At first blush, the 2017 Emmy Awards nominations—which were announced at 8:30 PST this morning—seem to herald the promise of halting change: the frontrunners for Best Drama include women-first shows The Handmaid’s Tale and The Crown, and three of the seven Best Comedy nominees feature protagonists of color.
But take a closer look at the list of names and you’ll find that the more things change, well, the more things stay the same.
With such diverse and innovative shows as I Love Dick, Insecure, and Master of None storming screens this year, things are looking up as far as the topic of diversity in Hollywood is concerned (even if the behind-the-scenes statistics are a little less promising). From Queen Sugar to the woefully canceled-before-its-time Underground, TV dramas have proven more willing than ever to break from the pattern of “traditional” (read: straight, white, male) antihero stories. And though they, too, have been axed, the Netflix dramas Sense8 and The Get Down showed that studios are increasingly willing to take risks on the kinds of stories that used to be ignored by major networks.
And this year’s Emmys nominees reflect that, at least in part: Donald Glover and Aziz Ansari are raking in nominations, and black-ish isn’t doing too poorly, either. But many of this season’s most daring entries have been left out in the cold. While Jill Soloway and Sarah Gubbins’ experimental female-gaze tragicomedy I Love Dick was met with mixed reviews, its fifth episode—and Kathryn Hahn’s performance throughout the series—garnered nothing but raves; Underground was a smash hit with critics; and even the thoroughly warm-hearted Netflix reboot of One Day At A Time took bold steps in transforming the sitcom into a genre where everyone could truly feel at home. But you wouldn’t know it to look at these nominations. The only Best Drama nominee that comes close to fully centering a POC experience is This is Us, and only one acting field—Best Comedy Actor—features multiple nominees of color.
At the end of the day, taste in entertainment is an extremely subjective science, and this year’s list demonstrates that meaningful gains have certainly been made in pursuit of TV diversity. But it also stands as evidence that we’ve still got quite some distance to go.
View the full list of Emmys nominees here.
Ting Ting Chen