Last night James Spader won his third Emmy in four years for his work as ethically-challenged attorney Alan Shore from Boston Legal.
Spader, I thought, didn’t have a particularly challenging year as Shore — he was sidelined through much of the first half of the season, ironically due to a storyline that would have been perfect for Spader’s talents — so I had no expectation of Spader picking up another Emmy.
Obviously, the Emmy Academy disagreed, and awarded Spader another statue.
On a message board I frequent, however, this is seen not so much as a win for Spader as it’s seen as a theft from Hugh Laurie. “Spader’s won his, he doesn’t need anymore.” Or, “Laurie’s awesome, and he deserves an Emmy.”
When Spader beat Laurie after the first seasons of House and Boston Legal, I remember an outcry, “How can people look at Laurie’s performance and not be amazed by it, when compared to his work on Jeeves & Wooster and Blackadder?”
And yes, in comparison to his body of work, Laurie’s performance is nothing short of amazing.
However, Emmy voters get one episode on which to make their decision. And obviously someone at Fox or Bad Hat or Laurie’s own people are making bad decisions on what to send the Emmy voters.
This year, I’d have picked the episode with the rape victim who bonds to House as the episode to send.
As for Spader, I thought he had a weak season on Boston Legal. There wasn’t a lot that challenged Alan Shore. The episode I’d have picked? Probably the episode where he had to defend his ex-girlfriend, the one who stabbed her fiance with scissors in the courthouse.
While Laurie’s work in the third season on House was more challenging and more consistent than Spader’s work on Boston Legal, the voters thought that Spader’s single hour was better than Laurie’s.
It’s a single hour making a difference, not the body of work.
Maybe next year, Laurie will have that one superlative episode that makes the difference. Maybe the listing ship of House will learn how to steer again. We can hope.
In comparison to bodies of work, Alan Shore isn’t that different than any other smarmy character James Spader has portrayed. And Greg House is that different than any of the goofball characters Hugh Laurie has played. But that’s not what the Emmy voters are looking at — one episode in a vacuum is what they’re looking at.
No one was robbed.
Congrats, Mr. Spader.