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The Terrible Emmys Hate The Future!

What an un-fun mess.

From left: Eric Stonestreet, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Julie Bowen of Modern Family. ABC

It’s really too bad that the Emmys hate the future.

Let’s not say critical things about Modern Family. It’s not Modern Family’s fault that Emmy voters chose a show about people who hate each other as the winner for Outstanding Comedy Series for the fifth year in a row. They’re not going to turn it down, are they? (But really, the only classy thing to do would be to demur next year. Seriously.)

That television, both content- and business-wise, has changed more in the past 15 years than it had in the previous 50, is an oft-stated truism. Because it’s true! And tonight, the Emmys had a chance to reward one recent and crucial development among these earth-shattering shifts by voting for Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Beginning with the first episode of its first season, Orange Is the New Black, adapted by Jenji Kohan from Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, was a self-assured and fully realized piece of entertainment. The kind you want sit down and watch 13 episodes in a row of, at the expense of other facets of your life. That’s the thing: Netflix’s original series have to grab you, or they won’t work. It’s a viewer-friendly model, these shows that want you to eat them like Pringles — and, more importantly, to pay a subscriber fee to be able to watch.

For that reason, the comedy competition this year was, for once, more interesting than that among the dramas. It really did seem like the wondrous, addictive Orange Is the New Black, brought to you by the company that is changing how we watch TV, was going to win it.

But it wasn’t to be. For the second year in a row, the Academy made such weird choices. HBO’s The Normal Heart barely won anything, FX’s Fargo barely won anything, and most winners in all of the acting categories had won many times before. The Amazing Race won again, and PBS’s Sherlock took home three Emmys, which — ha, what?

Some of those were well-deserved victories. A few were horribly lazy choices. And, as a whole, all of the surprises — including the ones I don’t like personally — could seem delightful if they appeared to be purposeful, propelled by an internal logic. Or if they didn’t feel like they were emanating from a nearly dead horror-movie monster that was determined to take a few more souls to hell with it before shuffling from this dimension forever. In short, they’re ahistorical selections made in fear, in a broken system.

Television has become a Rubik’s Cube, but Emmy voters want still to pretend it’s a line.

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