Ask Matt: More Emmy Fallout (‘Tonight Show,’ ‘Bates Motel,’ ‘Insecure’), ‘Great British Bake Off’ and More
As you’d expect, the reaction to Emmy nominations was as fierce as ever. For everything the Emmy voters got right, and this year was better than many, there’s no way to please everyone in this expansive era of Peak TV. A sampling of the reactions follows:
Why was Jimmy Fallon snubbed?
Question: I am very shocked that The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon was snubbed by the Emmys this year. Are the voters not watching the same show I am? I have been a huge fan of Jimmy's since I can remember. I look so forward to The Tonight Show every week and I miss it on the weekends. I feel he was snubbed because he doesn't take on a bigger political forum as other late-night shows. I mean, did anyone not see his whole show dedicated to former First Lady Michelle Obama? It was wonderful and touching. I am seriously considering not watching the Emmys this year because of the snub for Jimmy and the wonderful cast and crew of The Tonight Show. So my question is what are your feelings about Jimmy getting snubbed? And do you think it was justified? — Terri
Matt Roush: This was one of the bigger surprises, for sure, a snub I took note of in a Critic’s Notebook column, and the critical consensus seems to be that, with the exception of James Corden’s late-late-night fun fest, whose profile is heightened by those Carpool Karaoke specials, a show had a better chance of being nominated if its thrust was political, given the events of the last year. (Jimmy Kimmel’s show is also an outlier of sorts here, but his jokes tend to have more bite than Fallon’s.) The show and host I was rooting for here was Samantha Bee and her fearless Full Frontal show on TBS, so I was glad she found her way into this boys’ club, which meant someone had to go.
For someone as popular and populist as Fallon to be snubbed takes us back to the many years since the early 2000s when Jay Leno’s top-rated Tonight Show was passed over in favor of the Comedy Central tag team of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, as well as Letterman, Conan and others, regardless of who was in office. All of these late-night shows have devoted fans, but Fallon’s middle-of-the-road appeal may have worked against him. And without getting too political about it, if there was a backlash for anything this year, it may have been his friendly mussing of the current president’s hair that Emmy voters found hard to forget or forgive.
From Alexis Bledel of 'The Handmaid's Tale' to 'Atlanta' star Donald Glover, these are 2017's first-time Emmy nominees.
Crazy for Freddie Highmore and Bates Motel
Question: I cannot for the life of me understand how the Emmy voters could continually ignore the super job Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga did on Bates Motel. Both of them as well as the show should have won for best performances and best drama respectively. But not even nominated??? Why?? Could it be the lousy network they were on or what?? Maybe Freddie's new show The Good Doctor will finally get him his most deserving attention. I certainly will watch, but not the Emmys, which nominate the same people over and over again. — JVO
Matt Roush: To be fair, when five of the seven Best Drama nominees are new, and nearly half the Best Actor candidates and five of the seven Supporting Actress candidates (Vera Farmiga’s category) are first-timers, the argument of the Emmys nominating the same shows and stars every year doesn’t hold up this year for a change. The issue is that the newly favored shows may not be your favorites, and Bates Motel always suffered because of its unsavory genre and because it aired on a network (A&E) with such a low profile in the scripted arena. If more voters had seen Freddie Highmore’s exceptional work, I’d like to think he’d have had a better chance, but the category has no real slackers in it, though hasn’t Kevin Spacey had enough shots by now? The good news is that Highmore is equally effective as the autistic genius surgeon in ABC’s The Good Doctor, and maybe that will boost his profile. But until this year, with two This Is Us actors in the running from NBC, there hasn’t been a best-actor nomination from a network drama (not counting Downton Abbey) since Friday Night Lights winner Kyle Chandler and House’s Hugh Laurie in 2011. So even that will be an uphill fight for recognition.
Emmy Inconsistencies, and The Night Of
Question: Can the Emmys make up their minds and pick one number that fits all? What's with the catch-as-catch-can oddity of having no uniform number of nominees per category? Seven here, half a dozen there, five somewhere else. What gives? Can't be that many ties. Close calls count in the nomination phase? Pick five and stick to that. Expand to 10 and let everyone in. But the way they're doing it now is absurd. It cheapens everything across the board. And about this year’s nominations: no love (again) for The Americans for Best Drama series? In his final go round - having been brilliant every season and gotten better as the show went on - another zero for Freddie Highmore in Bates Motel? Unconscionable. And I'm not bashing Modern Family, because I'm still a fan, but a check in that box seems to be on autopilot, when nothing for Life in Pieces, which is every bit as good as MF was in its heyday. Why?
Also, I am thrilled for The Night Of, which IMO was last year’s best limited series, and I'm thrilled that the Academy recognized Riz Ahmed, John Turturro and Bill Camp for nominations. But how did the voters watch that series and miss the work of Jeannie Berlin? They got Jackie Hoffman in Feud. So I guess the batting average is OK, but still crazily hit and miss. - Michael
Matt Roush: It may be confusing, but I’m not sure the flexibility of the categories cheapens anything. The more the merrier, which is why I’d be OK, especially considering the glut of shows among all these platforms, if they’d just go ahead and expand the series categories to 10. They would still likely be dominated by cable and streaming over broadcast shows, especially in drama (and that’s not likely to change this season, if the fall is any indication), but it might help spread the wealth a bit. We’ve already discussed Bates Motel at length, and Life in Pieces is, I’m afraid, seen mostly as a Modern Family clone that hasn’t captured the industry’s fancy the way the ABC sitcom did, and apparently still does.
