The 2014 Emmy Nominations: 5 Surprises, 5 Snubs, and How the Voters Choose

     July 10, 2014


As predicted in who should be nominated for the Emmys the actual 2014 Emmy nominations provoked irritation and boredom by essentially copying and pasting the same names and series as the last several years.  There were a few adjustments: True Detective rightfully knocked Homeland out of the Best Drama list, but did Downton Abbey and House of Cards really deserve slots over The Good Wife‘s best season yet, not to mention an outstanding year for The Americans?  Hit the jump to learn the method behind this madness, as well as the picks for five surprises and five snubs from some of the non-major categories.

First of all, it’s important to note that no awards list is perfect.  Not everyone or everything can be included, and there will always be personal favorites that fly under the radar that are never going to have a chance.  That’s ok.  The problem is that the amount of importance given to the nominations and the winners can be overblown, especially for the Emmys, which have a particularly hinky practice when it comes to how the nominees and winners are chosen.

How Emmy Nominations Work

emmy-awards-imageThere are about 16,000 members in the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  Everyone votes on a list of paid-for entries based on their creative group (writers for writers, actors for actors, etc, except for the Outstanding Programming awards, which everyone can weigh in on), and the top six or so become the nominees.  After that, it’s up to volunteers within the Academy to wade through the material on their own time (honor system!) and decide who the winners should be.

The Emmy winners are chosen, therefore, essentially by their peers.  But once you take into account the fees for membership, and for the initial submissions, the money-angle starts to make things look a little suspect.  Also, most Television Academy members work for specific networks, and are allowed to nominate themselves.  So the network who doled out to have the most members gets the most votes, and therefore the most nominations.  For instance, HBO programming is great, yes, but it leads the nominations over a network like FX, who also has great content, because HBO employs the most members, and then those members nominate the shows they work on.

Adding to all of that is how one basically needs a specialist degree to understand the complexities of the Emmy calendar, and which shows are eligible for which year (made all the more difficult now that shows run all year long), which means that a show you just watched and loved in June won’t be eligible until next year’s Emmys.

Don’t put the Emmys on a pedestal, basically.  They’re engineered to be repetitive.

Still, if you’re not totally disillusioned at this point, the Emmys do have the chance to shine a light on some great programming (and of course omit in egregious ways):

5 Noteworthy Emmy Inclusions in Non-Major Categories 

wendell-pierce-treme• Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special: David Simon and Eric Overmyer, for Treme (HBO)  “…To Miss New Orleans.”

• Outstanding Casting For A Drama Series: Treme

Of course, HBO dominates everything, but it’s interesting to see which of their shows got some attention this year (and which, like Boardwalk Empire, didn’t). I don’t know why Treme was in the category of “Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special,” but look, whatever needs to happen to reward this usually completely shut-out show is fine, especially in regards to its inspired casting and exceptional writing for the series finale.  Better late than never?

• Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series: Alec Berg, for Silicon Valley (HBO), “Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency.

Not necessarily surprising since it did get a nom for Outstanding Comedy, but Silicon Valley‘s excellent first season concluded with an episode few could dream of, and Alec Berg deserves specific attention for it.  Is this the first Emmy nomination for “most complicated integration of a dick joke?”

• Television Movies: The Trip to Bountiful (Lifetime)

Lifetime absolutely deserves recognition for this classy, emotional and lovely remake (originally based on a play) that changed things up in the best of ways by making the story about an African-American family, and becoming a showcase for several powerful black performers.

• Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program: Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan (BBC America)

If you think the Comedy and Drama categories are stale, you should look at Reality some time.  Dominic Monaghan’s fun and fearless program found its way among a lot of broadcast Goliaths, which was a nice change.

5 Noteworthy Emmy Exclusions in Non-Major Categories: 

breaking-bad-ozymandias-set-image• It is ridiculous that Rian Johnson wasn’t nominated as Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series for “Ozymandias” (Breaking Bad, AMC), one of the most affecting and heartbreaking episodes from all of television, ever.  Ever.

• I wouldn’t call the Cinematography category a joke, but it is kind of a joke that Hannibal‘s (NBC) was excluded (if snubbed for everything else, ok, life goes on, but Cinematography, really?  It’s the show’s bread and butter.  Pick any episode.  They’re all gorgeously horrifying).

• Once again on the Cinematography beat, this time regarding Reality Programming: Esquire had a intriguing docuseries called Friday Night Tykes that had (in addition to its unsettling content), really beautiful cinematography, capturing the blazing heat of Texas afternoons, the inspiring sunsets, and the sweat beading up on the brows of the tykes in question. No love from Emmy voters.

• Dancing on the Edge (Starz) did manage to get nominated for Best Actor in a Miniseries (the great Chiwetel Ejiofor), but it deserved even more.  For one, how did its incredible original soundtrack — which featured 1930s jazz that was actually just completely created to sound like 1930s jazz for the production) — and composer Adrian Johnston get left out?

• Dancing on the Edge‘s writer and director Stephen Poliakoff also did outstanding work on the series, making it a sumptuous experience to behold.  Both the musical numbers and the drama were hypnotically filmed, not to mention one particular extended scene regarding an impromptu picnic on the English countryside that was breathtaking.

• And of course, the most well-known and shameful snub again this year from a major category: Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black.

For those who are looking for more satisfying nominations, I urge you to gander at the TCA awards, as well as the Critics Choice.  Neither are perfect, but they probably are a little closer to what you know in your television-loving heart is right.