Emmy nominations: Rob Licuria’s good, bad and ugly

Emmy voters really pulled the rug from underneath pundits this morning by injecting lots of new blood, venturing outside of its usual favorites to spotlight some of the season’s breakout stars and shows.


However, in a year where there was mostly good, there are still some choices that we can gripe about too.

I was thrilled to see “Girls” and “Veep” join HBO stablemate “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in the Best Comedy Series race. The buzz on both shows, especially the former, has been deafening, and their deserving inclusion shows that Emmy voters are paying attention to what is current, exciting and award worthy in a TV season already brimming with viable comedy contenders.

And yet, you take your consolation prizes where you can get them, as Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” although missing out on a Best Comedy Series berth, was still rewarded with five nominations overall, for what was its best season yet. Most exciting of all, the surprise nomination for scene-stealer Merritt Wever, who makes it into a competitive field after missing out for earlier seasons.

And there appears to be a real trend this year for comedy from a woman’s perspective: “Girls, “Veep,” “Nurse Jackie,” plus seven women lining up in the Best Comedy Actress category, and the inclusion of both Lena Dunham and Amy Poehler in the Best Comedy Writing category.

It’s no secret that I adore Louis C.K., so his seven, yes seven, nominations across the board for his FX comedy series and his stand-up special are more than welcome. My only gripe here is that, for a show many critics called the best show on TV last season, it would have been nice to see it included in the Best Comedy Series derby.

The biggest surprise of all was the unquestionable love that Emmy voters have for “Downton Abbey,” even though many (including myself) acknowledge that season two was not on par with its magical first season. After claiming most of the movie/miniseries prizes last year, it is now in the hunt to completely dominate the field in the more competitive drama categories, as is evidenced by the strong support for the show, especially in the acting categories. Welcome to the Emmys, first time nominees Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery and Joanne Froggatt, and to returning faves Maggie Smith and especially Hugh Bonneville, who overcame enormous odds to join one of the most competitive lists in recent memory.

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However, “Mad Men” deservingly continues to dominate the field, with 17 impressive nominations overall, and one nomination in all six of the drama acting categories. The big question (apart from whether it will win that fifth consecutive Best Drama Series prize) is whether any of these six actors can finally break the show’s Emmy acting curse. My money is on season MVP Christina Hendricks or Jared Harris.

My favorite show of the year is “Homeland,” so I was very happy to see Emmy voters embrace it with nine nominations, a great result, given that SAG voters gave it the big goose egg earlier this year. Now the talk begins about a possible upset in the Best Drama Series races, where Claire Danes leads the pack in the Best Drama Actress race and Damian Lewis is in the hunt to bypass favorite Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) in the Best Drama Actor derby.

It is great to see some fresh faces in the acting races, and most especially those actors that really stood out as breakthrough performers this past season, like Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”), Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad”), Max Greenfield (“New Girl”), Bill Hader (“Saturday Night Live”), Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”) and Jared Harris (“Mad Men”).

Also worthwhile mentioning is that some old-timers were not forgotten, merely because they excel on aging shows, so I want to specifically single out Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Jon Cryer (“Two and a Half Men”), who is unfairly mocked for being nominated year after year, ignoring that he really lifts a show that is perhaps well past its prime.

Contenders in the movie and miniseries categories will likely be saying “the British are coming!” as PBS’ “Sherlock” and BBC America’s “Luther” finally break through in a big way after a false start last year. I was over the moon to see “Sherlock” stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, both of whom are poised to become major movie stars in the next 12 months, make the list, alongside the usual suspects from HBO prestige projects and FX’s “American Horror Story.”

Finally, I am very happy that the six best variety series on air made the Best Variety Series list, am relieved that Lisa Kudrow’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” gets a farewell nomination in the Reality Program category, and am glad that NBC’s “The Voice” finally knocked out arch-rival “American Idol” from the list in the Best Reality-Competition Program race.

