Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Emmys: Who To Root AGAINST

Everyone making Emmy predictions tells you who they would root for and who they think will win. Not me. Half the fun of awards shows is rooting AGAINST a certain nominee. For example, at the 2004 Grammys, I really loved Green Day's "American Idiot," liked Alicia Keys' "The Diary of Alicia Keys" and didn't mind Kanye West's "College Dropout." And Usher's "Confessions" was catchy as hell -- just plain irresistible. So I was rooting for Green Day but I was rooting AGAINST Ray Charles even more strongly. Of course I love Brother Ray, but the tepid "Genius Loves Company" (jammed full of tired celebrity duets) is a terrible introduction to such a titanic talent. And the mere fact that he died meant this unworthy final CD could become many people's first (and last) album of his they buy. That would be a disaster, so I rooted against it...and watched it win Album of the Year. At this year's Oscars, I loved "Capote" and "Good Night and Good Luck." But my heart belonged to "Brokeback Mountain," which would be an overdue triumph for Ang Lee. And even Steven Spielberg's "Munich" would have been such an oddball choice, I could have enjoyed it. But "Crash" was virtually my LEAST favorite movie of the year, an empty-headed West Coast look at racism that was about as insightful as an episode of "Diff'rent Strokes" (and not nearly as funny). Lord, how I wanted that movie to lose. Naturally, it won. I could give many other examples (not all of them thwarted desires), but the point is clear: sometimes our greatest passion is poured into rooting against a nominee. So here is my Emmy rundown, highlighting the one choice I would HATE to see triumph on Emmy night and why.


BEST DRAMA -- please not..."The West Wing." A worthy show at first, though winning four years in a row also reflected Emmy's worst tendencies of repeated knee-jerk nominations and wins. Sure, it regained a little momentum for its last hurrah, but it and "The Sopranos" should not have been nominated this year. Please no sentimental parting gift.

BEST COMEDY -- please not..."Two and a Half Men." A perfectly serviceable show and I like both Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen. But please, "The Office" came into its own, "Arrested Development" left with its freak flag flying, "Scrubs" is over-the-hill but still as quirky as any comedy and even the weak season for "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is worth celebrating. A good category in which almost any winner BUT "Two and a Half Men" is defensible.

BEST ACTOR/DRAMA -- please not...Martin Sheen for "The West Wing." Blame more knee-jerk "West Wing" tears if he does. Besides, "The West Wing" needs one Emmy to tie "Hill Street Blues" -- my favorite show of all time -- in Emmy wins and two to hold the record. It's up for four awards and if it wins two, I'll be furious.

BEST ACTOR/COMEDY -- please not...Tony Shalhoub for "Monk." I like "Monk" and Shalhoub has been a worthy winner in the past. And my favorite picks -- Jason Bateman for "Arrested" and Jason Lee for "My Name Is Earl" -- bizarrely weren't even nominated. Despite their absence, Steve Carell for "The Office" and Larry David for "Curb" are both so worthy that picking Shalhoub again would just be Emmy laziness. This isn't a vote against Shalhoub as much as a vote against picking the same winner again and again and again.

BEST ACTRESS/DRAMA -- please not...Allison Janney for "The West Wing." The most ridiculous factor affecting the Emmys is the fact that they are technically voting only on a submitted performance, rather than a season as a whole. Obviously, no one could watch even one-one-hundredth of the TV programming produced in a season. But the award should really go to a body of work from that season, with the nomination tapes as a helpful assist. If you don't actually bother to watch a handful of episodes of "Lost" and "Deadwood" and "Battlestar: Galactica" and "The Closer" and "Gilmore Girls," then for God's sake don't vote. Allison Janney had little to do in the final season, she's always been a supporting character and every season she's given one or two Emmy episodes (a spotlight episode that focuses on her character in some tragic or defining moment practically geared towards winning an Emmy). Lots of people do it; but it's ridiculous. She's a terrific actress and I was glad when she won for supporting actor. Winning Best Actress is basically a sham.

BEST ACTRESS/COMEDY -- please not...Debra Messing for "Will & Grace." "W & G" was a funny, even ground-breaking show but it is looooong past its prime. Everyone on the show has won; no one is overdue. No past omissions need to be amended. Let it die quietly and peacefully. The three choices that make sense (the overdue Jane Kaczmarek for "Malcolm," Lisa Kudrow for her suddenly appreciated (on DVD) series "The Comeback" and Julia Louise-Dreyfuss for her uneven but genuine commercial comeback "Old Christine" are all much better stories than tallying one more for Messing.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/DRAMA -- please not...William Shatner for "Boston Legal." Gregory Itzin for "24" is the obvious terrific choice, and Alan Alda was good on "The West Wing" (and you KNOW I don't want "WW" to win even one). Michael Imperioli for "Sopranos" or Oliver Platt for "Huff" would be boring, but not as boring as Shatner. Again.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/COMEDY -- please not...Sean Hayes. See Debra Messing entry above.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS/DRAMA -- please not...Blythe Danner for "Huff." You can see what a poison repeat wins are to the Emmys, forever making them a day late and a dollar short when it comes to recognizing the best new shows. It seems inconceviable they wouldn't pick Jean Smart for "24." But at least Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson for "Grey's Anatomy" would be worthy. Danner or Candice Bergen for "Boston Legal" would just be snore-inducing.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS/COMEDY -- please not...Alfre Woodard for "Desperate Housewives." Her storyline was the weakest (and the least funny) of the show. It was in fact Item #1 when anyone discussed why the second season of "DH" went so completely off the rails. So naturally, this disastrous plotline at the heart of the show's collapse was virtually the one area of "DH" the Emmys acknowledged. Woodard is a terrific actress, of course. But nothing could be more clueless than to honor the glaring creative bungle of the year. Megan Mullally was a very close second. I'm really rooting against TWO in this category.

BEST REALITY SHOW -- please not..."The Amazing Race." It's an extremely well-done show, but for it to win year after year is silly and lazy and just plain rude when it comes to the phenomenon "American Idol." But this year? When they engineered the family edition and momentarily jumped the shark? (But not fatally, I think.) It would be CRAZY to give it to them again. "Survivor," "Project Runway," the 800 pound gorilla "Idol" or even (gulp) "Dancing With The Stars" would be worthier choices.

BEST VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY -- please not..."The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno." Oh wait, they didn't even nominate it, which is the one consistent act of intelligence by the Emmys. Leno may be rated number one, but he is clearly in last place when it comes to late night programming. We're truly in a golden age of talk shows and the like, so ANY of the nominees could win and I'd be happy. Letterman for his Oprah show, Conan for his trip to Finland, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and the underappreciated Bill Maher, who is turning into the Susan Lucci of these categories -- winners all, in my book and the one category I await with relaxed anticipation.

BEST MINISERIES -- please not..."Bleak House." Gillian Anderson gave a fine performance (as did others in this miniseries), but the direction was so laughable, so pathetically MTV-ish in a desperate desire to make Dickens accessible to the kiddies that I literally burst out laughing time and time again over the absurd jump cuts or sudden zooms for no apparent reason. Nothing this poorly directed could be the best of anything.

And there you have it: my bold, original, copyrighted approach to award shows: Who To Root AGAINST (copyright 2006). Enjoy the show and get ready to boo and shout out "Noooooooo! How COULD they?"



Julia Louise-Dreyfuss......Man I hope "Elaine"....I mean,(Christine) wins!!!!

Michael in New York said...

It's a very odd category -- probably the widest open one of them all, so Elaine is definitely in the running.