Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Official Ballot Miscellany

Official Ballot Miscellany

June 4th, 2010

Earlier this evening, Emmy voting officially began; this isn’t particularly important to us non-voters, but it does mean that the official ballots were released (PDFs: Performers, Writing, Directing), which means that we know who submitted their names for Emmy contention and can thus make our predictions accordingly. In some cases, this simply confirms our earlier submissions regarding particularly categories, while in other cases it throws our expectations for a loop as frontrunners or contenders don’t end up submitting at all.

For example, Cherry Jones (who last year won for her work on 24) chose not to submit her name for contention this year, a decision which seems somewhat bizarre and is currently being speculatively explained by her unhappiness with her character’s direction in the show’s final season. It completely changes the anatomy of that race, removing a potential frontrunner and clearing the way for some new contenders (or, perhaps, another actress from Grey’s Anatomy). Either way, it’s a real shakeup, so it makes this period particularly interesting.

I will speak a bit about some surprising omissions and inclusions in the categories I’ve already covered this week, but I want to focus on the categories that I haven’t discussed yet, including the guest acting categories, writing, and direction, which are some interesting races this year.

When considering why someone is or isn’t on the ballot, it isn’t about whether or not they deserve to be there or whether or not they want to be there: often, it’s whether their agent submits the paperwork in time, or whether their agent is trying to upsell their clients on their willingness to promote them. Take, for example, Amber Stevens – if you’ve never heard the name before, it’s because she plays Ashleigh on Greek, ABC Family’s charming but not quite Emmy-worthy comedy series. Stevens is submitted in Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and is the only performer on Greek to submit herself for a nomination. Not only does she have no chance, but she’s also not really a Lead Actress, but sometimes you come across submissions that are very clearly overeager agents pushing their luck.

Then you have situations where shows go a bit overboard: perhaps trying to flood the field, the entire cast of TNT’s Men of a Certain Age submitted themselves for the Emmys, including the four child actors who are part of the main cast. I don’t want to say that child actors don’t deserve a place on the ballot, as Rico Rodriguez deserves a shot at a nomination in Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. However, these child actors were only rarely part of Men of a Certain Age, and certainly not as part of its central storylines, and so submitting them for an Emmy seems more than a bit strange.

Equally strange, though, is when people don’t submit themselves for a nomination. Cougar Town doesn’t have a real shot at any nominations beyond Courteney Cox, but Dan Byrd and Brian Van Holt didn’t submit themselves for a nomination in Supporting Actor, a strange decision considering that they are both very funny and very connected to Cox’s character. Sure, you could argue, in the end they never had a shot so it isn’t a huge deal, but I like the idea that we can decry how these candidates were overlooked rather than never on the ballot in the first place. As a critic of the Emmy voters and their decisions, I like to be able to say that they actively ignored my preferred candidates rather than never had a chance to nominate them in the first place.

However, in the meantime, let’s move onto the categories I haven’t discussed in earnest yet. I’m not going to list every contender, but rather try to capture the anatomy of each race at the current moment, so as to save me some time and keep me from leaving out an aging actress who was on Law and Order: SVU in a tear-jerking role.

Guest Actor in a Drama Series

By choosing to submit in this category rather than Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, John Lithgow has won himself an Emmy. His role as the Trinity Killer plays against type, is a huge part of the show’s fourth season, and features plenty of material with series star Michael C. Hall. It’s a combination that really can’t be beat, and he’d be the frontrunner to win Supporting Actor as well (a trophy he won at the Golden Globes). He’s apparently submitting here because he doesn’t want to crowd out his Dexter co-stars, but in reality it’s probably because he knows he can win this a lot more easily.

