Wednesday, July 05, 2006

If I Picked The Emmy Nominations 2006: Comedy

I’m generally an agreeable guy, but whenever someone says that there’s nothing good on TV, I want to punch them in the face. Aside from being a horribly pretentious, cliché and uninformed thing to say, it’s simply not true. Never has this been more apparent than when I started compiling my “If I Picked the Emmy Nominations” nominations. Also never more apparent: My complete and utter lack of life. I watch way too much TV. But that’s only because there’s so much great stuff on TV.

We’ll see if the Emmys’ new voting procedures reflects this or not. I think they could either result in many fresh, deserving shows being recognized or they could keep serialized shows like 24, Lost and Arrested Development from landing nominations. One glaring problem (as evidenced by the rumored semi-finalist list Tom O’Neil has compiled over at The Envelope): The Best Series categories should be winnowed down to 15 slots (instead of 10) while the Acting categories should get narrowed to 10 slots (instead of 15). There are plenty of great shows still absent from the shortlist while the Acting categories seem heavily padded with deadweight (Kevin James? Kevin Connelly? Adrian Grenier? Omar Gooding? Leah Remini? Jenna Elfman? Reba McEntire? Stockard Channing?!?!). That's probably because the best shows are ensemble pieces. If they start doing these preliminary rounds for Supporting Actors, then they'll need at least 15 slots.

Here at The Pop Culture Petri Dish, voting procedures are the same as they’ve been the last two years (as are the disclaimers). So, without further ado, If I Picked the Emmy Nominations…

Ever since Friends, Frasier and Sex and the City went off the air, critics and audiences have been bemoaning the death of television comedy. A year ago, I might’ve been inclined to agree with them. I could barely scrape together five nominees for Best Comedy. What a difference a year makes. I had no less than a dozen shows seriously contending for nominations as Best Comedy. I would feel comfortable putting any one of those 12 in the top five. In addition, there were nine other series in the next tier – not my favorites, but all quality shows. Several of them are freshman series that have potential (like The Office did) to really grow in their sophomore seasons.

Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise – Television comedy is alive and well (even if three of my top five comedies are dead).

Best Comedy Series

Arrested Development – Of its two and a half seasons, this half season was the show’s “weakest.” However, Arrested Development’s “weakest” episodes are better than just about anything else on television. What else is there to say about this show? This series’ brilliance will be sorely missed.

The Comeback – I think a large part of my love for this show came about because nobody else was showing it any love. I don’t think I read a single positive review until it was wrapping up its first (and ultimately only) season and was on the verge of cancellation. Then, from out of nowhere, the critics who had dumped on it when it first premiered started lavishing praise. But it was too late. The show itself – Horribly uncomfortable and yet utterly compelling and hilarious; a very clever (more clever than it had to be) send-up of such easy targets as reality TV, sit-coms and Hollywood egos.

The Office – I never bought into the cult of the original BBC version of The Office. I watched every episode, but I never saw in it what so many others did. I liked the style and the performances, but found the humor overly dry and redundant (no pun intended). Even with only 12 episodes total, it felt like they ran out of story. When the American version premiered last mid-season, I liked it better than the original but wasn’t blown away. Then, like most people, I found the second season to be an exponential leap forward. The development of the supporting-supporting cast, the Jim & Pam romance and the overall tone of the show was astounding. I quickly fell in love with this show and its characters. With Arrested Development gone, this has become my favorite comedy currently on TV.

Scrubs – This show has been great for five seasons now. Quality has fluctuated a tad throughout, but it’s never dipped far, which is pretty remarkable considering that “quirky” series like this usually have a short shelf life (see Ally McBeal). It also features one of the most criminally-ignored ensembles on television.

Stella – What an odd, wonderful surprise this show was last summer. It featured an absurd type of humor unlike anything else out there. What it lacked in character development and story it more than made up for in sheer comic lunacy. I don’t know why Comedy Central isn’t bringing it back, but at least they’re putting a DVD out later this year.

Runners-up: Gilmore Girls, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Malcolm in the Middle, My Name is Earl, Reno 911!, Sons & Daughters, Weeds

And the Second Tier: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, Everybody Hates Chris, Free Ride, How I Met Your Mother, The Loop, Love Monkey, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Will & Grace

Best Actress in a Comedy

Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives – Always my favorite Housewife, Cross stood head and shoulders above her co-stars this season and really shined. I won’t let the fact that she should be nominated as Best Actress in a Drama work against her.

Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls – It was hard not putting Gilmore Girls in my Best Comedy Series top five, but this season was just a little too uneven compared to the series that made it through. However, no matter what’s going on with the show, Graham is always in top form. If anything good comes out of the Emmys’ new voting, it’d be Graham squeezing past some of those Housewives.

Jane Kaczmarek, Malcolm in the Middle – In the past I’ve found her performance to be shrill, one-note and overrated. Yet in the last two seasons, Kaczmarek (along with the writers) have given Lois more dimensions and shading and dialed back her shrillness. What clenched this fake nomination for her was the touching, pitch-perfect backyard speech she gave in the show’s finale. One of the great moments on television this season.

Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback – The most amazing thing about this performance is that Kudrow made you forget Phoebe Buffay. Her Valerie Cherish was nothing like the character she portrayed on Friends for ten years. Also incredible was how Kudrow played Valerie like a dual role – the performer who’s always “on” and the woman who forgets or doesn’t realize that the camera is on. Yet both characters were equally sad and funny and 100% believable. I would’ve loved to have seen what Kudrow would’ve done with a second season in Valerie’s heels.

Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds – This spot was a toss-up between Mary-Louise Parker and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but ultimately the extra dimensions Parker had to play gave her the slight edge. She played the comedy and the drama of her character with equal dexterity.

Runners-up: Tichina Arnold (Everybody Hates Chris), Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine), Debra Messing (Will & Grace)

And The Second Tier: Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives), Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives), Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives), Gillian Vigman (Sons & Daughters)

Best Actor in a Comedy

Jason Bateman, Arrested Development – He deserves a thousand Emmys for his work the last two and a half seasons. It can’t be easy being the relatively grounded center of the insane Bluth family. But he’s no straight man; Michael Bluth can be quite self-absorbed himself and Bateman’s bone-dry delivery cracks me up. I think I’ll miss him most of all.

Zach Braff, Scrubs – A part of me has wanted to hate him ever since he became a rock star auteur with Garden State (that’s just how I am), but damned if he doesn’t make it impossible with his consistently excellent work on Scrubs. He also deserves a Best Director nomination for the wonderful Wizard of Oz-obsessed episode of Scrubs.

Steve Carell, The Office – A perfect boob.

Jason Lee, My Name is Earl – What a fun and instantly iconic character Lee (and Greg Garcia) created. Though he could’ve easily become a thin caricature or redneck stereotype, Earl is neither, thanks in large part to Lee. I’ve never been a huge fan of his before – often I found him obnoxious – but with Earl, Lee brought something missing from most of his big screen performances: Heart.

Josh Radnor, How I Met Your Mother – If The Envelope’s list is to be believed, Radnor didn’t even make the cut of 15, which just seems wrong. In a cast full of more recognizable faces, this newcomer still managed to own the show. He’s sincere and incredibly likable, which shouldn’t translate to funny, but he’s that too. The perfect lead for a romantic comedy like How I Met Your Mother.

Runners-up: Fred Goss (Sons & Daughters), Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!)

And The Second Tier: Tom Cavanagh (Love Monkey), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Eric McCormack (Will & Grace), Tony Shalhoub (Monk)

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Kelly Bishop, Gilmore Girls – Every year, Bishop makes Emily Gilmore a little more human and real. She did some of her finest work ever on that airplane in "The Prodigal Daughter Returns."

Jenna Fischer, The Office – If I could be stranded on an island with one TV character this year, it would be Pam. But that’s not why Fischer deserves an Emmy. Her Pam is such a complete and real person and her comedy comes from that place. Plus, I’m in love with her.

Jamie Pressly, My Name is Earl – Such a fun, unique character. Anytime she’s onscreen, she injects the scene with a new, crazed energy.

Judy Reyes, Scrubs – It feels wrong not to put Sarah Chalke here too, but it seems like every year Elliott has less and less to do on the show. Reyes, meanwhile, had some great stuff to play this season with Carla getting pregnant and as always she was fantastic.

Jessica Walter, Arrested Development – It’s impossible to imagine Walter as anything other than Lucille, so when I see her in interviews as herself, it’s always quite jarring. She just makes it look so effortless. I think I’ll miss her most of all.

Runners-up: Sarah Chalke (Scrubs), Portia de Rossi (Arrested Development), Kerri Kenney-Silver (Reno 911!), Christa Miller Lawrence (Scrubs), Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds), Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development)

And The Second Tier: Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), Alison Quinn (Sons & Daughters), Nicollette Sheridan (Desperate Housewives), Alfre Woodard (Desperate Housewives)

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Will Arnett, Arrested Development – So smarmy. So wonderful. I think I’ll miss him most of all.

Michael Cera, Arrested Development – Every season it becomes clearer what a comic genius this boy is. His timing and delivery are just insane. One of the millions of reasons why Arrested Development’s cancellation is so tragic is that we won’t get to see Cera continue to grow and shine. I think I’ll miss him most of all.

Tony Hale, Arrested Development – So loveable yet so deranged. I think I’ll miss him most of all.

John Krasinski, The Office – I’m so jealous that he got to kiss Pam, but if it couldn’t be me, I’m glad it was Jim. Krasinski can generate laughs with nothing but a sly look to the camera. Like Josh Radnor, he’s funny and sincere and likable and the perfect lead for a romantic comedy… who happens to be a supporting player in the crazy mundane world of The Office.

John C. McGinley, Scrubs – Isn’t it time the real Emmys noticed him? His performances in "My Lunch" and "My Fallen Idol" (the latter, with barely any dialogue), where Dr. Cox lost his groove, were among his best ever. Which is really saying something.

Runners-up: Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle), David Cross (Arrested Development), Donald Faison (Scrubs), Neil Flynn (Scrubs), Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development), Rainn Wilson (The Office)

And The Second Tier: Richard Burgi (Desperate Housewives), Terry Crews (Everybody Hates Chris), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Sean Hayes (Will & Grace), Scott Patterson (Gilmore Girls)

Stay tuned for the Drama nominees…

Previously, on The Dish: If I Picked The Emmy Nominations 2005, If I Picked The Emmy Nominations, Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

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