I sat down with Linda Wertheimer this morning on Weekend Edition to talk about the Emmys, which will be on Monday night this year, rather than the usual Sunday, so you've got an extra 24 hours to ponder the blurry lines between categories that become more noticeable by the year.
We talked a little about the very crowded field for Lead Actor In A Drama Series, where the guy who won last year (Jeff Daniels) is up against the two movie actors in the big HBO effort (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson), the other movie actor in the big, flashy Netflix project (Kevin Spacey), the most decorated guy of the last decade (Bryan Cranston), and the guy who's on his seventh nomination and has never won (Jon Hamm).
But we put most of our time into the tricky decisions that have emerged when shows like Orange Is The New Black decide to submit as comedies. It's true that Orange has comedic elements, but so do The Good Wife and Breaking Bad. If the idea of those categories is for like to battle like, where do you draw the line? And how does that affect people doing great work in traditionally defined comedies, like Amy Poehler, given the long history of bias against comedy when (as at the Oscars) comedy and drama are in direct competition?
Even stranger, though — certainly more arbitrary — is the distinction between drama series and miniseries, particularly in the age of the anthology show, where the show continues, but the cast and the story are new every season. Fargo and True Detective are essentially structured the same way, and even though Fargo has more episodes, it is competing (and heavily nominated) as a miniseries, while True Detective is competing (and heavily nominated) as a drama series.
We'll have plenty of Emmy coverage in this space as the week continues, but for now, enjoy the Linda And Linda Chat Show about "category creep" and my dream of a Jon Hamm surprise victory.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
The Emmy Awards will be doled out tomorrow evening, and Linda Holmes, host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, is here to talk about who could win big, who should win big, and what shows we could keep an eye on. Linda, welcome.
LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Thank you for having.
WERTHEIMER: Now one of the big awards we're watching is Lead Actor in a Drama. Tell us about the competition there.
HOLMES: Well, Brian Cranston from "Breaking Bad" is in his final year of eligibility since that show has wrapped up. He's won three times, but not since 2010. And this will be his last shot. But the competition is very, very stiff. They had Jeff Daniels for "The Newsroom." There's also Kevin Spacey for "House of Cards," both of the guys from "True Detective," Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. And then John Hamm, who is on his seventh nomination for "Mad Men" and has never won. So far Matthew McConaughey has won a couple of critics' awards. He's also coming off his Oscar earlier this year for "Dallas Buyers Club." He seems to have all the momentum. At the same time, people really love that Brian Cranston performance. And I think those are probably the two favorites people are looking at right now.
WERTHEIMER: There is a lot of what you TV guys call category creep.
WERTHEIMER: "Orange Is The New Black" listed as a comedy for instance. There are funny parts, but there are a lot of parts that are not at all funny.
HOLMES: I think the question with a show like "Orange Is The New Black" - it absolutely has comedic elements, but so does "The Good Wife" and so does "Breaking Bad." And I think the question is where you want to draw that line, where if you say that anything that has comedic elements is a comedy or can submit as a comedy, then you wind up putting actual, traditional comedies at a real disadvantage.
WERTHEIMER: So who decides what category you go into?
HOLMES: The show does. The show makes a decision about how they want to submit. They have a lot of freedom to do that. I suppose they could tell you, at some point, no, you're absolutely, totally serious, laugh free, misery fest cannot submit as a comedy. I've never heard of that happening.
WERTHEIMER: (Laughter). I would think that this whole thing would be very tough on actresses in the comedy category 'cause even somebody who's very good like Amy Poehler would be going up against somebody like Taylor Schilling, who plays a much more nuanced, complicated, dramatic role.
HOLMES: The dramatic content, the emotional content in a show like "Orange Is The New Black" is more overt and obvious than the emotional content in Amy Poehler's show "Parks And Recreation." There's a real systemic bias in favor of drama over comedy in most awards when those two her up against each other. You can see that even in the Oscars.
WERTHEIMER: Then there is the drama versus the miniseries. "True Detective" in a different category than "Fargo" even though they're both sort of short termed.
HOLMES: Right. What has made this category more complicated in the last couple of years is the rise of the anthology show. The show where it is self-contained. The show goes on, but the next season it will have different actors and a different plot. So the question is do you consider that a continuing series, or do you consider each one as a miniseries? And, again, the shows are really making that call for themselves with some odd results. "True Detective," which only had eight episodes, decided to go in as a drama series, whereas "Fargo," which has 10 episodes - more episodes - went in as a miniseries. And the fact that they're winding up in two different categories is quite a strange result.
WERTHEIMER: You got any dark horses for us to keep an eye on?
HOLMES: One of them, for me, would be John Hamm for "Mad Men." He is persistently not winning, and if you have that - what's perceived to be that tight race between Brian Cranston in
"Breaking Bad" and Matthew McConaughey in "True Detective," maybe there's a hidden John Hamm contingent that keeps barely not winning. And maybe they could bring home a victory for him. I would also love to see somebody beat "Modern Family," which has won four years in a row and I think is in the mood to be dethroned.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's Linda Holmes is the host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and editor of the pop culture blog "Monkey See." Thank you very much.
HOLMES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.