The Emmys aren’t as much fun as the debates that lead up to them. Who are the surprise nominees? Who got snubbed? Who deserved better? Who keeps winning and I don’t know why?
I love that last one. I’m always up for arguing reasons why someone wins an Emmy (beyond talent of course) and someone doesn’t. And I got lots of theories. But it’s a discussion without the hope of answer. All you can do is theorize:
GOOD ACTORS/WRONG CATEGORY
I have nothing against Edie Falco. She was great on The Sopranos. And she’s just fine on Nurse Jackie. My problem with last year’s win was Falco won for Best Actress in a Comedy. Say what? Nurse Jackie is a comedy? I think it has some funny moments, but it’s also pretty dark and serious. Is Falco funnier than other nominees like Tina Fey (30 Rock), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), and Julia-Louis Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine)? I don’t think so.
Maybe Nurse Jackie just doesn’t fit into any one category. Perhaps there should be a category for Dramedy. Or how about Funniest Actress in a Drama? Best Dramatic Performance in a Comedy? Either way, Falco is up for the same incorrect Emmy this year.
Tony Shalhoub (Monk) is a three-time winner for Lead Actor in a Comedy (and an 8-time nominee!). Again – huh? His quirky detective-type investigator has his funny bits, but is Monk a comedy? If it was, then why was the funny Columbo always in the drama category? Answer me that.
And I’m definitely not convinced he’s ‘three-time winner’ funnier in the role than, say, Steve Carell (The Office), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Ray Romano (Everyone Loves Raymond) and Jason Bateman (Arrested Development). I mean, we are voting for the most funny guy, aren’t we?
I don’t know. Maybe Shalhoub’s character just stood out from the usual comedy suspects:
GREAT GUY/LOUSY SHOW
The feeling back in 1984 was that actor John Ritter (Three’s Company) was a talented, well-liked guy who had toiled on a lousy-if-popular show and was deserving of some acknowledgement before the show was cancelled.
But it’s a tricky precedent to set. Are we going to start honouring nice actors doing awesome work on bad shows (I’m looking at you Third Rock’s John Lithgow)?
No, I think Ted Danson (Cheers) or Dabney Coleman (Buffalo Bill) were still better choices than Ritter that year.
SAFE AND POPULAR ALWAYS WINS (ALMOST)
I find it inexplicable that Frasier won five Emmys for Best Comedy (and a record 37 during its 11-year run). It’s a time period that also included real classics like Seinfeld (just one win in six tries), and The Larry Sanders Show (five noms, no wins). Frasier could be funny, sure, but it was also safe and familiar. You just knew stuffy Frasier and his ego would get himself into all manner of antics every episode.
Seinfeld was hilarious – but it was also cynical, sarcastic and took risks. Larry Sanders was more of the same. Oh well. Time usually helps the truly funny rise to the top.
Helen Hunt won four Emmys in the 1990s for her role on Mad About You. I have no idea why. She was nice enough but, we’re talking Mad About You here. The show was pleasant enough but I wouldn’t call it a laugh riot exactly. Yet it was safe and popular. Hunt’s victories came at the expense of people like Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal), Patricia Richardson (Home Improvement), Jenna Elfman (Dharma and Greg), and Cybill Shepherd (Cybill).
Huh. Looking at those also-rans, maybe the competition wasn’t all that tough for Hunt.
PUTTING IN YOUR DUES
Sometimes you win Emmys out of pure nostalgia. It isn’t so much your performance on the nominated show, but your past work that gets the nod. Peter Falk comes to mind. Falk – who won a few Emmys for his wonderful turn as Columbo – revived that show in the late 1980s.
The revival wasn’t very good. It was, in fact, pretty lousy. But that didn’t matter. Falk won an Emmy anyway, beating out Kyle MacLachlan, whose great turn as quirky FBI agent Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks was the talk of the town (but not the Emmy voters apparently):
Sally Field got the same treatment with her role on Brothers and Sisters. The former Flying Nun won a 2007 Emmy in a dramatic role I can’t even remember. But she’d paid her TV dues and we liked her (we really liked her). Tough luck for Edie Falco (The Sopranos) and Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU) though.
The best example of popular-always-wins goes to Mariette Hartley – who won Best Lead Actress in a Drama (1979) for her appearance on The Incredible Hulk. But I’m convinced Hartley actually won the award for a series of popular Polaroid commercials she was doing at the time with James Garner. I mean, The Incredible Hulk? Hartley wasn’t even a lead on the show. Her winning performance was a guest appearance in one episode in which she dies (in the Hulk’s arms, no less).
Oh well. They gave it to The Bionic Woman two years earlier, so:
Unfortunately, Hartley’s victory came at the expense of the much more deserving Barbara Bel Geddes (Dallas) and Sada Thompson (Family). Hulk sad! Hulk want Miss Ellie win!
SOMETIMES, YOU JUST CAN’T PREDICT THESE THINGS…
Kyle Chandler’s victory last year for Best Lead Actor in a Drama was the shocker of the Emmys. Chandler starred as the coach in the high school football drama Friday Night Lights, a very good series but hardly as well-known as, say, Mad Men. Yet, the relative unknown actor beat out Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall (Dexter), and Hugh Laurie (House). Pretty impressive. Did the better-known actors cancel each other out, allowing Chandler to charge up the middle? Or did the voters figure Chandler had paid his dues in previous losing years? Or did the fact the show got cancelled prompt voters to finally honour a neglected gem? As I warned you off the top, we shall never know: