If We Had an Emmy Ballot: The Best TV of 2008 to 2009

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CHICAGO – Ballots for the 61st Annual Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Emmy nominations are due on Friday, June 26th, 2009, and we’re here to offer some advice for all of you Emmy voters still holding a ballot in your hands and trying to make those tough TV decisions.

And, like the large majority of us, if you’re not a card-carrying Emmy voter, let this serve as your populist guide to who really SHOULD be winning Emmys this year. There’s sometime a disconnect between who actually wins the awards and who viewers KNOW should win the awards - i.e., the almost total lack of Emmy love for “Buffy,” “Battlestar Galactica,” etc. - so, in a fantasy world, our fantasy ballot hopes to heap some recognition on the shows and creative types who really, truly knocked our socks off in the 2008-2009 season. But, if you ARE an Emmy voter, be a pal and give some of these guys the nods they deserve.

(Note: While there are five nominees per category, voters nominate six per ballot, so that’s how many we suggest.)

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Jack McBrayer on 30 Rock
Jack McBrayer on 30 Rock
Photo credit: NBC

Neil Patrick Harris, “How I Met Your Mother”
Ed Helms, “The Office”
Justin Kirk, “Weeds”
Jack McBrayer, “30 Rock”
Jeremy Piven, “Entourage”
Ray Wise, “Reaper”

There are a number of very strong, mostly male ensembles in comedy television nowadays and it can be tough to pick a favorite. Would you nominate Tracy Morgan or Jack McBrayer from “30 Rock”? Kevin Dillon or Jeremy Piven for “Entourage”? Justin Kirk or Kevin Nealon from “Weeds”? And which of the guys from the criminally underrated “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” would you pick if you wanted to really take a chance on something new?

We picked our favorites, but they’re also representatives for the show’s supporting casts in general and, if Dillon makes it in over Piven or you want to choose Nealon over Kirk, it’s an understandable alternate. And any of the three guys on “Philadelphia” are deserving even if they don’t quite make our top six cut.

All we know for sure is that Emmy voters really need to take the last chance they’ll get to nominate the show-stealing Ray Wise from “Reaper” and Neil Patrick Harris had his best year to date as “How I Met You Mother” really started to click this season.

As for what “will” happen, Jon Cryer is likely to get in over several of our choices for the always-nominated “Two and a Half Men” and you can expect a nod for someone from “The Office”. If they do go with a Dunder Mifflin employee, here’s an idea - jump on the “Hangover” band wagon and nominate Ed Helms. We love Rainn Wilson as much as the next guy, but Helms was more inspired this year as he watched his doomed engagement to Angela fall apart.

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Jenna Fischer on The Office
Jenna Fischer on The Office
Photo credit: NBC

Kristin Chenoweth, “Pushing Daisies”
Rosemarie DeWitt, “United States of Tara”
Jenna Fischer, “The Office”
Elizabeth Perkins, “Weeds”
Cobie Smulders, “How I Met Your Mother”
Kristin Wiig, “Saturday Night Live”

Last year was the first that the cast of “Saturday Night Live” was eligible in this category and, rightly so, they nominated the deserving Amy Poehler. Amy only worked half of this season, one of the best in many years for the show, so why not spread the wealth to one of the most talented comediennes in the history of the show - the sublime Kristin Wiig?

Like Ray Wise, there’s also a great opportunity here to nominate another amazing supporting star on a canceled show, the awesome Kristin Chenoweth for “Pushing Daisies”. She made the cut last year. Emmy voters - nominate her whenever you get the chance.

Meanwhile, Showtime continues to excel and should earn more nods this year than any before. While “Weeds” has gone downhill a bit, Elizabeth Perkins’ perfect and often episode-stealing arc last season in which she had to go to rehab earns her a spot. Showtime should earn a few nods for “United States of Tara” and the first should come for Rosemarie DeWitt (who deserved and was snubbed already this year for an Academy Award nod for “Rachel Getting Married”).

