Another mess at the Emmys
They changed the voting procedure this year, putting in an extra step that was supposed to get fresh blood into the nominations and give some of the less watched but more hip shows--Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, etc. a chance for nominations. Once everyone voted for best drama, best actor, etc., the academy would take the top 10 votegetters and have a blue-ribbon panel watch one episode and vote on which were the five best. I guess they figured maybe, for instance, Kristin Bell from Veronica Mars would never be well-known enough by the entire academy to get enough votes for a nomination, but, assuming she was in the top 10, might have a fighting chance once the blue-ribbon panel put her on an even keel with the other possible best actresss in a drama nominees. This is actually similar to what the Grammy Awards did about 10 years ago after "Tony Bennett--Unplugged" won best album. Someone said, "You know, maybe there was something a little more cutting edge and relevant that came out last year and was pretty good too" and they had some kind of blue-ribbon panel go over the top 10-15 vote-getters and pick the best five from that group. And it seems to have worked--the Grammys now generally give out best album to something that doesn't consist of 30 year old songs.
The big problem with the Emmys is that unlike the Oscars and the Grammys, there's not a new crop of contenders every year. Good television shows last for 5 or more years. So the same people often get nominated year after year, and win year after year. This has been a problem for years, so the Emmys decided to do something about it this year. Ironically, this change came after what was a relatively good year for fresh blood at the Emmys--Lost won best drama series and Felicity Huffman won best comedy actress and they were both first-time nominees. But after Doris Roberts won for something like the fourth or fifth time, I guess someone at the television academy lost it and pulled the trigger.
Unfortunately, it seems like whoever devised the new system doesn't really watch a lot of television. Here's why: Each show that made the top 10 apparently had to submit one episode (and I believe the acting nominees had to do the same.) The problem is that many of the best shows on TV these days are serialized, and can often have great emotional payoffs in the 20th episode of the season that you can't really appreciate unless you've seen the first 19. Those who pick the eventual Emmy winner (I believe it's volunteers who promise to watch all the tapes of the nominees) gets something like eight episodes to decide best drama and comedy, but the blue-ribbon panel (I have a hard time writing that with a straight face) deciding the nominees got one episode. But how can you appreciate a show like Lost in one episode? One of the best scenes from the first year of Lost was in the penultimate episode, when Sawyer, before he leaves on the raft, tells Jack about meeting his father in a bar, and how his father talked about how proud he was of his son. Anyone who had been watching Lost from the beginning of the year, and knew the relationship between Jack and his father, and Sawyer and Jack, was likely wiping their eyes by the end of this scene--but I imagine it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to a first-time viewer. As another example, how about the episode with Adriana's death two years ago on the Sopranos? The Sopranos is a little more self-contained than Lost, and one could certainly appreciate that episode if he or she had never seen the show before--but you'd still be missing a lot. Ever since she started talking to the feds, you knew it would end badly, but to finally see it happen packed an incredible emotional impact. And finally, there was a scene in the finale of Veronica Mars' first season that last maybe 30 seconds and would have absolutely no impact on a first-time viewer--Veronica's father gets a DNA test done and tells her that he is her biological father, after there had been some suspicion that he may not be. As they embraced over this news, only a viewer who had watched the show from the beginning and seen the relationship between Veronice and her dad could appreciate what an amazing scene this was--less than a minute, but probably one of the best scenes on television in the 2004-05 TV season.
So is this why Lost was snubbed? Perhaps. The producers submitted the first episode of this year's season, the one where we're introduced to Desmond and the flashback has Jack obsessing over curing his future wife and meeting Desmond while running up and down some stadium near the hospital. This was a great episode for fans of the show, because it revealed a lot about the hatch--but if you'd never seen the show before was probably kind of odd. Why they didn't submit a show with a really strong flashback storyline that could bring new viewers in a blue-ribbon panel into the show--like perhaps Mr. Eko's first flashback show, for instance? I don't know.
Of course, in response someone is saying, "24 is serialized, and that still got nominated." True, and I don't know what episode they submitted, but 24 is not as dependent in most cases on character development as a show like Lost. A character on 24 dies, and they're usually forgotten by midway through the next episode--and it's such a thrill-ride that anyone can appreciate it on that level. Furthermore, since every year on 24 pretty much starts over, a really good first episode doesn't have any of the problems that I identified with Lost and is a good choice for submission.
So that leaves us with 24, Sopranos, Grey's Anatomy, House, and West Wing in the best drama category. Other than Lost, I'm sad that Veronica Mars wasn't nominated, but it was totally unrealistic to even think it would be nominated, so I won't waste anymore time on it. I'll be rooting for 24, because it was just fabulous this year. I like the Sopranos, and think it has been criticized too harshly (yeah, that finale was pretty disappointing, and the season did kind of meander, but any show that has a scene like the one in the second to last episode with Tony telling A.J. he'll be working at a construction site the next morning is still pretty great), but this wasn't its best season and it won two years ago, the last time it was eligible. As for the others: West Wing won this award four times--did it really need to get nominated again? I have a bunch of Grey's Anatomy episodes on tape that I haven't watched, and since a lot of people love this show, maybe I'll change my mind--but until I watch them I haven't seen the evidence this show is as good as 24. House is a solid show that I've watched a couple times, but I like 24 better.
Best comedy: The academy probably did the best job in this category: I don't watch Two and a Half Men, so I don't have an opinion on it, but I don't think I'd be that upset if any of the other four won. Curb Your Enthusiasm has never won the best comedy Emmy, despite some of the funniest half-hours of television I've ever seen, so it certainly wouldn't be an injustice if it won. But the award is supposed to go for episodes in the previous TV season, and it really doesn't deserve to win based on that criteria--this was by far its weakest year. It really didn't even have a stand-out episode--like the "Survivor" episode from the previous season, or the one with the doll a couple years ago. Sure, the one with the child-molester at the Passover seder was memorable and the one with Jeff and Larry arguing over who should give Richard Lewis his kidney was very funny, but I don't think either really rise to the level of the classics, in my opinion. Then we have Arrested Development, which is an incredibly funny show--but let's face it, it did win once, and more importantly, the show has been cancelled, and the creator of the show turned down a chance to revive it on Showtime. I'd rather have a show win the award that's still on the air and needs to reel in more viewers. Both Scrubs and The Office meet that criteria. Scrubs is certainly deserving, but it's been on the air for five years and had a timeslot after Friends and still hasn't been able to become a hit. So an Emmy isn't going to help it. The Office is just as deserving, and in only its second season still has room to grow. Plus, it's amazing how The Office went from a show that didn't quite work last year to a show that figured out what it needed to do--make Steve Carell's character a little more sympathetic, flesh out the supporting characters, give us more Jim and Pam--and got better and better as the year went on. Oh, and unlike some others, I'm not upset that My Name Is Earl was not nominated--yeah, it's amusing, but it's a one-joke show. And I'm not even a big fan of that joke, which apparently is "Aren't hicks dumb?"
Quickly, the other categories: Stockard Channing for best comedy? Is this a belated reward for her indelible portrayal of Rizzo in Grease? Mary-Louise Parker deserved a nomination for Weeds, but the woman who deserves to win is Lisa Kudrow. I understand that this show wasn't everyone's cup of tea (and that, in the words of comedian Andy Kindler, it may have even made some people hate tea), but she was fantastic. She made a dislikable character sympathetic, and hilariously funny too. And for those who didn't watch the show or tuned out after the first episode, if they ever put this show up on HBO on Demand start watching around episode six. It hit its stride around that point, and every episode after the midpoint of the season was very funny. As for drama actress, how Edie Falco got left out is beyond me, but she has won a number of times, so don't feel too bad for her. I don't watch The Closer, but I've always like Kyra Sedgewick, so I won't have a problem with her winning. I do watch Six Feet Under, and Frances Conroy was nominated, but I kind of tired of her by the end of the show--and it aired it last episode 11 months ago (an episode which I hated for the gimmick of showing the viewers how everyone died, but still left me bawling on the couch). Supporting actress, drama: Jean Smart as the first lady on 24 should be the choice. Supporting actress, comedy: Cheryl Hines is always funny, but didn't really have much to do this year. Elizabeth Perkins is pretty funny on Weeds, so I'd like to see her win.
Actor, drama: No James Gandolfini? So ridiculous, I'm not going to waste any more time on it. At least Kiefer Sutherland got nominated.
Actor, comedy: Steve Carell--he can make an idiot sympathetic, and he's pretty funny being an idiot. Zach Braff and Jason Bateman should have gotten nominated for Scrubs and Arrested, respectively, but they somehow weren't, so Carell is the obvious choice.
Supporting actor, comedy: Jeremy Piven is great on Entourage, but Will Arnett as GOB on Arrested Development may be the funniest character ever on television. So even though his show has been cancelled, I wouldn't be upset if he beat Piven out. (By the way, some people have been talking about how Entourage was snubbed. It didn't deserve any acting noms other than Piven, and I'm not really sure it was really one of the five best comedies on TV--it's a show I enjoy, but it's more fun than funny, if you know what I mean.)
Supporting actor, drama: Maybe the most horrifying category of them all. Shatner and Oliver Platt got nominations instead of Terry O'Quinn (Locke on Lost) and the guy who plays Eko on the same show? Actually, there's a bunch of guys who could and should have received nominations on Lost, but the only actor that got one was the guy who plays Desmond for "guest actor." Not that he isn't deserving, but it sure it odd. Anyway, at least Gregory Itzin, the guy who played the president on 24, got a nod, and he is as deserving as anyone who was or wasn't nominated for this award, so I hope he wins.
Finally, let's hope American Idol finally gets that reality show trophy.