Parallel Universes: Repeat Emmy Winners among Supporting Acting Nominees

Over the past couple of days, we’ve been exploring the question of how Emmy voters’ love affairs with a handful of shows or actors might create a sort of Emmy carousel, with the same few favorites winning over and over while others are forever kept off the ride. While there have been a lot of repeat winners over the past two decades, nine different women have won the Emmy for Lead Actress in a Comedy in the last nine years. Does this signal a new dawn of diversity for the Emmys?

We’re especially curious about how these patterns work for supporting categories. Not only are ensemble shows where all of the actors submit in supporting categories common (think Modern Family, for example, where everyone from Ed O’Neill to Nolan Gould submitted in the supporting category last year), but shows that center around a lead character, such as House or The Closer or The Office, are often successful because of the strength of their supporting casts. There are so many supporting roles and so many excellent performances in them that we often have great difficulty narrowing down these categories to just a few nominees. With so many possible nominees, repeat winners might be an even bigger problem in supporting categories. So–are they?

Supporting Actor in a Drama: 5% repeat winners, 5% multiple winners

I would have sworn on my grandmother’s grave that William Shatner had won multiple times, but nope–only Ray Walston for Picket Fences all the way back in 1995 and 1996. We have tons of complaints about who doesn’t get nominated, but the wealth certainly gets spread in this category, at least in terms of wins. And last year’s winner, Aaron Paul, can’t repeat this year because of Breaking Bad‘s broadcast schedule. So much variety might point to the popularity and quality of ensemble shows, with many deserving performances from which to choose. But since the Academy shows here that they can be eclectic, why aren’t they in other categories?

Supporting Actress in a Drama: 10% repeats, 15% multiple winners

In fairness, this is probably less balanced than it seems, as Allison Janney might have dominated for years if she hadn’t started entering in the lead category after winning here twice. Still, it’s much more balanced than the lead category, where 65% were multiple winners. I blame Blythe Danner, who won in 2005 and 2006, for blocking CCH Pounder, Chandra Wilson, and Sandra Oh, but mostly I blame her for foisting Gwyneth Paltrow on the world.

So far, it seems like things are looking up–there are many more winners in the supporting categories as compared to the lead categories, where more than three times out of five we’re getting repeats. Rather than greater numbers of terrific performances leading to greater numbers of actors left in the cold, the ensemble shows are producing a greater variety of winners. This might be plain old common sense, since there should be many more supporting performances to choose from than there are lead performances. That doesn’t mean the Academy would have to use common sense, though, so hooray for them. It’s all good from Diego to the Bay, right? Right?

Supporting Actor in a Comedy: 25% repeats, 65% multiple winners

Really? Really. Puzzling. This category is regularly at least as difficult to narrow down as the supporting actor in a drama category–let’s examine the possibilities this year. Aziz Ansari. Ty Burrell. Chris Colfer. Ted Danson. Charlie Day. Garrett Dillahunt. Peter Facinelli. Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Zach Galifianakis. Donald Glover. Ian Gomez. Neil Patrick Harris. Ed Helms. John Benjamin Hickey. Josh Hopkins. Ken Jeong. Nick Kroll. Stephen Mangan. Rob McElhenney. Nick Offerman. Ed O’Neill. Oliver Platt. Danny Pudi. Stephen Rannazzisi. Paul Scheer. Adam Scott. Atticus Shaffer. Eric Stonestreet. Brian Van Holt. Rainn Wilson. I know I watch too much TV, but that’s 30 excellent actors in excellent performances of excellent roles just this year–just off the top of my head. That doesn’t count previous winners who just aren’t to my taste (Jon Cryer and Jeremy Piven, for example), or probably good performances on shows I just don’t like (the Big Bang guys or the great Weeds ensemble), or good actors I just don’t think are getting good enough material (former nominees Tracy Morgan and Jack McBrayer, or Cory Monteith), or the fourth person from the same show who is great but doesn’t rank quite as highly as his brethren (Chevy Chase or Mark Duplass), or actors and performances I like that I’ve just never thought of in terms of Emmy quality (the guys from Chuck and Psych, for example). Add those in, and you’re up to around 50 actors off the top of my head who could have a justifiable claim on a nomination this year…and yet a handful of winners take home the hardware over and over (and over).

