Critic's Notebook: SAG Award TV Nominations Bask in 'GLOW,' 'Big Little Lies'

The Screen Actors Guild voters also snubbed former winners Kevin Spacey and Jeffrey Tambor.
Courtesy of Netflix

Because they come on the cusp of the Oscar season, Golden Globe and SAG Awards movie nominations and results are generally assumed to be predictive every year.

The respective Globe and SAG Award TV nominations, though, come at the midway point in the Emmy calendar and are followed by five-plus months of TV without any major awards, so sometimes they're predictive and sometimes they're reactive.

Last December, for example, they were predictive. Stranger Things, The Crown, Westworld and, to a lesser degree, This Is Us all came into the winter as unproved awards commodities and earned their first awards recognition, and that was enough to sustain those shows until they dominated the Emmys as well. The winter of 2016 was a coronation for future TV awards contenders.

This year, however, it appears that the strong TV spring and a weak fall have made our December TV nominations look mighty reactive, as they're still catching up on their first chances to honor Handmaid's Tale and Big Little Lies, among other big winners at the Emmys.

Wednesday morning's Screen Actors Guild Award nominations definitely continued that reactive trend, with Big Little Lies landing a TV-leading four individual acting nominations in SAG's movie or limited series categories, which don't distinguish between lead and supporting roles, meaning that Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman will also have to go against Laura Dern, in addition to the ladies of FX's Feud. That other Emmy favorite, Handmaid's Tale, received predictable nods for Elisabeth Moss and drama ensemble, but without a supporting field, there wasn't room for an Ann Dowd to break in.

Still, the SAG Awards nominations could have a predictive element as well and it's important — or, rather, "important," since let's all keep some perspective on exactly how truly important any of this is — to remember that any new nominees at all are meaningful with this group. Given the choice, SAG Award voters would prefer to nominate the exact same actors and TV shows every single year and would still give trophies to 30 Rock and Maggie Smith if they possibly could.

Netflix's GLOW looks like it will be a real long-term awards player, as it picked up a well-earned ensemble nod, a female actor in a comedy series nomination for Alison Brie and, in a real surprise, a male actor in a comedy series nomination for Marc Maron.

Also hailing from Netflix, the brooding crime drama Ozark got a boost, with Jason Bateman following up his Globe nomination with a SAG Award nod and Laura Linney, excluded by the Globes on Monday, making the cut as well.

But if those were the predictive things we learned from the SAG Awards nominations, there were many more waters that go muddied in the gaps between the two award groups.

Freddie Highmore of The Good Doctor could have cemented his award position by following up his Globe nod by joining the SAG Awards field. He did not. The same is true of Rachel Brosnahan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Frankie Shaw of SMILF. In contrast, the SAG nominations also offered a bounce back for Curb Your Enthusiasm, as the returning HBO comedy was left out by the Globes, but landed nominations for Larry David and the ensemble this morning. Sending more confusing signals, Sean Hayes, left out when the Globes nominated Eric McCormack and the show, earned a male actor in a comedy series nod from SAG, but the series fell short in the ensemble category.

Probably the show most hurt by this week's nominations has been HBO's The Deuce. Maggie Gyllenhaal was nominated by the Globes on Monday, but it has been hard to ignore that voters are honoring James Franco for his work in The Disaster Artist while ignoring that he plays two parts in a prestige HBO drama. Not nominating Gyllenhaal and Franco is one thing, but I personally couldn't list five drama ensembles better than the absurdly great cast David Simon assembled for The Deuce. SAG-AFTRA voters apparently could.

Some other things of note when it comes to the SAG Award nominations:

*** I've said my piece about HBO's Big Little Lies and how it's being categorized this winter. HBO has also said its piece. Little else to add here.

*** Nothing is definitive, but it sure looks like there's some punishment of bad behavior and allegedly bad behavior going on in these nominations. Kevin Spacey has been a perennial nominee and multiple SAG Award winner for House of Cards, but he was snubbed. Jeffrey Tambor is another perennial nominee and former winner here, left out for Transparent. Both actors also weren't part of the Golden Globes field.

*** I continue to aggressively hope that Pamela Adlon and Better Things aren't being punished for the sins of Louis C.K. Adlon wasn't nominated for a SAG Award last year, but after pushing her way in at the Golden Globes, she seemed like a reasonable possibility here. Instead, the female actor in a comedy field remains tough to break into, especially if both Grace and Frankie actresses apparently have to be nominated. I'm also a bit perplexed by the annual Uzo Aduba nomination, which seems unconnected to how much her character did or didn't do in any given Orange Is the New Black season. I'll never quibble with the annual Orange ensemble nomination (and frequent win) because it truly is TV's best and deepest ensemble, but I can't see nominating Aduba every year for a frequently underserved supporting role when the actors going un-nominated include Adlon, Shaw, Brosnahan, Issa Rae, DeWanda Wise, Justina Machado, Rita Moreno, Tracee Ellis Ross, Emmy Rossum and Kristen Bell, who happens to be hosting the darned SAG Awards telecast this year. First the Globes got Kristen Bell out of bed at 5 a.m. and didn't nominate her, and now this? It's beginning to sting.

*** Seriously, what is it going to take for Kristen Bell and The Good Place to get some legitimate awards love?

*** Unless I'm forgetting something, this now closes the awards book for the cast of HBO's The Leftovers. That Carrie Coon and company received a combined total of zero major Golden Globes, SAG Awards and Emmy nominations (one if you include Ann Dowd's weird guest actress Emmy nod) over three seasons is a pretty large disappointment. The Halt and Catch Fire team still has next year's Emmys to be snubbed.