Emmys 2015: Five things to look for at the awards show (including Jon Hamm)

17 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Orphan Black’ Emmy nominee Tatiana Maslany talks ‘breaking stereotypes’.

Perennial critic and audience favorites like “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” made the cut when the 2015 Emmy nominations were recently announced, but some TV show names may have had the average viewer scratching their heads. Considering the vast amounts of quality television airing at any given time, there are bound to be a number of would-be snubs or omissions even in a year then the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences got much right.If awards shows had been invented after the Internet, you’d swear they exist solely to troll fans of their particular areas of interest: I’m not sure if it says particularly good or particularly bad things about humanity that we can’t celebrate the quality of one thing without reflexively also complaining about how a different thing was totally robbed.

Nothing has provoked more outrage on Emmy nominations morning the last couple of years than the exclusion of Tatiana Maslany, the 29-year-old Canadian actress who so thoroughly brings to life a variety of clones puzzling out the meaning of their existence on BBC America’s sci-fi thriller “Orphan Black.” So Maslany’s nomination Thursday for lead actress in a drama sent shock waves across social media. “Entire Internet deletes ‘Tatiana Maslany Was Robbed’ tweets,” wrote Time columnist James Poniewozik, summing up the day’s feelings of confusion that quickly turned to elation.The Emmys, television’s highest-profile awards, could have seized the moment with Thursday’s nominations to fully acknowledge the wealth of diverse talent adding to the medium’s vibrancy and relevance. For every “Constance Wu from Fresh Off the Boat was robbed!,” there is an “Andre Braugher got nominated for Brooklyn Nine-Nine!.” But there is one rather surprising omission yesterday in the form of the almost complete dismissal of Fox’s Empire. But then I guess that’s the nature of throwing some of the relatively few satisfying explorations of the human condition into a dog fight for small golden statues. (Sorry, I realize that sounds a bit harangue-y, so if it makes you feel better just picture me dressed as James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy tapping out whatever the morse code is for “We’re all a bunch of screaming morons for caring about awards shows.

And no one was more surprised than Maslany. “There’s no way I expected this,” she said from the Toronto set of “The Other Half,” an indie romance she’s filming. “It makes no sense that it happened.” Maslany credited the show’s rabid fan base — the Clone Club and clonesbians, as she called fans on Twitter — for keeping alive interest in the series and her many, many performances on it. The heat death of the universe sounds like a lullaby to my ears.”) Getting worked up about slight differences in aesthetic preferences seems to me roughly as worthwhile as complaining to the Human Rights Commission about how your high school chose the popular kids, so let’s just say that I greet most of the Emmy nominations with the explosive excitement of a coma patient on chocolate pudding day. Women make up much of “Orphan’s” most fervent supporters, a fact not lost on the show’s star. “We’re breaking stereotypes about how women can behave on TV,” Maslany said. “In the past women have been placed in so many oppressive boxes — you can be the sideline character or the love interest. I think the comedy nominations are generally more on point than the drama ones — although feel free to burn down the Microsoft Centre if they give anything more to Modern Family — and I feel like cramming seven-plus nominees into multiple categories is essentially just admitting you’re in it for the after-parties. Broadcast shows that have maintained their popularity and quality, such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Good Wife,” are being squeezed out as a result by the new competition.

Henson, who plays the sexy, formidable matriarch on hip-hop drama Empire and Davis, a brilliantly cutthroat attorney on How to Get Away with Murder, are competing for drama series actress honours. It’s not just that the critically-acclaimed and ratings-rich new drama lost out to shows like House of Cards which even its fans will admit had an off-year. It’s not just ‘strong,’ not just ‘feminine.'” “Orphan Black” has grown more complex over its three seasons (and it was pretty complicated to begin with), adding new factions, male clones and even more characters for Maslany to portray. The nominations set up the possibility of a history-making outcome: It’s one of the few top acting categories that has only been awarded to white actresses.

It’s not even the whole “diversity loses” since Orange is the New Black got in even with the new rules that unwillingly pushed the one-hour dramedy in the drama category. There, Canada, are you sufficiently inspired by the fact that you are the same nationality as not just an Emmy nominee, but also the show she stars in? ([puts tap shoes back on]: “It’s not that I don’t think she’s deserving, I just can’t think of anything more provincial than swelling national pride inspired by reflected glory from an Emmy nomination, except maybe that Mother Canada statue. During the last season, she introduced Krystal, a bubbly, ditzy manicurist who, it turns out, might be smarter than she lets on. “The writers love to knock me out of my comfort zone, which I appreciate,” Maslany said. “Seriously, I would struggle more if the show’s pace was not kinetic. But there were glaring omissions as well — including a shut-out in major awards for Empire, a breakout hit that makes a black family the rare focus of a TV drama, other than Henson’s bid.

