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?

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Squee! It’s…

Squee! It’s…look, I just want to point out how excruciatingly fair this squee makes me. It’s Jamie Bamber on the season premiere of Dollhouse tonight! You may recall that the Baconeers had…issues with Dollhouse when it premiered last year. People I trust keep telling me it got better, and I really, really want to love Joss Whedon, so I’m willing to give it another chance. And it may be clear that I had some Lee Adama issues in the Battlestar Galactica odyssey, but I chalk that up to the fact that the writers couldn’t figure out what to do with the character. Bamber was wonderful in the Horatio Horblower movies–he even held the screen against a really yummy Ioan Gruffudd–and was perfectly lovely in fare such as Cold Case and Band of Brothers. He’s even acquitted himself well as the British version of a district attorney in the new Law & Order: Picadilly Circus spin-off. Did you see what I did there? With the acquitted and the lawyer thing, and…never mind.

Come join me on my squee-filled journey of forgiveness. Dollhouse airs on Fox tonight at 9pm Eastern and Pacific.

Fox Dumps Troubled DOLLHOUSE on Friday Nights

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The troubles continue for Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. Fox has announced its revised mid-season schedule, and Dollhouse has been shifted from its plum spot on Monday nights (where it would have been paired with 24) to Fridays (following the low-performing Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).

The move is ostensibly an attempt to recreate those long-ago glory days when Fox ruled Friday nights with its sci fi offerings. But let’s face it, the last show this strategy worked for–heck, the only show this strategy has ever worked for–was The X-Files. The reality these days is that Friday nights are where shows are sent to die.

And despite Whedon’s optimistic report last month, network interference continues to hamper production, which was delayed last week for more script rewrites. Sounds like he should have stuck to his vow never to work with Fox again after the troubles over Firefly.

Whedon Reveals the Bumpy Road to DOLLHOUSE

After months of assuring us that everything was fine with his upcoming series Dollhouse–despite the reported rewrites, reshoots, scrubbed pilots, and unplanned shutdowns–Joss Whedon has finally come clean about the chaos behind the scenes.

Posting on Whedonesque this week, the Almighty Joss admitted to fans that Dollhouse hasn’t exactly been “blazing an untrammeled path to surefire success, with nary a hitch or a hiccup.” In fact, it’s been a pretty rough ride. Says Whedon:

Basically, the Network and I had different ideas about what the tone of the show would be. They bought something somewhat different than what I was selling them, which is not that uncommon in this business. Their desires were not surprising: up the stakes, make the episodes more stand-alone, stop talking about relationships and cut to the chase. Oh, and add a chase. That you can cut to. Nothing I hadn’t heard before on my other shows (apparently my learning curve has no bendy part) but frustrating as hell given our circumstances – a pilot shot, scripts written, everybody marching together/gainfully employed… and then a shutdown. Glad I was for the breathing room, but it’s hardly auspicious. So back into the writer cave I went, wondering why I put up with this when I can make literally dozens of dollars making internet movies.

Trying to mitigate the inevitable tsunami of fan outrage directed at Fox, Whedon explains why all this network interference isn’t as bad as it sounds:

One: They’re not wrong. Oh, we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but wanting the first episodes to be exciting and accessible is not exactly Satanic. Being Satan is, but that’s in their free time and hey, there’s no judging in the Dollhouse. This kind of back and forth has happened on every show I’ve done, so if you liked those, chances are that was a part of why. And the need to focus on the essentials of what makes this universe tick – and which wire to cut to make it stop – really does bring up our game. So we as a staff have gone from blinking like unhoused moles to delving in with the same relish we had when we started. The show is really coming together now, in a way that I believe excites us and satisfies the Network. Of course, I have no idea if anybody else will like it, but I have the same faith in the staff, the crew and the remarkable cast that I always did. More, in fact. And what’s more crucial:

Two: Nothing essential has changed about the universe. The ideas and relationships that intrigued me from the start are all there (though some have shifted, more on that), and the progression of the first thirteen eps has me massively excited. The episode we’re shooting now I wrote as fast as anything I have before, not because I had to (although, funny side-note: I had to) but because I couldn’t stop the words from coming. Because I can feel the show talking to me; delighting, scaring and occasionally even offending me. It’s alive. Alive! Which is a far cry from how I felt a month ago. It’s been hilarious trying to keep up with what’s in, what’s out, who’s met whom and when – we’ve shot all of the first seven episodes out of airing order – but it’s come together in a pretty thrilling way. My huge gratitude to our cast for their precision and patience. Which also includes…

Three: Eliza. Watching her on the monitors at two o’clock this morning I was reminded forcibly how much I wished I were in bed – but also how strong, radiant and unmistakable her presence is. She’s someone who could coast on talent and never ever does. I love to watch her work. In fact, I think I got myself into this mess for that very reason, and though I have this fall occasionally sworn never to eat lunch with an actor I like again, I’m pretty pleased and crazy proud.

