Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Emmy nominations confirm the rise of HBO

The cable channel now rules. But where the hell was Hannibal?

Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 17:11


There really are too many awards ceremonies about the place. However silly you may find the Oscars (very silly indeed if you have any sense), you would still have to admit that the ludicrous Grammys make those awards seem like the Nobel Prize. The Emmy Awards have, in their time, been equally foolish. Yet, as the standard of US television continues to soar, those gongs do take on more significance. People do really care whether these people prefer True Detective to Mad Men. Folk wonder wether Orange is the New Black has been noticed by the elderly establishment.

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Well, there was –for this observer anyway — just one huge surprise when the awards were announced this afternoon. We’ll get to that in a moment. Less surprising was the huge dominance of Game of Thrones. Over the last five years that series has broken out of the fantasy ghetto in a way few could have predicted. It has the addictive sweep of a soap opera and the ambition of an ancient epic. Filmed largely in Northern Ireland, the show led the nominations with 19 nods. In the number two position, the highly acclaimed TV adaptation of the Coens’ Fargo took 18 nominations.

The fine True Detective, the ground-breaking Orange Is the New Black and the overheated American Horror Story: Coven all did well. But the real story here is probably not to do with any one series. It concerns the extraordinary domination of Home Box Office. It is not that long ago that cable TV was regarded as a sort of Narnia. That’s where you went to go to watch pay-per-view boxing. Now, HBO dominates the quality sector. Variety did not hold back. “HBO destroyed the competition with 99 Emmy nominations, more than doubling up the next highest contender, CBS, with 47 and NBC with 46,” the trade paper explained.

There is a great deal of good stuff in this list. But one stunning omission strikes me. I am not the only person who regards Hannibal as one of the best shows on US television. The first series built slowly. But the second season has been genuinely superb. The twists on Thomas Harris’s universe are intriguing. Mads Mikkelsen is deeply unsettling as Hannibal Lecter. My good friend Hugh Dancy is cracking as Will Graham. The slick sound design and tasty editing give the piece a nicely cinematic feel. Yet the show has received not a single nomination. Not one. Not one census-collector sausage. All of this brings us back to the point at which we came in. The Emmy voters will tolerate extreme violence in a show that also allows in romance, comedy and family saga. Hence, the tolerance for Game of Thrones and The Sopranos. But, focussing almost solely on evisceration and desecration, Hannibal makes no attempt to seem respectable. The horror in American Horror Story is of the Ghost Train variety. In Hannibal we really get to discover the skull beneath the skin. These are suburban awards for suburban people. Hannibal will have to put in the  hours (and years) if it is to get any proper awards recognition. Boo! Boo!

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Here are the principal nominations:

Best Drama Series
“Breaking Bad”
“Downton Abbey”
“Game of Thrones”
“House of Cards”
“Mad Men”
“True Detective”

Best Comedy Series
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Modern Family”
“Orange is the New Black”
“Silicon Valley”

Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”
Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”
Woody Harrelson, “True Detective”
Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Lizzy Caplan, “Masters of Sex”
Claire Danes, “Homeland”
Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abbey”
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
Kerry Washington, “Scandal”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: His Last Vow”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “Dancing on the Edge”
Martin Freeman, “Fargo”
Billy Bob Thorton, “Fargo”
Idris Elba, “Luther”
Mark Ruffalo, “The Normal Heart”

Outstanding Reality Series Program
“The Amazing Race”
“Dancing with the Stars”
“Project Runway”
“So You Think You Can Dance”
“Top Chef”
“The Voice”

Outstanding Variety Series
“The Colbert Report”
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
“Real Time with Bill Maher”
“Saturday Night Live”
“The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon”

Outstanding Miniseries
“American Horror Story: Coven”
“Bonnie & Clyde”
“The White Queen”

Outstanding Television Movie
“Killing Kennedy”
“Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight”
“The Normal Heart”
“Sherlock: His Last Vow”
“The Trip to Bountiful”

Supporting Actor, Drama
Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”
Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey”
Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”
Josh Charles, “The Good Wife”
Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland”
Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan”

Supporting Actress, Drama
Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad”
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey”
Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”
Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife”
Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”

Supporting Actor, Comedy
Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Adam Driver, “Girls”
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Modern Family”
Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”
Fred Armisen, “Portlandia”

Supporting Actress, Comedy
Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory”
Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”
Allison Janney, “Mom”
Kate Mulgrew, “Orange Is the New Black”
Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”

Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie
Colin Hanks, “Fargo”
Jim Parsons, “The Normal Heart”
Joe Mantello, “The Normal Heart”
Alfred Molina, “The Normal Heart”
Matt Bomer, “The Normal Heart”
Martin Freeman, “Sherlock: His Last Vow:

Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie
Frances Conroy, “American Horror Story: Coven”
Kathy Bates, “American Horror Story: Coven”
Angela Bassett, “American Horror Story: Coven”
Allison Tolman, “Fargo”
Ellen Burstyn, “Flowers in the Attic”
Julia Roberts, “The Normal Heart”