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Friday, May 23, 2014

2014 Emmy Questions: Orange Is The New Black

Click here for the introduction to The Cover 3's "2014 Emmy Questions" series

COLD, HARD LOCK NOMINATIONS: Outstanding Comedy Series, Best Actress (Taylor Schilling), Best Supporting Actress (Kate Mulgrew), Multiple Guest Actor Nominations

STRONG, EDUCATED GUESSES: Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Pablo Schreiber), Another Best Supporting Actress nomination

QUESTION ONE: Did Netflix make the right decision by making OITNB a comedy as opposed to a drama?

First, some background. Emmy rules dictate that basically the show itself can determine which categories it wants to compete in. Earlier this year, Netflix stated that Orange Is The New Black will compete as a comedy as opposed to a drama.

OK, now on to the question. The short answer is "yes," but we don't do just short answers at The Cover 3. We go into long and verbose discussions about matters. I think Orange Is The New Black is a lock to earn, at minimum, 3 major Primetime Emmy's with a handful or writing and directing nominations that are completely up in the air. So I'm going to take each of OITNB's possible nominations and break them up by category to prove why Netflix made the correct decision.

Outstanding Television Program

In 2013, six shows were nominated for Outstanding Drama Series. Those shows were: Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards, and Mad Man. Rookie House of Cards seemingly took over two-time nominee Boardwalk Empire that year. All six of the nominated shows (plus Boardwalk Empire) are again eligible in 2014; plus, there is also HBO's True Detective to add to the mix. Needless to say, this will become an extremely cluttered category where it would be difficult for Orange Is The New Black to earn a nomination.

In 2013, six shows were nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series. Those shows were: 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Girls, Louie, Modern Family, and Veep. Out of those six shows, five are eligible again in 2014 as 30 Rock ended. That leaves a wide open space for Orange Is The New Black to slip right in without ruining any perceived or real status quo.

Outstanding Lead Actress

In 2013, there were *seven* females nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Those lovely ladies were: Connie Britton (Nashville), Claire Danes (Homeland), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men), Kerry Washington (Scandal), and Robin Wright (House of Cards). Not only are seven nominations in any single category rare (there's usually only six in the acting categories), but all seven females are again eligible in 2014. Plus, there's the Wild Card of Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) looming.

In 2013, there were six females nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. Those lovely ladies were: Laura Dern (Enlightened), Lena Dunham (Girls), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation). Out of those six females, only four are eligible again in 2014. Since Enlightened got cancelled and 30 Rock ended, both Tina Fey and Laura Dern aren't eligible this year. This again leads the door wide open for Taylor Schilling to easily earn a nomination in 2014.

Outstanding Supporting Actress

This is actually the only category that I think Orange Is The New Black will still earn a nomination, but the fact that it's a comedy makes it harder for themselves. On the drama side, while all six ladies that were eligible in 2013 are still eligible in 2014, there are definitely some weak spots. Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Morena Baccarin (Homeland) earned nominations last year, but they are certainly no lock to continue to get a nomination. Clarke failed to earn a nomination during the first two season of the show and her Emmy nomination episode this year (which ever one she picks) isn't nearly as good as her submission episode from 2013, and Baccarin failed to win a nomination during Homeland's rookie season- a year where the Emmy's clearly loved the show.

Meanwhile, on the comedy side, 2013 saw another expansion, as seven ladies earned nominations as opposed to the normal six. Now Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) earned a nomination last year and isn't eligible again in 2014, but the other six that earned a nomination last year ARE eligible again this year.

However, Kate Mulgrew is an industry insider who spent years playing Capt. Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, actually has her name in the show's credits (which will be important in just a bit), and has an excellent submission episode (most likely "Tit Punch"). I think Mulgrew is such a force to be reckoned with that she'll take Jane Lynch's (Glee) "spot" that Lynch got last year.

Best Screenplay

Last year, three TV shows (Louie, 30 Rock, and The Office) earned all five of the nominations. While Louie is back and will probably earn another two nominations, OITNB can easily earn two nominations in this category in 2014 as 30 Rock and The Office aren't eligible this year. At minimum, the Netflix show is all but guaranteed one nod.

Best Director

In the recent past, there are four constants in this category that I can guess with a reasonable certainty: Modern Family will earn a nomination, Louis C.K. (Louie) will earn a nomination, Lena Dunham (Girls) will earn a nomination, and Beth McCarthy-Miller will earn a nomination. Normally the McCarthy-Miller nomination would come from 30 Rock, but since that NBC sitcom isn't eligible anymore, I'm confident the Beth McCarthy-Miller and the Modern Family nomination will be the same. Again, I'd be surprised if Orange Is The New Black doesn't earn *one* nomination here.

