James Spader won the Emmy last year for Lead Actor in a Drama Series and, if you watch this clip from an episode that aired last night you will probably conclude, as I have, that it may be again Spader’s to lose. He’ll have the usual competition but how do you trump this?

I’m not a fan of David E. Kelly’s, particularly. I think he uses his show as a sounding board for his own political agenda and indeed, this Spader clip proves that. But this time he knocks it out of the park.

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  • alynch

    Boston Legal illustrates what’s wrong with the Emmy process. They judge a show’s quality based solely on a couple of cherry-picked episodes. Such a process allows people like Kelley to sweep up awards just by bringing out the A-material once or twice a year. Consistency over a season isn’t factored in at all. It’s also unfair to long-form narrative shows like The Wire, where an episode or two can’t properly illustrate its high quality. We can bash the oscars all we want, but at least they’re almost always watching the contenders in their entirety, which already makes them more legitimate than the Emmys.

  • Wow! I’ve never seen BL, but James Spader.. I had NO idea. Way to go!


  • walkabout

    that clip is hilariously powerful. I think I’ll start watching that show from now on… 🙂

    that said… I think an awards group like Emmy tends to reward shows that audience can catch up anytime and comprehend absolutely anything. many great shows demand consistency from its audience. you can’t watch lost or battlestar galactica or many other series from time to time. you can miss a lot when you miss just one episode. that obviously doesn’t apply to shows like BL. and I always thought that Emmys prefer that…

  • srh1son

    I agree alynch.

    I may share the same politics at David E. Kelley, but if Spader continues to win the Emmy, while other great performances are ignored, I’ll… just complain about it as I usually do.

    Seriously, this scene was somewhat laughable. Having Spader critique the Justices, who apparently are meant to be the actual Justices, was just silly.

  • k

    Uh, this scene is out of context so maybe I’m out of the loop, but what on earth does big oil have to do with his case?

    And I had James Spader’s way of speaking…

    “May I ask — BREATHE — as a group — BREATHE — how many — BREATHE — executions have you — BREATHE — actually witnessed?”

  • vagabond

    I love Spader, but the fact that he has three Emmys and Hugh Laurie has zero makes me want to toss my TV out the window (even though “House” has been pretty crappy so far this year).

  • Ryan Adams

    k, Could be Spader’s Lamaze delivery means he’s out of breath from standing for 8 minutes.
    If James Spader gets any pudgier he’ll soon look like Margaret Rutherford.

    Not wild about this kind of grandstanding “performance” (or scripting). But I’m even less wild about The Supremes, so I’m happy to sit through anything that shines a light on how screwed up they are. Though it’s pretty easy to make anybody look like a doofus when you only allow them slack-jawed reaction shots to a star’s speecifying, so that diminishes the effect… (…for me, and I know I’m in the minority here, so I won’t pound the point.)

    Have to say though, there are 5 better performances by 5 different actors in every single episode of The Wire — over a span of 60 hours. Not ever the same 5 actors either. They astonish in rotation, week to week, trading off with each other, sharing the great lines, without ego or spotlight hogging.

    But none of them gets an Emmy nomination because they never get a chance to showboat for 10 minutes straight (just like no actual lawyer in real life ever would).

    Scenes in The Wire patter and splash with increasing intensity like random raindrops on a tin roof, and it’s only when you stand back to see the impact and depth of the drama gushing from the drainspouts that you realize what a dazzling naturalistic balancing act you’ve been watching for weeks.

    I respect what James Spader does, but this reminds me why I don’t watch schematic network TV dramas anymore.

    There should be a term-limit on Emmys of this sort. Fine, Spader had his run, and pranced around very cutely to win his already.

    Would be nice to see some “real” human emotions, complex non-gimmicky dramatic interactions, and authentic language getting some recognition for a change, instead of shrink-wrapped honey-smoked ham like this.

  • dela

    someone is getting pudgier by the episode.

  • ZacharyTF

    I can’t stand Boston Legal and for the life of me, can’t figure out why James Spader has 3 Emmys when Martin Sheen has a grand total of 0.

    In 2004, James beat Keifer Sutherland, James Gandolfini, Martin Sheen and Anthony LaPaglia.

