Emmys: What voters mostly got right — and wrong
(CNN) — Fretting about Emmy “snubs” is now an annual occurrence, if a fairly misguided one. Amid such an abundance of quality TV, it’s not necessarily a conscious slight if someone doesn’t make the all-star team.
It’s hard to quibble with the vast majority of nominees unveiled Thursday. There was practically something for everyone: HBO maintained its perennial lead as the most-nominated network (despite new players like Hulu yapping at its heels), Netflix crept up on its shoulder and NBC proved broadcasters can still play in this game, thanks largely to “This is Us” — the first best drama candidate on a major network since 2011 — and “Saturday Night Live,” which rode Donald Trump’s coattails into the cultural zeitgeist.
That said, the nominations produced some noteworthy oversights, and perhaps inevitable sins of omission. And while Emmy voters — that is, members of the Television Academy, which select these peer-based honors — impressively embraced the new, in places they exhibited a continued habit of voting in part based on reputation.
The process of recognizing newer shows — often a gripe about the Emmys — received structural assistance this year, especially in the drama category. That’s because two perennial nominees — “Game of Thrones,” which missed the eligibility window; and “Downton Abbey,” which finished its run– weren’t in the mix.
As a consequence, “This is Us” was joined by HBO’s “Westworld” (tied with “SNL” overall for the most nominations); Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and “The Crown;” and Hulu’s breakthrough “The Handmaid’s Tale” in freshening up the drama category.
FX’s “The Americans,” meanwhile, settled for Emmy bids for its stars, Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, while the final season of HBO’s “The Leftovers” couldn’t break in despite all the praise heaped on it from critics. Arguably, holdover “House of Cards” could have freed up a spot for either, or even Showtime’s “Homeland” or “Billions.”
Comedy also saw its share of newcomers, including FX’s “Atlanta.” By joining ABC’s “Black-ish” and Netflix’s “Master of None,” that means three series headlined by people of color — and their stars, Donald Glover, Anthony Anderson and Aziz Ansari — are in the running.
Voters also recognized the stars of two low-rated FX comedies, Pamela Adlon (“Better Things”) and Zach Galifianakis (“Baskets”), shows that easily could have fallen under the radar.
Those looking for evidence of a “Trump effect,” meanwhile, should train their sights on late-night, where “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” rightfully joined the field after being left out in 2016, along with shows hosted by fellow “The Daily Show” alums John Oliver and Samantha Bee.
That left Jimmy Fallon, not surprisingly, on the sidelines, suggesting this isn’t the time for a vanilla-flavored monologue. But Fallon’s NBC companion Seth Meyers also failed to make the cut, while Bill Maher didn’t pay a price for the controversy unleashed by his use of the N-word during his HBO program.
The most talent-loaded category could be limited series, which features HBO’s “The Night Of” and “Big Little Lies,” the latest season of “Fargo” and “Feud: Bette and Joan.”
By contrast, the TV movie category is a bit of a mess, with a pair of subpar HBO entries (“The Wizard of Lies” and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”) joined by installments of “Black Mirror” and Masterpiece’s “Sherlock” as well as NBC’s latest Dolly Parton-inspired Christmas movie.
Among performers, even with a glut of low-rated premium shows, the Emmys certainly won’t lack for star power. The roster of high-profile names includes Anthony Hopkins, Robert De Niro, “Feud’s” Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, “Big Little Lies'” Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Geoffrey Rush.
Oprah Winfrey, by contrast, didn’t make the list. And while it’s hard to think of who should be bumped to make room for her, she was easily the best thing about “Henrietta Lacks.”
The academy also displayed its longstanding preference for veteran stars, among them Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, both nominees for Netflix’s so-so “Grace and Frankie.” Then again, with “Veep’s” Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the running, everyone else is usually just showing up for the party.
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