With a Mix of Critical Hits and Popular Fare, These Emmy Nominations Mostly Got It Right (Column)

There’s a lot to like with the 73rd Emmy nominations. For starters, Emmy voters have done what their Oscar voting counterparts have struggled to achieve in recent years: recognize a body of entertainment that is critically acclaimed and rife with examples of the art form at its highest, as well as a broad swath of mostly accessible fare that TV audiences have seen and enjoyed.

That includes comic book shows (“The Boys”), a new take on a popular film franchise (“Cobra Kai”), “Star Wars” and Marvel shows (“The Mandalorian” and “WandaVision,” respectively), a delicious, sudsy period drama (“Bridgerton”), and the feel-good comedy of the year (“Ted Lasso”). These are shows with big fan bases, including critics, who recognized most of them a couple of days later with the TCA Awards nominations.

And yet … I’ve heard the grumbling that the Television Academy could tweak the nomination process to broaden the scope even more, so you wouldn’t wind up with this imbalance of nominee haves and have-nots. Many are rightfully baffled by the org’s nomination-round ballots, which began allowing voting members a few years ago to select as many nominees as they see fit. So even though a category may have only five nominees, you might check the boxes on, say, the 12 that you really liked.

It’s that full-ticket voting (selecting every cast member of a show you adore) that has led to a bit of an imbalance with this year’s nominations, particularly in the supporting actor and actress categories. For example, in supporting drama actress, the eight-nominee field comes from just three shows: Gillian Anderson, Helena Bonham Carter and Emerald Fennell from “The Crown”; Madeline Brewer, Ann Dowd, Yvonne Strahovski and Samira Wiley from “The Handmaid’s Tale”; and Aunjanue Ellis from “Lovecraft Country.”

Similarly, supporting actor and supporting actress in a comedy series categories also spread their eight nominations among just four shows.

Of course, in the case of these series, it’s hard to argue with that full-ticket voting. TV Academy members clearly loved “Ted Lasso” and “The Crown.” That’s why they voted for every single cast member of those shows — and it’s hard to blame them for it; I was cheering when I saw nods for “Ted Lasso” actors Hannah Waddingham, Juno Temple and so many others when the announcement came out. That widespread love also extended to so many players on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and “Hamilton.” (Of course, the debate over whether “Hamilton” — a filmed presentation of a Broadway show — should have even been eligible for an Emmy is likely worth a separate column of its own. Let’s table that discussion for now.)

The Academy changed the voting rules four years ago in the wake of Peak TV, when the argument was made that there were too many worthy shows — hundreds, in fact — to force members to limit their selections to even 10. Giving voters the opportunity to cast a wider net would also allow some unexpected surprises, both pleasant (like last year’s “What We Do in the Shadows” comedy nod) or puzzling (sorry, “Emily in Paris,” that means you).

The Academy also made the change in response to some members trying to game the system. Back when voters ranked their favorites, or were limited in how many nominees they could choose, some members engaged in “sandbagging” — where they’d put their preferred nominee on top, followed by a list of long shots meant to neutralize any competition to their favorite show. And when it came time to rank winners, they’d put their choice as No. 1 — and that show’s biggest threat all the way at the bottom.

The more votes, the more there’s a consensus that a large percentage of members believe a certain submission is Emmy worthy. The unintended consequence is that the most-watched, or most-popular, shows get all the nominations. And other deserving ones get one or none.

I’m frustrated, too, by the lack of noms for “The Good Lord Bird,” “Small Axe,” “Girls5eva” and others. It’s not a perfect system. But as one insider noted to me, the process isn’t supposed to be about equality or fairness ­— it’s down to what the Academy body believes is the best work of the year. And just like last year, when “Schitt’s Creek” ran the table, it’s hard to argue against shows like “The Crown,” “The Mandalorian” and “Ted Lasso.”

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