Plenty of Quality

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Emmy nominations are announced, and inevitably the trash talking starts about just how bad television is overall and how few shows there are that actually deserve any kind of award. “Prime time is worse than ever,” a fellow editor spits out over lunch. “It's too much reality garbage, cheap sex jokes and that foul-mouthed stuff you like to watch on cable.”

All true, except the part about prime time being worse than ever. Scan the list of this year's Emmy nominees in the major categories (see page 7), and you'll see plenty of quality fare.

Don't buy the critics' lament in the wake of the Emmy noms that we're in a comedy draught. Sitcom-land might be going through a dry patch, but there are plenty of other places to find laughs on TV. I'm not a big Desperate Housewives fan, but it's a well executed, funny show—as are all the other comedies in that category.

Same goes for all the cartoon series, from The Simpsons to South Park, that will compete for best animated show honors. Nominations garnered by The Daily Show and Late Night With Conan O'Brien were well deserved; these shows are reliably hilarious.

Plus there's all that other good, funny stuff that's MIA among the nominees. My colleague Mark Lasswell is in a complete funk because Comedy Central's Reno 911! didn't make the Outstanding Comedy cut. No doubt a lot of TV scribes who are toiling at the Television Critics Association confab in L.A. (and voted in last week's B&C Poll) are crying into the sumptuous buffet at the Beverly Hilton because Gilmore Girls and Entourage also were shut out of the big comedy category.

The critics are probably watering the Hilton pool with tears over omissions in the Outstanding Drama competition, too. The glaring oversight of so many worthy shows goes to the heart of my argument that this is a golden era for the medium; that there wasn't room among this year's Emmy's nominees for some of prime time's best dramas helps prove that point. I'm not talking about the wonderfully foul-mouthed Deadwood—it did get a nomination, though not as many as I thought it deserved.

No, I'm talking about such shows as HBO's The Wire and FX's stellar trio of Rescue Me, The Shield and Nip/Tuck. Those shows are all easily worthy candidates for the big drama prize—possibly worthier than The West Wing or Six Feet Under. This isn't meant to slag two series that have had distinguished runs; it's to emphasize that an unprecedented number of shows are delivering a first-rate creative punch.

Key to this prime time renaissance is all the acting talent that abounds on TV now.

Among the Emmy nominees for acting, there's a long list of performers who have done memorable work, from Deadwood's Ian McShane to Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy.

Once again, there's the inevitable long list of remarkable actors who didn't make the Emmy cut. It's criminal that nobody from The Wire or Rescue Me—two of the finest casts on television—managed to get a nomination. And weren't voters paying attention to how good Dylan Walsh, Julian McMahon and Joely Richardson are on Nip/Tuck?

Beyond those actors and shows, add a whole host of series filled with fine performances, from long-running warhorses ER and Law & Order and all its permutations, to rookies House, Grey's Anatomy and Boston Legal. No wonder Desperate Housewives' creator Marc Cherry has told pals he's happy his show was entered in the comedy category, where the competition isn't quite as tough. The reason there's so much chatter about the worthiness of the Emmy nominees this year is that there's so much terrific stuff on the tube right now, it's simply hard to choose.

E-mail comments to bcrobins@ reedbusiness.com

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