After a television season celebrated for diversity and exciting newcomers, the 2015 Emmy Award nominations… look a lot like last year. And the year before that.
While several brand-new shows made a splash and offered more surprises than usual for Hollywood’s most predictable award show, it was lots of standard fare for the Television Academy. HBO’s hugely popular fantasy epic “Game of Thrones” racked up 24 nominations, the most of any show. FX’s perennial hit “American Horror Story: Freak Show” landed close behind with 19 nods. ABC’s “Modern Family” and HBO’s “Veep” remain comedy favorites. The final season of AMC’s sleek, exhausting “Mad Men” was rewarded with 11 nominations, tying Netflix favorite “House of Cards” and Amazon’s groundbreaking new series “Transparent,” which stars Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender woman.
“Transparent” was one of the freshman shows that made an impressive showing, along with “Better Call Saul.” AMC’s “Breaking Bad” prequel was met with critical praise but less-than-glowing reviews from viewers, and therefore raised a few eyebrows when it landed in the fiercely competitive best drama category. Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” the Tina Fey comedy originally slated for NBC, landed seven nods, mostly in the acting categories. And PBS’s new “Wolf Hall” garnered an impressive eight nominations.
But what about the slate of diverse shows that caused some serious reflection in the TV industry this past year as buzzy shows like “Empire,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Black-ish,” “Fresh Off the Boat” and “How to Get Away With Murder” took off? “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson got her expected drama actress nomination, joined by Viola Davis of “How to Get Away With Murder,” marking the first time two black women have ever been nominated in the category. Anthony Anderson got a comedy actor nod for “Black-ish.” Otherwise, the shows were largely shut out, and many fans were not pleased that Henson’s hip-hop drama — which shattered ratings records — was snubbed for best drama.
For what it’s worth, the Emmys (known as the slowest of all award shows to recognize change) will pretty much always favor veteran shows and familiar names over newcomers — even with the deafening volume of social media attention and critical acclaim. Case in point: Tatiana Maslany, who has dazzled audiences on BBC America’s niche clone conspiracy show “Orphan Black,” finally landed a nomination that (for many critics) comes about two years past its due. In Emmy world, just acknowledging new shows in the major categories signals that some voters were listening to the pop culture-sphere this year.
Plus, the academy showed that it doesn’t completely ignore all buzz: Amy Schumer, the stand-up comic who rocketed to movie stardom this past year, got a spot in the best comedy actress category (even though her Comedy Central show, “Inside Amy Schumer,” is technically considered a variety sketch show) alongside regulars Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”); Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”); Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”); Lisa Kudrow (“The Comeback”); and Lily Tomlin (Netflix’s new “Grace & Frankie”).
Tomlin’s nod was just one of the 34 nominations earned by Netflix, as the streaming service proved itself a worthy competitor yet again. Political thriller “House of Cards” showed no signs of slowing down, landing in the drama series category with nods for leads Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and the long-suffering Michael Kelly. Freshman series “Bloodline” snagged nods for its stars Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendehlson. And “Orange is the New Black” was forced to compete as a drama this year (after losing an appeal that would have categorized it as a comedy), but still managed to get in the best drama race.
Still, no network can stack up to HBO, as the pay cable channel dominated with 126 nominations. Critically adored miniseries “Olive Kitteridge” nabbed an impressive 13 nominees, followed by TV movie “Bessie,” starring Queen Latifah, which landed 12. The final season of “Boardwalk Empire” netted 10 nods. “The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst,” the network’s documentary known for its newsworthy stunner that may have resulted in its subject going to jail, was rewarded with six nominations.
As expected, the academy couldn’t resist getting a little sentimental: “Late Show With David Letterman” wound up on the best variety talk show list, despite getting snubbed last year. Though “Colbert Report” snapped “The Daily Show’s” 10-year winning streak two years ago, voters may not be able to resist one final send-off for the broadcaster after 36 years in late-night TV.