Assessing new shows to add to my ever dwindling entertainment pack is a pastime. As a rabid viewer I watch like a doctor, searching for symptoms to determine the most valid diagnosis: strong story, weak characters, poor directing, lackluster casting… There are so few shows that I watch to completion, episode or series. The majority do not need a thorough examination, no lab work or second opinion; a history and physical are generally sufficient.
I am just so tired of the apathetic writing (Scorpions), white-washed casts (NCIS) and risk averse (Eyewitness) visions. There is so much bad television, that I fawn like a hip hop or basketball groupie when I review one that offers something new (Claws) or truly unique, ie compelling (Preacher). This year I was deep into that groupie love, from Good Behavior to The Leftovers and the undeniable duo Atlanta and Insecure. Then the nominations were announced and like Scooby Doo or an incompetent doctor, I had a moment of total dissociation then just total confusion.
I could rattle off a list of bad shows as fast as the Hennessey Venom GT. The worst shows I reviewed have been on CBS, the most saccharine network. Determining the best shows is more difficult, like choosing candy, ice cream, shoes, cars, pick your vice. Viewers are accustomed to seeing their favorite shows snubbed. The 22, 000 Voting members and peer groups choose the winners; there are no fan votes. The politics of the Emmy system is no different than our political system flooded with big or secret money. It is not surprising then that a litany of great shows have garnered no Emmy nominations this year, and Netflix was second only to HBO, with ninety-one Emmy nominations.
The pendulum shift is nearing completion. HBO will soon be succeeded by Netflix. This won’t really change the disconnection between viewers and voters. The list of universally snubbed shows is extensive: The Wire, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, Queen Sugar, Bates Motel… How ironic, deliciously so, that the Hollywood voting peer groups were unable or unwilling to identify and acknowledge work that sits at the center of our collective zeitgeist.
Then there are the smaller, quieter works that capture stories uniquely and authentically. These stories do not have the financial backing or marketing thus mass appeal of Emmy sweethearts like Saturday Night Lights, Westworld or Big Little Lies. It is a crime that The A Word, Underground, Braindead and The Young Pope were not nominated.
The Television Academy does not acknowledge lower tiered shows. The shows not developed for awards. The shows that take risks. The shows developed to placate or sedate contract requirement or relationships. These are not formula, empty shows. These shows have invested and talented creators and performers, yet they never are recognized: The 100, Good Behavior, Sweet Vicious, Van Helsing, Queen of the South… They often reside on networks like The CW, TNT, MTV, SYFY, USA… This tier of shows cannot compete with Emmy Nominated shows.
The Emmy Nominations are more distressing than the Oscars. They too always appear to be playing catch-up, nominating and awarding shows and individuals for everything but the show or performance in question. In Drama, in addition to the many snubs, especially Aden Young (Rectify) and Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel), the categories continue to be loosely defined. Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton are lead actresses on Westworld, yet Newton is nominated in the supporting category. While Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) was nominated in the guest actress category in 2014, her second nod in this category remains questionable. And the fight (Stephen Fung) and show directors of Into the Badlands were robbed; their camera work is poetry in motion.
Most frustrating in the Comedy category is the mis-categorization of Saturday Night Live (SNL) as a comedy and not a variety show. The category is littered with no fewer than nine SNL nominations, occupying slots that should have gone to comedy actors in a series: Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rea to name but few. The skill set of a SNL skit actor is very different than a character portrayed over a season.
It has taken some time but the shows in the Limited Series are fairly equal, though mixing series and movie is troubling. The scope and length of The Wizard of Lies is by no means in the same category as the rest of the nominations. Most stupefying is Carrie Coon’s nod for franchise Fargo instead of innovative and enlightening The Leftovers.
Television viewing has changed and will continue to change. Yet, critics and awarders remain steadfast in their outdated practices. If the old guards don’t release their grip on tradition, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic or something yet to be launched will supersede The Emmys, Oscars, Golden Globes, leaving them to rot like the remnants seen too often in apocalyptic or dystopian shows, Z Nation, The 100 and Into the Badlands, which they never liked anyway.
For more, check out:
- Best New 2016 Summer Shows
- Pilot Review: Into the Badlands Is Far From Sleepy!
- Zombie Lore is Lost on Jimmy Donnellan
- If you are not watching Gomorrah… (No Spoilers)
- Pilot Review: Fargo Returns Fresh and Familiar for a Second Season
- The Carmichael Show Hits it out the Park
- In TNT’s Claws, Niecy Nash Leads the Manicure Mafia
- What The CWs Riverdale Got Wrong…
- Thwack, There Goes Scandal’s Likeability and Ratings