Ken Tucker's take on who made the cut, who got snubbed, and who should nab a golden statue

By Ken Tucker
Updated July 24, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Emmy nominations yielded a few big surprises this year. When we tune in for the 61st annual ceremony, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, the time will come to hand out the best-comedy award, and we’re liable to see, alongside images of The Office, 30 Rock, Entourage, Flight of the Conchords, Weeds, and How I Met Your Mother, a picture of Peter Griffin. Family Guy became the first animated TV show to be nominated in this category since The Flintstones in 1961. Is that progress or regress? You decide.

Speaking of comedy, how great is it that Jim Parsons made it into the best-comedy-actor category? The young performer’s amazingly adroit turn as a superhero-loving brainiac on The Big Bang Theory is one of the Emmy nominators’ finest choices. This year’s new rule allowing a sixth (and sometimes seventh!) nominee to be included may have been what it took for another welcome addition: Elisabeth Moss among the best-drama-actress women, the first Mad Men female in that slot. Moss, I’m counting on you to beat Mariska Hargitay! And it’s heartening that Emmy bestowed some affection upon Flight of the Conchords. Offbeat doesn’t usually play well among award nominators, and so for the soft-spoken, eccentric HBO show to place in both best comedy and best comedy actor (for Jemaine Clement) is terrific. (Alas, no nom for Clement’s partner, Bret McKenzie, though: How will the lads deal with this inevitably rift-inducing development?)

I was thrilled that Aaron Paul — such a standout this year as young Jesse on Breaking Bad — joined last year’s winner, his costar Bryan Cranston, as a Bad nominee. And the achievement of 30 Rock in the nominating process is particularly amazing: 172 nominations in a vast range of categories, and well-deserved nods not only to Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin but also Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Krakowski.

But what we all really want to mull and nurse grudges over is the snubs, the snubs! Where are The Shield, True Blood, Battlestar Galactica, and Friday Night Lights among the biggest categories? It’s nice that Simon Baker got a nomination for The Mentalist, but can the Emmy folks really convince me he gave a better performance than, say, Friday Night Lights‘ Kyle Chandler? No, they cannot. Where is recognition for the work of Chloë Sevigny on Big Love, Mary McDonnell on Battlestar, or Josh Holloway, Evangeline Lilly, and Elizabeth Mitchell on Lost?

Sometimes Emmy does the right thing in casting its spotlight on worthy, underviewed shows. But that spotlight is pretty random, isn’t it? I know tons of people who were moved to tears (to take just one example) by the tragic fall of Walton Goggins’ Shane on The Shield. It hurts my heart that on Emmy night, we won’t see his performance among the nominees.

Oh, well. Come Sept. 20, there’s always the possible spectacle of host Harris squaring off with Stewie Griffin…