Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Road to the Emmys: Jenn's Dream Nomination Ballot

Is it really almost award season again? Can you believe it? The Emmy nomination ballots were released earlier this week, and as I perused them, I thought about who would make the cut for my dream nominee ballot. Every year around Just About Write, I usually take the time to examine the entire ballot but since I have so many amazing women who write for this site now, I thought that we might take the opportunity to allow them to also explore what shows and performers would make their ballot. It'll be fun to compare and contrast because we all have similar tastes for some categories and yet completely different for others.

But since I'm the first one up, here are my dream nominees in some of the most popular categories. Prepare yourselves, because this is going to be a fun ride toward the Emmys!

Outstanding Comedy Series
Jane the Virgin
New Girl
Parks and Recreation
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The 2014-2015 television season was a great one for emerging, returning and, sadly, departing comedy. I would absolutely love to see a nomination for Jane the Virgin get thrown into the ring this year. It was consistently one of the most engaging, endearing, well-written shows on the air this past season. New Girl's fourth year was a return to the kind of consistent excellence we haven't seen since season two. It would be amazing to see it finally earn some recognition, especially because it was one of the few shows that managed to expertly balance comedy and heart. What can I possibly say about Parks and Recreation, though? Parks ended its series in the most perfect, heartwarming, beautiful, perfect -- did I say that already? -- way possible. Honestly, it deserves every award possible. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was an unexpected favorite of mine, balancing the zany with the heartwarming, and Galavant was an exceptional, hysterical journey.

Outstanding Drama Series
The Blacklist
Chasing Life
The Flash
The 100

Look, I'm going to be honest here: if I had it my way, ABC Family and The CW would be winning all of the awards possible. Chasing Life became a favorite of mine this summer as I binge-watched it. That series is what all family dramas should be like -- raw, real, full of love and hope and real stakes. The Flash is probably the best drama I watched on television last season, if we're being honest. It did everything right and it ended its freshman year on the best possible note. The 100's second season was darker than anything I've watched recently and because of the ability for the show to delve into such heavy, scary territory but navigate it with vulnerability, amazingly deep characters, and grace, I was extremely impressed. The Blacklist truly had a great season this year and it ended on such a compelling note. Parenthood ended its series as an absolutely stellar example of how to create a sustainable show based on family and love.

Lead Actor – Comedy
Joel McHale as Jeff Winger (Community)
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)
Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt (Parks and Recreation)

(Brief caveat: I want to include Chris Messina in this but I just didn’t like Danny this season on The Mindy Project, so I had to refrain. Nothing against Chris though because he's a delight.)

Joel McHale deserves to win every award for playing Jeff Winger for six years and I know that the voters don't care about him or Community, but they really should. Apart from being one of my favorite human beings ever, Joel managed to unearth new layers of his character this year and mine all of the emotion from them. After six years, to still be able to learn about the character and grow (or regress) with him is super impressive to me. Joel really should win an award for the season/series finale alone, though. That was some dang fine acting. Most people hate The Big Bang Theory, but honestly, if Jim Parsons gets nominated this year, it will be a deserved nomination. Sheldon grew a lot throughout the course of the season and his performance (again) in the finale left me in tears. As for Adam Scott, he played Ben Wyatt with such amazing wit, humor, and heart-melting sentimentality throughout the run of Parks and Recreation that if he doesn't get a nomination, I'll just nominate him for the first annual Just About Write awards.

Lead Actor – Drama
Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen (Arrow)
James Spader as Raymond Reddington (The Blacklist)
Grant Gustin as Barry Allen (The Flash)

I've waxed poetic about Stephen Amell a lot recently, but let me condense it for this post: Stephen does an incredible job carrying Arrow. He does an incredible job making his character believable and real. He does an incredible job of making Oliver Queen -- even in his worst moments -- a character who you just want to connect with. It's not easy to play a superhero, I'd imagine, but Stephen has done it for three years with an incredible amount of dedication and focus. He cares about his show and his character, cares about what happens to the characters Oliver loves, and genuinely carried the series this year, even for a stretch of episodes in which he was absent. James Spader in The Blacklist, meanwhile, is a force to be reckoned with. Raymond Reddington is terrifying in his very calculated methods, but James Spader does an incredible job creating layers and depth with just glances at Megan Boone's Elizabeth Keen. You suspect that there's always something bubbling just below the surface of Red, and that's because of James Spader's incredible acting. Grant Gustin... you guys. I was introduced to Grant when he was on Glee and I'm just so impressed by how he carried The Flash this year. He did such an incredible job making Barry not just an extremely likable character -- it would be impossible NOT to like Grant with his charisma and charm -- but an incredibly relatable one as well. While Oliver Queen on Arrow was failing and we were growing frustrated with him this year, I can honestly say that even in his darkest moments this season, Grant constantly made Barry a character that you rooted for. Seriously, Grant is so young and managed to anchor an entire series this year with his talent. He deserves to be rewarded.

Lead Actress – Comedy
Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day (New Girl)
Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri (The Mindy Project)
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation)
Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva (Jane the Virgin)

THIS SHOULD BE THE ACTUAL NOMINATION BALLOT. THERE IS NO EXCUSE WHY THIS SHOULD NOT BE THE ACTUAL BALLOT. (We all know Julia Louis-Dreyfus will get a nomination for Veep so she could round out the nomination ballot.)

Seriously though, every woman listed above deserves a nomination this year. Zooey Deschanel was more exceptional than she has ever been in this season of New Girl. Episodes like "Walk Of Shame" and "Oregon" and the earlier "Micro" really allowed her comedic ability to shine. Moreover, Jess became the kind of character we really connected with and wanted to see succeed this year. That was completely Zooey. (She should get a nomination alone for her "meth" scene in "Background Check," I'M JUST SAYING.) While I was frustrated with Danny this season, I wasn't frustrated with Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project and honestly, it's been far too long since Mindy Kaling has gotten the recognition she deserves for being a part of a comedy series. Mindy constructed a nicely layered, vulnerable, goal-oriented Mindy this year and what really struck me was the emotional moments peppered throughout. Mindy Kaling is hilarious when she's delivering lines as indignant!Mindy ('How DARE you") but what I found most striking was how poignant the quieter moments were in the sitcom.

Amy Poehler deserves every single award for playing Leslie Knope and like... I just cannot, you guys. I cannot with how amazing this character is and what a wonderful female role model she is and how her journey evolved and how utterly wonderful everything about the final season of Parks and Recreation was. Amy Poehler was outstanding, moving, grounded, etc. etc. Give the woman the Emmy. Ellie Kemper, honestly, surprised me this year with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She's completely unassuming and though most of the work on the series comedy-wise is zany and over-the-top, again, it's the quiet moments that really struck me. Kimmy's motivational speech to Titus in the pilot was what really cemented my love for Ellie Kemper. Finally, Gina Rodriguez is an all-star. I'm telling you, the woman can do it all: she's hilarious and has impeccable comedic timing. Her portrayal of Jane is easily one of the best portrayals of a female character on television these days (she makes Jane who would be abrasive or annoying on any other show into this quirky, flawed, endearing, well-meaning, absolutely root-able heroine). Gina carries the show and she shines in her comedic moments and completely knocks the wind out of you with her dramatic ones. (That scene with Alba about Jane being a single mother, the scene between the women in the finale, the break-up scene with Rafael, etc.) If Amy can't have this award, I want Gina to have it.

Lead Actress – Drama
Troian Bellisario as Spencer Hastings (Pretty Little Liars)
Megan Boone as Elizabeth Keen (The Blacklist)
Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan (Once Upon A Time)
Italia Ricci as April Carver (Chasing Life)