In terms of a logical contender, the Ballots revealed the only real threat: Henry Ian Cusick, credited as a series regular onscreen but hired as a Guest Star for Lost’s sixth season, is entering this race for the second time, having been nominated for the show’s second season four years ago. Cusick is a threat here because of that pedigree and the fact that he is in (unless I’m mistaken) every single scene in “Happily Ever After,” his submitted episode. Lithgow’s advantage over his competitors is that he isn’t just stopping by for a visit but rather playing a substantial supporting role which happens to be credited as a Guest Starring turn. Cusick has the same advantage, which means that he’s the only one with a show of contending.

In terms of other contenders, Alan Cumming and Dylan Baker both have showy recurring roles on The Good Wife which could connect with voters if the show goes over in a big way, while Andre Braugher is likely to grab a nomination for his part as House’s psychiatrist in House’s two-hour mini-movie which opened the season. Also watch for Gregory Itzin (reprising his role as Charles Logan on 24), Robert Morse (for his work as Bert Cooper on Mad Men), and James Earl Jones (for a guest turn as a patient on House). I’d love to be listing Titus Welliver here, either for his great work as the Man in Black on Lost or his work on The Good Wife, but Welliver did not submit himself for either role, which is an unfortunate decision.

In terms of my own personal picks, I’m going with Jared Harris for Mad Men (and his fantastic work as Lane Pryce), Mark Margolis for Breaking Bad (and his stunning, if sparse, performance as bell-ringing Tio), and Zach Gilford, who did some absolutely stunning work in the episode of Friday Night Lights which aired on NBC earlier tonight (“The Son”) which puts him in the same category as Lithgow in my eyes but is unlikely to catch voters’ attention.

Guest Actress in a Drama Series

While I may be underselling Damages’ Emmy potential this year on the whole (call it a gut feeling), Lily Tomlin is a shoo-in to compete for this award, as she is a substantial part of the show’s third season arc and a very recognizable name. In a less compelling arc but with a similar case of name recognition, Sissy Spacek should compete for her work on Big Love, while expect many contenders from Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (including possibly Sharon Stone, who was absolutely awful but undeniably central in her recurring role this season).

There’s also some potential for some Lost love in the episode: Elizabeth Mitchell plays a central role in the show’s high-profile series finale (which many voters might be watching), which gives her a shot at an overdue nomination for her work on the series. Similarly, you can’t count out Allison Janney for her work as Mother in “Across the Sea,” a divisive performance in a divisive episode that may be besides the point once voters see the combination of one of their favourite actresses with a high-profile series like Lost.

It also depends on what voters end up watching: The Good Wife is highlighting “Heart” in their Emmy screeners, and Martha Plimpton is pretty unforgettable in that episode as a lawyer willing to use her newborn infant as a ploy with the judge, which could get her some recognition. Also watch out for Dana Delaney for her run on Castle, Tyne Daly for her reunion with Sharon Gless on Burn Notice, Vanessa Redgrave for Nip/Tuck, and Maura Tierney on Rescue Me. Personally, I’m cheering for Mitchell and Plimpton here.

Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

If we’re picking frontrunners in this category, it’s got to go to Jason Alexander (for playing himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm, the closest he’ll come to reprising the role that earned him seven Emmy nominations and no victories) and Neil Patrick Harris (Emmy-less for How I Met Your Mother, but letting his song and dance man loose on Glee). This doesn’t mean there aren’t other contenders: Fred Willard and Justin Kirk were strong on Modern Family, Jack Black was a big movie star slumming it on TV in Community, and Victor Garber was a central part of the conclusion to Nurse Jackie’s first season. It’s just that Alexander has the story, while NPH is overdue for a win, which puts them a step above.

However, don’t count out 30 Rock, which tallied three nominations in this category last year. This year, the show has Matt Damon, Michael Sheen, Will Arnett and Jon Hamm competing for a spot on the ballot – of the four, I’d say Damon and Sheen have the best opportunities, especially since Hamm is more likely a nominee for his turn as host of Saturday Night Live. Personally, I’m love to see Adam Scott’s subtle work on Parks and Recreation and Steve Guttenberg’s fantastic turn as himself on Party Down get some recognition, but I’m aware of how crazy that makes me sound.

Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Here things become a little bit more interesting, in that we’ve got a larger pileup of contenders that could threaten for the Emmy. This is largely thanks to Lorne Michaels, as both 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live will likely field multiple nominees. You can pretty much give the Emmy to Betty White right now for her turn as host of Saturday Night Live, but Tina Fey is likely to garner a nomination as well to keep things interesting. As for 30 Rock, Elaine Stritch seems like an obvious choice, but Jan Hooks had a prominent role as Jenna’s mother, and both Julianne Moore and Elizabeth Banks played love interests for Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy and could easily compete for the trophy.

That doesn’t leave a lot of room, but expect last year’s winner in Supporting Actress, Kristin Chenoweth, to make it in for her work on Glee, as it’s the same sort of quirky/musical role that won her the trophy for Pushing Daisies. Meanwhile, Christine Baranski is a previous nominee for her work on The Big Bang Theory, Viola Davis would add to her recent Oscar and Tony nominations with a nod for United States of Tara, Kathy Bates had a major arc on The Office, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus could pick up a nomination for her work as part of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Seinfeld reunion. And while I had presumed that Lisa Kudrow (for her reunion for Cox on Cougar Town) and Shelley Long (playing the absent matriarch on Modern Family) would be contending here, both didn’t submit themselves, which leaves things more open that we had expected.

If I had to choose though, I’m going with Megan Mullally, both because I think it’s possible (the Emmy voters love her) and it would bring some love the way of Parks and Recreation and her real life husband/onscreen ex-husband Nick Offerman.

Writing for a Drama Series

Lindelof and Cuse are a shoo-in for “The End,” Lost’s Series Finale, as the voters tend to love rewarding finales. Similarly, the voters also like Pilots, so the opening episode of The Good Wife has a shot of breaking into the category (although “Heart” is the more compelling procedural story and could make it in as well), while David Simon and Eric Overmeyer could get in for the Treme pilot, and don’t count out Men of a Certain Age. Expect the two-hour House premiere to get some attention, and for the rest of the category to be filled out by Mad Men and Breaking Bad (in particular the former). In terms of Dark Horse contenders, Sons of Anarchy submitted only a single episode (season premiere “Albification”) and as a result could contend for the trophy (as the voters won’t be split on which episode to nominate as they will with some other series).

Directing for a Drama Series

Jack Bender is the frontrunner for his work on Lost’s series finale, and expect for 24 to compete on the same grounds (in that the series is ending), although they don’t have nearly the kind of epic material Bender was working with. Things are pretty similar to Writing, really: House premiere seems like a strong contender considering its cinematic style, Sons of Anarchy submitted only one episode (the Kurt Sutter-directed “Na Trioblóidí”), and Mad Men (in particular “Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency”) and Breaking Bad are both contenders. However, unlike with writing, Breaking Bad has a standout contender: Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) did some really neat work on “Fly,” the season’s bottle show, that was particularly unique for the series and could contend for the Emmy. And, just as in writing, pilots are similarly well-respected, so The Good Wife and Treme could both sneak into the category. Other contenders include FX’s Damages (which has appeared here for the past two years) and DirecTV’s Friday Night Lights (which brought back Peter Berg, nominated for the pilot, to direct its season premiere).

Writing for a Comedy Series

There won’t be too many surprises here: expect Modern Family and Glee to get in based on the strength of their pilots, while chances are a number of 30 Rock and The Office episodes (“Niagara” seems like a safe bet) will contend for a spot as well. There’s also a chance that How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory could compete, but CBS hasn’t been nominated since Raymond’s finale, so I’d expect those spots to go to shows like Community (which submitted only the pilot), Nurse Jackie (for its Pilot), Hung (Flight of the Conchords was the only non-30 Rock nominee last year, so HBO has some sway), and Parks and Recreation (perhaps the Amy Poehler-penned “Telethon”).

