Back to IndieWire

‘True Detective’ Emmys Loss: Why the TV Academy Got It Wrong (and HBO Had It Right)

'True Detective' Emmys Loss: Why the TV Academy Got It Wrong (and HBO Had It Right)

If time is indeed a flat circle, then we will all be trapped in a world where Rust Cohle, Marty Hart and the revolutionary first season of “True Detective” never won the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy award. We will be forced to face the loss again and again for the rest of our miserable, mistaken days on this Earth. That is the reality we’re facing today, as a new day dawns but the dark is most definitely winning. 

Fans of “True Detective” undoubtedly already know this: The Television Academy got it wrong Monday night when they awarded their top honor to a show that’s already won. Not only that, but “Breaking Bad” had already been honored for its final season, even before the 2014 ceremony began — it won the year prior for the first half of its last “season.” “True Detective” doesn’t have the luxury of a do-over. They can’t be honored down the line to make up for a missed opportunity when it really counted. As a self-contained story, Season 1 will live forever as a stand alone entity.

So is that how HBO should have sold it? A stand-alone entity? Much was made over network president Michael Lombardo’s decision to run “True Detective” in the drama series categories rather than as a miniseries, for which it qualified and could have easily swept (“Fargo” would have had no chance in hell next to its superior competition). The premium cable network has always coveted gold, too, making no secret of their mission to clean up at award shows in order to solidify and expand their subscription base. 

This also begs the question, “What gold is most valuable?” HBO could add to their war chest of trophies with big wins in the miniseries categories, but they’d arguably get more exposure just for competing against the big boys in the series department. Putting your name up against “Breaking Bad” and “House of Cards” is obviously better from a marketing standpoint than getting bumped down next to “Bonnie & Clyde” and “The White Queen” (and even “Fargo” and “Treme”). 

No, HBO didn’t make a mistake. Even with the loss in Drama Series, look what they were able to accomplish without even nabbing a win in the major categories. Last year, Bryan Cranston was the odds-on favorite to win Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series. His competition was rather weak (it was Kevin Spacey’s first year for “House of Cards” and Jon Hamm was coming off perhaps “Mad Men’s” least respected season). Yet, when a name was announced, it wasn’t for the “Breaking Bad” star — he lost to Jeff Daniels of “The Newsroom,” a show without a vocal and passionate fan base that many critics openly revile. 

Why? Daniels deserves much of the credit for turning in a performance both flamboyantly grand and carefully nuanced, but one could argue the Emmys were waiting to reward Cranston for his last eligible year on the show. After all, they had no idea McConaughmania was about to set in, and it would’ve been tough to imagine any show competing with the last eight episodes of AMC’s most thrilling drama. Voters undoubtedly still found Cranston deserving, as he managed to out duel the recent Oscar winner for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series.

But it was Matthew McConaughey and “True Detective” who still won — in spirit, at least. HBO capitalized on the McConaughsance so much many (including yours truly) listed him as the odds on favorite to win at the Emmys. “Breaking Bad” be damned. It was Rust Cohle’s year. Even though this turned out to be false, the attention given to “True Detective” competing in the top tier categories was far greater than had it run as a miniseries. It helped push rampant speculation about Season 2 and drive viewers to watch Season 1 on DVD and Blu-ray (released mid-Emmys campaign in early June). The way Rust and Marty dominated conversation was unprecedented for a freshman series. HBO played its strengths (McConaughey) and weaknesses (plagiarism issues) so well, it almost doesn’t matter that they couldn’t bring home the gold. 

While McConaughey wasn’t the only reason to get caught up in the “True Detective” craze, his strong contention —  as well as Cary Fukunaga’s win for Outstanding Directing — offered a modicum of tribute to the series we’ll never see again; at least, not the same way or with the same impact. Miniseries are on the rise. Actors of higher and higher regard flock to the small screen. Both of these trends existed before “True Detective” hit, but both have also been forever altered since it aired. Actors like it, every network is looking for a show like it and buzz like it was quickly and effortlessly generated. 

But they may have a hard time finding it. “True Detective” Season 1 felt like lightning in a bottle, making the wait for Season 2 unbearable and likely to end in disappointment. What Nic Pizzolatto, Cary Fukanaga, and the entire cast and crew created in their first go-round with the police drama genre was truly special. While Emmy has chosen another as the most outstanding series of last season, “True Detective” and its fans will have to be satisfied with knowing they brought the fight to a series that’s proven itself untouchable. 

