TV SAG Award Nominations Play Favorites, with a Few Twists (Monk!?)

In the first decade of the new millennium, an unstoppable force swept across the television landscape. Few, if anyone, saw it coming, but by the end of its run, no one would forget the chaos it wrought. Year after year, awards show after awards show, there it was: snagging nominations, winning trophies, refusing to loosen its grip on voters who were beholden to its every whim.

I’m referring to, of course, the USA Network procedural, “Monk,” starring Tony Shaloub.

The series won two Screen Actors Guild Awards among its seven nominations, one Golden Globe Award in seven nods, and eight Emmy Awards out of 18 total nominations. Shaloub himself won three Emmys in four years, eventually tallying eight nominations for his role as former San Francisco Police detective, Adrian Monk. But the numbers don’t tell the full story. Not really. “Monk” slowly but steadily became the scapegoat for anyone upset over a loss or snub in the Comedy categories. Just looking at Steve Carell’s astonishing bad luck in the Best Actor race — where he notoriously never won for “The Office” — is enough to turn anyone against the innocent little USA comedy.

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You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain — and “Monk” lived a long, long time. (OK, it lasted eight seasons, which is an eternity by today’s TV standards.)

Turns out, it’s still kicking. At the end of 2023, Peacock revived the crime-solving clean freak for one last case, under the SEO-engineered title, “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie.” I will admit, I did not see it — and I do not appear to be alone in that regard. What few reviews exist are largely positive, but the revival movie essentially came and went as a “fans only” experience.

But do you know who “Monk” counts among its fans? Actors. And do you know who tuned in to watch “Mr. Monk’s Last Monk: A Monk Monk”? Actors. So can you see where this very long introduction is headed, regarding Wednesday’s SAG Award nominations? Of course you can.

Tony Shaloub is back, baby!

What’s so curious about the nomination isn’t just the flood of memories triggered by seeing a show 15 years dead find its way back into the awards race, but what it tells us about the mad scientists who resurrected it. And you needn’t look much further than Shaloub himself to spot the pattern.

After all, once “Monk” ended, Shaloub again earned abundant recognition for his work in another beloved series, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” He won another Emmy for his work in 2019 and was nominated as recently as 2022. He hasn’t been invited to the SAG Awards since 2020 — but he won in 2020, and that was his second straight win for the part. (Third if you count the Ensemble trophy he took him for “Maisel,” as well.)

Yet Shaloub will not be returning to the SAG Awards representing the final season of “Maisel.” He was not nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, nor was “Maisel” nominated for Best Ensemble — and here’s where things get a little weird. This year, “Maisel” was nominated twice. Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein are up for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, which is no surprise for the actor playing Midge Maisel — Brosnahan has been nominated four times, including just last year — but Borstein hasn’t been nominated since 2020. And she even beat out a slew of heavy hitters for this year’s recognition. Meryl Streep? No thanks. Natasha Lyonne? Nah. Anyone from “Shrinking”? No, no, no. The SAG body chose two “Maisel” stars instead.

Lest my tone be misinterpreted, I mean no disrespect to the nominees. Brosnahan and Borstein are excellent actors, and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” ended well. It’s just that the SAG voters have a habit of nominating the same people, year after year, show after show. They take playing favorites to odd extremes, and they do not seem to care about staying current.

So let’s take a look at this year’s most-nominated shows. On the comedy front, all the “Ted Lasso” folks are back, including Jason Sudeikis, Brett Goldstein, and Hannah Waddingham. The last season may have been panned, but it would be hard to blame the actors for that. “The Bear” is tied with “Ted” for the most Comedy nominations, landing four nods (doubling its total from last year, when Jeremy Allen White won), and “Barry” is right behind them with three. The big snub is “Only Murders in the Building,” which netted three nominations for each of its first two seasons, yet was limited to Best Ensemble in 2024 — and nothing for Steve Martin or Martin Short? Huh.

The Drama categories see even more strange single-mindedness. “Succession” landed five nominations, with three coming in the Best Actor category. For some reason, Jeremy Strong was left out, and I’m sure his reps are wondering what, exactly, caused the 2022 SAG winner to fall out of favor with actors when his show was still so beloved. Brian Cox, after all, was only in one-third of the season, but he merits Best Actor recognition over the actual lead?

So say the actors, which raises the annual question: How much TV are they watching? Three shows saw nominations for Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Ensemble: “Succession,” “The Last of Us,” and “The Morning Show.” And while “The Last of Us” earning significant recognition is a step toward recognizing new shows, it’s only one of two freshman programs to earn a SAG nod this year. The other? “The Diplomat,” which many expected to land a Best Ensemble nod as well, but was snubbed in favor of “The Gilded Age” — which was not nominated in any of the other categories.

Weird! But before you say, “Well, what about the Limited Series nominations? Those are new shows!” I would ask you to look a little closer. “Mr. Monk’s Monk Monk” is not new, nor is “Fargo.” “Beef” certainly qualifies, but it’s been an awards juggernaut for some time now. Nominees like “Painkiller,” “Tiny Beautiful Things,” and “Lessons in Chemistry” all star former nominees, aka the actors’ age-old favorites: Uzo Aduba has been nominated eight times and won five times (all for “Orange Is the New Black”), Kathryn Hahn is a three-time nominee, and Brie Larson won for “Room” (plus, you know, she’s a bonafide movie star).

David Oyelowo and Matt Bomer serve as hopeful signs for SAG voters seeking out new shows, given Oyelowo was only nominated as part of an ensemble prior to 2024, and Bomer had never been nominated. (If nothing else, it’s nice to know people are watching “Fellow Travelers”!)

Still, the list of snubs in Limited Series is both surprising and fitting. Based on how these shows have performed at other awards shows, they should’ve been a lock for SAG nominations. But based on their performers’ history with the SAG Awards, they never stood a chance. “Daisy Jones and the Six” was shut out, leaving Riley Keough and Sam Claflin still without a SAG nod. “Love and Death” couldn’t snag Elisabeth Olsen her first SAG nomination. Dominique Fishback and “Swarm” were dismissed, as well.

A few would-be favorites in the Limited Series race didn’t fare too well, either. Mark Ruffalo went from a potential double nominee for “All the Light We Cannot See” and “Poor Things,” to being one of the day’s most surprising omissions. And even with SAG nominee Emma Stone (who was recognized this year for “Poor Things”), “The Curse” proved too weird for actors.

Was it weirder than “Maniac,” for which Stone did earn a nomination, or was 2019 simply a less competitive year? Awards bodies are not literally of one mind. They’re made up of thousands of people, all with their own opinions and habits. Debates over why this was nominated and that wasn’t will rage on among awards prognosticators and reps, among TV fans and gossip hounds, year after year, show after show. The cycle continues, and only one thing appears certain:

“Monk” will never die.

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