What is there to say about this year’s round of Emmy nominations? Like the Oscar nominations, they reflect the opinions of the people who do the nominating, and in some ways they’re most interesting as a guide to the taste of this particular segment of Hollywood insiders – a segment that is famous for being older than Hollywood as a whole. Some things never change: certain types of dramas and comedies always get nominated, science fiction always has an uphill battle getting nominated for anything. But you can see little changes in taste from year to year, so here are some great big generalizations based on this list:
1. Old Emmy voters love HBO comedies. This is especially clear in the comedy category, where HBO got three nominations, including two for new shows, Veep and Girls. The third HBO nominee, Curb Your Enthusiasm, is one of those shows that seems to be unusually popular with show business insiders, particularly older ones, which isn’t surprising since it’s about one of their own. These shows are edgier in content and tone than a broadcast sitcom, but have enough hard jokes that they are recognizable as comedies. And now that there’s an Emmy voter backlash against “dramedies” (like any half-hour on Showtime, or hour-long shows like Glee) the HBO comedies were the perfect substitute.
2. This year’s nominations are the “revenge of cable.” Broadcast network TV seemed to be making a comeback last year, when all the comedy nominees were from broadcast, The Good Wife was a best drama nominee, and the end of Friday Night Lights (sort of a broadcast drama, or shared with a broadcast network anyway) also snagged a nomination. This year, three of the six comedy nominees are from HBO, and all the drama nominees are from cable except the import – and former “miniseries” winner – Downton Abbey.
3. Comedy writing is the edgiest category. The writing category in the Emmys is often a mess, as it is this year with drama and its three different Mad Men scripts. (In an era when most shows are staff-written and the quality of the writing reveals itself over a season rather than a single episode, it would probably make more sense to nominate the writing of the entire staff, rather than have individual writers all submit episodes.) But the Comedy category this year is basically an island apart from the rest of the nominees, with the writers nominating two wildly popular shows that don’t get much love from the rest of the Academy: Community and Parks and Recreation. (Community has never been popular with the Academy – it’s one of those shows, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, whose particular flaws probably are more offensive to a typical Emmy voter than to a typical viewer. Parks is a more traditionally constructed show and did get a nomination last year; this year it probably just got pushed aside by the HBO shows.) And there were no writing nominations for the show that’s most likely to win again for Best Comedy, the Academy’s favourite, Modern Family. I could definitely see an argument for ignoring the Best Comedy nominees and just rooting for the winner of the writing award.
4. Emmy voters don’t like Charlie Sheen. Jon Cryer won supporting actor a few years ago, but his Best Actor nomination – for a show that, shall we say, is showing its age – seems like this year’s ultimate sympathy vote, or a sign that Academy voters are taking sides against Charlie Sheen. As long as the guy doesn’t win, a nomination is an easy and cheap way to show solidarity.
5. “Glee” and “Dexter” are over. The Emmys are useful as a guide to just how much backlash there really is against a show. There was a certain amount of backlash against Modern Family among critics and online this season, but there has been no backlash (except in writing; as I said, the writers seem more aligned with the tastes of the online world) at the Emmys. Similarly, the Girls backlash was, ironically, over-hyped; it had the best showing of any new scripted series. But the Glee backlash is real: not a single nomination except a Guest Actress nod for Dot-Marie Jones. And Dexter, the show that the Emmys kept nominating years after the online backlash began, has finally dropped out of the best drama category, as has True Blood.
6. It’s hard for new shows to break in unless they’re on HBO. New series just had a bad year all round except for Girls and Veep, plus a few nominations for New Girl. It probably doesn’t help that all the adults from Modern Family (but not the kids, who are the best part of the show) get nominated in the Supporting categories; with more room in those categories, that might be a place where new comedies could break in.
(Note: “They deserve all the awards they give themselves” is a quote from Duckman, explaining why Hollywood people are so wonderful.)