Predictably, today's nominations say more about what's wrong with the system -- a bias toward the familiar -- than what's right with the outcome -- noms for a few deserving first-timers. Here's one quick fix for the most serious oversight

By Mark Harris
Updated July 19, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
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How Emmy can do right by ”The Wire”

Creeeeeeaaaak! This year’s Emmy nominations, as predicted and dreaded, turned out to be, in many ways, the exact display of boobishness and ignorance that many of us had feared. Over 140 programs were nominated — including, for the record, According To Jim, CSI: NY and the telecast of the Golden Globes — and yet, not a single nomination for The Wire in any category. Not one. I mean, seriously — cancel the telecast, go home, and hang your freaking heads in shame.

The Emmy voters are like your great-grandmother; news travels slowly to them, and you have to say anything very loudly to make sure it gets through. Thus, word of Friday Night Lights, of the spectacular work of Michael Chiklis, CCH Pounder, and Walton Goggins in The Shield, and of the entire, stunning cast of The Wire (to mention just three of the deserving: Michael K. Williams as Omar, Aidan Gillen as Tommy Carcetti, and Andre Royo as Bubbles) did not penetrate the ear trumpets of the actors’ branch this year. The Emmy voters are also like your 2-year-old: Once they learn something, they like to say it over and over and over and over and over and over and…so it’s no surprise that this year’s nominees include Monk‘s Tony Shalhoub (his fifth), Law & Order: SVU‘s Mariska Hargitay (her fourth straight), Kiefer ”I don’t have time to explain it to you, just cut the wire!” Sutherland (six in a row) and, of course, William Shatner, making it four in a row as Denny Crane! If not for the minor technicality of the show not being on any more, I’m sure they would have nominated Martin Sheen for The West Wing again too.

Given those handicaps, two cheers for what the Emmys did right: Some major and deserving love for 30 Rock (ten nominations), The Office (nine, including first nominations for Rainn Wilson and Jenna Fischer), and a set of first-timers that includes Entourage‘s Kevin Dillon, Ugly Betty‘s Vanessa Williams, and The Riches‘ Minnie Driver, not to mention 15 nominations for The Sopranos. And while I’m cheering, the nominations for four openly gay performers — Neil Patrick Harris, T.R. Knight, Ian McKellen and Ellen DeGeneres — must represent some kind of a record, so now can we call a halt to quotes from closeted publicists, agents and managers about how coming out destroys your career?

But the Emmys still have a huge problem to fix: Their valiant attempt at a democratic voting system gives too many people with too little taste too much of a say in the outcome. Volunteer judging panels watching one episode of an actor’s performance is a bad enough system, but the fact that their votes are then weighed down by the ballots of thousands of voters who may never have even watched the shows at all is shoddy. Did I mention The Wire earlier? Being grim and complicated and urban and irreducible to one episode (and, not incidentally, largely about poor black people), The Wire‘s just not really Emmy’s cup of tea. The thing is, ignoring a show like this doesn’t hurt the reputation of the series, just of the prizegivers. There is, however, a way to rectify it. The Emmys have a Governor’s Award, which can be given at its discretion for an outstanding current achievement. Handing it to The Wire this year would not only be richly deserved; it would serve as an acknowledgment that the Emmy Awards can still recognize excellence, even when their own nominators can’t.

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The Wire

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