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , , , , , , ,



But now that I’m halfway through the first year of true detective… I have to say that Matthew McConaughey is superb as detective Rust Cohle… He plays a dark, deep, interesting character with mesmerizing narrative… And even though he is on the thin side now, he is sexy as ever… Really two very entertaining shows, one leaning toward tongue in cheek in a way and the other more serious, dark and disturbing


I was crazy about breaking bad, it was great as were all the actors in it….


"("Fargo" would have had no chance in hell next to its superior competition)"
Lmao yeah sure, especially when Fargo kicked TD’s ass at the Golden Globes. but whatev, to each their own.

Luca Pennisi

The best series of the two (and of all them) won, can’t see the issue in that.

Siddharth Gupte

This is how the emmys should have been split between the two shows: Best Actor(Female) and Best Supporting Actor(Male) to Anna Gunn and Aaron Paul for Breaking Bad, Best Writing and Best Direction to True Detective, Best Actor(Male) to Matthew McConaughey for True Detective and Best TV Series Drama to Breaking Bad. A clean sweep for Breaking Bad was not fair to True Detective which was an equal in more ways than one, and superior to Breaking Bad in other ways.


Breaking Bad’s last season is BY FAR its worst. Almost all the characters develop schizophrenic personalities, where they start behaving counter to the way the characters were presented throughout the show. People start taking wild leaps in logic, lose all sense of logic and erratically change their opinion of certain other characters or organizations. Here’s my fav example, Huell, a guy who’s one task is to prevent cops from screwing with his boss’s business falls for the simplest cop trick within 5 minutes!! They even used KETCHUP for the photo! Huell, as a black male in the USA in the 21st century would never trust a cop, let alone do so in 5 minutes of cops bullshitting him. He wouldn’t have been hired if any old cop could pull a fast one on him like that. The guy might not be a math whiz, but he was street smart and has seen real blood. All of the season depends on Huell being easily duped by the cops (illegally I might add, Huell would’ve been taught about that too).

Ryan S.

I disagree. I really think Breaking Bad’s final episodes were superior to True Detective’s first season. Additionally, the fact that Breaking Bad was able to finish the series in such a satisfying way is no small feat. Yes, in its own way, True Detective was remarkable, but I think Breaking Bad, in its writing, direction, and acting, really was more deserving of the awards.


Haha. I just love this guy above posting multiple comments that essentially say the exact thing, Under different names. All in the span of like 30 minutes. Like no one knows. We know it is you dude.


You can always count on IndieWire Nerd Rage for a good laugh. Honestly, you guys are better than Comic Book Store Guy on The Simpsons.


Breaking Bad and True Detective both were great shows, but the two deciding issues for me were 1. (Stick the landing) BB shows how to properly conclude a program in the midst of a historically bad run of series finales (Dexter and HIMYM) and 2. BB’s beauty was in demonstrating the interconnectedness of everything and the consequences that come from every bad decision vs TD’s point of view of a chaotic an unknowable universe. I mean, what the hell with the Yellow King? Pick your flavor, awards for creative works are on some level kind of pointless.

JoJo Dancer

TD was good. Fargo was slightly better. BB was epic.


Nope. Disagree wholeheartedly. HBO tried to game the system, shafting Boardwalk Empire in the process, and ended up a big loser on Emmy night. It boggles that TD has attracted such fandom for an 8 episode season and dropped the ball for its highly anticipated finale. Breaking Bad had momentum and legacy. TD season 2 may not have as good as cast as Harrelson and McConaughey but am certainly hoping its a better season than the first.


True Detective shouldn’t have been in this race. So ridiculous. HBO screwed one of their best shows out of the awards it could have won in the miniseries category. Even though, Fargo was as good. True Detective really did have major plot holes and contrived twists, among other things. All within an 8 hour season. Breaking Bad was strong. Very strong. Start to finish. The final season never had a moment of lingering or wasted time. It is the better show and it rightfully won. HBO were just mad that they passed on Breaking Bad and it has went on to destroy them every year at the emmy’s. They tried to beat it the only way they knew how. Submit a miniseries as a continuing Drama series. Plain and simple.


"As a self-contained story, Season 1 will live forever as a stand alone entity"…..As in, Miniseries? There is no argument that HBO was not very stupid to not submit True Detective as a miniseries. That is what it is and anyone claiming otherwise is just denying the fact. How is Fargo a miniseries and not True Detective? Exactly the same concept. Not to mention, Breaking Bad was just better. Everything was extremely tight and perfectly executed. true Detective was great, But it had some problems. The two leads and the director were great enough to make you forget the problems while watching it but, They still exist.


