Outside of the bizarre rule governing sketch actors that demand they submit themselves as supporting actors, the Emmy ballot is filled with peculiarities that make sense to no one outside of the TV industry. Aside from the few who were left off the ballot altogether, here’s an explanation for some of the stranger stuff:
Sherlock Submits as a TV Movie, not Miniseries
Sherlock is the definition of a miniseries—it airs three episodes per season on Masterpiece Theater. British TV! It’s what the miniseries category was invented for! But just like last time, Sherlock has submitted only its final episode, “His Last Vow,” as a TV movie. This doesn’t make a difference for actors, nominated in a joint “miniseries/movie” category, but it means Sherlock gets out of the way of shows like Fargo and American Horror Story, although it still faces off against HBO prestige like The Normal Heart.
Tim Conway, Guest Actor Extraordinaire
Conway (right) is a TV comedy legend who’s collected five trophies over a 50-year career, from three Supporting Actor wins for The Carol Burnett Show to a Guest Actor win for 30 Rock, one of its spiritual successors. He’s not satisfied with five trophies, though—this year Conway has been submitted for four different guest performances. Apparently he was an outspoken long-time friend of Marty Pepper (Carl Reiner) in Two and a Half Men, and “Nick” in Hot in Cleveland (another role alongside Reiner!), as well as a theatrical member of a retirement home in Glee and some crank on TNT’s Major Crimes.
We should be happy Conway limited his submissions to four—he was also on Melissa & Joey this year. But he’s such an Emmy luminary, it’s not impossible to imagine him getting nominated as Guest Actor in a Comedy and in a Drama. How much does Emmy love him? Well, his throwback performance as an old racist in 30 Rock beat out three other performers from that show in 2008—Will Arnett, Rip Torn and Steve Buscemi (along with Shelly Berman’s lovely work as Larry’s dad in Curb Your Enthusiasm). Arnett and Buscemi are still waiting on their first trophy!
Jonathan Banks in Community and other “Special Guests”
Banks was basically hired as Chevy Chase’s replacement for season five, to be the cantankerous old man of the group, and he did an excellent job in the role, appearing in 11 of the final season’s 13 episodes. So why the hell is he submitted as a guest? Because he wasn’t a credited above-the-line cast member but a “special guest”, allowing him to submit himself wherever he wants, much like the villains-of-the-year always did on Dexter. That’s how John Lithgow could win a “Guest Actor” despite appearing in every episode of the season, it’s how Cloris Leachman got a guest nomination for Raising Hope (she was in every episode!) and it’s how Banks could slip in here. It used to be that if you were in more than three episodes of the season, you were a supporting actor, but the Emmys lifted that cap.
Damian Lewis, Still the Lead of Homeland
Damian Lewis is a great actor, and his work as Nicholas Brody on Homeland won a deserving Emmy two years ago and will be well-remembered in the annals of TV history. He was also barely in the third season of the show, which especially floundered when trying to figure out what to do with him in his Venezuelan drug house, eventually shipping him off to a suicide mission in Iran. He’s submitted as a lead, and whether that was Showtime’s decision or his own, it will almost certainly lead to a snub, which at the very least will open up that category to some new blood. Other actors (like Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men) have shifted down to the supporting category for seasons they were less involved in, but Lewis held still.
Franklin & Bash is a Drama!?
A worthy amount of fuss was made about Netflix’s decision to categorize prison show Orange is the New Black as a comedy, which seemed as much about spreading awards wealth for the streaming network (it has House of Cards in the drama category) than anything else. But similarly odd genre decisions were made for less well-regarded shows. Have you ever seen Franklin & Bash? It was about two awesome bro lawyers (Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer) who are exactly the same and live at the beach and solve awesome law cases and crack open a brew and flirt with the ladies. Am I right? The show is utterly devoid of dramatic tension. I would love to know who at TNT decided it’d have a better shot going up against True Detective.
When in Doubt, Submit Your Pilot or Your Finale
Almost to get out of their own way, new shows usually just submit the pilot episode for categories like writing and directing. Twenty-odd pilots were submitted in the writing category this year, including Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Orange is the New Black (definitely not its strongest), The Black List, and Masters of Sex. It’s a smart decision: 11 of the last 14 years in comedy and 10 in drama have seen either a pilot or a finale nominated for writing, with similar numbers in the directing category (10 for comedy, 12 for drama). As for finales, the only real contenders would be Breaking Bad — which might see its actual finale overshadowed by more acclaimed hours like "Ozymandias" (directed by Star Wars' own Rian Johnson) — in drama and How I Met Your Mother in comedy.