The Emmys Revert to (Bad) Form (Analysis)

"Friday Night Lights" (DirecTV/NBC)
Bill Records/NBC

Having wrapped after five seasons, the critical darling is positioned for its first -- and last -- series nomination, following noms for its two leads last year.

A few nice surprises can't cover up for lack of vision, rubber-stamping.

After a surprising string of years where the Emmys got it mostly right by rewarding quality -- instead of merely celebrating the familiar -- its voters reversed a few years of good will and embraced lameness for 2011.

A few nice surprises in the mix could not otherwise cover for nominations that screamed, "I didn't watch a lot of television last season."

PHOTOS: 2011 Emmy Nominations

Perhaps the biggest surprise was making up for years of neglect and finally giving Friday Night Lights the credit it deserved as a drama series. It doesn't exactly wipe away the shame and embarrassment of ignoring The Wire for five seasons, but it helps. And yet, even that nomination -- which might rightly be called shocking -- couldn't mask the regrettable oversights in the same category.

No Justified. No Treme. No Sons of Anarchy. Those three are inexcusable. Who do you knock out? Easy -- Dexter, which is getting a little long in the tooth, and The Good Wife, which has no business being in the discussion. Of course, business probably played a role in that nomination because the broadcast networks would have cried foul. Yes, Mad Men is a slam-dunk, and HBO was rightly rewarded for its freshman gems Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. But not including Justified or Treme at the very least looks suspect.

PHOTOS: Emmy Nominations 2011: Snubs and Surprises

And if you want to dip a toe into the milk of embarrassment, just take the Treme snub a little further: Voters didn't see any lead or supporting actors in that bunch? Really? Because such a staggering oversight just screams, "I have never seen one episode of this series." Is it on at the same time as Good Wife or something? Hell, you didn't even toss Treme a bone with a music-related nomination. There's this place called New Orleans. You might want to check it out -- and open your ears when you're down there.

Not to get stuck on Treme here, but the elephant in the room by its lack of nominations (and here we're having an eerie flashback to The Wire) is race. All the lead actor nominations were white. The very deserving Andre Braugher got a nom in the supporting actor category for his work in TNT’s Men of a Certain Age. All of the lead actresses in a drama -- white. But at least your head-scratching adoration of Good Wife (a good show, not a great one) dragged in Archie Panjabi with the net, giving another minority actor a nomination. 

STORY: Emmy Nominations: 'Mildred Pierce,' 'Mad Men' Lead

As for outstanding comedy, finally nominating Parks and Recreation was an outstanding, albeit late, idea. And yet, that can't overshadow two glaring faults here. First, Glee isn't a comedy. And, if it is, it's not nearly funny enough to be included here. Secondly, it's heartwarming that The Office got another nomination in the season where Steve Carell left, but -- too late now -- it didn't deserve it. See, rubber-stamping past nominees is an insidious problem with Emmy voters -- and just when it looks like complaining critics have helped eradicate that issue, it flares up wildly again this year.

While it would have been asking too much for FX's Louie to make it in this category (oh, but you sly voters covered your backsides with the Louis C.K. nomination as actor in a comedy), at the very least Community deserved a nom here, and some fresh blood in the form of Raising Hope would have made this a very strong category. But no. 

STORY: Emmy Nominations: Stars and Execs React

What other major snubs were there in this year's Emmys? Plenty. 

How Emmy Rossum didn't get nominated for her knockout performance in Showtime's Shameless is beyond belief. The same goes for Wendell Pierce and Khandi Alexander from Treme -- but then again, we've been over this egregious Treme thing enough, right? (Wrong.) And at the risk of taking these snubs a little too close to the heart, Emmy voters have their heads up their asses on the Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) issue. Seriously, that's two seasons of shame at least. And the hard part here is trying not to tear down another actor's work in support of someone snubbed, but let's just say there was room. There was plenty of room.

And while some people, trying to read the tea leaves of "what Emmy usually does" (a ridiculous concept -- your failure shouldn't be creating trends that are so easily spotted), might argue that failed freshman series such as FX's Lights Out and Terriers shouldn't get attention at all, that's both regrettable and unfair. Consider the great work that Holt McCallany did as the lead on Lights Out (yes, we all love Hugh Laurie, but again -- really?), and there's a slot filled. Same goes for the exceptional work of Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James on Terriers. Lastly, because this kind of blood-pressure tampering can do real harm, when Emmy voters were doing such a wonderful service of nominating Mireille Enos as lead actress for her work in AMC’s The Killing, did they not look to her left on the screen? His name is Joel Kinnaman. He deserved a nomination. Also, look up Nick Offerman's comedy work. Yeah, it's that good. So you blew that, too.

Let's take a little breather because there will be plenty of time for more grief; applying failure analysis to the Emmys is almost a full-time job. So, what did voters get right? A lot, if not -- as noted at the top -- enough to cover the gaffes. But in fairness, here goes:

Margo Martindale as supporting actress in a drama for her stellar work in FX’s Justified. And Timothy Olyphant (lead actor), Walton Goggins (supporting actor) and Jeremy Davies (special guest actor) for their work on Justified. You know, the show that didn't get nominated for best drama (oh, right, forgot ...).

Friday Night Lights for best drama. And Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton for lead actors.

Parks and Recreation for best comedy.

Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) for supporting actor.

Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) lead actresses in a comedy.

Not nominating Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara, The Big C and Weeds in the comedy category. Thank you. A lot of great work on those shows, but not a lot of funny work.

Not rewarding Killing for best drama. It was the right thing to do. Especially because you so badly blew the other three that deserved a nom.

See? Emmy voters didn't get it all wrong. But couldn't they have gotten more of it right? The Emmys were on something of a roll for a few years. Now? These nominations have the whole affair rolling backward down the hill (and, honestly, this column doesn't touch on all the outrage and injustice that are in -- or not in -- the lengthy list of nominations).


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