Troian Bellisario elevates everything that she is in, Pretty Little Liars included. An ABC Family series that's typically categorized by others -- myself included -- as a "guilty pleasure" wouldn't be the same without Troian's Spencer Hastings. Honestly, I wish I could put into words what she brings to this role. I think that it's raw vulnerability. Troian knows Spencer inside out -- understands what terrifies her, what motivates her, what she would do to protect others, to protect herself, etc. and she channels all of those emotions and thoughts and categories of characterization into her acting. Honestly, watching her play Spencer is amazing. Megan Boone did a fabulous job toward the back half of this season on The Blacklist delivering the bitterness and emotion that was necessary to propel Elizabeth Keen. You want to smack her sometimes, hug her other times, and that's what's so wonderful about Megan's potryal of this flawed heroine: you always feel SOMETHING toward Elizabeth. Similarly, Jennifer Morrison took a stoic, guarded, jaded character on Once Upon A Time and slowly broke down her walls from the inside out. The softness with which Jennifer delivers lines, the trepidation you can see, and the way she manages to make single tears slip down her cheek during emotional moments honestly astounds me. Italia Ricci, meanwhile, is everything as April Carver. Young, determined, hopeful, fearful, guarded, loving... that's just what Italia can convey with a single glance at another character in this series. She takes a character who would easily be -- in the hands of someone else -- a generic heroine and layers inward struggle, quarter life crises, and raw emotion into her. What an amazing thing to be able to accomplish in the first season.

Supporting Actor – Comedy
Jaime Camill as Rogelio de la Vega (Jane the Virgin)
Titus Burgess as Titus Andromedon (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation)
Timothy Omundson as King Richard (Galavant)
Lamorne Morris as Winston Bishop (New Girl)
Adam Pally as Peter Prentice (The Mindy Project)

(Note: I love but could not include every other person from Jane the Virgin and Parks and Recreation. This category has SO many amazing people in it that it’s impossible to narrow it down to only six.)

Okay, Jaime Camill deserves this award because Rogelio de la Vega is easily one of the funniest characters on TV this season. What Jaime does so well is delivery. Whether Rogelio is delighted or indignant or utterly and totally confused, Jaime's facial expressions and the way he delivers his lines will always -- always -- cause you to crack a smile and laugh. But more than that, Jaime managed to take a character who is vapid and aloof and make him so totally endearing. You think, at the beginning of the series, that every moment spent with Rogelio will cause you to roll your eyes. But very quickly, you learn that's not the case. In fact, you learn that Rogelio, apart from being a bit self-absorbed, is easily one of the most compassionate, loving, devoted characters on this show. It's because of Jaime that this happens. Titus Burgess is hysterical as Titus Andromedon, you guys. There are so many amazing moments ("Firework" comes to mind first), but it's the way Titus delivers lines that really gets me. His comedic skills are in his inflections and his facial expressions. HI-LARIOUS.

Nick Offerman deserves every single possible award for his role as Ron Swanson and if you disagree, I want you to watch "Leslie And Ron" fifteen times in a row until you change your mind. Honestly, Ron Swanson is easily one of the characters on Parks and Recreation who had the best arc and character journey and that's thanks to Nick Offerman. The stoicism with which he delivers lines is hilarious, but his character arc is what really allowed him to shine. Timothy Omundson as King Richard was absolutely delightful and hysterical. I could probably watch the few second clip of Richard and Galavant tip-toeing around and singing a million times and always laugh. He brought such a giddiness and absurdity to this role that it would be a shame to not include him. Lamorne Morris was utterly exceptional in this season of New Girl. Gone were the days of the cat-napping, puzzling Winston. Though he had the chance to be a little silly in this season, Lamorne was really used to tie the rest of the cast together in a lot of episodes. "Background Check" and "Par 5" were great episodes that showcased Lamorne's amazing deliveries and matter-of-fact humor. Adam Pally does his best work whenever he has the opportunity to be goofy and yet somehow relatable and truly, The Mindy Project was this role for him. I started out hating Peter and ended the series loving him. That's the mark of a great actor, right there.

Supporting Actress – Comedy
Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz (The Big Bang Theory)
Yael Grobglas as Petra Solano (Jane the Virgin)
Jane Krakowski as Jacqueline Voorhees (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Kate McKinnon as various characters (Saturday Night Live)
Andrea Navedo as Xiomara Villanueva (Jane the Virgin)
Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate-Dwyer (Parks and Recreation)
Hannah Simone as Cece (New Girl)

(Note: I would include the ladies from Community but I don’t think they had strong enough stories this season that would warrant a nomination. To me, the best year the show would have had a chance for them was season three. Alas.)