David Hyde Pierce won four times for his role as Niles Crane on Frasier, and Michael Richards, Brad Garret, and Jeremy Piven won three Emmys each. During those same years, actors who didn’t win included Jeffrey Tambor, Phil Hartman, Peter Boyle, John Mahoney, Bryan Cranston, Will Arnett, Rainn Wilson, and Neil Patrick Harris. Shoot, I can’t stand Seinfeld and I still feel sorry for Jason Alexander. And that’s just among the actual nominations, which also tend to circle around the same people over and over. With so many worthy performances to choose from, why is this category so stuck on the same winners over and over?

Supporting Actress in a Comedy: 25% repeats, 65% multiple winners

The same as their funny brethren. Double winners include Bebe Neuwirth, Kristen Johnson, and Megan Mullaly, while Laurie Metcalf and Doris Roberts won three apiece. While there has been more variety recently, nominees who never won in those repeat years include Faith Ford, Estelle Getty, Rhea Perlman, Janeane Garofalo, Jennifer Aniston (who finally won in lead), Kim Catrell, Wendie Malick, Cheryl Hines, Vanessa Williams, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Perkins, and Jessica Walter. (And, again, that’s just among the nominees, most of whom were nominated multiple times.)

So…what the what? The idea that Emmy voters just get stuck on the same few winners, whether that’s because of buzz, comfort, or plain old love, makes sense, as the supporting comedy numbers are similar to those in all four lead categories. But then why are the supporting drama categories so different? The theory that the wealth will be better spread in supporting categories makes sense, too–the numbers for the drama categories suggest that when there are lots and lots of great possibilities, Emmy voters are capable of enjoying a large variety of performances. But then why are the comedy supporting categories so much different than the dramatic categories? Friend O’ Bacon Bgirl suggests that people who make TV have little time to watch TV and tend to vote based on buzz and social networks. Even though voting panels change annually, there’s probably not a huge shift in the overall population of Academy members from whom those panels are drawn from year to year, so that explanation makes a lot of sense for the categories that are stagnant–people vote for their friends or what they hear is good year after year without seeing other notable performances. But if that’s the case, why doesn’t it hold true for the supporting dramatic categories? We’d love to hear your explanations.

Sunday: Is this a problem? I mean, it’s not like According to Jim ever won for Outstanding Comedy. Maybe Academy voters just recognize the best quality, and quality doesn’t go away from year to year. But if stagnation is an issue, or if there are lots of high-quality programs and performances that could be equally honored, are there solutions to break away from repeat winners and spread the wealth?

PSYCH Pineapple Watch “Bollywood Homicide”: It Could Be Bunnies


I’m not entirely sure what to make of “Bollywood Homicide”. I can usually stomach Shawn’s less graceful moments, but some of his, er, cultural insensitivity was a bit much here (I’ll decline to repeat the worst joke at the Holi Festival, thanks). On the other hand, some of the cultural jokes were delightful, including the remade opening credits, and it may mean I’m a delicate blossom just as insensitive as Shawn since I found his and Gus’ inability to handle their Indian food hilarious. Maybe I’ve been hanging out with Gus too much–our mutual desire to watch bunnies fall asleep in the palms of our hands may leave us too, too soft for this world.

Since I’m so indecisive about this one, it makes sense that I’m indecisive about the pineapple, as well. Was that what Lassie was eating as he and Juliet were reviewing the dance performance tapes? Or was that generic fruit, perhaps an homage to the late, lamented Life? There’s a lamp behind Raj’s grandmother that has the requisite green leaves, but there’s little pineapple-y crosshatching on the rest. the Anyone more eagle-eyed have a better guess?

