Sunday, September 16, 2012

The 10 Biggest Emmy Acting Snubs

The Emmy Awards are this month, an annual tradition always followed by another tradition – criticizing the results of the Emmy Awards.

When compiling a list of the 10 biggest Emmy snubs, the challenge is not to find ten but to narrow a list down from 30 or 40. I’m sure you have your own Emmy outrages, and I’d love to hear about them. Here’s mine.

1. Jackie Gleason (The Honeymooners)
The only two shows from the 1950s still in daily syndication around the world are I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners. As blustery bus driver Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason created one of television’s most iconic characters, and with this series and his variety shows he was a staple of the medium for decades. But he never won an Emmy. 

2. Agnes Moorehead (Bewitched)
A four-time Academy Award nominee who played opposite Orson Welles in Citizen Kane, Agnes Moorehead always considered Bewitched to be a pleasant but hardly challenging endeavor. But her portrayal of Endora was sly and refined, particularly in the series’ first two seasons when the scripts were more sophisticated. Moorehead won an Emmy for a guest appearance on The Wild, Wild West, but was never so honored for Bewitched, though she was nominated six times. 

3. James Arness (Gunsmoke)
For 20 years and more than 600 episodes, Marshal Matt Dillon kept the streets of Dodge City safe on Gunsmoke. The challenge of keeping one character compelling to audiences for that length of time, particularly during the tumultuous period of history from 1955 to 1975, would be daunting for any actor. But while the outside world progressed from “Rock Around the Clock” to “The Hustle,” from Marilyn Monroe to Farrah Fawcett, Arness was a Gibraltar-like presence on television.

4. Patty Duke (The Patty Duke Show)
At age 16, Patty Duke was already an Oscar winner (for The Miracle Worker) when she began a three season run as “identical cousins” Patty and Cathy Lane. The dual-role bit has been done dozens of times on TV, but the subtleties Duke brings to how she varied her two roles went far beyond an accent and a change of hairstyle. Watch the dinner scenes, where she makes one cousin left-handed and one right-handed. When playing opposite herself, she collapses her posture as Patty, so Cathy actually appears taller. It’s an absolutely extraordinary performance on an otherwise lightweight sitcom. 

5. Andy Griffith (The Andy Griffith Show)
The recent passing of Andy Griffith was felt by generations of fans who grew up with his performance as Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor. The long-running series brought five Emmys for costar Don Knotts, but Griffith was not similarly honored. In fact, he was never even nominated. Watch his performance in the episode “Opie the Birdman,” then tell me why anyone still takes the Emmys seriously.

6. David Janssen (The Fugitive)
When the final episode of The Fugitive aired in 1967, it receiving an astonishing 75 share and was watched by 78 million people. That record stood for more than 10 years. That’s how invested viewers were in the fate of Dr. Richard Kimble, an innocent man convicted of murder. And that’s a testament to the performance of David Janssen, who so thoroughly embodied Kimble’s haunted desperation for four seasons. 

7. Michael Landon (Little House on the Prairie)
From Bonanza to Little House to Highway to Heaven, Michael Landon was one of television’s most beloved leading men. Little House on the Prairie was probably his best chance at an Emmy win, but voters didn’t respond to the series’ homespun charms as much as the rest of the country.

8. Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Emmy looks at sci-fi shows as inferior to “real” television dramas, and ST:TNG also suffered by being a syndicated series in an era when the major networks had a near-monopoly on the nominations. Even Stewart’s Royal Shakespeare Company pedigree didn’t merit him serious consideration. During the series’ 1987-1994 run, Emmy nominations for Best Actor in a Drama Series went to the likes of Robert Loggia in Mancuso, F.B.I. and Kirk Douglas in an episode of Tales From the Crypt. But show me another actor who did more memorable work than Stewart’s performances in “The Inner Light,” “Chain of Command, Part 2” and “All Good Things.” 

9. Alexis Denisof (Angel)
As with Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel rarely received any Emmy attention outside of the technical categories. Fans could make a convincing case for any number of cast members, but I’ve singled out Alexis Denisof for creating a character that started as comic relief, and evolved into a dark, brooding authority on the paranormal. In “A Hole in the World,” Denisof’s Wesley has to confront the loss of his beloved colleague Winifred Burkle, and his performance helped inspire one of the most gripping hours of television I watched that year.

10. Lauren Graham (The Gilmore Girls)
I can’t even begin to explain this one. Gilmore Girls fans know it was one of the best shows of its era, and television critics were even more impressed. But during a seven-year run the series received just one Emmy nomination – for Best Makeup. At least it won. Yay. Meanwhile, Lauren Graham delivered Amy Sherman-Palladino’s sparkling rapid-fire dialogue with a virtuosity that would have crushed a lesser actress. The ignorance of Emmy voters takes nothing away from her current status as the Myrna Loy of her generation, smart, sexy and sassy, even in lesser material like Parenthood

Enjoy the Emmy Awards. I think I'll be watching some of these shows instead.  

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