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The 2008 Andy TV Awards

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The Emmy Awards are this weekend, and once again, the list of nominees are wrong. It's impossible to please everyone, but the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences make it especially hard. It's interesting: while the Oscars have drawn heat of late for the fact that their nominated pictures aren't widely seen productions, the Emmy people continue to baffle critics by insisting on nominating popular (and inferior) shows like Two And A Half Men or Boston Legal. But it wasn't all bad this year (you can see the Academy's full list of nominees, although you're probably better off with an abridged version), as they got around to recognizing some smaller cable shows like Dexter and Mad Men.

But rather than be one of those people who complains about the snubbing of one show or another, I'm one of those obsessives who will come up with my own list of nominees and winners to show just exactly who was snubbed and who wasn't. In doing so, I do have some sympathy for Academy voters, as even an avid TV viewer such as myself can't manage to watch every great show (although I do like to think that I watch more than the average Academy member). Among the highly acclaimed shows that I haven't seen (and thus will not be eligible for awards) include Battlestar Galactica (I know, I know… I will check it out eventually; at this point, I think it's best to wait for the whole series to come out on DVD), Breaking Bad, Brothers & Sisters, Doctor Who, House, and Nip/Tuck.

Some ground rules: to qualify for nomination, a show must have aired most of its season, including its season finale, in the past 12 months. Unlike the Emmys, each category is limited to five nominees each (the Academy wimps out a few times with six nominees on occasion). To decide what shows belong where, and which actors belong where (i.e., comedy vs drama, lead vs supporting), I used the official ballot for performers (which you can see here), even in situations that don't necessarily make sense. Also, my votes are based on entire seasons, not single episodes (except when appropriate). And best of all? No awkward monologue to start the show…

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

  • Neil Patrick Harris for How I Met Your Mother
  • John Krasinski for The Office
  • Tracy Morgan for 30 Rock
  • Jason Segal for How I Met Your Mother
  • Rainn Wilson for The Office

I'll start things off with one of the toughest categories (the supporting categories are always packed with talent), choosing to double up on two of my favourite shows, with two nominees a piece from The Office and How I Met Your Mother (just leaving out a third from The Office in the form of Ed Helms). Tracy Morgan is hilarious in 30 Rock, but found his role cut down a bit in the strike-shortened season, and Jason Segal is an underrated strength of HIMYM, but this is a two-horse race between Neil Patrick Harris and Rainn Wilson. NPH is always a highlight, and the best reason to watch HIMYM, but I'm going to give the nod to Wilson this year, as he was able to inject some genuine pathos to Dwight Schrute's problems this season whereas in the past he'd sometimes drift too far off into cartoon character territory. Dwight was still wonderfully strange, but a bit more human.

The award goes to…
Rainn Wilson for The Office

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

  • Ben Foster for My Name Is Earl
  • Johnny Galecki for My Boys
  • Chris Parnell for 30 Rock
  • David Schwimmer for 30 Rock
  • Dean Winters for 30 Rock

I could've easily just gone with all 30 Rock guests here, filling it out with Matthew Broderick and Will Arnett, but I decided to limit it to three, if only to prove that I watch more than one show. I actually stopped watching My Name is Earl this season due to disinterest, but stuck around long enough to see Ben Foster do his crazy guy shtick, which was a highlight. But this award comes down to the three 30 Rock guys. Dr. Leo Spaceman is awesome, and could've won for "Diabetes repair, I guess", but I LOVE Dean Winters as The Beeper King. He was a highlight in season one, so I was thrilled to see him return last season. I hope he keeps turning up throughout the years.

The award goes to…
Dean Winters for 30 Rock

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

  • Jenna Fischer for The Office
  • Alyson Hannigan for How I Met Your Mother
  • Angela Kinsey for The Office
  • Amy Pietz for Aliens in America
  • Cobie Smulders for How I Met Your Mother

The comedy supporting actress category mirrors the supporting actor one, with The Office and HIMYM doubling up again (in fact, the romantic pairings are represented on each side of the gender gap here). Joining those four is Amy Pietz, who was a highlight of the sweet-but-cancelled Aliens in America, who contends with the delightful Alyson Hannigan for the award. But both fall just short of the work by Jenna Fischer, who dealt with Pam's newer, more confident attitude with grace, adding another layer to the character that makes The Office more palatable amongst the absurdity of Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute.