“The Office” is something of a boy’s club, but Jenna Fischer did her best work to date as she joined the ill-fated “Michael Scott Paper Company” on “The Office,” so just like Pam, it’s time that Jenna gets a little more recognition this year.

Finally, Alyson Hannigan turned her real-life pregnancy into something hysterical (and difficult to cover up) on “How I Met Your Mother,” but her lack of screen time in the second half of the season should allow room for her increasingly funny co-star Cobie Smulders to get a nod. Like most of the cast, she did her best work of the series to date this season.

Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Danny McBride on Eastbound and Down
Danny McBride on Eastbound and Down
Photo credit: HBO

Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”
Steve Carell, “The Office”
Zachary Levi, “Chuck”
Danny McBride, “Eastbound and Down”
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
Tony Shalhoub, “Monk”

There are a few nominees here that are virtually guaranteed and for good reason. Alec Baldwin, Steve Carell, and Tony Shalhoub continue to drive the success of their very well-liked shows and, while it may be predictable to suggest them, they deserve the nominations that they can almost count on.

So why not make the other nominees a little more out of left field instead of a safe (but more likely) choice like Charlie Sheen in “Two and a Half Men”? (Does anyone really gather around the watercooler to talk about how awesome the Ma-sheen was following a very special episode of “Men”?)

Zachary Levi has really developed a strong comic timing on the underrated “Chuck” and he’s the main reason the show has earned such a strong cult following (and won itself a last second cancellation reprieve). An unexpected Emmy nomination could do that show a world of good in its struggle for ratings and survival.

The Big Bang Theory” is one of the funnier shows on television and the perfect performance by Jim Parsons as Sheldon is one of the main reasons. He might have had a better shot in supporting but he’s eligible in lead, so vote for him there. His comic timing is amazing.

And then there’s the performance for which it will be most difficult to find a clip that they can air on network TV - the hysterical work by Danny McBride on HBO’s “Eastbound and Down”. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. If you have seen it, you know he deserves to be nominated.

Best Lead Actress in a Comedy

Toni Collette on United States of Tara
Toni Collette on United States of Tara
Photo credit: Showtime

Christina Applegate, “Samantha Who?”
Toni Collette, “United States of Tara”
Kaley Cuoco, “The Big Bang Theory”
Tina Fey, “30 Rock”
Anna Friel, “Pushing Daisies”
Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds”

We know this can be a tough category to fill but, please, let’s not resort to America Ferrera and Julia Louis-Dreyfus again. There are simply more deserving actresses out there.

Christina Applegate, Tina Fey, and Mary-Louise Parker deserve to return to the dance and duplicate their nominations from last year for “Samantha Who?,” “30 Rock,” and “Weeds,” respectively. They’ve all had better years but they’re still more than good enough to make the big six.

As for the other three, the lovely and charming Anna Friel deserves consideration for her pitch-perfect work on “Pushing Daisies” and Toni Collette is absolutely flawless on “United States of Tara”. We wouldn’t be surprised to hear either of their names on nomination morning.

More surprising but just as deserving would be a nod for the underrated Kaley Cuoco of “The Big Bang Theory”. In the show’s excellent second season, Cuoco really proved she could play with the boys in this very male-driven ensemble and more than held her own in multiple episodes.

Best Comedy

The Office
The Office
Photo credit: NBC

“30 Rock”
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Eastbound and Down”
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
“The Office”
“Pushing Daisies”

Last year it was “30 Rock,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Entourage,” “The Office,” and “Two and a Half Men”. The two NBC shows deserve to repeat and remain the best comedy hour on television.

As for the rest? “Curb” isn’t eligible (there hasn’t been a new episode since 2007), “Entourage” had a slightly down year (although it wouldn’t be that horrible if it was nominated), and we’ve never understood the massive acclaim for “Men,” a decent show but not an award-worthy one in the slightest.

What’s ironic is that there are two CBS sitcoms that DO deserve nomination although my jaw will drop if they both make the Emmy cut - “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother” - an hour of television that often out-delivered NBC this past year for the funniest hour on television. “Mother” was a bit too hit-and-miss at times, so let’s go with “Big Bang Theory” if we have to pick only one.

