Emmy nominations: Marcus Dixon’s good, bad and ugly

Three words can describe my feelings on this year’s Emmy nominations: Go “Breaking Bad“! I’m a diehard fan of the gritty AMC series, and it’s so great to have it back on Emmy’s radar after sitting out last year due to its extended hiatus. Sure, there are other things to be excited about, but “Breaking Bad’s” personal best 13 nominations has to be the ultimate highlight.

As a close Emmy watcher for nearly two decades, I can safely say that this year’s crop of nominations are some of the best we’ve ever seen. In fact, unlike years past I don’t find myself screaming at my computer screen because of any specific egregious snub.

I’ve come to accept the facts that Anna Torv and John Noble (“Fringe“) will never be nominated, that Jon Cryer (“Two and a Half Men“) will always take up a slot, and that the overrated “Mad Men” will routinely receive the most nominations.

In the days ahead, there will be many lists examining what’s good and bad about this year’s contenders, so my goal is to highlight the shows and stars that other reviewers are likely to overlook. That said, let’s delve right into 2012’s Emmy nominations, shall we?

Cheers to all 16 nominations for the spectacular “Hatfields and McCoys,” the History miniseries that deservedly broke ratings records. In any other year this would take home the top Miniseries/Movie prize, but watch out for “Game Change,” which holds its own at 12 worthy nominations.

Three “Breaking Bad” scene-stealers get to have their time in the Emmy spotlight: Drama Supporting Actor Giancarlo Esposito, Drama Supporting Actress Anna Gunn and Drama Guest Actor Mark Margolis (he’s the “Ding!” guy). When you factor in three-time Drama Actor champ Bryan Cranston and 2010’s Drama Supporting Actor winner Aaron Paul, the popular series more than doubled its share of acting nominations this year.

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Community” finally receives a major Emmy nomination! Sure, it’s in the little-buzzed-about race for Best Comedy Writing (for “Remedial Chaos Theory” written by Chris McKenna), but still, it’s a start.

“Frozen Planet” makes a name for itself with five nominations, including Best Nonfiction Series. If you haven’t seen this visual masterpiece from the folks who brought us “Planet Earth,” what are you waiting for?

Did you know the Emmys created a new category this year for Best Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role? Neither did I, until I scrolled through the complete list of nominations. Frankly, I love this idea. The new category will ensure that real-life shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Bones” (where special effects are minimal) don’t have to face off against fantasty/sci-fi offerings like “Game of Thrones” and “Once Upon a Time” (where effects are commonplace).

Fringe” guest star Jared Harris gets nominated … for “Mad Men.” I am ecstatic about this underrated actor’s nomination, it’s just too bad it came for the wrong performance.

One of HBO’s most boring telefilms ever — “Hemingway and Gellhorn” — gets a jaw-dropping 15 nominations. Did Emmy voters even watch this made-for-TV-trainwreck, or did they see names like Nicole Kidman, Clive Owen and David Strathairn and pretend they were voting for the Oscars?

Saturday Night Live” has an impressive 14 nominations, but they continue to straddle the line between genres. All of their acting nominations are in the Comedy category (Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy and Jimmy Fallon) while everything else in recognized in the Variety category. Either “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels needs to campaign to get the long-running series into the Best Comedy Series race, or Emmy’s board of governers needs to make the change for him. Simply put, this cross-pollination of categories seems confusing to some and feels like downright cheating to others.

I’m a huge fan of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” but does it seem strange to anyone else that the show’s first-ever nomination in the Variety Series race comes the same year that Jimmy Kimmel himself becomes host of the Primetime Emmy telecast? This is clearly a case of Emmy voters pandering to their host, or else they would have nominated his hilarious talk show years ago. R.I.P. Uncle Frank!

In 2008, Emmy’s Best Reality Host winner was Jeff Probst. In 2009, it was Jeff Probst. And then in 2010 and 2011, Jeff Probst prevailed again and again. In 2012, it will not be Jeff Probst thanks to some questionable voting by the TV academy. Not only is Probst shockingly snubbed in this category he’s won since its creation four years ago, but he’s been replaced on the nomination block by Betty White (“Betty White’s Off Their Rockers”). Looks like the Emmys finally voted Probst off their TV island.

If there’s one Drama Series that even comes close to matching the excitement and edge-of-your-seat awesomeness of “Breaking Bad,” it’s FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.” So why was “Sons” completely shut out of the Emmy race? Bad job, TV academy.

The best-written TV episode of 2011/2012 was “Blackwater” from “Game of Thrones” (written by George R. R. Martin), yet it was passed over for not one, not two, but three different episodes of “Mad Men.”

Seven nominations for Comedy Lead Actress instead of the usual six? A half-dozen nominations for Movie/Miniseries Lead Actor instead of the usual five? If these extra nominations are because of voting ties, then there needs to be a system that fixes the problem before the nominations are revealed. Otherwise these categories look unfairly lopsided.

Just like Gold Derby predicted, for the first time ever, broadcast networks are completely shut out of the Drama Series race, and it feels very strange. I’m not sure this is a good thing for the future of television. Broadcast networks, you need to step up your game!


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