My thoughts on today’s Emmy nominations…
1. WTF, The Americans (or rather, lack thereof)?
Now more than ever, there are endless television options to choose from, between broadcast, basic cable, premium cable, streaming services, etc. But I still have to call foul on the Television Academy’s decision to almost completely snub FX’s Cold War series The Americans. With so many popular serial dramas ending (Breaking Bad, Mad Men) The Americans poised itself, especially in its recent stellar second season, to be the Great
White Red Hope of smart, riveting television. I found it to be a colossal fail that the show was not nominated for Best Drama Series, and even more so that Matthew Rhys was left out of the running for Best Actor in a Drama. I’ve been campaigning for the Welsh actor to score an Emmy nod since April, and should you need any further convincing of the Academy’s grave error in sending The Americans to the awards gulag this year, please feel free to read any of my Americans coverage for RollingStone.com.
Yes, I’m pleased to see Margo Martindale be recognized for her work as matronly handler Claudia in the Guest Actress category, but that in no way excuses the Academy’s decision to nominate Downton Abbey over one of the best shows on TV right now. I am as devoted a Downton fan as they come, but I also have a discerning enough eye to know that Season Four was a weak one (come on, resorting to embroiling the Crawleys in intra-palace intrigue and a possible scandal with the Royal Family? I know you can do better than that, Julian Fellowes). There is no question that The Americans had a better season than Downton Abbey: Second-generation teenage KGB operatives that don’t flinch when they kill their parents vs. Mr. Bates killing Anna’s rapist? I’m with the Russians on this one.
Ultimately, my money’s on True Detective to take the Best Drama prize, as it was the only worthy breakthrough show of the five nominees, and it’s still fresh in people’s minds thanks to McConaughey fever. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones and House of Cards, while all deserving of recognition, fall into that most awful of categories: Most Predictable Drama Series to Be Nominated. Too bad The Americans won’t even have a chance to play the dark horse card, because it’s the upsets that make all these awards shows bearable.
2. Orange Is the New Black FTW!
My Americans disappointment was quelled only by the announcement that a show set in a women’s prison might just knock America’s perfect politically correct clan off its pedestal. Look, I enjoy Modern Family as much as the average flyover state resident, but hasn’t it been honored enough? For those keeping track, it’s won Best Comedy Series a whopping four years in a row. We get it. It’s a funny show. But let’s move on and start celebrating the future of television cough streaming services cough. Orange Is the New Black picks up the torch from House of Cards and proudly marches Netflix alongside TV behemoths HBO, AMC, ABC, CBS and NBC — and I think it’s got a real shot at sending the Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker family down to SHU. OITNB was also honored with a slew of acting noms (Taylor Schilling for Best Actress in a Drama, Kate Mulgrew for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama — although, it was their Season Two performances, not so much their Season One work, that are Emmy-caliber), most notably for audience favorites Uzo Aduba, Laverne Cox — making history as the first transgender Emmy nominee, and Natasha Lyonne each picking up nods for Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. Next year, I want to see Aduba, Yael Stone, Lorraine Toussaint and Samira Wiley duke it out in the Supporting Actress category.
3. The Normal Heart deserves it all
The Best TV Movie win is a given, and I would be perfectly fine with a four-way tie between Alfred Molina, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Joe Mantello for Best Supporting Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries. But, the edge has to be given here to Bomer, who was the cause of most viewers’ waterworks as he bravely showcased the agonizing deterioration of a New York Times reporter who slowly succumbs to AIDS, going so far as to drop an emaciating 40 pounds for the role. Much as I adored Parsons as “Southern bitch” Tommy Boatwright, he already has three Emmys on his mantle for The Big Bang Theory (and, no, I don’t think he needs to win for that show this year, either).
4. Who got hosed?
Matthew Rhys: I don’t care if he won the Best Actor in a Drama award last year, but Jeff Daniels does not deserve what should rightfully be Rhys’ spot in the 2014 roster. News flash, Mr. Anchorman, The Newsroom crashed and burned, and it’s ending this season, whereas The Americans still has a bright future ahead of it. Rhys’ performance this season was absolutely electrifying — whereas Daniels’ Will McAvoy can’t even turn on a light switch without an intern close by. Regardless, and with love to Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm and Woody Harrelson, I think we can safely say that we should prepare for another round of “Alright, Alright, Alright.”
Jeffrey Wright: Considering Bobby Cannavale’s win last year for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for his villain-of-the-season performace on Boardwalk Empire, I’m quite baffled at the Academy’s decision to not honor the actor who almost single-handedly turned the struggling HBO period piece into a captivating hour of television. Hey, I enjoyed gazing at Carson’s porcelain-white legs in that final scene at the seaside, but exactly what else did he do this season at Downton to garner Jim Carter another Emmy nom? Tough race between Jesse Pinkman’s triumphant escape, Tyrion Lannister’s make-or-break trial speech, or Will Gardner’s death.
Elisabeth Moss: What sort of snubbery is this? No inclusion in the Best Lead Actress Drama category? Which parts of Mad Men did the Academy miss this year? Was it Peggy’s impassioned Burger Chef pitch? That time she and Don danced tenderly to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”? The entire seventh season (Part 1)? You people are idiots.
Scandal: Everything is not coming up Mellie, it seems. No love for Bellamy Young in the Best Supporting Actress Drama category, despite her stealing every scene this season. The ABC political soap opera also came up short in the running for Best Drama, but with Breaking Bad and the Harrelson/McConaughey version of True Detective taking their final/only bows this year, it could allow Olivia Pope and Associates to slip right through to the front in 2015.
Overall, the 2014 nominees were the same predictable, institutional choices the Emmys are famous for. However, I applaud the Television Academy for opening its air-tight doors ever-so-slightly to the next generation of television (OITNB, True Detective, Fargo — Allison Tolman!!!!). As hard as it is to say goodbye to beloved favorites Breaking Bad and Mad Men, their nearing departures from the Emmy circuit will undeniably force the Academy to start recognizing deserving shows like The Americans and flying-under-the-radar actors like Tatiana Maslany.