How the Emmys Gave Everyone A Shot At Happiness (Analysis)

Make-goods on misses, largesse, craftiness -- Emmy voters take a strange but pleasant detour.
Both FX's "American Horror Story" and AMC's "Mad Men" received 17 nominations today - both ends of the quality spectrum.

What a clever little plan Emmy voters had. They are in a no-win situation because one of the ongoing stories every year involves “snubs” – meaning, hey idiots, you got it wrong again -- so in a diabolically weird move, they opted for the shotgun approach.

Bang. Everybody wins.

Well, at least it seemed that way.

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Annoyed that Louie wasn’t nominated as best comedy, as it should have been? Fine, we’ll give star Louie C.K. his own bushel of noms (including lead actor). Will the fine folks at FX be pissed off that Justified and the re-energized Sons of Anarchy were left out of the best  drama category? We’ll cut their complaining by throwing 136 nominations at American Horror Story – in the miniseries category.


Oh, Emmys, you be crazy.

But in a strange way, this year’s approach actually worked. There still are glaring oversights – Louie, Parks and Recreation not in the comedy category, Nick Offerman from Parks not nominated, various twitch-inducing slights and injustices of minor importance – but enough random, patchwork pleasures scattered throughout to effectively choke off the yearly rant.

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Yes, in case you missed the point in all of that, a lot of the pellets from the Emmy shotgun blast actually nailed the right targets. It’s a strange year, but it’s also a defensibly good year -- and how often could that be said?

By leaving The Good Wife out of the best drama category – which no doubt will piss off CBS, but was the right decision – and by not giving the critical population an aneurism with a nomination of Smash or a rubber-stamping of Dexter, the drama category is as packed with greatness as it has ever been.

Besides, Good Wife got loads of acting nominations, and, hey, Smash got something for Uma Thurman.

Not having Louie or Parks, Raising Hope or even Community in the best comedy category is a major disappointment, but the inclusion of Girls and Veep were astute and welcome, plus it’s impressive that voters didn’t shun 30 Rock (as they rightfully did The Office), and they also remembered Curb Your Enthusiasm. Community, Louie and Parks (with two) nailed down writing noms for comedy series (while the fabulous Martha Plimpton from Raising Hope got noticed in the drama category for guest actor).

Giving credit to Don Cheadle in the comedy category for his work on House of Lies was right on the money, and it also was nice to see Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield get rewarded for their work on New Girl.

Maybe the tone was set by FX getting American Horror Story nominated in the miniseries category when it had no chance as a drama, a clever move that essentially got that show 16 more nominations than it probably deserved, since Jessica Lange was a justified lock, bringing that “miniseries” to 17 nominations.

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This year’s kooky, random turn had plenty of pleasant surprises. Like Giancarlo Esposito for his work in Breaking Bad; and Mark Margolis as Uncle Tio on the same show (big applause there); Will Arnett and Jon Hamm as guest actors on 30 Rock; Michael J. Fox as guest actor on Curb; Julia Ormond for guest actress in Mad Men; Ben Feldman as guest actor for Mad Men; Sara Paulson for her outstanding turn in the HBO movie Game Change; Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman for their work in Sherlock; Idris Elba for his on Luther; Anna Gunn for Breaking Bad, etc.

That is not to say that all of this horse-trading wackiness covered up some of the glaring oversights. Oh, no. Kelsey Grammer absolutely deserved to be nominated for best actor in a drama for his work on Boss (replacing the rubber-stamped Michael C.  Hall). FX’s Archer was arguably one of the three funniest shows on television. Yes, Peter Dinklage was a slam-dunk for his fabulous work on Game of Thrones, but it was just way too easy for Emmy voters to overlook others on the show, and snubbing the writers was unbelievable. And really, no writing nominations for Breaking Bad or Justified, either? Come on.

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And yes, there’s more: Someone cook up a sizzle reel of Edie Falco’s funniest moments on Nurse Jackie. Yeah, didn’t think so. Exceptional dramatic actress, performing drama on a show voters think is a comedy. Ugh. Would have been nice if Plimpton got that nom.

Are there other oversights to address – sure. But let’s leave those out for the sake of nitpicking and close this out with the elephant in the room: Outside of the Christmas special, it wasn’t a very good year for Downton Abbey. Let’s be honest. As much as there is to love in that series, so much of the plot was a complete mess, soaking in soap. No doubt fans of Downton – and here’s a strong, personal endorsement of that – rejoiced that it successfully jumped from miniseries to drama and still raked in the awards. But how about a consideration that it might have been rewarded a little too highly?

But let’s not go down that road. It just leads back to so many other years with debatable Emmy choices. No, this year, the voters actually deserve a round of applause for crafting the oddest but most effective nominating slate in some time.


Twitter: @BastardMachine