The award goes to…
Jenna Fischer for The Office

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

  • Pamela Adlon for Californication
  • Sarah Chalke for How I Met Your Mother
  • Edie Falco for 30 Rock
  • Paula Marshall for Californication
  • Amy Ryan for The Offic

I went with two nominees here from Californication, even though I really didn't like that show (yet I still watched it all, which probably has a lot more to do with a lack of programming during its run than anything else). Pamela Adlon was one of the few cast members who didn't annoy me, although I think her placement in this category is a joke (she was in 9 of 13 episodes; that says supporting player to me) and I think I put Paula Marshall here mostly cause I'm hoping her show-killer mojo will continue. While Britney Spears got all the attention, Sarah Chalke was the guest star that actually helped HIMYM for more than ratings. But I gotta go with Edie Falco here, if for no other reason than her ability to hold her own against the irresistible force that is Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy.

The award goes to…
Edie Falco for 30 Rock

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
The nominees are…

  • Henry Ian Cusack for Lost
  • Michael Emerson for Lost
  • Wendell Pierce for The Wire
  • Andre Royo for The Wire
  • Michael K Williams for The Wire

I could've done twice as many nominees just using the casts of The Wire and Lost alone, and that still leaves out the great work by Ted Danson and Zeljko Ivanek from Damages, John Slattery from Mad Men, or Blair Underwood from In Treatment. This is easily the most stacked category, and was the hardest to limit to five. I took one shortcut when I saw that Clarke Peters didn't submit himself for an Emmy (correctly figuring that The Wire would continue to be ignored). I decided his absence from the ballot was enough excuse to eliminate him from my list, so I could honour another of his castmates. I think in another season, Michael Emerson may no longer qualify for this category, and will challenge Matthew Fox for lead actor honours, he's that awesome. I went with Henry Ian Cusack over Naveen Andrews mostly because his episode, "The Constant", was probably the best of last season. But if you think I'm not giving this award to someone from The Wire, well, then you haven't been reading my other posts (go check them out). Andre Royo was heartbreakingly good, Wendell Pierce showed more dramatic heft in season five, but Michael K Williams was once again the most dynamic performer on the show as one of the most indelible characters in the history of television.

The award goes to…
Michael K Williams for The Wire

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
The nominees are…

  • Luke Askew for Big Love
  • Keith Carradine for Dexter
  • Robert Morse for Mad Men
  • Jim True-Frost for The Wire
  • Glynn Turman for In Treatment

I think the main reason I chose to do guest nominations this year for the first time (besides having the ballot to jog my memory) was to recognize Glynn Turman's brilliant work on In Treatment, which was among the best performances all year.

The award goes to…
Glynn Turman for In Treatment

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
The nominees are…

  • Connie Britton for Friday Night Lights
  • Rose Byrne for Damages
  • Amanda Seyfried for Big Love
  • Mia Wasikowska for In Treatment
  • Dianne Wiest for In Treatment

Remember, I'm basing who goes where from the official ballot. Because it is ridiculous for Rose Byrne to be in this category since the show is pretty much about her character. Connie Britton probably doesn't belong here either, but at least it's a little more justifiable. What isn't justifiable is how the Academy keeps overlooking her brilliant work on Friday Night Lights. This was also a deep category, forcing me to leave out the women of Mad Men and limiting Big Love to Amanda Seyfried's underrated work as Sarah Henrickson, who had one of the most effective arcs in season two. Mia Wasikowska was the highlight of In Treatment, while Dianne Wiest clinched this nomination in the episode where she finally let Paul have it. Five strong performances here, but Britton is the class of the division as one of the best performers in all of television.

The award goes to…
Connie Britton for Friday Night Lights

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
The nominees are…

  • Bonnie Bedelia for Big Love
  • Ellen Burstyn for Big Love
  • Jaime Murray for Dexter
  • Amy Ryan for The Wire
  • Kate Walsh for Grey's Anatomy

While I had to limit the Big Love supporting actresses, I was able to double-up here. Two years ago, Ellen Burstyn was controversially nominated for an Emmy for about thirty seconds worth of work (showing how little care voters put into their ballots, choosing to go with familiar names when possible), but she earned her nomination this year. I can't stand Kate Walsh's show Private Practice, and have little love for her former show Grey's Anatomy either. But I really appreciated seeing her back on the show briefly this season, meaning that her departure hurt two shows. Amy Ryan is double nominee for me, both for guest roles (comedy and drama). It's possible that I'm going with Bonnie Bedelia here simply for her penguin walk, but it's more likely that she gets the nod because her advise to Margene after learning the truth about the Henricksons played such a key role in Margene's development as a character this year.

The award goes to…
Bonnie Bedelia for Big Love

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

  • Tina Fey for 30 Rock
  • Anna Friel for Pushing Daisies
  • Mary-Louise Parker for Weeds
  • Jordana Spiro for My Boys

Yes. Just four nominees. In fact, I had to break one of my rules to even get four. Simply put, there aren't a lot of comedies with female leads, and even fewer with strong female leads. These are the only four whose shows I watched, and I didn't even watch all of Pushing Daisies (I didn't dislike the show, it just didn't draw me in enough to keep tuning in). I didn't even care too much for Weeds last season, although Mary-Louise Parker was fine in it. In fact, I started watching My Boys in part because I wanted to fill out this category a bit (and because I'd heard nice things about it). I enjoyed it a fair deal, and enjoyed Jordana Spiro in it. But, this category is no contest. While it may have the weakest group of nominees, it has one of the most deserving winners in Tina Fey. She's the glue that holds that show together, without ever being afraid of making Liz Lemon look silly.

The award goes to…
Tina Fey for 30 Rock

Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

  • 30 Rock
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • My Boys
  • The Office
  • Weeds

The three contenders for this award have three of the best casts on television, making the humour flow effortlessly. My Boys isn't one of them, but the main reason that show works at all (and while I enjoy the show, I readily admit that it's slightly above average at best) is the wonderful chemistry amongst the cast. But the award comes down to 30 Rock, HIMYM, and The Office, all of which are perfectly cast. 30 Rock and The Office get a bonus from their larger supporting casts, while 30 Rock gets another bump by its excellent work in guest casting.

The award goes to…
30 Rock

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
The nominees are…

  • Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock
  • Steve Carrell for The Office
  • Jemaine Clement for Flight of the Conchords
  • Bret McKenzie for Flight of the Conchords
  • Josh Radnor for How I Met Your Mother

Unlike the Best Actress category, this one is somewhat competitive (I blame sexist Hollywood and stuff). The two Conchords cancel each other out, while Josh Radnor runs a distant third (that said, I don't think he gets nearly enough credit for holding that show together while his co-stars shine). But the battle for the award comes down to Alec Baldwin's sublimely hilarious Jack Donaghy (possibly the funniest character on TV) and Steve Carrell's at times dark turn on The Office. I swear there were points during season four that I thought we were heading toward a Michael Scott suicide attempt (especially after "The Deposition"). But I pretty much had Baldwin penciled in for this award after his turn during Tracy Jordan's therapy session, when he played all members of Jordan's family (plus some of the cast of Good Times). Emmy would be dropping the ball significantly if they don't use that clip during his nomination announcement.

The award goes to…
Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
The nominees are…

  • Glenn Close for Damages
  • Ginnifer Goodwin for Big Love
  • Chloe Sevigny for Big Love
  • Sonja Sohn for The Wire
  • Jeanne Tripplehorn for Big Love

I think I'd like these nominations better if Sonja Sohn swapped spots with Rose Byrne in their supporting/leading designations. But either way, neither would win, and both would be the fifth nominee here against the Big Love women and Glenn Close. For some, the Big Love women cancel each other out, putting Close on top. But while I think all three are excellent, for season two, Ginnifer Goodwin stepped up from being wife number three (both as a character and a performer, where she was the weakest of the four main characters. Still good, just not as good). As Margene grew in stature, so did Goodwin, becoming the highlight of the season.

