Emmy season is upon us yet again! Emmy nominations were announced Thursday, July 12th, with “Game of Thrones” leading the pack at 22 nominations. As we speed toward the September 17th telecast, Awards Circuit is taking a look at all of the major categories. Each series nominee submits six episodes. Voters are sent a pair of episodes to judge on. The Miniseries and TV Movie categories are judged on the full season/work.
We’ve finally reached it! We are on the final set of categories in our Emmy Episode Analysis! There’s ben a host of great work on TV this year. In fact, even with the expanded drama and comedy categories, there’s still plenty of great shows that didn’t make the cut. Both returning champs and buzzy new series face off in some of the most exciting categories of the year. Read on to see what we think will take the top prize!
Best Drama Series
FX’s spy thriller went out with a bang in its final season. After a criticized fifth season, the show rebounded and won rave reviews. “The Americans” contends in four major above the line categories (Actor, Actress and Writing), showing strong support for the show. However, winning for one’s final season is usually reserved for shows that defined the zeitgeist of the moment. “Breaking Bad” and “The Sopranos” were the last dramas to win the top prize for their final season. Even Emmy favorite “Mad Men” failed to win for its final season, losing to “Game of Thrones,” the Emmy show of that moment. While voters clearly love “The Americans,” they may show their love for the show in a category other than Best Drama Series.
Few things seem as baity as the Royal Family. Netflix looks back at the rule of King Philip and Queen Elizabeth in Season Two of “The Crown.” The sprawling and lavish episodes give us the full look at many important moments in history (the Kennedy’s visit), while also delving into the personal trauma of the Royals. It’s sumptuous and great to look at, but doesn’t inspire as much passion as the other nominees. Now up for 11 nominations (down slightly from 13 last year), the show still holds onto writing and directing nominations. This gives it a shot at the title, but it will hard to compete against the “Game of Thrones” vs. “Handmaid’s Tale” war going on in the category.
“Game of Thrones”
After a year away from Emmys, former champ “Game of Thrones” hopes to win its third Drama Series crown. The epic series aired its penultimate seven episode season around this same time last year to enthusiastically mixed reviews. Fans can’t get enough of the show. However, the fan service plot holes that allowed favorite characters to finally meet rubbed some the wrong way. The HBO epic leads the way in nominations this year with 22 citations. While that’s the most of any program this year, it’s two down from the 24 nominations it earned in 2016. While voters clearly love the show, it might have to wait another year for its third winning season.
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
It’s hard to sustain a show as bleak and depressing as “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Yet, with the public sentiment mirroring that of the captive handmaids, people still seem enthralled with this horrifying universe. The second season saw a pregnant June only become more militant in her attempts to overthrow Gilead. Likewise, we saw a more textured portrait of those existing within the system and how they came to power. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the only show to go up in nominations. Even as some fell off the show in its second season, it was able to net 17 nominations, up from 13 last year. The defending champ won eight awards last year and could stand to do the same this year, including Best Drama Series.
Last year’s buzzy nostalgia piece seems to have grown colder with time. The second season of “Stranger Things” still scared up lots of excited fans last October. However, many noted the magic and novelty was slightly worn off since season one. The Emmys seem to have agreed, with “Stranger Things” losing a whopping ten nominations year over year. It now has 8 nominations, compared to 18 last year. Still, underestimate “Stranger Things” at one’s own risk. It’s one of the four drama series nominees to have both writing and directing nominations. This puts it above other dark horse contenders like “The Americans,” “This Is Us” and “Westworld.”
“This Is Us”
Millions of Americans tune in week after week to have a good cry with the Pearson family. Season two may have poured on the schmaltz, but audiences clamored to further unravel the family’s tale. The submitted episodes reflect this, highlighting the main beats of the season, including Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) death and Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) addiction. Despite having the highest ratings of all the nominees, there are some major barriers that face the show in this category. It is not nominated in either writing or directing, and usually a winner has both nominations. The last show to win without nominations in one of those categories was “Mad Men” in 2011. The last show to win without nominations in either category was “The Practice” in 1999. Even more damning, it’s been since 2006 since a network TV show won the prize (“24”).
