2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis: Power to the People?


Power to the People?

2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis

The people have the power, and the people have pretty darn good taste.

That’s the story out of this year’s Emmy award nominations (click here for Cultural Learnings’ list, and here for the Academy’s) where a few key surprises and a couple of major snubs indicate that the popular vote was not in any capacity an absolutely travesty for the Academy, as some quite logically predicted. I spoke earlier this week about just what the definition of popular would end up indicating, and the answer appears to be a healthy combination of an appreciation of great television and an eye for trendy selections. The result is an Emmys where nearly every category has a silver lining, and where a few snubs are not enough to give the impression that there’s going to be some very deserving winners in this field.

Mad Men and 30 Rock Dominate

There is no surprise here, don’t get me wrong: no one expected the iron grip of these two shows to stop after dominating last year’s proceedings. However, the scale of that domination is quite ludicrous. 30 Rock has 10 acting nominations, 4 writing nominations, 3 directing nominations, plus its nod for Best Comedy Series and all of its other technical nods. The result is an absolutely staggering number of nominations, and I’m happy about it: I like seeing Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski all get nominations for their work along with Fey and Baldwin, and although the four writing nominations kept other shows out of the running they are four pretty fantastic episodes.

Mad Men, meanwhile, didn’t add quite as many nods, although it did pick up a Lead Actress nomination for Elisabeth Moss, which makes me extremely happy. As I said in my preview, I really expected January Jones in the category, but I prefer Moss’ less showy role at the end of the day. Still, combine with Hamm (also nominated for his guest stint on 30 Rock) and Slattery returning (I’d have preferred Kartheiser, but I’ll take it), and its own four writing nominations (plus a directing nod), and the show is without a doubt dominating on the drama side of things.

Out with the “Popular,” In with the Popular

In the biggest shocker of all considering the popular vote, the Comedy Series category had one shocking exclusion and one suprising (but oft predicted) inclusion. The exclusion is the most popular comedy on television, in terms of viewers – Two and a Half Men failed to secure a comedy nod, something it has done in years previous. This makes me question the definition of popular, especially with the inclusion – Family Guy, the first animated comedy series since The Flintstones to make it into the category. While The Simpsons always chose to compete in the Animation category because it also reflects the work of the animators, Family Guy chose to cut out the animated part and compete with the big boys, and it paid off. However, unlike last year where they could submit their Star Wars special in order to get credit for the animators, this year they’re left off entirely, so MacFarlane’s ego is being boosted at the expense of the show’s direction.

The Sophomores Triumph

No one was quite sure what would happen with Breaking Bad, a second year show that won Emmys last year but without much support around it. Well, we have our answer: although snubbed out of both directing and writing, the series picked up a nomination for Drama Series, and Aaron Paul snuck into the highly competitive Supporting Actor (Drama) category for his work on the show, in addition to Bryan Cranston’s nomination for Lead Actor. Damages also impressed, delivering nominations for William Hurt (undeserved, but whatever), Rose Byrne, Glenn Close, Ted Danson (Guest), as well as Series and Directing nods.

The Freshmen Fail

True Blood had a real shot at some awards love, but it was empathically shut out of the proceedings: it’ll probably contend with United States of Tara for best Title Sequence, but with no Drama Series or Lead Actress love, it’s clear the Emmys didn’t find its vampire story appealing. That’s unfortunate for the show, but it’s a trend: no Freshman series broke into the series categories, and only Simon Baker (The Mentalist) and Toni Colette (United States of Tara) made their way into the major categories.

HBO “Domination”

In a popular vote, nobody quite knew where HBO would end up, but the answer is in far better shape than people anticipated – although Mad Men and Breaking Bad have AMC as the new “it” network, HBO is still holding some cache. Not only did Big Love score a huge surprise nomination as the 7th contender in the Drama Series race, but Flight of the Conchords is honestly the biggest story of the awards. With a Comedy Series nomination, a shocking Lead Actor nomination for Jemaine Clement, plus both writing and directing nominations, the show blew onto the radar like it wasn’t struggling with growing pains in its second season. While everyone saw the show’s Carol Brown getting an Original Song nod, the love wasn’t anticipated. The network also performed well with In Treatment, which missed the Drama Series race but picked up three acting nods (Byrne, Davis, Wiest).

The Year of How I Met Your Mother

I let out an extremely girlish “Yay,” nearly dropping my computer, when How I Met Your Mother was listed as one of the nominees for Outstanding Comedy Series (and I even predicted it!). I know it has no chance in the category, but its nomination is a vindication of the highest order that voters went with the popular vote, and that it jumped from not even being in the Top 10 to being in the Top 7. I call it the Year of HIMYM, though, because Neil Patrick Harris has an open door to pick up an Emmy for Supporting Actor in a Comedy – long live Barney Stinson.

After the jump: Surprises! Snubs! Etc.!

