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The reality TV Emmy nominations and their utter lack of surprise

Emmy statue Television AcademyOnce again, it’s time for that special time of year when the Television Academy celebrates the best in television by copying and pasting the same nominees as last year.

Yes, in their infinite wisdom, members have chosen from 194 shows and 56 hosts and selected pretty much the exact same ones as last year. Once again, I seriously thought I was accidentally looking at least year’s list.

The only differences: the absence of Betty White in the host category; Property Brothers instead of Who Do You Think You Are in the structured category; and Intervention and Naked and Afraid instead of Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan and Flipping Out.

Naked and Afraid and Intervention‘s nominations are things to celebrate, for sure, because they’re both good shows, but it’s challenging to care about these awards when the people who nominate clearly don’t care.

Here are the nominees in the major four reality TV categories:

  • Outstanding Reality Competition ProgramThe Amazing Race, Dancing With The Stars, Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, Top Chef, The Voice.
  • Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program: Dancing with the Stars’ Tom Bergeron; Hollywood Game Night’s Jane Lynch; Project Runway’s  Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn; So You Think You Can Dance’s Cat Deeley; The Taste’s Anthony Bourdain.
  • Outstanding Structured Reality ProgramAntiques Roadshow; Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives; MythBusters; Property Brothers; Shark Tank; Undercover Boss.
  • Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program: Alaska: The Last Frontier; Deadliest Catch; Intervention; Million Dollar Listing New York; Naked and Afraid; Wahlburgers

After going through 81 pages of nominations, here are all the other reality/nonfiction nominees in various categories. (This list excludes non-reality nominees in categories that might have scripted and/or unscripted nominees; see the full list [PDF] for all nominees, plus episodes and other information.)

There are some exceptional documentaries and series nominated here, but you’ll also see quite a pattern, especially of HBO documentaries nominated over and over again in different categories. For all the great work being done on a technical level across unscripted television, this is a narrow and limited list of nominees.

  • Outstanding Short-Format Nonfiction Program: American Horror Story: Extra-Ordinary Artists; Parks And Recreation: Behind The Final Season; 30 for 30; Transparent: This is Me; A Tribute to Mel Brooks
  • Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Special: The Case Against 8, HBO; Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief, HBO; Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, HBO; Sinatra: All or Nothing At All, HBO; Virunga, Netflix
  • Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Series: American Masters, PBS; Cancer: The Emperor Of All Maladies, PBS; The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst, HBO; The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, PBS;  The Sixties, CNN
  • Outstanding Informational Series Or Special: Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, CNN; Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways, HBO; Inside the Actors Studio, Bravo; StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, National Geographic Channel; Vice, HBO
  • Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking: Citizenfour, HBO; The Great Invisible, PBS; Hot Girls Wanted, Netflix
  • Outstanding Writing For Nonfiction Programming: Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, CNN; Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief, HBO; Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, HBO; Last Days In Vietnam (American Experience), PBS; The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, PBS
  • Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming: Citizenfour, HBO; Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways, HBO; Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief, HBO; The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst, HBO; Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, HBO
  • Outstanding Production Design For Variety, Nonfiction, Reality or Reality-Competition Programming: The Voice
  • Outstanding ChoreographyDancing With The Stars‘ Derek Hough, Choreographer, Julianne Hough, and Tessandra Chavez (“Elastic Heart”); Witney Carson (“369” / “It’s Not Unusual” / “Sing With A Swing-Apache”); So You Think You Can Dance‘s Spencer Liff (“Hernando’s Hideaway” / “World On A String” / “Maybe This Time”), Sonya Tayeh (“Vow” / “So Broken” / “Europe, After The Rain”), and Travis Wall (“Wave” / “When I Go” / “Wind Beneath My Wings”)
  • Outstanding Cinematography For Nonfiction Programming: Citizenfour, HBO; Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief, HBO; The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst, HBO; Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, HBO; Virunga, Netflix
  • Outstanding Cinematography For Reality Programming: The Amazing Race; Deadliest Catch; Life Below Zero; Project Runway; Survivor Worlds Apart
  • Outstanding Picture Editing For Nonfiction Programming: The Case Against 8, HBO; Citizenfour, HBO; Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief, HBO; The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst, HBO; Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, HBO
  • Outstanding Picture Editing For Reality Programming: The Amazing Race 25, CBS; Deadliest Catch, Discovery; Project Runway, Lifetime; Project Runway All-Stars, Lifetime; Shark Tank, ABC; Survivor Worlds Apart, CBS
  • Outstanding Hairstyling For A Multi-Camera Series Or Special: Dancing with the Stars 19, ABC; So You Think You Can Dance 11, Fox; The Voice 8, NBC
  • Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety Series: American Idol, Fox; Dancing with the Stars 19, ABC; So You Think You Can Dance 11, Fox; The Voice 8, NBC
  • Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety SpecialDancing with the Stars 10th Anniversary Special, ABC
  • Outstanding Makeup For A Multi-Camera Series Or Special (Non-Prosthetic): Dancing with the Stars 19, ABC; RuPaul’s Drag Race, Logo; So You Think You Can Dance 11, Fox
  • Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score): Chef’s Table, Netflix
  • Outstanding Sound Editing For Nonfiction Programming (Single Or Multi-Camera): Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, CNN; Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways, HBO; Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief, HBO; The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst, HBO; Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, HBO
  • Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Variety Series Or Special: The Voice, NBC
  • Outstanding Sound Mixing For Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera): Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, CNN; Deadliest Catch, Discovery; Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways, HBO; Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief, HBO; The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst, HBO; Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, HBO
  • Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For A Series: Dancing with the Stars 20, ABC; The Voice 7, NBC

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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