Tim Goodman: Despite Glaring Oversights, Emmys Did Better Than Expected

The Americans Episode 313 - H 2015

The Americans Episode 313 - H 2015

Before the yearly will/should win debate ramps up over the Emmys, let's look at what we got Thursday morning.

In the months and days that led up to Thursday's announcement, that wonderful thing called hope was alive, allowing television critics everywhere to believe that all the dark horses would come in with a triumphant gallop and all the obvious choices would be, as insane as it seems now, equally obvious to Emmy voters.

OK, that’s over.

And yet, when the dust settled, there was a lot less to bitch and complain about this year, which in many ways is a big win for the Television Academy.

The most obvious snubs were the lack of nominations for The Americans on FX and Jane the Virgin on The CW. It’s almost inconceivable that Emmy voters didn’t take notice (which is becoming a sad trend for The Americans), but they didn't.

But maybe the takeaway from the Emmy nominations this year is, it could have been a lot worse. The sheer number of excellent shows and terrific actors nominated was enough to make up for many of the oversights.

Clearly there was going to be carnage — it wouldn’t be the Emmys without a forehead slap or two. But increasing the eligible nominees in a number of categories helped, and perhaps so did revamped voting procedures. Hell, something worked because the long Tatiana Maslany nightmare is over.

The Orphan Black actress, who should have been nominated ages ago, finally got some justice. She had become the poster child for infuriating snubs and a victim of Emmy voters not keeping up with the rapid proliferation of shows and the new talent that has kept the burgeoning television Renaissance going.

That early announcement for Maslany was perhaps a harbinger of more change to come. Some categories — like the comedy acting field — had fresh blood pumped in, and there were a number of instances (variety talk series, variety sketch series, etc.) of whole categories comprising excellent choices.

The category that most glaringly vexes Emmy voters is best drama. Even with the increase in eligibility, this category is a mess. For starters, as the brilliant Mad Men leaves the television landscape, the best show around will be The Americans — and not only did it not get nominated (again), but all of the deserving talent in the acting categories (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell especially) was overlooked as well.

That just can’t happen.

Beyond that, it’s hard to imagine what motivates Emmy voters to include Downton Abbey in the discussion, since the enjoyable but light-in-substance series hasn’t been in the upper echelon, in terms of quality, for several seasons now. That’s the kind of rubber-stamping that riles people, especially when it’s coupled with something as egregious as The Americans being completely overlooked.

Included in the “bad habits” category is Emmy voters thinking that a halfway-decent comeback season for Homeland somehow merited an Emmy nomination. I applauded the solid effort of Homeland in restoring faith after two heinously bad prior seasons, but if Emmy voters wanted to give Showtime something deserving they should have looked at Penny Dreadful — particularly star Eva Green, truly snubbed in the best actress category.

But in the drama category, even the best of intentions can lead to head-scratching choices. Better Call Saul was a very good freshman drama but a number of dramas were more worthy. Saul is one of those shows where another year under its belt might make it a worthy entrant and maybe even a viable candidate to win, but hell, in all honesty, if AMC has a show that deserves to be nominated, it’s The Walking Dead (which joins Empire as two of the most popular shows on television to be virtually ignored).

In the comedy category, Jane the Virgin being left out is not only a snub, but also a missed opportunity for Emmy voters. It had a brilliant freshman season and The CW deserves a lot of credit for breaking out with it. All the elements of a feel-good Emmy narrative were there (and ignored), especially a nomination for the wonderful Gina Rodriguez, who immediately became this year’s Tatiana Maslany.

In a supporting role, Jaime Camil was incredible and deserving (but again, that was also a strong category with some surprise nominations like Tituss Burgess and Keegan-Michael Key).

Yet it would have been a triumphant moment — and the right call, critically — to celebrate the achievements of Rodriguez, Camil and Jane the Virgin.

So we look to next year.

And while complaining about the Emmys is sport and, let’s not kid ourselves, often richly deserved, it’s still essential to praise voters this year for getting more right than they got wrong. As the nominations were announced, there was a palpable reduction in the number of times I wanted to scream “WHAT?!” out loud. These small steps may be forward momentum for next year, when the academy will hopefully continue to increase the number of eligible shows and actors. That’s the immediate fix that is simple and easy and best reflects the legitimate enormity of talent in the industry.