Gold Standard: Emmys 2014: Buzzmeter panelists talk ‘True Detective,’ newcomers

Emmy nominations arrive two weeks from Thursday, and there’s the possibility we might see some fresh faces mixed in with the perennial favorites. (Really.) We gathered The Envelope’s Buzzmeter panelists — USA Today’s Robert Bianco, TV Guide’s Matt Roush, The A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWerff, the Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara and Glenn Whipp and, when the focus is on predictions, Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil — to discuss this year’s most intriguing races. We’ll be back Friday the second part of the conversation.

HBO placed “True Detective” in the drama series category. Is that fair? Are you OK with a one-off like this competing alongside shows with recurring characters?

McNamara: I am more concerned with the continuing problem of 23-episode shows competing against 10-, 11- and 12-episode shows. That’s really unfair. I do find it odd that “American Horror Story,” which has something of a contiguous cast, is a miniseries, but “True Detective” is a series.

Bianco: It’s “fair” because the academy has allowed it to happen, and the academy sets the rules. But it’s not appropriate. “True Detective” was a closed-ended, eight-episode project without a story or a cast that continues. It’s a miniseries and should be competing in the miniseries category. Where it would have lost to “Fargo.”


VanDerWerff: Honestly, I wish the Emmys would take a stronger hand in determining these sorts of classifications. It’s fine if “True Detective” is a drama series, but if so, then “American Horror Story” and “Fargo” should be as well. And if not, then “True Detective” should be a miniseries. All I’m asking for is a little consistency!

O’Neil: The distinctions between miniseries and drama series are now -- officially -- a mess. The academy needs to get tough and enforce the obvious: If a TV series plans to come back next year with more than six episodes featuring the same characters, it’s a drama series. Period.

Roush: It’s fair because the rules say it’s fair. But it’s dishonest. “True Detective” was an eight-hour, self-contained miniseries. HBO might not have wanted this (especially Matthew McConaughey) pulling focus from “The Normal Heart” in movie/minis acting categories, but a show and story like this does not operate under the same narrative rules as a series that is plotting character and story arcs for the long run. So in that regard, it’s certainly not operating on the same playing field as its competition, so that is unfair. (Not exactly crazy about “Orange Is the New Black” considering itself a comedy, either, to avoid upstaging “House of Cards,” but that’s another story.)

Whipp: As much as I appreciate the networks and, by its lack of action, the television academy, providing us with some interesting Emmy fodder, the anything-goes attitude makes everyone look silly. Ten-episode “Fargo” is a miniseries, but “True Detective,” with two fewer episodes, is a drama series? Check. What’s next? Shows jumping between comedy and drama from year to year? (Wait. “Shameless” has already cornered that move? OK then.)

Most deserving lead acting nominee from a new show: Andy Samberg (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black:), Anna Faris (“Mom”), James Spader (“The Blacklist”), Michael Sheen or Lizzy Caplan (“Masters of Sex”)?

Roush: Schilling, though I’d be more inclined to root for her if her performance were being considered in the drama, not comedy, category. The other actors on this list were already fairly well established (though Virginia Masters is also a breakthrough for the marvelous Caplan) — but the role of Piper has put Schilling on the map, deservedly.

Whipp: It’s a great class, but I’ll go with Caplan, who finally found a project worthy of her.

VanDerWerff: Taylor Schilling, no doubt, though Michael Sheen comes close. People rag on Schilling sometimes as being the least interesting thing about “Orange,” but that’s rather by design. Piper Chapman is unlikable, for sure, but that’s because the series needs her to be. Schilling is expert at playing someone we react to viscerally, while maintaining just enough of our empathy.

Bianco: Isn’t that a tough one? Go with Samberg, because he easily could have given a bigger, smugger, less generous, more “SNL” performance that would have sunk the series – and he didn’t.

McNamara: Lizzy Caplan, hands down. She (and co-star Allison Janney) make that show. Janey better get a nomination too.

Emmy voters are notoriously creatures of habit. What habit do they need to break?

VanDerWerff: It’s time to drop some of the “Modern Family” guys from the supporting actor category. There are so many better options in that category, and if Emmy voters really want to fill it with men from one show, they could look just over to perennial Emmy contender “Veep.”

O’Neil: Emmys need to break the habit of using a popular ballot to determine nominees. That only guarantees the return of the most popular contenders over and over again. They should use judging panels just like they use for round two of voting to pick winners.

McNamara: Snubbing genre shows. That Tatiana Maslany was not nominated last year for her amazing, unparalleled performances in “Orphan Black” is proof positive of the weird snobbery with which the Academy views sci-fi and fantasy. That had best be different or people will take to the streets. And not just for Maslany; Jordan Garvaris and the writers deserve recognition as well. “Game of Thrones” should have multiple acting and writing nominations and wins every year. “The Walking Dead” is always snubbed. And Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie should be contenders for “Sleepy Hollow,” if only because the degree of difficulty in portraying believable characters in such fantastic circumstances is so much higher.

Bianco: Nominating shows based on their ad campaigns and mailers rather than on their quality. And relying on ad campaigns and mailers because they don’t actually bother to watch TV during the season.

Whipp: I’ll second Todd’s thought about the “Modern Family” blockade of the comedy supporting actor category, but sub the guys from “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” instead of the “Veep” men. Joe Lo Truglio, Andre Braugher and Terry Crews just killed it every week, bringing depth and hilarious specificity to their characters. You always smiled when these guys entered a room, anticipating what they’d do next.