The Surprises

Kristen Chenoweth: The Pushing Daisies co-star wasn’t expected to return to the category with the show being canceled in December and all, but to the joy of all she makes it back, and could theoretically contend for the category considering that last year’s winner, Jean Smart, is noticeably absent.

Kristen Wiig and Amy Poehler: Sure, Poehler is riding in on the halo of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin, nominated for Guest Actress in a Comedy, but both of these women and funny, and Wiig especially was the only thing other than Fey’s Palin to really hit it and hit it hard this year on SNL. I’m disappointed with some of the snubs in this category, but still happy to see these two get some love (especially with Poehler getting pushed out of Lead Actress by…)

Sarah Silverman: I thought that, with no dirty song about Matt Damon, that Sarah Silverman would have no shot here, but she garners herself a nomination against the odds. She’s got no chance of beating the two frontrunners, Tina Fey and Toni Colette, but she should be pleased to be nominated.

Jim Parsons: It wasn’t really a surpise to see the Big Bang Theory star nominated, and the show itself got little love, but nonetheless I’m pleased to see Parsons grab a nomination for his great characterization of Sheldon. It’s the kind of role that brings in voters, and I’ll be curious to see who wins in the battle of the socially awkward between Sheldon and Monk.

Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio: The Top Chef co-hosts are my new favourite people considering how much Top Chef I’ve watched recently, so their nomination (over Howie Mandel) was most enjoyable for me. However, Tim Gunn must be pissed that he wasn’t named as co-Host alongside Heidi Klum, since he could have easily garnered a nomination as well.

Elizabeth Perkins: I live Perkins, I like Weeds, and I like her character Celia, but this one’s a headscratcher. With some other pretty big competitors, she was able to sneak into the category along with fellow familiar face Vanessa Williams, both of which were in a position to be booted out of the category.

Cherry Jones: In a category (Supporting Actress Drama) where she could have been replaced by Marcia Gay Harden (rightfully snubbed for Damages, in my eyes), Candice Bergen or quite a few other folks, Jones’ inclusion is a surprise for her work on 24. She follows in the footsteps of Jean Smart, who was nominated for her role on the series’ fifth season.

The “Happy” Snubs

Ah, yes, what we’ve all been waiting for. Let’s go down the list of those snubs that, while they aren’t necessarily good in that they were bad performers, are ones that open things up and demonstrate a sea change of sorts.

Jeremy Piven: He’d won three years in a row for Entourage, but it appears that a bout of suspicious mercury poisoning has done in a perennial winner. With his colleague Kevin Dillon still making the category, this one is a clear sign that the man’s cache with voters may have been driven more by his tapes than by his personality, which here opens up the category.

Katherine Heigl: A year after deciding she didn’t have the material on Grey’s Anatomy to win an Emmy, and two years after winning one herself, and in the year where her character gets cancer and nearly dies, Heigl is entirely left out of the Supporting Actress category, although her mother (Sharon Lawrence) grabbed a nod, and both Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson were nominated from the show.

James Spader: The Boston Legal star has won this award three times, but in a highly competitive category the Academy went with newcomer Simon Baker in favour of the veteran performer. It especially hurts since his two co-stars, William Shatner and Christian Clemenson, did grab nominations, so it’s not like the show was forgotten (although it was left out of Drama Series).

Two and a Half Men: I mentioned it above, but I need to mention it again – Yay for No Two and a Half Men!

The “Not Happy” Snubs

These I’m just angry about.

John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer: These two remain the heart of The Office, but neither were able to garner nominations, even with their respective fields opening up. Fischer is a particularly tough snub, as there was a lot of room in the category and some stalwarts kept her from grabbing her spot in the race.

So You Think You Can Dance? and Cat Deeley: Perhaps airing in the Fall this year will allow the show to gain some more recognition from the Academy, but anyone who attempts to argue that famewhoring Dancing with the Stars is a better celebration of dance and basic humanity than So You Think You Can Dance? is out of their hot tamale minds. Deeley, meanwhile, has more charm than you can imagine, and hopefully will gain her shot in time. Let’s just say that SYTYCD’s four choreography nods didn’t happen independent of the show’s overall quality.

Battlestar Galactica, In General: I had no expectation of either Mary McDonnell or Edward James Olmos breaking into major categories, nor the series itself, but I had high hopes that the show could garner writing and directing nominations. I’m glad it picked up the latter, as Michael Rymer deserves recognition for his work on the show, but that Ronald D. Moore didn’t pick up a writing nomination disappoints me. I love Mad Men and Lost both, don’t get me wrong, but Moore got robbed.

Friday Night Lights, In General: Yet another casting nomination and yet another year where the people who the show cast and the show’s deft writing and directing to highlight that cast are entirely snubbed – expected, sure, but still totally uncool, Emmy.

The Cast of Lost, In General: Michael Emerson makes it into Supporting Actor, which is good, but it’s still sad to see not another face (especially Josh Holloway and Elizabeth Mitchell, along with Jeremy Davies) into the category. It’s not like there wasn’t room for one or two, I’d gladly cut a few supporting players from other shows.

