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Tatiana Maslany’s Snub Is Everything That’s Wrong With the Emmys

Tatiana Maslany’s second consecutive Emmy snub for her role(s) on BBC America’s Orphan Black is one that really stings. Without Maslany’s ability to play five-plus different women, the Canadian/British sci-fi show would fall apart, becoming some sort of Sunday afternoon syndicated piece of generic trash rather than a show that’s worthy of obsession. (It currently is worthy of such attention, after a great Season 1 and a wobblier Season 2, although whether the quality stays high remains to be seen.)

However, despite the grassroots drive for Maslany to get an Emmy nomination, she’s got a couple of things working against her. For one: Orphan Black is a genre show. It is ostensibly “sci-fi,” taking place in generic Torontolandia, and it feels relatively cheap despite the wonder that is Maslany. Genre shows that are not on HBO (I see you, Game of Thrones) aren’t usually rewarded by the Emmys — look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that got a grand total of two Emmys in its seven-season run, for makeup and music, while the acting was perennially snubbed.

Secondly: BBC America, as befitting a smallish cable channel, has not gotten a ton of Emmy nominations. Most of their past (and current) nominations have gone to Idris Elba for his role in Luther. This year a reality show with that little hobbit guy from Lost got nominated. It is not a channel that’s synonymous with quality, unlike Emmy dominator HBO. They should’ve turned it around this year, considering people had heard of Orphan Black and Maslany had a Golden Globe nomination, as opposed to a year ago, but nope.

Thirdly: Orphan Black airs at a strange time. Emmy eligibility for this year ran from June 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014. Orphan Black Season 1’s finale aired June 1, 2013, and Season 2 had three episodes left when eligibility closed. Airing at this time, when most other shows are done for the season, is good for press, but there’s not a complete story out there for Emmy voters about how amazing Maslany’s work is, season-to-season.

Lastly: the marvel of Maslany’s transformations is not easy to sum up in one episode. Usually Emmy voters get one episode to figure out whether an actor is worthy of a nomination — and the truth is, the marvel of Orphan Black comes when you realize that Maslany is the show, and she can play any clone character that they throw at her, from a California hippie lesbian scientist to a one episode-and-out Euro bombshell. And when she plays a clone having to imitate another clone, like punk-rock Sarah nervously taking on Cosima’s (the scientist, natch) habits, it’s absolutely wonderful. But you need the weight of the series for those scenes to fairly pay off.

Despite those semi-sensible reasons behind the Emmys’ historically boring choices (once you’re nominated once, you’re in, mostly), you know what the truth is? Maslany deserves an Emmy nomination for her work on Orphan Black. In the span of an episode, she can play an uptight suburban housewife with a drinking problem, and an evangelical serial killer whose mania has, in the span of a season, become weirdly likable, and an English hustler always on the run just trying to stay alive and to keep her kid safe. If Emmy voters can’t get what’s so amazing about Maslany’s work in the span of one episode, how she makes it look so easy, then it’s their loss, unfortunately. She is carrying Orphan Black on her tiny little shoulders — how many more women is she going to have to play before awards shows like the Emmys realize this?

My suspicion is that it’s a long shot for Maslany to get an Emmy nomination for the duration of Orphan Black‘s run, unless BBC America gets it together at some point and the Emmys suddenly decide that they are OK with sci-fi, which doesn’t seem likely. But I do think that Maslany can get a Emmy nomination soon — as long as she’s cast in True Detective Season 2. Nic Pizzolato, hear our prayers!

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