2014 Emmy Nominations: The Good, The Bad, and the Whole Ugly Affair
To be honest, this article nearly began as some variation on an Onion headline, as I turned over in my mind the idea of a man waking up from a 65-year coma, only to find the Emmy nominations still as disappointing as ever. Twitter has been set even more abuzz than usual, and every Tom, Dick or Harry has their own take on who got snubbed, who finally got the recognition they deserve, and which of Tatiana Maslany’s hair strands most deserves its own TV hall of fame wing. You'll read article after article, opinion after outrage, and if you're anything like me, feel comfortably numb after a few hours. Comatose, even.
Not to mention, with TCA news pouring out of California and the ever-expanding roster of Comic-Con matters to attend to, it’s hard enough to keep a head on straight, let alone value something like the Emmys over more progressive award shows like the Golden Globes or Critics' Choice awards. It isn’t so much that today’s nominations were especially egregious even, by more cynical Emmy standards, more so that we’ve come to expect these sorts of bizarre and lazy choices from an increasingly irrelevant institution that has far too much wonderful TV to properly give due regardless. It’s a bleak assessment, one that I’d hoped to avoid with a more comedic bent to this article (when are life-threatening comas less than hilarious?), but better to purge the negativity early on.
Everyone will jump to the snubs first and foremost, we’ve come to expect as many oversights from the Emmys, that we place more emphasis on what they do wrong than right. In that regard, certain snubs should feel more surprising than they do, with Tatiana Maslany shut out for a nomination despite Golden Globe and People’s Choice nods, and two consecutive Critics' Choice awards. Nothing at all for NBC’s increasingly rich ‘Hannibal,’ no appreciation for the amazing work done by ‘Shameless’ star Emmy Rossum*, some surprising ‘Game of Thrones’ omissions to counter the 19 overall nominations, hell, we’d even have thought 2014 to be the year ‘The Walking Dead’ got a bit of recognition beyond the technical aspects.
*For those keeping abreast of Emmy absurdities in recent months, ‘Shameless’ opted to submit itself as a comedy to escape its repeat Drama shutouts, despite one of the more dour seasons to date. It seems to have paid off in earning William H. Macy a nomination, though bafflingly none for series lead Emmy Rossum, or in my opinion, quiet breakout Noel Fisher.
And there’s a common thread really, that we’d never expect the Emmys to reward some of the more interesting genre fare, or take sci-fi seriously enough as a medium to reward some seriously dedicated work. I’m honest enough with myself to recognize that something like The CW’s ‘Arrow’ isn’t going to edge out any cable fare in the performance categories, but to ignore its amazing stuntwork, and one of the few award campaigns that near-unanimously deserved to pay off? And yet, ‘The 100,’ or 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' score a nomination for visual effects? You’ll lose your mind trying to get behind the academy line of thinking, time much better spent on the herculean task of actually sitting down to watch the shear breadth of quality genre work overlooked this year.
It doesn’t end there, and why would it? ‘Breaking Bad’ has never had much difficulty garnering attention for best series, Bryan Cranston, or Aaron Paul, but to leave Dean Norris out for his stellar work across the last eight episodes of the series, or to reward the writing of series peak “Ozymandias,” but ignore Rian Johnson’s direction? ‘Ray Donovan’s Jon Voight scores a nomination for best supporting actor, but we overlook ‘Game of Thrones’ star Charles Dance in his last eligible year? No Jeffrey Wright for ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ posthumous Christopher Evan Welch for ‘Silicon Valley,’ or ‘Masters of Sex’ for dramas overall?
There’s good. There’s light in the dark. A few equally surprising and inspired choices, and plenty of series that unanimously deserve a bit of recognition (even if they lack a snowball’s chance in hell of winning), and expectedly got it. Tatiana Maslany or Mindy Kaling notwithstanding, this morning’s nominations recognized some wonderful women like ‘SNL’’s Kate McKinnon, ‘Masters of Sex’s Lizzy Caplan and Allison Janney, ‘Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey, Kristen Wiig (for ‘The Spoils of Babylon,’ of all things), Alison Tolman ('Fargo'), and damn near of the entire ‘Orange is the New Black’ cast. ‘Silicon Valley’ accomplished the rare feat of a best comedy nomination in its first season, Woody Harrelson got some deserved recognition* alongside ‘True Detective’ star Matthew McConaughey, the cast of ‘The Normal Heart’ scored four nominations alone for supporting TV movie actors, and even Ricky Gervais scored a nomination for his work in ‘Derek,’ a strong caveat to a role previously mired in controversy.
*Compounding some of the more baffling aspects in the submission process, ‘True Detective’ managed to hold its own as a Drama contender for both Woody and Matthew, along with the series itself, yet ‘American Horror Story’ or ‘Fargo’ still submit as a miniseries. It pays off, in the case of Alison Tolman or Martin Freeman, yet still curiously takes up three supporting actress nominations in Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. Some deserving choices overall, but very much a skewed system for nomination.
Not to dip back into the negative aspects of this morning’s events, but the Emmys will also always have its appropriately ridiculous choices. Jeff Daniels ('The Newsroom') got a second nomination for Leading Actor after his equally surprising win last year, while Melissa McCarthy (‘Mike & Molly’) skates another nomination for Leading Actress in a Comedy, neither series of which have been on anyone’s radar this year for positive reasoning. Emmy voters continually recognize ‘Downton Abbey’ in spite of its weakest season to date (mind you, that’s at a cursory glance) while ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ only scores nominations for Andre Braugher and its stunt work.
We could go on, but what’s the answer here? Are broken systems, corrupt voters, or an overabundance of quality TV and overcompensation for increasingly blurred lines of recognition to blame? Yeah, maybe. Perhaps Emmy voters are no more than the posh, isolated few recognizing the same people over and over again, for selfish reasoning and political motivations we might never hope to understand. Perhaps they're all in various degrees of coma.
So, you know what? Don’t. Don’t look to the Emmys for the definitive judgment on what to watch, and who to lavish praise on. Observe some of the fanaticism at Comic-Con, binge-watch a new series on Netflix, and spend an entire evening obsessively debating series with your friends. Do anything that supports the fantastic work out there, and continue making the noise that keeps people like you or I rolling in an incredible landscape of TV miracles like Alison Tolman, Tyrion Lannister, or yes, even Tatiana Maslany. The Emmys will always languish in a mixture of right and wrong, and we’ve got too much good ahead of us* to sully good work with frustrating oversights.
*Falls into 65-year coma, awakens to find Tatiana Maslany's cloned granddaughter snubbed for her work in 'Dog with a Blog: The HBO Miniseries Event'
Kevin Fitzpatrick is the reigning TV editor of ScreenCrush, an avid alliterator, and has won absolutely no awards. You can tell him HE HAS FAILED THIS CITY over the Twitter.