When it comes to the Emmys each year, it’s easy to get angered when one nominee wins over another. But what about those that aren’t even nominated? Our rage for those omitted has normally subsided by the time the awards themselves roll around, at least on an acute level. Sure, we might still be annoyed at not seeing a certain show, actor, writer or director appear onscreen during the ceremony. But in the short life cycle that constitutes pop culture, we tend to replace yesterday’s outrage with today’s furor.
None of this is to say that one can’t be upset when a personal favorite is overlooked each awards season. But perspective is always good to have this time of year. After all, except for those directly involved with the awards, it doesn’t truly matter who actually wins as a measure of objective quality. (You could make an argument that wins subsequently help ratings, but that’s another argument altogether. And even that’s not always true.) If a show you love doesn’t take home a trophy, that doesn’t reduce your love for it and shouldn’t lower your opinion of it. That’s a somewhat condescending statement, but that doesn’t make it less true.
In this vein, and in order to temper any hurt feelings when the 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards air, let’s look at 20 omissions that already suggest looking toward this ceremony as the be-all and end-all of prestige television is a fool’s errand. Awards like this are really fun, but are also a poor barometer for adequately capturing the highlights of a year on the small-screen. We’re handicapping the major awards each Thursday here at Zap2it, but for today, let’s honor some of those that already have no chance of stepping onto the Emmys stage come Sept. 22.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of those not nominated this year. And it’s not about mourning what didn’t get included, but celebrating the depth and breadth of all that television has produced in the past year.
The hype surrounding Maslany’s performance may be too tall a mountain for anyone approaching “Orphan Black” for the first time to climb. Those looking for a showy performance here will be disappointed. But the genius of Maslany’s multiple turns lies in the way she develops clearly defined personas for each clone, making the audience ultimately forget that only one person is onscreen playing multiple roles. As for Rossum, she and the rest of “Shameless” have often been punished for voters’ inability to determine if that show is a comedy or a drama. But that doesn’t take away the fact that Rossum’s ability to hold down the emotional center of a show that’s only grown with each season.
How great is the current crop of television shows that 1) programs this good can’t find their way toward series nominations, and 2) that three wildly different shows can be considered worthy of consideration? Once “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” close the curtains on their respective runs, look for shows such as the ones above to fill in the slots currently occupied by the more traditional “Golden Age,” antihero-centric shows. The number of interesting shows that don’t take “The Sopranos” as their spiritual model are exponentially increasing, which suggests that the Silver Age of television may have already begun under our very noses.
Did “Parks” have its best season last year? Absolutely not. But it has the audacity to suggest that optimism in one’s fellow citizens is a trait worthy of having. On the surface, “Parks” doesn’t seem like the type of show that depicts seismic change. But just look at an episode from Season 2, then check out one from this past year. The change is staggering, and worth honoring. As for “New Girl”: Perhaps no show was more purely entertaining on a week-to-week basis. It featured broad comedy, deep romance, and found ways to ground characters that would float into space on a lesser program.
Jake Johnson, “New Girl”: Outstanding lead actor in a comedy series
“New Girl” deserves a lot of praise for the ways it fixed some of its systemic issues dating back to its first season. But the real stand-out this season was Johnson’s cynical bartender Nick Miller, who turned into an unlikely romantic comedy hero this year. Starting with “Cooler,” Johnson and Zooey Deschanel found ways to both embrace and subvert the normal romantic rhythms that often stymie television writers and sink entire shows. Here’s hoping Season 3 lives up to the promise that Season 2 established.
Elisha Cuthbert, “Happy Endings”: Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series
Of all the upsets on television in the past few years, “Elisha Cuthbert: Comedy Assassin” has to be up there. Did anyone watch “24” and say, “I just feel that comedy is the true way for her to break out?” (If you did, let’s talk. I need some investment advice, and clearly your prognosticating skills are amazing.) In Season 3 of “Happy Endings,” Cuthbert amped up the humor but also found a way to keep her character’s on-again, off-again relationship with Dave Rose something the audience could actually invest in.
Matthew Weiner, “Mad Men”: Outstanding writing for a drama series
The “Mad Men” backlash was probably inevitable, and the Weiner backlash even more predictable. Still, the lack of any nominations for Weiner (even for episodes he co-wrote) seems strange, and feels punitive in a personal way.
Mike White, “Enlightened”: Outstanding writing for a comedy series
Look: this actually isn’t a remote surprise, and can’t accurately be described as an “omission” by any meaningful metric. But “The Ghost Is Seen,” written by White, was probably the best episode of television in 2013. Its lack of Emmy recognition doesn’t change that, but it’s worth mentioning all the same.
As we mentioned last week, you could create a second category of outstanding supporting actors in a drama series and still have an impressive group from which to select a winner. Each actor brought his own unique qualities to the screen, and each deserves as much praise as possible. Maybe Walter Bishop can open up windows to a few parallel universes and reveal realities in which each takes home an award this year?
It should have come as little shock to see the perpetually Emmy-ignored Potter on the outside looking in. But that seems to reflect less on Potter’s performance this season and more on the academy’s longstanding blind spot to “Parenthood.” Such blind spots also extend to “Sons Of Anarchy” (and, let’s be fair, FX itself), which has its ups and downs dramatically but also features one of the best ensembles on television today. Sagal has held her own throughout the show’s history, and really should have won in 2010 for her work in the program’s second season. Yet, like Potter, Sagal has never even been nominated.
Until now, we’ve separated our analysis by category. But there’s no point in separating the work Rhys and Russell did on “The Americans” in its first season. What was sold as a spy show was really the best examination of marriage on the small screen in the past year, with the actors deftly depicting the all-too-recognizable troubles that two spouses face in the context of an under-examined part of American history. The spy stuff is exciting. But it’s the domestic strife that gives “The Americans” its true heft, and we have these two actors to thank for that.
What are your picks for those unfortunately omitted from this year’s Emmys? Sound off below!