Critics weigh in on drama nominees


“Boston Legal” (ABC)

“Damages” (FX)

“Dexter” (Showtime)

“House” (Fox)

“Lost” (ABC)

“Mad Men” (AMC)

Maureen Ryan

Chicago Tribune

I have to say that, considering how clueless the TV Academy has been in the past, this year’s best drama list was something of a relief. The nomination of two basic cable shows in the category could be seen as a case of too little, too late, considering that basic cable networks have been doing terrific work in the scripted drama arena for years.

Then again, the nominations of “Damages” and “Mad Men” are, I hope, a sign that the logjam has been broken and that truly outstanding work is being recognized. It’d be easy to quibble over the omission of “The Wire” and “Battlestar Galactica,” but I’d like to hope that this years’ roster is a sign of good things to come. And I’ll try to remember that soon (perhaps not soon enough), we’ll finally be free of the inexplicable Emmy domination of “Boston Legal.”

Robert Bianco

USA Today

I think this is an excellent field of five, but not an excellent field of six. I’ve made my peace with the Academy’s fondness for “Boston Legal,” but I don’t know why it doesn’t go with the more popular and better “CSI.”

As for what should win, I would have to say either “Mad Men” or “Lost.” “Damages” has a fabulous performance by Glenn Close and a good melodrama, but not a best series. “Dexter” is too much of a novelty, and “House” was an interesting experiment in tweaking their format that didn’t quite work.

I thought “Lost” had a genuine creative resurgence that not only had to be watched, but had to be watched right now. “Mad Men” was this unexpected gift from AMC, this fascinating mirror on our own time, as seen through a smoke-filled ’60s. I almost hope for a tie vote, but I might go to “Mad Men” because “Lost” has already won. It might be as simple as that. Such a gift as “Mad Men” deserves to be rewarded.

Dave Walker

New Orleans Times-Picayune

The omission of “The Wire” and the inclusion of “Boston Legal” aside, it’s still a solidly supportable list of nominees. The series itself put me to sleep (and/or had me lunging for the Wellbutrin jug) but “In Treatment’s” Gabriel Byrne was just brilliant.

I’m rooting for “Mad Men” for outstanding drama because the idea of what had been a nonplayer in scripted originals scoring such a triumph is so appealing. That a network like AMC succeeded in airing such a fine show where the mighty broadcast networks couldn’t even come close is the big story in American entertainment television in this era.

Rich Heldenfels

Akron Beacon Journal

The Wire. The Wire. The Wire. The Wire. The Wire.

I have heard the arguments against “The Wire” getting Emmy love. It’s depressing, it doesn’t make jobs in Hollywood, it’s sometimes difficult to follow. In other words, you have to watch it all, and you have to put some effort into it. Art can be like that.

But let’s consider what is actually nominated and proclaim “Mad Men” the class of the field. Stylish, thoughtful, about the change in American culture — and the nature of American dreams — as much as it is about a bunch of guys in crisp white shirts who smoke too much.


Gabriel Byrne, “In Treatment” (HBO)

Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad” (AMC)

Michael C. Hall, “Dexter” (Showtime)

Jon Hamm, “Mad Men” (AMC)

Hugh Laurie, “House” (Fox)

James Spader, “Boston Legal” (ABC)

Ellen Gray

Philadelphia Daily News

We may moan about the seemingly inevitable nod for James Spader, but with six nominations in the category, he’s not really taking up space, is he? Nor has his work deteriorated.

Hugh Laurie’s in the same boat as Spader, having turned in consistently fine performances year after year, with plenty of the speechifying that Emmy voters seem to love. He’s also never actually won. I wouldn’t count out Gabriel Byrne, since Emmy voters love it when movie actors do TV, even HBO, and Bryan Cranston wins points for having replaced an indelible comic character in “Malcolm in the Middle” with an equally memorable dramatic one in “Breaking Bad.”

Most of these are showy parts, and personally, I like a bit more subtlety in my leading men. So with no one from “The Wire” even nominated, I’d be happy to see a win for either Jon Hamm for “Mad Men” or Michael C. Hall for “Dexter,” with the edge going to Hall, whose portrayal of a monster who longs to be human is, oddly, one of the least histrionic in the category. Go figure.

Peter Ames Carlin

The Oregonian

My strong preference in the best actor category is for Jon Hamm to win. I thought Bryan Cranston was great, and Michael C. Hall does some tricky stuff on “Dexter.” But Hamm’s work on “Mad Men” is just breathtaking.

