For every drop of refreshing new blood in this year's Emmy field, there's a stubborn residue of tired old blood. The Emmy nominations are an annual rite of frustration in which every positive breakthrough is balanced by an aggravating snub.
This year is no different. As expected, last year's instant hits on ABC, Desperate Housewives and Lost, got their due, leading the comedy and drama pack respectively (although Housewives was tied with the academy's longtime, and inexplicable, darling Will & Grace with 15 nominations).
But because of the TV academy's regrettable devotion to faded perennials like Will & Grace, The West Wing and Six Feet Under, newer and fresher shows like Entourage and all of FX's remarkable dramas were left off the list of best series. (In what world are Six Feet and West Wing superior to Rescue Me, Nip/Tuck and The Shield?) As for WB and UPN's best shows, Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, they and their networks may as well not exist to this moribund organization.
Going down the long, long list of nominees, you can't help but notice how every cheer is countered by a jeer. Just one case in point: The Shield. Glenn Close gets nominated, as she should, but not Michael Chiklis. At last CCH Pounder gets nominated, but not the season's most riveting villain, Anthony Anderson. You win some, you lose some. The Emmy way.
Which is why, even as we celebrate all of the Housewives who got nominated, including first-among-equals Marcia Cross, the focus goes on the one left out: Eva Longoria, an adorable prime-time newcomer whose spitfire character may be seen as lacking the poignancy and pain (and perhaps chops) of the other leads.
Likewise, while we revel in Lost's 12 nominations, including well-earned nods for directing and writing, we're sorry that only Terry O'Quinn (a lock as Locke) and Naveen Andrews were singled out of that great ensemble. Similarly, 24 deserved its 11 nods, but ignoring Shohreh Aghdashloo — while Stockard Channing chalked up yet another nomination for her barely visible West Wing first lady — is just shameful.
And when it comes to the often overrepresented HBO, more puzzling lapses. Deadwood star Ian McShane finally got his nomination, but this time, the rest of the supporting cast (including the amazing Robin Weigert and Brad Dourif) were left out. And not a single Deadwood script, with all of that marvelous Shakespearean dialogue, was nominated in the writing category. As expected, Entourage scene-stealer Jeremy Piven got noticed, but the show itself didn't make the best comedy cut.
Among the positive developments: the arrival at long last of Scrubs and its affable star Zach Braff in the comedy field, thanks to Friends' departure and the absence of Curb Your Enthusiasm. (But what of the supporting cast, including the always-worthy John C. McGinley?) And thankfully, Jason Bateman and Jessica Walter joined the list of Arrested Development nominees this year.
In drama acting, how terrific for House's Hugh Laurie and how unexpected for Huff's Hank Azaria to get nominated. And in the drama actress category, what a surprise for Medium's Patricia Arquette to defy the skeptics and get nominated for her offbeat performance.
In supporting categories, I was happy to see Grey's Anatomy's Sandra Oh and, in comedy, Two and a Half Men's Holland Taylor and especially the hilarious Conchata Farrell. (How ironic for this show to have none of its men nominated, though.)
The nicest surprise in the made-for-TV movie category was the inclusion of BBC America's The Office Special (thankfully, the NBC remake was shut out from comedy contention). The biggest omission was Showtime's Our Fathers, which deserved a best picture nod over TNT's sentimental The Wool Cap. In miniseries, I was glad to see USA Network's The 4400 but sorry that Sci Fi's Farscape sequel was ignored. In reality, how cool for Project Runway to be in the company of The Amazing Race and Survivor. Maybe next year America's Next Top Model can get into the mix.
One final thought: Did Blythe Danner do anything on TV that didn't get a nomination? She is in three categories this year: for her supporting rule in Huff, for her lead performance in CBS' Back When We Were Grownups and for a guest comedy performance on Will & Grace (one of my favorite categories, which also includes Everybody Loves Raymond's wonderful Georgia Engel, Malcolm in the Middle's Cloris Leachman and, from Desperate Housewives, Kathryn Joosten (who will always be Mrs. Landingham to me) and Lupe Ontiveros.