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The 71st Emmy Nominations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
July 17, 2019  | By Alex Strachan  | 3 comments
 

Great Odin's raven! This past weekend, mere days after Game of Thrones was shut out of this year's Television Critics Association nominations, a prominent UK reviewer made a comment regarding another long-running sword 'n' sandals TV fantasy. Vikings, he said, had succumbed to "season-seven Game of Thrones" syndrome, the present-day equivalent, perhaps, of jumping the shark. 

One could be forgiven, then, for wondering, when nominations were announced early Tuesday morning for the 71st Emmy Awards, if TV academy members would snub Game of Thrones' farewell season.

After all, even though the show maintained record numbers for HBO, many people were clearly unhappy with the haphazard, hurried way Game of Thrones wrapped its end-of Game storylines.

Despite some eye-filling moments, those final episodes felt like a bit of a rush job, replete with continuity errors, hurried conclusions to complex character stories, and a final reveal that felt a tad anticlimactic, if not downright anachronistic. Game of Thrones' swan song felt more like a contractual obligation to get the final six episodes out of the way as soon as possible more than it did an Americans-style elegy, complete with a soulful, emotionally uplifting coda.

Well, Game of Thrones' doubters needn't have doubted. 

The high-budget sword 'n' sandals fantasy for adults landed a record-breaking 32 nominations, the most for any program in a single season.
 
The previous record was held by NYPD Blue, which copped 26 nominations in its debut year of 1994.
 
That doesn't mean Game of Thrones will win the big award, Outstanding  Drama Series, when the Emmys are handed out on Sept. 22.
 
Only a fool, or a Lannister, would bet against it, though — not after Game of Thrones' track record in recent Emmy years in which the show’s been eligible for the major awards.
 
It didn't take long after the Emmy nominations were announced for the experts to weigh in on snubs and surprises. The big surprise in my household, though, was the one most experts didn't care to mention: How is it, that after Game of Thrones “did a season-seven Game of Thrones,” did it break the record? Yes, it will go down as one of the most ambitious, most significant, most memorable dramas in the history of the medium, but as more than a few programs before it have shown, a bravura series does not always guarantee a great ending.

 
The Emmys aren’t that important, of course. Not many casual TV viewers can tell you what won the Emmy for best drama last year, in Game of Thrones' absence, and that was only a year ago. (The Handmaid’s Tale.) Fewer still — any? — can tell you which show won outstanding drama series in 1994, the year NYPD Blue broke the previous record for most nominations. (It was Picket Fences, right.)
 
Still, Emmy surprises and snubs are fun to argue about, on social media if not around the office water cooler, since both office water coolersand working out of an office have gone the way of Ally McBeal.
 
Game of Thrones' record haul aside, another big surprise — for Canadians anyway — was Canadian public broadcaster CBC's show Schitt's Creek running the table in the comedy nominations. Quite apart from the fact that it's more engaging than the title might suggest, there's clearly still a lot of love for SCTV ready-for-primetime players like Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara.
 
Here, then, is a quick wrap of some of the other surprises, and the inevitable snubs. Despite the surfeit of categories — 122 and climbing, with each passing year —  and despite the number of nominations in high-profile categories such as best drama growing to seven from the traditional five, there are always those who are going to feel left out.
 
While some snubs are understandable — actors in shows not too many people have seen, shows that air on obscure, out-of-the-way cable channels, or brand-new streaming services that are the very definition of niche — some omissions beggar belief.
 
SNUB
Rhea Seehorn (right), Kim Wexler in Better Call Saul. The series' actors have a crazy Emmy history: Michael McKean, bizarrely overlooked several years ago for his tour-de-force character's farewell, is suddenly nominated this time around, for guest actor. When the going gets weird, weird Emmy voters get, well, weird. It's good to see Bob Odenkirk continue to get deserved attention, and it was good to see character actors who can carry a scene, like Giancarlo Esposito and Jonathan Banks, get their well-deserved due. But overlooking Seehorn? C'mon.
 
