e were hopeful when the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences unveiled a revised voting system for the 58th annual Emmy Awards earlier this year. The impetus was to give critically lauded but often overlooked shows and their actors a fighting chance against the juggernauts that dominate the nominations year after year. Previously, members of the TV academy voted on their favorite shows and performers, and the top five in each category became the nominees. This year, a new two-tiered system was introduced in which judging panels considered the top 10 or 15 vote-getters in several main categories and whittled the list to five nominees.
Much to our dismay, those rules seem to have had the opposite effect. Innovative shows and their talented actors on UPN and the WB, such as Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, and Everybody Hates Chris, and basic-cable programs like the recent Peabody Award winner Battlestar Galactica and The Shield were once again shut out of the major categories. Meanwhile, The West Wing, six-time consecutive nominee and four-time winner for best drama, once again made it into the category. That show's Stockard Channing, who has 12 previous nominations and has won twice, was nominated for the short-lived series Out of Practice. She will compete in the lead-actress comedy category with seven-time nominee, one-time winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus; six-time nominee, one-time winner Lisa Kudrow; six-time nominee Jane Kaczmarek; and four-time nominee, one-time winner Debra Messing. And The West Wing's Allison Janney, a winner four of the five times she's been nominated for the show, is once again in the lead actress in a drama category-along with three-time nominee Frances Conroy and two-time nominee Mariska Hargitay.
A few newcomers managed to make their way into the nominations announced July 6. First-time nominees for best comedy series The Office (U.S. version) and Two and a Half Men will go head-to-head with Scrubs, nominated last year; three-time nominee Curb Your Enthusiasm; and Arrested Development, which has been nominated twice, winning once.
The West Wing will compete with two best-drama newbies: Grey's Anatomy and House. Several actors also garnered their first noms, including Kevin James (The King of Queens), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Steve Carell (The Office), and Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men). But it remains to be seen whether they'll have a chance against perennial favorites. Carell, James, and Sheen compete against three-time nominee, two-time winner Tony Shalhoub; Meloni's category includes fellow first-time acting nominee Denis Leary competing with four-time nominee Kiefer Sutherland, two-time nominee Peter Krause, and Martin Sheen, who's got a whopping eight nominations with one win. Emmy freshman Jaime Pressly must go up against six-time nominee, one-time winner Megan Mullally for supporting actress in a comedy. And making their fourth and eighth appearances, respectively, are two-time winner William Shatner and five-time winner Candice Bergen.
Also curious: If Emmy voters and the new judges' panels chose to include so many past winners and nominees, why did they snub the favorites considered to be shoo-ins this year, such as five-time nominee, three-time winner Edie Falco (The Sopranos); Hugh Laurie (one-time nominee for House); The Shield's Forest Whitaker; and last year's best-drama winner, Lost?
Don't get us wrong; many of us are big fans of these multi-Emmy winners and were sad to see groundbreaking shows such as The West Wing and Will & Grace bid adieu to the airwaves this year. However, we also love and champion rarely or never nominated actors who regularly give tremendous performances on great shows, such as Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls), Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica), John Krasinski (The Office), Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl), and Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars).
It's easy to criticize the choices made by Academy voters. And in the end, outstanding performances are what count, not the number of awards they receive. But we're disappointed the 2006 Emmys will not reflect the wide range of intelligent, entertaining programming on television today.