Sixteen out of 26 awards handed out at Monday night's Emmys ceremony were given to people who already had a shiny gold trophy at home. In fact, the majority of them won for things they'd already won for. Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory. Julianna Marguiles for The Good Wife. Modern Family (ugh) for Outstanding Comedy.
Some were well-deserved. We can't quibble with any of the repeat wins for Breaking Bad (actor, actress, supporting actor, series), a show whose final eight-episode season was so thrilling and well-executed it would be more criminal than Walter White's drug empire to overlook it. (Plus, don't forget, the show wasn't a big hit for most of its run, and didn't nab a series win until the first half of its final season.) Yes, Outstanding Actress in a Drama winner Julianna Marguiles did have an exceptional year on The Good Wife. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus is easily the funniest woman on television.
But the lack of new nominees able to break into the winner's circle is frustrating, particularly in a year when Emmy voters made somewhat groundbreaking choices when it came time for the nominations.
Netflix hit Orange is the New Black, a dramedy set in a prison with a largely female (and very diverse) cast racked up 12 nominations (including one for transgender actor Laverne Cox), yet won just one.
Even Matthew McConaughey was a victim of this insistence to stick to the status quo. In the past, movie stars who deigned to work in television stood a good chance of being rewarded for it by Emmy voters. In particular, fresh-off-an-Oscar-win McConaughey was considered a lock to win for True Detective. Not this year. Despite nominating the likes of Julia Roberts (for HBO movie The Normal Heart), Kevin Spacey (for Netflix's House of Cards), Mark Ruffalo (Normal Heart) and McConaughey, the academy didn't hand out awards to any of them. Roberts lost to Kathy Bates, who was as perplexed as anyone by her win. But, hey, Bates has won an Emmy before!
Another issue that led to strange choices Monday night is what we like to call category fraud: shows or actors competing in a category they probably shouldn't be in. Some of this depends on how the show is submitted; some of it is the fault of Emmy rules.
Take, for instance, BBC's series Sherlock, which ended up leading the night with seven awards (Breaking Bad got six). One of its season-three episodes was nominated in the movie category this year, despite the fact that it's an ongoing series. But wait, it gets weirder. In the acting categories, movie and miniseries nominees face off against each other, so Sherlock stars ended up beating the likes of Ruffalo (for Normal Heart, an actual TV movie) and Billy Bob Thornton (for Fargo, a true miniseries), both expected to dominate. Did Emmy voters even bother to watch FX's adaptation of the Coen Brothers movie?
It seems Orange is the New Black suffered from mismatched category syndrome, too. The Netflix show isn't a traditional comedy. For one thing, it's an hour long. Could Emmy voters not bring themselves to consider it the "Outstanding Comedy," even if they recognized its high quality? Were all those nominations just a consolation prize?
That leads us to the night's most egregious decision: Emmy voters' insistence that Modern Family is somehow still the best comedy on TV. With a fifth comedy series win Monday, it now ties the record set by Frasier for the most consecutive wins. But in its fifth year, the show increasingly relies on racist and sexist stereotypes and lazy writing. It's a show that clings to old, traditional TV ideals (Ed O'Neill's father knows best!). And just how in the world can any of those middle-class white people afford such giant California homes? Orange, on the other hand, is completely original, a forward-thinking series out to shake up our idea of what's traditionally seen on TV.
More than any other snub Monday, the Emmys' choice to stay in the Family and not make a more progressive choice proves it's incapable of recognizing the burgeoning TV landscape.
Michelle Stark can be reached at [email protected] Follow @mstark17.