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What If The Emmys Quit Being Cute With This Whole 'Leading' And 'Supporting' Business?

Among other things! In Mark Blankenship's fantasy, previous winners get the boot, genres expand, and the size of your role doesn't matter.

Forgive me for being cynical, but despite recent rule changes, I'm still expecting to be disappointed and/or frustrated by next Thursday's announcement of Emmy nominees. While I think it's great that they've expanded the series awards to seven nominees and have stopped letting anyone front that Joan Cusack has ever been a "guest star" on Shameless, the two elements that leave me rankled every year remain unthreatened. Specifically:

(1) The same people get nominated and/or win every damn year, as though goddamned Julie Bowen hasn't been rewarded enough.


(2) The Comedy/Drama and Leading/Supporting binaries create too much room for disaster. If Supporting Actor is especially stacked in Comedy, but Lead Actor is a weak field, you're left with tons of great actors getting overlooked and Ricky Gervais getting some kind of bullshit attention for Derek. Meanwhile, when Orange Is The New Black fights (and fails) to be considered a comedy, this year, it runs the risk of being jammed out altogether because it doesn't feel quite right in either genre.

So what can we do about it? I'd like us all to imagine the following alternative, which combines various suggestions I've read, and adds a few new twists.

What if the Emmys had three genre categories -- Drama, Comedy, and Dramedy -- and eliminated the distinction between Leading and Supporting? And what if anyone who had won twice were immediately removed from consideration?

If you ask me, this system gives us a more dynamic, truly representative field that keeps the Emmys from feeling stagnant and clueless. It forces voters to consume TV more expansively, constantly looking for new things, while also requiring them to be more judicious about throwing bones to folks in a weak field.

I mean, sure, there would still be issues. But if this system were in place, then we might see an actress slate like the one below, which would call more attention to many deserving artists and shows.

(NOTE: I'm basing the following fantasy ballot on a seven-nominee system per category that also forces anthology series to compete as miniseries. So don't look for Sarah Paulson in Freak Show or anything like that).

Outstanding Actress In A Dramatic Series

Who's Ineligible? Multiple winners like Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) and Claire Danes (Homeland). Dramedic stars like Taylor Schilling (Orange Is The New Black).

Who gets nominated (maybe)? These ladies!

  • Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
  • Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
  • Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
  • Jada Pinkett Smith, Gotham
  • Keri Russell, The Americans
  • Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men
  • Holly Taylor, The Americans

Why is this awesome? Because maybe, for once, the voters would be forced to acknowledge that The Americans exists! And while I know Jada Pinkett Smith might be a long shot in any scenario (though I think she's amazing as Fish Mooney), I've added her to demonstrate that genre TV could get its props here. Meanwhile, there's still room for someone like Froggatt, who's done great work on a series in decline, without an Emmy-laden co-star like Maggie Smith muscling her out. And who knows? Perhaps in this scenario, Davis or Moss or even Shipka could win!

Outstanding Actress In A Dramedic Series

Who's Ineligible? Almost nobody! And that's because actors in dramedies so rarely win, which points to the necessity of this system.

Who gets nominated (maybe)? These ladies!

  • Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
  • Taraji P. Henson, Empire
  • Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
  • Lorraine Toussaint, Orange Is The New Black
  • Lauren Weedman, Looking
  • Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
  • Samira Wiley, Orange is the New Black

Why is this awesome? I realize that both Falco and Wever have already won for Nurse Jackie, but imagine how nice it would be to see them competing in a category that actually acknowledges their complex performances! Wever especially made me laugh and cry in the same episode this year, and she deserves the right kind of accolades for it. Meanwhile, this seems like the perfect place for Maslany, since Alison is as great a comic creation as Helena is a dramatic one; and for Henson, who kills it on with both her antics and her heartbreaking loneliness. I've included Samira Wiley not only because she was incredible in Orange Season 2 -- though she was -- but also because she represents how deep-bench shows might thrive in this scenario. On the flip side, after obvious faves like Toussaint are selected, there's still room for folks like Weedman, who are great on under-the-radar series.

Outstanding Actress In A Comedic Series

Who's Ineligible? I honor Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but three awards for Selina Myer more than enshrine her excellence. Julie Bowen has two, so she's out as well.

Who gets nominated (maybe)? These ladies!

  • Anna Chlumsky, Veep
  • Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
  • Ilana Glazer, Broad City
  • Abbi Jacobson, Broad City
  • Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
  • Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer

Why is this awesome? Did you know that, last year, Emmy rules forced Amy Schumer to compete as a supporting actress on her own show? With this system, that nonsense is avoided, while the elimination of Bowen and JLD means that badasses like Glazer, Jacobson, and Ross are more likely to get the attention they deserve. Because if voters can't just vote for Bowen, they may have to watch Broad City! Meanwhile, shuttling your Falcos and Wevers to dramedy leaves ample room for straight-up hilarious performances like Kemper's and Kudrow's.

What if my rules were adopted? The Emmys would be a lot less predictable, and a lot more fun to watch. Plus don't you want to see Ilana Glazer giving an acceptance speech in front of the likes of Mandy Patinkin? You know she's got some things to say that he needs to hear.


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