Call them the "Meh-mmys."
Sure, when it comes to television's most prestigious award, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences tries. When the center of gravity moved to cable, the Emmys followed, giving "The Sopranos," "The Shield" and "Mad Men" the same kind of attention it once gave "Hill Street Blues" and "Picket Fences." When new genres and new technology arose, the Academy responded, creating categories for reality shows and "short-format live-action entertainment programs" (i.e., online video).
And it's hard to argue with this year's nominees. Even the most questionable of the bunch -- "Mad Men," "The Big Bang Theory," Al Pacino's love it-or-hate it turn as Phil Spector -- represent a level of professionalism and quality that should be acknowledged.
Then why do the 65th Primetime Emmys feel so ... meh?
One reason is the same-old, same-old factor: that the Emmys tend to nominate the same shows (or the same types of shows) every year, says longtime awards watcher Tom O'Neil of Goldderby.com.
"TV is infamous for its reruns -- that's the nature of the boob tube -- and it's hard to whip up excitement when the same contenders return year after year," he says.
For example, he points out, this year there's only one new show among the 12 nominees for best drama and best comedy, and that's "House of Cards," which came from a non-network, Netflix. (Another show, FX's "Louie," was nominated for the first time, though it just concluded its third season.)
Grantland's TV critic, Andy Greenwald, adds a corollary to O'Neil's observation. Nowadays, there's so much worthwhile programming out there that the Emmys, even when nominating good shows, feel safe and conservative -- and, therefore, somewhat dull.
"For the most part, the Emmys do a pretty good job considering the impossibility and the ridiculousness of their task," he said.
He compares the awards with the two other major entertainment honors, the Oscars and Grammys. The former are often so hidebound to prestige productions -- you know the kind -- that they make us angry, Greenwald says. The latter awards, on the other hand, are so absurd that they make us laugh.
And the Emmys?
"They get under our skin in a different way, because they come so close," he said. "We often think that they should be getting it right, and they're awfully near to doing it."
Everyone's a critic
Indeed, it's often more fun -- especially in these days of 500 channels and a comparable number of interesting shows -- to single out the so-called snubs.
There are the obvious ones, of course. "Justified" didn't make it. Neither did "Sons of Anarchy," "Parks and Recreation," "The Americans" and "The Walking Dead."
But there are also several other shows that missed out in lesser categories.
For example, A&E's "Duck Dynasty" is hugely popular and, given the hazy reality and clever editing of "reality" shows, obviously well-crafted. It was completely ignored by the Emmys.
And if "Duck Dynasty" is the kind of heartland-favored show sneered at by critics (though, counter to perceptions, many have praised it), what about BBC America's "Orphan Black"? It's well-written and features a bravura performance by Tatiana Maslany as several clones with distinct personalities. It also garnered zero nominations. Fans on Twitter were not happy. (But what else is new?)
As EOnline's Tierney Bricker said in reviewing the nominations, "It's Emmy season, time for nominations that come with no rhyme or reason!"
But even Greenwald, who wryly notes that he's a "professional TV watcher," finds it hard to keep up. There's so much to live-blog and track that a show like "Orphan Black" can slip through the cracks until, suddenly, there's an outcry, he says.