I Look At This Year’s SAG Nominations For Television
And At the Same Time, Explain Why I’ve (Mostly) Ignored Them At This Column
As those of you who have followed my blog for the last several years, you are aware how much of an awards show junkie I tend to be in regards to television. Similarly, if you’ve been following my blog you might have noticed that there’s one major awards show I’ve pretty much ignored almost from the beginning of my criticism. That would be the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
I should mention up front that I generally have no problem with the awards show itself. It has been generally one of the more entertaining awards shows over the past quarter century as well as one of the most succinct — usually it doesn’t need more than two hours to get through giving its awards. It has never really needed a host to be entertaining (only in the past couple of years has it actually bothered to have one), generally the speeches are engaging (I vividly remember how in 2008 Daniel Day-Lewis used his speech after winning Best Actor in a Film to pay tribute to the recently deceased Heath Ledger) and frequently the presenters that give the award can have a certain level of power. I vividly remember the ovation that happened when all the living members of The Mary Tyler Moore Show came out on the stage to give the award for Best Comedic Ensemble and how profoundly moved Steve Carell was when he accepted the award on behalf of the cast of The Office. Throw in the fact that the lion’s share of the awards have to deal with television and you would think that by ignoring them I have been derelict in my duties.
Well to be honest while I’ve generally approved of many of the nominees and the awards during the era of Peak TV, I have a fair amount of problems as to how and what awards SAG gives for television.
To state the most obvious problem, there’s the fact that there is absolutely no differentiation by the SAG awards between Lead and Supporting Performances in the television categories. I’ve always found this bizarre considering they’re more than willing to give Supporting Awards for Films. I’ve never understood the logic here and probably never will.
I have less of an understanding as to why, while they’ll give Lead Actor and Actress Awards for TV Movies and Limited Series, the SAGs have never, to my knowledge, given an award for Best Ensemble for either. This frankly makes less sense than the Supporting Awards, particularly given how Limited Series have deluged the market the past decade.
And lastly for much of time watching their ceremonies, there has been a distinct repetition in the winners in to many of the categories. I take particular offense at Alec Baldwin winning at least five or six consecutive Best Actor in a Comedy Series (I honestly lost count) for 30 Rock — the last when the series after the series had ended the previous February and had barely qualified for eligibility. There has been a similar lack of originality when it comes to cast awards — I know that many people loved Orange is the New Black and that it was ignored by almost every other major awards group, but I still thought the three consecutive Best Ensemble in a Comedy awards it won at least one too many.
But I’ll confess my thinking has changed a bit over the past three or four years. It helped after the 2017 win for Stranger Things (and David Harbour rousing call to the barricades) and the back to back wins for This is Us in 2018 and 2019. The comedy awards have also taken on a new light — I approved immensely of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s wins over the past couple of years (and I actually agree with them that Fleabag should’ve won in 2020) and it’s hard not to approve a group that is willing to go big on a series like The Crown and basically ignore The Handmaid’s Tale for most of its run. I’ll also acknowledge I’ve generally liked a lot of the speeches recently, from Bryan Cranston’s memorable acceptance speech for All the Way in 2017 as well as Alexander Skarsgard’s humility at winning Best Actor for Big Little Lies over Robert DeNiro in particular.
So while I still believe the SAG awards do need to indulge in some major splits when it comes to actual nominations they give for television awards, I’ll admit I’m becoming more and more impressed with the awards themselves. To that end, I have decided this year to start going through the SAG awards for television and decide what I think of the nominations overall. I may comment a little more when it comes to the nominees, but that’s for another day.
So here we go. As always, I’ll start with Drama
OUTSTANDING DRAMATIC ENSEMBLE
Maybe I spoke too soon.
I expected Succession here, and I’m not entirely surprised to see Squid Game here. Maybe I have to start seriously watching The Morning Show at this point. And it is impressive that Yellowstone which has been fighting for awards recognition for years finally got somewhere.
But seriously: The Handmaid’s Tale? Not Pose? Not This is Us? Not In Treatment? The Emmys eight acting nominations for the series last year were considered overkill and basically every other award show between them has agreed. You’re not making yourselves looking too good.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR
And you actually did worse here. Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, kind of expected. I suppose there will be people who will be thrilled about Kieran Culkin. I guess I have to push Squid Game to the forefront now.
Billy Crudup for The Morning Show? Again. No Billy Porter. No Sterling Brown. You are not making yourselves look good here.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR
Maybe I’ll skip the Drama awards entirely this year.
Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon I don’t mind. Sarah Snook makes sense and again, need to see Squid Game. But Elisabeth Moss? No MJ Rodriguez? No Uzo Aduba, who owned these awards for awhile? You’re almost asking for them to start saying #SAGsoWhite (though I admit the Asian community would protest that part)
OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY
Now you’re cooking
Hacks, The Kominsky Method, Only murders in the Building and Ted Lasso are among the best comedies in the past year. And I’m going to have to get caught up on The Great at this point. It’s a given. I’ll acknowledge wanting to see Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist or Pen15 here, but those are my preferences. But the fans of Insecure are going to be upset
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR
Brett Goldstein is probably thinking to himself: “What the f — am I doing here?” Trust me Brett, you are as worthy as Jason Sudeikis, Steve Martin and Martin Short, and Michael Douglas. I’m honestly not certain who else should be here with the exception, maybe, of Anthony Anderson for black-ish.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS
Jean Smart, keep on rolling. Ditto Juno Temple and Hannah Waddingham for Ted Lasso.. I’m overjoyed Sandra Oh is here for The Chair and after just one episode I think I see what’s so Great about Elle Fanning. Would have liked to see Issa Rae here no question.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE OR LIMITED SERIES
Thrilled to see Murray Bartlett here for The White Lotus. Equally thrilled to see Oscar Isaac here for Scenes from a Marriage. I will get to Dopesick but given the Golden Globe, I’m inclined to think Michael Keaton is qualified. Evan Peters got an Emmy, so he should be here.
I don’t see the logic behind Ewan McGregor for Halston. I’d much rather see Clive Owen for Impeachment or Michael Shannon for Nine Perfect Strangers.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR LIMITED SERIES
No one will question Margaret Qualley or Kate Winslet belonging here. And I can see the logic in putting Jennifer Coolidge and Jean Smart in this category too. I can sort of see the reasoning behind Cynthia Erivo for Genius: Aretha, but in all honesty Jessica Chastain for Scenes from a Marriage or any of the exceptional actresses in Impeachment would be better choices. (Then again, Chastain was nominated for The Eyes of Tammy Faye and they also nominated Nicole Kidman for Being the Ricardos, so I guess they won’t mind that much.)
As for Stunt Ensemble, I won’t go into detail here; save that I am a little surprised Mare of Easttown qualified. This may go to Squid Game by default though.
I don’t know if I’ll try to predict the winners of the SAGs the same way I do for the Critics Choice awards and (usually) the Golden Globes. They’ve become increasingly difficult to handicap over the years and quite often the winners are as surprised as the critics. I’ll make up my mind by the end of February. Till then, stay tuned.