Awards Season Television

It’s Time To Reconsider The CW as a Serious Emmy Contender (At Least For Gina Rodriguez’s Sake)

Earlier this year, Gina Rodriguez won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in A Comedy Series for Jane The Virgin, the first big win for her network The CW. Rodriguez, who used her speech as a rallying cry for better Hispanic representation in media, was on the fast track to the Emmys, where she was widely expected to at least score a nomination, if not take the award home.

Well the Emmys have passed and Julia Louis-Dreyfus was once again named Lead Actress in A Comedy Series. Gina Rodriguez, on the other hand, was relegated to presenting at a ceremony that snubbed her and her critically lauded program. It was a glaring, inexcusable oversight, and not that surprising. Where the Golden Globes are consistently progressive and open to honoring new shows, the Emmys are consistently behind the times, heaping praise on shows long past their prime (Modern Family and Downton Abbey spring to mind). The Emmys are also an exercise in snobbery, which doesn’t bode well for a show, no matter how excellent, airing on The CW.

The CW has long been the ignored network of the adult television industry, even back when it was The WB. The channel specializes in teen-skewing dramas which are typically regarded as low-rent fare for Tumblr to obsess over. As successful as One Tree Hill was and The Vampire Diaries is, neither are considered notable beyond the Teen Choice Award circuit. For Emmy voters, The CW just isn’t the channel to find the next Mad Men or Modern Family.

There appears to be a concerted effort, however, to fight the notion that The CW isn’t capable of high-caliber programming. The tide for the network officially shifted with the 2012 arrival of Arrow, an adaptation of the Green Arrow comics with Stephen Amell playing billionaire playboy superhero Oliver Queen. Since its premiere, Arrow has consistently risen above its limited budget and pre-conceived perceptions of cheese to offer some of the most exciting hours of television across all networks. Arrow‘s success gave way to last season’s launch of spinoff The Flash, with Grant Gustin in the titular role. The show’s premiere was the highest rated in the network’s history and another critical success, with Gustin in particular receiving rave reviews for his energetic, but sensitive portrayal of speedster Barry Allen. The two shows, both produced by WB/CW veteran Greg Berlanti, have succeeded in developing a vibrant but realist comic-book universe on television, something Marvel and ABC have struggled to doBeyond that, they are great programs in their own right, with strong plotting and character development, and great performances, with Gustin being particular Emmy-worthy.

And then there is Jane The Virgin. The comedy, about a young virginal woman who is accidentally artificially inseminated, was one of the standouts of the 2014-2015 television season. Despite tepid ratings, Jane The Virgin was widely adored by critics, who lauded the inventive storytelling and tour-de-force performance of Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva. In the course of a single episode, Rodriguez could be hilarious, heartbreaking, outrageous, sensitive, furious, and quiet, while grounding her character in an innate sense of right and wrong and family that makes her impossible to not root for. The praise doesn’t stop with her, though: Rodriguez is surrounded by a top-notch cast, with particular notice paid to Jaime Camil as the hilariously self-obsessed father Rogelio. There was no comedy on television that was quite like Jane The Virgin and its heartfelt blend of hilarity, hijinks, romance, and drama. The only reason why it was virtually shut-out of the Emmys (it received only one nomination, for Best Narrator, which was both deserved and insulting simultaneously) was because it was on The CW instead of something more agreeable, like CBS or even Netflix.

Whether the triple-whammy successes of Arrow, The Flash, and Jane The Virgin are a sign of a more “serious” CW and not just a well-timed fluke remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s time that that Emmy voters cast their net a bit wider than their biases. The Emmys are meant to honor the best of all television, even if the best happens to be on a network famous for teen love triangles and vampires.

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