First off, I won’t fault the Academy for a complete array of horrible and misguided choices. Only most of them.
So glad to see “Mad Men” make a major splash at this year’s Emmys. It was the best new show of the season and Jon Hamm was a revelation. And “Damages” was worthy as well. OK, now for everything else.
“Boston Legal,” “Damages," “Dexter,” “House,” “Lost,” “Mad Men”
What magic spell does “Boston Legal” have over the TV Academy? The fact that “Boston Legal” now has a nomination and “The Wire” doesn’t tell you all you need to know about the validity of an Emmy. Feel free to send me your emails telling me what an idiot I am, but comparing these two shows is like saying the Miami Dolphins are better than the New England Patriots. To even put them on the same level is ridiculously stupid.
And how about a big thumbs up for “Lost,” which continues to provide thrill rides aplenty all while doing it within the confines of broadcast restrictions.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Entourage,” “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “Two and a Half Men”
Exactly the same as last year, except “Curb” takes the “Ugly Betty” spot. Showtime’s not feeling good this morning, with “Weeds” and “Californication” being left out of the picture. The biggest omission here is the absence of “The Big Bang Theory,” which delighted week after week.
Lead actor, drama
Gabriel Byrne, “In Treatment”; Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”; Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”; Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”; Hugh Laurie, “House”; James Spader, “Boston Legal”
Lead actress, drama
Glenn Close, “Damages”; Sally Field, “Brothers and Sisters”; Mariska Hargitay, “Law and Order: SVU”; Holly Hunter, “Saving Grace”; Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer”
Talk about your battle of movie stars. And if this was 1988, even better. But it’s interesting that Close, Field, Hunter and Sedgwick have all transitioned to the small screen and done it with aplomb. Close brings the same intensity to “Damages” that she has for decades on the big screen and the show wouldn’t be the same without her doggedness in winning her case.
Supporting actor, drama
William Shatner, “Boston Legal”; Ted Danson, “Damages”; Zeljko Ivanek, “Damages”; Michael Emerson, “Lost”; John Slattery, “Mad Men”
Can’t really argue with most everyone here. Ivanek, who’s been a tremendous character actor for years, dating back to NBC’s stellar “Homicide: Life of the Street," and it’s nice to see him get his due. Emerson’s icy stare only makes rooting for or against him so much fun. Slattery’s another guy who’s been around a while and is only now getting noticed for his blatant sexism on “Mad Men.” Where’s "The Wire's" Omar? Michael K. Williams, keep your head held high.
Supporting actress, drama
Candice Bergen, “Boston Legal”; Rachel Griffiths, “Brothers & Sisters”; Chandra Wilson, “Grey’s Anatomy”; Sandra Oh, “Grey’s Anatomy”; Dianne Wiest, “In Treatment”
Wiest and Byrne had some incredibly taut and emotional scenes, and while I might have chosen Mia Wasikowska, as a teen rebelling against her father’s indiscretions on "In Treatment," Wiest will suffice. I won’t blame Wilson or Oh for the malaise “Grey’s” has been suffering from, but both would probably admit this was not their best season.
Lead actor, comedy
Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”; Steve Carell, “The Office”; Lee Pace, “Pushing Daisies”; Tony Shalhoub, “Monk”; Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men”
Except for Pace, we’ve seen this bunch before. He’s the only entrant here who’s in a one-hour dramedy, rather than the more traditional half-hour sitcom. Even Shalhoub must be a bit embarrassed at this point, being entered in this race. I really think at least one of guys from “The Big Bang Theory” — Johnny Galecki or Jim Parsons — should’ve been included. Sheen and Shalhoub are consistently good, but adding new blood would’ve been the right thing to do.
Lead actress, comedy
Christina Applegate, “Samantha Who?”; America Ferrera, “Ugly Betty”; Tina Fey, “30 Rock”; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”; Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds”
Besides the multi-talented Fey, this category feels like a collective yawn. Ferrera and Louis-Dreyfus are both previous Emmy winners, and none of these performances feels particularly vibrant or fresh. Good, yes, but enough to make me Tivo every week. Not so much.
Supporting actor, comedy
Jeremy Piven, “Entourage”; Kevin Dillon, “Entourage”; Neil Patrick Harris, “How I Met Your Mother”; Rainn Wilson, “The Office”; Jon Cryer, “Two And a Half Men”
A very solid bunch and you might as well roll a dice to see who’d come out on top. The breadth of Harris’ career, which began decades ago on “Doogie Howser M.D.,” makes it feel like he’s the most deserving.
Supporting actress, comedy
Kristin Chenoweth, “Pushing Daisies”; Jean Smart, “Samantha Who?”; Amy Poehler, “Saturday Night Live”; Holland Taylor, “Two and a Half Men”; Vanessa Williams, “Ugly Betty”
Couldn’t be happier for Poehler, who might be the most talented comedian on television today. Her Hillary Clinton impersonation on “Saturday Night Live” not only made people laugh, but it actually changed the nature of the campaign as well. That’s impressive.
“The Amazing Race,” “American Idol,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Project Runway,” “Top Chef”
Of all the Emmy news of the last 10 years, nothing might be more astonishing than the domination of “The Amazing Race.” The adventure series has won five times in a row, but clearly the buzz shows at the moment are “Idol,” “Runway” and “Top Chef,” the latter being a tasty treat for foodies. Could a chocolate soufflé finally top the “Race”?
Reality show host
Tom Bergeron, “Dancing With the Stars”; Heidi Klum, “Project Runway”; Howie Mandel, “Deal or No Deal”; Jeff Probst, “Survivor”; Ryan Seacrest, “American Idol”
This is the first year for this category and all make their jobs look easy, which is a credit to their emcee skills. Seacrest deserves major props over his competition in that he's guiding not only the most-watched show, but the most scrutinized one too. Every miscue is magnified to the nth degree. That's a lot of pressure, and he nails it every time.
Stuart Levine is a managing editor at Variety. He can be reached at email@example.com.