I have a problem. Every year, when it comes time for a large awards show (which in my mind includes only the Emmys, the Golden Globes, and the Oscars. Grammys are a waste of time, energy, and gold plating), I get angry. When nominees are released, I tend to read the first time through with an eye towards catching snubs, and much of my awards show commentary tends to be reduced to me screaming in agony, pleading to pop culture gods who refuse to heed my cries for a more just outcome. Awards show fury has become such an integral part of my pop culture calendar, I actually made one of my 2013 pop culture resolutions a promise that this year, I would be less angry. This year, I would respect that awards shows are imperfect creatures. This year, I would dedicate myself to appreciating the deserving nominees rather than swearing profusely at the misfires (I’m looking at you, inevitable Jon Cryer nomination). This piece is as much an open letter to myself as it is an article for your reading pleasure. But there is a better way to approach the Emmy nominations when they are announced July 18th. And together, maybe, we can lower our collective blood pressure by trying it out.
It is inevitable that one of your favorite performers will not be nominated for an Emmy this year. Some of them (like Charles Dance, who is stellar week after week as Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones) do not even submit themselves for awards, while others ( for example, Elisha Cuthbert, who has quietly become one of the MVPs on Happy Endings) just don’t have a great chance of being nominated in their category. Searching for a snub in a list of Emmy nominations is like searching for a piece of hay in a haystack, and if you want to default to righteous fury on July 18th, I can almost guarantee there will be plenty of fodder for your anti-Emmy cannons.
There are two reasons the Emmy nominations always disappoint, one of which is inevitable and one of which we might actually be able to work on. First, it’s an unchanging fact of pop culture life that awards shows very rarely reflect the best in pop culture. They get some things right every year (Bryan Cranston literally cannot have enough Emmys for his work as Walter White, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see Peter Dinklage win two years ago), but they also ultimately give Modern Family a Best Comedy Series Emmy while brilliant and innovative shows like Archer, Enlightened, and Louie get left out in the cold. Second, the sort of people that care about Emmys are likely to care passionately about particular artists and programs, and are likely to cry foul when their personal favorite doesn’t get nominated.
So this year, instead of looking for the missed opportunities, I want to find the hidden gems in the Emmy nominations. There will inevitably be nominees from shows I don’t watch. Some of them, like The Big Bang Theory will probably never win me over. Others, though, may be completely deserving of nomination and even victory despite my ignorance of them. Margo Martindale won for her portrayal of Mags Bennett on Justified a few years ago, and her victory lead me to seek out the show, which I had been meaning to watch for a while but hadn’t actually started yet. It’s a great series, and Martindale’s work on it was completely engrossing. She deserved her Emmy, and her victory lead me to give a shot to a show I might otherwise have held off on.
The Emmy nominations will make you mad, and in some cases, they should. When something that is just not good television gets nominated, I will still be irked. I just can’t help it, as much as I try. But consider that, occasionally, the Emmy nominations reveal television to be an embarrassment of riches, and somewhere within the list of nominees is likely to be a gem you might overlook in your rush to decry the failure to nominate Tatiana Maslany for her work on Orphan Black.
Getting angry at Emmy nominations means you care about TV. Some people might say you care too much, and allowing these awards to get you so revved up is a waste of energy, but I say welcome to the tribe. It also means, however, that there is great television out there. Television that makes you care about the people who make it. Television that makes you stand up and call for its recognition. Television you want shared with others, so that they too can know there is a masterpiece in the offing somewhere on their dial that they just might have flipped past before. The fact that not everything great gets nominated just may mean that there is a whole lot of excellence in this medium right now. While there is always some wheat to separate from the nominated chaff, there are also enough great performances, enough great shows, and enough great craftsmen writing, directing, filming, and editing television that these categories could be filled five times over with deserving nominees. So this year, don’t get mad at the nominations, but instead revel that we live in an era where there is too much quality to be encapsulated in just one awards show. Or at least take a minute to catch your breath between rants, and to sit back, relax, and open yourself up to something you haven’t seen before. You just might find that, every once in a while, and unbeknownst to you, the Emmys do something right.