Oh, Emmy voters. Even when you make sense, you still perplex me.

Sunday (Sept. 16) night’s 59th Primetime Emmy Awards (blogged about in minute detail here) offered the usual reasons to approach the Television Academy with both admiration and confusion.

On one hand, how could you be so hip and savvy to give 30 Rock the outstanding comedy series prize? How could you be so open to new shows that you’d welcome actors from Brothers & Sisters (Sally Field) and Ugly Betty (America Ferrera) into the winners’ circle? How could you very correctly identify award-worthy work from people like Terry O’Quinn and Ricky Gervais?

How could you do those things right (or close to right) and still push the default option so many times? In short, how can you just keep giving Emmys to The Amazing Race?

Don’t get me wrong. I love The Amazing Race. At times I’ve loved The Amazing Race like a celebutard loves a diminutive purse-dog, or like those guys from Carls Jr. love flat buns. In a general sense, it’s absolutely one of the very best reality competition shows on TV. But last year was not the best of year’s for The Amazing Race, as the show combined a lackluster fall season with a spring all-stars campaign. If ever there was a year for some other show to beat The Amazing Race in the reality competition category, it was this once. American Idol gave tens of millions to charity. Top Chef and Project Runway added Bravo’s patina of quality. And Dancing With the Stars had people dancing with the stars. But no, another win for The Amazing Race.

And there’s another win for The Daily Show in the variety, music or comedy series category, even though The Colbert Report has been reliably funnier for over a year now. And there’s another win for James Spader, just because he gave a long, impassioned speech at the end of his submission episode, even though James Galdolfini was an utter titan on The Sopranos this season (and Hugh Laurie and Denis Leary eventually deserve Emmys too). And as much as we used to love Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold on Entourage, wouldn’t Rainn Wilson, Kevin Dillon or particularly Neil Patrick Harris have been more deserving supporting actor winners, particularly given how bad Entourage has been lately?

Complacency doesn’t always make things wrong. For example, will anybody ever regret an award vote cast for Helen Mirren? Well, yes. I suspect anybody who tries to get her recognition for the upcoming National Treasure 2 will look a little silly, but you can’t go wrong with Mirren and Prime Suspect. And even if Judy Davis already has two Emmys (and Samantha Morton was unbelievably good in Longford), giving her another won’t cause any harm.

. The funny thing is that thanks to the long-term tyranny of The West Wing in the outstanding drama series category, The Sopranos only had one previous series win. The final season of The Sopranos came in two halves and while the first half may have been disappointing, this year’s episodes delivered (even if you’re one of those resolution-needy people who hated the finale).

Oh sure, the Emmy voters tried to make it look like that Sopranos win wasn’t so inevitable at all. Smart money had both Gandolfini and Edie Falco has favorites as well and they both had to clap for other people. Those upsets could have set the stage for an even bigger surprise, for a win for… What? Grey’s Anatomy for a season in which the show’s soapy misadventures were even clunkier than usual? I was happy to see Katherine Heigl win, even if she probably could have taken the high road and not made a joke about the announcer blundering her name. No, even as TV’s second most watched scripted show, Grey’s just wasn’t going to stop the HBO juggernaut. Once the Emmy voters weren’t smart enough to nominate The Wire or Friday Night Lights, how could they beat sending one of finest shows in the medium’s history off into the ether in the manner to which it has become accustomed.

What’d you think of this year’s Emmy winners? What did the voters get right? And what did they get wrong?

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg