It’s been almost two weeks since the announcement of the 2014 Emmy nominations, and now that I’ve had an appropriate amount of time to heal (thanks summer vacation!), I feel ready to talk about my anger in an erudite and thoughtful manner—as opposed to the senseless rage that boiled up inside of me initially. So progress.
Here’s the thing. As we’ve discussed previously, the overwhelming amount of excellent television inundating us from all directions—including original programming streaming from sources like Hulu, Netflix, and even Yahoo (hurray Community!)—has a downfall: snubs become inevitable. There is virtually no conceivable way to shower accolades on all of the deserving series and performances out there, and I get that. However, what I don’t get is that—given the ever-deepening pool of contenders from which to draw—the Emmys decided to urinate directly into that pool like some kind of public miscreant, contaminating the waters with that most toxic of substances: laziness.
I’m not sure how or why I managed to delude myself into believing that this year’s nominations would flout the tradition of celebrating mediocrity that has become—with the occasional notable exception—the lifeblood of this awards show. But I went into this list of nominations with a heart full of hope, only for Downton Abbey to rip it, still beating, from my chest. Dammit, Downton Abbey!
Ever the pesky traditionalist, Emmy sought to highlight a predictable crop of honorees; fortunately, some actually deserving series– Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, True Detective, Fargo, Veep–wound up in the midst of the otherwise underwhelming crop. Also, apparently Emmy voters know Portlandia and The Spoils of Babylon exist! Color me surprised. But for every delightful shock, five eye-rolling choices followed. I’m no statistician, but those are craptastic odds.
Television is a rapidly changing medium, producing the most provocative and spellbinding storytelling you’ll find anywhere, and with these changes afoot, it’s high time Emmy stopped tinkling in the pool we love. Jump in, swim around, and see what all the fuss is about.
Seriously, the water is good.
**Below, I’ve listed the nominations and will then sound off on a few things the Emmys got right as well as the heaping bucketful they did not.
2014 Emmy Nominations
The Big Bang Theory
Orange is the New Black
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Lead Actress, Comedy
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Melissa McCarthy, Mike and Molly
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black
Lead Actor, Comedy
Louis C.K., Louie
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Ricky Gervais, Derek
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
William H. Macy, Shameless
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Lead Actress, Drama
Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex
Claire Danes, Homeland
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Lead Actor, Drama
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Woody Harrelson, True Detective
Matthew McConaughey, True Detective
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Supporting Actress, Drama
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Supporting Actor, Drama
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Supporting Actress, Comedy
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Allison Janey, Mom
Kate Mulgrew, Orange is the New Black
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Supporting Actor, Comedy
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Adam Driver, Girls
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Fred Armisen, Portlandia
Tony Hale, Veep
Guest Actress, Drama
Dianna Rigg, Game of Thrones
Kate Mara, House of Cards
Allison Janey, Masters of Sex
Kate Burton, Scandal
Margo Martindale, The Americans
Jane Fonda, The Newsroom
Guest Actor, Drama
Paul Giamatti, Downton Abbey
Reg E. Cathey, House of Cards
Robert Morse, Mad Men
Beau Bridges, Masters of Sex
Joe Morton, Scandal
Dylan Baker, The Good Wife
Guest Actress, Comedy
Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Laverne Cox, Orange is the New Black
Natasha Lyonne, Orange is the New Black
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Joan Cusack, Shameless
Guest Actor, Comedy
Nathan Lane, Modern Family
Steve Buscemi, Portlandia
Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live
Louis C.K., Saturday Night Live
Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory
Gary Cole, Veep
American Horror Story: Coven
Bonnie and Clyde
The White Queen
Outstanding Television Movie
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
The Normal Heart
Sherlock: His Last Vow
The Trip to Bountiful
Lead Actress, Miniseries or Movie
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Minnie Driver, Return to Zero
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Coven
Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
Kristin Wiig, The Spoils of Babylon
Lead Actor, Miniseries or Movie
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: His Last Vow
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba, Luther
Martin Freeman, Fargo
Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart
Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo
Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie
Frances Conroy, American Horror Story: Coven
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven
Angela Bassett, American Horror Story: Coven
Allison Tolman, Fargo
Ellen Burstyn, Flowers in the Attic
Julia Roberts, The Normal Heart
Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie
Colin Hanks, Fargo
Martin Freeman, Sherlock: His Last Vow
Jim Parsons, The Normal Heart
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Alfred Molina, The Normal Heart
Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
The Colbert Report
The Daily Show
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Real Time with Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
The Amazing Race
Dancing with the Stars
So You Think You Can Dance
1) The House of Cards & Downton Abbey Effect
I dig both of these shows. Really, I do. But their inclusion in the Best Drama category is, simply, laughable. For the love of all that is Padmore, I recapped the fourth season of Downton on this site and will likely do so again for the fifth season this winter. But you know and I know: season 4 wasn’t very good. It just wasn’t. Using Anna’s rape plot as an excuse to descend into melodrama, this string of episodes deserves to be little more than a footnote in Downton’s otherwise excellent history, not yet another year singled out for alleged greatness. And Jim Carter? You’re a lovable guy and Mr. Carson is delight, but his plot about a doomed love from his actor past? Kill me.
