The 2010 Primetime Emmys may have been a breath of fresh air, but no hurricane.
“Glee” and “Modern Family” grabbed headlines for helping to revitalize the Emmy comedy category, and “Friday Night Lights” wrote a Cinderella chapter in its decidedly un-fairy-tale Emmy history by scoring two lead acting nominations. But voters stopped short of a true upheaval, passing up opportunities to inject even more change into this year’s kudofest.
Unlike the Academy Awards, Tonys or Grammys, a certain amount of stability is expected with the Emmys from year to year — it’s not as if this year’s Oscar voters rejected 2009 winner “Slumdog Millionaire” in its second season. No one’s suggesting that the Emmys shouldn’t honor returning contenders like “Mad Men” if they remain deserving.
But despite some newcomers on the ballots, Emmy left still more overqualified candidates in the dust.
Alongside first-time nominees “Glee,” “Modern Family” and “Nurse Jackie” in the comedy category, Emmy once again tapped three-time Emmy comedy champ “30 Rock” and five-time nominee “The Office.” While these beloved series continue to have their strong points, the Academy would have been completely justified in giving nods to such younger series as “Parks and Recreation,” “Community” or “Party Down.”
And then there’s “The Big Bang Theory,” whose Emmy omission is least explicable of all. As both a critical and mainstream success, no one really knows how “Bang” missed the cut. And based upon Jim Parsons’ back-to-back acting nominations, we know Acad voters have heard of it.
On the other hand, it’s possible the Academy doesn’t have FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” in its consciousness at all. Exec produced by Kurt Sutter, “Sons” appears to be the heir to “Friday Night Lights” and David Simon’s “The Wire” in its near-infinite ratio of critical praise to Emmy acknowledgment (even more so than Simon’s latest admirable effort, “Treme”). In particular, the only thing more dramatic than Katey Sagal’s performance this past season was her omission from the lead drama actress category.
But “Sons” and Sagal were swept aside as Emmy continued to split the difference between old-time and first-time nominees.
• In drama, “True Blood” and “The Good Wife” took spots alongside Emmy vets “Mad Men” (the two-time defending champion), “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter” and “Lost.”
• In the lead acting slots, Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison of “Glee,” Matthew Fox of “Lost,” Edie Falco of “Nurse Jackie,” Amy Poehler of “Parks and Recreation,” Julianna Marguiles of “The Good Wife,” and Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights” all received their first nominations with those series, putting them alongside such Emmy standbys as Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey (“30 Rock”), Steve Carell (“The Office”), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”) and Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”).
And so on …
If there’s a thruline to all of this, it’s that you won’t find a major Emmy category where the competition wasn’t as fierce as that aforementioned hurricane. It’s easy to figure out what could have whooshed into the Emmys; it’s a lot harder to figure out which nominees could have been blown out.