Don Draper is such a taciturn guy, but Hamm packs so many layers of meaning and feeling into his most quiet moments. It’s astonishing, really. “Mad Men” is like a master class in TV drama — everyone on that show seems to be at the very top of their game. Hamm’s right up there, too, and no one in the medium is doing better work. He wins, hands down.

Hal Boedeker

Orlando Sentinel

This is probably the most competitive race this year, because there are so many deserving candidates. But I think Hugh Laurie is long overdue and will finally win. His strongest competition will come from Michael C. Hall and Jon Hamm, who make crucial contributions to their programs. What would “Dexter” be without Hall? Hamm gives “Mad Men” a good deal of its allure. James Spader has won three Emmys for his role, and I hope the voters won’t go there again. I consider Bryan Cranston and Gabriel Byrne long shots. I just wish Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights”) had broken through with a nomination.

Alan Sepinwall

New Jersey Star-Ledger

In mid-June, when the list of submitted Emmy performers came out, I set out to make up my own phantom Emmy ballot for the major acting categories.

I had little confidence that all five — or even most of the five — would make the cut, given the stranglehold James Spader has on the category. But as things turned out, the vote was so close that, in addition to Spader, all five of my favorites somehow made the final cut. Hugh Laurie seemed like a lock, and I felt confident about Jon Hamm and Michael C. Hall, but for both Gabriel Byrne and Bryan Cranston to make the list for two shows that almost nobody watched? That’s impressive. If I had to pick one guy in the category to root for, it’d be Hamm, but I’d be happy with anybody in the category — except, of course, Spader.


Glenn Close, “Damages” (FX)

Sally Field, “Brothers & Sisters” (ABC)

Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: SVU” (NBC)

Holly Hunter, “Saving Grace” (TNT)

Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer” (TNT)

Gail Pennington

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Let me preface this by saying the only way Glenn Close could lose would be for Meryl Streep to get a last-minute nomination, even though she didn’t do TV last year.

Close isn’t just the lead actress in “Damages,” she is “Damages,” and it’s the kind of big, showy performance that’s a no-brainer for voters. With Kyra Sedgwick and Holly Hunter also nominated, though, the Emmy folks should keep an eye on the fixtures in the theater, because a lot of scenery-chewing goes on in their shows. Still, I’m sorry some actresses who turn in more subtle, nuanced performances didn’t get nominated: Jeanne Tripplehorn in “Big Love,” Elisabeth Moss and January Jones in “Mad Men,” Mary McDonnell in “Battlestar Galactica.”

Roger Catlin

Hartford Courant

What a lot of heavyweight actresses: Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter, Sally Field.

Sally Field is always tearing it up on “Brothers & Sisters,” but I think it comes down to Glenn or Holly because they were new this year. What Glenn did in that role was so uncompromising, but showed different levels including a certain vulnerability to what could have just been a tough lawyer role.

I think Holly was strident in the beginning, but really grew by the end of the season. I think it will be between Holly and Glenn, but having a great actress like Glenn come to a television series is remarkable, and I’d like to encourage that with my meaningless vote.

Rick Kushman

Sacramento Bee

Basically we have movie stars and Mariska Hargitay.

Mariska’s a good actress, but with five for five meaty roles, you have to look elsewhere. As is often the case, the Academy is impressed by movie stars, and certainly there’s a reason for it this year when you look at the nominees.

Glenn had the most complicated role and was absolutely mesmerizing onscreen. Whatever else the show was about, you couldn’t pull away from watching her. Holly makes her show a lot more interesting than it would be otherwise, and it’s all her and such a glory role. While either Glenn or Holly would be my picks, you can’t forget that Hollywood loves Sally Field.

John Griffiths

US Weekly

I’m probably not the first to say this race is a, um, Close call. Whatever my misgivings about “Damages” and its occasionally convoluted through-line, Glenn Close’s ferocious, dead-on high-wire act as the ballsy celebrattorney Patty Hewes washed ’em away. Close made this scintillating part hers from the start, and her relish is palpable. True, all of the aforementioned could be said about Kyra Sedgwick and Holly Hunter, too. Both terrific actresses who chomp into their roles. But Close, a master of control, is the one who never veers into over-the-top-territory.

Critics reactions in all categories were compiled by Television Critics Assn. secretary Susan Young.

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