Setting aside the fact that, in a column three weeks ago, I nailed all seven Best Drama nominations — you’re welcome, America! — I have to be honest about something. I wasn’t aware that Cobra Kai was a comedy. I do find it funny how much peole seem to like the show (I most definitely do not), but a comedy? If the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences says so, I suppose it must be true.
Oh, were you not aware that the third season of Netflix’s Karate Kid franchise spinoff earned a nomination for Best Comedy Series? Well, then, I’m happy to be the bearer of said news. While I’m at it, I figure I’m allowed to blow off some steam and react to Tuesday morning’s announcement covering the best(-ish) of what television has to offer.
Emily in Paris is not a show I ever watched, and now I find myself wondering if I need to, since it, too, was honored as a Best Comedy nominee. I was sort of floored when I heard that it had earned a nod, though. Of course it’s not going to win, because now that Schitt’s Creek has finished its run, it has become Ted Lasso’s world, and we’re all just living in it.
Speaking of that, Ted Lasso earned 20 nominations, making it the most honored freshman comedy in TV history — Glee earned 19 its first time around. It also earned seven acting nominations: Jason Sudeikis for Best Actor in a Comedy, and then two Supporting Actress and four — yes, four — Supporting Actor nods, which I find astounding on several levels. I don’t know if that’s also a record or not — fact check: It isn’t. A Handmaid’s Tale has 10 this year, but I’ll get to that show in a bit — but it’s still awfully impressive. More interesting to me, though, is how many below-the-line nods Lasso earned: Production Design, Casting, Single-Cam Editing, Maine Title Theme, Half-Hour Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, it’s an impressive list no matter how you slice it. Especially since each and every one of the nominations makes sense, which is not something one can always say in these matters.
For instance, I love Don Cheadle as much as the next fanboy, but getting a nomination for Guest Actor in a Drama Series for a 98-second cameo in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Seriously? I mean, I suppose the Academy members felt they had to give the show something, and it’s not like it was all that good — and come on, you know it wasn’t, which means something coming from an actual Marvel fan like me — so maybe this was the consolation prize? Good for Don, I guess, but it’s still a bit … well, odd. Come on, Dude, it’s ninety-eight seconds.
On the other side, the fact that MJ Rodriguez broke the barrier for trans actresses and earned a Best Actress in a Drama nod is reason for us all to celebrate. Not just because she’s accomplished something meaningful with her nomination, but also because it’s yet more recognition for what was the best show on television this past year. Pose is, in fact, one of the best shows the medium has ever produced, and while I don’t think it will beat The Crown, it deserves every single nomination and word of praise directed at it. That includes the nods it got for Contemporary Hairstyling, Contemporary Makeup (Non-Prosthetic), and Prosthetic Makeup. Maybe especially those, considering the show’s subject matter.
The love for a show that went out on top and stayed brilliant the whole way? That I get. What I don’’t get, though, is the continued praise heaped on a show that is long past its prime. That would be the aforementioned A Handmaid’s Tale, which for sure is still a well-acted and well-made show, but jeez, it has become a bit of a slog, hasn’t it? What used to be groundbreaking television about a dystopian future has become something akin to torture porn. I don’t know if I ever really enjoyed the show as much as I admired it, but now, it’s hard to even do that. And yet, the Academy does what it does, perhaps out of habit, tossing tons of hosannas at a show it’s previously honored, whether those kudos are deserved any longer or not.
Now, having said that, I won’t begrudge the earned nods for Production Design, Casting, Editing, Makeup, Hairstyling, Sound, and so on. Like with Pose, a show that takes place in another era, be it the recent past or a near future that looks very much like right now, the look and the feel of it are integral to the show’s success, and it’s those less-recognized artisans who are rightfully noted for their work here.
Some fascinating snubs included Invincible in the Animated Series category, Brendan Gleeson’s portrayal of Donald Trump in The Comey Rule, the almost complete ignoring of The Good Lord Bird (except in Main Title Design) and its star and EP, Ethan Hawke, and Mr. Mayor’s Ted Danson in the otherwise light Best Actor in a Comedy Series (only five nominees? Really?).
But then the counters to that are the strength of the Limited Series category — seriously, five absolute powerhouse nominees, in HBO’s I May Destroy You and Mare of Easttown, Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, Amazon’s The Underground Railroad, and Disney+’s WandaVision — the inclusion of Hulu’s Pen15 in the Best Comedy Series category (as well as nominations for Writing and Casting), and the 18 nominations for The Queen’s Gambit — with a dozen for below-the-line artisans, and what is sure to be an absolute lock for Production Design. All of these are pleasant enough results to overshadow the disappointments of the previous paragraph, though some Bactine is still required for the residual sting.
Ultimately, there are always going to be snubs and surprises, reasons to celebrate and complain, and lots of think pieces about what the Academy should have done and what it needs to do, and that’s fine. It goes with the territory. What’s important, though, and one of the reasons why the TV Academy remains ahead of its Motion Picture counterpart is that it continues to be pretty forward thinking in its choices. Recognizing such disparate programs as a period piece about an LGBTQ+ community trying to survive during the AIDS epidemic, a demented take on the superhero genre, a Star Wars-spinoff, a 1950s-set horror series featuring a predominantly Black cast, and an epic, decades-spanning tale of Britain’s royal family, and all in the same category?
That’s something worth celebrating, and it’s a lesson the Oscars would be smart to learn.
One other thing: at least a couple shows did very well after being released close to the submission deadline, whereas shows that were out earlier in the year might have been skipped over. It’s worth diving into that a bit further, which I’ll do next week. Until then!
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for nearly 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday.