Recent research into U.S. television viewing habits has shown a growing enthusiasm for the medium. Younger viewers in particular say that fresh subject-matter coupled with ground-breaking delivery methods are changing attitudes about watching TV, making it a serious competitor for film.
But if Monday night’s Emmy broadcast was any indication, it seems the television industry—or at least the part of it that votes for its biggest awards show—doesn’t appreciate the new and diverse content as much as viewers do.
The old guard networks were particularly dominant in the comedy categories. ABC’s Modern Family not only took home the award for outstanding comedy series for the fifth year running, Jim Parsons picked up his fourth outstanding lead actor win for his portrayal of the intellectually gifted but socially stunted Sheldon Cooper on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory. The supporting categories followed suit with Ty Burrell winning his second outstanding supporting actor award for his role on Modern Family and Allison Janney taking home outstanding supporting actress—her sixth Emmy, though her first for her role on CBS’s Mom.
The only major cable win for a comedy category came when Julia Louis Dreyfuss won her third outstanding lead actress award in a row for her role as Vice President Selina Meyer on HBO’s Veep. But Dreyfuss has long been a familiar face at the Emmy podium, having accepted two previous awards for her work on broadcast network shows Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine.
Though cable networks fared better in the dramatic categories, the buzziest shows of the past couple of television seasons (in particular HBO’s Game of Thrones and True Detective, and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and House of Cards) were shut out of all categories except those related to writing and directing individual episodes.
With the exception of the outstanding lead actress category, in which it did not have a nomination, AMC’s Breaking Bad swept all the major dramatic categories. Along with outstanding drama series, Bryan Cranston won his fourth Emmy for outstanding lead actor, Aaron Paul nabbed a third for outstanding supporting actor, and Anna Gunn took home her second consecutive win for outstanding supporting actress. Outstanding actress in a drama went to Julianna Margulies, her second for her work on ABC’s The Good Wife and her third overall.
Host Seth Myers made a running gag of how much ratings would fall as a result of NBC’s decision to air the Emmys, which typically play on a Sunday, on Monday to avoid competing with any NFL games. But if viewership for the 2014 Emmy broadcast is markedly lower than past years, it may not be just the fault of NBC’s timing. It could also be the lineup of predictable, homogenous winners in an increasingly innovative, vibrant television landscape.