So what’s the Dollhouse heading to our TV screens this winter going to look like as a result of all this? Whedon explains the changes:

The original pilot was in fact thrown out. Again, at my behest. Once it became clear what paradigm the Network was shooting for, it just didn’t fit at all, even after I’d reshot more than half of it (see above re: despair). To get a sense of how completely turned around I was during this process, you should know there was a scene with Eliza and the astonishing Ashley Johnson that I wrote and shot completely differently three different times, with different characters in different places (actually I wrote it closer to eight times), and none of it will ever see air. Which is as it should be (though I’m determined to get Ms. Johnson back in the future). The scene just didn’t belong anymore. Similarly, the character of November has fallen out of the mix, because the show simply moves too fast now for me to do what I wanted with her. Season three, anyone…? Happily, Miracle Laurie is still with us in a new role, playing against (and pining for) Tahmoh’s character, Paul Ballard. Their chemistry is deeply nifty. The only other major cast shift is that the Dollhouse head of security, Laurence Dominic (played by Reed Diamond), who was written just for the now-defunct first ep, has stuck like fly-paper, and Reed is very much in the family for the present. (Most of my problems seem to involve my actors making themselves indispensable. This is the good problem kind.)

Apart from that, it’s all hush-hush: some things I’d intended to hold back are laid out much sooner, and some are rolling out more slowly. We’re still heading toward Tim’s intense two-part mind-blower – right before a thirteenth ep that may actually just be insane.

And finally, young Steve DeKnight, after writing and shooting an ep so cool it helped not only define the show but save its ass, is ending his consulting duties, the f#%&er. I will be crying on the shoulder of Jane Espenson come Monday, so congratudolences are in order. Excited for the Jane Flava.

As are we, Joss. As are we.

So, apparently the dealio is that everything kinda sucked for a while there, but not to worry, crisis averted. Everything’s just peachy now. We think. Hopefully.

DOLLHOUSE Pilot to Be Reshot

Joss Whedon logged on to Whedonesque this week to gently break the news to fans that he would be reshooting the pilot episode of his hotly anticipated Fox series Dollhouse. Getting a bit of deja vu? That’s because the pilot episode of Whedon’s Fox series Firefly was also reshot–at the network’s request–signaling the beginning of the network’s clumsy meddling with and lack of faith in a show that would eventually go on to be a cult hit with remarkable legs on the DVD sales chart (no thanks whatsoever to Fox).

The new pilot reportedly will be a prequel of sorts to the original, which will then air as the second episode, with a few minor adjustments. Whedon attempted to put a positive spin on the reshoot, which he said was for issues of tone and clarity, but he’s pretty much required to toe that party line.

So is this the beginning of the end for Dollhouse? Ordered just days before the WGA went on strike, Whedon and co. had only two months to write and prep the series, which didn’t leave a lot of time for network feedback to be worked into the process. Whedon admits that he “was in a dark, noir kind of place” when he came back from the strike, which was not necessarily the tone the suits were looking for. And it’s not like Dollhouse is an especially easy sell. Look, I’d practically follow Whedon into fire, but a show about brainwashed prostitutes is treading precariously close to the edge of my personal comfort zone, so what’s a mainstream audience going to think? It’s not altogether unreasonable that the series might legitimately require a bit of fine tuning to hit the butter zone.

The good news, however, is that Fox is making an attempt to tap into the wave of internet interest following the debut of Whedon’s internet musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog” (which drew 2.25 million streams in five days) by allowing the creator to produce a series of companion webisodes for Dollhouse. An entire season’s worth of webisodes in fact, one for every episode. The shorts will be released throughout the season and the on-air episodes may even include a teaser for the next webisode. Maybe Fox has learned a thing or two since Firefly after all.

Bacon Bits: DR. HORRIBLE, LOST and more

– Can’t wait for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog to go live? Dark Horse has posted a companion comic online, following the adventures of Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible’s superhero arch nemesis.

