Thursday, July 10, 2014

My take on today's Emmy nominations

This is the year that the Emmys officially went off the rails. There are too many shows on too many networks and delivery systems for the Academy to recognize those shows and artists who are truly deserving. And the categories have so blurred that shows got snubbed by other shows that didn’t even deserve to be in those categories.

It’s now just a joke.

The fact that Tatiana Maslany was not nominated for her extraordinary work in ORPHAN BLACK means the entire exercise is a complete and utter sham. She plays nine characters – all brilliant, all distinctive, intermingling with each other, and at times even impersonating each other – and yet she was ignored. Meanwhile, Michelle Dockery, who plays the stiff weepy Lady Mary on DOWNTON ABBEY did get a nod. So did Kerry Washington for SCANDAL, a show that’s good pop fun but hardly a legitimate drama. The Academy should be ashamed. Imagine the Oscars not nominating Brando for THE GODFATHER.

Actors who are series semi-regulars got nominated for best “guest” stars. Robert Morse, who has been on MAD MEN since the beginning is a “guest” star? Beau Bridges and Allison Janney who are series regulars on MASTERS OF SEX  also qualify for this category? So appearing in like 8 episodes of 10 constitutes “guest” star?

Among the many other deserving actors who got passed over this year were Andy Samberg, Liv Schreiber, Matthew Rhys, Kerri Russell, Tim Oliphant, Walton Goggins, and the list goes on.

And how many episodes is a series vs. a mini-series? THE GOOD WIFE got snubbed for Best Drama while MAD MEN and BREAKING BAD did not. THE GOOD WIFE made 22 episodes. MAD MEN made seven. BREAKING BAD made eight.

MAD MEN got a nom for Best Drama but not one writing nomination. In other words, it’s dead. So if it’s dead, why not give the nomination to a more deserving show like THE GOOD WIFE, WALKING DEAD, JUSTIFIED, THE AMERICANS? Or (considering this absurd Academy) 2 BROKE GIRLS?

TRUE DETECTIVES, an AMAZING show, only made seven episodes and the two stars will not be returning next year. That’s a “series” and not a mini-series. But AMERICAN HORROR STORY, that also did just a few episodes with a revolving cast is considered a mini-series. Again, the Oscar equivalent: Best Motion Picture – the nominees are THE GODFATHER and a four-minute Pixar cartoon.

Readers of this blog know I love ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. But I’m sorry folks, it’s not a comedy. It’s a drama with comedic elements. Newcomer SILLICON VALLEY is a comedy. LOUIE, (that’s nominated) used to be a comedy. If by “comedy” you mean the show that’s really funny and makes people laugh the most – then BIG BANG THEORY or VEEP should win. But since it’s this Academy they’re probably both dead. Meanwhile, THE MIDDLE (which was funnier than MODERN FAMILY this year) and MOM were both no-shows.  I guess they made the mistake of going for jokes in a comedy and not brutal beatings. 

Similarly, Taylor Schilling as Piper in ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK is wonderful but it is not a comedic role. For her to even be nominated as best comedienne against Julia Louis-Drefus is her only real laugh this year. And also in that category is Lena Dunham playing the least funny woman on television. The gold standard for comedy should be Lucy not Sela Ward.

As I said, the problem is that the nominating process is now way too unwieldy. Too many shows, members not getting certain channels or delivery systems and not bothering to devote a gazillion hours to screeners, shows being selected on the basis of buzz, shows being selected because of familiarity (DOWNTON ABBEY sucked this year. It was great the first season or so, but now is a faint carbon of its brilliant self), and shows are entered in categories in which they don’t belong.

If the Academy doesn’t address this, if it doesn’t set strict guidelines for what constitutes series, mini-series, guest performances, genres, etc. the awards will become so meaningless and the public will so little care that they might as well disband the whole practice. Not only is this year’s Emmy nominations a sham, it cheapens the accomplishments of past winners and lessens the honor of recognition to those among the chosen this year who do deserve it.

I’ll be reviewing the Emmycast again this year. If you think the nomination were absurd, just wait until you learn the winners.

Here’s a complete list of the nominees.

52 comments:

Jay said...

