'OITNB' Should Win the Top Prize at the Emmys

by Alex Kritselis

The 2014 Emmy Award nominations were announced on Thursday morning, and Netflix's breakout hit, Orange Is the New Black, had an excellent showing, picking up nominations in all four key areas: the series race, acting, writing, and directing. Wow. Could Orange Is the New Black be the show that finally dethrones reigning four-time Outstanding Comedy Series champ, Modern Family? I certainly hope so — and after this morning's nominations announcement, I think it's totally possible, too.

OITNB's key nominations proves that the show has wide support across all divisions of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS), the group that votes for the Emmys. OITNB definitely faces stiff competition for the top prize from HBO's Veep and CBS's The Big Bang Theory, but having just aired its hilarious, thrilling, and often moving second season, I think the series has the advantage of industry buzz on its side. This is not a drill — OITNB could actually win the trophy, people!

I have to be honest: Though OITNB is one of my favorite shows, I had some serious doubts about its Emmy prospects leading up to this morning's announcement. Emmy voters are often criticized for making conservative, "safe" choices when it comes to nominating the year's best television shows and performances, and OITNB is anything but conservative and safe. I mean, this is a show with a racially and ethnically diverse, primarily female cast. Sadly, we're just not accustomed to seeing that kind of programming on our television screens (or computers) yet! Would Emmy voters ignore the show out of fear of "rocking the boat"?

Further, the women on OITNB aren't throwaway supporting characters based on boring, one-dimensional archetypes that serve solely as plot devices to drive a leading man's story arc, no. These are nuanced, endlessly compelling, fully realized female characters, and their stories are told like they matter — because they do. Imagine that! Would the focus on women threaten some male voters?

Oh, and finally, the show is not shy when it comes to its depictions of female sexuality. In other words, it's not scared to show women enjoying sex (often with each other), which, as you probably know, is often still seen as a big no-no on television today. But as it turns out, the show's first season isn't "too diverse" for Emmy voters, after all. They weren't troubled or turned off by the presence of so many strong female characters, and, apparently, the sexual content didn't offend them either. What a pleasant surprise.

This could be a really important moment for the Television Academy. See, Modern Family isn't really my thing, but I understand why it's such an Emmy darling — the characters are likable (for the most part), the jokes are cute, and each episode wraps up with an adorably mushy monologue about the importance of family. It's got a lot of heart. Though I would argue that the show hasn't done all that much to change or even challenge our notions of who or what is considered family, it does feature a gay couple, Cam and Mitchell, who are raising a child together. The inclusion of these two characters is important and commendable (even if audiences are often supposed to laugh at their stereotypically effeminate behavior).

When Modern Family first won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2010, it was probably seen by many as the "edgy," "progressive" choice (though, in reality, the show is fairly traditional in a lot of ways — episode format, style of humor, the "interview" segments, etc.). Its enjoyed four seasons of massive Emmy success — wouldn't it be nice for ATAS to move on, take the next step, and reward a truly progressive show? One that, admittedly, has its own share of problems, but really pushes the envelope in terms of the kinds of characters and stories we're used to seeing and hearing on television?

After Thursday morning's nominations announcement, I think OITNB could absolutely win Outstanding Comedy Series at the upcoming 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, and frankly, I think it should. It's time for a change.

Images: Netflix; ABC