The nominations for the 67th annual Primetime Emmys were announced recently, and like all nominations in recent memory, it’s just as notable for what was snubbed as for what did end up nominated. With this becoming an increasing trend, many have taken to questioning the importance of the Emmys, and whether they’re relevant in this day and age, especially as shows that can be categorised as hour-long comedies or half-hour dramas are just the latest in a long line of things that have left the Academy scrambling. The Emmys are still relevant, however, but not in the way that it’s usually presented. Rather, the Emmys work best in the current television landscape as a way to point budding television fans in the right direction of where to begin exploring.
Consider, for example, the case of the modern-day individual who discovers they have a deeper appreciation for television than any of their peers. This is a situation many people have found themselves in over the years, and now more than ever, it can seem daunting to find an entry point to delve into the exploration of tv shows. The Emmys, however, work well as a good place to start. Sure, numerous outlets, including us here at Sound on Sight, talk about the best of the year, but none carry the visibility of the Emmys, whose choices reverberate throughout the tv community. The award’s visibility alone makes it a good place to provide options for budding television fans to start exploring; the winners and nominees themselves are inconsequential in these situations. Take, for example, the Best Actor win of Jeff Daniels at the 2013 Emmys for his role in The Newsroom. While it was a decision that not everyone would have agreed with, it affords a new television fan a wealth of avenues to explore. Watching The Newsroom can lead them to Aaron Sorkin’s other works in the form of The West Wing or Sports Night. Seeing Emily Mortimer in such a key role can lead them to 30 Rock, where she briefly but memorably played Jack Donaghy’s beau, which would in turn open up the road to quality comedies. Even The Newsroom‘s presence on HBO is a potential gateway, as exploring other series on the channel leads to older shows such as The Sopranos and Eastbound and Down, as well as still-running series such as Game of Thrones and Girls. For those who want to explore television but don’t know where to start, the Emmy Awards work as an excellent recommendation engine.
None of this, of course, accounts for the big winners and nominees that people agree are deserved. Aaron Paul’s three Emmy wins for his work on Breaking Bad has rarely, if ever, been in dispute. Mad Men’s numerous Emmy nominations and wins have similarly been agreed by many to be a reward for quality work, as have Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Emmy wins for her work on Veep. In these kinds of instances, it’s good to see excellent performers and shows get their due. Much like in any profession, rewarding quality work with awards is a good thing, if only because it opens the door for people who might have been otherwise reluctant on these shows and performances to give them a chance, or even bring it to the attention of individuals who might otherwise not be aware of specific shows or performances.
But another aspect of the Emmys is that it also provides recognition to parts of the industry that often aren’t in the spotlight. The common argument that often comes up in this regard is that performers get big salaries to appear on tv shows, negating the need for additional recognition of their work. Even if that were true, television shows aren’t created by just one person. Writers, directors, cinematographers, stunt choreographers, editors, and a whole number of other individuals work together to bring a tv series to life, and often don’t get the same amount of credit. The Emmys offer many of them an opportunity to celebrate their achievements in the public spotlight, and offer them a chance for recognition by a group of peers and audience members who don’t often see their hard work, only the fruits of their labour.
There’s certainly a lot to dislike about the Emmys, and the Academy does have a history of overlooking worthy performances, episodes, and tv shows, with The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon, Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez, and FX’s Justified standing as just three examples from this year alone. In light of this, perhaps it’s time to recalibrate how the Emmys are regarded; not as an objective declaration of the best of the best in television, but as an entry point for those looking to explore the medium, and a way to give recognition to some of the under-appreciated professions in the industry. As a barometer of excellence in the medium, the Emmys no longer do the job, if they ever did. But as a way to provide suggestions for an entry point for individuals looking to explore what television has to offer, or a way to give recognition to some aspects of the industry that usually remain out of the spotlight, it’s a great tool.