Hi Ken, Friday question: based on your criticism of this year's Emmy nominations being too unwieldy due to too many delivery systems, do you see the Academy overhauling the entire method of categorization? In other words, come the Emmys in 2019, will we see "Outstanding Broadcast Comedy Series", "Outstanding Basic Cable Comedy Series", "Outstanding Streaming Comedy Series", and so forth? And would they actually show all these categorizes on the televised show, thus leading to mass hysteria about award shows being too long?!

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Ken - minor correction. If Fargo returns, it will be all new actors and new storyline. Has not officially been renewed.

Thomas said...

Orange is the New Black is in a really awkward place being neither comedy nor all-out drama. It might be best in a middle category, along with most other modern "comedies". Frankly, I really like dramas with a touch of humour, and would like to see that recognised directly. It certainly doesn't fit going directly up against Breaking Bad.

That said, Piper Chapman is one of the worst written characters in television right now - and the show would be stronger if any other woman was the lead. Taylor Schilling does what she can but there is no way in hell it's Emmy-worthy. Perhaps this is more of a nod of recognition to Netflix, to show the new business model is okay with them?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Jay: I don't know what Ken will say, but I'd rather see criteria based on production realities rather than the broadcast medium. (eg x number of episodes in y period of time).

Also, I'd love to see a category for completed series - where shows got rewarded for coming up with satisfying whole-series story arcs and finishes.

wg

Tim said...

A little clarification on the rules about mini-series.

http://www.vulture.com/2014/07/emmys-true-detective-fargo-category-explainer.html

Joselle said...

Agreed on all counts! I'm dumbfounded that Tatiana Maslany didn't get a nod. Best acting I've seen in YEARS.

Scooter Schechtman said...

I'm surprised the kids from "The Middle" don't get nominated for Best Portrayal of Developmentally Disabled Children.
Also outraged you think "Louis" isn't funny. Agree, but outraged.

Sharon said...

Sadly, the Academy continues to get more 'wrong' than 'right.' Of all the egregiousness, the nominations showered upon DOWNTOWN ABBEY top my list. If you take away the British accents that we Americans find hard to resist, this show does not come anywhere near to Emmy noms.

Brian Phillips said...

"The fact that Tatiana Maslany was not nominated for her extraordinary work in ORPHAN BLACK means the entire exercise is a complete and utter sham. She plays nine characters..."

Here are the official explanations: Tatiana Maslany lobbied hard, but Tatiana Maslany canceled her out by splitting the vote in the same category.

Tatiana Maslany, on the other hand felt that she did not do her best work, so she was not disappointed by the news. Tatiana Maslany blamed the writers for not doing a good job this year, Tatiana Maslany's notorious drug habit made for on-set discord, so she is not respected by her colleagues.

Tatiana Maslany, is not eligible, due to a controversy over her birth certificate, but Tatiana Maslany regularly pooh-poohs TV work over film work. Tatiana Maslany pooh-poohs film AND TV and feels that stage is the only true way to be a thespian (Sidenote: TMZ retracted an earlier story about Ms. Maslany and a female lunch date at Lawry's, as well as firing a unnamed P.A. with a faulty hearing aid).

Finally, Tatiana Maslany feels that the work is its own reward and shuns the Emmys.

Tracey Ullman, in a recent interview said, with some incredulity, "You mean you can get NOMINATED for playing multiple characters?"

Andrew said...

I'd actually prefer that Fargo and American Horror Story not be allowed to compete as miniseries rather than the reverse where True Detective can't compete as a drama. I tend to define a miniseries as a show (not story) that intentionally only lasts a single season.

Plus, in the regular series categories, there's too much rubber stamping of past nominees. The miniseries is the only place where they're forced to go for new shows each year. With these anthologies, you're starting to see the rubber-stamping pervade this category as well. American Horror Story is the most glaring example of this since its past season was pretty awful, yet it's nominated because it's been nominated. If Fargo majorly drops the ball next season, it'll still get nominated and the year after as well probably. I don't want the category to just turn into competing brands.

Anonymous said...

The Good Wife produced 10 great episodes, seven fine episodes, two only fair episodes and two turds this year. An amazing batting average for any series... much less one that that runs 22 episodes a year.

And then they blew up the entire structure of the show by killing off one of the main characters of a love triangle and kept the story rocketing forward toward something completely new.

