What we consider a snub is subjective, depending on your personal favorite shows and actors, and whether you consider it possible to truly “snub” something when there is a plethora of options, an embarrassment of riches, really, and too much TV for any one person to ever watch. Usually, I don’t like to use the word “snub” for that very reason, that often, a “snub” is just your preferred person/show/movie that didn’t get nominated amongst a competitive field of potentials. But this year, I will use “snub” to describe some key Emmys exclusions. First up: Yellowstone.
Yellowstone, much like This Is Us, doesn’t get the Emmys recognition it deserves—it has only one nomination, for production design last year—and for many of the same reasons. It’s a primetime soap centered on a complex family, it’s not as sweet and sentimental as This Is Us, but it has roots in the same old-school network drama garden. But what Yellowstone has that no one else does is ratings. BIG ratings. Game of Thrones-style ratings. Everyone wants the next GOT, and, well, the Paramount Network has it. Yellowstone isn’t even that accessible—do you know what channel Paramount Network is on your TV, off the top of your head?—and in a weird quirk of bad planning, it streams on Peacock, not Paramount+, but neither of those are prestige streamers (yet) that lend the automatic clout of a Netflix, Apple TV+, or HBO Max.
And yet, people watch Yellowstone. Millions of people watch Yellowstone, and it’s not just your parents. Yellowstone was the #1 drama series of 2021 in both the coveted 18-49 demographic, and the 25-54 demo, across broadcast and cable. With those kinds of numbers, it should be a major Emmy contender by default. I’ve heard the “NCIS defense” about Yellowstone, which is that it is a bread-and-butter serial with broad base appeal but no real prestige, but this is just not true. Besides starring a Movie Star (Kevin Costner), Yellowstone is handsomely made, and at least as well written as Ozark (a show that is not as good as everyone thinks). It’s also well-acted, Kelly Reilly is KILLING it, and we never talk about it. Because…it’s about ranchers? I honestly don’t think that’s it, I just think the “it’s for parents” label stuck from the moment the trailer dropped and now no one wants to admit they watch it.
(I watch it, but I am behind, a common occurrence with weekly shows for me, as I don’t usually have time every week to drop everything and watch TV. If it weren’t for screeners, I would be massively behind on everything, but it’s because of screeners that I often don’t have time for primetime broadcasts…it’s a conundrum.)
Another snub? Reservation Dogs. It had a moment! And insanely good reviews! Alas: nothing. This one actually stings, because Reservation Dogs has the cultural cache and prestige shine Yellowstone doesn’t, and it STILL didn’t get nominated. Maybe the Emmys have a rural problem? But they also snubbed the other Taika Waititi-involved comedy series, Our Flag Means Death, which didn’t even get craft nominations, which is insane. Look at those costumes! The production design! But Flag posted a goose egg for the day.
I really wonder if the average Emmy voter is a quota-thinker. Like, What We Do in the Shadows got an Outstanding Comedy Series nomination, so there’s no need to acknowledge the other quirky comedies produced/directed by Taika Waititi. Never mind that Shadows didn’t get any other nominations this year, not for writing or directing or acting, which is outrageous, look at Harvey Guillén acting his HEART out every episode! But it’s like Shadows filled the “quirky comedy” quotient, so that’s it for anything that even vaguely resembles a quirky/goofy/outlandish comedy. That kind of quota thinking might also explain the lack of Pachinko nominations. It only got one, for Outstanding Main Title Design. Which means voters are only watching the credit sequence? Or does it mean that they ticked Squid Games in all the boxes and thought that was enough for Korean TV? Never mind that they’re two entirely different stories, with different tones and narrative goals.
There is absolutely too much TV, no one can keep up, and in such a landscape, there will always be omissions. But the omissions from this year’s Emmys nominations make me wonder what deeper issues are plaguing the television academy that we don’t talk about because “too much TV” is a convenient excuse for snubs. The film academy gets dragged every year because having a fresh crop of potential nominees each year quickly highlights problematic trends and blindspots. But TV has that overstuffed landscape to wade through and I just wonder what trends and blindspots that papers over.