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If We Had an Emmy Ballot: The Best TV of 2010 to 2011

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CHICAGO – It’s that time of year again – the time when the TV industry‘s chosen few try to determine which of their peers delivered the best performances of the past twelve months before handing in their Emmy ballots this Friday, June 24th, 2011.

As we do every year, we’re back to offer our choices for the most-deserving nominees in the major categories along with input from our readers and listeners to WGN-AM radio.

The nominees this year are guaranteed to include some surprises, simply due to the strength of two major absentees and a strong slate of new programs hoping to step in. Most importantly, AMC’s “Breaking Bad” didn’t air in the last year, which makes previous winners Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul ineligible, and, of course, “Lost” is gone, freeing up a few spots of its own. The absence of “Monk,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Damages” should also make things a little more unpredictable and interesting.

Which dramas and their actors will fall into those newly vacated places? It’s likely to be new blood, but which ones? Will HBO dominate with “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire,” or even “Treme”? Or what about AMC with “The Killing” and “The Walking Dead”? Will either be major players? Do they deserve to be?

The comedy categories seem a bit more cut-and-dry, but the wealth of candidates in Supporting Actor (and the dearth of them in Lead Actor) could make for a shocker or two. And will the Academy get in line with critics who love NBC shows like “Parks and Recreation” and “Community” or turn to more popular fare like “Mike & Molly” or, gasp, “Two and a Half Men”?

While I have respect for the Movie/Mini-series and Reality categories, we need to keep this feature under control. Briefly, I’d like to see Kate Winslet, Guy Pearce, Brian F. O’Byrne, and Evan Rachel Wood all get nods for “Mildred Pierce,” and I’d like some love for “Sherlock,” “Luther,” “Carlos,” “Downtown Abbey,” and Diane Lane’s work on “Cinema Verite” and Samuel L. Jackson’s on “The Sunset Limited.” Clearly, these categories are stronger than usual this year.

Let’s get to the best possible scenarios for Drama and Comedy…

Ed O'Neill of Modern Family
Ed O’Neill of Modern Family
Photo credit: ABC

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Chris Colfer, “Glee”
Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men”
Garret Dillahunt, “Raising Hope”
Ed O’Neill, “Modern Family”
Danny Pudi, “Community”
Eric Stonestreet, “Modern Family”

This is arguably the most crowded category (it’s this one or Lead Actor in a Drama) as a ton of deserving candidates are sure to get snubbed here. Many of the best comedies on television now could fill at least half of this category.

Last year, three of the four adult actors on ABC’s amazing “Modern Family” were nominated, leaving the never-nominated Ed O’Neill as the odd man out. It felt this year almost as if the writers of the show took that snub as a challenge, constantly giving O’Neill great storylines, ranging from hanging out with his son’s gay friends to trying to emotionally connect with his brother to crying over memories of his mother. He was brilliant this year. He not only deserves a nod but deserves to win.

I’d invite his co-star Eric Stonestreet, the winner from last year, to the party, but, and it hurts to say this, leave Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson out of the club. They’re GREAT, but this category is too crowded and they were better last year. Year two of the show was more about Ed and the two women (which we’ll get to later).

That leaves four spots. Chris Colfer was the best thing about “Glee” this year and, if anyone could steal the Emmy from one of the “Modern Family” guys, I expect it will be him. Mike O’Malley deserves mention here as well, but I’ll be stunned if Colfer isn’t nominated, so why fight inevitability?

Colfer, O’Neill, Stonestreet — Three spots to go. What about the NBC ensembles? “30 Rock” had a down year and former nominees Tracy Morgan and Jack McBrayer didn’t do enough quality work to warrant nods. I LOVE the ensemble on “Parks and Recreation,” but can’t pick just one of their talented guys (Nick Offerman, Adam Scott, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari). If the Academy does, I’ll be very happy, but I can’t do it (although, Offerman would be my 7th choice if given one and I’ll squeal with manly glee if he actually does get nominated).

