Photo Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC
Looking over the Emmy nominations this week was kind of like reading that the actor you worshipped as a kid has filed for bankruptcy and headed to rehab. I grew up watching network television but judging by the award nominations, network TV is passe. Of the 12 shows nominated for best dramatic and comedic series, only three were from the broadcast networks. To make things right, this week's column pays tribute to some broadcast series still suffering from severe snubbery.
Bachelor Pad, ABC, Mondays, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
Okay, I'll be honest. I never expected this show to be up for an any award ever. The day that happens will be the day that Adam Sandler dominates the Oscar nominations. But this spin-off from the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, which returns this week, can be a lot more fun than 90 percent of the nominees. While I can appreciate the Mad Mens and Breaking Bads of the world, television is supposed to be a pleasant diversion too. After all, it's summertime, and there's really no show more mindlessly appropriate for summertime viewing than Bachelor Pad.
The premise is pretty much the same as it was for the first two seasons. It's basically life as you hoped it would be when you got out of college: a bunch of dignity-challenged yet beautiful people living in one house trying to date one another. The difference between this reality and your post-college fantasy is that all the roommates are ex-Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants and they must compete in a variety of challenges to stay in the house the longest and perhaps win the $250,000 top prize. Like the best beach book you ever sort of read, Bachelor Pad has no redeeming social value but if you're in the right frame of mind, that can be a very good thing. I think that's enough reason to perhaps give it its own Emmy category -- maybe something like "best use of a hot tub."
The Middle, ABC, Wednesdays, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
I realize that there is nothing exciting about being ordinary. It's tough to be award-worthy when you're telling stories about the travails of buying a new bed or dealing with crazy PTA parents. And yet, even though that's exactly the kind of territory traveled by The Middle, the show is as deserving of some Emmy love as any other comedy on television. I've said it before, and will say it again (and again), this series is probably the most underrated sit-com on the air. And that's because its plots are so simple and so real, the show slips under the radar of those looking for more fashionable shows like Modern Family.
I was hoping that at least a couple of the actors might get some recognition this time around. Patricia Heaton has worked wonders playing the beleaguered Frankie Heck, mixing the sort of dry, snarky humor that's in vogue now with a sympathy and understanding for what life is like for less-than-middle-class moms everywhere. And then there's Eden Sher, who plays the ever-chipper daughter Sue, whose high school travails are relatable to anyone who never got their picture in a yearbook or a seat at the cool kids' table. Like the rest of the characters, she just continues to live her un-flashy life despite the lack of respect or good fortune that continually comes her way. Which, I suppose, pretty much describes the way The Middle operates too.
Parks and Recreation, NBC, Thursdays, 8:30 p.m./7:30 p.m.
You know that whole thing about nice guys and where they finish? Well, the same principle apparently applies to nice shows too when it comes to awards. Along with The Middle, Parks and Recreation is one of the nicest comedies on the air and yet it's missing from the best comedy list as well. It knows precisely how to mock goofy characters yet never make them seem like idiots. These characters are all very real people, the kind of people you actually work with every day, making this a show to laugh with rather than at.
Exhibit A was Leslie Knope's (Amy Poehler) run for city council in her tiny Indiana hometown last season. Snarkier shows would have turned her earnestness into a punchline but this series makes it something as admirable as it is funny. Sure Poehler got her best actress nomination this year, and that's a nice bit of recognition for Parks and Recreation. However, the snubbing of co-star Nick Offerman for his work as the manliest of Parks Department bosses is unfortunate. And not recognizing the show itself with a nod on the best comedy list but including something like the younger, snarkier HBO show Girls or entertaining but cynical Curb Your Enthusiasm and 30 Rock shows that finding the good in people is funny. It's just not always award funny.
House, FOX, Fridays, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
Anyone who has been unemployed for any length of time has probably been through this phenomenon. When you're working, you're surrounded by friends who constantly remind you how great you are. Then, when you're out of work, you suddenly can't get any of them on the phone. I'm guessing Hugh Laurie now understands this pain. Ever since House debuted in 2004, both he and it have scored plenty of award recognition. But now that the show has been canceled, that love has vanished too. Neither actor nor show are getting one last shot at an award.
Too bad. While there got to be plenty of predictability to the Cases Of the Week near the end, and the whole foray into Dr. House's feelings about Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) felt forced at times, this really was one of the most consistently entertaining network dramas of the past decade. Thanks in huge part to Laurie's performance as the unlikable doctor, I might add. Without him, the show wouldn't have been what it was, so one last nomination (he didn't even need to win) would have been a lovely parting gift not just for him but for the millions of viewers who made the show a hit. I guess the upside is, even if there is no award recognition in this final season, House is going to live on in syndication far longer than most of its Emmy-nominated peers. Which means plenty more paychecks for Laurie and company, and those will treat you better in the long run than those fair-weather friends.
Supernatural, The CW, Fridays, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
I've come to accept that there are certain things I will never experience in my lifetime. I'll never own a "Chicago Cubs World Series Three-Peat" t-shirt. I'll never be able to buy a deep dish spinach pizza that allows me to lose 15 pounds. I'll never be introduced as Mr. Mary-Louise Parker. And, I'll never hear the words "And the winner is... Supernatural" at the Emmys. That won't stop me, however, from explaining again why those words should be uttered.
I admit that the fact that this series features two brothers who travel the country saving humankind from ghosts, witches, werewolves, vampires, and corporate executives means it's not for everyone. However, I honestly can't think of another one-hour show that can shift so easily from comedy to horror to intense human drama to Bible study class and treat each genre with the same sense of respect. Supernatural has the same quality plotting and writing that any nominee has. It just goes to show you how prejudice Hollywood is. Throw a couple of flesh-eating demons into your story lines and nobody takes you seriously.
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