season, is here on promise more than anything. Next season will tell the full tale. Philly and The Office both rebounded from slow starts to finish up strong, while Ugly Betty got better as its universe expanded (beefing up Judith Light to a regular was a big step up), and 30 Rock remains the funniest show on television. That Carrie Fisher episode (and probably the "Gay for Jamie" one too) should go in a time capsule.
BEST ACTOR - COMEDY
Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock
Steve Carell - The Office
Charlie Day - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
John Krasinski - The Office
Lee Pace - Pushing Daisies
Runners-Up: Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords); Zachary Levi (Chuck); Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords).
Again, not a lot of turnover here, though Lee Pace makes the nominee list a whole lot more attractive, physically. Otherwise, things look a whole lot similar to last year. For the record, Alec Baldwin somehow managed to make himself more award-worthy with that whole Good Times insanity.
BEST ACTRESS - COMEDY
Tina Fey - 30 Rock
Jenna Fischer - The Office
Kaitlin Olson - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Mary-Louise Parker - Weeds
Amy Poehler - Saturday Night Live
Runners-Up: Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?); America Ferrera (Ugly Betty).
Yes, I know the SNL cast submitted themselves as supporting performers, but you try telling me Amy Poehler hasn't become the above-title star of that show. Anyway, MLP was great even if Weeds started a downturn last season, and Jenna Fischer didn't get enough to do. There are no such caveats for the ever-improving Kaitlin Olson and the world-beating Tina Fey.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - COMEDY
Neil Patrick Harris - How I Met Your Mother
Jack McBrayer - 30 Rock
Michael Urie - Ugly Betty
Rainn Wilson - The Office
Ray Wise - Reaper
Runners-Up: Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother); Adam Baldwin (Chuck); Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords).
Wow, not one, not two, but THREE office weirdos! Plus Barney, who can't be a picnic to work with either. Though, I guess Ugly Betty's Marc isn't strictly a weirdo so much as a colorful nemesis, but still. Sad to see even Ray Wise couldn't break the Emmys' embargo on CW/WB/UPN programming, but he was wonderful.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - COMEDY
Kristin Chenoweth - Pushing Daisies
Melora Hardin - The Office
Judith Light - Ugly Betty
Elizabeth Perkins - Weeds
Kristen Wiig - Saturday Night Live
Runners-Up: Jean Smart (Samantha Who?); Melissa McCarthy (Samantha Who?); Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty).
Man, what a tough cut-off point in this category. At the beginning of the season, I thought Ana Ortiz would be a shoo-in, but she disappeared for the middle of the season and got lapped by co-star Light. And who doesn't love Jean Smart and Melissa McCarthy? No one with a modicum of good taste. But they just got edged out by the continued excellence of Perkins (Celia was really put through the ringer in Season 3), the misery-incarnate performance of Hardin, and the human mood-enhancer that is Kristin Chenoweth. And then there is Kristen Wiig, who took this season of SNL, strapped it to her Suze Orman shoulderpads, and ran away with it.
BEST REALITY SHOW
Celebrity Rehab w/ Dr. Drew
So You Think You Can Dance
Runner-Up: The Amazing Race.
This lineup is rather blah (ho-hum, Survivor and Project Runway have some more watchable-but-not-jaw-dropping seasons) if not for a pair of the least likely reality obsessions on cable. Actually, I take that back, because the second I heard about the premise of The Paper, I knew it would be awesome. The fact that it was even more awesome than I could have hoped, with a perfectly articulated microcosm of the social politics of high school, was what made it into one of the best shows of the year. Celebrity Rehab actually was a surprise to me, though I should have trusted Dr. Drew to deliver hard truths and empathy when tawdry voyeurism would have probably been just as well for VH1. And then there's last summer's So You Think You Can Dance, which I watched in marathon form this year. No matter, it still easily ranks as the best reality competition of the year.