Ten Thoughts on the Politics of the Emmy Nominations

In no particular order, things mostly political thoughts that struck me about the shows and roles that garnered Emmy nominations this year:

1. No love for Archer? I don’t adore the show, but it’s spiky and smart, a useful deconstruction of espionage in a pop culture that generally lionizes spies. And the animated programs feel tremendously calcified.

2. The movie or miniseries and casting nominations for Cinema Verite and Too Big to Fail are richly deserved. I loved both movies, which I thought were smart, stylish, and really valuable and entertaining distillations of big issues — the blurring line between reality and entertainment, and the financial crisis. Both augur good things for the large number of political projects HBO has on its slate.

3. Louis C.K. deserves every accolade he gets. I doubt he’ll beat Steve Carrell or Alec Baldwin for best actor in a comedy, but where those two performances toe up to the vast ocean of male insecurity and run away from it, Louis goes swimming in it. Presumably with his shirt on over a bathing suit.


4. Ditto for Idris Elba. The lack of Emmy love for The Wire or David Simon more generally is mystifying. But I do think Luther uses more of Elba’s range than Stringer Bell. And I’d like to see more British shows with short seasons get in the Emmy pool through the miniseries or movie category, if they’re not going to get in through the main series ones. I haven’t watched The Big C yet, so I’m yet to form an opinion on his guest role there, but clearly he’s an Emmy favorite. It’ll be interesting to see if an American network notices that and acts accordingly.5. I’m encouraged by not just Amy Poehler’s nomination for outstanding actress in a comedy for her work on Parks and Recreation, but by Martha Plimpton’s for Raising Hope. Leslie Knope’s a fantastic character, the best argument for good government on television, and a welcome pushback against treating hot actresses as if they’re unlovable trolls. I’m working on a larger post about Raising Hope, but it’s a striking comedy about class and, even more uniquely, about dealing with Alzheimers and memory loss. That, in particular, I think is going to be a larger trend, and Plimpton does a beautiful job of portraying a woman managing her relationship with her aging mother.

6. If Harry’s Law was by someone other than David E. Kelley, it might be an interesting look at race and class in Cincinnati. But it’s by David E. Kelley, so it’s a terrible mess. Kathy Bates is a great actress, but she doesn’t deserve this outstanding actress nod.

7. It strikes me as noteworthy that fully half of the outstanding supporting actor nods for comedy went to folks playing gay men — Chris Colfer for Glee, and Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson for Modern Family. I’m glad to see Archie Panjabi get a supporting actress in a drama nod for playing Kalinda Sharma, who is bisexual, on The Good Wife, but the imbalance between gay male characters and lesbians on television remains striking.

8. It remains astonishing how much good will 30 Rock retains, despite its third mediocre season in a row.

9. Peter Dinklage’s acting nomination for Game of Thrones is entirely predictable, if well-deserved, though the snub for Emilia Clarke’s work is too bad. The Emmy nominators have a tremendous bias towards the obvious. Clarke’s performance, especially for someone who was essentially unknown before the show, was a tremendously powerful depiction of a woman rising above oppression and claiming her dignity.

10. Go watch Stanely Nelson’s Freedom Riders immediately.