For the last four years, “Shameless” star Emmy Rossum has been giving one of the best performances in all of television, and yet despite the quality of that work – and the name that would be a headline writer's best friend – neither she nor the show she's on has gotten more than a whiff of Emmy recognition. Joan Cusack has been nominated three years in a row for guest actress in a drama, and that's it. Nothing for Rossum. Nothing for William H. Macy, who in his non-Frank Gallagher life has won two Emmys and been nominated for seven more. None for Jeremy Allen White or Emma Kenney or any of the other superb young actors the show has discovered, none for the other guest stars or the writing or directing.
The fact that Cusack keeps appearing in the guest category shows you how easy it can be to game the TV Academy's system – and now “Shameless” producer John Wells is trying to make like a Gallagher himself and try to game the system on a bigger scale. Having submitted the show in the Emmy drama categories the previous three years, Wells and Showtime today announced that “Shameless” will compete as a comedy at the 2014 Emmys.
Now, on the one hand I cannot blame Wells for trying this. I don't know that the genre has been the issue for “Shameless.” Emmy voters have often seemed allergic to shows about extremely poor people, especially when they're not the type who suffer poverty with quiet dignity, but with the kind of brazen, hustling vulgarity with which the Gallaghers go through life. But odds are that Rossum was never going to break through in the drama actress category, not after a year when there were actually seven nominees and still no room at the inn for her, or for Tatiana Maslany, or several others. At a minimum, the comedy actress category will have a few openings, since Laura Dern and Tina Fey aren't eligible again, and Macy should have a much easier time than trying to crack a drama field that includes Cranston, Hamm, Spacey, and possibly McConaughey.
On the other hand, this move is, well, shameless. Absurd might be an even better word for it.
Yes, “Shameless” is a show that blends comedy and drama, and this year has had room for the usual black humor, like Carl Gallagher aggressively seeking detention to spend more time with a troublemaking girl he has a crush on, or Kev discovering what a money pit the bar he inherited really is. I even had arguments with Showtime executives in the first season that “Shameless” belonged more in the comedy categories, and not just because it was an easier path to nominations.
Not this year, though. This has been the darkest, most serious season to date, and especially for Rossum's Fiona. Never the show's funniest character to begin with, Fiona's been in a deep, bad spiral all season that included cheating on her boyfriend, getting high and letting her toddler brother Liam ingest cocaine (nearly dying and possibly suffering brain damage as a result), becoming a convicted felon on probation, and in the most recent episode, hitting rock bottom when being abandoned by fellow junkies at a gas station in Sheboygan.
It's been an impressive arc, and Rossum has again been amazing. I would gladly see her nominated for any and all awards for what she's doing this year, and what she's done throughout the show. And it is insane that she would be competing against performances by Amy Poehler and Melissa McCarthy. It's weird enough when Edie Falco is up for these things (and won one for the first year of “Nurse Jackie”), but that's at least a more overtly comic show and performance, and there's always the half-hour defense.
The rules are the rules, and if Wells can work within them and convince the Academy to allow “Shameless” to hop categories, then I suppose more power to him. It's a great show that deserves more recognition than it's gotten. But I don't know if it'll get substantially more this way, and it'll feel very strange if it does, all things considered.
That said, new episode Sunday at 9! I expect Fiona to suffer some more!
What does everybody else think? Is the move to comedy fair or foul?