If you really want to read more and learn about how difficult it will be to earn a directing nomination on the drama side, then check QUESTION THREE in my Homeland post.

QUESTION TWO: Will OITNB treat their huge cast as Guest Stars or Supporting Actors?

During the first season of the show (which is all we really care about for the purpose of this post), there are six actors listed within the credits. They are: Taylor Schilling (Piper Chapman), Laura Prepon (Alex Vause), Michael J. Harney (Healy), Michelle Hurst (Miss Claudette), Kate Mulgrew (Red), and Jason Biggs (Larry). Only four inmates are listed in the credits and one of them is the lead on the show. That still leaves like a bajillion other great actresses left out in the dust. Truthfully, I would be fine if every nomination in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category was filled with Orange Is The New Black cast members, but even then you'd have snubs.

Michelle Hurst, Danielle Brooks (Taystee), Taryn Manning (Pennsatucky), Laverne Cox (Burset), Vicky Jeudy (Watson), and Natasha Lyonne (Nicky) all have flashbacks episodes or episodes heavily focused on them; therefore, they have excellent Emmy submission episodes. Also, even though Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes) doesn't have a flashback episode, I'd imagine "Lesbian Request Denied" is a damn good showcase for her. But with all that being said, it was tough enough to "get" Kate Mulgrew a Supporting Actress nomination, it will be really tough for Netflix to convince the Emmy's to give them *two* nominations. I wonder if Netflix even pushes for anyone else besides Mulgrew and throws everyone else in the Guest Actress category. 

However, the real question is where does Pablo Schreiber (Pornstache) fit into this entire equation? He's technically listed in every episode as a "Special Guest Star" but that label is mainly for Netflix's budgeting purposes and how they pay the actor versus the category Schreiber can get nominated in. During Season 2 of Justified, both Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies were considered guest stars according to the show's credits, but Martindale ended up being nominated (and winning) Best Supporting Actress whereas as Davies ended up being nominated (and winning) Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. The Emmy rules in this area are so loose that the show can decide for itself whatever category they want without any repercussions. 

For Pablo Schreiber, it will be damn near impossible for him to earn an Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series nomination because he'll be competing with *four* Modern Family actors, 2013 Emmy winner Tony Hale (Veep), and Adam Driver from Girls. But that being said, no one in this category is per se safe. Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family won this category in both 2010 and 2012, yet failed to earn a nomination in 2013. Adam Driver wasn't nominated for his work during Girls' rookie season- only the show's sophomore one. Tony Hale also didn't earn a nomination in 2012 for Veep's rookie season, but ended up breaking up Modern Family's monopoly by winning the whole she-bang last year.

Schreiber is just so damn good in the role and the show knows just how good Schreiber is in the role. Take a look at that poster above to promote Season 1 of the show. Pornstache is the only male actor there and he's prominently focused. I personally think it's worth the risk on Netflix's part to try and earn Schreiber a Supporting Role nomination as opposed to a guest role. 

Netflix and Orange Is The New Black is clearly thinking strategy when it comes to the Emmy's. They strategically decided to make the show a comedy as opposed to a drama in order to maximize nominations. The more prestige this show gets, the more likely people are going to be willing to purchase Netflix subscriptions to watch the show. Therefore, I'd be curious to see how the show treats everyone else not named Schilling or Mulgrew. 

QUESTION THREE: Who will earn a writing and directing nomination for their work on OITNB?

This is a legitimate question that I don't have a good grasp on how to answer. Considering the Comedy Writing category is completely up for grabs and the directing category is kind-of, sort-of crowded (but not really), I'm going to guess that the Netflix dramedy earns one directing nomination and two writing nominations.

Historically, the Emmy's love pilot episodes and season finales/penultimate episodes. But that's just a rough estimate. Mad Men consistently gets non pilot/finale episodes nominated and the current reigning champion of Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series in a non-pilot, non-finale, but phenomenal Homeland episode entitled "Q&A" that also earned the director of that episode an Emmy nomination. Really, the Emmy's just vote in these categories for episodes that are good. Since OITNB has an entire season full of really good episodes, I have no Earthly idea which one stands out above another.

With all that being said, here are my guesses: Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan will earn a nomination for writing "I Wasn't Ready" (the show's pilot), Sara Hess will earn a nomination for writing "Fool Me Once," and Michael Trim will earn a nomination for directing "I Wasn't Ready".

FUN FACT: Jodie Foster directed the show's 3rd episode "Lesbian Request Denied." She also directed an episode from Season 2 of Netflix's House of Cards. I would bet that sooner rather than later Foster starts to earn some Emmy nominations for her directing.


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