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THR’s TV Critics Debate the Highs and Lows of the 2018 Emmy Nominations

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THR's TV Critics Debate the Highs and Lows of the 2018 Emmy Nominations

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Emmy Awards
Emmy Awards
Emmy Awards
Emmy Awards

Daniel Fienberg and Tim Goodman discuss Netflix's dominance, whether 'The Americans' received enough love and why it's past time for the academy to go to 10 nominees per field.

Daniel Fienberg: Emmy nomination morning and the opportunities for both outrage and joy are myriad.

Let's begin with the good news/bad news for FX's The Americans, since I know that was the show that both of us were watching for with some intense interest, to see if its final season would offer a breakthrough with Emmy voters. The answer? Kinda? But mostly not? The Americans did get a drama series nomination, and stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys were nominated, but other than that, the only recognition the show received was for writing and a digital short of some sort. Are you going to emphasize your happiness or anger, Tim?

Tim Goodman: Anger. Because this was such a no-brainer for the series and lead actor nominations (and for writing), that the only thing taking the minimal amount of effort or interest were directing and supporting categories, which the TV Academy totally screwed up. I will say upfront here, before we go on and on, that I know we're not supposed to get upset about awards shows, that trusting Emmy voters to do the right thing is a dubious proposition, but damn. This is what we do for a living. If we didn't care then we'd be robots. And it's frustrating to see so much go wrong and so much that could easily have been avoided (more on that later). But The Americans absolutely had to have a directing nomination — hey, the series finale would have been a nice choice — and not seeing Noah Emmerich and Holly Taylor get noticed, at a bare minimum, is galling.

DF: I agree that Emmerich and Taylor are large and galling absences, and that Ozark getting two directing nominations and The Americans getting none is borderline absurd. This was the last chance for Emmy voters when it comes to The Americans and they did the bare minimum. On the scale of annoyance, do the handful of major nominations at least make that less embarrassing than Better Things only getting nominated for Pamela Adlon as lead actress, but not for series or direction or writing? I get that a writing nomination would have brought collaborator Louis C.K. into the fold, too, but I'm just so frustrated by the excessive recognition of the lame Curb Your Enthusiasm comeback season, when Better Things was so much, well, better.

TG: I hate to say it because Curb is a series I've long loved, but that was pure Emmy rubber-stamping right there. Ridiculous. And since you've given me the opening I need, I'll take it: The TV Academy saw fit to nominate eight comedies, but not Better Things (among others!). The time for the TV Academy to have 10 nominees in every category is long overdue to the point of embarrassment. If this doesn't happen for next year, there's no hope. If you can go eight, you can go 10. I can fill 10 in every single category in my sleep. In the Peak TV era, anything less than 10 nominations as a standard is proof that the TV Academy is asleep or indifferent to the changes in its own industry. To me, nothing is more imperative for that organization than making that rule change immediately. Would we still have snubs? Sure — because this is the Platinum Age of television. But you and I would be a lot happier right now if there were four other nominees in most of these categories. Until then, grumble, grumble.

You had mentioned One Day at a Time and Dear White People in the comedy series category and we both agreed that The End of the F***ing World was more than worthy. I had hoped for something like You're the Worst or newcomer Get Shorty and the dark-horse Detectorists, but hell, the point is that with a couple of the actual nominated series having what you defined as "down seasons" then the whole field was wide open. And yet, not.

DF: I do feel like celebrating that our long Modern Family national nightmare is over, insofar as Modern Family is no longer an outstanding comedy series nominee despite, as you say, eight nominee slots in that category. This proves that Emmy voters are capable of reversing their instinctive rubber-stamping sometimes, even if they require 10 years to do so. I'd emphasize that The End of the F***ing World was nominated for cinematography and One Day at a Time was nominated for, um, editing. Dear White People, unfortunately, was completely shut out despite Netflix's overall juggernaut status, which also somehow failed to get Alison Brie a lead actress in a comedy nomination even though GLOW was nominated for series. We should touch on that Netflix milestone before we go any further. With 112 nominations, Netflix was the year's most nominated network, ending an epic HBO run. Do you view this as deeply meaningful, inevitable or both?

TG: I'd say it was probably overdue. And inevitable. Netflix just has more volume. And they have plenty of good series that, in the past, could have received even more nominations, so that's the overdue part. But yeah, inevitable. Unfortunately, this will probably convince HBO's new overlords that making the channel more "broad" is a good thing when it's not. That disaster is also probably inevitable.

DF: In recent years, Netflix has begun to play the Emmy game more and probably better than anybody else, and yet if you look over its slate, there are so many great things that still got entirely or partially left out, from the aforementioned End of the F***ing World and Dear White People and the weirdly miscategorized "limited series" American Vandal to the baffling exclusion of Bojack Horseman in animated fields every year. The amazing thing is that this feels like just the tip of the iceberg for Netflix. It's pushed even more dramatically into unscripted spaces this year and it hasn't even begun to compete in the movie category. Let's go back to acting, where after the Americans supporting players, the biggest absence to me feels like J.K. Simmons for Counterpart. Without going into the Detectorists' stars who were never going to be nominated, whose absence are you annoyed by and whose presence are you excited by?

