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TV Stars Who Are Underdogs On the Awards Circuit

Ballots are due Monday for both the SAG Awards and the Golden Globes, so it’s a good time to salute some underdogs in the TV acting categories. (Come to think of it, TV itself is an underdog during the film-centric awards season.)

Year after year, the TV noms include the usual suspects from hit series. And while they deserve the recognition, so do a lot of other terrific actors who are worthwhile but don’t make the cut. So here’s a salute to some talented individuals and ensembles, with a reminder that good work is its own reward. Well, good work and residuals.

Mark Harmon, “NCIS”
It’s not the kind of role that wins awards, because he rarely has scenery-chewing moments. But Harmon’s character and performance are the glue that holds the show together and keep audiences coming back, making it one of TV’s top-rated shows. It takes talent to stay fresh and interesting on a long-running series, but Harmon makes it always interesting.

Olivia Munn, “Newsroom”
She started as a minor character in the ensemble, and her role has grown — as has her performance. She’s a supporting character but brings some gravitas, perhaps because she’s one of the few actors around who actually has a background in TV broadcasting. So her turn will come one of these days. (And, while we’re on the subject, same is true for Aaron Sorkin. The show has gotten consistently better but he did not get a Writers Guild nom. Hm, life is full of mysteries.)

James Van Der Beek, “Don’t Trust the B– in Apt. 23”
It’s always fun to see stars spoof themselves, but Van Der Beek took it to a new level as a comic version of himself, trying to keep his career and self-respect afloat under the huge shadow of “Dawson’s Creek.” The show is gone, but the actor was consistently funny and a good sport, with the highlight being his rivalry with Dean Cain on “Dancing With the Stars.” Van der Beek has a nice small role in the upcoming “Labor Day,” so double thumbs-up for him.

Unsung Ensembles:

“Sons of Anarchy”
When nominations for any TV awards are announced, it’s become a tradition for creator Kurt Sutter to complain that his people don’t get enough respect. It would be a running joke, except he’s right. The actors deserve some love (as do the writers, directors, producers and others). Maybe people feel guilty voting for bikers? They shouldn’t.

“Cougar Town”
That show got off on the wrong foot because of the title and the pilot. But every TV show takes on a life of its own by the second episode, and this one has grown smarter, funnier and more likable than voters realize. Everyone is good, but Courteney Cox and  Ian Gomez in particular deserve a shout-out.

“Elementary”
Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu and Aiden Quinn bring wit, energy and intelligence to a trio of characters who’ve been done to death: Sherlock Holmes, Watson and the police inspector who parries with them. Because of decades of Holmes interpretations, I resisted this Robert Doherty-created version, but got hooked via binge viewing. Great work all around.

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