– Reruns of Lost will air on Sci Fi Channel starting Sept. 15. Speaking of, watch out Oprah, ABC has launched a Lost Book Club.

– Keith Olbermann is reuniting with SportsCenter bud Dan Patrick for NBC’s Football Night in America.

– The Wire‘s Omar may get his own movie.

– Good news: Jane Espenson is writing the Battlestar Galactica TV movie. Bad news: Edward James Olmos is directing. And apparently it’s all about Cylons.

– If you haven’t seen them yet, check out these hilarious Hellboy/NBC cross-promotions featuring Chuck, American Gladiators and James Lipton. Rumor has it that The Office, Heroes, and Law & Order are next.

Whedon Reveals DR. HORRIBLE Master Plan

Finally, Joss Whedon fans have a premiere date for his highly anticipated series of web shorts, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog.” Whedon unveiled the release plans for the supervillian musical in an open letter to fans:

ONE WEEK ONLY! AN INTERNET MINISERIES EVENT!

“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” will be streamed, LIVE (that part’s not true), FREE (sadly, that part is) right on Drhorrible.com, in mid-July. Specifically:

ACT ONE (Wheee!) will go up Tuesday July 15th.

ACT TWO (OMG!) will go up Thursday July 17th.

ACT THREE (Denouement!) will go up Saturday July 19th.

All acts will stay up until midnight Sunday July 20th. Then they will vanish into the night, like a phantom (but not THE Phantom – that’s still playing. Like, everywhere.)

Whedon goes on to say that the series will be made available for download for a small fee once all three parts have been published, and there are also plans in the works to release the series on DVD. More details will be unveiled at Comic-con later this month.

DR. HORRIBLE’S Teaser Trailer

At last, here’s a glimpse of Joss Whedon’s upcoming series of web shorts, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” set to launch sometime this summer.

The cast and crew (including actors Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion and writers Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Zack Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen) will be participating in a panel at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday July 25. (That is, if the actors don’t go on strike and ruin Comic-con for everyone.)

Amy Acker Joins the Cast of DOLLHOUSE

Hold on to your hats, Whedon fans. After months of casting rumors and speculation, another Jossverse alum has joined the cast of his upcoming Dollhouse: none other than Angel‘s Amy Acker. Whedon broke the news himself when he posted on Whedonesque to say that casting for the series was complete.

Acker, who’s also been seen on Alias and the short-lived Drive, will play Clare Saunders, the smart doc who looks after the well-being of the Dolls. Also joining the cast will be Harry Lennix (24) as Echo’s handler/bodyguard and newcomer Miracle Laurie in the part of November, a Doll who will be recurring but does not appear in the pilot.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Marathon Leads into Season 4

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If you’ve been waiting to get on the Battlestar bandwagon, now is your chance, and you won’t even have to gum up your Netflix queue to do it. Sci Fi is offering up a week-long marathon of Battlestar Galactica to lead into Friday’s Season 4 premiere (eeeeeee! hooray!). While you won’t get the miniseries that kicks the whole thing off (in short: killer robots break a longstanding peace and obliterate the human race. Sexy killer robots, that is. Old rustbucket of a military spaceship escapes the attack by virtue of not having up-to-date computers that sexy killer robots can take over and starts collecting survivors, leading them to a mythical place known as Earth), you’ll get a good look at some of the best TV that’s aired this decade.

Monday focuses on Season 1, where you will get ruminations on everything from being an occupying force to whether it’s okay to torture a machine to the relationship between polytheism and monotheism (no, really). Tuesday brings part of Season 2, starting with a shattering revelation and ending with an episode that made me wail over one of the Fleet’s small triumphs and the affection they have for the people who have sacrificed to lead them. Wednesday ties up Season 2 and uncovers more of the politics in both the human worlds and the Cylon worlds, with Lucy Lawless and Michelle Forbes dropping by to make life more difficult. Thursday provides the first part of Season 3, and with it questions about the propriety of suicide bombers and biological warfare, more mythology, and some sexy boxing (no, really). Finally, Friday morning brings the last of Season 3, sweeping us straight into the Season 4 premiere that evening (squee! delight!).

So set your DVRs and travel across the galaxy–I’ll be curious to see whose side you end up on. Roslin/Airlock ’08? Lara4Evah? (Or should that be Larbuck?) HACSR (Humans and Cylons Seeking Reconciliation)? That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what you’ll find in this great show. I was leery once, too–don’t be afraid. There aren’t any tin can dogs. Just awesome TV. Joss loves it–you will too.