You can’t please everyone. And award ceremonies, in particular, never please everybody. Voted for by a small group, who are more often than not much older than those in the media, or who watch the shows, awards nominations and the eventual winners are generally frustrating, whether it’s in the music, movie or television world. And this year’s batch of Emmy nods are no exception.
Topped by “Downton Abbey,” “American Horror Story” and “Modern Family,” among others, the Emmys mostly showed a general love for established names (there’s no easier way to get an Emmy nod than by having one the year before, and your show still being on the air). But even so, there were a few big snubs, and a few major surprises (some pleasant, some less so). Below, we’ve run down the major ones; if there were those you were surprised by yourself, or feel are undeserved, let us know in the comments section.
Of the three distinct fiction categories, this is the one we were most on top of in our predictions; some commentators had dismissed “American Horror Story” and “Hatfields & McCoys,” but they, along with HBO‘s “Game Change” and “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” were the big winners. At their expense, the big casualty was “Page Eight.” David Hare‘s spy drama starring Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz and Felicity Jones picked up BAFTA and Golden Globe nods, but could only manage a nomination for supporting actress Judy Davis.
The BBC‘s other great hope, the superb adaptation of “Great Expectations,” also missed out entirely, as did Lifetime‘s all-star “Five,” although the BBC’s “Luther” and “Sherlock” both did extremely well, and deservedly so. Less successful was “The Hour,” which only got a nomination for Abi Morgan‘s writing, and the excellent true-life serial killer tale “Appropriate Adult,” which had performances from Dominic West and Emily Watson far more worthy of awards than most of those nominated. But clearly, it didn’t connect with voters, and it’s not too hard to see why.
We don’t have too many quibbles with the below-the-line categories, to be honest, although an oversight of either Alan Taylor or Neil Marshall for their directing work on “Game of Thrones” seems egregiously unfair. “Mad Men” taking up three of the writing slots was a little surprising, but not undeserved; we’d have been a lot happier had “Breaking Bad” slipped in instead of “Downton Abbey.”
Indeed, while we enjoyed the first season of ‘Downton’ (which swept the miniseries categories last year, but has moved up to the big leagues after a reorder), the second was a big step down, and it’s a little dispiriting to see the show dominate quite so heavily after a mediocre season. We were a little surprised to see Kelly MacDonald excluded from the supporting actress race (at the expense of Joanne Froggatt from ‘Downton’ and Anna Gunn‘s first nomination for “Breaking Bad”), and slightly less so for “Homeland” star Morena Baccarin, although we had our fingers crossed.
Indeed, given its critical plaudits, it was a surprise to see “Homeland” miss out in the supporting categories, in particular Mandy Patinkin, in one of the bigger shocks of the announcement. Indeed, the supporting actor category was a head-scratcher all round: John Slattery somehow failed to make the cut at the expense of the ‘Downton’ boys, as did the ever-reliable Alan Cumming of “The Good Wife,” and the sublime Walton Goggins of “Justified.” Still, Jared Harris got a nomination, which made us terribly happy.
The lead actress category was another puzzler: we were pleased to see Claire Danes (the hands-down winner), Elisabeth Moss, and Julianna Margulies (who is consistently strong) in the mix. And Michelle Dockery is probably more deserving than her screen mother, even if, again, she had better material in the first season of ‘Downton.’ But nominations for both Glenn Close in the four-seasons-past-its-prime “Damages” and Kathy Bates in the since-cancelled “Harry’s Law” stink of voters going for the names they recognize, rather than the more deserving Mireille Enos or Jessica Pare.
The actor category wasn’t as problematic. We were relieved to see Golden Globe-winner Kelsey Grammer of “Boss” — which squandered its promise almost immediately — away from the list. And few would complain about Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Damien Lewis and Steve Buscemi. But giving nominations to “Dexter” at this point just seems insulting to those who are making television that isn’t terrible, and Hugh Bonneville is fine, but coming at the expense of Hugh Laurie‘s last season on “House,” or the ever-excellent Timothy Olyphant on “Justified,” it just seems silly.
Finally, the drama series category played out much as we expected, albeit with “Boardwalk Empire” stepping in for “The Good Wife,” giving a total clean sweep to the cable networks. We still need to catch up with season two, but we hear that Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter‘s show improved greatly at second time at bat, so we can’t begrudge it too much. Either way, it’s a heartening selection of shows in the final six.
Of the three major sections, comedy was the biggest heartbreaker. That said, there were some bright spots. “Community” was shut out of the major categories, as expected, but did manage to pick up a nomination (after an animation nod last year) for writer Chris McKenna, and his work on “Remedial Chaos Theory,” which stands as a highpoint of the series, and one of the best sitcom episodes we’ve ever seen. It’s sad that creator Dan Harmon‘s name wasn’t on the episode, given he’s now left the series, but such is the curse of the hands-on showrunner.
We were also pleased and proud of the multiple nods — for writing, directing and acting — for Lena Dunham and Louis C.K. for “Girls” and “Louie,” all of which were well deserved. “Parks and Recreation” also did well in the writing category, with noms for showrunner Michael Schur and star Amy Poehler, and that makes us happy. But it seems entirely puzzling that the four best comedies of TV made up the writing nominations, and yet all but “Girls” were shut out of nods for Best Comedy Series. Sort it out, Emmys. And given the enormously impressive list of directors the show has attracted (John Hamburg, Miguel Arteta, Peyton Reed, Jesse Peretz, David Wain, Lynn Shelton, Nanette Burstein), it was odd that Jake Kasdan‘s just-ok direction of the pilot for “New Girl” got a nod over the others.
Beyond that, the “Modern Family” crew unsurprisingly dominated the supporting categories, to the extent that we wouldn’t be surprised if Baby Lily got a nomination in a few years (to be fair, she is awesome). Kristen Wiig could potentially upset in supporting actress, however, with Mayim Bialik and Merritt Wever making up the numbers, and a nice posthumous nod for Kathryn Joosten in there too. One of the boys of “Modern Family” will take the supporting actor prize, but “New Girl” breakout Max Greenfield and Bill Hader are both deserving nominees, even if we’d swap them both for the Nick Offerman nomination that was meant to happen.
As for lead actress, it was so competitive that it was expanded to seven nominees, and should be one of the toughest categories. Given the lack of love for “Parks and Recreation,” we’re less sure than before about Poehler’s victory — Dunham or Deschanel could win their first time out, and veterans Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tina Fey should never be counted out. Best Actor shook out as expected, although we’d thought that Jon Cryer might miss out, given slipping ratings for “Two and a Half Men.”
And finally, we were dispirited most of all by the Best Comedy nods. Although the shows are far from the best on TV, we were resigned to “The Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family” getting in, but we’d figured that after weaker seasons than usual, that “30 Rock” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” could drop out to make way for new blood — “Louie,” “Parks and Recreation” or even “Community.” We got new blood, but in the shape of HBO duo “Girls” and “Veep.” We’re pleased for the former, but a bit nonplussed by the latter, which had a decent first season, but pales a bit next to the competition. We can only assume that residual love for Julia Louis-Dreyfus from the “Seinfeld” era pushed it over the edge.