Analysis: Betty White helps SAG Award TV voters out-silly the Golden Globes

12.16.10 7 years ago 22 Comments


Is Betty White the new Piper Perabo?
After the inevitable silliness of Tuesday’s Golden Globe TV nominations — Piper Perabo! Scott Caan! Jennifer Love Hewitt — I settled into Thursday morning’s Screen Actors Guild Award nominations expecting to see a little sanity restored. Instead, the SAG voters managed to do what I never would have thought possible: On several levels, they out-crazied the Golden Globes.
Congratulations, I guess?
There are a couple different levels of crazy at work if you look over the SAG Award nominations. Those thoughts are after the break…
The first and most obvious: “Hot in Cleveland” nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series!
In general, I have no interest in maligning “Hot in Cleveland.” It’s not aimed at me. I get that. I also respect that Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick are utter professionals at what they do. “Hot in Cleveland” is probably 2010’s best comedy from 1985. 
It’s just that when I personally think of the best comedy series ensembles on TV from the past year, I think of “Community,” “Parks & Recreation,” “Cougar Town,” “The League,” “Party Down,” “Better Off Ted,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and a couple other shows first. The Showtime comedies that usually grab slots categories of this sort are all questionable as ensembles. Each one of them is a single-actor-driven show, albeit with terrific supporting actors around them. I’d still put “Weeds” in this category instead of “Hot in Cleveland.” 
In general, SAG Awards voters continue not to understand the concept of an “ensemble,” even though you’d think a body of actors would. It’s not that there aren’t fine supporting actors on “Dexter” and “The Closer,” but those two shows are VERY much “Michael C. Hall and whoever he happens to be sharing a scene with” and “Kyra Sedgwick and whoever she happens to be sharing a scene with.” “The Good Wife,” “Mad Men” and “Boardwalk Empire” all have very obvious lead performances, but I’d argue that they’re all truer ensembles than “Dexter” and “The Closer.” I’d say the same for “Breaking Bad,” “Lost,” “Rubicon,” “Terriers,” “Parenthood,” “Fringe,” “Chuck,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Treme” and “Sons of Anarchy,” none of which found a place in the Ensemble Drama category. So when SAG voters ignore “Community” and “Parks and Recreation,” two of the truest ensemble comedies in many a moon, it’s not surprising. That doesn’t mean it’s not slightly disappointing. 
As for Betty White’s nomination? What can you say? SAG Award voters love Betty White. Emmy voters love Betty White. Everybody loves Betty White. You can almost sense Golden Globe voters waking up this morning, seeing Betty White’s nomination and going, “Why didn’t we think of that?”
The part that’s interesting is that on the individual acting side, where SAG Awards voters don’t split out lead and supporting performances for some reason, White is one of six nominated comedy actors who are usually considered “supporting” actors by other awards-giving bodies. If that doesn’t seem odd to you, note that all 10 of the acting performances on the drama side are traditional “lead” performances.
That means that Ed O’Neill and Ty Burrell made the cut from “Modern Family” — squeezing out Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson — but Jim Parsons from “Big Bang Theory” was left out. It produces the oddness of Chris Colfer — magnificent on “Glee,” but giving a primarily dramatic performance in a primarily supporting role — going up against Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell. They’re not exactly doing the same thing at the same volume for the same amount of screentime.
You don’t need to belittle Betty White or Jane Lynch or Sofia Vegara to look at the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series field and wonder how, in fairly one-note (or two-note) supporting roles, those three earned inclusion over the shunned Showtime trio of Laura Linney, Mary-Louise Parker and Toni Collette. The category isn’t Outstanding Comedic Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series. It isn’t required that Toni Collette make you laugh. All that’s required is that you look at the performance and go, “Goodness that’s some fine acting.”
Or if you’re a true aficionado of marvelous supporting performances — a totally legitimate pursuit — excluding Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad” from the drama category is hard to figure. 
I guess SAG Award voters just want credit for not nominating Piper Perabo?
But as much as I made fun of Golden Globe voters for nominating Jennifer Love Hewitt for “The Client List,” I feel better about the Globes Movie/Miniseries nominations than I do about the HBO-centric SAG Awards nominations in those categories.
John Goodman over Michael Sheen, David Strathairn and a host of others? No thanks. If you’re getting desperate enough to nominate Goodman — perfectly fine, but truly in a negligible supporting role — why not look at HBO’s “The Pacific” and tip your hat to one or two members of that vast ensemble?
Susan Sarandon over over Hope Davis and a host of others? No thanks. I know she’s Susan Sarandon, which means she’s inherently awesome, but her “You Don’t Know Jack” performance made Goodman’s look exhaustive.
A few other thoughts from the SAG Awards roster:
*** The stunt category is strange, with “Burn Notice,” “CSI: NY,” “Dexter,” “Southland” and “True Blood.” I’m wondering where “Chuck” and “Human Target” and “Leverage” and a handful of other action-driven favorites are.
*** Going back to the strangeness of all of those supporting performances in the comedic acting fields, last year, all 10 comedic SAG Awards nominations were for lead performances. What kind of odds would you have given that Larry David, Tony Shalhoub and Charlie Sheen would all drop out of the Comedy Actor field and there wouldn’t have been room for reigning Emmy winner Jim Parsons?
*** While it seems strange to nominate “The Office” for any overall awards for the calendar year that show had, this is one of those places I don’t object. No matter how erratic the writing on the show has become, that doesn’t take away from a very good comedic ensemble that still ekes out laughs from misguided material. For my money, “The Office” still remains one of the five best comic ensembles on TV.
*** Perfectly pleased to see Glenn Close recover “The Piper Perabo Slot” she lost at the Golden Globes. Mariska Hargitay usurping Katey Sagal is a bit more disappointing, but everybody loves Mariska. [Note: I understand that Close could have taken the Sagal slot and Hargitay the Perabo slot.] My own preference would have been to see Kelly MacDonald get a nod for “Boardwalk Empire.” Oh well.
*** Sad that Michael K. Williams goes all of those years of being shunned as part of the “Wire” cast — the finest ensemble cast in television history — then he appears on a show that actually *does* get a series nomination and his name gets left off the initial “Boardwalk Empire” ensemble list. As I noted in the comments, I assume that’ll get corrected.
*** Again, no nostalgia for “24,” “Lost” and “Law & Order.”
Anyway, I’ve already written entirely too much about the SAG Awards nominations. Any thoughts on your end?

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