One might be forgiven for detecting a rather subdued air from this year’s Emmys. With titan Mad Men having concluded last year, and categories facing the issue of an obvious winner or the lack of a standout performance, this was understandably a less exciting year, and many of the awards seemed to err on the side of ‘better late than never’.
Game of Thrones and Veep take Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Comedy Series respectively, just as they did last year, and it’s an obvious victory when their only real competition are fringe or sci-fi shows such as Master of None, Silicon Valley, The Americans and Mr. Robot. The Drama series category in particular holds the distinctly outdated Downton Abbey and Homeland, placeholder shows long past their creative peak.
Jimmy Kimmel delivered Jeffrey Tambor an Emmy at the start of the show in a joke about the obviousness of his winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, but it’s Outstanding Lead Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, winning her fifth in a row for Veep, that’s the most obvious move of the night. It’s wonderful that Transparent promotes transgender stories, and the message it is putting out is positive, but it shouldn’t be competing in the comedy category, especially since Orange is the New Black completely failed to be nominated after it was booted into the drama category.
Kate McKinnon’s win, finally beating Allison Janney for the lacklustre Mom, was a real triumph, prompting an understandably teary speech that is well deserved. She’s consistently been the best performer on Saturday Night Live in an increasingly weak cast. Elsewhere, Louie Anderson in Baskets bizarrely dethrones Tony Hale – I haven’t seen the former show but from the lack of critical attention and low viewing figures not many others have either.
But it’s the Drama acting winners who are inexplicable – why are Tatiana Maslany, Ben Mendelsohn and Maggie Smith finally being awarded when they’re barely in their show anymore or are long past giving their best performance?! Rami Malek’s win for Mr. Robot is a great step for genre shows and one the brilliant actor definitely should be getting, but all four of these categories lack any really meaty performances. With the exception of Kyle Chandler in Bloodline and Lena Headey in Game of Thrones, these categories are incredibly lacking. If we’re awarding these actors for this year’s seasons, Maslany and Mendelsohn are the most remarkable of a weak bunch. I suspect the Emmys are attempting to make up for lost time.
And the real tragedy of the night takes place in neither Drama nor Comedy but in the in-between of Limited Series or Movie, which this year sees the excellent Fargo and The Night Manager heavily nominated. The latter receives a directing win, but Fargo goes completely unrecognised in an appalling show from Emmy voters. Fargo is without doubt one of the best and most beautiful shows on television, and when Ryan Murphy’s flashy American Crime Story sweeps five of the seven big limited series categories someone must be having a joke at everyone’s expense. Kirsten Dunst gave one of the best performances of the year, and it is utterly unbelievable that Fargo did not win Outstanding Limited Series, Directing or Writing.
Capping it off is the win of Sherlock’s abominable Christmas special from late last year, beating out an abysmal Outstanding Television Movie category that has failed this year in its usual job of delivering a few great acting winners. The Emmys are regularly incredibly unsatisfying but some of the wins this year are especially bad. Thank god for Game of Thrones and Veep delivering worthy winning seasons of their shows, because who knows what weird choice would’ve taken the night’s two biggest categories otherwise.
We’ve already had the huge success of Stranger Things throwing another great show into the mix for next year’s Emmys, but I pray that by the time next September rolls around there are more strong new entries, especially since Thrones will likely not qualify under its delay to next summer. This year was a combination of delayed, weak, weird and deserving, but next year is in real danger of failing to find a deserving winner anywhere.
Written by Tom Besley