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Published: July 19, 2008 at 09:35 AM GMT
Last Updated: July 18, 2008 at 09:35 AM GMT
The 2008 Summer Television Critics Association tour has been notable for showcasing an unprecedented number of successful scripted basic cable series. A press conference with the cast of AMC's Mad Men and, one week later, an unforgettable field trip to the show's set, where critics eagerly explored the offices of the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency. A party with the casts of TNT's The Closer and Saving Grace. Press conferences with the casts of FX's Damages and The Shield (and the opportunity to talk with most of the actors in both casts at Fox's spectacular party Monday night on the Santa Monica Pier).
Given the level of excitement surrounding these shows, it was truly satisfying to see them recognized yesterday with top nominations for the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. Indeed, voting members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences honored outstanding achievements in scripted basic cable programming as never before, and their choices allowed TCA members to continue with an established theme of this tour: The rise of scripted basic cable drama. For the first time in Emmy history scripted basic cable series broke through into the category of Outstanding Drama Series, with nominations for Mad Men and Damages.
Continuing the basic cable momentum, Mad Men star Jon Hamm nabbed a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and Glenn Close scored her second nomination in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her galvanizing work in Damages. (Close was nominated in this category three years ago for her star turn in Season 4 of The Shield.) Happily, Hamm's co-star John Slattery and Close's cast mates Ted Danson and Zelijko Ivanek were nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, while the incomparable Robert Morse was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Sterling Cooper's founding partner Bertram Cooper in Mad Men. (Here's more good news: With 16 nominations, Mad Men was the most honored drama series in all of television.)
Kyra Sedgwick of The Closer and Holly Hunter of Saving Grace also received nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
Also lending critical creed to the new excitement surrounding scripted basic cable fare was a fifth nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Tony Shalhoub of USA Network's Monk. (Shalhoub has already won three Emmys for this role.) Sharon Gless wasn't nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her work in USA Network's Burn Notice, as she should have been, but she did score a nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of scary-crazy-pitiful faux Hollywood agent Colleen Rose in FX's Nip/Tuck. Sarah Silverman received a nomination in the same category for reprising her role of the title character's obsessive fan, Marci Maven, in Monk.
There were a few basic cable oversights: The comic inventiveness of James Roday and Dule Hill in USA Network's Psych went ignored, as did the invaluable contributions of supporting actresses January Jones, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks in Mad Men. Perennial nominee Denis Leary of FX's Rescue Me was also overlooked. Sci Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica was shut out of the major categories, though it received five nominations overall (including one for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series).
It is also worth noting that, for the first time in recent memory, critics were not grumbling throughout Emmy nomination announcement day or expressing any real sense of outrage about Emmy oversights, as they are often moved to do. There was some complaining about NBC's Friday Night Lights and HBO's The Wire failing to receive nominations for Outstanding Drama Series (I would have liked to see one of them on the list of six nominees, in place of Fox's House, which had a largely sub-par season) and some distress over the fact that the supremely talented casts of both shows were once again shut out of the competition. What voting members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences have against Friday Night Lights stars Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Jesse Plemons and Adrianne Palicki remains on of the great mysteries of this business.
It is also somewhat curious that ABC's excitingly revitalized Desperate Housewives and its spectacularly original freshman fantasy Pushing Daisies failed to receive nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series. These two series, as well as USA Network's Psych, were more entertaining last season than HBO's Entourage and NBC's The Office, two of the five nominees in the category.
And where was the newest addition to the cast of Desperate Housewives, the supremely talented Dana Delany? She didn't even make the Top 10 finalists in her category, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Perhaps that's because, outside of the marvelous scenes she shared with co-star Marcia Cross, there wasn't a hint of humor in the dialogue and storylines Delany was given. Still, her work was outstanding.
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