Inventing Anna but no Reservation Dogs? This year’s Emmys snubs and surprises

A mostly agreeable set of nominees, including a belated showing for Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn, but some notable omissions

Tonight we can all rest easy in our beds, for a great historical wrong has been corrected. That’s right, Rhea Seehorn has finally been nominated for an Emmy.

For as long as Better Call Saul has existed, Rhea Seehorn has consistently turned in one of the best, most compelling, most gloriously subtle performances on all of television. And for as long as Better Call Saul has existed, the Emmys have consistently failed to acknowledge her brilliance. But now, finally, the drought is over. Today, Rhea Seehorn finally got her Emmy nomination for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series. Does this mean that the Emmys have finally decided to wise up and do the right thing, or was it just terrified of the inevitable riots that would have happened had she been snubbed again? Thankfully we will never know.

Quite honestly, we could end the article here. Because, for the most part, the Emmy nominations got it right this year. Lots of love for Barry. Lots of love for Better Call Saul. Dopesick was widely recognised, as was The Dropout. Even Squid Game – a show I was convinced would get shut out due to all its death and subtitles – picked up its fair share of nods.

In fact, and I don’t think this is a sentence I’ve ever written in one of these pieces, the Emmy nominations actually managed to throw up a handful of pleasant surprises. Although the post-apocalyptic series Station Eleven was much more patchy than anyone was hoping, Himesh Patel’s performance helped to ground it in an undeniable humanity, so it’s wonderful to see him nominated. And while it was genuinely a surprise to see it nominated in the comedy category (more on this later), it was gratifying to see The Great receive as much love as it did, with nods for both best actor and best actress.

There were a handful of notable snubs, of course. The most notable of these is probably This Is Us, a rare (in this day and age) commercial and critical network hit that has triumphed in the past but was overlooked in its final year. Similarly, Yellowstone is going from strength to strength, but couldn’t catch a break here.

Elsewhere, Reservation Dogs is a smart, sweet and authentic comedy series that, in any other year, might have swept the board. And yet this time around it came away with absolutely nothing. And Winning Time, while not the most consistent new show around, was rammed to the gills with barnstormer performances, yet came away with only a cinematography nomination. I’m hoping that this was an oversight rather than a deliberate choice, and that – if it returns – the show will finally get the attention it deserves.

This might also be the year when the Emmys finally learned not to fawn over film stars. There was a time when a movie star would be inundated with awards just for showing up, but this year several were flat out ghosted. Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto were ignored for WeCrashed, as was Nicole Kidman for Roar, Julia Roberts and Sean Penn for Gaslit and Samuel L Jackson for The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. Now, this could be course-correction on the part of the Emmys, or it could be because (as I suspect) all these shows were a bit crap.

Then again, this year was always going to be snub city, due to the incredible volume of shows that put themselves up for nomination. The eligibility window this year was wide enough to take in grabby new shows, reliable old favourites and all the shows that got pushed back because of Covid. It’s such a crowded year that you could pick your ten favourite shows and quite easily discover that they had all been blanked by the Emmy judges. It’s a system set up to make lots and lots of people very angry indeed.

And when that happens, the things that make you the angriest are less likely to be the shows that slipped through the net, and more likely to be the shows that clogged the net up. Each Emmy category only has a painfully finite number of slots to fill, so you can only imagine the fury that will greet the news that three of these slots were filled by Inventing Anna. Inventing Anna, for god’s sake. What a witless, charmless, badly framed mess of a show that was. At a push, Julia Garner’s meme-worthy performance (and, let’s be honest, accent) should have been recognised. But best limited series? In a year dripping with limited series that were actually good? What a waste. I’d also mention the strange hold that Ozark seems to have over Emmy voters, but time is short and I don’t want to get an aneurysm.

There’s also the matter of the comedy category as a whole to deal with. There has been a distinct blurring between comedy and drama over the last decade or so, but shows like The Great, The Flight Attendant and (especially) Barry seem to warrant a new category of their own. Which is no slight against any of these shows – personally I’d be quite content if the Emmys just loaded up a truckful of trophies and dumped them all on Bill Harder’s lawn – but it would still be nice to see the comedy categories filled with shows that are primarily designed to make you laugh.

But forget all that. Rhea Seehorn has finally been nominated for an Emmy and all is right with the world. Let’s postpone the riot for when she doesn’t win.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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