Today was a big day for TV fans, as Anthony Anderson and Lauren Graham woke up the west coast, bright and early, with the 68th annual Emmy Awards nominations. After a politically charged year in the country, television creatives and executives worked hard to reflect bigger conversations involving race in the stories told, and their efforts were definitely highlighted in the Emmy nominations. When the Academy Awards struggled under the #OscarsSoWhite tragedy, Emmy voters appeared more than thrilled to show off diverse casts and complex storytelling that took over a strong portion of television in the last year.
Limited series The People V. OJ Simpson landed a whopping 22 nominations, second only to HBO’s Game Of Thrones with 23, but its presence on the ballot also put a spotlight on a number of series that were missed and how far voters have to go to recognize the series that viewers are watching.
Orange Is the New Black is a series that has been on the mind of millions of TV-watchers for the past month and many felt that with its diverse cast and female-empowered storylines it would be a lock for a few nominations, especially considering that last year Uzo Aduba was nominated and won a golden statue. This year the show was shut out of the major categories, including another nod for Aduba. The issue here may lie in the timeline though. Season four could be the show’s finest, but nominations were for season three, which even though it had high points, still disappointed many fans. Hopefully the largely praised fourth season, which recently arrived on Netflix, will storm the Emmy Awards next year.
Another Netflix series almost completely absent from the nominations was Jessica Jones. It landed nominations for its title sequence but nothing for the stellar acting, writing, direction, or production that made it a must-watch Fall series. It may be that the superhero stigma worked against the show, but it was a huge snub to shut it out of major categories and another example of awards shows often ignoring popular series. And while we’re talking about these great female-centric series, let’s also remember that the number of female directors nominated this year were incredibly low (in six directing categories with a total of 35 nominations, only six of them are women).
The CW, which has received love from the Golden Globes for both Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), was almost completely shut-out from this year’s Emmy nominations. Crazy Ex received four nominations for choreography, original music and lyrics, editing, and main titles, but given its near universal critical acclaim, especially for Rachel Bloom as creator/writer/lead actress of the show, it’s a shame that it didn’t receive more attention. It’s an incredibly original and clever show, and it’s fantastic that its music, one of the best aspects of the show, got honored (although admittedly it’s hard not to root for Alan Menken and his work on Galavant, as he’ll become an EGOT winner if he comes away with the top prize this year), but there’s something telling about it and other CW shows getting snubbed.
Speaking of ignoring fan favorites, repeat winners The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family had a limited presence on the list of nominations, with Big Bang earning Laurie Metcalf a guest starring nod (her third nom from the list), while Family landed on Outstanding Comedy and Supporting Actor (Ty Burrell), but shunned the rest of the cast. Still, leaving these shows out and making room for newer, edgier shows like Master of None and black-ish is a positive, as eventually voters do have to move on. On the drama side, The Good Wife and Scandal were both absent from the announcement though they both received great critical and fan praise (not to mention it was the former’s final season and therefore its last chance at winning more Emmys).
Another trend seen with the Emmy nominations is a favoring of certain networks. HBO is the reigning favorite premium cable channel, as is Netflix for streaming, and their strong positions greatly affect other series’ efforts to get in. Hulu has made great work wooing fans and critics to shows like Casual, The Mindy Project, and 11.22.63, but couldn’t translate the praise into more than a handful of nominations. Starz is the fastest growing network by subscribers and has a rabid fanbase through series like Outlander, Black Sails, Blunt Talk, and Power, but they only garnered a mere four nominations and nothing in major categories. The aforementioned CW also falls into this category.
However, it must be acknowledged that the Emmys did do some damage control by nominating oft looked over shows like The Americans and Mr. Robot.
It’s definitely great to have diversity included in these nominations (each leading actor/actress category has a person of color this year), but the sources they’re turning to appear to remain the same and aren’t looking to change any time soon. It will also be telling to see if the diversity of the nominations leave the show winners come September. Everyone says we’re in the golden age of television right now, and the Emmys took some steps forward in proving that with their 2016 nominations, but they feel like small, timid steps; there’s still something hesitant and stale about the content we acknowledge as “best.”
Emily J | Staff Writer
Anya Crittenton | Associate Editor