TG: Well, I've just been drumming my fingers on my desk ready to address the snub of both Counterpart, easily one of the best dramas of the year (and I would vehemently argue that it was second best to The Americans), and its star, Simmons. Both exclusions are just egregiously wrong, period. Possibly — possibly — "understandable" in the first instance because Starz has difficulty getting its best work nominated, but absolutely embarrassing in the second instance. Simmons should have been a slam dunk. James Franco is the clear and obvious snub in the lead actor category, as The Deuce is arguably the biggest snub in totality of these Emmys. Again, there are only six nominees in this category and four of them are from two of the same shows (Westworld and This Is Us). The system is broken.

DF: I feel like The Deuce may have been punished for #MeToo accusations against Franco, just like Transparent dropped off the radar entirely and Better Things was probably dinged for C.K. Punishing Maggie Gyllenhaal, just super in The Deuce, because James Franco may or may not allegedly be a sex pest feels wrong to me. It also feels wrong to me — in a very different way — that this past season of Westworld got lead performance nominees for Ed Harris and Evan Rachel Wood, since really only Thandie Newton (nominated in supporting) and Jeffrey Wright actually feel like leads to me. And that's not getting into my general distaste for the show at this point. Has your chilling on The Handmaid's Tale had a similar effect on your perception of all of the acting nominations it received? I was so pleased to see Yvonne Strahovski get a nomination and Alexis Bledel and Ann Dowd are both great, but Joseph Fiennes getting a nod for periodically furrowing his brow feels a step too far even to me.

TG: I don't think Emmy voters have been voting with their conscience on these things. I really don't. I think not putting Better Things into other major categories had nothing to do with C.K. — it had to do with Emmy voters making bad decisions, same as the across-the-board blunder for The Deuce. Transparent likely dropped off the radar because it's simply not that good anymore. As a fan of Westworld, I actually agree with most of your actor annoyance. Harris should have been supporting, easy. But by the end of the season I think Wood, Newton and Wright were legit leads (which makes Newton's situation interesting). Yes, the Fiennes inclusion is particularly egregious for Handmaid's Tale but I don't have any problems with all the other actors there — though the 10 nomination thing would make that easier to swallow (as it would having the series itself nominated, actually, especially with The Deuce and Counterpart missing). You must have some simmering actor annoyances yet to be addressed. Just a wild guess.

DF: I think we've actually covered most of my biggest acting annoyances, though surely Alec Baldwin's presence ticks me off. Come on, folks! It's a bad Trump impression that he's been phoning in for months. I think even he's sick of doing it at this point and if he beats Louie Anderson again, I'm going to be irate. And Larry David definitely didn't deserve this particular nomination. And enough with the William H. Macy nominations when Emmy Rossum has never gotten a single one. But I'd honestly like to concentrate on all the acting nominees I'm happy for. It's better for my gout. So, yay for Sandra Oh! (Jodie Comer should have been nominated, too.) Yay for Ted Danson! (Kristen Bell should have been nominated, too.) Yay for Zazie Beetz! (Lakeith Stanfield should have been nominated, too.) Yay for Kenan Thompson, the heart and soul of Saturday Night Live! Yay for Donald Glover and Bill Hader both picking up nominations for acting, writing, directing, guest acting and eventually for producing. Who are your acting yays, Tim? Try it! It's liberating!

TG: Are you saying I can't circle back to Simmons? Or Laura Linney? Emmerich? Chris O'Dowd? Ray Romano? Is no one surprised about Emilia Clarke? What about your Halt and Catch Fire actors and actresses? Dan, I've still got a boil going. At least let me be well and truly annoyed about Comer getting snubbed. That feels particularly "American" in the oversight. Super happy for Oh, the first Asian-American female lead in a drama nominee. And yet, Comer is also the lead. Perhaps more room is necessary? I hear that's a thing. Anyway, I'm actually really happy that Tatiana Maslany is nominated again. Role of a lifetime. I don't know — I'm happy for all those who got in, probably. There's your liberation.

DF: Vanessa Kirby! Cameron Britton! Betty Gilpin! Alex Borstein! My college classmate John Legend! I'm just saying there's a lot to be happy about. And, yes, I've definitely heard somebody theorizing on the need for more nominations in the future, though I've already been lost in a nomination wormhole all morning. I think it's important to find things to be annoyed by both above the line and below. Like how AMC's The Terror did not get a single nomination? They shot that thing in a bathtub in Budapest and it felt like it was actually shot in the Arctic Circle and it should have been a lock for sound and costuming nominations at the very least. How was there not a way to recognize Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor's score for The Vietnam War? And yet I can also find little notes of happiness in something like the song nomination for Big Mouth or the deserved return of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah to the variety talk series category. What else is annoying you or making you happy?

TG: Why the hell was The Vietnam War not nominated for documentary? Ridiculous. It got a documentary directing nom and was easily one of the best documentaries in years. But, sigh, I'm running out of rage. I have enthusiasm for lots of nominees, Dan. I really do. I'm going to save my last bit of optimism and enthusiasm for this point, however: Next year all of this will be so much more accurately representative, richer and fulfilling when we're congratulating the TV Academy for expanding to 10 nominees across all categories. It'll be glorious, Dan.

DF: As God is my witness, I hadn't noticed that The Vietnam War was lacking an overall documentary series nod. Sigh. That's proof that we could do this all day, but I see our editor getting antsy in the cubicle next door, so that's probably a wrap on our Emmy nominations rantings and ravings!

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