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:
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.Powered by Sidelines