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2009 Emmy Nominations Analysis: Power to the People?

Emmy2009Title

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.!

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actor in a Drama Series

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Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Predictions

This is not a good time to be a lead actor in a drama series.

All of last year’s six nominees are back this year, and almost all of them are likely to return. Bryan Cranston followed up his surprise victory for Breaking Bad’s first season (a nomination driven likely by the fact he was never honoured for Malcolm in the Middle) with an even more impressive second season. Hugh Laurie continues to single-handedly elevate House from its procedural roots, driving the show’s popularity and thus his chances at a nomination. Michael C. Hall is still a hero and a serial killer, a duality he pulls off better than anyone could have imagined. Jon Hamm, whose Don Draper was a complex man of mystery in Mad Men’s first season, became even more complicated in the show’s second season. And Gabriel Byrne, who managed a nod for his grueling In Treatment schedule in the show’s first season, is back again with what is generally considered an even stronger second outing. These five are going to be there again, and that leaves little room for new blood.

The one nominee from last year who could be in trouble is James Spader. His nominations (and wins) were always baffling to critics and viewers alike, and the general theory is that his epic, David E. Kelley-penned speeches were Emmy bait in their finest form. However, this year, Boston Legal has been off the air for months and there is no panel where that speech will be seen – he’s operating entirely on popular vote, and he could be ousted from the category faster than you can quote a Supreme Court precedent.

Waiting in the wings is a tough crowd: former nominee Kiefer Sutherland is back in the race, Michael Chiklis is in his final year of eligibility for The Shield, Kyle Chandler made the Top 10 last year for Friday Night Lights, or Big Love could break through and give Bill Paxton a shot. And, in the longest of long shots, Edward James Olmos is like Battlestar Galactica itself in his last year of eligibility, while Matthew Fox had a slightly lighter season on Lost but is doing fine work in an unfortunately crowded period.

The only new threat to the race is Simon Baker, who has the benefit of being well-liked, extremely charming, and starring on the season’s biggest hit. The Mentalist is the highest-rated new show of the year, so Baker could follow in Laurie’s footsteps and break into the category. On the other hand, he’s never been nominated before, and it could be an example of the Emmys and the viewers not quite lining up.

Predictions for Lead Actor in a Drama

  • Simon Baker (“The Mentalist”)
  • Gabriel Byrne (“In Treatment”)
  • Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
  • Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”)
  • Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”)
  • Hugh Laurie (“House”)

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Cultural Learnings’ 2008 60th Primetime Emmy Awards Predictions

Last year, during this important period of the pre-Emmy festivities, I had a bit more time to really delve into some key issues. This year, things are busier, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to make some prognostications about the end results. I’m going to be discussing more themes and the like tomorrow in my Emmy Preview, but for now let’s get to what we really care about: predicting who is actually going to walk home with Emmy Awards.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Boston Legal (ABC)
  • Damages (FX)
  • Dexter (Showtime)
  • House (FOX)
  • Lost (ABC)
  • Mad Men (AMC)

There is some wiggle room here, as each some has something (Pedigree, viewership, buzz, etc.) that makes it stand out, but there is nothing on this list quite as emphatically received and, more importantly, different from your standard fare than Mad Men. I’ll discuss more of this tomorrow, but its combination of a small network, a small fanbase, fresh-faced actors and its attention to detail will be unstoppable.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • James Spader (Boston Legal)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment)

This is a category where only one thing is important: that James Spader finally loses. Either Hamm, C. Hall or Laurie are in a position to usurp last year’s winner, and I’ve got my money on Michael C. Hall. After getting snubbed here last year, and with his show in the big race, voters might choose to recognize his brave and fantastic performance even when the show itself loses them with its dark atmosphere. But, this is maybe the night’s most up in the air race.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law and Order: SVU)

This race, however, is not up in the air at all. Its highly serialized nature and red herring use might keep it from being the best drama series on television, but there is no way that Emmy Voters can ignore Close’s pedigree with such a richly portrayed character (even if I’d argue that character isn’t nearly as important as voters might think it is to the show’s success).