    In 2005, James beat Keifer Sutherland, Ian McShane, Hugh Laurie and Hank Azaria.

    In 2007, James beat James Gandolfini, Keifer Sutherland, Hugh Laurie and Denis Leary.

    Seriously, how the hell does he beat the competition those 3 years?

  • Ryan Adams

    Thanks for that recap, Zachary.

    How much sweeter, smarter — and more interesting — if this were the list of winners:

    2004, Martin Sheen
    2005, Ian McShane
    2006, Hugh Laurie
    2007, Dennis Leary

    Ian McShane created one of the most memorable characters of the past 20 years. Hoopleheaded Emmy cocksuckers.


  • S.T. Stevens

    That scene was quite possibly the most preachy, ridiculous liberal trite I have ever seen on screen, excluding Michael Moore films, and that’s coming from my anti death penalty perspective. I would call it borderline disgraceful, I can’t begin to fathom how Boston Legal got a Best Drama nom last year with writing like that, just one episode of watching Lost or The Wire even with their season long continuity should convince voters of their superiority over this propaganda. I’ll have to say I didn’t find Spader’s performance from that scene Emmy-worthy either (though granted, it is just one scene). He was good, but based on what I saw (and my limited experience watching parts of Boston Legal episodes in the past) there’s no way I’d say he’s better than Dennis Leary on Rescue Me, Eddie Izzard on The Riches or Hugh Laurie on House MD. I wouldn’t even put him ahead of Matthew Fox on Lost or Kiefer Sutherland on 24 (unfortunately ineligible this year).

    Oh, and for the record, Martin Sheen actually does have an Emmy, just not from where you’d expect. He won for Best Guest Actor on Murphy Brown. Granted, he still should have won at least one Emmy for his excellent work on The West Wing, but at least he has a statuette.

  • srh1son

    It seems like we’re mostly in agreement that Spader isn’t deserving of yet another win for this character. Still, knowing Emmy voters, a Spader win would probably be a safe bet. If I could stop him, I would, but this headline is probably spot on, precisely because Emmy voters will think a scene like that is an example of award-quality acting.

  • Ryan Adams

    Absolutely right, srh1son.
    Sasha’s expertise is to be uncannily prescient.
    My expertise is to moan oooh nooo.


  • Sasha Stone

    They always vote for the same people and they tend to vote for CHARACTERS they like rather than great performers. It’s always been the way with the Emmys. I’m telling you, with speeches like that Spader one – I can’t see him missing again but one never knows. Talking about it is almost like letting the cat out of the bag too soon.

  • Ryan Adams

    Let’s talk about it every day from now till June 19.

  • dela

    They kept on giving best drama series Emmy to the West Wing even when it didn’t deserve it, but Martin Sheen is Emmyless for his work on the show. They didn’t have a problem awarding Allison Janney with 4 Emmys.

  • Sasha Stone

    Oh and ST, they won’t be able to ignore The Wire this year – it will probably win Best Drama is my guess. LOL if it went to Boston Legal. All I really care about, though, is Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney winning in the mini-series categories. One reason I’ve never covered the Emmys is because they are so boring and repetitive. But who knows – maybe Awards Daily can shake up the race and make it exciting. Yeah, right.

  • alynch

    Oh and ST, they won’t be able to ignore The Wire this year – it will probably win Best Drama is my guess.

    Do you honestly believe that? I’d be thrilled if it did happen, but I just don’t see it. Granted, there are extenuating circumstances this year. Many shows have been marginalized by the strike and are therefore likely out of contention, and unlike previous seasons, HBO will presumably be giving them their primary push since they haven’t really got anything else worth nominating. However, over the past four seasons The Wire has garnered ONE emmy nomination. Is it really possible for an awards organization to do such an about face for a show’s final season after ignoring it for the four previous?

  • S.T. Stevens

    I think The Wire MIGHT get a nomination for Best Drama, but I would be shocked if it actually won, or if it was nominated in any of the acting categories. With Sopranos wrapped up, Heroes’ last season getting critically savaged, and 24 taking a hiatus from the strike three of the major contenders from previous years are out of the picture, but even then I have a feeling that Brothers & Sisters, Friday Night Lights, Lost (which has particularly good chances due to its prominence during the strike-drought while all other shows were in reruns) and maybe even The Closer probably have better odds of sneaking in.

