You Just Keep Me Hanging On: Repeat Emmy Winners among Lead Acting Nominees

All hopped up on the excitement of Emmy ballots coming out on Monday, we posed the question yesterday of whether Emmy voters’ love affairs with certain shows might be blocking other deserving winners. 30 Rock and Mad Men are great, but does rewarding them over and over “cheat” other great shows out of the prize? It’s a tricky question–maybe these shows (or their submissions) really are the best, or really do best match voters’ tastes. While voting panels change from year to year, it’s not like there are sweeping changes to the overall Academy membership across short periods of time.

Still, the numbers suggest that there’s a pretty good case to be made that logjams among series winners are creating a few victors and a block of losers. We wondered, however, whether the pattern of repeat winners would be the same for performers. There are obviously many more actors to choose from than series, and since actors submit a single episode to be judged, an especially striking performance or storyline might propel a seeming underdog to victory. At the same time, everyone can think of anecdotal evidence suggesting that some lauded actors just aren’t able to break through. Hugh Laurie and Steve Carell, for example, have both done seven seasons of their signature roles, they’ve both been nominated for performance Emmys five times for those roles…and they’ve both won exactly zero times. Could repeat wins for other actors be the explanation? Today we look at 20 years of actors in lead categories.

Lead Actor in a Drama: 25% repeat winners, 60% multiple winners

Dennis Franz, who was terrific on NYPD Blue, won four times; during those years George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Jimmy Smits, Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston, and David Duchovny were nominated multiple times and never attained the prize. (You thought Jimmy Smits won one of those years, didn’t you? Me too. Like Laurie and Carell, he was nominated five times without a win.) James Gandolfini’s three wins kept Orbach, Peter Krause, and–hold me closer, tiny dancers–Martin Sheen off the podium, while James Spader’s and Bryan Cranston’s three wins apiece have pretty effectively blocked Laurie, Michael C. Hall, Gabriel Byrne, Denis Leary, and Jon Hamm.

Lead Actress in a Drama: 15% repeats, 65% multiple winners

To be fair, the annual nominations of the usual suspects in this category probably reveals a dearth of quality roles for women. But from year to year, this tends to be the same small number of women trading off the trophy. With a historic lack of good leading roles for women, is rewarding the same good stuff over and over a problem? As much as I like Angela Lansbury, for example, I can’t get that worked up over Kathy Baker’s three victories keeping Murder, She Wrote out of the winner’s circle. Still, The Edie Falco and Allison Janney Hootenanny Variety Hour (I would totally watch that) that soaked up five Emmys effectively blocked Jennifer Garner and Frances Conroy from winning for notable performances, and a second win for Glenn Close for a lesser season of Damages could have gone to someone like Holly Hunter.

Lead Actor in a Comedy: 20% repeats, a staggering 70% multiple winners

The six-year Kelsey Grammar/John Lithgow stranglehold shut out John Goodman, Gary Shandling, and even Michael J. Fox’s Spin City performance until he was forced to leave his show. (It also shut out Paul Reiser while Helen Hunt won four Emmys in a row for the same show and Jerry Seinfeld while his show was the biggest phenomenon on TV, but, like Sue Sylvester, I don’t care so much about that.) While Tony Shaloub’s Monk was certainly a great performance, his three wins came at the expense of  Matt LeBlanc, Bernie Mac, and Steve Carell, who I note again has never won for playing Michael Scott. (Alec Baldwin’s repeat win in 2009 helped with that little blockade.)

Lead Actress in a Comedy: 25% repeats, 50% multiple winners

While the 50% multiples number is a lot, there hasn’t been a repeat winner in almost a decade. The Candice Bergen/Helen Hunt (four in a row)/Patricia Heaton era, during which five women won in 12 years, meant no awards for Betty White, Delta Burke, Marion Ross, Cybill Shepherd, Ellen DeGeneres, Calista Flockhart, and Jane Kaczmarek. Since Heaton’s repeat win in 2001, however, nine different women have taken home the Emmy in this category. A sign of a sea change?

All of this is only mentioning the repeat nominees who were blocked–second, third, and fourth wins also beat out solo nominations for the likes of Ian McShane, Dylan McDermott, Matthew Fox, Kyle Chandler, Amber Tamblyn, Minnie Driver, Zach Braff, Jason Bateman, Bonnie Hunt, Marcia Cross, and Connie Britton (although we’re still hoping Chandler and Britton will become two-time nominees this year). And of course, repeats mean leaving out a laundry list of never-nominated actors too long to list here. As was true of serial series nominations and wins, there is little representation for genre stories (where is Mary McDonnell’s Emmy? Where is Nathan Fillion’s? Where is Kristen Bell’s? Where is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s?)–would requiring a winner to sit out, even a year, open up the field for unexpected nominees and maybe even winners? Would instituting such a rule have solved your favorite example of a great performance that missed out on a nomination or win?

Saturday: Ensemble shows probably make up the bulk of TV–quality and otherwise–today, and we tend to find the supporting categories the toughest to winnow down as we try to pick nominees. With so many actors to choose from, is the winners carousel even more problematic in supporting categories?

LIFE Makes AFI’s Top Ten of 2008

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NBC’s Life received its first ever awards attention Sunday when the American Film Institute announced its top 10 TV programs of the year. The other television honorees (which include series, telepics and minis) are Breaking Bad, In Treatment, John Adams, Lost, Mad Men, The Office, Recount, The Shield, and The Wire.

Conspicuously missing from the list is award-darling 30 Rock, as well as other frequent nominees Entourage, Weeds, Damages, Dexter, and House. AFI awards are selected by a 13-person jury composed of “scholars, film artists, critics and AFI trustees.” Creative teams for the selections will be honored at a luncheon on Jan. 9 in Beverly Hills.

Golden Globe Television Nominees Offer Few Surprises

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The 66th annual Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Although the televised ceremony (AKA the drinky Oscars) is generally a rip-roaring good time due to the mingling of film and television stars and the copious amounts of alcohol consumed by attendees, the awards themselves are invariably somewhat dubious, given as they are by a small group of irrelevant journalists known for being easily swayed by studio marketing campaigns. Still, they’re awards, so we’re gonna talk about ’em.

For the most part the nominees this year are exactly who think they are: 30 Rock, The Office, Mad Men, Dexter, House, etc. Once again we are bored to tears by been-there-done-that nominations for Tony Shaloub, Mariska Hargitay and anyone connected with Entourage. There is some pleasure to be gained by the nods for Cranford, January Jones and Neil Patrick Harris. On the other hand, multiple nominations for Californication and True Blood just go to show that absolutely anything can get nominated for an award if it airs on premium cable, and the total exclusion of Pushing Daisies suggests the HFPA doesn’t even watch TV.

A complete list of television nominees is under the cut…

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THE WIRE, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS Recognized by WGA

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The Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of America, East today announced nominations for outstanding achievement in television, radio, news, promotional writing, and graphic animation during the 2008 season. Obviously, we only care about television. And we’re excited, because finally someone has given The Wire and Friday Night Lights their due. And look, Burn Notice! Also, we’re loving the fact that the WGA isn’t afraid to nominate My Name Is Earl‘s hilariously titled episode “Vote for This and I Promise to Do Something Crazy at the Emmys.”

Although some of the WGA’s nominees do mystify us. Entourage? Fringe? True Blood? For real? You guys sure you don’t want to watch them again and reconsider?

Winners will be honored at the Writers Guild Awards on February 7, 2009, in Los Angeles and New York. A complete list of television nominees is behind the cut…

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THE WIRE, SCRUBS Honored as Humanitas Finalists

The Humanitas Prize has announced this year’s finalists, which included episodes from Boston Legal, John Adams and The Wire in the 60-minute television category and The Bill Engvall Show (that sound you hear is me scratching my head), In Treatment and Scrubs in the 30-minute category.

The Humanitas honors film and TV writing that “explores the human condition in a way which affirms the dignity of the human person and reveals common humanity.” The complete list of finalists is behind the cut.

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Emmy Hoorays and Horrors

We here at TV Bacon have some issues with the Emmy nominations. This is…not unusual. We remember with something less than glee 2002, when the Academy saw fit to honor Ray Romano for acting. Still, nominees tend to be bifurcated between glorious and ghastly–after all, 2002 was the same year they recognized John Spencer. Below we outline the most exciting moments and the most egregious omissions of the 2008 nominations.

