Emmy Nominations: Feinberg's 3 Biggest Takeaways (Analysis)

THR's awards analyst on the TV Academy's disconnect from critics, warm embrace of Netflix and complicated relationship with several other long-running shows.
Taylor Schilling in "Orange Is the New Black"

The 66th Emmy nominations were unveiled bright and early on Thursday morning, and here are the three main things that I took away from them ...

1) TV Academy Gives Middle Finger to Critics

If you thought many of last year's Emmy winners were bizarre choices—among them, The Newsroom's Jeff Daniels over Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston and House of Cards' Kevin Spacey, Boardwalk Empire's Bobby Cannavale over Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul and Political Animals' Ellen Burstyn over American Horror Story: Asylum's Sarah Paulson, etc.—you ain't seen nothin' yet.

The following is essentially what TV Academy members said to TV critics and all thinking people this morning: "You're mad at us for snubbing Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany last year? In that case, let's make it two years in a row! You find Masters of Sex's Michael Sheen, The Americans' Matthew Rhys, The Blacklist's James Spader and Bates Motel's Freddie Highmore to be edgy and exciting? Yeah, we'll stick with Daniels for a show that is being taken off of life support. You dig Shameless' Emmy Rossum, The Goldbergs' Wendy McLendon-Covey, Mom's Anna Faris and The Mindy Project's Mindy Kaling? We prefer Melissa McCarthy for doing her same old shtick in Mike and Molly. And you think that CBS' The Good Wife might be the best series on TV this year, with FX's The Americans and Showtime's Masters of Sex close behind? We'll instead take a fading Downton Abbey (PBS)plus a boatload of its ensemble (Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Maggie Smith, Joanne Froggatt and Paul Giamatti)thank you very much."

STORY Emmy Nominations: The Complete List

Good luck trying to explain any of the above. At least they liked FX's Fargo (18 noms), PBS's Sherlock: His Last Vow (12 noms) and Fox/NatGeo's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (12 noms). All is not lost.

2) Voters Renew Netflix Subscription

Everyone was chomping at the bit to declare last year The Year of Netflix after House of Cards became the first online-only show to land a nom for best series and landed 13 other noms, as well, but the truth is that the subscription-based service really arrived on Thursday.

Ted Sarandos' streaming operation pulled in 31 noms this morning, including best series mentions on the drama (House of Cards) and comedy (Orange Is the New Black) sides, with the former also garnering lead acting noms for stars Spacey and Robin Wright and even guest actor noms for Reg E. Cathey and Kate Mara, and the latter also carrying star Taylor Schilling, supporting actress Kate Mulgrew and no fewer than three guest actresses, Uzo Aduba, Laverne Cox and Natasha Lyonne. Heck, even the company's quirky little comedy Derek got some love, with Ricky Gervais landing a best actor in a comedy series nom!

In short, one has to think that the folks at Netflix got just about everything they wanted on Thursday. They're still far behind TV's strongest operation, HBO, in terms of total nominationsthat Emmy stalwart landed a field-leading 99 this morning, spread between Game of Thrones (19), The Normal Heart (16), True Detective (12), Veep (9), Silicon Valley (5), the series-turned-miniseries Treme (4), The Newsroom (2), the fairly mediocre TV movie Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight (2) and a few othersbut make no mistake about it: They're gaining on them.

3) Relationship Status: "It's Complicated"

There were a few shows about which Emmy voters sent mixed messages.

AMC's Mad Men, for the first half of its last season: noms for best drama series and thesps Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks and Robert Morse, but snubs for perennial favorite Elisabeth Moss, as well as John Slattery and Harry Hamlin and the show's direction and writing. Can the show finally land an acting win this yearperhaps for the long-overdue Hamm? Talk about an injustice. (At this point I'm sure the folks associated with the show would be happy to win any of the eight categories for which it is nominated, having lost every award for which it was nominated in each of the last two years.)

ABC's Scandal: The popular network drama's thesps Kerry Washington, Joe Morton and Kate Burton made the cut, but TV Critics' Choice Award-winner Bellamy Young, Dan Bucatinsky and longtime TV Academy favorite Lisa Kudrow did not. With the show's third season earning only lukewarm reviews, Washington probably stands less of a shot of winning a historic best actress in a drama Emmy this year than she did last year, when Claire Danes edged her out for the prize.

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ABC's Modern Family: The winner of the best comedy series Emmy in each of the four years that it has been on the air, which would tie Frasier's record of five total wins if it takes home the prize this year, may not quite make it there, as its 10 total noms this year are fewer than it has ever received—down from 12 last year, 14 the year before that and 17 the year before that. Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ty Burrell are back in the hunt, but Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet and Ed O'Neill are not, nor are any of the show's scripts. Those are disconcerting signs in a year in which it will have to face formidable rookies Orange Is the New Black and Silicon Valley in a number of categories, including the top one.

But it can always be worse ... Fox's big new comedy hope Brooklyn Nine-Nine, to which the HFPA awarded Golden Globes for best comedy series and best actor in a comedy series (Andy Samberg), didn't even land nominations for either of those prizes today; its only noms came for longtime TV Academy favorite Andre Braugher in the best supporting actor in a comedy race and for its stunts. The fact that the TV Academy bestowed almost as many noms to PBS's Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn (one) as it did to Brooklyn Nine-Nine (two) has to come as a great disappointment to all connected with the latter show.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg