How do you argue with any master list that includes
, Kathy Bates,
, Martha Plimpton, Kelly MacDonald,
and Joan Cusack?
There were a number of surprises, both heartening and irritating, among this year's Emmy nominations, including a lovely little leitmotif of payback among the various actress categories, with nominations going to hardworking performers whose work over the years has shone no matter how small the role. Call it the Jane Lynch Effect.
Two years ago, Lynch's debut as Sue Sylvester on
was as big a draw as the musical numbers — critics and audiences fell all over themselves in gratitude that the much-admired performer had landed a high-profile role. This year, Lynch is up against Betty White, another hard-working, sentimental favorite, for supporting actress in a comedy, and the other categories are littered with similar "oh, don't you just love her" nominations.
Plimpton and McCarthy, competing for lead actress in a comedy, were among the morning's biggest and most pleasant surprises; as fine as their performances are in
and "Mike & Molly," respectively, it may have been the thrill of seeing two long-beloved actors (Plimpton starred in the original "Parenthood," McCarthy made her name on
) on TV in lead roles that gave them the extra boost. (McCarthy's huge success in "Bridesmaids" probably didn't hurt either.)
Bates is sublime in whatever she does, and to have her on network TV in
is a blessing. Martindale, one of the most talented character actors around, redefined gangster in
and "Boardwalk Empire's" MacDonald is so good she landed a role in the final "Harry Potter" film.
star Wiig is finally hitting her stride on the large screen and small, and who isn't happy to see Cusack, even if all-too-briefly, as a guest star on
once again being nominated and her show,
making the comedy series list this year, the only glaring omission from the Women We Love list was
but maybe next year.
Overall, the television academy seemed more determined than usual to correct for past omissions and shake things up, if only a bit. Amid a herd of predictable nominations — oh, look, "
— there were more than a few welcome developments and anomalies.
broke through the fantasy/sci-fi barrier to get a leading drama series nomination (alas, "The Walking Dead" did not), though next year maybe the recognition can extend to the fine cast — only
, who plays Tyrion Lannister, was nominated. Virtually ignored in its first fabulous season, "Justified" still didn't get a lead drama category, but it racked up acting nominations (and if Martindale does not win for Mags Bennett, the academy should be disbanded).
Even in the writing categories, the stranglehold of "Mad Men" and
was broken — although each show was nominated (and "Mad Men" twice), there was plenty of room for new shows, including
Yes, lead actor in comedy included suspects so usual they are practically statuary —
(who has never won), and last year's winner,
— but this year the academy included Parsons' costar
, while Matt LeBlanc managed to elbow his way in for "Episodes," as did critics' pick/long-shot
for "Louie." The supporting actor comedy category was almost absurdly dominated by the men of "Modern Family," with only
("Glee") and "Two and a Half Men's" long-suffering
making the argument that any other comedy exists on American TV. What about Rob Lowe and
in "Parks and Recreation"? What about
of "The Middle" or
of "Raising Hope"?
The lead actor in a drama category had so many nonwinning returnees — only "Justified's"
and "Boardwalk Empire's"
are new — that the race may be decided as much by longevity as merit, especially since three-time winner
) is not eligible this year. This is the fourth nomination for both "Dexter's"
and "Mad Men's" Jon Hamm, but "House's"
has walked away empty-handed for the past five years, bless his heart, and last year may have been "Friday Night Light's" Kyle Chandler's first nomination, but it was long overdue.
Not everyone benefited from this lifetime-achievement mentality. Critics' darlings Jeremy Irons (
) and William H. Macy ("Shameless") were not nominated, and
's fine work in "Men of A Certain Age" went unremarked (although costar
's did not).
) and Jennifer Carpenter of
remain un-nominated, while repeat nominees and past winners
) and Toni Collette (
) were also MIA.
On the other hand,
("Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"), who won lead actress in a drama in 2006, scooped up her eighth nomination. Because change is fine, but let's not get crazy about it.