And while we’re at it, can we just admit once and for all that we should like House of Cards more than we do? I mean for crying out loud did that show run in circles for the bulk of its second season. Raymond Tusk this, Raymond Tusk that, whoops fell into a threeway. Sure, the last shot of the season felt iconic and earned, but man was the journey a slog. Whichever way you slice it, this doesn’t belong within one hundred yards of the Best Drama Category, but good for Reg E. Cathey’s guest nod as Freddy—well-deserved.
Both of these shows are pure Emmy bait, and consider that bait taken and consumed. But two of the best dramas on television? Not a chance.
2) Homeland’s quality implosion
The third season of Homeland was a wretched, sloppy, manipulative, and nonsensical twelve episodes, so I’m glad it didn’t get its third consecutive best drama nod. A display of common sense on the part of the Emmys. Go figure. Claire Danes did what she could, but Carrie Matheson has devolved into a parody of herself–seriously, we get it: Carrie goes off her meds, her eyes get wide, she stammers, no one believes her, she says, “Dammit Saul” and the whole gravy train keeps a-rolling. Pass.
I love you, Mandy Patinkin. I do. I endured the first season of Criminal Minds for you, and if that doesn’t prove the depth of my devotion, then what would? But, let’s face it: you’ve been better. Look, I don’t blame you because the writing this season was–as previously intimated–horrendous. Still, you didn’t deserve an Emmy nod, and that’s just a fact.
3) (Too Often) Name Recognition Trumps Deserving Talent
Don Cheadle. Matt LeBlanc. Melissa McCarthy. Jon Voight. Allison Janey. Jeff Daniels. Lena Dunham. What do they all have in common? The very mention of their names gets Emmy voters all hot and bothered, some for inexplicable reasons (ahem, Mr. Voight). Melissa McCarthy is a hilarious woman, but does she need to be nominated for Mike and Molly? You’re telling me the depth and breadth of her performance on a show built around fat jokes trumps Emmy Rossum’s dynamite turn on Shameless? Or that Don Cheadle, usually spectacular but sleep-walking through the travesty that is House of Lies, delivered a more nuanced, multi-faceted performance than Chris Messina in The Mindy Project? And don’t even get me started on Jon Voight wrestling Dean Norris’s Breaking Bad nod away from him just because the man, once upon a time, delivered the world’s best performance in Anaconda (I’m guessing that’s the rationale). Allison Janey, you more than earned a nod for your fantastic work in Masters of Sex as a neglected wife learning the truth of her husband’s closeted sexuality, but did you need to double up for your work in bottom-of-the-barrel Moms? Because I’ll tell you, no one made me laugh harder than Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Chelsea Peretti on this list, but no one knows who she is, so bye-bye hope and hello mundanity. The one that hurts the most to admit is Jeff Daniels, whom I really love; the fact that he won last year for Newsroom for playing a thinly drawn character baffles. That he found himself nominated again positively infuriates.
Thomas Middleditch. Christopher Evan Welch. Jeremy Allen White. TATIANA FRIGGING MASLANY. Annet Mahendru. Melissa McBride. Chris O’Dowd. What do they have in common? In addition to those slighted above, they form an ever-expanding roster of those snubbed due to Emmy’s borderline fetishistic obsession with tradition for one simple reason: none of them are household names. A shame. With Emmy’s help, they could’ve been.
4) The Americans shut out (almost)
Nope. No, no, no, no, no, no. How? How? How? How? Why? Why? Why? Why? Good for Margo Martindale scooping up the solitary nod for her role as devious handler Claudia, but again, it’s a safe way to reward a show on the cusp of popularity by offering a token nomination to a previous winner. Boo.
