Why “The Middle,” “Once Upon a Time,” & “Person of Interest” Deserve Emmy Noms

Why “The Middle,” “Once Upon a Time,” & “Person of Interest” Deserve Emmy Noms May 20, 2014

While I have a say in what projects win Christopher Awards every year, I have no say in what TV shows or stars get nominated for Emmys. A lot of my favorites are often overlooked to recognize edgier shows that push the envelope. While the voting process is ongoing, I figured I’d throw a few short suggestions out there:

1. Best Supporting Actress: Eden Sher as Sue Heck on “The Middle” – perhaps more than any character on television, Sue embodies the Christopher motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Her relentless positivity in the face of repeated failure is often played for laughs, but loyal viewers of the show are aware of the heart underneath it all. That’s thanks to Sher’s talent which allows her to be both incredibly goofy and touchingly vulnerable. No scene captured Sue Heck’s pathos better than one in the episode titled “The Walk.”

The perpetually dateless Sue shockingly winds up with five dates to her prom, but cancels them all when her on-again off-again boyfriend Darrin asks her to go with him. When Darrin finds out about the other guys, he misunderstands the situation and cancels the date. Devastated, Sue dons the pink dress she bought for this special occasion and explains to her brothers Axl and Brick that she’s going to the dance anyway. I wish this scene was online, because Sue’s heartache is palpable – and Sher’s Emmy worthiness is self-evident.

With little fanfare, “The Middle” has been making families laugh for five seasons now without any kind of Emmy recognition. This would be the perfect opportunity to give the show some love and reward a talented actress at the same time. Maybe the Wrestlerettes would even show up.

2. Best Actor and Actress: Lana Parrilla as “Regina/The Evil Queen” and Robert Carlyle as “Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold” on “Once Upon a Time” – it would have been easy for “Once Upon a Time’s” creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis to simply create one-dimensional villains for their series, which re-imagined classic fairy tales. Instead, they opted for bad guys with depth – characters who had chosen the dark side, but still retained the tiniest bit of humanity that sometimes made them likable and even redeemable.

For three seasons now, Parrilla and Carlyle have inhabited their villainous characters (often, with amusing glee), and made their moral growth – inspired by their selfless love for their children – believable. They’ve still got an edge that makes you worry about what they’ll do to any character that ticks them off, but they’re also not as evil as they were when they started out.

In the middle of season three, for instance, Regina gave up any contact with her adopted son Henry in order to save his life and the lives of the townspeople she used to hold in utter contempt – and Rumple sacrificed his own life to save his son, grandson, and newly acquired family. The gravitas of those choices felt real, and that was thanks to the gifted actors who play those roles.

3. Best Writing in a Drama Series: Greg Plageman and David Slack for “Person of Interest: Deus Ex Machina” – when season three of “Person of Interest” began, the team of Reese (Jim Caviezel), Finch (Michael Emerson), Shaw (Sarah Shahi), Carter (Taraji P. Henson), and Fusco (Kevin Chapman) were humming along so harmoniously, they seemed like The Avengers. “Everybody’s too happy and comfortable,” I thought to myself. “This can’t possibly last.”

Not surprisingly, it didn’t, with the first big shock coming from Carter’s murder, which then threw the whole team – especially Reese – into a tailspin. They eventually started working together more comfortably again, but the writers introduced a major monkey wrench into the story: a new machine dubbed Samaritan and controlled by a private corporation called Decima. Samaritan would spy on everyone in ways far beyond what Finch’s machine had ever done largely because Finch had scruples. In addition, an anti-spying group called Vigilance targeted the promoters of the surveillance state, becoming terrorists themselves.

Season finales tend to ramp up the action – and “Deus Ex Machina” definitely had some. But the writers deserve credit for creating tension and drama mainly through Vigilance staging a trial of sorts against the government officials and power brokers who run roughshod over the American people’s right to privacy. They also made the seemingly-good intentions (at least originally) of some of these people evident to keep it from being a clear cut case of good vs. evil.

SPOILER ALERT: In addition, the writers produced some major surprises and left their main characters (and the world) in a far worse place than at the season’s beginning. A major new power has been unleashed, opening up a Pandora’s box. But as Root (Amy Acker), the newest member of the team, explains in a voiceover at the end, “The Machine asked me to tell you something before we part. You once told John the whole point of Pandora’s box was that once you’ve opened it, you can’t close it again. She wanted me to remind you of how the story ends. When everything is over, when the worst has happened, there’s still one thing left in Pandora’s box: hope.”

“Deus Ex Machina” took “Person of Interest” to a new, more dangerous place. For that, the writers deserve some Emmy recognition.

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