“Westworld” moved East this year as it set its sights on new lands and an expanded universe. The ambitious move yielded some fantastic, grand segments. However, the self seriousness of the show gets in the way of what could be an engrossing, entertaining concept. The HBO action epic took a big tumble in nominations for season two. It went from 21 nominations in season one to just 13 this season. Additionally, it only won four categories last year, all below the line. With “Game of Thrones” back in the race, HBO seems to have focused on their other premiere genre show for the win.
- “The Handmaid’s Tale”
- “Game of Thrones”
- “The Americans”
- “The Crown”
- “Stranger Things”
- “This Is Us”
Best Comedy Series
The only comedy to increase in nominations this year was “Atlanta” from FX. The show doubled its nomination count in its second season, going from 6 to 12 nominations. “Robbin’ Season” succeeded in building out the world of “Atlanta,” with the best episodes focusing on tangents with supporting characters. In this sense, it’s worldbuilding becomes the ultimate strength of the project. For its first season, the show won both Lead Actor and Director. This year, the show now has two writing and two directing nominees, the most of any show. If the show has really doubled in popularity with the voting body, it could also win the top prize.
Many were surprised by the performance of “Barry,” Bill Hader’s comedy about a hit man turned actor. The dark comedy stealthily built up strong word of mouth over its first season. From there, voters recognized the talent behind the unique series and nominated it across the board. While “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” commands the buzz in the category, “Barry” reaped the same number of nominations (10). Not only that, it was able to get two episodes nominated for Writing, compared to Maisel’s one. HBO has won this category the past three years (thanks to “Veep”). Perhaps “Barry” continues the premium cable channel’s sweep of the category.
After the five year winning streak for “Modern Family,” “Black-ish” has been the lone network television show to continue showing up in the Comedy Series race. The submitted episodes range from frothy fun (“Advance to Go (Collect $200)”) to more serious looks at issues (“Juneteenth,” “Mother Nature”) and relationships (“Blue Valentine”). The show even saw a small increase in nominations from four the past couple years to five this year. Unfortunately, “Black-ish” was still unable to break into the Directing and Writing categories. Voters definitely support the show since they continue to nominate it. However, this year doesn’t seem to be the year for a win.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm”
Out of all the TV reboots this season, Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was the only one to come out ahead at the Emmys. The show was the only reboot to nab a Comedy Series nomination. The submitted episodes capture the spirit of what made the original a huge hit for HBO. On top of that, they feature some of this season’s A-list guest stars, such as Lin Manuel Miranda and Bryan Cranston (both nominees). Still, with four nominations, it’s one of the lowest hauls for the show. On top of that, the show has never won the top prize for comedy series. It’s unlikely the return of Larry David will get the season his first award in the series race.
Netflix had a nice critical hit on its hands with the emergence of “GLOW.” The 80s nostalgia piece follows the female stars of a cable access show “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” and the behind the scenes drama of the stars. Of the three new series up for Comedy Series, “GLOW” has the least nominations of the three. Six nominations is nothing to scoff at, especially including the Directing nomination for the pilot. Still, “GLOW” faces a lot of tough competition. It helps that the show aired the even more acclaimed season two during the voting period. However, it seems the show will have more luck next year than this year.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Amazon burst onto the scene with this hour long dramedy that people couldn’t stop talking about. Centering on a 50s housewife turned stand up comic, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” commands enormous buzz. The show grabbed 10 nominations, especially in key categories such as Directing, Writing and 4 Acting categories. This is an impressive haul, especially for a new comedy series. After winning big at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards and PGA Awards, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” enters as the frontrunner. After Hulu’s win for “The Handmaid’s Tale” last year, the Emmys have broken the glass ceiling for streaming channels in the top category. This paves the way for a Maisel victory.