Okay, I like Mayim Bialik and think she had some great work this season but honestly, Melissa Rauch deserves a nomination because no one in this cast is as consistently hilarious and consistently as underrated as Melissa. Every single time Bernadette opens her mouth, I fall a little more in love with her and her sassy spirit. I nominated two women from Jane the Virgin in this category (sue me), and Yael Grobglas is one. Honestly, Yael has the BEST facial expressions in this entire series and can make panicked eyes like no one else. The episode where Rafel and Petra are in charge of looking after a dog is one of the best episodes for Yael, comedically. For someone who's supposed to be a "villain" in the series, Yael always manages to humanize Petra and I love her for that. Jane Krakowski is hilarious as Jacqueline Voorhees, but you probably already anticipated that. I just love Jane's comedic style, really: dry and aloof and self-absorbed. It worked for her in 30 Rock and it works in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

GIVE KATE MCKINNON ALL OF THE AWARDS. Honestly, that's all I have to say about that. The woman is smart, she's talented, and she's one of the only parts of SNL that I actually look forward to these days. Andrea Navdeo is my other JTV nominee for this category because... well, as Xiomara, she's youthful and fun and sometimes temperamental but always funny. Honestly, at the hands of someone else, Xiomara would be grating but not with Andrea. No, I love Xiomara even when she makes mistakes. And I root for her even when she doesn't root for herself. Finally, Aubrey Plaza had the best character arc in the final season of Parks and Recreation apart from Amy Poehler and Aubrey deserves EVERY award for it. I used to not connect to April. I used to grow weary of her too-cool-to-care attitude and her dark quirks. But over time, Aubrey has allowed April Ludgate to become this weird, but extremely relatable and wonderful young woman. I love how April slowly let other people into her life over the years and I love that Aubrey was able to make April a soft character, but not a weak one, and that she still maintained everything about the character that made her... HER.

Hannah Simone should be nominated just for her drunk scene in "The Crawl" alone but man, let me just tell you that this year on New Girl, Hannah got to branch out a bit more with some emotional work and she completely nailed it. Moments between her and Max Greenfield and her and Zooey Deschanel were wonderful.

Supporting Actor – Drama
Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells (The Flash)
Rick Hoffman as Louis Litt (Suits)
Craig T. Nelson as Zeek Braverman (Parenthood)

(Again: I wish I could include everyone from Parenthood in this but I’m singling out Craig T. Nelson because of character arcs.)

Tom Cavanagh is amazing because he can transition between "endearing mentor" to "terrifying villain" very quickly and does in this season of The Flash. His powerhouse performance in "Fastest Man Alive" earns him a spot on my ballot, seriously. Rick Hoffman deserves every award possible for his breakdown in "Not Just A Pretty Face," and if you disagree with me, I'll hunt you down. Rick has this amazing way of making Louis' meltdowns so momentarily explosive that it terrifies you (really, truly, it does) and then... the next moment, Louis is weeping and you feel such honest compassion for him that it breaks your heart a little. That's totally all Rick's doing and it's fantastic. Craig T. Nelson's arc throughout Parenthood was brilliant. It was slow-moving at times but over the years, he managed to take this hardened, tough, distant parent and meld him into a loving, supportive, compassionate father and grandfather. The final season was total evidence of that and everything Craig did with Zeek Braverman was just... so moving, honestly. I never related to Zeek and I felt myself drawn to him and to his journey. (And I wept. A lot.)

Supporting Actress – Drama
Mae Whitman as Amber Holt (Parenthood)
Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak (Arrow)
Sarah Rafferty as Donna Paulsen (Suits)