Amy Ryan: I will never forgive the Emmys for nominating Jennifer Aniston over Amy Ryan in the Guest Actress (Comedy) category, period. Ryan’s performance was heartfelt, charming, and brought out the very best in The Office. Aniston, meanwhile, was a walking trainwreck who contributed to a rough beginning to 30 Rock’s first season. Frankly, I knew it would happen, but I’m still extremely angry about it. Holly Flax deserves better.

Better Off Ted: It, and Portia de Rossi, never had a chance, but I’m still saddened by the fact that the show never broke out. De Rossi never even got a nod for Arrested Development, so she never stood a chance, but it doesn’t mean that this isn’t another example of how good shows don’t always equal Emmy.

Cultural Observations

  • Perhaps the most competitive category is Original Song, as weird as it sounds. Previous winner Justin Timberlake has two nominations, with “I Love Sports” and “Motherlover” competing, but then you have three other selections. The first is Hugh Jackman’s opening number from the Oscars, which was kind of fantastic (I always find its Anne Hathaway Frost/Nixon part stuck in my head), and the second is for the musical highlight of Flight of the Conchords’ second season, “Carol Brown.” The other challenger is Stephen Colbert, whose duet with Elvis Costello from his Colbert Christmas special is nominated. My money’s on Brown, but Timberlake will probably win it just to spite me.
  • Tina Fey had a chance to be nominated for an insane four Emmys, which she was nominated for last year, but her episode submission to the Writing category didn’t get a nod. She’s probably glad, as she said last year she didn’t deserve it over her fellow writers, but it means she will have to settle with three nods. Poor thing.
  • Didn’t really have a place above, but Dexter continued to hold up for Showtime: Michael C. Hall remains in a tight category, Jimmy Smits draws a guest nod, and the show remains in contention for Drama Series. The network’s Californication, however, fails to garner any nods, and although Weeds performed well United States of Tara only managed to break into Lead Actress.
  • I haven’t watched The Shield yet, but I do know its final season probably deserved more credit than it got here, which was none.
  • 24’s return managed to get some momentum, with Cherry Jones into Supporting and Sutherland into Miniseries Actor for Redemption, but no Sutherland in lead and the series can’t even manage a nod with a 7th spot.
  • Of my predictions, I was awful in the supporting categories, but did manage to predict both Simon Baker’s inclusion in Drama Actor as well as How I Met Your Mother breaking into Comedy Series. Otherwise, I was way off, but that’s kind of the fun of it all.
  • As far as the guest categories go, the one snub that’s more surprising than upsetting is Salma Hayek on 30 Rock – it’s strange that she didn’t pull a nod considering the length of her guest stint.
  • Okay, that’s enough for me – leave your thoughts below! Let’s hear from the other “people.”


Filed under Emmy Awards

7 responses to “2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis: Power to the People?

  1. Normally I think The Emmy’s are nominating based on a one-year-ago timeframe (ie. Giving Flight of the Conchords a ton of love, which it deserved for its first season but not so much for its second) but the Family Guy nomination is at least, what, five years out of date? When was the last time smart people thought Family Guy was funny and worth watching?

  2. Thomas

    No mentioning of ‘There Are Much Worse Things To Believe In’ among the contenders for Best Original Song? With the individual performances gone and thus any chance for Colbert to end his streak of being beaten by Barry Manilow/Tony Bennett/Don Rickles, the man really does deserve some credit for all the stuff he’s accomplished, if not for all of the past years, but even just this single past year. An amazing Christmas special, a week of shows from Iraq, running for president, etc – maybe Best Original Song isn’t the one Category To Justify Colbert’s Accomplishments, but I liked the song enough to think it at least would deserve a mention. 😉

    • You can ask my brother for proof, but we did discuss the Colbert song in the midst of my writing this post. I just left it off of the post thinking there was only five nominees in the category. My apologies, the error is being fixed.

      • Thomas

        Shame on you, good sir! Shame, I say!

        I agree with most of the post, though – there’s definitely quite a big bunch of interesting nominees this year, and it’ll be interesting to see who wins. And with NPH for host, I’m sure the show itself will be great as well.

  3. Rosie

    Mad Men, meanwhile, didn’t add quite as many nods, although it did pick up a Lead Actress nomination for Elisabeth Moss, which makes me extremely happy. As I said in my preview, I really expected January Jones in the category, but I prefer Moss’ less showy role at the end of the day.

    I didn’t. January Jones OWNED Season 2 of “MAD MEN”. And her role was no more showy than Moss’.

  4. Sam

    being an FNL fan has always been pretty thankless, but three years and no nod for Connie Britton just feels mean, Emmy…

  5. James

    Did ‘In Treatment’ never have a chance at getting an Outstanding Drama nod? I love that Byrne, Davis & Wiest managed to snag acting nominations, but it seems like this show’s second season was much better than a rather tame season of ‘House’.

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