Originally I had planned this article out as “Snubs, Snoozes, and Surprises” piece for each category, but as the 2016 Emmy Nominations hit I was mostly confined to a feeling of surprise. I have long maligned the Emmys as the most corrupt award show, completely out-of-sync with the reality of the art form it’s supposedly rewarding, but today I have to pause and give some kudos. The biggest surprise of this year’s Emmy nominees is how right they feel. And if it is corrupt, at least it worked out in favor of those who actually deserve praise it for once.
There are, of course, some snubs to mention (and mention I do) but let’s start with the (mostly) positives, and with miniseries. The Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie category is a big win for diversity, featuring Idris Elba (Luther), Courtney B. Vance (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story), and Cuba Gooding, Jr (American Crime Story — although Gooding’s dialed-to-11 performance should have be subbed out in favor of Oscar Issac for Show Me a Hero). Huzzah to Kirsten Dunst (Fargo) and Sarah Paulson (American Crime Story) for their nominations, as two of the most incredible performances of the year. Olivia Colman’s nomination for The Night Manager is also surprising but very well deserved, as a standout in that incredible series. And, it’s wonderful to see the excellent turns by Jesse Plemons (Fargo), Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo) and Hugh Laurie (The Night Manager) being recognized as well, alongside a slew of American Crime Story nominees.
The comedy category largely shut out Modern Family among the individual nominations, finally making room for some very deserving newcomers. Laurie Metcalf for Getting On? Did we think we’d see that in our lifetime? Also happy to see Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson getting nods for the very funny yet confrontational black-ish. And while Will Forte is something of an odd choice for the wavering Last Man on Earth, his commitment to series can’t be questioned. A weird, fun choice for a dark horse. When are the Emmys ever fun?
The Supporting Actor category has included Louie Anderson (Baskets) as well as Matt Walsh (Veep) which warms my heart immeasurably, and yet, I mourn for Timothy Simons (Veep) being overlooked. Judith Light getting her moment alongside Gabby Hoffman for Transparent is a fantastic decision, yet where is Jane Krakowski for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? Where is anybody for Fresh Off the Boat, one of the best comedies of the year?
Moving over to drama, we need to champion The Americans for finally making it, with matching actor nominations (finally, and so, SO overdue) for Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. The best show on television finally getting its moment? Novel indeed for the Emmys!
And yet, there is also the zeitgeist fueling nominations for Mr. Robot, and a lead actor nomination for Rami Malek. And Ray Donovan actually getting a little love for Liev Schreiber at long last? What’s next? Oh that’s right — Better Call Saul getting a nod for Best Drama. I think I really am dreaming. (Except that there’s no Rhea Seehorn).
And then there’s Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) for Best Supporting Actor. Lord love our former Lord Commander, but that space should have been taken up by someone else. Game of Thrones dominates the Supporting Actress category (not always for the best — Rhea Seehorn deserved a spot over Emilia Clarke), along with the obligatory nom for Dame Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), leaving only two slots for other actresses — filled unexpectedly (yet brilliantly) though, by Maura Tierney for The Affair and Constance Zimmer for UnREAL (but nothing for star Shiri Appleby?)
(Of Note: Ben Mendelsohn is so great that he got nominated for basically being a spectre in Bloodline. But honestly, Norbert Leo Butz should have probably gotten the slot from the Bloodline crowd. And I’ve very pleased that Kyle Chandler has been recognized for his fantastic performance in the series).
Of course the Emmys aren’t perfect, and I would have liked to see some love for Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones, Gael Garcia Bernal for Mozart in the Jungle (which got a lot of love from the Golden Globes and none from the Emmys — same with Rachel Bloom and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which was shut out here), and the exceptional Amazon series Catastrophe. And as Adam Chitwood pointed out in commenting on the full list of nominees, Late Night with Seth Meyers and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee being shut out is disappointing, especially since Bee is nominated for Outstanding Writing …
And where, oh where, is Outlander? Caitriona Balfe has been snubbed yet again, and speaking of drama actresses, where is Vera Farmiga for Bates Motel? Or Freddie Highmore, for that matter? (Though admittedly the Lead Actor category is at capacity).
There was absolutely no love for David Simon’s Show Me a Hero on HBO — a big snub for Oscar Isaac who owned the role — and nothing for the gorgeous and affecting War & Peace in the limited series category. Downton Abbey is taking up someone else’s place among the Best Dramas (UnREAL?), and SundanceTV’s gem of a character drama Rectify has also, once again, been woefully overlooked. Man Seeking Woman also deserved a spot among the comedies, as did The Grinder (which would have been vindicating in the wake of its cancellation). But I also have to be realistic — who do you cut? I’m complaining, but I’m really pleased with (almost) all of the nominees. It’s just that with Peak TV it’s hard to keep these lists so short.
Several of last year’s nominees and even winners didn’t see anything this year, including Stephen Colbert (The Late Show), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black) and most of the cast of Modern Family. But room has to be made for other series, and even then there’s still never enough. Like The Knick, let us not forget The Knick! (Which did get a mention in directing for Steven Soderbergh, but nothing in the major categories).
It’s also interesting to note the diversity of networks, and how some (like Hulu) — despite a recent uptick in original programming — didn’t see any awards. HBO has done very, very well, as has FX and Netflix. But Lifetime and USA coming into the mix is definitely something different. And nothing for broadcasters NBC or CBS in the major categories? Things really are changing.
Despite my few gripes, it’s fairly astounding at how well the Emmys hit the mark this year. Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s miles better then usual. Flipping through the nominees shows us (again surprisingly) some of the best TV of the year. Just not all of it — so let us know what your biggest snubs and biggest surprises are in the comments.
The Emmy Awards air September 18th at 7 p.m. on ABC.