Why was For All Mankind snubbed for an Emmy nomination?
The Emmy Awards, which will take place on September 12 this year, honor the best in television. Until recently, the Emmys were the exclusive domain of traditional television. But in 2013, the first streaming show earned Emmys: Netflix’s House of Cards won Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series among other awards. In 2017, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale won Outstanding Drama Series and other Emmys. In 2018, Amazon Prime garnered Emmy awards including Outstanding Comedy Series for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Nowadays, streaming services, including Apple TV+, produce some of the best original content out there, and are appropriately recognized for doing so.
Apple TV+ Emmy nominations
Many Apple TV+ original shows were nominated for Emmy awards this year. In fact, Apple TV+ scored a record-breaking 52 Emmy nominations this year. Ted Lasso garnered 20 nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series and 10 acting nominations. Freshman series Severance (one of my personal favorites) nabbed a nom for Outstanding Drama Series and four acting nods. The Morning Show, the show that got me hooked on Apple TV+, earned three acting nominations (not nearly enough, actually.) The wacky musical comedy Schmigadoon! managed to get four Emmy nominations; The Problem with Jon Stewart and Foundation each got two. A number of other Apple TV+ series (and a commercial) got one Emmy nomination each: Pachinko, See, Lisey’s Story, Central Park, They Call Me Magic, Carpool Karaoke: The Series, and the commercial Everyone but Jon Hamm.
But nothing this year for the best series you’re not watching (but should be) right now: For All Mankind. Why not? I spoke with NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans to get his take on For All Mankind and Apple TV+ in general.
Why does For All Mankind deserve Emmy recognition?
For All Mankind is one of the most creative, interesting, and entertaining shows on tv. The first episode appears to be historical fiction, chronicling the first manned trip to the moon in 1969 and the space race between the US and Russia. But there’s a twist, and it’s not historical fiction at all. Rather, it takes place in an alternate universe where nothing goes the way you expect. You could call it sci-fi, since much of the show takes place in space. You could also call it a workplace show, only instead of a police station, office, or hospital, the workplace is NASA. It’s also just a very human drama; the writers and the actors draw you into the characters’ stories. I would certainly put it head to head with Severance for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. I think it’s at least on par with Apple’s other sci-fi series, Foundation, when it comes to visual effects. The visual effects for the parts that take place in space are utterly believable. For All Mankind did actually win an Emmy last year: Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming. But I was hoping to see the show earn more Emmys in “bigger” categories this year.
Why was it snubbed? Is it the sci-fi thing?
I have a few theories as to why such an excellent series didn’t get any Emmy recognition. I have noticed that science fiction and fantasy shows don’t usually win a lot of Emmys. NPR’s Eric Deggans confirmed that there is some snobbery towards sci-fi and fantasy, though Game of Thrones broke that barrier to some extent. However, the Academy does tend to select just one show in that arena per year to shower with awards, and this is Stranger Things’ year. Apple TV+’s own Foundation is up for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Season or Movie. I will note that Foundation takes place in an entirely fictional time and place. By necessity, quite a lot of visual effects are used to create the world of Foundation, so its Emmy nom is well-deserved. Another Apple TV+ series, See, is up for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Single Episode. See isn’t strictly sci-fi, it’s more fantasy, but it does have sci-fi elements. I would have liked to have seen For All Mankind get a nod in one of these sci-fi/fantasy-heavy categories at least.
For All Mankind is definitely a drama, but it crosses several different genres, so perhaps the academy didn’t know quite what to do with it. It’s a bit of sci-fi, nearly historical fiction, and also a workplace show. However, more and more shows cross genres these days, which makes for fantastic entertainment. That shouldn’t affect whether For All Mankind is up for Emmy awards.
Too few (fitting) award categories
Outside of the “big” Emmy categories, there are dozens of “smaller” awards in a variety of areas, such as casting, costumes, makeup, cinematography, and sound effects. In fact, there are nine separate awards for sound and sound editing, plus another seven for music. But television is a largely visual medium, and yet there are only two Emmy awards for visual effects: Special Visual Effects in a Season or Movie, and Special Visual Effects in a Single Episode. This is the area where For All Mankind really shines. The writing and acting are pretty amazing, but some of the other areas might yield the show a better chance of Emmy recognition.
When it comes down to it, I think the bottom line is that television has gotten too good. The competition for the big Emmy awards is stiff indeed. The nominees for Outstanding Drama this year are: Better Call Saul, Euphoria, Severance, Squid Game, Ozark, Stranger Things, Succession, and Yellow Jackets. I’ve seen all of these shows except for Yellow Jackets, and there is some excellent drama here. Succession, Better Call Saul, Euphoria, Ozark, and Severance are particular favorites of mine. I’d still place For All Mankind in these ranks, but there are only so many spots. As for the acting awards, I believe there are plenty of deserving actors in For All Mankind, especially since they portray characters that evolve over a period of decades. Still, with some standout performances in the other dramas, (hello Jeremy Strong of Succession) it’s somewhat understandable that there wouldn’t be enough Emmys to go around.
Not the critic’s darling
When I spoke with NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans, I was surprised to hear that he didn’t particularly think For All Mankind really deserved Emmy recognition. He had this to say: “The episodes I watched, for some reason, just didn’t really touch me in a way that like a show that I that I think is creatively firing on all cylinders really does. You know, when I watched Severance, I have a sense of, you know, this is this is landmark television I’m watching. These people are at the top of their game. When I watched For All Mankind I get a sense of wow, this is interesting, but I could stop watching the show right now and not feel like I missed anything.”
Eric also said, “The thing that I love about these other shows (like Severance, Ted Lasso, and Little America) is that you can watch the show and just see the story that it’s telling and enjoy it, but it is also a commentary on so many other things. I don’t feel that strongly with For All Mankind.”
Maybe next year?
I hope that For All Mankind maintains excellence as it continues. I hope it goes deeper, and tells stories that matter more, stories that will impress the critics. For All Mankind has been renewed for a fourth season, so it gets at least one more shot at some more Emmy awards. And we’ll get at least one more year of outstanding entertainment.