Emmy Nominations Prove Nothing Has Changed

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Nora Durst’s expression in the featured image, where she’s looking out onto the world wondering what the hell just happened and what is going on. Yeah, that was me on Thursday morning, except I KNEW exactly what just happened, and exactly what is going on.

If you happened to download and listen to yesterday’s Outkick the Culture podcast, which you can subscribe to here: Outkick the Culture Podcast, you probably figured out I was less than thrilled with the nominations for the 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The ceremony takes place on September 17 in Los Angeles, and maybe by then I’ll have calmed down.

But I wouldn’t place any money down in Vegas on that.


Well, first let me make something abundantly clear. Nominating the best of the best in television in this era of Peak TV is damn near impossible. All of the vitriol I’m about to levy in this piece needs to be read with that caveat. I completely understand how difficult the job has become.

Many worthy people and shows were honored, and most of the nominees certainly deserve to be there. I smiled when I saw last year’s buzziest show, Stranger Things, find its way into so many categories. I would have probably put something else in its place in the Best Drama Series lineup, but I loved the show, so whatever. Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale earned all the praise heaped onto it, minus the political angle of it all. Westworld, though uneven at times, was magnificent more than it was mediocre.

This Is Us was a smash hit for NBC, and gave network TV its first dramatic hope since the high points of Lost and 24. At least, that’s the case since no one paid attention to Person of Interest, which I will continue to carry water for until the end of time. It was that good. The Americans had its weakest season, and was punished by Emmy voters.

There are many examples of “cool” little things within the nominations, not the least of which is seeing Millie Bobby Brown in there for her performance as Eleven in Stranger Things. She seems like such an awesome kid, and she was by far the most memorable and important thing about last year’s biggest surprise hit. So, before I tear many of these decisions limb from limb, much of the list was acceptable, or even worthy of praise.

But, with that said, past the niceties, these folks did a horrible job, despite the challenge involved. And, what’s worse, because I’ve watched and analyzed the Emmy Awards for so many years, while I was beyond irritated with the snubs, I expected almost all of them. I’m conditioned to expect nothing more than to execute a royal, lasting eye roll after hearing from the Emmy voters.

So what’s the big deal? What am I so ticked off about? Simply stated, The Emmy Awards still can’t get away from a tendency to star fuck and continually reward high profile series that are far past their prime. For example, PBS and Masterpiece’s Downton Abbey would get multiple nominations year after year, despite being a shell out of itself from, if I’m being generous, the end of Season 3.

Homeland is another prime instance of this problem, although somehow this year the voters chose not to place it in the Best Drama category. Thank God, because the first half of the season was complete garbage, at least in comparison to about 50 other dramas that deserved it more, including one, Billions, on its own network.

If anyone were to deserve a Homeland nomination this year, with due deference to Mandy Patinkin (who was nominated, which is at worst a shoulder shrug from me), it’s Rupert Friend. Guess what? He was left off the supporting actor list.

This is also the first year Claire Danes wasn’t nominated for the Carrie Mathison role, and although she’s always good, that also elicited a silent applause inside my own head. I was actually shocked when I didn’t see her name mentioned.

And that’s the Emmy problem.

Modern Family passed its prime around five seasons ago, yet no matter what, when it’s time to decide upon the Best Comedy Series nominees, it’s almost as if someone walks into the room and says, “Okay, so we’ve got Modern Family of course. What else do we put in here?” Veep is another comedy that always gets the nod, but in that case, it’s at worst the second best comedy on television in any calendar year. And it’s without question the funniest, regardless of season and regardless of competition.

But when NBC’s innovative The Good Place is ignored, when the far superior Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t included, and when shows like TBS’ People of Earth, or FX’s Better Things aren’t on the list, Modern Family‘s presence becomes inexcusable. Hell, it’s not even the SECOND best show on its own network…

…on the night it airs.

Speechless was far more entertaining, far more interesting, and far more engaging in 2016 and 2017. It’s also a rookie series, and has a relatively glitzy name attached to it in Minnie Driver. Yet, the Emmys saw fit to avoid it altogether. I could argue Modern Family is the worst of the four Wednesday night ABC comedies, with Black-ish (which was thankfully and deservedly nominated), The Goldbergs (just a more entertaining watch), and the aforementioned Speechless all better programs.

Plus, the night before, ABC has Fresh Off the Boat, which is my favorite of ALL of these programs. Incidentally, Speechless has risen to number two on that list, narrowly eclipsing Black-ish. Yet, of all these shows I just mentioned, Modern Family is still right where it always is.

Luckily, it’s going to lose to Veep. And, the Emmys got it right with Donald Glover’s Atlanta (which should win the category) and Aziz Ansari’s Master of None (for which I could also make an argument). The fact Modern Family is mentioned alongside these three shows in 2017 is pathetic and disgraceful. I like all those actors, I have enjoyed those characters, but the story has run its course. It’s one gimmick every week, borrowing the miscommunication breeds hilarity concept from Frasier, and all the kids are basically adults now.

Netflix’ BoJack Horseman returns with new episodes in September, and if you’ve read my detailed reviews of the previous two seasons, you know how much I love this show. It’s been in my Outkick top ten in each of those years as well. It’s an animated show that doesn’t behave like one, but also isn’t just a cartoon saying dirty words and depicting sex and drugs. It’s a deep show, black as night in its tone, that uses animal puns and animations to balance the bleak nature of the story with something that makes it all palatable.

