What The 2014 Emmy Nominations Got Wrong–and Right

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The Emmy nominations were announced this week. Some of my favorite shows got a boatload of nominations (Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, American Horror Story: Coven, to name a few.) So how come my main reaction was something like this:

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As I mentioned in my Pop Culture Awards post from last year, it must be rough to be an Emmy nomination judge, especially in the drama categories. There are so many quality dramas now, with so many quality actors giving amazing performances, it’s not at all odd that a lot of people get left out.

There were also surprises, many of them fabulous, but some of the snubs were mind-boggling.

Let’s start with the snubs:

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Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black. In that same Pop Culture Awards post, I predicted Maslany would be nominated this year after being snubbed last year. My reasoning was that after picking up other nominations and awards ahead of this year’s Emmy nominations, it would be impossible for them to ignore her.

Even though she garnered several nominations (including a Golden Globe nomination) and won a Television Critics Award–they ignored her anyway.

I know there are a lot of reasons given for why she did not get nominated. For instance, the show is on BBC America, a small basic cable outlet. The problem with that reasoning? Netflix shows such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black AREN’T EVEN ON A TELEVISION CHANNEL, yet they get (very deserved) nominations.

Orphan Black is still very much a cult phenomenon (probably around 1 million viewers per episode at this point, counting delayed viewing on DVRs). Another BS excuse, as Breaking Bad had relatively low ratings for most of its run until the final two seasons. No one knows the viewership for the Netflix shows because Netflix won’t release the numbers–and I wonder if they do much better than Orphan Black. HBO’s Girls is another show that has reaped many major nominations in the past, even though its ratings aren’t that much better. (This year, though, it was limited to one major nomination.)

Lastly, unless it’s a popular show on one of the major networks, sci-fi/fantasy shows are lucky if they even get technical awards. So shows like Lost and The X-Files manage major Emmy nominations, while a hugely popular show like The Walking Dead gets only minor nominations because it’s on a basic cable station.

The prejudice against sci-fi/fantasy is absurd and even kind of pathetic. It’s really time for it to die out and awards voters to recognize the excellent work being done in those genres. The exception to the rule is Game of Thrones, which manages to overcome the sci-fi/fantasy prejudice possibly because it’s so much like a historical costume drama (with only occasional fantastical elements like dragons and zombies) that it allows some voters to forget it’s a fantasy.

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My other problem with this snub is that Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey took what would likely have been Maslany’s slot. Now, nothing against Michelle, she’s a lovely actress and pulls off a rather remarkable feat: she plays a character who is a cold, sometimes nasty, snob and yet audiences see her as the story’s heroine. However, this year she did little beyond sulk. (In fact, I have a problem with most of Downton’s nominations; this was by far its weakest season.)

The academy needs to finally recognize one of the best actresses working on television today. Good news is, Orphan Black has been renewed for another season.

The Clone Clubbers will be watching you, Emmy nominators. Consider carefully next time or we’ll send our seestra Helena after you.

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No Best Drama/Acting Nominations for Boardwalk Empire. There was talk about how this year was Game of Thrones “imperial phase” (best season). I wrote about how I thought this wasn’t exactly the case, but this season of Boardwalk Empire was UNQUESTIONABLY its imperial phase.

Boardwalk Empire has never been a critic’s darling like Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but this past season not only was stellar, with a beautifully composed tragic arc for the characters of Chalky White and Richard Harrow, the actors were also at the top of their game. NOT ONE OF THEM RECEIVED A NOMINATION. Steve Buscemi has been nominated in the past, but this year it is stunning to see Michael K. Williams (Chalky), Jack Huston (Richard) and Jeffrey Wright (Narcisse) all missing from the supporting actor and guest actor categories. (In fact, it’s stunning to realize Huston has not received ANY Emmy nominations for creating an iconic television character.)

The reason Boardwalk Empire was snubbed? Probably because HBO made the decision to submit True Detective in the Best Drama category rather than the Miniseries category. An interesting strategy that paid off for True Detective, but it hurt other shows that deserved nominations.