Directing for a Comedy Series

Jason Winer and Ryan Murphy are likely nominees for the Modern Family and Glee pilots, but Paris Barclay could make it to the dance for his work on Glee’s much-lauded “Wheels” episode as well (he was nominated for a DGA Award for the episode earlier this year). Similarly, Alexander Payne and the Russo brothers could contend for the Hung and Community pilots, and both 30 Rock and The Office will likely be represented in some capacity. This doesn’t leave much room, but the most hyped contender in this category is Justin Lin’s work on “Modern Warfare,” the epic paintball as war episode of Community which made a huge splash. Meanwhile, tradition is on Entourage’s side, as the series has been nominated for five straight years and likely doesn’t want to give up that streak without a fight, but Curb Your Enthusiasm could stake its claim with one of its Seinfeld episodes.Lin shot it like you’d shoot an action picture without entirely losing the series’ charm, and that’s a herculean task that he pulled off with aplomb, and I really hope he’s rewarded for that. Meanwhile, tradition is on Entourage’s side, as the series has been nominated for five straight years and likely doesn’t want to give up that streak without a fight, but Curb Your Enthusiasm could stake its claim with one of its Seinfeld episodes.

And yes, this lineup would mean that there would be no multi-camera representation, but there hasn’t been a multi-camera nominee since Will & Grace in 2005, the only multi-camera series to be nominated in this category since Friends in 2000. The one shot this year is Pamela Fryman for How I Met Your Mother, as she has the 100th episode with Neil Patrick Harris’ big musical number which could garner her a much-deserved nomination, but this category is (clearly) pretty stacked to begin with, so it remains a long shot.

TV Movie/Miniseries

No big observations here, as I don’t want to depress myself realizing how the actors in The Pacific (in particular Joseph Mazzello, James Badge Dale and Rami Malek) will be completely overshadowed by people with one or more of certain variables (Oscar winner, Old, British, etc.), but I do want to note the challenge facing The Pacific: while it is a technical marvel, it submits all of its Parts separately, which means that they’re competing against one another in both direction and writing. That could make it a longshot to win those categories, as Band of Brothers submitted itself as a whole (with numerous writers and directors), and took home the Directing Emmy – I don’t know if individual parts can do the same this time around, although it will easily waltz away with Best Miniseries (especially since there are only five possible nominees).

Cultural Observations

  • Neatest submission (yeah, I said neat): Amy Poehler, submitting her guest spot on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’s “6-Bee,” in which she joined forces with the Roots for a Glee club showdown against the Late Night staff. It’s a really fun little bit, but it’s very slight, so seeing it amongst the submissions was a bit strange.
  • On the Variety side of things, no big surprises: the epic battle of Tonight Show vs. Tonight Show will be waged (although Leno doesn’t have a shot in hell, as he’s struggled at the Emmys for years), but Leno will not be competing against himself, as the Jay Leno Show has not been submitted for Emmy contention.
  • It sometimes matters where certain performers are on the ballot, as voters looking for one familiar face might see someone else beside it. The way the ballots worked out, Lauren Graham and Anna Gunn are between Sally Field and Mariska Hargitay, and I’d like to believe they’d look a bit fresher by comparison. Similarly, those with names early in the alphabet could benefit: Samantha Who? aired a couple of burnoff episodes last summer, and yet Christina Applegate is still submitting, and is at the top of the ballot should Emmy voters want to give her a third straight nomination.
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12 Comments

Filed under Emmy Awards

12 responses to “Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Official Ballot Miscellany

  1. par3182

    Thanks for the links to the ballots; they make for interesting reading.

    If Glee‘s word of the week approach to plot development gets a writing nomination I will personally track down the voters and punch all of them in the face. I expect 30 Rock and Modern Family will have the category all locked up (although I’d personally make room for Parks and Recreation‘s ‘Pawnee Zoo’).