  • k

    Ugh, I agree with the complaints about The Wire’s obvious omissions, year after year.

    And I agree with you, Ryan, that the scene would have been so much more compelling had ANYTHING been written for the Justices other than indignant sputtering. The scene doesn’t invite any sort of equal or open political discourse, just preaches and screeches and pounds the viewer with liberal ideals. Speaking as a liberal Democrat, I have to say that I was unimpressed and actually embarrassed with this segment. It sort of perpetuates this idea that liberals are insane. Yuck.

    And, I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m shocked Jennifer Garner remained Emmy-less for Alias. She won the SAG and the Golden Globe, just not that damn Emmy. And she elevated already great material for the first two seasons with her performances. I’m disappointed she never won.

  • Rob

    “I have a feeling that Brothers & Sisters, Friday Night Lights, Lost (which has particularly good chances due to its prominence during the strike-drought while all other shows were in reruns) and maybe even The Closer probably have better odds of sneaking in.”

    Sorry, but am I the only one who thinks Mad Men is an absolute shoo-in for a huge wad of nominations? Much like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under in their first seasons, I see it sweeping the craft/directing/writing categories and then probably missing out on the big prize due to the voters’ chronic fear of smart new cable shows – but there’s no way it isn’t getting nominated. I’d love to see Jon Hamm repeat his Globes win, but I fear his work is too subtle to top Spader’s grade-A Monterey Jack.

  • Rob

    And it pains me to say it, but The Wire is never, ever, EVER getting a Best Drama Series nomination. It’s this decade’s Homicide: Life on the Street, and one Best Actor win aside, look how that fared.

  • limeymcfrog

    I don’t see the greatness in this scene. At first I said “Wow, they aren’t disguising the paralells to Scalia, Alito, Roberts, and Ginsburg” But when he actually called him “Justice Scalia” I about fell out of my chair! This is over the top, shark-jumping, fantastical, crap! Kelley obviously cherry picked a scenario that “no one would argue with”. Louisiana opens with “kill the child rapists” and Kelley counters with “you want to kill the poor, innocent, racially persecuted, retarded kid?” It’s hackery of the lowest order that adds nothing to the debate. I’m no conservative, and no fan of the death penalty, but this is “get off my side” central.

    Seriously, the writing was so bad that I couldn’t see the performance. This is why I always scream and throw things every time Spader wins an emmy and calm myself down with a mantra of “Sex, Lies & Videotape…Sex, Lies, & Videotape”

  • Sasha Stone

    Well I don’t think it was THAT bad and believe me, Spader is always preaching something at the audience every week on that show – or should I say, David E. Kelly is always preaching. Seriously, every week another social agenda is tackled on the show. His lawyers are pawns for his own frustrations with our government. HOWEVER, this is the kind of thing your typical Emmy voter responds to. What I liked about it, and why it stands out from the usual preaching on that show, is that he calls out the Supreme Court and hell, someone has to other than lefty loudmouth bloggers who preach to the converted. Putting it on TV like that embarrasses them and us, frankly. Whether it’s Spader saying it or not, if you watch the show you’ll see it as a standout scene. Just my opinion. Mad Men is a magnificent show.

  • The Jack

    This isn’t about Spader’s performance, but I really enjoyed the TV section of this site last year. Any chance you can bring it back, Sasha? Or even just report more on the Emmys since the Oscar portion of the site always lulls around the middle of the year.

    Yeah, the Emmys always award the same people and shows, but that’s just part of what the show is. It’s like not reporting on the Oscars just because they award Biopics and prestige dramas that open at the end of the year. It’s what they are. If anything, the Emmys are more exciting because, apart from the SAGs and the Golden Globes (which only reward half of the year’s eligible season), there are no preliminary awards for the them, so there are always more surprises.

    Anyway, back on track – it would be cool to see more EmmyWatching on the site.

  • Ryan Adams

    That’s a brilliant idea, The Jack.
    With the jostle of Sasha’s topic here about Boston Legal, I feel the site rousing from a 2-month post-Oscar hangover. (or, as the most hungover of anyone, maybe that’s just me).

    This is AwardsDaily, after all, right? Each of us has our own love-hate thing with the Oscars, and our coverage of the SAG awards, the Indie Spirits, the Golden Globes was every bit as fun at making it all about one night February.

    I liked last year’s TV pages too — but honestly, I kept forgetting they were there to be clicked on. (And I contributed!) Totally up to Sasha how to cultivate the real estate of the site, but I think it would be fine to plant the seedlings on the main pages — where nobody (including me) can overlook them. Then maybe once those items take root we could think about transplanting to a new department.

    (Site design is so tricky, too, so this would save the trouble of creating tabs and link-backs and other virtual infrastructure).

    Just thinking out loud, but the main concept is a very good one. As hungry hounds sniffing around for awards, we’d have a fresh new fox to chase for a few weeks with some expanded Emmy coverage.

  • alex

    This is so weird that you are posting this.

    I watched BL for the first time in my life two nights ago and Spader’s performance blew me away. It truly was phenomenal.

    What is wrong with expressing one’s political point of view in a show? I know the clip that is posted does verge on the preachy, but I honestly felt I learned something and thought the writing was excellent in that it did not allow the scene to get too melodramatic.

    But, I do see why everyone is upset that Laurie and Sheen have won nothing! Really? Not one Emmy between the two of them?

  • Proman

    This is powerful writing, presented and executed powerfully. Makes me proud to be a liberal.

  • Ryan Adams

    I sure didn’t mean to instigate a pile-on for James Spade or David E. Kelly. I have enormous respect for both of them. Even Spader’s more mediocre movies are eminently watchable and we can credit this to his good choices, as well as proof of what he’s able to do with the material after he’s chosen it.

    David E. Kelly is one of the very few writers for mainstream primetime network TV who gives a shit about saying anything remotely important, and there’s no way to overestimate the value of his voice in the wilderness.

    Given the choice of having my eyelids propped open like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, and forced to watch 5 episodes of CSI:Deluth zooming in for macro-close-ups of pubic hair samples… or 10 episodes of anything David E. Kelly wrote… I’d be begging and pleading to be lectured by James Spader (or even Calista Flockhart!)

    Anyway, the arc of any show is really important, and I haven’t seen enough of the series to objectively judge it on the basis of a 10-minute clip.

    I think we can all sense where this episode is headed though (William Shatner groping Ruth Bader Ginsberg in the cloakroom, right?)

  • Oh, and most importanly, Ryan, I’ve finally heard your voice during that Nancy Oliver podcast… and it was everything that I wanted it to be 😀 .

    And for my “Ludovico treatment”, I’d also go for Kelly’s work, he is the voice of consciousness that is badly needed right now (although I wouldn’t mind too much if it was something written by Steven Moffat).

  • srh1son

    I concur with getting some more Emmy coverage. The regular tv season is coming to a close, so it’s as good as time as any to start focusing on what will catch Emmy’s attention.

  • illnaa



  • limeymcfrog

    The problem is, Sasha, that Spader attacks the court with all the sopistication and tact of a “loudmouth lefty blogger”. To me it trivialized my legitimate animosity toward this incredibly politicized and polluted entity.

    Let’s start a thread here. Complete this sentence “I lost total respect for the emmys when I learned that…”

    For me it would be:

    Bill Cosby was never nominated for lead actor in a comedy

    Gilmore Girls was shut out of nominations except for MAKEUP

    Robert Duvall didn’t win the Emmy for Lonesome Dove (an oscaremmy performance if there ever was one)

    The Wire has received only a single nomination.

    What have you guys got?

  • filmboymichael

    I agree somewhat with alynch…however, James Spader is consistently excellent on Boston Legal…I for one have been thrilled with each of his 3 emmy wins for this role…many of his closing arguments are some of the most compelling moments on television….another great clip of his is when he’s arguing on behalf of Candace Bergen and her desire to euthanise her father….

  • Ryan Adams

    good one filmboymichael.

