The TV Column: Emmy nominations reach out to snubbed shows and fresh talent
In a bid to make its trophy show more relevant, more interesting to viewers and more attractive to the broadcast networks who this year must decide whether they want to keep broadcasting it, the TV academy has radically adjusted its thinking about what deserves an Emmy nomination.
Judging by the noms announced Thursday morning, that new thinking includes a major push to recognize new broadcast series that might actually attract large audiences -- as opposed to the niche cable shows it has fawned over for several seasons -- and shrewd nods to some shows it has steadfastly snubbed in the past but that have rabid fan bases. The fuddy-duddy academy even went out and courted controversy in a couple of nominations.
Both freshman series are up for best comedy series -- a category over which broadcast TV regained control this year. In 2009, three cable shows were in this race; this year, it's down to two: Showtime's "Nurse Jackie" and HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which are in the mix with the two new comedies and NBC's "The Office" and "30 Rock."
"Glee's" nominations include those for the show's Broadway-seasoned stars, Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison, as well as supporting-acting nods to Jane Lynch (the high school's cheerleading coach from hell, Sue Sylvester) and Chris Colfer (a.k.a. the glee club's sensitive Kurt).
"Modern Family," meanwhile, got a whopping five nominations for supporting-acting work, the show's expansive ensemble having decided none would submit his or her name in the lead-acting derbies. Every adult cast member is nominated -- Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen -- except show patriarch Ed O'Neill, who got snubbed, which is nothing new: The academy ignored him every year he starred in "Married . . . With Children."
As for controversy, the academy jumped into the raging Conan-vs.-Leno "Tonight Show" kerfuffle feet first, nominating Conan O'Brien's "Tonight Show" for best variety program but not Jay Leno's "Tonight Show." The crowd of jaded industry professionals who littered the academy's North Hollywood theater, where the noms were unveiled, gasped when O'Brien's name was read and Leno's was not.
Conan's the guy who walked from "The Tonight Show" after just seven months on the job when his ratings tanked and NBC tried to move the show to a later time slot to return Leno to late night. And yes, this means Conan's going to be seen on NBC at least one more time because that network is broadcasting this year's Emmy Awards ceremony. Here's hoping he wins -- his acceptance speech would surely be a doozy. Already Conan has tweeted: "Congrats to my staff on 4 Emmy nominations. This bodes well for the future of 'The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.' "
And in one of this year's stranger nominations, the academy decided that the 200th and 201st episodes of Comedy Central's "South Park" merited consideration for outstanding animated program, where it will compete against Fox stalwart "The Simpsons" and HBO's critically lauded "The Ricky Gervais Show" -- an animated version of Gervais's podcasts with pals Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington.
Those are the two "South Park" episodes Comedy Central censored so as not to show a cartoon character that viewers were led to believe was an animated Muhammad disguised in a bear costume -- but which, in fact, turned out to be Saint Nicholas in a bear suit. Meanwhile, the show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, hated the episodes as they aired and said so very publicly. And yet, we're told, the producers picked these two episodes for the academy to consider and now that they've been nominated, it raises the question: Will the TV industry's organization award Comedy Central an Emmy on Aug. 29 for censoring one of its programs?
Contacted for comment, Comedy Central e-mailed this non-response:
"We're extremely proud of 'South Park's' tenth overall Emmy nomination and hope that the series will be honored with its fifth Emmy Award later this year."