The Top 10+ Pleasant Surprises of the 2008 Emmy Top 10s

The Top 10 Pleasant Surprises of the Top 10s

[If I was currently wearing a hat, I would take it off in honour of Tom O’Neill’s continued amazing work gathering up leaks in regards to the Top 10 lists of semi-finalists for the Emmy Awards panels taking place over the next few weeks. While he doesn’t have the complete list, I’m willing to go out and indicate the 10 choices (In no particular order, but the top 2 probably are) that actually make me optimistic about the show’s relevancy (Before, admittedly, taking a look tomorrow at the ones that give me no hope at all).]

1. Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)

Category: Lead Actress, Drama Series

Last year when writing up my For Your Consideration posts, I said the following about Mary McDonnell’s work as President Laura Roslin on my favourite Sci-Fi series:

“What I love about Mary McDonnell’s portrayal of the character is that, without fail, you are always rooting for Laura Roslin to succeed except for those moments where she is clearly wrong. In those cases, McDonnell makes you want to see Roslin get let down as easily as possible, in order to ensure that she isn’t too damaged in the process.”

This is even more true this season, where her character finds her cancer back and where a whole new perspective is reached. Her performance in “Faith” is heart-wrenching, and that panels will finally get to see an episode of this fantastic series in the Top 10 warms my frakking heart. This is one of those surprises that gives you faith that the Emmys are willing to recognize performances off the beaten path, if you will, and they don’t get much better than this.

2. Zeljko Ivanek (Damages)

Category: Supporting Actor, Drama Series

When previewing this category, I lamented the likely lack of recognition for Damages other supporting actor contender:

“While he seemed fairly minimal in most instance, sparring with Patty or reasoning with Frobisher, Ivanek burst into the main narrative with “I Hate These People.” Without falling into total spoiler territory, the character took a sudden turn to the tragic, a dramatic fall that was more compelling than anything the other supporting characters went through.”

That he broke through was a highlight for me, a sign that people were watching all of Damages and not just the show’s pilot. Ivanek may have had accent issues, and certainly the show wasn’t near perfect, but his performance in his submission is simply stunning, and I can only hope voters enjoy the time they have with this amazing piece of work.

3. Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)

Category: Supporting Actress, Drama Series

While I’m upset about an exclusion from the same show in this category, which I’ll get to tomorrow, how can I begrudge the fantastic Christina Hendricks from a surprise and well-earned slot? Her showy role is never too showy, always walking that line between manipulative and powerless that the position entails. Joan as a character is in control of a lot of things, but most importantly she knows when to hold back that control (Mainly with the men in her life, so as to seduce them more easily). In a show that prides itself on creating a realistic canvas on which to portray these characters, Hendricks has done perhaps the best job in the entire cast of blending into her background while maintaining the center of attention whenever she’s on screen – and that’s a worthy performance.

4. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)

Category: Lead Actor, Drama Series

Out of the entire Friday Night Lights cast, Kyle Chandler is the biggest name, so it’s perhaps not a surprise that he made this year’s Top 10 list. However, considering that no one else in the cast made their respective lists, I continue to be very pleased that his understated but powerful performance is being recognized. The show leaned on Chandler a lot this season, but it never quite gave him the material he had in the show’s amazing first run. Still, his submitted episode is a powerhouse performance where (for maybe the first time all season) he takes control of his team and his players in a way that will resonate with voters. Here’s hoping that the real surprise is that he ranked fairly highly, although it seems a bit of a stretch.

5. Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies)

Category: Lead Actress, Comedy Series

She’s British, she’s almost completely unknown, and other than a surprise Golden Globe nomination she has no award track record. So, it’s delightful to see that Anna Friel was able to crack the Top 10 list for Lead Actress. It’s not the world’s most competitive category, but that she made it over Teri Hatcher demonstrates that Emmy’s commitment to quality and new performers is not wholly missing this time around. Friel is ever-so charming as Chuck, and her handling of the show’s rapid fire dialogue and witicisms deserves attention. I’ll be curious to see how her non-pilot submission goes over with the panel, but that she’s in the race is a beacon of hope.

6. Jack McBrayer (30 Rock)

Category: Supporting Actor, Comedy Series

When 30 Rock picked up the Emmy last year for Outstanding Comedy Series, it was a fantastic decision – the spinoff, though, is still happening, as McBrayer’s great performance as Kenneth the Page has found its way into the Top 10. While it isn’t the biggest surprise in the world, it is certainly a pleasant one: it’s a great character, and this is yet another non-name performer who has shown his comic chops and earned his spot based on the show’s success. Tracy Morgan is the bigger name, and for both to make the list is a good sign for the Emmys’ willingness to spot talent (even if they had to have the series win a major award for them to open their eyes).

7. Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

Category: Lead Actress, Drama Series

Elisabeth Moss is a charming young actress who spent the last half of Mad Men in fat makeup, a fact that in a way made me forget how great she was. With the other lead actress in the category submitting in supporting, doing so in lead was dangerous but worthwhile: she breaks into a competitive Top 10 besting well-knowns like Calista Flockhart, and it’s deserving. Peggy is an optimist, someone who wants more than what she has, and Moss gave her just the right eagerness without coming across as too needy or pathetic. It’s a fantastic character, and Moss deserves as much recognition as she can muster.

8. Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program)

Category: Lead Actress, Comedy Series

This one just makes my mind hurt: dirty-mouthed, foul Sarah Silverman breaks into Lead Actress Comedy (And, reportedly, the runoff for Guest Actress for her turn on Monk)? It’s a bizarre choice that reflects that there are some young people voting for these awards after all, and perhaps that frakking Matt Damon has its perks beyond, well, you know.

9. Justin Kirk (Weeds)

Category: Supporting Actor, Comedy Series

This isn’t a huge surprise (Kirk got serious awards attention for his turn in Angels in America, and has been close in the past), but it is kind of surprising with a tough category and compared to a few who got left off the list. He didn’t have much to do in Weeds’ third season, and his submission is the at least mildly funny end to his military storyline that just went absolutely nowhere, but I like having his name here: he’s doing some great work in the fouth season, and I want to keep him around.

10. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)

Category: Lead Actor, Drama Series

He’s a dark horse to be sure, but Cranston has successfully switched from comedy (Malcolm in the Middle) to drama attention for this turn in AMC’s other new series. It’s a great sign that people are paying more attention to the network after Mad Men’s success, and that powerful performances are still being recognized by voters in this day and age.

11. Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live)

Category: Supporting Actress, Comedy

Say what you will about Saturday Night Live’s quality, but it’s a telltale sign to its popularity that one of its castmembers was able to squeak into a race after they were allowed this year to submit in these categories vs. individual performance. While part of me values Kristen Wiig’s involvement more than Poehler’s these days, it’s still great to see a talented comic performer on television break into the category – her Hilary Clinton should at least get some laughs, if not a nomination, in the panels.

So, there’s my list, now it’s your turn: out of the lists I’ll post to below, who are the candidates you’re most pleased to see make the ballot?

Best drama actorCLICK HERE
Best drama actressCLICK HERE
Best supporting drama actorCLICK HERE
Best supporting drama actressCLICK HERE
Best comedy actressCLICK HERE
Best supporting comedy actor CLICK HERE

Best supporting comedy actressCLICK HERE
Best guest comedy actress CLICK HERE

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