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Emmys 2014: The Dragons Lead the Way

It’s taken me a few hours to form any kind of reaction to today’s announcement of the 66th annual Primetime Emmy nominations. The nominations were neither incredibly perfect in their selections nor particularly surprising in their disappointments. Given the incredible level of quality on television today, there simply aren’t enough slots to go around and recognize everything that deserves it. Somebody has to go empty-handed.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t eyebrow-raising oddities to be found.

HBO’s lavishly produced spectacle Game of Thrones received a leading 19 nominations, up three from last year and hardly surprising given the show’s outstanding technical aspects. It was closely followed by two FX’s miniseries: the Coen-inspired Fargo with 18 nominations and Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Coven with 17 nominations.

In fact, Murphy’s two major 2013-2014 productions, AHS: Coven and HBO’s film The Normal Heart, were responsible for a whopping 33 nominations alone. As if his ego weren’t big enough…

HBOs Veep rocketed to nine nominations, mostly in the critical major categories. The show, along with Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, is poised to take down ABC’s Modern Family, potentially preventing it from tying Frasier’s Emmy record of five victories.

HBO also saw a massive payoff for its minor risk of including former miniseries True Detective in the Drama Series categories. It received nominations in all major categories it competed in, missing out only on a nomination for Michelle Monaghan’s supporting turn.

My personal favorite nominations came from the ladies. I took great pleasure in nods for Lizzy Caplan (one of two revelations in Showtime’s Masters of Sex as Allison Janney’s jaw-dropping guest turn was expected to receive recognition), Sarah Paulson (the true star of the AHS series, no offense to Jessica Lange), Kristen Wiig (for her genius and underrated comic performance in IFC’s The Spoils of Babylon but more on this in another post), Lena Headey (finally getting her due for four seasons of stellar work in Game of Thrones), Diana Rigg (for her bitch-on-wheels performance in the same), and the significant love for some of my favorite actors on Orange is the New Black – Kate Mulgrew, Natasha Lyonne, Uzo Aduba, and Laverne Cox.

And of course, the expected disappointments…

I don’t know how many voices have to rise up in praise of Tatiana Maslany’s complex performance(s) in Orphan Black. I suppose the Academy still isn’t ready for complicated sci-fi shows in its upper echelon. Maslany is in good company, though, by joining Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) and Melissa McBride (The Walking Dead) in the ranks of the not nominated.

McBride’s omission, while expected, is still a disappointment. I’d dreamed that her subtle and brilliant work in the episode “The Grove” would bring her due. I suppose that was too much to hope for given my reluctance to ever visit that harrowing hour again. The episode and the series at-large were too difficult for the Emmy nominating committee, I suspect. Shame.

The omission of HBO’s Girls in the series, directing, and writing categories was also expected, yet I hoped the creative resurgence in season three would prevail. If you’ve read my praise of the season earlier in the year, then you know I loved the “Beach House” episode and its bracing honesty in depicting the cracks in the main characters’ friendships. While I can take solace in Lena Dunham and Adam Driver’s performance nominations, clearly I’m going to have to catch up on HBO’s Silicon Valley which, despite a lack of buzz, received the nod over Girls.

I would have also loved to see Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) and Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) in the mix, but both actors seemed to be impacted by the still-strong Downton Abbey. I made a mistake in listening to the Internet chatter that the show’s perceived downturn in quality would result in widespread Emmy omission. Clearly Emmy voters don’t listen to the Internet, and neither should I.
Finally, the oddities of today’s nominations…

Kate Mara received a Guest Actress in a Drama nomination for her SPOILER maybe 20 minutes of screen time in Netflix’s House of Cards Season Two. She was completely ignored for last year’s season-long performance. Obviously, less of Mara is more.

CBS’s The Good Wife, a show I do not watch, was buzzed-about all year long for its firing-on-all-cylinders season in which it killed off a major character. Reviews and ratings were both strong, so one can only assume it came down to that show versus Downton Abbey. Honestly, though, the Drama Series category (Abbey aside) is a powerhouse line-up of brilliant television. Any other year, any one of the nominated shows could conceivably win. It truly is the Golden Age of television, and, as movies keep getting worse and worse, television just gets better and better.

The Simpsons missed out on an Animation Emmy nomination for the first time since 1994. I’m not sure which episode they submitted. If they failed to submit the clever “Brick Like Me,” then they fell prey to their own stupidity. No one will complain though. They’re too busy counting fat stacks.

And while it’s not really an oddity, per se, I was surprised at the immense amount of supporting category love for both American Horror Story (Angela Bassett’s fine work and Frances Conroy’s completely bonkers performance; Kathy Bates was expected) and The Normal Heart (Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, and Matt Bomer). In the case of the The Normal Heart, I worry that it compromises Bomer’s chances of taking home a much-deserved trophy by splitting the vote four ways.

But more about my personal predictions later… By the way, after tallying the final results in the categories we uniformly predicted, I managed to best Joey and Meghan by one prediction, missing 24 nominations to their 25. Guess Mr. Kennedy owes me a scotch and pancake breakfast!

The 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will air on Monday, August 25, on NBC and will be hosted by Seth Meyers.

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Clarence Moye

Clarence Moye firmly believes that there is no such thing as too much Film or TV. Favorites include Game of Thrones and Scorsese's The Age of Innocence. Follow him on Twitter @chmoye for shallow conversation.

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