Television pundits have said that this is a golden age for the medium, and they’re not far off. With more channels producing original scripted shows than ever before, there is a smorgasbord of quality programming out there. And, let’s be honest: TV is arguably bringing higher quality entertainment than what is showing at the nearest multiplex.
But, for some strange reason, it seems like the academy is still obsessed with movie stars.
Just take a look at the nominees in the movie and miniseries categories. They’re chock full of names you usually see on the big screen. What makes us think that they’re there for name recognition only is that several of the nominated performances aren’t really that great.
The most obvious examples are Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen for HBO’s near-universally panned movie “Hemingway & Gellhorn.” Even if the two of them tried their best with questionable material, no one is going to confuse Kidman’s performance with “The Hours” or “To Die For,” and Owen’s done better in movies where he’s getting shot at. Other movie-star nominees in these categories, however — Kevin Costner for “Hatfields & McCoys,” Julianne Moore for “Game Change” — got the nominations for roles in which they excelled.
The series categories aren’t immune either. The nods for Kathy Bates in the canceled “Harry’s Law” and Don Cheadle in the middling Showtime series “House of Lies” might be there more for name recognition than performance.
But it’s the Kidman and Owen nods that don’t make a heck of a lot of sense. Our guess is that they’re the two biggest movie-related names that the academy could find, and they know that having them sit in the Emmys audience gives the ceremony a taste of prestige.
Does it, though, at this stage of the game? We’re not saying that there aren’t good movies out there; the fall and winter “Oscar season” tends to bring out the best the film industry has to offer in a given year. But the big studio films with huge stars are mostly blockbusters like “The Avengers” or “The Dark Knight Rises.” Smaller, more thoughtful films don’t necessarily have the biggest stars in the world starring in them anymore. Besides, there’s more actor crossover between the big and small screens than ever; Glenn Close and Melissa McCarthy, for instance, have both been nominated for both an Emmy and an Oscar this year.
In other words, TV is no longer the “step down” from movies that it used to be. The academy should be proud of the fact that the biggest stars nominated for Emmys, like the Hamms and the Feys of the world, are just as high on the A-list as the Pitts and Clooneys of the world. They no longer need to feel like they’re the uncool kid inviting the cool kids into their clubhouse, since they’re the cool ones now.
The sooner the academy realizes this, the sooner they’ll nominate the people who deserve nods, and not waste nods on movie stars who likely don’t deserve it.