Reviewing the 2010 Emmys

FlashForward ended its run with more Emmy nominations and wins than The Wire. That should pretty much destroy any semblance of credibility the Emmys ever had. But other than the Golden Globes (which didn’t do so great themselves this year), there really isn’t another awards show that is taken seriously for television, so we have to deal with Emmys and all of its mistakes.

And while this year certainly had its fair share of mistakes, it was generally better than expected:

What The Emmys Got Right

In the loaded Best Actor in a Drama category, which featured three critically beloved actors who had never won (Hugh Laurie, Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler), a cancer survivor (Michael C. Hall), and the star of television phenomenon’s final season (Matthew Fox), the Emmys rightfully gave the award to the dad from Malcolm in the Middle. Bryan Cranston has won twice before for his astounding work on Breaking Bad, but the show’s third season saw him take his work to new heights. In episodes like “Fly” and “Full Measures” (which Cranston submitted for consideration), the former Tim Whatley turned in performances as good as anything I’ve ever seen on television.

While Cranston’s win was deserved it wasn’t totally surprising, since he came in as the two-time defending champ. But Aaron Paul, Cranston’s co-star on Breaking Bad, had never been recognized until last night, which made his win in the Best Supporting Actor category even more meaningful. Cranston’s work could easily overshadow the other actors on the show, but Paul has turned his character, Jesse Pinkman, into the moral center of the show. Honestly, Paul’s wordless performance in the last minute of the finale (clip contains major spoilers, obvs) would have been enough to earn the award even if he hadn’t been great all season long.

On a lighter note, it was also great to see Eric Stonestreet of Modern Family win for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy. While I was pretty confident that someone from ABC’s new hit would win in this award (half of the nominees were from Modern Family), I figured the winner would be the much-talked-about Ty Burrell. And while Burrell’s work was great on the show, his character often felt like an excuse for the writers to use cheap gags. Stonestreet, on the other hand, managed to turn what could have been a very broad, simple, stereotypical character into a much more three-dimensional source of comedy.

What The Emmys Could Have Done Better

Matthew Weiner, the creator and showrunner for Mad Men, is terribly overrated as a writer, and now he has won for Writing for a Drama Series in three consecutive years. And while he won for an episode that stood out in a subpar season (“Shut The Door. Have A Seat.”), he still didn’t deserve it over the writing on Friday Night Lights for “The Son.” As I’ve said before, that episode was one of the best depictions of the mourning process ever. While most of that was due to the performance of actor Zach Gilford, a lot of it also has to do with the understated, realistic writing that so often goes unrecognized for FNL.

Similarly, I had no big problems with Steven Shill’s direction of the season finale of Dexter. In fact, I found that episode very compelling. But it still seems like a crime that Michelle McLaren wasn’t rewarded for her brilliant direction of one of the most intense shootouts in television history (link again contains spoilers).

Finally, while I’m not sure that The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien was better overall than The Daily Show this year, I still think the Emmy voters should have given Conan the chance to gloat one last time on NBC. That’s just good television.

What The Emmys Screwed Up Again

Of all the problems with the Emmys (the voters clearly don’t watch every show, certain scheduling rules favor certain shows, actors are judged based on individual episodes, etc.), probably the most obvious is that once a show/actor/writer wins, he/she/it tends to keep winning until he/she/it is no longer eligible. The West Wing won four times before The Sopranos won once. Tony Shalhoub and Kelsey Grammar won for Actor in a Comedy Series while Jason Bateman, Larry David, and even Steve Carell went unrecognized. And for the last three years now, Mad Men has won for Best Drama Series.

Only inertia could explain why Mad Men won for its most recent lackluster season, a season that was poorly paced, sloppily written, and then neatly wrapped up so that we could all pretend it never happened. While letting Mad Men hold onto its crown would be forgivable if there were no other decent candidates, it makes no sense given the competition the show faced. Let’s completely ignore a season of Dexter that gave us the most shocking ending yet, and the final season of one of the biggest shows ever. Mad Men was up against Season Three of Breaking Bad, which was a historically great season of television. How that season could lose to a season of Mad Men that included a whole episode of characters watching television is a decision only the Emmys could make.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by james Schneider on August 31, 2010 at 10:23 PM

    Wait, Bryan Cranston is the dad on malcolm in the middle? Thats just blew my mind.


  2. Posted by Douglas on September 1, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    wait, malcolm had a dad? what show was i watching? oh right, the wire.


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