For Your Consideration Part II, Drama Snubs: Empire, Lorraine Toussaint and The Americans
We’re looking at the dramas that got snubbed during the Emmy process, mostly as an excuse to celebrate these great performances.
Empire broke every ratings record that existed for a new show and was rewarded with exactly one nomination, Taraji P. Henson for Best Actress in a Drama. Empire is basically Young and the Restless set in the music industry with a touch of The Sopranos, so you would think the show could at least get a few more nominations. Jussie Smollett, Terrence Howard, and the music itself all could have scored Emmys. (seriously, why didn’t Empire and Galavant’s Alan Mencken earn nominations for their music???)
But the most egregious snub is that the show was not nominated for Best Drama.
The Academy has a heavy bias for shows featuring male anti-heroes organized around violence (see The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, House of Cards). But Empire is an ensemble that is coming more from Cookie’s point of view than it is from Lucisous’ perspective. If the story was told from Lucious’ POV in the same way Breaking Bad wanted viewers to root for drug dealer extraordinaire Walt, Empire probably would have been nominated. That’s the reason that Liev Schrieber was nominated for Best Actor in a Drama — his show Ray Donovan is kind of a fourth-generation knockoff of the best male anti-hero shows, but it resonates with some Emmy voters in a way that a show with African American leads set in the music industry does not. Maybe next season Fox will unlock a better strategy to get the show some Emmy cred. In the meantime, it does not need Emmy-cred to keep scoring ratings wins.
Lorraine Toussaint for Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black‘s second season was even better in than the first. This is due in large part to Lorraine Toussaint‘s portrayal of Vee, a scheming sociopath who rearranged the power dynamics of the entire prison with her vicious manipulations. Vee was a real, terrifying presence, rather than an over-the-top mustache-twirling villain. Toussaint gave the kind of performance that sticks with you long after the season is over, which is not an easy feat when we can binge watch a show in one weekend. Toussaint is a totally underrated actor who has been a standout in film and television. We can only hope she gets her own show or pops up as a regular somewhere else.
I saved the best show for last. The Americans is a riveting Cold War spy tale that just so happens to be a family drama. The Americans tells the story of Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings, two Soviet spies who were sent to Washington DC to live and work as Americans. Based on a real Soviet program during the ’80s and beyond, the title roles are played by Keri Russell and Matthew Ryhs with superb attention to detail. They play a cat-and-mouse game with their neighbor, Stan Beeman, an FBI agent who works counterintelligence.
The show is intricately plotted and placed, requiring Russell and Rhys to play multiple characters as they create alter egos to extract state secrets for Mother Russia. Season 3 was a masterpiece, as the Jennings contemplate the future for their American-born children.
The show did pick up a nod for Margo Martindale for her very brief appearance in season 3 as KGB coordinator Claudia. The nomination is weird since she actually crushed her role as spy handler in seasons 1 and 2, but barely appeared here. The show also garnered one writing nomination for the episode “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep,” an in-depth character analysis that most certainly should’ve earned Russell an Emmy nomination.
Of course when we are talking about Best Actress in a Drama, it’s only fair to say who should’ve been left out. I regretted leaving Homeland out of my “who-doesn’t-need-more-Emmys” post. I happen to think Claire Daines was excellent for the first two seasons of Homeland, but the writing doesn’t hold up and neither does the boo-hoo acting of this overwrought character.
The Americans is such good television that I’ve decided to recap the first three seasons, so look for those reviews soon.
We haven’t watched Outlander yet, but we know many passionate fans who wanted to see the show recognized. Showtime’s The Affair certainly bewitched folks at the Golden Globes, only to be inexplicably shut out by the Emmys. And then there’s Justified, another show we don’t watch that has a reputation for general excellence.
Who else would you have liked to see nominated?
Also, don’t forget to read Part I of this post. It features comedy actresses.