The people of color that Emmy passed over

OPINION - The TV Academy needs to do better in recognizing a broader range of talent. This is why we tune in...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

The 2010 Emmy nominations are in, and historically speaking, it’s still a who’s who of those who always get nominated.

The ring of familiarity with most of the nominations covers the usual suspects, but the actors who were overlooked — Wendell Pierce for HBO’s Treme, along with co-star Khandi Alexander might be in the winner’s circle next year. But Vanessa L. Williams, in her delicious turn as Wilhelmina Slater on ABC’s Ugly Betty won’t be. At least not for that show. Ugly Betty was canceled.

And let’s not forget Regina King on TNT’s Southland. You forget this formidable actress was a former child star — someone who’s done okay by industry standards. More than okay, actually. TV’s been good to her. Let’s hope TV Academy voters will follow with a nomination some day.

TV Academy favorite, Chandra Wilson from ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy was missing from the Supporting Actress category, as was series creator Shondra Rhimes. Grey’s hasn’t been in the running for outstanding drama series since 2007.

The most egregious omission — S. Epatha Merkerson. The 16-year veteran of NBC’s mothership, Law and Order voluntarily said goodbye to the show at the end of the 2009-2010 season. Her tenure has been triumphal in that she’s played the same character continuously on the same show. Outside of the long-running, 20-year-old Gunsmoke, that record will remain unmatched for quite some time.

And then there are the also-rans — Hill Harper from CBS’ CSI: New York is good, but has never been given break-out material to shine and catch the attention of Academy voters. Dulé Hill from USA’s Psych has turned in good performances both here and on NBC’s West Wing, but has never bought home the Emmy statue. Harold Perrineau wasn’t on Lost long enough this season to land a nom during the show’s swan season.

The dearth of actors of color — in prominent roles is obvious. Finding good writers, producers and directors, also of color — from great shows no less, hard to come by. That should change this coming season as diversity is the buzz word, one that may change the way voters vote.

Here are a lucky few who did make the grade…

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Broadcast made a bit of a comeback against the cable onslaught of recent years. And the well-deserving Archie Panjabi was nominated as best supporting actress for CBS’ The Good Wife. I watch the show, avidly, and I’ve gotta say, Panjabi’s been something of a revelation. Gutsy, slick and very self-assured, she adds depth and dimension to a show a little too focused on its legal leanings, whereas the show’s title suggests this is about a woman who’s had to do a few too many things for the good of her family vs. herself. Panjabi is joined by co-star Christine Baranski in the same category, with Julianna Margulies nominated for outstanding actress.

Can’t overlook the red hot Sofía Vergara of ABC’s Modern Family as outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series. This nomination — her first, makes a great birthday gift for the actress. She’ll celebrate the big day on July 12. She joins colleague Julie Bowen, also nominated in the Supporting category.

Taking one for the writers — writer and series regular, Mindy Kaling was nominated for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for NBC’s The Office.

And for the men, TV vet and Emmy winner, Paris Barclay was nominated again. This time for Outstanding Direction of a Drama Series for Fox’s Glee. Glee, one of the frontrunners this season, took in a total of 19 nominations.

Kudos to Andre Braugher for his nomination as outstanding supporting actor for TNT’s Men of a Certain Age. Braugher, long a staple in prime-time TV, brings his considerable talents to an ensemble that continues to gel. And then there’s Wanda…

Wanda Sykes was nominated for writing for the HBO comedy special, I’m a Be Me. And oddly enough the agency and production team behind the hot, water-cooler Old Spice ads featuring Isaiah Mustafa got a nom as well.

And finally, critical darling and another personal fave, NBC’s Friday Night Lights has finally gotten some Emmy love for series leads Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton in the outstanding actor and actress categories, respectively. This show is just sublime — it plays more like a documentary, just real. With great writing, acting and production values. I suppose better late than never, but these nominations should not have happened in the show’s last season. Original episodes will continue to run on NBC through 2011.

The TV Academy needs to do better in recognizing a broader range of talent. That’s what we hope for, that’s why we watch. Well that, and to see who’s wearing what.

This year’s telecast will air Sunday, August 29, 2010 on NBC.