The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences rolled out their picks for this year’s Emmy nominations this morning, provoking the usual hubbub over surprise inclusions and snub-outrage. As TV devotees pored over the list and flipped out over the conspicuous absence of their favorites, we look at the big picture and identify a few valuable lessons to be learned from this year’s nominees.
1. Diversity is the order of the day
“This is the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history,” host Andy Samberg crowed during last year’s telecast. “Racism is over! Don’t fact-check that.” As it turns out, we hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. In a year when the Oscars couldn’t even cough up a single nonwhite performer in their four acting categories, the Emmys one-upped themselves and delivered one of the most varied groups of nominees in the program’s 68-year history.
The Lead Actor in a Drama Series category made room for Mr. Robot‘s Rami Malek (more on him below), Aziz Ansari landed on the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series ballot for his work on Master of None and Tracee Ellis Ross added a dash of variety to the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series race for her work on Black-ish. Last year, David Oyelowo was the lone nonwhite nominee in the Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie category; today, Idris Elba, Courtney B. Vance and Cuba Gooding Jr. all snagged nominations. As TV emerged as the new frontier for storytelling, the Academy followed their example and recognized excellence from all sorts of different racial and ethnic perspectives.
2. Horace and Pete might have just changed the game
Though Louis C.K.’s independently financed and produced miniseries was shut out of the major categories, it still earned a nod in the Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy race as well as a Guest Actress citation for Laurie Metcalf — a bay step in recognizing yet another platform for TV, but a step nonetheless. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon have amply demonstrated that streaming networks can be power players in the TV landscape of 2016, but in pulling off this small-scale, off-the-grid passion project, C.K. made the Academy play by his rules. This could very well be ground zero for the emergence of “indie TV,” a concept unthinkable as recently as, er, last year.
3. It’s Laurie Metcalf’s world and we’re all living in it
Learn her name – you’ll be hearing it a lot come Emmy night. In a feat unprecedented in Emmy history, Metcalf landed three separate nominations for three separate roles in the same year: that moving Horace and Pete spot; a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory; and a Lead Actress in a Comedy nod for her role in HBO’s comedy Getting On. The celebrated character actress has a friendly relationship with Emmy voters, having last been recognized with a guest nomination from her work on Desperate Housewives in 2007 and back-to-back-to-back wins during in the Nineties for her supporting performance on Roseanne, but this is on an entirely different level. Kneel before your new acting queen.
4. Mr. Robot has officially arrived
USA’s paranoid cyberthriller already had the huge, devoted fanbase and the sort of critical praise most shows would kill for. Now, the final jewel in the crown of New It Series is here, with an impressive six nominations for the freshman program. Sam Esmail’s moody online nightmare broke into the hotly contested Best Drama Series category, and Rami Malek nabbed a nomination for his performance as show’s the unstable hacker-wunderkind hero. Whether the runaway hit has what it takes to actually follow through on its nominations remains a big question mark in a year as competitive as this one, but for now, it looks like fsociety has successfully infiltrated the Emmys.
5. It never hurts to be popular
Twenty-three: That’s the number of nominations that Game of Thrones landed this year — it’s shy of NYPD Blue‘s record of 27, sure, but staggering nonetheless. While lower-profile gems such as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (relegated to the music categories) struggled to find a footing in the major races, blockbuster TV like HBO’s mega-popular fantasy maintained a strong presence at the Emmys. Though Modern Family‘s numbers have slightly declined since last year, the broadly appealing sitcom stubbornly remains a player in the Best Comedy Series category. And ABC’s breakthrough hit Black-ish also made a strong showing, reaping a repeat nomination for Anthony Anderson and breaking into the Best Comedy and Actress categories (big up Tracee Ellis Ross!). To get votes, you gotta be known, and the more exposure a show enjoys, the more likely it is to catch Academy members’ attentions.
6. The Americans make their mark
A perennial snub that stuck in the craw of its fanbase, The Americans was in danger of going largely unnoticed again this year. The well-reviewed espionage thriller was due for a major bump up in recognition, and it finally came: nominations for Best Drama and respective Best Actor/Actress nods for Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. Throw in a writing nod for their pulse-quickening “Persona Non Grata” script, and the critically acclaimed, often neglected FX show starts to look like it may be this year’s breakout success story.