Thoughts on Thursday’s Emmy Nominations …
Does somebody on "The West Wing" have naked photos of Academy of Television Arts & Sciences members in compromising positions? The White House drama's presence in the Best Drama category — after a completely dumbfounding four-year winning streak — has pushed most TV critics over the edge.
Are voters lazy, or out of touch? "Joan of Arcadia," which was also nominated in the Drama category, is an acceptable, if benign, replacement for "Six Feet Under," which is ineligible due to a gap in episodes. But what about innovative up-and-coming shows like "Deadwood," "The Shield" and "Nip/Tuck"? And remember: "The West Wing’"s winning streak, along with a win by "The Practice" in 1999, means that "The Sopranos" has never won Best Drama. I bet even Martin Sheen thinks this is a crime.
For Best Actor in a Drama: Critics who thought "Deadwood’"s Ian McShane was a shoo-in for Best Actor turned out to be dead wrong. Anthony LaPaglia made the cut instead for "Without a Trace." But no complaints here: LaPaglia's a strong lead on a show that could have been nominated for Best Drama (but wasn’t). Two years ago Michael Chiklis’ win for "The Shield" provided a rare moment in which Academy voters actually seemed cutting-edge. This year he’s nowhere on the ballot.
In the Best Comedy category, "Friends" failed to feel the love. Turns out even Academy voters OD'd on the farewell hype. Ditto with "Frasier" (thank God). On the other hand, "Sex and the City" was still an easy sell. "Scrubs" got scratched — again (that’s bad). But here’s a hip replacement: "Arrested Development" made the cut.
Sweet revenge, or too little too late? If Bonnie Hunt wins Best Actress in a Comedy, she’ll do so without a series. "Life with Bonnie" was just dumped by ABC. Will someone give this woman a show worthy of her talent?!
And lots of talk about John Ritter's posthumous Emmy nod. Given that "8 Simple Rules" is fairly standard sitcom fare, it would seem Ritter’s inclusion is more of an acknowledgement of his lifetime contribution to TV comedy. The irony is that for years Ritter himself was very conflicted about his signature role of Jack Tripper on "Three’s Company." I interviewed him years ago, and he was only half-joking when he told me that after "Three’s Company" went off the air, he’d introduce himself to people by saying, “I’m John Ritter — and I’m sorry.”
It's no surprise that HBO got the most nods of any network with 124 (the next highest was NBC with 65). Here’s the deal, folks: HBO makes shows for viewers, broadcast networks make shows for advertisers. HBO has more intimate control of its product. Broadcast networks like NBC license many of their shows from outside studios. HBO appeals to subscribers (you, the viewing public) by demonstrating that their shows are top quality. Broadcast networks appeal to advertisers by demonstrating that their shows reach a targeted demographic. Who’s more likely to campaign for — and win — awards? HBO. Which leaves one question: Showtime, where are you?
Seen and Heard Around Town
Katrina Campins, a contestant from "The Apprentice," said Donald Trump told her that Season 3 (for which auditions are now being held) will be his last. In case you missed it, Campins dropped by FOX News this week as part of her “I was beat up by two tow truck drivers in Miami” promotional tour.
Thumbs-up to Will Smith’s new film “I, Robot.” Smith has several scenes opposite a talking robot, and told me that this was the first time he was able to act opposite a real actor in what was later a computer-enhanced role. The actor wore a green suit (which later blended into green screen special effects), but Smith could see the actor’s face. A post-production robotic face was added over the actor’s actual facial expressions.
In other big Willie news, I asked Smith, who once boasted in a Rolling Stone interview that he could become president, if he’d ever run for this country’s top job. “No,” he smiled, “it’s not what’s in my heart right now.” But will it be 20 years from now?
There's been lots of talk about the pedigree behind the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate," including director Jonathan Demme and stars Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep. But check out the scenes with Jeffrey Wright, an actor who reinvents himself with every role. He’s unrecognizable from his last major appearance, as a gay nurse in HBO’s miniseries "Angels in America." "Angels," of course, scored 21 Emmy nominations — the most of any show or movie in contention.