The Good Wife gets none of the love it deserves. It's one of the greatest network dramas ever. Right up there with Hill Street Blues and NBC's election night coverage in 2000.

Rob Hoffmann said...

The Emmys are trying to use 1950s methodology on 21st-century entertainment.

Perhaps the solution is a crowdsourced awards program -- or, at least, an effort to use the Internet as a source of nominations and voting, even if you don't fully crowdsource because block voting is bad.

benson said...

Ken, totally OT. Sitting on the beach this afternoon, just finished Must Kill TV. Great fun. Tolstoy would be envious.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Anonymous, I have to know: which were the two turds?

wg

Cat said...

Ken, I'm still peeved that Ted Danson lost to Judd Hirsch in 1983. Make of that what you will.

Stephen Robinson said...

I find GOODFELLAS hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny. What impresses me, though, is how Scorsese still maintains the basic structure and arc of a classic tragedy. It's just funny.

I've pointed out that most Woody Allen films are this way -- and not just the overtly somber ones. They are structured like tragedies but the humor makes us think we've seen a comedy.

I think my issue with shows like GIRLS or SEX AND THE CITY is that they are often considered comedies simply because the stakes aren't high enough to be considered suitably dramatic. (Character goes on date with guy, he turns out to be jerk or have weird quirk -- episode ends.) If you have low stakes and no true conflict, then the humor should be off the scale. Even if I might not enjoy it, fans of TWO AND A HALF MEN and BIG BANG THEORY laughed out loud at it. Do even the most devout fans of GIRLS refer to punchlines or funny moments like people still do with SEINFELD or FRIENDS?

Too many "sitcoms" have fallen into the trap that Woody Allen did of believing that drama is superior to comedy. So mildly funny sitcoms that aren't that compelling dramatically are ironically considered superior to drop-down-funny sitcoms because they didn't even *try* to be that funny.

I would sit these folks down with season one of CHEERS and any season of FRASIER. They did both comedy *and* drama well, and on its own merits.

Julie said...

Ken...it looks like Alan Sepinwall agrees with you. http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/emmys-2014-too-many-great-shows-not-enough-spots-and-some-dumb-choices

Hamid said...

Did Oprah get nominated? I know she wasn't in convention but when it comes to awards, any awards, she doesn't like to be snubbed.

Hamid said...

Contention, not convention. Damn auto-correct.

Mike T. said...

Actors who are series semi-regulars got nominated for best “guest” stars. Robert Morse, who has been on MAD MEN since the beginning is a “guest” star? Beau Bridges and Allison Janney who are series regulars on MASTERS OF SEX also qualify for this category? So appearing in like 8 episodes of 10 constitutes “guest” star?

That's nothing. Jonathan Harris was billed as a SPECIAL guest star on every single episode of Lost in Space. True, he was (as far as I can tell) never nominated for an Emmy as Dr. Smith, but it would have been interesting to see whether he would have been nominated as a lead, a supporting actor, or a guest star.

Jimmy John said...

Does anybody know if there is some place that tells what the submission episodes were for the nominees?

DwWashburn said...

There are very few shows that I watch so I can't comment on many.

I will say that the Middle is painful to watch. It's like watching mentally challenged people, and regardless of your PC view that's never funny.

My step daughter came in raving about Louie and Portlandia. Apparently these shows are not written with me in mind because they are about as tedious as watching grass grow. It's like following my weird uncle around. He thinks he's funny, and God love him, he is the only one. The rest of us just think he's sad. The same for these two shows.

About the only new shows I watch are TBBT, Modern Family, and several documentary series on PBS (The Sixties, History Detectives, etc). So about 80% of the people and shows nominated are unknown to me.

Brian said...

My opinion is this: Get rid of ALL the reality TV categories. All reality TV is garbage and doesn't belong in the Emmys. Then cut it down to Best Comedy, Best Drama, Best Variety/Late Night Talk Show, Best Animated Show, Best Documentary, Best Music... and have categories for the writers, actors, actresses and directors for those categories. That's it. Period. Pick the best of the best... cable competes with networks and internet, no separate categories for them.

Make it about excellence and people will come back to respecting the Emmys, if they ever did. Right now, it's all horseshit and everyone knows it.

Dixon Steele said...

Couldn't agree with you more about DOWNTON ABBEY. Loved the first two seasons, couldn't get into the third at all....