I agree The Night Of deserves all the attention it gets, and is very competitive with the other front-runners, HBO’s Big Little Lies and FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan. And I especially agree that Jeannie Berlin deserved a nomination, maybe even a win, for her supporting role as the seen-it-all prosecutor. As you said, the Emmys are at best “hit and miss.”
'From This Is Us' to 'Big Little Lies,' we review the biggest themes in this year's Emmy nominations.
The Insecure Snub, and the Future of British Bake Off
Question: I have two questions. The first is regarding Insecure on HBO. I loved the first season and thought it realistically portrayed young people living in California and trying to figure out their careers (a demographic I fit into a little too perfectly, so my opinion may be biased). Why no Emmy love? It seems the Emmys love HBO's other female-fronted comedy (Veep). Insecure made me laugh out loud, especially during Issa Rae's performances in the mirror, while still keeping its subtlety.
My other question is about The Great British Bake Off. I know the new season has been getting reworked and retooled. The latest I read was that the show was getting "modernized" and will be "future-facing". I have two words: Please. No. I'm definitely OK with freshening up the format a little bit, but I was totally charmed by its smaller-scale feel as well as how pleasant everyone on screen is to each other. I will definitely still watch, but I just need a kernel of something to keep me interested in it, because I really REALLY don't want to give it up just yet. — Jeff
Matt Roush: Wow, you could hardly have picked two more different topics to discuss. First, Insecure. In my own commentary, I called out Issa Rae as one of the notable comedy snubs. She is such a fresh face and talent, I’m sorry she didn’t make the cut. But I’d have been a lot more annoyed if HBO’s other new female-driven comedy, the unbearable Divorce with former Emmy darling Sarah Jessica Parker, had broken through instead. It didn’t, either, which suggests that given the colossal showing for Veep and to a lesser (but still significant degree) Silicon Valley, there just wasn’t room for the HBO newbies this year. That attention went, deservedly, to Donald Glover’s Atlanta, and with Master of None and black-ish also well represented, it’s not as if the comedy field lacks diversity.
With The Great British Bake Off, I’ll admit those trendy words make me cringe as well. When Britain’s Channel 4 poached the show from BBC, losing iconic judge Mary Berry and the co-hosts in the process, the last thing fans want to consider is a juiced-up version of a show whose primary appeal is its old-fashioned charm. Let’s hope for the best.
The Quick Fade, and Summer Revival, of Doubt
Question: Do you think CBS’s quick dismissal of the lawyer series Doubt may be possibly because of having Laverne Cox, a transgender woman, as a main character? – Vicky
Matt Roush: The opposite. CBS was proud of this casting, especially in light of the criticism the network had received earlier in the season for its lack of minority representation in many of its fall series. She was prominently featured in the publicity and promotion of the show, and if that caused some people not to tune in, which would be unfortunate, that can’t be blamed on the network, which yanked the show because too few watched. It really was an instant dud in the midseason ratings.
Question: I'm watching the remaining episodes of Doubt on CBS. I must say, I think they pulled the trigger too soon on this show. I'm enjoying it. Why do the networks cancel promising series so quickly? — Russ
Matt Roush: In this case, the highly serialized nature of the storyline, and the woeful early ratings, probably convinced CBS that there was no upside to being patient. In fact, it’s rather rare anymore for a show to be pulled as quickly as Doubt was. Networks tend to be a bit more nurturing, and even doomed shows generally get to play out their initial 13-episode order before being pulled. I don’t doubt CBS was hasty on this one, but at least the rest of the first season is finally being shown.
Lightning Round FAQs
Question: Any word on Downward Dog's chances? - Ben
Matt Roush: Don’t I wish. Never say never, but until there’s actual news that this lovable underdog has found a new home, which probably won’t be an easy sell, I wouldn’t want to give false hope. Best for now to look at the series as an eight-episode gift from the canine gods.
The final two episode's of the comedy's first season will air this week.
Question: Any news on when the third season of The Leftovers will be released on DVD? - Anna
Matt Roush: No, not until a date is officially announced. (Hard enough to keep track of shows that are still airing, and that’s my main focus these days.) The first season took a year to be released on disc, the second just a few months, so if the final season is released, and I don’t know why it wouldn’t be, I’d expect to see it available by the end of the year.
Question: Since I have no intention of being forced to pay even more for yet another cable channel, do you know if CBS plans to release The Good Fight on DVD like they did with every season of The Good Wife? I'd rather buy it and own it than pay $5.99/month for All Access. I've been looking and so far can't find any sales anywhere for the first season on DVD. - MA
Matt Roush: When we brought up the show up again in the most recent Ask Matt column, I should have added that because The Good Fight’s exclusivity is important to the CBS All Access branding, it may be a longer wait for the show to be released in other formats than when the earlier series was a CBS network property. I haven’t a clue if it will be released on DVD, or when. But The Good Wife was throughout its run, and if it’s seen as a possible revenue stream for The Good Fight, then why not?
[Finally, thanks to those who pointed out that the entire first season of The Good Place is indeed airing on Hulu, that the 12th episode listed is the two-part finale, including the 13th episode as well. So no excuse not to watch it.]
That’s all for now, and we’ll pick up the conversation again soon. Thanks as always for reading, and remember that 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), and you can also submit questions via the handy form