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Netflix makes its mark on the Emmys, where Golden Age of TV drama demands bigger ballots
Netflix crashed the party Thursday when the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences gave the streaming service a big bear hug in the form of top drama and acting nods for “House of Cards,” marking a watershed moment in “television” history.
Online programs have been up for — and have won — Emmys before. But as was once the case with cable, they couldn’t manage to muscle into the big-league races. That changed Thursday, when the political thriller “House of Cards” snagged nominations for outstanding drama series as well as lead actor and actress.
The Internet streaming service that operates outside the confines of traditional broadcast and cable networks walked away with a total of 14 opportunities to take home some hardware come September.
“We are overwhelmed with 14 nominations and honored by a warm welcome which corroborates what we have always believed, that great television is great television regardless of where, when and how it is enjoyed,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix.
Most impressive was “House of Cards’” ability to break into the uber-competitive best drama category, where HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” — delivering its best season yet — was booted from the running after being a mainstay for the past two years.
Given the uneven seasons had by top-drama contenders “Downton Abbey,” “Homeland” and Mad Men,” which has another shot at a record-breaking fifth win, I expect this one will come down to “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad.” The former could pull off an upset thanks to its legendary Red Wedding episode (and its general awesomeness), but the latter is long overdue for a blue ribbon.
Like last year, the Big Four networks were nowhere to be found in the outstanding drama series arena. Emmy needs to take a cue from Oscar and make more slots available for would-be winners. “Justified,” “The Americans,” “The Good Wife,” “The Walking Dead” — I wouldn’t quibble with any of those getting a shot.
Netflix’s “House of Cards” also scored big with lead dramatic acting nods for Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. Tatiana Maslany deserved to be going up against Wright and company. Tatiana who? If you had to ask, then you’ve been missing out on BBC America’s excellent sci-fi drama “Orphan Black.” The Canadian actress nails it playing a series of clones, a role that recently won her a Critics’ Choice Award. The Emmys generally turn a blind eye to genre shows — “Game of Thrones” being a notable exception with 16 worthy nods this year — so Maslany’s absence, while sad, is hardly a surprise.
The biggest number of nominations went to FX’s “American Horror Story: Asylum,” which continues to make the most of its dubious classification as a miniseries. It rang up 17 noms, same as last year, despite delivering a subpar season. (I realize I’m in the minority in preferring the first installment over the second, but “Asylum” was too all-over-the-place for me to stick with it.)
Another FX show, Cold War-era thriller “The Americans,” merited more kudos than it got. Keri Russell had just as much right to be in the running for lead actress as newcomers Wright, Vera Farmiga (“Bates Motel”), Connie Britton (“Nashville”) and Kerry Washington (“Scandal”). Ditto for “The Americans’” Matthew Rhys who was overlooked for lead actor, a field that saw less change with Spacey and Jeff Daniels (“Newsroom”) being the lone rookies. At least “The Americans’” Margo Martindale got a shout out for guest actress, as did Chicago’s Joan Cusack for Showtime’s toe-curling comedy “Shameless.”
Chicago-native Mandy Patinkin was inexplicably passed over in the supporting actor category last year, when his Showtime hit “Homeland” cleaned up at the awards ceremony. Not so this time; Patinkin rightfully made the cut.
Not many surprises on the comedy front, where “Louie,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Girls,” “Veep,” the dearly-departed “30 Rock” and “Modern Family” dominated, although “Modern Family’s” Eric Stonestreet — last year’s winner for supporting actor — was noticeably M.I.A.
Netflix made its presence felt on the comedy side of things, too, with “Arrested Development.” The offbeat cult-favorite originally aired on Fox but was axed for low ratings. Jason Bateman gleaned a nod as lead actor for Netflix’s resurrected version.
Who was robbed: Jake Johnson (“New Girl”). The North Shore-reared actor stepped up and delivered in a bigger role as Jess’ love interest last season. He was shut out of the running.
“Enlightened” fans upset about the HBO show’s cancelation can find some solace in Laura Dern cracking the lead actress in a comedy series category, which, unlike last year, is populated predominantly by cable shows. Gone are Melissa McCarthy (“Mike & Molly”) and Zooey Deschanel (“New Girl”). Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”) and Tina Fey (“30 Rock”) make up the sole broadcast reps. I would have liked to have seen Mindy Kaling make the cut for her ever-evolving, self-depricating Fox sitcom “The Mindy Project.” Them’s the breaks.
As for Poehler, she’s been nominated four times for her turn as Councilwoman Leslie Knope, the pride of Pawnee. She’s yet to win.
“I appreciate the nominations; I love my job,” Poehler said after Thursday’s announcement. “But nice try, guys. I’m not falling for this old trick again.”
Surprising absolutely no one, Matt Damon and Michael Douglas (Liberace film “Behind the Cadelabra,” 15 Emmy nods) are both up for best lead actors in a miniseries or movie — a field dominated by HBO.
Damon and Douglas’ competition includes Benedict Cumberbatch, whom I adore as much as much as the next nerdy girl. But Tom Stoppard’s period piece “Parade’s End,” which felt like it would never end, had no business being nominated for anything. That didn’t stop the snooze fest from walking away with five nods.
Click here for a complete list of nominees.