It wasn’t nominated in the Best Animated Series category. What? Let’s not even mention the fact that the fourth episode of BoJack‘s last season was the single best half hour of television of any type in 2016. How on earth it isn’t nominated in such a niche grouping is unthinkable. Hell, I wouldn’t be upset if it were in BEST DRAMA, or BEST COMEDY. But not even in Best Animated? Are you f***ing kidding me?

And I’ve saved the best for last. I can argue hardcore for both Rectify and Halt and Catch Fire, two shows most of you have never watched, and all of you should. The final season for Ray McKinnon’s show was spectacular, and featured a tremendous series finale. Halt and Catch Fire, since the early missteps of the first season, has been a can’t miss series. Season 2 was exceptional, and Season 3 was incredible television. Incidentally, both of these shows are sitting on Netflix just waiting for you.

I could list other series’ that could have been mentioned, but I’m going to point to one. The Leftovers is the best show of the year. On this, I will accept no argument. With all due respect to the fictionally strong The Handmaid’s Tale (emphasis on FICTIONALLY), Season 3 wasn’t just the finest collection of TV episodes in 2017, it’s one of the finest collections of TV episodes IN MY LIFETIME.

Both Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux’s performances were otherworldly, as were Ann Dowd and Scott Glenn’s. The series wrapped up with a perfect finale, never wore out its welcome, and remained true to its promise from moment one to moment last. It was a work of art, even above its peers, and even during such a TV-centric time in entertainment.

How did the Emmy Awards choose to honor The Leftovers for its sublime excellence?

Exactly how they chose to honor The Wire.

In short, with one finger on one hand for the lamest handshake ever attempted.

Ann Dowd received a guest actress nomination for her role in the penultimate episode, and other than that, freaking bupkis.

Carrie Coon’s work as Nora Durst was the most impressive acting performance of either gender done this year, and she wasn’t even freaking nominated. She did get into the limited series acting category for Fargo, which she also deserved, but if ever there were a time for one woman to be nominated in two classifications, this was it. I can’t even begin to describe how unbelievable (yet it’s the Emmys, so it’s totally believable) it is she wasn’t honored for this performance.

She’s going to RUN, not walk away with the Television Critics Association award this year. With all due respect to Elizabeth Moss, who was superb in Handmaid’s, this one shouldn’t even be close. Yet, she doesn’t even get a thumbs up from the Emmys for the top performance of the year.

Justin Theroux also should have been given the Emmy dap for Kevin Garvey, a difficult role he’s pulled off exceptionally well for three seasons. Both Theroux and Coon were so good, it’s almost impossible to see either one and not immediately think of Garvey and Durst. This is so very similar to how you can’t look at Michael K. Williams and not see Omar Little, Bryan Cranston-Walter White, or James Gandolfini-Tony Soprano.

I’ve never been more disappointed in my life at an award show nomination snub, perhaps with the exception of Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight, as I am with this one. Especially when you consider House of Cards, fresh off a dreadful season, was nominated for Best Drama Series. Cards is the Modern Family of the Drama category, and has pulled into the top slot now that Downton finally shuttered its doors.

Game of Thrones wasn’t eligible this year, so the Emmys gave the nod to Westworld (which I won’t argue, as I loved it), but House of Cards has no place alongside its fellow nominees. And for Cards to be there and either The Leftovers or Rectify not to be reeks of exactly one thing.

The Emmys simply didn’t find those shows to be big enough or important enough. They don’t have the “it” factor that for some reason matters, when it shouldn’t. If this is a star fucking, big name competition, why bother giving out awards at all. If you’re a voter, why not just call Kevin Spacey at home and ask if you can visit him, get on your knees, and give him a happy ending, rather than a trophy.

Finally, there’s the single worst Emmy nomination I can ever remember, even when a show like Nurse Jackie found its way into the Best Comedy category year after year when it WAS NOT A COMEDY. For her incredible work on Saturday Night Live, Leslie Jones was nominated for an Emmy.

I heard this on Thursday morning, yet I still just spit my water all over my MacBook. Not only was Leslie Jones under-qualified for this award if you watched even one episode of that show this season, she was completely and totally unqualified. She wasn’t just average, she was abysmal. Her constant battle with the cue card is on par with Peter Griffin vs. The Chicken. It will never end. She couldn’t believably read those words if her life depended on it.

The next time she’s in a skit that doesn’t either go completely off the rails or almost fall apart because she gets lost, flubs a line, or misses her cue, will be the first. It was endearing for about ten minutes, and then you realize how many wonderful Improv performers are out there trying to get a job and watching her bone the most important sketch show in history on a weekly basis.

I can only assume she was nominated simply for her more unscripted, more open segments on Weekend Update. She’s certainly much better there, but it’s the same schtick over and over again. That can be said of almost any recurring SNL character, but most of them aren’t nominated for awards. Full disclosure, I thought she was decent in Ghostbusters, and I found her quite likable and funny in Chris Rock’s Top Five. She may well be a lovely person. This isn’t a personal attack.

It’s a professional attack. Her being nominated for an Emmy for Saturday Night Live is like Morgan Saylor being nominated for her seminal work as Dana Brody in Homeland.

It’s a complete and utter joke.

As are the Emmy Awards.

I’m @JMartOutkick. I once won a participation ribbon after successfully running around a Maypole in kindergarten.

Written by Jason Martin