Ask Matt: Emmy Gripes (American Crime, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Blacklist), The Night Of, Olympics and More
Welcome to the weekly Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist”) Matt Roush, who’ll address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines unless it’s common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter.
Question: I know you will be happy, as am I, that The Americans is finally receiving recognition, but I must register my disappointment and bewilderment that Connor Jessup of ABC’s American Crime received no nomination. His was, to me, one of the finest and most moving performances I’ve ever seen, and ever since winter I assumed that his nomination for an Emmy was the one sure thing to be expected. I’m at a loss to understand how they could bypass him. I don’t know whether his name was put forward as Lead or Supporting Actor in a Limited Series, but it wouldn’t be hard for me to name people in either category who did get nominated who don’t deserve it as much as Jessup. Just for one example: While I thought David Schwimmer was great in the People v. O.J. Simpson series (and by the way is horrible in Feed the Beast), there is no way that his performance matched Jessup’s. Any comment? — Paul
Matt Roush: First off, for my initial take on the nominations, check out my Critic’s Notebook column—which I expanded on significantly for a TV Guide Magazine cover-story package in the new issue (Mr. Robot on the cover) on newsstands this week. Quite a few things I inadvertently left out of the online column I was able to mention in the magazine piece—including singling out Connor Jessup’s snub as a disappointment, given that his character’s charge of rape and subsequent backlash was the emotional backbone of the storyline. (I was, of course, glad that the second season and its female leads, Lili Taylor and Felicity Huffman, were nominated.) Jessup was submitted for Supporting Actor in a Limited Series, and while there’s no real excuse for him not making the cut, consider that more than 100 names were submitted in that category alone, and more famous names tend to pop out—which is why a Schwimmer or a John Travolta (a much more questionable nomination to me) would have an advantage, regardless of the quality of work. The other best explanation I can offer about his omission is that American Crime was competing against the incredible ensembles of the year’s most-nominated limited series, The People v. O.J. Simpson and Fargo, which dominated the category (2 for Fargo, 3 for O.J.). Only Hugh Laurie of The Night Manager was able to break through, and he was terrific as well.
RELATED: This Year’s Emmy Nominations List
There’s so much TV now that the Emmys will always have blind spots, some of the more notable mentioned in the comments below. My favorite question/comment about this year’s Emmys comes from Woody, who wrote: “Finally, recognition for Orphan Black & The Americans. Yeah! Not even a crumb thrown to The Good Wife and Underground. Boo! Can’t please all the people all the time.”
Comedy Nominations No Laughing Matter
Question: While I’m happy about The Americans, Mr. Robot and Better Call Saul, I’m a bit bummed about the comedy nominations. While I still enjoy Modern Family out of habit, it just didn’t really do anything this year to warrant its inclusion. And Transparent is also a good show, but I don’t think you can really refer to it as a comedy unless you think it’s a Bosom Buddies type of show. It’s more of a drama for me, with Maura’s journey with trans issues being a relevant and sometimes amusing journey. But it also had a weaker season, focusing much of its run time on the obnoxious, self-centered kids instead of Maura herself. Octuple-threat Rachel Bloom and everyone at Crazy Ex-Girlfriend deserve nominations at the very least for their astounding original work, with new music in every episode (looking at you, Glee) and fantastic acting across the board. As good as the other nominees are, they just did not produce the same consistent range of emotional responses from me as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which deals with heartbreak, depression, relationships and other adult things much of my generation is ill-equipped to deal with in unique, realistic and unexpected ways.
And while I think Sarah Paulson is a AAA actress who always delivers great work, The People v. O.J. Simpson was trash TV at its worst and its inclusion in any category makes me feel justified in my annual contempt for the Emmy voters that still don’t really watch much TV. — TigerNightmare
Matt Roush: I’ll beg to differ on The People v. O.J. being trash—it may have been an unsavory subject, but the recreation of the investigation and trial, and the acting, made for some of the year’s best drama. But regarding comedy, couldn’t agree more about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Rachel Bloom. I was hoping against hope that the Emmy voters would get over their bias against all things CW and give this show some serious attention, but we’ll have to settle for nominations for its main title theme, one of its songs (the wonderful “Settle for Me”) and for choreography. I’d say maybe next year, but it almost seems a lost cause. (See also: Jane the Virgin, shut out except for its fabulous narrator.)
On your other comedy comments, the consensus is that the vote for Modern Family is somehow too ingrained a habit for Academy members to break after its long run at the top, and while Transparent often is more dramatic than comedic, I’m OK with it being in this category. I agree the second season was a step backward (because of its focus on Maura’s annoying brood), but it still aims so high and is the best of the indie-film style dramedies, so is worthy of inclusion. But imagine a category that could be open-minded enough to include Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Mom (which had another terrific season) or Amazon’s brilliant Catastrophe.