Pat Reeder said...

I second what Brian said.

Also, with absolutely nothing to do in the middle of the night recently, I forced myself to watch an episode of "Girls" all the way through. What an annoying pile of horrible crap. There was not one funny moment in it, nor even a failed attempted funny moment. It was just one pathetic, whiny, shallow, self-involved character after another acting pathetic, whiny, shallow and self-involved. If this is a "comedy," then so was "The Day After." I haven't wanted to bitch slap an entire cast of a TV show that much since "Brothers and Sisters" went off the air.

"House" was a million times funnier than "Girls," and the laughs came between people foaming at the mouth from terminal diseases. But then, they never gave an Emmy to Hugh Laurie, either, so I guess that tells you how far down the rabbit hole this entire awards ceremony has gone.

gottacook said...

Brian: The only way that you can fairly compare excellence to excellence is by taking into account the number of episodes produced per year, and there's no good formula for doing so. The easiest way around this would be to require any nominated series to have produced at least (for example) 16 episodes within the award year, and call anything less than that a limited series, whether multi-year (with an umbrella title like American Horror Story) or not, with separate competition.

How did the decision to end the CableACE awards, and instead include cable shows in Emmy consideration, lead to today's situation? Any useful analysis of this question out there?

Anonymous said...

"If by 'comedy' you mean the show that’s really funny and makes people laugh the most."

That's hard to judge considering shows like BIG BANG THEORY insert a laugh track after every line. The audience doesn't even wait for the punchline, they're already laughing at the setup.

ShyeNYC said...

I am totally outraged yet again that THE MIDDLE was shut out yet again!! I agree, the show was far funnier than MODERN FAMILY this season, but it never gets any love. The young actress that plays Sue Heck (Sher?) should already have an EMMY on her mantle by now...she's fantastic!!

Andy said...

The Walking Dead is deserving of a "Best Drama" nomination?

Isn't it a(n unintentional) Comedy?

Craig Russell said...

"the awards will become so meaningless and the public will so little care that they might as well disband the whole practice."

Does the Academy CARE what the public thinks? Arent these for the actors, not Jill in Des Moines?

Klee said...

Wow..."The Sound of Music Live!" nominated for best special??!!! WTF? Emmys are a joke! Might as well have nominated Sharknado for Best TV movie....EVER.

Jack said...

Jill moved to Des Moines?? Holy crap!

Charles Waldo Emerson Winchester said...

Weren't the People's Choice Awards designed in the 1980s or whenever as an alternative to the Emmys to restore some credibility to TV awards, at least in the public eye? Sort of like Golden Globes are to the Oscars(or do all of these suck equally now?).

Mick said...

My reaction is to wonder who gives a fuck about the goddamn Emmy Awards. Then.I read through Ken's post and these comments and, yeah, obviously there are some people who give a fuck. My question is WHY? Seriously. Award shows have always seemed like self-congratulatory ego masturbation.

Anonymous said...

I'm outraged at the idiotic snubs of the Emmys as well but it's mostly because television is *amazing* right now. Amazing that no matter how many nominees get chosen, something deserving is going to get left off the list. The airwaves, cable wires, and internet, um, tubes may host their fair share of reality-show chefs in histrionics, but at the same time, they're presenting such a wealth of creative talent making programs with such original visions, visions which can't be forced into traditional categories, that expecting the Emmy's or anyone else to choose "the best" from among them is, as most commenters already said, pretty much nonsense. Who can blame the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for being two years behind everyone else? Top that off with the fact that access to not only to all of this but also the legendary comedic talents of Keaton, Chaplin, and even the writing team Levine & Isaacs costs me less every month than a tank of gas. Tatiana missing out on her incredibly well-deserved nod is a (crap! couldn't think of a line! please place name of hilarious historical injustice here)-level injustice...but it's still a lucky turn that so much TV right now is giving a venue to that level of brilliance.

Mel Ryane said...

RIGHT ON!

H Johnson said...

Great commentary Ken.

But I couldn't help thinking what a cop-out it was to leave the lid down while shooting the first illustration.

Do it Levine!

Ane said...

I once saw "Girls" with a laugh track on it in YouTube, it suddenly got a bit funny, but not in the way they intended it to be.
I'm glad Oitnb got some nominations, it's one of the shows that I enjoy the most. But maybe it should be in a special "dramedy/semicomedy" category, it doesn't really go well with sitcoms. It's a different kind of show. Glad to see that Kate Muldrow got a nomination, she's excellent on that show.
Oh, and I wasn't too crazy about Downton Abbey this year either. Like someone else said, it was great for two years, now it's more "Meh..."

Ane said...

Somehow autocorrect got "Muldrow" out of "Mulgrew"...

Chris said...

Friday question: Have you ever thought about the difference the writing process has made on series throughout decades?

You had 3 people writing 39 episodes on I Love Lucy for years, Nat Hiken and Al Lewis writing a bunch of Phil Silvers and Our Miss Brooks on their own in the 50s to now having 12 people write each episode from scratch on Chuck Lorre shows.

People loved I Love Lucy just as much as they love The Big Bang Theory. Have you ever thought about the differences in the way each writing system connected with its audience in its time?

alkali said...

The fact that some people were omitted (or "snubbed," if you will) is not surprising. In any rational process, you have to have a limited number of nominees, and in some years, the list of people doing very good work will exceed the number of nominee slots. The fact that some comedies are dramatic and some dramas are funny is also not surprising, and that's always going to be a somewhat arbitrary distinction at the margins.

That said, the series/miniseries and supporting/guest distinctions have gone completely bonkers.

17db87ec-8cdb-11e3-9c7e-000bcdcb2996 said...

As previously mentioned, the fact that Eden Sher in "The Middle" hasn't been awarded the statue invalidates the results completely.

CamrioKid said...

I am actually considering not watching the Emmy broadcast this year simply because Tatiana Maslany was not nominated AGAIN! Nine characters? Are you kidding me? She is so talented, she makes you forget you are watching one actor play each of the roles. Her subtlety and nuances for each of the characters is brilliant. Shame on the Academy members for not recognizing true talent.

Anonymous said...

Agree on all counts. And I'm an Emmy voter. We need a complete overhaul of categories. Network TV cannot compete with Cable. Yes, they both feature dramatic (or comedies) stories, but like apples and oranges are both fruits, that doesn't make them the same. -mw

VP81955 said...

I figured "Mom" would get screwed -- rookie series, network multi-cam sitcom (in other words, all the strikes were against it). I only hope it lasts long enough to overcome these apparent disadvantages, because as I've stated before, this is a series that's quietly terrific.

Gabby Gruen said...

I especially agree with you about the comedies, "Veep" and "Big Bang Theory." And as much as I like Louis CK, more than once I found myself saying about his show, "Where are the laughs?"

Terrence Moss said...

I vehemently disagree with your opine of "The Middle".

Terrence Moss said...

I agree with ridding the Emmys of the reality categories.

Marty Fufkin said...

I think Mad Men is the best thing on TV, but there's no way half a season deserves a nomination of any kind. The Emmys should only be recognizing shows that have run their full seasons.

For the life of me I could never figure out why networks would split seasons of popular shows. To wring the most profit from the DVD market? But now I wonder if their ploy is to get Emmy nominations for one season two years in a row. Mad Men comes back in January, which I guess will qualify the next half for more Emmys. Shouldn't be allowed.

XJill said...

There is simply too much terrific content right now. Even coming up with my "if I were an Emmy voter" list that I do every year it was exceedingly hard to narrow it down to less than 8-10 for each category.

They need to overhaul the categories during this "Golden Age", or up the number of nominees or something.

Perhaps add: ensemble category, dramedy category, paid content (netflix/hbo/etc.) vs. free content. I don't know but something needs to be done. In today's day and age they could crowdsource what category shows should be in and make it more interactive with television viewers.

And they need FIRM/more specific rules on what makes a miniseries vs movie vs anthology show.

Johnny Walker said...

"It cheapens the accomplishments of past winners and lessens the honor of recognition to those among the chosen this year who do deserve it."

Very true. I hope they fix this, if only for the past winners.

chuckcd said...

That's a shame about Tatiana Maslany.
She is terrific!

I don't watch shows because they are nominated or win emmy's,and I don't skip shows that are not nominated.

Award shows mean nothing to me.
They are great for those individuals that are nominated, but I get nothing from them.