How did Ben get this job? All his post-Emmy articles sound like a whining teenager. "Wah! The Emmys didn’t pick what I wanted them to." Sorry you need the TV Academy to validate your opinions, but this misinformed tripe belong in your Hello Kitty diary


Laughable article


I don’t agree Fargo is a pretty good serie but True Detective is much better in my opinion. This because of the thema of the show. I wanted to see ever episode of it when i saw the first one. I also follow fargo but i might see one episode a day.


"Fans of "True Detective" undoubtedly already know this: The Television Academy got it wrong Monday night when they awarded their top honor to a show that’s already won."

Well, people who watched both True Detective and Breaking Bad know this: the Television Academy got it right Monday night when they awarded their top honor to the better show.


This is jut insnaley ignorant. Won for its final season for the first half? First off…Emmy’s aren’t given out for SEASONS. And second of all…regardless of what AMC and Vince Gilligan wanted to call it, they were two short seasons…not one long season separated by a full year.

Bill Reed

There are many who disagree with you. Though "True Detective" was excellent, "Breaking Bad" was better, especially in its final season. Your math
is strange: 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 !


FARGO was good but not better than TRUE DETECTIVE. That anybody would say that with a straight face is just sad.

What’s sadder is this entire article. Indiewire is becoming more and more trenchant its entitled opinions, but this is a nadir. HBO clearly made an error in judgment and could have chosen the mini-series route long after BREAKING and TRUE’s own premiere aired. BREAKING’s final 8 episodes are likely to be considered the best final season for a decade or longer. HBO gambled, and its hubris got in the way. Just accept it as you, ahem, bear the unbearable wait for the return of a TV show bound to disappoint you if you fetishize it this badly.


lol… the comments here are amazing… no one’s every happy with anything… complainers, whiners, everyone thinkas they are smarter and have better taste than everyone else… is that all the internet offers us now?


That’s not what ‘begs the question’ means, so it’s pretty easy to ignore your opinion on something you pretty obviously know nothing about.


I liked Fargo better. True Detective is so overrated.


@HIOH….BB was beyond true detective, and true detective was a mini series. it is easier to get actores like those 2 only for 8 episodes, it was unfair, arrogant, and took a nom away from another show. TD plot was pretty bad, the lawnmower nman? The last 2 episodes were major downwers that killed any potential TD had. You are the one with no taste.


Your arguments are fanboyish…Every network is looking for a show like it?? Every network is looking for the next breaking bad, and it’s 10 million viewers and acclaim. point?


?? This is a terrible article…..It was a mini-series…fact. Cranston performance in Season 5 was breathtaking, you dont give TD an award just because he wont be back next year LMAO, not the emmy’s fault it’s a mini-series. BB was better then TD and so was cranston better. Landmark performance and a landmark show. TD was good , but the plot in TD was poor, the lawnmower man? Cliche poor ending that made all that promise moot. BB fulfilled it’s promise.


Look, anything with Woody Harrelson … the most over-hyped "B" actor/celebrity in history … isn’t going far. He’d even drag JC underwater.


True Detective was terrible–I couldn’t even finish the first season. It didn’t deserve to win squat. OITNB was MUCH better.


True Detective may have suffered because of the small amount of plagiarism in the writting.


At least True Detective, Breaking Bad and Fargo were all on TV and I got to see them. The anticipation and reward were phenomenal. I would probably stick Justified in the pack, definitely an underrated show.


There’s always the Globes… :(


True Detective blew it’s chance with a disappointing final episode. Breaking Bad is a classic and was rightly honoured ahead of it.


I think Breaking Bad’s final episodes were better than True Detective. Don’t get me wrong, True Detective was an outstanding and smart drama, beautifully acted and directed, but when comparing it to BB’s final episodes – It falls short. BB’s Ozymandias might be the best hour of television in the past 10 years.

It’s all a matter of opinion though. No one is right, no one is wrong. Let’s all just be thankful to be living during a time when such brilliant television is being crafted.

Brian Nicholas

Breaking bad is over rated, and has been for years… Aaron Paul wins for being a snitch and crying all season? Really?

Hugo Sanchez

Boo Hoo. True Detective’s first season was pretty overrated. Fargo was better.


plebs. if you think fargo or breaking bad are better than true detective-congratulations, you have no taste


Disagreed, the episodes breaking bad sent in for all the categories were just overall better at what the categories were for.


Fargo is way, way better than True Detective in my opinion.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *