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Matthew Gilbert

Emmy nominations: snubs and surprises

Tatiana Maslany in a scene from BBC America’s “Orphan Black.”Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA

We need to talk about Tatiana.

There are, of course, a number of snubs in this year’s long list of Emmy nominations. The lack of a “Good Wife” nomination in the best drama category after such a riveting season is tragic, and the absence of nods for “Masters of Sex” and its male star Michael Sheen despite their excellence is too sad. And what’s up with ignoring Elisabeth Moss for “Mad Men” this year? She was as poignant as ever.

But no snub was more surprising — and absurd and silly and fickle — than the absence of a nomination for Tatiana Maslany. This is a snub of epic proportions. As the lead in BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” she is wondrous, playing each of her clones with depth, clarity, commitment, and enthusiasm. Seriously, she gives one of the best TV performances in years, and the Emmys look foolish and stubborn for pretending it doesn’t exist. If you don’t believe me, try the show, a camp sci-fi character drama, and you’ll understand.

Another snub that deserves special notice: no major nominations for “The Americans.” The FX series really came into its own in its second season, with a powerful season-length arc and with fierce and unforgettable lead performances by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. It has become one of TV’s best, most electric dramas, and it benefits from the added resonance of our once-again very shaky relationship with Russia. With all due respect to fans of “Downton Abbey,” which continues to get Emmy love despite its lack of spark, a symptom of the Emmys’ perseveration syndrome, “The Americans” deserves that best drama slot.


And a few more snubs, before I finish my requisite venting. Timothy Simons, who plays Jonah on “Veep,” surely deserved a nod as the show’s zinger-loving creep (“You take that chicken soup and you shove it up your soul”). He was a standout in a cast of standouts. Demian Bichir, the lead actor on “The Bridge,” gave a beautifully nuanced performance as a weary detective with a few significant weaknesses. Nominee Jeff Daniels is all righteous bluster on “The Newsroom,” and he won best actor last year; perhaps Bichir’s quiet depths are too subtle for voters.


I am sorry that the Emmys have failed to acknowledge the enormous power of “Vikings,” which also features a commanding lead performance by Travis Fimmel. I am confused by the absence of Merritt Wever for her sweetly moving supporting work on “Nurse Jackie,” particularly since she won last year. And I grieve for a few of my longshots, including the hysterical Laurie Metcalf on “Getting On” and the captivating Jeffrey Wright on “Boardwalk Empire.”

The positives? Yes, there are many. While the world seems to have already declared Matthew McConaughey the winner for best dramatic actor, I was afraid that his costar in “True Detective,” Woody Harrelson, would be forgotten. But Harrelson, who delivered a more naturalistic, complex, and subtle performance than McConaughey, got his deserved nomination.

So did William H. Macy for “Shameless,” a powerful show that the Emmys have all but ignored over the years. By switching over to the comedy categories — even though it had one of its most dramatic (and best) seasons so far — “Shameless” at least earned a major nod. We “Shameless” lovers are grateful for it, although let’s face it: Emmy Rossum is indelible as Fiona, and the actors who play her siblings are also extraordinary. They are repeatedly and mysteriously robbed. Macy was outrageously good this season, as his Frank Gallagher all but died but refused to change.


How great that “Game of Thrones” emerged with the highest number of nominations – 19 in all. It’s a fine show that just might win best drama this year, after a strong season and record-breaking ratings for HBO. It’s buzzier than a beehive right now. How great that, even though it ended a while back, the towering accomplishment that is “Breaking Bad” is still on the Emmy radar. The series got 16 nominations, all of them deserved. And how great that “Homeland” and Damian Lewis weren’t automatically put onto the nominations list; they had an extremely uneven third season.

The love for “Fargo” was a treat, as the miniseries took a whopping 18 nominations, including one for Martin Freeman, who was magnificently jittery as a man in a spiral of dark intent. And the love for “The Normal Heart” and its cast was also quite heartening. All of the actors got their due, and I am particularly glad to see that Joe Mantello didn’t get lost in the shadows of his more famous costars, including Alfred Molina, Jim Parsons, and my favorite to win, Matt Bomer.

The addition of “Silicon Valley” as a comedy contender is a happy one, as is the addition of Andre Braugher for his brilliantly deadpan work on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and Lizzie Caplan for her game turn on “Masters of Sex.” And the arrival of “Orange Is the New Black” as a heavyweight comedy contender is an even happier one (although it’s not quite a comedy, is it?). “Treme” finally got some due, as a miniseries, for its final, short string of episodes. And Kate McKinnon made her reputation as the new Kristen Wiig on “Saturday Night Live” official. She’s the reason to watch “SNL” during its difficult period of cast flux.


The Emmys will be presented on Aug. 25, with Seth Meyers as the host.

More coverage:

‘Game of Thrones’ earns a leading 19 Emmy Award nominations

List of Emmy nominees

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.