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Cultural Learnings’ 2008 60th Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations Predictions

When I started my Emmys coverage for this year’s ceremony a while ago, I (as always) had a lot of plans: previews of every category (Got through a lot), reviews of every submitted episode (Almost got through those), and all sorts of other grand schemes that never come to fruition. This is the nature of being a television critic of sorts: you have a lot to say, but balancing it and the rest of your life (See: Watching Television, clearly) can be a bit of a challenge. Let it be known I took most of that free time doing my duty and finally watching shows like The Wire, Six Feet Under and Flight of the Conchords.

However, there’s no way I could possibly procrastinate on writing up my various predictions. Predictions are one of those things that I think about more than I write about (I tried writing more this year, and after a while it petered off). Great sites like AwardsHeaven or Coco at the Movies or TV with Abe keep detailed lists for weeks or months ahead of time updating when the Top 10s come out, but I tend to ruminate a bit more introspectively. We’ll see how that goes this time around, when our access to the Top 10 lists for various categories makes this task easier, yes, but also far more competitive. But, I’m not in it to win it, so to speak; I’m just an Emmy fanatic who enjoys the thrill of participation.

So, without further adieu, my predictions for the nominations for the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Boston Legal (ABC)
  • Damages (FX)
  • House (FOX)
  • Lost (ABC)
  • Mad Men (AMC)

This is a very hard category to call, and admittedly I’m following my own interests here: there’s every chance of Grey’s Anatomy replacing Lost on this list based on its popularity alone, but something tells me that Lost’s episode submission (The fantastic “The Constant”) will elevate them through. Mad Men and Damages represent the new crop of summer cable hits, while Boston Legal and House should ride baity submission and Hugh Laurie, respectively, to nods.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • James Spader (Boston Legal)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)

The first four are pretty much locks: while his show is too bloody to make it into major categories, Hall’s Emmy pedigree and the fantastic nature of his performance should get him the nomination he deserved last year. Meanwhile, “should have won before” Laurie and newcomer and Golden Globe winner Hamm will try to dethrone undefeated Emmy king Spader, and that last slot is up for grabs. I’ve gone with Bryan Cranston’s brave performance in the AMC series, one I need to finish watching at some point (Only got through the opening two episodes). Gabriel Byrne is the other option, but I believe that if Cranston made the Top 10 people were watching, and he would have performed well on the panels.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters)
  • Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
  • Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
  • Glenn Close (Damages)
  • Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)

Those following the Emmy race will sigh at that last name – while the first four are more or less locks based on name recognition and showy performances, the fifth candidate in this category is somewhat more open. However, with previous nominees like Mariska Hargitay and Minnie Driver waiting in the wings, the chances of an actress from a science fiction series breaking through are slim. However, frak that kind of logical thinking: I want to have hope, for once, that they’ll see through the Science Fiction and discover a tremendous performance that is worthy of consideration.

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Assessing the Contenders: Boston Legal – “The Court Supreme”

[As the Top 10 Comedy and Drama series contenders have been released, and since Gold Derby has been kind enough to grab us the episode titles, I’m going through each submission judging its quality and its potential on the panel. Here’s the first Drama Series in contention, a nominee last year that looks to return.]

Boston Legal (ABC)

Episode: “The Court Supreme”

Synopsis: Having gained a reputation as a staunch opponent of the death penalthy, Alan Shore (James Spader) is approached by a young attourney whose client, a mentally disabled man from Louisiana convicted of raping a child, is appealing the death penalty at the highest level: the Supreme Court of the United States.

My Thoughts: There’s quite a few who are labeling this episode as Emmy bait, and they would not be wrong. For a show that is never afraid to quite literally throw its politics in the audience’s face, this goes even further than we’re used to. James Spader is likely to pick up his fourth Emmy for his performance here, and the show is more than likely guaranteed a nomination.

That doesn’t, however, mean I liked it.

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