Tuned In: Too much good TV for Emmy equality

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — There’s always a knee-jerk reaction to nominations for the annual Prime Time Emmy Awards: focusing on the snubs; which deserving TV series got left out.

Sometimes TV series get overlooked because voting members of the Television Academy tend to renominate past winners and are slow to welcome newcomers. That was true again this year with repeat nominations for “Downton Abbey,” “Modern Family” and “The Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons.

That recurring problem gets compounded by another reality: There’s just too much good TV out there for every show that’s deserving to be recognized.

With a new cable network getting into the scripted series business seemingly every other day, it’s simply impossible for any awards system to recognize all the high-quality work that’s being done.

In addition, with more online streaming services producing quality content, the potential pool of nominations grows even larger.

This is actually a good problem to have. While the quality of films continues to erode with movie-after-blow-‘em-up-movie, the quality of TV continues to rise. (Yes, of course, there’s still plenty of bad TV and too many inane reality shows, but that’s the price we pay for just more original programming overall.)

The continued TV upswing is the reason for nominations for increasing number of movie stars who come to TV, including this year’s nominees Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson of HBO’s best drama nominee “True Detective.” And Billy Bob Thornton for FX’s best miniseries nominee “Fargo.” And Chiwetel Ejiofor, nominated for the little-seen Starz miniseries “Dancing on the Edge.” And Mark Ruffalo for HBO’s “The Normal Heart,” nominated as best movie (co-star and Carnegie Mellon University grad Matt Bomer earned his first Emmy nomination, too). Also of local note, 1983 Point Park College alumnus Rob Ashford received an Emmy nomination for his work directing NBC's "Sound of Music Live!"

When you break it down – too many good shows, not enough slots in each category – the snubs are more understandable. But it doesn’t lessen the sting.

That’s especially true for CBS’s “The Good Wife,” which in its fifth year had one of its best seasons ever creatively. And yet it got overlooked for a best drama series nomination. FX’s “The Americans” also was slighted in the drama category along with comedy contender “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and lead drama actress Tatiana Maslany, who plays multiple clone characters on BBC/America’s “Orphan Black.” Also overlooked: “The Blacklist” star James Spader.

And while it’s sometimes easy to look at this year’s list of nominations and wonder if Television Academy members are overly enamored with premium cable series that most TV viewers never see, even among the premium cable elite there were snubs, including no best comedy nomination for HBO’s “Girls.” (Showtime’s increasingly disappointing “Homeland” also got scratched from the best drama series category.)

For 2014, Netflix increased its nomination haul to 31 compared to 14 in 2013, including 12 nominations for “Orange Is the New Black” (actors Taylor Schilling, Kate Mulgrew, Natasha Lyonne, Uzo Aduba, Laverne Cox are among the show’s nominees), the most for any comedy series this year.

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” was the most-nominated TV drama with 19 nods, FX’s miniseries “Fargo” received 18 nominations, HBO movie “The Normal Heart” has 16 nominations, NBC reality competition “The Voice” took 10 nominations.

HBO was again tops in overall nominations (99), followed by CBS (47), NBC (46), FX Networks (45), ABC (37) and PBS (34), Netflix (31), AMC (26) and Showtime (24).

The 66th annual prime-time Emmys will air 8 p.m. Aug. 25 on NBC with Seth Meyers hosting.

‘Kill’ coulda beens

Shot-in-Pittsburgh flop “Those Who Kill” received, unsurprisingly, no Emmy nominations, but showrunner Glen Morgan, now working on BBC America's upcoming "Intruders," explained what he planned to have happen at the start of season two.

The “Those Who Kill” season finale ended with Catherine (Chloe Sevigny) going after her stepfather (Bruce Davison), whom she suspected of molesting young boys, including one at his home at the time. Catherine ran into the house with a gun followed by her forensic profiler colleague (James D'Arcy). Shots rang out and the episode and series ended.

Turns out, nobody died.

