SAG Awards: Netflix Favored, 'Fargo,' 'Empire' Snubbed in TV Nominations (Analysis)

Dame Maggie Smith still got her nomination, so all's well with the Screen Actors Guild.
Ellie Kemper of 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'  
There will be plenty of opportunities for TV repeats at January's Screen Actors Guild Awards, as last year's Actor winners Kevin Spacey, Viola Davis, William H. Macy and Uzo Aduba all earned nominations on Wednesday (Dec. 9) morning.
 
While the movie nominees for the SAG Awards refresh every year, SAG voters love familiarity when it comes to TV. Alec Baldwin will probably be winning SAG Awards for 30 Rock long after the zombie apocalypse eliminates NBC as we know it. So Wednesday's nominations were heavy on typical SAG strangeness.
 
The most important thing to know about the television nominees for the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards is that against all odds, voters managed to retain a place for Maggie Smith in the outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series field, no matter how limited her Downton Abbey screentime may be. Sigh of relief all around.
 
In nominating Smith, and reducing the field from six nominees last year to five this year, SAG Awards voters were unable to find a place for Emmy nominees Taraji P. Henson of the entirely shut-out Empire or Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany, nominated last year. Other female actors excluded for SAG's ongoing love affair with Smith included Keri Russell of The Americans, Lena Headey of Game of Thrones and any of the female co-stars of Mad Men.
 
Or maybe the most important thing to know about the television nominees for the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards is that Nicole Kidman, who couldn't even get an Emmy nomination for the much-mocked Cannes-to-Lifetime entry Grace of Monaco, received an outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or miniseries nomination, as did Susan Sarandon, upstaging The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe lead Kelli Garner. Sticking with a strange pre-Golden Age view of television and its opportunities, SAG Awards voters also saluted Bill Murray (A Very Murray Christmas), Ben Kingsley (Tut) and Ray Liotta (Texas Rising) for deigning to act on the small screen and, in the process, left Fargo entirely nomination-free in the two movie/miniseries categories. Do Kirsten Dunst and Patrick Wilson have insufficient movie profiles to get recognized for their TV work? You'd have to ask SAG Awards voters. [NOTE: See below for clarification on Fargo. Not satisfactory clarification. But clarification.]
 
 
The surprise nod for Murray, plus nomination newcomers Ellie Kemper of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the stunt team on Marvel's Daredevil combined with returning favorites House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black to give Netflix eight nominations, more than any other network. And that isn't even including the two Netflix nominations for Beasts of No Nation on the movie side. That's a great morning for Netflix, but despite the SAG voters' reverence for veteran performers and revered movie icons, neither Jane Fonda nor Lily Tomlin could get a female actor in a comedy nomination for Grace and Frankie, nor could Kimmy Schmidt break through for a comedy ensemble nomination, where SAG voters made the head-scratching decision to dub the brilliant two-person Key & Peele team an "ensemble."
 
Also joining the comedy ensemble field is Transparent, a nomination only peculiar because while Golden Globe and Emmy voters were quick to recognize the Amazon half-hour dramedy with awards and nominations aplenty, SAG voters ignored the show for its first season.
 
But SAG Award voters are free to change their minds, notice Jon Hamm and Mad Men both moving back into nomination fields after being dropped from the rolls last year. Helping free space for the Mad Men returns were the departure of longtime SAG favorite Boardwalk Empire and the decline into irrelevance of True Detective. Those absences also helped make room for Mr. Robot star Rami Malek and Better Call Saul lead Bob Odenkirk in the outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series category.
 
Kemper and Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor were the only new individual performances nominated on the comedy side, squeezing out Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen, but cry only a few tears for Modern Family, which still got nods for Ty Burrell and for comedy ensemble.
 
When you're done pondering the lack of Fargo and Empire, a few other nomination absences to ponder before moving along with your day: No American Horror Story or American Crime among movie/miniseries acting nominees (also no Show Me a Hero, but that would break my "American" symmetry). No Monique for Bessie. No Amy Schumer. No Gina Rodriguez for Jane the Virgin or Will Forte for The Last Man on Earth or Anthony Anderson for Black-ish. No recognition for the second season leap of The Leftovers. No notice for new shows including Master of None, Casual, Catastrophe, Fresh Off The Boat, Bloodline, Marvel's Jessica Jones or UnReal.
 
[UPDATE: Fargo and American Horror Story, which have been been submitted and nominated in the movie/miniseries category in the past were classified as dramas this year, as was American Crime. Leaving aside the ridiculousness of this semi-arbitrary switch, it actually raises a bigger problem for SAG credibility. There is no category for movie/miniseries acting ensemble, so Fargo and AHS weren't being snubbed there. But, to put it kindly, leaving Fargo (and, to a lesser degree, AHS) out of the drama ensemble field is a far larger voting blunder than ignoring any of the show's individual actors. Leaving Fargo out of the drama ensemble field becomes, for me, the biggest SAG Awards snub at all.]
 
Oh well. Let's save some outrage for the Golden Globe nominations on Thursday morning.
 
The Screen Actors Guild Awards will be presented on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016.
 
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