FX dominated the Emmy Award nominations Thursday, setting a basic cable record of 56 total nominations in a single year, a number that surpasses the network's previous record of 45 nominations set in 2014.
Among the network's many nominations, most of which were accrued in the limited series categories, was a long overdue nod for The Americans for Outstanding Drama Series. Despite many critics considering it the best show on TV, Emmys voters have consistently ignored the Joe Weisberg- and Joel Fields-created drama in favor of more mainstream fare, like Netflix's House of Cards or PBS's Downton Abbey.
That The Americans — which stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, both of whom received their first nominations for their performances as married Soviet spies Philip and Elizabeth Jennings — picked up its first nomination during its fourth season is actually in line with Emmy voters continually being late to the party. Friday Night Lights, for instance, wasn't nominated for Outstanding Drama Series until its final season, while Tatiana Maslany picked up her first acting nod for Orphan Black's third season.
All together the series received five nominations: Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for Margo Martindale (she won in 2015) and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (for Fields and Weisberg). While the recognition for The Americans and its stars is a major triumph for the series, it's also an incredible accomplishment for FX as this is the network's first drama series nomination since Damages picked up back-to-back noms in 2008 and 2009.
That not-so-fun fact sounds outrageous when looking at the quality of the network's lineup and the network's total number of nominations over the last half-decade, but it's true. Outside of the miniseries (now limited series) categories, and multiple nominations for Louie and its creator Louis C.K., FX has actually struggled at the Emmys despite airing some of the best shows on television.
On the drama side, Michael Chiklis took home the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 2002 for his performance as crooked cop Vic Mackey on The Shield, the series that launched FX original programming, but the show itself was never nominated. Meanwhile, Justified was snubbed each of its six seasons despite picking up acting nominations for stars Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins during Season 2, when Martindale won the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series as that season's big bad. The long-running drama Sons of Anarchy, which brought it in the ratings, failed to score the network any nominations, even for actress Katey Sagal, whose performance as Gemma Teller-Morrow in the show's excellent second season won her a Golden Globe. And despite a handful of nominations over its run, Rescue Me was also a relative failure at the Emmys.
On the comedy side things are a little less dire. Louie received 17 total nominations over five seasons, including three consecutive Outstanding Comedy Series nods from 2013 to 2015. Creator, writer, director and star Louis C.K. is zero for five in the acting categories, but has won two Emmys for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. This year, the animated series Archer received its third consecutive nomination for Outstanding Animated Program, while Louie Anderson received a supporting actor nod for his performance in the freshman comedy Baskets.
But that's where the FX comedy success ends. The long-running It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been nominated just three times in its 11 seasons, and each time it was for Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program. Meanwhile, the acclaimed You're the Worst, which soared to new heights in Season 2 with a storyline about clinical depression, was shut out for the second year in a row.
Where FX has an advantage at the Emmys is in the limited series category because few networks are producing limited series/movies, with most of the competition coming from British imports like The Night Manager.
The network has been a a prominent fixture in the limited series' categories since the introduction of Ryan Murphy's anthology series American Horror Story, and with the addition of Noah Hawley's Fargo in 2015 and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story in 2016, the network is in a position to potentially take over entire categories. This year, for instance, FX received five of the six nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie between The People v. O.J. Simpson and the second season of Fargo, which means that although several actors will lose, the network will probably still win.
To drive home FX's dominance in this category even even further: Since 2012 FX has received 35 acting nominations, with Sarah Paulson (five), Jessica Lange (four), Kathy Bates (three), Angela Bassett (two), Frances Conroy (two) and Denis O'Hare (two) all scoring multiple nods. And none of this even takes into account the number of nominations the network has received in the creative categories like writing, directing, casting or cinematography.
With numbers like that and a record 56 nominations this year, no one can really say FX isn't respected. It definitely is, especially from fans and critics, but the sad fact remains that for all the network's fans and limited series nominations, and despite the number of quality programs it has aired over the last 15 years, FX still has very few solid accolades to show for it. Of course, we can argue that the Emmys are largely pointless outside of Hollywood — and they absolutely are to some degree — but a nomination for The Americans is still a major triumph that deserves a celebration of its own.
However, a win for The Americans in the drama series category come September also has the potential to open up doors that were previously closed. It would mean more than another win for Fargo or a win for The People v. O.J. Simpson, both of which are incredible shows that could easily compete alongside The Americans in the drama category if they wanted to. But a win for The Americans would also be recognition of what many already know, which is that the show is the best on TV, and that it easily stands next to the likes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men in this so-called Golden Age of TV. More importantly, it would be a major win for FX, a network that, like The Americans, is regularly the best at what it does, but still doesn't receive the kind of recognition it deserves after all these years.
Hopefully this will change that.