EMMY 2012: Supporting Actor and Actress – Comedy

Lumping these categories together is in no way meant to disrespect these talented nominees by not awarding them their own, respective posts. However, my issue with each category is essentially the same. So rather than repeat myself, allow me to speak my peace.

SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTOR

Ed O’Neill as Jay Pritchett in Modern Family
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell Pritchett in Modern Family
Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy in Modern Family
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker in Modern Family
Max Greenfield as Schmidt in New Girl
Bill Hader as various characters in Saturday Night Live

SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTRESS

Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory
Kathryn Joosten as Karen McCluskey in Desperate Housewives
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy in Modern Family
Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett in Modern Family
Merritt Wever as Zoey Barkow in Nurse Jackie
Kristen Wiig as various characters in Saturday Night Live

Twelve nominees. And six of them are from Modern Family.

Let me reiterate that I like Modern Family. The cast elevates the sometimes formulaic writing, but it is an outstanding cast. And it is an ensemble show. But no one wants to step up to the Lead table. Maybe it’s good for morale on set, but it freezes out so many other worthy nominees. Just off the top of my head: Donald Glover and Danny Pudi from Community, Adam Driver from Girls, and Aziz Ansari and Nick Offerman from Parks and Rec (personally, I’d swap out Burrell and Stonestreet for Glover and Offerman). Burrell as Phil never fails to delight, but if there’s a lead actor on Modern Family, he’s it. And Stonestreet has had better seasons. As for O’Neill and Ferguson, I accept their nominations (only O’Neill submitted it, but both were awesome in “Baby on Board,” especially Ferguson when the adoption fell apart). But these actors need to take stock of who’s driving storyline each season and submit themselves accordingly (just a guess, but Gloria’s pregnancy has the potential to make O’Neill more of a leading man than he has been in seasons’ past). Sadly, this is a trend that shows no signs of changing, and it also excludes Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez (then again, I don’t want the Modern Family boys taking over the entire category).

Things are a little more balanced on the ladies’ side. Bowen and Vergara are only taking up two slots. But like Burrell, Bowen is a leading actress (Phil and Claire dominate more episodes than not). If Bowen switched to lead, Gillian Jacobs of Community, Zosia Mamet of Girls, Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock, or Anna Chlumsky of Veep might have received an invite to the dance.

As far as the other nominees are concerned, I love Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, but I still have mixed feelings about SNL performers getting these nods; talented as they are it is not the same thing as someone who nurtures one character though a myriad of plot twists. I have not seen enough (or any) of Bialik and Greenfield to fairly gauge their chances. Wever is something of a dark horse, but Joosten has a real shot at nagging the prize posthumously.

I guess I’m a bit of a hypocrite. Here I am complaining about the glut of Modern Family nominees, and here they are taking up the bulk of my post. So who takes home the trophies? Someone from the Prtichett-Dunphy clan seems to make the most sense. I’d like to see O’Neill and Vergara emerge the winners, but I think Burrell and Bowen will repeat. I’d write in votes for Glover and Jacobs if I could, but I guess you have to play within the bounds of the system.

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CONAN: Week One

With his first week at TBS under his belt, Conan O’Brien and his fans can feel pretty good about the state of his new show. First off, I didn’t realize just how much I missed Conan late at night, his self-deprecating monologues, his back and forth with Andy. That in and of itself was reason to rejoice. The first three nights had their high points. Loved the premiere’s cold open that parodied Conan’s woes over the past year, and early interview guests Tom Hanks and Jon Hamm did their part for Team Coco. But last night the show hit its stride. The monologue was flawless, enhanced by an endless Kanye West press conference and a welcome from other basic cable stars (no offense, Bruce Jenner, but the Hoarder stole the show). First guest Michael Cera brilliantly interpreted Too $hort’s “2 Bitches,” and comedian Jon Dore riffed on friends who futilely want us to share their interests. But the standout was Modern Family’s Julie Bowen and the story of her one son, a serial killer in training, stuffing his fatter brother into a dryer. Line of the night? Conan to Bowen: “You should learn their names!” as Bowen went on and on about “the skinny one” and “the fat, cute one” when describing her twin boys. All that plus the local news courtesy of Conan and Andy. Great, great start. Welcome back, Coco!

