In the months leading to this year’s Primetime Emmy nominations, a lot of attention was focused on HBO’s decision to enter the eight-episode True Detective as a drama series, Showtime switching Shameless from drama to comedy series after three seasons, and Netflix entering Orange Is the New Black as a comedy after calling it a drama for the Golden Globes.
The moves worked fine for all three. True Detective and Orange Is The New Black each netted 12 noms – a very strong showing for freshman series — to tie veteran Downton Abbey and Seth MacFarlane’s documentary Cosmos as the fourth-most-nominated primetime series. Both landed noms in all major categories they were eligible for, including best drama (True Detective) and comedy series (Orange), best lead actor/actress, best writing, directing and casting.
Meanwhile, after a single Emmy nom for each of its first three seasons competing as a drama series — all for recurring guest actress Joan Cusack — Shameless more than doubled its Emmy tally with three noms this year. That includes a break into the lead actor category for star William H. Macy, joined by Cusack, nominated for a fourth consecutive time, and a mention for stunt coordination.
As expected, newcomer True Detective shook up the drama series race in a big way. It pushed out Showtime’s Homeland, which for the first time fell out of the best drama series category it won in 2012. In the top drama series field, True Detective is joining last year’s nominees Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, House Of Cards and Mad Men, firming up the expected showdown between the departing Breaking Bad and upstart True Detective for the big prize. (Veteran Breaking Bad has the edge in the total number of nominations with 16).
A strong season punctuated by one of TV’s most talked about character demises and an aggressive Emmy campaign wasn’t enough for The Good Wife to return to the crowded best drama series fold. (But its star Julianna Margulies re-joined the best lead drama actress circle after a year off and Josh Charles earned a second Emmy nom after the death of his character.) The CBS series was commercial broadcast TV’s favored shot at a best drama series nom after being shut out of the category for the last two years. Free TVs’ dry spell has been extended to three years and counting. Also denied entry into the marquee drama race were a slew of buzzy first- and second-year cable series, including Masters Of Sex, The Americans and Ray Donovan.
We can’t say any of them came close as both the best drama and comedy fields remained limited to six nominees this year, despite the TV Academy’s rule change allowing for seven entries in each of the top categories if a show’s voting tally came in within 2% of the sixth-place series.
With perennial best series nominee 30 Rock gone and Parks & Recreation once again snubbed, broadcast TV’s presence in the best comedy series category shrunk from three to two this year: reigning champ Modern Family, which is looking to extend its winning streak to five best series trophies, and ratings juggernaut The Big Bang Theory. That marks the fewest broadcast entries ever in the top comedy series category, which only three years ago featured an all-broadcast field. With the complete drama shutout, this also marks the fewest total combined best series nominations (two) for ad-supported broadcast shows in history.
Joining Modern Family and Big Bang in the top comedy category are fellow returning nominees, FX’s Louie and HBO’s Veep, and newcomers Orange Is The New Black and Silicon Valley. Mike Judge’s well-received but under-the-radar software industry comedy was the surprise contender in the category, bumping off fellow HBO comedy Girls after two years in the field.
It’s been years since a first-year broadcast series landed a best drama series nomination (Heroes, 2007) or a best comedy series nomination (Modern Family, Glee, 2010). Last year, the freshman broadcast class yielded a lead acting nom for Nashville’s Connie Britton. This year, with Golden Globe-winning Brooklyn Nine-Nine and its star Andy Samberg snubbed — along with The Blacklist and leading man (and TV Academy favorite) James Spader and Mom’s Anna Faris — the only presence of the new broadcast series is in the supporting comedy categories via Brooklyn’s Andre Braugher and Mom’s Allison Janney (a double nominee, also honored for her guest starring role on Showtime’s Masters Of Sex after winning for both at the Critics Choice Awards.)
Old-network shows were still able to maintain the two spots in the lead actress in a drama series category, with The Good Wife’s Margulies back in contention, joining returning nominee Kerry Washington of ABC’s Scandal. Also back are the winner for the last two years, Claire Danes of Homeland, as well as Robin Wright of House Of Cards and Michelle Dockery of PBS’ Downton Abbey. Making her Emmy nomination debut is Lizzy Caplan of Showtime’s Masters Of Sex. Among the left out contenders were Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany and The Americans’ Keri Russell.
