Emmy voters just couldn’t help themselves.
Given a rich, vast, sprawling landscape of broadcast, basic cable, pay cable and streaming programs to choose from, a new system of online voting designed to increase participation and a plethora of new shows from all corners of the pop-culture galaxy, they pretty much voted for the same people they always vote for.
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“The Big Bang Theory” instead of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Mad Men” instead of “The Americans,” Jeff Daniels instead of Michael Sheen, Michelle Dockery instead of Tatiana Maslany, Jim Parsons instead of Andy Samberg, Melissa McCarthy instead of Mindy Kaling, “Saturday Night Live” instead of “HitRECord.”
That’s not to say that “Big Bang” and “Mad Men” and Daniels and Dockery aren’t deserving, or that Thursday morning’s nominations didn’t bring any new blood, or any surprises.
But for every fresh choice in the top categories – HBO’s “Silicon Valley” for comedy series, Lizzy Caplan from “Masters of Sex” for drama actress – came a couple of reminders that the first round of Emmy voting is a huge popularity contest, and that the 16,000-plus Television Academy voters like the same shows this year that they liked last year and the year before.
The nominations also showed that yes, HBO’s “True Detective” left some nominations on the table by choosing to submit as a drama series rather than a miniseries. It ended up with 12 nominations, a highly respectable total that tied it with “Downton Abbey,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Sherlock: His Last Vow” and “Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey.”
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But they trailed leaders “Game of Thrones” (19 nominations), “Fargo” (18) and “American Horror Story: Coven” (17) — and crucially, “Fargo” and “AHS” are in the less competitive movies and miniseries categories, where “True Detective” would have found it easier to rack up the nominations than in the brutal drama categories.
By sticking to its guns and entering as a drama series, “True D” will go head-to-head with the final season of “Breaking Bad,” the next-to-last season of “Mad Men,” the bloodiest season of “Game of Thrones,” the most conniving season of “House of Cards” and the healingest season of “Downton Abbey.” Despite the stiff competition, it has a real chance of coming out on top.
And its star, Matthew McConaughey, stands a good chance of following Helen Mirren, Helen Hunt and Liza Minnelli as the only performers to win an Oscar and an Emmy in the same calendar year. (George C. Scott would have joined that group as well, but he turned down his Oscar for “Patton” before accepting an Emmy for the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie “The Price.”) Of course, beating Bryan Cranston’s swan song as Walter White could be a tall order for the lanky Texan whose Oscar for “Dallas Buyers Club” has only been on his shelf for four months.
“Game of Thrones” seized the most-nominated crown after a season filled with high-profile deaths, but “The Good Wife” couldn’t ride its own much-talked-about murder back into the top drama category; its failure to break into Outstanding Drama Series means that it’s now been three years since a broadcast network received a nomination in that category.
And with comedy-series nods for HBO’s “Veep” and “Silicon Valley,” FX’s “Louie” and Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” even that category — typically the friendliest major program category for the broadcast networks — is now two-thirds cable or streaming, with only “The Big Bang Theory” and four-time winner “Modern Family” holding the fort for broadcast.
(Sorry about that, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Mindy Project” and “Parks and Recreation.”)
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This year’s Emmy nominations don’t have the game-changing feel of last year’s, when Netflix’s “House of Cards” became the first streaming show to crash the top categories. Netflix is back, of course, with “Cards” (13 nominations), “Orange Is the New Black” (12), “Derek” and the documentaries “Brave Miss World” and “The Square.”
But apart from Netflix and the short-form categories, streaming platforms are mostly missing from the nominations, which went to the usual array of pay-cable, basic cable and, oh yeah, broadcast networks.
HBO didn’t break into triple digits this year, ending up with 99 nominations, but it did more than double the count of runner-up CBS (47), and extended to 15 years its streak of being the most-nominated network.
So while Television Academy president Bruce Rosenblum announced, “Quality television is platform-agnostic” in his opening remarks on Thursday morning, Emmy voters are not quite platform-agnostic. They know what they like, and they’re still finding it in most of the same places.