The 10 Biggest Emmy Snubs of 2009
CHICAGO – The 61st Annual Emmy Award Nominations were an interesting melting pot of smart, brave, new choices and old-fashioned, predictable, stale selections.
It was fantastic to see a few first-time nominees from our own “Dream Emmys” piece including Jim Parsons for “The Big Bang Theory,” Jack McBrayer for “30 Rock,” Kristen Wiig for “Saturday Night Live,” Aaron Paul for “Breaking Bad,” Hope Davis for “In Treatment,” Toni Collette in “United States of Tara,” and Cherry Jones for “24”. Those are great choices that hint at an organization willing to think outside of the box when it comes to handing out awards.
Now, that doesn’t mean some people weren’t totally screwed. For every great choice this year, there was one that could politely be called a head-scratcher. In my humble, TV-critic opinion, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences failed to nominate what should have WON the top three dramatic categories - “The Shield” for Best Drama, Michael Chiklis for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series, and January Jones for Best Actress in a Dramatic Series. So, it’s not as if they missed a minor nominee here and there. They missed some biggies. And it’s time to name names.
Note: The overall snubs of “Friday Night Lights” and “Battlestar Galactica” is ridiculous but who knows where to start with those shows, a pair of beloved series that have NEVER gotten the Academy recognition that they deserved. We’re trying to stick with specific acting snubs and both “FNL” and “BSG” are snubs in multiple categories. We could do a top ten of just those two shows. To keep the list from getting too specific, consider them overall snubs, not specific ones on the list.
The Ten Biggest 2009 Emmy Snubs
10. Denis Leary for “Rescue Me”
This is a questionable one but it indicates something deeply flawed about the Emmy system - its link to the standard, broadcast calendar year. The 2009 Emmys were for shows that aired from the first of June in 2008 to the last day of May in 2009. What happens if a show straddles (gasp) both May and June?!? How daring! The fifth season of “Rescue Me” started in April and runs until September. I’d like to think that Emmy voters will remember what Denis Leary is doing this season at NEXT year’s Emmys, when the bulk of the season is eligible, but I want to plant the seed now - what Leary is doing this season far outweighs anything he has delivered before. He has really grown comfortable in the role of Tommy Gavin and he’s doing more subtle work than he has in any of the previous seasons. I guess with only a few eligible episodes this snub isn’t that egregious but don’t let it happen again next year.
9. Anna Friel for “Pushing Daisies”
The Academy missed out on a chance to nominate the final season of ABC’s brilliant-but-canceled “Pushing Daisies” in multiple categories but no exclusion was more shocking than leaving the charming and delightful Anna Friel out of a category that, let’s be blunt, is hard to fill with six nominees. When you get past the deserving Christina Applegate, who displayed perfect comic timing in the very imperfect “Samantha Who?,” the obvious choice of Tina Fey, and the one-two punch of Showtime heroines in Toni Collette in “United States of Tara” and Mary-Louise Parker in “Weeds,” the pool gets awfully shallow (at least until Edie Falco walks home with this award next year for “Nurse Jackie”). That’s why relatively stale choices like Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and Sarah Silverman for her Comedy Central program get in. I love both actresses and think they’re very talented but they’re getting nominated more for their overall ability than the actual program. The overall quality of “Pushing Daisies” and how Friel contributes to it should have prevailed over better-known actresses on inferior shows.
8. Jenna Fischer and Ed Helms for “The Office”
“The Office” had an inspired, creative season that easily ranks with their best to date but it’s getting a little tiring of seeing the same-old nominees every year. Yes, Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson are talented people but can’t we spread the wealth? Both Ed Helms and Jenna Fischer had arguably better seasons. (Fischer was nominated once before in 2007, but she was even better this year.) Helms’ plotline involving the dissolution of his engagement to Angela was priceless and Fischer’s involving Pam breaking off and joining the Michael Scott Paper Company allowed the actress to display her best comic timing to date. Helms should have snuck in over Wilson (or maybe even Tracy Morgan or Jon Cryer…both are good, neither are Emmy-worthy) and Fischer deserved the spot over Vanessa Williams for the tired “Ugly Betty”. A lot of people deserved the spot over Vanessa Williams.
7. Elizabeth Mitchell for “Lost”
It took a few years, but I think it is now widely recognized that “Lost” is a truly ensemble-driven show and, consequently, perhaps it doesn’t deserve that many acting nominations. I said “that many”. It still deserves a few and, thankfully, the Academy did pick out one - the great, show-stealing Michael Emerson for Best Supporting Actor. And I can’t even say for sure that Elizabeth Mitchell had that amazing a season. It’s more of the fact that this excellent actress has never been nominated. At least Locke, Said and Ben got their shot at glory. (Terry O’Quinn won in 2007, Naveen Andrews was nominated in 2005). But no woman has ever been nominated for “Lost”. And I doubt that the final season of the show is going to be very character-specific, once again leaving voters at a loss as who to single out of the ensemble. This was possibly their last chance. Elizabeth Mitchell should have been the first.
6. Regina King for “Southland”
Regina King is the main reason that “Southland” is on NBC’s fall schedule. She is easily the best thing about this intriguing-but-flawed show and it would have really displayed a willingness to look outside of the usual candidates if her name had been called on nomination morning. As Detective Lydia Adams, King displays a perfect combination of human vulnerability and the veins of steel required to be an L.A. cop. King has stolen scenes in major films for years and now she’s doing it on NBC. I think her exclusion is due to a slightly understandable lack of exposure to the show. After all, only seven episodes have aired and I bet most Emmy voters don’t even know that the on-the-bubble show was renewed. However, if “Southland” makes it through another season, I would bet money that King gets nominated next year. Sally Field, Mariska Hargitay, and Holly Hunter might want to prepare for some disappointment.
5. Anna Paquin for “True Blood”
Speaking of “Best Actress in a Dramatic Series” mistakes (and this won’t even be the last time). The general exclusion of “True Blood” this year was tragically disappointing. Based on years of snubs for the amazing “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and now the exclusion of “True Blood” from Best Drama and Best Actress, it’s crystal clear that the Academy has something against vampire fiction. (The team behind The CW’s upcoming “Vampire Diaries” probably don’t need to clear mantle space for Emmys.) Paquin is perfect on “True Blood,” bringing a harder-than-it-looks blend of southern innocence, primal sexuality, excellent comic timing, and true emotional core to the role of Sookie Stackhouse. She’s so good on “True Blood” that most people don’t even notice how good she is. It is a FAR less flashy role than Holly Hunter on “Saving Grace” or Sally Field on “Brothers and Sisters” and no one can ever explain to me how (outside of her status as Hollywood royalty) Mariska Hargitay keeps getting nominated. The show’s good popcorn entertainment, but really?
4. Danny McBride for “Eastbound and Down”
How amazing and subversive of the generally-safe Emmy Awards would it have been to see a clip of Kenny Powers on the broadcast? The racist, sexist, drug-using, and basically insane Kenny Powers might have sent some of the older Academy members running for the exit doors. And, to be honest, that’s probably why the excellent Mr. McBride didn’t get nominated. It’s a shame because “Eastbound and Down” has a growing, thriving fan base, one that gets bigger with every viewing of the season one DVD. What McBride does on “Eastbound and Down” is comic brilliance, the best thing that the star of “Pineapple Express” and “Tropic Thunder” had done to date. With guest appearances on the show from Will Ferrell and Craig Robinson and a growing fan base, a major nod for “Eastbound and Down” might have brought in a whole new audience for the Emmy Awards. I’m sure that Jemaine Clement for “Flight of the Conchords” will do some of that, but McBride is just a bit better.
3. Ray Wise for “Reaper”
Like “Pushing Daisies” (and my next choice), this was a case of the Academy having only one more chance to correct an omission from last year and they blew it again. Yes, you could fit the number of people who watched “Reaper” into a Dodge Caravan but that shouldn’t matter when it comes to awards. It’s the responsibility of voters to catch up on every eligible performance. And I don’t believe they did. Because if you see Ray Wise as the Devil on “Reaper,” you would vote for Ray Wise. I think there may have been some category confusion with “Reaper”. Is it a comedy? A drama? The fact is that most modern shows that have straddled the line between the standard definition of the categories - “Buffy” is a great example - have struggled to get major nominations. “Reaper” was eligible in comedy and Ray Wise was better than at least half of the supporting actor nominees.
2. Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins for “The Shield”
How are critics and Academy voters SO far apart? “The Shield” was the most nominated show by the Television Critics Association for their final, brilliant season. It was nominated for Best Drama, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor. Don’t you think ONE of those nominees might have been mirrored by the Emmy Awards? ONE?!? The final season of “The Shield” was the Best Drama of 2008 and Chiklis and Goggins were the main reason why. Watching Vic Mackey and Shane Vendrell reach the apex of the dance they’ve been doing with destiny since the series premiere was riveting television and the final scenes of both characters merited nomination on their own. The fate of both characters was beautifully, perfectly written by one of the best writing staffs of the ’00s and Chiklis and Goggins knocked it out of the park. They both should have won. Neither were nominated. Shameful.
1. January Jones for “Mad Men”
I honestly didn’t think there would be a more shameful omission than Chiklis and Goggins (who I kind of expected to get screwed considering how much the Academy has ignored “The Shield” over the years), but that’s because I couldn’t fathom the Academy missing the Best Actress performance of 2008. Sure, they missed January Jones last year, but this season of “Mad Men” was all about the female characters in the world of Sterling/Cooper, none more prominently than Jones’ Betty Draper. Jones did something amazing this year, subtly portraying the unraveling of a woman who has worked hard to keep up a perfect front. Jones’ work on “Mad Men” is so just-below-the-surface that I think Emmy voters must have missed it. I love Kyra Sedgwick and Holly Hunter too, but even those actresses would admit that their characters are a bit more scenery-chewing. Jones didn’t have a “big moment” to sell in an Emmy clip and probably lost out because of it. Don’t let it happen again next year.