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Emmy Nominations 2012: Cable and PBS Clean Up, TV Shows Its Range

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Atress Kerry Washington (L) and TV host Jimmy Kimmel speak onstage during the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations held at the Television Academy's Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre on July 19, 2012 in Los Angeles.

Jimmy Kimmel showed up to co-present the Emmy nominations with Scandal’s Kerry Washington this morning in pajamas, joking that he was rousted out of bed for the festivities, held at 5:40 Pacific Time. “This could be just as good at noon, really,” he cracked. But at least Kimmel had something to get up for: his late-night show was nominated for Best Variety. Nick Offerman—whom Kimmel replaced after Offerman was stuck in New York—didn’t get a deserved nomination for Parks and Recreation. (Nor did his sitcom, though Amy Poehler was nominated again.)

But though the podium was held down by the stars of broadcast TV, not so for the golden tickets. The Emmys, which once stubbornly held on to recognizing commercial broadcast TV over cable, has now accepted the creative dominance of cable over the big networks.

The traditional networks still have a slight grip on comedy; Modern Family continues to dominate the supporting nominations, and 30 Rock and Big Bang Theory joined it to take half the Best Comedy nominations. But beyond that, the big names and titles were virtually all from cable (as well as PBS, which collected enough Downton Abbey and Sherlock nods to fill a country estate).

Mad Men. Breaking Bad. Game of Thrones (series and a supporting nod for Peter Dinklage). Girls (best comedy, writing, directing and actress for Lena Dunham—and, haters gonna hate, but I’m delighted). Hatfields and McCoys. The thrillingly insane American Horror Story (which was submitted as a “miniseries” because each season is self-contained and has different characters, and which cleaned up). And Homeland, which deserved to be the most-honored new TV drama, and was. That’s not to mention—but I will, quickly—returns from the likes of Curb Your Enthusiasm; various nominations for Louis CK (albeit not best comedy for Louie, the best show of the last TV season); and, yes, one more nomination for Michael C. Hall. (But not, to take one broadcast example, for Hugh Laurie.)

In general, yeah, I have some gripes about nominations and oversights, and I’ll get to some in a bit. But looking at the big picture, I credit Emmy for at least, in general recognizing quality. The bad nominations this year don’t compare with the worst of a decade or two ago, or even a few years ago: even if Downton’s first season was superior to its second, there is no Boston Legal among this batch of drama nominees. And as much as I might deplore the absence of this or that show (Justified) or actress (Laura Dern), let’s take a minute and recognize that as a sign of the great bench strength of TV today. (The Good Wife is a very, very good show, and yet as a fan I can easily recognize that it was still not one of the six best dramas last season.)

The full list of nominations is available at the Emmy website, and as usual, it’s so voluminous that I’m not going to attempt to comment on every nomination–much less every non-nomination. (Weigh in for Community &c in the comments.) But a few off-the-cuff and non-comprehensive reactions:

* Gripes: So, yeah, if we’re recognizing that comedy is the one thing that broadcast TV does well, Community and Parks and Recreation did it far better than Modern Family last year, as did, say, Happy Endings. (And I say this as someone who still watches Modern Family every week and enjoys it a lot.) And while Louis CK is hardly unrecognized, both for his FX show and his comedy special, it’s still sad to see as transcendent a work of TV as its second season not get nominated as a series. Speaking of which: why the disconnect between the shows that are nominated for comedy writing and those which are nominated as comedy series? Writing is not a consolation prize, people! (Note: I am a writer. I may be biased.)

* Happy surprises: In the acting categories, I was thrilled to see Merritt Wever get recognized for Nurse Jackie, in which she’s given a singularly vibrant, distinctive performance for four seasons now. (Ditto Anna Gunn, over four seasons of Breaking Bad.) Likewise for Max Greenfield for his first season in New Girl, in which he made Schmidt not just a breakout character, but in a strange way the emotional heart of a show that began as a Zooey Deschanel vehicle and turned into a strong ensemble sitcom. And as much as I thought it fitting that Glee not get a series nomination, I’m happy to see a guest actress nomination for Dot Jones, who has found the heart in whatever insanity the show has thrown at her character. (In general, Emmy showed the bounty of comedy actresses working today, with seven lead nominations and a new nomination for Mayim Bialik in The Big Bang Theory.)

