The 2017 Emmy Nominations began with a slew of technical difficulties and livestream failures, which, in retrospect, were a foreboding indication of the mostly underwhelming and occasionally upsetting choices to come.
Critics and television reporters took to Twitter immediately to bemoan the middlebrow tastes of the Academy and mourn the acclaimed performances that were overlooked. The show on most critics’ lips was HBO’s “The Leftovers,” which having finished its third and final season is considered one of the best dramas in television history.
You would be hard pressed to find a “Best TV of 2017” list that doesn’t include “The Leftovers,” but it would be even more difficult to walk up to someone on the street and find someone who watches or has even heard of the show.
So what gives? Are critics out of touch with what the public — or even the more TV-literate Academy — wants to see? Or is more critically acclaimed television like “The Leftovers,” “Legion” or even “Twin Peaks” (which wasn’t eligible this year) just too dense and hard-to-follow for the common TV viewer?
The answer is probably neither. For better or worse, this divide between critical favorites and nominated shows may just be a product of the “peak TV” era, where there are just too many great shows and too little time.
It’s not just audiences who can’t keep up with each new buzzy series — TV critics faced the same problem this spring, when acclaimed shows like “Fargo,” “American Gods,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Veep,” “The Leftovers,” and many more all aired in April — potentially the new “awards season” for the Emmys, based on the fact that many of those shows saw multiple nominations on Thursday.
On the bright side, this year’s Emmys were the most diverse class in history for the third year running, which signals a lasting change in the TV industry. Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” scored a nomination in every possible category, and the series has a very good shot at the top comedy prize in September.
If this era of peak TV continues, it seems like there may continue to be a divide between the shows that critics adore and fight for, and the ones that end up nominated for Emmys. That’s not to say that the shows nominated this week weren’t critically acclaimed; “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Better Call Saul” were well-reviewed this year, as were “Atlanta,” “Black-ish” and “Master of None.”
The point is that “Modern Family,” “Genius” and even “This Is Us” weren’t anywhere near the best-reviewed of the year, and their inclusion — and the many underwhelming nominated performances — mark a disconnect between what critics and the TV Academy deem worthy of recognition.
When it comes down to it, though, most of these nominations don’t matter in the least when compared to the absolutely insane showdown for Best Actress in a Limited Series or a Television Movie. The ladies of “Big Little Lies,” Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, are facing Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon of “Feud,” Felicity Huffman of “American Crime” and Carrie Coon of “Fargo.”
“Game of Thrones” may not have been eligible this year, but the battle between these queens is going to be an absolute bloodbath.