The Gold Standard: It’s time for Emmy to surprise us

Backstage at the Emmys last year, reporters were squirming — and not just because of the ill-fitting rental tuxes and too-tight gowns. As “Modern Family” rolled to its third straight Emmy win for comedy series (after earlier pulling in prizes for supporting actor and actress and directing), the usual air of ennui seeped into the press room. Bring us fresh faces! Bring us the excitement of the new! And, while you’re at it, three more servings of that delicious chocolate mousse! (There’s a reason thoses tuxes pinch at the waistband.)

Of course, this being the Emmys, the song remains the same. Once nominated, always nominated, until your show leaves the air or your third stint in rehab forces an unplanned hiatus. But there was the sense last year that a certain “Modern Family” fatigue was setting in. If both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney claim you as their favorite, you’ve probably dulled the edges sufficiently to lose the title of television’s best comedy. (And it has. “Louie,” “Veep,” the excellent final season of “30 Rock” and, having had an early look, the upcoming return of “Arrested Development” all turned in better years.)


Not that any of this will keep Emmy voters from checking off a particular box out of habit. (How else do you explain the Jon Cryer win last year?) But there does come a time when the possibility of the new enters balloters’ minds. (Just ask Matthew Weiner, whose “Mad Men” lost drama series — and 16 other Emmy categories last September.) That’s how it goes sometimes: One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawn mower.


A few thoughts as we head into the nomination season.

Recognize the season, not the life span

Live by this and not only do you eliminate the robotic rewarding of shows past their primes, but you can also reconsider a program like “30 Rock,” which turned in as perfect a series finale season as we’ve ever seen. Had enough of “Mad Men’s” musings about how one can never escape the past and truly change? Check out “Justified’s” outstanding fourth season, which explores the same themes with twice the energy and entertainment value. The show’s effortless charm tends to mask its ambitions, but they’re right there — all in the service of a great yarn.

Cancel Memorial Day weekend plans

Don’t think that you can forsake the DVR just because it’s mid-May. Sundance Channel’s haunting character study “Rectify,” which premiered last month, might be the year’s best new series. Netflix’s “Arrested Development” revival will drop 15 episodes on May 26, the same day Steven Soderbergh’s Liberace biopic, “Behind the Candelabra,” airs. Forget the barbecues. You’re staying indoors Memorial Day weekend.

Enough waiting: Show them the love

Nick Offerman, “Parks and Recreation.” Thanks to the “Modern Family” blockade in the supporting comedy actor category, Offerman’s never made it in. This is a shame. Even when Offerman’s bacon-loving, government-hating government worker has just a couple of scenes in a particular “Parks and Recreation” episode, he creates a few delightful moments of comic brilliance. (Making Leslie’s wedding ring by using a light fixture, blow torch and waffle iron ranked as a personal favorite.)

Andrew Lincoln, “The Walking Dead.” Survivalist leader. Loving father. Zombie fighter. And this season, he finally cracked and, whew, did you feel the grief and fatigue pouring out of him.

Kerry Washington, “Scandal.” She may well have surpassed Claire Danes this year as Queen of Political Soaps. Hand her the crown.

Adam Driver, “Girls.” Shirtless, sprinting prince or mentally unhinged rapist? Lena Dunham can’t decide, maybe because Driver is so convincing playing both sides of this lost young man.

Enough already: Show them the door

Glenn Close, “Damages.” We know it’s the show’s last season. And, for the few still watching, it was a fine send-off. But Close has already won twice and for better, meatier story lines.

Michael C. Hall, “Dexter.” Five nominations in a row. We were on board for the first four, but the show ran out of ideas last season. This year it ran out of ambition.

At least one of the men from “Modern Family.” Room must be made in the supporting comedy category for a member or two of the “Arrested Development” cast. And Nick Offerman. (See above.) Eric Stonestreet won his second Emmy last year, and as much as we enjoy his Cameron, voters should go in a different direction.

Jon Hamm, “Mad Men.” If only because we have the feeling that he’s getting tired of sitting in the audience looking happy for other people.


• At least one Netflix series wins a nomination. (We’d err on the side of “Arrested Development.”)

• Voters will again shut out the broadcast networks from the drama series lineup.

• A show or an actor, one you hold near to your heart (and who may love bacon as much as life itself) will be passed over.

• You will pour yourself a drink (something brown, since clear liquor is for rich women on diets) and get over it before the sun rises.