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In the brave new world of modern television – so many great shows and actors on so many networks, cable channels and new platforms — it was never going to end well for Emmy voters. And yet the massive influx of options has actually provided the Emmy folks some cover. They’ve gone from spectacularly wrong to just predictably wrong.
But how about some counterintuitive critic reaction in this: Theirs is an impossible job now. There is no remedy for this until an organization usually a season or two behind the times (still in love with Downton Abbey and Homeland despite creative slips; still hopelessly unaware of breakout performances from someone like Tatiana Maslany; still blinded by bigger cable fish like HBO at the expense of those like FX and BBC America, etc.) begins to proactively plan what’s happening to the industry it represents. Translation: The Emmys needed to expand its list of nominees in every category but didn’t have the foresight to realize this. You just absolutely couldn’t call it unexpected.
But now, with so many glaring omissions for the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, perhaps the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will take steps to prevent this happening next year. Or maybe it just likes the aforementioned cover of being able to shrug its collective shoulders at critics and say sheepishly, “We live in a wonderful time of overabundance of greatness on television — there’s just not enough love to go around.” Which is true. But not accurate. So, start setting up those committees to expand the nominations — to 10 in the major categories — starting right now.
OK, onward. As a critic whose unabashed desire for certain series and actors was splashed everywhere Wednesday and pretty much crushed to bits in the early light of Thursday, I can tell you that the snubs run deep and the forehead slapping is more repetitive and painful than ever before. But I also call these slights out with an understanding — spelled out above — that the job of Emmy voters this year was nearly impossible (especially factoring in the notion that you can’t overlook the achievements of broadcast television even though there’s so many better options on the cable side, and Netflix, to boot). Even if Emmy voters were on their game about what’s current, what’s fading, what’s even out there — which they clearly were not — their job would have been impossible. I’ve made the lists. I know. And yet, let’s get started:
Every critic worth a damn will be yelling about the snub of Orphan Black actress Maslany. They will be stunned that Arrested Development was hosed yet again even in the midst of Emmy’s love of Netflix. They will be gob-smacked by the oversight of FX’s The Americans (and Justified). AMC, basking in the predictable love that its Mad Men and Breaking Bad get, must be wondering how The Walking Dead — its ratings powerhouse — could miss out so badly. And no writing nominations for Mad Men? What? Enough of the broad musings — onto the details:
Best drama: Netflix’s House of Cards basically wiped Boardwalk Empire off the map in all categories, but the big issue in this category is that Downton Abbey just shouldn’t be here and Homeland, which was so fantastic in Season 1, slipped badly in Season 2 and its inclusion blocks The Americans from FX, which is the better show. Rectify would have been a deserving entry here, but it and Orphan Black were outliers.
Best comedy: FX’s Louie and HBO’s Veep are lovely choices. But no Arrested Development? How is that even possible? The love for Big Bang Theory continues and, yes, it’s not my thing. Where’s Parks and Recreation?
Miniseries and movies: USA’s Political Animals and History’s The Bible were not unexpected for obvious reasons (star power, topic), but Restless from Sundance Channel and The Hour from BBC America were better.
Lead actor in a drama: I didn’t expect the Emmys to fix last year’s stunning and glaring omission of Kelsey Grammer in Boss on Starz, but leaving out Aden Young from Rectify and Matthew Rhys from The Americans is unacceptable. I would have swapped them both for Hugh Bonneville and Damian Lewis — two excellent actors whose material was subpar to those left off.
Lead actress in drama series: Now we have issues. Write this name down: Tatiana Maslany. Also, it’s easier to temper shock when Emmy voters prove they don’t get it year after year, so I’m not surprised Katey Sagal was burned again. But Keri Russell and Emmy Rossum? Perhaps this is where Emmy voters felt compelled to favor broadcast network actresses? Or is it that Robin Wright (House of Cards) and Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), two excellent actresses, were more famous? A lot to debate here. But this much remains true: The most outrageous oversight of any category this year remains the absence of Maslany. That’s a shame you can’t wash off, Emmy voters.
Lead actor, comedy: I’m not going to bitch here. I’m happy that Jason Bateman, Don Cheadle and Louis C.K. are in.
Lead actress, comedy: Hard to complain here as well, especially when dark horse Laura Dern makes it. But if the Emmy people wanted an opportunity to sneak in another broadcast actress — after all, broadcast television’s best work is in the comedy department — why not Martha Plimpton or Mindy Kaling, et al, instead of the fabulous actress Edie Falco who plays someone in Nurse Jackie who is not funny? She’s even admitted this on the Emmy stage, people. Come on.
Supporting actor, drama: An excellent list that is, unfortunately, missing Michael Cudlitz (Southland), Walton Goggins (Justified) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones). Now, I know that people want to ask, “Fine, who would you have left off?” — but at some point that’s just pointlessly being mean to those who made it, provided their work was also of merit and it’s more judgment call than rubber-stamping.
Supporting actress, drama: Issues here as well. First off, we all know Maggie Smith is priceless, but at this point, given her role as a machine for one-liners, she’s blocking someone like Regina King (Southland) or Khandi Alexander (Treme). Yes, both are on series that, like Sagal on Sons of Anarchy, have been snubbed for years, and this lessens the likelihood they’ll get nominated. But they deserved it. And, in case you missed it, without them this a mighty white lineup. In addition, I would have put Abigail Spencer (Rectify), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) and Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) in here without question.
Supporting actor, comedy: So, there’s this guy named Will Arnett. You voters should check him out. Wow, now that’s another Arrested Development blunder (add Jeffrey Tambor to that). Cheers for Adam Driver and Tony Hale, though.
Supporting actress, comedy: (Forehead slap). Outside of the nice surprise that is Anna Chlumsky (Veep), this is rubber-stamping hootenanny. Where the hell is Jessica Walter, voters? This oversight is more egregious considering that the Emmy people inexplicably stretched the category to seven.
Well hell, for the major categories that’s enough of the finger pointing. I’ll post another column/rant about many of the other categories soon. There’s enough here to chew on for some time. But as a final thought, since no doubt some will over-react to the rise of Netflix: If anything, the streaming service was under-represented because so many more nominations could have gone to Arrested Development (and out of all the love for House of Cards, how voters could have overlooked Corey Stoll is beyond me). I fully expect Netflix to increase its presence at the Emmys next year when Orange Is the New Black is eligible.
And as one final reminder to this smoldering but not surprising disappointment of mine — Emmy voters really did have an impossible task. I guess I was hoping that the plethora of offerings would lead them to make more justifiable exclusions, not more glaring ones.
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