The end of May means it’s time to start campaigning for the Emmy Awards. Many shows have already started hitting voters with giant For Your Consideration DVD sets to get the coveted nominations. This season, however, there’s a lot of gamesmanship going on for category placements as actors are moving from Lead to Supporting or vice versa in order to improve their chances at a nomination.
The biggest change is coming from Grey’s Anatomy, where McDreamy himself Patrick Dempsey is dropping down to the Supporting Actor race after failing to get nominated as a Lead Actor for four years. While some might criticize the move as blatantly mislabeling himself in order to score a nomination, it’s actually a bigger indictment on the show itself.
Grey’s Anatomy is an ensemble show and, over the years, it’s become less about Meredith and Derek and more about the entire staff. As much as the MerDer relationship moved forward this season, when you think about it, did Dempsey really get more screentime than Sandra Oh or Katherine Heigl or Justin Chambers?
The truth is that Grey’s Anatomy has no leads, certainly not when you compare it to other shows. Michael C. Hall in Dexter and Hugh Laurie in House are true male leads, central to almost every scene. Heck, their characters’ names are the titles of the shows. Patrick Dempsey, given his limited screentime, simply can’t compete, nor should he, against those true leading men.
The truly suspicious move is over at HBO’s Big Love. For the first two seasons, the three wives all competed as Lead Actresses, but with zero nominations, they switched it up this year. Jeanne Tripplehorn remains a Lead Actress contender, but the other wives Ginnifer Goodwin and Chloe Sevigny are competing in the Supporting Actress race. This is the definition of misleading, as all three wives share roughly equal screentime, but since only picking one to vote for his difficult, they decided to try splitting up rather than splitting the vote.
However, the real problem for all of these performers is that the downward move is hard to pull off. Last season Connie Britton moved down to Supporting for Friday Night Lights, but she failed to get nominated in either category. On the other hand, Allison Janney famously moved up from Supporting to Lead during the third season of The West Wing and managed to win awards in both categories. Similarly, Matt le Blanc and Matthew Perry were able to score nominations for Friends after the entire cast moved up to the Lead race while they were both losers in Supporting.
This news bodes well for two ladies who are moving on up this year. Mad Men‘s January Jones, who plays Don Draper’s beleaguered wife Betty, is competing as a Lead Actress this season after failing to get nominated in Supporting Actress last year. And for the Comedy side, Judy Reyes from Scrubs is surprisingly moving to the far less competitive Lead Actress category.
We’ll have to wait until the nominations come out to see if any of these category moves work out, but with this much strategy going on behind the scenes, Emmy season is off to an exciting start.