Voters watch “Silicon Valley,” they just don’t vote for it. This year marks the fifth consecutive Comedy Series nomination for the HBO comedy. However, out of 40 nominations in the past five years, the show has only won two below the line awards back in 2015. This year’s crop of submitted episodes won’t change any minds. The show continues to do the same thing with little variety, satisfying the same contingent of voters. With seven nominations this year, the show has lost nominations two years in a row. This inspires doubt that this HBO property will ever be able to win the big prize.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Netflix’s collaboration with Tina Fey was once supposed to continue the Emmy winning streak “30 Rock” enjoyed. However, after three previous seasons of no wins, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” seems doomed to go Emmyless. This season, the show only aired six episodes on the final day of eligibility. The schtick appears to have gotten stale for both voters and audiences. Buzz is low and the show only reaped 2 nominations, a low across both drama and comedy series nominees. Unless the second half of the season picks up, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” could see its Emmy nominations vanish.
- “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
- “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
- “Silicon Valley”
- “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Best Limited Series
“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”
Plot: The murder of Gianni Versace turns the eyes of the world onto Miami Beach.
Ryan Murphy’s latest series in the “American Crime Story” anthology hopes to follow the same path as its predecessor. “The People vs. OJ Simpson” won 9 categories from 22 nominations. While “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” only has 18 nominations, it comparatively outranks the other four nominees in the category. The season got off to a mixed start as people were surprised it concentrated more on killer Andrew Cunanan and less on the Versace empire. However, as the series pieced together the steps that led Cunanan to murder, it picked up considerably. As one epic story, the limited series succeeds at crafting a complicated and engrossing portrait of a troubled young man. There’s relatively little standing in its way of winning. However, one can never fully rule out a surprise.
Plot: Newspaper illustrator John Moore meets with criminal psychologist (alienist) Dr. Laszlo Kreizler to investigate a serial killer in New York during the late 19th century.
“The Alienist” enters the race as the token period piece. It’s big, grand and full of lots of production design. More so than that, the central mysteries revolve around mental illness and the horrifying treatment women and the LGBT community faced. Though the show is filled with best intentions and a heavy coat of gloss, there’s something empty about it. It’s well done, but does little to inspire passion. The TNT period piece reaped six Emmy nominations. However, none of them were in the key Directing, Writing or Acting categories. This quashes any hope “The Alienist” has in competing for the win.
Plot: The life stories of history’s greatest minds. From their days as young adults to their final years we see their discoveries, loves, relationships, causes, flaws and genius.
Antionio Banderas takes on the adult version of Pablo Picasso in “Genius,” the second season of National Geographic’s anthology series. The series takes a look at the entirety of Picasso’s life. Unfortunately, it does so in a very sloppy manner, careening between timelines. If National Geographic’s better reviewed first season of “Genius,” which took a look at Albert Einstein (Geoffrey Rush), couldn’t do it, it’s unlikely that this season could win. That first season garnered 10 nominations and lost all of them. This season went down to seven nomination, and stands to follow suit and lose all of them too.
Plot: In the 1880s American West murderous outlaw gang leader Frank Griffin hunts for ex-protege Roy Goode. Frank’s chase leads him to La Belle, New Mexico – a town inhabited, after a mining disaster, almost entirely by women.
The western genre is alive and well with “Godless,” Netflix’s latest limited series. The tale of the Ladies of La Belle makes a proper new entry to the western genre. The cast is incredible and the production value is outstanding. While some may take quibble with the over-reliance on the outlaw/hunter storyline that frames the miniseries, others will be taken with the scope. With 12 nominations, “Godless” appears to have quite a bit of support among voters. It has the second most nominations of any limited series or TV movie. Additionally, it appears in all of the main categories. With Netflix playing an aggressive awards strategy, “Godless” could appeal to many voters. If it picks up enough wins in other categories, Best Miniseries could go to “Godless.”
Plot: Patrick learns of his father’s passing and must travel to New York to collect his remains, whilst struggling with drug withdrawals.
Showtime’s limited series “Patrick Melrose” presents a live wire journey of addiction and trauma. Headlined by Benedict Cumberbatch, the limited series flies by. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the buzz of some of the bigger names in the category. Though the show possesses the least number of nominations of the group, “Patrick Melrose” has all the important ones. The five nominations include Miniseries, Directing, Writing, and Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), among others. As one of three nominees with nominations in all four major categories, “Patrick Melrose” still has a shot of being a surprise winner.