5) The Good Wife shut out of Best Drama
This, to me, makes no sense. Network drama’s finest twenty-two episodes of the television season gets pushed aside by a British soap that’s been so much better and an easy political drama that hasn’t figured out how to use Netflix to its narrative advantage? While both Downton Abbey and House of Cards coasted in their respective seasons, The Good Wife brought in a demolition team to reimagine and reinvigorate a show that needed neither reimagining nor reinvigorating. If the Emmys had credibility to begin with, then this might have hurt the award show’s reputation. But let’s just call it another example of #EmmyIgnorance. Get that trending!
6) The death of comedy, aka The Big Bang Theory
I know you like The Big Bang Theory and think I’m a communist or something, but–comedy being subjective–I find it eye-rollingly lazy, pandering, and fundamentally unfunny. I don’t believe it belongs anywhere near the Best Comedy category, but others do. I disagree, but fine.
But let’s chat about Jim Parsons, who seems like a nice guy and is not devoid of talent. Apparently there was this television movie called The Normal Heart that had a deal of good acting in, and Parsons deserves recognition for his performance there. Couldn’t we have left it at that? Please?
7) Parks and Recreation doesn’t get the love it deserves.
I think Li’l Sebastian would be mighty disappointed by this turn of events, and as every Pawneeian knows (other than Ben Wyatt, of course), you never want to disappoint Li’l Sebastian. Shame on you, Emmys! You made the hologram of Li’l Sebastian cry. Feel good about yourself? Unbelievable…
Still, like an emotionally abusive partner, the Emmys know to give us just enough love and attention to keep us scrambling back year after year despite the dysfunctional dynamic that’s developed between the two of us. For example:
Holy crap, I didn’t know those doling out Emmy nominations even knew IFC existed, let alone actually watched the wonderful parade of bizarreness that is Portlandia. Armisen does incredible work bringing his characters to life, none quite as brilliantly as his overzealous feminist/book shop owner/Lady Moon worshipper, in a comic tradition very much borne of Monty Python–on acid. Throw in an original song nomination and a nod for Steve Buscemi’s guest work and you have a weirdly hip string of nominations for the Emmy’s. Nice!
2) The ladies of Orange is the New Black
Just when I go on a rant of the Emmys favoring name recognition, along come the newbies of Orange is the New Black to blow up my theory. Kate Mulgrew and Taylor Schilling seemed the most likely to appeal to voters, but that Laverne Cox became the first transgender actress ever to receive an Emmy nomination made me bristle with hope and excitement. And Uzo Aduba is a revelation as Crazy Eyes and more than earned her nomination. Wouldn’t you agree, Dandy-Lion?
Thanks to the impenetrable classification system that comprises Emmy categorization, Treme could not submit its excellent final season as a drama due to a too-few episode order, leaving the mini-series category wide open. And wouldn’t you know: there it is! This little gem of a show has flown under virtually everyone’s radar, so this token recognition (and, make no mistake, this show, as great as it is, doesn’t have a chance in hell in winning) feels like a nice pat on the back, a comforting reminder that those of us who watched this excellent, unique series were–miraculously–not alone.
While we’re on the subject of mini-series, I’m so pleased that we have finally split mini-series and television movie into two categories. Good looking out there, Emmy.
4) Fargo cleans up
This brilliant mini-series is going to win a slew of awards come Emmys night, and I hope Allison Tolman is amongst them. Molly Solverson became such a wonderful character thanks to Tolman’s subtle, understated performance as the determined detective. Also an unknown (dammit there she goes taking the wind out of my rant-soaked sails again), this talented young lady deserves all of the awards please. In fact, Fargo deserves them all.
5) The highest quality does not get snubbed.
Breaking Bad. True Detective. Game of Thrones. Fargo. Veep. Silicon Valley. Louie. Had Emmy ballots been devoid of these names over and over again, then the system really would feel broken beyond repair. It’s not enough to excuse the myriad snubs listed above, but we have to pause and admit that perhaps this award show might realize it’s peeing into our TV pool but just can’t help itself. Time for a change, Emmys. You know some of the quality that’s out there, so now you need to stop relying on humdrum expectation and do like the best of television does: reinvent yourself.
Thanks for reading!