    How about this:
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres in 1992, and quickly becomes one of the coolest series ever. (me, instantly obsessed)

    5 years later, the Emmys finally notice Buffy — with a makeup nomination
    the next year, the Emmys ramp up the attention — makeup AND hairstyle nominations
    another year goes by — makeup and sound editing noms

    In 7 seasons, Josh Whedon only received one nomination for writing Buffy. And lost. (He was up against 2 episodes of The West Wing and 2 episodes of The Sopranos)

    Total Emmy wins for Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 0
    Total Emmy wins for Two and a Half *ack!* Men: 4

    Don’t even get me started about Veronica Mars

    Meanwhile, Everybody (including Emmy) Fucking Loves Raymond!

  • Ryan Adams

    “…another great clip of his is when he’s arguing on behalf of Candace Bergen.”

    Pity Candace Bergen never got any tips about comic timing from Charlie McCarthy.

  • Bryansamo

    Just a quick note regarding Bill Cosby:

    Actors (or their agents/producers) have to submit for eligibility. Bill Cosby, at least for the Cosby Show, specifically did NOT submit his name each year the show aired. That is why he was never nominated for that show. I remember it was a big deal back in the 80s that he did not submit his name.

  • ZacharyTF

    “They kept on giving best drama series Emmy to the West Wing even when it didn’t deserve it, but Martin Sheen is Emmyless for his work on the show. They didn’t have a problem awarding Allison Janney with 4 Emmys.”

    They gave the Drama series Emmy to The West Wing for it’s first 4 seasons, each one deserved. They rightfully didn’t give the Emmy to TWW it’s last 3 seasons, since the quality of those pale in comparison to the first 4 when Aaron Sorkin was at the helm.

    I lost respect for the Emmys when they refused to nominate Kristen Bell for Veronica Mars.

  • S.T. Stevens

    “What is wrong with expressing one’s political point of view in a show? I know the clip that is posted does verge on the preachy, but I honestly felt I learned something and thought the writing was excellent in that it did not allow the scene to get too melodramatic.”

    There’s nothing wrong about expressing one’s political point-of-view in a show. The Wire, which has been lauded by pretty much everybody here (and I’ll more than agree with that sentiment, I love it too), throughout its entire run has been a commentary on American society, and it’s pretty hard to comment on America without expressing your viewpoint at least a bit. The problem with this Boston Legal scene is how it expresses that viewpoint. It isn’t borderline preachy, it is 100% certified preachy. This scene makes Aaron Sorkin’s writing look subtle by comparison. Kelly basically has Spader just recite a rant, the kind of rant a naive idealistic college freshman spits out during discussion in his poli sci class. Take that text and put in in an editorial in the student newspaper at UC-Berkeley, it wouldn’t feel the slightest bit out of place. On the other hand, take an editorial from that paper and put it into a teleplay, and I’ll bet you’ll end up with some pretty terrible television. If you want to express your view in a TV show, do it through good character development, do it by telling a compelling story, do it by making me empathize with your creation. Kelly isn’t doing any of that in this scene. He is directly stating in speech format his view to the audience and saying you should believe this too or you’re a bad person, that is the definition of preachy. It’s lazy, self serving, and in my opinion has no place in supposedly Emmy-worthy programming.

  • Marshall

    Jon Hamm had better take Best Actor in a Drama Series this year. It’s amazing to imagine he may not even be nominated.

  • Rob

    Agreed, Marshall. But I’m pretty confident he’ll be nominated, particularly if he submits his stunning “Marriage of Figaro” episode. Hopefully he’s not too subtle to win.

    Subtlety is also the main reason I’m worried the excellent supporting cast of “Mad Men” won’t get their due. Has anyone noticed just how terrific January Jones is in that show? She takes what could be such a slender character and imbues her with tension and danger… she reminds me of a young Eva Marie Saint. I don’t think there’s a more deserving Supporting Actress candidate out there.

  • RRA

    Never watched BOSTON LEGAL, and fucking hated Kelly’s other TV work, but you know what?

    He is cool for getting William Fuckin Shatner a cool gig to kick ass with, same with James Spader, the star of the only good movie titled CRASH*.

    *=You know, that one about those people who fuck after car crashes. Not that horrendously embarrasing afterschool special that won the Oscar.

  • Lisa

    James Spader is the greatest actor on TV today & deserves every award he gets!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Another win would be perfect since there is no actor on Tv today who can deliver dialouge like the spectacular Spader!!

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