The abundance of quality programming and expanding number of options has created a logjam for the nighttime Emmy Awards, where the celebration over which shows earned nomination will inevitably give way to plenty of second-guessing about those that were overlooked.
Despite the onslaught of competition from sources such as Netflix, HBO – with its multifaceted lineup consisting of series, star-studded movies like “The Normal Heart” and specials – garnered 99 Emmy bids, the most nominations overall for the 14th consecutive year. The network amassed 108 nods in 2013.
Still, the burgeoning competition for the bragging rights and promotional benefits associated with Emmy recognition could be seen in the encroachment of new players, as well as the receding presence of the broadcast networks that share televising the awards on a rotating basis.
Netflix, for example, more than doubled its tally from 14 nominations in what amounted to its maiden year – when “House of Cards” led its ticket – to 31, as “Orange Is the New Black” successfully made the leap from drama (where it was submitted for the Golden Globes) to comedy, joining HBO’s upstart “Silicon Valley” as the only other newcomer on that list.
In addition, Ricky Gervais earned a lead actor nom for his role in the comedy “Derek,” which should especially smart for HBO, given its long previous association with the “Extras” star-producer.
Netflix totaled more nominations than AMC – which still nabbed drama bids for the last two winners in that category, “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” – and Fox. In fact, Fox’s 18 bids – one fewer than last year – was matched by “Fargo” alone on sibling FX, whose 45 nods set a record for basic cable networks. Fox did share in another dozen for with National Geographic for the science-show revival “Cosmos,” and to be fair, every other major broadcaster saw its nominations dip compared to last year.
The crush of contenders also took a toll on the other high-profile premium player, Showtime, which did well in landing nominations for performers in its series — including a half-dozen lead-actor/actress berths, more than any other network — but was a no-show in the comedy and drama series balloting. Part of that had to do with cooling toward “Homeland,” which was perceived to have lost a step (or more) creatively speaking. By contrast, Starz notched a record 11 nominations, thanks in part to the miniseries “The White Queen.”
Among dramas, HBO delivered a strong showing, with “Game of Thrones” – which capped a year of record ratings with 19 nominations, more than any other program – and the limited series “True Detective,” which secured bids for its high-profile stars, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
Still, the drama voting, in particular, will doubtless draw ample attention and debate regarding those series left on the sidelines. They include CBS’ “The Good Wife” – considered to have enjoyed a standout fifth season – leaving PBS’ period drama “Downton Abbey” as the sole broadcast offering while shutting out the major networks.
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Despite “Game of Thrones’” exhibition of strength, AMC’s ratings juggernaut “The Walking Dead” was another sure-to-be-buzzed-about also-ran, even with the channel’s attempts to augment its chances via an extensive outdoor ad campaign. Apparently, the description “zombie drama” remains a tough one for Television Academy members to swallow.
The somewhat controversial decision to submit “True Detective” as a series – since the stars won’t be returning – would seem to have been embraced by voters, though FX went a different route with “Fargo,” which entered the miniseries race and came in one nomination behind “Thrones,” followed by the basic cable network’s “American Horror Story: Coven.”
In making the announcement, Television Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum accentuated the positive, citing the “rapidly expanding definition of television” and surplus of Emmy-worthy shows.
Nevertheless, the decided tilt toward cable fare and growing participation among new players such as Netflix has produced grumbling among the broadcast networks, which appear to be playing a different game than niche players, which have adroitly used prestige shows – even if the ratings are relatively puny – to brand themselves.
The broadcasters did receive best-series nominations for TV’s highest-rated comedies, “The Big Bang Theory” and four-time winner “Modern Family,” whose fifth consecutive trophy would tie “Frasier.” But another network series with high hopes, Fox’s ratings-challenged rookie “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” didn’t make the cut.
The academy clearly picked a good year to restore movies and miniseries as separate categories, after a three-year stretch where the two had been merged because of a dearth of the latter. They remain combined, however, in terms of acting candidates, meaning “Fargo’s” Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman will vie in a field that includes “The Normal Heart’s” Mark Ruffalo.
The main telecast will be held Aug. 25 to accommodate host network NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” schedule. The Creative Arts ceremony, primarily devoted to technical areas, will take place Aug. 16.
As for the ongoing debate regarding who was robbed, until then, to be continued.