PSYCH Pineapple Watch “Shawn Has the Yips”: Her Name Was Marie


I know this was supposed to be an unusually tense episode of Psych. There was scary music telling me so. And I enjoyed it on that level–while the plot wasn’t any twistier than usual, it’s nice to have some serious stakes for a change, even if those stakes include the elliptical version of Speed and a true unibrow. But in the teaser to this week’s episode, Shawn was accused of nearly losing a softball game because he’s unable to make an accurate throw to first base. The characters made reference to former Twin and Yankee Chuck Knoblauch, who suffered from the same affliction. As soon as they said his name, I thought, “Oh, I am so leading this Pineapple Watch off with film of an errant Knoblauch throw hitting Keith Olbermann’s mom in the face.” Shawn then proceeded to note of Knoblauch, “All of a sudden, committed an unprecedented number of throwing errors. One of which sailed into the stands and hit Keith Olbermann’s mother in the face. ”

I am awfully fond of this show. Raise a plate of pizza chili cheese fries in memory of Marie Olbermann, who apparently quite liked the noteriety that came with being hit in the face by Chuck Knoblauch. 

Also? Baseball reference (and surely the Salamatchia family name is a reference back to former Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whom they have referenced before). Baseball references are almost as plentiful as pineapples on Psych. Or perhaps even more so, since I’m having a dilly of a time finding this week’s fruit. There’s something kind of out of focus, sparkly, and green and yellow on Gus’ nightstand, and there’s something yellow sticking out of a shopping bag a background actor is carrying, but apparently the only way I’ll find this pineapple for certain is if Chuck Knoblauch hits me in the face with it.

PSYCH Pineapple Watch “The Devil’s In the Details…And The Upstairs Bedroom”: What, No Pea Soup?


Oh, admit it–you have to love a show that casts Ray Wise, most recently seen giving an Emmy-worthy performance as the Devil on the late, lamented Reaper, as a priest who’s champing at the bit to perform an exorcism. As lackadasical as Shawn claims to be, Psych often works pretty hard to squeeze in the extra joke. I know some people think that makes it feel like they’re trying too hard, but given today’s television landscape (Leave It to Lamas? Really?) I appreciate it when anyone’s trying at all.

“The Devil’s in the Details” had non-Wise strengths as well. Psych‘s charms are in its goofiness and its pop culture references, not in its knotty (or not) mysteries, so I always enjoy it when they anticipate and puncture the solution the audience thinks they’re going for, as they did here when the second “possessed” girl was not in fact a yoga expert (seriously, folks, backbend spider walking is always wrong). And after so many episodes where we see Gus stepping up to support Shawn, it’s nice to see Shawn return the favor, even if he has to be prodded into it by his father, and even if his natural skepticism makes it hard for him. It’s fun to watch Shawn take the same journey through the story the audience does (no, really, the spider walking is a very convincing symptom of demonic meddling. Really.).

Since I had to hide my eyes on a regular basis (did I mention the spider walking?), I’m grateful our weekly pineapple was easy to spot–how lovely of the victim to choose it as her Online Social Networking Page avatar.

PSYCH Pineapple Watch “High Noon-Ish”: They Don’t Need No Stinking Badges


Yep–Psych gets more fun the goofier it goes, with this week’s ludicrous (and delightful) outing that finds Shawn and Gus helping out Lassiter’s father figure delving into Blazing Saddles, Scooby Doo, and High Noon all in one wacky package. Perhaps bringing Lassiter so squarely into the story helped–the peripheral charcters have been, well, awfully peripheral this season so far, but their solid support helps ground Shawn’s flights of fancy. Guest stars like James Brolin (!) and the wonderful Jim Beaver class up a dingy Old West theme park, too. Watching Shawn and Gus contemplate the damage playacting killing a man–twice a day for tourists–does to the soul is just plain more fun than watching them untangle a conventional mystery.

The much more complicated mystery this week was the location of our weekly pineapple. I think I caught a glimpse of one on the counter next to Henry’s kitchen sink during a father-son detente, but it was pretty fuzzy. More so than pineapples usually are, I mean.

PSYCH Pineapple Watch “He Dead”: Release the Hounds!


Perhaps Psych‘s outlandish sense of humor is best matched with outlandish settings or situations. Put them in a telenovela, have them work the runway, or dangle the murder of a sea lion in front of them and they’re a lot of fun. Put them in a traditional mystery with traditional suspects and they can be a little flat. Even the martini-dry Christine Baranski adds little new to her repertoire here–as the releaser of said hounds, she has little on Monty Burns.

On the other hand, as the victim’s wealthy widow Baranski offers entree into this week’s pineapple, a lovingly sliced and diced specimen available for the sampling on a table at the country club. Might have been more fun if the bad guy had been trying to shred it to hide evidence.