True Detective’s biggest impact was in the lead actor in a drama series category, with its two stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson both winning noms. So one of the most competitive fields in years features two Oscar winners (McConaughey and Kevin Spacey of House Of Cards); an Oscar nominee (Harrelson); Emmy winners Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad and Jeff Daniels of HBO’s The Newsroom; and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, looking for his first win after six nominations. The two nominations for True Detective closed the category off for any other newcomers, with Michael Sheen of Masters Of Sex, Liev Schreiber of Ray Donovan and Matthew Rhys of The Americans among those failing to make the cut.
That is the scenario FX topper John Landgraf griped about when True Detective announced it would compete as a drama series earlier this year. “It’s unfair for HBO to get actors that you can’t normally get to do a series who would do a close-ended show and pack the (drama actor) category,” he said. “That is patently unfair to people like Matthew Rhys who signed for seven years.” Also falling victim to the increased competition in the lead drama actor category was Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, left out after two consecutive nominations.
McConaughey joins a handful of actors — including Helen Mirren, Helen Hunt, Jeff Bridges and Forest Whitaker — to have earned an Oscar and Emmy nomination in the same year. As a frontrunner in the race, the True Detective star has a pretty good chance of matching Mirren and Hunt’s feat of winning both awards the same calendar year.
No shakeups in the lead actor and actress in a comedy series fields, with the only changes caused by attrition. Back are last year’s best actor nominees Matt LeBlanc (Showtime’s Episodes), Don Cheadle (House Of Lies), Louis C.K. (Louie) and winner Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), who is also nominated for the HBO movie The Normal Heart. The two available slots — vacated by 30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin and Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman, who are no longer eligible — went to Macy and another somewhat surprise nominee, Ricky Gervais of Netflix’s Derek, who became a surprise Emmy winner in the category in 2007 for his HBO series Extras.
On the distaff side, all actresses nominated last year who are eligible again are in: reigning two-time winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), previous winner Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), current Golden Globe champ Amy Poehler (Parks & Recreation) as well as Lena Dunham (Girls). After getting surprisingly bounced off by Enlightened’s Laura Dern last year, another previous winner, Mike & Molly’s Melissa McCarthy, is back, joined by Orange’s Taylor Schilling, who replaced Tina Fey. 30 Rock may be over, but the series’ creator/star is back in Emmy contention for her hosting duties on Saturday Night Live.
There was a notable shift in the supporting categories, where Modern Family retreated with three nominations, the fewest ever for the Emmy-winning comedy. In each of its four previous years at the Emmys, at least five of the six adult cast members landed noms. This time, only previous winners Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen, as well as Jesse Tyler Ferguson, made the cut, with Sofia Vergara off the list for the first time. Modern Family landed 10 nominations, down from 12 last year and tied with NBC’s The Voice. HBO’s Game Of Thrones was once again the most nominated primetime series with 19 noms, up from 16 last year, followed by Breaking Bad (16) and House Of Cards (13). Also no changes at the top of the most nominated networks, with HBO leading the pack (99 nominations, down from 108), followed by CBS (47, down from 53). NBC, which tied CBS for second place last year, slipped to third with 46 noms, followed by FX (45).
The best variety and reality competition categories continue to be frozen in time, featuring virtually the same nominees as the last two years, with the only change being The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon succeeding Fallon’s previous late-night talk show, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. This marks Tonight Show‘s first best series Emmy nom in 11 years. (The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, which wrapped its 22-year run in February, was also eligible but did not land a nom).
Fallon, who also is nominated for hosting SNL, will once again face the formidable Comedy Central duo of 10-time winner The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which snapped Daily Show’s winning streak last year, as well as Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Real Time With Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live. There is a similar dynamic on the reality/competition side, with perennial winner The Amazing Race facing the series that dethroned it last year, NBC’s The Voice, as well as the only other previous winner in the category, Top Chef, as well as Project Runway, Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.
There were very few surprises in the longform races, expectedly dominated by FX’s Fargo (18 nominations) and American Horror Story: Coven (17) as well as HBO’s The Normal Heart (16) — a big showing for Ryan Murphy who is behind both AHS and The Normal Heart. Probably the most surprising longform nomination came for Kristen Wiig of IFC’s miniseries spoof The Spoils Of Babylon, though Wiig has been nominated before for SNL. And speaking of SNL, there was a welcome first Emmy nom for breakout Kate McKinnon.