Emmys 2011: Surprise! The academy got it mostly right this year
With a few glaring exceptions, the TV academy got things more or less right this year.
This wasn't always the case. There have been years where Emmy voters would nominate shows that had no business getting the honor, usually at the expense of a critical darling that also tended to get decent ratings. And they were notoriously slow to pick up on new, quality shows that arrived on the air; ask Phil Rosenthal and Ray Romano about the three years they waited for Emmy recognition for "Everybody Loves Raymond." We're sure the response won't be pleasant.
But that was during an era where the amount of quality TV could reasonably fit within the parameters of a five-item category. When there were just three broadcast networks, there likely weren't more than five good dramas or comedies on the air.
Even those shows likely wouldn't hold a candle to the dramas on today. Sure, everyone loved "L.A. Law," the 1987 winner for outstanding drama. But compare it to any of the six nominees announced today and it would likely come in seventh place -- and realistically, compared to the entire landscape of drama on TV, it might be the 14th or 15th best drama if it aired today.
The comedy nominees that year, which included "Cheers," "The Cosby Show" and "The Golden Girls" (which won), could be held up against this year's comedy series nominees, but you'd be hard pressed to think of more than one or two comedies from that year that would have gotten nominated. Now, between network and cable, there are at least a dozen good comedies on the air, even before you expand the definition to include shows like "Glee" and "Nurse Jackie."
This year, with so much good out there in the expanded world of TV, there are really few places where a person or show was snubbed because of a replacement that wasn't worthy. Sure, you may be up in arms because "Community" or Kyra Sedgwick or "The Walking Dead" or "Sons of Anarchy" got shut out. But, with the possible exception of Kathy Bates in "Harry's Law" and Matt LeBlanc in "Episodes," which candidate can you truly say didn't deserve the nomination he, she or it got? You want to throw "Mad Men" out the door? "The Good Wife"? "Modern Family"? Louis C.K.? We didn't even have to suffer through nominations for non-comedy comedies like "Jackie" or "The Big C."
Even if you were to argue that some of the Emmy perennials have overstayed their welcomes (an argument we're going to make tomorrow), those perennials aren't exactly dogs. "The Office" and "30 Rock" are still strong shows; they're just weak compared to their former high points. And Jon Cryer, who is the Emmy poster boy for head-scratching nominations -- he should submit himself as a lead actor, not a supporting one -- should get two nominations this year for being such a good sport during the Charlie Sheen fiasco.
So say what you will about who got snubbed. But with so many good shows out there now, each category would have to have 15 nominees to get every worthy candidate a nomination, and there'd still be people who got left out. As the Oscars found out last year with its 10-headed best picture category, being inclusive isn't always a good thing.