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Quick Emmy Test: What Do 'The Americans,' 'Louie,' 'Sons of Anarchy,' 'The Shield' and 'Justified' Have in Common?
July 13, 2015  | By Alex Strachan  | 2 comments

What do The Americans, Louie, Sons of Anarchy, The Shield and Justified all have in common, other than that they all aired, and in some cases still do, on FX?

They have never won an Emmy.

Further, they have not even been nominated.

With this year’s nominations to be announced Thursday — the Emmys’ 67th annual celebration party, if you’re keeping track — and with The Americans and Louie both coming off accolades from the Television Critics Association, Critics’ Choice Television Awards and the Peabodys, one can be forgiven for wondering whether, this time, Emmy voters will catch up.

The Americans (right), Louie and the others are not alone.

The Wire, Homicide: Life on the Street, My So-Called Life, Roseanne, Freaks and Geeks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Walking Dead and Oz were never nominated either.

Buffy and The Walking Dead’s omissions can be explained by Emmy voters’ seeming disdain for genre series — as critically lauded as Battlestar Galactica was in the post 9/11 world, it was never going to be seriously considered for a series Emmy — but Louie’s omission is harder to explain.

That’s especially true when you consider that Louis C.K. himself is a favorite with Emmy voters, having won a pair of writing Emmys (in 2012 and 2014, from four nominations). He has been nominated for lead actor in a comedy as well (four times), and directing (three times).

If a series outsider has a chance to break into the Emmys’ inner circle this time around, look for Louie to make the grade.

The Americans, though, is a longer shot, despite the accolades from various critics associations and the Peabodys.

The Peabody motto is “Awarding Stories That Matter,” and The Americans certainly fits.

In handing out its 2015 citations, the Peabody committee lauded The Americans for the way writer-creators Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields tackle the themes of duty, honor, fidelity, personal integrity, loyalty to a cause, parental responsibility, and what it means to be an American, all in the guise of a spy thriller as gripping as anything imagined by John le Carré or Graham Greene.

But no Emmy nomination.

This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that Emmy voters and TV critics don’t see eye-to-eye.

This year’s Peabodys also recognized Rectify, another drama unlikely to warrant serious Emmy consideration. The Peabody committee cited the “focused attention (and) quiet beauty” with which Rectify addresses the issues of forgiveness and retribution, all the while telling a seemingly simple story of a wrongfully convicted killer struggling to adapt back into the community.

The Emmys, like much of TV itself, are intended for a mainstream audience of dedicated fans and casual viewers alike, not TV critics or academics inclined to read more into the Peabody list than whether Jeff Daniels really is a better actor than Jon Hamm, Damian Lewis, Hugh Bonneville, Kevin Spacey, and Bryan Cranston. (Yes, Emmy voters actually made that call — two years ago, in 2013.)

Like it or not, the Emmys are the awards future generations of casual TV viewers will look back on as being representative of their time.

That’s why snubs, gaffes, omissions, minor slights, and major insults can be so annoying — even though, for every addition to the nominations, one must consider which nominated program to drop to make way for the newcomer.

The Americans and Louie (left) are hard to ignore, though, especially when they’re coming off the kinds of seasons they just had.

There were moments this past season when The Americans was simply breathtaking. It would be a shame if, like The Wire and Homicide before it, The Americans should pass into history overlooked by the one awards group future generations will look to as setting the benchmark of the times.

I recently asked Americans co-executive producer Dan Sackheim — one of the more respected TV directors in a time when TV directors are respected as much as auteur filmmakers were in the early 1970s — if it bothered him that The Americans has been so assiduously ignored at the Emmys.

Sackheim, a past Emmy winner himself — his career dates back to Miami Vice and NYPD Blue’s early years — said he believes that anyone who works in TV is exceedingly privileged, and it’s the height of churlishness and misplaced entitlement to kvetch about awards and award shows.

That said, he added, he wished Emmy voters could see that winter morning, long after midnight, when he had Keri Russell dressed in little more than a nightie, standing knee-deep in a snowdrift, fighting the cold and chattering teeth, staying in character without complaining, while dealing with his penchant for take after take in his effort to get the scene exactly as he wanted.

“I think most of us who do our best to do good work, under often trying conditions, care more for our colleagues and co-workers than we do for ourselves,” Sackheim said. “If you’re asking me if I care that The Americans hasn’t won an Emmy, speaking for myself, the answer is no, not at all. I do the best work I know how to do on the day. That’s enough, and I’m happy to do just that. I feel very privileged to be allowed to do this for a living, and anyone who tells you differently is a fool, or lying. But if you ask me if I care that Keri Russell has never won, or even been nominated, yeah, I care about that a whole lot.”

The 67th Emmy Awards will air Sunday, Sept. 20, on Fox.

Until then, all eyes are on Thursday’s nominations — and whether, finally, The Americans and Louie will get some series consideration.

Even if they don’t actually win.

In TV, as in life, these battles have to be fought one at a time.

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Kevin Pensoneau
Would like to see Tatiana Maslany (best actress in a drama), Better Call Saul (best drama), TWD (best drama), Orphan Black (best drama), and Melissa McBride (best or best supporting actress in a drama) get nominated.
Jul 14, 2015   |  Reply
My current role as PR director for the Peabody Awards obligates me to point out that all the shows mentioned in your lede except "Sons of Anarchy" have won Peabodys. And so have many of the others you mentioned, including "Homicide," which won three times.
Jul 14, 2015   |  Reply
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