No one on “The Office” stood out this year but, once again, I won’t be too disappointed if Rainn Wilson or Ed Helms sneak in. No, the one NBC Thursday night candidate I would nominate has to come from “Community,” the best ensemble on TV. Any of the men would be great choices, but Danny Pudi had the most accomplished year, adding a shade of melancholy to Abed that truly made him the stand-out performer. Erik Childress perfectly makes the case for Mr. Pudi in the comments section to our WGN segment about the Emmy favorites of our readers. (Dark horse alternate: Chevy Chase, who really found the dark edge of Pierce this season.)

Two spots left. Neil Patrick Harris has been nominated before and likely will be again, but I’d pick a different CBS regular. I’m NOT a fan of “Two and a Half Men” at all, but doesn’t Jon Cryer deserve a nod just for putting up with Charlie Sheen’s shit and handling the fallout with grace? There are more deserving winners, but wouldn’t his acceptance speech just be cathartically fascinating?

Who gets the final spot? Garret Dillahunt may be known by film audiences for dark movies like “Winter’s Bone” and “Last House on the Left,” but he’s simply hysterical on FOX’s highly-underrated “Raising Hope.” This is the kind of excellent sitcom that needs nominations to find an audience. Let’s start here.

Sofia Vergara of Modern Family
Sofia Vergara of Modern Family
Photo credit: ABC

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”
Alison Brie, “Community”
Jane Lynch, “Glee”
Sofia Vergara, “Modern Family”
Kristen Wiig, “Saturday Night Live”
Casey Wilson, “Happy Endings”

The “Modern Family” love continues. Both of the spectacular actresses from the ABC program — Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara — were nominated last year and both were even better this year. I’d love to see one of them win this award and think it will very likely go to Sofia.

Hold on Gleeks. Stop your letter writing campaign. Jane Lynch, last year’s winner, will almost certainly be nominated again this year (and is hosting the program) and I have little problem with that, especially given the difficulty in filling out this weak category, but Lynch just didn’t deliver this season like Bowen and Vergara. It should go to one of them, but I’m fine with the divine Jane getting a nod.

In a very rare situation, all six of last year’s nominees are eligible again. We already have spots penciled in for the two “Modern Family” divas and Ms. Lynch. Who does that leave? I’m cool with the recent trend of honoring “Saturday Night Live” in this category and Kristen Wiig is riding high right now thanks to her beloved “Bridesmaids.” Let’s nominate her again.

As for the other two from last year, neither had stand-out seasons — Jane Krakowski of “30 Rock” and Holland Taylor of “Two and a Half Men.” It’s time for some new blood.

But who? The ladies from “How I Met Your Mother” (Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders) aren’t bad and I love “Parks and Recreation” (Aubrey Plaza and Rashida Jones), but there are better choices. I’ve made the pitch for Jenna Fischer of “The Office” in the past and even Kaley Cuoco in “The Big Bang Theory,” but it’s not them either. We need to look to the new…

Alison Brie on “Community” gives one of the most important and accomplished supporting performances on television. She brings a much-needed heart and innocence to a show that can sometimes be overly cynical. And her comic timing is getting better by the episode. It would be a well-deserved nod.

For that final spot, I wanted to recognize an ensemble that I expect will play into more than one nomination next year if it continues on its current trajectory — the cast of ABC’s “Happy Endings.” Supporting Actor is too crowded (although I expect that Adam Pally will — or at least should — be a part of that crowd at this time next year), but there’s room here for Elisha Cuthbert, Eliza Coupe, or Casey Wilson. Casey delivered the most in this shortened first season. She’s an unlikely choice from the Academy (who will probably go with Taylor or Krakowski…yawn), but she would be an inspired one.

Julie's picture

How more ridiculous can you be ? Seriously ?

Sorry Jon Cryer doesn’t deserve a nom just because he did not speak to the press during Sheenmania, it is ridiculous..at this state Sheen deserves so much more a nom for managing to make this sitcom sometimes still funny after 8 seasons..

janeway's picture

best supporting actress

i think one person you missed out of best supporting category is michelle fairley in Game of thrones

Anonymous's picture

What about Detroit 1-8-7? By

What about Detroit 1-8-7? By far the best show of the year. If you had taken the time to watch it instead of pandering to the atrocious “Chicago Code” you could have caught that. But you can disagree with me, but I have The Washington Post and LA Times supporting me.

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