  2. Personally, the ghuest stars competition is the one I’m looking foward the most this year, maybe because they are less stiff. I saw a lot of these performances, and I could be happy with a lot of different events. I was a little sad by the John Lithgow thing, though. It killed the race, it’s obvious he’s taking it. And since I thought it was obvious he was going to take supporting anyway, it didn’t seem necessary.

    I was also a little sad to see that Heather Morris didn’t submit her name for guest star, since she’s one of the best things of Glee. Kristin is fantastic, but I’m still hoping Idina has a shot, even tough she has more of a dramatic role. She really was fantastic, even with a plot that was less than good, and not exactly consistent. And I really appreciated her comic bits, like the scene she’s making out with Will.

    • I just saw that Idina is submitting ‘Dream On’. Even I’m couting her out with that. Is it confirmed? Because if it is, it’s totally stupid. She has one scene in that entire episode, and altough is a great scene, there’s just not one funny thing about it. Why on earth didn’t she submit Theatricality?!?

  3. t

    You say that its the agents who submit the nominations for the actors? Do they write the little plot description too? I was just looking at the Glee nominations, and noticed a mistake in NPH’s submission….Man of La Mancha?

  4. You may already know, but to provide the link for others, there’s also a list for editing: http://www.emmys.tv/sites/emmys.tv/files/editing.pdf

  5. Pingback: National Sports Advisors. | usa today

  6. John

    My dream nominees for the guest comedy actress category are Kristen Bell for the icy Uda Bengt on “Party Down” and Amy Pietz for “The Office,” just because she’s way overdue for a nomination. I’m sure Bates will be the one to pull off the nomination, though.

  7. Abe

    I haven’t had a chance to comb through the ballots to make sure I didn’t forget anyone, but from what I’m hearing, there aren’t too many big surprises. I’m glad Cherry Jones didn’t submit herself because I don’t think she should have won last year, and I’m hopeful that her absence will open it up for other deserving actresses (hello, Christina Hendricks), though I suspect that “Grey’s Anatomy” will take up far too many slots as usual.

    I’m not sure if you got a chance to see the awesome two-hour pilot that never got picked up from last June, “Virtuality,” but it’s incredible. It’s eligible for Best TV Movie and I really hope it gets a nomination. Not counting on it though.

  8. Abe

    Hey Myles-
    Quick question for you. I’m beginning my predictions on TV with Abe on Monday, and I’ve already written out the main categories, but I’m blanking – do the guest categories have five or six nominees now?

  9. reda

    to be honest i’m fine with most nominations as long as Yunjin Kim and Jane Lynch get nominated. Seriously, watch any episode of Lost that centers on Sun and tell me you didn’t tear up a bit, especially in this season. JL is always hilarious, and I was suprised by how many people submitted themselves: i think everyone from SNL and a lot of people from Glee and the whole casts of How I Met Your Mother and The Office and Parks and Rec…too many great performers

  10. reda

    Also for Guest Actor/Actress on a comedy show (the only drama show I watch is Lost, so now im just trying to watch Mad Men, Christina Hendricks for the win), Mike O Malley deserves to win, and Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith can compete for a spot. And between Elisabeth Banks and Julianne Moore for 30 Rock, Julianne should get nominated

  11. R Brown

    Hugh Laurie deserves the Emmy award. He has the unique distinction, among all of the Drama Actor nominees, of having done work in drama that is amazing enough to be nominated by Emmy for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Award, for FIVE YEARS – 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

    It’s about getting the opportunity to do good work, but it is also about consistent excellence.

    This season’s opener “Broken” won the Writers’ Guild of America’s Television Award for Episodic Drama, and Hugh was in front of the camera over 90% of the time in that episode. Even the best writing for the screen needs an exceptional actor to interpret it. HUGH LAURIE IS THAT ACTOR, AND IT’S ABOUT TIME.

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