It’s almost annoying lately when you hear that there is another amazing TV show to watch. Knowing that it’s out there–lurking in the deep but easily accessible pools of programming, triggering FOMO and potentially rendering you behind the times–is not the fortunate tidings it used to be. There are so many quality shows competing for our eyeballs now that this year’s Emmy nomination list looks like the menu of a grand buffet of burdens.
But a so-called golden age doesn’t just happen. It’s not as though we were owed some quality shows after years of too much mediocre programming, and the television gods simply delivered it. Rather, it was only through the efforts of dynamic creators like Matthew Weiner and Tina Fey who put unforgettable characters in absorbing situations, and actors like Bryan Cranston and Connie Britton who give those characters a pulse and a soul.
Of course, this year’s awards will also in part be honoring the great disrupters in the room. Netflix earned an impressive 14 nominations with its original programming, including Outstanding Drama Series for House of Cards, leading acting nods for Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and a nomination for director David Fincher (the series has already won two Creative Arts nods for Cinematography and Casting). The long-heralded return of Arrested Development, and the far-less raved about Hemlock Grove also earned nominations. Netflix’s Ted Sarandos has said that the company’s original programming, and its success, “blurs the line forever about what television is.” And it will be interesting to see the impact Netflix and at-will viewing might have on the nature of episodic programming.
In the meantime, audiences are the most immediate winners in an increasingly competitive TV arena that puts more emphasis on quality content. And, come Sunday, we’ll see which shows win the recognition of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Read about the creative choices and work that went into making this year’s Emmy nominees in the slide show above.