The Television Critics Association Awards nominees for the 2009-2010 season were announced on Thursday (June 3).
I let Sepinwall break down the nominations on Thursday, before he'd actually filled out his ballot. Today, I'm going through my own thoughts on each individual category, including the votes I actually cast. Feel free to comment on mock as you see fit.
Note that the TCA allows for two votes, one vote or zero votes per category. This year, I mostly cast multiple votes per category, but I had at least one singe-vote and at least one abstention.
Click through for the nominations and my votes...
Individual achievement in drama:
Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad,” AMC)
John Lithgow ("Dexter," Showtime)
Julianna Margulies ("The Good Wife," CBS)
Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad,” AMC)
Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy,” FX)
My Ballot: In the nomination process, I cast votes for Sagal and Paul and that's the way I went this time as well. Sagal's work on "Sons of Anarchy" this season was shatteringly good at time, especially in the "Balm" episode that stood as a series high-point. On "Breaking Bad," Paul has gotten better every season and voting for him here isn't a reflection that Cranston is any less excellent now than he's been in seasons past, just a desire for somebody else from the terrific show to get a win. Lithgow wouldn't be an undeserving winner, but I found his character a wee bit too similar to other roles that he had played equally well in the past. Margulies is very good on "The Good Wife," but she's the weakest performer in this field (not an insult).
Individual achievement in comedy:
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family,” ABC)
Jane Lynch (“Glee,” Fox)
Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation,” NBC)
Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory,” CBS)
Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family,” ABC)
My Ballot: Another category in which both of my nomination votes made the Top 5, making my vote pretty easy. Parsons won this award last year and he's getting my vote again. In a category of supporting scene-stealers, he's become his show's true lead actor, capable of inspired verbal and physical comedy, while also easily able to transition into more dramatic moments. So if I'm voting for the one lead, my pick from amongst the scene-stealers is Offerman, who carved a duck, rocked a 'stache, did a splendid slide-fall and generally anchored the "Parks and Recreation" cast, which could have contributed three or four nominees to this category. But you know what? I won't begrudge the vote no matter which way it goes. Burrell and Stonestreet are both standouts in a "Modern Family" cast which, like "Parks and Rec," could have filled a category on its own. And it isn't Lynch's fault that I've found "Glee" progressively sloppier and sloppier as the season has progressed.
Outstanding achievement in news & information:
“30 for 30” (ESPN)
“America: The Story of Us” (History Channel)
"Life" (Discovery Channel)
“The Daily Show” (Comedy Central)
“The Rachel Maddow Show" (MSNBC)
My Ballot: As ever, I revere "The Daily Show," a former winner in this category, and "Life" in HD was one of the year's finest visual TV experiences. And "The Story of Us" and Rachel Maddow are both very worthy nominees. But in this category, I cast a lone vote and it was for ESPN's "30 for 30," the finest programming initiative the cable network has been involved with since the SportsCentury project at the end of the '90s. The individual documentaries haven't all been excellent, but even the weakest of the group have been far superior to your usual sports doc, while the best -- "Winning Time," "The Band That Wouldn't Die," "Muhammed and Larry" -- have been utterly superlative examples of short-form documentary filmmaking. The 30 for 30 project still has many, many docs to go and I'd expect (or hope for) another nomination here next year. Note that my single vote for "30 for 30," rather than voting for both "30 for 30" and "Life," is a strategic move.
Outstanding achievement in youth programming:
“Dinosaur Train” (PBS)
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (Cartoon Network)
“Word Girl” (PBS)
“Yo Gabba Gabba” (Nick Jr.)
My Ballot: I don't watch four of these shows at all and I watched three or four episodes of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" before quitting in annoyance. I hear that it's gotten better. But if there's a category in which I regular watch or even regularly *have* watched zero of the nominees? That's a reason for recusal. I didn't cast a vote here.
Outstanding new program:
“Modern Family” (ABC)
“The Good Wife” (CBS)
My Ballot: I could almost take an "Anything but 'Glee'" approach here. My votes were for "Justified" and "Modern Family." My two nomination votes were for "Modern Family" and "Community" and I'd rather see "Community" on this list, but I see ample merits to "The Good Wife" and "Parenthood" as well. I've written multiple times this season about my mixed feelings towards "Glee" and they keep becoming more mixed in the direction of "unfavorable." It's still a pretty good five-some, reflective of a strong year in TV development, as Sepinwall and I discussed in this week's podcast.
Outstanding achievement in movies, miniseries and specials:
“Life” (Discovery Channel)
“Temple Grandin” (HBO)
“The Pacific” (HBO)
“Torchwood: Children of Earth” (BBC America)
“You Don’t Know Jack” (HBO)
My Ballot: In the nomination process, I voted for "The Pacific" and "Life." I'll confess that I realized 15 minutes after I'd cast my vote that I have forgotten about "Children of Earth." Now part of me is skeptical that "Children of Earth" belongs in this category at all, since it's really more of a mini-series of "Torchwood" than a standalone miniseries, but then I considered that I watched "Children of Earth" as a miniseries, without any awareness or interest in "Torchwood" whatsoever. If they make another "Torchwood" season, I'm almost certain to return to not caring, so "Children of Earth" counts as a miniseries in my book and it gets my vote. Sorry, "Life." The other vote goes to "The Pacific," which I watched in a single gripping weekend, becoming more and more and more involved. I've seen some people complain about a lack of emotional connection to the material, but that was not my experience. I considered casting a lone vote in this category, for "The Pacific."
Outstanding achievement in drama:
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
"Mad Men" (AMC)
“Sons of Anarchy” (FX)
“The Good Wife” (CBS)
My Ballot: TV critics are only human and we're captivated by new, shiny and *recent* things. That's why "Mad Men" went from one of the TCA Awards' most honored shows in recent years, to only a lone nomination. Personally, I haven't forgotten that the single best TV episode I watched last year was "Shut the Door. Have a Seat," the third season finale for "Mad Men," nor have I forgotten that "Mad Men" was No. 1 on my Best of 2009 list. I stand by that vote and "Mad Men" got one of my two votes in this category. The other vote went to "Sons of Anarchy," which made a leap of epic proportions in its second season. "Sons of Anarchy" and "Mad Men" were also my two votes in the nomination phase. I'd put "Breaking Bad" as roughly the equal of those two shows and I justify my specific preference thusly: I continue to stand by "Breaking Bad" as the darkest black comedy on TV. It's spectacular (and often marvelously dramatic), but that's just the way I look at it. Also, I know I voted for "Breaking Bad" in another category later.
Outstanding achievement in comedy:
“Modern Family” (ABC)
“Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
“Party Down” (Starz)
“The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
My Ballot: I can't vote for "Breaking Bad" here. Oh well. Instead, my votes went to "Modern Family" and to "Parks and Recreation." I feel slight disappointment at not being able to also support "Party Down," a show I love, but I think I slightly preferred what "Parks and Rec" accomplished in transitioning from a dud last spring into probably TV's best comedy. I feel no disappointment in not voting "Glee."
My Ballot: Whether or not you think "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch" are quality TV is actually utterly irrelevant. They're two of the most influential and enduring shows in the history of the medium and not only did Schwartz create them, but he also wrote their somewhat catchy theme songs. Achievement comes in my different flavors. Schwartz, who cut his teeth as a writer in the earliest days of TV comedy, is worthy no matter your standard. My other vote went to James Garner. I'm not sure I could be disappointed or annoyed regardless of which way we got, but probably my reservations on Shatner would be the greatest.
“Law & Order”
My Ballot: This needs to be reconsidered by the TCA. Over the years, it has become synonymous with "Best show that went off the year this fall," which is why you'll see "24," "Law & Order" and "Lost." "Twin Peaks" and "M*A*S*H" are just two arbitrary shows that also made the cut this year, for whatever reason. I think "Twin Peaks" is here as part of an impromptu 20th Anniversary celebration. And maybe "M*A*S*H" is there because we're guilty that Larry Gelbart died last year without winning a TCA Lifetime Achievement Award. I voted for "Lost" and "Law & Order," but I couldn't tell you why. Like I said, we really need to come up with a better and clearer definition for what makes a show Heritage-worthy. All five of these shows are probably worthy within any definition, but darned if I know why.
Program of the year:
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
"Friday Night Lights" (DirecTV/NBC)
“Modern Family” (ABC)
My Ballot: Program of the Year is NOT exclusively an award reflecting quality. That's why even though I would never consider voting for "Glee" for a qualitative award, it may be Program of the Year-worthy just because few shows were as central to the national pop culture discourse this year. Fortunately, one show that was *more* central to the pop culture discourse this year, and a show I prefer, was "Lost." Whether or not this was the best season of "Lost" and whether or not you thought Damon and Carlton gave you the ending you wanted/deserved, no show generated more conversation this year. That's an easy vote. The second vote is also easy. If one of my two votes is reflective of discourse and 'buzz," my second is reflective of quality. So that vote went to "Breaking Bad." If "Mad Men" was the best show of the first half of the eligibility period, "Breaking Bad" was the best show of the second half.
Thoughts? Questions? Concerns?