It’s certainly a problem for “The Leftovers.” Even last year, when the critics jumped on board Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s drama en masse, it didn’t earn any Emmy nominations. Many assumed not enough voters had seen it (as evidenced by low turnout at their FYC screening). But a significant ratings boost in Season 3 along with even more glowing reviews gave fans hope.
“In the case of ‘The Leftovers,’ it had a realistic chance of getting in this year,” O’Neil said. “It was one of those programs with a passionate core that could have prevailed for its final season the same way that ‘Friday Night Lights’ did or ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’: There’s a whole tradition of cult shows making it in for their final year. So it was very possible it could’ve happened, but I think it suffered from the new voting [procedure].”
Ann Dowd’s nomination illustrates a related complication. “The Leftovers” is not a show voters could simply “try out” for one episode. Given that Dowd was nominated for her work in Episode 7, one would think enough members had seen a good chunk of the series to even know she was in Season 3.
But here’s where peer groups come into play. Everyone votes for the best series — drama, comedy, limited, and more — but actors vote for acting awards, directors for directing, writers for writing, and so on. (There are 30 peer groups total.) That means the acting body may have loved “The Leftovers” enough to get Ann Dowd in for her performance, but the group wasn’t large enough to sway the race for Outstanding Drama Series.
Dowd also likely benefitted from having two shows competing for Emmys — “The Leftovers” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” — considering she earned nods for both.
“You have these hip, popular, well-respected actresses who broke through for their roles after benefitting from having multiple roles,” O’Neil said, citing Carrie Coon’s nomination for “Fargo” as another example of twice the exposure helping boost votes. That aids performers individually, but not series overall.
No matter how you slice it, a lack of broad appeal — whether that’s from not enough viewers or an unbalanced voting procedure — hurt the show’s chances. Or, as is always the easiest explanation, voters may not have liked “The Leftovers.”
“Transparent” may be the best example of the new voting system’s effect, given that the Amazon comedy has never been widely watched but it earned Best Comedy Series nods anyway for its first two seasons.
But O’Neil sees another problem for “Transparent,” too: category fraud.
“I think it finally felt the pushback from the TV Academy,” O’Neil said. “It was nominated twice for Comedy Series, but a lot of people don’t think it’s very comedic. There’s a lot of accusations about category fraud. It’s a half-hour show and wanted to go comedy, but there really aren’t that many laughs in it.”
This year’s nominees certainly skew much closer to traditional comedies — like “black-ish” and “Modern Family” — than drama/comedy hybrids, like “Master of None” and “Atlanta.” Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show has plenty of laughs to balance out its deep romantic moments, and “Atlanta” caught the cultural zeitgeist in a way that pushed genre discrepancies aside. “Transparent” doesn’t have the broad appeal to withstand losing a few voters who might not consider it a true comedy.
Or, as is always the easiest explanation, voters may not have liked the third season of “Transparent.”
Now, what’s interesting about the Best Animated Program nominees is who votes on them. Not all of the 22,000-plus TV Academy members cast ballots for animation: Only those in the animation peer group do. That can make it difficult for new series to break into the close-knit club, which has its annual favorites who are all-but automatic.
“It’s very, very tough,” O’Neil said. “They have traditional favorites they embrace every year like ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘South Park.’ With limited slots available, it’s hard for newcomers [to break in].”
But the voting system likely affected “BoJack” as well. While we don’t know how many people are watching any Netflix show (thanks to the streaming giants’ hidden viewing statistics), the fans for Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s unique comedy are insanely passionate, but likely few in number compared to, say, “South Park.”
“People who are passionate fans are lunatics, but it hasn’t crossed over to the mainstream,” O’Neil said.
Or, as is always the easiest explanation, voters may not have liked– No. No, that’s unbelievable. “BoJack Horseman” is perfect, and it’s impossible to imagine anyone not liking it.
The TV Academy regularly adjusts its rules and regulations to create a fair playing field, and this kind of discrepancy will undoubtedly be examined. After all, next year is only too late for “The Leftovers.”