Thursday, July 10, 2014

2014 Emmy Nominations: The More Things Change...

I will continue using this image for my Emmy nominations post until Tatiana Maslany is nominated.

A lot of people are lamenting today that the Emmy awards are continuing to nominate the same people.  To a certain extent, that’s true, but this year’s Emmy nominations actually managed to reflect the increasing number of great new shows on television.  Orange Is the New Black and True Detective each snagged a dozen nominations while Fargo, competing in the less competitive miniseries categories, brought home 18.  Meanwhile, some long-time mainstays saw their numbers start to dwindle.  Modern Family, which prior to this year had never received fewer than five acting nominations and twice six, earned only three.  Likewise, Mad Men, which has generally received three or four acting nominations, two or three writing nominations, and a directing nod each year, saw only two actors called for lead and supporting categories and, for the first time, earned no nominations for writing or directing. 

Change is coming, if slowly.  The only disappointing aspect is how few nominations went to actors and shows that are past their freshman years but have never been nominated before.  Of the 60 major nominations (Series, Lead, and Supporting), only two went to actors or actresses who had been eligible before but had not been nominated: Lena Headey and Kate McKinnon picked up their first nominations for Game of Thrones and Saturday Night Live, respectively.  Every show that was nominated for Outstanding Series was either a new show or was nominated last year. 

They say that the easiest way to earn an Emmy nomination is to have been nominated before and that certainly played out this year.  Even of the actors nominated from first-year shows, four had been nominated previously for other roles (Woody Harrelson, Allison Janney, Jon Voight, and Andre Braugher) while a fifth was Matthew McConaughey.  All in all, 48 actors and actresses were nominated between the lead and supporting categories and only five – Taylor Schilling, Kate Mulgrew, Lizzy Caplan, Headey, and McKinnon – had not previously been nominated for either an Emmy or an Oscar. 

The ignorance of new potential nominees from established series was particularly egregious this year when there were so many shows making big leaps from their first seasons to their second.  The Americans and Hannibal had tremendous sophomore runs but earned as many nominations combined (one) as Revolution.  Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany was denied again, despite putting on one of the best performances on television for the second consecutive year.

Some have contributed these snubs to a hatred by the Emmy voters of genre television, but that doesn’t explain the twenty nominations for Game of Thrones, the seventeen for American Horror Story, or previous recognition for Lost or True Blood.  Hell, just this year Almost Human, Da Vinci’s Demons, Grimm, The 100, Agents of SHIELD, Once Upon a Time, The Originals, Revolution, Sleepy Hollow, True Blood, Vikings, and The Walking Dead all received technical nominations.  That those great series keep getting ignored is not due to their genre, but something else entirely.

Ultimately, the 2014 Emmys are pretty much what you would expect them to be.  There’s a nominal nod to some of the tremendous new shows that debuted this past season and an overabundance of past nominees.  We always hope for the results to change, but the more things change…

With those general thoughts out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the good, the bad, and the WTF of this year’s Emmy nominations:

Bad – Complacency in the big money drama categories.  True Detective, Harrelson, and McConaughey were always locks, but the only other new nominee was Masters of Sex’s Lizzy Caplan.  She’s extremely deserving, but where were Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, Michael Sheen, or any number of other deserving actors?

Good – The descending of Modern Family.  I like Modern Family well enough, but in its first four seasons it has averaged 5.5 supporting actor/actress nominees every year.  This year, it’s down to three, with only Julie Bowen, Ed O’Neill, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson scoring nods.  That opened up several spots for great performances from the likes of Andre Braugher and Kate Mulgrew, among others.

WTF? – No drama directing nomination for Rian Johnson.  Even creator Vince Gilligan has acknowledged that “Ozymandias” was “the best episode [of Breaking Bad] we ever have had or ever will have.”  While writer Moira Walley-Beckett was nominated for her role, Johnson was snubbed.  The competition was fierce in the category (including Neil Marshall’s work in “The Watchers on the Wall” and Cary Fukunaga’s epic tracking shot in True Detective), but you really can’t tell me that David Evans’s episode of Downton Abbey or Carl Franklin’s work on House of Cards were better than “Ozymandias.”

Good (nay Great!) – Three guest actress nominations for Orange Is the New Black.  Laverne Cox, Uzo Aduba, and Natasha Lyonne all scored nominations for OItNB, bringing the show’s acting total to five nods.  They’ll have fierce competition from Tina Fey, Melissa McCarthy, and Joan Cusack, but I really hope one of them comes out on top (and I dare anybody to vote against Laverne Cox after watching “Lesbian Request Denied”).

WTF? – Inexplicable guest actor/actress nominations.  Robert Morse is in the opening credits of Mad Men and appeared in more episodes than January Jones, Kiernan Shipka, and Jessica ParĂ©, all of whom submitted as supporting actresses, and yet he’s a guest actor?  On the other end of the spectrum, Kate Mara and Margo Martindale are in all of about two minutes of the second seasons of House of Cards and The Americans and somehow manage to get nominations?

Good – Lots of nominations for Fargo.  Fargo was great.  You should watch it.

WTF? – Alison Tolman as a supporting actress.  Tolman was probably on screen more in Fargo than any other actor, certainly more than Billy Bob Thornton, yet she submitted herself as a supporting actress.  In theory, this could have been to protect herself from stronger competition, but she ends up going up against Frances Conroy, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Ellen Burstyn, and Julia Roberts, who have, combined between them, 24 Emmy nominations and three wins, 23 Golden Globe nominations and eight wins, and 14 Oscar nominations and three wins.  It’s a murderer’s row of actresses and the relatively unknown Tolman should beat them all.

Good – Breakthrough in the variety writing category.  Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series is a category that has been dominated by late night shows in recent years.  Last year Portlandia managed a nomination, but this year it, Inside Amy Schumer, and Key & Peele all scored nominations.  The trophy will still likely go to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report, as it has for ten of the last eleven years, but it’s nice to see the sketch comedy series get more recognition.

Bad – No cinematography nomination for Hannibal.  Hannibal is the most beautifully shot on television.  Full stop.  It is art.  To deny Hannibal a nomination for Outstanding Cinematography seems insane.

WTF? – Six shows earned nominations for Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Miniseries, or Movie.  Five of those shows were Grimm, Hawaii Five-0, Revolution, The Blacklist, and True Blood.  Not on that list?  The three shows with the best stunts on television: Arrow, Banshee, and Strike Back.  Hannibal’s cinematography omission “seems” insane.  Ignoring Arrow, Banshee, and Strike Back for stunt coordination is insane.

So those are my thoughts on the 2014 Emmy nominations.  Register your agreements or disagreements in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

Tyler Williams is a professional librarian and an amateur television critic.  You can reach him at TyTalksTV AT gmail DOT com or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

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