When you’re perusing the 61st Emmy nominations on Thursday (the announcements begin at 8:30 a.m. EST), don’t be shocked if it all feels so very 2008; both 30 Rock and Mad Men appear poised to once again pace the field with the most nominations (last year they lead the way with 17 and 16, respectively). Don’t get us wrong: As fans of both shows, we’re more than fine with all the Emmy love, but that doesn’t mean they’re our only favorites. If we had a ballot, here are three names we’d place at the top of the list.
Best Supporting Actor, Drama: Justin Chambers, Grey’s Anatomy
Poor Justin Chambers. His category is awash in talent, ranging from the gents of Mad Men (Vincent Kartheiser and John Slattery) to the boys of Lost (the inimitable Michael Emerson, Jeremy Davies and Josh Holloway) to even Mr. Chambers’s co-star on Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey (he has Emmy hair!). But, hopefully there is still some room for the veteran actor. As Alex Karev, Mr. Chambers was given a rare opportunity for an actor on Grey’s Anatomy: A legitimate character arc. And he nailed it. Or, at the very least, he should get some sort of recognition for having to share all those scenes with Katherine Heigl—spending that many hours with her deserves some kind of medal.
Best Actress, Drama: Leighton Meester, Gossip Girl
The biggest goof of the 2009 Emmy nominating process—besides the fact that Terry O’Quinn didn’t submit himself for Lost—is that the cast of Gossip Girl is competing in the drama categories. Right, because when we think of Gossip Girl, we think of serious business; surely an actor the caliber of Chace Crawford will have no problem scoring a Best Actor nod opposite someone like Hugh Laurie. Still, if there is one person who could believably pull off an upset, it might be Leighton Meester. The actress is tenacity unhinged as Blair Waldorf and continues to be the best part of the show week in and week out. We’d like to see Glenn Close pull off calling someone a “MotherChucker,” with such aplomb.
Best Comedy: Party Down
Come on, everybody. Isn’t 30 Rock just so last year? Party Down, from executive producers Rob Thomas and Paul Rudd, showed up on the radar late in the year, with a spring premiere on a network not known for scripted television (Starz), and immediately became one of the best comedies on television. More Ricky Gervias than Steve Carell, the series is comedy of manners and awkwardness the likes of which American television hasn’t seen. While we’d love it if every cast member got singled out—Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Ryan Hansen, Jane Lynch, each outstanding—that might be impossible. The best way, then, to honor this series is with a Best Comedy nomination. Here’s one dark horse that we legitimately hope makes it to the starting gate.