Emmys elude a few good men

Critics, audience favorites unloved by voters

Sometimes being great isn’t enough.

So what’s an actor have to do to get some Emmy love these days? Partake in a dramatic dying scene? Chew up the scenery? Make an unforgettable courtroom speech? After all, lots of actors whom critics and audiences admire have never been tabbed with a nomination.

Sometimes their shows just “fly under the radar and have not made stars out of them,” says TV Guide critic Matt Roush. He points to HBO’s “The Wire,” critically hailed as one of TV’s great dramas, yet not one of its performers has ever received an Emmy nom through its first four seasons.

Roush also theorizes the series’ location-shot tale of down-and-out Baltimore “is maybe so real and gritty, the actors aren’t given credit for the acting they do.”

“Wire” cast member Andre Royo takes a different tack on that.

“We know we don’t shoot in New York or L.A., and we’re out of the loop,” says Royo, who has impressed throughout the series’ run as junkie snitch Bubbles. To see Royo’s transformation from Bubbles — dressed in tattered, unwashed clothes and trying to make a life for himself — to his offscreen, cleaned-up, Harvard-educated self might change voters’ opinion of his turn on the show.

Robert Sean Leonard of Fox’ hit “House” certainly doesn’t dress down when playing Watson to star Hugh Laurie’s medical Sherlock Holmes. Both are upscale, lifesaving characters. They’re also a symbiotic duo, but as Laurie’s flashy star turn has earned Emmy notice, his Tony-winning co-star may have been “overshadowed,” Roush says.

Leonard himself thinks “the Emmys consider us a procedural,” never a favored drama format. “Maybe they think it’s a procedural and a little bit too popular, and not really good in that serious Aaron Sorkin sense.”

Too gritty, too procedural, not popular enough, too popular, maybe even too sprawling a cast. Ensemble shows such as “The Wire” don’t so much spotlight individual actors as create a teeming tapestry of cumulative impact. With shows that have so many actors the call sheets run two pages long, it’s hard to pinpoint one thesp over another, or perhaps they cancel each other out in Emmy tallies.

“That’s a dilemma right now, with so many strong dramas fighting for attention,” Roush says.

While sitcom casts might not be as deep as drama ones, there’s instead a strange split between single-camera half-hours and traditional studio sitcoms as far as Emmy actors are concerned. Last year, Ricky Gervais of “Extras” and Jeremy Piven of “Entourage” were both winners, and both of their shows were single-camera entities. A year before, Piven and Tony Shalhoub of “Monk” won for supporting and lead actor, respectively.

“It became kind of not hip to love a multicamera show,” says Josh Radnor of “How I Met Your Mother,” part of CBS’ Monday multicamera lineup. “We’re in a post-naive stage where we don’t really trust the media, and people are, ‘Stop telling me when to laugh, stop telling me what’s funny.'”

But at the same time, “Mother’s” character-based tale doesn’t generate what Radnor calls “whooping and hollering” audience reaction, possibly creating another challenge. “There are emotional moments that take you by surprise, and people feel really moved,” he observes. And maybe that are not quite funny enough?

Any answer would be a matter of opinion, and so are the Emmys, contends “Everybody Hates Chris” dad Terry Crews, whose CW single-camera show has gotten zero major Emmy nods.

“It’s not like sports, where the score is 14-0,” says the former football player. “It’s so subjective, and that’s just the nature of the business.”

Certainly, there would be no shortage of discussion on actors that Emmy has passed over — Roush asserts that “Scrubs” co-star John C. McGinley has been criminally overlooked for years, and other critics have found it surprising that neither Michael C. Hall of “Dexter” nor Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights” were nominated for their first-season work — but that’s the nature of the kudos game, too.

With so many options out there, only a chosen few make the final cut.

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