Wednesday, August 04, 2010

My Emmy Ballot, Part 2: The Comedies

The real Emmy nominations got announced a couple weeks ago, of course. But for the last few years, I've ventured to offer my own choices for the best TV of the year (check out my ballots in 2009, 2008, and 2007). I'm going to pretend like I have a say-so and present my own pretend ballot. The dramas got presented on Monday -- check 'em out here. Please do hit up the comments and offer up your own choices.

Cougar Town
Modern Family
Nurse Jackie
Parks and Recreation

So, as you may have heard at some point in the last 6-9 months, there's been a bit of a comedy resurgence on TV this season. New shows like Modern Family and Community and Glee (and technically Nurse Jackie, which at this point last year had yet to debut); resurgent shows like Parks and Recreation, Ugly Betty, and Cougar Town (yes, I'm counting the leap it made in its second half to be a resurgence), underappreciated (and now canceled) gems like Better Off Ted and Party Down. Much like a moon pie, TV's great comedies made this year a great time to be alive. It also means I have to defend myself for leaving shows like Party Down and Glee off my ballot.

In fact, the only show that made my top 6 this year that was even around last year was Parks and Rec. And the great leap in quality it took between seasons means you might as well consider it a new show as well. That's a hell of a freshman class. So don't take me for a 30 Rock hater for leaving it off my list. Look, I like all these shows. But Glee was always way too up-and-down an experience for me to value it over what became such reliable sources of joy like Cougar Town and Archer. I don't not love Party Down or Better Off Ted or my beloved Greek; it's just been a great year.

Runners-Up: Party Down; Greek; Glee; Better Off Ted; 30 Rock; It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; Ugly Betty

Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock
Ty Burrell - Modern Family
Steve Carell - The Office
Charlie Day - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Joel McHale - Community
Adam Scott - Party Down

When did this become such a barren category? Even in this year of comedic resurgence? Not that the six nominated actors aren't great, but ... well, in a stronger year, I'm not sure if Steve Carell's predictably-solid-but-decidedly-unspectacular performance survives to a nomination. But even in a shallow pool, it should be noted that Joel McHale and Ty Burrell made brilliantly funny debuts on their respective comedies, though playing couldn't-be-more-different characters. We could debate how much new spin Burrell put on the standard "befuddled sitcom dad," but it almost ceases to matter when he delivered laughs so reliably. McHale's task was considerably harder, balancing Jeff Winger's Teflon cool-kid exterior with...well, you'd expect me to follow that with something like a vulnerable interior, but the brilliance of McHale is that Jeff's layers are sometimes shallower than his surface. The moments when Jeff's image gets dinged are some of the season's best, but he remains a satisfyingly non-pat guy.

Runners-Up: Matthew Morrison (Glee); John Krasinski (The Office); Jay Harrington (Better Off Ted)

Portia DeRossi - Better Off Ted
Edie Falco - Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey - 30 Rock
Kaitlin Olson - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Mary-Louise Parker - Weeds
Amy Poehler - Parks and Recreation

You'd think after years of me ringing a bell for people like Tina Fey and Mary-Louise Parker and Kaitlin Olson, their contributions would start to feel stale, but all three women continue to reign as the brightest lights on their respective shows. Just because their work isn't novel anymore doesn't mean they should be overlooked. The predictability of the Emmys' love affair with Edie Falco shouldn't diminish the nimble work she does on Nurse Jackie. Part of me has decided to hold out hope that her clip scene will be that season-capping "Blow me." Meanwhile, I'll be pouring one out for yet another Portia DeRossi character gone too soon. After Lindsay Bluth and now Veronica, are we ready to call her a great comedic actress now? And then there's Amy Poehler; the degree to which I am over-the-moon happy that her show turned it around in the second season and not it's a critical darling and she's an Emmy nominee would have you thinking she's a blood relative.

Runners-Up: Lizzy Caplan (Party Down); Courteney Cox (Cougar Town); Jenna Fischer (The Office)

Dan Byrd - Cougar Town
Ryan Hansen - Party Down
Justin Kirk - Weeds
Tracy Morgan - 30 Rock
Eric Stonestreet - Modern Family
Michael Urie - Ugly Betty

I know, I know, no Neil Patrick Harris. It's a Neil Patrick Heresy! (Thank you.) Look, this is a stacked category -- the fact that there's only room for one Modern Family cast member should say something. Looking at my list, with the notable exception of the delightfully precise Stonestreet, these guys tended to float below the radar this TV season. Tracy Morgan excepted, I guess, though the fact that his back-to-the-old-neighborhood meltdown episode didn't score him an Emmy nomination for this, his best season tells me he was no longer on voters' radar. Same for Justin Kirk, who might have gotten notice a few years ago, but now that much of the TV audience has moved beyond Weeds, nobody noticed that his years of deepening his character culminated in a remarkable tragicomic season for an actor who doesn't get enough love. Age may be the defining factor in why Dan Byrd and Ryan Hansen don't get the love they should -- well that and the fact that people either don't watch or don't watch to admit they watch their shows. As for Michael Urie, this is the last chance I'm going to have to enthuse about his portrayal of Marc St. James, one of my favorite TV characters of the last few years. Urie didn't disappoint in Ugly Betty's final season, bringing Marc into his own in a way that felt true to the character while maintaining as light a touch as possible. Looking forward to wherever he goes from here.

