Ask Matt: Emmy Nominations Gripes: ‘The Good Wife’, ‘Jane the Virgin’, ‘Penny Dreadful’ and More
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As you’d expect, the e-mailbag was busy with reaction to last week’s Emmy nominations, and no surprise the tone was mostly negative. You can find my own “Critic’s Notebook” take on the nominations here, which serves as a starting point for the debates in this post-Emmy edition of Ask Matt. For a fuller look at the nominations, visit tvinsider.com/emmys. (Thursday’s column will address a few other TV-related issues, I promise.)
Question: As always, I am shocked by the Emmy nominations. The Good Wife not nominated for Best Dramatic Series? Julianna Margulies not nominated for Best Actress?! Also as much as I loved Mad Men (I was completely satisfied with the ending), I can’t believe Jon Hamm was nominated over Rory Kinnear, from Penny Dreadful. On the other side, thank the gods that Tatiana Maslany was finally nominated for her role on Orphan Black. But what I am curious about is: What do you think Mayim Bialik’s chances are of finally winning an Emmy for her work in The Big Bang Theory? She delivers some of the best throwaway lines on TV today. Plus your heart goes out to her when she reacts to Sheldon’s observances (good or bad) about their relationship. She is a true treasure. Speaking of true treasures, I agree that Eden Sher of The Middle deserves some Emmy love. — Gary T
Matt Roush: For me, the exclusion of The Good Wife in particular has been my biggest bone to pick with the Emmy nominations the last four years (the show hasn’t been nominated for Best Drama since its second season). Its omission reveals a lamentable blind spot on the part of the TV Academy when it comes to high-end programming on the broadcast networks. (Excluding The Big Bang Theory is probably more about the lack of respect the industry has for the traditional multi-camera sitcom format.) Even middling seasons of shows on pay cable, and now streaming services (hello, House of Cards), have a better shot at recognition these days. I’m encouraged when a small gem like Transparent does so well, and was thrilled to see Tatiana Maslany’s incredible performance(s) get noticed, but the lows did seem to outweigh the highs again this year. One point: Jon Hamm didn’t steal a nomination from Rory Kinnear, who submitted in the supporting, not lead, actor category. But yes, he deserved a nod for sure; the Creature is heartbreaking.
As for Mayim Bialik, I’d like to think she has a shot—she adds so much to Big Bang, and her response to every twist in the Amy-Sheldon relationship is simultaneously hilarious and poignant—but I’ve got to think Allison Janney is a front-runner to repeat, given what the writers of Mom put her character through last season. Plus, she’s terrific, and almost as slam-dunk an Emmy darling as Julia Louis-Dreyfus. But there is a remarkable eight nominees in this comedy supporting-actress category, so impossible to know how the votes will split in that crowded field.
Question: I usually take the Emmy nominations in stride, but I can’t contain myself any more. How is it possible that Jaime Camil did not receive an Emmy nomination for his perfect performance in Jane the Virgin? His artistry of turning a cartoonish character into one of the most loved characters of this TV season is undeniable. I can only attribute it to the Kyle Chandler/Coach Taylor effect: He made it look so easy, the nomination committee couldn’t believe he was acting. Cheer up, Jaime; Kyle (and Friday Night Lights) was finally recognized, although it took five years. Thanks for letting me vent! — Dee
Matt Roush: That’s what I’m here for. That’s an interesting comparison, although Jaime Camil’s isn’t quite as naturalistic a performance as Kyle Chandler’s. It’s the most delightful style of scenery-chewing, and absolutely qualifies among the top supporting comedy breakthroughs of the year. The real factor at play here, I’d think, is that The CW is so far off the regular Emmy voter’s radar that it’s going to take more time for Jane‘s, and its cast’s, quality to rise to the surface. A real shame.
Question: Okay, so it’s time for everyone to bitch about their biggest Emmy disappointments. Besides the ones you mentioned, I’m most surprised by the exclusion of Gotham from the major drama categories. You mentioned this already, but it’s incredible that The Big Bang Theory came up empty. It may not be the most innovative show, but week after week it’s one of the funniest shows ever on TV, ranking with Frasier, Seinfeld, etc. The things that made me happiest are the inclusion of Niecy Nash (I have often written in praise of Getting On) and the inclusion of two of the supporting actors from American Crime, Regina King and Richard Cabral. I would have included a couple more from that show, but am happy for those two. Every year I have a lower opinion of Emmy voters, and a higher opinion of the Critics Awards voters! — Paul
Matt Roush: Having participated on a few committees that decide on nominations in various critics’ awards, I can assure you that a lot of thought goes into selecting those nominees, in focusing on a specific season’s accomplishments over a star’s or show’s past reputation. It’s not as easy as you’d think. But your comments spur me to point out one of the more positive aspects of this year’s nominations: diversity. We acknowledged as much in our Emmy coverage—and beyond racial diversity, it’s worth noting Transparent for its frank depiction of transgender issues. Regarding Gotham, that oversight is at least as much a result of Emmys’ disdain for genre/superhero/comic book-derived entertainment as it is a reflection of how crowded the drama ranks are these days. At the very least, I thought Robin Lord Taylor might make the cut for his outrageously distinctive take on the nascent Penguin.
Question: As usual, the Emmys messed up again. Failing to acknowledge Jane The Virgin and/or the cast is absolutely the biggest disappointment. Many critics named Jane the best new show last season on all platforms. I especially love Jane, her parents and grandmother, and the hilarious dad, but the entire cast is wonderful. Not surprised The Middle was ignored. It usually is, but ignoring the “Year of Sue” was truly a mistake. Also wish my favorite new sitcom Fresh Off the Boat was nominated. The mom on that show (Constance Wu) is perfect, too. But again, I love the entire cast. I also agree with you about Game of Thrones, that there are other sci-fi/fantasy shows on TV!! The Flash and Once Upon a Time deserved a mention. (I read you bailed on OUAT in the middle of Season 2. However 2b improved upon the first half of the season. I would skip 3a—Neverland was boring—and watch 3b. The 3b Oz arc was truly exceptional. As was the entire Season 4.)
By the way, it seems that the Emmys are ignoring the broadcast networks lately. I realize the alternative platforms offer high-quality programming, but ABC and CBS are especially strong with scripted programming and deserve some recognition. I was happy to see Empire‘s Cookie nominated. I love her and her son Jamal. Actually, the entire cast is very effective. And the ignored Nashville is also an exceptional music-oriented serial. Thanks for your time. — Fred
Matt Roush: The marginalization of the broadcast networks at the Emmys, in both comedy and drama, is a real problem. I was glad that ABC’s American Crime fared so well, but that benefits from being in the less competitive “limited series” arena. If it had to compete against regular drama series, I wonder how it would have fared against the Netflix/cable juggernauts. (PBS’s Downton Abbey, being a breakthrough British import, occupies its own too-safe corner of the drama category.) Snubbing Empire, even in the music categories, seems especially short-sighted, although there was no denying Taraji P. Henson as Cookie, that’s obvious.
Question: How can Amy Schumer’s show be nominated in sketch-variety and then she is nominated as an actress in a comedy series? Seems a little wacky? Is this due to new rules? Seems SNL stars benefit from this rule as well. — Joseph [From Facebook]
Matt Roush: The only new rule that took effect this year was one that separated “Variety Sketch Series” like Inside Amy Schumer and Key & Peele—and longtime nominee Saturday Night Live—from “Variety Talk Show,” giving them their own category. For a while now, performers in sketch-comedy series have been eligible in the comedy acting categories, and because they’d otherwise have no way to acknowledge their talents, it seems fair to me to have the likes of Amy Schumer, SNL‘s Kate McKinnon, Key & Peele‘s Keegan-Michael Key (to name key nominees) competing against sitcom stars.
Question: I understand the angst created by shows or actors left out in the Emmy nominations (personally mine is Penny Dreadful and Eva Green) and the derision paid to the Emmy voters. But I have to say, in their defense, there is sooooo much! So many platforms and networks, from mini to maxi, so much good writing and acting and just so darn much! I don’t think there has ever been so much to choose from and so many really great shows out there. That they have been willing to look beyond the major networks, look at alternate platforms, and try to include so many shows—well, I think they deserve kudos. I could not narrow it down even considering only the shows I watch. — Andrew
Matt Roush: A fair point, and one we’ve addressed before. My main concern is that many Emmy voters seem to be so focused on the newer platforms that they ignore great work being done in more traditional arenas, and that can be very dispiriting, not that the newer, edgier material isn’t worthy. Which brings me to this column’s final question:
Question: It seems someone always feels like someone got snubbed by the Emmy nominations. But my question to you is: Who would you swap out versus the ones you felt got snubbed or are more deserving? — Rob
Matt Roush: An excellent but rather risky question, and one that I contemplate frequently when writing my Emmy analyses, although it’s kind of bad form to rain on a nominee’s parade the day of the nominations by saying they’re not worthy. (I’ve learned this over time, especially when working on a national platform.) This is also a frequent issue when coming up with critics’ award nominations: If we try to include underrated “x” show or actor, who or what do we bump? I did suggest in my Critic’s Notebook column that I felt House of Cards, Homeland and Downton Abbey had relatively weak seasons, and I’d have preferred The Good Wife in the best-drama list (and I’d have included The Americans and Justified as well, or Penny Dreadful or Outlander, all at least as deserving).
To take just a few examples from recent columns, and this is purely personal preference, because all nominees have their champions: For Jane the Virgin and The Big Bang Theory, I’d lose Parks and Recreation (its final season far from its best) and probably Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—if it had aired on NBC instead of Netflix, would it have gotten this much attention? For Jane‘s Gina Rodriguez, I’d lose Edie Falco; Nurse Jackie had its time. For Penny Dreadful‘s Rory Kinnear or Justified‘s supporting actors, I’d have dropped Downton‘s Jim Carter for sure and maybe House of Cards‘ Michael Kelly. For my beloved Eden Sher/Sue Heck of The Middle, in a category with eight nominees, I’d swap Kimmy‘s Jane Krakowski (I’ve seen that high-society parody before) or Modern Family‘s been-there, rewarded-that Julie Bowen. For The Americans‘ lead actors, I’d swap The Newsroom‘s Jeff Daniels (for that final season?) and Homeland‘s Claire Danes. For Eva Green: Robin Wright or Elisabeth Moss? (That’s a tricky one.) And on it goes. The bottom line is there’s no such thing as a perfect Emmys list, and this year’s is obviously no exception. All of these calls are tough ones, and it won’t get much easier predicting and/or deciding on the winners.
That’s all for now, but remember that the Ask Matt column now appears on Tuesdays and Thursdays! Can’t do it without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter.