Now that the typical grumblings of who was snubbed are over, I think it’s pretty safe to say that this year’s batch of nominees is actually pretty strong. New shows like Mr. Robot, UnReal, Master of None, and Baskets were recognized in one way or another, and voters ignored new shows that were less exciting but many were predicting simply because they seemed like Emmy bait (Billions and Vinyl).
Earlier this year when the Television Academy announced they would be randomizing the order (A-Z or Z-A) in which voters would browse the eligible contenders, there was a lot of talk on whether this would actually make a difference. Now that we have the nominees, I think it’s pretty safe to say it made a big change and for the better. A lot of the category clutter was cut out like Don Cheadle, Adam Driver, Mayim Bialik, Julie Bowen, Jim Carter, Alan Cumming, Christine Baranski, Angela Bassett, and Joanne Froggatt. Instead, a lot of fresh faces were recognized like Constance Zimmer, Maisie Williams, Matt Walsh, Matthew Rhys, Thomas Middleditch, Kerri Russell, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laurie Metcalf, and Maura Tierney. If anything, the randomization of the ballots shook up the acting races and made them more exciting, which is exactly what everyone should want.
In the end it looks like voters finally embraced the opinions of critics and it will be interesting to see if critics and fans continue to have an influence when it comes to the winners.
Earlier this week the Television Academy announced that Peter MacNicol was disqualified from the Guest Actor in a Comedy race after someone did the math and realized he was in exactly 50% of the fifth season of Veep (as opposed to the >50% rule set by the Academy). It’s disappointing that he was disqualified for ten seconds of footage in a fifth episode, especially since he had a good chance of actually winning the Guest award. MacNicol was replaced by another Peter, Peter Scolari, for his work on Girls as Hannah’s father who, in his sudden sexuality discovery, panics when he finds out he left his wallet at the home of his first gay hookup. Depending on the next season, it will be interesting how the Veep writing team incorporates MacNicol (if at all) to give him a chance to return next year.
The State of the Guest Emmy Races
The four Guest Emmy races used to be some of the more exciting categories to predict simply because voters almost completely relied on the submitted tapes to make their decisions as opposed to outside factors. That all changed last year when new rules opened up voting from a panel of 70-ish voters to the entire acting branch. Last year’s winners showed that the entire branch can’t be trusted to watch all of the tapes (who would have the time?), and we saw popular character actors on well-liked shows win: Margo Martindale, Reg E. Cathey, and Joan Cusack. Bradley Whitford’s celebrated performance on Transparent was the one exception.
On top of last year’s rule changes this year the Television Academy announced that the final round of voting would be based off of a simple hard count as opposed to the usual ranking of the nominees. Relying on the popular vote of the entire branch will likely make it much more difficult for lesser known names to win even if they submit worthy tapes (Peter Scolari, Melora Hardin, and Horace & Pete’s Laurie Metcalf).
Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Some categories are so obvious that overthinking them would be pointless. Ellen Burstyn is going to win her third Emmy for her guest role as Claire’s mother on House of Cards. As a beloved actress on a well-liked show, she will easily win the popular vote and, with the scene where she takes off her wig and reads her daughter to filth, she would have won a juried tape vote as well.
Three of the other nominees have already won the Guest Actress in a Drama Series Emmy for their current characters. Even though Martindale and Janney are immensely popular among their peers they don’t stand out compared to Burstyn. Carrie Preston was able to win her first Emmy over big names by submitting a standout episode, but now she doesn’t stand a chance of standing out against popular actors like Burstyn, Martindale, and Janney.
Ellen Burstyn, House of Cards
Margo Martindale, The Americans
Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
Laurie Metcalf, Horace & Pete
Molly Parker, House of Cards
Carrie Preston, The Good Wife
Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Before the nominations were announced, Michael J. Fox was a clear front-runner for the Emmy, but after The Good Wife under performed in nominations it made room for other actors to win. Surprisingly, Ray Donovan has a lot of fans within the TV academy – especially in the acting branch – so Hank Azaria could easily surprise everyone with a sixth Emmy win (especially since Ray Donovan will be airing its current season during the voting period).
Last year Reg E. Cathey won simply for being a part of the most popular show in the group. This year, he has to compete against two other House of Cards actors and with only one scene he doesn’t stand out as much as in past years. Paul Sparks had the most memorable scene of the three nominees where he sits down for breakfast with the Underwoods in The White House, but Mahershala Ali’s Remy stands out as the most likable of the three characters. In the end, fans of House of Cards will be divided on their favorite of the three nominees and will probably end up slitting the vote clearing a path for Azaria or Fox.
Hank Azaria, Ray Donovan
Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
Reg E. Cathey, House of Cards
Mahershala Ali, House of Cards
Max von Sydow, Game of Thrones
Paul Sparks, House of Cards
Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
18 nominations into her career, Amy Poehler is clearly one of the most snubbed actors working in television. After years of hard work on NBC and some of the best Emmy ceremony moments, she will probably win her first Emmy after being submitted as a duo with Tina Fey for hosting SNL’s Christmas special. Submitting as a duo helped Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn stand out in the Reality Judge category, and the industry’s love for Fey and Poehler will push them over the edge. It’s unfortunate that Poehler’s first win will be shared and, as a guest win, won’t even air during the main telecast.
The rest of the nominees include four former winners and Melora Hardin who could have been a spoiler in the category if the submitted tapes still mattered. The two The Big Bang Theory nominees (Metcalf and Baranski) will probably cancel each other out and the same goes for the other two SNL hosts (McCarthy and Schumer). As the apple in a bag of oranges Hardin might still be able to stand out, especially if voters remember her meltdown with the stale birthday cake.
Tina Fey & Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Laurie Metcalf, The Big Bang Theory
Melora Hardin, Transparent
Amy Schumer, Saturday Night Live
Christine Baranski, The Big Bang Theory
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
With Peter MacNicol out of contention, the race is likely to be between the two SNL hosts, Larry David and Tracy Morgan. As Bernie Sanders, David clearly has the most buzz going into voting, but as someone who recovered from a tragic car accident and then returned home to SNL, Tracy Morgan could easily earn support from an industry who loves a comeback story. Martin Mull could also easily spoil now that he is the sole nomination for Emmy voters’ favorite comedy, Veep.
The two previous winners (Bob Newhart and Bradley Whitford) don’t have the same momentum they had in the years they won. Peter Scolari, as Hannah Horvath’s father discovering his sexuality late in life, has the perfect tape but I doubt voters are going to award someone put in the race after someone was disqualified.
Tracy Morgan, Saturday Night Live
Larry David, Saturday Night Live
Martin Mull, Veep
Bradley Whitford, Transparent
Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory
Peter Scolari, Girls