What to look for at the 2015 Emmy nominations

16 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Empire’ could be part of Emmy diversity wave; ‘Mad Men,’ Letterman take last shot at gold.

Six months after the Oscars featured an all-white cast of acting nominees, television’s Emmy Awards is poised to show its big-screen Hollywood sibling how diversity is achieved.Not to take anything away from Julianna Margulies, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the gilded juggernaut that is “Modern Family,” but the Emmy Awards do tend to reach for the familiar.Emmy nominations arrive Thursday morning, so it’s high time to gather The Envelope’s Buzzmeter panelists — USA Today’s Robert Bianco, TV Guide’s Matt Roush, Entertainment Weekly’s Melissa Maerz, the Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara and Glenn Whipp, and Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil — to discuss this year’s most intriguing races. The likely contenders for Thursday’s Emmy nominations include hit series “Empire” and “black-ish” and their wealth of critically acclaimed black actors, and “Jane the Virgin” and its standout Latina star, Gina Rodriguez.

In the first of two parts, the group debated the dominance of “Modern Family,” made a case for some comedy newcomers and offered Television Academy voters some advice on breaking bad habits. Nominees in top categories are to be announced Thursday morning by Uzo Aduba, an Emmy winner last year for her “Orange is the New Black” role as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, and “So You Think You Can Dance” host Cat Deeley. But the expansion of streaming platforms and the heightened ambitions of cable channels, both pay and basic, has led to an embarrassment of riches on whatever screen you happen to be watching. In Part 2 they discuss “Empire’s” place in the Emmys, stump for some favorite performers and reveal which departing show they think should win the most love from voters.

With the depth of African-American talent among actresses starring in drama series, it’s possible that one of them could become the first to win in the category – among the few Emmy acting awards still solely in white hands. The good news is that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which announces its nominations for the 2015 Emmys Thursday morning, has expanded the number of nominees in the comedy and drama races to seven.

McNamara: Tatiana Maslany and “Orphan Black.” Also Michael Kitchen and “Foyles War,” which has entered the race for the first and possibly (hope springs eternal Anthony Horowitz!) last time. Henson, who plays an unyielding matriarch in the hip-hop family drama “Empire,” Viola Davis as a cutthroat attorney in “How to Get Away with Murder” and previously twice-nominated Kerry Washington as a D.C. powerbroker in “Scandal.” The expansive ethnic diversity that TV offers, relative to theatrical releases, also is in play when it comes to sexuality. Rossum’s messy mother hen may not deliver as many laughs, but she’s the heart of this gleefully chaotic series. • Eva Green, best actress in a drama, “Penny Dreadful,” Showtime: The horror series may be a bit out of the academy’s comfort zone, but it’s hard to deny the go-for-broke ferocity Green displays as Vanessa Ives, the Victorian medium all self-respecting monsters want for their own. • Caitrona Balfe, best actress in a drama, “Outlander,” Starz: The former model fully inhabits cult heroine Claire Beauchamp Fraser, the thoroughly modern World World II nurse mysteriously transported 18th century Scotland.

And this being the “year of Sue,” her graduation year, the wonderful Sher made the most of it — up to the finale, when she realized that her classmates actually knew who she was and really liked her. Whipp: In trying to figure out why Nick Offerman has never been nominated for bringing to life man’s man icon Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation,” the only reason I could possibly imagine is that he never had an episode fully devoted to his character. “Parks” was always a team operation. So whatever episode Offerman submitted to voters would have moments of comic brilliance, but apparently not enough to convince quantity-over-quality-minded voters that he was worthy of saluting. Another key aspect of TV’s evolution likely to be reflected in the nominations: The rising tide of non-broadcast and cable platforms, including streaming services, which has made shows including Netflix’s “House of Cards” and Amazon’s “Transparent” serious contenders. But this season, “Parks'” last, contains a beautiful episode in which Ron and Amy Poehler’s Leslie work through their ongoing feud in a way that’s funny and beautiful and damn near poetic.

Maerz: My vote goes to “Mad Men.” I could quibble with certain aspects of the final season (enough with Diana the Waitress!) but that ending was perfection, and sticking the landing of a favorite drama is one of the hardest things to do. David Letterman, who retired from “Late Show,” and Stephen Colbert, who left “The Colbert Report” to succeed Letterman this fall, also are in the Emmy hunt for their former shows. “Late Show” was last nominated in 2009 as best variety, music or comedy series and last won in 2002. Was Don’s Coca-Cola campaign the ultimate sign that he’s so cynical, he can’t have a single authentic experience that he won’t use as an excuse to sell something? 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 like “Saturday Night Live,” making space for more contenders in each. The change to a theater in West Hollywood also moved the traditional pre-dawn back by several hours, making it unavailable to network morning shows that typically aired it.

Bianco: “Justified,” for proving that it’s possible to put together a completely satisfying last season, and last episode, that remains true to the spirit of the series and the integrity of the characters while still giving the audience what it wants. Roush: “Mad Men” did improve considerably (though still uneven) in the back half of its final year, but no show had a more enjoyable and satisfying final season than the perennially under-appreciated “Justified” — going back to its Harlan County roots in the end, with deliciously stellar work from Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Joelle Carter and the magnificent Sam Elliott.

And as the members of its awesome-sauce ensemble keep honing and discovering their individual voices, their success will continue to send audiences back to the home of their collective glory.

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