Who Does Norman Have to Kill to Get a Nomination?
Question: There was no better performance this year than Freddie Highmore on Bates Motel. I was surprised his snub wasn’t mentioned. — Janmarie
Matt Roush: Mea culpa. I fixed that in the magazine story, and you have to give me credit for beating the drum all season for Highmore’s chilling transition into the totally psycho Norman Bates, including in our list of hopeful Emmy contenders. The lead actor in a drama series category is a tough one to crack, but I’m not sure the most recent seasons of Bloodline (Kyle Chandler) or Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) gave their stars as much to play with as successfully as Freddie Highmore did on Bates Motel. To some degree, the horror/suspense genre may work against him (although Vera Farmiga did get an Emmy nomination a few years back as Norma).
Why Isn’t Blacklist on the Emmy Short List?
Question: How come we never see James Spader from The Blacklist on the Emmy nominations list? He’s so good on the show, as he was on Boston Legal (which he did win an Emmy for). Don’t you think he deserves Emmy recognition? – Vee
Matt Roush: It is a puzzlement that someone who won three Emmys playing Alan Shore—once on The Practice, twice on Boston Legal—would be continually snubbed in his showy latest role. To some degree, this is a reflection of how times have changed just in the short time since Legal went off the air, and how dominant the cable and streaming shows and their stars have become. Which leads to the next inevitable topic.
Emmys Unfair to Broadcast Network Talent
Question: I am very disappointed by the Emmy nominations. Almost every show I watch is on one of the broadcast networks, and I really feel that some wonderful shows and performances were overlooked. Michael Emerson in Person of Interest was terrific in the final season, especially in the last few episodes. Alan Cumming and Christine Baranski made The Good Wife so enjoyable, especially the transformation of Eli from a venal “do-anything-for-the-Governor” character to someone with a conscience. I am starting to be one of those people who thinks we need to separate the broadcast and cable/streaming shows into their own categories, although I suppose that would make the Emmy broadcast six hours long! Just my two cents’ worth. — Gwen
Matt Roush: Plus, as previously discussed in earlier Ask Matt columns, segregating broadcast network from cable/streaming network shows would cheapen any win as looking like sloppy seconds. The Good Wife has had some success at the Emmys during its run, and even in its uneven final season several guest actors (Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston) were recognized, and oddly, the series finale earned a writing nomination. (Wouldn’t have been my choice.) CBS did nothing to garner Person of Interest serious Emmy attention during its run, and that was especially true this year. Let’s hope the next time a network drama raises the bar—I’m thinking something of The West Wing quality (and don’t you think a show like that would end up on cable today?)—the Emmy voters will be able to acknowledge greatness wherever it exists.
The Night Of Is Good Enough to Binge
Question: I’m not a binge watcher per se, except for Netflix series like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, where I’d be scared about having major spoilers come out by those who’ve scorched through the 13 episodes ahead of me (I’ve been burned twice already —once on each show), but after watching the premiere of The Night Of on HBO, I so wanted to be able to keep going. I was so hooked, so alert to each and every scene and every detail, no matter how seemingly trivial, in trying to catalogue everything to be able to see where it’s going and try to figure out “whodunnit” (So far, I don’t think it’s the character they arrested.) When it ended, my thumb was twitching trying to work my remote to go on to the next episode. The writing and casting are superb. The set-up, the pacing, the small touches and bits of business by each character along the way make for a magnificent jigsaw puzzle. Kudos to Richard Price’s spot-on “New York” people and dialogue and to Steven Zaillian for a wonderful directing job. I was sad not to see James Gandolfini in the show he helped to develop, but John Turturro (always a favorite) made quite the impression with his stealth entrance into the case late in the premiere. As soon as it ended, I was already making plans to buy the series on DVD as soon as it comes out. — Michael
Matt Roush: I was able to watch seven of the eight episodes of this exceptional limited series before writing my rave review, and I’m glad to report The Night Of stays strong throughout, night after night. Or should I say, week after week. I’m also not much of a fan of the binge, but I feel your frustration at not being able to move directly to the next chapter, having consumed as much of the series as HBO made available over a handful of days. We have become a spoiled people, thanks to the Netflix model, but on the plus side, this gives you something to look forward to through the end of August.
Stop Messing With My Page-Turners!
Question: I am an avid reader and two of my favorite authors are James Patterson and Stephen King. Imagine my excitement when I found out that Under the Dome and Zoo were to become network miniseries. Imagine my equal disappointment at what the networks did to these two excellent works of fiction. Aside from the obvious—money—how could the networks so bastardize the novels as to have them become almost unrecognizable? Adding subplots never in the originals, adding characters (for political correctness) never in the originals and, in the case of Under the Dome, ending (?) the series totally differently from the book. Hulu did a much better job with King’s 11/22/63. I am equally disappointed in the authors going along with this. Both have made enough over the years to not have to condone such tripe. Thanks; I needed to vent. — Reginald
Matt Roush: In each case, what might in an earlier time have sufficed as a true escapist miniseries has been blown out to preposterous proportions as an ongoing summer series, with obviously diminishing creative returns. I never read the original Zoo (and lost interest almost immediately in CBS’s absurd adaptation), but I was embarrassed at what Dome became as they stretched out what seemed an obviously limited premise. I like the idea of taking brand-name authors and turning their beach reads into summer diversions, but less so when they’re open-ended for no good reason. Which is why 11/22/63 was so much more satisfying. It ended much the way the book did, the way it’s supposed to.
Why Are the Olympics Opening on a Time Delay?
Question: So once again NBC has announced (at its press event for Olympic coverage) that they will be delaying the airing of the Opening Ceremony for prime-time instead of showing it live. This includes their online stream as well. Their reasoning is because they think the ceremonies must be put “in context” for viewers and include the “American point of view.” Do they understand how condescending that sounds to their viewers? That for some reason we’re not able to understand the Opening Ceremonies without their addition of the red, white and blue despite coverage in other countries having no problem showing these ceremonies live? They also state that if they aired it live, they would have to chop out pieces for commercials, but in past years, they’ve shown them on delay and still chopped out pieces for commercials (or to debut new TV shows in the middle of the London Closing Ceremony). I realize in the end this is all about getting the ratings, but at what point does their coverage become so bad (and their reasoning so insulting) that in a world where there are many quasi-legal ways to watch this live they lose audience over it? — Jason
Matt Roush: I agree that NBC should make this event available in whatever platform the viewer desires. Many millions will likely be content to watch NBC’s packaged version of the Opening Ceremony, the way they continue to watch the prime-time packages. If that begins to change with any significant drop of viewership, then maybe NBC will rethink this strategy. But the network has invested a fortune in securing these Olympics rights, so as long as they get the ratings that justify the way they show the Games, it’s not likely to change. [Editor’s note: The opening ceremony will be the only event that NBC does not show live; every single athletic competition will be available live via TV, on one of 11 NBCUniversal networks, or streaming at nbcolympics.com and the NBC Sports app.]
Question: I never got to see all of Star Trek: Enterprise because it was not shown in the Rio Grande Valley. Is there any chance that we might be able to see that, Voyager and Deep Space Nine? As you can tell, I’m a Trekkie! — Nancy
Matt Roush: Some good news, if you happen to have the Heroes & Icons Television Network available in your market. (Go to heroesandiconstv.com for more information.) I just saw a release that starting this Sunday and airing six nights a week, H&I will be showing rarely seen uncut versions of the original Star Trek series, along with episodes of all four spinoffs in an All Star Trek programming block. (For details, go to H&I’s AllStarTrek.com site.) Otherwise, unless you want to pay for discs or downloads, you’ll have to pony up for CBS’s All Access streaming site, where all of the Trek series are available. (That’s the only way you’ll see next year’s Star Trek reboot as well.)
Question: Is Cleverman coming back? It seemed to just stop with no resolution. – No Name
Matt Roush: This six-episode SundanceTV co-production from New Zealand and Australia was renewed for a second season, but I doubt we’ll see it before 2017.
Question: I just read that the premiere of USA’s Shooter has been delayed to the fall. I read it was because of all of the shootings that have been happening lately. Yet no date was given when the premiere is going to happen. What do you know? – Bebe
Matt Roush: Only that the devastating events of this summer forced USA’s hand to delay this series, described as a re-imagining of the 2007 movie—and book Point of Impact, which all things considered might be a better title for this drama, in which Ryan Phillippe takes over the Mark Wahlberg role of a former Marine sniper trying to avert a presidential assassination. I wish I could believe there would be a time in the near future when a show titled Shooter wouldn’t send up a red flag, but right now I’m not so sure. For now, USA intends to premiere the series later this year, possibly in the late fall. No date yet.
And Finally …
Question: On Hawaii Five-0, please tell me Danny and Steve finally will be lovers. — Carina
Matt Roush: Words, if not my imagination, fail me.
That’s all for now. Thanks as always for reading. We’ll pick up the conversation again soon, but I can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Or submit your question via the handy form below: