This year’s Emmy nominations are disappointing as a whole (despite some bright spots), and that statement has become as predictable as the nominations themselves. Every year, it seems the Emmy nominations are plagued by the same complaints: predictability and a very narrow view of what’s become a very broad medium.
In order to cope with my overwhelming frustration over this year’s nominees, I wanted to offer a little advice for Emmy voters. Follow these helpful tips, and maybe next year’s nominations will be met with something other than bored shoulder shrugs and frustrated sighs.
1. Stop nominating the same shows year after year when they’re not showing any growth.
Few things annoy me more when it comes to the Emmys than strong seasons of “dark horse” shows getting overlooked in favor of mediocre seasons of perennial “favorites.” Don’t get me wrong; I think Modern Family is still a very funny show, but maybe it’s time to open your eyes, dear Emmy voters, to see that there’s a whole world of network comedy beyond that show and The Big Bang Theory. Brooklyn Nine-Nine had one of the strongest freshman seasons I can remember. The Mindy Project created a season of television that was a better romantic comedy than any shown in movie theaters this decade. And Parks and Recreation continued to prove its underappreciated brilliance with a season full of brave storytelling that culminated in a truly genius finale. You have only one season left to honor Parks and Rec; don’t screw this up next year.
2. Don’t forget that TV dramas air on networks other than HBO and AMC.
I know that all of the shows nominated from those two channels are worthy (and I know that two nominated dramas aren’t from those networks), but maybe it’s time to shake things up in the drama category next year—especially with Breaking Bad out of the running. Maybe try heading over to FX, where there’s this little show called The Americans that just finished a season critics couldn’t stop raving about. Or maybe you can remind yourself that the nominees aren’t all contractually obligated to be from cable shows, and you can open your eyes to the smart, shocking, and fearless television being made by everyone involved with The Good Wife. Yes, it was kind of you to throw it a bone in terms of its acting nominations, but your failure to recognize the show as a whole for what was a singularly amazing season of dramatic television was probably your biggest oversight this year.
3. Surprise us. (And no, Jeff Daniels doesn’t count.)
Did you see the reaction you got when Lizzie Caplan’s nomination was announced for her work on Masters of Sex? People were thrilled because a new face was added in the mix of nominees who truly deserved to be there. You can have more happy reactions like that if you surprised us more often. Adam Scott on Parks and Rec, Hayden Panettiere on Nashville, Mindy Kaling on The Mindy Project, and Matthew Rhys on The Americans are just a small sample of deserving actors whose nominations could have breathed some new life into categories the feature many of the same names year after year.
4. Listen to the buzz—it exists for a reason.
Sometimes it seems like your finger could not be further from the pulse of the current television landscape. I understand not wanting to fall victim to rewarding a show or performance that might look foolish in hindsight, but Emmys should be given for one season—not a body of work or how good a show/performance is overall. If a show or an actor has a breakout moment that everyone is talking about, don’t ignore it as just a passing fancy. There’s a reason for the critical and audience buzz around performances like Bellamy Young’s on Scandal, Tatiana Maslany’s on Orphan Black, and Chris Messina’s on The Mindy Project: They were all excellent. In the same vein, also listen for when the buzz is dying down. Have you heard anything about Downton Abbey recently? How about The Big Bang Theory? Maybe it’s time to follow the crowd and replace some nominees from those shows with names critics and fans can’t stop talking about. (It does wonders for making the Critic’s Choice Awards truly fun to watch.)
5. Don’t be afraid of “genre shows.” (Aka Give Tatiana Maslany a nomination—give her all the nominations.)
And don’t tell me that your support of Game of Thrones proves you’re not afraid. The only reason Maslany isn’t nominated for Best Actress in a Drama Series is because Orphan Black is a sci-fi show on BBC America. I’m not sure if you’re just scared off by the clone-centric concept or if you can’t find the channel on your TVs, but this is getting ridiculous. If I had my way, the show itself would be nominated for its smart, completely unique concept and the way it handles difficult but socially-relevant topics like science-vs.-religion, reproductive rights, and female agency. But I won’t even beg you to go that far, Emmy voters. All I ask is that you check your ridiculous genre biases at the door and appreciate Maslany’s work for the brilliance it is. I can only assume you’ve never watched the show and still fear that her ability to play over half-a-dozen roles is a cheap gimmick. Because if you actually took the time to watch even one episode, you would know that the nuance and depth she gives to Sarah or Helena or Cosima or Alison alone is worth a nomination. Maslany turns in multiple nominations’ worth of excellent performances with every episode; it’s time you joined the rest of the world and realized it.
6. Remember that writing nominations and series nominations don’t always have to be the same.
I understand that if a series is nominated as Best Comedy or Best Drama, that probably means you liked its writing the best, as writing is a huge part of what makes a series successful. But writing nominations are designed for single episodes, and sometimes I feel that gets forgotten. Even if you don’t love Parks and Rec enough to nominate the whole series, “Moving Up” was a rare comedy finale that took a season-long arc and showed how even the lowest points of it had a purpose (and it featured one hell of a twist ending—another rarity for the genre). The Mindy Project might not be your flavor, but there’s no denying that Kaling’s script for “Danny and Mindy” created in one half-hour a better romantic comedy than most recent movies. And The Good Wife’s “Last Call” had a script packed with deep, moving insights about the way we crave closure after a loved one suddenly passes away and also about the way we all handle grief in different but equally powerful ways. If a single episode is written brilliantly, it should be nominated—no matter what show it comes from.
7. Follow your own example.
This year’s supporting and guest actor categories are prime examples of the fun that can be had when new blood is brought in to a group of nominees. Andre Braugher, Lena Headey, and the multiple Orange is the New Black nominations made me smile because they were something different for their respective categories. They were names I’d hoped to see but worried would be overlooked (this is especially true of Braugher and Headey) because they weren’t traditional choices in their categories. Those nominations made me feel like you actually watched their work and took the time to evaluate it instead of just picking popular names. However, even many of the popular names are worthy choices in these categories, and I wouldn’t be upset to see Anna Gunn, Peter Dinklage, Josh Charles, or—especially—Christine Baranski—take home an Emmy.
Television is growing by leaps and bounds every year in terms of the platforms it’s presented on and the quality of the programming itself. I think it’s time for the Emmys to reflect that with new, narrower categories and more nominees. Increasing the number of categories or just the number of nominees in each category would add some suspense to the nominations, which have been lacking in that area for years now.
Fellow TV fans, what advice would you give to Emmy voters? Do you need a place to vent your frustrations? Who will you be rooting for on Emmy night? Let me know in the comments!