It's getting closer to summer, which means one thing to those of us who are insanely awards-minded: the Emmys. Honoring every niche in the world of television, the brutal reality of it is that only certain categories are worth caring about. What follows is my dream Emmy ballot.
Get the useless genre out of the way first, I guess. There are three categories here.
Best Reality Competition Series
What once used to be among my favorite categories is now an annoyance to me. I'd love to see Top Chef win, but it will inevitably go to The Amazing Race... American Idol and Project Runway, perennial nominees, had terrible seasons. So I guess my dream ballot consists of one winner: Chef.
Best Reality Series, Non-Competition
Is it too much to ask that the inane, trashy/fantastic Real Housewives of Atlanta be nominated here? It's campy, fun, and insanely watercooler chattable, which is everything a good reality show should be. That's about all this category has to offer, sadly.
Best Reality Competition Host
This, to me, belongs to either Heidi Klum of Project Runway or Padma Lakshmi and the fantastic Tom Collichio of Top Chef. Since the former wasn't exactly on her game this past season, give it to the two judges of my favorite reality competition.
It's not my favorite set of categories, but anything's better than that reality shlock. There are seven categories here.
Best Comedy Series
Glee and 30 Rock are tops on the air right now, and one should win. I'd also love to see nominations for Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother, and Community. I would love to see the increasingly unfunny The Office get snubbed, but that won't happen.
Best Lead Comedy Actor
Well, the category belongs to Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock, but I would love to see Joel McHale nominated for Community. Nominated, not win. Let's not get crazy.
Best Lead Comedy Actress
Tina Fey, of course, would get one of my nominations (now there's a shock). Lea Michele would too, for Glee, and I'd even give one to Cougar Town's Courtney Cox. (No Modern Family nominations here or in Lead Actor can be attributed by the cast's idiotic decision to go entirely supporting. Sweet, but truly idiotic.)
Best Supporting Comedy Actor
Jack McBrayer is routinely fantastic on 30 Rock, and it's time we properly recognized him. However, I'd say all challengers will have a tough time with Chris Colfer, Glee's resident powerhouse young actor, if he can get nominated for such an unconventional role. If he gets nominated, though, and submits this week's Lady Gaga-centric episode as one of his entries, he's won. Eric Stonestreet and Danny Pudi are both great scene-stealers on their respective comedies, and are far more likely to be nominated. (Pray that Entourage's Jeremy Piven gets passed over...)
Best Supporting Comedy Actress
Jane Lynch is Glee's greatest star, and gives a weekly clinic on what comedy truly is. Yvette Nicole Brown and Allison Brie of Community are both cute and do great work. Katrina Bowden is truly GENIUS as Cerie Xerox, useless assistant, on 30 Rock, but the more likely nomination (and the more deserving one) from that show is for Jane Krakowski, who has turned Jenna Maroney from an utterly intolerable moron into an absolute riot. And Sofia Vergara has officially ousted 30 Rock's Salma Hayek as my favorite hilariously Hispanic actress. (That's not racism, by the way: they really used their ethnicities to create brilliant comedy.)
Best Guest Comedy Actor
Michael Sheen as recurring Liz Lemon love interest Wesley Snipes (really) on 30 Rock was brilliantly pesky. Neil Patrick Harris was a lot of fun as Bryan Ryan on Glee's best episode, and his duet on "Dream On" with series star Matthew Morrison was amazing. But this belongs to Glee's most unlikely star: former Yes, Dear star Mike O'Malley. On a musical dramedy, O'Malley brings the drama, providing the most brutally honest and realistic portrayal of Burt Hummel, a supportive father of a gay teenager in television history. He should, will, and absolutely deserves to win the Emmy here. He could enter four different episodes and still win. He's genius every time he's on the show. It never feels cliché or dishonest. It feels true.
Best Guest Comedy Actress
Elizabeth Banks is brilliant as Jack Donaghy's newest girlfriend (and baby mama!) on 30 Rock. Heather Morris and Naya Rivera are the perfect cheerleaders on Glee, and Morris in particular turned into the most quotable characters on television (sometimes even moreso than Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester!). Kristin Chenoweth was such a joy to watch during both of her appearances on Glee that it's hard to see her getting snubbed here. Not only was her performance comedically gifted, hearing her "Maybe This Time," "Home," or "Alone" shows how her musical talent truly elevates her performance.
Ah, the real stuff. Not because drama is better than comedy, but because there's more quality drama on television than comedy these days. There are also seven categories here.
Best Drama Series
Mad Men should have a very difficult time this year fending off the newbie, The Good Wife, and the (likely, sadly) departing veteran Damages. All three shows had absolutely amazing seasons, with Wife's acting and writing being a breath of fresh air for the procedural genre. In fact, I'm not sure if I wouldn't give my win to Wife, too, but then I consider the last three episodes of Men this season, each of which packed more wallop than most shows get in throughout their entire series runs. Finally, Damages finally reclaimed its Season 1 glory, and in the best way. I just think that series (?) finale was insufficient, sadly.
Best Lead Drama Actor
Bryan Cranston, last year's winner, certainly does great work on Breaking Bad, but I want to see either Mad Men's Jon Hamm win after his beautiful work this season that finally proved to me that he can go so far beyond the stiff-upper-lip affect he had for the first two seasons (seriously, that episode when Betty confronted him, and he broke down? Absolute brilliance), or the extremely overdue Hugh Laurie, who shined in a down season for House, especially in its two-hour season premiere.
Best Lead Drama Actress
Julianna Marguiles redefined the procedural's protagonist with an amazing portrayal of wronged wife Alicia Florrick. This was a woman for the 21st century: one who didn't allow herself the time to pout over her husband's infidelity, instead doing what she needed to for her kids. The performance is one for the ages, as is the show. That's not to say Kyra Sedgwick isn't still overdue for her Emmy for The Closer, or that Glenn Close doesn't deserve a third for her absolutely amoral alter ego Patty Hewes on Damages. Should a nod go to January Jones? I'm not a big fan of her personally, but her performances in this season of Mad Men were nothing short of incredible. The work gets the nomination, not the person.
Best Supporting Drama Actor
Vincent Kartheiser and John Slattery are both equally deserving for their work on Mad Men, as are Martin Short and Campbell Scott for Damages, though Short would be my winner. In the "underappreciated" division, J.K. Simmons of The Closer and Robert Sean Leonard of House definitely qualify.
Best Supporting Drama Actress
I fell in love with a fictional character this season: tough-as-nails The Good Wife investigator Kalinda Sharma, played with such fire and enigma by Archie Panjabi. It's hard for me to consider anyone else for the win but Elisabeth Moss, so inspiring and revolutionary as Mad Men's Peggy Olson, but I then look not too far and see Joan Holloway Harris herself, Christina Hendricks, and wonder why that redheaded bombshell hasn't been nominated yet. Another egregious oversight: never nominating the brilliant Lisa Edelstein, who, thanks to a Cuddy-centric episode this season of House, should finally get her recognition. Two lawyers also in need of recognition: Rose Byrne, who more than holds her own against no less than Glenn Close on Damages and so often comes out of the battle as the victor, and the sometimes over-the-top Christine Baranski, who actually brought a beautiful subtlety to Diane Lockhart that I wound up loving as much as I loved Baranski by the end of the season.
Best Guest Drama Actor
Ted Danson is always brilliant in Damages, and even though he was less astounding this year, he was still Emmy-worthy. If he doesn't see a nomination, it'll be a crime. Even more of a crime would be ignoring the brilliant Alan Cumming as The Good Wife's political mastermind. His scene with a scheming 16-year old girl alone would be enough to win it for him. Also from that brilliant program is Mr. Big himself, Chris Noth, who acted brilliantly while both scheming and repenting all season as bad husband Peter Florrick. The Good Wife also had Gary Cole as ballistics expert McVeigh, a truly brilliant counterpart for Diane Lockhart. Finally, Jared Harris as British ax-man Lane Pryce was beyond incredible on Mad Men, and this season simply wouldn't have worked without him.
Best Guest Drama Actress
Lily Tomlin in Damages was a brilliant puppetmistress. And Mary McDonnell's performance in The Closer was nothing short of deliciously evil, especially when spouting vicious, self-centered bile like "My investigation must come first!" Both of them deserve nods, but the win should go to young Kiernan Shipka, a wünderkind on Mad Men at such a young age. (Also from Men: Allison Brie, also a dream nominee for me for Community!) I would also love to see Martha Plimpton nominated for her brilliant two-episode stint on The Good Wife as opposing counsel. She was just pitch-perfect.
So those are some of my favorites for the Emmys this season. Who are yours? Let me know in the comments section!
(Also: if anyone is wondering where my hatred for the reality categories came from, let's just say that Crystal Bowersox didn't win American Idol tonight, and I'm not taking it well. Stupid paint salesman...)