The award goes to…
Ginnifer Goodwin for Big Love

Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series
The nominees are…

  • Big Love
  • In Treatment
  • Lost
  • Mad Men
  • The Wire

This is the first year I've done casting awards, and it's hard to decide how much it differs from best show, as one tends to lead to another. So it'll comes as little shock that there isn't much difference in the nominees here and the nominees for Best Drama. Here, I'll go with the best casting as the most casting, and give the award to the cast of hundreds (or thereabouts) of The Wire.

The award goes to…
The Wire

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
The nominees are…

  • Gabriel Byrne for In Treatment
  • Kyle Chandler for Friday Night Lights
  • Michael C Hall for Dexter
  • Jon Hamm for Mad Men
  • Dominic West for The Wire

You know it's a loaded category when the nominal star of my favourite show, the show I just gave the best casting award to (Dominic West), is easily the fifth nominee. Kyle Chandler, who is brilliant in Friday Night Lights follows him, making this pretty much a toss-up between Gabriel Byrne, Michael C Hall, and Jon Hamm. I'll be honest, watching season two of Mad Men has me tempted to give the award to Hamm, even though I wasn't planning on doing so after season one (I started planning this thing out right after watching the season one DVDs). Don't get me wrong, Hamm was excellent in the first season, and has gotten even better since (it'll take a hell of a performance to keep him from winning this next year). But since it was so close between he, Hall, and Byrne, I decided to let the sheer volume of Byrne's work (43 episodes) be the tiebreaker.

The award goes to…
Gabriel Byrne for In Treatment

Outstanding Comedy Series
The nominees are…

  • 30 Rock
  • Aliens in America
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Office

As with all things comedy, this award comes down to 30 Rock and The Office, with very little separating the two. So instead, I'm gonna write a bit about the other nominees. Flight of the Conchords was a bit uneven for me, but the concept is dynamite and always good for some genuine laughter. Aliens in America was a sweet little show that I was sad to see canceled. It's not a huge loss to the television landscape, but it deserved better than it got. How I Met Your Mother continues its easy, quiet excellence within the form of a multi-camera sitcom. Everything about it suggests it should be mediocre, but instead they use the tried and true form and elevate it through all the talent involved. As for the top two, both are excellent, but I felt that The Office, with its usual long-term character arcs, was most negatively affected by the strike, while 30 Rock was able to power through with its focus on the bizarre.

The award goes to…
30 Rock

Outstanding Drama Series
The nominees are…

  • Big Love
  • Dexter
  • Lost
  • Mad Men
  • The Wire

At this point, it's almost unfair to compare network dramas to cable (with only the glorious comeback season of Lost cracking the top five, and no other network show as the first or second runner-up for nomination). It's not about the lax standards of premium cable that allow the fun stuff like nudity or swearing, and more to do with less network interference, and most especially the shorter seasons (I don't think it's a coincidence that Lost got better when they cut down the number of episodes). This keeps out the needless stretching episodes that make seasons weaker, and guards against the pitfalls of long shooting schedules, and what it can do to the cast and crew. Also, with lower ratings expectations, cable shows are able to take bigger risks, be it an edgy thriller about a serial killer, and family drama about polygamists, a stylish period piece about a 1960 advertising firm, or an indepth study of the crumbling state of the American city. None are designed for mass appeal, which leads to their greatness, and those who deny the current greatness of the medium clearly aren't watching the right channels.

In any case, my choice of winner here is of no surprise for anyone who has spent any time looking around this blog. While Big Love, Dexter, Lost, and Mad Men are all excellent shows, this one has to go to the final season of the greatest show in the history of television.

The award goes to…
The Wire

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