Should the Emmys give out separate awards for network and cable shows?

Actor Tatiana Maslany poses in Toronto on March 6, 2014. Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany picked up her first Emmy nomination as she was named in the best TV actress in a drama category.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

For Tatiana Maslany, her third try was the charm.

After being celebrated by fans and critics for three seasons on "Orphan Black," the Regina-native was finally recognized by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which throws the annual Emmy Awards bash, airing Sunday on Fox and CTV.

She's nominated in the best lead actress in a drama category for playing Sarah Manning and more than seven clones on the shot-in-Toronto sci-fi series, which airs on Space and BBC America.

The actress, who turns 30 on Tuesday, is up against some stiff competition: Claire Danes ("Homeland"), Viola Davis ("How to Get Away with Murder"), Taraji P. Henson ("Empire"), Elizabeth Moss ("Mad Men") and Robin Wright ("House of Cards"). An impressive group, although Maslany plays more characters on her show than all of them combined.

Of the six contenders, only two — Davis and Henson — are from broadcast network TV shows. Which brings up the question: should broadcast network television be judged on the same playing field as content produced for cable, specialty and digital platforms?

Network dramas generally have to shoot twice as many episodes — up to 22 a season — on shorter production schedules. The content rules are also different. There are far more restrictions on language and nudity on the networks. On HBO, which this year has more nominations than ABC, CBS and NBC combined, storytellers also do not have to contend with commercials.

Still, some network stars — including Chris O'Donnell from "NCIS: Los Angeles" — insist they never get upset about being passed over at Emmy time.

"It's pretty gratifying for us that we draw as large an audience as we do," he says.

Co-star LL Cool J agrees. He's fine with the fact that his show draws 10 times the viewers each week as, say, AMC's "Better Call Saul."

"I would love to be nominated for an Emmy," he says, but, "it's OK, we're doing well and I think we'll live."

The network drama most often cited as being snubbed at Emmy time is CBS' "The Good Wife." This year, supporting stars Christine Baranski and Alan Cummings are both nominated but the leads and the show itself are not.

A lot has been made recently about how there is simply —in the words of FX president John Landgraf — too many good TV shows. None of the traditional "Big Four" networks have a series in this year's best drama category, while Netflix ("House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black") and AMC ("Better Call Saul" and "Mad Men") both have two.

Some actors, such as Donnie Wahlberg from "Blue Bloods," have argued that network shows should be broken out of the Emmy mix.

"I think he's absolutely right," says Chris Noth of "The Good Wife."

"It's unfair," says Noth. "Their field is smaller for the touchdown. We've got more yards than they do."

His former co-star, Josh Charles, agrees that the playing field is not even. He does not think, however, that there should be separate Emmy categories for network and cable or digital fare.

"I just think good television is good storytelling and good acting is good acting."

The "Good Wife" herself, Julianna Margulies, remembers when there was a separate salute to cable. Back in the '90s when her NBC series "ER" won 23 Emmys, HBO and others competed in the Cable Ace Awards. That, to her, made sense.

"When you're put up against a six-episode miniseries and we're doing 22, then you go, 'something is wrong.'"

Margulies, however, loves her job and wouldn't trade shows with anybody.

"I think the second anyone starts bitching and moaning about awards season, they should probably get out of the business."

— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

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