* Oddities: There were some category decisions that left us puzzling over definitions this morning. American Horror Story, though a series, is a “miniseries” because each season has a self-contained story with different characters. That seems fair enough to me. But then, Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia, a feature-length episode within a series with continuing characters, is considered a separate “movie.” Meanwhile, Ashley Judd gets an acting nomination for Missing as a “miniseries,” which was made “mini” only by being cancelled. The upshot of all of this: TV makes fewer and fewer ambitious miniseries and movies these days, so the definition is flexible.

* Nonfiction shows: the comedy/variety series have a way of becoming sinecures, with the same names and titles showing up over and over again. The Daily Show and Colbert still got theirs, but there is at least some sign of movement: recognition for Portlandia, Kimmel’s nomination, and, in the negative, no writing nominations for any of the big-broadcast late-night shows (excepting SNL).

Again, this just scratches the surface of a nomination list roughly the size of the Affordable Care Act, but in general, I’m not itching to repeal it. Then again, I have a personal policy of not taking awards seriously, period. The rest or you, gripe (or cheer) away!

19 comments
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Tom Shaw
Tom Shaw

Honestly, while there were many noms I would have liked to have seen, there was only one I needed to see:

 

Community, Remedial Chaos Theory - Written by Chris McKenna

You get a pass for me this year, Emmys!

CloudZ1116
CloudZ1116

Why is Peter Dinklage still listed under the supporting actors section? Wasn't he the lead actor for Game of Thrones season 2?

Shoot the Critic
Shoot the Critic

Agreed that both Louie and Parks and Recreation should have been nominated; they're both better than all the other nominees. I'm also happily surprised by Mayim Bialik's nomination for The Big Bang Theory. It was nice to see that show incorporate more females in their comedy ensemble, which was already strong but starting to lose originality. Obviously there are nasty snubs (like Walton Goggins!), but I'm a fan of most of the nominees. - Shoot the Critic, http://shootthecritic.com

ipfletch
ipfletch

No supporting actor (drama) nod for Neal McDonough ('Justified'); that just ain't right.

Then again, like I told a friend earlier today (she was bummed that Vincent Kartheiser wasn't up for 'Mad Men', which is a legit gripe)- with all the folks that ARE up in that category, there just isn't room.  'Downtown Abbey' aside (I haven't seen it), there isn't anyone nominated there that I wouldn't be over-the-moon happy to see win...I'm pulling for Gus, though.

lucelucy
lucelucy

 Out of curiosity, I just Googled Vincent Kartheiser to see if there was any other buzz about him and found this piece from two years ago.  I'm glad I did.  Pete Campbell is going to be just a little more interesting to me now.  http://www.independent.ie/ente...

Aaron Busch
Aaron Busch

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lawrencetokill
lawrencetokill

BOB'S BURGERS!

James Poniewozik
James Poniewozik

 Read through to that one after I posted, but yes, I second that. Go, Bob's! Am trying to imagine the commemorative burger of the day for this one. The Emmy-nthal Cheese Burger?

jillkennedy
jillkennedy

Cable dominates again.  Can we just say it?  Broadcast Networks are dead.  They are a financial disaster and they can't keep up critically.  It's a model that just doesn't work anymore... they are in complete denial...

http://mankabros.com/blogs/onm...

Kelly M
Kelly M

I was pleased with Jim and Mayim's nominations for Big Bang Theory. I thought Jane Epsen deserved a writing nomination for "Skin Deep" on ONce Upon a Time.  I think Fringe's John Noble and Once's Robert Carlyle deserved supporting drama nods.

snopup
snopup

Yay Merritt Wever, and bonus points for Bobby Cannavale (although I didn't think this season of Nurse Jackie was all that great and I'm not sure either has a serious shot of taking home the Emmy).  And as much as I respect the other nominees' work, Dinklage's Tyrion was even better in Season 2 than he was last year.

Brendan Diamond
Brendan Diamond

I'm honestly very, very bothered by the fact that Parks amp; Rec and Community got snubbed for best comedy while Girls was nominated. I'm also kind of tired of the critics' meme that "haters gonna hate" Girls. Why? Because it seems to me that there are only a handful of us critically-minded folks out here who think the show is a crappy, character-less version of Sex amp; the City. There isn't a single TV critic I read (you, Mr. P., Mo Ryan, Alan Sepinwall, and Ryan McGee, just to name a few -- good Lord, I read too much about TV, though it's probably because I watch too much TV) who hasn't gushed over the show, and I just don't get it. I read an article in the Huffington Post about the Girls "backlash" that was sourced only by comments on Twitter, which, as we all know, is the bastion of critical theory and action.

I'm not a hater. I really, really, REALLY wanted to like Girls, both because the afore-mentioned critics, whose opinions I truly respect, gushed over it, and because I've come to trust Judd Apatow's taste (and seeing Becky Ann Baker in the pilot sent a Chris Matthews-like thrill up my leg). But I don't get it. I have watched all ten episodes of season one, and I couldn't tell you a thing about the characters' personalities. Oh, sure, they've done things, but I couldn't describe a single one to you without telling you A) something that they've done, or B) something that they've said.

Anyways, I didn't really mean to make this into a Girls rant. I'm more bothered by the fact that the show is the 'it' thing this year while a show like Parks amp; Rec, which, in my opinion, does a far better job of showing varied personalities of women, particularly as being simultaneously strong and fragile, was left out after one of the best seasons of comedy I've ever seen. And that's not to mention the greatest snub of all: Louie, which (again in my opinion) was the best show on television last year. Even if Girls is a good show, I don't see how it competes with those two, or Community. Actually, my anger isn't just directed at the Girls nom. Seeing Veep, Modern Family, and The Big Bang Theory up there instead of Louie, Community, Parks amp; Rec, The Middle, The New Girl, and/or Archer seems insane to me.

majnun99
majnun99

People flip out when someone says Girls is good, and now they flip out/write 1000 words when someone predicts they will flip out.

Haters gonna hate isn't a self fulfilling prophecy, it's an accurate prediction to any praise of Girls

gooner12
gooner12

Brendan, you took the words right out of my mouth.  Girls is a show that tries way too hard to be something relevant.  I gave up on the show after 4 episodes because I realized that it was a poor man's Sex and the City.  I can't believe Parks and Rec and Community (which IMO was the best tv I have seen, well since Lost, when it returned after the hiatus) were snubbed for HBO's Girls.  The Emmys always get the Comedy Categories wrong so I shouldn't have been so surprised/angry/upset.  

James Poniewozik
James Poniewozik

"Haters gonna hate" was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, just to acknowledge that I know from experience that praising Girls tends to generate more intense reactions than praising other shows. (Does it not?) NOT tongue-in-cheek, however no one's actually a hater or invalid in their beliefs simply for disagreeing with any idiot opinion I happen to express here.

George Myers
George Myers

I can't believe you stil hate Boston Legal so much. That it is the standard for bad tv in tv history. It had great acting and could be really funny or have great drama!

Chelsea Kiser
Chelsea Kiser

Thrilled about all the Sherlock and Downton Abbey noms, but dismayed (though not surprised) at the Community and John Noble snubs.

lucelucy
lucelucy

 I don't watch comedies - there have to be a few things I don't watch, I'm working on a second novel.  And no, you haven't heard about the first one yet.  But I second the John Noble nom.  Even though he'll always be Denethor to me.