Emmy Nominations: Things That Make You Go "Hmmmm"

Accused in years past of being boring and repetitive, the nominations for 2016 feature several surprises and a bit of category confusion as THR's awards analyst reveals the politics and history behind the head-scratchers.
Photo-Illustration By THR Staff; Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

Almost three weeks have passed since the TV Academy revealed its 2016 Emmy nominations, but pundits like yours truly still are discovering oddities and eccentricities in the mix.

FX's The Americans landed drama series and lead acting noms (for stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) four years into its run after being shunned by Emmy voters for three seasons. Meanwhile, CBS' The Good Wife (43 total noms in seven seasons) and Netflix's Orange Is the New Black (17 in three) were virtually invisible, with the former landing four minor noms for its final season and the latter only one.

Meanwhile, Crackle's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee — the Jerry Seinfeld web series previously nominated twice for short-format nonfiction program — is nominated with late-night's big guns in the variety talk series category. Nine-time Emmy winner Stephen Colbert, whose The Colbert Report on Comedy Central won the variety category in two of the last three years, came up short as David Letterman's replacement on CBS' The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which went nom-less. Colbert hadn't missed out on an Emmy nom since his first season as a writer on The Daily Show in 2004.

For this one, hang on with me: Peter MacNicol's comedy guest actor nomination for Veep was rescinded after it was discovered that he appears — for 10 completely unnecessary seconds — in the ninth episode of the HBO comedy's fifth season. This scene, such as it was, raised his episode appearance count from four to five out of 10, or 50 percent — one too many to be considered a guest star. (Another Peter benefited from MacNicol's awful luck: Girls' Peter Scolari, who was named a replacement nominee.) Meanwhile, in the comedy guest actress category, two women shared a nomination for the first time: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, for co-hosting NBC's Saturday Night Live. (It's unclear how the situation would've been handled if two people of different genders had co-hosted!)

Some people had huge days. Laurie Metcalf landed noms in three different categories: lead actress in a comedy (HBO's Getting On), guest actress in a drama (LouisCK.net's Horace and Pete) and guest actress in a comedy (CBS' The Big Bang Theory). And Sarah Paulson bagged her fifth and sixth noms, in five years, in the limited series acting categories: lead actress for FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and supporting for FX's American Horror Story: Hotel.

Less embraced were Jordan Peele of Comedy Central's Key & Peele and Jane Fonda of Netflix's Grace and Frankie. For the second year in a row they both missed out on nominations — unlike their co-leads, who also play title characters: Keegan-Michael Key and Lily Tomlin, respectively. And then there's Rachel Bloom, who won Golden Globe and Critics' Choice awards for her performance on The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but wasn't even nominated for the comedy lead actress Emmy. Her consolation prize? Sharing a nom, with Adam Schlesinger, for the show's original main title theme music.

You could be forgiven for mistaking this year's Emmys for the Oscars: Various doc and informational series Emmy noms went to Cartel Land, What Happened, Miss Simone? and Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom, which claimed three of the five documentary feature Oscar noms just five months ago. Plus, there are eight Oscar winners and 11 Oscar nominees among the Emmy acting noms this year. And let's not forget Broadway: Both Bryan Cranston and Audra McDonald, who already won Tonys for All the Way and Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, respectively, are nominated for the HBO versions of these shows. Maybe I should add the Grammys to that list, in light of the fact that variety special nominees include Beyonce for HBO's Lemonade and NBC's Adele Live in New York City.

Talent moves fluidly between platforms more than ever these days: Alan Menken, with his original music and lyrics nom for ABC's canceled Galavant, is poised to become the 13th member of the exclusive EGOT club. "Til It Happens to You," the Lady Gaga/Diane Warren anthem from the documentary The Hunting Ground, is the first-ever song nominated for an Oscar, Grammy and Emmy. And John Singleton, with his directing nom for The People v. O.J. Simpson, becomes the first-ever black person nominated for a directing Oscar (1991's Boyz N the Hood) and Emmy.

Speaking of blurred lines (and possibly outmoded category parameters): There is no category that recognizes the editing of multicamera drama series, so Horace and Pete was nominated for outstanding multicamera picture editing for a comedy and outstanding guest actress in a drama (Metcalf).

Buckle your seat belts, folks. It's Emmy season — and the games have only just begun.

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.