urx unit loader Analysis: 2008 Emmy nomination highs and lows

Jonhamm_madmenWhen it comes to evaluating the overall merits of an Emmy nomination slate, I like to refer to what I call the TW/AtJ Index. The TW/AtJ Index, of course, refers to the proportion of nominations received by The Wire versus According to Jim.

For 2008, the TW/AtJ Index, which compares relative nods for TV’s most critically acclaimed series and TV’s most critically maligned series, was a solid 1:1. David Simon and Ed Burns’ nod for scripting the series finale of The Wire was only the second nomination in the HBO drama’s five-season history. Meanwhile, According to Jim DP George Mooradian received a multi-camera cinematography nomination for the third consecutive year.

Yes, the lifetime TW/AtJ Index stands at a disconcerting 2:3. So take that into consideration if ever you feel the slightest inclination to take the Emmys too seriously.

As sad as it is to see The Wire end its run with a lone paltry nomination, the 2008 Emmy nominations, announced on Thursday (July 17) morning, were actually fairly satisfying if you happen to believe — as I do — that Mad Men was TV’s finest show over the past year. Matt Weiner’s groundbreaking AMC period drama received an overall series nod, acting nominations for Jon Hamm and John Slattery, plus every imaginable form of technical recognition. In all, Mad Men led the drama field with 16 nominations, all deserved.

It was also extremely satisfying to see Dexter break through in the main dramatic categories. While the Showtime killer drama won Emmys last year for title design and editing, it was marginalized to technical categories. This year, Dexter — my third favorite show of the year, behind Mad Men and The Wire — received a drama series nod plus another for Michael C. Hall, whose performance in the title role may be TV’s best.

The utter apathy toward The Wire was, frankly, to be expected. The idiotic staged nomination procedure requires voters to judge an entire series’ quality on the basis of a single episode and even I can admit that out-of-context not Wire episode would make a lick of sense. That’s why a show like Damages, which never returned to the high level of its outstanding pilot, still comes across as a fine nominee. If all you’d seen of Damages was that one intriguing episode, you’d never need to know about the five or six episodes of total wheel-spinning and red herrings in the middle of the season. For that FX series, the nominations for Glenn Close, Ted Danson and especially Zeljko Ivanek were on-the-money.

Throw in the usual nominations for House, plus the return of Lost to the series field (albeit absent for writing and mostly ignored for acting) and it’s hard for me to get upset about the drama choices.

And fans of The Wire can just curl up in the corner with devotees of Battlestar Galactica and Friday Night Lights in trying to take solace in random and scattered below-the-line nominations.

It’s on the comedy side that I start getting frustrated.

The most recent season of Entourage was dreadful. A show that once mined dark, biting humor from its masturbatory self-indulgence descended into pure, humor-free self-indulgence last year. Should Entourage return next season back in top form, I’ll welcome it back, but with Pushing Daisies waiting in the wings with writing, directing and acting nominations, how did the ABC fantasy dramedy miss out on that last series spot? At least the Emmy voters had love for Lee Pace and Kristin Chenoweth, but leaving out Anna Friel and Chi McBride was a miss.

The only Entourage nomination I’m not begrudging is Kevin Dillon’s. As much as the Cannes-based finale irked me, Johnny Drama had a good arc in the episode. But Jeremy Piven? Again? I’d have been happy to replace Piven with John Krasinski, Jack McBrayer and, particularly, Justin Kirk from the Emmy shortlist.

In a time where quality television comedy remains in short supply, 30 Rock is still as good as it gets, pumping up its 17 nominations by dominating the guest actor categories. But how was Matthew Broderick left off for his eponymous turn in the "Cooter" episode, which scored Tina Fey a writing nomination? And is there any chance Carrie Fisher loses in the guest actress category? I hope not.

I’d question the logic of the myriad Two and a Half Men nominations, but it’s TV’s most popular comedy and folks love that show. It’s not my cup of tea, but in a thin field, a little populist celebration is fine by me.

And a special closing kudos to The CW, which can now start calling itself the best sound edited network on television! The netlet saw both Supernatural and Smallville pick up series sound editing nominations, while no other network received more than one nod in the category. Time to pop the corks in CW-ville!

The only problem? The netlet didn’t receive a single other nomination. Not one. That means no salutes for the costumes on Gossip Girl or Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model hosting or for the opening credit sequence of Farmer Wants a Wife or for Ray Wise’s supporting performance in Reaper. That’s not a good showing for a network that TV critics keep trying to treat as the equal of NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX.

Stay tuned, because in my next Emmy blog post, I’m going to look at some of the more interesting tidbits from the nomination field.

Your thoughts?

And check out Zap2it’s Emmy Award Coverage.