The 10 Biggest Emmy Nominations Snubs and Surprises

TV Features Emmys 2018
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The 10 Biggest Emmy Nominations Snubs and Surprises

As I’ve grown longer in the tooth, at least in TV critic years, I’ve become preemptively disappointed with the Emmy nominations, mostly as a defense mechanism. On Twitter, Paste contributor Jacob Oller even described my 2018 Emmy predictions as “frustrated and despondent… a cry for help.” And yet I still failed to prepare myself for just how ghastly this year’s nominations would be, for the nominees I inevitably didn’t see coming, and some whose names I expected to hear but did not. Let’s break down the 10 biggest snubs and surprises—emphasis on the snubs—from Thursday morning’s announcement. (Read the full list of nominees in the major categories here.)

Snub: Twin Peaks

I suppose it was foolhardy to expect the Television Academy to embrace David Lynch and Mark Frost’s expressionistic, challenging, impossibly strange masterwork, but even so I’ll confess to genuine astonishment that it came up completely empty in the major categories—most especially for Kyle MacLachlan, the series’ hero, villain, and Dougie Jones. (Admittedly, Twin Peaks racked up a raft of nominations in the technical categories. So it’s not all bad.) One needn’t “understand” Lynch’s unsettling images (much less the plot) to see that MacLachlan’s reprise of Dale Cooper deserved yet another nod a quarter century later, though this year, on the matter of quality, I fear Emmy voters were blind. (Photo: Showtime)

Surprise: Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert

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John Legend is a screen presence I want to see more of, and the live TV musical is a popular format that hasn’t been recognized much at the Emmys, at least not in the course of its recent resurgence. Still, Jesus Christ Superstar receiving 13 nominations, including for Legend and co-stars Brandon Victor Dixon and Sara Bareilles, seems rather salty if you ask me. Especially given the, ahem, unsung talent that went unrecognized in the Limited Series/TV Movie acting categories: Ciarán Hinds (The Terror), Alex Lawther (Howards End), Tahar Rahim (The Looming Tower), and Hugo Weaving (Patrick Melrose) on the men’s side; Laura Dern (Twin Peaks), Angela Lansbury (Little Women), Anna Paquin (Alias Grace), and Tracey Ullmann on the women’s. Sigh. (Photo: Eric Liebowitz/NBC)

Snub: Alison Brie and Marc Maron, GLOW

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled that GLOW earned nominations for Best Comedy Series and supporting actress Betty Gilpin. But to watch the Emmy-eligible first season of Netflix’s women’s wrestling dramedy and determine that its success does not depend substantially on the fretful chemistry between Brie’s plucky actress Ruth Wilder and Maron’s put-upon director Sam Sylvia? That’s unfathomable to me. (Photo: Netflix)

Surprise: Supporting Actor (Comedy)

In his record-breaking 15 seasons on Saturday Night Live, Kenan Thompson has evolved into the series’ most consistent male performer, and this year he (rightfully, finally) receives his due. (I’d love to see him edge out co-star and fellow nominee Alec Baldwin come September.) As Alfred “Paper Boi Miles, Bryan Tyree Henry’s boundless exasperation anchors Atlanta’s fantastical second season in the reality of being the adult the room. And Tituss Burgess’ flamboyantly funny (and spinoff-worthy) turn as Titus Andromedon continues to be the main reason to watch (surprise) Comedy Series nominee Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Three black men vying for an Emmy, alongside Henry Winkler (Barry) and Louie Anderson in drag (Baskets). Even I’m willing to forgive to odd Balwin in a field this solid: The real surprise, on a day of mostly dreadful nominations, is that the Emmys pulled it off. (Photo: Will Heath/NBC)

Snub: One Day at a Time

Are Emmy voters simply not watching Netflix’s witty, heartwarming update of Norman Lear’s classic? Are they suddenly skeptical, somehow, of the multi-camera sitcom filmed before a live studio audience, after banging the drum for The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, and other, lesser series for years? I’ve yet to land on a satisfying explanation of the Emmys’ failure to acknowledge stars Justina Machado and Rita Moreno for their outstanding mother/daughter act in One Day at a Time’s second season, to say nothing of preferring Curb Your Enthusiasm, the burnt rubber smell of TV programs, in Comedy Series. My enthusiasm? Consider it fucking curbed. (Photo: Netflix)

Surprise: Will & Grace

One last thought on the comedy categories: I’ve got my tail between my legs having predicted nominations for the Will & Grace revival in all five of the big categories, since only Megan Mullally (nabbing her eighth nod for playing Karen Walker a full 17 years after her first) came through. Here I was thinking the TV Academy thought it was still 1998. And looking at the nominations as a whole, can you really blame me? (Photo: NBC)

Snub: Noah Emmerich, The Americans

In an otherwise respectable showing for the final season of FX’s drama—respectable in the Emmy context, at least, where one of the decade’s best TV shows earning Drama Series, Lead Actor (Matthew Rhys) and Lead Actress (Keri Russell) nominations is no sure thing—I’m simply gutted not to see Noah Emmerich receive his due. Passed over for five seasons for his role as FBI agent Stan Beeman, unsuspecting neighbor to a pair of deep cover KGB agents and one of the medium’s most compelling “antagonists,” I really, truly wanted to believe that the most talked-about sequence in the series finale—oh my God, that garage—would put him over the top in his last year of eligibility. As it seemingly always is when it comes to the Emmys, that faith was misplaced. (Photo: Eric Liebowitz/FX)

Surprise: Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale

Among the few bright spots on this list is Strahovski’s well-deserved nomination for her turn as the sharp-tongued and sharp-witted Wife of The handmaid’s Tale’s dystopian vision, Serena Joy Waterford—an ambivalent, enigmatic, dare I say tortured figured who nonetheless keeps the series spinning on its axis while the plot darts from Canada to the Colonies and from the present to the past. Her nomination alongside co-stars Ann Dowd and Alexis Bledel—as well as Lead Actress Elisabeth Moss and Supporting Actor Joseph Fiennes—is also a key indicator in my Unified Theory of the 2018 Emmys. Prepare for The Handmaid’s Tale to dominate when the awards are handed out this fall. (Photo: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

Snub: Howards End

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It might’ve flown further under the radar than I perceived, especially as a result of being on Starz. It might’ve suffered from comparisons to the beloved Merchant/Ivory film. It might’ve read as too delicate, too thoughtful, for this punch-drunk year. But I’m still flabbergasted that not even Hayley Atwell, who acquits herself brilliantly as Margaret Schlegel, managed to break the Howards End shutout. I mean, it’s sure as hell better than The Alienist. (Photo: Starz)

Surprise: The Alienist

The Outstanding Limited Series nomination for The Alienist surprised me most—it received not even one other above-the-line nod—but I’m including it here primarily as a stand-in for all of the Limited Series categories. The Alienist, Genius: Picasso and Godless beating out Alias Grace, Howards End and Twin Peaks is an almost-too-perfect objective correlative of what Emmy voters actually want (star power; shallowness masquerading as “seriousness”) versus what they say they want (artistry; innovation). At least The Assassination of Gianni Versace is the frontrunner as Emmy season begins. Thank goodness for small mercies. (Photo: TNT)

Matt Brennan is the TV editor of Paste Magazine. He tweets about what he’s watching @thefilmgoer.