SURPRISE
Christina who? Christina Applegate landed a deserved lead female actor in a comedy series nod for her genre-bending performance in Netflix's Dead to Me— her first appearance in the category since she landed an equally implausible mention in Samantha Who, ten years ago almost to the day.
 
SNUB
The Good Fight. Oh, come on, Academy members — really. Come on. It's not as if you never heard of The Good Wife, and not just because — again — the Television Critics Association got there before you did. As good as Julianna Margulies was, and she was very, very good, Christine Baranski is making The Good Fight her own, in a masterful performance that's just breathtaking to watch. And yes, it's drama, not the comedy for which Baranski justifiably made her name. The consistent Emmy snubbing of The Good Fight rises to the level of an actionable crime, which should be settled one day in a court of law.
 
SURPRISE
Ken Burns didn't have the final word on the Central Park Five after all, despite his bravura documentary: Netflix's limited series When They See Us not only landed a series mention in arguably the year's most competitive category, but Ava DuVernay's searing dramatization of real-world events also landed acting mentions for Niecy Nash (right) and Jharrel Jerome.
 
It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: This has been a very good Emmy year for both HBO and Netflix.
 
SNUB
Al Swearengen would no doubt have some choice words for the way Deadwood's cast of players were ignored over the years — words that can't even make it onto a family-oriented website, let alone on broadcast TV — but that still wouldn't explain how Timothy Olyphant, Robin Weigert (wow), Paula Malcomson (also, wow), Gerald McRaney, and Swearengen's namesake, Ian McShane, were ignored this time around, for Deadwood: The Movie. Think of a four-letter word for rooster, coupled with the word for a protracted intake of breath through the mouth.
 
SURPRISE
The stellar showing by HBO’s Barry isn't a surprise, not really, not after Bill Hader and Henry Winkler both won in the top comedy acting categories last year, in Barry's debut season no less. What is a surprise — pleasantly so — is the Emmy attention given this time around to supporting players Anthony Carrigan (right), Sarah Goldberg, and Stephen Root, still fondly remembered by anyone who recalls NewsRadio.
 
You may remember NewsRadio. It was a show back in the days, not so long ago, when NBC used to win comedy Emmys the way HBO and Amazon Prime do today.
 
The Emmys in the major categories — 26 in all, the only categories casual viewers and everyday fans really care about — will be handed out Sept. 22, in a ceremony televised by Fox, live in all time zones.
 
 
 
 
 
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3 Comments
 
 
Alex S.
‘Surprise,’ ‘snub’ = going for the alliteration, I should imagine. It’s also a fairly standard mode of expression in the industry — but then I’m a lazy writer, as you point out, so I can’t really be expected to reach for the higher fruit. Unless, of course, the whole idea is communication. To communicate a simple, easy-to-grasp idea to as many readers as possible, in a single glance, no matter now busy or distracted they may be.“Overlooked” doesn’t work in that context. Too many syllables. You lose the alliteration. And, let’s face it, “Should have been nominated but wasn’t” is wordy, hard on the eyes, and lacks that certain je ne sais quoi.
Jul 20, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Alex S.
As for ‘duty’ — sorry, but I think you misrepresent the word. ‘Duty’? No. Barely even ‘obligation.’ Courtesy, perhaps? But then how courteous would it be to single out one nominee from the five — or more — on the shortlist and tell them, in effect, ‘Sorry, no, you don’t deserve to be on this list, even though many of your peers thought so.’

Besides, the implication is clear. The would-be nominee who was ‘snubbed’ is, in the writer’s eyes, worthy of winning, not just being nominated. Or else why mention them?

I’m saying, in effect, that The Good Fight is deserving of the win, not just the nomination, as are the actors in Deadwood: The Movie. Which nominee(s) should be dropped to make way for them? I’ll leave that to you to decide. I should hate to make the choice for you. I’m a lazy writer, after all.
Jul 20, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
One of my pet peeves is the use of the term "snub". It implies intentionality when the reality is that many people vote and the highest vote gatherers get the nominations. It's also lazy writing. If you think someone else should have been nominated, then it's your duty to reveal you who think should NOT have been nominated instead.
Jul 18, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
 
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