The nominations for this year’s Emmy awards were announced last week. People like to complain each year about the choices made by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; it’s like armchair quarterbacking. But the fact is the Academy is getting better at getting it right, mostly.The big change this year is the acknowledgement that the construct of “television programming” is no longer defined by or dependent on its delivery system.The big change this year is the acknowledgement that the construct of “television programming” is no longer defined by or dependent on its delivery system. Netflix, the DVD and streaming service, ventured into original programming for the first time this year, and earned a total of 14 nominations, mostly for the political drama House of Cards.
If anything, there are too many good shows currently being made, regardless of their originating source, making it pretty much impossible for the Academy to recognize all of them. Their nominating system allows for flexibility, so it may be time for the Academy to increase the number of nominees in the top categories. For example, the lead actress in drama category has seven nominees this year instead of the typical six. I would argue that it makes more sense to do this unilaterally, i.e. all acting categories should be expanded to seven nominees all at once.There’s no disputing both actresses’ talent, but both have done better work in other places.However, the inclusion of Connie Britton from the otherwise forgettable Nashville in this category suggests the Academy added the extra slot just because they are fond of Britton, which isn’t necessarily a legitimate reason. You could also argue that they did it to allow for the performance of Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in A&E’s mediocre Bates Motel. There’s no disputing both actresses’ talent, but both have done better work in other places, and Tatiana Maslany’s amazing performance as the clones in Orphan Black was more deserving of a nomination than either Britton or Farmiga.
Traditional network shows are better represented in the comedy categories; half of the six best comedy nominees are from the broadcast networks, and the comedy acting fields also have a larger representation of actors from network shows compared to the drama categories.
As has been the case for the past four years, Modern Family is over-represented in these categories, demonstrating that there is still a significant portion of Academy voters that think too highly of the show. What was novel in 2009 has grown predictable, repetitive, and stale, and the nominations its actors continue to receive could go to deserving performers on shows like Parks And Recreation, New Girl, Community, The Middle, etc.How about some Emmy love for The League, or Portlandia?A number of nominations also went to 30 Rock as a farewell gift of sorts for its excellent final season, meaning that those slots will be open next year, so we can look for some movement and recognition of other shows. How about some Emmy love for The League, or Portlandia?
For me, the biggest disappointment was the lack of recognition for FX’s The Americans, a show about Russian spies living under deep-cover false identities as a suburban Virginia couple in the early 1980s. It was one of the best new shows to arrive this year, but its positive reviews weren’t enough to snag any nominations (other than for its theme music and a guest-acting nod for the always excellent Margo Martindale). I’m hoping it will fare better after its second season airs next winter.
It is sometimes said that we are experiencing a golden age of television, with an unprecedented prevalence of quality shows. The expansion of programming venues has encouraged creative minds to bring their talents to the medium, to present stories with a depth and richness not possible in the movies. It may make choosing the Emmy winners a more challenging prospect, but as viewers we all benefit from the embarrassment of riches now available to us.