We’re celebrating the long-overdue Emmy win by Tatiana Maslany for her total dominance in playing, in some episodes, as many as a half-dozen different characters, all clones, in the incredible series Orphan Black. And at the same time, rejoicing in Rami Malek’s best lead actor win for the first season of Mr. Robot. Both wonderful and much-deserved wins for some incredible actors. I raise a toast to Tatiana and Rami!
Then I get to the lemon in the cocktail: When this morning’s national news media reported on last night’s Emmy wins, they singled out Veep, The People vs. OJ Simpson, Game of Thrones (of course) and a few other mainstream productions. But it seems Best Lead Actor in a Drama series and Best Lead Actress in a Drama series weren’t worth bothering to mention to the general public this year.
And yeah, this gets my goat. In what some are considering a new golden age of television, two TV series—outstanding works by any measure, but that just happen to be serious science fiction—get dissed. It took four years for Tatiana to be recognized for her amazing work playing multiple characters at the same time in every single episode, with the unparalleled production that is Orphan Black, which includes excellent writing and flawless special effects. Mr. Robot, a much quieter but equally compelling series, was recognized after its first year, which is almost as rare as being recognized for SF in the first place.
But when it comes to lauding them in the mainstream news, they were blown over in favor of big-profiting favorites. Other than the few obligatory “The best shows you’re not watching” articles here and there, you won’t be hearing a lot of talk about Orphan Black or Mr. Robot at the water cooler today. More likely, you’ll be discussing Louie Anderson or Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. Or maybe—just, just maybe—why Keri Russell gets no love for her phenomenal role in The Americans.
After we just saw the premature ending of Person of Interest this last season, it’s downright painful to see the short-shrift and disrespect serious science fiction television gets, especially from its own industry peers. It seems only over-the-top violent or salacious content is good enough to get noticed by television executives (and don’t get me started by the fact that the final episode of Person of Interest featured a lead character getting taken out by frikkin’ drone missiles)… I’d be willing to bet the removal of that kind of content would have assured Game of Thrones would have lasted no more than two seasons. Even the Syfy channel has pretty much given up on serious SF content in favor of space opera and silly horror films.
And it goes along with the current trend of adding ridiculous action scenes, cheap melodrama and needless skin and nudity to science fiction movies like Star Wars and Star Trek, while completely forsaking anything that even hints of a serious scientific treatment, and promoting these dogs ad nauseam over much better science fiction like Ex Machina, The Martian or Interstellar.
It hurts to see such incredible performances and groundbreaking work being shoved behind the curtains, like bastard children whose successes the media would rather hide. Because of this, I have shrinking confidence that the new HBO series Westworld will be recognized for the ground-breaking psychological and morality drama that it is being molded into, nor seen as anything other than a new excuse for the violence and hedonism that Game of Thrones has provided. (I do think Westworld will be a great show; I just have serious doubts that it will be given its due by the industry.)
And it’s not just my sour grapes: Consider that quality talents notice that the SF genre is constantly given the cold shoulder, which impacts the likelihood that their work will be recognized, which affects their hire-ability and potential salaries. Which means fewer of them will want to work on SF shows, bringing down the quality of all SF shows.
So, unless we want all SF to be cheap knock-offs of Star Wars, we should all be concerned about the media’s ignoring of our favorite genre. #RespectSeriousSF, people.