Runners-Up: Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother); Jonathan Slavin (Better Off Ted); Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation); Donald Glover (Community)

Andrea Anders - Better Off Ted
Eve Best - Nurse Jackie
Jane Lynch - Glee
Busy Philipps - Cougar Town
Sofia Vergara - Modern Family
Merritt Wever - Nurse Jackie

First things first: I am sorry, Aubrey Plaza! I love you dearly on Parks and Recreation, especially where things went in the second season. But who am I going to jettison from these six? Merritt Wever's enthusiastic spazziness and Eve Best's cool (but quietly desperate) elegance are the perfect flanks for Edie Falco's Jackie. Andrea Anders will one day land a comedy that manages to showcase her gift for sunny quick-wittedness (she'd have killed on a show like Friends) and is watched by more than a dozen people. And what more can I say about our Emmy duo, Lynch and Vergara? Lynch almost lives up to the hype, which is not the backhanded compliment it sounds like. That kind of outsized praise is impossible to back up; that Lynch nearly does so only proves her considerable comedic chops. Vergara, meanwhile, has joined Tracy Morgan under the Andy Kaufman umbrella of performers who always keep me wondering just how much of the performance is them just being their weird selves. When it's this funny, it's tough for me to care. And then there's my beloved Busy Philipps, my great TV love back to Freaks and Geeks, who got me invested even in the final dismal seasons of Dawson's Creek. Because nobody will admit that Cougar Town grew into one of the more reliably funny shows on TV, nobody's talking about how she's taken one of the most narrowly defined characters on the show (she's trashy!) and spun off into the most wonderfully bizarre directions. Busy latched on early to how Cougar Town could be more than a one-joke premise, and in many ways Laurie (and Dan Byrd's Travis) led the way to the show's brave new future.

Runners-Up: Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation); Allison Brie (Community); Amber Stevens (Greek); Becki Newton (Ugly Betty)

Matt Damon - 30 Rock
Reid Ewing - Modern Family
Harvey Fierstein - Nurse Jackie
Mike O'Malley - Glee
Adam Scott - Parks and Recreation
Michael Sheen - 30 Rock

Interesting that between me and the Emmy nominations, I was the one who went for the big starfucking opportunity by nominating Matt Damon. What can I say, I'm a Matt Damon fan. But he's not my favorite in this category, no matter how good he was opposite Liz Lemon. I should also give shouts out to Scott, who will make a fine addition to Parks and Rec whenever it manages to return next season, and Ewing, who never gets credit for his contributions to the Modern Familyensemble as Haley's songwriting, lovestruck boyfriend Dylan. But the three guest performances that stood out the most this season were: Fierstein's mournful widower on Jackie; Sheen's delightfully awful Wesley Snipes; and O'Malley's frankly shocking proof that he can actually act quite well.

Elizabeth Banks - 30 Rock
Kristin Chenoweth - Glee
Jan Hooks - 30 Rock
Judith Ivey - Nurse Jackie
Idina Menzel - Glee
Megan Mullally - Parks and Recreation

Here's a category that, at the top level at least, might outshine even the supporting and lead categories. Megan Mullally was sexed up and kind of scary on Parks and Rec. Banks rose head and shoulders above all of 30 Rock's attempts at giving Jack Donaghy a love interest (sorry, Julianne Moore), while Hooks got big laughs on par with anyone on the show this season ("I got the meat..."). If only the real Emmy committee could have reunited the Wicked witches, Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, under the same category again. They both got ample opportunity to shine on Glee, albeit separately. And they managed to bring the best work out of leads Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele, respectively. Judith Ivey had a great, baity role as an acerbic, dying ex-nurse on Jackie, but she delivered it without a trace of laziness or relying on sympathy.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I can't get behind Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan as actors, no matter how much I try...and though she's been severely ignored I still think Krakowski outshines all. Still, I love reading your lists (so with you on Kristin and Megan rocking their guest stints).

I'm praying, stupidly of course, that Amy can pull of an upset in the Actress category. That would make my year (even if I wish she had submitted "The Hunting Trip" and not "The Telethon".

par3182 said...

idina menzel's work on glee just proved that as an actress, she's a helluva singer

james franco was a better fit on 30 rock than matt damon, but michael sheen as the one and only wesley snipes stole the show

and chris pratt's sweet dopey andy on parks and recreation is surely worthy of a place in the supporting actor ranks ("that ralph macchio is a douche")


yeah, i'm with Andrew here. I love 30 rock with great smothering heapings of it but for "acting" the parts, I'm all about KRAKOWSKI and BALDWIN who are both reliably hilarious, often inspired and, well, true actors.

i mean... krakowksi doesn't even get an honorable mention. and she had that RAGE STROKE moment? for shame!

Joe Reid said...

Yeah, not to cause further rage strokes or anything, but Jane Krakowski's never been my thing, on this show or in anything else (save maybe Go). Tracy Morgan hadn't been either, but that back-to-childhood episode was THE highlight of the season, and all thanks to him. And honestly, are we still calling Tina Fey "not a real actor"? After four seasons plus performing well in "Baby Mama" and Date Night"? I get actorly snobbery and all, but come on.

In other (related?) news, I have to say Idina Menzel's work on Glee seemed like a clear step up in the acting department, certainly from things like Enchanted and even the Rent movie. Particularly since most of her big emotion on the show was conveyed through performances, and that woman can act through song.

Jude said...

No Neil Patrick Harris in guest actor either for Glee? The part itself was kind of shaky, but I think his mind-blowing falsetto for "Dream On" is enough to at least get a nomination! But maybe I'm blinded by NPH obsessiveness...

kin said...

You have probably talk about this several times already, but had you watch Chuck?

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Thank Heavens you mentioned Idina, who was my favorite guest star on Glee. Community kicks ass. I think Portia de Rossi is more of a Supporting Actress on Better Off Ted, but still great.

Joe Reid said...

Jude: NPH would have been a fine choice too. I think in that particular episode I focused way more on Lea/Idina rather than Will/Bryan Ryan.

Kim: Don't watch "Chuck." Can I interest you in an entire internet that does?

Walter: I had Portia as supporting last year. This season, she seemed more central.