Emmy Nominations: No One Knows How to Watch TV Anymore

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To start, let me put on my old curmudgeon griping hat. This won’t be a column full of complaining, but there will be some. That’s because the Emmy nominations came out this week, and while they offered all the usual happy surprises and vicious snubs, they also contained something else: the names of lots of shows that came out more than four months ago, and few of the amazing ones from the spring.

Back in my day (see? curmudgeon), most shows came out in the fall and folks had months to get into them. Premium cable networks and streaming services changed that, dropping shows willy-nilly or at times when network programming was on hiatus and they were more likely to get noticed. This year, things hit a whole new level with scores of splashy shows starring A-list talent—Showtime’s First Lady, Apple TV+’s The Essex Serpent—landing in the spring. Generally, having new TV to watch in spring and summer is a delight, but this year there was just too much, and lots of viewers threw in the towel.

Not just casual viewers, but also Television Academy members. “I just don’t think that there’s any way that a single voter can really take a stab at watching at least one episode of everything,” one member told Vanity Fair earlier this month. Not that anybody really needs to care that much what Emmy voters think—“like what you like,” I always say—but when even the people whose job it is to watch television can’t keep up, there’s a problem.

Last month, my colleague Jason Kehe made the point that nobody knows how to watch movies anymore. He’s right; folks just watch things in weird chunks now, sneaking in bits and pieces of viewing where they can. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it leaves everyone with fistfuls of half-finished—and often never-finished—shows. It’s no surprise, then, that a lot of the breakout newcomers of the past year are shows like Severance and Yellowjackets that both released in the fall and winter and came out weekly, allowing for slow-burn hype. If you discovered them two, or even four, weeks late, you didn’t feel like you’d missed out entirely. (Also, Severance and Yellowjackets are really freaking good.)

Frankly, I don’t know if any of this rises to the level of A Problem. If anything, it’s an annoyance, and no one is complaining about too much good television. It’s just, well, so much gets lost. How did Reservation Dogs, Our Flag Means Death, and We Are Lady Parts get no Emmy nominations? How did The Staircase only get two? No offense to the Euphorias of the world, or the Ted Lassos, but this is depressing. Perhaps it’s time we all start our annual TV marathon in the fall.

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