Out of all the major entertainment shows, the Primetime Emmys may be the toughest to predict, especially now that “The West Wing” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” are off the air and can’t automatically rack up the nominations every year.
Emmy voters choose nominees based not on whole seasons, but on individual episodes submitted by series’ producers and casts. So why do such stars as “Gilmore Girls’” Lauren Graham and such shows as “Veronica Mars” consistently get overlooked? Tom O’Neil, who writes the Los Angeles Times’ Gold Derby awards blog, has said in the past that critics are too quick to blame Emmy voters, when really the blame should rest with the people who send in submissions, who often send in inferior work that isn’t representative of a whole season.
But I’m not here to point out how Emmy voters will get it wrong—I’ll have plenty of chances to kvetch about that when the nominations are announced Thursday. I’m here to get it wrong myself.
That’s right—below are picks, one per category, of shows and performers that I don’t think will be nominated. Because it’s too easy to say that “The Sopranos” will be a shoo-in, and these are shows and performers who are likely to be underappreciated by the Emmys, no matter whose fault the nomination process is.
So here’s who and what won’t get nominated. I hope I’m wrong about this.
Best Drama Series
“The Wire,” HBO: The best example of long-form storytelling on television, and that’s what works against it. David Simon’s sprawling look at cops and drug dealers in Baltimore, which seems to have been influenced by Dickens and Robert Altman, is too dense and complicated to be judged by a few sample episodes. Season four, which also looked at the public-education system, was considered the best yet by many critics. And yet the complexity that makes it so great is the same thing that will lead to it getting passed over.
Best Comedy Series
“How I Met Your Mother,” CBS: For all the laments about the death of the sitcom during the past few years, there are several strong contenders in this category, including “The Office,” “30 Rock” and “Two and a Half Men.” But this appealing, witty and unusually constructed CBS comedy that tells the looonnng tale about how a guy met his wife (whom we apparently haven’t seen, even after two seasons) doesn’t seem to be wowing Emmy judges. Too bad, because its ensemble—Josh Radnor, Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris—has jelled nicely, and this season has included clever riffs on such pop-culture touchstones as the Super Bowl, “Dirty Dancing” and Bob Barker and “The Price Is Right.” The writers have found the middle ground between “Friends’” warmth and “Seinfeld’s” cynicism, and that’s no easy feat, so it deserves a shot.
Best Actor, Comedy
Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men”: Actually, Cryer was nominated last year—for best supporting actor, a designation that probably has to do with how his work was submitted. But he does the bulk of the heavy lifting on this show as neurotic, nerdy Alan Harper, who this season married and divorced one of TV’s all-time classic bubble-brains (April Bowlby). Cryer often has to go from ecstatic to apoplectic to depressed in one scene, while his co-star Charlie Sheen gets to spout offhand one-liners that somehow earned him the honor of lead actor on this series. Of course, Sheen has a lot more relatives in Hollywood than Cryer does ...
Best Actress, Comedy
Lauren Graham, “Gilmore Girls:” Yeah, I know, I (and many others) have beat this drum before. And Graham’s Lorelai Gilmore has had her share of drama this season (dumping a fiance, marrying an ex-boyfriend and then splitting up with him, among other things). But Graham brought the writers’ vision of Lorelai to life so well that it’s almost impossible to imagine another actress in the fast-talking, hip-single-mom role, while communicating how witty people such as Lorelai use quips and glibness to hide and salve their wounds.
By the way, Gold Derby has “Gilmore” listed under “dramas” that are getting passed over for nominations, so maybe it’s a category-submission thing. Because “Gilmore Girls” is a funnier show than most sitcoms, and if “Desperate Housewives” deserves comedy nominations, then this show does, too.
Best Actor, Drama
Matthew Perry, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”: Sure, Aaron Sorkin’s preachy, self-indulgent series about the travails of a sketch-comedy show was such a misfire that there are probably several books in the works about why it failed after showing such initial promise. But as Matt Albie, the pill-popping, nerve-racked show-runner of the sketch comedy, Perry managed a re-invention of his “Friends” persona while still keeping his letter-perfect timing intact. Perry practically made you feel Matt’s stomach churn as he struggled with writing funny sketches while melodramatic chaos was happening all around him, and if he had to say some pretentious lines of dialogue along the way, well, that’s not “his” fault.
Best Actress, Drama
Connie Britton, “Friday Night Lights”: Britton—an actress who doesn’t have children—plays the best mom on TV in this series about a small Texas town obsessed with high school football. As the coach’s wife, Tami Taylor, Britton plays a woman who will support her husband but won’t sell herself out; who will try to protect her precocious teenage daughter but is distraught to know there’s only so much she can do; who has the wisdom and the patience to be a school counselor who guides the town’s oft-troubled teens without trying to repair them; and who maintains her own standards of confidence and sexiness. Britton, one of the few holdovers from the “Friday Night Lights” movie, pushed for a stronger part in the TV series and got it—if Emmy voters see the episode where Tami tries to talk her daughter out of having sex for the first time, Britton should win this handily.
Supporting Actor, Comedy
Angus T. Jones, “Two and a Half Men”: As Jake, the not-very-bright son of Jon Cryer’s Alan, Jones sometimes has only four or five lines an episode. But whether Jake’s expressing his own cluelessness or his exasperation at the absurdity of the adults in his orbit, Jones has a way of giving him such comic weight that he often steals the whole show.
Supporting Actress, Comedy
Angela Kinsey, “The Office”: “The Office” has better bench strength than any show on TV, and even its most minor characters are capable of inducing left-field laughs. As Angela, the humorless conscience of the Dundler-Mifflin Paper Company, Kinsey is probably too low in the cast order to receive a nomination. But she personifies the kind of office grump that many workplaces have (and sometimes need). With “24’s” Chloe completely wimped out this season, Angela has become TV’s top sulky, no-nonsense, spare-no-feelings character.
Supporting Actor, Drama
Walton Goggins, “The Shield”: This intense cop series seems to pop out at least one great performance every season, and it was Goggins’ turn. As Shane Vendrell, a maverick detective who killed a friend he was afraid would betray him and other friends, Goggins portrayed a guy who was both ridden by guilt and yet almost sociopathically convinced that his actions were proper. “The Shield” is about people with the walls closing in on them; Goggins made you feel like Vendrell literally was struggling to breathe.
Supporting Actress, Drama
Andrea Roth, “Rescue Me”: Remember, we’re talking about the previous season of “Rescue Me,” which aired last summer but is the one eligible for this year’s Emmys. No wonder it’s getting short shrift. Anyway, in the season in question, Roth really came into her own as Janet Gavin, the long-suffering ex-wife of Denis Leary’s bad-boy firefighter Tommy. “Rescue Me” can be overwrought, and it can be so funny at times that it seems like an odd fit for a drama category. Still, Roth’s mercurial work as a woman trying to move on with her life but indelibly connected to her former husband is a strong example of the show’s tradition of performances so fierce, the actors must be completely rung out after every take.