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Emmys 2011: Face Palms of the Night

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Sep 19, 2011 | 6:02am EDT

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This year’s Emmys were full of familial modernity and illuminated Friday evenings. While there were a fair share of deserved wins, it is inevitable that every Emmys Awards—heck, every Awards show period—has its share of moments that make us livid: Face Palm moments. “My show is SO much better than the show that won!” is a phrase we’ve shouted (while slightly inebriated) far too many times. And this year was no exception.

Louis CK Loses Writing in a Comedy Series Award

LouieThe thing about most of these instances of frustration is, more often than not, you expect them. No one really thought Louis CK was going to take this—or any—Emmy Award. It’s not because he’s not the most poignant and talented comedian, writer and show-runner in television today, it’s because he’s weird. He’s not entirely approachable. As a matter of fact, Louie is not always ostensibly funny. Oftentimes, a viewer might wonder whether or not the show is even trying to be funny, or if it's just trying to be depressing.

The Louie episode nominated for the writing award was “Poker/Divorce,” which is not your typical half-hour of comedy. The episode opens with Louis’ gay poker buddy and co-comedian earnestly and pragmatically explaining how objectified he is by his straight friends as a gay item, and how he takes issue with the use of derogatory homophobic terms used casually in comedy acts. The speech is dire and joke-free. But what makes Louie so powerful in both drama and comedy is that it thrives on both drama and comedy. Louie does not hold back on anything. To call it strictly a comedy is, arguably, a little bit misleading. It attacks every aspect of life, and does so far too well to go unappreciated.

Julie Bowen Wins Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Julie BowenThis one is more of a partial face palm. Maybe only the upper-left quadrant of the face, and half a palm—two or three fingers. Julie Bowen is definitely talented, and she's one of Modern Family’s secret weapons. But by this time in the show, it seemed that the Modern Family brand was a sure ticket to the win. It’s unfortunate that Kristen Wiig was not recognized, as she stands as Saturday Night Live’s best feature. Jane Krakowski, as well, is a remarkable force on 30 Rock. Although Bowen is a gifted performer, she seemed like sort of the "easy" pick for the category... but at some point, we're just grasping at straws.

Downton Abbey Takes Best Directing in a Miniseries/Movie

As this is the part of the awards where we all sporadically checked what the football score was, or caught a glimpse of what was happening on Breaking Bad, the face-palming is likely to be much less adamant. However, our motto is: palming where palming is due. Downton Abbey does deserve Emmys—especially for “Classiest Acceptance Speeches” on the part of Julian Fellowes. But its clinching of Series, Writing and Directing was a little undue. In Directing especially, Downton Abbey has worthy competitors: both Mildred Pierce (go Kate Winslet!) and Carlos can be said to outshine Dowton in this category, the latter especially. There’s more of a creativity and an interesting flavor to Carlos’ direction—credit to Olivier Assayas—than in Downton. Maybe we’re just grasping at straws here, but faces were meant to be palmed.

Modern Family takes Best Comedy Series

Li'l Sebastian Adam Scott parks and RecreationThis article might seem like a Modern Family bashing—it’s not. I love Modern Family. But the Best Comedy Series of the year it is not. As explained earlier, it’s understandable why Louie would lose to Modern Family: Louie is a very specific, very “you have to watch it consistently to really get it” sort of series. Modern Family is more fun, welcoming, and laughable in the traditional sense. And these are good traits for a comedy to have. But there are other shows with just as much fun laughter to offer—more, in fact. Specifically: Parks and Recreation.

Parks and Recreation is undeniably the all-around best comedy on television today. It’s not as offbeat and alienating as Louie. It’s not as nichey and “insider” as series like Community or 30 Rock. It’s approachable, it’s upbeat, it’s laugh-out-loud funny and beyond all of that, it’s incredibly well-crafted.

The humor comes primarily from the viewers' love and understanding of the characters and the setting of small-town Pawnee, Indiana. This could explain why the show does not receive the credit it is due: it takes a little longer to get to know these characters than it does the Modern Family family. The Pawnee characters are a little bit more nuanced, in general, and don’t have the benefit of family roles to dictate what kind of people they’re supposed to be. But once the audience is invested, Parks and Recreation is unbeatable. It’s a win on all cylinders. A good deal of quality comedies rely on cynicism and grimness to deliver their world—in fact, Parks and Recreation is the happiest TV show since Leave it to Beaver. The characters are good people—they’re also believable as people (albeit engrossingly eccentric). Weak episodes—moments, even—are few and far between. The series did indeed deserve the award. But at the very least, if it doesn’t already have it, it deserves your viewership.

Steve Carell Loses Best Actor in a Comedy

Michael ScottWe should end this on a sentimental note and, perhaps, the most surprising Face Palm of the night: Steve Carell’s snub for the Best Actor in a Comedy for his final episode as Michael Scott on The Office. Carell has been celebrated for years for his role on the show. He has been nominated for an Emmy for the role five times over, and this seemed to be the year to win. The sentiment was on his side, sure. But his final episode, “Goodbye, Michael,” was one of the actor’s best performances to date on the show.

Michael Scott is a definitively intriguing character. At the dawn of the series, he was a crass, insensitive, narcissistic brute who was rude to his employees yet seemed bent on winning their favor for his vanity. As the show progressed, we learned a lot about Michael. He seemed entirely unaware of his flaws, sure, but was nonetheless overcome by loneliness. Through his star-crossed romantic relationships, we learned just how desperate he was to find love. We also learned just how much he really wanted his coworkers to like him—not simply for vanity, but to prove to himself that he was worth something. And this driving force was the self-defeating prophecy that undid his happiness for so many years.

In the later seasons, especially once he met Holly, Michael began to grow a little. He came to recognize his own errors a little bit more, and to rearrange his values slightly. The path was a rocky one, but it was one we all appreciated as true growth for the character. He even managed to earn a genuine friendship with Jim, Pam and Dwight, as opposed to the one-sided relationships he shared with each earlier on in the series. Steve’s final episode as Michael was the pinnacle of this—we saw Michael Scott evolved (but not to an unbelievable level), and Steve played this off with the utmost perfection as an actor. He used a character that has made us laugh (both with and at him) so many times over the years to actually make many of us cry. It was a performance that was extremely appreciated by fans of Carell and the series, and was a performance that truly deserved the Emmy.

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