For better or worse, the nominations for the 2015 Emmys came out last week. Here are a few things to ponder over the next few weeks before the award ceremony befalls us.

2015 Emmys: The Mad Men Effect

Mad Men: Image provided by imdb/AMC

Mad Men has been a rather divisive series over its past two seasons. While many critics and fans remained ardent supporters of the drama, there’s been a strong contingent of skeptics, who grew weary of the show’s repetitive nature and began to fear there was no “there” at the of a seven-season journey.

But the Emmys have always been in the “Yay, Mad Men” camp and there was no way they’d resist one final chance to lavish the program with nominations, whether or not it really deserves them. If the drama has wide enough support to cash in with a raft of valedictory wins remains to be seen, though it would be shocking if it didn’t pick up at least a couple major awards for its final run. It will be interesting to see what the Emmys do next year, without this longstanding “crutch” series to relieve nominators of actually having to look at other potential candidates.

In a related vein, despite the positive reception for Better Call Saul, it’s hard not to view its multiple high profile nominations as a way for the Emmys to extend their love affair with the now-completed Breaking Bad. Whether this is a one-off to help the Academy transition to a post-Breaking Bad world or something the Emmys cling to for years remains to be seen.

2015 Emmys: Diversity

Taraji P. Henson: Image provided by imdb/FOX

The Lead Actress — Drama race achieved an historic feat: the much-deserved nominations for Taraji P. Henson (for Empire) and Viola Davis (for How To Get Away With Murder) represent the first time that two African-American actresses were nominated in the same year. Henson and Davis blazed two of the most exciting, original characters on television this past season, so this recognition is richly deserved. And it’s just the highlight of a very diverse slate of nominees.

Major nominations for series like American Crime, American Horror Story, Bessie, black-ish, Orange is the New Black, Key & Peele, House of Lies, Nightingale, Scandal, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Getting On (among others) have recognized a wide variety of interesting, talented performers. And nods for series like Transparent, OITNB and Grace and Frankie, among others, have given LGBTQ-themed stories a spotlight, too. After this year’s Oscars were marked by a distinct failure to recognize the diversity of work done on movie screens, it’s good to see the television side of the business casting a wider net that is more reflective of the world that TV seeks to explore.

2015 Emmys: Rule Changes

The Emmys made a couple of crucial rule changes this year. And it’s hard not to read both as a reaction to last year’s nomination haul for Orange is the New Black.

Crucially, the Emmys passed a rule defining a comedy series as a half-hour program. That’s a direct response to years of hour-long dramedies, many of which skewed more dramatic than comedic, electing to enter the comedy races. Given how dramatic elements tend to sway voters, that was often a big disadvantage to straight-up comedies in competing for nominations. The new rule permits hour-long series to apply to the Academy for recognition of “comedy” status. Three hour-long series (Glee, Jane the Virgin and Shameless) were known to successfully apply for and receive the “Comedy” designation (with only Shameless garnering any significant nominations).

Orange is the New Black: Image provided by imdb/ Netflix

More importantly, Orange is the New Black applied for Comedy status and was denied, forcing it into the Drama races. The prison dramedy still had enough buzz to eke out a Drama Series nod and a Supporting Actress nomination, but otherwise struggled against higher profile dramas.

Another likely Orange-driven rule change was some badly needed structure for the Guest Actor and Actress categories. For years, some glaring loopholes allowed comedies and dramas to exploit technicalities to shift regular members of their ensembles from the more competitive Supporting Actor/Actress races into the Guest categories. It was a ludicrous result, most glaringly illustrated last season by a trio of key Orange supporting actresses landing in the Guest Actress category. The new rules limit the percentage of episodes a performer can appear in and still be considered a “guest.”

This year’s nominees in the Guest categories still feature a lot of part-time members of their shows’ ensembles, as well as former regulars making short-term return visits. But that seems closer to the purpose of the categories and several true guests made the cut. The nominees may be a work in a progress still, but the categories are headed in the right direction after years of inane results.

2015 Emmys: Streaming

Bloodlines: Image provided by imdb/Netflix

Streaming continues to be the new cable. More nominees than ever came from streaming or other online venues in 2015. Pioneers House of Cards and Orange is the New Black remained contenders. They were joined by high profile nominees from Bloodlines, Transparent, Grace and Frankie, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Between Two Ferns and, in the technical categories, Daredevil. As household access to streaming services continues to increase and the original programming options from those services proliferate, this is a trend viewers can expect to continue to grow, too.

2015 Emmys: Miscellanea

Cinemax has usually been regarded as nothing more than HBO’s smutty younger sibling. Multiple nominations for its much praised period medical drama The Knick, including a directing nomination for film auteur Steven Soderbergh, mark a potential turning point for the network.

So, Last Man on Earth earns nominations for Lead Actor (Will Forte), writing and directing, but somehow isn’t among the Outstanding Comedy Series nominees?

The Jinx was the rare documentary series to become a buzzy viewer magnet. It was rewarded with multiple nods in the Documentary/Non-Fiction categories.

American Crime has successfully followed in the footsteps of fellow anthology series American Horror Story to successfully compete for nominations as a Limited Series. With the anthology format seemingly on the rise, the Limited Series/Movie categories could become substantially more competitive in years to come.

Tatiana Maslany: Image provided by imdb/BBC

Other than Game of Thrones and a crowd-pleasing Lead Actress nod for Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany, several highly praised fantasy dramas were shut out of the major categories (though some turned up in the technical races). Fantasy remains a tough sell with mainstream awards programs.

Some categories had upwards of 8 nominees. That’s a far cry from the days where the Emmys observed a rigid “5 nominees per category” rule.

Originally published at on July 20, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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