Not every TV show can get the Emmy nominations they deserve. That’s been a fact of life since the awards ceremony began 68 years ago, and it’s only intensified in the new golden age of television.
“The Leftovers” earned one Emmy nod, for Ann Dowd as Guest Actress. “BoJack Horseman” landed one, as well, for Kristen Schaal’s voice acting. And “Transparent” did very well in total nominations — landing seven, including three acting nods — but missed out on Outstanding Comedy Series for the first time in its three seasons of eligibility.
All this came after massive FYC campaigns, sterling reviews, and enthusiastic support from fans. Heading into the nominations, two of the three series were expected to land nominations in their genres’ top categories, and “The Leftovers” was a popular spoiler pick.
So… what happened?
The Not-So-Crazy Conspiracy Theory
Aside from being bonded in their top-level Emmys banishment, these three programs may have missed the cut for the same reason: a little publicized tweak in the voting procedure.
“I think all three shows you’ve cited — ‘The Leftovers,’ ‘Transparent,’ and ‘BoJack Horseman’ — are all victims of the new Emmy voting,” Gold Derby editor Tom O’Neil told IndieWire. “The system for choosing nominations changed this year, seemingly in a small, insignificant way, but it ended up having a radical impact across all the nominations.”
The change comes down to how many shows voters can include on their ballots. When voting in the past, TV Academy members would choose 10 options. In 2017, votes could be cast for “all those entries they have seen and feel are worthy of nomination,” per the official language of the Academy. In other words, they weren’t limited to 10. They could vote for as many as they wanted.
This may have made it harder for shows without broad appeal to get nominated. Whereas in the past, intensely beloved series could get in on the strength of their passionate voter base, the new system may have diluted the results to appease more widely-liked programs.
For example, when voters only had 10 options, devoted fans would have made sure to include “The Leftovers,” but “Westworld,” “Stranger Things,” “This Is Us,” or other hit series may have been left off. Voters simply didn’t have room to include everything they thought was worthy and were forced to narrow it down to 10 candidates. In doing so, they made sure to include their 10 favorites. This year, they didn’t have to exclude anyone, and even if “The Leftovers” was their favorite show, its vote counted the same as programs voters felt were generally worthy. Their No. 15 choice counts as much as their No. 1.
“With this year’s Emmy nominations, we saw more consensus,” O’Neil said. “You know how every single year, Margo Martindale is nominated and there are always these die-hard Emmy favorites [like her]? That’s because those people have core, strong support, but they don’t have the broad support. So when you ask the voters this year to check off everything they think is worthy, all of a sudden you’ll notice the impact has been profound: Shows with more passionate support were dinged.”
One could make the argument that if a show doesn’t have broad support, it shouldn’t be nominated. But the flip side is that we don’t know if the nominees represent the best shows chosen by the TV Academy or simply the ones seen by the most people. In a day and age when no one is watching every TV show, this kind of system feels especially problematic.
Continue reading for individual analyses on on “The Leftovers,” “Transparent,” and “BoJack Horseman.”