One of the few guilty pleasures enjoyed by professional television critics every year at this time is the opportunity to rip into voting members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences about the egregious omissions and questionable choices inherent in their annual nominations for the Primetime Emmy Awards. Once the nominees are announced there is always a level of palpable frustration and exasperation that makes for blistering copy, if nothing else.
But the copy might not be so hot this year, because for the first time in a long time the Academy made smart choices all around. With one exception, there isn't an outrageous oversight or infuriating inclusion to be found. Not every terrific series was recognized, nor every great performance, but how could they be when there are so many outstanding shows and extraordinary actors working on television today?
Perhaps the answer to that happy dilemma is to increase the number of nominations in each series and acting category to eight or even 10, allowing for more excitement within the industry, not to mention the all-important television audience. Note to all concerned: Please give this some serious thought. What's the downside, other than it taking a few more seconds to list the nominees in these categories during the Awards telecast itself?
The one distressing exception noted above is the failure of the Academy to nominate Kyra Sedgwick of TNT's "The Closer" as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, even though she has been nominated five times for her role on the show and won last year. I thought she had a strong chance of winning a second consecutive award, but she's not even in the running. What gives? Did Sedgwick piss off key voting members when she decided to leave her hugely popular show at the end of its seventh season?
There are other disappointing omissions throughout the series and acting categories, even if they aren't profound enough to warrant seismic outrage. For example, and staying with the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category, where is the love for Katey Sagal of FX's intense biker drama "Sons of Anarchy"? She won a Golden Globe for her work on the show earlier this year. Shouldn't a well-deserved Emmy nomination have followed?
Other notable snubs in the Drama arena include FX's "Justified," which puzzlingly nabbed nominations in four acting categories but not one for Outstanding Drama Series; the absence of the singularly brilliant John Noble of Fox's "Fringe" and the endlessly fascinating Michael Shannon of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" from the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category; and the exclusion of the effortlessly disarming Kiernan Shipka of AMC's "Mad Men" from the nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
The nominees in the Comedy categories are more problematic overall -- though, again, they aren't worth getting all worked up over. I would have preferred to see FX's "Louie," ABC's "The Middle" and Fox's "Raising Hope" among the contenders for Outstanding Comedy Series, rather than those stale category stalwarts from NBC, "The Office" and "30 Rock," and Fox's "Glee," which suffered one of the worst sophomore slumps since the second-season slide of ABC's "Desperate Housewives." I'm thrilled to see Louis C.K. of "Louie" and Johnny Galecki of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" among the nominees for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, though I wish there had been room for Joel McHale of NBC's "Community."
I also wish that Patricia Heaton of "The Middle" and Courteney Cox of ABC's "Cougar Town" had been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series rather than any of the actresses who were recognized, with the exception of Edie Falco of Showtime's "Nurse Jackie." Toni Collette of Showtime's "United States of Tara" should have been included in this category as well (even if "Tara," like most of Showtime's half-hour series, is more a drama than a comedy). Collette won the Emmy for "Tara" two years ago and was even more breathtaking this past season.
In the supporting categories there is nothing much to complain about, though I would have liked to see Eve Best of "Nurse Jackie" or Heather Morris of "Glee" included rather than Jane Krakowski of "30 Rock."
Overall, and regardless of the outcomes, the nominees in the drama and comedy categories reflect the sheer volume of outstanding work being done today in scripted series television. (Collectively, it far exceeds what passes for mainstream movie entertainment.) Now let's hope that the Emmy telecast itself -- traditionally one of the most distressing television presentations of the year -- can rise to the level of its own nomination process. I'll be happy if it's half as entertaining and rewarding as the recent Tony Awards.