They would have to create new categories.” Networks still have to make decisions on shows based on commercial viability and not just quality. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” a Netflix nominee in the comedy category, was a show that was passed on by NBC, which had two nominations in the major scripted series categories. Academy voters also snubbed Latina actresses Gina Rodriguez, a Golden Globe winner for Jane the Virgin, and Sofia Vergara, a four-time nominee for Modern Family. Craig Dorfman, a talent manager for Frontline Management, said good actors are being drawn to series on Netflix and now Amazon because they believe there’s a better chance of being in quality work that will be recognized by Emmy voters. “A lot of the streamed shows have star-driven writers who have complete control,” Dorfman said. “Actors want to work with those writers because they believe great stuff will be written for them.” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement that he was “deeply proud” of the shows and their creators that were nominated. “To receive nods for such wide-ranging programming … is a humbling affirmation of our vibrant, diverse slate.” Not only do streamed shows have the creative freedom that ad-supported series don’t always have, they also benefit from a lighter production schedule, turning out 13 or fewer episodes as opposed to 22 for most broadcast networks. Among performers, two graduates of The Mary Tyler Moore Show are dominant — Cloris Leachman leads women with eight, and Edward Asner leads men with seven. The Showtime program just debuted its third season and stars Schreiber as the title character, who works for a law firm in Los Angeles taking care of financial incentives that go to law enforcement or others in order to help perpetrators avoid jail time or other penalties.

Yet that name was already associated with war hero and future president Dwight Eisenhower. “Immy”, a term for the image orthicon camera, was chosen instead and then changed to “Emmy” because it seemed better for a statue of a woman holding an atom. The realm of gender identity also received some attention, with Transparent and star Jeffrey Tambor’s transsexual portrayal earning best comedy series and acting bids. “Any light of recognition and acceptance by the academy and the community is so important for our show because we are still the little engine that could,” Tambor said. “And the subject matter is so important.

Without messing about in the gray matter of Emmy voters, there’s enough of a squishy mess in the idea that Empire is overlooked primarily or even partially for its blackness that we could get bogged down for a long time without every actually getting anywhere of value. So this is really, really a bright, bright day.” It’s understandable that worthy shows and performers will be overlooked, given the crush of small-screen programming on broadcast, cable, satellite and online. This kind of growth is unheard of in modern Nielsen tracking times and it is frankly all-but-impossible in today’s fragmented television demographics. It became an instant pop culture item, with a scorchingly popular soundtrack (which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts against a new Madonna album back in March) and the kind of social media buzz usually reserved for HBO shows or AMC dramas. In terms of overall nominations, HBO scored the most, which is probably to be expected, but networks are hanging in there in terms of overall nods – ABC got the second-most, while CBS and NBC were close behind, getting the same amount.

It’s mostly about power, but even then chiefly as an excuse to show off lavish, fantastical lives; given its apparent concerns as an entertainment, it makes some sense that only its most boisterous, actorly performance picked up a nod. That’s five more than last year, despite the fantasy saga taking hits for depicting a female character’s wedding-night rape by her brutish husband. Andrew O’Heir of Salon wrote a piece last February about how (simplification alert) the Academy was prone to honoring little-seen indies like Boyhood and Birdman over the big blockbusters because giving Oscar noms to even well-reviewed pictures like Guardians of the Galaxy would do little more than to encourage Hollywood to make more of their ilk and those in the industry aren’t exactly overjoyed at the notion of pumping out one mega-budget fantasy franchise sequel after another. Of course rewarding smaller films like Birdman was something of an acknowledgment that Hollywood could and should still make such pictures and that said pictures were what the industry really wanted to make. It has been getting an ice cream foot rub from the Emmys ever since Kevin Spacey chewed his way onto the Senate set, and it has never really offered much more insight into the halls of power than the fact we should take some care to not elect cackling Bond villains when possible: it’s histrionic plot machinations masquerading as a New Republic essay.

Yet save a few acting nods here and there (Henson, Viola Davis, Felicity Huffman, a few Guest Star nods), the networks were basically completely shut out of the major Drama categories this year. So the question is whether the Emmys didn’t care about Empire‘s cultural impact, merely didn’t think it was among the best shows of the year (a fair reason), or don’t necessarily want the networks to remain relevant. Programmes getting a last chance for Emmy glory include best drama series nominee Mad Men, a four-time winner in the category that would be the most-honoured drama ever with a fifth trophy. Comparatively speaking, this is less something like Selma getting snubbed at the Oscars and closer to something like Gone Girl getting snubbed at the Oscars.

But the argument for Gone Girl, which I made in advance of this year’s nods in the hope it would make the Best Picture cut, is similar to the one I am making this morning. David Letterman, who retired from Late Show, and Stephen Colbert, who left The Colbert Report to succeed Letterman this fall, both received variety talk show nominations for their former shows. They’re both getting a break: the TV academy split the variety series category into two, one for variety talk shows and one for variety or sketch series such as Saturday Night Live, making space for more contenders in each.

But unless the Emmys were intentionally trying to avoid recognizing network television this year, I find its almost complete-omission a little baffling.

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