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Our TV Critics Debate the 2017 Emmy Award Nominations

LYONS Yeah, poor movie category. But we used to say the same thing about limited series, and now that’s one of the most interesting, robust categories! So who knows. To every Emmy category, there is a season. Also “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” made it in this year. Can we talk a little bit about “Veep”? On the one hand, “Veep” had an outrageously good season. On the other hand … I sort of believe, spiritually, in sharing the wealth.

PONIEWOZIK I wasn’t as nuts about the most recent “Veep,” but regardless, to your larger point: I have no such spiritual qualms. I’m fine with rewarding the season-performance that aired, if it deserves it. In that spirit, while “The Americans” is one of the best dramas currently airing, I’m at peace with it not getting nominated for what really played like the first half of a double-length season. Next year, comrades! But I’d rather see its spot go to, say, “Rectify” than “Westworld.”

LYONS I mean, I would prefer the system you’re describing, of genuine fairness and taste, but it’s so clearly flawed already, it might as well be flawed in the directions I prefer. I also concur on “Rectify,” which brings us back to snubs. Oy, so many snubs. “BoJack Horseman,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” … I know there isn’t room for every single good show, but this seems egregious. Not even for best comedy per se, but other categories even? Team Andre Braugher.

PONIEWOZIK I’m sad for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” though I didn’t expect to see it up there. I honestly thought Rachel Bloom had a shot. And I’m truly surprised “Transparent” dropped out, even if it continued to rack up acting nominations. Which brings up the question of separating performance from show. I said I would not have nominated “Westworld,” but it was well-acted: Evan Rachel Wood is outstanding, and you could not sell the hoo-hah Dr. Ford had to shovel without someone like Anthony Hopkins. We should probably talk about the Limited Series Actress murderer’s row at some point, no?


Anthony Hopkins in “Westworld”

John P. Johnson/HBO

LYONS Yes, anything to move us away from having to talk about “Westworld.”

PONIEWOZIK I would split the “Feud” and “Big Little Lies” babies, and give the hardware to Carrie Coon, for “Fargo” but really for “The Leftovers.”

LYONS See, now who wants to bend the rules? I would give it to Reese Witherspoon. Maddie is sort of the whole point of “Big Little Lies;” bad but good, controlling but impulsive, hovering but not really present. And yet she seems so whole, and she isn’t a joke. There are so many shows right now — so many, so many, please stop — about busybody “mean mommies” who look too-perfect at school drop off, etc., and I guess Maddie could have been one more of those. But instead, she had so much dignity, and so much depth. Ah! I loved it.

PONIEWOZIK Good Lord, I just realized they didn’t nominate Oprah for “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” — speaking of a performance that was far better than the work it was in. Can you just not nominate Oprah? I worry an asteroid is going to smite the Earth for our folly.

LYONS Let’s move to “Saturday Night Live,” which racked up a lot of nominations. Is Alec Baldwin’s Trump worthy of a supporting actor nom?

PONIEWOZIK Maybe I’m an outlier on his Trump. It’s fine, but there’s not much of an idea, a theory of the character, compared with, say, Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer, or, in the past, Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush. But, eh: “S.N.L.” will always get nominated more according to its buzz than its quality. (I’d love to see “Documentary Now” take the sketch category, which is otherwise pretty good this year.) But speaking of Trump-adjacent comedy: nominations for Ms. Bee, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver — but the Emmys did not ruffle Jimmy Fallon’s hairdo.

LYONS Alec Baldwin isn’t even a cast member! And “S.N.L.” cast members have only recently been nominated in these categories. But for variety sketch, I’d be happy with “Documentary Now,” but even happier with “Billy on the Street.” Or “Drunk History.” Oh wow, I just realized that “Fleabag” was eligible this year, and now furious all over again. Jim, are the Emmys … bad?

PONIEWOZIK They’ll always be disappointing, and yet they’ve been worse.

LYONS They’ve also been better.

PONIEWOZIK Which maybe brings us to the big picture. Stepping back, I have a hard time seeing one. Past years, we’ve seen the nominations play out narratives like, “This is the year streaming arrived,” and so on. Now we’ve reached the point where the expanded universe of TV is just taken for granted. Streaming, like HBO, has a bunch of nominations, and they can be exciting newcomers or disappointing legacy series, like any other shows. It’s all just TV now.

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