"True Blood" and "Glee" both found their way into the Screen Actors Guild's ensemble fields, but neither show was able to earn a single individual nomination, as SAG shied away from injecting quite as much new blood as the Golden Globes did earlier in the week.
I'm still looking over the SAG nominations, announced on Thursday morning, trying to make sense of the TV nominees.
I almost have to apologize for accusing the Golden Globes for still being partially entrenched, because compared to SAG, the Hollywood Foreign Press voters look alert and experimental. In one field after another, SAG insisted on nominating the same familiar faces from two or three years ago, resisting change unless it was completely unavoidable.
Even where they were able to clear out some dead wood, SAG voters went to far as to reinstate previous nominees in several categories.
Take, for example, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series, where SAG voters were savvy enough to finally strike Sally Field, last year's winner, from the rolls (and inexplicably remove Elisabeth Moss from the field). Who did they find room for? Re-nominating "Medium" star Patricia Arquette with a nomination only amusing because it counts toward the totals for both NBC and CBS. The SAG voters also nominated Julianna Margulies, but try as I might, I can't find a way to consider Magulies a fresh face, considering she has six SAG trophies (two individual and four ensemble) for "E.R."
Or take the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series field of Alec Baldwin, Steve Carell, Larry David, Tony Shalhoub and Charlie Sheen? The funny thing about that group is that Sheen and David were the "hip and fresh" replacements for Jeremy Piven and David Duchovny.
With two "Boston Legal" stars leaving the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series category, SAG voters just rectified last year's oblivious snubs of Bryan Cranston and Simon Baker.
Even in the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series category, where "Nurse Jackie" and "The United States of Tara" stars Edie Falco and Toni Collette were impossible-to-ignore forces of nature and earned nominations, the voters found a way to re-nominate Julia Louis-Dreyfus and to keep Christina Applegate around for a show that I refuse to believe any of them still watched this year.
That meant that "Glee" star Lea Michele, already up for Golden Globes and Golden Satellite awards, didn't make the cut.
"Glee" is, however, nominated in the Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series field, along with fellow newbie "Modern Family." I love those nominations because both shows are ensembles in the truest sense of the word.
And yet SAG voters continue not to really get the whole "ensemble" category, which is something you'd think a voting body of actors, very few of whom ever get to play leads, would understand. After year's of nominating Hugh Laurie's one-man-show in "House," they gave a nomination this year to "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which has always effectively been Larry David plus whichever of his friends are available on any given shooting day. Yes, there are other supremely talented actors on both "House" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but both shows are inextricably tied up in their leading men that you couldn't have a show without them. My test question for a true ensemble is, "If you remove the ostensible lead, could the show survive for more than one episode?"
"Curb Your Enthusiasm" will never and could never air a Larry David-free episode, therefore it's less of an ensemble, to me at least, than something like "Parks and Recreation" or "Better Off Ted" or "Party Down" or "Community" or even -- thank you SAG for not nominating it again -- "Entourage."
On the same note, "The Good Wife" has lots of good actors in its cast, but it's a show in which both the A-plot and the B-plot both focus on Margulies to even a greater degree than something like "The Closer" is all about Kyra Sedgwick. Give me a truer ensemble like "Sons of Anarchy" any day.
I'm not the biggest "True Blood" fan out there, but here's one show and category where I feel its nomination is utterly deserved. After focusing perhaps too much on Sookie-and-Bill in the first season, "True Blood" was a real ensemble this year and the show benefited from that expanded focus.
Some other thoughts on the SAG nominations:
*** You have to wonder the Screen Actors Guild thinks it knows about stunt work that Emmy voters don't. The last two Emmys for stunt work have both gone to "Chuck," but the beloved NBC action-comedy hasn't been nominated either year by SAG. Meanwhile, pundits are probably shaking their heads trying to remember the memorable stunts from "Dexter" or maybe trying to recall if "The Unit" was even on this year (it was!).
*** While it was announced months ago that Betty White is receiving the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award, I still giggle at the feeling that the TCA forced SAG's hand by giving White a Lifetime Achievement Award back in August. Of course, the TCA also allowed Larry Gelbart to go to that "M*A*S*H*" unit in the sky without a Lifetime Achievement Award from us, so all things are relative.
*** Supporting performers *are* eligible for SAG Awards, they just have to get nominated in the same category as leads. Recent supporting actors to pull the trick include Piven and William Shatner last year, Vanessa Williams in 2008 and Chandra Wilson, who actually won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series in 2007. This year? Only leads.
*** I don't exactly know the eligibility time frame for the SAG voters, but it seems odd that Brendan Gleeson wouldn't be nominated for "Into the Storm" and it feels even odder that Cuba Gooding Jr. *would* be nominated.
*** In the same category, does anybody have a clue what "A Number" is? Tom Wilkinson appears to have been nominated for it. From what I can tell, it's an HBO/BBC co-production and HBO hasn't even aired it yet. It seems that "A Number" is premiering on HBO on Dec. 29. Way to be ahead of the curve, SAG voters!