It’s the time of year when ballots are being sent out to those eligible to vote for the Emmy Awards for the 1998-99 season. So it’s not too early for me to start lobbying, loudly and without heed of the natural pessimism that tells me most of my suggestions have about as much of a chance of winning as Nicholas Turturro’s James Martinez does of finding a matching shirt and tie on NYPD Blue.
Okay, first of all, Joss Whedon needs some major awardage. His creation, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is by far the most overlooked series of Emmy eligibility, and Whedon deserves directing and writing statuettes immediately. So for that matter does Chris Carter. Carter’s writing and directing for The X-Files is scandalously overlooked year in, year out. Some in the industry speculate it’s because the voters in this category tend to be older and more conservative and therefore more loyal to familiar genres like cop and doctor shows as opposed to Carter’s transcendent supernatural saga. Still, this year, his ”Triangle” episode (Nazis on an ocean liner) in particular deserves recognition. Carter’s chief competition here: Files star David Duchovny, who merits a nomination for his writing and directing of the beautiful, witty alien-baseball-player episode.
Next: The acting category. I’ll be as brutal as his show can sometimes be: No Emmy for NYPD Blue’s Dennis Franz, please. He’s a terrific performer, but he’s won three times already, and the showcases he’s had all season have only served to confirm that, as Det. Andy Sipowicz is now being written, Franz has explored and exhausted every possible angle of that character. (Ditto for Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce in the comedy category.) Instead, I have a couple of suggestions. First, most deserving and least likely: James Gandolfini of HBO’s The Sopranos. His performance as a Mob boss/family man was a magnificently sustainedachievement. Second suggestion: Sam Waterston for Law & Order; he never hits a false note and this season has been a particularly subtle ensemble player. In the comedy arena, either Friends’ Matthew Perry or Everybody Loves Raymond’s Ray Romano would certainly make a fine winner. Perry’s work this year, romancing Courteney Cox, was devilishly adroit, and Romano has developed into the best ex-stand-up comic-turned-dexterous actor.
In fact, both Friends and Raymond are in severe need of Emmy recognition. These sitcoms don’t have the flash or buzz of Ally McBeal, or the industry-establishment imprimatur of Frasier, but they’re coming off very funny seasons and should be rewarded in writing, directing, and acting categories. Of course, the ongoing crime in the comedy arena remains that The Simpsons is forever relegated to an animation category rather than being placed among the other sitcoms it invariably surpasses in brilliant satire. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences should be ashamed that it’s never given Matt Groening’s creation its proper due.
Actresses? Come on, you stodgy voters, realize that Sarah Michelle Gellar is giving the young-woman version of a grande-dame performance every week on Buffy, delicately balancing the show’s wisecracks and extravagant melodrama. And I know you readers think EW has stock in Raymond, but we don’t, and costar Patricia Heaton deserves an Emmy right now, please — she’s only the most versatile, sly woman in sitcoms.