By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com July 20, 2012 at 11:14AM
We don't have too many quibbles with the below-the-line categories, to be honest, although an oversight of either Alan Taylor or Neil Marshall for their directing work on "Game of Thrones" seems egregiously unfair. "Mad Men" taking up three of the writing slots was a little surprising, but not undeserved; we'd have been a lot happier had "Breaking Bad" slipped in instead of "Downton Abbey."
Indeed, while we enjoyed the first season of 'Downton' (which swept the miniseries categories last year, but has moved up to the big leagues after a reorder), the second was a big step down, and it's a little dispiriting to see the show dominate quite so heavily after a mediocre season. We were a little surprised to see Kelly MacDonald excluded from the supporting actress race (at the expense of Joanne Froggatt from 'Downton' and Anna Gunn's first nomination for "Breaking Bad"), and slightly less so for "Homeland" star Morena Baccarin, although we had our fingers crossed.
Indeed, given its critical plaudits, it was a surprise to see "Homeland" miss out in the supporting categories, in particular Mandy Patinkin, in one of the bigger shocks of the announcement. Indeed, the supporting actor category was a head-scratcher all round: John Slattery somehow failed to make the cut at the expense of the 'Downton' boys, as did the ever-reliable Alan Cumming of "The Good Wife," and the sublime Walton Goggins of "Justified." Still, Jared Harris got a nomination, which made us terribly happy.
The lead actress category was another puzzler: we were pleased to see Claire Danes (the hands-down winner), Elisabeth Moss, and Julianna Margulies (who is consistently strong) in the mix. And Michelle Dockery is probably more deserving than her screen mother, even if, again, she had better material in the first season of 'Downton.' But nominations for both Glenn Close in the four-seasons-past-its-prime "Damages" and Kathy Bates in the since-cancelled "Harry's Law" stink of voters going for the names they recognize, rather than the more deserving Mireille Enos or Jessica Pare.
The actor category wasn't as problematic. We were relieved to see Golden Globe-winner Kelsey Grammer of "Boss" -- which squandered its promise almost immediately -- away from the list. And few would complain about Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Damien Lewis and Steve Buscemi. But giving nominations to "Dexter" at this point just seems insulting to those who are making television that isn't terrible, and Hugh Bonneville is fine, but coming at the expense of Hugh Laurie's last season on "House," or the ever-excellent Timothy Olyphant on "Justified," it just seems silly.
Finally, the drama series category played out much as we expected, albeit with "Boardwalk Empire" stepping in for "The Good Wife," giving a total clean sweep to the cable networks. We still need to catch up with season two, but we hear that Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter's show improved greatly at second time at bat, so we can't begrudge it too much. Either way, it's a heartening selection of shows in the final six.