Emmy Nominations Lacking in Diversity

I just did the math:  Only six people of color were nominated for acting Emmy awards this year (that includes categories like supporting actor in a miniseries). For the men, that’s 1 nomination of a possible 45. For the women, that’s 6 nominations of 45 (Chandra Wilson was nominated twice):

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie:  Accidental Friendship, Chandra Wilson as Yvonne
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:  Grey’s Anatomy, Chandra Wilson as Dr. Miranda Bailey
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:  Grey’s Anatomy, Sandra Oh as Dr. Christina Yang
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series:  30 Rock, Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series:  Ugly Betty, Vanessa Williams as Wilhelmina Slater
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie:  House of Saddam, Shohreh Aghdashloo as Sajida
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie:  Relative Stranger, Cicely Tyson as Pearl

I can’t say I’m surprised.  In the past, Emmy had notoriously neglected the brilliant HBO series The Wire, which featured some of the greatest TV performances of all time, and highlighted the work of actors like Andre Royo, Idris Elba, and Sonja Sohn.

But I was hoping for a greater diversity of actors now that Emmy offers six spots instead of five in each category.  It’s hard to make an argument that there wasn’t anyone to nominate.  Edward James Olmos and Grace Park turned out stellar performances in the final season of Battlestar Galactica.  Masi Oka is consistently the only entertaining spark in the increasingly lifeless hour of Heroes that I subject myself to.  Mindy Kaling is hilarious on the Office.  And, by the way, what happened to the Emmy love for America Ferrera and Ana Ortiz from Ugly Betty?  What about Dule Hill from Psych?  That show has to be funnier than Two and a Half Men (so are youtube videos of cats on a Roomba).

But the actor who blew me away this season, and again has failed to capture an Emmy nod, is Idris Elba.  His guest star spot on The Office, where he deadpanned through Michael’s insane behavior, Jim’s insubordination, and the not-so-subtle advances of Kelly and Angela, was both real and surreal (much like the rest of The Office).  Unfortunately, the only clip of him on Hulu doesn’t his performance justice:

In tough economic times, networks are only going to produce shows that they think are bankable. And until we start acknowledging the talent of a greater diversity of actors, we’ll see networks turning out one white male driven storyline after another.

It’s not about percentages or quotas or anything like that. It’s about the abundance of storytelling that is possible within the medium of television. It’s possible to tell rich stories that the viewing public hasn’t yet seen, it’s possible to include the voices of non-white characters, to build up backstories that are engaging and new. There are too many cookie cutter white doctors/lawyers/cops who just want to make good/get their kids back/look handsome in a scruffy beard. It’s lazy storytelling, and it doesn’t contribute to or reflect the richness of American pop culture. Chandra Wilson, twice nominated this year, expresses the need for strong female, and strong African American characters well when she says that her character serves as an inspiration to others (see clip at the top of this page).

Who would you have nominated for the Emmy Awards this year? Who do you feel was missing from past Emmy awards? And which of the nominated actors will take home gold?

Battlestar Galactica’s Face of the Enemy: Evidently Quite Kissable

I’ve been waiting, quite nervously, for the return of Battlestar Galactica in January.  It’s been so gosh darn long since the end of the first half of season 4 – what if I don’t remember what happened?  Lucky for me I can still Catch the Frak Up.

We’ve also got webisodes to help us get through the holidays, this time penned by Jane Espenson.  The first two webisodes are already up. (Warning: this webisode contains spoilers for the last 4 seasons, so don’t watch if you don’t want to know):

At around the two-minute mark, I had to pause, take a few deep breaths, and restart the video.  Two men just kissed – in SPACE!  Hoshi and Gaeta are not particularly surprising choices as gay characters (Lt. Gaeta had a rather puppyish attachment to Gaius Baltar early in the series). My first reaction, after decades of waiting in vain for a gay relationship on Star Trek, or really anywhere in American spacefaring drama (I hear Torchwood is very progressive, but it’s still British), was pure joy.  Two actual male characters, one of whom has been integral to the storyline, kiss in a non-sensationalized moment on screen.  Can anyone think of another show that has done that?  I can’t even think of another male-male kiss in space, let alone one that uses existing characters.

But as with so many great gay moments in pop culture – there’s a little bit of disappointment mixed in with that joy.  The gay kiss isn’t happening on the show proper, but on a webisode that regular viewers can watch or not watch as they choose.  If the relationship had been a part of the intricate plot of the main show, it would be impossible to ignore, since it is nearly impossible to skip an episode of Battlestar Galactica and still get what’s going on.  It seems that from Jane Espenson’s commentary, the webisodes were some of the last scenes filmed on the BSG set, which leads me to believe that the relationship will not be portrayed at all in the final ten episodes.

So what do you think?  Historic moment in science fiction or a cop-out?

If Star Trek was on the air today, might they have unrolled a character arc much like this one on the web, and thus had the opportunity to test their viewers’ reaction before moving it onto the regular show?  Can webisodes, extended scenes, and other out-of-show content play in creating a more inclusive narrative – or do they make it too easy for producers to bury anything that might not sit well with audiences?

Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible: Legendary with a side of Shiny

Nathan Fillion is Shiny (Photo by RavenU)

Nathan Fillion is Shiny (Photo by RavenU)

If you are a true fangirl or fanboy, then news of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” will be old hat by now. Bear with us, we’re excited: Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly) is about to release what he’s calling an “Internet Miniseries Event.” You can watch a trailer via vimeo, or you can read his comments on the Whedonesque blog.

The premise looks hysterical: Neil Patrick Harris is a supervillain, Nathan Fillion is a superhero. They sing, and potentially fight over a girl. What more could you want? The answer is, of course, to watch it free, streaming through your interwebs starting July 15th.

The format looks gosh darn revolutionary: 3 episodes, staggered throughout 1 week in July, free to watch. After that, they’ll be sold online for a “nominal fee,” then they’ll potentially go to DVD.

According to Whedon (or Joss as he likes to call himself), this all started during the writers’ strike, when he and other writer/producers started looking around for alternates to creating studio fare. Joss Whedon has a history of working in mixed media: Buffy was originally a film (a flop), then a TV show (a success), then a comic (wildly praised by pretty much everyone) [Editor’s Note: We’ve even seen the musical episode produced for the stage]. Science fiction in general seems to be ahead of the curve on this yes-people-watch-the-internet thing: Battlestar Galactica has released web-exclusive content, as has Heroes. But no one has ever tried to launch a potential brand from the internet, using known actors who are creating original characters specifically for the web. What’s more, Whedon’s “make it on the fly, on the cheap” concept makes it better matched to the bulk of current web content.

I’m sure this is not the last post we’ll do for Dr. Horrible, since (a) Teague is eventually going to get jealous [Editor’s Note: So jealous…]that I got to post about Joss Whedon and he didn’t and (b) This is pretty much the content we’ve been waiting to cover: Big names with big ideas experimenting in free web formats, rather than running around trying to shut them down.