The Horror! The Horror! 

Maybe They Think Masturbation Means Chewing Your Food: The exclusion of Pushing Daisies from the Best Comedy Series lineup is nigh unforgivable. Granted, we’re not convinced this show belongs among comedy company either, but voters had no trouble nominating it for 12 other awards as a comedy. So, having some of the best writing, directing, actors, music, costumes, production design, editing, and hair and makeup means you aren’t as good as Entourage. Nice. Also, where is the cinematography nod?

Game’s The Same–Just Got More Fierce: The Wire got as many nominations as According to Jim. One of the greatest achievements in American television history ends with two total Emmy nominations. Two. Total. Across five stellar seasons. So…convince us the Emmys mean anything.

Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton Get Sacked: Yes, only five people watch Friday Night Lights. Yes, even people who don’t watch the show heard the bad buzz surrounding this season’s ludicrous murder plot. Chandler and Britton still turned in some of the most subtle, detailed, wrenching performances on TV. Thank goodness Boston Legal was there to provide James Spader’s fantasia courtroom grandstanding and Candice Bergen’s ninth nomination instead.

Bear McCreary Must Be in A Galaxy Far, Far Away: We love Battlestar Galactica, but even we’ll acknoweldge that the episodes that fell within the eligibility period were perhaps not the strongest the show has ever put out (we’d hold out more hope that they might be recognized next year as they sign off, but…The Wire). Maybe we should celebrate that a show on the Sci Fi Channel about spaceships gets any nominations at all, let alone six, let alone one in a major category (Drama Writing). Even though it’s a travesty that Mary McDonnell goes unnominated while the likes of Mariska Hargitay get in again, episodes focusing on her character fell outside of the eligibiity period. But no matter how hard we try, we can’t understand how Bear McCreary’s epic, innovative work scoring this show can go unrecognized. We threatened previously to unleash Katherine Heigel if this happened, so batten down the hatches and bar the door against Katie.

Thank Goodness Things Have Changed Since the 60s: Three acting nominations for Mad Men, and they’re all for men, in spite of the complex, beautifully acted female characters on the show. It’s not like television is overflowing with outstanding roles for women, leaving no room for the likes of Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, and Christina Hendricks.

Evacuate the Children!: Classical Baby: The Poetry Show. Hannah Montana. High School Musical 2. Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: The Untouchable Kids of India. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Even with a couple of classy entries, this might be the Emmy category with the lowest batting average. We weep for the future.

Lest We Forget: So much for the greatest generation. Ken Burns’ epic, moving, historic documentary on World War II received nominations for writing, directing, sound, and editing, but is nowhere to be found in nonfiction series or special. Inside the Actors Studio, which was nominated, interviewed Charlie Sheen last year. Well, he is an Emmy nominee. As is his personal hairstylist.

Even A Stopped Clock Is Right Twice A Day: Kudos and Huzzahs

And This Award You Just Got? It’s A Cookie: 17.5 nominations (including one for Kenneth’s the Page’s webpage) for 30 Rock…and they probably deserved more. Where’s the recognition for costume design for Will Arnett’s super-short robe? Shine a spotlight on Tina Fey and turn a wind machine on her–she might be on stage a lot come Emmy night.

Better Award Winning through Chemistry: Bryan Cranston was robbed during his time on Malcolm in the Middle, never winning for his warm, rubbery Hal. Here’s hoping that his performance as a terminally ill teacher who becomes a quietly angry meth dealer garners him the Emmy he so deserves. Don’t mess with him, voters–he can melt you in a bathtub.

Perhaps This Will Make Him Feel Warm and Safe and Loved: With a loaded Lead Comedy Actor category, we worried that Lee Pace’s mild, sad, lovestruck piemaker would be overlooked. Finding his name on the list was better than than a cup-pie with urban honey baked into the crust.

He Knew Which Palms to Grease: It wasn’t for his role as The Wire‘s corrupt ex-mayor, but Glynn Turman’s nomination for In Treatment is a huge–and most welcome–surprise in a category that often recognizes movie stars regardless of the size or quality of the role they play. Frankly, we thought he’d lose out to Robin Williams. Now we just want to see Turman beat him.

