Science-fiction shows have always faced an uphill battle at the Emmys. Monsters, spaceships and vampires who drink blood just don’t seem to excite Emmy voters in the same way as mobsters, courtrooms and ad men who down scotch. Sci-fi series rarely even get nominated, and when they do, they never win. None of this bodes well for TV’s hottest show in this genre — “Fringe” — but there is hope.
Over the first sixty-two years of the Emmy awards, one major exception to the sci-fi boycott was “Lost.” Nominated four times over six years, ABC’s sci-fi masterpiece about destiny, time travel, smoke monsters and moving islands took home the award for Best Drama Series in its inaugural season (2005). Series co-creator J.J. Abrams also prevailed that year for directing the pilot. And two of the show’s veteran performers would go on to win their Supporting Drama Actor bids: Terry O’Quinn in 2007 and Michael Emerson in 2009.
How did this head-scratcher of a sci-fi series manage to get such a vote of confidence from the TV academy? “Lost” didn’t fully embrace its genre roots until later in its run. The first season, by and large, focused on the vast array of its intriguing characters, with the mystery elements hovering far enough away in the background so as not to scare off voters.
Now that “Lost” has signed off, there is space for another sci-fi series this year. The TV academy need look no further than “Fringe.” Also co-created by Abrams, “Fringe” stars Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and the splendid John Noble as a team of investigative scientists seeking to put an end to the strange horrors and paranormal events that have begun to take place because our very universe is crumbling. Big stakes, huh?
Torv’s acting abilities have been put through the ringer this year. Besides playing the character of Olivia Dunham, she’s also been required to slip into the recurring role of “Fauxlivia” Dunham, a possibly-evil doppelganger from a parallel universe. Meanwhile, last week’s episode saw yet another role for Torv to play, but for spoiler reasons, that won’t be addressed here.
While Torv is certainly deserving of an Emmy nomination, Noble is worthy of a win. He plays the tortured scientist Walter Bishop, whose quirks and mannerisms are endearing as much as they are saddening. Like Torv, he’s been asked to play two different versions of himself this season, and the extraordinary level of professionalism he’s displayed would make him a serious Emmy contender under normal circumstances, but oh, that unfortunate sci-fi backlash.
Fans are so upset that Noble is still Emmy-less, they’ve created their own Facebook Emmy campaign. With 300 fans and counting, it’s called simply “Give John Noble an Emmy For Walter Bishop.”
This year, the show made national headlines, but for all the wrong reasons. After struggling in the ratings, FOX moved “Fringe” to Friday nights — a place that TV watchers have not-so-lovingly dubbed the Friday night death slot. “Fringe” is the ultimate bubble show. It’s on the precipice of being renewed or being cancelled, with each week’s ratings being analyzed by fans in the hopes of good news. In all likelihood, this could be “Fringe’s” last year in the spotlight.
An Emmy nomination for Best Drama Series just might be enough to save the show for one more season. Just look at fellow FOX series “Arrested Development,” which was on the brink of cancellation its first season until the Emmys swooped in and saved the day.
“Lost” isn’t the only show with sci-fi elements to break through at the Emmys. In the past decade alone, three other dramas have been recognized: God-speaking “Joan of Arcadia” (2004), superhero series “Heroes” (2007) and gothic vampire romp “True Blood” (2010), which is in contention again this year. Never nominated was Syfy’s remake of “Battlestar Galactica,” which won the prestigious Peabody award in 2006, but still couldn’t break through with the TV academy.
The 1990s gave us nominations for creepy-weird “Twin Peaks” (1990), body-swapping “Quantum Leap” (1990-1992) and space sequel “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1994). The major sci-fi player of that decade was FOX’s “The X-Files,” which set the quality tone for the standard of sci-fi on network television. While the Golden Globes awarded “The X-Files” thrice for Best Drama Series, the Emmys never did, though it landed four consecutive nominations (1994-1998).