A note: For my Emmys 2015 roundup, check out my post here.
There’s so much good TV nowadays that when award nominations are announced, there’s as much focus on who does not get nominated as whoever gets nominated. This year’s nominations included a few of the previous high-profile snubs from past years (Tatiana Maslany, for one), but there’s so much more quality beyond the nominations, as you will see from this list.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
No. 1-3. The Americans, Matthew Rhys, and Keri Russell
The Americans is perhaps the best show on television. It is almost too good for television, as its slow-paced tension demands to be savoured and examined, not watched and forgotten within minutes. It engages in a layered brand of storytelling, each action in the plot adding and influencing the characters’ next action subtly, with each episode dragging our protagnists, the Soviet spies, deeper into their purgatory.
Its protagonists are Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. Rhys and Russell suffer from having to play their characters with such subtlety and nuance, as these are not the “flashy” roles like Cookie Lyon or Frank Underwood that are obvious to a viewer or the Academy. Rhys, in particular, takes on Philip Jennings so well that he is able to convey deep-seated emotion with just one shift in expression. Like Jon Hamm, Rhys has been under-appreciated for far too long.
4-6. Hannibal, Mads Mikkelsen, and Hugh Dancy
If The Americans is too good for television, Hannibal should not even be on television. The Bryan Fuller-helmed adaptation of the Hannibal Lecter books is as artsy as they come, mixing audacious imagery with a score that is unconventional, to say the least. The result is one of the most beautiful shows on television to see and listen to, which mixes the macabre with beauty into a single mesmerising product.
And that’s just how the show looks. The show also features two powerhouse leads in Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy, who play Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham respectively. The complex relationship between these two characters is brought to life by Mikkelsen and Dancy’s performances, especially Mikkelsen, who rises to the expectations of an entire franchise with his portrayal of a inscrutable but undoubtedly evil Hannibal. Two masterful performances from two actors at the top of their game.
7-8. Jane The Virgin and Gina Rodriguez
Jane The Virgin was one of the strongest new shows this year. A telenovela adaptation about an artificially-inseminated Catholic virgin should never have been so good, as the show twisted and turned at a break-neck pace and even managed to create a meaningful family drama out of the characters.
The titular character, Jane Villanueva, is played by Gina Rodriguez brilliantly. Rodriguez is unflinching as she plays this frankly ridiculous character in a ridiculous situation, and she manages to make her character’s struggles and troubles feel real. Rodriguez is a Golden Globe winner thanks to this role, and if she had been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, she could have won it.
9-10. The Knick and Clive Owen
The Knick is an rarely-seen achievement in television: its first season is directed, shot and edited entirely by Steven Soderbergh. This means that the show is impressively coherent in terms of visuals, and boy, is it good to look at. The show recreates early 20th-century New York to great detail, using realistic sets and props, to create a New York City that is dangerous, disease-ridden and socially unstable.
Despite its gorgeous visuals, the show is just as strong in its storytelling. The first season of The Knick covers issues like medical ethics, racial problems and the infancy of medical science. There are slow points in the season, yes, but there are several fantastic parts – the seventh episode, “Get the Rope” especially – that are highly memorable.
Clive Owen stars as the protagonist Doctor Thackery, the shining hero amid all the gloom in the Knickerblocker hospital. Owen joins a growing list of high-profile actors who have crossed over from film to television, and he performs admirably as the medical visionary crippled with a drug addiction. In a show with so many gadgets and whirring machinery, Doctor Thackery is its beating human heart, and Clive Owen is more than worthy of the role.
11-12. Justified and Walton Goggins
Justified‘s brand of razor-sharp dialogue, quirky villains and Elmore Leonard-inspired storytelling has made it a highly competent show. However, in terms of Emmy success, the show has only had one real breakthrough in its second season when it earned four nominations and one win for Margo Martindale.
That is a real shame, because Justified‘s sixth and final season has been just as good as that second season. The show circled back to its beginnings and squared off Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) against his former buddy Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) in a climactic showdown that only escalated throughout the season, ending in a riveting stand-off. The season also featured an impressive list of guest stars like Sam Elliott, Danny Strong, Jonathan Tucker, Garret Dillahunt and Mary Steenburgen, which kept the season’s side-plots ticking even outside of the main Raylan-Boyd plot.
Speaking of Boyd, Walton Goggins has had a wonderful six years playing the silver-tongued mobster. In a final season that reaped the rewards from the serialised storytelling of the previous five seasons, Boyd was somehow the most despicable and sympathetic character in the entire show, pursuing his criminal plots with an intention to provide for his wife Ava. Walton Goggins pulls off the complex character of Boyd with a flamboyant performance that is just as good, if not better, than Timothy Olyphant’s performance as Raylan.
In a show full of eloquent characters, the most eloquent of all is Boyd. And he knows it too.
“I’ve been accused of being a lot of things. Inarticulate ain’t one of them.” – Boyd Crowder
13. Nick Offerman
Ron Swanson has to be one of the most entertaining comedy characters of the past few years. Just check out the clip, and you’ll understand the logic (and madness) behind the most anti-government government official in television history. Nick Offerman has done great work as Ron for the duration of Parks and Recreation, and yet he has not been nominated for an Emmy once. Once!
14. Ellie Kemper
This year, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was nominated for an Emmy while its lead Ellie Kemper (who plays the titular character) was not nominated. Which is a head-scratcher, because most of what makes the show good comes from Ellie Kemper. In an irrepressible performance, Kemper pulls off the optimistic and enthusiastic character of Kimmy while managing to make her likeable despite her ignorance and naivety. Surely there’ll be room next year for her nomination?
15. Vincent Kartheiser
Mad Men received nominations in all the major acting categories except for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, which is a travesty because Vincent Kartheiser should have been nominated for that category. Kartheiser, as Pete Campbell in Mad Men, showed tremendous dramatic and comedic talent in making us laugh at, despise and empathise with Pete.
It’s unfathomable that Kartheiser has never been nominated over the years for his work as Pete, as throughout the show’s run, Pete Campbell took part in some of the show’s most memorable scenes (a duel, and a tumble), all while his hairline was receding. If shaving his head every season to create that receding hairline is not an award-worthy sacrifice by Kartheiser, I don’t know what is.