Why the SAG Awards Need to Get Serious (Analysis)

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Well, it didn’t take long running down the list of Screen Actors Guild nominees to become completely mystified and partially depressed about the selections. Here’s hoping the Golden Globes and Emmys don’t go so waywardly wrong.

For starters, there’s not a single African-American actor or actress represented from ongoing television series. This may be a byproduct of SAG voters forgetting that HBO’s Treme even exists. Laurence Fishburne got a nomination for his work in Thurgood, which would only be surprising if he didn’t get the nomination (at least SAG avoided that particular embarrassment). Sofia Vergara also got a nomination for her Modern Family work, so based on Hollywood’s working assumption that we’re all good on that score, perhaps we can pocket the race card. Ahem.

PHOTOS: SAG Award The Nominees

As for the actual selections, there’s nothing too heinous to raise the hackles while scrolling through the nominees for male or female actors in the movie and miniseries categories, though Betty White in The Lost Valentine will come into play later. So pay attention.

As for drama series actor – Patrick J. Adams from Suits? Did not see that coming. If you did, raise your hand and identify yourself. And no disrespect to Adams, who is a fine actor in a surprising series, but the lack of Kelsey Grammer from Boss on Starz, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin from Showtime's Homeland, Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters from Treme, Sean Bean from Game of Thrones, Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins from Justified, Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad, Michael Pitt from Boardwalk Empire – to name just 10 so as not to become freaking livid – is just too insanely wrong to accurately ponder.

And if you really wanted to put a microscope to that list, Michael C. Hall seems like a rubber-stamp. He looks as bored in that role as I do watching Dexter this season. I would put any of the 10 actors named above in his place. I would also put him in Adams place – so now you can see the extent of the problem.

STORY: SAG Awards Nominations Complete List

If SAG wants to fete its people, why not at least have supporting roles? That would curtail the nonsensicality by at least half. Seriously, this list does a grave disservice to truly qualified actors and brings into question the whole point of these awards. If the SAG Awards wants to be taken seriously, it simply can’t trot out a list that doesn’t have some combination of the 10 actors mentioned above. And as a reminder, you did notice that the number 10 was merely a qualifier so I didn’t blow a gasket dissecting this asinine list and the egregious number of actors left off of it?

OK, good.

But just for the sake of argument – because it’s scientifically proven that you can actually boil someone’s blood – consider these names: Peter Dinklage, Mark Addy (Game of Thrones); Joel Kinnaman (The Killing); Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy); Giancarlo Esposito, Dean Norris, Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad); Jeremy Irons, Colm Feore (The Borgias) – that took, what, 15 seconds of thinking? Come on, SAG, these are your people – make the effort.

At first glance, the list of actresses in a drama isn’t going to cause a spit-take. Sure, the material given Kathy Bates in Harry's Law is well below anything that would actually challenge her abilities. Glenn Close is always good in Damages, even though most people don’t even know the show is still on the air somewhere. (And no, invisibility to the public shouldn’t work against great performances.) But where’s Claire Danes from Homeland? Khandi Alexander and Melissa Leo from Treme? Katey Sagal from Sons of Anarchy? Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad. Laura Dern from Enlightened? Mireille Enos and Michelle Forbes from The Killing? Emmy Rossum from Shameless? Michelle Fairley from Game of Thrones?

STORY: SAG Awards Nominatee Reactions

If you want to be a hard ass about outstanding acting performances, then Julianna Margulies from The Good Wife might be the only one left standing in that category as currently represented. And, like the drama actors above, this list of actresses barely scratches the surface of excellent performances. Was the list of nominees drawn up on a napkin in a rush last night?

Actresses in a comedy series includes Edie Falco, who has readily admitted her role in Nurse Jackie isn’t meant to be funny, but she’s a tremendous actress and this is about acting, so why  not? But Betty White already got her nomination in the movies category and as wonderful as she is, maybe someone should have watched Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation, Kaitlin Olson from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Martha Plimpton in Raising Hope, Jane Levy in Suburgatory, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown and Alison Brie from Community, Patricia Heaton from The Middle – does this list have to go on?

And hey, watch me be as lazy as SAG on this next category – actors in a comedy: Might want to watch all of the male actors in the series above featuring funny actresses – you could see some pretty hilarious performances. Have you seen Louie or Wilfred on FX? What about Bored to Death on HBO? Do you watch much comedy? Do you watch much TV at all?

And that’s really the issue, isn’t it? Beyond the flawed, limited categories, there just doesn’t seem to be any indication that anyone in SAG has a working television. And it wants people to tune to TNT to watch this awards show? First, take yourself more seriously and stop mailing in these nominations. Then we’ll talk about watching the “winners.”

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com

Twitter: @BastardMachine