A few questions about the 2014 Emmy nominations

The 2014 Emmy nominations were announced Thursday morning, and as could be expected, many critics and fans were outraged over the shows and actors wrongfully snubbed.

Depending on who you follow on Twitter, your timeline may have been flooded with fist-waving and teeth-grinding over The Good Wife not being nominated in the “Outstanding Drama” category, despite killing off a major character and making a huge splash among viewers on social media. Also, Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany — who routinely plays different roles in each episode — was not nominated in any of the actress categories. (Though the Emmys don’t typically recognize much sci-fi programming.)

I haven’t watched either of those shows (though I’m ready to jump on the Orphan Black train), so can’t contribute much to that discussion. Nor have I watched The Americans (I know! I know!), another series many felt was snubbed. And though I feel like I watch a lot of TV, I don’t seem to have the ones that drew the most nomination love from the Emmys.

But in looking over the nominations (which you can do here), a few questions and curious observations sprang to mind. Here’s what had me raising an eyebrow.


Orange is the New Black is a comedy?
I understand that networks decide which categories to submit their shows and cast members in. So it wasn’t the Emmys decision to nominate Orange is the New Black as a comedy. This was a Netflix thing. And Netflix surely thought — and rightly so — its show had no chance against the likes of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men and True Detective.

But would anyone watching OITNB consider it a comedy? Yes, there are funny elements to the show. Many laughs are mined from Piper Chapman being an upper-middle class white woman who loves Burrata cheese and French press coffee, but is now going to prison. More dramatic elements work their way into the story as the season progresses. By the end, it takes a more serious turn and Chapman begins to fear for her life.

Also curious was the decision to submit several cast members as “guest actress,” even though they were regulars on the show. That resulted in nominations for Natasha Lyonne, Uzo Aduba and Laverne Cox (who’s also the first transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy). OITNB looks to have a strong change in that category, given that the show has three of the six nods.

Will Netflix submit the show as a comedy again next year? The story becomes much darker in season two, with very few — if any — storylines or characters being played for laughs. Maybe that’s influencing my perception since it’s fresher in my mind than OITNB‘s first season. If the drama competition is lighter, the show might be in its more appropriate category.


A supporting actress who carries the show?
I’ve made my love for FX’s Fargo rather clear here at The AP Party. I think it was one of the best shows of the year, and a big part of that was the breakout performance of Allison Tolman, who played Deputy Molly Solverson.

Yet Tolman is nominated as “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie,” despite being a lead character throughout the show’s 10 episodes. You could argue that the story was really about the rise and fall of Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard. And Freeman was nominated as a lead actor, along with castmate Billy Bob Thornton. Yet Tolman’s role was just as prominent and just as important. She essentially carries the show, because Solverson is the common thread through all of the storylines.

Tolman should switch places with American Horror Story: Coven‘s Sarah Paulson in the “Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries or Movie” category. Though Paulson becomes more important toward the end of AHS‘ third season and turns out to be the hero of the story, she’s ultimately part of an ensemble.

But at least Tolman was nominated. Not getting any Emmy recognition would have been a far greater mistake.

True DetectiveRGB

So what exactly is a “miniseries” then?
Fargo had 10 episodes in its first season. HBO’s True Detective ran for eight episodes. Yet True Detective is nominated in the “Outstanding Drama” category, while Fargo is in the “Outstanding Miniseries or Movie” category. How does that work? What’s the cutoff to being considered a full series?

Vulture’s Denise Martin explains the discrepancy, though it’s still a puzzling circumstance, one that Rust Cohle and Martin Hart might ponder while looking at the stars. Evidently, any show with a “created by” credit goes into the Drama category, and True Detective is “created by” writer and executive producer Nic Pizzolatto. Noah Hawley seemingly had the same creative authority on Fargo, but his credit was “created for television by.” Not the same thing!

As Martin reports, HBO and True Detective would’ve had to petition the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to be moved into the miniseries category. AHS‘ Ryan Murphy did just that. But maybe he had more of a case, since his show has had three seasons with three distinct stories, thus making it easier to classify as an anthology.

Still, it’s a head-scratcher when two series of similar format with finite stories completed in one season are in different categories. This is something the Emmys might have to address in the future, as more of these limited series are being produced for television.


Isn’t there anything you thought was snubbed?
OK, how about Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the comedy category? It won a Golden Globe for best comedy. That doesn’t mean it’s entitled to an Emmy nomination, but shouldn’t that weigh heavily in its favor? (Andy Samberg didn’t get an acting nod either, despite winning a Golden Globe.) I’m glad HBO’s Silicon Valley and Veep were both nominated, but thought Brooklyn Nine-Nine was more consistently funny for more episodes.

But if you were to argue that it took a few episodes for the show to find its comfort zone and make it about the ensemble cast, rather than a showcase for Samberg, I would probably agree with that. I expect it to be stronger next season, maybe strong enough to boot past-its-prime Modern Family from the category.

At least Andre Braugher was nominated in the “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy” category, the show’s lone Emmy nod. Maybe Terry Crews can join him next year if he gets more fart scenes.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is an editor for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He has covered baseball for Yahoo! Sports, MLive.com, Bleacher Report and SB Nation, and provides analysis for several sports talk radio shows each week. He currently lives in Asheville, NC.