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Pedro Pascal for Guest Actor on Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones racked up the most nominations of any show (19), so maybe it’s a little greedy to complain about anyone who got left out. But geez. Pascal was so phenomenal as Prince Oberyn Martell, it’s hard to believe he wasn’t included.

He could have so easily overplayed this showy role, yet he brought a lot of complexity and subtlety to it as well. Whether he was carefully needling the Lannisters (who Martell blamed for the death of his sister and her children), or flirting with characters of either sex, or showing off his fighting skills, he was a fresh presence on the show. He also had one of the most difficult scenes of the season, which was basically a very long exposition dump, and yet he did it so well it turned out to be one of the best and most memorable scenes.

Something else that bothered me that wasn’t about snubs:

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Manipulation of Categories. As I mentioned, True Detective submitted in Best Drama rather than Miniseries, when it was CLEARLY a miniseries. Like American Horror Story, each season is going to be a stand-alone story with new characters.

As much as I adore Orange is the New Black, it’s absurd that so many of the actresses submitted in the Guest Actress category. They are all playing running characters on the show. I’m also not in agreement with the show submitting in the Comedy category. There’s humor, certainly, but the show is not a comedy. (In fact, I think this is a good argument for the Emmys to create a dramedy category.)

The Emmys should probably tweak their rules a bit to keep this kind of category manipulation from happening, so shows that get snubbed have more of a chance at nominations. With the success of American Horror Story, True Detective and Fargo, there will probably be more anthology-type shows in future, and the academy should consider splitting miniseries from movies and specials. As it stands now, they are all mushed together in one category.

O.K. enough negativity–what did I LOVE about this year’s nominations?

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Game of Thrones FINALLY grabbed a casting nomination! Nina Gold has been a GENIUS at finding the right actors to play the roles on GoT, and yet she was snubbed the first three seasons. It’s about time she got some recognition.

Kate Mulgrew scored her first nomination–ever. That is mind-blowing. But, again, just shows how prejudiced these awards are against sci-fi.

Even though she’s in the wrong category, Laverne Cox becoming the first transgender person to garner an Emmy nomination. (By “wrong” category, I mean she doesn’t belong in the guest category–she should be in Supporting Actress.) Not only because this is historic, but because she is so good as Sophia.

Black Sails copped a few nods! Yes, for minor awards, but glad to see some recognition for my favorite new show. (It really should take two of them–for Outstanding Main Title Design and Original Main Title Theme Music.)

Cosmos garnered as many nominations as True Detective. Pretty impressive for an informational show, and so deserved!

What snubs made you mad? What nominations made you happy? Tell us in the comments section!

Related Articles:

The 2014 Emmy nominations. The good, the bad, and the awful snubs I will never get over.

My Emmy Predictions

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8 thoughts on “What The 2014 Emmy Nominations Got Wrong–and Right

  1. I feel for Tatiana Maslany, she carried her show and is in almost every scene, sometimes multiple characters in a single scene too. She got ignored and I say that without seeing any of the other performances in her category. Good to see Laverne Cox get a nom, they could have easily overlooked her.

    1. In spite of the category problem, I was thrilled with Cox’s nomination. (A little sad she had so little to do in Season 2. Hopefully, more focus on Sophia in Season 3.)

      Oh, wow, saying Maslany carries the show is an understatement. She IS the show, and it’s as if several different actresses play all the parts. Here’s hoping they see the light next year.

