Hugh’ve Been Snubbed

Steve Nash is a great basketball player. I don’t mean to take anything away from the guy. But in the years that Nash won his MVP (2005 and 2006), it was widely acknowledged that Kobe Bryant was the best basketball player on the planet. As such, the award will always be seen as a glitch, a failure of the system in some way. An oversight.

Such it is, I think, with Hugh Laurie’s missing Emmy for House.

This is on my mind, obviously, because the Emmy nominations were announced yesterday and, for the first time in six years, Laurie wasn’t among them. I don’t think he necessarily deserved one for Season 8—it was, at best, a lazy, disjointed season of House (one sensed that everyone involved had a foot out of the door) and, at worst (as when the character House made crude comments to a woman getting a breast exam) it was downright offensive.

But with House, Hugh Laurie has created one of the most compelling, funny, sexy, dark, and indelible characters in the history of television.

In this analogy, Laurie is Kobe and, alas, James Spader is Steve Nash. It’s not that Spader, who won the Emmy in 2005 and 2007, when Hugh Laurie was doing some of his best work, is not a good actor. Of course he is. But his Alan Shore (who?) was hardly an iconic character. He did not create a global phenomenon through the sheer force of his charisma and talent. And 10 years from now, who the hell will even remember The Practice? (Hell, I forgot it halfway through that sentence.)

It’s almost impossible to quantify the brilliance of Laurie in House. There are the technical difficulties, of course—the limp, the pitch-perfect American accent. But mostly there is the incredible richness and complexity of the character. A less confident actor might’ve tried to soften some of the more unsavory aspects of House’s personality. But Laurie trusted his audience, trusted his own abilities to allow House’s humanity to shine through despite his seeming misanthropy. (Can any actor convey more longing and hurt with a single glance?)

This is all the more remarkable when you look at Hugh Laurie’s body of work. The day I realized that the brooding, darkly hilarious House was Stuart Little’s dorky, knock-kneed dad, well—suffice it to say, if I’d been drinking, a massive spit-take would’ve occurred.

No, just because Hugh Laurie—who became famous in his native England for, among other things, doing pun-filled sketch comedy with his partner Stephen Fry and for playing a lovable buffoon in the BBC’s Jeeves and Wooster—has amazing powers of transformation, that doesn’t mean he deserved the Emmy. But it’s a testament to what a brilliant actor he is—to his uncanny ability to lose himself completely in a role. (Even Laurie’s voice was different when he played House—it was growlier, deeper than his plummy British tones).

Anyway, I’m sad that Hugh Laurie never won his deserved Emmy for House (but certainly glad he racked up all those Golden Globes and SAGs) and I’ll miss him more than I can say on my TV screen every week. But history will remember the remarkable character he created. And that’s his greatest reward.

In the meantime, I’m catching Hugh Laurie and his Copper Bottom Band at Ram’s Head Live! in Annapolis in September. Among all his other gifts (did I mention that he’s a director and a talented novelist, too?) the guy is an absolute killer blues musician. Maybe a Grammy is in his future?

7 thoughts on “Hugh’ve Been Snubbed

  1. Max, that was brilliant and so well-written. If you don't mind I'd like to link to it on my own blog. I was going to write my own piece, but really yours reflects my feelings and everything I wanted to convey. Thank you so much for writing it!


  2. Dude, link away. I saw the article that guy in the LA Times wrote about Hugh and it seemed so half-baked and inadequate, I felt compelled to write my own.

  3. Nobody does it justice like you do Max!!!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I enjoyed Laurie as House…he was terrific. But I loved James Spader as Alan Shore; his was my all time favorite character. That being said, I do think Laurie deserved the award sometime during his reign as House…perhaps in 2007. Spader totally deserved the award in 2004 for his portrayal of the very dark and self loathing Shore, even 2005 was not a total stretch considering the episode that was submitted for the Academy's approval, but 2007 was a stretch. That episode was not up to par with his other Emmy submissions; perhaps either Laurie or Gandolfini should have gotten the award…they probably canceled each others votes out. Heck, Spader was even dumbfounded, and a bit embarrassed when he got the award in '07.

  6. Word. Pia Zadora.

    Nicely written.

  7. I agree with everything you said: That HL is abstolutely brilliant and that what he did for House, both the show and the character, was unique and truly special. Also, that he should have won and Emmy back then when the show and the writing were great, but that he´s left a legacy that will live forever (well, maybe not forever, but for a long, long time :), despite of the mess the writers and showrunners created in the last seasons.

    PS: I like James Spader very much, though I´ve never watched The Practice. (Maybe I should?)

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