Earlier today, Katey Rich summed up the positives and negatives with this year’s Emmy nominations. The nominations are par for the course with how these things can go...poorly. There are some clear cut mistakes in the nominations, but for time’s sake I’ll focus on the Outstanding Drama series rather than nitpick my way through the acting categories.
In a clear case of “We picked some deserving shows and then picked the glitzy and entertaining ones to round out the group,” the Emmy nominators took the Outstanding Drama Series category and made some pretty huge mistakes that can make one question how such oversights are possible. The nominees for Outstanding Drama Series are:
The Good Wife
What they should have been:
The Good Wife
Friday Night Lights
Sons of Anarchy
Very close alternate – Treme
In the interest of fairness I’ll leave The Good Wife on this list as I can’t knock something I haven’t watched. But the inclusions of True Blood and Dexter here are so mind-bogglingly egregious I am almost at a loss for words. Almost.
True Blood and Dexter, while very entertaining are clearly not in the same league as the other nominees and have zero to less than zero chances of winning. They were included for one of two reasons:
1. They are extremely entertaining and garner a fair share of media buzz, so the Emmy people put them in to appease some unseen viewer fan base.
2. The nominators were so fooled by Dexter’s outward charm and Vampire Bill’s glamoring as to put them in the running. It makes no sense.
True Blood is the clear worse of the two and possibly one of the worst (but probably predictable) nominations in quite some time. The vampire drama has a number of different things going against it, not the least of which is its heavy reliance on raw sex to fill screen time. The acting in True Blood is rough to say the least (no acting nominations in this bunch) and the dialogue is often forced to the point of cringing. But the real problem with True Blood is its story, or lack thereof. The characters are in a constant state of flux and fear that is used to keep viewers interested on a week-to-week basis rather than moving them toward any particular place. We learn a little more about the vampire hierarchy without getting to any real motives. And a bunch of stuff happens, without much of it ever being meaningful to the overall plot. It comes off like a CW teen drama that all of a sudden found out it could get rated-R.
Dexter, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer from the exact same problems as True Blood, but as an Outstanding Drama has more than a few chinks in the armor. Michael C. Hall is deserving of his Best Actor nomination as he is one of the truly memorable, disturbing, likable and layered characters to come along in quite awhile. My issue with the Showtime drama is, after Dex, what else is there? I would contend, not a whole lot. That was fine for Season One when we were exploring the depth of his psyche. But subsequent seasons like the third (a tour-de-force acting job by John Lithgow not withstanding) showed that beyond Dexter there wasn’t really anything happening in this world. Sure characters fall in and out of love, but do we really care? Most of that is filler until we get to the juicy parts. Is it entertaining? Of course. But an award winning drama? Far from it.
Meanwhile, Friday Night Lights has consistently been the most underappreciated show, possibly ever. Its characters multidimensional, stories over-arching, and drama built on relationships. The writers are telling the story of a town and how those in a town invariably effect one another. Because of that, it’s characters (football being one of them) are interwoven in a story about family. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton (both nominated this time around) headline a cast of adults and young people (Zach Gilford could have earned a supporting nod as well) who come off as confused, pained, emotional and very real. It is one of the finest shows put on television in quite some time.
Additionally, Sons of Anarchy is coming off a transcendent second season (with amazing performances by Charlie Hunman and Katey Sagal – neither nominated) that dealt with such a wide range of pain and emotion that calling it a “biker drama” is like saying The Sopranos was just about the mob (although Emmy people probably thought so). Sons of Anarchy so brilliantly worked in aspects of racism, violence, guns and gangs without ever becoming heavy-handed on any front. Instead, the world the characters inhabit could be our lives if we just grew up somewhere a little different, but are glad we don’t.
And therein lies the difference between great shows and entertaining shows. True Blood is a “vampire show” and little else. Dexter is a “serial killer show” and possibly nothing more. Their plot devices encapsulate the program rather than helping it build toward something more meaningful.
Is True Blood entertaining? My wife sure thinks so. Do I love watching Dexter? Most assuredly. But entertaining and edgy, do not a great show make. And nominating it for an award on that premise is just plain wrong. Great shows contain depth and intrigue without force-feeding us the details. They stand head and shoulders above the rest on all fronts rather than just one or two (or none).
Does it make a show worse or better if it does or doesn’t win an Emmy Award? No, this isn’t professional sports where legacies are bred on championships. But it illustrates a clear disconnect between the supposed “experts” and those actually watching television with a critical eye.