The 2016 Emmy nominations are actually good! Except they’re terrible! They finally got it right! But how could they get it so wrong!
With the number of original series on television approaching 500 in total—including the ever-sprawling (Amazon) jungle of streaming—it would be damn near impossible for the Emmy voters to create a list of five, six, or seven (depending on the category) nominees that satisfies what everyone thinks of as “best” in an age of television where series are developed to cater to very specific, often polarizing tastes.
So while we can celebrate that The Americans finally found its way into the major races, that Veep rightfully earns a bajillion nominations, that People vs. O.J. Simpson and Fargo dominated the limited series races, and Beyonce—that’s right, Beyonce—is an Emmy nominee for her work on Lemonade, we also have to pound our heads on the wall that the Emmy voters failed to nominate the single best and most important television series of 2016 thus far in the Variety Talk category: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.
That said, here’s our list of biggest snubs, surprises, and curios. As they say: It’s an honor just to appear prominently on a list of snubs.
SURPRISE: The Americans
Perhaps the biggest of all the many, many gripes that critics have had with the Emmy nominations in recent years was the fact that The Americans, unanimously considered the best drama on TV, and its stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell keep getting overlooked. But no longer! (Don’t worry. There’s plenty more to complain about.)
SNUB: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
Simply put, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee is the TV program of the year. Yet it somehow isn’t nominated in Variety Talk series, where Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee confusingly takes its place. Full Frontal’s writing staff earned nominations in that category, but it’s hard to ignore the show’s oversight in the category that The Daily Show steamrolled for so many years. At a time when we truly need it, Full Frontal is carrying The Daily Show’s mad-as-hell torch beautifully.
The best reality competition on TV? By a sky-high wig it’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, which year after year—and perhaps unsurprisingly—escapes Emmy radar so that umpteen iterations of Amazing Race and Dancing With the Stars can make it in. But this year, by some miracle, its titular host, RuPaul Charles, finally gets recognition for the ferocious heart and inspirational insight he brings to his no-bullshit Drag Race hosting...all the more surprising since he all-but cursed the Emmys in a splashy Vulture interview earlier this year.
SNUB: Orange Is the New Black
Maybe it’s in the mindset of the current phenomenal season of OITNB that we all are still shaken from post-binge, that the lack of love for the show’s admittedly less-good season stings. (Only one nom, for casting.) Still, it’s owed a slot in Best Drama over Downton Abbey or House of Cards (which the Emmys inexplicably orgasms over), and certainly Uzo Aduba’s typical standing in for the rest of the stellar acting ensemble was borderline mandatory.
SURPRISE: Constance Zimmer, UnREAL
No two actresses from a new drama series deserved recognition more than Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby from UnREAL for their harrowing performances as equal parts ruthless and self-destructive reality TV producers. We considered marking the show’s lack of a series nod and Appleby’s slight as “snubs,” but that Zimmer got in and the show eked out a Best Writing nomination is a wonderful surprise. This is a Lifetime series about a dating reality TV series, after all—not the usual Emmy bait.
SNUB: Rachel Bloom and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
The amount of biting wit, emotional grounding, and comedic daring that this year’s Best Actress nominees bring to their roles, Rachel Bloom does while also singing and dancing. It’s infuriating that she doesn’t make the shortlist this year—though of course, as Lauren Graham, who announced the nominations, knows all too well, CW/WB/UPN actors have never been embraced by the Emmys. Sure, she and the show scored choreography, original song, theme song, and editing nods. But it’s her performance that really sings.
SURPRISE: Laurie Metcalf’s Three Nominations
You go, Aunt Jackie! As much as we’re smarting from Bloom’s snub, we’re cheering Laurie Metcalf’s inclusion in Best Actress for her work on Getting On, a understated jewel of a HBO comedy about the life that breathes around death. (Kudos to Niecy Nash for her second straight nomination for the show, too.) It’s just one of Metcalf’s nominations, however, with her guest stings on Horace and Pete and The Big Bang Theory garnering Guest Drama and and Guest Comedy acting nominations, respectively.
SNUB: Cast of Roots
History’s remake of the legendary Roots miniseries managed a Best Limited Series despite its very existence being polarizing. But irrefutable was the acting work done by its cast, all of which were ignored by Emmy voters. Malachi Kirby, especially, did grueling, magnetic work as lead Kunta Kinte. And it hurts, too, not to see the brave, heartbreaking supporting turns from Forest Whitaker, Anika Noni Rose, and Emayatzy Corinealdi get noticed as well.
SURPRISE: John Travolta and David Schwimmer, The People vs. O.J. Simpson
We knew the Emmys would like The People vs. O.J. Simpson, the question was just how much. The verdict: a helluva lot. So much so that John Travolta and David Schwimmer both earned nominations alongside safer bets Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, and Cuba Gooding Jr. for their turns as the Roberts, Shapiro and Kardashian, respectively. Travolta’s work, especially, was ridiculed for its atonal level of camp. But, hey, the rising tide lifts all ships—even those carrying ridiculous tan iconic litigators.
SNUB: The Final Season of The Good Wife
There was a chance that The Good Wife, the last broadcast series to make it into the Drama race, would carry the network banner one last time for its much talked about, if not universally beloved, final season. The better shot—and the deserving one—was that stars Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski, and Alan Cumming would get a trio of last nods a piece for their typically phenomenal work in their swan songs. (Baranski arguably could have won this year.) A writing nod for the controversial finale, costumes, and guest acting bids for Carrie Preston and Michael J. Fox are all The Good Wife gets.
SURPRISE: So Much House of Cards
Love or hate House of Cards—when it started we were passionately among the former, now we lean heavily towards the latter—this was an uneven season in a show that’s seen its quality become as erratic as the scenery-chewing of its leads. Yet here we are with a shocking eight acting nominations for the series (Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker, Reg E. Cathey, Mahershala Ali, and Paul Sparks), and 13 total, including Best Drama...again.
Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, the deranged and brilliant creators, writers, and stars of Amazon’s Catastrophe, scored a writing nomination for their rom-com/anti-rom-com/just-plain-genius-com Catastrophe. That the show isn’t on the “surprise” portion of this list is a major bummer. No comedy voices were as fresh. No tales of romance and family as unexpected. No performances as purely funny.
SURPRISE: Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones
Young Maisie Williams joins co-stars Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke in the Supporting Actress in a Drama Series race this year. It’s a rare nod for a child actor—historically, though with exception, the Emmys isn’t kind to those. Some might have wished that Sophie Turner or Gwendoline Christie showed up there instead. I love that she got in, though my heart hurts for Christine Baranski, whose slot she probably took.
SNUB: The Leftovers, Girls, Casual
Three of my favorite shows from last year. Three of the best shows from last year. Not a single nod between them.