“Pushing Daisies” is the most tragically canceled shows of the last several years and the Academy often jumps at a last chance to nominate a show that they will never be able to again. If you can, voting members of the Academy, please take this opportunity to give The Pie-Hole some well-deserved post-cancellation love.

Nothing was as sublimely ridiculous in 2008-2009 as HBO’s unbelievable “Eastbound and Down” with its spectacular direction by the great David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”) and Jody Best (“Observe and Report”). If you haven’t seen “Eastbound,” catch up with it on DVD next week (and watch for a full review soon).

Finally, very few shows make us laugh out loud like FX’s inspired “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. It’s one of the top-rated shows on Hulu for a reason and is developing a growing following with every episode. Emmy voters, try and jump on a bandwagon before its come to a stop for a change.

Go on to the next page for the five drama categories…

Anonymous's picture

Julia Louis Dreyfus is so

Julia Louis Dreyfus is so damn sexy. She should get an award for that.

Anonymous's picture

House MD...

What’s with House MD and Olivia Wild? If you missed them, then…

Anonymous's picture

Best Lead Actress in a Drama

I know it’s a long shot, but I would love to see Mary McDonnell nominated for Battlestar Galactica. I think she is amazing on the show, and if they can nominate Anna Paquin for the Sci-Fi show “True Blood”, maybe the last season of this critically acclaimed show can be nominated as well.

Anonymous's picture

Your Choices

I disagree with your choices…I saw no mention of the best show on TV in our opinion. “Friday Night LIghts”
Best Looking…Best Actor…Kyle Chandler!

BrianTT's picture

Good Alternate

I do like FNL and very strongly considered the excellent Connie Britton in her category, but it just didn’t quite make the cut. I should have mentioned the show however and would consider a great alternate in several categories and certainly a better choice than many other Best Drama possibilities.

Brian Tallerico

Free's picture

Yeah, totally agree about

Yeah, totally agree about FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. It’s the best show on television, and it just had its best season. Whether the nominations total 6 or 2, it should be on there.

Also, you guys keep saying BOSTON LEGAL is out of the running. I don’t think that’s true. I’d love for it to be (I truly loathed the show), but it’s nominations last year were for its fourth season. It can be nominated again for its fifth season, and seeing how crazy the academy is for it, it will be nominated in its usual spots (Drama Series, Actor, Supporting Actor & Actress).

BrianTT's picture

Thank You

I forgot that there were in fact 13 episodes of Boston Legal that aired in the Fall of 2008. Thanks for the clarification and it has been corrected. I was clearly in denial. Hopefully, Emmy voters will be too.

Brian Tallerico

singlewhite's picture

thanks Brian you are on the

thanks Brian you are on the ball with your picks, particularly the In Treatment noms and the love for Big Bang Theory. If the Academy were to follow your lead it would be an important move towards recognizing the diversity and creativity of television offerings currently, instead of something more akin to the banality of say, the People’s Choice Awards. Keep spreading the love.

Patrick's picture


Hugh Laurie’s work is still spectacular on House and is the single reason to watch, along with the criminally underrated Robert Sean Leonard. Burn Notice has really grown into it’s own and deserves multiple nominations for Series, Actor, and supporting Actor for Bruce Campbell. Although I’d settle for Kevin Nealon getting a nomination for Weeds. Entourage should be a shoe in for Series and for Jeremy Piven. And bravo on your choice for Ed Helms, he constantly raises the bar and is the funniest supporting character on The Office. Is Nurse Jackie in contention because if so Edie Falco gives a tour-de-force performance. Also would a comedy nomination for Party Down be out of the question?

Anonymous's picture

Just my opinion of course

Just my opinion of course but I thought supernatual had a very very good year and I think one of the two leads will get a nom and I also think the writing should get nominated to, just my opinion, it probably won’t happen but the show deserves it

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