Let’s be honest: Emmy nomination day is basically Drive Critics Insane Day. And after being so jarringly upbeat about what I wanted to be nominated in a column I wrote Wednesday, Thursday’s nomination announcements basically slapped the crap out of that mood. And so I wrote two columns Thursday detailing the troubles that an overwhelming amount of great shows presents to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. (Read them here and here.) But now, because the Emmy voters do get a lot of things right — even if it’s not allowing brilliant shows to be displaced, etc. — I’ve collected 23 nominations that were pleasantly surprising.
Feel the hug.
4. Jimmy Kimmel Live, variety series. I haven’t read anything about Jay Leno or even David Letterman snubs. Another reminder there’s a new king of late night.
5. Jonathan Banks, supporting actor in a drama series, Breaking Bad. In a varied and amazing career, it would be nice if people studied this tremendous performance. Heart, soul, intelligence, jadedness. Ultimate calm in chaos.
6. Mandy Patinkin, supporting actor in a drama series, Homeland. You could say the exact same thing for Patinkin. Though I was disappointed in the 24-esque turn the series took in season two, Patinkin has been great throughout. If the show persists with a Carrie-Brody love angle, then Patinkin is, for me, the entire reason for watching season three.
7. Adam Driver, supporting actor in a comedy series, Girls. The Hollywood Reporter posted the first review of Girls, season one, and in that review I raved about Driver. He’s been nothing short of phenomenal every time he’s on the screen.
8. Tony Hale, supporting actor in a comedy series, Veep. Since Emmy voters threw up all over themselves by snubbing Arrested Development (three nominations – one more than Hemlock Grove for God’s sake), then it’s nice to see Hale get credit for his hilarious turn in Veep.
9. Anna Chlumsky, supporting actress in a comedy, Veep. I guess this is why we don’t give up on the Emmys entirely. I figured there was no way that Emmy voters would recognize her performance. They are blind to the most obvious things (hello, Will Arnett), so I didn’t even mention her in my Emmy “wants” column Wednesday. Very definition of pleasant surprise.
10. Margo Martindale, guest actress in a drama series, The Americans. Just a couple of days before the Emmy announcements, I watched a screener of what the writers of CBS’ fall “comedy” The Millers thought was funny fare for Martindale to recite: fart jokes. And not just one of them. I hope this amazing actress wins, because it would set up a telling little story: After winning the same award for her brilliant turn in FX’s Justified, Martindale found work the following fall season in a CBS drama called A Gifted Man, where her Emmy winning talents were pointlessly unused. Now, if she wins again for another FX series in The Americans, she’ll follow that up with a CBS sitcom that uses her gifts for fart jokes. It’ll be like the world’s saddest trend.
11. Diana Rigg, guest actress in a drama series, Game of Thrones. Loved every withering line she said.
12. Melissa Leo, guest actress in a comedy series, Louie. One for the ages. Insta-classic.
13. Elaine Stritch, guest actress in a comedy series, 30 Rock. As Jack’s mother Colleen, she was always perfect.
14. Peter Mullan, supporting actor in a miniseries or movie, Sundance Channel’s Top of the Lake. One of the best acting performances on television all last year.
15. Charlotte Rampling, supporting actress in a miniseries or movie, Sundance Channel’s Restless. I would rewind and watch her scenes while reviewing. She was fabulous.
16. Abi Morgan, outstanding writing for a miniseries, movie or special, for BBC America’s The Hour. An excellent writer. She probably won’t win, but it would be no upset if she did.
17. MythBusters, outstanding reality program. There can never be enough love for Mythbusters.
18. Portlandia, outstanding writing for a variety series. Oh, great, now this little gem is OVER. Nice to see smart, clever and searing (in a nice way, of course) get rewarded.
19. Children’s Hospital, outstanding special class – short-format, live-action entertainment programs. Worst category title ever, but such a fun show to watch. Well deserved.
20. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, outstanding special class – short format nonfiction programs. A show so good it should be somewhere other than online. Jerry Seinfeld is delightful in these.
21. Brain Games, outstanding informational series or special, for National Geographic Channel. Host Jason Silva is a magnetic personality, and this little show is a ton of fun.
22. Dayton Duncan, outstanding writing for nonfiction programming, “The Great Plow-Up” segment of The Dust Bowl. Duncan is a treasure and this takes the sting out of the documentary itself getting snubbed.
23. Alex Gibney, for all the recognition he got for his documentary, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God for HBO.