Fare Thee Well (for now), Coco

Everything there is to say has undoubtedly been said about the Conan/Leno debacle. Conan’s last night behind The Tonight Show desk was funny, sweet, and quite joyful, all things considered. The montage of highlights, complete with Cheap Trick’s “Surrender”, was a clever, poignant call back to how Conan began his all too brief tenure. Like the song says, he might be giving up his time on NBC, but he’s not giving himself away in the name of fickle, fearful executives. Steve Carell, almost in Michael Scott mode, was a smart choice to conduct the exit interview. Tom Hanks recalled where it all started for Conan as a writer on SNL. Neil Young made another inspired musical contribution with “Long May You Run” (while it won’t be with the Peacock, let’s hope that prophecy comes to pass). Finally there was Will Ferrell in Lynyrd Skynyrd mode with a cover of “Free Bird.” Conan himself joined in on the guitar, and the energy from the studio infiltrated my increasingly cluttered apartment. Before picking up the ax, Conan delivered a completely sincere speech about his gratitude for the chances NBC had taken on him (not the easiest thing to do under the circumstances). He applauded his fans and closed with his personal philosophy that cynicism leads nowhere, that perseverance and decency are ultimately rewarded.

In short, Conan went out with class. Jay Leno and Jeff Zucker do not know the meaning of the word. I can’t imagine a scenario where no one watches Jay come March 1 and Conan somehow returns to The Tonight Show. Another network is likely to scoop up Conan and Co., but having to wait until September equals lost momentum. Still, Leno can no longer hide behind his supposed good guy persona, and Conan, well on the road to cult hero status, will emerge the victor. Now that might not equal massive ratings, which is all NBC can comprehend. But there’s a little thing called legacy that transcends time and numbers. Conan is one for kindness and optimism, but he’s also one for principles. Without those, a man or woman stands for very little. Wherever Conan lands, I’ll be watching. And as for Leno? My mother could be his first guest. I’m never watching again. On principle.

It’s THE TONIGHT SHOW with…?

Weighing in on the late night fiasco, my first impulse is to blame Jay Leno for fucking things up yet again. Over on CBS, Letterman is positively giddy. Not only does he get to bash the network that screwed him over (you can tell he’s still bitter) but this time he gets to revel in Leno’s perceived role as the villain. Last night Dave proposed a scenario where all the major players involved come on his show to duke it out, and in the end everyone who wants a show will get a show. How I would love to see Jay, Conan, Jimmy Fallon, Jeff Zucker, and Carson Daly (sitting in Dave’s suggested folding chair) come together for a twisted roundtable. Right now even Daly would garner more sympathy than Leno and Zucker, and one can only hope that they would be dragged out of the Ed Sullivan theater by a pitchfork bearing mob leaving Conan and Dave to divide the late night kingdom accordingly.

Over on Conan, they’re letting it all hang out. Andy Richter commented that it’s the most fun he’s ever had in the midst of a scandal, and Conan proceeded to deliver an inspiring message to any kids in the audience: you can have and be whatever want in this life provided that Jay Leno doesn’t want the exact same thing. Jack McBrayer came onstage in character as 30 Rock page Kenneth. He led a tour group and earnestly noted that Conan’s studio would make a good storage space for NBC. Conan asked him if he could continue the tour at a later time. “But it’s the 5 o’clock tour.” It makes no sense to do it at a later time. McBrayer/Kenneth also reminded everyone that most of Conan’s crew uprooted their families from NYC to LA in anticipation of jobs that would last longer than 7 months (bandleader Max Weinberg moved his secret family as well). It was a funny bit, but it drove home the point that NBC is doing more than dicking over one individual in O’Brien. It wasn’t as if the staff, writers, and musicians were moving across country on a lark or to give an untried show a whirl. This is (or was) The Tonight Show for crying out loud, an American institution that keeps an anointed host for years. Now the critics will say that NBC is giving Conan the 12:05 option, but how are they giving him any kind of a chance to build his own audience if they keep the albatross that is Leno around his neck in the preceding timeslot? Conan has a right to be furious, and NBC better watch it. If they don’t budge and Conan jumps to FOX (a rumor that gains more steam by the hour), they’re going to lose viewers. I suppose that somewhere Leno has some diehard fans, but the casual late night viewer will either go with Dave if they want something familiar or switch to “Team Coco” because Leno and NBC are now cast as bullies that no one wants to support. Ricky Gervais rocked as Conan’s guest. He plugged the Golden Globes and his new HBO series then asked Conan what he planned to do. Did he think that NBC had already pulled the plug and they were only doing the show for themselves? I wouldn’t put it past NBC at this point.

The Tonight Show and Conan and heck even Leno (maybe) deserve better. The show should remain where it has always thrived, Conan should get a chance to make it his own, and if NBC wants to keep Leno, then give him a 90 minute variety show or something once a week and not a pale copy of what his Tonight Show once was. It soils Leno’s tenure, pathetic as it was, behind the desk and prevents Conan from reinventing the show for a new audience. Perhaps this all works out well for everyone involved, but NBC likely comes out the loser, which is kind of tragic if you consider what the network once was. And Dave loves every minute of it.