I had such a hard time choosing just one Parenthood cast member to be represented in the Supporting Actress part of the ballot, but I think I chose well. Mae Whitman is just an absolutely breathtaking performer in Parenthood that it's almost impossible to explain why instead of just: "GO WATCH." Amber's journey from rebellious teenager to loving, mature, healthy mother is utterly astounding. I may not have always connected to Amber or parts of her journey, but I was ALWAYS impressed by Mae's performances and in the final season, we got to see her do some of her best emotional work. Honestly, she made Amber who she was. She unearthed a lot of pain and honesty and wells of anger and she conveyed them so fully throughout the years that the one thing left in the final season was to convey the sense of closure and healing that Amber was approaching. It was beautiful and made me cry a lot. Stephen Amell may have to do a lot of heavy lifting (literally and metaphorically) on Arrow, but Emily Bett Rickards is the heart and soul of the series. She took a one-off character and made her the most important character apart from the lead actor in this series. Isn't that amazing? What always impresses me about Emily is her ability to make you connect to Felicity even if you don't agree with her. I loved seeing how much power Emily possessed this season in her emotional moments. The foundry scene in "Sara" still strikes me as some of the best emotional work we've seen in the whole series. Her love story with Stephen Amell's Oliver Queen was powerful to watch unfold. But what makes Emily deserve a spot on my ballot above all else is this: she made her character into more than just a love interest, more than just a friend or an IT girl or The Arrow's go-to girl. She made Felicity into a HERO.

If you doubt why I put Sarah Rafferty on here, go watch Suits' "Intent" and "Not Just A Pretty Face." Much like Emily anchors Arrow, so Sarah anchors Suits and turned Donna Paulsen into the most important character on this show. The emotional work that Sarah did in those two episodes I noted above is astounding. I think that for the first time in a long time, we saw how much fear Donna had. We saw her armor crack around Harvey. We saw her determination and her strength and her resolution as she walked away from him. Donna is such an amazingly strong, resilient, and amazing character and truly, it's a credit to Sarah Rafferty for all of the work she's done to make her that way.

Writing (Comedy)
“The Comic Book Store Regeneration” (The Big Bang Theory)
“Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” (Community)
“Pilot” (Galavant)
“Chapter One” (Jane the Virgin)
“Landline” & “Par 5” (New Girl)
“Leslie And Ron” & “One Last Ride” (Parks and Recreation)

1) "The Comic Book Store Regeneration" is really and truly funny and then it will punch you straight in the feelings.

2) I may not have enjoyed most of Community's sixth season because... well, you guys already know (lack of character arcs and sufficient emotional depth/plot). But darn, if "Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television" wasn't a stellar episode of (Internet) TV.

3) Galavant and Jane the Virgin both had solid pilot episodes that hooked me with their nuanced characters, engaging plots, and wonderful twists and turns.

4) I wish that "Background Check" or "Clean Break" or "Spiderhunt" or "Oregon" had also been submitted (I really wish they just submitted the entire season), but "Landline" is an amazing example of how stellar New Girl was in the fourth season and "Par 5" was a great example of how to construct A/B/C stories without anything -- comedy or emotional depth -- being sacrificed.

5) If "Leslie And Ron" doesn't get nominated, I will seriously riot. Like... we're talking pitchforks and torches because I don't know if a perfect television episode exists, but if it does... that was it. The episode was hilarious, mostly a bottle episode, and showcased the amazing comedic and emotional range of Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. It made me sob. Actually SOB. Their series finale deserves a nomination too, because it was an amazing example of how to provide character-driven closure and heart.

Writing (Drama)
“May God Bless And Keep You Always” (Parenthood)
“Not Just A Pretty Face” (Suits)

"May God Bless And Keep You Always" was a pretty low-key finale for Parenthood, which I appreciated. It took its time focusing on love and happiness and then -- at the very end -- hit us with a wave of emotion. I'm going to be honest here and say that the final few minutes with the cover of "Forever Young" playing over the baseball game made me cry so much but also feel so utterly happy because I knew all of the Bravermans would be okay. THAT is how you write a poignant, moving series finale deserving of the show. "Not Just A Pretty Face" was an exceptional end to a rocky Suits season and the performances by Gabriel Macht, Rick Hoffman, and Sarah Rafferty made that episode so memorable, so emotional, and so heartbreaking.

Well, folks, there you have it! Who did I miss? Who do you disagree with? Hit up the comments below and be sure to stay tuned as some of our other writers provide their own ballots in the coming days. :)



  2. My favorite is, Yael Grobglas for Supporting Actress in Comedy as Petra in Jane The Virgin and Jaime Camill as Rogelio de la vega