No More Kings–Just A Bunch of Emmy Nominees: John Adams was uneven as all get-out, but the wide range of supporting actors breathing life into the architects of a new country took our breath away. From the always-brilliant Tom Wilkinson as an earthy Ben Franklin to a surprising David Morse as George Washington to Laura Linney as the backbone helping to hold a country together, the characters surrounding Adams outstrip the second president.

Because We Know Patty: FX’s bold, beautifully shot Damages seemed to suffer from all the things that usually keep shows from being recognized by the Emmys. First, it’s really good. Second, it’s on basic cable–HBO’s award-grubbing budget is probably bigger than FX’s total budget. The intricate mystery doesn’t lend itself to the Emmy screening process. And yet, quality wins out for a change. Let’s hope the same holds true for the final victors.

Guide to January Series Premieres

Despite the lingering writers strike, the television future is not entirely bleak. In addition to the impending return of shows like Lost and Jericho, we’ve got a slate of new mid-season series premieres to warm the cockles of our hearts. Here’s a handy guide to what’s coming up this month.

CASHMERE MAFIA (ABC)
Premieres: Sunday, Jan. 6, at 10 PM
Time slot: Wednesdays at 10 PM
Description: Producer Darren Star (Sex And The City) brings us another show about four high-powered, catty women who sip trendy drinks and gab about their sexual misadventures. Not to be confused with Sex and the City originator Candace Bushnell’s Lipstick Jungle, premiering next month on NBC.
Cast: Bonnie Somerville, Frances O’Connor, Lucy Liu, Miranda Otto, Peter Hermann, Julian Ovenden

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES (FOX)

Premieres: Sunday, Jan. 13, at 8 PM
Time slot: Mondays at 9 PM
Description: With the help of an otherworldly protector (played by Firefly‘s Summer Glau), Sarah Connor starts fighting back against the Terminators that will stop at nothing to eliminate her son, the future leader of the resistance.
Cast: Lena Headey, Richard T. Jones, Summer Glau, Thomas Dekker

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BREAKING BAD (AMC)
Premieres: Sunday, Jan. 20, at 10 PM
Time slot: Sundays at 10 PM
Description: From the mind of Vince Gilligan (The X-Files) comes this show about a high school chemistry teacher (played by Malcolm and the Middle‘s Bryan Cranston) sleepwalking through life until a terminal diagnosis wakes him up and inspires him to use his chemistry skills in pursuit of the American Dream.
Cast: Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brant, Bryan Cranston, Dean Norris, R.J. Mitte

IN TREATMENT (HBO)
Premieres: Monday, Jan. 28, at 9:30 PM
Time slot: Weeknights at 9:30 PM
Description: Based on the critically acclaimed Israeli series, this five-night-a-week serial tracks the weekly sessions between a psychotherapist named Paul (Gabriel Byrne) and his patients. Each night will be devoted to a specific patient – Laura (Melissa George) on Mondays, an anesthesiologist who is infatuated with the older, married Paul; Alex (Blair Underwood) on Tuesdays, a fighter pilot who’s still haunted by a botched raid he was involved in years before; Sophie (Australian newcomer Mia Wasikowska) on Wednesdays, a gymnast with Olympic dreams; and a married couple (Embeth Davidtz and Josh Charles) in counseling on Thursdays; with Fridays focusing on Byrne visiting his own therapist (Dianne Wiest), a former supervisor and mentor.
Cast: Blair Underwood, Dianne Wiest, Embeth Davidtz, Gabriel Byrne, Josh Charles, Melissa George, Mia Wasikowska

ELI STONE (ABC)
Premieres: Thursday, Jan. 31 at 10 PM
Time slot: Thursdays at 10 PM
Description: Are attorney Eli Stone’s bizarre visions a sign that the universe is guiding him to a higher purpose or just a symptom of an aneurysm like the one that plagued his tortured father? From exec producers Ken Olin, Marc Guggenheim and Greg Berlanti.
Cast: James Saito, Jonny Lee Miller, Laura Benanti, Loretta Devine, Matt Letscher, Natasha Henstridge, Sam Jaeger, Victor Garber