Emmy Surprise! Nominations In Comedy Categories Are Largely A-Okay

The oversights this year in the drama arena may have been exasperating, but in general, voting members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences didn’t disappoint with their Emmy Award nominations in the comedy categories.

My only complaint, which has more to do with the process rather than the actual nominations, is with the designation of certain dramatic programs as comedies. For example, Showtime’s “Shameless,” a program previously categorized as a drama series – and one that had its most relentlessly dramatic and least amusing season yet -- magically became a comedy this year and scored a major nomination in the Outstanding Lead Actor category. And then there is Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” a series that has made me smile from time to time but does not exactly generate big laughs with its intensely dramatic storylines. It belongs over in the drama category, where the competition is much more ferocious and it would have to compete with its service’s other prestige series, “House of Cards.”

But when it comes to Emmy concerns it’s the Academy’s world, and the rest of us just get to live in it. It might be wise to reign in the rogue category shifting before next year’s nominating period, because as things stand it’s getting increasingly difficult to take the whole thing seriously.

Anyway, a quick review of this year’s comedy nominees shows that in most cases the best in show have indeed been recognized. In the category of Outstanding Comedy Series, it saddens me that ABC’s “The Middle,” arguably the most satisfying and consistently amusing sitcom after CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” was once again shut out. It wasn’t an especially strong season for ABC’s “Modern Family,” but after four consecutive wins in this category only a fool would have thought that it wouldn’t be included among the nominees. And I can only fantasize about recognition here for TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland,” also one of the funniest and most dependably entertaining series on television. Sadly, even if “Orange” were over in the drama section where it belongs, I doubt that “Middle” or “Hot” would have squeaked in.

That said the nominees here -- "The Big Bang Theory," FX’s "Louie," "Modern Family," "Orange Is the New Black" and HBO’s "Silicon Valley" and "Veep" – do indeed indicate that scripted comedy programming is as vital today as drama.

The nominees for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series include some of the biggest surprises of the year, including the fearless William H. Macy for “Shameless” (for a storyline in which his character almost died from liver failure), Ricky Gervais for Netflix’s “Derek” (a series that generated no buzz whatsoever), Matt LeBlanc for Showtime’s “Episodes” (another series that slipped under the radar this season) and Don Cheadle for Showtime’s “House of
Lies” (ditto). Nominations for Robin Williams of CBS’ “The Crazy Ones,” Andy Samberg of Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Thomas Middleditch of “Silicon Valley” and the perpetually and egregiously overlooked Johnny Galecki of “The Big Bang Theory” would have made for a more satisfying category. There can be no complaints at all about Galecki’s co-star Jim Parsons and Louis C.K. of “Louie” rounding out the list.

Since voting members of the Academy seem not to appreciate the underappreciated “The Middle,” I guess there was no hope of Patricia Heaton being among the nominees for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. As with Johnny Galecki, I will never understand why Heaton isn’t recognized by her peers (especially considering her many Emmy nominations and two wins for “Everybody Loves Raymond”). Also, I would argue that Emmy Rossum of “Shameless” gave a more powerful performance than any of the nominees, and that Anna Faris certainly helped make CBS’ “Mom” the funniest new comedy of the 2013-14 season.

Still, the star-power and work of the nominated actresses leaves little room for disagreement: Lena Dunham of HBO’s "Girls," Edie Falco (another actress in a comedy series who gave a powerful dramatic performance) of Showtime’s "Nurse Jackie," Julia Louis-Dreyfus of HBO’s "Veep," Melissa McCarthy of CBS’ "Mike & Molly," Amy Poehler of NBC’s "Parks and Recreation" and Taylor Schilling of "Orange Is the New Black."

It has been said that the four primary actors from “Modern Family” should occupy two thirds of the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category for the life of this series. Strictly speaking, and in terms of talent, that wouldn’t be unreasonable. But that has never happened, and I will never understand why Ed O’Neill isn’t among the annual “Family” nominees. This year we have Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson representing the show, both certainly deserving of
the recognition. Their fellow nominees are Tony Hale of “Veep,” Andre Braugher of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Adam Driver of “Girls” and, oddly, Fred Armisen of “Portlandia.” I have always considered Armisen to be the star of “Portlandia,” rather than a supporting player, but whatever. I would have given his nomination spot to Keith David of Fox’s maddeningly mistreated “Enlisted” or Zach Woods or Christopher Evan Welch of “Silicon Valley.”

One of the biggest surprises among this year’s Emmy nominees is the exclusion of Merritt Wever from the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She won last year for her singularly sensational work in “Nurse Jackie” and she had even better material this season. Another oversight, though at this point not a surprise, is the continuing exclusion of the delightful Eden Sher of “The Middle” from this category. I would argue that either one of them belongs here in place of Kate McKinnon of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” The rest of the nominees are Mayim Bialik of "The Big Bang Theory," Julie Bowen of "Modern Family," Anna Chlumsky of "Veep," Allison Janney of "Mom" and Kate Mulgrew for "Orange Is the New Black,” all spectacular.
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1 comment about "Emmy Surprise! Nominations In Comedy Categories Are Largely A-Okay".
  1. Tom Baer from TBI , July 14, 2014 at 3:33 p.m.
    I agree that "Mom" was the funniest new comedy of the season, and the lack of a nom for the show best comedy and Anna Faris for best actress is extremely disappointing.