The Rainbow Emmys

All the initials in LGBT are covered at this year’s Emmy Awards.
By Donalevan Maines

If we were listening (and we were), we might have predicted that Orange Is the New Black would be switched to the drama category (after its first year in the comedy column) at this month’s broadcast of the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards. After all, each episode of season two of the Netflix women’s prison series begins with Regina Spektor singing, “Everything is different/The second time around.”

Just eight months ago, OITNB won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series from the Screen Actors Guild. But the Emmys—having decided that comedy is the new drama—have forced OITNB to duke it out with, among others, the farewell season of AMC’s magnificent Mad Men. I love both shows.

I’m also happy to see Transparent win a nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series, the category that Modern Family has dominated for five years running. Earlier this year, Transparent won Golden Globes for Best Television Series–Musical or Comedy, and Jeffrey Tambor won Best Actor in a Television Series–Musical or Comedy, playing transgender Maura Pfefferman.

Nominated for best direction of a comedy series is Transparent’s creator, Jill Solloway, whose father is transgender.

Remember how we called last year’s show “the Gay Emmys”? This year, raise a glass, friends! We’re celebrating “the Rainbow Emmys.”

Even children’s programming has an LGBT nominee—Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: Coming Out—and with any luck, the Emmys will cut away at least once to that commercial with a topless J.J. Watt joining those painted ladies in synchronized swimming.

The Emmys will air live coast-to-coast from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on September 20 on FOX. Hosting it will be Andy Samberg, who promises that “it’s gonna be a wild ride. So buckle your seat belts.”

Samberg has his own 2007 Emmy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for the song “D*** in a Box.” He and co-writer Justin Timberlake crooned the tune on a holiday edition of Saturday Night Live. Later, they pranced in leotards as effeminate backup dancers in an SNL sketch starring Beyoncé.

Samberg currently plays Detective Jake Peralta on the FOX weekly sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which scores a yearly Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Andre Braugher as Ray Holt, the police precinct’s gay captain.

Ty Burrell (as Phil Dunphy on Modern Family) beat Braugher last year, but—back to Regina Spektor—“Everything is different/The second time around.”

Or not. They will also have to contend with Tituss Burgess, who is both gay and plays a gay character in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Trump that!

Trumpeting her impression of Hillary Clinton as a “transparent” presidential candidate is SNL’s out Kate McKinnon, another second-time nominee.

One thing is for sure: Breaking Bad won’t hog the drama categories again. That show has been retired, leaving in its wake only a prequel, Better Call Saul, described as a “black comedy,” that competes for Outstanding Drama Series (what?) with OITNB, Mad Men, Downton Abbey (with its tragic gay character, Thomas Barrow), Homeland, House of Cards, and the hyper-sexual Game of Thrones.

Kevin Spacey, as bisexual U.S. president Frank Underwood in House of Cards, is nominated for Lead Actor–Drama along with my favorite, Jon Hamm, in Mad Men. In August, Hamm won Individual Achievement in Drama honors from the prestigious Television Critics Association (not to be confused with the gadfly Broadcast Television Journalists Association).

The TCA anointed Empire with its highest honor, Program of the Year. It concerns a dying, homophobic hip-hop mogul who’s reluctant to groom his gay son—the talented one—to take over his company.

The Emmys “igged” (ignored) Empire big-time, but scene-stealer Taraji P. Henson’s nomination made history when both she and fellow African-American performer Viola Davis landed among the finalists for Lead Actress–Drama. It would have been incrementally more historic if Kerry Washington had also been nominated for Scandal. Instead, Emmy voters picked Claire Danes, Tatiana Maslany (for Orphan Black, in which one of her personalities is a lesbian), Robin Wright, and my favorite, Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men.

Uzo Aduba, who gloriously won last year’s Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (as well as the 2015 SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series) as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in OITNB, is nominated for the same role in the category of Supporting Actress–Drama. That distinction pits her against Joanne Froggatt, both Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey for Game Of Thrones, Christine Baranski, and my favorite, Christina Hendricks for Mad Men.

Have I mentioned that Mad Men has never won an acting Emmy? Never. But these days, with so many networks, so much product out there, and shows playing on TV as well as streaming online, to even be nominated for an Emmy is a miracle in itself.

That’s why I’m especially proud of LGBT nominees (and/or LGBT material) that figure in this year’s honors at “the Rainbow Emmys”:

• Lea DeLaria (openly gay) on OITNB; gay characters on Modern Family; trans characters on Transparent;

• Queen Latifah’s HBO movie about bisexual blues singer Bessie Smith;

• Lily Tomlin, nominated for Lead Actress–Comedy, opposite Jane Fonda in Grace and Frankie (besides, she was an honoree at this year’s Emmy-nominated The Kennedy Center Honors);

• All of those queens running roughshod on Project Runway;

• Jane Lynch. Alan Cumming. Billy Eichner. Lady Gaga;

• Carrie Brownstein writing, directing, and starring in Portlandia, whose characters’ sexuality, much less their gender, are what we used to call “ambiguous”;

• “This Time,” a song from Glee, following in the footsteps of “D*** in a Box,” as a nominee for 2015’s Emmy-winning best song;

• The Case Against 8 winning a nomination for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special;

• Both RuPaul’s Drag Race and Penny Dreadful snaring nominations in craft categories.

Is the Third Time the Charm?: Sarah Paulson (see here with Jessica Lange at last year’s Emmys) is nominated for the third year in a row for her role in American Horror Story. • Photo by Michael Buckner/FX.
Is the Third Time the Charm?: Sarah Paulson (see here with Jessica Lange at last year’s Emmys) is nominated for the third year in a row for her role in American Horror Story. • Photo by Michael Buckner/FX.

• Moreover, American Horror Story: Freak Show, whose creator, Ryan Murphy, is gay, reaped a ton of nominations (including recognition for out actors Denis O’Hare and Sarah Paulson). Last year, Murphy’s labor-of-love production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart won Best Television Movie; this
year, Murphy is nominated as a director,
opposite Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) who is a more likely winner for Olive Kitteridge, which could be the night’s big winner.

Finally, I have no personal knowledge of this, but apparently Fredrik Eklund of the Emmy-nominated “unstructured reality program” Million Dollar Listing New York has starred in gay porn under the pseudonym of “Tag Erikkson.” Thank you, Dear Readers, for that earful.

What: The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards
When: Sunday, September 20
Where: FOX
Click here for an interview with Lily Tomlin—nominated for an Emmy as lead actress in Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.


Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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