This morning, Anthony Anderson and his chaperone Lauren Graham read out the nominations — some of them, at least — for the 68th-annual prime-time Emmy Awards, kicking off the annual frenzy of kvetches, toasts, and of course, blog posts. While the television industry is off celebrating and/or lamenting, there’s a whole lot of data to sift through here: some good, some exasperating, all of it a fascinating referendum on where TV stands in 2016. (On the internet, mostly.) Without further ado, here are the winners and losers of this year’s crop. Let the months of speculation begin!
Winners: ‘Master of None’ and ‘Mr. Robot’
The Emmys are defined by their inertia. Which makes sense, given that they honor an industry that, despite its current state of chaos, is partially defined by its stability: Hit series stay on the air year after year, and Emmy shortlists consequently stay the same. The most depressing thing about Emmy speculation is that most of us simply assume nominees will stay static, with the only turnover coming from the occasional cancellation.
Hence the joy of the Emmy newcomer, who makes the most of a very narrow opening in the ranks and injects some desperately needed fresh blood in the process. Master of None (Outstanding Comedy Series) and Mr. Robot (Outstanding Drama Series) split the honor neatly between them. (Congrats also to their respective leads, Aziz Ansari and Rami Malek, who were also nominated.) Given that they’re both formally audacious series with nonwhite leads, their breakthrough success is doubly refreshing.
Loser: ‘Orange Is the New Black’
The exception to the Unchanging Emmys rule is arguably the least deserving. There were, of course, the annual slew of snubs — my helmet-headed husband Nick Wasicsko will be avenged — but Orange Is the New Black was the only major dethroning. A show that forced the Television Academy to change multiple bylaws in order to prevent its dominance was basically shut out. No Best Drama nomination. No acting nominations. Not even a writing nomination! Just a single casting nomination, which is the Emmys equivalent of a participation trophy.
Orange’s third season, the one under consideration thanks to the academy’s decidedly pre-Netflix nomination window, may not have been its strongest. But neither was the latest installment of Homeland, or House of Cards! The Emmys had more than enough room to change up the roster and give Downton Abbey a courtesy wrap-up nod without blocking out Orange entirely. A bummer of an unforced error.
Winner: ‘The Americans’
The only thing harder than breaking into the Emmy pool is breaking into the Emmy pool four seasons into a critically acclaimed but severely underrecognized run. So kudos to The Americans, and both its leads, for snowballing enough grassroots support to puncture the academy’s iron-coated viewing dome. (Ditto to Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, who worked seven times as hard for four times as long to make it in. That’s anti-genre bias for ya!) It gives us stupidly optimistic Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fans hope.
Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons were both nominated. If love isn’t dead — and this PROVES it isn’t — they’ll keep dating long enough to walk the carpet together.
Losers: The Non-telecast Nominees
Largely because they lost out on the opportunity for a hyped-up Anthony Anderson shout-out, which is why everyone except Taraji P. Henson and Tracee Ellis Ross is kiiind of a loser. But because the academy decided to keep things short and sweet, there were a huge number of nods you’ll likely find out about on Twitter because nerds like me scoured the entire Emmy website, starting with literally every writing, directing, and non-lead-acting award.
So in no particular order, here are some nominations that give me more joy than Anderson freaking out over his own show: Laurie Metcalf, who got three acting nominations in one year (including one for Louis C.K.’s Horace and Pete); Constance Zimmer, who got a supporting nomination for her katana-sharp work on Unreal; Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, which was snubbed as a show but got a nomination for its uncommonly diverse, gleefully angry writers’ room; and Sterling K. Brown, whose performance as Chris Darden on The People v. O.J. Simpson redeemed its subject just as much as his more prominently recognized costar Sarah Paulson’s. Ideally, the academy can make it up by inviting them to the big stage come September.
Let’s shamelessly take a moment for my family’s ancestral home, which produced not one but two of this year’s major newcomers — Maslany, as mentioned previously, and Thomas Middleditch of Silicon Valley fame, along with two writing nominations. What we lack in an inability to be anything but passive-aggressively polite we make up for in talent!
Loser: Stephen Colbert
It’s been a weird year for Colbert, PR-wise. His brand-new Late Show routinely loses out in the ratings to Jimmy Fallon, his direct competitor. He brought in a showrunner for extra help getting off the ground. And he’s suffered somewhat in comparison with James Corden, the goofy kid brother to Colbert’s charming professor. Colbert doesn’t have a bankable viral franchise to fill his network’s coffers — and now, he doesn’t have an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Variety Talk Series. Nothing has reached a crisis point yet, but the looming storm cloud just got one shade darker.
Loser: Emmy Skepticism
You know what? Considering how low the bar is for flawed institutions recognizing excellence in a massive explosion of art and commerce, this isn’t a bad field. Modern Family and Downton Abbey are still hanging in there, but we knew they would be; meanwhile, The People v. O.J. Simpson got as many plaudits as it should, Catastrophe got a surprise nomination, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus remains overlady of the whole shebang, as is only right. Given the number of options these days, the academy is keeping up surprisingly well — and those of us who feared the worst were proved (mostly) wrong.
Winner: My Sleeping Habits
Until last year, the academy used to roll these suckers out at 5:30 in the goddamn morning Pacific Time. Now us West Coast writers are spared the predawn wake-up call, and you readers are spared a reactions post made up entirely of keyboard-smash nonsense from when I fall asleep at my laptop. Onward!