The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (with help from a very enthusiastic Anthony Anderson) woke up Hollywood last Thursday by announcing the nominees for this year’s Emmy Awards. It turned out to be—compared to the Oscars, anyway—a surprisingly diverse bunch of nominees. The departure of some longtime favorites (like “Mad Men” and “The Newsroom”) left room for a number of deserving newcomers.
HBO led the parade with 94 nominations—many of those coming courtesy of “Game of Thrones,” of course. But that was down significantly from last year’s high of 126 nominations for the cable network. That drop allowed FX to jump from 38 to 56 nomination and new powerhouse Netflix to leap from 34 to 54. So what surprises and snubs showed up in this year’s master list of praiseworthy TV viewing?
Surprises—For six critically acclaimed seasons, FX’s domestic spy thriller “The Americans” has avoided getting any significant Emmy love (Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series? Outstanding Main Title Theme Music?). This year it nailed Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Lead Actor (Matthew Rhys), Outstanding Lead Actress (Keri Russell) and Outstanding Writing. USA’s impeccable freshman drama “Mr. Robot” did great as well, garnering well-deserved noms in Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Lead Actor (the incredible Rami Malek), Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Casting. Kit Harington, Jon Snow on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” secured his first Emmy nomination—of 11 for the show this season. Funny-wise, Aziz Ansari’s deeply personal “Master of None” got a Outstanding Comedy nom. (Yay, Netflix.) Thomas Middleditch from HBO’s brutally funny “Silicon Valley” got his first performer nomination. Excitable Anthony Anderson has been nominated twice for “Black-ish,” but costar Tracee Ellis Ross hasn’t. She got her first lead actress nomination this year.
Snubs—Fans of Starz’ mega-popular romantic time travel series “Outlander” were probably disappointed in its total lack of Emmy attention. But who needs awards when you have bare, Scottish abs? Lifetime’s sharp, behind-the-scenes drama about a reality dating show “UnREAL” got Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Supporting Actress (Constance Zimmer) nods, but no Outstanding Drama nomination. As good as “Mr. Robot” did this year, it was surprising to see Christian Slater left out of the Outstanding Supporting Actor category. “Mr. Robot” may be the best thing he’s ever done—and I’m including Gleaming the Cube. Perennials Julianna Marguliles and Michelle Dockery got dumped from the Outstanding Lead Actress category in the final seasons of their shows (“The Good Wife” and “Downton Abbey” respectively.) But few would argue those shows went out with their best foot forward. How Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen avoided getting any acting nominations for the Starz-BBC prestige project The Dresser, however, is something of a mystery. Then again, fellow Brits Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch and Idris Elba did eat up a lot of those dramatic actor slots. On the funny front, would it have killed the Television Academy to take away that Outstanding Comedy nomination for ABC’s over-loved sitcom “Modern Family” and give it to Rachel Bloom’s innovative “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”? And if you don’t think Constance Wu is the best part of “Fresh Off the Boat,” you haven’t been paying attention. In the Talk Show/Variety categories, 2016 marks the first year since 2004 that Stephen Colbert hasn’t been nominated for anything. But in truth “The Late Show” isn’t nearly as good as “The Colbert Report.” If we’re talking “Daily Show” alumni, though, “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” was probably worthy of more than just an Outstanding Writing nomination.