The Popularity Contest

Even if the Emmys took my advice and started an 'Outstanding Performance by Alison Brie' category, Community would probably still lose out to Mad Men. No justice. 

The thing to remember about the Emmys is that it’s basically a high school election where everybody votes for their favorite popular people; the only differences are that the campaign posters are better, there’s no term limits, and the popular people are the only ones who actually get to vote. When you tune in to watch the Emmys in August, you’re basically just watching the pep rally where Ashley gets elected ASB president for the fourth year in a row, except Ashley is Modern Family.

And since this is just like high school, let’s go ahead and gossip a bit about which popular people I want to win.

The biggest shock to me in this category was the fact that Shameless is apparently still on the air. I’ve never watched the show, but I’ve enjoyed William H. Macy’s performance in the trailers that I’ve seen online. Of course, it’ll be tough for him to compete with Louis CK’s heartrending portrayal of Louis CK or Matt LeBlanc’s carefully researched performance as popular television actor Matt LeBlanc.

Look, let’s just face it: True Detective is going to win a lot of Emmys this year. It’s tough to say exactly which Emmys it will win, but this one will almost certainly be one of them. Unless, of course, the Academy is willing to forego the pleasure of a Matthew McConaughey acceptance speech and instead continue their plot to murder Bryan Cranston by suffocating him under a pile of Emmys. 

To be fair, I’ve had a hard time getting into Orange Is The New Black because I have a pretty strict “no used tampon sandwiches” rule for the shows that I watch. In fact, I’ve also never watched Girls, Mike & Molly, or Nurse Jackie, which makes me look like a pretty misogynistic TV watcher. I make up for it by being an unapologetic Veep and Parks and Recreation fanboy.

I think Amy Poehler is long overdue for an Emmy. Which feels like a pretty stupid thing to say, really, because opinions on whether somebody gets an Emmy or not should be based on the quality of the work they did in their submitted materials, not whether they’ve won before or not. And honestly, Parks and Recreation isn’t as good of a show now as it was in seasons 2 or 3, when Poehler lost out first to Melissa McCarthy and then Julia Louis Dreyfus.

But Leslie Knope has become a sort of cultural sensation – a spunky, positive, can-do girl power standard bearer. Amy Poehler deserves much of the recognition for that, and TV’s most prestigious and recognizable award just feels like the most logical way to give it to her.

Pardon my French and my imagery, but do you think we could possibly quit pissing Emmys into Modern Family’s open mouth for maybe one goddamn second and recognize Nick Offerman for the MacArthur Genius Grant-quality work he’s been doing on Parks and Recreation since 2009? It’s bad enough that he hasn’t gotten an Emmy for playing Ron Swanson, but it’s a slap in the face that in five years and six seasons he hasn’t been nominated once.

On the other hand, this is the first year that Modern Family hasn’t accounted for half of the nominations for outstanding supporting actor. In 2011, only two of the actors nominated in this category weren’t on Modern Family. And I’m not trying to knock Modern Family – I don’t watch regularly but I think the show and the people on it are hysterically funny. I just don’t think they’ve been funnier than everybody else on TV every year since 2009.

The concern I have is that in the eyes of a lot of the Academy members doing the nominating, Parks and Recreation is “The Amy Poehler Show.” They know the show just well enough courtesy of screeners and NBC’s billboards to be aware that Amy Poehler is on it and ought to be nominated, but they’ve never given the show enough consideration to appreciate the supporting cast.

I mean, Aziz Ansari’s name should probably have been on this list at some point in the past five years too, but like many other male supporting actors on sitcoms this decade he’s been a victim of the Academy’s push to nominate everybody with a penis who has so much as driven past the studio during filming of a Modern Family episode.

This award should go to Allison Tolman for Fargo, and if you disagree you’re wrong.

I haven’t watched Downton Abbey yet, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s probably not going to win this year. I loved House of Cards, but honestly I can barely remember it now that I’ve watched True Detective – and I think a lot of the Emmy judges are going to feel the same way. For me personally, True Detective wins on its merits as a series alone – the fact that it was a critical and pop cultural phenomenon is what I think can net it enough votes to scoop the award from Breaking Bad’s final season.

It seems like a pretty even match between five of these shows for this year’s Emmy for ‘Outstanding Modern Family.’ As much as I love Louie – and I do love Louie – I’m personally pulling for either Veep or Silicon Valley to walk away with the golden statuette bearing the likeness of Modern Family showrunner Steven Levitan.

Without question my vote goes to Fargo. But so long as we’re talking about Fargo, why the hell do the Emmys seem to think it’s a miniseries? I don’t know about you, but my parents raised me to believe that a miniseries was a one-time television event based on either history (Band of Brothers, The Pacific, The Kennedys) or an important work of literature (Roots, The Bible, Dinotopia). Nominees like Starz’ The White Queen or Lifetime’s Bonnie & Clyde fit that bill – the other four nominees don’t.

If it gets renewed for a second season, Fargo is going to come back with an all-new story and cast of characters. So it’s an anthology series, kind of like fellow nominee American Horror Story and exactly like True Detective, which is confoundingly nominated in the drama category instead. The other nominees, Luther and Treme, have been airing continuously for years. No matter how hard you squint, they don’t even remotely resemble a miniseries.

Of course, if the Academy was more rigorous in its definition of ‘miniseries’, Fargo probably wouldn’t have been nominated for anything, which would have been a crime. But on the other hand, how many good miniseries have been squeezed out of the miniseries category because the Academy has decided to turn it into ‘Outstanding Miniseries Or, Y'know, Whatever Else’?

This is emblematic of the Emmys’ greater problem – not only does TV keep getting better, but it keeps getting bigger too. The amount of really good TV has proliferated in recent years while the number of nominations per category has stayed the same, and since a good show can often be good and award-eligible for multiple seasons the field gets even narrower, leaving shows like Parks and Recreation, Community, and The Americans out in the cold.

Meanwhile, the very nature of the ceremony forces the Academy to categorize shows that defy categorization – are shows like Louie or Orange is the New Black comedies, or dramas? Apparently they’re comedies, which is why in the comedy writing category a heart wrenching 10-minute monologue from Louie about the loneliness and social stigma of being a fat woman is up against a roomful of guys writing a handjob algorithm on Silicon Valley.

The Academy could change this by nominating more shows per category, or perhaps somehow weighting votes against previous winners to keep shows from coasting to multiple wins on hype and legacy. And they’ve signaled that they’re at least giving it some thought. But until those changes get made, they’re just going to keep redefining the sacred, traditional institution of the miniseries to nominate whatever shows they can't fit elsewhere.

That’s a slippery slope, though – next year somebody’s probably going to want to nominate their dog as an outstanding miniseries. And it’ll still lose to Modern Family.

Truman Capps really does love and appreciate Modern Family, but their recent 'USC football in the Pete Carroll era' style winning streak has made him bitter.