Benedict Cumberbatch, left, is Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman is his… (Colin Hutton, Hartswood…)
If television is, as Homer Simpson once observed, "teacher, mother, secret lover," can we ask at the outset of this 2012 Emmy season why so many voters stick solely to the safe and familiar when marking their ballots instead of doing something … well, illicit might be a bit strong … let's just say naughty in a premium-cable kind of way.
To clarify: We're not advocating doing anything stupid in the name of love. We don't care how bad you've got it for Minka Kelly,"Charlie's Angels"was canceled for a reason. But as we all know from maxing out our DVR storage capacity, there's a wealth of scripted riches out there that extends well beyond the confines of Dunder Mifflin and 30 Rockefeller Plaza. So as we spend the next few weeks parsing the various Emmy races, we encourage you to expand your thinking beyond the same old, same old and ferret out a few nominees that deserve a turn in the spotlight.
Here's a few thoughts to get you started.
Category Most in Need of an Overhaul: Comedy Series
We have no problem with the fact that "30 Rock"and "The Office"have been nominated every year they've been on the air. Both shows have consistently delivered great, inventive comedy that will probably delight our grandchildren one day when they watch the programs via brain-implanted micro-technology. That said, "The Office" never found its footing this season after Steve Carell departed, and "30 Rock" too often resorted to desperate wackiness to compensate for a sense that the show has exhausted all it had to say about its characters.
In other words: Neither should be invited back this year, nor should the twice-nominated"Glee,"not just for its serious storytelling shortcomings but because its wretched holiday episode provided actual evidence that there really is a war on Christmas.
How you choose to replace the underperforming trio is your call, Emmy voters. If, like us, you find solace and silliness in discomfort, there's "Louie" and "Girls."Those who prefer shows that are breezy and "Friends"-y could embrace "Happy Endings"or "New Girl.""Curb Your Enthusiasm"returned and, thankfully, Larry David maintained his commitment to not growing or learning a darn thing. "Veep" skewered inside-the-Beltway dysfunction. "Enlightened" had a go at self-help and showcased Laura Dern's squirm-inducing brilliance in the process. If youth must be served, sub in"The Middle" for "Glee."
That's eight. If you're not Dick Van Patten and eight just isn't enough, you could also make a case for"Nurse Jackie,""House of Lies,""Community"and "How I Met Your Mother," though those shows sported their share of uneven episodes. But they still delivered more laughs and inventive moments than the perennial trio of "30 Rock," "Glee" and "The Office." Time to turn the page. The funny is all over the place. Find it. Reward it.
"Dexter" picked a bad time to have its worst season
There's new blood in the drama series category too, but much less wiggle room. Yes, technically, there's an open slot since one of last year's nominated programs, "Friday Night Lights," hung up its cleats. But its worthiness notwithstanding, "FNL" probably made it in only because "Breaking Bad" took that year off. That show returned with arguably its finest season. And "Downton Abbey," last year's miniseries winner, has shifted over to drama. Add four-time winner "Mad Men" and HBO powerhouses "Game of Thrones" and "Boardwalk Empire," and you're up to five. That leaves room for only the best of the freshman class, Showtime's thrilling exercise in cynicism,"Homeland." (And, no, we haven't forgotten two-time nominee"The Good Wife." It was pretty great this year too. You see the problem?)
Enough with the waiting: Most overdue for Emmy love
1. Nick Offerman,"Parks and Recreation." Ron Bleeping Swanson. You had me at meat tornado. Nominate him already!
2. An actor from "Mad Men" actually wins an Emmy. It's never happened. We're still puzzling over how that's possible. (We're partial to day-trippin' John Slattery and newly minted ad firm partner Christina Hendricks.)
3. "Sherlock"wins miniseries/movie. OK. This brilliant Holmes update is only in its second season. But it somehow escaped Emmy voters' attention in this category for its first year, and it's even better this go-round. Benedict Cumberbatch darn well better show up in the actor category too.
4. "Louie." OK … again, it's only in its second season. But, yes, it should have been nominated alongside its star last season. And there was no better television last year than "Duckling," the episode in whichLouis C.K.paid tribute to the troops fighting in Afghanistan.
Enough already: Most overdue to take the year off
1.Michael C. Hall, "Dexter." See: "Dexter" picked a bad time to have its worst season.
2. Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." Eight straight nominations. We get it. You like her crime-busting ways. But "SVU" evolved into more of an ensemble show this season, and it's well past time to retire her badge here.
3. Kathy Bates,"Harry's Law." We wish she had stayed on "The Office."
4. Multiple supporting nominees from the same ensembles overrunning a single category. Look: We like everyone on "Modern Family"and "The Good Wife" too. But not that much. How about a little supporting actor love for Max Greenfield's Schmidt on "New Girl," the year's comic breakout character. Or Morena Baccarin for her complex, conflicted wife on "Homeland."
1. "Mad Men" wins its fifth straight Emmy for drama series.
2. "Modern Family" wins its third straight Emmy for comedy series.
3. One of your favorite shows will not be nominated. You'll be outraged.
4. You'll get over it. You always do.