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Why the Emmys Still Matter For Shows That Aren’t Nominated

Even if your favorite series doesn't get nominated on Thursday, there's a good reason to still love the Emmy Awards.

Patrick Harbron/FX

The phrase “it’s an honor just to be nominated” is so well-used it’s become an idiom for exactly the opposite — people recite it when they’re pissed they didn’t win. But many Hollywood stars, writers and executives are suggesting that “it’s an honor just to be considered” this Emmy season – and this time, they mean it.

In case you’ve somehow avoided the onslaught of coverage provided by this and most entertainment sites over the past few months, the Emmys are fast approaching. Nominations, in fact, will be announced this Thursday at 8:30am Pacific time, rewarding a select group of programs that the 19,000-plus TV Academy members deem worthy. The fight to be on the short list is fierce, but the fight to be included in the conversation is equally important, even to select series that know they won’t make the cut.

These shows just want to be mentioned next to the sure-fire nominees. Why? Long shots still need to be championed by critics, supported by fans and kept in the conversation surrounding the Emmys so they can build a brand for themselves — and their network — as top tier TV. There is no off-season in television anymore, and the six-month Emmys campaign has gone a long way to prove that. By mounting FYC efforts, they can use events, articles, interviews and more to build conversation around their show even when it’s not airing.

IndieWire is a part of that cycle — hocking Emmy predictions since March, pushing contenders via interviews and essays all season and hitting the nightly FYC events for even more coverage. And, as a TV critic, I’ve worked the campaign trail for shows that deserve to be in the conversation as much as the shows we know will be in the thick of it come August. After all, isn’t the point of the Emmys to honor the best television? And isn’t the purpose of all these events, all this coverage, to honor the shows worth honoring?

Catastrophe Season 2 Rob Delaney & Sharon Horgan

That may be idealistic, but it’s hard to argue it’s not the purest interpretation of the season. And what’s been so refreshing about the 2016 campaign is hearing honest answers from various candidates who readily admit why they’re stumping for votes, even though they know they won’t get nominated. Until a new season debuts, the Emmys and its corresponding FYC events mark their last chance to promote the show, and it’s their only chance to elevate their programs into “prestige TV,” even if it’s only via association.

As my colleague Liz Shannon Miller recently covered, some of these events can get weird. But all that weirdness is in service of a larger goal. As Emmys awards strategist Rich Licata told her, “People have approached me because they were well aware that their show was not going to get nominated, but they wanted some kind of acknowledgement. My battle cry has always been that we’re pursuing the gold but if you don’t get the gold, it’s a great time to build your brand.”

From respected showrunners to well-known actors, I can’t tell you how many people have — unprompted — admitted to the same thing. (Literally: I can’t tell you because these comments are off the record.) And rather than bitch and moan about networks spending the money on a futile efforts or artists accepting a spotlight with ulterior motives, why not celebrate the networks for actually spending the money to back deserving programs? (That is, if they weren’t already cancelled.)

So, you, dear readers, have already heard “buzz” for shows that begins and ends with those words. You’ve read about series “in contention” for the Emmys that won’t be on the shortlist come Thursday. And you’ve been fed all this by a group of reporters, like myself, who know better than to buy into this lengthy dog and pony show.

But the Emmys aren’t just about who’s nominated. Not now. Not yet. They’re not even really about honoring who’s the “best.” Unlike the Oscars, the Emmy categories are all labeled as “outstanding”: “Outstanding Drama Series,” “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy,” “Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special.” And in the age of “Peak TV,” we all know there are more than seven outstanding shows out there. So let’s remember the snubs as fondly as the surprises, at least for a few more days.

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