Allison Janney on ‘Mom,’ Stephen Colbert on ‘The Late Show’ and Evan Rachel Wood on ‘Westworld’
If Thursday morning’s 69th Emmy nominations confirmed anything, it is that the medium of television has arrived at a major crossroads. Broadcast had its best showing in years, thanks mostly to NBC’s This is Us, which scored 11 noms, including best drama series and individual recognition for no fewer than seven of its performers. However, for the first time, the majority of nominees for a series award — in this case, best drama series — hail from streaming services, with Netflix landing noms for rookies The Crown and Stranger Things plus perennial House of Cards, and Hulu bagging its first-ever major nom for The Handmaid’s Tale.
And yet, despite all of this, and this season’s ineligibility of Game of Thrones, the pay-cable service HBO remains the overall nominations leader with 110 mentions, 19 ahead of Netflix and 50 ahead of NBC, thanks largely to a better-than-expected showing by Westworld, which scored 22 noms, a number equaled only by NBC’s resurgent Saturday Night Live, on the back of an unprecedented four supporting acting noms and record-tying five guest acting noms.
Furthermore, in this era of Peak TV, when nobody can possibly see everything (or even come close to doing so), today’s noms make it crystal-clear that the roughly 20,000 members of the TV Academy are far more susceptible to buzz from PR efforts than from critics. How else can one explain the egregious snubs of FX’s The Americans and Amazon’s Transparent in favor of two tired shows, the aforementioned House of Cards and ABC’s Modern Family, in the drama and comedy series categories, respectively, as well as almost across-the-board neglect of the acclaimed final season of HBO’s The Leftovers and Insecure, FX’s Legion and Starz’s American Gods?
Rightly or wrongly, a key takeaway from this announcement will be that special venues that circumvented the TV Academy’s constraining FYC screening process (most prominently, Netflix’s controversial FYSee space) and creative PR stunts (such as having women walk around Hollywood — and Washington, D.C. — dressed as handmaids) made a difference, so expect to see more of them next season.
There are plenty of individual inclusions and omissions that one can take issue with, as well. Last year’s best actress in a drama series winner, Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, was ineligible this year, but the same cannot be said for last year’s best actor in a drama series winner, Mr. Robot‘s Rami Malek, who clearly deserved a return invite (at least) for the show’s second season, which might have been even better than its first. And that category also should have included Goliath‘s Billy Bob Thornton, but for some reason Amazon has, apart from Transparent, not been able to connect with TV Academy members to the same extent as its streaming competitors (its comedy series Fleabag and I Love Dick also deserved to show up somewhere). And what of no nom for Stranger Things‘ Winona Ryder or any of the members of the cast of HBO’s Silicon Valley, plus a nom for the wrong Mandy (This Is Us‘ Moore rather than Homeland‘s Patinkin)?
But, striving to be positive, let’s note that a few people had great days that were anything but assured. In the jam-packed best variety talk series category, voters once again found room for Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, who still is recovering from scathing criticism over his use of the n-word on a recent episode; instead of bouncing him to make room for this year’s comeback kid, late-night ratings leader Stephen Colbert of CBS’s The Late Show, voters sent packing Colbert’s chief competitor, Jimmy Fallon of NBC’s The Tonight Show, in what may be a rebuke of Fallon’s playful handling of then-candidate Donald Trump when Trump appeared on his show last September. Room also was made for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, displacing Comedians in Cars‘ Jerry Seinfeld to become this category’s first-ever female nominee.
Louie C.K. must be celebrating, too, not only because he personally landed two noms for his Netflix special Louis C.K. 2017, but because the stars of two FX shows that he co-created and executive produces, Baskets‘ Zach Galifianakis and Better Things‘ Pamela Adlon, landed lead comedy actor and actress noms, respectively, which few saw coming. Meanwhile, TV Academy favorite Allison Janney, apparently tired of competing — and winning — in the best supporting actress in a comedy series category for CBS’s Mom, listed herself as a lead this season and duly was rewarded with a nom; it’s worth remembering that she made a similar move several years into starring on — and winning supporting Emmys for — The West Wing, and kept right on winning. And Jane Fonda, star of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, must be breathing a sigh of relief: for the show’s third season, she landed her first best actress in a comedy series nom alongside costar Lily Tomlin, who, awkwardly, had been the show’s sole rep in the category for seasons one and two. Awkwardness also was averted in the best actress in a limited series category, where room was found for HBO’s Big Little Lies‘ Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon and FX’s Feud‘s Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon (if not, oddly, Oprah Winfrey, who was excellent in HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which itself received a best TV movie nom).
Finally, how about a hand for some networks that never have had a morning quite like this one? National Geographic landed 10 noms, including best limited series, for its first foray into scripted entertainment, the Albert Einstein portrait Genius. TruTV landed its first nom in any category with a best variety sketch series shoutout for Billy Eichner‘s hilariously outrageous Billy on the Street. And VH1, which had only been nominated 10 times in its entire 32-year history, landed eight noms, including one that is tied for my favorite of the day: Martha and Snoop’s Potlucky Dinner Party‘s Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg for outstanding host for a reality or reality-competition program (in which RuPaul also is nominated for VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, for which he won last year). My co-favorite? The Oscars (yes, the Envelopegate Oscars from February) has been nominated (for best special class program) by The Emmys!
Quite clearly, there’s no business like show business, and there’s nothing quite like TV in 2017.