It’s Freshman Year for Cable in Emmy Nods

Broadcast Shows Shut Out Of Drama Category
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The Emmy Award nominations announced earlier this month offered television viewers a mix of surprises and expected outcomes.

HBO continued its yearly dominance over the cable and broadcast networks with 99 nominations, while Netflix surprised many TV critics with a whopping 31 nominations. A few trends among the nominations could set precedents for future Emmy Award presentations.

Here’s a look at four emerging trends that TV observers will be keeping an eye on going forward.

CATEGORY CONTROVERSY

The debate on how to classify shows reached a fever pitch with this year’s nominations. Many eyebrows were raised when Showtime decided to switch Shameless to the comedy category after submitting it in the drama category for the previous three years — resulting in William H. Macy earning his first lead-actor nomination for the show. HBO also ruffled some feathers when it submitted its eight-episode series True Detective as a drama series instead of a miniseries, netting the series three nominations in major drama categories, including dual best-actor nods for co-stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

Netflix placed Orange Is the New Black in the comedy category, even though many consider the prison-themed series more dramatic than some of the drama contenders. Also, series co-stars Natasha Lyonne, Uzo Aduba and Laverne Cox chose instead to submit themselves as outstanding guest actresses in a comedy series rather than in the bestactress category, thereby potentially increasing their chances of winning.

Programmers have said they will continue to maneuver their entries around what are very flexible Academy of Television Arts & Sciences rules, which some network executives have called good for the industry in a changing programming environment.

“I think it’s hard for the [Academy], in an evolving, organic landscape, to have rules that fi t every possible permutation,” HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo said earlier this month at the Television Critics Association summer tour. “I think people find the category that fits their intention, and I think if they’re wrong or people disagree … the Emmy voters will respond accordingly.”

CABLE DRAMA

Cable’s investment in quality, original dramas led to a near sweep of that category, which only a decade ago was the purview of the broadcast networks. Only PBS’s perennially-nominated Downton Abbey and Netflix’s House of Cards challenged cable’s domination of the category with AMC’s Breaking Bad and Mad Men, and HBO’s Game of Thrones and True Detective.

The broadcast networks’ disappearing act in the major drama categories also extended into the best-actor category where only Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) kept Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Jeff Daniels (HBO’s The Newsroom), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), and Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey (True Detective) from ensuring a cable win.

Next year the best-actor category will be wide open, with Cranston, Daniels, Harrelson and McConaughey most likely out of the running due to the completion of their respective shows, but plenty of leading men from cable’s new original dramas will likely be ready to fi ll the void.

ROOKIE CRASHERS

The Emmys have often been criticized for failing to recognize new, up-and-coming programming, settling instead for established series, actors and actresses. While this tendency remained in place — ABC’s Modern Family will be going for its fifth straight Best Comedy Emmy — the Emmy nominations largely served as a coming-out party for several new and deserving nominees. In fact, series gaining first-time recognition represented 12 of the top 60 nominations, up from just five the previous year, according to Multichannel News sister publication Broadcasting & Cable.

Leading the charge was FX’s Fargo, which drew 18 nominations, and Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, which along with HBO’s True Detective garnered 12 freshman nominations.

Netflix and other digital programming services grew in stature among the nominees. Having crashed the Emmys party last year with 15 nominations, Netflix kicked in the door this year, garnering more nominations than broadcast network Fox.

Web-video outfits AOL and FunnyOrDie.com generated first-time nominations for short-form programming, boosting the overall number of digital content-based nominations to 39 from 19 in 2013. Given that OTT services Amazon and Hulu are stepping up their respective original series offerings, expect digital nominations to continue to expand in the coming years.

MORE DIVERSITY

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has taken a lot of heat over the years regarding the lack of diversity among both its nominees and its winners. While this year’s list of nominees isn’t going to end the criticism, more people of color are in the mix to win a coveted Emmy.

Last year only seven actors of color were nominated for Emmys in the major actor and actress categories, but this year that number has nearly doubled, thanks in part to Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, which drew guest actress in a comedy nods for Cox and Aduba. Veteran actor Andre Braugher also received a supporting actor in a comedy series nod for his work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Venerable actress Cicely Tyson was recognized in the best actress in a miniseries or movie category with her performance in Lifetime’s original movie The Trip to Bountiful, while Chiwetel Ejiofor was tapped with a best actor nomination in the category for his role in Starz’s Dancing on the Edge. Angela Bassett picked up a movie/ miniseries supporting actress nod for her work in American Horror Story: Coven, while Reg E. Cathey (House of Cards) and Joe Morton (Scandal) garnered guest drama actor nominations.

They join repeat nominees from last year Kerri Washington (best drama actress for ABC’s Scandal), Idris Elba (best miniseries/movie actor for BBC America’s Luther) and Don Cheadle (best comedy actor for Showtime’s House of Lies).

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