There’s always disappointment attached to the announcement of the Emmy nominations. But this year’s list, revealed this morning in a ceremony featuring Kerry Washington and Jimmy Kimmel in pajamas, was a bit of a bummer. There were treats – massive love for “Downton Abbey,’’ “Homeland,’’ “Breaking Bad,’’ “Mad Men,’’ and “Girls’’ – but the omissions were glaring.
First of all, on what planet is “Parks and Recreation’’ not among the best comedies of the last season? The NBC show, featuring one of TV’s sweetest and funniest ensembles, was almost entirely ignored. No Aziz Ansari, no Aubrey Plaza, no Adam Scott. And no Nick Offerman? Offerman’s Ron Swanson may be one of TV’s most cleverly designed and indelible characters right now. Good thing Offerman was replaced this morning by Kimmel, because he was delayed by “weather-related travel delays.’’ His reaction to the snub might have been painful to watch. Only star Amy Poehler got a deserved nod.
Also conspicuously missing from the best comedy list: “Louie,’’ “Enlightened,’’ and “Community,’’ three of the richest series TV has to offer right now. Yes, “The Big Bang Theory’’ has its wacky charm, and “Curb Your Enthusiasm’’ continues to drop classic half-hours in between filler – but as best comedy nominees, they are relatively stale.
Fortunately, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences voters did manage to pull it together enough to let go of the much-diminished “Glee’’ and “The Office’’ and find room for “Girls’’ and star Lena Dunham for best comedy and best actress. Dunham and her show are both amusing and culturally shrewd, as they deconstruct myths of being young and living in the city. The voters also saw fit to give nods to “Veep’’ and the brilliant Julia Louis-Dreyfus, although the best comedy nomination is a stretch – I loved the show, but, like many young comedies, it needs time to develop. A few of our best sitcoms, including “30 Rock’’ and “Parks and Recreation,’’ took a season or more to find their creative stride.
Other comedy pluses: Finally, finally, finally, a nod for supporting actress Merritt Wever, who is the lovably self-conscious Zoey on “Nurse Jackie.’’ Better really late than never. And Max Greenfield as Schmidt on “New Girl’’ got his due. He makes the over-acknowledged show worth watching.
Other comedy minuses: The complete absence of the “Community’’ cast, notably Joel McHale; the absence of Laura Dern, who is a knockout on “Enlightened’’; and the absence of any “Happy Endings’’ actors, particularly the endearing and sharp Adam Pally and Casey Wilson. The somewhat irrational Emmy love for the “Modern Family’’ cast – they got half of all the supporting nominations in comedy – squeezed out too many good performers.
The analogy to “Parks and Recreation’’ on the drama side is “Justified.’’ The FX show, based on the work of Elmore Leonard, is extraordinary, and so is its star, Timothy Olyphant. Why it was thoroughly ignored this year – even with memorable supporting work by Neal McDonough – is just another one of those weird Emmy twists. I can’t imagine preferring Michael C. Hall in “Dexter,’’ which has lost its mind in the past two seasons, to Olyphant. It’s too strange. Hall is fine, but the scripts are pushing him into a very inconsistent and compromised portrayal.
Perhaps in drama the voters were blinded by the sight of the popular “Downton Abbey’’ which moved from the miniseries to the drama categories this year. The PBS soap filled the acting slots, and took a best drama nod, too. I can’t argue with the list of “Downton’’ names, particularly Michelle Dockery as the tragic, brave Mary and Brendan Coyle as Mr. Bates. Nor can I argue with the addition of “Homeland’’ to the dramatic categories; the show, Claire Danes, and Damian Lewis are definitely among the finest on TV.
But still: This year’s Emmy list loses a lot of relevance without “Justified.’’ I’ve complained about the fact that the Academy ignores “Shameless,’’ and in particular the gonzo lead performance by William H. Macy. But I understand why, I think; “Shameless’’ is too working class, too concerned with drug and alcohol abuse, and too politically incorrect for the voters. “Justified,’’ on the other hand, has been nominated before, making the slight more peculiar.
Like “Homeland,’’ “Mad Men’’ and “Breaking Bad’’ were rightfully honored for best drama and for their top-notch acting. These three shows are psychologically layered, intelligently written, and deliberately paced. The unforgettable Giancarlo Esposito on “Breaking Bad’’ got a full supporting nomination, despite his Gus having lost half his head, and, at long last, so did the remarkable Anna Gunn. Gunn has been amazing in a difficult role of Walt White’s wife for years now, but, as with Wever, at least the voters finally redeemed themselves. I think that Dean Norris, as Walt’s brother-in-law, deserved notice, but one can’t be too greedy (unless one is rooting for “Downton’’ or “Modern Family’’).
There was no final chance at winning for Hugh Laurie, who finished his run on “House’’ this season, and Kelsey Grammer won’t get an opportunity to add to his Emmy pile from “Frasier’’ with a nod for “Boss.’’ Joel Kinnaman, the only reason to watch “The Killing,’’ and Michael Pitt, so complex on “Boardwalk Empire’’ – sorry guys, no chance. Your membership to the club has been put on hold.