When the Same People Keep Winning Emmys

Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston Breaking Bad Emmy Awards

The Emmys are notorious for rewarding the same people over and over again. Yesterday might have been the most egregious example. Seven of the eight actors to win for their performances in dramas and comedies had won the same Emmys before for the same exact role. The one exception was Alison Janney, who had won four times for The West Wing, and had been awarded a week earlier for her guest appearance in Masters of Work. In the movie/ mini-series category, the two winning actresses had Academy Awards and the two winning actors were movie stars.

There are several reasons for the same people to keep getting the same award. It’s possible that they just deserve it. If merit is rewarded, the actors who win are more likely to win again. The most interesting character on television in a previous year may very well be the most interesting character on television the next year. Someone talented enough to become a major movie star will probably give a better than average performance in a mini-series.

Sometimes it’s clearly not merit. In the 55th Emmys, Alison Janney won a fourth Emmy for The West Wing‘s fifth season, that year between Aaron Sorkin’s departure, also known as the season that sucked. A common argument is that Emmy voters just feel comfortable rewarding people who have already won.

Julia Louis Dreyfus at the Emmys

My solution is to retire a performance from consideration after someone wins an Emmy for it.

Kevin Drum agrees with me, posting on twitter…

Seriously, Emmys need a rule that you can only win once for a role, and that’s it. JLD not even all that funny, let alone 3-Emmy funny.

Ace of Spades has a cynical theory for why this is unlikely to change: It’s in the best interests of working actors to keep voting for the same people.

If you assume that everyone in the industry is a jealous, bitter egomaniac, Is it in your own best egotistical interest to give the award to Ty Burrell every single year or to spread the awards around?

I say it’s in your own best interest to just pile so many awards onto Ty Burrell that he can’t even walk. Because, if you’re a bitter, jealous egomaniac, it’s better that all the awards to go one guy, because, 1, he can’t possibly enjoy them much after the second, so you’re really not helping him much at this point, and, more importantly, 2, it keeps awards from going to other people.

If Ty Burrell has all the awards, this can’t hurt you as a competitive matter too much, assuming you’re not competing with Ty Burrell for a part.

But the more you spread them around, the higher the odds that you’ll be giving an Emmy to someone you are in direct competition with at some point, and thus will cede the winner an advantage over you.

It does make sense in an evil kinda way. Casting directors are not changing their rolodexes because of any of these wins.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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