Home / Emmy Fortunes of House vs. The Wire Reveal Awards’ Weaknesses

Emmy Fortunes of House vs. The Wire Reveal Awards’ Weaknesses

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The Emmy nominations were good to a person whose 2006/07 television season consisted mostly of House, The Office, 30 Rock, and Ugly Betty. Scrubs was in my viewing schedule too, but that had an off year, as did Studio 60, even though I stuck it out to the sappy end.

So my favourite four got a slew of the major nominations, and that's enough to make me happy. I'll leave it to others — so many others — to complain about what was slighted and what should have been slighted. I'll stick to what I know best: House. But lately, I've been catching up on The Wire, and it's interesting to ponder the Emmy fortunes of the two shows.

House got nominations for:

  • Outstanding Drama Series
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Hugh Laurie, naturally)
  • Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (for David Morse as Detective Tritter. Even though I was disappointed in the resolution to his story, the man formerly known as Boomer creeped the hell out of me, so yeah, well-deserved.)
  • Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup (for "Que Sera Sera" — putting Pruitt Taylor Vince in a fat suit, I guess? It was the most convincing I've seen yet.)

As long as Hugh Laurie gets his recognition, it feels like gravy that the show as a whole does too. I know that probably seems disloyal, but there's so many great dramas out there (not that I'd count Boston Legal in that category), and procedurals are often ignored, and it's all so subjective, that I never really pin my hopes on House being named in the Outstanding Drama category.

So I wasn't upset that first year when the show itself wasn't nominated but Laurie was. And I was outraged last year when Laurie wasn't nominated, even though I was pleased the show was. I mean, there's no subjectivity there. It's just objective fact that Laurie deserves it, right?

This year, The Wire got nominations for:

  • Nothing 

That's as unjustified as it is completely not shocking.

Most of Emmys' criminal slights this year are, as usual, lower-rated shows. No Friday Night Lights, much to fans of that barely renewed show's outrage. No major nominations for Dexter. Only a writing nomination for Battlestar Galactica, though it gets overlooked as much because of an anti-sci-fi bias and that name, I'm sure, than the fact that it's on the lesser-viewed Sci-Fi network. HBO's ratings-challenged The Wire, which critics and many fans have called one of the best shows of all time, never mind of the season, was completely shut out.

But consider this: the dirty not-so-secret of the Emmys is that the people who vote on the TV awards are too busy creating TV to watch a lot of TV.

So popular shows, and shows with buzz, and shows that have been nominated ever since they were actually good, tend to show up again and again. Voters can't possibly watch an entire season's work of every show out there, so the voting process allows one episode to represent the "best of." That gives a show like House, which not only has huge following and critical acclaim, but also has largely self-contained episodes, an advantage over a show like Lost or The Wire.

House submitted "Half-Wit" for consideration in the best drama category, which brings us again to my beef with last year, when "Autopsy" snagged the show an Outstanding Drama nomination but not a writing nomination for Lawrence Kaplow, who also wrote "Half-Wit." It's good enough to be best series but not best writing for an episode? In any case, that episode encapsulates pretty much everything you need to know about House to judge its merits, with all its brilliance, all its themes, all its Hugh Laurie goodness, all packaged into one hour-long sample.

I'm only on season two of The Wire, but unless its current season is drastically different from the first couple, I can't imagine what single episode would convey the breadth and depth of this series that plays like a complex novel. The new provision that Emmy contenders can submit 250 words to explain the series is their stab at redressing the problem with serialized shows, but if a picture's worth a thousand words, 250 on the page don't go very far in creating the same impact as a season's worth of pictures onscreen.

I'm not at all saying I'd trade the House nomination for a nomination for The Wire — for pure enjoyment, I'll still take my messed-up doctor over the messed-up cops and drug dealers — but I'd trade a Boston Legal, or a Heroes, or a Grey's Anatomy for it and fight those shows' fans for the privilege.

But I didn't say that last year, or the year before, or the year before that, because I'd never seen The Wire, barely heard anything about it, and even if I had watched an episode out of context, I can't imagine I'd have understood how perfectly it fit into one season-long story.

I have no solution for the Emmys, unless they want to start instituting a rule that all voters must spend half their lives watching television, but I have a solution for us fans: lower those expectations. Realize the limitations of the voting process so we can complain in context.

And go watch The Wire.

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About Diane Kristine Wild

Diane travels. She doesn't tan.
  • spot-on analysis of the problem and limitations with The Wire getting the attention it deserves from The Emmys.

    Season Three and Four don’t disappoint. I can’t wait for Five except it’s supposed to be the last season. Did you see Simon’s miniseries The Corner? It was on HBO and tells, I think, a year in the life of people living the hard streets of Baltimore.

  • Another issue is the voters live and work in LA and NY, so Wire cast and crew have little chance to bond with their peers.

  • Congratulations! This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States.

  • Good point about the geography, El Bicho. I haven’t seen The Corner but I intend to hunt it down soon – maybe after I catch up on season three, before I go stir crazy waiting for season four to come out on DVD.

  • solid Article…


    and sign me up for the Wire being one of the most overlooked and under recognized shows ever to grace the cable/tv

    a true Novel of Literature in visual form and format, nothing forced, plastic, two dimensional in this series…gritty…realistic because the Writer was THERE and has the Talent to deliver the Real in left hook to the jaw doses…

    from the trials and tribulations of Bubbles the Junkie to the Robbin’ da Hood gay rip off artists Omar, the cops the gangs, the Streets…little Hoppers to heroin kingpins…

    the inter-relationships of dockside workers, middle school kids, gangster masterminds, cops on the beat and city hall…all flower, bloom and wither in tight intricate episodes painting a stark mosaic of a decaying American port city overlooked by the DC/LA?NYC crowd

    one of the best things ever on TV, grab the DVDs or catch it on HBO (if you have digital, sometimes the on-demand function runs the entire series)

    it may not be a surprise that this Masterpiece is overlooked, but it’s still a filthy shame and condemnation of the Awards apparatus

    this series deserves Watching, so sayteth yer gonzo…


  • matt

    Agree wholeheartedly with your review. But season 2 deals with another aspect of society, mainly labor unions. I think you’ll enjoy season 4 tremendously. Too bad it comes out in about a year.

  • Morgenstern

    Well, I can’t say House changed my life. But it has enriched my life. As has The Wire. One of your comments stayed in my head: “It’s disingenuous to create a show so defiantly non-mainstream and then complain that it didn’t hit the mainstream.” Somehow that made me want to watch The Wire. And it was worth every minute. Can’t wait for season 5. Thank you, Diane. And thank you for the weekly House blog as well. It was fun while it lasted.