Nominations for the 2015 Emmy awards were announced this morning, which means it is TV lovers’ annually scheduled time to freak out and develop wild mood swings, cheering and swearing, screeching and grinning, celebrating and hating in quick succession. TV aficionados’ relationship to the Emmys is kind of like a rebellious high-schooler’s relationship to the school principal: you know, inexplicably, he’s an authority and that’s so unjust you have to fight it to your very last spitball. The Emmys are no longer quite the out of touch, network-obsessed joke they once were (the principal now wears jeans and thinks loving Louie is enough to make him cool), but they are still trying to tell us what to think and feel—and that just can’t stand.
This morning, Emmy watchers furiously deleted their tweets about yet another Tatiana Maslany snub—the Orphan Black actress was finally nominated for Best Actress in a Drama, meaning she can no longer be the Emmy snub célèbre—and, after savoring her anointing for a millisecond, got infuriated at all of the Emmy’s other mistakes: ignoring The Americans, Jane the Virgin, Timothy Olyphant, Tracee Ellis Ross, and many more. The Americans, Jane the Virgin, Timothy Olyphant, and Tracee Ellis Ross are all worthy of some Emmy love, but the Emmys has to leave some things out.
This year, as in ones past, the Emmys went two steps forward and one step back, unless it was going two steps back and one step forward, or three steps to the side. Consider the Best Actress category: Claire Danes, Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, Maslany, Elisabeth Moss, and Robin Wright were all nominated. That’s a killer group. Davis, Henson, and Maslany are all new nominees, who are all excellent in their roles. Davis and Henson headlined the two biggest shows of the past year, and their deserving inclusion reflects TV’s long-awaited and increasing diversity. Henson’s nomination also ensures that Cookie Lyons will be at the award show come September, where she obviously belongs. As for the familiar faces, it’s hard to quibble with Moss and Wright, who do great work. Did Julianna Margulies deserve the nomination more than Danes? I think so, but they are both very accomplished previous winners; it’s a little six of one, half dozen of the other. (Or maybe 6½ of one, 5½ of the other.) You could get angry that Kerry Washington wasn’t included, but, generally speaking, that’s a pretty good job, Emmys.
Now let’s turn to the Best Actor category, which also includes a bunch of new faces (or old faces in new parts). Kyle Chandler, Liev Schreiber, and Bob Odenkirk were all nominated in new roles, but that is a far less inspiring trio than Davis, Henson, and Maslany. Odenkirk’s inclusion is a really nice surprise, but Chandler and Schreiber, nominated for Bloodline and Ray Donovan respectively, are the kind of new nominees who immediately feel old and stodgy: they are good actors in not great parts. Rounding out this category are Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, and god help us, Jeff Daniels, somehow and once again, for The Newsroom. Even with all the new entrants, this category feels out of touch: it could use the electric vibes of Terrence Howard, Clive Owen, or James Spader, just some of the men who were overlooked here.
As you go through the nominees, it’s all like this: the good, the bad, the inexplicable, the change that feels like change, the change that feels like stasis, and the no change at all. Jim Parsons and Big Bang Theory were not nominated this year, making way for Transparent and the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—but, sigh, Modern Family and Downton Abbey still were. Matt Leblanc was somehow nominated for Episodes yet again. He must give great cocktail party chatter, but then maybe so do new nominees Will Forte, Jeffrey Tambor, and Anthony Anderson. Tracee Ellis Ross and Constance Wu were ignored in the extremely white Best Actress in a Comedy category, but also in that category, Emmy voters finally stopped rewarding Melissa McCarthy for being a movie star and had the sense to honor Amy Schumer instead. (Also now a movie star.)
Do the Emmys continue to have a bias toward people who have already won an Emmy? It sure does! Does The Americans deserve a Best Drama nomination more than almost any of the shows nominated in that category? You bet! But you know what? Niecy Nash was nominated for Getting On and so was Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Tituss Burgess. If you would rather focus on the forever slight of Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson, it’s not only because that is a really big slight. (Huge, even.) It’s because seeing the bad in the Emmys is just way more fun than seeing the good. Seriously, if one agreed with the Emmys about most things that would mean you have … the same taste as the Emmys. Who could bear to be as unoriginal as that?