18 July 2008

And the Nominees Are...

With yesterday's announcement of this year's Emmy nominees, I thought I should start acting like what I claim to be (someone who cares about good TV) and offer up a few thoughts. This year the academy took the unusual step of announcing the category semifinalists a couple of weeks ago, which allows for both some insight into the nominating process, and for some snarky second-guessing (which is where I come in).

One criticism leveled at the academy is that its members do not make nominations based on the totality of a series's season, but on selected individual episodes. The best evidence of this is the inexplicable, perennial nominations for Boston Legal. I know a couple of people who watch and enjoy this show, and more power to them, I guess, but its selection over Friday Night Lights (which I don't even watch, but I'm well aware of its acclaim) or The Wire (ditto) only makes me wonder what flavor crack the academy members have been getting in their gift baskets year after year.

Also puzzling is that there are six nominees for best drama instead of the usual five; it's as though the academy intentionally bent the rules to shoehorn this insipid, ridiculous show into contention as a favor to someone (and did the same thing with the show's star James Spader in the best actor in a drama category). I won't dignify any of the show's nominations by discussing them; instead I'll simply ignore them and pretend they don't exist. Each nomination this show received means another, more deserving show or actor was shut out, and it isn't right.

Now that the ranting is out of the way, the real news in the Best Drama category this year is the nomination of not one, but two series that air on basic cable networks, Mad Men on AMC and Damages on FX. This is heartening because it affirms that the shows being produced on these channels are as good as, or better than, the big networks' offerings, and that prestige shows don't necessarily have to be on premium cable channels like HBO or Showtime. Hopefully this will demonstrate to show creators looking for homes for their projects that cable networks can provide a hospitable and nurturing environment for quality shows, without as much ratings pressure as at the big networks.

While Damages was certainly an entertaining show, I'm not sure it deserves to be nominated for best drama, because I felt it just wasn't in quite the same class as the other nominees. Mad Men, on the other hand, is one of the most nuanced and most quietly fascinating shows I have ever seen, and is my pick to win the category. The second season begins next Sunday, July 27th, and I'll have more to say about the show next week.

Lost had an awesome season, as it continues to fascinate, perplex, frustrate, and challenge viewers with the mysteries of the plane crash and the island. Aside from a few concrete answers, what more could you want in a show? A thoroughly deserved nomination.

House invigorated itself by bringing in a new group of doctors for Dr. House to torture, but the cases mostly followed the show's now-familiar formula, and the series still rests on Hugh Laurie's shoulders. That's not to take away anything from him or his portrayal, or any of the other actors, for that matter, but the show is not quite as intriguing as the character is.

Dexter: I have not yet seen the second season, but you already know how I feel about the show after having seen the first one. Season 2 drops on DVD on August 19th, and I'll be buying it right away.

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