When it comes to television, sci-fi and horror series are often relegated to being seen as less than compared to strictly drama shows. While these shows easily cultivate a loyal and dedicated audience, they often struggle to be taken seriously in contention with their peers. Despite this, there are some shows that break this mold, such as Game of Thrones or Stranger Things. And yet, they are often only nominated for craft awards above all at the Golden Globes or Emmys, often going home empty-handed in the majority of acting, cinematography, and score categories. Genre shows have a long record of being criminally overlooked, and with the announcement of the 2023 Emmy nominees on July 12th, it became evermore clear that a change still needs to happen.
Genre shows have always been undermined at the Emmys, but this year, HBO adaptations like The Last of Us garnered some of the most prestigious nominations. Even House of the Dragon, though snubbed in the acting categories, left with a whopping eight nominations. And of course, there’s Yellowjackets, which remains a genre darling of sorts, continuing to exist beyond the bounds of genre classification.While these shows defied some odds, there are two genre shows that garnered critical acclaim that were left out of the awards conversation: Dark Winds and Interview with the Vampire, both from AMC.
It’s not as if these shows are slipping under the radar of the general population or Emmy voters, lost to the influx of shows on streaming platforms. Instead, when Interview with the Vampire debuted in October 2022—along with the premiere of The Walking Dead’s final season—the premiere boosted AMC Plus to its highest two-day viewership numbers. Dark Winds as well saw a flush in viewership with its premiere in 2022, becoming the #1 series launch in AMC+ history, drawing in 2.2 million viewers with three days of delayed viewing on cable television. What is happening instead is a direct bias on the genres these two shows fall into, not by viewers, but by Emmy voters specifically.
While shows like The Last of Us are nominated for many awards, it’s because critics, audiences, and academy voters alike view them as existing beyond genre. Prestige television and genre television are not seen as two things that can coexist. So for genre shows to thrive in the awards conversation, they must be deemed as dramatic first and foremost, with genre aspects floating in and out of scenes and sequences instead of standing at the show’s helm.
Interview With the Vampireand Dark Windsbask in the glory of their genres, unlike other genre shows which tend to prop themselves up as something they are not. Instead of putting up a veil of prestige to mask their true leanings, AMC does not shy away from the core of its stories. Interview knows when to enact an air of campiness when it’s required, almost poking fun at some of the most ridiculous vampire tropes it showcases. Other times, the story is treated with the utmost respect, to its dedicated fans and to Anne Rice’s source material as well, balancing just what makes this show so special.
The story is one of love and jealousy, yes, but the 2022 adaptation is also one of assimilation and belonging. The showrunners took Rice’s beloved characters and crafted them into the best versions of themselves, filled with deceit and intrigue but most importantly of all, empathy. Not only must they face their lives as vampire’s, but they must also navigate the world while existing as racialized and queer characters in the American South. When it first premiered, AMC’s adaptation was met at first with surprise and then love. While many were cautious due to a love for Rice’s original novel and the 1992 film adaptation, this new version quickly revealed itself as the best of the three renditions.
Dark Windsalso saw an overhaul in its adaptation, bringing in Indigenous writers to make sure the show was realistic as well as empathetic to the story it was trying to tell. In doing so, it made a successful noir genre program, embellished with magical realism and horror adjacent aspects that make the series even more entertaining. It never takes its foot off the gas, operating as a well-oiled machine of science fiction and noir, making clear that the creators behind it love the source material as much as the creators of Interview, something that can’t be said about other Emmy-nominated adaptations. Instead of operating under the guise of prestige, these two shows celebrate their genreness, unabashed in their fantastical and wondrous elements.
If both shows were not deemed worthy of a Best Drama Series nomination, their two leading performances should have been a surefire for garnering awards consideration. Jacob Anderson’s performance as Louis de Pointe du Lac in Interview is as sweeping as each performance by the actors nominated for Best Actor at this year’s Emmys. He brings a desperate humanity to a character whose last inception was unfortunately dull, allowing Louis to become the most beloved character in AMC’s adaptation. It’s a performance for the ages, and one that allows him to stand as one of the greatest performers of his generation.
The same can be said for Zahn McClarnon as Joe Leaphorn, a Navajo police lieutenant and Dark Winds’ main character. McClarnon plays Leaphorn with a weighty combination of charisma and grief, pulling out the most impressive performance of his long career.
With so many popular series like Succession and Better Call Saul ending in the 2022-2023 period, the competition was already crowded. But, with the amount of television out there for voters to watch, there is truly no reason for three of the five Best Actor nominees to be from the same show, no matter how good Successionis. The same can be said for the Best Supporting Actor nominees as well, all of which were relegated to performances from Succession and The White Lotus. What is the point of awarding television shows if the voters prove time and time again that they vote for what is currently popular, rather than what merits votes. It wouldn’t be surprising if despite both of their ratings and strong fanbase, Interview and Dark Winds weren’t even viewed by the majority of Television Academy voters.
Award shows only take place once a year, so of course everything deserving of celebration will not be nominated or awarded. However, when shows that share a commonality are snubbed time and time again, it becomes clear that this is going to be an unfortunate regularity. Genre shows are not less than due to their subject matter, and it’s about time that they’re celebrated and revered like their peers. AMC is doing significant work in the genre field, at times better than their peers who do end up being nominated for prestigious awards.
It may be time that the Emmys increase their number of nomination categories, or perhaps add more genre signifiers than just “drama” and “comedy.” If a change isn’t made, many shows will continue to go uncelebrated, and many will be unable to get the boost a good Emmy nomination can give to many careers. Despite this, there is no doubt thatInterview with the Vampire, Dark Winds, and others like them will continue to cultivate a dedicated audience, being celebrated outside of the realm of awards and Hollywood. Hopefully though, there will still be a time when genre television is acknowledged as simply good television, despite existing outside of the bounds of what is considered prestige.