As The CW Reinvents Itself, Remembering How the Emmys Overlooked Its Iconic Leading Ladies

It’s quite a melancholy time in the media, as we watch some of the media and entertainment outlets that defined the early part of this century either go away, or dramatically downsize from what they once were. Farewell, MTV News and Buzzfeed News. Sorry to see you file for bankruptcy, Vice. It’s a shame you’re now owned by an egomaniacal crackpot, Twitter. And what a bummer to see The CW move away from exciting youth-oriented original scripted fare to something else.

The simultaneous demise of both Twitter and The CW as we knew it reminds me, however, of one of my favorite industry Tweets of all time. On July 19, 2012, a sharp CW social media staffer posted this: “#Emmy nomination day! Or as we call it, Thursday.”

Boom. I loved the sly sarcasm, and it was accomplished in just nine words: A statement on the inexplicable decision by Emmy voters to virtually ignore The CW throughout that network’s entire run. What’s especially disappointing about this is how The CW — and predecessors The WB and UPN — were built on some of the most iconic female characters of the past quarter century.

Those early days included Sarah Michelle Gellar as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Kristen Bell as “Veronica Mars,” Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel as the “Gilmore Girls,” Brandy as “Moesha” and others — none of whom received their Emmy due at the time. The kudo drought continued as The CW launched in 2006, even as it launched a new round of enduring franchises.

The CW became a destination for DC-branded genre series, via Greg Berlanti’s “Arrowverse,” and Emmy voters have historically been fickle with those kinds of shows. But where Emmy really fell short was with standout female-led shows like “Nikita” (Maggie Q), “Jane the Virgin” (Gina Rodriguez), “iZombie” (Rose McIver) and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Rachel Bloom).

Let’s talk about how embarrassing it is that the only two Emmy nominations for “Jane the Virgin” were for Anthony Mendez as outstanding narrator. No offense to Mendez, he was great. But the show was called “Jane the Virgin.” Rodriguez was a standout from the moment that series was announced (I still remember watching her grab a mic and freestyle rap at the CW’s upfronts afterparty the year “Jane” was picked up), and it indeed earned her a Golden Globe Award as best actress in a TV musical or comedy. The show itself also scored a Peabody, among other accolades. Rodriguez also landed Imagen and Teen Choice awards for the breakthrough performance. But not even an Emmy nomination.

As for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” that show managed to win some of The CW’s few actual Emmys: In 2016, for outstanding choreography, as well as single-camera picture editing for a comedy series, and in 2019 for choreography again, as well as for music and lyrics. Bloom scored an Emmy for that category, along with Jack Dolgen and the late Adam Schlesinger.

Like Rodriguez, Bloom scored a Golden Globe in the best actress in a TV musical/comedy category while never getting an Emmy nom as a performer. It wasn’t for lack of trying: In an amusing 2017 YouTube video, Bloom sang a cheeky original tune about not caring (but secretly caring): “The only award I care about… is the one for not caring about awards shows!” she quipped.

Were “Jane the Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” just a few years ahead of their time? We now live in an age where linear shows can become Emmy frontrunners thanks to a streamer boost. Just ask new CW entertainment president Brad Schwartz, who brought “Schitt’s Creek” to Pop TV — which earned multitudes of Emmys for the comedy after it became a Netflix smash. Schwartz is aiming to replicate that strategy at The CW, where he has acquired more Canadian imports a la “Schitt’s.”

It remains to be seen if the CW can finally become an Emmy contender with that new strategy. But as for the network’s lead actress alums, it’s not too late to recognize them — albeit, via their new shows. Bloom on her gone-to-soon Hulu series “Reboot,” McIver on CBS’ breakout hit “Ghosts” and Rodriguez through her recently renewed ABC comedy “Not Dead Yet.” The CW’s legacy lives on.

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