"The young boy was staying at the house that night and he was accidentally injured in the shooting," Mr. Morgan said Wednesday night at a BBC America party. "The judge knew that they were onto him and they knew that he knew that they were onto him so for several episodes it would have been him messing with them by trying to destroy their lives."

Mr. Morgan said he shot that scene multiple ways at 4:30 a.m. on a cold Pittsburgh morning last December. His preferred version had Catherine emerging from the house alone but A&E executives preferred the more ambiguous ending.

For viewers upset by the cliffhanger, Mr. Morgan said he wasn't pleased with it either, but the show was locked in January, two months before "Those Who Kill" debuted to disastrous ratings that sealed its fate. For his new series, BBC America's "Intruders," Mr. Morgan said his "Kill" experience led him to a more concrete ending.

"I don't want to do that to people," he said of the possibility of an unresolved cliffhanger.

His "Intruders" experience seems quite different from his "Those Who Kill" experience so far. "Intruders" (10 p.m. Aug. 23) follows mysterious goings-on in the Pacific Northwest. Mr. Morgan said BBC America executives have encouraged the production to have a lived-in look of messy homes.

"They kept hammering to make it look real," he said. But on "Those Who Kill" it was different. "I'd get, 'Don't put her in a leather jacket. We want people to like her.' Why would people not like her because she was in a leather jacket? 'We want her to look like a cop.' She's a cop who's very damaged and Chloe is a whole lot different — they just did not understand that."

Mr. Morgan, a writer on “The X-Files,” described the reaction — or lack of reaction — to "Those Who Kill" as humiliating. Viewers simply didn’t show up for the low-rated premiere episode.

"They put out the 'Those Who Kill' trailer online — and I'm new to the internet marketing on all this — and it got, like, 300 views. I'm like, that seems low but what do I know?” he said. “After six months of playing it's up to 31,000. When BBC America released our 'Intruders' trailer on 'Orphan Black,' we had a million views in three days. I went aww, somebody at A&E should have known we weren’t getting [the attention we needed] and fixed it but I didn’t know that at the time. I should have been happy for 'Intruders' but I had a pit in my stomach because I thought so much of Chloe and I wanted that [to work].

"I love that city, too," Mr. Morgan said of Pittsburgh. "We were just at dinner over there watching the Pirates play the Cardinals. I love that city. I'll miss it."

Hillbillies return

Destination America's "Hillbilly Blood" returns for its second season at 9 p.m. Aug. 9, following a group of backwoods MacGyvers in Cold Mountain, N.C., who live off the land and repurpose old materials to create new gadgets.

Spencer "Two Dogs" Bolejack, who did go to college, said the guys tried to make a stump grinder by turning the back tire of a motorcycle into a spinning blade but that didn't work so they concocted homemade explosives instead.

The guys were successful in making a welder out of two microwaves. They used the welder to build an ATV for elderly co-star Cowboy to get around on.

But how do the guys feels about the term "hillbilly"?

"We're actually trying to break stereotypes of what people think a hillbilly is," said series star Eugene Runkis. "The stereotypical idea is a barefoot, grass-chewing country person who doesn't know much. But a lot of the hillbillies I know are really interested in repurposing junk and turning it into useful things, purifying our own water, creating our own electricity. ... I do think it's an honorable thing for someone to call me a hillbilly."

Channel surfing

CBS’s “Extant” debuted with 9.4 million viewers but skewed older than “Under the Dome” in its early broadcasts last summer. … BBC America renewed “Orphan Black” for a third season to air in 2015 and the network will air a second season of “Broadchurch” early next year, too. … Lifetime has ordered a “Clan of the Cave Bear” pilot based on author Jean M. Auel’s series of best-selling novels. If the pilot gets a greenlight to go to series it will likely air in 2015. … Reruns of classic episodes of “Doctor Who” will air on WPXI’s Retro TV digital subchannel at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Aug. 4 featuring early Doctors played by William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about Emmy nominations, “Rising Star,” “Welcome to Myrtle Manor” and severe weather centers. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on “Finding Carter,” “The 7D,” “Kidnapped for Christ” and press tour coverage. Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about the 2014 TV landscape. Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.

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