Because we live in an age where anything is accessible at any time, things become less of a mystery to us. Take the Emmy nomination process, for instance. For the last few years, the television Academy has done a good job of putting its complete voting ballot listings online, available to anyone who has the time and patience to Google it.
So now, when you wonder why Jon Cryer seems to land in the supporting actor category year after year when he’s one of the “Two and a Half Men” of the show’s title, or why no one on “Modern Family” is ever in contention for a lead acting award, the ballot shows you why. Some of the submissions may be due to some of their byzantine rules, but most of the time the actors are there because that’s where they submitted themselves, whether it’s out of humility, via a pact with their castmates or just sheer strategy.
This year’s ballot is no exception. There are head-scratchers and surprises galore in the acting categories this season, mostly having to to with what seem to be hairline distinctions between what constitutes a lead character, a supporting character and a guest character. But the first head-scratcher involves everyone’s favorite fired sitcom star …
Where’s Charlie Sheen? We’re talking in the Emmy sense, of course; we all know that he’s either on tour or bouncing around in his mansion with what’s left of his goddesses. But in a world where the cast of the late, not-so-lamented “Mad Love” submit themselves because it’s expected, the absence of Sheen is pretty glaring.
Anyone who follows entertainment news, though, knows what happened here: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sheen and his representatives missed the initial deadline to submit his name, and when the academy extended the deadline by invoking a clause stating that “all eligible entrants” for a show should submit their names. Guess what? He blew that deadline, too. It’s just as well; now Jane Lynch can safely make Charlie Sheen jokes during the Emmycast without having to worry that he’s actually in the room (though given that she was a frequent guest on “Men,” she might not want to anyway).
The show itself, by the way, wasn’t submitted for outstanding comedy series, a wise move on the part of Chuck Lorre and company, who probably figure the show got all the attention it needed this season.
Rob Lowe submitted as a lead actor. Rob Lowe is funny as hell as the upbeat Chris Traeger on “Parks and Recreation,” but he had less screen time this season than just about all his male co-stars. Yet, he submitted himself in the lead category. Why? “Having three guys from the same show submit in ‘supporting’ didn’t seem like a good idea in Pawnee,” he tweeted last month when he announced the move. It’s true; the field for lead actor is smaller than the one for supporting, but even Lowe has to admit that this is a gutsy move, given the fact that if anyone could have asserted themselves as the male lead of “Parks,” it would have been Adam Scott. On the opposite side of the humility scale…
The entire “Modern Family” cast submitted as supporting actors. Again. We know that this is a move to signify to the academy and audiences that no one in the ensemble considers him- or herself more important than anyone else. But Ed O’Neill got shafted out of an Emmy nod last year because the supporting actor category was so overcrowded with “Family” members; at this point, either he or Ty Burrell should pull a Lowe and submit themselves as leads. They deserve to do that, don’t you think?
Supporting vs. guest actor confusion. Amy Ryan played Holly Flax in 10 episodes of “The Office” this season, and in one of them we only heard her voice. Ashley Fink, on the other hand, appeared as the super-confident Lauren Zizes in 17 episodes of “Glee” this season. If we were to ask you which one submitted themselves as a guest actor and which submitted as a supporting actor, would you get it right? Probably not; Zizes is in the guest category, and Ryan is in the supporting category.
Now, there may be some obscure guild rules that have something to do with this; Leachman was considered a “special guest star” all season because she was on week-to-week contracts, for instance. But it seems unfair for the voters to have to choose between someone who was on a show once or twice and someone who spent all season developing a character to the point where he or she had an episode that they felt was worthy to submit.
Mini-series vs. short series confusion. Even though the Academy has now combined miniseries with TV movies, the competition in these categories is still less fierce than it is for regular series. Which makes it understandable that the BBC’s “Luther” and its stars, Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson, would all be submitted in that category, given that the season was only six episodes. Yet AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which also only had a six-episode first season, is submitted in the regular drama series categories. Is “Luther” more close-ended than “Dead” was, or did they just think they’d have a better chance in the miniseries category?