- “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”
- “Patrick Melrose”
- “Genius: Picasso”
- “The Alienist”
Best TV Movie
Plot: In a terrifying care-free future, a young man, Guy Montag, whose job as a fireman is to burn all books, questions his actions after meeting a young woman…and begins to rebel against society.
HBO’s adaptation of the famed Ray Bradbury novel of the same name seemed poised to impress. Unfortunately, the adaptation seems to have vanish almost instantly from mind, despite starring Michael B Jordan and Michael Shannon. The TV movie sports five nominations, the second most of the group. However, the other four are in below the line categories. With no directing, writing or acting nominations, this project looks a bit doomed. With three of the five nominees in this category being HBO properties, one can’t discount the channel’s stronghold of the TV Movie format. In fact, HBO has won this category seven of the past ten years. However, with the other nominees sporting a more traditional HBO pedigree and “Black Mirror” on the rise, “Fahrenheit 451” won’t factor much in the race.
Plot: A woman deals with the toxic water scandal in Flint, Michigan, and the effect it has on her family.
“Flint” epitomizes every cliche in the Lifetime Original Movie Rolodex. In many ways, it does so in spectacular (and almost hilarious) fashion. The film loosely stitches together a series of capital A ACTING scenes into a loose plot of a group of women fighting for clean water. The end packs a wallop, as the problem hasn’t been fixed. Yet, the by the numbers, hokey nature of the film further distances it from any chance of winning the category. Much like “Dolly Parton’s Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love” last year, this is the only nomination for “Flint.” This makes it more of a novelty nominee than a real contender.
Plot: The film centers on Joe Paterno, who after becoming the most successful coach in college football history, is embroiled in Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, challenging his legacy and forcing him to face questions of institutional failure regarding the victims.
Right before it premiered, Al Pacino as Joe Paterno read like complete Emmy bait. While the end result wasn’t bad, it was just as bland as the lazy logline read. Barry Levinson’s look at the Penn State scandal shows little interest in challenging coach Joe Paterno. In fact, it mostly just documents the events without any panache or perspective. Despite an impressive pedigree, “Paterno” only showed up in two categories – TV Movie and Directing. This only further underlines that “Paterno” isn’t the prestige project HBO hoped. Still, with a relatively weak field, this puts it towards the top of the competition. HBO has done wonders in this category with TV movie biopics (see “Game Change,” “Behind the Candelabra,” “Bessie” and “Temple Grandin”).
Plot: A woman filming a documentary on childhood rape victims starts to question the nature of her childhood relationship with her riding instructor and running coach.
HBO made waves at the Sundance film festival when it scooped up Jennifer Fox’s “The Tale” for $10 million. Upon its premiere in May, the film received critical raves, but seemingly little attention from the premium cable giant. With only two nominations to its credit – TV Movie and Lead Actress for Laura Dern – it seems voters have forgotten about the film. It’s a shame, because Fox’s journey through childhood trauma is volatile, powerful and truly one of a kind. There’s a chance voters go through and watch the nominees and find themselves taken with the film. It’s one that grabs viewers early and refuses to leave one’s mind upon finishing. However, it’s a tough subject to watch, and getting voters to watch it could be a problem.
“USS Callister – Black Mirror”
Plot: A woman wakes up on a Star Trek-esque ship where the crew praise their all knowing and fearless captain.
Science fiction has had a spotty history at Emmys. However, the dark Twilight Zone-esque installment of “Black Mirror” revolving around a geek’s “Star Trek” playground may be the strongest bet in this category. With seven nominations, “USS Callister” leads the field in terms of nomination tally. That this includes writing and acting nominations only further puts it out ahead. With the win for “San Junipero” last year, the Emmys demonstrates it is willing to give “Black Mirror” the top prize. Since the other HBO projects fizzled in terms of nominations, “USS Callister” looks to be the one to beat.
- “USS Callister – Black Mirror”
- “The Tale”
- “Fahrenheit 451”