The annual Emmy nominations were announced Thursday and even though the “golden age of comedy” aged out long ago, and “appointment TV” lost its urgency when the DVR was invented, television programming is better than ever — with one glaring exception. As production values (aided by sophisticated technology) improve, scripts, acting and story themes have also become increasingly more interesting
— but in the area of diversity, it may as well be the 1950s.
Series television, especially, has maintained high standards. Not only has content gotten edgier and more granular over my lifetime, but plots are infinitely more entertaining since the days when I waited all week for ”Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie.”
In both comedy and drama, we are happily in an era of auteur show-runners who deliver mature hour-long dramas that continue to intrigue and surprise, such as “Treme,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” or mold-breaking half-hour sitcoms, such as “Modern Family,” and classic variety humor, such as “Saturday Night Live.” Even more heartening, for those last holdouts who still prefer writing to reality, young innovators like Lena Dunham continue to showcase boundary-pushing original twists.
Despite that discredited rumor that went around Hollywood a few years back that women aren’t funny, my gender has taken great strides in the medium that Lucille Ball helped pioneer.
Out of the six nominees this year for best comedy, casts of three of them — “Girls,” “30 Rock,” and ”Veep” — are led by women — Dunham, Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus — who each are also nominated in the category of outstanding lead comedy actress.
And out of the five nominees for best comedy writer, two women are nominated: Amy Poehler for Parks & Recreation and (again) Dunham. (The seemingly limitless Dunham also broke into the male-dominated club for comedy directors).
Although women still have a ways to go on the drama side of TV programming, with only one selected show for outstanding drama in which the lead character is a woman — “Homeland,” starring Clare Danes — it’s nice to see those feminine statuettes for television
excellence find their way to an increasing number of deserving women.
For advances across the board, however, the small screen medium is spotty at best. While a gay couple is featured in “Modern Family” (the two men who play them, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet, are running against each other in the supporting actor category), and the role of sexually open-minded Kalinda Sharma in “The Good Wife” earned Archie Panjabi an honor, gay characters in television are not nearly as “out” as they are in society or even among artists who work in
I’m glad to see actors portraying the challenges of disabilities on prime-time programs. Peter Dinklage, who was born with achondroplasia, got a supporting actor nod for “Game of Thrones,” and it thrilled me to see Michael J. Fox — who suffers from Parkinson’s disease — get 2 Emmy nods for guest parts. Fox plays himself in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and a sly opposing-counsel opposite Julianna Margulies in ‘The Good Wife’.
I also love the anti-ageism message I get when 90-year-old Betty White hosts her own reality show.
Where television programming really fails to deliver, though, is in
Despite advocacy efforts to change the quotient, among the several hundred artists and producers nominated for the 64th annual Emmy Awards, only a handful are people of color. Surely the networks and cable TV executives who found all those talented producers can do better than that?
Nominee Giancarlo Esposito shone in his supporting part of drug kingpin Gustavo Fring in “Breaking Bad.”
Two enormously talented black thespians are also nominated for outstanding leads: Don Cheadle plays a business consultant in Showtime’s “House of Lies.”
And Idris Elba stars in BBC’s “Luther,” about a
conflicted (are there any other kind?) London police detective.
Loretta Devine was divine as an Alzheimer patient on Grey’s Anatomy and magical Maya Rudolph got a nod for a guest turn at her former weekend gig at SNL.
Other non-white performers nominated are Panjabi, whose Kalinda’s heritage is from Southeast Asia, and Korean American Margaret Cho was picked for her guest star role as Kim Jong-Il on “30 Rock.”
Isn't it finally time for Hollywood to cast more talented minority actors on our TV sets?
Bonnie Goldstein is on Twitter @KickedByAnAngel.