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The Last Word

August 08, 2007|Mary McNamara; Paul Brownfield

WE love television. Really, we do. But just like we love our children and our pets, we sometimes don't love its actions. So when a series goes off track or when Emmy voters need a little guidance, we feel it is our duty to set them straight. Out of love. Really.

TV critics Mary McNamara and Paul Brownfield take on Emmy voters who need to find a new way of doing business and shows that lost their way last season, respectively.


SO many great performances, so few nomination slots.

As television enters a cyclical renaissance, the number of Emmy-deserving performers seems to be growing at geometric proportions. And yet there continue to be seemingly endless repetitions in the nominees each year. (Doris Roberts may hold the record; she was nominated for her role in "Everybody Loves Raymond" each year from 1999 until 2005 and won four times). To promote fairness, as well as some measure of tension regarding the broadcast, we would like to suggest tweaking the nomination structure.

To our minds, it's less important that "Lost" gets its due (which this year's changes were supposed to address) than allowing someone other than Tony Shalhoub to win for lead actor in a comedy series. (Of course, it would help if "Monk" were not one of, like, just three decent comedy series, but that's another story.)

Maybe the rule should be if you win one year, you cannot win the very next year. Yes, yes, we all loved Allison Janney on "The West Wing," but how many Emmys do you get for being the one consistent female character on a hot hit show? (She got four awards, six nominations.) Every other year would be more seemly, don't you think? This would take care of the Shalhoub issue (nominated five times for "Monk," won three) also the Kiefer effect (Sutherland has been nominated six times for "24" and finally won last year), James Spader (three times nominated for "Boston Legal," won twice) and Mariska Hargitay (four nominations for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," won last year).

Exceptions can be made, of course, because we are nothing if not flexible. Nominating William Shatner has become something of a tradition -- he's received one every year for the last four years (once for "The Practice," the rest for "Boston Legal") -- but there's something oddly touching about that. And while Debra Messing should definitely have been stopped somewhere in her four-year, four-nomination, one-win "Will & Grace" run from 2000-2003 (plus another nod in 2006), this year she's up for "The Starter Wife," and that's cool.

-- Mary McNamara



"24," Fox: Rumor has it they're retooling the show for next season. This year's misfires were all over the place, within CTU and without (D.B. Woodside as a less-than-commanding commander-in-chief). That ticking time bomb? It's your credibility.

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," FX: This low-budget, friends-who-own-a-bar comedy surprised people in its first season with its easy wit and charm, earning comparisons to "Seinfeld." But in Season 2, "Philadelphia" leapfrogged ahead to "Seinfeld's" latter years, when George was always yelling and you never knew what Kramer was about to unleash. Danny DeVito joined the cast of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" to give the show some star power but it didn't exactly come off, and the stories meanwhile suddenly seemed way over-the-top.

"Dirt," FX: It came on the air all edgy-like -- an inside spoof-o-rama about celebrity and the Faustian deals the mags coerce from the stars about their personal lives. OK, but Courteney Cox is stiff and unfun as a nasty editor, and the show can't seem to decide whether it's satire, realism or just soft-core porn.

-- Paul Brownfield

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