While there were many nominations to feel very good about, for me a pall was cast over the entire affair when I learned that CBS’ consistently outstanding “The Good Wife” failed to get a nomination for Outstanding Drama Series. This omission begs the question: Are voting members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences paying attention to the work being done in their business, or do they just look at it as one big popularity contest?
It’s not simply that “The Good Wife” served up some of the most powerful drama of the year. It did so over a span of 22 episodes, more than any series that was nominated. It presented a full season during the nominating period (May 31, 2013-May 31, 2014) rather than half of one. It distinguished itself as a genuine drama series, rather than a miniseries masquerading as something else. Even more, it did something no broadcast drama series has ever done: In its fifth season, a time when most broadcast dramas begin to feel tired, it demolished much of its established narrative foundation and excitingly transformed itself into something that felt both comfortably familiar yet tantalizingly new -- and it did that twice.
So here’s the truth of the matter: Full seasons of “The Good Wife,” as well as FX’s remarkable cold war drama “The Americans,” were not recognized, while half-seasons of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” were, along with HBO’s riveting miniseries “True Detective,” which landed in the Drama Series category, apparently because HBO wanted it there.
At least PBS’ “Downton Abbey” snagged a nod, despite the general insistence of most critics who assert that it did not have a particularly strong season. I think they are wrong. So apparently, do members of the Academy. The other nominees are HBO's "Game of Thrones," which deserves the recognition, and "House of Cards," which didn't have an especially strong sophomore year but has the still-fresh Netflix buzz thing going for it.
After “The Good Wife,” the other most ridiculous exclusion among all Emmy categories is the consistently awe-inspiring Tatiana Maslany of BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” who for the second year in a row is not among the nominees for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Maslany shouldn’t simply have been nominated; she should have received the award for playing multiple and highly distinctive characters who often interact with each other. Critics across the land are ranting as I write this. I’ll leave it to them to try to explain why this keeps happening. I’m speechless.
I’m also bummed that Vera Farmiga of A&E’s “Bates Motel,” Keri Russell of “The Americans” and Elisabeth Moss -- a revelation all over again during the half-season finale of “Mad Men” -- aren’t among the nominees. But I’m happy to see Claire Danes of Showtime’s “Homeland,” Robin Wright of “House of Cards” and Lizzy Caplan of “Masters of Sex” in the mix. And Juliana Margulies is in there, which means voting members were indeed watching “The Good Wife.” Maslany, Farmiga, Russell and Moss would have been better choices than Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey” and Kerry Washington of ABC’s increasingly silly soap opera “Scandal.”
The nominees for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series are a highly predictable group: Bryan Cranston of AMC’s "Breaking Bad," Jeff Daniels (last year’s surprise winner in this category) for HBO’s "The Newsroom," Jon Hamm of "Mad Men," Woody Harrelson of "True Detective," Matthew McConaughey of "True Detective" and Kevin Spacey of "House of Cards." There wasn’t a bad performance in the bunch but, again, if stars of miniseries (Harrelson and McConaughey) and half-seasons (Cranston and Hamm) weren’t filling this category there might have been room for others who are equally deserving of potential Emmy recognition, including James Spader of NBC’s “The Blacklist,” Freddie Highmore of “Bates Motel,” Matthew Rhys of “The Americans” and Timothy Olyphant of “Justified.”
In the supporting categories, it’s a shame room wasn’t made for the remarkable Melissa McBride of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and Phyllis Logan of “Downton Abbey” among the nominated actresses and Michael Kelly of "House of Cards" among the men. But it’s tough to find fault with either group of nominees: Christine Baranski of "The Good Wife," Joanne Froggatt of "Downton Abbey," Anna Gunn of "Breaking Bad," Lena Headey of "Game of Thrones," Christina Hendricks of "Mad Men" and Maggie Smith of "Downton Abbey" for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and Jim Carter of "Downton Abbey," Josh Charles of "The Good Wife," Peter Dinklage of "Game of Thrones," Mandy Patinkin of "Homeland," Aaron Paul of "Breaking Bad" and Jon Voight of Showtime’s "Ray Donovan" for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.
The movie and miniseries categories are uncommonly exciting this year. With only three exceptions, none of them sleep preventing, the Academy got these nominations right.
Outstanding Made for Television Movie: "Killing Kennedy" (National Geographic Channel), "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight" (HBO), "The Normal Heart" (HBO), "Sherlock: His Last Vow" (PBS), "The Trip to Bountiful" (Lifetime).
Outstanding Miniseries: "American Horror Story: Coven" (FX), "Bonnie & Clyde" (A&E), "Fargo" (FX), "Luther" (BBC America), "The White Queen" (Starz), "Treme" (HBO). Starz’ “Dancing on the Edge” should have been among these nominees.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie: Benedict Cumberbatch, "Sherlock: His Last Vow"; Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Dancing on the Edge"; Idris Elba, "Luther"; Martin Freeman, "Fargo"; Mark Ruffalo, "The Normal Heart"; Billy Bob Thornton, "Fargo."
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie: Helena Bonham Carter, "Burton and Taylor" (BBC America); Minnie Driver, "Return to Zero" (Lifetime); Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story: Coven"; Sarah Paulson, "American Horror Story: Coven"; Cicely Tyson, "The Trip to Bountiful"; Kristen Wiig, "The Spoils of Babylon" (IFC).
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie: Matt Bomer, "The Normal Heart"; Martin Freeman, "Sherlock: His Last Vow"; Colin Hanks, "Fargo"; Jim Parsons, "The Normal Heart"; Joe Mantello, "The Normal Heart"; Alfred Molina, "The Normal Heart." Room should have been made in this category for Will Rothhaar’s haunting portrayal of Lee Harvey Oswald in “Killing Kennedy.”
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie: Frances Conroy, "American Horror Story: Coven"; Kathy Bates, "American Horror Story: Coven"; Angela Bassett, "American Horror Story: Coven"; Allison Tolman, "Fargo"; Ellen Burstyn, "Flowers in the Attic" (Lifetime); Julia Roberts, "The Normal Heart." They are all formidable nominees, but it would have been nice to see Amanda Abbington of “Sherlock: His Last Vow” among them.