PSYCH Pineapple Watch “Extradition: British Columbia”: Unemployed in Greenland…Er, Canada


Catching up on our pineapple spotting–a new season of Psych, a new round of pineapples. Was it worth the wait?

The season premiere, focusing on an international art thief, was perhaps a little better anticipated than savored. Sure, there was a wonderfully cheesy homage to the greenscreen skiing scenes in Bond movies, Lassiter’s cheap travel plans, Shawn being afraid of raccoons, and sweet shoutouts to Psych‘s real-life home base in Vancouver. But how, how can you have Cary Elwes guest-starring as the bad guy on a show whose bread and butter is references to 80s pop culture and not lather the entire proceedings in Princess Bride references? Get used to disappointment. 

It’s a good thing, then, that they provided a tricky pineapple as distraction. I never thought about making a “balloon animal”–er, fruit–in the shape of a pineapple, but that’s exactly what happens at the very end of the episode when Shawn and Jules are taking in the breathtaking view (meant as a romantic moment for the absent Abigail) at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The pineapple has a great view, perched on a table behind the balloon artist. It could have hopped over the rail and tumbled down the side of the hill shouting “Aaaaaaas yoooooou wiiiiiiish”–no one else did.

PSYCH Pineapple Watch “An Evening with Mr. Yang”: The Two of Us Need Look No More


It’s nice to see that in an extra-serious Psych, they can still cap things off with the great joke of using Ally Sheedy. If you can’t get Gus to join the Breakfast (for Lunch) Club, call up Ally Sheedy. (Or a McPoyle brother.)

Speaking of Gus, this episode underlined the best thing about Psych–the relationship between Shawn and Gus. Seeing Gus make a fool of himself (connecting Michael Jackson to the rat; aping King Kong [sorry]) to try to keep Shawn in the game melts the heart a little. It doesn’t matter whether Shawn dates Juliet or Abigail–Gus will always be his true partner.

Speaking of Abigail, our weekly pineapple is a little ceramic (I think) one on her desk at school. Will she become a full-fledged love interest, or will she become a convenient place to hide fruit? Gus will be along for the ride either way.

PSYCH Pineapple Watch “Tuesday the 17th”: Strip Cribbage Gives A Whole New Meaning to “His Nibs”


I’m just sayin’.

I was beginning to think Psych and I actually had a psychic link, what with the John Stockton reference a couple of weeks ago and the fact that I’ve been singing “Flagpole Sitta” in the car all week, but I have to admit I’m not a huge slasher movie fan. This is because I’m a wimp. So since the opening of Scream made me cry in the bad way, you can imagine that I was feeling a little stressed during the teaser. One of the points of watching Psych is that we don’t see people killed–we trip blithely onto the scene after the deaths have already taken place. Er.

Still, it’s hard to imagine a pop culture reference more boldly begging for a skewering this weekend than Friday the 13th, so more power to them. Even a fearophobe like me can appreciate the slo-mo tracks, the fast pan-ins, and the grainy film homages, and I am curious about whether burritos are the Rollie Fingers of Mexican cuisine (baseball reference!). And does a Rick Astley pinata count as a Rickroll? Nice. Speaking of pinatas, Gus and Jason’s winning entry in long-ago camp’s pinata competition was our first pineapple; the second was in the camp’s refrigerator. I’d be slightly more comfortable if the machete were used on the fruit.

PSYCH Pineapple Watch “Truer Lies”: Talk to the Pinky


Dear Psych,

Please forgive me for being unable to love you the way you deserve this week. After crying my little eyes out between Friday Night Lights and Battlestar Galactica (I’ve got my eye on you, Adama), I thought your light, frothy humor would be just the antidote. I think, though, that it’s not you–it’s me. Someday I’ll be the viewer you deserve. Until then, please know that I appreciated the Grimace T. Jackson debate, and the IV pole in the back of the Yaris actually got me to crack a smile. Thanks too for putting the pineapples in the alley where more IV pole-related hilarity took place–made them easy to find, and I’m grateful for that this week. No wonder I called you the greatest show ever made last week. We’ll be in sync…Psych…something again soon.