At nomination time, Emmy seems blind to many shows' virtues
NEW YORK (AP) -- Year after year, TV brings its audience an embarrassment of riches.
No wonder that, when nomination time arrives, Emmy has a habit of embarrassing itself.
This year, as always, a favorite game for viewers is identifying Emmy's snubs, and it's an easy game to play. Emmy's judges are all too susceptible to the safe, the familiar, and grinding repetition. (Item: "Veep" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, with three wins in a row, is nominated again. Item: "Modern Family," named best comedy series for five years straight, is nominated again.)
Without the right blend of buzz and ratings, an actor or a show faces steep odds breaking in with Emmy. To get Emmy attention, the program's quality must hitch a ride on squeaky wheels, which explains those noisy look-at-me campaigns that target judges every Emmy season.
But Emmy's glaring omissions aren't entirely the fault of its judges. The truth is, there's simply too much great stuff to keep up with, and too few category slots to do it justice.
Consider: When the Emmys began, it rewarded the cream of the crop from just three networks, and, until 1988, didn't recognize anything on cable. This year, 31 cable networks snagged at least one Emmy nomination - or, in HBO's case, 126.
And even a few years ago, the notion that streaming-video fare could go head-to-head with shows on ABC or Showtime would have been laughable. This year, no fewer than nine broadband channels got at least one Emmy nod, with Netflix getting 34.
Along the way, Emmy has stretched and added categories in a desperate attempt to keep up. (Is Emmy doomed to become a TV version of the Grammys?) One big-tent category this year somehow harbors Zach Galifianakis' online "Between Two Ferns," the Adult Swim cable channel's "Childrens Hospital" and NBC's Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show.
Nonetheless, worthy contenders are routinely overlooked, and, it would seem, invisible.
How else to explain the absence, two years running, of the SundanceTV drama "Rectify"?
Set in a small Georgia town, it focuses on a native son who, after 20 years' imprisonment for rape and murder, is exonerated and returns home, where he is received less than warmly by the locals. Any or all of its cast members - led by Aden Young and joined by Abigail Spencer, Adelaide Clemens, Clayne Crawford, Bruce McKinnon and J. Smith-Cameron - are more than worthy of Emmy consideration.
"Rectify" was recently a recipient of the distinguished Peabody Award. Yet it somehow escaped the notice of Emmy judges.
Along with negligence, Emmy sometimes demonstrates a snobbish attitude. At least, that would explain its aversion to Starz' "Outlander," whose romance-fantasy trappings are given gravitas through solid storytelling and a trio of splendid actors: Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies as one of TV's most nuanced blackhearts. And yet, in Emmy's estimation, "Outlander" is an outlier.
Granted, Emmy love led to a few breakthroughs among the current round of nominees.
Tatiana Maslany, who wows "Orphan Black" viewers with the crowd of different characters she plays, has landed a nomination as best actress in a drama - even as her series was overlooked.
And the transgender dramedy "Transparent" got a boost from high-decibel buzz and impeccable timing to score a remarkable 11 nominations for its fledgling online service, Amazon Instant Video.
Fine. But how to account for the encore black-balling of FX's terrific "The Americans"?
A sly, byzantine Cold War-era thriller, it stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Russian-born spies planted in the U.S. Both actors feast on multiple roles as their characters go undercover, and they shine - as does Noah Emmerich playing the beleaguered FBI agent who lives across the street. But for a third year, none of them was nominated, nor was their series.
There might be too much great to watch on TV these days, after all. But that doesn't mean Emmy shouldn't open its eyes.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier . Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore