The surprises and omissions from this year's Emmy Awards nominations
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
PBS scored 26 Emmy nominations this morning, including plenty of love for the final season of Downton Abbey, and several top-notch series on other networks got some unexpected attention.
Nominations were announced bright and early this morning, with Game of Thrones once again getting the most nods for the year (23) and HBO (94 nods this year) continuing to dominate among all broadcast and cable networks. (Click here for a full list of nominees.)
Downton's final season picked up nominations for drama series, supporting actress in a drama series (Maggie Smith), directing (Michael Engler), writing (Julian Fellowes), production design, casting, cinematography, hairstyling, sound mixing and costuming.
Sherlock scored an impressive six nominations for TV movie, lead actor in a limited series or movie (Benedict Cumberbatch), cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing and special visual effects.
Other nominated PBS programs include American Experience — Walt Disney (writing for nonfiction programming), American Masters (documentary or nonfiction series), Antiques Roadshow (structured reality program), Independent Lens — Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking), In Performance at the White House — Smithsonian Salutes Ray Charles (music direction), Jackie Robinson (narrator [Keith David] and writing for nonfiction program), Live from Lincoln Center — Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton (music direction and sound mixing), and Live from Lincoln Center — Sinatra: Voice for a Century (music direction).
Let's look at the other categories, with my two cents about omissions and welcome surprises.
The Americans, an FX series about a pair of Russian spies embedded in American society in the 1980s that recently completed its fourth season, broke into the drama categories in a big way, with nominations for best drama, actor (Matthew Rhys), actress (Keri Russell) and guest actress (Margo Martindale).
Americans and Downton will compete for best drama against Better Call Saul (AMC), Mr. Robot (USA), House of Cards (Netflix) and Homeland (Showtime). Mr. Robot, which just started its second season, is a surprise but welcome newcomer in the race. Orange Is the New Black, as well as the final season of The Good Wife, are among the notable omissions. I would have easily added UnREAL (Lifetime) and Jessica Jones (Netflix) to the list, as well.
For lead actress in a drama, Russell will face Taraji P. Henson (Empire, Fox), Clare Danes (Homeland), Robin Wright (House of Cards), Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder) and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, BBC America). For my money, I would have rather seen Shiri Appleby (UnREAL), Julianna Margulies (Good Wife), Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones), Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel, A&E) or Carrie Coon (HBO's The Leftovers) instead of Davis, Danes or Wright (whose shows' best days are behind them).
For lead actor in a drama, Rhys will go against Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Kyle Chandler (Bloodline, Netflix), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) and Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan, Showtime). I would have dropped Schreiber (I steadfastly don't get that show's appeal) and Spacey (and maybe Chandler) to free up room for Sam Heughan (Outlander, Starz) and Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel).
Supporting actress nominees, aside from Smith, include Maura Tierney (The Affair, Showtime); Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke and Maisie Williams (all Game of Thrones); and Constance Zimmer (UnREAL). Tierney was a surprise Golden Globe winner earlier this year, and it sounds like she has a killer season (I'm a little behind on the show), while Zimmer is just spectacular on UnREAL, which you really, really should be watching. Sadly, though, Rhea Seehorn (who submitted as a supporting actor but is practically a co-lead) didn't make the cut for her outstanding work on Better Call Saul. And I'm pouring one out for Christine Baranski, always a bright spot on The Good Wife.
Peter Dinklage, last year's winner for supporting actor, will face his resurrected castmate and first-time nominee Kit Harington (Jon Snow), as well as Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul), Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline), Michael Kelly (House of Cards) and Jon Voight (Ray Donovan). I was hoping to see David Tennant, best known for his work on Doctor Who, score a nod for his creepily magnificent work on Jessica Jones. And where is Christian Slater, one of the best parts of Mr. Robot?
Veep (HBO) scored 17 nods — its best yet and nearly double the number it got for the last two years — including best comedy, where it will face off against black-ish (ABC), Master of None (Netflix), Modern Family (ABC), Silicon Valley (HBO), Transparent (Amazon) and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix). Insanely, The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend — for my money, the most ambitious comedy on TV — was left off the list. Amazon's Catastrophe, which at least picked up a writing nod, was similarly left off.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), the reigning winner, will face Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish), Laurie Metcalf (the little-seen but excellent Getting On, HBO), Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie, Netflix), Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central) and Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) in the lead comedy actress category. Rachel Bloom, the mad genius behind Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and a Golden Globe winner, was inexplicably overlooked, and I would have loved to have seen the fierce Constance Wu get recognized for her work on Fresh Off the Boat.
Jeffrey Tambor, whose heart-wrenching performance as newly transitioned Maura Pfefferman won last year, will face Anthony Anderson (black-ish), Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth, Fox), Aziz Ansari (Master of None), William H. Macy (Shameless, Showtime) and Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley). Middleditch, Forte and Ansari are very welcome additions to this category, though I wish room had been found for Rob Lowe and/or Fred Savage on the gone-too-soon Fox series The Grinder.
Reigning winner Allison Janney (Mom) is up for another trophy for supporting actress in a comedy, pitted against Niecy Nash (Getting On), Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), Judith Light and Gaby Hoffman (Transparent), and Anna Chlumsky (Veep). Alas, Jane Krakowski — who simply slays on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — didn't make the cut.
One of the biggest surprises was seeing Louie Anderson nominated for his subtle but stellar work on Baskets, a low-profile comedy on FX. Anderson plays star Zach Galifianakis' mother, but never as a joke. It's really, really strong work, and I'm happy to see it rewarded. He'll face off against Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fox), Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele), Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Tony Hale and Matt Walsh (Veep). Apparently, it's still the law that a Modern Family actor must still be nominated every year, but at least they don't have the stranglehold on this category that they used to. I sure would have rather seen Jaime Camil sneak in for his gut-busting work on Jane the Virgin (The CW).
Limited Series or Movie
These categories — which were all but moribund just a few years ago — feature several high-profile races, especially with the breakout success of FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
The People v. O.J. will face off against American Crime (ABC), Fargo (FX), The Night Manager (AMC) and Roots (History) for outstanding limited series. That leaves American Horror Story: Hotel out in the cold, which doesn't bug me so much, I've gotta say (even though Hotel was a big improvement on Freakshow and even Coven).
PBS's Sherlock: The Abominable Bride will compete for outstanding television movie against All the Way (HBO), a dramatization of a stage play about Lyndon Baines Johnson; Confirmation (HBO), which rehashes the drama behind Clarence Thomas' nomination for the Supreme Court; Luther (BBC America), featuring Idris Elba's fascinatingly damaged London detective; and A Very Murray Christmas (Netflix), Bill Murray's oddball holiday special.
Sarah Paulson should be the overwhelming favorite for lead actress in a limited series or movie for her compelling work as Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. She's up against Felicity Huffman and Lili Taylor in American Crime, Kerry Washington in Confirmation, Kirsten Dunst in Fargo and Audra McDonald in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill (HBO).
Bryan Cranston will look to follow up a Tony Award for his work on All the Way with an Emmy for lead actor in a limited series or movie for the same piece. He's facing Cumberbatch in Sherlock, Elba in Luther, Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager and the dynamic Courtney B. Vance in The People v. O.J. Somehow, Cuba Gooding Jr. also got nominated as the title character in the latter, though he was certainly one of the weakest links in an otherwise outstanding series. I'd have rather seen Patrick Wilson be recognized for his great work on Fargo.
Wilson's co-stars Jesse Plemons and Bokeem Woodbine were nominated for their work as supporting actors, as was Hugh Laurie for The Night Manager. They're facing a trifecta from The People v. O.J.: John Travolta, Sterling K. Brown and David Schwimmer.
And Paulson is up for another Emmy this year for AHS: Hotel, nominated against Melissa Leo as Lady Bird Johnson in All the Way, Regina King in American Crime, Kathy Bates in AHS: Hotel, Jean Smart in Fargo and Olivia Colman in The Night Manager.
Other nominations of note
- RuPaul Charles got his first, extraordinarily long-overdue nomination for hosting RuPaul's Drag Race (Logo). If I had a vote, that series would win in a heartbeat, but it wasn't even nominated. (Instead, The Amazing Race (CBS), American Ninja Warrior (NBC), Dancing with the Stars (ABC), Project Runway (Lifetime), Top Chef (Bravo) and The Voice (NBC) were.)
- Documentaries from the world of entertainment dominate the documentary or nonfiction special category: Becoming Mike Nichols (HBO), Everything Is Copy — Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted (HBO), Listen to Me Marlon (Showtime), Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (HBO) and What Happened, Miss Simone? (Netflix).
- American Masters will vie against Chef's Table (Netflix), The Seventies (CNN) and Woman with Gloria Steinem (VIceland) for outstanding documentary or nonfiction series — but none of that will matter because Netflix's Making a Murderer is far and away the favorite.
- PBS's The Black Panthers will battle with a slate of highly respected films in the exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking category: Oscar nominees Cartel Land (A&E), The Hunting Ground (CNN), Racing Extinction (Discovery Channel) and Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom (Netflix), as well as Jim: The James Foley Story (HBO). (Hunting Ground and Racing Extinction both were nominated for original songs, not for best documentary.)
- The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central) was dropped from the variety series category, and sadly, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS) didn't make the cut, though it did for writing.
- The Whispers, ABC's kooky alien-abduction series, is an Emmy nominee for outstanding main title music.
Who were you happy to see or upset not to see? Let me know via Twitter or on Facebook!