Tim Goodman: Finally, the TV Academy Got the Emmy Nominations Right

Let's give credit where it's due: Though not perfect, the Emmy nominations made a giant leap in fairness this year.
Eric Liebowitz/FX/Sarah Shatz/USA Network
'The Americans' (left), 'Mr. Robot'

At the very least, what the Television Academy earned on Thursday was an unqualified compliment. So: Great job, Emmy voters.

Seriously, 2016 will go down as the year that the Television Academy did the one thing it absolutely had to do, which was snatch back its relevance. I wrote about that back in May with the fervent hope that its members would listen but with a well-earned cynicism about whether it would actually happen. The results Thursday went well beyond expectations for a lot of critics and the adjustments the Television Academy made shouldn't be glossed over with merely light clapping.

While it was essential for its voters to do the nearly unheard-of turnabout and finally recognize the best drama on television, The Americans, with a series nomination after ignoring it (and its stars) for a startling three consecutive seasons, the Television Academy went impressively beyond that at the exact time it most needed to (as I mentioned, right after the Golden Globes reverted to ridiculous form).

Emmy voters penciled in a number of enlightened nominations, embraced ethnic diversity and proved, throughout its deep list, that it was paying attention at a level it never had before as it sought to do justice to the Platinum Age of television the industry finds itself in. Yes, you can absolutely make the argument that it's the job of the Television Academy to do that very thing, but the larger point is that, as a group, it simply had not done that adequately, possibly ever.

That's not an overstatement. Seizing the moment on Thursday was the most essential task this group had ever had in recent memory — and it absolutely rose to the occasion.

Now, the Emmys are not perfect. They will never be perfect. It's impossible. There is still work to be done — namely increasing the number of nominees in each category to 10, which will better reflect the overwhelming amount of television production out there. That's the next step. Even when that happens, there will still be disappointment. But there's a difference between joyful disappointment because your industry is producing so much content viewers love that worthy series and actors are left out and angry disappointment because your members are so off the mark about the most obvious, deserved nominees that it looks like a dereliction of duty.

That's what the Television Academy accomplished on Thursday. It said, "We're awake. We're watching. We're doing our jobs." In the process, it did what I hoped it would do — "snatch back its importance, reputation and relevance."

Oh, I can still find snubs (and yes, there's a difference between dark horse nominees failing to get nominated and outright snubs), but I also believe the aforementioned continued expansion of categories can rectify that. It's a fixable, percentage-based, justified solution. And I believe this difficult task of turning the ship around that the Television Academy is undertaking will tackle that next.

Right at this moment, however, I'm inclined to keep up the positivity because a large, unwieldy organization getting its shit together is pretty impressive.

You can hate on awards groups (and shows) all you want with "relevance" arguments in today's society, but culture often provides a much-needed release valve for society at large. And it's just nice to see a much-maligned group continue to address its issues.

On Thursday, that started with The Americans getting its justice, including the best actor and actress nominations for Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, a guest actress nomination for Margo Martindale and the co-writing nomination for Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg.

But what got so many critics excited was the widespread improvement in so many varied categories.

For example: USA's Mr. Robot got into the best drama category (and yes, further opening of that category was necessary and arguably, along with the multiple Orange Is the New Black exclusions, the day's biggest takeaway). Even as impressively, Rami Malek got a totally deserved lead actor nomination.

ABC's Black-ish and Netflix's Master of None got into the best comedy series category, with Aziz Ansari getting into lead actor for the latter and Anderson repeating there for the former, along with co-star Tracee Ellis Ross getting her first nod (a person of color was nominated in every lead actor and actress category).

Amazon's Catastrophe and Netflix's Master of None got writing nominations.

Constance Zimmer from Lifetime's UnReal got into the supporting actress category.

Anything and everything about Fargo and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story was deserved, but most especially Bokeem Woodbine's Fargo nomination.

Louie Anderson's wonderful Baskets performance was rewarded with a supporting actor mention.

That the Television Academy even knew about Horace and Pete was a nice change from the past and two nominations for a show available on LouisCK.net is really saying something (you can argue for more, yes, but just the two are astonishing). And yes, Crackle's online Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee snatching a best variety talk series nomination is also impressive, especially since it beat out both Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show (the former being a true snub).

Everywhere you looked in the Emmy categories, the Television Academy surprised. And yes, I promised and delivered no qualifier above, but even with one — there's room for improvement — nothing can take away from the groundbreaking effort made on Thursday.

Well done.

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