There’s so much good TV right now that even when someone very deserving wins an Emmy, the missed opportunities for all of those other unrecognized souls is — well, not overwhelming, because that would hyperbolic. But, it was noteworthy that with each triumph this year came losses by people who were just as deserving — there was so much talent present that none of it was so cut and dry. Tatiana Maslany’s incredibly earned (like, 4 seasons times 11 characters earned) Emmy came at the expense of an award for Taraji P. Henson’s unstoppable performance as Cookie Lyon on Empire and Keri Russell’s far too overlooked role on The Americans.
This was never not going to be the most cut and dry awards writeup, and so the Flavorwire editors have decided to surrender to the subjectivity and simply discuss the awards/acceptances/etceteras that felt the most triumphant:
Tatiana Maslany, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
“I feel very lucky to be on a show that puts women at the center,” Tatiana Maslany said in her acceptance speech last night, after winning an Outstanding Lead Actress Emmy for her performance on Orphan Black. Lucky for Maslany that she got a chance to showcase her acting chops by playing all of those women.
Maslany’s win struck an obvious chord with viewers, beating out Game of Thrones’ multi-Emmy haul, Rami Malek’s Outstanding Lead Actor win for Mr. Robot, and Louie Anderson’s Outstanding Supporting Actor award for Baskets in terms of social media resonance. And for good reason: Maslany played eleven characters throughout Orphan Black’s four-season run — genetic clones whom protagonist Sarah Manning (Maslany, no doy) continues to discover as the show progresses.
It’s not just that Maslany played a bunch of characters; she embodied these near-identical women so fully, even her own mother forgot she was watching her daughter perform. From the uptight soccer mom Alison to the hippie-chick scientist Cosima to the corporate ice queen Rachel to the feral Helena, Maslany never falters. It’s easy to forget how many layers of performance Maslany puts on and then slips off like a silk robe, particularly when one clone disguises herself as another.
Orphan Black’s concept strained believability, and particularly toward the end, it became overly convoluted and difficult to follow. But Maslany’s performance(s) anchored this often-flighty show. Her win is a fitting send-off to the now-canceled Orphan Black, and a starter pistol for the rest of her career. I can’t wait. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor
Louie Anderson’s win for Baskets
Though I was exceedingly excited about the wins by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jeffrey Tambor, they didn’t come as at all surprising: the two of them are giving some of the most nuanced performances television has ever seen. But one major surprise for me was Louie Anderson in Zach Galifianakis’ Baskets — and it’s surprising simply because this show is just so fucking weird that I assumed it’d go ignored. (As it mostly did on its release.) I was rooting Tituss Burgess — whose comic timing is a thing of divinity — but I think Louie Anderson’s win is also a triumph, for two reasons: it showed that Academy of Television Arts and Sciences voters were finally digging into series that weren’t at the center of media hype, or that weren’t simply, safe. The other reason is because Louie Anderson is what keeps the show grounded.
There’s something huge to the fact that Anderson can dress in drag and not allow that fact to try to drive the performance towards hammy humor and camp. (There’s an inherent campiness to his character, Christine Baskets, but Anderson’s performance allows that quality to speak for itself rather than trying to dictate it.) Christine Baskets is at once hilarious and the emotional core of the show, and to be an emotional core, you need to tap into something deeply natural.
Baskets is a series that’s alienating and off-putting — with an air of melancholy absurdism and a disinterest, generally, in getting audiences to emotionally connect with the characters (with the exception of Christine) — and that can be wonderful, but also sometimes make it seem aimless. It was Anderson’s performance — which he describes as modeled after his own mother — that kept me coming back for a whole season, to the sad world of Christine’s son — a failing, deluded, classically trained clown in Bakersfield who happens to have a lovely, generous mother played by a male comedian in a wig and mumu. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor
Speeches by Transparent Winners
Look, I’m not going to wholeheartedly defend Transparent from critiques of its politics or is production. The shout-outs to Jeff Bezos and the Amazon empire I heard from Jill Soloway and Jeffrey Tambor during the Emmys last night left me with a queasy feeling, given all we know about the effect the company is having both on literature and labor practices.
And yet, to hear such terms and phrases as “Topple the patriarchy,” “queer folk,” “cisgender man” and last but not least, “sheket bvakahsah” (that’s “be quiet please” in Hebrew, the #1 favorite phrase of all Hebrew school teachers across the land) tripping fluently off the tongues of two the night’s most honored artists was quite a trip for a certain Jewish-day-school alumna-slash-lifelong-feminist watching at home. It’s exhilarating and not entirely comfortable hearing phrases you thought of as part of your subculture being delivered to applause on a mainstream stage, and there was a lot of that last night; seeral bad, self-conscious jokes about white people were a response to the easy Jay-Z references from Sterling Brown and Courtney B. Vance, Alan Yang’s speech about Asian representation (and Asian parents) that mentioned Long Duck Dong, the racist John Hughes character, the “Obama out, Hillary in!” kicker from Vance, the Transparent brigade, and so forth. In that sense, there were aspects of the broadcast that actually felt not subversive, but rather finally representative of the melting pot nature of American culture; not some sort of mealy-mouthed diversity showcase, but a joining of vibrant, real cultural phenomena — from hip-hop to Hebrew School. — Sarah Seltzer, Deputy Editor