Although there is less to complain about this year, I am a little puzzled that “Parks and Recreation” is apparently one of the best written comedy series on air, but it can’t return to the Best Comedy Series lineup. Conversely, voters saw fit to include “Veep” in the top category, but the writers and directors branch left out prolific comic genius Armando Ianucci in their respective fields.

Don’t get me wrong, I like “Modern Family.” It’s a funny, witty and very well made show that I think deserves many of its accolades. But a field-leading 14 nominations? For a season many believe was its weakest yet?

No disrespect to the late great Kathryn Joosten, but I am not sure her role in “Desperate Housewives” warranted a Best Comedy Supporting Actress nomination. Chalk this up to general affection Emmy voters have for their former Academy Governor. Plus, it appears she siphoned off the “old broad” vote from Betty White (“Hot in Cleveland”) and Cloris Leachman (“Raising Hope”).

Emmy voters are not very forgiving, it seems. After lavishing AMC’s unfairly-derided “The Killing” with six nominations last year, it was completely skunked this time around, even for leading lady Mireille Enos, who deserved recognition for another excellent season, not to mention her co-star Joel Kinnaman, who deserved consideration too.

I couldn’t help but think that the complaints about the hard-to-follow second season of “Game of Thrones” came to fruition this morning, as the show was left out of high profile writing and directing categories, and couldn’t manage to improve on one acting nomination (for the show’s star Peter Dinklage). One of the best episodes of TV last season (“Blackwater”) deserved better than this.

Finally, with the proclamations that “Breaking Bad” is the best show on TV (maybe ever), I find it ridiculous that it has NEVER been nominated in the Best Drama Writing category. Thankfully showrunner Vince Gilligan made it into the Best Drama Directing race for the show’s literally explosive season finale, but come on writing branch, this show needs to be included as one of the best written on TV too!

First and foremost, the “The Good Wife” is the standard-bearer of broadcast television, and a shining example of how old-school networks can still produce and air quality television without the budgets, creative freedom and less onerous production schedules that the very best on cable television enjoy. I am shattered that one of the best shows on TV, period, was left out of Best Drama Series, even though in all likelihood, with seven overall nominations, it was probably in a close seventh place. I sincerely hope that it can make a triumphant comeback next year. Same goes for its male cast members, especially Josh Charles and Alan Cumming, who unfortunately missed out in the hotly-contested Best Drama Supporting Actor race.

Similarly, after “Justified” improved last year to gain four nominations (all in acting races), this year it was relegated to a singular nod for Best Drama Guest Actor returnee Jeremy Davies and a nod for its art direction. Sorry, you aren’t invited, Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Neal McDonough and Mykelti Williamson.

I simply don’t think Emmy voters get USA Network. Somebody needs to look into this, and upgrade their cable packages. Putting out smart, slickly produced and sophisticated light fare with fantastic individual performances – I’m talking to you, Patrick J. Adams and Gabriel Macht (“Suits”), Callie Thorne (“Necessary Roughness”) and Matt Bomer (“White Collar”) – is obviously not enough to at least get this network a real look in come Emmy time, it seems. That USA invests so much time and money promoting its shows and stars only to be ruthlessly left out in the cold is really unfortunate. Wake up Emmys!

Don’t get me started on “Fringe.” I just can’t go there again. Not even Visual Effects? Makeup? Nothing?

OK, I understand that people might be tired of Jeff Probst winning every single year for Best Reality Host, but to completely shut him out – and replace him with Betty White! – is crazy. In fact, I am tired of this whole category, with many rote nominees making the list again and again, over some more worthy inclusions.

Finally, let’s give it up for some of the most egregious snubs of the year: Kelsey Grammer and everybody else associated with Starz magnificent “Boss,” Mandy Patinkin and Morena Baccarin (“Homeland”), Matthew Perry and Carrie Preston (“The Good Wife”), Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”), Laura Dern (“Enlightened”), Laura Linney (“The Big C”) and the cast and crew from “Happy Endings” and “Up All Night.” Better luck next year. Maybe.


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