  2. So Game of Thrones showrunners must have sent episodes with no dragons so they could fool Emmy in to thinking there is show is a “historical drama”….like the Six Wives of Henry VIII
    I’m sorry but there’s no excuse for the Tatiana snub. Orphan Black has been around for two seasons now plenty of time of Emmy voters to catch more than one episode.
    And are they seriously of the opinion that Lady Mary sulking or Claire Dane’s character’s chronic crying is better performed than Sarah Manning, cuffed in a shower, fear for her life in her face and her body language watching disheveled, bloody and unstable Helena coming at her, intent unknown.
    Then Helena warmly embracing her “sistra”. Keeping in mind both those performance are from the SAME ACTRESS.
    Not to mention what a technical feat in that scene.
    OTOH…it appears Emmy ignores network genre too. Person of Interest had an excellent season with
    strong writing and stronger perfomances …
    and I don’t see them with any sort acknowledgement .
    As long as Emmy has a blind spot for genre…I think I’ll have a blind spot Emmy night and not bother.

    1. That was an AMAZING scene on Orphan Black and Maslany was incredible. I just don’t know how they can keep snubbing her. It’s absurd.

      You make a great point about network genre. James Spader is another who was snubbed. Best Actor is so competitive, but now that Breaking Bad is over and this season is Mad Men’s last, perhaps in a year or two some of the deserving overlooked actors will get a chance.

  3. “The Walking Dead gets only minor nominations because it’s on a basic cable station.”

    WOW! Are you stupid or something? The Walking Dead IS on AMC THE SAME CHANNEL AS BREAKING BAD AND MAD MEN, WHICH BOTH GOT NOMINATIONS FOR BEST DRAMA!

    1. I was not saying all shows on basic cable channels are snubbed for major nominations–only that sci-fi shows on basic cable channels tend to be snubbed for major nominations. I would consider TWD post-apocalyptic, a sub-genre of sci-fi. I suppose it also could be considered horror. American Horror Story gets major nominations while on a basic channel. But it submits in the far less competitive miniseries category.

  4. I’m guessing the dirty secret of Emmy voters is that they are no more plugged into what constitutes great television than any average person on the street, and they treat the awards more like a club where they want to make sure they nominate the popular folks so they can share in some of the star wattage on awards night. Hence the same people getting nominated year after year for the same role regardless of whether or not their work was deserving, with newcomers shut out. Julianna Margulies, an at-best competent actress who has never created a truly lasting, impactful and resonant character in anything, gets nominated every year more or less for showing up, squatting in a slot which might otherwise go to the Tatiana Maslanys of the world. A decade ago, David Hyde Pierce scored repeat nominations and wins for doing the same Kelsey Grammer impression year after year on Frasier. Dennis Franz won over and over again for NYPD Blue. Nominating Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul every year for Breaking Bad is also a bit ridiculous – how many variations on the same character can you do? (I’m not convinced they won’t still find a way to nominate these two guys next year even though the show has ended.) And Claire Danes is so beloved by Emmy voters that she’d have to do a miniseries where she defecates on an Emmy statuette to stop her getting a nomination (they’d probably still nominate her and praise it as a “bold choice.”)

    Peter Dinklage is “in the club” now and it’s a guarantee he’ll get nominated every year Game of Thrones is on the air, regardless of whether his work deserves it (it usually does, but he’ll get the nomination even in the worst seasons). However, he wasn’t the standout this year – Pascal was, by a country mile. But – Pedro’s not in the club yet. He’ll have to “prove himself” by playing a few lawyers/drug addicts/sleazy politicians in a spate of different shows first.

    Emmy voters don’t like different; they like familiar, they like safe, they like what they know and who they know. One or two bones get thrown to the radical and new each year, but for the most part it’s same old, same old – just like television itself, really.

    1. You make a lot of great points. I think Aaron Paul is fantastic, but IMO it was outrageous when Paul took the prize over Giancarlo Espisito a couple of years ago. Didn’t mention it in my overview, but I was also a little surprised that Dean Norris (Hank on Breaking Bad) was not nominated this year. He was amazing those final episodes.

      They can’t include everyone who’s deserving, but I definitely agree they should spread the nominations around to more than the same handful of people every year.

      Now that Breaking Bad is over and Mad Men ends next year, it will be interesting to see who grabs those freed-up spots. New same old, same old cycle will start, I suppose, just as it did when The Sopranos ended.

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